Wednesday, December 28, 2005

BREATHING IS NOT OPTIONAL

Breathing Is Not Optional
By Janice Price

Anyone that has endured a Phoenix summer knows the irony of the platitude “but it’s a dry heat”. Georgia summers are similar, except we swelter in a sauna instead of a furnace. It doesn’t matter whether you can fry an egg on the sidewalk at 115 degrees. Can you breathe?

At 122 degrees does your car battery work? Is that a strange hiccup coming from your truck engine? Listen to your air conditioner as it labors to breathe hot air in and hot air out to “cool” your home. Apartment complex chillers and evaporative coolers are no match for the still, hot air. When the pollution hangs low, breathing becomes a life and death struggle for persons with respiratory illnesses.

The flu is more entertaining. When your body temperature reaches 104 degrees, you feel as if you are being barbecued from the inside. That might explain the hot brick in your chest, which your lungs are working valiantly to expel. When you prop yourself up to rest, you can hear squeaky hinges, gurgles, whistles, bagpipes and other assorted music as you struggle to breathe. All that’s missing down there are the circus clowns.

Genesis 2:7 states that after God created man from the dust of the earth, (He) breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. Your brain may begin to broil at 104 degrees, but you are still aware of a simple law of life: if you don’t breathe, you die. Period. Breathing is mandatory to life.

In the physical, we tend to prefer lukewarm to either hot or cold. But what about in the spirit? I like the NIV translation of 1 Thessalonians 5:19: Do not put out the Spirit’s fire. The Holy Spirit breathes passion, zest and energy into our lives. We want to fan the flames, not douse the fire with cold water or aspirin.

(Jesus) breathed on (His disciples) and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” (John 20:22) This is a fresh air verse for a person in respiratory distress. It brings to mind a lovely spring day. The windows are open; the curtains are stirring in the breeze. One can almost inhale His life-giving breath.

Jesus also told His disciples, The Spirit gives life. (John 6:63) Just as it is imperative we continue breathing to live physically, we require the Holy Spirit to live spiritually. If effect, we can’t “breathe” spiritually without Him. His indwelling presence is mandatory to Life.

As we learn to rely on the Holy Spirit, we begin to exhale the pollution of sin and disobedience. The wheezing ceases. The inflammation heals. The cough is suppressed. We can breathe!

And as our spiritual respiratory system is cleared up and cleaned out, we are eager to devour and digest the word of God. We are thirsty for two-way conversation with our Father. We are passionate to forge a closer, stronger bond with our Savior. Our spiritual temperature rises and we become on fire to share Him with others in respiratory distress. Spiritually–speaking, we cease struggling to breathe on our own and trust the Holy Spirit to breathe within us.

A high thermometer reading or a high thermostat reading can make us uncomfortable. It can affect our health. It can even hasten our death in certain circumstances. But it can’t kill us spiritually.

How often do we thank God for the blessing of breathing? We generally take it for granted. But periodically our Father will turn up the heat to remind us that we are totally dependent on Him for everything. Even for breathing. And to remind us that for physical/spirit-led beings breathing is not optional.

© 2005 Janice Price
www.mercyandpercy.com/

Thursday, December 22, 2005

HEART'S DESIRE 2006

Heart's Desire 2006

By Janice Price

It is hard to think of the Christmas season without thinking of children - excited children surrounded by the love of their extended families. This year thousands of children survived one of America’s tornados, floods, or hurricanes, such as Hurricane Katrina, but lost everything familiar to them – their homes, schools, churches, friends, neighbors, toys and pets. Many are hundreds or thousands of miles away from familiar places, as their parents struggle to keep their families together and build a new life for themselves and their children.

This year has also been hard for a number of adults, for a variety of reasons: a death in the family, loss of a career, declining health, being caretaker of an aging parent or a disabled child ….

This year a friend is again struggling with depression. One of her sons killed himself a few days before Christmas. That happened eighteen years ago, but he was her son and the pain of losing a child never completely heals.

Yes, this year has been filled with bad news and tragedy. Many lives remain in limbo. Hard-working homeowners have mortgages payments due, even though they no longer have a home. Folks who worked hard to be self-supporting have watched their life savings disappear, while their homeowner’s insurance company quibbles over whether what is left of the roof was ever actually attached to walls and a foundation. The need for help and compassion will continue well into the new year.

The year has also been filled with magnanimous expressions of generosity and love toward strangers, churches helping other churches and people of differing beliefs working together toward a common goal - to help the uprooted and those in need. It is inspiring to reflect on the selflessness manifested by so many in times of disaster.

The faith of many was tested and strengthened. Some found faith in crisis. Others are still searching.

Whatever the year was like for each of us, individually, the hope of a Christian is not in our circumstances. This life is temporary and there will always be things happen that are beyond our control.

As we grow in Christ, we have more to offer others in crisis, even if we do not have the means to make financial donations. We can pray about the situations of others, write notes of encouragement, carry prepared meals, help with housecleaning, offer rides to appointments – the list is endless.

After the natural disasters of this year, and as the new year fast approaches, I find my heart’s desire for 2006 is to have an abundance of everything to share with those in need, including a loving heart, a listening ear and a non-judgmental spirit.

What is your heart’s desire for the year 2006?

© 2005 Janice Price
www.mercyandpercy.com

Thursday, December 15, 2005

HAPPY BIRTHDAY JESUS

HAPPY BIRTHDAY JESUS

By Janice Price

If the power goes off abruptly, the computer goes off too, and valuable information or files can be lost. This is why when my brother first loaned me a computer, he provided a battery back-up (UPS) with surge protection with it. It eventually bit the dust and I picked up the only type available at the local Wal-Mart, a little 350 VA, 200 Watt battery.

From the moment it was installed, it complained, always popping up a little window to let me know it wanted to upgrade to the next size - a 500 VA, 300 Watt model - or it did not have enough power to hang on by its three-pronged plug when the power would go off. And the electricity used to go off/on/off/on fairly often.

In a blink of an eye, the battery would drop from fully charged to seven minutes, or even one minute of battery time, and in the blink of the other eye, it would exhibit signs of mechanical mania. Boxes would start opening, warning me there was not enough power to shut down Windows, and suddenly Windows was sedated into hibernation.

After two years of this, my brother agreed to pick out a new battery for me. It arrived and I opened the package to stare at a 1000 VA, 600 Watt power protection unit. Now, this battery won’t wimp out in an emergency. At least it wouldn’t if I could get it to work.

I spent hours on it last night, with the directions, a light and a magnifying glass, tracking all the cords and wires to make sure they were all plugged in correctly. The speakers and DSL modem had to be plugged into a separate surge protector. There were only two places for the three phone cords from the old battery. How did I decide which two to use? That was easy. The two that fit. But the third cord was a modem cord. It was important too. Oh, well.

By three a.m., everything was attached and the software was loaded, but there was no battery in the computer hardware list and no communication between the battery and Windows. I had a program that opened, smiled at me and said everything was fine and dandy, but it was lying through its remote port.

First thing this morning I uninstalled and reinstalled the battery software. I pulled the plug on the battery several times. It would sit there beeping. The computer didn’t crash, but it didn’t shut down either. Nothing I tried could resolve the problem. The computer is reconnected to the old UPS.

This is the kind of equipment my brother Doug would enjoy. (He just might get it for Christmas.) But I have no doubt he will pop in one of these days, take one look at the new battery and transfer everything onto it without ever looking at the directions. This time the software will load properly and the battery will communicate with and monitor the computer.

Why will he be successful when my attempts ended in tears over my failure? Unlike Doug, I was born without the technical/mechanical gene, and no amount of reading or study can penetrate deep enough for me to understand how machinery works. I struggle to grow in knowledge on the computer, something that “comes natural” for him.

One of the reasons I spent many years in the pre-grace Worldwide Church of God was because I thought I was too dumb to understand the Bible without someone more spiritual-minded explaining it to me. There is still so much I don’t understand, but now I trust God to reveal what I need to learn, using whatever method He chooses at the moment.

I don’t remember the minister of the church I attended as a child being question-friendly or preaching much about the Holy Spirit, and I did not understand I was born with a human spirit and no amount of reading or study without the Holy Spirit could penetrate deep enough for me to understand the Bible.

It occurred to me today after wrestling with the UPS, if we are properly “plugged in” to God as our power source and running the companion software of Christ, the Holy Spirit monitors our hearts to keep the communication free-flowing and alerting us to possible power failures.

I thought the hours invested with the new UPS were time wasted, but amazingly God has used this failure to remind me of what is important.

God gave us Jesus, His Son - the Living Word of God. We have the opportunity to understand the written word of God because Jesus the Christ was born in a manger in Bethlehem to a young girl and her husband.

Even though we don’t know the exact date of his birth, we celebrate it on December 25th. So, Happy Birthday, Jesus! And Merry Christmas to all!

© 2005 Janice Price
www.mercyandpercy.com

Thursday, December 08, 2005

CHRISTMAS WITH CHRIST

CHRISTMAS WITH CHRIST
By Janice Price


Since I spent a number of years in the Worldwide Church of God, before it changed from a legalistic denomination to one of grace, my perception of Christmas has changed. During those years, I kept the Sabbath and the annual Sabbaths, days that God commanded Israel to observe. Those days set apart the Israelites as God’s chosen people; they were a foreshadow of what (who) was to come – Immanuel (God with us). We know him as Jesus the Christ.

In Deuteronomy 6:20-21, as Moses reviewed the words and commandments of the LORD, he said: “When your son asks you in time to come, saying, ‘What is the meaning of the testimonies, the statutes, and the judgments which the LORD our God has commanded you?’ then you shall say to your son: ‘We were slaves of Pharaoh in Egypt, and the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand.’”

