Friday, February 25, 2005

The Consolation of Obedience

Elisabeth Elliot: "You are loved with an everlasting love," that's what the Bible says, "and underneath are the everlasting arms."
I want to share on the consolation of obedience. A few months ago, I read through most of my journal of 1973. That was when my husband, Addison Leitch, was dying of cancer. He had to have radiation treatments, which meant that we had to drive the 35 miles to Boston five days a week for six weeks. So that was one thing that God gave me to do every day. I knew that we simply had to go to Boston City Hospital.
For the first few weeks, my husband did the driving. Then he was too tired, too worn out, too weak, and I did the driving. It was my job. My job was also housework, laundry, meals, encouragement, trying to move as methodically as I possibly could from one thing to another. And I had learned a principle from my mother many years before: Do the next thing. And it is wonderful how simple it is when we just do the next thing.

Here's this poem from which that maxim comes:
From an old English parsonage down by the sea,
There came in the twilight a message for me.
Its quaint Saxon legend deeply engravened hath,
As it seems to me, teaching from heaven.

And on through the hours the quiet words ring

Like a low inspiration, do the next thing.
Many a questioning, many a fear,
Many a doubt hath its quieting here.

Moment by moment, let down from heaven,

Time, opportunity, guidance are given.
Fear not tomorrows, child of the king,
Trust them with Jesus, do the next thing.

Do it immediately, do it with prayer,

Do it reliantly, casting all care.
Do it with reverence, tracing His hand
Who placed it before thee with earnest command.

Stayed on omnipotence, faith 'neath his wing,

Leave all resultings, do the next thing.
Looking to Jesus ever serener,
Working or suffering, be thy demeanor.

In His dear presence, the rest of His calm,

The light of His countenance be thy psalm.
Strong in His faithfulness, praise and sing.
hen as He beckons thee, do the next thing.

I think of the continuity, the evenness in the life of Mary. Mary so trusted the Lord that she received with a quiet heart the message from the angel and moved, so far as we can tell from the Scriptures, serenely through her life. Her first commitment was to take care of that baby that God had given her. That baby was carried through all the days of her life; first of all, of course, in her womb. But one day at a time, she did the next thing.

And one day when the baby was only eight days old, she heard the words of Simeon, the old prophet who was waiting for the consolation of Israel. The Messiah, our Lord Jesus, is that consolation. These are the words from the Gospel of Luke:

"There was in Jerusalem a man called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord's Christ. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts.

"When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God saying: 'Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for the glory of your people Israel.'

"The child's father and mother marveled at what was said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: 'This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul, too.'"

And I wonder if Mary realized at that very moment that that prophecy would be a part of the piercing of that sword. She would have to watch her son be a sign that was spoken against.

"There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was old; and she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was 84. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.

"When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth. And the child grew and became strong; He was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon Him."
What does this have to do with the consolation of obedience? Mary had begun to feel the piercing of that sword, but Joseph and Mary did everything that was required by the Law, and the next thing was that they just went home, returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth. Maybe a very simple thing and an obvious thing, and yet it seems to me that it is in those very ways that God consoles us and teaches us to wait on him, to keep a quiet heart. Obedience brings joy, disobedience brings misery--and I know that I speak from experience.

I mentioned yesterday that I had gone through my journal of 1973. My husband, Add Leitch, had died in September of 1973, and two months after his death, I found this entry:

"I find that routine is the best support for my soul. I can function with almost my customary efficiency and concentration so long as I operate by habit. The sameness, ordinariness and necessity are comfortable for me. It is in the interruption of routine, especially in social life, that I find myself beginning to disintegrate and turn inward. This is hazardous and I have to grab the reins and say to myself 'Giddyap!' Suffering builds a thick wall between two people. One is the sufferer and one the watcher, and neither can fully communicate his experience. It's almost as if they have nothing in common."

I can remember my husband saying to me "We live in two different worlds. I'm sick, you're well." And here's a word for those who may be wondering "How do I know what the next thing is?"

