Tuesday, December 28, 2004

STAND FIRM

Stand Firm
by Janice Price

Standing behind the courtesy counter, Vickie rattled the Safeway newspaper ads, diligently seeking the sale on thirty pound bags of cat litter that I assured her was in print. Funds were limited and I was adept at finding bargains.

Benny, my friend and neighbor, was standing at the checkout line trying to look inconspicuous. I wasn’t able to do any heavy lifting, and he had walked across the street with me to lift the bag in and out of the shopping cart.

“I can’t find it anywhere, “Vickie said.

“But it’s there,” I insisted. “It’s what I’m here for today.” I wasn’t angry or argumentative, but since some of the city stores could be sneaky about putting higher priced items on shelves in place of sale items or not changing the regular price to the sale price, I had learned to stand firm when I was in the right.

“It is on sale,” called one of the cashiers. “I saw the ad myself.”

Vickie finally conceded defeat. “Okay, go ahead and give it to her at the sale price.”

Benny wheeled the cart home and carried the bag up the stairs to my apartment. I grabbed the morning paper and searched the ads for the item. I knew I was right. That litter was on sale.

And sure enough it was on sale at that price – at the ABCO store half a mile away.

Oops.

Benny thought this was hilarious. I was embarrassed. Vickie was relieved.

“Thank you so much for coming back. I thought I was losing my mind. I have been searching the ads since you left,” she said. The cashier who had seen it advertised? She was just trying to resolve the standoff. “Besides,” Vickie joked, “you don’t want to be kept out of heaven over thirty-seven cents.”

It has been many years since this incident and numerous things have changed in my life, but I still tend to stand firm when I believe I’m in the right. Perhaps a little less often, since it takes time and energy to stand up for minor details, but I can dig in my heels for major items.

There are fewer store ads to confuse me where I live now, but there are more confusing doctrines and religious views than ever. One could easily become ensnared and led away from the one true God without ever realizing the subtlety of the error. John wrote that Christians should test the spirits to see whether they are from God and that is just as applicable today as it was then.

The Internet can be a blessing. It is capable of putting large amounts of factual data at our fingertips, but scams and rumors abound, people are not always what they seem, and there is a glut of misinformation readily available. False prophets can have Internet access and websites too. If we aren’t spiritually discerning, the eventual cost can be much greater than a little embarrassment and thirty-seven cents in cash.

One day Jesus will separate the sheep from the goats and we want to be counted among the sheep in the Good Shepherd’s flock, so we need to be aware of who we are following and what we believe. And when we know we are in the right, we need to stand firm.

© 2004 Janice Price
mercyandpercy@yahoo.com
www.mercyandpercy.com

Sunday, December 12, 2004

AFTER THE STORM

After the Storm
by Janice Price

The rain began in earnest as I pulled out of my brother’s yard. The sky darkened, and even with the windshield wipers clicking rapidly, it was hard to see the lanes in the road. I left my dog Merci in the car while I ran the short distance into the auto parts store to return a brake spoon. As the clerk processed the return, the storm intensified. I hated to leave the warm, dry building, but Merci was happy to see she wouldn’t have to suffer the storm alone.

It wasn’t far to Mother’s. I sped up her stairs to leave some things she needed, anxious to get home and into some dry clothes, but when I left I realized I had forgotten one other important stop and I would need to retrace part of my route. It wasn’t a pleasant prospect.

The rain stopped as suddenly as it began. Intent on where I was going, around the curve on the hill, I almost missed it. But I glanced to the east and was bedazzled by the beauty of a rainbow.

Oh, what a cheerful sight. Undaunted by the dark clouds rolling across the sky as the storm moved northeast, the rainbow reflected such rich color it couldn’t be contained in one arch alone. It was a double rainbow.

I pulled into a parking lot where two women were standing, just as entranced as I was. I wished there were a camera handy to capture the beauty of this special moment. After the intensity of the downpour and the early darkness, the rainbow lighted up the sky, almost as if God was smiling down and saying, See, I’m always with you, even through life’s storms.

Life is full of storms. Some are as a gentle mist, others are as hurricanes. Sometimes they seem to arrive from all directions and pound us with gale force winds that can even topple a mighty oak tree.

Storms strengthen our faith. They teach us to look to God for the endurance and courage to weather them. As we become stronger, we help and encourage others to stand strong in their own storms.

Thunderstorms are intimidating, especially when the thunder rolls directly overhead, or a lightning bolt hits a transformer or starts a fire, but God is with us through the sunshine, as well as through the darkness.

The darker and more intense the storm, the brighter the rainbow God has waiting on the other side.

© 2004 Janice Price
mercyandpercy@yahoo.com
www.mercyandpercy.com

Saturday, December 04, 2004

UNDER ATTACK

Under Attack
by Janice Price

“Jody, do you know where I can buy an inexpensive golf club?” I asked my golf-loving neighbor.

“Sure. I have a starter set. What kind do you want?”

“One I can use as a weapon.”

When Merci and I resumed our walk, I was swinging a golf club, Jody’s donation for our protection.

As he drove by, the county Animal Control and Shelter Manager leaned his head out the window, to yell laughingly, “Hey, ya got ya a big stick!”

He knew the reason for the club but not that the city Animal Control Officer had advised me to carry one. I’m not sure how effectively I might be able to swing it in an emergency, but after last week I no longer feel safe walking Merci. Someone left their gates open and three aggressive dogs attacked her. They didn’t bother me, only the little dog that had unsuccessfully tried to make friends with them each time we passed.

Two of the dogs bit Merci and then hemmed her on three sides. I needed to get her off the ground quickly. I started blowing a whistle and screaming for someone to call the police. This would stop the dogs temporarily, and then we would all dance as I tried to lift a moving fifteen to twenty pound dog. I whistled and yelled and we danced until I finally had Merci in one arm.

She panicked, kicked free and started yelping, and I had to wrestle her back into one arm again. The last time I stopped to yell at the lead dog to go home, I was ready to collapse and could barely breathe. A woman yelled that she was calling the police. I turned and our mailman was standing on the corner. The dogs disappeared, a stranger took Merci and I in, and after Animal Control arrived she gave us a ride home.

