A Nostalgic Trip

One of my favorite movies (and I have quite a few) is Harvey. It’s the story of a man (Elwood P. Dowd played by Jimmy Stewart) whose best friend is a pooka named Harvey, an invisible 6 ft. 3.5 in. white rabbit. Throughout the movie Elwood talks and refers to Harvey assuming everyone knows he’s real. I love the world Elwood lives in. He doesn’t seem to acknowledge the skepticism or outright unbelief of people. And he’s true to what he believes. Although Harvey is unseen by others, Elwood always introduces him to friends and consults him when making a decision. Sometimes he simply converses with Harvey, knowing that he understands like no one else does.

This movie is on my mind because I just returned from a trip to Massachusetts, where I lived for most of my life. I drove around areas that have so many memories, visually looking at places that hold emotions within me. How do I separate the past from the present? There is this intangible, unseen part of me that continues to exist when its time has passed, like a ghost walking next me. Not a scary ghost, but someone who can only understand the emotions because of shared experience. Then I realize it’s not a ghost. It’s Jesus! He was with me through all the experiences these places bring to my mind, the good and the bad. I can talk with Him about them like I can talk with no other person. He understands like no other person can. He laughs and cries with me as we reflect on those memories together.

In the past I’ve believed that I needed to make sure I’d confessed any sin I may have committed or acknowledged my unworthiness before enjoying His presence. That ritual was burdensome and sometimes kept me from going to Him at all. It certainly didn’t make for the kind of relationship I thought I should have with Him. Now I know that I don’t need a ritual of repentance to assure my acceptability of His attention. I need only to turn to Him, because He’s always there and I’m always acceptable to Him (Ephesians 1:4).

Jesus is always with us and more real than Harvey is to Elwood P. Dowd. We are children of God, the treasure He gladly sacrificed His Son to redeem. The freedom He purchased for us should never be overshadowed by some sense of shame of unworthiness. May you know this reality today. And I would love to hear from you, wherever you are on this transient road of mortal life that we’re traveling together toward our eternal Home.

Slow Realization

A year ago, my life was so different. I had been lonely for a long time. Not just weeks or even months. It had been a couple of years. Now that Roland was a truck driver, he was gone for days, sometimes a week at a time. We had made the difficult decision to leave the church we had been attending for 10 years, and I wasn’t ready to be getting involved in the new church we had joined. I had no friends to visit with. No one called to see how I was doing. Two of our sons live within 10 minutes of us and attend different churches with their families. I’m thankful that they are involved in the ministries there, are responsible employees for the companies they work for, and are following Roland’s example as husbands and fathers. But it doesn’t leave much time for visiting with extended family.

I wanted some companionship. So, I found Gracie online at a rescue agency in Augusta GA, two and half hours away. She was perfect – a 9 lb. Yorkie mix who just wanted companionship. At first, I took her everywhere with me. She made it easier for me to get myself out of the house. Then stores started putting up signs saying no pets allowed, only service dogs. I had to leave her at home when I did any shopping. That was hard, but there was nothing I could do about it.

Then my life began to change. The grandkids started coming over more often. I made some friends at church that came to visit. Gracie showed signs of distress when there was commotion, whether it was people or noise. Leaving her home for more than a couple of hours at a time started causing troublesome behavior. That’s when the first thoughts of returning her to the rescue agency began. By the time I accepted it, I knew it would be best for her, no matter how hard it was for me. I did some crying, but still knew it was the right thing to do. A friend encouraged me with the thought that God had created Gracie, given her to me, and would take care of her.

The day I returned her was bittersweet. Gracie loved riding in the car, and I enjoyed her company. But I knew saying good-bye to her would be so hard. I wished I could have found someone closer to take her, but I had signed a contract that if I couldn’t keep her, I’d bring her back to them. I met the woman at Petsmart like I had the year before. She had another woman with her who asked me why I was returning a rescue that I had only gotten a year ago. After I told her, she introduced herself as the director of the agency and proceeded to verbally humiliate me as we stood outside the store. I walked away while she was still talking and the woman I came to meet followed me to my car. In tears I carried Gracie’s things from my car to hers. When I finally handed her over, I went back to my car and wept and prayed for about 15 minutes before I could think about driving the two and half hours back home.