George MacDonald wrote:

"'What is my next duty? What is the thing that lies nearest to me?'" The answer comes, "'That...belongs to your every-day history. No one can answer that question but yourself. Your next duty is just to determine what your next duty is--Is there nothing you neglect? Is there nothing you know you ought not to do?--You would know your duty, if you thought in earnest about it, and were not ambitious of great things.'

"'Ah then,'" responded she, "'I suppose it is something very commonplace, which will make life more dreary than ever. That cannot help me.'

"'It will help you, if it be as dreary as reading the newspapers to an old deaf aunt. It will soon lead you to something more. Your duty will begin to comfort you at once, but will at length open the unknown fountain of life in your heart.'"

And Thomas Carlisle said, "Do the duty which lies nearest thee. Thy second duty will have become clearer."

I don't know who's listening today who has just suffered a tremendous blow, perhaps the loss of someone you love, the loss through divorce or abandonment or death. God knows. May I just offer you this little word? Do the next thing. Ask the Lord to show you the humble, simple, ordinary thing. Perhaps it's something you can do for somebody else, and you'll be amazed at the consolation that obedience brings. Trust and obey, for there's no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.

Matthew 6: 33-34

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

(A & A's excellent KC adventure ,or Aunt Fle and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat!)

Some of our relatives, who are the best sort of people, live in Kansas City. We enjoy every moment that we get to spend with them. So sister and I decided it was a good weekend for a road trip. Before we left we went to our friend Abby's house warming party. Abby has been praying about this house & keeping us up to date on how it's being refurbished. It was gratifying to see what God had done through her dad's diligent work. I liked their choices of decor.Abby told us stories about the house and how many years her family had been involved with it. An amazing story. We also got to meet her sweet children.

We left from there and headed for Kansas City. Mom called around the time I left Abby's house and we talked for a bit. Alyssa & I visited the rest of the trip about her gymnastics, books, and some other interests she has right now ( still more books ; }).

The children were up with Aunt Fle and Uncle Keith when we arrived. We visited excitedly for a few moments. Everyone was fatigued, so we didn't linger . The next morning I slept in - which was beneficial- almost my favorite part of any weekend these days! :) Everyone spent the afternoon at the mall. I am so impressed with my uncle! Keith is a man who would rather do about anything else, but there he was shopping, with enthusiasm! (Naturally,he could have bowed out if he hadn't wanted to go - which happens on ocassion ; } - it would have been fine, but he chose to be with us! ) He spent the whole afternoon looking at pink clothing. He never complained . He watched the little ones as they twirled before mirrors, experimenting with pink clothes, hats, and jewelry. He seemed to be genuinely enjoying himself just watching his girls. Did I say he never complained? ; } I don't know very many guys who would do the Dread shopping/just looking Outting with such charm!( Now,of course, my father does! ) We had a fabulous time. We stopped by the most intriging coffee shop ; full of coffee flavors, smells, assorted teas, shelves of coffee mugs, presses,and flavorings. I would love to work at a place like that! I could imagine helping there, smelling coffees, making coffees, and visiting with people. Uncle Keith bought us a delicious lunch. From there my aunt drove me by Parkville University and through the little town of Parkville. The University looked like the victorian stone college out of the movie Anne of Avonlea. I enjoyed the architecture , the towers and the beautiful grounds.The community was charming. It reminded me of the historic section in Saint Charles, Missouri. The entire ambiance urged you to grab that book you'd been wanting to finish, settle in and enjoy.My uncle and aunt went out for dinner and a movie in the evening. The little ones and I watched Tom and Jerry( This is great stuff! ), and then played downstairs. I think they played hide and seek for the most part. McKenna was a joy! When it was bed time she came right to me and let me put her to bed.I was so concerned she was going to decide she didn't know me well enough and it was going to be a long night. We had a wonderful read aloud and she laid down. Of course it took almost an hour for her to fall asleep but she did. Morgan was also easy! She had her drink of water, laid down and she only came back downstairs once. The other 2 went to bed around 10 without any trouble. I stayed up and watched TV. We all slept really well after a full day of shopping, touring, and chasing.

