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« Reply #450 on: March 11, 2007, 05:47:16 AM »

On Brazen Heavens - Page 3

But there is more. Turning again to the disclosure of God in Scripture, we seem to see that, in his economy, there is no slippage. Nothing simply disappears. No sparrow falls without his knowing (and, one might think, caring) about it. No hair on anybody's head is without its number. Oh, you say, that's only a metaphor; it's not literal. A metaphor of what, then, we might ask. Is the implication there that God doesn't keep tabs on things?

And so we begin to think about all our prayers and vigils and fastings and abstinences, and the offices and sacraments of the Church, that have gone up to the throne in behalf of the sufferer. They have vanished, as no sparrow, no hair, has ever done. Hey, what about that?

And we know that this is false. It is nonsense. All right then--we prayed, with much faith or with little; we searched ourselves; we fasted; we anointed and laid on hands; we kept vigil. And nothing happened.

Did it not? What angle of vision are we speaking from? Is it not true that again and again in the biblical picture of things, the story has to be allowed to finish?

Was it not the case with Lazarus' household at Bethany, and with the two en route to Emmaus? And is it not the case with the Whole Story, actually--that it must be allowed to finish, and that this is precisely what the faithful have been watching for since the beginning of time? In the face of suffering and endurance and loss and waiting and death, what is it that has kept the spirits of the faithful from flagging utterly down through the millennia? Is it not the hope of Redemption? Is it not the great Finish to the Story--and to all their little stories of wandering about in sheepskins and goatskins as well as to the One Big Story of the whole creation, which is itself groaning and waiting? And is not that Finish called glorious? Does it not entail what amounts to a redoing of all that has gone wrong, and a remaking of all that is ruined, and a finding of all that has been lost in the shuffle, and an unfolding of it all in a blaze of joy and splendor?

A finding of all that is lost? All sparrows, and all petitions and tears and vigils and fastings? Yes, all petitions and tears and vigils and fastings.

"But where are they? The thing is over and done with. He is dead. They had no effect."

Hadn't they? How do you know what is piling up in the great treasury kept by the Divine Love to be opened in that Day? How do you know that this death and your prayers and tears and fasts will not together be suddenly and breathtakingly displayed, before all the faithful, and before angels and archangels, and before kings and widows and prophets, as gems in that display? Oh no, don't speak of things being lost. Say rather that they are hidden--received and accepted and taken up into the secrets of the divine mysteries, to be transformed and multiplied, like everything else we offer to him--loaves and fishes, or mites, or bread and wine--and given back to you and to the one for whom you kept vigil, in the presence of the whole host of men and angels in a hilarity of glory as unimaginable to you in your vigil as golden wings are to the worm in the chrysalis.

But how does it work? We may well ask. How does Redemption work?

Thomas Howard is a college professor, author of Christ the Tiger, Splendor in the Ordinary, and other books.

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« Reply #451 on: March 11, 2007, 05:48:25 AM »

Author: Elisabeth Elliot
Source: On Asking God Why
Scripture:
The Path of Lonliness


A Look in the Mirror - Page 1

Most of us are rather pleased when we catch sight of ourselves (provided the sight is sufficiently dim or distant) in the reflection of a store window. It is always amusing to watch people's expressions and postures change, perhaps ever so slightly, for the better as they look at their images. We all want the reflected image to match the image we hold in our minds (e.g. a rugged, casual slouch goes well with a Marlboro Country type; an erect, distinguished carriage befits a man of command and responsibility). We glimpse ourselves in a moment of lapse, and quickly try to correct the discrepancies.

A close-up is something else altogether. Sometimes it's more than we can stand. The shock of recognition makes us recoil. "Don't tell me that's my voice!" (on the tape recorder); "Do I really look that old?" (as this photograph cruelly shows). For me it is a horrifyingly painful experience to have to stand before a three-way mirror, in strong light, in a department-store fitting room. ("These lights--these mirrors--they distort, surely!" I tell myself.) I have seen Latin American Indians whoop with laughter upon first seeing themselves on a movie screen, but I have never seen them indignant, as "civilized" people often seem to be. Perhaps it is that an Indian has not occupied himself very much with trying to be what he is not.

What is it that makes us preen, recoil, laugh? It must be the degree of incongruity between what we thought we were and what we actually saw.

People's standards, of course, differ. Usually, in things that do not matter, we set them impossibly high and thus guarantee for ourselves a life of discontent. In things that matter we set them too low and are easily pleased with ourselves. (My daughter came home from the seventh grade one day elated. "Missed the honor roll by two C's!" she cried, waving her report card happily.) Frequently we judge by standards that are irrelevant to the thing in question. You have to know what a thing is for, first of all, before you can judge it at all. Take a can opener--how can I know whether it's any good unless I know that it was made for opening cans?

