The Fresh Herb Surprise by Jo Russell

Volunteers Sherry and Ellen rushed into the community kitchen where they fed scores of needy people every weekday. Flushed with excitement, they each clasped a long sprig of a green leafy branch, and breathlessly offered them to the Master Chef Jean.

“Look, Jean! My friend gave me this herb for the spaghetti sauce today. She said it’s basil. I’m so excited! I’ve never cooked with fresh herbs before! Just those dry sprinkles of Italian seasoning. You can teach us!”

Jean took a leaf, studied it and told them, “To know what an herb is, you can rub its leaf in your fingers. The smell is very strong. That will help you to know what it is.”

The chef took a sprig, rubbed its leaves between her fingers and smelled deeply.

Ellen asked, “It is basil, isn’t it?”

Jean replied, “No, definitely not. It doesn’t have a strong smell. The leaves aren’t smooth and shiny.”

“But this has wide leaves just like basil!”

“It does have wide leaves, Ellen.” Jean smelled, “But no, it’s not basil nor oregano, either. I don’t think we can use this in the sauce today.”

“Why not? What is it?” asked the chef’s assistant.

She smelled the leaves a third time. “A weed!” pronounced Master Chef Jean.

They all laughed hard and hugged. “It’s okay, ladies. We’re all learning!”

How often do our riffs with others, unlike this one, end with hard feelings and wanting to get even? Do we rerun cruel words or actions, and keep getting mad all over again?

From Man Bites Dog, mystery author Ellery Queen wrote “…the two women exchanged the kind of glance women use when there is no knife handy.”

Getting along isn’t easy. It takes work.  Paul writes, “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them together in perfect unity.” [Colossians 3:12-14]

The apostle Paul, who wrote this and about half of the New Testament, had plenty to be angry about. Once he became a believer in Jesus as Messiah, Paul had many trying to kill him. He was in three shipwrecks on the Mediterranean Sea, was stoned and beaten, was a prisoner dependent on his friends to feed him, and spent much time in a dark cell until he was killed as an enemy of the state.

Yet Paul followed Jesus’ example modeled for us, forgiveness bound up with love. He forgave daily and thanked God for the opportunity to tell his guards about Jesus.

If you had or didn’t have a loving home with parents who valued you, you now have a model of forgiveness and love. We are God’s family. He never stops loving us, or forgiving us. Neither should we stop forgiving and loving.

Can you hand over one hurt to Jesus today? He sent us Jesus, who taught us to forgive – even when our mistakes and cooking skills make others grin.

[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.]

 

 

 

 

 

God Loves a Generous Giver By Jo Russell

George loved the pastor’s sermons and would “Amen!” through them. When Pastor talked about helping others, George remembered how friends had helped him when he needed it—like when the zipper on his wallet stuck and wouldn’t open.

When the class members went out to eat after Sunday church, George would join them, smiling, laughing, entertaining the group with his stories and experiences. Then the bill came and, George got out his wallet. As he tugged at the c-shaped zipper, he frowned, “Son of a gun! The zipper is stuck!”

And Roger, sitting next to him said, “Never mind. It’s my treat.”

The next group lunch, Bob sat next to George when he tried to unzip his wallet. “Darn! The craftsmanship these days is terrible!”

And Bob offered, “Forget it, George. I’ll buy you lunch.”

The third time, Angie, an avid do-it-yourselfer, sat next to him. When his c-shaped zipper stuck yet again, Angie pulled out a compact multiple tool outfitted with both scissors and pliers.

“Try this,” she suggested, unfolding the pliers.

“But this wallet cost of lot of money! I can’t ruin it with that!”

She let him wrestle with the wallet as long as it took without offering to buy his lunch. Nor did anyone else. Most diners had left by the time George got it open. It was then the waitress noticed the cause of the malfunction–a $50.00 bill caught in the zipper.

God promises blessings to those who are generous. “One man gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty. A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will be refreshed.” [Prov. 11:24-25.]

Good stewardship – helping others – is what makes God smile.

That beats a c-zipper on a wallet any day.

[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.]

Heaven is Never Too Congested for You By Jo Russell

Pie Town, New Mexico, population 186, boasts of great pie and views.

“Top of the world, to ya!” one might hear, as Pie Town celebrates the end of the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route of over 2000 miles from Alberta, Canada, to their handful of buildings and cafes featuring homemade pies.

But you’d never know driving over miles of vacant vistas with rolling hills dotted with cedars and evergreens that Pie Town has needs to post a warning. Is it a tricky speed trap? No.

For motorists headed down Highway 60 at a good clip, the sign that warns them of a possible traffic jam comes as a surprise: a flashing yellow light and sign that warns: Caution Congested Area.

What motorist on the sparsely traveled road wouldn’t wonder, “Is this a joke?”

“Nope,” reports a local realtor. “It’s really a cattle crossing. But isn’t this more fun?”

So when the Black Angus and Herefords – steak on the hoof–have a mind to amble across the highway at their own speed, warning motorists makes sense.

Caution: Congested Area. Is that what it’s like trying to communicate with God? You might have been imagining having to wait in line for his attention, like on black Friday when grumpy shoppers elbow their way to the front.

Are you wondering, “Where is God? Where is love?” They are both in the same place – on the other side of a thought.

Do you have to wait in line to talk to God?  Is he going to think your worries and needs are unimportant?

No. God doesn’t think we are trivial. He doesn’t judge us as a second-rate family member with flaws. He loves us and as plans for our time, talent, and lives. He has patience to teach us about prayer and the kingdom of God. He just asks us to persist in seeking knowledge and him.

