This week’s spiritual discipline is journaling, one of my favorites. Today’s blog is by Bishop Doug Beacham, General Superintendent of the International Pentecostal Holiness Church.
There are two aspects of journaling that are my focus in this brief essay.
First, journals are excellent ways to enter the past. John Wesley’s Journals cover fifty years of his ministry and bring the reader into the daily and weekly life of this amazing minister.
Second, journals become ways that we record our own present so that later we can discern how the Holy Spirit weaves divine grace through the course of our life.
I began journaling in the 1980s in London, England. This is before the days of laptop computers, iPad’s, Surfaces, and Bluetooth keyboards. I bought a bound red notebook in a London store and started writing. Later I started typing my journal. I tend to write when I’m on a plane, using that time to catch up with what’s occurring in ministry, family, and the world. They are my thoughts, and to be honest I hope no one else reads them while I’m alive!
As to the two points I made in the first paragraph, my personal journal serves them. I’ve always had a keen interest in history, having been greatly influenced by former Emmanuel College professor and global Pentecostal leader Dr. Vinson Synan. When I attended EC, it was a junior college. So afterwards I went to the University of Georgia. I knew I wanted to write, so I started as a journalism major. Honestly, it was boring to me. One day Dr. Synan saw me at the Franklin Springs Church and asked what I was majoring in. I replied, “Journalism.” “Why?” he exclaimed. “I want to write, and I thought that would be a good major,” I answered. I’ve never forgotten his answer, an answer that changed my life, “You already know how to write. You need to learn something to write about. Change your major to history.” The next quarter I did, and, naturally, the rest is . . . (drum roll) history.
I write about history, especially church history. I know the significance of primary sources and the insights one gains from reading first-hand accounts, even the accounts of people who are not well known. Because of that, and not because I’m particularly important, I decided to write with regularity about my experiences. Perhaps at some point in the future, a historian will find some value in what I’ve seen, experienced, and felt. That is one reason that I write.
But the other reason is related to my efforts to chronicle God’s hand at work in my life and the lives of people around me.
Occasionally I go back to earlier years in the journal to remember. It helps to jog my memory. The present, and sometimes anxiety about the future, can often cloud our memory of what God has done in our lives. In the journal I hear the voices of people from years and decades ago. I read of my fears and realize now those fears were not necessary. I read of what I deem successes and realize now how much of God’s providence was at work. Through journaling, I am able to hear God speak to me today through what I experienced in life’s yesterdays.
So, go ahead, purchase a red notebook, or start with your laptop, and write. It’s you and the Holy Spirit. Write honestly, ask the difficult questions, express the pain, rejoice in the blessings, and keep a record for yourself. Who knows, possibly a future historian will make you a footnote in a best seller!
My husband has been urging me for years to journal more systematically, and for years, I have resisted the nudge because I felt I didn’t have much to say. Dr. Beacham’s article allays these concerns. My thoughts need not be profound or insightful or even important. There is value in recording our experiences and emotions so that I can look back and see how God intervened here, answered this prayer there, provided help when we frantically called out to Him on that occasion. To be clear, I journal oh so sporadically. I think I’m convinced to journal more regularly with intentionality. And, as long as no one sees my musings until I’m gone, I can be open and honest. After all, God already knows the hidden thoughts of our hearts :).
Thanks Beverly Oxley for this encouraging response!
This December I will have been journaling consistently for 43 years. I can mark that date because I was saved on Dec 7th, 1975, and two things developed overnight that stand out in my memory: an intense desire to both study the Word and to write down what I learned, asked, reflected on…and how it changed me. Over time this journal included illustrations, prayers and most significantly what I sensed the Lord saying to me as I read His Word. You can pull most any of these journals off my shelf and see the latter highlighted. It’s been a highly valued blessing to go through and reflect on all He’s said…and done through the years. His faithfulness to me is readily apparent. My stubbornness at times is also. But in these journals you can read where the Holy Spirit circles back around to teach the lesson again. I’ve marveled at times that journaling is so much a part of my life. I can assuredly say it is only God’s Grace. Occasionally the Lord arranges a divine appointment where a recent entry is shared with another and mutual encouragement is gained. When I’m gone, if the kids bag them all up for the dump, it’s ok. They’ve already served an eternal purpose. Thank you Bishop for the article and your own story—how God intervened in your life to begin that first journal. May many others be inspired to write their daily God stories too!