Dog and God Walking 101 by Jo Russell

A couple walk their dogs in Kenwood Estate, Hampstead Heath.

“Corky just graduated from Good Citizen training,” explained proud dog owner, James, who had been talking with his friend, Roger. Both were at the playground with their children.  “I didn’t know if he would make it because he’s so young, but he has done just fine. “  The tan labrabor sat quietly next to his owner as James pushed his two-year-old in the swings.

“Wow. Any other dog would be jumping around. Look how quietly Corky sits,” commented Roger as he watched his pre-school daughter soar high.

“That’s because he has learned to obey commands.”

Rex, the park caretaker, chuckled as he overheard that. He could say much of dog and owner behavior as his park was a popular spot for walking dogs. “Just watching is a crash course in Dog Walking 101,” he commented to the men. “But I can spot the obedience-training ones. They just walk quietly alongside their owners on the left side and leave some slack in the leash—just like Corky here.”

Rex continued, “But I’ve seen lots of dog walking here and it’s mighty interesting.” He explained that he had seen family dogs leashed to a stroller with a mom pushing. The pet would be zig zagging behind her, straining to savor the smell of a clump of grass, pulling the stroller and Mom off course.

He’d seen dogs pull their owners around the walking path for three laps before slowing down and letting their owners grab a breath.

He added the story of his last day off, when he headed  down a two-track dirt road to his favorite trout spot. “There I saw the bar-none most one-of-a-kind way of walking dogs. This white-haired SUV owner had stopped at the turn-off, got out of the car leaning on his cane, and then opened the hatch to let the two huge Great Danes off their leashes. Then he drove down the road without them! That made me hopping mad! I thought, ‘How dare he just abandon those dogs!’”

“It would make me mad, too!” Roger added.

“But the Danes giddy-upped after the car. I guess he knew just how fast to drive. When the car reached the lake, the guy stopped, petted the panting dogs, poured them each water, and opened the back hatch to let them Danes back inside for a ride home. They knew who took care of them. They knew who loved them. They knew who they belonged to. The pet owner just had another way of walking them because of his own problems,” Rex concluded.

Jesus knows who belongs to him, too. “I am the good shepherd. I know my sheep and my sheep know me—just as the Father knows me and I know the Father…My sheep listen to my voice; I know them and they follow me. I give them eternal life and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand.” [John 10:14, 10:25]  Listening to his voice and following the Good Shepherd. That’s even better than Good Citizen training.

He assures us in our every day challenges this ironclad  promise, which spoken to leader Joshua. It  applies to our lives today, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be  afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” [Dueteronomy 31:6]

And like the white-haired driver putting a different spin on Dog Walking 101, God may put a spin on our walk with him. But he loves us and knows to stretch our abilities just far enough for us to grow stronger. Like the senior, God knows just when we need to stop and ride for a while.

[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 and e-books are sold.  Look for Give Us This Day Our Daily Grin – A Fun-Lovers Guide to Spiritual Living and Growing now on Amazon Kindle and other e-formats Smashwords as well as print coming soon. Jo lives in northeast Arizona and writes a popular humorous weekly blog on her website, www.button-to-god.com.]

 

 

 

 

 

God and a Parent’s Love from Base Camp by Jo Russell

“Are we going camping this weekend?” tall, sinewy teens Rick and Ron wanted to know. Anything would be more fun than cleaning their rooms.

“Why, do you want to?”  their working mother, Jolene, asked as she vacuumed.

“Always. Our favorite spot should be just right or close to there,” Ron responded while his brother nodded with approval.

So as the small family packed the gear and food, she noticed the teens’ backpacks bulged with all their gear and an extra tent.

“What’s this?” Jolene wanted to know, “Are you running away from home when we get there?”  She had just opened the car door for the family dog, Fletcher, to join the outing.

“Nope.” Rick explained, “But we thought we’d hike off on our own. You can stay in base camp with Fletcher.”

“Yeah,” Ron agreed. “We’re practically grown up. We don’t need our parents to decide everything for us.”

