Even as an English major and Language Arts teacher, I struggled personally with journaling for years. As I touted its benefits to my students and observed “journaling” time in class, I myself rarely journaled. I just COULD NOT make myself do it. It was labor – sitting before a blank page, trying to come up with what to write about, and then to actually have to “write” it all out!
Over the years friends would share with me just how much they loved journaling and how beneficial it was to them. I listened. They were valued friends each in deep relationship with my God and Father. I knew journaling was a key for them, and it could be for me. I kept the door open on the idea and gave it a shot from time to time.
At one point I discovered free online diaries and thought that might be the answer. (I type much faster than I write!) Perhaps if I did my journaling with a keyboard…. That did not work for me either!
Then the season came! And God opened up to me so many realities about journaling that I had never seen before with my narrow little view.
- My definition of journaling had been, oh so, narrow.
Journaling is the practice of being honest with God in writing (OR OTHER MEDIA) about what is currently going on in your life. I had always thought of journaling as a lengthy, laborious writing exercise. It did not have to be this at all. Journaling could involve other media that I enjoyed working with: paper crafting, sketching, doodling, color. It could, actually, be FUN!
- Journaling increases the benefit of the other spiritual disciplines to my soul.
Engaging in one singular spiritual discipline to the exclusion of the others rarely provides nourishment to the soul or elicits spiritual growth.
Journaling can and should be used in connection with another of the spiritual practices. Remarkably, the disciplines (prayer, use of Scripture, solitude, soul searching, etc.) provide the most benefit to our souls when practiced in concert with one another. Speaking on the discipline of prayer, Dallas Willard once explained that in order for one to flourish in prayer, to develop an energetic praying life, they needed to practice it with other disciplines like solitude and fasting.
Journaling just to be journaling is pretty much useless. But…incorporating journaling into my study of Scripture or the searching of my soul gives both the journaling and the other discipline much more meaning.
- Journaling is an invaluable tool in the care of my soul.
The spiritual practice of journaling helps to make your thoughts and prayers more concrete. It helps you to focus on your topic and on speaking to God. And journaling serves as a spiritual record of what has been going on in your life.
There is meaning to my journaling, far beyond the act or even the processing of my thoughts. It draws me to God and brings me into daily conversation with Him.
If you have previously struggled with journaling as a spiritual practice, below are a few ideas for ways to connect your journaling with some of the other spiritual disciplines:
Picture Prayer Journals
This journal is set up by individual. You might use a Picture Prayer Journal as a tool when praying for your children, grandchildren, students or family members. Place the individual’s name and birthdate in an upper corner of a page. Attach a small photo of the individual in the opposite corner. Use the remainder of the pages(s) to record prayer requests, praises, answers to prayers, prayers, and notes.
Think scrapbook, diary, and doodle pad all rolled into one. With no set plan! A Squish-It Journal is a place to squish in items that help you when you pray. This could include reminders of who God is, Scriptures, quotes, the prayers of others, and song lyrics. Find things that draw your heart to God and squish them in. As you turn the pages of your Squish-It Journal and your eyes fall upon the items you have collected, talk to God about what comes to mind. This is also a place where you can record your thoughts and prayers as you talk with Him. Squish-It Journals foster a love for communication with God.
A Traditional Prayer Journal is usually sectioned off by category: requests, prayers, praises, answers to prayer, favorite scriptures, quotes, thoughts, notes, photos. In this type of journal there are no photos except in the designated section, if desired.
Use of Scripture
Illustrated Bible Journaling
Writing out Scripture can help us study, remember, and reflect upon God’s Word much more completely than just by reading. Illustrated Bible Journaling goes beyond the writing out of Scripture. It is a way of studying the Bible, and responding to it through your own words, sketches, stenciling, images, painting, stamping, and other art media. In essence, the journaler is adding their own thoughts and research notes artistically to the margin of their Bible or in a separate journal.
A Scripture Journaling method based upon Rob Wynalda’s Journibles. Mr. Wynalda’s books are centered on Deuteronomy 17:18 — And when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself in a book a copy of this law, approved by the Levitical priests. Journibles can be purchased through several websites including amazon.com and christianbook.com and are available for many books of the Bible. If you prefer to create your own Journible, simply select a blank journal or composition book and copy the Scripture you wish to study onto the right-hand side pages. Respond to the Scripture with your own thoughts, insights, reflections, and questions on the corresponding left-hand page. (Rob Wynalda’s Journibles are published by Reformation Heritage Books.)
Topical Scripture Journals
Topical Scripture Journals represent hours of personal discovery, insight, and lessons learned while studying Scripture. These journals contain things learned, personal notes, scriptural insights, study pages, quotes, conference talks, and anything else you glean from your study. What a blessing it is to just open one up, read, remember, and then build upon what is recorded. Organize this type of journal by topic.
New Year’s Journaling
The beginning of a new year – calendar or birth – is an opportune time to stop, look up, and get your bearings. Prayerfully journal your responses to some soul searching questions such as “31 Questions for Reflecting on the Direction of Your Life” by Donald Whitney. Be sure to invite God in as you honestly reflect.
Daily Dot Points
Simply record a couple of dot points about what is going on in your daily life. What is troubling you, what questions are rolling around in your mind, what is your general mood and current outlook? You may want to write more than dot points, but this tends to make it too much about you and less about the guidance waiting for you.
1,000 Gifts Journal
As a reflection upon God’s goodness, count gifts. Try counting 1,000 gifts you have received from your Heavenly Father. Simply list them in your journal. If you choose, add your thoughts and insights to the list. For the creatives, try adding images cut from magazines to your listing or photographing your gifts.
I pray you have not closed the door on journaling. Give it one more try. Choose one of the options above. (Or maybe your own idea sparked from the list. How has God wired you? What would make journaling FUN?) Allow the practice of journaling to increase the benefits of the other spiritual disciplines to your soul.
And as you journal, be honest. It is not always easy, but it is so important to your soul that you take time to reflect and to think about what is going on.
“The Lord is near to all who call on Him, to all who call on Him in truth” (Psalm 145:18).