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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.]

 

 

Christmas’s Coming! No Peekin’ By Jo Russell

“You’d think that Mom would hide presents in a different place instead of on the same ‘ol closet shelf,” commented her oldest, Samantha, teetering on a chair in the guest room closet.

“Yesth,” agreed seven-year-old Betty, whose front teeth were missing. She peered up and spotted foil-wrapped packages glistening in the back of the closet. It was Betty’s first time raiding the Christmas closet with her siblings. What a sense of belonging!

“Mom’s great, but I don’t think she’s all that smart,” ten-year-old Pete added. “She doesn’t know we peek at the presents before Christmas morning.”

Or did she? With rumors going around that every mother is equipped with telepathic thought reading, eyes in the back of her head, and a detective’s skill at solving mysteries, the three wondered about Mom having a secret sixth sense. But if their mother knew, she never let on. Captivated by her children’s award-winning show of excitement and surprise when they opened gifts on Christmas, Mom seemed pleased.

“How could she know we peek?” Samantha bragged while poking around the top shelf from her wobbly chair. “We’re really good at it.”

Samantha checked the gift tag of a big box and cried, “It’s for me!”

As she carefully loosened the tape on the end of a box, Samantha began to fall and grabbed at the air – or the package – and landed on the floor.

Ripppppp! The sound shrieked through the air louder than a siren.

Though she taped it back as best she could, the gift looked like it was definitely the victim of a crime–breaking and entering.

“Mom will know who did it!” Samantha cried.

That’s when Samantha and her siblings realized they took the surprise out of Christmas.

Peekin’ before the holiday leaves no room for jaw-dropping astonishment.

Perhaps that’s why 700 years before Jesus was born, there were still surprises to see and mysteries to investigate.

Israelites were in trouble. Many made bad choices and rejected God and his laws. Yet they were promised a great light dawning, a Prince of Peace, a leader in government. [Isaiah 9:6-8] They grasped for hope they desperately needed.

But Jesus came in God’s time and way. A helpless baby began life in a stable full of animals and germs. His mother and step-father were poor. But Jesus, the baby, then grown man, is the Christ.

When the angel of the Lord appeared to the shepherds, he said, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 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 2:9-12]

As he grew to adulthood, it became evident that Jesus is the Messiah of promise with miracles and prophecies that came true. Still, people’s ideas and God’s are different.  They wanted to know all about the surprise ahead of time.

Being freed of slavery was freedom –from the enslaving weight of sin. Bondage and oppression on earth could continue.  A Prince of Peace would model and teach how to have inner peace through all circumstances. It didn’t come in political peace by overthrowing the government at the time.

Isaiah predicts that Jesus will be a Wonderful Counselor. More than that, Jesus was a great teacher, a man of compassion and miracles, a righteous judge, and the Son of God.  Everlasting Father? Jesus leads the way to eternal life and Heaven.

And Jesus, given to us at a time and in a way God planned, was a surprise worth waiting for. He is the Christmas present offered to all people.

One doesn’t even need to stand on a chair to find him on the top shelf.  Our Great Lord is easily contacted with prayer and his spirit is found in the hearts of those who accept him.

How much is Jesus in your Christmas today?

[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.]

 

 

 

New and Improved Christmas? By Jo Russell

The lights, the colors, and the look of Christmas have a whole new complexion, faster, more stream-lined and wrinkle free!

A clinic’s marquis urged shoppers to stop in during lunch and “Get your Botox treatment for the holidays!” Add it to the to-do list!

Sally pondered, “But what would Santa and Mrs. Claus be without crows’ feet around their eyes and pink-cheeked grins?”

Her to-do list continued. For her time-squeezed preparations around parties and work, Sally opted for the instant Christmas tree.

“Just push the button on the trunk and it opens like an umbrella!” the sales associate had demonstrated. “Some of this pine scented spray will make your house smell like Christmas!” She bought two cans.

This year, she added a second umbrella tree. Sally wowed the family with an even faster set-up by bringing last year’s fully-decorated tree in from the garage while her husband was making coffee. When she pulled off the sheet, Shazamm! Instant Christmas!

“What a time management marvel, Sally!” He smiled as he kissed her.

Christmas catalogs that arrived the three weeks before Christmas rivaled the size of all the Los Angeles telephone books. She kept it simple. Sally finished her gift shopping in 10 seconds flat at the gift card display. “Just wait for the thank-you notes to come in!” one TV commercial quipped.  She’d do just that.

The couple bundled up the kids and rushed to the crowded airport only to scowl away and nose out another driver for the last parking place.

“Grandma will be here! Look I see her plane!” Billy cried with joy. “Hurry!”

