May God’s Force and Quicken be With You by Jo Russell

“We’re past the New Year and I asked you to post all your spending into the Quicken program.” Paul reminded his wife, Carole, after their first anniversary. Paul put his meticulous foot down. “It’s time. No more putting this off.”

“But I don’t know how. For Easter, you gave me a jeweled calculator. I use it every day. Isn’t that enough?”

He glared.

She explained, “The computer program is stuck on 2012. Quicken has a firewall up. It hates me.” I’m off the hook she gloated to herself.

“I know how to update it.” Her tax accountant husband offered. “I’ll load the new program.”

While he stripped off the old and installed the new money management program, the nervous Carole wrung her hands and wiped the sweat off her brow.  As he got the program up and running, he hummed a merry tune.

“Now it’s your turn. You need to post all your bill pays, automatic payments, deposits, debits, checks, and fees in Quicken from November on.”

She was speechless. All that posting? That’s like copying a telephone book. 

“You have been writing down all your withdrawals and debits, don’t you?”

“Well, I…mostly do and save all the receipts.”

He was astonished and horrified. “How could you?!”

To him, sins at the top of the list next to murder included not posting debits, deposits and payments.

Carole mused, “You know when God said that a man shall leave his mother and father and he and his wife become one, I don’t think he meant that they share Quicken as well as a bed and breakfast.”

“I disagree. This is good for you.”

And it was eventually. Carole bit her fingernails as she posted on the program for two days.

After her first attempt, Paul wanted to know,  “Does it balance?”

“Nope. But it’s only off  by $133.00! Not bad, if I say so myself!”

She posted some more. The next day, the difference was enough to buy a hot tub and have change left over.  Carole was excited!

Paul took over.  Though he usually smiled playing number acrobatics, he came out of the office every hour shaking his head.

Carole quipped, “Still having fun? Still love me?”

Finally after the second sunrise and sunset, feeling as if he’d invested more time than the federal budget for the nation, he staggered out of his home office and collapsed on the floor.

When he came back to life, Paul gasped, “It’s balanced.”

God planned for Carole to grow in skills without any whining. He sent Paul into her life to make sure that she did.

There are times when growing and changing are necessary. God may bring new people in, new programs, or unsolved problems to handle. All forces us to grow. When it happens, we might think, “That’s the way we’ve always done it.” But God is giving you a chance to try something brand new.

Many of you face situations or new challenges that seem impossible to you. It doesn’t matter if it seems that numbers, Quicken, or something else is out to get you. Whatever the challenge when failure may seem as inevitable as being in the path of an oncoming car, God has a way and will show you how. You will grow.

Hold onto this promise in Jesus’ own words, “And surely I am with you always to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:20.

And that’s a great promise of God’s divine power and help that gives real meaning to “May the Force be with 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.]

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Power of Words for Helping Others by Jo Russell

“I just made this casserole and my family doesn’t like it. I know you struggle, so I brought it over for you and your kids,” explained Jane as she handed the covered hot dish food to her neighbor.

“See that box in the corner? It’s full of clothes. Feel free to help yourself,” said Marie. “It was going to the Goodwill anyway.”

“My hubby and I got a smoking good deal on a second home where we can spend the winters. I know you can’t in your position, but it sure doesn’t cost much,” gloated Sandy. “We’re loving it.”

“I’m giving you my old vacuum. I think you can still get bags for this model,” Rhonda offered. “I bought a new one so I had something that would clean the rug better.”

“I won this handmade sweater in a raffle. It doesn’t look good on me, so I thought I’d give it to you,” commented Carrie. “New threads for the winter—and they’re free to you!”

Whoa. Hold on! When it comes to “helping the poor,” there is often such thing as too much information.

Poverty. Hard times. Tough circumstances. Chances are, you and I have both been there at one time: a married couple just starting out, a tragedy or illness that brings hardship. Sometimes bad choices are the cause of not having enough. But government statistics verify that much poverty it is the result of a single parent taking total responsibility of the care and expenses of children without help.  Government statistics tag single parent homes as 60% of families in America.

Providing for the poor isn’t just a suggestion. It’s a command.