Teens. They get to the point that parents are just old fogies. I guess we’ve reached that point, Jolene decided before she answered, “Base camp, huh? Will I see you at all during the weekend?”

“Yup. You have to drive us there and take us home. It’s too far to walk.”

“Besides that?”

“Probably sometime.”

Later that day after Mom set up base camp on a flat area under the evergreens, Ron and Rick had set up their camp a mile away. Not long after, both cast a shadow over Jolene in her folding camp chair. “Yes?” She looked up from her book with so much excitement she dropped it in the dirt. Did her offspring come to visit?

“We came to fill our water bottles. It was hotter out there than we thought.”

“Oh.”

They hiked back with full bottles the way they came, leaving nothing behind but the rustling of a breeze in the pines above base camp.

Early the next morning while Mom was fixing breakfast, the tall teens tramped into camp again.

“Want some breakfast while you’re here? Fletcher thinks it’s good.”

“Nope. Just a dirty laundry dump. We’ll be back tomorrow morning.”

So the rest of the day, she and Fletcher were alone in the woods. It was so quiet, she couldn’t relax. That night, Fletcher led in the snoring division while Sue stared at the gear loft in the ceiling of the tent. Is this what an empty nest will be like? Raising children is like giving them wings, she reminded herself.  Mine are trying theirs out. But will they come back?  

Of course.

Teens, like us, are precious though we may be gone from parenting for a time. No matter where we are, we continue to be a precious child and creation to God. “He determines the number of stars and calls them each by name.”  Psalm 147: 4

God does the same with us. He gives us wings. He lets us try them. During some times of our life, we may emotionally and spiritually leave God in base camp while we try out things on our own.  But our lifeline is base camp—a place to seek wisdom, answers and needs.

In Jesus’ own words as he talked about needs, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Matthew 6:33.

Just as he calls us by name, we know his and are wise to seek him again. “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Romans 10:13

God’s is a base camp to count on for all time. Stay close and continue seeing him each day.

[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 for pre-sales this month wherever e-books are sold, with print copies to follow. Jo lives in northeast Arizona and writes a popular humorous weekly blog on her website, http://www.button-to-god.com.]

 

Some Assembly Required by Jo Russell

“There’s some assembly you have to do on this bedframe,” Ron told his customer as he loaded the slim box in the back of her pick-up truck. “But it’s not bad. A Merry Christmas to you! You got the last one.”

“Thanks!” Shirley told him, “I’m good at this and my company isn’t coming until tonight late.”  Once home, she wrestled the heavy box into the house and opened it, looking for instructions.

Hmmm. It fits a queen or a king bed. That’s nice.     

At last, she found instructions printed in ant-sized letters on a plastic bag of parts.

At least I didn’t have to go online for an internet 67-page instruction book. Shirley got out a magnifying glass. Great! She noticed, The instructions are in Chinese! It’s a good thing they have pictures, too.

She set up the frame north and south. It was too long. Then Shirley tried east and west. That seemed to work. But she wrestled with the new idea that this design slotted together like Legos. Plastic plugs, along with only two bolts and plastic nuts.

Two hours later after moving most of the furniture in the room, she got the slot-together frame together and secured it with plastic buttons to keep the adjusted size in place.  She collapsed in exhaustion for the rest of the evening.

Two miles away, Sam and Georgia were putting together a small play set for their children that warned, “Some assembly required.” The couple had been at it in the garage since they put their children to bed three hours ago.

“Looks like someone wrote these who doesn’t know English very well,” Georgia commented. “Why do we have all these leftover parts?”

“Maybe they figured we’d drop some on the floor and lose them!” Sam explained.

“Not that many spare parts!” So they put it together yet again—and yet again.

By the time they finished the project with only a few extra screws and washers left, they fell into bed, realizing that the kids would be wide awake and shaking them awake in just a couple of hours.

“Christmas. Why does it have to be so complicated?” Georgia mumbled as she dropped onto the soft pillow.

On this Christmas Eve, people everywhere are experiencing the frustrating consequences of “some assembly required.”

And Christmas? Does it really have to be so complicated?

