Journal entry 030812: Knowing what’s important

Cyndi and I were in Mansfield, Texas, for Madden’s two-year birthday party, (Madden is our granddaughter who, unfortunately, lives with her mom and dad instead of living with us) and somehow, when we left their house Sunday morning to drive back home to Midland, I left my backpack in their kitchen. I didn’t notice it was missing until we got home and unloaded the car. Then I looked at my phone and saw Katie had already texted: “Your backpack is in my kitchen. I’ll send it tomorrow.”

When I first read Katie’s text I thought about how much it would cost to ship the pack and about calling and telling her to keep it until we came back to town. But we didn’t have any trips planned soon, so it could be months. Besides, Katie knew me well enough to know it was worth the money to ship it to me.

In fact, there is nothing fancy about the pack. It is a black JanSport book bag from Big 5 Sporting Goods that I’ve carried for at least five years. It shows the wear and tear of being overloaded and tossed Photo1repeatedly into the floorboard or the back seat of my pickup. I call it a backpack, which is accurate, but book bag would be a better descriptor.

So Thursday I went to the Airpark Post Office to pick up a big box containing my pack. It made me happy. Before leaving the post office I tweeted: “I left my backpack (journal, Daily Bible, Kindle), and Katie mailed it to me. What a great daughter. #knowsmewell.”

Once I had it back I decided to open it up and do a quick inventory. From the large back compartment: one Moleskine graph-paper journal for daily writing and occasional note taking; one zippered sleeve mesh bag holding a ½”-inch stack of partial essays and fragments of ideas waiting for an essay to join; one red ledger book that I also call a journal, but this one is for capturing wisdom in the form of quotes and lyrics and magazine excerpts; one book I’ve already finished reading, ‘Quitter,” by Jon Acuff, that I’m reviewing for writing prompts and ideas; and one Kindle Fire loaded with the recent Steve Jobs biography by Walter Isaacson.

Photo3In the middle compartment: one Daily Bible in Chronological Order, published by Harvest House, containing margin notes dating back to 1993 (While the Kindle was the only thing in the bag worth real money, this Bible would’ve been the hardest thing to replace). The middle section also held a giveaway copy of my latest book, Retreating With God.

In the larger of the small compartments: One bag containing sticky notes and 3x5 note cards and a plastic bottle of Elmer’s Glue (that I use occasionally to repair my Daily Bible); one black mesh zippered pencil bag stuffed full of blue and red and black Energel liquid gel pens, yellow highlighters, and a very cool fountain pen.

In the front compartment: One metal case containing a pair of reading glasses, 2.0 power, from Walgreen’s.

So, I know, who cares, right? It’s just a bag full of stuff, hardly worth writing about. Well, the only reason I cared was my personal investments in each item. I expect I could recall a story or two around each thing in the bag. And besides, how much of the stuff in our life, the stuff that adds value, is like the contents of my backpack – mostly worthless to anyone else but priceless to the owner?

Knowing what’s really important in life takes a lifetime to figure out. The closing lines from one of my favorite movies, Stranger Than Fiction, speaks to this: “Sometimes, when we lose ourselves in fear and despair, in routine and constancy, in hopelessness and tragedy, we can thank God for Bavarian sugar cookies. And, fortunately, when there aren't any cookies, we can still find reassurance in a familiar hand on our skin, or a kind and loving gesture, or subtle encouragement, or a loving embrace, or an offer of comfort, not to mention hospital gurneys and nose plugs, an uneaten Danish, soft-spoken secrets, and Fender Stratocasters, and maybe the occasional piece of fiction. And we must remember that all these things, the nuances, the anomalies, the subtleties, which we assume only accessorize our days, are effective for a much larger and nobler cause. They are here to save our lives.”

Another example? When some really smart people asked Jesus what was most important, Jesus replied, "Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence. And love others as well as you love yourself. "

The list of what’s important may be short, but learning what’s on the list is the most important lesson of life.


QUESTION: What important things do you carry and use daily?


“I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32

To learn about Berry’s books, “Running With God,” go to , or “Retreating With God,” go to ,… Follow Berry on Twitter at @berrysimpson or on Facebook … Contact Berry directly: … To post a comment or subscribe to this free journal: