Pickle Heaven Press-James R. Johnson

something to help you laugh and think about life with Christ

fatman and robin — July 15, 2020

fatman and robin

I have a fine feathered friend.  When I break out the lawnmower and plow through the yard, there is a robin that hops around and follows me.  He comes ridiculously close and is not a bit intimidated by the noise or the exhaust fumes. 

When I move from the back to the front yard he follows.  He flits away when I finish, but then he shows up promptly the next week when the rope pulls the engine to life again.  Thus far it’s been six weeks in a row.

He makes me feel special – like Snow White when the birds helped her clean up the dwarf house. 

The question is why?  Does he like the buzz he gets from the exhaust?  Or maybe he has a proclivity to my sweaty obesity or maybe mister redbreast knows that I used to have red hair. 

Well a little bird told me that robins largely prefer to dine on earthworms.  The worms evidently get aggravated when I mow the lawn.  They come out and ask, “Hey what’s all that racket?” 

Plus, I found a scholarly paper called EFFECTS OF GRASS LENGTH AND MOWING ON

FORAGING BEHAVIOR OF THE AMERICAN ROBIN (TURDUS MIGRATORIUS). (This is legit – no joke) The researcher found that robins overwhelmingly prefer shorter rather than longer lawns.  Well who doesn’t? 

So, when I cut the grass, the yard becomes the Golden Corral of the robin hood.

I guess you could say that the robin shows up each week because worms of goodness and mercy follow me whenever I mow the lawn (unless you look at it from the perspective of the worms.)

I do love that phrase in Psalm 23, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life…”    It suggests to me that the wake we Christians leave, as we pass through this life, should be a blessing and benefit to others – leaving good things behind and merciful deeds as a legacy. 

There is someone with whom I work that seems to understand this.  Even better – she lives it.  Stacy is a nurse who has made it her mission to care for the needs of those in hospice care.

Now hospice is a tough gig.  The purpose is to provide comfort and care to terminally ill people.  There is never a happy ending.  But Stacy is deeply motivated to do this out of compassion and her faith in Jesus. 

Just recently she and I made a simultaneous visit to a sweet frail octogenarian we’ll call Rosa.  It was inspiring to see Stacy in action again.  She brought with her a cheerful outlook.  Her words and the tone of her voice transformed the gloom in the room. 

She listened to Rosa’s heart with a stethoscope, but she was also attuned to her heart break as Rosa spoke of her sadness.  It is not unusual for Stacy to weep with her patients. 

Stacy had a busy day ahead of her, but she was not rushed.  Rosa was treated like a person and not an appointment.  

She often holds the hands of her patients and prays for them, but she deferred to me as the chaplain this time. 

After the blood pressure cuff and thermometer were stowed, Stacy lay down on the floor near Rosa’s wheelchair and gleefully painted her toenails.  (I don’t think Medicare covers that) 

As she left, I heard her say with a sweetness to her voice, “I love you Rosa.”   Rosa said, “I love you too.”  They both meant it.

Stacy’s patients are enveloped in the wake of the goodness and mercy she leaves behind her.

They know it and cherish it.  Often their eyes are lifted to the Savior that energizes this nurse. 

Now did you know that every hospice agency has a coordinator who arranges for volunteers to do things read books, play games, clean house, run errands and more for needful patients.   You could do it too!  If you live in East Texas, I would be delighted to get you connected!   Contact me.  If you live elsewhere, check out an agency nearby.

I probably should say that Stacy is only one of several amazing nurses with whom I work.  There are also wonderful aides, social workers and many others including we chaplains who handle our work with care and compassion. (PS: Except I don’t do toenails). 

the 11th plague — March 4, 2020

the 11th plague

We were driving back to Texas when a plague of biblical proportion swept into the open windows and defiled our car.

The family was exhausted from our trip.  The long drive home was even more taxing.  The plan was to stop and overnight soon.

But, just west of Birmingham, we were overcome by a heavy putrid stench.  We had never smelled this sickening smell before.  What was it?  Was an Alabamian boiling peanuts?

We closed the windows and turned on the AC.  Didn’t help!   We asked the boys to change their socks. Didn’t help.  We tried breathing through our mouths.  It tasted as bad as it smelled.

Rather than stopping, we decided to drive on until we got beyond the stench.   BUT it still oppressed us in Bessemer, and then Tuscaloosa, and into Toomsuba, Mississippi. 

And there was despair in the car.  For three hours we had been in the grips of the stench.  My daughter was turning blue. 

Somewhere just east of Jackson, MS, I tried to pass a tractor-trailer and what I saw on the open air trailer was ghastly.  The trailer had legs and hooves popping out of it in every direction.  It looked like one big, disgusting stockyard pin cushion. 

The truck must have been headed to a rendering plant, where the barnyard bereaved would be recycled into useful household products.  There is a reason why there is a cow on your bottle of Elmer’s Glue? 

And we had followed in the stinking wake of that truck for 3 hours. 

I stomped on the gas and sped past it and we sailed into sweet, wonderful, fresh air.  Forget the motel.  There was no way I was gonna let that truck get in front of me again.  

The truck left behind a stench.  Some people do that too! 

There is the girl at school who always seems to be walking away from a conflict or the guy that has wrecked four marriages and is now is on his fifth.  There is a stench of sorts that the angry dad leaves behind for his kids.  And what the about the boss who loses employees faster than he can hire new?   Then there is that woman at church who leaves people feeling like they have been to court and lost.

It shouldn’t be that way!

In the 23rd Psalm David taught us that sheep who follow their shepherd are fed, watered, restored, directed and protected. 

But then the Psalm winds up in a curious way.  David wrote, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.” (vs. 6)  NET Bible ®  

In other words: David left behind a sweetness instead of a stench. 

Phillip Keller in his book, A Shepherd Looks at the 23rd Psalm, explained that sheep can enhance the quality of a pasture.  They eat noxious weeds that would otherwise choke out the good and they fertilize the soil as well.  He wrote, “In a few years, a flock of well managed sheep will clean up and restore a piece of ravaged land as no other creature can do.”  (pg 131) 

David understood this and applied it to himself as a sheep.  As he followed the lead of his Shepherd, it impacted the way he treated others. 

His nation celebrated his righteous leadership.  The son of Saul was grateful for David’s mercy.  The army that faced Goliath was inspired by his faith.  David’s followers were moved by his transparency and humility.  He was the kind of man you wanted to follow because he sweetened the pasture for those who did.

Are you leaving a sweetness or a stench?  Stop!  Turn around!  Look at the people you just left.  Make sure they are wearing a smile instead of a sneer!

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