June 2017 Devotionals

June 26, 2017

 

Changing the Name Won't Fix the Problem
A Word of Encouragement from Elizabeth Rice Handford

 

 

Back in the 1930's in Texas, where segregation was a law and a life-style, my father pastored a congregation that welcomed everyone who wanted to come. That included, I remember from those depression and "dust bowl" days, the people who lived in cardboard boxes underneath the Trinity River bridge that separated Oak Cliff from downtown Dallas. As a child, I remember grieving when I saw the crumbling, old "separate but equal"school buildings some children had to attend, and I always wondered why they were required to sit at the back of the bus. Daddy had taught us that we were created in the very image of God Himself, and therefore we owed every person our deepest respect.

 


Recently here in South Carolina, we've had a spate of requests that the names of buildings be changed because they honor Civil War veterans. I understand and sympathize with the impetus that drives those requests. The only problem, in my judgment, is that changing the name on the building won't fix the problem. There's a deep heart problem that must be addressed, a problem name changing can't cure. It's a heart problem that affects every society, every nation, every community, every individual in the world.

 


An odd example comes to mind. Walt and I invited a pastor from the Philippines for Sunday dinner, Our seven kids had lots of fun asking him questions about his family and their culture. He said, "Now let me ask you a question. People keep telling what they say is a funny joke, and I can't understand why it is funny. What does Polack mean in jokes?" (You may too young to remember that in the '70's many jokes concerned people from Poland, although American history is crowded with the tremendous accomplishments of Polish people far beyond what statistics would predict.)

 


How can I explain to a Filipino a stupid American prejudice? I asked him, "In the Philippines, do you have a certain group of people that everybody thinks is dumb?"

 


He burst into laughter. "Oh, yes! Yes! Everybody thinks people from ________ Island are really, really dumb. . . . So that's what a Polack is! Now I see the joke."

 


It's a terrible part of the human condition: if you are not "one of us," if you don't act and believe just like me, you are dumb and worthless. It doesn't matter which form it takes: prejudice hurts. I remember how it hurt when a woman at the beauty shop leaned over and said to me, "I don't know who you are, but you sure aren't one of us!"

 


In the very first chapter of the Bible, God talks about the human beings He intended to give life to (and to give eternal life to, by Jesus' death on the cross).


God said,
"Let Us make mankind in Our image, according to Our likeness;
let them have dominion over the fish of the sea,
over the birds of the air, and
over the cattle, over all the earth and
over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.
So God created mankind in His own image;
in the image of God He created him;
male and female He created them."
Genesis 1:26,27

 

These human beings, Adam and Eve, and every human being after them, were shaped by the eternal hand of God Himself, shaped to be extraordinarily like Him, each one created to be His intimate friend. And that's what should shape our thinking about people we come in contact with. They were created in the image of God, and they deserve our deep respect and honor, no matter their heritage.

 

June 19, 2017

 

An Ugly Duckling Among the Goslings
A Word of Encouragement from Elizabeth Rice Handford

 

 

You sure can tell when spring comes on Shannon Lake. The activity on our little lake heightens in the spring. A little finch who is building a nest for his wife in our bird house keeps bringing twigs too big to fit through his front door. A couple of cardinals are courting in the front yard. Squirrels leap among the sweet gum trees. The little chipmunks scurry on their important business and thwart the neighborhood cat by squeezing into tiny refuges she can't reach. The lonely blue heron stands in the shallows and watches for fish.

 


Photo by my neighbor Jackie Callis But a new development has come to our small lake. A pair of Canada geese hatched a brood of three goslings. They go about their swimming and foraging in typical goose style, with Papa (I think!) at the front, the three little ones in single file behind him, and Mama bringing up the rear.

 


But, strangely, there's a little duckling right behind the third gosling, scrabbling as fast as he can to keep up with them, and he's in the line, no matter where they go. It's not normal, friends say, because Canada geese are aggressive and territorial, especially against ducks. But this geese family hasn't read the book about what Canada geese are supposed to do. They treat the little thing as if it were one of their own, develop-mentally slow, perhaps, and maybe a little handicapped physically, but that chick belongs to them. It's the reverse of Hans Christian Anderson's story of the Ugly Duckling who grew up to be a swan. This duck is an ugly duckling.

