Appreciating Dad and The Word “Early” by Jo Russell

While mothers have their maxims of wisdom, fathers leave behind memorable tidbits that span the generations.

Some seem downright oppressive.

“Anyplace worth going on vacation is worth leaving at 4:00 in the morning,” Jan’s dad, Leo, announced to the family before their two-week camping trip to Yosemite. “We’ll be leaving at exactly 4:00 a.m.” He hoped his wife, Jeane, and their three children were listening closely. “Be sure you have your gear packed and you’re in the car by then.”

Twelve-year-old Jan packed right away and laid out her clothes. So did Mom. Both remembered Dad’s power word was “early.” Perhaps coming to life early was in his biorhythms. He was a morning person. Scientists theorize such tendencies begin at birth.

Did Leo ever mean that the family should rise when the rosy sky heralded the sunrise? Nope.

In the pre-dawn’s darkness of vacation day one, Bobby, the six-year-old, couldn’t find two socks that matched and had packed his duffle himself – full of toys and stuffed animals. Without Mom’s help, he quickly buttoned his green shirt in the wrong holes, pulled on purple plaid pants and sat shivering in the back seat. Next to him was his fully dressed 12-year-old sister, Jan. She had been waiting for ten minutes. Dad had the car’s engine warming up for the trip.

Jan’s older brother, Tony, didn’t wake up well or quickly even when roused by Mom. With slept-on hair sticking up like a whisk broom, he sprinted barefoot through the gravel toward the moving sedan pulling out of the driveway at exactly 4:00 a.m. He dived into the back seat in his pajamas and forgot his suitcase entirely.

Dad’s power word “EARLY” dominated the weekday in a good way.

While it was hours before dawn, and because he had to be at work early, Jan’s dad prepared sizzling sausages to go with fried eggs, stacks of pancakes, and hot cereal for the whole family.

His love glowed through his time listening and teaching. As the children became teens, Jan’s father mentored them through the important phases of moving into adulthood – including getting up before sunup to make the best of one’s day.

As we celebrate Father’s Day today, remember God’s take on parents in Exodus 20:

“Honor your father and mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.” Exodus 20:12.

And whether the father in your life is a morning person or doesn’t come to life until evening,

honor him and his biorhythms. His life woven with yours is a great gift along with words of wisdom.

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.]

 

The Master Fisherman and the Catch of His Life by Jo Russell

Senior fishing enthusiast Paul was practically dancing the jig when his fiancée, Carol, agreed to try out fishing.

What great timing! Besides the bigger fish coming out after spring, Fish and Game just stocked the lakes with pan-sized trout!

Paul had carefully checked all his gear and packed it as he would be picking up Carol before the sun was up. He guided his car through the dark streets to her house.

Carol met him at the door with a kiss and a large picnic basket with wonderful snacks, a hearty lunch with fresh fruit as well as homemade cookies.

He sniffed with appreciation, “Chocolate chip! My favorite!”

When they arrived at the tranquil lake at sunrise with mist rising from the mirrored water, Carol fell in love with the setting. But she knew as much about fishing as hunting elephants. All she knew was that she didn’t use a rifle for this sport. Something about hooks.

“So how do I start?” Carol wanted to know after she set two chairs next to the water.

“I’ll show you,” Paul offered as he pulled a fat, wiggly worm from the container. “You tear it in half like this and thread it onto the hook.”

Tear the worm in half. Yuck!

He handed the pole to her, put his hands over hers and with a graceful arch, he cast the bait into the water. Then he baited and cast his own line.

Not long after, she feel teeny tugs on her line. “What do I do?”

“You have to set the hook. Pull back on it.” He grasped her arms to show her.

“I’ve got a fish!”

“Reel it in.” She did, but got excited and waved the pole in the direction of the shore. The bouncing fish jumped around on the ground in higher arches than on a trampoline.

Carol jumped out of the way in fright.

“Where do I put it after that?”

“In this bucket.”

“I can’t pick it up! Ewwww! It’s slimy and wiggles!”

So Paul grasped the fish and put it in the bucket,

“What’s next?” she wanted to know.

“You take the pliers and take the hook out of its mouth.”

“Could you do it this time?” she batted her eyes at him.

He took the hook out and dropped the fish back in the bucket.

Carol had put on rubber gloves to try to thread the next worm on.

“Why are you wearing gloves?”

“Because the worms are gooey. But they keep my fingers from working very well.”  Paul did it for her….again.