To bring this into the New Covenant, it might read something like, “When your son (or neighbor or a stranger) asks you what is the meaning of Christmas, then you shall answer, ‘We were slaves in the dark kingdom of Satan, and God’s Son was born to lead us out of the darkness into the light.’”

Although “Eph2810” now lives in the United States, she was born and raised in Germany, and her blog at http://eph2810.com contains an interesting post about Christmas. “Growing up in Germany, there was never a question what Weihnachten (Christmas) was about. The celebration of our Redeemer's birth - the birth of Christ. Germans do celebrate St Nicholas on December 6th, but St. Nicholas was/is not Santa Claus.”

How sad for the United States that the meaningful story of the birth of the Christ child has taken second place for generations to the myth of Santa Claus and his pre-UPS delivery service. Spiritual worship at Christmas is being replaced with the generic spirit of “The Holidays.”

Today, stores are stocked with Christmas merchandise before Halloween arrives in October. The same merchants who depend on Christmas sales to put them in the black for the year are now wiping Christmas out of their vocabulary. Does this seem hypocritical to anyone else? It seems to me that they are saying, in effect, “I want you to bless me magnanimously, God, by increasing my income through ‘Happy Holiday’ sales. But I can’t/won’t acknowledge your part in this because I don’t want to offend anyone who doesn’t believe your Son deserves the recognition.”

Personally, I think we should all be more afraid to offend God.

When I was a child, I heard the story of the birth of Jesus, but folks seemed to make more of a fuss about Santa Claus than Christ. I sang the carols, ate the rich foods and enjoyed the family celebration, but, to be honest, Christmas was mainly about the presents. During the years I did not celebrate Christmas, I missed the family gatherings the most. I sent Thanksgiving cards instead of Christmas cards, so family members would know they were not forgotten, but, oh, how I missed sending Christmas cards. Today, I enjoy sending cards, but with a message about Christ.

I have been reading controversial blog and forum discussions on Christmas. Some hold the erroneous belief the day is Holy (as in ordained by God), and the idea of some churches closing on Christmas Sunday this year so staff can spend time with their own families is very controversial. Others think it is a good idea and the time can be well spent being a light to family and neighbors.

In this lifetime, there will always be contention, and any discussion of a religious nature is a popular breeding ground for controversy. It is so easy to lose sight of the real reason for the celebration. If we are going to celebrate the birth of Christ, he should be our main focus. Not trimming the tree, decorating the house, attending parties, giving and receiving gifts, or enjoying holiday food and company. They are the icing on the dessert, not the main course.

The true Spirit of Christmas is not actually dependent on what the stores do or don’t do, or whether the world says, “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays.” If our hearts are set on Jesus alone, and not Jesus and all the trimmings, Christmas will be filled with Christ.

Copyright 2005 Janice Price
www.mercyandpercy.com

Thursday, December 01, 2005

THE GARDEN OF OBEDIENCE

THE GARDEN OF OBEDIENCE

By Janice Price


One moment I was relaxing with a newspaper, the front door open to let in some late November sunshine, and the next I was staring in horror at forty pounds of canine animation flying feet-first at my side of the glass/screen door. On the other side, there was an eleven-year-old girl, who, along with four younger children, had raced laughing and yelling up the porch steps. Her hands were already reaching to brace herself on either side of the door as she leaned forward to press her face to the glass. Buddy hurtled toward the same spot, with only a thin pane of glass between them. The girl’s eyes grew wide as she noticed the dog coming at her, but she was moving too fast to stop her forward momentum. Buddy’s feet collided with the glass and it started to bow outward from the force.

The girl, who frequently spends weekends with family members next door, is sweet and energetic, and she runs to pet the dogs when I walk them, despite Buddy’s overly enthusiastic greetings.

She spent the day playing with four children visiting the older couple in the house on the other side of this one. My two dogs spent the day running through the house and barking at the noise of the children running around the outside of the house. When it grew quiet, the dogs settled down for a nap.

Then, for some reason, the girl decided she wanted to show the other children my dog Merci. The peace was suddenly shattered with a shrill racket that startled me to my feet with my heart pounding. The dogs raced, barking, from the bedroom. And just-turned-one-year-old Buddy did what he normally does when someone comes to the door. He leaped high into the air with excitement. Only this time he was still running forward and his big body, instead of rising straight into the air, went speeding toward the glass. He kicked at the glass to stop his flight, and the glass bowed. There was no time to react – to move or to scream – and nothing I could do to stop what was about to happen.

Miraculously – and I do mean miraculously! – the glass did not shatter. Buddy dropped to the floor, barking furiously at the commotion. There were now five faces pressed to the glass, all the children talking at once. “There’s the big dog.” “Where’s the little dog?” “Can we come in and see the dogs?”

The girl and her friends were oblivious to everything but their excitement, unaware of how close she had come to having shards of glass and a forty pound dog hit her in the face.

Many a time her mother has cautioned her to be less exuberant and more tranquil when she approaches my dogs, or any animal, for that matter. She has pets of her own, but they have become accustomed to her hyperactivity. She did not deliberately disobey her mother, but she is still a child and she was not thinking beyond the moment. As she matures, she will settle down, and Buddy, with a little more time and training, will stop trying for the high jump title when someone comes to the door.

God has cautioned us to be circumspect in our lives also, but we do not always listen. He has given us a road map with a compass to point us to the right path, or an owner’s manual without the diagrams and visual aids, whichever you want to call it, to guide us through this life and into his kingdom.

Some read it and some use it as a paperweight. Some memorize great passages of it, but do not comprehend the meaning. Some twist the meaning for their own profit. Many balk at a four-letter word used in the Bible - obey. Obey is not a dirty word. It is not a misprint.

We read in Scripture that children are to respect and obey their parents. Loving parents guide and set limits for their children, to protect them from harm and to teach them to make wise choices for a happy and healthy lifestyle.

Do we pray to the Father out of habit, without an understanding of the special relationship we are privileged to share with our brothers and sisters in Christ? Or do we understand how blessed we are to know God as our Spiritual Father? And if we call him Father, should we not obey him? As a loving Spiritual parent, God guides and sets limits for his children, to protect us from harm and to teach us to make wise choices for a happy and healthy lifestyle.

He offers us eternity, and yet we sometimes dig in our heels because we do not want to obey, or we want to choose which laws to accept. When I give Merci a command, she often ignores it. I repeat it and she looks at me as if to say, “You must be talking to Buddy. I’m too cute for that to apply to me.” She wants to control the relationship, just as humans frequently try to manipulate a relationship with our Creator. Let’s face it, there is only one God and none of us can claim the title.

The word obey has a negative connotation in American society today, but if we obey the command to love God first, we are blessed by our compliance. Our relationship with God deepens and our faith grows. Whether he wants us to participate in or to abstain from any activity, even if we do not understand his purpose for it, we should obey in faith. .

Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness? Romans 6:16 NKJV

There are many things that can affect our judgment and send us rushing headfirst into disaster, just as the young girl, in her exuberance, had a momentary lapse of judgment – out of control anger, chronic pain and fatigue, the thrill of flirting with something we know to be sin, too much alcohol, even prescription drugs, or …..

Maturity in the faith is a growth process. It grows in the garden of obedience. The longer we are in the faith, the more settled and obedient we should become.

And being made perfect, he (Christ) became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him. Hebrews 5:9


Copyright 2005 Janice Price
www.mercyandpercy.com/

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

EVEN A SMALL BLESSING

EVEN A SMALL BLESSING
By Janice Price


Thanksgiving is a nostalgic time of the year for some of us. It brings up warm memories of extended family gathering together to enjoy the moment and the good food. Over the years, some family members moved away and some passed on. They are missing around the table, but not forgotten. This year, as Thanksgiving fast approaches, I again think of those times when Mother, Grandmother and Dad’s aunt took turns hosting the holiday gatherings.

Since last Thanksgiving, the news has covered one disaster after another: the tsunami in Asia, earthquakes, mud slides, tornadoes, floods and hurricanes. These instances are also on my mind today because I realize many families will be missing loved ones lost in these catastrophic occurrences. Thousands are displaced and starting over in strange areas. Homes have been destroyed, pets lost, family businesses destroyed, and treasured heirlooms, photographs, and family histories forever lost to the elements. Life, as they knew it, has ended, and they are working to adjust to life as it is now. Still, those who lost everything are grateful to be alive.

Thanksgiving will be bittersweet to numerous people this year. Many will be sharing the holiday meal with strangers or with new friends in a new neighborhood, while remembering family gatherings of previous years.

Are you feeling overwhelmed with problems and unable for this moment to count your blessings? Consider those who are living on the street - even families with children can become homeless. Also consider those who are unemployed, chronically or terminally ill, disabled, without heat or warm clothing, lonely, recently divorced, widowed or orphaned. On any Thanksgiving, there are a number of people who count their blessings through tears, as they count off their first holiday without a loved one.

Yes, sometimes life can seem to be an intermittent deluge of trials and problems, but whatever we are experiencing, there is hope, if our faith is rooted and established in Christ. We can trust God in every circumstance.

And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 2 Corinthians 12:9

I can not imagine the trials other folks have endured or the rough road they still have to travel. I have not traveled in their shoes, just as they have not traveled in mine. Perhaps my burden looks lighter to you, or your burden appears lighter to me, but appearances can be deceiving.

Thanksgiving is a day families get together and feast. The day was established to gratefully thank God for the blessings he bestows upon us, and no matter what our burden might be in this life, we can each give thanks for something. Yet, frequently we become so busy with the preparations and the excitement that we crowd God out of the celebration.

A home, family, food, employment, retirement savings or other physical blessings are things that come to mind when we think of giving thanks. We also have spiritual blessings, such as God’s grace and his perfect judgment tempered with mercy.

