Justin Harvey

The Used Car Salesman of Yesterday


This is an excerpt from an untitled memoir I’m currently writing.

Have you ever just wanted to test drive a car, but had no interest in buying it? I was seventeen years old the first time I had this urge, and I just happened to be near a used car dealership when it struck. So, naturally, I fed that impulsive nature with a quick right turn into their parking lot. I was barely out of my car when I was greeted by Shane. I could tell he was young, perhaps only five years older than me. But he had the demeanor of an experienced salesman and he launched his pitch immediately, yet not awkwardly. Oh yes, he had done this before. I hit him with the bad news from the start. “I’m not looking to buy a car today, I just want to see if there’s anything I like.” Shane may have just been hospitable because it was a slow sales day, or maybe he believed he could talk me into making a purchase, either way he agreed to show me around the lot. We browsed, looking at a variety of “gently used” vehicles. He was surprised that I preferred manual transmissions and lots of cargo space. “Most people don’t know how to drive a stick these days,” he remarked, “I have just the ride for you.” Shane lead me to the other side of the lot. I can’t recall the make and model of the car we went to, only that it didn’t strike me as a car I’d be particularly interested in. Nevertheless, when he asked if I wanted to test drive it I said yes. That was why I was there after all. 

Shane darted off with my drivers license and returned moments later with my ID and a temporary license plate in hand. We loaded into the whatever-it-was and I drove off the lot. We were perhaps 100ft into our drive when he asked, “So what do you do? Are you in school, do you work?” I assumed this was part of the salesman routine – that getting to know and relating to the customer part – finding the best angle to hook the sale. “Actually, I recently dropped out of high school to serve poor and homeless populations. I work for God right now.” His eyes doubled in size. “Wait, what? How does that work?” So Shane and I took a drive to the city line and back. During the trip I told him about how I became a follower of Yeshua and how serving God means serving others in need. I told him about how my own financial needs were constantly being met and even exceeded, allowing me to give away much of what I had to those less fortunate. He had a lot of questions and I was happy to answer them. Eventually we pulled back into dealership lot. “Well, that was an interesting ride,” he said. “I already know this isn’t the car for you, but when you’re ready to buy something, come back and see me.” I thanked him for his time and we went our separate ways.

About a year later I stopped at a gas station in that town. After filling the tank I went inside to grab a drink and the moment I walked in the clerk shouted, “It’s you!” I turned to see a face I did not recognize, “Last I checked,” I acknowledged with a smile. “You don’t recognize me, do you?” “Sorry,” I responded, trying to place his face. He came around the corner and reached out to shake my hand. “My name is Shane. Last year I was working at a sleazy car dealership, having to lie to people every day and hating my job. You came in for a test drive and changed my life. I was miserable in my work, my marriage was falling apart, and I was the furthest I had ever been from God. You and I drove a lemon around town together and you told me about how you became a follower of Christ and some of the incredible things that had happened since then. I was so glad you didn’t buy that car, it was garbage. That night I went home and told my wife about our encounter. We stayed up the whole night talking about our lives, our marriage, and our faith. The next day we decided things were going to change. I quit my job the next day and we started seeing a marriage counselor that week. I got this job, working at a gas station and just enrolled back in college. I’ve lost nearly 40lbs too. Our lives have changed so much for the better.” 

I was dumbfounded. Such a simple interaction had been a catalyst for such a grand transformation in someone’s life. “Man, that’s incredible. I’m genuinely humbled by this. Thank you for remembering me and sharing your story.” Another customer had come in and was waiting to pay. Shane headed back to the counter but turned to say, “I’m glad to know you’re real. I honestly thought you might have been an angel. Keep being you, man!” I left the store with an overwhelming sense of awe and refreshment… yet still parched without the drink I had intended to buy.

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The path less traveled


The life and teachings of Yeshua Hamashiach (Jesus the Messiah) have held my attention since I first encountered them. My secular childhood saved me from experiencing religious indoctrination and developing dogmatic beliefs, but it also left me yearning for something more substantial than the spiritual and mindfulness practices that had I developed on my own. That yearning was satisfied when I made the choice to follow The Christ and it has continued to satisfy my soul for the following 25+ years. Yeshua changed the way I saw myself, and more importantly, how I saw others. The book of Matthew records a teaching that he gave his disciples.

