Little By Little: A Warning, Part 4 of 4 (Based on a Dream, June 25, 2021)

Mallory sat at the kitchen table, chin resting on her hands. Glumly she thought about her house, or what her house had become. She no longer recognized it. Over the last six months, Jag had made his mark in every room, and was beginning to hint that he needed her bedroom to house the rest of his family when they arrived.  She knew she had to make Jag and his siblings leave. But there were too many of them to physically force them out.

Mallory had gone to the police only to be told there was nothing they could do. She was the one who had invited him to move in and to make himself at home without any sort of lease. Once his mailing address had been established at her house – done when his siblings had written to him – he was in effect a tenant. And tenants had to be evicted. That required a lengthy process involving formal notices and court hearings. In the meantime, as long as he didn’t damage the property, Jag had the right to privacy and the freedom to do what he wanted, including letting family members move in. When she had complained that he had sold her personal items and kept the money, she had not been able to prove it so the police could do nothing about that either.

Sighing, Mallory got up and looked around. How did she end up where she was? Living in a house that seemed like it was no longer hers, at the mercy of strangers and helpless to change it? Regrets filled her with cold despair. So many things she should have done.

She should have made Jag sign a lease when he first moved in.

She should have limited the rooms he had access to.

She should have stopped him the first time he overstepped his boundaries.

She should have involved the law as soon as he messed with her personal property.

She should have made his sister leave instead of leaving the door open for more siblings to join them.

She should have been more assertive and less understanding.

But how was she supposed to know how far he would go? She would never have done to anyone what he had to her. Now it was too late. All she could do was accept the reality of what her home had become, and hope someday, after a long, difficult battle, to get it back.

Matthew 7:15

 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.

Little By Little: A Warning, Part 3 of 4 (Based on a Dream, June 25, 2021)

Mallory stood at the entrance to her living room, stunned. Her furniture was gone. All of it. From the softly padded recliner couch and elegant glass-topped coffee table to the six-foot wooden bookcase and large wall painting – everything had been replaced with cheap thrift store pieces. A long piece of driftwood stood where her grandfather clock had been. In place of her thick floral area rug lay a threadbare remnant. The walls were bare except for a curling poster of a band she had never heard of.

Anger built in her as the shock wore off. Jag! It had to be him. Who else had the lack of respect for her things as he did? Ever since he had tossed her boxes of memories into the dump a few months ago, she had been watching him closely but he had shown no signs of removing anything else. Other than giving her excuse after excuse for not moving out, and constantly forgetting to clean up behind himself, he had been a decent guest. Until today.

“Jag!”  she called down the hallway. “Jag! We need to talk!”

The door to the guest room opened and Jag stepped out, closing the door behind him. “You’re back?”

“Yes, I’m back.” Mallory motioned to the living room. “Did you do this?”

“You’re back early,” he said as he sauntered towards the kitchen. “I wasn’t expecting you until tomorrow.”

“Come back here. We need to talk.”

Jag continued walking. “Sure, but first I need a drink.”

“No! Now.” Mallory’s voice shook with tension. She didn’t like confrontations, and she had overlooked some of his behavior to avoid them, but this was too big to ignore. “What did you do to my living room?”

“Our living room.” Jag said as he disappeared around the corner.

Our living room? Mallory stood facing the kitchen, indecisive. Should she follow him and force the discussion? Wouldn’t that send the message that he was in charge? She didn’t want that, but waiting meekly for him could also send the same message. The sound of a hallway door opening interrupted her thoughts. With heart racing, she whirled around.  If Codee was at work, and Jag was in the kitchen, who was in the hallway?

She didn’t have to wait long to find out. A head covered with dark brown curls peeked out around the corner and called out softly, “Jag?” When she caught sight of Mallory, she gasped and withdrew back into the bedroom.

A woman? Jag had a woman in his bedroom?

Seething now, Mallory started for the kitchen but was met by Jag carrying two bottles of water.

“Jag –“ she started, but he cut her off.

“Just a minute. I’ll be right back.”

Mallory watched him walk to his room, hand one bottle through the doorway, and then walk back to her, all with a smug smile on his nonchalant face.

“Yes? Is something wrong?” he asked as he continued past her into the living room. Sitting on the worn out couch, he put his feet up on the battered coffee table, leaned back, and clasped his hands behind his head. “What do you need to talk about?”

“What… where… how…” Mallory sputtered, not knowing where to start. She raised her hands in an all-encompassing gesture. “This!”

“Do you like it? It was all free.” Jag continued smiling.

