Sink or Swim? Neither. Choose the Unsinkable By Jo Russell

“At last, I got a new boat for work!” Park Ranger Paul shared his exciting news with his Coast Guard friend, Mark.  “Headquarters brought it in last night. Want to come see it?”

Though Ranger Paul had responsibility for marine parks as well as land locations, he had been using the small aluminum boat equipped with an engine that worked as well as a can of shortening for propelling the craft over open ocean. Often, it oozed to an oily stop.

With budget cuts now in the past, a new boat!

“Sure!” Mark replied, matching his enthusiasm.  “Let’s meet at the dock!”

The Ranger responded, “You’ll be the first person to see the new boat! The Coast Guard won’t be rescuing me anymore between the marine parks!”

Mark and Paul converged at the end of the dock. Masts and top decks of larger boats dwarfed the much smaller craft. But when the two found the boat slip where the Park Service boat should have been, they discovered the craft was filled with ocean brine to the waterline. In less than 24 hours in its new home, the boat was sinking.

“So when you said ‘new boat,’ you really mean ‘new to you,’ right?”

Ranger Paul sighed. “Obviously.”

Both tried to bring the pump to life, but it didn’t work. Then Paul and Mark grabbed buckets and bailed the boat. But their efforts were futile. In the next 24 hours, the craft proved comfortable at water level, not above it.

“Just a minor glitch,” was headquarters’ assessment. But not even the top mechanics at the harbor were able give it the “Seaworthy Seal of Approval.”

It can be naive to put faith in those things of the world which seem dependable and absolute– like boats that sink, hurricanes that destroy, as well as stocks and investments that lose their value.

What is dependable and unsinkable through all time?

In Jesus’ own words, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.” [Mark 13:31 NIV].  In an unstable world, we can depend on God’s word. What He says, He means. What He says stands firm. What He says is forever.

That’s a truth worth thinking about.  What can be a better investment than the eternal truths of the Bible? Is what is taking most of your time and attention dependable?

Don’t wait to step into a sinking boat to decide.

[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.]

 

 

 

 

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What Does Color Say About Your Bible? By Jo Russell

As Barbara listened carefully to the message in church, she asked herself, “Did I hear the clergyman right? Didn’t he just say, ‘The only good Bible is a red one.’?” Her heart dropped to the ground as she studied the beautiful gift her grown children had given her recently: a dark green plain-language Bible edition with her name engraved along with gold designs on the cover.

As Barbara thought over her journey back to God as an adult, she never remembered seeing any of the groups at church having a RED Bible. How could they be so wrong? Or was it the pastor?

Her concern showed on her face as she turned to her husband, her mouth pulling down at the corners. “Did you hear what he just said?” she whispered. “I don’t have the right color!”

Albert responded, “Honey, he means a read Bible, r-e-a-d, not the color!”
It’s true. Any book not read is a buried treasure. When it comes to the Bible, it has everything!

The treasure inside is priceless for all time and all generations. It is also a foundation for growing close to God and others.

Here are some reminders:

Courage and faith heading into the unknown: 9 Genesis 7:1–Noah; Genesis 12–: Abram and Lot; Exodus 2–Jochebed, mother, and son, Moses; Luke 1 — Mary, a virgin, engaged to be married agrees to be mother of God, though the usual punishment for out-of-wedlock pregnancy was death by stoning;Acts 9–Saul becomes blind and led into Damacus–becomes the Apostle Paul

Special effects: Exodus 7:4 –the plagues of Egypt; Exodus 14–The Red Sea parts for God’s people, but drowns the enemy; Numbers 22:21– talking donkey; Joshua 4– crossing the Jordan on dry land; Joshua 6– the battle of Jericho won with God’s help and no weapons. Mark 4:35– Jesus calms a storm

Miraculous childbirth: Genesis 21: Abraham and Sarah, parents of Isaac; 1 Samuel 1: Hannah and Elkanah, parents of Samuel, the prophet; Luke 1: Zechariah and Elizabeth, parents of John the Baptist; Mary and God, the parents of Jesus

Romance: Genesis 24:15 – Isaac and Rebekah; Song of Songs 1:12–by Solomon

Conflict /rebellion/treason: Numbers 14:14–The Israelites want their fish, garlic and onions back! Job 1:1 – Job’s friends aren’t helping through his crises. Psalms– much of it written by David, who was being hunted down by the King Saul; 2 Samuel 18 — a son’s rebellion against his father, King David. Luke 22:20: Jesus knows Judas will betray him. Luke 22:34: Jesus predicts Simon Peter will deny him three times in one night. But Jesus goes on loving us – as he did them.

