Pickle Heaven Press-James R. Johnson

something to help you laugh and think about life with Christ

doctor or lawyer? (reconciliation part 3) — November 3, 2021

doctor or lawyer? (reconciliation part 3)

You are probably either a doctor or a lawyer based on the way that you approach conflict.

May I illustrate?  Suppose that I have a headache that just won’t quit, so I decide to seek some professional help. 

I find the office building where the professionals ply their trade and find a name on a door: Doctor Ichabod Smith.  I check in and finally get to see the doc.  Turns out his doctorate is in Law. 

Oh well!  I tell him about the headache, and he asks me where I work and if I handled hazardous materials.   Turns out I did!  So, he declares that we are going to sue my employer for 5 million dollars for exposing me to asbestos.

Three years later we have our day in court and Ichabod does a stellar job of pinning the blame for my cancer on the Acme company.  The judge decides in my favor and I am 5 million dollars richer.

But before I buy a Mercedes and a beach front cottage – I drop over dead.

Oops!  Maybe I should have looked for someone with a doctorate in medicine instead.  His questions would have been different:  Where does it hurt?  How long have you had this ache?  He would have quickly identified my cancer and would have removed it asap.

Personal conflict is like a cancer.  Some approach it like a lawyer whose essential job is to pin the blame for the problem on someone else.  Their goal is to prove that their client is right even if they are wrong. 

This person may win the argument but then find that the relationship dies as a result.  If you want to see ugly, take a seat in divorce court and watch as the lawyers alternatingly devastate the wounded spouses.  No one wins in divorce court. 

Instead of looking for someone else to blame, we need to approach the conflict like a doctor. A doctor isn’t concerned about blame.  The doc focuses on the problem.  The enemy is not the other person but the source of conflict.  That is what needs to be addressed.

I have a Master of Theology degree.   I know the Bible well, but for the life of me, I don’t recall a Scripture which says, “When you have been wronged, make every effort to prove yourself to be right.” 

On the other hand, there are lots of passages that tell us to pursue peace with each other.  “Pursue peace with everyone…”  (Hebrew 12:14); “Be at peace among yourselves.”  (1 Thessalonians 5:13); “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all people.” (Romans 12:18); “And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts.”  (Colossians 3:15) 

Over and over the Scripture calls us to seek peace in place of conflict. 

Removing cancer isn’t painless or easy.  There is the surgery and chemo and radiation.  It involves temporary discomfort and pain, but in the end a life is often saved, or in this case – a relationship!      

So, your wife criticized you for that last financial decision.  Should you go to court, or sit down with her to find out what’s really bugging her?   

Your boss got up on the wrong side of the bed.  He isn’t happy with you or anyone else today.  Is it time to get a subpoena or should you sincerely ask, “Hey how are things with you today?” 

Your son forgot your birthday.  Do you file a lawsuit or call him to say, “I was thinking about you and just wanted to say hi.”

Your husband was wrong in what he said.  He knows it but will not admit it.  How long will you argue your case until he agrees?  Maybe you could win him without a word by giving him respect even when it is undeserved. (1 Peter 3:1-2)

Honestly: If you had cancer and had to choose between being right or being well, which would you choose?   Exactly!   Should you approach that rocky relationship in your life any differently? 

A PRAYER: Lord, help me be aware of me, and the ways in which I relate to others.

This has been Jim Johnson with pickleheavenpress.com

May the grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.

rekindle (reconciliation part 1) — October 20, 2021

rekindle (reconciliation part 1)

Who seems to be bent on making you miserable?  Your neighbor?  Your brother-in-law?  Your boss?  Your ex?  And why are they so unjustifiably hateful toward you?  When did they decide that you were the enemy?  Is there anything you can do about it! 

Solomon the wise says “Yes” in Proverbs 25:21-22.  He wrote, “If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat, and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink, for you will heap coals of fire on his head, and the Lord will reward you.”   NET Bible ®

He pictures a raging battle with two adversaries – launching arrows and throwing spears at each other.  They won’t rest until the other falls on the field of battle. 

The way to prevail in this battle is to throw a picnic for your enemy.  War is exhausting.  No doubt they are famished, so feed them.  They must be thirsty, so give them to drink. 

One would wonder at this point if Solomon was truly wise.  If we nourish our enemies, would this not strengthen them and give them the advantage in the battle?

Ah yes, but then Solomon adds that gory part.  If we should nourish the enemy, it will crown them with a fiery fedora! – burning coals heaped upon their head.  Ah!  So that is how the battle is won.  But it doesn’t make a lot of sense. 

May I explain?  In those days fire was essential.  It cooked your food and warmed your body.  But where did it come from?  A spark from striking flint with iron would do it.  But listen, I was a junior pyromaniac as a kid, and try as I might, I never succeeded in creating a fire this way. 

