A clean slate--a fresh start--a new year! The pilgrims’ journey continues, but with a hearty joie de vivre as a new canvas, a fresh page, beckons with a sense of adventure, anticipation, and exhilaration. Just what do we do with a happy, new year? First ask, “How does God want me to use this God-given blessing--this gift?”
Travelers we are! Our lifestory is created step-by-step. Another word for lifestory might be legacy, a written biography or autobiography. Mark Twain observed, “Biographies are but the clothes and buttons of the man--the biography of the man cannot be written.” We see that thought expressed in Scripture: “Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (I Samuel 16: 7b).
While we may never know the full “inside” story, we still can learn much by observation and reflection on the “buttons” of a person’s life. “The history of the world,” said Thomas Carlyle, “is but the biography of great men.” He further regarded the reading of biography as the “most universally profitable, universally pleasant of all things.” Ralph Waldo Emerson suggested, “There is properly no history, only biography.”
A new year! The first quarter of 2013 provides fresh opportunity to read about lifestories of such Christians as Dr. Martin Luther King. February is African American month; March is Women’s History month. There are birthday celebrations for Presidents Washington and Lincoln. Just in this quarter alone there are so many distinguished individuals to honor--historical and contemporary. Have you checked out a good book lately? Retired to your favorite nook (with your Nook)? It could help answer Grandma’s old question: “What will you be when you grow up?”
We read biographies to learn about, be inspired by, and better understand a person, their times, and their accomplishments. Some wry wit noted how our lives are depicted with a dash between the two dates on the tombstone or grave marker (born --- died). Each of us is living out the - dash - among family, friends, and neighbors. Dare we ask, “Just what are they reading from day-to-day, from chapter-to-chapter as they live, work, play, and worship alongside us?”
“Reading Christians are growing Christians,” John Wesley so aptly stated. “When Christians cease to read, they cease to grow.” While there is a way common to each man and woman, it is also true that each pilgrim’s journey is unique with its twists, turns, detours, hills and valleys. It is a one of a kind story--each person’s journey as a Christ follower--which may be shared at family gatherings. “This is what I’ve learned about Christ in and through my journey so far,” may not be so clearly stated. However, even casual conversations give updates revealing how our lifestory is progressing and how we are growing. Everyone sits or has sat at the knee of a pilgrim eager to hear lessons learned as well as lessons to avoid.
Read to your children; read with your children. Even give them an age-appropriate copy of a book that you are reading. Compare “insights.” The value of reading with a child or a teen might be more apparent with the following example. The name Johnny Appleseed might be familiar because it is often included in the same category as such legendary characters as Paul Bunyan and his blue ox Babe. But sometimes the hidden truth is revealed by the retelling of a lifestory. Elizabeth A. Allen wrote the following in rhyme:
Let all unselfish spirits heed
The story of Johnny Appleseed.
He had another and prouder name
In far New England, whence He came,
But by this title, and this alone,
Was the kindly wanderer loved and known.
This tribute to John Chapman (1714---1847) quickly captures and summarizes his godly character, his lifestory--his true, real lifestory!
Every career (sports, business, science, politics, medicine, etc.) showcases testimonies of Christ-centered lifestories lived out in His marketplace. May I suggest reading about George Mueller, Fanny Crosby, David Brainerd, and Amy Carmichael, or checking into Warren Wiersbe’s or Ken Osbeck’s profiles of believers who remained true to God amidst their challenges?
Two distinct hymns, “Tell Me The Story of Jesus,” and “Tell Me The Old, Old Story,” offer comfort, guidance, and encouragement. If you were to meet someone who is yet to believe in Jesus as their Savior, sharing a hymn could be a good place to start. Everyone is traveling a road; everyone will give an account of their lifestory.
Happy New Year! Will you let Jesus be your Guide--He Who makes possible your ETERNAL LIFEstory?!