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I Take It Back: Why I’m Journaling Again

JOURNALING

By  on his blog titled “Confessions of a Former Preacher: Reflections on life in the mission of God” (Re-posted with permission)

Some time back I blogged about my many failed attempts to practice spiritual journaling. It was entitled Why I Don’t Journal: The Danger of Words and it was basically about how easy it is to practice self-deception and posture even in our journals. I found I used language as a tool to manage my life and keep me from God rather than become vulnerable to God.

My sub-point was that not all spiritual disciplines work for everyone, which is why we need so many. For much of my life, I’ve needed to practice silence before God more than journaling. My job required that I prepare to preach and teach multiple lessons each week, write bulletin articles, lead multiple meetings, and generally use words in a way that put me in a controlling position. Creating more words, more writing, was not helpful to me. I needed to shut up and listen.

Then something changed. Or maybe it was me that changed. Maybe it is because I’m not a preacher per se anymore. While I still do some preaching, I’m not writing new material every week, and I’m not upfront talking nearly as much. Other than my occasional blog entry, which takes a fraction of the time a sermon takes, I don’t put words together like I once did.  Or maybe I’m in another season of life. I don’t know, but I’ve taken up journaling again and, for the first time since I was an undergraduate, I’m finding it a refreshing and life-producing way to connect with God.

It started by reading Brene Brown’s books. She suggested that people who live the fullest lives practice gratitude in an intentional way and suggested creating a gratitude journal. Then I attended our MRN board and staff retreat where Rhonda Lowry and Earl Lavender both talked about how journaling enriches their faith walk. I thought about it more and found myself drawn to the practice again.

So I bought a blank journal and starting carrying it around with me. I note something that happens for which I’m thankful. I write down any reflections from my daily time in the Word that seems like a prompting of the Spirit, a fresh idea, or insight. I note things that happen throughout the day that I want to remember or think about later. I record quotes from others or ideas people share I find helpful. I use the journal like a written memory (which is important now that I’ve misplaced my other one). I don’t require myself to use my journal in a slavish way. I write when I have something to write and leave it blank when I don’t. Most nights I jot down some reflections on the day. Some nights I’m too tired to write and start my morning by recording what I wake up pondering from the day before.

myBadWhy bother blogging about this? Well, I had a young preacher tell me my earlier blog entry was the reason he stopped journaling. That idea didn’t set well with me. My point wasn’t to discourage others from journaling, but merely to encourage people to embrace the spiritual practices that helped them and not assume we all need the same kinds of connection points with God. In addition, I wanted to reaffirm the understanding that different seasons of life require different habits and practices. Our ten year old daughter doesn’t need the same kind of work-out routine I do because she does gymnastics and is more active in general, not to mention younger. I can’t do the kind of work-out I did in my 30’s. My body can’t take it now. Our spiritual lives are similar.  What we need changes as our life stage and circumstances change. If we are going to keep growing, we need to be learning, experimenting, observing others, imitating, modeling, and sharing life with others on the same journey. What did not help us at one stage of life may at another. The day you stop growing is the day you stop living.

So, I’m journaling again and loving it. It helps that I’m not trying to do it right. Nothing kills doing things well like trying to do them right. I also am not writing for posterity. I don’t need anyone else to find these journals and read them. My kids probably won’t ever pour over what I write to seek insights and inspiration. I’ve given up that silly pretension I once maintained with myself. I doubt anyone could read my journals even if they wanted to. My hand-writing is so bad it’s cryptic. This is for me and God. This helps me be more grateful, more mindful, and more faithful.

Now, what helps you?

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