I attended a women's conference recently where the speaker said "There is no word for coincidence in the Hebrew Bible." "Oh?" I wondered. "What about that verse in Ruth 2:3 that says, ‘And she happened to come to the part of the field belonging to Boaz.' That sounds sort of coincidental to me." Or when King Solomon said, "But time and chance happen to them all."
Then I remembered some odd coincidences in my life.
Seattle, Washington. Our family lived in Illinois. I was traveling with my father, doing his secretarial work and playing the piano for his evangelistic crusades in the evenings. At a Thanksgiving morning service in a cooperating church, an elderly couple asked if they could take us sight-seeing. My father agreed. I was surprised, because never before on this extended trip to the west coast had he ever agreed with anyone to go sight-seeing. "I'm here to preach the Gospel, not to see the sights," he'd say.
How was I to guess that in less than three years, I would be calling those dear people, my in-laws, "Mother and Daddy Handford"?
Oswego, New York. My husband Walt, from Illinois, was preaching at a Bible conference, and Frank, from South Carolina, was conducting the music. They felt a deep kinship and respect for each other. On the golf course one afternoon, Frank said wistfully, "I wish you were my pastor."
"I'd love it," Walt said, "but you already have a pastor."
How could we have guessed that within seven months, Frank's pastor would have resigned, and Walt Handford would be in South Carolina, pastoring the church where Frank was the music director?
Dallas, Texas. After a morning session at a Bible conference, three preachers were eating lunch together, the host pastor from Dallas, Walt from Illinois, and a pastor from Chattanooga. The Tennessee pastor told them about a sweet little five-year-old he'd met at his church the night before. "Adorable child," he said, "and, by the way, she's available for adoption."
How could I have known that within six months I would hold that precious child in my arms and that she would call me
Coincidences? Or the beautifully engineering of a Heavenly Father who loves to give His beloved children His treasured gifts?
The steps of the godly are directed by the LORD.
He delights in every detail of their lives.
Though they stumble, they will not fall,
for the LORD holds them by the hand.
King David affirmed that God lovingly guides the steps of His children. Certainly, Ruth didn't just "happen" on that field. God sent her there to meet Boaz, the man she would marry. Through that "happenstance" she became part of the line through which Jesus would be born.
As the speaker at the women's conference said, "There is no word for coincidence in the Hebrew Bible." Thinking it over, maybe she was right.
Words Have Real Meaning and Must Be Used with Care
A Reminder from Elizabeth Handford
Years ago I wrote a book on what I thought the Bible taught about marriage and the family. I was young and passionate, but I thought I was being honest and true to the Scriptures. I got lots of affirming letters from people who said the book was a wonderful help, and some letters from people who violently disagreed with me.
Fast forward 46 years. The other day someone asked me, "Do you still believe what you wrote in that book so long ago?"
Did they have a right to ask me that embarrassing, probing question?
Yes, they did have a right to ask it. Absolutely. I had written down words, words which we all agreed meant something, and people believed what I wrote. If I were wrong, readers who trusted me would have been led astray, to their lasting hurt.
It was a daunting question, and I tried to answer it honestly. "Yes, I believe that the Scriptures I quoted say what they
actually say. I think I was honest in my interpretation, but you have every right to disagree with my interpretation."
That question reminded me again of how carefully, how honestly and purposefully I ought to use words. They have power. They can do great good. But they can cause great harm. I must respect them and use them with their agreed meaning. When Samuel Johnson compiled the first reliable dictionary, he scrupulously searched thousands of writings to find examples of how the words were actually used by writers He didn't define a word by what he thought it ought to mean. He defined it by what people agreed the word meant -
- which makes Humpty Dumpty's conversation with Alice (of Wonderland) in Through the Looking Glass ridiculous.
"When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, "It means just what I choose it to mean - neither more nor less."
"'The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean
so many different things."
"The question is," said Humpty Dumpty, "which is to be master - that's all."
When I listen to newscasts, I begin to wonder if some of our opinion-makers haven't been copying Humpty Dumpty! They take a word with an agreed meaning, but then use it "just what I choose it to mean, neither more nor less." And when they do, they are being dishonest with our language. The words "false facts" have been tossed back and forth in the news media. But the meaning of the word fact is true, so a fact can't be false. They have betrayed us with innocent-sounding words. If we believe them and act on them, it will be to our terrible loss.
King Solomon had some powerful words to say on this in Ecclesiastes 12:10,11:
The Teacher searched to find just the right words,
and what he wrote was upright and true.
The words of the wise are like goads, [like a cattle prod]
their collected sayings like firmly embedded nails--
given by one Shepherd.
Be warned, my son, of anything in addition to them.
That's a good reminder for me about the words I'll use today. May they be "upright and true,' and may they be wise and productive. Yes, may God help all of us to speak with care today.
