A New Look Inside and Out by Jo Russell

A new look. That was Marnie’s destiny once a month when she went to the beauty salon. For work, she pulled her hair into a pony tail and jammed her hair under a baseball cap with the company logo on it. Simple and fast.

But for her once a month hair appointment for a trim and style, Marnie steeled herself to go without a hat—at least for a day or two.

Annie, her hairdresser, did an especially great job on her hair this time. Though Marnie was forced to leave the baseball cap off when she was ready to leave the salon, she looked in the mirror at the salon and noticed, Why, I’m pretty. My hair looks beautiful! Will anyone notice?

When she reported for work with a new hairdo, Marnie’s boss greeted her with a quizzical expression on his face.

“There’s something different about you.” Long pause. “Did you lose your hat?”

The value you are to God matters more than anything. He loves you and me and cares for us regardless of our appearance, our assets or achievements. Whatever standards the world uses to measure value, such as appearance, assets or achievements, our maker doesn’t see us that way.  God knows us so well that he can name the number of hairs on our head—whether our hair is thick or thin–at any age.

Jesus himself said, “Indeed, the very hairs on your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” [Luke 12:7] We have value in his eyes each day. He gives us a new look inside and it spills over to the outside that others can see.

God’s love and care can give us the courage to face the future and have confidence in his meeting our needs on good hair and bad hair days. There’s plenty of his love to infuse into each day, whether it’s a baseball cap day or not.

[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 and e-books are sold.  Look for Give Us This Day Our Daily Grin – A Fun-Lovers Guide to Spiritual Living and Growing now released for pre-sales on Amazon Kindle and other e-formats Smashwords as well as print coming soon. Jo lives in northeast Arizona and writes a popular humorous weekly blog on her website, www.button-to-god.com.]

 

 

 

 

 

The Best Four Words Ever: You Belong to Me! by Jo Russell

As Troy pulled the tangled sheets out of the dryer at the laundromat, he cried, “You belong to me! I thought I’d lost you forever!”  But he wasn’t talking with his girlfriend or wife. He said these words when he retrieved the match to his other Nike bike sock.

The right words, the wrong meaning. You belong to me? Maybe what made it fall short of his heart was that as much affection as he had for his bike socks, they couldn’t love him back.

Mark had a different take on those magic four words. As he strolled through the aisle at the pet rescue center, he looked intently at each canine to see which would be his perfect pet and companion.  When he hesitated in front of one cage, the furry animal with soft ears and a wildly beating tail wiggled with pleasure. She barked and licked Mark’s fingers through the fencing.

“I want to hold this one,” he told the volunteer worker. Soon, man and dog were bonded, and he petted the dog and said to her, “I’m calling you Caramel. You belong to me!”

But somehow, those magic four words need to be more. Can they meet the needs of readers who buy more than 72,000 romance novels a year?

“You belong to me?”

It’s not fulfilled in the context of fiction.  People need to be truly loved, to experience the real deal, genuinely valued in a two-way relationship.  It can’t come in socks, pets, or romance novels.

Next to the best three words ever, “I love you” come the best four words ever: “You belong to me!”

Love. On Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, number one and two are food, shelter, safety, security, then comes love and close relationships. Everyone needs love.

What if love was available to all without qualifying with looks, money, achievements, and   conditions? It is. God offers us the gift of love—free and clear—along with forgiveness and a caring friendship forever.

“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” [1 Peter 9-10]

“You belong to me!” The most important words in our language. As God speaks them and cocoons us with his love, we know that his care is forever in a two-way relationship.

You belong to me! From God, those four words are the real deal.

[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.]

 

When Life is An Oxymoron By Jo Russell

My brother, Tony Gottsponer, had a life that was an oxymoron. That word means two concepts are stuck together that are opposites.

Like this: Some say Tony had been a comparatively unique person. I would say he was a completely unique person as every one of us is. Tony Gottsponer sported a dry sense of humor only a few ever experienced. Some remember Tony’s opening line in his speech at our mom’s 80th birthday celebration. “Living with Mom was a moving experience.” Then he kept the audience smiling as he told of the many places she had lived in more than three decades in Yuma.

