Black Friday–Lost and Found! by Jo Russell

Carol was buzzing with excitement to go shopping at the big store in a nearby town. I haven’t been there for months! Black Friday and payday together—what could be better?  Christmas decorations! Live potted evergreens! Yard displays! Stocking stuffers! Oh, wow!

Carol liked to park near the garden shop entrance.  But all the spaces were taken. If she had been in a stadium that held 20,000 fans, she would be in the top row and need binoculars to spot the super store. In her haste and excitement, she forgot how big the parking area was and forgot to pay attention to the numbers on the rows or any landmarks around her parking space. None of the stores in her area had numbers, pandas, or alligator rows.

After an exciting couple of hours of checking out new merchandise and visiting with friends inside, Carol strode confidently out of the garden center to the parking lot with her purchases.

She checked near the garden entrance. No car there. Where could it possibly be? Did someone steal it? What an inconsiderate thing to do!  After a moment, she thought Or…am  I lost and forgot where I parked the car?

After an energy bar and an extra 15 minutes of exercise jogging up and down each row, Carol found her car parked just where she left it.

In church circles, the words “lost” and “found” may be used as freely as salt and pepper. It doesn’t mean that someone has misplaced their car in the church parking lot, which is considerably smaller than a super store.

“Lost” means that a person may never have heard about or accepted Jesus Christ as messiah and the son of God. His teachings, all through the New Testament and penned in his words, reflect unique and wise guidelines for living a spiritual life. For those eyewitnesses who saw him bring the dead back to life, heal those with birth defects, cure mental illness or make people whole who had missing parts, the crowd was astonished. But did they get it? Jesus wasn’t just a prophet. For scholars who then and now have realized Jesus’ birth and life fulfilled more than 300 prophesies, he was more than a man. For those who witnessed the risen Jesus who appeared to them after he had been crucified, died, and was buried, they knew no one else had ever risen from the dead. Jesus Christ was who he said he was—the Messiah, the son of God, the Savior of the world.

Jesus himself stated, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no man can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” John 10:27-30]

At the end of his life, a discouraged, but still wealthy and powerful King Solomon wrote the chapters of Ecclesiastes, concluding that youth, vigor, wealth, civic projects, nearly everything he’d tried and could name was…”’Meaningless! Meaningless!’ says the Teacher. ‘Everything is meaningless!’” [Ecclesiastes 12:8].

But he concludes, “Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.” [Ecclesiastes 14:13]

But more than being lost is the joy of finding—your car in a huge parking lot—or a new steadfast friend and Savior of the World, Jesus Christ. Say yes to Jesus today.

[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.]

 

 

 

Cranberry Sauce and Thanks! by Jo Russell

“We’re going to smoke our turkey in the ground this Thanksgiving. It’s fabulous! We’ve never done it before,” Norman commented as he leaned over the fence to talk with his long-time neighbor, Gus.

“We’re not doing turkey.”

“What? Are you having ham instead?”

“Nope,” Gus quipped.  He didn’t offer any more information.

“You know, if you’re a little short,” Noman offered, “We’ve got an extra turkey in the deep freeze. Just pick me up one later and we’re square.”

“No need. Who says you have to have turkey as an excuse to give thanks? We’ve got a different menu. We’re doing something we’ve never done before either.”

“Oh?!”

“Yeah. A new way to give thanks. We’re taking the dog and the entire family out in God and Mother Nature’s Showcase. We’re having a picnic Thanksgiving dinner. The weather will be good.  So besides thanking God for a paid holiday off work, a great family outing in the outdoors, we’ll praise him for the grilled burgers with all the trimmings. It’s a one-of-a-kind experience. Anybody having withdrawal symptoms over traditional food—well, they can have cranberry sauce, too!”

Giving thanks. It wasn’t just for the Pilgrims and the Indians in 1621. It wasn’t just the soldiers and the nation in 1863 during the Civil War when Abraham Lincoln declared the special day to give thanks.  He had asked all Americans to ask God to “commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife” and to “heal the wounds of the nation.”

Thanks and praise can become an everyday part of our lives, through the good, the bad, and the ugly. Circumstances do not dictate whether to be thankful or not. But our attitude does.

Paul, like the new believers he addressed, was being persecuted for following Christ. He advises, “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” [1 Thessalonians 5:16]

Much earlier, David, anointed King of Israel, wrote words of thanks in poetry often set to music.

“God deserves thanks and praise.

His love endures forever.

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.

His love endures forever.

Give thanks to the God of gods.

His love endures forever.

Give thanks to the Lord of lords…

His love endures forever.

To the one who remembered us in our low estate

His love endures forever.

And freed us from our enemies

His love endures forever.

And who gives food to every creature

His love endures forever.

