Do the Right Thing

Pizza and jelly beans are my love language.

Well, actually my love language is “words of affirmation” (If you haven’t read about the five love languages, you need to Google it…it’s pretty accurate!), but Joe knew he could dig himself out of a pretty deep hole with a sweet little note, a trip to Pizza Village or a bag of Sweet Tart Jelly Beans! He was smart enough to speak my love language when it really mattered. 🙂

Joe’s love language was “acts of service”. He showed love by doing what needed to be done. One of my favorite ways he did this was through his talents as an auctioneer. In the fall of the year, Harvest Sale Season was a very busy time at our house. I remember one particular Saturday in which he called three different sales for area churches in the same day! If you have attended a benefit or fundraiser in our local area, there is a good chance Joe served as one of the auctioneers. Not only did he donate his time and talent, he also quietly purchased MANY items over the years to help a community, church or family in need.

Joe was a helper, plain and simple. If he saw something that needed to be done, he just did it…usually anonymously and without much fanfare. Doing good deeds came pretty naturally to him, so it is no great surprise that he chose to talk about such in this week’s lesson. However, his focus is not so much on the deed, but on the reason behind it.

He wrote:

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

How many of you have heard the proverb, “No good deed goes unpunished”? What does it mean? It could mean that a kind action might not be properly appreciated. Or it might mean that a kind action could lead to more expected actions or demands for help or benefits. The idea is that in the end many people might not appreciate the effort behind our kindness, or that it might end up causing us more grief than anything. I guess it is a twist on the original idea that good deeds (or at least being good) get rewarded…which is not always the case.

In 1 Peter 2:20 it states: “But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God.”

John 10: 32 states “but Jesus said to them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?”

We all know that Scripture gives us examples of good works, such as the story of the Good Samaritan, and how he helped a man that in those times others would have been unconcerned with. I think we can all agree that we should look for good deeds that should be done. Hebrews 13:16 instructs us to ” not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.”

Now, I don’t know about you, but I have a hard time being pleased at the thought of having to suffer for showing a kindness or as Jesus said being stoned for doing good works. However, those thoughts are centered around man, not around God. We are not really doing good deeds for people, are we? We are doing them for Christ himself.

Colossians 3: 23-24 states “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters,  since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”

So, this morning, I want to encourage you to do good deeds and to do the right thing, even when it feels unappreciated or like it might even backfire or cause you some hardship. Our Heavenly Father sees it all. He sees our efforts, as well as the efforts and actions of others. But it is not our job to worry about anything but doing good deeds in the name of Jesus. He is keeping tabs for us all.

-JMP

If I am being honest, the last paragraph of Joe’s sermon ticks me off.

Not the part about good deeds. I love an act of kindness better than just about anyone. As a matter of fact, last week was “Random Act of Kindness” Week at school…one of my most favorite activities all year long! It warms my heart to see how our students and staff find ways to show love and kindness for others, not just during this week, but all the time. I celebrate good deeds in my classroom. One of my favorite shirts bears the phrase “BE KIND” in large letters across the front. It’s a big deal to me.

However, there’s this other part of me that seriously struggles with the other side of kindness…when people disappoint me or cause hurt to others by not doing the right thing. So, when Joe says that it is not my job to worry about anything but doing good deeds, I may or may not have rolled my eyes and let out a heavy sigh.

Joe often said two things about my emotional response to less than ideal situations.

  1. Ronda is a bulldozer
  2. Ronda tends to hit back harder than she was hit.

I am not particularly proud of those, but he was not entirely incorrect. I do tend to plow into an issue full force, full of passion [anger/frustration]…which is a sharp contrast to Joe’s “slow and steady” personality. And then there’s that mouth. Y’all, it has gotten me in trouble my whole life (my mama and daddy can verify as they have both popped my sassy mouth more than once!).

So, when the actions of other people are hurtful to me or to those around me, I am pretty much a curly headed piece of heavy machinery with enough brain power to think of a thousand vengeful actions or insults, but not always enough willpower to keep my mouth shut. I repeat…I am not proud of this. I have literal “come to Jesus” meetings with the Lord about it on the regular. Seriously.

This week, I stood at the crossroads of good deeds and not so good people. When I tell you that I have reached the point lately where I honestly don’t know if I can take one more thing, I mean it…and then one more thing showed up. I wanted to bulldoze. Honestly, I still do just a little.

