Persuading Butterscotch Jenny by Jo Russell

When it came to making little ones tremble in their tennies in the tiny rural school set like a jewel in the middle of farmland and ranches, Principal/Head Teacher Brown was an expert. He needed only to look at the youngsters.

With more than thirty years’ experience, Brown had perfected The Look. Elementary kids decided the icy, unrelenting stare was as powerful as God’s when he turned Lot’s wife into a pillar of salt.

Brown’s two elementary teachers on playground duty watched in envy. Just with a look, the educator stopped a second grader who was pulling himself upright on the porch railing.

“Sorry Mr. Brown. I was just playing walk the plank—like a pirate. I won’t do it again. I promise!”

The children knew the rules at school. They followed them. Even the older students knew what to do when Principal Brown gave an order.

“Yes sir, right away!” pre-teen Kenny responded in the mixed class of older students. He grabbed his paper, pencil, and book and began the assignment listed on the board. Sassy words and attitudes were strictly forbidden. Brown taught them respect for themselves, others, and himself.

But on the weekend, Principal Brown became Rancher Brown. His role changed and so did his subjects. All of the four-legged critters knew the rules and followed directions— except one, Jenny. The mule had to be persuaded to go anywhere or do anything. She had her own ideas.

“Jenny, aaay-yupp, time for a road trip.” Brown looped her halter over her ears. The furry antennae twitched with displeasure. He snapped on a lead rope and began walking to the trailer, “Gid-up!” But she didn’t. The rope grew taut with a thousand pounds of attitude at one end.

“Come on, now, Jenny, I haven’t forgotten what you like.” She nuzzled the pocket of his vest. He pulled out a butterscotch candy and she eagerly mouthed it from his hand. But that’s where her interest stopped. She locked her legs as he tried to coax her forward. No deal. One candy wasn’t going to do it.

Brown called over two of his hands. All three men worked up a sweat pushing and pulling, but couldn’t get Jenny to move.

Brown tightened the lead rope and sighed as he pulled out another golden-colored candy. Jenny came forward one more step. She was determined it was going to be her way. Another candy, another step.

As Jenny followed the yellow disc road, Brown finally her got her to walk inside the horse trailer so he could close the doors. He mopped the sweat from his face and let out a breath, “That’s one animal that needs to learn how to follow directions!”

God’s commandments—or directions— are infused into both the Old and New Testaments as much a part as salt and paper in a stew.

They are included often and familiar to many. Beginning with Exodus 20:1: “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me.”

All of the commands weave together directions for a good life. They are timeless.

From Jesus’ original twelve disciples come these words of John: “This is how we know that we love the children of God; by loving God and carrying out his commands. This is love for God; to obey his commands.” [1 John 5:1-2 NIV].

As you look over your journey and your path, are you following directions willingly or, like Butterscotch Jenny, do you have to be persuaded?

[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 Ye Doers of the Word or Just Exercising Thy Lips? by Jo Russell

“Honey, you promised you would join the gym after we got married and you moved here. That’s something I always admired about you – that you take care of yourself. But months have gone by and you haven’t. When are you going to enroll?” Carol asked her senior husband of six months.

“When I can afford it,” the senior explained.

Carol sighed. That sounds like an excuse. She had dragged her new husband, Paul, off  to the gym and introduced him to members their age and also the gym owner, Lynn. She discussed the plans available, classes, tutoring, and extra services. “Not yet,” he assured the owner and Carol. “But soon.”

But day after day, Paul returned from his office, changed into comfortable clothes, and sighed as he collapsed into his recliner. “I’m going to kick back for a while.” And the recliner cooperated, closing in on him like a hot dog in a bun.

“How about going for a walk? It will be good for both of us.”

“Can’t. The critters are comfortable and kickin’ back. Look where the dog is.”  He patted the dogs’ head and the curly-haired canine smiled in appreciation.

Later while on a picnic at the park, Paul and Carol spotted a breathless runner. She was the size of a single sliced French green bean. It was Lynn, the owner of the gym.

“Hey, Carol, Paul! It’s great to see you! I’m really looking forward to your both coming to the gym together. Paul, it will be so good for you and your health issues!”

