On Journaling

PVBCC Spring Women's Conference 2012:
Journaling: A Legacy of Love

Let's open with prayer:

Heavenly Father, we ask your blessing upon our time together this day. May You be with us, guiding and directing us as we seek to honor You this day, as we desire to leave a legacy of our love of You. Bless us and help us this day as we grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ, this day and always. Amen.

Whether we consider ourselves professional writers or mere scribblers or complete newbies to writing, the art of journal writing can bring us much closer to the heart of Christ our Lord.

The word journal comes from the old French for “daily.” Thus, a journal is a book (or other mode) of writing daily (or at least weekly) on many possible topics.

Now I am a journal-a-holic. I started keeping a journal in ninth grade when my parents gave me a little diary in my Christmas stocking. I wrote daily in journals like these throughout most of high school.

And I have to write with a special pen. Over the years I've found that writing with a pencil smears horribly and years later becomes difficult to read. Because of my rheumatoid arthritis, writing can become quite painful with the wrong pen. So I write with a Waterman fountain pen, using handy cartridges so that I can write in lovely green ink.

And even now I have so many journals that I have trouble keeping track of them all.

I have the normal Diary Journal in which I write once or twice a week and chronicle the events of our family's life and my own thoughts. After high school I gave up on the idea of writing in my journal daily. Right now I'm doing well to write in it weekly. I have a set time to write each week: during my son's guitar lesson. So to the strains of halting praise music and some oldies rock 'n' roll, I scribble away, usually filling several pages before they start packing away the electric guitars.

Having a set time to write each week helps me to be consistent in jotting down my thoughts, my plans, and the events in our family that I wish to remember. Having a set time to journal is one of the best pieces of advice that I can offer to those of you who want to begin keeping a journal.

Then I have a Quotation Journal which I started keeping in August of 2001, before our family moved here to Pine Valley. So I've been keeping this journal for over ten years, and it's very nearly filled. In this journal I have copied Scripture verses that have spoken to me, song lyrics and bits and pieces of poems that drew me in, plus quotations I run across in reading blogs, website, or books. A very few books have several pages devoted to them:

My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers has the most pages devoted to it, after the Bible, of course.

The Cloister Walk by Kathleen Norris

Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith by Anne Lamott has several pages of quotations

Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller

and I also have multiple pages devoted to Saint John Chrysostom, Thomas Merton, Emily Dickinson, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and Henri Nouwen.

I have sections I looked up online on poetry, art, literature, prayer, marriage, Picasso, Thanksgiving, Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter.

Some quotations are humorous:

“There's nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein.”-- Walter Wellesley “Red” Smith

“I just got out of the hospital. I was in a speed-reading accident. I hit a bookmark.” --Steven Wright

“If the doctor told me I had only six minutes to live, I'd type faster.” --Isaac Asimov

“There's never enough time to do all the nothing you want.” --Calvin & Hobbes

“I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.” --Douglas Adams

“Always forgive your enemies—nothing annoys them more.” --Oscar Wilde

Most quotations I've collected are serious and usually inspirational:

“Faith is reason grown courageous.” --Sherwood Eddy

“Prayer is exhaling the spirit of man and inhaling the spirit of God.” --Edwin Keith

“Do not aspire to be called holy before you really are, but first be holy that you may more truly be called so.” --Saint Benedict

“Laughter is carbonated holiness.” --Anne Lamott

“What a happy and holy fashion it is that those who love one another should rest on the same pillow.” --Nathaniel Hawthorne

“Most collectors collect tangibles. As a quotation collector, I collect wisdom, life, invisible beauty, souls alive in ink.” --Terri Guillemets

And the best thing about collecting quotations? For the price of an inexpensive journal, we can collect all we want for next to nothing, yet be able to share the riches we've discovered with many. Passing along a relevant quotation to a friend in a note or e-mail or posting an inspirational quote on a blog or Facebook passes the joy and the wisdom (and sometimes even the laughter) around. Quotations are easily collected, easily shared, and can make our own or someone else's day.

One of the best sources of online quotations is The Quote Garden (www.quotegarden.com).

So we can have normal “diary-like” journals and quotation journals. What other kinds of journals can we have?

We can have a “God Journal” in which we speak to God and wrestle with His Word. A God Journal is written directly to God. In it we can pour out our hearts to our Lord—all of our joys and sorrows, all of our thanksgivings and fears. We have to remember that we can write anything to our God; He can take it.