“Hurry seems to be the buzzword of the season,” Sally murmured. “Maybe we’ll have time to slow down on Christmas Day.”  Or would they?  Christmas preparation hardly left time to think—or celebrate.

For today’s new and improved Christmas seems to be a to-do list longer than a child’s wish list for Santa. With Botox, decorations, gifts and travel getting more hype and media exposure than Jesus, it takes a deliberate effort to keep Christ in Christmas.

Preparation for the first Christmas was long, slow, and difficult.  A seemingly ordinary couple was making their way by foot and donkey about 80 miles from Nazareth to Bethlehem.

“Roughing it” would be a good way to describe their days and nights of travel and rest. Not even  air mattresses, sleeping bags, or a North Face tent were available to make sleeping on the ground more bearable.  Fortunately, getting rained on wasn’t much of a possibility in the desert.

The trip came about because of a government directive – a census.  But it also was God’s plan. [But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times. Micah 5:2]

The savior of the world would be born in Bethlehem – the city of David–miles ahead across in the desert. But Joseph was concerned with the rugged conditions for his espoused wife, Mary. She was in her the last weeks before giving birth.

Christ – the savior of the world – has come. Let the celebration continue – with shouts of Hallelujah echoing in the Heavens! Let the glory of God drown out the cry for Botox treatments in time for Christmas. Unlike Botox, the effect of Christ in our lives lasts forever.

[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.]

 

 

 

Old and Junky or New and Shiny? The Gifts of Christmas By Jo Russell

“Surprise! We get to come for Christmas!” Shirley dropped the phone when she learned 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 remodel in progress. For it really was.   

Still, Shirley could rise to the occasion of Jesus’ special day, even squeezing in decorating around working full-time. She scrambled around as she considered the type of tree her son and daughter-in-law might appreciate: something infused with memories and meaning.  

But when Rob and Janet settled in, Rob whispered 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 was so junky about this tree? Folded and slightly bent snowflakes, dough-cut reindeer with childish color accents, and picture ornaments of her children smiling through missing teeth. Her daughter-in-laws’ family tree looked the same with her hand-made ornaments from Christmases past.

Other decorations on Shirley’s tree were collected from family trips. From them, she could hear the bells of Christmas. The Queen of Crafts could have chosen from one or more of her color-coordinated trees decorated to a theme that put Martha Stewart to shame. But she decided on a memory tree instead. And her son tagged it “junky.”

In Jesus’ time, many waiting for the Messiah looked for the new and the shiny, not the junky and the ordinary. For this King of Kings was born in a place so small, the town had no impressive homes in gated communities, no traffic jams or rush hours. The newborn son of God was born in a stable for animals and wrapped in cloths. He wasn’t laid in a crib with a thick mattress, 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, the Holy Family  fled for their lives to Egypt.

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.

But he came for all of us, from all 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?  Those actions model character that is timeless for all generations. So is the forgiveness we are gifted from Jesus’ life. His modeling of love and 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.]   

  

  

All I Want for Christmas By Jo Russell

When Leslie went looking to buy a family home–a dream and prayer for over ten years–she noted some sales people showed her some one-of-a-kind features.  Close enough to Christmas that the shiny ornaments were packed in the stores next to the Halloween ghouls, Leslie held fast to the vision of a home for her family with a Christmas tree twinkling with lights in the living room.

 

“What’s this?” she asked when a realtor showed her inside something that could only be loosely categorized as a single-family residence.

 

“The bathroom.”

 

“You’re kidding. It looks like an RV toilet in a closet.”

 

“Whatever.”

 

“And what’s that smell?” she wanted to know.

 

“The slaughterhouse.  But today is windy. Most days, you won’t smell it.”

 

“No, thanks. It’s not what I had in mind.”

 

Sales people and mortgage bankers had sized up her skinny portfolio as a single mom with two school-aged children and said the same thing, “This is all you can afford. You don’t have enough income or a big enough down payment.”  So instead of what she asked and prayed for, most showed her shacks.

 

Not Mary. The new sales professional welcomed Leslie with enthusiasm and really listened.

 

“It has to be a three-bedroom house in a decent and safe neighborhood.”

 

“Righty-O! I can do that!” the realtor promised cheerfully.

 

“Here’s one!” she pointed at the computer screen. “But it’s financed under a government program. Let’s see if you qualify. Yes!  As a ‘moderate income’ family!”

 

As the realtor, Leslie and her sons walked through newly refurbished house, her eyes opened with surprise. The living room even had a fireplace where the stockings would hang.

 

But government programs have different criteria, the realtor explained. “All the names on the contracts go into a hat, and then they draw a name.”

 

Hers was not the first name. But a few weeks later, Mary called again to say the first contract was turned down and Leslie was the next one as they checked her credit.

 

While talking about Christmas wishes with her sons, one asked,

“What about you, Mom?”

