Treasure Hunting on Earth and in Heaven by Jo Russell

“I just want something to remember Kathy by,” Patricia wailed as she asked Wanda for the solid cherry dresser from the deceased’s bedroom. “Oh, and can I have her dishes, too? The ones with the ivy. That would mean so much to me!”

The executrix agreed as she thought, “The cherry dresser is about the only furniture of worth anywhere in that tiny trailer.” However, she loaded the dresser and the dishes in her truck and took them over to Patricia’s house. Hansel and Gretel’s cottage in the woods was larger.

“How about some iced tea?” Patricia offered as she carried the dishes into the kitchen and waved toward a seat.

Wanda noticed Patricia pondered for a few moments at the sink wondering where to put the dishes. When she opened the cupboard, Patricia scanned the cabinets for space. Where most people had canned goods, she had dish sets for every occasion. Patricia finally piled the dishes on the counter.

When Wanda looked for a seat in the living room, that’s when she noticed the seven recliners jammed together side by side in a circle around a TV.

“Where do you want this dresser?”

Patricia said, “On the patio, I guess.”

So the vintage piece, preserved inside for decades, was now housed under an aluminum awning open to storms, sun, and weather.

Jesus had much to say about money, collecting things, and attitude. The Son of God walked the dusty desert in worn sandals. He had no earthly possessions. But his treasures were priceless. As he said himself, his kingdom is not of this world. Jesus invested in people,   showed compassion, patiently mentored his followers, and taught many about faith and miracles. Just as he does with us, Jesus loves us through all our moments—the good, the bad, and the ugly. Perhaps the most astonishing give of love from Jesus is his divine influence opened the doors of heaven for many – then and now.

Remember his words: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, … For where your treasure is, there you heart will be also. Matthew 6:19 -21 NIV

When helping others or giving money, our attitude is the most important focus.  Who are we doing this for? And hoarding? Jesus tells the truth: possessions on earth are subject to wear, destruction, or theft. Consider Jesus’ teaching as you invest.

May you always remember the best way to invest and never have to wonder, “Where am I going to put this?” For the treasures of heaven don’t take up any space – except in our hearts.

  [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.]

 

 

     

 

Reach for Adventure! Ride ‘Em, Cowboy! by Jo Russell

Leroy left the big city behind as he headed up to the cool tall pines to spend the weekend with Grandma Sandy. He could hardly wait for the adventure to begin! At Sandy’s, he did old-fashioned country things like pulling on cowboy boots, pitching hay, riding Grandma’s horses, and making s’mores in the microwave.

To other ranchers, Sandy’s half dozen horses didn’t seem like much, but to city slicker Leroy, his grandma had a real herd!

“Isn’t this chestnut beauty the horse you got for your birthday?” Leroy wanted to know.

“Yep!” Sandy commented, “I don’t know him real well yet, but Brownie’s a keeper.”

“I’d like to ride him. Can I?”

“Yep, let me show you help you saddle up Brownie.”

Leroy was grinning as he rode in a circle around the training coral with Grandma, Mom and Dad watching. But when his Dad opened the gate and Leroy kicked the horse to go faster, Brownie tossed the youth in the air like a shuttlecock.

The family members gasped! Grandma was the first to scramble over to rescue him.

She prayed, “Lord, please let Leroy be okay. No broken bones.”

But as Leroy landed in the mud, he was still grinning. “Wow!” he exclaimed in appreciation. “That was absolutely righteous cool! It never could have happened to me in the city!”

Leroy had an adventurous attitude about new experiences. Most loved his outlook. He thought in best case scenario.

Unplanned outcomes and uncomfortable situations are part of life. It would be more comfortable to snap our fingers to have the insight and expertise to new circumstances skillfully. But instead, we may grope and struggle, but we always can count on God as our partner. New experiences help us grow. To view them as an adventure with positive benefits is a good start.

Because of the persecution of the leaders and the families of Jesus’ pledging church in Jerusalem, all fled for their lives to different areas. But what a great thing it was!  Jesus had commanded them, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” [Matthew 28:19-20]  At the time, they might have thought all they had to do was wait in Jerusalem long enough and people from everywhere would show up for the community and religious events.

