Me and Raggedy Ann in High Society
A Word of Encouragement from Elizabeth Rice Handford
Mother didn't tell me she wanted me to be on my best behavior, as I ventured into high society for the very first time. But I could tell she wanted me to make a good impression, so I resolved to make her proud. An old college roommate of hers had moved back to Dallas and they'd restored the friendship. I sensed Mother was enjoying the renewed contact with elegant and intelligent people. They'd bought a mansion in elite north Dallas. When the woman invited me to a Halloween party for her daughter. I determined to do it right.
Mother's father was a prosperous rancher, and she was the only girl, adored by her four brothers. Growing up, she'd been given nearly anything she wanted. But now she was a pastor's wife, serving in a church that ministered especially to the disadvantaged people living in that depression-ridden, dust-bowl town. So I could tell she was enjoying the renewed contact with this friend from those long-ago days.
I thought about my costume. Should I go as a witch? A ghost? A skeleton? Nah, too ordinary. I would go as Raggedy Ann. Braid my hair in pigtails. Tie a huge bow on each braid. Borrow my big sister's long pleated skirt. Sew patches on it to make it look really ragged. Borrow her disreputable, worn-out tennis shoes, so big on me they flopped very satisfyingly. A bright red patch of rouge on each cheek. Freckles made with a eyebrow pencil. I surveyed myself in the mirror. I would probably have the most spectacular costume at the party.
My hostess was welcoming, and I basked in the glow of her kindness. And I had made the right choice of a costume, I decided. It was the year Walt Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs stunned the world. Nearly every child there wore a store-bought costume of Snow White or the Wicked Stepmother. I pitied them for their conformity and lack of imagination.
But then one of the young Snow Whites stepped up to me, looked me over very carefully, and said in a spiteful voice, "Didn't you have enough money to buy a costume?" I stood there in my pathetic ragged outfit and felt ashamed.
Raggedy Ann and I learned some really important life lessons from our entrance into high society. We learned you shouldn't judge somebody by whether they have lots of money or little. Rich people can be kind or they can be rude. But poor people can be rude, too. I had looked at the guests at that party only as "rich" people, without knowing who they really were. I was condescending before I even knew them. I was as wrong as the "rich" girl who deliberately made me feel poor.
Exodus 23:2,3 says, "When you are on the witness stand, do not be swayed in your testimony by the opinion of the majority. And do not slant your testimony in favor of a person just because that person is poor." In other words, I need to be honest in my judgment always.
But maybe the most important thing Raggedy and I learned that humiliating day was this:
This is what the LORD says:
Let not the wise man gloat in his wisdom,
or the mighty man in his might,
or the rich man in his riches.
Let them boast in this alone: that they truly know me and understand that
I am the LORD who is just and righteous, whose love is unfailing,
and that I delight in these things.
Raggedy Ann and I had concentrated on the unimportant things about people, about what they owned, not about who they were. I learned that neither money, nor popularity, nor smarts were things to be coveted. All I needed was to remember that I had a God who is just and righteous, and whose love would never fail me. It's a lesson I've never forgotten.
Tarantulas and Halloween: Who Scared Whom?
A Wry Word of Warning from Elizabeth Rice Handford
Just before Halloween, as I checked out my groceries at Bi-Lo, I saw a box of creepy, gummy, life-size plastic tarantulas. I'm not a friend of tarantulas. As a child on my grandfather's Texas ranch, I climbed up his haystack and was confronted by a Texas-sized, poised-to-strike tarantula. That tarantula used to haunt my childhood nightmares. Now, since I was the sensible mother of seven mischievous children who loved to play pranks on me, I thought I might have some fun in return. I tossed one into my sack of groceries.
As I turned the corner into our driveway, I saw son Paul hiding behind a tree, waiting to jump out at me. I sneaked out of the car, crept up behind him, hollered "Boo!" and got a very satisfying squeak out of him. That made me forget the tarantula lurking among my groceries. I should have remembered that proverb, "Whoever digs a pit will fall into it, and he who rolls a stone will have it roll back on him" (Proverbs 26:27).
I was cheerfully stowing the groceries away, until I reached into the bag and felt something wiggley and slimey and pulled out this huge, terrifying tarantula. My scalp crawled. I screamed and flung it across the kitchen. The kids upstairs heard my howl and came running. So who scared whom? I had fallen into the pit I dug for them! My venture, trying to play a trick on my children to pay them back for tricking me, was all in fun, and we have often laughed about it.
We do feel a terrible need to pay back a wrong someone has done to us. Perhaps you were truly mistreated. Someone you trusted, someone you had a right to expect to treat you fairly, failed you. How strong is the sense of indignation; how great the urge to pay them back! But often that fails, because they didn't suffer from the "pay-back" like you hoped they would.
There's a better solution, no matter who has wronged you, no matter how grave the offense. God tells us,
"Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves,
but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written,
Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord."
It's a wonderful, comforting truth about God's character: He is a righteous God. He judges fairly. He sees when you have been wronged. He promises you He will make it right.
So we're not to look for some way to avenge ourselves. How should we act when someone mistreats us? Hold on, because it's a surprising response, not one easy for us to comprehend, but here's what God says,
Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink:
for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head.
Be not overcome of evil,
but overcome evil with good. Romans 12, 20,21
When you feel overwhelmed by the evil in this world (for it is filled with evil, as we've witnessed to our sorrow) remember: don't try to overcome evil with payback. We must overcome evil with good. And we do it by not retaliating. It's against our intuitive need to punish someone who wrongs us. So it means trusting God to keep His promise. He does repay evil and reward good, but it will be in His own timing. But be sure: God is just. He will, always, do what is right.
Unsolicited Advice When Our Little Girl Was Sick
A Word of Comfort from Elizabeth Rice Handford
Our little girl Margi had felt really miserable for a couple of days. I took her to the doctor. He examined her, but I could see uncertainty in his face. "I'll order a couple of tests, and then we'll know better what we're up against."
"But, doctor, it isn't leukemia, is it?" I asked. (Why leukemia? Only because I dreaded it the most.)
He answered me gravely, "I don't know. The tests will tell."
We went for the tests, and we waited for the results. Margi's pain intensified. Even when she slept her face was contorted with pain. The tests were inconclusive, so the doctor ordered more intensive tests. Meanwhile, my friends were full of advice.
One said confidently, "You don't need a doctor. Just pray for her, and God will heal her. He always heals if you just have enough faith."
I knew that couldn't always be true, because I remembered what the Apostle Paul wrote in Second Corinthians 12:9-12:
A thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, Lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness." Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. . . . For when I am weak, then I am strong.
The man who wrote that had healed others, had even raised a young man from the dead, but it was not God's plan to heal him of his "thorn in the flesh." He would be a more productive servant of Christ because of his illness.
Another friend said in a grating voice. "It's just plain sin. Sickness always comes because of sin. So your family needs to repent of whatever sin has made her sick." No one knew better than Walt and I that we sin. Giving out the holy Word of God to others needing God's grace, we always knew we also needed forgiveness. But about this matter, James 5:15 says,
The prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up.
And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.
This Scripture certainly doesn't say sickness is always the result of sin. It does say when we pray, that with the healing, "if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven."
The tests came back. Margi had an ulcer. With a proper diet and medicine, and prayer, she was healed and became our happy little girl again.
Why have I told you this story? Because I work with Interim Home Health Care, and we take care of people who are ill. I need the reminder that healing comes from God, and that our patients are in His loving hands, not ours.
But even more personally, you may be facing a frightening challenge in your own life. This is God's sweet reminder that He cares for you with infinite love, and whether He heals, or whether He plans to reveal Himself more wonderfully in your pain and distress, He is your God and in control. You can trust Him.
The Headwinds of Life
A Word of Encouragement from Elizabeth Rice Handford
Walt and I had to be at a business meeting in Chattanooga early one morning. We checked the weather, filed a flight plan, and loaded up our sturdy Rockwell Commander airplane, 1368 Juliette, to fly there. Chattanooga is almost straight west of Greenville. The forecast was for heavy headwinds from the west at 50 knots, so we knew the flight would take longer than usual-
-But we hadn't anticipated how much longer! After takeoff, GSP departure control turned us over to Atlanta Air Traffic Control. Lake Jocassee crept under the wing, then the Chattooga River. The airspeed indicator indicated we were flying at 125 knots, but it seemed like we were crawling.
Finally Walt radiod our controller. "Atlanta, 1368J, what's our ground speed?"
He chuckled. "You'll get there faster if you land and walk! Your ground speed is 75 knots."
Rockwell Commander 112-A That night on the eastward flight home, Chattanooga departure turned us over to Atlanta ATC again. We discovered we had the same traffic controller we'd had that morning. He recognized our call sign. "You sure are going faster than you were this morning. Your ground speed is 175 knots!"
But we didn't make up all the time we'd lost from the headwinds flying west. A math formula explains why, but it still doesn't seem fair. And there's a reason the winds are called the prevailing westerlies: headwinds seem to prevail-in flying, as they do in life.
There are some heady, wonderful, exhilarating times in life, when things go well, when the wind is at your back. You get the supervisor's job you wanted. That precious baby girl is born. You make the winning touchdown in the last two minutes of the game. You sign a contract on the house of your dreams. You stand before the minister with the love of your life and say, "I do" with passion and without reservation. Sometimes you are very conscious of God's mercy and love. It's great to have the wind at your back.
But other times? Cross winds. Worse, heavy headwinds. Problems seem impossible to solve. Long days, sleepless nights, and bone tiredness. People don't keep their promises. Unexpected expenses make it hard to meet obligations. Dreams seem shattered. And then you begin to wonder, "Why?"
The Prophet Jeremiah knew exactly how it feels to battle headwinds:
Peace has been stripped away, and I have forgotten what prosperity is.
I cry out, "My splendor is gone!
Everything I had hoped for from the LORD is lost!"
The thought of my suffering and homelessness is bitter beyond words.
I will never forget this awful time, as I grieve over my loss. Lamentations 3:17-20
But facing those terrible headwinds of life, Jeremiah remembered something he'd forgotten:
Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this:
The unfailing love of the LORD never ends!
By his mercies we have been kept from complete destruction.
Great is his faithfulness; His mercies begin afresh each day. . .
The LORD is wonderfully good to those who wait for Him and seek Him.
So it is good to wait quietly for salvation from the LORD. Lamentations 3:21-26
You will arrive safely at your destination, no matter the strength of the headwinds. Why? Because "the unfailing love of the Lord never ends!"
The Bitter and Sweet Taste of Vanilla
A Word of Encouragement from Elizabeth Rice Handford
Polly came to live with us when she was fourteen. Her parents were missionaries in Bolivia, and they felt she needed a better education than they could find for her in the high Andes Mountains.
She gave us so much joy the three years she was with us. Every modern convenience we took for granted was a surprise and delight to her. Simple things like the sewing machine, the automatic dish washer, the vacuum cleaner, all amazed her.
But she especially enjoyed American cooking. One day we were making a cake "from scratch." She'd measured the flour, the shortening, the baking powder, the sugar, the milk. Now it was time to add a tablespoon of vanilla. She measured it out carefully, then put it into the mixture.
"Um! That vanilla smells soooo good," she said. "Can I taste it?"
"Sure. But you won't like it."
Not like it? How could anything that smelled that good not taste delicious?
She poured a spoonful, swallowed it, and shivered involuntarily. "Ugh!"
How many times in my life have I experienced something truly bitter, something I could not understand how a loving God could let happen to me? You've been there. Dreams you've had, promises you've made, people you've loved - sometimes they seem impossible to realize in the difficulties that surround you. Why does God let it happen when He says He loves us? Could it be that bitter ingredient will someday be part of a wonderful and precious package of love God is preparing for you? Maybe so.
Vanilla? Alone, it's bitter.
Flour? It's dry and inedible.
Baking powder? Yuk!
But all of them, in a recipe created by a master chef, mixed together by a cook following the recipe carefully, can become a delightful birthday-party-kind of dessert.
Someone may have glibly quoted Romans 8:28 to you at a time of terrible loss in your life, so that its message seems unfeeling. But listen to it in the context of the taste of vanilla.
"And we know -" We know? Yes, we know when things are running smoothly and we sense God's presence. We're not so sure when things are going badly.
"And we know all things work together -" All things? The surprises? The failures? The betrayals? All things work together?
"All things work together for good -" Bad things turn into good in the end, when properly mixed? That's what the God who loves you seems to say. But there is one qualification:
"All things work together for good to them that love God." If you love God, if you are His child, then yes, it's true. Nothing, absolutely nothing, can come into your life and hurt you since you have taken Him as your Savior. All the bad stuff, the disappointments, the failures, the betrayals, God says, "I will take each one of those difficult experiences, and I will shape them into something wonderful in your life."
And at the end, when you see how He has transformed those terrible events in your life into blessings, you will say with joy and confidence, "And I know that all things work together for good to them who love God" (Romans 8:28).
Vanilla, alone, bitter. Properly mixed, delightful.
Trouble, alone, bitter. Properly mixed by the omnipotent God who loves you and whom you love, absolutely delightful!