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Fringe Kids  

I would never have noticed the kid walking into the grocery store had he not worn that shirt.  The one with tongues of red-hot flame leaping from the hem of his waist all the way up his chest. It reminded me of a shirt I’d worn twenty years earlier.  

When our kids were in high school, I was a volunteer for our church youth group.  Somehow, our small group was composed mostly of fringe kids, teens outside the church and—quite honestly—out on the fringes of life.

Alex was a boy who was emotionally not quite right.  He often showed up in a button-down shirt plastered with flames. I was desperate to connect with Alex—and failing.  One night he challenged me: “I want you to take this shirt and wear it to work.” I figured there could be no harm other than a few strange looks from co-workers. 

So I put that shirt on (and made it a point to stay holed up in my office!).  But then I needed to grab a Coke at lunch.  Naturally, I bumped into my boss on the way.  And then I found myself locking eyes with the president of Moody Bible Institute.  He squinted while I scooted away to my office. 

Announcing to Alex at youth group that I’d faithfully fulfilled his challenge, there was a bit of thawing in the relationship.  I grew to love his sense of humor.  Grew to love him.

I’ve often wondered where Alex is today.  Is there any observable spiritual pulse at all?  What about his friends, the others in our small group—are they still out on the fringe?

I wonder about the boy who was clinically depressed.  I wonder about the girl who wore a spiked collar. I wonder about the triplets who came to our backyard for hot dogs and hamburgers—and called it a “home-cooked meal,” acknowledging that they typically didn’t use plates at home.

I wonder about all of them but know little about any of them. Yet even as I write these words, I’m reminded that their stories are not fully written and their redemption is not out of reach.  Hope may be closer than we know.  So what if rather than merely pondering them, I prayed for them? 

Why haven’t I?  Why shouldn’t I?  And why not now!

What about the fringe people in your life? 


Soul Cleaning--Part Two  

We clean the bowl…but do we clean our soul?

Last week I made the somewhat crude assessment that we give attention to dirty toilet bowls…but sometimes insufficient attention to our dirty souls. In the spirit of two-way conversation, I invited your feedback and now share some of the comments you submitted.

Edna wrote, “Tidy Bowl…Tidy Soul.  I like your thought…but I do not like cleaning bathrooms!”  Then she added, “Keep up the good scrubbing work—it will never be a drain on you!” (Thanks for the puns, Edna!).   And your point is  spot-on: soul cleaning is something we really DO have to “keep up.”

Cindy shared the following: “I used to hate it when I went to God to confess the same sin again and again.  I would rather wait until I had a different sin to confess, figuring He is probably tired of hearing the same thing again, anyway.  But God is not like that at all.  He is just waiting to hear from me.  It got me thinking that perhaps I should start going to Him before I commit that same sin again. The more I talk to Him like a daddy, the more I realize that I do not want to do that same sin. Instead, I just want to talk to Him.”

Wow!  Profound stuff, Cindy.  Thanks for your insights.

Russ gave this issue of soul-cleaning a creative touch composing the following poem he’s titled Soul Cleaning.  It’s a fitting way to close out this blog.

I woke early, got out of bed

Shaking a bit to clear my head

Look, oh no, dirty toilet bowl

Did I think about my dirty soul?


I went to the kitchen for some food

To start the day in a good mood

I ate, I washed the cereal bowl

Did I think to stop and wash my soul?


By noon, I’m ready for more food

I want to continue my cheery mood

I ate, I washed my salad bowl

Did I consider my dirty soul?


Late afternoon, time for more food

To set up for the evening mood

I ate, I washed my pasta bowl

I confess, I forgot my dirty soul.


Evenings here, time for snack food

To go to bed in a good mood

I snacked, I washed my snacking bowl

I must take time to wash my soul.

    —Russ Caforio





Soul Cleaning  

It was quite the trend.


For a short time, it became standard operating procedure in restroom maintenance.  The doors of most restaurant and office bathrooms posted a card that noted exact dates and times when the place was cleaned—in many cases, several times a day. All those times and dates were to be carefully initialed by the cleaner.  

Remember those cards?  Well, you’ve probably noticed that most of them have gone the way of flip phones and dial-up internet.  Why?

Know what I think?  I think workers didn’t like the work!  And managers didn't like the cost.  And nobody liked the accountability the system created. Lots of unsigned spaces on those cards just didn’t look good for anybody.  And, after all, there’s no profit in a privy—just money down the ol’…ur…toilet.   But when those cards went away, in many cases, so did cleaner washrooms. 

Lest you think I’m wagging a finger at restroom cleaners, I'm not.  At our home, washroom maintenance is my domain.  I freely confess that intervals between my cleanings are often excessive.

But bathrooms are inherently dirty things.  Beyond flushable unmentionables, bathrooms seem to attract filth and trash and gum and garbage.  

The first “real” job I had after doing a paper route was to clean toilets at an office building.  I’ve learned there is no such thing as a shortcut to a clean bathroom.  What is required are regular—and frequent—cleanings. 

