"Hanging Out with Mississippi"
A Word of Encouragement from Libby Handford
I've been called lots of different names during my long life (and, no, if you are thinking what I think you're thinking, you're right: they were not all nice names!)
I was born Jimmy, a respectable name for a girl born in Texas, but when we moved to Illinois, Yankees thought it an odd name for a girl, so I began to use my middle name, Elizabeth. After my first date with the man I would one day marry, I had to look him up in the college directory so I'd know what my married name was going to be! Since then I've been called Mom, Grammie, and even Great Gma, and sometimes, just Friend, a name I treasure.
But last week some friends brought their grandchildren to fish in our little lake. Afterward the littlest child told his daddy, "I got to hang out with Mississippi." Puzzled, they tried to reconstruct what he meant. They finally figured it out: they'd introduced me as "Mrs. Libby." That does sound like Mississippi, doesn't it? What was precious to me about the whole encounter was that he liked "hanging out" with me.
But my very most favorite name is what the Lord God calls me. He tells me I'm His very own child, and calls my by a special name no one else knows.
You may remember the story told in the Bible when Moses had come down from Mt. Sinai with the ten commandments engraved on stone, he found the people worshipping a silly gold calf they'd made. Moses was afraid God would be so angry He'd leave them all alone in the desert to fend for themselves.
Moses said, "Lord, You have been telling me, ‘Take these people up to the Promised Land.' But You haven't told me whom You will send with me." (The story is told in Exodus chapter 33.)
Moses continued, "You call me by name and tell me I have found favor with You." (Moses felt he had every right to discuss this problem because God called him by his name: they were intimate friends.) "Please, if this is really so, show me your intentions so I will understand You more fully and do exactly what You want me to do."
The Lord answered him, "I will personally go with you, Moses. I will give you rest- everything will be fine for you."
You'd think Moses would have been reassured by this comforting promise, but no, he insisted, "If You don't go with us personally, don't let us move a step from this place. If You don't go with us, how will anyone ever know that your people and I have found favor with you?"
Instead of getting impatient with Moses, the Lord simply promised, "I will indeed do what you have asked, for you have found favor with me, and you are my friend."
The great God of Heaven and Earth knows your name, too. You are precious to Him. Isaiah 43:1 says, "This is what the LORD says-He who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: ‘Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.'"
I have a Father; He calls me His own.
He'll never leave me No matter where I go.
He knows my name; He knows my every thought.
He sees each tear that falls, And He hears me when I call.
"Don't Listen to the Noise"
A Word of Encouragement from Elizabeth Rice Handford
"Don't listen to the noise," the Greenville News headline said. Who's talking? Clemson Football Assistant Coach Brent Venable. Who's he talking to? The fall 2018 Clemson Football Team.
What's the noise they're not to listen to? In a list of the top 100 college football players in 2018, Sports Illustrated named nine Tiger players. No other college matched that number. Pretty heady stuff, huh? Why wouldn't those young men feel really confident when they line up on the field for the kick-off? And how would that "noise" affect their playing? Might they be too comfortable, too enamored by their achievements that they would not play well? Coach Venable warns, "Don't listen to the noise."
Our Head Coach says, "Don't listen to the noise." Who's talking? The Lord God, our Creator and gracious Savior. Who's He talking to? You and me.
What's the noise we're not to listen to?
Some of the noise comes from the people around us, and not all of it will be up-lifting or encouraging. Some people would enjoy seeing us fail. So they tell us, in insidious, sneaky ways, that we aren't capable of doing what God has told us He wants us to do.
Some of the noise comes from our loving friends. They want us to succeed, but they discourage us instead of helping us.
We also have an "enemy of our souls." He lies to us. Satan tempts us with the glitter of the good life. We need to resolutely turn from his deceitful noise.
But some of the noise comes from our own heads. We remember past failures. We see our insufficiencies. We're weakened by our doubts, our fears.
What is the only answer?
When the Prophet Elijah ran away from wicked Queen Jezebel, who'd threatened to kill him, he cowered in a cave on Mount Sinai. You may remember the story. (It's found in First Kings chapter nineteen.) The Bible says that God sent a whirlwind, then an earthquake, and then a fire. But God was not in any of those noisy, frightening events. "And after the fire, a still small voice," says verse twelve. God spoke to Elijah in a still, small voice.
We must tune out the noise the world makes so that we are able to hear God's still, small voice. In His love and mercy, He will guide us. He speaks through a parent, a supervisor, or perhaps just His Word, the Bible. But we can know, in spite of all the dizzying noises around us, just exactly what He wants us to do.
How gracious God will be when you cry for help!
As soon as He hears, He will answer you.
Although the Lord gives you the bread of adversity
and the water of affliction,
Your teachers will be hidden no more;
with your own eyes you will see them.
