No Reservations Needed for God’s Soul Food By Jo Russell

Stepping into the lobby of the steakhouse recommended on Trip Advisor, honeymooners Paul and Carol squeezed hands and smiled at each other.

“The highlight of our trip!” Carol crooned.  “Paul, you really outdid yourself researching these restaurants!”

But they soon found out something more in city restaurants was required besides money and being hungry.

“Do you have reservations?” the hostess asked as she scanned the restaurant’s appointment book.

“No,” Paul responded, “We didn’t think we needed them. You see, in our town, when we go into a restaurant, they understand we’re there to eat, not to wait.”

“Without reservations, you’ll have to wait two hours – maybe not even then. Wait out there.” Then she pointed to the bench outside where the rain dampened the sidewalk and flowers in window boxes.

So Paul and Carol went humming in the rain to three other downtown restaurants. But all had the same story. No reservations meant no food.

Was the difference because they had a chef—not a short order cook?

Searching for something between “howdy or highbrow,” Paul and Carol, now very hungry, had to make a choice.

It had to feel like home. In Paul and Carol’s community, the waitress just smiled, “Howdy! What’ll you have? Welcome back! Would you like to hear our specials for today?”

The mountaintop cafes printed their prices on the menu. No surprises there.

None greeted customers with, “I’m Roger, and I’ll be your server tonight. And here is our wine list. I would recommend…” Besides his classy uniform, Roger would be outfitted with a battery-operated pepper grinder for sprinkling the diners’ salads.

So searching the city, at number five eatery, Paul and Carol hit pay dirt and didn’t have to have reservations! They found the perfect compromise: a restaurant with linen tablecloths and a waitress who greeted them, “Hello! I’m so glad you came here tonight. Would you like to hear the specials? – and Hey! Congratulations, newlyweds!”

Aaaah! It felt like home.

Food is a necessity of life, but a temporary comfort. We eat. We munch. We eat out – and have to pay the bill. We have to eat again—clear the table and wash the dishes.

And many places send away the hungry – like Paul and Carol – if they don’t have reservations.

Consider these words from the Good Book, the Bible: “Come all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. ….

Listen, listen to me and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare. Give ear and come to me; hear me, that your soul may live.”  [Isaiah 55:1-3 NIV]

But what God offers is spiritual “soul food” that is “the richest of fare.” And it doesn’t have prices on the menu – not because it’s expensive, but because it is free. It is the food for the longing in the soul – for a connection to God and the avenue to life with Him after death.

How do you find it?

First, seek God. Next, listen to Him. Ask that He forgive any of your mistakes, deliberate selfish choices, bad attitudes or actions, or wrongdoing. He forgives you. You are like a new person. After that, ask to receive His gift of salvation. Soul food.  Follow up with the key to spiritual growth: pray and read His word, the Bible.

Served daily each day of your life, God’s food will feel like home – wherever you live.

No reservations are required for His Soul Food!

[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.]

 

 

Sink or Swim? Neither. Choose the Unsinkable By Jo Russell

“At last, I got a new boat for work!” Park Ranger Paul shared his exciting news with his Coast Guard friend, Mark.  “Headquarters brought it in last night. Want to come see it?”

Though Ranger Paul had responsibility for marine parks as well as land locations, he had been using the small aluminum boat equipped with an engine that worked as well as a can of shortening for propelling the craft over open ocean. Often, it oozed to an oily stop.

With budget cuts now in the past, a new boat!

“Sure!” Mark replied, matching his enthusiasm.  “Let’s meet at the dock!”

The Ranger responded, “You’ll be the first person to see the new boat! The Coast Guard won’t be rescuing me anymore between the marine parks!”

Mark and Paul converged at the end of the dock. Masts and top decks of larger boats dwarfed the much smaller craft. But when the two found the boat slip where the Park Service boat should have been, they discovered the craft was filled with ocean brine to the waterline. In less than 24 hours in its new home, the boat was sinking.

