“A Man Named Earl”

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Jesus said to Nicodemus: “Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of man be lifted up so that everyone who believes in Him may have eternal life.” How do we gain eternal life? Not by looking at the lifted one but by believing in the lifted One. Jesus also said, “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, I will draw all men unto Me.” And I (Jesus) will draw all men (people) unto Me. When will Jesus draw all men? When He is lifted up (exalted). So, what are we lifting up to draw others to Jesus? It is only when we lift up or give glory to Jesus that people will come to know Him. Jesus said, you do the lifting and I will do the drawing. You lift Me up – put Me first and foremost in your plans, your priorities, first in your daily life and I will draw the people (your family, friends, even people you don’t know) that they might see and believe and want to be with Me for all eternity. And that brings me to Earl. You see Earl is a retired truck driver who lives here in the RV Park where Ken and I are on vacation. He has no car and lives in an old 5th wheel camper. He watches TV and old movies most of the night and sleeps during the day. He only comes out of his camper on occasion and sometimes at night to look at the stars. Earl never married and has no family; he lives alone except for his cat. Well, Earl is not quite all alone. You see when we first arrived here in Winter Haven, a man named Doug and his wife, Sue, were helping Earl. They had arrived in early January to vacation and rest before going to Vero Beach, FL to help build a home for Habitat for Humanity. But, when God calls us to lift Him up to others, it doesn’t matter that we are on vacation, there are always those who need to see His love demonstrated. So, Doug and Sue took Earl to the bank, grocery store, doctor appointments; they made him meals and took him to our Friday night Lenten Fish Fry at St. Matthew’s. As I watched Doug and Sue, I marveled at their enthusiasm for God’s work even during their vacation. I felt a little guilty thinking that January through March was my time off from doing God’s work. Well, before Doug and Sue left for Vero Beach, they introduced Ken and me to Earl. And now Ken takes Earl everywhere and is even trying to help him straighten out his bills and learn to use his cell phone. As for me, well Earl loves my lasagna. Earl is a Catholic, but he feels lost with all the changes that have taken place in the church over the years and doesn’t want to come back. But, Ken, with his own enthusiasm for God’s work has gently invited Earl to join us on Sundays at St. Matthew’s. Jesus is being lifted up and His love is demonstrated to Earl in many ways and when we go home, both Doug and Ken have his cell phone number and I know they will continue to encourage Earl to return to his faith. Maybe one night when Earl is looking up at the night sky, he will realize that the God who lights up the stars at night is the same one who is drawing him, calling him.

As we continue our Lenten journey, let us really strive to put Jesus first in our lives and look for opportunities to lift Him up to others, in our homes, workplace, community and yes, even when we are on vacation.

Sylvia Bates