Favorite Day of the Week By Jo Russell

Miss Johnson had worked hard with her rural kindergarten students on exit skills. Though far from the sophistication of big city schools, the kindergarten/first grade children – five in all — did well.

The youngsters mastered their numbers to 100. They could count by twos, fives, and tens to 100. They could rattle off the months of the year in order. They used capital and small letters correctly in sentences. Now Miss Johnson was testing the kindergarten students’ skills in the days of the week in order.

“Boys and girls,” Miss Johnson began to her small group. “I want to hear how well you know the days of the week. Then you can tell about your favorite day and why you like it.”

Susie told the class she liked Saturday because she could play with the other ranch kids nearby. Carlie liked Fridays because her family went into town on the weekend to see uncles, aunts, and cousins. Eugenia liked Sundays because her mother curled her hair and the family went to church together.

When Miss Johnson was sure each of the twins mastered their days of the week in order, she noticed by their wiggles they could hardly wait their turn to share their favorite day of the week.

But when it was time for the twin boy students to answer, they didn’t name anything Monday through Sunday.

Together they answered, “Payday!”

“It’s better than any day of the week!” one twin added. Payday meant allowance, a trek to Grandma’s in town, and the toy store.

Just as the twin boys’ answer was a surprise to Miss Johnson, so God’s answers often come in an entirely different way. We may feel puzzled. Walking with the Lord shows us the way on His off-the-beaten path. We could feel lost at times. But He knows the destination. We may feel we are smart and have the answers ahead. But His wisdom spans time from the beginning through the end.

The Bible sums it up in these verses: “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. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil.” [NIV: Proverbs 3:5-7]

The trek from Earth to Heaven is founded in His ways, His path, and His understanding. And trusting him provides mastery of the exit skills from Earth to Heaven.

[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.]

 

 

In the Name of Love By Jo Russell

“Nothing says ‘I love you’ like a clean car,” read a prominent marquis in front of a business.

“Somehow, a trip through the automatic car wash is not what I had in mind for love,” Connie  lamented. She was thinking that flowers and candy were more to her liking for Valentine’s Day. But to the busy professional, her thoughts followed, “Who would give them to me?” For it was another dateless weekend.

“Not me, either,” remarked her long-time friend, Carol, also dateless. “Besides, a trip to the car wash would mess up the appointment reminders I stick all across the dashboard.

Both professional women thought about the red, white, and pink aisles of flowers and greeting cards at nearly every store in the area—and they felt a twinge–missing out on love.

But one afternoon much time later, Dr. Connie was surprised at her busy medical practice with the presence of a process server, “You’re being sued,” he smiled. Her life was just as insanely busy, but also included a persistent male admirer.

“Oh, great,” Connie groaned. “That figures. It has been that kind of day.”

And she dropped it on her desk with other papers that needed attention before closing time.

But later on that day, she opened the subpoena. It turned out to be from her District Attorney boyfriend.  Written in the legalese with each line numbered, the three-page document detailed a proposition for marriage. Because the DA had met the approval of her dog, mother, family, best friend, as well as having fallen in love with Connie [and her feelings had seemed to be mutual], Rick proposed that he would get down on his knee [the good one] and request the honor of Connie’s presence in his life as helpmate and marriage partner forever after. That was more than 25 years ago.

Long after, Carol joined Paul for lunch at his house when in the presence of the canine witnesses Star and Maggie–one from each family.

He began, “Carol, sit down. I have something important to say.” The dogs thought that was their signal to plant themselves on each side of him for snacks.

“You’re sexy and beautiful,” he began.

“Yowrr. Rrrr,” Star responded, cocking her head and showing off her dark eyes, which means, “You bet!”

Paul persisted with several canine interruptions then earnestly gazed into Carol’s eyes, “I need you in my life and want you to be my wife!”

But Star interjected, “Bark! Yip! Bark!” which means, “Sure, but only if you give me more sausage.”

And with a “Yes,” the match was made: a new family of four, man woman, and two dogs. As far as the canines were concerned, as long as the sausage supply held, the covenant was unbreakable.

Though the two true stories described above bring a sigh and a smile, they both require a partner and the “Eros” kind of love—which leaves a lot of people out.

But there is a greater love offered to everyone: God’s unconditional love and light of forgiveness.

This comes in the gift of Jesus Christ.

Here it is in God’s valentine:

For God so loVed the world,
    That he gAve
       His onLy
       BegottEn
           SoN
             That whosoever
    Believes In Him
      Should Not perish,
    But have Everlasting life.

[John 3:16]

 

What a gift! It’s even better than a car wash, roses and candy!

*Much thanks to Kay Alderton of the Pinetop Prissies Red Hats for the unique acrostic!

[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.]

 

 

Counting the Cost to Race for Jesus By Jo Russell

“I’m ready for the bike race next week!” Pete called out to his teen friends as they wheeled their racing two-wheelers into his yard for a training ride. “Just give me a minute to finish fixing this flat.”

Pete installed a strip cut from a plastic milk carton along the channel of the tire. “See I don’t even have to buy a tube!”

“And will that work?” Jack asked doubtfully.

“I’d bet my lucky socks on it!” the novice bicyclist affirmed. “I know it’s true because I read it in a bicycling magazine a few days ago! It’s great! This is absolutely free! I didn’t have any extra money anyway!”

