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How to Revolutionize Your Devotional Life Through the Discipline of Journaling

Laurie Snyman, LMSW


Journaling with Jesus


Š 2011 by Laurie Snyman, Lansing, Michigan

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted by recording or photocopy without written permission of the author.

Photos by Melissa S. DiLernia, MSDphotography.com, Fenton, MI Layout and Design by Jim Winslow, Nvisionet.com, Grand Rapids, MI

Printed in the USA


Journaling with Jesus


Dedicated to my parents; Henry and Shirley Denski, whom I owe a debt of gratitude to for all the wonderful blessings they have been to me in my life.


Journaling with Jesus


Contents Chapter

Subject

One

Be Still While Journaling

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Two

Getting Smart While Journaling

17

Three

Benefits of Journaling

19

Four

Secure in His Love with Journaling

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Five

The Difference Between a Diary and Journaling

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Six

Keep Your Journal Safe

31

Seven

Persistence in Journaling

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Eight

Journaling Can Change You

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Nine

A Journaling Plan

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Ten

Equip Yourself for Journaling

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Eleven

Discerning The Voice of God

55

Twelve

Prayer and Journaling

59

Thirteen

The Bible and Journaling

65

Fourteen

Writing in a Journal

69

Leaving a Legacy for Your Family

75

God Makes You Beautiful

79

Fifteen

Final Notes

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“Take time to be holy, Speak oft with thy Lord; Abide in Him always, and Feed on His Word.” — William D. Longstaff 1882


Journaling with Jesus


Chapter One Have you ever wondered why some people talk about their religious experience with God in loving, passionate ways when your own experience is as cold as a wintertime walk in bare feet? Why do certain people seem so excited about God? Have you wondered, ‘what is wrong with me?’ Most Christians desire a closer walk with God. For me, I didn’t start to discover that warm experience for myself until I started journaling. I’m excited to share the concept of journaling with you. You can revolutionize your devotional life through the discipline of journaling.

BE STILL I am afraid of silence. It seems I constantly turn on background noise on constantly while at home or in my car with a radio on or iPod. Right now, as I am writing, I am listening to a sermon. The idea of being quiet seems more like a idle state of mind. I have always tried to avoid inactivity, fearful I will get more behind. I feel uncomfortable if I am not in a state of perpetual motion. I have often forgotten that getting to know God means closing my mouth, stopping the background noise and being still. Sometimes I just have to shut my mouth (when my mouth is open, it feels most comfy to me) and simply sit before God. I had to make an intentional effort to change this. But, what a great benefit it has been to my spiritual walk with God. In Psalm 46:10, God bids me to, ‘Be still and know that I am God.’ I need to do what God wants and not what my human feelings tell me to do. Perhaps you, too, feel best when you are active or talking. But as that text reads, being still will give you an opportunity to learn of God and His individual plan for your life.

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In a world littered with technology, noise and constant movement, stillness can seem like a forgotten pastime. In the busyness of life, one of the ways that you can take time to simply be with God is through the process of journaling. It is a discipline you can attempt. If you would just try it, journaling can allow you to reflect and connect with Christ in an intimate and personal way. It can be an exciting tool to grow your personal relationship with Jesus that, perhaps like me, you may have always wanted. Journaling, by its very nature, provides a written record of a set period of time in your life. Through the good and bad times of your life, journaling can be useful. It allows you to experience God within all aspects of your life: the past and the present, and your hopes and dreams. Journaling can be an effective way to track your growth in Christ as you see areas of maturity and areas of hidden immaturity, sin struggles and repetitive habits that you have yet to allow Christ to redeem. And, you don’t have to share them with a human who can exploit you or tell your secrets. You get to share this with your Creator who has your back. Journaling allows you to review your walk and see your growth. You need reassurance you are moving forward. It keep us from getting discouraged, something that happens to many Christians. It provides a written record of our days, months and years, revealing intimate aspects of your relationship with God and those around us. It is an opportunity to record your prayer requests and His answers, and feel joy as you become aware of how God is working in your life. Your faith can’t help but grow, like mine, when you see how God has been taking care of you. Keeping a journal has been one of the most satisfying and 14


Chapter One

helpful things I’ve done in my Christian walk. To have a written record of all of the mountains and valleys of my spiritual life not only helps reflection in the present but can also bring encouragement for your future. I love being encouraged that I am growing and making progress in my walk with God. And to think that happens when I am quiet and still before God. When I go back to read my previous journal entries, I can literally see God’s Providence working in my life! I have a record to read and re-read as evidence. It is an amazing journey. One, which I hope to share with you in this book. My experience with journaling wasn’t always so positive. When people would talk about journaling, I almost yawned with boredom. I remember as a young girl, locking myself in my bedroom and beginning my awkward entries with “Dear Diary...” I would see things based on my own opinions and perceptions. It seemed somewhat childish and self-indulgent, as I wrote about my thoughts, the events at school, what boys I liked and my own opinions. But, when I started participating in the spiritual journaling process, I experienced it for myself. I began to see journaling in an entirely new light. Superficial is how I would describe my devotional life prior to journaling. It was mainly perfunctory reading, accomplishing what I must do. Perhaps you have experienced that as well. And without finding fulfillment, it was on my list of ‘things to do’, rather than, ‘things I can’t wait to do’. Spiritual journaling is more experiential, revealing truths that you can apply to your life each and every day. You are more aware of God and His Leading. When I went through a recent cancer scare, journaling became such a friend to me. I could express my fears and frustration in my journal. This saved my husband from a rehearsal of my 15


