Do Not Pass Go! Do Not Collect $200.! By Jo Russell

Date Night at the movies! What a rare treat for Pastor Rick and his wife, Shannon! The couple with grown sons exercised veto power on most films due to ratings, subject matter, and their own lack of time juggling many programs at church. But the humorous new release with a well-known star and PG rating made it irresistible.

“Welcome! Enjoy the show!” Employee Wayne smiled as he tore the couple’s tickets and directed them to the right theatre. With only two theatre complexes in a thirty-five mile radius, Wayne recognized most movie-goers. Some came from 60 miles away. With a short-staff schedule, Wayne and other employees had at least four jobs. He couldn’t remember Rick and Shannon’s usual choice of movies, but from the audience’s laughter erupting from the theatre during that film, he thought they’d enjoy it. 

But after Pastor Rick and Shannon worked their way through two buttered popcorns, cold drinks, advertisements, and previews, they settled in to watch the movie. The opening scene tracked a beach party with an abundance of enthusiasm, skin, and adult activities. It seemed to rival what had been written about the party the Israelites staged while Moses was up on Mt. Sinai getting God’s commandments. After five minutes, the film left much room for improvement. Pastor Rick and his wife trekked back to the lobby.   

Wayne was now manning the snack bar, taking tickets, sweeping up popcorn, and getting ready to clean the restrooms. “What can I get you? More popcorn? Sodas? Candy?”

“No, we want our money back,” requested Pastor Rick.

Now the theatre employee remembered them! Wayne studied his watch, and then crossed his arms.  After he checked the time, he announced, “I can’t do that.”

“Why not? I’ve only seen five minutes of the movie. I didn’t like it. I want you to call the manager. ”

 “Today, I’m the manager, ticket taker, snack bar server, and janitor. You can’t get any higher than that. See, I remember you’ve been here before. You were five minutes into the movie this time. If it had been three, I could give you your money back.  After five minutes, you cannot pass go and cannot get your money back. My decision is final!”

So was Pastor Rick’s. The husband and wife looked at each other and laughed. Wayne didn’t.  Then Rick and Shannon left holding hands in their quest for another venue for Date Night. 

Walking upright with the Lord takes a real man. Forget about popular signs of manhood: nice aftershave, owning a pick-up truck, opening doors for ladies, working hard, supporting a family, as well as remembering birthdays and anniversaries. It takes courage and commitment to submit to a life mentored by God.  God decided that a man’s role is also to be the spiritual leader of a family.

As a father of three sons, Pastor Rick took his role seriously as the God-honoring leader in his family. While raising their children, he and Shannon modeled what they wanted to see in their sons’ choices in adulthood, challenges, and spiritual life and growth. Pastor Rick taught his congregation and his family from the Bible, and took to heart the passage, “These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” Deuteronomy 6:6-7 [NIV].

On Father’s Day, we honor men around the world for their important role in families – changing the future by shaping, teaching, and modeling character and integrity for children, whether their own or in their care as leaders. Add to that God’s take: There is nothing of higher value than a father who models and walks with His Creator. It takes courage to make big decisions as well as small ones – like taking a stand on what makes good entertainment on a Date Night.

Many blessings on you guys out there who know how to be fathers to your and others’ children. Happy Father’s Day! God bless you all!

[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.com, her speaking engagements and  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.]   

 

 

 

 

 

Mothers Change the World with Love, God and Cookies By Jo Russell

From the baking smells that flowed into the chapel, there was no guesswork in why the visitors dreamed of chocolate chip cookies instead of listening to the clergyman at the podium. The children’s class, headed up by teacher and mom Jan, had baked dozens of cookies for Mother’s Day. Jan stood guard over the warm sweets.

One deacon complained, “I tried to sneak some cookies, but Jan stood at the kitchen door with a knife in her hand!”

When it comes to influencing children and plying them with food, mothers have the market cornered. Grandma Brenda showed up to be construction supervisor over her grandsons, who had staged a sit-down strike. Work started up again as soon as the teens saw the praline-filled cookies tucked under her arm. She needed no other tools.

