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« Reply #345 on: December 21, 2006, 10:21:52 PM »

Title: Women: The Road Ahead
Book: Keep A Quiet Heart
Author: Elisabeth Elliot


A special issue of a leading news magazine had this title for its theme. There were pictures of women in prison with babies; an inconsolable "crack" baby with a tangle of tubes connected to machines, crying his little heart out; a mother charged with a felony: delivery of drugs to her newborn child; women in politics "sharing real rather than cosmetic power;" a veiled Muslim woman; ten tough-minded women who "create individual rules for success," e.g. a police chief, a bishop, a rock climber, a baseball club owner, a rap artist, a fashion tycoon, an Indian chief, and others. There were single mothers, lesbian mothers, divorced mothers, working (outside the home) mothers. There was a twelve-year-old who fixes supper for her sisters when Mom works late, and there was a man who is a househusband. But there was not one picture of a father and mother and their children. Not one.

"A jockstrap was a parting gift when Marion Howington retired last year from the once all-male post of senior v.p. at J. Walter Thompson.... For Howington, a striking 60, who began climbing the agency's ladder in Chicago in 1967, the key to success was to `be aggressive' and `think like a man.'...

`There's not a woman anywhere who made it in business who is not tough, self-centered, and enormously aggressive.'"

Readers occasionally ask me why I write about horrifying stuff. Well, to precipitate prayer and to remind us that we do not engage in a war against mere flesh and blood. As Ephesians 6 says, "We are up against the unseen power that controls this dark world, and spiritual agents from the headquarters of evil...Take your stand then with truth as your belt, righteousness your breastplate, the Gospel of peace firmly on your feet, salvation as your helmet and in your hand the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God" (PHILLIPS).

There was at least one bright note in that special issue. Sixty-six percent of women aged 18-24 answered yes to the question, "If you had the opportunity, would you be interested in staying at home and raising children?" They are beginning to see that the corporate world is no day at the beach. There was encouragement also in a letter to Ann Landers from a former executive: "It suddenly dawned on me that I had my priorities bollixed up and my children deserve better. I had to admit getting fulfillment from my career was a pipe dream. It may elude me in motherhood as well, but I now know what really matters. After nine years of paying someone to raise my children, I was forced to admit my family is more important to me than anything else. I wish I had known this when my first child was born. I am now thirty-six years old and happy to say we are expecting our third child... This means cutting down on vacations, and our entertaining will be reduced to popcorn and video parties with a few old friends.... `No success in life can compensate for failure at home.'"

I had a letter from one who made it her goal to be like the godly woman of Titus 2:3-5. As usual, when one determines to obey the Lord "the enemy was there causing me to feel like my whole world is on a roller-coaster, that my family was not important, that I am worthless, lazy, because I am a homemaker. I was so tired sometimes I could barely get meals on the table. I heard remarks like, `Oh, you aren't working at all? How do you manage to live on one income? It's hard on your husband! What do you do all day? You must be bored!'

"As my husband and I listened to your program we reaffirmed the goals we had set and committed them to the Lord once more...Pray for me to be strong and of good courage and to remain faithful, with an attitude of submission, a true handmaid of the Lord."

Women need to be prayed for. They need all the encouragement they can get. Sadly, it is not always forthcoming even from other Christians. I saw a lovely girl in the market the other day with the sweetest of sweet baby girls in her grocery cart. I asked about the baby--five months old, her only child so far. "Are you able to stay home to care for her?" "Oh yes! Oh, I can't even imagine putting her in day care." I gave her my blessing. Perhaps even a brief word from a stranger can make a difference to a young mother.

Prayer lays hold of God's plan and becomes the link between His will and its accomplishment on earth. Things happen which would not happen without prayer. Let's not forget that. Amazing things happen, and we are given the privilege of being the channels of the Holy Spirit's prayer. As we pray against abortion and pornography and homosexuality and divorce and drugs and for the strengthening of homes and families, we often feel helpless and hopeless until we remember, "We do not know how to pray worthily as sons of God, but his Spirit within us is actually praying for us in those agonizing longings which never find words" (Romans 8:26, PHILLIPS).

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« Reply #346 on: December 21, 2006, 10:23:41 PM »

Title: Hope Is a Fixed Anchor - Page 1
Book: All That Was Ever Ours
Author: Elisabeth Elliot


My friend Miriam is herself a walking miracle, having recovered more than twenty years ago from cancer. Her case was so serious that the doctors told her husband not to expect her home from the hospital. The cure was so miraculous that one doctor described it this way: "If you parked your car on a hill and the brakes let go, would you expect it to roll to the top of the hill? That's how incredible this is. This cancer was supposed to travel in one direction and kill her. It went the opposite way and quit."

Miriam was the only one who could talk like a Dutch uncle to my husband when he had cancer. He would listen to her when he did not want to hear a word out of the rest of us. His hope, of course, was that he would be cured as she had been.

The more hopeless my husband's case appeared to be, the more faithfully Miriam called to remind me, "Our hope, Elisabeth, is not in radiation or surgery or chemotherapy. Our hope is not in the doctors. Our hope is in God."

One night when I went to bed I found a card on my pillow. My daughter Valerie, still a teenager, had made it, intertwining the letters with tiny colored flowers. It said HOPE IN THE LORD. With all my heart I did that. With all my heart I prayed. It has been eight years now since Add died, and the card is before me tonight as I write. I am still hoping--but for what?

Christian hope is a different sort of thing from other kinds. The Greek word used in the New Testament for hope was one which in classical literature could mean expectation of good or bad, but was used by Christians to mean that in which one confides, or to which one flees for refuge. The real essence of the word is trust.

