Beginnings: It Can Only Get Better from Here! By Jo Russell

“What could be better than this? Dinner in the great outdoors, a river trip, and camping under the stars?” Nancy voiced out loud to her now-grown sons who were preparing dinner over a campfire and outdoor stove.

Over her sons’ growing-up years, Nancy had prepared many meals around a campfire.  Campfire-roasted corn on the cob. Sizzling steak. Baked potatoes steaming with melted butter. Buttermilk pancakes drizzled with syrup or jam. Browned hash topped with pouched eggs.

“This will be good!”  Her voice echoed off the wild riverside canyon.

So far, their mom was impressed. In their first season as river guides, they’d proved they were skilled raft-handlers in dangerous waters. They tied necessary and safety gear on the raft securely for the sometimes-rough ride. The men had been trained to use rifles for protection against bears.

She was convinced Bert and Tom could leap tall pines in a single bound, setting up tents at the same time. Inside the cozy domes, the bedding inside was thick and comfortable.

Would the young men’s camp cooking pass muster?

“This has to be good,” Nancy mused, thinking over the great pleasure the men in the family got from creating gourmet meals indoors and out. Ah, the Dutch oven masterpieces!  She sniffed the air for a hint of camp cooking aroma. There was none.

“The first course!” Bert announced as he handed his mom an enamelware cup full to the brim.

“And this is?”

“Tang orange drink!”

Not long after, Tom handed her the second course. “Here, Mom. My favorite!”  Spaghetti noodles were red with sauce straight from the jar.

After the main meal, Bert tore the cellophane bag containing the third course: red licorice sticks.

Though the three-course meal created from jars and bags wouldn’t make it to the chef’s hall of fame, it was a start.

Nancy had great expectations. It would only get better from there. And over time, it did.

God does smiles at our beginnings and progress, for He knows the whole journey of our lives.

“O Lord, you have searched me and you know me. When know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar…you are familiar with all my ways.” Psalm 139:1-3.

So stand up tall, all of you who burn the bottoms out of your tea kettles, who only know how to incinerate eggs just now, or who don’t know how to season cast-iron cookware. God isn’t finished with you yet. It only gets better from here!

[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.]

 

 

What Do You Have As Collateral for Life? By Jo Russell

Sherry, the insurance representative at the hospital, glared at Jolene from her desk with a stern frown as she clutched one of the woman’s diaper-clad twins.

Her small office had suddenly burst at the seams with babies, their gear, and a twin stroller the size of a small car. The baby boy who cooed into her face expected a smile from her. Only a few weeks old, he knew he was the catalyst for love, smiles, and hugs. Not with her! The unhappy grown-up shuffled papers on her desk and began spelling out terms.

“I see what you still owe after your primary insurance carrier paid most of the bill for the twins and their intensive medical nursery care. The second carrier will not pay because you signed up too late. There is a considerable balance left. I see that you and your husband owe quite a bit on other bills. How do you plan to pay this? What will you use for collateral?”

She swiveled in her chair toward Jolene, holding the baby tighter. Though the new mother of twins thought the hospital’s delivery and care of the babies would be considered services, Sherry considered the babies goods, and she had a tight hold on one just to prove it!

The fact was Jolene had no idea how she would pay an amount equal to three years’ salary. Before she spotted a blue padded cell where the one twin would stay as collateral, Jolene  swept the child out of the representative’s arms, gathered the considerable gear, and told her, “I don’t have any answers right now. I will get back to you.”

Jolene had hit a wall and had no answers. From there, God took over. He reflected with love on Jolene and her two-baby bonus.

God proves his living creations are priceless treasures worthy of rescue. He knew Jolene’s need, as he does ours.

Today is Sanctity of Human Life Sunday. This honors the value of human life, even of life within the womb. Beyond birth, life continues to be precious. God knows the map of our lives and the plan and outcome of each day.

“When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” [Psalm 139: 16 NIV]

God knew the answers in Jolene’s life. She and her newborns discovered care and his divine provision along the way.

A few weeks after the confrontation with the hospital rep who wanted money or collateral, Jolene arrived at work and found her desk wallpapered with checks for nearly the entire balance of the bill. All checks were from the insurance carrier the representative said would not pay.

Just as God showed his love to Jolene, he continues to show daily care for us as well. To him,  the value of life is priceless. He sits in on all our challenging conferences, and his son, Jesus, has already paid our debts.

God has it handled. What covers collateral for life? Jesus. Nothing more is needed.

 

[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.]

 

 

 

 

A Tale of Two Attitudes by Jo Russell

Launching the first day of the year before sun-up with a frown, the businessman growled at the hotel desk clerk,

“Your automated wake-up call didn’t come through. Nada! Nothing! It’s a good thing I have a travel alarm, too. It’s a wonder you have running water at this place!”

