Pickle Heaven Press-James R. Johnson

something to help you laugh and think about life with Christ

mama’s with the one who loves her best — January 25, 2023

mama’s with the one who loves her best

mama’s with the one who loves her best

Forgive me!  I know the title sounds like it was ripped off a worn-out country song. The truth is – it is the title to a song, and it does involve a woman who left her family – but not by her choice. 

She was a happy wife and mother of two small children when the doctor diagnosed her breast cancer.  It was brutal. 

During a Sunday morning service, the congregation was sharing testimonies of God’s goodness and encouraging one another in the faith.   We were stunned when the little boy stood and tearfully interrupted.  “Will you pray that God would heal my mom?”  

Barely able to speak, I told him that we would.  Many took their turn – right then and there – interceding for his mother.

Well, she fought a courageous fight, but the cancer eventually prevailed, and she moved on to higher ground.

Her little ones were broken hearted – sad beyond sad.   They had no way of mentally or emotionally grasping what had taken place.

And we adults fumbled around trying to help them make sense of it all. 

I was asked to sing at her memorial service.  As I prepared, I asked the Lord to help me bring some comfort to her children.  He chose to give me a song.  I wrote it down and sang it for them in the service.  It was all I could offer at that point. 

If you would like to hear it – click the link.  The lyrics are also below. 

If you find value in the song, you are welcome to pass it on and use it when needed – but I sincerely hope you don’t have to!

Mama’s with the One who Loves Her best  

By Jim Johnson

Mama’s with the one who loves her best.  /   We all love her too and she’ll be missed. / But Jesus took her pain away, when she became His guest. / Mama’s with the one who loves her best.

Mama I could see the pain, written on your face. / And Mama how I hurt for you, and Mama how I prayed. / And Mama Jesus heard my prayer, He took your pain away. / And Mama now you live with Him – Oh Mama!

Precious in the sight of God, is the death of His godly ones. / Mama I would read those words, and wonder what would come. / But Mama I can see you now, with Jesus and a smile. / And Mama I’m so glad for you – Oh Mama!

Mama now you’re sitting there, with all the other saints; / Watching as the rest of, us finish out our race. / So Mama I will run it well, so you’ll be proud of me; / And Mama I will win the prize – O Mama!

Mama’s with the one who loves her best. / We all love her too and she’ll be missed. / But Jesus took her pain away, when she became His guest. / Mama’s with the one who loves her best.

A PRAYER: Father it’s true!  Death means being united with the One who loves us best.  May we encourage others with this truth.

This has been Jim Johnson and pickleheavenpress.com

May the grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.

say no to prayer? — January 18, 2023

say no to prayer?

Andrew was preparing to serve as a missionary to Latin America.  His kids picked up Spanish pretty quickly – but not Andrew.

He was walking through town one day with his family, when a local man recognized him to be a missionary and he approached him with an urgent request.  Andrew heard him out, but he perceived that the guy was looking for a handout.

So, Andrew tried out his Spanish.  He said, “No.” (which in English means “No!”)    The man persisted and Andrew told him no again.  They went back and forth until the guy finally walked away in frustration.

When Andrew returned to his family, his son asked, “Dad why did you do that?”  “What do you mean?” he replied.  “That man was asking you to pray for him, and you told him no!”   Oops!

Hey – it’s tough to learn a new language!

It reminds me of an episode from the book of Job about prayer. Job had three friends who came to sit with him and then counsel him when the bottom had fallen out of his life.  Their names: Eliphaz the Temanite, Zophar the Naamathite and Bildad the Shuhite – pronounced “shoe height.”  (He must have been short.)

These guys had gravely misrepresented God by arguing that Job’s troubles came because he had sinned, and God was therefore punishing him.  But this was not true so at the end of the story God confronted them with the consequences for their lies.

The Lord told them to offer an atoning sacrifice for themselves and then ask Job to pray for them.  The Lord said, “and my servant Job shall pray for you: for him will I accept: lest I deal with you after your folly.” Job 42:8. – KJV   

This is some amazing stuff.  God intended to punish them for their sin, but the prayers of Job for them were necessary for them to escape the wrath of God.    

My, My! I think of the many people in my realm who have yet to trust Christ as their Savior.  They too will someday face the wrath of God.  The Scripture tells us that the wages of sin is death. (Romans 6:23)

So, to what degree might their fate rest on my prayers for them?   Does God expect me to intercede and pray that they might come to Christ and be forgiven?

I’m reminded that Jesus prayed in that way, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do?” –  Luke 23:34.

I don’t really know what to think about such things – except that God sure put stock in the prayers of Job for his flaky friends.  I guess I should pray too, and I do. 

My wife and I keep and pray from our prayer journal 4-5 times a week.   And the names of many who are yet without Christ are recorded there and are lifted in prayer.  We have been interceding for some for over 50 years.

The Lord forgave Job’s friends, and then He did something special for Job.  Job 42:10 says, “So the Lord restored what Job had lost after he prayed for his friends, and the Lord doubled all that had belonged to Job.” – NETBible.com

Once Job had prayed, the Lord decided to restore what he had lost before and then double it.  Wow!   Now I would not suggest that the Lord will do exactly that for us when we pray – but I am certain that He does shed his manifold blessings on the one who prays. 

The world of the lost is seeking our prayers- they just may not know it.  Let’s pray anyway. 

A PRAYER: Lord I am fairly certain that many prayed for me to come to know you, may I do the same for others.

This has been Jim Johnson and pickleheavenpress.com

May the grace of our Lord Jesus be with you. 

Unless otherwise noted, the Scripture passages are from the NETBible.com

beware of the dog — January 11, 2023

beware of the dog

I was just trying to be a good pastor – that’s all.  So, I stopped by the home of one of our congregants.  I looked for the huge steel building in his back yard, which housed his vintage auto parts business. 

I stood at the gate, saw that the door of his business open.  The lights were on and the radio was playing. So, I lifted the latch and walked over to the building and began to look around. 

I saw no one.  So, I called out for him.  No response.  I then turned to leave, and I wet my pants – because two angry German Shepherds were racing toward me.  My life passed before my eyes and I was also wishing that I would have worn the shirt my wife told me to wear, because she would have to identify my body.

They stopped and salivated and barked to high heaven.  One lunged at me and locked onto my right arm.  I violently shook him off and then I barked at them as I backed out of the yard.

I reached the fence, passed through, and then slammed the gate shut.  It was only then that I spied the big sign on the outside of the fence, “Beware of Dog.”   

I learned a valuable lesson that day, “Always read the signs!”

A good lesson because God sometimes uses signs to get our attention. 

The people of God had been resettled in Jerusalem after 70 years of captivity in Babylon.  God saw to it that they were liberated and then commissioned to return to their land to rebuild the temple. 

They started well – even laid the foundation, but they were stymied by antagonism and apathy.  So, they turned their energies into building dream homes for themselves instead. 

In the meantime, this is what was happening.   The prophet said, “You expected a large harvest, but instead there was little. And when you would bring it home, I would blow it right away.  – Haggai 1:9a. 

Haggai also said, “You have planted much, but have harvested little. You eat but are never filled. You drink but are still thirsty. You put on clothes but are not warm. Those who earn wages end up with holes in their money bags.” – 1:6

This mess was a sign from God, much bigger than the one posted on that gate.  Why did this happen?  The Lord said, “Because my temple remains in ruins, thanks to each of you favoring his own house! – 1:9b

Twice in this prophecy He said to them, “Consider your ways.” – 1:5 & 7. In other words, “Read the signs that I have posted.”   

So why was God so intent on having the temple rebuilt?  The temple was the heart of the spiritual life for the Jewish people.  Without this central place of worship and sacrifice, the people would wander off into paganism and immorality.  They would self-destruct.  God posted His sign out of concern for their welfare.

