New Shirts. New Shoes. New You.

May 2, 2021

Joe COULD NOT get rid of old clothes. Pretty sure this shirt is still in his closet! 😀

Y’all, Joe told a small fib in his lesson this week.

I hate to sell him out, but…

Joe said he really liked to get a new shirt.

THAT. IS. NOT. THE. TRUTH.

Actually, he might have liked to look at new shirts, because he had SEVERAL hanging in his closet with tags still attached to them. But he did not like wearing new shirts…or pants…or “step ins”, as he called them. The more holes Joe had worn into an article of clothing, the better he liked it. I’d pull a threadbare shirt out of the dryer and quietly slip it into the trash. Joe would quietly slip it out of the trash and tip toe over to his mama’s house to ask her to mend it one more time. I’d find a pair of unmentionables with more holes than a slice of swiss cheese, and he would declare that he was just getting them broken in. He even kept strips of his old, worn out handkerchiefs in his glove compartment…in case he was caught in a situation where no toilet paper was available! 😀

The shirt in this picture was probably one of the oldest in his closet. But he sure was handsome in it, wasn’t he?!?

This week, Joe’s lesson is about loving new things and how that relates to our relationship with Christ.

He wrote:

A New You

The word “new” is a word that I think most folks like. There is just something we like about getting something new. Shopping is a pleasure for many folks. People like new things, eating at new restaurants, etc. If it is new, people will try it. I’ll admit I like a new shirt, and I am foolish over a new tool.

Some folks aren’t satisfied with all these new things I’ve mentioned—they want to go even further. Some people want a new look altogether. Maybe they want a new nose or tighter skin on their face. Maybe they want new hair or eyebrows or eyelashes…the list goes on and on. The point is that as humans we are often looking for something new or we are trying to make ourselves new again.

I’m sure you’ve heard the sayings “beauty is only skin deep” and “the new will wear off”—they are both typically true. Worldly pleasures do fade away, and as Christians our true joy is found on the inside, not on the outside. If we are not fulfilled in who we are, then we cannot buy, do or get enough “stuff” to fill the emptiness. The love of Jesus is the only thing that can really make us whole.

2 Corinthians 5:17 states, “ Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold all things have become new.”

Nothing we could buy could ever compare to actually being given a new start in life. Jesus promises that we not only get a new start, but through Him we become a new creation—we are forever changed. John 3:3-8 says “I am He who blots out your transgressions, and I will not remember your sins.”

If you are in Christ take hold of that promise today. Ask the Lord to make you new and watch how He performs a makeover on you—from the inside out.

-JMP

My youngest son, Cameron, celebrated his 17th birthday last week. Much to the chagrin of the folks who live with me, I make a big deal of birthdays. Everybody gets birthday cake (or doughnut or biscuit or something) with a candle stuck in it, brought to them in bed first thing that morning, complete with a birthday serenade from every person I can wrangle together. Then, my sweet mama supplies the “good cake” whenever we have the family celebration. We party for a few days before and after the actual date of birth. HOWEVER…I have always secretly believed that we celebrate the wrong person on birthdays. As much as I love my Cam, all he did on the day he was born was arrive (in a hurry…the one and only time in his whole sweet life he has been in a rush). You know who put in the actual work that day?? The literal blood, sweat and tears?? You know who pushed that cherub out WITH NO PAIN MEDICINE?? It was ME. 🙂

And that is why I bought myself a present on his birthday.

I bought a new pair of shoes.

Granted, they were just flip flops, purchased to replace a pair I actually bought on his birthday when he was FIVE! They’ve been good ones…but they finally gave up the fight.

I look at this picture and realize maybe Joe rubbed off on me just a little! But they were SO COMFORTABLE. I searched and searched until I found a new pair just like them and was purely giddy when they finally arrived! My euphoria was short lived.

I threw them on and took off down the path, feeling confident these new flops would feel like pillows under my feet. By the time I hobbled up the steps at my back door, I had earned a bloody blister right between my toes. They were tight. They were stiff. They did not feel like the shoes that came before them. Not one bit. .

Joe wrote: Nothing we could buy could ever compare to actually being given a new start in life. Well, I beg to differ on that point. I think the purchase of those flip flops is an accurate comparison.

There’s a pretty important word in the scripture Joe references this week.

2 Corinthians 5:17 says that “…old things have passed away; behold all things have become new.”

“Become” is significant. To become a new creation, in order for a life to become new, one must undergo some sort of process. Sometimes that process hurts a little. Sometimes it hurts a lot. Sometimes it leaves you nursing a bloody blister.

Joe also said, “Jesus promises that we not only get a new start, but through Him we become a new creation—we are forever changed.” It is a comfort to know that when we accept Jesus as our personal Savior, we are new creations. That is quite a promise. Yet, I think sometimes we grow accustomed to that comfort…and maybe we even come to expect it. You know…you wear those flip flops for years. They walk you through season after season. They mold to your feet. They feel so good you sometimes forget you are wearing them. So, you don’t see it coming when the strap breaks and you end up on your face.

But here’s the thing–because you are a new creation in Jesus, you may land on your face, but you don’t stay there. Jesus picks you up and brushes off the dirt. He tenderly nurses the hurt spots. And when He sees you are ready (not necessarily when you think you are ready), Jesus hands you a new pair of flip flops.

Are you going to look back at the old shoes and wish Jesus would just fix the broken strap instead of giving you a whole new pair? Probably.

But Jesus knows better. He sees the road ahead. He knows the old shoes just won’t get you through the journey.

So, you slip the new shoes on your feet. They are tight. You don’t feel secure. Maybe you stumble a little. Maybe you bleed. Maybe you cry.

You may not believe me now, but you are never closer to Jesus than when you are breaking in a pair of new flops. It’s when your footing feels unsure that you reach for His hand. It’s when you cry out in pain that He reaches out His hand to you. It’s in His hand that you see the scars and remember that He once bled, too.

In time, the new wears off, just like Joe said. You may get to walk comfortably in the same shoes for years, or you may have to break in a new pair before you think you’re ready. Either way, you never walk alone.

My friend, I can promise you that the shoes you are wearing now are only temporary, whether you like them or not. One sweet day you’ll have a whole new kind of birthday party, and all you’ll have to do is arrive. Jesus has already put in the blood, sweat and tears. And still, He will be waiting with a gift–He will trade you those raggedy flip flops for a crown.

-Words of Wisdom from The Book of Joe

Foreheads and Feet

April 25,2021

I love this picture( I know…I know…I say that every week when I post a pic…but I really mean it this time). You know what makes it especially pretty to me? You can’t see Joe’s feet! 😆

Now, you all know me well enough by now to know that there was not one speck of Joseph Morgan Price that I didn’t love to pieces, but I did love to give him a hard time about his feet! Granted, he was a working man who generally kept those puppies under a pair of heavy shoes, so it stands to reason that his feet were not tanned. But, y’all….the man had the WHITEST feet I have ever seen. And his toenails…well, it wasn’t anything a good pedicure couldn’t fix, but he flatly refused, so I gave him heck about those, too.

IN MY DEFENSE, I only started picking on his feet because he gave me such grief about my forehead. He referred to it as “Grandma’s Attic”, and not because my noggin is full of nostalgic trivia, sweetness and good recipes! Nope. You know that part of a big U Haul truck that extends out over the cab of the truck?? That is also referred to as Grandma’s Attic…and THAT is where he got the name. Big forehead, cankered feet…picking on each other was part of our love language, I promise! 😊

This week, Joe’s lesson is about what we have hanging over our heads, and what Jesus has under His feet.

He wrote:

Over Our Heads

A couple of weeks ago, I talked about making time for God each day by spending time studying His word and in prayer. Scripture tells us of several times that Jesus spent time alone with God.  One of those times was after he fed the 5,000 with the five loaves and two fishes. He sent the disciples on to their next destination, and he stayed and went up to the mountains to pray. We find in the book of Matthew right after this already busy day, another account of the works of Jesus.

