Ways to Get to the Office and Heaven by Jo Russell

As Paul and Carol pulled up to the entrance booth at a national park, they noticed that the tall ranger in uniform was standing outside the booth. He had been checking a visitor’s trunk before a family drove out of the park.

Ranger Tom turned and smiled at the senior couple as he reached for the door of the small building.

“Locked?! Oh, no! Could you back the car up please?”

Paul eased the car backward and the white-haired ranger mumbled, “There sure are easier ways to get to the office!” He pulled himself into the window like a gymnast starting a routine, followed by his lanky legs. “All better now!”

Paul chuckled. “I hope that doesn’t happen very often.”

“Just the second time this week.”

Ranger Tom smiled, took their pass, handed them a map and waved the couple off as they headed to a beautiful shady picnic area.

Jesus points out that his way is the less traveled path and may even be through a window. But the son of God himself sees into the window of our hearts and the path we have lived including our failures and victories.

The less popular route takes commitment—to God and his commands and his guidance on the spiritual path he wants for us.

In the words of the Son of God, Jesus, he said, “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to. Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, ‘Sir, open the door for us.’

But he will answer, ‘I don’t know where you came from.’”

Then you will say, ‘We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.’

But he will reply, I don’t know you or where you have come from. Away from me, you evildoers!’”  [Luke 13:24-27]

Jesus was pointing out that following his way is a deliberate choice and not always an easy one.

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father, who is in heaven.” [Matthew 7:21]

Jesus instructs further, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” [Matthew 7:13]

The truth in such harsh, clear words! Is it so hard to get to Heaven? No. Is Heaven so populated only a few residences and spaces are left? No. Will we find all the do-gooders and righteous people we know here and now in Heaven eventually? No. What, then, is keeping many out of Heaven and eternal life?

  • Good intentions not followed in action
  • One’s own agenda above God’s
  • Integrity issues
  • The true condition of the heart

For besides following God’s will and way, each traveler on the path to Heaven needs to constantly evaluate and acknowledge wrongdoing, admit it, and accept God’s forgiveness. This was paid in advance by his son, Jesus Christ.  For without changing from a wrong path and asking for forgiveness, a traveler is veering away from God on a path to destruction.

Constantly adjusting one’s path and aligning it with God’s plan for us is part of the journey. It makes us better people. It’s no different than a chef modifying ingredients in a recipe to make it over-the-top delicious; no different from a builder adjusting  plans for unexpected surprises–like taking out a load-bearing wall and seeing it needs a steel I-beam to support the weight of the structure. It is no different than a quilter or designer making changes to create a better final result.

Like Ranger Tom, your path to God and acting on his will for you may be through a window, but it’s 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 and her speaking engagements. Jo lives in northeast Arizona and writes a popular humorous weekly blog on her website, http://www.button-to-god.com.]

 

 

The Best Four Words Ever: You Belong to Me! by Jo Russell

As Troy pulled the tangled sheets out of the dryer at the laundromat, he cried, “You belong to me! I thought I’d lost you forever!”  But he wasn’t talking with his girlfriend or wife. He said these words when he retrieved the match to his other Nike bike sock.

The right words, the wrong meaning. You belong to me? Maybe what made it fall short of his heart was that as much affection as he had for his bike socks, they couldn’t love him back.

Mark had a different take on those magic four words. As he strolled through the aisle at the pet rescue center, he looked intently at each canine to see which would be his perfect pet and companion.  When he hesitated in front of one cage, the furry animal with soft ears and a wildly beating tail wiggled with pleasure. She barked and licked Mark’s fingers through the fencing.

“I want to hold this one,” he told the volunteer worker. Soon, man and dog were bonded, and he petted the dog and said to her, “I’m calling you Caramel. You belong to me!”

But somehow, those magic four words need to be more. Can they meet the needs of readers who buy more than 72,000 romance novels a year?

“You belong to me?”

It’s not fulfilled in the context of fiction.  People need to be truly loved, to experience the real deal, genuinely valued in a two-way relationship.  It can’t come in socks, pets, or romance novels.

Next to the best three words ever, “I love you” come the best four words ever: “You belong to me!”

Love. On Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, number one and two are food, shelter, safety, security, then comes love and close relationships. Everyone needs love.

What if love was available to all without qualifying with looks, money, achievements, and   conditions? It is. God offers us the gift of love—free and clear—along with forgiveness and a caring friendship forever.

