“Old Fogies, Go Home!” by Jo Russell

“These old fogy visitors need to go home!” Carlie complained about the seasonal visitors to her mother as she battled for a place on six lanes of highway heading to her destination in the heavy metro traffic. “A turtle could outrun and outmaneuver that one! Just look at the way they drive! They need to get off the roads when the rest of us are trying to get someplace! Just look at that! Bet they can’t see for their cataracts!”

Her mother, Patty, turned her head to look. “Which old fogy is bugging you so?”

Carlie pointed to a gas-saving economy car piloted by a bespectacled, grey-haired driver.

That’s when Patty’s mouth dropped in astonishment. “Old fogy? Honey, those people are younger than I am! I’m a senior, too.”

Her daughter was speechless. She stammered to redeem herself, “But Mom, you’re not like them! You drive faster! You have great hobbies! You travel! You’re a granny extraordinaire!”

Grandma Patty couldn’t help but think that love and shared experiences colored her daughter’s idea of her own age and usefulness. But the old fogies crowding the byways are somebody’s fabulous grandparents, too.

In Jesus’ time and culture, many felt that others didn’t deserve compassion and kindness, such as the old fogies in with everyone else who were hungry at the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus looked on the crippled, ill, blind, disabled, and unemployable, had compassion and healed them. His words and assurance of care—still with us now—bring hope, healing, and relief to the innermost being. We are loved!

Just as love and compassion colored Carlie’s view of her mother, Jesus showed us that love is the key to make strangers into friends. Jesus stated the most important commandment is “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this. ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” [Mark 12:29-30].

If  Jesus made room in his heart and mind for old fogies in his time who didn’t drive, we can do so in ours. It’s worth it. Love can change of one heart at a time in the world and make it a better place.

[For your information, Jo Russell is a bespectacled old fogy, too, who doesn’t drive as fast as metro residents when she travels to new places or when the GPS is acting up.]

[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 Out of Season for Needs by Jo Russell

As Paul and Carol slid into booths of a vintage diner, the couple surveyed the menu. With a little over 100 full-time residents, the settlement in the tall pines attracted many to the nearby trout-stocked lakes–but not during the winter. It was far from a grocery store, but  everyone coped.

At the café, as inviting as the glowing flames in the woodstove in the center of the diner were the menu items: sandwich plates and food fare that looked as appealing as a cabin in the woods. Out for a morning run, the fire chief, had stopped to chat and recommended the restaurant.

When the waitress at the café penned Paul’s order, he asked, “Could I substitute cottage cheese for fries?”

“Nope,” she responded, “Not now anyway.”

“But you printed it on the menu!”

“Yep,” she agreed without looking up from her pad, “But we don’t have any cottage cheese until May. That’s when the tourists come up. You’re three months too early for cottage cheese.”

So much for substitutes and needs.

King David had penned these words: “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.” [Psalm 23:1.]

Sheep depend entirely on their shepherd to lead them to food and water, protect them, rescue them, care for their wounds, and meet their needs.

This comparison of a shepherd to the Creator’s care paints a word picture of dependence on him and a willingness to trust him.

It isn’t a parallel to our being animals, along with sheep. It’s about leaning on God.

God’s care. It’s not just food- God is the provider for all needs. In his time, he may send someone to give you encouragement when you need it. God sees when your need may be for healing, whether a physical issue, emotional or relationship struggles. God is aware you may have experienced a loss – of a job, a family member, a friend. God will help.

It’s part of the benefit package of trusting and following him.

Another is that all those things we really need, God will supply at the right time–Even cottage cheese.

[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.]

 

 

 

 

 

 

In Sickness and in Health By Jo Russell

Three days straight, Kathy could hear her husband, Al, from the hall as he worked his computer-based business from his home office.

“Ah-choo!”  Sniffle, honk. He then drew a ragged breath and let out a sigh.

Kathy reflected that though there is no cure for the common cold, he could be a better patient by staying in bed, drinking more water, getting a full night’s sleep, and letting his home-based business take a rest.

As she emptied the trash container of wadded-up tissue, brought him fresh ice water and pills, she hoped this bout of illness was near the end.

“Honey, would you like a cold glass of juice?”

Al replied, “No, Kathy. I don’t want to annoy the undertaker.”

With health in the headlines of every source of media daily, we may look for ideas that could improve our value of life, activity, and health. Both Psychology Today and Web MD  dispute claims that people who attend religious services live longer and have better health.

But heart health is what counts. That is, that your heart is aligned with the right guidelines for healthy living.

Jesus had much to say about spiritual health. “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” [Mark 2:17 NIV].  He was at the home of tax collector Matthew [AKA Levi] when other guests at the feast criticized, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?”

