Meeting God in the Morning by Jo Russell

Camping had spanned more than two-thirds of my life, bringing with it bears, foil dinners and campsites rated on a scale of one to ten, sleeping bags rated by odor from “seasoned” to “ready for burial.” A mountain of mismatched socks survived more adventure than the Lewis and Clark expedition. They never looked the same again.

A  fringe benefit for all campers is memories to last for a lifetime.
Camping had always been my time to meet God in the morning – even before I knew him very well. Over a steaming hot mug and with the smell of hash brown potatoes sizzling in a skillet, I find quiet time with God. Over time, I learned that I don’t have to be camping to meet him in the morning.

Nor do you. Whether at home, a hotel, a friend’s, or on a break at work, through all of your mornings and experiences, you will find God is ready to share time with you.

It’s easy to visualize his creation when observing it around a fire. When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him? Psalm 8:3-4 [NIV] Mindful of us? Yes. He keeps us in his thouhts.

God showed his care for me when danger was so real I could touch it, when an angel in a hard hat helped our family travel home, and when a Canadian camper showed hospitality to our wet Arizona family. When a raft trip in wild Alaska went awry with a disabled raft, three of us had a choice: to row to the take-out point on a watercraft as flat as a pancake or walk on the water. Psalm 22:4-5 records the promise: In you our fathers put their trust; they trusted and you delivered them. They cried to you and were saved; in you they trusted and were not disappointed. [NIV] God’s answer for our group was in sending the ranger with his gas-powered boat to rescue us.

When preparing to pack for a camping trip, I searched until I found the dusty “kitchen box.” I expected scratched pans and dishes, only to discover I had forgotten about buying new speckled enamelware and pans. They had been waiting for my attention.

This is just like God waiting patiently as we turn off all technical do-dads to focus just on him. God is waiting for our attention.  Where will you meet him in the morning?

[Jo Russell is a Christian teacher, speaker, author of many articles, contributor to several anthologies, and Which Button Do You Push to Get God to Come Out? A Humorous Devotional for Women, Intermedia Publishing, 2011. For more chuckles, keep checking  her weekly blog on Button-to-God.com.]

Do You Practice Every Day? The Secret to Conquering Everyday Challenges By Jo Russell

Eight-year-old Ronnie had rushed breathlessly into my classroom and caught me coloring a picture to go with a story we would write that day in class.”Wow, Ms. Russell, you sure are good at coloring!” Ronnie told me.
“Do you practice every day?”
Ronnie didn’t know why I had laughed. Later, thinking of my college art degree, (which helped at coloring,) I realized that his idea of practicing every day was the just-right advice I needed.

Though I had felt guilty for not having more time with my then high-school aged sons, I was doing my best. Demands on my time as a full-time professional spanned more than eight hours and sometimes part of the weekend. What more time did I have as a single parent than checking my sons’ report cards, meeting with their teachers, and planning a few shared outdoor family activities? There did not seem to be enough of me to go around.

Everything I fretted over would all come together, not in big pieces, but a little bit at a time–with God’s help! Here’s the proof: It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect. Psalm 18:32 [NIV].

The real secret to changing my world and everyone else’s comes from faith in God through the journey and Ronnie’s question.

Do you practice every day?

[Jo Russell is a Christian teacher, speaker, author of many articles, contributor to several anthologies, and Which Button Do You Push to Get God to Come Out? A Humorous Devotional for Women, Intermedia Publishing, 2011. For more chuckles, keep checking her weekly blog on Button-to-God.com.]

Let’s Make a Deal! By Jo Russell

Anxious to be noticed in the crowded television audience, the woman was outfitted in a bright yellow fuzzy suit with orange feet the size of  beach umbrellas. She chirped nosily through a varmint caller and bounced up and down in her seat while waving her wings to the melody.

Sure enough, the Master of Ceremonies pointed and cried, “Come on up, Tweedy Bird!” She bounced, shrieking up to the stage.

