God and the Boys are Being Mean to Me! By Jo Russell

Eight year old Marcie never realized that being an only child and that could be lonely at times. Her parents did, though. Until they moved, she and her older cousins shared birthdays, egg hunts, picnics, and activities with Grandma and each other. From birth, they had lived a bicycle ride away from each other. Now that the twin boys had moved  across the state,  Marcie saw them just a few times a year.

Once school was out, Marcie’s dad announced, “I’m taking you to spend two weeks with your cousins Rick and Ron up north. We know you miss them. We’ll drop you off there. You can learn all kinds of things and get to know your cousins better.”

“Oh, goodie!” she exclaimed, and she reached for her pink duffle. She packed her special dolls in the bag first thing. She also made sure she added some lacy leggings and pink high-top tennies for events requiring fashion.

But the older twin cousins, neither of which were into fashion and lace, were not quite as enthusiastic learning about the baby of the brood of cousins spending that much time with them.

“She’s a sissy,” remarked Rick to his mom. “We’ve already got plans.” Rick and Ron rattled off their adventuresome agenda for the first few weeks of summer. None included tea parties with dolls nor a hot pink, high-topped tennies fashion show.

“Okay,” Mom agreed. “But be nice to her anyway. Let her join in whenever she can.”

Marcie arrived with a squeal  as soon as she stepped out of the car. The girl squeezed the twins in a group hug.  Not being able to tell the identical boys by name, Marcie just called out, “Oh, twins! I have missed you since you moved!”

After lunch, Marcie wanted to play dolls. Rick and Rob wanted to build their tree house. The tree house won out. The teens  worked on the structure for hours. Marcie played at ground level with her dolls.

“Can I help?” Marcie wanted to know.

“Can you use a hammer?”


“But I want to put my doll, Sonny, in there. He’ll love it!”

“No dolls in the tree house.“

“Can you lift me up there? I’ll leave Sonny here on this blanket.”

“Nope. You have to climb the boards like everyone else. Or you can heft yourself up by this rope.”

“I don’t know how. “

“You have to try. Board ladder,” Rick pointed. “That’s the deal. It’s a great view up here!”

“But I don’t know how,” she cried and ran inside. With tears running down her face, Marnie grabbed her dolls while the pounding and sawing went on and on.

Marcie called out, “Aunt Jan! Aunt Jan! The boys are being mean to me!”

Aunt Jan wiped Marcie’s tears and put her to work in the kitchen making cookies. As Marcie sobbed out the story, Aunt Jan commented, “Why, Marcie! They’re just treating you just like a sister!”

Her jaw dropped in astonishment. “They are?”

“Yes! That means they care about you.  And you have to try if you want to get to the tree house. Nobody is going to lift you up, but we can teach you how.”


After cooling the cookies from the oven, Aunt Jan and Marcie prepared a plate for her twin cousins.

“See twins! I can make good cookies!”  Each climbed down and to taste test the treats. Marcie passed muster.

“I’m ready to try to climb the ladder. You’ll help if I need it, right?”

“Right!” the cousins agreed.

And Marcie climbed the boards nailed to the tree trunk, grabbing the branches on the way up until she sat on the platform. All gave her a standing ovation.  Marcie beamed, “Easy breezy!”

Marcie had insisted earlier, “The boys are being mean to me!”  How often do we feel “God is being mean to me”?  Just as with Marcie, God picks experiences to push us to grow and trust him facing the unknown. When challenges come up above our skill and ability level, it’s easy to summarize with “I don’t know how!”

But the unknown is just where God wants us—to have the courage to step up to the challenge and master new situations he gives us. What looks to be the answer for us may be entirely different from God’s view. For those things we can’t do in our own power, we can with God’s help.
Imagine the captive Israelites’ astonishment they were protected and prospered while the plagues of Egypt hit Pharaoh and the Egyptians hard. By the time the Pharaoh’s first born son died from the last plague, Moses got the message that Pharaoh now said, “Up! Leave my people, you and the Israelites! Go, worship the Lord as you have requested. Take your flocks and herds, as you have said, and go. And also bless me.”  [Exodus 12:31-32]

And as the hundreds of thousands of freed slaves walked away, taking Egypt’s wealth with them, they faced the unknown ahead. It wasn’t about where they were going–it was about who they were following to get there.

