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Paul’s Pop Bottle Hike or In The Pursuit Of Bubblegum

When I was a young boy I loved my bubblegum. I always looked forward to Saturday afternoons when I could enjoy my chewing and bubbles the longest. And a few times I tried to save my wad of gum for after supper, too. I never stuck it on my bedpost to keep overnight, though. I mead I did have my limits.. But I thought about it.

I was a bit of a bubblegum connoisseur. I had in my mind a hierarchy of bubblegum flavors from best to worst. In my humble opinion, or IMHO as they say nowadays, the strawberry bubblegum was the best. Cherry was good, too, and orange was okay and lemon was doable. Further down the list was the white one that didn’t have a recognizable flavor. And then there was Dubble Bubble, and finally Bazooka bubblegum near the bottom because it was so hard to start chewing. But my least favorite was the grape flavored bubblegum ball. All of these could be had for a penny apiece at the little general store about a mile up the highway from our house in Ft. Dodge, Kansas.

Mom and Dad didn’t buy us bubblegum. On occasion they might give us a piece of regular chewing gum like Wrigley’s Juicy Fruit or Spearmint or sometimes Chiclets but if we wanted bubblegum we had to procure it ourselves.

I soon had an idea. I was always getting ideas. You see in Kansas at that time empty pop bottles were worth money. I could get 3 cents per bottle if I redeemed it at the general store. That was the same price as 3 gumballs,which worked out perfect for Tim and Anna and me. Dan didn’t chew bubblegum. He didn’t think it was cool. And on several Saturday mornings when I was about ten Mom agreed to let us walk the mile up the highway to look for pop bottles we could redeem at the general store.

Off we’d go, thinking of how easy it would be to find all the empty bottles we had seen when looking out our school bus window on this same stretch of highway. And we’d diligently search, Tim on one side and me on the other and Anna with whichever brother she was least annoyed with at the time. Usually Tim.

We would normally find just one unbroken bottle. It would be laying in the grass and dirt and sometimes it’d have some sugary syrup in the bottom and a few ants and bugs crawling in it. But I’d pick it up, shake out the liquid and bugs, brush off the dirt with my shirt tail and we’d continue on our trek to the store.

Before we’d get inside we would discuss our purchase plans and I would highly suggest they not get the grape. And they would taunt me. “I think I’ll get cherry…no grape!” They’d say and laugh.

Finally we would walk up to the counter with our semi-clean pop bottle and hand it to the old store keeper. If it wasn’t too dirty or chipped up he would nod his head and say, “Okay I’ll redeem it, cash or merchandise?”

And we’d say, “We want 3 bubblegum balls, please.” And then we’d pick, and if I had been kind to my younger siblings they’d avoid picking grape. We would leave and take our prized gumballs home to enjoy all Saturday afternoon.

Now my bubblegum trek reminds me of how our Savior, Jesus Christ came to redeem us from our lost condition. He doesn’t want to leave us lost and unwanted and alone in a ditch. He looks for us to rescue us. Like we read in Luke 19.10 “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

Not only did he come to seek us out He willingly gave His life for our salvation. 1 John 2.2 says, “He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.”

He didn’t ignore us but He came that we might have eternal life with Him just what John 3.17 points out. “For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.”

And that’s good news!

Now days I don’t chew bubblegum very much. Actually just telling this story has makese my jaw hurt, thinking about all those extended chews. But those old memories of sunny mornings searching for lost pop bottles and the big bubbles I used to blow come back now and then. Especially when I smell grape bubblegum. Or it’s kissing cousin, watermelon.

Rom 8.23b The Voice
“…we are longing for the total redemption of our bodies that comes when our adoption as children of God is complete—”

Col 1.14 NIV
“…in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”