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A Special, Unexpected Gift

I got quite a surprise the other night, an unexpected gift from the faculty, staff, and students of the Christian school, one of the ministry outreaches of our church. It was meant to be “a token of appreciation,” but it was much more than a mere token in my thinking. It was a special gift that holds great hidden meanings for me.

The administrator had approached me in the summer of last school year about my presenting some workshops for their teacher in-service week that year. Surprised but willing to be of use, I accepted. During the ensuing conversation about their theme for the year, possible topics, time allotments, media availability, etc., she asked if I would also be willing to speak in the weekly chapel program for the junior-high/high school students. Even more surprised, I accepted that opportunity and then learned that it was a regular, second-Wednesday-of-every-month responsibility. I viewed it as an honor and a challenge and was willing to be of help.

Near the end of that school year, the administrator again approached me. “Would you be the speaker for our Junior-Senior Banquet?”

Boy! I thought. These people are gluttons for punishment! Haven’t they heard enough from me already? But I humbly accepted. And when the night rolled around, I delivered the speech.

Then came the summer. And the administrator again asked if I would present workshops for their teacher in-service sessions. She also just happened to mention that I was still “on the schedule” to speak in chapel for the upcoming school year. Again I accepted, and I’ve continued giving the chapel message every second Wednesday this year. I’ve studied, prepared, and presented, never expecting anything in return, just happy to be able to serve as long as they can put up with me, and never really knowing what, if anything, has come from my labors. After all, a servant just follows instructions, does his job as well as he can, and doesn’t worry about results. As Stonewall Jackson famously said, “Duty is ours; consequences are God’s.” As the servants of which Jesus spoke, we are just “unprofitable servants.” We have done what was expected of us.

A few nights ago, after the service, our pastor approached me, holding out a black box and saying, “Here’s just a little token of our appreciation for all you’ve done for us.”

When I got home, I found inside a leather journal. As I examined it, I realized that it is a tangible symbol of the very things that have motivated me over the years and make me cast an expectant eye toward the future.

It reminds me of my avid interest in history. It is made the old-fashioned way: genuine, all-natural leather with a long leather strap attached to the opening flap to be wrapped around the volume several times to secure it; hand-sewn/bound pages arranged in five folios; and thick, lined, and yellowed pages that give the impression of age.

  1. It reminds me of my calling to write. Its lined pages wait expectantly for me to compose the entries, recording my daily thoughts and actions, lessons learned, impressions gained, plans for the future. (I almost feel as though I should be using a quill pen to write them!) And, although it’s a journal, a repository of personal thoughts intended for my eyes only, I think of the many similar private journals that people of yesteryear kept but that we historians now examine. What family

member, or maybe even a total stranger, will read what I record in this journal long after I’m gone?

  1. It reminds me of my need for regular, daily communion with God through His Word and prayer. In one top corner of each page is a place for the day’s date, suggesting not so subtly the daily expectation. The opportunity. The possibilities. Its blank lines are where I will record the lessons I learn and the impressions I receive from those devotional times.

Yes, this journal is a special gift. Little did the givers know how perfectly chosen their little token is for me! I can only be grateful and pledge myself to further usefulness wherever God shall choose for me.

What special gifts have you received? Are you making use of them?

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