Matthew 14: 22-32: “Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. 23 After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone, 24 and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.25 Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.27 But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

28 “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”29 “Come,” he said.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”32 And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down.

The obvious point of the story is that the disciples were afraid and worried about what was going to happen to them out on the sea in this terrible storm, and when they put their faith in Jesus, everything calmed down and they were saved. The most dangerous thing the disciples were concerned  about was, of course, drowning, but Jesus proved his dominion over this by walking on the water that was so dangerous.

Think about this scripture when you are faced with troubles in everyday life. Remember that Jesus is in control and that what we feel is over our heads is truly under Jesus’s feet.

-JMP

I assure you he said it with compassion and love, but Joe often referred to me as a “walking catastrophe” (I think what he really meant was “Bless your heart, you do make things hard on yourself sometimes”). He wasn’t wrong.
I am often a hot mess. Perhaps that is why I can identify with Peter just a little. He was often times a hot mess, too.

Peter had a temper. I have a temper, too. Peter loved Jesus immensely, but acted impulsively. When Jesus was about to be arrested and tensions were high, Peter reacted in anger and cut off a man’s ear! The last miracle Jesus performed before his crucifixion was healing that man by attaching his ear to his head again. I can imagine that Jesus might have shaken His head as He acted to undo the damage Peter had wrought. Joe said (more than once) that I had a tendency to let my mighty mouth write a check that my hummingbird hiney could not cash.😆Jesus might have had the same thought about Peter. Bless his heart!!

Although Peter loved Jesus immensely, he denied Jesus three times. And Jesus called it before it happened! He told Peter that he would deny him three times before the sun set, and although Peter assured Jesus that he would never do such, well…Peter did just what Jesus predicted. Part of me wants to be a tiny bit judgy here and say, “Dude?? How could you? It was JESUS!” But, then I remember that, like Peter, I love Jesus immensely. And also like Peter, there have been times when I have denied him, too, in the name of being accepted socially, in the name of selfishness and/or comfort, and even when I had no real excuse at all.

And then there’s the story Joe recounted in his lesson this week. First of all, Peter had the audacity to ask Jesus to prove himself. “If you are who you say you are then…” Jesus had the power to really scare Peter to death at that point. He could have played all kinds of tricks on Peter, who was already in a pretty fragile state. But, that is not what Jesus did. He simply said. “Come.”

Peter stepped out, and lo and behold…the man walked on water!! I mean, does it get any cooler than that?? However, he takes his eyes of Jesus, becomes fearful of the windy storm and begins to sink. Again, I am tempted to say, “Son…WHY? Why did you look around you? You literally had the power of Jesus under your feet. How much proof do you need?” But I don’t say that…because I recognize the fact that in this circumstance, Peter just might be my spirit animal.

So, here’s where I am willing to cut Peter some slack (and maybe cut myself a tiny bit as well). Instead of focusing on what Peter didn’t do, let’s consider what he did. In the middle of the storm, with the wind whipping around and beating him all about the face, Peter stepped out in faith. He locked eyes with Jesus and he stepped out. Sure, he faltered. But he took that first step. And in my opinion, that first step is often the scariest one to take.

Even in the midst of the storm, the bottom of the rocky boat must have seemed more secure to Peter. It was what he knew. Yet, he put what must have been a shaking foot in front of him. And then another. Yes, when he took his eyes off of Jesus, he began to sink. But he didn’t flail around, spitting and sputtering. He didn’t take matters into his own hands and try to swim back to the boat. He cried out to Jesus. He asked Jesus to save him. And Jesus did. That’s what He does.

I picked on Joe’s pasty white feet. A lot. But, when I climbed in bed at night and my own little tootsies were freezing, the first thing I did was tangle my little feet up in his big ones, because they might have been white, but they were always warm! Joe didn’t kick me away. He might have grumbled just a little, but then he’d draw me in just a little closer so I could thaw out and drift away into a peaceful sleep (until he woke me up with his snoring, but that’s another story for another day…).

Joe picked on my big old forehead. A lot. But, before he went to work each morning, and before he went to sleep each night, he kissed it and whispered, “I sure do love you.” And, because I am who I am, and I just cannot leave well enough alone, I’d usually whisper back, “Well, you’d be crazy if you didn’t.” 😇

Peter loved Jesus and Jesus loved him right back. Peter was often the conductor of the Hot Mess Express, but Jesus always had his back (and his feet). I know from years of experience that it is easy to get caught up in all the ears you’ve cut off in anger, all the times you’ve denied what was right in favor of what was easy, all the times you’ve taken your eyes off Jesus and found yourself sinking. We let it swirl around us and beat us up, and if we are not careful, we can let it rock our boats to the point they tip over. You know who doesn’t hold against us all the messes we’ve made? Jesus.

Despite our imperfections, our tempers, our unfortunate looking feet or ginormous foreheads, Jesus is unphased. He loves us anyway. He wants us anyway. Shoot, maybe the fact that we are all walking catastrophes makes Him love us even more.

Jesus sure does love you. He loves you enough to hold out His hand and say “Come.” He loves you enough to keep you from sinking in the storm. If you’ll let Him, Jesus will walk you across the waves and help you into His boat. He will keep you warm and fill you with a peace that passes all understanding. All Jesus asks is that you take that first step, and when you falter, that you call out His name. He will scoop you up and kiss you on your Grandma’s Attic. Do let Him love on you, my friend.

You’d be crazy if you didn’t. ❤️

-Words of Wisdom from The Book of Joe

A Good Workout

April 18, 2021

I tried to find a picture of Joe working out, but said pic does not exist. I did find this one (he is wearing athletic-ish shoes) and it tickles me, so here ya go. 😊

“Why are you doing all that jerking and snatching??” -JMP

I am an early riser. Most days, I am up by 4:30 am. By 7:00 am, I have completed a work out, done a load of laundry, unloaded my dishwasher, and spent some quality time with Jesus. Full disclosure–I am “gowned down” and ready for bed before most toddlers say their night night prayers. 🙂

Joe Price was typically up and out the door fairly early, but did not share my level of energy before sunrise. I’d be in the throes of a sweaty workout when he would stumble down the stairs, rub his sleepy eyes and say (even though he knew good and well what I was doing), “WHY are you jerking and snatching so early this morning??” 🙂

Much as I wish there was a magic potion that would make me look and feel “skinny and twenty”, I have learned that the only way to be truly healthy is to put in the work. This week, Joe’s lesson is about putting in the work in our Christian walk.

He wrote:

Working at Our Christianity

2 Thessalonians 2: 15 states: ” So then brothers, stand firm and hold to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter.”

Many people want to be the ideal Christian, but they don’t always want to work at it. 

Many people want to have a better life—to be slim, strong, more attractive, better educated…and the list goes on and on, but the problem is, they don’t want to work at it.

We often look for the easy way out—TV commercials prove that point. We will pay money for a quick fix, rather than put in the work.

Why should we think our faith is any different?

We have to put forth the effort in order to have the right kind of relationship with God. Here’s what Paul says about it in 1 Thessalonians:

“ Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to acknowledge those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other. And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else. Rejoice always,  pray continually,  give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. Do not quench the Spirit.  Do not treat prophecies with contempt but test them all; hold on to what is good, reject every kind of evil.”

That is a pretty big list, but that doesn’t stop it from being true. There is only one magic fix, and that is accepting Jesus as your Lord and Savior. After that it is up to you to live the life He would have you live. 

Having a relationship with God means forgiving your enemies, encouraging others, and praying earnestly and often. It is work, and I can’t tell you that you won’t become discouraged from time to time. But what I can tell you is that you will never regret anything you do in the name of the Lord. I can also tell you that God will even use your discouragement for His good purpose if you will allow it.

