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.] 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Who is the Boss of Me? By Jo Russell

It’s bound to happen in any family, even the close-knit. “You’re not the boss of me!” The angry words rang out between the ten-year-old twin brothers–red-faced and nearly nose to nose. They had been setting up a sale of their hand-crafted items at an RV park rec hall. Things had been going well. Not now. You could say it was girl trouble.

“Whatcha doing?” a shapely 10-year-old had poked her head inside, her golden curls silhouetted in the sun. She sported a healthy tan, sparkling blue eyes and tidy pastel shorts and shirt.

“I’m Allison. Can I help, too?”  Not much was going on except a lot of giggling.

Months before when the boys learned they would have to earn the money for their own new bicycles, Bruce and Brent had prepared to put on a craft show at this RV resort where their own family would be camping for a week.  

Now the boys bristled at each other competing for small talk with Allison. She looked from one identical twin to the other, coyly flashing her eyes and lowering her eyelashes.

Though it is common in identical twins to share a sentence – one to start and the other to finish, the twins were getting annoyed with each other. Finally, tempers exploded.

“My turn to talk! I was telling her.” Brent quipped.

“She wants to talk to me, not you! Bruce countered.

“You’re not setting that up right. It looks dumb.”

“You’re always trying to be the boss of me! I’m smarter, that’s what!

Still jockeying for who was the boss and whose turn it was to talk to Allison, the twins stopped when their mom, Sylvia, interrupted, and then suggested, “I think Fletcher, needs a walk.”  

It was a win-win situation. For the family pet, a short-legged basset hound with red-rimmed eyes, Fletcher decided there was no such thing as too many walks–nor treats. Bruce took his turn first with Allison, and the canine returned with crumbs of hamburger around his mouth. Next was Brent’s turn and the dog was still chewing up a leftover grilled bratwurst. The third round, manned by Allison alone, Fletcher returned with a dog smile and an oatmeal cookie.

Allison suggested advertising along with dog-walking. “Let’s take Fletcher and go tell everyone about your craft sale. I’ll tell my family first!” One twin at a time and Allison spread the word, and it wasn’t long before the boys and their wares were sold out. Working together, they were winners. But Fletcher, a few pounds heavier and happier, felt like the hands-down champion.  

Who is the boss of you? Start with the question, “Who should be?”

God first. “He [Christ] is the head of the body, the church, he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.” [Colossians 1:18. NIV].  

Second are authority figures, some of whom make it tough to enjoy work. “Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you.” Hebrews 13:17 [NIV] . That makes sense. If you’re a Christian, what does your behavior at work say about your values?  If a boss finds you hard to handle, how much energy does it take to channel it into the conflict?  If you work with them, you will find a boss has a better attitude and so do you.

As Bruce and Brent grew into adults, they rarely fought between themselves over who was the boss. As adults, they faced many bosses, just as we all have. Some supervisors make it difficult to adjust to  hard task master tactics. We may wonder: “Who’s the boss of me?”  

You couldn’t find a better master than 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.]   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grand Theft Ice Cream by Jo Russell

Ice cream! Steak! Pizza! Every month when the large food truck delivered orders to families in the rural ranching area, it was like Christmas! What a relief! To the busy cattle-ranching crews, they appreciated the prepared frozen food as a gift of time as well.

Nearly dark when the truck roared into the circular drive of the Peterson’s ranch house, the driver wasn’t surprised to see the neighbors, the Monroes, rush over.

Soon all were poring over the colorful catalogs that guaranteed great gourmet meals with a minimum of effort, plus ice cream in bulk that would hold them over for the next month.

While the two ranch families were busy with their choices for the next delivery day, the food truck driver heard a racket outside in the drive. He glanced up to see a shadowy someone helping himself to cases of food and ice cream from the truck.

“Stop!” he yelled, running toward the truck. “Call 9-1-1!”

When the families ran outside, the thief spewed gravel as he sped out of the driveway in his dusty sedan. Identification was easy. They gave the sheriff his license number.