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thoughts and opinions about why I must go through this. My husband could not change my future. But God could. I felt peace from God as I wrote my prayers to Him. What is even more exciting, is to see that God allowed me to be healed, and it is all recorded on my journal’s pages. Such a blessing I have, to be able to read the record of the goodness of God in my life, since He chose to heal me. By writing to God through journaling, I am able to draw nearer to Him as I share all aspect of my life. Beyond mere writing, journaling is about having an ongoing conversation with God. It is more concentrated on Him. Before, when I would talk to God, my mind wandered from topic to topic and soon I was thinking of activities I was about to do or responsibilities I mustn’t forget to do. Pretty soon, I wasn’t even talking to God. Had I talked to my friends in the same way, they would have been yawning and making excuses to move on. Despite the fact that God continued to listen, I am thankful to have discovered journaling, so my conversations with Him could be more intentional and dedicated to Him. Journaling helps us to practice our learning styles and fill our senses better than perfunctory, oral prayers. When you write in a journal, you use many learning styles, from visual, to verbal, to kinesthetic (movement). You read, listen, write, experience emotion and are challenged by new knowledge and inspiration. This method of personal devotion helped me dig deeper for those golden truths in scriptures that I might have neglectfully skimmed over in superficial reading. For me, it was a warm, life-changing experience. I wish the same for you, my friend.

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Chapter Two GETTING SMART WITH JESUS Author Renee Coffee, in her devotional book Incredible Journey, tells the story of an experience that occurred at Andrews University in Michigan. A student (I will call him Justin) asked the late Dr. Elden Chalmers to help him improve his grades so that he could enter the seminary. During academy and college, Justin’s grades fell in the low “C” average. Upon testing his ability, Dr. Chalmers found Justin’s IQ score to be only a “90”. An average score is about “100”. Dr. Chalmers felt people could improve academic ability by studying the Bible. He made the following plan for Justin: 1. Study the Bible Daily for 1-2 hours 2. Do a Topical Search (like love, forgiveness, trust) 3. Memorize Verses of Scripture Justin agreed to do this and complied with Dr. Chalmer’s study plan. After 6 months Justin’s IQ was re-tested. Justin’s test score soared from a 90 to 120, a 33% increase. (IQ’s usually don’t change over many years, let alone a few short months!) Justin said learning was much easier. He signed up for an honors seminary class. Not only did Justin complete the class, but also he achieved the highest grade out of all the other seminary students. Justin went through the seminary and completed his training. Dr. Chalmers re-tested Justin when he finished the seminary and tested his IQ. This time he scored at 131. All of this was achieved because Justin started a good devotional habit.

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Chapter Three IMPROVE YOUR PHYSICAL HEALTH Clinical psychologists and immunologists at Southern Methodist University and Ohio State University College of Medicine set out to prove that writing improves not only your mental health but your physical health too. When subjects wrote thoughtfully and emotionally about their personal experiences, they achieved the following results:

• Overall improvement in their immune system • Reduced visits to physicians • Fewer sick days in the workplace • General improvement in physical health Journaling can be a powerful tool to add to your healthful living tool chest. Journaling is cathartic in nature, allowing you to release both negative and positive thoughts onto paper rather than bottling them inside. If that were all journaling accomplished it would be beneficial. But, beyond mere physical and mental change, you also can see spiritual changes as journaling begins to take root and in your life.

FIND FREEDOM In John 8:32 Christ commands, “Know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” As a Christian woman, you may know that true freedom is found in a relationship with Jesus. The deeper the relationship, the more you learn about God. Journaling is an excellent way to deepen your relationship with God as it can wake up a dormant prayer life. It is easy to get stuck in the traditional idea of prayer and before long you can’t remember the last time you had a genuine conversation with God. It’s similar to a broken arm. After weeks in a cast, my husband 21


Journaling with Jesus

was so elated the day his cast was removed, he jumped into a swimming pool to celebrate. His arm, so weakened by the cast, just flopped backwards as though it were paralyzed and he could only use one arm and his legs to extract himself from the deep end of the pool. He had to re-train his arm to work again and to regain his strength he had prior to the injury. Journaling may be the needed discipline you need to help re-strengthen your prayer life.

Devotions and prayer life are like an airplane. When you stop, you drop. LEARN OF HIM Journaling can help you in your personal growth towards the Savior. Journaling from the heart can be enlightening and encouraging. There is something about holding a pen in one hand while staring down at a blank page that helps your mind work more efficiently. The ink flows as God teaches truths about Himself and His love for you, as you spend time with Him daily in journaling. It is sometimes earth-shaking to experience what God wants to tell you about yourself and your future.

EXPRESS YOURSELF Journaling is also a very free form of spiritual expression. Each individual decides on any rules or guidelines. In this book, I will make suggestions, but it is up to you, individually, to decide what ways you want to practice journaling. Be encouraged there is no right or wrong way; no one will be grading your journal!

CONSISTENT COMMUNICATION It is easy for many days to slip by without even giving a 22


Chapter Three

single thought to God. If you’re lucky, you squeeze in a prayer when you awaken or before a meal but otherwise God can be a distant memory that you revisit on Sabbath mornings. Think about it: most of us spend more time on our cell phones, laptops, or with our friends, than with God. You need to treat your prayer life and Bible study with the same urgency that you do your technical equipment, if not more. If you believe that your relationship with Christ is the most important relationship in your life, then it is essential that you devote time to deepen your relationship with Him. To say that life can be complicated is an understatement! Many issues in this life are perplexing. Situations come into your life that all of a sudden may send you in a completely different direction than expected. Journaling will help you center your life around God. It is a meeting with Him to discuss the changes and events you are experiencing. It can help you to understand how God is working and who He really is as you seek to understand Him through studying the Word and spending time with Him in prayer. He stands ready to work with you if you will devote some time to being in His Presence.

