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Theraputty  

It’s called Theraputty.

To four-year-old Ava, it was "firm play dough." My wife somehow acquired a plastic tub of the green stuff used in exercise regimens to strengthen muscles and joints. At $27 per pound on Amazon, it’s not cheap. But it is fun.

Sitting at the kitchen table, we spent hours crafting shapes and critters of all sizes. I attempted a cat, but Ava wondered where the front legs were. Appropriately chastised, I made a horse that did have four legs. This Ava immediately trotted off to her personal pasture.

My next attempt was a cube, which she plucked up for her own purposes.

Finally, I attempted a pyramid (which turned out to be surprisingly challenging). Not ten seconds after completion, this was repurposed into an appendage of some kind on Ava’s ghost.

None of this reallocation of putty resources was mean-spirited. Ava was just having fun—at my expense.

Still, I’d be less than honest if I didn’t admit it was a bit disconcerting. I was proud of what I had made. I kinda wanted those things to stay around—for at least 30 seconds. Those were my creations made with my playdough. Or Theraputty. Or whatever (and here, I sound like a four-year-old).

We smile. But that playful protest of mine is not so different than our response to God. When He takes our grandiose plans and dreams and shapes them into something entirely different than we've envisioned, our first response is usually to complain rather than comply.

It’s so easy to get spun up. But what’s God’s perspective?

We get more than a hint in Romans 9:20-21, “Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, ;Why have you made me like this?’ Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use?”

Are you willing to be putty for Jesus?

Willing to let Him remold your agenda?

Willing to release your grip on what is in glad exchange for what might be?

Next time you feel like God has rolled you up and then stretched you out— and your life looks very little like your dreams, come back to earth. Come back to humility. We are, after all, just clay.

But now, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter;

we are all the work of your hand.

-Isaiah 64:8

 

 
Is Disagreeing Hateful?  

Free speech is muzzled.

Christian viewpoints are silenced.

Cancel culture is a seemingly unstoppable stampede.

Have you ever asked yourself how we got to this place?  There is no single answer.  But let me tell you what I think is at the core of much of it: a hijacking of language.

This hijacking took place when Christians—and others—who disagreed with the alternative lifestyles many embraced were told our opposition was “hateful.” 

Mind you, I disagree all the time with my wife—and she with me.  That doesn’t mean we hate each other. Any parent of a teen disagrees with their kid’s lifestyle choices—and often!  But that doesn’t mean they hate!  Good friends are good friends precisely because they can disagree—and still love each other.

Nevertheless, the hate label took off.  And that rush to calling any opposing opinion hateful was timed with the emergence of hate speech sympathies in our culture and legal system.

Hate speech laws can now make almost anything illegal.  In this new twisted logic, to disagree is to hate—and to hate is illegal.  Therefore, disagreeing is illegal! It’s crazy.  Maddening.  And more.  

I hate no man.  I hate no woman. Because I serve a God who “so loved the world that He gave His only son, that whoever believes in Him will not die, but have eternal life.”

If any speech can be called hate speech, then there is no such thing as free speech.

 

Let no unwholesome word come out of your mouth, but if there is any good word for edification according to the need of the moment, say that, so that it will give grace to those who hear.

-Ephesians 4:29

 

 
Help! Sliding off my foundation?  

What is it with some of us guys?

Our eyes can process that there’s a problem—staring us in the face. But our fears keep us from taking action. Example—my garage.

As arctic conditions continue, the utility door (just learned that’s what they call the small one on the side of the garage) is failing to latch.  The tongue doesn't seem to be long enough to catch the strike plate. 

This is not the first time the problem has surfaced.  Not the second, either.  Or the third. (And, um, there's the problem).

At first, I chalked it up to old age. (Not mine!)   See, our unattached garage is sixty-three year old and—believe it or not—has been moved on rollers twice to allow for room additions off the back of the house.

So my solution has been to add washers to the screws that hold the strike plate.  It seems to work for a year or so.  And then the door flops open, welcoming neighborhood rodents and beasts.

The other day I ventured out into single-digit temperatures and added yet another washer.  There are now (drumroll, please) eight of them on each screw.  Ridiculous?  Of course!

Honestly, it's not a conscious effort to ignore the issue or fantasize the problem will somehow go away.  It's more a feeling of "Oh no!  This could be really big/bad/expensive, and I have no idea how I'm going to fix it—or pay someone else to fix it.”  That’s why there are eight washers on a door catch that is still not truly repaired.   

