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I dreamed the other night about Daddy, who has been gone now for nigh onto 28 years.

Featuring prominently in that dream were Daddy's hands. So vivid were his hands in that dream, in fact, that it awakened me. As I tried to get back to sleep, however, my mind began to churn, as it so often does when I wake up in the middle of the night after a few hours of refreshing sleep. And I found myself thinking about hands.

If you consider hands seriously, you must conclude that they are ingeniously designed and created. The human hand includes 27 bones, 34 muscles, and 123 ligaments that work together to permit it to do things that the limbs and digits of other creatures simply are incapable of doing. Not the least among the unique characteristics of the human hand is the opposing thumb, which allows us to pick up and grip objects.

As my musings continued, I began to think of the various kinds of hands and then of the hands of specific individuals I've encountered in my life.

Children's hands are small and soft. They are as yet uncoordinated in their movements because they lack the fine motor skills, but they are growing, and those skills will come with time and practice. They will soon develop the "writer's callus" on the middle finger of their writing hand as those fine motor skills increase. (I assume that, in spite of the increasingly earlier emphasis on student computer use, kids still do at least some handwriting in the early grades.) Within the last week, I held a lot of children's hands when three of my eight grandchildren visited us.

As I was growing up, I was surrounded by people who had working hands. By that, I mean people who did daily hard, physical work with their hands. They were rough, callused, scarred, and often a little dirty looking, even when they were clean. I've written before of Nannie's hands. (You can listen to the audio version as it was aired on the Our American Stories radio program at or read it on my website at . My Pappaw Peterson's hands also come to mind when I think of working hands.

Then there are the helping hands, the hands of people who recognize a need we might have and jump in to help us carry the load. They include people who teach others, whether young or old. I think of Mrs. Zachary, my first-grade teacher, who worked tirelessly and patiently with my clumsy child hands to teach me how to tie my shoes. (I think I finally demonstrated mastery on the last day of school!)

Of course, I also experienced a lot of help from disciplining hands, those that applied the board of education to my seat of understanding as I was growing and learning. I think especially of Daddy's firm hand, whether it was reaching across the church pew to rap my head with his finger or twist my ear whenever I misbehaved in church or chastising me in a variety of other ways. And I must admit that I deserved far more of that than I got.

But that disciplining hand was balanced by many praying hands. Most vivid in my memory is the day when, having forgotten something on my way to school (a paper to be signed by a parent, my lunch money, or something), I rushed back to the house just as the bus was getting to the stop and burst into Mother's bedroom and found her on her knees praying aloud--for me--by name. I've since often wondered how many catastrophes and mistakes I was preserved from by the answers to her prayers.

Those praying hands are the direct result of nail-scarred hands, and there can be only one example of this unique hand type: Jesus Christ. The wounds that scarred His hands He suffered when He was nailed to the cross. And for what purpose? To take our sins upon Himself and to suffer the penalty that we should have paid, so that we, by believing in Him, might be saved. That is the ultimate symbol of loving hands.

In John 20:27, the risen Christ presented Himself to the doubting disciple Thomas, who earlier had said he wouldn't believe that Christ was risen from the grave until he saw for himself the print of the nails in His hands. And Jesus said to him, "Behold my hands." He still offers that invitation to each of us today.

I already accepted that invitation when I was a teen. But it still does me good to consider His hands often. It makes me wonder what my children and grandchildren will remember about my hands. Will they remember them as growing, working, helping, and praying hands?

What about your own hands? Look at them. What will others think when they see your hands? Behold Christ's hands and compare them with your own. What kind of hands do you have?

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