Most remember social occasions with Tony shyly sitting quietly by himself reading a book. The rest of his family visited and talked.

To begin with our parents, Jeane and Leo Gottsponer found a dream come true in Tony. As a young bride, before Jeane was nearly pregnant, she had wished for two children. A year after her and Leo’s marriage, dream # 1 came to them.

A boy.

A post-war baby boomer.

Handsome. Smart. Big-boned. Intelligent eyes.

Another year later came dream #2 – a daughter.

Then a few years beyond that, a surprise indeed! and another son. Tony had become a vital part of a family of five.

But he had his challenges. Tony didn’t walk until he was nearly three. Far luckier than others infected before the wide use of polio vaccine, Tony survived a light case of polio. He had only minor problems and learned to deal with them. A serious head injury as a toddler changed Tony forever on the outside.

But the inside continued to amaze everyone. Tony’s intelligence. His skills. His reducing tough problems to a few steps.

No one else in the family was a whiz at math. Someone once said that Tony was so left-brained it should be against the law.

Computers were putty in his hands. So simple!

Not for the rest of us.

As an adult, Tony planned to work in technology in the Navy. He predicted he would follow his father’s footsteps in the service. But Tony’s skin disease disqualified him. God wasn’t finished with him yet. Tony didn’t give up on himself or life. He worked hard, investing more than twenty years with the local A.J. Bayless store. He was an employee with loyalty. He worked for Lujan Tax Service for nearly 25 years.

In Tony’s younger years, he noted those were the days of cheap gas – a thin quarter was all it took for a gallon of gas. But Tony beat it down with an even harder bargain: as a young adult, he rode a bicycle everywhere – for commuting, fitness and the sheer fun of saving money.

Tony was nearly forty when he almost surprised the family by bringing home an attractive lady from church. Even Tony’s then two-year-old nephews Lance and Travis turned from their toy trucks to witness the miracle. Tony and his friend, Betsy, were holding hands.

A few days later, Tony became something that left us drawing a blank. Tony was no longer a member of the Loner’s Club.

None would ever have predicted Tony’s new roles:

First, he was a fiancée,

shortly after, a husband,

and a year later, a father to Bethany.

He become a Yuma Toastmaster and a barbershop chorale member. Known also for his passion for gourmet cooking, Tony was often surrounded by prep bowls of tasty ingredients. Betsy commented that after 30 years of Tony’s cuisine, she is just learning to cook.

Add to Tony another recent role: grandfather: the blessings of three strong and handsome grandsons: Robbie, R.J. and Randy.

When a life hastens slowly to a close, it can bring fear or acceptance. With Tony, I believe it brought wonder. A sense of awe that he had become so many new things at a time in life when others learned only their hair was thinning and their arches were falling.

In the absence of Tony , we are faced with a thunderous silence. But I believe that up in Heaven today, Tony is celebrating that he is now better than new.  

Jo Russell, sister to Tony

[Tony Gottsponer, aged 69, died at home June 30, 2015, in Yuma, Arizona. After his recent stroke a short time ago, he learned he had terminal cancer infused in many of his major organs. God blessed him with the time to say goodbye and to pass quickly without further pain.]                 

What Do You Have As Collateral for Life? By Jo Russell

Sherry, the insurance representative at the hospital, glared at Jolene from her desk with a stern frown as she clutched one of the woman’s diaper-clad twins.

Her small office had suddenly burst at the seams with babies, their gear, and a twin stroller the size of a small car. The baby boy who cooed into her face expected a smile from her. Only a few weeks old, he knew he was the catalyst for love, smiles, and hugs. Not with her! The unhappy grown-up shuffled papers on her desk and began spelling out terms.

“I see what you still owe after your primary insurance carrier paid most of the bill for the twins and their intensive medical nursery care. The second carrier will not pay because you signed up too late. There is a considerable balance left. I see that you and your husband owe quite a bit on other bills. How do you plan to pay this? What will you use for collateral?”

She swiveled in her chair toward Jolene, holding the baby tighter. Though the new mother of twins thought the hospital’s delivery and care of the babies would be considered services, Sherry considered the babies goods, and she had a tight hold on one just to prove it!