This was an overt attack, but we have an enemy that is often so subtle we don’t recognize we are under attack. Some people don’t even believe he exists. But the Bible tells us to resist our enemy, a roaring lion on the prowl. (I Peter 5:8, 9) How? Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. (Ephesians 6:11 NIV)

We walked by there this morning for the first time since the attack. My insides were jelly and I gripped the club tightly. I hope I never have to swing it as a weapon, but I would protect Merci or myself with it if necessary.

True protection, however, comes from wearing the armor of God. Never leave home without it.

© 2004 Janice Price
mercyandpercy@yahoo.com
www.mercyandpercy.com

Friday, November 26, 2004

THANKSGIVING INSPIRATION


God gives us beautiful trees and faithful friends.

Thanksgiving Inspiration
by Janice Price

This admission is going to startle many of those who know me, and my mother may well pass out from the shock, but this needs to be said.

There are times my mother is an absolute inspiration and encouragement.

Life hasn’t been easy for her and it is especially hard for her now. She has been housebound for several years, since before I moved across country to live nearby, which means she has been forgotten by society and is often lonely. Her eyesight and hearing are poor and her speech isn’t always clear. She propels herself around the house in a wheelchair by using her feet, determined to remain as independent and self-sufficient as possible.

Everything in her circumstances is working against her, and too often this includes her daughter and her one son in this area. Five years ago we buried another son, the one who lived with her. Of course, having four living children doesn’t replace the one she lost.

Doug and I try to help her, but he often works long hours, so I am Mother’s pack mule. In other words, I run her errands and haul everything upstairs from the street to the sidewalk and then up the porch steps. This isn’t easy for me, as I’m sure her neighbors are aware. Yes, I often complain – loudly!

So I was amazed when the thought occurred to me that I wanted to do something really special for her for Thanksgiving this year. I could see it in my mind. I would take my card table, cover it with a tablecloth, and set it with the familiar silverware, plates and glasses she gave me this summer when I cleaned out her storage shed. I hoped Doug and his friend Theresa could join us. It would be a lot of extra work, but we could have at least one special Thanksgiving together while we have the opportunity.

I never saw any food in my mind’s vision, only the table settings. I knew we didn’t have the funds for the meal, but I was still disappointed last weekend when the dream was lost to reality. There wouldn’t be a Thanksgiving meal, with or without a fancy table.

While I struggled with grumpy discouragement, Mother also had a dream that wasn’t to be. She wanted to treat me to a shopping spree for warm clothes today, the day after Thanksgiving.

"How could you think I would want to go shopping for myself when we need food?" I asked, in disbelief, proving once again that my natural walking position is with foot in mouth. I have since apologized for this, but still the hurt from the unkind remark lingers.

"I wanted to give you a special Thanksgiving," I told her.

"I guess God has other plans," she replied.

Funds became available Tuesday afternoon. Some people could plan a meal, thaw a turkey and rush to get it all done on time, but to do so much at the last minute would leave me out of commission for weeks. Everything in this small town is closed on Thanksgiving. Mother and I agreed to have pizza together on Wednesday afternoon and pumpkin pie on Thursday.

"Every day is Thanksgiving," Mother assured me. "It doesn’t matter what we have, I’ll be thankful for it."

"The pizza is courtesy of Mark and Janet," I told Mother after we ate, "but you bought the pumpkin pie for tomorrow."

I was barely home before Charles, a neighbor and member of our watch group, arrived, walking on crutches. His young grandson carried an air tank for Charles to blow out my gas space heaters. The weather was about to change and although my landlord had again forgotten me, Charles remembered and came to light the pilots.

A couple of hours later Martha, the local Red Cross manager, called and said she had something she wanted to share with "you and your mama." She brought half a cooked turkey.

Then Johnnie asked if she could drop off a chicken plate on Thanksgiving for "you and your mama." I never turn down her delicious cooking! She and her husband brought us a full meal yesterday.

Theresa invited me to her niece’s for sandwiches in the evening. She came by so I could follow her over there without getting lost. She brought a plate of turkey and stuffing for "you and your mama." Her niece sent me home with some leftover turkey and a slice of melt-in-your-mouth pecan pie.

By now I should know that God is much more generous than I am and that he doesn’t overlook the poor or the lonely. I’m so grateful for the kindness of all these people. This was a gentle reproof to me that God can and will provide without my help if I get out of his way and concentrate on his blessings instead of on what I don’t have.

It was also another reminder that God has not forgotten or abandoned my mother in her isolation.

Mother doesn’t talk much about personal matters, including her faith, so this was also a reminder that Mother has a faith strong enough to withstand disappointments and loneliness. So often in the daily grind, such as taking out her trash or carrying laundry back and forth, I lose sight of the fact that she’s not only my mother, but she’s a sister in Christ.

I don’t know that I’ll ever be an inspiration and encouragement to anyone, but I do pray I will remain as strong in my faith, no matter what the circumstances, as she has.

© 2004 Janice Price
mercyandpercy@yahoo.com
www.mercyandpercy.com

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

THANKSGIVING PROVISION

Thanksgiving Provision
by Janice Price

You’re going to have Thanksgiving dinner, courtesy of Pat.

The thought is strong and explicit, but confusing. Mother and I are okay with our plans for a Thanksgiving dinner of macaroni and cheese. It doesn’t matter that we can’t afford a big meal this year. We are still thankful for our blessings.

You’re going to have Thanksgiving dinner, courtesy of Pat. This thought is insistent.

I add the last of the clothes to the washer and return to my desk to read the mail. There is an envelope from my friend Pat, but no check. Still, You’re going to have Thanksgiving dinner, courtesy of Pat. By now I am thinking I am losing my mind.

The phone rings. Mother is excited. “Jan, I got a card from Pat. She sent me a check for our Thanksgiving dinner.”

The following day I will receive a note from Pat, “Your mother is treating you to Thanksgiving dinner.” But when I pick up the check Mother and I decide we should stick to the easy and cheap macaroni and cheese. Before I reach the bank, I remember how explicit the thought was earlier. I decide that if God says we are having Thanksgiving dinner that’s what we should purchase. There will be no dessert. A turkey and trimmings take all but fifty cents of the check. I stop at another store and spend that on an onion for the dressing.

