No Sleeping in on Saturdays! by Jo Russell

“Mew! Mew! Mew!”

When her owner didn’t respond to her pitiful mews for breakfast for at least 30 minutes, Penny Kitty wound up like a siren and pressed her mouth right to the crack under the bedroom door.

“Meowyyyyrrrrlll!  Meowyyyrrrlll! MEOWRLL!”

Penny realized that tactic worked just like a megaphone! She kept that up beyond all limits of patience and love. Persistence really packs a wallop when it’s 4:30 in the morning! It got the fur ball the desired effect: the bedroom door opened.

Carol stumbled to the kitchen and headed to the refrigerator, slapping the bowls on the counter and feeding the four-legged family as if she were on auto pilot. By then, she was fully awake.

I would have liked to sleep in on a Saturday.  She glared at Penny Kitty.

When it comes to those living in the country with critters, sleeping in, retirement, vacation, or a day off gets a paws, claws, and hooves down–and not just for Carol.

During the summer with windows open, a neighbor’s rooster starts a wake-up call before sunup, but that’s topped by the burro braying who’s hungry. The cattle low. Horses whinny. Meantime, Penny Kitty and the other eager four-legged critters howl at the bedroom door. The message is the same: get up and feed us!

Consider if furry critters as little as eight pounds can commandeer attention with persistence, what more can we do with persistent prayer?

Jesus himself tells the parable of a friend coming to his neighbor at midnight for a loan of three loaves of bread for a guest who has come to visit. Showing hospitality in that culture was the heart of honor and welcome. Not to do so would be a great insult.

So the friend persisted even though it was highly inconvenient for his neighbor to climb over all his children to get to the door in addition to finding and sharing the food.  He would certainly be wide awake after that.

“…yet because of the man’s boldness he will get up and give him as much as he needs. So I say to you, 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.”  [Luke 11:8b-9 NIV]

Persistence in prayer showcases the importance of a request over time. It changes us and fortifies faith. We may get a glimpse of God’s timing in the process.

Do you have examples of the powers of answered prayer in your life? Of course. Many.

In New Mexico history comes the story of the Loretto Chapel in Santa Fe. After great hardship and death of the Mother Superior during the Catholic sisters’ trek across country to Santa Fe, the nuns grew the church to the point it needed a building in the late 1870’s. After the chapel was constructed, the builders told the nuns there was no way to construct a stairway to the choir loft over twenty feet from the floor. The sisters persisted in prayer for a staircase God would provide, for they believed in a God of miracles. He was. He is. He will always be.

The carpenter who showed up did so with a donkey and simple woodworking tools. He built the spiral staircase with 360 degree turns and no visible means of support. After six months, he left with his tools and donkey without pay and without waiting to be thanked. The mystery carpenter was an answer to persistent prayer.

If the nuns of Santa Fe and Penny Kitty both get what they want and need with persistence, what can God do for you when you ask?

[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, her speaking engagements and website, www.button-to-god.com. She lives in northeast Arizona with her husband, Ed. Enjoy chuckles and speeches, tips and excerpts in website options and weekly blog.]

 

 

Stop, You Tithe Thief! By Jo Russell

Charley was thrilled to share his life with Liz, a kind Christian woman who brought light and beauty into his life. His heart sang to be with her, and Charley would follow her anywhere—around the high school track in the mornings where she began the day with laps, to Walmart, to Dairy Queen to share a Blizzard, and even to her Christian church. Liz was eager to teach him.

“Let’s go to church together Sunday,” Liz suggested. Charley figured this would give him points with her and her family.

“Sure,” he responded, “then I’ll take you out to lunch! I have a special place in mind.” Attending church while they were dating became part of their lives, and it continued when they married.

Liz told her new husband, “We need to set aside our tithe.” That was a newer idea to Charley than latest power tool.

