A Dead Egg or a Live Savior? By Jo Russell

Eight boys between seven and fourteen squeezed into Grandma Brenda’s tiny trailer kitchen. Around a table the size of a placemat, they bumped into each other and cups of dye and eggs. More flats of colored eggs filled the counter, the living room sofa, and lawn chairs on the sandblasted porch. There was no place left to sit inside or outside of the silver bullet-shaped home on the barren desert. All the dyeing was in the name of the community Easter egg hunt for the widespread population of ranchers and farm families. Just the 100 folks who loved holiday fun made it all worthwhile.

With standing room only, the troops began to complain. “Grandma, this is girls’ stuff. These are foo-foo colors. Why do we have to do it?” Gene grumbled.

“Yeah,” replied Nat. “We still have four flats to go, and we’re sick of eggs.”

“Because you’re my special grandsons, and I love the way you are helping.”

The fourteen-year-old, Billy, didn’t buy the flattery. “You shouldn’t have volunteered us! It’s not fun anymore. We’ve been doing this for hours.”

“It was the right thing to do!” Brenda reveled in her new role as a community volunteer. How many other people can help their neighbors when they are working on the farms so many hours?”

As soon Grandma Brenda excused herself to run to the store, the boys put their heads together and came up with a team consensus. They mixed the dyes together and ladled the balance of the eggs into it. They were colored in no time and ready all at once!

Not just that, but on the two-acre desert plot punctuated with sagebrush, tumbleweeds and snake holes, the camouflaged eggs would be hard to find. For all the group-dyed eggs were a perfect grey-green, the same as the resident horned toad population.

When the enthusiastic egg-hunters finished, Event Leader Rex, announced, “There are still twelve eggs out there!” But try as they might, none of the children found any more until a month later when Billy was walking his dog. Roxy sniffed out a hole nearly invisible under a bush. A rotten egg lived there. It was dead and smelled like it.

Though the idea of egg hunts originated in pagan rituals to celebrate spring and new life, they are a reminder of the new life of Christ, with differences.

Christ was not reborn after having been killed. He was whole, still pierced by the nails and the spear from his crucifixion.

“He is not here,” stated an angel to the women who came to tend to Jesus’ body. “He has risen, just as he said.” [Matthew 28:6 NIV] The angel instructed them to tell the disciples to go to Galilee, where they would see Jesus alive again. But the women saw him first, then Mary Magdalene later, thinking he was the gardener, but recognizing him as Lord Jesus.

Just before Jesus did appear to the disciples, Thomas spouted out “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.” John 20:24. That’s when Jesus showed up and invited him to do so.

Jesus concluded, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” John 20:29
Christ’s sacrificial death offers us new life.

To believe in him as the son of God is to open the door to a new life. He forgives our mistakes and bad choices and gives us another chance. A future with help from Jesus as Savior is like celebrating the arrival of a new and precious family member.

So while enjoying today’s celebration, ask yourself, are you embracing a dead egg or a live 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, available from her website, www.button-to-god.com, and Amazon.com. For more chuckles and to hear a speech, enjoy excerpts of her book and tips, check her entire website options and weekly blog.]

Shall We Fast Forward to the Good Stuff? By Jo Russell

On the rare occasion that Joan watches thrillers, she holds up her hand over her eyes and peeks through her fingers when the action gets tense.

Her husband, John, sat beside her on the sofa one evening ready to enjoy one of his action-filled dramas. Joan screamed, reacting to the scene on the screen that was pitching with overturned cars, gunfire, blood, and flames.

“Honey, it’s not scary!” John pulled her closer to him. “Don’t you think you’re being silly? This is only the preview!”

It is no secret John likes action films. It is also common knowledge among their friends that Joan likes chic flicks and comedies. Fortunately, the couple’s preferences in media do not present a difference of opinion in their marriage any more serious than one liking cream in his coffee and the other liking it black.

Joan sighed, got up, and apologized, “Sorry, John, I’m a ‘happily ever after’ kind of gal. I leave you to your movie.”

Sometimes late at night when Joan has the remote control to herself to watch movies of her choice, she finds herself hitting the fast-forward button. Zip! The painful parts of the story disappear and the film speeds to the end where everyone is smiling and kissing.

What if screenwriters and novelists didn’t include conflict? Joan wished it were so. Writers will tell you it’s an essential part of fiction story-building. If there weren’t a problem, the reader or viewer would be too bored to turn the page. In real life, problems help us to grow. Second chances also give us a new lease on life. But how often do we want to fast forward to the happy ending? Can a story move to a happy ending without conflicts and challenges?

What about Adam and Eve? When God created the idyllic Garden of Eden, he provided an underground watering system, great, loose soil full of nutrients, and lush fruit-bearing plants and trees. The couple didn’t have to mix up Miracle Grow, amend the soil, compost, dig out rocks, foxtails, goat heads, or worry about drought. A gardener’s dream! Lots of yield and not much work! It was all the fruits, nuts, veggies, and variety that a person could need. At that time of grace and favor, no animals were carnivores, nor did the first couple kill any for meat within the garden.