NEVER ALONE When attending a Christian college, I watched a play about Christ wanting to be involved with us 24/7. An actor representing Christ, kept following a busy man while he went about his daily duties. Christ wanted to say something, to assist this person with his heavy loads and protect him. But this person never acknowledged Christ’s presence, so Christ could not help him. The man did everything on his own. I imagine, it is this way in our Christian walk. Christ is always available and wanting to relieve our minds and bodies of our burdens. But we are too self-sufficient to ask His help and continue to do things ourselves. 23


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Journaling reminds you that you are not alone in this world and you were never meant to face life in isolation from God. You need God’s power enabling you, as you walk this earth, fulfilling your responsibilities and living your life. The reality, however, is that you cannot move closer to God unless you first seek Him. You need His power filling your mind and guiding your walk. He promises that if you do seek Him, He will respond in faithfulness and begin working in your life.

THINK ABOUT HIM CONTINUALLY Christian author and speaker Stormie Omartian urges women to be journaling and praying. She warns, “you fail to see God’s plan in your life unless you have the Word of God in your heart and have close communication with Him.” If you are like me, even though you need to pray, you are often busy, your mind cluttered with work, meal preparation, spending time with your children and various activities. You may feel exhausted. You don’t mean to forget God, but sometimes, you just fail to think about your Heavenly Father. It is hard to find a moment to relax, let alone set aside time to be quiet before God and spend time with Him.

PRAY FOR MYSELF? Omartian also encourages women to pray for themselves. In an interview with Harvest House Publishers, Omartian stated, “I have always found it hard to pray for myself. It’s so much easier to pray for everyone else on the planet than it is to pray for myself. I want us all to be reminded of how we should pray about our own lives ongoing so we can stay right on target with the Lord.”1 Like Stormie, you may find it easier to pray for others than for yourself. You are always willing to offer up 1 The interview can be found online at http://www.harvesthousepublishers.com/

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prayers for your girlfriends or family members, but when it comes to your own needs, you find it more difficult to take time, focus on you and pray for yourself. Perhaps it seems selfish to waste God’s time with your own needs and desires. Because of this, you don’t take necessary time to pray for yourself. My chiropractor often asks at my appointment, ‘so what have you been doing lately?’ I always wonder if he is genuinely interested or just making conversation. I am not sure whether I should list all the projects I am involved in or just give him a superficial answer. But God pays attention to all of our talk, small talk and big talk. To achieve true intimacy with God through journaling, it is important to realize that God is interested in the longings of your heart. Psalm 139:13 reminds us that, “You created me in my innermost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.” God has been caring for you long before you were even capable of talking. Because God cares for you so deeply, you should learn to care for yourself by taking your own needs to Him in prayer. Opening up in this way before God can be difficult at first. Your needs may seem so complex and your circumstances may seem petty. But, remember, God desires to take the broken pieces of your life and bring you to wholeness. He is an expert at jigsaw puzzles. He can put all the pieces together perfectly so they fit. However, God needs your consent to work on the puzzles in your life. He can only do this work with your permission. God will only move you as deep in your life, as you are willing to go.

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Chapter Four SECURE IN HIS LOVE Emotional intimacy with God does not come overnight. It is a process. Like peeling an onion, with time, God is able to get through your layers, one at a time. The more you recognize God’s care for you, His Royal Daughter, you will be filled with evidence of His love. As the wonder of His love permeates your heart, you will feel safe in His care and secure in His love. Even though we continue to make mistakes, He will continue to pursue you. I liked the lyrics of this song done by the Newsboys, a Christian music group. They based their inspiration on one of David’s psalms for this following song:

Your Love Is Better Than Life I don’t know what I was taught, I don’t know why I was born into the family I got, I don’t know if I ever had an original thought, I don’t know why I can end a prayer and turn on a friend Or criticize the folks I don’t even know… But this one thing I do know… YOUR LOVE IS BETTER THAN LIFE Without your love, I am just a machine Without your touch, I’m just a human being …then, I’ve got nothing at all. But, YOUR LOVE IS BETTER THAN LIFE!

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Chapter Five DIARY VS. JOURNALING A young girl once told me the teacher in her English class “makes us kids journal”. She said they journaled about their likes and dislikes, the events in their life, their opinions and feelings. I asked if there could be a good reason her teacher asked them to journal, assuming the teacher was coming up with a creative way of checking their spelling and sentence structure. The girl thought for a moment and she said, “our teacher is wanting to spy on what we do and think, so she can tell us when we are doing wrong.” For many, a journal is simply a diary containing a one-way conversation with you alone. Diaries are usually not meant to be read by others, except as in my case, by my nosey, older brother, who spewed all my secrets to my parents. Diaries are to record events and learn chiefly about yourself, but only from a human perspective. Why would you only want to see yourself from your own faulty, human perception? You can accomplish that by staring into a mirror. This book is about journaling with the intent to learn more, not only about you, but also about God and how He lovingly sees you. When you focus on God, something wonderful begins to happen: you ultimately learn about yourself! This is because knowledge of God saturates all areas of your life. It is impossible to begin the study of God and not see the effects in all areas of your life. God gives you His perspective on the way you live your life, actions, thoughts and your future. It is such a privilege to journal and see yourself the way God sees you.

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IMPROVED MENTAL HEALTH Knowing that God provides inspiration at such a deep level, it is not hard to believe that many writers credit journaling with improving their mental health. If you think about it, this makes sense because praying expresses feelings, and the opportunity to leave your burdens on God’s shoulders. No need to seek out a priest for confession. Wherever you journal, God, your high priest, is willing to listen and forgive all your sins. As you confess your sins and forgive others, your heart is freed from problems that can accumulate in your life and weigh you down. Journaling can also give you a visual reference that you have laid your problems at the feet of Jesus, thus giving you freedom from the cares of this world.

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Chapter Six UNCUT AND UNCENSORED Unlike your friends, where you need be tactful and choose your words so you don’t offend, with God you can record your raw feelings and emotions, uncut and uncensored. God is never offended. He loves hearing your real thoughts and feelings. You can feel safe expressing your deepest opinions and worries. God understands your human heart.

