Journaling is not everyone’s cup to tea. However some kind of record of God’s work in our life and what we are experiencing should be kept if we want to grow in discernment and in awareness of ourselves.
The ancients were instructed to put up stones of memorials to remember the mighty deeds of God. Joshua picked twelve stones from the river bed of Jordan and set them up so that God’s people remember what God has done and therefore what God is like. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob set up stone markers to remember the encounters they had with God and the words God had revealed to them.
Journaling is one pragmatic and simple way of doing this. Recording what God has done for us, in us and through us. Recording our encounters with Him and what he taught us. Recording our insights, emotions, memories, desires, dreams, and feelings. Reviewed regularly, whether monthly, quarterly and yearly to reflect on what God has been doing for you, in you and through you and what he is saying to you is a healthy way to discern God’s work and will in your life.
With the annual review I could give a name to my year. One was a year of stress. One was a year of desolation. One was a year of clarity. Last year was a year of release of burdens. I could see what God was doing with my life and how I was progressing spiritually and in ministry.
If you want to see spiritual growth in your life the organic way, you will want to record what you are experiencing, reflect on what God is doing and saying to you, and grow in discernment. No short cuts. The path of patience.
However not everyone likes recording their experiences with words, whether on paper or digitally. Here are a few other ways to remember God and our encounters and experiences:
Use a voice recorder and talk through what happened and what you felt.
Draw pictures and images to symbolise or express your emotions and desires.
Make something: origami, clay work or plasticine, or embroidery to represent what happened.
The smartphone is always with us and you could download an app that allows you to take short notes for each month. If you have a Samsung Note like I do, you have wonderful access to S Pen and S Note folders.
Take a large cardboard and draw twelve large stones, each blank stone to represent each month, and write significant key words of events or emotions.
Use Facebook to write private notes of what happened and emoticons to express emotions. Change the privacy setting to keep some of these for your eyes only.
Use Instagram and use pictures and words to record your encounters, feelings and events.
Start a free blog on blogspot or wordpress and keep whatever you record private.
Do a selfie video of yourself talking.
Use that neglected camera in the drawer and set it up on a stand and record yourself talking about what God has been doing in your life periodically.
I am sure there are several other creative ways besides deepening on our unreliable memory. Do share with us in the comments below how you do it personally?
Christmas is the season for reflection. It is December. Its the year’s end. Often it is seen as a time to holiday and wind down. Nothing wrong with that. It is time also to look back on the year. God has been with you every day of the whole year. We forget his inconspicuous presence in everyday happenings of regular living. Reflection helps us to unearth those gems and deepen our love and gratitude for our Lord. So we look back and count as many blessings and write a super long list of how God has shown up and blessed us through events, experiences and people. Then as holy priests we offer to the Lord a sacrifice of thanksgiving and praise.
Of course there were also those so-called negative experiences. Times when we were upset, angry, jealous, bitter, furious, and fell into temptations of various kinds. We felt humiliated, discouraged or remorseful. We wanted to give up. Run away. Hide in a hole forever. These feeling need to be processed in the context of the incidents in which they arose. Talk to the Lord about them one by one and sit and listen. Let the finished work sink in. There are gems of self- and God- discovery to be unearthed. Each year should enrich you with bags of experiences processed via the cross of Christ.
So carve out some time and take time to reflect. Take a break and shut down all electronic and digital devices for a day or a half-day. Eat, sleep, pray, journal and let God love you.
My warmest Christmas wishes to all friends and visitors of this blog. The Lord bless you with hope and peace!
It did take me some time to read and reflect on my journal entries of 2011. I could have approached them from different angles. It could have been: what have I done in 2011- a question of doing. Or it could be what have I become – a question of being, of character, or self-understanding, of relationships. Or I could explore what God has done and said to me in 2011? I have opted on a little bit of all and what God has “been” to me.
2011 would be a year of restoration for me and the Lord has been my Shepherd and to use an updated metaphor, my Programmer. In January, I was still praying about whether to go into retreat in Chiangmai. In March I wrote, “He is active. He can update our software. Permission to adjust the program files in our system is needed. Lord, update my program”. Cannot believe I actually prayed this prayer and then forgot about it till now. In May I was still reluctant to go back into pastoring although I knew I had to.
June which was the period of retreat was so full of rich, insightful entries every day. This was where I saw Jesus being my Shepherd in a most sensitive, tender and powerful way. Only he can help us see light in His light, and change the desires of our heart so radically. I left the retreat center restored and enthusiastic about going back to pastoral work. He has actually updated my pastor software program files! Remarkable.
From July to September I was co-leading the CRMS Focused Leaders course for some pastors and doing my MTh modules. I have made some progress with my modules managing to complete 3 this year. Helpful stuff for pastors and Christian educators and lecturers. At the same time, in November, I was disappointed with one of those “I regret to inform you…..” letters from the Brash Trust to which I applied for a scholarship for my MTh.
October I returned to work in church. They were considerate and let me in gently: less preaching, welcome cake, kind encouraging words. Then it was a period of adjustment and updating on all that has happened while I was away. The months before I started work had provided a buffer for me to develop a rhythm of prayer and reflection and this was tested out from October to December. It was good for several weeks before I noticed a decreased desire and an increased assault of distractions. I picked up a new habit of “early to bed” and felt the higher energy level for some time, but this habit began to erode with time. Reflection helps me to be aware and to pray for God’s help.
2012 will be an interesting year. I continue with enthusiasm to see how God’s work in his church will unfold, like reading a mystery book. I look forward to deepening and enriching my newly established rhythm of prayer, work and reflection. It is always re-assuring to know that I am deeply loved and highly favored and greatly blessed in 2011 and will experience more of that this year!