Customer Service Extraordinaire By Jo Russell

Have you noticed the entire aura of banks has changed lately? It’s all about customer loyalty and extraordinary customer service. Each is falling over the other with customer perks.

Banking is a far cry from the days I needed a washing machine, sought out a banker in the glass tower and asked her for a loan. She perused my paystubs, and sent me away with the message they weren’t interested in my kind – that being a working professional and single mom with two young children.

“You can always go to the Super Suds Laundromat in your spare time!” she called after me.

Spare time? As a teacher, I wondered if that fell sometime between June and August. What about the rest of the year?

Today as a baby boomer with grown kids, when I step up to the bank window, I’m showered with interest, eye contact, and a teller who welcomes me by name — though people only call me Josephine when they are mad at me. The teller gives a pitch for some of the new services and asks me if I need anything else.

“Your competitor just gave me a lollipop. Can you top that?” She gave me two.

After years of being a number, a name, and a bank balance, I felt nearly faint with all the attention. “Maybe I need to dress up to go to the bank and make sure that my socks match,” I thought after the last trip to the teller.

I pulled up to the drive-in window few days later, and after the enthusiastic welcome, service pitches, lollipops, Halloween candy, and a fall centerpiece, the teller offered, “How about a free car wash today?” He must have noticed my bug-smeared windshield and truck bed crackling with dead leaves.

What’s this really about? Customer service ratings and opinion polls. My two banks were neck and neck, but still ten points under the benchmark bank that initiated the program. In the big bank’s words, “A significant part of Bla-Bla Bank’s profit increase is directly attributable to increasing the quality of service we provide our customers.” Translated, it’s why they’ve been paying attention to us for the first time in a century. It makes profit. The lender image of Ebenezer Scrooge is gone forever.

In this season of generosity and giving that shadows the bank business, too, we need to get our hearts ready to give and serve for the right reasons. In the service of God, it’s not about profit, return, or customer service ratings.

“Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver,” [2 Corinthians 9:7.]

Doing extraordinary customer service for God doesn’t mean you have to pre-qualify with a financial portfolio, a designer suit, or matching socks. God will use you and what you have, wherever you are. He’s seeing the hearts like yours that are doing and helping where there is a need. That’s extraordinary customer service!

[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 her 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.]

No Fair! By Jo Russell

The boy had opened his conversation with his mom on a summer trip to the grocery. “NO FAIR! These round things without seeds aren’t watermelons! What happened to the other kind with a zillion black seeds? That’s the only kind I want!” the eight-year-old protested.

At the start of the season, Mike realized he had been robbed of his championship status in an event important to him as Olympic competition. Watermelons had changed forever! New and improved? Not to him! No longer could Mike and his brother compete and set a seasonal record for long-distance watermelon seed-spitting from the porch. What was Fourth of July without it? Or the start of the school year?

Appreciating his new interest in ethics and issues his mother asked, “So what are you saying about seedless watermelons?”

“They’re un-American!”

By Halloween, I wonder if scientists’ enthusiasm for genetically-altered fruit means that “grapples” (grapes + apples) take over the floating fruit for “apple bobbing” and pluots (plums + apricots) crowd out grapes and peaches. Whatever happened to God’s originals? And what was wrong with them anyway?

God, the Creator, called plant life “good.” For the Bible reads, “Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their kinds…And God saw that it was good.” [Genesis 1:11] God, Mike, and I would agree.

Though scientists have played around with DNA on veggies, fruits, and even livestock, in the name of improving the product or the genetics, changing them forever, God doesn’t change.

Need proof?

“The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.” Deuteronomy 33:27 ~written nearly 3,500 years ago.

“I the Lord do not change.” Malachi 3: 6 ~ penned nearly 2500 years ago.

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” James 1:17 ~ recorded over 2,000 years ago.

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.” Hebrews 13:8 70 A.D. ~ written also over 2,000 years ago.

God is a stable foundation in our lives as he had been since the beginning of creation of the earth, of man, of apples and watermelons.

As for Mike and me, we’re hooked on watermelons with big, black seeds – and the contests that go right along with them!

[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 her 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.]

Does Money Talk? By Jo Russell

All month, the children had waited for their turn to pass along baskets for collecting the offering at church.  It only happened once every five weeks.  When the ushers waved the boys and girls into the aisle, the children were so excited they jumped up with glee and skipped, tumbling over each other to get to the baskets.   

But the voice of one pee-wee helper, Ricky, cried out his fear loud and clear, “But I don’t have any money!” Ricky need not have worried.  Gifts from God don’t cost money.

Generous gifts come to us from God like grace and forgiveness, help from the Holy Spirit, and spiritual gifts such as our talents, as well as skills we have or need.

The offering the boy was about to collect was to show honor to God by giving a part to Him from what God gives us.  But it is never a trade-off, a portfolio-building strategy, or a buy-out. 

Some still want a cash kind of deal for God’s gifts.  It isn’t anything new.

Let’s back up to  70 A.D. and meet a successful and high-powered businessman in Acts 8. His name was Simon the Sorcerer, AKA, “the Great Power. ”  He loved the nickname that his admirers gave him! Simon earned his reputation by his amazing tricks and sorcery that brought  him money and respect. But his power did not come from God.  Then Apostle Phillip arrived on the scene, having power in signs and miracles from God. Simon was astonished. Suddenly, the sorcerer’s tricks were no more remarkable than a dust storm in the desert. Big deal. Simon listened to Philip the stories of Jesus as son of God.  He lined up with others to get baptized. Simon believed.  

When Peter and John heard about the large group of new believers, they traveled to Samaria to bless the new believers, including Simon. To bring down the Holy Spirit, the apostles lay their  hands on the believers.

Simon lined up too. When it came his turn, Simon thought it was worth the investment to be able to work miracles like he had seen from God’s hand. What it might do for profit margin and cash flow! He was so excited he offered the apostles earnest money as he blurted out, “Give me also this ability so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit!” [Acts 8:18 NIV].

Peter told him, “May your money perish with you because you thought you could buy the gifts of God with money!”

So money doesn’t talk to God. It doesn’t set deals in action. God is not withholding his gifts until he receives payment. God doesn’t care about portfolios and investments of the earthly kind.  God gives his love without conditions. He thinks of net worth from what He sees in our hearts and portfolio value by how we live.

More than having a heart of gold is having one of love for God and others. So to Ricky and all of you, it’s okay to come without money. God is all about love, not business.

[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 her 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.]   

 

 

 

 

The Fail-Proof Security System by Jo Russell

The newest park ranger found it hard to locate a rental in an isolated small town. After many months, he found a perfect rental: tidy, small, and fully-furnished and with all snow removal as part of the rent. The apartment was tucked below the landlord’s two-story house. Its spacious yard was lined with tractors and trucks used for snow removal in town. The avid sportsman landowner also left shot-up clay targets along its flowerbeds.

As the young ranger paid the deposit and first month’s rent, he asked for the apartment keys. “Keys?” the landlord responded. “We don’t need keys here. We have guns!”

In the time that followed, the park ranger found he didn’t need keys, an alarm system, or motion lights. As a security system, the landlord’s guns worked just fine.
Though that “gun system” worked against break-ins and burglaries, where can one find a truly comprehensive security system that also cover floods, earthquakes, tidal waves, uncertainties, and personal challenges?

God!

For thousands of years, God promised and showed the way through uncertainties for Abraham, Sarah, Moses, Jacob, Elijah, Elisha, Ruth, Mary, Jesus’ disciples, Paul, and scores of others. His promises still stand today.

“God is our refuge and our strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the seas, though its water roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging…The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.” Psalm 46:1-4…7)

The cost of “God’s Comprehensive Security System”? Trust. Faith. Prayer. Communication. A lifetime commitment taken one step and one day at a time. His system never fails and neither does He.

[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 her 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.]