Easter Isn’t Just for Kids by Jo Russell

“Remember that I’m expecting an Easter basket from you on Sunday, Paul. I’ve already got yours together.”

“That’s kids’ stuff,” the senior retorted.

“Not anymore. Easter is for everyone.” Carol was charmed that her grown children and their spouses surprised each other with colorful baskets on Easter morning.

“Do you have a basket I can use?” the senior wanted to know.

“Yup. Here it is.” Carol answered as she slapped a woven container on the table.

“Why, that looks like a salad bowl! I’ve got to have something with a handle or it isn’t an Easter basket.”

“Guess you get to go shopping.”

“Do you have any grass?”

“Out front. But the lawn’s not very green yet.”

When Paul arrived at the discount store, he felt as if he were in a rain forest surrounded by bright layers of Easter basket stuffers. The top canopy arched over him in pastel-colored balloons. Next came the lop-eared bunnies the size of wheel barrows nearly blocked the neon lights. Paul found like cellophane “grass” in every color in a crayon box except for real fescue, and baskets with handles as long as a garden shovel.

Some were already wrapped and ready. The stair-step display of themed baskets was as high as the bleachers at the Little League field. There seemed to be something for everyone: baskets for football fans, ones for boys wanting to be fire fighters; Star Wars stuff for the sci-fi crowd, and doll-filled baskets for girls. He had to elbow his way through chocolate bunnies, marshmallow chicks, malted milk eggs, jelly beans, and egg-coloring kits.

But in spite of the choices, Paul returned to the house empty-handed to say, “They didn’t have anything good.”

When it came to good stuff for Carol, Paul was absolutely right. For she was a treasure to him.

She should have something special he kept thinking.

But the real significance of Easter is even more of a treasure than Carol.  No store can match the valuable gift that God offered over two thousand years ago. There is no expiration date. The offer stands today.

The true gift of Easter is free. It’s for all seasons. It’s for everyone. And it’s sweeter than anything on the Easter basket aisles.

Many already know the story and the reason: Jesus offers us the gift of forgiveness and a path to God and heaven. It’s because he laid down his life for us. His love and sacrifice covers our sins much more thoroughly than marshmallow crème and Easter goodies. But he didn’t just give up his life on earth. He came back to life and appeared to many before ascending to Heaven and his father, God.

These much-quoted verses spell out his promise in Jesus’ own words:

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”

What if you want that Easter gift? What does it take?

  1. Admit to God you’re a sinner. Change your ways and focus. [Acts 3:19]
  2. Believe that Jesus is God’s son. Accept God’s gift of forgiveness. [John 3:16 quoted above; John 14:6]
  3. Confess your faith in Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord. [Romans 10:9-10; Romans 10:13]

For those who know Him, God isn’t finished yet.

Let God use and guide you and you’ll always be up for new experiences—never stagnant. He wishes us to grow through all the steps of our daily journey and the work he gives us to do. “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” [Hebrews 12:1-3].

Paul is still pondering Carol’s Easter basket. But whether he does find a basket with a handle worthy of her, malted milk Whoppers, a chocolate bunny, or Jelly Bellies, the senior couple celebrates the best Easter gift of all: Jesus.

Happy Easter!

[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.]

 

 

 

Coveting the Red Glass by Jo Russell

“It’s my turn for the red glass!” seven-year-old David complained around the breakfast table and he reached for the shiny tumbler full of milk.

“Not! It’s mine!” His younger sister, Della, protested as he replaced it with his blue one.

Soon the milk glasses were moving around the table faster and faster as if they were on a carousel ride at the fair.

“Mine! It’s my day!” cried, Della. Just then, an inner-family ambassador of good will might have helped, but she was at the store and Dad was working.

“Mom said she’d get another one at the grocery store. You can wait for that one. I had dibs first.”

As two school-aged siblings glared at each other with the tension as thick as peanut butter, they didn’t see the milk splashed all over the table, walls, plates and bowls. The metal tumblers had traveled more miles at breakfast than Phileas Fog in Around the World in 80 Days [Jules Verne]. They looked like it. Now, each reflected battle scars and scrapes. The tiff had been all over a metal glass with no monetary value.

But to Della and David, the red metal tumbler was as valuable as a ruby, with the others in bright blue, gold, or green–just scratched-up aluminum.

Thoughts, time, and effort go funnel into each day of 24-hour choices. That’s a choice for everyone. As we grow older and perhaps part of the work force, what grabs our attention, affects our “wanter,” channels our desires, time and efforts until we get it?

A new car in the garage, a nicer neighborhood, another recreational vehicle, or trip of a lifetime?

The world says that’s good because it’s evidence of goal setting and achieving. Success!

