Bell Boys, Valets and Rhubarb by Jo Russell

“Wow! A trip to the city and the school district is putting me up in a nice hotel! And I get to see my friend, Carla! It’s a conference I’m loving already!” teacher Ginny told her coworkers in the teachers’ lounge. She was thrilled.
Vacations had not been the norm during her busy days and years as an educator. Even during summer, she took graduate classes, which often left no time or money for a side trip. But when her rural school district sent her to conferences and paid for lodging in a nice hotel with amenities, it became a luxury event!

When Ginny rounded the corner of the high-rise downtown hotel in her muddy pick-up truck, she wondered where she would be parking. The lane disappeared into the guts of the hotel. But behind her the cars were piling up, luxury models sparkling with wax and clean windows.

I guess none of them live on a dirt road in the country.

A young uniformed man sprinted to her and held out his hand.
She shook it. Hmm. He has a firm handshake.

“Your keys,” he said, “I’ll park your car.”

“I can do that.”

“In this hotel, we do that for you.”

“I’m a good driver, even in tight places, but I guess you guys are, too. But how do I get my truck back?”

“Just come down here and we’ll bring it out for you.”

“Okay, but let me get my suitcase and things first.” With rainy weather on her trip to the city, she had to pack everything inside the cab. Ginny unloaded her gear from the passenger seat, suitcase, ice chest, clothing bag, briefcase, lunch box, and two grocery sacks of rhubarb, their fresh green crinkled leaves on red ribs peeking from the plastic.

She found that a bell boy was piling her bags onto a brass luggage cart. He looked puzzled as he studied the bags of rhubarb.

“Just put them wherever you do for other people,” she told him.
There was an embarrassed silence from the bell boy. “For my friend, Carla,” Ginny explained as she walked beside him to the mirrored elevators. He still held the bags. “She doesn’t have a garden here in the city like I do. Do you grow anything in your yard?”

“No, I buy food at the grocery store.”

“Just hang the bags on those hooks.” The bell boy strung them up where a clothing bag might hang.

“Then I imagine that you don’t have too many guests here who bring garden produce with them to the room.”

“First time ever!”

“Great! A new experience for both of us!”
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New experiences. Changes. Surprises. They are part of life. But one thing that is steady, dependable and unites us all is the love from God for us.
In Jesus’ own words, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whosoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” [John 3:16-17]

And that gift shows how much love and value God puts in all of us—bell boys, valets, rich or poor, country or city folk alike.

[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.]

New Meaning of Bad, Good, Groovy and Righteous by Jo Russell

“Grandma, what are we going to do today while I am here?” seven -year-old Marnie wanted to know.

“Make a candy and toy-filled piñata for fun. We start with a balloon, paper and paste. Then next time when its dry and decorated, we’ll have the neighbor children come over to take a swing at it just like you will, too. It will be an un-birthday bash! What do you think? You don’t have a birthday to have that kind of party.”

“Bad. Wow, that’s really bad.”

Grandma was confused, “Bad? I always had fun doing that with your dad when he was young.”

“No, Grandma, bad means that something is really good, like righteous cool.”

“Oh, well I guess those bad takes the place of ‘groovy’ from my time. Okay, I get it.”

Later after craft time with the pinata, Grandma drove the two of them to the swimming pool for open swim time. Grandma could only find a place next to a pickup with “Outlaw” blazed across the top of the windshield.

“Marnie, I’m not sure I want to be parked next to someone who likes to break the law, but this is the only place left to park on such a warm day.”

Marnie jumped in to explain. “That’s not what it means, Grandma. Davie’s dad has it on his window and he’s never been in jail. He’s just a regular guy a lot of people like.”

“Oh, he would be called a ‘cool cat’ in my day.”

Nevertheless, the senor was relieved that on returning to the car after a swim and water fun, the car was intact, though “Outlaw” was still parked next to them. She explained to her granddaughter, “In the old west, some of the lawmen had been outlaws, Marnie, even close by here. Gunfighter turned lawman as long as he was a good shot. But outlaw means something different now.”

“Yeah. Hmm. I don’t think that Dave’s dad even knows how to use a gun.”

“Oh. What about princess? What does that mean these days?”
“Someone who has stuff with ‘princess’ on it doesn’t live in a castle. She’s just a special kind of girl.”

After a swim and water fun all afternoon, Grandma and Marnie headed home, but Grandma suggested a stop. “How ‘bout ice cream with sprinkles? We’re going to be driving right past Dairy Godmother Ice Cream Parlor.”

“Shut up!” Marnie replied with enthusiasm.

“What did you say?” Grandma came back.

“Sorry, Grandma. ‘Shut up!’ means ‘I can’t believe it! You’re kidding! So what I mean is, ‘yes.’ What do you say Grandma?”

“Shut up! We’re going for ice cream!”

