Pickle Heaven Press-James R. Johnson

something to help you laugh and think about life with Christ

need a rest — August 18, 2021

need a rest

We had completed the first workday of our mission trip.   It was grueling labor there under the scorching Nicaraguan sun.  Each of us gratefully grabbed a plate of food and took our places at the table.

One of us sat down and then suddenly vanished.  No – it was not the rapture.  All 4 of the flimsy legs of his green molded plastic chair snapped and he instantly dropped beneath the table.  We laughed and teased the guy once we found out that he was OK.

But then another person disappeared.  By the end of the week I believe we lost 4 team members that way.  It was a real-life game of whack-a-mole.

The work was exhausting and the chairs were frustrating – denying us physical and even emotional rest.  We worried every time we sat down, “Is it my turn to become the butt of the jokes?” (pun intended)  


Isn’t that a lot like life?   As they say in Texas, “Some of us look like we been rode hard and put away wet.”  We want some – we need some rest.

She says, “Being the caregiver for my mom is wearing on me.”  The teacher frets about how much her kids are learning online.   He says, “The boss hired a guy to assist me but managing the guy has doubled my stress.”  “The new believer struggles to live the way the Lord wants her to live.”  “The news these days is just too much for me to bear.”

Rest!  We really need it – but where do we find it?  Jesus said, “Come to me!” 

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”   “OK Lord that’s me for sure – weary and burdened – but how are you going to give me rest?”   (Matthew 11:28)

He went on, “Take my yoke on you and learn from me because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”  (11:29)

He spoke of a yoke – the kind that harnessed a team of oxen.  When an ox became of working age, the farmer would take the younger smaller beast and yoke him with a veteran.  Together they would plow the fields, but it was the older beast that actually bore the brunt of it all. 

He did the heavy pulling, while the younger simply walked along – learning the proper gait and how to respond to the farmers commands and so on.   When the younger was yoked with the older, it was very easy work for him.   Which is why Jesus said, “For my yoke is easy to bear, and my load is not hard to carry.”  (11:30)

There is an irony here, however.  We think of rest strictly as inactivity, but Jesus tells us that we rest when we are at work – doing what He would have us to do and in tandem with Jesus.

I am thinking that we need that kind of rest.  How do we find it? 

Jesus says, “Come to me!  Spend some time with me.  Listen to more of my words and less of your newscast.  Forget your peers and consider life from my perspective. Allow my strength to fill you.  Try more peace and fewer pills.  Just spend some time with me.” 

A musician will sometimes use a “rest” in his song.  This is an interval when the instruments are silenced while he continues to sing.  The rest provides clarity and emphasis to the words.

It seems like a good idea to build that kind of break into our days.   A time of inactivity and reflection– so that we can more clearly hear the voice of the shepherd. 

This kind of advice also comes to us from the Psalms.

“Commune with your own heart upon your bed and be still.” KJV – Psalm 4:4. “Be still, and know that I am God.”  KJV  – Psalm 46:10

We need to stop and rest a while with Jesus each day to find that kind of deeper rest we need. 

Well – you will be glad to know that our mission team gave our Nicaraguan hosts a parting gift.  We replaced all the flimsy chairs with sturdy ones.  And now every scale-tipping American can settle down and rest easy when they visit there.  And that’s the “rest” of the story.

A PRAYER: Lord – I know how to work hard, but find it tough to rest well.  Help me to learn from You.”

Scripture passages are from the NET Bible ® unless otherwise noted.

breaking camp — June 24, 2020

breaking camp

It is summer and a great time to go camping, unless you live in Texas, where the heat can approach the outer limits of hell. 

Summer camping elsewhere is usually fun.  My wife and I just returned from an outing, where a fresh cool breeze wafted through our camper each night.  We had lots of relaxing time with the Lord and each other.  (that’s what happens when you leave the grandkids behind) 

Of course, some trips are not so relaxing.  My extended family did a big outing once.   Pretty memorable.  It started with a rampage of ground hornets who had been aggravated by a lawnmower.  My grandson sustained several stings. 

Later that evening my granddaughter spied a night intruder.  In a trembly voice she cried, “a snake!”   My son ground the baby copperhead to pieces.  But nature got him back the next day, when a squirrel in a tree relieved himself on my boy’s head.   The next morning, there was a loud ominous crack in a tree which dropped a massive limb barely behind us.

Then there were the honeybees that sought out my sweet daughter, and there was the earsplitting industrial hum that came from the power plant across the lake.  Actually, it was better for sleeping than white noise.  All that in one outing.  Fun!

I love to camp but I must admit that my favorite part is going home.  Roughing it is great for a time – a short time.  A human burrito sleeping bag is OK for a night and a charred hot dog is good once a year.  But there is nothing like packing up and going home.  

I suspect that is why Paul used a camping word to capture the way we go to heaven.  In Philippians 1 we find him conflicted wanting to continue his work on earth while longing for the comforts of his heavenly home. 

He wrote, “For to me, living is Christ and dying is gain. 22 Now if I am to go on living in the body, this will mean productive work for me, yet I don’t know which I prefer: 23 I feel torn between the two, because I have a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far, 24 but it is more vital for your sake that I remain in the body.”  NET Bible ®

Did he really say that – “dying is gain?”   

He believed that dying is a departure from this life and a move on to heaven.  The word depart (verse 23) was actually a camping term in Paul’s day.  It was used to describe an army that was breaking down their tents and moving out. 

In 2 Corinthians 5:1-5 Paul reminds us that our bodies are like tents – designed for a temporary stay – flimsy, tattered, and insufficient for the long haul.   Paul was ready to pack up his ratty tent and trade it in for the eternal home that Jesus had prepared for him.  (John 14:1-3)

The word depart was exceptionally colorful. Not only was it used of camping, it was also a nautical word descriptive of a ship that was being loosed from her moorings.  

In a similar way, we are moored to the pier of a place that is not our home.  It feels somewhat secure to be tied here, but the longer we remain, the longer we postpone the joys of being where we really belong. Death is the process of casting off the restraining ropes and sailing home.

Depart was also a legal term used to describe the release of someone from prison.  I think of some of the folks I care for as hospice chaplain.  Their health has declined and has imprisoned them in bodies to where they can’t even escape their bed.  For them death, becomes a benevolent liberator.

The word was also used with livestock.  It described the process of unyoking oxen.  They say a team of 2 oxen can pull about 12,000-13,000 pounds of weight.  That’s incredible. 

After a hard days work, I bet those beasts were relieved to have that heavy yoke removed.  Death does the same for us.  It relieves us of the backbreaking responsibilities of this life. 

All of us will face the prospect of death eventually.  When we belong to Christ, death can be regarded as more of a friend than a foe. 

It enables us to trade in our temporal tent for an eternal home.  It loosens the ropes that bind us to the dock of this life.  It releases us from the circumstances that imprison us and it relieves us of our burdensome yoke to give us rest. 

Paul makes a great argument for breaking camp.  I am looking forward to it.

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