The next morning Aunt Fle and I decided to go have our hair cut and highlighted. Scary..... ;) We found a place that was open, had a reputable looking ad.,and scheduled appointments.( As an aside here Uncle Keith kept saying things to Aunt Fle like, " Hon., are you sure you two want to go somewhere on just the strength of an ad.???; Shouldn't you find a salon that someone you know reccommends"?) We left a little early so we could go look at yarn, which was a bust. We didn't find anything that would work for socks. But we had a wonderful visit. My aunt and uncle are kind. They offered to let me come and live with them, if I wanted to. They have a basement that is not fully finished and they offered to change the floor plan some so I could have my own room. They said they'd help me find a job there and if I wanted to go to school, help me get that put together. I could hardly believe my ears. What a sweet and thoughtful thing to be willing to do. She basically wanted to let me know if I wanted a change of pace I could come stay there. I told her I would think & pray about it. I don't know if I would want to be that far away from my immediate family. I have a reasonably interesting job , and though I'm interested in several subjects I don't have a desire to go to college right now. So I'm praying about it. There isn't anyone I would prefer to live with more, if not my family here. When we got to the salon they sent me to a stylist that was just what I had been hoping for. She had been doing hair for over 10 years and didn't look like she had been experimenting on herself ! She asked me what I wanted and then showed me a couple of options. When I asked what she recommended I liked it. So I let her proceed with her recommendation. My aunt got a stylist that was exactly what I'd been afraid I might end up with. I think he must have decided what he was going to do to her hair before he ever asked. Fle has hair that is so dark brown that its almost black, She told him she wanted auburn streaks, and dark brown highlights. He did this "creation" in copper tones, light brown and blonde over top of her dark hair! She was sitting around the corner from me and I only got to see her a few times. One of the times we looked at the color in the bowls this hairdresser had and had to wonder why auburn and brown highlights used blonde,copper and light brown dye.:) His vision also did not include cutting her hair the way she had asked. When he finished Fle was shocked. I was shocked.She handled it beautifully.( She paid for it! I wouldn't have.) On the way home she kept saying "Ok! I can do this! With time I can learn to like the color, and I can probably fix the hair style so that it looks like I want it". I was proud of her. I would have cried and been very upset with the man for not doing what I had asked him to do.It would not have been a good thing-at all. I'm sure that I would have been reduced to buying seven different hats to wear until 'the creation" had grown out enough to cut it off.Uncle Keith did admirably. He did look surprised, but he kept saying "It's great, I like it, you look great, you can wear that honey, don't worry about it." And he didn't even say " I told you so!" The little girls said "wow!!!!!" A lot. ; }We took Uncle Keith to the airport after we got home and said good byes. He's a wonderful man. Its evident how much he loves and cherishes his family. Alyssa and I stayed until 5:00 and then left for home. We didn't want to leave and they didn't want us to go, but reality and responsibility do sadly exist. We had a fun trip driving home in the rain and fog. Driving in the fog is almost as intriguing as walking in it ; it's mysterious and foreboding.
Perfect family.Perfect weekend!

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Being the Mirror

I read this it gave me something to consider and work at. I would love to know what you all think of this. :)

