Can Almonds and Attitudes be a Source of Joy? By Jo Russell

Something fell off the kitchen counter in the middle of the night and bounced.

Home alone, Gracie listened in the darkness, and then heard a furious clack, bang, and crash! The police had posted a notice on the doors of her neighborhood a few weeks before.

Gracie tried to remember. “What did it say? Lock your doors and windows!” A burglar hit seven homes in the neighborhood, mostly by just walking in.

On this busy night, she had passed out with exhaustion after work and had fallen asleep in her clothes. Gracie’s heart thumped and she felt icy as her life flashed in front of her eyes!  She clasped her hand around heavy metal. It wasn’t a Smith and Wesson, but a fitness pack full of drinks, work- out clothes, bras, and underwear that could pack a wallop.

Gracie sat up and listened for footsteps. None. Tiptoeing out of bed, the woman took her defensive stance with the gym bag. More clack, clack, bang! No footsteps!

She flattened herself against the walls close to the kitchen, scanned the room and the next, and another, and then returned to the kitchen where the noise continued. Gracie flipped on the light and backed away quickly to avoid a bullet.

Nothing!

Where was the large, clumsy intruder who had entered the house with such a clatter? An almond shot by her feet. Then a black streak zig-zagged across the room chasing it and yowling until the nut bounced off the baseboards.

“Penny Kitty!” Grace winced as she stepped forward. Something brown and hard pushed into her bare feet. She was afraid to look.

What is a cat litter box for anyway? Gracie lifted her toes off the mound. But it was only a Brazil nut Penny had propelled across the room.

Gracie growled with irritation and scooped up the energized feline. She purred. The overworked lady concluded, “I am taking life’s lessons from a cat. She can be perfectly happy just playing with nuts!”

Almonds, that is.

What can we learn from this? The pure joy of simple experiences.

Being loved and held in God’s hands every day does bring joy! Is your life more work and not enough play? Have you missed moments of joy?

Like Gracie, have thoughts, plans and worries about the past and the future kept you in a numb state?

Penny Kitty taught Gracie to wake up to the joy of today and a thankful heart for each moment in time.

God gives us the present. It’s a panorama of beauty and experiences like a gift. Jesus said, “If you obey my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love.  I have told you this so that my joy will be in your and your joy may be complete.” John 15:10-11

Penny Kitty had the right idea. Enjoy life now—right down to the last almond!

Where do you find joy today?

[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.]

Finding a Place to Rest by Jo Russell

“Let’s go camping!”

As life for Jolene generated as much chaos and noise as a midway. By Friday night, the circus was in full swing. Demands from work, college classes, family and finances.

“When are we going to eat?” one of her sons wanted to know. Benny the cat was coughing up a fur ball on the rug. Dishes teetered on the counter like rock piles. Spring cleaning was overdue. The phone was ringing with an “important political message.” She had a paper due on Monday for a college class.

“Oh, the stress of it all!” Jolene mumbled. But the single mom always knew the solution.

When she cried, “Camping!” her sons would chime in, “When do we leave?”

With the laptop on the campout, by Monday, the paper would be finished. There would be time – for work and fun! But only after Jolene unpacked the camping closet, packed the car, gear, food, water, and necessities—like her family members and the frisbee. Then, she would  unpack it all again, and set up camp when they got to the mountains.

As she and her boys put up the dome shelter far from a paved road, she spotted the rain clouds. But Jolene knew what to do. She dug a trench around the tent to divert any water. After dinner, Jolene got to work on the paper outside on a camp table. Too soon, drops fell on her keyboard. She snapped the lid shut and sprinted to the car to lock up the computer. Inside the tent, she and her sons cuddled as gentle drops changed to cold arrows of water snapping at the nylon wall.  Not long after, the rain came down like a waterfall. Shortly, it changed to flashflood dimensions.

The moat around the tent. What good had that done?

Her son Robbie looked down at the floor of the new tent.  “Mom, look! We’ve got a stream inside the tent!”

