God’ll Leave the Light on for Ya!

Seven-year-old Trevor speeded up to get to the classroom after recess after playing with friends around a huge shade tree on the playground. “Wait!” he had hollered as he stretched his legs into a sprint. But Trevor didn’t make it.

A firehose-sized tree root caught his foot. His body slammed to the ground with a “Booof!”  By then, the boy was circled with a crowd of classmates..

“Are you all right?” his brother asked and offered a hand up.

“I think so.” Trevor tried to hoist himself up, but whimpered, “It hurts. Maybe not.”

Trevor’s teacher-mom, Jolene, sent him home to their house just outside the playground. He stayed there the rest of the day with his arm wrapped and tucked into an ice pack.

Jolene considered that the doctor, hospital, and emergency clinics were 100 miles away. She had no one to take her class while she finished the work day at the isolated country school.

His mom checked on him throughout the school day. The boy wasn’t any better.

Jolene was stunned the phone was working when called the clinic on the party line before she took her family to town.

“We’ll stay open after closing!” the doctor promised. So just like Motel 6, Jolene noticed as they pulled in, “We left the lights on for ya!”

“Hairline fracture,” the doctor concluded. “That’s a broken arm. We’ll get your son fixed up quickly and he’ll heal up nicely.”

A few weeks later as Trevor was playing with his brother at home, he swung the cast-covered arm overhead to bonk his sibling on the head. “You’re not the boss of me!”

Things are back to normal. Jolene concluded, I guess he’s feeling better already!

Life happens. It’s full of blessings along with happiness mixed in with conflict and sometimes pain.

Difficult situations and changed circumstances happen to all. They may last a long time instead of pointing to a quick answer or recovery. Or it may only be a short time before life seems normal again. But the journey doesn’t need to be a lonely one, but a trek with constant companionship and help as God matches each step. He is worthy of our trust and praise. He knows the path ahead.

These words are the banner of the believer: “We wait in hope for the Lord; he is our help and our shield. In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name. May your unfailing love rest upon us, O Lord, even as we put our hope in you.” [Psalm 33:20-22]

Our great God is there through every fracture—hairline or not. And he always leaves the light on for us!

[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.]

The Rocky Road to Endurance by Jo Russell

Paul was new to the sport of hiking other than the necessity of making it from the front door to the car on the way to his office. Work, I know how to do. Walk – well that, too, but it was never very much fun.

But the senior’s new wife, Carol, had other ideas.

“We’re going to see the historical houses today,” she announced cheerfully, “so bring your walking shoes.”

When they reached the first of the more than century-old houses, he groused, “Do I haveta get out of the car?”

Even over time, Carol didn’t give up. Both were gaining in strength and endurance. So she suggested, “The town is having a celebration walk. Which one of these do you want to do with me – or would you rather be the cheering section?”

He thought long and hard – for weeks. Just about the time she decided the non-verbal answer was “No,” he quizzed her, “Which one is the shortest?”

As the two hiked toward the half-way point of the racewalk, Paul huffed and puffed, “Where is that water station where we get to turn around? We’ve been walking for hours!” But they crossed the finish line with a smile – the oldest couple in any category.

“Well done, Paul,” Carol congratulated him.  “Definitely a thumbs up for the geriatric group!”

On an out-of-town trip to a scenic park, Carol coaxed Paul into traversing “The Waterfall Trail.”  But even his walking experiences to that point didn’t prepare him for the climb. “Geez! Who built these steps! They’re as high as my knees!” He clung to the guardrail that bent downward and disappeared on the rock face. “Whoever they hired to build this trail should be giving their wages back to the boss!”

But Paul made it and looked up at the fern-covered cliff with water misting onto his face. The beauty of the destination was worth it. He then realized that his opinion of walking and hiking was changing. He had built up his muscles and lungs so that his walking wasn’t painful anymore.

Paul’s trials in building endurance pushed him to persevere. Carol was proud of him.

Endurance in the Christian journey is uphill and downhill, and crossing uneven ground, steps and slopes that are difficult. Painful moments of the journey include all kinds of challenges. But ultimately, they build strength and character.

Persevere and have hope in these words:

“We rejoice in the hope and glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance character, and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love in our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” [Romans 5:2-5 NIV]

Whether it’s doing something new that is scary, standing firm in confrontations, setting boundaries, trying the impossible, calling on courage to do the right thing, God is with you. You will be able to tackle those things that are difficult and never have to ask, “Do I haveta get out of the car?” You’ll be first with endurance for the journey.

