Pickle Heaven Press-James R. Johnson

something to help you laugh and think about life with Christ

herded — September 18, 2019


james ray johnson

The hymn says, “He leadeth me,” but does He?  Does God really reach down from heaven and direct me as I make my way through life?

If so how?   Does He navigate a metaphysical map app and speak to us in a Siri voice?   That might be creepy?

And suppose He does lead us – do I necessarily want to go where He is leading?  

Consider Isaiah 48:17, “This is what the Lord, your Protector, says, the Holy One of Israel: “I am the Lord your God, who teaches you how to succeed, who leads you in the way you should go.”   NET Bible®.

That answers 2 out of 3 of my questions.  Yes, God does guide us.  He “leads us in the way in which we should go.”  And yes, we probably want to follow His lead because He “teaches us to succeed.”   Who wouldn’t want that?  Only the “how” question remains to be answered.

Sure, the Word of God is a great help.  He gives us such wonderful specific direction there about life and marriage and money and parenting and so on.  But the verse seems to be talking about God’s personal intervention.

Perhaps Jake could help?  Jake was a dog – a heeler to be exact.  He was a solid, sturdy, compact dog that was bred to herd sheep and cattle. 

Heelers have coats that are speckled with either blue or a red flecks.  We preferred Jake who was a Blue Heeler.  He complemented my eyes.

Jake had once been one of several working dogs on a cattle ranch in New Mexico.  For some reason the other dogs decided they didn’t like Jake anymore.  They refused to work with him.  (You know how things can be in the work place.)  

Anyway, my son happened along as the rancher was about to give the dog the pink slip (which clashed with his blue specks).  He rescued Jake and took him to his home in the Rockies.  But Jake eventually returned the favor.  He courageously chased a bear from the front porch.

My son did some transitioning, so Jake eventually wound up moving in with us in Texas.  

I understand that the heeler breed originated in Australia. He is part Collie and part Dingo.  Or maybe it was part dingy, because that he was.

He once ran into a brick wall head first which didn’t help his mental stability. 

And he had an obnoxious habit of howling through the night unless he was in bed with you. His howl was an ear piercing elongated, “oooooo” – like a police siren except out of tune.   Maybe that’s why the other heelers shunned him.  A working dog needs his sleep. 

So, what does all this have to do with God?  Keep reading!

My wife and I would occasionally take Jake for a walk.  This was always a memorable experience.   We let him wander without a leash, but he always stayed very near.  In fact, he would pace to and fro, back and forth all around us.  We were being herded – like a couple of cows. 

We walked down the center of our quiet street but if we moved close to the curb (where the wolves lurk) he would cut us off and force us to redirect.  I don’t how many times I almost tripped over that dog.   He would work the right and then the left, but always kept us centered.

If we were to stop and greet a neighbor, he would bump our heels to get us moving again.  Another skill he learned in the livestock business.  Hence the name “heeler.”

I sometimes wondered if he was leading us to the tattoo parlor to be branded!   

I suspect that God guides us much as Jake did.

You didn’t get that job for which you applied. Maybe God blocked the path because it was a diversion from his ultimate best for you. 

You met your fiancé at church even though she lives 2 hours away and you intended to skip church that day.  Could it be that God bumped your heel to get you out of bed, to be there with her in the same place at the same time?   

You and your business partner eventually went your separate ways.  Three years later he was indicted for fraud.  Could it be that God allowed that rift to fester in order to protect you? 

Yes God “leads us in the way in which we should go.”   His sovereign guidance is mysterious, wise and wonderful and oh so effective as He watches over and directs us.  For this I am grateful.

Co-Mow — February 14, 2019


An enigma – that’s what it is!  On one hand the Scripture tells me that the Lord will provide for me (Matt. 6:33) while on the other hand it tells me if I don’t work, I should not be allowed to eat. (2 Thess. 3:10)   So why does a great big all-powerful God need us to participate in His program?

My dad answered that question when I was too young to understand.  It was the late fifties and I was nearly 5 years old.  My dad was clipping the lawn with an outdated reel mower on a sultry summer day.  I watched as he labored to force that manually powered mechanical beast through the thick green. 

He left the mower for the house to get a drink.  Aha, a chance to make him proud.  I reached high above my head and grabbed the worn T-handle and pushed.  It wouldn’t budge – not an inch.  No leverage – tiny muscles!  I huffed and puffed while the lawn laughed. 

That’s when a couple of massive hands came from behind me and outflanked mine on the handle.  Dad nudged the mower and we moved and then picked up speed.  Soon the reel was happily tossing its clippings in my little face.

Dad didn’t need my help, but I sure needed his.  We finished the lawn in record time. (It took at least twice as long to get it done.)   The sweet smell of the new mown grass was almost as sweet as the experience of having conquered it with my dad. 

And this is where I begin to understand my Heavenly Father.  My dad really didn’t need my help.  In fact, I seriously complicated the task.  He had to make room for me.  He had to take small steps and wait for me when I needed to stop to get a fresh grip. He had to step over and around me on the corners.    

But why?  I brought zero to the table toward the accomplishment of that task and I really wasn’t old enough to treat it as a training experience.  So why did dad allow me or even want me to participate?  

The relationship – just the relationship!  It was an opportunity for him to be with me and me with him – to share the experience together.

I am fairly sure that our Heavenly Father treats His ponderous work in the same way.   Though He does not need us, He enjoys us and the responsibilities He gives us are designed to draw us near.   

The Lord is my provider.  He can take care of me whether I work another day or not.  But as I work to put bread on the table, I am frequently reminded of how much I need Him.   I depend on Him for the opportunity to work and the wisdom, strength and health needed to get the job done.  Such things fuel my prayers.  He also allows me to enjoy what He enjoys when a task is completed.  Working with Him draws me nearer to Him and He loves it when that happens.

And yes, it certainly is more trouble and takes Him longer to accomplish what He could and would do on His own, but He loves us and wants to enjoy the experience with us.     

Thank you Father for making room for me at the T-handle of life, but please, never let me forget that it is only through and because of You that anything is ever really accomplished.

Listen to the song below and remember how wonderful He really is!

Oh God Our Help in Ages past. Vocals: Jim Johnson

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