Marriage and Relationships: A Second Chance by Jo Russell

Marriage and Relationships: a Second Chance

“It’s pretty sad,” the clergyman shared with his congregation, “That one out of every two couples that I marry split up.  “The reason is usually summed up in these words by one or both of the newlyweds, ‘Marriage isn’t what I thought it would be!’”

From the audience, one bride of less than a year must have agreed. She laughed so loud and long that he stopped, stared, and addressed her, “Carol, you haven’t been married that long. What are you laughing about?”

Even though it has often been said, “The couple that prays together, stays together,” Paul and Carol had done that. They planned a budget together. The couple counseled with the pastor. At one long-time spouse’s suggestion, they remembered he advised, “The couple that paints the garage together is the real test. Can you still love your partner after a 15-hour day of agreeing on a color from thousands of shades? Then can you forgive the spills and spots of the one who isn’t that good of a painter or who stepped in the paint tray?”

Following that advice during their courtship, the two had painted a garage together. After that shared experience, they still planned to marry because compatibility seemed to be a sure thing.

Still, there were surprises. Some were great. Some weren’t. All the pets barfed on the rug at some point. Paul cleaned it up.

When Carol cooked, Paul always thanked her for the meal and added, “Kick back, Sweetie. Do anything you want. I’ll do the dishes.”

Maybe because of all the romance writers out there, new brides may expect something different. Somebody taller than her with a six-pack that didn’t come from the fridge.  In looks, the love interest guy is so strikingly handsome that he could be on the cover of G.Q. [Gentlemen’s’ Quarterly.] Kisses that are more of a dream come true than winning the Power Ball Jackpot. The fictional romantic man never makes any rude bodily noises, whether accidentally or on purpose.  Real life. That’s different.

Carol knew those attributes of romance heroes are no more real than the size 3 models representing the average woman in clothing catalogs – or the chisel-jawed men, slender, six feet or so in men’s clothing catalogs.

Mutual respect. It’s the foundation of Ephesians 5.

“Husbands, love your wives just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless….However, each one of you must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.” [Ephesians 5: 25-27; 5:33].

Jesus taught and valued people of all levels of life, all races and denominations. He still does. Jesus may have healed their bodies as well as souls with forgiveness. He has modeled how to handle relationships.

Jesus also models tolerance and flexibility. Relationships require forgiveness at times.

When five adult siblings gathered after their mother’s death, four got in a fight over a teakettle each wanted. In the decades that followed, none of the four spoke to each other. One by one, they slipped into Alzheimer’s or death.

As each of the four would come before Jesus, what would he say about their relationship skills? Where had they failed each other? In failing to work on relationships and giving another chance.

The real man in her life, Carol decided, is the one who prays with her each morning, cleans up the messes on the rug and generally makes work and play more fun. He is worthy of respect, forgiveness, and a second chance. So are you.

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

 

 

 

 

Forgiveness – The Epoxy of Christ and Character by Jo Russell

As Jolene came to the long table set up at a café for the women’s luncheon, she juggled a vase brimming with a fresh bouquet of flowers and ferns from her garden and sunroom. “Whoever needs it the most today!” she mentioned to the leader, Carla, as Jolene set the vase on the table.

“I think I know who that may be,” Carla responded and pushed a note toward her. “Read this from Rhonda. She’s not here yet.”

The plea came from the widow Rhonda, who had been sharing a house with the homeowner, recently widowed. Because of a bank foreclosure on the property after the homeowner’s husband died, both women were now without a place to live.

Great, Jolene remembered. It would have to be her. I’m still ticked off at the woman for breaking her promise and letting me down when I counted on her. So much for trying to help someone who needed help and extra money.  

“I’m sorry I can’t serve for your party,” she had told Jolene just days before the event with one hundred guests and not enough workers. It was too late to get a replacement, “I really wanted to go. But a family event came up and my daughter is taking me.”

It looked like Rhonda was the one needing the help now. As Rhonda sat at the table just as the waitress was totaling checks, distress showed on her face.

But the ladies pooled their experiences and directed Rhonda to just the right people and organizations to help her solve her housing need. The tears ran down Rhonda’s face as Jolene placed the vase of flowers in front of her. “Enjoy them. They should last you almost two weeks.”

Forgiveness is a frequent opportunity in a small town. God must be smiling as he gives residents lots of practice in seeing and working together. Country people continually run into each other everywhere – the grocery store, the post office, the vet’s, the gym or even the local eateries.

But Jesus took forgiveness to another level—and it’s not just for country people. He told Peter that he had to forgive “I tell you not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” [Matthew 18:21] He also taught that “And when you standing praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.” [Mark 11:25]

When the author of this blog shared a story at a prayer group from the new release from April, 2015 Chicken Soup for the Soul – The Power of Forgiveness, tears ran down Laura’s face. Was it Jo’s own story of an unfair action that turned into a blessing?  No. It was “The Greatest Gift” by Immaculee Ilibagiza. During a political coup in Rwanda, this woman ran and hid for her life while her family was brutally slaughtered. Later when the jailer brought her before the murderer and said, “I brought him here so you could spit on him. But you forgave him! How could you do that?”