Whether you turn to the right or to the left,
your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying,
"This is the way; walk in it." Isaiah 30:19-21
"He Died in My Place"
A Word of Encouragement from Elizabeth Rice Handford
This week I attended the memorial service for 97-year-old Fred Holmes, our daughter Margi's father-in-law. There I was asked to tell the story of a trip to England Walt and I made several years ago with Fred and Nema and Tim and Margi.
Tim had made flight reservations without telling his father. "If I've already spent the money, he'll go." We were happily surprised when Dad Holmes said, "I've heard about a white wall somewhere in England with the names of American airmen missing in action. I'd like to see that."
During World War II Fred had been shipped to England with the crew of their B-24, "The Bad Penny." (Why "The Bad Penny"? Because a bad penny always comes back!) On arrival, Fred was transferred to another plane crew, with whom he flew 32 dangerous missions. But The Bad Penny did not return after one night mission. All crew members were missing and presumed dead.
We learned that the white memorial wall was at the American Military Cemetery near Cambridge. So one morning we caught a train from King's Cross in London to Cambridge. The cemetery lies in a lovely wooded valley, where 4,000 white marble crosses lie in terrible, neat rows. We walked into the visitor's center. The curator, an American, saw Dad Holmes' tears, and he said, so gently, "Sir, come into the office, and let me help you find what you want to know."
The Wall of the Missing, American Cemetery Cambridge Fred told him the names of his crew mates. The curator looked up the flight on his computer. He was able to tell Fred that the mission of The Bad Penny that night was successful, but they'd been hit over the North Sea on their way back home. "Come," the curator said, "I'll show you their names on the Wall of the Missing."
We walked out to stand in front of a wall, again much too long, engraved with the names of more than 5,000 American
men and women lost in action in the northern European theater in World War II. The curator showed Fred the name of the co-pilot of the doomed plane, etched deeply into white Portland stone.
In a voice trembling with emotion, Fred put his finger on that name and said, "He died in my place. . . . He died in my place."
We went into the memorial chapel and sang as best we could through our tears, "Oh, How He Loves You and Me. . . . He gave His life. What more could He give? Oh how He loves you and me!" The co-pilot of The Bad Penny had taken Fred's place in that doomed plane. The dear Lord Jesus took our place on the cross where we should have died. The Bible says,
[Jesus] was wounded for our transgressions,
He was bruised for our iniquities;
The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,
And by His stripes we are healed. Isaiah 53:5
Recently Fred wrote,"There is not a day of my life that I do not think of the members of my original B-24 crew from which I was granted transfer, only a few days before they plunged into the North Sea, and I only hope and trust that they had time and opportunity to make that decision."
God says He is not willing for anyone to perish, but deeply desires us all to repent so we can be in Heaven with Him. Jesus died in my place. He died in your place. He died to give us His gift of eternal life.
Don't Just Keep Mopping up the Water-Turn Off the Hose!
A Trivial Tale with a Moral by Elizabeth Rice Handford
We Texans celebrate Christmas with fireworks. Don't ask me why; we just do. So the whole family had come to the home place one year for Christmas, as we often did. We gathered in the dusk as the men in the family lighted their noisy fireworks The grandchildren oohed and aahed on cue.
Then one of the dying, glowing embers floated to the roof of the house. Daddy ran into the house to get a pitcher of water. Mother, the ardent grower of all green things, knew where the outside faucet for the hose was, so she ran and turned it on. Just as she raised the hose toward the roof, Daddy charged through the door with pitcher in hand. Mother's strong spray of water hit him full in the face.
Mother, almost as if she were paralyzed with surprise, held the hose on him. He stood stark still in the doorway, as if he too were too surprised to move. (Actually, our dear, mild-mannered Mother may have held it on him a few minutes longer than really necessary!-but then, that was part of the fun of the holidays, wasn't it?) And we laughed even harder when we realized that the vagrant wisp of ember on the roof had long since quietly expired without a bit of threat to the home.
Will somebody please turn off the hose? I can't keep mopping up all this water!
How often does that happen in ordinary life? Do I complain about the credit card balance increasing month by month, and struggle to pay the minimum amount? Wouldn't it be better to admit to myself that I don't really need all the stuff I keep charging to the account, and stop the spending? Shouldn't I turn off the faucet instead of just mopping up the water?
Do I stay irritated about a relationship, tired of the constant bickering and conflict? Wouldn't it be better to turn off the flow of hurtful opinions I think I have a right to express? Couldn't I let minor disagreements dissolve instead of ramping them up?
Do I reprimand my children because they leave their innumerable toys strewn about the house? Should I perhaps keep fewer toys within their reach and remind them, just before bedtime, to stow them all away in a convenient toy box?
Shouldn't I carefully search for a solution to a problem at work, instead of hoping it will go away? Why do I postpone a decision while treating the symptoms instead of the cause? Why do I concentrate on mopping up the water instead of turning off the hose?
King Solomon warns, in Proverbs 4:23:
Above all else, guard your heart,
for it affects everything you do.
Oh God, may I know my own heart so well that I address the root causes of my problems, rather than simply dealing with the outfall of my unguarded thoughts!