The Oooos and Ahhhs of Independence Day by Jo Russell

More exciting than her first Christmas was three-year-old Denise’s first Fourth of July with fireworks.  Plastic lawn chairs of every size and color at her grandparents’ house were already crowded with guests and family when she and her mom arrived. Others were grilling, laughing, and playing games on a thick green lawn that nosed up to the golf course. Tonight, the rockets’ red glare during the fireworks show would be rock-throwing distance of her grandparents’ home.

By the time the sun set, Denise was so sticky with watermelon she could be hired out as contact paper and  so wet from a squirt-gun fight with cousins, she knew that her grandparents wouldn’t need to sprinkle the grass for a week. From her hot dog dinner, Denise was still wearing a little catsup around her smile. She plopped nosily into a small chair while holding her Popsicle. Mimicking her experienced fireworks-watching cousins, Denise scanned the sky. She was ready to OOoo and Ahhh with the best of them.  She knew how.

“BANG! POW! POP!” From the first explosion, Denise ran for a place to hide. Not finding any ramparts for cover, she hid her head in her mother’s lap.

“Sweetie, don’t you want to see the fireworks?”

The girl shook her head. The show went on with many colors worth Oooos and Ahhhs. Even her mother joined in. But Denise kept her face pressed into her mother’s thigh for the whole show. 

After the last rapid-fire finale lit up the sky and ended the show, her mother commented, “Denise, I’m so sorry you didn’t get to see the fireworks. ”

The wee girl declared, “I’ll learn to look next year when I’m older.” 

Some things we see and understand better when we’re older. The Fourth of July –American Independence Day—celebrates America becoming an independent nation in 1776. Freedom followed–paid in advance and maintained at a dear price in lives.

There is another freedom that has been purchased for a price and with blood. Unlike Independence Day for Americans, this freedom is available to everyone worldwide. It is worth celebrating each day, instead of just one red, white and blue gala event.

That freedom is the gift we receive from Jesus’ as our advocate. He stepped in willingly and sacrificed his life for ours. It was a gesture of love in action. Though it happened several thousand years ago, Jesus offered us a chance to be pardoned for all wrongdoing, to be forgiven, to be given hope and a promise of a wondrous live after our time on earth is up.  All it takes is believing Jesus is the son of God, asking for forgiveness, and confessing that Jesus is Lord.

Such a decision is powered with more “Oooos and Ahhhs”: than any fireworks show–for all of heaven along with Jesus himself celebrate your joining the family of God. You are free at last!

 [Jo Russell is a Christian speaker, author of articles, anthology contributions, and award-winning Which Button Do You Push to Get God to Come Out? A Humorous Devotional for Women. available from Amazon.com, her speaking engagements and  website, www.button-to-god.com. Enjoy chuckles and speeches, tips and excerpts in website options and weekly blog.]   

 

How the Tarantula Tarantella Honors the Creator By Jo Russell

Summertime celebrations can be hot. When the air conditioning is on full blast in a tent, it does not help much, especially in a remote area on the prickly desert floor. In tent terms, that meant all the screened picture windows, doors and skylight were unzipped to the moonlight. Dark outcroppings of bare rock still radiated the heat of the day. Roberta’s thighs were glued together with sweat. Late as it had been, she heard her sons softly breathing. While they were catching zzzzzs, she couldn’t sleep. It was going to be a loooong night! The woman sat up and sighed.

Nearly as bright as sunup with a full moon, the land sparkled like mica. Roberta  peered through the screened window, appreciating the quiet sounds of a peaceful night. A very small breeze touched the desert creosote bushes and the mesquite trees.

As she listened and watched, Roberta noticed a score of dark shapes each about the size of a fist crawl to center stage.  Looking more closely, she saw the shapes had legs. They were giant tarantula spiders, tuning up like an orchestra before a performance. Then they began to dance in the moonlight like a troupe of professional folk dance performers! First, to the right, then to the left, turn around, strut and then kick up their legs! Though she learned later dancing is normal courtship behavior for the male spiders, she thought on the tarantulas doing the tarantella as a way to honor their Creator and their women!

