It was great for my spiritual journey - for a season. I used to swear by it, and encourage people to journal every day. But over the summer holidays I realised that journalling was detrimental for two reason.
The first was that it cultivated legalism within me. I felt that any thought I had that wasn’t written down would be hopelessly forgotten, when the truth was that I do forget all my thoughts, and the journal was just meant to back it up. This filled me with guilt when my thoughts were spiritual. I felt that if I did not journal every day then I was shunning the gift of learning more about God, and as a result I was a bad daughter of God, shoving him to the wayside by not journalling. The irony is however that I sin in other aspects of my life all the time, and that is looking God in the eye and disobeying as well. That was what sin was, yet in my false humility, in my failed understanding of what a pursuit of God looked like, I looked to journalling to direct and guide me.On days that I thought I had failed God, I was too ashamed to pray, so I would journal. When I didn’t journal I felt less holy and more afraid that I would fall away. It wasn’t until I was reminded that nothing I did contributed to my salvation that I had the conviction to stop.
The second was that journalling let me live a life of uninterrupted introspection which bred dark and evil thoughts. The heart is deceitful over all things, so who can understand it? I had committed myself to understanding it, but the more I wrote about the things that I was thinking I realised that there was such limited value in even reading through old entries. The pages were filled every day with less and less of God and His grace and more and more of me and my own feelings, none of which I could understand or even tame.
The limit of spiritual disciplines exist, I think I forgot that. Reading the Bible every day and journaling was such a means of grace, a way that God could further bless us. I was foolish to think that I had any claim to my own salvation and holiness outside of the sin I brought to the Cross.
This post comes with the usual disclaimer that journaling is good, until it replaces the Cross, then it’s bad. For me, it had.
But I praise God for the way He had released me from my fears and had reassured my heart and humbled my pride. I realise that my spiritual health is not how often I read the bible and pray and journal - although these things are still very good. Rather, it is important for me to look more to the Cross than to my own failings and to my own heart. When it comes to pursuing God, it means to pursue Him, and to not let other earthly acts take on that significance. I have been challenged to have more faith in what God’s Word says about my salvation and my value before Him, that it is not affected by my performance or endurance but is made possible in His grace.
I learnt today that we are always learning as human beings, necessary in our search to improve not only our skill sets but also our quality of life.
I realise that personally, when I read books set by a syllabus or has an academic purpose I am a vacuum cleaner, directed and efficient, controlled by a trusted educator and sucking everything up.
Yet, when I read material on my own I am more like a rumba, humming along noisily, picking up fragments and missing too-narrow corners, without any real sense of direction with an optimistic belief that all that I suck up will be useful in some way.
Paul Tripp (via jasminecrystal)
Posted this 2 years ago and am still learning how to find joy and grace in waiting.
Sometimes hanging out with a friend is hard. They don’t seem to hear what you’re saying, and sometimes you wonder if they really care, as if their real life doesn’t really involve you much.
Catching up with my sister Kirsten the other week I left with something in mind that she’d told me. That is, the importance of being present when you’re with another person. I left wondering if ever I was not present with some of my friends, where physically I was with them but mentally I was elsewhere and only ever dipped back into consciousness of them occasionally. Kirsten was sharing how it says a lot about a person and the way they view you when they are simply not present when they are with you.
I realise that it’s really important never to take for granted someone being there with you, nor to take for granted the courage it takes to share anything about themselves with you, especially if you are hardly around in their lives. As my friend expressed this phenomena so perfectly, “Fellowship just seems like a drive-through”.
One way to bless people, to let precious fellowship time not seem like an infrequent and impersonal drop-in is through a genuine interest not only for their wellbeing (as you risk being a lecturing mother-figure) but in who they are as a person. Who they are in light of who God has declared them to be.
Here are some things I’ve been considering about how to be more present with our friends.
How often do I look over to my friend when I am with them? How often do I search their face for meaning or for clues on how they’re really feeling? Do I encourage them to continue sharing because they have my full attention?
I know this may sound weird but back in first year I spent some time looking at myself in the mirror, and checking what my facial expressions and eyes said or did in response to what I was being told. Wearing your heart on your sleeve isn’t always the best thing, because your heart is not always trustworthy or loving. Through controlling my facial expressions, I learnt to control my heart and put my friends’ needs above my own. How can I love them with the way I look at them?
Control your mind
My mind is prone to wonder. If you were inside my head while I am praying you would know this in less than 30 seconds. Letting the mind wander sometimes is a great avenue for deeper thought and amazing creativity but when you are with a friend, commit that time to them, down to your very mind, that you would reflect on what they are telling you. Something that I’ve realised the importance of is to be constantly praying whilst they talk and share, asking God if He would give any words that would bless and comfort them. Controlling your mind also is an exercise of integrity, that you would mean all that you say to them and be fully present with them.
