Burdens: Bruno and the Bike Rack by Jo Russell

Darkness had settled hours before on the college buildings as Campus Police Officer Trevor reported for the graveyard shift. But as he began with a slow drive around the roads criss-crossing the campus, he heard a clatter as loud as a backhoe scraping the street!

Trevor looked for the source of the groaning metal. Instead of it being a motorized vehicle, he spotted a curly brown horse moving smack down the middle of the road—dragging along a 20-bike rack with a few bicycles wobbling within it.

This is sure a new one to me. There are few horses here. Wonder where it came from? And who would chain a horse to a bike rack?

If it hadn’t been midnight, the animal would be creating a traffic jam. As Trevor’s headlights outlined the shape, he realized, “Wow! That’s not a horse! It’s a dog! A huge dog!”

Officer Trevor pulled over and approached the dog chained to the bike rack. The animal blinked friendly brown eyes as the canine sat on the pavement and wagged his tail.  “Good boy!” Trevor gently reached for the identification around the dog’s neck. Bruno licked his hand. The dog’s head was the size of a steer’s. Officer Trevor grew up with dogs who had accompanied him on every adventure. But he was currently dogless.

“Bruno! I bet you’re hungry,” Trevor remarked.  “Let find something to eat at the station.” He brought out bolt cutters, freed the dog from the chain attached to the rack. The officer then moved the rack to the sidewalk and invited Bruno to ride in the campus police truck to headquarters. Bruno took up enough of bench seat for four college kids.  The dog’s furry mouth turned up in a toothy smile and droll dropped on Officer Trevor’s uniformed shoulder.

Trevor told the dog at headquarters. “We don’t have dog food, but we have something else you might like.” Mac and cheese with cut-up hot dogs. Bruno gulped down the officer’s lunch in three bites. He sniffed around for more. Dog-lover Trevor would gladly sacrifice his lunch and eat out of the snack machine. Officer Trevor guessed the dog’s owner had chained Bruno up since early morning. Bruno had missed lunch, dinner, and now it was nearly time for breakfast.

Trevor called the dog’s owner first thing in the morning. But the student/dog owner changed nothing over time regardless of warnings, fines, and impounding Bruno. He often left Bruno alone and hungry. So best case scenario for Bruno was being impounded by the police. Over time, Bruno towing the burden of a heavy bike rack around campus on Officer Trevor’s and other officers’ shifts became a common sight. Officer Trevor would bring out the bolt cutters, take the huge dog back to the station for a meal, and then drive Bruno around on his shift. With Bruno’s bike rack burden and hunger gone, the dog was often a part of the law enforcement team. The four-legged ride-along roving officer was able to pin down an offender and slobber in all the right places.  Very effective.

But to be legal and have a future, even in such a rural area, Bruno needed a place to live besides next to the bike rack. Later, Bruno went home to a new, caring owner: Officer Trevor, of course. The large, loving dog never towed a bike rack around after that.

Burdens in our lives can come in the shape of bike racks, hunger, regrets, sin or guilt. The burden may be physical or emotional. But it can be as heavy on us as Bruno’s burden. It doesn’t have to be that way. But a friend is standing by to take the load from you—with forgiveness, love, second chances. Jesus.

Jesus leaves us with these words of promise and assurance about any burden: Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” [Matthew: 11:29-30]

And even Bruno would agree that life is better without being burdened with a bike rack—or anything else.

[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 where print books are sold and in e-book. Look for Give Us This Day Our Daily Grin – A Fun-Lovers Guide to Spiritual Living and Growing releasing June, 2017. Jo lives in northeast Arizona and writes a popular humorous weekly blog on her website, http://www.button-to-god.com.]



It is Good to Be Paul Bunyan by Jo Russell

Cindy spun the truck around to an open bay at the builder’s supply and looked around for the wheeled lumber cart with her husband’s shed door loaded on it. No cart. No brawny man. She stepped out of the truck and peered into the work area. Lots of doors lying sideways in a rack over a story high. She checked for a flatbed cart as well. No cart.  Where was customer service? Had everyone left the building because it was lunchtime?