Tax collectors were entrepreneurs who were awarded a bid to collect taxes for the Romans. Apparently, the Romans didn’t give the publicans any guidelines on how much tax to charge as long as they got theirs.

For at the time of Herod the Great, tax was levied on produce from the fields, items bought and sold, land, personal property, housing, and a type of progressive income tax. But unlike today’s “Title Loan” businesses, which generate much profit, residents didn’t have a choice: Pay up, no arguments.

You can imagine that such a businessman as a tax collector was rich, but unpopular. According to the Holman Bible Dictionary, they were considered on the same social level as prostitutes.

In spite of Matthew’s friends, lifestyle and social standing, Jesus accepted him as he does us. No matter where we are, there is a place for us beside Jesus on the road to Heaven.

Your cold, doused with wadded up tissues and sneezing, will go away in a few days. No antibiotics needed. But look instead to becoming well on the inside. Your heart health begins with 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.]

 

 

 

 

Freedom Isn’t Free By Jo Russell

People say it so often and without expecting a response, they could be saying, “Have a good day” or “Thanks for shopping at Wal Mart.”

The phrase, “Freedom isn’t free” shouldn’t have the ho-hum meaning and flavor of already been chewed gum. Such a mindset has to change. Apathy destroys all relationships, including one with God. Let’s also remember and honor our Armed Forces.   

With a war currently in progress and my being in Washington, D.C. for Independence Day, I decided to trade that worn-out sentiment for the power of proof.

Every generation since the Revolutionary War has been touched by the commitment it takes to buy freedom. Just establishing the United States as a separate country cost over 25,000 lives. But think beyond statistics. They had been husbands, fathers, farmers, ancestors, business owners, entrepreneurs, craftsmen, builders, and men with a dream. Other wars have followed, touching every generation

How many of the 58,000 names listed on The Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial Wall were men of dreams under 30?  Check the numbers yourself. [http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/natsec/RL32492.pdf]  No monuments, medals, plaques or awards will ever bring back to life those who died or those, like my father, who returned from serving in war and was never the same again.

On a memorial in a small Arizona town is the name of a woman who died in the Persian Gulf War. With less than 400 dead, and just a few names on that marble slab, one might speculate, “Big deal.” But the reality struck me in my classroom where I taught the two motherless girls.  

Another for-instance. No post-war picture of my father ever reflected the same spark in his eye or smile as in the pre-war photographs taken before he left his fiancé for a battlefield an ocean away. Sacrificing the precious time when his children were young, my father experienced the consequence – not knowing his children.

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.

As a military professional, Dad’s being home for a long period of time only happened toward the end of 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. My father had proved his bravery in two wars and a full military career, receiving Silver and Bronze Star as well as many other campaign medals. 

Many have made the same promises to the Armed Forces as well as to their families. Consider that freedom isn’t free and think of the other effects for service men and women away from safety, a familiar culture, old friends, home, families, spouses, and children.

All serving or at home can invest and believe this promise: “I call on you, God, for you will answer me…Show me the wonder of your great love, you who save by your right hand those who take refuge in you from their foes.” Psalm 17:6-7.

Truly freedom isn’t free. God bless our Armed Forces. Pray for them. God guide them safe and bring them home — forever and always.   

 [Jo Russell is a Christian author, speaker, contributor to antholgies, articles, and author of 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, check her website options to enjoy chuckles, tips, excerpts and speeches.]   

 

 

 

 

 

Not Enough Allowance, But Plenty of Love By Jo Russell

“No fair!” seven-year-old Billy protested. “Tom got more money than I did!” Then the tears began to flow. His dry-eyed older brother, Tom, smiled, clutching bills that made him the richest kid under ten in the county.
“I told you that your allowance is based on how hard you work,” their mom calmly explained. “Let’s check the list.”

Billy and his mom compared the two lists of home and ranch chores. One was longer than the bi-monthly grocery list for trips to town. The shorter list, Billy’s, still had lots of space around the chores done after being scribbled on a sticky note. Still, Billy hadn’t yet seen the connection between work and pay.

“I hate my brother! He always gets everything!” cried Billy as he turned to Tom. “You can’t come in my room anymore. I won’t let you play with my toys!”
His mom sent Billy to his room to think and cool down.

But a few days later when the weekend came, affection and love resurfaced as the two brothers were head-to-head hatching a plan that required teamwork.

“I’m sorry. I don’t really hate you. You’re my best friend,” Billy admitted.

“You’re mine, too. Billy, I have an idea that if we put out money together, we can buy that truck we want. It works out for both of us!”