 


I find myself identifying with that ugly little duckling. I read in God's Word that I am His child. First John 3:1 says, "See how very much our heavenly Father loves us, for he allows us to be called His children, and we really are!"

 

 

Romans 8:14-17 expands on this:

 

For as many as are led by the Spirit of God,
these are sons of God.
For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear,
but you received the Spirit of adoption
by whom we cry out, "Abba, Father."
The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit
that we are children of God,
And if children, then heirs; heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ

 

 

When God adopted me into His family, He has gave me all the privileges and rights of a child born into the family of the King. But I see myself very unlike Him. I'm sometimes petulant and selfish, sometimes whiney. Like that duckling, I find myself struggling very hard to keep up with what I know I ought to do. I disappoint myself in many ways, and so I feel very sure I make it very hard for a holy God to love me.


But-! When I feel that way, I can almost hear God say, "No, Libby, you're wrong. You are My child. You belong to me. I can't help loving you. I love you just exactly like you are." His quiet Word eases all my fears, and I quit my furious scrabbling, and rest absolutely secure in His love.

 


 

June 12, 2017

 

All You Have to Do to Fly Is-?
A Word of Encouragement from Elizabeth Rice Handford

 

 

John and Ruth sat entranced one afternoon as they watched Mary Martin play Peter Pan on TV. Mary would stand on tiptoe, lift her arms, and float through the air to land on a windowsill, or perhaps fly out the window to soar to the sky.

 

 

Ruthie, four years old, said wistfully, "I wish I could fly like that."

 


Big brother John, from his superior age of six, said confidently, "Oh, it's easy, Ruth. Watch. I'll show you how. See, all you have to do is to stand on your tiptoes like this, and then you just jump and you're flying."

 


He jumped. But nothing happened. Bewildered, he stood on tiptoe, held out his arms, and jumped again. Again he landed flat-footed on the floor. An expression of incredulity and disappointment flitted across his face. He tried once more, and again, his human feet hit the solid floor. I could have wept for him, he was so disillusioned.

 


But if the producer had backed up his cameras a bit, John could have seen the intricate contraptions, managed by two adept, hard-working stage hands, that made it so Mary could fly.

 


I was saddened by his disappointment. "I'm sorry, Son," I thought. "For the rest of your life, people are going to spin clever, convincing lies to trick you into doing something that will hurt you. You'll always have to be on guard against the deceivers."

 


The liquor advertisement shows a couple sitting by the fireplace in a lodge, enjoying a drink after a day's fun skiing. The advertiser never shows the wreckage of a head-on crash and a broken body in ICU because a woman couldn't stop drinking.

 


The cigarette ad shows a lean, tanned cowboy in a Stetson standing by his horse in the sunset, enjoying a smoke before chow. They never show him with stage 4 lung cancer, struggling for breath.

 


The drug dealer offers a really cool way to relax a bit. Illegal? Well, yeah, but only because hypocritical do-gooders don't want you to have a good time. He never tells you about the poor, deceived teenager who overdosed in a frantic attempt to squeeze a little more pleasure out of life.

 


Jesus warned, in John 7:24 "Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment." The New Living Translation translates it, "Look beneath the surface so you can judge correctly."


The solution? God wants to give us the wisdom we need. Proverbs 3:5,6 puts it simply:

 

Trust in the LORD with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding;
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall direct your paths.

 

 

We don't have to face the deceivers alone. God wants to help us. If we are careful to listen to His voice, and do His bidding, He'll give us the discernment we need.


And, son John, you can still fly, yes, you can. Just phone Delta, or United, or American or Southwestern. They'll be happy to fly you wherever you want to go.


 

 

June 5, 2017


When Daddy Was Bumped Off the Flight
A Word of Encouragement from Elizabeth Rice Handford

 

 

Think this getting bumped off the flight is a new thing?

 


One Friday evening, about 55 years ago, I took the seven children with me to O'Hare airport to pick up Daddy, who was flying in from Seattle. We were a motley crew, the children ranging from nine years old down to three. They lined up at the broad windows at the gate, and watched the jet as it lumbered in. It was so close to the windows, the children could wave to the pilots. Then people began coming out the arrival door, some in a hurry, some leisurely. The last passenger was a little woman in a wheel chair pushed by an agent. Then came the flight attendants and the pilots-but no Daddy.

 


The gate attendant slammed the door and locked it. "That's all," she said to us kindly, when she saw our disappointed faces. "Check down at the Eastern desk."

