Handling People Prickly as Pine Cones By Jo Russell

“I wonder if our boxes came,” the rural teacher, Jolene, cried as she opened the school office door where she and other school staff received mail. While on vacation, she shipped treasures back to the school–souvenirs and mementos too large to travel more than a thousand miles in the sub-compact car.

Though Jolene and her sons were still basking in the memory of travel through the tall pines, the principal gave Jolene an account of his scorching summer and the latest issues with the testy rural mail carrier.

Jolene counted the cartons and commented, “They’re all here–all seven of them!” She exclaimed with joy, “Oh, boy! Even the pine cones came!”

Principal Phil cringed and his face reddened all the way down his neck. “Pine cones? Pine cones! I had to drive to the post office forty miles away to pick up pine cones?!”

The principal explained, “Caroline, the mail carrier, decided she wasn’t going to drop the boxes here! That’s her job! But no–anything to make my job more difficult.  Everyone else at the school is on vacation. I had to drive into town to get every box.”

Jolene imagined her boss, puffed up with anger, grasping a fresh tumbler of iced tea, his sweat-stained cowboy hat jammed on his head, heading down the highway for the post office. In the double-cab pick-up truck he drove, Principal Phil was calculating each trip at about seven gallons of fuel–much to the temperamental mail carrier’s delight.

The pine cones—Were they worth seven gallons of gas?

Phil continued rankling over the touchy rural employees, “No matter how much I argued about leaving the boxes to the address where they should go, she smirked and handed me a package slip instead. She didn’t even bring the boxes with her! She had the gall to drop a couple of package slips every day. And here’s another one!”  He waved the yellow card in Jolene’s face.

“It’s not mine!” she countered. She and her sons left with their boxes.

Until school started, Caroline continued to drop package slips at the school office, forcing Principal Phil to drive to the post office to retrieve packages. She counted herself the winner in the battle of wills.

Prickly pine cone people and relationships: they’re a part of life.

Such brittle hard  people can be anywhere: within a family, a marriage, on a job, among clients, at school, at church, or in the community. Apostle Paul certainly knew and had experienced the challenge of many sandpaper people by the time he was on this third missionary journey as he was writing to the church members in Corinth.

Like much of our own nation, Corinth boasted a prosperous business base that counted for power, influence, and immorality.

Just as it is today, standing by Jesus’ example of treating enemies with respect may be something we can’t do in our own power.

Paul penned this famous passage based on Christ’s principles and example, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.” [1 Corinthians 13:4-5]

Jesus’ words remind us, “You have heard it said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.…If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?  And if you greet only your brothers, who are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?  Be perfect, therefore, as your heavily Father is perfect.” [Matthew 5:43-48]

Treating prickly pine cone people with an attitude of Christ is not something we can do in our own power. But we can with God’s help.

And the result may be full of surprises—maybe even fewer trips to the post office.

[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 Hunt, Seize, and Leave Shopping Style by Jo Russell

Sounds like pure fiction, I decided. Author Dr. John Gray of Men Are From Mars and Women Are From Venus compared a man’s shopping experience to going on a hunt. If a man were shopping for a shirt, he would take his place at the highest perch in the store akin to a deer stand, determine the location of the prey, nab it, bag it at the checkout and leave. Five minutes tops.

Compare that to a woman scanning the horizon for layout, scouting out numerous choices, evaluating which is best, taking in the sights, smells, and enjoyable company as she savors the entire shopping experience. Do you know of any men who boast: “I have a PhD in shopping”? No, but some women do.


How would Dr. Gray’s theory test out in my family?


One summer, I worked at a resort, choosing a bicycle for transportation and exercise. But shopping space limited to a backpack got heavy.


“Could we please stop at the store?” I pleaded with my strong, silent type son as we came back from a canoe trip in his four-wheel drive.


“What for?” he wanted to know. “Didn’t you go there yesterday?”


“Yes, but I need to pick up my pictures.” While shipments, seasonal specials, and great choices in the deli danced in my head, I remembered that new earrings, outdoor wear and sports clothing would come in today. His car held a lot more than my backpack.


My son rolled his eyes. “What are they of?”


“You know –Alaska. The stuff I’ve been doing.”


“What’s so important about getting your pictures now?”


“Stopping here now saves me a six-mile bike ride. Besides, I paste them up every week.”


He thought about it long and hard.


“Maybe you need something at the store, too?” I asked hopefully.


Finally he pulled into a parking space. “Go ahead. I’ll be waiting.” Just to remind me I was only going in for the pictures while his vehicle incinerated a gallon of gas, my son held tight to the wheel with the truck’s engine running.