It’s hard to do.  So, once you had a fire, you maintained it.  At night you would take coals from the pit, put it in a ventilated clay pot that allowed just enough air to sustain the coals without letting them burn up.

The next day, you would sprinkle kindling on your coals and create an instant fire. 

But – what if your coals should happen to burn out over night? 

Then you would take your clay pot to your neighbor’s house and ask for a few of his coals.  You would then take your pot and load it on to your head (which is how they still carry things in the third world) take it home and restart your fire. 

And this is how we understand the Proverb.  People who are hateful, have had their home fire go cold.  The embers have burned out and the fire pit is desolate. 

Treat them with kindness – unexpected kindness – kindness that they do not deserve.  Do that and it helps to rekindle their home fire.

If Jesus would have written this blog He simply would have said, “Love your enemies.”  (Matthew 5:44)

So how do we get that fire rekindled in our foe?  Give them food and drink – maybe a cup of coffee and a scone and leave it on their desk.

Compliment her on her outfit, or him on the quality of his work.  Tell them you appreciate their perspective and ask their advice.  

You might also say, “Hey I am concerned that I may have offended you. Is that the case?”   Honor them with a humble apology.

This is the way to go.  I have done this a lot and have seen it as the beginning of many relational turnarounds.  I plan to share one story in my next blog. 

Solomon passed on a Proverb, a principle on how life typically works – but it is not a guarantee.  A rare adversary will fail to warm.  And yet we are told that the Lord will nevertheless reward us for being so exceptionally kind.   Nothing to lose, and everything to gain. 

A PRAYER: Ooh this is tough Lord, we need your empowerment to make it happen. Help us!

This has been Jim Johnson with pickleheavenpress.com

May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.

the habit that saved our marriage — September 23, 2020

the habit that saved our marriage

We said, “I do” in August. By October our bliss had become a blister.  I got a clue the day she melted into a pile of sobbing mush. 

We talked and tried to unravel the problem.  My sarcasm fueled her insecurities.  She didn’t laugh when I said the meatloaf looked like an old shoe (tasted good though).

Problem was, she hid her hurt.  Instead of arguing with me, she argued with herself.  She was thinking, “He didn’t really mean that – I don’t want to rock the marriage boat – if I point out his mistake, he’ll point out mine” and “I don’t want to seem like a baby.” 

She would talk herself into silence, but the hurt remained.  It raised a tiny emotional blister on her soul.  The longer she ignored it, the bigger it got until that day it finally popped and created a yucky mess.  I confessed that I also hid my hurts.

We loved each other – didn’t want to hurt each other, so we went to Ephesians 4:25-27 for some help. 

Paul wrote, “Therefore, having laid aside falsehood, each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor because we are members of one another. Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on the cause of your anger. Do not give the devil an opportunity.”  NET Bible ®

Some people “clam up” when they are hurt (which was our problem). Others “blow up” (which is where we would eventually end up) but what we needed to do was to “speak up.” 

Paul told us to lay aside falsehood.   To be hurt but pretend you’re not – is to lie.  We needed to speak truthfully to each other – in love – instead. (Eph. 4:15)

Anger is the way God designed us to respond to injustice.  There is no sin in that.  But to clam up or blow up is a sinful response to that anger.  We needed to speak up.

But when?  If the hurt had not been handled earlier in the day, then the time of reckoning is the end of each day.  “Do not let the sun go down on your anger.”   

There is a price for those who hold onto their anger.    Paul said it gives the devil an opportunity to erode the relationship.   A hurt creates emotional distance.  The longer the hurt goes unaddressed, the greater the distance gets between us.  We can end up asking, “Why did I ever marry that person?”   And yet an honest, loving conversation can thoroughly remove any distance.  

My wife and I are simple people, so we decided to end every day with a checkup.  We would pray with each other, and read the Word, but before any of that, I would ask her, “Have I done any badness today?”   (don’t laugh – the word badness worked for us.)  

She didn’t have the courage to initiate the discussion.  But, because I did, she felt like I sincerely wanted to hear how I might have impacted her.   I still had to do a little coaxing, but she would then open up and tell me she was hurt when I left her alone at the party.

I was shocked!  It didn’t understand why that would hurt her, but we talked, I learned and then apologized.  She would then ask, “Have I done any badness?”  I would share, she would learn as well. 

Unfortunately, we were often up past midnight that first year of marriage. But we were committed, and we saw the fruit of our habit every day.  It helped us to learn and adjust. 

In fact, we found the habit to be so valuable that we will do it again tonight (as we have every night for the last 44 years.  We will ask again, “Did I do any badness?”

