Jesus’ Take on the Golden Rule By Jo Russell

One teen tall and awkward, the other short and skinny, Roberta and Connie sought answers to life’s persistence questions –like how to get a date for the school dance. “Let’s go to the homecoming dance!” suggested Connie. “That’s where the boys are!”

So as the close friends dressed carefully for the occasion, their hope grew that someday their princes would come! Why not at the homecoming dance? Someday, they both knew, the braces and pimples would be gone. Connie would be pretty and Roberta would find a boy at least as tall as she was. Her size twelve feet would grow into the rest of her.

Roberta remembered Billy, who shared many of her classes. Just the image of the handsome chiseled features, trim body and startling eyes made her heart flutter. All these months of emotion—now was Roberta’s chance. She felt she had her heart in the right place for love. Didn’t she write on the first page of every notebook her hopes and dreams?

Roberta and Billy

Billy and Roberta

Billy loves Roberta

Roberta loves Billy

Last she chanted, “Roberta and Billy sitting in a tree, k-i-s-s-i-n-g…First comes love, then comes marriage…”

Anxious for the chance to see Billy outside of classes, Roberta and Connie stepped into the large, throbbing darkened room. She pulled on her friend’s arm and shouted in her ear, “Look, Connie! He’s here!”

Far across the large room sparkling with lights, Billy, surrounded by friends, laughed and smiled. But more than an hour passed and both girls still sat together on the sidelines. Finally, Roberta prayed, “God, please, please, let Billy ask me to dance!” She persisted in her plea with the Creator. When at last, she saw Billy stride in purposeful steps toward her and Connie, Roberta caught her breath. “Thank you, God!”

As Billy came closer, the handsome boy’s smile blazed. When he stepped up to where the teen girls sat, Roberta stood and leaned forward to accept a dance–or a kiss.

But Billy’s first words startled her. “Roberta, I’d ask you to dance…if you weren’t so tall!” Then he turned to Roberta’s friend, “Connie, will you dance with me?”

Ouch!

Roberta wondered if she could ever trust prayer, God, or boys again. In time when she grew into her feet, Roberta began to understand that prayer is communion with God. He answers prayer yes, no, and wait – for good reason, even where Billy was concerned.

Then there’s Jesus take on The Golden Rule, ““Do to others as you would have them do to you” [Luke 6:31.] No, it’s not get even or some who interpret it, “Do unto others before they have a chance to do bad stuff unto you.”

Jesus gives much direction, detail, and modeling in these famous passages,” Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” Luke 6:27-29]. In his life, Jesus offered love and forgiveness to all–even those who mocked him, mistreated him, misunderstood him, and crucified him.

For he says, “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that…But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most high, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” [Luke 6:32-36].

Love is the answer. And the opportunity to show it comes up every day – even at homecoming dances.

[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.]

Any Sign of Gusty Winds? By Jo Russell

“GUSTY WINDS MAY EXIST” warned from the lone sign that broke the view of the flat horizon along Interstate 40. Almost nothing else rose above the bare land bisected by the six-lane freeway.

Another five miles away, Jolene studied the playful sign again. “GUSTY WINDS MAY EXIST.” What the red plains lacked in trees, it made up for in a stunning vista of bare cliffs and canyons. But there seemed to be no wind.

By then, she was wondering, “Is someone giving permission for the winds to sweep these plains?” or “Is it possible that gusty winds show up now and then?”

Hailing from a community with legendary high winds that makes Midwest metropolis Chicago’s gusts feel like beachfront breezes, Jolene thought she might look for signs of wind – like shopping lists sailing out of open windows and rising into thermals hundreds of feet high. Chicago had nothing on this place or her home.

Ever since an 1858 Chicago Tribune tagged the metropolis “the windy city,” Jolene chuckled. Wind only averaged 10.3 miles per hour in Chicago, while in her community, the doctors’ offices were filled with consumers imprinted front and back with the frames and handles of doors. People and trees slanted away from the wind at a 45 degree angle. Garden flags fresh out of the package hung in shreds in fifteen seconds flat.

Were there any such signs in this high desert town? Nope. Her town was still the windiest city.

An old-timer in northeast Arizona held on to his baseball cap and mentioned, “It starts blowing around February and it sometimes is still gusting in July. September is usually nice, though. So we call the four seasons summer, fall, winter, and wind!”

So may gusty winds exist? Why, sure. But if we can believe in them and see the evidence, can we also examine Jesus.

