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