Instead, they traveled widely. In Acts in the New Testament, Philip’s success shines: “Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went. Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Christ there. When the crowds heard Philip and saw the miraculous signs he did, they all paid close attention to what he said. With shrieks, evil spirits came out of many, and many paralytics and cripples were healed. So there was great joy in that city.” [Acts 8:4-8 NIV].  It was a win-win situation!

When you’re up against a challenge or a new experience, drop the fear and doubts, and remember Leroy’s words, “Righteous cool!”

[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.]

 

 

Honor Your Father and His Biorhythms By Jo Russell

While mothers have their maxims of wisdom, fathers leave behind memorable tidbits that span the generations.

Some are downright impressive.

“Anyplace worth going on vacation is worth leaving at 4:00 in the morning,” Jan’s dad, Leo, announced to the family before their two-week camping trip to Yosemite. “We’ll be leaving at exactly 4:00 a.m..” He hoped his wife, Jeane, and their three children were listening closely. “Be sure you have your gear packed and you’re in the car by then.”

Twelve-year-old Jan packed right away and laid out her clothes. So did Mom. Both remembered Dad’s power word was “early.” Perhaps coming to life early was in his biorhythms. He was a morning person. Scientists theorize such tendencies begin at birth.

Did Leo ever mean that the family should rise when the rosy sky heralded the sunrise? Nope.

In the pre-dawn’s darkness of vacation day one, Bobby, the six-year-old, couldn’t find two socks that matched and had packed his duffle himself – full of toys and stuffed animals. Without Mom’s help, he quickly buttoned his green shirt in the wrong holes, pulled on purple plaid pants and sat shivering in the back seat. Next to him was his fully dressed and alert 12-year-old sister, Jan. She had been waiting for ten minutes. Dad had the car’s engine warming up for the trip.

Jan’s older brother, Tony, didn’t wake up well or quickly even when roused by Mom. With slept-on hair sticking up like a whisk broom, he sprinted barefoot through the gravel toward the moving sedan pulling out of the driveway at exactly 4:00 a.m. He dived into the back seat in his pajamas and forgot his suitcase entirely. Fortunately, wearing pajamas at the mall had become the benchmark of fashion.

Dad’s power word “EARLY” dominated the weekday routine as well.

While it was hours before dawn, and because he had to be at work early, Jan’s dad prepared sizzling sausages to go with fried eggs, stacks of pancakes, and hot cereal for the whole family.

His love glowed through his time listening and teaching. As the children became teens, Jan’s father mentored them through the important phases of moving into adulthood – including getting up before sunup to make the best of one’s day – or anyplace worth going on vacation is worth leaving at 4:00 in the morning.

As we celebrate Father’s Day today, remember God’s take on parents in Exodus 20:

“Honor your father and mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.” Exodus 20:12.

And whether the father in your life is a morning person or doesn’t come to life until evening,

honor him and his biorhythms. His life woven with yours is a great gift.

[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.]

 

 

 

 

Food, Food, Everywhere, but Not a Bite to Eat By Jo Russell

At the time the Israelites left fertile Goshen along the Nile River in Egypt, they didn’t know that they were leaving fish, onions and garlic behind for generations to come.

God would change everything. Freedom from slavery brought them on a long trek through the desert and total dependence on God. For even with a magnifying glass, finding edible plants in the Wilderness of Sin (today the Sinai Peninsula) was challenging. It was known for stone, sand, and sky.

Today, with a little irrigation, it might have potential as a luxurious winter golf resort. But not in those days.

No more baked tilapia with butter and garlic.  No thick soups full of meat, onions and seasonings. But with the annual rainfall at less than 1 l/2 inches and no rain between June and October, stews were out of the question.

The camp cooks were totally frustrated.

“Feeding this demanding mob is impossible!” complained one. The evacuees from Egypt might have populated a medium-sized metro area today. And there were about as many dietary demands as people.

“Whoever thought the doctors and people could come up with such ridiculous diets?” another cook complained.

Meanwhile, the crowd’s comments might have been notable, but apparently didn’t make it into the book of Exodus.

“But I can’t have white flour! Everything has to be gluten free!”

“No pita bread for me – or almonds, either!”

“The doctor says I can’t have dairy products.”

“No citrus fruit for me!” another might cry.

