Monday, February 28, 2005


The One Size Fits All Response
By Janice Price

I dial 9-1-1, the emergency number, and a recorded voice asks, What is your emergency? If you have a police emergency, press 1, NOW. If you need the fire department, press 2, NOW. If you need both the police and the fire department, press 3, NOW. If you have a medical emergency and require an ambulance, press 4, NOW. If you have a medical emergency and require an ambulance and the fire department paramedics, press 5, NOW. If you need the police department and an ambulance only, press 6, NOW. If you need to contact the police, the fire department and the Ambulance Service, with or without the fire department’s rescue squad, press 7, NOW. If you have an emergency that requires all of the emergency personnel previously mentioned, please hang up and go to our web site for complete contact information. If you need these steps repeated, press 8, NOW.

I have a high regard for local emergency personnel and those who man the 9-1-1 phone lines in the area, and this is, of course, an exaggeration and is not a recorded message 9-1-1 would ever present. But it highlights the frustration of dealing with an automated phone answering system when we try to reach the customer service department of many companies.

It is stressful to have a problem and to be unable to reach someone to help with it. Or to reach someone who responds with a mechanical One Size Fits All Response. Problems arise that do not fit into a pre-configured mold.

This One Size Fits All Response also abounds on the Internet. It is just as frustrating to deal with customer service in many companies by email because they will email the same One Size Fits All Response to every inquiry.

The past twenty-four hours have been a nightmare. How many times and in how many ways could I state the obvious to the two companies involved in the transaction? I am locked out of my new account because you have not given me an ID or a password, nor have you given me the opportunity to invent my own. I try using the ID and password set up with the company where I purchased this service and this too is denied. I attempt to access my account and am given the message the account doesn’t exist or I have the wrong login. I can’t have the wrong login. I have no login because you did not email it to me. The account has to exist because, not only have I paid for it, but when I try to access it through my original account with the sales company, I am taken to your login page for my existing/non-existent new account

Both companies repeatedly sent the same One Size Fits All Response: Instructions on how to retrieve my ID (have to have the password), how to obtain my password hint (have to have a password and an ID first) and how to reset my non-existing password, or how to use the account name and my street address to obtain this information (account does not exist message).

This was finally resolved when one of the customer service contacts stopped auto-sending One Size Fits All Response messages and actually “listened” to the problem.

As I try to de-stress, I think of how frequently we use a One Size Fits All Response to others. Some of us have condensed the answer to everyone else’s problems into one or two pet categories and, therefore, because we think we already know it all, we don’t pay attention. This places stress on relationships. As an individual, as a representative of a company, or as an Ambassador of Christ, we need to stop spouting One Size Fits All Responses and listen to the problem before we respond.

I would have fallen to my knees when this issue was finally resolved, to thank God that his ways are not our ways, but I couldn’t have gotten back on my feet today without help.

The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their cry. (Psalm 34:15) “Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone?” (Matthew 7:9)

If we call God on the direct 9-1-1 prayer line, we will never hear a recorded multiple choice message. God is attentive, listening and responding to each of us as an individual. We don’t pray in vain to a bored, disinterested, One Size Fits All Response God.

© 2005 Janice Price

Monday, February 21, 2005


Are We Listening?
By Janice Price

We all want to be heard when we speak, to know another person is listening to what we say and understanding us. Communication is important between family members, friends, co-workers, and even between the animals in this house.

I am really pleased with how well my pets get along. The cats know the difference between a canine feigned and a threatening growl. With a threatening growl, the cat knows he better let go of that bone, remove his teeth from the dog’s ear, or take his head out of the dog’s food bowl - pronto! And the dogs know the difference between a playful swipe of a cat’s paw and the claws-out swat of an irate feline. They might not speak the same language but they communicate.

People are often a different story. Very few people actually listen to what is being said. They hear what they expect to hear, what they want to hear, or whatever agrees with the ramblings in their own mind.

There is the out of range listener. While someone is speaking, this person mentally prepares a shopping list, balances the checkbook or remembers a story that will top yours, whether a tale of woe or riches.

“You had an ingrown toenail? Well, let me tell you all the details about my hernia operation.”