When Lazarus died, the hopes of his two loving sisters, Mary and Martha, were dashed. Jesus, hearing the news, did not hurry to the house but stayed where he was for two more days. When he finally got to Bethany both sisters greeted him with the same words: "If only you had been here, Lord!" Martha remembered the fact of the resurrection. She knew Lazarus would rise again on the last day, but that wasn't really good enough. She wanted her brother now, and her brother was dead. The terrible thing was that he might have been alive if only Jesus had been there. Jesus said to her, "I myself am the resurrection."

This is our hope. It is a living thing. It is, in fact, Christ himself. It is also something to live by. When our hopes for healing or success or the solution to a problem or freedom from financial distress seem to come to nothing, we feel just as Martha did. Jesus might have done something about it but he didn't. We lie awake thinking about all the "if onlys.'' We wonder if it is somehow our fault that the thing didn't work. We doubt whether prayer is of any use after all. Is God up there? Is he listening? Does he care?

The Lord might very well have healed my husband's disease as wonderfully as he healed Miriam's. The simple fact is that he didn't.

HOPE IN THE LORD, says the little card. How am I to do that now? By placing my confidence in the God who promises faithfulness. He has far better things up his sleeve than we imagine. Mary and Martha had envisioned his coming and raising a sick man from his bed. He came too late. Unfortunately Lazarus was dead--so dead, Martha pointed out, that decomposition would have set in. It had not crossed their minds that they were about to see an even more astonishing thing than the one they had hoped for--a swaddled corpse answering the Master's call and walking, bound and muffled, out of the tomb.

The only difference I see in the Lazarus story and our twentieth-century stories of disappointed hopes is the matter of time. Jesus did arrive at Mary and Martha's in a matter of a couple of days, and in perhaps an hour or so after his arrival he raised Lazarus. It looks very quick and easy as we read the story, but of course the two sisters experienced all that those who love a sick person experience, and all the agony of bereavement. Sorrow ran its course. They suffered what humans always suffer, albeit for a very short time.

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« Reply #347 on: December 21, 2006, 10:25:16 PM »

Hope Is a Fixed Anchor - Page 2

The truth of the story is that God knew what was happening. Nothing was separating the grieving women from his love. He heard their prayers, counted their tears, held his peace. But he was faithful, and he was at work. He had a grand miracle in mind. The Jews who saw Jesus weep were baffled, and said just what we would have said: "Could he not have kept this man from dying if he could open that blind man's eyes?"

God's timing of the events of our world is engineered from the eternal silence. One time he heals a sick man, such as the paralytic who was lowered through a roof. Another time he lets a sick man die. Miriam's cancer receded. Add's cancer grew. Was God paying attention in the one case but not in the other? So it seemed to Mary and Martha at first. Their prayers for healing were not answered. Jesus did not come. Lazarus died. But what a glorious ending to their story! And ours? What about ours?

"Did I not tell you," Jesus asked, "that if you believed, you would see the wonder of what God can do?" Here is the clue to the lesson: It is faith he is looking for, a quiet confidence that whatever it is he is up to, it will be a wonderful thing, never mind whether it is what we have been asking for.

The usual notion of hope is a particular outcome: physical healing, for example. The Christian notion, on the other hand, is a manner of life. I rest the full weight of my hopes on Christ himself, who not only raised the dead but was himself raised, and says to me in the face of all deaths, "I myself am the resurrection." The duration of my suffering may be longer than that of Lazarus's sisters, but if I believe, trust, flee to God for refuge, I am safe even in my sorrow, I am held by the confidence of God's utter trustworthiness. He is at work, producing miracles I haven't imagined. I must wait for them. The Book of the Revelation describes some of them. The intricacies of his sovereign will and the pace at which he effects it ("deliberate speed, majestic instancy") are beyond me now, but I am sure his plan is in operation.

HOPE IN THE LORD. Doctors, chemotherapy, surgery, radiation might very well have been a part of God's plan, methods he might have used to answer our prayers for a complete cure for my husband. They evidently were not. But that was not where our hopes really lay. They lay then, as they lie now, on the faithfulness of the One who died for us and rose again.

What God promised to Abraham ("Surely blessing I will bless thee") he promises to us. We have two "utterly immutable things, the word of God and the oath of God, who cannot lie," according to the Book of Hebrews. Therefore we who are refugees from this dying world have a source of strength. We can grasp "the hope he holds out to us. This hope we hold as the utterly reliable anchor for our souls, fixed in the innermost shrine of Heaven, where Jesus has already entered on our behalf" (6:19, 20 PHILLIPS).

I don't know, when I'm asking for something here on earth, what is going on in the innermost shrine of Heaven (I like to think about it, though). I am sure of one thing: it is good. Because Jesus is there. Jesus loves me. Jesus has gone into that shrine on my behalf. The hope we have is a living hope, an unassailable one. We wait for it, in faith and patience. Christ is the resurrection and the life. No wonder Easter is the greatest of Christian feast days! No wonder Christians sing!

The powers of death have done their worst,
But Christ their legions hath dispersed:
Let shout of holy joy outburst.
Alleluia!

The three sad days are quickly sped,
He rises glorious from the dead;
All glory to our risen Head!
Alleluia!

Lord! By the stripes which wounded thee,
From death's dread sting thy servants free,
That we may live and sing to thee.
Alleluia!

Latin 1695--Episcopal Hymnal

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« Reply #348 on: December 21, 2006, 10:26:56 PM »

Title: But I Don't Feel Called - Page 1
Book: All That Was Ever Ours
Author: Elisabeth Elliot


A seminary student stopped me a few days ago to ask the question that troubles many young people today. It is not new. I struggled with it when I was a student, as I suppose people have for many centuries. "How can I tell if God is calling me? I don't really feel called."

