Daddy Needs Jesus More…

Posted in Activities, Reflections on September 13th, 2013 by admin — 3 Comments

“Daddy needs Jesus more”, Taco Bell food causes Prophet-loss (not profit), Cramping in Church, and other hilarious reflections – read on. . .

I must admit I am not sure how to frame the following post. It is thoughtful and will have some useful tidbits for your life amidst the chuckles if you allow yourself to let them out (or in, depends on how your doorway works). I personally think it will be funny, but some might even say it is a little irreverent. Then, again, a lot of what I do is considered irreverent for religious folks because I believe that God likes to laugh also. Good, clean, innocent laughter. Maybe He does not laugh like I do and maybe not at the same things, because I am SURE that He is more holy than I am (that was a humorous and glaring statement of the obvious – start smiling, this post must be read with a ready smile). But, one thing is for certain, in our family we believe that life is meant to be lived, loved, and laughed through. In the years following the death of our first two children, Penny and I have decided that life is too short this side of the “wink of death” to be boring. We want to fill it with all we can, enjoying relationships, laughing, loving, crying, and savoring every memory and moment we can.

 

In fact as God has given us four more children to love and cherish, our lives have gotten incrementally louder and busier. And, since being in Indonesia we have had a number of precious young ladies living with us and blessing our family. Last year we had 7 enlarging our family. Penny is absolutely amazing as she leads and blesses all of our lives in so many neat and personal ways. She is the saint, I am the jester. So, with all these people coming and going, each mealtime can be more akin to a circus than a quiet family meal as we intentionally choose to love life and enjoy it together as we devour lots of excellent and healthy food.

 

So, in the midst of all the activities and life filling our house, it is my children that I use as measurements of the joy in our home. How are they doing? Is life good and joyful or is it “holier than thou and boring” as so many religious people can seem to children? Like mobile thermometers they automatically respond to the temperature of the house and report on how warm it is. When they are filled with happiness and joy their smiles are deeper and more frequent, their bouncing effervescence fills the rooms, and their laughter punctures the most pious times of worship as life spontaneously combusts into celebration. Consider this: picture Jesus surrounded by happy bouncing children rushing to be near him as they are drawn by his love and acceptance; compared to their being captured and corralled into a religious service by prune faced pharisees preparing them for the early death of their dreams! What a stark contrast. Children ran to Jesus, yet they usually run from the “religious elite”! Children are a measurement of joy and love.

 

As the priest of our family (and as a somewhat unusual “pastor”), I am the spiritual leader, it is my job to set the tone of our home. Though my wife is often doing most of the daily teaching as their homeschool teacher (which I am grateful for), everyone still looks to me to lead. So, I have realized that in addition to the teaching aspect of worship and guidance that children need, I am called to be the happiness thermostat that sets the temperature and raises things up or down as needed. I believe this is one of my unique callings in my house: I am the one who keeps us laughing. No, I did not learn that in school, and there is no degree for fatherly, religious joking that I know of; but Hannah, my 15 year old daughter, has urged me to write a book on some of the crazy things that we have said and done through the years (maybe that will come after I finish the one I am writing now with our personal story of God's undeniable faithfulness in the face of our loss years ago). But that brings me back to this one, now.

 

