My Salvage Title

I’ve been helping a friend find a new car and the exercise has been mildly frustrating.  After narrowing the search to a particular make and model, we’ve been on a mission to find something under budget.   It seems that just when we find a car under budget, we discover it comes with really high mileage.  When we find a vehicle well under the desired mileage it seems to inevitably lack certain “essential” features she really wanted – luxuries like wheels, doors, etc.   We’ve been searching online for weeks and the perfect car continues to elude us.

Until today.

On the outside, it looked showroom worthy.  On the inside, the pictures looked immaculate.   Not only did it come under both budget and mileage (with wheels and doors!) but it also included a lot of extras she really desired; sunroof, leather seats, backup camera, power everything and even seat warmers.   I called the dealership to find out more details about this gem and why it seemed too good to be true.

Alex (the salesman) is very positive about this car.   Even though it’s been on his lot for months, he assures me it’s a very good deal and car.   It is not lost on me that I’m speaking with a salesman.   Though I’m certainly impressed with the pictures and overall stats, I want to learn more.   I ask a few more probing questions and receive all the answers I want to hear.   Seldom is heard a discouraging word when speaking with a used car salesman.   I thanked him for his time and hung up.

I’ll admit, it does sound good. It’s under budget.  It’s under the mileage limit she was comfortable purchasing.   It certainly has all the bells and whistles that she wants.   She’s been without a decent car for so long that I know she’d be thrilled to finally have something newer and more reliable.   I mean, it even has seat warmers.   It must be God’s will.

But something seems off.    It feels too good to be true.   I don’t know this specific car or its previous owners and I certainly don’t know Alex or anything about his business or level of integrity.   Though he admitted going to church, I have come to realize that doesn’t always mean that will ensure a trust-worthy transaction.  Sadly, not all “Christians” are as honest as their Christ, especially when they have a “shekel” to gain in the process.

I decided to get on the phone and contact a good friend who is in the automotive industry, at the service department of a large dealership.   If anyone knows cars, it’s Tim.  I run the specs by him and he asks for the VIN # of the car we are looking at.   With this number, Tim is able to instantly look up the history of the vehicle and find out exactly what’s been reported on it over the last few years.  After a few minutes, Tim revealed why the car was priced so cheaply;

It has a salvage title.

A salvage title is given when that vehicle has been significantly damaged and/or deemed a total loss by an insurance company that paid a claim on it.  In other words, it is declared “salvage” when the insurer determines that the repair or replacement cost is in excess of approximately 70% of its market value at the time of the accident.

Though we were disappointed to learn this information, we were grateful we took the time to ask someone in-the-know about the car’s invisibly sordid past. Somehow Alex failed to mention the car’s accident history.   Shocking.

I’ve been pondering this revelation all day today.   I’ve come to realize that in some ways, we are very much like the cars I’ve been looking at.  We come in all shapes and sizes and varying makes and models.   Some look more appealing on the outside.   Others have an amazing interior.   Some even have both.   However, all of us – regardless of our age – have a history.   All of us, in some way, have some mileage in our past.

The truth is if you have parents, have been through middle school or college, have been married, divorced or have children – you come with some extra mileage that is hard to hide or ignore.   You might still look good on the outside, but your accident report has some pages in it.  Many of my readers have been in “accidents” where their vehicles have been severely damaged.   Speaking personally, I’ve experienced too many “wrecks” to count.  On top of the normal “fender benders,” I’ve received a plethora of moral dents from reckless driving, have been totaled in a divorce and show a lot of “wear and tear” that comes with high mileage on rough terrain.   Simply put, if I was a car – I would have a salvage title too.  Regrettably, I have caused significant damage and have been deemed (by some) a total loss.

I’ve thought about the car a lot today and how I relate to its depressing predicament.   I know what it’s like to experience a life-changing crash and the time and cost it takes to rebuild and look towards a future use.   A new hood, a new engine, a new paint job are all part of the fix, but in the end – I still have a salvage title, a pointer to a past I just can’t change or ignore.

Here’s the painful reality for those who relate to my position.  There are some “car buyers” that won’t look our direction.  There are “insurance carriers” who will deem us a total loss, in spite of our improved changes.   There are “drivers” who would not feel safe taking a ride in our car.   There will always be a tire-kicker who will point to our salvage title and use that as an excuse to keep us on the lot.  And like it or not, they have the freedom to make that choice.

If anyone knew what it was like to be a demolished car in the queue for the trash compactor, it was the thief on the cross.  To say he had destroyed his car was an understatement.  If anyone had a salvage title, it was him.   His rap sheet had more dents than a demolition derby car.   Not only had he traveled too many miles, he was simply out of gas.  A human court deemed his life a total loss.  His wrecked life was about to be traded in at the Dealership and within a few hours, life as he knew it was over.  I could drag on the illustration further, but you get the point.  If you know the story (Luke 23), you know his salvage title was replaced with a clean one.  The Dealer graciously took his broken Prius and offered him Paradise instead.   The jalopy got Jesus.  (Ok, I’ll stop)

And likewise, our moral salvage title has been replaced with a clean one, in Christ.