Not long after, a sheriff’s deputy pulled the driver over on a dusty country road. “I bought all this stuff! I didn’t do anything!” the driver claimed. But he had no receipt. His timing and license number incriminated him. Besides, the evidence was melting all over the back seat – chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream, English toffee bars, and butter-soft frozen pizza. Worst of all, he was already on probation. Busted!

We all know that wrong doing is not restricted to Grand Theft Ice Cream. Are we ever guilty? Aren’t we pretty good people who do pretty good things most of the time?

Ever done anything that reaped red-faced embarrassment like gossip or envied something someone else has? Ever break a promise? Take something that didn’t belong to you? Fail to help someone who genuinely needed it when you could have?

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” is stated in Romans 3:23. Wow! Even though we are “pretty good people.” Busted!

A local pastor commented that when any of us do the wrong thing, we may find it hard to accept that we can be forgiven. “They don’t know where to begin,” Pastor Dave added, then explained that it has to start with the old-fashioned word and action involved in “repentance.” The action is two-fold: to feel regret and to return to God.

So begin with baby steps, recognizing that you didn’t make the right choice. Are you sorry enough to turn away from doing that again? Can you ask God to accept your apology? Of course! He reaches out with love and forgiveness.

What does God do with our wrongs? He forgives them and they are gone. “As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” Psalm 103:12 [NIV].

A fresh start! A new beginning! It’s a gift that’s better than Christmas and as sweet as ice cream!

[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.]

Money Maul and Other Fun Games By Jo Russell

“It’s about time the kids learn about money,” Chrissie decided while looking in on her sleeping toddlers. As a first-time mother, she was wild with excitement when they had graduated from diapers forever. Now they could now walk and talk. Recently, the preschoolers had graduated from cribs to regular beds. Her sons were even learning to help at home. “Now it’s time for them to learn about an allowance and about handling money!” she decided.

“You get money for helping,” Chrissie explained as they put away their toys, dropped clothes in the hamper and helped smooth out their bedding.

The young mother made a special trip to the bank for their first payroll–one hundred new pennies each totaling four wrapped packages.

Chrissie sat on the bed with her sons and a couple of piggy banks. First, she showed them how to count out ten pennies from each dollar that they would give to God. “You put this in the basket at church. The rest is yours,” she said “Dad, Momma, and Grandma buy you toys and food and clothes. Now you can buy something, too.”

She showed them how to drop the coins in the piggy banks. With each clink of the coins, her sons giggled. It was better than a toy!

“You can buy ice cream or a toy or do whatever you want with it. You understand? Okay? ”

They nodded.

But that afternoon Chrissie opened the door to a surprise after her sons’ nap. The boys took her for her word when she said they could do anything they wanted with their money. The shiny pennies were everywhere – stuck inside the pillow cases, glittering in the toy box, slam-dunked under the bed, and speckling the floor like confetti.

If money could talk, it would confess that toddler’s penny-shooting battle ended in a draw – and disorder.

God thinks that money is important enough that there are over 2,000 verses connected with it in the Bible. The advice connected with money, blessings, possessions, and wealth revisits a recurring theme of trust in God from the time of Moses.

“Honor the LORD with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine.” Proverbs 3:9 [NIV].

The modern application may not involve grapes, olives, or wheat, but instead good health, relationships, manageable bills, paychecks, deposits, savings, bonuses, retirement plans, capital gains, or earned interest income. Will God bless you today as you trust him and honor him first with your tithe and attention?

I wondered if that really worked when I first tried it three decades ago. Ever since, I’ve been watching in awe how God met every physical need and bill when raising my twin sons from diaper-clad newborns to strapping six-footers as a single mom without financial help.

Through the years, I knew God took me through the uncertainties of parenting, health, and career challenges. He always came through. Even though my own uncertainties are slightly different now, God hasn’t changed. Nor has the sage advice of money-handling in the Bible. First, tithe, and second, stay out of debt.

A friend asked, “What’s the difference between a family living on welfare and one living entirely on credit? Solomon points out the common thread between the rich and poor is that God created them both. [Proverbs 22:2] Is someone living entirely on credit rich or wise?

