Tuesday, December 26, 2006

THE WAGGING TAIL

The phone rang on Christmas day and a friend asked, “We’re leaving to deliver some dinner plates. Is it all right to drop off one for you? We’ll be by in about thirty minutes.”

I decided to close my three dogs in the bedroom where they were sleeping on their blankets, so I could answer the door in peace. Just as I decided this, I received another telephone call. But, by holding the cordless phone in my left hand and moving slowly to protect my painful left arm, I was able to move the damp laundry hanging on the doors elsewhere. It was slow and tedious.

This house was built in the 1920s and the bedroom door into the kitchen doesn’t stay closed. I retrieved a ten-pound weight to block the door from inside the bedroom. Then I quietly backed out the door into the living room and closed it behind me.

Feeling pretty pleased with the success of my plan, I turned around and discovered Merci and her wagging tail were on the wrong side of the door. I forgot Merci likes to nap on a throw in the living room and I neglected to count heads. I just assumed Merci was among the sleeping dogs.

I have had the same experience with sin in my life. I abhor something I know God calls sin – it could be any sin, such as anger. I slowly and painstakingly work at overcoming it and moving it out of my life. I think I have finally made a little progress, turn around, and there it is staring me in the face, tail wagging, tongue hanging out and eager to see what mischief it can get into. Does this sound familiar in your life too?

This is the time of year when folks make a list of New Year’s resolutions. One will decide to lose weight, another to exercise regularly, one to quit procrastinating, another to give more and be less selfish, one to stop lying or stealing or drinking or being unfaithful – . Everyone has something that needs to be addressed whether or not it is on a formal list of resolutions.

Anyone who has ever made a list of New Year’s resolutions knows how hard they are to keep. You are convicted of the need to change yourself or your circumstances, but the reality is that just because you have decided to painstakingly make a list of changes, launching and sustaining the changes takes work, commitment and perseverance. In might also take some sacrifice. .

There is nothing magical about the year changing from 2006 to 2007. As you step from one year into the next one, don’t be surprised when you turn around and find your propensity for sin is on the same side of the year you are, with tail wagging, tongue hanging out, and eager to see what mischief it can get into.

But don’t despair. For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Heb 4:15

Sin can appear so cute and enticing at times, an innocent act or word that sneaks up and catches you with your guard down. Always wear your armor and stay close to Christ, in the Word.

So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation. Heb 9:28

Have a blessed 2007.

www.mercyandpercy.com/

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

RIGHTEOUS GOSSIP

Many years ago I attended the same church as an engaging young wife and mother. She was friendly, hospitable and outgoing, but I quickly learned when rumors were moving through the congregation, she was frequently the one supplying the AA batteries to keep them going.

One day she telephoned to see what news she could pick up to pass around, and I told her, “Gossip (not her real name, of course), you are going to hear this sooner or later, so you might as well hear it from me so you have the facts straight.”

Less than ten minutes later, another woman from church called. “Oh, Jan, I’m so sorry. You must be devastated. Are you okay?”

I was baffled. “I’m sorry. What are you talking about?”

“Gossip called. She told me all about what happened and asked me to pray for you. Is there anything I can do to help?”

Aha! I told Gossip something true and too tempting to keep to herself, knowing she would repeat what I told her, but I was stunned at how quickly she was spreading it around – and as a prayer request, no less.

“What did Gossip tell you? I asked innocently.

I was speechless at the story given to her. It was somewhat like the parlor game where one person whispers something to the next person, who then whispers it to the next person, and the last person in the group repeats it out loud to everyone, only it does not sound much like the original statement. Gossip just skipped the person to person jumble and scrambled it herself. I wish I could state she learned something from getting caught red-handed, but unfortunately Gossip continued spreading rumors, even after she eventually wandered away from the church. How many others heard this same “prayer request” and took it to heart?

I have noticed over the years that gossip frequently is presented in the same guise, as if calling it a prayer request makes it all right to break a confidence or to reveal details of another’s life without permission. There is no such virtue as “righteous gossip” in the Bible. Instead, gossip – allowing your tongue to take control of your mind and permitting it to run unbridled with someone else’s confidence – is revealed as sin.

James 1:26 is enlightening. If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one’s religion is useless. (NKJV)

Gossip is not “victimless” and learning to control the tongue is not an overnight victory. It is a lifetime battle. I have lost many a skirmish, as I know you have. (Remember, lying is also a sin.) It is imperative you and I struggle onward against it.

Paul writes to the Corinthian church, For I am afraid that when I come I may not find you as I want you to be, and you may not find me as you want me to be. I fear that there might be quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, factions, slander, gossip, arrogance and disorder. (2 Corinthians 12:20 NIV)

For those who make New Year’s resolutions, perhaps this will be the year you add gossip to your list of established habits you desire to break.

www.mercyandpercy.com/

Monday, December 11, 2006

OUT OF THE FREEZER

The freezer door was not supposed to be open. Neither were Percy’s rear end and tail supposed to be sticking out of the open door.

Percy has the natural curiosity of a two-year-old cat and the shelves beside the refrigerator are just the right height for him to explore this new territory. I now understand why the freezer door has mysteriously been opening itself recently. It never occurred to me to check the freezer for a snoopy cat before I shut the door. I do not want Percy to lose his life because he can not resist the temptation to see what is on the other side of the door, so I will again have to make some changes in the way the kitchen is arranged.

As far as curiosity goes, people are no different than Percy. Men and women are often unable to resist the temptation to just take a quick peek at something they know is illegal, immoral, dangerous, attractive or different. God forbade Eve and Adam to eat from a specific tree, but Eve could not resist a quick bite when Satan presented the fruit as inviting and safe to eat.

Flirting with someone other than your mate, gambling, pornography, illicit sex, lying, cheating, stealing, drug addiction, alcoholism, pedophilia — The list is endless. And it does not apply only to non-Christians. Many sins begin as just a quick peek out of curiosity or an adventure in covetousness. Surely that can not hurt and who will know? But sin has tentacles. It captures the one who commits it and hurts innocent people – mates, children, employees, but mainly the sinner, because the wages of sin is death. (Romans 6:23)

Under the Old Covenant, the blood of the sacrificed animals symbolized the forgiveness of sins that was yet to come in Christ, but it did not forgive them. God promised a Messiah and in due time Jesus was born.

The glory of the Christ child’s birth surpasses anything written about him in story or song. Men can sing about his birth and even preach about it without true comprehension of what transpired. To many, it is a sentimental story, discussed under the mistletoe or while agonizing over what to buy for whom this year. But to one who has been forgiven of sin because of the Messiah, it is a spiritual experience of the heart. Words can not adequately describe the miracle God wrought in Christ.

If Jesus had not been born, we would have no Savior and we would all be on “death row” for our sins. Celebrate Christ’s birth with joy and worship God with a thankful heart.

And avoid temptation - stay out of the freezer.

www.mercyandpercy.com/

Thursday, December 07, 2006

THE PAST SEVEN DAYS

This was written by a friend, an EMT, who deals with emergencies and death daily. Many thanks to Martha Anne for permission to share some of her thoughts on the subject of Death (the personification of death).

THE PAST SEVEN DAYS

By Martha Anne McCarty

The past seven days……. what a whirlwind of life! Tragedy, unexpected yet suspected news, fate, job occurrences, all weave a tapestry of character and inner strength on which we live out each day and hope for a better tomorrow.

