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Lingering Damage  

We’ve all seen the videos: aerial sweeps of entire neighborhoods flattened by Hurricane Ian. After killing 119 people and racking up 47 billion dollars of insured losses, Ian is now the most expensive storm in Florida’s history.

We are just back from a trip to Florida, north of where the hurricane left the coast. But even from a distance, you see damage to the vegetation. Where we stayed, the streets were lined with mounds of branches, palm fronds, and other storm debris.

Residents think the garbage collection people should handle it, but the trash haulers don’t share that idea. The city suggests you haul your tree trash to a “transfer station.”  But from all I’ve seen, that message isn’t being heard by many.

Bear in mind that the storm left a month ago, yet a region of Florida far from the hurricane’s direct path still suffers from lingering damage.

With respect to the hurting people of the Sunshine State, this scene reminds me of the damage unleashed by hurtful speech. In a blast of fury, you and I can release a hurricane of hateful words. As with Ian, the immediate damage is quickly apparent—and often deadly.

But it’s easy to overlook or ignore the lingering damage: erosion of trust, fear of transparency, and ruptured relationships. Call it storm debris. And like those palm fronds I saw at the curb, relational destruction has a way of staying around long after the initial impact.

 

Lord,

Keep us from windy words.

Words that bring death, destruction, and debris.

We ask it in the peace-loving name of Jesus,

Amen.

 

There is one whose rehash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.

—Proverbs 12:18

 
When the Messes are No More  

To children, they are treasures—their daily works of art. From crayons to markers to watercolors, kids love to create almost as fast as we can supply the paper.

So it was that five-year-old Ava presented me with a collection of her finest. She's embellished a rectangle of blue felt with a polka dot red crescent moon and an orange heart she’d cut out and glued. And on top of that heart was a smaller heart in the background blue shade.

This masterpiece arrived with other treasures. Among them was a flamboyant rendering of an ultra-green Christmas tree and another illustration (Ava informed me) I was holding upside down.

When you're in the middle of parenting, doling out the crayons (or, if you're courageous, the markers), it feels like you spend most of your life picking up scrap pieces and wiping splashes of color from the table that somehow escaped the protective newspaper. You’re convinced it’s never going to end. The markers, the murals, the messes.

And then, one day, it sneaks up on you.

No more ambitious paintings with "I love you" scrawled in giant letters—the letter "e” invariably spelled backward. No more glue all over everything it shouldn’t be all over. And—wonder of wonders—the table stays clean.

Every parent on the other side of the timeline knows what I’m talking about. But be warned. The loss of kitchen chaos comes at a price: the loss of little feet. Little hands. Little children. With little problems—and big fuzzy felt hearts that have a certain magic for fixing whatever’s wrong with us—and the world.

 

Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward.

-Psalm 127:3

 
Unthirsty  

We have a thirst problem, you and me.

The problem is—we aren’t. Thirsty, I mean.

When it comes to the Word of God—being in the presence of God—many of us just aren’t that thirsty. We like a sip now and then (morning devotions or Sunday church). But few would mistake us for genuinely thirsty souls.

When you’re really dried out, you can taste the water before it touches your lips, let alone goes down your parched throat. You smile at the thought of it, anticipating its cool and quenching effect.

But for many of us, a swallow of the Almighty is good enough. And frankly, that’s all we want. Otherwise, we’d drink more. Which is a polite way of saying we are “unthirsty.”

But what are we to make of passages like Psalm 63: “My soul thirsts for you, my flesh yearns for you, in a dry and exhausted land where there is no water.” Some of us read those words and ask, What’s wrong with me? Why don’t I thirst for God like that?

You can’t help but wonder if the King of Kings doesn’t ask those same questions about us.

A popular beer ad campaign urges, “Stay thirsty, my friends.” But is it possible we get our thirst quenched by the world, something other than Jesus? Have we developed a taste for a poor substitute?

Yet, there stands Jesus offering us Himself, the water of life. He promises to any who lets Him satisfy their thirst, “the water that I will give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up to eternal life” (John 4:14).

That's much more satisfying than a swig of anything this world offers.

 

King Jesus—

We want to be thirsty for you, satisfied by you.

Nothing and no one else can do that.

So, we humbly ask you to give us the holy water of your abiding presence in us.

Amen!

 
Deal With It!  

A popular meme explains, “If a man says he’ll fix it, there’s no need to nag him every six months.”

Sadly, it took me just about that long to respond when our car’s automatic sensor suggested one of the tires was low. I got out and walked around, visually inspecting all four tires. They looked good—not a bit under-inflated.

Because everything looked fine, I concluded the car’s sensor had gone bad. In my experience, they often have. But the low-pressure message didn't go away. So, I put a gauge on all four tires, and sure enough, one of them—the rear passenger’s—was low. I pumped it up, the warning went away, and life was good.

About a week later…the same scenario. This time, I immediately put air in the rear passenger tire. All seemed well, but  I was still suspicious of the car’s sensor. My wife? She was suspicious that our tire had a problem—like a nail.

Nevertheless, I faithfully pumped air into that tire again and again—for several months. Finally, I set up an appointment with the tire shop at Diana's request. You already know what happened—they found a nail.

So, it wasn’t the sensor’s fault. The sensor was speaking the truth. The problem was me and my disbelief--the quiet belief that "I knew better." Think of the hassle we could have saved, let alone the mileage we might have gained from a properly inflated tire.

Likewise, God regularly speaks a word of warning or correction into our lives. He uses a verse of Scripture or prompting from the Holy Spirit. But we often ignore the alert, making our own inspection of the issue, falsely concluding that everything is just fine--or "fine enough."

But God alone is the gauge. Not us. And when He points out a problem, there's no use ignoring, avoiding, or delaying (again, think of the hassle we create for ourselves!). The very moment the Holy Spirit puts His finger on an issue is the time to deal with it. Not six hours, six days, or six months from now.

 

Pay careful attention to Him and obey His voice; do not rebel against Him.

-Exodus 23:21

 
Rapture Thoughts  

Admit it.

You’ve had some weird dreams. Meeting a celebrity. Being a celebrity. On the run. Shot at. Whatever.

Recently, in the wee hours of the morning, I heard a tumultuous sound—like many voices shouting. At once, I realized it was the rapture, that “glorious appearing” of Jesus Himself. Short on breath, long on adrenalin, I jolted awake.

Jesus…here…now? Concerns about unsaved family members tempered my shock and awe. What about friends whose salvation I'd been praying for? Two emotions hijacked my soul—regret and sadness. Regret at not working harder to share Christ. Sadness at time wasted—things left undone.

Biblically speaking, the real rapture (not my early morning dream) will be instantaneous. Of course, it will be overwhelmingly awesome to be with our Savior, Jesus, at last, and forever. How could it be anything less?

Still, that dream left me with a strong impression of unfinished business—things I need to care for.

Jesus really is coming back. And someday, the last opportunity to share Christ really will be gone. But we have today. We have this moment.

People need Jesus.

We know Jesus.

Why should there be unfinished business when He returns?

 
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Jon GaugerJon Gauger

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