Thursday, January 26, 2006

BUDDY AND MERCI

Buddy and Merci
By Janice Price


“I saw your car at the Wal-mart traffic light one day,” Kay laughed, “and there was Buddy.”

Shortly after this, a woman parked her truck beside my car in the Post Office parking lot. Buddy, upset that I would leave him behind, howled, and the little dog in the truck stood up at the driver’s window to bark at him.

As the truck owner and I walked toward the Post Office, she said, “We’ll leave those two to get acquainted.”

“You mean those three,” I responded. “There are two dogs in my car.”

She stopped, turned around and looked at the car with the one visible dog. “Are you sure?”

Merci is a bit longer than my cats but otherwise about the same height and weight. When she climbs into the back seat of the car, she disappears from view.

Buddy is a long-legged hound dog, several times Merci’s size. They both love to ride in the car. Buddy sits tall in the back seat or leans on his elbows between the head rests on the back of the front seat. He is easy to spot, and since he is highly excitable and barks at bicyclists, motorcyclists and dogs in other vehicles, he is highly visible. If I leave the dogs in the car for a few minutes, when I return, I can see Buddy sitting behind the steering wheel from across the parking lot, but unless Merci is standing at the window watching for me, she is invisible to the casual glance.

Buddy is the “spokesdog” of the two. He is constantly whining, crying, cajoling, yelping with excitement, “high-five” barking to announce his presence, or howling. He is in perpetual motion - dancing, walking, leaping, tugging or climbing. It is impossible to not notice him.

Merci is smaller and more low-key than Buddy, but she is neither overlooked nor unhappy with her position in the body of the “pack.”

For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we being many are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. Romans 12: 4-5

God has placed some Christians in positions of leadership/service. A small percentage of these are well-known speakers, authors, musicians, or evangelists. Many others serve in less prominent leadership/service positions. The majority of Christians minister in relative obscurity. They will never be famous or recognized outside of their social circle, but they are not invisible.

Merci might appear quiet and inconspicuous, but people who see her have noted her kind and gentle nature. A friend recently commented, “Doesn’t Merci have the sweetest face?” More than one person has remarked about Merci, the dog who wants to bring home all the cats in the neighborhood, “Merci is well-named.”

Those who serve in the background are as essential as those who serve in the limelight, and others do notice a quiet spirit, a willingness to sacrifice time and talent, a joyful and loving heart, a forgiving attitude, an open hand, and other fruits of the Holy Spirit.

All Christians will not be seen from afar (famous). Most will be invisible to the casual glance. But all Christians can be a light to the world, content with their positions in the Body of Christ.

© 2006 Janice Price
www.mercyandpercy.com

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

THE CHOICE

THE CHOICE
By Janice Price

I do not ordinarily write fiction stories. This one is an old writing exercise I stumbled upon today. It brings to mind how a decision to follow Christ will affect the choices we make in every aspect of daily life, whether at home or on the job.

*****

The sudden downpour is over. The sun is again burning Perry Johnson’s bare shoulders. Sweat rolls swiftly down his face and drips off his chin.

Perry scratches his cheek. His facial hair is still short and soft as peach fuzz but he is seventeen and it is his first attempt to grow a beard. He believes it will help him appear more grown-up for his first summer job.

It is his first day of work. Tom Hawkins, the busiest house painter in Logan and the associate lay pastor of the church Perry attends, is a kind but no-nonsense boss.

“Painting is hard work,” Mr. Hawkins directed him when he was hired. “But it takes more than hard work to build a reputation for honesty and integrity. I won’t have a slacker or a dishonest employee working for me. As your employer, I expect your best efforts, and as a Christian, I desire that all of my employees follow Proverbs 22:1.”

Mr. Hawkins decided to go home and have lunch with his wife when the rain began. He would be returning soon to judge Perry’s progress. Perry wants to make a good impression. He finishes scraping loose paint off the west side of Miss Lila’s old house.

Miss Lila was born and raised in the house. She and her husband, Joe, raised their own family there too. Now, she is preparing to sell this house and move into a small trailer on her oldest son’s property. A rumor has been making the rounds in Logan that Joe distrusted banks. Supposedly, he hid their cash, and when he died suddenly of a massive heart attack, Miss Lila didn’t have a clue as to where their savings were hidden. She is living on a small pension and can’t afford to hold onto the family home.

Perry is hungry but the rain delay has put them behind schedule. He reaches deep into a pocket of his denim shorts and pulls out a quarter. Heads, I eat first. Tails, I start scraping the paint off the north side of the house before I eat.

He flips the quarter into the air. It hits the porch railing and sails into some nearby bushes. Perry needs to find that quarter. Until he is paid he has only $7.27 and his mother’s birthday is in two days. He parts two bushes and finds himself in a small clearing on a downhill slope surrounded by tall, thick bushes. As he leans down to pick up his quarter, he is surprised to see the top of a large cage jutting out of the mud.

