God Bless and Keep Our Servicemen By Jo Russell

When a tall, gaunt man in a pressed green uniform had stepped in the door of our house, my mom exclaimed, “Your dad is home from the war, at last!” I was about five. When he had held out his arms to me, I did not run into them. Instead, I held tightly to my mother’s legs and wondered who the stranger was – and why he was moving in with us.

Being career military, Dad’s being home for a long period of time only happened late in his career. He balanced two demanding worlds: a commitment to defend the United States and a desire to protect, guide, and provide for his family – often long distance.
He took his home role seriously. Dad rose before dawn to cook breakfast for the family before he went to work. As he balanced a pancake on the spatula, “Jo, don’t you want another pancake? You’ve only had thirteen.”

As we became teens, we siblings sometimes thought Dad was hopelessly old-fashioned. He was the one who insisted I change my clothes when I bought a dress so short I could not bend over. (“Everybody else lets their kids dress the way they want,” I would wail.) He was the one who insisted we all work summers to save money for college. (“Everybody else gives their kids big allowances and let them stay home during vacations.”) No one else’s dad butted into their lives, but Dad spent hours guiding us through the tough decisions of moving into adulthood. No stranger now, he had truly shown us his love with his commitment and time. We had grown to love him, realizing that boundaries are part of a good father’s job.

My father had proved his bravery in two wars and a full military career, receiving silver and bronze star as well as a nomination for the President’s Medal of Honor.

When cancer ravaged his health and lifestyle, he fought for more time and saw all of three of us grow to adulthood.

God bless fathers who currently serve both country and family. God keep you safe and bring you home — forever and always.

 

[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.]

 

 

 

Rest In Peace, Tabitha Tomato By Jo Russell

Tabitha died today, much before her time. Neighbors reported her death to Plant Protective Service (P.P.S.) and officers rushed right out to investigate–at my house! They wanted to know how the best and healthiest of the entire group could succumb to pneumonia. Never mind the freezing temperatures after weeks of playful winds up to sixty miles per hour. When the going gets tough, the tough get going!

As they quizzed me, one leveled a stare at me. It was like looking down the barrel of a .357. “Did you, her owner, contributed to her death by neglecting to cover her every night?” I shrugged. Another asked, “Did you, the accused, deny Tabitha water while you were treating the lawn with Weed and Feed?”

“How would you evaluate your daily parental attention and care?”

Before I could answer, the second cut in, “Did you, the custodial guardian, completely blown off the ‘storm watch’ warnings on weather.com?”

I hung my head, ashamed. “Well, yes,” I mumbled. “Somehow I only got to the top four on my ‘to do list.’”

“I thought so,” the officer said. “I remember Tabitha when we sent her home with you for adoption. Her leaves were strong, full, ruffled and dark. Now all she has are brown stumps. She had been budding out to produce fruit.”

“But I carefully prepared her bed and dug out wads of wrecking-ball sized roots.” I whined. “I even put in new soil and fertilizer.”

“Then why did you neglect her?”

“I FORGOT.”

“Forgot? That’s no excuse for murder! We will have to cite you on behalf of the Ned’s Nursery Adoption Agency. Don’t even think about applying for adoption again before June 15!”
Fortunately, God does not forget. Read Psalm 121:3-8. Pay attention to verse 7: “The Lord will keep you from all harm—he will watch over your life.” [NIV]

His care, love, and consistency for us are built into every day. He covers us with a blanket of warmth and love when we need it, tucks us in with encouragement and challenges us while giving us food and water we need. When he is finished, he will have made us all the cream of his crop!

[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.]

 

 

 

Fact or Opinion? It’s Stinkin’ Hot! By Jo Russell

During a summer I worked in a resort hotel in Alaska, I zipped into the employee lounge one grey day to find co-worker Carol fanning herself with a folded newspaper. She had lived in Alaska for years. The woman looked downright sweaty.

“What’s the matter?” I asked her, concerned she was ill.

“It’s just so stinkin’ hot!” She complained, slamming her fan on the table. “I can hardly wait for winter when it cools down some.” By “some,” in her community, the temperature could dip to 64 below.

“But Carol,” I reminded her. “It’s only 53 degrees!”

“That’s what I mean!” Carol insisted. “It’s stinkin’ hot!”