When Rene and her sons returned home from a three-day camp-out, one teen announced, “I don’t need a shower and you can’t make me take one.”
“That’s too bad,” she countered, “Because there are fifteen pieces of hot French toast and you won’t be eating any of them.” She heard him running the shower right away.

Food and moms are blended together like bread and butter. In Proverbs 31: “She gets up while it is still dark; she provides food for her family….” [Proverbs 31: 14-15] NIV. She may also be up late making lunches or prepping a meal for the next day.

But Moms do much more than ply the generations with food. They teach. They model. They shape the future. Paul writes of Timothy, chosen as a pastor, “I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.” [2 Timothy 1:15] NIV. From wise King Solomon, “Listen my son, to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching. They will be a garland to grace your head and a chain to adorn your neck.” [Proverbs 1:8] NIV.

Mothers that you and I know have altered the future with love, God, and cookies. That’s just the way God planned it should be.

Honor the women in your life with words and actions that give them a high-five of appreciation. Each deserves it.

[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 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. Remember the free e-book download of Which Button on Amazon today for Mother’s Day!]

Too Old? Too Young? Just Words in God’s Eyes By Jo Russell

The rented hall was buzzing with laughter and activity. In just a few hours, friends and family would honor Anna’s 80-year-old mother with a surprise party. Her son, Josh, was helping Anna with the crew in the kitchen. As he helped wash and tear mountains of lettuce for a salad while  others put together party trays, Josh’s forehead wrinkled with worry. The more time that passed and the more frenzied the preparations became, the more worried Josh was about his grandma.

Would this be too much for her? “What’s wrong, Honey?” his mom asked.

Josh voiced his concern, “Should we be surprising someone that old?”

Too old? Too young?  Boundaries by age and time are concocted by the world, but not by God.

Even the prophet Samuel was stunned that the king to be anointed to replace Saul was a half-grown David. His father, Jesse, had sent the youth–perhaps 15 years old–to watch the sheep while Samuel checked over the kingly-looking, tall, handsome, grown sons. But the Lord insisted David was the one. God justified His criteria in this way: “The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7 NIV)  Though David was chosen by God as king then, he didn’t mount the throne as king of all Israel for decades. He was past the minimum age of a U.S. President when that happened.

Age doesn’t mean anything to God. Do you remember that Noah, with no shipbuilding experience, took to building an ark at God’s command? He was no spring chicken then. Plus it took Noah 120 years. He was six hundred years old when the floods came.

Or that Moses, who led the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt, was an octogenarian when he did that?

Or Abram, at ninety-nine, and his wife Sarai, ninety, who had already gone through menopause, were expecting a baby. She was pregnant with Isaac. No wonder Abram–later Abraham–laughed.

Think about Apostle Paul in the New Testament. Historians guess his birth and death date, but figure he was over fifty when he made his first missionary trip. It seems pretty challenging for a senior to set off on foot across far-away countries. Though he faced opposition in wealthy cities by residents along the way who worshipped many gods and made money creating and selling statues of the fictional gods, Paul was steadfast. He stuck to telling about one God, our creator and Savior, Jesus Christ. With a record number of shipwrecks, Paul’s life was never dull. But he kept walking and sailing, letting God make up for what he couldn’t do himself.

So young or old, it doesn’t matter to God. He just smiles and keeps you growing past your age and abilities.

Live your life! Forget your age! 

[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 this 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 on www.button-to-god.com.]   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Will the Poor Always Be With Us? By Jo Russell

“Can you spare some change?” The middle-aged woman hovered as soon as I slid into the worn seat of my pick-up truck. She and her husband glowed with health, wore neat outfits that paid homage to the nearby Western store, and the wife’s hair reflected care and color in a beauty salon. The couple had stepped out of a snappy Dodge double-cab pick-up truck with four-wheel drive. The price of their wheels would feed an American family of four every day for three years.

Change just might be the answer!

How about we change vehicles? What an idea! I liked it!

Like others pleading for help at parking lots or gas stations, these shared a common denominator: their vehicles were so new that by comparison, mine looked like it should be in Saturday’s demolition derby.