With children and ladies all at different ages, humor must come in a myriad of forms depending on the timing and people present. It can be anything from a fun little scavenger hunt for the “Midgets” (Noah and Hadassah) before we spend the evening camping in one of the rooms togther. Or, it can even include the artful ransacking of Hannah's bathroom complete with a stuffed penguin sitting on the toilet (not in – though it crossed my mind) and a skunk and elephant hanging above him giving more weight and aroma for the motif of the room's decoration. And, it can even include my falling from the dinning room chair writhing in agony at some supposed poison in the food causing me to die loudly and ceremoniously on the floor before all the ladies; and then as my carcass begins to stiffen, the children (knowing their parts) begin to chant for Mommy to bend over me and deliver the kiss of life again (possibly breaking a bunch of local taboos but showing that life after 24 years of marriage can still be HOT and fun)! Whichever way, things like this display the temperature and give evidence that joy is growing and life is not stale! As I hear the peals of laughter from the children running from room to room figuring out the clues and searching for the prize; or the delightful sounding scream of a teenager noticing the invasion of her room all the while you know that she feels loved (even if she lies and says she didn't like it); or that quiet but noticeable “aaaaaawwwwww” that escapes the lips of the ladies, our older daughters, as they are invited to find and build a marriage that will still have passion in the years ahead so they won't settle for a man who won't honor and cherish them. Humor is powerful and can teach amazing lessons.

 

Those examples are all noble and precious and I am grateful to have found ways to do many such things as I endeavor to be the priest of our home (and sometimes clown). But, there are other examples that might slip more into the irreverent section of life. I am not fully convinced of this yet, but maybe you and your comments can give me direction (good luck with that, many have tried and failed). As my children get older they progress through various stages of humor and I follow them. Actually my wife and mother would even say that I have simply been locked in those stages already and this gives me the chance to enjoy it again. They think I am actually the cause of the bathroom jokes. I just flush that comment whenever it comes out! One author has quipped that his wife has 4 children: three by birth and one by marriage! Penny would definitely place that number at 5: Elijah, Hannah, Noah, Hadassah, AND me! So, prepare yourself for a few descriptions of the things that we do that won't make it into my next sermon illustration – probably!

 

The other day it happened. I cannot explain it, but sometimes things just happen and the ideas pop out. It strikes both me and Hannah as raucously funny and we almost roll on the floor laughing, knowing that I really can't post them on Facebook without a whole lot of explanation (hence this chapter). It can be as simple as a church hymn that I begin to adjust or ponder with new meanings, such as these two that should not be sung out loud while traveling anymore: “Onward Christian Soldiers, Marching as to War . . .”, [!!!??? in our current environment I can hear the word, “Jihad” between the lines ???!!!]; or certainly don't chant this one loudly while going through any American airport, “There is a balm in Gilead. . .”

 

If that one doesn't catch you immediately, and you aren't laughing yet, sing it out loud in the confines of your home and imagine possibly an unchurched or at least unhymned TSA agent trying to determine what you just said – there's a “what” in “where”? But, please, don't try it in the airport. I can assure you (from experience) there are certain words that are not appreciated in airports!

 

But, the other day I had one of those “sick” moments when humor and biblical thought collide. Defying both logic and time-space issues it took on its own life in my mind's eye as clearly as the life changing clips of the Far Side cartoons have blessed me through the years (maybe I should say, warped me). In fact, if Larson was still drawing I think he could have made this one really go somewhere. I am not an artist with a pencil so I will have to try to capture the brilliance with my keystrokes.

 

Picture Moses rapt with fear and attention as he gazes upon a signal, unnatural anomaly: a burning bush that is not consumed. As he inches closer into the range of the heat and radiance, he hears the words of warning to remove his shoes. Automatically stooping to undue his shoes, he remembers the recent meal at Taco Bell still churning in his stomach and other areas and in mid bend, without enough warning, it happens. Prophets are human too, and food still does its thing, so there in that moment the beans take their toll on Moses and he lets a little one out. Understandable. But, not then, not there! Immediately the heat of the bush ignites that gas cloud engulfing Moses in the flames and leaving nothing but a scorched silhouette near his shoes. The next frame simply concludes: Taco Bell food causes Prophet-loss!

 

Ok, ok, before you call my organization to have me removed, think about it. We live in a country where there is no Taco Bell and we get pretty desperate for it at times!!! Laugh a little, can you see the humor? Hannah sure could. We laughed for minutes with the various permutations of that possible scene all the while clocking in a very special father-daughter memory that is guaranteed to be remembered far “too long” and I am sure come up again at all the wrong times with devious teenager or young adult intent! What a strange night. I wished we could have made a run to the border to celebrate! ;) Kind of gives a whole new visual for the word, incinerate! Oops another one, of the pun family.