“He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for their maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God.” [Proverbs 14:31]

“When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Leave them for the poor and the alien. I am the Lord your God.” [Leviticus 23:22]

From the New Testament: “And God is able to make grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. As it is written, ‘He has scattered abroad his gifts to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.’” [2 Corinthians 9: 8-9]

From Jesus’ own words after his parable of helping others, “The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’” [Matthew 25:40]

Jesus identified the poor as always being with us. He also gave guidelines and advice for helping. He did it with compassion and tact.

But as the author had herself been a government statistic of poverty for a time, I suggest the right words when giving. Careless words around “helping” can deal blows that are worse than being without.

Let’s try these again:

“I made this casserole for you and your family,” Jane explained. “I love to cook. I thought you’d really enjoy this new recipe with the mushrooms, cheese sauce and exciting ingredients. Enjoy!”

“These are all fashionable name-brand clothes,” Marie quipped. “Look in this box for great outfits for home and work. I’m excited I can share them!”

Sandy’s new winter home? No need to mention it and compare. But what if the neighbor going through hard times could enjoy a weekend getaway there? That would be a priceless gift—and a mini-vacation that the family may need very much.

The old vacuum? If bags are no longer available and it doesn’t pick up stix or anything else, throw it away.

The sweater? “I thought of you when I saw this beautiful hand-knitted sweater and hat,” Carrie commented. “The colors are so vibrant. I thought they would really accent your coloring. I hope you enjoy it.”

Now doesn’t that feel better—whether you are a giver or a receiver?

[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.]

 

Resisting Temptation – or Not? By Jo Russell

As the young mother walked through the car lot to the showroom, towing along two small boys, the salesman smiled.

She began, “I’m looking for a four-wheel drive bigger than this compact wagon, but I want to buy in the spring.” Jolene named off one of two brands.

Big ticket salesmen like Jeff knew that they had only one chance to sell a car and most of the time, that was the one and only time the customer walked up to him. Winter, spring—what difference does a few months make?

Jeff reviewed his training tips: Ask questions to figure out what the buyer needs. Follow with overcoming objections with questions which can be answered “yes.” Bring out the contract, negotiate a deal and have the customer sign on the line.

But much of his work was done by his customer’s second grade boys. One seven-year-old commented, “Mom, isn’t this blue a great color?”  The two crawled inside, tried out the seats and seatbelts. Then both bombarded her with questions, “Gee, doesn’t this have lots more room? We can put our toys in here and even take some on our trips. What do you think, Mom, can we buy this one?”

Jolene told the salesman, “No carpet. I live off country roads and I want to be able to hose out a vehicle.”

Jeff showed her another SUV the same size, model, engine, but with rubber-covered floorboards. Again, the twins examined the vehicle thoroughly. One sat in the driver’s seat, his feet two teddy bears short of the clutch and brake pedals. “Don’t you think this will be a great truck for me when I get to be old enough to drive?”

The other one added, “Yeah, it’s rough and tough, no matter where we live. I like it. What do you think, Mom. Isn’t this just what you’ve been dreaming and talking about?”

“Let’s take it for a test drive,” salesman Jeff suggested. After he sunk the vehicle into sand up to the wheel wells, he easily drove it out in 4WD.

“Wow! This is great!” one son piped up. “Remember when we got stuck in the sand going to church and almost didn’t get back home?” her second son reminded her.

For the next two hours, the praises of the showroom truck from the peewee gallery didn’t stop.

Though it was months from spring, Jolene signed on the line and drove the boys home in the new SUV that day.

It’s the boys’ fault. Never underestimate the power of second graders. Along with missing teeth, their power of persuasion is legendary.

Peer pressure and temptation. Both are facts of life right up there with calories, cavities, and committees.

But the important thing to do (besides leave the kids at home when you’re shopping for big-ticket items) is to stand strong against temptation. Choose to stay with God’s values, his will and plan in every phase of your life.

“So if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are temped, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” 1 Corinthians 10:12-13]

Temptation—even Jesus had to deal with it. But God strengthens us—even when facing the

persuasive power of one’s peers, car salesmen or our own offspring.

 

[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.]

 

 

Bringing the Power Up to Code by Jo Russell

Dave, the electrician, packed up his tools for the umpteenth time, he looked up at the now-working outside light on the aging house of his customer, Jolene.

