Away from the Wind Tunnel to a Quiet Place by Jo Russell

Paul was still hoping to coax more miles out of his beloved car. It’s “best if used by” expiration date was long past. It burned oil. An engine light flashed on the dash. Only some of the electric windows worked. The air conditioner had gone caput.

Though the four-door former luxury sedan served well on fishing excursions and road trips less than twenty miles, going beyond the limit brought certain excitement. Any driver should heed the warning, “Do not pass go. Do not get paid. Go straight to the shop and pay $200.”

To anyone who would listen, Paul chimed, “It’s still a good car.” He had faith in his wheels.

On the way to church in his favorite four-door model, Carol shouted over the wind noise, “Is this about the same as your rides in the Air Force helicopter with the doors open?” Because the car windows had to be wide open in the heat and a most recently broken window taped up with plastic and duct tape flapped, the roar was louder than ever at highway speeds.

“What?”

She repeated the question cupping her hands around her mouth.

“Probably. Yeah, I guess so.” Paul shouted as he looked at her. “But this is a quiet car! Just wait and see.”

As they pulled to a stop at a light, Carol continued hollering, “Do you have any ear protection in your trunk along with the fishing stuff?”  But slowing down, the car quieted down so much that she thought the engine stalled.

“Ear protection? Why are you shouting?” Paul wanted to know. “See, I told you, Carol. This car is quiet!”  He added in a whisper to prove his point, “and it’s still good!”

Too much noise! It’s common these days. When a cacophony of sounds clash in our everyday life, it challenges all in the chance to think and reflect.

The author’s interpretation of people’s hierarchy of needs includes food, water, shelter, love, fun, and laughter, but also quiet time.

At least on the quiet time, Jesus and the author agree. It does a body good. It is a gift. It is also a necessity for hearing God and fostering personal spiritual growth.

Getting into a routine is a good thing—such as quick devotionals at the breakfast table. But seeking God and growing, regardless of whether married or single, takes time to oneself, prayer, and a place to listen—away from media, traffic, or the wind noise of a car.

After the Old Testament prophet Elijah had a great day with God incinerating Elijah’s sacrifice with a column of fire followed by a torrent of rain after a lengthy drought, Elijah was threatened by the evil queen, Jezebel. He was afraid and ran for his life.

Under the quiet of a desert broom tree, he brooded, thought and prayed. And he heard God.

“The Lord said, ‘Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.’ Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.” [1 Kings 19:11-13 NIV]

And that gentle whisper is often how we hear God’s voice.

So put the noise of the world and Paul’s car behind you. Seek a quiet place. God will be there to touch and encourage 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.]

 

 

 

 

Just Listening and Burning Lunch by Jo Russell

Bill, a young father, was in the lounge when coworker Jane threw her knee pads in the microwave to heat, slapped the control panel without looking and sat across from him to give him her full attention. She listened.

Bill’s hat had been pulled down around his eyes to hide the redness and the streaks of tears as he had rushed into work that morning. Things had been more difficult than ever with his small children and marital struggles. While he had been working through family issues over the last few months, Jane had been nursing a serious knee injury.

“Another four hours,” she thought. “I’m putting up my feet!” Every break, she heated her knee pads, sat down with a sigh and slapped them on each knee like dumplings.

Soon black smoke boiled out of the microwave!  More smoke coughed out when Jane opened the door and fanned it. Now the knee pads, stuffed with cracked corn that popped, were as thick as a family-sized stack of hamburger patties.

Rick came in first with his vest pulled over his nose, “Who burned the popcorn?”

His department wasn’t far away.

But soon Randy came coughing into the lounge from the far west in the store, “Geez! Whose lunch caught fire?”

Then there was Michelle from the far east where live birds and the lovely fragrance of flowers normally smelled better than any part of the huge store. “Where’s the fire? What happened?”

When the growing crowd from the east, west, north and south checked the lounge to see if the fire department needed to extinguish a blaze, Jane told Michelle she was responsible for the disaster.

Michelle commented, “You, Jane? I can’t believe it! Don’t you take gourmet cooking lessons?”

After cleaning the microwave, emptying the trash, and tossing the wet and smoking black knee pads in the dumpster outside, Jane remembered she had done the right thing giving her full attention to Bill. Her first priority had been to listen when it was needed the most. Listening had been the Master’s work, just as with Mary.

Mary’s sister, Martha, had been scurrying around trying to pull together a dinner the size of a thanksgiving gathering, Imagine her damp with sweat as she pushed her hair from her eyes. She asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” [Luke 10: 40b]

Jesus’ response guided her thinking. “You are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better and it will not be taken away from her.”

