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Journaling Sessions

Once while attending an eight-day silent retreat, I discovered the edge of my comfort zone, a boundary beyond which I did not want God to go.  As I examined this boundary with the help of my spiritual director, I found it was comprised of fear.  I was afraid that if I committed myself more fully to God, He would ask something of me that I was not able, or willing, to give.  I also feared the unknown.  Would moving beyond this established boundary make me so “spiritual” that my husband, and other friends, could not enjoy my company?  Would it affect the way I related to others?

God could not get any further with me until I was willing to work through my fears.  Thankfully, my spiritual director spoke truth into my life, providing the ground on which my fears could crumble. 

He said, “Joy, God is a passionate lover.  Yet, God loves you and will never do anything to hurt your life.  It is safe to trust God.”  Somehow I knew, from that point on, that God would only bring good changes into my life.

Strengthened and freed by that truth, I relinquished my fears and moved on to experience new and wondrous depths in prayer.  I gained more comprehension of the unfathomable love of God.  Many years have passed and I have not had a single regret in this matter, but I have also been filled with awe, many times, by how the Lord rewards me for believing and trusting enough to give up my lock and keys.  How marvelous is this spiritual journey!

 

Exercise #1

Before beginning this exercise, please read the following Scripture passages:  I Jn 4:18, Jas 4:8 and II Tim 1:7.

Please open the exercises with a prayer (use the words below, or your own, if you prefer).

Heavenly Father, I do not understand your ways.  My thoughts are so far from Your thoughts.  How can I comprehend the love and mercy You have extended?  Open my eyes that I might see and understand.  I want to believe that You have only good in store for me, that You know what is best, and that giving Your will preeminence above my own desires, will serve to bring the greatest possible happiness in this life and the next.

Lord, I do believe.  Please help me with encroaching unbelief that plagues me at times.  I ask for Your help, as I desire to relinquish my fears in order that You can work Your will in my life, unhindered.  I want to know You and to more fully comprehend Your truths.  Take my hand, take my heart.  Be the Lover of my soul.  Then, my sentiments for You, uniting with the great love You have for me, will break down fear’s boundaries and eradicate its pervasive confinements.  Thank You for being patient with me, as You always are, always have been, and ever shall be.  For it is Your nature to do so.  As I learn more and more about abiding in You, I trust Your nature.  Lord, Your will be mine through the work Your Holy Spirit is doing within me.  Amen.

Journaling:

Step 1:  Make a list of the people who have been most inspiring or helpful in your life.  Include the heroes, meaning the teachers and closest friends, those who you find vividly ensconced in your memory.  Next, carefully identify the characteristics each one of these individuals possesses.  Put these in a separate column beside their names.

Now, let your mind linger on these characteristics, forming a portrait of the Father, the One who created us.  Each of these characteristics (each talent, gift, or ability we admire, or benefit gained from others) was first a part of God, imparted to humans for the common good of all.

You may want to stay with the exercise for as long as possible, even up to an hour.  Fill column after column with all the characteristics and giftedness you have ever seen or heard of in human beings.  Then, as you try to envision One Being with all these benefits, you have moved closer to comprehending God, whom Jesus knew as “Father.”  Trust and understanding will expand as you work with this exercise.

Step 2:  Savor long moments with this wondrous Being.  This is to contemplate, wordlessly, the awesomeness of embracing what is truly only a finite glimpse into God’s personhood, the one who is Parent of all Parents, Creator of Life, Light, and Love.

Step 3:  During the coming days and weeks, consider this thought:  Within each one who walks this earth, there is a little bit of God waiting to be discovered.  This goodness, once seen, can touch your soul with great joy.

Conclusion of Exercise #1

Write a letter of appreciation to God for the goodness that you know exists in yourself.  If you find resistance to this part of the exercise, due to a fear of being prideful, consider this definition of humility:  “Knowing fully what you are, as well as what you are not.”  God made us, and all that God has made is good.

 

Exercise #2

Step 1:  Spend 1/2 hour in a quiet place, with a piece of paper and a pen.  Take several days to complete this exercise, if you wish.  Take 15 minutes for each of the four exercises below.  It is best to do only one each day for four days, while not working beyond the 15 minutes suggested.  Complete the sentences below by filling in the blanks.  Following each of the four emotions, write as many entries as come to mind.  On the following day, either continue working with that same emotion, or go on to another emotion.  Continue with the exercise for as many days as it takes to feel finished. 

1.   I feel angry because_______________________

2    I feel hurt because________________________

3.   I feel fearful (or anxious) about______________

4.  I feel guilty because_______________________

As you work with each of the above efforts, be sure to stop at the end of 15 minutes.  Then ask God for the grace and the ability to release the painful emotion and to submit it to God.  Pray to be empowered with the ability to forgive the painful events of your life, along with all persons who have hurt you.  Ask for God to forgive your failures and to strengthen you in your ability to forgive yourself for every poor choice and bad behavior, while releasing any felt guilt.
 
Sometimes we feel guilty when we are not truly guilty.  We are guilty when we have intended to do harm, or when we have thoughtlessly hurt another by being inconsiderate of his or her feelings and needsSee Addendum on page 114 titled “Are You Suffering from False Guilt” for more coverage on this subject.

Ask for God's help as you give up all fears you listed in #3 above.  In the future, form a habit of admitting your fears to God when they present themselves, choosing to believe that God loves you and is there (and will be there) for you in the midst of all your needs.  Tell yourself:  “There is nothing I need to fear.”  Use this affirmation anytime you are fearful.  Breathe away the emotion, releasing it, each time the emotion is felt.  Do the same when you feel anxiety.

Step 2:  Complete the following sentence while making as many entries as you can within a 15 minute time frame:

I am thankful because_______________________

 

Conclusion of Exercise #2

Stop all thoughts, or mental pictures, bringing your mind to a state of inner quietude.  Sit, basking in the truth that God loves you very much.  It may help to think of this experience as being like sitting in the warmth of the sun.  Let the truth that you are loved by God go deep into your psyche (soul).  Sense your spirit as being united with God…rest…and let God cradle your being.

When words or pictures come to mind, let them go.  Nothing else is important during these 15 minutes, except for feeling united with God.  (During this part of the exercise, take more time, if doing so feels appropriate for you.)

You may be amazed at the results if you use the above prayer step early, before starting each day.  Make notes about any subtle, or not so subtle, changes that have transpired for you.  Share with a trusted friend or spiritual mentor what takes place for you as you complete these exercises.  In so doing, you will more fully validate your spiritual and emotional advancements.

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