I have recently revisited my journals which are a written record of my own story with God.
I have a shelf of moleskines that I have been collecting my story in since 2003 as a way of 'finding words'. As I have written before, listening to these sermons on Galatians driving to and from work up the A3 changed the course of my life. One of the many results was that because I became so captivated by the revelation of justification by faith I started to write out Keller sermons almost word for word by hand in a moleskine. This then birthed a hunger for reading the bible, reading books and prayer that I had never had before and I started to record my story. In time, I added to this records of events, words of encouragement, thoughts on the things that I was reading, prayers, names of people, pains, confusions, thanksgiving and joys. I have been writing and recording stuff ever since.
As I have been re-reading a number of benefits of keeping a journal have struck me anew which I thought I would share with you:
2. It's a record of your emotions: So many followers of Jesus are downcast. Now this is not necessarily bad and David spent a good chuck of the Psalms in a grump with God. But here is the thing- he wrote it down. It is good to have an account of how you feel and a journal is a place where you can record this in a safe place before God. Your frustrations, your impatience, your unanswered prayers, your enemies, your sin and anger and your pain. You should also record your praise, your thankfulness and your joys.
3. It's a record of encouragement: The race is a long one and you will be tempted often to give up. In those moments you need to not forget all that the Lord has done. Every time someone encourages me or I get an answer to prayer it goes in my journal. Two people became followers of Jesus after I preached on Sunday and their names are now written down. Next to them I write the word 'Encouragement' and I draw a box around it. Record your encouragements and feel free to encourage me - you'll end up in the journal.
4. It's a record of what God has said to you: Jesus is your friend. You see this truth when you read your journal. God speaks in all sorts of ways- primarily through his word but also through circumstances, events, words from others, dreams, wisdom, reading and through signs and wonders. If you keep a record over time you will spot recurrent themes, texts, stories and memories that are particular to you.
5. It's a record of what you have read: I record the books I am reading. Since I started journalling I have also started blogging so I notice I now write less in my journal about books and quotes- I share most of them with you lot. However, I do make a note of the things I read because what you read does becomes part of your story. If you can make some observations on what you learnt from what you read all well and good.
6. It's a record of prayer: The Bible has some challenging things to say about being devoted to prayer and praying continuously. I easily tend to thinking my prayer life is hopeless and reading my journals anew has shown me I have done a bit of praying and spend a good chunk of time with God. It's astounded me and I am so glad I wrote down my praying. On the occasions I awoke in the night and prayed I have recorded it, when I pray in tongues I write 'Prayed in tongues in car from Brandon to Fakenham' (that's in Norfolk by the way). 'Prayed for Glenda or John' or whoever else. Sometimes I write out a prayer. In time you might be quite encouraged that you like David are able to say 'but I am a man of prayer' (Ps 109:4).
7. It's a record of gladness: Thank the Lord I have a sense of humour. Tons of things make me laugh and some are best kept in a journal and not shared! I have been struck what an absolute giggle following Jesus is. We are a funny bunch us Christians and we are a source of almost constant amusement. Record the funny stuff.
8. It's a record of dreams: On occasions God speaks to me through dreams. When he does I write the account in my journal and next to it I write 'Dream'. You never know when these things may become important. Sometimes I dream about other people or people from my past and this leads me to prayer. I am a real learner on this one but a do have an amazing dream story in my testimony and I am glad I wrote it down!
9. It's a record of letters, emails, notes and scraps: The great thing about a moleskine is it has a little pocket in the back in which you can put things. Tickets of things you went to, an encouraging email, a word or scripture on a piece of paper and any thing else you might want to keep. After some seasons this pocket has been rammed and in others it has been near empty. When you are in an empty time you can revisit 'the well' that was once full and have faith that it will be full again.
10. It's a record of days of prayer and retreats: Silence and solitude are a crucial discipline. A couple of times a month and sometimes more I go to my secret place and spend the day. I have been visiting the same place for twenty years (it was rather less frequent when I lived in Russia!). I now record these days in my journal. Sometimes I read a whole book or letter and then jot notes, sometimes I write a page or two of thanksgiving, sometimes I record how I am feeling.
If you don't journal start one today and every time I write about journalling I alway recommend Ron Klug's 'How to keep a spiritual journal'