I have stared at Death, in some form or fashion, each day.

Monday held a tragic, yet glorious, end to a young mother’s life. Tragic in the way she died, tragic for the hands at which she died yet glorious because this mother sacrificed her own life to save her young son, just as Jesus did for you and me. Death was so close.

Tuesday, Death peeked around the corner, just to remind me that it was there. The news at the cardiologist was not what we were prepared to hear: The potential of suffering from Sudden Cardiac Arrest; a defibrillator implant, and after all the lifestyle changes that have been made over the last 90 days. One problem revealing the greater problem and it is no better. Not the news we had wanted to hear.

Wednesday — a day of doing for another, just because you can. Though time had been completed for the agreed span, duty called, and I did what anyone else in that position would have done. I stayed on to finish the job, because there was a need. And in fulfilling that need, I again faced Death. Oh, so close. The impact was harsh and jolting. The impact riveted the reality of life being able to change in a split second, not only for me but for many other families.

Thursday was a day of rest and recuperation, a time of reflection. A time to see that Death is always so very close, even though we think of it being so far away.

Friday and Saturday — contact with friends who have or are traveling this same stony path, with Death already touching their lives by taking a loved one, or a developing illness that is shadowed by what we naturally fear.

Sunday, the once every 3 week workday, was no exception. It brought the news of tragedy touching a dear close friend and not knowing whether Death will gather another. A sudden collapse of a total stranger, and, lo, there is Death. A terrible fall changes a young man’s life forever …a fatal crash … a newborn babe. Death swung his sickle through our community with such quick motions, it all seemed a blur.

Yet the music during the early morning ride before dawn reminded me of the answer to it all. I can trust God to sustain me, hold me, comfort me, strengthen me—in any situation, at any time. Death has no hold over Him. For God is my Creator, my Protector, my Savior. Whether I meet Death face to face in the next moment, or pass him by in daily living for the next 40 years, I am sheltered in God’s arms. I am because He is.

And because He is, I go on each day focused on His will, because all is well. And that is something that I should never take for granted.

© 2006 Martha Anne McCarty

Used with permission

www.mercyandpercy.com/

Sunday, December 03, 2006

COLLECTION SHARKS

As I read in the Bible of the death of the patriarchs and others, I can not help but compare the respect once shown to the dead (even the Egyptians mourned Jacob for seventy days) to the gathering of the aggressively hungry collection sharks that circle and threaten the grieving family today.

Only a few days after my mother died, I called a company to ask what to do about a bill received that day but not due for another two weeks. I was transferred to Austin of the “escalation department.” In plain English, and despite the company’s protests, that is just a fancy title for their collection department.

Austin straightaway attacked. A few minutes of wrangling later and I summed up his demand. Let me be sure I understand this. You sent Mother a bill that is not due for two weeks for a service she would not be using for several months, but I must immediately send you my own personal check to cover this bill – or else. And perhaps you might eventually “refund” my money in a check to the dead woman. I don’t think so!

The company’s main office confirmed this is their policy, so I reported this to the proper agency, and the company very quickly changed their tune and their policy.

Someone who has recently lost a loved one is emotionally vulnerable and often not thinking clearly all the time. How could this kind of attack affect a man or woman who just lost a mate, or a parent who just lost a child? Evidently it is an effective method to coerce money out of a family member or it would not have been a policy with this company – and with many others, I imagine.

As Mother aged and lost her mobility and eyesight, her ability to maintain orderly records diminished and disappeared. She was an extremely private person, and did not share any personal details, so she left a mess for me to sort to find what assets she might have. Two and a half months later I do not know much more about her affairs than I did when she died, and her creditors are circling.

She lived simply so it isn’t that she ran up a host of bills, but her last few weeks did generate some medical bills, and then there is the credit card debt. Somehow, as it does with so many, the interest mounted and the bills grew, and even though she paid a chunk of her retirement income each month, the interest continued to grow and the original debt was barely touched. Despite this, even after I notified the bank of her death, she continued to receive checks to spur her to borrow money on her cards and a letter stating her credit is so good her credit limit was raised. Now the bank has turned her debt over to a collection agency and they are coming after me as if it is my debt.

The other day I had a frustrating conversation with a collection agent who pretended to be my best friend. For that one day only she would chop four thousand dollars off the total if I would pay the balance in full. It was the end of the month and they just wanted to settle up and balance their books. Oh, and by the way, she was sorry for my loss.

Ma’am, I have an infected knee and I can’t afford to go to the doctor. But even if I had the money, I would not give it to you. It is not my bill. No, Ma’am, I would not put her debt on my credit card if I had one. I will not assume her debt and take on her interest payments. It is not my debt. I don’t care if you say some people like to do that because the debt is paid and they will get paid back. Paid back by whom? If there are assets, probate can take a year or more. No, Ma’am, I do not know whether there will be probate. I’m still going through her papers.

We went through the same conversation three, four, possibly even five times before she put me on hold for about three seconds. A man joined the conversation. “I am J., a supervisor here. I have been reviewing your case,” he lied. “Now, why,” he demanded in an authoritative, almost commanding voice, “don’t you just put this on your credit card?” I lost it then and bellowed right into his ear, Are you CRAZY? He threatened to search the probate files and rudely hung up on me.

These people are specially trained to harass, confuse and intimidate people into making foolish statements or decisions just to get rid of them. There is nothing wrong with collecting a debt. It is their tactics that are abhorrent. They remind me of Satan’s tactics. He is the father of lies. Hammering at emotionally, physically or spiritually vulnerable people is his specialty. He has no equal in deceit and cunning practices. If he can drive you to responding in anger, it puffs his pride.

We stand up to and overcome his assaults with the armor of God. (Ephesians 6)

Unfortunately, some time ago I downloaded some sermons (with permission) but neglected to note the website or the speaker. I came across them recently, and since my stress level has been heading through the roof, I listened to one yesterday in hopes it would encourage me. I would love to name the person giving the sermon, but I have no idea who he is. I hope he will forgive me for quoting him without giving him credit.

Early in the sermon, he talks about an antidepressant for dogs – for excessive barking, destructive behavior, etc. Then he says the dogs probably need them because their owners are so stressed. (Dogs do pick up on our stress - note my dogs!) He cites Romans 8:28 and says, “Accepting God's sovereignty assures our sanity.”

I needed that reminder to trust God implicitly, even when collection sharks are circling in the water and there is no land in sight. Perhaps you are in a situation where you need that reminder too.

www.mercyandpercy.com/

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

UP FROM THE VALLEY

There is a saying that you can not truly enjoy a mountaintop high unless you have first walked through the valley. It is easier to sit calmly, nod your head in agreement and chirp happily when you are sitting on top of the mountain, or even if you are somewhat close to it. But when you are slogging through the depths of a valley, it is far more likely you will be tempted to pace anxiously, toss sleeplessly and sing the blues.

Everyone has to walk through a variety of valleys in life. Some are so deep and the surrounding mountains tower so high a person can neither see a mountaintop nor imagine one exists.

Jane Eggleston wrote a beautiful poem, “It’s in the Valley I Grow.” http://www.llerrah.com/dreams.htm is only one of many Internet websites where it is posted.

