Almost every day I end it by writing in my journal. Because it is usually the last thing I do before climbing into bed I am usually tired and sleepy and the temptation to skip it just this one night is strong, but I rarely do because of the huge benefits in my life in my pursuit of character growth.
A third reason why I am so motivated to faithfully practice this discipline is that it is very important in my seeking wisdom. I forget things easily, and it is easy to forget lessons learned and wisdom gained by experiences. When I preach and teach I am always drawn to the person taking notes. I tend to make eye contact with them more, and I am much more in tune with whether they are understanding what I am saying or not, you might say that in a few minutes after I start speaking they become my favorites. God is always orchestrating our life to teach us wisdom, and if we don’t pay attention and learn what He is teaching us, or we aren’t excited enough about what we are learning to write it down so as to not forget it, I am not sure that God will do much teaching.
Proverbs 1:20-28 Wisdom shouts in the street, she lifts her voice in the square; at the head of the noisy streets she cries out; at the entrance of the gates in the city she utters her sayings: how long, O naive ones, will you love being simple-minded? And scoffers delight themselves in scoffing and fools hate knowledge? Turn to my reproof, behold, I will pour out my spirit on you; I will make my words known to you. Because I called and you refused, I stretched out my hand and no one paid attention; and you neglected all my counsel and did not want my reproof; I will also laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your dread comes, when your dread comes like a storm and your calamity comes like a whirlwind, when distress and anguish come upon you. Then they will call on me, but I will not answer; They will seek me diligently but they will not find me,
I plead with God each morning to give me wisdom so I know what to do, and what to say in every situation I am in. I don’t want to be guilty of not paying attention, and missing what He is trying to teach me. I believe that the more attentive I am the more He will teach me. Journaling is my way of saying to the Lord, I am listening.
I got started journaling over 25 years ago and have maintained the discipline ever since. It would be something that would be easy to give up because it usually takes about 20 minutes to complete each evening, but the benefits are so powerful I stay very motivated to keep it up. I mentioned yesterday in my blog the benefit of improved communication skills because of the writing. Another huge benefit is the self-examination and personal reflection that takes place as I write about the day. No one enjoys looking for blind spots, character flaws, and bad habits in themselves, it is much more enjoyable to ignore those things and remain naive about who we really are. I “hunger and thirst” for growth in character and more righteousness in my daily living and treatment of others in my life. I have found the tool of writing about events that have happened to me as key to seeing myself accurately and knowing what I need to work on to change and grow. Writing about an event is like looking at myself as if I were another person, making it so much easier to be objective, accurate, and transparent. Confessing all known sins that we commit to God every day and repenting of them is a key part of our daily walk and relationship with God that results in growth in our character and in our relationship with God. 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, He (God) is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness”. The blessings that come into our life from God as we take a spiritual bath each day are huge, and the consequences of failing to keep short accounts with God are significant.
I started journaling when my Dad had liver cancer, and us kids would take turns helping Mom take care of Him. He had survived pancreatic cancer, and when it was announced that he had liver cancer he decided that he wasn’t going to go to the hospital, and go through all that he had with the pancreatic cancer. I would sit on Dad’s bed for hours and listen to him talk about everything he knew anything about, and I remember thinking, “I will never remember all that I am hearing, I should be taking some notes so I don’t forget”. As I wrote down the gems of wisdom that I heard Dad speak I would also write my thoughts and emotions that I had as I watched my Dad lose the battle to cancer. That experience took place about 28 years ago and I have been journaling ever since. I have refined and changed what I write in my journal but the benefits that I have received from this discipline have been significant.
The most significant of the half dozen blessings that I have experienced as a result of taking time each day to write about My experiences, the lessons learned, observations about myself, and about my relationship with Jesus is that I have better learned the skill of communicating with words clearly, succinctly, and in a way that is easy to follow and understand. As a preacher this was a huge blessing in my life that has helped me teach the Bible to people so that they understand it and are motivated to live it. As I continue to work on this skill and art of communicating clearly, writing is my main tool, and my journaling about my life is my focus.
God created us interdependent, that is we are all pieces to a puzzle, organs of a body, or parts of an engine. On our own, by ourselves we have no chance of doing anything well, it just isn’t possible by God’s design. The definition of pride is, “I can do it by myself, I don’t need you”.
1 Corinthians 12:20-22. But now there are many members, but one body. And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; or again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, it is much truer that the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary;
There are many, very good marriages around us, and they have a lot of learned and very practical advice to give to any married couple who would be humble enough to ask. The problem is, very few ask because someone might think they have a bad marriage. Very few couples ask for advice or counseling until their marriage is so far gone that there is little hope in fixing it.
