Pickle Heaven Press-James R. Johnson

something to help you laugh and think about life with Christ

color blind — January 6, 2021

color blind

I am somewhat color blind.

So, my wife Sharie and I fuss about my clothes. I want to wear plain solid colors, because it gives me a remote chance of being able to coordinate what I wear. 

But she wants me to wear interesting, patterned, multicolored things.  And she is the one who buys my clothes – which means that I have as much a chance of coordinating my clothing as a putting socks on a rooster.

So, we fuss!  Only recently we struck up a deal.  If she should die before me – then I get to clean out my closet and invest in some Amish wear. 

If I should die before her, she has my permission to dress me for the funeral in whatever she wants. 

Color blindness is a liability to me – but color blindness can be an asset.

My earliest memories of the neighborhood in which I was raised involved two other kids named Anthony and Angela.  They played at my house – I played at theirs.  I wasn’t aware they were a different color than me until someone pointed it out – but we played on. 

I went to a High School that was predominantly African American.  The guys with whom I played football were like brothers.   I had a ton of fun singing in a school choir that would vamp the end of Hallelujah Chorus.  I was the only Anglo in a soul band.  I still love the Stylistics.  I was honored by my fellow students by being elected senior class president.

For many of us, color was something you found in a box of crayons.  We were people who worked, studied, sweat, suffered and strove together.  I even had a crush on a wonderful African American girl (who I hope is not reading this.) 

But something dark and terrible happened that senior year.  Agitators from outside our school came in and disrupted our peace.   There were inflammatory speeches; and clashes between the NAACP and the John Birch Society.   Every other day either the white students or the black students would raid the PA room and broadcast propaganda.

The school year was abruptly ended several months early because violence had escalated and was out of control.  We were not even sure we would graduate. 

But there was an even greater loss.  When we sub-divided by race, even the innocents were forced to hang out with our own, for safety.  Priceless relationships were strained and suspended, and it was profoundly sad. 

I was so glad to graduate and put all that behind me – and yet it’s déjà vu all over again. 

The divisive culture of my high school is becoming the culture of my nation.  People are devouring each other because of racial enmity.

I believe and try my best to live out the Gospel – a way of life that was designed to be color blind.  It was the prophet Samuel that said, “God does not view things the way people do. People look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” – 1 Sam 16:7 NET Bible ®

The Gospel may be the only way to erode our broken human penchant for prejudice.  The Scripture makes it clear that God’s people have certain obligations to “all men.”  Not just Christians, or people of the same race – but to “all men” 

The phrase “all men” (which includes women for sure) pops up frequently.  For instance.  We are to pursue peace with all men (Heb 12:14); to show every consideration for all men (Titus 3:2)  we are to pray for all men and to give thanks for all men (1 Tim 2:1); we should be gentle with all men (Phil 4:5) and we are to respect what is right in the sight of all men (Rom 12:17)

To “all men” shouts the Scripture.  Not just some – but all, not just the redeemed but all; not just those who agree with us but “all.”   And the people of God need to set the example in such matters because our Lord desires “all men” to be saved.  1 Tim 2:3

As we start a new year, let’s put the color back in the crayon box, and strive together again to create a land where “all men” (and women) are valued and celebrated.

Let’s live the dream – the dream of Doctor King who said, “I look to a day when people will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”

A PRAYER: Lord strike our nation with a color blindness that there may be liberty and justice for all.

who put the X in Xmas? — December 16, 2020

who put the X in Xmas?

Every year some of us get alarmed over the race to erase Christ from Christmas.  Some of our complaints are legit while some are not.   

For instance – Xmas.  Obviously, someone removed Christ from the word Christmas and replaced Him with an X.  So, who did it? 

Maybe it was my Algebra teacher who as a rule would let X stand for the unknown; or maybe it was a lewd little man who hoped to drag the holiday into the world of X ratings or it could have been a Gen Xer who wanted to make Christmas about himself.

Actually, the anonymous culprit is over a thousand years old, for that is how long the church has been using an X to represent Christ – but it isn’t really an X. 

The New Testament was written in Greek and the Greek word for Christ is Christos, but it looks like this “Χριστός.” Did you notice the X-like first letter?  This is the letter chi which is pronounced key unless you are a frat boy.

The chi is an abbreviation of Christos and has been used reverently to represent Christ for many centuries.

The X in Christmas is not a snub to tradition but rather a nod to it. Keep in mind, it is still pronounced “Christmas.” 

We Christians do get bent out of shape when our culture tries to take Christ out of Christmas.   So maybe we should do our part to put Him back.

The apostle Paul tells us that we are ambassadors for Christ.  (2 Corinthians 5:20)  An ambassador is an agent of the highest rank who represents his/her superior.   And we are therefore, empowered to represent Christ in Christmas.   How?

– Your neighbor used to put up a legendary light display in the front yard each year.  But his age and declining health have had its toll.  Go over and raid his garage.  Dust off the lights and recreate the Christmas joy in his yard for him and the neighborhood.

