Joni, Elisabeth, and My Applesauce: How Not to Go Astray

What kind of title is this? ” Joni, Elisabeth, and My Applesauce: How Not to Go Astray.”  It represents a smattering of thoughts that come together in my struggle to walk. To walk in a particular way and in a particular direction, neither of which is natural to me. Have you ever tried to change the way you walk? Self-consciously, you turn your feet forward, not letting them angle out or in or whatever way you really like, but your doctor says is incorrect. It is just not natural for you.

Beyond the literal, “walking” can mean so many things. If you look up walk in an exhaustive Bible concordance, you’ll find hundreds of references. Walk. Walked. Walking. I’m exhausted! And I haven’t even mentioned run, running, and races!

Hmm. So much to talk about! Let’s sit awhile. Would you prefer coffee or tea? Just a few reflective excursions and then we’ll resume our walk. Or, is the seated conversation a part of the walk? Yes. So glad we can rest and walk at the same time. (The world of the Kingdom is ironically different.)

If you are a Christ-follower (a pedestrian theologian), you may find this interesting. If you are not a Christ-follower (then you are still a pedestrian theologian but of a different sort), this may still engage you.

Consider this:

What makes being Christ-following, pedestrian theologians so challenging and complicated is the relationship between mind and body: our minds and His; our ways and His. Following Jesus means  we have to grow to think more of His thoughts (to reprogram our default settings to biblical settings) and then align our attitudes and actions to the new settings (stemming from being new creations in Christ – II Corinthians 5:17). Metaphorically, our walk is our lifestyle, so the way we walk is our applied theory. Our pedestrian theology. We follow whom and what we believe.

Yes, whom — direct object. Objective case. Oh, I’m not a grammar legalist. For instance, I find satisfaction in a well placed sentence fragment. Such satisfaction finds its origins in my great enjoyment of syntax and language. Compliments to You, dear Logos, Author of language!

Hmm. Back to our sit-walk-talk.

Here’s a nice spot! Let’s sit-walk-talk beside these God-glorifying flowers for a spell. “Consider the lilies,” well, these yellow pansies. (Ignore the run-on sentence.) What do they tell me when I want to lose my resolve?

No matter our philosophy/theology/worldview, we apply our theories/ beliefs to our lives. All people follow whom and what they believe and think.

What makes it so hard as  Christ-followers is that Christ-thoughts do not come naturally. His paradigm conflicts with our natural thoughts, our default settings; Christ-thoughts are supernatural (I Corinthians 2: 6-16). Walking in the Spirit is a privilege of the new nature given (I Corinthians 5:17). This new nature initiates a new conflict (read Romans chapters 6-8). This new conflict is an inner battle, a spiritual battle, a closet war, as it were.

I’ve been doing this. Fighting an inner battle in my own closet. My closet follows me, wherever I go! I can’t just mosey down the Christian path; I have to fight while I walk!

In my last post, “Simply Resolved,” I said that my one resolution for the year is “to keep on keeping on.” (It is a better post than this one, so you may want to go back and read it!)

By keeping on, I mean persisting at following Christ and not my own way. “All we like sheep have gone astray” (Isaiah 53: 6), and my “astray” path is the path of giving up. Your path of temptation may be different, but this has usually been my major one.  It is accompanied by my default setting of self-pity, just long enough (for I hope I soon recognize its ugliness) to tempt me to pull back and really give up. By nature, I want to crawl into bed and hide, hoping I won’t awake in this same, painful world. (I’ve lost sight of the “smiling at God” pansies.)

This reminds me of something I once read that Joni Earickson Tada said. (I’m not looking this up to verify but am strictly going by my memory, yet I feel pretty sure of this. The memory of it has encouraged me for years. You know her story, but if not, just google her name and get to know her!) She’s has lived in a quadriplegic body for over 50 years! She is totally dependent upon others. . . . Imagine.

She said that when she wakes up, one of her first thoughts is “Here we go again!” The attitude behind that can be everything from dread to anticipation, I suppose. But I think she is expressing her need to be brave every day, just to get through one day at a time. She has dealt with depression and the works, as her books have well described. She is “keeping on keeping on.” Her legs don’t walk, but oh, does Joni walk the Christ-following, pedestrian theologian walk!

So, what’s my problem? My problem is that I’m as human as anyone else. “All we like sheep. . . .” I imagine that you too “fight the good fight” in your inner closet. And it spills out into our lives, for as someone “thinks in his heart, so is he” (Proverbs 23:12). How do I avoid going the wrong way and giving up all together?

Two prepositional phrases expose the tether and anchor: in His Word and on His lap. In the Word. Faith grows by hearing it (Romans 10:17).  On His lap. Draw near (Psalm 131; James 4:8).

A wise choice.