In a few hours, they had caught their limit and on the shore enjoyed Carol’s home cooking during their picnic.

“That was so much fun, Paul! Let’s do it again!” Paul nodded, but he reflected on all his hard work fishing. He was ready to go home and take a nap.

When a person does everything for another, they miss the experience, but also the know-how to do it again even better. It means that the teacher has missed the mark.

Jesus did no such thing as he taught and walked with his disciples. In personal example, words, parables, speeches to crowds and personal counseling, Jesus taught how to show others who he is and how to live.

The Bible reads, “As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. ‘Come, follow me,’ Jesus said, ‘and I will make you fishers of men.’” [Matthew 4:18-19]

Jesus will not do it all for us, even when things are wiggly, gooey and slimy. But he will teach us and we will truly learn his ways, his truth and his life.  He is the Master Fisherman and we are the catch of his life!

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.]

 

 

Faith in the Invisible by Jo Russell

The two kindergarten-aged cousins galloped along the walking path at the park with stick horses guiding their way.  The pink-decked girls pulled on the reins and slowed. They had to pet the curly dog coming down the path with her grown-up owner, Carol.

The chatterboxes told Carol, “This is my horse, Dusty, and my cousin’s is Brownie.  Back there is our elephant, Cubby, our lion, Leo, and donkey, Rose. They come with us everywhere we go. They are invisible. But sometimes it’s crowded. Cubby the elephant tried to climb into my bed and almost broke it, but I told him no!”

“Oh?” Carol remembered her days as a five-year-old. Cubby may not have broken the bed, but Carol and her friends wouldn’t have missed the fun of jumping on it like a trampoline. She might have blamed the elephant, too.

“Our moms are over there on the path, but they wanted to go faster than us with all our invisible animals.”

“Yeah,” the second girl added.  “Rose, the donkey sat outside my window this morning and did this.” She waved her arms and brayed, “Hee-Haw! Hee-Haw! She woke me right up!”

Carol listened intently as each girl told of her adventures with her animals and how they got along with the real family dog. Carol only had to say, “Uh-huh, uh-huh” for them to continue in detail explaining each adventure.

Another grown-up might have just seen two wee girls with stick horses walking and non-stop jabbering as they walked around the walking path.

But by the time Carol finished the lap with her dog and the girls plus their entourage, she looked back and smiled. By now, she could see the girls walking with Cubby, the elephant, Leo, the lion, Rose, the donkey, and the horses Dusty and Brownie.

Seeing the invisible. That’s like faith as a foundation of Christianity. But it’s not believing in the make believe.  Eyewitnesses passed down the word of Jesus’ miracles and teachings and fulfillment of the prophesies of a Messiah who had come. They believed. They knew Jesus as the son of God.

Jesus, son of God, himself said, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” [John 20:29]

Faith is explained in Hebrews 11:1 this way: “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for.”

We can believe in God, his son, Jesus, and the promises, which God and Jesus always keep. The greatest is this: that we can be forgiven, cleansed and headed for Heaven through Jesus.

Though he may seem as invisible to all as Cubby, Leo, Dusty, Brownie and Rose, praying, trusting and accepting him is a sure thing. He will never break down the bed like Cubby, the elephant.

[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.]

 

Marnie’s Maid and Cook When Rich and Famous by Jo Russell

As Marnie’s mother worked in the kitchen, she called out, “Marnie! Come in the kitchen and I’ll teach you how to make a southwestern meat loaf.”

“No, thanks,” the teen responded. So far, her mom was the Kitchen Fairy, responsible for great food and service. ”I’ve already got a scholarship. I hate to cook. I’m going to be rich and famous, hire a maid and a cook, so I don’t need to know how to do that.”

Marnie didn’t understand why her mother smirked just then. “You think so? Hmm.” After a long pause, Mom added, “You still have to eat between now and then. Could you put together fruit bowls as our dessert. It’s easy.”

“I guess. What do I have to do first?”

“Open a can. Drain the extra juice. Sprinkle nuts from a package on top.”

“Opening cans and packages. I can do that.”

Numerous times during her growing-up years, Marnie’s mother attempted to persuade her to learn to cook. But Marnie’s commitment stayed with cans and packages as she continued to respond, “I’m going to be rich and famous and I don’t need to know that.”

God smirked and took over then. For who stays the same after the teen years? Maturity and growth are a better result.