Or a church. What is it for? Recently the one I belong to held a series of neighborhood coffee meetings for the purpose of finding out what the parishioners thought about what the church was doing, was not doing, and ought to be doing. The results were mailed to us. Eighty people participated and came up with one hundred and five "concerns and recommendations.'' These revealed considerable confusion as to what the church is meant to be about. "Should have hockey and basketball teams." "There is too much reference to the Bible in sermons." "The ushers should stop hunching at the doors of the church and seek out unfamiliar faces." "The rear parking lot is messy." "A reexamination of spiritual goals should be carried out." I was glad there were a few like that last one. The range of our congregational sins was pretty well covered (we didn't get into the mire of our personal ones), and as I read them over I thought, If we just managed to straighten out these one hundred and five things we'd have--what? Well, something' I suppose. But not a Perfect church. Not by a long shot. If by our poor standards (some of them obviously applicable to things other than churches) we picked out over a hundred flaws, how many were visible to God, "to whose all-searching sight the darkness shineth as the light"?

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« Reply #452 on: March 11, 2007, 05:49:31 AM »

A Look in the Mirror - Page 2

There are times when it is with a kind of relief that we come upon the truth. A man passing a church one day paused to see if he could catch what it was the people were mumbling in unison. He moved inside and heard the words: "We have erred and strayed from thy ways like lost sheep. We have followed too much the devices and desires of our own hearts. We have offended against thy holy laws."

"Hmm," thought the man, "they sound like my kind of people. "

"We have left undone those things which we ought to have done, and we have done those things which we ought not to have done."

"This is the church for me," he decided. (I don't suppose a basketball team or a blacktopped parking lot would have persuaded him.)

"Put up a complaint box and you'll get complaints," my husband says. There is something to be said for airing one's grievances, and there is a great deal to be said for not airing them, but one thing at least seems good to me--that we be overwhelmed, now and then, with our sins and failures.

We need to sit down and take stock. We need mirrors and neighborhood coffees and complaint boxes, but our first reaction may be despair. Our second, "Just who does so-and-so think he is, criticizing the church when he never even comes to church?" And we find ourselves back where we started, setting our own standards, judging irrelevantly and falsely, excusing ourselves, condemning an institution for not being what it was never meant to be, and so on.

Then there is Lent. It is a time to stop and remember. All year we have had the chance in the regular communion service to remember the death and passion of the Lord Jesus, and this once during the year we are asked, for a period of six weeks, to recall ourselves, to repent, to submit to special disciplines in order that we may understand the meaning of the Resurrection.

We are indeed "miserable offenders." We have done and left undone. We are foolish and weak and blind and self-willed and men of little faith. We run here, we run there, we form committees and attend meetings and attack the church and its organization and its isolation and its useless machinery and its irrelevance and ineffectiveness. But all the time it stands there, holding the Cross, telling us that there is forgiveness, that we have not been left to ourselves, that no matter how shocking the image that we finally see of ourselves in the light of God's truth, God himself has done something about it all.

"He was wounded for our transgressions. He was bruised for our iniquities." For the very things we've been discussing. For the things that make us moan and groan and ask, "What's the use?"

And so Lent, simply because it is another reminder of him who calls us to forgiveness and refreshment, makes me glad.

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« Reply #453 on: March 11, 2007, 05:50:46 AM »

Author: Elisabeth Elliot
Source: On Asking God Why
Scripture:
The Path of Lonliness


Happy Birthday -- You're Heading Home! - Page 1

The cards on the racks simply won't fill the bill. I wander disconsolately past the "Relative," ''Comic," and other categories of birthday cards, even a rack labeled, "These cards are outrageous. Prepare for shock!" What I want to wish on your birthday is not the sort of happiness that depends on the denial of the passing years, or on your undiminished power to get ever bigger and better thrills out of tall bottles or other people's beds. The cartoons are crazy. In fact, they're horrifying, in that they show what a dead-end street the desperate search for happiness usually is. The only cards that suggest the possibility of any other kind of happiness make such exaggerated claims for my feelings for you, in such soupy, mawkish language, and with such wispy or misty illustrations--no, I'm sorry, I can't bring myself to buy them.

What I want to wish you today is joy. I want you to have the happiest birthday ever. Not because you're just exactly the age you've always dreamed of being: the perfect age. Not because you'll be having the splashiest, roaringest party ever, or because you're surrounded by all your favorite fans, feeling marvelous, getting a vast pile of gorgeous gifts. I could merely wish you a happy birthday, but I'll do more than that. I'll turn my wish into prayer, and ask the Lord to give you the happiest birthday ever. I'll ask him for the kind of joy that isn't dependent on how you feel or who's there to celebrate or what's happening.

The people who write those awful cards are doing the best they can, but they haven't much to fall back on. Best to try to forget the hard facts: time is passing, people are actually growing old, happiness is pretty hard to come by in this old world. What is there to fall back on? Can't do a thing about the facts. The misery and loneliness and disintegration and horror are there (Edna St. Vincent Millay put it bluntly: "Death beating the door in"), but who wants to put things like that into a birthday card? Isn't it good enough to settle for cute comics, sweet sentiments, and just have fun? We can at least pretend we're happy. Forget the truth for a day. It's your birthday, and by George, we're gonna frolic!

