Guided by God’s Starlight by Jo Russell

When Jolene showed up at the Ranger cabin at 6 for a short guided hike to the observatory in the tall trees, she and her sons had all the right equipment: rugged boots and socks, compass, flashlights, and even a lighted key chain!

But the first thing the smiling ranger told the group was, “You won’t need your flashlights tonight. You can leave them in the Ranger cabin. We’re going to walk in the starlight. It’s a good trail.”

“But..” protested one hiker holding a lamp the power of a streetlight.”

The Ranger challenged him, “You’ll be able to see once your eyes adjust.”

Someone flipped open his phone.

“You don’t need that either”

So all put lights aside and stood with the group in the darkness.

Soon they could distinguish the difference between the shadow of the trees, themselves and the starry sky. The ranger lead them in strong, confident steps up the soft slope. The trail was grey in the darkness, but clearly visible.

During the unique hike in the darkness, one of the hikers spoke with awe when he got to the observatory, “I never would have thought we could find the trail in the dark. But it is there and we can see the way.”

So it is with the ancient path to God. It is older than the rocks along the trail. It has been a clear path with defined boundaries to keep the hikers and us safe. It is lit with soft starlight each day and hour to guide travelers to a quiet place of peace.

“Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.” [Jeremiah 6:16.]

Though the twinkling LED lights, shiny paper and most of the gifts of Christmas are put away, the greatest one remains – the Savior, Jesus Christ. The light along his path is soft and clear, like the stars in the sky that guide us during a nighttime trek. It is a good way.

And  Ranger Christ is the best guide ever.

[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.]

 

 

 

 

 

Appearances Can be Deceiving by Jo Russell

“I don’t suppose the tow truck driver will give me a ride home too?” Jolene suggested as she talked with the auto shop about towing in her pick-up truck.

“No? Doesn’t matter. I’ll just ride my bike back,” Jolene chirped to the shop’s office manager, “It will be good for me!”

“Okay. If you say so.“

“It would be pretty shameful if a senior woman my age couldn’t make it the distance across our little town .”

“Uh-huh. Hmmm. And you’re how old? Sorry. We’re not supposed to ask women their age.”

At the shop, Jolene slung a leg over her bike and headed out.  She thought of the great adventures in American history as she peddled up and down the hills: Lewis and Clark’s two-year journey of exploration– without bicycles. Johnny Appleseed’s trek through the mid-west – on foot without a dirt bike. Her own pioneer ancestors’ travels to the Pacific Coast – without two-wheelers.

 No matter I haven’t ridden for a few years.  This will be a piece of cake!

But it wasn’t. The north wind blew in her face. The traffic was heavy. No one stopped to pick her up, which often happens in a small town full of pick-up trucks.

Jolene focused on the beacon at the top of the next hill: Artie’s, a fast food eatery. It sparkled like a lighthouse in the sun. Besides, Artie’s advertised a pumpkin spice cheesecake shake this season. The praises included it promised to rejuvenate, energize and satisfy through New Years! And that was only one part of the meal deal!

Jolene was gasping for air as she pushed the bike up the steep slope to the parking lot. She stumbled in the door and nearly fell on her face with exhaustion. She held her hand over her chest as she collapsed against the door frame.

“Should we call 9-1-1?” asked a worried staff member.

“No, just an order for a pumpkin spice cheesecake shake and meal deal,” she choked out.

After a fresh and crisp sandwich, curly fries, and shake, Jolene pedaled downhill, whistling in the chilly breeze. That’s when her gym partner, Lee, pulled up beside her, giving her two thumbs up and mouthing through the closed truck window, “Way to go!”

What he saw was she was burning off calories, improving her cardio, as well as fighting senior aches and pains with a bicycle ride!

But appearances can be deceiving! He knew nothing about the fries and the shake. She certainly wasn’t going to tell him. Even her trip across town wouldn’t have burned off those carbs!

When it comes to Christmas, looks can be deceiving, too. Lights. Ribbons. Shine. Twinkle. Santa Claus. Cards. Bell Ringers.

None of it aligns with the real Christmas. Because the King of Kings, Redeemer of all mankind, the Savior of the world, came in humble and impoverished packaging. Songs and readings sometimes make the stable where he was born too clean. Why, some would consider it shabby chic décor!  But it was a home and shelter for work animals. Such a stall would have to be mucked out and new straw scattered inside as often as any today.

Perhaps God chose the setting and circumstances to prove how everything is possible with him and it is for all people. The shepherds heard the news first. How could this be? They were considered unclean low life in Jesus’ day. But God counted them worthy to see his son, Jesus. How can a boy born in a stable grow strong in body, spirit and character who leads people then to now to accept him and his priceless gift of forgiveness? With God. He was called Immanuel! God with us!  This child born of a virgin whose birth was prophesied generations and centuries earlier.