 

Then there was the time when in church everyone is called upon to kneel. Now, let me say this at the start: I appreciate kneeling, I think there is a time and place to do that. God is most certainly worthy of all our praise and adoration and kneeling is one way to show that. And, I think in church it could and should be one of those times. But, when the country you live in has a tendency to have almost two sermons and the first one is while you are in the kneeling prayer on concrete, I sometimes wish we stood more. But, regardless, that day as I sat in the row surrounded by a number of students in a very crowded university church, I noticed that my particular bench was quite close to the one in front of it. Unfortunately, in this church there is no helpful, cushioned kneeling pads to bless the worship experience at that moment of homage. The call was given to kneel and so I began to maneuver my taller than everyone around me frame into the skinny separation between the benches. As I had gotten all the way down and people were doing the normal singing to prepare their minds for prayer (or cover up their painful sounds upon hitting the cold concrete), something bad happened. My leg cramped. A full leg cramp causing me a lot of pain and a great difficulty in not being able to move easily. There I was, writhing, hitting the bench in front, muffling the screams of pain urging to cry out to God also at that time (different kinds of prayer I am sure), and unable to remain calm. I am sure that the angels had to have been laughing at me. How funny that had to have looked. That one bald, tall guy in church flopping and wincing like a snail being a-salted (assaulted) right in the quiet time of prayer and meditation. Memorable, for sure. I still laugh whenever I think of the fool I must have looked, especially in a straight laced setting as that church can be at times. For some, not knowing what I was experiencing at the time, I probably just looked like one more irreverent adult failing to guide the students in proper worship. What a miserable example, I guess!

 

That leads me to the last example for your consideration. One afternoon I was teasing Hannah a bit good naturedly (as always, ok at least normally) and she was ignoring me at the time (always). So, I called her again and she did not respond. Therefore, I did what any thoughtful and caring father would do, I became delightfully sarcastic. I asked her, “hey are you deaf?” and “do you think I am dumb?” Knowing that she would immediately respond to that doubly loaded question and could not fail to take the bait, I then added a few more words knowing that we have taught our children the many gospel stories of Jesus healing people and one of those stories is the time when he heals the deaf and dumb men. So, with my Bible knowledge in mind that we were both like the deaf and dumb people that Jesus healed when he walked the earth, I added, “we both need Jesus!” Before Hannah answered, another voice chimed in having been drawn into the banter of the moment. Noah jumped in and without even a pause said matter of factly, “yes, and you need him more, Daddy!” He smiled at himself for jumping into the joke and getting Daddy on an obvious point of truth.

 

Yes, Noah, you are right, I want to be a daddy who loves his kids and his kids know that he needs Jesus very much. So much that I am willing to laugh, cry, take a joke, give a joke, and all the while love like Jesus so my family knows how special they are. It is all worth it when later on Noah runs up to me, hugs me, and says, “you are my favorite Daddy, I love you so much!” We have tried to tell him that I am his only daddy, but he still likes to say it that way. I love it, knowing that his thermometer is registering warm and my kids are in a happy home.

 

I am the priest of my home and the joker AND I need Jesus. Do you?

 

 

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Something Ugly

Posted in Challenging Issues, Reflections on May 3rd, 2013 by admin — Be the first to comment!

The following is a short reflection I wrote a few years ago.  The specific events related have passed from my day to day memory (and further details have taken some of the edge of), but in the light of the recent tragedy in Boston, these same thoughts might be worth considering for many of you where you live.  The issues are resurfacing with each new wave of violence wherever it shows up and by whomever perpetrates it.

 

Today, I saw something ugly.  I guess I am naive; I did not expect to see this.  But, in a country with one religion dominant over the others, maybe it is inevitable.

