Can Almonds and Attitudes be a Source of Joy? By Jo Russell

Something fell off the kitchen counter in the middle of the night and bounced.

Home alone, Gracie listened in the darkness, and then heard a furious clack, bang, and crash! The police had posted a notice on the doors of her neighborhood a few weeks before.

Gracie tried to remember. “What did it say? Lock your doors and windows!” A burglar hit seven homes in the neighborhood, mostly by just walking in.

On this busy night, she had passed out with exhaustion after work and had fallen asleep in her clothes. Gracie’s heart thumped and she felt icy as her life flashed in front of her eyes!  She clasped her hand around heavy metal. It wasn’t a Smith and Wesson, but a fitness pack full of drinks, work- out clothes, bras, and underwear that could pack a wallop.

Gracie sat up and listened for footsteps. None. Tiptoeing out of bed, the woman took her defensive stance with the gym bag. More clack, clack, bang! No footsteps!

She flattened herself against the walls close to the kitchen, scanned the room and the next, and another, and then returned to the kitchen where the noise continued. Gracie flipped on the light and backed away quickly to avoid a bullet.


Where was the large, clumsy intruder who had entered the house with such a clatter? An almond shot by her feet. Then a black streak zig-zagged across the room chasing it and yowling until the nut bounced off the baseboards.

“Penny Kitty!” Grace winced as she stepped forward. Something brown and hard pushed into her bare feet. She was afraid to look.

What is a cat litter box for anyway? Gracie lifted her toes off the mound. But it was only a Brazil nut Penny had propelled across the room.

Gracie growled with irritation and scooped up the energized feline. She purred. The overworked lady concluded, “I am taking life’s lessons from a cat. She can be perfectly happy just playing with nuts!”

Almonds, that is.

What can we learn from this? The pure joy of simple experiences.

Being loved and held in God’s hands every day does bring joy! Is your life more work and not enough play? Have you missed moments of joy?

Like Gracie, have thoughts, plans and worries about the past and the future kept you in a numb state?

Penny Kitty taught Gracie to wake up to the joy of today and a thankful heart for each moment in time.

God gives us the present. It’s a panorama of beauty and experiences like a gift. Jesus said, “If you obey my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love.  I have told you this so that my joy will be in your and your joy may be complete.” John 15:10-11

Penny Kitty had the right idea. Enjoy life now—right down to the last almond!

Where do you find joy 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.]

Love for All God’s Critters and You! By Jo Russell

When Grandma came for her half-year stay with her son and family, Fletcher, the Bassett hound groaned. All the family dog wanted was love, compassion, appreciation, treats, and a comfortable place to sleep. “Even Baby Jesus had a crib for a bed,” the dog reasoned.

The floppy-eared Bassett grieved, “No more sofa-sitting until summer. How could such a thing happen to such an important family member?”

“Why, I put in an 18-hour day keeping everyone on schedule! They get up on time without an alarm clock! I make sure the kitchen floor is cleaned up when someone drops something! I even tell the family when the mailman comes!”

Grandma voiced her disapproval to the family around the dinner table, “Dogs shouldn’t be sleeping on the furniture, either,” she announced, “Or begging for food while we’re eating.” She looked accusingly at Fletcher. He stopped his whining as suddenly as if his throat had been cut.

“Cats need to stay in the barn and kill the mice,” the elderly farm woman proclaimed. The cat yawned, stretched, and sashayed past the family at dinner. Princess’ idea of hunting was navigating trips to the food bowl 36 times a day.

“Grandma,” granddaughter Mandy countered, “We don’t have a barn and we don’t have mice. We live in a city. The exterminator takes care of them.”

Fletcher knew things would only get worse after dinner. Grandma would begin, “Dog! Get down!” and she ordered the dog off the sofa with a flyswatter in her hand.

Fletcher knew his sentence was to be called “Dog” for the next six months and curl up on the cold floor. No sofa for a bed. No treats from the kitchen floor. No conversations with family. His life was miserable with oppression. He was in trouble with Grandma most of the time.

Even from another room, when Fletcher tried to sneak on the sofa without the springs squeaking, Grandma seemed to have x-ray vision and sprinted to his side with a flyswatter.

When Grandma’s visit was finally up, Fletcher gingerly eased himself on the sofa, looking around for the tall, gaunt woman with the flyswatter. When he realized she was gone for some months ahead, he let out a long sigh and breathed, “At long last! Freedom!”

Some imagine God’s management of their lives would include Grandma’s iron-fisted techniques. God’s home in us and in heaven is not the same as a loveless existence with unbearable rules.

Just as Fletcher is loved and important enough for his family and God to remember his name, so are you.

“But now, this is what the LORD says– he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: ‘Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.” Isaiah 43:1-2]

God helps you when you ask. Fletcher couldn’t swim. Heavy-bodied and short-legged Fletcher would make his legs go through all the motions in the water, but he sank like sandstone. Just as his owners cupped him around the chest and got him to shore, God lifts and rescues us.

God cares about your problems.  “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” [1 Peter 5:7].

When God comes to visit in your life, don’t groan and expect a flyswatter. Invite him in and let his love and care shine on you – 24-7.

[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.]




