What Do You Have As Collateral for Life? By Jo Russell

Sherry, the insurance representative at the hospital, glared at Jolene from her desk with a stern frown as she clutched one of the woman’s diaper-clad twins.

Her small office had suddenly burst at the seams with babies, their gear, and a twin stroller the size of a small car. The baby boy who cooed into her face expected a smile from her. Only a few weeks old, he knew he was the catalyst for love, smiles, and hugs. Not with her! The unhappy grown-up shuffled papers on her desk and began spelling out terms.

“I see what you still owe after your primary insurance carrier paid most of the bill for the twins and their intensive medical nursery care. The second carrier will not pay because you signed up too late. There is a considerable balance left. I see that you and your husband owe quite a bit on other bills. How do you plan to pay this? What will you use for collateral?”

She swiveled in her chair toward Jolene, holding the baby tighter. Though the new mother of twins thought the hospital’s delivery and care of the babies would be considered services, Sherry considered the babies goods, and she had a tight hold on one just to prove it!

The fact was Jolene had no idea how she would pay an amount equal to three years’ salary. Before she spotted a blue padded cell where the one twin would stay as collateral, Jolene  swept the child out of the representative’s arms, gathered the considerable gear, and told her, “I don’t have any answers right now. I will get back to you.”

Jolene had hit a wall and had no answers. From there, God took over. He reflected with love on Jolene and her two-baby bonus.

God proves his living creations are priceless treasures worthy of rescue. He knew Jolene’s need, as he does ours.

Today is Sanctity of Human Life Sunday. This honors the value of human life, even of life within the womb. Beyond birth, life continues to be precious. God knows the map of our lives and the plan and outcome of each day.

“When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” [Psalm 139: 16 NIV]

God knew the answers in Jolene’s life. She and her newborns discovered care and his divine provision along the way.

A few weeks after the confrontation with the hospital rep who wanted money or collateral, Jolene arrived at work and found her desk wallpapered with checks for nearly the entire balance of the bill. All checks were from the insurance carrier the representative said would not pay.

Just as God showed his love to Jolene, he continues to show daily care for us as well. To him,  the value of life is priceless. He sits in on all our challenging conferences, and his son, Jesus, has already paid our debts.

God has it handled. What covers collateral for life? Jesus. Nothing more is needed.


[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.]





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.]

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.]

No Fair! By Jo Russell

The boy had opened his conversation with his mom on a summer trip to the grocery. “NO FAIR! These round things without seeds aren’t watermelons! What happened to the other kind with a zillion black seeds? That’s the only kind I want!” the eight-year-old protested.

At the start of the season, Mike realized he had been robbed of his championship status in an event important to him as Olympic competition. Watermelons had changed forever! New and improved? Not to him! No longer could Mike and his brother compete and set a seasonal record for long-distance watermelon seed-spitting from the porch. What was Fourth of July without it? Or the start of the school year?

Appreciating his new interest in ethics and issues his mother asked, “So what are you saying about seedless watermelons?”

“They’re un-American!”

By Halloween, I wonder if scientists’ enthusiasm for genetically-altered fruit means that “grapples” (grapes + apples) take over the floating fruit for “apple bobbing” and pluots (plums + apricots) crowd out grapes and peaches. Whatever happened to God’s originals? And what was wrong with them anyway?

God, the Creator, called plant life “good.” For the Bible reads, “Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their kinds…And God saw that it was good.” [Genesis 1:11] God, Mike, and I would agree.

Though scientists have played around with DNA on veggies, fruits, and even livestock, in the name of improving the product or the genetics, changing them forever, God doesn’t change.

Need proof?

“The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.” Deuteronomy 33:27 ~written nearly 3,500 years ago.

“I the Lord do not change.” Malachi 3: 6 ~ penned nearly 2500 years ago.

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” James 1:17 ~ recorded over 2,000 years ago.

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.” Hebrews 13:8 70 A.D. ~ written also over 2,000 years ago.

God is a stable foundation in our lives as he had been since the beginning of creation of the earth, of man, of apples and watermelons.

As for Mike and me, we’re hooked on watermelons with big, black seeds – and the contests that go right along with them!

[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.]