What is ahead may be more difficult than climbing a board ladder to the tree house when you don’t know how, but God leads us as he has all those who believe and trust in him. With his help, it’s easy breezy!

[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 where print books are sold and in e-book. Look for Give Us This Day Our Daily Grin – A Fun-Lovers Guide to Spiritual Living and Growing releasing June, 2017. Jo lives in northeast Arizona and writes a popular humorous weekly blog on her website, http://www.button-to-god.com.]





God’s House–So Big! So Clean! by Jo Russell

With a lollipop bouncing from his lips, four-year-old Rory skipped to Grandma Linda’s house. It would be the first time he met his neighbor and saw her house.

“Grandma Linda!” he cried as he knocked on the door. “Grandma Linda! Julie and I are here to see you!” The boy’s shaggy hair just touched the doorknob as he pushed open the back door and granddaughter Julie tumbled in behind him.

He scanned the kitchen with awe noticing the spacious room with table and chairs enough for family and neighbors plus plenty of frosted cake in the middle of the table.

“Grandma Linda! Your house…so big!”  Rory breathed.

He stepped into the living room with astonishment. “Your house…so clean!”

Grandma Linda doubled over with laughter at that. She generally thought of her house only in terms of clutter and dust and how much damage control to handle before the next batch of family and friends came over. It had been a constant battle.

Yet Rory thought of Grandma Linda’s as a great place. Think of God’s Big House. So big! So clean! No one there has to cope with clutter, dust, dirt, organization, or keeping God’s house spotlessly clean.

From the very words of Jesus come this comforting picture, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would not have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you.” [John 14:1-2].

The place that God is preparing for you is one of honor and free of dust—coming to you by faithfully serving him in words and actions.

So big! So clean! What could be better than a such a home prepared for you in Heaven?

[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 Amazon.com and her speaking engagements. Jo lives in northeast Arizona and writes a popular humorous weekly blog on her website, http://www.button-to-god.com.]





God’ll Leave the Light on for Ya!

Seven-year-old Trevor speeded up to get to the classroom after recess after playing with friends around a huge shade tree on the playground. “Wait!” he had hollered as he stretched his legs into a sprint. But Trevor didn’t make it.

A firehose-sized tree root caught his foot. His body slammed to the ground with a “Booof!”  By then, the boy was circled with a crowd of classmates..

“Are you all right?” his brother asked and offered a hand up.

“I think so.” Trevor tried to hoist himself up, but whimpered, “It hurts. Maybe not.”

Trevor’s teacher-mom, Jolene, sent him home to their house just outside the playground. He stayed there the rest of the day with his arm wrapped and tucked into an ice pack.

Jolene considered that the doctor, hospital, and emergency clinics were 100 miles away. She had no one to take her class while she finished the work day at the isolated country school.

His mom checked on him throughout the school day. The boy wasn’t any better.

Jolene was stunned the phone was working when called the clinic on the party line before she took her family to town.

“We’ll stay open after closing!” the doctor promised. So just like Motel 6, Jolene noticed as they pulled in, “We left the lights on for ya!”

“Hairline fracture,” the doctor concluded. “That’s a broken arm. We’ll get your son fixed up quickly and he’ll heal up nicely.”

A few weeks later as Trevor was playing with his brother at home, he swung the cast-covered arm overhead to bonk his sibling on the head. “You’re not the boss of me!”

Things are back to normal. Jolene concluded, I guess he’s feeling better already!

Life happens. It’s full of blessings along with happiness mixed in with conflict and sometimes pain.

Difficult situations and changed circumstances happen to all. They may last a long time instead of pointing to a quick answer or recovery. Or it may only be a short time before life seems normal again. But the journey doesn’t need to be a lonely one, but a trek with constant companionship and help as God matches each step. He is worthy of our trust and praise. He knows the path ahead.

