My small group studied a book about the Christian Disciplines. Toward the end of the book we came to a chapter on the discipline of journaling. The chapter on journaling included two quotes of interest: John Calvin said, “Without knowledge of self there is no knowledge of God.” And Scripture says: “Let this be written for a future generation, that a people not yet created may praise the Lord.” Psalm 102:18 NIV
Journaling is not mentioned in the Bible but there are many examples of “journaling” in scripture, especially David and his Psalms. David wrote down his prayers, his laments, his confession, and his praise. What a legacy he left to help all seekers and Christians through the ages!
My small group knew I have a long time history of journaling and asked me to tell about it. This is what I told them.
I’ve kept many lists.
Pet Tales. One of my lists appeared on this blog near the beginning. I recounted the experiences of obtaining two white mice for our nine year old, two gerbils for our seven year old and a turtle for our five year old. The list recounts the trials that ensued in the early weeks of this. See Pet Tales here.
Days of Our Lives. From our marriage on I’ve kept a running list of major events in our lives including vacations – listing the dates, where we went, and who or what we saw. This is handy to look back at and recall when things happened.
Lists of Goals or Priorities. These were usually at the beginning of each year.
A Gratitude List. I began this when I read The Gratitude Journal which advocated writing down five things each day you’re thankful for. I did this for a year and discovered many blessings. It helped me be positive even on a difficult day. One experience of note I still remember. In a worship gathering I looked down at my red sweater and realized I love colors. I thanked God for colors right then and for days afterward.
Random Acts of Kindness. One Lenten season someone suggested that we could do a random act of kindness every day – instead of giving up something we could give something. I did this writing them down to be certain I kept at it.
Much of my journaling has been on scripture or a prayer and has been life changing.
Twelve Steps to Spiritual Growth. In 1992 my pastor did a sermon series on the 12 Steps. These steps are steps to spiritual healing. They were life changing for me. Of course I wrote it all down. And some years later I journaled the twelve steps again using the Life Recovery Bible.
Psalm 51. A Bible teacher suggested journaling Psalm 51 one phrase at a time during Lent. I did this and spent the forty days confessing sins new and old and seeking God’s forgiveness. I repeated this during lent this year. And it’s on my blog. Psalm 51 part 1 is here.
Commands of Jesus and the Promises of Jesus. At a week long conference the main speaker said she was on the remedial path in Christianity until she journaled the Commands of Jesus and the Promises of Jesus. I proceeded to do this and have posted some on my blog. See the Red Words in Scripture or the Commands of Jesus and the Promises of Jesus. Here's the first one.
Mostly I journal prayers to Father God about whatever is on my mind. Although he knows all it helps to put it into words and tell him about my yearnings, my trials big and small, my hopes and dreams and the daily activities of my life. This also gives me a reference for looking back to remember the past and to see patterns in my spiritual growth. Often I don’t know what I want to say until I take pen in hand. Sometimes when I pick up the pen I start to cry. I discover inner pain that I need to acknowledge.
How should you journal? Journal in whatever way fits you. I journal during my quiet time. I use a spiral hard bound journal. Some people like to journal on their computer. I write at least once a week and some times every day. I write a few words some times and a few pages other times. It’s best to journal at least weekly to establish the habit.
Journaling is therapeutic. In his book Opening Up, James W. Pennebaker, Ph.D. describes research on the therapeutic value of journaling. Three blogs on journaling start here.
Writing prayers is more than therapeutic. It connects you with the living God.
“Depend on the Lord in whatever you do, and your plans will succeed.” Proverbs 16:3