Pickle Heaven Press-James R. Johnson

something to help you laugh and think about life with Christ

is tissue the issue? — April 1, 2020

is tissue the issue?

Was there anything to laugh about in 2001?  Sure was!   Let me tell you about Miss Alice. 

Just three weeks after 9-11 there was a second scare that gripped the nation.   A demented person had mailed envelopes with anthrax spores to several politicians and media types.

It was about that time that I visited my sweet elderly friend Alice.  When I arrived, I found her nervously pacing in front of her home while holding her hands in the air.

I asked, “What’s wrong, Miss Alice?”  She ignored my question and asked me to turn on the garden hose so she could rinse her hands. 

I offered to open her home so she could wash with soap, but she gave me a terse, “No.”

Evidently, she had a small exercise ball in her mini-van which she had used over the past five years to help her arthritic fingers.  But on that day, the seam broke and the filling got all over her hands

Unfortunately, the filling was a white powdery substance.  Well Miss Alice just knew that some diabolical terrorist had sneaked into her mini-van and filled her little exercise ball with anthrax in order to kill her.

So, I explained that it would take a brilliant terrorist to be able to hide the anthrax in that ball, so that five years later it would break open at the exact time that the other attacks were happening.  No response.

I tactfully tried to help her see that elderly ladies were not a high priority on the terrorist hit list.  She didn’t believe me.  Her fears were blocking her ears. 

That week, she called numerous state and federal agencies and eventually wore down a bureaucrat in Austin who agreed to test her exercise ball for anthrax.  I wish I could have listened in on that conversation!

Once again, our nation is gripped with national anxieties.  Some of it is appropriate.  We should be concerned about viral social interactions and about the financial chaos.

But our responses are sometimes silly.

An Irish man recently had a painful accident.  His wife vainly scoured the town looking for pain meds.  She stood in a line at one pharmacy and saw that the woman in front of her had the last 5 boxes of what she sought.  She asked if she might have some for her distressed husband.  The woman obliged, “and admitted she didn’t actually need the medicine, but they were the only ones left in the store so she thought she should buy them all in case she couldn’t get them again.”   

Craziness! 

Jesus’ sensible words help in times like these.   He told us in Matthew 6:34, “So then, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Today has enough trouble of its own.”  NET Bible®

He prioritized concern for us.  He told us not to worry about what might happen tomorrow – with the stock market, or your job, or how you are going to cope with your bored-to-tears kids. 

Jesus wants us to plan for tomorrow (Luke 14:28-33) but He does not want us to worry about it.  

Then He gives us two reasons why.  First: “for tomorrow will worry about itself.” 

We know from our own experience that most of our tomorrow worries never materialize.   Issues tend to be resolved before tomorrow comes because we have a God who lovingly and sovereignly works things out for us.   Besides, we have no control over tomorrow no matter how carefully we plan.  

His second reason to forgo worry: “Today has enough trouble of its own.”  Sounds to me like Jesus was speaking from experience.  It is true, we need to spend our energies on managing the challenges that come to us each day.  We can control our response to these. 

But even with our daily concerns we can go overboard.  Which is why He also said “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life…”  He spoke of the Father’s excellent care for the flowers of the field and the birds of the air and then asked.  “Aren’t you more valuable (to Him) than they are?”  (Matthew 6:25-26) Of course we are!  

So how do we manage the anxieties of today?  The prophet Isaiah suggested, “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.” – Isaiah 26:3 – KJV

That’s the Lord’s counsel on this matter.  Don’t let your fears were block your ears.

I asked my wife to proofread this piece for me.  She was prompted to ask, “Do you actually think of these verses at a time like this?”  Hmm!  I had to mull that question overnight. 

In the morning I said, “No I do not think of these specific verses, mostly because I have assimilated their truth over the years – but yes, these are the specific kinds of thoughts that filter through my mind.  If this were not the case, I would find myself depressed if not despairing. 

I would be dishonest if I didn’t admit to being anxious these days.  But when those toxic thoughts come, I try to redirect my mind to Him.  I count the ways He has loved me and mine in the past and trust Him to do so in the present.  It helps!

So, these are my thoughts for this week.  Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to run over to Miss Alice’ house to see if I can borrow a roll of toilet paper.

a song in the haze — March 25, 2020

a song in the haze

Her dementia was pronounced.  Most of the day she wore a blank stare, and seldom broke the silence with a word.  Her body was atrophied as well.

As a Hospice Chaplain, my job was to bring her spiritual encouragement.  (Anna, by the way, is a fictitious name but she was a very real person)

I had been a pastor for 32 years and had learned to care for the sick and dying.  I thought I knew the ropes, but then I met her and wondered, “What could I possibly do to make a difference?”

I made my first visit just as the aide was finishing with Anna.   She got her looking good and smelling sweet as a rose – but Anna didn’t like the primping.  She was hotter than a tamale. 

Nor did she appreciate my intrusion.  She said the first and only word to me I would ever hear her say – a four letter word.  OK, not the best time. I got that. 

On my second visit, she was on her bed, thrashing and groaning, obviously tormented by something in her hazy mental world. I spoke but she ignored me.  I tried again but she would not be interrupted.

I sat with my Bible in hand, perplexed as to what to do.  She wouldn’t or couldn’t listen.  I had my guitar with me.  Maybe I could at least compete with the din she was making.

As I began to croon Jesus Loves Me, her groaning started to ebb.  She even paused at times.  Wow!  I played another song and another and she seemed to take it all in.

After the concert I held her hand and prayed and I told Anna I loved her.  I left the room feeling good – like maybe I got through.

Next visit:  She was alert and peacefully laying under a sheet.  Her pretzel of a leg was propped up on the other with her foot dangling in the air. 

Once again, I grabbed the guitar and sang to her.  There was no response, but I guess it was appreciated because she didn’t groan or cuss me out. 

But during the second song, I noticed that her suspended foot was moving.  I couldn’t believe it!  It was bobbing – up and down – to the tempo of the music – in perfect time.  A metronome could not have been more accurate. 

She was really listening, even participating in the experience. I really was getting through.  Excellent.  It made me glad that I didn’t give up.  

The apostle Paul had a message for people like me.  “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.”  1 Corinthians 15:58-(New American Standard Updated Version)

Paul knew of the discouragement that comes with what appears to be a futile effort – preaching to the hard hearted, or teaching the apathetic, or trusting and untrustworthy coworker.

He passed on what he had learned when he said, “be steadfast (stick in there) immovable (like a rock) always (not sometimes) abounding (with complete commitment) in the work of the Lord.” 

He gave us an incentive when he promised that our toil (extremely hard and sometimes disappointing work) would never be in vain (useless or fruitless) in the Lord. 

When we persevere in doing that which God wants us to do, good things eventually come of it. 

So, Mom: When your 2-year-old throws a tantrum, stay the course.  He needs you to be firm.

Student: You may have blown the test, but you haven’t blown the course.  The Lord got you into that school and He will get you through it.  So, work smarter and harder.  It will be worth it.

Husband: The marriage seems to be hopeless, but you can do wonders by consistently loving and serving your wife – no matter what.  It will take time, but it will not be in vain.  

Teacher: Your class seems to be incorrigible.  Give them your best, every day.  It’s what the Lord would have you to do.   Your persevering love and devotion will change them. 

When I get to heaven, I hope that Jesus will remember my attempt to be a steadfast man for Him.  I long to hear Him say, “Well done thou good and faithful servant.”   If I should hear sweet Anna chime in with an, “Amen.”  Even better!

tilt — March 21, 2020

tilt

Some of us grew up as latch-key kids.  Not me – I was more of a ten-pin tot.  My mom and dad were bowling enthusiasts and played in a league several times a week. 

They had five kids and dad didn’t make enough on a truck-drivers wage to pay for child-care (nor could they find a sitter foolish enough to take on we five). So, we spent a lot of unsupervised time wandering the bowling alley.  The clatter of falling pins and the smell of musty shoes is indelibly etched in my mind.

I had a routine.  I sifted through and tried out the loaner balls on the rack (until the day I dropped a 16 pounder).  I reached up into the soda machine looking for that one bottle that might have gotten hung up.  And I flipped open the cover of the candy dispenser checking for stray M&M’s.  I was often rewarded for my efforts.

