Pickle Heaven Press-James R. Johnson

something to help you laugh and think about life with Christ

stolen piece — April 22, 2020

stolen piece

It was solemn moment in the service. Communion was being served. The tradition of the church was for folks to rise, move to the center aisle and go forward, receive communion and then return by the side aisle.

My friend Steve had just returned and had taken his seat when something in his peripheral vision frightened him.  There was a big, ugly, hairy animal on his arm.  He stifled a scream, jumped up and tried to shake the fearful thing off onto the next guy, but it had a tenacious hold on him.

He paused and realized that the beast was actually a bushy lady’s wig.   He snagged it with his coat button when he returned from communion.  OK this was absurdly embarrassing.

He discreetly scanned the row in front of him for a seated lady without any hair.  And there she was – an older, dignified matron who had no idea that her glory was missing.  Her husband noticed, however, and laughed himself under the pew.

I asked Steve what it was like doing church with her after that.  He said, “Every time they met, she gave him an icy stare and a grunt.

And who could blame her?  He exposed her scruffy scalp to the church!  He put her imperfection on display for all to see!   Oh my!

We will forgive him for that because it was an accident, but some of us do it quite purposefully.

During the Covid-19 confinement I had an occasion to personally speak with the Sheriff of one of our counties in East Texas.  I asked him if he was seeing the same uptick in crime that they were experiencing in New York.  He said not in terms of robberies, but the number of domestic 911 calls were spiraling up. 

Couples were getting into fistfights over the TV remote or a thoughtless remark – trivial offenses that didn’t really matter before.

I get it.  The quarantine is taxing. People are sitting around, with little to do, and their frustration is translated into impatience with their 24-hour-a-day companions.  Its crazy!  People are facing essentially a life and death situation and yet they are squabbling over who gets to wear the prettiest facemask. 

It’s at times like these we need the counsel of the Word of God. 

The Apostle Paul wrote, “Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with a heart of mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if someone happens to have a complaint against anyone else. Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also forgive others.”   Col 3:12-13  NET Bible ®

I love every word of this prescription.  Our homes would be astounding if we filled them with mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.  But sometimes the only thing we are capable of doing is, “bearing with one another.” 

The word “bearing” in the Greek more specifically means, “to endure” one another.   To endure is to put up with someone.  Yes, your wife may talk incessantly when she is frightened, but who isn’t frightened at the moment? Instead of attacking her, maybe you just need to bear it. 

He thinks he owns the TV remote.  Why go to war over it?  He will be back to work soon, then you can wipe it down with a sanitizer cloth and have it all yourself.  In the meantime, maybe you just need to bear it.

Along with the “bearing” Paul adds “forgiving.” – always appropriate especially because we have been forgiven.   Maybe Steve should have been forgiven for heisting her hairpiece?

Solomon the wise adds this to the mix. “He who conceals a transgression seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates intimate friends.”   – Prov 17:9  NASU  Rather than camping on offense we should conceal it to minimize the embarrassment.  

Maybe the husband of the hairless wife should have quit laughing and discreetly helped to her to get rewigged?   As it was, she was on her own.  She turned, stared at Steve and said, “Hey you, boy, give me that hair!” 

Now of course, I am not suggesting that we should forever ignore personal differences.  A healthy relationship will withstand and prosper when effort is made to resolve these things.  But there are times, however, that its best just to bear them.  This may be the time!

Cut Off — April 18, 2020
bullied — April 15, 2020

bullied

I too went to a school that had its school bully.  He was 6” taller and 6” wider than the rest of us and wore a crew cut and a scowl.  I will seal his juvenile record by calling him Biff. 

Biff was always on the prowl, ever with a growl.  He pushed his way around and intimidated we wee ones.  He certainly liked to pick on me. 

One day we were sitting at the lunch table.  To my right was my bosom buddy.  We were pals because I was funny, and he liked to laugh.  Across from us sat Biff. 

I sensed an opportunity.  I waited until my friend grabbed his carton of milk and put it to his lips (the cool boys didn’t use a straw).  Then with the comic timing of Jim Gaffigan, I said something funny. 

His mouth instantly exploded with laughter, thus showering Biff with milk.  His face and shirt were covered.  It was so perfect.  The whole table of kids howled.  Biff reacted, jumping up and lurching across the table to grab me.

I got up and ran.  My friend watched and laughed.  Biff chased me around the cafeteria.  (Where was Sister Mary Cletus when I needed her?)   

I exited the school with him right on my tail.  I ran down Loretta Ave – one block, two blocks and three.  His face was a pace behind.  My lungs were starved for air, but I ran.

I circled back, thinking I could find help at school.  The cafeteria was empty – all had gone back to class.  I was alone and Biff did not relent.

I ran into the girl’s bathroom thinking Biff wouldn’t dare, but he did.  (Hey, did you know that the girl’s bathroom smells better than the boy’s) 

I was trapped in a stall, on a pot, cowering in fear, while he blocked me in with his massive frame. I trembled as I waited to get another beating.

I still remember that fearful sickening feeling in the pit of my stomach.  

In fact, I am feeling it again – but this time the bully is a lethal virus that seems every bit as relentless. 

