Clarice James

Smart, Fun, Relatable Fiction


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So Much for the Power of Prayer by C. L. Raj

Carol Raj

Carol L. Raj

Welcome my guest blogger and freelance writer, Carol L. Raj!  Carol was a finalist in the 2015 ACFW Genesis Contest in the category of Contemporary Women’s Fiction. Her children’s stories have been published in Pockets Magazine as well. She is the mother of three grown children–all of whom are good  drivers!–and grandmother of one, who is undeniably the cutest granddaughter ever. Carol resides in Merrimack, New Hampshire with her husband. Learn more about Carol on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/carol.raj.79.

She shares this true story with us today . . .

My daughter threw the notice from school onto the kitchen table, grabbed the house phone, and disappeared behind her slammed bedroom door. I could hear her voice rising and falling as she confided her latest problem to one of her friends.

What could possibly be so wrong?

I picked up the notice. Her state driving exam would be administered by the driving instructor at school on Wednesday at six PM. No changes allowed.

I had prayed for an early afternoon appointment. Plus a little more practice time for her to master backing up. A six PM test was not in my plan.

So much for the power of prayer.

Lord, remember how badly she wants this license?

Her greatest worry was backing the driving instructor’s car between the two parked cars he set up for the test. Even in daylight, it was not easy for a beginning driver. At six PM it would be pitch black. The school parking lot was lit by only an occasional lamppost.

park cones

Fear of Parallel Parking!

Answer me when I call to you, my righteous God. Give me relief from my distress; have mercy on me and hear my prayer. ~ Psalm 4:1 (NIV)

Most of her friends already had their licenses. In our small town there was no public transportation. If we wanted to go somewhere – anywhere – we had to drive. She was embarrassed to ask for rides. More embarrassed to take the school bus. And most embarrassing of all? To be driven by her mom.

I understood. After all, despite what she thought, I was a teenager once myself.

Her bedroom door swung open, hitting the door stop with a bang. “What if I can’t back into that spot? What if I never get my license? What if I have to ask for rides the rest of my life? What if I just can’t do it?”

“If you don’t get your license this time, you’ll take the test again. No problem.” My reply seemed incredibly reasonable. A loving mother response. It was answered by the banging, once again, of her bedroom door.

It was going to be a long time till Wednesday. And there was nothing I could do.

Except pray that it wouldn’t rain. That would make the visibility even worse.

Sunday night the weatherman showed storms marching across the continent. Monday night he said rain was probable mid-week. Tuesday night he predicted rain in twenty-four hours.

So much for the power of prayer.

Lord, remember my daughter’s driving test? Lord, are You even listening?

All day Wednesday I stayed tuned to the radio.

Oh, Lord. Please let the rain start after her test. She wants this license so badly.

After an early dinner, she looked out the window. No rain yet.

“So far, so good,” I said brightly.

My daughter rolled her eyes. “M-o-m! I have to pass this test. All my friends know I’m taking it today. How can I tell them I flunked? I’ve never flunked anything in my life.”

“Don’t worry,” I said. “I’ve been praying about your test.”

“A lot of good that’s done.”

I turned on the kitchen faucet and pretended I didn’t hear.

At 5:30 we went out to the car, buckled our seat belts, and started off. Thick clouds hid any light from the moon or stars.

A drop of rain plopped on the windshield.

car in rain

Could have been so much worse!

My daughter groaned. “M-o-m! It’s starting to rain!”

“It’s just a drop. Don’t worry.”

We could deal with a few drops. Couldn’t we? But the first drop was followed by a second. Then a third. Soon the drops turned into a drizzle.

My daughter sat stony-faced, arms folded across her chest.

Lord, remember my prayer?

The drizzle morphed into a steady shower.

By the time we reached the parking lot, the shower was a downpour. Sheets of moisture gushed from the sky. It seemed we had taken a wrong turn and ended up under Niagara Falls. I squinted through the windshield trying to detect the lines designating parking spaces. They had disappeared.

Thank goodness I wasn’t backing up into a narrow space.

Lord, where are You?

My daughter trudged off to the instructor’s car with as much enthusiasm as if she were going to get her braces tightened. Soon the lights of the test vehicle pulled out of the parking lot. Thirty minutes later she was back.

“Move over, Mom. Let me drive home.”

“How’d it go?” I asked.

