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

Thursday, July 14, 2005

INDEPENDENT AND SELF-SUFFICIENT

Independent and Self-Sufficient
By Janice Price

“I’m coming back to work,” Curt said, grinning from ear to ear, as I came through the office door.

I was taken aback for a moment and then realized he was joking. Never again would he trot up the stairs, climb on the roof or rev up his motorcycle engine before he burned rubber out of the parking lot.

Curt was adept at taking things apart and fixing them. He enjoyed his job as maintenance man at an apartment complex. The tenants enjoyed his good humor. (One time he filled a tenant’s apartment with helium balloons while she was at work.)

Young women considered the lanky man good-looking. He had time for dating and for late night partying with his friends, but he put off allowing God into his life. After all, he was young, independent and self-sufficient. He shied away from people who mentioned Jesus or worshipped and prayed to a Creator.

Life was good.

Until the night he drank too much alcohol, climbed on his motorcycle and sped away with his mother sitting on the seat behind him. The motorcycle left the road at a high rate of speed and slammed into a tree. His mother suffered major injuries but she would live. Curt was not expected to survive.

It was touch and go for a while but Curt did survive. The word “miracle” was used. The only one who was unhappy about the news was Curt. When he was conscious and able to comprehend the extent of his injuries, he pulled out the needle to his IV line and disconnected everything within reach. His life, he believed at that moment, was over.

It was a long and painful recovery. His mother renovated her trailer to accommodate his new lifestyle. He was now a paraplegic, no longer totally independent and self-sufficient. He would never walk again.

The day he took his first solo bus ride, he maneuvered his wheelchair through the apartment complex and into the office for a leisurely visit. He had retained his wonderful sense of humor, but he had changed. He believed he survived for a purpose and he now had time for God in his life.

I never saw Curt again so I don’t know the end of his story, but God is able to change hearts and lives so I have always had hope that Curt learned to walk in the spirit when his physical legs could no longer hold him upright.

He (God) gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Isaiah 40:29 (NIV)

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

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

INDEPENDENCE DAY

Independence Day
By Janice Price

July 4th is the day we generally celebrate America’s independence, but this year I have reflected more on spiritual than physical independence. Mainly because my brother presented me with a DVD drive and I was finally able to view the video “Called to be Free.”

This video, produced by Living Hope Ministries ( www.lhvm.org ), is about a dramatic theology shift in the Worldwide Church of God (www.wcg.org ) and how the changes affected the church structure and membership. Joseph Tkach, Ron Kelly, Mike Feazell, Dan Rogers, and other ministers and members of the Worldwide Church of God reminisced in interviews. They talked of their individual experiences and how each of them came to see the teachings of Herbert W. Armstrong were off the Christian track and the WCG was not the church –the one and only true church of God - but a cult.

Admitting decades of doctrinal errors cost the church dearly in membership and financial stability. Discussions were heated, friends and families divided over doctrine, and some ministers left with large portions of their congregations following them into one of several breakaway churches.

Some members embraced the new theology, but others adamantly refused to acknowledge that Herbert W. Armstrong could be wrong, even to the smallest degree. Some remained with the WCG but held fast to the core belief of the Saturday Sabbath and the Holy Days. Some decided the changes meant it no longer mattered what church one attended, so why continue to drive twenty or thirty miles each way to services? Some adopted one doctrinal belief system, others another. It was a confusing time when everyone’s faith was tested.

Members who remained with the WCG began to understand they had been living under the Old Covenant instead of under the New. Although he was once preached as the messenger spreading the Good News (Gospel) of the coming Kingdom of God, it was now understood Christ Jesus is the Gospel. The Holy Spirit, previously considered “it” - the power of God – suddenly became “he.”

Despite the initial joy of finally coming to know the true Jesus, there was a lot of anger at the church for having taught and strictly enforced legalism. For many there was an inward anger. How could I have believed this? Denied my children a normal childhood over this? Lost my marriage and my family over this? Lost my career over keeping the Holy Days? Lived in poverty, carrying the burden of two tithes and a third tithe every three years, to support the high living lifestyle of Herbert W. Armstrong and those in authority at headquarters in Pasadena?

This was not the usual church split over a point of doctrine. This was more like the combined United States Armed Forces marching off to war together - basically in step and in one direction – until about half of them suddenly execute an about face and try to march in an opposing direction, while still intermingled with the troops marching to war in the original direction.

All of this was not gleaned from the video. The video just brought memories of that time flooding to the surface. Some were bad memories; I witnessed some of the ugly side of the transition. But I also witnessed the miracle. It’s always a miracle when God opens anyone’s eyes to see Spiritual truth.

In 2 Corinthians3:15-16, Paul writes: But even to this day, when Moses is read, a veil lies on their heart. Nevertheless when one turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.

For some reason, God was preparing me. I was reading outside literature and learning things I knew were not sanctioned by the Worldwide Church of God. Others were also, but many were caught unprepared for such a major doctrinal shift. Still, the same Spirit that lifted the veil from my heart, lifted it from the hearts of the other WCG members who were willing to accept a course correction.

I’ve had several memorable Independence Days in my life, none of which had anything to do with the fourth of July. But coming out of spiritual darkness into God’s light was the greatest Independence Day of my life.

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