From Judgment to Grace – Changing a Family Story – Romans 14:4

I know we’re not supposed to judge, but I do it all the time. It’s so easy, especially when the person in mind is someone I’ve never met and who died in 1925. Years ago I heard things about him that made it clear his poor choices affected his family for generations after him. He was clearly guilty.

He was my great-grandfather, Robert Stowe, a married father of four who worked as an insurance salesman and music teacher in Elkhart, Indiana. His failing was that his addiction to alcohol ate up their resources and caused his family to live in poverty. His daughter remembered how the wind blew up through cracks in the floor. His wife took their children to church and taught them good values, but Robert’s was only a sad, depressing story.

That was the narrative I believed all my life, until a few months ago.

Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.

Romans 14:4 ESV

My Robert Stowe story changed shortly before my mother died, when she gave me more details about his life. She told me about his love for his children, how he taught music at their school, singing with Beneta, my grandmother, in his rich tenor voice.

His wife was musical too, singing soprano and playing her guitar. In their poverty they enjoyed making music. I hadn’t known they shared good times together. Instead I based my opinion of him on a repeated story, that single story, which in my mind marked him for life.

I felt no affection for Robert Stowe, however, until Mom told me about how his church held the belief that when it came to drink you were doomed. Even if you believed in Jesus as your Savior, drinking was considered a moral failure. You were labeled “backslidden” and no longer welcome in God’s presence—or theirs.

Robert Stowe would repent and get sober, attend church with his family for a time, then backslide again. Can you imagine how hard it would be to face your friends again and again, and have them reject you because of your struggles? And how heartbreaking it would be for a little girl to think her daddy wouldn’t go to heaven?

Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him; and he cannot keep on sinning, because he has been born of God.

1 John 3:7-9 ESV

Robert Stowe practiced a righteous life, humbling himself to admit his struggle with staying sober. He failed miserably, but the 1 John 3 scripture doesn’t say there’s a limit to how many falls we can experience. It does mention practicing, though.

I have three photos of my great-grandfather. In all of them he appears stern. Maybe he was hard on himself, a perfectionist that could never measure up. I can’t find any clues about his childhood or what happened to him. What I do know is that my heart changed. I understand him a little better now, and I have compassion for him.

I also know the graciousness of God and the truth that we all need a Savior. None of us come to God with a perfect record. And none of us are better people, or worse sinners, than another. God’s grace is enough.

Now I can easily imagine my great-grandfather performing the most requested song by his daughter’s classmates, Nita Juanita, and singing it with her name, “Nita” Beneta. If they share the love of laughter and the sparkle I’ve seen in his daughter’s blue eyes, it’s not a reach to imagine them enjoying a playful moment in heaven—free not only from his addictions, but from others’ judgments as well.

I can’t wait to meet him.

Kathy Sheldon Davis

The Creativity Challenge – Isaiah 43:18-19

During a visit to a medical facility a nurse told me she is not creative. This was after I spotted an odd shape in a tree across the street that looked like ET’s face. She said, “Give me math and science, but ask me to see a face in tree bark? Not my thing.”

Maybe she hadn’t thought about nursing as creative expression. I’m thankful she uses her talents to help bring hope and healing to people. She works to create a new way, her way of doing that.

Earlier this month Jerry and I watched The Chosen, a new series about the life of Jesus. It is a remarkable retelling of events in the New Testament, but what sets this version apart is

  • it’s a series. I’m sure these stories have never been presented as a series before, and
  • it’s crowd funded. I have never heard of Christian shows being funded this way.

We don’t own a TV, and I don’t like watching videos on my cell phone, but we can view them on our laptop. Viewing TV shows on a computer screen is another thing that was once a “never been done” idea.

The challenge I’m issuing is this: Let’s stop shrinking back from seeing, tasting, making, hearing, and learning new things. We might just open the way for the miraculous.

Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.

Isaiah 43:18-19 ESV

What’s the worst that can happen if the new thing doesn’t succeed? We start again and create a different thing.

Check out the powerful message in The Chosen. I’d like to hear what you think.

Kathy Sheldon Davis

Don’t Be Embarrassed if You’re Still Looking for Your Calling – Matthew 4:19

Sometimes as followers of Jesus we struggle with understanding our calling. We might wonder why we aren’t more successful in our efforts or why we no longer find them fulfilling. What we once excelled at may have changed. Have we missed our calling?

In my thirties I knew I was made to be a mother. I was in my element managing our children and our home, but when we were done expanding our family I went through a terrible time of loss. I reminded God that I was good at this mothering thing and he’d blessed it. I gave it my all and saw good fruit in my family and in our community. Wasn’t this my calling? Why would he take it away?

I talked about these questions in a previous post. You might wish to read When Your Life’s Work Gets the Dreaded Pink Slip – Job 1:21.

How do I know what my calling is?

Have you ever thought that perhaps a calling might be a response instead of an assignment? I mean, repeatedly in Scripture we are told to follow Jesus. I don’t remember Jesus directing anyone to work in a certain field or strive for a particular profession. I’ll keep reading, though, in case I missed something.

He did say to work at whatever we do “as for the Lord,” but that seems to imply that any job can relate to our calling. In fact, in Matthew 4 when he tells his disciples to follow him, he promises that in following him he will make them what he wants them to be.

And he (Jesus) said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”

Matthew 4:19 ESV


Since I’m not a fisherman I have to look at the underlying meaning of “fishers of men” to find what it means to me. He’s talking to guys who make their living catching fish. What he’s telling me, a woman who usually works in ways not related to fish, is that he will make me a “bringer of people” to Jesus as I follow him in my daily tasks.

And this, my friend, is our true calling: Follow Jesus and bring others.

What Jesus calls you to do

How we fulfill his calling is our service, our response, to him. It’s our moment by moment choice to look for ways to love others in whatever we do, pointing the way to Jesus as we follow him ourselves.

By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.

John 13:35 ESV

Whether a band leader, an executive, or a homeschool parent your calling is the same as everyone else’s, to follow Jesus. Are you a nurse, a research scientist, a mom, a soldier, or a city council member? He calls you to follow him. If you’re a mechanic or a Walmart cashier, follow Jesus. He will lead us into opportunities to love others like he loves us, making us fishers of men — bringers of people to Jesus.

by Kathy Sheldon Davis