After she explained what a tithe was, Charley wondered, Why would anyone in their right mind would give so much of their earnings? This has to be like throwing it in the Black Hole. Still, he got out an envelope and grudgingly put the cash in, mumbling, “That sure seems like a lot of money we could use for other things.”

Going out for an afternoon drive one day, he and Liz returned home to see disruption and disorder in their tidy house! Someone had broken in and gone through drawers, closets, cupboards, and dumped everything on the floor!

As the newlyweds put things back in order together and determined what was missing, Charley cried in surprise, “Whadda ya know? Nothing is missing except the envelope with the cash tithe in it!” He added, “I guess God thought the burglar needed the money more than he did! That means we’re off the hook! Imagine – a tithe thief!”

“That’s not the way it works, Sweetheart.” With patience, Liz taught her new husband that the tithe wasn’t paid until it reached its intended location. They both made up the missing cash and took it to church the next week. As the decades they shared glowed with rich experiences and blessings, Charley understood.

God begins early in the Bible teaching about the blessings of tithe. Some Old Testament words of advice begin, “Give generously to him and do so without a grudging heart, then because of this, the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to.” [Deuteronomy 15:10]

God teaches that the tithe comes out of the first of our income, not the leftovers. For he can bless the remaining 90% in astonishing ways! Test his promise with your trust and your money.

God loves generous and cheerful givers. How have you been blessed with a tithe offering?

 

[Jo Russell’s published writings include hundreds 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. Enjoy her humor and tips on http:// www.button-to-god.com. ]

 

Expecting a Snowman–Or Savior? Predictions and Prophesies By Jo Russell

The mid-week forecast sounded brutal: “90% chance of snow tonight  – up to 18 inches, with freezing temperatures tonight. A severe storm warning is in effect. Roads will be dangerous.”

By the time the news hit the grocery store, it got bigger. Rural resident Ernie announced to anyone who would listen, “Three feet of snow by tomorrow morning! Why, this is just like ’67 when no one could get out of town for two weeks! I’ll be ready this time!”

Selena overheard in the check-out line and added, “I’m bringing in more wood for the fire! We always get more snow than you folks in town! Why, with five feet of snow in 24 hours, we could lose the power and heat!”

All the snow shovels sold out in 30 minutes.

As the Superintendent of Schools Brown listened to the media and checked the internet reports, he investigated the facts, not opinions.  Then Dr. Brown noticed that snowflakes as big as Pearl erasers were pelting to the ground. “We’ve never had to call a school day since I became superintendent,” he commented to his assistant, Roberta. “But maybe this time. Icy roads means it’s dangerous for the busses and children.”

At last, he sighed. “I’m calling the radio station and newspaper.” He started the calls on the phone tree to his teachers. Soon his decision was on the air, “No school tomorrow due to inclement weather.”

The administrator commended himself. His decision was sensible. “This is serious. It’s safer for three hundred employees and nine schools of school children to stay home and watch it snow,” he explained to Roberta.

But the next morning turned into a surprise. By 9:00 a.m., clouds disappeared. Intense blue skies  brought sun sparkling on the snow-packed roads—and school children coming to life.

Brown’s assistant, Roberta, her husband, and their two young children slid down the Little League field dozens of times on a cookie sheet and a plastic sled. Scores of other families joined them skidding over the slick surface with cardboard, plywood, and sometimes plastic discs. Roberta’s baking sheet sled was never the same again.

More numerous than dandelions on a summer lawn, snowmen spouted in yards all over town.

Around noon, when the roads were safe but still snow-packed, Dr. Brown headed to the school district office to work. On the way, he passed three of his high school teens in a beat-up pick-up truck. One youth drove and the other hung out the window to check their passenger—towed behind the truck on a tire. Snow and mud spewed the lad with goggles who was dressed in dark trash bags duct-taped in the right places to keep him dry.

“This is hilarious!” the spotter hanging out the window cried, unaware of the superintendent sharing the road, “We need more snow days like this!”