Usually the question refers to a life's work. Nobody seems to stew very much about whether God is calling them to run down to the grocery store or take in a movie. We need groceries. We like movies. If the refrigerator is empty or there's a good movie in town, we jump into the car and go. Even Christians do this. Spiritual "giants" do it, I guess. They don't even pray about it. But this matter of the mission field. Oh, God, do you want me there? Shall I risk everything and launch out to some third world backwater, some waterless desert, some dreadful place where there are starving children, refugees, Marxists, dictators? Are you asking me to drag my wife, my children, to a place like that?

The call of God to Saul of Tarsus was dramatic--he was blinded, knocked flat, and clearly spoken to. God got his attention. But later in Antioch the Holy Spirit spoke to certain prophets and teachers. "Set apart Barnabas and Saul for me, to do the work to which I have called them." That was good enough. Barnabas and Saul obeyed the divine call, even though it came through other men.

It was during the Mass of the Feast of St. Matthias, in a chapel in the midst of a great, silent forest, that Francis of Assisi heard the call of God. It was not through an angel or a disembodied voice from beyond, but through the reading of the Gospel for that day: "Go and preach the message, 'The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!' ...Freely you have received, freely give." When the young man heard the words read by the priest, he felt that God had finally illumined his path. He did not, however, trust his feelings. He asked the priest to explain the passage. The priest said that Christ's disciples were to preach repentance everywhere, to take nothing with them, and to trust God alone to supply their needs.

Francis thrilled with happiness at this revelation and exclaimed enthusiastically: "That is what I want! That is what I seek! That is what I long to do with all my heart!" On the instant, he threw away his staff, took off his shoes, and laid aside his cloak, keeping only a tunic; replaced his leather belt with a cord, and made himself a rough garment, so poor and so badly cut that it could inspire envy in no man.

Omer Englebert
St. Francis of Assisi

There are at least six lessons in this short story:

1. The man wanted God's direction.
2. He went to church, where he could hear godly preaching.
3. He listened to the Word of God.
4. He asked for help from one who was his spiritual superior.
5. He accepted the help.
6. He acted at once.

It is significant that he found in the words of the Lord the answer to a deep longing in his heart.

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« Reply #349 on: December 21, 2006, 10:28:23 PM »

But I Don't Feel Called - Page 2

In C. S. Lewis's Preface to Paradise Lost, he describes Aeneas' unfaltering search for the "abiding city," his willingness to pay the terrible price to reach it at last, even though he casts a wistful side-glance at those not called as he is. "This is the very portrait of a vocation: a thing that calls or beckons, that calls inexorably, yet you must strain your ears to catch the voice, that insists on being sought, yet refuses to be found." Then there were the Trojan women who had heard the call, yet refused to follow all the way, and wept on the Sicilian shore. "To follow the vocation does not mean happiness," Lewis writes, "but once it has been heard, there is no happiness for those who do not follow."

Yes. My heart says yes to that. What agonies I suffered as a young woman, straining my ears to catch the voice, full of fear that I would miss it, yet longing to hear it, longing to be told what to do, in order that I might do it. That desire is a pure one. Most of our desires are tainted at least a little, but the desire to do the will of God surely is our highest. Is it reasonable to think that God would not finally reveal his will to us? Is it (we must also ask) reasonable not to use our powers of reason, given to us by him? Does it make more sense to go to the grocery store because groceries are needed than to go to foreign lands because workers are needed? If we deny the simple logic of going where the need is most desperate, we may, like the Trojan women, spend the rest of our lives suspended

Twixt miserable longing for present land
And the far realms that call by the fates' command.
Aeneid, V, 656

While Virgil wrote of mythical heroes, his lines echo the more ancient lines of the Psalms which are rich with assurances of God's faithful guidance of those who honestly desire it, and of the lasting rewards of obedience.

Happy the men whose refuge is in thee,
whose hearts are set on the pilgrim ways!
The Lord will hold back no good thing
from those whose life is blameless.
84:5, 11 NEB

Very near is the Lord to those who call to him, in singleness of heart.
He fulfills their desire if only they fear him."
145:18, 19 NEB

It is the sixth lesson from the St. Francis story that is most often overlooked. Obedience is action. Often we do not have any instant light on the particular question we've been asking God, but he has shown us something we ought to do. Whatever it is, however unrelated it may seem to the "big" decision, do it. Do it at once. We thus put ourselves in the path of God's will. A single step taken, if we have his Word as a lamp for our feet, throws sufficient light for the next step. Following the Shepherd we learn, like sheep, to know his voice. We will become acquainted with his call and will not follow a stranger's.

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« Reply #350 on: December 21, 2006, 10:30:02 PM »

Title: The Comfort of Discipline - Page 1
Book: All That Was Ever Ours
Author: Elisabeth Elliot


Too many parents today hate their children. We saw it a couple of weeks ago, and in church at that. Lars and I attended a very small church where there was a very large number of small children. The creaking of pews, rustling of books and papers, dropping of crayons and toys and offering-plate nickels, talking, crying, and traipsing up and down the aisles for trips to the rest room all made it quite impossible to listen to the sermon. One child who was sitting with his father in front of us was passed forward over the back of the pew to his mother. Immediately he wanted daddy. Back over the pew again, headfirst into his father's lap. In a few minutes, up to mommy. So it went.

A week later we went to a much larger church with over a hundred children present. They were quiet. We were amazed, and later questioned a couple who were members there. ''We believe Christian parents should control their children," they said simply. Where did they get that idea, we wanted to know. Well, from the Bible. The Book of Proverbs speaks repeatedly of the use of the rod. One reference is in chapter 13: "A father who spares the rod hates his son, but one who loves him keeps him in order." The implication is clear: The keeping of order, where children are concerned, sometimes requires the use of the rod.