A grateful heart can recognize even a small blessing in a time of trial. This takes practice. So put down the drumstick and initiate a family practice session in Thanksgiving.

© 2005 Janice Price
www.mercyandpercy.com

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED

EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED

By Janice Price


It was just before midnight when I spotted movement out of the corner of one eye, and my heart began to pound as soon as I saw the size of the dog running silently past us on the other side of the road. My first thought was, Please don’t stop and turn around.

I was halfway home from walking my two dogs to the corner before turning in for the night. The street was deserted and I had already had one terrifying experience of three dogs attacking the smaller dog a year earlier. But, wait, I calmed myself, dogs don’t run like that.

It wasn’t a dog; it was a white-tailed deer loping down the sidewalk. Not running full speed as if she had been spooked, but loping, much like a human might jog down the highway to check on Aunt Sally’s welfare. She didn’t even break stride as the dogs labored at their leashes, making enough racket to wake the neighborhood. Buddy, the hound, bayed at the top of his lungs and Merci added her tiny, high-pitched bark. I had a good look at the doe as she passed under a street light. In the middle of the curve, she crossed the road and turned left at the next corner.

I watched the doe disappear from sight, scarcely able to believe my own eyes. This sight would not surprise anyone who lives in the country, but I live in town. Granted, deer can occasionally be spotted in the woods across from the mill a mere two or three blocks away, but I have never before seen a deer on this street.

Expect the unexpected. These words ran though my mind as we continued our walk. Earlier my thoughts had been more along the lines of, I’m watching others prosper physically, financially and Spiritually, and I hear about their answered prayers. Have you forgotten me, God?

No, God has not forgotten me. A lone doe loping down a city street reminded me that with God anything is possible, no matter how impossible it might seem to find a solution or how involved the problem. God moves in his own time and he deals with each of us as individuals.

I am not Vicki, Paul or Donna, and I should not try to imitate any of them - or anyone else, for that matter. Neither should I envy anyone else’s talents or blessings. There is a place in God’s plan for a single woman with no children or grandchildren, a houseful of animals and no particular or exceptional talents. God can use anyone he wants wherever he wants. After all, he is sovereign. If he can raise the dead and heal the lame, blind and deaf, then he can educate and cultivate an aging, rebellious body (mine, not God’s) and a mind that needs a foghorn installed. (People used to have memory lapses. Now we have “brain fog.”)

Wherever I fit into God’s plan, it will be a niche specially suited to my particular background, personality, talents, current Spiritual level and prospective Spiritual growth. God is pruning and shaping me, just as he is all of the body of Christ. That’s a bit scary, but exciting. I can not imagine what God can do with me. Will I be a professional writer? Certainly not a public speaker! Perhaps I will be able to encourage others who feel imprisoned by physical, financial or travel limitations. I do not know where God will lead me or what the future holds for me.

As Isaiah 55:8 informs us, God’s thoughts are not our thoughts and his ways are not our ways. He rarely answers prayers as I – or anyone else - expect him to answer them. I need to keep my eyes on God and my feet planted firmly on the gospel. And I should never forget that with God I should expect the unexpected.


© 2005 Janice Price
www.mercyandpercy.com

Thursday, November 10, 2005

BUDDY MAKES HIS BED

BUDDY MAKES HIS BED

By Janice Price


When the first cold night of fall arrived, I folded an old sheet into quarters and covered it with a neatly folded, warm blanket for the dogs to have a comfortable bed. Before the evening was over, the bedding was on the floor at the foot of the bed. By the next morning it was under a table, and Merci, the smaller dog, had a den with a low ceiling all to herself. I moved the bedding back where I wanted the two of them to sleep.

This worked well for perhaps a day. Then Buddy began rooting through “his” dishpan full of toys and moving them one by one onto “his” bed. By afternoon, I found both dogs sleeping on the rug, with barely enough room left on their bedding to rest their ears. The next time I walked through the bedroom, the blanket was rolled into a lumpy bundle. I reached for a corner of the blanket, intending to unroll it and remake the bed. Before I could touch it, Buddy’s four large paws were firmly planted on the blanket filled with his favorite toys. It is his preferred way to make a bed comfortable and since he was satisfied with it, he wanted me to leave his stash of buried treasure alone. So I did. He made “his” bed; he can sleep in it – or rather, beside it – if he wants to.

But every time I walked by the bed, it reminded me of life, not as God plans it for us, but as we move and remake it, whether by accident or choice.

God created us in His likeness and for His pleasure, in preparation for spending eternity with Him. He gives each of us an unspecified number of days to learn at the Master’s feet, so to speak. The Spiritual Manual is readily available to help us get better acquainted with God and His plan for our lives. It costs us nothing to communicate with God in prayer. So, what do we do to draw closer and learn the mind of God?

We pray: God, I really want to know Your will in my life. Please reveal it to me. I want to be obedient and grow in the faith. But wait just a moment, please. There’s a football playoff today. Can this wait until tomorrow? No, tomorrow is not a good day either. There is a potluck and then a bowling tournament right after church. I won’t have time Monday. It’s jogging for my health day. You know I can’t miss a scheduled day of exercise, or I might have a heart attack and die before You answer this, and I really do want to be assured I’ll be with Jesus in heaven.

Vacation Bible School will be starting soon, and then there is the Christmas pageant to rehearse. It will take months for everyone to learn their lines. And I should mention I have a meeting on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Oh, and one on Friday nights too. I have to volunteer some time to help the less fortunate, so I attend meetings to help fill my quota of good works. And there is Bible Study Wednesday evening, with the church Koffee Klatch afterwards.

Can we postpone this for a few months? I’ll have to get back to You on this, God. Hold that thought, though. I do want to learn Your will for my life
.

Yes, some of us are little different than Buddy, who began the day with an uncluttered bed. God gives us an uncluttered calendar on which to write our daily appointments, intending for us to invest some time getting to know Him. He should be our top priority, first on our list, but when we write our commitments on the calendar, we often write them in reverse order – school, marriage, children, a career, or (fill in the blank). We might change careers, but, basically, these are just a few responsibilities we might have to commit to keeping on the calendar. We can not forget to include the unexpected things we can not plan for, such as accidents, deaths of loved ones, illness, or a chance to accompany Aunt Sally on a cruise to Hawaii. Then there are hobbies and entertainment - things that give us pleasure or relaxation - and perhaps charity work or community service.

When the day is over, our calendar has been so full God has been pushed off the calendar and barely acknowledged, just as Buddy filled his bed with non essentials that pushed him and Merci out of the bed and onto the floor to sleep.

When God nudges us to clean out some of the clutter to make room for Him, we often try to wrap up the lumpy bundle and protect it, protesting strongly how important each activity is to us. Buddy wanted me to leave his bed the way he made it, so he can sleep in the lumpy bed he made, until either he grows tired of being uncomfortable or it is time to wash the bedding. And sometimes the only way we learn to prioritize and put God first is for Him to allow us to sleep for a while in the lumpy bed (busy calendar) we made for ourselves.

Merci quickly grew tired of the lumpy bed and cleaned up Buddy’s toy stash. If you are tired of a schedule so full of non essentials that you don’t have time for God, begin to put Him first and He will help you gain control of your time.


Copyright 2005 Janice Price
mercyandpercy@yahoo.com

Thursday, November 03, 2005

PHARISEE OR PUBLICAN

PHARISEE OR PUBLICAN

By Janice Price


Where is he going in such a hurry, I wondered. The police car slowly passed me, and suddenly the flashing lights blazed and the car zipped left at the corner. As I turned left at the stop sign, I realized the blinking lights were now behind me, following me through the intersection. I pulled over to the curb to allow the car to pass. It rolled to a stop behind me.

I reached in my purse for the driver’s license and vehicle registration tucked inside the wallet. Wait a minute, I thought. Why am I being stopped? I didn’t do anything illegal. I wasn’t speeding or weaving. And I stopped at both stop signs.

The officer approached, smiling kindly. “Good evening, ma’am.”

I was calmer than I would have thought possible under the circumstances. Perplexed, I shrugged my shoulders and threw my hands in the air, palms up. “What did I do wrong, officer?”

“You nearly blinded me. You must have your bright lights on.”

“I do?” I stared at the dashboard, trying to remember where the high beam indicator was located. I stared at the red emergency brake light instead. “I guess I do. But I don’t want to use my bright lights. I don’t even know where they are.”

I had a vague memory they were located on the turn signal/windshield wiper spindle, which I must have bumped while getting into the car. I had a clear memory of bumping them once before, and driving down a deserted country road trying to figure out how to turn them off before I met another car. Most of my night driving is done around town, where turning on the high beams could get a person stopped by a police officer.

The officer was already returning to his car. Rapidly, I ran through my options. I could unbuckle the seat belt, find the owner’s manual somewhere in the container on the passenger floor and read it by flashlight to find the bright light switch. Or I could eventually find it by a process of elimination. But there was a better option. I swallowed my pride.

“Officer,” I called. “I really don’t ever use the bright lights. Will you show me how to turn them off?”

He looked doubtful, as if I were pulling his leg. But he returned, reached a hand in the window and flipped the turn signal/windshield wiper spindle. The high beams went off and he walked back to his car.

This incident brought to mind the Pharisee and the publican in Luke 18. Both went to the temple to pray. One was a man of religion; he prayed with the assurance of one who believed himself innocent of any wrongdoing. He knew in his heart he kept the Sabbath, tithed to the “anise” degree and obeyed all the commandments. He unabashedly tooted his own horn.

When God turned on his flashing lights and pulled over the Pharisee, the Pharisee threw up his hands and asked, “What did I do wrong, God? I haven’t broken any law.”