Today, the best way of knowing what God wants of us is to read His Word.  But when we don’t read and heed His Word, He sometimes also sends signs.

The negative balance in your bank account may be saying, “Beware of neglecting to give back to God.”  Your teen daughter who holes herself up in her bedroom may be saying, “I need help!”

The neighbor who refuses to speak to you may be saying, “You have offended me.”   The sadness that fills your wife’s face may be saying, “You could do a better job of loving me.”  

Your kids who seem to be bored with the faith may be saying to you, “You should provide some spiritual leadership for your family.” 

My dog-loving friend posted his sign to protect his business.  God posts His to protect us and our interests.  So, I am thinking that we should consider our ways, and read the signs. 

A PRAYER: Father, thank you for being so amazingly persistent in your love for us. 

This has been Jim Johnson and pickleheavenpress.com

May the grace of our Lord Jesus be with you. 

Scripture passages are from the NETBible.com

bible boredom — January 4, 2023

bible boredom

Conflicted!  My heart compels me to read my Bible, but my brain yawns. 

I had a similar problem back in High School.  The prom was on the horizon, but I didn’t have a date. 

I was interested in one girl.  She had flowing hair down to her knees.  But because she may deny that she ever went out with me – I’ll just call her Rapunzel.

Just one problem, she was painfully shy.  I had never heard her put more than 2 words together in a sentence.  As for me, I was her socially awkward equal.  Together we made a bizarrely dull duo.  So, I took her out on a pre-prom date, to hopefully jumpstart the relationship. 

I picked her up and we drove to the restaurant in utter silence.  I was ready to drive off a cliff, but I didn’t want to muss up her hair.

She finally broke the silence when she ordered, but then retreated again.   I had no idea what to say and obviously neither did she.   It was boundlessly boring.

“How do I rescue this?” I wondered.  Maybe I could ask her a question.  She had to answer.  So, I asked, “So how long is your hair?”   “45 inches!” she said.”  And that was the end of the conversation.

So, I regrouped and asked a question that required a fuller answer. She gave me more than 2 words this time.  I was encouraged.   So, I asked another question and she answered.  And then she asked me questions and the ice melted, and we began to enjoy our time together.

OK, so I was a dating dufus, but I learned something valuable.  I learned that asking questions turns the dull into delightful.

Now did you know that The Holy Spirit is also a person, and that part of His job is to speak to us through the Word of God?  

Before He left this earth Jesus said, “When he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. For he will not speak on his own authority, but will speak whatever he hears and will tell you what is to come.  He will glorify me because he will receive from me what is mine and will tell it to you. Everything that the Father has is mine; that is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what is mine and will tell it to you.”   – John 16:13-15. NETBible.com

His job is to take the words of Jesus, and all of Scripture and speak through them to us to help us understand them. 

When we pick up our Bibles, the Holy Spirit is ready to have a conversation with us.  But here’s the problem.   We treat the time like we are on a date with Rapunzel.

We read the Bible passively, expecting the words to jump off the page.  We don’t interact with it.  It leaves us bored with the Bible and the Holy Spirit.

So, we need to ask questions.  When I read John 3:16 I want to ask: “For God so loved the world?”  Why did God love the world? And how? When did He love the world?   Did He used to hate the world?   What is the world anyway?  Is God a tree hugger?  Is that what that means?   

Why does the verse begin with, “for?”  What is the for there for?  John is the only Gospel writer who recorded this verse.  Why was this important to him and not to the others?

When we ask questions, the Holy Spirit whispers the answers.  And guess what?  He begins to question us.  “So, Jim, God loved the world. Do you also love the world?”  “How much Jim?   God gave up his Son for the world – what are you willing to give up?”

A rich conversation happens when we ask questions as we read the Scripture.  Try it – you’ll love it.

A PRAYER: Lord how cool to be able to actually converse with you.  Thank you.

This has been Jim Johnson and pickleheavenpress.com

May the grace of our Lord Jesus be with you!

neither rain nor snow — December 23, 2022

neither rain nor snow

Time to pay the bills.  I do it the old school way, by writing checks.  I tucked a $5,000 check into one envelope.  Then pasted a stamp on it and a return address sticker with Christmas graphics on it (even though it was June).   Will the folks at Chase Bank notice?  

I had several urgent errands to run and stopping by the mailbox was last on my list.  That was a mistake because I worried about that envelope all morning long. 

What if it should slip down between the car seats and get lost?  What if I go in for an Egg McMuffin, and someone should see it in the car, break in and take it?   What if I just forget about it?  The late fee and the interest would be painful.

I got to thinking, “Hey this is pretty much par for me.  When I have something on my mind, I get chained to a mental cycle of distraction and burden.  This is especially true when the issue is troublesome.

Well, I finally pulled up to the big blue box and dropped it in the slot.  And poof, my angst went down the chute along with the envelope.  

Mail is occasionally misplaced by the USPS.  But did you know that the exact figure is about a half a percent which is incredible when you consider the volume of mail that goes out each day, and you consider that there are people like me whose scribble on the envelope can’t be read.

Regardless, once I dropped that letter in the box, I was relieved, and I carried on the rest of the day without a fret.  

I wonder if that’s what the Spirit of God had in mind when He inspired Paul to write, “Do not be anxious about anything. Instead, in every situation, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, tell your requests to God. And the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:6-7 NETBible.com

“Do not be anxious,” he said.  I kinda wish He hadn’t said that because I am the type of person that gets anxious knowing that I should not be anxious.   Nevertheless, He said, “Do not be anxious for anything.”  

Anything that causes a person anxiety is now off the table.  Health hindrances, financial foul-ups, relational rollercoasters or even unmailed bills.  All anxiety is to be shunned.

In its place should be prayer, specific petitions concerning whatever issues we face. Requests should be posted to an all knowing, all powerful, completely motivated by love – God.   It should be partnered with thanksgiving. 

Why thanksgiving?  Because He has allowed us an opportunity to be challenged and to grow and He has given us the means by which to handle our anxieties and because our prayers are welcomed and encouraged, and because our God has pledged to answer and because we know that whatever answer He gives will be good for us because He loves us.    

And once those prayers have been dropped in the heavenly blue box, the peace of God will flood our hearts.   We will rest in confidence knowing that “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stay our divine courier from the swift completion of His appointed rounds.”  (My apologies to the USPS for modifying their motto)

And the delivery stats for an earnest prayer are the best.  They arrive at their destination nothing less than 100% of the time.

I don’t know about doing a New Year’s Resolution.  Mine usually end up as New Year’s Frustrations.  But maybe you and I can begin praying that God will remind us to pray. 

We can let the emotional strangulation we sometimes feel, become the trigger to post a prayer to heaven.

So maybe I should conclude with a prayer:  Lord I am certain – absolutely certain that I would be more able to handle the challenges of life, if my first response were to pray.  Would you help me, and us to develop that habit this year? 

This has been Jim Johnson and pickleheavenpress.com

May the grace of our Lord Jesus be with you!

Oliver Oglethorpe and the Christmas List — December 20, 2022
the cat lady — December 14, 2022

the cat lady

When the Christmas season rolls around, I often think of Edna who some called “The Cat Lady.” 

Edna needed a change, but she refused it – much like that difficult person in your life. 

I was teaching my youth group when Edna appeared.  She wore dirty clothes and matted hair.  There was a fungal growth the size of a softball on her forehead, and she smelled of cat urine.

She interrupted the meeting, pushed two empty milk jugs in my face and demanded that I fill them with water.  I tried to talk with her, but she wanted water not conversation.  I filled them and she left.

This became a Wednesday night ritual for Edna and me.  I learned that she had once been very wealthy but had spent it all.  She lived in a condemned apartment complex – the last of her holdings.

I learned that her brother was aware of her condition.  He loved her and was ready to financially support her – to get her a safe home and some professional help.  She refused. 

Social services regularly contacted me and quizzed me about her.  They were looking for grounds to commit her to institutional care but they were never able to make the case. 

I tried to help her as best I could, but she refused offers of transportation, hotel accommodations, food and so on.  Unfortunately, she was comfortable with her chaos.

One December night she came to the church flustered and frightened.  Someone had shattered her window and broken into her apartment.  She was afraid to go home, so I brought her to our house.

Her feline fragrance filled the car.  My three kids were speechless.  She slept in the living room next to our Christmas tree.  The kids feared she might steal the gifts. 

That morning she ordered me to board up the window that had been broken.  Only then would she feel safe.  I pulled up to her apartment complex.  It was surrounded by a chain link fence 8 feet high.  Inside the grounds were cats, hundreds, maybe a thousand cats roaming about.

There was also an acre of brown paper grocery bags overflowing with empty cat food cans.  I was thankful for the cats cause it meant no rats.  It was like a script from a sci-fi movie. 

I boarded up her window and made her very happy.  And that was the last time I saw the Cat Lady. 

I am by nature a compulsive fixer.  I really wanted to do more than board up that window.  I wanted to fix Edna, but she refused.

What do you do with someone like that – someone like your brother who is a lifelong alcoholic; or your dad who pummels you with his politics?  What do you do with your niece who greedily grabs onto every guy she meets or your daughter who has cut off all contact with you? 

You can’t fix em, but you can do a few things that may help.  First…

Love Em: Romans 2:4 tells us that it is God’s kindness that leads to repentance.  Kindness affects and draws others to us.  So fill the milk jugs with water for the Edna in your life.  Even if they don’t come around, it is still the right thing to do. 

Let up: It could be that they are reacting to us.  Our subtle efforts to try to change them could be galvanizing them and cementing them in their choices.  We think we are nudging them to the truth, but in reality, we may be pushing them away. 

Let God: Paul instructed Timothy, “I urge that requests, prayers, intercessions, and thanks be offered on behalf of all people.” – 1 Timothy 2:1.  We need to pray for those people.  It was the Lord who personally confronted Saul on the Damascus Road and transformed him into the apostle Paul.  God still pursues stubborn people.

A PRAYER: God please give us hope for those who seem to be hopeless.

This has been Jim Johnson and pickleheavenpress.com

May the grace of Our Lord Jesus be with you. 

Scripture references are from the NETBible.com

earth in pieces — December 7, 2022

earth in pieces

One of the most puzzling promises ever made was uttered on that first Christmas morn.  A multitude of heavenly hosts hovered over the shepherds of Bethlehem celebrating the birth of the Christ child.  They sang, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”  Luke 2:14 – KJV  

Peace on earth?  Today it’s more like earth in pieces!   Sabers are rattling all over the globe and our political leaders are devouring one another.  Pushing people off subway platforms has become a sport.

I work with people for a living.  I would estimate that probably half of those with whom I work have one or more family members that are alienated from them.  Where is the peace on earth of which the angels sang?

It may be in Kermit West Virginia! 

Back in my days at Bible College my wife and I represented the school by singing at various constituent churches.  On this particular Sunday morning we were headed to a Church in Kermit. 

Kermit is buried in the hills of Mingo County on the banks of the Tug Fork River – the border between West Virginia and Kentucky. 

It is the part of the country where some churches invite snakes into their worship services.  Oh joy!

It is also the region known as the battlefield of an infamous family feud.  This is where the Hatfields of West Virginia, waged a prolonged war with the McCoys of Kentucky. 

The first bushwhacking took place in 1865 at the hands of a Hatfield.  Retaliation took place in 1878 when a Hatfield was murdered for his testimony in court.  In 1882 there was dispute over a fiddle.  One McCoy died and 3 Hatfields were tied to a tree and executed.  The feud continued for 25 years, leaving behind 12 graves.

