Forgiveness – The Epoxy of Christ and Character by Jo Russell

As Jolene came to the long table set up at a café for the women’s luncheon, she juggled a vase brimming with a fresh bouquet of flowers and ferns from her garden and sunroom. “Whoever needs it the most today!” she mentioned to the leader, Carla, as Jolene set the vase on the table.

“I think I know who that may be,” Carla responded and pushed a note toward her. “Read this from Rhonda. She’s not here yet.”

The plea came from the widow Rhonda, who had been sharing a house with the homeowner, recently widowed. Because of a bank foreclosure on the property after the homeowner’s husband died, both women were now without a place to live.

Great, Jolene remembered. It would have to be her. I’m still ticked off at the woman for breaking her promise and letting me down when I counted on her. So much for trying to help someone who needed help and extra money.  

“I’m sorry I can’t serve for your party,” she had told Jolene just days before the event with one hundred guests and not enough workers. It was too late to get a replacement, “I really wanted to go. But a family event came up and my daughter is taking me.”

It looked like Rhonda was the one needing the help now. As Rhonda sat at the table just as the waitress was totaling checks, distress showed on her face.

But the ladies pooled their experiences and directed Rhonda to just the right people and organizations to help her solve her housing need. The tears ran down Rhonda’s face as Jolene placed the vase of flowers in front of her. “Enjoy them. They should last you almost two weeks.”

Forgiveness is a frequent opportunity in a small town. God must be smiling as he gives residents lots of practice in seeing and working together. Country people continually run into each other everywhere – the grocery store, the post office, the vet’s, the gym or even the local eateries.

But Jesus took forgiveness to another level—and it’s not just for country people. He told Peter that he had to forgive “I tell you not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” [Matthew 18:21] He also taught that “And when you standing praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.” [Mark 11:25]

When the author of this blog shared a story at a prayer group from the new release from April, 2015 Chicken Soup for the Soul – The Power of Forgiveness, tears ran down Laura’s face. Was it Jo’s own story of an unfair action that turned into a blessing?  No. It was “The Greatest Gift” by Immaculee Ilibagiza. During a political coup in Rwanda, this woman ran and hid for her life while her family was brutally slaughtered. Later when the jailer brought her before the murderer and said, “I brought him here so you could spit on him. But you forgave him! How could you do that?”

She replied, “Because hatred has taken everything I ever loved from me. Forgiveness is all I have left to offer.”

Jesus himself in his last moments before dying on the cross said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” [Luke 23:34]. In doing this, he allowed all who accepted him and his gift of forgiveness to live with him in heaven.

That he would forgive those who humiliated, tortured, and murdered him is unthinkable in human terms – but not in God’s.

For forgiveness is the epoxy of Christ’s character, and can be in ours.

Share your flowers and forgiveness often. If you live in a small town, God will give you many extra opportunities to practice.

[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.]

 

 

 

 

Doing Damage with a Triple Word Score by Jo Russell

As two octogenarian friends, Jean and Virginia, shared lunch and finished up the dishes, they readied themselves for battle on the Scrabble field.

“Now let’s get down to the nitty-gritty, “Jean remarked as she hobbled to the game table with a cane. The widow carefully lowered herself into a chair and sighed with pain. But the moment passed. She grinned at Virginia, navigating her way across the large room to start the skirmish with the word game, Scrabble.

Virginia soon followed, pushing a walker smoothly over the floor with skis on the front and tennis balls on the rear. She smiled broadly at her friend as she sat gingerly on the chair padded with an extra cushion. “Deal the letters!” she commanded with the bravado of an officer calling down the Calvary. I’ve got my two-letter word cheat sheet, my dictionary, and I’m ready!”

Neither woman seemed discouraged by their physical limitations, as Virginia joyfully added, “Now let’s see what damage we can do!”

Though the physical was tiring them both, they rose with strength for the challenge of the mental completion.

Faced with difficulties, even the strongest of us get tired. But God’s strength, energy, care and attention never wane. He is ready to lift and help the strong, the weak, the tired with any task ahead – and to guide the way. All you have to do is ask.

The promise is infused in these words:

“He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary and young men stumble and fall, but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. [Isaiah 40:29-31]

Calling on God for strength and help counts bigger in life than a triple word score.

[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.]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Out with the Spiritual Cataracts! By Jo Russell

When Paul came home in the mid-afternoons during the week, he announced to his wife, Carol, “I’m getting out of these clothes and kicking back.”

Some might have expected that the man’s mid-afternoon outfit would include tailored shorts and a sports shirt – maybe flip flops for the warmer weather.  But not Paul. The senior’s idea of comfort at home any time away from the office was a fuzzy robe wrapped neck to calf, white athletic socks, and well-worn leather slippers.

As he lowered himself into his recliner, he sighed and slid up his “cheater” magnifying glasses on top of his regular specs.

“Don’t tell me!” he explained to his wife. “I know I look like I’m four-eyed, but I can see!”

Which was fine until the doorbell rang at three in the afternoon. Paul shuffled to the entry door with both pairs of glasses outlining his eyes like infrared night goggles. The fluffy bathrobe made him look like a plaid-clad bear.

As he opened the door, the wee Girl Scout selling cookies gasped and nearly collapsed in a dead faint on the doormat.

“Wwwwwould you l-l-ike to bbbb-uy some Girl Ssscout cookies?” she stammered in fear.

Paul’s sight problems could be blamed on cataracts. But after surgery, Paul could see again!

After that, the entire neighborhood, including the Girl Scouts, appreciated Paul’s improved first impression – without glasses– when answering the door. But the bathrobe, socks, and slippers were a keeper.

