Thankful Through the Tough Times by Jo Russell

“I thought you were going out of town on a mini-vacation this month,” Carlie mentioned to her best friend, Rachel.

“That we were, but I think Larry, Don, and Dave are going in our place.”

“Who are they?”

“The plumber, heater repairman and the electrician. We know each other well enough now they’re on our Christmas card list,” Rachel responded. “Larry even brought us some of his wife’s holiday bread the second time he came this month.”

“So now we have sinks that drain, toilets that flush, and a warm glow when we unlock the door that isn’t because something shorted out and is smoldering. Praise God! That counts for a blessing.”

A few weeks later, Carlie asked, “Am I supposed to watch your pets this weekend? I saw on my calendar your family is going to Sea World for a few days.”

“I think that Jerry is going in our place.”

“Oh, no! Who’s that?”

“He’s the appliance repairman. Now he’s on our Christmas card list, too. But the stove cooked the Thanksgiving turkey nicely and dishwasher handled most of the kitchen mess. We don’t have to go to the laundromat to wash mountains of clothes. I sent Jerry off with a card and a plate of chocolate chip cookies for his family.”

“So what are you going to do for vacation?”

“We’re going to vacation in front of the fireplace roasting chestnuts and marshmallows. The house is warm with baking. You should come and smell! Plus Rick and the kids promised to wash all the dishes during the holidays! What a gift!”

Rachel has the right attitude.

With the full-color hype of the holidays advertising the perfect Thanksgiving, the vacation of a lifetime, the greatest Christmas, and astonishing gifts for everyone on your list, it may be hard conceive being happy with anything else.

Forfeiting vacation plans in lieu of emergency expenses? Bummer. But an attitude of gratitude can make all the difference.

These words from the Bible provide just the right encouragement to change worry to prayer: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” [Philippians 4:6-7]

Rachel counts each experience and day as a gift because it is founded in Christ. He is the Prince of Peace. He provides the foundation and security of a place in his kingdom, even after an “emergency fund” on earth is exhausted.

As she observed, “When you’re the cook, you always get to lick the bowl!”

That’s a perc that even Sea World doesn’t offer.

Life is a blessing. Give God thanks today!

[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.]

 

 

And the best thing about that is the cook—that’s me—always gets to lick the bowl!”

Preparing a Mansion for You, Me, and Boots by Jo Russell

As Bernice and Ben moved into their fix-up home, Bernice heard a terrible racket at the front door.

“What is that? It sounds like a scream!” The sound wound up like a siren, demanding her attention immediately.

When Bernice peered through the locked storm door, her eyes dropped to the source of the sound. It was a furry creature the size of a handbag. A cat. The medium-sized calico wasn’t even pretty.

The feline waved its white-tipped tail like a flashlight. The cat limbed slightly on four weary white feet.

“Shoo! Go on home!”

But the cat wouldn’t go. To Bernice, it sounded like “Meow! Meow! Meow!”

But the calico may have been saying, “My house! My house! My house!”

Finally, Bernice sighed and told the feline, “Just a minute. I’ll get you something to eat.”

When Bernice returned with some chopped chicken, she unlocked the door, but before she opened it wide enough to leave the dish, the cat squeezed in, headed for the sofa, and curled up on a cushion. The feline purred herself to sleep.

In the morning, Ben put the cat outside in the cold. He sprayed and cleaned the part of the coach where she snoozed the night before. “Go on home!” he told her. But the feline just stayed around the yard, hiding in the bushes. She was still there when the couple got home from work.

“Ben, that cat’s still around. Maybe we’d better feed it something until we can find its owner.” So, the two worked together as they fixed a bed in the garage.

“Cat’s got to stay outside. Lots of feral cats have ringworm.”

“Right. No animals inside. We’ve got enough to deal with just with the house.”

But in the next few days, winter temperatures dropped to the teens. Bernice shook Ben awake after midnight when Ben rolled over with the blankets. Bernice realized how chilled she was.   “That cat must be cold in the garage. Can we let her in just for the night? We can close her up in the bathroom.”

No one claimed the stray. Ben had the idea the cat might belong to the previous owner of the house.

When the man answered the phone, he spat, “That cat? The ugly old one? That’s Boots. We took her with us. Darn cat! We live eight miles away from the old house. I guess she walked there. Haven’t seen her for days. We thought the coyotes got her.”

“Do you want to come get her? We weren’t planning on having any pets.”

“If she wants to come home, she’ll have to walk. I’m not coming to get her. Let her go to the wild. She doesn’t want to live here. I don’t want her, either. One less mouth to feed. Got other animals to look after.”

The ho-hum looking calico Boots had found her mansion. She lived with Ben and Bernice the rest of her life while they prepared the place for her–and for them.

To Ben and Bernice, Boots became beautiful in their eyes because she was one of a kind. What courage it took for the senior feline to journey to their doorstep! She had chosen them. She had come to them, knowing the home she would find there.

Just as Boots was secure in her true home, we can feel confident of the mansion that Jesus has prepared for us. He is the way, the truth and the life. No one is too ugly or old or sick. All are wanted in heaven to share eternal life with God the Father and Jesus.

This is the promise in Jesus’ own words, “In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.” [John 14: 2-4]

Just as Boots discovered with Ben and Bernice, that way is paved with love.

[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.]

 

 

Justifying the Means by Jo Russell

“Ah, vacation!” It is all things to all people – even little ones.

School kids and siblings Adam, Richard, and Amy thought, Wow! Four days for Turkey Day and then we’re off for weeks at Christmas!