But deep in my spirit, “WWJD” planted itself in my soul and stayed there. Most of you remember this acronym as “What Would Jesus Do?”. We’ve seen it on shirts, bracelets, mugs and bumper stickers for years. However, since his death, I have mashed it together with Joe’s name several times. What would Joe do? What would Jesus do? The answer is in the last paragraph of Joe’s lesson.

So, this morning, I want to encourage you to do good deeds and to do the right thing, even when it feels unappreciated or like it might even backfire or cause you some hardship. Our Heavenly Father sees it all. He sees our efforts, as well as the efforts and actions of others. But it is not our job to worry about anything but doing good deeds in the name of Jesus. He is keeping tabs for us all.

Joe and Jesus would do the right thing. Joe and Jesus would show kindness, even in the face of suffering and strife. Joe and Jesus would not keep a record of wrongs, but would show grace and mercy. Joe and Jesus would love.

Just do the right thing, sweet friend. Jesus will do the rest.

-Words of Wisdom from The Book of Joe

vvvdfsd

Giving Good Gifts

Out of the mouths of babes…

As one of my classes filed out of my room this week, a sweet student said, “I hope you get something nice for Valentine’s Day, Mrs. Price!”

Another student stopped right in his tracks in my doorway and said, “Dude! Don’t say that! She’s a widow. They don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day.”

Y’all. You can laugh…it was funny!

It did cause me to ponder a bit about Valentine’s Day. Truthfully, Joe and I didn’t really make a big deal of it. The day falls smack dab between his birthday and mine. Sometimes I would make him a homemade gift because I tend to be a little bit “extra”.

A few letters are missing…we plucked them off to use on a science project! 🤣

But we were typically both content with cards. He always gave me two of them–one sweet and one funny–he could be a tiny bit extra, too. 🙂

This week, Joe writes about a gift we are given that represents more love than any Valentine’s Day card could ever hold: The Word of God.

He Writes:

Are We Using Our Gifts?

I’m a little bit “anti-technology”.

I keep our weekly payroll by hand. I grumble about people always being on their phones-rubbing, rubbing all the time. I came across an article recently about a person from the 1950’s appearing before us today. What would be the most difficult aspect of modern life for them? The answer was smart phones.

Speaking of smart phones…I possess a device in my pocket that is capable of accessing the entirety of information known to man. All that information at my fingertips, and I use it to look at other people’s pictures or get into arguments over politics. I mostly use that device to read the news or watch videos—pretty trivial tasks for a machine capable of accessing all of the world’s knowledge!

My question for you this morning is this: Are we wasting God’s Word the same way we waste what is available to us through our smart phones?

1 Peter 1:25 states: “But the word of the Lord endures forever, and this is the word by which the Gospel is preached to you!”

Here in my hand is the Bible—a book that recounts the days when the immortal, eternal Lord of all that was and ever will be walked here on the earth as a man and lived among us. How do we use the gift of His story? We might have used God’s Word to suit our own purposes, or maybe we have just ignored His word completely. People have used the Bible to justify their politics, or to tell people from checkered backgrounds that they are not good enough for God. It has been used to justify why we don’t need to help the broken and the needy…and the list goes on and on.

Aside from Christ, I believe that the Bible is the most valuable gift that the Lord gives to the world. We should never take it lightly, use it frivolously or bend it to suit our own purposes. We should go to it even more often than we go to our phones for the answers to our questions.

So, the next time you sit down for a time of devotion or just to look up a verse, take a minute to consider what you hold in your hands. You have much more than printed paper. What you have is a record of God’s love for you, His desire to be part of your life, and most importantly, a set of instructions to guide you through every step you take during your time on this earth.

As we go out into the world this week, let’s try to see the Word of God for the gift that it really is, and do our best to apply it to our lives each day.

-JMP

Joe was a thoughtful gift giver.He worked mighty hard to give me everything I needed, and found joy in giving me much of what I wanted. Early in our relationship, Joe found a “bucket list” of things I wanted to do or see during my lifetime, and he worked hard to cross as many things off that list as possible. He planned a train trip to NYC, where we stayed at the Waldorf and sat front and center for the Broadway production of Wicked (the train was for him, but the rest was 100% for me). I came across that list a few weeks after Joe passed away…there are only two things that we didn’t mark off during our time together!

