Flying Horseshoes and Friendship by Jo Russell

“Jen is good at everything! She beats us at all the card games, she is as good on the internet as anybody I know. Just because she finished her Master’s at an Ivy League school doesn’t mean she is all that. I can hardly wait for her to go back home,” complained cousin Carlie to her mother. Carlie was just starting high school. Her older cousin, Jen, had just finished a grad degree and came to visit for the first time.

“Nonsense,” Carlie’s mother countered. “Everyone is good at something.  She’s worked hard at college.  You work hard in school, too.  We’ll get used to her and she’ll get used to us. We will have fun together sometime soon!”

“I don’t see how.  She beat all of us in the family card games. I’m not the champion any more. “

“That’s because she picked up on all of our mistakes. Besides, you think you’re all that as champion.”

“Nah, I don’t do that! What about Clue? Jen was sharp and fast. She fingered Mr. Green killing in the library with a candlestick. Scrabble? She knows all the tricky words and triple word scores. There just aren’t any family games left for that stuck up show off to play.”

Carlie’s mom sent the teen pouting to her room.

But Uncle Ray pulled the family together later as he challenged his niece to a new match, “Jen, come outside for a friendly game of horseshoes. We’d love to play you.”  Of course, Ray and his family had been hefting and playing horseshoes from the time they graduated from baby booties.

“I guess I can try it.” Jen agreed.

“We’re going to set up the course with less space between the posts. That will make it easier.”

Ray threw a ringer his first toss and the second was close enough for points. Carlie beat her dad with better throws and even more points. Then it was Jen’s turn just as a pick-up truck was driving by.

Jen ‘s first throw bounced off the truck’s massive tire while the astonished driver swerved onto the sidewalk.

After that, the family ducked to keep from being assaulted with a blunt object—Jen’s horseshoe.  The honor grad’s next one first hit the telephone pole across the street square in the middle.

Another horseshoe arched high and landed two lanes away on the sidewalk across the street. The horseshoes were as far as the east is from the west. Any further out and they’d drop into the Pacific Ocean.

“Guess they didn’t teach you how to throw in college,” Carlie observed.

“No. No sports at all. I was good at other stuff, though.”

“We know that. Do you want some help with the horseshoe toss?” Carlie offered. “No offense. Our neighbors like their windows intact. So do we. Just let us in on your secrets for winning Clue.”


By the time the next pick-up truck drove by, thanks to Carlie’s and the family’s help, Jen’s throws were staying within the yard. Sometimes she even scored.

Board games inside following were a more even contest. Jen didn’t always win. Carlie began thinking more kindly of her cousin. Though the Ivy League grad may never become as skilled at horseshoes as her country cousins, with her help with Clue and technology tricks she taught them on their electronic devices, Jen proved that teamwork and family are a winning combination.

Jesus had taught, “Do not judge, or you, too, will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” [ Matthew 7:1-2]

While Carlie had described her cousin as a “stuck-up show off,” she didn’t think of herself in the same way. But the teen had put up walls around any chance to bond and appreciate each other.  It was only when both dropped their initial judgement of each other and worked together that they became friends as well as cousins.

Teamwork, family plus God: It’s a winning combination that makes us all champions.

[Jo Russell is a Christian speaker, author of scores of articles, a half dozen anthology contributions, and award-winning Which Button Do You Push to Get God to Come Out? A Humorous Devotional for Women. available from and her speaking engagements. [Jo lives in northeast Arizona and writes a popular humorous weekly blog on her website,]





Same Sharing, Same Together Thoughts by Jo Russell

“Because we know that the Governor is coming to visit our small community next week, we’re asking your help in getting things tidied up—and having a great time as a family at the same time!” The community leader announced the work project as a thing of honor and grandeur. It would be the following Saturday.

“After all,” he continued, “our main street town is known for dozens of beautiful historical homes and businesses.  That makes it unique!” He ended with enthusiasm, “and we know how much shared family time means to all of us!”

“Do we haveta?” a small boy whispered to his dad.  Denny nodded.

The chairman addressed Denny and asked, “Will you pass the word onto the Nelson family bout our family activity? We’d appreciate their help, too.”

