March 16: Journaling

Part of any Lenten journey is the experimentation with new and different spiritual habits, or if you prefer, life habits for the Christian journey.  Some are enduring and non-negotiable, like Sunday communal worship, regular reading of and reflection upon God’s word, generosity in sharing our blessings with others, and the like.  Some are time-specific and relevant to a particular moment in life, like a powerful retreat, pilgrimage experience, fasting, or the undertaking of some specific life project as I discussed yesterday (and my apologies for the tardy posting of yesterday’s reflection today, but we are busy!).

As I peruse my prayer shelf at home, I notice my journals.  Years ago I discovered a hand-written journal from a great-aunt who narrated my own birth in a journal for me to read years later.  What a treasured gift!  I took that inspiration to record my travels and other special life moments in hand-written journals I hope to pass on.  Journaling during special moments in life can be a powerful spiritual tool in reflecting upon current circumstances both contemporaneously and much later.  Journaling takes a certain segment and amount of brainpower and can only be accomplished at a speed approaching reflective thought.  Of course we can journal on a computer also, and for some of us who failed cursive handwriting, perhaps that is best!  But I would argue that for many of us there is tremendous value in slowing down enough to put pen to paper and simply write.  What comes to mind about our past?  Our hope for the future, especially now?  Where has God been so present for us, much like those bewildered disciples in Luke’s Gospel on the road to Emmaus enjoying the company of the resurrected Jesus and never realizing it until they stopped to eat, whether or not we were aware of God’s presence at the time?  When we keep company with ourselves in this way, what do we record?  Again, the pastor and spiritual writer Frederick Buechner states,

“Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery it is. In the boredom and pain of it, no less than in the excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it, because in the last analysis all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace.”  Now and Then: A Memoir of Vocation

Lent is a great time to listen to God in all kinds of new, provocative and curious ways.  Even through our own lives….

  1. Have you ever journaled, even as a child? If so have you ever gone back to read your own diary, journal or letters?  If not, would you consider doing that now?  If so, what do you hear now?
  2. Take a moment when awake (usually early in the morning or late at night, although never a bad time!) and review the day.  If morning then the previous day.  Write out what comes immediately to mind.  Where did God meet you yesterday, or today?  What would you like to ask Him?
  3. Consider keeping a journal through this current Lent, and beyond.  A little note every day, or more if and when you feel led.  Record those for whom you pray and why you remember them.  Record your experience of this present moment, unique in all our lifetimes it seems.
  4. As you listen to your life what do you hear?

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