Keeping a spiritual journal is a helpful tool that can enrich our time with the LORD.
Every Christian who wants to grow in their love for God, and enjoyment in Him, will want to spend time with Him in both reading His Word and in prayer. This should not an option in the Christian’s walk with the Lord. It should be something that springs from the heart. A desire to spend time with someone you love is not obligatory–but rather–a soulful delight. I have found that keeping a record of my journey with God is a blessing, and also a helpful tool that enriches my private time with the Lord.
In my years of writing in journals, I’ve read many good things on this topic. One of the best writers on this topic (in my humble opinion) is Dan Kenneth Phillips in his book, “Spiritual Journaling, God’s Whispers in Daily Living”. He calls a Spiritual Journal, “a written record of personal reactions to spiritual matters”.
Dan Phillips says, “The key thing about writing a journal is that it’s a place to spiritually share yourself with God and with yourself. You’re pouring your thoughts out to God, but you’re also part of the audience, because you go back to it to see how you’ve spiritually grown — or perhaps shrank. (It’s not just journal-writing, it’s also journal-keeping.)”
I actually started the discipline of writing in journals way back in the winter of 1978–the year my husband and I moved to Southern Germany to begin our career as Missionaries. I have, at different times since then, taught classes on this topic. I always begin with the basics–so here goes! This post will feature some of the basics of keeping a journal–and I hope they will be useful for some of you! I’ll be posting several on this topic in the near future. Today’s focus is on a “Spiritual Journal”–that written record of one’s spiritual walk with God.
To get the most from your writing, you will want to think about the following things.
- Purchase a blank book that you can hold and carry easily–with nice paper quality and a sturdy binding. (This can be anything from an inexpensive composition notebook to a beautifully bound journal.)
- Note the date—I like posting this in the right-hand corner of my journal. This is helpful when you look back at what you have written because it helps one to see not only how God has been working in your life, but you can see “when” God did something special. I also love to put after the date–‘where I am on the globe.’ I travel a lot and as I go back several years through my finished journals–it’s fun to remember what city, hotel or country I was sitting in as I wrote those words.
- Jot down the Bible text —At the top of the page on the left I jot down the reference. Sometimes, if it isn’t too long, I also write out the passage or verse I am reading today in the Bible, or if I’m reading a devotional book, I quote the phrase that stood out to me, and the author’s name.
- A Starting Point: In seminars where I have taught on Spiritual Journaling, a common question asked is, “Where do I start?” My usual response is “If you are new to writing in a Spiritual Journal –begin with the Book of Psalms.” I love reading the Psalms! Reading the words written so long ago by God’s servants is amazing to me. Through their poetry I feel a spiritual connection with God. I sense His presence with me in a way that I don’t get as I read other parts of the Bible.
- Look for new things about God and His character. (Here are some famous favorites to start with: Psalm. 23 ; Psalm 30; Psalm 46 ; or Psalm 121–and don’t forget Psalm 139!)
- Write down your observations. Some good questions to help you observe certain things might be: 1. What aspect of God’s character is evident in this Psalm? (Creator, protector, provider, merciful, just. . .) 2. What word pictures are there in this psalm? A great example is in Psalm 46 verse 1:
“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.” (Psalm 46:1-3)
If you are a visual thinker–create a picture in your head or in your journal. In my mind I picture a place where I can run for safety. For me, the image of a European fortress–or high tower comes to mind. (I lived for 15 years in Austria!) A fortress is a good picture of the ‘ever-present’ aspect of God’s character, for they can be seen, literally, for miles. Up close they were daunting in size and strength. This word picture always encourages me as I associate it with God and His character–for if I am in his protection, I am up and away, and far above danger–safe in His bastion of strength.
- Make an application—Jot down the connection you draw from the passage to your present situation. Ask yourself this question: “What can I apply to my life or circumstances from this passage/verse/imagery/ or concept of God?” His Holy Spirit will encourage you through this step. Write down what you are learning. My example: God is my safe place–I can run to Him when I am afraid and threatened. Here, I will not fear, even if my world looks like its falling apart–because God is Ever-present, All-powerful and safe!
- Think about a plan of action that you feel God is leading you to take as a response of your applying this part of His Word to your life. Note this in your journal. For example: “When I feel threatened , I will remember that safe place in my heart where God abides. I will trust Him to protect and provide for me.”
- Write out a Prayer: This is my written response to this truth and application back to God. It can be simple or longer. Up to you! “Thank you God for protecting me during that ‘almost accident’ today on the freeway. You calmed my heart afterwards. Thank you for being a safe place where I can run in times of need. ” (see also Hebrews 4:16)
This is the dialogue part of journaling. He speaks to my heart and mind through His words–I speak back to Him through my words and prayers. I recommend that you write out your prayer–or ‘thank you’ to God. This increases your intimacy with God and connects your heart with His. (Remember a Spiritual Journal is a record of your response or reactions to God and His Word.) One day, you may want to go back to this time in your life and see how God was active in your life.
- Write something more! Sometimes as a result of my heart connection with God–or some part of His word–I find a poem sprout up from the depths of my heart. Here’s one I wrote after meditating and journaling on this concept of God is my refuge–from Palm 9: 9-11.
What will you write? A devotional? A song? A poem? An art piece or a photo capturing this idea?
How will God encourage a creative response in you?
Please let me know! I want to rejoice with you!
HOW GOOD IS THE LORD
A safe place!
How good is the LORD!
In times when demons chase me
I can run to Him.
He knows me.
He knows I trust Him.
My stronghold when I’m oppressed.
How good is the LORD!
Copyright © 2011 Linda Bridges. All Rights Reserved