The fact was Jolene had no idea how she would pay an amount equal to three years’ salary. Before she spotted a blue padded cell where the one twin would stay as collateral, Jolene  swept the child out of the representative’s arms, gathered the considerable gear, and told her, “I don’t have any answers right now. I will get back to you.”

Jolene had hit a wall and had no answers. From there, God took over. He reflected with love on Jolene and her two-baby bonus.

God proves his living creations are priceless treasures worthy of rescue. He knew Jolene’s need, as he does ours.

Today is Sanctity of Human Life Sunday. This honors the value of human life, even of life within the womb. Beyond birth, life continues to be precious. God knows the map of our lives and the plan and outcome of each day.

“When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” [Psalm 139: 16 NIV]

God knew the answers in Jolene’s life. She and her newborns discovered care and his divine provision along the way.

A few weeks after the confrontation with the hospital rep who wanted money or collateral, Jolene arrived at work and found her desk wallpapered with checks for nearly the entire balance of the bill. All checks were from the insurance carrier the representative said would not pay.

Just as God showed his love to Jolene, he continues to show daily care for us as well. To him,  the value of life is priceless. He sits in on all our challenging conferences, and his son, Jesus, has already paid our debts.

God has it handled. What covers collateral for life? Jesus. Nothing more is needed.

 

[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.]

 

 

 

 

Savoring Your Silver Crown By Jo Russell

“Daddy will take me to the county fair on Saturday unless he forgets,” my friend’s seven-year-old granddaughter Carole announced, “but I don’t think he will because he doesn’t have gray hair.”

She babbled on with the logic of the young as senior Jenny listened. “If you have gray hair, you can forget things. Like when Mr. Goodman had us do the same thing in music class two times because he forgot!”

With her hair dyed blond to cover the silver, Jenny sighed. Carole’s remarks were enough to make her feel old. Just this week, she had another senior moment: Hadn’t she forgotten her Tuesday hair appointment?

With more than half of the world population estimated at thirty and under, Jenny thought how difficult it is to focus on any of the positives of getting older besides having more free time and getting senior discounts.

But she began to see the way God honors the gray-haired by influencing the world one person at a time. Not just her with her own family.

Jenny remembered retirees who volunteer in life-changing programs, such as Boys and Girls Clubs, tutoring school-aged students, building homes with Habitat for Humanity, mentoring young couples in marriages or training entrepreneurs in new start-up businesses. Even when health or travel issues interfere, she realized she could model and share values of work, wisdom, right living, thoughtfulness, compassion, and love.

“Why, I can start right with a phone call to encourage or mentor someone!” Jenny decided, and she picked up the phone.

God honors seniors and their contribution. “They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green, proclaiming, ‘The Lord is upright; he is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in him.’”  [Psalm 92:14-15 NIV]

Savor your silver crown! The bottom line is that God isn’t finished with either of us yet!

[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.]

 

 

 

Freedom Isn’t Free By Jo Russell

People say it so often and without expecting a response, they could be saying, “Have a good day” or “Thanks for shopping at Wal Mart.”

The phrase, “Freedom isn’t free” shouldn’t have the ho-hum meaning and flavor of already been chewed gum. Such a mindset has to change. Apathy destroys all relationships, including one with God. Let’s also remember and honor our Armed Forces.   

With a war currently in progress and my being in Washington, D.C. for Independence Day, I decided to trade that worn-out sentiment for the power of proof.

Every generation since the Revolutionary War has been touched by the commitment it takes to buy freedom. Just establishing the United States as a separate country cost over 25,000 lives. But think beyond statistics. They had been husbands, fathers, farmers, ancestors, business owners, entrepreneurs, craftsmen, builders, and men with a dream. Other wars have followed, touching every generation

How many of the 58,000 names listed on The Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial Wall were men of dreams under 30?  Check the numbers yourself. [http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/natsec/RL32492.pdf]  No monuments, medals, plaques or awards will ever bring back to life those who died or those, like my father, who returned from serving in war and was never the same again.