“When the gate to God’s kingdom opens, my followers will hear me say ‘Enter, you who are blessed by my Father! It’s been ready for you since the world’s foundation. And here’s why: I was hungry and you fed me, I was thirsty and you gave me a drink, I was homeless and you gave me a room, I was shivering and you gave me clothes, I was sick and you stopped to visit, I was in prison and you came to me.’ They’ll reply, ‘Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry and feed you, thirsty and give you a drink? And when did we ever see you sick or in prison and come to you?’ Then the King will say, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me — you did it to me.’” (Matthew 25)

This teaching echoes one of the first things Yeshua was ever recorded saying.

“In everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets. This is the embodiment of a valid and healthy religion.” (Matthew 7)

This notion of others being just as valuable as me was the missing ingredient in my spiritual life. Embracing it and practicing it is what set me free from a nasty addiction to myself: an addiction which took the form of disregard for others when they didn’t align with my own interests. That’s called selfishness, and it, ironically, was my biggest hurdle to experiencing true joy and fulfillment.
Paul, an early disciple who also had a profound life change by this teaching, wrote in a letter to the Philippian church,

“Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death — and the worst kind of death at that — a crucifixion. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.” (Philippians 2)

These ideas are fundamental to following Yeshua. One literally can not be a follower of Christ (a christian) without embracing and practicing this. If you’re on a spiritual journey and are Christ-curious, let this be the litmus test for yourself and for others who claim to be christians.

Yeshua concluded that teaching in Matthew 25 with a warning to another group of people who piously believed they deserved a pass into God’s kingdom too.

“‘Take a hike, you don’t belong in my Father’s house. And why? Because I was hungry and you gave me no meal, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was homeless and you gave me no bed, I was shivering and you gave me no clothes, Sick and in prison, and you never visited.’ They’ll reply, ‘Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or homeless or shivering or sick or in prison and didn’t help?’ He will answer them, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you failed to do one of these things to someone who was being overlooked or ignored, that was me — you failed to do it to me.'” 

This statement wasn’t directed to pagans or agnostic folks, it was directed to church people – specifically those who falsified a life of substantive love with a life of useless religion.

Perhaps you’ve spent your whole life in church culture, or perhaps you’re an outsider like me. The point of origin isn’t very important. Christ has made a path for all of us. It’s the same path he took. Know that you belong, know that you matter and your life is valuable. Then extend that sense of belonging and value to everyone you encounter. Show them they are just like you, worth being loved and cared for.

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What’s in a name?


Since 2004 I’ve run a small branding & digital marketing agency called Abrasive Ink (we started in 2001 as Selah Studios). Unfortunately the name and even the whole notion of owning/running the company began souring on me in 2010. I grew to dislike it so badly that I finally closed it down in 2011 (except for a few clients who we maintained on the side). I spent a few years as a creative director/manager for a Fortune 500 media company just to do something different. But in 2014 I relaunched Abrasive Ink so I could regain flexible hours (to help run a non-profit org), but I never really found my footing in that relaunch. It just didn’t feel right when I would network or pitch to new clients.

Your website needs a hero!Last week (after months of planning) I finally retired that old name with the launch of Hero Agency​. My entire outlook has changed too. I feel a connection to this brand identity. I feel proud to talk about it and am eager to share it… I even went door to door in my neighborhood, introducing myself and the company to local businesses. The services are exactly the same. The internal process haven’t changed. By all accounts it’s the same business… but the name change has made a huge difference to me personally… AND apparently to potential clients as I’ve added 4 since launch.

I see a lesson in here somewhere. Sometimes our past holds us back. Sometimes the names we’ve put on ourselves (or others have put on us) are like chains that anchor us to an identity that’s no longer ours. Like the stories of iconic religious figures or comicbook superheroes, sometimes we simply have to embrace our now-identity to begin our future journey.

From there it’s up, up and away…

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