The Red Couch: Life Path Introduction

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I first began keeping a journal when I was about eight years old. Fueled by a desire to capture my thoughts and a growing obsession with the Brontë sisters, I began what was to become a lifelong habit. Regularly scribbling my thoughts into notebook after notebook. Pen and paper became needle and thread, carefully stitching together the fabric of my life. A mirror reflecting back with sharp clarity the lines and imperfections, the wear and tear of a life lived.

In Life Path: Personal and Spiritual Growth Through Journal Writing, Luci Shaw draws us into the art of journal writing as a tool for personal and spiritual growth. Journeying through a difficult period of grief and loss was for Shaw a catalyst that shifted journaling from optional to necessity. She writes:

” … to retain the significance of the events I learned I had to write them down and reflect on them. I didn’t want all that I was living and learning to be lost in the blur of those crowded, emotion filled days. I wanted to remember because I sensed the importance of those transitions. That was when, that was why, I became a journal writer.”

For Shaw, journaling is an essential tool for navigating the path of our lives. By charting as we go we are able to look back on where we have been with greater clarity. When we journal regularly we become more attuned to the rhythm and movement of our lives. When we come to the page and life seeps out, bleeding black and blue on white, we feel each moments weight, allowing them to bruise and heal. The gentle fingerprints of God become magnified as our experiences find form in words.

Life Path explores every aspect of keeping a journal. From practical considerations like how to choose a book and pen that will work best for your needs, to thoughtful exploration of the process of writing. Exercises for sharpening ones perception and inspiring reflective writing are also littered throughout. Life Path is a treasure trove of resources for both novice and dedicated expert. This book is less about ‘how to’ and more about inspiring the reader to ‘go write!’ As Shaw advocates, journaling itself is the best teacher.

Some caution and encouragement to the weary and heavy laden. I was chatting with a friend a few weeks ago about the books coming up in Red Couch, and this was the book that appealed least to her. Why? Because while it would provide great insight and inspiration, she also felt it would leave her feeling guilty about not writing enough. I completely understand this feeling.

There is a tendency when people talk about tools for personal development and spiritual growth to generalize that everyone can find the time if they look/try hard enough. This is a burden that can sit heavily on the shoulders. I find Shaw’s claim here, along with those of others unhelpful.

Spiritual practices like journaling can be wonderful and life giving, but they become guilt laden when we feel like we should be able to do or achieve more. We are all living through different seasons, our limits and capacities are varied. Journaling can prove equally worthwhile in seasons where we record one or two sentences every three days, as it can when we are able to devote 10-20 minutes each day. There is gold worth mining in the pages of Life Path. Whatever season you find yourself in, hold its insights gently, and don’t let guilt keep you from finding them.

Regardless of pace, quality or quantity, lets read and write together this month. Let’s chart the journey together and hunt for the fingerprints of the one who is guiding us home.

 

Come back Wednesday, May 25 for our discussion post. Join the Facebook group to discuss the book throughout the month.

Our July book is I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up For Education And Was Shot By The Taliban by Malala Yousafzai and Christina Lamb.

The Nightstand at SheLoves Magazine

Breath For the Bones: Art, Imagination, and Spirit: A Reflection on Creativity and Faith– Luci Shaw

Journaling As A Spiritual Practice: Encountering God Through Attentive Writing– Helen Cepero

Journal Keeping: Writing for Spiritual Growth– Luann Budd

How To Keep A Spiritual Journal: A Guide to Journal Keeping for Inner Growth and Personal Discovery– Ron Klug

The Artist’s Rule: Nurturing Your Creative Soul with Monastic Wisdom– Christine Valters Paintner

A Circle of Quiet– Madeleine L’Engle

*Recommended by Annie Rim, Sarah Caldwell, Melissa Powell

 

Are you reading Life Path with us? Share your thoughts so far in the comments.

Disclosure: Amazon Affiliate links included in this post.  If you click through to Amazon, any purchase you make supports this site.

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Melissa Powell
Melissa is from Auckland, NZ where she lives with her husband Jacob and her two daughters. She has spent the past 6 years living and ministering in intentional community and is currently studying toward her Masters in Applied Theology at Carey Graduate School.
Melissa Powell
Melissa Powell

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Melissa Powell
  • Melissa, I’m excited about reading this book in community! It was Luci Shaw’s book God in the Dark that pushed me into the practice of journaling as a spiritual exercise. I can’t say that I’ve been consistent, but I have persevered, and I have the stack of illegible and dog-eared volumes under my bed to prove it.
    I especially appreciate your words of caution about guilt. My deceitful heart can make an idol out of anything, and just as Israel turned the brass serpent into a “god,” I struggle all the time not to let the tool that God uses become the object of my worship. We journal to make space for God in our lives, to step back from the happenings and find His fingerprints everywhere.

    • Thank-you Michele. You’re so right, it’s all too easy for the good thing to become a god. I am excited about reading this book together too.

  • I am excited about digging into this book with everyone. I have journaled my whole life but have found that my journals haven’t gotten very dry and not life-giving or useful so I have stopped for big chunks of time. I tore through this book in about a day while traveling but am now going back and doing one of the “try this” exercises a day this month to fuel some creatvity and see if I can breathe life back into my journaling!

    • This made me smile Nicole, as my copy is currently filled with little post it flags, marking all the exercises I wanted to come back to or try again. There is so much inspiration packed in to such a little book isn’t there?

  • Melissa, your caveat of time is so beautiful. Thank you for giving permission to write a sentence here and there. (As you know, that’s where I am in this season!) Thank you for such a thoughtful introduction!

  • Keri Underwood

    Like you, I started journaling at a young age but more recently have gotten out of the habit! Thanks for the reminder of how amazing journaling can be! This has inspired me to start again. 🙂

    http://www.littlelightonahill.com

    • I’m so glad it has inspired you Keri. It really is so worth pressing into.

  • I have always been a journaler of some sort. The format and quantity vary from season to season, but the clarity they bring remain constant. Blogging has been my pseudo-journal the past several years, a place to sort my thoughts through words.

    I’ve begun Life Path and am looking forward to reading it in community. “The gentle fingerprints of God become magnified as our experiences find form in words.” Yes.

    • ‘The format and quantity vary from season to season, but the clarity they bring remain constant’ Yes! My journaling has taken really different shapes in different seasons – but always a way to sift through and find where God is at work.

  • Kristy

    I am excited about this one, but I love your warning not to let it turn into an area where guilt rules. I homeschool four kids and am trying to submit my own writing when I can, so life is sometimes a bit overwhelming. I’m going into this with an open mind hoping I can prioritize journaling.

    • Absolutely Kirsty, holding ourselves open is the way. It’s not always easy to accept where we are. Instead we try and push ourselves to carry more than is reasonable. Journaling can be such a great way of slowing ourselves down to see, but it should never become another yardstick to measure ourselves by. I’m excited about reading together with everyone too.

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