Slow Down and Live

On Wednesday morning I sent a brief email to my brother Henry congratulating him on the 49th anniversary of his falling off a roof and breaking his nose.

It was a windy Friday, October 1st, 1965 and Henry and I were helping our dad put the roof on a farm building. Suddenly a gust of wind caught the sheet of plywood Henry was handling and both he and it went flying off the roof.

How can I remember that? Easy. I have a dog-eared notebook with “1965 Daily Diary” on the cover.

Jack the Diarist

Jack the Diarist

Six years earlier, while in college, I prayed Psalm 90:12, “Teach me to number my days that I may apply my heart unto wisdom.” Or as it says in the ISV, “Teach us to keep account of our days, so we may develop inner wisdom.”

That’s when I started keeping a diary which has now grown to more than thirty years of handwritten diaries, and another twenty years or more of journals and written prayers in digital form on my laptop.

Centuries after this Psalm was written, a pagan philosopher named Socrates was quoted by his student, Plato as saying, “The unexamined life is not worth living.”

And more recently, another pagan philosopher, Santayana, said, “He who does not remember the past is condemned to repeat it.”

Moses commanded God’s people, “Do not forget the things your eyes have seen, or let them slip from your heart. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.” Deut 4:9-10.

But how can we remember what we have seen and experienced unless we slow down, take notice and write an account of them? We need to slow down so we can ponder and reflect on our thoughts, words, actions and habits.

When we stop and examine our life by remembering the events of the day, and writing them down, patterns of behaviour become clearer. As we think and pray about these patterns—these unconscious repetitions—we can judge and decide if we need to continue them, or work on changing them.

Slowing down long enough to examine the patterns of our lives is not easy. It goes directly against the flow of our culture. Our society keeps us busy working, traveling, or being entertained.

Keeping track of the events of our lives has results far more important than being able to send an email about a long ago broken nose. I have a densely packed yearly calendar of celebrateable events—major decisions, changes made, and significant happenings in our family’s lives that, when we talk about them, bring praise to God.

So, what about you? How do you examine your life? How do you remember your significant “God stories”? How do you practice one of my favourite missionary psalms?

“Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” Psalm 46:10 (NIV)

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