When Life is An Oxymoron By Jo Russell

My brother, Tony Gottsponer, had a life that was an oxymoron. That word means two concepts are stuck together that are opposites.

Like this: Some say Tony had been a comparatively unique person. I would say he was a completely unique person as every one of us is. Tony Gottsponer sported a dry sense of humor only a few ever experienced. Some remember Tony’s opening line in his speech at our mom’s 80th birthday celebration. “Living with Mom was a moving experience.” Then he kept the audience smiling as he told of the many places she had lived in more than three decades in Yuma.

Most remember social occasions with Tony shyly sitting quietly by himself reading a book. The rest of his family visited and talked.

To begin with our parents, Jeane and Leo Gottsponer found a dream come true in Tony. As a young bride, before Jeane was nearly pregnant, she had wished for two children. A year after her and Leo’s marriage, dream # 1 came to them.

A boy.

A post-war baby boomer.

Handsome. Smart. Big-boned. Intelligent eyes.

Another year later came dream #2 – a daughter.

Then a few years beyond that, a surprise indeed! and another son. Tony had become a vital part of a family of five.

But he had his challenges. Tony didn’t walk until he was nearly three. Far luckier than others infected before the wide use of polio vaccine, Tony survived a light case of polio. He had only minor problems and learned to deal with them. A serious head injury as a toddler changed Tony forever on the outside.

But the inside continued to amaze everyone. Tony’s intelligence. His skills. His reducing tough problems to a few steps.

No one else in the family was a whiz at math. Someone once said that Tony was so left-brained it should be against the law.

Computers were putty in his hands. So simple!

Not for the rest of us.

As an adult, Tony planned to work in technology in the Navy. He predicted he would follow his father’s footsteps in the service. But Tony’s skin disease disqualified him. God wasn’t finished with him yet. Tony didn’t give up on himself or life. He worked hard, investing more than twenty years with the local A.J. Bayless store. He was an employee with loyalty. He worked for Lujan Tax Service for nearly 25 years.

In Tony’s younger years, he noted those were the days of cheap gas – a thin quarter was all it took for a gallon of gas. But Tony beat it down with an even harder bargain: as a young adult, he rode a bicycle everywhere – for commuting, fitness and the sheer fun of saving money.

Tony was nearly forty when he almost surprised the family by bringing home an attractive lady from church. Even Tony’s then two-year-old nephews Lance and Travis turned from their toy trucks to witness the miracle. Tony and his friend, Betsy, were holding hands.

A few days later, Tony became something that left us drawing a blank. Tony was no longer a member of the Loner’s Club.

None would ever have predicted Tony’s new roles:

First, he was a fiancée,

shortly after, a husband,

and a year later, a father to Bethany.

He become a Yuma Toastmaster and a barbershop chorale member. Known also for his passion for gourmet cooking, Tony was often surrounded by prep bowls of tasty ingredients. Betsy commented that after 30 years of Tony’s cuisine, she is just learning to cook.

Add to Tony another recent role: grandfather: the blessings of three strong and handsome grandsons: Robbie, R.J. and Randy.

When a life hastens slowly to a close, it can bring fear or acceptance. With Tony, I believe it brought wonder. A sense of awe that he had become so many new things at a time in life when others learned only their hair was thinning and their arches were falling.

In the absence of Tony , we are faced with a thunderous silence. But I believe that up in Heaven today, Tony is celebrating that he is now better than new.  

Jo Russell, sister to Tony

[Tony Gottsponer, aged 69, died at home June 30, 2015, in Yuma, Arizona. After his recent stroke a short time ago, he learned he had terminal cancer infused in many of his major organs. God blessed him with the time to say goodbye and to pass quickly without further pain.]                 

Just Listening and Burning Lunch by Jo Russell

Bill, a young father, was in the lounge when coworker Jane threw her knee pads in the microwave to heat, slapped the control panel without looking and sat across from him to give him her full attention. She listened.

Bill’s hat had been pulled down around his eyes to hide the redness and the streaks of tears as he had rushed into work that morning. Things had been more difficult than ever with his small children and marital struggles. While he had been working through family issues over the last few months, Jane had been nursing a serious knee injury.

“Another four hours,” she thought. “I’m putting up my feet!” Every break, she heated her knee pads, sat down with a sigh and slapped them on each knee like dumplings.