God planned on the couple to keep on living and to raise a family. He had given them a bigger brain than all the critters, plus the opportunity to reason and choose. They and we are created in His image, after all.
If I were watching a movie of Adam of Eve messing up, like Joan, I would be tempted to fast forward through all the pain and hardship they brought on themselves and look for a happy ending. In their lifetimes, Adam and Eve might not have found it.

But soon after the conflict, God stepped in with a solution. First, he demoted the serpent, pledging that the clever creature would crawl on its belly the rest of its existence.

But God really did plan a happy ending for man and womankind, and He introduced it in the Garden of Eden.

While talking with the serpent, God promised, “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head and you will strike his heel.” Genesis 3:15 [NIV].

It was the promise of a second chance for all generations. God told the serpent Satan that would be defeated. Satan would try, but Christ would crush the creature’s head, resulting in a fatal injury. The final blow came when Jesus defeated Satan and death by being raised from the dead.

“God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8. [NIV]. The ultimate gift of love.

At the birth of Christ, an angel cried with happiness, “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:10-11 [NIV]. Three decades later, Christ, the Savior recognized the time had come to finish God’s promise.

Conflict: bad choices. Resolution: another chance. It all came with Christ. Though the creation and Noah’s ark weren’t set in a time frame we understand, scholars established a reference point after that to the time Christ came. It was more than several thousand years. But the Savior was worth the wait.

If we fast forward from the conflict in the Garden of Eden to now, we’re missing out on the good stuff. So put down the remote take it slow. Savor the gift from the Lord of All. A gift for all to open: a second chance of a new beginning and a clean slate through forgiveness.

[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.]

Order, Organization, or Guilt? By Jo Russell

With any piece of time off work, Jolene fretted over disorder and wondered where to start. The busy multi-tasking professional and mom sometimes just had to stop, rest, and feel guilty.

Jolene was suffering from the calling of the unsorted. So strong an urge was her focus on disorganization that she had nightmares about clutter in her sleep. Not that she was born with a gene for order. No one is.

Jolene had never had time to worry about boxes in the shed or garage with chewed corners, water damaged flaps, and unknown contents. Who did? It was tough enough to find a pair of scissors around the house that no one had used for cutting barbed wire.

Jolene sought out help. She needed order without guilt. She needed to find the lint brush. She wondered where she would find a pair of matched socks. The busy lady turned to God’s word, the Bible, for answers.

She began in Genesis. God faced a worse mess than Jolene’s shed. He changed chaos to order. From a dark formless mass, God created his materials and started organizing.
Day 1: He created the heavens, earth, and light. “God saw the light was good.” [Genesis 1:3]
Day 2: God separated the water and sky.
Day 3: God divided land and water, plus added plant life. He even included built-in seed-bearing pods for reproducing. The plants would keep on making more plants. “And God saw it was good.” [Genesis 1:10]
Day 4: God created the lights in the sky to mark the seasons, days, and years, like stars, moons, suns. “And God saw that it was good.” [Genesis 1:18.]
Day 5: God created creatures that lived in water as well as birds for the skies. “And God saw that it was good.” [Genesis 1:21.]
Day 6: God made all kinds of land animals, “And God saw that it was good.” Then he went on to create man and woman, designing them in his own image, and blessed them. “God saw all that he had made and it was very good.” [Genesis 1:31.]

Jolene was awed. God modeled order, logic, and great interdependent systems. No gaps or mistakes anywhere. Though God had created her and the rest of the human race in his image, and proclaimed his creation “very good,” she still felt flawed when it came to order. Just juggling the many responsibilities of work, home, family, and community, threw her in a tizzy.

Five organizational books and much guilt later, Jolene found one author’s advice that was less painful than surgery.

“Most organization systems fail,” the author wrote, “not because of room. Ninety percent of the time, the amount of room isn’t the problem, but how it is used.” Then the author assured the reader that organization systems are to be tailored to the individual and his or her lifestyle if they are to work.

Jolene felt better. With God’s help and a new system, there was hope.

After a fair test run of the new whirlwind plan of organization, Jolene believed in modern miracles! All the cleaning, washing, tidying, was done! She was helping her children with homework, finishing a project for a college class, and wrestling with the “junk drawer” until it was no more.

Jolene had even made a special trip to the hardware store for three duplicate sets of keys for the car and house. No more getting locked out!

Early the next morning, Jolene rushed to work, stashed her purse behind the seat, locked the vehicle, and slammed the door. Perfect organization! A 100% improvement over the past week! Then she noticed a set of keys sparkling in the sun on the bench seat. The other two sets were tucked in her purse behind the seat. Though bank vaults are open Saturdays, not a single rural locksmith is!

Well, nearly perfect organization! Jolene and we are still a work in progress. But we can continue to be in awe of God, the Supreme Being of Order and Creation!

[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.]

Teamwork is the Answer ~ What is the Question? By Jo Russell

Seven-year-old twins Trey and Josh proved that most of the time, two heads are better than one. They worked together finishing each other’s sentences, sharing their allowance, and dividing the chores.

