Monday, March 28, 2005

THE TWIGS OF LIFE


A steady drip of raindrops flood the yard

The Twigs of Life
by Janice Price

As I watch the yard fill with rainwater, I think of how I sometimes feel inundated with life’s problems, to the point I can’t handle them all at once. It isn’t one raindrop that floods the yard; it’s a deluge of raindrops that overwhelms the earth. The ground can only handle a certain amount of water at any given time and I can only handle a certain amount of life’s problems, pain and setbacks at a time. The rest collect in a pool until they can be slowly absorbed.

This is Easter Sunday, a time when people are celebrating the resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus. But bad weather, like bad news, is oblivious to holidays, birthdays or celebrations of any type.

There was a tornado and flood watch for this area last night and it has continued throughout today. Periods of rain are frequently accented by thunder and lightning. The yards and streets fill with water. They flood and they drain. Still, the bursts of rain continue and more rain is expected. It is a dismal day, a good day to stay home where it is safe and dry.

Well, it is safe, until I take my dogs for a quick walk between storms and before sundown. I almost make it home without incident. Then one foot steps on a twig. It is a very small twig. It has lain on the sidewalk for a month or so, ever since another storm prompted the electric company to cut some branches on the neighbor’s tree to protect their lines. I have probably stepped on this particular twig more than once and never had a problem.

But today the sidewalk is wet and slippery, with pools of water here and there, and I am in a hurry. The twig rolls under my foot, my ankle turns, and I start to drop in one direction while my dogs, unaware I am in trouble, continue trotting home in the other direction at the same pace we were walking. Suddenly, I am following them, but I’m not walking. I’m flying. And crash landing.

This is not one of those times an angel rescues me from accidental injury, although nothing appears broken. The wounds are cleaned and dressed and, hopefully, they have stopped bleeding, but the healing process will take a while.

A strange result of this fall is that a dreary day is drawing to a close with an encouraging lesson in the twigs of life.

It isn’t necessarily broken branches that cause the most frustration and problems. Branches are larger and stand out when you encounter them. They aren’t easier to bear, but they are easier to recognize. Illness, marriage, divorce, death of a loved one, estrangement from a friend, loss of a job, and sitting in a car teetering on the edge of a cliff are examples of branches life might throw into your path. People are more understanding if you become upset or overly emotional when you trip over a branch.

But the little twigs, insignificant and often unnoticed as you repeatedly step on them, can one day trip you and send you crashing to the ground, leaving you weak and shaky when you stumble back onto your feet. It’s the steady drip of raindrops forming a pool on the earth’s surface that causes a flood. Except this flood is the washing machine leaking, the garbage bag breaking, the laundry soap spilling, the pieces of torn newspaper the dog spreads on the carpet, the bowl of spilled cat food, the bank statement that doesn’t balance, and all those annoying things that can clutter your life. One at a time, they can be bearable, but when the steady drip turns into a deluge, you can suddenly step on one little twig and fall.

Uh-oh, you have crashed. You have reacted to a situation in a way you know was wrong, but just as you don’t stay on the ground when you have a physical fall, you don’t stay on the ground when you have a spiritual fall. Remove your foot from your mouth, ask God to forgive you, reconcile with anyone you have offended, and get back onto your feet. You might have to call 9-1-1 for help bandaging your wounds. You might even walk with a limp for a while. But don’t give up on your walk with Christ.

The positive aspect of unexpected twigs is that they serve as a reminder of how much we all need God’s mercy. And the next time we see a brother or a sister fall over a small twig, we will not only be able to empathize, but we can humbly smile, offer a hand and say, “Here, let me help you stand again.”

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

Monday, March 21, 2005

PERCEPTION OR DECEPTION?

Perception or Deception?
by Janice Price

Many parents and grandparents write about those “aha!” moments their children and grandchildren give them. I don’t have children or grandchildren so God uses other means to give me “aha!” moments. He often uses my pets.

My puppy Buddy weights over twenty pounds and he is barely three months of age. I’m trying to teach him to calm down before he breaks something or injures himself in his hysteria over having a door between us. One of the methods I use is to occasionally take both dogs in the car with me when I have a quick stop to make.