But, it was still ugly.

My children pointed out a group of boys beginning to bother a young girl of another religion, different than the group.  This cadre of boys used some of her religious terms disrespectfully, intentionally to mock her and her faith.  They made lewd gestures, obviously feeling brave in their superior position of number and place.  They even threw some rocks at her before I arrived to send them away.  Religious abuse, physical abuse, ugly abuse.

My children were repulsed, they knew it was wrong (I praise God that they did and alerted me to the situation).  I wish my language capabilities would have allowed me to speak more to the boys as well as the lone girl.  But in the end, all I ended up being was a big adult, meddling in their affairs.  I heard the word “foreigner” flicking off of their tongues as the boys slithered away.

I was disturbed.  The thoughts would not leave me alone.  Sure, the boys will call me names.  And, I suppose the girl will at least recognize that an adult has grown beyond the prejudice (or maybe he was just a sympathetic person to her religion or cause).  I could not communicate much at all.  That made the frustration deeper.

Ponder with me some thoughts that won’t leave me alone . . .

Do we think that people of a different religion are deserving of our disdain and disrespect, making us free to treat them as less than human?  More than that, do we think that others who are different do not even have the right to be treated with the dignity and respect that many religious teachers have taught historically?  Do we somehow think that our code of ethics only applies to others of our faith or culture – the rest, well, they don’t deserve kindness?  Ugly.  Even uglier when done in the name of religion by people who claim to know God (by any name).

Sure, you may remind me that I am too flower-eyed and maybe I just need to own up to the world we live in.  Maybe.

But, stop for a moment, dear friend.  Let me ask you to be painfully honest with yourself.  What assumptions do we make?  Do we automatically decide that “we” or “our own” don’t act that way?  Do we think that this sort of ugliness can only be found in the other in some far off land?

What if it is closer?  Then what?  When do we honestly assess the sin of our hearts and acknowledge the depths that our cultures are dragging us down to?

We need a revival of godliness and lived out faith again.  One that begins with honesty and repentance.  Repentance even if we have “the truth” of a religion that we are convinced of.  Repentance for every thought of prejudice and even hatred towards people different than us.  Repentance for the times we allow the fear for safety to move us to marginalize the other and consider them unworthy of the basics of human interaction.  Or, even deeper, repentance for our pride in thinking we are above such things like this.

Chances are, as you read this, if you are a Christian, you automatically assume that the actions were done by the majority religion in the country I am now living.  And in that assumption maybe there is only a little jolt to your complacency.

But, that is not the case.

The boys were Christians, having just attended religious services earlier in the day, and they were the ones abusing the lone Muslim girl.  I cannot stomach it, still.  Has popular Christianity devolved into this?  Is that the witness that current “Christ followers” want to be shared with the world?  Is that what Jesus would do?

Of course not!  So, as we are repenting, let’s ask God to change each of us; because any of us are capable of such things without God’s grace changing us moment by moment.  Maybe we all have something to learn about submission again.  It is time for both Muslims and Christians to repent and start choosing to live by God’s kingdom principles again!

Now some of you may be asking:  which denomination?  Good question.

Can you feel the pride trying to recoup and maintain composure?  Repent, again.

I can assure you, dear reader, you don’t want to know which denomination!

It was ugly.

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Long Overdue Update

Posted in Uncategorized on January 27th, 2013 by admin — Be the first to comment!

Okay, I do not have any excuses. This letter is way too long in the making. I am sorry. It was always something I was expecting to do, but never actually sat down to do. And then you know how it is, when you eventually think about doing it you think it's too long and too difficult. So the weeks turn into months and months into more than a year. I am truly sorry.

So, let me catch you up a little bit on the exciting things that are happening to the Gallant family here in Indonesia.

 

Family News

 

The first thing I need to say is, we are blessed. We are so grateful at the way that God has led and brought us here. As you know from our own personal story, we know about hard times and we know about pain. But, we truly feel that this is a time in our life when God is simply smiling on us, and we are grateful. He is so wonderful and we are so thankful.

Our family is continuing to get older, and wiser, and also more adventurous. Elijah has actually begun his high school years at Fletcher Academy in North Carolina. We miss him very much, but we are so proud of him and how well he is doing there. We are very excited to see how he is maturing and enjoying his time there very much. Of course we miss him and we look forward to seeing him this coming June for our furlough. Elijah just signed up to go on his first mission trip to be a blessing to other people. We are so glad to hear that he has an interest in that and we are going to be sending out email letters to people in the future so that they can help support him in this project.

Hannah is continuing to go to an international school near Bandung, where we live and she absolutely loves it. She is top of her class now and enjoys being in the fellowship and having friends and enjoys the schoolwork too.

 

Noah and Hadassah sometimes go to that school also and do some extracurricular classes. They are enjoying that very much. And, Penny enjoys a bit of a break from teaching them. They take classes like music, PE, art, and even some Indonesian language class. It is a lot of fun and we are excited to watch them learning and growing.

 

Our home life is busy in addition to the children, we currently have seven young ladies living with us. Three of them are nursing graduates who are getting their professional licensure and four of them are full-time students at UNAI. So, you can imagine that every meal time is a fun and busy time. We have almost 12 people who eat each meal. Two tables and lots of chairs and lots of food. It is an exciting and blessed time. We are not exactly sure how we can afford all of this, but God keeps giving and so we do too. It's amazing to live this way.

 

Those of you who know Penny real well will realize that she is very happy to have such a nice full house with lots of people to talk to and interact with. She is truly blessing the lives of these young ladies and mentoring them to become wonderful wives and mothers in the future. I am so proud of her for what she is doing. Our house is never boring. Here is a picture of some of our gals.

You also know, of course, that our family loves animals. And, that is no exception here either. Our house inside currently has two parakeets, two hamsters, a fish, a dog and a cat. Outside we have two geese, three ducks, seven chickens, including roosters, and many fish in our two ponds. Two hens and one duck are currently sitting on eggs, so the family might be growing soon. Life is very full and very good. We are grateful. And you might imagine, that with all this noise and activity I need to escape sometimes. And that is when I go out to my bamboo prayer house in the backyard. That is my own little place for quiet and solace.

Work Highlights

 

My work this last year has been very full and very good. My focus is on trying to help grow future leaders in discipleship and mentoring them to be a blessing to others. I travel around to the different places inside this union and helping to share a bigger picture of God and his love and inviting others to share that in a beautiful way with their neighbors and their friends. I enjoy doing that very much. Also, I have a team of people who work with me and it is wonderful getting closer to them and watching God bless their lives as well.

 

We have translated a book that is very good to share with our neighbors here. We are working on two more books for this year. And we have created two websites that help to equip people and give them ideas. Of course these resources are all in Indonesian language, but if you would like to have some of the source material from English I can give those to you if you would like. Some of the materials are available on the Internet or from Amazon.

 

We have translated many documents and are establishing a training website so that people can systematically build their knowledge and experience as they become a blessing in the community around them.

 

One of the exciting movements that we are beginning is called Searah. It means one direction, and it is not the musical group we found out later that has a similar name. It is a movement of predominantly young people who are choosing to agree and work together to do good. They are people of faith whether they are Muslim or Adventist or whatever, people of faith choosing to agree and choosing to work together to be a blessing in the community. We just finished our one-year anniversary of the organization with a special celebration of bringing people together from different groups. It was very beautiful and very touching. In the last year we have done things like peace training, interfaith cooperation activities, trust building events, helping orphans, cleaning areas and raising awareness of certain needs in the community. We expect this coming year to do some health programs and working in the villages and other needed things here. As we do these things people are very interested in what we are doing and the relationships are growing between these young people of faith. Hearts are being knit together and beautiful conversations happen more and more.

