Taking it up a notch

journeyI was convicted today.

This morning’s sermon by Pastor Jason Perry was called “Caleb: Faith for a Lifetime.” Pastor Perry led us through a chapter from the book of Joshua in which Caleb, an 85-year-old man by this time, is recounting his experiences of taking God at His word. Caleb and Joshua were 2 of 12 scouts the Israelites sent into Canaan after God promised Israel this land was for them. Ten of the scouts brought back reports of giant people and large armies inhabiting the land. Joshua and Caleb acknowledged the challenge but were confident in their God. “We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it,” was Caleb’s report (Numbers 13:30, NIV).

Well, Joshua and Caleb were outnumbered, and the Israelites were punished for their lack of faith. They were banished to the desert for 40 years of wandering—until that whole generation of the doubtful died off. Their children would enter the promised land that they themselves had been afraid to accept.

85 years old and still ready for battle

Joshua and Caleb would be the only members of their generation to step foot on Canaanite soil. Because of their faith. In fact, listen to Caleb talking to the younger generation of Israelites:

“So here I am today, eighty-five years old! I am still as strong today as the day Moses sent me out; I’m just as vigorous to go out to battle now as I was then. Now give me this hill country that the Lord promised me that day. You yourself heard then that the Anakites were there and their cities were large and fortified, but, the Lord helping me, I will drive them out just as he said.” (Joshua 14:10–12, NIV)

Do you love that? Caleb’s faith had only grown stronger during 40 years of desert waiting! He was just as confident, just as whole-hearted, just as eager to slay giants and serve God as he had ever been. Wow.

Advice for all ages

Pastor Perry’s advice to the young people of our congregation was to make God a habit now, by developing a discipline of talking and listening to Him every day through prayer and Bible reading.

His advice to the “seasoned saints” was to finish well, to never accept retirement, to find new ways to serve, to allow age to take a physical toll but never a spiritual toll.

For people in my age group—between youth and retirement—he suggested, “Take it up a notch.”

Take it up a notch?

What does that mean? For me it means I want to be more strategic about how I spend my time. I can’t pack any more into my days—I’m already overwhelmed! But “overwhelmed” is no way to go through life. So taking it up a notch means investing time in the right things.

  • It means I’ll be more careful about the clients I accept, the projects I agree to, the committees I join.
  • It means I’ll eliminate some of the blogs and e-newsletters I subscribe to, so I’ll still have time and energy to read the Bible and really think about what it says.
  • It means I won’t neglect rest, and healthy meals, and outdoor activities—because I want to be able to say when I’m 85, “I’m just as strong, just as vigorous to go out to battle, as I was 40 years ago!”

Will I keep blogging? Tweeting? Facebooking? LinkingIn? I’m not sure. I haven’t been able to discern yet whether the words I post in cyberspace ever result in the world being a better place. Am I strengthening anyone’s faith? Or my own? Sometimes you don’t know until years down the road.

Please share

I would appreciate any comments on this subject. What are the rest of you doing to make sure you spend time on only the “right” things? What kinds of disciplines have you set up? And how did you determine what is right? Did you ever eliminate something you thought was not worthwhile, and then wish later you had kept it?

If you were challenged to take your faith up a notch, what would that mean for you?


Memoirs: enjoying the journey

A sample memoir, 10 years in the making
A sample memoir, representing a 10-year journey

What things do you wish you’d asked your parents or grandparents? Write them down. These are the things your children will want to know about you. Start filling in your answers to these questions, a little bit at a time. Don’t worry about your writing style at this point; just get the facts down. Keep adding to your answers as new details come to mind. This will all become resource for you when you’re ready to start organizing the pieces into a meaningful whole.

I recently worked with a client who had been gathering the details of his life in this way for more than 10 years. His children gave him a “memoir journal” in 1994, and he started filling out its pages, little by little. By the time he was ready to have me help him turn it into a book—The Geertsema Chronicles—he had a wonderful collection of memorable stories, illustrated with old photographs and documents. What made it a very readable memoir was the amount of detail he was able to capture. And he was able to do that because (1) he used questions to guide his writing, and (2) he took his time getting the details down on paper.

There are many different types of “memoir journals” available now. I have used To Our Children’s Children, available from Amazon.com. And Colleen Boudreau makes a point of encouraging writers to choose a journal whose physical look and feel will inspire writing. I find the journal’s content more important than its appearance—I look for questions that will intrigue me, that will probe for details, that will make me think of old things in new ways. Since I do my writing on the computer, I don’t depend much on the style of the journal itself. I simply open up a blank page, type in one of the questions from the journal, and start typing my answer. Still, if a journal’s physical style will make you look forward to writing, then by all means, choose one you find inspiring!

And if you get to a point where you need help turning your notes into a printed hardcover or paperback book, worthy to become an heirloom, I can certainly help with that. Check my “Manuscript services” page for some basic information.

A memoir is a journey, not a destination. (The words journey and journal are similar for a reason!) Take your time and relish the exploration. Ideally, you’ll appreciate the process as much as the printed product.