Forgive the crudeness of my thinking here, but what if we treated the cleaning of our souls with the same commitment that the best bathroom cleaners exhibit?

What if we had an agreement with ourselves and God that we would commit to regular, set, times each day—just like those cards we used to see on the back of bathroom doors—for “heart cleanings.”  Times allotted exclusively for the confession of ours sins, the cleaning of our souls.  Don't you think that would have to make some sort of difference?

Daniel set aside a slot for for prayer three times a day.  I bet he had something to confess all three times. What if we reserved three brief time slots for confession each day?

Well…I'm going to give this a try—and let you know how it goes.  I’d love to get your feedback on this, too.  What are YOUR thoughts on confession—soul cleaning?  Email me at Jon@jongauger.com.  We might feature your comments in a future blog! 

Meanwhile, here’s to more regular soul cleaning!



You Okay?  

She doesn’t walk—she stomps.

She doesn’t run—she lunges.

There is more subtlety in a stick of dynamite than in the two-year-old we know and adore as Ava.  But once those magnificent blue eyes of hers lock with yours—especially while she flashes her impish grin—you will be reduced to play dough in her chunky hands.

Ava recently spent a Saturday with us, amusing and entertaining my wife and me from breakfast through late afternoon.  The two-year-old tutor also tried to teach me a lesson along the way.

It started when I coughed.  Ava immediately whipped her head away from what she was doing and asked, “You okay?”  Her extended eye-contact lent a sincerity to the moment that caught me off guard.

Later that morning she heard my wife, Diana, sneeze.  “Are you okay?” she again intoned, a living picture of care and comfort.   Sensing my struggle in attempting to repair the door of our mailbox she once again inquired, “You okay?”

Ava is soon to be a big sister, and she practices her “sistering” and “mothering” on two dolls we keep in the toy room.  Once, in a moment of pretend troubles, I overheard Ava asking her dolls, “You okay?”  The dolls must have signaled they were fine, as there was no further dialogue on the matter.

But what if you and I asked each other the same question with the same sincerity as Ava?  What if we regularly looked lovingly at our spouse and inquired, “You okay?”  And what if we put down our phones and tablets long enough to really listen?

What if all day long friends and coworkers heard from our mouth, “You okay?”  And what if we followed that question with that rarest of gifts—our undivided attention?  What if the one thing that defined our reputation was the willingness to ask—and listen—for the answer to that lovely question, “You okay?”

Wouldn’t the world outside find the Jesus inside us irresistible?

“By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”                                                                             --John 13:35

When Trains Talk  

Freight trains are as common as cats—and for some, more preferable. 

Stepping off the commuter train I ride every day, I walked parallel to a freighter rolling toward the stock yards. With no fence between me and the goods-laden train just a few feet to my left, I chose my path carefully, intrigued by the sounds I was hearing.  Or not hearing.

A series of gondola cars eased past, eerily silent.  One could barely discern the press of their steel wheels on the rails.  Hardly a whoosh.

But other cars creaked.  Flat cars shuddered, tankers shrieked, while box cars groaned.  Some rumbled as if their metallic insides were fighting a rail car version of intestinal flu, their insides heaving and jangling.

I was immediately puzzled.  Why the extreme difference in sounds?  These train cars were all on the same track, heading the same direction, pulled by the same locomotive all traveling at the same speed. Why such disparity in the way they hugged the track?

I’m hardly a railroad expert  like my friend, or a physics teacher like my dad.  But after pondering the rolling stock for some time, I made the following basic observations :

  • The cars are not all built the same.
  • They each carry a different load.
  • They certainly don’t have the same amount of miles on them.

Forgive my over active imagination as I suggest there might be a spiritual analogy in this, ur...train of thought.

Sadly, I must confess, I sometimes look at people and wonder, Why is he making such a racket about that issue?  Why such noise over something so “small?”  Or—Why can’t she just deal with this quietly, minus all the moaning and groaning?   I’m sure you would never be so unspiritual and think those kinds of thoughts, would you?   😊

Turns out people share more in common with freight trains than you might think. Just like train cars…

  • People are not all built the same.
  • They each carry a different load.
  • They certainly don’t have the same amount of miles on them.

It's tempting to look at exteriors or circumstances or other visible triggers and presume we know what’s going on inside another person. But we don’t. Nor should we be consumed with guessing.

Our Heavenly Father has built us all differently. And we don’t carry the same load.  So some of us may at times come across like our insides are being jangled.  We may shudder or shriek or groan. 

Seems to me we need to give each other the grace to be who we’ve been built to be, carrying whatever burdens our Father has asked us to carry.  More than that, let’s remember the huge advantage we humans have over train cars.  We can actually help carry the loads our sisters and brothers are bearing. 

All aboard!  Next stop….the twin-cities of Grace and Mercy! 

Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

                                                                                --Galatians 6:2












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