As hard as that is to accept some days, I take refuge in the fact that my God loves restoring old vehicles.  He’s a God who delights in the redemption process and sees value in the cars that others consider too damaged or with too many miles.

If you find yourself struggling with the condition of your vehicle or title status, be encouraged.  There is a Master Mechanic who can not only fix the pieces that have been wrecked but can replace your current title with His and allow you to still travel to places of grace.

“If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.  The old has gone.  The new has come.” (I Corinthians 5:17)

I. remain. available.

You have to live under a rock or be completely off the grid to not hear the news of the latest sexual scandal that is rocking the core of Hollywood’s elite.  One of Hollywood’s biggest names is having to answer for multiple skeletons coming out of his closet at an alarming rate, from rape to unwanted sexual advances and every accusation in-between.  This story is dominating the headlines and overshadowing international news – no small feat with the current circus-like administration.  Given the man’s high profile nature, we should expect to find more and more women who will finally come forward and tell their tale.

Sexual misconduct and scandal are not uncommon news stories among the celebrity culture we live in.  Every few months we learn of a politician, athlete, musician or actor who finds themselves at the epicenter of immoral controversy.  Sadly, the sinful details don’t surprise me anymore.  Every human heart is capable of every evil deed.   I know (first-hand) what it’s like to live a double life and shock your inner circle.

While Harvey’s sins have been described as “egregious” and “disgusting” what struck me today was not the depravity of the deeds but the response of his friend.

Another Hollywood mogul and long-time friend (Jeffrey Katzenberg) wrote the following in an email to his friend, now made public:

“You have done terrible things to a number of women over a period of years.

I cannot in any way say this is OK with me…It’s not at all, and I am sickened by it, angry with you and incredibly disappointed in you.

There appear to be two Harvey Weinsteins…one that I have known well, appreciated and admired and another that I have not known at all.

As someone who has been a friend of yours for 30 years, I’m available to give you advice on how to at least try to make amends, if possible address those that you’ve wronged, and just possibly find a path to heal and redeem yourself. Having watched your reactions, seen the actions you have taken and read your statement, I will tell you, in my opinion, you have gone about this all wrong and you are continuing to make a horrible set of circumstances even worse.

I doubt this is what you want to hear from me and most likely you aren’t interested in my advice but this is the way I see it.  I remain available.”   – JK


I can sympathize with the accused.  As a man who once held a high profile position of sorts, I have had to come to terms with the countless demons from my past while in the fishbowl of public scrutiny.  Though our sins are quite different, the ash-heap he currently sits in is the same.  More and more people are distancing themselves from Harvey as they don’t want their name (or brand) associated with Hollywood’s latest leper.  I remember all too well the mass exodus of relationships that I experienced when my sins were made public many years ago.  It’s a special type of rejection.   It’s an acute emotional pain – even if we “deserve it.”

I understand Mr. Katzenberg’s reaction.  He’s naturally “sickened,” “angry” and “disappointed.”  He’s coming to grips with the reality that there was a Harvey he never knew, a shocking revelation from someone he spent 30 years “knowing.”

It’s easy to be disgusted by someone’s behavior, especially if those behaviors are truly foreign to your own temptations.  It’s easy to pick up a stone of judgment and throw it at the accused, especially when everyone would agree he deserves the social pummeling.   It’s easy to “write off” a relationship – especially when that relationship was – at its core – deceptive.  In fact, it’d be easier to just quietly walk away justifying that he’s a “lost cause.”  Why write an email or spend more time in this fallen friendship when Mr. Katzenberg undoubtedly has hundreds of other friends who are more palatable to love?

I think that is what struck me about Mr. Katzenberg’s email.  He chose not to do any of the easy choices before him.  While he rightfully condemns Harvey’s actions, he doesn’t change his phone number.  He hates Harvey’s sin but does not hate Harvey the sinner.  He doesn’t distance himself from leprosy.  He doesn’t try to protect his brand.  Going against the powerful public flow, he drops the rock of judgment, offers to sit down in the ash-heap and communicates the 3 most important words that every Harvey longs to hear:

I. remain. available.


Even now.

Prior to these painful revelations, the world was available to Harvey.

  • He had a good reputation.
  • He had respect.
  • He had power.
  • He had prestige.
  • He had money.
  • He had connections.
  • He had clout.

