Sometimes when I read my Bible, my brain goes on autopilot. My eyes glaze over, and I say to myself, “I’ve read this a gazillion times.” Recently, I opened to Luke 2 and thought, “This is the Christmas story AGAIN, for crying out loud, and it’s only October!”
I started reading reluctantly, but the Holy Spirit brought it to life for me. I noticed something new:
“But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.”
Another version puts it this way: “Mary stored them all up like a secret treasure in her heart and thought about them over and over.” (NIRV)
What was Mary storing up in her heart? In this chapter, Luke reports a breath-taking chain of angel visitations, signs, prophetic words, words God spoke, words people said, and extraordinary events, all pointing to her son Jesus.
Mary must have recorded words and events in her heart. She remembered them later. Luke mentions this idea twice, so he must have thought it was important.
Record and Remember
These words speak fresh encouragement for my favorite simple discipline: spiritual journaling.
A journal is a powerful tool to help us pay attention to God’s voice and His work in our lives, but journaling isn’t rocket science. Even if you’re not a nun locked away in a tower, you can still do this. You don’t have to be Augustine or Teresa of Avila to keep a spiritual journal. You don’t have to think deeply and write profoundly.
Why not start with something simple? It only takes a minute to jot down a Bible verse, a line from a song, or something you saw that moved your heart.
A simple record of what God speaks to you and what He does for you might become your most valuable treasure. Mine saves my life when spiritual amnesia threatens to overtake me, and God seems a million miles away. It reminds me of God’s faithfulness and love when I’m worried or discouraged.
What to Record?
My spiritual journal is a way to corral my thoughts, scribbles, prayers, and favorite scriptures into one place. There’s no right way to do it, but on any given day I record one or more of the following:
A Bible verse that speaks to me from my daily reading
My “Word for Today”: many days I choose one word that sums up my Bible reading, so I can remember it later. You can read more about how to do that here.
A one-line prayer in response to what God shows me during my quiet time
A quick gratitude list
A confession list: about once a week, I spend intentional time asking God to show me what sins I need to repent from.
A question I have for God
A list of prayer requests
An answer to a prayer or question
A small drawing
A verse map: check out this link for my favorite Creative Bible study method.
A prayer map: more on this later.
A quote from a song or a book
The benefits of spiritual journaling go far beyond the few minutes it takes each day to record one or two things. I treasure my spiritual journal because it helps me see what God is doing in me. About once a week, I look back at previous days and remember that God actually does speak to us. He’s at work in our lives.
Now it’s your turn: what’s one thing God has spoken to you or done for you this week?
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I’m linking up with Holly Barrett’s #TestimonyTuesday, Kelly Balarie’s #RaRaLinkup, Holley Gerth’s Coffee for your Heart, Crystal Storms’s #HeartEncouragement Thursday, and Arabah Joy’s Grace and Truth. Check out these communities for more encouragement.
Holly Farney says
I really liked this post, and I am going to start spiritual journaling! Even though life is very busy, I am going to try to do it regularly. Thanks for sharing your ideas and your heart. It is good, to look back, and remember how God is working and how He has spoken to us. Love your ideas! I love your post, and pray for you. God bless you!
Thanks so much, Holly. I’m praying for you right now, sister! May the Lord show you more and more of Himself. I hope you have fun trying your hand at journaling. Just keep it simple! Mine blesses me more than I can say.
Cathy Chung says
I love how honest you are. I too glaze over familiar passages sometimes and need fresh eyes to see them again. I love these simple journaling ideas – not long essays but short summaries.
Yes, Cathy! I do short things. Jot down snippets. I can’t write for paragraphs, you know? But I’m always so encouraged when I look back over it. Often it inspires me for writing!
Donna Reidland says
I, too, keep a spiritual journal and I record many of the same things you mentioned. I seem to connect with God there, even when everything else during my quiet time seems “stuck.” Also, don’t you love it when God faithfully reveals something in a fresh way in His Word. I’ve been reading through the Bible for quite a few years and I often read something and find myself thinking, “Was that there last year?!”
I have encouraged so many others to try keeping a spiritual journal, but you have made it sound so simple. I’ll be sharing and pinning. Blessings!
Linda Stoll says
Ah … my husband’s favorite verse … and one of my all-time favorite quiet time passions, journaling. All woven together in one terrific post. Thank you, Betsy.
What a lovely way to start today!