As a resident of a largely desert state where an Arizona author once came up with a camping book on how to fry eggs on a rock (or the sidewalk), I pulled my sweater around me. I had an entirely different opinion.

There is always much debate about the weather. Some like it hot. Some like it cold. Most don’t like it windy. But when it comes to a decision about the weather, it’s just opinion and we can’t do anything but accept it as it comes.

When it comes to the Bible, we can do something about it. The first is to read it.

I have heard some usual claims:

“It was written so long ago and revised so many times that it can’t be true.”

“The Bible isn’t consistent. That’s why I don’t read it.”

“It’s too violent!” quipped a reader of the Old Testament.

Isn’t it strange that some of these comments come from a church-going baptized believers?

What does the Bible say? “All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16.

So is the Bible fact or opinion? Read it and found out for yourself.

You’ll be glad you did.

[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 weekly blog on www.button-to-god.com.]

Handling Fear with Scorpions in the Kitchen, Toads on the Sidewalk! By Jo Russell

Where most people had a family activity kit to fight boredom, I had scorpions in glass jars. Where other families had cans of beans and corn in the kitchen cupboards, I had baby bottles of these poisonous critters that are kin to spiders.

What had happened to me in the last half-dozen years in a place so tiny it wasn’t on the map? Had teaching here warped my brain? Had I crossed over from being horrified at the dense population of crawling and slithering things to planning the patio décor around them?

“This is Fred, one of our desert toads,” the maintenance man had pointed out on my first tour of the rural school grounds where I would work. Fred was a leathery pancake who had been stamped into eternity by the school bus. “Watch where you step! At night, they like to get warm on the sidewalks and the basketball court.” I visualized the players dribbling down the court trying to dodge the grapefruit-sized toads.

While others collected baseball cards, recipes, lost baby teeth, and belly button lint, my family became expert scorpion trappers. It was all in the interest of science. Our collection rivaled our principal’s of forty-two scorpions and thirty-one baby rattlesnakes. There wasn’t much to do without radio, T.V. or a telephone that worked more than a week.

All things were well with the live collection until cabin fever set in one Saturday during a sandstorm. Being stuck inside affected my twins, who normally played together for hours. Soon the loud thermometer of brotherly love rang out, “You’re not the boss of me!” and “You can’t play with my toys anymore!”

In the midst of the boys’ yelling, the cat knocked a bottle to the floor. The scorpion scurried out. One son dashed to the kitchen in his bare feet and fearlessly offered, “Mom, you want me to help catch him?”

The venomous critter zigzagged across the floor and I grabbed a jar and a tablespoon, hoping to catch the scorpion alive. “Just get out of the kitchen!”

I chased Sam Scorpion around with the tablespoon. I fought my fear with Isaiah 43:3 “You will not be scorched [‘or poisoned?’ I thought] when you walk through the fire, you will not be burned, for I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.”

I was counting on that promise! As soon as I had Sam backed against the baseboard, he headed for the carpet. I cut him off at the pass with the bottle, but he turned and ran toward bare feet. I stepped in front of the scorpion, trapping him between my toes, the baseboard and the bottle. God came through. Soon Sam Scorpion was safe in his home.

The boys went back to playing with their toys. As I put Sam on the shelf, I thought I should be keeping cans of peaches and tomato sauce in the kitchen cabinets like all other normal families.

Then again, if I wanted to be normal, I would be living in a town that was actually on the map!
******
A few days ago, I had the honor of addressing a group of
women about overcoming fear and challenges. Many faced health issues that make age spots and cancer treatments look as small as a battle with acne. Some juggled scaling financial mountains and had earned a medal of honor for being a caregiver. When menopause struck and one figured she was through with parenting, she found herself raising a second generation as well as tripping over dirty socks and I-pods.

In my lifetime, there has never been a greater need for hope and encouragement. Life is full of uncertainties, such as laughing now about the scorpion running loose in the kitchen, but one thing is certain. God is always with us. Hold this verse in your heart and your mind: “As I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Joshua 1:5. Joshua was the commander taking over for Moses and leading a mega-city of people to the a rich desert land flowing with water. But not without a fight!

Over and over in the Old and New Testament, this promise is repeated that God is with us.

So whatever the question, “How do I….?” the answer is here. “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5. From experience, I can share that doing battle with anything is more fun with God beside 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 www.button-to-god.com.]