Happy sixteenth birthday, Squeezing Good Out of Bad!
Yikes! It’s hard to believe that Squeezing Good Out of Bad is sixteen years old. Old enough to drive and, in some states, get married. It’s joy to release this revised edition that hopefully is wiser and more mature.
It’s gone through the terrible twos, miserable middle school and teenage trauma, but it’s a much better book. So, if you have an original 2006 copy, please burn it immediately! Email me your address and I’ll send you this edition.
In 2006, I have to admit I was kind of a baby squalling and bawling about two devastating events that dumped a mountain of lemons on Lois and me. They crushed us. Nearly destroyed us. I’ve taken out the sour details and can many years later see that God really does “work all out for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purpose: to be conformed to the image of his son.” Amazing! And amazing grace!
Here’s what Martha Bolton, writer for Jeff Allen, Phyllis Diller, Bob Hope, Mark Lowry and many others had to say:
“A book that will make you laugh, think, and start looking at those sour places of life in a whole new way. I really enjoyed reading it.”
Here’s an excerpt:
When life gives you lemons, don’t confuse them with hand grenades
(Identify the problem)
I have in my right hand, direct from my home office in Corn Borer, Indiana, today’s top ten list:
When life gives you lemons . . .
10. Don’t confuse them with hand grenades (Identify the problem)
9. Check the delivery slip (Determine if it’s your problem)
8. Sell them on eBay (Profit from the problem)
7. Paint smiley faces on them (Laugh at the problem)
6. Join a citrus support group (Share your problem)
5. Use as an all-natural, organic astringent (Grow from the problem)
4. Don’t shoot the delivery driver (Forgive the problemmaker)
3. Call in the Master Gardener (Take the problem to a higher level)
2. Grow your own orchard (Live a fruitful life despite—or because of—the problem)
1. Give off a refreshing fragrance (Live a lemon-fresh life)
Life is filled with lemons: those life-puckering, lemon-juicein-the-eye events we all encounter.
Some are only temporary: intestinal flu, crashed computers, lactose intolerance, sadistic dental hygienists, overdrawn checking accounts, and IRS audits.
Others, however, leave a long-lasting bitter taste: chronic illnesses, family feuds, prodigal children, and death. M. Scott Peck in his best-selling book, The Road Less Traveled, writes:
Life is difficult. This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it. Once we truly know that life is difficult—once we truly understand and accept it—then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters.
Or to put it more succinctly, Roger Anderson reminds us:
“Some days you’re the pigeon; some days you’re the statue.”
For instance, I hate all the problems involved in flying! It’s not that I’m afraid to fly; I simply hate the hassles of delayed and/or cancelled flights, lost luggage, ten-dollar hamburgers and two-dollar Diet Cokes, and most of all, increased security. Since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, airlines have gone from Def. Con. Dumb Questions at the Desk (“Did someone you don’t know give you a bomb to carry on your flight?”) to Def. Con. Take Off Your Shoes and Belt.
So, I’ve been patted down in India (the security guard seemed to enjoy his work just a little too much). Had my skivvies publicly displayed and thoroughly examined in Portugal and Australia (fortunately, at the time, they were in my suitcase!).
But the absolute worst was at the Detroit airport in the U.S. of A.
I dutifully put my watch and belt in the little plastic tub. Took off my jacket, placed my carryon bag on the conveyor belt, had my three-ounce-or-less liquids, creams, gels, and aerosols in the required one-quart clear plastic bag, and went through the metal detector without a single beep.
Suddenly, a burly security guard pinned me against the wall with a firm grip around my throat. (Envision Darth Vader lifting up that poor enlisted man by his throat in Star Wars.) Security guards and police converged on my carryon bag and began digging through it like stray dogs through an overturned garbage can. The top dog glared at me, paused, and then dramatically pulled out of my carryon bag . . . a hair dryer.
Darth let my feet return to the floor and mumbled, “It looked like a handgun.”
Life is like that—deceptive and disturbing.
So, the first thing to do when the lemon truck pulls up to your front door is to carefully examine the delivery slip.
“Sorry, not my problem. You want to deliver that load to The Department of Homeland Security, my ex-spouse, or [fill in the blank].” Don’t sign for things that are facts of life and not your problem.
There’s another possibility, however. What we may perceive as a lemon—some life-puckering problem—may indeed be the event that produces a sweet, fruitful future for us—eventually. Or worse, what seems perfectly safe and harmless can blow up in our face!
