|Alone in the Playland
|Thursday, July 26, 2018|
She was the only kid in the McDonald’s Playland.
Apparently, it happens a lot.
Alexa is nine. Her dad lives in one town, her mom in another, 17 miles away. She was the only child in the McDonald’s Playland until we arrived with our two grandkids. Though they are younger than Alexa, she chatted them up. My wife and I, as well while we waited for our order.
By the time I arrived with our tray of food, Alexa had seated herself at our table and stayed there for the entire duration of our meal. She seemed plenty hungry—but not for food.
“I’m a Video gamer,” blurted Alexa. Her preference? “Games where you shoot people.” She does not tire of McDonald’s food, even though she spends many hours a week there. “Yogurt is my favorite,” she informed.
Alexa wore a brightly colored shirt featuring a whimsical cat driving a yellow Volkswagen Beetle. She pointed out her dad who was seated in a glassed off party room, some thirty feet away. Dad was glued to his phone, which was glued to the wall, charging.
Following our meal, Alexa joined our two kids climbing the plastic structures and sliding through tubes. When it was time to wrap up, Alexa had questions: “Are you leaving? Why? Are you coming back?” We told her we’d come back, because we camp in the area. “So you will come back?” she asked as much as stated. And then it was time to leave.
My wife took our two grandkids to the bathroom as Alexa went to be with her dad. She threaded her arm around his, as little girls do. Leaned her head against his shoulder. But she might as well have been invisible. His phone was all he could see.
I was now seated across from Alexa, 15 feet away holding the Happy Meal toys for our grandkids while they finished in the bathroom. I waved at Alexa. On the other side of the glass, she waved back.
Then it was my turn to visit the restroom. When I came back, Alexa was no longer with her dad. He was as I’d left him—glued to his phone. She was now in the back of the place, in the play area. Our eyes locked for just a moment, Alexa’s and mine. I waved. Her curled fingers waved back twice.
Pretty sure she smiled.
Pretty sure I teared up.
She was the only kid in the McDonald’s Playland.
Apparently, it happens a lot.
|Wall of Stories
|Thursday, July 19, 2018|
History oozes out if its pores—literally.
On Chicago’s Michigan Avenue, the spire-topped Tribune Tower clutches at the sky. Every time I walk past, I can’t just walk past. I linger. Stare. Ponder the wall of stories.
Constructed in 1925, the imposing gothic icon is embedded with stone and brick fragments of impressive pedigree. Built right into the walls of the Tribune Tower are actual pieces from…
But that’s just the beginning. Look further and you will find stones from:
The question I have is the same one you have: How did they get these priceless artifacts? Do you just write the Prime Minister of Italy and say, “Hey, we’re building something new on Michigan Avenue and we’d love to have a chunk of the Coliseum”? Think about all the stories represented by those walls!
Back in 2560 B.C. when sweaty workers lugged the first stone of the Great Pyramid into place, nobody knew just how great the Great Pyramid would really be.
In 1067, when the last brick was troweled into Wartburg Castle, nobody knew that hundreds of years later within its walls, Martin Luther would translate the Bible into German.
Those stone workers who chiseled the foundation of the White House could never have foreseen the history that would unfold inside the structure they were building.
But here’s the most impressive truth of all. As a follower of Christ, nobody—absolutely nobody—can tell how grand a story God will write on the walls of your life.
You might not feel like much is going on right now as you try to serve Him faithfully. It might seem that there is little to nothing about your spiritual journey worth even noting. But I’m sure the Eiffel Tower was not the least bit impressive in the early stages of its construction. Ditto for the Tower of London. And the Pentagon must have seemed downright odd until it was finished.
Rest assured, God is constructing a wall of stories in your life. Philippians 1:6 tells us precisely that:
Next time you’re visiting the Windy City, make it a point to visit the Tribune Tower. Don’t just walk by, either. Touch the stones. Feel the history. And know that God is writing a story in the walls of your life, too!
|The Best Day
|Thursday, July 12, 2018|
What’s the best day you can recall?
For me, it would be the day I married Diana. Unforgettable. Our honeymoon trip to the tourist trap known as Wisconsin Dells is without doubt the most fun and the most fabulous memory I have.
(You who are more spiritually minded will have to forgive me for not mentioning the day I received Christ as my favorite day. But I was such a little kid at the time, I sort of took it all in stride).
For our daughter, Lynnette, her favorite day on the whole calendar is….can you guess? Hint: It’s not Christmas, Give up? It’s the Fourth of July. Her flags and bunting and red-white-and-blue decorations are up weeks before the big day. She and her family wouldn’t dream of taking in just one fireworks show. They go to several.