“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” [1 Peter 9-10]

“You belong to me!” The most important words in our language. As God speaks them and cocoons us with his love, we know that his care is forever in a two-way relationship.

You belong to me! From God, those four words are the real deal.

[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 and her speaking engagements. Jo lives in northeast Arizona and writes a popular humorous weekly blog on her website, http://www.button-to-god.com.]

 

Spices and Herbs and Salt, Oh, My! By Jo Russell

As Danielle entered Ellie and John’s house with a hot meal, she asked John, “How is Ellie doing today?”

After she learned the senior lady continued to be bedridden and about the same, she told John, “I’ll just put this fresh pudding in the refrigerator”

When she did, Danielle noticed thawed chicken on the shelf. Ellie wouldn’t be able to fix it and she remembered John’s culinary skills consisted of turning on the stovetop after opening cans, jars and bottles.

“What if I fix this chicken for the two of you? That way, you’ll have something for tomorrow, too.”

“Sure, I’d be happy if you’d do that.”

“John, show me how to work this oven.”

“No idea. I’ve never used it.”

So Danielle found the spices in cans and bottles, picking out her favorites for seasoning chicken.  In one can, the spices seemed glued together in clumps.  Then she tried the “poultry seasoning.” It poured out of the container like fine dust. Danielle rubbed the spice between her fingers, but it smelled like dirt. Then she checked the expiration date. “Hmmm. This dates back to the invention of computers.”

Last she tried the dried rosemary, which is normally a fragrant herb that adds much to chicken. The slender spines were as stiff as sewing pins. “I guess maybe cooking them with the chicken will soften them up.” So she drizzled the chicken with olive oil, seasoned it with salt and pepper and then sprinkled the rosemary on top.

After the chicken was browned and fragrant, Danielle set it out to cool. She lifted off a spear of rosemary. That’s just what it was—a spear as hard as any iron javelin.

Spices have a short shelf life. Vendors would have cooks believe they need to replace their spices every few months, and maybe that is so, but certainly not years after buying them.

Just as spices go stale, so does one’s spiritual life if it is not refreshed by time with God, his word, and doing service for him. We are to grow and remain strong in our Christian lifestyle. This makes the difference, just as fresh salt and seasonings make the difference between a “ho-hum” and an “oh, wow!” baked chicken.

Jesus stated, “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men. You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden….In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” [Mark 5:13 + 5:16].

Salt. Light. Love. Share them and you’ll know and enjoy a life full of the best of God’s seasonings.

[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 and her speaking engagements. Jo lives in northeast Arizona and writes a popular humorous weekly blog on her website, http://www.button-to-god.com.]

Doorbells and Back-up Plans by Jo Russell

“I tried to ring your doorbell, but it didn’t seem to be working,” the neighbor commented when Marilee opened the door, letting the late afternoon sun light up the entry. The neighbor continued, “I brought you fresh squash and tomatoes. But the doorbell, I thought I saw the electrician’s van here a few days ago. Didn’t he fix that, too?”

“Nope. He couldn’t. He said he’d have to tear out the wall to find the trouble in this old house, and it was easier to have a back-up plan. The electrician gave me some ideas, but instead my back-up plan never fails.” Marilee explained, “Every afternoon when the sun shines on it, the doorbell stops working.  An old house is worth it, even with its quirks. I knew you were at the door.”

“What? How?”

“My little doggie in the window.  See that table in front of the picture window? That’s Boots’ special place.”

The curly black dog wiggled and smiled for the neighbor and gave her owner a bark. It was time for Marilee to pay the dog in jerky treats.

“It’s a win-win situation. Cheaper for treats than the electrician tearing out a wall, better looking than a battery-operated add-on, louder than a bell, and Boots never fails to let me know someone’s at the door—even when the doorbell is working!”

Even more reliable than Boots as one who watches over our lives is God. Even when it seems that our life only seems to work part of the time, God is there 24-7.

Written by David, whose teen and young adult life was full of serious ups and downs, he pens these words that we can still count on today: “Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life; you stretch out your hand against the anger of my foes, with your right hand you save me. The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me; your love, O Lord, endures forever.”

[Psalm 7-8 NIV]

Whether the trouble is as serious as life-threatening situations or as seemingly small as a non-working doorbell in the afternoons, God and his care are there for you always. His love and back-up plan are even better than having Boots on the lookout.

[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 and her speaking engagements. Jo lives in northeast Arizona and writes a popular humorous weekly blog on her website, http://www.button-to-god.com.]