So they did. Alone, neither could have bought the toy truck of their dreams. Bonded together in forgiveness and love, they became an unstoppable team.

Remember this promise: “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers a multitude of sins.” [1 Peter 4:8 NIV]

Besides fights between siblings, that verse is useful to remember when having issues with family, coworkers, friends, and anyone who hurts us. Smother the world with love? Why, isn’t that the best way to prove we’re set apart from it?

Grown now, Billy and Tom think so. So do I.

[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 ande 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.]

Need more time, joy and love as well as a funny bone?

 

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Shall We Fast Forward to the Good Stuff? By Jo Russell

On the rare occasion that Joan watches thrillers, she holds up her hand over her eyes and peeks through her fingers when the action gets tense.

Her husband, John, sat beside her on the sofa one evening ready to enjoy one of his action-filled dramas. Joan screamed, reacting to the scene on the screen that was pitching with overturned cars, gunfire, blood, and flames.

“Honey, it’s not scary!” John pulled her closer to him. “Don’t you think you’re being silly? This is only the preview!”

It is no secret John likes action films. It is also common knowledge among their friends that Joan likes chic flicks and comedies. Fortunately, the couple’s preferences in media do not present a difference of opinion in their marriage any more serious than one liking cream in his coffee and the other liking it black.

Joan sighed, got up, and apologized, “Sorry, John, I’m a ‘happily ever after’ kind of gal. I leave you to your movie.”

Sometimes late at night when Joan has the remote control to herself to watch movies of her choice, she finds herself hitting the fast-forward button. Zip! The painful parts of the story disappear and the film speeds to the end where everyone is smiling and kissing.

What if screenwriters and novelists didn’t include conflict? Joan wished it were so. Writers will tell you it’s an essential part of fiction story-building. If there weren’t a problem, the reader or viewer would be too bored to turn the page. In real life, problems help us to grow. Second chances also give us a new lease on life. But how often do we want to fast forward to the happy ending? Can a story move to a happy ending without conflicts and challenges?

What about Adam and Eve? When God created the idyllic Garden of Eden, he provided an underground watering system, great, loose soil full of nutrients, and lush fruit-bearing plants and trees. The couple didn’t have to mix up Miracle Grow, amend the soil, compost, dig out rocks, foxtails, goat heads, or worry about drought. A gardener’s dream! Lots of yield and not much work! It was all the fruits, nuts, veggies, and variety that a person could need. At that time of grace and favor, no animals were carnivores, nor did the first couple kill any for meat within the garden.

God planned on the couple to keep on living and to raise a family. He had given them a bigger brain than all the critters, plus the opportunity to reason and choose. They and we are created in His image, after all.
If I were watching a movie of Adam of Eve messing up, like Joan, I would be tempted to fast forward through all the pain and hardship they brought on themselves and look for a happy ending. In their lifetimes, Adam and Eve might not have found it.

But soon after the conflict, God stepped in with a solution. First, he demoted the serpent, pledging that the clever creature would crawl on its belly the rest of its existence.

But God really did plan a happy ending for man and womankind, and He introduced it in the Garden of Eden.

While talking with the serpent, God promised, “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head and you will strike his heel.” Genesis 3:15 [NIV].

It was the promise of a second chance for all generations. God told the serpent Satan that would be defeated. Satan would try, but Christ would crush the creature’s head, resulting in a fatal injury. The final blow came when Jesus defeated Satan and death by being raised from the dead.

“God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8. [NIV]. The ultimate gift of love.

At the birth of Christ, an angel cried with happiness, “I bring you good news of great joy that will be 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 [NIV]. Three decades later, Christ, the Savior recognized the time had come to finish God’s promise.

Conflict: bad choices. Resolution: another chance. It all came with Christ. Though the creation and Noah’s ark weren’t set in a time frame we understand, scholars established a reference point after that to the time Christ came. It was more than several thousand years. But the Savior was worth the wait.

If we fast forward from the conflict in the Garden of Eden to now, we’re missing out on the good stuff. So put down the remote take it slow. Savor the gift from the Lord of All. A gift for all to open: a second chance of a new beginning and a clean slate through forgiveness.

[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.]

Fashion or Comfort? By Jo Russell

A woman’s scream coming from the shoe department pierced the quiet atmosphere of the large retail store.

Sprinting over to her friend, Clare, Susie cried, “What’s wrong?”

Clare had been doing nothing more dangerous than trying on shoes. Clare’s latest choice was a pair of four-inch heels decorated with an acrylic heart-shape. When she stood up in the open-toed shoes, the woman gasped and then screamed. Clare limped back to a bench, easing herself down. “I think I pulled a muscle!” She paused as she regained her composure. “Susie, how do you think those shoes look on me?”

