September 2018 Devotionals

September 24, 2018


He Was a Bully and He Frightened Me
A Word of Encouragement from Elizabeth Rice Handford


James Bowie School. Sixth grade. Me, a shy and awkward eleven-year-old. Him, a gangly seventh-grader. He chased me home after school every day to "give me a kiss." He was a bully, and he frightened me.


I coped the best I could. I lingered in the hallways for an hour after school. I changed the route I took home. I clustered with friends walking home. So far I had escaped his clutches. But I knew some day he was going to catch me alone.


So I went to my father. He wasn't a big man, but he was a Texan, and Texas men aren't afraid of anything-at least that was what this very-much-afraid child believed.


I grew up hearing the true story of the Texas Ranger sent to quell a riot in Fort Worth. He was met at the train by the frightened sheriff. "Where are the rest of your men?" he asked. "You didn't come alone, did you?" The Texas Ranger drawled, "Sure I'm alone. You have only one riot, don't you?"


I thought my Daddy as fearless as that Texas ranger. He'd stop that kid from threatening me! "Daddy, I need you to help me. This boy keeps chasing me home, wanting to kiss me. Please make him stop."


Instead, my father looked squarely into my eyes. I wanted him to protect me, but he wanted me to learn to stick up for myself. "Get yourself a big stick," he said quietly. "And if he tries to kiss you, hit him as hard as you can."


"Even if he's bigger than me?"


"Yes. Get a big stick. That will stop him. If it doesn't, I'll take care of him."


The next day, I went home from school through an alley to get away from the bully. But he followed me. A long tree branch lay on the ground at my feet. It was too big and heavy for me to wield, but I picked up the end of it. "Go away or I'm going to hit you with this," I said, my voice trembling in spite of myself.

He ran. He never bothered me again.


Daddy was right. There's no satisfaction in being a bully unless you see answering terror in the eyes of the one you are bullying.


You understand, if my big stick hadn't stopped the boy from harassing me, my brave father would have taken care of me. But Daddy knew I needed to learn how to stand up against bullying. Always. No matter who it is who is bullying. No matter their status or influence. No matter how unimportant the bullied person may feel. Threatening someone who cannot defend themselves is wrong, dead wrong. It has to be stopped. Confrontation is the only answer.


But there are many weak and helpless people in our society, people who have no recourse to get away, no alternative. They have no resources. If they lose their job, their children starve. They can't hit back. Their very helplessness inflames the bully. So it is our responsibility, God says, to watch out for those who can't protect themselves and do whatever is necessary to protect them.
Brothers and sisters . . . Encourage those who are timid.

Take tender care of those who are weak.
Be patient with everyone.
See that no one pays back evil for evil,
but always try to do good to each other and to everyone else.

1 Thessalonians 5:14,15 (nlt)


Can you remember how it feels to be threatened and frightened? Then "encourage those who are timid, and take tender care of those who are weak"!

September 17, 2018


Waiting Out the Storm
A Word of Encouragement from Elizabeth Rice Handford


Hurricane Florence: Here in the Carolinas, we've watched it for a week, churning closer and closer to home. Now it's a matter of hours. I've done all the stuff authorities recommend to get ready: extra batteries, non-perishable food, fuel in the automobile, outdoor furniture secured. Now I'm packed up, including sweet Schatzi in her crate, to go to a daughter's home, hopefully less vulnerable than mine, to await the storm.

But there is really nothing I can do to assure our safety. That rests in the goodness of God and His watchcare. That's why Psalm 27 is so comforting. Listen to it, wherever you are in your relationship with God and whatever danger threatens you. As you read, keep in mind that the enemy in this case is the storm, not people.


The LORD is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear?
The LORD is the strength of my life; Of whom shall I be afraid? . . . .
Though an army may encamp against me, My heart shall not fear;
Though war should rise against me, In this I will be confident.


One thing I have desired of the LORD, That will I seek:
That I may dwell in the house of the LORD All the days of my life,
To behold the beauty of the LORD, And to inquire in His temple.
For in the time of trouble He shall hide me in His pavilion;
In the secret place of His tabernacle He shall hide me;
He shall set me high upon a rock.


And now my head shall be lifted up above my enemies all around me;
Therefore I will offer sacrifices of joy in His tabernacle;
I will sing, yes, I will sing praises to the LORD.
Hear, O LORD, when I cry with my voice!
Have mercy also upon me, and answer me.


When You said, "Seek My face,"
My heart said to You, "Your face, LORD, I will seek."
Do not hide Your face from me; Do not turn Your servant away in anger;
You have been my help;
Do not leave me nor forsake me, O God of my salvation. . . .


