As part of my spiritual journey, for many, many years, I have used a journal to connect with God, to deepen my faith life, and expand the breadth of my spirituality. When I journal, it’s a two part process: an approach I learned in 1991.
The first part is me talking with God and it’s written in conversational tone. The second half of my writing is when I get still and listen. I allow God to speak to me thru the pen and paper
From my journaling, I receive awe inspiring messages of hope and encouragement, I am provided with clarity in perspectives, plus receive guidance and affirmations. Psalm 32:8 says “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go. I will counsel you and watch over you.” This became very evident in a series of messages I’ve received last year.
In January 2006, I kept getting the message “Be Still and Listen.” It was a persistent message that drilled so deeply into my bones that literally for months all I did was listen to a specific collection of 19 songs. My life was moving in a direction I didn’t quite understand. I wasn’t balking though either because it felt so right.
At the time I was in formation for Christ Renews His Parish (CRHP [pronounced “chirp”]) and I had a strong inner pull and needed to keep listening to these songs – whether I was in the car, during down time at home, and I even had them playing on my computer as I worked. God was transforming me – helping me learn how to “Be Still and Listen”.
Just as Jesus commanded the seas, in Mark 4:39 “Quiet: Be Still!” I know these are valuable words of wisdom for me to apply as well. “Quiet: Be Still Judy!” When I’m frazzled, a favorite passage of mine to focus on is Zephaniah 3:17 "He will quiet you with his love." I keep these words close by as I need to recall on them often because they help me to be still.
Then in late May, God expanded his guidance which became “Be Still, Listen, and Trust.” This challenge became even harder because trust is an issue I’ve struggled with in my life of hurts, abuses, shame, and guilt. Not only was the focus expanded, but a few more songs joined the list for me to learn from the words. I wasn’t quite sure where God was leading me with his coaching, yet did realize that he was dosing out his message in chunks to not make it so overwhelming. Guess he knows me pretty well.
Oh, but God wasn’t finished because just one month later, near the end of June, the command expanded once more – it is now “Be Still, Listen, Trust, and Hope.” Just like before, with the new focus came some additional songs to reflect upon – these were specifically about surrendering my will; to Let Go and Let God. I play them all the time – they are so centering and ever so helpful.
I’m not real sure how others approach journaling, so I can only speaking about my own experiences. Here are a few examples of how I transition from me writing to God writing:
1. The pen is yours Lord. Do with it as you desire.
2. God, can you help me release my fears and stay in the moment of NOW?
3. What message do you want me to know today?
4. Thanks for listening God. Now it’s my turn.
5. I really need to sit and just listen to you. What lessons do you want me to learn?
In all of these situations, I hand over the pen and give God the gift of writing back to me. I know some might think this is pretty far fetched. To illustrate how deeply powerful and moving it is to hear God chat with me when handing him the pen and paper, I want to share some passages from my journals:
During one journal session I was venting to God about some unfairness that happened on the job. I had done something to help another, but my good deed was not well received by a manager I had at the time. She was really into image and I was into doing the right thing. Even so, I was on the receiving end of corrective coaching, you know, the feedback that is a gift with no return receipt.
In God’s love letter to me, he wrote: Dear Dootsie (that’s my childhood nickname), It’s the little girl inside of you who feels wounded and hurt. You’re trying to be helpful; you’re trying to do what is right. You are not a bad person, and you are not making mistakes or poor choices. You ARE trying to be responsible and responsive to other’s needs. Hard as it will be, this is something you need to push past. It’s over – lesson learned. Please use this time to do something to make yourself feel good about YOU again … something just for you – from you. That’s a true act of self-love, and I promise, the problems will melt away. Love God.
And the problems did disappear just like God promised.
As I was on the brink of my fourth job change in 12 months I wrote to God:
My mind won’t quiet until I get still and listen. You are my voice of truth – it’s the one constant I can totally depend upon as consistent and unwavering. Armed with this awareness, I implore your divine mercy to speak to me thru this pen and journal. Where should I be spending my efforts? How do I triumph over the hurdles that await me? What guidance and peace can you offer that will allow me to have a good night’s sleep? Your curious daughter-Judy
To which he replied: Sweetest girl – you want magical answers that don’t exist. You want things clear and precise, yet that isn’t how things work. For my voice of truth and reason to penetrate your heart and soul, you must give up all control. Cast aside the fears and doubts. Do the impossible, the unthinkable, and make some waves. You can achieve all that I ask if you just let go.
I’ve had numerous job challenges in the past few years and am now in my fifth job change in 18 months because of restructurings. One morning, I was given this gift from God: My precious child, just focus on these words. Who am I? I am Yours. Be Still and Listen. Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Well done my good and faithful servant. I love you. I died for you. I want you to be happy. Go in peace my child. It’s going to be a busy day. Don’t take things personally. It’s just a job – not how I perceive you and it’s not from which your value comes. Love, Jesus
For quite some time, God has been whispering to me write a book. Not just any book, but spiritual based books. I’ve hit many dry patches on this journey, and I couldn’t figure out where my writing coach (aka God) went and I was struck with the response I received. Dearest child – even in the silence, I am not away from you. I know you don’t like the pain, but honey, it’s all part of your character building and growth process. I’m not trying to inflict misery. I am allowing the hardships of life to mold and shape you though – to help you become the person you are – a strong, vibrant soul who has a dream. It’s all about timing my sweet child. Don’t lose hope – yet delight in knowing I hear and acknowledge this passion. I am the one who placed that dream within you. Love, God
And then there are times when God is just down right playful and poetic: Sweet darling girl – effort is definitely not a lacking tool in your daily actions – at least for some things. Effort toward self care still runs amuck yet I know this is changing. For today, go with the flow – just be yourself – try as you might, I know your intentions, to which I feel delight. Laugh strong and loud today, for your foibles are easily seen – and don’t sweat the small stuff, big stuff, or anything in between. Let go of the past yet draw from its strength: your stories of triumph over abuse and rising above adversity. You are a strong woman, just as I designed you to be, and know that today and always you’re very dear to me. Be it in my arms or in the palm of my hand, let the day unfold as I have planned. Learn the lessons, receive the gifts. Then my child, breathe a sigh of relief because you’re in my midst. Go with courage and faith, patience too, and whatever happens today, remember, I love you. Your delighted Heavenly Father.
That definitely had to be God writing because I am no poet.
In addition to the two part journaling, sometimes the paper becomes a breeding ground of dialog; more like a wrestling match between me and God like I don’t know whose going to win – and I often find myself wrestling with God.
For example, I might write something like:
“But I don’t want to do that God” and as the penmanship changes, out flows “I know you don’t want to however it really will help you in the long run. Trust me my child.” To which I reply “But I’m not ready because of … whatever excuse I give at that time like I’m not equipped or it hurts too much” yet he gently succeeds when reminding me that “God doesn’t call the equipped, he equips the called.”
I hope sharing these intimate letters illustrates just how powerful it can be to give God the pen, then be still, listen, trust, and hope in what flows onto the paper. While I’ve been writing this way for 16 years, I didn’t start off with great confidence nor was I consistent in my journaling, even today. However the approach never left me because of the powerful and affirming love letters I receive from God.