Pickle Heaven Press-James R. Johnson

something to help you laugh and think about life with Christ

on the field — June 17, 2020

on the field

As we approach Father’s Day, I want to share a dad story with you.  My dad was a great athlete – super gifted.   He has bowled 300 and has played ping pong with the top ranked players in the world, but his love was football.

He played first string throughout his high school years and made the elite all-star team   He turned down scholarships to a couple of serious football schools because his single mom needed him at home.  Athletic skill and character – an uncommon mix today.

Anyway, I wanted to be just like dad, and I was, except that I had the athletic skill of fencepost.   Nevertheless, I took to the gridiron in 6th grade.  Dad was there for every game and most practices.  He was nuts about football.

He even volunteered himself to be the timekeeper for our games.   As timekeeper, he would stand 8 paces or so behind the offensive huddle and watch the watch.

Unfortunately, he was a chain smoker of cigars – King Edward – the cheapest money could buy.  He lit up and continued throughout each game.  The smoke was heavy and noxious.  There were times when the huddled were befuddled by cloud of smoke.  Oh, how we would gasp and cough.

On a good day, he could create a smokescreen that enveloped the quarterback and hid him from the defense.  The ref wanted to throw a flag, but it wasn’t against the rules

Honestly, there were times I was more than embarrassed.

But there was an upside to his service as a timekeeper.  For one thing, he wasn’t able to yell from the sidelines.  “Hey ref, my grandmother could have seen that guy was clipping!”

And then there was this:  When I picked myself up from the bottom of a dogpile and began to limp back to the huddle – the first thing I would see was my dad.

It was sort of surreal – there he was, nearby, in the midst of the haze.  When I did well – I saw him smile.  When I missed a block there would be an inspiring tilt to his head.  When I was called for off-sides, he would cast an understanding glance!  It was comforting to have him right there. 

I was amused to discover that God handled His duties much as my dad did.

Moses led Israel out of Egypt and into the wilderness, and they were terrified of what was behind and before them.  They needed some powerful reassurance.

So, God had them build a portable place of worship.  In this place, God promised to manifest His presence.   He wanted His people to know that He was nearby – to hear His words and sense His response to them.  He hoped to be more than a concept to His people.

They created the tabernacle and within its tent sat the Ark of the Covenant.  It was at that gilded box that God made His presence known.

And when the people marched to the promised land, the ark would precede them.  When they stopped and camped, the ark would be centered among them.  The Lord was always within eyeshot of every one of His people – near the huddle.

And would you believe it, He chose to present Himself as being surrounded by a smoke-like cloud.  But there was no King Edward for this King.  The cloud that signaled the presence of God was glorious.  (and free of tar and nicotine)

The presence of my dad on the field was indescribably comforting.   But I find even greater comfort knowing that my Lord still stands on the field of life with me just as He did in the wilderness.  He promises, “I am with you always.”  – Matthew 28:20 NETBible ®

And He comes with no warning from the Surgeon General.

Does life have you under a dogpile at the moment?  Look up.  He is there on the field with you.

twinkie tutor — March 13, 2019

twinkie tutor

James Ray Johnson – 752 words

Football practice was brutal that day!  I was 11 years old and truly believed I had to get something to eat or I would die.  So, I went to Elbon’s, the corner store, named after the owner.  I think that was his first name, but maybe his last.  I don’t know!   I plunked down a quarter and bought two packages of Hostess Twinkies.  (Oh, like you have never done that!)  I was excited!  2 packages of 2, for a total of 4 delectable tubes of cream-filled sponge cake. All mine!

I left the store and with trembling fingers, tore into the crinkly cellophane of the first package.  And then, the saddest thing happened.  I fumbled with the twinkie and helplessly watched as it tumbled out (along with its brother). 

I tried to catch them, but with two falling at once, I looked like a twinkie juggler who didn’t make the cut on America’s Got Talent.  Both ended up on the dirty gritty sidewalk below.

Tragic to be sure.  Two twinkies had perished BUT thankfully I still had my second package.  So, as you might expect, I wound up and threw it, with all my might, at the brick exterior of Elbon’s.  And they stuck, reduced to a yellow and white Rorschach blot on the wall.  There!  I taught those naughty Twinkies a lesson.  They’ll never do that to me again.   

It sort-of felt good, for about a half a millisecond, until I was stunned by my own stupidity.  I ended up with zero Twinkies and with no money left to buy more.   I lost one package, and my anger caused me to destroy the other – leaving me nothing.   

Why did I do that?  I don’t know!  I had red hair and was known to have, what they call in the south, “a red-headed temper.”  It was even said of Anne Shirley of Green Gables (from up north) “her temper matches her hair.”  Can I blame it on my genes?

It wasn’t until I was a young adult that I realized that this was ridiculous a pattern in my life.  I would lose one thing then let my anger steal the rest.   Solomon captured the dynamic in Proverbs 19:19, “A person with great anger bears the penalty.”  (NET Bible®) 

A friend promised to play tennis with me.  He bailed so I, “unfriended him.”  Which really wasn’t a thing back then – but I did it anyway.  How dumb.  I took a really rewarding relationship and trashed it because I didn’t get my way.  Sure, he was insensitive and, yes, we needed to talk – but I let my anger nuke that possibility.

And there was the time my boss crossed me, so I quit in a snit; or the time my car broke down for the 6th time, so I defied it by driving it to the junkyard and selling it for pennies on the dollar; or the time my dad hurt me, and I returned the favor.   Each scenario just as dumb as my Twinkie trauma.  I lost one thing then let my anger steal the rest.

I am glad that Jesus finally got a hold of me.   With His Spirit in control, my frequent “outbursts of anger” have been upstaged by long spans of “self-control.”  (Galatians 5:20-23)

My hair is now white, and yet there is still red-headed DNA lurking in the roots.  When I am not walking with Jesus, my temper is the first thing to show.    

My Twinkie tale, however, has become a great asset.  I dutifully but shamefully confessed it to my three children when they were little and then used it against them as needed.  When my teen threw a fit because she had to be home at ten, I would say, “Do you really want to throw away your other Twinkie?” She would back down thinking, “I don’t want to be as dumb as dad was.”   I also use the story with my grand kids which is necessary because the red-headed gene keeps popping up in my family.  And you are welcome, as well, to throw me under the bus and use the story with your progeny.

The story also gives me a chance to make you chuckle and to remind you that we all have our own anger issues.  Be careful!  Anger is often reckless and always costly!   “Better to be slow to anger than to be a mighty warrior.”  (Proverbs 16:32) NET Bible®

Oh, and Mr. Elbon, sorry about the Twinkie stain on your wall!

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