Our current series is titled "Streams of Mercy: Exploring the Spiritual Disciplines". We chose that title because we believe that God has given us various Spiritual Disciplines (His Word, prayer/fasting, community, rest, simplicity, etc.) as gifts not as tasks. He invites us to dive into these "streams" as means of knowing him more intimately. I offered a definition for Spiritual Disciplines as "the devotional and experiential habits of life with God". They are beautiful invitations and we miss out on more than we know when we ignore them.
A few Sundays ago, we spent some time considering the spiritual discipline of digesting God's Word. I mentioned journaling as a practice that has helped me digest (meditate on) God's Word and apply it more personally. I received a question about journaling, so I thought I would give a few quick tips that have made journaling beneficial for me. Maybe they will help you, maybe not...but at least I hope it gets you thinking about how you can better digest and apply God's Word.
6 QUICK TIPS ON JOURNALING
1. Have a Plan - I have been journaling for less than a year and journaling does not come natural to me, so I have found that a plan is priceless.
Get a journal (usually picking out a new one provides a level of excitement that helps with motivation off the bat)
Keep your journal with your Bible
Find a comfortable, quiet spot
Find a good time of the day and block it out
Set a goal for how many times per week (3, 5?)
Here is what I currently write: the date, the passage I read, the best thing that stood out, a summary in my own words, how it impressed me (observations/principles/insights) and then I finish with my response to God (personalization/application)
Trust me, your journal entries are not going to be published into a commentary so don't feel like you have to write one. Write what the Lord lays on your heart even if it ends up being a crazy, odd rabbit trail.
2. Keep it Simple - Start small and simple. I pretty much stick to my outline, commit to journaling one page and aim to hit my goal for number of journal entries per week. Now that is not to say that I never do something different, but I have found this to be a helpful rhythm.
3. Consistency - Variety is great and can infuse life into your time with God but it can also keep you from developing a strong, lasting habit. If you are new to journaling, you may find consistency to be the best strategy for the first few months. There are many approaches to journaling, but I would suggest picking one and sticking with it for a while.
4. Accountability - Tell someone in your life that you are going to start journaling. Tell them why you want to journal, how many times you would like to journal per week and ask them to check with you. (This is not a contest...so, do not be self-conscious if you start off only journaling a couple times a week or fail to hit your goal. You are simply trying to more effectively digest God's Word so that you can really taste and see that he is good.)
5. Share it - Make a habit of integrating what you are talking with God about into your conversations. It will help you digest it better and it is usually a huge encouragement to others. It can turn into opportunities to share the gospel too!
6. Pray - Pray before, pray during and pray after. Journaling is basically talking to God (via pen & paper) about his word. Think of it as a blending of prayer and your time in God's Word.