Every year, as the Lenten season approaches, I explore ways to deepen my faith through prayer, fasting and almsgiving. One of the most meaningful opportunities for me has been the use of a spiritual journal — a tool that allows me to engage in an ongoing dialog with the Lord.
I rely on my journal for prayer requests, reflections of gratitude, scripture notes and other written expressions of my faith. Last year, two days after Ash Wednesday, I experienced my own personal “Black Friday.” I lost the job I had come to know and love for the past 15 years. With the economy failing, I was not alone in my pain and anxiety. Yet, I retreated into myself and turned to the one true friend I can always trust: Jesus.
I dedicated my Lenten journal writing practice to regular prayer in the form of written exchanges with Christ. I knew my journal would help me explore my conflicting emotions and allow me to view my situation as the blessing it truly was. Although I did not see it this way at first, I came to realize God had given me yet another gift. He guided me toward a path of discovery that ultimately led to a more rewarding and fulfilling life for me and for my family. My journal provided me the opportunity to examine my life from a new perspective – from the eyes of my Savior. More importantly, my routine journal exercises taught me to listen for Christ. To truly listen – and respond – to God’s call for me. By Easter Sunday, while I did not have all the “answers” I would have liked, I felt confident that Jesus was with me on this journey. I had faith that God would provide, and that I needed to follow His call.
I invite you to share in my journey this Lenten season and learn some journal writing tools that I hope will help you learn to recognize and appreciate God’s presence in your life. Try these three writing tools to create a spiritual journal that brings you closer to God.
1. Make a list of 50 blessings in your life. Write the numbers 1 through 50 in journal and list every way that God has blessed you and your family. Don’t spend too much time thinking about it – just write whatever comes to your mind. And don’t stop writing until you reach 50. You will probably repeat things on your list – and that’s OK! The idea is to review the list and look for recurring themes that emerge. If something strange comes to mind – write it down! It might not make sense at the moment, but later, upon reflection and further examination, it may reveal an important insight.
2. Write a letter to yourself from God. Imagine what God would say to you if you sat together in your family room over a cup of coffee. What would He want you to know or do or feel? Make it personal, meaningful and relevant. Remember, this is a very personal exercise. It won’t be helpful unless you are honest. And you don’t need to share it with anyone except God!
3. Write your favorite scripture passage, hymn lyrics or other spiritual inspiration. Take your time and write it thoughtfully in your journal. Consider how this message resonates in your life. Write for 20 minutes without stopping. Let your pen lead the way as you record the thoughts and emotions that come to mind when you reflect on this message. Trust your pen to guide you along the path of revelation and self-discovery.
I pray that these simple journal writing tools enhance your faith journey this Lenten season in the same way they have blessed me. If you find your spiritual journal to be a safe place for opening up to the Lord, I encourage you to continue to nurture that relationship beyond Easter Sunday. And I’d love to hear about your experience – please let me know how these tools work for you!
Copyright 2010 Theresa Ceniccola
Theresa Ceniccola is a freelance writer and corporate communications professional living in Virginia Beach, VA. With more than 20 years of experience writing in the healthcare industry, Theresa has covered topics ranging from cardiac surgery outcomes to patient safety and family-centered care. She recently answered God’s call to change her professional focus and write more personal stories to inspire others. Theresa’s passion for writing allows her to spend quality with her husband and to create a loving and nurturing home for their three children. Theresa is co-founder of Write to Health, a guided journaling practice dedicated to encouraging people to discover the health benefits of writing. Her own journal writing experience enriches her personal relationship with Christ and provides a sacred place for ongoing dialog and spiritual reflection. For more information about Write to Health and the Lenten journal writing program, Journal With Christ, please visit www.writetohealth.com or email Theresa@writetohealth.com. Theresa is active in community organizations including her home church, St. John the Apostle Church in Virginia Beach, Va, Susan G. Komen for the Cure and Girl Scouts of the Colonial Coast.