Sunday, 11 August 2013

Spiritual Discipline: Journaling

Spiritual Journaling can be very meaningful, and it can be very difficult. Why is journaling difficult? 
  • Anxious that someone will read the journal! 
  • Feeling that it’s too painful to go over a conflict or an issue!  
  • A disliking to write things down! 
  • Feeling obligated to write in it every day!

A Spiritual Journal (diary) is a book in which a Christian records the works and ways of God in their life. Other things in the journal include daily events, personal relationships, insights into Scripture, prayer requests. Quotations, interactions with readings, questions, poetry, memories – these are also acceptable journal subjects. There are some God-inspired journals in the Bible. Many psalms are records of David’s personal spiritual journey with the Lord. The journal of Jeremiah’s feelings about the fall of Jerusalem is the book of Lamentations.
Some observations about Spiritual Journaling:
  • Your journal is for you. 
  • Your journal clarifies the reality of your life. Seeing things in print brings a different perspective.
  • Your journal reminds you to live with authenticity and genuineness.
  • Your journal is your future reference.

Spiritual Journaling is not the mere recording of facts about the day’s events.  It is more than keeping a log or diary. 
Spiritual Journaling involves reflection and contemplation.  It record successes and failures, prayers, depression, and  other events and emotions in the lives of human beings who are  serious about living under the will of God.
Journaling can enable one both to remember and to clarify thoughts, feelings and ideas. How many times have you had a keen insight or a significant thought and then it occurred to you, “I really need to write that down”?  However, the idea, the feeling, the    thought was never written and has since been long forgotten.  Such ideas and impressions may forever be lost. 
Journaling can help one become aware of patterns of behavior.  Gordon MacDonald wrote concerning his practice of journaling: “At first it was difficult.  I felt self-conscious.  I was worried that I would lose the journal or that someone might peek inside to see what I’d said.  But slowly the self-consciousness began to fade, and I found myself sharing in the journal more and more of the thoughts that flooded my inner spirit. Into the journal went words describing my feelings, my fear and sense of weakness, my hopes, and my discoveries about where Christ was leading me.  When I felt empty or defeated, I talked about that too in the journal.  Slowly I began to realize that the journal was helping me come to grips with an enormous part of my inner person that I had never been fully honest about.   No longer could fears and struggles remain inside without definition. They were surfaced and confronted… (Gordon MacDonald, Ordering Your Private World, p. 131).
Journaling helps us see patterns that may be present in our lives. Are there recurring themes of anger, rationalization, and negative, destructive thought patterns? The purpose of discovering such a pattern is not simply self-exploration but the intersection of our lives with God’s redemptive work in our world.  Perhaps there are entries which reflect that you are offended and angry quite regularly.  As you read through the entries, ask yourself how a total stranger might perceive you upon reading the same entries. 
Journaling gives the opportunity to reflect upon the day and week in light of our faith.  Unfortunately, too many days and weeks are lived without reflection and thought.  Consequently, there may not be a real awareness of how faith is or is not being integrated into daily life.  So often weeks and months pass and there is not serious contemplation as to where we are in our spiritual journey. 
Keeping a journal allows a built-in time to review and examine the days and weeks in light of one’s faith in Jesus.
Journaling may give important insight about the state of one’s spiritual journey. Reading journal entries from several years back can give insight into the past, the present, and the future. During times of transition, travel, loss, joy, illness and decision making, journaling can provide a way of processing the hopes, fears, longings, angers and prayers of our heart.
Journaling helps maintain the other spiritual Disciplines.
Have a definite time each day for writing in the journal.
Select a journal that fits your preferences.
Write on a variety of topics.  The entries might be varied; after all, the journal is for the writer and not the writer for the journal.  In other words, make the journal useful to you.  You are not doing this for anyone else.
What kinds of things make good journal entries? Reflection on the events of the day and their meaning in light of one’s faith commitment.  Written prayers can help a person express to the Father some of the deepest longings of the heart.  A written prayer list can bring to the awareness the situations and people who weigh heavily on the writer’s heart.  Sins can be confessed and repentance offered before God.
Write freely, reflecting on the past and God’s intervention in life. 
Quotes & Reflections. From books, the daily newspaper, and other periodicals certain poignant quotes may jump out at you.  The quote can be copied as well as some reflection of how this quote interacts with your own thinking.
Absolute honesty is very important.  We write to reveal ourselves to the Lord. 
Summarize. Every month summarize the month’s entries noting key events and themes.
Continue to journal during the dry times. The novelty of journaling soon wears off. There will be days when you will have a spiritual version of ‘writer’s block’. At other times you just won’t have any insights from scriptures or your experience with God which seem noteworthy … plan for persistence.
In your journal, write some reflections on the following questions.
  • What are the distractions present in my life that keep me from a spiritual focus?     
  • What sin have I excused away? Why?   
  • What are some reasons that being a disciple of Jesus brings me great joy?
  • What is my favourite Scripture? After reading that Scripture, list the three most powerful words in that passage – the words that if removed would ruin the passage. Re-write that passage in your  own words. 
Spend 15 minutes reading Psalm 1. Read it slowly. Read it out loud. Read each verse a few times. In your imagination place yourself at a table with Jesus. Imagine that Jesus is saying this Psalm to you. Only after these exercises, write down four or five thoughts that come to mind about this Psalm.

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