So, as we go about our week, let’s try to put some action behind our thoughts, knowing that putting in the work to improve our Christian walk will be worth it, and that life in Eternity will be our reward.

-JMP

I am a bulldozer, according to Joe.

I can hear his voice and see him shaking his head at me saying, “Just be EASY, darlin’…” as I charged full speed ahead, usually landing myself in one predicament or another.

It is not so much that I don’t want to put in the work, but more so that I am impatient, and expect to be good at something fairly quickly. When I am not, I get frustrated…and sometimes I will simply throw in the towel rather than give myself time to become more skilled or proficient.

This is one of my favorite pictures of Joe and our very sweet, very southern nephew Garrett (who is Joe’s “mini me” in so many ways):

Several years ago, I was (of course) in a hurry, and accidentally knocked poor little Garrett down a set of brick steps. Y’all, it tore me slam out of the frame to think I had hurt that baby! Once the tears were dried (mostly mine), he looked up at me and said in his very slow southern drawl, “Slow and steady gets the job done, Aunt Ronda.” And…of course, much like his Uncle Joe, he was exactly right.

But slow and steady is not my normal method of operations, friends. I think that is one of my biggest struggles as I navigate this grief process. Before it happened to me, I believed grief to be linear. You start at one point (a pretty low spot), and make upward progress until you manage to wipe all the hurt away. Then, just check “conquer grief” off of your to do list (oh, how I love to check things off my list!!), and do the next thing.

Y’all. 🤦‍♀️ That ain’t how it works. Not. At. All.

While I believe with my whole heart that it is my faith in God that has kept me putting one foot in front of the other on this journey, I also know that Joe’s death has required me to “put in the work” in my Christian walk like never before.

Joe referenced the words of Paul when he said, “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” In the month before Joe passed away, this verse was referenced (in part or in whole) NINE times in my devotional reading. On the morning of our final day together on this earth, the very last line I wrote in my journal was this: “Everything God does is in love…even when we don’t understand”.

God knew what the next eighteen hours would bring. God knew how I would need His words to find the strength to put in the work for so many days to come. He knew I would not understand, and He knew there would be no “quick fix” to mend the brokenness of my heart. He was exactly right. Yet, in His tender mercies, God planted the words of Paul in my heart over and over in the weeks before He took my sweet Joe to Heaven. I didn’t understand it at the time, but I can surely see it now. God loved me enough to “put in the work” before December 5, 2020 so that I would have the strength to do it in the days that followed.

God does expect us to put in the work. But, He does not expect us to do it alone.

Joe said,”It is work, and I can’t tell you that you won’t become discouraged from time to time.” Well, that just might be the understatement of the year for me. Trying to see the good, finding reasons to rejoice, keeping myself engaged in prayer, trusting in the promises of God, sometimes feels like a full time job (one for which I never applied). Have you ever worked at a job you wished you didn’t have? It is discouraging to say the least.

So…I really needed to read the next part: But what I can tell you is that you will never regret anything you do in the name of the Lord. I can also tell you that God will even use your discouragement for His good purpose if you will allow it.

Joe was right when he said you will never regret what you do in the name of the Lord. I have never been sorry that I spent time with Jesus, but I have been sorry when I did not. And he was also right when he said that God will use your discouragement for good. I am so very sorry that anyone has to be a member of the club I have found myself in, but I am so very thankful for the words of hope I have received from those who have walked this path before me. Hopefully someone else will look at my journey one day, and know that because Jesus walked me through these days, He will walk them through as well.

I guess this walk we are all on is a bit like “jerking and snatching”. We need to work on building our faith muscles every single day. If you don’t work out consistently, your muscles grow weak. Often, you don’t realize how much those muscles have atrophied until you are called upon to use them.

So, I’ll be up tomorrow morning at 4:30 am. I am putting in the physical work because I want to live a healthy life. But the most important work any of us will do all day long is the work we do for Jesus–spending time in His word, praying, and doing our best to live according to His will and instructions.

I am putting in the real work, because what I want more than a healthy life on earth, is an eternal life in Heaven.

Won’t you join me, friend? It just takes a little effort every day. Slow and steady gets the job done.

-Words of Wisdom from The Book of Joe

What’s That Smell??

April 11, 2021

On our way to NYC!! This picture has a smell…keep reading.

Yesterday, I read Joe’s lesson and wondered how in the world I would find a picture that related to smell. This morning, my Facebook memories delivered with two images I can still smell, along with a reminder of why Joe worried about me in our kitchen!

I present to you “A Melted Bag of Bread”:

Y’all, this stunk up my kitchen for many days after I laid the poor toaster oven to rest. Joe reminded me of this event OFTEN. 🙂

My Facebook memories also provided this image (one of my favorites):

We were just about to board a train, headed to New York City. I was so very excited about the trip, but Mr. Price was so very excited about the train! He didn’t wear cologne all that often, but Joe always smelled good to me. It was typically a mixture of smoke, dust and Jackie’s grill, but it worked!! {Fun fact: The man did not own a stick of deodorant because he neither perspired nor smelled funky under his arms.} Anyway, he DID wear cologne the morning of this train trip. I remember this distinctly because, when I commented on how good he smelled, his reply was that he was hoping we’d have a good looking lady train conductor. 🙂 Joe had jokes, y’all. ALL the time.

This week, Joe’s lesson is about smell. He discusses how we should smell to others as followers of Jesus.

He wrote:

Do You Smell Like a Christian?

I want to talk to you a few minutes this morning about “smell”.

The way things smell can be complex. Something can have a pleasing smell, but too much of it can make you feel a little bit sick. Without scent we cannot taste. It is also said that the sense of smell is capable of triggering more memories than any other human sense.

How do we smell as Christians? Scripture talks about smells, both good and bad.

In Exodus 5:21 , it says: “May the LORD look upon you and judge you,” the foremen said, “for you have made us a stench before Pharaoh and his officials; you have placed in their hand a sword to kill us!”

Isaiah 3:24 states “ And it shall come to pass, that instead of sweet smell there shall be stink; and instead of a girdle a rent; and instead of well-set hair baldness; and instead of a stomacher a girding of sackcloth; and burning instead of beauty.”

2 Corinthians 2: 15-17: “ For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, 16 to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things? 17 For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ.”

Sometimes we want to be around people because they make us feel good. Those people might smell good, too, which never hurts, but we are truly drawn to their personality. Jesus was that way. No one could come around him without feeling an almost irresistible attraction. It was not cologne that drew people to him. It was his goodness and holiness.

You have that same effect on other people. Like Paul said in 2 Corinthians, we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved. So, my question is, do you smell like life or do you smell like death?

Try to put yourself in the shoes of the folks you are around every day—your family, your co- workers, your church, folks in the neighborhood, or just people you run into at the store. What do you smell like to them? Would you be drawn to Christ because of knowing you? Or would you be pushed away?

The best smells come from good things. But you can’t cover up a bad smell by putting a good smell on top of it. You can’t live a life that “stinks”, then recite a few Bible verses or just call yourself a Christian and expect other people to want to smell your fragrance.

The best fragrance of life comes from someone who has been transformed by God’s grace. You can have that fragrance as a Christian by coming to God continuously, reading His word and loving people the way Jesus instructed. Ask Christ to fill your heart, and as He does, you will smell less like the world and more like Jesus.

This week let’s do our best to smell good as a Christian to everyone we encounter, especially the folks right here at home.

-JMP

Early on, someone told me that smell would likely be one of my strongest grief triggers. I honestly doubted this, because I was so drawn to things that smelled like Joe. I’d just sit in his truck and breathe deeply because I could smell him in it. I am embarrassed to tell you how long it was before I could bring myself to wash his pillowcase. I’d crawl into bed every night and bury my face in it, trying to soak him up any way I could. However, I soon learned that this person was right….