This year during Fourth of July celebrations, Lynnette commented happily, “This is the best day!” With four little kids around, she never lacks for an audience. Five-year-old Caleb heard his mom’s pronouncement and begged to differ. In a respectful but forthright tone, he countered, “Actually, the best day is the day we get to heaven.”
Ka-pow! Score one point for the five-year-old.
The very first second we are conscious in heaven, we will certainly conclude, “this is the best day.” Perfect health. Perfect faith. Perfect rest. Best of all, we’ll enjoy a perfect Savior whom we’ll worship perfectly doing perfectly suited tasks in a perfect environment perfectly satisfied for ever and ever.
Caleb reminds us of Paul’s happy assertion in 1 Corinthians 2:9: “This is what the Scriptures mean when they say, ‘No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love Him.’”
No wonder Paul later declares in Philippians 1:23, “I'm torn between two desires” (going to heaven versus. remaining on earth). “I long to go and be with Christ, which would be far better for me.”
Next time somebody asks you about your favorite day, I dare you to resist choosing any date from your past. Instead, point to the future. Point to heaven.
|Premature Death Notice
|Thursday, July 05, 2018|
The words came through but didn’t quite register.
At exactly 1:47 on Tuesday afternoon an email arrived announcing that my father had died—”please pray for the family.” But before I ever saw the email, my son Tim called and asked if I’d heard the “news.”
Something wasn’t adding up, so I placed a quick call to the email source (a wonderful family friend) and learned that they had made an error in identifying the deceased. The lost loved one in question was actually my aunt. A follow up email was immediately sent out to correct the error.
Obviously, we are sad for the family of Dad’s sister. They have lost a caring mother and there is a hole in their family that will never again quite be filled. And Dad, of course, has lost a sister. The day previous we’d paid our respects at the funeral home.
Still, it was strange to think that others were now thinking someone was dead who was actually fully alive (these things have a way of taking a while to get sorted out). But Dad is hardly the first to be mistaken for dead.
In May of 1897, American humorist Mark Twain was traveling in London when someone started the rumor that he had become gravely ill and died. When questioned by a reporter about the story, the much-mustached Mark Twain quipped, “The reports of my deaths are greatly exaggerated.”
I couldn’t resist texting my Dad, “How does it feel to have been declared dead—and come back to life on the same day?” His response is choice. He simply quoted Paul:
The sobering truth is, whether our death announcement is premature—or on time—we shall all have one eventually. But followers of Christ need not let this sobriety check send us into a dark funk. Why? Our lives here are but shadows. We shall have all of heaven and all of Jesus for all of eternity! Allow me to quote again from Paul who said,
I belong to Christ.
Christ belongs to me.
Everything else—even death—is pocket change.
|The Girl Who Cared for Anne Frank
|Thursday, June 28, 2018|
Everyone has heard of Anne Frank, the Jewish girl who died in a Nazi concentration camp. Fewer have heard of Gena Goldfinger, the girl who nursed 15-year old Anne as she lay dying.
Before Gena's journey to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, she spent time at Auschwitz, where an apparent malfunction in a gas chamber spared her life. But a brother was shot by the Nazi SS. One of Gena's sisters was gunned down trying to smuggle food into the camp. Another sister died a horrible death after being injected with gasoline by Dr. Mengele.
But little Gena—not even ten years old—was a survivor, and she intended to stay that way. At the time, an epidemic of typhus fever had swept throughout the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp where she and her mother had marched. Hundreds died every day.
Gena, of course, saw the effects of the epidemic up close. Determined to ensure her and her mother's survival, the plucky girl talked her way into a job at the camp hospital.
As for Anne Frank, Gena remembers, "She was delirious, terrible, burning up." Gena brought water to Anne in an attempt to relieve her discomfort.
"I washed her face, gave her water to drink," recalled Gena, whose bunk was around the corner from Anne's. "I can still see that face, her hair, and how she looked."
Unlike Anne, who died three months shy of her 16th birthday, Gena survived and lived a long life after the war, leading school children in tours of the death camps in later years.
She had lost three brothers and two sisters in the Holocaust—along with a friend named Anne Frank.
On June 7 of this month, at the age of 95, Gena passed away. I look at her life and wonder—when I finally come to the end, will there be anyone who remembers me giving them a cup of water? We may not be in a concentration camp, but the parched and dying are all around us, some of them even appearing healthy on the outside.
In her famous diary, Anne Frank wrote, "How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world."
Jesus said, "And if you give even a cup of cold water to one of the least of my followers, you will surely be rewarded." --Matthew 10:42.
Know anyone who could use a cup of cold water?
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