There is the clairvoyant listener. The other day I started to tell a story to someone who interrupted me after the second sentence to give a negative opinion on the ending of the story. This is a regular thing with this person. I start to talk and I’m corrected, given advice or told what to do before the other person even knows what the subject is. To make matters worse, the response has little or nothing to do with the outcome.

“I was walking down Maple Drive, noticed a $100 bill in the street-” “What wonderful news! I know you can use the extra money.” – (“bent to pick it up, was hit by a bus and broke both legs. I’m calling you from my hospital room.”)

“I have been out of work for two years-” “I’m so sorry. You must be terribly discouraged. Perhaps my psychiatrist could help you cope with your depression.” - (“but I was just hired at four times my old salary and I will be working at my dream job.”)

“I’m not one of those people who thinks every dog should have at least one litter-” “Oh, that’s great. So, when are the puppies due?” – (“so I just had her spayed,”)

Then, there is the Hyacinth Bucket (pronounced Bouquet!) personality from the British sitcom “Keeping Up Appearances.” Talking to a plant would produce a better response.

“Hyacinth, I can’t come over for coffee right now. An ambulance is on the way to take my husband to the hospital.” “That’s nice, dear. The coffee will be ready in five minutes. Do put on a nice dress before you come over.”

There is, of course, the non-listener. “I’m sorry. I wasn’t paying attention. Would you repeat the last witness’ testimony, please?”

There are many other types of non-listeners. A true listener should be valued as a rare jewel.

Our listening habits carry over into our spiritual lives too. When God speaks, are we listening, or are we daydreaming, planning another good work to do for church, or assuming we know better than God and skipping the listening altogether?

When we read the history of the church and note the confusion in religious teachings today, we wonder how Scripture could be so confusing, giving birth to so many different beliefs, including mainstream religions and off the planet cult beliefs. But is it that Scripture is confusing or that we are confusing Scripture because we aren’t listening to what God is actually trying to communicate to us through his word?

John calls Jesus the Word. (John 1: 1,14) Others have called Jesus a prophet, a good man, a sinner, an imposter, and even a homosexual. Jesus knows firsthand what it is like to speak and not be heard or to be heard but not understood. He has come into contact with every type of listener that exists. Some heard what he said, believed, and lives were changed. Some heard what they wanted to hear and used his words as a Gimme License. (Gimme this, gimme that.) Others twisted his teachings to grow rich and powerful. His words have been used to institute total control over and sometimes physical, mental or spiritual abuse against those under authority.

The Bible has a lot to say about hearing, but hearing isn’t enough. Are we listening? Because if we aren’t paying attention, we won’t understand what we’re hearing. And if we’re only listening with half an ear, so to speak, we will miss his still small voice when he answers our prayers to guide us and direct our paths.

Sometimes I have been preoccupied, ill, overworked, or self-centered. Those have been some of my past excuses for not listening. I’m determined to do better today and in the future. I don’t want to miss anything God has to say to me. What about you?

The Word says, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” (Matthew 11:15)

© 2005 Janice Price

Monday, February 14, 2005


To Bear You Up
by Janice Price

I’m acrophobic, which means I have a fear of wearing high heels, ice skating, surfing or any other activity that takes my feet off of solid ground. I would prefer to move rather than climb a ladder to change a light bulb on the ten foot ceiling inside this house. So why do I keep trying to fly?

I’ve had a lot of practice so I know from personal experience that once the body is airborne it will eventually connect with something solid and bone-jarring, if not bone-breaking. After all, what goes up does have to come down and the earth isn’t paved with feather mattresses to soften the landing.

I tied my dog Merci and my puppy Buddy to the porch railing for a while this afternoon. Buddy wound his lead around the bushes and then cried when he couldn’t walk forward any more. He saw me coming down the porch steps to rescue him and he lunged forward to greet me. This raised his lead and pulled it taut, directly in front of my forward-moving leg. I saw the lead snap tight, but I was off balance, and it was too late to stop the forward momentum. My leg hit the lead and I was flying. I wasn’t falling. I was flying.

I landed on the cement walk well past the bottom step. I would prefer to never do this again, but since I am adept at flying short distances, I can attest to the fact that the landing was softer than many others I have experienced. Amazingly, I didn’t break anything. I acquired some aches and pains, and possibly some bruises, but the main injury seems to be the huge dent in my pride.

I relived that short flight in my mind tonight and I was reminded of Psalms 91:11-12. For he shall give his angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways. In their hands they shall bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone.

I have many memories of painful, slow-healing injuries from a variety of accidents over a lifetime. There have also been a few times when God’s angelic protection was manifested in a clear and unforgettable way.

I walked carefully down the porch steps early one rainy morning several years ago. One foot slid forward off the step and I began to fall backward. I should have landed on my tailbone on the edge of a step behind me. But the fall seemed to go in slow motion and I landed softly on the top step.

This is one of the rare instances where I was aware of protection from potential harm as the accident was in progress, but more often I’m rather dense and God has to remind me, as he did today, of his plan of protection.

A year ago I tripped and went flying across the bedroom. Suddenly, I dropped straight down like a lead weight onto the carpet. I screamed with the pain of landing on a knee that was already injured, but when I was finally able to move, I found I was “this” close to crashing head-first into the corner of a heavy table. Just a shave more and my injuries could have been life threatening.

Perhaps you can remember a time of God’s protection, when he sent his angels to “bear you up” and you came through an emergency situation unscathed, or perhaps a time when you came through an accident bruised when you know you should have been broken.

I wonder how often God’s angels bear us up and we are oblivious, unaware or unthankful of it.

© 2005 Janice Price

Sunday, February 06, 2005


Pine trees bowed under weight of ice

Pine trees stand upright after the thaw

The Weight of Sin
by Janice Price

Walking was an adventure that morning. Chunks of ice and ice-laden branches were dropping from the huge oak trees that lined both sides of the street and landing in the street and on the sidewalk. Melting ice dripped from the trees at a rapid rate. A steel helmet, or at the very least an umbrella, was warranted, but I didn’t have either.

Early Sunday morning, the dogs, Merci and Buddy, and I wanted to stretch our legs a bit after staying close to home since the Friday night ice storm. I also wanted to check on the damage along part of our daily walking path. We walked as fast as we could beneath each tree, dodging branches on the ground, until we reached a short stretch with fewer trees and a good view.

The sight of the pine trees, trees normally taller than I am, was incredible. I turned around to hurry the dogs back home to get my camera. Two days before this, the hillside and field below were covered with lovely green pine trees. Now the area was a sea of icy lumps. All of the pines but one were bent nearly to the ground under the weight of the ice that covered them and the one left standing was a mere shadow of itself with its branches plastered to its trunk.

As I walked the dogs home and returned with the camera to take photographs, I thought about the words that popped into my mind when I first saw the trees: the sin which so easily besets us. These words come from Hebrews 12:1. Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us.

Large branches and pine cones littered the ground where I stood, but the older pine trees remained standing. The young trees were unable to stand erect under the weight of the ice that fell from the sky, bending them low to the ground and freezing them into that position.

Oh, how many times I have felt I was frozen into the same position! Unable to stand upright, and once bent low, unable to rise again and stand erect. But the weight that crushes me is not ice. Ice eventually will melt, but sin can bow me over and keep me down. It is heavy and the longer the sin is not recognized or not confessed, the heavier it grows and the greater the chasm between me and God grows. If I do not repent quickly, Bible study, prayer and my relationship with God suffer. I am miserable and so is anyone around me.

I walked back Monday morning and took another picture of the same area. Young pine trees peppered the hillside. The heavy weight that pinned them down had melted, setting them free and allowing their branches to reach toward the sky again. They were slightly off center for a day or two, but they were erect.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1: 9

I must resemble one of those young pine trees when I do not recognize or confess my sin. God does not leave me bowed down forever, nor does he give up on me when I’m dense or stubborn. When I confess my sin, God forgives me and the chasm between us disappears. The heavy weight is gone and I can stand erect again, my arms free to pick up the Bible and my conscience clear for prayer.

The young pines on the hillside flourish, growing stronger, unencumbered by the heavy weight of the ice. I, too, grow stronger, while unencumbered by the heavy weight of sin.

© 2005 Janice Price