If you do not believe this, recall the trials of Job. God said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil?” (Job 1:8 NKJV) Yet he allowed Satan to take away everything Job possessed – children, herds, flocks, servants –and to torment Job physically, though Satan could not take Job’s life. Job was reduced to sitting in an ash heap, covered with boils. His three friends were no more comforting or encouraging than his wife, who told him to put himself out of his misery – “curse God and die.” Everything in Job’s life looked dire.

Still, in the end, Job was able to see the LORD through eyes filled with awe. I have heard of you by the hearing of the ear. But now my eye sees you. Therefore I abhor myself and repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 42:5, 6) Job came through the trials with a humbler attitude and a deeper discernment of the LORD God. He slogged through a tough valley before sitting on the mountaintop.

My mother’s sudden illness and death dropped a heavy burden on my shoulders and affected every aspect of my life. I am struggling with illness and infection, deficient financial resources, and the void in my life and plans – to name just a few mountains I have been facing in my own deep valley recently.

I do not sleep through the night at the best of times, and since my mother’s rapid downhill spiral, I spend a good portion of the night awake. Sometimes I am able to concentrate on God and think thankful, praising thoughts. Other times worry wins the battle of my thoughts.

The last couple of days have been rife with discouraging news. It is a battle to not be dragged down and crumple in the mire of the valley I am walking through. So I thought I would write this to encourage others who are plodding through their own valley today.

Paul tells us in Ephesians 6:16, “Above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one.” A shield is not any good to a soldier unless he uses it.

Neither can we walk by faith instead of sight (2 Corinthians 5:7) when our thoughts become rooted in the valley of fear.

Reflect instead on God’s faithfulness and providence to help you traverse the valley of hope to reach the mountaintop.

I will lift up my eyes to the hills — from whence comes my help? My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth. Psalm 121:1, 2

Yes, when you are low in the pit and the surrounding mountains hem you in, look up from the valley.

www.mercyandpercy.com/

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

THE HORSE RESCUE

It happened in the Netherlands, but it was one of those stories that gripped the hearts of animal lovers and went international. On October 31, more than 100 horses were trapped on a small patch of land by rising seawater that flooded a pasture beyond the dikes. Within three days, there were eighteen deaths by drowning and one from exposure.

Firemen ferried about 20 horses, including the smallest foals, to dry land in small boats and the Dutch Army arrived to help, but as the water level fell, their pontoon boats were grounded. Helicopters could not be used. The noise might frighten the horses and cause more to drown. Rescuers carried water, hay and blankets to the cold, wet horses.

Three days later the water level had dropped to where the horses could reach land on their on, but it was feared some could become snagged on submerged barbed wire. Animal welfare officers and firemen staked out a safe route through the brackish water. Six guide horses with riders rode out to join the herd. Firemen in a chain of small boats waited along the route. Then four women on horseback from the local Calvary Club rode out to lead the herd home.

Watching the video of this rescue brings goose bumps or tears, depending on the viewer’s response. But it is impressive to watch the horses enter the water and begin the 650 yard walk to dry land. In places, they were neck-deep, in some areas they had to swim. When they entered shallower water, they pranced. As they emerged from the water, they broke into a gallop.

There is something gripping about a rescue. People sit glued to the television set to watch the rescue of a child from a well, a man from atop a crane on a burning high rise, or passengers from a plane that crashed into the ocean. Passers-by stop to watch a puppy or a kitten being rescued from a storm drain.

As I watched the horse rescue video for the second or third time, I thought of how the most dramatic rescue of all generally occurs quietly, without fanfare. A man stands in the brackish waters of his own sin, unable to swim or wade around the unseen obstacles to safety and save himself. There is only one who can lead him to safety – the Lord Jesus.

The video of the horse rescue can be viewed here . The story of Christ, the one who rescues men, can be found in the pages of the Holy Bible. It too can give you goose-bumps or bring you to tears, depending on the reader’s response.

www.mercyandpercy.com

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

SELLING OUT THE GOSPEL

TIME Magazine recently ran a cover story, “Does God want you to be rich?” If you listen to proponents of the prosperity gospel, the answer is a resounding, Yes, God wants you to be rich!

To be honest, I am trying to see the relationship between a congregation’s donations keeping their minister living in opulence and the gospel. I can not find any verse stating, Any person who refuses to send generous donations to his local church minister to keep the minister in diamond pinky rings, silk suits and luxury vehicles will not enter the kingdom of God.

Now, I realize the Bible was written before the Mercedez-Benz was invented, so perhaps there is an applicable verse in the New Testament stating, All church members are required to keep their home church leader supplied with an abundance of cattle, donkeys, jewelry and robes or he will be tossed into the lake of fire with the other cheapskates. Nope, I can not find that one either.

Wait, I do find a verse which I think of when the prosperity gospel is being expounded. Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Matthew 7:15.

If this sounds harsh, think about it for a moment. Is this a gospel about Jesus or a self-propagandistic “gospel”? The prosperity gospel appeals to the greedy side of humanity and sometimes to the lazy side. It would be nice to be able to send in a portion of income and never have to worry again about finances, but would material means solve all our problems and make us happy? More importantly, do riches guarantee your name will be written in the Book of Life? Wealth is not listed as one of the prerequisites of salvation.

The gospel does include riches, though. Listen, my dear brothers: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? James 2:5 (NIV).

God does prosper some materially but there is no guarantee of material prosperity in the biblical gospel, and you can not buy God’s blessings through adhering to the teachings of the prosperity gospel.

Although prosperity might sound tempting, don’t sell out the true gospel for riches in this life. Rather, delight in the riches of God’s mercy and grace.

Judas sold out Jesus for 30 pieces of silver. How much is the true gospel worth to you? It should be priceless!

www.mercyandpercy.com

Monday, November 13, 2006

AN IRISH BLESSING

This is a song by Roma Downey, who used to play an angel on the television show Touched by an Angel. If you have not heard it before, listen to the words.

An Irish Blessing

Friday, November 10, 2006

ORIGIN OF BUDDY POPPY

November 11 is Veteran’s Day in the United States. Over the years many men and women from the various branches of the Armed Forces have given their lives to help America remain “the land of the free.” I am again privileged to help distribute Buddy Poppies for the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the VFW Auxiliary, and as I reflected on the poppy recently, I decided to do some research on it. I was surprised to find it has such a long history.

The red poppy was immortalized as a symbol of the sacrifice of battle through a poem written in Ypres (now known as Ieper), Belgium by a Canadian Army physician.

In Flanders Fields
by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD

In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

The red poppy, the official memorial flower of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, was first distributed in 1922. A year later the VFW decided to have the poppies assembled by disabled and needy veterans to provide them some financial assistance. When assembly began the following year, the “Buddy Poppy” was born. To this day, the assembly of the Buddy Poppy is done by disabled and needy veterans, and the distribution of the poppy provides assistance to various VFW programs, as well as to orphans and widows of American veterans.


www.mercyandpercy.com

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

SIN HAS CONSEQUENCES

When David committed adultery with Bathsheba, God’s voice immediately boomed from heaven, “David, my son, you have sinned against me and you’re going to pay the penalty,” and David trembled with fear, knowing God’s punishment is always instantaneous and obvious.

Oh, wait, this did not happen until Joab sent a messenger to tell David of Bathsheba’s husband Uriah’s death in battle, a murder David committed, in effect, by proxy.

