On Notebooks

By Matt Scheffer

I recently heard a talk from a lovely man on obedience of the Holy Spirit. He described
the first act of Jesus’ ministry, when Jesus was at a wedding and his mum pointed out there
wasn’t any wine left. She grabbed some servants and told them, “Do whatever he tells you to
do.” Jesus sent some wine over to the master of the party, and, upon tasting it, he said, “You’ve
saved the best for last.”

A mentor of mine has been telling me a lot recently about what it means to experience
contentment with God. He describes it like a day spent hiking up a long way, ending with setting
up camp and starting a fire. He said, “Imagine sitting next to the fire, and you’re right next to
God. You don’t have to say anything; you just sit next to each other and enjoy each other’s
presence.” I’ve heard a few times that you’re most comfortable with the people who you don’t
have to search for words with. Obedience is kind of like that: “He makes me lay down in green
pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters.”

A little while ago, I accidentally ordered a Moleskin notebook that was a little too small
for what I needed it for, however I realized it fit well in my front pocket. Eventually I started
carrying around a pen, and now I always have both with me. My notebook has showed me
some things about obeying God through planning, empathizing with people, listening to the
Spirit, and rest that I want to share with you.

This morning, a program on NPR cited a study that said you’re 49% more likely to follow
through with plans you write down. I run a few times a week with a great friend of mine, and
she’s told me stories about how her father would sit down each morning and write a list of
everything he wanted to accomplish that day. For the past year, I’ve tried the same. There’s
something powerful about birthing your ideas onto a page; seeing a living, existing thing in front
of you that once lived in your psyche is a power towards accomplishing your callings in life.

One of the best part about notebooks, though, are that they are completely useless if not
used. The creative process involves creating something out of nothing, and the practice couldn’t
be more true with a blank page. I’m a fan of Agnes Martin, a mid century artist from Canada. If
you’ve ever seen her work, especially Untitled #12, it’s characteristic of a notebook’s page. The
lines she drew on her canvases showed such restraint with the space left in between, and most
of her pieces invite imagination of clarity and tranquility. A notebook’s pages are similar, in that
they exist for that which you use them for. Creativity lives in the freedom to take risks, and
there’s no greater risk than to put into existence something that didn’t exist before.

Notebooks are a social good. I was convicted at a conference I went to last year; one of
the talks I listened to was on being present in the moment with people you speak with, and I am
the worst around with accomplishing that. The guy talking said that one part of being present
with others is to remember the details. A world where we invest in each other’s details is one
with less misunderstandings, and more times learning from one another. The habit of writing
down things other people suggest has been invaluable in my life, and I would guess it could be
in yours as well. When you follow up with details others describe, there’s a connection of
empathy between you both. Out of empathy comes understanding, out of understanding,
compassion.

Most of the books you might have read have been from ordinary people writing down
their extraordinary thoughts. Great works that change us today sometimes have their
beginnings on the pages of a notebook. Your thoughts are gifts; Jesus spent much of his time in
the quiet, with God, praying about his purpose here. The things we do are because of our
purposes in life, or the roles & goals we have. You are unique in your experience, passion, and
gifts; communing with God and obeying the Spirit in the things you’re lead to do allow you to
walk the way God has for you. Sometimes, a notebook is a plane for the Spirit to exist on like
this, or a field for your mind to elate with God in.
Notebooks are not the answer, but the medium on which your own questions and
answers are processed on. Like a brush to the painter, or the kettle for when making your
morning coffee, it paves the path on the way to a greater purpose. Consider your purpose; what
calling is the Spirit whispering to you today? Write them down on a page in a poem; a list; a
single thought; if you wish, and see where God takes you.

Matt Scheffer lives near Chicago in the U.S., and loves learning about any story he can get his hands on, whether it’s through photographing or making coffee for people. He has many small black notebooks he’s filled up with the best of what he’s heard others say, as well as the things he thinks of when he least expects to think of them. He loves Chicago, but loves London even more and can’t wait for the day he can sweat on the Tube in the Summer again.