At the only grocery store in town, Paul paused before the meat counter when Rick, a regular at the gym, greeted him. “Hey, Paul, we’ve missed seeing you and getting to know you at our workouts. It’s fun! Hope you’ll be joining us soon.”

The world is closing in on me. Why don’t people just leave me alone?  Paul groused. More time passed. The recliner continued winning Paul’s attention. Carol dropped the subject of the gym.

“Paul, I’ve accepted that you’ve decided not to join the gym at all. You’ve just been exercising your lips when you said you would. So I’m going to let you kick back – every afternoon and evening, every day. I am sure you aren’t the first, but I can see it now on your death certificate” she spread her arms dramatically as if reading from a movie marquis, “‘cause of death: cemented to his La-Z-Boy.’”

Paul’s eyes widened in surprise, “What?!”

When Monday came, Paul showed up at the gym while Carol and the crowd were working out.

“What are you doing here?” she wanted to know.

“Joining the gym. It’s a matter of exercising the right parts.” Not just the lips.

And once he did, Paul was pumping iron along with all the others on a regular basis. He formed new friendships. His health improved. Later, without guilt or excuses, he could relax in the La-Z-Boy.

When it comes to reading the Bible, learning God’s ways, and following his lifestyle guides, one needs to plunge into action.

It may be easier to read along and think, What a great idea! I think Bill needs to do that! Or Hmmm. I’ll do that when I have more time.

But more time isn’t the key. It’s the decision to follow God and doing what it takes – workouts of the heart and soul.

James, Jesus’ half-brother, a disciple and believer that Jesus is God, wrote, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does.” [James 1:22-25 NIV]

Being a doer of God’s word results in new friends, a new life, better spiritual health, and a future worth the effort. It rounds out a life experience far deeper and richer than just exercising the lips. Being a doer is a true measure of a life changed by God. It still leaves time for just kicking back in the La-Z-Boy.

[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.]

HELP! Plumber? Police? Anyone? by Jo Russell

As the two women searched the plumbing aisle in a home improvement store, their faces were pinched with concern and distress. The middle-aged woman held tight to an elderly woman leaning on a cane.

As a red-vested employee stepped up to them, he asked, “How can I help you?”

“We need to fix the bathtub,” the middle-aged woman stated. “And we can’t afford a plumber.”

She turned to the woman, “Mom, hold onto my arm and stay right with me. Don’t go wandering around.”

“Tell me what’s wrong with it first,” the employee queried. “Is the bathtub cracked and leaking?

“No.”

“Does it drain okay?”

“Sure. It drains a lot. That’s why we can’t take a bath.”

“All the water goes out,” the elderly woman added.

“What kind of plug does it have in the drain? There are three kinds. Here they are.”

“No, that’s not it,” the younger woman explained. “When you look down in the bathtub hole, you see the dirt under the house. And it’s all wet.”

It would take a labyrinth of pipes, connectors, drain and trim parts to fix the bathtub – and a plumber.

“You’ll need to call a plumber.”

“But we told you, we can’t. We don’t have the money. We’re both widows on disability.”

Recently, the employee had remembered a large order from an agency in their area for many building and plumbing materials. He remembered, That organization focuses on helping those in need. Pulling a file, the red-vested employee wrote out a name, phone number and handed it to the younger widow.

As the women left the store, both walked a little taller, knowing that help for them and their bathtub was on the way.

When we’re up against a wall needing help, where can we turn? Plumber, police, fire department, or God? Which call for help brings in one service provide that doesn’t cost money, is available 24-7, is never is stopped by the weather, doesn’t ever lose contact when cell phone service is out, makes it over impassable roads. Who is that?

God. The Lord. Jehovah Jireh. Yahweh.

This is a steadfast promise. “The Lord watches over you – the Lord is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night.  The Lord will keep you from all harm – he will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.” [Psalm 121:5-8.]

He even takes care of bathtub problems. Lean on the Lord. Trust in him. See what happens.

[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.]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Rocky Road to Endurance by Jo Russell

Paul was new to the sport of hiking other than the necessity of making it from the front door to the car on the way to his office. Work, I know how to do. Walk – well that, too, but it was never very much fun.

But the senior’s new wife, Carol, had other ideas.

“We’re going to see the historical houses today,” she announced cheerfully, “so bring your walking shoes.”