Marnie found herself having to budget, do her own shopping, wash up dirty dishes and figure out easy meals. Later, her work took her to places far from any grocery store and deli. She had to learn to cook. After becoming a mom herself, Marnie struggled to feed her ever-hungry sons. She learned to bake, cook and create money-stretching recipes—a few her own.

As she turned out a trio of golden brown multi-grain breads that her neighbor taught her to bake, she thought, This could be a little bit fun.

Decades later, she still had the talent, but neglected to hire a cook or maid yet. With more money and time for fiddling with food, Marnie took cooking lessons. She found that she enjoyed it—creating mouth-watering meals and plating the food so it looked as well as tasted like fancy fare from a top sous chef as well as sharing the food with friends. That, she learned, had more wow power than a cook or a maid.

She bought a few kitchen gadgets. She sought out spice blends in the grocery store. What’s happening to me? I hated to cook.  

In James’ time, hardship and extra duties produced much growth within followers of Christ.  “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trails of many kinds, because you know that testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” [James 1:2-4]

What had happened to Marnie was God’s touch. He smirked and followed through laying out circumstances and challenges to mature and change Marnie for the better.

Besides using her talent, God worked to make her well-rounded and useful to others. That turned out to be better than being rich, famous and having the means to hire a maid and a cook!

[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.]

 

 

 

 

Steak or a Senior with Five Lives by Jo Russell

Sandra nearly ran into the butcher with her cart as she peered at the fresh-cut ,  t-bone steaks he was stocking in the refrigerated case at the grocery store.

“Just what I needed!” she cried. “You only had one, but now all these choices!”

The white coated employee replied cheerily, “What timing! How many do you need?”

Sandra peered over his uniformed sleeve at the beef steak prices and stammered, ”Ah…” It sounded as if she couldn’t decide. Instead she thought, Why each of those are as much each as a ticket for the Ice Capades!

Sandy would have to settle for beef that was marked down. But that hadn’t turned out very well last time. Dry meat as stiff as a telephone book. At least the critters liked the table scraps. They were entertained all afternoon.   

The “last chance beef” she bought last time had revealed five labels, one on top of the other.

By then, the beef steak that began as a red, juicy hunk of meat at home turned gray as someone needing last rites.  Do I need to call in a priest?  Sandy speculated as she turned over the meat as stiff as a telephone book.

Grilled? Out of the question. Cut into chunks for beef stroganoff?  It wasn’t up to it. What about stir fry? Even smaller pieces would still be like adding silicone to the tender vegetables. Not a good mix.  Hmmm. I wonder if the beef was slaughtered about the time that the first cattle drive that ended in Kansas? Or when a Pony Express rider galloped across the wide open west?

She thought over the steak and decided the five-label kind had lost its value.    

Those of us who have acquired at least five labels over the decades may feel as if we have about the same value as a steak with five lives. Just good for table scraps. In time, a senior may feel physically and emotionally weary. Call it “getting old.”

But God doesn’t see us that way. What may look worn-out is fresh and renewed in God’s eyes–ready  for the next adventure.

This promise still holds: “He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and 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]

Believe and hold fast to a promise of energy that endures and lasts! You will be renewed through the Lord. Continue to be more of a delight at dinner, work and the community than any fresh-cut, t-bone steak.

God’s not finished with you yet!

[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.]

 

 

 

Appreciating Mom by Jo Russell

As his mom gave her high school teen, Ronnie, a printed list of weekend chores, she heard the tall boy complain with the comment, “Anarchy!”

A few days later, “It’s your turn to wash the dishes,” she reminded him with a smile.

“Oppression! I’m oppressed! Nobody else has to work at home and wash dishes!”

“Well, you do as long as you live and eat here.”

“No fair!”

Then the teen spouted off a list of privileges of an unseen presence and answer to all of life’s persistent questions from a teen point of view.  The unseen presence: Nobody else.

“Nobody else has to clean their room. Nobody else has to do homework on weekends. Nobody else has chores. Nobody else has to be home by 9 p.m. “

Then he concluded with another presence who justified everything he wanted to do. It was “Everybody.”  That would be “Everybody else gets to drive the family car. Everybody else gets cash for their birthdays. Everybody else goes to Disneyland and Six Flags for vacation.”

Not long after, word of his discontent and rebellion reached his grandma’s ears. She wrote her response in a letter.