Attitude is Everything By Jo Russell

“Howdy and hello again!”  Dave greeted the white-coated specialist at a skin clinic where he regularly reported for bouts with skin cancer. “Check it out! I’m good today except for one little spot!” he chattered on with a smile. “What’s one after twenty other visits?! Why, I’ve see all of you more this year than family members who show up for the holidays!”

“Glad to hear you so happy,” the doctor smiled. “You’ve made my day!”

“You betcha! I figure that the more you take off, the less I’ll weigh!” Dave turned a full circle to give the physician a complete view of his roundness.

Dave is a flesh- and- blood example of attitude changing his world. “When my coworkers see how I deal with a fairly constant battle with skin cancer, they smile. It helps them deal with their own problems.”

The first comprehensive dictionary of the English language, the Johnson Dictionary, defines enthusiasm as “a vain confidence of divine favour or communication.” Dave’s attitude reflects confidence in divine favor, enthusiasm, and a zest for living.

Life happens to everyone. Going through troubles? Health issues? Emotional stress? Financial issues? Grieving and loss? Change of family circumstances?

Early in his reign that began about three thousand years ago, King Solomon penned these words, “A cheerful look brings joy to the heart and good news gives health to the bones. [Proverbs  15:30].

Though these words of advice came out of ancient times, isn’t it strange that medical sources now say that a positive attitude is therapeutic?

Attitude is everything. What will others see in yours 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.]





Expecting a Snowman–Or Savior? Predictions and Prophesies By Jo Russell

The mid-week forecast sounded brutal: “90% chance of snow tonight  – up to 18 inches, with freezing temperatures tonight. A severe storm warning is in effect. Roads will be dangerous.”

By the time the news hit the grocery store, it got bigger. Rural resident Ernie announced to anyone who would listen, “Three feet of snow by tomorrow morning! Why, this is just like ’67 when no one could get out of town for two weeks! I’ll be ready this time!”

Selena overheard in the check-out line and added, “I’m bringing in more wood for the fire! We always get more snow than you folks in town! Why, with five feet of snow in 24 hours, we could lose the power and heat!”

All the snow shovels sold out in 30 minutes.

As the Superintendent of Schools Brown listened to the media and checked the internet reports, he investigated the facts, not opinions.  Then Dr. Brown noticed that snowflakes as big as Pearl erasers were pelting to the ground. “We’ve never had to call a school day since I became superintendent,” he commented to his assistant, Roberta. “But maybe this time. Icy roads means it’s dangerous for the busses and children.”

At last, he sighed. “I’m calling the radio station and newspaper.” He started the calls on the phone tree to his teachers. Soon his decision was on the air, “No school tomorrow due to inclement weather.”

The administrator commended himself. His decision was sensible. “This is serious. It’s safer for three hundred employees and nine schools of school children to stay home and watch it snow,” he explained to Roberta.

But the next morning turned into a surprise. By 9:00 a.m., clouds disappeared. Intense blue skies  brought sun sparkling on the snow-packed roads—and school children coming to life.

Brown’s assistant, Roberta, her husband, and their two young children slid down the Little League field dozens of times on a cookie sheet and a plastic sled. Scores of other families joined them skidding over the slick surface with cardboard, plywood, and sometimes plastic discs. Roberta’s baking sheet sled was never the same again.

More numerous than dandelions on a summer lawn, snowmen spouted in yards all over town.

Around noon, when the roads were safe but still snow-packed, Dr. Brown headed to the school district office to work. On the way, he passed three of his high school teens in a beat-up pick-up truck. One youth drove and the other hung out the window to check their passenger—towed behind the truck on a tire. Snow and mud spewed the lad with goggles who was dressed in dark trash bags duct-taped in the right places to keep him dry.

“This is hilarious!” the spotter hanging out the window cried, unaware of the superintendent sharing the road, “We need more snow days like this!”

By the next morning when Dr. Brown arrived at the office, he and his staff were red-faced. But for the school superintendent, it was because of the embarrassment of calling a snow day when the weather prediction was completely wrong. For his staff, red faces simply reflected their  sunburns on a mid-week day off everyone would remember.

Predictions, forecasts, and even prophesies are often wrong as Superintendent Brown experienced.

But the prophesies about Jesus as Messiah were entirely correct. Every one of them came true. Numbering over 350 covering everything from his birth in Bethlehem from a virgin, his sacrifice of his life for our sins, and his resurrection after death, most were foretold in the Old Testament hundreds of years before Jesus’ birth. Nothing could be more intentional than the predictions of God’s promise of a Messiah. They came in one man who walked the earth and proved himself in miracles, teaching, and prophesies that all came true: Jesus is the Christ.

Consider these words written nearly 500 years before Jesus’ birth:

“Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion!

Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem!

See, your King comes to you,

Righteous and having salvation,

Gentle and riding on a donkey,

On a colt, the foal of a donkey.

…He will proclaim peace to the nations.

His rule will extend from sea to sea

and from the River to the ends of the earth.” [Zechariah 9:9-10b]


As you listen to winter weather predictions, remember Superintendent Brown’s surprise on a snow day. Then think on the prophesies and promises of God that came true in Jesus. Which can we count on through all weather and all time?

[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.]