When they reached the first of the more than century-old houses, he groused, “Do I haveta get out of the car?”

Even over time, Carol didn’t give up. Both were gaining in strength and endurance. So she suggested, “The town is having a celebration walk. Which one of these do you want to do with me – or would you rather be the cheering section?”

He thought long and hard – for weeks. Just about the time she decided the non-verbal answer was “No,” he quizzed her, “Which one is the shortest?”

As the two hiked toward the half-way point of the racewalk, Paul huffed and puffed, “Where is that water station where we get to turn around? We’ve been walking for hours!” But they crossed the finish line with a smile – the oldest couple in any category.

“Well done, Paul,” Carol congratulated him.  “Definitely a thumbs up for the geriatric group!”

On an out-of-town trip to a scenic park, Carol coaxed Paul into traversing “The Waterfall Trail.”  But even his walking experiences to that point didn’t prepare him for the climb. “Geez! Who built these steps! They’re as high as my knees!” He clung to the guardrail that bent downward and disappeared on the rock face. “Whoever they hired to build this trail should be giving their wages back to the boss!”

But Paul made it and looked up at the fern-covered cliff with water misting onto his face. The beauty of the destination was worth it. He then realized that his opinion of walking and hiking was changing. He had built up his muscles and lungs so that his walking wasn’t painful anymore.

Paul’s trials in building endurance pushed him to persevere. Carol was proud of him.

Endurance in the Christian journey is uphill and downhill, and crossing uneven ground, steps and slopes that are difficult. Painful moments of the journey include all kinds of challenges. But ultimately, they build strength and character.

Persevere and have hope in these words:

“We rejoice in the hope and glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance character, and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love in our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” [Romans 5:2-5 NIV]

Whether it’s doing something new that is scary, standing firm in confrontations, setting boundaries, trying the impossible, calling on courage to do the right thing, God is with you. You will be able to tackle those things that are difficult and never have to ask, “Do I haveta get out of the car?” You’ll be first with endurance for the journey.

[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.]

Danger and Delusions by Jo Russell

While George was visiting the metro area, a stray bullet from a passing car whizzed by his head as he was walking down the block!

Must be one of those drive-by shootins’ I’ve heard about! I almost got hit! I could have died!

It shook him up.

But later on his home turf in the country, George jumped out of the way in a parking lot when the driver of a beefy pick-up truck was focused on texting. George had been crossing the parking area in a crosswalk on his way to Sportsmen’s Paradise.

“Hey, pay attention! STOP!” George hollered. His summed up his brush with a vehicle that outweighed him more than ten to one with this thought: What a danged fool!

But whether from a bullet or a car bumper, the danger is the same. George’s perspective was different, that’s all.

The death-defying danger is a parallel to the consequences of bad choices. Both are dangerous. Both end with consequences.

It’s easy to think, I’m not guilty. I’m not a sinner. I’m a good person! Look at all the good things I do!

Others might have affirmed your goodness with remarks like, “Thanks for doing that! You are an angel!”

Yet all of us fall short of perfection – and always doing the right thing. We simply are not superhuman, part-god, nor divine at all. The old fashioned and out-of-date word that summarizes bad choices and actions is sin.

But Christ showed us that the consequences can be different, the case dismissed. It’s not too late to turn to him.

For while dying on the cross, one convicted criminal told the other, “Don’t you fear God, since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”

Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

And Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”  [Luke 23:40-43]

The blessing of forgiveness. It is offered to us all.

What difference have you noticed that forgiveness makes in personal relationships? It transforms barriers to bridges.

That’s the same perc we get from God’s forgiveness, but it’s better. The Creator promises that if we confess our sins to him and accept his son Jesus as Son of God, he will forgive us. In forgiving us, he opens the doors to heaven and to a life with him beyond our physical life’s end.

God’s heart, love, and compassion are great.

The psalmist writes, “If you, O Lord, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, therefore you are feared….O Israel, put your hope in the Lord, for with the Lord is unfailing love and with him is full redemption. He himself will redeem Israel from all their sins.” [Psalm 130:3-4, 7-8]

Turning to him for a change of life, attitude, and actions is better than jumping out of the way of danger from wayward cars or bullets.

[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.]