One day recently the weather was cool and breezy. It was ideal for a training session. I parked well away from other cars in the Wal-Mart parking lot so Buddy wouldn’t disturb other people, rolled the windows down a bit and walked to the bank with Buddy’s pitiful cries following me the first few dozen steps. There was no line, so I was in and out of the bank in a couple of minutes. I walked over to where I could check on the dogs without them knowing I was around, then made another quick stop in a dollar store to pick up some chew bones for the dogs.

I walked back to check on the dogs again. Buddy was asleep on my cushion behind the steering wheel. Merci was curled up on the back seat. The moment he realized I was near, Buddy started crying and beating on a window. I opened a door to toss them each a treat and headed for a quick stop at Wal-Mart.

An older woman approached, visibly upset, and said, “I saw you looking at those dogs in that car too. I’m very concerned about them. They’ve been left alone in that car for a looooong time and the owner hasn’t come back for them.”

This woman obviously has a kind heart, but her perception of this particular circumstance was wrong. Buddy’s loud cries were not, Help me, I’m dying in here, but, I’m spoiled and I demand you either take me with you or you get right back in the car this instant! Once he realized he wasn’t going to get his own way, he climbed into the front seat and went to sleep.

Things are not always as we perceive them to be. Sometimes we are gullible and are deceived by others, either intentionally or indirectly, but often we deceive ourselves. Our concept of time can be off because we allow an emotional response to cloud our thinking, as in “They’ve been left alone in that car for a looooong time,” or, “I’ve been waiting a looooong time for God to help me with this problem.” (Hey, Jan, you just asked him this morning.)

Sometimes we perceive things to be a certain way because we don’t want to have to change our way of thinking or our way of living, but God calls us to change and to obedience. We can’t live with one foot over the fence in the world and the other foot dangling in God’s kingdom. If we don’t make a decision on our own about which side of the fence has the most attractive grass, we’re going to fall off the fence entirely. Since the Spiritual side of the fence requires a decision and a commitment, guess which side of the fence we would then land? It won’t be an accident. It will be because we have made our choice, but we can be adept at deceiving ourselves that we are living in the Spirit even after we’ve fallen off the fence.

Do we perceive God as angry or loving? We can be deceived in this also. Our perception of God can be shaped by our own experiences in life and by our own church’s teachings. I had a hard time understanding the concept of God’s love, after years in a church that taught legalism and perfect obedience to the church’s doctrinal errors.

We can perceive others as angry when they are in pain, or as wonderful Christians while they are abusing God’s laws, perhaps even abusing their mates and children.

The point is that what we see or hear is not always factual or the complete picture. We should give others the benefit of the doubt more often and stop automatically repeating everything we hear because even the truth can become distorted in the retelling.

And we should ask God for the ability to perceive Spiritual truth. Without it, we truly are deceived.

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

Sunday, March 13, 2005

IF IT LOOKS LIKE A DOG

If it Looks Like a Dog
by Janice Price

If it looks like a dog, quacks like a dog and flies like a dog, it must be a dog. Isn’t that correct?

Anyone who believes this probably doesn’t see the need for spam filtering software for an email program.

Spammers are becoming more proficient at finding sneaky ways to reach us. As a rule, we are pretty gullible, not necessarily because we’re dumb but because we often want to believe the best of others. We don’t want to live in a world of paranoia, where we look for wolves in sheep’s clothing behind every pebble.

But if something that looks like a dog, quacks like a dog and flies like a dog arrives in my spam filtering program prior to downloading into my email box, I’m suspicious. It’s usually spam in disguise.

Sin is also becoming more proficient at finding sneaky ways to reach us. We now have a flying, quacking dog impersonator named Political Correctness creating havoc in society today. To be politically correct we must alter our language to redress real or alleged injustices and discrimination and to avoid offense; however, soft-pedaling it by changing what we call it doesn’t alter the facts. Let’s call things as they are - spam is spam and sin is sin.

We all know the story of John the Baptist. He was the epitome of political correctness. He told King Herod, “It’s okay to have your brother’s wife,” and John lived to a ripe old age.

And we all know how Jesus lauded the Pharisees for their piety and the perfect example they set for those under their authority.

No, I’m not delusional. I’m just checking to see whether you are paying attention.

The Old Testament prophets and the New Testament Apostles spoke the truth as God inspired them. John the Baptist was beheaded because he refused to be politically correct. I don’t think Jesus was worried about avoiding offense when he addressed the Pharisees. He called things what they were and since the Pharisees were hypocritical, he called them hypocrites.

