How to Encounter God through Journaling
- Friday, August 01, 2008
Orient yourself in the present. Create a personal compass in your journal by drawing a large circle and dividing it into four sections: south, north, east, and west. In the center, draw a smaller circle, and leave this space open as your place to mentally stand and look in each direction. The south side of your compass represents creativity, imagination, spontaneity, and play. Ask yourself: “Where do I feel my creativity being called forth?”, “What do I really long to do or be?”, “How do I nurture myself?”, “What are the hobbies I’m passionate about?”. The north represents the stabilizing and guiding forces in your life. Ask yourself: “Who is that deeply loves me and guides me?”, “What are the images of God that nurture and sustain me?”, “Is there a grace story or salvation story from the Bible that animates me, or brings clarity to my life or my understanding of God?” and “Who are my spiritual guides and deepest friends?”. The east represents new beginnings. Ask yourself: “What light is just beginning to appear on my horizon?”, “What am I being asked to take hold in a new way?”, “ Where am I being called to embrace something?” and “What areas in my life need change or transformation?”. The west represents endings and things you need to let go. Ask yourself: “What maps no longer work for my life?”, “What (or perhaps who) needs to be released and let go?”, “What beliefs or attitudes or patterns do I need to die to?”, “Where is deep healing needed?” and “What areas in my life need change or transformation?”. As you look at the empty space at the center of your compass, imagine yourself standing there and write a “yes” there to commit all directions of your life to God’s love if you’re able to trust Him to guide you in all areas of your life. If you’re struggling with following God in certain areas of your life, journal about your struggles honestly.
Engage in dialogues. Start a conversation with God by writing something to Him in your journal, then praying and listening for any response He might speak to your mind. Write down whatever you think you heard God say. Later, read the dialogue and test it against Scripture, your life experiences, and even the opinions of people you trust who know you well. Read a story from the Bible and imagine yourself in the scene, observing and listening. As you imagine the story unfolding, write down extra details that could have been part of what happened. Ask the people in the biblical account whatever questions you may have, and write down what you imagine their responses to be. If the story you’ve selected includes Jesus, pay special attention to what you’d like to ask Him. Then read what you’ve written and notice how you’ve come to understand the biblical story in a new light. Think about a longing you’ve had for a while, but that you’ve let go instead of pursuing – such as a desire to travel to a particular place or learn a new skill. Then imagine that you’re talking to this exiled longing in your journal. Allow your desire to find its own voice and explain why you let it go and why it hopes you’ll pursue it in the future.
Find your way through suffering. Remember a place of suffering in your own life, the life of someone you know, or in the world. Allow yourself to feel sorrow about it. Then list the words you associate with the suffering itself, and those that express your thoughts and feelings about it. Read one of the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ journey toward the cross. Imagine and describe what Jesus may have seen, heard, smelled, touched, and even tasted along the way. Write a prayer to Him in which you describe your own thoughts and feelings as you imagine His walk toward the crucifixion. Next, ponder Jesus’ resurrection, and consider some of the ways you’ve seen His resurrection power at work in your own life, especially during times of grief, sorrow, doubt, despair, fear, anxiety, or confusion. How did you experience His power, and how might it help you with whatever is troubling you now? List people who you can trust to be honest and real with you when you’re suffering. Who will ask you the hard questions you need to consider? Who will encourage and support you when you’re struggling? Look at the names you’ve written; then contact these people the next time you need their help.
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