Never a Quarantine Area in Christ’s Kingdom by Jo Russell

A rancher was turning his pick-up and horse trailer around in the middle of the rural highway. There was no other way back to the ranch. The rig became a road block for a time over three lanes. He waved his wide-brimmed hat out the window at the oncoming traffic lined up to go north. Then he pointed to a just-installed sign.

As he traveled south, he paused to pass the news to others with horses. All those with livestock had to turn back.

Among the stopped in the traffic was Jolene with a load three teen backseat drivers. They were bored and vocal.

“Hey! Look at this!” one boy read. “Quarantine Area; Horses and Cattle Restricted.”

“That’s why the rodeo was cancelled!”

“I like it,” Rick repeated, “Quarantine Area: Horses and Cattle Restricted!

Because the only thing the teens had in common with the four-legged, hoofed animals was their appetite, their mother, Jolene, kept creeping along the highway thirty miles to town.

Joe chimed in, “It has rhythm! Like this, Quarantine Area: Horses and Cattle Restricted! And he leaned to the right. Quarantine Area: Horses and Cattle Restricted! He leaned to the left. Quarantine Area: Horses and Cattle Restricted! Another lean to the right.

Robbie loved it, too, and joined in. Quarantine Area: Horses and Cattle Restricted!

Jolene kept driving with the thought. Parents have no reason to complain with kids in the backseat who chant, “When do we get there, when do we get there, when do we get there.” 

Soon it was obvious the aging four-wheel drive needed shocks as the truck dipped side to side. The three in the back seat rocked to the rhythm and their own husky voices in unison, Quarantine Area: Horses and Cattle Restricted! Quarantine Area: Horses and Cattle Restricted! Quarantine Area: Horses and Cattle Restricted!

By the time they got home, Jolene had heard every tone and version of Quarantine Area: Horses and Cattle Restricted!

A sequel followed when the teens walked in the door. “I’m hungry as a horse. When do we eat?”

“Ah,” sighed Jolene. “The joys and responsibilities of motherhood.”

To any horses and cows, Quarantine Area: Horses and Cattle Restricted! implies that those inside the area are an exclusive breed, a closed clique, virus free – maybe even goodie two-hoofed.

It may seem that Christians can be like that, too. Too good to be true. In many past blogs, the author has shown with scripture that Christ, the son of God, offers his gift of forgiveness and a new life to all. One comes when the angels announce his birth to the shepherds with these words: “I bring you good news of great joy 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]

But with the gift of accepting Christ comes the commitment of following him and his teachings. It ain’t easy. He wants us to begin as humble and broken. He asks if we love him to follow his commands. Day by day, each needs to soul-search and evaluate decisions and actions. What would Christ do? He expects us to be as persistent as a junk yard dog – to the end.

Jesus himself says, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”  [Matthew 7:13-14]

Walking behind Christ’s divine footsteps may seem impossible. But he gives us the how-to guidelines, the strength, and the ability to go beyond our own skills and experience.

In the end, those persisting on the road to the kingdom of God will never be turned away. Step forward with Christ. Follow, choose, persist. All is possible within power of God and his will.

[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.]

 

 

Choose your Weapon: Fruit of the Looms or the Armor of God? By Jo Russell

Caroline was proud to be included in her mom’s decorating project. At last, the seven-year-old second grader could learn to paint and decorate from the Decorator Extraordinaire: her mom. Mom tackled each room of their fix-up home with color and enthusiasm.

“Honey, you’re old enough now. I’m going to teach you how to paint rooms and walls. It will be a skill you’ll use all your life. Pay attention!”

Dressed in her grubbies, Mom first pulled a pair of her husband’s Fruit of the Looms over her head.

Caroline assumed it was a necessary part of a hands-on decorator’s outfit. Caroline was ready with worn clothes for painting. But to properly be dressed for the job, she rummaged around in her brothers’ chest of drawers until she found a ratty pair of underwear. “How’s this?” Caroline asked as she put it on her head, her hair poking out of the leg holes.

“Perfect!”

Then they removed all the electrical plates, taped off the switches, used slanted trim brushes to carefully “cut in” in the corners, baseboards, and edges. After they “rolled” the paint onto the walls, the pair stood back to admire the beautiful transformation of Caroline’s brothers’ room.

“Caroline, you outdid yourself!” Mom commented as she pulled her daughter close after they finished the job. The two made quite a silhouette in baggy clothes, topped with underwear on their heads.

