How To Develop A Spiritual Journal Process of Spiritual Growth Sitemap of Dan Phillips Works Thoughts In Solitude With Merton Thomas Merton Retreats Spiritual Direction Workshops Thomas Merton - Monk and Poet A Pilgrimage to the Abbey of Gethsemani A Pilgrimage to the Abbey of Gethsemani How To Develop A Spiritual Journal Process of Spiritual Growth Sitemap Spiritual Direction Workshops Merton Retreats More Thoughts with Merton in Solitude




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A journal is a helpful way of keeping up with our spiritual journey. A spiritual journal is different from a regular journal. It is a written record of personal reactions to spiritual matters.

I began keeping a personal spiritual journal several years ago, and I have found it helpful in discovering God's active work in my life.

I keep my journal with my Bible to record import new insights, prayers from the Bible that have been helpful to me, and meaningful passages from spiritual books I am reading. The importance of a spiritual journal is that it gathers strength in helping us with our daily spiritual life, especially if we write in it often. A journal of spiritual materials grows more powerful as it is used.


Let me first suggest that you buy a journal that has a feel of importance about it. I often go to a first class bookstore and buy a journal that is made of genuine bonded leather. This type of journal has a feel of permanence it, and it will last.

I have also found it helpful to include entries by date. This allows quick retrevial of materials that have previously been entered.

A helpful way to begin a day entry is to write a brief sentence to record and briefly describe events which are taking place in your life that day. Describe anything which comes to your mind. State the facts recent experiences as briefly as possible and make them a matter of prayer concern.


Bible verses, sermon notes, or phrases that have a special meaning for you. Explore your feelings as you study the Bible. Experiences that have been meaningful to you should be added. New awareness of God's revealing himself to you should be included.

Quotes from books that are meaningful to you.

Any thoughts that come to your mind. Note any images that touch your life. (Example: An eagle crossing the sky)

Note especially feelings you have. Write how you feel about events, persons, ideas, and relationships.

What books are you reading? Keep a list of books you read. Write phrases from these books in your journal.

Note "anything that rings a bell in your life" in your journal.

Every month summarize the month. What were key events that happened?


Write fast, write everything, include everything. Write from your feeling, accept whatever comes to mind, and note it in your journal.

As you begin, ask this question: "What is the most important thing going on in my life right now?"

Begin with an image. "This period of my life has been like a narrow bridge."

Write all "the feelings" you have in one day.

Keep photographs, news clippings, and notes of world events.


Feelings, descriptions, reflections (re-looking at the past), images, thought, and "whatever comes to mind" are what should be included in your journal. Keep lists of events, past happenings, or important events that have happened in your own life. Dialogue with yourself. Carry on an imaginary conversation with yourself. This can be helpful.

In summary, your spiritual journal is the key to developing your spiritual life. Work hard with it and your life will be greatly enriched.

For further information on journal writing.


Journal Entries by Years






Linked to How to Develop A Spiritual Journal

Canyon Hills Community Church-Corona,CA

Marshall University English Department

John Hewitt's Writer's Resource Center

Spiritual Journaling


Walking Barefoot

St. Edward Roman Catholic Church in Dana Point, CA

Tera's Page


Harvey Mudd College Writing Center




Thomas Merton Site

Bro. Dan maintains this popular website dedicated to monk and poet, Thomas Merton.

Abbey of Gethsemani-A Pilgrimage
Describes a retreat taken in July, 1998, by Bro. Dan to the monastery where Thomas Merton lived.

Travel Book by Bro. Dan Kenneth Phillips

Four Corners- A Literary Excursion Across America.

Contact Dan K. Phillips by email

Why not share some of your spiritual journaling with Bro. Dan?




Life's Companion-Journal Writing As A Spiritual Quest by Christina Baldwin

One to One - Self-Understanding Through Journal Writing by Christina Baldwin


Lama L: Leather Bound Journal
Handmade Leather Journal
Classic Size Leather Journal


E-mail Dan Kenneth Phillips read Dan's SPIRITUAL BLOG

I have a new spiritual blog called A SPIRITUAL JOURNEY which you are welcome to visit. It will be updated quite frequently. Please let me know if you read it, ok?Note: This is probably no longer on the web. It was my first web journal.

Journal 2001 -- Daily Journal entires

Links to other Journal sites
Workshops by Dan Phillips


Quote: Coincidence is a minor miracle in which God seeks to remain anonymous.

Prayer: Lord, open my eyes as I open thy book, for their in I find the words of life.


July 2, 1988 (Sunday)

We were on a trip to Prince Edward Island. It was a special trip for my 13 year old daughter to see the place where Anne of Green Gables lived.

On this particular day, I had made a mistake. I had planned to drive further than we normally did. My plans were to go from Hagerstown, Md. to Maine. About 4 p.m. we arrived in Bennington, Vermont. I was very tired. My wife, Janet, was tired too. I asked her if should could drive for just an hour so I could rest. She reluctantly agree.