God answered, “Your arrogant, legalistic high beams are shining in the eyes of the oncoming publicans and Jews, blinding them to the road ahead and causing them to crash.” The Pharisee ignored the warning.

The publican knew he was imperfect. When God turned on his flashing lights and pulled over the publican, he swallowed his pride and cried, “I really don’t want to use the high beams and sin. Will you show me how to turn them off?” And God showed the humble publican how to turn off the high beams and become a secure driver.

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. Matt 11:28-30.


Copyright 2005 Janice Price
mercyandpercy@yahoo.com

Thursday, October 27, 2005

BLACK AND GUS

Black and Gus
By Janice Price


A television newscaster gave a spiel about Black and Gus as the station played a video of two black cows that got loose when the tractor trailer transporting them had a flat tire along the highway.

“There’s Black – or Gus, whichever,” he explained, while viewers watched one cow being led with a long rope around its neck turn right and head into the woods.

When he finished, the other newsman at the desk, asked innocently, “Is it possible those cows named Black and Gus were actually Black Angus?”

The first newsman laughed. “Are you thinking I might have misinterpreted something?” He shuffled his papers, looked closely at the print, and then realization dawned.

Oh, how I know that feeling. It’s becoming an ever more frequent companion as I get older.

Just recently my morning started off normally. I rolled out of bed, donned yesterday’s clothes, and took the dogs on their long, first-of-the-morning business trip. But that morning my back and hip hurt more than usual. Then my legs joined them. I cut our walk short, returned home and went on to other things. By late morning the pain was deeper. I felt I was walking with one foot on a step and one on the ground, but I did not have time to sit down and rest.

Then, while rushing through the house, I glanced down and – I felt much like the first newsman, the one who named the Black Angus cows Black and Gus. I was wearing two similar shoes. They looked almost identical from the top of the shoe, but one sole was thin and one sole was well-padded for walking.

I could empathize with the red-faced newsman. The difference was that he made his mistake publicly, in front of several million viewers. Except for those who might have noticed me hobbling down the sidewalk that morning, no one else was the wiser about mine – at least no one was the wiser until I wrote this story.

The Bible does not specifically warn us to wear reading glasses for delivering the news or to match the soles of our shoes before we put them on our feet, but it does give clear direction to whom we must look for salvation.

Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven (Jesus Christ of Nazareth - verse 10) given among men by which we must be saved. Acts 4:12

Who is Jesus Christ of Nazareth?

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. And I have seen and testified that this is the Son of God. John 1:1, 14, 34

Just to mention a few descriptive titles from the Bible, Jesus is named as the Son of God, Redeemer, Savior, King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

Therefore God also has highly exalted Him (Christ Jesus – verse 5) and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Philippians 2:9-11.

There is only one true Jesus Christ of Nazareth. Have you met Him, or have you been introduced to a corrupt and inferior depiction of Christ? He is not described in the Holy Bible as merely a good man, just one of the prophets, the brother of Satan, a created being, a homosexual, a married man, or the archangel Michael.

Naming cows Black and Gus or wearing two different shoes are minor embarrassing moments, worth a laugh and a roll of the eyes, and then forgotten. We can all identify with making mistakes that are not life threatening. But mistaking an imitation for the real Jesus Christ of Nazareth is no laughing matter.

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

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

A PURR-FECT FRIEND

A Purr-fect Friend
By Janice Price


The bowl I am filling slides off the box of dog biscuits and rolls across the floor. Pieces of dry dog food skitter in every direction. Cyndi races into the room, sits at my feet and begins to purr. The kitten is a calming presence as the small pieces are located and collected. I can’t help but I’m here for you, she would probably say if she could speak.

** Friends know we’re klutzy and don’t remind us of it, but they’re there for us while we pick up the pieces.

When bad news of a friend is received, I am discouraged. Cyndi wakes from a nap, climbs onto my shoulder and, purring, snuggles next to my cheek. I’m here to comfort you, her action conveys.

** Friends recognize when we are discouraged and are willing to listen.

Cyndi leans against Merci’s leg as the dog is scolded for eating a comb. I’m sorry you made a mistake, her body language says, but I’m still your friend.

** Friends forgive us when we make mistakes.

It’s two a.m. and I am washing dishes. Cyndi sits on the washing machine next to the sink and purrs. Work gets finished faster when you have a friend to keep you company, she might say.

** Friends can make a tedious job fun, or at least make it seem easier.

As Cyndi hangs from my knee by her front claws, her bright eyes seem to be telling me, I’m here to chase away your pain.

** Friends give a hug, send a card or just quietly hang with us when we are in pain.

What constitutes a good friend? According to Jerome Cummings, “A friend is one who knows us, but loves us anyway.” Friends, as differentiated from acquaintances, see through the facade we adopt for society and accept us - “warts and all."

Cyndi is a purr-fect friend. I have church friends and social friends who are not so perfect, just as I am. And there is one perfect friend: Jesus.

Jesus tells us how to be his friend in John 15:12 -14 (NIV). My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command.

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

Thursday, October 13, 2005

YOU ARE NOT ALONE

You Are Not Alone
By Janice Price


In my mind, I can picture Moses as he stood before the burning bush telling God he was inadequate for the task God was appointing him to undertake because he was slow of speech and not an eloquent speaker. I am not an eloquent speaker either, but I am definitely not slow of speech. In fact, when I am nervous, my brain goes into idle and my mouth shifts into fast forward. I was drafted as secretary of the neighborhood watch because I can take notes, not because I can read them at a speed they can be understood.

Like Moses, I would not voluntarily speak in public - particularly on a controversial subject - but sometimes we have to rise above timidity and speak out, perhaps even take action.

Several years ago, I lived in a big city, in an apartment complex with severe safety issues – things like broken outside cement stair steps, collapsing ceilings from a leaking roof, and water collecting in some light fixtures when it rained. None of us could afford to move, but something had to be done to spur the owner into making repairs he knew were necessary but refused to make. For reasons I won’t go into here, I made the decision to report the owner to the city, knowing I would have to stand alone. The other tenants could stand behind me in “spirit” only, and one way or another I would have to move.

Just as soon as the first inspector left, management began a campaign of harassment, intimidation and threats. It was one of the most terrifying times I have ever been through, but the city persevered and, eventually, the necessary repairs were made. By that time, I was living elsewhere.

Today, I live in a small city where the modern building code does not apply to this old mill house, built in 1926. My landlord and his wife are likeable people. I hate the thought of making trouble for them, but they do not respond to phone calls or letters about the condition of this rental house.

Eight months ago a tree branch fell onto the electric line, tearing the electric line loose and damaging the pole on the house. Last week I asked for something specific to spur the landlord into action. I was told, “The city electric company said if the pole is not replaced and another branch falls on the line, or with the right set of circumstances, the house will burn.” That is pretty specific. I left that message and the landlord has still not responded.

I am not in a position, either physically (my energy level has been at least six feet underground again for weeks) or financially, to move. And even if I could move before “the right set of circumstances” arise, a new tenant would move in who has no idea of the danger.

Everywhere I turn, I am told there is nothing I can do about this situation (a situation that is only the “icing” on the problems of the summer). So I asked a few friends to pray.

Vicki Gaines, a fellow Crossmap writer, posted a prayer request on her blog site. You can read “Calling all prayer warriors!” archived under October 11, 2005, on http://windowstomysoul.blogspot.com/ . I learned about this post from one of the messages it generated on my Mercy and Percy site.

I was touched to tears by Vicki’s concern and her desire for me “to feel the love of all the saints while experiencing the mighty provision of our Jehovah Jireh (the God who provides!)."

I was encouraged by her reminder that “our Lord is able to make a way when there seems to be no way.”

And her comment, “Jan, you are not alone!” - it was a reminder of that frightful time I did stand alone. Oh, David, an engineer, helped initially and he received well-deserved praise from his peers. Other friends prayed and neighbors gave moral support from a distance, but when I returned to the apartment, I was alone. I don’t know if anyone ever knew how absolutely terrified I was. I spent a lot of time in the Bible and in prayer through that ordeal. I can’t imagine what might have happened without God’s protection.

It is not necessarily a good idea to post a public prayer request without permission, but Vicki, thankfully, was discreet.

“Jan, you are not alone.” How could Vicki know those words would have a special meaning and be the most encouraging? She did not know. But God did.

© 2005 Janice Price
mercyandpercy@yahoo.com
http://www.mercyandpercy.com

Thursday, October 06, 2005

CHANGING CHANNELS

Changing Channels

By Janice Price

Without taking a moment to don my reading glasses, I pressed the buttons to change the television channel. I pressed the buttons again and again. Frustrated, I shifted in the chair so I was leaning closer to the TV set, squinted at the small numbers and pressed them yet again.

Then, realizing the problem – and relieved there were no witnesses – I laid the cordless phone down on the desk and picked up the TV remote. I pressed the buttons and this time the channel changed.

I used to laugh at the stories of the absent-minded person who put the milk in the bureau drawer and the wristwatch in the refrigerator, or who arrived at the store with the credit card bill after mailing the credit card company the shopping list.

Only yesterday I was reminded that in order to cash a check, I should write the same amount in numbers as I do in longhand. The teller kindly told me, “Don’t feel bad about it. We see a lot of this.” She did not make me feel any the less embarrassed, but she did let me know I am not alone in being absent-minded, in too great a hurry, error-prone, or pre-senile.

Pride often keeps us from admitting to others that we make mistakes, especially whoppers, although we seldom mind telling stories on others’ mistakes. Comics love to tell stories on anyone, even themselves, and the more outlandish the greater the response from the audience. But writers – Christian writers, in particular – often write about their own experiences, including their own mistakes.