On a memorial in a small Arizona town is the name of a woman who died in the Persian Gulf War. With less than 400 dead, and just a few names on that marble slab, one might speculate, “Big deal.” But the reality struck me in my classroom where I taught the two motherless girls.  

Another for-instance. No post-war picture of my father ever reflected the same spark in his eye or smile as in the pre-war photographs taken before he left his fiancé for a battlefield an ocean away. Sacrificing the precious time when his children were young, my father experienced the consequence – not knowing his children.

When a tall, gaunt man in a pressed green uniform had stepped in the door of our house, my mom exclaimed, “Your dad is home from the war, at last!”  I was about five. When he had held out his arms to me, I did not run into them. Instead, I held tightly to my mother’s legs and wondered who the stranger was – and why he was moving in with us.

As a military professional, Dad’s being home for a long period of time only happened toward the end of his career. He balanced two demanding worlds: a commitment to defend the United States and a desire to protect, guide, and provide for his family – often long distance. My father had proved his bravery in two wars and a full military career, receiving Silver and Bronze Star as well as many other campaign medals. 

Many have made the same promises to the Armed Forces as well as to their families. Consider that freedom isn’t free and think of the other effects for service men and women away from safety, a familiar culture, old friends, home, families, spouses, and children.

All serving or at home can invest and believe this promise: “I call on you, God, for you will answer me…Show me the wonder of your great love, you who save by your right hand those who take refuge in you from their foes.” Psalm 17:6-7.

Truly freedom isn’t free. God bless our Armed Forces. Pray for them. God guide them safe and bring them home — forever and always.   

 [Jo Russell is a Christian author, speaker, contributor to antholgies, articles, and author of 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, check her website options to enjoy chuckles, tips, excerpts and speeches.]   

 

 

 

 

 

Punishment or Physical Therapy? By Jo Russell

Anyone sentenced to physical therapy following surgery or an injury has a great example that God isn’t finished with us yet! Like physical therapy, God gives us exercises that stretch our muscles, skills and abilities. The final objectives from God and physical therapists are the same: mobility and new possibilities.

Recent surgery reacquainted me with P.T. This has given me hours of going nowhere and feeling guilty for neither doing anything nor burning a significant number of calories. The machines mimic skiing, bicycling, mountain climbing and marathon running. But all of them and I stay in one place.

So last time, I multitasked by memorizing some of the Laws of Physical Therapy posted on the wall:

“Never say, “I just want to go home – because you’ll just stay longer.”

Never say it’s easy – because we’ll make it harder.”

“Never lose count – because you start at one again.”

“Never complain – because we never listen.”

“Never scream or cry – because it just encourages us.”

“Never look like you are enjoying yourself – because we’ll put a stop to it.”

“Never hold your breath because if you pass out, we’ll have to do the paperwork.”

As if physical therapy and surgery wasn’t enough to qualify me as a glutton for punishment, in the fall, I took over teaching a Sunday group of tweens. After that, I was gone for a month because of saws-all surgery. When I returned, some of the experiences with the students illustrated the P.T. laws so well that I laughed aloud.

P.T. Law: “Never argue – because you don’t win.” One student always seemed to think he deserved another turn because his was “no fair.” He didn’t get another chance. He learned to do his best the first time.

P.T. Law: “Never say you can’t – because you’ll do it anyway.” Working in teams, each student learned to find passages in the Old and New Testaments in spite of the fact that the Bible is as thick as two of their school textbooks.

P.T. Law: “Never lie or cheat because we know the truth and you’ll live to regret it.”
When I returned, the students claimed they hadn’t gotten their fair share from the prize box. I learned the truth from the sub.

While having lunch with some of my friends, one asked if my new class lived up to the reputation of middle school behavior. That’s the kind that keeps the pharmaceutical business thriving and gives parents nightmares. My friends were expecting horror stories.

I smiled sweetly, remembering the famous passage: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him who have been called according to his purpose.” [Romans 8:28 NIV]. I thought of the children’s progress, participation, and enthusiasm. The passage fits and encourages. I also remembered in P.T. when the therapist high-fived me and said, “Great going!” I know how good that felt.

