I Knew a Famous Man Before He Was Famous
An Observation by Elizabeth Rice Handford
Maybe I can get in on this media frenzy to get 15 minutes' worth of notoriety by exposing the college antics of a man who is now very famous. Evidently it's an easy way to get media exposure, even if the fame is fleeting.
I knew a famous man years ago, long before he became the beloved professor at a respected seminary, long before he'd lived a fruitful and godly life, before he'd written books that have blessed the lives of thousands of people.
I could make it sound much worse than it really was. I could say he master-minded a plot to steal the luggage of travelers, and succeeded. He engineered a brilliant and illegal theft.
But if I told the news media that, it would be a distortion of the truth. At the college Walt and I attended, the junior and senior classes for a designated week in the spring played all kinds of tricks against each other. Who stole the heavy senior bench from the green lawn on the front campus? Who engineered the disappearance of the junior class president for a whole day? Who locked the door of the senior integration class so they could not meet? And how did the juniors find out that the senior luggage was stored in the attic of a private home, before they were to leave the next morning on their retreat? And why didn't the police stop them when they discovered their activities?
Why? Because the college deans believed these activities helped to build a camaraderie and loyalty among the students that would enrich their lives for years to come-and so they did. Strict parameters were set, so no damage was done and no one was hurt. So yes, my famous man stole luggage, but it was a college prank. I could distort those facts so the reputation of a man who'd spent his life doing good might be hurt.
Come to think of it, I remember doing some pretty silly stuff myself when I was young. Once big sister Grace said, "Libby, why did you do that? That was so, so stupid!" I couldn't tell her why I did such a stupid thing. I didn't know why!
But youth is also a time of great and real temptation. Most of us had to learn to discipline ourselves, to choose to do right, to change the course of our lives. Would it be fair to focus only on youthful indiscretions and sins? Would it be fair to ignore the years of steady and faithful moral living?
God doesn't do that to us. King David prayed, in Psalm 25:6-8:
Remember, O LORD, your unfailing love and compassion,
which you have shown from long ages past.
Forgive the rebellious sins of my youth;
look instead through the eyes of your unfailing love,
for you are merciful, O LORD.
The LORD is good and does what is right;
He shows the proper path to those who go astray.
No, I'm not going to try to destroy the reputation of a good man for a few moments of questionable fame. I thank God that He "looks a
Our God Is a Righteous Judge
A Word of Encouragement from Elizabeth Rice Handford
A young woman and I talked about her prison experience recently. She'd served time in prison on a drug-related charge. Now she is a steadfast citizen and a happy Christian. As we talked, I sensed she had a deep compassion for the women she'd been in prison with.
"Did the prisoners you met feel they didn't deserve prison?" I asked.
"Oh, the young ones, most of them, would freely admit they'd broken the law. But nearly everybody felt like the system is stacked against them."
I wish that were not true. I wish that every prisoner at the bar always got justice. But courts do not always make wise decrees. Juries sometimes make poor decisions. Customers are not always treated fairly. Even we parents, trying our best to be fair in our dealings with our children, do not always give them justice. And sometimes friends make unfair judgments about a friend's behavior.
But Proverbs 15:3 says,
The eyes of the LORD are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good.
Luke 18:7,8 tells us it might seem God doesn't act with justice soon enough:
Will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to Him day and night?
Will He keep putting them off? I tell you, He will see that they get justice, and quickly.
I remember a time, long ago, when God proved His awesome righteous judgment on behalf of a woman in our church. She was arrested for the attempted murder of her husband. He certainly was deathly ill, unconscious, in the hospital, evidently from drinking antifreeze. The police could find no reason why she might want to kill her husband. The "bloodstains" they found on the utility room floor turned out to be Kool-Aid one of the children had spilled. Still, the terrible charge was made.
The court date arrived. Walt and I went to court with her. We waited all day long as lesser cases were heard. Several times throughout the tedious day, a messenger brought written notes from the prosecutor to her, offering to end the trial if she would plead guilty to a lesser charge. Never have I felt such a terrible, relentless futility, feeling justice beyond our reach.
Finally, at 5:30 in the afternoon, her case was called, and we stood beside her as the charges were read. Immediately the prosecutor's assistant (for the prosecutor himself had gone home, perhaps out of embarrassment) stood. "Your honor," he said, "the state withdraws all charges."
She walked out of the courtroom a free woman. As we stood in the hallway, we saw, through the broad windows, a brilliant, iridescent double rainbow spanning the horizon. God seemed to tell us again, "I am a righteous judge."
Later, when her husband recovered, he remembered that when he put a new engine in his truck, he poured the antifreeze into a cup so it wouldn't drip on the new paint finish when he topped off the radiator. He put it next to his cup of Coke, and was surprised at how terrible the Coke tasted when he drank it!
Our God does deal justly. He is a righteous God. So Psalm 34:15,16 says,
The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous,
And His ears are open to their cry.
