My Cloak, The Books, But Especially The Parchments...
When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, also the books, and above all the parchments.
Second Timothy 4:13
As a pastor I have the privilege of being invited by people into their lives where very few others are welcome. You would be forgiven for thinking that as a pastor I might consider that the answer to every dark night of the soul is to pray harder. But I have come to realise that God has not just made us "spirits", He has created us with hearts and minds that also play a role in our well being. This is why the aged Apostle wanted his cloak, his books and his parchments at the lowest point in his life.
Being literally in a dark place, Paul knew that this depression would not merely be resolved by prayer alone. There were physical issues to deal with. This is why he wanted his cloak. Sometimes we are so sleep-deprived that no matter many pills we pop, or prayers we pray, or shots we drink, our world still seems dark. Sometimes our diets are so full of preservatives and manufactured chemicals that no matter visits we make to our therapist, or chants we make with crossed legs, we are still in a dark place. Sometimes are down-times just need a warm, familiar "cloak" to help us to get some sleep in a damp, dark prison cell.
Then again, while we can get adequate sleep, eat the right kind of a balanced diet, and physically exercise, we must also guardour minds. Paul needed his books. So much of how we feel actually starts between our ears. What we allow into our minds nearly always determines our outlook on life. And the person who fills their mind with ungodly amusement (a= "no" + muse= "to think") and deprives their mind of God's Life-Giving Word, is likely to experience darkness of mind. In the midst Paul's darkness in his prison cell, he could needed his books. What books are you reading at the moment? Do the books you are currently reading cause you to muse ("think")? Good reading can stimulate a darkened mind. This is what John Bunyan found in the 17th century when he was imprisoned for preaching the Gospel. He had his books. It's how Dietrich Bonhoeffer staved off the darkness of his Nazi jail cell. He hadhis books. Good books have a way clearing the fog in our minds. Paul had physical needs that his cloak could satisfy. But while his cloak could warm his body, it could not fire up his mind like his books. If you're feeling down, read a good book. Start with your Bible. Read a Psalm each day. Get a copy of Tim Keller's, Prodigal God. It is a good book. Get an F.W. Boreham book. They are all good books.
But we humans are not just bodies with minds. We are also creatures of heart. This is why Paul wanted his parchments - those letters written to him. These parchments poured something into his heart. They were the sentiments from one heart to his heart. His cloak could warm his body. His books could warm his mind. But his parchments could warm his heart. We all have physical needs, intellectual needs, but especially emotional needs. We all needparchments to warm our hearts. I have two particular files. In one file I keep complaints written to me. This file is large and thick (although it stopped being enlarged a few years ago for reasons that I am tempted to go into now but must resist the temptation for a more appropriate ocassion). The other file is my encouragement file. It is quite thin and not very large. But its contents do immeasurably more than its larger thicker cousin. Yet I do not regard this file as my parchments. My parchments are at home. Some are in a special drawer and comprise of handmade Fathers' Day cards, birthday cards, the ocassional Christmas card, and love letters I have received (all from the same person).
If you are enjoying life and finding it easy to be excited about everything - you're probably someone who is physically well, intellectually stimulated and emotionally replenished. But if your're not in that place. Maybe you need someone to bring you your cloak, your books and parchments.
Ps. AndrewFather, I pray for those who are in a dark place at the moment, that they might experience physical wellness. Refresh them with sweet sleep, healthy food, and adequate shelter. May they also be blessed with challenging books to fill, renew, and challenge their minds to be able to give you glory. And Father, satisfy their aching hearts with a kind word, an accepting look, and an affirming touch, in Jesus' Name, Amen.Eph. 3:21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.