No Trespassing or Come on In? by Jo Russell

As the sprinklers dribbled out like the last of a canned soda, Betsy stepped into the yard to investigate.

Why aren’t they working now? I just fixed them. Then she noticed water bubbling from a hole in the ground. Another sprinkler gone. That’s a dozen times that somebody took parts off. She knew who it was. My new neighbors certainly have room for improvement. She sighed.

Betsy had welcomed them with cookies and fresh bread when they moved in. So did the other neighbors. With the latest missing parts, she’d gone to their door to talk to the family. A doll was tossed aside in their front yard. They had no girls. The dog was chewing on fresh corn cobs. They had no garden.

As she had reached down to retrieve the parts on their porch, a family member snatched the parts from the elderly lady’s hand and snapped, “We bought these! The receipt is around here somewhere.”  Only Betsy had a receipt because she bought them.

Now Betsy knew she had to do something different.

The dark-uniformed police officer advised, “Put up ‘No Trespassing’ signs. Then we can pick up the one who is doing this next time he comes in your yard.”

So she put up signs on every side of her fence.  A few went missing.

A week later, Charley from across the street asked, “What is going on down our street? Have you driven south on our road lately?”

“No.”

“Check it out. You have to see it to believe it.”

Betsy drove the length of her street. Every house had “No Trespassing” signs on the fences. The new neighbor’s house with her sprinkler parts not only had three signs across the front of the fence, but bright yellow and black tape across the length of the yard, blocking the driveway, and making yellow stripes between the trees.

Guess the new neighbor doesn’t want anyone stealing back their stuff, Betsy concluded.

Though none of the neighbors left things out in the yard for the taking anymore and had already judged the new family on the block, God is the righteous judge. He believes in the value of everyone and gives them a chance to turn their lives around if they choose to. He also gives them just consequences if they don’t.

Remember the convicted criminal on the cross next to Jesus, with just hours to live, confronted the other criminal who had been mocking Christ. “’Don’t you fear God,’ he said, ‘since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.’

Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’”

“Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.” [Luke 23:40-43]

Some wonder just how fair is that?  But Jesus’ gift of sacrifice and forgiveness touched this man at the last of his life. The criminal was truly sorry for his life and knew Jesus as Messiah, Savior and the Son of God. Such an act is an example of God’s compassion and love.

It is an offer for everyone—even those whose dog is chewing on fresh corn and they don’t have a garden. But they must make a change in direction, thoughts and actions. No trespassing? No, God’s offer is more like “Come on in!”

[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 Greatest Commandment for a Better Ride by Jo Russell

Like many young adults just out on her own, Rachel owned a remarkable car that wasn’t new. Every drive was an adventure!

Holding the back door closed so that it would no longer open when she rounded a corner, Rachel had secured a long strip of Velcro around the frame of the car. The doors latched and unlatched with a key–unless the locks were frozen or she couldn’t find the teeny thing in her large purse.

“It’s noisy when I have the windows rolled up in winter weather, but nobody and nothing will fall out anymore. It defrosts the windows pretty quick, though,” she told a friend at work.

Though she kept her unique set of worn wheels clean, the duct tape covering the splits in the seat sometimes got on her or her friends’ clothes.

Every week, she solicited help from one coworker or another. Sometimes she needed a jump start for the battery.  Mostly it was, “I need to check the oil. Can someone help me open the hood?”  Somehow it took two people to press the latch and lift the heavy hood.

After much time, Rachel was ready to buy a new car. I can hardly wait to get one that has a remote to unlock the doors.  Wow, a radio that works, too! And what a nice surprise having cruise control!

The new car was much more than she expected. Quiet! Wow! No wind noise! Remote control locks! Windshield wipers front and rear! Running lights! Fog lights! Adjustable seats! Make-up mirror! Blue tooth controls on the steering wheel!

The car ran as quietly as a whisper. But it never stopped talking, beeping, or showing messages on a mini marquis. Rachel learned that she had to hold the brake pedal down while she shifted out of park and turned the car on. Not long after: Beep! Beep! Beep! “Fasten your seat belt,” the marquis commanded. She did. After loading groceries in the hatch back, she returned to the driver’s seat. That’s when a red cartoon appeared and announced, “Door is open! Beep! Beep!”

Once Rachel set her heavy purse on the passenger seat, there were more messages. “Passenger airbag is on. Passenger, fasten your seat belt!”

When she took her friend shopping, she stopped at two different stores at opposite ends of the parking lot.

“Gosh, Rachel,” her friend commented, “Can’t we just leave the seat belt off to go that short way?” But the car was having fits until the belt clicked.

The car kept making bossy noises like a parent. For all the gadgets and messages had been designed for safety. No door would open when a car rounded a corner. No driver or passenger would fall out. Car owners wouldn’t be leaving their keys inside the locked car as often. Back-up cameras make it easier to maneuver in tight places, with a trailer in tow—or to keep from running over the sprinkler heads and plastic flamingoes in the yard.

