The Little Old Pretzel Bender: A Story of Persistence

Guest blog by the late Jeane Gottsponer
[Jo’s Russell’s mother, Lance’s grandmother]

The little old pretzel bender wasn’t really very little. He was pretty tall for his age. He wasn’t really very old, either–just fourteen. Nor was this young fellow German, like most of his profession. His name was English and Scottish, but Lance was as Swiss as a yodel. And he was an avid bender of pretzels.

His very first try was the hardest and messiest knot he ever tried, a Gordian knot. Everyone knows untangling the Gordian knot was one of the labors of Hercules. Hercules managed to do it. Lance tried and tried. He couldn’t. The Gordian knot didn’t look anything like a pretzel and was hard as a dog biscuit.

There had to be a better way to bend a pretzel than a Gordian knot. Lance got out his old Boy Scout handbook and followed the directions for knot-tying. The overhand knot was easy. It looked a lot like the pretzels at Ed’s IGA. Next, he tried a knot called a figure of eight. Almost dislocated his shoulders working on that one, but it was a respectable-looking pretzel.

Then with varying degrees of success, Lance tried a slip knot, loop knot, a bowline, a square knot, a granny, a half-hitch and a prolong knot. The knots that turned out best, he sprinkled with salt. They were delicious!
He dipped the pretzels that ended up unrecognizable as knots into melted chocolate, which helped conceal slight imperfections. Since he had done a great job on the pretzel dough, all his pretzels were delicious, even if unrecognizable. Most non-Boy Scouts don’t know nuts about knots anyway.
Having tied several batches of pretzel dough into knots, Lance was ready to go one giant step further. He would make a birthday pretzel for his good friend and boss at the bicycle shop.

With a fresh batch of dough and a great deal of determination, he worked on the creation of a truly remarkable pretzel. He held his breath as the work of art tanned to perfection in the oven. At last it was ready for the world to see. The magnificent birthday pretzel.

Persistence paid off: the pretzel that filled an entire cookie sheet now spelled out his favorite brand at the two-wheel shop: SCHWINN.
[JCG 1994]

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Persistence is a great quality in goals, requests, and prayer life. More than the usual three or four attempts, Lance kept pretzel-bending until he finished the special creation that wasn’t too hard or soft and tasted great!

To keep asking in prayer brings answers. Jesus used the illustration of a man coming to his neighbor’s door after everyone’s bedtime asking for bread because company showed up. The street market had been closed for hours. In those days, answering the door at midnight was more than just inconvenient and irritating. Everyone slept in the same room, so the man had to climb over his children and the rest of his family to talk to his neighbor. Jesus pointed that because of the neighbor’s persistence and boldness, the man would give him all that he asked for and needed.

Jesus himself said, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.” [Luke 11:9-10 NIV]

Pray, expect, ask again. Persistence pays off.

[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 buy her book from this site, Amazon and Barnes and Noble.com or order from any bookseller. Keep checking her weekly blog on Button-to-God.com.]

“A” Is For a Work in Progress by Jo Russell

As I scanned the desktop searching for a stapler and paper clips under a tidal wave of school papers and assignments, second-grade student Adam came around with a clipboard. He had finished his work already, plus a learning center activity and a fifth-grade level library book.

“So, Adam, what are you up to?”

“I’m the desk inspector this week.”

That had been his assigned classroom job. “You’re doing great!,” I remarked, remembering how he had worked side by side by a student whose desk always looked like rubble after a bombing. Now the student had papers grouped neatly and a pencil box visible. When I asked the students to get out a pencil, crayon, tissue, or math book, Cindy could actually find hers.

In addition to helping the students clean their desks, Adam handed at slips that gave them a grade. Most of them got “A”s or excellent.

“I’m inspecting your desk, too, Mrs. Russell.”

I groaned. If organization is a genetic gift, Adam had it. I do not.
But I keep hearing that organization is a learned skill. I’m willing to learn.

“But I have to say after seeing all the teachers’ desks,” he decided, “That yours is the best of the grown ups!” He handed me a paper with an “A” on it.