Thereafter, each painting job with her mom was a success – not only reflecting skill and artistry, but always done in the proper outfit. As long as Caroline lived at home, she had an endless supply of shabby Fruit of the Looms for her painting headgear.

When she moved into her own apartment, the walls were desperately scratched, marred, and soiled.

“Sorry.” The landlord apologized. “The painter didn’t show up on Tuesday. I know you need to move in right away.

“I’m a very skilled painter and I can make this place look new,” she promised. And so he agreed she could trade out paint and labor for part of the apartment rent.  But in all of her things, she had no Fruit of the Looms.

What about her own underwear?  Not at ten bucks a piece. The thin material and bikini cut wouldn’t keep out any paint. She was embarrassed to ask the landlord or any of the male apartment tenants to supply her with shabby Fruit of the Looms.

So she ventured to paint without part of her essential hands-on decorator uniform.

On Monday, after a weekend marathon of painting the one-bedroom apartment, she showed up for work, excited she had transformed the living quarters so completely.

“Great job, Caroline!” her mother would have assured her.

Coworker Larry studied Caroline and her hair. “You know, there is a wonderful new invention to help with painting.” And he tugged at a lock of her hair that was streaked with sage green.

“Really?!” she cried. She was always looking for better tools for trim, painting corners, getting straighter edges, and making the job easier.

“Yeah.” He said, tugging at a lock of hair decorated with sea foam green. “It’s called a hat. It will keep the paint out of your hair.”

So Caroline looked and did not find the essential shabby Fruit of the Looms at the local home improvement store. Instead, there were painting hats for sale right in there with her favorite tools. And from then on, Caroline was decked out in the whole armor of a hands-on decorator.

Have you put on the full armor of God?

Paul advises, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rules, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore, put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. “[Ephesians 10-13 NIV]

Perhaps right now you face unreasonable demands along with impossible deadlines—whether in business, career, relationships, challenges.

Do you wonder, “Where is God?”

Maybe you’re face to face with an unjust situation that you can’t change. It could be you’ve received upsetting news about health—your immediate family or a close friend. Haven’t you prayed repeatedly for God’s help and intervention? Haven’t you done your part?

But God isn’t finished. You are not up against people, but evil forces. To be ready for a fair fight, you need God and the proper armor: the belt of truth; the breastplate of righteousness, your feet fitted with the gospel of peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is God’s word – the Bible. [Ephesians 6:14-17]

You are ready to move forward and face any flaming arrows, accusations, and tough situations. And who’s got your back? God does. Not just another equal, but the God of the universe – with his unlimited power over all evil, nature, health, and challenges.

Your answer may be yet to come. Think of the ways that God has shown his mighty power – in the ways he commanded the parting of the Red Sea when Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt – or when Jesus calmed the wind and waves on a storm on the Sea of Galilee.

Outfitted with the full armor of God, you enlist his help and can face anything – and you don’t even need shabby Fruit of the Looms.

[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.]

 

 

 

Reach for Adventure! Ride ‘Em, Cowboy! by Jo Russell

Leroy left the big city behind as he headed up to the cool tall pines to spend the weekend with Grandma Sandy. He could hardly wait for the adventure to begin! At Sandy’s, he did old-fashioned country things like pulling on cowboy boots, pitching hay, riding Grandma’s horses, and making s’mores in the microwave.

To other ranchers, Sandy’s half dozen horses didn’t seem like much, but to city slicker Leroy, his grandma had a real herd!

“Isn’t this chestnut beauty the horse you got for your birthday?” Leroy wanted to know.

“Yep!” Sandy commented, “I don’t know him real well yet, but Brownie’s a keeper.”

“I’d like to ride him. Can I?”

“Yep, let me show you help you saddle up Brownie.”

Leroy was grinning as he rode in a circle around the training coral with Grandma, Mom and Dad watching. But when his Dad opened the gate and Leroy kicked the horse to go faster, Brownie tossed the youth in the air like a shuttlecock.

The family members gasped! Grandma was the first to scramble over to rescue him.

She prayed, “Lord, please let Leroy be okay. No broken bones.”

But as Leroy landed in the mud, he was still grinning. “Wow!” he exclaimed in appreciation. “That was absolutely righteous cool! It never could have happened to me in the city!”

Leroy had an adventurous attitude about new experiences. Most loved his outlook. He thought in best case scenario.

Unplanned outcomes and uncomfortable situations are part of life. It would be more comfortable to snap our fingers to have the insight and expertise to new circumstances skillfully. But instead, we may grope and struggle, but we always can count on God as our partner. New experiences help us grow. To view them as an adventure with positive benefits is a good start.