These words are the banner of the believer: “We wait in hope for the Lord; he is our help and our shield. In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name. May your unfailing love rest upon us, O Lord, even as we put our hope in you.” [Psalm 33:20-22]

Our great God is there through every fracture—hairline or not. And he always leaves the light on for us!

[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 Amazon.com, her speaking engagements and website, www.button-to-god.com. She lives in northeast Arizona with her husband, Ed. Enjoy chuckles and speeches, tips and excerpts in website options and weekly blog.]

Put on Your Traveling Shoes – Or Not By Jo Russell

“I’ve been working on a wish list for a vacation. You’ve got one, too,” Betty sang out with enthusiasm as she addressed her husband, Bill. It had been a lay-back day and a great time to plan while they were relaxing at home. “Where have you always wanted to go?”

“I dunno.”

“No idea at all?”

Bill shrugged.

Betty suggested, “What do you think of going to Washington, D.C. and seeing the monuments and George Washington’s home at Mount Vernon?”

“I get The Smithsonian Magazine. I don’t need to go there. I heard the traffic is terrible. My buddy Pete, who’s been all over, told me I wouldn’t like it. It sounds like a lot of walking.”

“What about going to see the Presidents on the cliffs at Mt. Rushmore. That’s pretty close–just a couple of days drive.”

“I’ve seen pictures. Pete told me he’s been there. He said it’s overrated. Just a bunch of boulders. I wouldn’t like it. I don’t need to see it.”

“But what about seeing the mountain in all its grandeur and size in person? It took the artist 25 years to create it.”

“Nope. I’ve seen all I need to see in the pictures. Also, we wouldn’t have to fight to find a parking place.”

“Where else have you always wanted to go? What about the Grand Canyon? That’s really close from here. ”

He rolled his eyes.

“I’ve been there. I don’t need to go again. Pete said he’s been there. I wouldn’t like it.”

By this time, she was ready to wring Pete’s neck, but also her husband’s. “But you haven’t seen it from the North Rim of the Canyon.”

“I’ve seen the Canyon.  Pete says it’s not worth the extra miles. I don’t need to see it from another road.”

Betty thought hard. She was ready to give his buddy a piece of her mind. No matter how short a distance, Bill had vetoed every idea.

“Bill, I guess you’re not going anywhere. I don’t know who would join you on a field trip across the driveway except the ants.”

Bill’s immovable attitude is nothing new.

Inflexible. Immovable. Rigid. Unyielding.

All these are actions that directly oppose God’s work and plan today as in ancient times.

God’s plan often propels one into the unknown. But when he does this, he is an expert guide and always with us.

Here are the Lord’s words to Abram, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you.” [Genesis 12:1]  God promised that Abram would become a great nation. This was about four thousand years ago. But God keeps his promises then and now.

Abram’s wasn’t just a trip across the driveway or the neighborhood. Abram, Sarai and Lot traveled a journey of some 800 miles from Ur to Haran and eventually to Shechem near Jerusalem. He followed the rivers rather than cross a vast, dry desert. There is a good chance when they left, the three and their servants would have never again seen their parents or family members left behind. Ahead was an unknown, new world. God lead them there.

But the important thing that Abram did was to obey God’s request.

God commanded Moses was to lead his people out of Egypt into the desert. They put on their traveling shoes and learned to depend on God for every need, from protection from enemies, water and food to safe areas as campsites.

When Prophet Isaiah experienced a vision and insight from God about 700 B.C., he felt unworthy to see the Almighty, as well as to speak with him. Angels purified his lips and speech. That’s when God asked, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”  [Isaiah 6:8]

And Isaiah answered, “Here I am. Send me!”

He volunteered for the job without knowing the job description. It wasn’t a five minute job. But he was willing and it came down to obedience to God.

God had asked him to give his people a message they would ignore. He told Isaiah to keep telling them, “Until the cities lie ruined and without inhabitant, until the houses are left deserted and the fields ruined and ravaged, until the Lord has sent everyone far away and the land is utterly forsaken And though a tenth remains in the land, it will again be laid waste. But as the terebinth and oak leave stumps when they are cut down, so the holy seed will be the stump in the land.” [Isaiah 6:11-13]  [Terebinth is a large, spreading tree. No good English translation].

