Slow Motion – It’s Okay By God by Jo Russell

“Something’s wrong with our Jasper,” his excited mother cried with alarm in rapid-fire sentences. “He needs help!”

“What seems to be the trouble?” Mrs. Brown, the reading teacher, responded.

“Everything he does is in slow motion!” Angela explained.  Her words hit the air as fast as machine gun fire.

Mrs. Brown stopped multi-tasking and tuned in to listen carefully.

“Everyone else is normal! But Jasper–he reads slowly, eats like he has three weeks to finish his food.  He talks so slow that we need to take a day off to hear the end of his sentences! Why, he’s the only little cowhand in our ranch who has fewer miles on his cowboy boots than any 7-year-old in the entire county!”

“Why is that?” the teacher wanted to know.

“Because he walks slower than a turtle on the run!”

So Jasper was enrolled in Mrs. Brown’s reading program. His family’s wish was that he would move a little faster so he was more useful on the ranch. They wanted him to be “normal.” But would he ever speak as fast as the rest of the family?

Mrs. Brown wish was that he read faster. The State Department of Education required all second-grade students to read at a rate over 100 words a minute. Still, there were a lot of things she could do to speed him up. Smart wasn’t the issue. Speed was.

When Jasper came ambling into the reading room for the first time, he had a broad smile on his face that was perfect for school picture day. But he didn’t make it all the way into the room – in slow motion, of course – until after he admired a ladybug on the door frame.

“Ummm.” he smiled. “She’s………….a………….beauty!”

Mrs. Brown noticed this happy little boy savored his words as if they were bites of a juicy rib-eye steak.

Over time, Mrs. Brown tried every skill and technique she knew. Still Jasper, always with a satisfied smile on his face, read at his same speed, taking the time to chew up and savor every word before he finished.

It was obvious he loved what he read, “Wow!” he would exclaim – in slow motion of course.

Jasper never did speed up.  He discovered reading even helped him running a ranch as he grew up to be a successful rancher, husband, father, and reader. But never fast.

Jasper’s wife would tell you he still loved to savor each of his words like a rib-eye steak. “So when he tells me ‘I love you with all my heart, Marnie’, it means even more.”

God created Jasper with all the gifts in place that He wanted him to have. Jasper’s speed was never an issue with God. He had patience with the man Jasper would become. Though Jasper may never have read fast enough for the State Department of Education or move fast enough for his siblings and parents, he was perfect in God’s eyes.

Jesus himself tells the parable of the kingdom of Heaven in terms of seed and growth. “A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself the soil produces grain – first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head.” [Mark 4:27-28 NIV.]

So our personal skills and spiritual growth come along slowly – perhaps even without realizing it, we grow. Eventually, we produce a bounty out of the gifts God gives us. And God is pleased.

And if everything we do is in slow motion, that’s okay by God.

[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.]

 

 

 

Trust in Max or Trust in God? By Jo Russell-Lewis

“Come with me camping at the lake,” Max suggested to his 16-year-old schoolmates. “I’ll bring all the food and we can take my four-wheeler, the Beast!”

Camping had been a mainstay of the twin teens all of their growing up years, and they were good at it. Food came in as a close second as a major area of focus. They were always hungry. But having a ride to one of their camping spots was a real bonus.

Max’s enthusiasm exceeded his experience. He had been camping two times.

As the twins Rob and Ned packed clothing and water for the overnight trek, Rob commented, “It’s not more than a couple of miles, but I’m glad we don’t have to walk.” Max and the Beast would save their soles—that is, of their hiking boots.

Max’s arrival on the Beast got the attention of the entire neighborhood. Misfiring resounded on the quiet country street. After Max turned off the key, he commanded the Beast, “Down, Boy!” but the machine still belched out a couple of backfires.

Part of a hanger hung from the choke. The rest of the four-wheeler was a monument to dirt, dents, and decay with erupting foam from the seats the three of them would share.

As their parents waved them goodbye, the machine unsteadily moved down the road backfiring all the way. Open range was just at the end of the block from where they would travel the hills and dales to the lake shore.

When the three got to the lake, Max announced proudly, “Time for dinner!” as he pulled out of a pack three cans of lukewarm soda and a bag of potato chips.

“Is that all you have?” one of the teens queried.

“Yep! It’s plenty!”

Compared to the teens’ roasted and grilled dinners on a campfire, this wasn’t even a pre-dinner snack.

Max threw a plastic trash bag on the ground and covered it with a blanket. He waded up his clothes for a pillow. “We’re gonna sleep outside like the cowboys!”

The twins rolled out their sleeping bags over inflatable mattresses.

The next morning, Rob and Ned looked to Max, “What’s for breakfast?”

“I figured we could drive back to your mom’s and have her feed us. We’re going home anyway.”

But the Beast didn’t agree. No matter how much Max coached the machine, it didn’t make a sound. He had the twins push him to a rise and pop the clutch and start it. But the machine was dead as a day-old landed brook trout.

Max stayed with the Beast while the twins walked home – dirty and hungry, and tired. Trusting in Max had been a poor idea.

Trusting is God through all our unknown situations and challenges gives us a solid foundation.

King Solomon wrote, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6.

Many situations are so frightening, out of our comfort zone, or stressful that we may have difficulty trusting or confiding in anyone – even God. Leaning on God means putting all of our trust as well as all of our weight on Him.  Will we fall?  Will we stand? Will he meet our needs?

“Yep” to all of those. But when we fall, it’s not fatal. When we stand, we’re not alone. When we have needs, God knows and provides—sometimes in miraculous ways.

When it comes to deciding if we are to trust in Max and the Beast or trust in God, which will we 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.]

