Pickle Heaven Press-James R. Johnson

something to help you laugh and think about life with Christ

lighten up — June 23, 2021

lighten up

lighten up – audio version

I lifted the hood of the car to find the compartment jammed packed with wire and steel.  The problem that needed fixed was inevitably in the hardest, darkest most awkward place to reach.  

I needed a flashlight and someone to focus the beam.  “Son, shine the light on this spot – this one right here – so I can see what I am doing.” 

He did okay – for the first three seconds, and then the beam started to bounce, and then it wandered some, then it moved to spotlight the beetle on the ground and then he dropped the flashlight and broke it while I was thinking words that I dare not say.   

With a new lightbulb, we resumed, and he did okay – for the first three seconds.  I finished the job in the dark while he projected shadow puppets on the wall. 

But I learned my lesson.  I bought one of those lamps that you strap to your head with an elastic band.  I could direct the beam to exactly where I was looking. 

Now when I work on the car, I do okay – for the first three seconds.

_______________________________

I am glad that God has provided a better source of light for me.  It is celebrated in Psalm 119:105, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” KJV

There the Psalmist compared our life’s journey to that of following a path, and the Scripture to a lamp that lights our way. 

In Bible days they lit up a home with an oil lamp made of baked clay.  A wick dropped through an opening, which would draw the olive oil that was pooled in the bottom.   It created a small, cozy source of light. 

But traveling was another matter.  Israel is a land of winding, hilly paths, strewn with lots of loose stones.  Travel was tough during the day and treacherous at night.

The light cast by an oil lamp was too small to be helpful.  So, the night traveler would modify it by hanging the lamp with three strands of cord and then holding it out before him, so that it was suspended near to the ground, right before his feet.   

It would cast the light directly onto the path before him – where he needed it most.  Just enough for a step or two at a time. 

“Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.”

The path before us these days feels a little dusky and we need illumination to get to our destination.

God’s Word is still that light.   It is a resource that helps us to properly understand our world and clues us in as to how we should respond to it.  It gives us the big picture, but it also provides the precise practical wisdom needed for the next few steps before us. 

We just got to know and understand what is written there.  We need to read it, study it and marinate our minds with it. 

I have digested the book of Proverbs many times, even created my own topical index.   I’m encouraged when I find myself instinctively operating by the sound principles there – and occasionally grieved when they have been violated.   Without a doubt the book has been a lamp to my feet. 

The problem is, it is easier for us to assume what is written in the Bible than to really study it out for ourselves.  The Word of God is clear, whereas our assumptions about it are sometimes muddied.  There are things that creep into our assumptions like our personal preferences and the cultural messages which bombard us. 

In fact, some of our “biblical” beliefs are not biblical at all.  As it was in the days of Isaiah, some are calling evil good, and good evil.  (Isaiah 5:20) We are wandering in the dark, stumbling over stones and walking off cliffs.

Hey I would not tell you what you ought to believe, but I will tell you where your beliefs can be safely sourced.  Take God’s Word and apply to it to your next few steps.  The journey will become so much easier.

A PRAYER: God help me to mine your Word for wisdom then shine that truth on my path.

This has been Jim Johnson with pickleheavenpress.   The Lord be with you

what if God chewed tobacco? — May 1, 2019

what if God chewed tobacco?

Jim Johnson – 773 words

I was new to Dallas and had just landed a well-paying job as a casual – unloading semi-trailers. As a casual, I would call into work each evening and if there was enough freight that day, I was given the green light to come in. Being a casual was perfect because I was also doing school. Not a problem to skip a day at the dock because there was always another casual who was eager to work.

The foreman hailed from west Texas. He had a drawl that reached to Lubbock and back. My northern ears had not yet adjusted. On top of that, he typically had a plug of tobacco tucked in his cheek. It was easier to put socks on a rooster than to understand him when he spoke.

My first day, he handed me a clipboard with the number of the truck that I was to unload and then he spoke to me. It sounded like, “slurburshebedee.” I said, “What?” He repeated, “slurburshebedee!” I asked again and evidently crossed a line. There was fire in his eyes and a rivulet of tobaccy juice oozing from the corner of his mouth. I saved myself by saying, “Oh I got it,” as if I understood, and then went to my truck.

This became our ritual. He would speak a couple of words, and I would pretend that I understood. But one day, he came to my truck and wanted to chat. Oh no! He spoke – I tried to decode. When he paused, I figured he had come to the end of a sentence, so I would nod my head yes, or chuckle, or say “I bet.” He could have been telling me that his wife had just died, and I chuckled and said, “I bet.” Two minutes later he was gone. Looked like I pulled it off again.

The next day I had a test at school, so I didn’t call in at work. The day after, I did, and was given the green light. But when I reported to the foreman, there was fire in his eyes again. I got the message this time. That day in the truck, he had asked me to become a regular and work full time. I nodded yes, so he told me to report the next day – which I didn’t, and he was not happy. I kept my job as a casual, but only for a couple weeks more. My loss!

Soooo – what if God had a cheek stuffed with Red Man Chew? What if He spoke so that every one-syllable word had two? What if John 3:16 read as, “slurburshebedee?”

Fortunately for us, God spoke with crystal clarity in His Word. It is so clear that it is to be used as a precision tool, like a lathe, to shape us (2 Tim 3:16-17). Is there anything unclear about the words, “You shall not steal?”

Though clear, we still hear a muddled message. Jesus said of His disciples, “You have ears but are unable to hear.” (Mark 8:18). This is because we allow our preconceptions and self-centered conditions to confuse His message. We want God to say what we want to hear, which keeps us from really hearing what He has said.

The better way is to lay aside our personal baggage, take His Word at face value and respond in an appropriate way.

As a pastor, I found that a sermon on giving was about as welcome as an outhouse breeze. (We say that in Texas!) But I’m not a pastor now and I ain’t got a dog in this fight (we say that too!) So, let me use giving as an example.

God spoke about it in 2 Cor. 9. There He said, “The person who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the person who sows generously will also reap generously. (2 Cor 9:6) NET Bible® His point: The one who generously gives their money toward God’s purposes, will be generously blessed by God (and vice versa)

The truth is clear – but we muddle it up: “That’s not what it means” or “that was a promise given exclusively to the Corinthians” or “I can honor God in other ways” – or whatever.

Not cool. The better way is to lay aside our personal baggage, take His Word at face value and respond in an appropriate way no matter the issue.

It has taken some time, but now, not only do I understand a Texas drawl, I can speak it. Ya’ll hear? But with God, I am still working on listening clearly and responding fully.

And should my beloved former boss be a reader, may I say, “slurburshebedee!”

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