Nothing's the Same Anymore
A Word of Encouragement from Elizabeth Rice Handford
Bud and Jenny changed. They just weren't the same anymore!
We'd been good friends with Bud and Jenny in college. (Those aren't their real names, of course.) We'd traveled with them to intercollegiate debate tournaments. We'd worried together through the final days of senior comprehensives. We'd been awarded our diplomas and ventured out into the "real" world. With heartfelt goodbyes, we promised to stay in touch with each other, and we did so, at least with a Christmas card each year.
Our careers led us down different paths. Walt went into the ministry, and we were immersed in serving a small congregation in a Chicago suburb. We didn't have much money, but we had enough to live on, and we were enthralled with the work God gave us to do.
Bud's career led him into the corporate world. The sharp skills he'd shown in debate tournaments catapulted him into great success in business. Several years went by, and one day they phoned to say they were coming to town, and could we get together?
They arrived at the restaurant in a luxury convertible, she in furs. (Well, she probably needed them in that open car!) We arrived in our second-hand 1946 Plymouth sedan. Her fingers dripped with diamonds. My small solitaire diamond looked very lonely in the glitter.
Their new wealth would not have troubled us. The financial status of our friends had always been immaterial. We loved people for who they were, not what they achieved, not what they owned, not what they could do for us. But Bud and Jenny didn't seem to be interested any more in ideas, or in people, or a noble purpose in life. We struggled valiantly to find things to talk about. When we said our goodbyes, I think all four of us knew we wouldn't try to get together again. Don't misunderstand: I feel sure they were as frustrated by the changes they found in us as we were in them.
There's something built in our human DNA that wants permanence and stability in relationships. We need to be able to count on people we have to trust. Too often we disappoint them, and sometimes we are disappointed by them, too.
That's why it is so comforting know that our Lord God never changes. Hebrews 13:8 says, "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever." Every story of God's faithfulness to people in the Bible can encourage us to trust Him, because He will be faithful to us in the same way He's always been. He never changes, will never change.
In Malachi 3:6 God says, "I am the LORD, and I do not change. That is why you descendants of Jacob are not already completely destroyed."
That promise of God's unchangeability is so reassuring. It tells us that it is God's patience with human beings, His unwillingness to punish us that keeps Him from giving up on us. Here's why He is able show us such patience:
The Lord Jesus, because He continues forever,
has an unchangeable priesthood.
Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost
those who come to God through Him,
Since He always lives to make intercession for them.
Jesus lives forever. He never changes. He is able to redeem us from the awfulness of sin and death. We're "saved to the uttermost" when we come to God through Him. How? He died for us, and rose again, so that we can receive eternal life simply by accepting His gift of salvation. God is unchangeable. He is love. He is compassion. He is powerful. We live in a culture that changes more radically every day. Thank God we have a Father who never, ever changes. We can count on His faithfulness.
What Happens to My Reputation in a Traffic Jam?
A Gentle Reminder from Libby Handford
One peaceful Sunday morning, many years ago, Walt and I enjoyed a wonderful service in our home church. We lived in
a fairly small town, a suburb of Chicago, and traffic was never one of our major concerns. But after that service, as we walked to our car, we discovered we were not even going to be able to get out of the parking lot. The street was jammed with automobiles leaving the church service. The intersection from all four sides was tight with cars, bumper to bumper, crammed so closely that even if someone had tried to yield, there was no way they could back up.
Walt and I stood on the street corner and watched with amazement. The two drivers in the very center of the intersection were glaring at each other, each determined not to yield. The two drivers? Not two strangers accidently caught up in church traffic, no. They were two leading deacons in our church, and we couldn't see much brotherly kindness in their eyes! I wonder what visitors to our church might have thought, since those two deacons had stood earlier at the church door welcoming strangers. Visitors, seeing that melee, would have been very hard to convince that our church members were really a loving family!
I thought of that foolish traffic jam when I put on a sweater with the Interim Health Care logo on it the other day. I have been gladly associated with Ray and Charyl Schroeder and the Interim family for more than 20 years. I often wore my chaplain name badge with the company logo to visit patients and talk to employees. But it wasn't long until people knew that I was associated with Interim, whether I wore a badge or not.
If I ever acted uncaring, if I were unprofessional, if I put personal convenience ahead of the welfare of Interim, you can be sure that people would notice, remember, and not forgive Interim. I could have hurt Interim's wonderful reputation just by carelessness.
This is true in my family relationships. If I am disloyal to my family, if I criticize them to others, or demean them, then I have hurt the Handford name.
The truth is, I carry the reputation all the time of those I am associated with: the people I worship with, the people I work with, the people I live with. That's why Proverbs 22:1 says, "Choose a good reputation over great riches, for being held in high esteem is better than having silver or gold."
I most certainly don't want to embarrass Interim. Nor do I want to dishonor my church family. And I really want to be loyal to my family. So I often find myself praying King David's prayer,
Let not those who wait for You, O Lord GOD of hosts,
be ashamed because of me;
Let not those who seek You be confounded because of me,
O God of Israel.