By the next morning when Dr. Brown arrived at the office, he and his staff were red-faced. But for the school superintendent, it was because of the embarrassment of calling a snow day when the weather prediction was completely wrong. For his staff, red faces simply reflected their  sunburns on a mid-week day off everyone would remember.

Predictions, forecasts, and even prophesies are often wrong as Superintendent Brown experienced.

But the prophesies about Jesus as Messiah were entirely correct. Every one of them came true. Numbering over 350 covering everything from his birth in Bethlehem from a virgin, his sacrifice of his life for our sins, and his resurrection after death, most were foretold in the Old Testament hundreds of years before Jesus’ birth. Nothing could be more intentional than the predictions of God’s promise of a Messiah. They came in one man who walked the earth and proved himself in miracles, teaching, and prophesies that all came true: Jesus is the Christ.

Consider these words written nearly 500 years before Jesus’ birth:

“Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion!

Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem!

See, your King comes to you,

Righteous and having salvation,

Gentle and riding on a donkey,

On a colt, the foal of a donkey.

…He will proclaim peace to the nations.

His rule will extend from sea to sea

and from the River to the ends of the earth.” [Zechariah 9:9-10b]

 

As you listen to winter weather predictions, remember Superintendent Brown’s surprise on a snow day. Then think on the prophesies and promises of God that came true in Jesus. Which can we count on through all weather and all time?

[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.]

 

 

Choose your Weapon: Fruit of the Looms or the Armor of God? By Jo Russell

Caroline was proud to be included in her mom’s decorating project. At last, the seven-year-old second grader could learn to paint and decorate from the Decorator Extraordinaire: her mom. Mom tackled each room of their fix-up home with color and enthusiasm.

“Honey, you’re old enough now. I’m going to teach you how to paint rooms and walls. It will be a skill you’ll use all your life. Pay attention!”

Dressed in her grubbies, Mom first pulled a pair of her husband’s Fruit of the Looms over her head.

Caroline assumed it was a necessary part of a hands-on decorator’s outfit. Caroline was ready with worn clothes for painting. But to properly be dressed for the job, she rummaged around in her brothers’ chest of drawers until she found a ratty pair of underwear. “How’s this?” Caroline asked as she put it on her head, her hair poking out of the leg holes.

“Perfect!”

Then they removed all the electrical plates, taped off the switches, used slanted trim brushes to carefully “cut in” in the corners, baseboards, and edges. After they “rolled” the paint onto the walls, the pair stood back to admire the beautiful transformation of Caroline’s brothers’ room.

“Caroline, you outdid yourself!” Mom commented as she pulled her daughter close after they finished the job. The two made quite a silhouette in baggy clothes, topped with underwear on their heads.

Thereafter, each painting job with her mom was a success – not only reflecting skill and artistry, but always done in the proper outfit. As long as Caroline lived at home, she had an endless supply of shabby Fruit of the Looms for her painting headgear.

When she moved into her own apartment, the walls were desperately scratched, marred, and soiled.

“Sorry.” The landlord apologized. “The painter didn’t show up on Tuesday. I know you need to move in right away.

“I’m a very skilled painter and I can make this place look new,” she promised. And so he agreed she could trade out paint and labor for part of the apartment rent.  But in all of her things, she had no Fruit of the Looms.

What about her own underwear?  Not at ten bucks a piece. The thin material and bikini cut wouldn’t keep out any paint. She was embarrassed to ask the landlord or any of the male apartment tenants to supply her with shabby Fruit of the Looms.

So she ventured to paint without part of her essential hands-on decorator uniform.

On Monday, after a weekend marathon of painting the one-bedroom apartment, she showed up for work, excited she had transformed the living quarters so completely.

“Great job, Caroline!” her mother would have assured her.

Coworker Larry studied Caroline and her hair. “You know, there is a wonderful new invention to help with painting.” And he tugged at a lock of her hair that was streaked with sage green.