I watch the news and get a daily dose of despair.  The economy is unraveling, the death toll is rising, and the hope of full recovery is pushed back every day.  

And the aloneness is profound.  Social distancing is one thing, but the people and things that I look to for help aren’t there for me.  Government seems to dither, I can’t gather with the saints at church, and out of caution I am not able to be with my kids and grandkids.  

But I do find comfort in the words of Paul in 2 Timothy 4:16-18.  “At my first defense no one appeared in my support; instead they all deserted me—may they not be held accountable for it.” 

Paul, was in Rome at the time, on trial for preaching the faith.  The apostle was typically surrounded by a host of others, but at the time he went to trial, they bailed.  Should Paul be found guilty, he would face the lions in the Roman Coliseum while a bloodthirsty crowd cheered.  He was facing a frightening scenario.

It was a vulnerable moment for Paul when he said, “no one appeared in my support” – “they all deserted me.”   

He went on to say, “But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the message would be fully proclaimed for all the Gentiles to hear.” (17)  He spoke of a unique experience with the Lord – as if the Lord was at his side, serving as his defense attorney.  

Of course, the Lord has promised to always be with us (Matthew 28:20) but Paul seemed to be speaking of a unique experience – a special grace that he could sense. 

The Lord calmed the tremble in his hands, straightened his weak knees and gave him convincing and powerful words.  He strengthened Him. 

That’s what I need right now.  I want to sense the Lord standing with me.  I need to experience His strengthening.  Perhaps I would have it if I were to consult with my heavenly attorney more often through prayer.

Paul concluded, “And so I was delivered from the lion’s mouth!”   He was acquitted and set free. 

Back in that bathroom stall, I was stunned.  Biff was ready to pounce, when suddenly he turned and just walked away.  Maybe he was a nicer guy than I had previously thought.  Either way, I too was delivered from the lion’s mouth.  And so, shall we! 

Scripture translation is from the NET Bible ®

death where is thy fang — April 8, 2020

death where is thy fang

It was Vacation Bible School.  Our theme for the week was Bible Barnyard.  We took animals that were referenced in the Bible, brought them to the church and then used them as object lessons. 

We cast our pearls before a guest swine who had the manners of a pig.  There was a sheep that strayed by to teach us how to follow our shepherd.  Then there was the snow-white dove that dropped in to remind us to be gentle as we make our way through this world. 

The wolves were already booked elsewhere – a wedding I think – but we did have a serpent make a guest appearance.  It belonged to a member of the church.  He did a great job of teaching us to be shrewd as we interact with our world. 

The kids loved the him. They reached their hands into his glass enclosure and let him thread himself through their fingers.  We became a snake handling church for the day!  He seemed safe enough.

As the session came to an end, the snake’s owner told me that the serpent was due to be fed.  She asked if the kids might like to see it.  I said “Sure.” 

So, she dropped a little grey mouse into the cage.  The kids crowded around.  They connected with the cute little fuzz ball that was skittering about.  They oohed and giggled until – with lightning speed – the snake inhaled the mouse. 

Half the kids were awed by it.  The other half – not so much.  There was a scream explosion.  Not just one kid – at least a half a dozen – and it was catching.  They whimpered and blubbered and sobbed and they were loud. I was ready to line up some grief counselors. 

The cute, fuzzy, innocent, little mouse was swallowed whole by the cold-blooded, villainous reptile. I wanted to cry too.

The drama prompts me to think back to Calvary.  Jesus was not as cute, but many were deeply attached to Him.  He had healed the broken and ambulated the lame.  He brought the sparkle back into blinded eyes and the sound of laughter to empty ears. 

He touched the diseased, welcomed the outcast and courageously defended the downtrodden.  He was admired, esteemed and cherished. 

And then He was abruptly inhaled by death – and all creation screamed. 

The sun was obscured by a sheer veil of darkness.  The earth trembled and shook with sorrow as her rocks shattered.  The cavernous temple was filled with the harsh sound of tearing as the massive partition curtain was rent.  A river of tears flowed down the hill of Calvary from the faithful that were huddled there.

The cross was not the way His story should have ended.  But that’s the way it was – and all creation screamed in protest. 

Unlike our little mouse, however, it was His choice! -a decision that was all about us. 

“Christ also loved us and gave himself for us.”  – Ephesians 5:2

“Christ loved the church and gave himself for her.”  – Ephesians 5:25

“the Son of God…loved me and gave himself for me.” –  Galatians 2:20

Oh, how amazing it would have been, if that little fuzz ball of a mouse could have backed out of the jaws of the serpent.  The bitter would have become better for our distraught kids. 

Jesus, on the other hand, backed out of His tomb – having been truly and fully dead for 3 days.  His glorious resurrection was also all about us.  Paul wrote, “Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too may live a new life.”  – Romans 6:4

Do you believe it?  It is important that you do says Paul, “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” – Romans 10:9

What does that mean “You will be saved?” It means, little mouse, that the python of death will never be able to swallow the one who belongs to Jesus. 

It is the Easter season – a perfect time to confess Jesus with your mouth and believe in Jesus in your heart.

All biblical references from the NET Bible ®

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!

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