The Owl

By Lisa Price

I introduced Lisa Price last week. I had asked her and her husband Rev. John Price to provide a post and they agreed. Well, John had cataract surgery about the same time I asked that the guest posts be in and he didn’t feel up to writing something so Lisa decided to send me two and I am grateful. I pray you enjoy Lisa’s story of an owl.

I cry out: “Violence!” but get no response;
I call for help, but there is no justice.
He has blocked my way so that I cannot pass through;
He has veiled my paths with darkness.
He has stripped me of my honor
and removed the crown from my head.
10 He tears me down on every side so that I am ruined.
He uproots my hope like a tree.
11 His anger burns against me,
and He regards me as one of His enemies.
12 His troops advance together;
they construct a ramp against me
and camp around my tent.

13 He has removed my brothers from me;
my acquaintances have abandoned me.
14 My relatives stop coming by,
and my close friends have forgotten me.
15 My house guests and female servants regard me as a stranger;
I am a foreigner in their sight.
16 I call for my servant, but he does not answer,
even if I beg him with my own mouth.
17 My breath is offensive to my wife,
and my own family finds me repulsive.
18 Even young boys scorn me.
When I stand up, they mock me.
19 All of my best friends despise me,
and those I love have turned against me.
20 My skin and my flesh cling to my bones;
I have escaped by the skin of my teeth.

21 Have mercy on me, my friends, have mercy,
for God’s hand has struck me.
22 Why do you persecute me as God does?
Will you never get enough of my flesh? (Job 19:7-22, Holman Christian Standard Bible)

Then the scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery, making her stand in the center. “Teacher,” they said to Him, “this woman was caught in the act of committing adultery. In the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do You say?” They asked this to trap Him, in order that they might have evidence to accuse Him.

Jesus stooped down and started writing on the ground with His finger. When they persisted in questioning Him, He stood up and said to them, “The one without sin among you should be the first to throw a stone at her.”

Then He stooped down again and continued writing on the ground. When they heard this, they left one by one, starting with the older men. Only He was left, with the woman in the center. 10 When Jesus stood up, He said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”

11 “No one, Lord,” she answered. (John 8:3-11 Holman Christian Standard Bible)

From the back porch it looked like a large, crumpled sack or a mass of dried underbrush.  But it hadn’t been there before on the wide expanse of otherwise green lawn.  I thought perhaps the wind had blown something out of the nearby tree-line or from a neighbor’s trashcan.  As I continued to sip my first cup of coffee and rock in my old wooden rocker, the sun rose higher in the sky, and I noticed a slight movement where the mysterious lump was.  Again, I blamed the wind, and continued in my early-morning reverie.  But as my vision scanned across the empty lot once more, I realized that whatever it was, it was alive.

Not prone to much movement until after my second cup of coffee, I sat awhile longer until my curiosity got the best of me.  I walked gingerly on bare feet toward the thing, not wishing to startle it, whatever it was.  As I got closer, I realized it was some type of bird, and it didn’t fly away as I expected.  I took a few more careful, slow steps in its direction, and it eyed me cautiously, but held its ground.  Finally, as we stared eye-to-eye, I realized I was facing off with a brown barn owl who had seen better days.  His face looked wet, his feathers scraggly, and he peered at me through squinty eyes that were very un-owl-like.  The poor thing looked as if the last thing he wanted was a big human hovering over him, but he seemed powerless to fly away.  

After a few minutes of silent communing, I went back into the house to finish my morning routine.  Periodically, I looked out the back windows, and my new friend still sat right where he had been.  Awhile later, I returned to the porch and was startled to see several mockingbirds dive-bombing the poor owl.  They would fly back and forth over his head, swooping down time and again to peck at him and generally terrorize him.  Even the squirrels joined in, chattering loudly from their perch on a nearby limb.

I walked toward the scene of the hazing, hoping that the taunters would leave.  Thankfully, they did, and just my friend and I were left.  He looked at me warily, and I wondered if he expected me to mock him as the others had.  After a few moments, he flew several feet away from me toward the tree-line, barely clearing the tops of the weeds.  Thinking I was missing a good photo op, I went inside to get my camera.  When I returned, the owl was gone, and I feared that one of the other critters from the underbrush had carried him off.  But I sneaked a little closer and saw his owl eyes gazing out from about three feet above the ground in a small tree.  I hoped that my presence had somehow helped him gather up his strength to fly out of harm’s way.