My Dear Grandson Ronnie,

Bet you don’t know how many years ago God gave us the Ten Commandments first written down. One of the commandments is “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is going you.” [Exodus 20: 12]

In many ways, Grandson, dear, my father was not a particularly honorable man—especially where his own children were concerned. But he was my father. He gave me life, brown hair, brown eyes, a sense of humor and dimples!

Like your mother, mine had to raise us children with little or no help from my dad. Although she didn’t have to go out to work when we were small, her days were filled with trying to grow enough food, bake enough bread and keep a roof over our heads. We always had chores to do. They were never any fun. Even picking cherries or apples is fun only if you don’t have to do it!

Later on, when we were teens still in high school, my dad got the hotel job and we moved out of state. It was just after the Great Depression and nobody had any money. So he was buying the hotel with his hard work in exchange for shares. He recruited all of the family to keep up on the work of running the hotel. With a shortage of help, as well as a shortage of hotel rooms, my younger siblings, Dicko, 14, and sister, Gordie, 16, had to change beds and clean rooms when guests moved out on weekends or at night. Dicko also was the janitor. He had to vacuum the lobby, furniture and floor, dust the hallways and carry out all the garbage for the 100-room hotel. Gordie, and I were charged with washing all the towels, pillow cases, bedspreads and blankets. As high school students, we got up at 3:30 a.m. and fixed our own breakfast after our work was done. Usually Dicko went to the bakery next door for pastries while Gordie and I fixed our own lunches. If we didn’t have time, we did without. One night, Dad sent Dicko to with $10,000. in cash for a bank deposit. It was all bills rolled up in a newspaper. [In today’s money, that would be about $40,000.] That’s a lot to expect of a young teen just starting high school.

So washing dishes, doing homework, and keeping your room clean don’t seem very hard.  Also, you’re not quite old enough to drive. And no, we didn’t get to go to any fancy vacation spots.

Why am I telling you all this? It wasn’t so tough, although I have never really forgotten that Dad often reminded us, “You don’t pay any room and board around here!”

I think one thing that my early life taught me is that parents are not always right, but they are always parents. Then, too, a certain amount of hardship when you’re young makes life a lot easier when you get older. There are several jobs I’ve had that I disliked more than doing hotel chambermaid or laundry work. I’ve had lots of bosses who were as unreasonable and ungrateful as my father.

My mother was entirely different than Dad. She worked hard at the hotel as any of us, as she was there all day and all night. She operated the radio for the puddle-jumper airlines, met the planes, distributed the newspapers as well as doing the hotel housekeeping and hiring and firing maids.  There was one time Dad was away and she couldn’t get to bed for 54 hours. She was our mother, but she also had to be the hotel manager.

You want to know what being a mother is like? I’ve been one for almost 50 years! Every time I think I’m no longer needed or important, something comes up that reminds me that mothers have to do more than keep up with the groceries, the laundry and the letter writing. I still have to do all that, even thought my children and grandchildren are not underfoot.

A mother is someone who can love. She loves her children. She also loves her children’s friends, her friends, other people, and even dogs and a cat—but that’s a different kind of love.

She worries when her children are sick, when they are away, when they are in danger and when they are having trouble. When they are disrespectful or rebellious, the hurt is deep. She prays that they will realize that this is a childish stage and that they will soon outgrow it. But how soon?

A single mother has a double burden. She thinks she has to be both father and mother to her children while working full time, providing a home, food, clothing and companionship to her children. She has no strong man to fix the car, carry out the garbage, glue busted furniture back together or tinker with the heater when its freezing outside until it works again. Nor can she count on anyone to help provide food for her ravenous brood.

When she is sick, she worries that she might not be able to continue to support her children, or worse, that she might not live to see them grow up. That’s love!

Honor your mother and love her. She is doing a good job of training you to be a respectful, responsible man full of compassion who also knows how to work hard.   The Bible says, “She watches over the affairs of her household and she does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children arise and called her blessed; her husband also. And he praises her.“  [Proverbs 31:27-28] Even in those days, a mother’s value wasn’t measured by trips to Six Flags or driving the family car.

Love, Grandma

Happy Mother’s Day to all! Thanks for your mission of loving, guiding and raising your children to be the best they can be. 

[Much thanks to my mother, the late Jeane Gottsponer, who wrote this insightful letter to her grandson, age 15, at a time he needed to be reminded of his mother’s love and commitment. ]

[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.]

