My friend John gave me a beautiful leather-bound journal last week. Now, I've been journaling for years, but this is the first time I've done so in such a handsome volume. So now in the morning after reading my four chapters of Scripture (the M'cheyne reading plan) I jot down my thoughts in this handsome and elegant book. It's been a real blessing.
Why journal? Well, in my case, journaling helps me to be perceptive. You might say it helps me to "tune in" to what's happening around me, rather than going through my day in a convenient fog. I believe that God wants to draw us out of our self-concern, which can form a kind of insulating crust around our hearts, and into the dangerous world where people hurt and need help. Although Jesus had his times of retreat for prayer and meditation, these times were important because they strengthened him for the public ministry of reconciliation he had been given. That ministry drew him into the world, and in that world he was supremely perceptive. Take for example his ministering to "the woman at the well" in John 4.
How does all this relate to journaling? Well, in my private journal I concern myself with two primary topics. First, I make note of certain key points in my daily Scripture reading. These notes are by no means comprehensive or even particularly profound, and would often I suppose seem rather pedestrian to others. I simply want to put into my own words something about the reading, something that "jumped out at me." I'm trying to engage my mind with the text, and that's always a good thing.
The second matter that I concern myself with in my daily journal is to record what seem to me to be important divine appointments from the previous day, or what Pastor Mark Fee (who ministers here) calls "God-sightings."
Have you ever been on a whale-watch cruise? You stand on the deck peering at the water with eager expectation. A sea-swell in the distance can look like the back of a whale, and you fool yourself a hundred times with these false-sightings. But you're tuning your senses, you're trying to see with keener sight, because you really don't want to miss that whale. You're looking for spouts, for the gray hump rolling gently out of the water, or that sudden startling breach as the whale seems to leap for joy into the bright air. It's breath-taking, beautiful, and praise-provoking like nothing else I've ever seen.
But what does all this have to do with journaling? Well, to begin with, I think God wants us to be spiritually keen-sighted. Remember Jesus with the Samaritan woman at the well? He perceived a whole gamut of things about her. Not only did he supernaturally know things about her life, but he recognized her stumbling blocks to faith, and he knew exactly how to address her need. Yesterday I saw someone do exactly this. I ran into a Christian acquaintance and I watched and listened as she ministered to a perfect stranger, someone she happened to sit next to on a bus. She showed deep concern for this person, listened with care and intensity to her problems, and quite obviously encouraged her profoundly.
Well, I want to live my days with this kind of spiritual keenness, eagerness, intensity, and perceptiveness. I pray for it, and when it happens (by no means consistently, I'm afraid) I record it in my journal. Thus, my journal becomes on one level a history of God-sightings. These entries become small markers, verbal sign-posts, recording the fact that on that day, in that place, God drew me into His Kingdom work. They are acts of praise. An appropriate title for such a journal would be, "My Testament."
For me, blogging simply "goes public" with this same concept. In my private journal, I edify myself as I pay attention in writing to what God is doing in my life. On the other hand, in blogging I hope to edify others. Not because I am such a great teacher, or have such profound things to say, but precisely because, as Wayne Jacobsen says, "We serve a relational God and I am convinced that almost everything Jesus does he does through relationships, not programs, models or works."
God doesn't show himself strong in my life simply so that I can sit in my room and congratulate myself. He reaches out through me to others, and blogging simply provides another opportunity, an avenue, for that reaching out. Only now the verbal signpost, the encouragement, is not just for myself, not just a private exchange between God and me, but it is definitvely "for others." If Mr. Standfast is not an avenue by which God can use me to lovingly encourage others, then it is nothing at all.
One more note. Last week someone reached out to me. Someone said, in essense, "I want to know you. Let's meet." So, in a couple of days we're going to do just that. I'm very excited about this meeting, precsiely because I think it's another divine appointment. The human predicament is the deep difficulty we have in forming truly loving relationships, and the Father's solution to that predicament is the Cross of Christ. Learning to love means letting Jesus reorder our perceptions, so that instead of self-centered living we are living the Christ-life in our relationships, and through it all remembering that not for nothing did the Father give us this day, this moment, or this person sitting next to you on the bus.