“So when you said ‘new boat,’ you really mean ‘new to you,’ right?”

Ranger Paul sighed. “Obviously.”

Both tried to bring the pump to life, but it didn’t work. Then Paul and Mark grabbed buckets and bailed the boat. But their efforts were futile. In the next 24 hours, the craft proved comfortable at water level, not above it.

“Just a minor glitch,” was headquarters’ assessment. But not even the top mechanics at the harbor were able give it the “Seaworthy Seal of Approval.”

It can be naive to put faith in those things of the world which seem dependable and absolute– like boats that sink, hurricanes that destroy, as well as stocks and investments that lose their value.

What is dependable and unsinkable through all time?

In Jesus’ own words, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.” [Mark 13:31 NIV].  In an unstable world, we can depend on God’s word. What He says, He means. What He says stands firm. What He says is forever.

That’s a truth worth thinking about.  What can be a better investment than the eternal truths of the Bible? Is what is taking most of your time and attention dependable?

Don’t wait to step into a sinking boat to decide.

[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 Will You Do with Life’s Lemons? By Jo Russell

Aunt Hattie got up early Saturday before her husband and dawn’s early light to be sure to have space and time to herself. Beauty treatments were part of her routine.

“It’s hard work! I’m a ‘work in progress’ every day,” Hattie thought as she applied a pasty green masque. What I go through in the name of beauty! How ugly and embarrassing! But no one will see me at this hour.”

She lamented she could do nothing about her bone structure. But she worked around it at the rest. Even without sparing any expense, Hattie would never be a beauty, others decided. The treatments didn’t help much.

Her husband never saw the magic masques, the miracle creams, or the tool that ripped unwanted hair out by the roots and left her with a spotty rash.

In the semi-dark kitchen, Hattie let out a long sigh. Just after she cut and cupped a half of lemon under each elbow, she heard footsteps headed in her direction. Would she have time to wipe off the colored facial? Not a chance. Her niece, visiting for the weekend, had already spotted her aunt peeking out behind a green mask.

“Why, Natalie!” she cried. “It’s very early. You can sleep in this morning!”

Natalie was astonished to see her aunt leaning on the table with each elbow in a lemon. Her mouth dropped open as she queried, “What are you doing?”

“The lemons make my skin soft and beautiful,” she explained to the pre-teen girl. “One day you’ll understand how important that is.”

As Natalie grew into womanhood, she remembered her aunt’s beauty formula – but decided against it. She didn’t believe that lemons or any other beauty treatment had to be number one. Natalie liked to use the yellow citrus for lemon meringue pie, a tangy taste on fish, and for lemonade.

Still Natalie grew into womanhood known for her beauty – not just her clean-scrubbed, confident look and attitude, but with a focus on inner beauty–something God, her mother, and grandmother admired.

Natalie smiled as she remembered her mother and grandmother for the experiences, love and time they shared. Now gone, she thought of those women’s outstanding contribution in showing love. Not their wrinkles as they grew older. Sometimes each had caressed her cheek and wiped her girlhood tears with rough hands from much hard work. But they left in her memory a legacy of love, compassion, kindness, and service to others.

Aunt Hattie continued to invest in the promises of anti-aging creams, and more lemons, of course. She never knew of any other kind of beauty.

“Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes.” Peter wrote in 1 Peter 2:11, “Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful.”  [1 Peter 3:4-5]

When Aunt Hattie died, she took life’s lemons with her. But nothing else.

What more glowing complexion could one have than an aura that reflects the love of God and kindness to others? Aunt Hattie never knew what she was missing.

What is God seeing of your inner beauty?  Lemons or love?

[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.]

 

 

 

Choose your Weapon: Fruit of the Looms or the Armor of God? By Jo Russell

Caroline was proud to be included in her mom’s decorating project. At last, the seven-year-old second grader could learn to paint and decorate from the Decorator Extraordinaire: her mom. Mom tackled each room of their fix-up home with color and enthusiasm.

