It’s green on the outside and white on the inside. It’s pretty thick and even has a placeholder that frequently dangles at the bottom. I think I bought it on a whim at Barnes and Noble, but I really can’t be sure. But wherever I got it and however you would describe it, this green notebook is never far from me. It has and in some ways is my life. Because it has become a means of my salvation.
It was during college that I became a serious Christian, or as I have described it began taking my faith seriously. And like many people, in the years since I’ve often struggled to find a consistent spiritual practice to keep me connected with the life-giving source of my faith. And like so many folks, I’ve tried many things over the years – mass produced devotionals, Bible reading followed by silent wall-staring, books on spiritual formation, prayer groups and even spiritual directors. And while they are all helpful in one way or the other, the journey has all too often felt like a series of long marches that led to the same destination of depressing frustration.
But about a year ago, I found this notebook, or maybe it found me. I started writing, with the Bible. In an unoriginal concept, I read a chapter a day. Each morning, or sometimes afternoon or sometimes night, I read a chapter. And I wrote down what stuck with me. Then I wrote down the names of people and places in my life and in the life of the world for whom I could intercede. And then I wrote a prayer to God. In sum: read, summarize, pay attention, pray. Not exactly rocket science.
In Wesleyan terms, my particular tribe of faith, I’ve come to understand my green notebook as a means of grace. There’s nothing magical about it. It’s simply a physical tool through which God has chosen to work in order to connect with me and help me grow more Christ-like. While growing up in church prayer seemed to be understand as a formula (PRAY or ACTS for example), God has created us each uniquely and it is not a stretch to believe the same God who creates us unique can connect with us in ways that are reflected in that creation.
I’ve always been a writer. Before going to seminary, I spent four years as a journalist, where my day was organized around writing for insight and making meaning of the events and news I observed. It shouldn’t be surprising that God has chosen to connect with me through writing. It’s just taken a different form. Instead of a laptop and a spiral bound notepad, its a green hipster notebook and a pen.
Our unique ways of being are not obstacles to God but are instead vehicles of connection. The truth is that God creates us unique and longs not for us to be frustrated while trying to be the same but wants to connect in and through that God-given uniqueness. Those of us who don’t just like to write but HAVE to write are more likely to connect with God in words than the traditional ways we’ve always believed we have to pray. Those who draw should draw. Those who read should read. Those who are drawn to more traditional ways should celebrate and seek them out.
Too often we’ve made this too hard, because deep down we think it might have to be. But we don’t have to. The key to growth in grace and spiritual practice isn’t ramming our lives into the one-way we think is right, but finding and discovering how God wants to connect in the uniqueness God has gifted us with.
We can try the formulas, we can try the so-called right ways, but my best success in allowing God to connect with me has come out of the ways I am uniquely gifted and created.
It’s green and hipster but most importantly its never far from me. I thank God for that book every day. May you find yours too.