Selflessness: Luke 20:21–The widow gives all she has; Jesus shows scores of examples of selflessness in his actions.
Miracles and provision: All through the Bible.

 

Barbara remembered these things and smiled. It didn’t matter what her Bible looked like, but that she read it and every day learned more from God’s directions and stories.

Isn’t that a good lesson for all of us? Read the Bible, no matter what color it is.

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

 

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.]

Fact or Opinion? It’s Stinkin’ Hot! By Jo Russell

During a summer I worked in a resort hotel in Alaska, I zipped into the employee lounge one grey day to find co-worker Carol fanning herself with a folded newspaper. She had lived in Alaska for years. The woman looked downright sweaty.

“What’s the matter?” I asked her, concerned she was ill.

“It’s just so stinkin’ hot!” She complained, slamming her fan on the table. “I can hardly wait for winter when it cools down some.” By “some,” in her community, the temperature could dip to 64 below.

“But Carol,” I reminded her. “It’s only 53 degrees!”

“That’s what I mean!” Carol insisted. “It’s stinkin’ hot!”

As a resident of a largely desert state where an Arizona author once came up with a camping book on how to fry eggs on a rock (or the sidewalk), I pulled my sweater around me. I had an entirely different opinion.

There is always much debate about the weather. Some like it hot. Some like it cold. Most don’t like it windy. But when it comes to a decision about the weather, it’s just opinion and we can’t do anything but accept it as it comes.

When it comes to the Bible, we can do something about it. The first is to read it.

I have heard some usual claims:

“It was written so long ago and revised so many times that it can’t be true.”

“The Bible isn’t consistent. That’s why I don’t read it.”

“It’s too violent!” quipped a reader of the Old Testament.

Isn’t it strange that some of these comments come from a church-going baptized believers?

What does the Bible say? “All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16.

So is the Bible fact or opinion? Read it and found out for yourself.

You’ll be glad you did.

[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, check her weekly blog on www.button-to-god.com.]

The Power of Keys By Jo Russell

A new arrival found herself at the information desk before a large set of gates that looked like they opened into a gated luxury resort. Carol couldn’t remember how she got there or where she had parked her car, but noticed that the sun was setting and she wanted to settle into a nice hotel before it got dark.

Hi! I just got here and need a place to stay.” She leaned in to read the name tag of the bearded customer service rep: “Pete.”
“Say, Pete, do you take American Express? Or do you prefer Visa or a Mastercard?”

“Nope. None of those.”

“What does it take to unlock these gates? A remote? A card? combination? Collateral? Keys?”

Pete guffawed. “Keys?” he chortled. “Carol, you were offered the keys some time ago. What did you do with them?”

What keys had been in her care? Carol was trying to remember. Hmmm. Where they one of those keys where you pushed the button, it beeped, and then unlocked and lighted all the vehicles in the grocery store parking lot? Could it be the small silver house key that disappeared for three months so that her kids had to climb in the window every time they came home? She’d gotten better keeping track since then.

Carol thought about the spare keys she kept after she got a frantic call from a neighbor who had accidentally locked herself inside her own shed. Carol also recalled her friend who entrusted her with another spare when the woman had dead-bolted herself outside her house. All key-bearing friends had been out of town. “The hiding place was too obvious,” the friend had explained. “Someone would only have to flail around inside the bag of concrete on the patio to find it!”

Carol had enough spare keys–hers and everyone else’s–to create a necklace. Her purse was outfitted for emergencies requiring anything from rescue rope to dehydrated dinners. But as she dug in her bag, it seemed unnaturally light. She couldn’t find any keys in her purse!

“What keys am I looking for?” she asked Pete.

“The really important ones. The keys to Heaven. They are in your Bible.”

Just where exactly are the keys to Heaven?

Key One: “Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’” [John 14:6 ~NIV]

Key Two: Jesus said, “’Hear, O Israel the Lord, our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” [Mark 12:29-31 ~ NIV]

How precious are the keys to Heaven in your life right now? How would you rate your stewardship of your keys?