Joe wore cologne the night before he passed away. We went out for supper and had such a good time that evening! I can tell you so many details about that night, but did not remember that Joe was wearing his “smell em good” (as my mama says) until a few weeks after his death.

While I was away from home for a few hours, a bottle of Joe’s cologne was accidentally spilled near the back door. The mess was completely cleaned up before I arrived home, but when I opened the door, I was immediately met by that smell–HIS smell. For a split second, I thought he was there…that maybe it had all been a bad dream. Yet, in the next second, I remembered the last time I had smelled that scent–the last night we were together–and I sat right down on the floor in the hallway, grocery bags and all, and had myself a full blown come apart.

I had a similar episode about a month ago in Target when a gentleman passed by me (twice) and I caught a whiff of that same cologne. I shook it off the first time, but when it happened again, tears rolled down my face and a sob leapt out of my throat before I could stop it. That poor man must have thought I had an emotional attachment to the jelly beans on the shelf in front of me (and I mean…I do love a good jelly bean).

Smell is kind of a big deal.

Joe said, Sometimes we want to be around people because they make us feel good. Those people might smell good, too, which never hurts, but we are truly drawn to their personality.” I realize I am biased, but I do think people were drawn to Joe in this way. I believe it was part of the reason he was good at his job at Rouse Funeral Home years ago. Joe’s quiet, easy going demeanor, along with his soft, deep voice were sources of comfort. He could look at you with those pretty blue eyes, put that strong hand on your back and you just knew he would make sure things turned out ok.

Joe treated everybody like they were “somebody”…because he believed they were. I never saw him treat a single person with anything but kindness and respect, and he was as conscious of maintaining a person’s dignity as anyone I’ve ever known. You might live in a cardboard box and dig your supper out of a trash can, but you were “ma’am” or “sir” if you had an encounter with Joe.

Joe was a helper. Acts of service were truly his love language. He was hands on, shirtsleeves rolled up, ready to do what was needed. He was also a giver, but usually a very quiet one. He was generous and typically anonymous, wanting to give, but not needing to be recognized.

Joe smelled like life. He still does.

I want to smell like that, too.

Sometimes I worry that the words I use depict Joe as some unflawed, larger than life creature. Admittedly, he was pretty perfect to me, but he was far from perfect…and although I would never admit this to Joe, I am not even close to perfect myself.

But here’s the thing…you don’t have to be.

Joe said it best when he said, “The best fragrance of life comes from someone who has been transformed by God’s grace.” Well, that’s me, friend. And you know what else? It’s you, too.

Put your hand to your chest. Every beat of your heart is proof of God’s grace in your life. When I look back on my past, there were times I did not smell like life. I smelled more like a goat’s rear end. Maybe you’ve smelled a little funky, too.

It’s a pretty easy fix, according to Mr. Price: You can have that fragrance as a Christian by coming to God continuously, reading His word and loving people the way Jesus instructed.

Talk to God. Lean on Him. Listen to Him. Read His word…it’s all the truth you’ll ever need. And then…love on people…ALL the people….even the stinky ones. I’m willing to bet that someone loved on you when you weren’t smelling so fresh. I know Jesus did.

Sweet friend, take a sniff of yourself. If you are smelling like a rose, keep doing what you are doing. If you catch a whiff that’s not so fresh, ask Jesus to fill your heart with His love and his truth. Ask Him to help you love like He loves. Heck, ask Him anything. Ask Him to help you take the next step, the next breath, whatever it is that you need. And then ask Him to show you the way…His way.

And then sniff again…I’m pretty sure you’ll find that you smell less like the world and more like Jesus.

You might even find you don’t need deodorant (you do you, but personally, I am not taking a chance on that one!!). 😉

We’re on this train called life together. It will be so much more enjoyable for everyone if we all smell good. Just ask the Conductor. ❤

-Words of Wisdom from The Book of Joe

The Story of the Cross

April 4, 2021

A picture’s worth a thousand words, right? I am SO THANKFUL to have photos of Joe, but getting those pictures of him was sometimes a chore. More than once I’ve run across a picture I wanted to use in this blog, but could not because Joe’s sneaky self had crossed his eyes or was surreptitiously giving me the one finger salute. When he was being mischievous like that, he said his “ankles were itching”. Let me tell you…his ankles itched A LOT.

Exhibit A (and proof that his ankles started itching early on):

Never a dull moment….but I digress. 🙂

The picture below represents happiness to me:

Disney is one of my happy places, and I was there with some of my most favorite people. There we stood, in front of The Tree of Life, happy as clams. This trip was great at this point, and just got better and better. However, both the Price and Roberts families had to endure some hardships before we could stand and smile in front of that tree. Poor Joe was diagnosed with the worst case of gout I’ve ever seen just before we left. He was in such pain and hobbled around for the first day or so. As most of you know, Joe loved a cigarette almost as much as he loved me. Apparently, Disney frowns upon the use of tobacco products, therefore smoking areas were few and far between. So we had ourselves a man (who did not exactly share my enthusiasm for Mickey Mouse) with a really sore foot and nowhere to light one up. Couple that with a horrific train ride to Florida for the Roberts, who arrived late due to train delays, mechanical failures, etc. There was also an incident on the train ride home, but that is a story for another day. Bottom Line: It. Was. A. Time.

This week, Joe’s lesson is about a symbol of Christianity and how its meaning evolved from the time of Jesus until now.

He wrote:

The Necessity of the Cross

What does the cross mean to you? Throughout the world, the cross is a symbol of Christianity. But what did the cross represent when Christ was alive? I certainly wouldn’t think that in Christ’s day anyone wore a cross as a piece of jewelry or displayed one in a place of worship.

The cross was used as a way to torture or execute criminals.  I would think that in Christ’s day, the thought or image of a cross caused folks to be uncomfortable or afraid.

But Christians have chosen the cross as a symbol of our faith. If not for the cross, there would be no Christianity.

Colossians 2: 13-15 says, “You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ, for He forgave all our sins. He canceled the record of charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross.”

The thought of death, torture and sacrifice has become unpopular in many Christian churches because people don’t like to hear about or even think about unpleasant things. People would rather hear about mercy, grace and love—but without the suffering of Christ, we could not be saved. There would be no mercy, grace and love as we know it today.

Can anyone here this morning tell me how we could be saved without Christ being crucified? As terrible as it was, Jesus paid the price for our sins so that all we have to do to be saved is to ask for it.

Hebrews 9:22 states, “ In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.”

Christ paid our debt with His own blood—with His own life.

When you look at the cross, remember that it hasn’t always been a proud symbol of Christianity. It was once a symbol of torment and death. Through His suffering, Christ made the cross a symbol of triumph over death and eternal life for all who know Him as their Savior.

-JMP

Have you ever heard of Six Word Memoirs? I use this activity with my students each year. Legend has it that Ernest Hemingway was challenged by a fellow writer to compose a story using only six words. This writer told Hemingway that it simply could not be done. Hemingway accepted the challenge and wrote: “For sale. Baby shoes. Never worn”.

I guess he showed him, didn’t he?

I use this example as a jumping off point to prove to my students that you can say much in few words.

There are six words often associated with the cross. I guess you could say they tell the story. Those words are:

It is finished. He is risen.

Truthfully, I usually tend to block out of my mind the graphic horror of what Jesus actually endured. When Joe said that “people would rather hear about mercy, grace and love“, he was talking about me. I’d much rather park my thoughts on the “He is risen” feelings than the “It is finished” ones. But, this year, I’ve paid more attention to the story. This year, I can’t look away from the suffering part, or from the darkness that followed it.

Jesus was a man. A son. Mary was a mama. The night before his crucifixion, he prayed with such anguish that “his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground” (Luke 22:44), and even asked God if it were possible to “take this cup from me” (Luke 22:42). He had another very human moment when He called out from the cross, “My God, why hath thou forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46). He knew what had to be, but it is difficult to imagine the physical pain he endured to get there. And his mama…his sweet mama…had to witness it. As a fellow human being who feels pain, feels anxiety and fear, and as a mama–well, it is just about more than I can stand to think about it.