Jonathan Swift writes, “Complaint is the largest tribute heaven receives and the sincerest part of our devotion.”

Just look at the Psalms. David really grieves over his sin, runs in fear from his enemies, rejoices when he triumphs, and complains A LOT. An awful lot.

Psalm 51: 1-4
Have mercy upon me, O God,
according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
and cleanse me from my sin.
For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is ever before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight.

Psalm 55: 1-2; 4-5
Give ear to my prayer, O God,
and hide not yourself from my plea for mercy.
Attend to me and answer me;
I am restless in my complaint and I moan.
My heart is in anguish within me;
the terrors of death have fallen upon me.
Fear and trembling have come upon me,
and horror overwhelms me.


Psalm 62: 6-9For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence,
for my hope is from him.
He only is my rock and my salvation,
my fortress; I shall not be shaken.
On God rests my salvation and my glory;
my mighty rock, my refuge is God.
Trust in him at all times, O people;
pour out your heart before him;
God is a refuge for us.

So as David, “a man after God's own heart,” encourages us to “pour out our hearts before” God, so we can do so in our journals. David complains, laments, fears, yet trusts, and we do the same. Writing down these honest thoughts to God in our journals allows us to release our lives into His keeping and also brings us a sense of relief and lightness as we shift our burdens from our shoulders to His.

So, in a God Journal, we can pour out our hearts and souls to God, knowing that He is listening and that He is faithful.

Some may ask, “Well, why not just pray?” Well, writing in a God Journal IS PRAYING; it's just praying on paper. And the act of writing, whether we're writing by hand in a journal or in a document on our computers or even in a note on our smart phones, slows down our thought processes, makes us dot our “i”'s and cross our “t”'s, allowing us to think more slowly and more clearly about exactly which words we want to use, which thoughts we want to express and precisely how we wish to express them.

In our fast-paced society, slowing down our prayer to the speed of our penmanship or typing skills is a good thing; we think more deeply, more keenly. And goodness knows how badly we need to do that in our instant-gratification society. Slow is GOOD. Slow brings us into His Presence in a more real way than ever. Slow helps us to meditate and think as we ponder all that we're pouring out before God in our journals.

And because slowness of writing brings us into a deeper level of thought, we can also use a God Journal to meditate on Scripture. We can copy down a verse or a few verses, and we can mull it over on paper informally, praying to God before we begin and then writing down what He reveals to us as we meditate.

There is also an ancient mode of written meditation that has been around for centuries called Lectio Divina which is Latin for “Divine or Godly Reading.”

Although Lectio Divina was first used in the Catholic Church, over the past ten years, many Protestants, and even Evangelical Protestants, have taken up this ancient mode of Bible study and meditation.

Many excellent books on the subject of Lectio Divina are available; just do an Amazon search and you'll turn up dozens of books on the subject. But my favorite book on Lectio Divina is called Eat This Book by Eugene Peterson, the man who published The Message translation of The Bible. Eugene Peterson has also published a New Testament version of The Message set up specifically for Lectio Divina study called The Message Solo: New Testament.

There are four basic steps in Lectio Divina:
Lectio – reading the Scriptures
Meditatio – meditating on the Scriptures
Oratio – praying the Scriptures
Contemplatio – contemplating and living the Scriptures

In Eat This Book, Eugene Peterson writes, “Lectio divina is a way of reading that becomes a way of living” (91). He continues, “...all our reading of Scripture must develop into a hearing of the word of God” (92).

I have a handout for you on how to meditate through the Scriptures via a simplified application of Lectio Divina that I've taught at other retreats. Let's go over how to use this method of Bible study in journaling:


WHY meditate on Scripture?

We can read the Bible but still forget it. We can study it but misunderstand the meaning. We can even memorize Scripture but make incorrect applications. However, meditation through Lectio Divina enables us to accurately move God’s Word from our heads to our hearts.

WHAT characterizes Biblical meditation, also known as Lectio Divina?

Chewing: Meditation is like a cow chewing her cud. She brings up previously digested food for renewed grinding. Similarly, Lectio Divina is “chewing” on Biblical thoughts deliberately and thoroughly, mulling them over in our minds and our hearts through journaling.

Analyzing: Lectio Divina is the art of taking a good, long look at a portion of Scripture the way a craftsman gazes at a dazzling jewel. He turns the stone from angle to angle, polishing the diamond to reflect all possible light and beauty.

HOW should I meditate?