That’s your husband’s favorite verse. How interesting. Love that. <3 Journaling is a passion for me too!
Kristi Woods says
Oh those journals ~ I LOVE them. Good post, Betsy, good encouragement.
Thank you, Kristi.
Michele Morin says
Betsy, this is great! I notice a real difference in the way I read when I have pen in hand. Journaling really is a discipline that helps our minds to focus.
Yes, a writing instruction guide I read once it said, “Writing helps us to think.” And it’s true for me!
bethany mcilrath says
Betsy, I love how you explain this to make it simple for everyone : ) I have several habits along these lines and it helps to be reminded they aren’t just me being weird or anything- these things are important for guarding and persevering in faith.
As for this week- confirmation. The Lord confirmed and encouraged me regarding something He’s been calling me to in an unexpected way. So thankful!
Thankful for you and your heart for Him, too : )
Wow, I’m so glad God spoke to you in that way, Bethany. I’m praying for you now, that God will establish the work of your hands. 🙂 The words from your pen. (And yes, I think it’s NOT just us being weird. 🙂 )
Lauren Gaskill says
I know what you mean about having your brain go on autopilot while reading the Bible. This is really terrible, but sometimes when my husband and I are reading together before bed, one of us falls asleep! I used to keep a journal but have fallen out of practice. Thanks for the reminder that it really is a great way to stay spiritually connected to our Father! Hugs to you, sweet friend!
Oh, I could really never read the Bible before bed, Lauren! That would be kind of a disaster for me. I’m pretty much done by 10 pm at night. But yes, I love journaling in the morning. 🙂
Bev @ Walking Well With God says
Loved this! I’ve always believed that the more “interactive” I can be with God’s Word, the more likely it’s going to stick with me and also to be a testimony of His goodness to look back upon and see His faithfulness. I am going to copy your ideas so that is I find things getting “stale” I have some new ideas to turn to. Thanks again!
I’m glad if this encouraged you, Bev. I’ve also tried to become more interactive or ACTIVE in my time with God because otherwise I ZONE OUT. 🙂
Jeannie Prinsen says
I used to journal extensively, but now since I do so much blogging and other writing on the computer, I hardly ever do it any more. Yet I know that whenever I do sit down and write in a reflective way, like in a prayer meeting at church, it’s really meaningful. This post got me thinking about restarting again.
i know what you mean about being “written out,” Jeannie. I just do short snippets. I really can’t write paragraphs of spiritual musings. No that deep. 🙂 But I can jot down one Bible verse or word. I love doing it.
Thank you for the wonderful tips Betsy! I love the one-word idea. I read lengthy passages in the morning as part of my one-year reading plan, and that would be a great way to help me remember the main idea or message of what I read as I go on throughout my day. Love it!
You’re welcome, Kristine. I couldn’t do a one-year entire Bible plan to save my life! I’ve been reading a chapter from Deuteronomy, which is great. But the last two weeks, I’ve been reading just 15-20 verses together with my Turkish daughter and love reading less for a change. I can focus more. But happy reading to you. Hope you give “one word” a try!
Candace Playforth says
I really need to do this! Thanks for the wonderful list of ways to get started, Betsy. I may try a “word for the day.” It’s such an easy way to hold a concept with you throughout the entire day. Pinning this so I can come back again and again for ideas :). I can so relate to “spiritual amnesia” that sets in far too often. What a perfect way to combat it!
Do you know, Candace, I love the one word idea. A friend introduced me to it last year, and it really encourages me spiritually and makes me think more. Blessings to you and grace if you end up trying journaling! 🙂 (and even if you don’t!)
I love these ideas to keep the Scripture close, personal and applicable to our lives. A few moments to reflect and rewrite is a powerful memory technique I share with others as well and need to remember to do more of myself ;)! Thanks Betsy!
I love the rewrite too. I feel like it makes a verse or passage “mine.” Know what I mean?
I love this post thank you for the practical insight that you have given about your spiritual journaling. So many different ideas!! I love that verse about Mary I think it’s interesting that it says that she treasured those things In her heart because it reminds me of the verse Which says that where your treasure is there your heart will be also. It makes me think that which we treasure and decide to purposely think about over and over becomes our hearts. We direct what our hearts become By what we treasure. And we know our treasure by the value we put on it. We have so many different opportunities for thoughts throughout the day. We are spending them or investing them into our hearts. We can build beautiful treasure By thinking healthy and holy thoughts. I love your idea of the map. The questions. The gratitude list. The responses. All intriguing and new ideas to try
Thanks so much for reading, Heather, and for your thoughtful reply. I find this so insightful: ” It makes me think that which we treasure and decide to purposely think about over and over becomes our hearts. We direct what our hearts become By what we treasure. ” Yes! So true!
