No Sleeping in on Saturdays! by Jo Russell

“Mew! Mew! Mew!”

When her owner didn’t respond to her pitiful mews for breakfast for at least 30 minutes, Penny Kitty wound up like a siren and pressed her mouth right to the crack under the bedroom door.

“Meowyyyyrrrrlll!  Meowyyyrrrlll! MEOWRLL!”

Penny realized that tactic worked just like a megaphone! She kept that up beyond all limits of patience and love. Persistence really packs a wallop when it’s 4:30 in the morning! It got the fur ball the desired effect: the bedroom door opened.

Carol stumbled to the kitchen and headed to the refrigerator, slapping the bowls on the counter and feeding the four-legged family as if she were on auto pilot. By then, she was fully awake.

I would have liked to sleep in on a Saturday.  She glared at Penny Kitty.

When it comes to those living in the country with critters, sleeping in, retirement, vacation, or a day off gets a paws, claws, and hooves down–and not just for Carol.

During the summer with windows open, a neighbor’s rooster starts a wake-up call before sunup, but that’s topped by the burro braying who’s hungry. The cattle low. Horses whinny. Meantime, Penny Kitty and the other eager four-legged critters howl at the bedroom door. The message is the same: get up and feed us!

Consider if furry critters as little as eight pounds can commandeer attention with persistence, what more can we do with persistent prayer?

Jesus himself tells the parable of a friend coming to his neighbor at midnight for a loan of three loaves of bread for a guest who has come to visit. Showing hospitality in that culture was the heart of honor and welcome. Not to do so would be a great insult.

So the friend persisted even though it was highly inconvenient for his neighbor to climb over all his children to get to the door in addition to finding and sharing the food.  He would certainly be wide awake after that.

“…yet because of the man’s boldness he will get up and give him as much as he needs. So I say to you, 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.”  [Luke 11:8b-9 NIV]

Persistence in prayer showcases the importance of a request over time. It changes us and fortifies faith. We may get a glimpse of God’s timing in the process.

Do you have examples of the powers of answered prayer in your life? Of course. Many.

In New Mexico history comes the story of the Loretto Chapel in Santa Fe. After great hardship and death of the Mother Superior during the Catholic sisters’ trek across country to Santa Fe, the nuns grew the church to the point it needed a building in the late 1870’s. After the chapel was constructed, the builders told the nuns there was no way to construct a stairway to the choir loft over twenty feet from the floor. The sisters persisted in prayer for a staircase God would provide, for they believed in a God of miracles. He was. He is. He will always be.

The carpenter who showed up did so with a donkey and simple woodworking tools. He built the spiral staircase with 360 degree turns and no visible means of support. After six months, he left with his tools and donkey without pay and without waiting to be thanked. The mystery carpenter was an answer to persistent prayer.

If the nuns of Santa Fe and Penny Kitty both get what they want and need with persistence, what can God do for you when you ask?

[Jo Russell is a Christian speaker, author of scores of articles, a half dozen 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. She lives in northeast Arizona with her husband, Ed. Enjoy chuckles and speeches, tips and excerpts in website options and weekly blog.]

 

 

Resist the Terrible by Jo Russell

“What’s that on your mouth?” Paul asked as he pecked his wife on the cheek after coming home from the office. Carol had run out to meet him at the car.

She touched the sticky place next to her lips. “I think it’s that the caramel apple in the refrigerator. It was terrible.”

“How much did you save for me?”

“None.”

“Why didn’t you save me any?”

“Yuck! It was terrible! Whoever made it should have known better than to use a tart baking apple for that. I had to throw it away and eat the caramel. Even that was like peeling the tread off a tire.”

“But you ate it anyway?”

“Not the whole thing. Besides aren’t you supposed to be on a diet this week?”

“I’ll guess I’ll have to find something to snack on.”

“Good luck. I thought we had three boxes of gourmet crackers, but I couldn’t find any at all.”

Paul blushed.  “I went to a lot of trouble organizing all the cupboards to find them. They weren’t all that good.”

“But you ate them anyway?”

He reddened again, “I guess.”

A whole lot of foods end up on the American’s no-no list because of the popularity of  trying to lose weight. Like Carol and Paul both, some get eaten anyway, even though they agreed neither was worth the calories.

But tempting foods is only one form of fighting to do the right thing.

In teaching the disciples to pray, Jesus said, “Lead us not into temptation and deliver us from the evil one.” [Matthew 6:13 NIV]

Jesus included temptation in his model prayer because it comes in many forms to hit people up in their weak areas. Besides Halloween treats, this can be in money, food, time, lust, envy, greed, pride, choosing bad company or activities, not listening or doing what God wills us to do or giving up. Satan has scores of other options for every holiday, season, and occasion.

But God can strengthen us to be strong enough to fight temptation and win— even over caramel apples.