Though Clare had always been willing to make sacrifices as a Fashion Diva, Susie was the Queen of Comfort. Oh, how Clare suffered for fashion! Her great look often only survived for a short period of time because of discomfort. But at one and a half seconds, the acrylic sandals set a new record. Clare bought them anyway.

Susie was enjoying the shopping trip as she was inspecting the shoes on display. With her large feet, she could never find her size at stores. “Look, you can use these pointy little numbers for killing cockroaches in corners – or for self-defense!” Susie commented as she picked up leather pumps on display. She checked another pair, “Maybe these could do double duty as a hammer for quick home repairs!”

“Susie, you could probably use a fashion update, and it doesn’t even have to be in shoes!” Clare suggested. “I know you can’t find your size in stock, but the grungy sweatshirt, green knee-high wool hunting socks and hot pink Crocs are out!”

Comfort and women’s fashions seem to be on opposite sides of the spectrum.

Yet we all need comfort in the highs and lows of life. New shoes won’t do it–nor sweatshirts and fuzzy slippers during the winter. Not even fluffy fleece pajama bottoms will satisfy the needs of our souls. When it comes to a need for comfort, we may not find it in friends or family. Often, we feel alone. But we are not.
Our comforter is always there: God.

Think on this famous passage from Psalm 23: “I will fear no evil, for you are with me, your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” What is the significance of the staff? Jesus called himself “The Good Shepherd.” A shepherd used the staff for defending his own from enemies, for representing his authority, guiding and nurturing the sheep, and as a walking stick. Creating a word picture of God’s care for us, his sheep, Jesus told the parable of losing one sheep, leaving the ninety-nine in an open field and looking for the lost sheep until he found it. [Luke 15:3-7]. Jesus said there is much rejoicing in Heaven when lost sheep are found. They are the people who turn back to God.

God is still always present in our need for comfort and joyful in our relationship with him.

But the well-known derivative “comfortable” may not apply to fashion or a relationship with God. Like a good shepherd, he keeps his sheep from harm, but also pushes their limits. They may walk further than they think they can, eat less than they think they need, or learn something they didn’t think they needed to know.

That is the same with us. God does push us beyond what we believe are our limits. That brings out the best in us, because there is no limit to a growth spurt with God as supervisor. He makes it work for good – ours and His.

Is fashion giving you the style and comfort you seek – or are you ready for the warm embrace of God’s assurance each day?

[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.]

Punishment or Physical Therapy? By Jo Russell

Anyone sentenced to physical therapy following surgery or an injury has a great example that God isn’t finished with us yet! Like physical therapy, God gives us exercises that stretch our muscles, skills and abilities. The final objectives from God and physical therapists are the same: mobility and new possibilities.

Recent surgery reacquainted me with P.T. This has given me hours of going nowhere and feeling guilty for neither doing anything nor burning a significant number of calories. The machines mimic skiing, bicycling, mountain climbing and marathon running. But all of them and I stay in one place.

So last time, I multitasked by memorizing some of the Laws of Physical Therapy posted on the wall:

“Never say, “I just want to go home – because you’ll just stay longer.”

Never say it’s easy – because we’ll make it harder.”

“Never lose count – because you start at one again.”

“Never complain – because we never listen.”

“Never scream or cry – because it just encourages us.”

“Never look like you are enjoying yourself – because we’ll put a stop to it.”

“Never hold your breath because if you pass out, we’ll have to do the paperwork.”

As if physical therapy and surgery wasn’t enough to qualify me as a glutton for punishment, in the fall, I took over teaching a Sunday group of tweens. After that, I was gone for a month because of saws-all surgery. When I returned, some of the experiences with the students illustrated the P.T. laws so well that I laughed aloud.

P.T. Law: “Never argue – because you don’t win.” One student always seemed to think he deserved another turn because his was “no fair.” He didn’t get another chance. He learned to do his best the first time.

P.T. Law: “Never say you can’t – because you’ll do it anyway.” Working in teams, each student learned to find passages in the Old and New Testaments in spite of the fact that the Bible is as thick as two of their school textbooks.

P.T. Law: “Never lie or cheat because we know the truth and you’ll live to regret it.”
When I returned, the students claimed they hadn’t gotten their fair share from the prize box. I learned the truth from the sub.

While having lunch with some of my friends, one asked if my new class lived up to the reputation of middle school behavior. That’s the kind that keeps the pharmaceutical business thriving and gives parents nightmares. My friends were expecting horror stories.

