January 2018 Devotional

January 29, 2018


"I Will Bring Joy to This Office"
A Word of Encouragement from Elizabeth Rice Handford


A friend of mine is the head of a government agency. Recently she interviewed an applicant for a position in her office. She seemed to have good qualifications and the kind of personality that would work well with other employees. Then the woman being interviewed said confidently, "I will bring joy to this office."

Odd? Perhaps. Is joy needed in an office? Yes, because conflict between employees handicaps everyone. It's difficult to keep your mind on your work if others have a defensive attitude, if they are busy protecting their "rights," if they push for their own private agenda. No office needs a "drama queen"! Proverbs 15:23 says, "How good is a timely word!"


The next question is, "When the employee got the job, did she bring the joy to the office?" The answer, again, is "Yes."


The joy she brings is not an artificial, Pollyanna kind of optimism. She isn't flippant. The welfare of many depends on how well she does her work. She looks for ways to enable others to do their job. She respects them. She enjoys doing her own work with accuracy and speed. Others are not kept waiting for her.


That kind of attitude doesn't come by denying reality. It comes from the assurance that no matter what the circumstances are, an employee can do God's will. How can you be sure this is true? Romans 14:4 says,

[God's servants] are responsible to the Lord,
so let Him tell them whether they are right or wrong.
The Lord's power will help them do as they should."


We have God's assurance that He will "help you do as you should."


Where does this kind of resolute joy come from? Not necessarily from the job or its income. Most jobs have boring and distasteful aspects. Even Queen Elizabeth must sometimes tire of "queening."

The Bible offers a unique answer. The story is told in the book of Nehemiah. The Israelites had come back from slavery in Babylon. They faced the daunting job of rebuilding their destroyed homes. They were tired and discouraged. Nehemiah gathered them together to read the Scriptures. As they heard those precious words, they began to weep. Nehemiah said,

"Don't be dejected and sad, for the joy of the LORD is your strength!"
Nehemiah 8:10


Real joy comes from knowing the Lord. His joy will give you the strength to bring joy wherever you are, whatever your task. So yes, you can say with confidence, "I will bring joy to this office."


Couldn't a mother bring that kind of joy into her home?


Couldn't an old man in assisted living, even with his physical difficulties, bring joy into his contacts with others?


Suppose someone was in the health-care business, with all of the sad situations care-givers cope with, couldn't they still say, "I will bring joy into this job"?


Couldn't a student in a noisy class room still bring joy to other students?


Couldn't I, no matter how I earn my living, no matter the pressures I feel, couldn't I say, "I will bring joy in this place"?

Yes. Because the joy of the Lord is my strength. God promised it.

January 22, 2018


Me and Reese's Peanut Butter Cups

Elizabeth Rice Handford 


Seeing they've made a movie of Paul Getty's life reminds me of the uncomfortable relationship I have with Reese's Peanut

 Butter Cups. Paul Getty loved money to an obsession. I love Reese's Peanut Butter Cup, well, a lot! There's no way I can eat just one. I tell myself I need only one to satisfy my craving, but I've no sooner eaten one than I feel compelled to eat one more. Soon the whole bag is gone.


I read Paul Getty's autobiography, "How to Be Rich" years ago, but one thing stands out in my mind about the book. He says a friend asked him why he couldn't stay married. (He'd been married six times.)


"I never could find a woman who understood my need to make money," he answered. (At the time he was considered to be the wealthiest man in the world.)


"How much more money do you need?" his friend asked.

His answer is revealing: "Just a little bit more."


But "a little bit more" never satisfied Paul Getty, just as "one more Reese's Peanut Butter Cup" never satisfies me. Why? Ecclesiastes 5:10,11 gives us a strong clue:


Those who love money will never have enough.
How absurd to think that wealth brings true happiness!
The more you have, the more people come to help you spend it.

So what is the advantage of wealth-
except perhaps to watch it run through your fingers!


First Timothy 6:6-10 furthers the thought:


If we have enough food and clothing, let us be content.
But people who long to be rich fall into temptation
and are trapped by many foolish and harmful desires
that plunge them into ruin and destruction.
For the love of money is at the root of all kinds of evil.
And some people, craving money, have wandered from the faith
and pierced themselves with many sorrows.