SECURE YOUR JOURNAL Because a journal records your journey, someone simply picking up and reading a random entry could often misunderstand your life. Your private discussions with God in a journal may need to be protected from family members who live in your household. What you say to God privately you may not want to be read by others. If you are worried about someone reading your journal, it is important to find a secure hiding place, perhaps locking it in a lockbox or a safe. Regardless, make sure that everyone in the family or household knows that your journal is off limits.

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Chapter Seven PERSISTENCE IN JOURNALING In recent years, the phenomenon of blogging2 has exploded across the Internet. In 2009, there were 126 million blogs online (as tracked by Blog Pulse). The number doesn’t seem so impressive until you learn that two-thirds of the blogs people write are abandoned within 2 months. On the surface, the idea of writing out ones thoughts and interests seems like a fun endeavor but the reality is that it takes time and effort. Many people start a blog but then quickly drop off when life gets busy and the blog no longer seems important. The same problem can happen with journaling. The devil does not want you to connect with God in a deeper way each day. I Peter 5:8 explains this by saying, “Be self controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” As Satan is trying to steal your thoughts away from God and His truth, it is only natural that he would have his gaze set on destroying your willingness and commitment to journaling, not wanting you to get more intimately acquainted with God.

When you are tempted to give up, it may be success is right around the corner. You won’t know it if you give up to soon.

2 A blog (web log) is an online diary arranged in chronological order usually built upon a particular topic. 35


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The devil wants to make your journaling time impossible. People have shared with me how, when they dedicate time to journaling, plumbing pipes burst, smoke alarms go off, children get sick, uninvited visitors ring the doorbell and people leave messages on their voice mail saying the call is urgent. Fully expect the devil to try to sabotage your plans to get to know Jesus better with journaling.

“..in order to enjoy the Word, we ought to continue to read it, and the way to obtain a spirit of prayer is to continue praying. The less we read the Word of God, the less we desire to read it, and the less we pray, the less we desire to pray. ” — George Muller

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Deciding To Journal No Matter What I sit down in my comfy chair to journal A decision I’m making to prepare for life eternal. Although, last night the kids ruined my sleep Lord, help me today, my sanity to keep. I ask for your help and thoughts, as I listen to you, Lord I need your coat of armor, and your spiritual sword. Despite the phone ringing and dish duties still ahead I need to hear Your Words, and not climb back in my bed. I ask while I am journaling, could you keep my house quiet When I am journaling, the devil tries to incite my family to riot. This is the time you can tell me whatever you want me to know, Help me hear Your Words and apply them. I really need to grow. Lord, what you just told me to do, it sure makes lots of sense, I have now forgiven her instead of waiting for her to repent. Jesus, it’s great to be with You. I feel like I’m your special child. Today, I gave you all my burdens and you took my heavy piles. Oh, that weight on my chest is lifted. I feel so much better. The scripture we read today was like my own, personal letter! Help me to plan, daily, to journal, and spend time to pray, I need to keep learning of you, the Light, Truth and The Way. I’m glad we had this time together, and I know, daily, what I must do. I can hardly wait to journal tomorrow, my time between just me and You! 37


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INTENTIONALLY COMMIT TIME Deciding to believe in Jesus and follow Him is only the beginning of your relationship with God. You are now on a lifelong journey of knowing Him more. God is honored by your willingness to intentionally take time and effort to consistently meet with Him. Like any relationship, it takes effort on the part of both parties to make the relationship grow. Imagine two young lovers in the dating phase of their relationship. They do everything they can to show the other person how much they are loved. They marry in a beautiful wedding. At the end of the ceremony, they kiss goodbye. She goes back to her parents and he goes back to his old apartment. They don’t see much of one another. Not much of a relationship? You are right. When adrenaline is pumping and the relationship is fresh, we put the most time into a relationship. But, if you neglect your relationship with God, it will die from neglect. If you spend time with God, you can be sure your love for Him will intensify. It is your commitment to spending time with Him that will keep the relationship strong or weakened. It is a choice you will make.

Instead of a wishbone, we need a backbone to accomplish the important things in our life.

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Chapter Eight THE WORD OF GOD WILL CHANGE YOU Participating in a beneficial study of the Bible will change you. Have you ever known someone that seems to know so much about the Bible but can be a pain in the neck to hang around? In the Bible, they called those Pharisees. The benefits of studying the Bible go beyond head knowledge. While learning more about God is valuable, the goal of Bible study is to use the head knowledge you gather about God to deepen your relationship with Him. Any scholar (or Pharisee) can pick up the Bible and walk away with facts about God, Christ and the Holy Spirit. However, only an individual that is in an active relationship with Jesus can glean the hidden gems of truth and transformation contained within its pages.

Don’t just read God’s Word like it is a nonfiction work. Believe it will change your life. Obey what God tells you through His Word. BLESSING One of the greatest benefits of studying the Bible is the blessing we receive from doing so. Revelation 1:3 reads, “Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it.” Because the Word of God is alive and active (Hebrews 4:12) it reads differently than other ancient texts. It is a book written by men who were inspired by the Holy Spirit. When you read the Bible, you receive blessings because it is both an inspired and living text. 41


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KNOWLEDGE Study of the Bible also provides important knowledge to help grow your personal biblical education. In Exodus 18:20 the prophet Moses is being given advice from his father-in-law Jethro, on how he is to lead the people. Jethro instructs Moses to; “Teach them the decrees and laws, and show them how to live and the duties they are to perform.” In a world without the written word of God, men like Moses were the source of education about God. Today, God’s Word holds the same authority as the words of Moses. Just as it was important for the Israelites to know the scripture, so, too, it is important for you to be well educated in the things of God.

It is important to seek God’s Face, not His Hand TRANSFORMATION The Word of God is also transformative. The more you study the Word, the less sin has control in your life. The writer of Psalm 119:9,11 states the power of the Word to conquer sin by saying, “how can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word. I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” You cannot expect the Word of God to transform your life if you are ignorant of what it says. You can only hope to lessen the sin in your life by careful study and reading of the Word.

