October 2018 Devotionals

October 29, 2018


But When the Dog Started Howling-
A Word of Encouragement from Elizabeth Rice Handford


Daddy was somewhere way off in in odd place called Pennsylvania on a preaching mission. The seven children and I were at home, and we were missing Daddy. It was a cold and windy Illinois night. We were cuddled under blankets together on the couch in the living room. The lights were turned high, and the doors were locked. The older children were a little uneasy because a couple of weeks before, a murder had been committed two blocks down the road from us. Ranger, our sweet beagle hound, snuggled with the kids. I was reading "The Swiss Family Robinson" to them, putting all the histrionics into it I could, to keep their attention. (This is pre-TV, I remind you!)


Suddenly there was a loud noise from somewhere outside the house. "It's just the wind," I said, hoping it was true. It's probable that my voice tightened a bit, and the children were aware of it.


Another bang-impossible to tell where it came from. "The wind really is blowing hard, isn't it?" I said gaily. But then Ranger leaped up, trembling so hard she could hardly stand. She let out an eerie howl that quavered with her fear.
When the dog started howling, I wanted to howl, too!


Who was it? What did they want? How could I protect my family? The doors were locked, but if someone were determined, they could force an entry. (I didn't stop to ask myself why would anybody want to break into our modest home with nothing of value in it to steal!)


Ranger kept howling, impossible to stop her, and the children became frightened. What should I do? Could I get them all in the car and drive to safety? The two oldest were only six. John could guide Ruthie, and Debbie could take Paul, but none of the three babies could walk yet, and I couldn't carry all three at once.

I stopped reading, and listened. Nothing. The wind died down. Ranger stopped baying. We finished reading that chapter of the book. I tucked the children in bed, and went to my bedroom to think through what had happened. I knew I could not live the rest of my life with that kind of paralyzing fear. I remembered something in the Bible about being a slave to fear of dying, so I looked it up. This is what I found:


Because God's children are human beings-made of flesh and blood-
Jesus also became flesh and blood by being born in human form.
For only as a human being could He die,
and only by dying could He break the power of the Devil,
who had the power of death.
Only in this way could He deliver
those who have lived all their lives as slaves to the fear of dying."

Hebrews 2:14,15


That night I settled it with God. I could not live my life with that kind of dread. I admitted God is God and I could trust Him, always, always, to do what was best for our family. He didn't promise me I would not go through trouble. He promised me that He would go through trouble with me.


My children are grown now and some have grandchildren of their own. God has been faithful to this family. Yes, we've walked through deep trouble, suffered the loss of a dear grandson, struggled with disappointment and failure. But we do not need to be "slaves to the fear of dying." We have God's assurance that Jesus, by coming into the world and dying for us, broke forever the power of death.

I'll remember that, hopefully, the next time the dog starts howling on a dark and windy nigh

October 22, 2018


Is This Kid Worth Risking My Reputation For?
A Word of Encouragement from Elizabeth Rice Handford


He had a lot of marks against him, this sixteen-year-old kid, who was still just a freshman. (I'll call him Joe.) His father had abandoned the family. He was biracial, and the kids at school were very unkind. His mother was loving and wise, but she worked three jobs just to keep her sons and her mother alive.


What he needed, Joe told me, was a job. Most employers weren't about to risk taking him on with his record of failure. I'd known the family for a long time and admired the tremendous sacrifices the mother had made through the years for her family.


"Joe," I said, "I have a friend who owns a fast-food restaurant. Let me see if maybe he might take you on."


This friend was a wonderfully kind and merciful Christian business man. "Sure, I'll hire him," he said. "We'll see what he's made of."


So Joe was hired, sight unseen.


I wrote a letter to Joe. You'll maybe think it a kind of blackmail. But it seemed to me he needed to know that my reputation depended on his success. I thought it might help him set high goals for himself.


"Dear Joe," I wrote. "I'm so glad God gave you a job. I believe you have the grit and smarts to make a go of it. Remember that I've told Mr. ____ that you are a hard worker. I've given him my word that you are dependable, and that he can trust you completely. I am praying that God will help you succeed."


Months went by. "How's Joe doing?" I asked Mr. _____, eager, but a little hesitant.


"Great, Libby. He opens for me. He closes for me. He works well with others. He's one of my very best employees."


You'll be glad to know that Joe did grow up, and he's now a sectional manager in a big box store, serving God and living a productive, happy life.
Is that success story true of every one Walt and I invested our lives in through the years? No, of course not. But every one of those people deserved the chance we offered them. My father often helped people in need, sometimes only to be taken terrible advantage of. But Daddy would say, maybe a little ruefully, "Well, I'd rather help somebody that didn't deserve it, than not to help someone that did deserve it."


And that's what Ecclesiastes 11:6 advises: "In the morning sow your seed, and in the evening do not withhold your hand; for you do not know which will prosper, either this or that, or whether both alike will be good."

So it may be that today God wants you to find someone in need of encouragement, someone who needs you to risk your time and energy to help them find their way to a useful life. First Thessalonians 5:14,15 says:


Comfort the fainthearted,
uphold the weak,
be patient with all. . . .
Always pursue what is good both for yourselves and for all."


Is someone out there, just waiting for your encouragement to help them become a useful and happy Christian? Let's see what God sends our way today!


October 15, 2018


Son Paul's Famous Hundred-Dollar Cat
A Word of Encouragement from Elizabeth Rice Handford


A stray calico cat had been hanging around the garage for several days. "Kids," I said sternly, "don't you dare feed that cat. If you do, she will think she belongs here, and we won't be able to get rid of her."


But I was far too late. From the day our seven-year-old found the stray calico cat behind the garage, he'd kept her supplied with milk and water and whatever table foods he thought she'd enjoy. He hadn't exactly sneaked the food out; he just found it convenient to wait until nobody was around to notice what he was doing.


You may not know this, but write it down as a confirmed fact: if you feed a stray cat for three whole days, there is nothing, absolutely nothing you can do to make it go away. I accepted the inevitable. Paul was the official owner of a cat.

 He named her "The Cat." All summer long he carted her around, no matter what he was doing.


"You love that cat, don't you, honey?"


"I do, Mother, I do."


"What do you like especially about her?"


"Everything. How she smiles at me. How her fur shines. How she loves me. She's my hundred-dollar cat."


"A hundred dollars? How could she be worth a hundred dollars?" I asked.


"Because I wouldn't take a hundred dollars for her."

And that settled it. The one who owns the cat decides its value.


And that's true about you! You know all about yourself-your failures and your inadequacies. You may feel self-conscious coming into the presence of God knowing how little you have to offer Him. You may feel like poor Job, bewildered by all his losses. He asked God, "What are mere mortals, that you should make so much of us?" (Job 7:17)


King David wondered the same thing:
When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers,
The moon and the stars, which You have ordained,
What is man that You are mindful of him,
And the son of man that You visit him?
For You have made him a little lower than the angels,
And You have crowned him with glory and honor.
Psalm 8:3-5


There is only one possible answer: The Lord Jesus loved you so much, valued you very much that He paid the ultimate price for your ransom. The value of the life is set by the One who owns you, and your price was incredibly high.

"For you know that God paid a ransom to save you . . .
and the ransom He paid was not mere gold or silver.
He paid for you with the precious lifeblood of Christ,
the sinless, spotless Lamb of God.
1 Peter 1:18,19

The Lord God created the whole universe with just a few spoken words. But He couldn't redeem you with cheap stuff like silver and gold. Your eternal salvation was purchased by His terrible death and astonishing resurrection.

Yes, Paul's cat really was worth $100.00. How much more precious are you to


October 8, 2018


Would You Know It Was the Continental Divide?
A Word of Encouragement from Elizabeth Rice Handford


All my young life I'd longed to see the great Rocky Mountains and cross that magnificent continental divide with its serrated peaks just like it showed on the big world globe.


My dream was fueled, I think, from a song we sang at school: "When poppies close their crimson eyes . . . My longing heart in fancy flies to where the snow-capped mountains lie." The pictures in that old school songbook depicted the "snow-capped mountains" as one single, sharply pointed Alp, with snow on its peak. And that's what I expected the

 continental divide to look like: a set of sharp peaks in a row, so plain that if it was raining, you'd know whether the water would flow to the Atlantic Ocean or the Pacific!

So imagine my astonishment when Walt and I drove to the west coast from Chicago and we came to the continental divide. I saw no sharply-pointed mountains, no clear demarcation, no painted line. I knew we were at the continental divide only because the highway sign said so.


I wonder, how often I have come to a "continental-divide" kind of decision in my life and there was no sign to warn me? Now I know how important those early decisions were: what college to attend, what major to choose, even what man to marry. But I'm not sure I realized then how those decisions would shape my life.

The prophet Jeremiah says,
Stop at the crossroads
and look around.
Ask for the old, godly way
and walk in it.
Travel in it
and you will find rest for your souls.
(Jer. 6:16,17)


But the very next line says, "But you would not." Would not stop and look? Not change? Not turn around when you saw you were on the wrong road? Why would anyone choose the chaos and ruin of going down the wrong road instead of turning around and receiving the "rest for your souls" that God promises?

Later, in Jeremiah 8:4, the bewildered prophet writes,
When people fall down,
don't they get up?
When they discover they're on the wrong road,
Don't they turn back?



If I come to a crossroad, and I see by the signs I am headed the wrong direction, what should I do? God gives us a a simple, logical answer: turn around! Change your mind. I will have to cope with some of the consequences of the wrong decision I made, but that's better than continuing down the wrong road. Today I can change my mind. I can turn around. I can head the direction I ought to go. And when I find the courage and the wisdom to make that choice, I have God's promise, "You will find rest for your soul."

And if you should someday find yourself standing at a cross road, why not "stop and look around"? Why not "Ask for the godly way"? You too will find "rest for your soul."



October 1, 2018


"You're a Liar and You Always Will Be a Liar"
A Word of Encouragement from Elizabeth Rice Handford


My big sister Mary Lloys was really mad at me, and she said, in an unforgettably icy voice, "Jimmy, you're a liar and you always will be a liar." I was probably ten years old at the time.


Well, yes, of course I lie. How else can I stay out of trouble? How else can I keep my image of myself as a good person? Sometimes, you have to admit, there isn't any way to get out of a sticky situation except to lie. Besides, they're mostly little white lies.


So I excused myself. But I did love the Lord Jesus, and I really did want to be good. So I decided I would tell the truth, always, no matter how shaming it would be. I thought maybe Jesus could help me to break my bad habit of lying.


Then the last part of Mary Lloys's accusation hit me: You are a liar. That's your character, and you can't change it. You're doomed to be a liar the rest of your life. Could that be true? Was there no hope for me?

How glad I am to tell you that, yes, there certainly was hope. I could change. I can choose to be a honorable person, a trust-worthy person. Did I sometimes lie again? Yes. Was I sorry and did I ask Jesus to help me do right? Yes. And through the years the temptation to tell lies eased, and I didn't have to fight it out with my conscience so often.


Was I grateful that Mary Lloys loved me enough to challenge me that long-ago day? Obviously not, or it would not be so vivid in my memory. But since then? Her harsh words had cut me to the heart. I yearned to be someone who can be trusted implicitly, whose word is always true. So that day I decided to change.


Years later I reminded her of the incident. "Thank you," I said, "for telling me the truth that horrible day. I'm not sure I'd have ever changed if you hadn't challenged me"


I was astonished at her reaction. "Why, Libby, I never said anything like that to you. You've always been very truthful. I could always trust what you said."


And that proves my point. I did have a bad character flaw. Someone told me I couldn't change. But I did, so much so that the very person who'd challenged me didn't even remember that she'd told me I was a liar!

The moral of this embarrassing story? One lesson is found in Proverbs 27:6


"Faithful are the wounds of a friend."


The essence of a deep friendship is honesty. My sister saw something in me that I needed to fix. She wounded me, yes, but it was an honest appraisal of my need for change. Sure, the wounding should be done gently and with compassion, but friendship demands caring for each other enough to confront when needed.

The other moral of this embarrassing story? It is found in Psalm 19:12-14:


Lord, How can I know all the sins lurking in my heart?
Cleanse me from these hidden faults.
Keep me from deliberate sins!
Don't let them control me.
Then I will be free of guilt and innocent of great sin.
May the words of my mouth and the thoughts of my heart
be pleasing to you, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.

I can change. I can be what the Lord Jesus intended me to be. I can be a truth-teller. God will help me.