He had everything that everyone (Hollywood or not) wanted to have.  Weeks later, he’s virtually lost it all.  There is simply no room for such luxuries on an ash-heap.  Celebrities cannot distance themselves fast enough. Politicians who gladly accepted his enormous campaign donations suddenly find themselves unwilling to lend him a moral penny in his greatest hour of need.  History has shown humans to be fickle like that.  One week we can shout “Hosanna in the highest” and the next week, “Crucify Him.”  Without a doubt, Harvey can count on one hand the number of friends who “remain available,” especially publicly.

Contrast this news story with the other dominating news story this week; the raging fires in California.   The devastation is surreal and hard to watch.   Dozens are dead, hundreds have lost homes and thousands are now displaced with little idea of what to do next.   As I watch the fires burn, I hear the emerging stories of the first responders, the brave souls who are going in when others are going out.  While the masses are running from, these heroes are running to.   Why?   Why would someone risk so much to save a total stranger?   Money?  Fame?  Prestige?  What motivates a first responder to commit such acts of bravery – especially with nothing to personally gain?   I think there is only one answer:

Because the ones in danger are worth saving.

At this point, few probably think that Harvey is worth saving.  Like the fire, his deeds have caused enormous damage and have left a trail of destruction for those he burned.  Harvey himself may wonder if the “path to healing and redemption” are possible, let alone worth it.

This is why Katzenberg’s email is not only remarkable but necessary to highlight.   He’s running to his friend while everyone else is running from.  It doesn’t minimize the victim’s plight or the weight of Harvey’s actions.  It doesn’t ignore the fact that there are very real consequences (professionally, socially and legally) that may need to be faced.  But it shows us something that few understand the importance of – especially in the midst of public failure; healing and redemption are necessary pursuits.

Because Harvey has money?   No.  Because he makes good films?   No.

Simply because Harvey has value even when his actions are worthless.

The ignorant tend to put people into two categories; good and bad.   If someone does an action I like, they are good.  If someone does an action that hurts me, they are bad.  We are much too complicated to be labeled like that.  The problem is that all of us, according to the Bible, have done bad and fallen short of the Heavenly standard (Romans 3).  While some sins cause greater damage and deliver greater consequences – all sins place us on common ground – in the soiled ash-heap.  G.K. Chesterton summarizes the human condition best, “There is but an inch of difference between a cushioned chamber and a padded cell.”

The truth is, wounded people wound people and we are all wounded.  We tend to hurt others in the areas where we lack healing and no amount of money, fame or accomplishment changes that.  I’m not justifying Harvey’s actions, merely explaining them.  Unless we find healing, we will continue to hurt others.  And sometimes we need help finding healing.

While the masses are distancing themselves from Harvey, Katzenberg offers proximity, healing, help, and hope.

His three-word response should challenge all of us the next time we discover the moral leper in our midst:

I remain available.

Do you?


  • “If anyone is caught in a sin, who you are spiritual, should restore him gently.” (Galatians 6:2)
  • “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)



Replace or redeem? The need for more bridges

When something expensive is broken and money is flowing, we are quick to throw the broken item away and simply buy a new one.  But when something costly is broken and cash is low, we must figure out how to fix what we have.   Unfortunately, as a “wealthy, first-world” country, we have been allowed to replace too many things for too long.  In fact, in many ways – it’s actually easier and cheaper to buy something new.

A few years ago my DVD player broke.  I called the manufacturer to see how to get it fixed.  I realized that after shipping the unit across the country, paying for the part to repair it, plus the labor charges and the fee to ship it back to me, it would be much cheaper to throw it out and buy a new one.   Honestly, that disturbed me.  DVD players had become so inexpensive that they literally have become disposable!

Most things, it seems, have become easier to replace than redeem.  As a result, we have developed a mentality that encourages us to just buy new instead of fixing old.  And sadly, that mentality is not just isolated to our possessions, but even our relationships.

Most everyone reading this, regardless of age, has a broken relationship out there.  As you read that last sentence, a name comes to mind.  Or three or four names.  People you used to laugh with – now deleted from your phone.

Words were said.  Actions were done.  Actions were not done.  Things that we would have overlooked years ago now cause us to give the silent treatment.   Mild sarcasm that we would have forgiven in the past now turns into a bitter grudge.   Or maybe the wrong done – was really wrong… wrong enough to end the relationship.  The truth is, people can sometimes do hurtful things.  I have come to realize that people who have wounded me were also wounded themselves.  In other words, hurt people hurt people.  A friend will say something critical about us.  Neighbors complain.  Children are ungrateful.  Parents nag or worse yet, treat us like children.  Siblings tease us about a painful past experience.  Co-workers gossip.   Spouses are thoughtless, or worse – unfaithful.   Relationships get damaged and we are left staring at the relational shrapnel trying to decide what we will do with this person we once trusted.  Do we try to pick up the pieces or is it just better to walk our separate ways?