“Without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement, and success have no meaning.” — Benjamin Franklin 42


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I do not like the shape of my nose. When I was an adolescent, I would look in the mirror, hoping my nose would change in size and shape. I thought as I got older, maybe it would change. But the mirror never reflected any differences. My nose just got bigger. 2 Cor. 3:18 ASV says, “By beholding, we become changed. But we all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are transformed into the same image from glory to glory, even as from the Lord the Spirit. I cannot change myself by looking at myself in a mirror. And when I look at Christ, the unimportant things (like the shape of my nose) are minimized and I start to be more like Him. I want to be like Him. I need to stop looking at the world and more at Him.

You can be pathetic or empowered, but you can’t be both. You change your outlook by looking from yourself to Him instead. Sometimes, you may not agree with what God wants for your life. You have a choice. You can suffer the discomfort of changing or suffer the results of just staying the way you are. God wants to transform you. You may be rather independent and capable, but God will ask you to submit to His will. You will need to endure it if you are to become transformed.

STRENGTH Many of us desire to have stronger faith in God that can outlast any temptation or struggle that life may bring. Perhaps you know someone who is strong in the faith. They seem to be like a bulwark in the face of difficult circumstances with unwavering 43


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devotion to God. Strength of faith does not happen overnight. In I Peter 2:2, the apostle Peter is instructs the early believers, “Like newborn babies, crave spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation.” Faith begins with a craving for the Word of God. You begin small and then slowly God reveals more in his Word as your faith matures and can handle deeper insights. How strong your faith is, has very little to do with how long you have been a follower of Jesus. Rather, strong faith comes from an active relationship with God and His Word.

PEACE Careful study of the Bible will naturally bring peace into your life. You may think of peace as opposed to war, but biblical peace is a trust and assurance that God is working all things out according to His plan. Psalm 85:8 reassures you that, “… God promises peace to His people, His saints”. Studying the Word of God reinforces your belief that God cares and is present in your life.

PATIENCE Study of the Word also produces patience. There are many of us who know this is something we need more of as we face challenges in our lives. When you read the Word of God you realize that His sovereign hand is over all situations, no matter how big or small they may seem. As you see God work again and again in the lives of others, it fosters patience in your own life, as you believe that God will work in your life too. Galatians 5:22 states it simply when Paul writes, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness…”

CONTENTMENT Maybe you are facing a lot these days as many people in our country are today. Maybe you or your spouse has lost a job, 44


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have mountains of debt and don’t know how you will pay your bills. According to MSN Money, an average household accumulates around $8,000 in credit card debt alone. Maybe you are having health challenges or relationship issues. Maybe you are worried about the future or what will happen to your family member fighting the war. How will you survive? Our nation is full of worry and anxiety. People are filled with discontentment and the constant longing for more than we can financially pay for. When we have these issues, you need to run to the throne and not to the phone. God will help you with all your situations. When you study the Word of God, you will find the only source of true contentment. Philippians 4:11 is a great verse to help curb the constant need for more. “I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.” Paul’s words are even more powerful when you realize that he wrote these words from prison. God will provide what we need and that is a true understanding of contentment!

LOVE AND JOY Love and joy are natural by-products of studying God’s Word. Looking to Galatians 5:22 again, you see the fruit of the Spirit where love and joy are at the top of the list. The more you study scripture you cannot help but take on the characteristics that Christ exemplifies. What better example of love and joy could there be than your Creator who gave His Life for the sins of all human-kind. You may think that in order to have joy, you need to have prosperity, health and success. But, God gives true joy. It is not based on whether your circumstances are good. You are promised joy despite your circumstances. 45


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INCREASED DESIRE In the Old Testament, there is a moving story where King David has come to the end of his life and is passing on what knowledge he has acquired to his son, Solomon. He tells his son, “and you, my son Solomon, acknowledge the God of your father, and serve Him with wholehearted devotion and with a willing mind, for the Lord searches every heart and understands every motive behind the thoughts. If you seek him, he will be found by you…” (1 Chronicles 28:9). God will faithfully acknowledge your desire to know Him more and reward your faithful study of His word with a deeper relationship with Him. There is nothing about written about desire, only obedience. Character isn’t doing what you want to do, but what you know you should do. You may need to ask God for the desire to get to know Him better. Sometimes desire doesn’t come naturally. But there is a blessing when you act on getting to know God better. A regular study of God’s Word will increase your desire to know your Creator more. Finally, we cannot know how to please God if we do not know what God wants us to do. Ephesians 5:15,17 reads; “Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.” Those who are wise and desire to please God will seek for this knowledge in the pages of the scriptures. And the blessing of having a thirst for Him will increase as we get to know Him more. Getting to know God will change your life.

“Failure is not fatal, but failure to change might be.” — John Wooden 46


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Chapter Nine PLAN YOUR JOURNALING EXPERIENCE Make a plan to start a routine to write in your journal everyday, even when you are busy. Basketball great Shaquille O’Neal once said, “Excellence is not a singular act, but a habit. You are what you repeatedly do.” Imagine any great athlete. Even the men and women with God-given talents must still put in the hours of practice to improve their performance. The same principles can be applied to the spiritual discipline of journaling. The transformation will not come overnight. You will not be amazed by God each time you sit down to write but the habit you are cultivating will reap immeasurable rewards in your life. Here are some ideas to get started:

1. Set a Time Doing the same thing each day forms habits. If you practice anything for about three months, it becomes routine. Make sure you pick a realistic time to journal that will be repeatedly available with as few interruptions as possible.

2. Pick a Place If you are going to be writing in your journal, you should always write in the same place. Hopefully it will be a cheery place. In this way you begin to associate that area with journaling and find it easier to focus once you’ve arrived. You might choose a favorite chair or room in your house, a local library, a garden spot, or a church sanctuary. Keep your journal in a little basket with your favorite writing utensil (and your reading glasses), so all you have to do is pick it up and work.