Proverbs 1:5 A wise man will hear and increase in learning, and a man of understanding will acquire wise counsel,
Proverbs 11:14 Where there is no guidance the people fall, but in abundance of counselors there is victory.
Proverbs 12:15 The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man is he who listens to counsel.
Proverbs 13:10 Through insolence comes nothing but strife, but wisdom is with those who receive counsel.
Proverbs 24:6 For by wise guidance you will wage war, and in abundance of counselors there is victory.
God is all wise, and He has given us much of His wisdom in His Word if we would read it, and if we would believe it, and if we would do it.
Number 8 was for the wives and number 9 is for the husbands. “Husbands, love your wives the way Jesus loves the church”. It is hard to believe, but I don’t remember ever saying “I love you” to Patty in our first 20 years of marriage. She says I did a few times. In about 1990 I decided I needed to change that so I made a goal to tell Patty 5 times every day that I loved her. Because of the marked increase in saying “I love you”, Patty asked me one day what exactly I was saying, what did I mean when I said “I love you”. I asked her if she would give me a couple of days to think about how to answer that question, and she graciously agreed. So I read and reread every verse in the Bible on love, and read a couple of books on the subject. I came to the conclusion that Biblical love is not a statement of affection, or how we feel toward a person emotionally, but to say to someone that you love them is to say that you are committed to them as a person, that you are committed to doing whatever it takes to meet their needs. When I got back to Patty to tell her what I meant when I said “I love you”, I told her that I was making 7 specific commitments to her and every time I said to her “I love you”, I was remaking them. The first was that I am promising that you are the only woman in my life, in my thoughts you are it, in my emotions, and in real life. The second commitment was that I would not get angry at her, not even a little bit irritated, no matter what she said or did, or how many times she did it. The third was that I would talk to her any time she wanted, for as long as she wanted, on any subject, and I would honor her by showing sincere attention to her words as she spoke. I don’t have space to give you the other 4 commitments, but Patty loved them.
Of the 10 laws that will result in an awesome marriage #8 is just for the wives. This law is based on Proverbs 12:4. “An excellent wife is the crown of her husband, but she who shames him is like rottenness in his bones.” An excellent wife makes her husband feel like a king. She does that by how she talks to him. The opposite of an excellent wife is one who shames her husband, and makes him feel like he has advanced cancer in his bones. She does that by how she talks to him. The greatest fear in men is shame. We were created by God for glory, but we lost our glory when we sinned for the first time, and continue to lose it almost on a daily basis. Men look for glory in their work, in hobbies, in accomplishments, by boasting and bragging, in sports, but never seem able to find it. 1 Corinthians 11:7 says, ” For a man ought not to have his head covered, since he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man.” Man is the glory of God, and the woman is the glory of man”. In Genesis 2:18 God says that He will create a helper for Adam suitable for him. A helper is not someone who cooks and cleans house, but someone who makes her husband complete and helps maximize his character growth in this life. She does that by giving him glory with the words she thoughtfully speaks to him, and as a result of those glory giving words she finds herself married to a very happy man who is motivated, energetic, a visionary of his own life and his family. We live in a culture that is critical in thinking and rude in speech. A wife who follows the example of our culture will destroy her own marriage with her own words. To be a wife that gives glory to her husband by her words, and doesn’t criticize, grumble, compare, and tear down she needs to premeditate her words of praise to her husband, and learn to listen, really listen to her words to her husband.
Most of the time when a husband or wife attempts to share with their spouse about a blind spot, character flaw, or bad habit they get major push back in the form of excuses, justification, blaming, and denial. If that happens the powerful tool for character growth and life transformation that can take place because of the coaching from our spouse is lost. We all tend towards being unteachable because of our pride, so it takes a personal commitment on each of our parts to choose to be teachable and positively responsive when we are corrected and instructed by our spouse. Proverbs 5:12-13 says, “How I have hated instruction! And my heart spurned reproof! I have not listened to the voice of my teachers, Nor inclined my ear to my instructors!”. Proverbs calls an unteachable person a scoffer, and the consequences of being a scoffer are many, Proverbs 15:12 says, “A scoffer does not love one who reproves him, He will not go to the wise.” Nobody knows my character flaws and blind spots as well as my wife, so how profitable for me if I could humbly listen and learn from her as she would point them out to me. Because we all have resisted being taught by our spouse they have probably become very reluctant to point out things in our life that we could work on because no one enjoys the rejection we feel when our spouse is a scoffer, so we probably need to encourage them to share with us what we could work on. I word it this way, “what one thing could I change that would make me a better husband, and that would bring more joy into your life?” It is then important to listen attentively, without interrupting, and without justifying, explaining, or denying, and then saying “thank you, I will work on that”.