 


There, the children crowded around me. "Walter Handford," I said anxiously, "he wasn't on the flight from Seattle."

 


The airline clerk looked at the passenger list. "Oh," she said casually, "he was bumped off the flight in Minneapolis. He should be on the next flight, in about two hours."

 


A sudden, concerted and loud wail rose up behind me. "Bumped off? Daddy bumped off?"

 


Son John knew all about Chicago gangsters. They bumped people off. He'd seen it on television. The younger children visualized the pilot opening the plane door over Minneapolis, wherever that was, and kicking him out. Daddy! Bumped off!

 


It took me an embarrassingly long time to hush the children's sobs so I could explain. Daddy's plane had landed in Minneapolis, but there weren't enough seats on the plane to Chicago. He's be on the very next plane, in just a couple of hours.

 


Was Walt upset by the delay? Well, yes. Should he have made a histrionic protest? No. He knew God was in control of every part of his life, airline schedules included. This delay, for some reason, was part of God's will for him that day.

 


I took the children to the concourse book store, bought a coloring book, a yellow box of Crayola's, and potato chips. Settled at the new arrival gate, they colored their pictures (not always inside the lines), snacked on potato chips, and talked to passerdby about the odd thing that happened to Daddy in Minneapolis when he was bumped off the plane.

 


Daddy's plane did arrive. He was on it, and safe. All was right with the world.

 


In our years of flying since then, sometimes we haven't arrived at the scheduled time. Once in a while, we haven't even arrived at the scheduled airport because of bad weather. But there is one flight, one destination, we can be perfectly confident about.

 


God offered us eternal life. He promised us a home in Heaven. He never, ever, overbooks the reservations! Luke 14:23 tells us He wants His house full of people! And Jesus told us, just the night before He died,


Let not your heart be troubled: you believe in God, believe also in me.
In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you.
I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again,
and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also
. John 14:1-3

 

There's room for all! Our on-time arrival is guaranteed. Our destination is guaranteed. What comforting assurance we can have!
Yet I am always with You, Lord;
You hold me by my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will receive me into glory.


 

 

June 27, 2016

 

First Rule When Lost on a Mountain Road
A Word of Encouragement from Elizabeth Rice Handford

 

Last week I found myself lost on top of a mountain with winding country roads which seemed to disappear randomly into dark forests. I could see, far below me in the valley to the east, the city where I was supposed to be. I stopped in the middle of a junction and looked at the five dismal options before me. My trusty GPS, which had guided me safely to my appointment, had apparently been taken over by gremlins for the return trip.


I was already about to panic when the low fuel light flashed on. I jerked the gear shift into reverse, about to turn back toward the steepest road, thinking I might have to coast all the way down to civilization, when I saw another automobile had stopped at the intersection. The driver was obviously waiting for that silly woman driver who was completely blocking the roadway to make up her mind about what to do.


And then I remembered. If the first rule for a medical doctor is, "Do no harm," and the first rule for an airplane pilot facing an emergency is, "Fly the airplane," then certainly the first rule for a bewildered, lost tourist surely shouldn't be, "Back into the closest 150-year-old stone wall you come across." Lost? First step: "Control your automobile."


Sanity returned. The low fuel light went out (I still had three gallons of fuel left). I turned east on the first road I came to that had a double yellow line running down the middle, came to a junction I recognized, turned south on it, stopped at the first gas station I came to, and shortly arrived at my sister's home.


What mortified me most, looking back on the whole incident, is that I've always thought of myself as a competent, cool, and knowledgeable driver. But in that crisis, I had to remind myself of the basic truth: do the most important thing first. In this case it was: keep control of your automobile.

 

Looking back on my life, I see that I often was trying to handle heaps of different responsibilities all at once, and often in panic mode. I had seven children. My husband was a pastor of a large church. I loved the people we served and wanted to meet their needs. I cared for my aged mother-in-law. I taught a Sunday School class and handled chapel for our Christian elementary school. And for years I met a publishing deadline every week. I too often felt overwhelmed, and dashed from task to frenzied task.


But my Heavenly Father is not a harsh taskmaster. He doesn't require of His children more than they can possibly do. So I needed to step back, and think about what was most important at that moment, and that was (and always is) to acknowledge His promise of wisdom and strength, and let Him show me exactly what was needed next.