No. Because the gift and means of delivery were simple and uncomplicated—then and now. A life given for yours. A simple gift of grace that changes our lives. None are entitled. No one can earn it. No gift exchange is expected.

Jesus promised, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” No complicated guide books are required for this precious gift. “I am the good shepherd and my sheep know me—just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.” [John 10:14-16]

If you are not yet one of the flock who follows Jesus as the son of God, know that the gate is open for you—giving love and life. No assembly required!

[Jo Russell is a Christian speaker, author of scores of articles, a half dozen anthology contributions, and award-winning Which Button Do You Push to Get God to Come Out? A Humorous Devotional for Women. available from Amazon.com and her speaking engagements. [Jo lives in northeast Arizona and writes a popular humorous weekly blog on her website, http://www.button-to-god.com.]

 

 

 

Will You Be Fishers of Men? by Jo Russell

Pastor had just returned from a fishing vacation and called the children forward for their special lesson. He scanned the crowd sitting around him and held a yard stick over his head.

When he had the children’s attention, he asked, “What would it take to catch a fish this big?” He added, “My brother caught a Northern pike that was even bigger than this. What would I need to land a fish like that?”

Among the small ones, some proved to be experienced anglers:

“Yummy bait.”

“For sure,” he agreed.

“A fishing pole.”

“Yep, that, too.”

“A fishing chair.”

“That would be good.”

“A tackle box.”

“Absolutely. You’ve got to keep your fishing gear in order. Anything else I need to catch a fish this big?”

One novice pint-sized angler cried out, “Nine minutes!”

The pastor stammered, “Well, when I….” and he may have started coughing–or was he laughing?

“Nine minutes!” she insisted. “Can I have a candy now?”

In any crowd, whether anglers, hikers, outdoor enthusiasts, there is a vast range of experience.

But it doesn’t matter to God, for he looks on the inside. No previous experience is necessary when he chooses you.

‘“Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.”  [Matthew 4:19 NIV].

He was addressing Peter and Simon, both professional fishermen. The two “sons of Zebedee” James and John had a successful enough fishing business that they managed a staff of employees. Matthew was a tax collector, which was viewed in the same light as outlaws in the Old West. All who left their professions to join Jesus learned to lean on God for their needs, and he never failed them.

Though some of the original 12 had made their livelihood fishing, none were experienced as  fishers of men who pointed the way to Jesus and Heaven. However, Jesus trained them and enhanced their natural abilities. They gained boldness to tell about miracles, the Messiah and the son of God.

He does the same for us, stretching and expanding what we can do. The answer is “Yes, I can!”  Focusing on the positive, we each have a part and a gift to share. It’s not based on memorizing Bible verses and being able to spout them off.

It’s about our lives as the most powerful witness – and sharing what difference God has made in our lives.

Though it will likely take more than nine minutes, you will truly be a fisher of men and have a record catch that will make God smile.

[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.]

 

Shall Will Focus on the Lights Above? by Jo Russell

“We’d love to have you come out for the holidays! Yay! It’s been too long! Looking forward to it so much!” Carol wrapped up her side of the phone call with the grown children on the first day of October.

Right after that, panic set in. She flip-flopped like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

For Carol had seen two of the big box stores shoving Halloween aside at the end of September. Employees burned the midnight oil jamming shelves with Christmas: artificial trees, garlands, bulbs, inflatable yard decorations, and truckloads of lights for the trees, the bushes, and the roofline. For the ladies, she even noticed lighted holiday necklaces already.

“Paul! We’ve got to get busy! The kids are coming out for Christmas! Can you fix the reindeer greeting sign today? An antler fell off. And do we have any blue bulbs? I’ve got to do a search on the activities going on at the time they’ll be here. I’ve got to plan an itinerary.”

She began to hyperventilate, “Oh, dear! So much to do!  I need some new decorations for the tall living room tree we bought last year just before Christmas! It’s naked! I don’t have anything for it! Do they have the colored bulb sets at the Super Saver Store yet?”