A few minutes later, I saw a beautiful church and graveyard near a curve ahead. For some compelling urgent reason I wanted to stop.

"Janet, lets stop at that church. I believe someone famous is buried in that graveyard."

It was not a happy moment. Both of us were so tired. Then Janet blurted out, "I'll stop, but I'll stay in the car. You go find the famous person and hurry back!"

Reluctantly, I sheepishly left the car. As I rounded the corner of the church, I found a sign which said, ROBERT FROST GRAVE.

What an important moment that was. I did not know Robert Frost was buried there. When I rushed back to tell Janet and Melinda, they both eagerly came with me to the graveside.

In my journal that day I wrote, "When we accidently found Robert Frost grave, I stood by it, and with tears in my eyes, said a simple prayer. "Lord, thank you for Robert Frost being on this earth. For, Lord, his poem, The Road Not Taken, has been significant in my life. It has helped me to see the importance of taking the road less travelled. Thank you Lord for this moment!"


Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveler, long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,

And having perhaps the better claim,

Because it was grassy and wanted wear;

Though as for that, the passing there

Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay

In leaves no step had trodden black.

Oh, I kept the first for another day!

Yet knowing how way leads on to way,

I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I -

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

On the tombstone of Robert Frost was written: "He had a lover's quarrel with the world." Something that could just as easily been written as a memorial to Jesus. One who cared for others. Another person who knew the importance of the road less travelled.

How thankful I am that God gives us hints at detours sometimes. There is no doubt in my mind that I was led to that gravesite by God's guidance.


July 27, 1988 (Tuesday)

In his book Courage to Pray, Anthony Bloom states: "Interceding prayer means " placing ourselves at the heart of a troubled situation."

A passage of scripture from Daniel 2:17-23.

Then Daniel praised the God of heaven;

"Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever; wisdom and power are his. He changes times and seasons; he sets up kings and deposes them. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning. He reveals deep and hidden things. He knows what lies in darkness and light dwells with him.

I thank and praise you, O God of my fathers. You have given me wisdom and power, you have made known to me what we asked of you, you have made known to use the dream of a king."

August 26, 1988

I have come to Penuel Ridge Retreat Center for a "silent" day of retreat. It is a lovely and beautiful day. I need time alone with the Lord.

This has been a difficult summer. The struggles at work have spiritually exhausted me. I feel like I am fighting against a brick wall. It seems I am at a deadend with my life. I need spiritual guidance.

These scripture verses have been with me this summer:

"It is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.....Let him sit alone in silence, for the Lord has laid it on him. Let him bury his face in the dust - there may yet be hope. Let him offer his cheek to one who would strike him, and let him be filled with disgrace. For men are not cast off by the Lord forever. (Lamentations 3:26-31)

I talked with Sister Maureen. She said, "all the scripture you quote reflects mourning!" How right she is. Then she says, "Is there anything that gives hope?" And then she adds a very important point: "Don't hold on so tightly. Say to the Lord, if this crumbles that is fine, but I believe you still have something else for me and I am looking forward to that."

How important it is to have spiritual compatriots. Persons who hear our inner cry and respond with love and care. They are a true GIFT from God. "Lord, thank you for Sister Maureen."

"Dan, give me more of your time for prayer, for reading the word. Give me more room in your life, more of your gifts and possessions." (The Father)

Quote: Solitude and seclusion are the birthplace of new divine life and fruitful ministries for the Lord.

Quote: Only by going through the desert could Moses encounter God on Mt. Sinai.

Quote: Every morning I brought my list of tasks to God in prayer. Instead of thinking of all I planned to accomplish, I kept asking the Holy Spirit to guide me, to say whether I should continue with a task or prayer longer.

Quote: He delays in sending His aid so that I may learn to have faith before seeing any results (p. 110 Schlink)


August 28, 1988

Quote: If we want to grow in faith we do have to let Him speak to us. (Basil Pennington)


September 28, 1988

Meditation is the deliberate and usually systematic reflection on some truth or passage of scripture. It has a threefold purpose: to insturct the mind, to move the will, and to warm the heart for prayer. (The Cloud of Knowing, p.22)

Contemplation is the awareness of God, known and loved at the core of one's being. (The Cloud of Knowing, p.46)

To contemplate is to move beyond your own activity and become activated by the inner power of the Holy Spirit.

A type of prayer used by the saints was called Companion prayer. It is like showing a friend around. (Or, another way of putting it, "Introducing God to our world as if He were our best friend.)

"There is great value in immersing ourselves in another's experiences of God. As we listen to another person's story, we come to see more clearly the movement of God in our own lives. Whenever the Israelites became discouraged, or frightened, their leaders would get them together to tell them the story one more time. (A Guide to Prayer)


September 28, 1988

The following is a prayer by Dag Hammarskjold in his book "Markings." This is one of my favorite prayers.

