In Plain Sight

July 11, 2021

Photo creds to Joe’s sister, Sarah, for capturing this PERFECT image of JMP

Several years ago, I sought Joe’s advice on where I should hide something to keep the boys from finding it (it was probably jelly beans 😂). His reply was that the best method was to hide it in plain sight.

Joe had proven the effectiveness of this strategy on the day he proposed to me. Joe and his good friend Taylor had to call an auction sale that morning, and at the last minute, I ended up driving Joe’s truck to take Cameron over to my mama’s house. Now, I had suspicioned that there had been a possible ring purchase, but my efforts to look in every hiding place I could fathom had been fruitless thus far. I guess it was because the ring was not hidden at all…it was sitting in the center console of his truck. I probably rested my arm on it on the way back from my mama’s house that morning. I later learned that, as we pulled down the path toward the auction, Taylor (sitting in the back seat) spotted the ring box and did his best to get Joe’s attention in the rear view mirror to let him know it was out in plain sight. But Joe didn’t see Taylor, and I didn’t see the ring until later that afternoon. We were back in the woods behind the barn, building an imaginary house up on a hill, like we had done a thousand times before. I pointed and dreamed, saying we’d put this here and that there, when he interrupted me to ask if I really thought I could live with him for the rest of our lives. I turned around to find him, one knee on the dusty path, holding the prettiest ring I’d ever seen. Ya’ll know my answer…and if you know me well, you know that I screamed and cried and did a little happy dance because it’s just who I am.

And that’s the story of the best day of Joe’s sweet life. 😂

This week Joe’s lesson is about the ways that Jesus gives us eyes to plainly see the goodness of His work in our lives.

He wrote:

The Glory of God

When I think about the highlights of the ministry of Jesus, the story of how He healed the blind man is near the top of my list.  You are probably familiar with the story—it starts out with Jesus and His disciples coming across a blind man while they are walking through the temple. 

John 9: 1-3: “As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.”

I thought for a long time that the “works” Jesus talked about meant healing the man’s sight.  That is the main action  in the story. I thought Jesus was performing the miracle to show that He was the Son of God.  Well, now I see that the real point is something a little different. 

Further in the chapter we find in verse 30 how the man responded when questioned by the Pharisees.  “The man answered, ‘Now that is remarkable! You don’t know where he comes from, yet he opened my eyes.  We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly person who does his will.  Nobody has ever heard of opening the eyes of a man born blind.  If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.’

To this they replied, ‘You were steeped in sin at birth; how dare you lecture us!’ And they threw him out.”

If Jesus had wanted to be known for His power, he would have ridden into Jerusalem on a white horse with a sword and an army behind him. But that is not how He chose to come. He arrived quietly, touching the lives of the lost and forgotten. He didn’t just heal broken bodies. He healed hearts and souls, too. Like, in this story, He gave the blind man his physical sight, but He also gave him the ability to see the truth, while the Pharisees became blind to it.  We should make sure that we, both as Christians and as the church, do not become blind to all that Jesus does for us each and every day. 

So, as we go forward this week, let us not get so wrapped up in what happens in the world around us that we fail to see the work that God is doing here on earth every minute.  Ask the Lord to give you eyes that see His goodness in every situation.

-JMP

One of the perks of being an early bird living on a pond is that I am privy to a spectacular sunrise nearly every morning. I purposely seat myself at the kitchen table while I read my devotion so that I can see the sun just as it peeks over the tops of the trees and spills over onto the surface of the water. Ya’ll, sometimes it truly looks as if God is scattering golden nuggets and brilliant diamonds across the pond. I know it’s crazy, but I always feel like that is God’s special gift for me (my prize for getting up with the chickens!!). That perfect moment where the sky flips the switch from rainbow sherbet to glittering sunlight is brief, so if you’re not paying attention you’ll miss it, but it is worth taking a few moments each morning to just stop and soak up the sweetness of a fresh new day. The glory of God shows off for us first thing each morning.

I distinctly remember sitting at my kitchen table the morning after Joe went to Heaven. Honestly, I remember very little about those days (which is probably a blessing), but I can recall seeing the sunrise that day. Actually, what I remember is missing the sunrise. I caught the light reflecting off the pond from the corner of my eye. That morning, I needed a closer look, so I moved from the table to the glass door for a better view. But, in the moments it took me to get up and walk across the kitchen, the light on the pond disappeared, and all I could see was the bright, blinding sun over the trees. The irony of that magic moment slipping through my fingers was not lost on me that day.

On Tuesday of this week, I started my day like any other. I watched the sunrise from my kitchen table and went about my day. However, I could feel that uneasiness of impending grief creeping around the outer edges of my heart. While I am thankfully better able to control my reaction to bouts of grief, I also understand that sometimes the only way to find peace is to run away for just a bit. So, I threw some clothes in a bag and decided to disappear. It made no sense to head to the coast in the late afternoon when a tropical storm was in the forecast, but I have learned that my peace is almost always restored by the sight of blue water and smell of salt air, so I pointed Joe’s truck in that direction. Pointed is not exactly accurate. I honestly felt pulled toward the ocean. I had no idea what I was looking for, but I knew in my heart where I would find it.

When I arrived, I didn’t even take the time to throw my bag inside. I jumped straight out of the vehicle and walked down to the end of the dock. I perched on a wooden bench, closed my eyes, and soaked in the smell and the sounds. It was almost instant relief. Then, I opened my eyes to see the sun making its slow descent into the water. I caught it just in time to see those same glittering jewels dance across the water. Once again, the glory of God spread itself across the sky just for me.

But Joe’s lesson makes me realize that, like his own admission that maybe he’d originally missed the point, maybe I have as well. Maybe the grand display of majesty at dusk and dawn each day isn’t about those fleeting moments where the light dances across the water. Beautiful as they are, they are indeed fleeting. But when they disappear, the sun remains. Steadfast, over and over again, the sun remains. Could that have been the message I missed on the morning after Joe passed away? That no matter what this life gives us or what this life takes away from us, we are never removed from the light of the Son?

He arrived quietly, touching the lives of the lost and forgotten. Jesus isn’t about the blaze of glory. I think that part is just an after effect of His presence. Jesus is about loving and serving and healing.

He didn’t just heal broken bodies. In the moments before Joe’s sweet soul left his body, I held his head in my lap and prayed–I begged-the Lord to heal him. Although my eyes were blind to it then, now I can see that Jesus did heal Joe–right there in my arms–his broken body was made whole again as he left my arms for the arms of Jesus. Oh, that is a precious, precious thought!

He healed hearts and souls, too. The reality is, healing Joe’s heart meant mine had to break. But Jesus isn’t in the business of only healing hearts passing through the gates of Heaven. So, He shows up every single day…as constant as the sun…and continues the process of putting my heart back together again.

We should make sure that we do not become blind to all that Jesus does for us each and every day. Sometimes Jesus brings me healing through His word. Sometimes it comes in the form of people placed in my path who help me navigate through the darkness. Sometimes healing comes through the words you are reading now. And sometimes, healing comes from the sun. Always, though, healing comes from the Son.

So, as we go forward this week, let us not get so wrapped up in what happens in the world around us that we fail to see the work that God is doing here on earth every minute. Lamentations 3: 22-23 says, ” Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” I see this verse in living color every morning as the sun peeps at me from above the treeline.

And then, the day happens. Life happens. There are some mighty sweet moments. There are some moments that hurt. But there is no moment of the day where you are without the Son.

And the sunset? The Lord used it to open my eyes in two ways this week. For just a moment, as the light stretched out far across the water, I felt as if God gave me just a tiny sneak peak of the golden streets of Heaven. Crazy as that sounds, it brought peace to my heart to think of Joe just on the other side, and made me consider that maybe Heaven isn’t so far away after all. Then, as the sun began to sink, the colors in the sky transformed before my very eyes into a gorgeous palette of orange and pink and purple. As beautiful as the sun had been on top of the water, it was just as breathtaking as it nestled down beneath it. That’s when I think I really understood the message that no matter what happens during the course of a day, a week, a year, or a life, the glory of the Son gives us hope for a beautifully painted ending.

So, my sweet friend, my prayer for you today is that you will have eyes that can see the good. There is so much good. God’s goodness and glory are all around you, from the sunrise to the sunset and everywhere in between. It isn’t hiding from you in some dark, faraway corner, my friend. I can tell you from experience that the best things, the greatest blessings of this life, are all around you–hiding in plain sight.

