Thursday, June 30, 2005

WHERE DID THE WATER GO

Where Did the Water Go
By Janice Price

If God can use my pets to teach me spiritual lessons, I shouldn’t be surprised at anything else he uses to help keep my focus on him. But I was surprised this morning to realize there is a spiritual lesson in the malfunctioning toilet tank.

The water has been turning itself on and off for a while now. It’s annoying, but who has time to spend on things that aren’t actually broken. Early the other morning I decided to take a quick look inside the tank. Big mistake. I barely touched the floating ball before it actually was floating and water was pouring out onto the bathroom floor.

I have heard you can fix or at least do a temporary emergency repair on just about anything using duct tape. This is not true and floating balls have been added to my list of duct tape failures.

I turned off the water and tried to contact my landlord, or my brother, or anyone with two hands and a pair of galoshes. I reached someone who said she could fix it later in the day. She replaced all the innards except the flapper ball and tested it.

Later I heard water running again, so yesterday morning I left another message on my brother’s answering machine. He suggested the flapper might need replacing or merely a cleaning since gritty dirt had recently gotten into my tap water and also into the toilet tank. I cleaned the dirt out of the tank. It still turned on and off at intervals.

Early this morning I lifted the tank lid to check the water level and stared in disbelief. The tank was empty. Where did the water go?

A neighbor tells me the flapper ball isn’t set right or needs replacing and I’m fortunate the new part isn’t working right or I would have to hock my landlord’s house to pay the next water bill. (If you’re interested in how a toilet works, there’s a toilet flushing demonstration at http://home.howstuffworks.com/toilet1.htm )

As I was reading the Bible this morning, I realized the where-did-the-water-go feeling was familiar. It’s the same stomach-dropping sensation as where-did-the Spirit-go? I’m sure most of you are familiar with it. You read the Bible, meditate on it, pray, rise for the day all enthused and feeling ready to take on the world, but before you can leave the house, you’re kicking the dog (not literally!) or scaring the children.

For example, Tuesday I rose at 5 a.m., took out the dogs, and spent time with God in prayer and study. Refreshed, I proceeded to finish my routine so I could be somewhere at 8:30. Then the toilet broke and my routine flew out the window, shattering the glass. I was in a tizzy, trying to find someone to help me later in the day, getting washed and dressed, feeding the animals and accomplishing a host of little things that eat into the morning, and trying to be almost on time for my appointment.

Every way I turned, I was tripping over an animal, most often one named Buddy. First, they heard, “Get out of my way.” Soon it was, "Get out of my way," in a louder, more forceful tone. And in no time at all, it was a screeching, "GET OUT OF MY WAAAAAY!" Where did the calm, refreshed, spiritual-minded Jan go?

Jesus referred to the Holy Spirit as "rivers of living water." So why would it seem as if the water suddenly stops flowing, even temporarily, and drains away, much like the water in the tank is doing at this very moment. The Spirit doesn’t enter through a hole in our heads and drain through a hole in our feet when we’re bad or when we don’t feel his presence.

We are to walk by faith, not by feelings, but we keep a variety of stoppers on hand that impede the flow of living water: anxiety, panic, fear, anger, resentment, bitterness, impatience, to name a few. Yes, I was a little anxious and impatient the other day but, irregardless, the Spirit didn’t drain away. It only seemed that way for a moment.

It’s a challenge to walk through a day without popping a stopper to impede the flow of the Spirit. I have never actually met anyone who has pretended to be successful at it. We’re more likely to get off our knees, fresh from prayer, infused with enthusiasm and determination, stub a toe and scream something stupid.

My neighbor Charles has been here to check the problem with the tank. He told me what part I need to buy, and how to remove the old and install the new flapper. If I have any problems, he’ll come back to help – or at least to supervise.

Soon, I hope, the toilet is going to be fixed and the tank will hold water again. It’s a modern convenience I take for granted, until it isn’t working properly.

The Holy Spirit shows us what problems in our nature need to be corrected or eliminated. Change is a process, a lifetime journey. If we have any problems – and we will – the Holy Spirit is with us to help, guide and supervise. We should never take the Holy Spirit for granted. And when we do pop a stopper in to impede the Spirit’s flow, he will make us aware of our error, but we need to be sensitive to his leading.

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

Thursday, June 23, 2005

SMILE, IT'S AN OOPS DAY

Smile, It's An Oops Day
by Janice Price

I have heard horror stories about cell phone bills, but yesterday I received the phone bill from hell and I don’t even have a cell phone. Generally, I can add basic service to the long distance calls I keep track of, plus whatever other charges they hide in the tiny print every month, and have a general estimate of my phone bill.

Last month I switched from Internet Dial-up to DSL. Since I have telephone service, long distance and Internet service with the same company, I can get a year of DSL at the same rate as what I have been paying for Dial-up. The deal was just too good to be true.

“The only extra charge you will have on your next phone bill is $10 for shipping the modem,” the representative assured me.