[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.]

Finishing the Spiritual Race in Your Best Form by Jo Russell

You’d think Marvel Comics come to life at the gym while it is crowded with the before-work crowd and high school athletes. As they work their way into being buff, they exhale noisy sounds that would make Captain America proud.

“OOOooff!”

“Bam!” “Bap!”

“Smack!” “Skid!”

Puffing out every breath with effort, “Poof!” Ten!”

“Poof! Eleven!”

“Poof! Twelve!”

“Poof! Thirteen!

“Poof!”   “Whew!”

When they leave, the gym grows quiet again. That’s when Will strolls in. A retiree and a senior, the stocky man stretches with light weights as he warms up to see if he’s up to a vigorous workout. Then Will resumes his routine.

Will is the king of the “Beast Board,” pressing more weights than any of the younger crowd and never with an “OOOooff!” He smiles as he lay on his back lifting a bar with a hundred pounds on each end.

Will believes the sign of progress doesn’t have to sound like Marvel Comics with sound effects. “That would be embarrassing.”

Over a period of time, those who work out in the gym, train for sporting events or games get stronger, have more endurance, and increase in intensity and power.

It’s just like our spiritual run. No noise needed. Nor it is necessary to compare ourselves to others’ performance and speed.

For in the still quiet place where God talks with us, we receive our instructions for the obstacle course ahead. We compete only with our own time and actions. We can be encouraged by Christians ahead of us who have finished their race.

We are valued by our obedience and identified by steady progress toward the goal.

Paul writes, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” [Hebrews 12:1]

For all who persist in perfecting their faith and Christ-like lifestyle brings a different reward. That race–ending in Heaven with Jesus greeting us at the finish line—will be with words more meaningful than a trophy, “Well done, my good and faithful servant!”

[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.]

Counting the Cost to Race for Jesus By Jo Russell

“I’m ready for the bike race next week!” Pete called out to his teen friends as they wheeled their racing two-wheelers into his yard for a training ride. “Just give me a minute to finish fixing this flat.”

Pete installed a strip cut from a plastic milk carton along the channel of the tire. “See I don’t even have to buy a tube!”

“And will that work?” Jack asked doubtfully.

“I’d bet my lucky socks on it!” the novice bicyclist affirmed. “I know it’s true because I read it in a bicycling magazine a few days ago! It’s great! This is absolutely free! I didn’t have any extra money anyway!”

Sometimes a promise of “This is an experience you’ll never forget!” could be a good thing. This wasn’t.

More than an hour later with nothing between towns but tumbleweeds and coyotes, the three wound down a country back road as Pete sprinted ahead. Then he wobbled and slowed down with panic in his eyes. Pete regained control of the two-wheeler as he and the bike staggered to a stop. Jack and Artie passed him. “Hey, guys! Stop! I’ve got a flat!”

“Great!” groaned Artie. You don’t have a tube, right?”

“Nope.”

“My extra won’t fit on your wheel. Anybody remember a phone?”

“I guess in all the excitement we forgot.”

“I’ll head into town and call your folks,” Jack offered. He pedaled to the nearest phone eight miles and many minutes away.

Artie and Pete turned around for the long walk home with their bikes. Pete reddened and added, “I guess we’re getting the exercise after all – even if it’s not the way we planned.”

With town more than a dozen miles away, Artie glared at him, “I’ll take your lucky socks when we get home.”

When Pete’s parents showed up, they loaded the teens and their bikes.

“Pete! This is your fault!  We’re stopping to buy an inner tube right now. You owe us.”

At the twenty-mile race a week later, Artie was wearing Pete’s lucky socks when Pete sprinted ahead to draft behind the lead racers. But without his lucky socks, Pete felt undressed. In a burst of speed, his friends zipped ahead of Pete and caught up with the lead racers.

Then something dark as a meatloaf dropped off  Pete’s  bike – the seat! Seven miles later still pedaling and standing, a red-faced Pete turned on the steam for a sprint  across the finish line. His friends had finished long before. “Couldn’t sit down,” Pete explained. “We’ll have to find the seat somewhere back there!”