She replied, “Because hatred has taken everything I ever loved from me. Forgiveness is all I have left to offer.”

Jesus himself in his last moments before dying on the cross said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” [Luke 23:34]. In doing this, he allowed all who accepted him and his gift of forgiveness to live with him in heaven.

That he would forgive those who humiliated, tortured, and murdered him is unthinkable in human terms – but not in God’s.

For forgiveness is the epoxy of Christ’s character, and can be in ours.

Share your flowers and forgiveness often. If you live in a small town, God will give you many extra opportunities to practice.

[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.]

 

 

 

 

Favorite Day of the Week By Jo Russell

Miss Johnson had worked hard with her rural kindergarten students on exit skills. Though far from the sophistication of big city schools, the kindergarten/first grade children – five in all — did well.

The youngsters mastered their numbers to 100. They could count by twos, fives, and tens to 100. They could rattle off the months of the year in order. They used capital and small letters correctly in sentences. Now Miss Johnson was testing the kindergarten students’ skills in the days of the week in order.

“Boys and girls,” Miss Johnson began to her small group. “I want to hear how well you know the days of the week. Then you can tell about your favorite day and why you like it.”

Susie told the class she liked Saturday because she could play with the other ranch kids nearby. Carlie liked Fridays because her family went into town on the weekend to see uncles, aunts, and cousins. Eugenia liked Sundays because her mother curled her hair and the family went to church together.

When Miss Johnson was sure each of the twins mastered their days of the week in order, she noticed by their wiggles they could hardly wait their turn to share their favorite day of the week.

But when it was time for the twin boy students to answer, they didn’t name anything Monday through Sunday.

Together they answered, “Payday!”

“It’s better than any day of the week!” one twin added. Payday meant allowance, a trek to Grandma’s in town, and the toy store.

Just as the twin boys’ answer was a surprise to Miss Johnson, so God’s answers often come in an entirely different way. We may feel puzzled. Walking with the Lord shows us the way on His off-the-beaten path. We could feel lost at times. But He knows the destination. We may feel we are smart and have the answers ahead. But His wisdom spans time from the beginning through the end.

The Bible sums it up in these verses: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil.” [NIV: Proverbs 3:5-7]

The trek from Earth to Heaven is founded in His ways, His path, and His understanding. And trusting him provides mastery of the exit skills from Earth to Heaven.

[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.]

 

 

How’s Your Hearing Now? By Jo Russell

“Roger!” Grandma Angela called out to her teen grandson. She knew just the right words to move him to action. “The cookies are ready! Let’s share some!”

But Roger’s attention was riveted to his tablet screen.

“Rog, these are chocolate chip! Come to the kitchen while they are hot!”

Not a hair on his head moved. And Roger wasn’t wearing earphones.

“What can possibly be wrong?” Grandma panicked as she snapped her fingers next to his left ear.

“Roger? Can you hear me?”

He didn’t twitch. No response.

When she tapped him on the shoulder, her grandson turned to her.

“You couldn’t you hear me, could you?”

“Huh?”

“Young man, we’re going to get a doctor to check you right away!”

Grandma took the tall youth to the local medical clinic. When the physician peaked into the young man’s ear, he looked puzzled. With the right instrument, he extracted the object and held it high.

The doctor burst out laughing. “This looks like a bean. In fact, it is a pinto bean.”

The doctor promised Grandma Angela, “Your grandson will be able to hear just fine from now on.” The doctor promised Angela. “How long has the bean been there, Roger?”

“When I was five, my friend dared me to put something big in my ear. The bean has been there until now.” He tapped his ear in amazement, “Wow! I can hear again!”

“Now we’ll go home and enjoy those warm cookies!” Grandma Angela suggested.

And with his nearly-restored hearing, Roger responded, “Oh, yeah!”  For he understood the universal language of the chocolate chip snacks.

All his life, Roger had the right equipment: two ears. In his case from age five until now, much of his hearing was physically impaired by something that belonged in a bean burrito instead of his ears. [A burrito is a sandwich wrapped in a tortilla instead of bread.]

Jesus said often, “He who has ears, let him hear.” (Matthew 11:15; Matthew 13:9; Mark 4:9; Mark 4:23) This followed his teaching in parables. He knew that hearing and understanding can be imperfect, full of confusion and questions. To the crowds he taught, he used familiar references such as farming and ranching. In the parable of the sower, [Matthew 13:3-9], he talks of seed – only part of it producing a bumper crop.

But genuine seekers–then and now–will glimpse the gist of Jesus’ words and concepts. Access begins with his Word, the Bible.

God and His word provide a clear message. And Roger would be glad to know that no pinto beans would ever stop one from hearing God’s good news.

[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.]