That's one way to do it, but why frolic for all the wrong reasons? I love celebrations and gifts, a little dinner by candlelight in a quiet place with loved friends is my idea of a happy evening. But it's specially nice to have somebody remind me of something even happier than the bouquets, the balloons, and the bubbly, something that will last out the day, the week, even the coming year, if there is any such thing. There is, you know. Here's joy:

The wretched and the poor look for water and find none,
their tongues are parched with thirst;
but l the Lord will give them an answer,
I the God of Israel will not forsake them.
I will open rivers among the sand-dunes and wells in the valleys;
I will turn the wilderness into pools
and dry land into springs of water;
l will plant cedars in the wastes,
and acacia and myrtle and wild olive
the pine shall grow on the barren heath.

(Isaiah 41:17-19 NEB)

A birthday is a milestone. It's a place to pause. Look back now for a minute over the way the Lord has brought you. There has been thirst, hasn't there? You've been over some sand dunes, through some valleys, some wilderness, out on a barren heath once in a while. I have too. Sometimes it seemed that there weren't any rivers, wells, pools, or springs. Nothing but sand. No lovely acacias or wild olives, only barrenness. The trouble was I hadn't learned to find them. I was trying to travel alone. I made the same mistake when I first went to live as a missionary in the South American jungle. After one bad experience of getting lost, I learned to follow an Indian guide. He knew the trails. He could find water to drink (inside a bamboo, for example, if there wasn't a river handy), honey in a hollow tree, fruit where there seemed to be no fruit. I couldn't see them. I didn't know where to look. The Indian did. He could make a cup out of a palm leaf, build a fire in the rain, construct a shelter for the night in an hour or so. I was helpless. He was my helper.

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« Reply #454 on: March 11, 2007, 05:51:58 AM »

Happy Birthday -- You're Heading Home! - Page 2

A milestone is not only a place to look back to where you've come from. It's a place to look forward to where you're going. We don't always want to do that on birthdays. If we look back it seems such a long time, the good old days are over, and (here's the hard part) so much guilt clogs the memories. If we look forward--alas. How many more birthdays? What will happen before the next one? Thoughts of the future are full of for

I the Lord your God
take you by the right hand;
I say to you, Do not fear;
It is I who held you.

(Isaiah 41:13 NEB)

Parties and presents won't do much for a checkered past or a frightening future. Only the God who was loving you then, loves you today on your birthday, and will keep right on loving you till you see him face-to-face, can possibly do anything about them. "It is I who help you," he says. There is help for all the guilt. Confess it in full. He'll forgive it in full. And I mean forgive. That doesn't mean he denies its reality, sweeps it under the rug, or bathes it in sentiment. There was once an old rugged cross. You know where it was--on a hill far away. And you know what it means--nothing sentimental at all, but forgiveness, freely offered to all of us, the whole price paid in blood by the Dearest and Best.

There is help for your fear too. Express it in full. Let the Lord take you by your right hand and help you. I had to do that with my Indian guide. I simply could not make it across those slippery log bridges, laid high over jungle ravines, without help. I was scared to death. The Indian, who had been over them many more times than I had, held me by the hand.

You've heard those bad news/good news jokes. Well, this isn't cheap birthday card humor. The bad news is that another year has gone by and we haven't done all we meant to do and it's not going to come back to give us another chance. The good news is the Gospel. We can be reconciled to God--sins forgiven, fears taken care of. That old cross, the emblem of suffering and shame, stands between us and our sins and fears, our past and future, and on its outstretched arms we see Love. The Love that would die for us is the Love that lives for us--Jesus Christ, Lord, Master, Savior of the World, wanting to give you (for your birthday if you'll take it) something that will really quench your thirst, rivers among the sand dunes and wells in the valley; wanting to hold your hand, help you, give you--not only a happy birthday, but everlasting joy.

I'm not the least bit bashful about telling my age. I'm glad for every birthday that comes, because it is the Lord, my faithful Guide, who "summoned the generations from the beginning." I look in the mirror and see the increasingly (and creasingly) visible proofs of the number of years, but I'm reconciled. Christ reconciles me to God and to God's wonderful plan. My life is his life. My years are his years. To me life is Christ, and death is nothing but gain. When I remember that, I really can't think of a thing I ought to be afraid of. I can't be sorry I'm a year older and nearer to absolute bliss.

I pray for you on your birthday, that your path, as is promised to the just man, will shine not less and less but more and more; that you will still bring forth fruit in old age; that the Lord will give you a thankful heart like the psalmist's who sang,

O God, thou hast taught me from boyhood,
all my life I have proclaimed thy marvellous works:
and now that I am old and my hairs are gray,
forsake me not, O God....
Songs of joy shall be on my lips;
I will sing thee psalms, because thou has redeemed me.
All day long my tongue shall tell of thy righteousness.

