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Soul Cleaning  

It was quite the trend.

 

For a short time, it became standard operating procedure in restroom maintenance.  The doors of most restaurant and office bathrooms posted a card that noted exact dates and times when the place was cleaned—in many cases, several times a day. All those times and dates were to be carefully initialed by the cleaner.  

Remember those cards?  Well, you’ve probably noticed that most of them have gone the way of flip phones and dial-up internet.  Why?

Know what I think?  I think workers didn’t like the work!  And managers didn't like the cost.  And nobody liked the accountability the system created. Lots of unsigned spaces on those cards just didn’t look good for anybody.  And, after all, there’s no profit in a privy—just money down the ol’…ur…toilet.   But when those cards went away, in many cases, so did cleaner washrooms. 

Lest you think I’m wagging a finger at restroom cleaners, I'm not.  At our home, washroom maintenance is my domain.  I freely confess that intervals between my cleanings are often excessive.

But bathrooms are inherently dirty things.  Beyond flushable unmentionables, bathrooms seem to attract filth and trash and gum and garbage.  

The first “real” job I had after doing a paper route was to clean toilets at an office building.  I’ve learned there is no such thing as a shortcut to a clean bathroom.  What is required are regular—and frequent—cleanings. 

Forgive the crudeness of my thinking here, but what if we treated the cleaning of our souls with the same commitment that the best bathroom cleaners exhibit?

What if we had an agreement with ourselves and God that we would commit to regular, set, times each day—just like those cards we used to see on the back of bathroom doors—for “heart cleanings.”  Times allotted exclusively for the confession of ours sins, the cleaning of our souls.  Don't you think that would have to make some sort of difference?

Daniel set aside a slot for for prayer three times a day.  I bet he had something to confess all three times. What if we reserved three brief time slots for confession each day?

Well…I'm going to give this a try—and let you know how it goes.  I’d love to get your feedback on this, too.  What are YOUR thoughts on confession—soul cleaning?  Email me at Jon@jongauger.com.  We might feature your comments in a future blog! 

Meanwhile, here’s to more regular soul cleaning!

 

 

 
You Okay?  

She doesn’t walk—she stomps.

She doesn’t run—she lunges.

There is more subtlety in a stick of dynamite than in the two-year-old we know and adore as Ava.  But once those magnificent blue eyes of hers lock with yours—especially while she flashes her impish grin—you will be reduced to play dough in her chunky hands.

Ava recently spent a Saturday with us, amusing and entertaining my wife and me from breakfast through late afternoon.  The two-year-old tutor also tried to teach me a lesson along the way.

It started when I coughed.  Ava immediately whipped her head away from what she was doing and asked, “You okay?”  Her extended eye-contact lent a sincerity to the moment that caught me off guard.

Later that morning she heard my wife, Diana, sneeze.  “Are you okay?” she again intoned, a living picture of care and comfort.   Sensing my struggle in attempting to repair the door of our mailbox she once again inquired, “You okay?”

Ava is soon to be a big sister, and she practices her “sistering” and “mothering” on two dolls we keep in the toy room.  Once, in a moment of pretend troubles, I overheard Ava asking her dolls, “You okay?”  The dolls must have signaled they were fine, as there was no further dialogue on the matter.

But what if you and I asked each other the same question with the same sincerity as Ava?  What if we regularly looked lovingly at our spouse and inquired, “You okay?”  And what if we put down our phones and tablets long enough to really listen?

What if all day long friends and coworkers heard from our mouth, “You okay?”  And what if we followed that question with that rarest of gifts—our undivided attention?  What if the one thing that defined our reputation was the willingness to ask—and listen—for the answer to that lovely question, “You okay?”

Wouldn’t the world outside find the Jesus inside us irresistible?

“By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”                                                                             --John 13:35

 
When Trains Talk  

Freight trains are as common as cats—and for some, more preferable. 

Stepping off the commuter train I ride every day, I walked parallel to a freighter rolling toward the stock yards. With no fence between me and the goods-laden train just a few feet to my left, I chose my path carefully, intrigued by the sounds I was hearing.  Or not hearing.

A series of gondola cars eased past, eerily silent.  One could barely discern the press of their steel wheels on the rails.  Hardly a whoosh.

But other cars creaked.  Flat cars shuddered, tankers shrieked, while box cars groaned.  Some rumbled as if their metallic insides were fighting a rail car version of intestinal flu, their insides heaving and jangling.

I was immediately puzzled.  Why the extreme difference in sounds?  These train cars were all on the same track, heading the same direction, pulled by the same locomotive all traveling at the same speed. Why such disparity in the way they hugged the track?

I’m hardly a railroad expert  like my friend, or a physics teacher like my dad.  But after pondering the rolling stock for some time, I made the following basic observations :

  • The cars are not all built the same.
  • They each carry a different load.
  • They certainly don’t have the same amount of miles on them.

