Journaling, Spiritual Growth, The Spiritual Discipline of Journaling

The Thing About New Year Resolutions, Word for 2019, and the Book that Revolutionized My Year

I once had a boss who would write reminders on her hands. We’d be in the middle of a meeting when something said would trigger a thought and she’d grab a pen and write a word on her palm. Toy – to reminder her to bring a toy to a birthday party for her friend’s son. Milk – remembering her toddler drank all of it that morning and she needed to go to the store to get more. It became somewhat of a joke between us – all those black and blue and red words on her hands. Whatever it was, if she didn’t write it down where she’d have to take the effort to scrub it off later, she’d forget.

When I was digging in and researching the idea of journaling as a spiritual discipline and discovered that God puts his word within us by engraving it on our hearts, I came across a commentary snippet by Jamieson Fausset Brown. They remarked that the Hebrew translation was “filling his hand with letters in honor of Jehovah.” In smaller font, there was this additional text: “shall write upon his hand, I am Jehovah’s” – alluding to the puncture with ink on the hand whereby a soldier marked himself as bound by his commander.

I wasn’t quite sure what to make of the additional information, until I did a little further research. According to ancient Roman texts, legionaries in the Roman military would tattoo a marking on their hand. Scholars aren’t sure what exactly the marking was, but it would have most likely been a symbol of the soldier’s unit.

After getting a little better perspective, it all came together. I believe writing is one way we remember and we are commanded to remember the Gospel and God’s faithfulness to us – it’s one way we can fight the good fight and keep the faith, as Paul writes to Timothy. When we dig deep into his word, we learn more of who he is, we fall deeper in love with him, and ultimately we are changed. As we fill our lives and hands with these God-glory letters, we also tattoo on our souls that we are his. We are permanently marked by his grace and through the Holy Spirit we are set apart – members of God’s holy legion.

What does all of this have to do with the New Year? Well one of the greatest gifts to me this past year has been a renewed passion for God’s word. What once seemed boring and trite – now excites me to no end. I have spent hours dissecting verses and the etymology of the root words of the Hebrew and Greek. The connections that the Lord has personally made clear to me blow my mind and delight me to no end – like the ones that finally clicked above. 

In this new year, I want the Lord to continue the good thing he’s begun in my heart. I want to continually go deeper, discovering the treasures he’s laid out for me to find. I want to pursue him to his great depths, finding his mysteries awaiting revelation. But, it isn’t just going to happen. I know this all too well. Just ask me how many times I’ve attempted to read through the Bible only to end up lost in the bog of Levitical law. Pursuing godliness is intentional. It requires work. It requires diligence. It requires time.

If we just have excitement without discipline we will fail. Just like all the people who flood to the gym the first of the year only to taper off and quit. Without discipline, when discouragement hits and we don’t see the results, we won’t continue. We set ourselves up for failure and then we sit in the shame of that failure.

One of my favorite verses in the Bible is Hosea 6:3. It says that if we press on to know the Lord he will come to us as the spring showers that water the earth.

Pressing on – an intentional act of pursuing, chasing, following.

Interestingly, press on is also used in Philippians where Paul tells us to press on, giving the image of one in a race running swiftly to the goal. The Greek root word is the idea of running errands as a servant of a king who attends him. My Bible’s cross-references led me to the book of John where Mary and Jesus are at the wedding with no more wine. Mary tells the servants, “Whatever he says, do it.” The servants do exactly as Jesus tells them. And guess what, the master of the feast does not know where the new wine came from, but because the servants obeyed they got to be first hand witnesses to Jesus’ first miracle.

Instead of New Year’s Resolutions, I try to pick one word to focus on for the year. As a new mom, I chose the word grace for 2018. At the end of the year, I would’ve chosen learning curve to really describe the previous 12 months. Learning my little boy’s heart and personality. Learning what works and doesn’t work. Learning how to be a mom of a baby turned toddler. And yet, grace found me there in the midst of all the trial-and-error.

This year’s word came to me during the Christmas program at our church. There was a choir special where all the kids came up and sang. I teared up at the little ones in their red puffy dresses and boys in bowties and their innocent worship. Something spiked my heart and I whispered to my husband: “Do you think that’s how God sees us? As little kids singing to him?”

Child-like faith, Jesus says. The “Daddy, daddy, I want to show you something” chatter as we pull the pant leg of God and he bends down and smiles at us. I think of my son who holds his arms up to be held or the belly-giggles as his daddy gives chase – fully existing in the love and delight of the relationship.

This year’s word is wonder.

I want 2019 to be a year of wonder. A year of child-like wonder. A year of open eyes. A year of a hearing heart. A year of embracing the wonder of his touch, the wonder of his knowledge, the wonder of the transforming work he’s doing in me.

If there is one book that has taught me how to dig and revolutionized the way I study, it’s Mercy Like Morning by Jane Johnson. I started this book in October, but out of all the books I’ve read not just in 2018, but in years – this one has been the most impactful. 

I’ve had the honor of being raised in church, getting saved at a young age, and have participated in women’s Bible studies ever since I was 12 years old. I’m so thankful for all the studies that have encouraged and challenged me in my faith. 

With that said, Mercy Like Morning isn’t just life changing, it’s spiritually transforming. She teaches you HOW to study scripture for yourself by digging into cross references as well as the original Hebrew and Greek. I’m a self proclaimed wordy so it’s no wonder I got my Bachelors in English. Words are my love language and I’m convinced we would be more excited about the Bible if we truly understood the deep rich meanings of the actual words that were written. 

If you want a fire set in your soul and your bones to come alive, and a renewed passion for the Bible, I highly recommend reading this book and allowing the Holy Spirit to transform the way you look at Scripture.

Jen Wilkin writes: “The heart cannot love what the mind does not know.” 

Is there any other worthwhile pursuit than this? Knowing Christ and loving Christ and trusting Christ in this new year and all the years after?

I want 2019 to be a year of not just starting well, but finishing well. May we not have the wishy-washy love of Hosea’s adulterous wife whose love is like a morning cloud, fading like dew as the year progresses. Intentional and disciplined are the only ways we can push past the curtain into the deeper parts of God. If we keep doing the same old things we are going to get the same old results. We’ve got to dig in our heels, get our bearings and press forward. Press on into the heart of God. Press forward into new territory with God.

Press on to discover the wonder. Move forward in the wonder and sit in the wonder and awe before pressing further and deeper and diligently and passionately further and further. Because we can’t ever know too much about him. If the Bible seems boring to you, pray for understanding and do the work. Do the work and he will reward your efforts. 

As we know and learn to love authentically, we like the Romans with their legion tattoos – inscribe God’s character and promises in our soul. Letting it get deep, so when the enemy comes and tries to scrub it away – he can’t. Its permanency goes deep. And when he asks us to do something, we will do it, as servants of the king, because we may just witness a miracle.

In this year of wonder, may our eyes widen like that of a child who sees through the stretched threads of heaven and sees and delights and rejoices in our Abba. And may we write them down, remembering and inscribing them on the tables of our hearts.

Start and finish well, my friend, so like Paul may we one day write: I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.

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