She rolled her eyes at my apparent stupidity. “Fine. No problem.”

“You got your certificate?”

“Yes, mother.”

Thank you, Lord.

I had one final question. “You were worried about backing the car into a parking space. You didn’t have any problem doing that?”

“Well, you know,” she said. “That’s the funny thing. The instructor said the visibility was too bad in the rain. He said we’d skip that part of the test.”

So much for the power of prayer.

 Praise be to God, who has not rejected my prayer or withheld his love from me! ~ Psalm 66:20 (NIV)

 


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Orange Is the New Gullible

Cynicism masquerades as wisdom, but it is the farthest thing from it. Because cynics don’t learn anything. Because cynicism is a self-imposed blindness, a rejection of the world because we are afraid it will hurt us or disappoint us. ~  Stephen Colbert, Talk Show Host & Comedian

gullibleCynics are angry, unpleasant, sad people who love to mock everyone and everything. Anyone can be cynical. It’s easy. All you have to do is believe the worst about people and situations. Then when someone or something disappoints you, you can be smug and snarky and say, “I knew it.”

Gullible people are happy; their smile is uplifting. They make us laugh. It takes a much greater faith to be gullible. I know that from personal experience.

I was 30 when my now late husband convinced me that rabbits lay eggs. The conversation went something like this.

HIM, looking at the five empty Easter baskets I’d retrieved from the attic: “It’s gonna take a lot of rabbits to lay a lot eggs to fill those baskets.”

ME, chuckling: “I think you mean chickens.”

HIM, crossing his arms and leaning against the counter: “That’s what everyone thinks.”

ME, rolling my eyes: “Because it’s true. There’s no such thing as rabbit eggs. Rabbits have bunnies.”

HIM, looking incredulous: “Why would an Easter Bunny bring chicken eggs? Rabbit eggs are rare because of that protected bird. You know, the one the Fish and Wildlife Service is always fussing about becoming extinct?”

ME, reaching into a memory bank: “Which one? The piping plover?”

HIM, holding his hands out about twelve inches apart: “Nah, it’s that huge bird with the long, pointy, curved beak. It only comes around after the snakes go into hibernation.”

ME, still trying to come up with the name of the bird: “Snakes hibernate?”

HIM, nodding his head: “You were never a 4H girl, were you? The bird shows up in late winter-early spring to scout rabbit rookeries. It pokes a hole in the rabbit eggshell and sucks out the insides.” 

ME, screwing up my face: “Ew. That’s gross.” 

HIM, shaking his head: “I know, right?” 

ME, thinking about starting a foundation: “Why doesn’t the Fish and Wildlife Service protect the rabbits, too? We should do something.”

HIM, rubbing the scruff on his chin: “We might could switch to chicken eggs this year.”

ME, shrugging: “It’s not much, but it’s a start.”

But it didn’t end there . . .

  • When we had to give our misbehaving German Shepherd away, I believed he went to live on a farm. Actually, I still believe that.
  • I thought paying tradesmen the full amount up front would put me at the top of their list.
  • I once replaced $100 stolen from a waitress (known to have a drug problem), so she could get her daughter a Cabbage Patch doll for Christmas. I was amazed when no one else chipped in.
  • It took me years to realize the things I found under my kids’ mattresses weren’t hidden there by their troubled friends.
  • I took one of my shoes off for a burly truck driver (who was unloading lumber onto a loading dock) so he could check the designer. He held it for a few seconds longer than was necessary—or comfortable. When I asked my boss if that sounded weird, he banned me from accepting deliveries.
  • Before buying a special “Al Capone” roast in the Italian North End of Boston, the butcher told me I needed an ID. I presented him with two forms to make sure I got a choice cut.
  • I made online arrangements to rent a room to a college girl whose father was an Irish engineer working out of Nigeria. When I caught onto his scam, I scolded him. “You should be ashamed of yourself.” I’m pretty sure it changed his life.
  • Even though I get the joke, I’m still trying to say the word “gullible” slowly until it sounds like the word “oranges.” [Oh, come on, some of you are doing it, too!]

I admit gullible people are often wrong in what they believe and repeat. But I’d still rather be lied to and laughed at than chance mistrusting an honest person. It helps me enjoy the journey to reality rather than be miserable the whole way to it.