And then I answered with the most encouraging words of truth about God’s relationship with everyone, “Like us, they are all works in progress.”

God has great plans in who you are becoming. Give yourself a high five! God isn’t finished with you, yet!

[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.]

Choosing for the Right Reason By Jo Russell

In the cowboy country of the northwest, Ginny and her friend, Amy, looked over the horses at the rodeo in her small town. Both teens were decked out in tight jeans with bright western shirts. Shiny curls bounced over their shoulders.

Ginny had an agenda as she checked for the best-looking horse she could find. The blonde teen had learned local rodeos like this one were a good place to find quality horses as fine-tuned and trained as athletes.  She had already seen Man Friday compete. What a performer! 

“Any luck?” her friend, Amy, nudged her.

“Yep,” Ginny smiled as she pointed out a chestnut horse,” and I’ve seen that the cowboy who belongs to this horse is skinny with a great build, and a belt buckle as big as a dinner plate!

He’s a winner!”

Amy replied, “The horse or the cowboy?”

“Both!”

“You sure know how to pick them. But maybe you should get your own horse, and then you wouldn’t always have to be picking your boyfriends by the horses they ride!”

Choosing by appearances is nothing new. When prophet Samuel was to anoint David as king and Samuel thought he was too young, God said, “The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” [1 Samuel 16:7.]

Good advice, even for Ginny. What if she looked at choices the way God did? As she grew in wisdom and years, Ginny learned hands-on about picking friends and making choices by God’s standards. It paid off. Her husband and helpmate showed qualities of kindness, integrity, fidelity, dependability and faith over the next four decades.  And it didn’t even matter that he didn’t have a horse!

Daily, dozens of everyday and seasonal choices face us–whether about friends, gifts, partners, jobs, houses, horses, cars, or activities. Faced with each decision, we can determine whose standards we are using – God’s or ours.

If we are picking friends by the horses they own – on four legs or under the hood – it’s time to abandon horse sense for God’s sense!

[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.]   

 

 

 

 

 

T.L.C. [Tender Loving Care] Never Too Much of a Good Thing by Jo Russell

Until she retired, Cheryl insisted that the secret of her lush yard full of plants was pure neglect. The jungle-like lot was thick with trees, wildflower beds, and happy garter snakes.

To skeptics of the neglect theory, she countered “When did you ever see me home when I was working full time and doing volunteer projects in the community? Most of these plants multiply on their own and spread faster than dandelions in the spring.”

But her first summer as a retiree, Cheryl dived into the unfamiliar territory of trying to raise plants from seed and cultivate a garden for food. She complained it ruined too many nights as well as monopolized her days.

As she cried over the phone to a friend, the trowel handler wrung out a hankie, “I’m just not a gardener. I get too attached.”

“To what?” her friend wanted to know.

“The plants. I lost sleep over the sunflowers because the flowers are supposed to turn to face the sun and one stubborn stiff-necked stalk just stares straight ahead with a defiant yellow smile on its face. What’s a gardener to do? Hire a plant shrink? Or let it move through adolescence on its own?”

“Beats me.”

Cheryl recognized Jenny as a great friend, but she was leaning on the wrong person for empathy. Jenny’s back yard was bare dirt. The front yard sported a lawn the size of a wading pool with one struggling rose bush along a fence. The only packaged seeds around Jenny’s house were for jazzing up salads.

“The garden is driving me crazy,” Cheryl sniffled. “With measuring tape in hand and a tablet for tallying veggies just as I do each day, I go out just after sunup to fuss over the pumpkins. I counted them, measured them, and wondered why some flowers never turn into pumpkins even when the bees dance all day in their blossoms.”

Cheryl continued, “You can bet that The Pumpkin Patch farmers raise five acres of pumpkins for Halloween and never count or measure them. They probably just do a quick once-over to be sure the plants are getting enough water. Then I counted the acorn squash. There are twice as many veggies on those two plants than the four pumpkin vines! And yet with all this TLC, I spotted grey spots on the leaves! Where have I gone wrong?”

“They do have sprays for that stuff.” Jenny suggested.

