Pickle Heaven Press-James R. Johnson

something to help you laugh and think about life with Christ

lumpy — March 9, 2022


What game is well over 100 years old now, involves 2 players, a rope, a ball, a pole and a lumpy head?   

Tetherball of course! 

Back in 1909, a woman by the name of Jessie Bancroft, gave us the game in her book Games for the Playground.  You may remember Miss Bancroft.  She was the President of the American Posture League.  (They rejected my membership application)

Anyway, in tetherball, a ball is tied, by a rope, to the top of a pole.  Two players face each other.  One slams the ball with their fist, with the goal of wrapping the rope around the pole until the ball touches it. 

I remember learning the sport.  I would wind up and pound the ball as hard as I could, but before I could reposition myself, the ball would circle around the pole and hit me in the back of the head.  That’s the crazy thing about tetherball – the ball always returns to you. 

I seldom won, but tetherball taught me a life lesson that has given me a measure of wisdom which is this: “What goes around comes around!” 

Solomon said as much in Proverbs 11:25. He wrote, “A generous person will be enriched, and the one who provides water for others will himself be satisfied.” Solomon gave us a wisdom principle.  Be kind and generous to others and they will tend to treat you the same way.  I like the way that the New American renders it, “He who waters, will himself be watered.”  

This is consistent with our own experiences isn’t it?  A guy helped his neighbor mow his lawn when the man’s mower died, and that fall the neighbor joined him as he raked his yard.   The cashier was a little snippy, but her customer was so kind and positive, that the cashier volunteered to bag her groceries for her. 

The ball comes back around the pole to bring the blessing we sow.

But there is the flip side too. 

In Proverbs 26 Solomon also wrote about the evil we might do.  He mentioned lying, hatred and all other kinds of mischief.  He then capped it off in verse 27 saying, “The one who digs a pit will fall into it; the one who rolls a stone—it will come back on him.”

Pretty interesting imagery!  Wylie Coyote comes to mind.  He buys a shovel from the Acme Company to dig a pit in order to trap the road runner.  Inevitably he stumbles in himself.

In the next scene, he uses his Acme hoist to lug a boulder up a hill – still another scheme to steamroll his prey, but it breaks loose and leaves a paper-thin coyote.  Beep-beep!

Solomon wants us to know that the evil we say and do, tends to spin around the pole and return to hit us in the back of the head. 

I mean isn’t that right?  When she gets snippy with her husband, he’s inclined to get snippy with her.  One dad worked a lot and failed to find time for his kids.  Today they fail to find time for him.

These things often happen in real time, but if not now, the ball will come back to bonk us when we stand before God and give an account for our lives.  Paul put it this way in Galatians 6:7, “Do not be deceived. God will not be made a fool. For a person will reap what he sows.”

I got enough lumps in tetherball to know that I want to avoid the same in life.  I need to treat people right.  Fortunately, Jesus gave us a really handy gauge by which to monitor our behavior.  He said, “Treat others in the same way that you would want them to treat you.” (Luke 6:31)  

Weigh every word. Consider every deed.  Choose to do well, cause it’s the right thing to do, and cause it’ll come right back at you.

A PRAYER: Lord help me be mindful and careful of the impact I have on others.

This has been Jim Johnson with pickleheavenpress.com

May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you

Scripture references are from the NETBible ®

the sting of stubborn — August 5, 2020

the sting of stubborn

There is a saying we have in Texas to describe a stubborn person.  Read it with your best Texas drawl, “He’s so contrary he floats upstream.”  

We all know someone like that – a person that takes delight in defiance.  You try to feed your infant and he slaps the spoon away.  Plan a vacation at the beach and your husband tells you it’s the mountains or he’s not going.  The boss knows he is wrong but would rather run the company into the ground before he’ll admit it. 

Sounds like me.  I was the first child of five.  It was up to me to break in my parents.  Mom told me that when I was but a wee toddler, I was very self-willed, and I was creative at it.

When I did not get my way, I would hold my breath.   No big deal, except that I would hold it until they caved.  Mom tells me that I would reach the point where my fair skin turned blue (which paired nicely with my bright red hair.)  

When I went blue, mom and dad were scared into submission.  I did this often enough that mom finally took me to our family doctor (the vet refused to see me). 

She explained the problem and asked what to do.  That quack told her to go ahead and let me hold my breath. 

It wasn’t long before I threw another fit, took a gulp of air and held on for 1 minute – 2 minutes.  Mom stood her ground.  I was starting to turn blue and getting lightheaded.  “Surely she’ll see things my way now.”  But she didn’t.  I passed out and crumpled to the floor – and then involuntarily began to breathe again.   

Later – another power struggle.  Again, she handled it as the doctor advised.  When I came to, I realized that my plan wasn’t working.  Instead of helping me get ahead, I got a lumpy head from the falls.   

That was the last time I held my breath except for when I became a dad and had to change stinky baby diapers.   I held my breath – – – until my wife changed them. 

