January 2017 Devotional

January 30, 2017


What I Heard on My First Solo Flight
A Word of Encouragement from Elizabeth Rice Handford


Long ago I took flying lessons in a little Cessna 150 airplane. One day I'd been practicing touch-and-goes with my instructor. (Since the most critical times of flight are take-offs and landings, "touch and goes" are an important part of early practice.) My instructor said, "Pull over to the side, and give me your license."

Oh, dear! I thought, have I already broken a law?

He said, "It's time for you to solo. Do three touch-and-goes in the pattern and then meet me back here." He signed my ticket and climbed out of the plane.

I started the engine, checked the instruments, took the mike and contacted the tower. I was cleared for take-off on runway 36.

So there I was, 50 years old, alone in a tiny plane, hurtling down the runway, my heart thudding, sweat trickling down my spine. Then I could almost hear aloud my instructor's voice. "You've got 25 rpm's. Flaps at 20 degrees. Nose wheel on the center line. Speed's good. Correct for that crosswind. Check for traffic. Ease back on the yoke."

The plane climbed surprisingly fast, lighter without my instructor on board. I still heard his voice. "Scan your instruments. Watch for traffic. Start your crosswind turn. More rudder to coordinate your turn."

I made the turn, watched the altimeter climb to 600 feet. "Now make your downwind turn. Watch for traffic. Climb to 1,000 feet. You're crabbing. Adjust your fuel and rpm's. You're at mid-field; report to the tower."

Elation filled my heart. There I was, alone, up in the sky, doing what I'd wanted to do ever since I was a little girl reading Lindbergh's story of his solo flight across the Atlantic!

Back down on earth, I walked into the ground school room. There's a tradition that a pilot making his first solo flight has the back of his shirt torn off, his name and date scrawled on it, and displayed on the schoolroom wall. Watching the faces of the men students, I was relieved to see they weren't planning that for this new, starry-eyed pilot.

The essential thing I remember from that first, exhilarating flight is how plainly I could hear my instructor's calm voice throughout the flight, reminding me, warning me, encouraging me, though he wasn't in the plane at all.


My life is something like that first solo flight, except that it's for an exceedingly more important purpose. I need to live my life well, worthy of the sacrifice the Lord Jesus made to give me everlasting life. But it's scary, because there are so many unknowns, so many temptations, so many dangers. I need the warnings, the encouragement, the reminders of my Heavenly Instructor on this solo journey. I can't see His face, but, thank God, I can hear His voice. He promised me that:


Therefore the LORD will wait, that He may be gracious to you; and therefore He will be exalted, that He may have mercy on you. For the LORD is a God of justice; Blessed are all those who wait for Him. . . . Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, "This is the way, walk in it," whenever you turn to the right hand or whenever you turn to the left.
Isaiah 30:18-21


Our loving Heavenly Father did not send us on this journey to travel alone. He promised us sure guidance, and He will give it, through the Scriptures, every step along the way. I just need to be listening to His quite voice when He says to me: "This is the way; walk in it."



January 23, 2017


Did You Ask for Bread and Were You Given a Stone?
A Word of Encouragement from Elizabeth Rice Handford

The lamp was ugly. With the hindsight of 68 years, I can admit that it really was ugly. It was intended to give the impression of an antique from China, made of garish green plaster intended to look like real carved jade, with a gloomy, box-shaped, dark green shade. The dragon curled around it had formidable teeth. And it was exactly what I wanted for a wedding gift from Walt's beloved Aunt Minda.

I've always loved things Chinese. When I was ten years old I saw a picture of little Chinese refugees fleeing the 1937 Japanese invasion. I was deeply moved by the pain and fear I saw in their eyes, and that day I asked God to let me one day be missionary to China. In my growing up years, I read every book on China I could get my hands on. That's the only explanation I can think of as to why I wanted that ugly lamp so much.
My dear and brand-new husband Walt had a wealthy aunt who had taken us, shortly after the wedding, to an upscale light fixture store to buy us a table lamp as a wedding gift. That Chinese lamp was the lamp I wanted to take home.

