People often say the memory is the first thing to go; I think it’s not necessarily the memory but the fact that life moves so fast, keeping up with it is difficult. There was a point in my life in which I struggled with my memory, often overlooking directions given to me by my father, and so I worked hard to develop it. For much of my life I never kept notes, an appointment book, or lists because I simply remembered everything and I convinced myself that would always be the case. As. I began to travel overseas I began to keep journals about them (the only time I would do so) and one day I went back a couple years after having gone to Kent and read through that journal again. I was stunned at the experience I had there. Then something else hit me: I was stunned because I had forgotten many aspects of it, that if I hadn’t looked at the pictures and journal again, would have been lost forever.
We all process and discard thousands of things every minute. Other aspects of life only need temporary storage, such as an appointment. Truthfully, we don’t need to remember everything (a point that transformed my productivity when I realized that). Then we have separate categories of items that should be retained permanently and others that, while not extremely important, are good to recall once in awhile. This is why journaling is key.
Journaling can capture those moments that often flee from us because their recollection is not needed continuously . . . a day trip to the mountains, your child’s first parting the lips into a smile, or God’s grace in a particular moment. Directed by the movement of our hands, ink flows steadily from pen to paper to create structure and form that can be read and interpreted later. Such an experience utilizes senses that also cause us to more readily retrieve the information from the back of our mind as well.
Chronicling thoughts, lessons, and emotions urges reflection and remembrance. I would urge every person to journal to some degree, but for the Christian especially taking times alongside our quiet moments with the Lord’s Word allows for a unique and enduring opportunity for the Lord to work in our lives. Why alongside with reading the Lord’s Word? Simply because it means journaling first about thoughts and teachings of the Lord, causing you to learn them and apply them. Second, because generally as we read Scripture, we are reminded of how those words apply to specific circumstances taking place in life. Thus the journal becomes both a chronicle of what we are learning and applying, and of our daily experiences and challenges. Over time, the journal then becomes an opportunity for the following:
- To Remember God’s Answer to Prayer: Journals, whether intentional or not, often create records of our prayer requests and can become an informal log to see God’s answers to those prayers, and even the outcomes of those answers.
- To Remember God’s Grace: The journal allows us to go back and look at God’s work in and/or through our lives leading to a profound thankfulness for God’s graces in life, such as salvation, fellowship, care, discipline, etc.
- To Remember God’s Transformation of Life: Finally, the journal becomes a record of who we are and can show us how God has worked in our life through the days, months, and years to continuously mold us into the image of His Son, Jesus Christ.
The journal can be a tool, rightly used, in which we God can draw us closer to Himself as we reflect on His continued work from initial creation to present continuation.
The experience of journaling then, is one that is can be purposeful and enjoyable. Yet, if the benefits are so profound, why is it not a habit practiced routinely? I suspect there are three reasons. First, we get burdened by it. Journaling is made to complex and complicated, and so becomes a task rather than an interest. Such overcomplicating also leads to the second issue: we get behind. Making it complicated often leads to getting behind because we can’t keep up with the self-imposed requirements. Finally, we get bored. We fail to connect journaling to life and so it becomes a boring process to be endured rather than enjoyed.
This doesn’t have to be the case though. In fact, by following some simple tips journaling can become a daily habit. Thus we should seek to:
- Make It Simple: Journaling doesn’t have to be complicated. In fact, the more complex it is, the more likely you are to abandon it.
- Make It Fun: Like to draw? Then draw out your thoughts. Add some fun to it by using different types of journals or Bibles. Write with different utensils. Add some different aspects, such as perhaps everyday you define a particular Greek word that you come across.
- Make It Serious: While it should fun so that you maintain motivation, journaling should also be serious. It carries with it a purpose meant to create a continuous impact.
- Make It About the Gospel: Use this opportunity to record how God’s gospel, God’s truth, and God’s work impacts your life. Be motivated and encouraged by the work He is doing and use it as an opportunity to draw closer to Him through praise and worship of Him.
- Make It Applicable: Finally, as your journaling thoughts about the Lord’s teachings, indicate how they are applicable to your life. Perhaps you can include how you will utilize them in specific circumstances that are currently taking place.
Such tips can help you to be consistent in journaling. And when you miss a day or two, don’t try to catch up, simply move on.
Journaling is an opportunity to reflect on God and His work in your life. We have been given the opportunity to meditate upon God’s Word and the Holy Spirit’s transformation of our lives through the use of His Word. Such a unique work of God deserves our attention so that we may draw closer to Him through that. Journaling forces you to reflect more deeply on what is taking place, and therefore a good complement to our time with Him.
Some Recommended Tools (this is not an exhaustive list, nor is it an exclusive list; these are just some of my favorites, but use the tools that work for you):
Journaling Bibles (Bibles with lines/pages inserted for your own reflections next to the text you reflect upon):
Notebooks: Prefer just a regular notebook or journal instead of a Bible? I love using basic notebooks for my note taking and journaling as well. Below is a list of some of my favorites (especially the Apica and Clairefontaine notebooks). Each is high quality paper with a smooth finish for a phenomenal writing experience. Most come in a variety of sizes and colors that suit your own preferences and personality.
- Apica Notebooks (my favorites and thin enough to slip into something for easy portability)
- Claire Fontaine Notebooks (my second favorite; a bit thicker than Apica, but the dimensions are a bit smaller)
- Rhodia Notebooks
- Moo Notebook (a bit more expensive, but the quality is spectacular and it has a hard cover for durability)
Pens: I am always an advocate for using a fountain pen (see my article here) so I have recommended a basic entry-level pen priced for those seeking to try it out. However, use what works for you. I mostly include pens here, because I highly recommend the use of Micron fine pens (8 pack) for using to mark your Bible. They do well at not bleeding through or tearing, major aspects to consider for writing in a Bible.