We do this to encourage others. After all, we goof big time and survive. Bloopers are a part of life, even stupid or klutzy ones, and they are not the end of the world. Okay, so you were half-asleep when you dressed this morning and attended a meeting wearing a purple polka dot blouse with yellow striped pants. There are worse things that could happen than to be laughed at by the self-appointed office fashion police.

We also tell stories on ourselves to show that when God is an integral part of our lives, we are constantly learning, even in everyday situations. For the most part, we exist in the mundane, only occasionally rising to the mountaintop. God teaches me through my pets, daily tasks, friendships, health problems, setbacks, victories – basically, through any situation that arises. I have to admit I’m not always paying attention or quick on the uptake, but eventually I catch on to what God is trying to teach me. Then, I write about it and share the lesson with others.

The skill of writing is to create a context in which other people can think. Edwin Schlossberg.

Often I think no one bothers to read the stories. Most people do not take a moment to email a comment on a story, but then someone will write about what a specific story “said” to that particular person, and I will be amazed at how God has used a story to help, encourage, convict, or teach someone something.

I remember hearing something to the effect that a minister gives more than one sermon at a time: the one he thinks he is giving and the one the congregation hears. Yes, one sermon can “speak” one thing to the minister giving it and something else to each of the listeners. The same appears to be true of the written word. One story can make one person cry, another angry, another contemplative, and another encouraged.

The best example of skillful writing that makes people think is the Bible. People love it, hate it, eagerly devour it, or destroy it. They are outraged or inspired by it. It is often misunderstood, misquoted, and misapplied, but it is enduring.

The Word of God is living, strengthening, and enlightening. If I try to change television channels with a cordless telephone instead of the remote, I have an embarrassing moment and a funny story. But if I want to know God intimately, I can not substitute any or all of the books on religion for Scripture. Other books can be helpful, but there is only one Holy Bible.

© 2005 Janice Price
mercyandpercy@yahoo.com
http://www.mercyandpercy.com

Thursday, September 08, 2005

A TIME FOR GOD’S LOVE IN ACTION

A Time For God's Love In Action

By Janice Price

The magnitude of Hurricane Katrina’s devastation is hard to fathom. The sheer number of evacuees, now called refugees by many, has overwhelmed government and disaster agencies. One of the chief complaints is that there has been – and continues to be – a lack of leadership in the ranks of those who are supposedly our protectors and leaders.. This has cost many lives and wasted time and resources.

Volunteers are called upon. They respond and are left sitting, anxious and eager to do whatever job they have been trained to do, but no one seems to know what to do with them. So much valuable time that could have been invested in saving lives has been lost forever in inaction and passing the blame. If two hundred volunteer boat owners arrive at the appointed time to begin an organized search and rescue and are left to sit around idle for many hours day after day, is it any wonder the number drops quickly and those that remain “revolt” and go out on their own?

Those who are now scouring New Orleans to evacuate the last of the residents from their homes find that many don’t want to leave. Some have lived in one place all their lives and have never been far from home, and they don’t want to leave now.

There is a sense of security for many in being at home; people feel safer in their homes than they could in any shelter. Most of the country is mobile, moving and changing jobs, taking vacations and visiting relatives out of state. We have no concept of what home means to someone who has little and has likely never traveled.

Many absolutely refuse to leave their pets behind to die. There are several animal rescue groups in New Orleans and other ravaged cities. The searchers could pass on the location of these folks. Once the pets are safe, many of the residents would leave without further protest. They have stayed with their pets through the hurricane, flooding and lack of food, water and sanitary conditions. What makes anyone believe they are going to just abandon them to die now?

It is so easy for those of us who were not in the midst of the horrors of Hurricane Katrina to criticize decisions made by others. Often we think we have all the solutions to the decisions every one else should make, but in a crisis we can act just as irrationally and grab the morning newspaper instead of the checkbook or other important papers, or make worse mistakes than those we criticize in others.

This is a time for us to display empathy to those displaced by the storm, whether or not we agree with all the decisions each made. We cry, overcome with emotion, by merely watching the newscasts; they have survived and are traumatized. Many escaped with nothing but the clothes on their backs. Some managed to save a few possessions. Many carried pets, which were wrenched from them and left to die. Is it any wonder those who still sit in whatever is left of their homes are refusing to be rescued without their pets?

Thousands of refugees are in shelters, being moved from state to state, farther and farther away from their homes. Some will return when they are allowed. Some will never return, instead beginning their lives over in new areas. Churches and individuals offer homes and help to evacuees.

And, as always in a disaster, a variety of agencies are on the scene to offer aid.. Since I volunteer with the local American Red Cross Chapter, this is the organization that comes to mind first. There are other reputable groups using volunteers and collecting donations to help disaster victims – and Hurricane Katrina is the largest disaster in the history of the United States.

To Find Missing Loved Ones: Visit the Red Cross Family Links Registry
or Call 1-877 LOVED-1S (1-877-568-3317)

To find a shelter --1-888-GET-INFO

To make a disaster donation -- 1-800-HELP-NOW (Spanish 1-800-435-7669)
Redcross.org, ARC Disaster Relief Fund, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, DC 20013

FEMA evacuee registration -- 1-800-621-3362

There are also many animal rescue groups within the disaster area that are working tirelessly, existing solely on donations and prayers. A team from Carolyn Keeton’s All Cats, Inc., out of Valley, Alabama, has been in New Orleans since Wednesday, September 1st. United Way has now asked them to send some of their crew to Mississippi. They are a small group of volunteers doing a fantastic job under adverse conditions.

Disasters bring out the worst in people; for example, the scammers who pretend to be collecting for your favorite charity. What they are actually collecting for is their favorite charity – themselves. So, please, before you donate, make certain you are actually contributing to the charity you think you are. Scams are rampant during a disaster.

Disasters also bring out the best in people. There are so many stories of kindness, generosity and downright heroism arising from the destruction of Hurricane Katrina.

As always, Americans have reacted to a tragedy with an outpouring of mixed emotions, open checkbooks, truckloads of donated necessities, and a will to serve. No matter how many accusations of blame are tossed about, or how many mistakes were made by the evacuees or rescuers, when the chips are down, Americans step up to the plate and put something on it to share with others. America is not perfect, as almost anyone will gladly tell you, but it is still a wonderful place to live.

One of the things we are reminded of in a situation such as this one is that life and death are more closely related than we want to think. We are each only a breath away from death. Our homes and possessions are as temporary as this physical life. And when they’re taken from us, all those things we can’t live without today become trivial and unimportant.

What do things matter when we don’t know where our loved ones are, or even if they have survived the storm? Who cares about material things when the roof has blown away and there is no sanitary place to sit down? Who dreams about a mansion while surrounded by suffering children?

It will take months to make New Orleans, and possibly other areas, safe to return to. But restoring and rebuilding will come. Meanwhile, there are many thousands in need of our concern and active help, and not just for a short time. We need to be prepared and committed for a long healing process.

This is a time to demonstrate God’s love in action. There are church groups and individuals reaching out with whatever funds or talents they have available or can collect. There are upcoming fundraisers. But let’s not forget the most basic ways to show love: a listening ear, a nonjudgmental attitude, an arm around the shoulders without a word being spoken, or a moment shared in prayer.

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

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

TENDERIZE THEIR HEARTS, LORD

Tenderize Their Hearts, Lord

By Janice Price

The morning after tearfully burying my seventeen-year-old cat, I was e-mailed a story I would still have trouble believing if I was not already aware cruel people can exist anywhere, including in positions of authority.

In early July, a city supervisor in Jourdanton, Texas ordered two animal shelter employees to dispose of several “sickly” shelter dogs while their veterinarian was on vacation. The workers carried out their assignment.

The city claims there were only five dogs. A teenager doing community service who witnessed the incident says there were more than five. The teenager was so affected by what he witnessed, he told his mother, and the city of Jourdanton is now internationally infamous, under scrutiny from the press, the District Attorney’s office and the State Health Department. Because of public outrage, the extensive publicity and the possibility of criminal charges being filed, this supervisor is no longer allowed to work with animals.

“Anyone who has accustomed himself to regard the life of any living creature as worthless is in danger of arriving also at the idea of worthless human lives.” – Albert Schweitzer

What is so horrendous about this? The employees put the dogs into cages, carried them next door to the sewage plant and dropped the cages into the city sewage system. Yes, these animals were drowned in raw sewage. (This story can be verified at by doing a Google search of “Jourdanton dog drownings” or at http://archive.mail-list.com/petwarmers/msg00505.html )

For every beast of the forest is Mine (God’s), And the cattle on a thousand hills. I know all the birds of the mountains, And the wild beasts of the field are Mine. If I were hungry, I would not tell you; For the world is Mine, and all its fullness. Psalm 50:10-12

And as for the dogs being “sickly” (as if that would be any excuse)? Well, they had such strength they broke out of their cages and the workers had to use snares to hold them under the sewage for “a couple of minutes.”

"He who is cruel to animals becomes hard also in his dealings with men. We can judge the heart of a man by his treatment of animals." – Immanuel Kant

During an interview, a city official tried to dodge the bullet by claiming this was the only such incident. “You can take my word for it,” he insisted. When pressed, he finally admitted there was no record made of the disposition of these dogs. These animals in their care simply “disappeared.” The only animal deaths they record are those killed and billed by their veterinarian.

So there remains the debated question over whether this was the first and only time this happened. The claim is made that this was not an isolated incident, and no amount of tap dancing by officials has been convincing enough to warrant trust in the city’s disclaimer. How many dogs have died in this cruel manner – and what about cats and other small animals?

