coffeecup.jpgAbout twenty-five years ago, I started journaling.  I have no idea why I began.  I have no idea what was behind my writing that first sentence in a notebook.

I do remember reading Gordon MacDonald’s Ordering Your Private World in 1984, shortly after it was published.  As I recall, he spoke of the value of journaling.  It seems like I heard or read about others who wrote in a journal.  Anyway, I have been doing this for about twenty-three years.  Most of the time, the discipline has seemed valuable to me.  At other times, writing in a journal has been a struggle.   Regardless, I continued to write.    

A few moments ago, I was writing in my journal and decided to put these thoughts in a post.  Why?  Over this period of twenty-four years, I do realize that this discipline has been particularly helpful to me.  I write about my week, my day, and whatever I am thinking or feeling at the time.  If I am reading something that is particularly meaningful, I might write about it.  As I am reading through Scripture (this morning I read Acts 8 and 9), I might write about the passage and what I am seeing or hearing.  

My journal is a place where I will often dump a lot of anxiety, anger, and frustration.  It is a place where I talk about my temptations and sins.

As I think about this, it occurs to me that my journal is a place where I express the "rawness" of my life.  I make no effort to clean it up or justify or explain away.  Rather, it is my attempt to use it as a mirror of my life, in which I express whatever seems to be happening.  

A few observations:

1.  My journal is for me.  I make no effort to "do it right."  I attempt to use this in ways that are helpful to me rather than do this discipline the way someone else might.

2.  My journal (the discipline of "journaling") has been very helpful to me in my walk with God.  At times, seeing what I had just written on paper has helped me see the reality of my life.  I find it easy to minimize and justify whatever might be in my heart.  Seeing these words, in which I have expressed what I am thinking or feeling, has helped me deal with the reality of my life instead of an illusion.  In short, it has helped me deal with the truth of my life.  If I am going to encounter God, I want to go before him in truth and not with pretense.

3.  My journal reminds me to live with authenticity and genuineness.   Early on in my ministry, I began to learn that this work can be very dangerous.  After all, there are those who would like to believe their minister is nearly perfect, without flaw (other than the obligatory, "Well of course, we are all sinners.").  I found early on that many people would like for their minister to just do the work without really expressing anything heartfelt or disturbing.  Not good.  I am thankful at this point in my life to be free from some of that internal bondage that existed early on as I desperately wanted to satisfy the expectations of others.  My journal was helpful in the process of getting out of this trap.

4.  On a practical note.  I have journaled in all kinds of notebooks.  Spiral, clothbound, etc.  I have kept all of these notebooks.  (They are stored away in some old suitcases.)  Occasionally, I will read through a few of them.

I don’t know if any of this has been helpful or even interesting.  If you journal now or have done so in the past, I would enjoy hearing your reflections.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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24 thoughts on “Journaling

  1. This has been helpful and interesting to me Jim, thanks.   It is really hard to explain how and why this works but I just know that it is a tremendous help in my walk with God and in being able to look at me and what I need to change.  I had gotten out of the habbit of an actual journal but have just recently been making a list each day of what I need to do and it’s made a big difference in my life.  I am going to start TODAY back journaling so thanks so much for this reminder.  You are a blessing!   

  2. Thanks, Jim. YES, journaling is powerful. I think blogging is actually journaling in full view of others … and that has it’s helpful elements as well. When I am writing in a journal, my struggles seem weaker and my connection with God seem stronger. When I neglect journaling, I am able to gloss over my actions and for a time remain unaccountable to myself. Journaling is a strong element of the Christian Journey. I admire your tenacity with it … I am on again off again.

  3. I too have been a journaler for years, although not every day. Sometimes I go weeks without journaling. It’s always refreshing (and sometimes amusing) to read over past journal entries from months or years ago and to see what I was worried or excited about then, and to recognize how clearly God moved in that particular situation. It’s a practice that I highly recommend to anyone, regardless of whether or not they consider themselves a "writer". Thanks for encouraging us to keep at it!

  4. I am wondering, do you ever page back through and read previous entries? Maybe years later, or days later, or what?I have journaled some, but I have yet to successfully make it routine. Any hints on that? 

  5. I have journaled for coming up on two years and have too struggled with making it a routine. There have been times when months would pass between entries, but in the last year I have gotten much better about making it a part of my daily life. As for the biggest tip that I can give to making it a daily thing is this: keep your journal with you at all times. If you’re anything like me, you’ll get the most intriguing thoughts at the most random time. My schedule is so fluid, it is very hard to set a specific time apart each day to journal, so i just find it best to write whenever the opportunity arises. Journaling is such a powerful tool of release. There’s something about allowing the words to flow from you mind to your hand and onto the page which gives a certain sense of finality and closer to some of my issues.

  6. I used to journal. Then someone read it without asking. Well. Let’s just say I’m glad I started blogging, for it’s the closest thing to journaling I’ve done since that moment.

  7. John,I have the same experience as you regarding the impact of journaling upon my walk with God. 

    Thanks for what you said regarding “tenacity.” I am at the point with this where I can say that I journal regularly without feeling that I must slavish about writing in my journal on a daily basis. I don’t write everyday and I am ok with that. I do journal regularly however and that has been helpful to me.

  8. Dave,Yes, I do read previous entries.  Sometimes, I read the notes I took during an inspiring seminar or after the kids were born.  It is almost like I experience the delight again.Regarding establishing a routine.  Dave, this is a simple thing but it has helped me to keep my journal next to the book that I am reading.  For instance, in the morning, when I get that cup of coffee and my book to read, my journal comes with it.  That has helped.  It is almost like the reading and the journaling go together.I think if I didn’t do this, I would probably find all kinds of reasons to put off journaling during the day.  This seems to help me, anyway. 

  9. Hi Rusty,Well said!  That is helpful.  Thanks for expressing what has been helpful to you with this discipline.

  10. L.L.Someone read your journal without permission? Yuk.  No wonder you do not journal.  That would be very frustrating.   

  11. I have journaled in one form or another since I was a teenager. I find that I need to write almost as much as I need to eat or breathe. It has brought me through good times and very bad times and helped me to see what is real as opposed to "hallucinations." Now I also blog and that has taken me to a whole new way of writing that is exciting and encouraging–sometimes to others.
    Thanks for sharing your journalling story. It encourages me to continue writing both in my journal and on line.

  12. Yes, but isn’t it ironic that I now “journal” through blogging… and the whole world could read it if they wished? (Of course, I’ll be honest… blog journaling isn’t as “raw” as paper journaling, as you mention.)

  13. I have journalled at various times for short periods of time.  I have always eventually destroyed the journals because of the concern that someone would read back over some of the things I have written and be hurt in some way.  I did find it a valuable experience, anyway.  I also used to write poetry to help me work through things and that was helpful, too.

  14. L.L.,Yes, it is ironic.  As you say, it is all "out here" for the world to see.  What an interesting time…You are right.  To some degree, this is very much "blog journaling."  I guess I like the idea, though, that I can choose what I write, as opposed to someone reading what I had thought was my own material.Thanks!  

  15. Dana,Very good comment.  I like what you say about journaling as a tool to help you see what is "real."  I agree. 

  16. Connie,Your comment re poetry reminds me of a conversation I had with a guy this past January who basically said the same thing. 

  17. Jim, thanks for this.  I began journaling on my first mission trip overseas in 1998 and have been going ever since.  It was amazing that the journal was meant for me to remember what happened there (event-wise), but turned out to be much more about my feelings and experience while there.  That’s what it’s been ever since!  It’s a way for me to consolidate my life, to think through issues.  Since I am an external processor, this is my way of "thinking" through things and "talking" with someone while doing it.  

  18. I guess the closest I get to journaling is blogging. Though I have scrawled some very personal matters in journal like fashion, especially through some difficult times in my life.

  19. I stumbled on this site after reading an entry in John Baillie’s A Diary of Private Prayer. His prayers move me so much and give me so much insight into him that I wanted to know more about him. My research for him led me to your sight. I used to journal and had completely stopped. I now realize what

  20. I ran out of space but thank you for getting me back on track. I stumbled onto your site after reading an entry in John Baillie’s A Diary of Private Prayer. I wanted to find out more information on him and was led to your post. God bless you. I will get back to journaling.