In the small church, it seemed, they hated their children. In the big one they loved them. They were taught (from the pulpit, the couple told us) to love them according to the Bible's definition of love: Keep them in order.

My dear friend Mari, the wife of a Welsh shepherd, writes often about lessons she learns from watching sheep. In a letter to me she described a very hard winter:

All the sheep were brought down from the mountain early, about one thousand breeding ewes. Two hundred are wintering in a lowland farm while the others are hand-fed here with hay and maize. The grass is covered with snow...When John wants to move sheep or cows from one pasture to another it is a hopeless job when the lambs or calves take to running their own way. They will be followed invariably by their mothers, who will go headlong after their offspring, blindly, in their care for them. What chaos! If only the parents would stay where they were, holding their ground, defending their standpoint, the little ones would eventually return to them and would willingly be led together to the right place.

Although our men are fighting hard against nature's elements these days, even that's easier than fighting unchanged, selfish human nature. I wonder: are the sheep and cows a true picture of what's happening in the world? Road men refuse to grit and salt the snow-covered roads; dustmen, gravediggers, and others are pressing for more money. It is so true that money is the source of all evils. If it isn't the capitalists it's the workers. This has been true in every generation. But now parents are leaning backwards to please their children, afraid of displeasing them. Teachers live in fear of their pupils at school, bosses are afraid of the workers, the government of trade unions. It's anarchy.

Anarchy is the complete absence of order and authority. It's what lambs and calves like. It's what people like too--for themselves. (It's another matter when the neighbors scorn order and authority.) A Houston high school principal described the new educational system as a "cross-graded, multi-ethnic, individualized, open-ended learning program with the main objective being to learn respect for the uniqueness of a person." Maybe that's what the parents in the little church were aiming for. It was open-ended, all right, and each unique little individual was doing his or her not particularly unique thing. The result was chaos, if not downright anarchy. A short lesson, emphasized in the vestibule with a narrow "board of education," i.e., a rod, might have done wonders to teach small individuals respect for the persons around them, who were there not to provide an audience for their antics but to worship.

The trouble starts, of course, not when the kids tumble out of the station wagon and charge into church. It starts at home, before they can walk, with parents who believe that love means giving them what they want and letting them do what they choose. They don't like ordinary food. They blow it out when they're babies and throw it on the floor or down the garbage grinder later on. They scream for other foods, and their screams are rewarded. If screams don't do the trick, tantrums will, especially in public. (Watch them around the gumball machine in any supermarket. The initial "No" is quickly reversed.) A child who doesn't throw tantrums can use another weapon--he can go into a sulk. His parents pity him and this teaches him to pity himself. When things don't go his way he knows that he has a right to resentment. The spiritual implications in later life of this kind of early training are disastrous: ''If God loves me he will give me what I want. If he does not give me what I want he does not love me." That isn't what the Bible teaches, of course, but it's what a child may conclude if his parents operate this way.

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« Reply #351 on: December 21, 2006, 10:31:29 PM »

The Comfort of Discipline - Page 2

Training children, like corralling calves and lambs, is a great deal of trouble. It takes sacrifice. It's much easier to let them go. But you can't do that if you care about them. Only the one who cares about them will go to the trouble of bringing them under control. "The good shepherd gives his life for the sheep." The sheep don't take kindly to the crook he uses, to the dogs who herd them where they don't want to go, or to the disinfectant baths they are plunged into. It is the shepherd's sole purpose to take care of them, to see to their well-being according to his wisdom, not according to their whims.

My parents loved us enough to make us wear galoshes (those awful things with black metal clasps) when "nobody else had to wear them"; to see to it that we got five meals a day (three for the body and two for the soul, the latter including hymns, Bible reading, and prayer); to say no to things like candy or coming in when we felt like it, or skipping piano lessons and church; to give us chores to do around the house and to make it clear that if we didn't do them they wouldn't get done; to give us an allowance even during the Depression and teach us that some of it belonged to God; to stick by what they had said--line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little. They drew lines. We knew where they were drawn. They didn't move them. They knew more about life than we did, and had a fairly clear picture of what was good for us. Like other kids we complained that they didn't love us or they would do so-and-so. "When you have children of your own," Mother would often say, "you can let them do that if you want to." She knew we wouldn't want to--if we loved them.

We've got it backwards--love says don't restrain, hate says restrain. God puts it the other way: "The Lord disciplines him whom he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives. . . . If you are left without discipline . . . then you are illegitimate children and not sons" (Hebrews 12:6, 8 RSV). "When we fall under the Lord's judgment, he is disciplining us, to save us from being condemned with the rest of the world" (1 Corinthians 11:32 NEB).

It is not difficult for adults to see what's wrong with other parents and other people's children. But how blind we are in our childish reactions to the dealings of a kind Heavenly Father! The motive for discipline is love. Its purpose is salvation. The people of Israel muttered treason against him and said, the Lord hated us that he brought us out of Egypt" (Deuteronomy 1:27 NEB). Freed from slavery, they missed onions. Led by the Lord of Hosts himself with his angels and a pillar of cloud and fire, they were terrified of the Amorites. "You saw how the Lord your God carried you all the way to this place as a father carries his son. In spite of this you did not trust the Lord your God" (verse 32).

Discipline or "chastening" can be a painful thing for us poor mortals. We think only of the "rod" itself--the hard experience, the prayer that was answered with a No, the shattered hope, the misunderstanding, the blow to pride--forgetting the loving Hand that administers the lesson and the Savior who like a shepherd leads us. We forget how much we need his tender care.

