Holy Asides
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November 25, 2014, 4:00 PM

Journaling--Writing to Listen

I must say one of the biggest surprises of the fall is how much I am enjoying the Spiritual Discipline classes, not only the researching, teaching and discussion that takes place in the class itself, but in this space where I reflect upon my own experience in undertaking the discipline. 


This month’s discipline is journaling. I have stated on more than one occasion that journaling is something I find incredibly helpful and is also something which I deeply despise. However, what I have discovered is that the parts of journaling that I have despised came from my own self-imposed rules and regulations about what defined “journaling.” I discovered the helpfulness of journaling over a decade ago but the freedom of journaling only since the Crafting a Rule of Life class. 


For me, journaling meant writing my prayers and Bible study thoughts every day. This would provide a record of my spiritual growth, insights, and answered prayers. While this is certainly one aspect of what journaling could be, it quickly devolved into a chore that I sought to avoid. However, over time, I began to gain a more liberal understanding of what journaling could be. In very simple terms, journaling could be praying/meditating/reflecting in any sort of written medium, including drawing or poetry. I also did not have to journal every day.


What I have discovered is that I write in order to listen. I do not write in order to go back later and read what I have written. Rather, I write and write and write whatever is on my heart and mind, until something emerges that is clearly from God. This is exactly what happened with ‘My Big Dream” that I wrote about last time. In reflecting upon the various ways that I could start spiritually preparing now for some distant dream, God very clearly spoke and I wrote down “You have a Big Dream… be my Church.” At the moment I stopped writing, there was no need to write anything else because I heard clearly. From then on I began to pray and to listen. I journal this way nearly every week... not every day, but once a week. I have found this to be immensely helpful and freeing. 


There are a variety of ways to practice journaling, but I wanted to share one more exercise that I found both helpful and challenging. In her book, Self-Compassion, Kristen Neff encourages people to write themselves a letter as if they were writing to a friend. It was amazing how much more caring I am to my friends and loved ones than to myself. So if you are like me and tend to be harder on yourself than those around you, write yourself a letter. Pretend you are writing to a close friend who is struggling or needs encouragement or blessing. Take a few moments and then read what you have written to yourself. Hear those words of love and care. They are words from God to you. 


In short, I encourage the discipline of journaling in whatever form, or whichever way, it blesses you. There is no right way, or amount of time, or frequency that must be devoted to it. Experiment. Write. Draw. Pray.

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