Pickle Heaven Press-James R. Johnson

something to help you laugh and think about life with Christ

meetin’ the in-laws — September 9, 2020

meetin’ the in-laws

Our sweet little Texas daughter was engaged to a fine young man from British Columbia (which is in Canada for those of you who slept through geography).   

It would be a merging of families and cultures.  She was “fixin” to get married and he said in, “a bit.” 

His family arrived in our little Texas town for the wedding just a couple of days before.  We had not yet met them, but we knew they were fascinated with the aura of Texas (and who isn’t?)  So, I decided they should get a rootin’ tootin’ redneck reception. 

I borrowed me some well-worn cowboys boots and slipped on some jeans helt up with a belt and big old buckle.  I snapped up a pearl buttoned, cowboy-cut shirt and dropped a round tin of Skoal in the pocket.  I finished off my western ensemble with an audacious cowboy hat. 

We then went to meet our new family.  My daughter and her beau were with them already and very excited about this first meeting.  I rapped on the front door and it was opened by her future mother-in-law. 

I conjured up a Texas drawl and said, “Well howdy Maam!”  She was speechless – but my daughter wasn’t.  She heard the knock at the door and came running down the stairs to see – took one look at me and screamed the loudest longest screech ever, “Daaaaaaaaaaaaaaaad!”


Sometimes it’s fun to pretend and actually, I’m pretty good at it.

Not only can I do a redneck, I can also create the impression that I have everything under control when in fact I am paralyzed with fear.  My lips have learned the art of saying yes to every request while the rest of me cringes.  Some pretend to care by asking me, “How are you doing?”  I pretend right back and say “fine.”

I am thinking that Paul may have written Ephesians 4:25 for me.  He said, “Therefore, having laid aside falsehood, each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor because we are members of one another.”  NET Bible ®

He said to lay aside “falsehood.“  The word is translated from the Greek word, “psuedos.”  Yep that is where we get the English prefix “pseudo.”   He is talking about fakes.  It refers to deceit whether it be through what we say or portray.

Paul says this “psuedos” needs to be laid aside.  In other words, stop pretending.  Drop the mask (unless it is an N95 and you are Covid positive.)

Instead, Paul tells us to accurately reflect in words what is true because we are all members of one another – we belong to each other.

Why do I pretend that everything is under control?  Why can’t I tell the boss I could use a little help?   Is it my pride – the stuff that goeth before a fall? 

Why do I feel the need to say yes to every ask?  Do I not have my limits?  The pastor asked me to teach a class on marriage.  What if I were to be honest and showed him my crowded calendar.  I bet he’d send me home to work on my marriage.

Why must I reply “fine” to everyone who asks about my welfare?  A friend may be genuinely interested in how I am doing.  If he got a truthful answer, he might take a knee and pray right then. That would be nice!

Jesus once said that the truth will set us free.  He was speaking of freedom from sin and its consequences, but beyond that, there is true liberation and a sense of rest that comes from living genuinely and speaking truthfully. 

Yes, I need to consider the timing and the spirit in which I engage – but generally speaking: “Honesty really is the best policy.”

I have retired my western duds.   My Canadian family knows I am about as cowboy as bacon without the sizzle.   Now it’s time to remove the pretense from the rest of my life.  Will you join me? 

A PRAYER: Lord let me enjoy the freedom that is created by living in and speaking forth the truth.

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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