Journaling as a Spiritual Discipline:Writing and Family Worship

True, it was an old toolbox in a former life, wood dinged with hammer, and I guess it still is, a toolbox for fixing lives there at the end of the window seat. The children call it the Bible Box.

Supper’s ended and over the din and puddles of spilled water and snorting jokes and desperate clatter of dawdling child cleaning the last of his plate of tomatoes and zucchini on a bed of rice (hard fare for a six-year-old) so as to still get a generous helping of dessert… I ask for someone to open the Bible box.
Pass them all out, please, the Bibles. And the journals too. (And I have to ask again — they’re deep in discussion regarding the nature of money orders and custom duties and entrepreneurial endeavors — and yes, I have to ask again because, no, we aren’t the Duggars, primarily because I’m not Mrs. Duggar, but oh, I still keep praying!).

Eight slim Bibles, same version, are gathered from the reimagined toolbox, get passed around the table. Eventually. Then eight journals, each with decal of first name intial placed on the cover.

“I’m the ‘M.’ Where’s the M? Anybody see my M?” Malakai’s finally finished his plate and is kneeling up on his chair, stretching across the table for scattered journals.

“There’s yours, Kai!” Hope hands a journal with a sticker M down to Malakai. His toothless grin makes me grin. “And there’s yours, Shalom.”

Shalom already has pushed back her plate, has her pen in hand, beaming like her brother. She’s too is ready to make her markings.

“We’re at Psalms 89….” Farmer Husband opens to the bookmark paged and waits for that echoing rustling of parchment.

“Somebody help me find it? I can’t find Psalms anywhere!” Malakai’s toothy grin has wilted into teary desperation, his rapid-fire default mode.

“It’s page 478, Kai.” Joshua’s already ready and waiting. Hope leans over to help Malakai and his face breaks happy relief.

“We’re all ready? We’ll just go to verse 18 for now … starting at verse one.” Farmer Husband leads us in his gentle, deep voice and seven voices follow. Shalom tags along with a sing-song phrase here and there, her own Bible held in chubby hands.

As the last voice trails off verse 18, the pens begin on paper… Just simple words, meeting The Word.
Just three sentence…. more if so led.

  1. I confess… (repentances)
  2. I count… (blessings)
  3. I claim … (a verse from Scripture reading as my own for the day)

Just a trinity of sentences… to draw nearer to the triune God. Malakai counts his blessings in a series of stick drawings and Shalom scrawls a whole line of curlicues and Joshua writes with his journal on his knee because privacy is paramount. Levi bends his crooked finger tight around pen and with nose close to paper, he begins his trio, tongue tucked over lip in concentration.

This writing is a necessary element of worship, because, “[t]eachers in every discipline must come to realize that writing is basic to thinking about, and learning knowledge, in all fields,” asserts Tom Romano. For our children to really think about God, to learn knowledge about God, to meet God, we invite them to write. To open up leaf pages and grow towards the Son.

When Farmer Husband has led ink in methodical letters halfway down his page, he lays down his pen and quietly nods to this table of unlikely journalers. “Anyone want to share?”

The Word embraces our words and we embrace each other in a community of words. In sharing our written words, our souls become more intimate, and we meld together in this confessing, counting, claiming.

“I don’t want to say exactly what I confessed….” Hope’s eyes find mine and I receive her and she flushes and I hold her in a long gaze. “It felt awful to write out all the sins I did today; at least the ones I remembered…. but in a way it feels a lot better to tell Jesus.”

I nod, knowing. I too hadn’t seen a certain broken pattern until the ink flowed and I winced but the scrolling ballpoint swept me away to places of grace.

“Can I read all the blessings I counted?” Levi’s sprinkle of freckles cheer with his gleaming eyes. And Farmer Husband smiles and Levi begins in a clear and steady voice.

And as Caleb reads the verse from Ps. 89 that he’s claimed as his own, I look around this table of the beat-up and broken, us worshiping as family with this reading and writing, and I count another blessing…

That in an old toolbox sitting near the table, there are words and the Word and ink to lubricate the conversation between soul and Savior.

And we find fixing.

Lord… could confessing, counting, claiming your Words, lead us into deeper Christ-communion? Into closer family fellowship? We pick up pen.

Photos: of our table journals, dollar store purchases with inital of names, letter stickers, placed on cover
Related: Every Wednesday I’m posting living out a spiritual discipline. Currently, every Wednesday focuses on the practice of journaling.
Part One:Journaling as a Spiritual Discipline: Light Catchers

Next Wednesday: Organizing a journal. And if you’d like to share a glimpse of your journaling story with this quiet community… consider this your warm invitation to slip a note into the inbox .