 

Leslie sighed. “It’s been a long time wishing, but if it’s God’s will, may we have that house of our own.”

 

The day after Christmas, Mary called her to say, “The house is yours if you want it!” Leslie cried.

 

Not long after, the small family walked the length and breadth of the land that showcased their family home.  To others, the yard looked like dirt. To them, it looked like possibilities. And miracles. And proof of the persistence of prayer.

 

Jesus himself promises, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.” Matthew 77-8.

 

Leslie had prayed about a family home. The one God chose for her was even more than she expected.

 

But it was as Jesus promised. “Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake. If you…who know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! [Matthew 9-11 NIV].

 

Ask, seek, and knock. God delights to give you your heart’s desire, but it will be in his time. Keep thanking him, praying and believing! His answer will be extraordinary – and like Leslie’s, it will be the best answer – and nowhere near the slaughterhouse.

 

[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.]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christmas Surprises Over the Centuries By Jo Russell

With a home security system Bob and Shelly thought was more foolproof than a bank vault, the young parents awoke hours before dawn on Christmas to the rise of a terrible clatter. Had some team bypassed their system?

As Bob checked their toddlers’ room for their fleece-covered sleeping forms, he only spotted empty beds. Soon, he followed his twin boys’ excited cries to the Christmas tree. Having experienced only one other Christmas and they were just babies, the toddlers knew Christmas had something to do with surprises. It was 3:15 in the morning! Their parents were surprised, all right.

The one-and-a-half year old twin boys had flipped the switch on the electric fireplace, shed their clothes, and unwrapped every gift under the tree as well as the stockings on the mantle. Each nudist was taking turns on a spring-mounted rocking horse. As for the presents, you couldn’t blame the boys. The toddlers couldn’t read yet. Just as their parents promised, Christmas is full of surprises! Proof of that were the hills of crumpled wrapping paper in a wide swath around the youngsters and the tree.

In the same way these young parents were surprised by their sons’ pre-dawn celebration, the first family and the first Christmas included quite a few surprises as well.

Though the birth of a King of Heaven had been predicted hundreds of years earlier, today’s worldwide publicity got the word out that Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton’s pregnancy “makes history” because the baby due in six months will become a future king or queen of England. All this in less time than it takes to check new messages on the internet.

Who knew about Jesus around the time of his birth? Maybe two dozen people.
What were the angelic publicists doing keeping the Messiah’s birth such a secret?

Gabriel told Mary she would be the virgin mother of Jesus, the savior of the entire world. Joseph got the divine message in a dream, too. Only a small number of people knew about the birth of the King of the Jews. He wasn’t what they expected.

While most waited, they pictured a king in traditional robes with wealth, privileges, power, and prestige. Jesus, the King, actually came into the world in a surprise package: wrapped in cloths, the newborn took his first breath in the lowliest of places: a stable. But as had been prophesied centuries before, Jesus was born in Bethlehem.

But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
though you are small among the clans of Judah,
out of you will come for me
one who will be ruler over Israel,
whose origins are from of old,
from ancient times. [ Micah 5:2]

Who knew about Jesus around the time of his birth? Mary’s relative Elizabeth, wife of Zechariah, and later mother of John the Baptist, learned of Mary’s pregnancy with Jesus at when the young woman went to visit her. What about the shepherds outside Bethlehem who got a madrigal performance and announcements from angels about the Savior’s birth? How many could that be? A dozen? Then there was the innkeeper, who directed the couple to a cave where he stabled his animals. Did he have any idea Jesus wasn’t just an ordinary baby? Or was he simply annoyed the couple showed up without much money or planning needing a midwife and a bed–with none in sight?

After Jesus was a week old, Mary and Joseph took him to Jerusalem for a purification ceremony. Two others knew for sure they were seeing and touching the Messiah: prophetess Anna and the devout Temple worker Simeon. What a surprise! They were just doing what they normally did that day.

Check the Bible for Luke 1 and 2, Matthew 1 and 2 for the stories and quotes.
As the wise men from the east found Jesus’ star and followed it, they told King Herod about the infant king. He called together the people’s teachers of the law and chief priests. The wise men found the infant king. Herod and his people didn’t.

Jesus grew to be a man fulfilling the prophecy as healer, teacher and savior like no other. Surprise!

So Christmas surprises come with the territory and the season. Hang loose and enjoy the moments as well as the clatter. But remember that Jesus is the real reason for the season.

[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 Amazon and her website, www.button-to-god.com. For more chuckles and to hear a speech, enjoy excerpts of her book and tips, check her entire website options and weekly blog.]

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Where is the Locksmith When you Need Him? By Jo Russell

Jenny drove carefully over the icy roads to her second job on the weekend.  Though It had snowed most of the night, the roads had melted to a soft slush in the winter sun.

