Seize an Attitude of Gratitute By Jo Russell

Beginning early, filled with the aroma and sounds of a crowd stirring, the American holiday of Thanksgiving  is a worthy celebration to honor God.

One can smell the gravy as Grandma browns the flour, adds butter, and cooking juices, and declares “This gravy is downright tender! Just taste it!”

More than just Thanksgiving Thursday and the taste of the feast are the memories of people like Grandma,  whose holiday cooking started at 3:30 a.m. Grandma and Mom began the baking and basting the all-important browned, juicy, main dish. Centered on a platter set on a lace tablecloth nobody remembered they had, the turkey heralded the gathering of family and much thanks for the year.

Family members swarmed into the house: a colorful collection of people whose blood and marriage ties bound them together with shared histories, experiences, and laughter.

Little George, whose talent– fueled with broccoli and cauliflower–could blow more fish out of the water with his emissions than with a stick of dynamite. He grew up to be a contractor, built houses, and worked outdoors, much to everyone’s relief.

In-laws who showed up only to borrow money or to eat – disappeared from the table as soon as the words “Wash the dishes!” came into the conversation. They were grateful for the free food they didn’t have to cook.

Holidays converted the house from quiet to chaos, with the thundering of little feet and “Petey, stop that right now!  Don’t give your gum to the dog!”

Family gatherings showed hands-on love. Into the messy kitchen came the devoted husband whose pledge was that whenever his wife cooked, he would clean the kitchen and the dishes. He saved her from the task that was to her as fun as tax day.

Thanksgiving continued with the sign on the USPO from the rural post mistress that announced, “We will be closed Thanksgiving. Enjoy your pumpkin pie!”

Giving thanks past and present to God is a good fit every day. He deserves our praise and a big “Thank you!”  Not just the happy times, but all times. For everything comes from God. Each of our days is a gift from him.

Tuck these words into your heart: “Be joyful always; pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Seize an attitude of gratitude – for each day brings blessings. God loves 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.]

 

 

 

Grounded? Be Thankful! By Jo Russell

“You know that when all of us and the relatives sit down at the table, Mom and Dad are going to ask us what we’re thankful for,” Maggie reminded her siblings as they searched for the stash of cookies. Their mom had made the treats for holidays and the Christmas programs.  She started every October.

Now that the three of them had found the treat stash–which was moved every year—the children were planning the best strategy for getting to the cookies.

This year, while Mom was at the grocery store, they found the sweets in tins on the very top shelf of the hall closet.

“I’m thankful Mom always makes extra cookies so we can sample them.” Even though the children were bigger and hungrier than years past, they felt entitled. Their mom wouldn’t notice a few less cookies.

“I’m grateful Mom is such a good cooker,” Robbie volunteered. “But the cookie stash is up two chairs high this year,” Robbie observed.

“I’ll get a ladder,” suggested his older brother, Ralphie.

When the three worked together, they each enjoyed a fistful.

“How many did you get?” Robbie, the ladder holder, wanted to know.

“I think about six,” Ralphie responded.  “But I had to get the ladder and climb it! That’s worth something.”

“No fair!” cried Maggie. “I only got four. I need some more.”

“Then I’ll make sure we each have had six,” Ralphie promised as he climbed the ladder and opened a tin.

After that, each was able to satisfy their sweet tooth on their own.

Thanksgiving dinner came and Mom smiled around the crowded table at family, relatives and friends crowded together, and offered, “We have delicious cookies for desert along with homemade ice cream. Give me just a minute and I’ll bring them out!”

But when she got on the ladder and brought down tin after tin, she found just three cookies total.

Strange that her children didn’t raise their eyes from their plates of turkey, gravy and cranberry sauce. “I don’t suppose you know what happened to all the cookies?” she ventured.

All three answered, “Dunno, Mom.”

Later, she informed each that they were grounded until Christmas. Their punishment was to help make more cookies—as well as wash every messy dish and clean the kitchen, too.  But again, the three had the opportunity to be thankful. For the advantage of their punishment was that they got to lick the bowls!

Far from any cookie stash, Paul wrote these words, “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” [Philippians 4:12.]

An attitude of gratitude is a deliberate choice, for there is much to thank God for each day—even for the last three cookies and the children who enjoyed the rest.

[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.]

 

 

For the Love of Life and the Great Outdoors! By Jo Russell

In their small family, the go-to slogan to bring life back to her teen sons was, “Pack the truck! Let’s go to the great outdoors!”

With the destination the river canyon, Rob and Len shouldered the inflatable raft, oars, pump, and gear and were sitting in the truck before Joanna finished the egg sandwiches.

“Lord, let us have a safe trip and a fun time!” Joanna began.

Then to her 13-year-old sons, “After lunch, you’ll paddle down the river and I’ll meet you at the take out-point.”

“Sounds like a plan,” 13-year-old Rob affirmed.

Arriving at the river in a private recreation area, the family set up lunch under a picnic cabana. Rob and Len worked at pumping up the pontoons of the raft and were soon circling the calm water leading to river rapids.  But something was wrong. One pontoon was flat as a failed soufflé.

“What’s with the raft?” Joanna wanted to know.

“Dunno, Mom!” the two responded together.

“Try putting air in it again,” Joanna advised them. “There was nothing wrong with the raft the last time we used it.”

“Yep. We know. ”

But pump as they did, the pontoon would not hold air.

About that time, the park host appeared with a smile.  “Do you plan to use the water today? I’m collecting fees. You’ll need to pay each for to use the picnic cabana, the parking space, the beach, and the water, too. It’s $ for each use area and totally worth it!”