No. A young man nearly a foot taller than her stepped confidently out of the bay with the door on his shoulder. His plaid flannel shirt and suspenders made Cindy think of the legendary lumberman of East Coast fame, Paul Bunyan. The smiling giant hefted the door as if it had been a piece of kindling for a campfire. Cindy didn’t have to do a thing. He loaded the door so easily and tied down the load that Cindy thought the door wasn’t heavy.  He waved her off to her husband’s do-it-yourself project.  Paul’s big Blue Ox? Nowhere to be found, but Black Angus cattle grazing across the street would do.

Cindy backed into the drive at their house and hit the horn for her husband, Rick, to help.

When the couple cupped their hands on the bottom of the door and lifted, Cindy dropped her end. “Sorry! Heavy!” she apologized. “I had no idea! And I think I sprained my wrist!”

With more starts and stops than a rural mail truck, Cindy and Rick got the door leaned against the shed as the sun was setting. Paul Bunyan and his Black Angus cattle wouldn’t have even been tired. But Cindy and Rick collapsed and sent out for pizza, hoping to have enough energy left to answer the door.

It is good to be Paul Bunyan! But in lieu of his muscles, even Paul’s life would bring many challenges for feats of strength in other areas–not just the kind for manhandling doors.

Let these words remind you of who can handle it all.

“The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” [Isaiah 40:28-31]

Look to a champion even stronger than the legendary lumberman! For God comes through in all cases requiring strength of body, mind, and spirit. The great “I AM.” When he runs, he will not fall, even when carrying a custom door. It’s good to be Paul Bunyan, but it’s even better to trust in God and in his help through all things.

[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 where print books are sold and in e-book. Look for Give Us This Day Our Daily Grin – A Fun-Lovers Guide to Spiritual Living and Growing releasing June, 2017. Jo lives in northeast Arizona and writes a popular humorous weekly blog on her website, http://www.button-to-god.com.]




Rotten Egg or Live Savior? By Jo Russell

Eight boys between seven and fourteen squeezed into Grandma Brenda’s tiny trailer kitchen. Around a table the size of a placemat, they bumped into each other and cups of dye and eggs.

More flats of colored eggs filled the counter, the living room sofa, and lawn chairs on the sandblasted porch. There was no place left to sit inside or outside of the silver bullet-shaped home on the barren desert. All the dyeing was in the name of the community Easter egg hunt for the widespread population of ranchers and farm families. Just the 100 folks who loved holiday fun made it all worthwhile.

With standing room only, the troops began to complain. “Grandma, this is girls’ stuff. These are foo-foo colors. Why do we have to do it?” Gene grumbled.

“Yeah,” replied Nat. “We still have four flats to go and we’re sick of eggs.”

“Because you’re my special grandsons, and I love the way you are helping.”

The fourteen-year-old, Billy, didn’t buy the flattery. “You shouldn’t have volunteered us! It’s not fun anymore. We’ve been doing this for hours.”

“It was the right thing to do!” Brenda reveled in her new role as a community volunteer. How many other people can help their neighbors when they are working on the farms so many hours?”

As soon Grandma Brenda excused herself to run to the store, the boys put their heads together and came up with a team consensus. They mixed the dyes together and ladled the balance of the eggs into it. They were colored in no time and ready all at once!

Not just that, but on the two-acre desert plot punctuated with sagebrush, tumbleweeds and snake holes, the camouflaged eggs would be hard to find. For all the group-dyed eggs were a perfect grey-green, the same as the resident horned toad population.

When the enthusiastic egg-hunters finished, Event Leader Rex, announced, “There are still twelve eggs out there!” But try as they might, none of the children found any more until a month later when Billy was walking his dog. Roxy sniffed out a hole nearly invisible under a bush. A rotten egg lived there. It was dead and smelled like it.

Though the idea of egg hunts originated in pagan rituals to celebrate spring and new life, they are a reminder of the new life of Christ, with differences.

Christ was not reborn after having been killed. He was whole, still pierced by the nails and the spear from his crucifixion.

“He is not here,” stated an angel to the women who came to tend to Jesus’ body. “He has risen, just as he said.” [Matthew 28:6 NIV] The angel instructed them to tell the disciples to go to Galilee, where they would see Jesus alive again. But the women saw him first, then Mary Magdalene later, thinking he was the gardener, but recognizing him as Lord Jesus.

Just before Jesus did appear to the disciples, Thomas spouted out “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.” John 20:24. That’s when Jesus showed up and invited him to do so.