Sometimes a promise of “This is an experience you’ll never forget!” could be a good thing. This wasn’t.

More than an hour later with nothing between towns but tumbleweeds and coyotes, the three wound down a country back road as Pete sprinted ahead. Then he wobbled and slowed down with panic in his eyes. Pete regained control of the two-wheeler as he and the bike staggered to a stop. Jack and Artie passed him. “Hey, guys! Stop! I’ve got a flat!”

“Great!” groaned Artie. You don’t have a tube, right?”

“Nope.”

“My extra won’t fit on your wheel. Anybody remember a phone?”

“I guess in all the excitement we forgot.”

“I’ll head into town and call your folks,” Jack offered. He pedaled to the nearest phone eight miles and many minutes away.

Artie and Pete turned around for the long walk home with their bikes. Pete reddened and added, “I guess we’re getting the exercise after all – even if it’s not the way we planned.”

With town more than a dozen miles away, Artie glared at him, “I’ll take your lucky socks when we get home.”

When Pete’s parents showed up, they loaded the teens and their bikes.

“Pete! This is your fault!  We’re stopping to buy an inner tube right now. You owe us.”

At the twenty-mile race a week later, Artie was wearing Pete’s lucky socks when Pete sprinted ahead to draft behind the lead racers. But without his lucky socks, Pete felt undressed. In a burst of speed, his friends zipped ahead of Pete and caught up with the lead racers.

Then something dark as a meatloaf dropped off  Pete’s  bike – the seat! Seven miles later still pedaling and standing, a red-faced Pete turned on the steam for a sprint  across the finish line. His friends had finished long before. “Couldn’t sit down,” Pete explained. “We’ll have to find the seat somewhere back there!”

With nothing between the beginning and the end of the race but tumbleweeds and coyotes, the three couldn’t find it.

“I guess I can’t ride anymore,” Pete lamented.

But his friends continued training, got stronger, developed endurance and skills. They won again and again.

Pete had figured the cost of the race at only the entry fee. But had Pete really determined the cost of the rides and the races?

No. Pete could have checked his bicycle before and after each ride, oiling parts and doing routine maintenance as he looked to see that everything was working well—and that he kept his pants as well as his seat on.

Instead, he brought surprises into his life and that of his friends. Not the good kind!

Just as Jesus cautions us to count the cost of preparing, he warns that we need to count the cost of following him. “Suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Will he not first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.” [Luke 14:31-33]

Living the Christian life – each day and each year and each decade – has a cost. It’s commitment. It’s taking a stand. It’s claiming Christ even in the face of ridicule or persecution.

It may cost friends – and bring you new ones. It may cost money and time. The Christian life may change your career and your focus.

But in running the race with Christ as your coach and trainer, you’ll emerge as the winner in all things that count.

[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.]

Be a Cheerful Giver of Time and Talents by Jo Russell

“I can’t believe you’re painting this house for free!” Nick commented high on a ladder above Jenny. Normally, the job and the preparation would pay in the four-figure range. As three of them painted–Nick, his wife, Ruth,  plus Jenny–the owner of the house, Norma, was at Mayo Clinic nearly two hundred miles away fighting for her life.

Nick’s wife on a second ladder, turned to see what Jenny would say. They were finishing the paint on the two-story log house in a wooded neighborhood. All expert painters, they knew the paint could not be rolled on or sprayed because of the condition of the house and the curves of the logs. It had to be hand painted with brushes as wide as telephone books.

“I’m not doing it for free. I’m doing it for God!”

Nick laughed out loud. He and Ruth earned their living painting and roofing houses. When their chuckles stopped rocking the two ladders, he said, “Well, I sure hope God is paying you for this!”

“Yep!” Jenny told him, “he already did.”

Jenny explained that a mistake from her mortgage company yielded a large refund windfall the week before. “Besides, God loves cheerful giver! That means my time, too.”

Would Norma survive the cancer? Only God knew. Jenny did know that Norma’s house had to be painted to preserve the dwelling, whether Norma won the battle over cancer or not.

If she didn’t survive, her only child, a grown daughter, Erica, would have less work to get the house ready to sell.

Jenny had handled two family members’ deaths and estates in a year, and then lost the rest of the generation within six months. She knew handling estates is complicated and time-consuming.

“Long distance makes it harder,” Jenny thought as she pictured Erica, who lived thousands of miles away.

Was Jenny a cheerful giver? Yep. She, Nick and Ruth enjoyed the mild spring day in the shade of evergreen trees all afternoon and finished the painting job.

Norma returned from her cancer treatment to a home makeover. Months later, she had recovered to be a part of her daughter’s wedding.

Nick, Ruth and Jenny’s service became an example of God’s provision for others.

Paul writes, “Now he who supplied seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion and through your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of God’s people but is also overflowing in expressions of thanks to God.” [2 Corinthians 9:10-12]

Just as it takes hard work to make a garden grow and produce, God encourages us to use our skills generously. Jenny didn’t hide hers in tool bucket or a shed full of paint cans. She put her experience and tools to use.

In doing service using our gifts, God’s light shines brightly as a great expression of our faith and thankfulness to the Creator.

Whatever your talents, God will nudge you to use them. See what surprises come from following his way!

Which of your talents can God use?

[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.]