Natalie Wood and Thanksgiving

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Natalie Wood and Thanksgiving

November 23, 2011 -

Tuesday night on NCIS, Robert Wagner played a man accused of murder.  Today, some are wondering if he was acting.
Natalie Wood was born Natalia Nikolaevna Zacharenko in San Francisco.  Her parents were Russian immigrants; she spoke both Russian and English.  Her family soon moved to Santa Rosa, where Wood was noticed during a film shoot.  She made her film debut in 1943, a few weeks before turning five.  Studio executives changed her name to “Natalie Wood,” a name she never liked.  At the age of nine she starred in Miracle on 34th Street, launching her career.  She would appear in 56 films.

She married actor Robert Wagner in 1957; the couple divorced in 1962 but remarried in 1972.  On November 28, 1981, they were on their yacht off Catalina Island with Christopher Walken, Wood’s current film co-star.  According to Wagner, the couple argued; later he couldn’t find her on the boat but noticed that the dinghy was missing and assumed she used it to go to shore.  Her body was later discovered a mile from the dinghy.

Natalie Wood as Susan in Miracle on 34th Street Now Dennis Davern, the ship’s captain, is claiming that he heard the couple arguing moments before she disappeared.  He also claims that Wagner would not let him search for her.  As a result of this new information, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department has officially reopened the case.  Davern passed a lie detector test this week.  The lifeguard who pulled Wood’s body from the water has come forward as well, claiming that she may have floated alive for hours.

The official cause of her death was determined to be accidental drowning.  Wagner, who was not charged in her death, has made a statement on his website supporting the investigation.  Police plan to talk with him but say he is not a suspect.

It is obviously too soon to know what the investigation will reveal.  So far, the only people who know if the characters in this drama are telling the truth are the characters themselves—with one exception.

King David, who had personal experience with the omniscience of God, said to him, “O Lord, you have searched me and you know me.  You know when I sit down and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar” (Psalm 139:1-2).  Paul knew that God “searches our hearts” (Romans 8:27).  The Lord said to ancient Israel and to us, “I know what is going through your mind” (Ezekiel 11:5).  He asked Jeremiah, “Can anyone hide in secret places so that I cannot see him?” (Jeremiah 23:24).

The omniscient and omnipresent King of the universe knows when a sparrow falls to the ground (Matthew 10:29).  He is watching me type these words and knows your thoughts as you read them.  He knows every sin we’ve ever committed and every sin we’ll ever commit.

And yet he can say, “I have loved you with an everlasting love” (Jeremiah 31:3).  He is “a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness” (Psalm 86:15).  He will never stop loving us, for “his love endures forever” (2 Chronicles 7:3).

When we confess our sins to him, “he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).  He then separates our sins from us “as far as the east is from the west” (Psalm 103:12), buries them in “the depths of the sea” (Micah 7:19) and remembers them no more (Jeremiah 31:34).

I don’t know whether Robert Wagner is a bereaved husband whose loss is exacerbated by this controversy or a man whose past is catching up with him.  But God does.  And he knows everything we’ve done, including the things we hope no one ever discovers.

This Thanksgiving week, I am grateful that the King of Kings is also our forgiving Father.  I will make time for a spiritual inventory, asking the Spirit to show me anything in my life that displeases God and confessing all that comes to my thoughts.  I will thank him for forgiving my last sin and my next one.  And I will do what I can to share his grace with my fellow sinners.

John Claypool told about a medieval village and the monastery that stood high above it on a mountain.  The humble villagers often wondered what the monks did in their elevated holy world.  One day a monk came down into the village for supplies.  One of the peasants fell before him and asked, “O holy father, what do you and the others do up there so close to God?”

The monk pulled the peasant to his feet, took his hands, smiled into his face and said, “We fall down and we get up.  We fall down and we get up.  We fall down and we get up.”

Would you like to get up today?

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