Thankful for My Sorrows?
A Word of Thanksgiving from Elizabeth Rice Handford
How grateful I am this Thanksgiving season for all the things that usually come to mind: a loving family, dear friends, good health, work to do, and most of all, the assurance that I am God's child, forgiven and promised Heaven.
But this year, through an odd memory, I began to think about the times in my life when I was most aware of God's intimate, sweet presence. To my surprise, those were times of deepest trouble and grief--
--A prodigal child far from home, a child abducted but found safe, a diagnosis of breast cancer, a new church building destroyed by a contractor's mistake, the death of beloved first-born grandson, and especially my loss of my husband.
As I relived these experiences, I remembered the emotions of helplessness and grief I felt. But even more, I remembered how I felt the presence of God sheltering me, holding me close to His heart, assuring me of His infinite love. So this thanksgiving I am thanking God that through every trial, every disappointment, every sorrow of my life, the Lord Jesus has walked with me through it.
I love the hymn, "The Sands of Time Are Sinking." The poet, Ann Cousins, uses the metaphor of an hourglass, when the sands have almost all fallen to the bottom, to symbolize a life that is coming to a close. One verse says:
With mercy and with judgment my web of time He wove;
And always dews of sorrow were lustered with His love;
I'll bless the hand that guided, I'll bless the heart that planned,
When throned where glory dwelleth in Immanuel's land.
Notice the line that says, "The dews of sorrow were lustered with His love." Lustered? Luster is "a glory or a distinction, or a coating giving an iridescent glaze to ceramics." So God's inexhaustible love can make our tears of sorrow holy and beautiful!
Now that's something that every one of us, regardless of situation or circumstance, can be grateful for this Thanksgiving season.
Because of the exceeding grace of God in you,
Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!
2 Corinthians 9:14,15
Trust How It Feels or What the Flight Instruments Say?
A Word of Encouragement from Elizabeth Rice Handford
It was after midnight when Walt and I took off from a small airport near Knoxville in the middle of the Tennessee River to fly home. We would be flying in solid clouds under instrument conditions all the way. We knew the flight would be rough over the mountains, but our sturdy airplane was well-built and could handle the turbulence. Our flight instruments had been tested and were dependable. Walt had training and license for instrument flying and had flown many hours in this airplane.
Still, it's a little unnerving to know that the whole world is going to disappear about the time you lift off! As soon as we were airborne, we were in absolute darkness. We checked in with Atlanta ATC, and their cheerful, competent voices were reassuring in the dark night. We reached altitude. Walt eased back on the rpms, set fuel consumption, and turned on the automatic pilot. I flipped the radios to the next radio frequency.
The flight was going well. We sighed with relief. We felt comfortable, and safe-until I made a sweep of the instruments and noticed the attitude indicator.
It should have looked like this:
Instead, it looked like this:
We were in a deadly downward spiral that would end in terrible disaster if not corrected immediately. I yelled and pointed to the instrument. Walt acted immediately. We kept our eyes glued to that indicator as he pulled back on the yoke and leveled the wings, knowing we'd get vertigo from the sudden correction.
There! The instrument showed wings level, nose on the horizon. We were safe. But why had the autopilot stopped working? Evidently Walt had turned it off accidentally, since the switches for it and the radio were both on the yoke.
But more important, why didn't we realize the danger? Why didn't we feel we were spiraling down? How could you be in a downward flight that steep and not feel it? We were in mortal danger, but we had felt perfectly safe.
And that's why our flight instructor repeated over and over again, "Trust your instruments, not what you feel. Your only safety is to scan the instrument panel constantly. Look at every gauge. Believe what it says. If it says you are low on fuel, you are low on fuel. If it indicates your alternator has quit working, it's time to land. If your navigation instruments say you're 20 degrees off course, you are off course."
A woman once said, "I know he's married, but we love each other. Anything this beautiful has to be good. I have perfect peace about it." But she was in danger, and her heart will be broken even if it "feels right."
I tried to share the Gospel with a man, but he said, "Nah, I don't need Jesus, and I'm not scared to die, so quit bothering me." He felt fine, but his lack of fear didn't prove he was safe.
There is a way that seems right to a man,
But its end is the way of death. Proverbs 14:12,13.
Our only safety? Believe the written, unshakeable Word of God who promises you sure guidance.
The Lord says, "I will guide you along the best pathway for your life.
I will advise you and watch over you. . . .
Unfailing love surrounds those who trust the Lord." Psalm 32:8,10
Does It Matter If You Don't Vote Tomorrow?
A Word of Encouragement from Elizabeth Rice Handford
Should you vote tomorrow?
You ought to vote, and I say that without knowing which way you might vote. Your right to vote was purchased at the cost of people who gave up their lives just so you could have the freedom to vote tomorrow. You owe it to them to vote.
If you've never traveled to a country whose people don't have that right, you might not know what a precious gift it is.
Walt and I traveled to several countries which the U.S. State deemed "oppressive," and the relief we felt when we finally crossed the border to come home is indescribable.
Walt went to one eastern European country (with the U.S. State Department approval, and monitored by them) to plead the cause of a Christian pastor jailed for preaching the Gospel. Walt was followed by the secret police every moment of the day, and his hotel room was ransacked regularly. He barely made it out of the country without being detained.
Another time we traveled (with permission of the State Department) on behalf of persecuted Christians, to an Asian country ruled by a renegade army. Gross atrocities were committed-and still are-against Christians and Muslims in that country. Sham elections are held, but the ballots are counted by the people in power, so they are meaningless.
We once traveled to an African country ruled by a dictator notorious for his cruelty. No one had a vote in that country, no one but the thugs who ruled it. After the dictator's overthrow, indisputable evidence of his cannibalism was found.
How few people in this world enjoy the privilege of choosing their leaders!
And that's why you should vote tomorrow. There is no country in the world, developed or undeveloped, so blessed with the freedoms United States citizens enjoy. You may be troubled, as I am, by the bitterness and rancor of the current election rhetoric, but that does not lessen our obligation to vote-
-and to vote thoughtfully, intelligently, with as much information on the candidates as we are able to find-
-and to obey those who are elected. Our elected officials may not know it, but God says they are His ministers! Here's the way Romans 13:1-4 puts it: "Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. . . . For he [the ruler] is God's minister to you for good"-
-and to pray for those elected!
I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks
be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority,
that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence.
For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior
1 Timothy 2:1-3
How can we enjoy "a quiet and peaceable life in godliness"? By praying for "all who are in authority." One tremendous responsibility of citizenship is that we pray for our leaders. So, yes, please be sure to vote tomorrow, and then to pray for those whom God puts over us.