I'm not very good at picking out books for myself so I generally rely on the opinions of others as a way to choose books. The Shack, The Flamboya Tree—those are a few GREAT ones I have read on the advice of others. A few weeks back I was chatting with my sister on the phone and she said she had a book for me. All my sister said was, "You are going to LOVE it!" And she was right!
The book is essentially about how an old woman was able to touch so many lives by putting the words of Luke 2:52 into practice. Yep, I dare you. Go look it up. Not a clearly laid out verse with instructions on how to change the world! But through the story and many lives that become intertwined, Rowell wrote about how this woman was able to slowly change lives by making some small changes in her own life.
Some things I liked about the book:
1. Rowell deals with some big issues and life events in a small book. Being a "Christian" book, he doesn't sugar-coat these issues or events, and they are not all solved by the end of the novella. I think a person who doesn't believe in Christ could pick up this book and find many truths and many relationships to his or her own life in the story.
2. The characters are not common, nor are they the Hollywood-type of creations. They are characters you and I could relate to—and you can probably find something in common with at least one of them, even if you don't really want to!
3. During the funeral celebration of the main character, Rowell carefully entices you into the salvation message. How wonderful to hear about God's saving grace for all at a funeral where there are people who need to hear it present.
4. The Journal.
Let me further explain #4! The main character in the book was named Emma. She was a grown widowed woman whose two children had already moved out of the house and had busy lives of their own. Emma accepted Christ and made it her goal to learn more about God. One day she stumbled upon Luke 2:52 and from there created her "Living on Purpose Journal." While the book explains it so clearly and eloquently, I'm going to give you an abridged version with the HUGE encouragement to read the book on your own!
Reflecting on the verse, Emma believed, "The verse sums up Jesus' life from the time he was twelve until he began his public ministry around the age of 30" (p. 89 of Emma's Journal). Emma interpreted Luke 2:52 in a way that she could break it up into four areas:
Spiritual=favor with God
Relational=favor with man
Emma proceeded to make small attainable goals in each of those areas to grow in the same fashion as Jesus did, or for us, closer to our Father. She made, "Just a little goal or a little step to take. She said if she couldn't do it, it was too big and she'd break it down into something simple. When that little step became a habit, she'd take another step" (Emma's Journal, p. 91) For example (and note that some of these are taken from the book), a spiritual goal might be to read a psalm each day or memorize one Bible verse each day. A physical goal might be to walk 15-20 minutes each day or learn how to play baseball. An intellectual goal might be to learn Spanish or read one of the classics each month. A relational goal might be to politely greet the people you walk by each day or bring a meal over to a neighbor.
There are two things I like about her goals. One thing is that they are small and attainable. So often we set goals for ourselves that are out of reach, too hard for us to do on our own, or take too long. Emma made them small and simple and built upon then, rather than shooting big right away. Each small goal or step may lead to one of these big ones, but it was enough for her to take it one step at a time, one bit at a time, rather than biting off more than she could chew and getting frustrated at a "failure." Another thing I liked about her goals was that she kept herself accountable to them. She took four areas of her life, looked at small things she could do to change these areas and made a plan. Then she wrote them in a journal to keep herself accountable. And before you get discouraged about the fact that this might involve journaling, I need to tell you about how many people had a journal in this book! (Yes, I know, it's just a book, but I think it is a book that could possibly happen!) The journaling wasn't long and wordy, it was just a goal (and more if you wanted), just to keep yourself accountable. Just so that, if the goal wasn't becoming a habit, you could re-visit it and figure out how you could make it attainable. Or so you would remember it!
On the first page of her "Living on Purpose Journal," Emma had written this:
"When it's time for me to go, I just want to know that my life made a difference. Lord, help me to take advantage of every opportunity to touch others in ways that demonstrate your love."
I can't argue with a statement like that. I'm not sure than many people can. But Emma also recognized that touching the lives of others with God's love was going to happen by just carrying on life as usual or sitting quietly in her house. And so she developed her journal as a way to ensure that she was demonstrating God's love in 4 aspects of her life.
When my sister had told me about this book, she said, "I know you and (another name) have been pushing me to use a journal, but I think this is a way of journaling that makes sense." Who knows? Whether this book (or this little, humble blog entry) encourages you to journal, I hope it does encourage you to take advantage of the opportunities that God gives to you to share His love with others.