The 40 Day Journaling Challenge

In our men’s Bible study this past Saturday morning we talked about ‘fear and love’ in the Bible.  I wondered out loud to the group,

‘Do we truly experience a daily tangible relationship with God?‘.

I said, I’m sure we have all had times where we felt close to Him (and multiple heads shook in agreement) but do we have an intimate connection with him daily?  If we did, we probably would better understand what it means to ‘fear’ breaking that relationship with Him.

God, closer, intimacy, journal, walk, relationship

I suspect that, despite our efforts, there will always be some days when God feels distant.  As He did to David, when he wrote Psalm 22, and to Jesus when he used it while on the cross:

My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?
Why are You so far from helping Me,
And from the words of My groaning?
O My God, I cry in the daytime, but You do not hear;
And in the night season, and am not silent.

But these are likely times of trial in which God is teaching us something.  The problem I have, is that I bring upon myself a dryness (as Gordon MacDonald described in our last post) and this is something I want to try to address.

You see, I’ve been going through a period of discouragement and I desire a closer walk with God.  I want to know His presence more and have a more intimate relationship.  I want it to be more tangible as it was with Moses, David and especially Jesus.

I know a closer walk means both more discipline and more actually walking (doing His will).  Therefore today, I resolve to journal for 40 days starting this coming Sunday, November 11th, through to Friday, December 22nd.  I can’t think of a better way to prepare for the coming of Christ on Christmas!

I have talked to multiple people about this already and some people have agreed to join me, without any prompting.  Therefore I wanted to open this challenge up to all of you.  To our blog readers, our followers on Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook.  The members of the Westchester Men’s Ministry and the church congregations of Westchester, especially Community Bible Church of Yorktown, NY.

If you would like to join us, make a resolution to do so.  You don’t have to make it public but we recommend you do.  You can leave a comment on this blog post or you can share it on our Facebook page:

Then keep an eye out for more details on resources to help you during your journaling/quiet time.  In order to make it easier, any resource we use will be available free on-line.  You can use a simple notebook but if you would like to buy a slightly nicer journal, this one is less than $10.

God Bless!

Creative Commons License
The 40 Day Journaling Challenge by Westchester Men’s Ministry is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at


The Discipline of Journaling

Why Mapping your Private World can bring your soul into focus – Genesis 35:6-7

by Gordon MacDonald   – Reprinted with permission of the Leadership Journal (

When I started journaling it was because I needed a “friend,” and I wasn’t doing well with the human kind. I had passed through several weeks of high stress, the kind young pastors are never ready to face. I’d ignored the need for spiritual refreshment; I’d neglected the family; I’d allowed myself to become overwhelmed by the problems of people. There I was, one Saturday morning, crying uncontrollably in the arms of my wife.

It was a scary moment and gave me a taste of the ’empty soul’. This must not happen again, I thought. It came to me that writing each day in a journal would press me to deal more forthrightly with my emotions, with my spiritual state (or lack of same), and with the meaning of my life. I was not disappointed.

Journaling Defined

What was my journal’s purpose? A journal—at least in my book—is a dialogue with the soul. It includes a record of events, but it also attempts to expose the significance of the events. What is God saying through this? What am I learning? How do I feel? What are the principles that ooze from these events?

Beyond that, I wanted the journal to be a story of my own journey and the journey (as much as possible) of those closest to me. The high and low points of my marriage are in the journals. Our children and grandchildren will one day be able to go back and recapture the salient events of their lives as seen through a father’s eyes. They will know how much I have loved them and how proud I am of their life choices. Often I have used my journal to pray and worship. Here and there are the indications of spiritual breakthroughs. And the journal has preserved vivid memories of the most remarkable (good and bad) moments of life.

What Journaling Produces

When journaling is done regularly, several things become possible:

  • The invisible and the ephemeral are forced into reality. Once feelings, fears, and dreams are named, they can be dealt with, prayed for, and surrendered to God. They come under control, no longer existing in a way that pollutes the soul and the mind.
  • Learning experiences are preserved. If I record and reflect on the experiences of each day, I add to my base of wisdom. Things usually forgotten or lost in the unconscious now, like books on a library shelf, wait to be tapped when parallel moments arise in the future.
  • Memories of God’s great and gracious acts are preserved. “Write this on a scroll as something to be remembered and make sure that Joshua hears it,” God said to Moses after a great victory. As Israel wandered through the wilderness and experienced God’s providential care, he had them build monuments so they could remember. One day, I realized that my journal writing was a memorial to God’s sufficiency.
  • I can chart areas where I need most to grow and mature. As I look at journals of 30 years ago, I realize I have struggled with the same knot of issues throughout the years. The good news: the steps I took in the early days as I wrote of these issues turned into disciplines. And today, while issues remain, my “overcoming” rate is substantially higher. I wouldn’t have spotted many of these issues if I’d not written about them day after day.
  • It brings dreams alive. As ideas have flooded my mind over the years, I have written about them. Putting them into words helped me to discern the foolish ideas and develop the good ones. Many things I’ve done in the last few years had origins I can find in earlier journals.