"Cruelty has cursed the human family for countless ages. It is almost impossible for one to be cruel to animals and kind to humans. If children are permitted to be cruel to their pets and other animals, they easily learn to get the same pleasure from the misery of fellow-humans. Such tendencies can easily lead to crime." – Fred A. McGrand

In Texas, animals can be “euthanized” in one of two ways and drowning them —especially in sewage — is not one of them. What occurred was an overt act of cruelty to animals, whether or not they were “strays.” Perhaps the fact that this has surfaced in the media will cause other towns and individuals to think twice about breaking the law in such a manner, but the death threats the city officials have been receiving are as heinous as the cruel crime.

The fact that, after this was brought to light, the city manager issued a written slap on the wrist for the supervisor and assumed the issue could be closed set a bad example for today's youth. If adults are cruel to animals — and get paid for it, no less — they validate cruelty as a casual circumstance of life. There is nothing casual or appropriate about cruelty.

"The tendency to cruelty should be watched in children and if they incline to any such cruelty, they should be taught the contrary usage. For the custom of tormenting and killing other animals will, by degrees, harden their hearts even toward man. Children should from the beginning be brought up in an abhorrence of killing or tormenting living beings." – John Locke

Cruelty is often a means of having control and expressing anger toward something smaller or more helpless than oneself. Children are not born abusive; they learn and mimic cruelty. Animal Control workers are often taught to report animal abuse, as it can indicate child abuse in a home.

"One of the most dangerous things that can happen to a child is to kill or torture an animal and get away with it." – Anthropologist Margaret Mead

I’m not saying these city workers were animal abusers as children, but I do not imagine they just woke up one morning and decided it was going to be fun to torture helpless animals entrusted to their charge that day. Neither do I imagine that if this was the first time, it would be the last if a furor was not raised.

After reading about the dogs, my friend, Evelyn, wrote, “There's much cruelty we are not aware of, but when we learn of it, to sit by and do nothing is cruelty too.” Cruelty should never be condoned or swept under the rug, whether it is against animals, children or adults.

I pray for those responsible for this and for other atrocious behavior — whether against an animal entrusted to someone’s care, a child, a spouse or a stranger — and I know many others are praying for such situations too. Unfortunately, cruelty will continue to exist in this present age, as there are those who have not come to understand the saving grace of God, nor will some ever accept it. But through His Son Jesus Christ, God is able to change those who have shown cruelty toward any of His creation, if they turn to Him, desiring to have their hearts tenderized.

Then God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth." So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. Genesis 1:26-27

© 2005 Janice Price
mercyandpercy@yahoo.com
http://www.mercyandpercy.com

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

JENNY'S LOVE

Jenny's Love
By Janice Price


There is nothing like the prospect of death to help you put things into perspective. Suddenly, vacuuming is not all that important. Spending time with the dying is.

In this instance, I am referring to Jenny, my feline companion of seventeen years. We have survived great patches of summers without air conditioning and winters without heat, bad health and poverty. When I moved across country several years ago, Jenny and another feline companion, Grayce, rode in the truck cab with me. Two years ago we grieved for the loss of Grayce.

Jenny has always given unconditional love, even when I was short-tempered and impossible to love, and I have always admired her feisty and independent spirit. She has put up a valiant fight, but eventually death catches up to all of us, animal or human.

Despite the heat and humidity, she wants to be held. With her head on my shoulder, she sleeps deeply, while I watch the barely perceptible rise and fall of her breathing.

For the last four nights I have tried to sleep on the floor. No amount of padding can make the floor comfortable or easy to rise from. But it’s important to me for her to know I’m nearby, where I can offer her sips of water and change her wet bedding.

I have had a lot of quiet time in the past few days. Of course, my mind dwells on our days of fun and laughter. She has given me lots of reasons to laugh. Since she went blind two years ago, she has needed extra care, but continued to be as independent as possible. More than once she has come close to death and rallied, but this time is different. There is a time to be born and a time to die. My heart is heavy and I’ve already shed many tears.

But my mind doesn’t just dwell on Jenny. So many things flood my mind.

I have no children, but each time I hold a sick or dying pet, I think of the unbearable pain of any parent who holds a dying baby or young child — even an adult child — for the last time. I can’t imagine such suffering.

I think of Mother, who never had the opportunity to hug her son one last time before he went into the hospital for the final time. Nor, for health reasons, was she able to attend his funeral.

I remember last year when I scooped up her old dog, Shorty, saying, “We’ll be back in an hour,” thinking he would get a shave and a rabies shot. Instead, I returned with his body. She didn’t get to say good-bye.

A couple of months ago, her other old dog, Benji, died at her feet. She sat alone with his body all through the long night. When it was apparent his time was fast approaching, every time I was there, I intended to pick him up and put him in her lap, so she could hold Benji one last time. Intentions are worthless, if not acted upon.

I think of my friend, Jay, in Ohio who flew home from Hawaii after burying her mother, only to find her husband had died in their bed during the night.

Of my friend, Carol, who endured the funerals of two sons who each committed suicide.

Of my friend, Pat, who has such a heart for helping others, and whose husband has been a quadriplegic for forty years. An accident changed whatever plans the young couple had for their life together. I’m sure they both grieved for the lifestyle that was lost, but they picked up and carried on together.

Of my friends Mark and Janet, who struggled for many years through Mark’s severe asthma problems. Then, when his health and their financial picture brightened, Janet was diagnosed with cancer. I picture him hugging her during her illness, wondering each time if that would be the last time he would get to hold her.

Of my friends Pat and David. Theirs is a similar type of situation. After years of his health trials, she suddenly became the priority after a diagnosis of leukemia. How often did he wonder if she would be there with him the next day or the next week?

And, of course, I think of Jesus and his agonizing death on the cross. Even though God had not the slightest doubt Jesus would be resurrected, I can not help but think there was joy in heaven when Jesus was reunited with his Father, and if ever there was a time for a Spiritual hug, this would be it – at least in my mind.

God can use any situation to teach us. As I sat here the other day feeling alone, with no local friend to call, I began to realize that after years of misunderstandings, Mother has become my best friend in the area.

When Grayce died unexpectedly. I worried about Mother living alone, and tried to find a way to move both households into one house large enough to accommodate her wheelchair and my “office” —not to mention our pets .— but was frustrated at every turn. Perhaps it was not time. Maybe neither of us was ready for such a move.

If it is not too late, perhaps the time has finally come for the merging of two households. Our circumstances are such that only God can open a door and provide means, opportunity and the strength I would need to pack up and move two households. But just as Jenny has needed me more the past two years, and especially the last few days, Mother needs more attention and help than I can give her hauling things back and forth between two houses. I want to be there for her as much as possible, just as I have been here for Jenny.

God has taught me so much through the life of all my pets over the years. Jenny has lived with me the longest and she is taking a little piece of my heart with her, just as each of the others have when their time came, but she is leaving an even bigger deposit of loving memories.

Letting others know you care for them and making amends should always be high on a list of priorities but they usually get relegated to the “when I get the nerve to say that” list or brushed off with, “He (or she) knows I care. I don’t have to say it.” Yes, actually we do need to say it, as well as to show it. I’m not very good at either, but I have to learn. Tomorrow, or even today, might be too late.

Yesterday, when I began writing this, Jenny’s heart was still beating. This morning her body, once so active and full of energy, grew still and stiff. I buried her beside her old friend, Grayce.

As I walked the dogs this morning, all I could think about was to pray, God, please make me into the kind of loving person you want me to be – and my pets think I already am.

© 2005 Janice Price
mercyandpercy@yahoo.com
http://mercyandpercy.com

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

THE MURPHY’S LAW DRESS SHIRT

The Murphy's Law Dress Shirt
By Janice Price

For three years, I have been privileged to participate in the local National Night Out — a crime prevention event — both through my Neighborhood Watch Association and as an American Red Cross volunteer. The Police Department, Sheriff’s Department, State Patrol, Narcotics Task Force, Forest Rangers, 911 Coordinator, Fire Department, Emergency Medical Services, Red Cross, National Guard and other community agencies, departments and town dignitaries get together with local media and convoy — with sirens and horns blaring — to designated stopping points.

I am generally invisible, or at least unnoticed, in a crowd. My first year the local Red Cross Chapter Manager was unavailable. People would watch me park the Red Cross truck, look at my Red Cross photo ID and ask, “Where’s Martha?”

Last year Martha and I arrived together at the old Police Department. As we were leaving to begin the convoy, a police Captain smiled, shook my hand, and said, “Thank you. It was nice to see you again.” As we were leaving the first stop, the Captain. smiled, shook my hand, and said, “Thank you. It was nice to see you again.” By the second stop, he was repeating this, but his eyes were asking, Why is this woman following us? How many watch groups can she belong to?

It would probably have helped if I was wearing a Red Cross ID tag, but that was one of those Murphy’s Law stories.

The other day Martha called and asked what size shirt I wear. When she arrived, I put it on and realized I should have asked, “Do you mean in Men’s, Women’s or Redwood Tree size?" Yes, Murphy’s Law (If anything can go wrong, it will.) even applies to dressing for the occasion – or overdressing, in this case.

This year I was anything but invisible when we arrived at the Police Department parking lot. I can only imagine that I resembled Paul Bunyon’s Christmas stocking — a bright red shirt buttoned under my chin and ending just barely above my knees. A name tag was pinned on one side and “American Red Cross” and the chapter name were prominently displayed on the other.

I didn’t mind the good-natured teasing, but I was uncomfortable. I didn’t feel like a good delegate for the Red Cross with my shirt tail hanging so low. I did finally figure out how to fold the shirt over itself so I could tuck it under my waistband. It wasn’t easy, but what a relief! I felt more presentable, better able to relax and face the public as a representative of such a well-known community-oriented group.