But we probably won’t have anything to share.  You see we got tired of having midnight discussions – so we chose to change.  As we changed there was less to talk about. 

We still err, but we have enjoyed such peace and intimacy in our relationship, that we now deal with hurts more promptly.  I love being at peace with my wife – can’t stand it when I’m not. 

Sorry – this post is not all that funny – but it may be the most important piece I have ever written.  Because, many if not most marriages suffer because they haven’t learned to speak the truth in love to one another. 

If you are married and you are not regularly experiencing this level of honest conversation, your marriage is hurting, and you just don’t know it. 

I would challenge you to find a way of implementing Eph 4:25-26.   Feel free to do what we have done.  We are committed to do it until the Lord takes the first of us home.  If you do it, we would love to hear about it.

A PRAYER: God give me the humility and the courage I need to open myself up to my spouse, that together we might build an even better marriage.

a fire to forget — April 24, 2019

a fire to forget

Jim Johnson – 768 words

I was 17, had my own car and I was pretty cool.  I was also delusional because my car was a used-up 1960 Plymouth – the kind my grandma drove.  But – it was my car, and I was going cruising.  I cranked the windows open, hit the push button that said Drive, and then watched the bar graph odometer track my speed.  (It was a crazy car.) 

Because I drove a 1960 Plymouth, I felt I seriously needed to improve my cool factor, I, therefore, began smoking.  So, there I was on the interstate with the windows down, the radio blaring and a cigarette hanging from my lips. 

I finished my smoke, and even though there was a perfectly fine ash tray conveniently located in the dash, I threw the cigarette butt out my window. (It was more cool that way)  Minutes later I began to smell smoke.  The breeze blew the butt back into the car and my car seat ignited!!!

60 miles an hour, in the center lane of a 3-lane highway thick with cars – and my seat was on fire.  Where’s a rest stop when you need it?   One hand gripped the wheel, while the other frantically beat down the flame.  It finally died but the fire left a big smoldering crater in my fine upholstery.  

Being cool became more complicated after that.  It was hard to find a date that was willing to sit in a charred crater.

That was a fire I will never forget!

Peter also had a fire he would never forget. 

It burned in the courtyard of the high priest on a chilly evening while Jesus was being bullied by his captors.  John was careful to call it a “charcoal fire.” (John 18:18) 

Charcoal is the residue of wood that has been burned in an oxygen deprived environment.  To produce it, you would build a teepee of logs, kindle a fire in it, cover it with soil and then let it smolder for five days. 

The impurities would burn off leaving pure black carbon.   Charcoal was valued because it was 1/5th the weight of wood, created a controlled burn, produced greater heat and it was smokeless.   The cost of the labor involved, however, made it a commodity that only the wealthy – such as the priests could enjoy.

The scent of the roasting charcoal filled Peter’s senses as he warmed himself that night.  It was in the glow of that fire that Peter denied knowing Jesus.

The rooster call exposed his duplicity and reduced him to shame.  There could be no forgiveness for such disloyalty.

Peter began to move away from Jesus.  He was absent at His crucifixion and even His burial.  The resurrection should have changed everything, but it didn’t.  In fact, Peter decided to leave the life of a disciple and go back to commercial fishing. 

He and the others spent the night fishing but caught nothing.  A silhouette from shore told them to cast the nets on the other side of the boat.  They did, and they caught enough to sink it.

Peter sensed it was Jesus and that He seemed to be reaching out to him despite the past.  He moved toward Him, but as he drew near, he was stunned to smell that familiar odor again.  “When they got out on the beach, they saw a charcoal fire ready with a fish placed on it, and bread.”  (John 21:9) -NET Bible®

The experts say that odors evoke memory better than any other trigger.  The smell-analyzing part of the brain is near to the region that handles memory and emotion.  And don’t we know it!  The smell of fresh baked goods takes us back to grandma’s happy kitchen, while the smell of sweaty socks evokes the angst of 7th grade gym class.

Another charcoal fire!  There are only 2 references to this specific kind of fire in the Bible. Peter was present for both.  This was a divinely devised set up!

The sight and scent of that fire smelled like failure to Peter which is what Jesus intended.  It was a necessary prelude to reconciliation.   Jesus asked, “Peter do you love me or not?”  Peter contritely backspaced over his three denials by offering three affirmations of his devotion to Jesus.  “You know I love you.”

Reconciled!  Peter then went on to become a fierce and faithful witness for Jesus.

The Lord went to considerable trouble and expense to jar the memory of his erring child – to see him reconciled.   Could He also have a charcoal fire kindled for you?

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Treat yourself to this classic song of reconciliation: Man After Your Won heart: Gary Chapman (not Doctor)

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