Pickle Heaven Press-James R. Johnson

something to help you laugh and think about life with Christ

whatabungle! — February 24, 2021


I blew it again!  In my defense, it had been a tough day.   My car broke down, my wife wasn’t happy, and I was running late for church where I had to teach that night.   

So, we dropped into a Whataburger for a quick bite on the way.   The young man taking orders, must have just started his employment there 10 minutes before we arrived.

My wife had to repeat and explain our order 4 times.   “Two hamburgers: one with mustard the other mayonnaise.”   When they were delivered – both had mayo.   She took back the mistake and he fell apart thinking that she was trying to covertly infect the place with Covid.

That’s when I lost it.  I went to the counter and with a stern voice and a scowl, I said, “We want two hamburgers: one with mustard the other mayonnaise.” 

Back at the table, my wife had more ice in her attitude than I had in my cup.   They corrected the problem; we ate and then drove to church in silence. 

And that’s when things really got bad.  The lesson touched on the wilderness episode when the grumblers cried for more water.  God told Moses to speak to a rock and it would issue forth in water.  (Numbers 20:8) 

Moses, however, had a bad day too.  Maybe his donkey broke down.  The Scripture says, “Then Moses and Aaron gathered the community together in front of the rock, and he said to them, “Listen, you rebels, must we bring water out of this rock for you?” Then Moses raised his hand and struck the rock twice with his staff.” – Num 20:10-11  He struck the rock in anger rather than speaking to it as instructed.

Moses was hot! 

God provided anyway, but He had some choice words for Moses.  He said, “Because you did not trust me enough to show me as holy before the Israelites, therefore you will not bring this community into the land I have given them.”  – Numbers 20:12

The Lord was hotter – but with Moses. 

As I read those words to the class, the Holy Spirit rudely interrupted me and seemed to say, “Hey dummy, how can you teach this this stuff when you did the very same thing?”

I began to stumble on my aimless words until I blurted out, “Folks, I am sad to say that I just did this very same thing.”  I was angry and my words and attitude misrepresented the God I profess to serve.

And everyone got up and walked out!   (Actually, they were quite understanding.) 

So, have you ever had the Spirit of God sit on you for something you have said or done?  Scripture says His job is to “convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment.”  – John 16:8  NASB

His is that still small voice that energizes our conscience – an umpire that helps us see straight when our minds have twisted the path. 

At times He speaks directly to our conscience as he did that night with me.  Sometimes He uses the written or taught Word of God again as He did with me. You may hear Him in the voice of another person or see his displeasure in the face of your wife while you eat a Whataburger. (with mustard)  

It’s an uncomfortable feeling – something you want to escape or cover up – quickly.  Some of us turn it off, like a smoke alarm that’s chirping.  To turn off that voice, however, is to grow to be calloused and insensitive to God and others. 

There is only one sane way to respond to that voice!   

After church I returned to the restaurant and found the young man still at his post.  I said, “I was here earlier and was impatient with you and I am sorry.”  He said, “That’s OK.”  I said, “It’s not.  Please tell the folks in kitchen that the old man with white hair came in and said he was sorry.” 

He was excited and he said, “Yes sir, what’s your name?”  I said, “Trevor Bergman.” (the name of my son-in-law) – – – Just kidding. I gave him my name. 

And I was able to fall asleep that night at peace with God and man, knowing that God was still speaking to me – and that I had taken responsibility for my sin. 

A PRAYER: Help me better tune into the frequency at which you speak.

Scripture references from NET Bible® unless otherwise noted.

shoes too big — August 28, 2019

shoes too big

james ray johnson

My son was in the marching band.  His uniform included a pair of white shoes – stark white shoes.  You could wear them in the dark to find your way.

I had to provide these shoes.  They were expensive and only good for marching.   We tried to get him to forgo the prom rentals and wear his whities instead, but he refused. 

Every two years we had to upsize to accommodate his growing feet.  We forced his discards on his younger brother. 

This worked well until his junior year.  He was wearing size 16 by then.   They don’t carry size 16 white shoes at Wal-Mart.  But we did locate a pair at abominable-snowman.com. 

His little brother tried them on, and we decided to ship him to Florida to audition for the Ringling Brothers Circus: Atten: Clown Department.  

My son most definitely left behind some big shoes to fill.

But so did my dad!

Dad was my childhood hero without a doubt.  Such a hard worker.  He was once actually criticized by the union steward who said, “Slow down, you’re making the rest of us look bad.”

He had opportunities to move into management, but he turned them down because it would have meant upending his family.

He put his kids through private school and financed it by doing things like cutting his own hair.

He could warm your bottom with a needed swat, and then warm your heart with a hug.

He seldom interfered once I was on my own, but was ready to offer sound advice when I sought it.  

He wasn’t a perfect man, but certainly a good one. 

Dad has gone on to glory.  His enormous shoes are empty and need to be filled.  Could I be that kind of man for my wife and kids, my grandkids and my employer? 

Possibly!  Moses, the legendary leader of Israel, had died, after he had led Israel out of Egypt, through the Red Sea, around the wilderness and to the east bank of the Jordan River. 

A younger man named Joshua was tasked with leading the nation across the river and into the land to finish what Moses had started – to claim the promises that God made to Abraham centuries before. 

Moses’ sandals felt like size 16s.  But God knew that, which is why He told him, “Be strong and brave! Don’t be afraid and don’t panic, for I, the Lord your God, am with you in all you do.” – Joshua 1:9, -NET Bible®.    

There was lots to fear – hostile forces, a sketchy supply chain and the prospect of failure.  God didn’t diminish the challenges, but He magnified the solution instead.  He promised to go with him wherever he went and in all that he did.

God told him to be brave.  I am not sure that you can just will yourself to feel brave, when you are feeling afraid.  You can however, move forward, despite your fears, trusting God to help you succeed.  That’s the kind of bravery the Lord had in mind for Joshua.

As a kid, I watched some teens play pinball at the bowling alley.  I accidentally bumped the table.  The game began to flash the word “tilt” and it shut down.  There were 3 angry teenage boys ready to tilt me.  I was terrified. 

Just then, my dad appeared.  I ran to him and left my fears back at the pinball machine.  The presence of a father can do that for a kid. 

Joshua assumed the lead.  When his crew stepped in the waters of the Jordan, the river ceased to flow, and Israel walked through it, just as they had once walked through the Red Sea with Moses.

What shoes do you need to fill?  

Are you subbing for a beloved teacher or maybe replacing the supervisor at work who just retired?  Perhaps the memory of your mother is making you feel inadequate as a mom or maybe you are a widower and your wife has left a huge hole in your family life.  If so – remember, “Be strong and brave! Don’t be afraid and don’t panic, for I, the Lord your God, am with you in all you do.”

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