Pickle Heaven Press-James R. Johnson

something to help you laugh and think about life with Christ

lion heartless — May 14, 2020

lion heartless

“So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is…fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”

Those were the words of Franklin D. Roosevelt on March 4th, 1933, as he became the 32nd President of the United States. 

Those words would have been just as relevant had he said them yesterday.  The grip of Covid seems to be loosening a little, and yet the experts are predicting a lingering and significant financial fallout and possibly a recycling of the virus. 

Be that as it may, the greatest threat has been and still is fear – fear of reopening for business, fear that my business won’t recover, fear that there will never be a vaccine, fear that my job is lost forever, fear that I’ll be sued if I cough at the grocery store, fear that my kids are never gonna get back to school.

And fear can make us do funny and irrational things. 

It was a zoo day for my wife and I and our youngest who was maybe 11 at the time.  We wandered over to the East Texas section to gaze upon bobcats, otters and eagles. 

As we rounded the corner, we came face-to-face with a mountain lion.  We do not have mountains in East Texas, but evidently, we have mountain lions.  They must use the same map app that I use.

Anyway, the lion was behind a wall of thick plexiglass and was settled far back in his faux natural enclosure.  She noticed us and lifted her head with curiosity.  My son entertained her with some antics that piqued her interest even more.  In fact, she tensed and began to slowly rise to her feet.  Her gaze was fixed on my son like he was a tasty gazelle.

And then, in a flash, she exploded forth (at 40 mph according to the experts) and didn’t stop until she came within a millimeter of the plexiglass.   It happened in 2 seconds. 

My wife and I were stunned – awestruck.  We looked over to see how our son reacted, but – He was gone.  He had run 30 feet away in the opposite direction also at 40 mph.

We nearly fell down laughing.  After all, the cat was contained.  She was securely controlled yet still he fled in fear. 

Some of us are running with him.     

But we need to know that our God has caged that which threatens us.  This is to say that our God is in control – total and complete – and this containment exceeds the strength of plexiglass. 

This is how the Psalmist put it, “Look! Israel’s Protector does not sleep or slumber. The Lord is your protector; the Lord is the shade at your right hand.  The sun will not harm you by day, or the moon by night.  The Lord will protect you from all harm; he will protect your life. The Lord will protect you in all you do, now and forevermore.”  – Psalm 121: 4-8 NET Bible ®

Did you catch how often the words protect and Protector were used?  Go back and read it again.  Our God is here to protect us from the razor-sharp claws of Covid   He contains the jaw-crushing bite to business.   There is no reason to run in fear.  

It’s been said that nothing can touch us which has not first passed through the hands of God. Now it’s true, He will sometimes allow us to be distressed in order to grow us and nudge us closer to Him, but never will He allow us to be destroyed – distressed but never destroyed.  

I confess that if I were to graph the level of my hope these days, it might track with the erratic ups and downs of the stock market.   Embarrassing but true.

My hope and yours, needs to be fixed not a fixed rate of return, but on the Lord of whom it was said, “For he has put everything in subjection under his feet.” – 1 Corinthians 15:27 NET Bible ®

Take a moment today to peer through your particular plexiglass pane.  What is it on the other side that causes you to tense up?  Then plant your feet before it, knowing that God stands between you and that threat. 

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.

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