T.L.C. [Tender Loving Care] Never Too Much of a Good Thing by Jo Russell

Until she retired, Cheryl insisted that the secret of her lush yard full of plants was pure neglect. The jungle-like lot was thick with trees, wildflower beds, and happy garter snakes.

To skeptics of the neglect theory, she countered “When did you ever see me home when I was working full time and doing volunteer projects in the community? Most of these plants multiply on their own and spread faster than dandelions in the spring.”

But her first summer as a retiree, Cheryl dived into the unfamiliar territory of trying to raise plants from seed and cultivate a garden for food. She complained it ruined too many nights as well as monopolized her days.

As she cried over the phone to a friend, the trowel handler wrung out a hankie, “I’m just not a gardener. I get too attached.”

“To what?” her friend wanted to know.

“The plants. I lost sleep over the sunflowers because the flowers are supposed to turn to face the sun and one stubborn stiff-necked stalk just stares straight ahead with a defiant yellow smile on its face. What’s a gardener to do? Hire a plant shrink? Or let it move through adolescence on its own?”

“Beats me.”

Cheryl recognized Jenny as a great friend, but she was leaning on the wrong person for empathy. Jenny’s back yard was bare dirt. The front yard sported a lawn the size of a wading pool with one struggling rose bush along a fence. The only packaged seeds around Jenny’s house were for jazzing up salads.

“The garden is driving me crazy,” Cheryl sniffled. “With measuring tape in hand and a tablet for tallying veggies just as I do each day, I go out just after sunup to fuss over the pumpkins. I counted them, measured them, and wondered why some flowers never turn into pumpkins even when the bees dance all day in their blossoms.”

Cheryl continued, “You can bet that The Pumpkin Patch farmers raise five acres of pumpkins for Halloween and never count or measure them. They probably just do a quick once-over to be sure the plants are getting enough water. Then I counted the acorn squash. There are twice as many veggies on those two plants than the four pumpkin vines! And yet with all this TLC, I spotted grey spots on the leaves! Where have I gone wrong?”

“They do have sprays for that stuff.” Jenny suggested.

“But I’m trying to grow organic produce!” protested Cheryl. “I’ve even got dark circles under my eyes wondering who gave those little brown caterpillars permission to assault my apples! Each night, I toss and turn with nightmares of fat green tomato caterpillars mutilating my plants, Ernie and Bernice. What is my problem?”

“Ernie and Bernice? You mean you named your tomato plants?! “

“Plants have feelings, too. These are my babies!”

Jenny responded, “I know what your problem is! You’re right. You do get too attached!”

Perhaps without a notebook, measuring tape, and micro-managing, Cheryl could just give the plants love, room to grow and breathe and leave the rest to God. She thought she knew everything about the plants. But God knew everything about Ernie and Bernice while they were just seeds.

That is the same with you. God knows the gift of you and your entire life. “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.” Psalmist David wrote in Psalm 139:13 [NIV]. The wonder continues with these words: “When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” [Ps. 139:15-16 NIV].

The Lord Himself told Jeremiah, “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a …” For Jeremiah, it was “prophet to the nations.” [Jeremiah 1:5].

God has honed your skills and talents into a unique combination. He will say, “I appoint you as a….” It’s possible you already see the role He has chosen for you as a ….. a mom, a dad, a visionary, a builder, a teacher, an accountant, caregiver, customer service rep, sales professional, a student, a carpenter, a leader of nations, a business owner… or even a gardener!

Is God attached to you? You bet. But it’s a good thing! He reflects love, care, and promise in a plan for you for all the days of your life. He even gives you the gift of tomatoes like Ernie and Bernice.

[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 and to hear a speech, enjoy excerpts of her book and tips, check her entire website options and weekly blog on www.button-to-god.com.]

The New Meaning of Apples and Blackberries in the Age of Technology by Jo Russell

Fruit has taken on a whole new persona in the technological world. While many think in terms of electronic gadgets, I’m still stuck in Farmer’s Market mode when it comes to apples and blackberries and bites blended together in the fall celebration of harvest.

Recently, my grown sons reminded me, “Sometimes, you’re so old-fashioned you could have been the first human life on earth three million years ago!” To keep my relationship intact with them, I had to ditch dial-up internet and get up to speed. I had to upgrade. I began to rethink my definition of fruit.

Today, I find myself and others emerged in Apples, Blackberrys, Dells (definitely not the “Farmer in the Dell” type) and ever present pods (i Pods) that have nothing to do with pole beans or peas.

Some skillful users of technology are able to chew gum, talk on the phone, and navigate down the highway with a G.P.S. (Global Positioning System) guiding them with a robotic voice, “Turn left at the next exit…Missed it. Redirecting. Go point five miles and turn right at exit one ninety six. Then turn left at…”

Competing for road space on the rural roads are determined runners, in-line skaters, bicyclists, and horseback riders. Truly these extreme sport enthusiasts are taking their lives and cardio workouts into their own hands thanks to multi-tasking drivers outfitted with Bluetooth headsets, iPods, or phones.

Once, I received techie advice from a friend, “I give myself two weeks to master a new piece of technology. You need to do that, too!”

