The Value of Journaling, Part One

Over the past few years, journaling has become a habit for me. I sometimes wonder if my journal is the one thing between me and insanity. I’m not sure it was the best source of an idea – I got it from an unnamed self-avowed “green witch” – but I adopted journaling to get me through menopause.

Actually, the first of the menopausal journals met its demise in a ceremonial burning. Since then, however, I’ve filled several hundred pages with ruminations, meditations, prayers, poetry, well, you name it. I believe the practice has helped me grow as a Christian. I’d like to share some principles for getting the most spiritual growth from your journals.

First, force yourself to start each day with praise and/or thanksgiving to God. I say “and/or” because there really is a difference. One of the journals I’ve been keeping this year is Richard Foster’s Coming Home: A Prayer Journal. This lovely little book contains unlined pages (great for doodles!) embellished with quotes about prayer and subtle line drawings of wild flowers.

I’d like to share one of the quotes, because it points out the difference between praise and thanksgiving. This is from Ole Hallesby, who wrote a book simply entitled Prayer.

“When I give thanks, my thoughts still circle about myself to some extent. But in praise my soul ascends to self-forgetting adoration, seeing and praising only the majesty and power of God, His grace and redemption.”

The Psalms are a perfect place to get fodder for the “self-forgetting adoration” of praise, but if you can’t get to that point, at least begin with a list of things you are thankful for. Get creative. This is writing, after all. Put your thankful list in the form of a poem. Think of the little blessings you rarely thank God for, like a well-made, useful tool you have, or the excellent highway you use every day. Giving the Lord praise and thanksgiving on a regular basis will change your life!

By the way, here’s how I chose to use the journal Coming Home. I take the individual pages in the order they come. If the next day’s quote does not speak to me, I think about it and set the book aside for a few more days. Then, when I finally have a comment to make, I limit myself to prayer. I don’t use it for Bible insights or long lists of thanksgiving, unless that is what the quote seems to call for.

I would recommend this study to anyone. I started the journal in November, 2007 and have about 12 more pages to go.


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