I moved into a new house before we were married. My first day there, I looked out the window, and admired an old oak tree in the front yard. I said to Joe, “All it needs is a wooden swing, like the one in To Kill a Mockingbird.” I arrived at home the next afternoon to find a beautiful homemade wooden swing blowing in the breeze. I often refer to him as “my sweet Joe”. He knocked the sweetness out of the park with that one! 🙂

I haven’t lived there for many years, but I drove past that house this week just to see…and the swing is still there! ❤️

My most cherished gift, though,came after his death…the black leather notebook…The Book of Joe. I think that somehow, in his sweet and practical way, Joe found a way to leave me with a set of instructions that would guide me through the days when I would no longer see his face or hear his voice.

My friend…read that last part again…didn’t Jesus do the same?

Maybe your book isn’t black leather (or maybe it is). Maybe yours is not read, but rubbed as Joe said, on your smart phone. It doesn’t matter. What matters is, when you hold a Bible in your hand, you are holding the answer to every question you’ll ever ask.

Jesus knew there would come a day when He would no longer walk this earth with us. And so, he left us a book…

As much as I cherish The Book of Joe, it is the Book of Jesus that holds the very promises I cling to with all my heart and soul. Promises to bind up my wounds, give me hope for the future, make something beautiful from these ashes, and the sweet assurance of a great reunion in Heaven.

If you and I were together right now, I’d take your face in my hands and look straight into your eyes, because if you remember nothing else, I want it to be this next part:

God isn’t standing at the Pearly Gates handing out copies of his best selling book, The Holy Bible. He left it HERE. He left it for me and He left it for you. There is not a sin so great, a heart so hurt or a question so big that it cannot be answered within the pages of that book.

My heart is shattered. It just is. But deep inside, bit by bit,the edges are mending…and they are being glued together by the promises found in God’s Word. I’ve tried to fix my heart with every salve this earth has to offer.. NOTHING but His Truth will do. All God wants is to lead me to the place where I will look into His eyes and He will take my heart and make it whole again. All God wants is do that very thing for you.

He even gave us the instruction manual. That, my friend, is the greatest gift of all.

-Words of wisdom from The Book of Joe

When You Don’t Understand

“So Pretty,” he said.

Joe smiled as he looked into Ronda’s eyes and whispered those words, gently brushing back the curl that fell in front of her face….AND THAT IS HOW THE ARGUMENT STARTED. 🙂

Not really…but those were fighting words at our house! You see, what started as a playful competition in which one of us would say, “I am the smart one. You are the pretty one,” morphed into one of us saying, “so pretty” when the other said or did something that was not really smart.

Now I am not saying which of us is actually which, but I will include this picture…Joe is mighty pretty in it!

It pains me to admit that Joe said, “So pretty” to me more often than I said it to him. If I ever had a blonde moment or just could not wrap my brain around a concept, it seemed as though Joe was always there to witness it. Bless my heart!

This week, Joe’s message is about a different lack of understanding. He writes about times when we do not understand the circumstances of this life, and how we might find peace in our lack of understanding.

He wrote:

Who is the Smart One?

We think we are so smart! We think we can come up with an answer for everything, but really what we don’t know outweighs what we do know. We watch the news, read the paper, peruse the internet and think about how silly other people are behaving, when we really don’t know why others do the things they do. We might even think those things about folks right here in the neighborhood. But the bottom line is that we just don’t understand.

Contrary to popular belief, peace doesn’t really come from our understanding. In fact, God never once said we will understand everything. 

Isaiah 55: 8-9 states: “‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways’, says the Lord. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts higher than your thoughts.’”

We have to accept the fact that we don’t understand everything. Scripture says that we are not supposed to–and that, in itself ,should be a relief to us. We may not understand why, but God does. While His ways may cause us to question sometimes, one thing He will never do is abandon us, even as we ask why things have to be the way they are.

In Proverbs 3: 5-6 it states: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct your paths”.

There is a promise right there in those verses that if we surrender our lives to Him, he will make our paths straight. He will lead, guide and direct us. 

We don’t have to have it all figured out. We don’t have to have all the answers. We can trust God to take care of the things that just don’t make sense to us. 

To me, one of the most wonderful things about being a Christian is that we don’t have to worry about being the smart one, because God himself is the smartest. 

There will come a day when we will understand everything clearly because God will show us. Until then, though, it is our responsibility to let God do his job and handle things. 

So, if there is something going on in your life right now that you just do not understand, or something that frightens you or causes you pain, I want you to think about the promises God makes in Proverbs 3. If you will believe Him and if you will place your trust in Him, He will direct your path. He really is the smartest one.

-JMP

Joe LOVED to tell the joke that when we got married he threw away his existing set of encyclopedias because he married someone who knew everything. I mean…he wasn’t wrong. 🙂

I don’t know everything, but I do love to try to find out when I don’t know.

