I preached on Sunday about the Holy Habit of Spiritual Journaling.
Spiritual Journaling is a discipline that allows us to align our hearts, minds and daily interactions with the mind of Christ. I believe it works best if it is a true daily habit, like brushing your teeth. You don’t skip brushing because you are too busy, out of town or feel uninspired, right? Your Holy Habits should be the same, something you train yourself to do, no matter what. In so doing, you are putting yourself where God can more easily reach you.
I made a decision about ten years ago to put something on the page every day. God has used that decision to bless me and change me. After the decision, I had to carve out a place and time: for me it is early morning, in my red chair. I keep my journal and devotional books in a bag beside my chair, convenient to me and also packaged “to-go” for travel, an early morning meeting or should I find myself in a waiting place.
When I journal, I do the same thing every day. For me it is a template that adds ritual and routine to my daily habit.
I write the date and year.
I report in on how I slept. I don’t know why, I just like to record that.
I reflect on the day before. Most of us live at too fast of a pace to reflect much. I find that recording the events of the prior day and how I felt about them allows me the time and space to prayerfully remember the day that just passed.
Then, I reflect on the day ahead. I pray for difficult or emotional parts of the day to come. I look at my schedule. Is it too full? Do I need to move something or allow more space?
Next, I engage in Spiritual Reading and Scripture Reading (both Spiritual Disciplines as well). I read things I like that are personal, short, daily devotionals. I am using Jesus Calling now for the fifth year in a row along with two other resources. I just read and write down what speaks to me. If several things speak to me, I ask, “What are these readings and scriptures trying to teach me today?”
I write a prayer to God. It is not a fancy “church prayer”. It is a from-the-heart simple prayer, thanking God, lifting up people I love, allowing people to come to mind. It is usually just whatever is on my heart.
Lastly, I sometimes do a listening exercise. I do not know if I learned this from someone else or made it up on my own. I simply ask God for a word. I write in my journal: God? A Word? Then I listen. Every time I ever do this, I believe there will not be a word. Every time I do it, there are multiple words that come to mind. I don’t judge the words. I just write them. If a word comes to me twice, I underline it; three times, I circle it. Here’s an example of the last words that came to me when I did this listening to God exercise:
Peace, Rest, Relax, Allow My Spirit to work, Trust Me, Hope
The time before that: Shine for Me, Allow Me, Trust, Have peace, Be Cindy, Give grace
Can you see how repetitive and helpful it is just to listen? How reassuring and calming? Can you see how simple and succinct God seems to be?
Imagine engaging in this simple listening journal exercise over days, months, years. I wonder what you would hear God whisper?
I write by hand in cute, lined journals with colorful pens. Guys, there are masculine journals out there for you. Beautiful journals and colorful pens are fun and attractive to me and make me want to write. It is okay for you to design a Spiritual Discipline to be something that you like. If you write more freely on a computer, do that.
Last point, make sure to re-read your journal. You may think, “I don’t need to read it, I wrote it.” But you do. Re-read your journal after you fill the whole thing. Write down themes, answered prayers, notice what it is you are devoting page after page to, pay attention to the dreams that are emerging. (I’ve dealt with several things in my life simply because it was embarrassing to me how much paper I devoted to certain issues). I just re-read a journal I started in the fall and finished after the holidays. I wrote down five important things I learned just from that one re-reading.
I keep my to-do list beside me. If a distracting thought comes across my mind during my journaling time, I write it on my to-do list and let it go. I also keep my cell phone nearby. If someone comes to mind that I’m praying for, I can text that right then.
God wants to reach us. God will reach us through nature, art, music, people, events, things we read, burning bushes, rainbows in the sky…the list goes on and on. God reached me through journaling. I am so grateful.