—Gordon MacDonald; excerpted from our sister publication LEADERSHIP Journal, © 2004 Christianity Today International. For more articles like this, visit


  1. Have you ever kept a journal? Was it a positive or negative experience?
  2. What appeals to you most about keeping a regular journal? What appeals to you least?
  3. Which of the products of journaling above seem the most beneficial?


We would like to challenge all of our readers and followers to join us in resolving to journal for 40 days starting this coming Sunday, November 11th, through to December 22nd.  More details to follow in our next blog on Tuesday, November 6th.

Pictures of journals we found on-line that have inspired us:


Reducing Anxiety – Practically Depending on God

    “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. – Jesus to the apostles in John 16:33

Jesus warned the apostles and He warns us today that we will have trouble, but in the end God wins!!  I called this blog entry ‘Reducing Anxiety’ because I have found that these tools help but they don’t eliminate anxiety.  These tools should be available to all, especially Christians, as we deal with the trials of life.

Diaphragmatic Breathing

When we get anxious, we start to breath quickly and shallowly.   Obviously you get less oxygen and it can be harder to think clearly.  I’m not an expert on this but here are the steps I follow for this technique, along with some additional resources:

  1. Although you can lie down, I typically do this exercise while sitting up tall in a chair.  Back straight, head looking straight ahead, comfortable and relaxed.  Place one hand on your stomach and one on your chest.
  2. Breathe in slowly through your nose so that your stomach moves out against your hand. The hand on your chest should remain as still as possible.
  3. Optional: after your stomach is filled, then you can fill your upper chest (see diagram to right).  If you do this optional step, then first exhale from the chest before…
  4. Contract your stomach muscles bringing your belly button towards your spine. Exhale through pursed lips (like you are blowing up a balloon)
  5. Repeat, inhale to a count of 8 (but don’t strain yourself) and exhale to a count of 4 (again, don’t strain)

Additional resources on Diaphragmatic Breathing:

Cognitive Restructuring

Cognitive restructuring is much like journaling but with a focused template and the goal of understanding and practically addressing anxiety.

  1. Find a quiet place where you can think and write.  Briefly describe (in your journal) the situation (provide context, date, etc.).
  2. List all the thoughts you are having about this situation.  Don’t filter yourself – this is important.  These are your automatic thoughts.
  3. How does this make you feel? (anxious/nervous, angry, frustrated, sad, irritated, embarrassed, ashamed, hateful, confused, etc.)
  4. List the thinking errors in your automatic thoughts.  Here is a list of possible errors:
  5. Challenge your thoughts.   Here are some sample questions that could help:
    1. Do I know for certain that___________?
    2. What evidence do I have that ________?
    3. What is the worst that could happen?  How bad is that?
    4. Do I have a crystal ball?
    5. Is there another point of view?
  6. Rational Response is a summary of the challenges into a rational statement to use to combat your automatic thoughts.
  7. Achievable Behavioral Goal – what is one thing that is do-able that you can do right now to help reduce the anxiety?

Afterwards, you can further ask more questions like: Did you achieve your goal?  Did the rational response help?  What did you learn?  This is from a book called Managing Social Anxiety: A Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy Approach Client Workbook (Treatments That Work).  You can find the complete two page worksheet to use as a guide below.

Cognitive Restructuring ExerciseCognitive Restructuring Worksheet

I find that after doing this exercise for a while, the anxiety creating thoughts immediately bring the rational response to mind which acts like a cure.  Here’s a very short example:

  1. Situation: Getting over a cold that has kept me from working for two full days
  2. Automatic Thoughts:
    1. I’ve got a lot to get done but I’m still fatigued from my cold.  I’m falling behind!
    2. I also would like to post a new blog entry but I want to do it well and not rush it.   -> Honor God
    3. Job search is stalling with no word from multiple opportunities while I was sick.
    4. Worried about upcoming storm – the tree near our garage could fall on our house.
  3. Feeling: Anxious, tired
  4. Thinking Errors: Disqualifying the positive, Fortune telling
  5. Challenge:  I’ve been sick and despite that I spoke at a conference and have had somewhat productive days.
  6. Rational Response: Give yourself a break;  Trust God for the outcome; Make a list
  7. Achievable Goal: Make a list of the follow-up items and actions I need to respond to first.

I sincerely hope this post gives you some tools that help you reduce your anxiety.  Please let us know your thoughts.  Do you have other techniques that have worked for you?   Have you tried these before and had success?  or not?