Forty-eight hours later I start dinner preparations. I have learned to cook holiday meals the evening before, then pack our meals to reheat in the microwave at Mother’s home. I find the neck and giblets are frozen inside the turkey. They jiggle out under running water.

My brother Doug drops off some ice cream and laundry. “How long did you say that bird has been cooking?” he asks when I check on the small turkey. There is no tantalizing aroma floating around the kitchen.

“Three hours,” I reply.

“Something is wrong. It should be done by now. Are you sure the oven is working right?”

“It’s okay,” I say with more confidence that I am feeling.

Inside, I am praying: God, something definitely is wrong. Please don’t let me poison Mother with this turkey.

The phone rings. My friend Johnnie inquires, “Would you and your mother like for me to fix you a plate tomorrow? We’ll be glad to share with you. We’re having ham.”

I start to decline and remember this turkey is not cooperating like the turkeys in years past. “That would be wonderful, Johnnie. Thanks.”

I remove the aluminum foil tent and raise the oven temperature just a tad. An hour and ten minutes later I stick a meat thermometer in three different locations. All three readings tell me the internal temperature is higher than it needs to be. The turkey is done. It is well past dinnertime and I am famished, so I slice a little and nibble, but I am feeling a bit uneasy about whether the turkey is safe to eat.

I’m going to die is my first thought when I waken at 3:00 a.m. The back and leg pain went to bed with me but everything else is new. I decide to check on the turkey and see if it smells okay, so I pull the pan out of the refrigerator. It hooks the handle of a water pitcher and half a gallon of cold water flows through the refrigerator, into the vegetable bins and over the floor. I dump a sleeping cat off of the nearest cloth – Doug’s white shirts - for the refrigerator and grab a rag for the floor.

At 5:00 a.m., I find the thermometer and check my temperature - 95.6ยบ. I am not running a fever and I don’t have food poisoning. It is just a reaction to the changing weather and rising humidity. I manage a couple of hours of rest.

I am clumsy, befogged, and occasionally dizzy Thanksgiving morning. It is all I can do to shower, prepare a pot of tea, pour the liquid into two thermoses, and feed the animals. I take two aspirin with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and find a tube of muscle rub for my neck. These are barely finished and Johnnie is on her way with the food.

“I’ll tell you later what a lifesaver you are,” I tell her as I accept the two meals that include dessert.

I put the thermoses of tea and the bags of food into the car and drive to Mother’s house.

“What’s in this?” Mother asks as she looks at a covered container.

“I have no idea,” I tell her. “I didn’t pack this.”

Mother is surprised to find a ham dinner and a special dish just for her. “Didn’t you cook the turkey?”

Later, Doug calls. “My friend Theresa is sending a little something for you and Mother. I’ll be by with the plates shortly.”

I believe God has a sense of humor. It is times such as this that I believe it the most. While I was unable to sleep early this morning, I read in Psalms 111:5a, “He provides food for those who fear him.”

© 2004 Janice Price
mercyandpercy@yahoo.com
www.mercyandpercy.com

Friday, November 19, 2004

SONS ARE FOREVER

Sons are Forever
by Janice Price

*Although this story was written a few years ago, it is still timely. Suicide is not a topic one would like to associate with any holidays, especially Thanksgiving and Christmas, but it is a reality that many grieving families face each year. Loneliness and depression can become overwhelming and too many potential suicides will become completed suicides again this year.

Many thanks to my friend Carol for the inspiration to write this story. Recently, I received a prayer request for a suicidal individual and emailed him a suggestion to read this story, in hopes he might realize the depth of the painful legacy he would leave his own family and friends. May Carol be blessed for her generosity in sharing her own pain in order to help others.



It is the Saturday before Thanksgiving. The weather is crisp and clear. My yard is buried in colorful leaves. It is a beautiful day to celebrate life.

It is also a day to grieve.

The e-mail message from Carol was fairly short. “It's 2 a.m. I've just been on the phone with Doris my best friend in PA. Her son Troy committed suicide today by shooting himself. I'm devastated, she's devastated, so we've been crying together. Her kids and my kids grew up together. I'm in shock. And of course sleep is the last thing I'm looking for so I thought I'd write and tell you. I can't say much more right now. I think my mind has turned off. I have a big day tomorrow and someone else is going to have to push me through it.”

I wanted to be there for Carol in person, but we live too far apart. We were close friends as teenagers. She married Bob and had four healthy, mischievous children. I moved away and we lost touch for many years. We regained contact four years ago through my brother Bill, but it has only been within the last few months that we have regained communication on a personal level. I know she meant what she said; she is truly devastated today.

Carol is a survivor of two suicides. Fourteen years ago Carol and Bob buried their son Robbie. Five years later, on his twenty-second birthday, they buried their youngest son Jay.

Until this summer I thought that the subject of suicide should be avoided, but I learned that it is not a verboten subject. Tiptoeing around the subject or avoiding it altogether does not help those left behind. Family members need to talk about the loss of their loved one. It is part of the healing process. Carol put it succinctly, “Yes, it’s painful, but it’s a lot more painful if I don’t talk about it or if everyone goes around it. Time does not heal, but it dims the bad things and brightens the good ones.”

She sent a photograph of her children. The last time I saw them they were toddlers. It was the first time I saw them as teenagers. It was hard to imagine the hole that was left in the family with the loss of two good-looking young adults. How does a parent cope when a child dies.….by violence …..by his own hand? Not well and not easily, by Carol’s own admission. Your world is out of kilter when you live to bury your own children. It must be especially hard when they are young.

There are no words equal to the task of consoling those left behind. How do you comfort someone who is haunted by nightmare images of the death scene, who battles self-recriminations and who must bear the unbearable?

Prayer is the most loving thing we can do. We can pray for their peace of mind, for proper rest for their minds and bodies to recuperate from the extreme stress they are undergoing, for their financial needs in the crisis so they can bury their loved ones and have opportunity to grieve - the list of needs is endless. Most importantly, we can pray for their faith to be strengthened and for them to lean on God and not turn away from Him or blame Him. He can attend to all their needs by sending some neighbors with food, some friends with financial donations, some church members with cleaning supplies, and even some strangers with a warm heart and a listening ear. He can give them strength to endure the funeral, to accept condolences, and to survive one moment at a time.

