Tag: Journaling

In Praise of Private Writing

One of the most fascinating portions of Jonathan Edwards’s collected works is a 350 page section entitled “Miscellaneous Observations” and “Notes on the Bible.” This section comprises a large collection of Edwards’s personal notes on various subjects including philosophical, theological, and biblical musings. The depth and breadth of these writings are remarkable.

But what is most intriguing to me is not the content of these writings, despite the profound and deep insights contained in Edwards’s notes. Rather, it is that fact that these notes were never originally intended for publication. While it’s true that Edwards would use some of these notes in later sermons and publications, they didn’t originate for that reason. These notes were Edwards’s private thoughts on Scripture and theology, and it was here that Edwards was forging and refining his convictions. Continue reading “In Praise of Private Writing”

Journaling About the Bible More Than Our Spiritual Condition

I’ve kept a journal since the earliest days of my Christian life. Over the years the content has ranged from personal devotional thoughts and meditations on Scripture, to doctrinal reflections and philosophical musings. But as I read back over several of these entries, I notice a heavy emphasis on my own spiritual condition. Entries that express my struggles with sin and assurance, concern over my motives, and groaning over my lack of affection for Christ appear to dominate much of my personal writing. Continue reading “Journaling About the Bible More Than Our Spiritual Condition”

Some Thoughts on Journaling (2)

I thought I would use this post to follow up what I said yesterday about journaling by answering a few important questions that are often asked about this discipline.

What Kind of Journal Should I Use?
One that works best for you. I have friends who use anything from a simple notebook to a nice, leather bound journal. Some use only their computer because they are able to type faster than they write. Still others like to keep a diary to record their day-to-day life, and use separate notebooks for their other writing. I have found that a combination between the first two has been the best way for me to keep a journal; using a complex journal keeping system (like having many different notebooks for different subjects) actually keeps me from journaling. In my judgment, simplicity and ease of access is king. Therefore, I use a Mead Five-Star notebook (I like this notebook because it is contains college ruled paper, 200 pages, a reinforced cover, and it lays flat) for everything that I listed in the first post. Sometimes, however, I find that I am in the mood to fire off some thoughts from the laptop. Whenever I do this, I simply date it and keep it in a “journal” folder on my computer. Every few weeks I print it off and put it in a three-hole binder. This way, all my journals are kept in one place on my shelf and everything is in chronological order.

How Often Should I Journal?
As often as you like. Several times a day; once a day; once every three days. I would recommend that you try to be consistent while at the same time making sure you do not beat yourself up for having missed a few days. We are not declared righteous by keeping a journal. Having said that, I think you will find it helpful to write regularly, even if it means writing very little each time. Sometimes I may write only a few sentences. Other times, I may write several pages. Trying to write a small amount on a regular basis will keep the gears oiled for the days when you really churn out some thoughts. Also, having one simple notebook allows me to carry my journal wherever I go, whether it is school, work, or on vacation; this allows me to scribble out my thoughts wherever I am at. There are times, however, when you will not be able to bring your journal with you; when this is the case, I try to write myself “prompts” on little sheets of paper so that I can remind myself of what I was thinking and make my entry for that particular prompt in my journal when I get home.

What If I Do Not Want Anyone to See My Journal?
This is an important question because it may reveal that you are writing things in your journal that perhaps you should not be writing. A journal is not an outlet for sinful secrecy; a collection angry vents toward those with whom you have a problem. If you would not say something to someone’s face, then I suggest that you probably should not put it in your journal—there is always the possibility that someone could find your journal, and you should be dealing with the issues you have with others in a forthright, face-to-face way; not burying them in a journal so they can smolder and ignite fresh bitterness. Although there are intimate things in my journal, and although I try not to write to impress others (“Wow, isn’t he spiritual”), I am not afraid of someone finding and reading my journals, especially if I were to die without disposing of them. Granted, I may be embarrassed by some of my flawed theological reasoning, or my misinterpretations of Scripture, or the description of some of the inner-workings of my heart, but at the end of the day, I can have a clean conscience that there is nothing in my journal that I would be afraid to have others see.

On the other hand, if you find that you are only able to write with sincerity if you are certain that no one will ever see your journal, then I suggest that you either entrust your journal with a trusted friend who will know how to rightly handle your journal if you were to die, or write your journal on a computer and keep that document password protected. If you are afraid that someone may crack the password, perhaps you have too high an opinion of your thoughts—you’re not that spiritual.

Again, I am sure there are many more questions we could consider. But I hope that answering these three questions has been helpful to you as you think about the discipline of journaling.

Photo: Alejandro Escamilla

Some Thoughts on Journaling

I find myself regularly reflecting the discipline of journaling. Although I love pens, college-ruled paper, and Mead Five-Star composition notebooks (I usually stock up several at a time), I can say without hesitation the primary reason I practice keeping a journal is the spiritual benefit I derive from such a discipline. Here are a few:

Continue reading “Some Thoughts on Journaling”

More Thoughts on Journaling

I love to journal.  I love to sit down at the end of the day, open my notebook, and record specific thoughts that have been suggested to my mind that day, situations that I have learned from, insight from books I am reading, meditations on Scripture, or simply write about an enjoyable event and thank God for His goodness to me.

Out of all the spiritual disciplines, I would say that I am drawn to this one most easily.  There are days when I feel like I could write for hours-and this inclination usually comes after having already written for near an hour!  But I sense real spiritual benefit from writing, too.  Thoughts are clarified, truth is solidified in my mind (which usually promotes real rejoicing in my heart), God’s faithfulness is preserved for future encouragement, and helpful quotes from godly men and women are stored up for later use.

Even if you never intend to write for publication, I would encourage you to write for your own edification.  Don Whitney writes,

Keeping a journal can be one of the most profitable and fruitful disciplines we ever practice.  Among other things, it helps in self-understanding and evaluation, in meditating on the Lord and His Word, in expressing our deepest feelings to the Lord and in remembering His works in our lives.  Journaling assists in creating and preserving a spiritual heritage, in clarifying and articulating insights and impressions, in monitoring goals and priorities, and in maintaining other spiritual disciplines (Simplify Your Spiritual Life, 95.)

Whitney continues to encourage us,

…some people imagine journaling to be more complicated than it is.  In fact, it’s quite simple.  Just write.  Unlike some of the other spiritual disciplines, there’s no right or wrong way to keep a journal (95).

John Piper, in a Q & A after his biography on Jonathan Edwards, said, “I owe all the [doctrinal, spiritual] clarity that I ever had to 30 volumes of journals began when I was a sophomore in college.”  That was 19 years ago.  In a recent interview, he says that number is up to 60 volumes.  Imagine that!  60 volumes of writing, never intended for publication but only for the good of his soul.

So pick up a pen, a notebook, and start to write.  Whether you write several paragraphs, or just a couple of lines; twice a day, or a couple times a week, the practice of journaling will benefit your soul.

You can read my other entry on journaling here.

Photo: Calum MacAulay

Journaling for the Good of Your Soul

Ever since becoming a Christian, I have loved to write.  I certainly do not think that writing is a fruit of the Spirit or something that is bestowed at salvation, but I do believe that writing is an excellent spiritual discipline to nurture and one that has great benefits.  One way to develop this discipline is by journaling. Continue reading “Journaling for the Good of Your Soul”