No, that isn’t correct either. But surely David heard God’s booming indictment when he took Uriah’s wife as his own.

Actually, the booming voice in the story of David and Bathsheba didn’t happen, but you already know that. God did not thunder in David’s ears when David sinned, any more than he thunders in your ears today when you or I sin. But as Nathan explained to David, his sin did have consequences.

Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the LORD.” Nathan replied, “The LORD has taken away your sin. You are not going to die. But because by doing this you have made the enemies of the LORD show utter contempt, the son born to you will die.” 2 Samuel 12:13-14 (NIV)

God did take away David’s sin, but he did not remove the consequences of it, and although David fasted and wept, his son did die.

Some today argue that sin has no consequences, that Christ died for all of everyone’s sins and we are all automatically forgiven, and that all traces of sin and any possible consequences are wiped away. Some believe strongly there is no need of repentant prayer or tears, with or without fasting. Forgiveness of sins today is nothing more to some than a perpetual green light to freedom from guilt or shame. Sin can certainly abound when the conscience cannot be pricked.

If a man (or a woman) drives a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs and causes an accident resulting in property damage, physical injury or the death of another person, the consequences are obvious. The police will investigate and make an arrest. There will be bond, an arraignment, and possibly a trial and prison term. The driver can not merely shrug his shoulders and walk away scot-free, saying, I’m insured and having insurance absolves me of all responsibility and penalties.

There are those who do get away with repeatedly driving under the influence, until a “day of reckoning” arrives under the legal system. Even if there is no immediate penalty to the one who broke the law, others’ lives are affected, often permanently, leaving deep scars.

God knew from the foundation of the world, long before David was born, that Christ, God’s son, would die as a once-for-all-time sacrifice for sin. Although David repented and his sin was taken away, his son still died. And that was not the end of Nathan’s word from God.

“This is what the LORD says, ’Out of your own household I am going to bring calamity upon you, Before your very eyes I will take your wives and give them to one who is close to you, and he will lie with your wives in broad daylight. You did it in secret, but I will do this thing in broad daylight before all Israel.’” 2 Samuel 12:11-12 (NIV)

Nathan’s prophetic word from God was fulfilled in 2 Samuel 16:22 (NIV). So they pitched a tent for Absalom on the roof, and he lay with his father’s concubines in the sight of all Israel.

The pain and suffering of sin is not just personal. It also affects others.

God is holy and he hates sin. And sin, although it can be forgiven, should never be trivialized and shrugged off. Perhaps if God’s displeasure boomed from heaven and a penalty exacted at the moment of commission, sin would be taken more seriously in today’s society.

Forgiveness of sins is available because Christ died on the cross, but sin still carries a penalty. Once a sin is committed, it can not be reversed. Words said in anger, arrogance or self-righteousness can not be retracted. The young children turned into orphans by the driver under the influence will spend the rest of their lives without their parents. The innocent person given an STD (sexually transmitted disease) by an unfaithful marital partner must wrestle with the physical and emotional burdens of betrayal. The family, friends, congregation, employees, neighbors, or investors of one who has been deceived by someone they trusted may never be able to fully trust others again.

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:23a

This is such an encouraging verse. Eternal life is a gift, not a right or an automatic deposit in our spiritual bank accounts when we are born into this world. Eternal life is a very precious, priceless gift from God.

What is your attitude when you realize you have sinned? Don’t listen to and fall into the teaching that every sin is automatically forgiven and without consequence. Instead, remember your sins earned you a death penalty, which Christ paid in your stead. Do you still want to shrug off sin? Or does it give you a strong urge to fall to your knees?

www.mercyandpercy.com

Sunday, November 05, 2006

THE FOURTH MAN

I would like to share one of my favorite links. A hearty laugh is the best antidote when life becomes too serious. Enjoy!

The Fourth Man

Thursday, November 02, 2006

THE PRAYER

This appears to be he Australian version of American Idol, but it is well worth a few moments of your time.

The Prayer - Watch the audience reaction after hearing him.

Thank you, Sherry, for this wonderful link. This is a beautiful song.

www.mercyandpercy.com

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

CALVINISM AND ARMINIANISM

I have been hearing and reading so much lately about Calvinism and Arminianism but I'm not as young as I used to be and my memory occasionally ambles off into the woods without me, so I decided to look for an easy to understand explanation of each and found a site with a brief comparative study of both. Perhaps one or two of you might also be interested in the comparison.

Comparison of Calvinism and Arminianism

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

PASTOR BILLY BOB

Afraid God won't heal you? Take courage! All these folks were healed - an entire congregation!

Pastor Billy Bob

(Sometimes we need a little levity in life.)

www.mercyandpercy.com

Monday, October 30, 2006

THE ANCHOR

Into each life some change must fall. I am not referring to loose coins falling out of your pocket when you stand on your head, but rather to the fact that in this lifetime change will fall into your life, often with a sudden and resounding thud. Sometimes you will embrace it, sometimes you will rise up in stubborn opposition to it, and sometimes you might try to flee in terror from it, but it is inevitable that change will come.

Change recently dropped into my life when I lost my mother unexpectedly. I use the word “unexpectedly” because although she was three days shy of her eighty-third birthday, everyone aware of her situation expected her to regain her strength and return home after a short stay in a nursing home.

I awoke early that morning, thinking of Mother and praying for her. The unspoken words, She’s going to be all right, were clear and unmistakable. They brought me peace in those last moments before starting the day. Yet less than three hours later, the wail of the siren grew in volume as I waited in front of the local emergency room and listened to the ambulance speeding toward the hospital.

In God’s scheme of things, Mother is, indeed, “all right” now. It was not, however, the “all right” I assumed. I assumed it meant time for mother-daughter talks, where she would finally talk about herself and her extended family, name the strangers in her photos, and grant me the privilege of serving her in an expanded capacity.

Instead of realizing a lifelong desire of my heart, I was suddenly faced with two weeks in which to clear out her house. She saved everything! Working long hours helped me to deal with the shock and pain. When my older brother’s wife got her first glimpse of the confusion I faced, she said, “This is a one-person job, but there is no way you can finish it in just two weeks.” The few days they visited, we hauled Mother’s things two carloads at a time. Another brother helped where he could, but the disorder was so great that two or more people only created more chaos and so most of the job fell onto my shoulders. Unbelievably, the deadline was met, but I am still recovering from the physical overexertion and emotional stress.

I tossed out mountains of what I hope was trash without anything of value mixed in with it. Still, my home quickly filled with numerous bags, boxes, and various containers of paperwork to be sorted, laundry, and miscellaneous items to find a place to store. All this will keep me busy for many months.

Mother’s death brought major changes into my life and at this moment circumstances do not appear promising to continue investing time in writing stories for the newspaper and to post on www.mercyandpercy.com But with God leading, no experience is wasted and there are no dead ends, only bends in the path and this is definitely a wide bend. I do not know what the future holds or what I will be doing next week or six months from now. My writing “career” might well be ending. If it is, the sense of happiness and achievement derived from this short stint will remain. Hopefully, my ramblings have touched and encouraged a life or two.

Yes, change is inevitable, faith is tested and matured, and storms rage in every life at one time or another. I love the analogy in the song “The Anchor Holds” by Lawrence Chewning and Ray Boltz (© 1994 – Word Music). For those whose anchor is Christ, their anchor will never fail.