Though HGTV makeovers lift vintage homes to the height of drama and romance, Jolene felt no such drama as she paid him yet again. His visits were nearly as regular as the utility bills.

“I guess that will do it for today. Until next time.” He smiled.

For in its heyday, the house had no electrical outlet in the bathroom for hair and bare essentials; no outdoor outlets at all, some need for new wiring in the walls, plus adding outlets where there had been none.

“So what else do we need to do to bring it up to code?”

“Bring in a bulldozer?” he suggested.

They both laughed.

Sometimes our bodies feel like the vintage home whose power needs to be brought up to code on a fairly regular basis.

We’ll never been twenty again. Nor will Jolene’s house. But like Jolene’s vintage home, God made us with good bones, beautiful lines, a history worth sharing, and character.

We are always a work in progress, even to our last breath. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him.” The second part is the condition: “for those who have been called according to his purpose.” [Romans 8:28] Loving God and following him gives us much power, light, and strength. Others learn from the persistence they see in us. Trusting him and looking to him for answers is a great model for others. Praying and studying the Bible is better than a master electrician. His work in us brings our power source up to code.

Keep up the good work!

Best of all, the ultimate repairman, God, gives you a lifetime of upgrades without cost. No power problem is impossible. None needs to be fixed with a bulldozer.

[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

Diffusing the Dieter’s Dilemma by Jo Russell

January 3. It’s an official day of winding down from a frenzy of frosted treats.

A day of fasting for dieters like me, like Paul. Carol couldn’t handle the pressure.

Even before her husband left for the office, she was toasting cinnamon bagels dripping with honey. “What?” Paul cried, “Toast for you and not for me?”

“Not today. Remember our New Year’s resolution.” Carol usually waited until he headed out on his commute. “We’re going back to our diets. No pudding! No cheesecake! Forget the cookies! I’m hiding your stocking stuffers! We seniors are supposed to eat less and sugar is a big no-no!”

“But can I have part of your bagel?”

“Nope. This is my last farewell to sugary food. It’s still within our 1200 calorie limit.”

“What about mine?”

“You’ve got sweet pickles with your lunch plus cinnamon-flavored toothpicks. See! You still get to enjoy sweets!”

After Paul left, Carol sighed as she checked the freezer. “Hello down there!”

It echoed with emptiness. Gone was spiral-cut ham with raisin and orange sauce, tender turkey with gravy and stuffing. The only thing left were lean and healthy adult meals in boxes the size of city phone books.

This can’t be so bad, Jolene thought. We shouldn’t have withdrawal over this. The cover photo shows meat dripping with gravy. The veggies are shiny with butter.

But it wasn’t so. Close to dinnertime when Jolene actually unboxed the meal, she gasped. Inside was a grid of plastic spacers. In the very center was frozen meat wrapped with a teaspoon of icy gravy the size of a sticky note. The veggies spilled over the meal like frozen confetti. No butter.

Paul smiled at the dinner table. “How nice! Appetizers!”

“No, it’s dinner.” Though Carol served their tiny dinner on small plates decked with a sprig of parsley as big as the meat, they weren’t prepared sizing down this much.

“Look at the bright side, Paul! I didn’t have to cook and there are only two plates to wash!”

But soon after, Paul asked, “What is there to snack on around here?”

She offered, “Carrots? Celery?”

After Paul went to bed, Carol lay awake counting Christmas cookies and marshmallows roasted over an open fire. [The grocers didn’t have chestnuts.]  She tiptoed into the kitchen and searched for easing herself into 1200 calories a day.

There it was: a recipe for double chocolate biscotti! She could indulge in one and a half cookies!

New Year’s resolutions have a way of billowing up guilt because they aren’t in small enough steps to be realistic for a year – sometimes not even for a day, as Carol discovered.

Yet God knows our slip-ups. He loves us anyway.

“You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O Lord.” [Psalm 139 2-4]

This is from the beautiful passage of Psalm 139, which focuses on the wonder of God’s creating us and the intricate details of his thoughts and love, such as “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb…My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place.”

God loves and guides us as his child – and that love isn’t dependent on New Year’s resolutions or 1200 calories a day.

[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.]