“But what did you do with the furniture that was already here?” Mallory stopped. No! He couldn’t have! Not wanting to know but having to, she asked “You didn’t dump it, did you?”

“Of course not. That stuff was worth some money.”

“So where is it?”

“I sold it.”

Mouth open, Mallory stared at him. He stared back, unfazed.

Closing her eyes, she tried to control her anger. “Why?” she finally managed to squeeze through clenched teeth.

“I needed the money.”

“But it wasn’t yours to sell.” Loss filled her as she opened her eyes and looked around.

“Sure it was. I live here, too. Besides, you have so much, I figured you wouldn’t miss a few pieces.”

“You’re wrong on both accounts. You may live here, but it’s my house. MY house. You’re just a guest. And I do miss my “few pieces”. It took me years to save up to buy that furniture. And for you just to sell it while I’m out of town for a few days, how dare you?”

“Calm down. It’s just furniture. It’s not like I sold your dog. If you’re not happy, you can just buy more.”

“That’s not the point. You sold what wasn’t yours. Where’s the money? That’s not yours either.”

“I gave it to my family. Things are really hard for them right now. I figured they needed it more than we do.”

“Didn’t you think you should have at least asked first? I might have been able to loan…” Mallory stopped as a crash came from Jag’s bedroom. Pointing towards the hallway, she demanded, “Who is in your room?”

“My sister. She lost her house and I told her she could live with me.”

“But…”

“Don’t worry. I got her a separate bed.” Jag got up. “I’ll go see what happened. I told her not to try moving the TV by herself.”

Mallory sank on a nearby tattered armchair. She wished she had never invited Jag to stay with her. Even though he had had a good reason for what he had done, it didn’t justify his actions. She wanted him – and his sister – to leave. But with nowhere else to go, they would end up on the street, and she couldn’t force herself to do that. She had to find another way. Maybe his sister would be more cooperative, and then, in turn, influence him to show more respect.

Mallory got up and headed for Jag’s room. It was worth a shot.

Matthew 7:15

 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.

Little By Little, A Warning Part 2 of 4 (Based on a Dream, June 25, 2021)

“You can’t do that. Those were my boxes.” Mallory stood facing Jag, hands on her waist.

Jag looked up from his lunch. “It’s my room, my things,” he answered smoothly. “If you wanted them, you should have moved them last month like you said you would.”

“I’ve been busy, and there’s really nowhere else. The attic already if already filled with Codee’s things.”

“That’s not my problem.” Jag took another bite of his sandwich.

“Not your problem? Of course it’s your problem. You got rid of something that wasn’t yours. What did you do with them?”

“I took them to the dump.”

“You WHAT?” Mallory roared. Taking a deep breath, she lowered her voice and said through gritted teeth, “Get them back.”

“Can’t.” Jag stood up. “There’s been several storms since I dumped them. They’re trash now.” Leaving his plate and glass on the table, he headed for his room. “You’re better off without them, anyway. Trust me.”

Mallory stared at the forgotten plate, trying to grasp the loss of her childhood memories. Among the contents of those boxes had been photographs, cherished toys, favorite books, her grandmother’s quilt, and yearbooks dating all the way back to elementary school. None of it could be replaced.

The tickle of tears on her cheeks woke her from her nostalgia. Wiping them away, she took a deep breath. Maybe it was all for the best. She hadn’t opened those boxes in years. If they had been as important to her as she thought, wouldn’t she have done something with them by now? Jag was probably right. She was better off without the clutter. All she really needed were her memories.

Matthew 7:15

 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.

Little By Little, A Warning Part 1 of 4 (Based on a Dream, June 25, 2021)

“Are you sure you’re okay with me staying with you for a while?” the man asked as he shifted from foot to foot at the bottom of the steps.

“You are very welcome here. Where else are you going to go?” Mallory answered, holding open the front door. “Besides, there’s plenty of room here. Come on in.”

“Thank you.” He climbed the few steps and, tipping his head at Mallory as he passed her, took a step into the small foyer.

Mallory closed the door gently before moving around him. “While you’re here, feel free to make yourself at home. When Codee called telling me you need a place to stay for a few weeks, I was thrilled to help.” She led him into the living room. “What’s your name? Codee told me but I don’t think I heard it correctly.”

“It’s Jagjit.”

“Yup, that’s what she said. That’s an unusual name. Where –“

 “My father had a thing for odd names,” he interrupted. “Call me Jag.”

“Okay, Jag. Would you like something to eat or drink before I show you your room?”