The family needs more than prayer. They need moral support. They need love, hugs and assurances that the deceased will not be forgotten. He died; he wasn’t erased. They need reminders of happy memories of the deceased. They need to know that not only are you here for them today, but that you will continue to be there for them tomorrow. As Carol said, the pain of a suicide never goes away. Occasionally, there is a need to talk to someone about the loved one because the anniversary of his death, or his birthday, or his favorite holiday is approaching. Will you or I still be willing to listen ten or even twenty years down the road?

Carol has been on a long journey. It hasn’t been an easy one. A support group of bereaved parents helped her for a time. Two years after Jay died she had a heart attack and moved from her home state. Since then she has had trials beyond measure. In one recent year she had eleven surgeries. She has had two knee replacements and is headed for shoulder replacement surgery. If you were to ask her, she would tell you that nothing she has been through could begin to touch the pain of losing her sons.

It would be easy to criticize or try to assign blame. That seems to be what we often do when we haven’t faced a particular trial ourselves. Someone who has never been through a depression couldn’t understand how a person could reach the point of ending it all. Someone who has never faced what could appear to be a failure on the part of the parents could not empathize. The truth is that suicides happen in broken families as well as “perfect” ones. It isn’t the fault of the parents.

Suicide is a baffling subject. Depression is a major motivation for wanting to self-destruct. Some think you can will yourself out of it, “pull yourself up by your own bootstraps”, or freeze a grin and whatever is bothering you will just go away. Depression has also been described as anger turned inward. Some doctors say it is a chemical imbalance in the brain, while others say it is all in the emotions. Some ministers will tell you that it is totally a lack of faith in God, while others will say you are demon possessed or influenced.

None of us know what it would take to push us over the edge. But we do know what it does take to pull us out of the mire. We don’t come out by our own bootstraps. Perhaps if we try we can fool ourselves as well as others for a time, but eventually we have to face the truth. It is only when we become dependent on God that we are lifted out of depression, over and over again if necessary, but it is not in our own strength that we win this war.

I admire Carol. She has slogged through the pits wearing leaden shoes. Most days she manages to laugh and to be positive. Today her heart is breaking. She is carrying the weight of her friend’s loss along with her own. There is fresh pain mingled with the old.

I can not imagine the depth of her pain – or her friend Doris’. But I do know that Carol is uniquely qualified to understand how deeply Doris is wounded, to offer comfort, and to listen with her heart and not judge or condemn. She might not be able to make the long trip for the funeral, but Carol will definitely still be listening and lending moral support to Doris many years from now.

The age of a child when he dies is inconsequential to a grieving parent. A mother assumes that title for life, and as far as she is concerned, sons are forever.

© 2004 Janice Price
mercyandpercy@yahoo.com
www.mercyandpercy.com

Saturday, November 13, 2004

THE BLESSING OF BUDDY POPPIES

The Blessing of Buddy Poppies
by Janice Price

"If you can stand out here in this weather, then I can help too," one man said, as he handed me a dollar bill and I handed him a Buddy Poppy.

The small red flowers on a thin wire stem are assembled by disabled American veterans and exchanged for a donation to the Veterans of Foreign Wars. The money collected helps veterans in nursing homes and in the community.

The past two days have been miserable, weather-wise. Yesterday began bleak, cold and rainy. My brain was as foggy as my hands were klutzy. The last thing I wanted to do was to load a thermos of hot coffee, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, an apple, several cough drops and an umbrella into a cold car and go pick up a basket of poppies.

But soldiers work in conditions worse than this.

The thought popped into my head and motivated me to go forward. I decided I could do it with a smile, no matter what the weather. I spent a couple of solitary hours outside Ingles grocery store, protected from the rain, but with wet shoes and few prospects before the weather began to clear. Before my six-hour volunteer shift ended, I was sweating.

This morning I expected it to warm up also. Instead it got colder and windier. I wished I’d dressed in another layer of clothes.

Still, I greeted people with a cheery, "Would you like a Buddy Poppy today?" Some said, "I’ll catch you on the way out," "I need to get some change," or "I just bought one at Wal-Mart." Some wavered, then donated on the way in. Others approached with money in hand, eager to support our vets. A few stopped to tell a story.

One would hand me a dollar bill. Another might give me a handful of change. I tried to look everyone in the eye and let each know the donation was appreciated, even if I traded a poppy for a quarter. For one person, giving a quarter is more generous than giving a dollar. Fewer than I would have guessed wouldn’t look me in the eye or pretended not to see me.

One older man stopped and said, "I don’t have any money." His tone implied he would give if he could. I guessed he was a veteran and handed him a poppy. His face lit up as he thanked me.

Yes, the weather has been dismal the last two days and I’m physically exhausted, but the days have been good ones, filled with friendly people, smiling faces and laughter. It was a positive experience, well worth a few hours of discomfort and inconvenience to help our veterans.

As Jesus said, "It is more blessed to give than to receive." (Acts 20:35b)

© 2004 Janice Price
mercyandpercy@yahoo.com
www.mercyandpercy.com

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

HONOR THE DEAD BY HELPING THE LIVING


A Veteran's Gravesite


Honor the Dead by Helping the Living
by Janice Price

It is time once again for Buddy Poppies. Volunteers from the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the Ladies Auxiliary to the VFW will be standing outside businesses offering a small flower for a donation of one dollar. Disabled American veterans assemble the poppies and the proceeds are used to help veterans in nursing homes and in the community.

I never gave any thought to what these poppies represent or why they are sold until last year when I was given information to put into a short announcement for the local media. What caught my attention was the phrase, "Please honor the dead by helping the living." When I consider it, this phrase is appropriate for Christians.

For many of us, a great Aunt Sally, a grade school teacher, a church member or a parent has set an example of service we strive to emulate, established a tradition of love we want to pass on to others, or taught us valuable truths that have improved our lives. Although each of them has passed from this physical life, their lessons remain with us.