“But I’m trying to grow organic produce!” protested Cheryl. “I’ve even got dark circles under my eyes wondering who gave those little brown caterpillars permission to assault my apples! Each night, I toss and turn with nightmares of fat green tomato caterpillars mutilating my plants, Ernie and Bernice. What is my problem?”

“Ernie and Bernice? You mean you named your tomato plants?! “

“Plants have feelings, too. These are my babies!”

Jenny responded, “I know what your problem is! You’re right. You do get too attached!”

Perhaps without a notebook, measuring tape, and micro-managing, Cheryl could just give the plants love, room to grow and breathe and leave the rest to God. She thought she knew everything about the plants. But God knew everything about Ernie and Bernice while they were just seeds.

That is the same with you. God knows the gift of you and your entire life. “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.” Psalmist David wrote in Psalm 139:13 [NIV]. The wonder continues with these words: “When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” [Ps. 139:15-16 NIV].

The Lord Himself told Jeremiah, “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a …” For Jeremiah, it was “prophet to the nations.” [Jeremiah 1:5].

God has honed your skills and talents into a unique combination. He will say, “I appoint you as a….” It’s possible you already see the role He has chosen for you as a ….. a mom, a dad, a visionary, a builder, a teacher, an accountant, caregiver, customer service rep, sales professional, a student, a carpenter, a leader of nations, a business owner… or even a gardener!

Is God attached to you? You bet. But it’s a good thing! He reflects love, care, and promise in a plan for you for all the days of your life. He even gives you the gift of tomatoes like Ernie and Bernice.

[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 options and weekly blog on www.button-to-god.com.]

What’s in a Name? Daddy, Papa, Abba Father By Jo Russell

At first, the request seemed tougher for twin 8-year-old brothers than deciphering Egyptian. Or being challenged to build a suspension bridge spanning the Mississippi only using popsicle sticks and bubble gum. Make a Father’s Day card? It left my sons more confused than ever.

In their summer enrichment program at the university where I was taking summer grad classes, a cheerful counselor explained the cards would be their project for the special occasion.

But how? And who should get it? Since boys had been infants, their biological father had excused himself from their lives. They had never known him. But the boys already knew that with God everything was possible.

“We can do this!” the two cried together and set to work as a team. Remembering how much their mom and grandma meant to them and their gifts to both for Mother’s Day, the twins encouraged each other making a card. Even though they didn’t know where to send it, they proudly put their best efforts into it. An hour later, drippy with glitter glue and foam hearts, the message they created read,

“Happy Father’s Day, Mr. Russell.
Wherever you are,
We love you.”

They gave it to me. My eyes grew wet.

Yet even at that point, my sons’ sentiment truly belonged to an entire team of men who invested time and faith in them as well as nurtured the boys. It continued through the teen and young adult years.

One father, a coworker/coach, persuaded my sons to try cross country running. Coming out of shyness, one twin enjoyed competing throughout high school and earned athletic letters. He experienced a runner’s high and radiated confidence. Great job, Coach!

A middle-aged deacon pedaled across town on a racing bicycle. He stood at our front door and invited my other teen to bicycle our steep hills and dales with him. From then on, the boy was crazy about bicycles, racing, and building bicycles. It became his passion and livelihood. Thank you, Don!

One shop teacher/ father welcomed my sons after school for rock climbing practice at his house. He also urged the twins to join the student team of builders constructing a house on campus, which would be auctioned and moved. One became student foreman. Both teens learned building trades. Thanks a million, Bob!

Calling them “our boys,” Ben and Jan spent hours guiding my sons in careers, challenges, and tough adult decisions. Thanks so much!

Later as an Army recruit, one son was mentored into manhood and adulthood by a young officer and husband. High five for Todd!

The common denominators in all these fathers included caring, a strong belief in God and in my sons’ value. It didn’t matter that there was no direct family connection. The Christian mens’ concern for non-family members overcame the lack of blood relation.

Like God’s bond with us, caring, time and commitment provided the glue.

To all you fathers out there, thanks for all you do!

[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 options and weekly blog on www.button-to-god.com.]