Rain? Why, its Water and Kindness from the Sky! By Jo Russell

As desert dwellers thousands of miles from home, Janelle and her boys didn’t know what to do about rain. No raincoats ever hung in their closets. An umbrella was something one might use in a school play. Windshield wipers in southern Arizona died of sunstroke, not overuse. Until this rainy afternoon, the family’s desert tents and gear had not had a moisture test.

In the last four days as Janelle drove east across Canada, rain had enveloped the compact station wagon with the four of them inside–the five-year-old twins, her teen nephew, Chris, and herself. Even when she turned the wheel into a spacious wooded campsite, the three boys glumly glanced at everything misty with rain.

“Cheer up, Boys! This rain can’t last too much longer!” Janelle quipped, remembering summer monsoon rains in the southwest that lasted about an hour, and then shut off like a faucet. After a monsoon, the Arizona ground would soon be as dry as crackers.

To make shade and a rain cover, most campers string a waterproof tarp between trees. Not Janelle. She still clung to the monsoon theory. Though they were being assaulted by rain, Chris and Janelle spread out the large dining canopy over the pine needles under some evergreens.

Soon the tarp was collecting puddles while the lady of the camp coaxed a hot dinner from the sputtering camp stove.

With the crunch, crunch of footsteps in the gravel, she turned toward the joyful Canadian voice, “So you’re all the way from Arizona, aye?” The senior’s raincoat was nearly dry. Janelle nodded. “Haven’t seen another car around here from Arizona for a month or more.”

Janelle noticed his puzzled look when he spied the three damp boys huddled on the tarp. The rain dripped over them and their dinner.

“Doesn’t rain much in Arizona, I hear.”

“Nope,” Janelle told him. “We’ve never seen it rain this much before ever!”

The smiling senior offered, “If it stops raining, I’ll come over and start a fire for you.” He jaunted back to his dry, warm travel trailer in which he and his wife were able to watch the camping drama. It was better than TV!

Chris and Janelle then set up the two-person tent camper for him and one twin. That’s when the zipper died on the tent trailer. She threw a tarp over the tent door. Chris and one twin started a board game inside, but drops of water squeezed through the keyhole and wet the board. An explosion of cards blasted out of the tent.

Chris announced, “That’s it! I’m finding a dry place!” Janelle thought how desperate Chris had to be as he sprinted to an outhouse nearby. She remembered that pit toilets were at the top of his hate list. Soon his face was pressed against the screen as he sucked great gulps of clean air and the smell of freshly washed evergreens. He was dry, but not a happy camper.

The Canadian campmate returned in his black rain gear carrying a hot pot of tea. “It’s not dry enough to make a fire, so I brought you something to warm you up,” he said. His smile was cheerful. The ceramic pot of tea he held up belonged in a tidy kitchen, not so far from town. The shiny black surface was decorated with delicate flowers and gold trim. Janelle thanked him and headed for the privy door.

“Hey, Chris!” she coaxed, standing at the privy door. “Open up!” Chris squeaked open the door wide enough to see the elegant pot of hot tea. Soon the four of them sat in the car, enjoying the warm drink. Their sense of humor returned as they all were filled with thankfulness.

Out of the thousands of miles they traveled, they would remember that couple’s act of kindness to strangers as an example of Jesus’ command to go and do likewise for our neighbor.

When Jesus told the story of the Good Samaritan, he illustrated an example of showing kindness to all—including to less desirable people. He himself took down the walls between people based on race, social status, economic condition, health or position.

The Samaritans, generations before, came about when Jews intermarried with their women. To Jesus’ audience, Samaritans were half-breeds and not worthy of any attention. Yet Jesus used one in his parable as a hero who saved the traveler from death.

When Jesus healed a group of ten lepers, who was the only one who came back to thank him and praise God? Only a Samaritan, a foreigner. [Luke 17:11-19]

“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”[Jesus asked]

The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.” [Luke 10:36-37]

The Canadian who showed kindness could easily have sized up this woman with a car full of kids as poor – Who else would sleep in a tent? – and dumb – Who else would lay a tarp on the ground, instead of tying it up in the trees as a shelter from the rain? as well as naive – Of course it rains in the north. How else do the thick forests grow so green?

But instead, he showed kindness to strangers to foreign visitors—leaving them with a warm memory for a lifetime.

Who is your neighbor?

[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.]

 

 

 

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

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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.]   

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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.]

All In the Name of Love By Jo Russell

Like many young couples in love, Rick and Marian were confident of their relationship. They were beginning their life together without so much as two Smart Phones to rub together.  

 

But Rick did have a brand new pick-up truck. He was a macho man and his truck said it all. More than just for hauling hay and loads of building materials in the rural ranching area, his shiny four-by-four pick-up had testosterone written all over it. 

 

Like many before him, Rick had used his pick-up as a bargaining point in his and Marian’s relationship. Now and then, he would let Marian–first as girlfriend then as fiancé–drive the pick-up. For all who saw her behind the wheel in the four-wheel drive macho mount, they could appreciate Rick’s claim on her. Many more would notice the three-quarter ton truck over a little bitty ring on Marian’s finger.  

 

Pastor Bob noted that when he and God bound couples together, a groom was all for sharing their worldly goods. You know–the bed, the bathroom, a lint brush, toothbrush, horse, tack, or hound dog with ear mites—anything, but not the pick-up.

 

 

As the pastor led Rick and Marian through their vows during the ceremony, the groom repeated the words, “I, Rick, take you, Marion, to be my wife, to have and to hold from this day on through sickness and health, and with this ring, I share my life and all my worldly goods…”

Pastor Bob added, “Except my pick-up…”

Everyone laughed.