For instance, I’m thankful for my kidney stone in 1991 (I’m mostly thankful it was in 1991 and not today!) Experiencing the sensation of having a semi tractor-trailer with snow chains and a load of rolled steel park on my lower back puts life into perspective.
So, when my daughter called Lois and me at 1 A.M. in the middle of winter and said, “Uh, Dad, did you know that a ‘95 Neon can straddle a traffic island?” I could honestly say, “Hey, sure beats a kidney stone.”
It’s also worked for the time my mother-in-law backed into our brand-new car. When I forgot to ever change the oil in said new car—and needed a whole new $4,127 engine. When I lost a great job as an editor at a publishing house due to corporate down-sizing. When we were spending half our vacation time sitting in a traffic jam in downtown Chicago with a stick shift, in August with no air-conditioning, and two kids in the back seat waging a fight to the death. I could confidently say, “Hey, sure beats a kidney stone.”
Unfortunately, some lemons are worse than a kidney stone. I’ve experienced those as well: cancer, loss of loved ones, death of dreams, and broken relationships (the kind that cut out your heart with a chain saw, run over it with a logging truck, then feed it through a wood chipper).
it’s helpful to put everything in perspective.
Is this truly a hand grenade or is it more in the category of a hangnail?
For instance, ask yourself, would I trade this problem in on a hangnail? How ‘bout a headache? Harmonica concert? Hernia?
Hair loss? Holdup? Hurricane? Hand grenade?
In the grand scheme of life, a new car engine is probably somewhere between harmonica concert and hernia. But I would have traded some hand grenade shrapnel for the restoration of a broken relationship or miraculous resurrection of a loved one. Mostly, though, my problems are somewhere between a really bad hangnail and a mild headache. I’ve had very few “hand grenades” in the carryon of my life.
We can look at each lemon of life as a hand grenade that threatens to destroy us or as fruitful experiences that prompt us to grow emotionally, spiritually, and mentally (I’ll never forget to change oil again).
So that’s what this book is all about. Reminding you to always change your vehicle’s oil every three thousand miles. In addition, I trust that you’ll find this book helpful as you deal with the lemons in your own life.
And while I’ll use a lot of humor to make the reading as painless as possible (think of it as laughing gas), I certainly don’t want to make light of your problems. I write this book with my own lemon-juice-in-the-eye awareness of how incredibly painful and disillusioning life can be. As I type this very line, I just found out that a good friend died of brain cancer and I’ve been diagnosed with prostate cancer. (Guys don’t cry, but occasionally our head gaskets leak. And I just blew a head gasket!)
As Conrad Hyers writes, “Humor is not the opposite of seriousness. Humor is the opposite of despair.” I like that! The apostle Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 4, “. . . we are not in despair.” And in Romans 8, he reminds first century Christians that “In all things, God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” That’s the ultimate punch line!
And so, we’ll explore how to practically apply that principle to the lemons in our life and take a look at what exactly is the “purpose” for all these things—even the lemons that continue to leave a sour taste in our mouth and a sting in our eyes.
So, thanks for “squeezing” me and this book into your busy schedule! You could be playing “Candy Crush,” surfing the ‘net, or a thousand other things instead of reading this, so I feel honored. And, since the chapter numbers are reversed in this book, you can already feel great accomplishment in that you’ve already completed Chapter 10!
Keep in mind, it’s a work in progress. I haven’t perfected each and every chapter in this book. Life has left me beaten, bruised, and bloody (more gory details to follow). There have even been moments when I wondered if God had gone on vacation and left a stark-raving lunatic in charge of the universe.
But through it all, I think I’ve developed just a bit mentally, emotionally and even spiritually. Just last week an editor emailed me to thank me for my “tireless patience” working with her on a project. I had to check the salutation just to be sure she was referring to me. Maybe those life-puckering problems are, indeed, making a sweeter person. I hope so!
Questions for personal or group study
1. Do you agree with M. Scott Peck’s statement about accepting that life is difficult? Why or why not? Use a Bible verse to support your answer.
2. Relate a situation that had the opposite effect of its appearance, either: a) a lemony mess resulted in a sweet outcome, or b) a seemingly innocent experience turned sour.
3. What useful methods have you discovered for putting problems in perspective?
4. What Scriptures have proven helpful in gaining perspective?
5. Discuss the context of Romans 8:28. If possible, look up this passage in several different translations.
6. Read Colossians 1:9-12. How does this passage apply to “sour” situations?
7. All of us need encouragement to see progress in our walk with the Lord. Share with the person on your left some “fruit” you have witnessed in their life since you’ve known them (limit two minutes, please).
To order your very own copy of Squeezing Good Out of Bad please click right here