Soon black smoke boiled out of the microwave!  More smoke coughed out when Jane opened the door and fanned it. Now the knee pads, stuffed with cracked corn that popped, were as thick as a family-sized stack of hamburger patties.

Rick came in first with his vest pulled over his nose, “Who burned the popcorn?”

His department wasn’t far away.

But soon Randy came coughing into the lounge from the far west in the store, “Geez! Whose lunch caught fire?”

Then there was Michelle from the far east where live birds and the lovely fragrance of flowers normally smelled better than any part of the huge store. “Where’s the fire? What happened?”

When the growing crowd from the east, west, north and south checked the lounge to see if the fire department needed to extinguish a blaze, Jane told Michelle she was responsible for the disaster.

Michelle commented, “You, Jane? I can’t believe it! Don’t you take gourmet cooking lessons?”

After cleaning the microwave, emptying the trash, and tossing the wet and smoking black knee pads in the dumpster outside, Jane remembered she had done the right thing giving her full attention to Bill. Her first priority had been to listen when it was needed the most. Listening had been the Master’s work, just as with Mary.

Mary’s sister, Martha, had been scurrying around trying to pull together a dinner the size of a thanksgiving gathering, Imagine her damp with sweat as she pushed her hair from her eyes. She asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” [Luke 10: 40b]

Jesus’ response guided her thinking. “You are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better and it will not be taken away from her.”

Though sending out for pizza was not an option in those days, no one insisted dinner had to be on the table by 5:00 o’clock, either. There was time to listen and learn. Jesus reminded Martha that was the more important investment of the moment – just as with Bill at work.

Who may need time today to talk while you listen?

[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.]







Fathers No Longer Have a Bad Rep by Jo Russell

Once upon a time in the not-too-distant past, fathers had the same kind of reputation as drill sergeants and Physical Education teachers who bellowed at the troups, “Drop and give me 50 push-ups! Also, add ten laps around the track!”  And with dads, the preamble usually began, “I’m telling your dad what you did! Wait until your father gets home!”

Other stereotypes of fathers may dominate the greeting card racks at this time of year.

They call the whole bunch fix-it guys and compliment them on their skills.

What if they aren’t? Do they still qualify as good fathers?

Ronnie doesn’t know how to put a new handle on the toilet or what a rubber plunger is used for besides a fixture in the bathroom. But Ronnie has always been an involved father. He and his wife raised their four children with Christian values from birth to adulthood. The couple taught their children to make choices that modeled integrity, responsibility, hard work, fairness, compassion and caring. Ronnie invested time from their first cries in the delivery room until now – as adults.

Another father who does know a toilet plunger from a tomatillo still doesn’t qualify as a fix-up guy. Anthony had a late start in life becoming both a first-time husband and father at age 42. As he became a dad, he grew in parenting skills, patience and love. But his passion is his daughter and grandchildren shows in the time and thoughtful deeds. Grandpa is remembered for cooking special meals to share with his grandchildren and reading them stories that left them tickled their funny bones. Those memories and experiences have become a legacy.

Make room today for many fathers who want to be there for their sons’ or daughters’ first cry to lifting them to the flight into adulthood.

A big thanks to the generations of fathers bound in parenthood with commitment, love, listening, and persistence.

What a difference in families, communities, and nations.

Today, “Wait ‘til your father gets home” isn’t what it used to be – thank goodness.

Dads, you touch the world!

[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.]




Stop, You Tithe Thief! By Jo Russell

Charley was thrilled to share his life with Liz, a kind Christian woman who brought light and beauty into his life. His heart sang to be with her, and Charley would follow her anywhere—around the high school track in the mornings where she began the day with laps, to Walmart, to Dairy Queen to share a Blizzard, and even to her Christian church. Liz was eager to teach him.

“Let’s go to church together Sunday,” Liz suggested. Charley figured this would give him points with her and her family.

“Sure,” he responded, “then I’ll take you out to lunch! I have a special place in mind.” Attending church while they were dating became part of their lives, and it continued when they married.

Liz told her new husband, “We need to set aside our tithe.” That was a newer idea to Charley than latest power tool.