We honor our deceased by helping the living. We pass on their wisdom and teachings by word and action as we live by what we learned from their examples. We enrich our own lives as well as the lives of others as we do this.
In Ecclesiastes 1:9 (NIV), we read: What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.

We honor God’s deceased servants by helping the living. Some of their mistakes and successes have been recorded that we might learn invaluable lessons for our own spiritual journey. We help our families, friends, neighbors and even strangers as we put the lessons into practice.

Before Jesus could be resurrected, he first had to die. There is much wisdom and insight we can glean from the Biblical record of his three and a half years of ministry. In Matthew 11:29, Jesus says, "Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls."

Our lives will be enriched as we learn from Jesus’ example and help the living.

© 2004 Janice Price
mercyandpercy@yahoo.com
www.mercyandpercy.com

Saturday, November 06, 2004

FROM THE HEART


Paul Dawn


From the Heart
by Janice Price

In order to write personal experience stories that can comfort, uplift or encourage, a writer must step outside of any personal comfort zone. The most effective stories are not written with a sense of human pride, but from the heart, and writing from the heart is humbling and often scary. These stories invite readers into the very presence of the writer’s core, where the tendency is to hide our mistakes and failures, and allow readers to see imperfection and pain.

This isn’t easy. It can effect the emotions of both the writer and the reader, inducing tears or laughter, but God does lead some to write this type of story for a purpose.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. I Corinthians 1: 3-4

This morning I read stories posted by Paul Dawn on his Hill Country Thoughts blog and was amazed at the depth of his ability to communicate his heart, but, then, Paul has endured tribulations in order to arrive at the point where he can encourage and inspire others with such honesty and courage. God has comforted Paul and now Paul is sharing that comfort with others. What a blessing, to be used of God in this way.

You can read Paul’s blog postings at http://hillcountrythoughts.blogspot.com/

© 2004 Janice Price
mercyandpercy@yahoo.com
www.mercyandpercy.com

Friday, October 29, 2004

LIVING AT PEACE


Cameron and Merci


Living at Peace
by Janice Price


"Have you considered buying a harness and a leash for your kitten?" I asked Jody recently. "Cameron is determined to follow Merci across the street and walk with us."

Merci has been cultivating a friendly relationship with Cameron ever since Bobbie and her kittens were moved from inside the neighbors’ house to their front porch. The other kittens have been adopted and Merci is finally accepting that her other friends, fluffy Kade and the black bob-tailed kitten, aren’t coming back.

Yesterday morning Cameron was hiding under a bush and this time he was determined to accompany us up the road. Nothing could dissuade him. As usual, I carried him home and tried to divert his attention, but within a few steps, he was underfoot again.

Cameron finally won the battle of the walk. He trotted proudly between us, as close to Merci as he could get without being trampled under her feet. We had a shorter walk than we usually would, but Merci didn’t seem to mind. When we reached our own block, they began to play together.

Cameron sat on the sidewalk, staring at the house, after we came inside. He looked so lonely I tied Merci outside to keep him company. He played with her chain, rubbed against her legs and eventually curled up next to her on the porch. As strange as it might seem, Cameron considers Merci his friend.

I watched them through the screen door, thinking about how children and animals can so often show us how to apply a Biblical principle without any conscious thought of what they are doing.

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. (Romans 12:18 NKJV)

Merci has a strong desire to meet and greet other animals. She lives at peace with the cats in her own home and she tries to make peace with all the cats she sees on our walks. They aren’t usually receptive to this but on a few occasions a cat has followed us for a short distance.

Merci the dog and Cameron the kitten don’t appear to have much in common, but that hasn’t stopped them from being kind to one another and sharing some time together. They presented a picture of serene camaraderie as they sat on the porch steps yesterday and watched the passing cars.

Friends give each other the space to be individuals, just as the canine Merci and the feline Cameron overlook their differences and concentrate on what they can share. This is an important aspect of learning to live at peace.

The two are enjoying a drizzly morning on the front porch again today. Cameron was waiting on the sidewalk for us, and although we walked the same distance today, he stopped when we turned around. Merci tried to encourage him to keep up but he seemed tired, so I picked him up and carried him home. He purred all the way.

As I watch these "enemies" of the animal kingdom living at peace with each other, I recognize that while they are doing what comes naturally to each of them, this doesn’t come naturally to human beings. We are naturally proud, self-centered, greedy, and selfish, but God’s Spirit can change our nature so that we, too, can learn to live at peace with others.

© 2004 Janice Price
mercyandpercy@yahoo.com
www.mercyandpercy.com

Saturday, October 23, 2004

TRUST NOT IN A CELL PHONE

Trust not in a Cell Phone
by Janice Price

Jane is leaning forward, one arm resting on the back of the empty chair in front of her. The other arm is gesturing as she talks. She leans too far forward and suddenly she disappears from sight. The domino effect takes over and chairs overturn. Two or three men leap to her rescue. She reappears, unhurt and laughing, and continues talking.

In normal circumstances, I have empathy for embarrassing moments such as this one. This time I laugh, not at Jane’s sudden drop, but at the unexpected mental image of my mother’s shock and disbelief as she slid out of her wheelchair several evenings earlier.

She wasn’t clumsy. She was trying a full-chair cushion in her wheelchair to keep her warm. It’s thickness forced her to sit a little higher and a bit forward. Evidently, it was also a bit slippery because when she reached for something, she slid off the cushion.

I wasn’t laughing when I heard about it. I was terrified she was injured. She held onto her cordless telephone as she fell and called my brother to lift her off the floor. I was relieved when he called to let me know she was okay. Then I went into panic mode.

First, I thought I should get a second telephone line in case Mother needs to reach me while I am on the Internet. No, it will be easier to get a cell phone, I decided, in case I’m not home if she has an emergency. But I can’t afford either option. What should I do?

Trust me. There was that inner voice, the one that brings peace and resolution in times of unbalanced thinking. The voice of reason reminding me that God is aware of all aspects of any problem and there is a point where we have to let go and allow him to work it out for everyone’s benefit. A cell phone is not the solution.