As parents, let us faithfully remember that the keeping of order sometimes requires the use of the rod. As children of the Father and sheep of his pasture, let us remember humbly to accept his discipline, praying:

We are Thine, do Thou befriend us, be the Guardian of our way;
Keep Thy flock, from sin defend us, seek us when we go astray.

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« Reply #352 on: December 21, 2006, 10:33:03 PM »

Title: Truth Telling - Page 1
Book: All That Was Ever Ours
Author: Elisabeth Elliot


I built a house in New Hampshire a few years ago. The bulldozing for the foundation had barely begun when a shiny car drove up and out stepped a man dressed in very clean work clothes. He took off his hard hat and introduced himself as "the best gosh-darn well-driller in the whole North Country." I needed a well, and he drilled it and did a good job. After that he would drop by whenever he had work in the neighborhood. The coffee I gave him was a small price to pay to hear him talk. He held opinions about everything and was afraid of nothing and nobody. And he certainly knew how to tell a story. I listened enthralled. He had his own way of running a business ("We need your business--our business is going in the hole" was his motto, painted on the side of his drilling rigs) and his own code of ethics, both of which worked fine for him.

"I've worked for people, and I'm not lying to you," he said one day. "You can call my wife right up and she'll go over the checkbook, and I'll bet you over the last five years there's been fifteen people I've gone and drilled a well for and give 'em two percent off if they pay in ten days. Well, like the money'd be coming from the bank or something and it might go thirty days and the people were honest, they wouldn't take their two percent and I'd send it back. Now how many guys will send back money once they get it? Like, it'd be a two-thousand-dollar job and that'd be, what, forty dollars? Yeah. You can ask my wife and she'll show you the checkbook. Because I just don't do things that way, I mean that, life's too short.

"Now let's say you're in business. You're doin' something so let's say I go and say, 'Well, heck, don't hire Betty Elliot, she don't know what she's doin'.' Well, all right, they may go and hire you anyway and you may do the best job in the world. Now isn't that gonna make me look stupid? Sometimes I go to look at a job and a guy'll say to me he can get somebody else to drill his well for six dollars a foot when I'm asking seven. I'll say to him, 'You know I didn't come up here to give you an education about my competition, I never give 'em a thought. All I know is I know what I'm doin' and I've got something to show for it. If you need this well drilled I can drill it. As far as I'm concerned half my competition stinks, but if you want to ask me to come here to see you about a well I'm not comin' here to run down my competition because the idea of it is you might hire one of my competitors and he might do a wonderful job and then you can say, "Well, I don't know what on earth he was shootin' off his mouth about." ' I can't see that kind of business, can you? Life's too short.

"But the way I look at life is that no matter who it is--so long as they're somewheres near square--everybody's gotta get a living. I mean I'm not planning to drill all the wells, but so what if I don't? I do what I can, and I do it good. The other guy's gotta eat, he's got a wife and kids, too, so what's the difference?

"I never charge anything for setting up the rig, either. A lot of guys, they want three hundred dollars for setting up and they want their money the day they're done drillin', but then if you got to put the pump in and there's something wrong, well, what're you gonna do? You've had it, and you've got to stop payment on a check, you gotta work fast. But I don't do things that way. I'm not interested in it. But you've gotta go out there and do something and life is short. If you gotta be crooked on everything you do and you can't look people in the face, you know full well they think you're a crook and it's a pretty short world to be doin' that all the time, I would say."

It is a short world, and it doesn't take more brains than most of us have to figure out that honesty is a good thing if it helps business and keeps us from looking too stupid. It's the best policy, obviously, but it isn't usually much more than that. It's one of those things, along with eating and dieting, taxation, religion, and loving your neighbor, that we all feel can be carried too far. Too far, that is, if the matter concerns ourselves.

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« Reply #353 on: December 21, 2006, 10:34:39 PM »

Truth Telling - Page 2

"The people in your organization are certainly the most honest bunch I've ever seen," a woman said to a friend of mine.

"Honest? How do you mean?"

"Well, honest about each other."

We can stand a lot of honesty that concerns other people, and we jump to the defense of protesters so long as they're protesting things for which we're not directly responsible. But we are marvelously uncritical and generous when it comes right down to the nitty-gritty of our private lives. You won't catch us carrying things to extremes there.

People do overeat, but it hasn't been my problem. Dieting, on the other hand, can be carried too far and that piece of pie does look delicious. As for religion, a good thing, of course--an excellent thing if you don't get too much of it at once. And I'm willing to pay my taxes. I understand that the country can't run without them, but this bill, now. . . . Loving my neighbor? I do. But how far do you think a person ought to be expected to go anyhow?

At a camp where my husband worked for several summers the counselors had to grade each camper on certain character traits. Was he, for example, exceptionally, moderately, or fairly honest?

A man in Elmhurst, Illinois, found two Brinks money bags containing $183,000. He threw them, unopened, into the trunk of his car and for four days wondered what to do with them. (He mentioned later that he did not even think to tell his wife. I think she would have known what to do.)

"I didn't know it was money," he told newsmen. "I thought it might be mail. I forgot about them until I began reading stories in the paper. Then I realized what I had. I had always daydreamed about finding a lot of money, but it became a reality and things changed. I had to call."

Asked why he didn't break the seals on the bags he said, "You don't break seals on people's parcels. That would muddle things considerably. I'm an honest man within reasonable limits."

The Brinks company awarded him $18,000 for his honesty, which raises the question of whether his was, in fact, a "reasonable" honesty, for if he had been dishonest he might possibly have succeeded in keeping the $183,000 for himself, along with, at the very least, some sleepless nights.

