Handling People Prickly as Pine Cones By Jo Russell

“I wonder if our boxes came,” the rural teacher, Jolene, cried as she opened the school office door where she and other school staff received mail. While on vacation, she shipped treasures back to the school–souvenirs and mementos too large to travel more than a thousand miles in the sub-compact car.

Though Jolene and her sons were still basking in the memory of travel through the tall pines, the principal gave Jolene an account of his scorching summer and the latest issues with the testy rural mail carrier.

Jolene counted the cartons and commented, “They’re all here–all seven of them!” She exclaimed with joy, “Oh, boy! Even the pine cones came!”

Principal Phil cringed and his face reddened all the way down his neck. “Pine cones? Pine cones! I had to drive to the post office forty miles away to pick up pine cones?!”

The principal explained, “Caroline, the mail carrier, decided she wasn’t going to drop the boxes here! That’s her job! But no–anything to make my job more difficult.  Everyone else at the school is on vacation. I had to drive into town to get every box.”

Jolene imagined her boss, puffed up with anger, grasping a fresh tumbler of iced tea, his sweat-stained cowboy hat jammed on his head, heading down the highway for the post office. In the double-cab pick-up truck he drove, Principal Phil was calculating each trip at about seven gallons of fuel–much to the temperamental mail carrier’s delight.

The pine cones—Were they worth seven gallons of gas?

Phil continued rankling over the touchy rural employees, “No matter how much I argued about leaving the boxes to the address where they should go, she smirked and handed me a package slip instead. She didn’t even bring the boxes with her! She had the gall to drop a couple of package slips every day. And here’s another one!”  He waved the yellow card in Jolene’s face.

“It’s not mine!” she countered. She and her sons left with their boxes.

Until school started, Caroline continued to drop package slips at the school office, forcing Principal Phil to drive to the post office to retrieve packages. She counted herself the winner in the battle of wills.

Prickly pine cone people and relationships: they’re a part of life.

Such brittle hard  people can be anywhere: within a family, a marriage, on a job, among clients, at school, at church, or in the community. Apostle Paul certainly knew and had experienced the challenge of many sandpaper people by the time he was on this third missionary journey as he was writing to the church members in Corinth.

Like much of our own nation, Corinth boasted a prosperous business base that counted for power, influence, and immorality.

Just as it is today, standing by Jesus’ example of treating enemies with respect may be something we can’t do in our own power.

Paul penned this famous passage based on Christ’s principles and example, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.” [1 Corinthians 13:4-5]

Jesus’ words remind us, “You have heard it said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.…If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?  And if you greet only your brothers, who are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?  Be perfect, therefore, as your heavily Father is perfect.” [Matthew 5:43-48]

Treating prickly pine cone people with an attitude of Christ is not something we can do in our own power. But we can with God’s help.

And the result may be full of surprises—maybe even fewer trips to the post office.

[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.]

 

 

 

 

 

 

Swimming with the Champ by Jo Russell

Swimming was a rare treat in the isolated area where sun and sand dominated the seasons and few residents there.

Roberta and her sons were packing suits and a picnic for a trek miles away to a ranch with a private pool.  The inviting oasis was open to the community.

As Coty watched the family pack the car, he remembered the shady picnic cabana, tall shady palms, and sparkling blue water. He’d only been there once. Coty grabbed his suit and stepped up to the grown-up with hope in his heart.

“Can I come, too? My mom says its okay.”

“Coty,” Roberta asked the eight-year-old, “It’s a great day to cool off in the pool. Can you swim?”

It isn’t unusual in the land-locked children in poverty areas not to be able to swim. Paved roads are rare. Water is even more unusual.

“Yep!” he grinned, oozing confidence. “I’m terrific!”

When they got to the pool, Coty ran to the water.

“How well did you say you swim?” Roberta wanted to know.

“Real good!”

“So, as good as you say you are–will you be training someday for the summer Olympics?” Roberta kidded him.

“Olympics?”

“Yes. That’s where people from all over the world swim and dive.”

“Yeah, cool. Now watch me!”

Coty jumped feet first into the shallow end, creating an impressive splash. Then he started moving across the water, his arms stroking out a rhythm. Just as he got to the incline leading to the deep end, he stopped.

“Need some help?” Roberta offered. “I can meet you on the other side of the deep water.”

“Nope, this is my favorite part of the pool.” He
indicated the shallow end.

