Tuesday, October 4, 2016

4 Reasons to Journal and How to Begin

I’ll admit I’m not a “journal every day” sort of person. Like most things in my life, journaling takes on the familiar inconsistent-yet-somehow-still-effective sort of routine. I journal in a variety of ways during times when the Holy Spirit seems to whisper, “don’t miss this,” or when my thoughts need untangling. When I’m trying to sort out a problem or embrace a new idea, I find I do some of my best thinking when my fingers touch the pen or keyboard.

My journaling style consists of notes written in the margins in my Bible, on 3 x 5 note cards that accumulate . . .  well, everywhere, blog posts, prayer journals, notebooks, and occasionally in letters and emails. As I said, consistency is not my strong suit, yet I find great value and many benefits through the practice of writing down my thoughts.

Why Journal

The instruction in Deuteronomy 4:9 is to “be on guard and diligently watch yourselves so that you don’t forget the things your eyes have seen and so that they don’t slip from your mind as long as you live. Teach them to your children and your grandchildren” (HCSB).

Journaling helps us take these words of Moses to heart and utilize them in practical application. Let’s see how, step by step:

1) Journaling helps us to self-examine our thoughts, reactions, spiritual growth, and the way we apply God’s truth to our lives.  Author Michael Hyatt says “What happens to us is not as important as the meaning we assign to it.  Journaling helps sort this out.” I completely agree. It frequently helps to process my thoughts through journaling and determine the most God-honoring response. I can then move forward with purposeful intention – steady my walk so to speak – and pursue obedience and God’s ways. I find the process quiets my potentially surging emotions and helps me focus on the Lord and His plan.

Journaling helps us diligently watch ourselves.  

2) Journaling is a great tool for meditation. When we're quiet before the Lord, He often reveals meaningful insights through His Word by the power of the Holy Spirit. More often than not, we have to sort through the revelations just like one would eat an elephant: one bite at a time. Recording our thoughts helps bring what may seem like a blurry landscape into better focus. The more we contemplate His truths though the practice of journaling, the more we can process and remember what we’ve learned.

Research shows that writing with pen and paper promotes high quality learning and offers a good strategy to store and internalize ideas for the long term. The act of putting pen to paper to record what we have experienced in our walk with Christ strengthens both our recollections and our resolve to walk in obedience.

Journaling helps us remember the things we’ve seen. 

3) Journaling offers a venue to record our spiritual journey.  A journal serves as a type of memorial stone so that our stories don’t get lost in the busyness of our schedules. The Lord told Joshua to establish markers that would always serve as a memorial for His people and a sign among them (see Joshua 4). Looking back on our own stories helps us recall the Lord's steadfastness and builds our faith for the road ahead. 

Journaling helps keep our stories from slipping our minds. 

4) Journaling can provide a witness to future generationsMost of the time we are writing for ourselves and not for an audience when we journal. Keep in mind, however, that when we pass from this life (and maybe before that time), our journals will likely be collected and read by loved ones. They will read the stories of our powerful testimony and experience the journey of our spiritual growth through our words. Only the Lord knows how He will use our written words to encourage others and perhaps draw them to a saving relationship with Jesus Christ.

Journaling can help us teach our children and grandchildren.

    How to Journal

    There are multiple ways to begin journaling. They key to becoming effective is to begin doing it. There’s no need to strive for perfection, rather, our aim is to embrace the experience and the blessings it provides.
    • Take notes during sermons and messages that you hear. Record what you learn, then be sure to also record ways that the Holy Spirit prompts you to apply the lesson to your life.
    • As your read and meditate on Scripture, record how the Scripture hits your heart, or how it encourages or challenges you during this specific season of your life.
    • Record your prayers – and the answers to those prayers.
    • Journaling Bibles offer great prompts and inspiration, along with the room to write directly in the margins.
    • Many people enjoy setting aside a specific time and place to record their thoughts each day. Others write when inspiration strikes and have pen and paper within reach at all times. You may need to experiment and find a routine that works best for your personality and schedule.
    • When you begin journaling, you can start with any format and in any type of notebook. However, I find that when I have a notebook and pen that I like, I am more likely to take it out and use it. It’s worth a small investment to purchase something you enjoy using.
    If you're just beginning, remember to start small. Your goal isn't to write your entire life story, but to begin where you are. Start by recording your thoughts for today and try to develop a consistent habit over the next several weeks. As with any spiritual discipline, journaling takes practice before it starts to feel comfortable and routine.  Little by little as confidence develops, you might begin to incorporate lessons and testimonies from your past into your writing efforts. 

    Most people don't like the way they write, but don't let that stop you. Consider your journal as an offering to the Lord and share your heart with Him through your pen. I'm confident you'll find the process rewarding and meaningful.

    Your Turn

    Has this post inspired you to start or re-start the practice of journaling?  What is the first step you’ll take in the process? Will you schedule and set aside time in your day for the practice or keep your notebook available to write on the fly?

    If you already journal regularly, what's your method? What types of tools do you use?

    I’d love to hear from you. Leave your comments below or continue the conversation on Facebook and Twitter

    Be Strengthened Today, by His Word
    Psalm 119:28


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