A week later I felt I could check the online site of the agency to see if Gracie had been adopted yet without crying. What a shock to find they had accused me of just not wanting to take care of Gracie anymore. People commented saying horrible things about the heartless owner that returned her dog just because she didn’t want to take care of it anymore. Some of the comments were so vicious I was relieved that they didn’t know who I was, but I still felt the sting of the false accusations and condemnation. I wanted to defend myself, make them see the truth. Oh, it’s hard enough to have my wrongs exposed, but when my good deeds have been intentionally misconstrued, I want vindication!

In my pain and anger, Jesus reminded me that He knows how it feels to be wrongly accused, humiliated, and condemned. He stood before religious leaders accused of blasphemy, the highest Jewish crime. He stood before the civil government accused of treason, the highest Roman crime. Neither were true. His good deeds had been misconstrued.

Oh, the comfort of knowing someone empathizes! He not only took our sins to pay the penalty for them, He also was made like us in every respect, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest (Heb. 2:17). Because He was tempted in every respect as we are, we have confidence to come to the throne of grace knowing that we will find mercy and grace to help in our time of need (Heb. 4:15-16).

And so, I learn from Him how to stand silent amid false accusations. As His accusers spat out lies with self-righteous indignation, He remained silent. He knew who He was, He knew the truth, and He knew who His judge was.

I am a redeemed daughter of God. As my Judge He requires that I do justice (do what is morally right), love kindness (be kind), and walk humbly (be genuine). If I’ve done those things, I stand blameless, no matter what is said or thought about me. My need for vindication can been replaced with confidence in my innocence, so I can remain silent.

For so many years I heard and talked about how we should be like Jesus, but no one ever showed me how. Anyone who exhibited any likeness to Jesus was hailed as having reached a level of spiritual maturity not attainable to many people. My best efforts would have to be enough. Really? That’s not what Jesus says! I’d like to invite you to believe that not only can you be like Him, He desires that for you.

“We have more freedom than we think. We have more power than we believe. We have more authority than we realize.” ~ Alan Fadling

An Unassuming Introduction

John stood in the Jordan River where people had gathered. Some of them began to form a line leading away from the bank. One by one they took their turn stepping into the water toward John. He spoke to them and they responded. He then dipped them under the water and pulled them back up. A man appeared from the horizon walking toward the group and joined the line.

This unassuming man that stood among ordinary people as one of them was the expression of God Himself in human form. He didn’t just come to us; He came near to us. He lived with us, doing the everyday monotonous tasks with us. He got dirty and hungry and tired. His plans got changed, He was interrupted, He was misunderstood. He knew disappointment, frustration, grief, loneliness and betrayal. And all the while, He saw how we try to hide our fear and shame, and how they rule our lives.

The Good New is that Jesus offers to bring His Divine nature into our messy, crazy humanity. I can’t articulate how it all works. I just know it does. When Nicodemus was trying to understand how God’s Spirit works in the heart of a person, Jesus used the wind as an example. We can’t see it, but we see the effects of it. I’m reminded of Christina Rossetti’s poem:

Who has seen the wind?

Neither you nor I,

But when the trees bow down their heads,

The wind is passing by.

I’m often helped to understand difficult things by using familiar experiences, stories I’ve heard, information I’ve learned, and sometimes even movies I’ve seen. A scene from The Wizard of Oz helps me understand the paradox that God is great in might, powerful in authority, awesome in majesty; and He is gentle in compassion and kind in His dealings with His children. He is always both.

One of the classic scenes is when Dorothy comes to the great and powerful wizard of Oz, knowing that he is her only hope, but she’s not sure he will help. She has done everything she was told to gain his favor. She approaches with trepidation. Then Toto pulls back the curtain to reveal the kind, approachable professor who is the great and powerful wizard of Oz. I don’t mean to be sacrilegious or blasphemous, but I think of Jesus as the kind, approachable man behind the curtain of the great and powerful God that we should fear.

My life gets hard and messy and broken and scary. My need is beyond what anyone can do to help. So, I close my eyes and see an unassuming man standing next to me. He smiles and speaks familiar words of love and comfort. “I’m with you and I want to help you. Nothing is too hard for Me to do, too messy for Me to clean, too broken for Me to fix, or too scary for Me to keep you safe.”  I believe Him and my soul finds peace. Belief and trust are hard to articulate, but we know it when we see it in others, and when we do it ourselves. May you experience it for yourself.