The rest of the day, I soared, even though I still hadn’t found my stapler.
I realized that we are all a work in progress, and Adam was expecting the best and helping everyone to do it.

That is the same with God. He has plans and tasks for us, expects the best, helps us with the challenges, and applauds our improvements along the way.

Paul writes in Philippians 1:6, “Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

Think on God’s confidence in you and your future. It’s not, “Needs improvement!” but instead, “A celebrated work in progress!”

[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, check her blog every week on Button-to-God.com.]

Spots and Rash? Oh, No! By Jo Russell

Forget about spending the day with my best friend! Wrapping a hand with toilet paper for another round of sneezing and germ dispersing, I thought, “Better to get sick on a school day than waste a perfectly beautiful Saturday!” My pre-teen plans had been shattered.

“Maybe you should plan to stay in bed today,” Mom suggested as she felt my head. “Mmm. Maybe the flu?”

Sniffling through Friday’s sixth grade science and history lesson, I had been
fascinated by the disease that destroyed crews sailing across the ocean–all for lack of vitamin C. I remembered just a few of the symptoms, and then I checked to see. Sure enough, I was pale and I did have spots! (Alarmed, it never occurred to me that before the fever and sneezing hit, I had pre-existing spots–both freckles and bug bites.)

I proclaimed, “Probably just a touch of scurvy!”

Mom choked, coughed, and then turned to erupt in laughter at my self-diagnosis. She served balanced, healthy meals. No lack of vitamin C there! Also, my brothers and I often picked and snacked on the softball-sized oranges on trees in the backyard.

No wonder my mother, a trained nurse, laughed so hard!

My embarrassing moment came from holding onto only a small part of a body of facts. It was like picking a Bible verse without reading the entire context, and then making decisions “based on God’s word.”

Peter, who walked with Jesus, hearing his words first hand, advised: “… grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” [2 Peter 3:18 NIV ]

How do you grow in knowledge? Learn the whole word. Read every day in the Bible. Invest time each day and your knowledge of the whole word of God will keep you from mistaking your words for His.

[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.]

Is Lacerated Lettuce a Punishable Offense? By Jo Russell

Offerings and Attitudes

“Wow! My favorite salad and sandwich place!” I thought as I recognized a franchise name while wandering into the airport during a layover for a connecting flight.

“Chicken Caesar salad,” I smiled, giving my order and remembering the glorious look and taste of the prepared salad from a restaurant at home by the same name. The gloved employee didn’t return the smile, but sized up the line behind me. She yanked out a fluff of lettuce already packed in a container, ripped off the lid, jammed the chicken and other toppings on top of the lettuce, then beat down the salad with her gloved hand as if it had been attempting to escape. Scowling, she forced down a container of dressing in the middle. Then she snapped the lid shut and handed it to me. Nine seconds flat–possibly a record!

I studied the remains, wondering “Is salad abuse a punishable offense?” I tried to eat it, but I wallowed in remorse for the chicken’s undeserved beating. I thought I saw bruises its full length. Then I felt sorry for the tomatoes, pummeled into puree, and the oppressed onions broken to bits.

The employee’s attitude and her offering were unacceptable.

What I had expected was the delight of watching the employee prepare the dish with care. Months before in our town, I had remarked to my friend Sally, “Look how carefully they measure the lettuce! Wow! That grilled chicken looks great!”

My friend had remarked, “The other toppings really make this a feast!”

One employee had continued fussing over the salad arranging the toppings so they were colorful, crisp, and tasty. Truly he understood that a person eats with their eyes first. He gave each order his best and served the customers well, even when there was a line.

In the clean, bright atmosphere next to a wall of windows with fashionable furniture, we had enjoyed the experience and the meal and returned often.

Two restaurants with the same name and menus. Two attitudes about giving. Two attitudes about offerings.

Our attitudes give value to our offerings to God.

From Deuteronomy 15:10, written by Moses, the Bible reads, “Give generously to him and do so without a grudging heart, then because of this, the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to.” [NIV]

When giving of ourselves to God in time, finances, and actions, what attitude does God see?

[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, enjoy her book and check her weekly blog on Button-to-God.com.]