-Words of Wisdom from The Book of Joe

Mean as a Snake

July 4, 2021

Joe HATED filters, so I had to sneak pictures like like this. Sometimes I’m a little bit mean! 😂

There once was a man traveling to the top of a mountain. A snake approached and begged the man to let him rest in his pocket on the way up. The snake promised not to bite him, so he agreed. When they reached the top, the snake bit the man. His last words were, “How could you? You promised not to bite me!” To which the serpent replied, “You knew I was a snake when you put me in your pocket.”

When Joe was feeling mean or mischievous, he said his ankles were itching. They itched often.

I am incredibly ticklish, especially on the bottoms of my feet. I have to engage in a very serious discussion before I get a pedicure or massage. I just can’t take it! 🤦‍♀️ Knowing this, Joe did his very best to torture me in this manner. One evening, I stretched my legs across his lap while we were sitting on the couch. I thought he was too engrossed in a tv show to bother me. I was mistaken. Before I knew it, he had my legs in a vice grip and held me there while he tickled my feet. I screamed, I gasped, I begged, but he chose this moment to seek retribution for all the tricks I’d ever played on him. Finally, I told him I was about to pee on myself, knowing that would make him stop. But he didn’t stop, thinking I had cried wolf. I was a wolf with a tiny, fragile bladder…and, well…I peed in my pants right there on the couch.

I was FURIOUS. I asked him if he had anything to say to me, fully expecting a profuse, sincere apology. His reply was as follows: “You knew I was a snake when you put me in your pocket.”

He was my sweet Joe with a mean streak a mile wide. 😂

This week, Joe’s lesson is about good and evil, and how we are all a little bit of both.

He wrote:

Good and Evil

It is only natural for us to wonder why the Lord allows good and evil to exist side by side.  I would think that we all wonder and ask ourselves, “Wouldn’t the world be a better place if the Lord would just destroy everything evil and allow only good to exist?”

To me, that is an easy conclusion (or maybe solution) to the problems we see in society—but then we have to consider that maybe our idea of what is good doesn’t line up with what God’s standard is for good. This idea of doing away with evil is great in theory, but then I ask myself where I might fall in the division of good and bad? I’ll let you ponder on that for yourself, but personally, I know that I fall short of the grace and mercy of our Lord and Savior. I know that I am sinful by nature, and according to the Bible, a sin is a sin, and sin is evil.

In Matthew 13: 24-30, Jesus tells a parable about weeds: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. 25 But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. 26 When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared.27 “The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’28 “‘An enemy did this,’ he replied. The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’29 “‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’”

The Lord allows good and evil to exist side by side because He loves us.  Instead of dealing with us right away, swiftly and justly, He provides grace, and only through grace can we come to know Jesus and His gift of forgiveness.

He wants all of us to know Him, and He knows that in knowing Him, each of us will require grace. 1 Timothy 2: 3-4 states: “This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.”

But I am here to tell you this morning that there will come a day when His grace will end—He is going to separate the wheat from the weeds, and we must be ready! The weeds will be bundled and burned, but the wheat will go into the barn. I don’t know about you, but I know that I want to end up in the barn.

So, when we consider good and evil, let it remind us that the only way we can overcome our own evil is through the love and grace and mercy of Jesus. Thank you, Lord, for your forgiveness, and for giving us grace to be prepared for the day you bring in your harvest.

-JMP

I spent several years working in school administration. My first year as a principal, I periodically sent Mr. D, who was the principal of the high school where I taught for many years, an email containing two simple words: I’m sorry.

He knew what I meant.

I was sorry because I know I worried that poor man to death when I was a teacher. Joe often referred to me as bossy, and said my personality was a bit intense. Well, Joe exaggerates, but I do own a shirt that says, “I’m not bossy. I’m aggressively helpful”. 😜 So, I kept Mr. D’s office chair warm. If he assigned a student to In School Suspension and I knew he/she had something going on at home, I’d make a plea on their behalf. If, bless his heart, I sent him a student for disciplinary action and he didn’t put them in ISS, I’d question his decision🤦‍♀️(I know. I know.). If he made a schedule change that didn’t suit the English department, I’d gently suggest a better way. He always listened quietly and patiently. Sometimes he did what I asked. I thought he was so smart on those occasions. Sometimes he did what he thought was best, regardless of my opinion. Thus, sometimes I’d pout for a day or two. It never swayed him. 😂

When I became a principal, I realized that I was so caught up in my little world as a teacher, that all I could see was the small picture. Meanwhile, Mr. D was tasked with keeping all the plates spinning at once. He made decisions based on the big picture. I also realized that Mr. D was really good at his job, and because he never made me feel like I was getting on his last nerve (when I know good and well that I was), he was also pretty much a saint. 😇

Mr. D gave me a piece of advice I have used over and over again. He said if I’d make every decision based on what is best for students, I might not win every battle, or be everyone’s favorite person all the time, but I would ultimately win the war.

So, Joe’s lesson made me consider the fact that I probably owe Jesus Christ a two word email as well. And I’m not calling you out, friend, but I am leaving some space on the signature line just in case you need to send one, too. 😊

How often do we approach God with our lists, in hopes that He will do it our way? How often do we make a plea on someone’s behalf (or our own) when God’s actions don’t seem fair? How often do we question His decisions? Gently(or not so gently) suggest a better way? And when He doesn’t change it…doesn’t fix it…when it seems that good continues to suffer and when it seems that evil might prevail, how often do we retreat in a far away corner instead of running into His arms? Maybe it’s just me. But maybe it’s you, too?

I might never understand why God doesn’t serve up swift justice for all of the evil in this world. But what I do understand is if He gave us exactly what we each deserve for all of our sins, well….I’m afraid we’d find ourselves in a heap of trouble. So, I’m trying to focus on the way my cup is forever overflowing with God’s sweet mercy and grace, and I am trusting in Him as He keeps all the plates spinning. He hasn’t dropped one yet.

Mr. D is pretty intimidating before you get to know him. Yet, in reality, he has a heart as big as the ocean, and bottom line—he does his job better than anyone I’ve ever known. I believe God is much the same. Just like like Mr. D taught me to do what is best for students, our Lord is out there, every single day, doing what is best for us. So, while it may look as if He isn’t winning every battle, while His decisions may not always be popular, this I know for sure. Sweet friend….God will win the war. Joe said, “The weeds will be bundled and burned, but the wheat will go into the barn. I don’t know about you, but I know that I want to end up in the barn.”

Dear friend, if I don’t see you again before, I’ll meet you at the barn. ❤️

-Words of Wisdom from The Book of Joe

Get Somewhere and Get Still

June 27, 2021

❤️ My Sweet Mama Eula ❤️

Mama Eula loved everybody. I know everyone believes they have the sweetest grandma in the world, but I’m telling you…she was about as sweet as they come. I NEVER heard her say an unkind thing about anyone. I never even heard her raise her voice (and I promise you we all gave her many reasons to yell). She cooked the best fried chicken, made homemade Play Doh, let us eat butter beans with toothpicks til we were grown, and could turn an old scrap of fabric into a beautiful evening gown. She was everybody’s grandma. At her funeral, the preacher never once referred to her as “Ms. Eula”. She was Mama Eula to him, too.

She was just a quiet, sweet, patient soul….oh, and she was incredibly independent. Joe and I learned this first hand several years ago.

In the hours before a predicted ice storm, Joe and I went to town to pick up some last minute supplies. Before we left Mount Olive, we stopped by Mama Eula’s house to see if she needed us to do anything for her(and maybe talk her into NOT staying home by herself). She declined our offers for assistance and assured us she’d be just fine. Of course I could not leave well enough alone, so I might have asked her more than once if she was sure she didn’t need us to do anything or take her anywhere.

You could have heard a pin drop when she looked at me and said, “I’ll tell you what you can do for me, Ronda. You can go somewhere and get still.”

Her eyes were as blue as Joe’s, and she shot me a look that told me she was not messing around! So, I got my behind in the truck and got still. Joe Price laughed at me all the way home and used her line on me at least a thousand times when I tried to tend to somebody else’s business. 😂

He loved that line so much that he made it the title of this week’s lesson. I’m pretty sure he told that story to the ENTIRE congregation that morning, too.

He wrote:

Get Somewhere and Get Still

Hustle and bustle. Stress. Feelings of anxiety and being overwhelmed.

Sometimes we just need to get somewhere and get still.