But God evaluates wanting in whole different scale. He addresses it, showing it as jealousy–not being happy with what one has.

The last of the ten commandments spelled out in Exodus 20 is this: “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.” [Exodus: 20:17]

Jesus adds to attitudes towards money, time, and possessions in his walk on the earth. “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where you treasure is, there your heart will be also.” [Matthew 6:19-21]

What he looks for is obedience to God first, even in handling of money. Worldly possessions  will be part of our world. But he asks that we keep our attitude in check. He meets our needs, he takes care of us. He knows and guides us through the unknown and the ups and downs of life.

When we get to heaven, who knows how many shiny red glasses will be there for us?

[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.]

 

 

 

 

 

Handling Change with a Smile by Jo Russell

Jeannie laughed out loud in the waiting room when she read the headlines on the front page of her small-town  newspaper: “Caution! New Stoplight on Main Street!”

So? I’ve seen it, but it’s not working. How desperate are they for articles that the paper would feature a stoplight as a news item?

She chortled and choked until residents sitting around her stared.
Jeannie was still smiling as she drove back home through the new stoplight. As if she were on auto-pilot, the long-time resident passed through the intersection – and right through the now-working red light!

When it came to changes in her life like the stoplight, Jeannie had been a creature of habit. Could she change or is she a hopeless case? Is her future carved in granite?

Not to God.  His plan for all of us is full of potential, growth, even adventure!

Think on this scene at the Sea of Galilee when Jesus spotted two brothers who were professional fishermen.

“‘Come follow me,’ Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.’ At once, they left their nets and followed him.” [Matthew 4:18-20]

From there, he saw James and John, sons of Zebedee, drawing in their nets and he called them as well to become fishers of men.

Did they know how to do it? Did education or experience pre-qualify them as disciples of Jesus? No. These men often worked in solitude and may never have addressed crowds. They learned hands-on. Could they teach? Jesus taught them an entirely different profession. These fishermen, with God’s help, changed the world.

The next time change or an opportunity comes your way, welcome it! God has something better in mind for 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.]

 

 

Not Alone by Jo Russell

Mattie warned her teenaged driver out for weekend practice, “Let’s not go down this dirt road. It’s too icy and uneven today.”

“Mom,” the confident Trevor explained, “This was four-wheel drive of the year. It should be…”

His voice cracked as he finished with “FINE!”

That’s when the tough truck slid off the roadbed into snow and ice up to the wheel wells. It was crossways on the raised trail.

Mattie scanned the snowy landscape.  Such a familiar place! During the summer, they took this road on camping trips. During the spring run-off, they stayed off it when it was like chocolate pudding.

Today, the scene looked like a winter postcard with a wide expanse of snow outlined with rounded mounds of evergreens in the higher country. There in the middle of it was her four-wheel drive stuck.

The woman and her son got out shovels and tried to dig it out. They rocked it. They nearly rolled it. But they learned the engine worked well, but the truck wasn’t going anywhere. Soon, the wind was slapping their clothes and lifting the powdery snow to sting their faces.

The two tried all other tactics for traction. Nothing worked. Mattie tried her cell phone. It was dead. Hours later, a couple traveling down the paved road pulled over and asked if they could help.

“Just let me call the auto club with your phone. Mine is dead. They’re only ten miles away or so.”

When the tow truck driver arrived ready to wench out the truck, he chuckled.

“I don’t think this is funny, Sir.” Mattie commented. “We’ve been freezing out here for three hours!”

“Sorry. It’s just when you told me where it was stuck, I knew the place and had to laugh.”

“Why?”

“Because last week, I towed out a National Guard Humvee in this very spot. Those four-wheel military models are supposed to get through everything. They cost over $200,000. Yours is about the 15th four-wheel drive stuck here in the last two months. You’re not alone.”

She could only manage an “Oh.”

Alone or not alone? When it comes to our life’s journey and experiences, is it a surprise to find out that we aren’t alone?  Some common areas…

We aren’t alone in trouble, but God still loves us.

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? ….For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” [Romans 8:35; 38-39]

We aren’t alone in following God.

After the prophet Elijah had a decisive victory against a pagan king and pagan priests, he ran into the desert and wanted to die because of Queen Jezebel’s threat to his life.

Elijah told God, “The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left and now they are trying to kill me, too.” [1 Kings 19:10]

God’s reply, “Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel—all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and all whose mouths have not kissed him.” [1 Kings 19:18]

We’re aren’t alone in losing our courage at times.

God said to Joshua, Moses’ successor, as he led the Israelites into territory occupied by hostiles,  “Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” [Joshua 1:9]

These assurances from God are time-tested and timeless. You’re not alone. We’re not alone. God is with us always—from everyday challenges to four-wheel drive adventures.

[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.]