“But I only have $,” she responded.

“Then I guess you’ll need to take the raft out of the water and pack it up. Enjoy your time at the River Canyon Park! ”

As Joanna helped her sons pull the raft to the beach, she saw a two-foot long split in the flat pontoon hissing out the rest of the air.  Her sons avoided her eyes.

But God’s hand was an answer to Joanna’s simple prayer that morning.  He kept them safe.

“’For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’” declares the Lord.” [Isaiah 55:8 NIV]  Think on this when prayers are not answered the way we wish. For it is our job to pray for God’s will, not for God to fill our wish list.

In the case of Joanna’s 13-year olds, God saved their lives. Though both would become white water raft guides as adults, the teens knew nothing about navigating real white water. Plus a few dollars more – or lack of – and the flat raft kept them all out of the rapids.

Once home, the boys fessed up.  Len volunteered, “While you were still at work, we took the raft out with Nick and John and hit a bridge pontoon. It tore the hole in it. Sorry, Mom. We couldn’t fix it. We didn’t tell you.”

“It’s okay this time,” she pulled them close in a hug. “Because of that, I still have you.”

God’s ways are not our ways. His ways can keep us safe in or out of the white water.

[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.]

Scared? Trust God in Facing the Unknown By Jo Russell

Dressed in his work uniform, Sam stood at the door of the women’s restroom waiting. He imagined scores of screaming women sprinting out of the stalls! One look at the unwelcome reptile and they’d be gone. Though the remote rest stop offered a warm, clean facility for travelers, Mother Nature’s critters might sneak inside to have a look.

Jolene was the first out of the women’s rest room. She wasn’t screaming or sprinting.

“Did you see the snake?” Sam asked in terror. He clutched his long-handled mechanical hand and fingered the grip. He wondered to himself, “Will it hold a snake away at a safe distance?”

“No, I didn’t see one,” Jolene told him. “What is it–like a garter snake with a yellow stripe? I have a ton of those in my garden.”

“Nope. It’s a rattlesnake.”

“Then why haven’t you gone inside to chase it out?”

“I’m waiting for all the women to leave.”

In such a sparsely populated area, Sam would never see the line-ups of ladies such as at popular stops in the city. Still he hoped he could wait a little longer before going inside.

“I’ve already left,” chirped one lady sipping a cold soda from the vending machine.

“And I’ve already left, too,” Jolene countered. “There’s nobody else in there.”

Sam hesitated at the door, his snake-catching equipment trembling in his hand.  He drew a breath and reached for the door.

Facing the unknown can be an unsettling experience for anyone.  Each chapter in life melts into the next, bringing surprises and challenges: beginning a new job or career; facing unemployment or retirement; moving to a place far from friends and family; starting a business; starting over when you think you can’t.

Like Sam, you may feel as if you’re battling a rattlesnake alone and you don’t know how.

But the unknown ahead–beyond our level of experience and skill—is possible with help that’s just thought away. It brings God to our rescue.

Take a breath. Let go of fear. Reach for the door. Trust in this promise: “With God, all things are possible. “ Matthew 19:26.

And with Him as your guide, you’ll never be alone in facing any rattlesnake–or anything ahead in the unknown.

 

 

[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.]

 

 

 

Holy Smoke! The Church is On Fire! by Jo Russell

“Holy Smoke! The church is on fire!” cried a voice inside the ancient mobile home with floor tiles curled like tortilla chips. What happened? Electrical wiring might have been the cause. No one knew how old it was. But one guessed it might have been manufactured around the time Thomas Edison made his invention public.

But at first, Pastor Jim didn’t know about the fire. Even the fall day was over 100 degrees, and the trailer rocked with the sound of a squeaky floor fan. Pastor Jim had cranked up his voice to be heard. “We are celebrating ‘The Lord’s Supper’ today, and we will have that after classes this morning.”

Then, in Janet’s Sunday class, one of the children stomping to a noisy action song stopped and pointed. “Look!” Jack cried as he walked to the electric box, “There’s smoke coming out of the wall right there!”

The church was on fire! Retired fire marshal Joe exploded from his chair, giving orders as he ran. “Turn off all the power! Bring me the hose!” Several men kicked in the wall and helped to stop flames that could have destroyed the entire building in ten minutes.

Pastor Jim exclaimed, “Whew! Lucky you were here, Joe!” Handshakes, smiles and back-slapping followed.

With all the excitement focused on getting the fire out, Janet’s children’s class lounged against a table. Many realized how thirsty they were. Without electricity, the fan was silent and the building hotter.

“We can really praise the Lord that everyone is safe, especially these wonderful children here!” Pastor Jim pulled Crystal close. She dropped her head and wiped her mouth with her sleeve. It was then that the adults realized that all of the children’s class had purple moustaches. The “Lord’s Supper” would have to wait!

In the Bible, God promises He is with us through all the fires of our lives.

Though you may never have been inside a burning building, you probably have experienced other types of heated crises: conflicts at work, deadlines that seem impossible, strained family relationships, financial and health issues. Or perhaps you’re balancing a fast-paced lifestyle with the pressures of many roles balanced between home, work, church and community. Do you feel completely alone and burdened with responsibilities?

But are you really alone? Do you have to handle things 24-7 by yourself? Have you reached the end of your rope, tied a knot in it, and still find it slipping?

You’re not alone. As you read God’s words, see how many times He affirms His promise that He is with you.

Think on these words: “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” [Isaiah 41:10 NIV].

God is with us through all the fires of our lives—and the grape juice. Even beyond the “Amen” of our prayers, God is still there, watching for our needs, and waiting for us to accept His help.

[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.]