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/