Pickle Heaven Press-James R. Johnson

something to help you laugh and think about life with Christ

garbage smuggler — January 13, 2021

garbage smuggler

Lunchtime in elementary school – what blah memories.   Most of us did a brown bag lunch.  The content of mine was mind-numbingly predictable: a bologna sandwich, ruffled potato chips in a baggie; 2 discount brand vanilla sandwich cookies and a piece of fruit complemented by a carton of milk from the machine. 

The rest of the boys fared no better. So, we got in the habit of eating the best stuff and throwing the rest away.  (horrible I know) However, the nuns who taught us caught us.  So, Mother Superior ordered that a guard be posted at every trashcan to stem the mindless waste.  (this is true – scouts honor)

So, the challenge for us, was to hide the sandwich and the fruit in the tiny milk carton and then smash it so small that, it would appear to be impossible for anything to be in it.  We were human trash compactors.

The nun stood behind the receptacle with her arms crossed and a scowl on her face.   Sam was the first to try.  He put on his best “I’m not guilty of doing anything” look.  Then he ambled forward and nonchalantly dropped the compressed 10-pound carton in.

She didn’t blink!  He did it!   He beat the sentry of the gulag (or maybe it was goulash).  The rest of us followed.  We successfully smuggled our garbage.


Have you ever tried to do that with sin?  Of course, you have.  Most of us have. 

In the frailty of our humanity, we do something, or say something, or maybe even think something that we shouldn’t.   It may be simply an offense against God, or an offense against another person or both.

We are ashamed and fearful of being found out which stirs up a dark mood. King David, a sinner of renown, spoke to God about this.  He said, “When I refused to confess my sin, my whole body wasted away, while I groaned in pain all day long.”  Psalm 32:3 NET

We try to stem the sour feelings, by stuffing it in a metaphysical milk carton hoping to slip it by the eyes of God.   But the soulish part of us continues to point the finger of blame.

To recognize and address it, would feel like adding another thick layer of humiliation.  So, we hide it.

David was experienced with the torment – enough to add these words, “Then I confessed my sin; I no longer covered up my wrongdoing. I said, “I will confess my rebellious acts to the Lord.”   – 32:5 

He faced his failure- confessed his sin.  He found understanding, grace and the one thing he needed most “and then you forgave my sins.“ –  32:6  NET

How good it is; how freeing it is to be forgiven.  The guilt is gone; the joy returned. 

And then do you know what that crazy David did?  He confessed it to everyone else as well.  He recorded his mess in a Psalm which was to be used in the worship liturgy of Israel. 

David eventually stood side-by-side with his people in worship as they sang of his sin in Psalm 32. 

What was he thinking?  Maybe this!  “Well we’re all human.  I messed up and I am embarrassed for people to know, but it would be utterly humiliating if I tried to hide my sin and it were discovered.  So why not be up front about it?  God has forgiven me, and maybe others can learn from my mistakes.” 

His fellow worshipper was thinking: “Wow I had no idea, but David sure is an honest and courageous man.  Maybe I should be honest about my own sin.”

Maybe we should too!

A PRAYER: Oh God as I finally bare my soul, please fully grant your forgiveness.

cornered — September 4, 2019


james ray johnson

My mother-in-law lived in a home that was last updated during the Eisenhower administration.   One day she came into a little money and decided to freshen up her long-neglected living room.

The walls were begging for fresh paint, so my dad and I volunteered our brushes and went after it. The dingy, quickly gave way to the bright and beautiful. 

She began with a professional carpet cleaning.  The carpet was of a high-quality which was a very dark shade of gray, except it wasn’t.  The cleaning made it five shades lighter.  Did I mention years of neglect? 

We happily worked our way around the room until we came to a triangular-shaped corner cabinet.   We needed to move it to paint behind it, but Margaret wouldn’t hear of it. 

She wanted us to just paint around it.  We were puzzled of course!  What was she hiding? A wall safe? Letters from a high school sweetheart?  A portal to Narnia? 

The more we insisted, the louder her protest.  But dad and I were thorough types, so we ignored her and pulled out the cabinet from the wall.   We were stunned by what we found.

There, on the carpet, was a perfectly formed, filthy, black triangle where the cabinet had stood.  It looked a giant rug tattoo.  The cabinet had clearly not been moved for many years.  

I guess she won the argument with the carpet cleaner.  He was forced to clean around it.

Aw but don’t judge my mother-in-law. She is no different than the rest of us.  What she did to her carpet, we do to our souls. 

Jesus is our carpet cleaner.  His job is to cleanse us from the filth of sin.  The Bible employs the word “wash” to describe what He does for us. (1 Cor 6:11, Heb. 10:22)   How wonderful?  Who doesn’t like to be freshly showered? 

I remember when I first experienced that cleansing. I sought his forgiveness for the things I had stolen, for the people I had hurt, and for rejecting Him and His will for my life.  He forgave me and washed me clean.  The stains of sin were dissolved by His rich mercy and grace.  I felt spiritually fresh.

But, like my mother-in-law, I gave Jesus limited access to my soul.  There was still a small corner that I protected – a filthy spot that was “hidden” from the Lord and the people around me. It was a corner too troublesome to touch and embarrassing to explore.

Pride was the stronghold that continued to accumulate grime beneath my cabinet. 

That was mine!  What’s yours?  Do you harbor bitterness toward your parent(s) or maybe a former love interest?  Do your insecurities compel you to compromise your purity?  Are you strangled by guilt over that secret abortion?   Do you wake up at night wondering if that fatherless boy is actually your child?  It’s uncomfortable – isn’t it? 

We did my mother-in-law a favor when we removed the cabinet.  Once the spot finally saw the light of day, we applied a soapy brush to it.  It dried to look as good as the rest of the carpet.  She was greatly relieved and genuinely delighted.

Sin is very much like that.  It needs to first be exposed.   For a year after I came to Christ, pride lurked in that dark corner of my heart.  But then Jesus pulled back the mask. His Spirit weighed down my spirit until I confessed it and surrendered it to Him. 

Heads up!  Think of this blog as God’s way of moving the cabinet that conceals your sin.  He seeks your permission now to mercifully clean up your mess.

What you need to know, was written in 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous, forgiving us our sins and cleansing us from all unrighteousness.”  -NET Bible®. (with the emphasis on all!)

Consider the text to the old hymn: “Come ye sinners, poor and needy; Bruised and broken by the fall. Jesus ready stands to save you; Full of pardoning love for all.” 

Listen to the song link below and consider the words above and then surrender that stubborn dark spot to the Lord Jesus.   You’ll be greatly relieved and genuinely delighted if you do.

Come Ye Sinners: guitar and arrangement Jim Johnson
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