Seize an Attitude of Gratitute By Jo Russell

Beginning early, filled with the aroma and sounds of a crowd stirring, the American holiday of Thanksgiving  is a worthy celebration to honor God.

One can smell the gravy as Grandma browns the flour, adds butter, and cooking juices, and declares “This gravy is downright tender! Just taste it!”

More than just Thanksgiving Thursday and the taste of the feast are the memories of people like Grandma,  whose holiday cooking started at 3:30 a.m. Grandma and Mom began the baking and basting the all-important browned, juicy, main dish. Centered on a platter set on a lace tablecloth nobody remembered they had, the turkey heralded the gathering of family and much thanks for the year.

Family members swarmed into the house: a colorful collection of people whose blood and marriage ties bound them together with shared histories, experiences, and laughter.

Little George, whose talent– fueled with broccoli and cauliflower–could blow more fish out of the water with his emissions than with a stick of dynamite. He grew up to be a contractor, built houses, and worked outdoors, much to everyone’s relief.

In-laws who showed up only to borrow money or to eat – disappeared from the table as soon as the words “Wash the dishes!” came into the conversation. They were grateful for the free food they didn’t have to cook.

Holidays converted the house from quiet to chaos, with the thundering of little feet and “Petey, stop that right now!  Don’t give your gum to the dog!”

Family gatherings showed hands-on love. Into the messy kitchen came the devoted husband whose pledge was that whenever his wife cooked, he would clean the kitchen and the dishes. He saved her from the task that was to her as fun as tax day.

Thanksgiving continued with the sign on the USPO from the rural post mistress that announced, “We will be closed Thanksgiving. Enjoy your pumpkin pie!”

Giving thanks past and present to God is a good fit every day. He deserves our praise and a big “Thank you!”  Not just the happy times, but all times. For everything comes from God. Each of our days is a gift from him.

Tuck these words into your heart: “Be joyful always; pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Seize an attitude of gratitude – for each day brings blessings. God loves you.

[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.]

 

 

 

Tattle-tale Talk By Jo Russell

With detailed reports, organization, and packing up the kindergarten classroom for the summer, Miss Roberts was feeling overwhelmed. It had been a terrible tattle-tale day. Miss Roberts wondered what had happened with her children who normally got along so well. Maybe they were cranky as they spotted the public swimming pool now open on weekends. Was it something hot and windy in the air so close to summer? Perhaps everyone was as eager as she was for a summer change of pace.

Then Miss Roberts asked, “Andy, you aren’t a tattletale, are you?”

“Just a little bit,” he admitted.

Coming from a place of peace makes a big impact on others. It is a healthy strategy for diverting anger, worry, and stress. Remember the words of King David, “He leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul.” [Psalm 23:2]

Give yourself time to led God lead you to his place of peace.

As school winds to a close and the pace is hectic at school and home–let the peace of God calm you through all circumstances — even beyond the last day of school.

Peace be with you!

[Jo Russell is a Christian speaker, author of articles, anthology contributions, and award-winning Which Button Do You Push to Get God to Come Out? A Humorous Devotional for Women. available from Amazon.com, her speaking engagements and website, www.button-to-god.com. Enjoy chuckles and speeches, tips and excerpts in website options and weekly blog.]

 

 

 

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

“Surprise! We get to come for Christmas!” Shirley dropped the phone when she learned less than a week from the holiday that her grown son and his wife would celebrate with her. Because Shirley had been planning a quiet Christmas at home, she had projects in progress in nearly every room. Chaos reigned. Instead of a warm home ready for Christmas in four days, her place resembled a remodel in progress. For it really was.   

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

But when Rob and Janet settled in, Rob whispered to his wife, “When I see this old, junky stuff on the tree, it makes me feel funny. Why doesn’t Mom get something new?”

Shirley had plenty of Christmas glitz that was new.

But she wanted to include those hand-made ornaments that reminded them of shared times.  What was so junky about this tree? Folded and slightly bent snowflakes, dough-cut reindeer with childish color accents, and picture ornaments of her children smiling through missing teeth. Her daughter-in-laws’ family tree looked the same with her hand-made ornaments from Christmases past.

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

In Jesus’ time, many waiting for the Messiah looked for the new and the shiny, not the junky and the ordinary. For this King of Kings was born in a place so small, the town had no impressive homes in gated communities, no traffic jams or rush hours. The newborn son of God was born in a stable for animals and wrapped in cloths. He wasn’t laid in a crib with a thick mattress, soft sheets within a color-coordinated nursery. The Messiah’s first human visitors at the manger were not people of position and power. The shepherds smelled like animals and were considered the lowest of life in that culture.  

