Martha Stewart has Left the Building! By Jo Russell

“Oh, how I tried to have this home always tidy and a benchmark of decorating!” the newly-married Carol lamented as she pushed a canvas drop cloth out of the path through the sunroom. “But Martha Stewart has left the building!”

You might assume that her husband, Paul, had left the mess. Wrong!

While she and Paul had been dating, Carol had managed to keep her measuring tape, power saw, paints, and DIY projects under cover. He never saw anything from his fiancé’s home but the perfectly set table, polished floors, candles glowing in the living room, and a fire dancing in the woodstove.

“If only Paul knew what I’d gone through for him! Love is…Well, the romantic flames took two hours, 53 pinecones, paper, and a starter log to produce the cheery warm glow.”  Her furnace worked just fine for keeping the house cozy.

But now that Carol and Paul married and lived in utter honesty, her DIY (Do It Yourself) projects peeked forth and showed themselves in all corners of living spaces.

Carol’s impression as a perfect Martha Stewart homemaker became  fractured when Paul saw her projects and asked what she wanted for Christmas.

“Clothes? Jewelry?” he suggested.

“No, I have a better idea instead. I need a minute to put my thoughts together.”  Nearly all of Carol’s wish list could be found at the local home improvement store. “A Porter Cable Christmas would be ideal,” Carol thought to herself, “but that’s like – in my dreams!”

“Let’s see,” she gingerly suggested, hoping Paul would accept her choices, “A cordless drill with two battery packs, not one; a drill bit set with all the pieces, router and router table (unless you let me use yours), portable sawhorses, and a gift certificate for the electrical supply store.” She paused to explain, “That’s because the inside of the shed is my winter project.”

At first, his face was frozen with shock. Then he smiled.

“Just so you know I’m still all woman, I like this coat, too,” she finished as she handed him a page from a catalog.

When Christmas morning came, Carol was surprised that nearly every package rivaled the free weights at the gym. A coat couldn’t weight that much! But inside was pay dirt! It really was a Porter Cable power tool Christmas! Paul had acknowledged that she wasn’t just a woman, but a competent DIY model.

Just as Paul accepted his bride as a whole woman, along with her projects and power tools, God celebrates our differences as individuals with gifts, skills and abilities. All together, we  contribute to the His plan for us and to the body of Christ.

“The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all give the one Spirit to drink.” [1 Corinthians 12:12-13. ]

Jesus broke down the walls of prejudice from his time on in opening the door to Heaven to all. That happened because of his sacrifice and love for us. The Messiah came for everyone. Team Jesus includes everyone from all races and professions who accept Him as Savior.

Jesus loves each of us- –including the imperfect whose projects and drop cloths are evidence that Martha Stewart has left the building!

[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, her speaking engagements and website, Enjoy chuckles and speeches, tips and excerpts in website options and weekly blog.]

Christmas’s Coming! No Peekin’ By Jo Russell

“You’d think that Mom would hide presents in a different place instead of on the same ‘ol closet shelf,” commented her oldest, Samantha, teetering on a chair in the guest room closet.

“Yesth,” agreed seven-year-old Betty, whose front teeth were missing. She peered up and spotted foil-wrapped packages glistening in the back of the closet. It was Betty’s first time raiding the Christmas closet with her siblings. What a sense of belonging!

“Mom’s great, but I don’t think she’s all that smart,” ten-year-old Pete added. “She doesn’t know we peek at the presents before Christmas morning.”

Or did she? With rumors going around that every mother is equipped with telepathic thought reading, eyes in the back of her head, and a detective’s skill at solving mysteries, the three wondered about Mom having a secret sixth sense. But if their mother knew, she never let on. Captivated by her children’s award-winning show of excitement and surprise when they opened gifts on Christmas, Mom seemed pleased.

“How could she know we peek?” Samantha bragged while poking around the top shelf from her wobbly chair. “We’re really good at it.”

Samantha checked the gift tag of a big box and cried, “It’s for me!”

As she carefully loosened the tape on the end of a box, Samantha began to fall and grabbed at the air – or the package – and landed on the floor.

Ripppppp! The sound shrieked through the air louder than a siren.

Though she taped it back as best she could, the gift looked like it was definitely the victim of a crime–breaking and entering.

“Mom will know who did it!” Samantha cried.

That’s when Samantha and her siblings realized they took the surprise out of Christmas.

Peekin’ before the holiday leaves no room for jaw-dropping astonishment.

Perhaps that’s why 700 years before Jesus was born, there were still surprises to see and mysteries to investigate.

Israelites were in trouble. Many made bad choices and rejected God and his laws. Yet they were promised a great light dawning, a Prince of Peace, a leader in government. [Isaiah 9:6-8] They grasped for hope they desperately needed.

But Jesus came in God’s time and way. A helpless baby began life in a stable full of animals and germs. His mother and step-father were poor. But Jesus, the baby, then grown man, is the Christ.

When the angel of the Lord appeared to the shepherds, he said, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” [Luke 2:9-12]

As he grew to adulthood, it became evident that Jesus is the Messiah of promise with miracles and prophecies that came true. Still, people’s ideas and God’s are different.  They wanted to know all about the surprise ahead of time.