I would have lost heart, unless I had believed
That I would see the goodness of the LORD In the land of the living.
Wait on the LORD; Be of good courage,
And He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on the LORD!
Psalm 27 (nkjv)


September 10, 2018


A Three-Legged Stool: Which Leg Is Most Important?
A Word of Encouragement from Elizabeth Rice Handford


President Ronald Reagan was famous for his illustration of the need for all three strands of government to work together: fiscal responsibility, social accountability, and national security and defense. He called it a "three-legged" stool. If just one leg breaks, he argued, the whole thing fails. Equal attention must be given to all three. All three legs of the stool are essential if it is to do what it was created to do.


Walt and I were with dear and close friends once when the conversation veered to one of those esoteric questions: what should we put first in our lives? Physical fitness? Development of intellect and abilities? Family responsibilities? Spiritual relationship with God?


One friend's response was prompt: physical fitness. If you don't have a strong body, you can't accomplish any of those other things.
"Yeah, but unless your mind is sharp and clear, it won't matter if you're in good physical condition."


"But think about this," argued the third friend. "The only thing that really matters in life is people. All that other stuff is going to disappear, but human beings matter forever. I think we need to put our families first."


Walt grabbed a napkin, and took out a pencil. (How many times has a wonderful solution to a problem been found scribbled on the back of an envelope or a napkin?)


"It's like this," he said, drawing a big strong line across the bottom. "This is the foundation: the Lord Jesus. Nothing good can be built that will last without a basic and personal relationship with Christ. We must first settle our eternal destiny."


Then he drew a three-legged stool sitting on that big strong line. "The stool has to rest on that strong and even foundation. But then you need all three legs of the stool. They're all important: body, mind, soul. You must give attention to all three of them. You're not given the option of neglecting one for the other."


And later, to prove his point, he went to his woodworking shop and made a three-legged stool. Sure enough, the silly stool wouldn't stand up until the third leg was screwed into place.

The Apostle Paul said exactly that, in his letter to the Corinthains:


For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid,
which is Jesus Christ.
Now if anyone builds on this foundation
with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw,
each one's work will become clear; for the Day will declare it,
because it will be revealed by fire;
and the fire will test each one's work, of what sort it is.
If anyone's work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward.
If anyone's work is burned, he will suffer loss;
but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.

First Corinthians 3:11-15


A good thing to remember the next time you sit on a three-legged stool!


September 4, 2018


Thank God for Monday Mornings!
A Word of Encouragement from Elizabeth Rice Handford


Yes, of course I celebrated Labor Day yesterday in one last glad fling before going back to work. (There's not much prospect of a really relaxing holiday between now and the new year, since Thanksgiving and Christmas bring their own share of work.) I gladly admit that Labor Day was a welcome respite from the "daily-ness"of hard work.

But there's also something to be said for the prospect of washing the sand from between your toes at the end of a vacation, and putting on shoes instead of flip-flops, and not having to slather on sun block for a while, and heading home to take up work again.


I once asked a young grandson, "If I were your fairy godmother, and could give you exactly the job you want to earn a living, what would it be?"


He answered immediately, "Be a millionaire and not have to work"!

I couldn't argue with him about whether or not millionaires have to work hard, never having been a millionaire, but I suspect they work as hard as anybody else. But he was wrong about not wanting to work.


An odd passage in Genesis 3 sheds light on the burden of work that every human being must carry. God told Adam and Eve, specifically and earnestly, not to eat the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil. It would kill them. But they ate it anyway. Then, guiltily, they cowered in the dark and tried to hide from God. But God kept looking for them, because He loved them very much. After showing them the way to forgiveness and eternal life, He said,


Cursed is the ground for your sake;
In toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life.
Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you,
And you shall eat the herb of the field.
In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread.
Genesis 3:17,18


So God gave us hard work "for our sakes," because He loves us, not to punish us. That's why we need to thank God for Monday mornings. My work is my blessing, not my doom.

The Scripture says,

Whatever you do,
work at it with all your heart,
as working for the Lord, not for men.
Colossians 3:23


So today, as you and I work at the tasks God has laid on us, let's do it with all our hearts. Let's work, not just trying to please the boss, essential as that is. Let's work, not just to pay the bills, important as that is. Let's work, not just to pass the time of day, boring as the job may sometimes be. Let's work eagerly, faithfully, intelligently. We are really working for the Big Boss, the Lord Jesus Himself.

And that's why I say, "Thank God for Monday mornings."