It is a short world, and if this is the only world, we can play it like a game--fair and somewhere near square. That ought to be good enough, and a man ought to be allowed to get what he's willing to pay for.

But what about gaining the whole world and losing your own soul? Those words apply to another world altogether, the long one, where the rules are not the same at all, where things like poverty and meekness and sorrow and hunger and purity of heart lead to happiness. Then, too, the Rule Book has things about living "honestly in all things," "providing for honest things, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men," and (who can stand up to this one?) about the Lord's desiring "truth in the inward parts." It is what I would have to call an unreasonable honesty, beyond any of us, and we have to call out, "Lord' save me!" And that is what he does.

* * *

Recently I met a friend for lunch whom I had not seen for twenty years. As I approached the restaurant I was thinking the usual thoughts: Will she have changed much? Will I recognize her? Will we be able to find things to talk about?

I saw her as soon as I got there, and I knew that if I said, "Why, Helen, you haven't changed a bit! " it would be a bald lie. The truth was that Helen was beautiful now. She had never been a beauty in college. The years and her experiences (some of them of a kind of suffering I knew nothing about) had given her a deep womanliness, a kind of tender strength. Her eyes glowed, there was passion about her mouth, and the lines of her face revealed a strength of character she could not have had when she was a college student. So, instead of the usual pleasantries, I simply started with the truth. I told her what I saw in her face. Of course she was taken aback, but I am sure that this unorthodox beginning did not render further conversation more difficult. We were able to get down to the real things in life, things that matter and that had changed us both, rather than spending an hour on the ages of our children, their mates and careers, and our latest diets and recipes.

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« Reply #354 on: December 21, 2006, 10:36:06 PM »

Truth Telling - Page 3

We all know that the truth often hurts. We use this cliche as a defense for having hurt someone, and sometimes it is indeed necessary to tell this kind of truth. But there is truth which does not hurt--truth which encourages and surprises with delight and gratitude. What if a teacher sees that a colleague of hers has succeeded in breaking down the resistance of a pupil who has been the despair of the other teachers, the talk of the faculty lunchroom? The change in the student is noticed, a sigh of relief is heaved, but who goes to the teacher herself and says, "Thanks! You've done what the rest of us couldn't do!" How many are free enough from themselves to recognize the worth of others and to speak of it honestly?

A lady who is a good many years older than I tells me often of the aunt who was a mother to her throughout her childhood. "Auntie'' impressed her with the need to tell the truth--the welcome kind--and she would add emphatically, "Tell them now." My friend calls me on the telephone--sometimes to thank me for a note or a little gift, sometimes to tell me what my friendship means to her.

"You remember what Auntie always said," she will say, ''so, I'm telling you now." There would be no way for me to exaggerate how she has cheered and helped me.

I was talking with a lady who had been a missionary for forty years, and I noticed that she had exceptionally lovely hands. "Has anyone ever told you your hands are beautiful?'' I asked. The dear soul was so flustered one might have thought I had committed an indecency. She looked at her hands in amazement.

"Why . . . why no. I don't think anyone ever has!'' But she saw that I meant it, and she had the grace to hear the truth. She said thank you.

"Tell it like it is," is the watchword today. But suppose it's lovely? Suppose it's actually beautiful? C. S. Lewis said that the most fatal of all nonconductors is embarrassment. It seems to me that life is all too short to let embarrassment deprive us and our friends of the pleasure of telling the happy truth. Suppose the boy who does your lawn does it fast, trims it perfectly, and takes care of the tools? Suppose the clerk who waits on you happens to be the most gracious one you've ever encountered? Suppose even that your husband--when you stop for once to look at him, to think about him as a person and as a man--seems to you to be the best man you know?

Tell them.

Tell them now.

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« Reply #355 on: December 22, 2006, 03:25:20 PM »

Author: Elisabeth Elliot
Source: All That Was Ever Ours
Scripture: Psalm 139:8
The Path of Lonliness


In A Hospital Waiting Room - Page 1

I have been a patient in a hospital only once, when I was six years old and had my tonsils out. But during my husband's last illness I saw what that life was like. If you are in terrible pain or have broken an arm or leg, the huge gray cluster of buildings can look like heaven, for inside are people who can do wonderful things to help. For a woman about to have a baby the hospital is full of anticipation and happiness. But for those who do not know what their disease may be, or who have been told that it is, finally, just what they most dreaded, the experience of going to the hospital can be an overpowering one of terror and horror and helplessness.

If one arrives in such a state, who can describe the effect of walking through the big glass doors into the bustling lobby of a city hospital where some rush around with many things to do and some wait? Nurses, doctors, visitors, and ambulance drivers come and go. Others sit silently, some in wheelchairs (the ever-patient patients), waiting for someone, waiting to be taken somewhere, waiting for some dreaded or hoped-for word.

As we came through the doors a young man came toward us, using a new pair of crutches with the one leg left to him. A middle-aged couple wheeled a grown-up retarded son toward a waiting taxi. A stretcher with a blanketed form on it was brought in from a police ambulance. A very tall black youth carried two potted plants done up in rustling green paper.

People stood at the reception desk waiting to ask where to find a patient or a department or a doctor. The harried receptionist hardly looked at the questioners, giving out her short, practiced replies as though she had been affronted. We joined the line, got directions for the radiation department, and took the elevator to the fifth floor, where we were told to follow the blue painted line on the hall floor. A boy who looked too young to be an orderly was pushing a wheelchair down the hall. A gray-haired lady sat in the chair weeping. Another boy raced around the corner, clipped the young orderly on the shoulder, and the two exchanged some unintelligible banter behind the weeping woman's back.

We found the waiting room for the radiation department. It was nearly full, but we hung up our coats and found places to sit. I was in that state of exquisite sensitivity described so well in the Psalms in words such as these: "I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax, it is melted within my breast; my strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue cleaves to my jaws; thou dost lay me in the dust of the earth." Water, wax, broken pots, dust. Not much to fortify us there. "Lord, have mercy on us," I said (not aloud), "Christ, have mercy on us."

It was a winter afternoon and grew dark early. The only window in the room looked out on a gray brick wall.

A man with a large swelling on his neck, outlined in red ink, came in and put on his coat and left, his treatment over for that day. Then a little boy arrived with his mother. He had a red square with an X in it painted on each temple. Christ, have mercy on us. How can we endure?

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« Reply #356 on: December 22, 2006, 03:26:44 PM »

In A Hospital Waiting Room - Page 2

The mother and son took off their coats, the mother sat down, but the boy was rambunctious and found things to do--messing up magazines, tipping over an ashtray, blowing out the match as his mother tried to light a cigarette.

Husbands and wives sat talking quietly and, I noticed, always kindly. One couple caught my attention particularly. They were shabbily dressed, and the man was badly crippled. It was the wife, however, who was there for radiation. I watched them talk to each other. They had courage, and they were quite evidently in love. Those who had been there before had become a fellowship. They waved, smiled, greeted each other. How could they? How did they manage to carry on in so normal a fashion?

Almost imperceptibly the picture began to take on a new color for me. An older lady in a pale green uniform came into the room, smiled at all of us, and asked if anyone would like coffee or ginger ale. I will always remember what that smile did for me, and the gracious, simple way in which she handed the beverages.

The nurse who came to call the patients for their treatments had a smile, too, and a cheerful voice (but not the forced cheerfulness of which nurses are so often accused). As she walked out of the waiting room with a patient, she put her arm around him. That touch (I wonder if she will ever know this?) was redemptive.

We had a long wait and I tried to read, but I kept looking up and watching what was going on in that crowded little room. The lady with the coffee I saw as our hostess, and I thought of the word graciousness, the highest compliment paid to a hostess. What she does comes out of what she is herself, but she forgets herself completely. Her only thought is the comfort and ease of her guests. This lady was, I suppose, a volunteer. She gave herself and her time and expected nothing in return, but she smiled and brought to that dark place an unexpected shining.

An old man waiting for his treatment called the rambunctious little boy over and began to do tricks with pennies for him. Soon the mother was smiling, others were watching as the boy's face lit up with surprise and delight.

It came to me then that what made that room shine was the action of grace. "If I make my bed in hell," wrote the psalmist, "behold, Thou art there." That hospital had seemed to me the vestibule of hell an hour earlier. But behold, God was there--in the lady in green, in the nurse who by her touch brought comfort and courage, in the couple whose love showed through, in the man doing tricks.

Grace is a marvelous but elusive word. "Unmerited favor" is the definition most of us know. It means self-giving, too, and springs from the person's own being without condition or consideration of whether the object is deserving. Grace may be unnoticed. But there are usually some who will notice. "Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound," wrote St. Paul. And those who are in a desperation of suffering will notice it, will notice even its lightest touch, and will hold it a precious, an incalculably valuable thing.

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« Reply #357 on: December 23, 2006, 03:36:17 AM »

Title: Boredom - Page 1
Book: All That Was Ever Ours
Author: Elisabeth Elliot


In the book A Sort of Life Graham Greene tells how he has struggled, ever since he was very young, to fend off boredom. He once had a dentist extract ("but with ether") a perfectly good tooth for no better reason than that he was bored and this seemed like an interesting diversion. He tried several times to commit suicide and six times played Russian roulette, using a revolver with six chambers--a dangerous game, but not, heaven help us, boring.

Dorothy Parker was famous for her wit before she was thirty. She had great charm, a fine education, a fascinating kind of beauty, and many interesting friends. But she was utterly bored. She, too, thought of suicide, and was quoted in John Keats' book You Might As Well Live as saying:

Razors pain you;
Rivers are damp;
Acids stain you;
And drugs cause cramp.

Guns aren't lawful;
Nooses give;
Gas smells awful;
You might as well live.

Her life story seemed to me the exact illustration of acedia, or accidie, which is an old word for boredom, but a word that includes depression, sloth, irritability, lazy languor, and bitterness. "This rotten sin," wrote Chaucer, "maketh a man heavy, wrathful and raw." Poor Miss Parker had been so irritable and raw with people--she had treated even her friends unspeakably badly--that she spent her last years alone in a hotel in New York, her pitiful, neglected dogs and her liquor bottles almost her only companions.

Gertrude Behanna says, on her record, "God Isn't Dead," that she has come to believe that it is a real sin to bore people. When we stop to think about it, most of us would readily agree. But how many of us have thought of boredom itself, so long as it affects only ourselves, as a sin? The Bible speaks of joy as a Christian virtue. It is one of the fruits of the Spirit, and often we find that it characterizes the people of God whose stories we read in the Bible. The worship of God in the Old Testament was accompanied by the most hilarious demonstrations of gladness--dancing, shouting, and music-making. (This was to me one of the most impressive features of life in modern Israel when I visited there.)

Joy is not a word we use much nowadays. We think of it poetically as the opposite of sorrow, another word that does not often come into conversation. Both words represent experiences one does not normally have every day.

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« Reply #358 on: December 23, 2006, 03:37:47 AM »

Title: Boredom - Page 2

But I think we are mistaken. I think joy is meant to be an everyday experience, and as such it is the exact opposite of boredom, which seems to be the everyday experience (am I being overly pessimistic?) of most Americans. I get the impression that everybody is always hoping for a chance to get away from it all, relax, unwind, get out of these four walls, find somewhere, somehow, some action or excitement. Advertising, of course, has done a splendid job of creating in us greed for things we would never have thought of wanting, and thereby convincing us that whatever we have is intolerably boring. Attributing human wants to animals, we easily swallow the TV commercials that tell us that Morris the cat doesn't want tuna fish every day, he wants eight different flavors.