I reached the age of 9 or so, (which felt like 90 in bowling alley years).  I had run all the traps and was bored.  Over on the far wall, were three teenage boys who were playing at a pin ball machine and going at it intensely.

I wanted to watch, so I sidled up to the game, stood on my tiptoes, lost my balance and bumped into the table.  This caused all manner of bells and buzzers to go off along with a flashing sign that said “tilt”  

For you non-pinballers, this was a safeguard built into a pinball machine to keep hotheads from abusing it.  Well I accidently triggered it and the moment I did, the game swallowed the ball and terminated the game.

The machine went silent and the boys – ballistic.  There was rage on their faces and viciousness in their words.  They called me names I had never heard before.

I can’t begin to describe the sense of fear that gripped me at that point.  We were in an out of the way place and my health and general welfare were obviously in danger.  I didn’t cry, but I wanted to.  I was too paralyzed with dread. 

One of the boys began to make a move toward me.  My little heart leapt out of my chest.  At the same time, I sensed some movement in my periphery.  Oh, my goodness, it was my dad.  He was headed from the bathroom back to the lane.   

He wasn’t aware of my crisis, but it didn’t matter.  I quickly slipped away from the boys and went over to walk with him.   Once by his side, the crisis was gone, and the comfort was great.  I didn’t even look back.  Didn’t need to.  My dad was way bigger than those boys and I knew he loved me.  I was safe with him.

I often think back to that experience.  I really do – especially these days. 

It seems that the world has gone tilt.  But the glares that threaten me now, come in the form a virulent virus and financial mayhem.

And though my daddy is in heaven, I still have a heavenly daddy.  I have a powerful, wonderful, all sovereign Father.  I am reminded that He encourages me to come walk beside Him through the chaos. 

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore, will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof. – Psalm 46:1-3

“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. – Psalm 23:4:

Jesus said, “I will never leave thee nor forsake thee.” – Hebrews 13:5

Paul reminds us “The Lord is at hand.” – Philippians 4:5

Our God does not practice social distancing. These are His promises to those of us that know Him and love Him.   If He should feel distant to you…

PRAY: Immediately after Paul said, “The Lord is near,” he followed it up by saying, “Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.  And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.  – Phil 4:6-7

READ: Marinate over the words of Psalm 23.  Read it as often as you need it. 

LISTEN:  You must open this link and listen to Sara Hart who sings, Be with Me Lord.”   I have honestly listened to and even performed this song maybe a hundred times and yet every time it grips my heart and give me courage.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7f_L0bz_wRY

ALSO: Check out Hidden in My Heart, Vol 1, 2, 3.  This is comforting Scripture put to quality orchestrated backgrounds.  My wife and I frequently play it in our home during seasons of stress.  You can buy it through a music service – OR you can listen to many tracks on Youtube.  Here is a sweet sample.   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=edfwnITsqT0

God Be with You!

to hell and back — March 18, 2020

to hell and back

The first time I visited Jerusalem, our tour bus rounded a corner and I was shocked to find myself in hell.  

picture taken in the year 1900

We were passing by a place called the Hinnom Valley.  This valley had somewhat of a ghastly history.  King Manasseh of Judah had designated it as the site where children would be placed on a burning altar and offered to the pagan God Molech.  And not just any children – his own sons were put to the flame. (2 Chronicles 33:6)

Good King Josiah succeeded him and outlawed the horrifying practice.  He put a permanent end to it, by desecrating the valley.  He ordered that it be made unclean by scattering of human bones and so on throughout.

From Josiah to Jesus, the valley was used as a garbage dump. It was the cesspool of the city. Waste and refuse and the carcasses of dead animals and unclean objects of any kind were brought there to be destroyed.

Which is why there was always a fire that burned there.  24 hours a day it was kindled to dispose of the refuse.

Because of the ever-burning fire, the Jews named the valley Ge Hinnom or “Gehenna” and it became a symbol of the place of eternal torment.

Jesus made the connection between the burning in the valley of Hinnom and hell.  When He spoke of hell, he actually called it Gehenna.  In Mark 9:43 He said, “If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off! It is better for you to enter into life crippled than to have two hands and go into hell (Gehenna) to the unquenchable fire.” NETBible ®    

A place of perpetual fire that burned in a place where living human beings once were also cast into the flames. That’s what Jesus used to help us understand the concept and horror of hell.   It makes sense that He called it a place of weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Ironically after Judas had betrayed Jesus, he fled to that same valley and took his own life. (Acts 1:18-19) He seemed to understand that hell is the only alternative for those who reject Christ.