 

The group is openly spiritual. It is based upon three commitments. The first commitment is that we should be completely surrendered to God. The second commitment is we want to be the very best that we can be. So, that means if you are a Muslim, be a true surrendered Muslim. If you are a Christian, then be a true follower of Jesus Christ. Be the very best person you can be of your faith. And the third commitment is to community. We believe that faith needs to be practical and needs to bless our communities if it has any worth at all. It is exciting to see young people of faith working together, encouraging each other into end time living, and being a blessing in the community. It's thrilling to watch and it is just beginning. We look forward to a very bright future working together.

 

Please pray for this work. As you might imagine, there are some people who do not understand this and do not like it. Some Muslims think that they cannot associate with other people. And even some Adventists or Christians have trouble thinking that they can be working with and walking together with Muslims. We are breaking down walls of prejudice and ignorance and then building a community of young people who are choosing to be the best they can be, choosing to work together, and choosing to be a blessing in the community. It is very exciting, but we need your prayers.

 

I recently wrote an article that will be published in the Journal of Adventist missions later this year. The published article is a shorter version since we had to limit its size, but if you would have an interest in reading the long version with all of the footnotes, you're welcome to email me and I will send you that document. It is called, Lessons from War. In the article I describe some of the challenges that I face in my work and some of the exciting things that are happening.

 

I am being regularly encouraged that I need to write more. I need your prayers with that. It is something that I want to do, but I need to begin to seriously carve out the time to do it. It is one of my goals this year to be better at. So I hope that you can pray and encourage as you are able.

 

A few weeks ago we did something new. I took my leadership team and some others who had an interest in this for a special weekend. We all came together to spend some focused time of prayer and reflection and solitude together. I realize the words solitude and together do not make much sense. Let me explain. This is a activity that I normally do alone for 2-3 days each year. It helps me to reflect on the year that is past, and to re-surrender my life to God, and look forward to the next year. I take time to look at the roles in my life and how I am doing and re-surrender everything to my God. But, I wanted to invite some others to experience it also. So, this was a led, spiritual, personal and group retreat. I explained some of the basic principles and the process. And then everyone went out and experienced it for hours on their own.

 

If you have not considered making this a personal growth habit for your life, I would suggest reading two documents (in English or Indonesian) and apply them in your life. Your life and the new year will never be the same. Let me know if you would like to have a copy of these documents, I can email them to you.

Helping Hannah

 

One more picture I must share is from a recent father daughter date where Hannah and I went to an outdoor adventure place with cable courses, climbing things and scary high stuff. If you go to my FB page you will see my amateur video of that day. But, this is my favorite picture of the day. Sometimes, we really need to help our kids! ;)

 

Now that 2013 is in full swing, we are excited and looking forward to coming back and visiting friends and family in June and July. Thanks for taking the time to read this if you've gotten this far. If not, I understand. Again, I apologize for not writing more recently. I do hope and pray that I can make a much better habit this year than I have in the past.

 

We love hearing from you if you have the time. As you might imagine, we do get very lonely here for our friends in America. We are grateful to be where we are, but we miss many of you very much.

 

May this coming year be one that brings you closer to God in every area of your life. From our house to yours, we love you and we miss you.

 

 

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Being Blasted by a Book

Posted in Reflections on March 28th, 2012 by admin — Be the first to comment!

I just traveled to Bangkok and I began listening to another amazing book: unChristian by David Kinnaman. Shocking! I am writing these reflections not so much for you as for me, and you are simply invited to read them and ponder the implications as well, if you like.

Here are some thoughts that have riveted my ears and seared my mind as I am hearing the truths of his research coming out. [I am writing from notes scribbled on paper as I listen and replay certain unavoidable sections, but I don’t have page numbers. I do apologize. Maybe I will get the Kindle version and track some of these down later.]

