Strengthening the Soul (3)

“The unexamined life is not worth living.”Journal.jpg

As I recall, Socrates said this at his trial for heresy. Socrates was on trial for encouraging his students to challenge the accepted beliefs of their day and instead think for themselves.

Fast forward to 2010.

The alarm clock rings. It is the beginning of a new day. Off to work.

1. I do this.
2. I do that.
3. Time for lunch.
4. After lunch, I do this.
5. Then, I do that.
6. Time to go home.
7. Dinner.
8. Evening.
9. Bed

The alarm clock rings. Repeat 1-9.

Is this a life?

I think Socrates is right. “The unexamined life is not worth living.” After all, life is more than existing through the days/weeks/months/years. LIfe has meaning and the center for that meaning is the soul.

So how does a person use the disciplines to nurture the soul?

One tool that I have used for a long time is a journal. At this moment, I am sitting at my desk at home. To my left is a bookshelf. On the top shelf, there are about thirteen used journals. Most of them are either black or dark blue in color. One is tan. These thirteen journals are full of insights, memories, reflections and stories. There are no blank pages. For many years, I have recorded my thoughts usually three to four times a week. There is a suitcase in our garage full of these used journals from earlier years.

The following are some ways that journaling has been helpful in tending my soul:

1. Writing in my journal has enabled me to process and evaluate my day in light of my purpose for living. For example, reflecting in my journal gives me the opportunity to examine the way I handled conversations with people or perhaps a delicate situation.

2. Writing in my journal has helped me become aware of my real thoughts. Sometimes I am amazed at what comes out when I am writing. At times, thoughts and motives are expressed on paper that I really wasn’t conscious of having.

3. Writing in my journal has given me a forum for being honest with myself and with God. I find that so often my prayers are far more honest and candid when I write down what I am praying. My prayer also becomes more specific and focused.

4. Writing in my journal has given me a place to record insights, quotes, and stories that I hear or read. Often it is the place where I record significant lines or paragraphs from my reading.

I am not suggesting that you absolutely need to be journaling. I am saying that there is great value in having a discipline that calls for you to pause and examine your life. There is something valuable about reflecting on how you are living in light of your purpose.


Do you journal? Do you ever process your life through your writing? What has been your experience with this?

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

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8 thoughts on “Strengthening the Soul (3)

    • Jonathan, I am so glad that you have found this blog useful. Thanks for this kind note. I look forward to hearing more of your thoughts as you continue to process where you belong in some form of ministry.

  1. All the way through college, my professors encouraged me to journal, but I did not take their advice. I just didnt think journalling was for me, but in my second year of full-time ministry, I decided to give it a try. Journalling is one of the most important practices of my week. I carry my journal around everywhere I go. Journalling gives me a chance to articulate my thoughts, feelings, and insights. I, like you, find my written prayers more focused.

    • Kevin! Good to hear from you.

      I am glad that your journal has been such a great tool and practice for you. I hope you are doing well, Kevin. Would love to catch up with you and Jill sometime.

  2. Jim,

    I think this is something I should consider doing, but if I do it, I should keep a handwritten journal and resist the urge to do it on the computer. I think the spectacular rise of personal blogging has done private journalling a disservice. When I stop and think about it, I realise that my initial reaction to the thought of keeping a journal entirely for my own benefit and not for sharing via the internet is negative – why would someone go to all that trouble and not even blog about it? This shows how far my/our thinking about these kinds of private disciplines has been distorted by the accelerating universal for everyone to have their 15 minutes of fame.

    Thanks for giving me pause to think about this. If you haven’t thought about it already, perhaps you would consider sharing some insights into how to go about keeping a personal journal (e.g. ideas for what kinds of things to think about, etc.). I know there is no way to be prescriptive about this, but for those who have never practiced such a discipline, a few pointers might be all the help they need to get started.


    • Rob,

      I will be happy to do this. Let me think about this for a couple of weeks.

      I appreciate the struggle that you share in your first paragraph. One of the values that I have found in journalling (privately) is that the dynamic of knowing that I am not writing this “for” anyone. Consequently, there is often a level of honesty and candor that comes through when I am not even giving a second thought about someone reading it.

      Thanks so much for your thoughts Rob.

  3. Jim,

    I appreciated your post–frank and so true. It made me re-think my day and ponder how mindful I was throughout. I do journal, though not daily. It’s helped me got get hung up about it if I treat it as something I do when I need to express myself through writing. I really like the feel and content of your blog. This was my first visit.


    • Hi Beth,
      I am glad that you visited this blog. I hope you will come back.

      Most of what I write on this blog is intended to encourage. Much that is here simply comes out of my mind and heart. So often what I write is triggered by something I read, a conversation, or something that I have been thinking about. I suspect this blog also reflects that I have not quit learning yet.

      Thanks so much for the kind words, Beth.