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Simple Things  

Camping has a way of making you sleep well at night.  I mean really well.  Especially if you’re a kid.  Once, when our grandson Caleb was with us, his “batteries” ran so low, he was unable to finish buttoning his pajamas before slumping over on the couch, out cold. 


Recently, Caleb paid a visit to our camper again, along with his three-year-old sister, Lucy. It was bedtime, and the spunky little girl was winding down in a hurry.  So we quickly flopped down the camper’s couch, made the bed and tossed her in it.  


I usually end up bunking on the couch with Lucy because Caleb has less allergy issues when sleeping higher up in the bedroom with Grandma. 


After the light shut off, Lucy immediately plopped her head on my chest, closed her eyes and fell asleep.  I think it took less than sixty seconds. And what could be lovelier?  


But I confess I felt a bit guilty when noting that after thirty minutes, I’d grown tired of being in the same position.  Frankly, her head was heavy and sweaty.  A part of me wanted to rearrange Lucy’s pose and and place her head on her pillow.  Another part of me went down a different thought path.  I asked…


Over the course of my life, exactly how many nights will I be privileged to spend with a three-year old?  How many times will I go to sleep with a little blonde head on my chest? Through the entire span of my remaining days, how many times will I be able to curl up with a little tyke like Lucy?  Answer:  Few.  Very few.  So I stayed there, her head on my chest, for a long, long time. 


In a strange way, the scene reminds me of the brevity of life.  In Psalms 139:16 David says to God, “You saw me before I was born.  Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.”


I don’t know how many days are numbered in your book, let alone how many I have left. But I do know that simple things—like a three-year old’s head on my chest—are not to be treated lightly. 

Parties, Pagans and Possibilities  

With graduation and wedding seasons upon us, my wife and I have lately been to more than our share of parties. Sprinkled into that mix: three funerals.  Recently, Diana and I attended a gathering that stretched our comfort zone.


He clutched secrets of his own...

For example, there was the newly married couple, both at least in their sixties or maybe seventies.  Theirs was not a wedding that we attended, but mixing with them was easy. She blabbed effortlessly—unendingly.  He was as silent as drying paint.


Still, the white-haired groom clutched secrets of his own.  A financial analyst by day, he was an artist by night.  We were informed he would soon be creating a charcoal drawing of his new wife—sans clothing.  Talk about too much information!


Say what?!

Also seated at our table was a lady who proudly told us she was a belly dancer.  Her hair weavings, jewelry and makeup all gave powerful evidence to back up her claim.  With due respect to the physical fitness and coordination such a dance requires, she was definitely a bit old for such a hobby.  Likewise, her husband, who plays in a rock band. 


This gathering also brought us rollicking recollections of memories drenched in too much alcohol, the stories punctuated with bawdy laughter.  We were way outside our normal social circle. 


How much of Jesus did they see?

But isn’t this the type of setting in which Jesus would have been found?  Aren’t these the very kinds of people He made a priority?   Surely a crowd like this was what the Pharisees had in mind when they accused Jesus of hanging out with “tax collectors and ‘sinners’.


Here’s what I think the Holy Spirit might be trying to teach me (and maybe you).   The fact that I might have been uncomfortable was less important than the need these people had for an encounter with an authentic Jesus-loving person.  The real issue was not my personal comfort, but what they personally took away from our encounter.  Exactly how much of Jesus did they see?  Did I put the spotlight on Him?


Parties…pagans…and possibilities.  They are all a great reminder of Christ’s words in Luke 5:32: “I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.”


Death Made Stranger  

Death is a strange thing.  But some have made it even stranger by preserving body parts of the deceased.  I am completely serious.  Following are eight examples from an article in The Ultimate Book of Randomly Awesome Facts, published by Scholastic.

  • Scientist Isaac Newton’s tooth was set in a ring and is now said to be worth thousands of dollars.
  • Russian leader Vladimir Lenin’s brain was sliced into 31,000 slivers so that it could be studied (wonder what they’ve discovered).
  • A lock of George Washington’s hair is kept in a locket in a Maine museum.
  • Scientist Albert Einstein’s eyes were removed and kept by one of his doctors.  No one seems to know why.
  • Composer Frederic Chopin’s heart lies in a crystal jar in Warsaw, Poland. 
  • Astronomer Galileo Galilei’s middle finger and thumb rest in a museum in Florence, Italy. 
  • One of Buddha’s teeth is said to have survived the fire that burned his funeral pyre, and is now in Sri Lanka.
  • Fragments of Abraham Lincoln’s skull—and the bullet that killed him—are in Maryland. 

