February 10, 2018

Philippians 1:21-30

In the late 80s, I was asked to sing at a women’s event at my church, Green Acres Baptist, in Tyler, Texas. I was told the lady who would be speaking had gone through some difficult times so I chose to sing Sandy Patti’s latest song at the time, “Face to Faith.” I had no idea what a treat I was in for because the woman who spoke that night was the Christian and humorist, Barbara Johnson. As a young college student, I had never heard of her, but her story about finding and maintaining the joy of Christ through one tragic event after another had a profound effect on me 30 years later.

Barbara Johnson (1927-2007) was affectionately called the “Geranium Lady,” a title taken from her bestselling book, Stick a Geranium in Your Hat and Be Happy. Her homespun humor and hope in God in the midst of tragedy ministered to millions.

Johnson was a strong Christian woman who relied on her faith in God and her sense of humor to persevere through many devastating experiences as her life was plagued by a string of tragedies. Her husband was in a near fatal accident and slowly recovered from debilitating injuries. She lost one son in Vietnam and another son to a drunk driver. Her third son was estranged from the family while pursuing a homosexual lifestyle. But, she emerged from these experiences having learned that although pain is inevitable, people can choose to pick flowers instead of weeds.

Her compassion extended far beyond the pages of her encouraging books. Wanting to use her own pain to help others, she and her husband, Bill, founded Spatula Ministries, a unique organization that uses a “spatula of love” to help parents “peel themselves off the ceiling” and begin the road to recovery. She wrote the first of her 16 books after reaching the age of 50 and was a highly sought-after public speaker who constantly challenged her readers and audiences to choose to be joyful when faced with tragedy. She wrote, “We can choose to gather to our hearts the thorns of disappointment, failure, loneliness, and dismay in our present situation. Or we can gather the flowers of God's grace, boundless love, abiding presence, and unmatched joy. I choose to gather the flowers.”

She also wrote the following in her book (mentioned earlier), conveying the true source of her joy:

God fixed it by having Jesus die on the Cross and then raising Him from the dead . . . so we could have laughter and joy, so we could look up and say, “Thank You, Lord, for what You’ve given us—salvation and eternal life.” And we can laugh—I genuinely believe we can laugh and be joyful Christians because of what He has done on Calvary for us!