“Really?!” she cried. She was always looking for better tools for trim, painting corners, getting straighter edges, and making the job easier.

“Yeah.” He said, tugging at a lock of hair decorated with sea foam green. “It’s called a hat. It will keep the paint out of your hair.”

So Caroline looked and did not find the essential shabby Fruit of the Looms at the local home improvement store. Instead, there were painting hats for sale right in there with her favorite tools. And from then on, Caroline was decked out in the whole armor of a hands-on decorator.

Have you put on the full armor of God?

Paul advises, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rules, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore, put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. “[Ephesians 10-13 NIV]

Perhaps right now you face unreasonable demands along with impossible deadlines—whether in business, career, relationships, challenges.

Do you wonder, “Where is God?”

Maybe you’re face to face with an unjust situation that you can’t change. It could be you’ve received upsetting news about health—your immediate family or a close friend. Haven’t you prayed repeatedly for God’s help and intervention? Haven’t you done your part?

But God isn’t finished. You are not up against people, but evil forces. To be ready for a fair fight, you need God and the proper armor: the belt of truth; the breastplate of righteousness, your feet fitted with the gospel of peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is God’s word – the Bible. [Ephesians 6:14-17]

You are ready to move forward and face any flaming arrows, accusations, and tough situations. And who’s got your back? God does. Not just another equal, but the God of the universe – with his unlimited power over all evil, nature, health, and challenges.

Your answer may be yet to come. Think of the ways that God has shown his mighty power – in the ways he commanded the parting of the Red Sea when Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt – or when Jesus calmed the wind and waves on a storm on the Sea of Galilee.

Outfitted with the full armor of God, you enlist his help and can face anything – and you don’t even need shabby Fruit of the Looms.

[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.]

 

 

 

Just How Deep is the Water? By Jo Russell

Teenager Chris, the five-year-old twins and Jolene, boarded the ferry boat to travel over to Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada. It was a new experience for the three of  them. For Chris, it was yet another adventure forging through the unknown with his crazy aunt.

Chris had come to think of Aunt Jolene as Sacagawea, guiding him and the twins  through the Pacific Northwest just as Lewis and Clark had done a century before.

“After three weeks of traveling and camping together, isn’t this great, having hot food we don’t have to cook and dishes we don’t have to wash?” Jolene looked around to see who agreed. The twins, their mouths surrounded by crumbs, nodded. Chris gripped the edge of his padded seat with white knuckles. He wasn’t appreciating the pincushion wooded islands on the blue water that were a stunning change from his desert home, where he had lived since birth.

“What can he be so afraid of?” she wondered. Perhaps Chris, being raised in a land-locked area, had never seen so much water. As the ferry’s motors rumbled and tickled his feet with the vibration on the steel deck, Chris let go of the seat and began to stand. Then he announced, “I’m going to take a walk around the outside.” The twins and Jolene watched him and noticed Chris stopped at each group of lifeboats.

When he returned, Chris asked his aunt, “How deep is the water here anyway?” Chris peered at the water. “I’ve counted them. They don’t have enough lifeboats for all of us!”

A half-hour later when they landed at the island, Jolene wondered if Chris stumbled when they got off the ferry, or had he stopped to kiss the solid ground?

“Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck.” [Psalm 69:1 NIV] were David’s cries of distress in a time of great fear and challenge. David had confidence that  God heard him and would help. Such faith is the foundation for answered prayers. Believe. Trust. Know.

Some people have so much anxiety that it affects their walk with the Lord.

Do you feel that the waters around you are too deep? I do at times. A good strategy is to pray through worry. What if, during prayer, you breathe in Jesus and breathe out your fears?

No water will ever be too deep for you and the Lord to navigate together.

[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.]