So, what would you find in the valley of Hinnom today?  A desolate, ugly place full of ashes and bones?   Not at all.  The valley is covered with plush, thick, green grass and colorful playground equipment.  It is a park – a place for children to frolic and play. 

Isn’t that like the God of redemption?  He saw to it that the valley where children were annihilated became a place where they are nurtured.

God is in the redemption business.  He does it with valleys and he does it with people.  He takes broken, hell bound sinners like us, saves us and transforms us into beautiful people who bless Him and benefit others.

I am grateful to Him for that and for my field trip to hell.

But I still need to tell you about the highlight of that trip.   When I rounded that corner in Jerusalem, it happened to be in the month of January, and it was snowing.  I was shocked. I wondered if Jesus’ sandaled feet had ever trudged through the snow. 

But there it was.  The Hinnom Valley was covered in 2 inches of snow.  That’s when I realized that – I was there when hell froze over. 

hand dryers: yes or no? — March 11, 2020

hand dryers: yes or no?

I’m sorry but I just don’t like restroom hand dryers.  Hey, I want to save the planet too, but isn’t there another way?

Yes, I know about the study – dryers installed in Topeka, KS schools saved 34.5 tons of solid waste and 587 trees in a year. * (But they were school kids. Do they ever wash their hands?)

What about noise pollution?  A dryer produces over 80 decibels of sound. * (a Boeing 747 on takeoff is slightly more soothing.)

And forget about hygiene?  In 2009 a study was conducted by the University of Westminster.  They found that after drying hands with a warm air dryer, bacteria on the palms increased by 254% while a paper towel reduced it by up to 77%* (Who needs a petri dish?)

They also found that the jet air dryer, which blows at speeds of 400 mph can blow micro-organisms from the hands onto other people up to 2 meters away. * (Plus, it’s creepy to watch 400 mph gusts blow across your hands. My skin rolls like the tide.) 

I don’t like them, and I don’t like the vandals who scratch out the letters “on” from the little sign that says, Push Button Here. 

But my biggest irritation is this: I sometimes hold my dripping hands under the dryer, and nothing happens.  The all-seeing sensor does not sense them.  I, therefore, jiggle my hands a little.  Nothing.  Am I the invisible man? 

So, I move them again, this time using sign language to say, “I hate this thing!”  Still nothing. 

The guy next to me got his to work, so I try his as soon as he moves.  It ignores me too. 

Evidently, I do not exist.

Truth be told, I can handle that kind of treatment from a hand dryer.  It’s when I get it from people that it really hurts. 

As I get older, I seem to fade from the mix.

– I am not approached for advice as I once was

– my favorites are no longer sung at church

– politicians seldom court my vote

– my opinions may be quickly brushed aside in a discussion

– and the product label with the tiny font was definitely not sized for my eyes

It feels like I don’t exist – or at least don’t matter – and yet I know I do.

The apostle John told me so.  He wrote, “See what sort of love the Father has given to us: that we should be called God’s children – and indeed we are!” -1 John 3:1 (NET Bible ®)  

John was enthralled and astounded by the fact that God would call us His children.  He wanted me to feel the thrill as well – to know that I have been born to royalty and am entitled to the privileges of a prince.

There was a time when my youngest child was playing on the playground of the church that I pastored.  Another preschooler jumped on the swing that he wanted, so my son put him in his place.  He said, “Hey my dad is the boss here.” 

Well I wasn’t, but he didn’t perceive it that way.  He believed that I was in sovereign control and since he was my son, I would, therefore, govern things in a way that benefitted him. 

So naïve about me, but so perfectly descriptive of our heavenly Father.  He is sovereign.  He is beyond powerful and superbly wise and He governs things in a way that benefits those that are His. 

Being a child of God is the best.  It’s as Tim Tebow says, “I’m so thankful because of my relationship with Jesus Christ and being adopted in the family of God that I don’t have to live the highs and the lows and the roller coaster that the rest of the world lives, because my identity is as a child of God, and that’s something that will never be shaken.”