This divine warning came before the people were conquered and the best of them taken into captivity and to Babylon. The tenth refers to the remnant who remained faithful to God.

Is God asking you to put on your traveling shoes and head into the unknown?  Have courage. Trust God. He will help you all along the way. That may include finding a parking place if that’s what you need.

[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 Amazon.com, her speaking engagements and website, www.button-to-god.com. She lives in northeast Arizona with her husband, Ed. Enjoy chuckles and speeches, tips and excerpts in website options and weekly blog.]



Trust in Max or Trust in God? By Jo Russell-Lewis

“Come with me camping at the lake,” Max suggested to his 16-year-old schoolmates. “I’ll bring all the food and we can take my four-wheeler, the Beast!”

Camping had been a mainstay of the twin teens all of their growing up years, and they were good at it. Food came in as a close second as a major area of focus. They were always hungry. But having a ride to one of their camping spots was a real bonus.

Max’s enthusiasm exceeded his experience. He had been camping two times.

As the twins Rob and Ned packed clothing and water for the overnight trek, Rob commented, “It’s not more than a couple of miles, but I’m glad we don’t have to walk.” Max and the Beast would save their soles—that is, of their hiking boots.

Max’s arrival on the Beast got the attention of the entire neighborhood. Misfiring resounded on the quiet country street. After Max turned off the key, he commanded the Beast, “Down, Boy!” but the machine still belched out a couple of backfires.

Part of a hanger hung from the choke. The rest of the four-wheeler was a monument to dirt, dents, and decay with erupting foam from the seats the three of them would share.

As their parents waved them goodbye, the machine unsteadily moved down the road backfiring all the way. Open range was just at the end of the block from where they would travel the hills and dales to the lake shore.

When the three got to the lake, Max announced proudly, “Time for dinner!” as he pulled out of a pack three cans of lukewarm soda and a bag of potato chips.

“Is that all you have?” one of the teens queried.

“Yep! It’s plenty!”

Compared to the teens’ roasted and grilled dinners on a campfire, this wasn’t even a pre-dinner snack.

Max threw a plastic trash bag on the ground and covered it with a blanket. He waded up his clothes for a pillow. “We’re gonna sleep outside like the cowboys!”

The twins rolled out their sleeping bags over inflatable mattresses.

The next morning, Rob and Ned looked to Max, “What’s for breakfast?”

“I figured we could drive back to your mom’s and have her feed us. We’re going home anyway.”

But the Beast didn’t agree. No matter how much Max coached the machine, it didn’t make a sound. He had the twins push him to a rise and pop the clutch and start it. But the machine was dead as a day-old landed brook trout.

Max stayed with the Beast while the twins walked home – dirty and hungry, and tired. Trusting in Max had been a poor idea.

Trusting is God through all our unknown situations and challenges gives us a solid foundation.

King Solomon wrote, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6.

Many situations are so frightening, out of our comfort zone, or stressful that we may have difficulty trusting or confiding in anyone – even God. Leaning on God means putting all of our trust as well as all of our weight on Him.  Will we fall?  Will we stand? Will he meet our needs?

“Yep” to all of those. But when we fall, it’s not fatal. When we stand, we’re not alone. When we have needs, God knows and provides—sometimes in miraculous ways.

When it comes to deciding if we are to trust in Max and the Beast or trust in God, which will we choose?

[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.]




In God We Trust – or is it The Easter Bunny? By Jo Russell

“What do you think the Easter bunny will bring you this year?” Mrs. Walker asked her kindergarten students in story circle. She had just read them a fanciful rabbit tale. “What kinds of things do you find at your house when he comes?”

“Marshmallow bunnies! My favorite!” cried one six-year-old.

“Chocolate eggs! Lots of ‘em!” added another.

“A big basket full of candy and toys!”

“And jellybeans!

“A hat! And new shoes!”

“And  a new sister!”

But Georgie, who had a comment about everything from his pencil to those sharing his work table, didn’t say anything.

