Old and Junky or Priceless Gifts of Christmas by Jo Russell

“Surprise! We get to come for Christmas!” Shirley dropped the phone as she learned that less than a week from the holiday that her grown son and his wife would celebrate with her.

Because Shirley had been planning a quiet Christmas at home, she had projects in progress in nearly every room. Chaos reigned. Instead of a warm home ready for Christmas in four days, her place resembled a D.I.Y remodel in progress. Exploding with ideas, she was choosing new color palettes, painting furniture, walls, making new furniture covers and moving all the pictures around.

That’s what happens when you watch twenty or thirty of those home and garden shows.

Still, Shirley could rise to the occasion of Jesus’ special day, even squeezing in decorating and getting ready for family around working full-time. Shirley pondered the type of tree her son and daughter-in-law might appreciate.

Yes! Something infused with memories and meaning!   

But when Rob and Janet settled in, Shirley heard Rob whisper to his wife, “When I see this old, junky stuff on the tree, it makes me feel funny. Why doesn’t Mom get something new?”

Shirley had plenty of Christmas glitz that was new. But she wanted to include those hand-made ornaments that reminded them of shared times.

What’s so junky about this tree? A few folded and slightly bent snowflakes, cut dough reindeer with childish color accents, and picture ornaments of the children smiling through missing teeth. What’s the big deal? Janet’s family’s tree is decorated just like this with dough ornaments.

Other decorations on Shirley’s tree were collected from family trips. From them, she could hear the bells of Christmas. Shirley could have chosen from one or more of her color-coordinated trees decorated to a theme that puts Martha Stewart to shame. But she decided on a memory tree instead.

And my son calls it “junky!”

In Jesus’ time, many waiting for the Messiah looked for the new and the shiny, not the junky and  ordinary. For this King of Kings was born in a place so small lodging filled up quickly. It left the Holy Family only with the old and crummy: a stable. It was there that the newborn son of God was born and wrapped in cloths. He wasn’t laid in a crib with a thick mattress resting on soft sheets within a color-coordinated nursery. The Messiah’s first human visitors at the manger were not people of position and power. The shepherds smelled like animals and were considered the lowest of life in that culture.

Yet the herdsmen knew this truth from the angels, “Today in the town of David, a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” [Luke 2:11-12 NIV]

Generations had waited to see him! The Messiah! He was most wanted.

Jesus was a wanted child, all right. Herod wanted to kill him. So just in time with an angel’s warning, Joseph took the Holy Family to Egypt to escape Herod’s mass murder plans.

Everything about Jesus’ birth, life and death seemed unfit for a king. Jesus didn’t deserve a junky birthplace, ordinary lifestyle and the opposition to his ministry as an adult, plus being sinless, but killed like a criminal.

But he came for all of us, to offer all of us forgiveness regardless of levels of life and lifestyle.

“Ascribe to the Lord the glory due in his name; worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness,” wrote David in Psalm 29:2. That applies today as well, about 3500 years later.

Can we see anything junky in Jesus’ crown of love and scepter of peace?  His modeling of love, forgiveness, and compassion gives meaning and memory to relationships.  What better way to infuse memories than to include Jesus?

[Jo Russell is a Christian speaker, author of articles, 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. Enjoy chuckles and speeches, tips and excerpts in website options and weekly blog.]

 

 

Some Assembly Required by Jo Russell

“There’s some assembly you have to do on this bedframe,” Ron told his customer as he loaded the slim box in the back of her pick-up truck. “But it’s not bad. A Merry Christmas to you! You got the last one.”

“Thanks!” Shirley told him, “I’m good at this and my company isn’t coming until tonight late.”  Once home, she wrestled the heavy box into the house and opened it, looking for instructions.

Hmmm. It fits a queen or a king bed. That’s nice.     

At last, she found instructions printed in ant-sized letters on a plastic bag of parts.

At least I didn’t have to go online for an internet 67-page instruction book. Shirley got out a magnifying glass. Great! She noticed, The instructions are in Chinese! It’s a good thing they have pictures, too.

She set up the frame north and south. It was too long. Then Shirley tried east and west. That seemed to work. But she wrestled with the new idea that this design slotted together like Legos. Plastic plugs, along with only two bolts and plastic nuts.

Two hours later after moving most of the furniture in the room, she got the slot-together frame together and secured it with plastic buttons to keep the adjusted size in place.  She collapsed in exhaustion for the rest of the evening.

Two miles away, Sam and Georgia were putting together a small play set for their children that warned, “Some assembly required.” The couple had been at it in the garage since they put their children to bed three hours ago.

“Looks like someone wrote these who doesn’t know English very well,” Georgia commented. “Why do we have all these leftover parts?”

“Maybe they figured we’d drop some on the floor and lose them!” Sam explained.

“Not that many spare parts!” So they put it together yet again—and yet again.

By the time they finished the project with only a few extra screws and washers left, they fell into bed, realizing that the kids would be wide awake and shaking them awake in just a couple of hours.

“Christmas. Why does it have to be so complicated?” Georgia mumbled as she dropped onto the soft pillow.

On this Christmas Eve, people everywhere are experiencing the frustrating consequences of “some assembly required.”