But for working parents, especially moms like Jeane, the emergencies from kids being home alone were as welcome as computer pop-ups and unwanted text messages.

While a working mom tries to maintain her composure and remote management skills, she masters phrases such as,

“Only call if it’s an emergency. What is an emergency?”

Though the kids could recite emergencies without a pause in practice sessions, in real life, it was a different story.

The business phone rang at Jeane’s desk and the first words proclaimed, “Mom, it’s an emergency.”

“Like what?”

“Richard pushed the garden hose through the kitchen screen and put water all over the kitchen floor.”

“Turn off the water.”

“But if I go outside, he’ll squirt me.”

“Why?”

“Because I locked him out.”

“Where’s your sister?”

“Amy’s eating the Christmas cookies you hid in your closet. She locked the door.”

Though these scene-stealing actions may be justified by the young set, most outgrow them and make better choices. But no one is perfect. All make mistakes.

But there is a Biblical concept of “justification” that applies then and now. That is, it is just as if it never happened. It erases a red-faced moment by making a life right again. It doesn’t mean that the action or choice wasn’t wrong. It means that before God, Jesus’ blood covered the sin and it is paid for.

Here’s the proof: “For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.” [Romans 5:10-11 NIV]

Justification is not giving excuses for choosing badly. It’s giving us a second chance. It’s pulling us to the light. It’s making life right again. It all begins with accepting Jesus, God’s son.

It would be as if Richard’s brother never filled the kitchen with water while his sister ate up the homemade cookies in the closet.

And isn’t erasing those red-faced moments with God worth it?

[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.]

 

 

 

Unselfish Giving by Jo Russell

Ten-year-old Jeane worked hard on her chores at home and at the neighbors to earn money for holiday gifts. At last, she earned enough and was ready to go shopping at the big general store in in their tiny town.

“Ice skates!” she cried, “How perfect! And they’re on sale!” With the hard freezes that came with winter, Jeane was ready for fun. She bought her mother’s gift first.

When her mother unwrapped the gift, the woman smiled sweetly even though she thought These look really big. She commented, “Ice skates. How thoughtful, Dear!” She turned them over and looked at the size.

“Jeane, these are size 8. I wear size 6 l/2. Could you exchange them?”

“Sorry. They were sold out. But they are my size! I could wear them until they get in the smaller ones!”

Even though Jeane had worked hard to buy the gift, who was it really for?

Unselfish giving is giving of self without a hidden agenda. Jesus modeled unselfish giving from the mind and heart. His gifts were those which fit each need perfectly: compassion, miracles that brought physical, mental, and emotional healing, food for the hungry in body and spirit,  commitment to listen, teach, and model a life after God’s plan.

But the greatest gift of all was giving his life. How can one do that? In human terms, it is hard to understand. In a life-threatening situation, a parent may choose to sacrifice their own life so that their child could live.

Jesus’ gift was bigger than that, for with his life, he bridged the gap between God the Father and himself. His death represents the ultimate and final blood atonement for sin.

That was unselfish giving, not just for one but for all. In Jesus’ words, “Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all, for even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” [Mark 10:45 NIV]

Jesus’ gift will never be too right or too big. It’s just the right kind of one size fits all.

[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.]

 

As the Spatula Turns By Jo Russell

Project Chairman Jamie was packing the car with equipment, including spatulas and door prizes, for the cooking demonstration the next morning. It wasn’t easy with the roaring in her ears – and everyone else’s. For the last two hours, the plumber was on the roof with an auger attacking the clogged drains.

RRRRRrrrrrrr!….RRRRRrrrr!…. RRRRrrr!

That’s when phone rang. “Hello!” Jamie shouted.

“This is Beth. What should I cook for the demo tomorrow?”

Jamie’s confidence melted like a Hershey bar. She had been confident with the three of them demonstrating preparing simple meals for low-income families would pull off the event without a hitch. Dottie was a gourmet cook and a mother of four grown children. Jamie herself was a gourmet cook and had been a single mother of two. She didn’t know about Beth.

Jamie was a plan-ahead person–maybe to an extreme.

Jamie wouldn’t be caught dead in a toilet paper mummy costume. Never was she making Halloween costumes the night before. Her children had put together their own Halloween costumes in August from the craft closet and the thrift stores. Jamie trained the entire family to finish Christmas shopping by the end of October.

After Jamie suggested easy recipe after easy recipe weeks ahead of the event, Beth voted them all down. “I want something different than that.”

Jamie began to wonder, Does Beth even know how to cook? This is a little late to find out.

The week of the event, she announced, “I’m going to wing it, and make a meal from the food box items. The food box comes in Thursday.”

Now the day before the demo was Beth’s question, “What should I cook?”

Jamie didn’t have time to worry about it. “Whatever you want.”

The next day, each of the demos went off without problems, and Beth’s was a delicious layered casserole from a recipe she printed from the internet.

“Chop the onions carefully like this,” Beth guided her pre-teen neighbors she brought with her to prepare the ingredients. “We’ll sprinkle lots of cheese on top and bake it now for 35 minutes. Yummy!”

And it was.

 

Jamie realized that she had judged Beth by her own standards of preparedness. But God makes people in all shapes and forms, as well as with different skills and abilities. As Jamie watched, she was awestruck at how Beth reacted with the audience and involved the teens. Beth had done as good a job in the demo as the two gourmet cooks.

Jesus advised us not to judge others – even those who don’t prepare ahead. “Do not judge and you will not be judged.  Do not condemn and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.” [Luke 6:37]

As people move into your world who are different than you, remember Beth and others who may not do their Christmas shopping until December 24. They still are shining stars in God’s eyes – as are you.

[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.]