Being freed of slavery was freedom –from the enslaving weight of sin. Bondage and oppression on earth could continue.  A Prince of Peace would model and teach how to have inner peace through all circumstances. It didn’t come in political peace by overthrowing the government at the time.

Isaiah predicts that Jesus will be a Wonderful Counselor. More than that, Jesus was a great teacher, a man of compassion and miracles, a righteous judge, and the Son of God.  Everlasting Father? Jesus leads the way to eternal life and Heaven.

And Jesus, given to us at a time and in a way God planned, was a surprise worth waiting for. He is the Christmas present offered to all people.

One doesn’t even need to stand on a chair to find him on the top shelf.  Our Great Lord is easily contacted with prayer and his spirit is found in the hearts of those who accept him.

How much is Jesus in your Christmas today?

[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, her speaking engagements and website, Enjoy chuckles and speeches, tips and excerpts in website options and weekly blog.]




New and Improved Christmas? By Jo Russell

The lights, the colors, and the look of Christmas have a whole new complexion, faster, more stream-lined and wrinkle free!

A clinic’s marquis urged shoppers to stop in during lunch and “Get your Botox treatment for the holidays!” Add it to the to-do list!

Sally pondered, “But what would Santa and Mrs. Claus be without crows’ feet around their eyes and pink-cheeked grins?”

Her to-do list continued. For her time-squeezed preparations around parties and work, Sally opted for the instant Christmas tree.

“Just push the button on the trunk and it opens like an umbrella!” the sales associate had demonstrated. “Some of this pine scented spray will make your house smell like Christmas!” She bought two cans.

This year, she added a second umbrella tree. Sally wowed the family with an even faster set-up by bringing last year’s fully-decorated tree in from the garage while her husband was making coffee. When she pulled off the sheet, Shazamm! Instant Christmas!

“What a time management marvel, Sally!” He smiled as he kissed her.

Christmas catalogs that arrived the three weeks before Christmas rivaled the size of all the Los Angeles telephone books. She kept it simple. Sally finished her gift shopping in 10 seconds flat at the gift card display. “Just wait for the thank-you notes to come in!” one TV commercial quipped.  She’d do just that.

The couple bundled up the kids and rushed to the crowded airport only to scowl away and nose out another driver for the last parking place.

“Grandma will be here! Look I see her plane!” Billy cried with joy. “Hurry!”

“Hurry seems to be the buzzword of the season,” Sally murmured. “Maybe we’ll have time to slow down on Christmas Day.”  Or would they?  Christmas preparation hardly left time to think—or celebrate.

For today’s new and improved Christmas seems to be a to-do list longer than a child’s wish list for Santa. With Botox, decorations, gifts and travel getting more hype and media exposure than Jesus, it takes a deliberate effort to keep Christ in Christmas.

Preparation for the first Christmas was long, slow, and difficult.  A seemingly ordinary couple was making their way by foot and donkey about 80 miles from Nazareth to Bethlehem.

“Roughing it” would be a good way to describe their days and nights of travel and rest. Not even  air mattresses, sleeping bags, or a North Face tent were available to make sleeping on the ground more bearable.  Fortunately, getting rained on wasn’t much of a possibility in the desert.

The trip came about because of a government directive – a census.  But it also was God’s plan. [But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times. Micah 5:2]

The savior of the world would be born in Bethlehem – the city of David–miles ahead across in the desert. But Joseph was concerned with the rugged conditions for his espoused wife, Mary. She was in her the last weeks before giving birth.

Christ – the savior of the world – has come. Let the celebration continue – with shouts of Hallelujah echoing in the Heavens! Let the glory of God drown out the cry for Botox treatments in time for Christmas. Unlike Botox, the effect of Christ in our lives lasts forever.

[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, her speaking engagements and website, Enjoy chuckles and speeches, tips and excerpts in website options and weekly blog.]




God’s Backpack for Every Need by Jo Russell

Even Jolene’s work-outs at the gym with barbells hadn’t prepared her for this: her purse weighed as much as a Smart car, and was nearly the size of a carry-on bag, but without wheels.

As she sorted through her emergency supplies intending to lighten the load, she found all the must-have things inside for today’s woman:  a tape measure, tool with 40 attachments, portable toothbrush, lipstick, extra shirt, pantyhose, underwear, first-aid kid, knitting, a how-to  book on organization, monthly devotional,  an adjustable wrench the size of a teaspoon, travel tissue, family and pet pictures, plastic money, date book, and Christmas cards. Jolene hoped she’d be able to get out her Seasons Greetings before Valentine’s Day this year.

She faced the organizational challenge of the century: How could she make it smaller and lighter and still be prepared for every emergency?

When Charlotte’s son got a bee sting and needed drawing salve to get out the stinger, Jolene stammered, “Why I don’t have any!”

That day, she faced the possibility of tarnishing her reputation as Competent, Professional Resource Woman!

God is prepared for every emergency, and he packs it all into a super-light backpack in fashionable royal and navy blue. Inside are all the tools of love and leadership wrapped up in Jesus that he offers to us:

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting  Father, Prince of Peace.” [Isaiah 9: 6]

This season, we can choose. For God has the backpack that is filled with all the right things for every emergency. And it doesn’t weigh as much as a Smart car.

[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, her speaking engagements and website, Enjoy chuckles and speeches, tips and excerpts in website options and weekly blog.]