I Was Hungry
A Reminder from Elizabeth Rice Handford
This from Joyce Landorf Heatherly chilled me:
I was hungry and you formed a humanities club to discus my hunger.
I was imprisoned and you crept off quietly to your chapel to pray for my release.
I was naked and in your mind you debated the morality of my appearance.
What good did that do?
I was sick and you knelt and thanked God for your health.
But I needed you.
I was homeless, and you preached to me of the shelter of the love of God.
I wish you'd taken me home.
I was lonely and you left me alone to pray for me.
Why didn't you stay?
You seem so holy, so close to God.
But I'm still very hungry, lonely, cold and still in pain.
Does it matter? Anonymous, taken from "Balcony People" © 2004
For many years Walt and I served as chaplains to the employees and patients of Interim Health Care in Greenville. The employees there all carry heavy burdens, serving people who are very needy, including some that no matter how carefully served, will not regain their health. Add to that the infinite number of regulations and strictures the health care industry faces, and you can realize how stressful it might be-perhaps as stressful as the burdens you carry!
Sometimes our boss, Ray Schroeder, knew that under the pressure of all those obligations, we could lose our focus, our mission statement. So he would read to us this interesting prophecy in Matthew's Gospel:
Then the King will say to those on His right hand, "Come, you blessed of My Father,
inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:
for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink;
I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me;
I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me."
Bewildered, these people whom the King is rewarding respond,
Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink?
When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You?
Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?
Here's the sweet answer the King gives back to them:
Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these
My brothers and sisters, you did it to Me. Matthew 25:34-40
No matter what your task is today, no matter how onerous, how demanding, and sometimes seemingly profitless your work may be, if you do it because you love Jesus, you are doing what really matters to God. You serve God Himself when you meet the needs of "the least of these" - the people entrusted to your care.
Follow the Leader?
A Word of Encouragement from Elizabeth Rice Handford
My sister Grace, the oldest of our family of six girls, used to lead us in a game of "follow the leader." We tumbled head
over heels over the back of the living room couch, slid down the stair banisters, ran up the see-saw board and down again. But when Grace and big sister Mary Lloys climbed on top of the garage to jump off, using umbrellas as parachutes, I chickened out. That was one place I wasn't gonna follow the leader! Looking back, I wonder that there were no broken bones.
But one time when I carefully followed my leader, it ended in humiliation. In fifth grade at James Bowie School we were learning cursive writing, a flowery sort of script called the Palmer method. It was already considered old fashioned by the time I was being taught it. The Palmer method stressed using the muscles of the arm, rather than fingers, and it involved reproducing a tedious amount of round O's resembling Slinky toys, and slanted lines that looked like drunken fence posts. I had great difficulty in keeping my O's within the lines and often sighed with frustration.
But one day when my teacher was writing at her desk, I realized I had been doing it all wrong! She used the heel of her hand, not her arm muscles, as she wrote. That was my problem! I gleefully began to fill my sheet with magnificent Os and I's. Suddenly I heard a loud and angry voice from the back of the room say, "Jimmy!-" (my name in those Texas days) "-you know better than to write that way. You are not using your muscle! Why don't you pay attention and do it right?"
My problem was, as you have guessed, I was watching instead of listening.
The other day my friends and I were talking about how we could teach young people to be honorable and responsible adults. There is such a lack of moral leadership among famous people: movie stars and politicians, business leaders, even Christian leaders. Their deplorable actions are posted blatantly on all the media. How can our young people learn integrity with such terrible examples set before them day after day?
One of my friends said, "But when they apologize, shouldn't we give them another chance, let them lead again? After all, we all do wrong, and we want people to forgive us."
But the Bible seems to say it differently. "Much is required from those to whom much is given, and much more is required from those to whom much more is given" (Luke 12;48). God sets very high standards for leadership.
St. Paul says a leader must be "blameless, temperate, sober-minded, of good behavior, not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, not quarrelsome, not covetous, one who rules his own house well" (1 Timothy 3:1-7). Then Paul adds, "Moreover he must have a good testimony among those who are outside."
God expects leaders in every area of life to set a good example for those they lead. How can those who follow know how to make good choices unless they can imitate their leaders? Must they just listen to what they're told? Don't they deserve to see integrity demonstrated?
Sobering thought for every parent, every supervisor, every Sunday school teacher, every policeman, every business person-indeed, everyone of us. Every one of us has someone following us, watching us. Let's give them a noble and sincere example to follow!
Stars in My Eyes
A Word of Encouragement from Elizabeth Rice Handford
Oh, I've had stars in my eyes lots of times. . .
