Journaling is a good way to track your spiritual life. I recommend it to every one that is seriously wanting to develop in their own discipleship. It may not be the answer for every one but it sure has helped me. Here are a few of the positives...
-If you find concentration in prayer difficult, the act of writing can focus your thoughts. While quiet contemplation is something to be desired and growing in our lives, writing can be a means to that end. It doesn't have to be flowery, just honest and as private as you want it to be.
-It creates an automatic chronicle of your spiritual life and the ways that God is speaking to and leading you. It is very beneficial for review. It can also be a way to help you remember those things you discern God challenging you to work on.
-Prayerful journaling can help you process your life instead of blindly existing in it. It's a way to help you make sense of what's happening day to day, ask questions about the hard stuff and remember the things that shouldn't just fade away.
In a "new years resolution-y" kind of way, I wanted to be a bit more faithful to journaling. So I began January with a new journal and I have been writing in it a little each day. But I started to feel that pressure already to really write and get a lot out of it. Just in the first few days of the year, my new resolve became more like an assignment that I HAD to do.
Then I remembered some really good advise that I have heard from a few sources (one of them was Oprah but let's not get into it and the other was a course I took called Space for God...awesome!) about keeping a gratitude journal. To intentionally sit down in the evening and list at least five things you are grateful for that are specific to that day.
It's best to not make them general things like checking off a foregone list...wife, kids, place to live, friends, food. But to be as specific as possible. For instance, here's mine from today and obviously, in my own journal, these things are way more specific but you'll get the idea...these are all things I experienced, noticed or thought about today.
"I'm grateful for...
-The way Stella dances in our musical worship times at church. It reminds me of how I long for freedom like that...to not care what others think and just naturally respond to God.
-For a lazy afternoon with family and the game of 'Clue' that Sam won and all the fun we had with Grandma finding out she actually committed the crime in the lounge with the wrench.
-For the way I see community happening right in front of me...friends gathering to pray for one another through difficult times, friends supporting and encouraging a young couple about to be married, friends giving to each other out of their poverty, friends getting together and laughing their heads off.
-For quiet time
-For my hilarious boys, Joshua's quick wit and Sam's silly heart. They're killing me lately."
This has revolutionized my journaling time. I feel silly keeping a diary, just chronicling the events of the day in the order they happened. But to look back on my day through the lens of gratitude helps me see God's hand even in more difficult times.
A good friend once told me that before all the proper theological thinking, before all the stuff we think makes us good Christians, before it all, there is gratitude. It is the way we come to God. It's our first step in moving toward God. If for nothing else, for the gift that we have that we could not have given ourselves, life. When we realize that all we are and all we have is grace, the most fitting response is thankfulness. Gratitude is the ground floor of our relationship to God. It's the way in.
"Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name." Psalm 100:4