So, I wondered, “What kind of church would I find in Kermit?”  Would we be met at the door by Jed Clampett and his shotgun?  Do they use moonshine for Communion?  Will a McCoy be invited to handle a snake?

We arrived and entered the building and were warmly greeted by everyone that saw us.  In talking with the various church members, it was clear that this was a high-quality church.  They majored on the majors and reflected biblical truth in every way.

I was not surprised to meet several Hatfields there, but I was stunned to meet some McCoys.  The church sat on real estate that once separated the two warring families – but in this church the families were now joined in sweet fellowship.

I was genuinely amazed at the way the Gospel had erased the inbred bitterness.  This was a congregation that genuinely loved one another and their loved spilled over the banks of the Tug Fork. 

On the walls in the foyer were pictures of missionary families.  These families were fanned out across the globe to reach tribes and nations for Jesus.  The church financially and prayerfully supported those missionaries.  Formally feuding families were reaching the families of the world. 

Peace all over the place – the kind that the angels had in mind.  It’s a wonderful thing and we need more of it. 

The Scripture says, “we love because He first loved us.”  I wonder if we could also say, “we make peace because He first made peace with us.”  Peace begins with Jesus but needs to be distributed to those around us.

It’s an obligation in fact.  Hebrews 12:14 says, “Pursue peace with everyone.”  We may not always catch peace, but we can sure pursue it.   Because we have been crucified with Christ (Galatians 2:20), it is easier to do.  Dead folks don’t have ego issues. 

So, think on that person with whom you need to make peace and be the first one to say, “Hey I am sorry.” 

A PRAYER: Lord this Christmas Season may we lay aside the pride and help others experience peace on earth!

This has been Jim Johnson and pickleheavenpress.com

May the grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.

a hope with a date attached  — November 30, 2022

a hope with a date attached 

I decided to clean up the contact list on my phone.  I was sad to find that I needed to delete over three dozen friends and family members who had died.

Delete sounds awful, doesn’t it?  But it kind of feels that way when someone passes.  It causes us grief, which is certainly appropriate.  But grief can sometimes grab onto us and never let us go. 

Is there anything we can do about it? 

My wife desperately loves our kids.  She was a stay-at-home mom who wanted stay-at-home kids.

But alas, our son graduated from high school and immediately entered the Air Force.  His first duty assignment was in England – a transatlantic stretch of his mother’s love. 

She grieved the loss of his presence.  Her joy was marginal and her fretting miserable.  It felt to her like the end of the relationship.  Our gracious church foot the bill to send us there to visit.  He needed it.  She needed it more. 

A friend eventually came to the rescue.  She also had children who lived afar.  She told Sharie that she could manage the absence if she and her kids agreed on when they would be together again.  It was a hope with a date attached. 

So, Sharie began to do the same when our kids left the nest.  When a date was set, she found that she could endure the in-between.  A departure began to feel only like a brief interruption.

King David handled his grief in a similar way.  He had a newborn son who had become very ill.  He fasted and prayed as he grieved the potential loss of his baby boy.  Then the child died. 

He reacted, “So David got up from the ground, bathed, put on oil, and changed his clothes. He went to the house of the Lord and worshiped. Then, when he entered his palace, he requested that food be brought to him, and he ate.”  – 2 Samuel 12:20.

His attendants thought that he had lost his mind.  So, he explained, “While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept because I thought, ‘Perhaps the Lord will show pity and the child will live.’ But now he is dead. Why should I fast? Am I able to bring him back at this point?”  (v. 22-23b)

Good point David, but is there anything else?  Yes!  – He said, “I will go to him…!”  (v.23b)

David, who anticipated dwelling in the house of the Lord forever, also planned on doing it with his baby boy.  He had a hope with a date attached.

Now this is what Paul had to say to us about grief.