After she explained what a tithe was, Charley wondered, Why would anyone in their right mind would give so much of their earnings? This has to be like throwing it in the Black Hole. Still, he got out an envelope and grudgingly put the cash in, mumbling, “That sure seems like a lot of money we could use for other things.”

Going out for an afternoon drive one day, he and Liz returned home to see disruption and disorder in their tidy house! Someone had broken in and gone through drawers, closets, cupboards, and dumped everything on the floor!

As the newlyweds put things back in order together and determined what was missing, Charley cried in surprise, “Whadda ya know? Nothing is missing except the envelope with the cash tithe in it!” He added, “I guess God thought the burglar needed the money more than he did! That means we’re off the hook! Imagine – a tithe thief!”

“That’s not the way it works, Sweetheart.” With patience, Liz taught her new husband that the tithe wasn’t paid until it reached its intended location. They both made up the missing cash and took it to church the next week. As the decades they shared glowed with rich experiences and blessings, Charley understood.

God begins early in the Bible teaching about the blessings of tithe. Some Old Testament words of advice begin, “Give generously to him and do so without a grudging heart, then because of this, the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to.” [Deuteronomy 15:10]

God teaches that the tithe comes out of the first of our income, not the leftovers. For he can bless the remaining 90% in astonishing ways! Test his promise with your trust and your money.

God loves generous and cheerful givers. How have you been blessed with a tithe offering?


[Jo Russell’s published writings include hundreds 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. Enjoy her humor and tips on http:// www.button-to-god.com. ]


Marriage and Relationships: A Second Chance by Jo Russell

Marriage and Relationships: a Second Chance

“It’s pretty sad,” the clergyman shared with his congregation, “That one out of every two couples that I marry split up.  “The reason is usually summed up in these words by one or both of the newlyweds, ‘Marriage isn’t what I thought it would be!’”

From the audience, one bride of less than a year must have agreed. She laughed so loud and long that he stopped, stared, and addressed her, “Carol, you haven’t been married that long. What are you laughing about?”

Even though it has often been said, “The couple that prays together, stays together,” Paul and Carol had done that. They planned a budget together. The couple counseled with the pastor. At one long-time spouse’s suggestion, they remembered he advised, “The couple that paints the garage together is the real test. Can you still love your partner after a 15-hour day of agreeing on a color from thousands of shades? Then can you forgive the spills and spots of the one who isn’t that good of a painter or who stepped in the paint tray?”

Following that advice during their courtship, the two had painted a garage together. After that shared experience, they still planned to marry because compatibility seemed to be a sure thing.

Still, there were surprises. Some were great. Some weren’t. All the pets barfed on the rug at some point. Paul cleaned it up.

When Carol cooked, Paul always thanked her for the meal and added, “Kick back, Sweetie. Do anything you want. I’ll do the dishes.”

Maybe because of all the romance writers out there, new brides may expect something different. Somebody taller than her with a six-pack that didn’t come from the fridge.  In looks, the love interest guy is so strikingly handsome that he could be on the cover of G.Q. [Gentlemen’s’ Quarterly.] Kisses that are more of a dream come true than winning the Power Ball Jackpot. The fictional romantic man never makes any rude bodily noises, whether accidentally or on purpose.  Real life. That’s different.

Carol knew those attributes of romance heroes are no more real than the size 3 models representing the average woman in clothing catalogs – or the chisel-jawed men, slender, six feet or so in men’s clothing catalogs.

Mutual respect. It’s the foundation of Ephesians 5.

“Husbands, love your wives just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless….However, each one of you must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.” [Ephesians 5: 25-27; 5:33].

Jesus taught and valued people of all levels of life, all races and denominations. He still does. Jesus may have healed their bodies as well as souls with forgiveness. He has modeled how to handle relationships.

Jesus also models tolerance and flexibility. Relationships require forgiveness at times.

When five adult siblings gathered after their mother’s death, four got in a fight over a teakettle each wanted. In the decades that followed, none of the four spoke to each other. One by one, they slipped into Alzheimer’s or death.

As each of the four would come before Jesus, what would he say about their relationship skills? Where had they failed each other? In failing to work on relationships and giving another chance.

The real man in her life, Carol decided, is the one who prays with her each morning, cleans up the messes on the rug and generally makes work and play more fun. He is worthy of respect, forgiveness, and a second chance. So are you.

[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.]