Journaling Tip: 5 Out of 7 Ain’t Bad!

I’m a realist.

Please don’t share this with anyone, but sometimes I have to skip my morning journaling appointment with God.

And then I feel guilty.

And then I wonder if I’m ever going to journal again.

And if maybe my spiritual life will never recover.

But if my goal is only five days per week, I don’t have to go through the guilt and shame deal when I get up late or wake up a little out of steam.

Questions: Do you feel the same way when you miss your journaling appointment with God? Or am I just a lousy Christian?

What To Do When You Don’t Feel Like Journaling

Most mornings I fill at least one page of my trusty Mead Notebook, add a few specific prayer requests to my prayer log at the end of the notebook, and grudgingly close my journal when it’s time to start my day.

But, melancholy depresso that I am, some mornings it’s jut not in me.

After I wore myself out guilting and shaming over what a sorry Christian I am and wondering why I can’t just be Spirit-filled-happy-jounaler-guy, I decided to just be honest with Jesus.

But I always record it:

Not Today, Lord

I think it was the year I almost died from this disease that I decided to stop trying to impress Jesus with what isn’t true about me.

So I just sit and stare at those words.

Not Today, Lord.

And then, I hear Him say, “That’s okay, Eddie (I always picture Him calling me Eddie). I love you. I know you’re worn out. I even know what it feels like. Remember, I walked among you. You just sit there and think about me. Think about my love for you. Think about how I’ve promised to care for you. Think about the fact that when I died for you I knew you weren’t going to have words to write in your journal today.”

Sometimes it turns into a worship service. Just me, Jesus, and His love and grace.

Questions: Ever had one of those worship services? When Jesus meets you in your depression and says, “I love you”?

Journaling In 2014: 5 Resources To Get You Into the Bible

The Need

God’s Word transforms our hearts. Clearly the Holy Spirit is involved in the transformation, but He uses biblical truth as the primary transforming agent. Paul characterizes this transformation in Romans 12:2b: “…be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”

This is why I’ve always made sure that interaction with the Word of God is part of my journaling routine. D. L. Moody said, “The Bible wasn’t given for our information, but for our transformation.” I agree. Journaling before, during, or after reading the Word of God forces me to interact with the truth and relate to the Author.

The Helps

In answering the question, “How can I help you best?” as you pursue your passion to become a successful journaler, here are five resources that might help you journal in ways that will renew your mind:

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Journaling in 2014: How to Plan Your Entire Year

Every Year’s Special

The year that I almost died from this disease, I wrote Psalm 50:15 on the pages of my journal that I decided that it would be 2000’s verse of the year:

“Call to me in the day of trouble. I will deliver you and you shall glorify me” (Psalm 50:15).

I memorized that promise and begged God to let it be mine. After thousands around the world started praying, “Please let Ed live and serve,” I felt the Lord gave me permission to claim the promise.

So, I turned to the front of my journal and wrote:

2000 Verse of the Year: Psalm 50:15.

On the next line I wrote

2000 Prayer of the Year: Please let me live and serve.

It Worked!

That’s hard to argue with since ten years later I’m still here and seem to be the only one with this verse living a normal life.

So there’s another reason I’m committed to journaling.

And another reason I hardly ever miss my morning appointment with God, my time and space.

And Every Year Since

That yearly verse and yearly prayer had such power in my life that I decided to do it every year.

It brings a lot of excitement and purpose to journaling when you devote an entire year to a theme, a verse, and a prayer.

It’s no small exercise to determine your theme, verse, and year. I devote the last week of every year to the question, “Lord, what do you want me to ask you for next year?” (Year In Review)

Determining Your Theme in 2014

Here are a few questions to help you determine your 2014 Journaling Theme:

  • What is the greatest spiritual challenge you believe you’ll face this year?
  • What do you feel is the greatest lesson the Lord Jesus is teaching you right now?
  • How do you want the Lord to change you in 2011?
  • What is the one verse that the Spirit keeps bringing to mind as you answer these questions?

Ask Around

Now, after you’ve spent some time meditating on these questions. Ask a few of your most trusted Christian friends to help you answer the questions from their perspective.

You’re going to be surprised at how powerfully the Spirit speaks through Christ’s community.

Try It Out

Spiritual Formation isn’t science, it’s relationship with the Lord Jesus.

God’s not watching you with a “get your theme for this year straight or else” frown as you struggle with this process. Remember, He delights in you. He already knows what the year will bring. This is just your way of relating to Him as He unfolds the theme in time.

So, take your time. And when you’ve tried a theme and a verse on for awhile and it feels right:

Write It Down!

In the front of your journal in big bold letters!

And please let me know how it goes and if I can help you in any way.

Question: What are some ways you’ve found to organize your journaling years?

Journaling in 2014: A Simple Plan

Gotta Have A Plan!

I’ve found that if I don’t have a plan, I’ll sit down in my big comfortable chair left of my big mug of extra bold Kcup coffee and mentally swim around the pool of journaling until I just decide to get out of the pool and say, “Maybe tomorrow.”

I bet you’re the same way.