He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. If you make the Most High your dwelling –even the LORD, who is my refuge – then no harm will befall you, no disaster will come near your tent. For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone. “Because he loves me,” says the LORD, “I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.” Psalm 91: 4, 9-12, 14 (NIV)

I am human and I have limitations. I can’t watch over Mother 24/7. Cell phones have limitations also. Too often they are out of range of a transmitter in this area, as well as in other areas. But Psalm 121:3 (NIV) tells us, He will not let your foot slip – he who watches over you will not slumber.

God’s reminder that Mother is in his capable hands gives me comfort. As Jane slid out of her folding chair and I envisioned Mother sliding out of her wheelchair, I was able to laugh because I was at peace with trusting him.

© 2004 Janice Price
mercyandpercy@yahoo.com
www.mercyandpercy.com

BE STILL

Be Still
by Janice Price

Periodically, I need to be still before God. It helps me to reconnect with Him on a deeper level than can be sustained when my days are full and I have deadlines to meet.

I have always been a low energy person who desires to live a high-energy lifestyle. I have envied those who can keep going, and going, and going, like the Energizer Bunny. No diet, vitamins or exercise program has ever helped for more than a short period of time. Sooner or later, I “wind down” to where I can barely hold my head above my soup bowl and wait for my battery to be recharged. As the “winding down” process would progress, I would inevitably fall into a stage of depression. I never wanted to be “down”. I wanted to be accomplishing feats and going places.

Within the last year or two I have discovered that if I can “rest” during these down times, there is an up side to them. I need to rest my exhausted body and mind, whether I want to or not. I have no choice in this matter. But I can also choose to “rest” with God. I can stand on His promises, even as I lean on a chair for support. And I can wait on God’s Roadside Service to arrive with a battery charger to zap me back into the land of the living-and-not-just-existing.

Early this morning I sat on the front porch steps with a cup of hot coffee while I waited for the newspaper carrier. Instead of giving in to the desire to fall back into bed or onto the couch, I later stood by the back screen door and watched the family of chipmunks that lives underneath my house. I have been watching them for the past few days. There are four youngsters and they have obviously been well trained. If their mother is not around, they sit inside the rim of the main “door” to their home and bask in the sunshine. When their mother climbs out of the hole and stands guard in the tree above them or on the ground near them, they hesitantly venture forth. If she suddenly leaps and races across the yard, two shadows leap and race after her and two wait for their return.

It is her patient waiting that reminded me of God’s advice to me early this morning. Be still and know that I am God. Psalm 46:10. She will sit on her haunches or stand on her hind legs for long periods without moving, but she is not sleeping. She is alert to every noise and movement in the vicinity of her babies. And as I watched her, I was reminded that the best times I spend with God are the quiet ones. He speaks in the stillness and I hear His voice clearly, as I did this morning while waiting for the newspaper. When I am rushed and frantic to remember and accomplish everything I should be doing, I often overlook His companionship and His words of wisdom and guidance.

This is a good time for spiritual contemplation and renewal. In due time, God will renew my physical strength and stamina and I will de-flea the cats after trimming their sharp claws, cut the thistle vines creeping across Mother’s front porch, and write my friend’s unique story. Until then, I need to rest on the advice God gave me today as I sat on the porch steps: Be still and know that I am God.

© 2004 Janice Price
mercyandpercy@yahoo.com
www.mercyandpercy.com

Friday, October 15, 2004

BETWEEN TWO DOORS


"Cinderella" Cyndi


Between Two Doors
by Janice Price

"Mew. Mew." I could hear the faint cry intermittently. What has that kitten gotten into this time, I wondered, but I was rushing to get to a meeting and didn’t check on her right away. I snapped a leash on Merci and hurried her out the front door. We walked around the house to the back yard. "Mew. Mew." The doors and windows were closed. Why could I still hear Cyndi’s tiny cries?

I turned and there she was. Spread-eagled against the screen, crying pitifully and hanging on by her claws as she pulled herself heavily up the screen door. She was inadvertently locked between the two doors when I took out the trash.

As sorry a sight as she was, I laughed. Now I know what Crystal looked like from the other side of the screen when he was locked between the same two doors. Only he’s a full-grown tomcat and there was barely room for him to stand. I don’t know how long he stood on tiptoe but ever since he moves quickly when the door starts to close.

But what struck me funny is that for one crazy moment I could see myself in that predicament -- trapped between two doors and unable to free myself. Later I realized that’s exactly where I am at present, trapped between two doors, awaiting rescue. I’ve done all I can humanly do about the circumstances and I've turned them over to God.

We have all been there. Hemmed in by circumstances beyond our control or sometimes of our own making, able to see there’s no one around to rescue us, but unable to go forward, back up or turn around. It’s a terrifying place to be, unless we have hope.

The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their cry. A righteous man may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all. Psalm 34:15, 19 (NIV).

God once led the Israelites between two doors. He trapped them between the Red Sea before them and Pharaoh’s army behind them, and then he delivered them by parting the Red Sea.

David writes in Psalm 18:19b (NIV), (The Lord) rescued me because he delighted in me.

I opened a door for Cyndi, and I trust God will open a door for me.

© 2004 Janice Price
mercyandpercy@yahoo.com
www.mercyandpercy.com

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

FEAR GOD, NOT THE DELETE KEY


This key has no power.




Fear God, not the Delete Key
by Janice Price

I’ve been deleted. Well, not physically deleted, of course, and as far as I know, only by one person.

Delete is a well-used key on my computer keyboard. With the click of a button, I can wipe away all evidence of a mistake, whisk spam into oblivion, or edit as I write. No one need ever know I made a mistake or trashed a brilliant idea.

The delete key has no mind of its own. It responds to the pressure of a finger, even if accidentally applied. A dialogue box might ask politely, Are you serious or was this another finger spasm? Still, caution should be exercised, as some deletes are not salvageable.

Why was I deleted? I asked a question. Immediately and without warning, he programmed his email system to bounce my messages back with a notice he doesn’t exist, but the unspoken message is that, to him, I no longer exist. He deleted my name from his newsletter mailing list and his own name from my Mercy And Percy mailing list. I was systematically and thoroughly deleted, yet, I’m still alive and typing.