From the book of Luke came the beginning of miracles: “And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David, a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.’

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.’” [Luke 2:8-14]

When it comes to appearances, the venue around the arrival of King Jesus, Son of God, seemed deceiving. But make no mistake: his message is for all people. His gift is offered to all.

And that has more sustaining power and rejuvenation than the promises of a pumpkin spice cheesecake shake!

[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.]

 

 

 

So Excited to See You! by Jo Russell

Before Janene even got the front door unlocked, she could hear Frosty crying with excitement for her to open the door.

“Yip! Bark! Yeow! Yeow!”

As she pushed the door open, the energetic dog commenced jumping in the air. Janene counted.

One! Two! Three! Four! Five! Six!

Then the canine danced in half turns. Then the pet rubbed against Janene’s legs.

What an acrobatic achievement – especially on two legs out of four!

When Frosty settled down, Janene patted her pet’s head.  “So you’re happy to see me? I’ve only been gone for thirty minutes.”

But Janene found the same result whether she was gone for ten minutes, ten hours, or the weekend. Frosty was always glad to see her and it showed—in body language and dog talk.

Yet was Janene perfect? What did she do to deserve so much excitement? Nothing special except that Frosty had chosen her. He would wait for her no matter how long it took for her to come home.

It is the same way with God’s excitement when we return to him and his way.

For Jesus himself told of three parables of things lost. A sheep a coin, and a man. Yet they all mean the same thing: that when a sinner repents and finds the way to God, there is much rejoicing in Heaven.

Jesus came to take down the walls that sin had built between us and God. Just as important is his attitude of openly welcoming those whose hearts and lives have been changed by him. What if they had lived terrible lives before? All the more reason to love and accept them. Jesus does. We can, too.

When in his parable of one lost sheep found again, Jesus explained, “I tell you that in the same way, there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.” [Luke 15:7]

Best known is the parable of the prodigal son: one who demanded his share of his father’s estate, left with dreams of fame and fortune, but returned home after much hardship and humiliation hungry, tired, and with nothing left. Yet his father was happy to see him.

His older brother had worked hard during the entire time his sibling was gone. Yet his father was elated and put on a feast for the wayward youth. The older brother was angry. His father had never shown him such a party.

Jesus continued with the father’s explanation, “But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.” [Luke 15: 32]

God’s joy at seeing you choose the right path is even more than Frosty welcoming you home. No matter how much time has passed, it’s never too late.

Come home to Jesus for Christmas.

[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.]

 

Order from Chaos: God’s Plan by Jo Russell

“Go ahead and watch a Christmas movie. I’m going to fold the clothes from the dryer,” Paul offered.

Carol was stunned. Not only had her husband offered to do a job she hated, but he was tackling  it with a smile. But she wondered. Does it take that much time to fold clothes?  “Isn’t that just one load? It shouldn’t take much time.”

“I’ll join you when I get done. I’ll even put your clothes away.”

That’s a pretty unusual offer from a CPA, she thought.

By the time the movie was winding down to the end, Mr. Organized returned. Paul had always folded his undershirts carefully enough to display at a department store sale rack. They would have fit inside the original packaging if he had saved it. But he finished with those and started taming other chaos: Carol’s.

Carol hung up casual clothes for the gym only if they didn’t wrinkle when wadded up in the drawer. Eventually, every drawer became a jumble with surprises around the edges.

“Where’s your sock drawer?” Paul wanted to know.

“It’s either the second or the third one down. You can’t miss it.”

Later, when she opened her sock drawer, she laughed out loud. Instead mounds of socks resembling foothills, Paul had paired the socks and in tidy rows aligned exactly east and west.  There were no mounds or surprises left. Everything was organized.

The Bible states that man is made in God’s image: [Genesis 1:27]. Even at that point in creation, God had demonstrated his creativity, spiritual nature, intelligence, moral expectations, as well as organizational skills. He didn’t start with a sock drawer, or even a sock. He began with nothing.

After Adam and Eve were exiled from the Garden of Eden because of their sin, God planned to give humans a second chance to follow the way to heaven through his son, to be named Jesus. God was organized and knew just when it should happen. He didn’t manufacture a goal sheet or use a Gantt chart for achieving his plan at the right time. God began through the prophets hundreds of years before Mary gave birth to the Savior of the world.

Isaiah’s news was about 700 years before Jesus’ birth: “And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace, of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.” [Isaiah 9:6b-7]

And God’s organized plan for giving us forgiveness and a new beginning through Jesus is longer lasting than a CPA’s. For the invitation to accept Jesus stands for everyone for all time.

That forever gift is even better than Paul organizing Carol’s sock drawer in perfect east to west order.

[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.]