Just the Right Size for Unchanging Needs By Jo Russell

In the four-season climate where I live, three of which are chilly, I find myself pulled by an irresistible urge to shop for sweaters all year.

Last year, if a professor quizzed me, “What are the basic needs of humans?”

“Simple,” I reply. “Food, water, shelter, and sweaters.”

One fashionable fitted garment in just the right color caught my eye. The end-of-season price was a bargain-hunters dream. I seized it and held it tightly while I sprinted between customers to the cash register.

On the first wearing, someone commented, “That color looks beautiful on you!”

I beamed.

The next time, I noticed it had gotten bigger. A friend asked me,
“Have you lost weight?” I liked that, too.

On the third wearing, it expanded another few sizes, and the cuffs hung to my knees. The chic sweater was now roomy enough for a woman pregnant with twins. Though I like to think of myself as “29 and still looking good,” when menopause set in, I stopped needing a maternity shirt. “Oh, well, sweaters like this are always good as sleep shirts in the winter.”

But with the next washing and wearing, it became big enough to cover my five-burner gas barbeque. Another wearing and the size ten could now be used as a car cover.

Sweaters, fashion, and car covers change, but not God.

Psalmist David wrote “The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge. He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.” [Psalm 18:2 NIV]

Think about a foundation of rock. Building foundations are filled with steel and cement—essentially rock. In arctic permafrost, the house-sized hole is filled first with tons of gravel–crushed rock.

God is a rock and foundation for us. He does not change. He is always there for shelter, protection, and a foundation in our changing lives. In a world where boundaries and sizes change, God doesn’t. He gives our lives and spirit stability.

So if a professor asks what are the basic needs of humans, remembering my unchanging God, today I will reply,

“God, food, water, shelter, and sweaters!”

[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 Power of Keys By Jo Russell

A new arrival found herself at the information desk before a large set of gates that looked like they opened into a gated luxury resort. Carol couldn’t remember how she got there or where she had parked her car, but noticed that the sun was setting and she wanted to settle into a nice hotel before it got dark.

Hi! I just got here and need a place to stay.” She leaned in to read the name tag of the bearded customer service rep: “Pete.”
“Say, Pete, do you take American Express? Or do you prefer Visa or a Mastercard?”

“Nope. None of those.”

“What does it take to unlock these gates? A remote? A card? combination? Collateral? Keys?”

Pete guffawed. “Keys?” he chortled. “Carol, you were offered the keys some time ago. What did you do with them?”

What keys had been in her care? Carol was trying to remember. Hmmm. Where they one of those keys where you pushed the button, it beeped, and then unlocked and lighted all the vehicles in the grocery store parking lot? Could it be the small silver house key that disappeared for three months so that her kids had to climb in the window every time they came home? She’d gotten better keeping track since then.

Carol thought about the spare keys she kept after she got a frantic call from a neighbor who had accidentally locked herself inside her own shed. Carol also recalled her friend who entrusted her with another spare when the woman had dead-bolted herself outside her house. All key-bearing friends had been out of town. “The hiding place was too obvious,” the friend had explained. “Someone would only have to flail around inside the bag of concrete on the patio to find it!”

Carol had enough spare keys–hers and everyone else’s–to create a necklace. Her purse was outfitted for emergencies requiring anything from rescue rope to dehydrated dinners. But as she dug in her bag, it seemed unnaturally light. She couldn’t find any keys in her purse!

“What keys am I looking for?” she asked Pete.

“The really important ones. The keys to Heaven. They are in your Bible.”

Just where exactly are the keys to Heaven?

Key One: “Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’” [John 14:6 ~NIV]

Key Two: Jesus said, “’Hear, O Israel the Lord, our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” [Mark 12:29-31 ~ NIV]

How precious are the keys to Heaven in your life right now? How would you rate your stewardship of your keys?

[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.]

Show and Tell Surprise! By Jo Russell

Pete felt desperate about Show and Tell in his first grade class. It was the next day and he still didn’t have anything spectacular to bring to school. It would be hard to top Carol bringing a baby rattlesnake in a Coke bottle hidden under her coat. Everybody on the bus got a good look. But after she got in the classroom, the teacher turned white and the principal took it away.

Over the past two weeks, Pete had pleaded with God for something that would wow his classmates. The only thing he could think of was totally off limits: his older brother’s remote-control Jeep. Andy wasn’t prone to sharing his toys–especially a recent birthday gift.

Pete asked again and again. Still Andy had always said “No!”

With Show and Tell the next day, and Pete’s hope and faith waned. Why hadn’t God answered?

Pete asked Andy once again to borrow the jeep with all kinds of promises that would be hard for him to keep. The youngster reached for Andy’s toy at the same time he was asking for the umpteenth time.

Andy slapped his brother’s hand away.

The next day, Pete showed up for school with his Show and Tell clutched in his fist. He realized that God had indeed answered his prayer for something spectacular and unique to share.

Pete opened his hand to show the class. The kids “Oooed” and “Aaahed!” For in Pete’s hand was teeth that both he and his brother lost during the fight the night before!

This is a fun and original story. But there is a message in it. God always answers our prayers. However, it will be in His time and His way. Keep on praying and believing!

 

[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 www.button-to-god.com.]

 

The New Meaning For a Lower-Case ‘t’ By Jo Russell

Mrs. Davis was teaching her kindergarten students letters and sounds. As she reviewed the letter of the day, one five-year-old raised his hand and waved it wildly.

“Mrs. Davis! Mrs. Davis! I remember our letter today. It’s ‘t!’ Did you know that Jesus died on a lower-case ‘t’?”

Yes, He did. The boy’s insight touched Mrs. Davis and she felt tears in her eyes.

Think about it. A man walked the earth and proved God’s power. How?

By healing many of diseases that still stump medical researchers today.

By healing the mentally or physically ill, leaving no side effects except joy and wonder!

In  bringing the dead back to life on at least three occasions.

When Jesus healed the mentally or physically ill, there were no side effects except joy and wonder! There was no further need for medical treatment, check-ups, tests, or medicine.

But more important than his miracles and death was His resurrection. Angels at Jesus’ tomb told the women who had arrived first, “He is not here! He is risen!” [Luke 24:6.]  Without a trace, Jesus left the tomb behind to return to Heaven, a whole person–not as a spirit. As son of God, Jesus overcame death—one more proof of his deity.

Jesus said to Martha, sister of Lazarus, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies, and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.” John 11:25

Like the people of Jesus’ time, all of us need to determine the answer to this important question: Who is Jesus? Man or God? And who is He to you personally? Man or Savior?

[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 www.button-to-god.com.]

 

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Thanks so much for reading! Jo Russell

Don’t Get No Respect? By Jo Russell April 1, 2012

“Someday my teens will show some respect!” I mumbled to myself. Whatever happened to them after thirteen? What about my secret wish to be honored by my offspring? Was it ever going to happen again?

Though my sons had been close to graduating from high school, there was still time! In church a couple of times a year, our pastor allowed the flock to share and honor their mothers, fathers, and grandparents.

But it didn’t seem likely. My teen offspring had moved as far from me as possible at church without perching on the flagpole. The two had me drop them off a couple of blocks from their destinations. I could count on their and always wearing sunglasses and a disguise when forced to accompany me.

Turning to see my tall sons standing among the seated crowd in the balcony, I nearly fell out of my seat when I heard one familiar voice begin, “We want to honor our….”

Before I had a chance to get excited about appreciation, the other filled in, “to honor our grandmother…who was another parent to us. She introduced us to music, bought us instruments, and taught us to play them. She let us eat seconds and thirds and tried out a whole cookbook of recipes on us.”

As for me, where was the honor? It went out the window with unpopular directives like chores, family rules, grades, and dress code. Grandma was all fun, love, and appreciation.

I knew about disrespect myself. For a decadent decade, I had treated God with callous indifference. In thoughts, words, and deeds, I had distanced myself as far away from God as possible. In the same way that my teens from seventh grade on denied any blood connection with me, I had denied the existence of a loving Jesus, son of God. Coming the back way to God through a church-sponsored family help group, I learned to love, honor, and respect God and Jesus as never before – in a relationship as a friend, confidant, and helper in all circumstances. I had deserved an “It’s about time” from God, but He didn’t say it. He just forgave and loved me, as He does you.

Today marks Palm Sunday, a day that Jesus entered Jerusalem on a donkey colt. The crowd lay palms on the road before him as a sign of respect – something usually reserved for those in places of the highest honor. The crowd began to praise God, as they had seen His miracles, such as recently bringing Lazarus back to life. “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” [Luke 19:38 NIV]. Our Savior deserves the highest honor. How are you honoring God today?

As for my teen sons and my wish? “I still have my key to the house,” one adult-teen reminded me in a long distance call from his grueling second week in military boot camp.

“I guess I gave you a really hard time,” the other teen remarked in another long distance phone call after a few weeks at a full-time job far away. Then he chuckled. “But I…..love you, Mom.”

It just keeps getting better. Honor and respect at last! No foolin’!

[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.]