(Psalms 71:17, 18, 23, 24 NEB)

So--happy birthday! If you have friends and parties and presents, be thankful for such bonuses. If you have no friends with you today, no party, not a package to open, you still have a long list of things to thank God for, things that matter much more. A birthday filled with thanksgiving and hope is the happiest kind of birthday. Have one of those! Deck yourself with joy!

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« Reply #455 on: March 11, 2007, 05:53:13 AM »

Author: Elisabeth Elliot
Source: On Asking God Why
Scripture:
The Path of Lonliness


I Won't Bother With a Face-Lift

Because tomorrow I will begin the last of threescore years, and because my mother is now closer to ninety than to eighty, I do a lot of thinking about old age. Has any of my friends called me ''spry" yet, or remarked, "She's amazing--still got all her faculties " ?

If they have, of course, it means they see me as over the hill, i.e., old. When I look in the mirror, I have to admit the evidence is all on their side, but otherwise it's hard to remember. I feel as "spry" and energetic as I did twoscore years ago.

I don't mind getting old. Before the day began this morning I was looking out at starlight on a still, wintry sea. A little song we used to sing at camp came to mind--"Just one day nearer Home.'' That idea thrills me. I can understand why people who have nothing much to look forward to try frantically and futilely to hang on to the past--to youth and all that. Get a face-lift, plaster the makeup on ever more thickly (but Estee Lauder says false eyelashes can add ten years to your looks), wear running shoes and sweat suits, dye your hair--anything to create the illusion you're young. (The illusion is yours, of course, nobody else's.)

Let's be honest. Old age entails suffering. I'm acutely aware of this now as I watch my mother, once so alive and alert and quick, now so quiet and confused and slow. She suffers. We who love her suffer. We see the "preview of coming attractions," ourselves in her shoes, and ponder what this interval means in terms of the glory of God in an old woman.

It would be terrifying if it weren't for something that ought to make the Christian's attitude toward aging utterly distinct from all the rest. We know it is not for nothing. ''God has allowed us to know the secret of his plan: he purposes in his sovereign will that all human history shall be consummated in Christ, that everything that exists in Heaven or earth shall find its perfection and fulfillment in him" (Ephesians 1:9, 10 PHILLIPS).

In the meantime, we look at what's happening--limitations of hearing, seeing, moving, digesting, remembering; distortions of countenance, figure, and perspective. If that's all we could see, we'd certainly want a face-lift or something.

But we're on a pilgrim road. It's rough and steep, and it winds uphill to the very end. We can lift up our eyes and see the unseen: a Celestial City, a light, a welcome, and an ineffable Face. We shall behold him. We shall be like him. And that makes a difference in how we go about aging.

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« Reply #456 on: March 11, 2007, 05:54:24 AM »

Author: Elisabeth Elliot
Source: A Lamp For My Feet
Scripture: 1 Peter 5:7
The Path of Lonliness


Leave Him to Me

When there is deep misunderstanding which has led to the erection of barriers between two who once were close, every day brings the strengthening of those barriers if they are not, by God's grace, breached. One prays and finds no way at all to break through. Love seems to "backfire" every time. Explanations become impossible. New accusations arise, it seems, from nowhere (though it is well to recall who is named the Accuser of the brethren). The situation becomes ever more complex and insoluble, and the mind goes round and round, seeking the place where things went wrong, brooding over the words which were like daggers, regretting the failures and mistakes, wondering (most painfully) how it could have been different. Much spiritual and emotional energy is drained in this way--but the Lord wants to teach us to commit, trust, and rest.

"Leave him to me this afternoon," is what his word is. "There is nothing else that I am asking of you this afternoon but that: leave him to Me. You cannot fathom all that is taking place. You don't need to. I am at work--in you, in him. Leave him to Me. Some day it will come clear--trust Me."

"Humble yourselves under God's mighty hand, and he will lift you up in due time. Cast all your cares on Him, for you [and the other] are his charge" (l Pt 5:7).

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« Reply #457 on: March 11, 2007, 05:55:36 AM »

Author: Elisabeth Elliot
Source: Love Has A Price Tag
Scripture: 1 Thessalonians 4:2-8 Genesis 24 1 Corinthians 6:12-20
The Path of Lonliness


A Man Moves Toward Marriage - Page 1

Letters keep coming from both men and women who are in a quandary about how one ought to move toward marriage. While I was sitting here, rereading some of them, a man phoned with a question about the same subject. I wonder what is happening. Why so much confusion? Here's one of the letters:

"I'm a male Christian who needs help. I just ended a long-term 'relationship' with a non-Christian girl. I made plenty of compromises during those years, and by God's grace I hope next time will be better. I read your book The Mark of a Man and was shown things I never knew before which blew my mind. I'm excited about the idea of sharing life with a girl in a way which would honor Jesus. At the same time I get scared about making bad moves, when to initiate, and financial fears about supporting a family if I'm a missionary, which at the moment I'm being directed to. These things may seem silly but they're real to me. Could you address some issues which could benefit us guys who see marriage as a blessing and not as years of imprisonment?"