Some of us have viewed our closest relationships like a broken DVD player, disposable.  It’s easier to get a new boyfriend, than try to redeem an old husband.  It’s a lot less painful to get a new friend, than repair a broken relationship with a sibling.  Why open up old wounds with a parent who has hurt you when you can just ignore them now that you are an adult?   After all, you no longer need to borrow the family station wagon to get out.  “I’ve lived without them this long”, you rationalize, “why bother now?”

There are a lot of reasons why redeeming a relationship is better than replacing it.  The temptation is to let pride continue to course through your veins and justify all the reasons why you shouldn’t attempt the restoration.  “But he is the one who hurt me”, you think.  “Why should I take the first step when she is the one who was wrong?”  Or maybe you are thinking something like, “What I did was wrong and hurtful.  There is no way she’ll ever forgive me.  Why bother trying?”   Allow me to list six reasons why it’s worth trying.  One brief disclaimer: I am not suggesting that you need to redeem an abusive relationship or allow certain access with someone that is not physically or emotionally safe for you.  But there are times when you need to forgive (past hurts) and redeem (in spite of the hurt), especially if the offending party has changed/desires to change and is truly sorry/repentant for the hurtful behavior and has shown a consistent track record supporting that change.)    As you read the following list, think of the most important relationship you had, now broken, and picture what restoration looks like with that person. 

  1. People have loved you through some ugly times.   At some point in your life, you were not the perfect, pleasant person you are today.  There was a time when you were sullen, negative, disrespectful, inconsiderate, rude, sarcastic, mean or moody and someone (parent, teacher, sibling, coach, friend) decided to love you in spite of yourself.   Your words or actions hurt them and they decided you were worth the pain and stayed in the relationship anyway.
  2. If that isn’t enough, you have also been forgiven in Christ.  The Bible teaches that every sin we commit is punishable by death (Genesis 2:16-17, Romans 6:23).  Christ’s death on the cross was in your place.   Why would someone die for you, in your place?  Only one reason: love.  “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13)   If God can forgive your sins (which He was crucified for), can’t you forgive the lesser sins committed against you?  In fact, restoring relationships is so important to God that He raises the stakes with you.  “For if you forgive others for their sins, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matthew 6:14-15)
  3. You have a history with the person.   If the broken relationship is with a family member (ex-spouse, child, parents or siblings,) the history with them is like no other.   They hold a special place that no one else can fill.  You may be able to get another friend – but you’ll never get another sister, father, husband etc.   Even if the broken relationship is not a family member, you have tons of memories with them. At one point, there was some good times and positive experiences.  If you could get back to THAT, wouldn’t it be worth the work?
  4. Working through the pain can actually grow the broken relationship stronger than it was before.  In the human body, muscles & bones grow and strengthen under pressure, and become weak when barely put to use.   Relationships are very similar.  Too many friends “walk” after a heated disagreement.  When pressure hits a marriage, too many think separation/divorce is the answer instead of working it out.  Granted, there is a lot of pain and rehab to do – but it can be worth the effort.  And that relationship COULD be better than it was in the beginning – but only if BOTH sides are willing to put pride aside, change hurtful behaviors, humble themselves, ask for forgiveness and do the heavy lifting.
  5. A restored relationship shows others the power of forgiveness, friendship and love.  I recently read a story about a POW soldier from the Korean War who was tortured mercilessly by his captor for years.  Honestly, it was painful to read about the details of the abuse.  Years later, safely back on US soil – the soldier wondered what happened to this particular guard.  After years of searching, he found the name of his abuser and went to meet with him.  His goal: offer forgiveness.  The captor had become a Christian and was tormented, for years, over his evil actions.   The POW’s forgiveness had set him free.  Enemies had now become friends.   We all marvel at those types of stories, but few of us want to be the main character in one.
  6. If you are the one that initiates the restoration, you communicate a level of commitment to the other party that speaks volumes about your character.  In essence, what you are saying is:
  • “I want our relationship back more than I want my pride.”
  • “I want our friendship more than I want to be right.”
  • “I want your companionship more than I want the possible rejection you can give me right now.”
  • “I want you in my life more than I want you out of it.”

It’s hard to build such a bridge.  It’s painful to swallow your pride (particular if you think you are right).   It’s scary to take the first step.  But it is worth trying.  And years later, when you look back at that “incident” that caused the breach,  you often think, “Wasn’t it dumb of us to be that way?  I’m so glad we got over ourselves!”

  • Who do you currently have a broken relationship with?
  • What is your role in the demise of it?
  • What can you do (this week) to initiate contact and begin building the bridge?

There are three things you need to know about bridge building:

  1. It’s hard work.   It’s not easy going from point A to point B.
  2. It takes time.  You may have to work at it for a while.  If it took 13  years to destroy the bridge, don’t assume it will take 13 minutes to repair it.
  3. Once the bridge is built, you can get to places you never could before.  And others (generations later) can travel on your experience (bridge) and get there too.