“Carol, calm down,” Paul paused as he penned in dates and commitments in his appointment book. “We’ve got about twelve weeks or exactly—” he added the sum in his head, “eighty four days until Christmas.”

“Carol, sometimes you plan too much ahead.”  That came from the man who took care of things just when they came up. “You packed for a cruise months ahead and yet forgot your toothbrush. Let’s just focus on the right things and leave some time for fun, too. Now stop holding your breath.”

Carol sighed at last.

Paul was right. They needed to focus on the right things as we all do. The retail and internet stores are cramming Christmas into the forefront in a plan for capitalizing on glitter, lights and a profit margin. The jingle mindset is stimulated with displays as early as September.

But time with God each day and each season not only paves the way for more spiritual growth, it provides a footing for all the challenges ahead and turns our eyes to the lasting light that leads us to Heaven – that of Christ Jesus.

Advice from the New Testament and still applies today. “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on thigs above, not early things.” [Colossians 3:1-2 NIV]

And that focus on God’s Light will illuminate our hearts and homes for any who come to visit.

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.]

 

No Pressure Too Great ! by Jo Russell

“I don’t want to go alone to buy a car, Wanda, so come with me and share the experience!” Sherry suggested. “Besides, if I buy today, you can be the first to ride in it! Then we’ll go to lunch—a divas’ day out!”

Sherry plunked in the driver’s seat and stacked her research, facts, brochures, and written questions in the back seat. She had memorized the important specs. Sherry evaluated the extras, the price, and the best place for financing. Before beginning, she quizzed the salesman, “Just how much experience do you have with these cars?”

Satisfied that he would do, she sat down with him and fanned out her materials. Three hours later, his palms were beginning to sweat with all the questions. Though he tried closing the sale numerous times, she persisted to know more before signing on the line.

“One more thing. What about…” Sherry began. But she was distracted by a new red sedan careening around the corner with Wanda driving!

Sherry was horrified. She stood and called out at the door, “Wanda! What’s gotten into you? Why did you buy this car?”

“I love the color! Don’t you think it looks good on me?”

Dealing with big ticket salespeople, who are trained to close the sale, is like peer pressure on steroids.

Though Sherry planned and needed to buy a car, Wanda didn’t. For Wanda, signing on the line just obligated her to five years of additional debt—because she liked the shine, smell and color of a new car.

How often do we face pressure to do, join, sign, or buy, that are not in our best interests? Every day. Pressures come from our entire world of work, friends, and family. God gives us the guidelines for life, the courage to choose the best path and the strength to stay on it.

Many examples of this span the time line of the Bible. Caleb reported to Moses that they could take the land of Canaan while the other Israelite spies said it couldn’t be done. Joshua trusted God with his unusual instructions for battle against the residents of Jericho – without traditional weapons or strategies and took the city easily.  Joseph had the courage to take Mary as his wife when she was pregnant with God’s son, though the village residents wanted to stone her for infidelity. Joseph trusted God and the angel who gave him the news she was carrying Jesus, the Messiah.

Infused into our lives can be these words of courage and conviction: “Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the Lord and on his law he mediates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers. [Psalm 1:1-4 NIV].

And those words of strength can overcome all manner of peer pressure – including big ticket salesmen!

[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.]

 

Fathers No Longer Have a Bad Rep by Jo Russell

Once upon a time in the not-too-distant past, fathers had the same kind of reputation as drill sergeants and Physical Education teachers who bellowed at the troups, “Drop and give me 50 push-ups! Also, add ten laps around the track!”  And with dads, the preamble usually began, “I’m telling your dad what you did! Wait until your father gets home!”

Other stereotypes of fathers may dominate the greeting card racks at this time of year.

They call the whole bunch fix-it guys and compliment them on their skills.

What if they aren’t? Do they still qualify as good fathers?

Ronnie doesn’t know how to put a new handle on the toilet or what a rubber plunger is used for besides a fixture in the bathroom. But Ronnie has always been an involved father. He and his wife raised their four children with Christian values from birth to adulthood. The couple taught their children to make choices that modeled integrity, responsibility, hard work, fairness, compassion and caring. Ronnie invested time from their first cries in the delivery room until now – as adults.