Tacitus [AD115], senator and historian of the Roman Empire, is considered by experts to be the “Greatest Historian of Ancient Rome.” He acknowledged that Jesus existed and was crucified. Others who recorded Jesus’ existence include Josephus, Suetonius, Pliny, Lucian and Mara Bar-Serapion.

But the real question is –was he the Messiah as he said he was?

The late Peter W. Stoner, author of Science Speaks, says yes. Chairman of the Departments of Mathematics and Astronomy at Pasadena City College until 1953, Stoner set out to prove the Bible as true in its predictions of Jesus as Messiah.

Out of the 300 prophesies about Jesus, Stoner used math and probability to apply to a few of the prophesies.

Micah 5:2:  “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clan of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.” That is the Bethlehem close to Jerusalem. How did Jesus come to be born there when his mother and her betrothed were from Nazareth? Because of the Roman census.

What are the chances of anyone in history being born in Bethlehem? Stoner says 1 out of 200,000.

What about Jesus, honored as a king, riding a colt into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday? From Zechariah 9:9” “Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” This was written over 500 years before it happened.

From Isaiah 53:7 written nearly 700 years before Christ: “He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; He was led like a sheep to the slaughter, and as a sheep before the shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.” This was what happened when Jesus was accused and tried for blasphemy against God and the Israelites. His crucifixion followed. It became obvious to many he was guilty of no wrong.

As Peter Stoner checked the mathematical possibilities of eight of the 300 prophesies of the Messiah, he stated that the chances would be one to ten to the 17the power or 1 X 10/17th.

If you considered forty-eight of the prophesies of the 300, the chance would be one out of ten to the 57th power or 1 X 10/57th .

This points to the marvel of God’s plan: that there is no doubt of the Messiah, who was Jesus, existed.

If we can accept that gusty winds may exist, where do we stand with Jesus, the Messiah, and Son of God?

[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 Button-to-God.com.]

 

 

 

 

 

Whatever You Do, Don’t Throw Up in the Backseat! By Jo Russell

Returning from a Christian camp weekend with her two sons and another Backyard Bible Club member, Roberta noted how fun it was to ride the mountain curves in the new SUV. What a great change from the desert highway!

“Flatlander” is the usual tag attached to people raised on deserts and plains as flat as pancakes. Roberta reflected that she had three of them in the under-10 set in the backseat. The new car was  winding through a mountain range higher than any of the children had ever seen in their lives.

Her two boys were making sounds like “Whee!”

But the queasy girl, Sherri, announced, “I don’t feel good.”

Roberta remembered this child, a neighbor and member of the Backyard Bible Club, fussed at anything from a small cut on her finger to having no one who would play with her.

Still, giving Sherri the benefit of the doubt, Roberta stopped and let the three children play on the mountainside. Riding cardboard down the slopes brought cries of joy and excitement from all three children.

But soon after they were back in the car, Roberta heard the pint-sized girl announce, “I think I’m going to throw up.”

“Whatever you do, don’t throw up in the backseat!” Roberta chimed with rhythm and finger snapping. “I like it! Let’s say it again, ‘What. ever .you.do. don’t .throw. up in the backseat!”

A few more curves.

“My stomach feels funny.”

‘What. ever .you.do. don’t .throw. up in the backseat!”

They stopped again for more recreation and time to regroup.

Sherri seemed fine. “How do you feel?” Roberta asked the girl.

“Okay.”

But ‘okay’ didn’t last long. A few more curves and Sherri whined, “I feel like I’m going to throw up!”

“We’re almost down the mountain,” Roberta assured her. Once the SUV made the last gentle curve, Roberta again added, “What. ever .you.do. don’t .throw. up in the backseat!”

Just then small Sherri committed the unpardonable sin in the back seat of the new vehicle. She got sick all over the upholstery, the carpet, and the two boys in the back seat.

After that, she sang out, “I feel better!” Roberta knew that the boys and upholstery were all washable, so all was forgiven. Sherri hadn’t been used to mountain roads or adventure.

The unpardonable sin of throwing up in a new vehicle may be nothing like the ones we feel are too great for God to forgive. Check the Ten Commandments in Exodus twenty and you may find yourself thinking, “Ooops! Broke that one, that one! What does God think of me?”

God loves you, that’s what. He loves you as you are and forgives you as you are if you have a humble and repentant attitude.