  1. Of the younger groups that were studied, 85% saw Christians as hypocritical! Ouch. Remember, perceptions build peoples’ pictures of reality.
  2. Part of the reason for #1 is that statistically there was very little noticeable difference between people claiming to be Christian and those who did not. One case in point, people claiming to have participated in some sort of sexually immoral activity in the last 30 days (pornography, suggestive movies, extramarital affairs, sex outside of marriage, homosexual activities, etc.): 35% for non-Christian people; 30% for born again Christians (he gives a good definition of that group as well). Amazing!! In other words, if the two groups were in a room together and based on responses to this question there would be NO NOTICEABLE distinction between their moral underpinnings in this area other than the “label”!
  3. According to the things that Christians use to determine who is “in” or “out” from their groups are the very things that Christians are not doing themselves – that is hypocrisy.
  4. People outside the faith of Christianity have even said this: 84% said they knew a “born again” Christian [that is great as far as coverage and “witnessing” is concerned]; BUT, only 15% thought that person’s lifestyle was any different from theirs [so, what happens to the power of witness then]! Prayerfully ponder that.
  5. In an age of technology and the idea that more “eyeballs” equals more “impact” for the gospel, research showed (in start contrast) that the combined effects of radio, TV, and literature tracts on blessing the control group being studied amounted to less than one-half of one percent as being a contributor to their choosing a deeper faith experience with God. The overwhelming reality that impacts people is the relationships they have and the people they know. Which means we better read number 4 again.

I will stop here for now and get back to listening – and maybe you can pick up the book sometime as well. These are important questions and issues to ponder, pray about, and wrestle with.

 

I’ll leave you with one of his conclusions from the hypocrisy section (my paraphrase from listening): Could it be that God is using these cultural accusations of hypocrisy to point out the lack of true faith and the shallowness that often passes for conviction? Might these responses be God’s way of calling us to repentance and radical change? Could God be using the world to tell us Revelation 3:14-22, again?

 

I hope so. It has for me.

 

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Journaling Life

Posted in Activities, Reflections on March 4th, 2012 by admin — Be the first to comment!

I was recently in Balikpapan, East Kalimantan, speaking to a small group of pastors and teachers and one of the subjects in the course of the week that I talked about was a simple, yet potentially life changing tool for your spiritual growth: the prayer journal.

I have been a “journal-er” for a number of years now and these are some simple things I have learned. I hope it can be a blessing to you as you seek to learn from your life and grow deeper in your walk with God. I do not claim to be an expert in this subject (or any for that matter except one: my failures and God’s faithfulness through it all), but I have learned a few useful things that might encourage you to start the habit or help you fine tune your already existing habit.