No, the questions do not seem silly to me--far from it. They are vital questions, and I'm glad there are men to whom they matter enough to pray about and ask counsel for.

I think one reason for confusion is the notion which arose, before the men who are now in their twenties and thirties were born, about the "equality" of the sexes. It is a word that belongs to politics but certainly not to courtship, a realm which concerns human beings in their entirety.

Another reason for confusion is misunderstanding the order which God established in the beginning. I've tried to explain that divine arrangement in two books: Let Me Be a Woman and The Mark of a Man. If men would be men, women could do a better job of being women (and vice versa, of course, but the buck really stops with the men). What does it mean to be a man?

Christ is the supreme example. He was strong and He was pure, because His sole aim in life was to be obedient to the Father. His very obedience made Him most manly--responsible, committed, courageous, courteous, and full of love. A Christian man's obedience to God will make him more of a man than anything else in the world. Consider these qualities:

Responsibility. He must work out the salvation that God has given him "with a proper sense of awe and responsibility, for it is God who is at work" in him, giving him the will and the power to achieve His purpose (Philippians 2:12, 13, PHILLIPS). Man was made to be initiator, provider, protector for woman.

Commitment. He must be a man of his word, no matter what it costs. My father's strong counsel to my four brothers: Never tell a woman you love her until you are ready to follow that immediately with, "Will you marry me?" In other words, a man's love for a woman, if deep and abiding, leads to a lifetime commitment to her. Many heartaches would be avoided if he held back any expressions of love until he is ready to make that commitment. Once promised, he never goes back on that word.

Courage. A man must be willing to take the risks of rejection (she might say No), blame, and all that commitment costs.

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« Reply #458 on: March 11, 2007, 05:56:58 AM »

A Man Moves Toward Marriage - Page 2

Courtesy. A Christian's rule of life should be: my life for yours. He is concerned about the comfort and happiness of others, not of himself. He does not seek to have his own needs met, his own image enhanced, but to love God, to make Him loved, and to lay down his life to that end. In small ways as well as great, he shows the courteous love of the Lord.

Purity. He must be master of himself if he is to be the servant of others. This means "buffeting" his body, bringing it into subjection, as Paul did. It means restraint, discipline, the strength to wait. It means an utter yielding to the will of God as revealed in 1 Corinthians 6:12-20 and 1 Thessalonians 4:2-8.

As I have heard the sad stories and studied what I call "The Dating Mess" of today, it appears to me that men have generally overlooked another vital matter which ought to precede all overtures in the direction of a prospective wife. If we assume that a man is an adult when he is eighteen (or twenty-one at the latest), he should by that time be giving marriage some serious thought. He should get down to brass tacks with God to find out if this may be a part of His agenda for him. This will take time, and it might help if during this period he simply quits dating and starts praying. As long as the answer is uncertain, don't date. Does this sound extreme? It wasn't my idea. I learned it from a group of young men who have chosen this way. It is a guaranteed way of avoiding sexual activity (always illicit outside of marriage), of preserving one's wholeness and holiness, and of preventing the heartbreaks we see on every hand.

I urge you to trust God. He wants to give you the best. He will help you. He has promised to guide. He knows what you need. Ask Him to show you whether, when, and whom you should marry.

And don't be alone in this. Ask counsel of your spiritual superiors who are wise, who know how to pray and how to keep silence. Take their counsel seriously. If they have suggestions as to a possible mate, take those very seriously. My own parents prayed for godly spouses for all six of us, and actually named before God the very people that four of us married.

Read Genesis 24, study the principles Abraham's servant followed. Pray silently. Watch quietly.

Before you start dating, draw clear guidelines for yourself as to "how far to go." The only truly safe line is a radical one, but it works: hands off and clothes on. If you think you can put the line somewhere else, remember that a little thing leads on to a bigger thing. A touch leads to a hug which leads to a kiss which leads to play which leads to consummation. That was how God intended the whole thing to work, but the idea of the "whole thing" was marriage and babies.

Can you trust yourself to quit once you start? The Bible says, "Flee youthful lusts." Don't toy with them.

When God has guided you* as to the whether, the when, and the whom, then you must choose to love and not to fear. The Will of God always involves risk and cost, but He is there with grace to help and with all the wisdom you need. Every deliberate choice to obey Him will--depend upon it--be attacked by the enemy. Never mind. Nothing new about that. Be a man and stick with it.

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« Reply #459 on: March 11, 2007, 05:58:04 AM »

Author: Elisabeth Elliot
Source: A Lamp For My Feet
Scripture:
The Path of Lonliness


No Love Without Grief

Tell us, fool, who knows more of love--the one who has joys from it or the one who has trials and griefs? He answered: There cannot be any knowledge of love without both of them.

