Explore the Possibilities
I'm an advocate for using a journal in a way that makes sense to you. When I sit down to write, I decide at that point what I want to write about. It may be that I need to get some thoughts out of my head. It may be that I want to reflect on my relationship with God. It may be that I'm curious about a subject and I'm reading and gathering insight. It may be that I just want to copy a prayer or a verse of Scripture. There are a million ways to use your journal for spiritual transformation. In Journal Keeping--Writing for Spiritual Growth I share additional possibilities.
Freewriting in a Journal
Freewriting is a good place to begin if you haven't tried it before. You may have done it in school. Freewriting is distinctive from other forms of writing in that a freewriter doesn't stop writing to think. She continues writing whatever comes to mind, even to the point of writing "nothing" if nothing is coming to mind. Peter Elbow writes, "To do a freewriting exercise, simply force yourself to write without stopping for ten minutes. . . .The only point is to keep writing" (Writing with Power 13).
Typically people freewrite for four basic purposes: to record their experiences, make plans, discover solutions to problems that plague them, or to evaluate their feelings. Rather than beginning with a plan, during a freewrite, the writer discovers his purpose and structure as he is writing.
Elbow, in Writing Without Teachers, suggests several variations of freewriting. Any of these variations can be used as a writer begins. Journal keepers can try these approaches as well.
It is amazing how clear your head becomes after spending 20 minutes freewriting.
Looping is similar to freewriting, except that after you have freewritten for a set period of time (10 minutes), take five minutes to read what you've written and underline the thought that seems most significant. This golden thought becomes the topic for the next freewrite. Repeat this process three or four times in one sitting, or over the course of several days, and see what you discover.
Capture what the Lord impresses upon you – those moments you believe He is speaking to you about what you need to do or pay attention to.
Develop a Rule of Life, answering the question, What do I want to be the focus of my Life – try to boil it down to a simple statement.
Dreams for a Lifetime – What would you love to see happen? Where would you love to go? What would you love to see happen financially? What would you love to see happen in your ministry? What would you love to see happen regarding your personal wellness? What dreams do you have about a professional career? Spend some time dreaming dreams that are so outside the box that you would know beyond a shadow of doubt that only the Lord could bring them to fruition.
Think about your calling? Why are you on the planet? What has God specifically called you to do? What is your part to play, your drop in the bucket to contribute? Who has God created you to be? And what has He called you to do?
Ask yourself hard questions: What do you know that you are pretending not to know? Where is your head in the sand?
Where do you notice resistance? What do you really NOT want to do? What are you continually NOT doing?
What can you do to become more self-aware?
Take notes during the Sunday sermon and note a specific application for the week.
Capture special moments – Mother’s Day, the love of a friend, a significant conversation - and be intentionally grateful.
Copy quotes from a book that you are reading.
Write your biography (not autobiography, but biography – as if you were a researcher writing about you). I found it fascinating to discover truths about myself that I had never thought about.
Reflect your way through C.S. Lewis's, “Weight of Glory" or another insightful article that you want to think more deeply about.
Begin a word study on a topic of your choice. Look up definitions and Scriptures and capture quotes on the topic throughout the next few months.
Just begin to color. Don't think about what you are going to draw. Just start and see what you are drawn to create. Let it emerge like a Polaroid picture and then reflect on it.
Write out a prayer conversation, writing what you want to say to Jesus, and then writing what you think He would say back to you.
Copy a passage of Scripture that is on your mind.
Create a colorful design as you pray.
Have a dialogue with Scripture: Copy a verse and then write a sentence or two of your response, asking questions and being curious, offering possible answers.
How has God led you in the past? Draw a picture (stick figures are fine) depicting those various experiences.
Additional ideas are available in Journal Keeping, Writing for Spiritual Growth