But the other three shoppers, Walt, his mother, and Aunt Minda, all decided on a lovely white porcelain lamp adorned with elegant gold scrolling and a beautiful white shade. It became our wedding gift from Aunt Minda. I wrote a dutiful thank you note, and decided I would try to learn to like that lamp.

I remembered all this recently as I was preparing our guest bedroom for guests. That white, pristine and lovely lamp shines on a bedside table. It beautifully matches the white wicker bedstead. It's still as lovely as it was that long-ago day we brought it home from the store. Its bright elegance seems to say, "Welcome! Please make yourself at home here." How wonderful it was that I didn't get what I thought would make me happy!

Jesus said, in Matthew 7:9-11:

You parents-if your children ask for a loaf of bread,
do you give them a stone instead?
Or if they ask for a fish,
do you give them a snake?
Of course not!
If you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children,
how much more will your heavenly Father
give good gifts to those who ask him.


A writer (whose name I do not remember) said about this passage:

The Lord's answers to prayer are infinitely perfect. Eternity will show that often, when we were asking for a stone that looked like bread, He was giving us bread that looked like a stone.

I never got to China. The doors were closed to missionaries during the years Walt and I might have gone. So God, in His mercy, even in that denial, gave me bread, a wonderful place to serve Him here in Greenville, South Carolina, instead of a stone, my thwarted plans for China.

Do you perhaps have some gifts from God which you thought were stones, but are really His loving, merciful gift of life-enriching bread? If you wouldn't give your child a rock instead of a warm, butter-slathered biscuit when he was hungry, don't you know your Heavenly Father loves you even more? He always, always gives His children bread, not stones!



January 16, 2017

Like Sheep Needing a Shepherd
A Word of Comfort from Elizabeth Rice Handford


"It really is an emerald isle," I thought as our plane circled to land in Dublin, Ireland. Its beautiful green pastures seemed to beckon a welcome to a land of tranquility. But it suddenly didn't seem very tranquil when we landed and had to wade through a solution of disinfectant, with our shoes on, because hoof and mouth disease was devastating Irish cattle.

In our rental car, driving toward the legendary Hill of Tara, we were stopped by a great herd of sheep crowding the narrow road, milling about, bleating piteously. Those on the fringes of the flock darted into the middle, roiling the flock and driving others into the deep ditches beside the road. Little lambs nudged the ewes, frantically seeking their own mothers. Why was that flock there, lacking food and water and in obvious danger? Where was their careless shepherd?

Impossible to drive through them. We waited while the flock churned around us. An old Irishman ambled by. We rolled down a window. "Why are these sheep here?" we asked.

He took his pipe out of his mouth, spit, and then said in his thick Irish brogue, "A quarrel between the man who owns the pasture and the man who rents it for his flock. Drove them out. No place for them to go."

When we returned that afternoon, the sheep were milling in the roadway, bleating, frantic with anxiety.

This morning, as I read Matthew 9:35-39, I remembered that flock of distraught sheep.

Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their
synagogues, preaching the Gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness
and every disease among the people.
But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion
for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd.


The New Living Translation says, "Jesus felt great pity for the crowds that came, because their problems were so great and they didn't know where to go for help."

"Weary and scattered." "Their problems so great and they don't know where to go for help." "Like sheep without a shepherd."

Is that how you feel right now? Are you weary and tired? Threatened by the unknown? Walking in a dark valley, not knowing where to turn?

Then you need Jesus, the Good Shepherd. Remember familiar Psalm 23? There, Jesus offers you green pastures and quiet waters. He promises to protect you from every danger. And because Jesus, your Good Shepherd, gave His life for you, He can guarantee you that goodness and mercy will follow you through every step of life. He will protect you even when you must go through the valley of the shadow of death. And then the Good Shepherd will bring you to rest and safety at last in the Father's Fold!

That evening in Dublin, back at our bed and breakfast after the day of sight-seeking, we asked our host about the welfare of that flock of sheep. "They worked it out. The sheep are back in the fold where they belong."