God didn’t give me that much time. Monday, my computer flipped on its back, waving its hard drive components in a death rattle. I had to order a new computer. Wednesday, I was chosen as a regional speaker with traveling orders to unknown places. No longer could I figure in wiggle time for getting lost in every area populated with more than twenty residents. That includes the dogs and skunks under the porch. Out with driving by landmarks and printed internet directions! In with a G.P.S.! Saturday for a keynote speech, I turned on a digital recorder I hadn’t used much. When I pushed the “start” button to record, the machine started playing back another speech for my audience of sixty-five women!

All of the technology has great capacity for making difficult tasks faster, more organized and more easily accessed. But to me, it sometimes falls into the same category as assembling a backyard gym set without tools or instructions.

Compared to technology, God’s message is simple and quiet. It’s an uncomplicated gift.
He loves you. Here’s the proof: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whosoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” [John 3:16 NIV.]

While you’re struggling with the fruits of technology, remember God’s simple assessment of you. You’re a top banana and the apple of his eye!

[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, available from this website, www.button-to-god.com. For more chuckles and to hear a speech, enjoy excerpts of her book and tips, check her entire website options and weekly blog on www.button-to-god.com.]

Will the Poor Always Be With Us? By Jo Russell

“Can you spare some change?” The middle-aged woman hovered as soon as I slid into the worn seat of my pick-up truck. She and her husband glowed with health, wore neat outfits that paid homage to the nearby Western store, and the wife’s hair reflected care and color in a beauty salon. The couple had stepped out of a snappy Dodge double-cab pick-up truck with four-wheel drive. The price of their wheels would feed an American family of four every day for three years.

Change just might be the answer!

How about we change vehicles? What an idea! I liked it!

Like others pleading for help at parking lots or gas stations, these shared a common denominator: their vehicles were so new that by comparison, mine looked like it should be in Saturday’s demolition derby.

So many requests had come in over the last month by phone and in person that I wondered if I might have been marked while I slept by an admirer. Had someone played connect the dots between my age spots? The message seemed clear to many: “Ask me for money.”

Even though I had turned all the requests down, I confided my concern in a long-time, close friend. “Are people were seeing something I’m not – like words written on my forehead in invisible ink?”

“No,” she told me. “You just have a soft heart.”

Jesus himself said, “The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me.” [Mark 14:7 NIV]

In a number of countries where this blog is read, a car—any car—is a privilege.

Were the Dodge owners poor? Hardly. How they ended up in this position–whether over their head in payments or because of job loss–American financial guru Dave Ramsey would have advised them to sell the truck and buy a cheaper vehicle.

Helping others, showing them love, and lifting the poor is good for the soul. There are times that situations arise when many need help. When a raging forest fire nearby forced evacuation of about 30,000 people, the residents’ needs were met. Surrounding community members pulled together to offer meals, lodging, clothes, and animal care. Not to come to someone’s aide when they are in desperate need would be turning a back to God.

Jesus himself tells in this word story, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?”

“The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’” [Matthew 25:37-40.]

But also, Jesus would advise helpers to use discernment.

When you, a group, or an organization has helped the same people numerous times, plus you or someone else has taught them how to help themselves but nothing changes, cut them loose! There is a time for a stand – for you and them. To continue to give, you are only encouraging them to be dependent.  They will choose, too. Either they will find another source or they will learn to solve their own problems.  You can guess which choice will build character.

When the next person asks you for “change,” think about the change that would help them the most. Show them how.

 

[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 and to hear a speech, enjoy excerpts of her book and tips, check her entire website options and weekly blog on www.button-to-god.com.]

 

 

 

Is There Immunity Anywhere from I.D. Theft? By Jo Russell

Rural Postmistress Lenore was shocked. In the small ranching community, residents sometimes left their houses unlocked and keys in their pick-up trucks. Some even forgot their keys in the mail box door. It had been no big deal. Until now.

Confronting a problem akin to cities, Lenore posted this notice on the post office door where everyone enetering could read it:

                                 

                                  Caution! IDENTITY THEFT!

 

     Do not leave your mail lying around in the post office. Take it home with you or drop it in the outgoing mail slot. Someone  has been applying for credit from applications in our lobby trash can.  We  have removed it so that your credit card offers and other mail with your name and address will not result in identity theft. We are doing this for your own protection.

Postmistress Lenore Smith


 

One saw Lenore’s action as patronizing. A few days later, a patron taped a rebuttal on the door:

Post Office Notice

 

Victims of ID theft say that the pain is worse, recovery time is longer and benefits less than surgery. Similarly, God’s boundaries keep us safe and on the right side of life. In Jesus own words, “If you love me, you will obey what I command.” [John 14:15 NIV]

In Moses’ words: “Keep his [God’s] decrees and commands, which I am giving you today, so that it may go well with you and your children after you and that you may live long in the land that your God gives you for all time.” [Deuteronomy 4:40 NIV].

Now that’s a promise worth posting on the door of our hearts!

[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 and to hear a speech, enjoy excerpts of her book and tips, check her entire website options and weekly blog on www.button-to-god.com.]