What Happens to the Seed You Planted?
A Word of Encouragement from Elizabeth Rice Handford
Sometimes you sure wish you could know whether or not the things you've given your heart and mind to will make any difference in the world.
That kid you befriended on the ball field?
The financial gift you made to help rescue endangered little children in a foreign country?
That patient to whom you gave so much time and emotion?
That new business venture that would hopefully give security to several families?
And, especially, the ones dearest to you, your family. Why is it so hard to glimpse what's going on in your children's hearts?
The Gospel of Mark records an odd parable Jesus told.
"The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground, and should sleep by night and rise by day, and the
seed should sprout and grow, he himself does not know how. For the earth yields crops by itself: first the blade, then the head, after that the full grain in the head. But when the grain ripens, immediately he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come" (Mark 4:26-29).
I find comfort in this story Jesus told, because I often can't see any results from the tasks I work at day by day. But the Lord Jesus is picturing something truly important about our work. The farmer didn't know, the Scripture tells us, how this seed he'd planted so arduously, would prosper. He simply couldn't tell, looking at the furrowed soil, how it would succeed.
I remember a summer I drove our seven children from Chicago to Tennessee to visit my parents. (Walt would fly down later in the week as soon as he could.) John and Debbie were nine; Ruth seven; Paul five; Margi, Bill, and Judy were three. It was about a ten-hour drive, but the station wagon was filled with the paraphernalia children think essential for entertainment. The miles slid by as the children exchanged their usual noisy banter A flat tire in Indiana slowed us down, but a wonderfully kind motorist stopped to help me fix it. It looked like we'd still get home before bed time.
But a horrendous thunderstorm in Kentucky suddenly obliterated the two-lane highway. I slowed to a crawl through frightening flashes of lightening and torrents of rain. By nightfall I knew we would have to stop for the night. The lights of a motel beckoned. I pulled in, registered, and even paid an extra $2.00 for a TV for the evening! Then we went into the motel restaurant and had a refreshing supper, while the thunderstorm continued to rage outside.
I went to pay our bill. The hostess said, "The gentleman who just left paid your bill for you. He said he'd never seen such a well-mannered, happy family."
You can imagine what a sweet, incredible moment that was was for this tired, harassed mother. My children were not always well-mannered, not always content. My mother-eye tended to see their lacks, their inadequacies, unaware of the budding and growing that God was doing in their hearts. It took a kind stranger's eye to assess my children's growth and comfort me in his assessment.
And let us not grow weary while doing good,
for in due season we shall reap
if we do not lose heart.
God Says, "Let's Have a Conversation."
A Word of Encouragement from Elizabeth Rice Handford
Our daughter Ruth came to live with us when she was three months old. My mother drove us home from the adoption agency that day, since Walt was away on a preaching mission. That dear child lay in my arms and talked to me and her new big brother John the whole way home. Sometimes she explained something very earnestly; sometimes she chuckled with glee or jabbered, but on that hour drive home, without knowing a single word, she communicated eloquently with me every mile of the way.
When she was about four years old, she came in from playing outside and said, "Mother, let's have a ‘commeration.'"
"All right, dear. What shall we ‘commerate' about?"
She began the conversation by telling me what was on her heart. And my mother-heart was so tender toward her as we ‘commerated' together. That was what I had longed for, that sweet and intimate relationship, those long years that Walt and I prayed so earnestly for a child.
Her conversations with me even now are just as precious. In fact, I love my "commerations" with all of my adult children today.
Psalm 27:8 (nlt) says,
My heart has heard you say,
"Come and talk with me."
And my heart responds,
"Lord, I am coming."
In this Psalm, the eternal, holy, omnipotent God asks you to please come and talk with Him! Why do you suppose would He want to spend His precious time with us, when He has all the universes to keep track of? You might think He wouldn't want to "hang out" with somebody as unimportant as you and I. But King David says plainly that he heard God say to him, "Please come and talk with me. There are so many things I want to share with you." It is an invitation to you from your Creator, who created you so He could give you all the treasures of Heaven. He fashioned you on purpose to be His friend, His intimate companion.
What would He say to you in that kind of an intimate conversation? He would tell you how much He loves you, how He longs to meet your needs and comfort you in the hard things of life. He would tell you that He knows all about your sins, and that His Son Jesus died so your debt could be erased, if only you'll take His gift. He'd tell you that you could actually hear His voice speaking to you as you read His book, the Bible.
And what would you talk to Him about in that intimate conversation? You could tell Him how grateful you are for His love and forgiveness. You could ask Him for wisdom in the difficult decisions you have to make day by day. You could tell Him all about your fears and heartaches. You could talk together about the hundred things real friends talk about.
That's why God says, "Come and talk with Me."
How I hope your heart answer will be, "Lord, I am coming."
Let Me Tell You My Opinon on That
A Word of Encouragement from Elizabeth Rice Handford
I grew up in a home where opinions were respected even if you were a child, and, unlike most homes of that era, your opinions were respected even if you were a girl! Our father and mother trained my five sisters and me to listen carefully, to make informed decisions, and then to express our opinions clearly.
So it's not surprising, perhaps, that I have been known to walk up to a group of friends engrossed in a conversation after church, and to say to them flippantly, "What are we talking about? I have an opinion on it!" (And I usually do ‘have an opinion on it,' no matter what they are discussing.)
But I am learning that loudly expressing all of my opinions about everything is really not very smart and certainly not helpful to others. I realized this when I read what George Washington said during the Constitutional Convention in 1787.
Although Washington was the president of the convention and a revered war veteran, he seldom entered into the vehement arguments those passionate patriots hurled at each other as they shaped the constitution of this new United States of American.
One of Washington's friends said to him privately, "Sir, I know you have strong opinions about all of these things. Why don't you speak out? Why don't tell us exactly what you think?"
"I want to speak only on matters of supreme importance," Washington replied carefully. "If I speak out on everything, these men won't realize which things are of most importance. I want to be heard when I speak."
He was right. It's a Bible truth.
Ecclesiastes 5:7 says, "There is ruin in a flood of empty words. Fear God instead."
James 1:19 says, "Dear friends, be quick to listen, slow to speak."
Proverbs 10:19 say, "In the multitude of words sin is not lacking,
But he who restrains his lips is wise."
So that means, I think, that I shouldn't pontificate on every small decision others make, like who makes the best barbeque, or which is the fastest road into town, or exactly which shoes the president's wife should have worn.
Should I, like George Washington, make informed choices about the truly important issues of life? Absolutely. I have an obligation to others, and to God, to share that truth with others. If I don't, I rob them. That's also a Bible truth.
Proverbs 18:4 says, "A person's words can be life-giving water;
words of true wisdom are as refreshing as a bubbling brook."
Isaiah 50:4 says, "The Sovereign Lord has given me His words of wisdom, so that I know what to say to all these weary ones. Morning by morning He wakens me and opens my understanding to His will."
If I measure my words, I can offer someone in need "life-giving water, words of true wisdom"! Someone deeply distressed and tired of life could heartened if I share God's words of grace and wisdom.
Now I just need to figure out when I need to keep my mouth shut, and when I need to open it!
My Orchid-Growing Skills (or Lack Thereof!)
A Word of Encouragement from Elizaabeth Rice Handford
Daughter Debbie was astonished that I had been able to keep the orchid in my breakfast room blooming all summer long. After all, my kids
remember the day a son's new girlfriend gave me a plant for Mother's day. He groaned, "Oh, I forgot to tell her what Mother does to plants!"
"What Mother does to plants" is to neglect them until they shrivel and then drown them with water. But this orchid, contrary to all expectations, kept thriving. The blooms stayed beautiful week after week.
One day when Debbie dropped by, I was surprised to see her watering my phenomenal orchid. "Mom, this soil is too dry," she said. "You need to put a couple of ice cubes on it every day so it will keep blossoming."
Well, of course it kept blossoming, and it didn't need any ice cubes. Fertilizing it or repotting it wouldn't keep it blooming. It was-as you have already guessed-a carefully contrived bit of plastic and stone and wire.
But that orchid, pretty as it is, will never have life. It will never reproduce itself. It will never have the sweet fragrance of a living plant. It's dead.
The story is told in the Bible of the time God told the prophet Samuel to go to Bethlehem to anoint Israel's next king. When Samuel arrived in Bethlehem, he saw Jesse's oldest son, a tall, stalwart and handsome man, and he thought, "Surely this is the Lord's anointed!"
But the Scripture goes on to say, "Samuel, don't judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The LORD doesn't make decisions the way you do! People judge by outward appearance, but the LORD looks at a person's thoughts and intentions" (1 Samuel 16:7).
Outward appearance has nothing to do with eternally important truth. I need to remember that if I am to live life well. I can say the right things, act the expected way, conform to whatever it is people think I should be, but it will be a barren life. If I am intent simply on impressing people about what a good Christian I am, I will be an abject failure. Just keeping the rules will not enable me to do God's work. I must have His wisdom, His leading.
"People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at a person's thoughts and intentions." So I always need to be aware of my inner motives. Are they honest? Why am I doing what I do? Simply to earn money? Just to please my boss? So people will think how wonderful I am? If so, my work will be useless. My intentions determined how I act, and I need to be ruthlessly honest with myself.
King Solomon told his son,
Pay attention, my child, to what I say. Listen carefully.
Don't lose sight of my words. Let them penetrate deep within your heart,
for they bring life and radiant health to anyone
who discovers their meaning.
Above all else, guard your heart,
For out of it spring the issues of life. Proverbs 4:20-23