Job had a problem just like my owl friend.  He was having more than just a bad day.  His possessions were taken from him, his family was gone, his health was a disaster.  And his so-called friends came to him under the guise of helping him see his sin.  Just like the mockingbirds swooping and pecking at the owl, Job’s friends came to him, not with compassion and love, but with accusations and blame.  

Those who are in distressing situations such as the jobless, the homeless, the depressed, the AIDs patient, the recently divorced—they are the Jobs of today.  Will we taunt them, shun them, or smugly give a token bit of help?  Will we kick them while they’re down?

When my owl friend was in trouble, all I did was come to his side and stand there in silence.  A quiet, compassionate presence is sometimes all a person needs in order to draw on the strength which the Lord provides.  The Gospel of John tells of a woman caught in the act of adultery.  Her accusers wanted Jesus to join with them in condemning the woman, but He refused to either condemn or defend her.  Instead, He provided a quiet, comforting presence until the accusers shamedly slipped away, and the woman was ready to come to Him for strength and redemption.

Today’s Challenge:  Look for the downtrodden, the forgotten, the grief-stricken, the hopeless.  Don’t worry about what to say; just being there will speak volumes.  Embody Christ’s loving  presence today! 

The Price You Pay for Living in Paradise

A Guest Post by Mrs. Lisa Price

I first met Lisa Price in 2016. She is the music director at First Baptist Church in Sweeny, Texas. She is also the wife of John who is the pastor at First Baptist. We weren’t just colleagues, we were also neighbors. When I moved to Sweeny, there were about 3 lots, one with a house on it between John and Lisa’s house and the Methodist parsonage.

From the First Baptist Church Sweeny website, “Lisa has been on staff at First Baptist Church since 1989. She is a graduate of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Lisa has also worked as a school choir director in the past and has a great passion for music. Some of Lisa’s hobbies include reading, watching Jeopardy and other game shows, and playing with the grand kids.”

Lisa is an outstanding musician. I even got her to help me out with a piece of music or two. I was thrilled when she agreed to do a guest post on my blog.

16 “For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world that He might condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. (John 3:16-17, Holman Standard Bible)

42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom!”
43 And He said to him, “I assure you: Today you will be with Me in paradise.”
(Luke 23:42-43, Holman Standard Bible)

“That’s the price you pay to live in paradise.”  The proprietor of a rental car business in Cozumel, Mexico, was anxious to tell his story.  In order to better enjoy all that the beautiful beaches had to offer, we had stopped in to get a vehicle for our vacation.  There was business to attend to, but the manager had other things on his mind.  We began by sharing his woes about the month-long lack of tourists to the island due to the swine flu scare.  He explained that because the cruise ships were on “drive-by” and flights from America were scarce, the locals were really hurting for income.  The tourist-driven economy was floundering and families were getting desperate.

As the conversation continued, our new friend, “Panda,” began to think back to an even worse time in the island’s history.  In 2005, Hurricane Wilma, the most intense hurricane ever recorded in the Atlantic basin, decimated the area.  

Panda described his terror as he tried to keep his family safe.  As the head of a household which included his wife, two young children, and his mother (who had recently had surgery), he felt the tremendous weight of his responsibility.  Wading in waist-deep water inside his home, Panda kept his family members atop tables and other furniture during three long days of torrential rains and Category 5 winds.  

With the windows and doors boarded shut, they must have felt like Noah and his family, not knowing or seeing what exactly was happening.  He and his wife quietly worried that they had only about one day’s worth of drinking water left and very little food.  

With tears starting to form in his eyes at the memory, Panda described to us how fervently he prayed as the winds and rain pounded their house and the water continued to rise.  As he went on, he shared how the Lord answered his prayers, and his family emerged from the storm unharmed.

We commented on how resilient the islanders were as they weathered the storms, both physical and economic, but kept right on working hard to make a good life.  Having regained his composure, Panda shrugged and said, “That’s the price you pay to live in paradise.”

That one short sentence was stamped on my memory as if it were embossed.  I considered Panda’s use of the word paradise.  Surely, if there were a contest for places that meet the criteria of an earthly paradise, Cozumel would be in the running.  The sugar-white beaches, turquoise waters, and swaying palm trees make a delightful place to visit.  But as our friend had reminded us, those who live there are still subject to the many cares and woes of this world.

We who know Christ will live in heaven for eternity:  no more sickness, no more tears, no more money worries, and no more flood waters threatening to overcome.  Just as Panda protected his family by putting them on a higher place, our Savior has provided a higher plane for us.  He paid the ultimate price by giving His life for us, and we can live with Him forever.  Now that’s Paradise!