Creepy, huh?

I once walked past the heavily waxed body of Mao Zedong in China.  And in Hanoi, we gawked at the preserved remains of Ho Chi Minh.  What is it with Communists preserving corpses? 

Biblically speaking, the treatment of a dead body ought to evoke respect—hence the custom of anointing bodies with spices.  Our souls, of course, represent incomparable worth.  But in the Scriptures, our bodies are treated with regard, as well.

1 Corinthians 15:52,53 assures us, “In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality.”

I doubt that after I'm gone anyone will have the slightest interest in the tiniest slice of my brain.  But all joking aside, I shall be eternally grateful to have been “raised imperishable.”  

What will it be like to “put on immortality?”  Given our proneness to sickness, suffering, and death, aren’t you looking forward to finding out?

Ultimate Gift  

It's one of my least favorite parts of travel: car rental.

It begins with a wrestling match online, where it is nearly impossible to gauge the total price of your car before you hit the “Purchase Now” button.  Airport surcharges, city taxes, “recovery fees” and other cash-snatching schemes pile on to the price. 

Forget about "naming your own price!"

That's why I make it a point to low-ball any offer I make online.  Contrary to the ad campaigns, they really don't want you to “name your own price.”  Evidence?  They nearly always discourage me from making my bid, while very “helpfully” suggesting a much higher figure.

Anyway, your plane lands and there you are ready to pick up your vehicle at the rental counter.  That's when they begin the heavy hustle for add-ons and extras...along with the threat of charging you $10 per drop of gas (or something close to that), should you fail to return the tank full. 

Was this a mistake?

But there I was earlier this week in Denver, having reserved a car online for $21/day.  I'd  successfully evaded the airport money monsters and proceeded to my assigned slot.

There it was: a stunning black Mercedes Benz.  Leather seats, digital-everything--this car was loaded.  And the keys were in my hand.  Was this a mistake? Had I somehow won the car rental lottery?  What had I done to earn this sweet ride?

Answer: nothing. 

The best gifts

Forgive me for making a hairpin turn here, but isn't that somehow an image of the kindness and grace of our God?  He loves to give good gifts just because He's kind.  For no apparent reason other than He likes to bless us, He gives us the best gifts. Sometimes those gifts are as simple as a plate of hot toast.  Sometimes they're as enduring as a kiss on the cheek.

And then there's God's ultimate gift—the gift of being “saved by grace through faith,” also known in Ephesians 2:8, 9 as “the gift of God.”  It’s the gift of being forgiven of our long list of offenses (sins), the gift of restoration with God.  It’s the gift of God’s personal guide, the Holy Spirit.  And—it’s the gift of eternal life in heaven. 

Have you received this gift—the gift of Jesus?

From Churches to Champing  

Everyone knows about camping.  And most of us who camp know all about “glamping.”  It's a marriage between glamour and camping.  Think upscale trailers with luxurious amenities.  Trust me—if you haven't been to an RV dealer recently, you have no idea how cushy camping can be.

Yet an English charity, Britain's “Churches Conservation Trust,” now makes it possible to fall asleep in church—and not get hassled.  The Trust, which preserves some 350 “disused” churches, is a creative fundraising scheme to provide for their maintenance.  With no congregants to supply funds, it's tourism that now helps finance roof repairs, tuck-pointing and other maintenance.

Sleeping in an Abandoned Church...

For about $50 per person, you get the unique experience of sleeping overnight in an abandoned church.  Launched in 2014, they call it “champing.” But there's little luxury to be found here. Think basic necessities, not flat-panel TVs.  

An article in the April American Way Magazine points out, “You may find yourself sleeping in a pew, or using bathroom facilities that seem to predate Christ.”   Nevertheless, the idea has been gathering momentum.

I Have a Better Idea!

There are now 12 of these “converted” churches available from Scotland to England's deep south.  And more bookings were reserved in the first few days of the new season than all of last year.  Sadly, there seems to be more emotion invested in the preservation of the brick and stone, than any effort at ascertaining what went so wrong inside the walls that these houses or worship are now pseudo hotels.

I have a better idea.  Let's fill them up again—with worshippers!   Let's preach the Word with Holy Spirit Fire.  Let's fill these churches with people who will pray to God and “give Him no rest.”  Let's blast the ancient walls and the timbered ceilings with such a sound of praise, the very idea of dust settling anywhere is simply impossible because of all the Christ-honoring commotion.

By all means, let's abandon the “champing”--but not the churches!

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Jon GaugerJon Gauger

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