Worth Risking a Life?
A Word of Encouragment from Elizabeth Handford
On a flight across the Pacific to Japan, Walt and I sat by a man who said, with subdued excitement, "I'm going to climb Mount Everest." He was excited, because Mount Everest is the highest mountian in the world. His excitement was subdued, because he was very aware of the dangers he faced.
In spite of advances in science, the winds on Mt. Everest still blow at 200 miles an hour. Irresistible avalanches still hurtle
down the ascent paths. Hypothermia and frostbite, snow blindness and lack of oxygen still kill as they always have.
The statistics are grim. It used to be that one out of three would die trying to reach the summit. In recent years it has dropped to one out of 16. Four out of every ten climbers who have actually made it to the peak died on the way back down. In this last year alone, five climbers died. More than 200 bodies of climbers lie unburied along the ascents because the dangers are too great to risk their recovery.
Why would someone choose to risk a life with those odds for that climb?
Because the mountain is there to be conquered? Understandable. God did command Adam to subdue the earth, so it's probably built into our genes. I felt some of that the first time I soloed in a little 152 Cessna plane
A scientist might undertake the climb for important geological or medical research. Many - maybe most - of the advances made in medicine were pioneered by people who risked their lives searching for them. That's true of many inventions in industry, transportation, flight. We have been blessed by the sacrifices of others.
A person might climb Everest just so he could brag about it for the rest of his life. He conquered the highest mountain in the world! Not many people can match that claim.
I've been thinking about that since I've lived my allotted three-score years and ten and more. My name will never appear in Guiness World Records, and likely will never be on the front page of our local paper. I've never done anything worthy of fame in my life. I've spent it doing the ordinary things I felt God wanted me to do. But I do have one special, wonderful accomplishment I can brag about. Jeremiah 9:23,24 explains it:
Thus says the LORD:
Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom,
Let not the mighty man glory in his might,
Nor let the rich man glory in his riches;
But let him who glories glory in this,
That he understands and knows Me,
That I am the LORD, exercising lovingkindness,
judgment, and righteousness in the earth.
For in these I delight, says the LORD.
I know the Lord Jesus. I know the awesome Creator of Heaven and earth Himself, and I have experienced His lovingkindness and righteousness. I'll settle for that for my bragging rights. And so can you!
My Bewildering Battle with the Second Law of Thermodynamics
A Word of Encouragement from Elizabeth Handford
If you've raised a teenager, you know all about the second law of thermodynamics whether you realize it or not. At least, that's when I first learned about it. I was trying to teach my kids to keep their rooms clean, but the second law of thermodynamics intervened. I couldn't fight off the chaos. I gave up and asked them just to please keep their bedroom doors shut when company came. Albert Einstein called this law the most basic
law of all science. It goes like this:
"Everything in our universe, when left to itself,
tends toward more and more disorder."
It operates in all parts of life. Buy a new automobile? It's going to need repairs. Plant a garden? Weeds will proliferate faster than the tomatoes. Build a house? The roof will eventually leak. It's a law that frets evolutionists, because they can't alter it to fit their theories. It's the law that makes environmentalists worry about global warming.
Is that bleak news? No. Why? Because it has a qualifying clause: "Everything in the universe, when left to itself, tends toward more and more disorder." The Creator of our universe does not leave it "to itself" to degenerate into chaos. He is intimately concerned about caring for the human beings He created with such joy. In Job 38:4-11, God asks,
Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?
Tell me, if you know so much.
Do you know how its dimensions were determined and who did the surveying?
What supports its foundations, and who laid its cornerstone
As the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy?
Who defined the boundaries of the sea as it burst from the womb,
And as I clothed it with clouds and thick darkness?
For I locked it behind barred gates, limiting its shores.
I said, "Thus far and no farther will you come. Here your proud waves must stop!"
