Review and Giveaway: Journaling for the Soul

I kept journals in high school, but I became embarrassed by their content and threw them out. I wish I had kept them, embarrassing as they may have been, for a window into my teenage mind. I made notes from my devotional time for years, but stopped for two main reasons. My writing took up much more time than my reading, and I felt I needed to be listening to God in His Word more than writing my thoughts about His Word. Plus I had stacks of small spiral notebooks that I wasn’t sure what to do with. I rarely went back through them, so I figured they had served their purpose, and I threw them out, too. The closest thing I’ve had to a journal in recent years has been my blog.

But lately I’ve been reminded of the value of writing in connection with our time in God’s Word. Writing helps us process thoughts, and writing helps reinforce and make those thoughts permanent.

JournalingAbout this time, Michele’s review of Journaling for the Soul: A Handbook of Journaling Methods by Deborah Haddix caught my eye, so I asked for a copy for Christmas.

Deborah shares that journaling in the only way she knew it seemed like too much pressure and took up too much time. But as friends shared with her a variety of journaling methods, she hit on one that resonated with her and enhanced her time with the Lord.

Deborah shares several benefits to journaling. In addition to the ones I mentioned above, journaling can help us engage with a text of Scripture more than a cursory reading would provide, “moving you from reading for information to reading for transformation” (p. 13). Journaling enables us to slow down and focus, “documents what God is currently teaching us” (p. 16), “provides a record of our spiritual growth, one that we can look back on as a reminder of God’s persistent work in our lives” (p. 16). And journaling can be a tool to speak to our loved ones and others. The Journals of Jim Elliot profoundly affected me when I discovered it as a young adult.

Deborah has amassed a multitude of journaling methods. Some are written; some are more artsy. Some focus on prayer, some of self-reflection, some on meditating on one particular text, some on on working through a particular passage, some on gratitude lists or prompts.

Deborah recommends that we “start small and keep it simple” (p. 21). First we need to decide the purpose for which we want to journal and then assess which method fits within our interests and talents. She also advises that we evaluate what we’re doing periodically and decide whether it’s working or whether we need to change. She emphasizes that journaling should not be a source of pressure or driven by perfectionism. One of the best pieces of advice, and new to me, was the recommendation of leaving space for an “insight line” at the bottom of the journaling page – when we read back through our journal entries, we can add a line or two about how we’re doing with whatever we wrote about, whether we’ve grown or are still struggling, ways the Lord answered prayer, etc.

I found, as Deborah predicted, that not all of the methods appealed to me. One that did was Inductive Study Journaling – reading through a passage and jotting down our observations (what it says), interpretations (what it means) and application (“How does God want me to live in light of the truth of His Word” [p. 52]). Another was the Spiritual Markers Journaling, taken from the memorial stones Joshua was instructed to gather and set up as a reminder to Israel of His working among them in Joshua 4:2-7, something like the Ebenezers I listed a while back.  She has a couple of pages on Truth Journaling developed by Barb Raveling. I’m more inclined towards journaling through a passage of Scripture than responding to seemingly random prompts, though the latter has its value as well. I’m considering a variation on the bullet method. I often read from more than one source, and it’s amazing how often they intersect. I’ve thought of just writing a sentence or two from each source each day.

Of course, some people’s minds work differently. A man in our former church was speaking on a particular topic, and in his presentation he shared some “doodles” he had made during a recent sermon. They weren’t art in the sense of being enhanced by frills and flourishes, but he had just arranged the words of a verse or quote from the sermon in a way that illustrated its meaning just by how it was arranged. I wish I had a sample to explain it. I could not have done it in a week’s worth of thought and effort, much less in a quick few strokes while listening to a sermon. His mind worked in such a way that his note-taking took that form. Some like to study a passage not by outlining and highlighting but by verse mapping (some examples here, here, and here). Some take it a step further with art journaling, like Robin Lee Hatcher’s examples here or Karla Dornacher‘s. I’ve seen some examples of art journaling where the illustration covers over the Scripture itself, which, in my opinion, seems to be exalting it over the words of the Bible. To me, some of these types of methods would work best with one verse, whether meditating on it and/or trying to memorize it.

I’d add a word of caution with some of the more artsy methods. There’s a difference between coloring a verse as a hobby, a method of relaxation, etc., and engaging mentally with the text while drawing and illustrating it. I wouldn’t use coloring a verse as my whole time with the Bible. It does take thought and effort to engage with a text to determine the meaning and the best way to apply it. If drawing and illustrating it does that for a person, that’s fine.

So there are any number of methods for engaging with the Bible text in a way that helps us understand and apply its meaning. Deborah has done a great job detailing the reasons for and benefits of journaling and finding examples for just about every personality and mindset.

When I asked for a copy of this book for Christmas, somehow I ended up with two. So I’d like to share one with one of you. If you’d like to be entered for a drawing to win this book, just leave a comment on this post. A week from today, Feb. 27, I’ll collect all the comments here and use to draw a name. (I’ll take all the comments on this post as entries for the drawing unless you let me know that you don’t want your name entered.) In addition, I must have a way to contact you: if you would, leave your email not in the comments but in the form underneath where you place your name. If you are commenting from a WordPress account, your email fills in automatically with the email associated with your account. And, due to shipping costs, I am only able to ship to the US.

