Posted in theology

Journaling … again

By Elizabeth Prata

DebbieLynne Kespert re-posted a great essay from 2018 yesterday in her blog feature Flashback Friday. I always like when people do this because it either brings forward great content I’ve missed, or it reminds me of great content I can read again.

Her essay was about journaling. After I re-read it, I began thinking about journaling once more. Now, there’s journaling and there’s journaling.

In Christian journaling, we’re treated to headlines like the “How-To” articles that make great promises:

Continue reading “Journaling … again”
Posted in theology

We should train the mind. It’s time to get our creativity going! Read, write, draw

By Elizabeth Prata

As 2019’s new year launches off into the timeless void, lots of people are making resolutions. Many of those resolutions are vows to take better care of our bodies, by eating well or losing weight or exercising more.

But do we take care of our mind?

Christianity is a religion of the mind. We have the mind of Christ. (1 Corinthians 2:16). The Spirit transforms us by the renewing of our mind. (Romans 12:2). The mind governed by the Spirit is
life and peace, as Romans 8:6 says. Mark reminds us in verse 12:30 that we must ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’

Start looking in the New Testament and the Psalms and Proverbs for the ‘mind’ and you may be surprised at how many times it’s mentioned.

The Internet was commercialized and came into widespread use in the US by 1995 or so, making the generation in their 20s now the first generation to live post-Internet. The rest of us, like me in my 50s, have used some version of the Internet for most of my adult life. I’ve been an Amazon customer since 1997. My final email address was established in 1998 and it has remained the same ever since.

As the Internet grows, our mind diminishes. You might think I am overstating the case, but the Internet, while having many boons and pluses, has served to make our thinking more shallow. 21st century media has pummeled our minds and not in a good way. We listen in sound bites and read in tweet-length script. Yet the two greatest books ever written, the Bible and The Pilgrim’s Progress, are old.

The Bible has a variety of literature within it, many genres, difficult concepts, and is a demanding read. It requires study.

Pilgrims’ Progress by John Bunyan is the single best selling English language book in the world, after the Bible. It was written in 1678 and uses antiquated language. Even if you read a modernized version, it is a book that again, demands the reader’s attention and requires lengthy thought.

Our minds are being trained away from that kind of reading. The kind of thinking we are commanded to do in the Bible is the opposite, it’s the kind of reading that edifies us. Not to mention reading the ancients and the Puritans are, every day, getting out of reach because they demand attention spans that nearly don’t exist any more

I write essays that range from 500 words to 2000 words. I remember the first time on the blog a reader commented “TLDR”. I had to look it up. It stands for ‘Too Long, Didn’t Read.’ I was irked and shocked. 2000 words is only about 4 single spaced pages long.

I’m speaking to myself here, not just you. As I get older and I come home from a busy day of work, all I want to do is make a cup of tea, sit down, watch a comedy, then go to bed- in that order. I have to work at keeping the energy up so that I can have a clear mind to absorb Christian classics and other great material.

I’m fairly aghast at myself, because reading didn’t used to be this hard. My reading material of choice in High School and as a twenty-something were the classics. As I went through my 30s, my Graduate School reading was easy peasy, I got a 4.0 and thought nothing of it. But now I’m nearing 60, and my mind is balking at difficult material. Reading Moby Dick last summer was hard. I was surprised at how hard. My mind is a terrible thing to waste.

I don’t want to waste it. It’s the mind of Christ.

I feel it’s important to keep our mind active and our creativity up. When we spend time in the creative side of our mind different things happen. Here are a few resources along these lines:

3 Reasons Why You Should Read More Classic Literature in 2019
Why Great Literature, Especially Old Literature, Has Become Essential Medicine In the Age of Social Media

Call me Ishmael.

The famous opening sentence of Moby Dick, so short and provocative, is welcoming and familiar to the 21st century reader, who is accustomed to snappy prose with short sentences and lots of white space. A few sentences later in Melville’s masterpiece we get a sentence that’s more representative of the novel to come. In just a bit I’m going to quote that sentence, and insist that you read it.