Besides, who would you rather spend the day with? The woman on the left below or the man on the right? I thought so. One has the gift of gullibility. The other clearly does not. Can’t you imagine telling this woman just about anything? She would smile even as he harrumphed.

Deb Bock and Friend

LEFT: My friend, Debra, with her ever-present, unsuspecting smile. RIGHT: A cranky cynic I’m glad I do not know.

The award-winning children’s books illustrator and author, Chris Van Allsburg, said it well:

The inclination to believe in the fantastic may strike some as a failure in logic, or gullibility, but it’s really a gift. A world that might have Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster is clearly superior to one that definitely does not.

Platypus-Ears

Right. How about a cynical Easter platypus? Sure.

ME, being interrupted by my husband while writing this: “What did you say, honey?”

HIM, repeating his comment: “Did you know that the duck-billed platypus lays eggs?”

ME, slumping in my chair: “You don’t really expect me to fall for that, do you?”

HIM, shrugging off a smile: “How ’bout tomorrow I take you to the farm to see that dog of yours?”

ME, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed: “You mean it?”

I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. ~ Matthew 10:16 (NIV)


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As Rusty As the Spokes On My First Tricycle

tricycleMy memory is as rusty as the spokes on my first tricycle. Unused for years, many words are long gone or have morphed into variations never heard before. Who knows if I ever had them right to begin with?

Is it tact or tack? Further or farther? Affect or effect? Moot or mute?

Don’t get me started on biological or medical terms. More than once, I’ve said, “I fell prostate before the Lord” when I meant prostrate.

Speaking of prostates, I’ve told people I take Flomax instead of Flonase for nasal congestion. Flomax is an alpha-blocker that relaxes the muscles in the prostate and bladder neck, making it easier for men to urinate. Instead of Zantac, I raved how well Xanax works to relieve heartburn, when Xanax is used to treat anxiety and panic disorders.

Hm. Perhaps, it is Xanax I need.

For those of you like me struggling with recall and vocabulary, I’ve made this easy-peasy quiz by giving you the definition. All you have to do is circle the word it goes with. May the farce be with you! 

I think it is right to refresh your memory as long as I live in the tent of this body, ~ 2 Peter 1:13 (NIV)

  1. a sieve, especially a very fine one – a) carse; b) farce; c) sarse; d) parse
  2. lacking a tail or tail-like appendage – a) masticate; b) flagellate; c) castigate; d) acaudate
  3. put an end to, put a stop to, nip in the bud, put the lid on — a) scotch; b) botch; c) swatch; d) splotch
  4. the method of beginning play in which the forwards of each team crouch side by side with locked arms; play starts when the ball thrown in between them and the two sides compete for possession – a) plumb; b) scrum; c) bumb; d) rhumb
  5. a small stream; especially one that dries up in summer– a) dyke; b) sike; c) shrike; d) pike
  6. (of horses, dogs, and other animals) shortish and thickset; stocky – a) dobby; b) cobby; c) nobby; d) knobby
  7. have legs that curve outward at the knees; bowlegged – a) bandy; b) chandi; c) grandee; d) shandy
  8. turn or hold (a hand, foot, or limb) so that the palm or sole is facing downward or inward – a) rotate; b) pronate; c) probate; d) notate
  9. the pulpy acidic fluid that passes from the stomach to the small intestine, consisting of gastric juices and partly digested food — a) clime; b) chyme; c) slime; d) rhime
  10. subject to prolonged examination, discussion, or deliberation rip-rap – a) hex; b) aix; c) vex; d) sphex
  11. to cause the infliction of (vengeance or punishment) – a) wreaking; b) tweaking; c) cheeking; d) piquing
  12. a small locomotive used to move cars around but not to make trips – a) bunter; b) shunter; c) punter; d) blunter

    Have you found the words to go with the definitions? Can you use the words in a sentence? Scroll down to see how you did.

    Instruct the wise and they will be wiser still; teach the righteous and they will add to their learning. ~ Proverbs 9:9 (NIV)

    memory-loss_1024

    Here are the correct answers.

    1. c) sarse
    2. d) acaudate
    3. a) scotch
    4. b) scrum
    5. b) sike
    6. b) cobby
    7. a) bandy
    8. b) pronate
    9. d) chyme
    10. c) vex
    11. a) wreaking
    12. b) shunter

      How do you feel about your score?

      10-12  Did you cheat? Come on, you can tell me.