Set aside some unhurried time, half an hour to an hour ideally. Also, give God the best time of your day, not the dregs. Choose a place that affords you reasonable solitude and quiet, if possible. Give yourself permission to be unavailable to others in order to be fully available to God. Ignore your e-mail and Facebook. Turn off your cell phone. Settle yourself comfortably; be relaxed but alert.

Pray before you start meditating, asking God for His presence and the ability to hear Him. Read a chapter or selection of Scripture once aloud. Go back after reading it and select the verse or verses (5-10 verses at most) that “spoke to you” the most. Then copy your chosen verse(s) into your journal. Read the verse(s) aloud or in a whisper once more after you've written it down. Meditate on your chosen verse(s) using the following steps, with each vowel of the alphabet as a reminder for each step:

A Ask questions about the passage.

E Emphasize various words

I In your own words (paraphrase)

O Other passages (cross-references)

U Use the passage (application)

ASK: After you have copied the verse(s) into your God Journal, read the passage slowly out loud, pausing between phrases and sentences, asking yourself who, what, when, where, why, and how questions about it. For example, Isaiah 26:3 reads, “You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in You.” You could ask, “To whom does God give perfect peace?” “What attitude toward God do I need to have in my mind?” and “Why does God provide this perfect peace?” Write these questions in your journal below the verse(s) you copied. Meditate on the verse(s) again and jot down any answers God has revealed to you.

EMPHASIZE: Let the words of Scripture echo and resonate in your mind. If a word or phrase seems especially significant to you, remain with it, turning it over in your mind and heart. Underline it or highlight it in your journal. Ruminate on it. Here is a word meant for your ears, directly from God. Consider what God is trying to say to you through this word or phrase.

Write down any thoughts that come to you about this word or phrase, about the chosen verse(s), or about the entire chapter/selection as a whole.

For Isaiah 26:3, God could emphasize one of these words to you so you can ruminate on their implications: “keep,” “perfect peace,” “steadfast,” “trust.” Or it could be a phrase that God is emphasizing to you: “him whose mind is steadfast.” You can therefore ask God, “Is my mind steadfast? How? How not?” Write down these questions or thoughts.

IN your own words: Exciting insights come from rewriting a verse or passage in your own words. You could paraphrase Isaiah 26:3 this way: “You promise freedom from worry to the person who trusts you completely without any doubts in her mind.” Rewrite the verse(s) in your own words.

Then take the time to stop and pray your verse(s) in your own words, letting God's Word sink into your very soul and speak to you there.

OTHER passages: Try to think of or look up other passages that relate directly to the meaning of the verse(s) you are meditating on. For Isaiah 26:3, you might think of 1 Peter 5:7: “Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.” Write down these cross-references, either just the citation (Psalm 51:2) or the entire verse if you're truly ambitious. How do these additional verses color your interpretation of your selected verse(s)? Write down your observations.

USE the passage: Prayerfully ask God how this passage relates to your own circumstances. Again considering Isaiah 26:3, ask God, “What does it mean to have perfect peace? I am experiencing perfect peace today?” Write down any questions and thoughts that occur to you as you seek to apply the verse(s) to your life at this time.

Then take time to write in your journal any additional thoughts, revelations, applications, etc., that you have realized during this meditation exercise.

If you like, you may write a prayer at the end, thanking God for revealing His Word to you and asking for His help as you seek to apply His Word to your life.

You may even get truly creative and draw/sketch in your journal as a response to your Lectio Divina meditation.

(Adapted from “A Primer for Meditation” (NavPress), Discipleship Journal, Issue 6, 1981, p. 40, and Soul Feast: An Invitation to the Christian Spiritual Life by Marjorie J. Thompson, 1995, pp. 25-27.)

A Retreat Journal can be very helpful in keeping all the notes, prayers, and thoughts from retreats you've attended in one place. A Retreat Journal may contain Quiet Time journaling you've done at retreats, the notes from special speaker presentations, prayer requests and prayers.

My Retreat Journal was created at a contemplative retreat I led here at the Bible Camp for my church in 2006, and I've used it every year since for retreat speaker notes, small group questions and notes, prayer requests from the women in my small groups or for the speaker, etc.; I added to it extensively this past weekend when my church had their retreat in Windfield Hall.