Interesting that King Solomon asked God for wisdom, not wealth, when he took the throne in 970 B.C. Yet he was known for his wisdom, wealth, and wives. He attributes wisdom and his relationship with God of the highest value. “For the Lord gives wisdom and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.”[Proverbs 2:6] So wisdom with money is essential.

Dave Ramsey paraphrases Proverbs 22:7 often as he restates, “The borrower is slave to the lender.” Well-known financial guru on today’s scene, Ramsey is author, radio show host, and founder of the Financial Peace University. [DaveRamsey.com] He says he has helped more in America get out of debt than anyone else. Ramsey explains he starts with wherever they are. But at the top of every client’s budget plan is their tithe, to be paid first to God — all other bills after that. Does honoring God work? Has it brought blessings?

More than you and I can ever count.

[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.]

Only Get My Mouth Dirty By Jo Russell

The three under-eight children gathered around the table for an emergency strategy conference as if faced with a code red: costumes for the school carnival! Two brothers and a neighbor girl sketched out details. Soon, with scissors in hand, the three headed off for the scrap box and closets.

An hour later, the three returned, one in costume. “Mom, I am a prince this year,” one boy announced, patting the dark beret decorated with a fluffy ostrich plume. Wrapped in a black cape, he sported a new royal blue breastplate cut from a scrap of brocade pinned to his tee shirt.

“I can see that. But you need to take off your costume for lunch.”

“It’s okay,” the boy assured his mom. “I’ll only get my mouth dirty.”

His figuring he would only get his mouth dirty in all the feathers, fancy cloth, and cape, is like us figuring a little sin won’t hurt.

Sin is an old-fashioned word today. Some Christians would rather call it “immaturity,” “bad choices,” “bad company,”  “mental illness,” or “sowing wild oats.” Tombstones of several young adults I taught as children explained they had “lived hard and free.” But not happily–nor long.

Proverbs 4:4-6 contains timeless words of advice: “Lay hold of my words with all your hearts; keep my commands and you will live. Get wisdom, get understanding; do not forget my words or swerve from them.”

It is not enough for the mouth to say, “Jesus is Lord.” The body must also.

 

Words Worth Fighting For By Jo Russell

The winter storm pinged against the windows like handfuls of gravel, keeping the small twin sisters stuck indoors. Normally friends, Mandy and Angie had shared a womb, then a room, and hours of play together.

Soon a loud thermometer of sisterly love rang out, “You’re not the boss of me!” You can’t play with my toys any more!”

Imaging this could soon erupt into a hair-pulling fist fight, Grandma headed down the hall. One twin catapulted towards her, and nearly knocked Grandma down. The twin’s loud wails pierced the quiet house.

“What’s the matter, Sweetie?” Grandma pulled her close and stroked the girl’s hair. She studied the twin’s clothes to see which of the mirror-image granddaughters she held before calling her by name.

Sniffling and hiccupping, Angie finally cried out the hurtful words, “My sister said that I am ugly–and she is beautiful!”

Grandma called the siblings together. “Nonsense, Angie. God made each of you special and neither one of you is ugly. You look just alike.”

Both looked at each other with amazement as if for the first time.

“That means you are both beautiful!” Grandma declared. “Besides I need you girls to help me with the cookies. But first you need to fix your words and thoughts.” She helped the girls see the power of words. Soon, the twins were crying out apologies and clinging to each other. Friends again, Angie and Mandy headed to the kitchen, ready to fix the rest of the world’s problems with chocolate chip cookies.

King Solomon summarized the potency of words in Proverbs 12:18: “Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” [NIV]

During the holiday season, television sitcoms present fictional families with problems, solutions and fuzzy warm feelings all wrapped up in a tidy 30-minute package.

In real life, words can begin a conflict that is not resolved in a half hour, perhaps not in half a decade. Each thought, attitude and word has even greater weight with people you may only see rarely.

“Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord,” advise the writers of the book of Hebrew 12:14. [NIV].

 Think on the words that may have given you a glow:
“I love you.”
“I’m proud of you.”
“You are such a special person to me.”
“I pray for you every day.”
“Thanks so much for your thoughtfulness.”
“You are really good at this!”
“You look great! Are you working out? Have you lost weight?”

Now those are words worth fighting for!