 

 

God and the Boys are Being Mean to Me! By Jo Russell

Eight year old Marcie never realized that being an only child and that could be lonely at times. Her parents did, though. Until they moved, she and her older cousins shared birthdays, egg hunts, picnics, and activities with Grandma and each other. From birth, they had lived a bicycle ride away from each other. Now that the twin boys had moved  across the state,  Marcie saw them just a few times a year.

Once school was out, Marcie’s dad announced, “I’m taking you to spend two weeks with your cousins Rick and Ron up north. We know you miss them. We’ll drop you off there. You can learn all kinds of things and get to know your cousins better.”

“Oh, goodie!” she exclaimed, and she reached for her pink duffle. She packed her special dolls in the bag first thing. She also made sure she added some lacy leggings and pink high-top tennies for events requiring fashion.

But the older twin cousins, neither of which were into fashion and lace, were not quite as enthusiastic learning about the baby of the brood of cousins spending that much time with them.

“She’s a sissy,” remarked Rick to his mom. “We’ve already got plans.” Rick and Ron rattled off their adventuresome agenda for the first few weeks of summer. None included tea parties with dolls nor a hot pink, high-topped tennies fashion show.

“Okay,” Mom agreed. “But be nice to her anyway. Let her join in whenever she can.”

Marcie arrived with a squeal  as soon as she stepped out of the car. The girl squeezed the twins in a group hug.  Not being able to tell the identical boys by name, Marcie just called out, “Oh, twins! I have missed you since you moved!”

After lunch, Marcie wanted to play dolls. Rick and Rob wanted to build their tree house. The tree house won out. The teens  worked on the structure for hours. Marcie played at ground level with her dolls.

“Can I help?” Marcie wanted to know.

“Can you use a hammer?”

“Nope.”

“But I want to put my doll, Sonny, in there. He’ll love it!”

“No dolls in the tree house.“

“Can you lift me up there? I’ll leave Sonny here on this blanket.”

“Nope. You have to climb the boards like everyone else. Or you can heft yourself up by this rope.”

“I don’t know how. “

“You have to try. Board ladder,” Rick pointed. “That’s the deal. It’s a great view up here!”

“But I don’t know how,” she cried and ran inside. With tears running down her face, Marnie grabbed her dolls while the pounding and sawing went on and on.

Marcie called out, “Aunt Jan! Aunt Jan! The boys are being mean to me!”

Aunt Jan wiped Marcie’s tears and put her to work in the kitchen making cookies. As Marcie sobbed out the story, Aunt Jan commented, “Why, Marcie! They’re just treating you just like a sister!”

Her jaw dropped in astonishment. “They are?”

“Yes! That means they care about you.  And you have to try if you want to get to the tree house. Nobody is going to lift you up, but we can teach you how.”

“Oh.”

After cooling the cookies from the oven, Aunt Jan and Marcie prepared a plate for her twin cousins.

“See twins! I can make good cookies!”  Each climbed down and to taste test the treats. Marcie passed muster.

“I’m ready to try to climb the ladder. You’ll help if I need it, right?”

“Right!” the cousins agreed.

And Marcie climbed the boards nailed to the tree trunk, grabbing the branches on the way up until she sat on the platform. All gave her a standing ovation.  Marcie beamed, “Easy breezy!”

Marcie had insisted earlier, “The boys are being mean to me!”  How often do we feel “God is being mean to me”?  Just as with Marcie, God picks experiences to push us to grow and trust him facing the unknown. When challenges come up above our skill and ability level, it’s easy to summarize with “I don’t know how!”

But the unknown is just where God wants us—to have the courage to step up to the challenge and master new situations he gives us. What looks to be the answer for us may be entirely different from God’s view. For those things we can’t do in our own power, we can with God’s help.
Imagine the captive Israelites’ astonishment they were protected and prospered while the plagues of Egypt hit Pharaoh and the Egyptians hard. By the time the Pharaoh’s first born son died from the last plague, Moses got the message that Pharaoh now said, “Up! Leave my people, you and the Israelites! Go, worship the Lord as you have requested. Take your flocks and herds, as you have said, and go. And also bless me.”  [Exodus 12:31-32]

And as the hundreds of thousands of freed slaves walked away, taking Egypt’s wealth with them, they faced the unknown ahead. It wasn’t about where they were going–it was about who they were following to get there.

What is ahead may be more difficult than climbing a board ladder to the tree house when you don’t know how, but God leads us as he has all those who believe and trust in him. With his help, it’s easy breezy!

[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.]

 

 

 

 

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].