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.

Political High Places?

When I was a new Christian back in the 1970’s, the term ‘Jesus freak’ became associated with those who were excited about Jesus. According to one of the definitions on vocabulary.com, a freak is “a not-so-nice noun that refers to a person who expresses such an intense obsession with something that it resembles addiction”. Obsession is defined as something about which one is constantly thinking about or concerned. So although Jesus freak was meant to be derogatory, I along with many others embraced it because it described our obsession with our God.

Today I am becoming increasingly disturbed with an obsession in our country that has nothing to do with God. When I listen to press conferences, news reports, and commentaries, no matter what’s being discussed, it seems Trump is pulled into it, giving him credit or blame depending on which side of the Trump-fence the speaker is on. It seems the whole country, even the world, shares this obsession. Maybe this is normal and temporary as everyone adjusts to the new president, but there are indications that it might not be going away anytime soon.

Other people have noticed the same and I’ve heard lots of name calling on both sides. I think it would be fair, at least in this blog (since it’s mine and I can say what I want), to call them all Trump freaks. Trump freaks who support him, wanting him to return to power and save our country. Trump freaks who hate him to the point fearing even the possibility of his return. Both groups seem to spend an equally amount of time talking about him.

Being a Trump freak might be fine, if that’s what you want to be. Everyone has the right to obsess over whatever they desire, as long as their obsession doesn’t include harming others.

However, being a Trump freak might not be okay if you call yourself a Christian. By definition, there’s room for only one thing in an obsession, and God makes it clear that the “one thing” should be Him.

You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. Bind them as a sign on your hand, fix them as an emblem on your forehead, and write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. (Deut 6:5-9)

Think of it this way. God wants to be the sun in our hearts, minds, and life. He wants everything we do and think to revolve around Him. He wants His light to shine on every part of our life. The result would be that we’d be constantly talking about God, interacting with God and relating life in terms of God.

An obsession on something other than God replaces Him as the sun in our hearts, minds, and life. Everything we do and think revolves around what we’re obsessed with. It penetrates every part of our life. We constantly talk about our obsession, interact with what relates to our obsession, and relate life in terms of our obsession.

Another word for this is idolatry.

It’s easy to see the idolatry of Trump-worship in the scores of people who are glorifying him beyond normal support. The media loves to show how crazy and irrational some of these people are. What’s not so easy to see is the idolatry in those who worship the idea of taking down Trump, everything he did, and everyone connected with him. They are consumed by thoughts of saving the country from his influence and proving how terrible a person he is. The media ignores how crazy and irrational some of these people are.

As I was thinking about all this, I thought about the high places that are frequently mentioned in the Old Testament. They were areas set apart, usually on a hill or mountain, to worship and sacrifice to pagan gods. God hated those places and warned the Israelites to destroy them. Instead, the Israelites used them to worship God along with the pagan gods they adopted from the nations around them. God called this practice an abomination, and made it clear He didn’t want to share the worship due to Him.

While the man was standing beside me, I heard one speaking to me out of the temple, and he said to me, “Son of man, this is the place of my throne and the place of the soles of my feet, where I will dwell in the midst of the people of Israel forever. And the house of Israel shall no more defile my holy name, neither they, nor their kings, by their whoring and by the dead bodies of their kings at their high places, by setting their threshold by my threshold and their doorposts beside my doorposts, with only a wall between me and them. They have defiled my holy name by their abominations that they have committed, so I have consumed them in my anger. (Ezekiel 43:6-8)

In the United States today, what is higher than the presidency? Could it be that presidential politics is the western culture’s high place?

We need to make sure we are not involved in idolatry on high political places. We need to make sure we have not replaced God with Trump, or equate the two. We need to make sure God is the only sun in our lives, and that everything we do and say revolves around Him and His ways. And that includes any thoughts about Trump – whether they be thoughts of love or of hate. We don’t want what happened to Israel to happen to us.

For they provoked him to anger with their high places; they moved him to jealousy with their idols. When God heard, he was full of wrath, and he utterly rejected Israel. (Ps 78:58-59)

And lest we think He was talking only to Israel…

Hear, you peoples, all of you; pay attention, O earth, and all that is in it, and let the LORD God be a witness against you, the LORD from his holy temple. For behold, the LORD is coming out of his place, and will come down and tread upon the high places of the earth. And the mountains will melt under him, and the valleys will split open, like wax before the fire, like waters poured down a steep place. (Micah 1:2-4)

If, when we examine our hearts, we find an obsession has taken up residence there, we can take it down just as the Israelites were told to do to the high places they found. To not do so would to disobey God, which is evil.

“For whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit; let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” (1 Peter 3:10-12)

Seeking peace does not always mean being a pacifist, and doing good might involve standing up for what we believe in, so removing a political obsession doesn’t necessarily mean removing politics from our lives. It means we don’t put our political activism alongside God in our hearts. It means we spend more time praying than we do reading and commenting on social media platforms. It means seeking God’s truth instead of repeating lies. It means keeping our tongues from returning insults or condemning people Jesus died for. It means we listen to God for our marching orders rather than jump on anyone’s bandwagon. God may say jump, or He may have something different for us do, which may or may not be what we think we should be doing. Only He can see the big picture. Only He can see through all the deception permeating both sides. Only He knows the future and how one action will impact another down the road. Only He can coordinate everyone for maximum effectiveness. And He will only empower and equip us to do what He calls us to do, not what others call us to do. Otherwise we will be working in our own strength, and possibly in the same manner of those we call enemies, which won’t do much good and may even backfire on us. Joshua learned about following God’s directions when facing Jericho.

As Joshua was sizing up the city of Jericho, a man appeared with a drawn sword. Joshua strode over to him and demanded, “Are you friend or foe?” “I am the Commander-in-Chief of the Lord’s army,” he replied. Joshua fell to the ground before him and worshiped him and said, “Give me your commands.” “Take off your shoes,” the Commander told him, “for this is holy ground.” And Joshua did. The gates of Jericho were kept tightly shut because the people were afraid of the Israelis; no one was allowed to go in or out. But the Lord said to Joshua, “Jericho and its king and all its mighty warriors are already defeated, for I have given them to you! Your entire army is to walk around the city once a day for six days, followed by seven priests walking ahead of the Ark, each carrying a trumpet made from a ram’s horn. On the seventh day, you are to walk around the city seven times, with the priests blowing their trumpets. Then, when they give one long, loud blast, all the people are to give a mighty shout, and the walls of the city will fall down; then move in upon the city from every direction.” (Joshua 5:13-15; 6:1-5)

I believe only God can heal our country. Let’s tear down our high places and give God our whole hearts.  Let’s turn from following our own ways and accept Him as our Commander-in-Chief. Let’s do things His way which will allow Him to answer our prayers. Let’s watch Him do what only He can do.

If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, pray, seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land. (2 Chron 7:14)

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet live, godly and dignified in every way. This is good and pleasing in the sight of God our Savior. (1 Tim 2:1-3)

You have heard that is was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes the sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and the unjust. (Matt 5:43-45)

For while we were still weak, at the right time, Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person – though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die – but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Rom 5:6-8)

And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. (Mark 11:25)

Do you be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Rom 12:2)

May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Rom 15:5-6)

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. (Rom 15:13)