3. Remove Distractions Turn off the television, radio, cell phone and instant messaging 49


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programs on the computer prior to journaling. Warning: do not lock your children in their rooms or in your car trunks during journaling times. It would be best to schedule time when they are asleep or away. It is important for you to remain single focused so that God can speak to you without any distractions blocking His voice.

OPTIONS TO WRITING Perhaps some of you are reading this and while you agree in principle, if you are honest, you know that writing is simply not your cup of tea. While journaling can be a useful tool to relate to God, in no way is it the only way to open up communication with your Savior. When you capture your conversations with God, there are many options you can use other than writing. For those that enjoy writing but have an easier time typing your thoughts, there are journaling web sites that allow users to blog or journal free of charge and keep information safe and secure. It is important to secure an online source that cannot be read by others. Journaling to God is not meant to be public information, but rather it is a series of private conversations between you and God.

Here are some web sites for consideration: • LiveJournal.com: a free online journal. • LivingFile.com: a free online journal • My-Diary.org/create: a free online journal/diary • WordPress.com: a free blog site • Xanga.com: a free blog site • Penzu.com: software you can purchase for your own personal journal and online diary • MyTherapyJournal.com: a secure web site with a purchase of a package. 50


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Some people do not want to write at all but still want to get in on the experience of journaling. Today’s technology is perfect to create video journals. All that’s needed is a web cam that can be used to record thoughts, prayers and daily reflections. These can then be saved on CDs or DVDs and can easily be opened at a later date to reflect and remember the ways that God has worked in your life.

The most extensive journal to date is David’s writing in the book of Psalms of the Old Testament of the Bible.

It’s not all that important how we started or what we did in our past. It is important how we will finish.

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Chapter Ten EQUIP YOURSELF FOR JOURNALING For those of you who are interested in the more traditional way of writing, you will need only these items:

1. 2. 3. 4.

A Pen or Pencil A Notebook A Bible Time

It is good to have a pen with which you enjoy writing. Perhaps you would like colored pencils for underlining quotes that touch your heart. If you really get into your journaling and feel you may write for a long period of time, there are soft grips that slide over the pen. These give your hands and fingers less stress when grasping the pen for writing. It also helps if you have too little strength in your hands or arthritis. If you do not have a table to write at and need one, there are writing lapboards that can be purchased in most variety stores. Since journaling is such a personal discipline, you need to make the journal suit your creativity and individuality. Perhaps you are a very simple person and just desire a regular school type notebook or tablet. Or perhaps you like pretty things laying on end tables and want to decorate the cover of your journal (you can go to Youtube.com and search for “decorating journal covers”) or find a colorful notebook usually in a greeting card section of a store. I’ve seen people that have covered the outside covers with wallpaper or contact paper.

WHAT TO READ FOR JOURNALING? When you journal, it is best to go directly to the Bible where 53


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you are promised God will speak to you. You do not want to be prejudiced by the views of others. So, with journaling, make sure you are in the Word. Although there are many books that are helpful to your daily walk, read those during others times of the day, not during the time you have set aside to journal with God. There is a mass amount of Christian materials produced today. Many devotionals can be short, superficial or based on the author’s interpretation. Journaling is a step away from a manufactured study guide. Let God lead you as He has promised to do when you open His Word.

1 Corinthians 2:9 states, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love Him” (NLT). God has thoughts and ideas beyond your imagination. He wants to communicate with you in His Divine way, not from your own human power. He wants to tell you plans so far beyond your comprehension. He can only do this when you spend time at His feet in mediation and prayer. Be prepared, because when you open yourself to God, He will give you some marvelous insights into your life and the future. Find a Bible version you think you will like. Do some research online or in bookstores. There are many Bible translations. There are those with certain types of helps in them. I prefer the Andrews Study Bible, as I like the easy access to looking up words and phrases at the bottom of each page. There are many to consider and one that is sure to inspire you individually. My friend, Kim, loves her One Year Bible, with passages arranged into daily readings from both the New and 54


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Old Testaments, so the reader can read the Bible in an entire year. This is also available online now. Instead of spending ten minutes in prayer and study, commit to giving God a longer amount of time to communicate with you, and you with Him. Devotions are not like drive-thru eateries. God needs time to help your human brain process what He is trying to say. God wants to show His character to you so you can understand more about Him. His intention is to love and inspire you, to bring encouragement in your walk with Him.

“I believe the Bible is the best gift God has ever given to man. All the good from the Savior of the world is communicated to us through this book.” — Abraham Lincoln

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Chapter Eleven DO YOU HEAR GOD SPEAKING? As you read through the Old Testament, it is easy to see how Moses or David might have heard God speak, because God actually spoke audibly to them! Today, however, God has chosen to speak to His children in a new and unique way. God speaks to you through His Word and prayer. As you read and study the Bible, God will speak truth into your life. Perhaps you realize a behavior you need to change or you realize a positive attribute you need to use more in your own life. As you study, allow Him to talk. Open up your mind to the possibility that God is alive and working within you. As God speaks, remember that He tells you statements that go along with the Bible. If you start hearing bad or negative thoughts, you aren’t hearing the voice of God. God is an encourager not a discourager. He may speak to you about changes He wants to see in your life but His reproof is constructive, not destructive like the devil. James 3:17 states, “But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.” Since you know that Satan walks around like a hungry lion seeking to destroy God’s people (1 Peter 5:8), you can rest assured that anything negative is the result of Satan and not God. God is not the author of confusion or condemnation for those who love Him. Thankfully, He seeks to empower you to accomplish great things in your life and doesn’t leave you on your own. He will stretch you and enlarge your understanding. 57


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When I visited the Mint in Denver, CO, the tour guide explained that the experts studied authentic currency so carefully they could easily detect any counterfeit money. I have also heard there are art experts who study gifted artists like Picasso and Rembrandt, and know the characteristics of their paintings so thoroughly, they are able to tell counterfeit paintings. They are so familiar with the authentic they find it easy to know the real thing. We also, need to be so familiar with the voice of God we will know Him. What a powerful reminder to study the Word of God carefully and thoroughly, so that you would know the voice of God and be able to identify commands that come from Him. God has a style, a character and a way about Him, that when you get to know Him well, you will recognize His voice. I want to be able to recognize His voice and know when He is speaking, don’t you? John 10:27 NIV says, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” The Bereans in the days of Paul, “received all things and searched scriptures daily” (Acts 17:11). Search the scriptures, for yourself, to see if what other authors are saying is true. God wants to give you directions for your life. Many times, when we share what God has done for us, we also encourage others, too.