God’s commands in the Old Testament were long and detailed. Religious leaders added another 600. This was quite a few more to deal with than messages on Rachel’s new car.

But Jesus simplified them to an easy-to-remember list. Step into the time zone and see in Matthew 22:34:

“Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question, ‘Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the law?’

Jesus replied, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the prophets hand on these two commandments.’”

Love for God shows in honoring him by putting nothing above him. Loving others? Showing care and consideration. Showing love in action. When God made us in his image, that was his plan.

From hundreds of laws down to two thanks to Jesus: the greatest commandment for the best ride on your journey. It’s simple. Easy to remember. Challenging to put in practice, but worth it. Love him and one another on every trip out of the driveway.

[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.]

 

 

 

 

 

I Honestly Love You Always! By Jo Russell

As her mother and father danced around the living room in each others’ arms, Shawn sat cross-legged on the sofa, flipping his skateboard while listening to the words in the music.

“I love you, I honestly love you…”

Her mother reached up and touched her dad’s face with a smile on her face. He pulled her closer as the music continued,

“That’s coming from my heart and not my head, I love you, I honestly love you…”

When the song was over, they looked at each other, still smiling.

Shawn wanted to know, “When the song says, ‘I love you,’ does it mean me? Somebody loves me?”

His mom smiled and explained, “The writer of the song was thinking of someone they love. But the song goes out for all the people in love to enjoy.”

“I’m not in love. And how do I know anybody loves me? I don’t get the biggest pile of valentines in class.”

“You don’t have to. We love you!”

“Yeah, okay.”

“But bigger and better than that is that God loves you! He made you as a one-of-a-kind boy. That makes you really special! Even though you’re not in love yet, God honestly loves you every minute and every day of your life! That’s better than all the valentines in the school!”

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For those not “in love” dancing around the living room, or those who have lost or never found their true love, Valentine’s Day can bring the question, “How do I know anybody loves me?”

Someone has always known and loved Shawn even before he was born. That love is for you, too. The source: your maker, your creator, the King of all Kings: God.

In John’s words, “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God. And that is what we are! [1 John 3:1.]

Our divine creator offers Shawn and you the best valentine ever: love that spans the ages and generations. God loves you, he honestly loves 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.]

 

 

 

 

 

 

More Pizza or Manna? God Provides By Jo Russell

As Mom walked in the front door at home after work holding a flat box, her lanky teens Rick and Randy cast a shadow over the petite woman and sniffed with appreciation. They followed her and the aroma to the kitchen.

“Pizza! Extra large! Yum!” Randy took it from her outstretched arms and exclaimed as he opened the box, “Oh, man! It has everything good on it! Pepperoni! Extra cheese! Sausage! Green pepper! Olives!”

“Thanks for the ordering the supreme!” Rick gushed, “We are soooo hungry!”

What else is new in teenaged boys? Mom thought. At least they had something more to say than, “What’s there to eat around here?”

While she changed to casual clothes, her sons thought over how to set the table. With hope and hunger, the teens got out only two plates and a pizza cutter.

Randy called out through the closed door, “Say, Mom, didn’t you say you had a potluck at work today? We saw your salad in the refrigerator. You don’t want any of this pizza, do you?”

Already one of the two had started cutting the crust right down the middle into two pieces.

Hunger: a perpetual condition of growing teens.

Being hungry isn’t a new condition. Once freed from 500 years and many generations of slavery, the Israelites peered at the barren dry desert around them, complaining that in Egypt, they had meat, garlic, fish, vegetables, garden produce and seasonings—as much as they wanted!

Surely someone in that huge crowd, maybe even a teenager, might have asked, “What is there to eat around here?” An expanse of sand and rock reached out to the horizon. Along the Nile River delta, they were used to green and well-watered produce from the land. This desert didn’t even look habitable and watering holes were few.

But God reminded them of his all-knowing presence with Moses relaying God’s words: “I have heard the grumbling of the Israelites. Tell them, ‘At twilight you will eat meat, and in the morning, you will be filled with bread. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God.’” [Exodus 16:11:12]

God provided manna each day for forty years, serving it up over thousands of days and mealtimes. The daily bread stopped when the Israelites camped on the plains of Jericho and celebrated their first Passover in the promised land. Shortly after, with God’s help, they conquered Jericho without raising a weapon. They ate from the produce of the conquered land after that.

God’s provision. Just as the Israelites transitioned from a lush landscape to a bare one, depending completely on God for daily needs, so our lives may be like that at times, too. Barren and dry.  But trusting the Lord for needs, just as the Israelites did, is a rich experience that deepens faith.

“What’s there to eat around here?”  It’s a fair question. The answer is, “What God provides.” That’s a promise never broken. It proves, “Then you will know that I am the Lord your God.’”

Whether that is pizza or manna, it will be enough.

[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.]