[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.]

Spots and Rash? Oh, No! By Jo Russell

Forget about spending the day with my best friend! Wrapping a hand with toilet paper for another round of sneezing and germ dispersing, I thought, “Better to get sick on a school day than waste a perfectly beautiful Saturday!” My pre-teen plans had been shattered.

“Maybe you should plan to stay in bed today,” Mom suggested as she felt my head. “Mmm. Maybe the flu?”

Sniffling through Friday’s sixth grade science and history lesson, I had been
fascinated by the disease that destroyed crews sailing across the ocean–all for lack of vitamin C. I remembered just a few of the symptoms, and then I checked to see. Sure enough, I was pale and I did have spots! (Alarmed, it never occurred to me that before the fever and sneezing hit, I had pre-existing spots–both freckles and bug bites.)

I proclaimed, “Probably just a touch of scurvy!”

Mom choked, coughed, and then turned to erupt in laughter at my self-diagnosis. She served balanced, healthy meals. No lack of vitamin C there! Also, my brothers and I often picked and snacked on the softball-sized oranges on trees in the backyard.

No wonder my mother, a trained nurse, laughed so hard!

My embarrassing moment came from holding onto only a small part of a body of facts. It was like picking a Bible verse without reading the entire context, and then making decisions “based on God’s word.”

Peter, who walked with Jesus, hearing his words first hand, advised: “… grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” [2 Peter 3:18 NIV ]

How do you grow in knowledge? Learn the whole word. Read every day in the Bible. Invest time each day and your knowledge of the whole word of God will keep you from mistaking your words for His.

[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.]

Putting on Your Whole Armor By Jo Russell

It had been one of those mornings so frigid I expected to pry open the front door to see penguins tobogganing down my icy street. But I didn’t see any.

Was this truly the kind of morning you could throw up a glass of water and have it come down as ice crystals? I didn’t want to know. Determined to walk for exercise and fun, I turned the thermometer around without looking at it and wrapped myself in a quilted coat, layered garments, scarf and hat, thick wool socks and insulated boots. But once outside, I gasped! Why was I still freezing?

“Exercise is the answer! Once I get moving, I’ll be warmer!” I thought. But as I kept walking, my legs got colder.

I studied my socks. The tops had hunkered down while my leggings had compressed until they could have doubled as elastic bandages. Skin exposed to double-digit below zero temperatures takes better preparation than I had done.

Getting properly outfitted for the cold is much like being completely outfitted with God’s armor in Ephesians 6:11. In a Christian warrior’s outfit, each piece also makes a difference between life and death.
The perfect Christian warrior’s ensemble includes:
o the belt of truth
o the breastplate of righteousness
o the shield of faith

o the helmet of salvation
o the sword of the Spirit,
o and feet fitted with the gospel of peace.
With this outfit, there isn’t any skin showing.

Paul concludes in Ephesians 6:13, “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.” [NIV]

Do you have any skin showing in your Christian ensemble?

[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.]

Poor Richard’s Almanac or the Bible? Answers By Jo Russell

The Answers: How did you do?
1. “Wise men learn by others’ harms. Fools scarcely learn by their own.” Poor Richard

2. “Therefore, ask [a] blessing humbly and be not uncharitable to those that at present seem to want it…”Poor Richard

3. “Do not speak to a fool, for he will scorn the wisdom of your words.” Proverbs 23:9, the Bible (NIV)

4. “They that won’t be counseled can’t be helped.” Poor Richard

5. “But they soon forgot what he had done and did not wait for his counsel.” Psalm 106:13 (NIV)

6. “I, even I, am he who comforts you.” Isaiah 51:12 the Bible (NIV)

7. “But dost thou love life? Then do not squander time, for that’s the stuff life is made of.”
Poor Richard.

8. “So in everything do to others what you would have them do to you.” Jesus’ words, Matthew 7:12, the Bible (NIV)

9. “A friend loveth at all times.” Proverbs 17:17, the Bible (NIV)

Whose advice are you following? Make sure you know whose words guide you before you choose your path. Read your Bible!

 

Congratulations to Dawn R. of Snowflake, Arizona, who not only had all the correct answers, but was the first to respond. Great going, Dawn! She is the winner of a stick-on panic button that will be a great feature on her computer or dash board!

 

[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.]