I am an adult now and I answer to God and I sometimes wonder about my stubborn streak.  I am pretty sure that my self-willed ways sometimes cross swords with His will for me. Does He ever fold His arms and watch as I turn blue and pass out?  Scripture seems to suggest that He does.

Proverbs 26:27 says “The one who rolls a stone—it will come back on him.”  NETBible ®    Picture a stubborn guy who is determined to roll a boulder up a hill.   He eventually reaches the point where gravity wins and turns the stone into a steamroller.  The man who pushed gets squashed.  There are natural consequences that often follow stubbornly foolish decisions. 

Elsewhere in Proverbs we read, “A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to relax, and your poverty will come like a robber, and your need like an armed man.”  – Proverbs 6:10-11 NET Bible ®   Point?  Idle hands become empty hands.

Yep, sometimes God simply stands back and lets us experience the consequences of our stubborn choices.   He allows the pain of it to get our attention and reshape our thinking. 

The wife neglects the care of her house until she sees how her habit has been reproduced in her kids.  The guy refuses to be ruled by the schedule at work until he is fired.  A dad consistently hurts his daughter but stubbornly refuses to admit it.  He stands his ground until she tries to run away. 

Is it possible that the pain in your life has its roots in your stubbornness? 

God wants better for us.  He loves us enough to instruct us from His Word, and to station His Spirit in us to direct us.  He even uses the perception of others to help us see what we miss.    There is no reason we must impose these self-inflicted wounds.

Rather than turning blue, we need to turn to the Lord.  Be stubborn no longer.  Enjoy His good and generous plans for you.

A PRAYER: Lord help me to be stubborn about listening, learning and letting things go when it’s needed   

an Aggie’s revenge! — October 30, 2019

an Aggie’s revenge!

james ray johnson

I have been known to tell an Aggie joke or two. For instance: A young man walked into a store and said, “I would like a maroon hat, white sweatshirt, maroon pants and white shoes.”  The clerk said, “You must be an Aggie.”  He replied, “Well yes sir – how did you know?  Was it the school colors I ordered?”  The clerk said, “No, this is a hardware store.”

For you non-Texans, an Aggie is a student or graduate of Texas A&M University. (Whoop!)   The school was originally named The Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas – hence the nickname Aggies.

How can you not tease a graduate of an agricultural school?  They are actually pretty sharp people except that they tend to tell more Aggie jokes than anyone else.

When I would preach, I sometimes used an Aggie joke to cheer up my congregation of East Texans (many of whom were grads) 

By the way, did you hear about the big game?  Longtime rivals – Texas A&M and the University of Texas were playing.  Late in the game, a train passed through town and blew its whistle. The UT players thought it signaled the end of the game, so they left the field. The Aggies scored three plays later.

Fun stuff, BUT I don’t tell Aggie jokes much anymore for two reasons: First: They may have been outlawed by the Hate Crimes Act and Second: because it turns out that the joke was on me. 

I shared a joke at church one Sunday and a couple of weeks after, I received something in the mail from the Alumni Association of Texas A&M.  It was a fund-raising pitch.  They wanted to build a new building (or maybe fix a corral). 

I didn’t think much about it, except that every other day I would find something else in the mailbox from the school.  It became an avalanche.  It was a mystery to me until I eventually got an official letter from their office thanking me for my contribution to the alumni fund. 

One of my Aggie church members sent in that contribution – IN MY NAME.  What a low-down dirty trick!

The wisdom of the ages has been vindicated once again.  In 1757 Benjamin Franklin wrote, “He that spits against the wind, spits in his own face.”  (been there, done that)

In 1962, death row inmate, Paul Crump nervously coined the phrase, “What goes around comes around.”

But long before those guys, the apostle Paul weighed in on the idea. “Do not be deceived. God will not be made a fool. For a person will reap what he sows.”   (Galatians 6:7)

The context for this passage has to do with money and the way we use it.  But the principle is fairly comprehensive.  We could state it like this: “The things that we do, either good or bad, have consequences that come back to either bless us or bite us.”  Sometimes it comes as a God ordained natural consequence, and at other times through his direct intervention.

Proverb 26:27 states it in the negative, “The one who digs a pit will fall into it; the one who rolls a stone—it will come back on him.”  Sounds like my Aggie fiasco.

OK, what about the grace and the mercy of God?  Doesn’t God promise to forgive our sins?  Absolutely! And He does (which is great news for me.)   But hey, if I hit my thumb with a hammer, God can forgive me for being so dumb, but my thumb is still gonna bleed.  Right!

Proverbs 11:25 puts it in the positive, “He that watereth shall be watered also himself.” (KJV)

The sage pictured a person who goes around his community watering thirsty people as if they were desert plants.  Such kindness will be rewarded because those desert plants will be there for him when he is parched.

We reap what we sow. 

If only the Aggies could learn that.  One student threw a grenade at an LSU Tiger.  The Tiger pulled the pin and threw it back.  

Friend, before you click on that questionable web site, or spew some venomous words, or skew the spread sheet at work – hesitate – and remember my Aggie story and the Scripture.  We reap what we sow. 


Unless otherwise noted Bible references are from the NET Bible ®

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