“So sorry!” the clerk apologized. “I’ll check on it. We have two kinds of fresh coffee ready. Would you like some?”

“Hummph! That’s the least you can do. Do you supposed you can get me to the airport on time—or is the shuttle not working at this hour?!”

“The driver will be ready in less than five minutes.” And he was.

After a well-groomed, smiling driver loaded the businessman’s luggage, the traveler called out, “Next time, I’m staying with your competitor! You can count on it!”

The pressures of the season were evident miles away as well.

At a crowded metro post office, glum customers balanced packages that had to be postmarked before the end of the year. An octogenarian in line smiled at the opportunity to mingle with people around him. Soon he had a lively conversation going with the crowd.

During his ten minutes in line, he nodded as this one told him he’d lived in that city all his life, and that one had been raised on a farm.

“Will you marry me?” he joked with one of the thirty-something ladies. Both  laughed.

“I’m happily married,” she replied, grinning.

Without warning, the octogenarian broke out in a melodious tenor voice, “All I Want for Christmas is my Two Front Teeth, My Two Front Teeth..”  Even the postal clerks joined in.

By the third phrase, a wave of voices sang out, “My Two Front Teeth! All I want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth!”

Another attitude entirely – and it left a room full of stressed-out strangers chuckling.

At the end of his life, King Solomon accessed things which he had done and acquired. Much he called meaningless. But one lasting legacy of value was attitude.

“So I commend the enjoyment of life, because nothing is better for a man under the sun than to eat and drink and be glad. Then joy will accompany him in his work all the days of the life God has given him under the sun.” [Ecclesiastes 8:15 NIV]

In a season known for gifts, what better one to give and receive is one of joy of life bubbling over to others? We can choose our attitudes.  Which will you choose?

[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.] 

Need to Be Rescued? Call G-O-D! By Jo Russell

A cross-country runner at the rural high school, Doug was all confidence as he grabbed a light pack and headed out the door for a solitary trek up the mountain over hills and dales to the next town.

A time when the youth perceived he was immortal, unstoppable and able to leap over long-horned cattle in a single bound, he grinned as paused in the doorway.  

“I’m headed to town,” he called out to his mom in the kitchen. “It’s a half marathon.”

“So how many miles is that anyway?”

“Like thirteen or fourteen.”

“Are you up to that? How long do you think it will take you?”

“Of course I can do it. Maybe a little over two hours.”

“So come looking for you in four hours if I don’t hear from you?’

“Mom! How embarrassing! I’ve been working out. What would the team think? You won’t need to,” the youth assured his mom.

But thirteen miles uphill proved harder than any cross country run. Unlike the grassy golf courses and groomed trails for team practice and competition, Doug’s feet became sore with the rocky shoulders cutting into his shoes. He stopped just at the edge of town, wobbled in the sun, dropped to his knees, and then he closed his eyes.

“Now I know what ‘bonked’ means,” Doug murmured. He couldn’t have run another fifteen feet.

High school principal Ron and his wife Elaine were driving to town when they spotted the body on the side of the road.

“Stop, Ron! Someone’s dead on the side of the road!”

The prostrate body was sprawled motionless on a weedy patch by the road. They two rushed to him. There was no blood or missing limbs. The vultures weren’t circling overhead.  

“Honey,” Ron commented to his wife, “He looks familiar. Why, this boy goes to my high school! Call for help!”  

Just as Elaine raised her phone to call 9-1-1, the lad’s eyelids fluttered.

“You’re alive!” she cried aloud.

He croaked, “Water!” She gave him water to drink and more to douse his flushed face.

“I was just doing a half marathon,” he explained to the principal’s wife when he recovered a little. “It was a little harder than I thought. I forgot I have to run back, too.”

Red-faced Doug slumped low in the backseat as Principal Ron and his wife drove him home. Even more embarrassing than his own parents coming to get him was going home in the principal’s dual-cab truck.

But he was safe–rescued. And God was with him, as He is with us.

God told Joshua, who lead the Israelites after Moses’ death, “As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you.” [Joshua 1:5 NIV].

************

When it comes to rescues with overwhelming odds, I remember with a grateful heart a life and death experience when I was a young adult as confident as Doug.

Darkness was falling and I was traveling alone when the engine blew in my new two-wheeler – a touring motorcycle with all the bells and whistles. It was bear country. Then a would-be assailant pulled in. Just seconds before reaching me, he turned when the roar of a diesel engine split the air. As my rescuers pulled in, the would-be assailant drove off. Coincidence or God? It was God.

Just as Doug was rescued on his half marathon by people God sent, so God rescued me.

Do you need rescue from a messy life like I did? The Bible promises that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved [check Romans 10:9].     

God is there for your half marathons, overwhelming odds, and life. Let Him rescue you.

 

[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.]