– You have a wonderful display of lights in your own yard – but is there anything there that points to Jesus?  Anything?  Many years ago, I designed and made a manger/cross display.  It has been our Christmas centerpiece for decades now.  My wife even makes me repair it every time a so-and-so bulb burns out.  I do love it though.  It’s a creative statement of why Christ was born. 

– Some of your relationships are frayed and some forgotten.  Take time this season to reconnect – to swallow your pride if you must.  The conversation may begin like this, “I am wondering if I might have hurt you.  Have I?” 

– You may prefer to boycott the office party because of the craziness that goes on there.  Represent Jesus.  Attend!  Let your fellow workers know that you love them and enjoy being with them.  You can always graciously slip out later if things get wild.

– Christmas is an exceptionally lonely time for single people.  Be Jesus to them by inviting them to your home for Christmas dinner.   Bless them with a special gift and a hug.   I have known singles that have gone for weeks at a time without experiencing the touch of another human being.  There are few things that are more affirming than a hug.

– Right before you tear into the presents remind your family that we give to our daughters and sons, because God gave His Son.  Open your Bible and read together about God’s gift (Luke 2:1-20) before they open theirs

– And lastly – don’t be so judgmental.  It’s not the end of the world if you brother’s kids believe in Santa.   And when the clerk at the store says, “Happy Holidays” you don’t have to snarl back “It’s Merry Christmas if you please.”  You could just say, “the same to you!”  According to Paul, the Lord expects you and me to be “peaceable, gentle, showing complete courtesy to all people.”  Titus 3:2 NET Bible ®  

Hey, I think we can put back more Christ back into the Season than the culture removes.  So Merry Xmas to you!

A PRAYER: Lord may I seriously put back more Christ this Season than the culture removes

my roughneck dental hygienist — July 3, 2019

my roughneck dental hygienist

jim johnson

A roughneck is a person who works hard with dirty calloused hands.  A dental hygienist is a person who sticks their hands in other people’s mouths.  The two don’t usually come together, but they did for me. 

I waited in the lobby for the sweet young lady who typically cleaned my teeth.  My eyes were buried in my magazine when I heard a deep, raspy voice say, “Mr. Johnson.”   

Oh no – my hygienist must have a cold.  That’s bad! 

I looked up to see a man – with a smock on. This may be worse!

He walked me back to the room while explaining that the former hygienist had moved on and now he was the man. (literally) That’s OK I can do change or so I thought.  But then he told me that he was an oil field roughneck who got tired of it and became a hygienist instead.  This was the first day of work in a dentist’s office.  Oh my – this could really be bad.

He put on his mask and gloves, tilted my chair.  Once I recovered from the whiplash, he took his pick attacked my gums like he was fracking a well.  With every muscular jab, my head rebounded.  I gagged when his big thick hands reached back for my molars.  

I suppose that everyone has their gums bleed a little during a cleaning.  But this guy hit a gusher.  

To clean up, he could have used the little sucker thing that sprays water and then vacuums it from your mouth.  He chose, instead, to cram my mouth with gauze.  He just kept jamming it in until I looked like a chipmunk on steroids. 

The dentist passed in the hall, and I cried, “Help me” but it came out, “mmmm mm.”

I learned a valuable lesson that day – when you are doing dental – you need to be gentle.

But maybe that should carry over into the rest of life as well.

I listen to the mean-mouthed politicians speak to and about each other and I wonder, “Is such vitriol necessary?”  How about a little gentleness?  The apostle Paul advised, “be peaceable, gentle, showing complete courtesy to all people.”  – Titus 3:2

We sometimes overreact when the kids disobey?   Can’t we be firm and yet gentle at the same time?  Again, Paul says, “If anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness…” Galatians 6:1

Boss – must we use our authority to bludgeon those we manage?  James asks, “Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct he should show his works done in the gentleness that wisdom brings.” – James 3:13

99% of the time I have been gentle in the way I speak to my wife.  She knows that, and yet, what she remembers is the harsh 1%.  This is what I need to remember, “A gentle response turns away anger, but a harsh word stirs up wrath.”  – Proverbs 15:1

The apostle Paul advocated gentleness 10 different times in the New Testament.  I suspect he did so because he was inclined to be harsh.  (father issues – who knows?)  Peter chimed in at least once and James twice.  Jesus told us that it would be the gentle who would inherit the earth (Matt. 5:5) and 1 Timothy 6:11 equates gentleness with godliness.

Should we ignore such a pervasive theme?  Or should we steal away for prayer, asking God to cleanse us from past failure in this area and asking Him to fill us anew with His Spirit that we might bear the fruit of gentleness.  (Gal. 5:23)   

Need a lesson in gentleness?  Jesus offered to be our tutor. “Take my yoke on you and learn from me, because I am gentle…”  – Matt 11:29

If you struggle with being gentle, you might consider speaking to a pastor or a counselor.  Sometimes our harshness is rooted in the past and we may need a little help as we work through it.    

Well I survived my dental cleaning and on my next visit I found that my roughneck friend had moved on, probably recruited by the CIA to interrogate terrorists.   I was relieved to learn that He was replaced by another sweet young lady who practiced gentle dental.

(all Scriptures references are from the NET Bible®)

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