Little vocal and body language cues can do a lot to make a person feel safer with you, and even feel more valued. When someone is sharing - particularly in a group setting - it is helpful to nod subtly when you agree, or smile at certain points where they are uncertain. There is a point where your presence can be used to encourage your friends. Understand that this is different from a text-based conversation, and use your body and your voice to affirm and encourage them.
Time, it is malleable
Don’t ever be in a hurry. Life is busy, but simply because you are in a hurry, it doesn’t mean you have to “be” in a hurry. When you talk to your friend you can preface it by making it clear when you need to leave at a certain time, but don’t push your friend to simply give you a sweeping overview of their life. Nothing says “drive-through” more than making your friend feel like they’re a short stop between your previous location and your real destination. When you are with your friend, they are your real destination.
Every one matters
Sometimes they don’t need your opinion. It’s helpful to be spending time dwelling on their desires because someone else’s hopes and desires for the future are precious (although not always right, but that’s another post). Affirm them, encourage them and give them freedom to be themselves before you, and use your time to celebrate who they are.
Care by showing that when you leave their presence, it doesn’t mean that they’ve left you. I’m a girl, and it’s trendy right now to be writing letters, and I hope to use this intimate medium to bless others in the future, to show that you affirm their desires and offer help in light of their struggles even if there isn’t something practical you can do.
I really hope this helps. This previous weekend was used by God to really show me the importance of celebrating the people He’s surrounded me with, and He has taught my heart anew how to see others as He sees them.
Most of all, we care as Christians because Jesus intimately cares for us. There is nothing that He hasn’t experienced, there is no burden that He would not accept from you. What a friend we have a in Jesus! May we learn how to be a good friend by following the steps of our perfect Friend.
Dave and I were going through his stuff after his big move down south and this little unassuming card dropped out and we froze. Easily one of the most precious and significant relics in our relationship.
So thankful for Connect ministries. Will never forget how God used it to change Dave and I and grow us exponentially, introducing us to people also who we will walk with for the lifetime to come.
Happy 21st birthday, Daisy. Love you heaps. We have gone through so much but you have always been such a joy and a blessing, generous in every way. It’s been amazing seeing you change and grow in the past few years. May the next 21 years be full of joy for you!
Wednesday mornings mean breakfast with Kirsten (: despite distance or schedule I am so thankful that she has a heart for this friendship and that God would provide for us to do life together.
from a sister, on behalf of her sisters
her whole being, body and soul,
all of her-‘self’ is completely and irrevocably His,
the Artist who imagined and formed her
was it not He who crafted her bones, fit them together?
from scattered jigsaw to lovely frame,
to bear and carry her until…
I really love Life Group at Sovereign Grace.
I can no longer politely forget to apply what we heard on Sunday in the sermon. There is no excuse not to live a gospel centered life as we pursue it together in community.
God is so good, and I am thankful for the way He continually provides for me.
Time for a sunny afternoon nap just before work. Not sure how I’m feeling about life these days. I’m meant to be doing more than I am. But what?
It is finally finished! After a whole year of writing and editing. I had finish it in a hurry because if I didn’t then I would begin to forget.
Beware, it’s a long read (:
4:59pm - I don’t like this song
5:07pm - Dang. I really miss some of my old friends and sometimes I’m sad that I’m living a life far from them. But life goes on, people come and go and I am thankful for those I have now. They teach me to cherish, to grow, to hope and to love every day.
5:11pm - There is no way I can fit all this information in that word limit. I would love some chicken for dinner.
5:20pm - I want to go home )’:
5:23pm - Yep. This word count is going down the drain.
5:40pm - I can really appreciate song filled with biblical truths, even though there are heaps of lyrics. It is soothing to my heart when it is being blown about and beaten up with emotions. Truth is refreshing, preserving and healing.
5:46pm - What do you mean it’s been less than an hour. I’m going home!
Haven’t actually committed to being here for a long time. Trying to smash my way through an assignment due in slightly under a week. Isn’t it funny how every time you try to study, all the tiredness in the world just works to catch up on you? The other day I was sharing with Dave my hopes to study better, just casually and I guess characteristically for university students.
"Ugh!" he cried suddenly, "You are so hard to study with!"
I just blinked at him vacantly, “wh-what do you mean?” time to bring out the girlfriend puppy eyes.
"N-no! It’s just that you can’t seem to concentrate at all. You are always flicking between windows or just talking to me."
I couldn’t help being sheepish in this conversation. I’m not really sure how best to concentrate. I remember when Dave and I talk about what it would be like if we were married as full time students, the first thing he said was, “I need to teach you how to concentrate!”
I’m glad we can poke fun at this. It reminds me of the first time I understood what rebuke should look like, which is more encouraging than condemning. I am gently rebuked of my poor study skills which compromise not only myself but also my friends I study with.
I remember being told to eat a live frog in the morning for the sake of productivity. Not literally, of course, but because when you do the thing you least want to do first thing in the morning, the rest of the day is really easy.
So here I am at Fisher. Maaaan.