Because of the persecution of the leaders and the families of Jesus’ pledging church in Jerusalem, all fled for their lives to different areas. But what a great thing it was!  Jesus had commanded them, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” [Matthew 28:19-20]  At the time, they might have thought all they had to do was wait in Jerusalem long enough and people from everywhere would show up for the community and religious events.

Instead, they traveled widely. In Acts in the New Testament, Philip’s success shines: “Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went. Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Christ there. When the crowds heard Philip and saw the miraculous signs he did, they all paid close attention to what he said. With shrieks, evil spirits came out of many, and many paralytics and cripples were healed. So there was great joy in that city.” [Acts 8:4-8 NIV].  It was a win-win situation!

When you’re up against a challenge or a new experience, drop the fear and doubts, and remember Leroy’s words, “Righteous cool!”

[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.]

 

 

Navigating the Mountaintops and S-Curves by Jo Russell

As dusk fell greyed the familiar mountain road, fog clouded the scene, leaving the pavement wet with mist. Jolene neared the end of an all-day trek across the state and noted, “Wow! Roads more curvy than a plate of spaghetti!” Her teens, both with learners’ permits, took the role of backseat drivers. She looked beyond their frequent advice and remembered a teacher’s tip for staying alert.

“Forget the caffeine. Eat sunflower seeds,” the coach advised. “It will keep you awake into the wee hours.”  He spent hours and miles driving a van filled with teens to school athletic events.

So Jolene was now mastering the coordination of a stick shift, sunflower seeds, and S-curves. While Jolene downshifted, she turned the wheel with one hand, cracked the seeds with her teeth, she dropped the shells in a paper bag with her free hand.

The teens in the backseat had their own opinions.

Just as Jolene was powering into a curve, a youthful voice cried out in a loud voice, “Dear God, please get us home safely–even though–YIKES!–It doesn’t seem possible right now!”

A few miles later, another of her offspring interjected, “Mom!”

“What?!”

“Your driving! Pay attention! That skunk wanted to cross the road! It had the right of way!”

She mumbled to herself between sunflower seeds, “Leave it to someone who has 26 miles of driving experience to have all the answers!”

Road, weather, and opinions in the backseat improved in the next few miles and the family got home safely with a big thanks to God.

Life is never dull because of all the challenges, mountaintops, and valleys we travel.  Leaning on God in all situations is not weakness, but strength. For God is many times stronger than we are. He can help through anything – health, family, relationship, career challenges – even curvy roads.

God’s plans for us will include things that are difficult and beyond our abilities. But with his help, God evens up the odds and helps us to the goal. He is the most steadfast and powerful friend anyone could have. He can be your team leader.

When a bicyclist races, he or she counts on the team to break the wind. That strategy conserves energy and allows the bicyclist a burst of speed at the finish. A racer needs his team.

In the bathtub races through the open channel between Nanaimo, B.C. and Vancouver, a full-sized boat smoothes the water in front of the small watercraft fighting its way across the open sea. For safety and to make it across the rough water, a bathtub racer needs help.

God smooths the path before us. He is our support team and leader who makes us strong to the finish.

The great warrior and King David wrote, “You, O Lord, keep my lamp burning; my God turns my darkness into light. With your help I can advance against a troop; with my God I can scale a wall.” Psalm 18:28-29. This followed one of David’s many victories.

Victory in everyday life with God’s help may even make it simple navigating with a stick shift, sunflower seeds, and S-curves.

[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.]

 

 

 

Where, Oh Where, is Self-Control through the Season of Sweets? By Jo Russell

Don’t kid yourself. When the seasons change and the bulk sacks of sweet snacks remind a shopper that the holiday season has begun, any red-blooded sweet-tooth will tell you that eating delicious goodies doesn’t come to a high by until the first official day of winter. The Season of Sweets spans an entire six month period from October to March. The only thing that changes is the color of M & M’s from orange to green.

This is a challenge for anyone old enough to know that nutrition and exercise are the keys to health.  Senior Susie simply admitted, “It’s hard to stay on the carrot pedestal!”

Years before, after a life-threatening crisis, Susie had lost 40 pounds and mostly embraced a healthy lifestyle. She didn’t let anyone forget it. She chimed out advice, whether someone wanted to hear it or not.

“To lose weight, drink more water; eat more veggies, less bread and fewer carbs.”

She sneer at ice cream. “Pure chemical poisoning! Never!”

It’s a wonder someone didn’t corner her in an alley and clobber her with a cake pan.