(Ramon Lull, The Book of the Lover and the Beloved)

When I imagine that I want to learn to love God--and to love my husband and others whom God has given me to love--let me test the desire of my willingness to accept trial and grief. If I can welcome them--Yes, Lord!--and believe God's purpose in them, I am learning the lesson of love. If I cannot, it's a fair indication that my desire to love is a delusion.

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« Reply #460 on: March 12, 2007, 01:58:10 PM »

Author: Elisabeth Elliot
Source: On Asking God Why
Scripture: 1 Corinthians 7:34-35 Matthew 19:29 Psalm 34:22
The Path of Lonliness


Singleness is a Gift - Page 1

Nearly a hundred years ago a twenty-eight-year-old woman from a windy little village on the north coast of Ireland began her missionary work in India. Amy Carmichael was single, but on the very eve of her leaving the docks, an opportunity "which looked towards 'the other life' " was presented.

Amy, with the combined reticence of being a Victorian and being Irish, never said how or by whom this "opportunity" was presented. She spoke very little of matters of the heart. She was also a thoroughgoing Christian, with a soldier's determination to carry out her Commander's orders. Single life, she believed, was not only a part of those orders; it was also a gift.

She tried not to suggest in any way that her gift was superior. "Remember,'' she wrote, "our God did not say to me, 'I have something greater for you to do.' This life is not greater than the other, but it is different." It was simply God's call to her.

The oldest of seven children, she had been full of ideas to amuse, educate, inspire, and spiritually edify her brothers and sisters. One of these ideas was a family magazine called Scraps, beautifully handwritten, illustrated, and published monthly for family and friends. Before Amy was twenty, one brother knew the direction her life was taking. In a series of sketches for Scraps he wrote:

Our eldest sister is the
light of our life.
She says that she will never
be a wife.

Amy took as her guide the ideal set forth by the apostle Paul: "The unmarried (woman) concerns herself with the Lord's affairs, and her aim is to make herself holy in body and in spirit. . .I am not putting difficulties in your path, but setting before you an ideal, so that your service of God may be as far as possible free from worldly distractions" (1 Corinthians 7:34, 35 PHILLIPS).

With all her heart she determined to please him who had chosen her to be his soldier. She was awed by the privilege. She accepted the disciplines.

"A Touch of Disappointment"

Loneliness was one of those disciplines. How--the modern young person always wants to know--did she "handle" it? Amy Carmichael would not have had the slightest idea what the questioner was talking about. "Handle" loneliness? Why, it was part of the cost of obedience, of course. Everybody is lonely in some way, the single in one way, the married in another; the missionary in certain obvious ways, the schoolteacher, the mother, the bank teller in others.

Amy had a dear co-worker whom she nicknamed Twin. At a missions conference they found that in the posted dinner lists, Twin and a friend named Mina had been seated side by side.

"Well, I was very glad that dear Mina should have Twin," Amy wrote to her family, "and I don't think I grudged her to her one little bit, and yet at the bottom of my heart there was just a touch of disappointment, for I had almost fancied I had somebody of my very own again, and there was a little ache somewhere. I could not rejoice in it. . .I longed, yes longed, to be glad, to be filled with such a wealth of unselfish love that I should be far gladder to see those two together than I should have been to have had Twin to myself. And while I was asking for it, it came. For the very first time I felt a rush, a real joy in it, His joy, a thing one cannot pump up or imitate or force in any way. . .Half-unconsciously, perhaps, I had been saying, 'Thou and Twin are enough for me'--one so soon clings to the gift instead of only to the Giver."

Her letter then continued with a stanza from the Frances Ridley Havergal hymn:

Take my love, my Lord, I pour
At Thy feet its treasure-store.
Take myself and I will be
Ever, only, all for thee.

After writing this, Amy felt inclined to tear it out of the letter. It was too personal, too humiliating. But she decided the Lord wanted her to let it stand, to tell its tale of weakness and of God's strength. She was finding firsthand that missionaries are not apart from the rest of the human race, not purer, nobler, higher.

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« Reply #461 on: March 12, 2007, 01:59:50 PM »

Singleness is a Gift - Page 2

"Wings are an illusive fallacy," she wrote. "Some may possess them, but they are not very visible, and as for me, there isn't the least sign of a feather. Don't imagine that by crossing the sea and landing on a foreign shore and learning a foreign lingo you 'burst the bonds of outer sin and hatch yourself a cherubim.' "

The Single "Mother"

Amy landed in India in 1897 and spent the first few years in itinerant evangelism. She began to uncover a secret traffic in little girls who were being sold or given for temple prostitution. She prayed that God would enable her find a way to rescue some of them, even though not one had ever been known to escape.

Several years later, God began to answer that prayer. One little girl actually escaped and came (led by an angel, Amy believed) straight to Amy. Then in various ways babies were rescued. Soon she found that little boys were being used for homosexual purposes by dramatic societies connected with Hindu temple worship. She prayed for the boys, and in a few years Amy Carmichael was Amma ("Mother") to a rapidly growing Indian family that, by the late 1940s, numbered about 900. In a specially literal way the words of Jesus seemed to have been fulfilled: "Everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life'' (Matthew 19:29).