Google changed my life! Perhaps it is the teacher in me…or perhaps I am just nosey….but I need to know the answers. I need to know the reason why. I cannot tell you how many times I “google it” during a day’s time. When my students ask me something and I don’t have the answer, I look it up. My search history reveals some pretty random topics. If I want to know, I do the research!

Eight weeks ago, however, I realized in a big way that sometimes there are no answers. For a person who has made a career out of questions and answers, that has been a tough pill to swallow.

As I continue to navigate the waves of grief, I find that there is no pattern. I have good days and bad days. Just when I think that maybe the worst is over, I find myself under a fresh wave, choking and sputtering out the question that is never far from my lips…WHY? However, as waves typically do, I am eventually tossed back onto the sand, where I catch my breath and try again.

This week marked two months since Joe left this earth and also his first birthday spent in Heaven. In all honesty, I have spent many hours lately underwater.

Then, just as he has done so many times, Joe delivers THIS message. The one that speaks directly to my heart, and hopefully to yours as well. And so I breathe it in, because (as usual) Joe is exactly right.

There are sweet, sweet promises in Proverbs 3: 5-6. We do not have to have the answers. We only have to trust in the One who does. When we let ourselves lean on God, He will take us by the hand and lead us in the right direction. I don’t know where you are or what you are facing. Maybe you are like me and feel the need to know the answers. Listen to me, sweet friend…this I know for sure. Ask away…the answer is always Jesus.

Joe said that there will come a day when we will understand. Oh, friend, how I long for that day, when all will be made new, when upside down will finally be right side up. Like Joe said, though, until then, we have to let God do his job and handle things. God is good at being God. Even when we don’t understand.

So, let’s keep putting one foot in front of the other. Let’s trust Him to guide our paths, both when they are smooth and when they are not. I’ll gladly hold your hand when you stumble. But better than that, Jesus has your hand right how and He will never let it go.

Even when I don’t understand, I am going to do my job and let God do His, knowing that by making that choice, one day I will look into the eyes of my Joe and my Jesus…and that will indeed be SO, SO PRETTY.

-Words of Wisdom from The Book of Joe

Trusting God’s Plan

Two things you may not know about Ronda and Joe…

  1. Joe and Ronda broke up for several months before their marriage.

2. Joe and Ronda lost a baby in 2017.

I don’t talk about either of those things much, because even though they happened years ago, each event is still a greenish blue bruise that is slightly tender to touch. Yet, they are part of the love story that is Joe and Ronda. And what is a good love story without a moment where the reader thinks the couple might not make it after all, or a few sad, tear-stained pages?

Mostly, I give you those two facts about our relationship because they stand out as moments that were NOT in the plan. At least, they were not in MY plan. I couldn’t see it at the time, but they were part of God’s plan.

This week, Joe writes about trusting God’s plans before your own.

He wrote:

Trusting in God

This morning I want to talk to you about trusting in God’s plans for our lives.

How often do we not trust our Heavenly Father? Scripture notes many examples of people who didn’t trust in Him- Jonah, Moses, Peter, etc. But He still looked after them, and He made a way to fulfill His plan despite their lack of faith.

We are created by the one who knows us and loves us the most. He wants our devotion, our love, and mostly our trust.

I’ll be the first to admit that there are times when the will of God seems to be completely contrary to what I think I should be doing. Sometimes I just cannot understand His plans. But it is in those times that we need to look past what we think or what we want to do and simply trust Him. Simply trust HIS plan.

Isaiah 55:9 tells us that His ways are higher than our ways and that His thoughts are higher than our thoughts. If we trust Him, we can be assured that His plan is just like Him—perfect.

Jeremiah 29:11 states: “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord. ‘They are plans for good and not for disaster to give you future and a hope’’.

Today, I encourage you to do something that is not always easy to do. I encourage you lay down your plans. Lay your plans down at the feet of Jesus and seek the perfect plan He has for you.

I leave you, this morning with Psalm 28:6-8: “Praise be to the Lord, for he has heard my cry for mercy. The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him, and He helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with song I praise Him.”

-JMP

The summer that Joe and I spent apart, God got my attention. He had tried for years before, but as a pretty stubborn “fixer”, I thought I could do things my way, by my plan. I found myself face down on my floor, crying out to the Lord for help. And He helped me. I had always believed in God, but it was then that I learned to BELIEVE God (there is such a difference). I learned to trust His ways, even when the world told me to give up. I also learned that it was ok to love Joe fiercely (which I did and I still do), but I must love God even more. I loved on God so hard that summer and He loved on me in return. When Joe and I mended our fences, we were both changed…changed in ways that made our lives together so full and rich…and so much better than anything I had imagined in my own plan.