My own personal reading challenge that I’d modified from Challies’ (by adding to it) is to read the following classics this year:

  • Sense & Sensibility By Jane Austen
  • It Can’t Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis
  • The Running Man Stephen King
  • The Machine Stops, E.M. Forster
  • The Decameron, Boccaccio
  • Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

The Classics Spin is an activity from an online book club devoted to the classics. Readers list the top 20 classics they would like to read, sometimes the game is along the lines of a theme (Shakespeare challenge, Really Huge Book challenge) and other times not. They pick a number at random and you read that book. Since the Club is a community, the Admins of the site say,

We know it can be hard to stay on track and enthused about your Spin Book for the whole journey. We plan to provide support and encouragement to all our CC Spinners via twitter, fb, instagram and goodreads. We hope you can join us in cheering everyone on to finish another fabulous classics reading experience!

Four Good Reasons to Read Good Books
Tim Challies lists 4 reasons, here’s one of them-

Identify areas of weakness and read books to strengthen yourself there. This may be weakness of knowledge, weakness of character, or weakness of understanding. If you have too low a view of God, read The Holiness of God by R.C. Sproul. If you are struggling with parenting, read Gospel-Powered Parenting by William Farley. If you struggle with making decisions, read Decisions, Decisions by Dave Swavely. If you don’t know where you are weak, read a book on humility. Whatever your weakness, there is almost definitely a book that answers it specifically and well.

Colin Adams, the Unashamed Workman, goes Challies 16 better and lists 20 good reasons to read good books. Here are a few of them

–You will be forced to cease from incessant activity and think
–You will receive a historical perspective on current problems and spot present day blindspots
–You will have some of your questions answered and confront other questions you hadn’t even thought of
–You will be able to practically apply Paul’s command to think upon “wholesome” things

Do you like Bible journaling, sketching things that Bile reading or Christian classics bring to mind? I’m a visual person too. I see all these magnificently illustrated journals and theologically rich blogs and I get intimidated and when I’m intimidated I quit before I start. So if you’re like me, scared of generating huge or fabulous content, write one sentence or sketch one quick scene. Everyone can do that. Even me! Here are two ‘challenges’ along those lines-

The Sketchbook Challenge is a daily draw where you draw, paint, or sketch one quick scene from your day that stands out to you. I think this is a good way to both practice your skills and keep the creativity going. You can adapt this to a quick sketch of a Bible visual. Whatever helps the brain keep flowing! I am not a good draw-er but here are my two-

 

 

Gretchen Rubin wanted to enhance her writing skills, and all writers know that to be a good writer you need to write every day. But she worked and had kids. Busy! So she developed the one-sentence journal. Gretchen says

Instead, each day, I write one sentence (well, actually, I type on the computer) about what happened that day to me, the Big Man and the girls.

She suggests that you can even do a one-sentence journal on a particular topic, your day at work, your divorce, a catastrophic event. In like manner, you can keep a one-sentence journal of your spiritual reactions or insights as you read the Bible or a Christian classic. By the end of the year you’ll have 365 sentences or around 15-20 pages.

Let 2019 be the year you spent 21 days developing a new habit (some say that is how long it takes, others say that it takes longer, but I stick with the 3 weeks because it’s not, well, intimidating). Read, write, draw, whatever kind of activity you know enhances your mind is the one.

Let’s train and protect our bodies, but also let’s take care of the mind.

What am I to do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will pray with my mind also; I will sing praise with my spirit, but I will sing with my mind also. (1 Corinthians 14:15).

Posted in discernment, Uncategorized

Thoughts on introspection and journaling

DebbieLynne Kespert wrote a great piece about journaling the other day. I recommend it. I linked to it below, too.

Journaling is the act of consistently writing down one’s thoughts, feelings, and events in a notebook, as the definition goes. Some people do that to track growth, or to leave as a legacy to coming generations, or to vent. Journaling is distinct from many other kinds of diaries, like food diaries people keep for medical reasons, or weather diaries farmers keep, stress or anger management diaries, and the like. Journaling expressly focuses on one’s conscious inner thoughts, sensations, and feelings. It is a method of emotional self-examination.

