Ten million blank journals are sold annually in stationery stores alone, two million in specialty stores. Despite the current interest and availability of journals, the desire to put one's thoughts onto paper is centuries old. Seeing one's thoughts on paper is like holding a piece of your life in your hands. You can look at the journey you've taken, meditate on choices you've made, and deepen your understanding of yourself and God's purpose for your life.
In the Old Testament book, Nehemiah, written in diary form, prophet Nehemiah recorded his personal reactions to the spiritual, emotional, physical things evolving during his administration. Nehemiah wrote, in his spiritual tablet, what was in his heart when God called him to do a mighty work. Even the Reverend Renita J. Weems, Ph.D., speaker and author of I Asked for Intimacy: Stories of Blessings, Betrayals and Birthings writes as a medium to raise forbidden questions about her life as an African American Christian woman. She writes letters to God, friends and to herself. In her book, she shares her journal entries to her unborn child: her angst, her reason, her hopes and dreams.
So to get started on your journey:
- Gather your tools. A cloth-covered diary, spiral or bound notebook, leather or handmade journal will do. Use a notebook that feels comfortable for you -- lined or unlined. The same goes for pen or pencil. Choose a fine or ballpoint, a mechanical or lead pencil. Blue, black, red, purple or green ink is fun, too. Speaking of notebooks, a computer or laptop works just as well as a journal and pen. Once you've found a medium to write, be sure to have a Bible handy.
- Find a place to write. Journal writing requires a safe and quiet place free from distractions: the telephone, children, work, e-mail, your spouse, even the dishwasher. In this space, you can keep your journaling tools. Designate a time that fits your lifestyle, whether its 5, 15 or 50 minutes. Be realistic. In our busy days, finding sacred time to pray is valuable. Once you've put together your tools, and found your place to write, it's time to start your entries. As Elizabeth O'Connor, author of Letters to Scattered Pilgrims, says, one way to begin writing a journal is to give yourself to prayer in the way the psalmists had faith that the God who gave them a rich and varied range of emotions was a God who could hear cries of anguish and revenge as well as litanies of gratitude and praise.
- Date your page. Dates are important so that when you reread your entries, you can note progress. When did God answer your prayers? How has your prayer life changed? How has your life changed?
- Empty your mind. Write fast and furious without concern for grammar, punctuation and spelling for one minute. Write what is in your heart. Write what you are immediately concerned about: your children, spouse, work, health, church life, a friend, an idea or project. Write whatever comes to mind.
- Focus your writing. The best way to begin focused writing is with a plan. There will be days when emptying your mind onto the page will be enough. Then there will be days when you need to focus on God's word. When those times occur, use the acronym, A.C.T.S. (Adore, Confess, Thanksgiving, Supplication).
- Adore God by expressing homage and reverence. Write: "God, I adore you because...." Use attributes of God such as Almighty, Father, Healer, Prince of Peace, Shepherd and praise him (using Psalms 103), writing why this quality of God is so important to you.
- Confess your sins to God. 1 John1:9 says if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins from all unrighteousness. Write: "Almighty God, forgive me for..."
- Thanksgiving is essential for God is mighty and wonderful and he desires our thanks. Here, thank God for all he has done for you, your family, your community, and the nation. Open your Bible to scriptures of Thanksgiving (like Psalm 100) and personalize the verse by placing your name in the scripture.
- Supplication.A want or a need should always be addressed to God and rendered in prayer.
- End your entry as you would end a verbal prayer, in Jesus' name.
Remember, spiritual journaling is a written record of spiritual, emotional, and physical things. Journaling helps you discover God's active work in your life, answered prayers, and decisions. Keeping a spiritual journal is also a written legacy for your children and grandchildren about your faith and your walk with God. Like Nehemiah's spiritual journal, let yours become a witness to God's awesome power. "Now go, write it on a tablet before them and inscribe it on a scroll that it may serve in the time to come as a witness forever." Isaiah 30:8 (NASB)