Though these creatures may not be our favorite pets, they are good in God’s eyes. So are we.  

“God made the wild animals according to their kinds, livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.: Genesis 1:25 [NIV]

Every day, we have to make a commitment to dedicate our minds, bodies and spirits to honor the Creator. Our actions truly reflect what is inside.

How will you honor God today?

[Jo Russell is a Christian speaker, author of articles, anthology contributions, and award-winning Which Button Do You Push to Get God to Come Out? A Humorous Devotional for Women. available from Amazon.com, her speaking engagements and  website, www.button-to-god.com. Enjoy chuckles and speeches, tips and excerpts in website options and weekly blog.]   

 

 

Do Not Pass Go! Do Not Collect $200.! By Jo Russell

Date Night at the movies! What a rare treat for Pastor Rick and his wife, Shannon! The couple with grown sons exercised veto power on most films due to ratings, subject matter, and their own lack of time juggling many programs at church. But the humorous new release with a well-known star and PG rating made it irresistible.

“Welcome! Enjoy the show!” Employee Wayne smiled as he tore the couple’s tickets and directed them to the right theatre. With only two theatre complexes in a thirty-five mile radius, Wayne recognized most movie-goers. Some came from 60 miles away. With a short-staff schedule, Wayne and other employees had at least four jobs. He couldn’t remember Rick and Shannon’s usual choice of movies, but from the audience’s laughter erupting from the theatre during that film, he thought they’d enjoy it. 

But after Pastor Rick and Shannon worked their way through two buttered popcorns, cold drinks, advertisements, and previews, they settled in to watch the movie. The opening scene tracked a beach party with an abundance of enthusiasm, skin, and adult activities. It seemed to rival what had been written about the party the Israelites staged while Moses was up on Mt. Sinai getting God’s commandments. After five minutes, the film left much room for improvement. Pastor Rick and his wife trekked back to the lobby.   

Wayne was now manning the snack bar, taking tickets, sweeping up popcorn, and getting ready to clean the restrooms. “What can I get you? More popcorn? Sodas? Candy?”

“No, we want our money back,” requested Pastor Rick.

Now the theatre employee remembered them! Wayne studied his watch, and then crossed his arms.  After he checked the time, he announced, “I can’t do that.”

“Why not? I’ve only seen five minutes of the movie. I didn’t like it. I want you to call the manager. ”

 “Today, I’m the manager, ticket taker, snack bar server, and janitor. You can’t get any higher than that. See, I remember you’ve been here before. You were five minutes into the movie this time. If it had been three, I could give you your money back.  After five minutes, you cannot pass go and cannot get your money back. My decision is final!”

So was Pastor Rick’s. The husband and wife looked at each other and laughed. Wayne didn’t.  Then Rick and Shannon left holding hands in their quest for another venue for Date Night. 

Walking upright with the Lord takes a real man. Forget about popular signs of manhood: nice aftershave, owning a pick-up truck, opening doors for ladies, working hard, supporting a family, as well as remembering birthdays and anniversaries. It takes courage and commitment to submit to a life mentored by God.  God decided that a man’s role is also to be the spiritual leader of a family.

As a father of three sons, Pastor Rick took his role seriously as the God-honoring leader in his family. While raising their children, he and Shannon modeled what they wanted to see in their sons’ choices in adulthood, challenges, and spiritual life and growth. Pastor Rick taught his congregation and his family from the Bible, and took to heart the passage, “These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” Deuteronomy 6:6-7 [NIV].

On Father’s Day, we honor men around the world for their important role in families – changing the future by shaping, teaching, and modeling character and integrity for children, whether their own or in their care as leaders. Add to that God’s take: There is nothing of higher value than a father who models and walks with His Creator. It takes courage to make big decisions as well as small ones – like taking a stand on what makes good entertainment on a Date Night.

Many blessings on you guys out there who know how to be fathers to your and others’ children. Happy Father’s Day! God bless you all!

[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 Amazon.com, her speaking engagements and  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.]   