On my shoulders rests the reputation of people I love and respect. May I never cause them embarrassment by my poor behavior. Isn't that equally true for all of us?
A Valentine to Be Treasured Forever
A Word of Encouragement from Elizabeth Rice Handford
You've stood before racks of valentine greeting cards, as I have, scrounging to find the perfect card for someone you love. You want a sweet card without being corny, with a heart-felt message without being sloppy, tender and personal without being too gushy or sentimental. Sometimes it's easier to let someone else to put down on paper the emotions that you truly feel but just can't find the right words to express. When we find the card that says this well, we're happy to plunk the money down, sign it, and give it to the one we love.
Perhaps, this year, you'll receive a valentine that expresses love so well you'll tucked it away in a corner of your heart to read over and over again.
But maybe this year your valentine mailbox will be empty. For many of us that will be true. I know I'll miss the loving valentine Walt always gave me year by year.
Oh, but listen! You do have a valentine from Someone who loves you beyond expression. It may be that you keep His valentine with its fine leather binding tooled in gold, with beautiful color pictures inside it, displayed on the coffee table in your living room. You may think of it more as a decoration than a personal letter. Maybe it's on your bed-side table, handy when you're desperate for God's help. Perhaps your love letter is on a bookshelf, gathering dust, because you didn't realize it was a personal letter from Someone who loves you more than life itself. That's literally true. Jesus loved you so much that He gave His life so you could have life. You'll find all expressed in the Letter He personally wrote to you. And right in the middle of that letter, about half-way through, the God who created you so He could shower His love on you, wrote this:
Long ago the LORD said to me,
"I have loved you, my people,
with an everlasting love.
With unfailing love
I have drawn you to myself."
Now that's a valentine to treasure. Sometimes we are not able to keep the promises we made with utmost sincerity to people we love. Age, sickness, circumstances or death may make it so we cannot do what we promised. But this is a promise from the Eternal, Holy God who always, always keeps His promises, the God who cannot lie. And He says He loves you with a love that will last forever. Then He paid the penalty for your sins so you could live with Him forever, so you can treasure this everlasting love He has for you.
Do you need to know that you are loved? The Word of God is your valentine, a valentine to treasure above all else, that promises you are loved forever. Why not take time to revel in God's love this Valentine's Day?
When God turned bad into good . . .
Mrs. Nelson's Glasses
A word of encouragement from Elizabeth Rice Handford
Mrs. Nelson was a pleasant, middle-aged woman who was head clerk in my father's Christian Book Store. I'd been assigned to help her during summer vacation. One day a woman came into the store and said, in great distress, "I need a Bible or something to tell me how I can go to Heaven. Can you help me?"
Yes, oh yes, I thought, I can help you. After all, that's the main reason Daddy has this store open!
I took her to our Bible display, picked up an inexpensive Bible with readable type and explanatory notes, and turned to John 3:16 and John 5:24. Eternal life, free, for the asking! MShe read the Scriptures eagerly, seemed to understand them immediately, and asked the Lord Jesus for salvation right then.
When she had left with her new Bible, I was so thrilled, I ran over to Mrs. Nelson and gleefully hugged her. I'm so glad I got to tell somebody about Jesus! But with my enthusiastic hug, I broke Mrs. Nelson's rimless glasses! I was distraught. I asked her to forgive me, but I didn't offer to pay for fixing them. My father would have done so, I'm sure, but I was too embarrassed even to tell him about the incident. Mrs. Nelson never brought the matter up again.
I graduated from college and married Walt. We moved to South Carolina. Mother and Daddy moved to Tennessee. Mrs. Nelson moved to Colorado. But I never forgot the niggling shame of Mrs. Nelson's broken glasses. Odd how something so trivial could continue to irritate my conscience, when I seem to easily forget my more serious offences!
Many years passed. One day-I can't even remember how it came up-I told Mother about that humiliating incident of my teen years. Mother said, "Well, write her and tell her about it."
"I can't. No doubt she's long gone."
"No, she isn't. She lives with her daughter Jerri in Colorado. I got a letter from her this week. Here's her address."
So I wrote her and expressed my sadness that I'd not even offered to fix her broken glasses. I tried to figure out how much the repair would have cost her, computed how much inflation and interest might have increased it, and wrote her a check.
Her daughter Jerri wrote back immediately. "Me read your letter. She couldn't even remember the incident, but she loved hearing from you."
Couldn't remember? When I had fretted about it for 30 years? No, she didn't remember it at all.
"But," Jeri continued, "your check was for the exact amount she desperately needed, so she thanks you with all her heart."
Good came out of bad! What a sweet illustration of God's promise in Romans 8:28:
And we know that all things
work together for good
to those who love God.
So yes, bad things have happened to you and to me. And yes, sometimes I've caused bad things to happen. But God's promise is that He can make bad things work together for our good when we love Him. Aren't Mrs. Nelson's broken glasses a sweet evidence of that truth?