Even better than doctors who are able to heal eye problems with simple surgery today, such as Paul’s cataracts, Jesus healed many of physical blindness. It was common in his time because of the birth defects and infections, disease, and the extreme sun without eye protection.

But spiritual blindness was even more common.  Jesus said, “But blessed are your eyes because they can see, and your ears because they hear. [Matthew 13;16.]

Some who heard his words couldn’t hear the message because they focused instead on Jesus’ effect and teachings about a new life, which could affect their schedule, business practices, social and church standing, and comfort zone.  They were spiritually blind with cataracts worse than Paul’s because they were on the mind.

Jesus knew who saw the practiced the truth of his words in their lives. Disciples then and now changed their hearts and lives because of his words.

What does it take for us to prevent spiritual blindness? Study the Bible and his words. Listen– even if an insight in his words makes you red-faced. Learn. Forgive yourself, for he forgives you. Move forward.

Those teachings are the treasure that shows with clear vision the way to Heaven.  The Bible’s words work better than any “cheater” magnifiers—and never scares the neighbors.

[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.]

 

 

Surviving Motherhood with a Smile by Jo Russell

“God gives us teenagers so we have the courage to cut the umbilical cord. In fact, after a few years in the double digits, we don’t have a scalpel, but a bayonet ready and a calendar with big X’s,” Jolene, the mother of teen sons, concluded.

It had been a hard Saturday of chore supervision. Her offspring decided that oppression was in the air and the rake head ended up in the tree, without a handle.

What she’d asked was for one to mow the lawn and the other to rake it. “How to do you explain the rake?”

“Oppression. Mom! We work hard at school all week and on Saturdays, you give us so much work to do that we would have it easier in a chain gang! I dunno what happened to the rake. It looks good up there, though.”

She thought back to her days as a new mother when Jolene had been charmed with her twins, remembering all the sweet experiences of those little feet. Christmas was special. So were lost teeth, homemade Mother’s Day gifts, their hope, and happiness. She glowed when they said, “Mom, I love you berry mucsh!” She still does.

But now as teens, her sons’ sentiments in words and actions evaporated. Love was reserved for girls and French fries, not moms.

Jolene heard this often enough, “Moms never buy us anything we want,” and she might catch them saying,“Just drop me off here,” but adding in a whisper, “ It’s embarrassing to be in the company of a senior citizen like you.”  Both announced that Mom was interfering. They rolled their eyes often. It wasn’t because the eye doctor prescribed the exercise.

When Jolene paid their woodshop class bill and asked her sons to make a mudroom bench, the two came home with dogsleds. The third sled was a masterpiece in oak. You couldn’t sit on it while taking off muddy shoes or park it in the hallway. “Oh, well.”

Later, after another heated argument about slavery and oppression, one said,

“I just bet you can hardly wait for us to move out!”

She bit her lip to keep from agreeing. “Help me, Lord!” she prayed.

Jolene thought maybe God takes parents through the teen years on purpose because letting go also means that the rules change. The kids do leave home, and then the mom rules change.

Jolene’s sons got married. She figured the family just got bigger. She was wrong.

God had made two into one, as in “For this reason, a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” Ephesians 5:31

Parents take a different role. It’s best to

– hold back on tips and advice unless asked.

-respect the couple their children have become.

-ask permission instead of taking over.

-give the new family space.

-let them create their own traditions.

It’s God’s way, and the right way.

With the teen years now bygones, Jolene still smiled as she spotted the rake in the tree. It had grown into the branch. The tool was a reminder that in all things–even the difficult teen years– the hardship will pass, and God is with us. One can survive motherhood with a smile!

[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.]

 

If You Love Someone, Belt it Out! by Jo Russell

The jazz concert for Miss Martin’s elementary students was a welcome change from practicing spelling, math and reading. As she and her students were seated, the teacher felt a surprise coming on at her right elbow. Adam cupped his hands around his mouth. She reached out to stop whatever might be coming. With a smile that could light up a stadium, eight-year-old Adam stood and shouted, “I LOVE YOU!!” at the band. All five hundred sets of eyes turned to see where all that love was coming from. The other kids weren’t surprised.

Flushed with embarrassment, Miss Martin wondered what the right teacher thing might be to say. She whispered to Adam, “Saying ‘I love you’ is good, Adam, but it’s better if you say it to one person and mean it.” Then she remembered all of Adam’s notes. He often told his family and friends he loved them.

I tend to hold back, she realized, and began to see Adam was not in the “wait and see” school of love. Nor is God.

“Shouting in a crowd really takes a lot out of love, Adam,” Miss Martin lectured him. “Why don’t you save it for a one-on-one with your friends?”

“I was saying it to just one person,” he explained, still beaming. “Look there next to the big drum! That’s my cousin!”

How lucky are Adam’s family members! They know he loves them, will stand by them, be proud of them, and listen to them with all his heart.

Imagine someone loving, protecting and promising to take care of you like Adam does with his friends and family. There is.

“Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. He will call upon me, and I will answer him. I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him. With long life will I satisfy him and show him my salvation.” [Psalm 91:14-16]

Claim that someone like that for you—God. Accept his son, Jesus, and you’ll find you’re already in the family of God.

That’s a power higher than all of us, someone who never fails us, who provides for us and protects us. You are the picture-magnet on his refrigerator. You are in his brag-book. He knows your whole life ahead of time and cares about you anyway. God loves you!

Who in your life needs to hear that you love them? Belt out those powerful words!

[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.]