A Great Journal Introduction by Jim Elliot

Jim Elliot

I have been writing in some form of journal for the better part of 20-25 years now off and on, sometimes with purpose, sometimes with without any at all. Some things inspire more than others. Lately, thanks to the people over at Bloom with the Day One App, they have inspired my digital journal into the next level.

Whether you call it a blog, a diary, a journal, or a log, if you are writing for a specific reason it is always helpful to have a good strong introduction to the journal to give you some direction, inspiration, and understanding. Later on when you wonder why you started writing, you can go back and read this intro again, hopefully to reconnect with your original purpose.

In my hand written Moleskine journals, on page 1, I always put an introduction, purpose, thesis, mission statement, or some kind of reason for why this journal exists. After sitting on my shelf for over a year I finally picked up this magnificent book, “The Journals of Jim Elliot” and read his introduction paragraph. What an amazing way to start a new journal. I say this in part because I have long had this very notion, and some how connected with every word he wrote, which said:

What is written in these pages I supposed will someday be read by others than myself. For this reason I cannot hope to be absolutely honest in what is herein recorded, for the hypocrisy of this shamming heart will ever he putting on a front and dares not to have written what is actually found in its abysmal depths. Yet, I pray, Lord, that You will make these notations to be as nearly true to fact as is possible so that I may know my own heart and be able to definitely pray regarding my gross, though often unviewed, inconsistencies… these remarks are to be fresh, daily thoughts given from God in meditation on His word.

I love that.

When a Book Transforms and Becomes a New Creation

The ESV Bible, a Moleskine Journal, and a Diet Coke
The ESV Bible, a Moleskine Journal, and a Diet Coke

This week the Weekly Writing Challenge at WordPress was called A Few of My Favorite Things, and while I enjoyed reading everyone’s interpretation of this post, I found this one quite difficult to put into words, especially since I don’t collect anything. The challenge was this:

tell us about your most meaningful possession… let us know about the heirloom item, what’s important are the memories and people that these objects symbolize, not what they’re actually used for. Transport us into the past by telling us about your favorite “thing.” What is it? What does it look like? What memories of people or things or events does it conjure?

My problem is I purposely don’t college anything, at all, and the fact that WordPress specified my computer/device didn’t count, I had to nix my iPhone, iPad, and MacBook, which I hate to say are very high on my list. It is a point of my existence to follow the concept of laying treasures for yourself up in Heaven, where moth do not destroy and thieves do not come in and steal. I started thinking about it in terms of what would I grab if there was a fire in my house and I only had time to take two things. These may seem cliché, but the two physical items that mean the most to me are a personal favorite book, my Bible, and my Moleskine journals, and a Diet Coke.

Both of these items have a grand history of being passed down from generation to generation. Not necessarily in my family, or my wife’s family, but Bibles have been heirlooms to survive the centuries, and so have journals going all the way back to Saint Augustine in Confessions. The combination of these two items makes a reader into a writer, one feeding off the other.

How a Book Transforms and Becomes a New Creation

Sample Page from My Bible in Psalm 104-105
Sample Page from My Bible in Psalm 104-105

I think it could very well be impossible to describe what this particular book has meant to me, and it is one of my most favorite physical “things” I own. One of the most interesting explanations of how we cleave to our very personal copy of God’s word comes to me from John Steinbeck in East of Eden when he said, “In that one book she had her history and her poetry, her knowledge of peoples and things, her ethics, her morals, and her salvation. She never studied the Bible or inspected it; she just read it. The many places where it seems to refute itself did not confuse her in the least. And finally she came to a point where she knew it so well that she went right on reading it without listening.”

There is a point at which a book transforms into more than ink and paper, more than just something that was created by a Johannes Gutenberg protégé. Once a reader makes an investment of time and mental energy there is a point at which the book becomes a new creation, something that becomes a combination of both author and reader.

The transformation isn’t something that takes place at the time of purchase, or after the first completed reading. It’s a slow, gradual process. Something that takes place over an extended period of time as the reader devours each word, and ultimately comes to acknowledge the true meaning the author intended to communicate. It’s at this point the book becomes alive with life, and subsequently changes the life of the reader from that point on.