Missing Jigsaw Puzzle Pieces
A Word of Encouragement from Elizabeth Handford
So tell me why would somebody take a perfectly beautiful picture, chop it up into 500 odd pieces, and then sell it to the Handford family so they would spend a whole evening putting it back together again? For whatever reason, it was one of the favorite ways the Handford kids spent Family night.
The problem is - and you've had it too if you like jigsaw puzzles - invariably a piece will be missing. Once we found it stuck to a child's elbow. Another time it lurked underneath the finished part of the puzzle. Once the last piece had been enthusiastically chewed by our puppy, Skippy.
Now I don't like a missing puzzle piece. I have even been known to trace the shape of the missing piece on cardboard, color it to match the rest of the picture, and insert it so the picture will be complete.
One Family night we discovered three pieces were missing. It was a brand new puzzle. We'd broken the seal to open it. Surely the puzzle maker hadn't lost it.
Has God given mothers a special, intuitive sense so she can read children's minds? Maybe not, but this mother said, "O.K., kids. Who's the culprit? Hand those pieces over."
Actually there were three culprits. (They shall be nameless because I can't afford to be sued for defamation of character.) Each of them had hidden a piece so that they could triumphantly put in the last piece to complete the picture.
The puzzle of my life has some missing pieces. I keep looking for the pieces that will make it complete. Instead, I find myself looking at the blank spaces and wondering what God is doing.
Why would a loving God let a teenager suffer an automobile accident that would cripple him for life? Why would a kind Lord Jesus let a 60-year-old man lose the job he'd done competently for 30 years, and now was "too old" to be hired for a new job? Why does God let a family suffer the grief of the loss of a child, or the destruction of their home? Why must a cancer patient endure years of pain? Why must a loving spouse go through a heart-breaking divorce?
Why? I don't know. I can't even guess at the shape of the missing pieces.
But my faithful God will, some day, produce the missing pieces, and the beautiful picture of our lives will be completed. It will be perfect, exactly what God had in mind for us when He created us. "In that day," Jesus said, "you will ask me nothing." Why? Because we'll see, and understand what our loving Heavenly Father was doing with those missing pieces.
Revelation 7:15-17 gives us a glimpse into that wonderful day ahead.
That is why they are standing in front of the throne of God,
Serving Him day and night in his Temple.
And He who sits on the throne will live among them and shelter them.
They will never again be hungry or thirsty,
and they will be fully protected from the scorching noontime heat.
For the Lamb [Jesus] who stands in front of the throne will be their Shepherd.
He will lead them to the springs of life-giving water.
And God will wipe away all their tears.
Tattoos and Indelible Promises
A Word of Encouragement from Elizabeth Rice Handford
To commemorate her Grandpa Handford's death, my sweet granddaughter wanted to know his favorite Scripture. I assumed she intended to do a calligraphy of it or perhaps a cross-stitch sampler. Instead she had the Bible reference tattooed on her forearm.
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. Romans 8:38,39
What an incredible truth she is reminded of, day after day, because of that tattoo!
I'm always interested in the tattoos of people because there's usually a personal story behind it. A teenager at church tattooed a pretty little butterfly on her ankle because she wanted to get over her "fear of needles"! A waitress in a restaurant had a long arrow and the number 5 tattooed on her forearm. She was the mother of five children, she said, and the tattoo reminded her to pray for them while she worked. A navy veteran told me the huge tattoo on his arm of a US Navy anchor was a surprise to him when he woke up one morning. He doesn't remember how it got there. A volunteer at a hospital showed me a cello tattooed on her wrist, because she loves cello music.
A clerk who was serving me wore a beautiful, wide silver Celtic ring on her wedding ring finger. I was enamored by it. "Don't be," she said shortly. "It covers up the worst mistake I ever made in my life. Whatever you do, don't get a tattoo because your husband promises to love you forever, because he won't." The broad ring covered her tattoo with their wedding date on it.
The trouble with tattoos is, of course, that they are easier to put on than they are to remove! Sometimes indelible isn't a beautiful word.
But indelible is a beautiful word when you read it in God's Word, because it describes a name tattooed-or perhaps more accurately translated engraved-on God's hand:
Sing, O heavens; and be joyful, O earth;
and break forth into singing, O mountains:
For the LORD has comforted His people,
and will have mercy upon His afflicted.
But Zion said, The LORD hath forsaken me, and my Lord hath forgotten me.
Can a woman forget her nursing child,
that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb?
yea, they may forget,
Yet will I not forget you.
Behold, I have graven you upon the palms of My hands. Isaiah 49:13-16
God's hand has your name written on it, (as if God ever needed a reminder that He loves you)!
It is your promise, when you've entrusted your soul to Him. That He will always take care of you. His love is indelible. His strength is inexhaustible. So He promises in Isaiah 41:10: "Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you. I will uphold you with My righteous right hand."
And that "righteous hand," dear child of God, has your name engraved on it.