So many requests had come in over the last month by phone and in person that I wondered if I might have been marked while I slept by an admirer. Had someone played connect the dots between my age spots? The message seemed clear to many: “Ask me for money.”

Even though I had turned all the requests down, I confided my concern in a long-time, close friend. “Are people were seeing something I’m not – like words written on my forehead in invisible ink?”

“No,” she told me. “You just have a soft heart.”

Jesus himself said, “The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me.” [Mark 14:7 NIV]

In a number of countries where this blog is read, a car—any car—is a privilege.

Were the Dodge owners poor? Hardly. How they ended up in this position–whether over their head in payments or because of job loss–American financial guru Dave Ramsey would have advised them to sell the truck and buy a cheaper vehicle.

Helping others, showing them love, and lifting the poor is good for the soul. There are times that situations arise when many need help. When a raging forest fire nearby forced evacuation of about 30,000 people, the residents’ needs were met. Surrounding community members pulled together to offer meals, lodging, clothes, and animal care. Not to come to someone’s aide when they are in desperate need would be turning a back to God.

Jesus himself tells in this word story, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?”

“The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’” [Matthew 25:37-40.]

But also, Jesus would advise helpers to use discernment.

When you, a group, or an organization has helped the same people numerous times, plus you or someone else has taught them how to help themselves but nothing changes, cut them loose! There is a time for a stand – for you and them. To continue to give, you are only encouraging them to be dependent.  They will choose, too. Either they will find another source or they will learn to solve their own problems.  You can guess which choice will build character.

When the next person asks you for “change,” think about the change that would help them the most. Show them how.

 

[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, Intermedia Publishing  2011. For more chuckles and to hear a speech, enjoy excerpts of her book and tips, check her entire website options and weekly blog on www.button-to-god.com.]

 

 

 

Is There Immunity Anywhere from I.D. Theft? By Jo Russell

Rural Postmistress Lenore was shocked. In the small ranching community, residents sometimes left their houses unlocked and keys in their pick-up trucks. Some even forgot their keys in the mail box door. It had been no big deal. Until now.

Confronting a problem akin to cities, Lenore posted this notice on the post office door where everyone enetering could read it:

                                 

                                  Caution! IDENTITY THEFT!

 

     Do not leave your mail lying around in the post office. Take it home with you or drop it in the outgoing mail slot. Someone  has been applying for credit from applications in our lobby trash can.  We  have removed it so that your credit card offers and other mail with your name and address will not result in identity theft. We are doing this for your own protection.

Postmistress Lenore Smith


 

One saw Lenore’s action as patronizing. A few days later, a patron taped a rebuttal on the door:

Post Office Notice

 

Victims of ID theft say that the pain is worse, recovery time is longer and benefits less than surgery. Similarly, God’s boundaries keep us safe and on the right side of life. In Jesus own words, “If you love me, you will obey what I command.” [John 14:15 NIV]

In Moses’ words: “Keep his [God’s] decrees and commands, which I am giving you today, so that it may go well with you and your children after you and that you may live long in the land that your God gives you for all time.” [Deuteronomy 4:40 NIV].

Now that’s a promise worth posting on the door of our hearts!

[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, Intermedia Publishing  2011. For more chuckles and to hear a speech, enjoy excerpts of her book and tips, check her entire website options and weekly blog on www.button-to-god.com.]

 

 


The Perks and Perils of Prime Numbers by Jo Russell

Two and a half rescued critters live at my house. Two are happy to be here. Why, the perks alone put them right up there with the benefits of a luxury getaway:

-prime seating and views throughout the resort

-soothing for the psyche indoor and outdoor fountains

– 24-hour spa benefits including on-site massage therapist

– steak and salmon (kibble) No need to bring your lunch!

– tasty appetizers offered several times daily

– health care

– group and individual recreation and activities

AAAH! The Good Life! Well, two would give it a five-star rating.

 

Recently, the half-time critter traded his status as Alpha Cat to be Prime Numbers Feline, with 1, 3, 5 and 7 taking top billing. Though his early life had been entirely inside to protect him from predators like the hawk who killed his mother, he yawned with boredom. Every day the same old thing. Declawed and defenseless as fighting a grizzly with a barbeque brush, he sprinted around my leg out the door two or three times each day to flee his oppressive home and the rules—a teenager in cat years.

