It has been a rather emotional few weeks for some folks that I hold dear. Thoughts of them, and the memories running through my mind, has caused me to start searching through my stash of old journals to refresh myself on some special moments. My pastor of the past fifteen years is going through some pretty serious health issues. This is emotional for a lot of people, myself included, as he has seen us through so much throughout the years. Our walk together is a blessing that I treasure. It has been fun and, at times frustrating, emotional and joyful; but most of all it has been fulfilling, encouraging and cemented by a solid strength that has helped me grow spiritually. Through it all, he has been there … leading by example; which, after all, is what we all should be doing. One of the things he taught me was to serve where you see the need, which I feel that I am doing currently. God led me to work with a church that is in a growth process and needs strong, Christian workers. I love where I am serving but I feel conflicted at times like these when I just want to be close to my friend.
As we tend do in times like these, I have been looking back at “favorite things.” It led me to thinking of my favorite message that he preached, which was titled, “The Messiah in the Manna.” The information in that sermon is something that I have shared numerous times because “manna” is such a picture of Christ. I wanted to find my notes on it, so I went back through years of notebooks searching for the right one. While going through those notebooks, I also came across the little book, a journal actually, which was the catalyst that turned my spiritual life around. How fitting that I should be reminded of the growth that I experienced during those first few months of fellowship as my thoughts turn to the one that helped lead me through such spiritual growth.
There are preachers, teachers and pastors that lead the church. Preachers are amazing and can bring about such positive change. Church leaders as teachers are so necessary, especially in these perilous days when we need to hear Truth. But pastors, they are special, and not every preacher or teacher can be a good pastor. If you are blessed, though, you get one that is a preacher, teacher and pastor all in one. They are the ones that make a difference in the day-to-day, people-to-people life of the Church and the Church Body. They are the ones that are there with you through the good and bad times, at the birth of a child, the death of a parent and all those precious moments in between.
My pastor came into my life at a time when I was just discovering a deep, intimate relationship with Jesus Christ. I had been a Christian for many, many years, and lived a Christian life; but intimacy in my relationship with Jesus was what I had missed out on. As I read through this journal I see where I was so hungry for growth and for spiritual food and just to be close to God. A simple journal was an amazingly powerful tool that God used to grow me spiritually. Within the printed pages of the journal, each one contained a statement by a woman of faith. Then there was a simple question to think about and space to journal. It sounds quite elementary, but I have found that keeping it simple is the best way to get your thought process going, and boy did it get my spiritual thought processes going and growing!
Looking through that journal brought back images that I had not thought of in a long, long time. On the very first page I was in a praise mode because God had spared my life in what could have been a fatal accident; then flipping on through I see an entry where I was asking God to allow me to delight in Him more. Then, over further still I see where I was asking for God to help me get “real” with Him, to keep me from playing church. That is when it really started to get real. The six months that followed show where I was devastated by the diagnosis that the cancer was spreading in my sister-in-law’s body. There were so many highs and lows, and times that all I could do was cling to my Lord as time after time after time I wrote the words, “I do not understand, but I still trust You.” (He already knows that we do not understand, I do not think He minds when we express it in sincerity and not unbelief!) There were so many prayers answered to joy; and so many to heartbreak that, yes, I still do not understand.
Then as the months rolled on, I see a relationship blooming where I came to love someone that I had recently met and did not really know, just by praying for them on a daily basis, by asking about them consistently and caring what the answers were. I also discovered, really grasped the concept, for the first time, that Jesus prayed for me personally! (John 17:20-23) I was actually pretty worked up over that one and went on about it for a number of days. Oh my goodness! There is so much passion for my Lord, so many ups and downs, so much sorrow and loss, yet praise and joy was still there in my heart. At the end of that time, we lost my sister-in-law and received our youngest niece within days of each other. That short span is pretty much a picture of how the next fifteen years would be.
Yes, the journey of those few months changed my life; but what I have discovered by reading through these memories is that the process of physically picking up a pen and deliberately writing my thoughts, desires, wishes, fears, dreams, frustrations, prayers, praises –my life — down on paper, helped my life to be more alive. I look back on those seven months and see that I had a longing, seeking, passionate, unquenchable desire to be closer and closer to my God, to walk closer with my Lord.
The impact of that period of growth and closeness with my Lord lasted a long time…many years. As I became a busy-busy-bee though, I found myself putting my thoughts down on paper less and less. I was so busy with things and stuff and doing what had to be done that I did not realize the importance, the vital importance, that journaling is to my life. There seems to be a long period where I did not write anything at all. I hate that. I hate that I had spiritual growth and I did not record it. God blessed me and cared for me and loved me and prospered me, and there is nothing there for me to look back on and remember. I am kind of heartbroken about that right now also.
That, is a heartbreak I can start doing something about! So, what am I going to do? I am definitely going to grab a pen and a notebook and start the process all over again. With my limited vision, it is a different writing world now. The computer is easier. I can just speak my thoughts onto the screen; but the hand written word, that is where the power is. I want the feel of the pen on paper, the process of putting my life into words. I want the notebook! So for me now, the notebooks are bigger, with brighter paper (a white-paged legal pad actually) and the pen is a special black marker that I was turned on to by the disability trainer that came to my house after my vision loss, but the process is the same. The desire in my heart is to continually get closer to my Lord. Yes, it is still there, burning bright. I want that fire and passion to grow to inferno proportions! I want to be able to look back on this new mission field that God has given me and see battles that are won, to be able to see spiritual growth and see the times that God has come to my aid. I want to see when I praised Him and see the times He carried me through. I truly want to have those written words to look back on!
Please pray God’s mercy for my Preacher, Teacher, Pastor and Friend!
The people of Israel called the bread manna. It was white like coriander seed and tasted like wafers made with honey. Moses said, “This is what the Lord has commanded: ‘Take an omer of manna and keep it for the generations to come, so they can see the bread I gave you to eat in the wilderness when I brought you out of Egypt.’” (Exodus 16:31-32 NIV)