I keep experiencing these, but at points of painful paralysis, I often need Jesus fleshed out in a friend, someone near to me. Engaging together. Giving and receiving love. This has carried me through my dark hours. When I’m at my weakest and worst, I have held on simply by leaning on someone else’s faith. Did not Jesus heal a paralyzed man because of the faith of the men who carried him to Jesus? ( Note Matthew 9:2; Mark 2:3-5; Luke 5:18-20.) In all three gospels, “their faith” was recorded, not “his faith.” Certainly, he shared in this faith, but Jesus acted in response to “their faith.” Do we not belong to each other?

In my Christian walk, I have been carried by His Word, His presence, and my friends. I also avoid going astray and giving up by observing the examples set by people such as Joni, as well as Elisabeth.

Elisabeth Elliot. She taught me the basics of not giving up or in. I suppose it was in 2001 or 2002 that a dear friend lent me her copy of Elisabeth’s A Path Through Suffering. During the worst of my illness, God rescued my mind and spirit through this book. Elisabeth taught me how to keep on keeping on through weariness, debilitating exhaustion and pain, and mental fog. She taught me to acquiesce: “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone, but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (John 12:24). Her book extrapolates the meaning of this verse.

Elisabeth offers a quotation at the beginning of each chapter from writings by the beautiful missionary, Lilias Trotter (1853-1928). A part of one of these quotations has hung in my kitchen for almost ten years. Describing the life cycle of one plant, Lilias asks why the leaves shrivel and turn yellow. She answers, “It is because they have acquiesced wholly now in the death sentence of their new birth, and they are letting the new life live at the expense of the old.” Just as we keep on walking while sitting, so we live and bear fruit by dying. This is a universal law in Christ’s Kingdom.

From Elisabeth’s radio talks (are they aired anywhere anymore?) I also learned her wise counsel to “do the next thing.” Sometimes, the next thing has been to rest quietly on my bed or couch – an invisible walk. At times of physical stamina but overshadowing heartache, I have practiced Elizabeth’s “next thing,” visible walk. Ah! It’s time to make applesauce! Or to fold some laundry. Or to write a little note to a friend. Or to do the dishes. Or to give a plate of goodies to a neighbor.

Chocolate Chip cookies — Comfort food to share and to cheer. (Sorry. No picture of my applesauce today. I’m sure you’d prefer the cookies.)

When you are in grief over some loss, doing any next thing can be lifesaving. Through it, we can bless others. Through it, we can redeem (make the most of) the time, often in mundane and mustard seed ways, in which “God gives the increase” (I Corinthians 3:7).  Next things can move us from sadness to some satisfaction, a mother of joy.

If you are discouraged, in distress or stress or grief, then we are here together, sit-walk-talking. I have been waiting for so many years for an answer to prayer that has never come. (I’m not referencing my health issues.) You too have been waiting for something, I’m sure. We are learning an acquiescent patience, that when real, also has a taste of sweet. A taste of His goodness, His nearness. Thus, we keep on keeping on.

So, good morning, Joni. “Here we go again.” I’m thankful to be alive. In His Word. In His presence.

Elisabeth ( 1926-2015), who has completed all her next things, encourages us that we can too. Christ-followers, not going astray, but following after Him.

Sit-walk-talk. It’s much better if we do this together, isn’t it? Thank you very much!


My applesauce is amazing. Lightly sweet and perky with cinnamon.

Would you like the recipe? Ask, and I’ll post it.

‘Tis the season: Happy Valentine’s, dear love!


Categories: Spiritual Growth | Tags: , | 6 Comments

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6 thoughts on “Joni, Elisabeth, and My Applesauce: How Not to Go Astray

  1. Anonymous

    I love sit-walking and talking with you! Thanks for being willing to use your gifts to encourage others.

    • kltolsen

      Thank you for sit-walk-talking with me!! I’m so grateful to know you are journeying north with me…and us!

  2. Rick Shepherd..... Dayhikr

    Good Sunday morning sit walk talk, Karen!…..I am encouraged and strengthened by our conversation on this Ohio winter weary February 11th, 2018 day……in the summer of 2019, I plan to continue our sit hike talk conversations in the North Georgia Mountains where Mary and I are planning to move…..Until then I will continue, resolve to continue, being grateful glorifying God and Jesus who strengthens me…..It is true that our faith is much stronger than my faith…..Thank You!

    • kltolsen

      Sounds great! A move to the North Georgia Mountains! What a plan! Glad you can including hiking uphill, it looks like, in your sit-walk-talk. Blessings to you and Mary!

  3. Marty and Brenda Zuidervaart

    Karen, I must tell you that your blogs continue to impact me like Philip Yancey’s writings have done over the years. Your syntax is so fresh and creative–an arranging of words in new ways with seldomly-used images. In addition, you beautifully integrate theology with self-disclosure which offers soul-care for your readers. Thank you for sharing yourself and your literary gift with me over the past few years.

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