What wonderful good news that is! When God created this beautiful world, He committed Himself to guarding it and managing it for the people He loved so dearly. Yes, I need to do my part to protect the earth's resources, absolutely, but my best isn't enough to stop the natural tendency to chaos. My Heavenly Father takes that responsibility, and I can rest in His goodness. The world isn't going to end "in a whimper," because He's watching over it. Here's the way Colossians 1:16,17 puts it:
Christ is the one through whom God created everything in heaven and earth.
He made the things we can see and the things we can't see -
kings, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities.
Everything has been created through Him and for Him.
He existed before everything else began, and
He holds all creation together.
So much for the second thermodynamics law. Don't expect me to try to explain the first and third laws. You'll have to do that research for yourself. Meanwhile, thank God that He's in control of this universe, and watching over you and me in love.
Finishing Is Better Than Starting
A Word of Encouragement from Elizabeth Handford
The day I received a signed book contract from Zondervan Publishers for my first novel, I was delirious with excitement. I was an author-a paid author! That very day I sat down and outlined another fiction story. It would be so good. It would probably be a best seller. I could hardly wait to get it written and sent to Zondervan. They'd be impressed that they had a full-fledged, serious author on their hands. (Yes, I know, I was naive!)
I'm embarrassed to confess that that marvelous book (which you never heard of) didn't make its appearance until 45 years later. Oh, I dabbled with it, and I wrote some other things. But the story I conceived with such enthusiasm moldered in my head and I did not complete it until recently. (If you should happen to be interested after this tedious introduction, it's called I Am Dying of Thirst by the Fountain, a love story of loss and redemption, available in Kindle format on Amazon.)
Joan Miró was a Spanish painter and sculptor who died in 1983. He was a surrealist, not my most favorite art style, and I confess that I don't understand his paintings, even when he gives them a title! But he was a successful and tremendously careful craftsman. He said:
The works must be conceived with fire in the soul,
but executed with clinical coolness.
I had a dream of a novel I would write. It was a "fire in my soul." But I did not execute it with "clinical coolness." I didn't "execute" it at all. My dream could not turn into reality until I carefully and methodically set about getting it down on paper.
A brilliant idea is only the first step in accomplishing something valuable and important. Many a wonderful business concept has failed, not because it was flawed, but because its owner failed to follow through with the hard work of putting it into shape.
King Solomon said it this way, in Ecclesiastes 7:8:
Finishing is better than starting.
Patience is better than pride.
Could it be that the dream you have of doing something wonderful for God with your life needs to be looked at, pondered over, and faithfully, day after day, put into shape? That vision you had about your job, that truly important and needed vision, does it languish because your enthusiasm cooled at the hard work ahead? That sweet home you envisioned for your children, that enduring relationship you intended to give them, has it become a burden because, as Miró said, it required more "clinical coolness" than you had expected?
God's answer to all this?
Therefore, my beloved,
be steadfast, immovable,
always abounding in the work of the Lord,
Knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord. 1 Corinthians 15:58
Why Did They Hire You?
A Word of Encouragement from Elizabeth Handford
The church congregation my husband pastored was growing, and another staff member was desperately needed. Walt was considering a certain man for the job. He had the right training. He had the right commitment. He was enthusiastic about the prospect of working with Walt. But the rest of the staff were surprised. "He's different, Pastor. He's not like you."
"Right," Walt answered, "and that's why I think we need him. I don't want staff just like me. I want men to balance me, to make up for the gifts and talents I don't have. I want a well-rounded staff with different abilities and strengths. Don't forget: that's why I hired you!"
He was right, and the staff agreed. Walt hired the man and he served the church family faithfully for many years.
Come to think of it, isn't that why they hired you? They obviously thought you had the skills, the personality, the training for the job or they would not have taken you on. When you feel especially challenged by your job and perhaps overwhelmed by its demands, maybe you ought to step back, take a deep breath, and assess the situation. You may need input from your supervisor, but with the Lord's help, you can do today the work you were hired to do.
The corollary of this idea, of course, is that you are working with people who also have singular talents and abilities, and their interests and strengths are probably are very different from yours. That will create conflict between the two of you unless you both remember you were hired for your specific skills and training.
