Following Instructions God’s Way by Jo Russell

“Mom, I need money for shop materials this week,” Jolene’s teen son, Rick, mentioned as he noticed her paying bills.

She has to have money right now or she wouldn’t be working on bills. 

“How much?”

When he told her, the single mom sucked in a ragged breath, let it out slowly—she’d heard that was the key to relieving stress–and finally asked, “What it is you want to build?”

“A dog sled for our dog to pull.”

“Are we talking about the dog who doesn’t know how to walk on a leash and whose only trick is begging for table scraps?”

“I guess. But she’s smart. I can train her.”

“There’s no snow now until late in the fall.”

“That’s okay. With the time until the next snow, that gives me plenty of time to perfect it.”

“I will take care of the cost of your shop materials on one condition.”

“What’s that?”

“That you build a mud room bench first.” She got out a measuring tape and showed him. She wrote down the measurements and drew the creation with more detail than God’s instructions to Noah for the ark. “See—each of us can sit down and take off our boots, then we can put them inside the seat. Do you understand this project?”

“Yeah.”

Then some time later, Rick mentioned, “I’d like to borrow the truck tomorrow after school so I can bring home my project.”

“Okay!” Jolene was excited she’d have her mud room bench for the muddy spring season.

But as soon as Rick hefted his project through the door, she knew it wasn’t her carefully planned custom bench.

Out of curved oak and far more complicated than her bench was a creation the size of a large chest freezer: Rick’s dog sled.

“Where’s the bench?”

“I’m not quite done with it.”

The next time the 16-year-old needed the truck to pick up the shop project, Jolene knew it had to be a mudroom bench.

And when he walked in the door with the structure built out of quality lumber, she wondered what happened to her measurements. It was tall enough to be a kitchen island.

“See, Mom,” the long-legged teen explained, “you don’t even have to bend your knees to sit on it.”

“Where’s the hinged compartment for dirty boots?”

“Ah…Not enough lumber or room to build that.”

“It’s really sturdy.”

“Yup.”

Rather than remind and embarrass him that the unit wasn’t the design or the measurements she needed, she hid her disappointment and simply thanked him for all his hard work.

Do we ever fail to follow God’s instructions?

In the Old Testament book of Exodus, the Israelite community ended up wandering in the desert of what is now the Sinai Peninsula of Egypt. God gave the Israelites specific instructions, who was to do what, how the priests would dress, right down to tabernacle measurements in cubits and what materials to use. It is detailed in Exodus chapters 35 to 40.

Whatever it took, God expected them to follow the instructions. It was a matter of demonstrating obedience.

Although Jesus life, ministry, teachings, miracles, and atonement for our sins changed much, Jesus demonstrated and taught how the law had become bigger with fewer words and less tangible measurements.

Simply, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. He does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.” [John 14: 23-24]

Love infuses Jesus’ teaching on the concepts of the law with his life, words, and actions. When asked about the most important commandment, he answered, “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” [Mark 12: 29-31]

Added to this are Apostle John’s words, “If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him. Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.” [1John 3:17-18]

Love is the answer.

What is the question?

How are you showing love to others in your home?

How can you show kindness, encouragement, affection for each other and faith in God beginning in your family? Among your friends and coworkers?

Can those in your world identify you as a Christian by your actions?

God’s instructions are distilled down to love. Take courage and initiate compassion, kindness, generosity, time and tenderhearted listening. The end result is more useful and timely than a mud room bench. Love changes hearts and lives. Tempering our thoughts, words and actions with Christ’s love will be following his instructions right down to the last inch—or cubit—for all time.

[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.]

 

 

Is Life Without Caramel a Hardship? by Jo Russell

Ten-year-old Abbie, intent on learning to cook, listened closely as Mrs. Brown continued in a  cooking demonstration for a group of families.

“Today, I’m going to teach you how to make caramelized onions.  I know you get lots of bags of onions. Who knows what to do with all of them? I do! This is one easy way to cook them, leaving them full of vitamins.” And the woman sliced them into thin rings, separated them and dropped them into hot oil.

“We are cooking these slowly. They are a great topping on meats, hot dishes, omelets…”

But after what seemed hours of watching the sliced onions just simmering in a pan to a light brown, Abby leaned over to her mother and whispered, “When is she going to add the caramel?”

Abby figured that caramel was a necessary ingredient. It isn’t. Cooking onions slowly until they are golden brown changes them from crisp and eye-watering to sweet. This technique brings out the natural sugar. They are perfect as God made them.