So, the next time a hand dryer fails to recognize me, I will wipe my hands off on my pants and remind myself, “So what? I am a child of God.” 

* Stats from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hand_dryer

the 11th plague — March 4, 2020

the 11th plague

We were driving back to Texas when a plague of biblical proportion swept into the open windows and defiled our car.

The family was exhausted from our trip.  The long drive home was even more taxing.  The plan was to stop and overnight soon.

But, just west of Birmingham, we were overcome by a heavy putrid stench.  We had never smelled this sickening smell before.  What was it?  Was an Alabamian boiling peanuts?

We closed the windows and turned on the AC.  Didn’t help!   We asked the boys to change their socks. Didn’t help.  We tried breathing through our mouths.  It tasted as bad as it smelled.

Rather than stopping, we decided to drive on until we got beyond the stench.   BUT it still oppressed us in Bessemer, and then Tuscaloosa, and into Toomsuba, Mississippi. 

And there was despair in the car.  For three hours we had been in the grips of the stench.  My daughter was turning blue. 

Somewhere just east of Jackson, MS, I tried to pass a tractor-trailer and what I saw on the open air trailer was ghastly.  The trailer had legs and hooves popping out of it in every direction.  It looked like one big, disgusting stockyard pin cushion. 

The truck must have been headed to a rendering plant, where the barnyard bereaved would be recycled into useful household products.  There is a reason why there is a cow on your bottle of Elmer’s Glue? 

And we had followed in the stinking wake of that truck for 3 hours. 

I stomped on the gas and sped past it and we sailed into sweet, wonderful, fresh air.  Forget the motel.  There was no way I was gonna let that truck get in front of me again.  

The truck left behind a stench.  Some people do that too! 

There is the girl at school who always seems to be walking away from a conflict or the guy that has wrecked four marriages and is now is on his fifth.  There is a stench of sorts that the angry dad leaves behind for his kids.  And what the about the boss who loses employees faster than he can hire new?   Then there is that woman at church who leaves people feeling like they have been to court and lost.

It shouldn’t be that way!

In the 23rd Psalm David taught us that sheep who follow their shepherd are fed, watered, restored, directed and protected. 

But then the Psalm winds up in a curious way.  David wrote, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.” (vs. 6)  NET Bible ®  

In other words: David left behind a sweetness instead of a stench. 

Phillip Keller in his book, A Shepherd Looks at the 23rd Psalm, explained that sheep can enhance the quality of a pasture.  They eat noxious weeds that would otherwise choke out the good and they fertilize the soil as well.  He wrote, “In a few years, a flock of well managed sheep will clean up and restore a piece of ravaged land as no other creature can do.”  (pg 131) 

David understood this and applied it to himself as a sheep.  As he followed the lead of his Shepherd, it impacted the way he treated others. 

His nation celebrated his righteous leadership.  The son of Saul was grateful for David’s mercy.  The army that faced Goliath was inspired by his faith.  David’s followers were moved by his transparency and humility.  He was the kind of man you wanted to follow because he sweetened the pasture for those who did.

Are you leaving a sweetness or a stench?  Stop!  Turn around!  Look at the people you just left.  Make sure they are wearing a smile instead of a sneer!

the man at the urinal — February 26, 2020

the man at the urinal

Presumption may be the preeminent personal problem that perplexes us today.  Should I automatically assume that my wife is the one who dinged the car?   Can we really be so sure about the motive of that politician?   Is my coworker really able to look at a guy and know that he is an interior decorator?

The online dictionary defines presumption this way: It is supposing that something is the case, based on probability.  The situation may or may not be true – but we may nevertheless presume it is.

And you know what?  Presumption can hurt!

I am a grandpa and when I am in a public place with my grandsons, my daughter expects me to escort them when they go to the men’s room.  She is concerned for their safety.  I get that, but it can sometimes be embarrassing. 

One day he had to go – so I had to go.  He went into the stall, locked me out and sat down.  I leaned my back against the wall and settled in for a long winter’s nap.  It was just him and me. 

But then another man entered the bathroom and nervously looked my way.  I think I appeared to him to be loitering in the men’s room. 