How many of you take a few minutes each day to just rest and be alone with God? I personally have a hard time doing that. If we are going to spend time in communion with the Lord, we are going to have to put forth the effort, because if we aren’t dedicated to it, the world will put more obstacles in our way than we can shake a stick at.

Jesus understood the importance of getting off by Himself and spending time in prayer. He was a mighty busy man, walking for miles at the time, preaching, healing, teaching, etc., but still He made time to rest and spend time with His Father.

Luke 5:16 says, “And he withdrew himself into the wilderness, and prayed.”

Jesus taught the disciples to take time for themselves. After He had sent them out to preach and heal, when they all bunched back up, the disciples wanted to tell Jesus about all the things they had done.  So, He listened to them and then we find in Mark 6:31 that Jesus instructed them to “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”

In Psalm 131, we find King David as a very busy ruler. He had a lot going on and I’m sure he had a lot on his mind, but in verses 1 and 2  he said , “I don’t concern myself with matters too great or too awesome for me to grasp. Instead, I have calmed and quieted myself, like a weaned child who no longer cries for its mother’s milk…”. David understood the importance of intentionally quieting our minds. Instead of getting all worked up, he settled himself by putting his faith and hope in the Lord.

So, as we go about our daily lives this week, let’s try to set aside some time each day to pause and rest in presence of God. If you find yourself spinning in circles, you might just need to get somewhere and get still.

-JMP

I have heard the voice of the Lord twice in my life.

The first time was that summer years ago, before we were married, when Joe lost his mind for a little bit 😜 and we spent a few months apart. Just as clear as day, I heard God say to me, “He’s coming back.” By the end of that summer, I finally realized that Jesus had kept His word. Joe did come back, but it didn’t happen overnight. I had a hard lesson to learn. Actually, I had two lessons to learn, but it wasn’t until recently that I understood the second one. (We’ll get to that later…). I had to get to the point that I loved Joe, but I loved Jesus more.

Finally, and most importantly, I had to get still. At the end of the day, I had a promise from God. Part of my job became resting in God’s presence, trusting that, even when the world said otherwise, He was working on my behalf. I had to let God be God. One day, I finally realized that I wanted Joe, but I needed Jesus. While I firmly believed God would keep His promise, I also knew I would survive if He didn’t. But oh my goodness I am so thankful that He made good on it!! Joe came back and we lived a wonderful, wonderful life.

The second time I heard God’s voice, I was, once again, in a very dark place. And once again, I was without my sweet Joe, but this time he wasn’t coming back. This admission is a very personal one, and it is not pretty AT ALL, but it is honestly where I was in the months after Joe’s death. Please know it is not where I am today.

Sickness and death just kept coming in the early part of this year. Every time I turned around, someone I loved either passed away, became ill, was diagnosed with a terminal illness, or faced extreme suffering. Part of me shook my fist at God, so angry that things just kept getting worse and worse. I remember thinking, “Lord, are you going to take away everyone I love?Are you going to make everyone I love suffer?” But there was another part of me, as people either entered the gates of Heaven or prepared to do so, that was a little bit jealous. I write that hoping you understand my perspective. It wasn’t that I wanted to end my life, but just that I missed Joe Price so much, and I longed to be where ever he was…so when it seemed that so many people were able to get there before me, I might have looked up and whispered, “Why not me, Lord?” I might have whispered it more than once.

That’s when I heard His voice again. My head was in my hands, my tears in a puddle on the floor,when I heard God say these words: “Because you can’t want to go to Heaven for Joe. You have to want to go to Heaven for Me.

I have turned those words over and over in my head. I didn’t really understand them until this week at the beach. I guess I just needed to get somewhere and get still.

When I think about that cold night at Mama Eula’s house, or that summer I spent without Joe all those years ago, or where I’ve been over the past few months, I see a common thread. I will absolutely wear myself out trying to control things that are quite simply, out of my hands. So, once in a while, somebody will put me in my place. Someone will direct me to go somewhere and get still. Mama Eula did it. Jesus did it, too. And I think both of them were coming from a place of love. Both of them knew, better than me, who was really in control.

I wish I wasn’t so stubborn that God had to make my world stop spinning in order to get me to pause and rest in Him, but that has been the case so far. I’m working on that part. I really am. Nevertheless, when I finally drop to the floor, exhausted by carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders, He whispers in my ear.

He reminds me that He is a keeper of promises. He reminds me that it was the truth I found buried in His Word that got me through those dark, uncertain days. He reminds me that, even when the world says otherwise, He is working on my behalf. He reminds me that His Word holds another promise, that although we do not understand what He is doing, one day we will. He reminds me that He carried the weight of this world on His shoulders, and because of that, it is not my weight to bear.

My second lesson in that long ago summer was learning to live without Joe. I’m glad I didn’t realize it then, but now I can see it for what it is–the merciful hand of God preparing me for the road ahead.

Just this morning, I cracked open the devotional that I go back to day after day and year and after year—Jesus Calling. Today’s devotion is entitled “Rest in Me a While”. I love it when the words of my Joe and my Jesus line up like that! ❤️ Below is an excerpt:

If Mama Eula could make a ball gown from a flour sack, there’s no telling what Jesus can make out of you and me. But we have to jump off the hamster wheel for a moment. We are all running on empty, and we are all looking for ways to fill our cup. You can’t fill it with things. You can’t even fill it with people. Trust me…I’ve tried to do both. Your cup is designed to be filled with the sweet love of Jesus. Let Him fill your cup, sweet friend, and watch it overflow.

Set aside some time to pause and rest in presence of God. If you find yourself spinning in circles, you might just need to get somewhere and get still.

-Words of Wisdom from The Book of Joe

Right Hand Man

June 20, 2021

Vacation season is upon us!

My Facebook memories have been FLOODED the past few weeks with vacation pictures, honeymoon pictures, etc. I love these pictures of Joe and Jackie Beth, because they seem to exemplify my own personal philosophy that if you can just get your toes in the sand, it’s all peace and happiness. I also love these pictures because Joe and Jackie Beth are both just plain purty in them.

But let me tell you about the “knock down drag out” Joe and I had before we left for the beach that year.

How do I remember? Because we ALWAYS went nose to nose trying to get ourselves packed up and ready for a trip! 🙂 Bless his heart, I know that Joe was stressed out trying to get loose ends tied up at work, getting the boat ready (he always had an improvement project for the boat and he always waited until the last minute to get started on it), etc. And it is possible that I have the tendency to overpack just a teensy bit, so there was the stress of exactly how to get all the stuff down to the coast without a U-Haul. And then…there was the fact that Joe had a particular way of organizing all the things. Unfortunately, the glass on my crystal ball gets a little cloudy, and I could not read his mind on how to position each suitcase to ensure maximum efficiency, so we (me and one/all of the children) did it incorrectly. He would try not to fuss, but his tired, stressed, short tempered little self would inevitably blow a fuse. Then my tired, stressed, short tempered little self would FLOUNCE, and we’d have us a minor world war right there in the driveway. Sometimes I am glad we live way back in the woods! 🙂

So, we’d load up and huff and puff and pout all the way to the end of the path. However, before we pulled out onto the highway, Joe would put the truck in park, {begrudgingly} take my hand, and say a prayer for safe travels, a good trip and a safe return home.

It’s mighty hard to stay mad with a man who talks to Jesus like that, so I would only pout a few more minutes before I allowed Joe to enjoy the sunshine of my personality again. 🙂

There’s also something mighty comforting about knowing Jesus is your right hand man as you barrell down toward the coast in an overstuffed pickup truck pulling a boat still wet with paint, sealer, glue, etc!

This week Joe’s lesson is about the grace of Jesus, who is by our side in every circumstance.

He wrote:

Right Hand Man

Luke 22: 31-32: “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”

If we were to make a thank you list to Jesus for all of the things He did in His lifetime, I believe this display of grace He showed to Simon Peter would be at the top. Jesus knows that He is about to be persecuted,arrested, abandoned and executed, and what does He do? He prays for Simon Peter’s faith, and assures him that, even though things are about to get bad—He will pass through. He will not be overwhelmed.

One of the things I am in awe of as a Christian is knowing that Jesus cares for me, just as He cared for Simon Peter. He is sitting at the right hand of His Father, and He is praying for you and me.

Jesus is on our side.  He is with us, guiding our way through every trial and obstacle.  I know there may be times when it doesn’t feel that way, but it is true even then. Our faith may falter or change depending on the circumstance of where we are in life, but we can rest in the knowledge that God is always there, strengthening us.

So, when you are faced with bad news or a difficult situation, or when things just aren’t going the way you thought they would or should go, remember this—You are not alone. You will pass through. 

Jesus loves us enough to stand by our side and pray for us—all of us—even you and me.

Lord, we thank You for being there to strengthen us. You are the same now and forever, and because of that we know we are never truly alone.

-JMP

I’m not sure when I started it, but I have a tradition of sneaking a moment alone to look at the water just before we leave at the end of each vacation. I try to soak up the memories in my mind because I realize things will be different the next time we gather together for a week. The children will be older. We might have an extra person on the next trip. Or, someone might be missing. So, I say a prayer of thanks for the blessings of that particular season and I pray for the season ahead. A lot can happen in a year.

Joe’s lesson this week sent me to my Bible commentary right off the bat. I learned that in Luke 22, Jesus issued a warning to the disciples (specifically Simon Peter) that Satan would use the terrible events about to occur to “sift them like wheat“. During the sifting process, wheat is shaken violently to separate it from the chaff. Peter would be tested similarly by the devil to see if his faith could be shaken off or separated from him during these trials.

Well, friends, let me just say that in the past year, I have been SIFTED.

Our vacation last year found us still reeling from Covid 19 restrictions. Joe’s mama took a nasty fall in early summer, and spent that week(and several more) recovering from an extensive surgery to repair a badly broken ankle. Joe’s boat finally kicked the bucket AND he had a case of the gout. It was a time.

School resumed in August and I entered what would be my most challenging school year ever (and I’ve got nearly 25 of them under my belt!). Joe passed away in December, and within the next month we would also mourn the loss of his aunt and my grandmother. I nearly crumbled under the pressure of teaching full time, working a part time job, trying to juggle the responsibilities of Joe’s business/estate, raising my children, and the fact that my heart was broken in two. Sifted is a pretty good way to describe it.

I would be lying if I said my faith wasn’t tested. And ya’ll, I like to think I have a lot of faith. Still…my knees nearly buckled underneath me, but I did not fall. That was absolutely not because of my own strength. I can tell you I didn’t have much of that left in me.

What did I have? I had…no I HAVE…the same thing you do. It is the power of a man named Jesus who loves me so much that He prays for me at the right hand of His Father. Sometimes I forget that part. Y’all he PRAYS for us. Even as we endure our sifting seasons. Even now.

The last part of that verse is important. Jesus tells Simon Peter “when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” Jesus knew the end of the story! He didn’t say “if” you get to the other side of all this, he said “when“. Jesus called him to use his experience to help others find strength.

If you’ve been reading the blog for a while you’ve heard me say “some good simply has to come of this”. So maybe Jesus wasn’t just talking to Simon Peter. Maybe He was talking to me, too.

Sweet friend, if you are in your sifting season, if you feel like your knees are about to give way, believe with all of your heart that YOU ARE NOT ALONE. YOU WILL PASS THROUGH. YOU WILL NOT BE OVERCOME. How do I know? Because Jesus has given me the strength to walk through the past 197 days. He has been my right hand man, holding me up as I took every single step.

I can’t tell you that you will wake up one day and understand why this had to happen. I can tell you that one day someone will look at you and know that because Jesus saw you through it, He will see them through as well. Something good will come.

As you read this, I am on vacation. I’ve already found myself on the beach with my eyes closed, dreaming of a distant Shore. I know if I can just get my toes in the sand, there will be Peace and Happiness forever…with my Joe and my Jesus.

Just before I head home, I will take one more moment to gaze out onto the water. I will soak up the memories of this trip with my boys and I will thank the Lord for the blessings of this season. I will thank Him for the blessings of the season to come. Because even though things look different…even though someone is missing, I know I am never alone.

Before I pull onto the highway, I will offer up Joe’s traveling prayer. There’s something mighty comforting about knowing Jesus is your right hand man as you barrell down the road toward Home.

-Words of Wisdom from The Book of Joe

Forever And Ever Amen

June 12, 2021

**The blog is a little bit different this week. Joe wrote these words, just not in the little black notebook. These are the words he wrote on my heart. Back to the notebook next week, I promise.**

Today is our wedding anniversary. Don’t you be sad for me—I mean it. Well, ok, you can be sad for just one second, but then I need to you to think these thoughts: This day was a very, very good day. June 12th is the day Joe became my forever, and forever doesn’t end.

I told someone this week that Joe and I are the LUCKY ones, to have known a love so sweet and true. Some people live and die and never know how that really feels, so if you want to feel sorry, let it be for those people, not for me.

I believe that our lives are like books, and each person who crosses our path is a chapter. The chapter begins the moment that person enters your life and ends with the last breath. I used to think it ended when they walked out of your life, but you never know when a person might reappear. Ask me how I know…☺️

I am but a chapter in your book, and you are but a chapter in mine. So maybe, somewhere between this life and the next, we are allowed the chance to flip through the pages.

If you see my book, I feel certain you’ll notice that one chapter looks a little more weathered than the others. I wish I could tell you just where to flip to in order to find these pages, but as Joe showed us, not one of us knows when Jesus will put down His pen in our story. But you’ll recognize this chapter by the dog eared, worn out pages. There may be many other pages after this one (or maybe just a few), but this one…oh, this chapter is a favorite.

No matter how many pages the good Lord writes in my book, I will always go back to this chapter. It is called “My Sweet Joe”. I will read it again and again, and I will laugh, and I will cry. My tears are full–so very full–of gratitude and happiness and LIFE, because it was Joe who taught me how to live and how to love. Joe may not appear in as much of the book as I had hoped, and he may not be in the final chapters, but he did change the story forever.

Of course, I would have written the ending differently. Still, I will read this chapter again and again, partly because so much of it is wonderful and partly because I simply love the Author.

At the very end of my book (and yours, too), you’ll find an epilogue. You know…that’s the part where you read “the rest of the story”. Ironically, that part is already written. It is a promise from God himself. If you’ve read the Bible, you already know that it all works out in the end.

June 12th is a very, very good day. It is the day Joe became my forever, and in Heaven, forever doesn’t end. So, we do live happily ever after. Only this time, I don’t have to give him back.

There’s a line from the movie Steel Magnolias that has always been one of my favorites:  “I’d rather have thirty minutes of wonderful than a lifetime of nothing special.”

My thirty minutes was wonderful. I wouldn’t change a thing.

Happy Anniversary in Heaven to my sweet Joe.  

It was always you, JMP.

It was always you.❤️

Stormy Weather

June 6 2021

I simply asked for a picture. Joe’s pose was a bit unexpected. 😂

Joe was predictable. It was part of his charm. He wore button fly Levi jeans dungarees. He wore Sperry’s. He wore soft knit Polo shirts and plaid Polo button ups. He wore his cap propped on top of his head like he was hiding a small kitten under it. He wore a white undershirt whether he needed to or not. He carried a pocket knife, handkerchief and a pack of Marlboros everywhere he went. He carried an assortment of change, lighters, and tiny bits of hardware in his pants pockets. He wore his shirt tucked in (even his pajama tops) and he wore a belt. He did this in 1995, and he did this in 2020. Joe was predictable.

But once in a while….

My taste in music is a little more eclectic than Joe’s. While I love classic country just as much as Joe, I also enjoy tunes with a little more bass. 😂On the rare occasion that he let me control the radio, he seemed mortified that I could recite the lyrics to most any old school rap song. In turn, I seemed mortified that he could not. I called him Grandpa Jones. He called me Tupac Sha-Curl. 🙂

I should have known something was up when, as we left on a road trip a few years ago, he not only offered to let me play MY playlist, but also gifted me with a bag of jellybeans as we ventured out. He waited patiently as I belted out tune after bass thumping tune, knowing “the song” would soon play. I had just popped a handful of jellybeans in my mouth when the song began. And I want you to know that Joseph Morgan Price cranked it up and RAPPED every stinking word loud and proud! That boy, in an effort to prove that he was NOT an old man (hahaha…we all know he was), watched a YouTube video over and over until he had memorized the entire song! I was so shocked that I, in that moment, managed to suck a full grown jellybean down my esophagus.

My first thought was that Joe Price would make sure my cause of death was listed on the certificate as “jellybean asphyxiation”, knowing full well I died of shock because someone had stolen my husband and replaced him with a very southern drawling rapper. Once I regained the ability to breathe again, we laughed until we cried. He was so dang proud of himself! He should have been…it was completely unexpected, and he pulled it off without a hitch!

This week, Joe’s lesson is about dealing with the unexpected storms of life.

He wrote:

The Unexpected Storms

We certainly live in a world of imperfect information, guaranteed surprises, and unpredictable occurrences.  Storms, both real and metaphorical, are waiting to happen. The next unexpected turn in our lives is always just around the corner. We should all take the time  and put forth the energy to prepare ourselves for the unexpected, but there is no real way to prepare for everything life throws our way.  Sometimes the storms we encounter are just too big, in spite of our preparation. 

But, I have good news for you this morning.  I know a man who can help you every storm you face, whether you prepared for it or not.

Matthew 8:23-27 states, “Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him. Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping.The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!”

He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.

The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!”

Jesus will be your strength and refuge.

1 Peter 5:7 gives us the following instructions: “Cast all your cares upon Him for He cares for you.”

Scripture tells us that Jesus was sleeping during the storm mentioned in Matthew 8.  Many of us ask how He could sleep during such a dangerous time. Once again, He was teaching by example.  Jesus had faith in his father.  He knew that no matter how rough the storms of life became, his father-our God-would take care of Him.  That is what He calls us to believe as well.  God can and God will see us through any storm.

When you find yourself in trouble, ask Jesus to help you. He’s right there.

When you find yourself in a bad situation, or you are forced to deal with something unpleasant, ask Jesus to help you. He’s right there.

When things aren’t going your way, when you are discouraged, or when you are depressed, ask Jesus to help you. He’s right there.

Jesus is greater than any storm you might face in the coming week. He longs to help you through it. All you have to do is ask. He’s right there.

-JMP

I cannot even believe it, but I am about to prove Joe’s assertion that I am an old woman.

I was Miss Duplin County.

In 1996.

Ladies and gentlemen, that was TWENTY FIVE years ago. I’ll be over here sticking tennis balls on the legs of my walker and changing the batteries in my hearing aid if you need me.

And yes…my hair used to be brown. It may still be brown under there somewhere, but it’s been so long since I’ve seen it, I just don’t know for sure. 🙂

Like Joe said, sometimes we work hard to prepare. Do you know how much preparation goes into getting ready for a pageant? Lordy, there’s so much snipping and nipping and spraying and tucking and then you have to ADHERE your swimsuit to your bottom end, which is pretty awful…but not nearly as awful as getting that thing UNSTUCK afterward. Jesus take the wheeeeeel!

I sang the song “Stormy Weather” for the talent portion of the competition.

This week, as the rain fell in buckets and the sky rumbled with thunder, I found myself humming that tune again. I had never really thought about the lyrics, but dang…these days I feel them way down in my soul! Here’s part of the song:

Don't know why there's no sun up in the sky
Stormy weather
Since my man and I ain't together, keeps raining all of the time
Life is bare. Gloom and misery everywhere
Stormy weather
And I just can't get my poor self together
Oh, I'm weary all of the time. So weary all of the time
When he went away the blues walked in and met me
And if he stays away old rocking chair's gonna get me
All I do is pray the Lord above will let me
Walk in the sun once more
Can't go on. All I had in life is gone
Stormy weather
Since my man and I ain't together
Keeps raining, keeps raining
All the time.

I mean, I get it now. I feel like it literally rained continuously in the months after Joe’s death (it did!). The dark skies and gloomy days stretched for days on end. I’ve been gloomy, I’ve been miserable, and Lord knows I’ve been weary. I told someone recently that being sad makes me tired, and I am so tired of being tired. However, I have felt the clouds lift just a tiny bit in the last month or so. The waves of grief are still there, but I have more control over them now. I miss Joe Price every minute of every day, and I don’t think that will ever change, but the feeling is more of a lowkey sadness that I carry with me while I function somewhat normally. I guess that is to be expected.

What was unexpected was the immense wave of grief that hit me about a week ago. In hindsight, I can see that it was the perfect storm, brewing underneath my life. I was trying to close out a school year, my allergies attacked me with a vengeance, it seemed so many of my closest friends were suffering in some way, both of my boys were scheduled to have their wisdom teeth removed on the same day (I am insane for making that choice, by the way), and I guess I had the six month mark since Joe’s death (yesterday) and our upcoming six year wedding anniversary(next week) tucked back in my brain as well. It was a lot.

And finally, I crumbled. I crumbled unexpectedly and publicly, and honestly, I had a really hard time bouncing back. I guess because I had been doing so well, I thought maybe I was over the really big waves of grief. I was wrong. I thought maybe I’d found myself back at square one. I was wrong about that, too.

All I do is pray the Lord above will let me walk in the sun once more…that particular line stops me in my tracks. I have prayed that very prayer. Often.

And all this time, the prayer was right, but the spelling was wrong.

I feel like I am walking in the aftermath of a hurricane. Not a “false alarm, get out of school and then it hardly rains” storm, but more like a Hugo or Matthew or Hazel. Have you ever noticed how brightly the sun shines just after a big one? If you are focused on what you see, the sun illuminates the wreckage. That’s where I’ve been most of this week…kicking at fallen trees, staring at the debris that used to be a home, wondering how I’ll ever build those walls again.

It’s not about walking in the sun. It’s about walking in the Son.

It’s the sun that hurts your eyes and gives you wrinkles and melts the candy bars you hide in your car (or is that just me?).

But the other one…the real Son…He is there, too. Bigger than the wreckage. He’s already got a plan to rebuild from the ground up. He is a carpenter, after all.

Last Friday, I noticed a canvas propped against a wall. My sister is always painting something, and I honestly didn’t pay it much mind. She had already painted a black background and made a few yellow strokes on it.

At the end of this week, she gifted me with the finished product for my wedding anniversary. Isn’t it beautiful?

So, while I was lost in my own suffering, she was creating a masterpiece—a reflection of love and hope and sacrifice—and a promise that one day what is upside down will be right side up again.

Sweet friend, life is stormy. Most of us are either walking into, walking out of, or walking right through a storm as we speak. While the rain stings your face and the clouds are heavy and black, remember that Someone is spreading paint on a canvas. He’s got the brush in one hand and He’s got you in the other. Let Him paint, friend. Let Him paint.

Joe said, “Jesus had faith in his father.  He knew that no matter how rough the storms of life became, his father-our God-would take care of Him.  That is what He calls us to believe as well.  God can and God will see us through any storm.

Maybe you’re like me and you’ve been thinking you could change the wind. You can’t, my friend. You just can’t. But you can adjust your sails. That’s when you finally begin to see the light. That’s how you walk in the Son.

-Word of Wisdom from The Book of Joe

Because He Lives

May 30, 2021

Big brother Joe and his little sister, Sarah💗

Cinderella.

That was the name Joe picked out as he waited for his new baby sister to arrive. He was excited about having a sibling–a playmate–a partner in crime. Cinderella (we call her Sarah 😀) arrived, and friends visited with food and gifts. One sweet, thoughtful neighbor, Mrs. Marjorie Shivar, brought a gift for baby AND one for Joe. It was a book. She brought him none other than Cinderella.

But bless Joe’s heart, on the day Sarah came home, he thought his fairy tale had ended. She didn’t pop out as the instant companion he’d imagined, so the little fella did what he had to do. He ran away from home.

Little Joseph Morgan packed a bag full of books(I feel sure Cinderella made the cut), a teddy bear, and maybe a pair of drawers and hit the path to stay with Grandma Mary. 😂

As quickly as he decided to leave, one day Joe decided to return home. He threw his bag over his shoulder, hit the path again and trudged home. He grew up tormenting his sister in that special way that only big brothers can.

But that is not the end of the story.

Joe and Sarah grew up to be more than siblings. They were fiercely loyal companions and maybe even occasional partners in crime. Most of all, they were friends.

Sarah grew up to be a beautiful blonde princess (crown and errythang…she was Miss Goldsboro), so I guess he got his Cinderella after all!

This week Joe’s lesson is about how we, as Christians, should live our lives to ensure our own HAPPILY EVER AFTER.

He wrote:

How Will You Be Remembered?

This morning I am going to tell you the story of Eric Liddell. Do you remember Chariots of Fire? He was one of the two runners in that story.

Eric Liddell was a Scottish Olympian. He turned down what many believed to be his best chance at a gold medal in the 1924 Olympics because the trials were held on Sunday.  He did, however, enter the 400-meter trials, where he qualified and set a world record while winning a gold medal in that year’s Olympic games.

But that is not the end of his story. After 1924, Eric gave up running and dedicated himself to something he felt was more important—one year after his Olympic victory,  he went to China as a missionary.

During some of the worst days of World War II, Eric chose to stay in Japanese-controlled China to serve the people and share the good news of Jesus Christ. In 1943, he was imprisoned in an internment camp.

During the war, Britain made a prisoner exchange deal that included Eric Liddell. Although he had a wife and children at home, he gave up his spot to a pregnant woman—a fact that was not known to his family until more than 60 years later. The people whose lives were impacted by Liddell say they don’t remember him as a record setting runner, but rather as a man who did what God called him to do.

Eric Liddell realized as a young man that this world has nothing on the world that is promised to us by Jesus. We can reach fame, we can make lots of money, but none of that compares to the rewards of an eternal life with Jesus. Our redemption through Christ makes earthly accomplishments no more than dust.

It was written that  the entire internment camp was stunned in the days after Liddell’s death, because of the presence and impact he had while he lived. On his death bed, a young student asked him how he had given his life to God. Liddell’s response, the last words he spoke here on earth were this: “In complete surrender”.

This morning, I leave you with a few words from Matthew 25: “His master replied, ‘Well done, thy good and faithful servant! Come and share in your master’s happiness!’” This week, let’s try to live in complete surrender so that we will one day we might be remembered for what we did for the Lord.

-JMP

On this Memorial Day weekend, I hope that you have taken some time to honor those who gave their lives in service to our country. Commemorating this day, along with Veteran’s Day was important to Joe. He truly had a servant’s heart, and had so much heartfelt admiration and appreciation for those who serve or served in our military.

Perhaps it is the fact that Memorial Day is upon that has caused me to ponder the term “memorial” this week. That term hits me differently this year. It’s what you do when you want to honor someone who now lives in your memory…because he or she is gone.

Earlier this week, I received a precious message from someone who became my family when I married Joe. This person and I share a similar sense of humor and a love of books. And we’ve both struggled in the days since Joe went to be with Jesus. The gist of the message was this: “I’m glad we’re friends…Joe brought us together as family…[Without Joe], I wouldn’t be close to your parents… or I wouldn’t have known your boys…and now I love them both. ..And all of that is not because Joe is gone, but because he was here.

But because he was here. Oh, friends….do you know how important those words right there are??? Those words are EVERYTHING.

Every soldier mentioned on Memorial Day is gone (and gone too soon, I’m sure). But our lives are better because he or she was here.

Eric Liddell gave up fame, fortune and the security of home. He was mourned across the world when he was gone. But how many lives were bettered because he was here?

My heart is broken because Joe is gone.

But, oh my goodness my life is sweeter because he lived.

But let’s get back to Cinderella.

Sure, she was the fancy dress and the handsome prince and the fairy godmother.  But today I see her differently. 

At the beginning of the story, her world has been turned upside down by grief. She loses her mother and then she loses her dad. She is trying to navigate a world that looks nothing like what she thought it would. I get that.

She thinks she is getting the fairy tale treatment when she gets all dolled up to go to the ball. And, oh! It is a magical time. She even gets to meet the Prince…but it’s short. The clock strikes midnight and it takes her by surprise. She got caught up in the moment and maybe she thought it would last forever. I get that, too.

In the blink of an eye, it’s all gone. The carriage is a pumpkin, the prince is nowhere to be found, and she finds herself face down on the floor in tears. Oh….I get that most of all.

BUT THAT IS NOT THE END OF THE STORY.

At least not for me. It was in that face down, tear stained, my life is over moment that the magic truly happened. It wasn’t a fairy god mother. It was God.

Maybe you know that moment, too? You don’t have to lose someone to death to know grief, my friend. You can mourn the loss of people, of circumstances, of relationships…a broken heart is a broken heart.

Well, here’s the thing. Life was pretty poopy for Cinderella more than once. You reckon she thought, “ It is NOT supposed to be this way! I am Cinderella, for Heaven’s sake!” But when she was face down, mourning the loss of all she loved, someone was working on her behalf, searching for her because he had a shoe and only her foot would fit. Someone was working on my behalf, too, and He is working on yours…right this very minute.

Loss made her stronger. Loss made her more compassionate (remember how she saved the mice who became her dearest friends?). Loss made her trust in someone larger than her human mind could truly comprehend. And it didn’t always make sense. My goodness…a GLASS SHOE? A carriage made from a pumpkin?? Who does that?? But every step she took in faith led her closer to her happy ending.

And every step you take and every step I take is leading us to our happy ending, too.

Eric Liddell gave up the life he thought he wanted for the life God called him to take. He called it complete surrender. Surrender is a scary place. But God doesn’t call you there to die. He calls you there to LIVE.

But bless Joe’s heart, on the day Sarah came home, he thought his fairy tale had ended.” Bless my heart, too, because the day Joe went Home, I thought my fairy tale had ended as well. But that wasn’t the end of the story.

What I am learning in this journey I am on is that living a life of surrender to God is the fairy tale. It’s the blind-faith, learn to trust, pixie dust belief that serving the Lord daily is all you need to make the real magic happen. I’ve learned that the story isn’t over yet, for you or for me, because we haven’t reached the end– our happily ever after. The happily ever after doesn’t exist on this side of Heaven. It’s waiting for us on The Other Side.

Once upon a time, Joe lived. On the Other Side, Joe LIVES….Jesus does, too.

And life is worth the living just because HE LIVES.

-Words of Wisdom from The Book of Joe

Tying the Knot

May 23, 2021

These pictures were taken when Joe and I tied the knot.

Here’s another way we tied a knot:

Once upon a time there was a sock. This lone sock kept ending up on the dryer. I thought it belonged to Joe, so I kept putting it on the stack of laundry I delivered to him just about every morning. The sock did not actually belong to Joe (three men in my house…we mixed up lots of laundry), but I didn’t realize that. Actually, I didn’t realize that I was putting the same sock on his pile day after day. I just thought it was single, looking for a match.

So, Joe kept throwing the sock on the dryer, because it was not his. And I kept putting it back with his laundry, because I thought it was. And it was getting on his last nerve! Bless his heart.

One morning, I was minding my own business, READING THE BIBLE at the kitchen table, when Joe stomped in and THREW the sock down in front of me (I know ya’ll think he was perfect, and he was pretty close, but he’d throw a hissy fit (aka: flounce) once in a while), saying the sock did not belong to him. He then went to take a shower and slammed the bathroom door.

Well….I adjusted my halo, grabbed the sock and marched right out to his truck, where I placed the sock neatly and sweetly under his windshield wiper.

I thought nothing else of it until I sat down in my car to go work. I found the sock…tied in an absolute Boy Scout knot around my steering wheel, courtesy of my sweet Joe.

Two days and a case of carpal tunnel syndrome later, I finally just cut the dang thing off.

This week, Joe’s lesson is about getting ourselves tied into a knot of worry, and why Jesus says we should not.

He wrote:

Worry Does No Good

I believe we all probably worry more than we’d like to admit.  We worry about our children, our jobs, our money, we worry about our relationships with others—and the list goes on and on. But we all know that worry is nothing new. In fact, Jesus thought it was so important, He spent part of one of His most famous sermons discussing it.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus gives four reasons why we shouldn’t worry about anything.

  • Worry doesn’t make sense.

Matthew 6:25 states, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?

I can tell you from experience that worry often makes the problem seem worse than it actually is.

  • We are the only creatures on earth that worry.

Matthew 6:26: “ Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?”

Birds just do what they do, and God looks after them.

  • Worry is unhelpful.

In Matthew 6:27,Jesus says: “ Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

Worry won’t make us taller.  It won’t lengthen your life and it cannot control your future. However, it can ruin your today. The only thing worry can change is you—and in doing so, worrying can make you absolutely miserable.

  • Worry is unnecessary.

In Matthew 6:30 we find: “If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?”

God promises that He will meet our needs.  He created us and he loves us.  We have him with us all the time if we have placed our trust in Jesus.

So, tell me this morning…why in the world should we worry? I’ll leave you  with a line from one of my favorite songs. “His eye is on the sparrow and I know He watches me.”

-JMP

“Tied in a knot” was a phrase Joe used to describe me long before we ever married. I have a somewhat vivid imagination, and I can get myself worked into a nervous frenzy most anytime. Joe would leave his phone in the truck and march into the woods somewhere, and I would call him (just once or three times). If he didn’t call me pretty quickly, I would quickly determine that he had been eaten by a boa constrictor and needed me to dial 911.

Joe, however, hardly ever seemed to lose his composure (which aggravated me to no end). He claimed that I did enough worrying for the both of us. He was not wrong.

Joe stood at the microphone one Sunday morning in church to play his guitar and sing a solo. Before he sang, he spoke briefly, sharing his own testimony. He said that he was saved as a young boy, tried to be a good Christian man, but it was not until a recent health scare that he truly knew he was right with the Lord should his life on this earth end.

Just a few weeks before, Joe found himself in the middle of a nest of hornets. Between the hornet stings and the spray used to kill them, he quickly became very ill. I found him on the couch, sweating profusely, heart racing out of his chest, his skin a sickly grey, and his breath coming in jagged snatches. He was calm (I was not). I called 911, sent my brother to our neighbor’s to find some Benadryl or an Epi Pen or something, and pretty much dragged Joe’s mama (who lives next door) out of the shower to come help me. I did not do those things in that order, and I did not clarify that Joe was in the house, so my brother and my mother in law ran all over the yard looking for Joe, thinking he had collapsed outside. There’s a reason I don’t work in the ER, y’all.

I was FRANTIC. I paced back and forth, convinced myself that the ambulance couldn’t find us back in the woods (if you know where we live, you know we can just about touch the EMS building from the back porch…bless my heart), and questioned Joe’s serenity in a situation of literal life and death. I remember the two things he said to me (other than, “Babe, you have GOT to calm down”). He said, “I sure do love you” –that was the point that I KNEW he thought he was about to check out of Planet Earth–and then he said, “I am going to be ok.”–I really believed he just said that because he thought I was going to pass out, didn’t want to share the ambulance with me. 🙂

It wasn’t until that Sunday morning when he shared his testimony that I understood what he meant. He explained that, yes, that day he thought he might be living his last few moments on this side of Heaven. However, he also said that he was filled with an unexplainable peace in his heart. He knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that he was in fact going to be ok, no matter what happened in the moments to come. He was not worried.

Worry makes no sense: In retrospect, I can see that running around like a chicken with my head cut off caused more confusion and panic than anything. Jesus said, “Do not worry about your life”. Joe was in God’s hands that day.

Worry is not helpful: Again, all I did was aggravate a poor man who was on my couch trying his best not to expire, scare his mama to pieces, and try to micromanage a team of trained professionals as they wheeled into my driveway. Jesus said, “Can you add a single hour to your life by worrying?” Joe was in God’s hands that day.

Matthew 6:30 ends with a phrase that sums up my actions during that event: “...you of little faith.” I am not proud of that, but it is the truth. My fear was great and my faith was small. Joe said that worry is unnecessary, and yet I bounced around, trying my best to control a situation that was already handled. The paramedics gave Joe a magic shot, and shortly he was as good as new. Jesus had it covered.

Scary as it was, that nest of hornets was a gift. You see, there would come a night, several years later, when the scene would look eerily similar. Again, I tied myself in a knot, called 911, and tried my best to control a situation that was already handled. This time, the paramedics would arrive too late. But Joe didn’t need a shot. With his head in my lap, his soul left his body. And, this I know for sure–Joe was filled with a peace that passes all understanding as he was swept up into the arms of our Lord. He was made as good as new. Jesus had it covered.

Joe was in God’s hands that day.

So, when I think of that dang sock wound and bound around my steering wheel, I see myself. Maybe you see yourself a little bit, too? We tie ourselves in this knot of worry, right around the wheel of The One who steers us every second. Don’t you know it’s harder for Him to drive that way? I know it was hard for me!! If we didn’t get ourselves tied up so tight, we might not have to take such drastic measures to undo the knot. Perhaps if we could just stop long enough to listen, we’d hear the reassuring words, “I sure do love you. You are going to be ok.”

God promises that He will meet our needs.  He created us and he loves us.  We have him with us all the time if we have placed our trust in Jesus. This was true before Joe passed away. It was true the day he landed in a hornet’s nest and it was just as true the night he went to Heaven. It has been true on every single day since.

So, tell me this morning…why in the world should we worry? “His eye is on the sparrow and I know He watches me.” Trust Him, sweet friend. He does love you so very much. You ARE going to be ok.

You are in God’s Hands today. ❤️

-Words of Wisdom from The Book of Joe

Good Old Days

May 16, 2021

Joe was old timey…and ended up making me a little bit old timey, too!

Joe and I didn’t date. We courted.

Joe didn’t wear jeans or shorts. He wore dungarees and short pants or short britches.

Joe didn’t go to the beach. He went down to the coast.

Joe wore denim overalls to work, and he listened to Willie’s Roadhouse (Monday-Saturday) and the Pinecone Bluegrass Show (EVERY Sunday evening at the barn).

He was old timey. I picked on him about it, but I secretly loved it…I loved it A LOT.

This week, Joe’s lesson is about the ways of old times and today, and how Jesus is the thread weaving all of it together.

He wrote:

The Good Old Days

We talk all the time about how the world has lost touch with God and morality.  It is mighty easy for us compare what’s going on in the world today with “the good old days”. We talk about this generation that is growing up today and what they need to do.

Luke 9:41 states: “O fathers and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you and suffer you?”

Now, don’t get me wrong—the world today is in trouble, and I think that the generation that is coming of age has plenty of problems, including falling away from the church. But every generation has sinned, right?

I recently found this quote. Listen to it and decide if it applies to today.

“ The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders…Children are tyrants, not the servants of their households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter in front of company, gobble up food at the table and tyrannize their teachers.”

Now, I have heard folks say these same things about children today.  However, this quote is attributed to Socrates, sometime around 400 BC. So, I guess you could say it is nothing new. Our sinful nature has followed us through thousands of years, and our sin continues to manifest itself in lots of ways, from the darkest of sinful actions to the lack of basic manners and courtesy. Jesus himself was weary of those sins in his own time according to this morning’s scripture.

But He didn’t give up. He continued to heal the sick and preach. We don’t have to go back to the good old days to be saved–Jesus is the one who saves. Think about this—God has boundless mercy, because he could certainly by justified in staying angry forever after the good old days of Eden went wrong.  

So, is the world today better off than it was yesterday? And if it is, does it really matter? God’s patience for this “perverse generation” shows how deeply He loves us and has loved us all, from one generation to the next. As forgiven Christians, that is truly something to celebrate.

-JMP

I have a love/hate relationship with the Timehop app. If you are not familiar, it is an app that collects your memories (pictures, videos, status updates, etc) from all of your social media sources and puts them together in one place, so you can see what you posted one year ago, ten years ago, etc. I love seeing old pictures, laughing, reminiscing, etc., but admittedly, seeing them since Joe passed away is sometimes just a little bittersweet. When I look at pictures of my children and think to myself, “Goodness, those were the good old days,” I am nostalgic for those times, but also excited to watch them grow into adults and build families of their own.

However, as much as I love to see pictures of Joe, I can’t help but feel a twinge in my heart, knowing that those memories of the good old days with him are the only ones I’ll ever know this side of Heaven. And, that makes me sad. We had good days…we had so many really, really good days!

For example, just this week, these memories popped up in my Timehop:

Old Timey Days in Seven Springs, NC
The Grand New Opry at Seven Springs Baptist Church

Were these the good old days? Yep. Did I realize it at the time? Nope. I surely did not.

When I really stop to think about those days, my mind is able to slip off its pair of rose colored glasses just a bit. In the first photo, I was a single mama, a principal of a school with two campuses, commuting almost an hour one way, and generally hanging by a thread. Joe and I hitched up his beautiful horse and wagon to participate in Old Timey Days in Seven Springs. It was a good day in the middle of a tough period in my life.

In the second photo, we had moved the Grand New Opry fundraiser to a little later in the spring. I was working full time, getting my masters degree online, and right smack dab in the middle of end of year testing at school. Joe was working two jobs as well, leaving home before the sun rose and getting home well after dark most nights. Honestly, the time period leading up to this event was quite stressful. Our tempers were short and our patience was thin. Yet, this was also a good day in the midst of a trying time.

Joe was, indeed, old timey. I think he looked back on eras gone by as the good old days because he saw those times as slower paced and simple. Joe thought those were happier times in general. But, here’s something I’ve figured out in the months since his passing. Our minds have a way of scraping the rough edges off of memories. We look back and remember the good parts. The not so pleasant parts are tucked in a back pocket, making them less likely to surface.

And…that is a blessing.

Joe said, “Jesus himself was weary of those sins in his own time according to this morning’s scripture. But He didn’t give up. He continued to heal the sick and preach.” Jesus had probably HAD A BAIT of our earthly mess. Maybe like a teacher on a full moon Friday afternoon in the spring when even the good children have turned bad, and what you really want to do is walk right out the door….(I may or may not have contemplated the consequences of such decision). Thank goodness, Jesus didn’t throw His hands up in the air and say, “You know what, Dad?? I QUIT.” He pressed on toward the end goal, doing good for sinners just like you and me. He gave us good days, even when His days were bad.

I imagine that the people who lived to see Jesus heal the sick might look back on those days when they were able to physically see Him and say, “Those were the good old days.” And even though they knew Jesus was in Heaven, maybe they, too, felt a twinge because they simply missed His presence here on Earth. I get it. I really do.

But the truth about the good old days is that we are living them right now.

Read that again.

That was a difficult sentence to write and a more difficult pill to swallow, but it’s true. Even if this is a season of pain for you, even if your life has been turned completely upside down, there is good. You might not see it now. But one day, you’ll look back. You’ll see the picture or hear the song and you will smile at the memory and think, “Those were good days.” And you’ll be correct.

Jesus made good days out of trying times–not just once, but over and over, through thousands of years. And, sweet friend, He is not finished…not just yet.

God is planting seeds of goodness in this day. He did it yesterday and He will do it again tomorrow. Despite His exasperation, despite our recurring record of sinful natures, God’s mercies are new every single morning. Where there is God, there is good.

I believe He plants those seeds and tends to them tenderly as a gift to us. He plants a garden of memories called “The Good Old Days” as a bridge we get to travel in order to hold us, to get us through until we reach The Other Side.

When we reach The Other Side, I’ll be on the lookout for a blue eyed boy who used to court me, both on the path and down at the coast. He will either be wearing dusty dungarees or short britches and possibly a halo. 😇

They will be the Good New Days.

Those days, my friend…those days will be the best days yet. ❤️

-Words of Wisdom from The Book of Joe

Enough

May 8, 2021

In case you wondered, this picture explains where Joe got those pretty eyes–from his mama! Just look at her…she had pretty everything…and she still does!

But what I really want you to notice are her hands.

She is holding sweet little Joe. Her arms are wrapped around him securely. Does she look troubled? Insecure? Frightened?

Nope.

Not only are her eyes beautiful, but they are also particularly serene in this photo. She holds Joe like it the most natural thing in the world. She knows she’s got him, and more importantly, so does Joe.

Word on the street is that, in later years, Joe might have tested her patience once or twice and caused her brows to furrow just a bit…but that is pure speculation and can be neither confirmed nor denied. You’d never know it by looking at this picture, that is for sure!

This week Joe’s lesson is about trusting and resting in the hands of Jesus.

He wrote:

Trusting God Enough

Many of us worry about having enough.

Do we have enough money? Do we have enough time to get all we need done? Do we have enough groceries? Do we have enough gas?

God freed about two million Israelites from years of Egyptian slavery.  They crossed the Red Sea on dry land and headed for the wilderness.  After a few days they started to complain—and began to wish they were back in Egypt.

Exodus 16:4-5 states, “Then the Lord said to Moses, “I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions. On the sixth day they are to prepare what they bring in, and that is to be twice as much as they gather on the other days.”

 17-20: “The Israelites did as they were told; some gathered much, some little. 18 And when they measured it by the omer, the one who gathered much did not have too much, and the one who gathered little did not have too little. Everyone had gathered just as much as they needed.

19 Then Moses said to them, “No one is to keep any of it until morning.”

20 However, some of them paid no attention to Moses; they kept part of it until morning, but it was full of maggots and began to smell. So Moses was angry with them.”

Moses wasn’t the only one who was angry. God was angry, too. God gave them a test and they failed because they didn’t trust him.

I ask myself, “Do I trust God today?” Not yesterday, not tomorrow…but am I trusting in Him right now—today?

Jesus told us to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.” Not this week’s bread or this month’s bread, but just the bread for today.

Here’s what I want you to know this morning. God will never put us in a situation in which He is not enough. God is more than enough, no matter the situation.

In the New Testament there is the story of Jesus feeding the multitudes—when did what those people had become enough? It was when it was placed in the hands of Jesus—and it is the same today. If we put our worries and cares in His hands, He will be enough for us.

Jesus doesn’t give us what we need.

Jesus IS what we need.

-JMP

Ain’t no doubt in this world that Joseph Morgan Price had a set of baby blues that would make your knees weak. The first time I took clothes to the dry cleaners after we married and moved back home, I gave the sweet lady working at the counter my home address and she stopped right in her tracks. She looked up at me, grinned, and said, “Oh, you must be married to Blue Eyes! He is one handsome man!” Y’all…that did tickle JMP when I told him! 😀

He was just plain purty to me, and his eyes didn’t hurt his face one bit. However, his eyes were not my favorite feature.

I loved his hands.

Check them out:

Joe’s hands were big and strong, yet they were equally warm and gentle. Those hands could fix just about anything, from a leaky faucet to the best potato salad this side of the Neuse River. Those hands could sketch a monument, strum a guitar, and compose a love letter that still makes my heart flutter to this day…

No matter how bad the day had been, all Joe had to do was tangle his fingers up with mine and I knew everything would be ok.

He had good hands. I was in good hands.

This week’s lesson made me ponder how much faith I had in Joe’s hands….and that perhaps my sense of security was a bit misguided.

Stronger hands than Joe’s held me then, and stronger hands hold me now. You know where I’m headed with this, right? Of course you do. We are held, every minute, in the hands of Jesus.

Duh.

Why, then, are we so quick to fret? To fix everything ourselves? To lose sleep over the what ifs and why nots?

Well…I think it circles back around to another pair of eyes—our own. We tend to trust what we can see. So, when we see God’s goodness, trust comes easily. We praise His name! Proclaim our trust! Hallelujah!!

But when we can’t see…we’ll, that’s a horse of a different color. Sometimes it is difficult to see because it is dark. Ask me how I know…I’ve got several months of darkness under my belt. Sometimes, though, we can’t see because we need to have our eyes examined.

Joe’s eyes didn’t just look perfect…they actually were perfect. Here I am, blind as a bat without my glasses or contacts, and Joe could read the bottom line of the eye chart from ten miles away. Of course, he could, right!?! 😇

I can’t blame all of my visual impairment on my eyeballs. My eyes get cloudy and I struggle to see. It’s not one thing in this world but doubt.

Joe said, “God gave them a test and they failed because they didn’t trust him.” The last five months of my life have been a test, for sure. To think back and know that I might have failed God in my lack of trust breaks my heart and makes me mighty ashamed. I could park on that sentiment for a while, but that is neither honoring to God nor helpful to me.

So, instead, I park on Joe’s next thought: Here’s what I want you to know this morning. God will never put us in a situation in which He is not enough. Joe came back into my life at a time when I believed I would never again find happiness. God did that. Joe’s hands worked hard to make my life a dream come true every single day. God did that, too. Joe went home to be with Jesus, and I have been surrounded by more love, kindness, peace and blessings than I deserve as I have struggled to make it through the dark days and months. God did that, too…and He will do it again tomorrow.

I only have to trust Him. God is always going to give me enough.

So much about my future is uncertain right now. I feel the weight on my shoulders and sometimes think it is just a matter of time before my knees buckle underneath me. Maybe you know that feeling, too? Then listen up….I’m talking to you. I’m talking to me, too.

There’s a set of Hands right in front us. We don’t have to carry the weight of this world on our shoulders. Jesus died so that we don’t have to do that, and He stands before us, asking us to share the load. Let Him hold it in His hands.

In return, let Jesus fill you with the strength to get through this day. And then the next. He will keep showing up for you, day by day (or even minute by minute…and that’s ok. I’ve been right there, too).

Go back to that sweet picture of Joe and his mama. Now, close your eyes and picture yourself sitting just like that in the arms of Jesus. Is there anything more precious?

The eyes of Jesus are serene (and blue…I just believe they are baby blue). He holds you like it is the most natural thing in the world to do. Jesus knows He is holding you safely and securely. The question is…do you know it, too?

Joe knew what he was talking about when he said this: When did what those people had become enough? It was when it was placed in the hands of Jesus—and it is the same today.

Jesus doesn’t give us what we need.

Jesus IS what we need.

And that, sweet friend, is enough.

-Words of Wisdom from The Book of Joe