Jesus concluded, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” John 20:29
Christ’s sacrificial death offers us new life.

Every person on earth will someday face Jesus with the answer to a question. As Jesus had asked his disciples late in his ministry on earth, “Who do you say that I am?”  By then, they had seen him feed thousands starting with a portion smaller less than a Lunchable, had watched him heal the sick of all diseases, and even raise the dead on several occasions. Yet only Peter answered, “You are the Christ.”

Who do you say that Jesus is?

To believe in him as the son of God is to open the door to a new life. He forgives our mistakes and bad choices and gives us another chance. A future with help from Jesus as Savior is like celebrating the arrival of a new and precious family member.

So while enjoying today’s celebration, ask yourself, are you embracing a dead egg or a live Savior?

[Jo Russell is a Christian teacher, speaker, author of many articles, contributor to several anthologies, and Which Button Do You Push to Get God to Come Out? A Humorous Devotional for Women, available from her website, www.button-to-god.com, and Amazon.com.  Look for her new book, Give Us This Day Our Daily Grin – A Fun-Lovers Guide to Spiritual Growing and Living coming out June, 2017 wherever print and e-books are sold].

Flying Horseshoes and Friendship by Jo Russell

“Jen is good at everything! She beats us at all the card games, she is as good on the internet as anybody I know. Just because she finished her Master’s at an Ivy League school doesn’t mean she is all that. I can hardly wait for her to go back home,” complained cousin Carlie to her mother. Carlie was just starting high school. Her older cousin, Jen, had just finished a grad degree and came to visit for the first time.

“Nonsense,” Carlie’s mother countered. “Everyone is good at something.  She’s worked hard at college.  You work hard in school, too.  We’ll get used to her and she’ll get used to us. We will have fun together sometime soon!”

“I don’t see how.  She beat all of us in the family card games. I’m not the champion any more. “

“That’s because she picked up on all of our mistakes. Besides, you think you’re all that as champion.”

“Nah, I don’t do that! What about Clue? Jen was sharp and fast. She fingered Mr. Green killing in the library with a candlestick. Scrabble? She knows all the tricky words and triple word scores. There just aren’t any family games left for that stuck up show off to play.”

Carlie’s mom sent the teen pouting to her room.

But Uncle Ray pulled the family together later as he challenged his niece to a new match, “Jen, come outside for a friendly game of horseshoes. We’d love to play you.”  Of course, Ray and his family had been hefting and playing horseshoes from the time they graduated from baby booties.

“I guess I can try it.” Jen agreed.

“We’re going to set up the course with less space between the posts. That will make it easier.”

Ray threw a ringer his first toss and the second was close enough for points. Carlie beat her dad with better throws and even more points. Then it was Jen’s turn just as a pick-up truck was driving by.

Jen ‘s first throw bounced off the truck’s massive tire while the astonished driver swerved onto the sidewalk.

After that, the family ducked to keep from being assaulted with a blunt object—Jen’s horseshoe.  The honor grad’s next one first hit the telephone pole across the street square in the middle.

Another horseshoe arched high and landed two lanes away on the sidewalk across the street. The horseshoes were as far as the east is from the west. Any further out and they’d drop into the Pacific Ocean.

“Guess they didn’t teach you how to throw in college,” Carlie observed.

“No. No sports at all. I was good at other stuff, though.”

“We know that. Do you want some help with the horseshoe toss?” Carlie offered. “No offense. Our neighbors like their windows intact. So do we. Just let us in on your secrets for winning Clue.”


By the time the next pick-up truck drove by, thanks to Carlie’s and the family’s help, Jen’s throws were staying within the yard. Sometimes she even scored.

Board games inside following were a more even contest. Jen didn’t always win. Carlie began thinking more kindly of her cousin. Though the Ivy League grad may never become as skilled at horseshoes as her country cousins, with her help with Clue and technology tricks she taught them on their electronic devices, Jen proved that teamwork and family are a winning combination.

Jesus had taught, “Do not judge, or you, too, will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” [ Matthew 7:1-2]

While Carlie had described her cousin as a “stuck-up show off,” she didn’t think of herself in the same way. But the teen had put up walls around any chance to bond and appreciate each other.  It was only when both dropped their initial judgement of each other and worked together that they became friends as well as cousins.

Teamwork, family plus God: It’s a winning combination that makes us all champions.

