Pickle Heaven Press-James R. Johnson

something to help you laugh and think about life with Christ

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.

prowler — March 2, 2022


If I were to start all over having kids, I might name each one “Siri” so they would answer me when I called.  I’m just being silly here, but it does cause me to ponder the perils of being alone.

I am thinking about the African Savannah, teeming with all kinds of safari life.  There in the tall grass is a hungry lion scanning the menu.  He spots a herd of wildebeests and fixates on the one that lags behind.  

Why is the mangy beest alone?   Could it be that he is tired, or maybe injured or sick, or maybe he had an issue with another wooly wildebeest.  Or maybe he was concerned about catching hoof and mouth disease from the unmasked.   Any of the above would make him the perfect prey.

The cunning lion is not going to attack a beast amid the herd.  Too much risk of failure or fatality.  He wants the loner – the one without the others to come to his defense.  Easy pickings. 

So, the lion lunges, lacerates, and then licks his lips over his tasty meal. 

I am guessing, this is why the apostle Peter used the lion as an illustration.  He wrote in 1 Peter 5:8, “Be sober and alert. Your enemy the devil, like a roaring lion, is on the prowl looking for someone to devour.”  NET Bible ®

Peter tells us that we are the prey, and the devil is the apex predator.  Despite a world jam-packed with people, the devil is a picky eater.  He prowls about looking for a certain someone to devour. 

Who?  Like the lion, he often seeks the one who is separated from the herd.  This person isn’t meeting with and being with other Christians in a local church. 

Why might that be?  Like the wildebeest, maybe the person is tired – worn out by their last church – taking a respite.  Maybe they have been emotionally injured, disillusioned with the pastor or board, leaving a limp in their spirit; or maybe this person is in conflict with another beastly church member. 

Separated from the herd – vulnerable – the perfect prey for the devil.  He exploits that advantage.   He lunges and lacerates so that spiritually tender hearts are hardened, temptation goes unchecked and ethics are compromised.  This is what happens to the spiritual nomad.

The result: The bond between God and the believer is strained and icy – giving way to a meaningless faith, self-destructive behavior, broken marriages, and fractured families. 

And the devil licks his lips over his tasty meal. 

Oh, if that person had been with the herd, someone would have surely sensed the danger early on.  They could have intervened and closed the ranks.

The herd could have massed together and overwhelmed the devil with their prayers.  If one was injured, they could have surrounded him and protected him in his weakness.

We need each other.  We need to be with each other, whether we got the shot or not – whether our body has antibodies or not.   We need to gather with the collection of imperfect people called the local church – cause it’s the perfect place for us.

I have been part of a small church.  The community there was rich.  People cared and looked out for each other.  They prayed for each other when the times were good and especially when they were tough. 

They provided meals when folks were sick, or babies were born.  They celebrated the anniversaries and birthdays.  They did a great job of living with and loving on each other.  They stood strong because they stood together. 

I have also been part of a large church and found the very same kind of supportive community in a healthy Sunday School class or a Lifegroup.  

My friend, why don’t you return to the herd if you are currently away from your church.  Find one if you don’t have a church home.  It’s the smart thing to do. 

A PRAYER: Lord I am setting my phone to remind me on Sunday morning to get up and get to church.  Please help me to follow through!

This has been Jim Johnson and pickleheavenpress.com

May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.

%d bloggers like this: