Old and Junky or Priceless Gifts of Christmas by Jo Russell

“Surprise! We get to come for Christmas!” Shirley dropped the phone as she learned that less than a week from the holiday that her grown son and his wife would celebrate with her.

Because Shirley had been planning a quiet Christmas at home, she had projects in progress in nearly every room. Chaos reigned. Instead of a warm home ready for Christmas in four days, her place resembled a D.I.Y remodel in progress. Exploding with ideas, she was choosing new color palettes, painting furniture, walls, making new furniture covers and moving all the pictures around.

That’s what happens when you watch twenty or thirty of those home and garden shows.

Still, Shirley could rise to the occasion of Jesus’ special day, even squeezing in decorating and getting ready for family around working full-time. Shirley pondered the type of tree her son and daughter-in-law might appreciate.

Yes! Something infused with memories and meaning!   

But when Rob and Janet settled in, Shirley heard Rob whisper to his wife, “When I see this old, junky stuff on the tree, it makes me feel funny. Why doesn’t Mom get something new?”

Shirley had plenty of Christmas glitz that was new. But she wanted to include those hand-made ornaments that reminded them of shared times.

What’s so junky about this tree? A few folded and slightly bent snowflakes, cut dough reindeer with childish color accents, and picture ornaments of the children smiling through missing teeth. What’s the big deal? Janet’s family’s tree is decorated just like this with dough ornaments.

Other decorations on Shirley’s tree were collected from family trips. From them, she could hear the bells of Christmas. Shirley could have chosen from one or more of her color-coordinated trees decorated to a theme that puts Martha Stewart to shame. But she decided on a memory tree instead.

And my son calls it “junky!”

In Jesus’ time, many waiting for the Messiah looked for the new and the shiny, not the junky and  ordinary. For this King of Kings was born in a place so small lodging filled up quickly. It left the Holy Family only with the old and crummy: a stable. It was there that the newborn son of God was born and wrapped in cloths. He wasn’t laid in a crib with a thick mattress resting on soft sheets within a color-coordinated nursery. The Messiah’s first human visitors at the manger were not people of position and power. The shepherds smelled like animals and were considered the lowest of life in that culture.

Yet the herdsmen knew this truth from the angels, “Today in the town of David, a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” [Luke 2:11-12 NIV]

Generations had waited to see him! The Messiah! He was most wanted.

Jesus was a wanted child, all right. Herod wanted to kill him. So just in time with an angel’s warning, Joseph took the Holy Family to Egypt to escape Herod’s mass murder plans.

Everything about Jesus’ birth, life and death seemed unfit for a king. Jesus didn’t deserve a junky birthplace, ordinary lifestyle and the opposition to his ministry as an adult, plus being sinless, but killed like a criminal.

But he came for all of us, to offer all of us forgiveness regardless of levels of life and lifestyle.

“Ascribe to the Lord the glory due in his name; worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness,” wrote David in Psalm 29:2. That applies today as well, about 3500 years later.

Can we see anything junky in Jesus’ crown of love and scepter of peace?  His modeling of love, forgiveness, and compassion gives meaning and memory to relationships.  What better way to infuse memories than to include Jesus?

[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.]



HELP! Plumber? Police? Anyone? by Jo Russell

As the two women searched the plumbing aisle in a home improvement store, their faces were pinched with concern and distress. The middle-aged woman held tight to an elderly woman leaning on a cane.

As a red-vested employee stepped up to them, he asked, “How can I help you?”

“We need to fix the bathtub,” the middle-aged woman stated. “And we can’t afford a plumber.”

She turned to the woman, “Mom, hold onto my arm and stay right with me. Don’t go wandering around.”

“Tell me what’s wrong with it first,” the employee queried. “Is the bathtub cracked and leaking?


“Does it drain okay?”

“Sure. It drains a lot. That’s why we can’t take a bath.”

“All the water goes out,” the elderly woman added.

“What kind of plug does it have in the drain? There are three kinds. Here they are.”

“No, that’s not it,” the younger woman explained. “When you look down in the bathtub hole, you see the dirt under the house. And it’s all wet.”

It would take a labyrinth of pipes, connectors, drain and trim parts to fix the bathtub – and a plumber.

“You’ll need to call a plumber.”

“But we told you, we can’t. We don’t have the money. We’re both widows on disability.”

Recently, the employee had remembered a large order from an agency in their area for many building and plumbing materials. He remembered, That organization focuses on helping those in need. Pulling a file, the red-vested employee wrote out a name, phone number and handed it to the younger widow.

As the women left the store, both walked a little taller, knowing that help for them and their bathtub was on the way.

When we’re up against a wall needing help, where can we turn? Plumber, police, fire department, or God? Which call for help brings in one service provide that doesn’t cost money, is available 24-7, is never is stopped by the weather, doesn’t ever lose contact when cell phone service is out, makes it over impassable roads. Who is that?

God. The Lord. Jehovah Jireh. Yahweh.

This is a steadfast promise. “The Lord watches over you – the Lord is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night.  The Lord will keep you from all harm – he will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.” [Psalm 121:5-8.]

He even takes care of bathtub problems. Lean on the Lord. Trust in him. See what happens.

[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 the Best Scents for Town and Country Living By Jo Russell


With the confidence of one who summits the tallest peaks in North America, Jolene thought, “As a seasoned country woman instead of a newbie, I can solve any problem and deal with anything with a flyswatter, adjustable wrench, shovel, broom, and duct tape! Bring it on, Mother Nature!”

The Creator of all—AKA Mother Nature–smiled at the challenge.

Jolene’s confidence melted when she spotted a skunk in the kitchen eating cat food.

But she wielded the broom and voila! Without stink or fuss, the kitchen was clear of critters–except for her own.

“I’ll deal with the pet door later,” she promised herself. But the open window at ground level   welcomed all just like Emma Lazarus’ quote with a slight modification:

“Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me: I lift my lamp beside the golden [window].”

Months later, Mama Skunk remembered how easy it was to go out for dinner at Jolene’s and take the whole family – now totaling all six of them.

Jolene had her foot propped on a chair and was not expecting company. At dusk, while Jolene was on the phone, she commented to her friend, “At least it’s only a bad sprain, not a broken foot.”

That’s when a furious commotion began in the kitchen. Cuddles wasn’t barking a familiar message, like “dinner time,” “walk,” “treat” or “cat mischief alert!” The noise wound up like a siren, getting louder and shriller! The dog was alarming Jolene as plainly as he could, “Alien invasion! Skunks! A whole family of them!”

She limped to the broom and gently shooed out four babies and Mama Skunk through the door.

But Cuddles kept yapping as he herded a fifth baby the size of a bath sponge into the corner of the living room. Jolene followed with the broom and opened the front door. But the baby skunk was too terrified to move.

Jolene got closer. She remembered hearing, “Baby skunks don’t spray.”

As the smell burned her eyes, Jolene learned it isn’t true. “At least I’ll get new carpet out of it.”

Also wrong.

“Varmint damage,” the insurance company rep tagged the stink-in. “Not covered under a homeowners’ policy.”

Jolene ignoring the pet door problem became serious because she let it go.

Ignoring urgent issues is the same as blowing off home or car repairs, health, financial, or relationship issues, or problems that must be confronted.  Without attention, everything gets bigger and harder to handle.

The same applies to sin. Sin is an old-fashioned word that some think only belongs in the vocabulary of narrow-minded octogenarians.

But sin spans the generations from Adam and Eve to the present. It is real. It turns into   consequences and complications. If sin is not confronted, it gets bigger. What is it? Sin: Call it a temporary error in judgment, a mistake, getting even, giving in to peer pressure, or justifying a bad choice.

Jesus had plenty of temptation to make a temporary error in judgment – such as turning stones to bread or jumping off a cliff and having the angels rescue him. Those were Satan’s ideas in the desert during Jesus’ 40 day fast. But he didn’t. He could have gotten even with the religious leaders who hid in the crowds of followers with plans to trick him and murder him. But he didn’t. Jesus could have helped himself to the funds that supported the disciples just as Judas Iscariot did. Jesus wouldn’t even have to open the pouch. But he didn’t.

What kind of example is Jesus setting for us? That we reach for honesty; that we correct our wrongs and change paths so we don’t do it again; that we get up every time we fall.

Who is the owner of your life?  Sin or the Son? Jesus, the Son of God, taught, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”  [John 8:34-36]

Can you accept the beautiful gift Jesus offers of being in his family through forgiveness and his gift?

The fragrance of forgiveness is the best choice – whether for  town or country living.

[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.]