We need a routine, don’t we?

You’ll have to figure out what’s best for you, but this is what works best for me:

I’m already committed to journaling.

I’ve already settled on my time and space.

My Routine

1) Something easy and motivating. For me that’s the 3X10 prayer: 3 sins to confess from the last 24 hours, 10 works of God in the last 24 hours to praise Him for.

Some of my friends begin with a favorite hymn or praise song on their ipod. Others like to read something light from a Christian biography or favorite blog.

2) Review yesterday’s journal entry. You’ll be surprised at how much you forgot from yesterday!

3) Read the Bible! I think the Bible comes next because the Word of God is our Father’s most effective way to talk to us. In an upcoming blog I’ll give you some of the books that have helped me focus on the Word of God every morning.

4) Wait. Oh, this is the toughest part of the routine for me. Probably will be for you too. You’re itching to write something. Don’t. Wait, and listen to God.

5) Write. Fill up your page with whatever is on your heart that day.

  • What are you apprehensive about? Let the Father know.
  • What did you learn from His Word? Tell Him.
  • What do you want to remember never to forget? Record it.
  • What breaks your heart? Put it down.
  • Whatever you feel like writing, write it. Nobody’s going to read it anyway until you’re in heaven. And you won’t care then!

6) Pray. I have five or six life prayers at the front of my journal that I pray every morning. After that, I spend some time with God talking about my life. It’s a morning conversation that His Spirit brings to mind all day long.

Just Journal!

There’s no right or wrong way to journal.

This is the routine that I use.

How about you? What journaling habits do you have that might encourage others?

Two Things You’ll Need to Successfully Journal in 2014

CRAZY BUSY!

My life is crazy busy and it always has been.

There’s never been a time in my adult life that a lot of pressures weren’t competing for the time I need to devote to my relationship with the Lord Jesus. I’ve been a fireman, university student, Army officer, seminary student, pastor, Bible teacher, and author. All extremely demanding.

And then there’s family, friends, community…

You know the drill.

My Time and Space for Jesus

This is why I’m so committed to journaling. No other spiritual discipline has kept Jesus at the center of my life more than journaling. If focuses my mind, my thoughts, and my prayers like no other spiritual exercise.

But I’ve found that just saying, “I’m going to start journaling” doesn’t work for me.

I must have a special time and a special place to meet Jesus with my Mead Notebook, my Bible, my pen, and my heart.

For me it has to be early morning before our home wakes up, and in my special chair left of the table in our den so that I can accommodate my caffeine habit left-handed. I keep all my journaling stuff right there, never move it, and never vary from that place and that time unless I’m on the road. (And that’s the topic of another blog!)

Your Time and Space for Jesus?

If you’re crazy busy, journaling is a great discipline to create time and space for Jesus.

I can’t know what your best time and space will be. But I do know that if you’re serious about keeping the Lord Jesus at the center of your life, He’ll show it to you.

Oh, and another thing: NO LAPTOP, MOBILE PHONE, OR OTHER DISTRACTING INSTRUMENTS ALLOWED.

That’s what works for me. I’d love to hear about your special time and space where you meet the Lord to journal.

Journaling in 2014: Five Steps to Getting Started

I’m a journaling freak.

The reason is extremely personal.. My journal is where I meet the Lord Jesus every morning, how we carry on our most intimate conversations, and where I record my prayers, hopes, dreams, discouragements, fears, sins (yes sins), and successes.

I’ve been journaling for years and challenge every man I’ve ever discipled, every couple we’ve ever helped, every group I’ve ever led, every friend and loved on, and every congregation I’ve shepherded to journal.

The challenge gets a little “preachy” when people are thinking about New Year’s Resolutions because it’s the time to begin anew.

One question seems to be on the mind of all prospective journalers:

How do I get started?

Five Steps:

1) Make it simple!

We Christians tend to complicate the heck out of everything. We’re so hard on ourselves. Don’t wait until you find the perfect journal, perfect pen, get the perfect idea, and are ready to write perfect sentences. Just start journaling. I use a cheap Mead® Square Deal® Black Marble Journal Composition Book. It’s durable and each page is just about right for my personal wordiness. I’ve baptized mine in a high mountain stream, spilled about six gallons of coffee on every year’s edition, run over them in my pickup, and pulled them from the clinging hands of two-year-olds. They’re tough. They dry out and I just keep writing.

2) Make it you

This is between you and Jesus, not you and me. I tend to write out my prayers to begin each day’s journal. Sometimes I journal about what I’m reading from the Bible. Other times I journal thoughts from a Christian book I’ve read. Phil Yancey, Brennan Manning, and NT Wright have filled up many pages of my journals.

3) Ask For Help

The best way to make journaling meaningful is to journal. Why not ask the Lord to give you the discipline to journal say three times a week for a month. See how that goes, and then ask Him again for the next month. Before you know it, you’re journaling.

4) Do a page

This has been important to me. I tell the Lord that I’m not going to get up from the chair that I journal from early in the morning until He gives me a page full of prayers, praises, questions, insights, tears, sorrows, joys, perspectives…I just start writing and keep writing until I’m done.