Then came baby…and if ever something has NOT been in the plan! We had a SENIOR in high school, an 8th grader and a 7th grader. I was too old (advanced maternal age was the term used by my doctor)! We had our future already planned! But God…

After a few days of absolute shock, we both found ourselves madly in love with the idea that we might raise a baby together. It was a dream neither of us thought could be a reality for us…yet here we were. The sweetness and tenderness in Joe’s eyes when we talked about our baby is something I will forever hold close to my heart. Those were precious days!

Sadly, our dream was not meant to be. Our baby went to be with Jesus at the start of my second trimester. And once again, I struggled with God’s plan. Why would He give us this unexpected gift just to take it away? Why would He allow us to hurt this way?

The “Why’s” of my heart now that Joe is gone are even bigger…more difficult to grasp. Lysa TerKeurst gives the most plausible answer I have found in her book It’s Not Supposed to be This Way when she writes from God’s perspective, “Why did the destruction and devastation march into your life? You’ll never know those answers. But trust me-it wouldn’t make anything better if you did have those answers. I’ve not kept those answers from you in a cruel exercise of My power. I’ve kept them because only I can bear the weight of them.”

So, here I am, making the decision every single day to trust in the Lord and the plan He has for me. Looking back, I see how God used that break up years ago to prepare me for this season. The Lord held me so tightly in the palm of His hand that summer, just as He holds me now. Just as He holds you. During the summer of our baby, God gave me a glimpse of the Joe I never thought I would be allowed to see–A Joe who held his hand on my belly and looked at me with the sweetness and wonder of a daddy-to-be.

None of those things were in my plan. Losing Joe was most certainly not in my plan. But they were part of His plan. When I consider those gifts–a stronger relationship with God, the miracle of a baby, and the wonderful life I shared with my sweet Joe–I believe with all of my heart that God’s plan for me is good.

His plan for you is good. I promise you that. No matter where you are, no matter what you are facing, sweet friend, know this. The palm of God’s hand is mighty, safe and strong. He will carry you every minute. I know this because He is carrying me. Trust Him. Trust His plan. He is good. All the time.

Words of Wisdom from The Book of Joe

Emotions Aren’t Always Right

Flounce: verb. A term used by Joe to describe Ronda’s tendency to react an emotionally intense manner (typically resulting in an apology from her once she calmed down)

Unaffected: adj.: A term used by Ronda to describe Joe’s typical reaction to above mentioned flouncing (which only increased the tendency to flounce)

News Flash! I may or may not be a bit high strung. I feel all the feelings in a big way. Sometimes it serves me well. Other times, well…let’s just say I apologize a lot.

Exhibit A:

This week, Joe’s lesson is about emotions. He was as good as anyone I have ever known at keeping his emotions in check. Could it have been that he was writing to me at this time last year? I did look back through our text messages to see, but I truly can’t say for sure. 🙂

However, he was DEFINITELY writing to me this week. It’s been a little bit of a roller coaster in Ronda Land.

He wrote:

Not Everything You Feel is Right

How many of us let our emotions get the best of us? I’ve heard it before that “I was so mad” or “That upset me so much that I…” Often, when our emotions get the better of us, we do or say things we may regret…or we do things we maybe would have done a little differently if we’d had better control of ourselves.

Romans 8:6-8: “The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.”

I’d like to share with you a few important reasons from God’s word on why we need to learn to deal with how we feel.

  1. Our emotions may not be reliable. That initial gut feeling may not be right. We are sinful by nature and our emotions can lead us into something blindly. We cannot depend on how we feel in the moment for the right answer.

Proverbs 14: 12: ” Not everything you feel will lead you in the right direction”.

At this point, Joe must have stepped away from his notebook. I took full advantage and added the note “…ask your wife…her answer is always right”. 🙂 I just wanted to you understand what poor Joe was dealing with on a daily basis. Let us continue…

2. We should learn to control our emotions so that we won’t be taken advantage of. I have always heard that if we don’t control our emotions, they will control us. Negative emotions can be the devil’s favorite food. He will use fear, resentment, and worry to cause trouble in your life. 1 Peter 5:8 says to “be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy, the devil prowls like a roaring lion for someone to devour.