Responding to my wife’s gentle reminder that the problem was not going to fix itself and I really should assess what’s happening, I crunched through the snow and took a good look. Turns out my fears are not ungrounded.  Turns out the front corner of the garage (where the utility door is anchored) is actually sliding outward off the concrete pad.  Lovely.  The problem has dollar signs written all over it.  So I’ve called a friend.  In the springtime, he’ll help me fix it.  He always does.

It’s one thing to ignore that your garage is sliding off its foundation. It’s quite another to ignore that your soul might be sliding off its foundation. Is it?

Is it possible there’s a gap between you and Jesus that persists—and grows—just like the gap in my utility door?  Is it possible you’ve either pretended there isn’t a problem—or just hoped it would go away? It won’t.

Learn from my foolishness! Take an honest look at your spiritual foundation.

Ask God to forgive you and help you address whatever “it” is.

He’ll help you fix it.

He always does.

“Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.”

--James 4:8

 

 

 

 

 
Keep the Light--or Not  

What do you like to do on vacation?

Our kids call it "lighthouse hopping."  It's when my wife and I visit lighthouses. For us, the more, the merrier (hence the word, "hopping"). 

One hundred ninety-eight years ago, the U.S. Congress appropriated $5,000 to build the Saint Augustine lighthouse in Jacksonville, Florida.  In1874, an updated lighthouse replaced the original—one that I recently climbed.

That lighthouse is 165 feet tall, with 219 spiral steps leading up to an observation deck 140 feet above the ground.  Though the climb will cost you a few minutes (and a few calories!), the views of Matanzas Bay and Anastasia Island make it well worth the effort

.

Until 1955, a light keeper lived on the premise to guarantee the light's nighttime operation and its Fresnel lens.  Amazingly, that original lens is still in use but is now lit with electricity rather than whale oil.

The title of "light keeper" intrigues me.  That's precisely who and what we are as followers of Christ. Jesus said, "I am the light of the world."  But if it's true that He is the Light, it's equally true that you and I are called to be Light keepers.

The only question is, how well are we doing with our Light keeping?  Truthfully, there are only two answers. We can either keep the Light, or cover the Light.

  • When we keep God's commandments, we keep the Light.
  • When others see our good deeds and glorify our Father who is in heaven, we keep the Light. 

But I've discovered it's much easier to cover the Light than keep it.

  • When we react to our spouse with grumpiness rather than graciousness, we cover the Light.
  • When our choices reveal that we love ourselves more than others, we cover the Light.

Would a careful review of every word I've spoken in the last 24 hours make the Light of Jesus bright—or would it cover up His holy Light? If my thoughts could be transcribed and posted online, would they picture someone who keeps the Light or someone who covers the Light?

 "For you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light (for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth)"

--Ephesians 5:7,8

Keep the Light—or cover the Light.

Every choice leads to one or the other.

 

 

 

 
God has the Keys!  

Question: What’s worse than losing your keys?

Answer: Not knowing that you had them in the first place!

I remember the weekend when we went out to our camper…minus the keys.  Since we'd left one of the hatches unlocked, and since that hatch opened into the trailer, we shoved one of our little kids in that hatch (well, in a nice way) and coached them on how to unlock the door.

Recently, four-year-old Sade listened as her mother read about China missionary Gladys Aylward.  In one tense scene, Gladys was summoned to a prison and asked to stop the fighting between inmates. These were big burly men, and Gladys stood just under five feet tall.  You can understand her fear. 

Sadie did.  That's when she exclaimed, "But mom! She doesn't have to be afraid. GOD HAS THE KEYS! Like Paul, who was locked up. God had the keys, and they escaped. So if she ‘gots locked up,’ God Has the keys to help her.”

A four-year-old is connecting Paul's fears with Glady's fears--and God’s extraordinary provision. Do we?

Newman hall writes, “How unreasonable is it for a disciple of Jesus to worry!... Would Jesus have done so much for you already—would He have called you by His grace, renewed you by His Spirit, comforted you by His love, and preserved you to this day, if He intended now to abandon you? If He sought you when a stranger, will He not take care of you now that you are a child? If the foe was loved, how much more the friend! ‘If, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, how much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life!’ (Rom 5:10).

Sadie is right.  God has the keys.

(Note to self—Relax!)

 
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Jon GaugerJon Gauger

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