Monday, February 1, 2010

My Hero, Elisabeth Elliot

I love Elisabeth Elliot. Right now I'm reading a book by her entitled A Chance to Die, The Life and Legacy of Amy Carmichael. I love the book because I love her. Amy Carmichael is to E.E. what E.E. is to me I think.

Anyway, I look forward to blogging about A Chance to Die sometime soon – next time I get a day to myself maybe, so don't hold your breath. But I'm still optimistic it will happen, because I do love the book.

But I mention E.E. because soon after I published my last blog entry, I read my daily e-mail devotional from E.E. She discussed, of all things, time alone. See why I love her? It was so pertinent to our most recent conversation that I have to copy 'n' paste it here for your perusal. Here we go: (By the way, she seems to take the long, round-about road to get to her point in this essay -- just like I so often do. Ahh, yet another reason to love her!)

Author: Elisabeth Elliot
Source: Love Has A Price Tag
Scripture Reference:

Junk Food

If you're hungry, the airport in Fayetteville, Arkansas, is not a good place to be. The selection of "snacks" in the vending machine is impressive, but there is nothing at all that one could call food. You can insert your quarters, nickels and dimes (no pennies) and get chocolate chip cookies, potato chips (plain), potato chips with "bar-B-Q" flavor, potato chips with sour cream and onion (artificial) flavor, potato "Stix," pork rinds, corn chips, "Cornies," "Pub Fries," "Cheddar Fries," "Cheetos," "Cheese Smackers," and things called "Doritos," "Bugles," "yammers" and "Dunkums."

Alongside that machine is another one offering brightly colored aluminum cans of sweet fizzy stuff with which to wash down all those snacks or, I suppose, to Dunkum. I don't like to contemplate what state your blood sugar or your nerves or your sanctification would be in if your supper comprised a Tab and a package of Jammers, but on second thought, a look around the boarding lounge of almost any airport--at the facial expressions, the behavior of the pre-school-age tots, and the remarks overheard--give a clue. We are a nation "overfed but undernourished," to borrow the title of Curtis Wood's book.

Junk food is not nourishment. It's easily available (if you have the right coins). It is packaged up in eye-catching wrappings, presumably untouched by human hands. It can be transported to plane, to beach, to movie theatre, to school, to bed. It can be grabbed in a moment, wolfed down on the run; and there are no preparations to make, nothing to clean up except greasy fingers. It does away altogether with the ritual of eating--the laid table, the attractive presentation of a dish, the fellowship with others, the leisure to enjoy. In a world that has lost or discarded nearly all other rituals, what will become of us if we do away with even this one?

But worst of all, junk food feeds (feeding will make you fat) but does not nourish. Nourishment makes you strong. I sat on the molded fiberglass seat in Fayetteville, waiting for the small plane which would take me to Tulsa, and wished for a few crunchy fat Bing cherries or a slice of the wheat-honey bread that I make regularly at home--real food.

Don't misunderstand. I like potato chips. I like Cheetos. I haven't tried the commercially packaged pork rinds, but I certainly enjoyed the kind the Indians gave me in South America--fished out of a cauldron of hot fat bubbling over an open fire in some jungle clearing, eaten with a chunk of steamed manioc or a plantain roasted in the ashes.

We are people of our times and culture. Because of the "schedule" I seem to be obliged to keep, I am always looking for ways to use my time more efficiently, and one of them is to listen to tapes while I do my hair and face. I switched the recorder off the other day, disgusted with what I told my husband was spiritual junk food. A man was rambling on about his own feelings, his "meaningful" experiences, and how he got in touch with himself, with other people, and with God. No doubt he was telling the truth, but there wasn't a single reference to Scripture, and not much there that would nourish me.