[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.]

Seek and Find A Logical Place By Jo Russell

One afternoon Melody manned the office supply store by herself, phone to her ear. While the employee listened, she scanned every surface, the tops and inside of every machine, and the work bench. Panic was etched in her face. As she finished the phone call, Melody scribbled a message. She cried, “I just hate it when that happens! Now, where is the paper I just had in my hand?”

Poor lady. That’s the common syndrome of putting things in a logical place, only to have them turn up in the refrigerator or disappear forever without a trace. This cognitive condition doesn’t seem to be limited to age, just multi-tasking.

For Melody is nineteen years old!

Just in one week, I had been searching for logical locations where I had stashed a lock box key, my briefcase containing a map and schedule for an out-of-town conference, and dark dress socks that weren’t snowy with lint. But then, what good are the socks when I am still pondering where I put the lint roller?

Helen complained when she stood at the cash register to pay for her meal, “Honestly, I had my billfold when I left home. I flipped through everything in my purse to find it. I am so embarrassed! It’s not here!”

The hostess pointed, “It’s in your other hand!”

We seek our entire lives: relationships with family and friends, the right mate, children, a good job with benefits, fun, happiness, health, answers to problems, and misplaced lint rollers.

In my youth, my search was for anything but God. My idea was the Supreme Being hefted a sledge hammer, ready to clobber me for any mistakes. Opinion, of course – and many bad choices with natural consequences I brought on myself. Once God had my attention, I learned to seek him. The keys to action: read, study, and pray. He became a friend.

In Jeremiah 29:13, the Lord says, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” [NIV] That search begins with seeking his face, not just his hand. In Matthew 6:33, Jesus talks about provision and advises, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” [NIV].

So no worries about the car keys I need in the next twenty minutes, or the grocery list or the bills due. I believe God will help me with every need—and even guide me to the lint roller.

What about you? Where is God on the list of the things you seek?

[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.]

Planning – Too Much of a Good Thing By Jo Russell

My world-traveling friend laughed when I told her I had already packed six months before my first overseas trip. For months, I also had been knitting scarves and hats for the perfect color-coordinated spring tulip tour.

“When do you pack?” I asked the world traveler.

“The night before.”

“And you don’t forget anything?”

“Never.”

I pictured my friend knitting in noisy airports when the airlines lost her luggage, moved or cancelled her flights. She had been as calm as a water lily when hotel shuttles had stopped running and taxis had been scarce. My friend can live out of her knitting bag for a season without running out of anything — except yarn. To counter the threat of that catastrophe, she always carries a list of yarn shops in each of her stops and destinations.

When it had come time for my trip, I had checked everything one more time and packed a carry-on knitting bag with necessities. It had been so compacted the bag’s contents could fill a banquet table with enough merchandise to start a small boutique.

“Did I forget anything?” I thought and then decided, “Never!” At the overnight stop before the Atlantic crossing, my cousin, Vera, joined me and got out her toothbrush. That was when I looked for mine. No toothbrush. I went to the desk of the hotel.

“Sorry. There has been a run on toothbrushes,” the clerk told me.

I brushed my teeth with a Q-tip. On the cross-Atlantic flight, no luck, either. I rinsed and spit. The upscale hotel next to the cruise port? Fabulous gym, breakfast buffet, and even a slide on the television: “Welcome, Josephine and Vera!” But no toothbrushes. I dredged out a plastic fork and a tissue to pick granola out of my teeth. The cruise ship? Plumb out. Fortunately, a fellow passenger had an extra.

Planning ahead is wise, but it can be too much of a good thing.

A widely publicized return of Jesus posted on billboards all over the U.S. predicted May 21 was the end. Some people took the date so seriously they took their own lives.

But 6 a.m. on May 21 came and went. Had those who believed the publicity read a Bible, they would have known from Jesus’ own words, “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard!….Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back – whether in the evening or at midnight or when the rooster crows, or at dawn.” Check it out for yourself in Mark 13:32-37 and Matthew 24:36-44.

So prepare – with your spiritual portfolio ready for review at all times.
And for your travels? Be sure to pack a toothbrush!

[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.]