My hands were shaking as I dialed Customer Service yesterday. I’ll give you the abbreviated version. The call actually lasted over an hour.

“The phone bill is correct,” Deanna told me, after rattling off a number of reasons why I was out of order to question it.

“The phone bill is not correct,” I insisted, first to her and then to her supervisor Melissa. “I don’t know where you are getting your figures, but there is no way my phone service, DSL, modem shipping charge, and long distance calls can more than double my regular phone bill.”

“But you’re not being billed the full amount. You have credits.”

“But credits are supposed to lower your bill, not increase it.”

Melissa started over again. “There’s the $35 charge for your dial tone -”

I interrupted her. “You’re charging me for a dial tone now?” She was referring to the basic telephone service part of the bill, but this was the general tone of the conversation. Although we were discussing the same bill, her computer screen obviously didn’t match my statement and neither of us understood where the other was finding her figures. And I was searching the statement with a magnifying glass.

“Actually, I’m not looking at a screen,” Melissa admitted. She was distracted by the confusing conversation and locked herself out of her computer. She was “winging” it.

Once she was able to access a copy of my actual bill, she began to go through it line by line. May I never see a bill so confusing again! I would never have followed that bill on my own. In my mind, it was simple: add basic rate to DSL, long distance, $10 shipping and other charges, factor in pro-rated DSL for the prior billing cycle, and arrive at $x. Then deduct the $30 credit for a referral.

But we started on page 3, halfway down the page. On page 4, we got to the really fun part. If you add this line on page 4 to that line on page 3, you come up with $a. Then you add the next two lines to get $b, and go back to page 3 to pick up where they are listed in a totally unrelated column and then go down to the next section to deduct $c and $d to get $e.

“Where did that come from? I was told DSL would cost $f and the regular price is $g”

“But if you didn’t have our phone service, you would have to pay $h. They bill you for $h, then subtract $30 from $h to arrive at $f. Then if you go down to the next section, you have the $30 referral credit.”

“But it isn’t included in the credit total,” I protested.

“That’s because the representative who wrote your DSL order forgot to cancel your Internet service and you have been charged for one month and 21 days of DSL plus Dial-up. It’s a good thing you called us because you’re being overbilled.”

Once we passed this point, Melissa and I laughed at the absurdity of the situation. She corrected the bill.

This conversation is a good example of why God gave us a sense of humor. I sure needed one yesterday. A couple of hours later I was sending an email message to make an apology of my own, grateful I had not lost my temper over someone else’s mistake.

“This is one of those embarrassing moments of life. After the meeting the other night I rushed to download the pictures from the digital camera, write a quick couple of lines and send the local paper a community announcement. Might I add it was a long day and after 11 p.m. before I finished? (Just in case that makes any difference.) Anyway, I picked out a photo, then decided I should use one with the group’s president in it. I used a quote from her, designating her as the one on the left. Today I opened the paper and my first thought was, where did Iris go? You guessed it! I emailed the wrong photo, the first photo I had picked - without Iris!

Fortunately, Iris has a sense of humor. She is just happy the group got some publicity. I have already apologized to her because I know folks are going to be calling her to ask why she looks so much like her husband from the back. And, Renate, I apologize to you and Debbie because I know readers are going to think the mistake is the newspaper’s.”

Life gives us many opportunities to be on both ends of the apology. Can you accept an apology, in some cases seeing the humor of the situation? Can you proffer an apology when necessary?

If you’re having an oops day, smile. There is probably humor in it somewhere. I admit I haven’t always been able to find humor in such situations, but God is working with me. Things that used to anger me now sometimes tickle my funny bone. And unless you’ve had yours surgically removed, you have one too. Let life tickle it more often. It’s good for your health and also for your spirit.

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

Thursday, June 16, 2005

ASHLEY AND THE RUNAWAY BRIDE

Ashley and the Runaway Bride
by Janice Price

According to this morning’s newspaper headline, the woman dubbed the "runaway bride" by an overzealous news media has signed with a multimedia company to peddle her "compelling" life story as a movie. NBC’s Katie Couric has already interviewed the "bride" for national television. TV movie rights are being pitched for $500,000. A book deal will undoubtedly be announced shortly. This woman has found fame and soon she will have wealth, but neither will bring her peace of mind or happiness.

This woman abandoned her intended husband on the eve of their wedding. She caused her family untold anguish, cost taxpayers many thousands of dollars in search costs, and admitted to committing a crime by lying to law enforcement about being abducted and taken out of state against her will. She has pleaded no contest to the charge and repaid one county a token of what it spent searching for her. The other counties – and local merchants who lost sales revenue during the media stampede - are having to eat their losses.

Her story is lengthy and includes two good-sized photographs.

On page F1 is a tiny photo and a shorter article on Ashley Smith’s soon to be published story, Unlikely Angel: The Untold Story of the Atlanta Hostage Hero.