Forgive my over active imagination as I suggest there might be a spiritual analogy in this, ur...train of thought.

Sadly, I must confess, I sometimes look at people and wonder, Why is he making such a racket about that issue?  Why such noise over something so “small?”  Or—Why can’t she just deal with this quietly, minus all the moaning and groaning?   I’m sure you would never be so unspiritual and think those kinds of thoughts, would you?   😊

Turns out people share more in common with freight trains than you might think. Just like train cars…

  • People are not all built the same.
  • They each carry a different load.
  • They certainly don’t have the same amount of miles on them.

It's tempting to look at exteriors or circumstances or other visible triggers and presume we know what’s going on inside another person. But we don’t. Nor should we be consumed with guessing.

Our Heavenly Father has built us all differently. And we don’t carry the same load.  So some of us may at times come across like our insides are being jangled.  We may shudder or shriek or groan. 

Seems to me we need to give each other the grace to be who we’ve been built to be, carrying whatever burdens our Father has asked us to carry.  More than that, let’s remember the huge advantage we humans have over train cars.  We can actually help carry the loads our sisters and brothers are bearing. 

All aboard!  Next stop….the twin-cities of Grace and Mercy! 

Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

                                                                                --Galatians 6:2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
Missions without Jesus  

The word missionary seems to have evolved. And I’m not sure it’s for the best.

I understand a missionary to be someone who uses their gifting (preaching, teaching, translating, nursing, music, construction, administration, arts, etc.) to share the central gospel message: that our sins now separate us from God and we are in desperate need of the Savior, Jesus.

As we support several different missionaries, my wife and I enjoy reading their updates and newsletters. But Jesus seems to be getting less and less press.  We read about construction projects, clean water initiatives, ministries to the poor and other good things.  But there’s often very little said about the gospel.  How we long to read, “This girl we talked with seemed far from the kingdom.  And then she met Christ.  Now her life is so different because….”

Drilling wells, feeding the hungry, clothing the poor, freeing sex slaves—are surely noble tasks—and certainly in line with the heart of Christ.  Indeed, Christians must be leading the world in these efforts.  But they are not in themselves the gospel!

I'm not saying it’s either/or—that we should only preach the gospel and not bother with humanitarian relief or biblical justice. I am asking: Where is the problem of sin and the solution of the cross in our good-deed-doing? 

 

To be clear, we ought never to offer our service, our medical care, our food or water conditionally (“if you accept Jesus, then we will help you”).  Christ made no demands before healing or doing good of any kind.  He simply helped or healed.  But nor did He fail to let people know of their fundamental need to repent, with Himself as the solution to their sin problem.

If there isn’t God in our good or Jesus in our justice, we offer a lesser gospel fashioned of feel-good causes and hipster compassion.  For, in the end, there is no real justice without Jesus, no good apart from God.

So let our hands dig wells—while our mouths speak of Christ.  Let us advocate for the poor—but be unfailingly courageous in connecting Jesus with our justice.  May our spirits be welded to the task of meeting physical needs so that we might address the ultimate need of every heart: Christ and Christ only.

 

We must never forget that the gospel is not “you do.”  The gospel is “Jesus did.”

                                                                                                               –Ed Stetzer

 
The Wishing Trees  

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International airport.  You’re familiar with it, aren’t you?  It’s the airport that spans the border between Luzerne and Lackawanna counties in northeast Pennsylvania.

Actually, I’d never flown there myself until this week.  Couldn’t help but notice there were still a few Christmas decorations around, including a lovely set of brightly lit “Wishing Trees.”  The ornaments on these trees were round cardboard discs upon which people wrote their wishes for the new year.  Here’s a sampling of the wishes I discovered:

  • I wish for love, financial stability, no pain and justice for my court battle
  • I wish and pray I will be out of my overwhelming debt in 2019
  • That we don’t lose the home that Mom and Dad worked for all those years
  • I just want my wife to be proud of everything she’s accomplished
  • I wish for common sense and cool heads

There were a few wish zingers from kids. Among the many adult comments, I observed these wee wishes:

  • A real live unikorne (her spelling, not mine)
  • A rubber ducky
  • I wish I could get a new Nerf gun
  • I wish Leyna were my sister
  • I wish that my mom and dad would be happy

Some wishes were haunting.  Or profound. Like these:

  • I wish for forgiveness
  • Let him be okay
  • I hope both of my children continue their sobriety
  • We wish Grandma peace in the passing of Grandpa
  • All people will find and rely on God

But the best wish I found wasn’t so much of a wish as a declaration.  See if you don’t resonate with this one:

  • Thank you, God, for all of my blessings. Never will I let go of your love and my trust in you.

May your “Wishing Tree” be bright with the light of this kind of love—all year long!

 

 
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Jon GaugerJon Gauger

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