3. We should manage our emotions to please God. God cannot rule your life if you let your emotions rule it. If we make decisions based on how we feel, then we have made feelings our god. We have replaced God.

4. We need to manage emotions because we want to succeed. How many people have you heard of who ruined their career or reputation because of something done in anger? Or maybe you know of someone who missed an opportunity because of a lack of self control. Proverbs 5:23 says that “he shall die without instruction and in the greatest of his folly he shall go astray.” When we choose to follow Jesus, that includes giving Him our emotions. He wants all of us. He wants to be the Lord of how we feel, not just what we think and do. He wants us to make our decisions based on His love, His Word and our faith in Him.

So, as we go out into the world this week, and are faced with situations that test our emotions, let us try our best to pause and breathe in the love and power of Jesus before we give in to our emotions. Instead of how we “feel”, let’s trust in Jesus to “fill” us with what we need to face each day.

-JMP

I typically do not read the lesson for the week ahead of time. I wait until the weekend, so that my own writing is a fresh response to what Joe’s lesson means to me at that particular time. Honestly, I wish I had read his words early just this once. As I look back, I see that my emotions pretty much led me around like a puppy on a leash all week long.

My sweet 94 year old grandmother passed away this week. I replaced FIVE tires on two vehicles. I moved my oldest child into a college apartment. I am juggling my teaching positions at the high school, the college, trying to help with Joe’s business, manage the estate, etc. It’s a lot. Ya’ll, I am tired.

If you want to see me wear my emotions on the outside of my body, just let me get really tired or really hungry. If I happen to be tired and hungry at the same time, well…head for the hills is all I can say.

I was knocking it out of the park on “feeling”. What I was striking out with was the “filling”. Now, I start every single day with about an hour of time with my Jesus, and that is truly a sacred part of my daily routine. However, if I do not allow Him to fill me during the hours that follow, I am not putting myself in a position to enjoy His peace when troubles come (as they always will).

Sweet friends, we are all going to flounce. It’s who we are, and that is ok. As God’s children we are perfectly imperfect. But when we allow those feelings to rule us, to overcome us, not only are we behaving in a manner that is displeasing to Him, we are missing out on one of God’s greatest gifts–the gift of peace and joy in our hearts, regardless of our circumstance.

Joe didn’t know it, but in the text message pictured above, he was giving such truth to the message of this week’s lesson. Give all the feelings to God. Even the ugly ones. And when you flounce, tell Him you are sorry. My friend, you will find you are already forgiven.

-Words of Wisdom from The Book of Joe

What Will Your Obituary Say?

When I saw the title of this week’s lesson, I had to laugh. I mean…seriously, Joe?? If you only knew of Joe as the (very handsome) gentleman working at Rouse Funeral Home, you might perceive him as reserved, soft spoken, sweet, but rather serious. While he was all of those things, he also had a super quick wit and an awesome (dry) sense of humor. There is no doubt in my mind that he let out a Heavenly chuckle while waiting for me to find that this week we would discuss obituaries.

Speaking of obits, I hope you had the opportunity to read Joe’s. It was beautifully written by Lynn Taylor and Melissa Ball-Whitfield of Rouse FH, and in my opinion, captured the essence of my sweet husband perfectly. I have read it at least a thousand times. Here’s the link in case you’d like to read it again, too. Joe Price Obituary

As beautiful as Joe’s obituary reads, his lesson this week is about what should read even more beautifully as a testimony of your walk with Jesus–your daily life.

He wrote:

Living Like a Christian: What Will Your Obit Say?

How many of you read the obituaries? Personally, I read them almost every day. Old habits die hard, I guess.

In a lot (but not all) of them, you can learn a whole lot about a person’s life from their obituary. You can learn about someone’s family life, career, friends, service to community, hobbies, and sometimes you can even determine if they were a Christian. However, if the obituary doesn’t say whether or not the person is a Christian, and you don’t know them personally, then who really knows? What I’d like to talk about this morning is the best way to show people whether or not we follow the Lord–Living Like a Christian.

1 John 2: 6 states: “Whosoever claims to live in Him must live as Jesus did.”

Back in October, I talked about being Christlike-meek and humble. Today, I want to talk about how Jesus met the needs of the world around him.

Jesus healed the sick, cleansed the diseased, delivered people from bondage, opened blind eyes and deaf ears. He made the mute speak and the crippled walk. He multiplied food to feed the hungry. Jesus even raised the dead.