We made these journals from those inexpensive composition books that you can get at WalMart or anywhere; if you purchase them in August or September at “back to school” time, you can find the composition books for less than a dollar apiece. We covered them with wallpaper samples, magazine photos, scrapbooking papers which can be bought inexpensively at Michael's or Joann's, etc., gluing the materials on the front and back of the composition books, then gluing a piece of matching ribbon inside each cover to tie the journal shut. We all did this on the first night of the three-day retreat, and thus we had retreat journals to use all weekend, and I've continued to use mine ever since. I added to it just last weekend when our church held its annual ladies' retreat.

A Worship Journal can be helpful in keeping the notes from all sermons and Bible studies in one place for easy review. Take a Worship Journal with you to church to jot down points you wish to remember from sermons each week, homework from any Bible studies, lyrics to worship songs, prayer requests from friends or fellow church members, etc. I now use my Kindle to take notes directly in my ESV Bible.

And a Worship Journal leads into the all-important Prayer Journal. I keep mine on my Kindle as a PDF, but a paper journal works well, too. So a Prayer Journal allows us to track our prayer requests and answers to prayer. You may organize your prayers chronologically, or in the order in which you jot down the request, or you may organize the prayer requests by type of request: prayers for healing, prayers for the unemployed and job needs, prayers for families and/or marriages, prayers for relationships, prayers for salvation.

If you're keeping your Prayer Journal in a paper journal, I suggest skipping lines after each request so that you will have space to jot down answers to prayers.

Another more public way to journal is via a blog. A blog—which is a contraction of “web log”—is a private or public journal written online. We can keep a blog very private by only inviting certain people (family, close friends, etc.) or we can just write for anyone/everyone to read. A blog can be devoted to a single topic, such as home schooling, photography (365 blogs—“a photo a day” blogs—are very popular), writing, faith, theology, cooking, home management, raising children, etc. Or a blog may be devoted to LIFE, which, in the case of my blog which I've written for the past 5 1/2 years, may include postings on: faith, observing the Church Year, movie and book reviews, quotations, photography, home schooling, small town life, poetry, and on and on.

I'll be speaking more specifically about blogging and how we can reach the world for Christ via blogging in the late afternoon workshops; we'll be meeting right here in this same room.

A Creative Journal can also be a fun way to track our more creative sides. Some people, like me, use creative journals for scribbling down first and subsequent drafts of poems, story ideas or drafts, character sketches, descriptions, even a few quotations here and there. Then I recopy my completed poems into a second Poetry Journal that then houses my final drafts of poems.

Other journal-ers may decide to keep an Sketching Journal, usually on unlined paper, for sketches and drawings of various sorts. A Sketching Journal may contain preliminary sketches of clothing designs, interior design schemes, animation ideas, picturesque sketches, portrait sketches, etc.

Last but not least is a Gratitude Journal . I discovered the idea of tracking gifts from God via Ann Voskamp's absolutely gorgeous blog, A Holy Experience. At the beginning of each week, she hosts a “Multitude Monday” in which we list God's gifts over the last week. These are not long-drawn out entries; they are simply lists of phrases—just a few words each—that remind us of God's glory on a daily basis. So on “Multitude Mondays,” we list on our blogs a dozen or so gifts we've noticed straight from the hand of God, then we link our blog posts to Ann's blog so that we can read one anothers' gifts. Ann's idea is to reach One Thousand Gifts, which is also the title of her bestselling book released last year.

So in December of 2009, I started cataloging my journey to 1000 gifts; I've reached 620 so far. Here are just a few so you get the idea of this kind of journaling:


Of course, the writer in me wants to keep on describing each gift and write an entire paragraph for each entry, but Ann's poetic conciseness impels me to keep it short and pithy.

For this year, 2012, Ann has issued a Joy Dare – reaching 1000 gifts during the course of this year alone. How are we to do so? Well, the math is really quite simple. To record 1000 gifts in 365 days, we need to jot down three gifts per day.

Sounds simple enough. But Ann has made the process even simpler: each month she posts a prompt for each day of that month to help us focus as we write down our 1000 gifts for 2012. Some examples from March's list are:


We just go to her blog, print the month's list, slip it into our Gratitude Journals—I have a special Gratitude Journal just for this 2012 journey—then pull the list of prompt out at a set time of the day (I prefer just before lunch) and prayerfully respond to the prompt(s), thinking back over the past 24 hours, but ranging farther back if necessary. Sometimes I repeat a previous entry, but I don't worry about it; if I'm thankful for something twice, then that's a true gift of God, one that I'll probably remember for years to come.

So these are some of the different types of journals we can use in journaling. If you're rather new to the idea of journaling, pick just one type of journal and try to keep it for three months. If you write in your journal consistently, then you may wish to start an additional type of journal, too.

I'm one of those journal-a-holics who love juggling seventeen journals at once, but starting off with one journal is more than sufficient as you write a legacy of love to our God.

So, How Do We Journal?
It seems simple, doesn't it? Just pick up a notebook and write, right? Well, some of us feel rather self-conscious about doing that. We worry that our writing isn't good enough, or that our handwriting is messy, or that we never know how to phrase things on paper.

But the good thing is this: unless we're blogging or decide to share our journals, we are the only people who will ever see our journals! We're writing these journals for US, to bring US closer to our Father in Heaven who loves us and delights in us. And God doesn't particularly care if we misspell words. He, who is the Word Made Flesh, knows our intentions and understand us completely.

So we don't need to worry if our penmanship is a bit sloppy or if we are terrible spellers, or if we are not practiced writers. Just like with learning any skill, we write better the more we practice. And journaling is indeed excellent practice. So don't worry about spelling or grammar or messiness; God knows our messy lives and loves us no matter what.

Therefore, even if we're starting our journaling journeys as complete newbies, we can realize that the more we journal, the better we'll get at journaling, and the more confident we'll become as we lay our thoughts, hopes, prayers, plans, complaints, joys, and everything else on paper for our God to see.

Truly, there is nothing to fear as we start this journey to consistent journaling. And if we're already fairly familiar with the art of journaling, all the better!

The Time Factor
But, we say, we're busy women! We don't have the time to write in journals, eat bon bons, and laze around the pool getting a tan! We live in the REAL world with a husband and possibly kids and possibly a mortgage and possibly a job outside the house (as opposed to working full time within our homes!). How can we clear room in our crazy lives to even think of journaling, much less actually putting pen to page and doing it?

The easiest way is to schedule one “date” a week with God. Perhaps on Saturday afternoons, or Friday mornings after the kids leave for school, or Sundays after church, or Tuesday evenings after dinner, plan to spend half an hour to an hour with your journal. Having a set time each week for journaling helps greatly with consistency.

The Prompts
I thought we'd spend a little time here at the end of this workshop doing a bit of writing. I brought lined paper if you don't happen to have a journal or paper with you.

So let's take a moment and write in what I call FREEWRITE MODE. Freewrite Mode is a well-known writing method that is all about generating ideas. Basically we set a timer for anywhere from 5 to 30 minutes and we write whatever comes into our head. We do not stop writing; we keep our pens or pencils moving AT ALL TIMES. Even if all we're writing is “I don't know what to write” twenty times in a row before another thought occurs, and even if we're thinking about whether we left the iron on at home, we write every thought that comes to our minds, even if it's not related to our given subject matter. We write whatever we think. And we don't self-edit; if we think it, we write it. Freewriting is for our use, and God often directs us into writing about something that has been bothering us, allowing us to unload and confess it to Him in writing.

Because writing is merely thought, we can pray as we write. Freewriting can simply be written prayer.

So here are a few prompts to write to. Let's take 15 minutes. Choose one of these prompts, and start writing whatever comes to mind, even if it's admiring your neighbor's cool boots or worrying about your kids at home with their father wearing who-knows-what.

Journaling Exercises:

Lord, I am so happy about...

Lord, I am so angry about...

Lord, I pray for....

Lord, I thank you for...

Take 15 minutes and WRITE!! And KEEP THOSE PENS MOVING AT ALL TIMES!!! It amazing how the Spirit works when we let go of conscious thought and spill our feelings across the page. And you can be angry with God...He can take it. He wants to know our thoughts.

Discuss freewriting exercise....


Closing Prayer:

Father, you wrote in Psalm 45:1: “My tongue is the pen of a ready writer.” May we be ready writers, prepared to glorify You as we journal. May our words, whether written or spoken, express the depths of our hearts. And may we understand that “glorifying You” doesn't mean praising You 24/7; it means that we're honest with You and with ourselves. It means expressing our emotions to you, just as Your servant David did. Father, we pray that You will lead us as we seek to use this invaluable tool of journaling to build a Legacy of Love within our families at home and with You. It's all about You, Lord Jesus. May we keep You close to our hearts, for that's where You desire to be, and it's where we need You to be. We pray for Your leading as we prepare to seek Your Face as we journal in many ways. To You, O Lord, be the power and the glory, forever and ever, Amen.

Journaling with you,


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