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Chapter Twelve NOW, LET’S GET STARTED with Prayer It is a good rule of thumb to always open journaling with prayer. You want God to influence you as you spend time with Him. Here is a menu for the beginning of your journaling session:

Begin by Praising God Thank Him for His faithfulness in your life. Adore God and His Goodness to those whom you love. Confess your sins and ask for forgiveness. Pray for the Holy Spirit’s anointing. Ask the Holy Spirit to teach about and reveal Jesus. Ask God to reveal what He wants you to know and understand in the pages of the Bible. Pray for greater insight into the Word. If you find yourself struggling with prayer and how to pray, here are some acronyms that can help you. The first one is: P. R. A. Y. E. R P — Praise God R — Remember God is in Control and He is Faithful A — Ask for God’s Guidance Y — Yield to God’s Will E — Expect God to Take Care of You R — Repent, From Sin and Turn to God

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Here is another useful acronym that can also help bring new life to your time of prayer. This follows the acronym: A. C. T. S A — Adoration C — Confession T — Thanksgiving S — Supplication (asking God for something)

Write down a record of your prayer requests and when God answers these prayers. Always note what God has done for others and you in your journal. Write down a record of the blessings He has bestowed upon your life that perhaps before journaling you failed to notice and observe. As you find yourself in the habit of prayer you should trust God to keep His Word. This is a healthy expectation that a child of God has. You should trust God to take care of you. Remember that prayer is a two-way conversation, so be sure to listen to what God has to say! If God gives you a thought or suggestion, write it down. You can also write down your actual prayers. It is helpful to keep a prayer list so you can remember specific requests. On the next page is an example of how you might want to layout your journal page:

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My Spiritual Journal Always Begin with Prayer Prayer Requests

Date:

How Answered

The Scripture I am journaling about today (write it out):

My prayer to God about this verse and how God wants me to apply it to my life:

Thank God for His leading in your study today. 64


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Chapter Thirteen STUDYING THE BIBLE In addition to prayer, your journaling experience will be a study of the Bible. You can read one chapter or just a few verses at a sitting. One of the hardest things about studying the Bible is knowing where to start. With 31,173 verses, split into 1,189 chapters, contained in 66 books that form to complete two testaments, it can be difficult to know which area of the Bible to begin with! For those who are new to studying the Bible, the New Testament is a great place to start. Begin by reading the gospel of John. For others who have known Christ longer and have a better idea of what the Bible contains, it can be helpful to use a study guide, a Sabbath School lesson or suggestions in a yearly Bible plan. Once you have decided where to start, the following can help as you begin to study: Take time reading the passage and allow God to speak. It might be helpful to read silently, out loud or in a different version than you are accustomed. Highlight, underline or place a mark in the margin of the bible next to the scriptures that stand out. Don’t forget to look up the cross-reference verses suggested. The computer is great for looking up meanings of words and phrases. It’s also great to have a dictionary close by.

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If a certain passage stands out from the rest and it peaks an interest to study deeper, here are some questions you might ask to lead you into deeper study:

• Who wrote or said this? • When was it written or said? • Where did this happen? • What circumstance or event prompted this incident or teaching? • To whom was it written or said? • Why did the person act as he/she did? Or say what he/she said? • Why would God have wanted this in the Bible? What would be missing had God not included this passage? • What does this have to do with me at this point in my life? • How can I apply or emulate or obey what I learn in this passage? • What does this tell me to do? • Are there behaviors or words that surprise, inspire, challenge, confuse, convict, worry or encourage? At the end of your time, reread the verses you marked, look for one that particularly spoke to you and write it in your journal. Ask, “What do I think God wants me to know by giving me this verse?” It might be helpful to paraphrase the verse by writing it in your own words.

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Sometimes you might find an acronym can give you ideas on studying the Bible more effectively. Here are two you might consider to help you with your study of the Bible starting with the acronym WORD: W. O. R. D. W — Wonder About It and Ask Questions O — Observe It for a Few Moments, R — Reflect on It, and if there is a Command … D — Do It!

Another helpful acronym is the word MEALS: M. E. A. L. S. M — Memorize Scripture E — Examine
Scripture A — Apply
Scripture to Your Life L — Listen
to what God/Jesus/Holy Spirit is saying S — Study the concepts and ideas.

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Chapter Fourteen WRITING IN YOUR JOURNAL Write your thoughts and convictions as you contemplate the text you chose to focus on. A helpful question to ask is, “after reading this verse, what do I believe God wants me to know?” You can even start your journal with “Dear God” and make your writing a prayer to Him. The contents of your journal will reflect your individual creativity at work. When you are writing, you might create a poem, song lyrics, make a profound statement about God, or even add a special quote from an author which you think expresses your thoughts well at that moment. Your writing is uniquely yours. Make your writing come from your heart in your one of a kind journal. Write down what thoughts God is impressing on your mind. Your journal excerpts will express your inter-most thoughts. As you sit and commune with Him, discuss your thoughts, feelings, questions, concerns and plans. He will bless your life because of the time you were willing to devote to Him.

