A Word of Encouragement from Elizabeth Rice Handford
She was our ebullient 18-year-old blond, a freshman in college. The weather had turned bitterly cold. At the supper table, Ruth said, "It sure is cold outside. It reminds me of Chicago weather. I couldn't even get the car to warm up at all on the way home from school this afternoon."
Her daddy said, "I'll take a look at it." And that night he found what was wrong with the heater and fixed it.
She wrote him a love note, "Thank you, dear Daddy, for fixing my car. I was warm all day!"
Years later, we found that treasured note in her father's papers. That note of thanks from his little girl meant so much to him, he'd saved it for forty years!
And when the note she'd written so long ago surfaced recently, she was blessed again by the memory of a father who loved her enough to face the fierce cold of a dark night so she could be warm.
Remembered kindnesses! I remember so many kindnesses:
A Gulf gas station mechanic, on a deserted stretch of I-75, years ago . . . I was taking six of our seven children to see their grandparents. Walt and son John would follow the next day. The radiator boiled over again and again in the intense heat of the 600-mile trip, and I had repeatedly stopped at auto repair places to get it fixed. Inevitably, it boiled again, and I stopped weary mile after weary mile to fill the radiator with water. Finally, at dusk, I stopped at a Gulf station. The mechanic kept working until he found what was causing the trouble, fixed it, smiled, and then said, "No charge."
My mother, my last year of college. . . . I was overwhelmed with final exams and preparation for a recital. "Libby, you don't have to do your home chores tonight. I've taken care of them for you."
My dear husband, more that once, when I had a headache. . . . "Honey, I want you to stay in bed this morning. You had such a hard day yesterday. I'll get the kids off to school. You just rest."
My new pastor in Illinois, to a lonely 13-year-old exiled from Texas. . . . "My wife and I want to pay your way to church camp. Can you be on the bus by two o'clock?"
Son John, sitting by me at the animal hospital, watching as the doctor put our beloved greyhound to sleep. No words. Just tears in his eyes, and his hand on mine.
A writer for Time Magazine, "J. Z.", writes that "Kindness is key to a happy marriage, even if it goes unrecognized. A study in Emotion found that completing an act of compassion for a spouse-like clearing snow off the spouses's windshield in the morning-improves the giver's emotional well-being, even when the spouse doesn't acknowledge it. Under those circumstances, the giver may get up to 45% more emotional benefit than the recipient."
Proverbs 31:26 says about the woman whose price was above rubies: "On her tongue is the law of kindness." That woman made it a rule never, ever, to speak unkindly to anyone!
Colossians 3:12,13 states it even more strongly:
Since God chose you to be the holy people whom He loves,
you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy,
kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.
You must make allowance for each other's faults
and forgive the person who offends you.
Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.
I have received so much kindness, so many times, so bountifully. How I need to give others that same wonderful memory of kindness that others gave to me in my need!
Speaking for Those Who Cannot Speak for Themselves
A Word of Encouragement from Elizabeth Rice Handford
One Saturday afternoon at O'Hare Airport I waited to board my Delta flight home. A disheveled man sidled up to me and whispered, "Take this tract. My aunt is Jesus come back to earth." I was troubled by his strange expression and was greatly relieved when my flight was called.
But only a few minutes into the flight, a man came from behind me and sat down in the seat next to me. He had a beard; he was wearing a tank top and beach flip-flops. I immediately put him in the same class as the demented man who claimed his aunt was Jesus.
I nodded to him and went back to reading my Bible.
"Huh!" the man said, "Why do you waste your time reading that book?"
Surprised, I answered, "Because it's God's Word speaking to me, and I need to know what He says." (I'm ashamed to admit that I felt a little cocky; I sized him up as not very literate.)
"But how can you defend all the violence in it?"
"Like what?" I countered.
"Well, like Jesus taking a whip to people and overturning the tables in the Temple."
"I can easily defend that. It was His house. The people Jesus drove out were wicked men, taking terrible advantage of poor people when all they wanted to do was to give a gift to God. Don't you think Jesus ought to care about disadvantaged people?"
I waited for a response. He didn't answer.
"Look," I said, "here's what the Bible says." I turned to Proverbs 31:8,9:
Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves,
for the rights of all who are destitute.
Speak up and judge fairly;
defend the rights of the poor and needy.
"Don't you think Jesus should defend poor people who can't defend themselves? Have you read the Bible? Do you even know what it really says?"
He grunted. "No. I don't have time to read the Bible."
"But should you make such an important decision about the Bible without even knowing what it says? Promise me something. Some day you're going to get stuck in a hotel room because your flight was delayed by fog. Promise me when that happens, you'll take the Gideon Bible from the bedside table, and start reading it. Start with the Gospel of John. O.K.?"
"O.K.," he grinned.
Just before our plane landed at GSP, I said to him, "What brings you to our area?"
He said, "I'm a psychiatrist. A manufacturing company is opening a big plant here, and they've hired me to vet their new management."
He walked off the plane with his flip-flops flopping, and I walked off the plane with a sore heart, ashamed that I'd judged a man by what he wore. Jesus wouldn't have done that.
Elie Wiesel lost most of his family in the holocaust against Jews in the 1940's. He survived, and he has impacted the world with the depth of his writing about the experience. He said,
Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim.
Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.
The Lord Jesus cares about people who can't speak for themselves. I'm so grateful He has compassion for the sick, the lonely, the disadvantaged, the betrayed. Now it is our task to follow in His steps.
"I Never Wanna Go Through That Again!"
A Word of Encouragement from Libby Handford
He was a middle-aged man I'd hired to do some house repairs. After I'd paid him for the week's work, we chatted a while. I asked him if he knew how very much God loved him. The question seemed to trigger a memory from his past, and his eyes grew dark. "When you talk about God, I think about judgment day," he murmured. "It reminds me of the day I got hauled into the Colonel's office."
"That sounds scary. Tell me about it."
"Army. Germany. Me and my pals on the town one night. Got drunk, all of us. Don't remember much about it. Anyway, next morning, we got called up to the Colonel's office."
He shuddered with the memory. "The colonel threw the book at me, Article 15, from E5 rank to E4 and two months double duty at half pay. I never got my rank back. I never wanna go through that again."
"So you remembered the colonel when I said we'd have to answer to God for our sins? But there's a difference, a huge difference. You wouldn't have to stand before God and answer for your sin if you'd let Jesus pay for your sins."
He shook his head. "Don't sound right."
"No, it doesn't. But that's exactly what the Bible says. God is really holy, and He hates sin and has to punish it. (We do want Him to punish somebody who's done us wrong, don't we?) But God and Jesus love you so, so much, they figured out a way to pay for your sin, and let you go free."
"Jesus died in your place, for your sin. You were guilty, and you deserved the penalty. But Jesus, who never did anything wrong, offered to trade places with you. He'd die in your place and give you His righteousness. It's all free. All you have to do is to tell Him you want to take His gift."
He dropped his head. "I don't wanna talk about it any more."
Suppose you were called into the Colonel's office and asked to explain why you'd gotten drunk in a foreign country, broken all the army rules, and disgraced your uniform. Suppose at your Article 15 hearing, the Colonel said, "You're guilty. Your rank is reduced from E5 to E4, and 60 days double duty, half pay." And then that Colonel got up from his desk, came and stood beside you, and threw his arm across your shoulder. "I'll tell you what I'm going to do. I'll serve your time, pay your lost wages. You're free to go."
Sound unbelievable? It is unbelievable. But that is exactly what Jesus said:
I assure you,
those who listen to my message and believe in God who sent me
have eternal life.
They will never be condemned for their sins,
but they have already passed from death into life.
Gospel of John chapter 5, verse 24
Not ever, ever worry again about God's fearsome judgment on your sin? It sounds too good to be true, but it is true. God doesn't want you to die in your sins. Jesus said, "If you are sorry for your sins, and want Me to save you, then tell Me so. Take My free gift of eternal life. Get a new heart. Enjoy Heaven with Me forever!" Never, ever, to pay the debt you honestly owed? Yes! That's what Jesus promises He'll do, if only we'll ask Him.
Isn't It Time to Break the Vicious Cycle?
A Word of Encouragement from Elizabeth Rice Handford
"It's easy for you to be a good Christian," Janice said to me tearfully. "After all, you grew up in a wonderful Christian family. I grew up in a dysfunctional home. It's no wonder I have trouble living the Christian life."
I did grow up in a godly, loving family, and I am eternally grateful for it. But does that mean Janice is doomed to failure in her Christian life?
There is, in the second commandment carved by the finger of God on stone, a stern reminder of the reality of this broken world. Exodus 20:4-6 warns us not to worship idols. "I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me."
Because God passionately loves us, He is jealous of anything that would lure us away from loving Him. To craft an idol and worship it instead of the God who created us is the filthiest kind of ungrateful sin.
Idolatry (whether of money, sex, fame, or perhaps, ourselves) means the children of the idolater, his grandchildren, and alas, even his great-grandchildren, will suffer the consequences of his idolatry, no matter their innocence. Their lives will be affected by the wrong decisions their father made. They will not have the wonderful delight of growing up with godly parents who walk with God.
But they will not be punished for their parents' sin. The Scriptures say this plainly: "The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself" (Ezekiel 18:20).
So, what Janice said was true: she hadn't seen committed Christian living modeled in her parents. But she wasn't doomed to failure. She and her husband could make the choice that they would put God first.
Moses challenged the Israelites, "I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live" (Deuteronomy 30:19).
Joshua gave the Israelites the same kind of choice: "And if it seems evil to you to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve . . . But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD" (Joshua 24:15).
John 3:16 says simply, "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life." God has given every person, whosover, the choice to take His gift of salvation. No one is ever doomed by his inheritance or his culture.
So I tried to dry Janice's tears. "You're right. You didn't have a good upbringing. But isn't it about time to break the vicious cycle? Shouldn't you break the pattern? Shouldn't you give your children the heritage of a godly home?"
Yes, she should. She could. And she did. She and her husband did model godly living for their children. The vicious cycle was broken.
One last amazing thought. The influence of a wicked home may last for three generations. But how much influence can a righteous person have on future generations? "But showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments" (Exodus 20:6).
Oh, yes, surely now is the time to break the vicious cycle, to choose God's way, and so extend God's love to generations not yet born! Today, trusting God for His wisdom and strength, you can live like He designed you to live!