Sometimes this verse is misquoted to say, "Money is the root of all evil." No, it's the love of money that causes all different kinds of evil. Of course money of itself is not evil, any more than is a Reese's Cup. What's dangerous is when I think I can satisfy my craving for candy by indulging it! Money of itself is neither good or bad. It becomes a temptation only when we think it will satisfy our hearts' need. Only the Lord Jesus Christ Himself can do that.

Come to think about it, that's true about every single craving I have. I like nice things. But, if I'm not careful, I see another "nice thing" that will only clutter up my home. I want to be happy, but happiness depends so much on happenstance that I won't be happy very long. I want to be respected, but my human nature fails my friends, and certainly fails my own expectations. I want to be loved, but no human love, deep as it may be, can satisfy my need for God's love.


Maybe it's a reminder you need as well.

January 16, 2018


You Aren't One of Us!
A Reflective Word from Elizabeth Rice Handford


When Walt and I moved down to Greenville from Chicago, our kids within a week picked up the beautiful drawl of the Carolinas. It took a little longer for Walt and me to shed our sharp northern accents, but by the time we'd lived here for twenty years, I really thought my southern accent was authentic. I ate black-eyed peas on New Year's day. I voted for Strom Thurmond. I thought Myrtle Beach was better than any other vacation spot in the universe. I felt like a South Carolinian-


-until one day I sat under the hairdryer in a beauty salon talking to other women also being broiled to a bright lobster pink under the hair dryers. The conversation amongst us was about light things: a child sickening with chicken pox, how to get grass stains out of a new pair of white trousers, and would the price of ground beef go up again?

Suddenly a woman jerked her dryer free, leaned forward, and stared at me. After a moment, she said, in tones so cold they chilled my soul,


"I don't know who you are,
But you sure aren't one of us!"


I'm not "one of us?" when I'm a real Carolinian? I'm not "one of us" when for twenty years we've lived in this community? The thought broke my heart.


But there are other broken hearts, far worse than mine, broken because of a genetic inheritance, they are (in gesture and deed, if not in word) unwelcome. Isn't today, on Martin Luther King's birthday, the time to do something about it? As eloquent as his "dream" speech was, we cannot ourselves fulfil his dream. We cannot dispel the divisions among us. But God's grace can do it. Ephesians chapter two tells us how:


"Don't forget that you Gentiles used to be outsiders by birth. . . . You were excluded from God's people. . . . You lived in this world without God and without hope. But now you belong to Christ Jesus. Though you once were far away from God, now you have been brought near to him because of the blood of Christ. For Christ himself has made peace between us Jews and you Gentiles by making us all one people. He has broken down the wall of hostility that used to separate us."
(Ephesians 2:9-14).


This Scripture says a wall of hostility separates us. Northerners, southerners. English- or Spanish-speaking. Men or women. Young or old. Separated by our "hostility;" our anger against each other. We must come to realize we are alike in more ways than we are different. Only as we confess that God created all of us human beings in His image will our hearts be changed so that we can love each other as God commands us to.


The Apostle John reports that someday this really will happen. "I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!'" (Revelation 7:9,10)

People from every nation, every language, every era, every family, will someday forget their anger and hostility against each other, and join their hearts to praise God.


What a wonderful fulfillment that will be of Martin Luther King's dream!


January 8, 2018


Bedazzled by the Prism in my Kitchen Window
A word of comfort from Elizabeth Rice Handford


When the sun rides low on the horizon in the east in January, something wonderful happens in my kitchen. (No, no, my dear, not food. I'm the one, remember, who, if I'm ask for my recipe at a church pot-luck supper, I say it's a family secret, and it is-Stouffers®!)


That wonderful bedazzlement is caused by a multi-faceted prism that hangs in my kitchen window. In the morning the winter sun makes it burst into a hundred dazzling rainbows. Sometimes I spin it, just to see those beautiful flashes of splintered light reach even into the corners of the rest of the house.