Christian bookstores usually carry some real "meat," if you can find it. It is not likely to be up front where the paperbacks, the tapes and the records are, which display on their jackets color photographs of the author, the speaker or the singer, often taken in an open meadow, in a soft, misty light, and with a few wildflowers. (Are there any analogies here artificial color, perhaps, or flavor? What about preservatives? I understand preservatives are used in foods to give a longer "shelf life." The booksellers have thought of some tricks, I'm sure, to keep their wares in the public eye for a few weeks longer, but no trick takes the place of quality for preserving a book's shelf life.)

Tastes are developed. Solzhenitsyn, in his speech at Harvard a few months ago, deplored the "TV stupor" in which Americans live. He spoke of the decadence of art, of intolerable music, of mass prejudice, spiritual exhaustion, material luxury, and a morally inferior happiness. He is right. Alas, his own experience of totalitarianism and concentration camp gives him the perspective and the authority to judge our society. We must hear him.

Doctors have been learning of the physical exhaustion that can result from artificial or refined or highly sugared foods. Might not one cause of the spiritual exhaustion which Solzhenitsyn observes be the spiritual junk food we consume? What shall be done for the child fed on the snack-pack, the soft drink and the TV dinner? Will he never choose, let alone enjoy, vegetables? Will the Christian whose spiritual sustenance has been limited to the mass-produced, who is accustomed only to "snacking," whose tastes have been conditioned by the majority, ever choose what is truly nourishing?

What it comes down to, with regard to spiritual things, is that we ought to learn to do some of our own cooking. Granted, it is much easier to grab a package. But sometimes we ought to start from scratch.

Let us start with silence. That may be the hardest thing to achieve in our world. But it is not impossible. For one thing, it takes the will to be quiet. It is possible to be quiet on a crowded subway or in the kitchen when the bacon is frying, the washing machine is running and the baby wants more milk. It is easier by far to be quiet when things around us are quiet, and for most of us this means getting up early.

I was in my study this morning before the traffic had started up on Route 1A. No sound came from the road or the house. Only the sweet susurrus of the crickets in the grass and the cawing of a crow in a beech tree broke the silence, yet it took also an act of the will to be still and know that He is God. My mind races quite naturally over things done yesterday (burying a beloved friend's beloved little dog, getting my sister from the hospital, swimming in the ocean, writing a page or two) or things to be done today (writing more than a page or two, having a friend to tea, getting my mother from the airport). Be still. It is a command. The Hebrew word used in Psalm 46 can mean "Shut up."

The great books that have been spiritual meat and drink for me have been produced, I feel sure, out of great silence. Men and women of God have learned of him by being quiet and allowing him to speak to them in their solitude. They have been willing to be alone, to shut up, to listen, and to think and pray over what they have heard. In our modern world most people choose noise. Go to the beach or a forest camp and find portable radios, television sets, record players. Sit down in a waiting room and listen to what Malcolm Muggeridge calls that "drooling melange" of Muzak. People want noise. They would far rather discuss than think, talk over their problems than pray about them, read a paperback about what somebody else thinks about the Bible than read the Bible.

We cannot stand stillness. Yet we need it. I wonder if the popularity of transcendental meditation is due to this felt need. Whatever may be said about TM's being a religion or not, the measure of success it seems to enjoy could be attributed in part to the simple fact that its devotees spend a certain amount of time daily in motionless silence. That can't hurt anybody.

As one of those who write the stuff that is for sale in the bookstores I referred to, I know that responsibility is laid upon me to provide real food. So I speak to myself--I must do my own "cooking." It is not fast food that I ought to provide for my reader. I must feed him, but in order to do that I must myself be fed. What I speak or write must come out of silence where only a still small voice can be heard.

I speak also to my reader. Seek what is good for the soul, even if it doesn't come in paperback. Read an old book once in a while. (Try P. T. Forsyth, The Principle of Authority, or Luther's Letters of Spiritual Counsel.) And once in a while lay aside the books and the tapes. For a set period of time be alone, be still. "The man who lives on me will live because of me," Jesus said. "This is the bread which came down from heaven."

Copyright 1979, by Elisabeth Elliot
all rights reserved.

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