But this year, the season’s sweets pummeled Susie’s self-control, and she fell off the carrot pedestal in four hours flat. With “trunk or treat” events taking the place of children going door to door for candy, Susie was stuck with bowls of goodies.  Didn’t some researchers decide recently that dark chocolate is good for one’s health? In that case, Susie’s stash would keep her in good health until spring. But just after Thanksgiving, she only had five Tootsie Rolls left.

Surely, Susie rationalized; she could quiet this craving with good food! So she ate fruit and a dinner salad. The Tootsie Rolls were still calling to her. She ate cheese. She dreamed of red and green M & M’s. Susie worked out at the gym, remembering how many laps she had to swim to work off even the dressing on her salad, much more for the M & M’s.

Finally, she admitted she couldn’t do it alone. She needed help in a big way. Where had her self-control gone? Who could help? God. He invented chocolate as well as carrots, after all.  Regaining self-control would help her in all other areas of her life, including shopping the season’s sales.

Self-control is a desirable trait to infuse into one’s habits and spirit. “But the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” [Galatians 5:22 NIV].

But isn’t applying self-control a tall order? For we are to control what we eat, what we say, what we think, and what we do. The plus side is one doesn’t have to do it alone. Not Susie. Not you. Not anyone.

When David wrote the Psalm that follows, he was in much more danger than falling off a carrot pedestal.  “The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped.” Psalm 28:7.  He fled from one place to another, pursued by armies of enemies. Surely Susie could trust a God like this to come to her aid as He did with David.

With God’s help, we can turn down temptation, defeat enemies and sweets, and trust in Him to regain self-control. And the benefits are worth it.  If we should fall off a carrot pedestal, we’re falling right into God’s arms – right where we belong.

[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.] 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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First place winner in the spiritual division of the 2013 Beach Book Festival Contest, Which Button brings  Americana to life with 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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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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Jenny’s Puddin’ Pies By Jo Russell

Jenny’s Puddin’Pies
By Jo Russell

“Jenny is one sick three-year-old,” commented Nurse Nancy to her coworker at the local hospital. The youngster had had abdominal surgery. The heavy dose of antibiotics left her listless and grouchy.

“She won’t eat, and we’ve been trying,” added Nurse Janet.

“Yep, and we can’t even ply her with goodies.”

But her pediatrician, Dr. David, had to keep Jenny fed in some way, so he had the girl hooked to a feeding tube. She didn’t like it and let everyone know.

Days went by and still the nurses coaxed Jenny to eat. “Ice cream?”

She shook her head.

“Hamburger?”

Nope, not that either.

“Pudding?”

Jenny put her hands over her face and hollered, “NO!”

Children bounce back, but Jenny didn’t seem to. No sparkle. No joy of life. No smile.

Dr. David was concerned. He had already been by to see the wee patient when his colleague, Dr. Morris, checked the girl. The woman doctor decided on a novel treatment.

Later that day when he checked on her again, Dr. David expected to see a listless Jenny moping in bed in a spotless room. Instead, her heard giggles and found the three-year-old sitting on the floor with a messy cafeteria tray in front of her. Jenny’s smile was outlined in brown, which also had dripped on her gown and sprinkled in a circle around her on the white floor. Jenny had been eating the wet dirt, her own puddin’ pies. It was more fun than at home!

“What is going on?” Dr. David fumed to his nurses. “This is not a medical procedure! Who gave her these mud pies?”

The nurse blushed, “Dr. Morris, sir. She said that Jenny’s intestines have none of the good intestinal bacteria left because of the antibiotics. She told me that if Jenny’s body needed it, the girl would eat the mud.” The nurse paged the woman doctor to explain.

Dr. David and Dr. Morris shared a quizzical look as Jenny finished up her mud pies. Soon, the nurses restored the room and Jenny to order. Time would tell if the oddball treatment worked.

Just a few days later, the girl was glowing with a smile. After she finished all the food on her lunch plate, the little patient demanded, “Ice cream with gummy worms!”

With her defense system back up, Jenny was soon well enough to go home.

Jenny’s defense system was up to a fight with the good bacteria inside the same way that infusing ourselves with the Bible inside of us provides everything needed for inspiration, guidance and defense. God’s words start on the outside, but stay on the inside. They transform the body, mind and soul. Just as the good bacteria helped Jenny fight her way back to health, holding the Bible’s words inside provide a solid defense. Nothing could stop Jenny. Nor can anyone a Bible-infused you.