I’ve never gotten into journaling. I like to experience the day and then move on. As someone on the autism spectrum, I’m not that in touch with my feelings anyway, seeing them as not precisely unnecessary, but usually as unhelpful. Yet many others see journaling as very helpful–

Ever wondered why history’s great minds including Isaac Newton, Abraham Lincoln, Andy Warhol, Leonardo Da Vinci, Marcus Aurelius, Charles Darwin, Winston Churchill, Benjamin Franklin, Ernest Hemingway, George Bernard Shaw and Maya Angelou would spend so much of their precious time writing things that will never be seen by another soul? … Many famous creatives, writers, innovators and original thinkers of our generation keep journals— for many, it is a creative necessity, for others, a place for exploration, and for some an art form in and of itself. (Source)

For Christians, some self-examination is good. It is worthwhile to examine one’s self to see if one is in the faith. Scripture admonishes us to do just that. (2 Corinthians 13:5, 2 Peter 1:10-11).

In the Christian spheres, Charles Spurgeon, the Prince of Preachers, kept a diary and also wrote letters constantly. Those became his autobiography after he died. The great theologian Jonathan Edwards kept a journal. In it, he penned his famous 70 resolutions. As the pastors say at the Netherlands Heritage Reformed Congregation, “these resolutions were birthed out of his felt weaknesses and known deficiencies, not his personal attainments. They represent, therefore, his sanctified, biblically-conditioned aspirations.”

My personal journal: In my journal below, I am trying to figure out from the Bible
about the different resurrections.

Christian journaling can be very good.

However caution abounds. Ligonier says that self-examination is important, but must be done rightly. Faulty self-evaluation, the passage tells us, is an obstacle to walking by the Spirit. If after examining ourselves we “conclude that we are superior to others” the self-examination is faulty, but alternately if we conclude that “if we consider our gifts inferior to those of others, thinking we are unable to assist burdened believers” it is also faulty.

So the Bible does call for some self-examination to be done, and there is a right way and a wrong way to do it.

But is a good thing, ever too much of a good thing? It can be. In her article, Journaling: The Pitfall We Should Recognize, DebbieLynne Kespert says that she journaled for 17 years, venting feelings, writing experiences, and meditating on her disappointments, her frustrations and her fears. Then she had an epiphany. She wrote:

So when someone uses a personal journal to ruminate on their feelings, should it surprise us that we wind up wallowing in self-absorbtion? Self-absorbtion, however, is the antithesis of Biblical Christianity. Christ demands that His followers actually die to ourselves for His sake.

It’s the tendency of sinful man to wallow in self-absorption to begin with. Journaling only increases that tendency. Excessive navel-gazing is not good as it takes our eyes off Jesus, upon whom we are supposed to fix our eyes. (2 Corinthians 4:18, Hebrews 12:2).

Jared Mellinger wrote about excessive self-examination in his piece “Self-Examination Speaks a Thousand Lies. He said,

Unhealthy introspection is a daily threat to our joy in Christ. Many of us tend to examine ourselves in a way that is excessive, inaccurate, and leads to discouragement. God calls us to examine ourselves (2 Corinthians 13:5; Lamentations 3:40), but healthy self-examination is a difficult and dangerous duty. The flesh seizes self-examination as an opportunity to turn our thoughts against us. Introspection is deceptive because it often looks like we’re doing the right thing: we’re not indifferent to our sin — we want to seek it out! But when that introspection makes us self-absorbed instead of Christ-absorbed, we undermine our faith.

Providentially, Randy Alcorn wrote an interesting piece a few days ago as well. It didn’t center on journaling per se, it was about self-control, but it speaks to the where we want our mind to go:

What is your mindset? Do you dwell on selfish, envious, jealous, bitter thoughts? Or do you dwell on what pleases God? Do you focus on God, His Word, and His mighty works on our behalf, or do you focus on woes and misfortunes and abuses suffered at the hands of others? According to Scripture, the choice is yours.

The choice is yours. Journaling can be good when the Christian employs self-control during the introspection process. Do you journal? Do you enjoy it? Has it become simply a way to focus attention on one’s self? Let me know int he comments what your experience has been.

Further reading:

The End Time: Is Christian journaling Good or Bad?