But, we couldn’t have the “He is Risen” part without “It is finished”.

This year, however, it’s the part in the middle that captures my attention.

Those hours between Friday afternoon and Sunday morning. You see, that’s the part I truly understand. Those dark hours of shock and grief are still fresh in my mind. Those hours are like a foggy mist, except they are comprised of tiny shards of glass. I think I’ve come out of the fog, but the glass is so embedded in my skin that it surfaces to the top intermittently. I know I’ve got to let each tiny fragment make its way out, but I dread the pain as each one breaks through the skin. I would imagine that Mary, the disciples, the followers of Jesus all walked through a similar fog that weekend.

The story of Cleopas on the road to Emmaus on that Sunday morning provides the three words that might make up “the rest of the story”. Jesus had left the tomb and walked the road beside of Cleopas and another traveler, but they did not know it was Him. Cleopas is sad, disappointed and frustrated as he cries “…we had hoped“(Luke 24:21). I’m sure he felt that the death he had just witnessed was the undoing of so many bright dreams for the future. Me too, Cleopas. Me too.

I could make a list a mile long of all the things “I had hoped” for that simply faded away on December 5, 2020. Honestly, I’ve camped in and around the “I had hope” list for many hours since that day. I’ve questioned. Oh, how I’ve questioned. At times, I have even asked “Where is God in all of this?”.

Here’s the answer:

While my head is down, while I am like Cleopas, lost in the “we had hoped”, Jesus is walking right beside me. And I am so caught up in my despair that I don’t even see Him. When Cleopas traveled that dusty road, lost in grief and disappointment, Jesus had already risen.

Because of that, it’s not really “we had hoped”…It’s “we have hope”. And we have that hope simply because Jesus endured unimaginable suffering on that cross long before it was a symbol.

Joe said, “without the suffering of Christ, we could not be saved. There would be no mercy, grace and love as we know it today.” We are all working our way toward our Happy Place, longing to take our spot in front of The Tree of Life. We are all going to have to endure hardship and suffering to get there. But that place of suffering is a place well known to Jesus. Perhaps it is in that moment of suffering that He is closest to us, because He suffered, too.

Are you walking through a fog? It’s ok. Sometimes, so am I. But look…there’s a hand extended at the edge of it,stretched out for you and for me to hold tightly. Can you see it? Look closely….do you see His palm? Do you see the scar? That scar means that is is NOT finished, after all. That scar means we HAVE hope. That scar means that we WILL trade our earthly sorrows for life everlasting. That scar means our story is not over, and that one sweet day I won’t have to look at pictures of my sweet Joe anymore, because I will be by his side again.

IT’S NOT FINISHED! HE IS RISEN!

And one day we will all live HAPPILY EVER AFTER.

-Words of Wisdom from The Book of Joe

On the Right Path

March 28, 2021

Two of my favorite things are in this picture: The boy and the path.

“On the path” was our code for home. If I called Joe to see what time he wanted supper, he would respond with something like, “I”ll be on the path by seven.” Or, if he needed me to do something for him at the house or the barn he might say, “If you are on the path before me, would you please…”

Do you remember the postman’s motto that went something like, “Neither rain, nor snow, nor sleet, nor hail shall keep the postmen from their appointed rounds”? Well, it was with that same determined regularity that Joe Price would complete a particular ritual as he turned his truck off of the paved road and ambled down the dusty path. Without fail or regard for temperature, he would immediately roll down his window and draw in a deep, contented breath because, as he often said, “The air is fresher on the path.”

If you needed Joe anytime after church on Sunday, you could almost always find him rambling around somewhere “on the path”. If you needed him just after he had enjoyed one of his sweet mama’s delicious Sunday lunches, there’s a good chance you’d find him in this position:

This week, Joe’s lesson is about following a different path. He discusses recognizing and following the path laid out before us by God.

He wrote:

On the Right Path

Psalm 27:11”Teach me thy way, O Lord, and lead me in a plain path.”

I believe the main reason we don’t know what God’s will is in our life is because we do not ask.

James 4:2 states: “You have not because you ask not”. God knows better than we know ourselves, so if we want to know what His will is, it makes sense that we should just ask. I don’t think there is anything wrong with asking for specifics. He will guide you.

We also have a guidebook in the Bible—we can even talk to the author. As Christians, God is always with us. He knows us inside and out, and He is with us every step of our journey. He knows where we have been, where we are going, and He knows the best path to travel to get us there.

If we will study His Word for direction, He will remind us of what it says when we are unsure of which road to take.

I think another way that God guides and directs us is through what he impresses upon our minds. He gave us a mind and he wants us to use it. He wants to guide us, not through control (for we have free will), but through ideas. He may give us an idea or impress a thought into our minds and then wait for us to respond. When we do, He will begin to fill in the details.

I ran across this quote while preparing for this morning’s message: “When God gives you an idea, it is called inspiration. When the devil gives you an idea, it is called temptation”. So, how in the world do you tell the difference? The answer is found in Psalm 27:11: ”Teach me thy way, O Lord, and lead me in a plain path.” All you have to do is ask.

So, if you find yourself looking for direction this week, use your most trusted resources. Let the Bible be your guidebook and let the Lord be your guide.

-JMP

The path I’m on sure looks a lot different these days. I mean that literally and figuratively. Literally, the landscape of the path toward home has changed. Trees have been cleared, homes have been added, gravel crunches under tires where khaki colored sand used to fly. The people who lived in the houses that line the path have grown older, grown up, moved on…or gone to be with Jesus.

There are also some scars on the path. Hurricane waters dug a deep, jagged trench through the middle of a field. Trees have fallen, sometimes blocking our way to and/or from home. Over time, running water has slowly nibbled at the path’s edges in spots. If you are not careful, you’ll lose your footing and find yourself ankle deep in muck before you know what’s happened. For the most part, however, the path is pretty scenic.

Honestly, I don’t like change very much. I enjoy the security of tradition and routine. Yet, one of my favorite parts of the path is a change- an addition made in later years by Joe’s dad, Mr. Tim, not too long before he passed away. It is a sweet little covered bridge nestled alongside of a creek, honoring the passage of many a tiny foot, horse hoof and golf cart tire that have crossed this section of path over the years.

When I really take the time to think about it, my personal path isn’t really much different than the one at the end of my driveway. It doesn’t look like it did just a few short years ago. What once felt cool and smooth under my feet now feels sharp and jagged. My footing feels unsure. Do I have deep scars running right through my middle? Oh my goodness…I surely do. I feel like trees are constantly falling across my path. Some days I can shove them aside with little effort, while other days I am just so exhausted I decide to rest on them a while. There is a literal fork on the path where I live. I’ve made that slight turn left to get home so many times I can do it in my sleep. But in my personal path, the fork feels different. I stand there and I don’t know which way to go. I feel like I’ve been stalled out in the fork lately.

Joe said in his lesson that we have not because we ask not. So, I’ve asked God several questions this week. But they all pretty much amounted to, “So, since You have put me in this place, what would You have me do now?” Full disclosure, I did not exactly ask this question from a place of humble submission. It came more from a place of weary, angry frustration.

Joe also said, “If we will study His Word for direction, He will remind us of what it says when we are unsure of which road to take.” Well, I do study. Lots. Although I didn’t see it at the time, my devotional study all of this week has been leading me to the answer I think God wanted me to see. I found it this morning. God may not be in a hurry, but he ain’t ever late, either. Right on time…

Today is Palm Sunday. Jesus started down a path of his own this week. Like me (and like you, I’m sure), his path looked much different at the start than it did farther down the road. On Palm Sunday, people lined the path, shouting praises. But Jesus knew where this road would lead. It would lead to his crucifixion. And he kept going. He kept moving forward. For me. For you, too. But perhaps even Jesus took pause at the fork in the road. Maybe even Jesus needed a little reminder that moving forward is the only way Home.