He asked Marian to repeat the vow, “I, Marian, take you, Rick, to be my husband, to have and to hold from this day on through sickness and health, and with this ring, I share my life and all my worldly goods…”

The bride responded confidently to the amended contract with, “I do.”

Pastor Bob chuckled and asked if that was her final answer.

“Yes!” she affirmed with a twinkle in her eye.  

 

The next day, Rick did what no newly married man in his right mind and with a new pick-up had ever done before in the entire county. Maybe after his wedding night, he wasn’t in his right mind! It was unthinkable! But it also was thoughtful and loving! He gave the pick-up to Marian. Too far to walk to commute from their place with her not-too-dependable car, he knew she needed it.  

 

Rick realized that the truck and their marriage really wasn’t about him, but them. He had learned to look at the needs of his wife, just as Christ guides us to do.  For in Philippians, Paul advises, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.” [Phil. 2:3-5.] 

 

It’s about the other person, not us. That’s the essence of real love in relationships.

 

[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 this website. For more chuckles and to hear a speech, enjoy excerpts of her book and tips, check her entire website options and weekly blog on www.button-to-god.com.]   

 

 

 

 

 

Will the Poor Always Be With Us? By Jo Russell

“Can you spare some change?” The middle-aged woman hovered as soon as I slid into the worn seat of my pick-up truck. She and her husband glowed with health, wore neat outfits that paid homage to the nearby Western store, and the wife’s hair reflected care and color in a beauty salon. The couple had stepped out of a snappy Dodge double-cab pick-up truck with four-wheel drive. The price of their wheels would feed an American family of four every day for three years.

Change just might be the answer!

How about we change vehicles? What an idea! I liked it!

Like others pleading for help at parking lots or gas stations, these shared a common denominator: their vehicles were so new that by comparison, mine looked like it should be in Saturday’s demolition derby.

So many requests had come in over the last month by phone and in person that I wondered if I might have been marked while I slept by an admirer. Had someone played connect the dots between my age spots? The message seemed clear to many: “Ask me for money.”

Even though I had turned all the requests down, I confided my concern in a long-time, close friend. “Are people were seeing something I’m not – like words written on my forehead in invisible ink?”

“No,” she told me. “You just have a soft heart.”

Jesus himself said, “The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me.” [Mark 14:7 NIV]

In a number of countries where this blog is read, a car—any car—is a privilege.

Were the Dodge owners poor? Hardly. How they ended up in this position–whether over their head in payments or because of job loss–American financial guru Dave Ramsey would have advised them to sell the truck and buy a cheaper vehicle.

Helping others, showing them love, and lifting the poor is good for the soul. There are times that situations arise when many need help. When a raging forest fire nearby forced evacuation of about 30,000 people, the residents’ needs were met. Surrounding community members pulled together to offer meals, lodging, clothes, and animal care. Not to come to someone’s aide when they are in desperate need would be turning a back to God.

Jesus himself tells in this word story, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?”

“The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’” [Matthew 25:37-40.]

But also, Jesus would advise helpers to use discernment.

When you, a group, or an organization has helped the same people numerous times, plus you or someone else has taught them how to help themselves but nothing changes, cut them loose! There is a time for a stand – for you and them. To continue to give, you are only encouraging them to be dependent.  They will choose, too. Either they will find another source or they will learn to solve their own problems.  You can guess which choice will build character.

When the next person asks you for “change,” think about the change that would help them the most. Show them how.

 

[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, Intermedia Publishing  2011. For more chuckles and to hear a speech, enjoy excerpts of her book and tips, check her entire website options and weekly blog on www.button-to-god.com.]

 

 

 

Words Worth Fighting For By Jo Russell

The winter storm pinged against the windows like handfuls of gravel, keeping the small twin sisters stuck indoors. Normally friends, Mandy and Angie had shared a womb, then a room, and hours of play together.

Soon a loud thermometer of sisterly love rang out, “You’re not the boss of me!” You can’t play with my toys any more!”

Imaging this could soon erupt into a hair-pulling fist fight, Grandma headed down the hall. One twin catapulted towards her, and nearly knocked Grandma down. The twin’s loud wails pierced the quiet house.

“What’s the matter, Sweetie?” Grandma pulled her close and stroked the girl’s hair. She studied the twin’s clothes to see which of the mirror-image granddaughters she held before calling her by name.

Sniffling and hiccupping, Angie finally cried out the hurtful words, “My sister said that I am ugly–and she is beautiful!”

Grandma called the siblings together. “Nonsense, Angie. God made each of you special and neither one of you is ugly. You look just alike.”

Both looked at each other with amazement as if for the first time.

“That means you are both beautiful!” Grandma declared. “Besides I need you girls to help me with the cookies. But first you need to fix your words and thoughts.” She helped the girls see the power of words. Soon, the twins were crying out apologies and clinging to each other. Friends again, Angie and Mandy headed to the kitchen, ready to fix the rest of the world’s problems with chocolate chip cookies.

King Solomon summarized the potency of words in Proverbs 12:18: “Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” [NIV]

During the holiday season, television sitcoms present fictional families with problems, solutions and fuzzy warm feelings all wrapped up in a tidy 30-minute package.

In real life, words can begin a conflict that is not resolved in a half hour, perhaps not in half a decade. Each thought, attitude and word has even greater weight with people you may only see rarely.

“Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord,” advise the writers of the book of Hebrew 12:14. [NIV].

 Think on the words that may have given you a glow:
“I love you.”
“I’m proud of you.”
“You are such a special person to me.”
“I pray for you every day.”
“Thanks so much for your thoughtfulness.”
“You are really good at this!”
“You look great! Are you working out? Have you lost weight?”

Now those are words worth fighting for!

[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, Intermedia Publishing, 2011. For more chuckles, keep checking her weekly blog on Button-to-God.com.]