[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.]





When in Quicksand Up to the Armpits By Jo Russell

“It’s good to conserve and protect the land and forest,” Ben summarized in a monthly meeting. The metro-based group focused on saving evergreen trees from demise with the building of malls and condos. So far, so good. Ben smiled. In a high-rise, downtown building, the dozen members greeted each other warmly for the monthly meeting.

“Look what we’ve accomplished so far! He recounted the projects, progress and trees saved so far.

After the meeting, Ben suggested, “So what about a trip to the Last Frontier to see even more ways to save the earth? It’s untouched wilderness. That could bring us a vision and objective on what to do next.”

“Great idea!” enthused Eric. “The experience of a lifetime!”

And it was so.

As plans finalized for the adventure, six metro men signed for the wilderness experience to become face to face with Mother Nature in a week-long raft trip, camp cooking promising to rival statewide cook-offs, and a short stint in an authentic bush plane.

Adventure that it was, the trip was a surprising experience. It was further between settlements than two states in the west. After hours bumping along a dirt road far from the frontier metro airport, one grown man in the back seat couldn’t help but ask, “Are we there yet?”

“Not yet.”

Twenty-five miles later, any could have asked the same question before they reached the starting point.

“We really respect wildlife,” Eric mentioned as he noticed their guide, Perry, hefting a shotgun to load with the gear. “What are you going to do with the weapon?”

“Required for wilderness trips. Bears. Moose. Wolves. Some are mighty grumpy at this time of year. They don’t like to share the water with us. I, for one, don’t want to share the raft with them. Do you? ”

A unanimous no. Though the wilderness was far different than home, all enjoyed great cooking with an outdoor aura that was luxurious. Hot cocoa and beer around the fire in the evenings. Morning coffee with slabs of ham, eggs and hashbrowns.

Then the annual precipitation sputtered into action two days out. Droplets turned to sheets, transforming to little balls of hail, snow and sleet. But primarily, it was wet and rained, rained, rained.

“Whoever heard of having to wear long underwear under rain gear?” complained visitor Eric.

“Good thing we’ve got you in good gear. You’ll stay dry,” Perry, reminded them.

Adding two more days of rain, Perry paddled the raft to the take-out point. He studied the bank, and then gingerly poked an oar into the wet turf on the bank.

“Quicksand,” he concluded. “We will have to go further for another take-out point. I’ll let the pilot know. We have good cell reception here.”

“What? We paid all this money to do is sit in the rain in a raft? We don’t have quicksand at home.”

Ben from the visiting group quipped, “Eric, I, for one, don’t want to be up to my armpits in quicksand. Think safety.  These guides are looking out for us.” Still, he prayed for the adventure to end on a positive note.

Twenty-four hours later, the sky squeezed out even more rain than the men saw in six months at home, bringing colder temperatures and less food. With the water rising from the storm, the river’s surface was choppy and gray. It sloshed into the raft.

From the reaction of one shortage, the bad news for the visitors could have been as catastrophic as a forest leveled to make room for a mall. But this one hit city dwellers where it hurt, “No more hot cocoa. We’re out.”

“No hot cocoa! That’s practically un-American! Whoever heard of a camping trip without cocoa?”

“Lewis and Clark?” the guide suggested, “1804 to 1806 in the northern U.S.”

When the bush pilot arrived, the visitors confirmed he hadn’t brought hot cocoa either. In fact, he let them know “I can only take some of you at a time. I’ll make two trips. Sit tight.” The men and guide huddled under a slick tarp, the rain drippling off into puddles on the ground. Hot cocoa by then was as far as the east from the west, thousands of miles over land or sea.

But not long after, all were warm and dry inside a lodge with steaming mugs before them. It had, indeed, been the experience of a lifetime; a nose-to-nose encounter with Mother Nature.

Ben realized with a grateful heart how much more the trip had been than hardships and weather. They were safe—never sinking to the armpits in quicksand, never sharing the shore with a grizzly bear, never having hand-to-nose combat with a near-sighted moose having a bad day.

Indeed, God is good and answers prayers.

“Therefore, let everyone who is godly pray to you while you may be found; surely when the mighty waters rise they will not reach him. You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble.” [Psalm 32:6-7]

Ben knew that as the truth. For even when the hot cocoa was gone, God wasn’t.

[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.]