Every pilgrim needs a notebook

Hebrews 11: 8: “He set out, not knowing where he was going.”

Parker Palmer: “From our first day in school, we are taught to listen to everything and everyone but ourselves.”

Hardy Clemons: “Treat your journal as a sacred object.”

An important part of my life and travel is keeping a record of where I have been, when I was there, and what happened. My first international trip was to the Holy Land, and the pilgrims in our group were given a small “Travel Diary” as a keepsake. We were encouraged to add our own notes. From December 26, 1985 until early January 1986, my friend Marion “Fuzzy” Thompson and I toured the sacred sites of our Christian heritage. We also saw important Jewish and Muslim sites, e.g., the Dome of the Rock and Masada. It was a life-changing trip. However, my journal notes were, at best, rudimentary.

Later, two of our congregation’s members, Bob and Mary Knox, gave me “A Traveler’s Journal” in which I kept notes during our family’s six-week pastoral exchange in England (with a week in Scotland) in the summer of 1992. Sally, Jenna (age 17), Julie (age 9) and I had the trip of a lifetime and I kept a written record of our activities every day! Better than pictures!

I have maintained two kinds of journals over the years. One is the travelogue or “Dear Diary” type of account, recording where I went, who I saw, what I was thinking. I have kept these documents in half-year and yearlong increments in important or transitional times of my life, e.g., when I changed jobs, when I retired, when my best friend died. Sometimes I bore myself, and other times I gather my thoughts and have an “Aha” moment.

The other journal is very different. I have kept it vigilantly when I am being intentional about growing as a human being, about changing particular habits. No rambling here. I am trying to alter long-held behavior. In these documents (contained now in ten three-ring binders—I had a lot to change!), I set goals, record motivational quotations, challenge and encourage myself and hold myself accountable. These particular journals are designed for my evolution as a human being, getting unstuck from adolescent habits and attitudes. These journals are not organized chronologically but according to subject (sin and grace, feelings, finances, anger, learning to listen).

These are very different documents with very different purposes. Both are important in my pilgrimage. While recording the past and the present, they seem always to be pushing me toward some new idea or new place.

Marion Aldridge

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About the Author
Marion D. Aldridge is a popular preacher, public speaker, workshop leader and an award-winning writer. Author of numerous books and hundreds of articles on topics ranging from religion to sports to travel, Aldridge’s interests are wildly eclectic. Aldridge has invested a lifetime in discovering what it means to be a citizen and participant in God’s wonderful world. Aldridge is at home whether having High Tea at Harrods or rafting on the Chattooga or worshiping at our planet’s holiest shrines.

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