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