“No, thanks. I ate at the shelter before coming here. Codee was very kind.”

“Yes, she is.” Mallory pointed through a doorway. “Your room is this way.”

As Mallory led Jag down a long hallway, she pointed to the first door on the left. “That’s the bathroom. I usually use the master bathroom so you and Codee will pretty much have this one to yourselves.” She stopped at the next door. “And this will be your room. I want to apologize ahead of time for its condition. I kind of used it for storage, but the bed is comfortable and I put fresh sheets on it this morning.”

“It sounds great.” Jag sighed. “Just being off the street is enough. I don’t need any fancy rooms.”

Mallory opened the door and motioned for Jag to enter first. “Well, don’t say I didn’t warn you.”

Jag’s eyes wandered around the room and he let out a soft whistle. “This is for me?”

Mallory nodded towards the side wall. “Yes. Sorry for the boxes. I tried to keep them to that one wall so you would have plenty of room to get around. As soon as I can, I’ll move them to another area although I’m not sure where yet. They contain-“

“It doesn’t matter,” Jag cut her off. “They don’t bother me. This bed is all I need.”

Mallory frowned, irritated at being interrupted again. “Well, maybe. But it bothers me. You shouldn’t have to deal with it.” She noticed he was still standing just inside the doorway. “Please, make yourself comfortable. There’s a table by the window where you can set your backpack. And there are towels in the bathroom for you to freshen up. I’ll be in the kitchen. You might not be hungry but I am. Join me whenever you’re ready. ” Mallory took one more look at the stacks of boxes, and then turned to go. But before she went through the doorway, she caught a glimpse of Jag dropping his dirty backpack on the freshly cleaned carpet as he headed for the bed.

“So much for following directions,” she mumbled.  “But maybe he’s just tired, poor guy.”

Matthew 7:15

 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.

He’s Not Like That

He’s Not Like That  

Short story based on a dream  2-12-20

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“I felt bad that my faith was not stronger, but I didn’t condemn myself over it,” I assured the older lady sitting next to me. “I know God is a forgiving God, and He understands my struggles.”

“That’s good. You didn’t know God then like you know Him now.” Vanda smiled at me.

“I’ve also discovered that one reason it was so hard for me to trust God when I first started walking with Him was because I was looking at Him like I looked at my earthly father. I think it might be the same with others. How we see God the Father is affected by how we see our earthly fathers.”

“That’s great insight. You need to share your story at our next meeting. People will be encouraged by that.”

I considered it, and then agreed. God had done so many things for me; it was time for me to do something for Him.

For the next few days I pictured myself telling a room full of people how I had come to know God.  I was excited that my story would touch so many people. Maybe it would have great impact in their lives, freeing them to see God as He really is, and enabling them to receive the steadfast love He has for them.

Only it didn’t turn out that way. When the meeting started, there were only four of us. An older man and his wife, Vanda, and me. I was disappointed, but I had agreed, and so I began.

“I was raised in a devout Catholic family. That becomes important later on. We moved frequently through my early childhood. Life changed about the time I entered fifth grade, when we moved away from our large extended family. A few years later my dad lost his job, and got moody. He became increasingly critical and judgmental towards us and towards church. We went to church each week, but it was more of a ritual than anything else. To me it was just bunch of rules that was supposed to bring us close to God, to make us pleasing to Him. There was no life in that but I gave it my best shot during my early teen years, becoming very religious with lots of rosaries and masses. I felt no closer to God and church was too cold for me, so as soon as I could, I quit going.

Life was painful. Broken relationships, confusion, and a extremely poor self-concept resulted in a deep depression that grew deeper throughout my teen years. After high school graduation, when things got as bad as they could get, I gave up. I knew I could not help myself, so I asked God for help before crying myself to sleep at night. But during the days, I ran from anything to do with Him. It was like a game of tag, and He wasn’t going to let me get away. He set me up to have an encounter with Him during a movie I pretty much felt forced to watch. He changed my life, and I began to walk with Him.

He did so many small things – constantly doing things – to show me He loved me. I look back and can’t believe how much trouble I had trusting Him. I know now that it was because I was viewing Him though the lens of the various glasses I was wearing.

One was my father-lens. My dad’s inconsistent attitude towards me – acceptance one day, rejection the next – led me to believe God’s attitude would also be inconsistent. Sure, He loved me on those days when He did something for me. But what about the other days?  And what about when I disappointed Him?

I had a church-lens. The church’s focus on rules and rituals influenced how I viewed God. Things had to be done in the correct way or God wouldn’t be pleased.