Jesus said,
Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden,
and I will give you rest.
Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me,
for I am gentle and lowly in heart,
and you will find rest for your souls.
For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.

Matthew 11:28-30


This verse seems to be about working and carrying heavy burdens. But instead, it promises rest! When we bring our unbearable burdens to Jesus, He gives us an easy yoke, a light burden that is light because He carries it. That's what He wants us to learn from Him.
Lost on a mountain road? Control the automobile. Lost in a bewildering load of responsibility? Give control to Jesus, your strong and loving Burden-bearer.

 

 

June 20, 2016
 

Money Jingling in My Pocket
A Word of Encouragement from Elizabeth Rice Handford

 

All the children in the Handford family, all seven of them, had regular chores to do, of course. Each week I changed the assignments, so no one could complain they were always given the hardest job.


I say "no one could complain," but that's not exactly true. Of course they complained! Once, when it was Paul's turn to carry out the garbage, he launched what he thought was a winning argument. "Mom, I'm a boy, and boys aren't supposed to have to do girl jobs like carrying out the garbage or mop the kitchen floor."


I tried to act surprised. "Oh, really? I didn't know that. I thought that all of us, boys and girls both, ate the food that made the garbage, and tracked in the mud that made the kitchen floor dirty. But it's your decision."


Then I added, casually, "Of course the Bible says that if you don't work you can't eat. You can decide about carrying out the garbage. But don't forget, if you don't work, you don't eat. No work; no food: that's what the Bible says."


His self-satisfied smirk turned to major alarm. No food? Without a word, he turned and took out the garbage.

 

I heard a man tell a TV interviewer, "I have a right to have money jingling in my pocket just like everybody else." He opined that all those rich people had too much money anyway, and he was entitled to some of it.


As I watched that broadcast, I thought of a 50-year-old man, my husband's father, who during the depression walked eight miles every day, six days a week, from his house in West Seattle to downtown Seattle, to see if the labor board might have a job for him that day. The bus would have cost him ten cents, and he did not have it. Some days, thank God, he was given a job. Other days he waited all day for a call, and then, without having earned a penny, he walked the eight painful miles home again on feet ravaged by arthritis. Eventually God rewarded Father Handford's faithfulness, and he got a full-time job as a carpenter in the US Naval yards.


What a contrast to the man on TV who thought he had a right to "have money jingling" in his pockets even if he didn't work for it!

 

The Apostle Paul says, in First Thessalonians 3:10-13, "This we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat. For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies. Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread."
Obviously, this isn't talking about poor people who are poor because of circumstances they can't help. Of course we are supposed to help them! This is talking to people who have the ability to work and simply decide they prefer not to! Don't work? Then don't eat.

Actually, Jesus said, all we need is something to eat, something to wear, and a safe place to sleep. "Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? . . . Therefore do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?'. . For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you."


Those few coins "jingling in my pocket," if unearned, will soon be spent and their owner looking to someone else for more coins to jingle.
How much better it is, to have God's loving care and every need met, as we do His work each day. What more could we ask?

 

June 13, 2016

 

What Does Every High School Graduate Deserve?
A Word of Encouragement from Elizabeth Rice Handford

 

Friends invited me to their son‛s graduation from a Greenville highschool last week, and it was such a gladsome event. They tossed their caps into the air with such enthusiasm I doubt if many of them found their own afterward. Their class quote was taken from Ayn Rand‛s novel, Atlas Shrugged. You can see why it appealed to these dreaming and ambitious young people:


Do not let the hero in your soul perish
in lonely frustration for the life you deserved
And have never been able to reach.
The world you desire can be won.
It exists. . . it is real . . . it is possible . . . it‛s yours.


The U. S. Department of Education says, "We must ensure that every student graduates from high school well prepared for college and a career. Every student deserves a college education."
I looked at the young man whose graduation we were celebrating, and wondered how those words might affect his life, if he took them to heart. "You deserve the life you dream about," Rand assured him. "You deserve a college education," say the educators. What if he took that at face value? Did he "deserve" a college diploma, though his interests and work experience were drawing him in an entirely different direction?


With all my heart I believe we ought to help young people achieve everything they are capable of achieving, if they are willing to work at it. And I am deeply grateful that my parents enabled me to get a college education. But I puzzled over Ayn Rand's statement, as I sat in that riotous arena on graduation morning. It's a plain fact that not every child has the intellect to earn a college degree. Do we set them up for frustration and a sense of failure if they can't complete the course? Do we do them a disservice to tell them they must have a college degree to be a happy and productive adult?