Ashley endured several hours as a hostage of a man on trial for violent rape. This man allegedly escaped the courthouse leaving one guard in serious condition, his trial judge and court reporter dead, one deputy dead in the street, two owners of hijacked vehicles injured, and a federal agent dead in a home he was building. She knew who the suspect was. His picture and story ran all day on the television.

How did she survive to tell her story? Although she was frightened, she remained calm and read portions of Rick Warren’s The Purpose-Driven Life to the suspect. She gained his trust by sharing her life, including the loss of her husband and her love for her child, and her faith with him.

Ashley is uncomfortable to be in the limelight because of circumstances that ended in tragedy for others. She says the reason she is telling her story is because she believes God is leading her to share her Christian faith to inspire others to turn their lives around.

Two different stories, with two similar fame and fortune outcomes, but which gets the best press coverage? The one which involves an acknowledged crime and includes a celebrity television interviewer in the publicity photographs.

But as for Ashley, the hostage who helped police capture a suspect without further violence or loss of life, she intends to donate a portion of her profits to a memorial fund she is establishing for the shooting victims. Out of the ashes of tragedy she is finding Godly purpose and direction for her life.

One is the type of story society considers newsworthy and the other is a news story of faith in action.

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

Thursday, June 09, 2005

COINCIDENCE, LUCK OR GOD’S GUIDANCE

Coincidence, Luck or God's Guidance
by Janice Price

Some people believe there is no such thing as coincidence. Some believe everything is through good or bad luck. And others of us believe that when we trust God, his hand is leading and guiding us, introducing us to others of his children and knitting our lives together as a family unit.

I believe God is serious in his purpose and goals for us, but I also believe he weaves the church together with two very important ingredients - love and humor. We need both to keep from maiming each other while we’re jockeying for the pew in the very front of the church when the VIP evangelist is preaching or the last pew in the rear of the church when the regular minister speaks.

Another tie that binds - or divides - is music. During church services, some like the old hymns, while others prefer contemporary music. One likes organ music, another piano accompaniment, and others want the guitar and keyboard. Human beings, even Christians, are a varied group with different tastes. Even apart from the church, we have diverse interests in music. I love Southern Gospel. Not everyone would agree with me, including those Christians who don’t like Christian music at all.

But a number of us are enjoying the sweet Christian music (alas, not Southern Gospel) of a perky woman named Luanne Hunt. She appears to be multi-talented, writing, singing and recording her own songs to share the joy of her faith through music. Her music ministry is growing, as is her speaking ministry. She’s also a freelance writer.

On her web site http://www.luannehunt.com visitors can listen to samples of her CDs, sign up for Coffee and Donuts, her free monthly newsletter, or listen to her Christian independent radio broadcast, loveUradio. Stop by and “set a spell.”

What does Luanne have to do with coincidence, luck or God’s sense of humor as mentioned at the beginning of this story? I’m glad you asked.

I could probably write something on almost anyone. You might not recognize yourself, but I could write about you. I can write stories on lessons God is teaching me. I can even write journal entries for my pets. (Humor me here.) But I can’t write my own bio to save my life, not even a short one.

A few months ago I desperately needed a bio to join Crossmap.com as a columnist, but my mind was on vacation with my unwritten bio again. Then, somehow, I cruised across http://hillcountrythoughts.blogspot.com/ and read the from-the-heart writings of Paul Dawn. I wrote a short piece and emailed this stranger to ask permission to post my story on my site. He was so surprised this strange woman would write about him that he read the story to a friend over the telephone. His friend’s name was Luanne Hunt.

Luanne and I met through what can only be called coincidence, luck or God’s guidance. I believe it was by God’s design. I love his sense of humor!

Luanne turned out to be an accomplished bio writer. Who would have guessed? She graciously volunteered to write my bio for Crossmap.com. A shorter version is posted on my Mercy And Percy site. I still marvel at the timing of God answering a need in the roundabout way he did.

Luanne is excited because her local newspaper has written a story on her. She writes, “I was thrilled about the way it was written because Jesus was truly glorified!” http://www.hesperiastar.com/story.php?id=P955_0_1_0_C is the link, if you would like to read the story.

I emailed Luanne a question after reading the article and learned we were raised in the same corner of Pennsylvania. Even more surprising, if we were the same age, (I’m not going to tell you who is the older, but I will tell you my hair only appears to be gray.) we would have attended junior high school together.

What a small world when God is involved. We really can trust God to work things out for his purpose. As humans our vision is limited and we have to learn to walk against our nature - by faith rather than by sight. As we learn to trust him, surprising things will happen. We’ll meet people unexpectedly and providentially that we would never have opportunity to meet on our own. We’ll see our needs and others’ needs met in unforeseen ways. Walking with God is an adventure. Today you might weep tears of sorrow, but tomorrow might be a day of experiencing God’s joy.

It’s a pleasure to know Luanne, and I know she would be pleased if I write here that I’m even more excited to be growing in a relationship with God. Luanne, thanks for the bio and the music. And, God, thanks for the sense of humor. I hope my humor reflects you well.

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