The voice came over the telephone: "We are conducting a series of chapel talks in our academy on the subject of determination and perseverance. For next week we would like to have the theme 'Overcoming Handicaps' presented, and we would appreciate it very much if you would be our speaker for that hour."
Overcoming handicaps! Now, I have many sermons on many subjects, but I have never given a talk on overcoming handicaps. But here is the invitation and I must accept. I come into my study, and picking up the index to my files, I look under "Determination, perseverance," and find that the subject of handicaps and difficulties is incorporated in that folder, and that it is bulging with material articles, illustrations, poems, quotations, seed thoughts from the Youth's Instructor, the Church Officers' Gazette (now MV Kit and Go), the Reader's Digest, Sunshine magazine, the Review and Herald, several colporteur bulletins, a long-for gotten article I had written, a newspaper clip ping or two, and notes referring me to several books in my library. I find too that there are related folders in the files on discouragement, character, self-improvement, and self-reliance. These will doubtless yield some good ideas for my talk.
Those files! those precious files! How grateful I am that material had been gathered and filed through the years. I started with an orange crate, and now have four cabinets!
As ministers today, we are blessed with a great variety, volume, and quality of material aids for our spiritual ministration. We read a great deal, but we forget quickly, and unless this material is cataloged and easy of access, it is of little value in our future years. There are many and varied types of filing systems which may be purchased or devised; however, I have used a system that is patterned after the majority of office subject files. I find it is not complicated, but simple and time saving.
A little over five years ago the index to my subject files was placed in THE MINISTRY. Since such files are constantly changing, this revised and enlarged index is now being submitted, with subjects that received little use having been withdrawn. It should be understood that this is not a file of sermons, but is a means of cataloging material by subject for easy reference.
The legal-size filing cabinet has proved more satisfactory than the standard, for the material of some periodicals is too long and the edges become ragged. I use the regular three-position Manila filing folders. As the file grows, additional folders may be required to accommodate a single subject, but it is well to keep the material fresh removing old-fashioned and out dated articles from time to time, so that the files do not become mere storage vaults.
Now a word of explanation to clarify certain points regarding the list itself. You will note certain items in parentheses after a subject. This aids one to know what branches of the topic are classified under that heading. When such a subject as "Armageddon (see Eastern question)" is listed, it means there is no folder with the title of Armageddon. The folder on the Eastern question includes Armageddon. This prevents duplication of subjects similar in thought.
It is wise to take two subscriptions to your favorite periodicals, so that clipping may be .done without cutting into another article on the other side which you might wish to save.
Of course, one would not wish to save everything pertaining to a certain subject. For instance, volumes are written every year on Daniel 2. The main outline of this theme is usually somewhat similar; however, if there is a new approach, a different appeal, or added historical information, it could be lifted out of the main article. Thus you would save space and duplication in the files. Always remember to record the author, name of periodical, and date.
I have found it handy to clip this index from THE MINISTRY and paste it inside a Manila folder for easy reference.
I want to pay a tribute to my wife, who through the years has faithfully read and clipped much of the material for our files. It is my hope that your files will grow and be in constant service for the Master, and that you may receive the same joy and satisfaction in using them that I have found in mine.
INDEX TO SUBJECT FILES
ANDREW C. FEARING
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