This is a picture of the path where I live. This is the way I get home. I can stand at the fork forever, and I won’t really know which way to go. But if I will just look up….just look beyond the thicket of trees…oh, the wonders that are on the Other Side. All this time I thought I was waiting for God to tell me to go left or go right. And all this time he was saying , “Look up.”

I think I am finally beginning to see that even though the path looks different, it can still be beautiful. Sometimes you have to look a little farther to see it, but the beauty is there.

Maybe you are like me. A little unsure? Maybe the ground underneath your feet doesn’t feel as steady as it once did. Well, here is the advice I am giving you and I’m giving it to me, too.

STOP LOOKING AT YOUR FEET. Lord help us…if we keep looking down or behind us, we will surely fall on our faces. LOOK UP.

We aren’t on this path by accident. Jesus knew we would be here long before we knew it. But He didn’t drop us off and leave us to find our way alone. He put the guidebook in our hands and parked himself right by our side.

There have been some mighty sweet moments on my path. There are sweet moments left to come. I believe that now. Storms may blow in and dig deep trenches through the middle. That’s just how it goes. But, time has a way of healing things, so maybe those places won’t feel so deep forever. And God, in His loving mercy, gives us pretty covered bridges on our path, to remind us of those we’ve loved who traveled along beside us for a little while. Leave it to Mr. Tim and Jesus to build a little bridge like that.

If the path you’re on right now is pretty, look beside you. You’ll see Jesus. If the path you’re on is a little bit scary, look beside you. Hold your hand out. You’ll see Jesus. If you’ve come to the fork, and you aren’t quite sure which way to go, look beside you. You’ll see Jesus. He’s the guidebook and the guide all wrapped up in one.

No matter where you are right now, your journey is not yet complete. So, just take a moment to slow down a tiny bit. Roll your window down. Close your eyes. Breathe in the sweet, fresh air of Jesus for a while. Let it fill you up, my friend (Joe was right…the air really is fresher on the path). Then move forward. Just one step. One foot in front of the other. It doesn’t matter how fast or slow you go, but I think you’ll enjoy it more if you’ll take the time to look around. From what I’ve seen, it’s a pretty scenic route. And the best part is, with the Bible as your guidebook and Jesus as your guide, you will always be on the right path.

It’s the path that leads you Home…

There’s No Place Like Home, sweet friend. There’s No Place Like Home.❤️

-Words of Wisdom from The Book of Joe

You’re So Lucky

March 21,2021

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.

A rose among thorns…I promise you he made that very statement as we posed for this picture!

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.

He wrote:

SAINT PATRICK

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.

-JMP

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

It’s Worth Hearing Twice

“You’re holding up pretty well for an older woman.” -Joseph M. Price

It was at a funeral that Joe and I reconnected almost twenty years after our teenage courtship. I mean, where else, right? We exchanged pleasantries and a brief hug after the service. I was standing in the frozen foods section of Walmart that evening when my phone buzzed, letting me know that I had received a Facebook message. From Joe.

It read: You’re holding up pretty well for an older woman.

We like to think of it as the pick up line that will forever live in infamy. 🙂 But…it worked.

He loved to pick on me for being a TEENSY bit older, but if ever there was an old man, it was Joe Price!  His “old soul” was one of the things I loved about him most. Even though he had the spirit of an old man, his mind was sharp as a tack. Walking through the woods, he could (and would) tell you the name of EVERY tree he saw. He knew the names of my own ancestors (and probably yours, too) better than I knew them and could rattle off a list of names at the drop of a hat. He could NOT remember a birthday to save his life, but…I digress.

One of the ways I knew his age was beginning to catch up with him a little was that he had begun to repeat himself. He would tell me a story, then tell it again just a few days later. I never corrected him. I fondly remember the voice of my sweet Granny  saying, “If I’ve told you this already, just listen again. It’s worth hearing twice!”

Speaking of hearing something twice—if you have followed the blog since the beginning, you may remember that the first lesson I posted was actually dated March 15, 2020. It was the last sermon Joe delivered to our congregation before Covid ended life as we knew it. Joe wrote these lessons for several years, so I considered using one for this week that he wrote in March two or three years back. Yet, I just kept returning to this one. It was relevant last March. It was relevant on Christmas Eve. Oddly enough, it is even more relevant today.

Trust me. As Granny said, it is worth hearing twice.

He wrote:

March 15 2020

A SEASON FOR EVERYTHING

I really enjoy fall and winter. Each year I look forward to the cooler temperatures after our hot and humid Eastern North Carolina summer. I look forward to hunting season, Thanksgiving and Christmas. But, by the time we get through the cold, short days of January and February, I’ll admit that I am ready to see some signs of spring.

Winter helps to prepare the ground for the next season. Without each season playing its part, our environment here on earth would surely collapse.

Sometimes, as Christians, we may think that if we follow God’s commands and do like we are supposed to, we won’t (or we shouldn’t have to) endure hardships or hurt. However, life, like nature, moves in seasons.

Ecclesiastes 3 states that “To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under Heaven. A time to be born. A time to die. A time to plant. A time to pluck what is planted. A time to kill. A time to heal. A time to weep and a time to laugh. A time to mourn and a time to dance.”

We are part of a sinful world, and we ourselves are not without sin. Sometimes being part of that world means that we have to go through our own painful experiences or seasons.

Yet, God will take our hard times and trials and use them for good and for His glory. He will take our season of suffering and use it to open our eyes to the hard times others are going through. He will use seasons of death to remind us of the beauty of life. He will use our seasons of sorrow to draw us ever closer to Him.

Whatever season of life you find yourself in right now, I want you to remember that God uses everything for the good of those who love Him.

Take some time to examine the seasons of your life. Remember how God spoke to you and as you go out into the world this week, look for others who need your encouragement.

I’ll leave you with Ecclesiastes 3:11: “He hath made everything beautiful in His time”.

-JMP

I. Hate. Pollen.

I mean, I get it. Scientifically, pollen is necessary. If I wish to enjoy the goodness of warmer weather, I must endure the days when pollen falls in sheets, my head pounds and my eyelids are pretty much swelled shut. Despite the fact that the lush green of late spring is quite a sight to behold, this particular season is physically painful for me.

So, between my pollen induced sneezing (have you sneezed snot into your mask yet, friends?? Good times….), a streak of mild temperatures, and the time change, the seasons have been on my mind this week. As usual, Joe’s words are right on time.

If nothing else, grief has made me empathetic to the suffering around me. Joe’s message, along with another devotion I read this week, caused me to reflect upon how seasonal changes might affect other creations. What must the change be like…for the tree?

I have a recurring epiphany toward the end of every spring. Flowers bloom, the azaleas really show off, and grass is lush and bright again. But there’s always one day when it seems as if overnight the barren tree branches of winter have come alive with vibrant green fullness. The sight of it takes my breath every single year. It is such a happy sight.

But what did that transformation feel like for the tree?

In early summer, the tree is green, healthy and strong. Birds rest on branches, children squeal with delight as they climb and swing, adults find rest under its shade. Trees are needed. Trees are loved. Trees are admired. In summer, the tree is living its best life!

Then fall comes. Sure, the leaves stiffen a little and begin to lose color, but with that comes the delicious breath of cooler air. Older and wiser, the tree understands that even though life was good when its leaves were green, the days were hot and tiresome. This season is a bit slower, the noise a little softer, and the tree is still a sight to behold. It understands that there is beauty and wisdom that comes with age.

Even though winter comes each and every year, it is always a shock to the tree when it happens. One day the sun is warm and bright, and the next day the bitter winds come and strip the last of the leaves away, leaving the tree shocked and exposed. While humans layer up and huddle beneath warm covers, the tree finds itself with no layer of warmth or protection against icy winds that cause the branches to snap and break. The birds are gone. The children kept inside. And although it thinks it cannot bear another broken branch, sometimes the pruner comes. More branches are snapped away, leaving open wounds that are painfully slow to mend and callous over.

And finally, the breath of spring arrives. Humans see the buds, the first glimpses of new life. But the tree? The tree looks down and sees the wounds. The scars. The holes left behind when the winter and the pruner chipped away at what the tree had believed made it whole…The tree sees the buds and feels the buds as they push their way through. Even that process is painful. You see, the tree liked who it was before. The old branches were strong and trusted. The old branches were safe. To the humans, the fresh new greenness is full of beauty and hope. But to the tree, this newness is frightening and foreign. Perhaps the tree does not even recognize itself.

And so, in the early morning dusk when trees look black against a sherbert colored sky, its limbs are heavy and hanging low. Gently and sweetly, God whispers. Quietly, the leaves rustle as they lift themselves upward to listen.

“In just a few hours, ” He tells the tree, ” she will see you as she does on this day every year. But this time, she will see you through different eyes. As always, she will be struck by the sheer beauty of your vibrant leaves, but her eyes will fill with tears. This year, she understands. When you were living your golden days of summer, so was she. As you eased into fall, as your leaves faded and stiffened, she noticed herself aging as well. Just as you relished in this season, she relished in her own golden age of contentment. I think you both would have been satisfied to stay that way forever. But, that is not how seasons work. Winter took you both by surprise. Your branches broke and cracked, as did her heart. Sometimes being the Pruner is a most difficult job. This season, it was especially so. This year, it seems that the Heavens cried longer, rained down on the earth for days on end. Yet, while other trees in the forest toppled down under the bitter winds and relentless rain, you stood. I know you wanted to fall over, too. It seemed a kinder fate, I’m sure. Yet, this year, you learned to lean in. She learned to do that, too.

When she sees you today, she will think to herself that your leaves have never been as vibrant as they are this year. And she will be correct. As painful as that season was, with all of its pruning and bitter wind and rain, it was the only way to grow you. I know that doesn’t make sense to you now, but one day it will.

So, today, I need you to lift yourself up and dance in the beautiful breath of spring. I know it doesn’t feel the same. I know you miss what used to be. But, don’t look back. Don’t look down. Look Up. Look at Me and I will whisper gentle winds of hope all through your branches. She needs to see you dance.

She will look at you in this new season and appreciate what you endured to get here. She may even run her hand across your wounds, and gently touch her own chest where her deepest wounds are kept. I hope you’ll let her touch your hurt places so that she will know in time, her own hurt places will heal. Like yours, her scars will remain, but they will become a testimony of all that was and all that will ever be. Through her tears, she will look at you and understand that it was in the very season that almost broke you that I created the strongest, most beautiful tree she has ever seen. You will remind her that although My ways are not her ways, I make everything beautiful again…in its time.”

Sweet friend, I don’t know much, but this I know for sure. Winter was tough, but we didn’t topple over. As long as we are still standing, there is more to our story. It’s ok to take a moment to run your fingers over your scars. Those raised up places represent the healing power of Jesus. In every inch, you’ll find His mercies. But you must also open wide your heart to the gifts of new life He gives you in this season. Before long, this earth will explode with gorgeous, bright, new spring life. You might miss it if you look down at your scars too long. Look up. Lift your limbs high and let Him whisper gentle words of hope all through your branches. He wants to see you dance.

(image source: https://www.pinterest.ph/pin/320248223486351996/)

-Words of Wisdom from The Book of Joe

Contentment: There’s No Place Like Home

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the picture of my own contentment…

This was our wedding. This is my absolute favorite picture of us. I was perfectly content in that moment–the joy on my face reflects the peace in my heart.

Now, here’s the rest of the story…as much as I love that day, it was FAR from perfect. The reason this picture is black and white is because we were both drenched with sweat (you can see that our clothes are stuck to us in the color version). We were drenched with sweat because it was still hovering near the 90 degree mark, well after sunset that evening. Just after we finished setting up the tables and chairs for our OUTDOOR wedding, the skies opened up and it rained buckets. However, the sun came back out, the tables dried, and apparently that is the moment when Mother Nature’s thermostat choked out. The cool breeze associated with early summer sunset never arrived. I am not exaggerating when I say it was the hottest, most humid June night I have ever experienced. It was a time, y’all!

My dress was stuck to my rear end, my hair was stuck to my head, my Maybelline had melted off my face…but I would live that evening 100 times over again if I could. I was perfectly content.

This week, Joe’s lesson is about being content, regardless of your circumstances.

He wrote:

Contentment

I believe most of us think that contentment is a hard thing to come by. Maybe that is because being happy or being at peace kind of comes and goes. But is that really the reason it is hard for us to be content? Or are we just really used to being comfortable?

Many times, it is easy for us to be satisfied when we are comfortable. That is not the contentment I am talking about this morning. Paul challenges the idea of only being content when things are good in Philippians 4:11 when he says, “ I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.

Contentment isn’t something that comes naturally to us. I believe that we have to learn to be content. What kind of classroom do you think God would use to teach us contentment? It probably isn’t the lap of luxury that teaches us to be thankful. Truthfully, the hard times we experience are better at teaching us to be grateful for the blessings our Heavenly Father provides for us.

Paul had plenty of hard times to learn from. 2 Corinthians 11 tells us that he was “put in prison, whipped more times than can be numbered, faced death again and again, was stoned, beaten with rods, shipwrecked, robbed, overworked, cold and many times went without food”. I’d say Paul had every reason to complain. Yet, in his letter to the Philippians, he did not blame anyone or complain. Instead, he rejoiced in Christ because that is where his focus, attention and devotion remained.

Paul tells us in Philippians 1:12 “Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel.” Not only did he find contentment, but he also understood that any trial he endured personally was used by God to further His Word.

Paul was confident that his circumstances were under God’s complete control. He understood and believed that God had a plan for him, and that as long as he kept his focus on Him, the result would be contentment, regardless of the situation.

As we go out into the world this week, let’s try to be more like Paul. If you are in a season of troubling times, be content in knowing that God is in control. Fix your eyes on Christ and know that God will turn your mess into a message if you’ll let Him.

-JMP

I love all things Wizard of Oz. You’ll find Oz memorabilia in my home, all over my classroom, etc. I used to tell Joe that I wanted be placed in my casket with my feet showing, rather than my head, wearing a pair of ruby red sequin slippers. I also requested having someone sing the song “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”….to which he always replied, “I think ‘Ding Dong The Witch is Dead’ would be a more appropriate choice!” 😁

Just like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, to me, there is no place like home. When Joe and I moved back to Seven Springs to live “on the pond”, we were both finally home again and I was at peace. We were close to our parents, worshipping at our home church, and I was teaching in the county where I had been a student from kindergarten through 12th grade. We had both endured some difficult times to get back to this point, but everything had finally fallen into place. We were home. We both loved to be there.

I have always loved a Friday afternoon, but especially so when I was with Joe. After a long, stressful busy week, the idea of coming home to him made me excited and relieved all at the same time. I loved the prospect of the time ahead of us where we could relax and let the worries of the week fade away. I didn’t always know what we were doing on the weekend, but it didn’t really matter much.

**Warning** I am about to get mushy…if you can’t handle it, you may exit now…

As I was saying, what we were doing didn’t matter much. Once I found myself safe in his arms, looking into those beautiful blue eyes (if you didn’t know him…whew, chile…those eyes were something else!!), I believed had everything I would ever need.

I had it bad for that boy. I still do. ❤️

So, of course, I was perfectly content. I was happy. I was comfortable. It was easy to be content in those circumstances. On December 4th (the day before Joe passed away) I wrote the following words in my journal: “Cam is going to the mountains. Caegan is going to a State game. Date night with Joe tonight. All is well in my little world.” And then it wasn’t well. At all.

As Joe said, I was about to learn a lesson in the biggest, most difficult way…and it would be the classroom of my saddest day where God would begin to teach me. Since that day, I have learned many things, including the fact that I am a pretty stubborn student. I ask the same questions over and over. But God, in his ever patient way, is helping me mold my question into a statement.

Why? Why, God? Why did this have to happen to me? How can you love me and watch me hurt this way?

Isaiah 54:10 states ” ‘Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed, says the Lord, who has compassion for you.’ “

Something about this verse touches my heart in a way that helps me mold my question into a statement of what I know to be true: God loves me and has compassion for me. He will walk me through this valley and He will use it for good.

When I think about our wedding day, I realize that the circumstances surrounding it were a little bit miserable…actually more than just a little bit. But look at my face…do you think that mattered to me? Not one bit, because my eyes were focused on Joe and my heart was full.

My friend, I don’t know where you are….what your circumstances might be. I hope all is well for you. I pray that for you every single day. But if, by chance, that is not the case, I want you to read that last paragraph again. This time, I want you to replace the word Joe with the word Jesus.

You can “why” yourself until you are sick, and you won’t be any closer to changing your circumstances. TRUST ME. I’ve tried. What you can do is adjust your focus.

Fix your eyes on Jesus. Trust and believe with all of your heart that if He brought you to it, He will bring you through it. One step at a time, He will get you through.

I have said, “something good has just GOT to come from this” many times since Joe’s death. Maybe this blog…Joe’s words…are part of that. I don’t know if reading his words help a single soul, but I know how it helps me. I am amazed every single week at how timely Joe’s message is for what is going on in my life. If I am being really honest, Sunday is the toughest day of my week. It was Joe’s favorite time at home and there is not an inch of space on the pond that doesn’t make me miss him so much I can feel my heart breaking all over again. I see him everywhere I look. And that is hard…so very hard.

So, I look down and then up. Down at his notebook. Up to Jesus. I pour myself into The Book of Joe on Sunday afternoons because it is the only way I know to get through the hours of a day that seem to encompass Joe in every way. I give you his words and I pray fervently that God will use them to reach someone. If just one person needs to hear Joe’s words…if just one hurting soul finds some glimmer of hope…then something good has come of this. And something good has just GOT to come from this.

They say home is where your heart is. My heart will always be with Joe. But my home is with Jesus, yesterday today and forever. So, let the rain fall. Let my dress stick to my back and let my makeup slide right off my face. I’ve got my eyes locked in on the eyes of Jesus. He will make my heart full. He is my home.

There’s no place like home. ❤️

-Words of Wisdom from The Book of Joe

You Can Do All Things

Did you know Joe was a pilot? Did you know he was a poet? An excellent cook? A fantastic guitarist and singer? A handyman? A good dancer? A fireman? An avid reader?

A friend of mine recently referred to this moment as the “good stuff”. I wholeheartedly agree.

Did you know my mouth was hanging open in this picture because he pinched my behind? In addition to all of the things listed above, Joe was also a prankster. 🙂

He was even a pretty good driver. I was always in the passenger seat (if you knew me way back when, you remember my checkered driving record…not much has changed). So, technically it didn’t take much skill, but he was also better at driving than me.

Joe seemed to know a little something about most everything, and in my eyes, there just wasn’t much he could not do. There was such a feeling of comfort and safety with Joe. As long as he was close by, I knew everything would be ok.

This week, Joe’s lesson is about the comfort and safety found in Jesus, and the power He holds in each of our lives.

He wrote:

What You CAN Do

Have you ever heard the saying, “Can’t never could”?

I am not going to talk to you this morning about what you can’t do. I am going to talk to you about what you can do. Not through your own power, but through the power of Christ.

The apostle Paul was a proclaimer of the victory of Christ that created our freedom. That is why he used the phrase “all things” in his letters to the church–Philippians, Colossians, Corinthians, Romans. Thessalonians Acts and Ephesians.

With the words “all things”, Paul tells us just how much authority has been given to Jesus. He goes to explain how Jesus has authority over our lives, if only we will let him have control.

Consider how powerful Christ can be in our lives if we follow him. By giving up our own power and allowing Jesus to be our compass, we actually gain more strength than we could ever have on our own.

Through Him, we have to the power to:

  • Endure: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” -Philippians 4:3
  • Become an Example: “I have become all things to all men so that I may save some.” -1 Corinthians 9:22
  • Believe:  “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” -Romans 8:28
  • Love: “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” -1 Corinthians 13:7
  • Trust: “For by Him all things were created both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities-all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things and in Him all things are held together.”-Colossians 1:16-17
  • Let go: “That no one should take advantage of and defraud his brother in this matter, because the Lord is the avenger in all things.” -1 Thessalonians 4:6
  • Profit through surrender: All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything.” – 1 Corinthians 6:12
  • Grow truly wealthy: “As sorrowful yet always rejoicing; as poor yet making many rich; as having nothing yet possessing all things.” -2 Corinthians 6:10

All we have to do is let go and truly make Him the Lord of our lives. We must give Jesus control of “all things”.

By giving Jesus the steering wheel, we will have the ability to go far beyond what we can do in our power alone.

-JMP

Several years ago, I found myself in a period of waiting…as a person with little patience who often feels the need to be in control, this was not a fun time! Yet, it seemed that the story of David popped up in EVERYTHING I read, in Sunday sermons, even in random conversations. Looking back, I see how relevant David’s story was to my life at that time. David was an imperfect person with many lessons to be learned during seasons of waiting. God planted those stories everywhere at a time when I really needed to read them. God is good like that, isn’t he? 🙂

About a month before Joe passed away, suddenly the apostle Paul was EVERYWHERE in my devotions, just as David had been. I distinctly remember reading about having joy in times of sorrow, having peace in times of suffering, and wondering why God kept putting those thoughts in my daily reading. It was also during that time that I started a new journal. During my time of devotion, I write down thoughts that stand out to me, verses that really resonate, recurring themes, etc. I probably have twenty or so notebooks full of my daily musings. Y’all…I am an English teacher. It is just what I do.

However, for some reason, when I started this new journal, I added the following to the top of my page each morning:

I think maybe I saw a post on Facebook about taking time to write down things for which we are thankful, and things we need to lift up in prayer. It was November…the season of gratitude…so I hopped on board.

Little did I know that I was developing a habit that would serve as an anchor in just a few short weeks. Little did I know that there would soon come a day in which my praise would be the very thing that broke my heart. The picture below is my journal entry the morning after Joe went to Heaven.

It was truly the hardest praise to write.

I am learning to surrender control. It took the shattering of my heart to do it, but I promise you that each day, as I ” ‘endure…become an example…believe…love…trust…let go…surrender…and grow truly wealthy’ ” it is not through any power I have on my own. It is 100% the power of Jesus every single minute of every single day.

Do I understand why? Absolutely not, and I don’t think I will on this side of Heaven. Do I praise God anyway?

I do, friend. I do.

A broken hallelujah is a hallelujah just the same.

So, of course, Joe’s lesson is about Paul this week. Of course, exactly one year ago, God knew that the words Joe spoke in our church sanctuary would be the words you read in this blog today…the words I needed and maybe the words you needed as well?

God knew I needed David. God knew I needed Paul. God knew I needed to get myself in the habit of counting my blessings each morning so that in the dark days ahead, I would remember that God is still good and worthy of praise. God knows what you need, too–even before you know you need it.

Don’t give Him some of the things. Give Him ALL THINGS. I know it is not easy. Sometimes it even hurts. But from the driver’s seat, He sees far beyond what you can see (and that is a blessing in itself). He wants to make a way for you. Let Him drive. He’s better at it than you. I promise. 💜

-Words of Wisdom from The Book of Joe