 

Beginnings: It Can Only Get Better from Here! By Jo Russell

“What could be better than this? Dinner in the great outdoors, a river trip, and camping under the stars?” Nancy voiced out loud to her now-grown sons who were preparing dinner over a campfire and outdoor stove.

Over her sons’ growing-up years, Nancy had prepared many meals around a campfire.  Campfire-roasted corn on the cob. Sizzling steak. Baked potatoes steaming with melted butter. Buttermilk pancakes drizzled with syrup or jam. Browned hash topped with pouched eggs.

“This will be good!”  Her voice echoed off the wild riverside canyon.

So far, their mom was impressed. In their first season as river guides, they’d proved they were skilled raft-handlers in dangerous waters. They tied necessary and safety gear on the raft securely for the sometimes-rough ride. The men had been trained to use rifles for protection against bears.

She was convinced Bert and Tom could leap tall pines in a single bound, setting up tents at the same time. Inside the cozy domes, the bedding inside was thick and comfortable.

Would the young men’s camp cooking pass muster?

“This has to be good,” Nancy mused, thinking over the great pleasure the men in the family got from creating gourmet meals indoors and out. Ah, the Dutch oven masterpieces!  She sniffed the air for a hint of camp cooking aroma. There was none.

“The first course!” Bert announced as he handed his mom an enamelware cup full to the brim.

“And this is?”

“Tang orange drink!”

Not long after, Tom handed her the second course. “Here, Mom. My favorite!”  Spaghetti noodles were red with sauce straight from the jar.

After the main meal, Bert tore the cellophane bag containing the third course: red licorice sticks.

Though the three-course meal created from jars and bags wouldn’t make it to the chef’s hall of fame, it was a start.

Nancy had great expectations. It would only get better from there. And over time, it did.

God does smiles at our beginnings and progress, for He knows the whole journey of our lives.

“O Lord, you have searched me and you know me. When know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar…you are familiar with all my ways.” Psalm 139:1-3.

So stand up tall, all of you who burn the bottoms out of your tea kettles, who only know how to incinerate eggs just now, or who don’t know how to season cast-iron cookware. God isn’t finished with you yet. It only gets better from here!

[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.]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Words Carved in Granite By Jo Russell

Words carved in granite on monuments are thicker in Washington D.C. than souvenir kiosks, Roberta concluded. Visiting America’s capital for the first time, she noted that tourists reading quotes seemed immobilized in awe. The quotations were inspiring, patriotic, and wise.

The carved words included America’s first president George Washington as he left this thought, “Let us raise a standard to which the wise and honest can repair; the rest is in the hands of God.”

Former President Dwight Eisenhower wrote, “History does not long entrust the care of freedom to the weak or the timid.”

Thomas Jefferson stated, “I have sworn upon the altar of God, eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.”

General Douglas MacArthur was known for this: “Duty. Honor. Country. Those three hallowed words reverently dictate what you ought to be, what you can be, what you will be.”

Franklin Delano Roosevelt fueled America’s hope during the Great Depression with, “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.”

Martin Luther King, Jr., spoke this about character, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”

Words from everyday life fall flat by comparison.

It caused Roberta to wonder, “If every American had some of their words carved in granite, what wisdom would they choose to share?” What about her pearls of wisdom remembered by her offspring? Would they generate more inspiration and buzz than an energy drink? She doubted it. To her teens, she had said, “Any more raids on the secret grocery stash and you’ll eat pancakes every meal until payday. I’d kill for olives about now.”

Immortalized in print, the late journalist Erma Bombeck, stated, “When humor goes, there goes civilization.”

“Never have more children than you have car windows.”

To her offspring, “I told you the tooth fairy is writing checks because computerized billing is easier for the IRS.”

“I’ve exercised with women so thin that buzzards followed them to their cars.”

Roberta rethought her own quotes. Had they inspired, brought out patriotism and showed wisdom?

“If you don’t wash your ears, you’ll have a plant start growing out of it.”

“If you’re too busy to clean your room, you’re too busy to need an allowance.”