As Ambassadors for Christ, we should be even more concerned about our attire, both in private and in public. But dressing in the Spirit begins in the heart and has little to do with clothing, jewelry, comb-over, shaped and colored hair, manicure or pedicure, collagen lips, down-to-here-eyelashes, or age-defying make-up. We should be properly dressed in modesty and humility, with our sins forgiven instead of hanging down around our knees for everyone to see. We can’t fold up our sins and tuck them away in public, although we do sometimes try.

To dress in the Spirit, we are to put on the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 13:14, Galatians 3:27), the new man (Ephesians 4:24); the whole armor of God (Ephesians 6:11), bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering (Colossians 3:12) and love (Colossians 3:14).

According to Mark Twain, “Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.”

So, before deciding to “evangelize” the world —alienating one neighbor, friend, or family member at a time — make certain you are properly dressed in the Spirit.

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

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

BREAKING RULES AND STRETCHING LIMITS

Breaking Rules and Stretching Limits
By Janice Price


At eight months of age, Buddy is thirty-five pounds of lean muscle, selectively “untrainable.” In other words, he learns exactly what he has an incentive to learn, no more and no less, and he does his own thing, regardless.

Food is the primary love of his life. He can learn anything necessary to reach food. He learned to climb the chair bed/stairstep I made for my oldest cat to climb onto the washing machine. She used it to reach her food; so did he. She moved to the dryer and the shared food bowl was moved to a cabinet between the washer and dryer. He learned his way around the stool blocking his path and onto the cabinet, where food for six cats tempted him. He would crawl, climb, squeeze through — whatever it took to reach his favorite crunchy snack This was temporarily resolved with a two-pound weight in the cats’ food bowl to keep it from tipping, as much as possible, and a two-pound weight on the tray beneath it.

He is tall enough now to stand on his hind legs, lean against the stool and snag Jenny’s bowl on the dryer. I turn my back for two seconds while fixing a sandwich and he filches bread or toast from my plate on the kitchen table or steals my dinner when I carry a plate in to eat at my desk. Catsup, mustard or peanut butter already spread? That’s the slice he will steal first. And when I stare at my plate, thinking, I know I had two slices of bread, Buddy will stare at the plate, as if he, too, can’t imagine how the other slice disappeared. I can see the little wheels in his head turning: I thought you still had a few bites of hamburger left. Those cat critters must have taken it again.

I already know he is a lot smarter than he wants me to know he is. But the other day he took the prize for canine ingenuity. The large dry cat food bowl, with its tray and two-pound weights, now sits on the highest cabinet in the kitchen. Buddy can almost, but not quite tip the bowl over to steal food.

I walked into the kitchen and stopped dead. A kitchen chair that was supposed to be at the kitchen table was across the room in front of the cabinet. Buddy’s two hind feet were firmly planted on the seat. His two front paws were resting solidly on top of the cabinet. His head was deep in the bowl, with mouth wide open, about to scoop up as much dry cat food as he could fit in his mouth at one time without including the two-pound weight.

“B!U!D!D!Y!,” I yelled.

Now, Buddy knows when my voice has that many decibels (!!!), he is in b-i-i-i-g trouble. Did it bother him? No, he calmly backed down from the counter, turned on the chair seat, jumped lightly to the floor, and then ran like the blazes to crawl under the couch.

How can a dog that can’t remember where he left my half-eaten sneaker figure out how to access the unattainable?

I have learned a lot of lessons from my pets. In some respects, dealing with them is much like dealing with children. They need rules and limits set to keep them safe, healthy and happy. And then they expend a lot of energy finding ways and means to break those rules and stretch those limits.

People seem to do the same with God. Ever since Adam and Eve, God —like a good parent who cares about his children — has given rules and limits to keep men safe, healthy and happy, while men have expended a lot of energy finding ways and means to break those rules and stretch those limits. People also can be selectively “untrainable.”

It’s all right. We have to change with the times. Today, homophobia is out and homosexuality is in.

According to the law, I don’t need any reason to divorce my spouse, other than irreconcilable differences. But if you want to be technical about it and quote the Bible, divorce is permissible for reason of sexual immorality. I’m already involved in an affair with another person, so it’s okay to divorce my mate.

I have never stolen anything in my life! Well, maybe a paperclip or two - Well, yes, I have eaten an apple or three, and maybe some grapes, and I guess I should count the candy bars I ate occasionally while shopping.

So I copy and paste stories to send to all my friends to forward to all their friends. And, no, I don’t bother to ask if it’s all right with the author. I just delete the name and other information with it and – well, what’s the harm in that? The Internet wasn’t even a gleam in God’s eye when the Bible was written.

I don’t read the Bible. I can’t understand it. Besides, all these folks who write books about the Bible know what they’re talking about or their books wouldn’t sell.

It doesn’t matter what I believe.

I’ve never told a lie in my life. What do you mean, I just told one?

What’s the matter with being a Christian on Sunday and an aggressive business shark the rest of the week?

Why should I forgive him? After what he did to me, God would never expect me to forgive. Yes, I know Jesus is supposed to have died so I could be forgiven of my sins, but I’ve never done anything that bad to anyone.

Buddy will continue to test new ways to break the rules and stretch the limits, but he really is not “untrainable.” Patience, correction and love, along with age and maturity, will gradually change him into a more obedient pet.

Christians are not “untrainable” either. God exhibits greater patience than I will ever have with Buddy, and because he loves us, he administers correction when necessary.

We all sin and fall short of God’s perfection, but, still, we must age and mature in Christ. Jesus never made excuses, broke the rules or stretched the limits.

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

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

SOMETIMES YOU HAVE TO BAIL

Sometimes You Have To Bail
by Janice Price

There’s something about determination that sets the blood pumping and the neighbors wondering, What is that strange woman doing?

In this incident, “that strange woman” used a crowbar to lift the heavy cover over the water meter, only to find the deep hole three-quarters full of water. The uncovered meter could not be read through the water and mud, so I traipsed into the house several times. First I returned with a large measuring cup — the one used for kitty litter, not the one used for food! — to bail water. It must have been a sight for passing motorists to see a not-so-young woman on hands and knees, bailing water out of the hole almost as fast as it was running back into the hole. (We have had some heavy rains recently.)

On subsequent trips to the house, I returned with a flashlight, pen and paper, a paper towel to wipe mud from the face of the meter, reading glasses and — finally — a magnifying glass. I bailed water after each trip.

Whew! The city’s utility bill was wrong. They did bill me for an extra thousand gallons of water and sewer usage.

In case this sounds petty, let me explain there was a stagnant water pool on the city’s side of the meter that they fixed earlier in the month. I went through the same procedure when I discovered the leak — minus the multi-bailing task — checking the meter reading against the last bill, hoping it would not show there was a leak on my side of the meter also. When the new bill arrived, either the city was in error or I had a slow water leak.

Today is Saturday. My choices were to either worry all weekend about the possibility of a leak or entertain the neighborhood. I chose to grab a crowbar and try to find an answer.

The first time I was billed for extra gallons of water was after a hot water pipe burst. It was caught early. I paid the bill without complaint, aware it could have been much higher.

The second time I was billed for a few thousand gallons over and above my normal usage. I called the city and was told they would not re-read the meter, but not to worry because if it was wrong, it would be corrected on the next bill. The problem was that my budget didn’t include “not-to-worry” water and sewage, and the metal cover was too heavy for me to move to check the reading to prove my point. I know; I tried.

So I worried; then I prayed. Martha stopped by and popped the cover for me. I called the city back and gave the correct reading. The meter was re-read and the bill adjusted.

The budget wasn’t quite so tight the next time I was overbilled. I did nothing and the proper adjustment came through the following month, without any effort on my part. If there wasn’t the concern about a water leak, I wouldn’t have bothered crawling around in the mud and wet grass bailing water today. The error should be corrected next month.

Some things in life are like that. If you leave them alone, they are resolved without any effort on your part. Other times you need to speak up and let people know there is a problem that needs attention. And then there are those times when you need to take action, to do something to help yourself, even if it entertains the neighborhood.

Yes, we can and should give our problems to God. Sometimes we have no means to resolve them. We do not see the whole picture or have all the facts, nor can we change another person’s mind or heart Some things we have to just leave with God and trust him to work them out.

But the fact is that in many cases we have to trust God to lead us and guide us through the problem. He is not coming tomorrow morning to wake me gently, brush my teeth, fix my breakfast, shower and dress me for the day. Nor will he phone the city office to notify them there is an error in my bill, or bail water out of the hole so I can read the meter. Some things I have to do for myself.

The first time there was a problem I needed physical help to remove and replace the cover and God sent someone to assist me. No action was required the next time, but if the city had not sent a corrected bill the following month, I would have notified the city their meter reader needed to send his equipment back to meter reading school. By the third time, I was physically stronger, able to use a crowbar to remove the lid and to turn the lid over into place when I finished. Action was required.

Head knowledge is what we learn in the physical realm; it is stored in the brain. I was going to use the term “Spiritual knowledge” here, as knowledge that comes from God — usually through his word but also through the “still, small voice within or wise Spiritual counsel — but I ran the term through Google and discovered that is not necessarily a Christian term today. So I will call it heart knowledge instead.

Wisdom is what we do with knowledge. Part of Spiritual wisdom is discerning when to act and when to wait on God, which direction to take back to him when we have wandered off the path, and which voice to listen to when indecision clouds our thinking.

Wisdom isn’t a crash course, especially not Spiritual wisdom. This is acquired through a deepening relationship with God. We learn to listen, to hear and to heed. I’m not an expert on the subject. I’m still taking the course with the rest of God’s children. Some days God’s direction is rest and I plow full-steam ahead into danger. Other days I’m dragging and complaining. The good days are when a lesson is learned because I was alert and responsive.

This was a good day.