Alarmed, Mrs. Walker was anxious he might be sick. She cornered him at recess,

“Georgie! Is everything okay at home? You aren’t excited about the Easter? The Easter Bunny?”

He rolled his eyes. “Nope. I don’t believe in the Easter Bunny, but my mom and dad do. So I just pretend.”

As Mrs. Walker’s kindergarten children grew and would learn that the Easter Bunny is a made-up furry character, they might wonder who they can trust.

Compare these two schools of thought from which all can choose: trust in man or trust in God?

Which provides strength, vision, hope, and everything we need in times of crisis? Who can we trust?  Which–-leaning on God or man–will soar through times of trouble?

“But blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.” [Jeremiah 17:7-8] NIV

And with God, there is no fictional character in fur. Through each day, we can see his gifts. They are better and longer lasting than goodies in an Easter basket.

[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.]










Come Anytime, Come As You Are, But Come! By Jo Russell

“Where are you going dressed like that?” the school principal quizzed his newest teacher, Roberta, as she crossed the school ground from the teacherage to the school gate.

The last few months, the single teacher thought the whole settlement seemed like one that time left behind. With ten buildings and a handful of mobile homes, the tiny community housed and served the entire population as well as travelers along the highway who stopped out of desperation for repairs or cold drinks.

“The country store, of course” the teacher told her boss. She thought to herself, “Where else is there to go around here without driving fifty miles?”

“You can’t leave the school grounds dressed like that!”

“What?! But I’m off duty.”

“Not around here. You’re a teacher. People here expect that teachers are a cut above the rest. You’ll have to wear something else.”

She looked down at the orange and black tropical design that was perfect for a patio party. In this remote area where casual was the buzz word, Roberta saw many who showed up for church in worn Levis or cut-off jeans. Still, the halter-topped casual attire had passed muster by everyone else – but they lived in town a hundred miles away.

“What about yoga pants?” she offered. Remembering the continent-wide enthusiasm for the snug, comfortable pants, Roberta noted yoga pants became the just-right attire for any event just short of black tie.

The principal shook his head.

“A long dress, bonnet, and a hoop skirt?” she ventured with a grin.

“Not necessary,” was his terse reply.

Roberta’s last choice for the trek across the schoolyard was a new tee shirt and slacks, ironed nicely. This time, she was able to pass the principal’s office without his sending her back home to change.

Clothes: Do they make a man or a woman?  For until Adam and Eve ate of the fruit of the forbidden Tree of Life, they didn’t have to worry about clothes, closets, hangers, chests of drawers, boots, fashion trends, or color draping. Life was simple au naturale.

But when it comes to a relationship with God, one doesn’t have to wear clothes that are just right. Those in the tiny settlement who came to church in cut-off jeans – the best that they had – knew that. It’s attitude that counts – one of humility and acceptance of the most high God, Creator, Father, Son and Holy Ghost.

Jesus himself said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” [Matthew. 11:28.] Can you imagine the hug that is infused in those words of love and comfort?

Have you ever thought it was too late for you to know God or Jesus? Recall the picture of the three crosses on the hill where Christ was crucified. One of two convicted criminals said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” [Luke23:42-43]

And Jesus’ reply was, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”

Even though the convicted man’s life showed him as a hardened criminal, Jesus knew the man’s honesty and humility at that moment. At last, Jesus was to him the Savior who had been promised.

It’s never too late. Come to Jesus. Come as you are, but come.

You won’t even need to change your clothes.

[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.]







Round and Round We Go: Where No GPS Has Ever Gone By Jo Russell

Paula initiated a one-woman campaign against roundabouts.  She failed dismally.

Around the state, she learned, small communities considered them arty and practical. Town councils – even her own – voted traffic signals out as completely obsolete. Even kindergarten teachers didn’t use the signal’s red, green, and yellow to teach colors anymore. Now the streets spouted landscaped gardens thriving in the circular median. Tree huggers everywhere celebrated the greening of the asphalt.

Not Paula. With a roundabout, Paula needed four tries to find the correct outlet.  But to their credit, everyone on the four corners was friendly.

The first try, Paula ended up at the high school.