With nothing between the beginning and the end of the race but tumbleweeds and coyotes, the three couldn’t find it.

“I guess I can’t ride anymore,” Pete lamented.

But his friends continued training, got stronger, developed endurance and skills. They won again and again.

Pete had figured the cost of the race at only the entry fee. But had Pete really determined the cost of the rides and the races?

No. Pete could have checked his bicycle before and after each ride, oiling parts and doing routine maintenance as he looked to see that everything was working well—and that he kept his pants as well as his seat on.

Instead, he brought surprises into his life and that of his friends. Not the good kind!

Just as Jesus cautions us to count the cost of preparing, he warns that we need to count the cost of following him. “Suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Will he not first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.” [Luke 14:31-33]

Living the Christian life – each day and each year and each decade – has a cost. It’s commitment. It’s taking a stand. It’s claiming Christ even in the face of ridicule or persecution.

It may cost friends – and bring you new ones. It may cost money and time. The Christian life may change your career and your focus.

But in running the race with Christ as your coach and trainer, you’ll emerge as the winner in all things that count.

[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.]

Worth the Wait for the Best Gift of All By Jo Russell

“My sister promised she’d send my Christmas present early, and here it is!” Marty, the middle-aged, was nearly jumping with excitement as she reached for the box at the counter of the rural post office.

The small-town post office provided a friendly place for residents to gather and gab, and  Postmistress Kelly knew them all. She smiled as she looked closely at the box addressed to her customer.

“What’s the return address?” Marty wanted to know.

Kelly read it from the box.

“I knew it! She got me something really great!” Marty continued to prattle while Kelly listened, “I think I know what it is! This is fabulous! It’s not even Halloween yet, and I’ve got a Christmas present from my sister! I love how she plans ahead and sends things early!”

Before Postmistress Kelly handed over the box, she noticed a small sticker on the side and pulled it off. She wadded up the sticky label and tossed it in the trash behind the counter. Then Kelly smirked at her excited customer.

“What was that?” Marty asked.

“The label told what was inside the box. That’s why I had to peel it off. This gift needs to be a surprise. That’s what your sister wanted.”

At last, Marty was nearly speechless. “But I really, really wanted to know what was in the box! You know, don’t you?”

Kelly smiled sweetly.

Marty paused to think, “Didn’t I tell you that this was for my husband?”

Postmistress Kelly continued with a grin, “This gift will be worth waiting for. Happy Holidays!”

 

There are many other secrets in the universe that may not be revealed by the holidays. And they are certainly worth the wait.

Take Paul’s words, “Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” [1Corinthians 13:12 NIV].

A lot of Biblical scholars have commented on this passage. But to make it simple, we can only see part of God and His perspective; His reasons for directing our lives as He does. We only know some of the characteristics and glory of God, but only a small part. Accepting all of Him is an act of faith.

One day, we will see the entire picture of God and His surprise gifts for us as He lets us unwrap them. And it will be worth the wait.

[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.]

 

 

 

 

 

 

Free download of e-book Amazon.com May 9 to 12, 2013. Happy Mother’s Day!

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Amazon.com Promotion: Free download of the second edition of
Which Button Do You Push to Get God to Come Out?
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Click here to download free Kindle Application for your PC or device.

Americana comes alive in author Jo Russell’s humorous stories with Biblical concepts that make these Christian devotions fun and helpful. Men, don’t feel left out! Laughter is good medicine for all. Read and enjoy!!

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Lift Your Eyes to the Heavens! By Jo Russell

As a person visiting from arid Arizona, Barbara expected a reaction in the coastal town supermarket when she remarked to no one in particular, “Wow! That rain is really coming down!”

No one in the supermarket even blinked. With an average of 62.5 inches of precipitation a year in all forms, residents of the small seaside town just couldn’t get excited over anything dropping from the sky – rain, snow, sleet, ice, fog, hail, or seagulls and their by-products.

Even a church marquis used the weather as a take-off with this advice, “Lift up your eyes to the Heavens…and watch out for ice and snow!”