“…we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve like the rest who have no hope.”  1 Thessalonians 4:13-14

He spoke of Christians who had died, as being “asleep.”   Hmm! I’m pretty sure that my wife doesn’t cry and grieve when I take a nap.  Because – I’m still alive – just unavailable at the moment. 

Paul wants us to know that when a believer dies, there is no reason to despair because a day is coming when, “We who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will surely not go ahead of those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a shout of command, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be suddenly caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.” (4:15-17) – Together – again!

If you grieve the loss of a loved one – take heart for we have a hope with a date attached. 

A PRAYER: God thank you for such a hope   

This has been Jim Johnson and pickleheavenpress.com

May the grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.

Scripture references are from the NETBible.com

travel trauma — November 16, 2022

travel trauma

Like you’ve never been late!

My wife and I were sipping coffee on a sleepy Friday morning.  Our plan for the day was to pack for our three-week mission trip.  The next day we were headed to several African nations to visit various missionaries that had been sent out from our church. 

At 8 a.m. I happened to glance at our itinerary.  I was stunned when I realized that we were scheduled to depart at noon on that same day, TODAY!  My blood pressure could have inflated a tire. 

Planes within Africa fly their routes once or twice a week.  If we missed the first leg of the journey, the whole trip would be lost along with a fortune in airfare. 

I said to my wife, “Uh Sharie, um I just found out we are leaving today.”   She ignored me, “just another dumb Jim joke.”  With more assertiveness I said, “Honey we are leaving today.”  She said, “no.”  I said, “yes.”  She said, “no.” I said, “yes.”  “Let me see that,” she said.  She looked at it and then lost it.

We had 4 hours to shower, pack, make the 2-hour drive to Dallas, park the car, check in, wade through security and board the plane.  No way!

But we tried!  We showered faster than a couple of preteens.  She had postponed doing the laundry, which meant most of our clothes were dirty.  But she wadded them up and jammed them in the suitcase anyway.  What would the TSA think?

Toothbrushes, deodorant, hair gel were flying into the luggage.

We made it to the airport, but the south parking lot was full. We drove the full length of DFW to find that the north lot was also full, so we parked the car in short term parking.  It might be cheaper just to leave it there when we got back. 

We slipped into the plane just before they closed the door. Our collective adrenaline was pumping for the first 3 hours of our transatlantic flight. 

And then there were the typical airliner annoyances: cramped seating; crying babies; inconsiderate fellow passengers (my wife being the exception) and a bathroom that always seemed to say, “in use.”    

The journey was brutal – but arriving was breathtaking. 

We were greeted and treated like royalty by our missionaries.  There were tears and hugs and joy abounding.  We ate what they ate, saw what they saw, and joined them in their service to the Lord.  We had a superb time. 

As a bonus – we met exotic animals, saw dazzling displays, encountered curious cultures and experienced the wonder of God like never before. 

If we had to do over again, including the plane pain, we would do it.

Now, as a hospice chaplain, I counsel people who are on a difficult journey.  Some battle cancer, others COPD.  Some are disabled by stroke while others lose their memories to dementia. Some are whittled away by diabetes and others tremble with Parkinsons.

They look to me to help them make sense of it all.  So, I tell them about my traumatic and troublesome trip to Africa. 

But then I tell them about heaven, and I say, “The journey is sometimes brutal – but arriving is breathtaking.” 

Death is the portal to the glories that lie beyond.  But what lies beyond makes the journey worth it all.  The Psalmist put it this way, “In thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.” Psalm 16:11 KJV

How does the old song go? “It will be worth it all when we see Jesus. Life’s trials will seem so small when we see Christ; One glimpse of His dear face all sorrow will erase; So bravely run the race till we see Christ.”

The journey is sometimes brutal – but arriving is breathtaking. 

A PRAYER: Lord please help us be brave until then. 

This has been Jim Johnson and pickleheavenpress.com

May the grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.

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