January 2019 Devotional

January 28, 2019


Dangerous Distractions on the Interstate
A Word of Encouragement from Libby Handford


 Less than a mile from our home, the South Carolina Highway Department is building a huge new interchange at I-85 and

 I-385. With nine new bridges; feeder lanes, and all kinds of whirly loops, it's only half-done. It will be wonderful eventually, but that won't be until 2020. It looks complicated enough in a picture, but it's even more so when you're trying to navigate through the construction.


I have been tempted to try to supervise this 240-million-dollar project. When I drive over the Roper Mountain bridge, I want to see if they've gotten the new girders in place. (They haven't.) When I take the narrow exit from I-385 south to I-85 north, I chide the engineers for not giving me a wider lane. On Woodruff Road, because the traffic there doesn't crawl, it oozes, I'm tempted to see what all the construction people are doing.

But it isn't safe for me to drive and give my attention to other things. If I'm driving 30 miles an hour, and I am distracted for only 15 seconds, I've traveled about five car lengths. Tragedies have occurred in far less space than that. I can't risk it.


You know, don't you, that I'm not really talking about the construction on the I-85/I-385 interchange? I'm really thinking about the insidious temptations in my life that try to lure me away from what God wants me to be. If I let a TV ad make me dissatisfied with what I own-my automobile, my home, my wardrobe-I've been distracted from the honorable goals I have set my for my life. The internet is a wonderful tool, but sudden pop-ups can entice to dangerous by-ways. If a political talk-show infuriates me instead of informing me, I've taken an unhelpful detour. A fifteen-second distraction can do irreparable damage in my life. And that's why Proverbs 4:23-27 (nlt) says:


Above all else, guard your heart,
for it affects everything you do.
Avoid all perverse talk; stay far from corrupt speech.
Look straight ahead,
and fix your eyes on what lies before you.
Mark out a straight path for your feet;
then stick to the path and stay safe.
Don't get sidetracked;
keep your feet from following evil.


Blessed are the interstate drivers on I-85 who keep their attention on their driving, not on the construction surrounding them.
And especially blessed are the men and women who keep their eyes always on what matters most to God, not distracted by a thousand thin


January 21, 2019


When Your Working Theory Isn't Working
A Word of Encouragement from Elizabeth Rice Handford


A friend of mine called me for help about a book he was writing. He was a college professor, a smart man. He had a Ph. D. in psychology and was an earnest Christian. He was troubled about the disintegration of marriages, especially the marriages of Christians, which seem to be falling apart as often as the average marriage.


"Libby, I think this is because people don't really love their spouses like they ought. It seems to me if they would just keep giving gifts to their mates, that would help them to love them and then their mates would come to love them back. But I need a Scripture verse to prove it. Give me one."


He had a theory, something he wanted to be true, so he set out to accumulate facts that would prove it. His purpose was noble: he wanted to save Christian marriages. But a theory isn't a fact; it's "an assumption or guess based on limited information." The scientific process demands that you consider all the facts, not just the ones you think help prove your hypothesis.


I couldn't give him a Scripture verse to prove his theory. I don't know of one. On the contrary, the Bible tells us again and again that we are to love God with all our hearts, and if we love Him, then we will love the human beings He loves. No one wants a gift from a spouse who has fallen out of love. That would only exacerbate the sense of loss and deprivation. The man's theory wouldn't work because it wasn't based on truth. Since my friend was an honest man, he gave up his theory, and wrote a book based on truth, and it helped to restore many marriages.


Through the centuries, many theories have been proposed; some later disproved, some still unproved. Our national leaders make tremendously important decisions based on them: Malthus's theory of population and food supply, Einstein's theory of relativity, Freud's theory of the ego; Darwin's theory of evolution; Newton's theory of gravity, even Hawking's theory of everything! Some of these proved helpful, though they were later disproved. Some of them have done unbelievable harm, based on something that simply isn't true.

Our only safety? The Word of God: the eternal God who created the world and everything in it, the wise God who always, always tells the truth, the faithful God who promises His protection and care when you trust Him. And His Word is written down, so it is always available for our learning.
Einstein may have said, (or someone just as smart!) "It's insanity to do the same thing over and over and expect different results." Whoever said it, said the truth.


How many decisions do I make because I think something is true? Do I assume I know the deep down motivations of the people I work with? Do I think in sweeping generalities? Do I think in certain patterns because that's the culture I was reared in? If so, I need a thorough mind-cleaning (and maybe a thorough heart-cleaning as well!) I need to honestly evaluate every thought and align it with the reality of God's Word.