Today Jesus would probably be condemned as a discriminating, fanatical, finger-pointing, offensive name-caller who doesn’t understand that it is offensive to hypocrites to not be called alternative religionists or whatever name they have designated for themselves. Because today we are much more enlightened than in Jesus’ day and we know there is no such thing as sin, everything we do is acceptable and whatever is right in our own eyes should be accepted as right in everyone else’s. It should be no wonder our children are confused about right and wrong, morals and ethics, with illogical teachings such as this.

Some say there is no such thing as sin and everyone will be in God’s kingdom or only a particular group will be or - There are many views, but the one that counts is God’s. God says there is such a thing as sin and unrepentant sinners will not be in the kingdom. He even names particular sins. The question is, do we believe him or do we want to fit in with society and be politically correct?

What we have here looks like a dog, quacks like a dog and flies like a dog. Society says it is a dog, so it must be a dog. Isn’t that correct?

No, it isn’t correct. If God calls something a sin, it’s a sin. That might not be politically correct, but it’s God’s truth.

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

Monday, March 07, 2005

THE PERSEVERING DUST MOP

The Persevering Dustmop
by Janice Price

As I talked on the telephone to a friend in Arizona, Merci suddenly trotted past, legs pumping in reverse, dusting the living room floor with Cameron. Around the television set and through the bedroom door she sped. She nearly made it to her den before I could find my voice.

“Merci!”

Immediately, she released Cameron’s neck. It was all I could do not to laugh. Merci surrounds her bed with her favorite toys, and since they were roughhousing, she was merely moving her newest toy into her den.

Merci is a short dog and when I began writing this story, Cameron was a three-month-old kitten. When Merci picked him up by the nape of his neck to carry him, Cameron became an unwitting dust mop. Cameron didn’t appear to mind, but I did. He’s not the type of toy I am constantly telling Merci she should keep out from under my feet. Nor is he the type of toy I bring home from the dollar store. This toy moved in on his own, perhaps invited by Merci.

Cameron was one of five kittens born to the neighbor’s cat. For weeks, I couldn’t walk Merci near the neighbor’s house without the dog begging to visit the mother and kittens on the front porch. She was disappointed each time a kitten disappeared to a new home. Cameron was to remain as a companion to his mother, but she began to wander and Cameron was alone much of the time.

He started sleeping in a flowerpot on my porch and following Merci on our morning walks. One day he begged to come inside. Merci was so excited she jumped up and down, practically stomping Cameron under her feet. My cats’ hissing and growling spoke clearly that Cameron wasn’t welcome. He left with alacrity when I opened the door.

Still, one day he walked in with his friend Merci, climbed onto the dryer and lay down in front of the food and water bowls, where the other cats had to climb over him to eat and drink. That certainly raised the noise level around here, but he stuck it out, until one by one over the course of several weeks the other cats accepted his presence.

I carried him home several times. He returned, staring through the screen door with such sad eyes, I would relent and open the door to let him back inside. When his mother came into the yard, I thought he might return home with her. They chased each other around a bush a few times before Cameron ran to the back door. Then he returned to his mother, rubbed his nose against her nose in farewell, and raced up the steps after me. A few days later, I spoke to my neighbor and Cameron officially became Merci’s companion, playmate and dust mop.

I like Cameron’s spirit. Kittens might not be able to reason as humans do, but animals are not dumb. With winter approaching, Cameron determined to move indoors and he didn’t let anything stop him from reaching that goal, not even persecution from the cats already in residence.

I found this half-written story this evening, at a time I really need to be reminded of the value of persevering, even when a goal appears to be so far out of reach as to be unattainable. It brings to mind the story of the persistent widow in Luke 18:1-5. God’s heart is more tender toward his children than mine was toward Cameron.

Merci is still dusting the floors with her kitten friend Cameron, and I’m inspired by Cameron’s persistence to hang on to my own goal. After all these years, God must be tired of hearing me ask the same question. One of these days he will answer and I don’t want to miss his solution because I grew discouraged and stopped trying.

Cameron, the persevering dust mop, didn’t quit and he’s curled up next to the keyboard helping me type this. He’s young and he can’t spell, but his perseverance encourages me. I hope it will encourage you.

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