  1. First of all, what is the purpose of the prayer journal? There can be many possible answers, and they are not exclusive of one another: a diary or record of activities (whether daily or on a fairly consistent basis); an ongoing prayer to God walking through the ins and outs of your life; a collection of your Golden List (I’ll explain below); a record of whenever you see God showing up in your life (this can be random at first, but when your personal walk with God grows and it starts happening almost every day, it is truly awesome); finally, it can be an honest reflection of God’s working, your failures and growth, and His incredible faithfulness.
  2. For me, my journal ends up being a mix of all of those possible reasons and can change from time to time in its format. But, in the changing, one thing is constant, it is me writing to God and talking with Him. It is not a list or collection being captured for some unknown future reader (or even my wife who occassionally reads as well – with permission), but I am always writing in conversation with my God! I find that to be a simple and beautiful thing.
  3. The Golden List. This is a great idea and can help you to start journaling on a daily basis. The name and idea comes initially from the great and easy reading book: The Ultimate Journey, by Jim Stovall. Though the same idea has been shared by other authors through the years (including Ellen White within SDA circles, and more recently even by best selling author Robin Sharma). The Golden List is quite simple. It is just a list of 5 or 10 things each morning that you are thankful or grateful for. For example: good health, blessed marriage, a job, healthy children, recent blessings, good friends, etc. This becomes a great “jump-starter” for you to start telling God thank you for all He has been doing in your life. Nothing should be taken for granted in these challenging times. No one is guaranteed an easy ride! Say thank you and start your day off on the right foot. It can often lead you into sharing your heart needs with God as well.
  4. My journal has many roles now. I use it as a verbal “picture” of my life. Where I am living, my family makeup (including any students living with us, any animals that my wife and kids bring into our home), addresses, phone numbers, current working situation. All of those I list at the beginning. Then, I recommit and resurrender my life to God in writing. No waffling, no second guessing, I want what God wants. I want to give my life fully to Him, no matter the cost or the pain and I tell Him and anyone else reading it. I am His. I belong to Him. Then, I have begun making a simple index page that I will populate as I write particularly important reflections, miracles, or useful facts. Finally, at the back I keep a list of the books I have read during that journal and any particular Scripture focus areas I have listened to or read repeatedly (the Bible or the Qur’an). This addition has been a great way for me to track the new things I am learning (I am a platinum member of Audible.com and love filling my traffic time while traveling with great material to help me grow, in addition to large amounts of Scripture and other spiritual authors being listened to regulary).
  5. One more thing that I have added to my journal that is really blessing me is to go from the back part, after the items I mentioned above, and keep track of my actual prayer list of people and needs that I am regularly bringing before God in prayer. So, I number from 1 and on, using the actual day that the requests are entered as breaks for the prayer requests. Then, each day as I pray I am being reminded of the needs and I am able to remember more throughout the day to keep praying (I personally don’t think God needs the repetition, but I do) and to redeem any “open” moments when I am not busy actively serving, learning, loving, or sleeping. Remember, we should seek to redeem the time and to capture every thought so that we can walk godly lives through various spiritual disciplines and surrendering to God and His will. So, the beginning of the journal goes from the front to the back in a running prayer to God and capturing the activities and miracles of what God is doing in my life so I don’t forget them; and then, from the back of the book moving forward is my ongoing prayer list. This list is being constantly monitored that way and I am able to see the answers to prayer and rejoice in God’s love and mercy in my life and in the lives of others whom I am praying for. This also means that both my personal journal and my prayer list are in the same book and are easy to keep with me. Keeping a prayer list allows me to tell people with integrity that I will pray for them and actually mean in and do it with this simple tool.
  6. So, you might ask, “what’s the point, how does this help me?” Great question, glad you asked! This journal now becomes a way to remember your growth, struggles, God’s mercies, and so forth. This keeps you from forgetting the way that God has led you. One author has quipped, “you have nothing to fear for the future unless you forget the way that God has led you in the past.” A journal like this is a way to combat fear for the future since you are reminded of what God has done throughout the last year or more. I like to take time during each year to review the journal before and see the way that God has led and blessed through that time. I normally do a review on my birthday as I recommit my life for the next year that God has so graciously given me and then also again at year end. I take time to read over the previous journal, and say thank you for what God has done. I also like to keep track of any people in that previous year who have specifically blessed me. I try to send them a thank you note as well (this is a new habit I am trying to incorporate into my life after reading about it from Doug Phillips at Vision Forum). I find these two times of year to be a rich blessing to me and help me to keep my personal relationship with God and others growing beautifully.
  7. Before I finish the way this has blessed me, I need to write a few more words. Journaling helps you to capture pictures of your life that poor memory will lose. Also, as you capture these moments you can learn about your life and help to navigate the future by knowing yourself and your God better. A simple book with a little time can be a spiritual life saver when the enemy tries to discourage you and your memory is faulty. You can find the many ways that God is real and has blessed you or others, answered prayers, or simply walked with through thick and thin.

Let me know your thoughts about this. I hope this has blessed you. How has a journal blessed you as well? I would love to hear from you about your experiences.

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