The Anchor holds, though the ship is battered.

The Anchor holds, though the sails are torn.

Well I have fallen on my knees,

as I faced the raging sea,

But the Anchor holds, in spite of the storm.

If you are facing change in your own life, trust the Anchor.



www.mercyandpercy.com

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

ALL THINGS MUST END

Mother died September 15th. We had two weeks to bury her and clear everything out of her home. This was a monumental task, as she saved everything!

These last few weeks have been hectic! I have barely had time or energy to eat and too much to do to take time to grieve. I intend to take some time now.

I will be making decisions regarding changes in priorities and activities. One of those decisions will be whether to continue with Mercy And Percy or to close it and Jan's Funny Farm down. At this moment, my intention is to close both sites.

Thank you for visiting Mercy And Percy. I hope you have enjoyed the stories posted here.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

TAKING A BREAK

It is time to take a break from posting a weekly - okay, from trying to post a weekly story. Sometimes life intervenes unexpectedly. Life is kind of hectic right now.

I'm sure my mother would appreciate it if you remember her in prayer. I know I would. Thanks.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

THE BROKEN BAG MYSTERY

Buddy, the hound, howled louder than the voice on the answering machine. Still, I have had a lot of practice distinguishing messages from Buddy’s wails, so I did manage to catch the gist of the message the caller was leaving.

“This is Joe Smith, (not his real name), co-manager, of the (local) Wal-mart. We have received your letter of complaint about our broken bag policy. I don’t understand your letter, but if you will return my call…..”

I finally reached the phone. ”Hello. Did I hear you correctly? Are you sure you have the right number? I haven’t sent a letter of complaint in a long time and I would send an email anyway. I don’t know anything about “broken bags.”

He rattled off my name and address and I began to worry. “I don’t suppose someone using my name and address would be a police matter?” I asked hopefully.

He insisted a copy of a letter of complaint was sent to the local store from Wal-mart headquarters. Before hanging up, I asked if he would please check into the letter and let me know what he learned. “I will. But I still don’t understand why anyone would write a letter about broken bags of dog food.”

Dog food? Including those two little words made a world of difference.

“Wait, a minute. I did send a letter about broken bags of dog food about a month ago, but it wasn’t a complaint. I read in a newsletter that Wal-mart has discontinued donating broken bags of food because some organizations were breaking their agreement to not sell the food. Now all the shelters that depend on donations are being penalized. Readers were asked to write to the Wal-mart CEO and request that the policy be reinstated. That is all explained in the letter. What are you doing with it?” (All Creatures Are Truly Special, Inc. August 2006 newsletter.)

“Oh, that practice was discontinued years ago. We can’t give away pet food. If the food is bad and an animal gets sick, we could be held liable.”

I emailed my contact at All Creatures Are Truly Special, Inc. and repeated what the co-manager told me. She assured me that for many years Wal-mart donated broken bags of pet food to All C.A.T.S. and other groups weekly. The practice was recently discontinued and her local Wal-mart manager suggested she get supporters to write to the company’s CEO.

I would not want to make a literal comparison of Wal-mart to God’s church! But I do see an analogy here

Wal-mart has many stores in the United States but they are all under one CEO, one policymaking board, one umbrella of rules and regulations. It has a national policy on everything from bulletin boards to purchasing supplies. .

There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. Ephesians 4: 4-6

If there is only one God and one faith, why all the confusion in Christianity today? There are more ideas of God, definitions of faith, and versions of what the Bible teaches than there are Wal-mart stores. Some of these teachings might arise from misunderstandings, but many are deliberate inventions of human greed for money, power and fame.

Perversions of the gospel are not new. Paul wrote in Galatians 1:6-8:

I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.

The co-manager and I had a laugh, although it was a bit embarrassing at first, to admit I did write the letter to Wal-mart after repeatedly denying it, but I did respond correctly, according to the facts as they were given to me – a “complaint” about broken bags. The manager did not deliberately mislead me, but there are those who deliberately omit or change words and imports in order to preach a different gospel than Paul did.

There is one true Christ Jesus, the Son of God. Is he preached in your church, or is another “Jesus” taught?

There is one true gospel. Have you heard it preached? Don’t turn away from it to something that seems more fun or appealing to the emotions, or to the bank account.

Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. But he who endures to the end shall be saved. Matthew 24:11, 13

www.mercyandpercy.com

Thursday, August 17, 2006

MERCI AND PERCY

“Come on, Merci, that’s just a bird,” I told my dog when she stopped walking and started yelping with excitement at the faint cries coming from a large bush. I tried to pull Merci away from the fence but she stood her ground against the pressure of the leash.

I have been fooled too many times by a bird call that sounds like a small kitten, but this time everything about Merci’s demeanor screamed kitten. So I waited and slowly the cries grew louder. Finally, a tiny head appeared, barely visible, between the grass and the bottom of the bush.

I rushed Merci up the street to the mill entrance, popped my head in the front door and called to the receptionist behind the counter to have someone meet me at that particular area to rescue a kitten. After racing home to grab a cat carrier, we arrived back near the bush.

A man wearing heavy work gloves and a woman came from the building. He located the kitten, walked over to the nearest gate, unlocked it and handed the crying kitten to me. Merci whined, barked and jumped with excitement. I placed the tiny kitten in the carrier, thanked the folks for their help, and started home.

A woman exited the office and stopped beside her car to watch us pass – or rather to watch Merci pass. Merci’s eyes sparkled, her mouth was open wide, and everything about her announced, I’m one proud and happy dog! Her feet barely touched the ground as she lifted her feet high and pranced.

At home, I sat down, and removed the crying kitten from the carrier. He could not be more than three or four weeks old. Immediately, Merci leaped onto my lap and began to bathe his face and body. This was her rescued kitten, and she would provide him with everything – except meals.

He was named Perseverance a few days later, partly in honor of Merci’s perseverance to rescue him and partly because perseverance is a trait God wants to nurture and mature in each of us.

We also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character. Romans 5:3-4

Perseverance is a big name for a tiny kitten, so his name was shortened to Percy. Percy followed Merci around, curled up with her, purred and kneaded the way contented kittens do, and spent much of his time in her company. Today, two years later, he retains a special affection for his canine rescuer.

Why am I writing an animal story (again!) for a Christian web site? Because God is constantly using these animals to teach me spiritual lessons.

Percy would have died if Merci had allowed my tugging on her leash to divert her attention away from the kitten in need of help. It is highly unlikely anyone else would have passed by the area and recognized the tiny cries. And if anyone did, he would likely have shrugged and thought there was nothing he could do since the kitten was inside a fenced commercial property.

At various times, human beings need help too. Sometimes I suffer silently or struggle to resolve everything on my own. Other times I cry out for help, but those within earshot are too busy or preoccupied with their own problems to listen and recognize the need of a friendly gesture or a listening ear.

And I can be just as deaf, dumb and blind to the needs of others. Sometimes I am powerless to respond, just as I would have been powerless to help the kitten if the mill had been closed when Merci discovered him.

But even when I am unable to offer constructive or necessary assistance, I am not without the ability to help others. I can pray and trust God to fill their needs.

Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for the saints. Ephesians 6:18

There is a joy in helping others, whether through prayer, requested advice, financial assistance, physical labor, an investment of time, or encouragement.

www.mercyandpercy.com

Thursday, August 10, 2006

A PURRING HEART

The first time the scanner program opened on its own, it scared me. The second time it annoyed me, but I laughed about the computer being “haunted”.

Then I discovered that my kitten Cyndi had figured out a route up the back of the computer desk, across the second shelf, onto the scanner, through the opening, over the mouse where she would step on the keyboard so she could climb on my lap and cuddle on my shoulder. She was so lightweight it didn’t occur to me at first that her step could fool the scanner into thinking it was in use. As she quickly grew and gained weight, she stopped bedeviling the scanner, but she hasn’t stopped her circuitous trip to purr for me.

Each of my pets has its own way of showing appreciation for being rescued and given a home. Cyndi is just the latest and the youngest. She purrs as the male cat Crystal roughhouses with her, as Merci the dog chews off her long hair, as Cotton spits at her, as Jenny defends her position beside my pillow or as she eats. She purrs much of the time and seems content with her adopted “family”. I hope she never outgrows PHS (Purring Heart Syndrome).

In human terms, PHS stands for ‘Preciative Heart Syndrome. How often do we let others know how much we appreciate them? Who they are, what they do for us and for others, what they stand for, what we learn from them, how glad we are to be related to them or to have their friendship? It can be hard to express those sentiments but an occasional word of appreciation can put wings on another’s feet at a time when that person’s road is dark and unstable.

Every day should be I Appreciate You Day, a day when we give gifts of loving words and deeds to those we appreciate. A remembrance card for a retired teacher that inspired us to study hard and pursue a dream. A home-cooked meal delivered to the preacher’s family. A pitcher of fresh lemonade delivered to the neighbor who mows an elderly or disabled person’s yard. A bouquet of flowers for the shut-in relative – delivered in person. A visit with an aging parent at a nursing home.

Expressing appreciation to God first and foremost should become as natural to us as purring is to Cyndi.

Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Ephesians 5:19b, 20 (NIV)


www.mercyandpercy.com/

Thursday, August 03, 2006

THE ORANGE DUELLY

The convoy of emergency vehicles moved slowly through the apartment complex parking lot. Those in the lead began to turn around and pass the vehicles behind them. Vehicles represented the Police Department, county Sheriff’s Office, State Police, Narcotics Task Force, city and county Animal Control, Forest Rangers, Fire Department, Emergency Medical Services, National Guard, Emergency Management Agency, the 911 Coordinator, Red Cross and a variety of municipal and government offices.

It was the 23rd Annual National Night Out crime and drug prevention event. It began with several neighborhood watch groups convened in the police parking lot and then the caravan of emergency and government vehicles wound through city streets to visit several other watch groups.

Cheryl and I were toward the back of the line, directly ahead of two highly recognizable Red Cross trucks. When the beginning of the procession circled and began passing us, one State Trooper’s face registered his surprise as he caught his first glimpse of our “inconspicuous” transportation – a bright orange duelly with Red Cross decals on the doors and Red Cross flags flying from the windows.

Yes, last year I was inadvertently issued a Paul-Bunyan-size bright red shirt that began at my chin and ended at my knees, and this year I rode in a bright orange duelly with a step bar above knee level and the seat well above my chin. I can’t wait to see what the next NNO brings.

For anyone who has no idea of what a duelly is, it is the Clydesdale horse of pickup trucks. It is larger and stronger, which makes it a good choice for folks who pull a horse trailer. The back of the truck is wider because it has dual wheels. This is not the type of vehicle one should use as a getaway car during a holdup. It is about as inconspicuous as a bright orange thumb. I spotted it while it was two blocks away, standing out above the other traffic, and I am not nearly as observant as law enforcement officers.

This started me thinking about the times my conscience bothered me so much I felt as if I was riding around in a big, bright orange truck with my sin emblazoned on the doors and my guilt flying flags to draw everyone’s attention to what I did that I wanted to hide. I felt my sin was public knowledge, everyone knew about it, was talking about it, and was judging me for it. Many of you can undoubtedly relate.


Chances are in many cases that few, if any, were aware of what I did wrong. But God always knows. I can not hide my sins from God. Neither can I avoid the penalty: For the wages of sin is death. Romans 6:23

However, there is also good news in the same verse: but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. Christ paid the wages for my sin – and for your sin.

www.mercyandpercy.com

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

A GOOD NAME

In Proverbs 22:1, we are told that “a good name is rather to be chosen than great riches.”

Mention the words "Red Cross" to just about anyone in this small Georgia town and people will smile and nod their heads. There is no need to mention the Chapter Manager’s name. She is the Red Cross representative who crawls out of bed at 2 A.M. and helps fire victims with temporary housing arrangements or other immediate needs.

Everyone recognizes her name. She teaches CPR in-house or on-site (church, school or workplace). She gives BAT (Basic Aid Training) to young children in local schools. She is a certified First Responder in emergencies. She is a volunteer fire fighter. She is part of the local search and rescue team. She is a weather spotter.

She is a wife and the mother of a college student.

She is a member of the First United Methodist Church.

In other words, she is involved with her community. Sometimes I wonder how she manages to remember which hat she is wearing at the moment.

"The pay isn’t great, but the rewards are," she is fond of saying.

I have yet to hear an unkind word about her. Mostly, I hear, "She is doing a terrific job; she’s a wonderful person; she really cares about people."

She reflects well on God because she lives what she believes. But no matter how much she does for the community, she can never surpass what God is accomplishing in each of us daily.

She has invested her time and talents into helping others. She doesn’t have riches, but she does have a good name.


www.mercyandpercy.com

Thursday, July 20, 2006

ONE OF THOSE DAYS

It was one of those days. You know the type I mean – everyone has them, some more frequently than others. It was the type of day where everything I touched seemed to go wrong and I had to call my brother for help.

The day started easily. I walked the dogs, fed the animals, and ran in and out the door to clean litter pans. I raced around, stomach rumbling, dreaming of hot coffee and my own breakfast. As I headed out the door to bring in the last clean litter pan, the doorknob fell into pieces that rolled across the floor. This time the circa 1920 doorknob needed more than duct tape.

The day continued in that vein. By six p.m., car loaded with puppy chow and various purchases, I returned to pick up my three dogs where they had been enjoying some freedom in a fenced yard, loaded them in the car and turned the key in the ignition.

One mile can seem like two on a sweltering July day Add a heavy purse over one shoulder, the leashes of a rambunctious hound, a four-month-old thirty-pound puppy, and a reluctant-to-walk-with-the-puppy female dog in one hand and the handle of a cooler loaded with cold packs and cold/frozen foods in the other and that mile becomes ten. We labored – or rather, I labored and they walked – up the hill, stopping frequently to set down the cooler.

My brother changed his own schedule to fix the doorknob, charge my battery and, in this debilitating heat, replace the starter in my car. He did not have to do those things; he did them willingly, offering his time and skills without charge. I am grateful. In time, other occurrences of life will move this incident to the archived incident file cabinet and it will be just a dim memory.

Jesus willingly bore our sins and paid the penalty for our sins, in full and without charge. Through him we have hope where there was no hope.