That’s where the prime numbers came in. Prime Numbers Feline took to being gone one day, a quick trip home, gone three days, made a quick pit stop to fill up on kibble, and then roamed seven adventurous days filled with fights for survival, death-defying escapes, and danger. It was anything but boring! One wilderness excursion left him with a piece out of his ear and a bloody patch of hair pulled out to the very roots. It has never grown back. When he came back that time, he found one less food bowl out. It had been the first time the battle-wounded cat ever fought his way back inside.

For cats, dogs, critters, as well as people, walking the middle of the road is dangerous! Anyone doing so risks getting run over by a car. Sitting on the fence of indecision is also unwise. It took his own blood to finally convince Mr. Prime Numbers of his true home.

It takes Christ’s blood to convict us of our true home. Are you still sitting on the fence?

[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, Intermedia Publishing 2011. For more chuckles and to hear a speech, enjoy excerpts of her book and tips, check her entire website options and weekly blog on www.button-to-god.com.]

God Bless and Keep Our Servicemen By Jo Russell

When a tall, gaunt man in a pressed green uniform had stepped in the door of our house, my mom exclaimed, “Your dad is home from the war, at last!” I was about five. When he had held out his arms to me, I did not run into them. Instead, I held tightly to my mother’s legs and wondered who the stranger was – and why he was moving in with us.

Being career military, Dad’s being home for a long period of time only happened late in his career. He balanced two demanding worlds: a commitment to defend the United States and a desire to protect, guide, and provide for his family – often long distance.
He took his home role seriously. Dad rose before dawn to cook breakfast for the family before he went to work. As he balanced a pancake on the spatula, “Jo, don’t you want another pancake? You’ve only had thirteen.”

As we became teens, we siblings sometimes thought Dad was hopelessly old-fashioned. He was the one who insisted I change my clothes when I bought a dress so short I could not bend over. (“Everybody else lets their kids dress the way they want,” I would wail.) He was the one who insisted we all work summers to save money for college. (“Everybody else gives their kids big allowances and let them stay home during vacations.”) No one else’s dad butted into their lives, but Dad spent hours guiding us through the tough decisions of moving into adulthood. No stranger now, he had truly shown us his love with his commitment and time. We had grown to love him, realizing that boundaries are part of a good father’s job.

My father had proved his bravery in two wars and a full military career, receiving silver and bronze star as well as a nomination for the President’s Medal of Honor.

When cancer ravaged his health and lifestyle, he fought for more time and saw all of three of us grow to adulthood.

God bless fathers who currently serve both country and family. God keep you safe and bring you home — forever and always.

 

[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, Intermedia Publishing  2011. For more chuckles, keep checking her weekly blog on www.button-to-god.com.]

 

 

 

Only Get My Mouth Dirty By Jo Russell

The three under-eight children gathered around the table for an emergency strategy conference as if faced with a code red: costumes for the school carnival! Two brothers and a neighbor girl sketched out details. Soon, with scissors in hand, the three headed off for the scrap box and closets.

An hour later, the three returned, one in costume. “Mom, I am a prince this year,” one boy announced, patting the dark beret decorated with a fluffy ostrich plume. Wrapped in a black cape, he sported a new royal blue breastplate cut from a scrap of brocade pinned to his tee shirt.

“I can see that. But you need to take off your costume for lunch.”

“It’s okay,” the boy assured his mom. “I’ll only get my mouth dirty.”

His figuring he would only get his mouth dirty in all the feathers, fancy cloth, and cape, is like us figuring a little sin won’t hurt.

Sin is an old-fashioned word today. Some Christians would rather call it “immaturity,” “bad choices,” “bad company,”  “mental illness,” or “sowing wild oats.” Tombstones of several young adults I taught as children explained they had “lived hard and free.” But not happily–nor long.

Proverbs 4:4-6 contains timeless words of advice: “Lay hold of my words with all your hearts; keep my commands and you will live. Get wisdom, get understanding; do not forget my words or swerve from them.”