God Bless!

Creative Commons License
Reducing Anxiety – Practically Depending on God by Westchester Men’s Ministry is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at


Summer Reading List – 2012

I thought I would share a few books that I’ve either started reading or hope to read this summer.  I’ve been so focused on finishing the Bible in a year (just a few days left) that I haven’t had time to reach much of anything else.

Please let us know what you are hoping to read this summer and if you decide to buy any of the below books, please click on the image so that the Westchester Men’s Ministry gets a donation for your purchase (through our Amazon Associates program).  Thanks!

Have a great summer!

Created for Community      Deep Things of God      I Don't Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist     The Confessions of St. Augustine     God, Freedom and Evil    King's Cross: The Story of the World in the Life of Jesus     Muslims, Christians, and Jesus: Gaining Understanding and Building Relationships

I’ve already read a few chapters of ‘Created for Community’ and ‘God, Freedom, and Evil’ and I would recommend them both.  Plantinga is harder to read but very insightful.

Both ‘The Deep Things of God’ and ‘The Confessions of Saint Augustine’ were recommended by people I trust and I have no doubt they will be worth reading.

I choose ‘I don’t have enough faith to be an atheist’ and ‘Muslim, Christians, and Jesus’ without others feedback, and I haven’t opened them yet, so I really can’t vouch for them.   If there is interest, I will add an update once I start reading them.

As far as Tim Keller’s book is concerned, I’m a huge fan of Keller’s and I loved his first book.  This is his second (or third) book and he has already come out with another one on marriage.  So I’m behind but I have no concerns about recommending him.  I would also encourage you visit Redeemer Presbyterian’s website to hear some of his sermons.  He is a fantastic speaker.

So, your reading list may not be as ambitious as mine but What Are You Reading?  I’d be very interested to know.  Thanks in advance for sharing!


Hosanna! Reflections for Palm Sunday

From Mark 11:1-11: Jesus’ Triumphant Entry

Jesus entered Jerusalem with much fanfare and then he went back to Bethany (where he started in verse 1).  In the world’s eyes, he made no progress but spiritually he fulfilled the scriptures of Zechariah 9:9 and 14:4

“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem!
Behold, your King is coming to you;
He is just and having salvation,
Lowly and riding on a donkey,
A colt, the foal of a donkey.”Zechariah 9:9

“And in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives,
Which faces Jerusalem on the east.
And the Mount of Olives shall be split in two,

From east to west,
Making a very large valley;
Half of the mountain shall move toward the north
And half of it toward the south.”Zechariah 14:4

Reflection: Many times in our lives, we may feel that we are not going anywhere, as the world would define progress.  Take heart, God may be using these times to grow you in an eternal way!

During Jesus’ triumphant entry, branches were used to create a red carpet for Him.  The next day, as he traveled the same path, an unproductive fig tree was cursed.

Reflection: If we bear fruit, God will make us part of His glorious plan but if we are not, we will be cursed.  Can your neighbors, family and friends see your fruit?

As Jesus entered Jerusalem the crowd shouted ‘Hosanna!’  Possible a different crowd shouted ‘Crucify Him!’ only days later.  It was God that prompted the shouting on Jesus’ entry.  As Jesus said, if they were quiet, even the rocks would cry out. (Luke 19:40)  But it was the pharisees who prompted the crowd to shout crucify Him!

Reflection:  Each day we have a choice to listen to the messages of the world (money, sex, power, etc.) or of God.  Who are you following?!

Jesus didn’t have many possessions, at different times throughout the Gospels, he borrowed a colt, a boat, a room (for the last supper), and even His tomb was borrowed.  All borrowed because he would not need any of them for long.
Reflection: If God, who didn’t need help from anyone, choose to ask others for contributions to His mission, shouldn’t we?
Happy Palm Sunday!  May you have a blessed holy week!
illustrations from:

God’s Rhythm

Stewardship of time / The Daily office and the Sabbath

Men’s Breakfast

February 21, 2009


Referenced and Related Bible References:

  • Genesis 2:1-2  – God creates the Sabbath
  • Exodus 31:16-17  – Celebrate as a lasting covenant
  • Deuteronomy 5:12-15 – Ten commandments
  • Psalm 119:164, Daniel 6:10, Acts 3:1; 10:9 – observed by David, Daniel, the apostles
  • Colossians 2:16-17  – Ceremonial law; fulfilled in Christ, no longer under the law
  • Galatians 4:6-9 – Sons, Known by God and Know God. “Abba, father” – expressive of an especially close relationship to God.
  • Psalm 1:2 – Delight is in the law, meditates on it day and night
  • Psalm 119:9-11 – Hid your word in my heart
  • Isaiah 65:1-2a  – God desires a closer walk with us.
  • Mark 2:23-28  – Messiah, Lord of the Sabbath
  • Genesis 5:24; 6:9 – Enoch and Noah walked with God
  • Matthew 6:5-13 – The Lord’s prayer

What is prayer?         Fellowship/communion with God, Praising God, Knowing God, Experiencing our sonship, learning to abide, etc.