In answer to a question from one of her children who years later had become a close fellow worker, Amy described a transaction in a cave. She had gone there to spend the day with God and face her feelings of fear about the future. Things were all right at the moment, but could she endure years of being alone?

The Devil painted pictures of loneliness that were vivid to her years later. She turned to the Lord in desperation. "What can I do, Lord? How can I go on to the end?"

His answer: ''None of them that trust in me shall be desolate" (from Psalms 34:22 KJV). So she did not "handle" loneliness--she handed it to her Lord and trusted his Word.

"There is a secret discipline appointed for every man and woman whose life is lived for others," she wrote. "No one escapes that discipline, nor would wish to escape it; nor can any shelter another from it. And just as we have seen the bud of a flower close round the treasure within, folding its secret up, petal by petal, so we have seen the soul that is chosen to serve, fold round its secret and hold it fast and cover it from the eyes of man. The petals of the soul are silence."

Her commitment to obedience was unconditional. Finding that singleness was the condition her Master had appointed for her, she received it with both hands, willing to renounce all rights for his sake and, although she could not have imagined it at the time, for the sake of the children he would give her--a job she could not possibly have done if she had had a family of her own.

Many whose houses, for one reason or another, seem empty, and the lessons of solitude hard to learn, have found strength and comfort in the following Amy Carmichael poem:

O Prince of Glory, who dost bring
Thy sons to glory through Thy Cross,
Let me not shrink from suffering,
Reproach or loss ....

If Thy dear Home be fuller, Lord,
For that a little emptier
My house on earth, what rich reward
That guerdon* were.

*recompense; something earned or gained

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« Reply #462 on: March 12, 2007, 02:01:09 PM »

Author: Elisabeth Elliot
Source: A Lamp For My Feet
Scripture: 1 John 5:2
The Path of Lonliness


The Real Test of Love

It is not difficult to imagine, in certain moods and settings, that we love people. We may feel expansive and good-natured for a variety of reasons--our own good health or digestion, for example, or beautiful weather, comfortable circumstances, nice folks doing nice things for us. The Bible is a sword that cuts through mere sentiment. It tells us that the accurate test of our love for God's children is obedience to God. "By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey His commandments" (1 Jn 5:2 RSV). It is an objective test, not a subjective one. Love as the Bible defines it is perceptible through action rather than through mere feeling. It is not, as Eric Alexander of Scotland put it, a "glandular condition."

Much of the talk nowadays about loving one another is soupy and silly. It will not stand the biblical test. Love for people goes hand-in-hand with love for God--if you don't love the brother you see, how can you love the God you don't see? Loving God requires submission to his discipline--He rebukes, chastens, refines with fire, purifies by trial. Do we love Him enough to say yes to all that? Do we love others enough to encourage endurance in them?

Jesus, Thou art all compassion,
Pure, unbounded Love Thou art;
Visit us with Thy salvation,
Enter every trembling heart.
(Charles Wesley)

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« Reply #463 on: March 12, 2007, 02:02:39 PM »

Author: Elisabeth Elliot
Source: Love Has A Price Tag
Scripture: 1 Corinthians 13
The Path of Lonliness


Love Has A Price Tag - Page 1

It is early morning. I lie as usual in a double bed, and as usual I wake and give thanks for the sleep and safety of the night, for health and warmth and food and friends, for work to do and strength to do it. There is, as before, a layer of silence above the distant sound of traffic.

There are some other sounds as well, not usual at all--instead of the sharp, peremptory bark of MacDuff I hear the muted and mournful howl of Johnny Reb, a beagle who belongs to the next-door neighbors. The garbage truck grinds up the hill outside my window (for this house is on a hill). And there is the sound of someone breathing--beside me.

Lord, Father of Spirits, Lover of Souls, my Light and my Stronghold, thanks! Thanks for the greatest of earthly blessings, marriage.

My prayer goes on for a little while thanksgiving and petition (that I may be the sort of wife I ought to be, that together we may accomplish the will of the Father). Later in the kitchen while I fix breakfast I think about this business of being transplanted. We have a nice little brick house on a very quiet street with a view of the Atlanta skyline from the kitchen windows.

Usually to get married means to be transplanted. Always it means to hand over power. Our Lord has a sense of humor, and he has heard me over the past couple of years as I went around talking about marriage, "popping off" about how a woman is supposed to behave toward a man. He has "read" my book, too, I'm sure--Let Me Be a Woman. He knows, too, that I believed every word of it, believed it was the truth of God that I spoke.

"All right," he said, "try it again."

He gave me a third husband four-and-a-half years after the death of the second, and he said, "Did you really believe all those things you said and wrote? Have another go at it to make sure."