“Everything has to be sugar free for me. No sugar or dates!”

“I have to be on a low-salt diet.”

“Cucumbers give me gas!”

“Pomegranates have too many seeds!”

Not that anyone would find a pomegranate or a cucumber for three or four hundred miles.

God then provided manna. “I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. “[Exodus 16:4 NIV]

He explained that it was a test to see if the people were ready to follow his instructions and lean on him completely. No baked tilapia. No onions. No dairy products.

They ground it up and made it into pancakes.

Even with all the dietary needs of the crowd, God’s food from heaven met their physical and dietary needs of the crowd–just as it does today.

And even in the light of dietary restrictions, God offers his bounty in these words from Jesus, God’s son, “Therefore, I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? 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?”

[Matthew 6:25-26 NIV]

If you worry about food allergies and restrictions as you peruse the grocery shelves, think about how God provides so many choices through every challenge. Value yourself and his bounty, as each day is a gift. He is still raining down food from Heaven for 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.]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Word Picture is Worth a Thousand Words By Jo Russell

“Draw something from the kitchen,” the elementary teacher told her first grade students.

Miss Jenkins smiled and thought, “This will build their vocabulary, get them talking and writing a story of something they know!”

Brothers Ron and Rick looked at each other. They recognized this classic teacher tactic.

“Boring,” Rick whispered.

“Yeah,” responded his six-year-old brother, Rick.

Soon the brothers grinned and took up their pencils. While others drew a refrigerator, stove, mixing bowls and spoons, Ron and Rick did no such thing.

The teacher stared at their finished picture. “I asked for a picture of something from the kitchen,” she reminded them.

The detailed drawing showed the boys’ spotted family dog sprinting from the kitchen with a chicken drumstick in his mouth.

“Just how is this connected with the kitchen?”

“Fletcher is always in the kitchen when someone gets out the food!”

A few years later, Ron and Rick’s Sunday class teacher, Mrs. Williams, gave them the same kind of vague instructions when she requested, “Draw something from the Bible.”

Soon drawing all over the class came to life in color: The brothers worked together hard on this one.

While others drew Moses, Noah, Mary, Joseph, and Jesus, Ron and Rick did no such thing.

Again, this teacher asked, “I asked for something from the Bible. Just how is this connected?”

She turned the drawing around and the other kids noticed it was a car – not just any car, but a detailed picture of Grandma’s ancient Oldsmobile: a four-door sedan the size of a small school bus. It had wing tips over the headlights and bullet-shaped taillights.

“It’s a land yacht,” the older boy explained. “You know, like when Noah built the ark and it hadn’t rained yet.”

The other kids howled with laughter.

“So much for comprehension,” the teacher sighed and wished she had explained in more detail what she wanted them to do. At this point, Mrs. Williams was not enthusiastic about the Ron and Rick’s family sense of humor.

Detailed instructions and modeling would have helped in each of these cases.

Jesus established a teaching method that helped his learners get a clear idea of moral principles he wanted them to understand. He taught in parables. These are word pictures with people in action to illustrate the story. Parables are also described as an analogy.

Jesus’ parables are still widely known today. Good Sam RV Clubs with its logo of a smiling man with a halo above his head is loosely linked to Jesus’ story. The Son of God reminds us of the importance of showing kindness to others regardless of race, creed, or social status. That is the story, “The Good Samaritan” (Luke 10:30- 37).   “The Prodigal Son” teaches us about God’s forgiveness available to us (Luke 15:11-32). Who could forget that the meaning of “talent” today is linked to skills and abilities? It comes from Jesus’ parable about the three men given talents – or sizeable monetary units of silver – to nurture while the master was away.  That is from Matthew 25:14-28. Burying one’s talent—whether skills or money–is clearly shown to leave God disappointed in us, his creations.

But even his disciples didn’t understand why Jesus taught in parables. “The disciples came to him and asked, ‘Why do you speak to the people in parables?’ He replied, “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them.” [Matthew 13:11 NIV]

Parables are a clear word picture for all who hear and read, even today. They are fool-proof teaching. Read, listen, and learn. You’ll find the parables and Jesus’ teachings sprinkled liberally through Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

And you’ll never be stumped by a vague request like, “Draw something from the Bible.”

[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.]