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Journaling that Works

28 May Spiritual Formation | Comments Off on Journaling that Works
Journaling that Works
 

 In January of 2006, I began to journal on a regular basis. If you have ever tried to journal, then you know there are times when the words flow and the pages easily fill, but there are also times when your journal sits on a shelf for weeks if not months. Even though journaling can be a challenge, it is worth the effort because:

Journaling helps us see and remember all that God is doing in us, around us, and through us.

journalingdefined

WHY

This personal definition of journaling has helped remind me why I should take time to write. Journaling helps us see [our stories, thoughts, goals, etc. are transferred from our head to the paper right in front of us] and remember [we can easily go back to remember and learn from what was important enough to write down] all that God is doing in us [how He is shaping us and teaching us] around us [our families, friends, circumstances, etc.] and through us [how He is using us in the lives of others].

WHO

journal1If this definition answers the why question, who should you write for? When I sit and read the past 7 years of journals, I see that there are times when I write for myself, for God, and for others.

  • Journaling For Self
    Most of what I write would fall into this category, including goals, dreams, ideas, celebrations, major events, and documenting life. This is my safe place to write about anything and everything – highs, lows, exciting, and mundane.
  • Journaling To God
    I journal to God by writing out prayers, and writing out Scriptures. Going back to our definition, writing out my prayers helps me see what I’m actually praying about, and it helps me remember how God did or didn’t answer my prayers. By writing scripture, I’m able to soak in and focus on the words in a deep way.
  • Journaling To Others
    Lastly, I journal to my wife and kids. I take time to write down our family stories, what I appreciate and love about them, thank you notes, and I’m sorry notes. Remember, “kind words are like honey – sweet to the soul and healthy for the body” [Proverbs 16:24, NLT].

HOW

When I share my passion for journaling, the most common question I get is “how do you journal?” What is usually behind that question is “how do make journaling enjoyable, doable, and not a burden?” After lots of experimenting, here’s how I journal:

  • Once A Week For Self & God
    I journal for Self and God at the same time. In my personal journal, I pause for an hour each Monday morning to write about one page for self, and about one page for God. Sometimes it’s a lot less (like a paragraph) and on occasion it’s more. I have found the routine of the same day/same time to be very helpful. While it’s doesn’t have to be Monday morning, choose a time that you know can stay consistent. And, if I miss I Monday, I don’t play catch up. I usually just wait until the next Monday to write again. “Ketchup journaling” will quickly make you lose interest in this practice.
  • Once A Month For Others
    Since my wife was born on May 4th, I stop and journal to her on the 4th of each month. For my daughter who was born on March 9th, I journal to her each month on the 9th. And for my son, on the 14th of each month. I keep one journal for each of them (3 total), I write about 1 page each month, and I leave the journals on our mantle so that my wife (and kids when they’re old enough) can read them anytime they wish. If I miss the exact day (i.e. the 4th for my wife), I’ll usually still write that month, just a few days later.
  • Change It Up
    To keep journaling fresh, I like to encourage people to use different methods. Most often, I journal in a longhand format (which takes the most time), but I will change it up and use a bullet point list or a brainstorm format. While I prefer longhand, the list and brainstorm formats are faster and more creative ways to capture the essence of what I want to see and remember.

journal2Journaling is considered a spiritual discipline for a reason … it take discipline to do it! But like any other discipline you engage on a regular basis, you will see the fruit over time. So my encouragement to you is this – carve out 1 consistent hour a week to journal for yourself and God, 1 time a month for the people closest to you, and avoid “ketchup journaling.” As you record what God is doing in you, around you, and through you, may you be blessed by seeing and remembering those things for years to come.

*The journal I use can be found here.

Josh Rhodes
NextGen Pastor at LCBC Church
Josh is the Next Steps Director at LCBC Church, York Campus. Prior to LCBC, he served at Chestnut Ridge Church in Morgantown, WV. Josh received a Bachelor of Science in Biblical Studies and Youth Ministries from Lancaster Bible College, and a Master of Arts in Theology from Biblical Seminary. He and his wife Hillary live in Lancaster with their three children - Sephora, Levi, and Pierce.