There are things in my life it would be convenient to delete. There are people I’ve been tried and tempted to delete and I know the reverse is true, that I’ve tried and tempted a few people who considered deleting me. But if we want to resolve these situations God’s way, we must learn to work through them with mercy and perseverance, or at least make the attempt. I’m thwarted in this instance since I can’t contact him.

As I reflect on this dramatic response to an innocent question, I am thankful God’s anger is not as hair-trigger as human anger often is. He is slow to anger (Psalm 145:8) and his anger is but for a moment (Psalm 30:5)

So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God. James 1:19-20.

I’m still struggling to live this verse, too, so I don’t hold a grudge against the man who deleted me. Perhaps, in time, he will reconsider and we can be reconciled, but he’ll have to take the first step since my messages are rejected and returned.

Yes, that delete key caused a moment’s discomfort, but there will come a time when the wicked will be deleted by God, and that pain will be far worse than any wound to the pride in this lifetime because it will be permanent.

But rather fear him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. Matthew 10:28a.

© 2004 Janice Price
mercyandpercy@yahoo.com
www.mercyandpercy.com

Monday, September 27, 2004

BY FAITH


By faith, we know the sun will shine again.


By Faith
by Janice Price

As gusts of wind threatened to invert my new umbrella, I lowered the umbrella until I couldn’t see the sidewalk past the tips of my shoes. 2 Corinthians 5:7 came to mind: For we walk by faith, not by sight.

This is how we walk with God, I realized. We trust him to lead us safely through the puddles and over breaks in the sidewalk, even though we can’t physically see him leading us.

Yesterday Theresa and I visited a small country church to hear her son Daniel preach the sermon. By Faith – brothers Johnny and Ronnie Brown, and Johnny’s daughter Heather - were special guests for Homecoming. After church we feasted and then By Faith sang several more songs. You can meet this group at: http://byfaithministries.com/

Before they left, Pastor Teddy prayed for them. He mentioned that Johnny and Ronnie would like to go into a full time singing ministry. Presently, they work weekdays, then travel in their bus to singing engagements on weekends. (According to Ronnie, the bus is named Shasta. "Sh’asta have diesel. Sh’asta have oil.)

"In order to do this, By Faith will have to walk by faith," Pastor Teddy said. "As Daniel preached today, faith is when the mountain falls on you and you continue to trust God. Faith is trusting that each time we take another step, God has already been there to prepare the way for us."

Posting these stories on the web is a step of faith for me. God has been trying to nudge me ahead for some time, but I have been dragging my feet. I have no financial resources; I am web page and HTML illiterate; I write stories, but my life makes for a boring bio, and writers are always asked for a bio – preferably a sparkling one, littered liberally with credits and degrees. My excuses have been numerous.

I finally climbed off the fence and decided on a blog as an easier beginner’s site. It’s a humble start, but there is no financial investment necessary and I don’t need to learn HTML. Okay, I quickly learned otherwise on the HTML, but I’ve been improvising my own codes to make things do what I want them to do. If the site should ever appear upside down or backwards, you’ll know another of my code experiments has failed. I spend long hours trying to figure out something simple by applying the rules and suddenly a solution will occur to me and even though it shouldn’t work, it does.

God’s steps don’t always make sense to us at the time, but if we walk by faith, even though in our minds his way shouldn’t work, it will.

© 2004 Janice Price
mercyandpercy@yahoo.com
www.mercyandpercy.com

Sunday, September 19, 2004

THE DRIVER CONNECTION


Percy, computer nerd in training


The Driver Connection
by Janice Price


The CD-RW had a will of its own. The drive opened and closed without prompting on my brother Doug’s computer, so he offered it to me. He’d misplaced the software, but drivers can be downloaded from the Internet.

Yesterday he popped in to install it. There was only one cable, so he disconnected the CD/ROM and connected the CD-RW. As expected, Windows didn’t recognize the new hardware.

Lately, the modem has to be uninstalled before each shut-down in order for the drivers and correct settings to be loaded, so it was a while before he was connected to the Internet to search for the CD-RW drivers. By then, that drive was opening and closing on its own on this machine also. It had no software program to tell it what to do, but it was exercising away.

Open; close; open; close; half-open; close; uh-uh-uh-uh-open; close; open; jam; etc.

After about twenty minutes of this, I was ready to punch its trap door shut. Doug turned to me and calmly asked, "Annoying, isn’t it?"

It was such a bald understatement I had to laugh. But the open, close, uh-uh-uh-open continued until he disconnected the CD-RW.

The drivers couldn’t be found on the company site or any driver site, so Doug turned his attention to the modem driver problem. We both wondered if the dial-up adapter might be part of the problem, but he didn’t have time to mess with it. Unfortunately, I did. There was a problem with it, and when Windows tried to download necessary files from the Windows CD, it suddenly stopped downloading and deleted the adapter altogether.

The computer rebooted and an anti-virus dialog box popped open to inform me my email couldn’t be scanned because I had no network connection. Then another box opened, and if I might paraphrase it, it read, "Hey, gullible, you have no Internet connection, so click on this button to go online to our web site." Since software is only as intelligent as the one who wrote the program, this tickled my funny bone.

Drivers are software programs that introduce a piece of hardware to an operating system so they can become better acquainted. If they’re compatible, we’re able to forward jokes to all our friends.

God’s word is a spiritual driver. Unlike my computer drivers, it’s reliable, compatible and it can’t be accidentally deleted. Load, along with prayer, at every daily start-up.

For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12 NIV)

© 2004 Janice Price
mercyandpercy@yahoo.com
www.mercyandpercy.com

Friday, September 17, 2004

SCATTERING OR DRAWING


Merci's friends


Scattering or Drawing
by Janice Price

"Calm down, Merci, and they’ll play with you," I was telling my dog for the third time, when movement caught my attention. I raised my eyes to see my neighbor fumbling to close her blinds without looking toward the window directly in front of me.

Merci and I resumed our morning stroll up and down the sidewalk, staying close to home because central Georgia was between spurts of heavy rain and wind gusts created by Hurricane Ivan.

Call Tammy and apologize just as soon as you go home, I was admonishing myself, when Tammy opened her front door and came outside. We laughed as we discussed the incident.