“Sure thing,” Denny responded. But he really felt like mimicking his son’s comment, “Do we haveta?”

As Denny drove up to the Nelsons, long-time residents of the town, he noticed the flat dirt yard pounded by feet, trucks and horse trailers. “Looks just the same,” he decided. Not one blade of grass anywhere. Not for years. It’s almost an embarrassment to the town.”

After he told Martin Nelson about the shared family time project, the man his toe in the dust and smiled. “That’s quite a sell for picking up trash on Main Street as a family. But we’re doing something else together.”

And they did. Saturday morning dawned sunny and bright and right after breakfast and chores, many in the community were lining Main Street picking up litter and cutting weeds.

But the Nelson family gathered outside for another type of family sharing. Volleyball. Lots of laughter and glee. It drew a crowd. The lively rounds soon included cousins, neighbors and lots of kids.

At the end of the community cleanup and the volleyball, all participants had shared time with families, but with different activities.

It would be easy for the clean-up group to criticize the Nelsons. Some did. Why? Because most lived in well-maintained houses with green lawns. So far, the Nelsons never had a green lawn. But their contribution to the town was even more important: regional and national awards for rodeo wins that even the Governor would notice.

Besides excellent horsemanship, the Nelsons certainly knew how to have family fun.

Peter advises: “Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another, be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing because to this you were called that you may inherit a blessing.” [1 Peter 8-9]

Harmony: It’s God’s idea that we work together, even when we’re blessed with other gifts, and sometimes on a different wave length no matter what activity is the goal. Look for it! Have fun together!

[Jo Russell is a Christian speaker, author of scores of articles, a half dozen anthology contributions, and award-winning Which Button Do You Push to Get God to Come Out? A Humorous Devotional for Women. available from and her speaking engagements. Jo lives in northeast Arizona and writes a popular humorous weekly blog on her website,]



Need a Helping Hand? Try Teamwork by Jo Russell

Nell was used to doing things for herself for decades. Her working motto was “If you need a helping hand, look at the end of your arm.”

But Nell’s last attempt at loading up tree and lawn cuttings as well as tumbleweeds nearly made the front page of her rural newspaper. The annoyed motorists who trailed behind her got the experience of their lives – three times.

Nell had worked for some time cutting and pruning, but when it came to packing her green load, she thought, It’s only two miles from home, I can do it myself. It doesn’t have to be perfect.

Though the cuttings and branches still teetered above the cab, Nell considered, I’ll just drive slow.

She tossed a rope, but couldn’t get it over the load. She stretched the elastic spider, but it only stretched around the end of the load.

That’s works about as well as a thong!

As she started driving slowly away, she turned the corner as tumbleweeds rolled over the tie down onto the roadway.

Nell waved the cars around her and she pulled over to repack the weeds. The tumbleweed tumble had stopped traffic three times. By the time she reached the entrance to the green waste site, her load was somewhat smaller.

What a nightmare! Nell decided.

A few months later, the next seasonal trimming resulted in Nell having an even larger load of cuttings and branches. I’m not very good at this. I need help.

Bill, will you help me? I think this will only take ten minutes,” she asked her husband on a lazy Saturday when he didn’t have to go to his office. Being a former contractor used to hauling materials, he first sorted them by size and shape. Then he got out a saw and cut some of the thick branches and small logs into a manageable size. Bill compressed the branches and stretched the elastic spider over it all.

But thanks to teamwork, their trip to the green waste site was without tumbleweed troubles. All it took was a little of the right kind of help.

Teamwork makes all jobs easier. A perc is also to see and appreciate each other’s gifts. Another is a better plan with two or more working together.

Nell was challenged by loading up her truck, but Bill helped make it an expert job. Paul writes, “Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us.” [Romans 12:4-6 NIV].

In all good things including telling about God’s goodness, he urges us to work together as Christians and teammates. It’s the path that tames tumbleweeds.

[Jo Russell is a Christian speaker, author of scores of articles, a half dozen anthology contributions, and award-winning Which Button Do You Push to Get God to Come Out? A Humorous Devotional for Women. available from, her speaking engagements and website, She lives in northeast Arizona with her husband, Ed. Enjoy chuckles and speeches, tips and excerpts in website options and weekly blog.]