Journey to Oz 7– The Big Picture

August 8, 2007 by · Leave a Comment 

We’ve been on a Journey to Oz… Last Saturday I got a glimpse of the end—or perhaps the beginning (you’ll have to decide which for yourself). I got a quick snapshot of the “Big Picture”. And although we’ve been unfolding the heart of courage and bravery slowly over the last several weeks, I’m gonna bring it all together—perhaps a little prematurely—right now. I’m doing this because every once in a while, God brings everything together—everything into focus. These times may seem few—but when they come, it’s pretty darn cool.


The Background

An important part of any picture is the “background”. A photographer has to pay attention to the background so that he can create a beautiful picture. For example, I saw a wedding photo once that had the bride and the groom standing before a beautiful sunset. In the background there was a large blossoming tree. It was beautiful. They looked so happy and content. I’m sure the photographer was thinking that the blossoming tree represented the new life of the marriage and hope springing eternal and ya-da-ya-da-ya-da. However, I noticed something else in the background. It was back behind the blossoming tree. It was a road sign. The sign said (very clearly and prominently) “DO NOT ENTER”. 

The point is this: the background is important for this “big picture”. So here it is…


I have an incredible friend named Hillery. Although he has a girl’s name, he is one of the most amazing GUYS I’ve ever met (I had to address the name thing, Hillery…sorry). I was once asked who Hillery reminds me of. I answered “P.T. Barnum”. I said this because everything Hillery is involved in becomes the “greatest show on earth!” And I mean that as a compliment. He could make a trip to the DMV fun, exciting, and exhilarating. He’s a joy-bringer. Everything is an adventure. (For example, the question about who Hillery reminds me of came from an application we filled out to be a team on the TV show The Amazing Race.) 

Well, I got to know Hillery when we worked together on a Men’s Retreat at my church and we’ve been through a lot together. I admire his faith, his outlook, his joy, and his love for others. 

Several months ago, Hillery’s mom—Caddie—was diagnosed with cancer. And so, I got to journey with Hillery on another adventure. This one was not chosen—but rather thrust upon him. When he’d visit his mom, I’d ask how it went. One thing he said after each visit is that he really loved his mother’s simple faith in Jesus. “She’s not afraid,” he’d say, “She knows she’s going to be with Jesus…”

At the end of July, Caddie went home to be with the one she loved—Jesus.


The Coloring

Like background, a photographer also must be aware of color in each picture. For example a red rose will stand out against a dark background, increasing the beauty and presence of the rose itself—almost transforming the setting from somber to beautiful.


Last Saturday, I attended the memorial service for Caddie. When I spoke to him the night before, he told me that he was wearing a Hawaiian shirt, shorts, and sandals—and he encouraged me to do the same. He also asked if I could get there early and help him by passing out Hawaiian leis before the service. 

I wasn’t thrown by Hillery’s request because—well—I know Hillery. See, as Christians we see death not as the end—but as the beginning. Jesus said this in John 11: 

“I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.” (John 11:25-26)

This is an incredible promise from God. This is an incredible claim by Jesus. This is an incredible hope for believers. And that’s why we should celebrate when someone who loves Jesus gets to be with him—gets to see him face to face and be in the place he has prepared for them. 

But it’s hard to celebrate when we lose someone we love. We say the words of God’s truth, but our hearts hurt. Black clothes of mourning match our mood. Serious attire for serious circumstances.

Into this, Hillery added color. Red, green, orange, pink, purple, blue. A rainbow of Hawaiian leis. Every person in the service got one. And I had the privilege of being one of the people handing them out. 

And I want to tell you how interesting the handing out process was. People arriving for a memorial service suddenly receive a colorful lei from people in Hawaiian shirts and shorts. You may be thinking that this was strange or odd or inappropriate, but it was not. I know, I was there… It was perfect. I decided this when I heard a woman say to her husband, “Oh, Caddie would have loved this!” as she smiled and put the pink lei around her neck.

Bright color in a somber setting can change the entire picture.


The Picture 

As important as background and coloring are to a photograph, neither should detract from the subject presented. Instead, they serve the subject to make it clear and vibrant—to enhance the subject and make it real to the observer.


I found myself thinking about this theme of celebration and reflecting on the leis we were handing out. In Hawaii they have a word—aloha. It means goodbye… and hello. It’s an appropriate word when a follower of Jesus passes from this world to the next. 

There is a sadness in goodbye, yet a joy in hello. And both are real. Both are intense. And it is in this paradox that we said goodbye to Caddie and Caddie said hello to Jesus. 

And that’s the big picture right there: Jesus. That’s what Caddie wanted the service to be about. That’s what Hillery wanted the lei to remind us. Because of Jesus, we were saying aloha—goodbye and hello.

And I know this. One day I will get to meet Caddie and I will get to say aloha. And Hillery and I will get to see what a real adventure is like!


What about Oz? 

So what does this have to do with being brave? What does this mean about courage? 

I believe that Hillery and Caddie and everyone else involved in the memorial service learned what true courage and bravery is all about because they experienced these things—things my friend Scott Gore put together with this acrostic: 


BELIEVE the Truth

Death is not the end—Jesus promises eternal life for those who believe.

REJECT all Lies

Refuse to buy into the notion that this life is all there is—that everything about “heaven” isn’t true.

ACT in spite of Fear

We can trust God and move through this dark time with hope—even though we are afraid and sad and broken.


There is a place prepared for us. It is our true home. Jesus is there and it is for all of God’s children. This world is broken, but everything will be made new again— no more tears, no more pain, no more sorrow.

EXPECT it to Happen

Caddie is with Jesus because of what he has done for her. I will be with Jesus because of what he has done for me. We will be together with Jesus again because of what he has done for us. In the face of death, we can be brave because Jesus has defeated death. It no longer can hold us. He has won the victory.



I think that’s worth celebrating. So grab a lei and join the party.



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