I smiled sweetly, remembering the famous passage: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him who have been called according to his purpose.” [Romans 8:28 NIV]. I thought of the children’s progress, participation, and enthusiasm. The passage fits and encourages. I also remembered in P.T. when the therapist high-fived me and said, “Great going!” I know how good that felt.

And then I answered with the most encouraging words of truth about God’s relationship with everyone, “Like us, they are all works in progress.”

God has great plans in who you are becoming. Give yourself a high five! God isn’t finished with you, yet!

[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.]

Where All Are Welcome At Dinner By Jo Russell

Grammo taught her children and family well. “No dining room is complete without a table that seats twelve,” she might have said. Though none of her twelve children grew families that large, their homes and drop-leaf tables still reflected  warmth, welcome, and hospitality to all who came.

Widowed and left with a partially-remodeled, unprofitable hotel when most people were ready to retire, Grammo moved her large dining table to the hotel. She adopted a “can do” attitude as entrepreneur, contractor supervisor, and businesswoman.  It was a piece of cake. After all, she had managed a budget, large family and home for years.

As the hotel became profitable, Grammo added more faces, warm bantering and conversation around the large dining table –some family, some friends, and some strays.  

Her granddaughter, a student nurse living in the same town, was a frequent guest. No different than today, college students were short on funds and food. Laura Jeane was one of them. One day, she asked Grammo if she and another student nurse could come to the hotel for her uncle’s birthday party and dinner. “Is it any trouble?” she worried.

Grammo laughed, “Why no, Laura Jeane, it means only two more plates for you to wash!”

Love infused Grammo, that table, and her guests at every meal.

God’s love is an antibiotic that all of us need. We have the chance to share it around our tables Thanksgiving and any time. Jesus had something to say about it. Consider these lifestyle orders: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, you must also love one another. By this all men will know you are my disciples, if you love one another. ” [John 13:34 NIV].

When a neighbor approached Kathy and asked, “Can we spend Thanksgiving together? I would rather spend it with friends than family,” Kathy smiled, “Of course!”  Kathy’s kitchen would never fit a table for twelve, but every guest around the placemat-sized table knew the love of Christ through Kathy.  

May God’s love infuse your home, guests, and table – no matter how many it seats – this Thanksgiving.  

 [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.]   

SAVE THE DATE! CROSSWORD OLD TESTAMENT QUIZ DEC. 9. WIN A FREE BOOK SHIPPED ANYWHERE!

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Customer Service Extraordinaire By Jo Russell

Have you noticed the entire aura of banks has changed lately? It’s all about customer loyalty and extraordinary customer service. Each is falling over the other with customer perks.

Banking is a far cry from the days I needed a washing machine, sought out a banker in the glass tower and asked her for a loan. She perused my paystubs, and sent me away with the message they weren’t interested in my kind – that being a working professional and single mom with two young children.

“You can always go to the Super Suds Laundromat in your spare time!” she called after me.

Spare time? As a teacher, I wondered if that fell sometime between June and August. What about the rest of the year?

Today as a baby boomer with grown kids, when I step up to the bank window, I’m showered with interest, eye contact, and a teller who welcomes me by name — though people only call me Josephine when they are mad at me. The teller gives a pitch for some of the new services and asks me if I need anything else.

“Your competitor just gave me a lollipop. Can you top that?” She gave me two.

After years of being a number, a name, and a bank balance, I felt nearly faint with all the attention. “Maybe I need to dress up to go to the bank and make sure that my socks match,” I thought after the last trip to the teller.

I pulled up to the drive-in window few days later, and after the enthusiastic welcome, service pitches, lollipops, Halloween candy, and a fall centerpiece, the teller offered, “How about a free car wash today?” He must have noticed my bug-smeared windshield and truck bed crackling with dead leaves.

What’s this really about? Customer service ratings and opinion polls. My two banks were neck and neck, but still ten points under the benchmark bank that initiated the program. In the big bank’s words, “A significant part of Bla-Bla Bank’s profit increase is directly attributable to increasing the quality of service we provide our customers.” Translated, it’s why they’ve been paying attention to us for the first time in a century. It makes profit. The lender image of Ebenezer Scrooge is gone forever.

In this season of generosity and giving that shadows the bank business, too, we need to get our hearts ready to give and serve for the right reasons. In the service of God, it’s not about profit, return, or customer service ratings.

“Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver,” [2 Corinthians 9:7.]

Doing extraordinary customer service for God doesn’t mean you have to pre-qualify with a financial portfolio, a designer suit, or matching socks. God will use you and what you have, wherever you are. He’s seeing the hearts like yours that are doing and helping where there is a need. That’s extraordinary customer service!

[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.]