Give thanks to the God of heaven.

His love endures forever.   [Psalm 136:1-3; 23-26]

Give thanks to the God of heaven, who gives us food, protection and love each day. And for those who may have Thanksgiving withdrawal, he gives us cranberry sauce!

[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.]

 

 

Treasure in Scratched, Nicked and Marred! by Jo Russell

“The movers will be here tomorrow to pack and load our family’s stuff, Jamey, so get your toys together. We need to do everything ahead of time to help because Dad has to be at work getting ready for his new job.”

“How do you want me to help?” the seven-year-old wanted to know.

“Maybe you could put the toys in the toy box and the dolls in the cradle.

“Okay.”

When the movers showed up with a truck that looked to Jamey about as big as the living room, the girl was astonished.

But the two men weren’t. One popped gum as he twirled a pen over a clipboard. Both wore dark baseball caps pulled low over their foreheads. This was everyday stuff for them.

They started in the bedrooms, with one recording the items as they both packed up.

“One doll cradle, scratched, nicked and marred, full of worn-out dolls.”

Jamey felt offended. Well-loved dolls.

“One twin bed with wooden headboard and foot board. Scratched, nicked and marred.”

Every piece of furniture in every room she could heard them calling out, “Scratched, nicked and marred! Scratched, nicked and marred! One set of bunk beds, scratched, nicked and marred.”

When the movers got to the dining room, Jamey expected another tune. For the old oak table was surrounded by new chairs. She expected them to have respect for the pieces.  After all, her mother had bought them one at a time one a month since summer.

But as they lifted the newest edition, one called out, “Solid maple captain’s chair, scratched nicked and marred!”

Jamey ran to her mom to ask, “Mom, doesn’t ‘scratched, nicked and marred’ mean ‘crummy?’”

“Maybe. Who’s asking?’

“The movers. They even called your newest chair ‘scratched, nicked and marred!’”

“Well, the stuff has been used a lot.”

“Whoa! That means the movers think our whole house and all our stuff is crummy!”

Jesus has a different take on “Scratched, nicked and marred.” He didn’t choose the rich, famous, community movers and shakers, or those in high places for his work. Just the opposite. When he started his ministry, he chose fishermen from one of more than two dozen fishing villages along the Sea of Galilee. Though their profession gave them plenty of practice with hard, physical labor, entrepreneurship, and rotating shifts through all kinds of weather, they were simple men with simple lives. With their base of experience, no one would have expected them to do anything else.

But Jesus did. He planned for them to teach and speak about the Son of God as Messiah, his miracles, and God’s teachings. “’Come follow me,’ Jesus said, ‘and I will make you fishers of men.’ At once they left their nets and followed him.” [Matthew 4:19-20]

God has a job for everyone who follows him, including the scratched, nicked and marred. Never are we crummy. Scratched, nicked and marred? Why, God counts it a sign of character and worth!

[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.]

 

 

Whiter Than Snow by Jo Russell

“Snow!” Snow! Whoa! That’s snow isn’t it?” The excitement in the two young boys’ voices said it all: The desert-born kids had never seen the white stuff except in pictures.

Now traveling to Grandma’s through mountains with tall evergreen forest, the boys spotted the white along the road long before their mother noticed. “That’s snow! Oh, Mom, can we stop! Please stop!”

“Snow?” Their mother echoed. Yuck, she thought as she studied the thin snow peppered along the edge of the pavement with road grime and ciders. Still, her sons shouted with glee as she pulled over.

Soon the two were rolling in the dirty stuff and squeezing some into icy balls to throw at each other. “This is so much fun! No wonder people like snow!”

The mucky snow along the road was a far cry from the pure dazzling white flakes falling from the sky during the winter, delighting skiers, snow tubers and little boys. For the initial gift of God’s snowflakes doesn’t come with road grime and cinders.

Yet the image of snow is one King David includes in these words of remorse in addressing God and asking for forgiveness for his sin of adultery with Bathseba. “Cleanse me with hyssop and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.” [Psalm 51:7]

Hyssop in the desert country became the symbol of a second chance: spiritual cleansing from sin; being safe from death.  It was the short, bushy plant comparable to the herb marjoram. The enslaved Israelites in Egypt brushed blood over their doorposts using hyssop as a brush. The  Angel of Death passed by. All inside had been spared. After that, hyssop was after that in ceremonies for cleansing lepers or those who had been in contact with the dead. It symbolized life, another chance, another hope.  That hope continues to be offered with Jesus Christ, who offers forgiveness and cleansing for all who believe in him.

A new life and a new destination as white and pure as snow. That’s even better than the roadside snow peppered with dirt and frolicking little boys squeezing every ounce of fun out of the experience.

[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.]