Tammy was sitting in front of a window, watching a friend’s young son, when he suddenly announced, "There’s someone outside the window." Unnerved, she closed the blind without turning her head. Still, she caught a glimpse of me, which is why we were apologizing to each other.

Tammy and Jody knew Merci and I visit their mother cat and kittens. The cats have been staying on the front porch, but yesterday they were playing in the yard. As usual, Merci tugged on the leash and whined to see them. I was oblivious to where I was standing or how my presence might appear, as I tried to contain Merci’s energy. It never occurred to me that anyone might be home at the time.

Merci loves cats, possibly because she lives in a house with several of them. She was playmate to Cyndi, a rescued kitten, and presently has a kitten of her own, Percy, that she found and rescued. They love her and delight in her attention, even though she sometimes gets overly excited when playing with them and starts rolling them around like they are sturdy puppies. They’re buddies that chase each other around the house. So she rushes at all cats, as if to say, Hi, I’m your friend. Let’s play. She doesn’t understand that her size and enthusiasm are intimidating to smaller animals. Plus, in her excitement, she whines and yelps.

The cats are becoming accustomed to Merci’s presence. They kittens come to greet her occasionally now, but then run away. When Merci is calm, the cats are curious and more receptive to her.

If Jesus had been loud, argumentative and overbearing, people would have run away from him too. But he was humble, with a servant’s heart, and so he drew some people close where he could teach them about God the Father. He set the example. Are we drawing people to God, as Jesus did, or are we scaring them away, as Merci sometimes scatters the cats?

© 2004 Janice Price
mercyandpercy@yahoo.com
www.mercyandpercy.com

Monday, September 13, 2004

A CINDERELLA STORY


"Cinderella" Cyndi

A Cinderella Story
by Janice Price

“Here she comes. Don’t let her get away,” Doug says with fervency.

It is February and there is a possibility of snow for tomorrow. We are joint creaking, muscles groaning, too-old-for-this folks crawling on the cold, wet ground. Doug has backed his automobile onto ramps and is lying underneath it, blindly and patiently working a flexible hose above his head to nudge a kitten from her hiding place.

My brother is muttering about folks who dump their responsibilities onto others. A week ago someone abandoned two young kittens on his property. His dog killed one. The other has survived the same fate by hiding under a car and eating food left for her.

She makes no attempt to bite when I grab her. Once inside the carrier she trembles violently and mews as I drive home.

The story of Cinderella comes to mind. She was unloved and unwanted but had a dramatic change of circumstance. I name the kitten Cinder.

I close the kitten in the bedroom and spend a lot of time on the cold carpet, but I diligently capture, recapture and calm the terrified kitten. I pass the night scrunched and sleepless on a love seat in the living room so the dog and cats won’t scratch and cry at the bedroom door. I walk her around the house and introduce her to the other animals. Twenty-six hours after she arrives, she trots confidently from the bedroom into the living room and makes herself at home.

The dirty, matted mass of hair is wiped, dried and brushed until it is soft and luxuriant. She no longer reeks of dirty engine oil. She’s a shiny-eyed, sashaying, cotton ball with a tail beauty. Cinder is now Cyndi.

Sometimes life can dump us in a desert of loneliness, fear and hunger. We need to be nudged out from under the car. It can be embarrassing to accept a helping hand, even from family members, but God desires that we learn humility. We have the opportunity to be blessed and to be a blessing to those who help us – if we don’t allow the pride of “independence” to rule our spirit.

Cyndi was rescued three days ago. She wasn’t expecting two rescuers and she didn’t voluntarily leave her temporary comfort zone, but she accepted the change in circumstances and quickly adapted. Her life will never be the same.

Whether we create our own trap or life springs one on us, God can and will send rescuers, but we have to let go of our “do it myself” attitude. When we humble ourselves before God, he can work wonders in our lives.

© 2004 Janice Price
mercyandpercy@yahoo.com
www.mercyandpercy.com

Saturday, September 11, 2004

A TREE GREW IN GEORGIA

A Tree Grew in Georgia
by Janice Price

Two years ago the large oak tree in front of my house dropped a load of large branches on a passing car. Just a short time before, after a thunderstorm, I was picking up branches in the same area. I wrote to the city manager, hopeful the city would cut down the tree. Within two days a city crew arrived to trim it.

Three weeks ago a city crew arrived unexpectedly to cut it down. I was so relieved to see the tree removed I didn’t mind the numerous trucks on the lawn or the tractor tire gouging a piece of turf. The stump revealed a gaping hole in the center. It looked like a barbecue pit with the rotting wood crumbling to the touch.

The other day hurricane Frances brought heavy rain and high winds to middle Georgia. Tree limbs falling on electric wires caused frequent booms, like small explosions. One was so close I toured the house in the dark, checking outside each door and window for signs of a fire. Soon the booms stopped as the electricity went out overnight.

After a sleepless night, the alarm radio played static. The local radio station was off the air. I cleaned up my yard and a neighbor’s. I piled the debris on the curb nearest the largest limb from their pecan tree.

Yesterday I grew concerned about Iris’ phone being busy for two straight days. I walked to the end of the block and was shocked to see a city crew cutting up a tree that had fallen on a corner house, directly over the bed where Jane lay. Jane was probably alive because the oak was partly supported by a smaller tree beside the house. Three other trees had fallen within three blocks and one had cut off power and phone service to Iris’ home. She was at the hospital being treated for injuries from a fall at a relative’s house, where she and her husband stayed, waiting for their electricity to be restored.

I walked the dog under huge oaks, dodging strewn branches. We passed a house partly crushed under a massive tree. Signs of storm damage were everywhere. This corner fared well.

I have been thanking God for the timely removal of my oak tree, or it could have blown over onto the house or a passing car.

The damage in this area was light compared to Florida and southern Georgia. Disaster funds of agencies assisting the victims and evacuees are being taxed. Emergency personnel are exhausted and another storm is heading for Florida.

Pray for all those whose lives, like the mighty oak trees, have been uprooted.

© 2005 Janice Price
mercyandpercy@yahoo.com
www.mercyandpercy.com