Love means self-giving. Self-giving means sacrifice. Sacrifice means death. Those are some of the things I've said. I got them out of the same Book, the only thoroughly and eternally reliable Sourcebook. The principles of gain through loss, of joy through sorrow, of getting by giving, of fulfillment by laying down, of life out of death is what that Book teaches, and the people who have believed it enough to live it out in simple, humble, day-by-day practice are people who have found the gain, the joy, the getting, the fulfillment, the life. I really do believe that.

"Lord," I ask, "help me to live it out."

"All right," he says to me, "here's your chance."

In Georgia.

Georgia, where I'm the one with the accent. They call me "Lizbeth." They "carry" children to school or friends to the airport, they don't "take" them. Photographers "make" rather than "take" pictures. They drink "CoCola," they go to "fillin' stations," they eat "congealed" salads, and words like spin and hill have two long-drawn-out syllables.

Sometimes we can trace strange connections in the patterns God works in human lives. One of the last things Add Leitch said to me was that if God should restore him to health he would like to become a hospital chaplain. My new husband is a hospital chaplain.

He took me to Milledgeville to visit the women in the geriatric ward.

"How ya doin', Miz Jackson?"

"Tol'ble well, tol'ble well, preacher. Come here, Ah'm'on' pray for you."

She rises, slowly and painfully, from her chair, places her hands on his shoulders, and repeats with deep fervor the whole of the Lord's prayer.

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« Reply #464 on: March 12, 2007, 02:04:10 PM »

Love Has A Price Tag - Page 2

A woman with beautiful white hair sits in a wheelchair that is hung with more than a dozen pouches, purses and drawstring bags. She quotes from Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, talks knowledgeably of Canterbury Cathedral, of Henry VIII, and Cranmer's Prayer Book, winking at me as she talks, as though the two of us are privy to something Lars doesn't know.

We eat breakfast with Mr. Smith, a very handsome man with white hair, ruddy skin and bright blue eyes. He is wearing a blue shirt and blue sweater. He tells us a story which brings into sharp focus the words of the wedding vows--"in sickness and in health, for better, for worse." His wife has been a patient at Milledgeville for three years.

"When she first got sick I carried her everywhere. I did. The doctor said, 'She'll get worse, every week and every month. So if you want to go on any trips or anywhere, go now.' We had some good times, me and her. But the doctor said, 'You cain't stand it. You won't be able to stand it.' Well, I said, 'Ah'm'on' hang on long's I can.'

"I took care of her for five years, but I lost fifty-two pounds just from worry. I was so tense they broke three needles tryin' to put a shot in my arm. Well, I carried her to twenty-five doctors but they couldn't do nothin'. It's brain deter'ation, they told me. I did everything for her. I dressed her and fed her and everything, but it like to whup me and if it hadn't of been for the good Lord I'da never made it. Doctor said, 'I'da sworn you'd never last six months.' But a lot of people were prayin' for me. Oh yes. But finally I had to give up and put her here.

"She cain't do nothin.' Cain't move or speak or hear. She's in the prebirth position, legs and arms locked, heels locked up tight behind. You cain't straighten her out. But I come every other day. I go in and kiss her 'bout a dozen times, jes' love her to death. I talk to her. She don't hear, but she knows my touch.

"Well." Mr. Smith finished his story. "I work for the florist here. Volunteer work, you know. I go around the wards, carrying flowers."

We went later to see Mrs. Smith. If ever there was a sight to confound a man's love for a woman, to strain to the breaking point the most potent human passion, we saw it in that stark white crib--a crumpled scrap of inert humanity. But there is a love that is strong as death, a love many waters cannot quench, floods cannot drown.

I thought of that kind of love not long afterwards, and I thought of it with shame, for I had been disturbed by a petty thing. It is sweet Georgia springtime now, lavish compensation for January's cold, and the birds sing. But I, being still a sinner, can be disturbed by a petty thing. Back I went to the Sourcebook, to the thirteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians, for a clear description of how I ought to act if I really wanted my prayer answered ("Make me the sort of wife I ought to be").

What I found was the precise opposite of my own inclinations in this instance, because this time I was quite sure that my husband was wrong. Reading my own name in place of the word love, followed by the opposites of each characteristic described, I saw my own face in the glass and the truth knocked me down. "E. loses patience, is destructive, possessive, anxious to impress, cherishes inflated ideas of her own importance, has bad manners, pursues selfish advantage, is touchy, keeps account of evil...."

I couldn't go on. The antidote to these horrors was love the kind that "knows no limit to its endurance, no end to its trust, no fading of its hope; it can outlast anything. It is, in fact, the one thing that still stands when all else has fallen."

The Word of God is light, and in its light we see light. My perspective changed; I saw what had bothered me as a petty thing, as nothing. Peace and equilibrium were restored--and that without a "sharing" session. "Thy words were found and I did eat them, and they were unto me the joy and rejoicing of my heart." "Thy statutes have been my songs in the house of my pilgrimage." Thanks be to God for such songs.

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