“Another day. Another dent. Logs don’t jump up and hit cars. Give back the car keys.”

Roberta reflected on the things she did right, too. George Washington inspired a foundation for a government as well as a family unit in these words, “It is impossible to rightly govern a nation without God and the Bible.”

Roberta had been governing her family with God and the Bible—teaching a spiritual and moral foundation. Close to her heart, Roberta believed this verse “He who fears the Lord has a secure fortress and for his children it will be a refuge.” Proverbs 14:26. Roberta had raised her children in the way they should go.

The entire family knew and believed these words of the familiar 1860 hymn that begins “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so. Little ones to him belong. They are weak, but He is strong.”

Those simple words of faith are worth carving in granite. They are the words that inspire and show wisdom for all time. Jesus loves you. Do you know? Yes, the Bible tells you so.

[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.]

 

 

 

Joe Cool by Jo Russell

Roberta welcomed the happy sounds of three tall teen boys, foraging in the kitchen and cupboards for more food. Two were her sons, David and Pete. The third was Joe, who, since they had been toddlers, shared their love of food and adventure.

 

All three young men had been raised with outdoor enthusiast parents. It just followed that they brought adventure into the kitchen as they looked for ingredients to make smoothies. Out with the Food Channel! In with Extreme Food Makeover!

 

Extreme Food had begun the night before when the teens asked Roberta to leave the room while Joe added his secret ingredient to chorizo and eggs [sausage and eggs].

 

“What do you think?” Roberta’s son, David, asked his mom after her first bite. She thought about cinnamon added to some Australian meat recipes. But she was out of that spice. After many wrong guesses, Joe fessed up. It was vanilla.

 

Now the towering teens searched for food stuffs while discussing future adventures. Activities would have to span camping, hiking, biking, exploring, and camp cooking.

 

While sharing smoothies, the boys’ ideas for activities began to bud. “Hey, let’s hike the General Crook Trail. It’s only 136 miles,” Pete suggested.

Friend Joe’s enthusiastic answer was, “Oh, cool!”

 

More smoothies and venues were discussed around the table loaded with vitamin-packed shakes. Each was different. Some combined milk with fruit. Others blended juice and fruit.

Another great idea came from Pete. None was surprised. “I was thinking about hiking the Continental Divide,” Pete added. “It’s about 2,300 miles.”

 

Joe’s reply, “Oh, cool!”

Feeling confident to share his plans and dreams with friends and family, Pete confided his latest idea – to climb Mt. Rainier over the summer.

 

Joe’s response was, of course, “Oh, cool!”

The smoothie fruit drinks disappeared quickly as the boys slurped up their shakes made from a few bananas, peaches, apples, pear, and part of a can of pineapple. Soon all the usual ingredients were depleted.
Joe was still hungry, so he scrounged to find what was left for the fifth refill of the blender. Satisfied, he filled the container with milk and cracked an egg into it. Then he added a protein-packed plop of peanut butter, and then finished it off with a frozen hot dog. The smoothie was absolute creativity full of protein and calcium! So healthy was the strange tan-speckled shake that Joe was the only one who would drink it. His reaction was predictable.

“Oh, cool,” he said after his first mouthful.

 

Like Joe’s lack of ingredients for the final smoothie, the ingredients we get in dealing with life require the best of our creativity and faith in God. He always comes through for us. Some examples from the Bible follow.

Ingredients: only enough oil and flour for one last cake of bread for a widow and her son. They expected starvation to follow after this last meal. [1 Kings 17]. Then a stranger showed up and asked for water and bread. Prophet Elijah assured her that the Lord would keep her in oil and flour if she did so. She never ran out of ingredients while the land was without rain and crops. Perhaps another lesson in this is “never assume.” We expect predictable results from what we know of man-made solutions. God has no limits.

