Decluttering. That’s what my husband and I set out to do over the long weekend. Sure, I’m pretty reliable for regular housecleaning, but closets and bookshelves, well, they are projects for me. And my desk is always a project. I have a way of messing it up just as fast as I clean it. But this time I was getting rid of some things.
I took on the task of looking through the many well-intended journals that I’ve started and never followed through with and I had to tell myself, “Okay Aimee, you are just not going to be disciplined enough at this stage of your life. It’s just too busy; toss it.” Some of them I just couldn’t throw away, so I put them in a spot for when the kids don’t demand so much time. The hospitality journal and a prayer journal are something I’d like to pick up again sometime.
But then I stumbled upon a journal I had totally forgotten about. It is a sermon journal. I usually take notes on Sundays, but eventually, when I declutter my Bible, they get tossed as well. So back in 2008 I came up with the idea to keep a sermon journal. In rediscovering it I thought, “How the heck did I forget about this? It’s awesome!” The sermon journal is easy to do, great to go back and read, and therefore got promoted to a shelf on my desk. It’s just three easy steps:
The journal comes to church with me on Sunday and gets cracked open with my Bible. I title the entry with the date, Scripture for the sermon, and sermon title. While the preacher is doing his thing, I take some notes. I don’t try to record the whole sermon, but just catch the main points that I believe the pastor is trying to convey. I also write down some questions I may have, or other Scriptures that connect well or would be good for further study. Maybe the pastor read a quote from a commentary or an author that I would like to look up later.
I don’t want to just leave the sermon on the church pew, and go live the rest of my week unaffected. (And we know that God’s Word accomplishes what he purposes.) I want to meditate on God’s Word and glean more from a second round. Maybe I sat under the preached Word and caught the main pieces of meat, but there’s still a lot of chicken on the bone that I don’t want to waste. So on Sunday afternoon or Monday, while it is still fresh, I go back to my notes, read the Scripture again, and write some more reflections down. This is also where I will think more about personal application.
Although I am tempted to write some wonderful, elaborate prayer so that when I die my kids will discover this journal and find how magnificent I am (because it’s all about me), I resist the urge and write a brief prayer that God’s Word both written and preached led me to pray by his Spirit. Sure, I can pray more about my reflections and further thanks and requests, but keeping it short in writing will hopefully help keep me disciplined to continue.
The benefits are obvious. What pastor wouldn’t love for his congregants to give the preached Word more careful attention? After all, if he is putting the time into preparation all week, we can put the effort in to be better listeners. God’s Word always affects us, but how many sermons do you actually remember a year from now? How about five years from now? Ten? This is where the journal really comes in handy. Rediscovering my sermon journal has also helped me to rediscover sermons I sat under, and prayers that I’ve prayed. I can look back and see how God has answered these prayers, and give him thanks.
The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever. (Isa. 40:8)