May 2017 Devotional

May 29, 2017


How Does It Feel to Be 90-Years-Old?
A Word of Reflection by Elizabeth Rice Handford


Friends gave me a birthday party and told me I was 90 years old, so I looked at my passport, and it says I was born in 1927, so I guess they were right. But then they asked me, "How does it feel to be 90 years old?"



How does it feel to be 90 years old? It feels astonishing. Where did the time go? Just a couple of years ago I was wiping runny noses and cooking supper for ten. Now it's just me. Walt and I asked God for a big family, and He gave us seven wonderful children, eighteen grandchildren more wonderful, and fifteen great-grandchildren even more remarkable. I belong to a church family who love me. I enjoy wonderful relationships with the people I work with. I am still astonished at God's generosity to me.


How does it feel to be 90? It feels humbling. Whatever good I might have done was certainly not because I had the talent or the smarts. I don't get any credit for it. God put me into the home of two remarkable, godly and dedicated people. I inherited their good genes, but I also received their loving, wise, disciplined training. God gave me five sisters, who with their husbands, the brothers I never had, have made a tremendous impact on my life. And then God gave me the most wonderful gift a woman could have, a husband whole-heartedly committed to God and to me. I could not have accomplished anything without Walt's sweet wisdom and guidance. God said He made "His light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay" (2 Cor. 4:6,7). I know how broken a jar of clay I am. I am humbled by God's unconditional love and grace toward me.


90 years old? It feels uncomfortable. I can't see, or hear, or walk well. I can't play an octave on the piano with my right hand anymore. Nevertheless, what strength I have, and what mind I have left, I will use, God willing, to serve Him as long as I live.


90? It feels like no regrets. I had fun checking off things on my bucket list. I flew an airplane. I climbed to the very top inside the Cheops pyramid. I wrote a book. I taught a Sunday school class. I waded through King Hezekiah's underground tunnel. I married a preacher. I crossed the Ubangi River in a dugout canoe. Recently I decided, "Nah, I'm not going try for Antarctica," the last thing on my bucket list. I've seen enough of God's wonderful world that I can wait until eternity to see Antarctica.


I said I have no regrets. But that doesn't mean I'm satisfied with how I handled life. Looking back, I can see my many failures. I remember too many things I didn't do well. Nor was it a carefree life. Walt and I sometimes waded through deep grief and sorrow. But God promised us that joy would come in the morning, and it will. The no regrets simply means I will never regret choosing to give my life to the Lord Jesus for Him to use however He wanted me.

How does it feel to be 90? It feels like glory ahead. I know I will see the Lord Jesus in Heaven, though I did nothing to deserve it. He gave me everlasting life by His death. The passage I quoted above, about jars of clay, ends up with these glorious words:


Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing,
Yet the inward man is being renewed day by day.
For our light affliction, which is but for a moment,
Is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory,
While we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen.
For the things which are seen are temporary,
But the things which are not seen are eternal.

2 Corinthians 4:16-18

And that's how it feels to be 90 years old!



May 22, 2017


My Face-Book Page Was Hacked
A Word of Encouragement from Elizabeth Rice Handford



I got an indignant note from one of my "friends" on Face Book. "I am so ashamed of you for putting such a vulgar post on your Face Book Page," he wrote. You notice I put "friend" in quotation marks. He was no friend. My genuine friends knew me well enough to figure out that somebody hacked my account to put such a distasteful video on my page. When they saw it, they immediately contacted Face Book and me. By the time I logged in, the post had already been removed.

But that was only one small post, one small event that affected only me. What about the enormous hacking revelations which involved the lives of thousands? Chelsea Manning's theft of hundreds of thousands of documents from military and diplomatic files and given to Wilileaks put good people in terrible danger, people who were already risking their lives to protect our country. The hack of the Ashley Madison infidelity website exposed the secret lives of some highly respected spiritual, civic, and business leaders, to their deep humiliation.



A man whose marriage was broken by his terrible behavior blamed my husband, his pastor, for not being able to repair it. Tom (not his real name) said to me, "I want you to give me Walt's dossier." (That's the word he actually used!) "I am going to disgrace him, ruin him in front of the whole world."

I thought it ridiculous that he'd think I'd be willing to assist him in ruining my husband. It was evidence of how twisted his thinking was. I said, "Tom, you are welcome to come to our house and look through every file drawer, every file, every picture album, bank record, or book. You will not find one single shred of evidence that could hurt Walt's reputation. The man lives like he preaches. You can't hurt him that way." He couldn't, and he didn't.



Imagine how it would feel if you had a secret floating around somewhere in the "cloud"-pictures, comments, or a compromising situation, that could be hacked and leaked. Jesus said, "For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open" (Luke 8:17).


Scary thought. But here's the bed-rock, assuring answer, straight from the heart of God. In Isaiah 43:25, your Holy God says, "I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more."


Since Jesus died on the cross to pay for every sin of yours, when you take Him as your Savior, then He blots out every sin, not just from the book of records, but even from His mind! If someone would charge you with sin, He would check the written record, and He would say, "No, no record of any sin." When You took God's offer of forgiveness and salvation, the record of your sins was expunged. No computer hacker can discover a charge. No witness can testify against you. It sounds odd to say that God could forget your sin, but it is the literal truth.

