Need Love Insurance? By Jo Russell

Day or night, you couldn’t miss the two-foot high, lighted letters on the top of a multi-story building close to a major freeway: LOVE INSURANCE!

Every trip down the highway during my stay in the sprawling city, I strained to catch a glimpse at LOVE INSURANCE to see if the parking area was overflowing. If LOVE INSURANCE lives up to its promise, it should be!

Regardless of age, sex, or culture, anyone with a credit card can participate in today’s popular searches for love. Whether coping with loneliness, romance, or the lack of it, computer searches for love and acceptance are a popular pastime. The objective of “love insurance” is assurance that one’s love is always two-way and that the outcome of heartfelt investments of time and money always win. If love can be guaranteed, LOVE INSURANCE be ever-growing in staff and should need a bigger building!

As a planner, I like guarantees. But I know I’ll never find any perfect love from an agency that sizes me up by age, appearance, liabilities, and pre-existing conditions.

But there is a different kind of love that is insured and guaranteed with no pre-requisite. That is the type of love that God has for us. No matter who we are, what value the world places on us or what we look like, God loves us without limits. When we get out of line in thoughts, words, or action, Jesus steps in to take the consequences. Just as Jesus washed the feet of his disciples, he wipes our lives clean, too.

God’s love to us shows in the gifts of every day. Life itself, a place to stay, a variety of food, spring sunshine, and the company of others all come from our loving God. Most of all, “…God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners that Christ died for us!” Romans 5:8. [NIV]

So do you need love insurance? You’ve already got it. God cares for you!

[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.]

The Windier City By Jo Russell

Ever since an 1858 Chicago Tribune article, that Midwest metropolis has been tagged “the windy city.” I would challenge Chicago to a dual of wind speed instruments here in rural hilly northeast Arizona. The scientific instruments look like spinning one-cup measures. It would be no contest because the average annual wind speed of Chicago is a mere 10.3 mph. To be fair, the contest would not just be measured in instruments, but in garden flags fresh out of the package that last fifteen seconds flat and the number of patients at the doctor’s office imprinted from the frame of the post office door front and back.

Around the city of Chicago, how many windmills are doubled over from arm to arm combat with the wind? How many leg injuries in that city come from forcing open a car door against a playful gust?

An old-timer here in northeast Arizona held on to his baseball cap and mentioned, “It starts blowing around February and it sometimes is still gusting in July. September is usually nice, though. So we call the four seasons summer, fall, winter, and wind!”

Though I am a generous person, I clipped my flowers early in the morning and shut off the sprinklers so that the three towns north of us would find their own potpourri and water, not mine.

During high winds and sea during a frightening storm aboard a small boat, Jesus’ disciples had awakened him, terrified the boat would sink. Jesus got up, rebuked the wind with these words, “Quiet! Be still!” [Mark 4:39 NIV] Instantly, because of Jesus’ command and power as the son of God, everything was calm.

Oh, how I wish He would calm it down here for a day!

While the windows rattle as if someone were thumping on them, the wind has playfully lifted one of my earrings that was not padlocked on. Two sticky reminder notes on the dash just lifted off for Albuquerque, 400 miles away. At this speed, they’ll make it before lunch. Can you beat that, Chicago?

[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 and enjoy her book.]

Only Get My Mouth Dirty By Jo Russell

The three under-eight children gathered around the table for an emergency strategy conference as if faced with a code red: costumes for the school carnival! Two brothers and a neighbor girl sketched out details. Soon, with scissors in hand, the three headed off for the scrap box and closets.

An hour later, the three returned, one in costume. “Mom, I am a prince this year,” one boy announced, patting the dark beret decorated with a fluffy ostrich plume. Wrapped in a black cape, he sported a new royal blue breastplate cut from a scrap of brocade pinned to his tee shirt.

“I can see that. But you need to take off your costume for lunch.”

“It’s okay,” the boy assured his mom. “I’ll only get my mouth dirty.”

His figuring he would only get his mouth dirty in all the feathers, fancy cloth, and cape, is like us figuring a little sin won’t hurt.

Sin is an old-fashioned word today. Some Christians would rather call it “immaturity,” “bad choices,” “bad company,”  “mental illness,” or “sowing wild oats.” Tombstones of several young adults I taught as children explained they had “lived hard and free.” But not happily–nor long.

Proverbs 4:4-6 contains timeless words of advice: “Lay hold of my words with all your hearts; keep my commands and you will live. Get wisdom, get understanding; do not forget my words or swerve from them.”

It is not enough for the mouth to say, “Jesus is Lord.” The body must also.

 

Reach for the Sky By Jo Russell

Long before landscaping help and a watering system transformed my yard to lovely, it was a jungle of weeds and grass. Weeding on the installment plan simply had not worked. The yard was way past weed eaters and pruning shears. Now I needed a crew with machetes to break the trail, followed by a bulldozer.

My first spring in the house, I looked outside at a bed full of silk flowers among the weeds. Who would have put them there? Having been raised in desert where wayward eggs fried on the summer sidewalks, I knew nothing of tulips but wire-enforced leaves and fraying cloth blossoms.

But as I touched them, I realized these felt just like flowers! In fact, they looked  real! Mother Nature’s bright tulips turned the brittle brown landscape to red, yellow, white, purple, fuchsia, and rainbow! Only the beauty of the flowers had been camouflaged by the grass that cupped around them like a wall.

Once I had the materials to transform the yard and finish a walkway next to the bed of flowers, I weeded the spring bulbs so you could see their lithe stems and thick leaves. But without the grass around, they collapsed! They lay splayed on the ground like roadkill. I felt terrible!

The next morning I considered what to do. Bamboo skewers and twine would keep the flowers upright. I gathered them up and covered my eyes as I peeked around the corner at the tulips. But after a night of rest, the colorful blossoms were reaching to God! They didn’t need the grass to hold them up any longer, only the chance to stand on their own. They became stronger, more beautiful and larger than ever before.

The flowers that now stood on their own reminded me that sometimes we need to pull away from relationships that keep us from God. I thought with sadness of some of my family members and friends’ grown children who were influenced into addictions by those around them. Some broke ties with the friends who led them into bad habits; some did not, causing continued pain to themselves and all around them.

It is painful to break ties, but God gives us strength to stand, grow and flourish. He guides us to new relationships and a new direction so that we become stronger and more beautiful than ever.

For spiritual strength, you need to persevere through tough times, too. Read Hebrews 12:11 in the New Testament: “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”

How can unhealthy relationships in your life be pruned for better results?