Yet the herdsmen knew this truth from the angels, “Today in the town of David, a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” [Luke 2:11-12 NIV]

Generations had waited to see him! The Messiah! He was most wanted.

Jesus was a wanted child, all right. Herod wanted to kill him. So just in time, the Holy Family  fled for their lives to Egypt.

Everything about Jesus’ birth, life and death seemed unfit for a king. Jesus didn’t deserve a junky birthplace, ordinary lifestyle, and the opposition to his ministry as an adult.

But he came for all of us, from all levels of life and lifestyle.

“Ascribe to the Lord the glory due in his name; worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness,” wrote David in Psalm 29:2. That applies today as well, about 3500 years later.

Can we see anything junky in Jesus’ crown of love and scepter of peace?  Those actions model character that is timeless for all generations. So is the forgiveness we are gifted from Jesus’ life. His modeling of love and gives meaning and memory to relationships.  What better way to infuse memories than to include Jesus?    

[Jo Russell is a Christian speaker, author of articles, anthology contributions, and award-winning Which Button Do You Push to Get God to Come Out? A Humorous Devotional for Women. available from Amazon.com, her speaking engagements and  website, www.button-to-god.com. Enjoy chuckles and speeches, tips and excerpts in website options and weekly blog.]   

  

  

A Dead Egg or a 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.

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

Order, Organization, or Guilt? By Jo Russell

With any piece of time off work, Jolene fretted over disorder and wondered where to start. The busy multi-tasking professional and mom sometimes just had to stop, rest, and feel guilty.

Jolene was suffering from the calling of the unsorted. So strong an urge was her focus on disorganization that she had nightmares about clutter in her sleep. Not that she was born with a gene for order. No one is.

Jolene had never had time to worry about boxes in the shed or garage with chewed corners, water damaged flaps, and unknown contents. Who did? It was tough enough to find a pair of scissors around the house that no one had used for cutting barbed wire.

Jolene sought out help. She needed order without guilt. She needed to find the lint brush. She wondered where she would find a pair of matched socks. The busy lady turned to God’s word, the Bible, for answers.

She began in Genesis. God faced a worse mess than Jolene’s shed. He changed chaos to order. From a dark formless mass, God created his materials and started organizing.
Day 1: He created the heavens, earth, and light. “God saw the light was good.” [Genesis 1:3]
Day 2: God separated the water and sky.
Day 3: God divided land and water, plus added plant life. He even included built-in seed-bearing pods for reproducing. The plants would keep on making more plants. “And God saw it was good.” [Genesis 1:10]
Day 4: God created the lights in the sky to mark the seasons, days, and years, like stars, moons, suns. “And God saw that it was good.” [Genesis 1:18.]
Day 5: God created creatures that lived in water as well as birds for the skies. “And God saw that it was good.” [Genesis 1:21.]
Day 6: God made all kinds of land animals, “And God saw that it was good.” Then he went on to create man and woman, designing them in his own image, and blessed them. “God saw all that he had made and it was very good.” [Genesis 1:31.]

Jolene was awed. God modeled order, logic, and great interdependent systems. No gaps or mistakes anywhere. Though God had created her and the rest of the human race in his image, and proclaimed his creation “very good,” she still felt flawed when it came to order. Just juggling the many responsibilities of work, home, family, and community, threw her in a tizzy.

Five organizational books and much guilt later, Jolene found one author’s advice that was less painful than surgery.

“Most organization systems fail,” the author wrote, “not because of room. Ninety percent of the time, the amount of room isn’t the problem, but how it is used.” Then the author assured the reader that organization systems are to be tailored to the individual and his or her lifestyle if they are to work.

Jolene felt better. With God’s help and a new system, there was hope.

After a fair test run of the new whirlwind plan of organization, Jolene believed in modern miracles! All the cleaning, washing, tidying, was done! She was helping her children with homework, finishing a project for a college class, and wrestling with the “junk drawer” until it was no more.

Jolene had even made a special trip to the hardware store for three duplicate sets of keys for the car and house. No more getting locked out!

Early the next morning, Jolene rushed to work, stashed her purse behind the seat, locked the vehicle, and slammed the door. Perfect organization! A 100% improvement over the past week! Then she noticed a set of keys sparkling in the sun on the bench seat. The other two sets were tucked in her purse behind the seat. Though bank vaults are open Saturdays, not a single rural locksmith is!

Well, nearly perfect organization! Jolene and we are still a work in progress. But we can continue to be in awe of God, the Supreme Being of Order and Creation!

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