And of course, my grandson couldn’t be seen.  So, the man used the urinal while I tried to figure out what to do.   Do I look up or down or sideways?   Do I whistle?  Do I talk to the guy?  No that would be creepy?

Meanwhile he kept looking back over his shoulder to make sure I hadn’t moved.  

And my grandson, well he must have fallen down the toilet.  He had been in there 8 minutes, which in bathroom time is like 8 years. 

How could I make it clear that I was waiting on my grandson?  Then it came to me.  I said to the boy, “Hey buddy – ya done yet?” 

But my little buddy said nothing.  You could hear a pin drop.  He was too embarrassed to respond.  I wanted to choke him.

Meanwhile the man who stood at one of three urinals, presumed I was talking to him.  “Hey buddy – ya done yet?” 

He froze and then finished up and sprinted out of the restroom – and didn’t even wash his hands. 

It’s just dumb to presume that something is the case before we have the facts. 

This truth echoes throughout the Scripture – from the Old to the New Testament.   Solomon wrote, “The one who gives an answer before he listens— that is his folly and his shame.”   – Proverbs 18:13. 

It is foolish and even shameful, he says, to argue a point, or to make a judgment or level an accusation until we have first gathered the facts by thoroughly listening to the person. 

James wrote in his epistle, “Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters! Let every person be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger.”  – James 1:19

He first urged us to understand.  Why – because we mostly don’t.  We do not fully appreciate the need to be quick to listen and anxious to understand the facts, and then to cautiously answer.

Nicodemus the Pharisee went to bat for Jesus.  He said to his peers, “Our law doesn’t condemn a man unless it first hears from him and learns what he is doing, does it?” – John 7:51

It was a principle of the Jewish Law that the accused had the right to speak and fully explain himself before any judgment took place – a great policy for us as well

Maybe we should become askers instead of accusers.  “Honey I noticed a ding in the car, do you know anything about that?”  A much better approach than, “When did you mar my car?”  

I wish the man at the urinal would have asked me a question like, “Hey, how are you doing.”  It would have been so easy to say, “Pretty good, just waiting on my grandson.  He must be constipated.” 

OK TMI. But you get the idea.  

Bible references from the NET Bible ®  

a well-worn prayer — February 19, 2020

a well-worn prayer

My wife and I have kept daily prayer journals each of our 43 years of married life.  God has faithfully given definite specific answers to maybe 98% of our requests.  BUT there are some requests, concerning people mostly, that we have labored over the entire time.

The pages with their names are worn, yellowed with finger grease and patched together with brittle tape.  Sometimes we come to those unanswered prayers with a little disappointment 

But still we pray.  Jesus told us that we should, “always pray and not lose heart.” (Luke 18:1). We pray because we still believe that God will answer.

Some have prayed even longer.  The Jewish people have pleaded with God for millennia to send the Messiah. 

The events in book of Job took place in the time between the tower of Babel and the appearance of Abraham. (Genesis 11-12)  At that time, Job said, “As for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, and that at the last he will stand upon the earth.”  (Job 19:25)   He was the first to express the hope of seeing his redeemer come. 

Faithful Jews today pray the Amidah (18 Blessings). Three times a day they utter these words, “The offspring of your servant David, may you speedily cause to flourish, and enhance his pride through Your salvation, for we hope for Your salvation all day long.”

This is a prayer that God would send the Son of David – the rightful King of Israel; that He might assume leadership of the nation and usher in His Kingdom. 

And then the Passover Seder meal ends with “Next Year in Jerusalem.” – a wish for Messiah to return and establish His rule there.

Now the irony is that the Son of David, the promised Messiah has already come and gone.   His name is Jesus.  Sadly, the Jewish people greeted Him with a cross instead of a crown, and yet today they still pray for Messiah to make His appearance.

And their prayers are oddly joined to ours.  For since Jesus ascended to heaven, Christians have also longed to see Him return according to His promise. (John 14:3)    John ended the book of Revelation with this prayer, “Even so, Come, Lord Jesus.”  (Rev 22:20)

What provokes this kind of prayer? 

