I have always enjoyed writing notes to people.
When I was young, writing was an easy way to communicate my thoughts and heart. I would find myself spending time writing to friends, family and to God. I still have journals from my high school days where I had poured my heart out to God.
I used to have small spiral notebooks with a cardboard cover. They weren’t very attractive or costly, but what was inside had great value to me. I remember when I first found one of those books with just blank pages . . . I thought this would be my first published book. What excitement that I could write my own thoughts on blank pages in a bound book!
Shortly after our first daughter was born, I was humbled and scared with the thought of being a father. I was so unprepared. I knew there was so much that I had to learn . . . and then trying to communicate these truths, lessons and principles to my daughter . . . what a daunting task. As our family grew to four daughters, the task became more impossible.
I remembered Moses writing, under the inspiration of his Heavenly Father, these words to the children of Israel. He wrote,
“Write these commandments that I’ve given you today on your hearts. Get them inside of you and then get them inside your children. Talk about them wherever you are, sitting at home or walking in the street; talk about them from the time you get up in the morning to when you fall into bed at night.” Deut 6:6-8
One of the major responsibilities of being a leader at home, in ministry and in our community is not only to teach and mentor the truths of God, but to model them, as well. Not just Who He is, but how He rules in our daily lives.
I want to teach these truths at every crossroad and intersection of life. What a task. How can we, as leaders, make this a reality in life? I wasn’t even sure if I knew all about God . . . and in reality, I didn’t.
I knew I had to continue to grow, learn and become more like Him. But how could I communicate these truths. My solution was found in those little blank books. I decided to journal.
Although I was faithful at this practice at times, I failed most of the time. My struggles became so unbearable that it was hard to write . . . and my failures became so frightening, that I was afraid to pen them for all to see.
I eventually changed formats from a written book to an electronic book and to this blog.
All in all, it has been a very good practice and an incredible discipline. In a greater sense, it has become a written legacy to pass on to others.
So, why engage in this somewhat autobiographical bearing of one’s soul? I have several thoughts for your consideration . . .
1. It’s Remedial. Often the term “remedial” has a negative connotation. Remedial simply means, “to learn again”. Remember the encouragement of Moses? As Moses learned, he taught. As the people learned, they taught. The passing on of information has been a part of our oral tradition for years. How was the first way my parents taught me (apart from my lessons with a wooden spoon)? It was through words. Often encouraging . . . sometimes not . . . but they were always reminding me by instruction.
2. It’s Recorded. He told the children of Israel to write the commandments. As God taught Moses, he wrote them on an original stone tablets. As Moses taught the people, they were to write. And as fathers taught families, they were to writing these truths on the tables of their heart.
3. It’s Relational. Our written thoughts teach lessons on honoring God and others and to view these relationships as priorities in life. The first thing that Moses taught the children of Israel is that, “God, is our God! God is the one and only! Love God, your God, with your whole heart: love him with all that’s in you, love him with all you’ve got!” (Deut 6:4-5) It all begins with God. We love because He first loved us. Paul said, “Follow me, as I follow Christ.” (I Cor 11:1)
4. It’s Redemptive. It’s simple. The story of all scripture is wrapped in one statement, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son and whoever believes in Him will not perish, but will have eternal life.” (John 3:16) Woven throughout the fabric of my life’s story is the redemptive love of God. He loves me . . . He accepts me . . . He will never leave me . . . and these themes are experienced every day of my life. As I write and record, I teach the redemptive work of God in my eternal life . . . and in my everyday life!
5. It’s Restorative. Often in my journaling, I write when they have failed, struggled, lost or been hurt. I write to remind me . . . and others . . . that the righteous man (or woman) falls . . . as many as seven times . . . but rises up again. (Prov 24:16) I remind them that the storms of life bring us to a place of resting in Him. I’m reminded that our sin has been removed as far as the east is from the west. (Ps. 103:12) I reminded that there is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus. (Rom 8:1)
6. It’s Refreshing. John wrote, “these things have I written to you that your joy might be full.” (I John 1:4) Paul wrote that Philemon had “refreshed” him by his actions and love for the saints (Phile 7). It is noted that the stories we tell of our successes and struggles, the lessons we learn as victims or victors, the tales we tell of our fortunes or failures . . . all end with the truth that God is always good and His grace is always sufficient.
7. It’s Remembering. Looking back we learn by the life lessons of others . . . looking forward we walk in faith following examples of saints. The author of Hebrews captured this incredible concept in Heb 11:1-2, “The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It’s our handle on what we can’t see. The act of faith is what distinguished our ancestors, set them above the crowd.”
I was reminded of the importance of not only journaling, but sharing these lessons this past week.
When we lived in California, we had the privilege of teaching young couples some basic parenting skills. On one occasion, I talked about journaling for my girls.
Bob and Angie were part of that group. They had a young daughter, Tyler and were anticipating the arrival of another baby. Angie was in her last trimester. On a Saturday afternoon, I was at my daughters’ basketball game . . . and, we received a call that Angie was in labor at the hospital. When we arrived, we had learned that they had lost their precious little newborn, McKenna. In the days to pass, a friend of ours gave Bob and Angie a journal to help record their thoughts and feelings during this devastating loss and the hopeful healing process. Bob remembered our comments about journaling and began writing to Tyler. He recorded thoughts of pain, healing, lessons of life and simple observations.
That was almost twenty five years ago. Several months ago, I received an email from Bob. He mentioned that Tyler was getting married and he had FOUR journals to present to her on the day of her wedding. What a legacy . . . what a love . . . what lessons.
Thank you, Bob and Angie for your example.
We live, we learn . . . we remember, we record . . . we instruct, we influence . . . we challenge, we change!
Take some time to change the lives of next generation . . . write some notes to the future!