What could be a more perfect companion than another contestant decked out as Sylvester Cat? “Come on up!” the M.C. invited.

The band played a rockin’ tune while Tweedy Bird flapped her size 24s on the stage, swayed  and waved her tail like a chorus line pro. Sylvester tried hard, but didn’t quite make the cut. He fell off the stage into row one on top of Paul Bunyon, Babe, and the costumed cast of “Cowboys and Aliens.”
“Tweedy Bird, are you ready to make a deal? I’ll give you $$$$$ and a gift
certificate to your favorite grocers or….You can choose the mystery box!”

From there, Tweedy Bird jumped with excitement. The box could contain nothing or everything! Would she risk everything on the box or go home with the money? The crowd swayed with anticipation. Some swallowed their gum. Some bit their nails. The moment was tense.

“Ohhhhhh.” came a moan when Tweedy Bird chose the box and it only contained a chocolate-chip granola bar. No new four-wheel-drive Tweedy-Mobile. No vacation to Taongi Island. No diamond toe-rings.
This account is fictionalized based on my very limited view of seeing cable at the gym. The purpose of the blog is to teach, not to offend.

Early in my relationship with God, I was out to make a deal. “If you do this, I will do that.” I prayed for God to intervene when I had been dating a man who told me he didn’t like and didn’t want kids. But I was sure with God’s help, I could turn him around with how cute and well behaved my twins were. Instead, in a public place where he volunteered his time, his dislike intensified when mine both broke out in bellows and I had to take the toddlers out of the building.
Without having to put on a costume for God to notice, we are all picked to make a choice of a safe offer or the mystery box. It’s a matter of trust. The mystery box is filled to the brim with bonuses. Unlike the game show, no one gets a peek.

The contents of the mystery box are uncovered in Jesus’ own words: “No one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields, and with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life.” Mark 10:29-30 [NIV].

It is a risk worth taking. What choice have you made today?

[Jo Russell is a Christian teacher, speaker, author of many articles, contributor to several anthologies, and Which Button Do You Push to Get God to Come Out? A Humorous Devotional for Women, Intermedia Publishing, 2011. For more chuckles, keep checking  her weekly blog on Button-to-God.com.]

Grief and Potatoes By Jo Russell

“While the organ peeled potatoes…” the blend of voices included my mom and school-aged twin sons. “Lard was rendered by the choir. As the sexton rang the dish rag, someone set the church on fire!”

My young sons rolled in their beds with laughter. ‘“Holy smokes!’ the preacher cried,” they all continued singing, “in the rain he lost his hair.” More chuckling.

You would never have guessed her age because Jeane, rejuvenated by a purpose, had became the auxiliary parent helping me to raise her twin grandsons. They had been born not long after she had been widowed.

Jeane lived with a sense of humor and advised all to “Exit laughing.” In spite of the grief of losing a husband, grown son and young-adult grandson, she looked for ways to laugh.

In her cookbook for one, for example, Jeane added her quips under the “Empty Nest Advantage:”
“Nobody starves when you skip a meal.”
“Cobwebs no longer make you feel guilty.”
“It is easier to live with muddy footprints on the clean kitchen floor if they are your own.”
“No kayak paddles clobber you whenever you open the closet door.”

She focused on the very things that Paul advised in Philippians 4:8: “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things… And the God of peace will be with you.” [NIV] Jeane would have added, “Whatever is funny….”

My mom counted her blessings, savoring quality time and memories with her grandsons as their three voices bidding good night finished the silly song, “Now his head resembles heaven, for there is no parting there.”

Jeane had modeled the peace that comes from God. She deliberately chose laughter and a good attitude through life’s journey.

What is the best kind of attitude adjustment you can make today?

[Jo Russell is a Christian teacher, speaker, author of many articles, contributor to several anthologies, and Which Button Do You Push to Get God to Come Out? A Humorous Devotional for Women, Intermedia Publishing, 2011. For more chuckles, keep checking her weekly blog on Button-to-God.com.]