5) Prime the Pump! 3X10 and High Test Coffee

I prime my journaling pump with lots of caffeine from my beloved Keurig–bold, bold, bold K-cup–and as I’m waiting for that first taste of God’s gift of the coffee bean, I confess and praise. I prepare for my journaling time by asking God the Holy Spirit to bring to mind three specific things from the day before I need to confess as sin and ten specific praises from the day before. He’s never failed to tell me what He thinks and it gets me going.

It’s not that profound, but it’s what works for me. Hope it helps.

How about you? You have any journaling insights for the beginning journaler?

How Not to Waste the Week Between Christmas and New Year’s Day

The Lost Week

For most of us, the seven days between Christmas and the New Year feel like a lost week. The blur of our Christmas schedules—big events, big meals, and big expectations—have depleted our emotional reserves, and the challenges of a whole new year feel overwhelming.

Want some encouragement? I devote this time every year to look back over the year to develop what I call “Hindsight Faith.” I generate my “God’s Top Ten List” from the previous 12 months. If you keep a journal or a calendar, this will be easy. But even if you haven’t recorded the major events of your life last year, they’re still fresh in your mind.

Set aside some time to be alone with God, and ask His Spirit to help you determine the ten greatest things God did for you last year.

SEVEN DAYS FOUND! FAITH IN THE REARVIEW MIRROR

What you’ll discover as you look into the rear-view mirror of your life is that the problems you’re worrying about down the road—in the next 12 months—are just like ones you faced last year. In fact, as you think and pray, you’ll begin to appreciate just how big and capable your God is!

This was what I wrote about last year’s journey through my journal”

I’m only on number 2 in my God’s Top Ten list, and I’m already encouraged.

On March 1, 2011 I was asking God to care for us financially. My old truck needed a new engine and Judy’s little Honda needed major work. We had the money, but it didn’t seem like we would survive the year after that huge outlay.

As I type these words, I’m praising God for his financial provision in 2010. He brought me a few writing and speaking opportunities that more than made up the shortfall in March.

And I’m also feeling a little foolish for questioning His love and care for me as I move forward on the path of His leading.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight (Proverbs 3:5-6).

Question: Did any of you try this last year? Was it helpful?

Journaling in 2013: Structuring Your Days

Gotta Have A Plan!

I’ve found that if I don’t have a plan, I’ll sit down in my big comfortable chair left of my big mug of extra bold K-cup coffee and mentally swim around the pool of journaling until I just decide to get out of the pool and say, “Maybe tomorrow.”

I bet you’re the same way.

We need a routine, don’t we?

You’ll have to figure out what’s best for you, but this is what works best for me:

I’m already committed to journaling.

I’ve already settled on my time and space.

My Routine

1) Something easy and motivating. For me that’s the 3X10 prayer: 3 sins to confess from the last 24 hours, 10 works of God in the last 24 hours to praise Him for.

Some of my friends begin with a favorite hymn or praise song on their ipod. Others like to read something light from a Christian biography or favorite blog.

2) Review yesterday’s journal entry. You’ll be surprised at how much you forgot from yesterday!

3) Read the Bible! I think the Bible comes next because the Word of God is our Father’s most effective way to talk to us. In an upcoming blog I’ll give you some of the books that have helped me focus on the Word of God every morning.

4) Wait. Oh, this is the toughest part of the routine for me. Probably will be for you too. You’re itching to write something. Don’t. Wait, and listen to God.

5) Write. Fill up your page with whatever is on your heart that day.

  • What are you apprehensive about? Let the Father know.
  • What did you learn from His Word? Tell Him.
  • What do you want to remember never to forget? Record it.
  • What breaks your heart? Put it down.
  • Whatever you feel like writing, write it. Nobody’s going to read it anyway until you’re in heaven. And you won’t care then!

6) Pray. I have five or six life prayers at the front of my journal that I pray every morning. After that, I spend some time with God talking about my life. It’s a morning conversation that His Spirit brings to mind all day long.

Just Journal!

There’s no right or wrong way to journal.

This is the routine that I use.

How about you? What journaling habits do you have that might encourage others?

Discipleship Minute: The Year In Review!

Here is the blog series I begin every new year with:

Throw-Away Week?

I used to think of the week between Christmas and New Year’s as a throw away week. It was a time to decide to somehow stop eating everything in sight and try to put together a few New Year’s Resolutions I knew I wasn’t going to keep.

Or Year In Review?

Then I got an idea that changed my mind about this week. I now view it as maybe the most important weeks of the year.

Instead of watching and listening the mindless dribble of television and radio reviews of what happened on earth last year, I spend time with God thinking about what heaven thinks about my life last year.

Since I’m addicted to journaling, I dedicate this week to reading through the pages of my spiritual journal from the year before. Using a red highlighter, I underline and make notes asking God to help me condense the pages into the one lesson He was teaching me last year.

At the end of the week I complete this sentence and write it on the first page of my journal for the next year: “Last year God taught Ed…………………………………”

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