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Losing Letters  

Their entire species is being threatened.  With each passing day, their numbers dwindle.  Yet few seem to notice--and even fewer care.

I'm not talking about a spotted three horned owl. Rather, it's something much more mundane.  So ordinary its passing is off the radar screen of general concern. 

Letters. Old fashioned, hand-written letters are a species in deep decline.  And in case you're wondering, that's not just a sentimental feeling. Ask the United States Post Office, where decline in letter volume (ie. revenue) is creating a major case of mail box blues. 

No secret as to why. Email and texting and inexpensive cell phones have all but taken over. Why wait three days for your message to get delivered when you can send it in three seconds?

Nobody's a bigger fan of email or texting than me--for whom these are almost an addiction.   Yet....I worry what they're doing to old fashioned romance.

Today's couples text and email almost exclusively.  Meaning...twenty or thirty years from now, there'll be very few love letters to open up and re-read.  Few cards to linger over.

Sure you can archive digital communication, but honestly--who bothers?  Besides, where's the romantic buzz from printing out a sanitized looking message on white paper?

The analogue feel of card stock, or crinkled paper and good ol' ink is a sensory experience for which there is no digital equivalent.

So how will emerging generations satisfy their appetite for reliving their romance?  Stare at images of antique phone screens?  Or is nostalgia itself soon to be extinguished...or morphed into a cold digital formula?

It all just makes me increasingly grateful that when God decided to send us His ultimate love letter, He didn't send us a text or email us an attachment with cute little animated graphics.  Instead, He wrote us a Book.   High tech is efficient.  But high touch it is not.

 
An Open Letter to Street Beggars  

An Open Letter to Street Beggars, pan handlers and what would be labeled in a less politically correct age as...bums. 

Please know that I hear you and see you every time I walk downtown.  See your handwritten cardboard signs, your coffee cups hungry for coins.  And like most followers of Jesus, I struggle in knowing how to respond.

So here's the deal I'm making—it's admittedly something of a compromise.  If you ask me for food, I will buy some—as long as it is in my power.  You have my commitment to doing what I can to alleviate your hunger.   I will likely NOT give you money to buy food—because I have seen the abuse this scenario invites.  I have no appetite for fake appetite—and I'm deeply opposed to buying your next beer or your next joint.   But if possible, I will give you physical food.

Can I be honest with you, Mr. or Ms. Street Person?  It irritates me when I see your deception and uncover the phony nature of some of your signs.  You know who you are—this month telling me you need $34 to pay for blood pressure medicine...next month $85 to—quote—“keep your place.”  And it just about makes me want to spit when I see some of you eating lunch at pricey places inside the train station.  I know, I know.  “Don't judge.”  Maybe someone donated the food—or gave you the money for those nice lunches.  It's not fair to jump to too many conclusions.   Nor is it fair to point out your inconsistencies while ignoring my own.

As I carefully weigh the stewardship of giving you a dollar or two or five...how I could wish the same sense of rigid accountability was a grid through which every dollar of mine is run.   Alas, I am usually happy to spend a twenty on myself without a thought...while agonizing over whether to give you a lousy buck.  

So as you can see, I am, at points, decidedly uncomfortable with the path I have chosen. 

Jesus said “the poor you will always have with you.”  I just wish BEING with the poor was less uncomfortable.  But maybe that was Jesus’ intent in the first place.

Thanks for wading through this letter.

See you...out on the street.

 
Dragonflies  

My wife and I spend most of our summer weekends camping.  And lately, I’ve been intrigued with the dragonflies we’ve been seeing.  There’s just something about the way they zoom back and forth, almost like a space vehicle in a video arcade game.

You know it’s only been in the last 10 years or so that we’ve really come to learn much about these four-winged fliers.  For instance…did you know there are about 5000 species of dragonflies worldwide—and new species are still being discovered!  Dragonflies can be smaller than one inch, or longer than four inches, with a wingspan exceeding five inches.  As for speed, they can fly between 30 and 35 miles per hour. 