 

 

 

 

 

God’s Advocate Evens Up the Odds By Jo Russell

Though he was smiling when Kevin realized his Sunday teacher was absent and he would be joining the older church class, the second grader’s grin disappeared when he opened the door and realized his guy friends were absent, too.  As Kevin’s eyes scanned the room entirely full of females, all who were taller than he was, he thought, “No fair!” Outnumbered, outwitted, and out-voted! From a seven-year-old boy’s perspective, there was no chance for him.

“I need someone else on my side,” he protested when the teacher paired him up with a girl for the bean-bag team game. His idea of an ally wasn’t someone who was wearing jeweled sandals, toenail polish, and pierced earrings. Kevin felt all alone. The girls knew all the answers.  He didn’t. Kevin felt like crawling under the table. Instead he leaned back in his chair so far, it fell over with him in it.  

Things got worse as the group shared a table making bookmarks and cards for the church project for Father’s Day.

“You can’t use that kind of paint on the bookmarks!” scolded one girl.

“I like it,” countered Kevin.

Teacher Jenny Brown added, “So do I! It’s creative!”   

Then Kevin’s paint pencil ran out of ink and there wasn’t another good color to choose from.

When it was cookie time, Kevin was sniffing a homemade cookie and accidentally dropped one of his on the floor and it broke into pieces.  None of the girls lost their cookies. The second-grader’s cloud of doom grew like a summer thunderstorm.

Finally after the girls left, Kevin’s tears mixed with his wailing to the teacher, “I just don’t like it when the class is all girls!”

Teacher Jenny Brown pulled him close and ruffled his hair. “God loves boys. I raised a couple of them myself, and I love them too.”

Kevin needed not to feel alone, nor should we when the odds seem impossible. For in the New Testament, God adds a fuller job description to the powerful promise that he is with us in the Holy Spirit. He sends a comforter as well as a counselor to his support us. The counselor’s job is not only advice, but as a Paraclete, a representative in a court of law. Just as Jesus promised a comforter in the Holy Spirit, knowing his disciples faced a hostile world, the Holy Spirit is also referenced as an advocate speaking for and to us.

Kevin and we need to remember John 14:16 when Jesus says, “If you love me, you will obey what I command. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever.”  [NIV]. More than a title, it’s a forever promise that even when the odds are against you, you have a friend who will always be there ~.even when it looks like you’re completely outnumbered.

[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 Amazon.com, her speaking engagements and  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.]   

 

 

 

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You Sure Look Different With Your Clothes On! By Jo Russell

Ron’s shaggy blonde hair was cupped thick around his face when Mari saw him in the grocery store showcased against the European cheeses and deli meat. It was the first time to see him wearing something bigger than a hot mitt! He also looked at Mari with total surprise. She had never seen Ron with a shirt on. But then, he hadn’t seen her with one on either.

He stared, then blurted. “You sure look different with your clothes on!”
Mari thought the same of him. Were they lovers, only meeting in a motel when their needs were greatest or is Ron a male model? Is he hopelessly stuck on himself and determined to show off his compact well-muscled, hairy body?

Well, no.

Mari never before saw him before without wet hair, and water dripping off his body. Both swam laps in parallel lanes at the local pool for several summer seasons.
The world may cry for more skin and less clothes. Ron and Mari already had that at the Aquatic Center!

“You sure look different with your clothes on!” could have been the catch phrase of the flower-power generation like mine or now: “If it feels good, do it.”

God doesn’t just know you inside and out, but he knows what talents he has given you. He knows how he wants you to use them. He knows every joyful event in your life as well as the disappointments, losses, awards, victories, and challenges ahead. God knows the length of your life and what he wants you to do with it.

No matter where you are with God right now, he has not given up on you. Your age doesn’t matter, nor cellulite, moles, bitten fingernails, or the things you do better or worse than anyone else.

God knows you. He should because he made you. “You perceive my thoughts from afar…You are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue, you know it completely, O Lord.” [Psalm 139 3-4] NIV. What says love more than knowing someone completely and delighting in who they are?

You may not see the plan now, but God is smiling with his hidden agenda for your life. Will you let him guide and lead you? Wherever you are in your journey, God can take you there.

[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 Amazon.com, her speaking engagements and  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.]