It is not enough for the mouth to say, “Jesus is Lord.” The body must also.

 

Do Red Trucks Have More Fun? By Jo Russell

Glancing at my watch after I spewed gravel in an arch while parking for a meeting, I grumbled, “Shoot! Ten minutes late! I hate this!”

Dashing inside, I explained to Richard, the leader, “Sorry for being tardy. I have always heard that red vehicles get stopped more. Guess research is right!”

Richard studied me with a smile, and then remarked, “Actually, I know for sure that drivers of red pick-ups, like yours, get pulled over for breaking the law.”

Yep. Police Officer David had called Richard, his dad, before I got there. Busted! Fellow church member David was serving his first day on the job. He had to pull me over for speeding. The young man’s face had been as red as my truck. After several decades of driving down the main drag, I couldn’t claim ignorance of the speed limit.

It was time for me to take responsibility for my own actions. The color of my pick-up was not the problem. It was my foot on the gas pedal.
Remembering the large donation for a previous speeding fine, I flinched.

However, God had gotten my attention. The message: slow down!
“Do not make light of the Lord’s discipline and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.” Hebrew 12:5-6. God loves me and wants me uninjured and able to do His work.

But just as we as parents had corrected our children, God disciples us. Don’t miss the motive for it all: He loves us. That’s the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth!

[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, Intermedia Publishing, 2011. For more chuckles, check her weekly blog on Button-to-God.com.]

Sheer Determination – Or Be Still? By Jo Russell

Could Arthur Itis stop me? NEVER! Not with my determination and vision!

When a winter, indoor tri-athalon was advertised at the local gym, the event advertised such short distances, I signed on the line. It would be easier than sprinting across the local Wal-Mart.  Once again, to enjoy the camaraderie of amateur athletes! The cheering! The fun! The challenge! New friends!
Though my last race had been a century ago or so, I remembered how much I had loved participating in amateur athletic events. Around middle age when many other women stopped competing, I had started racing. More than anything, I had always raced to prove arthritis could not stop me.

Doctors disagree. Over time, the disease causes a gradual thinning of the cartilage or padding in the joints.

“I will set a new record in the knee replacement class! People will have hope again!” I had not known at the time I would be setting a record, all right. But the speed of sea turtles is not legendary in athletic competitions.

While I tore it up during the swim, I earned a smile from the trainer. While I cranked and spun the pedals of the ancient recumbent bike, I realized at 68 rpms, I had only gone one-and-a-half miles in twenty minutes. Obviously, the machine needed repair. On the road or on any other machines, I was four times faster.

Sheer determination kicked in. My knees, including the metal one, began to complain, burn, incinerate, and turn to baked, shapeless ABC gum. “Be still and know I am God,” I heard softly in my mind, but instead, the pain and the sweat staining my color-coordinated outfit had my full attention.

An hour later, I teetered off the bike with numb legs. Stumbling to the treadmill for the final event, I looked around for my fellow athletes. None. Only a forest of empty machines told the story. So much for camaraderie.    The cheering? The trainer muffled a yawn. She headed downstairs to catch a bite while I continued in “record-breaking” time—the speed of a sea turtle enjoying a leisurely trip around the Galapagos Islands. Bound by my own promise to finish, I stuck it out to the end.

Arthritis: I now admit it stands between me and sprint triathlons. I had been denying it as well as grieving over my limitations.

Apostle Paul describes “There was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me” and three times asked God to take it away from him. [2 Corinthians 12:7-10] NIV. God’s answer in verse 9: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Paul concludes, “For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

I had not considered what a gift is it than when lack of skills, failure, or any physical affliction takes over, God fills in the weak areas with his power and strength!. Instead of grieving over the lost cartilage, I had to move forward in a journey down an unfamiliar road. I will grow with God’s help. I may falter, but he is there with his power and strength.

“Be still and know that I am God” from Psalm 46:10 is timeless. What assurance! God had walked with us in the past. He accompanies us on the adventurous route ahead.

Have courage! For his presence, power and strength are with us.

[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, Intermedia Publishing, 2011. For more chuckles, keep checking  her weekly blog on Button-to-God.com.]