"Go with the Strength You Have"
A Word of Encouragement from Elizabeth Rice Handford
You've been there, and so have I, a place where you feel you can't take another step. Your energy is gone, your emotions exhausted, the outcome bleak. No time to ask yourself, "How did I get myself into this?" because the obligation is there: you have to meet it.
That was my mood this morning. The list of things I had to do was long; I felt my ability to accomplish them was zilch. The weight of my years pressed me down. Annie Johnson Flint described my feelings exactly when she wrote:
When we have exhausted our store of endurance,
When our strength has failed ere the day is half done,
When we reach the end of our hoarded resources . . .
I had exhausted my ‘store of endurance.' I had reached the end of my ‘hoarded resources.' But as I sat and stewed about my unfulfilled obligations, I remembered something I had just read in the Bible about Gideon.
The Israelites were starving because the Midianites kept stealing everything. Gideon was a hard worker and a faithful worshiper of God. God had chosen him to rescue His people from the enemy. But when God told him this, Gideon answered, "But Lord, how can I rescue Israel? My clan is the weakest in the whole tribe of Manasseh, and I am the least in my entire family!" (Judges 6:14-16)
But God was undeterred by Gideon's weaknesses or excuses. He simply answered,
"Go with the strength you have and rescue Israel from the Midianites.
I am sending you! I will be with you.
And you will destroy the Midianites
as if you were fighting against one man."
You may remember the rest of the story. Gideon's small band of 300 men conquered the immense army of Midian with only clay pots, trumpets, and torches. Gideon went "with the strength that he had," and it turned out to be God's unconquerable strength, and enough to rid the Israelites of their life-time enemies.
And that's what the rest of Annie Johnson Flint's poem promises:
. . . .When we reach the end of our hoarded resources,
Our Father's full giving is only begun.
His love has no limits, His grace has no measure,
His power no boundary known unto men;
For out of His infinite riches in Jesus,
He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again. (Public domain)
So today I need to "go with the strength" I have. God promises that He in His faithfulness will enable me to accomplish His will for me today. Maybe you need this reminder as you face a difficult task today. Go with the strength you have, and expect your good Heavenly Father to supply His inexhaustible strength in your weakness.
I'm Running Out of People to Blame for My Problems
A Word of Encouragement from Libby Handford
"Libby, I can't believe you're such a dare-devil," a friend said. "I wouldn't think of climbing into an airplane to fly it all by myself."
"It's my Grandmother Cooke's fault," I said. "She lived out in west Texas, and she was absolutely fearless. She delivered the babies and laid out the dead. And on the wall of her back porch she nailed the rattlers of more than a hundred rattle snakes that had threatened her children's safety. I guess I inherited her genes."
"Libby, you're so abrupt on the telephone," a friend observed. "You always say your piece and then hang up."
"It's my daddy's fault," I explain. "He always warned us children, ‘Don't keep the grown-ups waiting.' I'm always afraid that whoever I'm talking to wishes I would hurry up and get off the phone so they can do whatever it is they want to do."
A friend asks, "What's your favorite gourmet recipe?"
"I don't have one," I say. "I don't do recipes. It's my husband's fault. See, one time I decided I needed to cook ‘healthy,' so I ‘fried' the fried chicken in the oven. When we'd finished gnawing on the dry carcass, Walt whispered to me, ‘Honey, next time let's let the Colonel fry the chicken.' I was just fine with that!"
I make light of it, but the truth is, I sometimes honestly do look for a good excuse for something I didn't do well-
-except that I'm about to run out of people to blame.
My children adamantly refuse to take any blame for my foibles, and there's no way I could blame my sweet grandchildren. So it seems I'm being forced to take responsibility for myself for what I do and the decisions I make. I know what you're thinking: "Well, it's about time!"
You and I would agree that our owning up to failure is an essential part of living a productive life. Our culture seems to reinforce our need to blame others: the government, our parents, rich people, schools, law enforcement, or perhaps society itself. But if we do that, then we'll keep doing wrong and be surprised that there are bad consequences!
The Scriptures tell us that even children are responsible for their responses to life situations.
"Even a child is known by his deeds,
whether what he does is pure and right." Proverbs 20:11
The Israelites complained to the Prophet Ezekiel that God punished them for their parents' sins. "The fathers eat sour grapes," they said, " and the children's teeth are set on edge." But God answered, "You will no longer quote this proverb in Israel. For every living soul belongs to me, the father as well as the son-both alike belong to me. The soul who sins is the one who will die" (Ezekiel 18:2-4).
God ends the conversation with this passionate reassurance: "Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?" (Ezekiel 18:23).
God wants us to acknowledge our failures and our sins. He wants us to find forgiveness because of Christ's death on the cross. What a wonderful relief it is, not to need excuses for my sin, but to find forgiveness in Christ. How wonderful it is to face every new day confident and without guilt!
Prince Harry and the Word of a Gentleman
A Word of Encouragement from Elizabeth Rice Handford
"Libby, why are you such an Anglophile?" a friend asked me.
"Anglophile? Tell me what the word means so I'll know whether you're complimenting me or insulting me."
"You know, how you love England."
Well, yes, I love England, but that's not really surprising. My ancestors came from Wales, England back in the 1700's. When I was a kid, I read all the English classics. I majored in English literature in college. Queen Elizabeth and I are the same age, and we both got married about the same time. And yes, I've followed the news about Prince Harry's upcoming marriage to Meghan Markle. (And no, I'm not Anglophilish enough to plan to watch it on television in the middle of the night!)
One news item about this young man sixth in line for the throne of England really touched my heart. The Daily Mail, March 17, 2018 reported that Prince Harry and Meghan are determined not to sign a prenuptial agreement. His advisers insisted he protect his fortune of tens of millions of pounds in case his marriage to Meghan fails. He refused the suggestion. Apparently he is a gentleman who plans to keep his word. He intends this marriage to last for the rest of his life, and he is making no provision for its failure. If I read him correctly, he is not just signing a contract for a convenient marriage. He is making a covenant, giving his word as a gentleman that he will love Meghan "as long as we both shall live." He seems to understand that making a provision for divorce would make divorce a viable option should things get rough in his marriage.
My father used to say that the word of a gentleman was contract enough. In these litigious days, that doesn't seem to be possible. We feel we need a solid contract that provides for every contingency. Recently I heard a man say he'd decided not to keep a contract he'd signed. He has a team of lawyers searching for a loophole so he can break his promise without losing any money. Fair enough, I suppose, if that was the purpose of the contract- but not what God wants from those who claim to belong to Him.
King David describes the kind of people God wants us to be in Psalm 15:2-4:
He who walks uprightly,
And works righteousness,
And speaks the truth in his heart . . . .
Those who keep their promises even when it hurts.
Keep a promise even when it hurts? Yes. That's essential in marriage: there is a way to solve this problem that threatens us: we will find a way to overcome it. We will not let it destroy this precious union.
But it's also essential in every human contact. A father and mother make that holy promise when they bring a child into the world. Employers make that kind of promise to their employees, and employees to their employers. Church members make that promise when they welcome a newcomer into their fellowship. Civic leaders make that vow when they take office. Friends make that promise when they become friends. Trustworthiness is essential in every human relationship.
So, God bless you, Meghan and Prince Harry. May He help you to keep the promises you are making to each other even when the inevitable times of testing come.
What the Child and the Great-Grandmother-and You!-Really Need
A Word of Encouragement from Elizabeth Rice Handford
Years ago I sat at the dining room table after the rest of the family left, crying. I was fourteen years old, and I was desolate, but not for any reason I could explain.
Mother said, "Oh, Libby, what's wrong? "
"I don't know, Mother, I'm just sad!" I blubbered. I really didn't know why I cried. Life just seemed too hard, that's all there was to it.
Later, in school, I read Tennyson's poem that begins, "Tears, idle tears, I know not what they mean, Tears from the depth of some divine despair Rise in the heart, and gather to the eyes." He had expressed exactly how I sometimes feel. Maybe most of us feel like blubbering sometimes, without knowing exactly why.
But in my unexplainable sadness, I found in my Bible this wonderful comfort:
For I am persuaded that neither death nor life,
nor angels nor principalities nor powers,
nor things present nor things to come,
nor height nor depth,
nor any other created thing,
shall be able to separate us from the love of God
which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
I scooped up those words and held them tight in my unhappy childish heart. Nothing, absolutely nothing, could separate me from God's love!
Fast forward 80 years or so: recently this great-grandmother found herself wanting to weep, not for any particular reason, just a great, unexplainable sadness. It seemed incomprehensible to me that I should be sad, and even ungrateful, in the light of the wonderful treasures I enjoy, provided by the eternal God who has kept every promise He's ever made to me. But that didn't seem to comfort me.
But that morning I read Romans 8:38,39, and the words etched themselves again into my heart. Nothing, nothing! can separate me from the love of God through Christ Jesus. That's the answer to Tennyson's "Tears, idle tears, tears that rise from the depths of some divine despair." Jesus loves me. Jesus loved me enough to die for me. He will love me through eternity. Nothing can stop His loving me.
The eternal truth that comforted my ninety-year-old heart was the same comfort that my twelve-year-old-heart had found so many years before. The Word of God is exactly what every human being needs, in any culture, any age, male or female, oppressed or free, in any time of history.
It answered the heart need of our middle-aged Jewish guide standing beside the foundation of the temple where once God's glory was enthroned. She said, "I read the Psalms of King David, and I ask, ‘How does he know my heart so well?'"
It answered the heart need of a crippled African man sitting in front of his thatched-roof hut. The pages of his Sango Bible were stained from the red dirt on his hands, because water was so scarce. Those stained pages were precious to him because they promised him, too, that "Nothing can separate me from the love of God in Christ Jesus."
And the love of God, untouchable by any assault in your life, can answer your heart need today. Just listen for His voice!