Types of prayer?

  • Adoration         – acknowledging who God is
  • Confession       – acknowledging what we’ve done and repenting, turning to God
  • Thanksgiving    – acknowledging God’s love and what Christ accomplished
  • Supplication      – asking to be more like Christ, interceding for others or ourselves

Why commune with God?

  • Joy!
  • Experience God (for Him)
  • Peace
  • Rest
  • Forgiveness
  • You are who you are with, or what goes in comes out
  • Others…..

Story: Emily’s breathing, if human relationships can change us, what would happen if we spent time with the Prince of Peace?

How can we practically move toward a Gospel-centered prayer life that aims primarily at knowing God?                     Meditation and communion

Meditation is the blending of Bible study and prayer.  Not detached but meditation is praying the truth deep into your soul.  This shapes us, our thinking, our feeling, our actions.  It’s working out the truth.

St. Augustine on Meditation:

1.      Retentio – distillation of the truth of scripture.  Study and concentrate on a passage of scripture to simply understand it, so you see its truth.

2.      Contemplatio – “gazing at God through this truth”

a.       What does this tell me about God?

b.      If he is really like this, what difference does this particular truth make to how I live Today?

c.       Does my life demonstrate my knowledge of this truth?

d.      Lord, what are you trying to tell me about you, and why do you want me to know it Today?

Contemplatio is turning “knowing about” into knowing.

3.      Directio – delighting and relishing the God you are looking at.  Praise, confess and aspire toward him.

Why don’t we pray and meditate?

  • Too busy, the only prayers we sometimes do are the urgent ones requesting help
  • Too tired, after being too busy
  • Other priorities seem more important at time.
  • Feel that there is a barrier (emotional) that seems too big, too much work
  • Sin
  • Lack of discipline, resolve, routine
  • Don’t want to rush, waiting until can spend more time.

The Power of Full Engagement (book – see reference)

Two ideas:

  • More stress not less; intervals in-between every 2 to 3 hours is ideal
  • In intervals, focus on God 

If not, then a disaster hits and we don’t have the focus we need.  We need a rope.

(story from book in reference: Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Peter Scazzaro)

  • Book, A Hidden Wholeness, by Parker Palmer
  • Farmers in the Midwest, prepared for a blizzard by tying a rope from the back door of the house to the barn as a guide.
  • The blizzards came quickly and fiercely and were highly dangerous.
  • When their full force was blowing, a farmer could not see then end of his/her hand.
  • Many froze to death, wondering in circles, lost in their own backyard
  • Meteorologists in parts of Canada and the Great Plains still counsel people to tie a rope to their back door

Would like to propose that, God has given us a rope in the daily office and the Sabbath that offer us a rhythm so powerful that they anchor us from the blizzards that blow in our lives.

Not legalize….free from the ceremonial laws…a gift .  Find what works for you

The root of the daily office and the Sabbath is stopping to surrender to God in trust.

This is not setting aside time to turn to God for something but to be with Someone.

Daily office has 4 aspects:

1.      Stopping – God is on the throne, trust him to run His world without me.

2.      Center – “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).  

Both difficult tasks

3.      Silence – is the practice of quieting every inner/outer voice to attend to God

“without solitude it is almost impossible to live a spiritual life” – Henry Nouwen

4.      Scripture – meditation, worship songs, reading through the Bible, etc. 


1.      Stop – embrace our limits

2.      Rest – replace with whatever delights and replenishes.

3.      Delight – “it was very good” Genesis 1:31 Benediction; In God, his creation, people, etc.

4.      Contemplate – heart of the Sabbath.  Pondering the love of God. 

Like a heavy snow day.  A “no obligation” day.


Read Psalm 145


  1. What does this tell us about God, what does it reveal?
  2. How can I praise him for and through this?
  3. If he is really like this, what difference does this particular truth make to how I live?
  4. Does my life demonstrate that I am remembering and acting out of this?
  5. Lord, what are you trying to tell me about you, and why do you want me to know it now.  Today?


  1. Did the meditation help you see something in the scripture, you wouldn’t have normally?
  2. What is one thing you could do to spend more time communing with God?
  3. What support would you need in order to do this regularly?

Referenced or Reference:

  • Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Peter Scazzaro, Ch. 8 “Discover the Rhythms of the Daily office and the Sabbath”
  • Prayer and the Gospel by Dr. Tim Keller
  • The Divine Hours by Phyllis Tickle
  • The Power of Full Engagement by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz
Image courtesy of: