Every Sunday, Joe either made us almost late or just plain late to church. Cross my heart, I was always ready before him (and the poor fella is not here to deny this statement…which he absolutely would!). I KNEW I would change clothes ten times before I decided on my outfit for church, so I planned accordingly and woke up with the chickens. He did not. So, just about every Sunday my heels would click impatiently across his bathroom floor, where I would find him, standing in front of the mirror. He would either be patting that hair or straightening that tie. Without fail, he’d admire himself in the mirror, wink at me and say, “Mrs. Price, you are so lucky.” And I would laugh…he knew I would…then we would slide in the church parking lot on two wheels.
He also liked to position himself directly between his sister, Sarah, and me, and proclaim that he was ” a rose among thorns” (he typically made this proclamation in a British accent, like he was asking someone to pass the Grey Poupon or something, which made it even funnier). When I tell you Joe Price was full of it…
But he wasn’t wrong about the first part. Mrs. Price was mighty lucky, indeed.
This week, in honor of St. Patrick’s Day, Joe’s lesson is about how God used difficult circumstances for His good in the life of Saint Patrick, and how He will do the same for us.
I want to talk about St. Patrick this morning.
When he was just sixteen years old, he was kidnapped from his home in Britain, taken to Ireland and sold into slavery. While a slave, he worked as a shepherd for six years until God provided a way for him to escape. History tells us that it was during this very difficult time as a slave that St. Patrick became close to God.
But that was not the end of the story…God turned this tragic part of St. Patrick’s life into something good.
After St. Patrick was returned home and had some time to recuperate, he felt the calling to return to Ireland to spread the gospel and tell the good news of Jesus Christ to the people there.
You see, during his time as a slave, he became familiar with the folks in Ireland, learning their customs and their language. Yet even though he was familiar with the land and the ways of the people, it must have been difficult to return to the place where he was enslaved. Still, he returned to share the love of Jesus with the people of Ireland.
It is believed that Patrick led over 100,000 of the Irish people to Christ through his teaching and preaching…and that was the catalyst that resulted in the great revival that broke out among the pagan Irish.
Even though God is not the author of evil in our lives, he is aware of it. He is able to take the bad things and use them for our good. He has a purpose for us is everything.
Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”
The story of St. Patrick reminds me a lot of the life of Joseph in the Old Testament. They were both sold into slavery, held captive and later set free for the purpose of saving many lives and to bring glory to God.
When we find ourselves in dark circumstances, isn’t it wonderful to have the promise from God that he will never leave us? Even though we are not able to see into our future to see how things will turn out, God is there leading us through whatever comes our way.
Even better is knowing that His plan for us is good, and He gives us hope and a purpose in every circumstance. It is through that hope and purpose that we can use our experience to help others and lead them to Christ.
So, today, let’s thank God for turning our struggles into good, and for the assurance that, if we will allow it, He will use us to show others His mighty love.
When Joe attended auctioneer school in Missouri, he had to learn a long, complex tongue twister. I cannot remember the saying in its entirety, but I know it began with “Betty Botter bought a bit of butter, but she said, ‘This butter’s bitter. If I put it in my batter it will make by batter bitter. But a bit of better butter will make my batter better”…you get my drift. Because he was a mighty sweet boy, every year when I began my poetry unit at school, Joe indulged me by allowing me to put him on speaker phone so he could recite this rhyme for my students. In case you are wondering (I know you’re not, but let me be an English teacher for just a sec), this rhyme is an example of alliteration, consonance and assonance. You’re welcome.
He would then proceed to give them a brief example of the auctioneer’s chant, by auctioning a pretend baked good made by me (that’s a joke in itself) to the highest bidder. He always started the bidding too low, therefore my item always sold WAY below its value, and I never really got over that. But I digress…
I recently read something that reminded me of the auctioneer’s rhyme. It said, “Life happens. You can let it make you BITTER, or you can let it make you BETTER.” That will preach right there, in my opinion.
I think St. Patrick had every reason to be a little bitter toward Ireland. Bad things happened to him there. I get it. Who is to say that he wasn’t just a little bit bitter? I mean, he was human, after all. However, he made what must have been a very conscious choice to take a difficult situation and use it for GOOD….use it for GOD.
My favorite part of Joe’s lesson is this: But that was not the end of the story…God turned this tragic part of St. Patrick’s life into something good.
Shortly after Joe’s death, I found myself feeling just a little bitter. You may not have seen it, because I tried SO HARD to push those feelings away from me. But they were there. However, in God’s perfect timing, a sweet forever friend reached out to me and wrote the words that truly changed my heart.
She wrote, “Your love story is not finished“.
Honestly, it felt pretty finished to me up until that moment. But I was wrong. I was so very wrong. It was so not the end of the story. God doesn’t work that way. He just doesn’t.
And so, I had a very conscious choice to make. Oh, it would be so easy to dive right into that pool of petty bitterness and do some synchronized swimming. I certainly would not be alone. That pool is full of folks calling out, “Come on in! The water’s fine…”. Misery certainly does love company. But at some point, the lifeguard is going to blow the whistle to clear the pool. And do you know what you’ll be when you climb out? Cold, angry and shriveled up like a prune! I ain’t about that life! Are you??
I’m choosing BETTER. Our love story is not finished until JESUS lays down the pen. Jesus was writing when we were teenagers. He was writing the day we were married. He was writing on December 5th when Joe rested his sweet head in my lap, took his last breath on this earth, and his first one in Heaven. I like to imagine that Jesus slipped that pen in His pocket long enough to wrap His arms around Joseph Morgan and squeeze him tight, but He picked it right back up again. And He is writing, even today.
I might not reach 100,000 people the way St. Patrick did, but I am going to share my love story just the same. It is so very precious to me that I get to tell the story of Ronda and Joe. But hear me when I say…the real love story is about Ronda and Jesus.
There is no doubt in my mind that Joe Price loved me with all of his heart. But Jesus loves me even more. So much that He gave me hope and a purpose when I felt as I would never have either of those things again. He even gave me a book. Actually, He gave me two…and He told me to share them with you.
So, when I give you The Book of Joe, I am really giving you The Book of Life–The Book of Jesus. It is my hope that you cling to the sweet promises in the Bible just as I have. Let Joe’s words be the path that leads you to the pot of gold on the Other Side of that Rainbow.
Because you know what? Life is going to happen. Sometimes it is so very beautiful and sometimes it breaks your heart. But God makes us this promise in Romans 8:28:“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”
Your story is not over and neither is mine. We can take the situations we face and we can let them make us bitter or we can let them make us better. CHOOSE BETTER.
I’m taking a journey and I want more than anything for you to be with me. There will come a day when we will reach the other side of that rainbow. We will stand face to face with Jesus. Oh, friend…can you even imagine?? He will have that pen in His hand, even then. But He won’t write ‘THE END”. I think He will slip it into His pocket once again, wrap His arms around us, squeeze us tight and whisper in our ear, “My Child…this is just the beginning.”
And surely, Joe will be somewhere close by. He’ll wink at me and say, “Mrs. Price, you are so lucky”. And once again, he will be exactly right.
-Words of Wisdom from The Book of Joe