To this day. when I hear the undulating pitch of a siren that approximates the air-raid warning in London, adrenaline floods my body, resurrecting the fear and tension. During one period, the Luftwaffe attacked our city on fifty-one consecutives nights, with the raids lasting as long as eight hours without pause! Fifteen hundred planes came each night, in waves of 250. In those dark days, we could not help believing that everything we cherished- our freedom, our nation, our families, our civilization - would be buried in the wasteland created by those hated bombers.
Only one thing gave us hope; the courage of Royal Air Force pilots who rose in the skies each day to battle the Germans.
I cannot possibly exaggerate the adoration that Londoners gave to those brave RAF pilots. I doubt whether a more adulated group of young men has ever lived. They were the cream of England, the brightest, the healthiest, most confident and dedicated. and often the handsomest men in the entire country. When they walked the streets in therir decorated uniforms, the poplulation treated them as gods.
I came to know some of these young men, though in a far less idyllic circumstance. The Hurricane ( airplane), agile and effective as it was, has one fatal design flaw. The single propeller engine was mounted in front, a scant foot from the cockpit, and fuel lines snaked alongside the cockpit toward the engine. In a direct hit, the cockpit would erupt in an infermo of flames. The pilot could eject , but in the one or two seconds it took him to find the lever, heat would melt off every feature of his face; his nose , his eyelids, his lips, often his cheeks. I met the RAF heroes swathed in bandages as they began the torturous series of surgeries required to refashion their faces.
Throughout the tedious progression of surgeries, morale remained surprisingly high among the pilots. But gradually, as the last few weeks of recuperation drew to a close, a change would set in. We noticed that many of the pilots kept asking for minor alterations. Soon the realization dawned on all of us, including the patients, that they were simply stalling. They could not face the world outside. Despite the miracles wrought by the surgeons, each face had changed irreparably. I especially remember an RAF pilot named Peter Foster, who described to me his mounting anxiety as the release day approached. Your fears and concerns, he said, come to a focus in the mirror. For some months you use the mirror daily , as an objective measuring decive, to scrutinize the progress your surgeons have made.
You try to see yourself as strangers will see you, as loved ones will see you. In the hospital you have been an object of pride, supported by your friends. On the outside you will be a freak. Fear creeps in. Will any girl dare to marry that face, and anyone give it a job?
At that critical moment as each scarred airman contemplated the new image of himself, one factor alone came to matter; the response of family and intimate friends. The surgeons' relative sucess in remaking the face counted for little. The future hinged on the reactions of family members to the news that the surgeons had done all they could and the face before them would never improve. Did the airman sense loving acceptance or recoiling hesitance?
In one group were some whose friends and wives could not accept the new faces.These women, who had idolized their heroic lovers, quietly stole away or filed for dicorve. Airmen who encountered this reaction changed in personality. The became depressed, and reclusive. By contrast, those whose wives and girlfriends stuck by them happily went on to tremendous success- they were after all, the elite of England.
Peter Foster gratefully admitted belonging to that fortunate group. His own girl friend assured him that nothing had changed but a few millimeters' thickness of skin, She loved him, not his facial membrane, she said. They were married soon afterwards.
Naturally , Peter encountered painful reactions from some. Many adults quickly looked away when he approached. Children, cruel in their honesty, made faces.
Peter wanted to cry out, " Inside I am the same person you knew before! Don't you recognize me? " Instead he learned to turn to his wife. " She became my mirror. She gave me a new image of myself," he said with appreciation. " Even now , regardless of how I feel, when I look at her she gives me a warm, loving smile. That smile tells me I am OK. I am doing OK." (wow)

All of us, like Peter Foster's wife are mirrors. Each of us has the potential to help summon up in the people we know and meet the appreciation of the image of God, the spark of Godlikeness in the human spirit. Or instead, we can in our fear and self-absorbtion ignore them, or squelch that image by not being a loving, accepting mirror.
Mother Teresa says that when she looks into the face of a dying beggar in Calcutta. she prays to see the face of Jesus so that she might serve that soul as she would serve Christ himself.
In an often quoted passage C.S. Lewis expressed " It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be stronlgly temted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare.
All day long ,we are, in some degree, helping each other to one of these destinations. "

" He who oppresses the poor ( in spirit? - in perhaps at that point,in joy? ) shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God." Proverbs 14:31

" If the doors of perception were cleansed, everything whould appear to us as it is, infinite."
William Blake