This physical “thing” is something that has transformed me, and is one of my most prized possessions, but like so many possessions we cherish, it’s not the physical object that has meaning, but what it represents. We can even literally throw the Bible in the trash if it (1) becomes the ultimate object of our affection, or (2) sits on the shelf closed to our mind.

The Thick Cotton Pages of a Moleskine Journal

Writing Sample of Moleskine Journals
Writing Sample of My Moleskine Journals

The other, slightly less poetic item I like, are my Moleskine journals (and of course a cold Diet Coke). The Moleskine philosophy has a rich history of famous writers and artists like Vincent van Gogh, Pablo Picasso, and Ernest Hemingway (ok, well maybe that’s not totally correct, but it’s great marketing). For some reason their reinvigoration of this brand in 1997 spawned a great desire to create and write on paper when the rest of the world went digital.

You can find some incredible examples of Moleskine creativity on Flickr and elsewhere on the Internet, of people who are far more creative than I am when it comes to transforming a Moleskine journal into a work of art.

This transformation process I described in the section above is completely reversed now when you first crack open the clean pages of a Moleskine journal. The new owner is immediately presented with unlimited possibilities in empty pages, pages which will be created by the experiences of life. You are now the author instead of the reader, and the blank pages become testimonies of the hours and days you spend in the process of life.

As the years have gone by since I started writing in these journals I can now look back at days I have long forgotten, details I would never have been able to remember, and people who have been called home. These pages have become markers in time for me, something I can go back and read with wonder even though I lived through the days myself.

So there you have it. Two physical objects or things that mean something to me personally, and although I hope to some day pass these on to someone else, their meaning is truly symbolic only.


[On a side note, I’m aware these “challenge” posts from WordPress (they do a photo and writing challenge post each week over on Daily Post Blog) are basically pointless when it comes to my normal content, but I have found they serve their purpose… to challenge… to open up the mind and cause one to think, and that is a good thing. In my years in seminary since 2009, each week I found myself writing these seemingly “pointless” posts, called Discussion Board posts. Even though I might have known the material, I always learned something else by forcing myself to complete the task. So that’s why I continue to post on these DP topics, just in case you were wondering.]

Related Posts to Weekly Writing Challenge: A Few of My Favorite Things

  1. It’s more than a picture, it’s life « free penny press
  2. How to optimize your site like WordPress.com | Open Knowledge
  3. My Desk « Misky
  4. Weekly Writing Challenge: Meaningful Possessions | Aurora La Petite
  5. A Few of My Favourite Things « Aw Diddums

Lent Has Brought Us To This Maundy Thursday Prayer

Maundy Thursday Chalkboard Prayer Vigil

Every year, on this day, Maundy Thursday, we come to the Lord in prayer, as Jesus did with his disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane. On that night, Jesus asked his disciples to watch and pray… because our spirit is willing, but our flesh is weak (Matthew 26:36-46), and then Jesus was betrayed by one of his own inner circle friends. Every year at our church is slightly different, but each year, this evening is set aside for prayer, the Lord’s supper, and meditation on what our Lord went through on Good Friday. I love that image above from last year (see also Messages from the Heart to God in Chalk Board Prayers :: Photos) where everyone wrote their prayers in chalk as they moved through the night.

I looked back over and read some of my journal entries from that night a few years ago, and it’s amazing what that great spiritual discipline of meditation can do for the soul.  In my entry from 2009 I wrote this sentence after being there for an hour or so.

It is almost impossible to wrap your mind around what everything here tonight represents in history. I understand nothing, but I love what I don’t understand.

There are only a few more days of Lent for 2012, today being Day 44 (if you count Sunday’s), and our reading today came from the Book of Common Prayer (only $2.99 on Kindle by the way). Something I don’t get a chance to read all that often, but love its wisdom.

Almighty God, whose dear Son, on the night before he suffered, instituted the Sacrament of his Body and Blood: Mercifully grant that we may receive it thankfully in remembrance of Jesus Christ our Lord, who in these holy mysteries gives us a pledge of eternal life; and who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

May that be the prayer for today.

Who Inspired Your Life Today, Anyone?