I treasure those moments because they remind me of a promise God made to Noah after he and his family were confined for months in the ark because of the flood. Genesis 8:21,22 tells us, "God said in His heart, ‘I will never again curse the ground for man's sake, although the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth; nor will I again destroy every living thing as I have done." Then God promises:



While the earth remains, 
seedtime and harvest, 
cold and heat, 
winter and summer, 
And day and night shall not cease. Gen. 8:21,22



Then God gave Noah (and you and me) a sign so we could know He would keep certainly keep his promise: "This is the sign of the covenant which I make between Me and you, and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations: I set My rainbow in the cloud, and it shall be for the sign of the covenant between Me and the earth. It shall be, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the rainbow shall be seen in the cloud; and I will remember My covenant which is between Me and you and every living creature of all flesh; the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh" (Gen 9:12-15).


So every storm cloud, every ocean wave, every drop of dew on every blade grass makes a rainbow when lighted by God's sun. When ominous storms threaten your safety, God remembers His promise. His guarantee is written even in the storm clouds. He will keep His word.


I remember a flight from Chicago to Atlanta, when our plane was five miles high in the sky and a solid deck of cloud

 beneath us. The sun was directly overhead. I was astonished to see on the clouds beneath us the shadow of our plane, completely encircled with a rainbow, moving with us. The shadow of the plane and its encircling rainbow followed us as long as the clouds were beneath us.

Psalm 146:5,6 says, "But happy are those . . . whose hope is in the LORD their God. He is the one who made heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them. He is the one who keeps every promise forever."



January 1, 2018


What's My Most Important Task Today?
A Word of Reflection with Libby Handford


I've told you before that in the 1930's my father moved to an impoverished section of Dallas to take the Gospel to people no one else seemed to care about. Many came to Christ, and with their volunteer labor and unselfish giving they built a modest building. Soon after they moved into it, during a morning service someone noticed smoke curling from the back wall. Firemen fought the blaze while church members worked frantically to save the furniture and office equipment. Daddy, distraught at seeing his dream going up in flames, grabbed some boxes of cheap greeting cards to save from the fire. In his haste he spilled them. As he scrambled to pick them up, someone yelled, "Pastor, leave that stuff! Save the expensive Bibles!"


An economist named Pareto discovered that in the inventory of a business, about 80% of the value lies in 20% of the items. He called that 20% "the vital few." Illustration: the little bits of merchandise at Walmart like pencils and string and buttons make up about 80% of their inventory, but they're worth only 20% of the inventory value. Big ticket items like TVs and computers comprise about 20% of their stock but they are worth about 80% of the total investment.


If we applied this principle at work, could it be that if we took care of the most important things, "the vital few," we might accomplish 80% of the job?

Microsoft did this. They analyzed the reports of malfunctions in their computer software. When they fixed the first 20% of all complaints about system bugs, they found they had solved 80% of them.

You say, "Good idea, Libby. But it sounds complicated."


Maybe not. Often, when I'm dealing with an important assignment, I try to clear the deck. I try to dispose of all those little, niggling undone tasks so I can focus on the important job at hand. What happens, too often, is that at the end of the day I still have a handful of less important tasks generated by my "clearing the deck" and I have not touched the truly important thing I was hired to do.


What is your truly important "vital few"? It's probably fairly easy to determine at work. If you are not sure, check your job description. Your supervisor can certainly clarify it for you.


It may be harder to determine the vital 20% in your personal life. That takes clear-headed thinking and wisdom from God. Some things really can wait until tomorrow. Some really must be done today, and sometimes trivial things are still essential. Whatever you do, don't leave undone the thing that matters most!


Jesus tackled this problem when He said, in Matt. 6:31,32: Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?' or ‘What shall we drink?' or ‘What shall we wear?' For after all these things the pagans seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. Jesus is promising that He knows all about the nitty-gritty stuff of life, and He'll see about them while you work on the vital 20%.


What is the vital few?


Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.


What does that mean?
Honoring Him in every decision, every action.

When I do that, what does God promise? He'll take care of everything else!
And all these things (food, clothing, drink, shelter) shall be added to you."
Matthew 6:33