But our past informs us, gives us a point from which to depart and move toward not better things, but a better self.

Trespass

no trespass sign on post near wooden building

“And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us” (Matthew 6:12). 

“For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6: 14,15, NKJV). 

Beyond the rote recitation of our Lord’s prayer, we find no mystery except the mystery we ignore. Jesus could be no more direct in his admonition against hypocritical prayers made for public show, no more direct in asking us to pray behind closed doors. And why behind closed doors? 

Alone, no one can hide his trespass. God knows our needs before we ask, so the Bible says. Why pray? Why ask for what God knows we need? Prayer, in simple form, is presence before God, a silent syllabary of admittance. Asking God admits in screaming silence—to Him and to ourselves. When we pray, God turns our words back to us, leads us to some realization we did not know, some need He knew, and we did not. And in our Lord’s prayer, I find this truth most evident in the trespass. 

When I was young, swinging from a rope into a black Edisto river, I let go, untethered from good sense, exhilarated by joy, tempting fear just the same, and jumped into the unknown. I remember, photographed against the sky, Sand Hill cranes flying in formation, signaling a season’s passing. I remember gentle snowflakes falling lightly and falling until their mass proved something more. I remember seeing my friend as just a friend, seeing a man and not his color until I was told he was as black as the river Edisto. Each was a wonderment brimming with joy until some trespass tarnished my innocence. 

Yes—there are times when we trespass and do not know it, times we are trespassed against and the offender unaware. There are intrusions waking us to a harshness and truth the world is not as we wish. Alone, behind closed doors, we seek God’s forgiveness for our own, for others, for the known and unknown. And God turns our words back to us and makes us all the more aware. 

Yes-I know the Bible thumper is not as he appears, winter comes again, and my friend is as black as the Edisto. But in every trespass, there waits a forgiveness to come, to tell us all is well. Every trespass against me, known and unknown, informs me. Every trespass, known and unknown, by my hand reveals me. 

Now, 

I fear the river, 

I mourn the season’s turn and the something more, 

I know my friend is as black as the river Edisto. 

Yes, 

Each a trespass 

The offenders unaware that 

Intrusions wake the wordless syllabary within. 

God knows we need. 

“Those who have ears to hear, let them hear” (Matthew 11:15, NKJV). 

Half Harry

slice of burger

Half Harry earned his nickname. Known by everyone in town for half his life, Half Harry never finished anything. No matter what he attempted, he simply could not end what he started. It was not that he did not possess the necessary skills, Half Harry simply distracted himself. Curiosity moved him on. Half of his efforts, at least, were accomplished well. 

Habits are unthinking repetitions and Harry excelled. Every time someone saw him coming, a silent chuckle and soft smile urged forward in their mind. No one minded his interruptions because each knew it would only take half the time.  

Typical conversations with him filled the air with unfinished sentences and his stories were always short, left drifting on the wind, relying on his audience to imagine the end. Harry would begin by saying something like, “The other day I was walking along the lake, getting exercise, and suddenly, a bullfrog jumped. And well, you know.” Often his compatriots, dumbfounded, would stutter and say, “Well, uh, yeah, I guess so.” And Harry would move on. 

Harry was a job-to-job man. No one was better than Harry at treating a full-time job as part-time. He was a mail carrier—to half the neighborhood. He was a football referee. Loved halftime. Harry delivered bread. Daily, he returned to the bakery with the bread truck half empty. Suspicions have it Harry’s propensity to half finish started the day-old bread store. Harry did odd jobs, too, sometimes for his neighbors, and sometimes for money, and well, you know. 

Despite her attempts to lessen his daily portions, his lunch box came home half-full greeting his wife’s frustration. Harry’s poor wife was surely a saint and must have experienced soreness shaking her head. "Better to give more,” she thought. Keeping with his habit, Harry could never finish a meal. Eating out meant asking for half-portions. 

One time, Harry started on a long trip across the country. Leaving Yulee, Florida, Harry ventured out with the intent of going to Los Angeles. Harry always wanted to see the big city and the Pacific. Fate is mysterious, but then Harry had a way of accommodating it, making it more predictable. Arriving in Sonora, Texas—yes, halfway—Harry decided to turn around and head back. Even predictable things cannot always be explained. 

No area in his life escaped his habit, except one. When life brought Harry to matters of faith, he was all in. He read his Bible daily, attended Church every Sunday, gave more than his tithe, and spent time feeding the hungry in his community. Harry never believed with half his heart, he believed with all his heart. Go ahead and add strength, mind and soul to it, also. Harry could not hold back when it came to God. Harry did not stop at the ten commandments. He added Jesus’ two more commandments—you know them.  

Ergo, everyone forgave Harry his habit. Because he loved them. 

“Those who have ears to hear, let them hear” (Matthew 11:15, NKJV). 

The Choice

The bell above the doorjamb jingled as Concetta entered the store. Warm air dispensed her shivers. Removing her cap, she shook the outside chill from her hair, then brushed the snow from her coat. Relieved to be inside now, she turned her mind and eyes toward the reason for her visit. 

Concetta knew the store well. She had visited Morgan’s General Store and Sawmill in her growing years. Scents from sawdust and oil hardened floors flooded her nostrils. Mr. Morgan’s fresh groceries and deli meats recalled immediate images of times her grandfather took her. Favorite among them were the butterscotch buttons bought by her Papa to indulge his little girl. Now grown, Concetta wished her grandfather were with her on this visit. Amid the warm memories and good feelings greeting her on this day, a touch of angst accompanied her. She looked around to see if Mr. Morgan was nearby. 

John Statham Morgan was a gentle man, by this day aged and weathered around his eyes. His face receded from his nose, his hair was the color and texture of white silk, and his smile, gentle as he, rendered assurance to his patrons. Many a citizen of the hamlet of Lewisburg paid homage to his store, for each possessed a story and a memory of both John Morgan and a favorite ware from his shop. From behind the counter, John Morgan became wise observing the idiosyncrasies of the townspeople. And then, there were the two jars, the ones kept on the shelf behind the counter, the ones from which each citizen would ultimately decide between, for all must decide before full citizenship could be granted. John Morgan had the duty of offering each the choice, and thus, his wisdom. 

Concetta’s day of decision had come. When she was twelve, her grandfather explained this day to her. Then, she did not fully understand and during the ensuing years she thought of this day little. But in the last year, with the day approaching, she ruminated often. Some days her thoughts were light, unconcerned. Others, her thoughts brooded and feared the consequences. “What if?” she thought.  

The morning rush and preparations, the snow and the outside left her mind. Concetta’s eyes fixed upon the shelf behind the counter. She walked with a slow, tapping cadence looking for Mr. Morgan. Reaching the counter, she stared at the two jars. Topped with patinated lids, one was labeled Grace, the other said Curiosity.  

Hello, Concetta. What can I get you today?” “Oh, Mr. Morgan, I did not see you. Today is my day. I have come to make my decision. How does this work?” 

It is simple. You will choose the contents from one jar or the other. Each will require from you a journey.” 

“What is in them?” “The consequence of your choice. Once you choose, daily the choice will remain.” 

“What is the cost?”  

The cost is the same. Yourself.”   

“And will it return to me?” 

The choice is yours.” 

For those who have ears. 

A faith of love and forgiveness without atonement and redemption is something different altogether.

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