"Godliness with contentment is great gain.'' Those words were written a long time ago to a young man by an older man who had experienced almost the gamut of human suffering, including being chained day and night to a prison guard. Contentment is another word which has fallen into disuse. We think of it, perhaps, in connection with cows--the best milk comes from contented ones, doesn't it?--but it doesn't take much to content a cow. Peace and fodder are probably all it asks. We are not cows. What does it take to content us? How could Paul, after what he had been through, write as he did to Timothy?

C. S. Lewis, one of the most godly and civilized men I have ever heard of, exemplified what Paul was getting at. Lewis wrote that he was never bored by routine. In fact, he said, he liked it. He had what his anthologist Clyde S. Kilby called "a mind awake." Why should routine spoil it? Pictures of him show a joyful man. But he was not a man unacquainted with poverty, hard work, and suffering any more than Paul was. He knew them, but he knew, too, what lay beyond. "All joy," he wrote to a friend, "(as distinct from mere pleasure, still more amusement) emphasizes our pilgrim status; always reminds, beckons, awakens desire. Our best havings are wantings."

Those wantings lie in the deepest places of our being, and they are for the kind of joy that, according to Lewis, is "the serious business of heaven." So we waste our time, our money, and our energies when we pursue so frantically the pleasures which we hope will bring us relief from boredom. We end up bored with everything and everybody. Work which can be joyful if accepted as a part of the eternal order and a means to serve, becomes only drudgery. Our pettiest difficulties, not to mention our big ones, are cause for nothing but complaint and self-pity. All circumstances not deliberately arranged by us look like obstacles to be rid of. We consume much and produce little; we get depressed, and depression is actually dangerous and destructive.

But there is another way. Paul made it perfectly clear that his contentment had nothing to do with how desirable his circumstances were. "I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions and calamities." It is no list of amusements. How, then, did it work? It worked by a mysterious transforming power, something that reversed things like weakness and hardship, making them into strength and joy. Is there any chance that it will work for us? Is there for us, too, an antidote for boredom? The promise of Christ was not for Paul alone. "My grace is sufficient for you." It's a gift to be accepted. If we refuse it, nothing will be enough and boredom will be the story of our lives.

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« Reply #359 on: December 23, 2006, 03:39:29 AM »

Title: Some of My Best Friends Are Books - Page 1
Book: All That Was Ever Ours
Author: Elisabeth Elliot


I have almost always been surrounded by books. I wouldn't be surprised if my mother put some in the crib along with my toys, just to get me used to them early. The first house I remember living in was one of those double ones of which there are hundreds in the suburbs of Philadelphia. We lived in Germantown, in what was probably a cramped house (although to me as a child it seemed large) and there were books in the living room, books in the dining room, books in all of the bedrooms and tall bookcases lining the halls. My father came home at night with a briefcase full of papers and books.

Before I could read much myself I looked at picture books, like everybody else. I remember the lovely women and elegantly handsome men in Charles Dana Gibson's book of drawings. I went back again and again to an animal book which had a horrifyingly hideous photo of an angry gorilla with teeth bared. The beautiful little pictures in Beatrix Potter's books of neatly furred small animals gave me a delicious feeling of order and comfort. My mother read these aloud to me, and how eagerly I stooped with Lucie to enter Mrs. Tiggywinkle's laundry; or accompanied Simpkin the cat as he made his way through Gloucester's snowy lanes. Mr. MacGregor was a big, bad bogeyman to me. Mother read, too, the Christopher Robin stories, and I found myself identifying her with Kanga, my older brother Phil with Pooh, Dave with Piglet, and myself, alas but inescapably, with Eeyore.

Evenings at home were often spent with the whole family sitting together, each with his head in a book. Or at times my father would read aloud. He bored us to death reading passages from Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield, or George Borrow. The Bible in Spain was ''good writing," he said, and he wanted us to hear it. He loved good writing, and as an editor had to read an awful lot of appallingly bad writing, but I am grateful now for his efforts to teach us the difference. He also read sometimes to us from Henry A. Shute's Real Diary of a Real Boy, which got the closest thing to a belly laugh I ever heard out of my sedate father.

A big dictionary was always within reach of the dining room table because it was there that arguments most frequently arose over words. He wanted them quickly settled, and made us look up the words in question.

A part of each summer was spent at ''The Cottage," a big old lodge-type house in the White Mountains built by my great-great uncle, who was, among other things, editor of the New York Journal of Commerce and a writer of books. His bedroom on the second floor, an enormous paneled one with a huge fireplace, had hardly been rearranged at all since he died, and one wall was still lined with crumbling leather-bound books. A rainy day in the mountains was a chance for me to pore over field manuals from the Civil War, great volumes on law, Mrs. Oliphant's novels, or a tiny set, tinily printed, of the unabridged Arabian Nights.

There were magazines on the bottom shelves, too--old ones, with advertisements of Pear's soap or Glen kitchen ranges, and I found in them serialized stories by Robert Louis Stevenson.

The first full-length book I recall reading was not a piece of great literature, but it had a great effect on my malleable mind. It was called Hell on Ice, the saga of sixty men who attempted to reach the North Pole by way of the Bering Strait. Only a few survived, and I agonized with them as they froze and starved on the icy wastes. I was carried out of myself and my pleasant porch hammock into danger, suffering, and death. I became aware of vulnerability, mortality, and human courage.

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