      07-09  You must be young and still in AP English.

      04-06  You guessed better than most.

      00-03  You’re not losing it; you’ve lost it.

      Want to know what the other words mean? As my father would say, “Then look ’em up!”


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      Dating and the Half-Blood Prince

      Nine years ago, I remarried after being widowed for eight years. I found a great guy who understands meyet, amazingly, has never tried to run off.

      That I know of.

      Because I found happiness again, single women often ask me how I met my husband. As if how I met David would work the same way for them.

      My advice to them is to pray and wait. Do things you enjoy, learn something new, help someone less fortunate, and spend time with your family and friends. If God has someone for you, He is more than able to bring you two together—without your help.

      I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lordbe strong and take heart and wait for the Lord. ~ Proverbs 27-13-14 (NIV)

      Why am I qualified to give this advice? Because I did everything wrong.

      Most of my seeking was on faith-based, online dating sites. Though I found a number of men in my age-bracket, our other brackets didn’t line up. I know “wacko” isn’t a nice word, but let’s just say, I had family and friends who would’ve chased these men off with a stick.hoFleischmannRapidRiseYeast (2)

      • The man who took turns doing jail time with his fourth wife on domestic abuse charges. He told me, “Don’t worry, we’re getting a divorce.”
      • The man who refused to date a woman who had ever had a yeast infection.
      • The man who lived in the woods while waiting on the Lord to give him a trailer.
      • The man who lived in a trailer while waiting on the Lord for the right time to downsize.

      To be clear, I didn’t date many men at all during those years. Sometimes just reading their profiles was enough (or should have been). However, I did communicate with a number of them via the websites, email, or phone.

      I often asked myself why. Why did I respond to every inquiry? Why did I continue after the initial exchange? Why did I agree to speak by phone?

      The answer is complicated. Since I was lonely, bored, and insecure, empathy played a big part. I felt bad for them. I didn’t want to be mean or rude and make them feel worse. Sometimes it was the writer in me, rubbernecking from a safe distance. Their lives were so different from mine; I wanted to get up close, but not too personal.

      I knew my curiosity wasn’t healthy. It got the best of me the night I agreed to meet one of the online bachelors at a Borders bookstore. I knew we weren’t a good fit the moment I saw him. Yet fascination drew me in. And there was the whole not wanting to be mean thing.

      We ordered coffee and found a table. He sat facing the window; I sat facing him and the store. Since my interest had peaked prior to the date, when he told me that he and his older brother lived with their mother [Did I mention they were in their fifties?], what little interest that remained waned.

      Trying to salvage the conversation, I asked, “So what do you do for a living?”

      His face lit up. “I mow lawns. My brother has a paper route.” [Did I mention they were in their fifties?]

      tumblr_kzb0vfjtHR1qbrupjo1_400 (2)Pretending to pay attention is a lot like lying. And I’m not good at it; I felt guilty. So when an eerie pale-faced, bald man dressed in black slithered through my peripheral vision, I thought I was being chastised.

      I recovered my composure and changed the subject. Since his profile had been on a Christian website, I asked, “So what church do you attend?”

      “We attended a great church in New Jersey, but we haven’t found one we like here yet.”

      “Oh. How long have you lived here?”

      “Eighteen years.”

      I tried to morph my “you’re kidding me” face into a calm “I see” expression. My disingenuous reaction only stirred up an even more ominous-looking apparition, which skulked back and forth behind my date’s chair.

      I remember thinking, “If I keep my eyes straight ahead and try to be kind and truthful, maybe the hallucinations will go away.”half-blood

      It didn’t work. I started seeing witch hats and broomsticks between the books shelves. And it was June.

      But when Harry Potter himself sat down nearby for a chai latte with Professor Dumbledore, I had to ask my date if he saw them, too.

      “Sure. J.K. Rowling’s latest book. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince came out today. Most of the staff and customers are in costume.”

      I scanned my date for the umpteenth time. Was he dressed up, too? Did I dare ask?  I considered his two possible answers. Neither would brighten our future.        

      The very next day I surrendered my will and my search and deleted all my online dating accounts. As I was doing one final click-through, Yahoo Personals popped up–a site I had not joined. Or had I? I did a quick look to be sure.

      And—yahoo!—I found David.

      You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. ~ Ephesians 4:22-24 (NIV)