When He comes, He will make all things new.  He will cause truth and justice to prevail in politics.  He will right every wrong that’s ever been perpetrated.   He will banish sin and suffering and He will reunite generations of families who have loved Him.  Perfect reasons to pray but not quite enough.

Our precious 5-year-old granddaughter recently asked her daddy if we could come over for dinner.  Good with us except that she lives in Pennsylvania and we’re in Texas.  To her – time, distance, trouble and cost were not important.  What was important to her was relationship – just being with the people she loved. 

Likewise, if we love Jesus, we will want to see Him.

Paul wrote, “We wait for the happy fulfillment of our hope in the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.” – Titus 2:13

He even mentioned a reward for those who actively anticipate His return. “…the crown of righteousness is reserved for me. The Lord, the righteous Judge, will award it to me in that day—and not to me only, but also to all who have set their affection on his appearing.” –  2 Tim 4:8

This prayer was written into the book of the Revelation.  “The Holy Spirit and the bride of Christ (which is the church) say, “Come.”  – Revelation 22:17.   John the apostle added, “Come, Lord Jesus!”  – Revelation. 22:20.

A great prayer BUT is it our prayer? 

I’m embarrassed to say it is not.  Of the myriad of prayer requests recorded in our journal, there is not a single plea for Jesus’ return.  I will change that. 

Some want to know if Jesus will return in 2020.   “I’m not sure.  I don’t have 2020 vision.” (pun intended) 

But He is coming and I will be praying it will be soon.  So, “Come Lord Jesus.

All biblical references are from the NETBible ®

an easy way to say, “I love you!” — February 12, 2020

an easy way to say, “I love you!”

Valentine’s Day is near.  Time to get romantic.  I’ll try but I’ve had too many misses with my Mrs. Consider the following of which every word is true. 

One year I decided to book a B&B for my babe.  That would surely speak love to her.  Being a frugal guy, however, I found the best bargain in town. 

We arrived expecting to see a classy mansion, but what we got was sorta like a barn with several barn-ettes tacked on. We found our room around back and stepped onto a porch made of landscape timbers.  This concerned me.

We walked through the door and were startled by a loud belch.  No, it was not me!  It came from an animated rubber fish that hung on the wall, which then looked right at me and said, “Ooops, I must have eaten a bad worm.”  My dismay was turning into terror

The room was tiny.  The shower, toilet, and sink were in an uncapped cubicle which stood in the bedroom.  It had saloon doors, but they did supply a can of air freshener. 

The room was decorated in a Cowboy/Cajun theme.  Spurs sat next to a big rubber crawfish and a picture of John Wayne was draped in Mardi Gras beads. Every inch of wall and countertop was covered with crazy junk and a layer of dust. There wasn’t room to set your toothbrush down. (and you didn’t want to anyway)

The ceiling was made of corrugated steel which had glow-in-the-dark stars duct taped to it.  

Breakfast was self-serve in your room.  They provided little bottles of milk and some cereal that had a history and a bowl of bruised fruit.  The trash can was full and there were old grounds in the coffee maker.  

When we settled down for bed that first night, we found that the fish on the wall spontaneously spoke to us – until I took care of it. 

To top it off – outside the room stood a tree where dozens of vultures were gathered.  They were waiting for us to die.   Which I did once I remembered what I paid for this experience. 

And that was how I showed my love to my wife.  After several years of marriage counseling, we are now in a good place (just kidding about this) 

This sounds like a Yelp review doesn’t it? Actually, I wish I would have used Yelp before I used the B&B!

Oh, but Valentine’s is the time of year when random ridiculous assumptions are often made – especially by men.  “I need to get the wife a gift. I bet she would like one of those pajamagrams or a box of pears.” 

May I suggest that the best was to say I love you, is to ask, “How can I best love you?”   We all have our own unique “love language” and most of us are not multilingual – so we should ask.   

Love is something that is taught.  According to Paul, the older women are to teach the younger women how to, “love their husbands.”  Titus 2:4 KJV

It’s a teachable skill that we can learn from one another. So today, while you still have the time, look your valentine in the eye and ask, “Tell me dear, how I can best love you on Valentine’s Day?”    

He/she will feel deeply loved, simply because you were sensitive enough to ask (which would be a bargain for a frugal guy like me.)