. . . . like the cool October night when Walt and I stood under the elm trees and he told me he loved me and asked me to marry him.
. . . . like the hot afternoon I landed the 150 Cessna airplane at the Greenville Downtown Airport, and the FAA examiner handed me my new pilot's license.
. . . . like the balmy evening the adoption agency social worker put into our arms a tiny bundle wrapped in a pale yellow blanket, and we looked on our baby son's dear face for the first time.
But stars in your eyes can sometimes blind you to reality.
Driving home in the evenings, I began to notice that the headlights of approaching automobiles seemed to increasingly shatter into stars. Now those were stars I didn't want to see! My doctor had warned me that sometime in the future I could expect to have cataracts, so I knew what to do. I made an appointment to see my doctor.
While I waited for surgery, I realized what a terrible handicap it was not to be able to see well. The bright colors of spring faded into grays. Reading a newspaper in 10 point type became a chore. Street signs were difficult to read. Pictures of the sweet faces of my grandchildren blurred. The only answer was surgery, and until I had it, life would be frustrating.
If I had denied that I had a handicap, if I had continued to drive at night, I would have been a threat to everyone I met. If I had put off having surgery, my sight would have kept deteriorating. Admitting I was seeing stars instead of headlights was my first step to good eyesight and safety.
But why would anyone not admit their blindness and their need for intervention? Strangely, this can happen when we are trapped in spiritual darkness and confronted by the truth. We may not want to see the truth, and that "plunges us into increased darkness," as Jesus said:
Wherever your treasure is,
there your heart and thoughts will also be.
Your eye is a lamp for your body.
A pure eye lets sunshine into your soul.
But an evil eye shuts out the light
and plunges you into darkness.
If the light you think you have is really darkness,
how deep that darkness will be!
Yes, I want to walk in the light, and "let sunshine in my soul." To do that I must be aware of my flawed thinking and realize I might be rejecting a truth God wants me to acknowledge. It's only as I listen to His Word and examine my heart that I will be able to know if I have shut out the light and that I'm walking in darkness.
Weather Forecast: Flash Flood Advisory
A Word of Encouragement from Elizabeth Rice Handford
Today's weather forecast for the Carolinas was "Torrential rain; flash flood advisory." While I was navigating through that "advisory" today, with windshield wipers working furiously, I thought about the flood, the big one.
The Bible tells us about a man named Methuselah, whose name literally means, "When he is dead, it [the flood] shall be sent." He was the grandfather of Noah, who built the ark to provide safety to the world during the flood. Everybody remembers Methuselah, if only because he's the oldest man who ever lived, 969 years. Significantly, he died the year the flood came.
So why am I talking about a man who lived nearly 5,000 years ago? Because Methuselah's long life shows us how great God's mercy is, how passionately He wants to rescue us human beings from our sin to enjoy all of Heaven's treasures!
The flood was sent because "The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of
the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually" (Genesis 6:5,6). God warned people that He was going to send judgment. But He also promised safety for everybody who would go into the ark, and He gave them 120 years to make up their minds. He wouldn't send the flood until Methuselah died. And that man lived longer than any man has ever lived, before or since! That's how deep and wide God's great mercy is.
So why should something that happened nearly 5,000 years ago make any difference to me? The Apostle Peter answers this. "There will be scoffers who will laugh at the truth and do every evil thing they desire. This will be their argument: ‘Jesus promised to come back, did He? Then where is He? Why, as far back as anyone can remember, everything has remained exactly the same since the world was first created'" (2 Peter 3:3-9).
Sounds like what many people think today, doesn't it? "That's mythology and irrelevant to my life." Saint Peter says otherwise: "They deliberately forget that God made the heavens by the word of His command, and He brought the earth up from the water and surrounded it with water. Then He used the water to destroy the world with a mighty flood. And God has also commanded that the heavens and the earth will be consumed by fire on the day of judgment, when ungodly people will perish."
So why hasn't Jesus come back to earth like He promised 2,000 years ago? St. Peter has an answer for that, too!
"But you must not forget, dear friends, that a day is like a thousand years to the Lord, and a thousand years is like a day. The Lord isn't really being slow about His promise to return, as some people think. No, He is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to perish, so He is giving more time for everyone to repent."
God doesn't want anyone ever to be cut off from His mercy. He hasn't forgotten His promise to restore the world like it was in the Garden of Eden. But there is a deadline, and He has moved it back because He wants every single person to accept His gift of mercy.
And that's why, dear friend, Methuselah celebrated 969 birthdays!