Journal Keeping: Writing for Spiritual GrowthJournal Keeping: Writing for Spiritual Growth
Luann Budd
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Would you like to journal, but you're not sure how to start. Or do you love to journal but want some fresh ideas? Here's a book that can help you discover the power of writing as a spiritual discipline. In these pages, you'll find intriguing topics, such as:
  • Ordinary Things
  • Discovery Journaling
  • Drawing from Another's Well
  • Dialogue Journaling with Scriptures
  • When We Can't
Each chapter is brief but insightful. Luann Budd draws on her own life and writing to show how these ideas can be readily put into practice. And she provides examples and inspiration from the lives of great men and women throughout history who have kept journals. In these pages you'll discover the transforming power of journal keeping.

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"What do you do with your journal?"

Although I had kept a journal for twenty-five years, the question stumped me. I had never given it any thought, "I write," was my dumb but honest response.
"Well, then, teach us how."
How do I use my journal? That is the question that began this book. I didn't have a formula or a secret recipe then. I still don't. But through the process of rereading my journals and the published journals of others, I have discovered that I, like most people who keep a journal, use writing to scrutinize all aspects of life and to find God in the midst of the mess.
Last year as I was studying the Bible, I decided it was time for me to come to a conclusion: What does a vibrant, authentic spiritual life look like? Over the course of the year I tried to answer this question. I had an image of what it looked like for others, based on biographies and autobiographies. But I wanted to discover what it looked like for me.
One of my conclusions is that to live an authentic spiritual life, I must be a seeker of the Lord. My seeking should lead me deeper in my knowledge of who he is and how I can more intimately love him. My seeking should help me to understand myself. My seeking should lead me into God's Word to find truth. My seeking should lead me to see Jesus and live my life based on his model. Keeping a journal helps me to live as a seeker. As Dallas Willard writes:
    The secret of the easy yoke, then, is to learn from Christ how to live our total
    lives, how to invest all our time and our energies of mind and body as he did.
    ...The secret of the easy yoke is simple, actually. It is the intelligent,
    informed, unyielding resolve to live as Jesus lived in all aspects of his life, not
    just in the moment of specific choice or action. (1)
In our journals we can seek to see Jesus and assess our attempts to live like him.
When I was a senior in high school, I lost one of my black diamond earrings. I tore the house apart, retraced my steps, tried to think of every possibility for where it could be. I remember crawling around with my cheek on the floor scanning the carpet at eye level. I felt along the edges of the molding. I spent hours looking. I was intense, unwilling to give up. I had to find it.
I think that's what I'm doing as I write in my journal-I'm seeking, looking for God in the circumstances of my life, in the truths of Scripture, in answers to prayer, in the beauty of nature, in the joy of a child. I am not alone in my search. Jesus has invited me to pursue him, and he leads the way.
My all-out search for my earring left me empty-handed, having apparently wasted a whole day. But a few days later as my mom moved an armchair to vacuum the carpet, there was my earring in the depression left by the foot of the chair.
Throughout Scripture we are promised that if we seek the Lord we will find him. Sometimes our seeking leads us into his presence, where we will find his sweetness so profound our words cannot adequately express our adoration. Other times we are left wondering if we wasted our morning. Sometimes we need other people to help us find him. But regardless of our immediate experience, the Lord wants us engaged in the process of seeking. Seeking causes us to grow.
Most of my spiritual seeking takes place in my journal. This book makes visible my search.
This book is for everyone who is willing to explore using writing to grow spiritually. "Part 1: Exploring the Possibilities" discusses what you need to consider as you get started. The first few chapters are for you if you have just purchased your first blank book and want to know how to get it organized. The later chapters of this section focus on foundational principles that will you help you to get started writing and stay encouraged. Maybe you never have thought about what you need as a writer. This section surveys what journal keepers down through the centuries have found to be helpful.
If, however, you are already looking for ideas for how to use your journal, you may want to skip part one. "Part 2: Uncovering the Process" answers the question, what do you write about in a journal? First, I write to discover the truth through reflection and inquiry. When I use writing to discover, I am in the process of thinking about something from various perspectives. I observe what I experience and consider it. I inquire. I turn it over in my hands and ask questions and seek to answer my questions over the course of weeks.
At times I pause in my search for truth and simply enjoy the Lord and his creation. I like to draw a cluster of grapes as I'm reading John 15, or create a story for an illustration, or try my hand at writing a poem. Several chapters in this section shows various ways to bring creativity into your journal.
Some journal writing is for the purpose of learning from secular, Christian and biblical texts. Certainly discovering insight on my own and learning truth from others are interwoven processes, but for the structure of this book I've made a distinction between thinking new thoughts on my own (discovery) and being instructed by others through reading a book or studying the Scripture (learning) to be instructed by others. So there are some chapters that will help you discover how to be a good reader and how to use writing to help you learn.
"Part 3: Venturing Out" discusses how you can write for a more public audience and how to break through the times when you can't write. I write letters in my journal. I gather illustrations. I write and rewrite. My journal is a resource of ideas I draw upon as I prepare to share with others. But there are times when we can't write, or at least we don't feel like writing. We may not feel very spiritually responsive. Thus I offer chapters on spiritual ups and downs, with encouragement to press on. The book concludes with many ideas you can try in your journal.
Each section can stand on its own. Feel free to skip around.
My desire is that those who believe they cannot write, or who are afraid to even try, will learn to enjoy journal keeping and find it a valuable tool. And I hope that those who have been keeping a journal for years will be energized to pursue new ways of using writing for their spiritual growth. The ultimate goal of journal keeping is not to have ten blank books full of writing. The goal is to experience how deeply we are loved by Jesus and to grow more deeply in love with him.
May Jesus use our writing to transform us into men and women who are lovers and seekers. I hope that we will be amazed by God's grace - and challenged to live holy lives out of deep gratitude for all he has done for us.

Notes: 1. Dallas Willard, The Spirit of the Disciplines (San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1988)

    Excerpt from Journal Keeping: Writing for Spiritual Growth by Luann Budd
    Inter-Varsity Press, 2002
    All rights reserved.