Saturday’s chore was to vacuum. With both boys determined to do a good job, they plotted their strategy for the living room. But older sister Cindy was laying on the rug with her long hair spread out like a fan.

“Move, please,” Trey asked nicely.

“You can’t make me,” the girl grinned at her brother. “I’m staying right here.”  With Mom and Dad on a quick errand to the nearby grocery store, the children had to handle things their own way.    

“Okey-dokey.”

The twins split up the vacuuming. Josh tackled the edges of the room and around the furniture. Trey took over in the center and the space around his sister.

Soon her screams reached neighbors for a country mile! The first neighbor pulled open the door and rushed to Cindy. As tightly as if her locks were wound up for a perm, the girl’s long hair was tangled around the vacuum brush.

Teamwork proved to be the solution to Cindy’s freedom. The twins and several neighbors worked together with tools and patience to free Cindy’s locks without scissors. The girl learned a new respect for vacuums after that – and her brothers.   

King Solomon praises teamwork for its obvious value. “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up….Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” [Ecclesiastes 4:9-12] NIV.  

With the support of a team or good friends, it is easier to stand strong. Teamwork has been a winning strategy in business, sports, and education for centuries. Just some of the benefits include better ideas, higher quality work, and bonding between members.

Apostle Paul writes, “Now the body is not made up of one part, but of many.” [1 Corinthians 12:14] NIV.  As he explains that each part makes up the body and cannot represent the whole by itself, he illustrates working in harmony.  

When we, the members, work together, we become the body of the church with feet, hands, heart, ears, eyes, and amazing capabilities. With each person fusing strengths and weaknesses with others in a group, the team is able to divide up the work. No one feels overwhelmed. It’s a win-win result. 

A team member and neighbor knew how to remove the roller brush to untangle Cindy’s hair.

The Teamwork Challenge applies to all of us: work together!  It’s God’s answer to life’s most persistent questions.

[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.]   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Away from the Chaos, Clatter, and Confusion By Jo Russell

Never had sleeping arrangements been more comical. Only no one was laughing – yet.

“We’ll provide you and your group a comfortable place to sleep,” the church youth event director had promised over the phone.

Chaperone Cindy and Susan plus the nine girls looked around the classroom that would be lodging for the night. Cindy could predict neither the sleeping bags nor the concrete floor would be soft enough.

“How do we turn off these bright lights?” Chaperone Cindy asked a committee member after she flipped a switch and nothing happened. The fluorescent fixtures flooded every nook and cranny with light.

“You can’t. All the classroom lights stay on at the same time.”

“So when God said, ‘Let there be light,’ on the first day of creation, He was thinking of your church!”

“I never thought about it that way.”

“What about the bathrooms?” Cindy wanted to know. The girls clutched their backpacks, sodas, and lip gloss. They needed facilities right away.
“We unlocked them just for you – they’re one floor down across from the elevator.”

While Chaperone Cindy took half of the girls to the bathroom, Chaperone Susan helped the girls set up their sleeping bags. Another group from parts unknown bedded down on the other side of the plastic divider walls. The rising volume of talk, music and laughter set the stage for a great building-wide slumber party. It was exciting news for the girls, but bad news for the chaperones.

Soon after she rolled out her own bag, Susan pulled the top flap over her face. More than sixteen hours earlier, she had dressed, headed to a full day of work, and then traveled with the vanload to its destination.

The full quota of their girls settled in for an all-night party helped along by M & M’s, chaos, clatter, noise, and laughter. At least they were all happy sounds. Susan sleepily wondered if it was the rockets’ red glare and bombs bursting in air that flew overhead – or was it popcorn, candy, and game pieces?

In the morning, Susan awoke refreshed under the bright lights. But Cindy and the girls seemed limp with fatigue. The chaperone roused herself onto an elbow to ask, “How ever did you sleep with the lights and the noise?”

Susan just smiled.

Chaos, clutter and noise seem to dominate minutes of our multi-tasking lives.
But when it comes to building our relationship with God, it’s not about multi-tasking. Prayer is one-on-one communication. Paul advises, “Pray continually” [1 Thessalonians 5:17]. Best case scenario is illustrated in Jesus’ own life.

Just as we do ourselves, the Savior himself needed time alone for rest and refreshment. He chose places where he was alone and could pray. Often, this came before or after major events.

“Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. “[Mark 1:35 NIV] This happened after he healed Simon’s mother-in-law of a feverish illness. News spread quickly. By evening, the residents of the entire town crowded to her door to be well again.

He went off by himself after healing a paralytic lowered through the roof where he was preaching. [Mark 2]. Jesus took to the hills after feeding the large crowd with two fish and five rolls. He needed time alone with God to regroup and to deal with John the Baptist being murdered. [Mark 6] Much art commemorates Jesus’ time to pray in the Garden of Gethsemane before his arrest and crucifixion. [Mark 14].

In our busy lives, popcorn, candy, and flying M&M’s may be the benchmark–or bane–of our existence. But in seeking God, we must leave chaos and confusion behind. In our private time with God, we get the rest we need – even where the accommodations are comical and the lights are on all night.

[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.]