Tag Archive: journaling

Spiritual Journey: Stolen.

Broken glass

I was crushed. As I drove east on Interstate 40 towards our new home in Nashville, I frantically called all the important numbers I could think of, while trying to hear over the flapping of plastic that covered our recently broken window.

A new ministry job had our family moving from Texas to Tennessee. En route, we stopped for a night in Memphis. Our housing wasn’t available until the next day, and the kids had never experienced the indoor hotel swimming pool (“Dad of the Year” Award went to me). After breakfast and a morning swim, I began moving suitcases from the hotel room back into the car to continue our new Tennessee adventure.

As I neared the car, I stepped on glass.

A thief had broken into it. The moment that thought registered, I felt instant frustration. Anger.

Then the anger led to confusion. I’d unpacked almost everything from the car the night before, so what could they have stolen?  What was missing? Even when I met with the police I couldn’t remember what was in the car that might’ve been taken.

But between Memphis and Nashville, it hit me–I’d left one bag in the car overnight. It contained a Ziploc bag, which held all the contents I’d taken from my bank’s safe deposit box– passports, birth certificates, SS cards, and even my wife’s most important jewelry was in the bag.

Most of those things were replaceable. Bu it was the next few items I remembered, that caused me to literally become sick.

Journals, my personal journals.  One recorded how God had been dealing with me the last two years, including the very important last six months as God called me from one church to the other.

But there were also other journals in the bag–gone. And those were the ones that caused me to grieve.

For each of my children, I’d started a journal. From the day of their first sonogram, I’d been writing in a journal that was just for them. I planned to give it to them when they moved from my home as adults.  Their journals were about them, my faith in God, my hope of their faith in God, their awesome mom, and other “dad needs you to know” stuff.

I could never replace that content. It was worth a lot more to me that anything else stolen from my car. The moment I realized the journals were gone, I was disheartened.

But I chose to journal again for my kids.

With the outset of a new journaling venture, I chose a new plan–a simpler plan for me to start from scratch. I purchased a nice, large leather journal, and its contents were for all four of my kids, one journal to be shared amongst them.

My entries are typically universal. I record what God is teaching me that I want them to know when they’re older. I brag on their mom and the daily sacrifices she makes for them. I write about the importance of manners, and of reading Scripture. I record significant moments in each of their lives, that each of their siblings will be able to celebrate with them as they read about it.

When my oldest child moves from my home, I plan for the journal to go on loan. It will be theirs to keep and read through until their next youngest sibling leaves home. Then they will pass it along. (I realize the journal could forever be lost in a college dorm room, but I’ve dealt with that loss before.)

For me, it’s a part of legacy-leaving. I’ve blogged before on how journaling serves me, how God has used it in my life. Now, I hope the discipline of journaling will allow my kids to remember some very important things (plus some funny things) about their lives and about the lives I believe God has for them.

Consider a journal for your children. You have a lot to say, and it can be a lasting legacy for your family.


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Why Ministers Don't Pray Well


Photo courtesy of iStockphoto®

The church I attended in college had a 24/7 prayer ministry. Hourly, four volunteers crammed into a small room with four cubicles and were available by phone to pray with anyone who called in.

I felt I should be a part of this. The only consistent time on a weekly basis for my one-hour slot was Thursday at 7:00 a.m. While this doesn’t sound terribly early now, it was to a college student.

Many times, I remember flying out of my chair when the phone in my cubicle would ring. While I was supposed to be praying though a list of needs, I would doze off and the sound of a phone four inches from your ear is quite startling. I could sleep during “prayer time” without causing much suspicion, but I could never effectively cover springing out of my chair to my “prayer partners” in the room.

At that life-stage, I was overwhelmed by a need for sleep. Now as a minister, I’m overwhelmed with the amount of matters to pray for on a consistent basis.

This feeling isn’t exclusive to ministers. No one can pray for everything that deserves attention. But a minister’s role has some unique pressures to pray comprehensively and well (my working definition of well: in the moment; not haphazardly; pleasing to God).

When I’ve become overwhelmed with prayer needs, I sometimes don’t pray at all. Or if I do, it lacks focus. In my frustration of feeling inadequate, a worse thing happens. Not only am I not interceding for others, but I miss my time in conversation with God altogether.

Recently I came up with a way to order my prayer life so I’d avoid being overwhelmed. My prayer life changes in seasons of my life, but this is serving my prayer life well now. I pray in buckets.

For each day of the week, I’ve drawn a bucket in my journal. In pencil, I write in each bucket some areas of intercession. I spread out the major areas of intercession into one of the seven buckets:

•             My wife and each of my children have a day.

•             Each of the ministry departments I help to oversee have a day. For each department, I pray for the staff in that department and unique items they may be dealing with.

•             Each day has a different pastor that’s important to me.

•             Ultimately, each day’s bucket has 4-6 topics (aforementioned groups, extended family members, those with illness, job loss, specific people I know who need Christ).

My bucket-praying assumes a few things:

1.            I’m confessing and expressing gratefulness to God as a part of every day’s prayer time.

2.            I’m not limited by buckets. I must remain obedient to whatever the Spirit brings to my mind or crisis that are time specific and not listed in a bucket.

3.            I’m engaging “whisper” prayer moments throughout the day when prompted.

If you’re overwhelmed in prayer, whether bucket-praying or not, I encourage you to find some solution to effective and consistent prayer.

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How Journaling Heartache Can Lead to Effective Pastoral Care

The morning of our fourth child’s birth, I was three weeks into a new city, new church, and new staff position. Before my wife went back for a C-section, three ministers from our new church came to pray with us.

They said they would stay. I remember saying, “It’s going to be fine. You all go home, and I’ll update you when she’s out.” They prayed and left.

The baby was born successfully. I left the room with our little girl, Blake, and went with the nurses for the weighing and bath in another room. While videoing the weight (as all proud dads do), I began to see changes in her.

The nurses began working frenetically. They asked me to leave the room. A lot more transpired, but bottom line: she had heart failure.

Within 30 minutes, she was en route to Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital. I left my wife in her hospital room and headed to where my new baby would be.

Upon entering the NICU, two doctors sat me down in a quiet room. I grabbed my notepad to take notes so I could relay the details to my wife over the phone. The doctor looked me in the eye and said, “Mr. Dodridge, it’s unlikely your child will survive.”

I put down my pen and notepad.

She spent the next 16 days on life support. Throughout that time, I wrote in my journal. I wrote down all the raw emotions, including anger and disappointment. I wrote my selfish desires, and I wrote pleading prayers to God.

All wired up day 2

Blake Jules, three days after birth

Through the power of God, His use of crazy awesome medical staff, and a life support called an ECMO, Blake is alive and has recently turned one year old.

But even in the 12 months since, I’ve reread my journal to gain perspective and learn from some broken moments. The journal entries have been a gift.

Since Blake’s ordeal, I’ve already been able to minister to families in our church who had infants on ECMO at the very same hospital. I don’t transpose my journaled feelings on them, but it gives me perspective while ministering. My journal entries give me vivid memories that allow empathy for others.

Other experiences I’ve written in my journal have served me in ministry as well—my hurt when we dealt with infertility, or my anxiety when awaiting news on whether the cancer was in my lymph nodes.

All these experiences have translated to a written record I can access, both to learn from my past and help others in my role as minister in times of crisis.

Journaling can be an ally in ministry and pastoral care.

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