Maxine Hallett encourages us to record how we are feeling, what we are learning and the prayers that God is answering
As I browsed through my bulging bookcase, wondering which of the books I should write about, I was drawn to so many. To help me decide, I picked up one of my spiritual journals for inspiration. While I was on furlough during 2020 I had logged a total of 30 books ranging from titles by Max Lucado, Brennan Manning, David Pawtree, John Eldridge, Ron Mehl, JD Greear, David Jeremiah to John Ortberg and many more.
I am not going to write about any of those books, though. The place that I find myself turning back to when I need inspiration, apart from the Bible, is my spiritual journal. My journals are full of quotes, scripture and sentences from books that I have read. They encapsulate the highs and lows of my spiritual journey with God over the past years.
A constant guide
Writing daily, I have captured moments that have gripped my heart, dreams that have woken me up, memories that have suddenly resurfaced, words of encouragement spoken over me, as well as thoughts to ponder over. My darker days and my sunny days are all there for me to look back on. Journalling has helped my spiritual, emotional and mental wellbeing.
I started journalling properly in 2019 as part of my foundation in theology course. I knew the benefits of keeping a journal, but busyness usually got in the way. Growing up, I had always kept a diary and journals of poems, scribbling down feelings and doodles depending on the mood I was in.
Looking back over my journals
Back in 2019 I struggled initially, but now journalling is part of my daily routine. I love looking back and reading how prayers have been answered. The wonderful, exciting and sometimes challenging journey that I have walked with God recently is amazing, and I am thrilled to have kept a record of it.
In case they give you some inspiration, here are just a few extracts from my journal:
27.1.2020 – Pause and think: “What would Jesus do in this situation?” As I walked and prayed, it was clear that I had missed an opportunity to make things right or at least better!
5.5.2020 – David Patterson writes “I rarely use the word ‘salvation’ today, preferring instead the word ‘recycled’. If someone asks me what job I am in, I say I am in the recycling business – I don’t recycle paper and metal, but people are my raw material” [Unlocking the Bible (Harper Collins Publishers)] I just love the thought that I was once raw material but now that I have been recycled, I have a purpose, a new identity.
22.8.20 – I was so disappointed by the size of this tiny book when it arrived in the post. However, it has filled me with wisdom and guidance and I have underlined an inspirational sentence on nearly every page! I love these words of John Ortberg: “The real question isn’t about if I make a wrong decision; it’s about when I make a wrong decision. And the answer is that as soon as I surrender my will, God will recalculate my route and welcome me home…God never says it will be easy. What he does say is that I will go with you” [What is God’s Will for My Life? (Tyndale)]. Food for thought!
6.11.20 – Thank you for guiding me and answering my prayers. You go before me in all things and in your strength, I am carried. I was feeling so weak, and you led me to amazing supportive prayer warriors, just when I was falling. Thank you Lord.
I so enjoyed reading through my journals again. The encouragement, wisdom, guidance and love from God has filled my heart with joy. Reading about prayers answered, which I had forgotten all about, has been inspiring. And I recognise the inspiration and learning I glean from the many books I read too. I’ve also seen a pattern in my life too: I fall, he picks me up and cradles me back in his loving arms. My Father, my life!
If you would like to start journalling, here are some suggestions that could help you:
• Each day, ask yourself : how and when have I had awareness of God’s presence?
• Has God felt absent at times today? Why might that be?
• Write about how you feel, what you have received from God and what has touched your heart.
• Be totally honest in your reflections.
Maxine Hallett is based in Kent and works for her local church.