The school secretary greeted her, “Welcome to Pine Valley High School. Are you enrolling a student today or would you rather help with the Open House this evening?”

“No, I’m lost in the Black Hole Roundabout and just trying to get to – Highway 260. Thanks to that roundabout, I’m way off course. It’s worse than a black hole in space! ”

The school secretary clicked her tongue in sympathy. After the Grand Opening of the roundabout, she confided, they completely lost track of six punctual teachers and hadn’t seen them since. Classes started without them. Other staff members, unable to figure out the maze, had parked across the street and walked to school.  The crossing guard doubled as a trail guide through the roundabout.

When Paula tried the roundabout on a second try, she was headed for the mini mall and ended up at the Humane Society.

“We’re having a special on cats,” smiled a young woman cuddling a kitten. How about adopting one?”

Paula never made it to Highway 260. Coming home from a simple trek, she held a kitten, cat carrier, food, and a pledge to bake four dozen cookies for Open House. Paula blamed it on the roundabout.

The next week, she took her complaint to the town hall and picked up a petition to bring back traffic lights. “It’s the American way!” she argued with the council member manning the counter.

“No, I voted for this. Roundabouts are the latest in traffic engineering! They save lives, money, and provide a great garden area for anyone who is hopelessly lost! It’s a giant step forward for the environment!”

Next, Paula approached Denise and her husband Robert for a signature. “Sorry, I can’t,” Denise explained. I’m President of the Garden Club. We get to design and plant the beautiful roundabout in front of the turnoff for Sonic. With an arbor and bench, the garden will be a great place to meditate and find serenity while contemplating how to cross the street. But most people aren’t having any trouble with the roundabouts. You are?”

Paula pondered, “A path to serenity? It’s nearly impossible with a roundabout.” She’s right about our needing a quiet place to think. But what about another path and another trail guide?

All of our lives, we choose paths leading to adventure, opportunity, and relationships. Garden Club President Denise is right that we also need to find a path to serenity. But finding true calm against the storm isn’t generated in navigating roundabouts–no matter how beautifully they are landscaped.  Serenity is not built into a 60-minute lunch hour, time at the gym, a relaxing massage or even a vacation.

In the search for serenity, try trail guide God. Old Testament King David shares these views: “He [God] lets me rest in fields of green grass and leads me to quiet pools of fresh water. He gives me new strength. He guides me in the right paths, as he has promised.” [Psalm 23:2-3 Good News Bible].

Choosing paths and trails can be difficult all by yourself. With God, who knows the entire trail to the end, it’s easier.

He’ll even help you find your way through the roundabouts. You’ll never be lost again.

[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 Oooos and Ahhhs of Independence Day by Jo Russell

More exciting than her first Christmas was three-year-old Denise’s first Fourth of July with fireworks.  Plastic lawn chairs of every size and color at her grandparents’ house were already crowded with guests and family when she and her mom arrived. Others were grilling, laughing, and playing games on a thick green lawn that nosed up to the golf course. Tonight, the rockets’ red glare during the fireworks show would be rock-throwing distance of her grandparents’ home.

By the time the sun set, Denise was so sticky with watermelon she could be hired out as contact paper and  so wet from a squirt-gun fight with cousins, she knew that her grandparents wouldn’t need to sprinkle the grass for a week. From her hot dog dinner, Denise was still wearing a little catsup around her smile. She plopped nosily into a small chair while holding her Popsicle. Mimicking her experienced fireworks-watching cousins, Denise scanned the sky. She was ready to OOoo and Ahhh with the best of them.  She knew how.

“BANG! POW! POP!” From the first explosion, Denise ran for a place to hide. Not finding any ramparts for cover, she hid her head in her mother’s lap.

“Sweetie, don’t you want to see the fireworks?”

The girl shook her head. The show went on with many colors worth Oooos and Ahhhs. Even her mother joined in. But Denise kept her face pressed into her mother’s thigh for the whole show. 

After the last rapid-fire finale lit up the sky and ended the show, her mother commented, “Denise, I’m so sorry you didn’t get to see the fireworks. ”

The wee girl declared, “I’ll learn to look next year when I’m older.” 