Safe! I’m here and it’s a beautiful day that looks like a Currier and Ives Christmas card! What could be more of a blessing! This is going to be a great day!

During a short break, Jenny purchased items for her home and family and then locked them in her vehicle. Shortly after, Jenny remembering needed something from her car.

That’s when she noticed that there were no keys in her locker. Instead, two sets of car keys sparkled in the sun on the front seat along with her bagged purchase. A third set were tucked under the seat with emergency supplies. Locks and keys everywhere, but apart from each other, they’d never open anyone’s car doors.

“Can anyone recommend a locksmith?” she asked her coworkers.

“Nah. Good luck with that on a weekend! Around here, many shops close up at noon and service businesses aren’t open on Saturdays. They’d rather be having fun with their families.”

That turned out to be true. Jenny left messages with all five locksmiths in her rural area. Hour after hour went by. No one to unlock the door.  No one returned her calls

At last, she called her close friend, Dolly, who lived miles away in the country. “What happened to the other three sets this time?”

Jenny explained.

“Know what?”  Dolly responded, “I think Ned and I will just bring the kids along and we’ll go sledding while we’re out with your extra keys. Funny thing is, we might run into a few of the locksmiths and their families in the sledding area! But by then, we’ll have the door unlocked and you won’t need them!”

Locks and keys. They are made to secure places, people and things.

Where are they in the Bible?  Several places, all pointing to the same answers, lock and key.

“Jesus and his disciples went on to the villages around Caesarea Philippi. On the way he asked them, ‘Who do people say I am?’ They [his disciples] replied, ‘Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.’

‘But what about you?’ he asked, ‘Who do you say I am?’

Peter answered, ‘You are the Christ.’” [Mark 8:27-29]

 

More locks, keys and answers from the book of Revelation: “‘I am the Alpha and the Omega,’ says the Lord God, ‘who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.’” [Revelation 1:8.]

In Revelation, the Alpha and the Omega, begin and the end of the Greek alphabet. It represents the whole and complete answer. The Lord God is complete. He is both the lock and the key to all wisdom, answers, and power. All in the Father, the Son, Jesus Christ; the Holy Spirit.

Where else are keys?

“Jesus said, ‘I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.’” [John 14:6-7]

To Apostle Philip, who had further questions, Jesus asked, “Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves.” [John 14:10-l1]

No need to wonder which locksmith takes calls and emergencies on a Saturday. For the Divine Locksmith in the Lord God is available to all of us. Keep looking to him with your questions and needs.  He’ll answer them and unlock the mysteries. Alpha through the Omega: the whole of God and his blessings. He’ll open the door wide for you—even on weekends.

[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.]

 

 

 

 

 

Love Shining Through Rush Hour By Jo Russell

Though Paul and Carol had just settled into their hotel and took a breath, shaking the rain out of their hair and clothes. It had been a long drive to the city through rain, sleet, and snow. Paul felt like a modern-day Pony Express rider. He was ready to kick-back and see what was on TV.

But Carol waved a computer print-out in front of Paul, “We can make it to the shoe store and go out for dinner at the same time! They have a pair like none of the others I have.”

He looked at Carol with love in his eyes. Anyone who already has seventy-five pairs of shoes doesn’t need another. But he wasn’t going to say it. “Okay,” he smiled, “because I love you.”

As a country resident of wide open spaces, senior Paul was not used to driving in the city. One right turn later, he realized they were in rush hour traffic on a one-way street! The GPS told him to turn left. Impossible. Right. Sure death. U-Turn. Not allowed. After twenty-six  “recalculating” warnings,  a tour of the city and residential neighborhoods sparkling with Christmas lights as well as an overview of the street layout, Paul reminded himself he was doing this for Carol. The after-work traffic had thinned out and the GPS directed him to a building so high it blocked the moon and stars. “Arriving at address…” the robotic voice volunteered.

“Huh?” Paul gaped at the skyscraper.

Fifteen floors up, Carol and Paul made it to the shoe store before it closed and Carol found her new pair of shoes.  Carol smiled at her husband, “Thank you, Paul. You’ve shown me again what love looks like!”

The lasting look of love is not in passionate kisses or words. It is actions involving the heart, mind, and body. Paul had demonstrated this taking on traffic in an unfamiliar city for the love of his life. Action says it all.

“Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.” [1 John 3:18]

John continues within this New Testament book, “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us; He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love; not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for ou sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.” [1 John 4:7-12]

Though frustration, traffic, and daily life, let your love shine on others. For God’s love fills you to overflowing. Sometimes that may include another pair of shoes! His love in action continues each day of your life! God 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.]

 

 

 

 

 

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.]

 

 

 

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.]