Though sending out for pizza was not an option in those days, no one insisted dinner had to be on the table by 5:00 o’clock, either. There was time to listen and learn. Jesus reminded Martha that was the more important investment of the moment – just as with Bill at work.

Who may need time today to talk while you listen?

[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.]

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trust in Max or Trust in God? By Jo Russell-Lewis

“Come with me camping at the lake,” Max suggested to his 16-year-old schoolmates. “I’ll bring all the food and we can take my four-wheeler, the Beast!”

Camping had been a mainstay of the twin teens all of their growing up years, and they were good at it. Food came in as a close second as a major area of focus. They were always hungry. But having a ride to one of their camping spots was a real bonus.

Max’s enthusiasm exceeded his experience. He had been camping two times.

As the twins Rob and Ned packed clothing and water for the overnight trek, Rob commented, “It’s not more than a couple of miles, but I’m glad we don’t have to walk.” Max and the Beast would save their soles—that is, of their hiking boots.

Max’s arrival on the Beast got the attention of the entire neighborhood. Misfiring resounded on the quiet country street. After Max turned off the key, he commanded the Beast, “Down, Boy!” but the machine still belched out a couple of backfires.

Part of a hanger hung from the choke. The rest of the four-wheeler was a monument to dirt, dents, and decay with erupting foam from the seats the three of them would share.

As their parents waved them goodbye, the machine unsteadily moved down the road backfiring all the way. Open range was just at the end of the block from where they would travel the hills and dales to the lake shore.

When the three got to the lake, Max announced proudly, “Time for dinner!” as he pulled out of a pack three cans of lukewarm soda and a bag of potato chips.

“Is that all you have?” one of the teens queried.

“Yep! It’s plenty!”

Compared to the teens’ roasted and grilled dinners on a campfire, this wasn’t even a pre-dinner snack.

Max threw a plastic trash bag on the ground and covered it with a blanket. He waded up his clothes for a pillow. “We’re gonna sleep outside like the cowboys!”

The twins rolled out their sleeping bags over inflatable mattresses.

The next morning, Rob and Ned looked to Max, “What’s for breakfast?”

“I figured we could drive back to your mom’s and have her feed us. We’re going home anyway.”

But the Beast didn’t agree. No matter how much Max coached the machine, it didn’t make a sound. He had the twins push him to a rise and pop the clutch and start it. But the machine was dead as a day-old landed brook trout.

Max stayed with the Beast while the twins walked home – dirty and hungry, and tired. Trusting in Max had been a poor idea.

Trusting is God through all our unknown situations and challenges gives us a solid foundation.

King Solomon wrote, “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.” Proverbs 3:5-6.

Many situations are so frightening, out of our comfort zone, or stressful that we may have difficulty trusting or confiding in anyone – even God. Leaning on God means putting all of our trust as well as all of our weight on Him.  Will we fall?  Will we stand? Will he meet our needs?

“Yep” to all of those. But when we fall, it’s not fatal. When we stand, we’re not alone. When we have needs, God knows and provides—sometimes in miraculous ways.

When it comes to deciding if we are to trust in Max and the Beast or trust in God, which will we choose?

[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.]

 

To See or Not to See By Jo Russell

The octogenarian excitedly tore open the envelope from the Department of Transportation.

After Grandma saw what was inside, she cried, “Laura Jean! My favorite granddaughter! My driver’s license just came! This is just like a birthday present! I’m taking us for a drive!”

Grandma had once remarked to her sister, “Thank goodness we don’t have to get an eye test for renewing a license. I have cataracts, but I don’t think they’re that bad.”

Riding in the same car with Grandma proved to be exciting at every turn for her granddaughter.

As the teen gripped the dash with white knuckles, Grandma asked,

“Laura Jean, tell me – is that a tree or a person up in front of us?”

When it comes to eyesight, Jesus healed many. Jesus healed the blind physically.

He also healed many spiritually.  One example is tax collector Zacchaeus, a wealthy man in the town of Jericho. That day, the wealthy businessman whose practices took him to the top, promised to help the poor and make things right with those he had cheated. (Luke 19:1-9.)  The change in Zacchaeus was from the inside out.

Jesus’ influence and teaching went straight through to the heart of Zaccheaeus. He listened. He learned. He changed.

Jesus contrasted good spiritual eyesight and bad in these verses: “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!” [Matthew 22-23]

To have good eyesight with God, focus on Him. Cataracts from focusing on the world cloud spiritual vision. Believe. Have faith in God. Ask forgiveness. Listen to Him with your heart and mind. Read the Bible.

Your vision will better than 20/20 again.

[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.]