Some things we see and understand better when we’re older. The Fourth of July –American Independence Day—celebrates America becoming an independent nation in 1776. Freedom followed–paid in advance and maintained at a dear price in lives.

There is another freedom that has been purchased for a price and with blood. Unlike Independence Day for Americans, this freedom is available to everyone worldwide. It is worth celebrating each day, instead of just one red, white and blue gala event.

That freedom is the gift we receive from Jesus’ as our advocate. He stepped in willingly and sacrificed his life for ours. It was a gesture of love in action. Though it happened several thousand years ago, Jesus offered us a chance to be pardoned for all wrongdoing, to be forgiven, to be given hope and a promise of a wondrous live after our time on earth is up.  All it takes is believing Jesus is the son of God, asking for forgiveness, and confessing that Jesus is Lord.

Such a decision is powered with more “Oooos and Ahhhs”: than any fireworks show–for all of heaven along with Jesus himself celebrate your joining the family of God. You are free at last!

 [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.]   


What Does Color Say About Your Bible? By Jo Russell

As Barbara listened carefully to the message in church, she asked herself, “Did I hear the clergyman right? Didn’t he just say, ‘The only good Bible is a red one.’?” Her heart dropped to the ground as she studied the beautiful gift her grown children had given her recently: a dark green plain-language Bible edition with her name engraved along with gold designs on the cover.

As Barbara thought over her journey back to God as an adult, she never remembered seeing any of the groups at church having a RED Bible. How could they be so wrong? Or was it the pastor?

Her concern showed on her face as she turned to her husband, her mouth pulling down at the corners. “Did you hear what he just said?” she whispered. “I don’t have the right color!”

Albert responded, “Honey, he means a read Bible, r-e-a-d, not the color!”
It’s true. Any book not read is a buried treasure. When it comes to the Bible, it has everything!

The treasure inside is priceless for all time and all generations. It is also a foundation for growing close to God and others.

Here are some reminders:

Courage and faith heading into the unknown: 9 Genesis 7:1–Noah; Genesis 12–: Abram and Lot; Exodus 2–Jochebed, mother, and son, Moses; Luke 1 — Mary, a virgin, engaged to be married agrees to be mother of God, though the usual punishment for out-of-wedlock pregnancy was death by stoning;Acts 9–Saul becomes blind and led into Damacus–becomes the Apostle Paul

Special effects: Exodus 7:4 –the plagues of Egypt; Exodus 14–The Red Sea parts for God’s people, but drowns the enemy; Numbers 22:21– talking donkey; Joshua 4– crossing the Jordan on dry land; Joshua 6– the battle of Jericho won with God’s help and no weapons. Mark 4:35– Jesus calms a storm

Miraculous childbirth: Genesis 21: Abraham and Sarah, parents of Isaac; 1 Samuel 1: Hannah and Elkanah, parents of Samuel, the prophet; Luke 1: Zechariah and Elizabeth, parents of John the Baptist; Mary and God, the parents of Jesus

Romance: Genesis 24:15 – Isaac and Rebekah; Song of Songs 1:12–by Solomon

Conflict /rebellion/treason: Numbers 14:14–The Israelites want their fish, garlic and onions back! Job 1:1 – Job’s friends aren’t helping through his crises. Psalms– much of it written by David, who was being hunted down by the King Saul; 2 Samuel 18 — a son’s rebellion against his father, King David. Luke 22:20: Jesus knows Judas will betray him. Luke 22:34: Jesus predicts Simon Peter will deny him three times in one night. But Jesus goes on loving us – as he did them.

Selflessness: Luke 20:21–The widow gives all she has; Jesus shows scores of examples of selflessness in his actions.
Miracles and provision: All through the Bible.


Barbara remembered these things and smiled. It didn’t matter what her Bible looked like, but that she read it and every day learned more from God’s directions and stories.

Isn’t that a good lesson for all of us? Read the Bible, no matter what color it is.

[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, paperback available now on sale from her website [www.button-to-god.com] and Amazon. For more chuckles and to hear a speech, enjoy excerpts of her book and tips, check her entire website options and weekly blog.]