 

 

 

How’s Your Hearing Now? By Jo Russell

“Roger!” Grandma Angela called out to her teen grandson. She knew just the right words to move him to action. “The cookies are ready! Let’s share some!”

But Roger’s attention was riveted to his tablet screen.

“Rog, these are chocolate chip! Come to the kitchen while they are hot!”

Not a hair on his head moved. And Roger wasn’t wearing earphones.

“What can possibly be wrong?” Grandma panicked as she snapped her fingers next to his left ear.

“Roger? Can you hear me?”

He didn’t twitch. No response.

When she tapped him on the shoulder, her grandson turned to her.

“You couldn’t you hear me, could you?”

“Huh?”

“Young man, we’re going to get a doctor to check you right away!”

Grandma took the tall youth to the local medical clinic. When the physician peaked into the young man’s ear, he looked puzzled. With the right instrument, he extracted the object and held it high.

The doctor burst out laughing. “This looks like a bean. In fact, it is a pinto bean.”

The doctor promised Grandma Angela, “Your grandson will be able to hear just fine from now on.” The doctor promised Angela. “How long has the bean been there, Roger?”

“When I was five, my friend dared me to put something big in my ear. The bean has been there until now.” He tapped his ear in amazement, “Wow! I can hear again!”

“Now we’ll go home and enjoy those warm cookies!” Grandma Angela suggested.

And with his nearly-restored hearing, Roger responded, “Oh, yeah!”  For he understood the universal language of the chocolate chip snacks.

All his life, Roger had the right equipment: two ears. In his case from age five until now, much of his hearing was physically impaired by something that belonged in a bean burrito instead of his ears. [A burrito is a sandwich wrapped in a tortilla instead of bread.]

Jesus said often, “He who has ears, let him hear.” (Matthew 11:15; Matthew 13:9; Mark 4:9; Mark 4:23) This followed his teaching in parables. He knew that hearing and understanding can be imperfect, full of confusion and questions. To the crowds he taught, he used familiar references such as farming and ranching. In the parable of the sower, [Matthew 13:3-9], he talks of seed – only part of it producing a bumper crop.

But genuine seekers–then and now–will glimpse the gist of Jesus’ words and concepts. Access begins with his Word, the Bible.

God and His word provide a clear message. And Roger would be glad to know that no pinto beans would ever stop one from hearing God’s good news.

[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.]

 

Finding a Place to Rest by Jo Russell

“Let’s go camping!”

As life for Jolene generated as much chaos and noise as a midway. By Friday night, the circus was in full swing. Demands from work, college classes, family and finances.

“When are we going to eat?” one of her sons wanted to know. Benny the cat was coughing up a fur ball on the rug. Dishes teetered on the counter like rock piles. Spring cleaning was overdue. The phone was ringing with an “important political message.” She had a paper due on Monday for a college class.

“Oh, the stress of it all!” Jolene mumbled. But the single mom always knew the solution.

When she cried, “Camping!” her sons would chime in, “When do we leave?”

With the laptop on the campout, by Monday, the paper would be finished. There would be time – for work and fun! But only after Jolene unpacked the camping closet, packed the car, gear, food, water, and necessities—like her family members and the frisbee. Then, she would  unpack it all again, and set up camp when they got to the mountains.

As she and her boys put up the dome shelter far from a paved road, she spotted the rain clouds. But Jolene knew what to do. She dug a trench around the tent to divert any water. After dinner, Jolene got to work on the paper outside on a camp table. Too soon, drops fell on her keyboard. She snapped the lid shut and sprinted to the car to lock up the computer. Inside the tent, she and her sons cuddled as gentle drops changed to cold arrows of water snapping at the nylon wall.  Not long after, the rain came down like a waterfall. Shortly, it changed to flashflood dimensions.

The moat around the tent. What good had that done?

Her son Robbie looked down at the floor of the new tent.  “Mom, look! We’ve got a stream inside the tent!”

“Cool!” his brother grinned.

And sure enough. The seams were leaking, providing a more entertaining experience than TV.  Jolene hugged her sons close and laughed. So much for work.

God’s sense of humor prevailed.

Was the paper important?  Or was time to spend free of work?

Jesus promised, “Come to me all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”  Matthew 11:28 NIV.

We need rest. We need time. We need a place in our heart of peace. That peace comes with God.

The cost of not taking time to rest is an assault on health, humor, and efficiency. Today–perhaps for the first time ever, some millennials—the under 30 group–are dying of overwork. Heart attacks due to stress and a marathon of work.

Rest gives us a physical as well as a time for spiritual renewal. Time with God. Time with self. Time to reflect. Time to build relationships.

When God created the world, he rested on the seventh day. Was he tired? No. He was setting an example that we need to rest. Sabbath means to “cease” and to “desist.” That is, from all work. Take time with God. Rest. Thank Him for everything. What’s in it for you? The exhaustion will lift. You will feel renewed.

Though God’s commandment may seem to clash with today’s culture, He had reasons for directing his flock to “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but on the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it, you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, not the alien within your gates.” [Exodus 20:8 NIV]

God had our best interest in mind – for what use are we when personally and physically exhausted? What better quality is our time and talent when we have rested and renewed our relationship with God?

Take time to meet God every moment—commuting, at the store, during a work break, before the family gets up, watering the yard. Keep the Sabbath a day of joy and rest. For each day, relationship and challenge is God’s gift.

As Jolene learned, God gives times to enjoy. It’s not all work.

Not a month later, Jolene couldn’t remember the topic of the paper she got in on time. But she and the boys were still glowing with the wonder and laughter of the stream inside the tent – and God’s directive to rest.

God knew what He was doing in demanding we rest.  Take time to enjoy the experience!

[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.]