 

Ingredients and conditions: It’s hot, and the prophet has no food or water. His feet are blistered, dusty, and sore. Elijah has a price on his head. The prophet had gotten in trouble with the queen, Jezebel, when he had her priests killed [1 Kings 19]. The prophet assumed that Jezebel’s followers would find and torture him. He concluded there were no other believers left in that land. Life simply wasn’t worth living anymore. The lacy shadow of the broom tree was thin shade in the heat. But God’s angel fed him. God reported 7000 believed in God as Elijah did. Read to find out the rest of the story.

Ingredients for emergency kit: no back-up supplies. From Mark 6:5: Jesus advised his disciples to go around to the villages, but take no extra food, no money, no extra clothes or sandals, and no advance registration at an inn or bed and breakfast. Not only had God provided for their basic needs, but also gave them the power to heal many of the sick along the way.

God knows our needs. The challenges He gives us build character. Ingredients are often spiked with surprises. Let the adventures begin!

What more can we say to that than “Oh, cool!”

 

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

What Does Color Say About Your Bible? By Jo Russell

As Barbara listened carefully to the message in church, she asked herself, “Did I hear the clergyman right? Didn’t he just say, ‘The only good Bible is a red one.’?” Her heart dropped to the ground as she studied the beautiful gift her grown children had given her recently: a dark green plain-language Bible edition with her name engraved along with gold designs on the cover.

As Barbara thought over her journey back to God as an adult, she never remembered seeing any of the groups at church having a RED Bible. How could they be so wrong? Or was it the pastor?

Her concern showed on her face as she turned to her husband, her mouth pulling down at the corners. “Did you hear what he just said?” she whispered. “I don’t have the right color!”

Albert responded, “Honey, he means a read Bible, r-e-a-d, not the color!”
It’s true. Any book not read is a buried treasure. When it comes to the Bible, it has everything!

The treasure inside is priceless for all time and all generations. It is also a foundation for growing close to God and others.

Here are some reminders:

Courage and faith heading into the unknown: 9 Genesis 7:1–Noah; Genesis 12–: Abram and Lot; Exodus 2–Jochebed, mother, and son, Moses; Luke 1 — Mary, a virgin, engaged to be married agrees to be mother of God, though the usual punishment for out-of-wedlock pregnancy was death by stoning;Acts 9–Saul becomes blind and led into Damacus–becomes the Apostle Paul

Special effects: Exodus 7:4 –the plagues of Egypt; Exodus 14–The Red Sea parts for God’s people, but drowns the enemy; Numbers 22:21– talking donkey; Joshua 4– crossing the Jordan on dry land; Joshua 6– the battle of Jericho won with God’s help and no weapons. Mark 4:35– Jesus calms a storm

Miraculous childbirth: Genesis 21: Abraham and Sarah, parents of Isaac; 1 Samuel 1: Hannah and Elkanah, parents of Samuel, the prophet; Luke 1: Zechariah and Elizabeth, parents of John the Baptist; Mary and God, the parents of Jesus

Romance: Genesis 24:15 – Isaac and Rebekah; Song of Songs 1:12–by Solomon

Conflict /rebellion/treason: Numbers 14:14–The Israelites want their fish, garlic and onions back! Job 1:1 – Job’s friends aren’t helping through his crises. Psalms– much of it written by David, who was being hunted down by the King Saul; 2 Samuel 18 — a son’s rebellion against his father, King David. Luke 22:20: Jesus knows Judas will betray him. Luke 22:34: Jesus predicts Simon Peter will deny him three times in one night. But Jesus goes on loving us – as he did them.

Selflessness: Luke 20:21–The widow gives all she has; Jesus shows scores of examples of selflessness in his actions.
Miracles and provision: All through the Bible.

 

Barbara remembered these things and smiled. It didn’t matter what her Bible looked like, but that she read it and every day learned more from God’s directions and stories.

Isn’t that a good lesson for all of us? Read the Bible, no matter what color it is.

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