Do you journal? Do you use a particular method?

Update: The giveaway is now closed. The winner is Kathie!

(Sharing with Literary Musing Monday, Carole’s Books You Loved)


23 thoughts on “Review and Giveaway: Journaling for the Soul

  1. I have long resisted God’s call to me on journaling because I find that it takes so much time and I can’t figure out how to fit it into my day. I’d love to be entered for this book as I believe it would help me tremendously. Thank you!

  2. When we began the care of my mother who had Alzheimer’s I began a journal to keep track of Mom’s medications, progress into this dreadful disease, how God was using all of this to grow us deeper in Christ, and how God was strengthening us to care for her. Mom has passed now but I have kept the journal up with family happenings, general information and anything God brings to my mind in His Word or in my reading.
    I have just recently begun keeping a Bible Journal also. Right now as I begin I am putting down what spoke to my heart in our Pastor’s Sunday morning messages and any Bible verses that apply. This reinforces the message (we are in the Beatitudes) and helps in retention.
    When I am studying a word I keep track of what I learn, Scripture for the word, and any truths I find in a small “journal”.
    At 76 years old I am finding it is never ever to late to learn a new discipline that helps me grow deeper in Christ. Thank you for the post with several different ideas on journaling. Appreciate your blog very much.

  3. Hi, Barbara. Thanks for the shout out here–Deborah is a deep well, and she just keeps popping up with new stuff. My method of choice is words. I write lists or sentences or paragraphs or rants. I copy pages out of books I love, and I take lots of notes.

  4. I’ve been journaling on and off for about 15 years … pretty much conversations with God about where I am. I unpack my stuff, listen for His responses, write them down, jot down scriptures and hymn and gratitudes. Almost always I leave our time of connection with a clear head, better able to focus on reading His Word and moving into my day.

  5. In the last year I have taken to keeping notebooks with my Bible and devotionals. Sometimes I write summaries of a passage I’ve read (including months of summarizing the book of Nehemiah, passage by passage), other times I bullet-list the stand-out points, and occasionally I simply copy out a verse or passage longhand.

  6. I too kept a journal in h s and now wish I had kept it. I burned the one I had in undergrad school because there were some deeply personal things such as dealing with the abuse from a youth group leader, etc. BUT….again, i wish i now had it. I kept a journal for each daughter untl they turned 18 and it was a diary type thing. Just my writings about my thoughts regarding their lives, their milestones, etc. They love them and have kept them! Actually, my 20 year old doesn’t have hers yet…i showed her but i’m not done with hers. ANd i keep a journal now but i don’t write in it daily. I tend to do reflections on Scriptures, thoughts the Lord is whispering to my heart, prayer lists and thoughts on my marriage and church. I love to journal! My blog is more book reviews, recipes and a few devotional type posts as well as the weekly FFF. I don’t need to be a part of the give a away as i already have two nice journals i’m using.

  7. “I often read from more than one source, and it’s amazing how often they intersect.”
    This is happening to me! I am reading two devotionals in the morning and then writing in my day-timer day space what the Lord reveals to me through them in my life from the Scripture.
    I have just found you in searching the poem, Do the Next Thing, when your 31-day Elisabeth Elliot came up. She has been a mentor to me as well, along with Edith Schaeffer, and Ingrid Trobisch. My mother died when I was very young, so these women have been a wonderful influence for me in Christian living.
    I would enjoy learning from this book on journaling. Thank you for offering it, and… glad to have found your postings! Kathleen ~ Lane Hill House

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  9. I’ve journaled and kept diaries for as long as I can remember. Like you, I tossed many of them, and wish I had them now. For the most part, my journals are just the written word, but a couple of years ago, I started adding bits of “art” and my own drawings. I love exploring different methods of journaling.

  10. How interesting. I’ve never thought much about different “types” of journaling. I have journaled a fair bit in the past – but as more and more of my planning-type activities have moved online (or on my phone), I’m now more likely to open a document in Google docs to record notes on a book or ideas for homeschool or whatever.

    I have been trying, intermittently, to write out scripture for years – after reading a “Reader’s Bible” last year, I decided I love reading without verse markings, so I got myself a composition book and have been writing out the Psalms without verse markings. I chose the Psalms since that’s what my Bible study is working on, but our “homework” just has five days. On my “off” days, I copy Psalms. I don’t know if that really counts as journaling though 🙂

  11. I’ve taken notes of sermons for many years. It help me listen and capture what the preacher is saying. There’s also quite a bit of personal reflection mixed in. Because of the private nature, I generally shred them once I’ve filled one up and move on to the next one. Who would want keep ramblings of an old woman?

  12. I love journaling and have journaled for years. I have a journal for my walk with the Lord, with prayers, sermon notes, my personal study notes, and I also jot down what the Lord teaches me in His Word. I have a journal for thoughts and feelings. I have started a writers bullet journal too. This book sounds great, one that I definitely want to read! Thanks so much for sharing about it!

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  14. I have always kept a journal, recently though I have not been diligent in writing. And i truly need to start a specific bible reading journal . Thanks for sharing this

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