January 2020 Devotional

January 27, 2020


You Get to Decide- 

How Your Father (or Boss? or Husband?) Responds
A conversation with Elizabeth Rice Handford Handford about attitudes


I find a verse in the Bible intimidating, almost frightening. It says, "God sets Himself against the proud, but He shows favor to the humble" (1 Peter 5:5) I would be terrified if I thought God had "set Himself" against me!


In Psalm 18:25-27, King David says to God, "To the faithful You show yourself faithful; to those with integrity You show integrity. To the pure You show yourself pure, but to the wicked You show yourself hostile. You rescue those who are humble, but You humiliate the proud." This Scripture plainly says that my attitude toward God determines His attitude toward me! We know this is certainly true in human relationships. Proverbs 27:19 says, "As in water face answers to face, [like a mirror] so the heart of man to man." My face reflects what I truly feel inside, and people will react to what they see in my face.

This came to mind recently when a parent told me of a conversation he had with his little boy. "Daddy, I love you," the

 child said, "but I don't love you when you yell at me." The father was devastated. True, the two of them had had a rough day. The child had resisted doing every thing he was told to do. The father had honestly tried all day long not to lose his temper, so he was devastated when his child blurted out those unkind words.


I assessed the situation from my own experience. I've been a mother for a long time, and I know that kids deliberately sometimes say things to make a parent feel guilty just to get their own way. I remember myself as a child. I was most often obedient, because obedience avoided bad consequences. But I was sometimes manipulative, too, trying to get my own way. Was there something behind this child's words? This seemed to me to be a sort of blackmail: "If you don't let me do what I want, I won't love you anymore."


A heart-to-heart talk with the child was in order. The father said something like this to him: "Son, I am your father, and God holds me responsible to teach you how to be a good and happy man. I love you too much to let you grow up without knowing what God wants you to be. I am not going to give up on you. I am going to help you learn to obey me and God.
"You get to choose. If you obey me right away, then we won't have all this unhappiness. But you may decide to keep on disobeying as you have done today. It won't make you happy, and it won't get you what you want, because I must be a good daddy. I must make you do right, even when you don't want to. It's up to you. Will you choose to obey? Or will you choose to disobey and make me discipline you? Oh, dear son, how I hope you'll chose to obey!"

And the child, who really does love his father, and who loves Jesus, too, did make the right choice. He decided he'd obey his daddy. Sure, he'll forget sometimes. He's a human being just like his father, and just like you and me. But there's a wonderful promise in that First Peter passage that seemed so threatening at first glance.


"God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble."
Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God,
that He may exalt you in due time.
1 Peter 3:5,6


What a reassuring truth! God gives His overwhelming grace to us when we humbly submit to Him. That's a wonderful comfort when I find myself struggling to do what God wants me to do.



January 20, 2020


Why Was the Fence Built?
A Word of Encouragement from Elizabeth Rice Handford


She was a new hire, and her supervisor was teaching her some of her new duties. One report was rather complicated, so her mentor began to explain its intricacies. "That's ridiculous," said the new clerk. "I could simplify that whole thing with an hour's work."


"Maybe you should find out why the fence was built," her boss said mildly, "before you start to tear it down. Don't make silly judgments like that until you know this company well. This form is required by the government, and there are no short-cuts."

Good idea! Find out why the fence was put there before you tear it down.


Walt and I did build fences, we made rules, to protect our teenagers. They had a curfew they could extend with a phone call if needed. As they proved their reliability, the restrictions eased. Another fence: they couldn't be alone with a date in an automobile. They could double date, or we would transport them. What a protection it was! Our daughter had a date for a school-sponsored banquet. The next day at school her date bragged that he had "made out" with the pastor's daughter the night before. But her friends had been with them the entire evening. They could vouch that he was lying, and he in shame admitted the truth.


Not always did our children appreciated the fences. Sometimes they thought they were too restrictive. But it's interesting that they make the same kind of rules for their children.


Job, the poor man in the Bible who lost everything because of Satan, didn't like the fences God put around him either. Job's livestock had been stolen, his children killed by a tornado, his body was festering with boils, and his wife deliberately taunted him. In anguish Job said about God, "He has fenced up my way, so that I cannot pass; And He has set darkness in my paths" (Job 19:8).


Oddly, Satan had uttered the same complaint to God about Job! Satan didn't like the fences God had put around Job either. Satan stood in the presence of God and made accusations against God's children. Job 1:8-10 tells the story:


"Then the LORD said to Satan, ‘Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil?' So Satan answered the LORD and said, ‘Does Job fear God for nothing? Have You not made a hedge around him, around his household, and around all that he has on every side?'"

The fence Job protested against was the fence God used to protect him from Satan's wicked plots!


Yes, God's fences, His commandments, were given in His wisdom and mercy to protect us from harm, not to hurt us. They are His expression of His infinite love for us. First John 5:3 says it this way:


For this is the love of God,
that we keep His commandments.
And His commandments are not burdensome.


Should you ever come to feel like throwing off the restraints God has made for your welfare, should you decide to do your own thing and flout the rules, maybe you should investigate the reasons God built the fence before you decide to tear it down.



January 13, 2020


Chew Bubble Gum and Walk at the Same Time?
A conversation with Elizabeth Handford on handling conflicting demands.