After journaling and studying the Bible, you are sure to grow in Christ. And if someone accuses you of being a Christian, there will be enough evidence to convict you. 71


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Perhaps you are still having concerns about how to get started. I asked several ladies to share a page from their journals with you. Here are their responses:

From Mia: (She is having troubles with infertility) Scripture: “You, LORD, will always treat me with kindness.
 Your love never fails. You have made us what we are.
 Don’t give up on us now!” — Psalm 138:8 CEV

Dear God, I will trust You and Your wisdom. You know how badly I want a child. I hurt when I see mothers holding a new infant. You know and understand my thoughts and feelings. I realize You know the best, you have my back and I can trust You. You know the beginning to the end. Someday, I pray I will be pregnant. Help me to realize you have plans for my life and I can trust you with whatever they are. I know you have your own timing. I am thankful your love cannot fail. You understand my hurt. You’ve been dealing with women like me since Bible times. I will put my plans in your capable Hands. I am Your baby and know I am loved by You. Thanks for understanding my feelings and planning my future. 72


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From Chris: Scripture: “My soul melts from heaviness. Strengthen me according to your Word.” — Psalm 119:28

My soul is heavy, Lord. I need to be strong in you. Thanks, Lord, for listening to me. You know my sadness for my son. My heart feels heavy just thinking of him. I pray for him and his girlfriend, that you will impress them to walk in your ways. I pray other adults will reach out to him where he lives. I know you are strong and love him more than even I do. I place him into your care. I claim your promises. I know you have his best intentions at heart. I know I have no control over him. I will leave him in your capable hands. Please bring to mind anything I might do to improve the situation with him and I. I pray for your strength to give my mind a rest. I want to stop worrying and allow you to do your work. I give up my control and want you to take care of everything. When I think of this situation, help me not to worry but to pray for your work in my son and his girlfriend’s life. Thanks for hearing my prayer. 73


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From Margaret: (She is being worked up for a breast lump) Scripture: “I will never give up hope or stop praising you.” — Psalm 71:14

I will stay faithful to you today. I want to tell of the wonderful things you have done for me in the past, and tell them to all who will listen, including the medical staff, my physicians, and my family. You have saved me from car accidents and an abusive father. This is another time when I need to trust You fully in this situation. Praising you encourages me (and increases my immune system). What a great God I serve! Thanks for your unconditional love. I thank you for whatever future you will give me.

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Chapter Fifteen CREATING YOUR OWN LOVE STORY As you journal, over time, your journal will develop into a beautiful story between you and the Lord. It is a record of your walk with God, your concerns, your blessings and the many answers to prayer. Your journal entries give insight into God’s love for you, His interest in your problems and His leading in your life. You will find yourself drawing nearer to God as you talk to Him and listen for His voice. Hebrews 4:16 reads, “So let us come near to God with a sincere heart and a sure faith.” Journaling can be the avenue that allows this closeness to take place in your spiritual life.

HEIRLOOMS FOR THE FUTURE If you so choose, your journal may become an heirloom for future generations. Your prayers may encourage many. It may inspire them to be prayer warriors or may serve as a rock of remembrance when you are gone from this earth, of how you held each of your children or loved ones up in prayer. You might want certain parts of your prayer journal to be a keepsake, something that tells of events and how God was working in your life and theirs through your prayers. It will be a record of answered prayers. You can select certain passages, type it up and present it for gifts for your children. You could use it to write testimonies to the faithfulness of God. You could consider self-publishing it as a book.3 You can choose to make a calendar from the prayers you offer for your family. The list of possibilities goes on and on.

3 If you are considering self publication, the following web sites provide more information: 48hrbooks.com or lulu.com 77


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There are many Christian magazines that are always looking for articles on answers to prayer, inspirational stories or editorials. Your journals may become a place where you can get ideas to write about in your journey with God. People love to hear first person experiences, answers to prayer, situations where you learn from God and other information that may come about because you are journaling. If you have a creative bent or like to write, consider writing about your experience with God and sharing it with others on a larger scale. Of course, many of you may decide this is not your special gift. That is fine, also, as it is your own private journal. That is completely understandable. For many of you, your journal contains raw, honest messages that might be hard for others to read. Taken out of context, your journal might not always paint an accurate picture of your walk with God. If you do make the decision to keep your journal for only an audience of one, remember to keep it safe and secure. It is not unheard of for some to burn their journals when they are finished, especially if it spans a particularly difficult period of time.

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FINAL NOTES An Inspiration Journaling can be a life-changing experience as you grow with the Lord. The closer you get, the more you grow. The more you grow, you will not depend on our own strength and you will begin to feel loved and secure.

While driving to a women’s retreat to speak on journaling, I heard a radio commercial for a skin product claiming to take years off your life and give you a healthy glow. When the commercial talked about getting rid of crow’s feet in your forehead and laugh lines around your mouth, it made me annoyed. When I checked in to my room, I sat down and penned this poem. 81


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May the following poem be the inspiration you need as, pen in hand and journal at your side, you begin to revolutionize your devotional life through the discipline of journaling:

Inner Beauty There are products on the market Which are made to clean my skin. But the love of my Lord Jesus Is for the cleansing of my sin. And while frosty eye shadows Can make my old, dull eyes shine. My eyes will look happy and sparkly, If I reflect my Savior Divine. I’ve used blush on my cheeks To give them an out-of-doors glow. But my face naturally beams light, When to others, the love of God, I show Commercials talk of wrinkle-reducing creams Too much money to improve my face. But the job is done so much quicker, If God’s peace replaces “my worry” space. With all the commercials selling cosmetics, I really cannot afford, I’ll plan to “Journal with Jesus” And thus, I’ll grow lovely in the Lord! 82


Final Notes

As you spend time being still with Jesus, praying, studying His Word, and journaling together, you will discover the treasures He has been wanting to share with you about your life. May your heart and life be forever changed and your thirst for Him be increased, as you Journal with Jesus.

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Journaling with Jesus  

Perhaps you have desired a more dynamic, personal relationship with Jesus. This book will take you through the steps of how to journal, but...

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