I'll never forget, as a freshman studying in the college library for a Latin test with my dear friend, when she wailed aloud, "It's no use, Libby!" she said. "I just don't have the brain for this." No amount of "stick-to-it-iveness" or determination helped her to conjugate Latin! I tried to remind her that she could serve the loving God who'd created her for His own joy and purposes without a degree. That proved true for her: she lived a happy and useful life without finishing college.

 

Come to think of it, it doesn't really matter so much about any of our accomplishments: intellectual, athletic, or financial There's one thing tremendously more important than all of those.

 

Jeremiah 9:23,24 says,

 

Thus says the LORD:
Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom,
Let not the mighty man glory in his might,
Nor let the rich man glory in his riches;
But let him who glories glory in this,
That he understands and knows Me,
That I am the LORD, exercising lovingkindness,
judgment, and righteousness in the earth.
For in these I delight, says the LORD.

 

Congratulations, dear graduate, whatever accomplishment you are celebrating, and welcome to the next phase of this exciting life God has given you to serve Him!

 

June 6, 2016

After All, It's Only a Family Tradition
A Word of Encouragement from Elizabeth Rice Handford


"Aw, Mom," the young man said, "I'm not gonna come to Easter dinner this year. After all, it's only a family tradition anyway."

 

When his mother told me about her son's odd attitude, I thought he was lucky not to have me for a mother-I'd have given him a piece of my mind, and that would have been unfortunate, because these days I need every bit of the mind I have left!

 

A scent, a gesture, a glimpse, a taste-what sudden memories come flooding back of precious times, traditions, that we had as a family!

 

A flashing HOT sign on the Krispy Kreme shop on Pleasantburg: "Remember, Mother, how on Family nights Daddy would always bring home a box of hot Krispy Kreme doughnuts?"


Yes, I remember.

 

A wheelbarrow, leaning against a shed door: "Remember how at Thanksgiving we'd have a drop kick contest and the loser, who was usually Daddy, would have to haul the winner around the block in a wheel barrow with a sign around his neck, ‘I won!'?"


Yes, I remember.

 

A mound of mashed potatoes covered with gravy at Cracker Barrel: "Mom, remember how you'd always make pot roast and gravy for Sunday dinner, and we'd always have a gravy-tasting test to see if it was as good as last Sunday's? I've never been able to make a roast taste like yours."


Yes, I remember.

 

A sign made of shelf paper scrawled with uneven script, taped to a front door, "Welcome Home": "Ooh, Mother, remember when we went to the airport to pick up Ruthie in Nashville and Aunt Jessie nearly got arrested?"


Yes, I remember. That was a time when we broke a family tradition, and made another one even sweeter.

 

My sisters and our husbands scheduled one week each year for all of our families to get together. It was an enduring, beloved family tradition. But one year our Ruth had an opportunity to attend a week-long theater seminar that same week. She was so anxious to attend it. Should we break tradition? Yes, her father decided. It was certainly worth the money it would cost to fly her to Nashville for just the last two days of the Rice family vacation.

 

We made a huge sign that said, "Welcome, Ruth Handford, Reedy River Beauty Queen." (This was back in the days when the Reedy was still a polluted, malodorous stream.) All the aunts and uncles and cousins drove to the airport. We had a brief and horrifying glitch at security when my sister Jessie threw her purse onto the table and opened it for the guard. On the very top lay a realistic-looking toy hand gun. The guard picked it up and frowned. Jessie gasped. "But it isn't mine. I don't know how it got there."

 

Her ten-year-old son mumbled, "I'm sorry, Mom. Bill was tired of carrying it and I told him he could put it in your purse."

 

Vastly relieved, we all went to meet the plane. We held up our sign. We cheered when Ruth, the Reedy River Beauty Queen, got off the plane. Then we all drove back to Murfreesboro and bought ice cream cones at Rebel Maid.

 

Yes, I remember. Those innocent traditionsreinforced our sense of belonging, our sense of unity of heart and faith, a security in eternal things that cannot be destroyed.

 

Thus says the LORD:
"Stand in the ways and see, And ask for the old paths,
where the good way is, And walk in it;
Then you will find rest for your souls.
" Jeremiah 6:16