And then I had the me-lens. I saw God the way I saw myself. When I was feeling happy about myself. God was happy with me, too. I was acceptable to Him. But I was not acceptable to Him on my bad days any more than I accepted myself on those days.

That was years ago. Many years of struggling to get past those lenses to see God as He really was.  And now…” I paused. I was going to say I no longer struggled. But was that true? I had to be honest. Honest with myself; and honest with these people, as few as they were.

“And now it’s the same. Only different. Deeper. I no longer question whether God loves me. But is He taking care of me when things look bad, and I can’t see Him working?  I no longer believe we have to follow a bunch of rules and rituals in order to get close to God. But am I saying the right words when fighting the enemy? I no longer believe God sees me as I see myself. But I find myself running away from Him when I’m feeling bad instead of running to Him, thinking I’m not acceptable when feeling that way. I guess I haven’t really gotten past my lenses. I just put God’s lens over mine.”  I sat down, disappointed in myself.

No one spoke for a few minutes.

“Well, don’t feel bad. We are all wearing our own lenses under God’s lens.” Vanda said. “It’s okay. God understands.”

“I know,” I responded glumly. “I just don’t like that they’re there.”

“Then get rid of them.”

Get rid of them? Easier said than done.  “How do I do that? I’ve tried for years, and yet they are still there.”

“I’ve heard if you don’t use them, they will slowly shrink away until they are gone.”

I brightened. “That’s it! I’ll just choose not to use them!”

Over the next week I had plenty of opportunities to choose. And I devised a process to help me intentionally look through God’s lens instead of mine. I couldn’t wait to get back to the group to share it.

Finally it was time.

“Remember last week when we talked about choosing which lens to look through? I figured out how to make that work for me. I hope it works for you, too.

The first thing I did was identify which lens I was looking through whenever I thought about God. Often when a doubt sneaks into my mind, it comes as a vague, uncertain feeling. It’s like trying to look through two lenses at the same time. Things get blurry. So putting that feeling into words helped clarify the thought. And that helped identify the lens. If it was a dad-lens, religious- lens, or a me-lens, I made the conscious choice replace it with a God-lens. I reminded myself He was not like that, and replaced the faulty thought with truth from the Bible.

Here are some thoughts I’ve had this week, and how I handled them.

 

“God won’t help me if the problem is my fault.”

He’s not like that.

Hebrews 4:16  Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

 

God’s love is conditional on what I do or don’t do. If I skip my Bible reading, He will withhold His love”.

He’s not like that

2 Timothy 2:13 If we are faithless, he remains faithful – for he cannot deny himself.

 

“God criticizes me for my failures.”

He’s not like that

Romans 8:1  There is therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

 

“God makes promises, but He doesn’t always keep them.”

He’s not that

Numbers 23:19 God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?

 

“God doesn’t understand me.”

He’s not like that

Psalm 139:1 O LORD, you have searched me and know me!”

 

“God will get angry at me when I deliberately misbehave”.

He’s not like that

Exodus 34:6 The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.

 

“God is too busy with His own plans to get involved in the smaller things in my life.”

He’s not like that

Philippians 4:6  Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

 

“God is far away, watching from a distance to see how I handle things in my day to day life.”

He’s not like that

James 4:8a Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.

 

“God is punitive, quick to administer punishment for my mistakes.”

He’s not like that

2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.

 

“God is not concerned about my mental health.”

He’s not like that

3 John 1:2  Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul.

 

“God does not care about what I care about.”

He’s not like that

1 Peter 5:7 casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you

 

“God expects too much from us. We can’t do it all.”

He’s not like that

2 Corinthians 9:8  God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.

 

“God may or may not hear me when I call to Him.”

He’s not like that

Psalm 34:17  When the righteous cry for help, the LORD hears and delivers them out of all their troubles.

 

“God can get impatient and cranky.”

He’s not like that

1 Corinthians 13: Love is patient, and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it’s not irritable or resentful.

 

“As you can see,” I told the group. “The enemy is busy planting seeds every day. But we don’t have to let them grow. God’s Word is a powerful way to combat those seeds before they can grow into a lens. The bottom line is this: God loves you better than you know. He completely accepts you as you are, delights in you, and wants only good for you. Even when you stray or give in to sin, He is quick to forgive when you ask because of His great love for You. You can’t do anything to lessen that love, or anything to increase it. Once you grasp that, doubts will no longer be a problem.”

I sat back down, leaving them to reflect on what I had just shared. And then from deep inside, I heard the Lord whisper, “Are you listening?”