Lisa Appelo says
I’m intrigued by your word for the day. I think I’ve seen you write about that a bit before. I have come to really appreciate the benefits of journling so much!
I really like choosing one word, but I don’t do it every single day. Maybe 5 days in 7 though? 🙂
Sarah Donegan says
I love the idea of a spiritual journal. I often feel overwhelmed and think I am supposed to have a gratitude journal, a prayer journal, and regular journal. It seems to be too much, but combining it works! 🙂
I have a section at the back of my journal where I keep a gratitude list, but sometimes I just do it on that same page at the bottom. More practical. I agree about NOT keeping several. Otherwise, overwhelm hits!
Anita Ojeda says
Great ideas! I’ve kept a journal for 34 years (ok, not the same one–I have a two-foot high stack of notebooks ;)). It’s mosre or less a prayer journal and has evolved over the years as I mature and grow into my relationship with Jesus. I love going back through them occasionally–especially the ones from the really difficult times in my life. God is good. All the time.
I love going back over them too, Anita. I tend to go back more over recent things. What was God speaking or doing in my life last month or last summer? But once in a blue moon, I get out something from several years ago.
Crystal Storms says
What a great reminder, Betsy, to acknowledge God’s faithfulness and record what He’s speaking to me. Yes, they are treasures — beautiful perspective!
Thank you, Crystal. I love doing this.
Abby McDonald says
This is something I used to do when I took a Precepts class but fell out of the habit of doing. I don’t know why because it was so rewarding! Thank you for showing us how to start simple, Betsy. I love the tools you offer here.
I can see how it falls by the wayside, Abby. Only takes about 5 minutes or so, some days 10, but I’m often tempted to just leave it and get up and go! This works for me, but also for some people, it’s not their style, maybe? Thanks for your encouragement, Abby.
Dianne Thorntonnton says
You know, Betsy, your first post on verse mapping set me up for a group study I’m doing with some ladies at my church–A MODERN GIRL’S GUIDE TO BIBLE STUDY, by Jen Hatmaker. I love your other ideas for what to journal. I’m going to add them to my “go-to list.”
Wow, Dianne, I’d love to hear more about this. Maybe I’ll message you on facebook! Have to check out that Jen Hatmaker resource.
Horace Williams Jr says
There is something special about journaling Betsy. It written evidence of God speaking to you. What a blessing. I thank him for His living, written Word. I just downloaded my first journal this week. I want to try something a little different than my notebooks. I love your ideas for spiritual journaling. However, I’m afraid if I drew something I would totally confuse myself when I went back and looked at it:) Thank you for reminding us of the joy we can experience being purposeful with our time with God. I hope you have a fantastic weekend. May continue to watch over you and yours in all endeavors. Blessings
Yes, I’m with you on the drawing, Horace. Just the other day I tried to draw a Holy Spirit/Dove, and let me tell you, it looked like a blob. I usually keep it simple: hearts, flowers, but those are more feminine. 🙂 May the Lord bless you too. I hope you enjoy your journal download.
Debbie W. says
Wow Betsy, such a powerful post. How many times have I read this and now the “treasured in her heart” just jumps out at me. I love, love, love how you do your spiritual journey. Awesome!!!
Thanks, Debbie. You are such a blessing, sister. That verse really popped out at me too!
Journaling is a discipline I have not mastered! Though I’ve recently been considering the idea that it could help to tame my wandering mind! That list of suggestions would make a great little printable, Betsy.
That’s what I use it for: to tame my wandering mind. Because, let me tell you, my mind wanders! LOL. Blessings to you, Abi.
I love the verse about Mary storing things up in her heart and pondering them, and journalling is something I have found really helpful. You share some great ideas here. I especially like the idea of summing up your Bible reading in one word to remember throughout the day.
The one word really does help me. Just today I was praying for someone and the word “surrounded” from yesterday came to my mind. I prayed that scripture for the person.
Ginger Harrington says
Great tips–I often share many of these with women. Such a blessing to see them in your list. I’ll share this around:)