Another father who does know a toilet plunger from a tomatillo still doesn’t qualify as a fix-up guy. Anthony had a late start in life becoming both a first-time husband and father at age 42. As he became a dad, he grew in parenting skills, patience and love. But his passion is his daughter and grandchildren shows in the time and thoughtful deeds. Grandpa is remembered for cooking special meals to share with his grandchildren and reading them stories that left them tickled their funny bones. Those memories and experiences have become a legacy.

Make room today for many fathers who want to be there for their sons’ or daughters’ first cry to lifting them to the flight into adulthood.

A big thanks to the generations of fathers bound in parenthood with commitment, love, listening, and persistence.

What a difference in families, communities, and nations.

Today, “Wait ‘til your father gets home” isn’t what it used to be – thank goodness.

Dads, you touch the world!

[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.]

 

 

 

Never a Quarantine Area in Christ’s Kingdom by Jo Russell

A rancher was turning his pick-up and horse trailer around in the middle of the rural highway. There was no other way back to the ranch. The rig became a road block for a time over three lanes. He waved his wide-brimmed hat out the window at the oncoming traffic lined up to go north. Then he pointed to a just-installed sign.

As he traveled south, he paused to pass the news to others with horses. All those with livestock had to turn back.

Among the stopped in the traffic was Jolene with a load three teen backseat drivers. They were bored and vocal.

“Hey! Look at this!” one boy read. “Quarantine Area; Horses and Cattle Restricted.”

“That’s why the rodeo was cancelled!”

“I like it,” Rick repeated, “Quarantine Area: Horses and Cattle Restricted!

Because the only thing the teens had in common with the four-legged, hoofed animals was their appetite, their mother, Jolene, kept creeping along the highway thirty miles to town.

Joe chimed in, “It has rhythm! Like this, Quarantine Area: Horses and Cattle Restricted! And he leaned to the right. Quarantine Area: Horses and Cattle Restricted! He leaned to the left. Quarantine Area: Horses and Cattle Restricted! Another lean to the right.

Robbie loved it, too, and joined in. Quarantine Area: Horses and Cattle Restricted!

Jolene kept driving with the thought. Parents have no reason to complain with kids in the backseat who chant, “When do we get there, when do we get there, when do we get there.” 

Soon it was obvious the aging four-wheel drive needed shocks as the truck dipped side to side. The three in the back seat rocked to the rhythm and their own husky voices in unison, Quarantine Area: Horses and Cattle Restricted! Quarantine Area: Horses and Cattle Restricted! Quarantine Area: Horses and Cattle Restricted!

By the time they got home, Jolene had heard every tone and version of Quarantine Area: Horses and Cattle Restricted!

A sequel followed when the teens walked in the door. “I’m hungry as a horse. When do we eat?”

“Ah,” sighed Jolene. “The joys and responsibilities of motherhood.”

To any horses and cows, Quarantine Area: Horses and Cattle Restricted! implies that those inside the area are an exclusive breed, a closed clique, virus free – maybe even goodie two-hoofed.

It may seem that Christians can be like that, too. Too good to be true. In many past blogs, the author has shown with scripture that Christ, the son of God, offers his gift of forgiveness and a new life to all. One comes when the angels announce his birth to the shepherds with these words: “I bring you good news of great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ, the Lord.”  [Luke 2:10-11]

But with the gift of accepting Christ comes the commitment of following him and his teachings. It ain’t easy. He wants us to begin as humble and broken. He asks if we love him to follow his commands. Day by day, each needs to soul-search and evaluate decisions and actions. What would Christ do? He expects us to be as persistent as a junk yard dog – to the end.

Jesus himself says, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”  [Matthew 7:13-14]

Walking behind Christ’s divine footsteps may seem impossible. But he gives us the how-to guidelines, the strength, and the ability to go beyond our own skills and experience.

In the end, those persisting on the road to the kingdom of God will never be turned away. Step forward with Christ. Follow, choose, persist. All is possible within power of God and his will.

[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.]