[Jo Russell is a Christian speaker, author of scores of articles, a half dozen 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. She lives in northeast Arizona with her husband, Ed. Enjoy chuckles and speeches, tips and excerpts in website options and weekly blog.]

Will You Be Fishers of Men? by Jo Russell

Pastor had just returned from a fishing vacation and called the children forward for their special lesson. He scanned the crowd sitting around him and held a yard stick over his head.

When he had the children’s attention, he asked, “What would it take to catch a fish this big?” He added, “My brother caught a Northern pike that was even bigger than this. What would I need to land a fish like that?”

Among the small ones, some proved to be experienced anglers:

“Yummy bait.”

“For sure,” he agreed.

“A fishing pole.”

“Yep, that, too.”

“A fishing chair.”

“That would be good.”

“A tackle box.”

“Absolutely. You’ve got to keep your fishing gear in order. Anything else I need to catch a fish this big?”

One novice pint-sized angler cried out, “Nine minutes!”

The pastor stammered, “Well, when I….” and he may have started coughing–or was he laughing?

“Nine minutes!” she insisted. “Can I have a candy now?”

In any crowd, whether anglers, hikers, outdoor enthusiasts, there is a vast range of experience.

But it doesn’t matter to God, for he looks on the inside. No previous experience is necessary when he chooses you.

‘“Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.”  [Matthew 4:19 NIV].

He was addressing Peter and Simon, both professional fishermen. The two “sons of Zebedee” James and John had a successful enough fishing business that they managed a staff of employees. Matthew was a tax collector, which was viewed in the same light as outlaws in the Old West. All who left their professions to join Jesus learned to lean on God for their needs, and he never failed them.

Though some of the original 12 had made their livelihood fishing, none were experienced as  fishers of men who pointed the way to Jesus and Heaven. However, Jesus trained them and enhanced their natural abilities. They gained boldness to tell about miracles, the Messiah and the son of God.

He does the same for us, stretching and expanding what we can do. The answer is “Yes, I can!”  Focusing on the positive, we each have a part and a gift to share. It’s not based on memorizing Bible verses and being able to spout them off.

It’s about our lives as the most powerful witness – and sharing what difference God has made in our lives.

Though it will likely take more than nine minutes, you will truly be a fisher of men and have a record catch that will make God smile.

[Jo Russell is a Christian speaker, author of scores of articles, a half dozen 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. She lives in northeast Arizona with her husband, Ed. Enjoy chuckles and speeches, tips and excerpts in website options and weekly blog.]

 

Shall Will Focus on the Lights Above? by Jo Russell

“We’d love to have you come out for the holidays! Yay! It’s been too long! Looking forward to it so much!” Carol wrapped up her side of the phone call with the grown children on the first day of October.

Right after that, panic set in. She flip-flopped like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

For Carol had seen two of the big box stores shoving Halloween aside at the end of September. Employees burned the midnight oil jamming shelves with Christmas: artificial trees, garlands, bulbs, inflatable yard decorations, and truckloads of lights for the trees, the bushes, and the roofline. For the ladies, she even noticed lighted holiday necklaces already.

“Paul! We’ve got to get busy! The kids are coming out for Christmas! Can you fix the reindeer greeting sign today? An antler fell off. And do we have any blue bulbs? I’ve got to do a search on the activities going on at the time they’ll be here. I’ve got to plan an itinerary.”

She began to hyperventilate, “Oh, dear! So much to do!  I need some new decorations for the tall living room tree we bought last year just before Christmas! It’s naked! I don’t have anything for it! Do they have the colored bulb sets at the Super Saver Store yet?”

“Carol, calm down,” Paul paused as he penned in dates and commitments in his appointment book. “We’ve got about twelve weeks or exactly—” he added the sum in his head, “eighty four days until Christmas.”

“Carol, sometimes you plan too much ahead.”  That came from the man who took care of things just when they came up. “You packed for a cruise months ahead and yet forgot your toothbrush. Let’s just focus on the right things and leave some time for fun, too. Now stop holding your breath.”

Carol sighed at last.

Paul was right. They needed to focus on the right things as we all do. The retail and internet stores are cramming Christmas into the forefront in a plan for capitalizing on glitter, lights and a profit margin. The jingle mindset is stimulated with displays as early as September.

But time with God each day and each season not only paves the way for more spiritual growth, it provides a footing for all the challenges ahead and turns our eyes to the lasting light that leads us to Heaven – that of Christ Jesus.

Advice from the New Testament and still applies today. “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on thigs above, not early things.” [Colossians 3:1-2 NIV]

And that focus on God’s Light will illuminate our hearts and homes for any who come to visit.

Jo Russell is a Christian speaker, author of scores of articles, a half dozen 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. She lives in northeast Arizona with her husband, Ed. Enjoy chuckles and speeches, tips and excerpts in website options and weekly blog.]