If they waffle, nudge them again, “What is the most loving thing I can do for you on Valentine’s Day?” 

The answer may surprise you.  “Could you change the lightbulb in the closet.” or “Send the kids to mom’s and let’s just spend a quiet evening alone at the house.” or “I would love it if you would make that dinner you used to make.”   

And if she asks for a box of pears, Amazon delivers in one day.

Make a mental note so the next time you give a gift, it will be even more special because it will be spot on and because you cared enough to remember. 

Hey even a B&B may be nice but beware of rubber fish.

the dentist and my date — February 6, 2020

the dentist and my date

One summer afternoon, this high school student, clocked out at work, jumped in my car and picked up my girlfriend for an evening of food and frivolity.

I, however, worked in fast food.  I needed to shower and scrape the grease from my face.  So first, to the house, for a face lift.

But my mom caught me and said, “Not so fast – you have a dentist appointment?” 

So, my date and I delayed our dinner plans and headed to the dentist. 

”Oh oh,” I thought.  He plans to fill a cavity which means he will numb my mouth.  Not good!  The effect of the Novocain will last for hours.  It will kill our date.

Our dinner conversation will be interesting. “Well Jim how was your day?”  With my lame tongue I’ll say, “bery schlwell shlank you.”

And it will be hard for her to look into my eyes when there’s drool on my chin.  Oh, and forget about a goodnight kiss.  Yuck!!! 

My self-esteem required an alternative plan.  So, I asked the dentist, “Is it possible to do this without an anesthetic?”   “Sure,” he said, with a subtle smirk.”

He cranked up his drill, plunged it into my naïve mouth, and began to bear down.  It took me a millisecond to realize – I had made a huge mistake.   The pain was 100 times beyond excruciating. 

The nurse tried to hold me down, but my voice would not be stilled.  I screamed like a baby while my date sat nearby. 

Several years later he finished.  I walked out of his office with silver in my mouth and egg on my face.   As for our date.  Awkward!  Not a lot of conversation and forget the good night kiss.  My mouth was a crime scene as far as she was concerned. 

All because of my pride!

It seems to me like the more we protect our pride, the more humiliating it gets.   

This is a truth, in fact, rooted in Scripture.  “After pride came, disgrace followed.” – Proverbs 11:2 (NETBible ®)

Why is this?  James tells that God is responsible. “God opposes the proud, but he gives grace to the humble.”  James 4:6. NET Bible ® 

A scary thought.  God opposes the proud person.  The passage doesn’t specify whether the person is a Christian or not.  He doesn’t discriminate in His war against pride. 

So why single out this sin?  Because nothing has cheated God and taken more away from Him.

Lucifer was His prized angel, but pride turned him into a dark vicious adversary.   Adam and Eve were the pinnacle of all creation – made in His image.  And the pride that grabbed the fruit, ripped apart the heart of God.

Pride creates ugly barriers between God and the children He loves and most of us are unaware.  Oswald Sanders wrote, “Pride is a sin of whose presence its victim is least conscious.”  (Spiritual Leadership)

And yet the more we protect our pride, the more humiliating it gets.

She lied to cover a mistake because it is embarrassing to fail.  Her lie, however, was eventually uncovered.  It is humiliating to be outed as a liar.  

His fellow alumni made him feel insecure, so he salvaged his pride by allowing them to think that he was wealthy.  But they saw him leave the party in a well-used Kia.  He probably won’t attend the next reunion. 

He forgot to follow through on his assignment at church.  He protected his ego by blaming it on his wife.  She is now wounded and hasn’t spoken to him for 6 days.  The church folk have noticed.  Humiliating!

We protect our pride at our own peril.

I recently sat down with a friend.  Our relationship was somewhat strained.  He had said some things that he shouldn’t have and he eventually came to recognize that he was wrong.  

He could have preserved his pride and kept it to himself – but he didn’t.  He sat across from me at breakfast, told me what he had learned and asked me to forgive him.  Which I gladly did. 

Did I lose respect for him?  Absolutely NOT.  I esteem him far more now than I did before.  It’s ironic I know – but that’s just the way it works with pride and humility. 

So, here’s a take away from all this:  Be honest when you fall short and drop the pride.  AND don’t ever pass up a dental anesthetic.

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