Lifting our eyes to Heaven with thanks to God is a great way to start each day. Thinking positive can alter the attitudes about experiences in life. It’s easy when they are…

• so few visits to the doctor, he doesn’t remember who you are
• healthy kids and grandkids
• bountiful gardens free of cutworms
• sunny days
• answered prayers
• a dream getaway vacation
• bonuses and bank accounts that are in the black

But life’s experiences also mimic ice, snow, avalanches, accidents, and black ice. For over a hundred years, Morton Salt proclaims that when it rains, it pours.
That may come in the form of:

• misplaced luggage that visited more states than you have
• missing shoe from each pair belonging to the under-10 set when they arrive at your home.
• a midnight family reunion at the emergency room or poison center
• a surprise diagnosis by a medical team
• the smiling repairman earning time and a half, whistling his way through a house so filled with family for the holidays, he wonders if this is the four-wall equivalent of “How many students can you cram into a Volkswagen?”

Ah, life! Such variety!

Yet through the fair weather and the freak storms, we can count on God as our refuge and our strength even when there’s a whole lot of shaking going on! “Therefore do not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging… The LORD Almighty is with us and the God of Jacob is our fortress.” [Ps. 46:2-3, 7]

What if you’re trying to sleep with all that racket? David wrote, “I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety. [Ps 4.8] And he could drift off to dreamland while rain pelted on the roof.

So can you. Remember to lift your eyes to the Heavens, and God will give you rest—through every kind of storm.

[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 IF YOU ANSWER CORRECTLY FIRST!

 

The Fail-Proof Security System by Jo Russell

The newest park ranger found it hard to locate a rental in an isolated small town. After many months, he found a perfect rental: tidy, small, and fully-furnished and with all snow removal as part of the rent. The apartment was tucked below the landlord’s two-story house. Its spacious yard was lined with tractors and trucks used for snow removal in town. The avid sportsman landowner also left shot-up clay targets along its flowerbeds.

As the young ranger paid the deposit and first month’s rent, he asked for the apartment keys. “Keys?” the landlord responded. “We don’t need keys here. We have guns!”

In the time that followed, the park ranger found he didn’t need keys, an alarm system, or motion lights. As a security system, the landlord’s guns worked just fine.
Though that “gun system” worked against break-ins and burglaries, where can one find a truly comprehensive security system that also cover floods, earthquakes, tidal waves, uncertainties, and personal challenges?

God!

For thousands of years, God promised and showed the way through uncertainties for Abraham, Sarah, Moses, Jacob, Elijah, Elisha, Ruth, Mary, Jesus’ disciples, Paul, and scores of others. His promises still stand today.

“God is our refuge and our strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the seas, though its water roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging…The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.” Psalm 46:1-4…7)

The cost of “God’s Comprehensive Security System”? Trust. Faith. Prayer. Communication. A lifetime commitment taken one step and one day at a time. His system never fails and neither does He.

[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 Room for the Negative D’s: God Don’t Allow No Whinin’ By Jo Russell

As a small group shared an hour in a craft class, Negative Nellie swelled up with what she considered her important role: Bearer of Bad News. She watched the crowd’s reaction to her steady newsfeed. When class members’ shoulders slumped and high anxiety rose, Nellie escalated her talk with a focus on the D’s: death, disease, distemper, disorganization, the disadvantaged, deflated water wings, decreased values, defaulted loans, as well as dingy dishes.

Once the class slipped lower into the chairs, Nellie rose to leave like a drama queen. She called out with a smirk, “When the factory closes at the end of this month, our houses will depreciate and become worthless! We’ll lose them!”

Other class members left mumbling, contemplating slitting their wrists, taking Prozac, or going on a chocolate binge—whichever took the least amount of effort. I opted to put on my “Life is Good” smiley-face socks and head to the gym. “If anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think about these things,” I recalled from Philippians 4:8.

Faith in God opposes Negative Nellie’s thinking. “God don’t allow no whining,” I reminded myself. Just a few days later, I remembered that when I read a bankruptcy notice from my book publisher—less than a year after my first book was released.

I talked to God as He lit the sky with his sizzling lightning. Then I saw God’s smile studded with raindrops. He was giving the earth what it needed. He would give me what I needed, too. Not just basic needs, but more words, too. For I know He can and with his help, I can, and whatever your needs, He will provide, too.   

After Jesus talks about our concerns with our basic essentials and needs, He advises “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well….Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. [Matt. 6: 33 NIV]. Or as Paul writes, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” [Phil. 4:6 NIV] .

There is no room for Negative Nellie in a faith-filled heart. Count on God. He’ll give you what you need 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.]