The hunt, seize and leave shopping style wasn’t what I had in mind. It wasn’t as much fun.


Okay, Dr. Gray, you’re right. Men and women do think differently about shopping – and many other things.


But in spite of our choices in shopping style, gender, age, language or lifestyle, we all can be united as one in another way.


In Jesus’ words, “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.” [John 17:20-21.]


We become one and share a common bond as believers in Jesus as the son of God.

If you don’t know how to do that, a simple prayer can open the door.

Like this:


Dear Jesus:

I believe you are the son of God. You died to pay for my mistakes.

I invite you to come into my life, forgive my sin, and make me a part of the family of God. Come into my life. Take control.

Thank you for your gift of eternal life. I also welcome your Holy Spirit to live in me.

I ask this in Your name.  Amen.


No matter who you are or what your shopping style, Jesus always welcomes you into his heart and arms.


[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 and to hear a speech, enjoy excerpts of her book and tips, check her entire website and weekly blog on www.button-to-god.com.]

A big congratulations to residents of Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvia who for the past two weeks have topped out numbers on out of town blog enthusiasts! Contact me with your mailing address at jorussell@button-to-god.com for your free panic button!



Shabby Chic ~ Celebrating Diversity! By Jo Russell

A new movement is widely welcomed into décor magazines, homes and some businesses. After years of struggling to rise above “Early American Auction House,” “Creative Cast Offs” and “Fruit Crate Furnishings,” I realize that I needn’t have tried so hard to make everything go together.

Shabby Chic and eclectic collections are not just in the home anymore. At a restaurant, I savored the beautiful grilled fish, and noticed that my round white patterned plate didn’t match my friend’s square brown plate. On closer inspection, the silverware did not match, either. Nor did the chairs around the tables!“What is this?” I asked my friend. “Nothing matches.”

“Eclectic decorating! Shabby Chic! Isn’t it charming?”

“Her thinking is warped by the country cottage décor magazine she gets,” I thought. On second thought, maybe not warped, but improved. It’s interesting and diverse.

For engaged and newlyweds and guests searching for gifts, the pressure is off. No need for matched sets of china and flatware. Now a few of this and a few of that will do. Families can rejoice that the original set for service for eight is nowhere near thirty-two pieces any longer. Wear-worn dishes have survived children, craft projects, tea parties, sandboxes, dogs, cats, earthquakes, numerous moves, reunions, and family dinners. Mismatching is in! What a relief!

Thinking beyond home décor, I see the human race is as varied as eclectic decorating and sometimes as worn as Shabby Chic. But it’s God’s design and plan. We are cast individually, and then He throws away the mold. But in spite of differences, we can all pull together into one with a common ingredient: love.

Here are the instructions: “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues, put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” Colossians 3: 12-14 [NIV].

Shabby Chic celebrates diversity in decor. Love celebrates diversity in people.

What a great idea! I’m beginning to like it!

[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.]

Content in All Things? By Jo Russell

 For weeks at a time, my grandfather and his crew held onto hope that they would be able to pull up the hull of a sunken ship off the coast of Alaska. It was rumored to be heavy with gold. The men sorely missed having a real cook. As the project persisted through the seasons without much success,   they grew tired of the cold salt spray in their faces, the chilly days, and each other.

Their standing rule became whoever complained about the food would be cooking next.

One sailor slurped his first spoon of beef stew, coughed, spit and sputtered, “Gosh, this stuff is salty!” All eyes were riveted on him.
Then he added brightly, “But it’s just the way I like it!”

Contentment and a thankful heart in all circumstances are what God expects of us. Apostle Paul writes in Philippians 4:11, “I am not saying this out of need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.” (NIV)

How often do we wistfully wonder, “If only I had _____, then I would be_____.
“If only I had my youth back, then I would be bungee jumping!”
“If only my young children were grown, I wouldn’t have to be the cookie police. I would be able to sleep in, wear necklaces without my kids doing pull-ups on them, and grow my hair long again.”
“If I only had a new car, I would be headed down the highway to Disney World with grandkids.”

Sometimes on frigid winter holidays when bad weather keeps me off the streets and home in front of a fire, I begin to think, “If I only had more airline points, then I would be flying out to see my sons.” But in pining over flights, I missed looking to be content in all circumstances.

When is a day of thanksgiving? It’s not just an American holiday. Thanksgiving is every day.

Is there food in the house? Are the bills paid? Is the roof keeping out the weather? Have the insects that secretly scuttle around at night left the premises for the winter?

Ask yourself, “What great things has God given me so far?
How can I show him my thankful heart?” Each day that you count your blessings is truly a day of thanks.

And when the stew is salty, smile and give thanks! It’s just the way you like it!

[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.]