Now, I am not telling you this morning that any of us can go around and heal a sick person or take a loaf of bread and a fish and feed five thousand. What I am telling you is that we don’t have to do “big” things like that to make an impact on the people around us. There are so many around us who suffer and hurt. We can care for the less fortunate and sick, we can feed the hungry, we can offer a shoulder to lean on or a shoulder to cry on. We can be the hands and feet of Jesus as we try to meet their needs. We can show people every single day the love of Jesus Christ.

Your obituary might say you created a family, a nice home, a successful business and more. Will it say you loved Jesus? Will it say you lived for the Lord? More important than what your obituary says about your Christian walk, what will your life say about how you lived for Jesus? Will it say you were His hands and feet?

I’ll leave you with John 20:21: “…as my Father hath sent me, I am sending you.”

What will your obit say?

-JMP

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I’ve actually thought a lot about what I thought my obituary might have said and how it will read much differently in light of recent events. It would be pretty easy for me to fall into a black pit of despair over what it “should” say, but will not. It won’t say that I was married to Joe for many years. It won’t say that our grandchildren are the apples of our eyes. It won’t say that, in retirement, we enjoyed trips to the beach or mountains, but enjoyed our rocking chairs on the front porch of the barn most of all. It won’t say that we grew old together, and honestly, that breaks my heart every single day.

Yes, I am still so broken hearted. But, I love Joe and I love Jesus and I want more than anything to honor them both. I hope that one day, by the grace and mercy of our Lord, my obit might read:

She chose joy, even in tragedy. She longed to have him here again, but she knew he was made whole in the arms of Jesus, so how could she possibly want less for him than that? She used her brokenness to help others. She used the words in Joe’s black leather notebook to honor his memory and to point others toward the love of Jesus. She loved on people as hard as she could. She put one foot in front of the other each day (even when she thought she could not), resolving to live her life in such a way that she would one day look into those beautiful blue eyes again…on the other side of Eternity. She honored Joe and she honored Jesus each and every day.

My sweet friend, if you are reading this, then the ink is not yet dry on the story of your life. Maybe you are mid-sentence, on one side of a comma. Maybe you feel like you are hanging on a big red question mark. Maybe the lines have all been scribbled through and you don’t know what to write next. It doesn’t matter where you are. You can write the next sentence, the next page, the next chapter in a way that honors Jesus. My friend, even when it hurts to write, and your tears spill onto the page, look to Jesus. He will wipe the tears from the page. He will hold the pen and help you write again.

Not one of us knows when God will put a period at the end of the sentence. Not one of us knows when the story of how we live as a Christian will change from present tense to past.

What will your obituary say?

…Words of wisdom from The Book of Joe

All Things New

I married an old man.

Joe Price was an old soul all of his life. He had “old” values and beliefs, loved old music, and loved old things–old trucks, old barns, old clothes (I challenge you to find a shirt he really loved that was not tattered, mended, threadbare, etc). He often joked that his love for old things extended even to me, as I was MUCH older than he!

On Friday, I came across a birthday card Joe gave me a year or so ago. Inside, he wrote: “I am looking forward to growing old with you. I’ll bet we will have a big time! But remember, you’ll always be older than me!”

In full disclosure, reading those words knocked my feet out from under me. In this roller coaster of emotions that has become my life, I found myself angry and heartbroken. So caught up in the word “old”, I spiraled down the rabbit hole of not getting to grow old with Joe, and how cruel it seemed that as much as Joe encompassed being an old soul, he would never actually get to be one.

Now, don’t park on these sentiments and get all worried about me. It was a moment. I felt the feelings and moved forward. I simply needed you to frame this week’s page from Joe’s leather notebook in the perspective of someone who found herself lost and longing for that which is old.

Ironically, his first lesson last year was not about the old; it was about the new.

January 5, 2020

Old and New

Isaiah 43: 18-19 states: “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland”.

Sometimes it is hard to let go of the old, but God just may want something new for us. It can be hard to let go of what we know or what is comfortable. Taking on something new can turn everything in our lives upside down.

For those who like change, new things can be exciting. For those who don’t really like change, new can cause discomfort. Personally, I am kind of a mix of both.

The wonderful thing about God is that he works outside of the box. He does not always work in the way we would have chosen. I once saw a church sign that read, “If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans”. I have often found that to be very true.

Our Heavenly Father sees the big picture that we cannot–He sees all that is going on behind the scenes. He even understands all those things that cause us to ask “why”. As we start out the new year, we can trust that God has our best in mind. He is with us right now, just as He will be with us down the road, no matter where that road may lead.

