As our nation gears up for July 4th celebrations, the holiday affords us the opportunity to reflect on the value of independence. American Christians can appreciate independence on several levels, including freedom from British colonial rule, freedom from the horrors of slavery, and freedom from the bondage of sin. Certainly, we all are in the process of living into our freedom, because we can still be limited by some external and internal chains. Nevertheless, we are encouraged by the words of Scripture found in Galatians 5:1: “So Christ has truly set us free. Now make sure that you stay free, and don’t get tied up again in slavery to the law (New Living Translation).” Ironically, it is our dependence on God that makes true independence from bondage possible.
Now that we’re “letting our hair down” this holiday weekend, it’s a perfect time to create a spiritual “woosah” moment. Some of us may practice the spiritual disciplines of Scripture study and prayer; however, keep in mind that there are many other means of connecting to God. Journaling is a method of recording your own thoughts and feelings about the events of your life. Some use journaling as a way to chronicle daily or weekly events, whereas others may use journals to record their prayers and God’s responses to their prayers. When I encourage my clients to journal, I understand that while it is a powerful way to increase insight through connection with God, it is also a spiritual practice that takes some getting used to. For that reason, it’s important to be flexible when you’re adding journaling to your routine. For example, journaling can be prose or poetry; fluid text or bullet points; hand-written, typed, audio-recorded, or video-recorded; and daily, weekly, monthly, or somewhere in between. Journaling can be so powerful because it allows the thoughts, even the ruminations, that have been swirling about in our minds to take a more tangible form when expressed, which creates a very liberating effect. One example of journaling is prayer journaling.
In order to further build your relationship with God, I recommend the use of a prayer journal. Pick up a convenient composition book from the dollar store, find a fancy decorated journal with an inspirational message on its cover, or use anything in between. Use this journal for one or more of the following purposes:
- As often as you can, chronicle the happenings of your life from the perspective that God is accompanying you on your journey. God sees your mountains as well as your valleys, and has promised to be present with you all the way. Write down your life events as a way of acknowledging that God’s purpose is being realized through you every day, through every magnificent and mundane event.
- Write down your specific prayer requests, both for yourself and for others. No matter how insignificant or outlandish your prayer requests may seem to others, God honors every desire. It has been said that God’s responses are “Yes,” “No,” “Later,” and “I have something better in mind for you” (Comer, 2012). Even more important than writing down your requests is writing down God’s responses to your requests, no matter how long it may seem to take. Your own personal record of God’s faithfulness in your life and in the lives of your loved ones can be a powerful and hopeful touchstone as you encounter challenges in the future.
- As you are listening for God in your devotional time, or even as you hear God’s voice at unexpected times in your day, record what God shares with you. Perhaps you occasionally hear God’s voice in a clear and unmistakable way. Maybe God confirms something previously shared with you through a conversation with a friend, or even a stranger. Or maybe God speaks to you through everyday sounds or images. Even if you don’t understand the significance of what is shared, write it down. God may give you more clarity later.
- Keep track of the grace in your life. In my prayer journal given to me by one of my “prayer warriors,” I keep a list of Grace I Give (“GIG”) and Grace I Receive (“GIR”). The list of GIG keeps me accountable for being gracious to others on a daily basis. I may extend grace through a smile, a donation given to a stranger in need, a word of encouragement, or even an angry response swallowed. The list of GIR reminds me that God’s principles are true: we reap what we sow (Galatians 6:7). I delight in receiving a word of advice from a mentor, a slice of cake from a church mother, a hug from an old friend, or a heartfelt compliment, especially from a stranger. In today’s terms, we use the language of “karma:” that what goes around comes around. I deliberately sow grace because it pleases God and shows God’s image in my life. I also realize that a natural by-product of sowing is reaping, and because I am in need of grace, I share grace with others, and reap the harvest God has promised. According to gospel songwriter Doris Akers (1957), “You can’t beat God giving, no matter how you try!”
No matter what you do this holiday weekend, make sure you take a moment or two to “relax, relate, and release!” You will then be empowered to serve as a conduit for God’s grace.
À Votre Santé (“To Your Health”),
Akers, D. (1957). You Can’t Beat God’s Giving. [Vinyl]. Los Angeles, CA: Manna Music.
Comer, D. (2012). http://www.hespeaksinthesilence.com/2012/02/yes-no-later-and-something-better/