A dragonfly typically eats 10 -15 percent of its own weight in prey.  That menu would include mosquitoes, aphids and other small insects.

Lots of myths have swirled around dragonflies for years.  Among the more popular: that they can sew your lips or eyelids shut.  My favorite myth: that dragonflies bring dead snakes back to life. 

Those myths seem silly.  Until you acknowledge the myths that you and I regularly entertain and even feed.  Myths like, “God doesn’t really know about my situation.” Or… “He really isn’t going to provide for me.”

Scientists report that when you’re actually handling a dragonfly, they’ll pretend they’re going to sting you. They curl up their abdomen and look exactly like they’re about to strike.  But the dirty little dragonfly secret is this: they can’t.  They don’t have a stinger!

Neither do those worries you and I cradle in our hearts. Romans 8:15 reminds us, “For you have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption by which we cry, Abba, Father!”

It’s time we stopped fearing worries without a stinger.  

Lord help us hear you and trust you.

 
Just as I Am  

It happened unexpectedly. 

I had just stepped through the revolving door onto LaSalle Blvd  in downtown Chicago It was then I heard the sound above the rumble of  downtown afternoon traffic. Could it be?

The unmistakable strains of “Just as I Am.”  Where was the music coming from?  As I stepped on to the corner of City Hall, I was swept up into a fog of sorts. 

Though the music playing was instrumental, I could hear the words in my head.

And I looked out at the faces on Randolph Street and wondered...  What if this was a giant urban Billy Graham outreach?   What if the music I was hearing was the altar call?  What if every person I saw was heading forward to pray and receive Christ?

Just as I am without one plea---

That's for the lady watering flowers in front of the hotel.

 

But that thy blood was shed for me.

There's a well-dressed businessman coming now.

 

And that thou bidst me come to thee

Over there— a cab driver's getting out of his car.

 

O Lamb of God, I come....

Look—is that the city council coming forward?

 

Just as I am thou wilt receive

Hundreds now.  Touching elbows.  Quickening their pace.

 

Wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve

Some of them are crying.  And I myself am fighting tears.

 

Because thy promise I believe,

See them all?  Weeping...praying?

O Lamb of God, I come....I come.

 

Alas...the music faded as I walked toward the train station. And with it the strange vision.

But why shouldn't it be so?

Why shouldn't it?

Lord Jesus...visit our cities. 

And may our personal holiness pave the way.

 
Prison Perspectives  

Recently, my wife and I visited a friend who is in prison.   If you've never been to one, it's a sobering and sensory exercise.  There's an unmistakable institutional smell—a fragrant bouquet of floor cleanser, window dust and the faint odor of new paint,  There's the sound of doors buzzing, keys jangling, radios squawking...along with the thud of your own pulse.

Faces around the room bear a sad and anxious presence.  You wonder who they have come to visit....what the crime was--and you know that they're wondering the same about you.

As we chatted in the official visiting room with my friend, we did what everybody else there did: pretended the gray grimy place was the setting for an ordinary conversation in an ordinary place on an ordinary day. 

My friend talked about the “Property Room,” where inmates pick up magazines, and care packages sent by loved ones.  The objects are treated so cautiously, that  harmless gifts often never get to the inmates because of security concerns. But the worst thing is the sign that officials have posted outside the property room: “Leave your feelings at the door.”

The experience got me to wondering.  Why must we add insult to a prisoner's injury with a sign like that? Why must the walls be a depressing gray?  Can't something be done?  And if so, what should I do, as a follower of Jesus, to make a difference?

Guess I'm probably best off supporting the ministries already doing effective work in this challenging arena.  But I had better do something.  And so had you.

If we claim to love Jesus, we can ill afford to ignore his haunting word picture in Matthew, “I was in prison...but you did not visit me.”

Surely a visit means more than merely showing up . 

Surely it means stepping up...and lifting others up—even if they reside in a prison.

 
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Jon GaugerJon Gauger

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