Jesus promises, “Ask and it will be given to you, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.” Matthew 7:7-8 [NIV]

Stop imagining a line-up for your questions, seeking, and prayers. For God always has time for you. Remember Pie Town’s “Caution, Congested Area.” Like Pie Town, in the kingdom of God, there is always room for one more.

[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.]

 

 

 

 

Finding the Best Scents for Town and Country Living By Jo Russell

 

With the confidence of one who summits the tallest peaks in North America, Jolene thought, “As a seasoned country woman instead of a newbie, I can solve any problem and deal with anything with a flyswatter, adjustable wrench, shovel, broom, and duct tape! Bring it on, Mother Nature!”

The Creator of all—AKA Mother Nature–smiled at the challenge.

Jolene’s confidence melted when she spotted a skunk in the kitchen eating cat food.

But she wielded the broom and voila! Without stink or fuss, the kitchen was clear of critters–except for her own.

“I’ll deal with the pet door later,” she promised herself. But the open window at ground level   welcomed all just like Emma Lazarus’ quote with a slight modification:

“Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me: I lift my lamp beside the golden [window].”

Months later, Mama Skunk remembered how easy it was to go out for dinner at Jolene’s and take the whole family – now totaling all six of them.

Jolene had her foot propped on a chair and was not expecting company. At dusk, while Jolene was on the phone, she commented to her friend, “At least it’s only a bad sprain, not a broken foot.”

That’s when a furious commotion began in the kitchen. Cuddles wasn’t barking a familiar message, like “dinner time,” “walk,” “treat” or “cat mischief alert!” The noise wound up like a siren, getting louder and shriller! The dog was alarming Jolene as plainly as he could, “Alien invasion! Skunks! A whole family of them!”

She limped to the broom and gently shooed out four babies and Mama Skunk through the door.

But Cuddles kept yapping as he herded a fifth baby the size of a bath sponge into the corner of the living room. Jolene followed with the broom and opened the front door. But the baby skunk was too terrified to move.

Jolene got closer. She remembered hearing, “Baby skunks don’t spray.”

As the smell burned her eyes, Jolene learned it isn’t true. “At least I’ll get new carpet out of it.”

Also wrong.

“Varmint damage,” the insurance company rep tagged the stink-in. “Not covered under a homeowners’ policy.”

Jolene ignoring the pet door problem became serious because she let it go.

Ignoring urgent issues is the same as blowing off home or car repairs, health, financial, or relationship issues, or problems that must be confronted.  Without attention, everything gets bigger and harder to handle.

The same applies to sin. Sin is an old-fashioned word that some think only belongs in the vocabulary of narrow-minded octogenarians.

But sin spans the generations from Adam and Eve to the present. It is real. It turns into   consequences and complications. If sin is not confronted, it gets bigger. What is it? Sin: Call it a temporary error in judgment, a mistake, getting even, giving in to peer pressure, or justifying a bad choice.

Jesus had plenty of temptation to make a temporary error in judgment – such as turning stones to bread or jumping off a cliff and having the angels rescue him. Those were Satan’s ideas in the desert during Jesus’ 40 day fast. But he didn’t. He could have gotten even with the religious leaders who hid in the crowds of followers with plans to trick him and murder him. But he didn’t. Jesus could have helped himself to the funds that supported the disciples just as Judas Iscariot did. Jesus wouldn’t even have to open the pouch. But he didn’t.

What kind of example is Jesus setting for us? That we reach for honesty; that we correct our wrongs and change paths so we don’t do it again; that we get up every time we fall.

Who is the owner of your life?  Sin or the Son? Jesus, the Son of God, taught, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”  [John 8:34-36]

Can you accept the beautiful gift Jesus offers of being in his family through forgiveness and his gift?

The fragrance of forgiveness is the best choice – whether for  town or country living.

[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.]

 

Never Out of Season for Needs by Jo Russell

As Paul and Carol slid into booths of a vintage diner, the couple surveyed the menu. With a little over 100 full-time residents, the settlement in the tall pines attracted many to the nearby trout-stocked lakes–but not during the winter. It was far from a grocery store, but  everyone coped.

At the café, as inviting as the glowing flames in the woodstove in the center of the diner were the menu items: sandwich plates and food fare that looked as appealing as a cabin in the woods. Out for a morning run, the fire chief, had stopped to chat and recommended the restaurant.

When the waitress at the café penned Paul’s order, he asked, “Could I substitute cottage cheese for fries?”

“Nope,” she responded, “Not now anyway.”

“But you printed it on the menu!”

“Yep,” she agreed without looking up from her pad, “But we don’t have any cottage cheese until May. That’s when the tourists come up. You’re three months too early for cottage cheese.”

So much for substitutes and needs.

King David had penned these words: “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.” [Psalm 23:1.]

Sheep depend entirely on their shepherd to lead them to food and water, protect them, rescue them, care for their wounds, and meet their needs.

This comparison of a shepherd to the Creator’s care paints a word picture of dependence on him and a willingness to trust him.

It isn’t a parallel to our being animals, along with sheep. It’s about leaning on God.

God’s care. It’s not just food- God is the provider for all needs. In his time, he may send someone to give you encouragement when you need it. God sees when your need may be for healing, whether a physical issue, emotional or relationship struggles. God is aware you may have experienced a loss – of a job, a family member, a friend. God will help.

It’s part of the benefit package of trusting and following him.

Another is that all those things we really need, God will supply at the right time–Even cottage cheese.

[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.]