“Cool!” his brother grinned.

And sure enough. The seams were leaking, providing a more entertaining experience than TV.  Jolene hugged her sons close and laughed. So much for work.

God’s sense of humor prevailed.

Was the paper important?  Or was time to spend free of work?

Jesus promised, “Come to me all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”  Matthew 11:28 NIV.

We need rest. We need time. We need a place in our heart of peace. That peace comes with God.

The cost of not taking time to rest is an assault on health, humor, and efficiency. Today–perhaps for the first time ever, some millennials—the under 30 group–are dying of overwork. Heart attacks due to stress and a marathon of work.

Rest gives us a physical as well as a time for spiritual renewal. Time with God. Time with self. Time to reflect. Time to build relationships.

When God created the world, he rested on the seventh day. Was he tired? No. He was setting an example that we need to rest. Sabbath means to “cease” and to “desist.” That is, from all work. Take time with God. Rest. Thank Him for everything. What’s in it for you? The exhaustion will lift. You will feel renewed.

Though God’s commandment may seem to clash with today’s culture, He had reasons for directing his flock to “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but on the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it, you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, not the alien within your gates.” [Exodus 20:8 NIV]

God had our best interest in mind – for what use are we when personally and physically exhausted? What better quality is our time and talent when we have rested and renewed our relationship with God?

Take time to meet God every moment—commuting, at the store, during a work break, before the family gets up, watering the yard. Keep the Sabbath a day of joy and rest. For each day, relationship and challenge is God’s gift.

As Jolene learned, God gives times to enjoy. It’s not all work.

Not a month later, Jolene couldn’t remember the topic of the paper she got in on time. But she and the boys were still glowing with the wonder and laughter of the stream inside the tent – and God’s directive to rest.

God knew what He was doing in demanding we rest.  Take time to enjoy the experience!

[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.]

 

 

 

The Tarantula’s Tarantella of Worship by Jo Russell

“What a hot night!” Jolene mumbled while her children slept.

When the air conditioning is on full blast in a tent, it does not help much, especially in a remote area on the prickly desert floor. Jolene knew this from decades of camping in the desert. In tent terms, that meant all the screened picture windows, doors and skylight were unzipped to the moonlight. Dark outcroppings of bare rock still radiated the heat of the day on a spring night.

Her thighs were glued together with sweat. Late as it had been, Jolene heard her sons softly breathing. While they were catching zzzzzs, she couldn’t sleep. “It’s going to be a loooong night!” Jolene sat up and sighed.

Nearly as bright as sunup with a full moon, the land sparkled like mica. Jolene peered through the screened window, appreciating the quiet sounds of a peaceful night. A very small breeze touched the desert creosote bushes and the mesquite trees.

As Jolene listened and watched, she noticed a score of dark shapes each about the size of a fist crawl to center stage. Looking more closely, she noticed the shapes had legs.

“Wow,” she whispered to herself, tarantula spiders!”

Tuning up like an orchestra before a performance, the creatures began to dance in the moonlight like a troupe of professional folk dance performers! First, to the right, then to the left, spin around, strut and kick, dip and bow! Though Jolene learned later dancing is normal spring courtship behavior for the male spiders, she held to the idea that the tarantulas doing the tarantella as a way to honor their Creator and their women!

In the Bible, Moses reported God’s deeds of creation, “God made the wild animals according to their kinds, livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.” [ Genesis 1:25 NIV]

So the creatures worship God in their way, too. Our Creator gifts us with the command to rest and worship on the Sabbath. Today, that is Sunday. We can be renewed to begin again after rest, worship, and reflection. Just as the tarantulas took time out for fun and fellowship, so should we.

This day and holiday weekend, let’s take time to have fun, worship, as well as to honor the Creator. The payoff is worth it. By the next work week, we may find ourselves dancing with joy just like the tarantulas doing the tarantella.

[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.]