And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins. But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God. Ephesians 2: 1, 4-8

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The gospel of grace is free to all who will respond to it. This was made possible by the death and resurrection of Jesus. Now, that is a reason to be thankful! I pray you and I will never file this away in the archived incident file.


www.mercyandpercy.com

Thursday, July 13, 2006

THE GOOD SAMARITAN

I watched him from afar for a long while before I determined he would not be a threat to my dogs, but when we resumed our evening walk, he came trotting across the street and started following us. I turned and quickly walked the dogs back home. I returned alone to see if he was wearing a collar and ID tag, although is was painfully obvious he was recently abandoned.

I watched him crawl on his belly and then slowly work his way across the street. He was younger than I thought, still a puppy, and in need of rescue. I tossed him a dog biscuit and he ran away.

As I sat on a concrete slab, wondering what to do, I prayed for someone who could help him. Even if I could catch him, it was not plausible to bring him in the house. What if he fought with the dogs, attacked one of the cats or had something contagious? His face was scraped, one eye barely open, and he had a skin problem – fleas, allergy or possibly mange. Where would I find money to pay the vet?

I heard a sound, turned and watched a young couple approach with their two dogs. The puppy leaped to his feet, raced across the street and joined the group. I followed them. When they turned to retrace their route, they asked if I knew who owned the puppy. I learned their yard is fenced and if the puppy followed them home, they would hold him and call Animal Control in the morning. I watched them continue down the sidewalk, breathing a sigh of relief my prayer was answered.

In a short while, the dogs and I set out to finish our aborted walk. We passed the street where the couple always turn left, walked once around a parking lot, turned toward home, and encountered the puppy running toward us from the side street. His tail wagged furiously as he bounded back and forth between the dogs. He wanted to come inside with the dogs but he was afraid to cross the threshold.

I gave him a short sponge bath on the porch. When he was finally inside, I put a used collar around his neck. Before retiring for the night, I took the dogs outside and discovered the puppy was not accustomed to a leash. He jumped backward, then stood ramrod still. Once coaxed inside again, he stood spraddle-legged, head stretched forward, immobile for a long while.

A short while later the exhausted pup was sound asleep on the floor at the foot of the bed. I knelt beside him with a pan of water and a bar of pine tar soap to clean the underside of his dirty, crusty neck, only his neck was not dirty. It was swollen, with wounds on his throat that were bleeding from the short time the collar rubbed against them.

Two mornings later, Little No Name (yes, I really called him that so I wouldn’t get attached to him) was named Samaritan. His name originates from the story in Luke 10, but not because I have any illusion of being a good Samaritan. As much as I love animals, I was a very reluctant rescuer in this instance, but taking care of this puppy has blessed me greatly. Samaritan has not growled, complained or refused to accept my help

I am mentally, physically and emotionally exhausted after nine years of assisting an iron-willed, elderly parent, one who desperately needs help but fights tooth and nail against even the smallest thing that should be done for her basic needs, comfort or safety. Often anger surpasses compassion on both our parts.

I was feeling lost, abandoned and confused with some wounds of my own that needed attention. After Samaritan’s name came into my mind, I began to realize that just as I was ministering physically to this puppy, God was ministering to my spirit, reminding me of His love and faithfulness.

I thought of how Jesus can be called the ultimate Good Samaritan. Often an unconverted man has to hit rock bottom before he will accept Jesus stopping to help him. Jesus binds his wounds and his sins are added to Jesus’ account, which He has already paid in full.

I could have called Animal Control and sent the puppy to the shelter where he would have lain, without hope of rescue, on a concrete floor until it was his turn to die. God could have left man to live and die in his sins, without hope of redemption or mercy. Instead, He sent His Son, Jesus Christ. What a wonderful Savior!

www.mercyandpercy.com

Thursday, July 06, 2006

DON'T RUN WITH THE PACK

Dogs are social animals. They enjoy hanging out with a human companion, napping in front of the TV set or chasing a Frisbee. They also enjoy hanging out with canine companions, hiking the fields and swapping stories about the prey “this big” that got away.

In a group they can become a pack with primal instincts and deadly consequences. A quiet, gentle, cat-and-small-animal-loving dog will join his companions in attacking other animals – and possibly humans - for the sheer sport of killing. They easily fall into the pack mentality of doing things together each might not consider doing apart from the pack.

This same trait is exhibited in human nature, but whereas dogs as a pack will attack and kill other living creatures, human beings as a group attack and kill reputations.

In a group setting, prohibitions can disappear. Everyone wants to fit in and be one of the “guys,” accepted by the group and participating in any discussion. Small talk can take a bad turn, melding into gossip and plowing into “catty.” In the extreme, exaggerations and outright lies can flow without conscious thought. Someone’s reputation is stained or attacked and killed without viable thought and often without malevolence. Humans easily fall into the group mentality of doing things together each might not consider doing apart from the group.

This was brought home to me with several recent events. One eye-opener began as an angry meeting where the incoming president and members discussed the outgoing president and treasurer, who had used a little ingenuity to clean out the treasury. With only a few meetings under my belt, I could not participate in a conversation of broken by-laws, and I did not want to participate in the character appraisal of the outgoing officers, which wandered off the path and into the brierpatch.

The members were understandably angry, but I had nothing to contribute so I sat quietly and left when the meeting ended. I then became the topic of conversation. “Jan didn’t say anything tonight. She must be with them.”

This incident was a reminder that sometimes silence is viewed as tacit agreement or complicity. Sometimes you have to take a stand and let others know where you stand.

A week later I did, with another group, one that had lost its community focus and had become a small group that meets mainly to complain and bear tales on the neighbors. “I see your neighbor hasn’t cut his grass.” “The neighborhood is full of rentals and renters don’t care.” (Hey, folks, I’m a renter!)

The members are good, kind, Bible-believing, church-attending folks who would not even consider absconding with the treasury, and they might not have realized how far they had strayed from the original purpose of the meetings. I held no illusions that anything I said would change the direction, but I addressed my concerns to the president of the group and, sadly but resolutely, the next day I resigned as secretary.

We are admonished in 1 Peter 4:15: But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as a busybody in other people’s matters.

Of course, a loner can become a busybody, but a group seems to unconsciously egg on the timid and add bluster to the overzealous, so choose groups wisely, and avoid “running with the pack.” A Christian should stand out in a group just as much by what he does not verbalize as by what he does.


www.mercyandpercy.com/


Monday, May 29, 2006

THE POPPY LADY

For the past three years I have helped the Veterans of Foreign Wars distribute Buddy Poppies for two days twice a year – the Friday and Saturday of Memorial Day and Veterans Day weekends. I am not a Veteran, merely a member of their Auxiliary who volunteers to help.

For the most part, I enjoy Buddy Poppy drives. The nice folks more than compensate for the grumps, those who avoid eye contact, and the occasional hostile passerby. Some of the reactions from folks who know me are curious.

One elderly neighbor always stops short and asks. “What are you doing?” as if he has never seen me standing in the same spot with the familiar red Poppies in hand. (Sadly, he has Alzheimer’s.)

A minister joked, “I didn’t know the men make the women work.”

“I didn’t recognize you. Take off those sunglasses so people know who you are,” another neighbor ordered, with a laugh.

But my favorite comment came from my mother’s neighbors who approached as I stood outside Ingle’s holding Buddy Poppies in one hand. “Are you the Poppy Lady today?” the wife teased.

“Yes, I guess I am,” I replied, aware I was the only woman in town distributing VFW Poppies on that particular day.

