Many of the conferences I've had the blessing to attend over the years have had separate mini-conferences for the youth running parallel to what the adults were doing - same topic, same teachings, same Sacraments being made available - but everything was done within the context of their age group.
Most of these conferences included lots of opportunities and encouragement for journaling. Time would be given to sit in quiet surroundings and allow the Lord to speak to our hearts while we let Him guide us through the writings that unfolded. There were scripture passages given and lots of beautiful meditations to use for springboards.
For many of the adults, it was very difficult to surrender to this deeper level of hearing the Voice of His Spirit. For the kids - it was EASY !!! The younger the age group, the more 'natural' the journaling unfolded. Once they were told how to proceed with the exercise, and that they were to write down or draw a picture of how God was answering them in their prayer time, they jumped in with no fear ! On the last day of the conference, the Leaders who were guiding the youth groups would bring up the brave little souls who wanted to share their journaling with the entire crowd of attendees, (anywhere from 600 to 1,000 people), and the children would explain what they asked the Lord, and how He answered them. There wasn't a dry eye in the house.....
This was an unforgettable teaching for all of us adults in the conference hall. Fear was the thickest barrier holding us back from letting our hearts be filled with His words. Fear was the difference between our guarded journal entries, (if we journaled at all), and the leap of faith that opened wide those little hearts.
I share this with you to break down that 'natural' fear of getting started. There are several reasons that we seem almost paralyzed to take that first step, but they can typically be categorized into two camps:
Camp #1 -
What if I can't hear Him ? What if I think I'm hearing His words in my heart but it's really me? How do I know that what I'm writing down is really from the Lord ? To all three of these questions I would suggest the same answer: take the leap of faith and ask for the grace to just do it, (in steps I will explain in a moment). The Lord knows us so much better than we know ourselves. He knows exactly what our hearts are in need of, and what will calm those fears - but we have to move forward and open the door. Once we jump in, If we go back and read what we wrote three days later, we will be amazed at what came out of that pen - graceful language with terminology that is not typical of our own personal writing style. He will not sway far from our own personal character, but the tone of tender mercy from a patient Teacher will be evident in hindsight.
Camp #2 -
What will the Lord say to me? What if I'm afraid to hear what He wants to say to me? What if He asks me to do something I'm really uncomfortable with? What if.... blah, blah, blah. The enemy would help us make up 1,000 reasons to be afraid of Him if we allow this. Repeat after me: "Jesus, I trust in You!" Again, my beloved brothers and sisters in Christ, we must take a small leap of faith and remember that this exercise in opening our hearts to the loving Voice of the Lord is the very last thing the 'deceiver' wants us to do. Our adversary is petrified that we'll experience the freedom to BELIEVE in the powerful words that the Lord gives us and live by them! The enemy's greatest fear, beyond all others, is that we will finally discover how much the Lord deeply, dearly loves us. How detrimental that would be to his wiley plans !
Give the Lord just 20 minutes of your undivided time and take the first few steps to start a private prayer journal:
1. - Get an empty notebook and a pen.
2. - Find a quiet place to sit and allow your thoughts and body to just 'rest at His feet' for a short time.
3. - Humbly ask the Lord a very simple question that will help you focus on being in His presence. A good one to start with is: "Lord, who am I in Your eyes?" or "Who do You say that I am ?"
4. - As you are waiting on Him to answer, close your eyes and picture yourself sitting in front of Him, right where you are. Imagine that the Lord is right there, physically, waiting to speak with you. He is gazing directly into your eyes, with His most beautiful face glowing with tender love.
5. - As you imagine Him beginning to speak, write down every word you 'hear' within your heart. These words are not audible to your ears, but deep within you, coming from the depths of your soul. What would He say, as He lovingly smiles and gives you His beautiful look of, "Finally, my beloved... I have been waiting so long to speak with you like this !" Let Him speak as you write for as long as you sense He still has something to say, (could be five minutes, or could be 20).
6. - When you sense that He has finished what He wanted to share with you for the time being, put down your pen and close the journal. Sit for a short time offering a prayer of faith and thanksgiving for this time that He has walked you through this...
7. - Go back in two or three days and read what you wrote. Ask for the grace to believe in His love and words for you. If possible, share this writing with a Spiritual Director or close confidant who is walking this journey of faith with you.
As in every part of our spiritual journey, we struggle with anything new or different from what has become our usual approach to things. The question that came to me one day during a retreat, which really caused me to finally let go and let God do what He wanted to do was this, "Beloved, what have you go to lose?"
Over the next few weeks I will share with you some actual journal writings that I and other prayer warriors have written and shared with our Spiritual Directors. I pray that by sharing the tender, compassionate, patient, loving words He has spoken to our hearts over these past 20 years, you will be filled with the desire to let Him speak to you unreservedly - Heart to heart.
For now, my dear brothers and sisters in Christ, I prayerfully encourage you to ask the Lord to teach you and open your hearts to this precious gift. God has not stopped speaking in this age of trial and tribulation - and I would dare to say He is trying in every way to speak to us more now than ever. He does not speak only to those who are 'holy' and blameless, but comes even more so to those of us who are sinners in need of His grace - which is why we call Him "Savior".......