My flight instructor and I were in the litle Cessna 150 flying in the practice area over Pickens County. He said to me, abruptly, but patiently, "Libby, you are going to have to learn to chew bubble gum and walk at the same time."


Huh? What does chewing gum have to do with learning to fly an airplane?


Plenty, as it turned out. Larry said, "You're pretty good at watching for traffic. You're OK on your radio transmissions. You aren't bad at holding heading and altitude and managing the engine and navigating. But you focus on just one thing too long. That's bad, because while you're focused only on the gauges, you may not see on-coming traffic, and if you crash and burn, it will ruin your whole day."


Duh! So I have to be aware of all the demands of the flight all the time? I can't enjoy the luxury of concentrating on just one aspect of the job? I have to do all of them, all the time, if I am going to be a safe pilot? Yes!


"Walking and chewing bubble gun" has gotten a lot of attention in the medical field. At a recent conference on "Gait and Mental Function" Professor Hausdorff talked about "Dual Tasking While Walking." He says "There's a strong correlation between our executive function skills and our ability to dual task while walking." (I suspect our P.T.'s and O.T.'s already know all this.)


So what does this have to do with the tasks you face right now, since you likely will not be flying an airplane today?
We like to think we have sorted out the priorities in our lives. We are committed to taking care of the really important responsibilities of life. The family must have focused attention. But so does earning a living. And so does guarding your health, for you can't fulfill other obligations if you are sick. To add to the conflict, all those other niggling responsibilities, less important perhaps, keep popping up and they must be taken care of.


Jesus talked to the Pharisees about this conflict in priorities: "You are careful to tithe even the tiniest part of your income, but you ignore the important things of the law-justice, mercy, and faith. You should tithe, yes, but you should not leave undone the more important things" (Matt. 23:23).

King David was constantly burdened about his conflicting obligations, so he prayed,


Guide my steps by your word - Psalm 119:133


I find the assurance of God's help in this burden from Psalm 37:23,24:


The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD,
And He delights in his way.
Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down;
For the LORD upholds him with His hand.


So yes, today, I can chew bubble gum and walk at the same time, and so can you. God has promised us His intimate and loving help and wisdom to handle every one of the conflicting tasks we will face today.


January 6, 2020


It's Too Soon to Quit
A Conversation with Elizabeth Handford about the Winter Blahs


Spring is on its way, I keep telling myself, since the winter solstice was on schedule December 21. Still, the sun still comes up late and sets early. I find myself with a case of the winter blahs. Are some tasks worth the time and energy they demand?


When I was a student at Wheaton College back in the late '40's, President Edman (we called him "Prexy) always

 anticipated that blah feeling in the student body. Too many students would lose heart and drop out of school at the end of the first semester. (Many of my classmates were veterans from World War II on the GI bill, and it was no wonder they found it difficult to adjust to sophomoric classroom routines.)


So in early January you could count on Prexy in chapel giving us a simple and encouraging message on why we shouldn't quit. Spring is coming, he would say, and the sun will shine again, and what you chose to do when you came to school is still just as important as it ever was. Then Prexy would say,


"Don't doubt in the dark what God promised you in the light."


My temptation-and you'll humph as I confess it-is to get really discouraged when my computer plays tricks on me. We have a love/hate relationship, my computer and I. It dutifully records every key stroke I intentionally make, but also my every inadvertent touch. So I may be eagerly working on a new document, my fingers trying furiously to keep up with my mind, and I'll have completed several pages, but in my haste I forget to back it up. With a single, unintentional stroke, the whole document suddenly disappears. Vanishes. Completely. Irretrievably.


I hurry to my writing program's automatic back-up file hoping it would be recorded there, but sometimes it isn't there. Whatever key I had accidently touched destroyed the document! All my hard work is gone. I have to start all over again. Then self-doubt sneaks in. Was my basic message trivial? Unneeded? Not interesting? Had I misunderstood the Scriptures? Had God deliberately stopped me from making an error of judgment? I talk to Him about it. I examine my basic ideas again, carefully, and hopefully objectively.


My father would often say, when I was discouraged about a project, "Libby, if it were easy, everybody would be doing it. It's too soon to quit."


And so I go back to my computer with gritted teeth, thinking "Dear computer: I hate you, Love, Libby." And then I start over to write what I think God wanted me to say, because I can my father say, "It it were easy, everybody would be doing it. It's too soon to quit." And then I hear Prexy's quiet voice, "Don't doubt in the dark what God promised you in the light."


(News flash: just now, as I was writing this, the electricity all over the neighborhood cut off. Fortunately, I'd saved this document and so it's still here!)

Can you remember a day when you felt sure God had answered your prayer, and shown you exactly what He wanted you to do with this one life He has given you? When you began the task, you felt strengthened, encouraged, ready to face whatever life held. But then obstacles slapped you in the face, hindered your work, took the heart out of what you were doing. When that happens, it's easy to give up. And that's when you have to recall the clear vision, the task you welcomed so heartily, and then to decide, "No, it's too soon to quit. I won't forget, in this time of darkness, what God showed me in the beginning."

The LORD will work out His plans for my life-
for your faithful love, O LORD, endures forever.
Don't abandon me, for You made me.
Psalm 38:8 (nlt)