Then Coty turned around and stroked his way back to the ladder. Roberta noticed that no matter where he “swam,” his feet never left the bottom of the pool.

Just as Jesus promises us, “I am with you always, to the very end of the age,” [Matthew 28:20] through anything in our path, we and Coty as well can be confident that Jesus also means, “I am with you always, even to the end of the pool.”

And with a coach like Jesus in your life, you’re swimming with the champ.

[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.]

 

 

 

 

Worth the Wait for the Best Gift of All By Jo Russell

“My sister promised she’d send my Christmas present early, and here it is!” Marty, the middle-aged, was nearly jumping with excitement as she reached for the box at the counter of the rural post office.

The small-town post office provided a friendly place for residents to gather and gab, and  Postmistress Kelly knew them all. She smiled as she looked closely at the box addressed to her customer.

“What’s the return address?” Marty wanted to know.

Kelly read it from the box.

“I knew it! She got me something really great!” Marty continued to prattle while Kelly listened, “I think I know what it is! This is fabulous! It’s not even Halloween yet, and I’ve got a Christmas present from my sister! I love how she plans ahead and sends things early!”

Before Postmistress Kelly handed over the box, she noticed a small sticker on the side and pulled it off. She wadded up the sticky label and tossed it in the trash behind the counter. Then Kelly smirked at her excited customer.

“What was that?” Marty asked.

“The label told what was inside the box. That’s why I had to peel it off. This gift needs to be a surprise. That’s what your sister wanted.”

At last, Marty was nearly speechless. “But I really, really wanted to know what was in the box! You know, don’t you?”

Kelly smiled sweetly.

Marty paused to think, “Didn’t I tell you that this was for my husband?”

Postmistress Kelly continued with a grin, “This gift will be worth waiting for. Happy Holidays!”

 

There are many other secrets in the universe that may not be revealed by the holidays. And they are certainly worth the wait.

Take Paul’s words, “Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” [1Corinthians 13:12 NIV].

A lot of Biblical scholars have commented on this passage. But to make it simple, we can only see part of God and His perspective; His reasons for directing our lives as He does. We only know some of the characteristics and glory of God, but only a small part. Accepting all of Him is an act of faith.

One day, we will see the entire picture of God and His surprise gifts for us as He lets us unwrap them. And it will be worth the wait.

[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.]

 

 

 

 

 

 

In Sickness and in Health By Jo Russell

Three days straight, Kathy could hear her husband, Al, from the hall as he worked his computer-based business from his home office.

“Ah-choo!”  Sniffle, honk. He then drew a ragged breath and let out a sigh.

Kathy reflected that though there is no cure for the common cold, he could be a better patient by staying in bed, drinking more water, getting a full night’s sleep, and letting his home-based business take a rest.

As she emptied the trash container of wadded-up tissue, brought him fresh ice water and pills, she hoped this bout of illness was near the end.

“Honey, would you like a cold glass of juice?”

Al replied, “No, Kathy. I don’t want to annoy the undertaker.”

With health in the headlines of every source of media daily, we may look for ideas that could improve our value of life, activity, and health. Both Psychology Today and Web MD  dispute claims that people who attend religious services live longer and have better health.

But heart health is what counts. That is, that your heart is aligned with the right guidelines for healthy living.

Jesus had much to say about spiritual health. “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” [Mark 2:17 NIV].  He was at the home of tax collector Matthew [AKA Levi] when other guests at the feast criticized, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?”

Tax collectors were entrepreneurs who were awarded a bid to collect taxes for the Romans. Apparently, the Romans didn’t give the publicans any guidelines on how much tax to charge as long as they got theirs.

For at the time of Herod the Great, tax was levied on produce from the fields, items bought and sold, land, personal property, housing, and a type of progressive income tax. But unlike today’s “Title Loan” businesses, which generate much profit, residents didn’t have a choice: Pay up, no arguments.

You can imagine that such a businessman as a tax collector was rich, but unpopular. According to the Holman Bible Dictionary, they were considered on the same social level as prostitutes.

In spite of Matthew’s friends, lifestyle and social standing, Jesus accepted him as he does us. No matter where we are, there is a place for us beside Jesus on the road to Heaven.

Your cold, doused with wadded up tissues and sneezing, will go away in a few days. No antibiotics needed. But look instead to becoming well on the inside. Your heart health begins with Jesus.

[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.]