In the world today and yesterday, meanings change and may be hard to understand. But some things don’t change: a person who has become a child of God by accepting God’s son, Jesus, is forgiven and embraced into the family of God. From then on, he or she has become willing to let God guide steps on the journey.
But the Bible states “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them.” [2 Corinthians 5:17.]
Criminal? Outlaw? Bad? Cool cat? Groovy girl? Princess?
All can be clean before God. That’s an offer of love that doesn’t change.

[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.]

 

Savor Life Chewy Bars By Jo Russell

“You’re going to need to change what you eat to healthier choices,” Jolene’s doctor advised her. “You’ve gained some weight and your blood pressure is up some.”

“What do I have to do that’s different?”

“Read labels,” her M.D. suggested. “Cut out the fat, the sugar and the gluten. You’ll feel better, I promise!”

Without much enthusiasm for her lifestyle change, Jolene scanned the aisles for appropriate snacks for her afternoon sweet tooth. There were cereal bars, granola bars, energy bars. But no real choices! All had sugar! Fat! Flour with gluten! All the tasty stuff!

One cheerful box stood out from the rest: “Savor Life” bars!

I could certainly get off on savoring life. These are just what I need! Why these are milk free, soy free, nut free, gluten free and everything free. What kind of food is this? she wondered.

The box didn’t claim that the snacks were energy bars, cereal bars or granola bars. With the ingredients extracted, the box labeled them “chewy bars,” nothing more, nothing less.

But when she tried one at home, she was missing out on flavor big time. The end result: something like chocolate flavored chewing gum. No topping. No frosting. No sprinkles. She was feeling desperate.

What can I add that meets the standards of my doctor? I know! And she slathered the top of the bar with the only thing she could find that qualified, “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter!”

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The truth on package labels. The truth in advertising. The whole truth in a courtroom.  Which are really the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth? None.

Jesus himself said “I tell you the truth” over 70 times in the New Testament. What is so important about that? Because Jesus did tell the truth and never lied. He didn’t tell half-truths, leaving out important facts. He was a straight shooter, modeling from the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20, “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor,” or more simply, “Don’t lie.”

“’I tell you the truth,’ Jesus answered, ‘before Abraham was born, I am!’”  [John 8:58]

“’I tell you the truth, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.’” [John 8:51]

“’I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.’” [John 8:34-36]

Add it together. Believing Jesus is the Son of God, asking forgiveness for sins, and following him is the road to freedom and eternity. That’s the real deal. It beats “Savor Life” chewy bars any 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 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.]

 

Fitting In or Shining Out by Jo Russell

Glenda pored over the magazines and tourist information for the well-known city of Santa Fe, New Mexico. Her trip would be short, but intense. She studied the photos, event calendar and tourist advisory on restaurants.

Wow! It’s not really that far, but it’s my first trip there!

Glenda giggled with glee as she packed the car. Such a long time since I’ve been on a road trip! She rolled clothes in her suitcase and double checked the necessities. Then Glenda got out a garment bag for her dress-up clothes.

Perfect! The dark denim coat dress with tooled silver buttons had been a gift. The outfit cost about ten times more than any one piece in her closet. But it really looked the part on a southwestern movie set or for a special night out on the town. She added a flat-crowned western gambler-style hat. This is how the magazines show people in Santa Fe dress.  I should fit right in and not look like a hick from the sticks. 

Glenda enjoyed her day in Santa Fe then and headed to church the next morning. Wearing the denim dress, she looked around. Glenda was astonished at the congregation. Not one person was dressed like she was. No Stetsons at all. No western hats either. With the crowd wearing jeans, boots, athletic kicks and casual clothes, they could have been the people at home in Black Angus cattle country.

But the members were friendly and the message touched her.

At the end of the service, she stopped to let a senior out to the aisle with his walker. He stared hard at her.

“You a cowgirl or something?”

“Nope. Just trying to fit in. I thought people in Santa Fe dressed like this. At least they were outfitted like that in the magazines—and sitting on horses.”

He chuckled and then laughed out loud. “We’re just regular folks even though we live in Santa Fe.”

“You dress just like people in my small town. And I don’t know to ride a horse.”

“That’s okay,” replied the senior, “I don’t know how, either.”

Fitting in or standing out? At some of life’s stages, that may seem really important. But Jesus makes it clear that we are not part of this world as Christians, so fitting in isn’t part of his plan for us. We are to be lights of the world. We’re only here for a time.

At his trial, Jesus told Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world! If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place.” [John 18:36].

So is our home—in another place with Jesus. He tells us, “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead, they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” [Matthew 5:14-16]

Glenda’s dress and not being able to ride a horse really doesn’t matter. What people see in her and in us is our lights and hearts. That stands above any denim western wear decorated with tooled silver buttons.

Let your light shine!

[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.]