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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.”


"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.





Only for a Season  

This morning it was fire-engine red, eye-catching and full of fall’s finest. This afternoon, that same leaf perches on my desk curled and brown and surprisingly brittle.

That any living sprig could possess color and life so late in the season—as this leaf did— surprised me.  To the point, I had to pause my morning walk and snap a picture of the thing.  Even the stem was striking (this, after many nights where the temperature dropped into the lower 30s).

But sunset tells a different story, a sadder tale if you want my opinion.  Not to get melodramatic (we are talking about one small maple leaf here), the shriveling process offers a visceral reminder to us humans.

Like my beautiful leaf, you and I are here only for a season. 

That our Designer typically gives us so many more days to live does not alter the stark warning from the maple leaf: we are only for a season.  The sense of scale is vastly different.  A lucky leaf might live for eight months, while lucky humans might survive eight decades. 

But again, it’s only for a season. Isaiah 64:6 whispers that eventually, “We all do fade like a leaf.”

Making plans makes sense.

Having goals is good.

But remember—it’s all only for a season.   

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Jon GaugerJon Gauger

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