The anchor frame I used on this picture is significant. I believe that journaling keeps me grounded and “anchored”, if you will, through each season of life.
Through journaling, I connect intimately with God. Journaling helps me process the confusing stuff in my heart. Also, it is an avenue of prayer, for myself and others.
Most importantly, my journals are a record of God’s continual work in my life.
Recently, I was blessed with a few quiet hours to glance through a few of my old journals.
I sipped an ammaretto americano and read page after page of God’s goodness in my life. So many notes, doodles, questions, prayers, and musings filled those pages. I am so glad I have maintained a habit of journaling these past few years. Reading them again gives me so much perspective. What was, what I hoped for, what I was anxious about.
And how God walked me through it all.
The hectic changes of the last few months made me forget journaling. With that, I lost perspective. The absence of yesterdays notes is the absence of a road sign or a mile marker. I have no clue where I am.
“Here I raise mine ebenezer”
The Bible refers several times to Ebenezers (1 Samuel 7). You probably know the name from A Christmas Carol, or from my favorite hymn, “Come Thou Fount.”
But most people don’t know what an ebenezer is. In Hebrew, it is “Stone of Help.” (reference)
We refer to it in “Come Thou Fount” as a monument or road sign. Like many prominent characters in the Old Testament, we sing “here I raise mine ebenezer,” to say, “I am putting a marker here in this moment to honor God, and to remind me in later years of the significance of this relationship.”
My journal acts as an ebenezer.
Each journal entry is varied from the last. But I try to include a few specific things to help me remember the journey.
- Date: What day is it? Anything special, like a Birthday, holiday, day off, etc.?
- Song of the Day: I usually wake up with a song in my head. So I write it down. It is interesting to see how the songs change. I think it helps to define what kind of season I am in.
- Describe what is going on: Is it a cloudy day? Am I sitting at church, preparing to hear a sermon? What event is approaching, or just happened. These notes help to get my emotions and thoughts in gear to start processing life on paper.
- Processing through: This is crucial for me. I am an extrovert in that I have to process the stuff in my brain outside of myself. Most extroverts do this by talking to someone. I find that writing it down is a helpful alternative (but not a complete substitute to a good friend.)
- Verse/Psalm of the day: Journaling can be an intense “me-centered” activity. I know that my heart needs to process things, but my words and emotions can run wild, creating havoc. I write down a verse, often from Psalms, to keep me grounded in truth.
- Doodle: Sometimes words don’t cut it. Recently, God told me “wait” on a specific dream I was praying about. I had a mental image of God letting the air out of my hot-air balloon until I was ready to fly. So I’ve been doodling hot-air balloons. It’s a simple way of acknowledging God’s kindness and my willingness to be patient (even when it is difficult).
- Prayer: I always felt like I should have this grand prayer time with the Lord at the end of the day. Well, that never happens. Our nights are typically very busy. We do most of our socializing in the evening (that’s college ministry for you).
I realized I need to seek God while I am most available, mentally and physically, to give complete attention to Him. The morning is often my best shot.
You do not need a journal to pray, but it is helpful for me. It keeps me focused.
I am able to recognize my sin, write it down, and repent of it. I can cross it out, or draw a big “X” over it, symbolizing that God has forgiven me and is cleansing me of all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).
I can worship God, noting His awesome characteristics:
You are Holy,
Jesus, thank you for your kindness to me,
Your love never gives up,
Oh, Lord, you are so GOOD!
Open the eyes of my Heart:
This system is an excellent way for me to prepare to receive His Word. I try to journal with my Bible in my lap, referencing a verse here and there. But I don’t view this as studying the Bible. Merely preparing my heart to receive truth. Actual reading of the Bible comes later, sometimes with my journal alongside.
I think the difference between the two is this:
- Journaling is about my heart.
- Bible study is about God’s heart.
But we will look at Bible study later in 10 Habits for a Purely Fantastic Morning Routine.
Thanks for joining me!