I’m one of those people who thinks that routines and regimens represent an important part of living life on purpose, and helping me focus on what I’ve determined matters most. When I am careful to take note of the way I do things, the order in which I do them on a regular basis, I gain insight into my priorities, values, commitments.
And my journal is one of the ways I use to keep a record of my life and the direction I’m headed.
Journaling has been a regular part of my life for many, many years. Lots of different kinds of things end up being reflected on the pages of my journal. I use my journal to help me process the happenings of my life. My journal helps me think about what’s going on around me, notice and record interactions I’ve had, and well … my journal helps me think onto a written page.
I like to imagine journaling as more of a discipline that a habit. My journal represents a ‘place’ in my life; a place I need to show up. There’s something about the discipline of sitting down with my bible, my favorite pen, and my journal every morning that brings a certain structure, form, regularity to my day, and my life. I need that structure, that discipline in order to maintain balance and perspective.
I’ve noticed that writing in my journal helps me ponder some of the more challenging questions or concerns I might have in my life. I guess you could say I think slower when I take time to record my thoughts in my journal. I’ve noticed that I’m calmer when I take time to journal, too.
For years now, I’ve followed the same routine virtually every day. In fact, I think ‘sameness’ is an important part of establishing important habits. I sit in the same chair every morning, when I begin my devotional time of journaling. I don’t move around from one place to another. I use the same pen every morning to write in my journal, too. I choose to use an expensive pen, to help me remember the value of written words and ideas. As I begin, I note the day, the date, and the time on the top of the page for the day’s journal entry. Then, I put my pen down, I open my bible, and turn to the book of Psalms. I rarely leave the book of Psalms for my devotional reading in the mornings. I do it exactly the same way, sitting in exactly the same chair, in exactly the same sequence every morning. I read some portion of Psalms until I sense the Word of God has spoken to me. It may be a few verses; it may be two or three psalms. I read until I feel God has spoken to me. I print the passage that has impressed me on the top of my page. (I don’t use my regular handwriting for this task, but instead, I carefully print the passage. I want God’s word to stand out and be perfectly clear, and different from the journal entry I will record.)
After I have noted the day, the date, the time, and read and printed a portion of the psalms, I write my thoughts about life, the day I’m about to live, wonderings about what God is doing in my life. The writing in my journal can take many twists and turns. It’s not uncommon for a sentence or an entry in my journal to become the kernel of thought for a larger writing, perhaps a chapter in a book I’m working on, or even a segment of Classic State of Mind. Keeping a journal allows me the luxury of revisiting periods of my life, reading previous journals and marveling at the way God has dealt with me.
I finish every journal entry with a one-sentence prayer. Not a long sentence; usually only 10-15 words. A request of God, or a declaration to God. A sentence that reminds me again that I am in relationship with an incredible God who knows the plan for my life.
Ps. 45:1 is one of my favorite verses. The songwriter says, “My heart is moved with a good theme; I address my verses to the King; My tongue is the pen of a ready writer.” I can’t help but wonder how many of the psalms originated as some kind of daily journal that David and the other psalmists penned. I can truthfully say that nothing except the bible itself has given more definition and clarity to my life than the daily practice of maintaining a devotional journal.