Proof is here: “You see, just at the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, thought for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” [Romans 5:6-8 NIV]

So don’t sweat the small stuff, because God doesn’t. He’s ready with open arms to bring you into the family of God. And it never matters if you threw up in the back seat or had done something worse. God loves you. With his love and forgiveness, He proves you’re totally washable and will come out like new.

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.]

 

 

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The Path to Candyland and Christ By Jo Russell

As the school-aged boys pulled open the country store screen door decorated with a rusty Coca Cola Sign, the wooden relic creaked. Clutching hard-earned allowance in their fists, the boys skipped inside ahead of their mother to the store–one of only ten buildings in the tiny community. They had already decided on what they would buy. Something they didn’t get at home–candy. Black streaks, dents, scrapes and bullet holes punctured the walls. Such were the remains of the interior décor untouched from decades before.

Inside, two desert pioneers rocked back on the legs of oak chairs. They squinted through white, stubby whiskers at the blonde twins walking in. “What yer doin’ here, Son?” one asked as the first boy reached for a Tootsie Roll Pop and put a quarter on the counter.

“I’m getting some candy,” the youngster smiled broadly.

“Yer shouldn’t do that,” replied the second desert rat. “I licked a lollipop and lookee here!” The old timer reached in his mouth and pulled out a bridge supporting two teeth.

The boys, Josh and Jimmy, stared–first at the senior, then at each other. They scanned the face of the store owner. No one was smiling.

The other grizzly man realized he had their full attention for a moment. “That there’s nothing,’” he added. “Once I ate a whole candy bar and look what happened to me!” With the skill of a gunfighter twirling his pistols, the man pulled out a full top place of teeth, spun it around and held it out for the boys to inspect on his dry, wrinkled hand.

The twins were shocked for a moment. But they were determined to stick to their quest for candy. Nothing would sway them from their path, not even geriatric sharpshooters of tall tales.

Just as the twins stuck to their plan, we are to stay on the path that God charts for us. God can see the entire path of your life and mine. We see only a part. Stepping forward is an act of faith. Remember God’s words, “I am the Lord your God, the one who wants to teach you for your own good and direct you in the way you should go.” [Isaiah 48:17 Good News Bible].

Can’t do it? Yes, you can by taking one step forward at a time. For God also promises, “He gives me new strength. He guides me in the right paths, as he promised.” [Psalm 23:3] Unconditional guarantee: with God you can stand up to anything – including any aged sharpshooters of tall tales!

[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.]

Are We Not More Important Than They? By Jo Russell

As soon as Jolene opened the door to the home improvement store where she worked, she cried out, “Morning!” to any who would listen. Immediately, melodic voices answered in song from their nests two stories high. Later, during store hours, the birds would perch on patio sets and canvas umbrellas to charm customers.

“How life like!” bird-lovers would exclaim. “Imagine real birds in this setting! I wonder if they are included in each purchase?”

Under a dark, icy, crisp sky that grew colder each day, staff member Jolene wondered, “Why haven’t the birds headed south for the winter?” While she worried about her own crises, she added her concern over the birds. They wouldn’t survive outside. It was too cold to commute far away to the warmer places.

But this group of smart sparrows knew a good thing when they saw it. Though employees thought of the drone of the forklifts as noise pollution, the sparrows sang cheerfully above the pre-dawn sounds of moving pallets and boxes.

“Why, hello!” Jolene said aloud when one sparrow strolled down the aisle between bathtub displays. He chirped a greeting in reply.

Choosing their new aviary months before, the birds had set up homes and raised families in nests two stories off the ground. Only a peck away in shrink-wrapped packages, the flock dined on many combinations of seed as the specialty items at a gourmet restaurant. During the cold months, they were warm; the hot months they were cool, plus perks also included music, people, attention, and fresh flowing water from the fountains on display.

While the birds enjoyed the good life, Jolene worried. A painful injury, major home repair expenses, relationship crises, staff cutbacks, family illness, and financial challenges—became all part of her daily struggle.

Jesus’ own words assure us that God the Father will take care of us as we focus on his kingdom and ways. “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?  Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” [Matthew 6:26-27 NIV]

But Jolene and all of us can learn from Jesus’ words. Where in our hearts is the rightful place for worrisome issues? In the background – right behind God.

The promises are powerful in this passage. We can trust God to take care of us no matter what we are facing. For are we not more valuable than the roly-poly sparrows who sing to the store staff each day?

[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.]