It seems that January has gotten off to a nitro-fueled pace.  We started this new series (Alive) that I am personally already struggling to keep up with.  Anyone else?  It is about mid-week in the first week in January so I figured by now almost everyone has given up on some of their “new years resolutions”, but in light of my post yesterday on how to be creative, I tried to keep my own list in my mind as I went through the day.

So who inspired me us to be creative today?  For me, I started off the day with an unbelievable speaker, Eddie Gran, the former running back coach from Auburn.  He spent much of his career with Tommy Tubberville from Miami to Ole Miss, to Auburn, and of course in light of the current coaching situation is looking for a job. He presented a great testimony which I know had to inspire many who were able to come hear him speak.

Was I able to achieve any creativity on my own.  Who knows.  I wanted to dive deep into my own journal, take some photos, and listen to some new music, but for this day, here is my short list of others who gave me some inspiration for the day.

The last one requires a little explanation.  I am amazed at how I keep learning from my mother-in-law.  Since her death in April I have been pouring over here journals she wrote when she lived in Europe.  She did what most of us are trying to do now with the Alive series, write.  I have been putting her journal one day at a time in a blog called My Life in France.

I sit here and wonder what is or isn’t acceptable in worship.  Why do we do this or that, why don’t we do this or that.  Her entry in her journal today was short, and to the point, and really hit the spot.  This is what she wrote on February 2, 1992:

No English speaking churches in Verdun so we drove to the American Cemetery located in St. Mihiel, France (where 4,000 Americans from the war are buried) and had our own private worship in the chapel there.

Now that is inspiring, at least to me.

Adding a Little More Journal to my Blog by Example

Flowers outside Baylor Hospital

This is the first post in a daily journal I hope to update each day, even if just a little blurb, about the days happenings. This type of posting, more closely resembles a journal, was inspired by the memory of my mother in-law, Georgia Christal. I am creating a blog with the journals she created long before blogs ever existed, I hope I can keep up with her.  During a span of 3 years when she lived over seas in Europe, she wrote daily about what happened each day, and looking at it almost 10 years later, I can see what an amazing piece of work this turned out to be. I will make an attempt to write a daily post in this particular blog (I have several others), of just the normal routine of things.

Some days it may be a sentence, some paragraphs, but my goal is to write something in the blog each day. I have been a photographer for more than 10 years now, and one of the hardest things to do in photography is to actually get off your butt and go shoot something. I think it is the same with blogs or journals, you just have to get off your butt and do it.

When I look back at the images I was able to create because I took the time to go out and shoot, I am amazed, and glad I did make the effort.

Is a Blog a Blog or is it a Journal

All you bloggers out there, do you keep a daily journal, or is that really what you consider your blog to be?  This blog has been active and alive in various forms for years now, and when I look back at the various entries, I see a journal of what was important enough, at the time, to actually put down in a post.  My blog has been many things to me, a scrapbook, a blog, a journal, a business tool, soapbox, but that is just it, it can be whatever you want it to be. Today as I start writing daily entries of what went on in my day I will use it as a journal or diary of sorts, but I am sure down the road, it will grow into something more.  What about your blog?  What is the prime use or purpose you have for even having a blog… do you know or have you even thought about it yet?

In Dallas For No Good Reason

So what is going on right now.  Well the photo below was taken yesterday of my mother-in-law’s memorial service, so we happen to be in Dallas for her service.  One of the hardest weeks Deborah and I have gone through in a while but we are now on our way back home, finally.  I took many photos (on my iphone) that few days while we were in the hospital, mainly because all you have to do is sit and wait.  In the future I think I will do a much longer post about this week, but for now, here are a few images from those few days.

Scott at the hospital, self portrait

Georgia's Memorial Service

The photo in the middle is the most telling to me.  I had nothing in the way of a camera to use for about the week we were in and out of the hospital other than my iphone, and I think it did an incredible job.  In total I probably took a few hundred photos with my phone, many of which tell the days and week better than these, but for a first journal entry, this is what we did yesterday and the few days before.  The idea of a “journal” actually came to me from Georgia.  She kept two journals while they lived in France and Germany which I am chronicling in My Life in Europe.  There will be better entries than this, I promise.