King David said about God's Word:


All your words are true;
all your just laws will stand forever. . .
My heart trembles only at your Word.
I rejoice in your Word
Like one who finds a great treasure.

Psalm 119:160-162


January 14, 2019


Yelling Doesn't Win Arguments
A Thoughtful Word from Elizabeth Rice Handford



Do you have memories, as I do, of a conversation something like this from your childhood?
"Did too"
"Did not!" (Same song, second verse, a little bit louder and a little bit worse)
"Did so!" (As above)
"I DID NOT!" (Same song, third verse, a whole lot louder and a whole lot worse)

Nobody won those arguments, no matter how loudly we yelled. Yelling doesn't solve problems



Walt and I competed in collegiate debate tournaments when we were in school, and I learned something I desperately needed to learn. Each year we were assigned the topic the colleges in our league would debate. One year it was about free world trade. Another, that labor have a share in the management of industry. Another, that we establish a federal world government. Of course they were inflammatory issues, and I always had strong convictions about them, usually against the affirmative side!

But the rule in collegiate debate is that you must debate both sides. It seemed hypocritical to me to stand up one hour and spout off all the good stuff on the affirmative side, and in the next hour defend as vehemently the negative side. But I learned something truly important: there may be valid reasoning on both sides of any disagreement. Until I learned to really listen to someone I disagreed with, I could not hope to understand their viewpoint. Until I did, we couldn't find a mutually satisfying solution to the problem.



That is not the way we handle controversial issues in our volatile society now. Yelling at each other hasn't helped. Shouting slogans doesn't fix anything. Waving signs and screaming invectives hasn't helped us find fair solutions. Only by careful honesty in communication and genuine thoughtfulness will we find the answers to the terrible problems that divide our country today.

To listen and learn takes grace and humility, not cockiness. I remember looking at my assessments from the judges after a tournament at the University of Illinois. I'd gotten great scores, but nearly every judge had written on my assessment the word irrefutable. Wow! I thought smugly, my arguments were unanswerable! I preened myself. It wasn't until later I realized they were telling me that I had pronounced the word irrefutable wrong! Humiliating indeed!


The second, equally-important lesson I learned in collegiate debate is that anger and disrespect make it impossible to think clearly. Anger clouds our judgment. Put-downs and epithets may give us satisfaction, but they don't help people to change. Here's how God says it:


Dear friends, be quick to listen,
slow to speak,
and slow to get angry.
Your anger can never make things right in God's sight. James 1:20


OK, Libby, it's time to stop yelling and start listening. Might be that God wants you to do that too?



January 7, 2019


Facing a New Year: Stay True to the Course
A New Year's Resolution by Elizabeth Rice Handford


 Another famous, ambiguous quote by Yogi Berra: "When you come to a fork in the road, take it." Huh? Yogi, you didn't tell me which fork to take! If I choose the wrong fork, I'll end up in the wrong place.

It's easy to choose the "right" fork when flying an airplane. You choose your destination. You plot what your compass heading should be. You set your compass to that heading. If you keep it there, you should land where you intended to.


But if you make an error plotting your heading, even by two tiny degrees, it can make a terrible difference.


Volcano Mount Erebus in Antarctica


In November, 1979, sightseers caught a flight from New Zealand to Antarctica on a DC 10. It was scheduled to spend a few hours over the Antarctic before returning in the evening. But an operations clerk entered the wrong heading they should take. The pilots descended to a lower altitude so passengers could see better. They didn't know their heading would put them directly into Mount Erebus, an active volcano 12,000 feet high. By the time the plane's instruments warned of danger, it was too late. The airplane crashed into the side of the mountain, killing everyone on board. It was only a tiny, 2o error, but it sent the doomed plane 28 miles off course, and 257 people died.


If I hope to live a productive, God-honoring life, I must set the right compass heading. But I also need to be aware that pressure from others can easily push me off course. I do have a trustworthy compass: the Word of God. It gives me the correct course heading for my life. And it warns me not to drift either to the right or the left.


Only be strong and very courageous,
that you may observe to do according to all the law
which Moses My servant commanded you;
Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left,
that you may prosper wherever you go.
This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth,
but you shall meditate in it day and night,
that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it.
For then you will make your way prosperous,
and then you will have good success.
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage;
do not be afraid, nor be dismayed,
for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go."

Joshua 1:7-9


I do long to live a productive, Christ-honoring life. This promise from God assures me that in the coming year He will help me stay true to the course He wants me to take.