With Pen in Hand, Jay Christianson


There are things in life that utterly amaze me!

Case in point? Some peoples’ handwriting.

No kidding.

Have you ever looked at the Declaration of Independence? Long, flowing, graceful lines of ink inscribed across the parchment. The appearance of the letters, the words, and the paragraphs are as much a work of art as the lofty and excellent ideas and arguments framed by those elements.

Who writes like that today? No, I’m not talking about the ideas. I’m talking about the writing style. With the advent of computers and texting, many people can barely write by hand, much less make it look like art. God bless the calligraphers!

The first church I served in pastoral ministry was led by Rev. Larry Freitag. He was (and still is) a very kind and devout man who had been in the ministry for years by the time I arrived. Many things about him impressed me. Yes, Larry was a good pastor and preacher, and even as a middle-aged grandfather, he could out-shingle a roof versus men half his age.

But an odd and wonderful thing about him that was etched in my mind was his handwriting.

Weird, huh?

The first time I saw it I was taken aback. Truly. I didn’t think anyone today could write in such sweeping, gracefully flowing lines. I could almost feel the ink flow from his pen to the paper. I’m not talking about a major historical document. It was just a simple note to someone. And his signature? Please, don’t get me started!

I was jealous.

My handwriting isn’t close to Pastor Larry’s. Not even in the same universe. Mine is choppy and messy with little scribbles over the occasional misspelling. It’s a strange mix of cursive and printing as if I can’t make up my mind about whether I’m addressing the President or a child. To be frank, I’ve surrendered. At this point, I’m happy with freestyling if I can get my point across.

I was taught to write with my thumb and index finger gripping the famous No. 2 pencil while supporting the instrument with the infamous middle finger under the instrument, not on it in a poor imitation of the index finger. Well, it didn’t stick. I soon got into the habit of grasping any writing instrument with three fingers and it really did affect my handwriting. (See? Habits do affect our lives no matter how small).

I appreciate fine writing instruments. It’s too bad my handwriting won’t do them justice. But even though my work is devoid of flourishes worthy of Pastor Larry’s Jedi-like skill, I still get the job done even if my lines belie the glory of the pen.

One of the worst parts of the handwriting issue was my mom scolding me. But I never changed. I just grew tired of her telling me “I was doing it wrong.” Well, according to her. However, with practice, my handwriting improved some over time. A few years back I found an elementary school assignment and some hastily scribbled notes from my early college years. Yup, big difference.

I seemed to have survived and contributed to God’s kingdom along the way regardless of how I held my pen and my faltering writing style. What’s important is that I picked up my pen and wrote.

I’ve written notes – love notes to my wife, lists for my memory, and links to other scriptures in the margin of my Bible so I could share God’s thoughts with others.

I’ve written near novels – my doctoral dissertation is two volumes and about 400 pages long.

All of them required picking up a writing instrument and getting to work.

Life with the Lord is a lot like this whole handwriting thing.

Many Christians have heard of the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30). In brief, this is how it goes.

A boss is going away on a trip and he entrusts his employees with various amounts of cash to handle while he’s gone. The amounts of cash are linked to their ability alone (25:15). The first guy has great ability, so he has a sizeable amount. The second guy has a modest ability and gets a modest amount. The last guy has a low ability and gets a low amount. The boss departs. When he returns, the boss calls his employees to present their return on his investment. The first guy gives a great return and gets a “Well done!” The second guy hands the boss a modest return and he, too, gets a “Well done!” The last guy? Well, regardless of his excuse, he has nothing to give to his boss. He didn’t do a dang thing with what he’d been given. Why? He didn’t lift a finger. The boss’ response?

“You’re fired!”

The boss wasn’t interested in his original cash grant. He was looking for what was produced with his grant. Producing nothing didn’t just lose the last fellow a commendation, he lost everything!

Our new life with the Lord after we’re saved, born-again, restored, and remade, is akin to my handwriting illustration. We’re given an exquisite gift, a fine instrument of a new life, and told to begin writing new lines in God’s history book.

Some of us can write novels. Some of us can just write notes.

Some of us expound with flourishes and sweeping strokes that would make Thomas Jefferson and world-renowned calligraphers jealous. Some of us mix cursive with printing. Some of us can barely make an “X.”

But we’re doing something with what we’ve been given and that’s just fine with the Lord because we’re doing it for Him and His glory.

So what if we’re new at this new life thing? Like practicing handwriting, we’ll improve with time.

Who cares how we “hold the pen?” as in how we live for Jesus. As long as we’re doing something with it that will bring a return to God, that’s great according to the Parable of the Talents! Some of us will always have ways of doing things that we learned early on that won’t hamper our work for Jesus. We’re not “doing it wrong,” we’re just doing it differently.

So what if your style of living life for the Lord is not my style of living life for the Lord? As long as we’re living His way, we can freestyle within the page margins of His will and still produce something He’ll appreciate and for which He’ll bless us. Yes, advice from others is good, but unless you’re a skilled forger, it’s nearly impossible to copy someone else’s style. Develop your own style.

And the more we practice, the better we’ll get.

What’s my point? Pick up the pen and start writing!

But what if someone criticizes or condemns me for how I write my life? Who cares? The only criticism and condemnation that matters are what we’ll hear from Jesus if we refuse to pick up the pen at all!

Yes, let’s admire those who are skilled at living for God and those who have effective ministries. But you are no less in God’s eyes than they if you’re writing alongside them, even if the lines of our life looks rudimentary by comparison.

You’re writing, and that’s what counts.

What’s better? Notes or novels? Here’s a tip. Writing a short love note on a scrap of paper can have a deeper impact than a well-crafted novel on reams of paper. It all depends on what someone needs to “read” at the moment.

As everyone’s handwriting is unique, so is what we scribe on the pages of this world, whether a note or a novel. And just imagine the immense library the Lord has filled with all His children have produced!

So although our reborn lives are akin to a Montegrappa Monopoly L.E. 85th Anniversary Gold – Rollerball pen at a cool $45,896.00 (on sale!) we can live the best we can for our Heavenly Father even though it may look like the scribblings of a second-grader. He’s pleased if we’re doing our best. No scolding. No “do it like that person.” No “You’re doing it wrong!”

Our starting point or ability level or style doesn’t matter. Take up your God-given instrument, that magnificent gift of a remade eternal life, and write! Leave your mark on the parchment of this world. Don’t write in the margins. Write boldly in the center of the page!

Mistakes? No worries! God blots out misspellings and allows us to overwrite mistakes.

So, what will you write for the Lord today?

Addendum: In honor of my mentor, here is a prime example of a man whose life writes beautifully for the Lord. Read more


Issachar Community

Check out this Week’s Sabbath Message!

Check out this Week’s News & Announcements!