And Christmas? Does it really have to be so complicated?

No. Because the gift and means of delivery were simple and uncomplicated—then and now. A life given for yours. A simple gift of grace that changes our lives. None are entitled. No one can earn it. No gift exchange is expected.

Jesus promised, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” No complicated guide books are required for this precious gift. “I am the good shepherd and my sheep know me—just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.” [John 10:14-16]

If you are not yet one of the flock who follows Jesus as the son of God, know that the gate is open for you—giving love and life. No assembly required!

[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.]

 

 

 

Security Device Attached by Jo Russell

As Julie picked out a DVD as a gift, she read the message on the outside of the package. It warned, “Security Device Attached.”

“What is this?” Julie asked her friend working in the media department of a large department store.

“There was so much theft of these small items that the stores and manufacturer worked together to come up with this.”

“Is this a joke? It looks like cellophane tape on two sides of the box.”

“Yep.”

“Does it work?”

“Nope. Someone who wants the DVD just slits the tape and takes out the DVD. It’s gone lickety split even with a ‘security device.’”

Security devices. They come in all forms these days: cellophane tape on media packages, extra seals inside lids on food items to prevent tampering and guarantee freshness; clip-on do-dads the size of hockey pucks to cut down on loss of expensive items.

Do they work? Nope.

But God offers a security device that spans into eternity. It doesn’t break fingernails nor costs anything and is easy to accept. The security device comes in his son, Jesus, coupled with our commitment to turn to him and live his way.

“”Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation—but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it. For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.”[ Romans 12-14]

This is the promise that seals it: “That if you confess with your mouth ‘Jesus is Lord’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” [Romans 10:9]

I’d trade God’s fail proof security device any day for cellophane tape with a warning. Wouldn’t 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 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.]

 

 

Naughty or Nice? by Jo Russell

As Brenda knitted away the last 15 minutes of her lunch break in the employee lounge, coworker Brent, married only a few weeks, came in and banged on the pop machine after he put in his quarters. It spat out a Coke.

He glanced over at his shapely twenty-something coworker, Brenda. The single was working on something with knitting needles, so he peered over her shoulder at the picture of the finished product. Bruce nearly choked on his soda and did a double-take! The blonde model posed at a European airport seemed to be bare-chested under the lacy garment!

He looked at Brenda’s see-through tunic shimmering like jewels with the varied colors.  She held it up to see if the pattern was even. Her project was definitely see-through as well!

“Do you plan to wear anything under that?”  he queried hopefully with a smirk.

The curvy young woman replied, “Pretty drafty for December, don’t you think?”

Kings and fathers over the centuries have insightful advice and input for sons. From King Solomon, “The tongue of the wise commends knowledge, but the mouth of the fool gushes folly.” This is followed by “The eyes of the Lord are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good.”  [Proverbs 15:2-3]

For though boundaries may not seem fun, especially for the young, and God’s laws may seem restrictive, this summary is powerful, “The highway of the upright avoids evil; he who guard his way guards his life.” [Proverbs 16:17]

And guarding one’s thoughts, actions, words, and choices brings the best of blessings now and in the future.  It distinguishes naughty and nice, not just on Santa’s list, but God’s.

[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.]

 

Wrestling Anger into a Chin Lock by Jo Russell

“Thank you, students, for all the reading you do! I’m so proud of you!” Miss Martin announced to her fifth graders. “After Danny, Bruce will give his book report to the class.”

The sturdy, compact pre-teen sighed and then raised his hand. Being the new kid at school was hard enough—but with an issue as well. It was tough.

“Yes, Bruce?”

He began, “M-m-may I s-s-s-peak with you?”

She nodded.

He approached her desk. By then the giggles and a couple of hee-haas from other boys had reached a climax.

She glared at the offending students. “Sssssh! I’ll deal with you other boys later,” she promised, “and it won’t be pretty or fun!”

Bruce, closed his fists with anger and glared at his tormentors. It would be good to give my report privately, because if I get my hands on them, they’re dead meat.

He whispered to the teacher.

“Could I g-g-g-ive my b-b-b-b report to you after class?”

She agreed.

But in his head, Bruce really reviewed all the words he had in mind that would be better than Miss Martin’s consequences that were neither “pretty” nor “fun.” Broken and bruised parts that would follow them into the future. Pummeling them to pulp. Wrestling them into a chin lock, even two at a time.  I’ll show ‘em!

 Instead, as Bruce cooled down, he drew a few deep breaths and refocused.  He was in speech therapy and getting better. Bruce was smart. He was a good friend to have. Bruce was a great organizer on group projects and one was coming up. There was more to him than stuttering. Eventually, others might see it.

Because Bruce didn’t pummel any to pulp or wrestle them into a chinlock, the other boys stopped laughing and started appreciating.

Decades later, Bruce became a preacher. When Paul writes this advice about anger, Bruce knew exactly what he was talking about.

“In your anger, do not sin. Do not let the sun go down while you are angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.” Ephesians 4:26-27.

Anger. It’s a good way to do the wrong thing. But turning away from anger opens all kinds of doors and possibilities in relationships. God’s way is wrestling anger into a chin lock. It always means victory! 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.]