What wonderful, satisfying comfort that is! In Isaiah 54:17, God Himself promises:


"No weapon forged against you will prevail,
and you will refute every tongue that accuses you.
This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD,
and this is their vindication from me," declares the LORD.



May 8, 2017


"Could You Go Somewhere Else to Not Say a Word?"
A Word of Encouragement from Elizabeth Rice Handford


In an old movie, the mother is feeling critical of a decision her daughter, a single mother, has made. The daughter says, "Mother, don't say a word."


The mother answers, "I'm not saying a word."


The daughter says, "Then could you go somewhere else to not say a word?"


I find myself feeling great compassion toward both the mother and her daughter. The mother loves her daughter and her grandson, and she feels the decision will hurt the boy. The daughter, trying her best to make a wise decision, is disheartened by her mother's unspoken criticism.


I had that same tangled thought recently when I saw a sign in a nearby neighborhood. "Hate has no home here." It ought to be true. The Bible tells us to love each other, as Jesus loves us. It's easy to love folks just like ourselves. But the Lord Jesus requires much more than that. It isn't enough to tolerate people unlike ourselves. Jesus said,


But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you!
In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven.
For He gives His sunlight to both the evil and the good,
and He sends rain on the just and on the unjust, too.
If you love only those who love you, what good is that?
Even corrupt tax collectors do that much.
If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else?
Even pagans do that.
But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.

Matthew 5:44-48


The designer of the "no hate" sign (sold online) said, "This sign is a public declaration that hate speech and hateful actions against others will not be tolerated. While it is okay to disagree with others civilly regarding issues, it is not okay to intimidate or attack a person or group-verbally or physically- based on attributes such as gender, ethnic origin, religion, race, disability, or sexual orientation."

True. There is absolutely no place in a Christian's heart for hate. We must never, ever, let hate find a home in our hearts.


But here's another thought. This sign seems to imply that having moral convictions is the same as hating people. And that simply isn't true. I have a deep conviction that people ought to be faithful to their spouses, that unfaithfulness is a betrayal of solemn vows made to God. But I don't hate people who've been unfaithful to their spouses. I don't make a sign and march in front of their house, picketing them. I will love them, because I can't help them if I don't love them. I will show them the way to forgiveness and healing if they'll let me. But having convictions about right and wrong is not, of itself, hateful. It's the way people who love God choose to live.

Somehow I feel like that sign is saying to me, "Could you please go somewhere else to not say a word?" Don't I have the right, just as others surely have the right, to decide what moral convictions I will live by?

Third thought: are those two things really mutually exclusive? Can't we do both? Can't we love people, even people who've done wrong, and can't we also love God and follow His commandments? Surely we have that right. So let's do it! Let's love, not hate, and let's live true

May 1, 2017

When Daddy Was Bumped Off the Flight
A Word of Encouragement from Elizabeth Rice Handford


One Friday evening I took the seven children with me to O'Hare airport to pick up Daddy, who was flying in from Seattle. We were a motley crew, the children ranging from nine years old down to three. They lined up at the broad windows at the gate, and watched the jet as it lumbered in. It was so close to the windows, the children could wave to the pilots. Then people began coming out the arrival door, some in a hurry, some leisurely. The last passenger was a little woman in a wheel chair pushed by an agent. Then came the flight attendants and the pilots-but no Daddy.

The gate attendant slammed the door and locked it. "That's all," she said to us kindly, when she saw our disappointed faces. "Check down at the Eastern desk."


There, the children crowded around me. "Walter Handford," I said anxiously, "he wasn't on the flight from Seattle."


The airline clerk looked at the passenger list. "Oh," she said casually, "he was bumped off the flight in Minneapolis. He should be on the next flight, in about two hours."


A sudden, concerted and loud wail rose up behind me. "Bumped off? Daddy bumped off?"


Son John knew all about Chicago gangsters. They bumped people off. He'd seen it on television. The younger children visualized the pilot opening the plane door over Minneapolis, wherever that was, and kicking him out. Daddy! Bumped off!


It took me an embarrassingly long time to hush the children's sobs so I could explain. Daddy's plane had landed in Minneapolis, but there weren't enough seats on the plane to Chicago. He's be on the very next plane, in just a couple of hours.


Was Walt upset by the delay? Well, yes. Should he have made a histrionic protest, as others sometimes do? No. He knew God was in control of every part of his life, airline schedules included. This delay, for some reason, was part of God's will for him that day.


I took the children to the concourse book store, bought a coloring book, a yellow box of Crayola's, and potato chips. Settled at the new arrival gate, they colored their pictures (not always inside the lines), snacked on potato chips, and talked to passersby about the odd thing that happened to Daddy in Minneapolis.


Daddy's plane did arrive. He was on it, and safe. All was right with the world.


In our years of flying since then, sometimes we haven't arrived at the scheduled time. Once in a while, we haven't even arrived at the scheduled airport because of bad weather. But there is one flight, one destination, we can be perfectly confident about.


God offered us eternal life. He promised us a home in Heaven. He never, ever, overbooks the reservations! Luke 14:23 tells us He wants His house full of people! And Jesus told us, just the night before He died,

Let not your heart be troubled: you believe in God, believe also in me.
In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you.
I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again,
and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.
John 14:1-3


There's room for all! Our on-time arrival is guaranteed. Our destination is guaranteed. What comforting assurance we can have!

Yet I am always with You, Lord;
You hold me by my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will receive me into glory.

Psalm 73:23,24