So come to your loving Shepherd, poor wandering lamb, distraught, not knowing where to turn. He's waiting for you with pity and love.


He became their Savior. In all their affliction He was afflicted,
And the Angel of His Presence saved them;
In His love and in His pity He redeemed them;
And He bore them and carried them All the days of old. I
saiah 63:8,9



January 9, 2017


Liking What I See on Facebook?
A Word of Encouragement from Libby Handford


An older woman, enjoying her new access to the digital world, posted a simple statement on Facebook about loving Jesus with all her heart, grateful He'd redeemed her, and looking forward to Heaven.

A surprising storm of ridicule blasted the poor woman-no, not surprising at that. Many people still hate Jesus, just as they did 2,000 years ago, when they killed Him. But I was surprised to see the lol response of a woman I knew to be a devout Christian herself. Then I saw that many of her friends had first responded negatively to the post. Peer pressure had exerted its dreadful power on her. If she had risen to the defense of the post, all her "friends" would have "laughed out loud" at her, too, and she just didn't have the courage to stand up against it.


I heard about a man who'd moved to a new city to be the pastor of a big church. He got on a bus, and handed the driver a bill, since he didn't have the right change. The bus driver gave him change, and the man took his seat. Then he noticed that he'd been given a quarter too much. No big deal. No need to make a issue of something as trivial as a quarter. I'm not going to do that "Abraham Lincoln" thing and walk miles to return a penny to a shop keeper. He pocketed the change. Not to worry.

But when he got to his destination, on an impulse, he handed the quarter to the driver. "You gave me too much."

"Yeah, I know."

"But why?"

"You're the new pastor in town, aren't you? I wanted to see how you would react."

The pastor watched the bus move on, and said to himself, with tears, "I nearly sold Jesus for a quarter!"


I remember sitting in a beauty shop week after week, hearing a hairdresser splatter Jesus' name as a curse word in almost every sentence she spoke. To confront her would embarrass her, but I so wished I could talk to her about it. Finally, one day we were in the shop alone. "Janet, I wish you wouldn't use Jesus' name all the time like you do. He's my very best friend, and it hurts me."

"Oh, I don't mean anything by it. It's just a word."

"Good! Then why don't you use a word like ‘George Washington' when you need to cuss?"

The stream of epithets ended, and we were still friends.


Am I embarrassed to be known as a Christian? Am I ashamed of Jesus? Would I sell Him for a quarter? Does it bother me that our Interim mission statement is "We are dedicated to honoring God through the enrichment of human life"?


Oh, magnify the LORD with me,
And let us exalt His name together.

Psalm 34:3



January 2, 2017


When the Video Is Scary, Sit in Daddy's Lap
A Word of Encouragement from Elizabeth Rice Handford


Our 8-year-old granddaughter Christina brought a video with her for the family to watch, "Grandmother, she said, her eyes wide, "There are some places in this that are really, really scary." (The film was The Land Before Time. It's the story of a baby dinosaur who gets lost from his mother.)
"Scary?" I asked. "Then we'll just fast foward over the scary stuff."

"No, Grandmother," she answered patiently. "I'll just climb up into Daddy's lap when I get scared."

And she did, shortly after the film began, because it's scary all the way through!


So what should you do when the year 2017 gets scary (which it already is!)? Just climb up into Daddy's lap.


The eternal God is your refuge,
and underneath of His everlasting arms.

Deuteronomy 33:27


"Climb into my lap when you are afraid," your Heavenly Daddy tells you. "My arms are always, always underneath you." That was God's promise to the Israelites, and it's His promise to you. Picture little Christina, wide-eyed, watching the scary stuff on the television, but snuggling in her father's strong arms. Perfect safety, no matter what the alarm.

You and I face many scary things in this new year. They are real. They are threatening. And they must be faced. No fast-forwarding over them. But we can endure them in the shelter of our Heavenly Father's arms. He is our eternal refuge, and His arms are strong and loving, and everlasting.
When the reality of life gets tough and scary, trust those everlasting arms, and shelter yourself in the love of the Eternal God.