When I developed the course Major Christian Authors over 25 years ago, I chose to include Elisabeth Elliot. Her first book, a biography of the five missionaries killed by the Auca Indians, proved her a capable biographer. Later books, such as Discipline: The Glad Surrender, proved her to be a solid biblical thinker who took a no-nonsense approach to Christian living. When “do what feels good philosophy” found its way into the church, she wrote about the call of the cross. For years she spoke at Urbana’s mission conference, challenging people to consider a call to the mission field.
When women wrote to her radio broadcast, “Gateway to Joy,” saying they were overwhelmed, sinking into self-pity and despair, and asking for her advice, Elisabeth would reply, “Just do the next thing.” How many times has that sentence echoed through my mind? Instead of worrying or avoiding things I deem duties or responsibilities, I take Elliot’s words to heart.
So on this gorgeous fall morning, when Dave left to help friends put up new signage, a mailbox, and a bench at Maryland’s High Point on Backbone Mountain, I decided to “do the next thing.” I put tomatoes in boiling water to make peeling easier, started the lentils, and sauteed onions and garlic. Then I sat down at the computer to begin proofreading a seventh revision of a doctoral dissertation. When my eyes needed a break, I walked outside to thank the Lord for the beauty of the day, the Lord’s provision of this cabin, the faith of our family members, a host of blessings. I remembered Pastor Tom Wenger’s reply when people asked how he was. “Better than I deserve,” came Tom’s ready reply.
With the soup simmering, I added thyme and marjoram, the next instructions in the recipe. Then I put my glasses back on and started to proofread again. About an hour later I started some homemade chili in another large pot. By four this afternoon I had a large container of tomato lentil soup ready to freeze and take to a friend who’s recovering from a broken arm, a smaller container for Dave and me and a batch of chili ready for dinner.
As I took another break from the computer, I drove out to get the mail. Along the way I snapped a photo of my neighbor’s house as it looks in its autumn glory. Later tonight I’ll email it to her since she only uses the house as a vacation home.
By just doing the next thing, I had the cooking completed and the dishes washed before Dave got home.Thanks, Elisabeth Elliot. And thanks to the Lord for giving us hearts to thank and praise.