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

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

A MAN'S WORD

A Man's Word
By Janice Price

There was a time when a man’s word was his bond, and one new writer can remember that time. At age seventy he began to write stories. Recently, he self-published a book and has been learning the ups and downs of self-marketing. The book market is a tough world today. Anyone can self-publish a book, but not every book, self-published or otherwise, will be a raving success story for the author.

One successful author, J.K. Rowling, refused to publish an e-book version of her latest Harry Potter book, but within eleven hours of its release, it was posted on the Internet in its entirety. The United States used to have gangs like the Ma Barker Gang, the Jesse James Gang, or the Al Capone Mob -- which was hunted by legendary lawman Eliot Ness. Today we have the Have Scanner Will Copy Gang. Yes, it took a group of thieves to copy and post one book. Rowling’s sales will barely be affected; the book sold over ten million copies in one day.

Rowling is a famous author and undoubtedly has her pick of publishing houses to choose from, any one of which would gladly promote her book. An unknown, self-published writer, particularly one without means, stands alone. Unless he has good friends and encouragers who will knock on doors, tap on windows, speak to the purchasing agents of various stores, write to air shows to volunteer him as a prospective airplane wing tip walker, and just generally do whatever is needed to help promote the book. The self-published author – let’s call him F.T.P. (short for Feisty, Tenacious Perseverance) – has been blessed with such friends, one in particular.

I have never been interested in reading the Harry Potter series, but I am in process of reading the book by F.T.P. His book is “cute” and family friendly. (It has a hook, but I won’t give it away here) Storytelling is an art, not necessarily a punctuating spellfest. (Yes, I know there is no such word as “spellfest” in your dictionary.) F.T.P. was raised in an era when success was measured in hard work, not in perfect spelling and punctuation.

His style is open, honest and down to earth. I have never met him, but I can almost imagine him laboring over his keyboard to keep his stories uniquely F.T.P. It puts a person in mind of the days when people sat (or “set,” as he would undoubtedly say) on the front porch, spinning stories in a leisurely drawl.

I was surprised to learn this man of seventy-five, with little financial means but lots of F.T.P., traveled to a big city in his state to make the rounds of bookstores. That’s a daunting task for a younger person. He met with some honest refusals, but some bookstores did agree to display his book. Then they put it under the counter, either telling customers who inquired about the book they didn’t have it, or they didn’t have it but could special order it– for a fee, over and above what they would collect from the publisher.

When I read that, there was a red flag waving and I just had to “charge.” Whatever happened to the days when a man’s word was his bond? When a handshake was as good as a legal document? Today, we have attorneys writing ironclad prenuptial contracts, after-I’ve-kicked-the-bucket wills, in-case-I-keel-over-at-the-cell-phone-bill waivers, and the ever popular what-one-man-considers-porn-is-actually-art legislation.

When did Mister My-word-is-my-bond get off the train and disappear into the crowd? We need to find him, lure him back onto the train, and send him visiting these bookstores – for a start. Then we need to set up an itinerary for him, being sure to include each and every broken word or promise to adults or children, every broken contract, every overcharge, every deceitful practice, every outright or “subtle” theft, every dishonest business and employee, every cheating married partner -

Oh, my, it can’t be done! The history of man is littered with a trail of broken contracts, promises and relationships, too numerous to even list. We even break our solemn contract with God - breaking his commandments, making promises we know we can’t keep and allowing life to interfere in our relationship.

We are so blessed to have a Savior. Without Christ, we have no hope. We would have a lifetime of contracts, commitments and words without intent, and then we would die. But, unlike mankind in general, and the bookstore owners mentioned here, God is faithful; what he promises, he will perform. God will not break his word.

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

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

STEALING PIECES OF MY HEART

Stealing Pieces of My Heart
by Janice Price

“But, Officer,” Gerry whines as he is handcuffed by a police officer, “I didn’t do anything. Why am I being arrested?”

“For breaking and entering, stealing a car to take your friends joyriding, destruction of private property, driving at an excessive rate of speed while going the wrong way on the Interstate, and for causing a thirty car accident,” the officer tells him.

Gerry protests, utterly convinced he didn’t do anything wrong. “I didn’t steal the car! It was public property - just waiting for someone to drive it. I wanted to impress my friends and I figured the owner wouldn’t mind if I put it to a good use. Besides, none of those charges will stick. The owner is a Christian. He’ll forgive me.”

“Public property? Uh-huh. That’s why you broke into a home, hot-wired the car in the garage, and drove over a bicycle, a vegetable garden, and a mailbox while leaving the scene at a high rate of speed.. Forgiveness isn’t the point here. You broke the law and have to pay the consequences. Tell it to a judge and jury.”

The above is fiction, used as an illustration of how adept people can become at twisting facts to appear innocent of wrongdoing, even if caught red-handed. And if it sounds far-fetched, you might want to read some real life honest-I’m-innocent criminal stories.

Some try to excuse wrong actions because “it’s for a good cause.” Christians might try to appear as righteous by using the excuse, “I’m doing God’s work.” An unconverted heart is truly deceitful above all things, but the Christian heart is not yet perfect. Until and unless the Holy Spirit leads you to see any of the sludge you are harboring in your heart, you are oblivious to what you are doing wrong. Or, in some cases, you are aware of what you are doing wrong, but try to appease your conscience by blowing it off as inconsequential, I’m-not-hurting-anyone mis-reasoning.

One of my pet peeves is the casual way Christians and non-Christians alike appropriate others’ words, artwork, photographs, graphics – any type of creative work. Appropriate means to take or make use of without authority or right. In plain English, to steal. God did not give any such command as: “You shall steal in My name or for a good cause.” No, God specifically commands us to not steal, but our human minds reason around it.

The Internet puts so much at our fingertips. There are countless web sites where we can find free software, free graphics, free e-books, and free music – lots of freebies. Are you discouraged? Unable to attend church? Click on this site or that one and pick out what you need to educate or uplift you.. You found that helpful? Well, copy and paste it into an e-mail and send it to all your friends, who will then send it to all their friends.

Whoa! Before you hit “Send,” stop for a moment and think about what you are doing.

Not everything on the Internet is free for your personal use. Some things have been created for a web page, a blog, an e-mail, or an e-zine, and although the originator offers to share it with you, it hasn’t been given to you. If you take it for your own use, with or without altering it, you are appropriating it – stealing it!

It isn’t community property, whether or not it was created by a Christian. It makes no difference whether there is a specific statement of copyright. Visit http://www.copyright.gov/ to learn how creative works are automatically covered under copyright law. And to ignore or remove copyright information, or any other identifying information, plainly says, I know I am stealing but if I cover it up by filing off the serial number, I can get away with it. (Filing off the serial number is an analogy. I’m not delusional.)

Most of my stories arise from personal experiences and this one is no exception. I’m not a computer nerd and I didn’t have the financing to handle a web site, so I opened a blog site, and began posting photographs and stories to encourage others. For the past year, I placed my name, copyright information, e-mail address and web address on every story posted. (None of the other serious blog or web page writers did this.) Copyright and reprinting only with permission information was prominently displayed on the web site.

A week ago I removed the excess ID information on each story, so it would look more professional and less like the site was being guarded by an overprotective parent. A few days later I “accidentally” (thank you, God!) learned that for several months, as fast as I have been posting the stories, someone has been appropriating them, stripping them of copyright and contact information and posting them to a forum. Then I found that at least three other writers I know personally are posted on there, without even a byline to identify the authors.

I located an email address for the forum administrator and sent an “educational” message the other day. I sent a copyright infringement message yesterday. Still no response – yet! Not even an insincere apology.

For three days I walked around with my stomach in my knees, so to speak. I felt violated, as if someone had disarmed my security system, broken into my house, rooted through everything and stolen whatever they wanted.

Other writers understand this feeling. My friend Joe summed it up well. “Jan, you have a perfect right to feel violated. Your MAP stories are wonderfully unique and they are a part of your innermost being. Those who stole your stories stole an important part of you, since you and your MAP stories are one.”

Yes, my MAP (Mercy And Percy) stories are an integral part of who I am. They are not cold, hard facts on paper; they are stories written from my heart, to be read on my Mercy And Percy site or elsewhere - with proper approval - but not to be appropriated.

Some writers state something like, it’s okay to share this, just don’t remove any of my copyright or personal contact information. Whatever the reason, this is their choice, and there is nothing wrong with it. But there is no law that says any written piece is public domain and it’s okay to grab it, strip it, add a Bible verse or inspirational quotation and call it “doing God’s work” or “helping others,” no matter how great the cause. Before you post someone else’s material, put it in a newsletter, or reprint it somewhere else, contact the writer and ask if it is okay to do so and what information that particular writer wants included with it.

When you come across something that inspires you or encourages you, encourage the author by sending even one line of thanks for time and effort invested in creating the piece. Every writer I know puts his or her heart into articles or personal experience stories. Every time you steal a piece of their work, you steal a part of their heart also.

Do you want to share the story with a friend? Blogs and many web sites have a means to recommend a story to your friend. On blogger.com it’s an envelope icon next to “comments” after each story. A link – not the story – would be e-mailed to your friend.

Anyone appropriating stories already knows how to copy and paste. But instead of the story, email the web address to your friends or to your forum. For example, http://www.mercyandpercy.com is where this story will be posted. Eventually it will be archived under July 20, 2005.

There are numerous family-friendly web sites and many good writers on the Internet. Not all of the authors have a web or blog site, but a variety of good writing can be found on Christian sites such as http://www.crossmap.com – just click on “columns.” There you will find articles by Moe Pujol, Joseph Perrello, Ed Price, Jimmy Cochran, Paul Dawn, Vicki Gaines, Donna Shepherd, and others.

I hope you will visit Mercy And Percy, be encouraged by the writing, and recommend it to your friends. My desire is to please and honor God, as well as to encourage, inspire and share lessons learned through personal experience.

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