The historian, Doris Kerns Goodwin, handles this beautifully in her book, "Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln." She writes that Abraham Lincoln chose men for his cabinet who were all strong-minded, vocal men, rivals who had often opposed him. But he chose them because they had the specific gifts and skills he felt a nation in conflict desperately needed. Goodwin says, "Compared with his colleagues, it is clear Lincoln possessed the most even-tempered disposition of them all. Time and again, he was the one who dispelled his colleagues' anxiety and sustained their spirits with his gift for storytelling and his life-affirming sense of humor. When resentment and contention threatened to destroy his administration, he refused to be provoked by petty grievances, to submit to jealousy or to brood over perceived slights. Through the appalling pressures he faced day after day, he retained an unflagging faith in his country's cause."
Different viewpoints, different strengths, different passions, but one united goal: to accomplish the task at hand. And that, of course, is what your Creator/God had in mind when He created you. He says it this way in the Scripture:
"The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up only one body. So it is with the body of Christ. . . Yes, the body has many different parts, not just one part. If the foot says, ‘I am not a part of the body because I am not a hand,' that does not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear says, ‘I am not part of the body because I am only an ear and not an eye,' would that make it any less a part of the body?"Suppose the whole body were an eye-then how would you hear? Or if your whole body were just one big ear, how could you smell anything? But God made our bodies with many parts, and He has put each part just where He wants it." (1 Cor. 12:12-18)
And that's why, dear friend, they hired you for this job.
How Grandfather Rice Felt About Serving His Country
A Word of Encouragement from Elizabeth Handford
It's that wonderful time of the year again when we watch fireworks and eat watermelon, but especially when we look back to our country's roots, and thank God for the heritage He's given us.
If I thought I deserved any credit for my personal heritage, I would tell you that four of my great-great-great-great-great-grandfathers fought in the Revolutionary War. My great-grandfather was a captain in the Confederate army. My father served in the First World War. My husband served in the naval reserve in the Second World War and two of my sons have served in the army.
But, as I said, I get no credit for the very real sacrifices they made.
My family heritage is enriched as well by God-fearing immigrants who came to this country long after 1776. Walt's father's parents immigrated from Scotland, his mother's parents, from Norway. I remember the pride my brother-in-law felt the day he stood on the steps of the federal building in Austin, Texas, waving a flag because that day he had became a United States citizen.
I say, again, I get no credit for that rich inheritance. They made the sacrifices. I have the great joy of living in the freedom that they fought for. I've been in countries all over the world, and I tell you from experience there is no nation in the world that enjoys the freedoms and prosperity that we Americans do. Proof? Look at the numbers of refugees hungering to become U.S. citizens!
But as I celebrate, I wonder what I need to do to make sure my children, and their precious children, have that heritage
to pass on to their descendants. My heritage is at risk, I know. There is not the same unity of heart in our countrymen, not the same common goals that we once had. All of us seem to have splintered into self-serving cliques, unable to agree on, and work for, our common good.
Those forebears of mine did have a united purpose for our country. My father was in college when he was drafted in May, 1918, and sent to Fort Hood, Texas. The day he arrived, my grandfather wrote his son this remarkable letter:
I was glad to hear that you had arrived O.K. I realize that the work there will be new to you, but it is a time when we all have new duties to learn.
Our officers are human and glad to help a boy that has the right stuff in them. This is a time that tries the hearts and nerve of men, and by God's help a Rice will never be found wanting in courage to give to the last for our government and to keep Old Glory spotless. It matters not what others may think or do.
Remember you are a man and have a full man's job, and I am sure you will not be lacking in courage or will power. While my 60 years is a ban against me ever going to the front, thank God I have a son to represent me.
And when I go on my knees before a loving Father, I do not ask that the work be made easy for you, but that strength be given you to do what is necessary.
The current emphasis on diversification in our society was very needed. But while we celebrate our differences, may God help us also to have a unity of heart about things that matter most. May we truly be the United States of America. May God give us "the strength to do what is necessary."