Buddy Poppy days are either cold and wet or hot and humid. This Memorial Day weekend is hot and humid. (Obviously, I don’t do it for the good weather.) I was fortunate to be able to stake out a post in the shade during the early morning hours on both days, but before noon I was hitting my large water jug frequently, and despite the baseball cap shading my face somewhat, my skin was on fire. I was hot and tired and ready to go home, but I managed to persevere until I ran out of Poppies.

What keeps me motivated is the knowledge I am exchanging a Buddy Poppy for a donation to help veterans who served their country overseas. A soldier in combat or in a combat zone does not have the luxury of leaving his post because there is no shade or it is wet and cold. He can not walk into the grocery store or over to a vending machine to get out of the weather for a few minutes, or to purchase a cold drink if he is thirsty or a snack if he is hungry. He sticks to his post and waits to be relieved.

I saw a strong example of this determination to duty last year when Jimmy, a Vietnam veteran, appeared ill and ready to collapse as he sat in front of the Wal-mart Super Center in the hot sun with his Poppies, but he refused to allow anyone to relieve him or to take a break. “I can’t leave my post until I’m relieved (by his commanding officer),” he insisted. Fortunately, the local VFW Post Commander thought of his welfare, arrived early, took a firm stand, and, despite protests, he drove Jimmy home. Jimmy died a few days later.

No matter who you are or where you serve, if you follow Christ you are a soldier in a war zone too.

Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Ephesians 6:11-13.

You will need all of the armor because some people will tease you, some will be uncomfortable and avoid eye contact with you, and some will be downright hostile to you when you follow Christ. Trials and temptations will come, friends and family might desert you, accidents might occur, disease might attack your mind or body, but Christ said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Reflect on that promise at those times when you stand at your post feeling alone and abandoned.

You need to stick to your post, no matter what, until Christ relieves you of your physical duties, either in death or by His return, whichever comes first. (“I will come again,” Jesus promised. John 14:3)

For a few days a year now I serve the VFW as “the Poppy Lady.” But my service to God is a lifetime commitment.

www.mercyandpercy.com/

Thursday, May 18, 2006

CLUTTER IN THE DEN

Merci isn’t aware her den is actually my bedroom and I doubt she cares. When she arrived, she spent two days sleeping on a throw rug in the living room. On the third day, she decided she preferred the bedroom carpet, moved her new toys and claimed her own space. She likes to sleep surrounded by her toys. I like to walk without tripping over her clutter.

My dream is that one day Merci will learn to pick up her own toys and put them in a basket so her den is neat. She will probably learn that right after she learns to cook and clean. Meanwhile, I occasionally pile all her toys in a basket and put the basket in the living room. She reacts like a mother dog moving her puppies to a safer location. Shortly, all her toys are scattered around her bed in her den in my way.

This morning I decide she needs to spend less time in solitariness and move her bed near my workspace. I place the basket with all her toys on top so she will feel secure. One by one, she trots the toys back to their rightful spot in her den.

Merci’s toys are dirty from being repeatedly tossed and fetched. I wouldn’t think of putting one of her toys in my mouth. But as I watch her I realize we sometimes hoard anger in the same way. We embrace it, chew on it, and cuddle it as we sleep and as soon as we decide to move it out of our life, we grab it back from the trashcan and chew on it some more. We don’t consider the germs it carries.

There is a time to be angry, but when the time has passed, we need to toss the anger in the trashcan and leave it there. Anger is like clutter. If we don’t pick it up, sooner or later we will stumble over it.

www.mercyandpercy.com

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

HARDWORKING RANDY

I remember the days when customers spoke kindly of the U.S. P.S. (United States Postal Service). Today there are more complaints about their service than compliments. The postal service handles more mail per day than I can imagine, yet they have a too-high rate of lost or destroyed mail complaints. I know this from personal experience. In 2005, three of my checks were lost within the short span of two months.

Some of the mail is destroyed by machinery. Some is misplaced, forever lost, left in the bottom of a mailbag, sent on permanent vacation to unknown destination, or hidden in a home or storage locker by the occasional kooky carrier. Thankfully, much of the mail does reach its destination intact. And that is thanks to the hard-working folks such as my friend Bill who has a high pressure postal job in another state. I do not know whether the center where he works realizes how dedicated and conscientious he is or how his determination reflects well on the postal system, but I do know God is aware he perseveres on the job and always gives his best to help postal customers.

Misdelivered or lost mail can cause major problems, so I really appreciate a good mail carrier. I had a carrier in Phoenix, Arizona who knew everyone on his route, even though he delivered to a number of apartment buildings with a high turnover of tenants, and he had a very low incidence of mail delivered to the wrong box. He was personable, diligent and highly regarded.

The carrier at my next apartment complex was just the opposite. One of the tenants in the apartment building called his supervisor one day and asked, “What does that man have on you that he can do whatever he wants and walk away without even a reprimand?” One complaint was that although the news carried warning after warning about boxes of checks being stolen from home mailboxes, this carrier continued to throw boxes of checks on the public sidewalk somewhere in the vague vicinity of an apartment, and he could not understand why anyone would fuss about it.

I moved to a small town several years ago and the mail service has been good here. For several years, Randy has delivered mail in this area. This is a walking route, whereas the other carriers drive their routes. He walks ten miles a day, up and down steps, and up and down hills.

He works hard, yet he is always smiling and cheerful. He knows who is related to whom and which dogs belong to which owner. If anyone has a question or a problem, he will do his best to answer or resolve it. He is not the type to deliver a box of checks by tossing it toward the porch from several yards away. All of the people I know on his route like him and trust him, knowing he is willing to go the extra mile to serve.

He is one of those people who bring to mind Ecclesiastes 9:10a: Whatsoever your hand finds to do, do it with your might.

Lately I noticed a substitute carrier is delivering the mail and assumed, as did others on his route, Randy is on vacation. I learned today he is not off somewhere having fun. He is recovering at home from injuries sustained when the diving board broke and he fell into his pool while he was cleaning it. The pool was empty at the time and his injuries are serious. He will be out of work for three to four months.

As I thought about his accident today, two things immediately came to mind.

1. No matter how hard you try to avoid them, accidents can happen. In a split second your life is altered, and you can not go backwards, only forward with your life.

2. A lazy worker’s absence is noted with celebration. A hard worker’s absence is recognized with sadness.

My neighborhood recognizes Randy’s absence with sadness. We are praying for his complete recovery and look forward to seeing him back on his route. Meanwhile, the route is being handled by a brave (it’s a hard route, remember) and competent female sub.

Some Christians are lazy workers, wanting to skim through life and into heaven with as little work as possible, but we are called to service. The Bible is our instruction manual. Prayer is our power source. Jesus washed His disciples’ feet, which was the act of a servant. He is our example.

Some Christians are such hard workers they can forget salvation is a gift of God, not a do-it-yourself challenge. Their works will not earn their way into God’s kingdom.

I do not know whether the world, your neighbors, or even your family will realize how dedicated and conscientious you are, but I do know God is aware when you persevere and work hard in His service. .

Christians are part of the body. Serving others can be frustrating and exhausting at times, but it is also rewarding. Our work is to be done in Christ and not in our own strength or to our own glory.

© 2006 Janice Price
www.mercyandpercy.com