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Footsteps  

It was the first walk in the first snow of the season. With the wet white stuff falling, I couldn't resist a hike around the one-mile paved track that arcs around a neighborhood park. The mesmerizing flakes tumbled onto turf not quite chilled enough to sustain much accumulation.  All the more reason to hurry up, get out, and enjoy.

A glance at the slushy stuff gave evidence that early as it was, I was not the first to start racking up a daily quota of 10-thousand steps.

After a few minutes, I subconsciously began studying the impressions in the snow left by fellow travelers. It was easy to distinguish which steps belonged to men and which belonged to women. 

You could tell which of the walkers felt regular shoes were okay versus those who decided it was time to put on heavy boots. The difference in tread was significant.

You could tell which people walked and which jogged. The joggers left a telltale skidding of their heels across the snow's surface.

You could even tell which pets were allowed to roam off-leash.  Their footprints were far from their owners'!

And of course, you could tell which direction people were walking.  On one leg of the path, there were five sets of footprints, including mine.  Four of us were walking in the same direction.  Only one person was going the other way.

Consider: not a single person walking that morning began their journey by deciding, "Gee, I think I'll leave some footprints."  But leave footprints they did.  Footprints revealing a surprising amount of information.

Like us.

We are all leaving footprints.  Our daily choices, words, and actions leave footprints—small and large.  What do ours say about us?

The question is not will you and I leave footprints for others who come behind us.  The question is, what do our footprints say about us, our character, and our walk with Christ?

 

The naive believes everything,

But the sensible man considers his steps.

-- Proverbs 14:15

 

 

 
Unlikely Folks  

“Went to a funeral this weekend,” I told my friend Jack, who walked in fiddling with the brown beret he’d just removed.

“Sad business, funerals,” he offered gently—uncharacteristic for Jack.  Like a Jack I’d never known.

"Being a graveside service, the preacher had to keep things short," I reported.

“Good for him.  When it’s forty and windy, nobody wants windy preachers” (Jack was back).

“Saw something that made me wonder a bit, though."

"What's that?" inquired Jack.

"After the service, the pastor offered the crowd a copy of the Gospel of John in an easy-reading translation."

"Good for him.  But why the wonder?" Jack asked.  "That's the kind of thing we should be doing at funerals.”

“Two of the takers were what I’d consider—well— unlikely.”

“Meaning?”

"Last people on the planet I'd expect to take a gospel home with them.  One was a lesbian, and the other was a guy who’s been in and out of prison.”

There was a gleam in Jack’s eye as he countered, “I seem to recall a guy in the Bible running around imprisoning Christians.  Happy to see them killed, really.  Not what I’d call a likely convert.  But he ended up writing most of the New Testament. Then there was that drunken slave ship captain back in the 1700s—language that peeled paint off a wall.  The guy ultimately gave us the song, Amazing Grace. And who would have believed the ruthless ‘hatchet man’ for president Richard Nixon would end up born again?  The way I see it, God has a long history with unlikely people—they're some of His favorites."

With that, Jack plopped the beret back on his head, nodded slightly, and with a twinkle in his eye, let himself out the door.

Got any “unlikely” folks in your life?

 
Why the Pilgrims Really Came  

Why did the pilgrims come here?   Really.

Don't bother looking for the answer in most school textbooks. Don't ask the growing ranks of revisionists. Instead, ask the Pilgrims.

They speak clearly and unequivocally in a document known as the Mayflower Compact.  Written and signed just ten days after anchoring at Plymouth Rock, this charter is regarded as the first document to establish self-government in the New World.  It begins: "In the name of God, Amen."

Note that the very first sentence in that very first governing document acknowledges God.  Not a god.  Or a force.  Or religion.  God.  Doesn't quite jive with a growing secular assessment that these were mostly just folks searching for economic opportunity.

The second paragraph opens with the reason the pilgrims came:

“Having undertaken, for the glory of God, and advancement of the Christian faith, and honor of our King and Country, a voyage to plant the first colony in the northern parts of Virginia...”

Catch that? “The glory of God and advancement of the Christian faith.”   They didn’t come to advance a pluralistic culture.  They came for the advancement of the Christian faith.

It doesn’t take a doctoral candidate studying early American literature to discover the facts.  But if ever there was an inconvenient truth for today’s revisionists, it’s found in the Mayflower Compact.  Read it for yourself—it’s only 166 words. As you do, take a moment to thank the Lord for the faith of America’s founders.

God grant us their courage, their faith, their commitment to advancing the Christian faith. 

Happy Thanksgiving!

 

 

 

 
Bloated Language  

Is it just me, or are we steadily adding syllables to expressions that work just fine without them?

Example. I overheard heard college administrators talk of the need for alternative classroom methods in this age of Coronavirus. They mentioned “new modalities for teaching.” Means the same thing as modes—but “modalities” adds three syllables.

Up until recently, you might have described a powerful event as “transforming.” No longer. We’ve moved on to “transformative.”

“Health” is out. “Wellness” is in.

I understand that times and sensitivities change. But why do they always change for the longer?

You used to go to the hearing doctor. Now it’s “The Center for Auditory Wellness.”

Many of us still remember doing a job interview down at "Personnel"—three syllables. That died years ago in favor of "Human Resources"—five syllables. This one gets me—Human Resources. Did they anticipate a day when we might offer Animal Resources, as opposed to human? Or perhaps Robotic Resources?

As I poke fun at our collective culture (no doubt I'm also guilty of this silly syllable stacking), I offer a caution. Let's take care lest this pseudo-intellectual drivel ooze into our spirituality.

Jesus says, "They think they shall be heard for their much speaking” (Matthew 6:7). Adding syllables and words doesn’t add to our godliness or spiritual fervor—but often bloats our pride.

Jesus calls us to humble ourselves, like a child. Kids say what they say clearly and simply. It’s time we learned from them.

 
Watch Your Walk--Lessons from a Vietnam Vet  

Vietnam, 1968, Lai Khe (northwest of Saigon).

In the signature dank and darkness known only to jungles, infantry platoon Sargent Russ Caforio stepped warily.  Their mission was to set up an ambush along a known enemy route.  “There were ten of us,” he recalls. “We carried Claymore mines, M-16’s, grenades, a Starlight scope, and a radio."

That, and something much less flashy. “We also brought a spool of thin filament, similar to a fine fish line, which we strung around the perimeter of our ambush site about 100 feet out.”

A low tech surveillance tool, it was surprisingly effective.  "If that line got broken" (an enemy soldier leaving their sequestered position), an alarm I carried would go off."  But did it?

"About 10 pm, the alarm went off. I turned on the Starlight scope and surveyed the field across the route spotting hundreds of Viet Cong soldiers.  I prayed for wisdom and called for indirect fire support. I had our forces fire a ring of 81mm shells in a circle around me every 10 minutes all night until 6:30 the next morning.  That was a night of intense prayer.”

At dawn, Russ and his platoon finally broke ambush and returned to base camp, a very thankful group of men. At my request, Russ shared some pictures. 

I surmised it had to feel creepy wading through jungle swamps, insects, parasites, and every make and model of Asian critters in those waters. His reply:

“We never knew what the next step would bring in water or jungle or what we might find in our fatigues. Lots of leeches, snakes, booby traps. Not much different than our daily walk!"

One last detail.  This entire drama played out just six-tenths of a mile away from base camp.  Lesson: Trouble is never far away. Better watch our daily walk!

As for Russ Caforio, I invite you to join me in saluting this great American veteran.

 

 

 

 

 
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Jon GaugerJon Gauger

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