Sometimes that new brings what we see as blessings. Sometimes it brings loss and pain. Life happens. Decisions are made, we are faced with struggles, and sometimes we may even think that life is just not fair. But what I want you to know today is that you have a purpose. God is not finished with you yet.

God loves us. He cares for us, and He sees what we need. He works in our lives in ways that we do not always understand. Yet, we have peace in knowing that we do not have to understand. We only have to trust Him.

So, as we find ourselves in a new season and we look to find good in new and changing times, let us be confident in our God who is in control. Believe that He is working for you today…even when you just can’t see it.

Revelation 21:5: “Behold, I make all things new”.

-JMP

Thanks to the sweetness and generosity of one of my dearest friends, I escaped to the beach this weekend and enjoyed some much needed time away. We laughed, we talked, we ate, we watched movies and relaxed. The rain kept us inside, but we were perfectly content to just be together. As we prepared to leave this morning, I walked out to see the shoreline once more. Honestly, at first sight, it was a little bit depressing. Dark and grey, cold and misty…I even watched as a lone black balloon tumbled down the sand in my direction. Sad as it may seem, I entertained the thought this little black balloon reminded me a whole lot of myself.

I turned to leave, and made it all the way to the top of the wooden steps across the dune, when something told me to go back. It had just started to sprinkle again, and although I didn’t really see point, I trudged back and stood, once again, in the sand.

Not two full minutes had passed, but the scene before me was very different. The little black balloon was nowhere to be found. A hole in the sky let the sun peek through. The clouds were still there, but they were no match for the sun.

It was still sprinkling on me where I stood. Not a downpour…just a little rain overhead…but not in front of me. Just over the horizon, the sun shone through the clouds…

Joe was right when he said that sometimes “new” turns our world upside down. Here I am, living proof of that. This is definitely not the road I would have chosen. However, Joe was also right when he said that God is in control. He is working for our good, even when we do not understand. We only have to trust Him. He sees what we cannot. While it may be raining on us right this minute, let us look toward the horizon. God is already there, pulling back the clouds for us, so that we may catch a glimpse of the sun.

“…See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”

God made my sweet Joe new in a way that none of us can yet imagine. In doing so, He is making me new as well. If He will do that for me, friend, I promise He will do it for you, too.

Trust Him. Believe Him. No matter where this road may lead, God is ahead of you, making ALL THINGS NEW.

-Words of Wisdom from the Book of Joe.

EVERY SEASON

Joe wrote his last lesson on March 15, 2020. He delivered it to me on Christmas Eve. As Sunday School Superintendent, Joe delivered a brief “mini lesson” to the church congregation before we dismissed to go to our classes each week. He wrote each lesson in a beautiful leather notebook with a beautiful Cross pen, gifted to him by his wonderful wife{wink}.

March 15 2020 was the last time we had “regular” Sunday School at Seven Springs Baptist Church. The notebook was left on a dresser in our home office, untouched until Christmas Eve 2020…19 days after Joe’s death.

I attempted to wrap gifts in the office that day, but my heart just wasn’t in it. Instead, I wandered from corner to corner of this room filled with Joe’s prized possessions, touching things…trying to find some peace or solace in a world filled with his things, but not with him. The black leather notebook was wedged underneath several other books. I passed it several times before I tugged it from its spot. I opened it backwards, so the first page I saw was the last page he wrote. It was dated March 15 2020, which in my memory stands out as one of the last “normal” days this world knew, before masks and distancing and fear knocked on our doors as an uninvited guest. I am sure I thought to myself during the months that followed that things couldn’t get much worse. On December 5, 2020, I learned that things could, indeed, get much worse.

I honestly don’t remember Joe delivering this message to our congregation in March. Maybe I was already in my classroom. Maybe I just wasn’t paying attention. Maybe God knew in March that I would need this lesson more on December 24. I sat down in his leather recliner and read these words, knowing that somehow, my sweet Joe was speaking directly to me. 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 season 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

Although I’d give most anything to hear that sweet southern drawl again, I still find peace as I read his words. On every page, Joe’s words direct us toward God’s word. So, I share this with you because Joe asked me to look for others who need encouragement. This season of my life is hard…but Joe reminded me that I have never been through a season that God was not holding me. He holds you, too. Right this very moment, you and I are cradled safely in the palm of God’s hand. We may be broken, but may we always remember that He hath made everything beautiful in His time.

…Words of Wisdom from the Book of Joe