But some distance themselves from the Bible. Because they don’t read the Bible much, the words of God are faint inside. A few words or phrases are just not enough input in a spiritual life. Just as Jenny’s mud pies restored a balance of immunity and defense to fight for her health with just enough mud, a reader needs to build God’s words up inside as a defense against all types of attacks.

Somewhere in between too much and too little is a balance. Wherever you are, to get closer to God, you need to know Him. To know Him is to read His word, the Bible.

Author Alice Camille wrote “Read the Bible? Me?” for Catholic Digest. She commented, “Don’t we get our multivitamin of Scripture with three readings and a Psalm on Sundays… and do we really have to know more than Father has to say about it all in the homily?” She went on to summarize that “you do get the Biblical multivitamin at Mass, but no one mistakes the multivitamin for the full pleasure and experience of a meal. To consume more than the basic nutrients of Scripture, we must engage these stories more personally and completely. Not because we have to, but because we’re missing something wonderfully good if we don’t.”
[http://www.catholicdigest.com/articles/faith/praying/2010/08-16/read-the-bible-me]

Wonderfully good. Not just the adventure, mystery, and thrill, but the stories of faith and miracles all through the Bible. God is there for us. We can find Him anywhere, but we hear from Him in our quiet moments, prayer, and by reading the Bible. We’re not alone. Though God’s defense doesn’t show on the outside like a military parade, it does show in our strength on the inside and faith in Him as our warrior and defender – forever and always.

It’s easy. No need to eat mud pies. Just use the Bible to build up the fighting forces inside you for optimum spiritual health.

[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.]

Fashion or Comfort? By Jo Russell

A woman’s scream coming from the shoe department pierced the quiet atmosphere of the large retail store.

Sprinting over to her friend, Clare, Susie cried, “What’s wrong?”

Clare had been doing nothing more dangerous than trying on shoes. Clare’s latest choice was a pair of four-inch heels decorated with an acrylic heart-shape. When she stood up in the open-toed shoes, the woman gasped and then screamed. Clare limped back to a bench, easing herself down. “I think I pulled a muscle!” She paused as she regained her composure. “Susie, how do you think those shoes look on me?”

Though Clare had always been willing to make sacrifices as a Fashion Diva, Susie was the Queen of Comfort. Oh, how Clare suffered for fashion! Her great look often only survived for a short period of time because of discomfort. But at one and a half seconds, the acrylic sandals set a new record. Clare bought them anyway.

Susie was enjoying the shopping trip as she was inspecting the shoes on display. With her large feet, she could never find her size at stores. “Look, you can use these pointy little numbers for killing cockroaches in corners – or for self-defense!” Susie commented as she picked up leather pumps on display. She checked another pair, “Maybe these could do double duty as a hammer for quick home repairs!”

“Susie, you could probably use a fashion update, and it doesn’t even have to be in shoes!” Clare suggested. “I know you can’t find your size in stock, but the grungy sweatshirt, green knee-high wool hunting socks and hot pink Crocs are out!”

Comfort and women’s fashions seem to be on opposite sides of the spectrum.

Yet we all need comfort in the highs and lows of life. New shoes won’t do it–nor sweatshirts and fuzzy slippers during the winter. Not even fluffy fleece pajama bottoms will satisfy the needs of our souls. When it comes to a need for comfort, we may not find it in friends or family. Often, we feel alone. But we are not.
Our comforter is always there: God.

Think on this famous passage from Psalm 23: “I will fear no evil, for you are with me, your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” What is the significance of the staff? Jesus called himself “The Good Shepherd.” A shepherd used the staff for defending his own from enemies, for representing his authority, guiding and nurturing the sheep, and as a walking stick. Creating a word picture of God’s care for us, his sheep, Jesus told the parable of losing one sheep, leaving the ninety-nine in an open field and looking for the lost sheep until he found it. [Luke 15:3-7]. Jesus said there is much rejoicing in Heaven when lost sheep are found. They are the people who turn back to God.

God is still always present in our need for comfort and joyful in our relationship with him.

But the well-known derivative “comfortable” may not apply to fashion or a relationship with God. Like a good shepherd, he keeps his sheep from harm, but also pushes their limits. They may walk further than they think they can, eat less than they think they need, or learn something they didn’t think they needed to know.

That is the same with us. God does push us beyond what we believe are our limits. That brings out the best in us, because there is no limit to a growth spurt with God as supervisor. He makes it work for good – ours and His.

Is fashion giving you the style and comfort you seek – or are you ready for the warm embrace of God’s assurance 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.]