How often do a change of plans due to circumstances, finances, or hardship, cause us to long for  the something extra – like caramel?

Hardship is nothing new. It forces one to be flexible, adapt to circumstances, do without, postpone, and maybe even ignore disappointment welling up inside. But overall, hardship produces learning experiences with much greater consequences and results.

Keep looking up and knowing God is handling the cooking, recipes, and menu.

Old Testament Elijah came into a small village and asked a widow at the town gate for a drink of water and a piece of bread. She was gathering sticks for a cooking fire. But she told him that she had only enough oil and flour to make a last meal for herself and her son, and then they would die.

In those times, the law required that the nation cared for its prophets, Elijah assured her not to be afraid to make a cake for him first. Then he shared God’s promise to the widow that “the jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the Lord gives rain on the land.” [1 Kings 17:14 NIV]

The widow and her son experienced that miracle of food each day for some time. Even more faith-building was when the widow’s son became ill and died, but Elijah prayed that God’s power would give the boy life again. The prophet gave the boy—alive and well—back to his mother.

It was an astonishing moment, for she told Elijah, “Now I know that you are a man of God and that the word of the Lord from your mouth is the truth.’”  1 Kings 17:24

Through hardship comes lasting life lessons—patience, persistence, faith, and maturity. God provides. He gives us hope that hard times are not forever.

And the gifts he gives us in the meantime may be just like caramelized onions without caramel. They are perfect the way they are!

[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 Certainty of Taxes by Jo Russell

Paul was making his fifth call to his tax client, and time was running out on the April 15 deadline. As he asked about stock, property sold and bought, and why Fifi’s dog grooming was listed in the category “business expense,” his client sighed with exasperation.

“Can’t this be simpler?”

“Not with all you’ve done and earned this year. But I am looking at a 1040 form on the wall of my office. It’s really simple. Just two lines.”

“Great! How does that work?”

“Like this: ‘How much did you earn last year?’”

“They always want to know that.”

“Yup. Then comes the next request, ‘Send it all in.’”

He gasped. “I think I’ll stick with the long form.”

“Good idea.”

Taxes are a long-standing financial business practice. They pay for various programs and projects – even in Jesus’ time. Sometimes we may worry that we don’t have enough. But God always provides.

There were taxes on deadlines even in Jesus’ days on earth. During that time, each Jewish male was to pay a temple tax. Though Jesus was a king and owed no tax, he provided the gold coin that paid both his and Peter’s taxes. He did this because many in the temple did not understand that he is Messiah and king, that he reigns in Heaven and is king and creator of the universe.

But he didn’t just hand the coin to Peter. He told his disciple-fisherman, “Take the first fish you catch; open its mouth and you will find a four-drachma coin. Take it and give it to them for my tax and yours.” [Matthew 17:26].

Though God provides for every need, including taxes, it involves effort. And honoring God and looking toward him first has its percs. Unlike the short 1040 form, he doesn’t ask how much we made and demand all of it. He meets our needs one by one and day by 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.]

 

 

 

Easy Communication by Jo Russell

Cindy was in deep do-do again. So on the sunny Saturday when it would have been more fun to be building forts and playing softball, the eight-year-old was once again confessing to the priest all of her wrongs of the spring break week.

He responded, “Uh, huh, Uh, huh,” at the right places.

I wonder if he remembers I was in here last Saturday saying the same thing.

With her two brothers in line behind her, she could imagine their tales were similar. But instead of “fighting with my brothers,” theirs was, “fighting with my sister.”

But then the man behind the screen asked Cindy, “Do you glibcklich anything else?”

At least, that’s what it seemed to be because Cindy was too embarrassed to ask. I’m old enough to know a lot of big words, but I don’t know that one. How can this giant of a man of God use words I don’t understand?

She stammered and stuttered, “I guess not.”

Easy communication and word meanings are not mastered by third grade. But it doesn’t matter.

Thanks to Jesus, one doesn’t need an intercessor. Prayer is communication. Praise is communication. Asking for forgiveness is communication.  Asking for help is communication. Thanking God is communication. Talking with Jesus is an easy two-way communication that only grows with time.

Jesus keeps it simple. He cites the example of a shepherd and his sheep, a common site in Jesus’ time and today in Israel.

“He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice.” [John 10:3-4]

Imagine! Jesus knows your name! And you know his! As he speaks to you, he will never hide his meaning behind a word like glibcklich!

[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