What an odd place to find a cage, Perry thinks. It must have been thrown out. I wonder if Miss Lila would let me have it if I dig it up? If I clean it and remove the rusty door, it might make a nice birdfeeder for Mom’s birthday present. That is, if it can be salvaged.

He looks around for something to dig with and remembers noticing a shovel leaning against the old shed in the back yard. He digs some and then tries to rock the cage loose, but it is deeply embedded. It seems almost as if it has been buried and the topsoil has washed downhill from heavy rains, but that isn’t possible. No one would bury a bird cage. He continues digging until he is able to remove the cage from the mud.

The cage is filled with a black plastic trash bag held closed with a twist tie. Perry untwists the tie, expecting to find a bag of trash. Inside is another bag of clear, heavier plastic. Perry’s eyes widen as he begins to pull out hundred dollar bills by the handful.

He hears Mr. Hawkins calling his name from the front of the house. There is no time to count the money, but it is more than Perry has ever imagined he would see at one time. He has a whole lifetime stretching before him. He is broke. There is only one thing for him to do in this situation.

Later, as the family is eating dinner Perry answers a knock at the front door. He is astonished to see a deputy standing on the stoop.

“I’m looking for Perry Johnson,” the deputy says.

“I’m Perry. What do you want?” he asks nervously.

The deputy reaches for him and a viselike grip closes over his shoulder. “I’m Deputy Collins, Miss Lila’s nephew. She asked me to thank you for what you did today. The money has been deposited in the bank and Miss Lila will be taking the family home off of the market. The media has learned of your honesty and integrity, so expect to hear from them at any time.”

As the deputy leaves, Perry closes the door. A slow smile lights his face, as he realizes he has kept his word to Mr. Hawkins and followed Proverbs 22:1. He heads back to the kitchen, resumes his seat at the dinner table, and bites into a large slice of cold watermelon.

A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches. Proverbs 22:1

© 2006 Janice Price
www.mercyandpercy.com/

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

CELEBRATING BENNY

Celebrating Benny
By Janice Price

Oh, God, please let him die quickly, without any more pain.

That was my initial reaction to the sight of Benny in the Intensive Care Unit on life support. At that moment, it seemed inconceivable he could recover.

A neighbor had discovered his body on the floor of his apartment. He had been stabbed numerous times, including in the stomach, spleen and intestines. An ambulance had delivered him, not to either of the closest medical facilities, but to a top-level trauma hospital.

His head was jerking up and down with each “breath” of the machine keeping him alive. He was covered with bandages, legs wrapped for circulation of blood, and strapped to the bed rails. Hardest to see were his eyes. They were wide open, unblinking and crusted. I didn’t know at the time he was agitated, refusing to close his eyes and rest, and trying to disconnect his life support before his older daughter Susie and I arrived. He had been given a drug to paralyze him so his body could rest.

Immediately, I regretted the thought. No circumstance is too great for God. Jeremiah 32: 17 (NIV) says, “Ah, Sovereign Lord, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you.” Benny could survive. We needed to wait to see how God answered our prayers to know if Benny would survive.

Over a period of three or four months, Benny moved from ICU to a “step-down” unit, to the rehabilitation building, to a nursing home, and then onto an eastbound plane to live near his son and younger daughter Sheila in New Jersey. I moved to Georgia and Benny moved back to Phoenix, Arizona with Sheila and her husband, but we never lost touch. Benny wrote encouraging letters of healing relationships within his family. He lived to see his last “baby” have her first baby.

We were neighbors who became friends because we shared a love of animals. He is the only person who has ever called me Jannie, until Sheila made the nickname “official.” Perhaps when her daughter begins to talk, she will continue the custom.

Then one day Benny was on life support once more. His heart, liver and kidneys were failing. Eleven years previously, it was not Benny’s time to die. This time it was and he was ready to go. His family did not plan a sad funeral. Instead, they planned a simple celebration of his life. These are my favorite lines from the copy of the eulogy his daughter sent to me:

“Death is not an end to life but rather the beginning of a new one, an everlasting one. Rather than grieve for ourselves, let us rejoice in the gifts that Benny left behind. Every one of you is here because Benny touched your lives.”

Benny and I shared a passion for reading, and for years he faithfully mailed boxes of books - mainly mysteries, biographies, and books on animals. He was excited when I started sending him copies of stories I was writing, although he would have been happier if they had been mystery books.

Writing mystery stories was once my dream, but my goal changed over the years. In my eulogy, I hope someone will be able to say I touched a life or two with the stories I write, hoping to encourage people to look to God for answers, strength, comfort, wisdom, and the fruits of the Holy Spirit.

Benny should have died eleven years earlier than he did, but God granted him those extra years. I was relieved God did not grant the prayer request I breathed silently at the beginning of this story.

Knowing Benny was an adventure in friendship, but watching him virtually return from teetering on the edge of the grave was a visual lesson in God’s power and sovereignty. That is what Jesus essentially accomplished for us. We were teetering on the edge of the grave in our sins, and Christ paid the price to redeem us.


© 2006 Janice Price
www.mercyandpercy.com/