The face of the LORD is against those who do evil.
Happy or Sad? I Can Still Do What I Ought to Do
A Word of Encouragement from Elizabeth Rice Handford
I was stunned by a familiar Scripture I read this week in a modern language version. I'd read it many times before, but I'd never noticed the bold statement as it is in this translation:
The time that remains is very short. . . .
Happiness or sadness or wealth should not
keep anyone from doing God's work. . . .
For this world and all it contains will pass away. (1 Corinthians 7:29-31 nlt)
Why was I startled? Because sometimes I am sad-it's part of the human condition, isn't it? And when I am sad, I don't feel at all productive. When I'm happy, of course I enjoy working. But this verse seems to say my happiness or my sadness is not what matters most. What matters most is doing what God wants me to do, whatever my circumstances.
Thinking about it, I remembered a time when my husband Walt illustrated this so beautifully to our church congregation.
We'd started a church in a new subdivision in the Chicago area, and people were responding well. We met in a school building while we worked on building a beautiful new sanctuary. People had volunteered all kinds of help, and the building was within weeks of being ready for services. Expectations and emotions were high. That week the wood trusses were to be sheathed ready for shingles.
We were eating lunch when the project supervisor, a member of our new church, called. "Walt, are you sitting down?"
"Yes. The carpenters removed the bracing on the first truss without tying it first into the next truss. Just now, that truss
fell, and like dominoes, it knocked down all the other trusses, and the side walls of the building have all been destroyed.
I'm so, so sorry."
Shattering news. Walt drove to the site, surveyed the damage, came home and got out his familiar yellow pad. He wrote down the steps that would have to be taken to rebuild. And Saturday morning, he was at the site with equipment to start clearing off the mangled trusses. He was heart-broken, of course. But he helped our grieving church members to take courage and start the mind-numbing task of rebuilding.
Last year I was in the Chicago area, and saw that building we built 55 years ago. It's still there, still offering the blessed Gospel week by week. Yes, it was re-constructed in sadness, but it was also built with fortitude and endurance. And God has used it through the years to accomplish the work He wanted done. And when "this world and all it contains" passes away, God's work in the hearts of human beings will still endure.
Happiness or sadness or wealth
should not keep anyone
from doing God's work!
Might it be that God blessed that building more because we built it through our tears?
February 4, 2019
A Word of Encouragement from Elizabeth Rice Handford
I remember only once being so thirsty I wondered if I would survive. It was a torrid day. The thermometer hovered at 100. We had no air conditioning. I was struggling desperately to get multiple housekeeping chores done before I had to drive the family down to Atlanta. I suddenly realized I was seriously dehydrated. No matter how much cold, fresh water I gulped down, nothing seemed to satisfy my terrible thirst.
One morning last week I had occasion to remember that consuming thirst. I was working at my computer when Schatzi, our sweet dachshund, began to bark furiously at something in the back yard. I couldn't see what disturbed her, but for the next hour she continued to bark constantly. I checked again. It wasn't until the third time I saw that a buck deer lay in a bed of fallen leaves, perfect camouflage for his tawny coloring.
Extensive clearing of the woods near our home for commercial enterprises has driven deer down into our little valley. I couldn't imagine how this stag could have gotten into our fenced yard. I panicked. O well, somebody in the county would know whom I should call.
When I went to check the deer again, I saw him stagger to his feet, hobble a couple of steps, and then fall again. I saw his rear left leg was mangled and bloody, and one rack of his antlers had been torn off. Perhaps he'd been hit by a car, and he'd leaped our five-foot fence in panic. He was stretched out flat in the bed of leaves, his beautiful tawny head and throat extended as far as he could reach. He was dying. And I didn't know how to help him. Could I ease his thirst? Wouldn't he be comforted in his pain with a draft of sweet cold water? Better not-it might not be safe. But oh, how I wished I could somehow satisfy his obvious consuming thirst.
Finally I reached the right number for animal control. I was glad to see, when they finally arrived, they would not need the shotgun they carried. My poor, thirsty, stricken deer was already dead and out of his pain.
There is a thirst human beings experience even more terrible than physical thirst. We come into the world instinctively knowing how much we need God, thirsting to know Him intimately. It's a spiritual thirst that cannot be satisfied with anything physical. King David expressed it this way:
As the deer pants for streams of water,
so my soul pants for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When can I go and meet with God?
The Lord Jesus talked one day with a woman who'd gone to the well at noon to draw water. He said to her,
"Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again,
but whoever drinks of the water
that I shall give him will never thirst.
But the water that I shall give him will become in him
a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life" (John 4:13,14).
That dear Samaritan woman believed Him, drank of that everlasting water and her thirst was quenched forever.
We, too, can claim that promise. When the Lord Jesus gives us everlasting life, we'll never be thirsty again. He meets every need, every desire, every longing of the human heart-He is the sweet, cold, life-giving water of everlasting life!