“Honey, you’re old enough now. I’m going to teach you how to paint rooms and walls. It will be a skill you’ll use all your life. Pay attention!”

Dressed in her grubbies, Mom first pulled a pair of her husband’s Fruit of the Looms over her head.

Caroline assumed it was a necessary part of a hands-on decorator’s outfit. Caroline was ready with worn clothes for painting. But to properly be dressed for the job, she rummaged around in her brothers’ chest of drawers until she found a ratty pair of underwear. “How’s this?” Caroline asked as she put it on her head, her hair poking out of the leg holes.

“Perfect!”

Then they removed all the electrical plates, taped off the switches, used slanted trim brushes to carefully “cut in” in the corners, baseboards, and edges. After they “rolled” the paint onto the walls, the pair stood back to admire the beautiful transformation of Caroline’s brothers’ room.

“Caroline, you outdid yourself!” Mom commented as she pulled her daughter close after they finished the job. The two made quite a silhouette in baggy clothes, topped with underwear on their heads.

Thereafter, each painting job with her mom was a success – not only reflecting skill and artistry, but always done in the proper outfit. As long as Caroline lived at home, she had an endless supply of shabby Fruit of the Looms for her painting headgear.

When she moved into her own apartment, the walls were desperately scratched, marred, and soiled.

“Sorry.” The landlord apologized. “The painter didn’t show up on Tuesday. I know you need to move in right away.

“I’m a very skilled painter and I can make this place look new,” she promised. And so he agreed she could trade out paint and labor for part of the apartment rent.  But in all of her things, she had no Fruit of the Looms.

What about her own underwear?  Not at ten bucks a piece. The thin material and bikini cut wouldn’t keep out any paint. She was embarrassed to ask the landlord or any of the male apartment tenants to supply her with shabby Fruit of the Looms.

So she ventured to paint without part of her essential hands-on decorator uniform.

On Monday, after a weekend marathon of painting the one-bedroom apartment, she showed up for work, excited she had transformed the living quarters so completely.

“Great job, Caroline!” her mother would have assured her.

Coworker Larry studied Caroline and her hair. “You know, there is a wonderful new invention to help with painting.” And he tugged at a lock of her hair that was streaked with sage green.

“Really?!” she cried. She was always looking for better tools for trim, painting corners, getting straighter edges, and making the job easier.

“Yeah.” He said, tugging at a lock of hair decorated with sea foam green. “It’s called a hat. It will keep the paint out of your hair.”

So Caroline looked and did not find the essential shabby Fruit of the Looms at the local home improvement store. Instead, there were painting hats for sale right in there with her favorite tools. And from then on, Caroline was decked out in the whole armor of a hands-on decorator.

Have you put on the full armor of God?

Paul advises, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rules, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore, put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. “[Ephesians 10-13 NIV]

Perhaps right now you face unreasonable demands along with impossible deadlines—whether in business, career, relationships, challenges.

Do you wonder, “Where is God?”

Maybe you’re face to face with an unjust situation that you can’t change. It could be you’ve received upsetting news about health—your immediate family or a close friend. Haven’t you prayed repeatedly for God’s help and intervention? Haven’t you done your part?

But God isn’t finished. You are not up against people, but evil forces. To be ready for a fair fight, you need God and the proper armor: the belt of truth; the breastplate of righteousness, your feet fitted with the gospel of peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is God’s word – the Bible. [Ephesians 6:14-17]

You are ready to move forward and face any flaming arrows, accusations, and tough situations. And who’s got your back? God does. Not just another equal, but the God of the universe – with his unlimited power over all evil, nature, health, and challenges.

Your answer may be yet to come. Think of the ways that God has shown his mighty power – in the ways he commanded the parting of the Red Sea when Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt – or when Jesus calmed the wind and waves on a storm on the Sea of Galilee.

Outfitted with the full armor of God, you enlist his help and can face anything – and you don’t even need shabby Fruit of the Looms.

[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.]