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

Making the Most of Hard Times – Philippians 4:11-13

Do you get cranky when temperatures rise? I’m enjoying our spring weather so far, but you might want to back off if I’m in the sun too long.

Photo from Stocksnap – pixabay.com

When I was a baby, my parents took me to Indiana to introduce me to our relatives at Anderson Camp Meeting. As the day wore on, the summer heat got to me. Soon my fussing made those around me equally miserable. My ever resourceful mother found a bucket, drew a little water, and sat me in it. Dad snapped a photo of the transformation, his whiny child now grinning and splashing in the water. All because they’d met my most pressing need.

Sitting in the bucket, I had no concerns about food or clothing, or where I would take my afternoon nap. All I needed that moment was a bucket of water and my loving parents.

Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

Philippians 4:11-13 ESV

In these difficult times with the virus and its effects on our lives, we can be content with what we have. We can face seasons of having much, as well as those of lack, through Jesus who strengthens us.


Helping others

My longtime friend, Laurie, a missionary in Uganda, is working to feed the hungry during the COVID-19 pandemic. Here’s what she wrote a couple days ago.

Today, Gerald is on his way to go and help another 6 families. One story that has really touched me this week: When Gerald was buying posho and beans for one family, a young woman came up to the vendor with a baby on her back and a young child in tow. She asked the vendor how much the very cheap (not milled well) rice was. They said shs3,000 (less than $1).
She said, “Oh, I thought it was only shs1,000.” (less than 30 cents). Then she walked away, not having enough to buy even the worst rice you can buy. Gerald said she looked hungry, but he had no extra money to get her anything. So, now when he goes to buy for the ones we know, I send him with extra so he can get something for those who have nothing–like this young mother.

Laurie Dickerson

I share Laurie’s story because I want to remember there are people suffering much more than I am from the effects of the virus. Having spent time in communities like hers, I’ll never forget the tremendous need.

She serves where most people go to work, receive their pay and buy their food the same day. Few have refrigeration or canned foods. If they don’t work, their family doesn’t eat that day. Many have lost their jobs and are going hungry. (If you’d like to help, contact me and I’ll get you connected.)


An app to try

No matter what state I’m in, I’m more aware of God’s presence when I read the Bible every day. Because of the convenience of having the scriptures via Biblegateway.com accessible on my cell phone, I’m happy to be a #BibleGatewayPartner and share this resource with you. I am not paid to share my opinion–my desire is to promote Bible reading.

I recently downloaded Bible Gateway’s free Bible Audio App and it’s great! When my hands are busy, like when driving or stretching, I can listen to Scripture. The only downside is that currently the English Standard Version, the version I prefer, isn’t an option. Hopefully, that will change.

This app is also a great tool to help with memorization. The verse text appears on your screen as you listen, and changes when the spoken verse changes. And you can swipe to navigate between verses or set it to repeat the verse or passage being read. I like that.

Remember, the Bible Gateway Bible Audio App is free.

by Kathy Sheldon Davis

From Foster Child to Greatness – Exodus 2:6-10

When I began fostering children it didn’t occur to me that Moses, the great leader of Israel, was raised in a foster home. I only understood that his mother relinquished him to save his life.

Jochebed hid her baby as long as she dared, knowing her neighbors lost their infant sons to drowning whenever they were discovered. Finally, weaving a reed basket, she plotted her baby’s escape.

Her heart must have been breaking, yet she hoped God would protect his life. How did she manage to hold herself together as she wrapped her boy in his blanket one last time, placed his napping form in the basket, and launched him into the river?

When she (Pharaoh’s daughter) opened it, she saw the child, and behold, the baby was crying. She took pity on him and said, “This is one of the Hebrews’ children.” 

Then his sister said to Pharaoh’s daughter, “Shall I go and call you a nurse from the Hebrew women to nurse the child for you?”  And Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Go.” So the girl went and called the child’s mother.  And Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Take this child away and nurse him for me, and I will give you your wages.”

So the woman took the child and nursed him.  When the child grew older, she brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter, and he became her son. She named him Moses, “Because,” she said, “I drew him out of the water.”

Exodus 2:6-10 ESV

Her little one rescued from the river, Jochebed was given a few additional years to nurse him, sing to him, enjoy him–all while receiving wages as though she were merely a nursemaid. This boggles my mind.

Imagine how you would pray in Jochebed’s situation. Her son would be taught to serve the gods of Egypt, spurning her people and her God. He might even become an oppressor like the ones who tried to wipe out all her nephews.

As she mothered him a little longer, she prepared for the day she’d send him away again. Do you think she whispered in his ear to remind him she was his true mother? When she put her son into his foster mom’s arms, did she hear his new mother change her boy’s name–and maintain her peace anyway?

Hear my words: If there is a prophet among you, I the Lord make myself known to him in a vision; I speak with him in a dream. Not so with my servant Moses. He is faithful in all my house. With him I speak mouth to mouth, clearly, and not in riddles, and he beholds the form of the Lord.

Numbers 12:6-8 ESV

PRAYER:

Lord, I don’t know all your plans for my children and my foster children, but like Jochebed, I put them in your hands. I trust you. I pray you will teach them your ways and guide their paths in preparation for the tasks you have for them. May they surpass me in their knowledge of you, walk humbly before you, and serve you faithfully all their days. Thank you for hearing the prayers of a mother’s heart.

Kathy Sheldon Davis