Give me a pure heart that I may see Thee.
A humble heart that I may hear Thee,
A heart of love that I may serve Thee,
A heart of faith that I may abide in Thee.


October 18, 1988

"Most often we have little control over the sufferings that life brings, but we do have something to say about how we will respond to these opportunities. How we respond can lead us to the fulness of life or to a life of anger, resentment, cynicism, and despair. (Weavings, November, 1988


November 2, 1988

Silence is the stilling of one voice to hear another.

When you pray, you talk to God; when you read Scripture, God talks to you. (Augustine)

"To become friends, you must eat a bushel of salt together." (Aristotle)

Prayer must be heartfelt or it is not real. Prayer is a dialogue between lovers.


November 14, 1988

A key turning point in Howard Thurman's life was when he found a book by the Quaker Rufus Jones. It changed his life. While attending a church conference on religious education in Ohio, he picked up a secondhand copy of Finding the Trail of Life by Rufus Jones. He read it immediately. He felt an immediate kinship. "This is the man I want to find," he said to himself. Later, as a result of his relationship with Jones, many people received renewed hope in their lives.


January 15, 1990

"Consecrate yourselves for tommorrow the Lord will do wonders among you." ( Joshua 4)

Preparation is needed to experience our greatest dreams. They rushed across the Jordan River because the water was heaped upon them if their faith failed. In other words they had to have faith just to cross the Jordan River.

We can miss God's greatet opportunities because of a lack of vision. Remember only two of the original spies made it to the promised land - Caleb and Joshua. They were also the only ones of the original group who thought they could do it. Positive Faith!

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January 16, 1990

"Speak only when it improves the silence." (Trappist dictum)


February 19, 1990

"True prayer demands that we be more passive than active; it requires more silence than words, more adoration than study, more concentration than rushing about, more faith than reason.." (Carlo Carreto)

"Those who feel God most deeply can say least about him." (Angela of Foligno)


August 2, 1992

I found the following at a Holiday Inn, at exit 347, in Harriman, Tennessee. It was a small wayside shrine.

I see from my house by the side of the road,
by the side of the highway of life,
The men who press with ardor of hope,
the men who are faint with the strife.
But I turn not away from their smiles nor their tears
both parts of an infinite plan,
let me live in my house by the side of the road
and be a friend to man.

The Wayside Shrine, a symbol of physical shelter and spiritual comfort for all travelers - wayside shrines were first used during the middle ages. This age old symbol now reflects the attitude and philosophy of Holiday Inns.


August 23, 1992

"Don't travel with the idea of reaching a spectacular destination. Look for details and keep yourself open to experience the country as a whole." (Traveler, Jan.1989)

"When the crowds heard Philip and saw the miraculous signs he did, they all paid close attention to what he said." (Acts 8:6)

How true! People still look at our lives to see if Jesus is active in them.


December 26, 1992

The rich young rulers life was too "complex." He had too many things to take care of, too many people to relate to."


Lord, that my life might become simple enough for me to be able to say "yes" when Jesus looks at me. (Henri Nouwen)


January 27, 1993

"Be faithful to adoration."


June 12, 1993

My Dad died 13 years ago today. How time flies and how old Satan remembers dates. The greatest event of my life was receiving an award for a sermon I once preached. It was titled "God's Greatest Gift", and it was published in a book titled "Award Winning Sermons - Volume 2" in 1978. I received the award on June 12, 1978 before 15,000 people. My father was in the audience. Two years later he died on the same date. Yes, Satan remembers dates.

"The Lord is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation." (Is.12:2)

"If we would come to the sacred place and open ourselves to the holy presence which is always there, the Spirit of God will do the rest." (Evelyn Underhill)

"The glory of His vision and majesty is sensed when one listens to the chattering of the birds, the echo of the whipplewill, the early morning cool shade on the patio, words from God's Holy Book, the joy of a new computer screen, the sense of oneness with life, an airplane passing, the silent mountains where tiny plants in exquiste beauty flower for God, the simple expression revealed in silence, the passing of a white butterfly." (dkp)


July 11, 1993

"All of us are facing a series of great opportunities brilliantly disguised as unsolvable problems."


May 16, 1994

Paul Harvey's quotes about guidance: "All of us pray for guidance, but taking it when you get it, that's sometimes very difficult. We're inclined to say, wait a minute God, you don't understand the question. But if you pray for guidance and the doors keep opening instead of closing, I'd be scared not to march through."

On His tombstone he wants written: "He left the woodpile a little higher than he found it."


August 10, 1994

A promise from the Lord: "For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." (Jerimiah 29:11)


August 27, 1994

This was a prayer that Dr. Eric Rust used while I was at Seminary. When I repeat it, I still hear his British voice:

"God unto whom all hearts are open, unto whom all wills do speak, from whom no secret thing is hidden, I beseech thee so to cleanse the purpose of my heart with the unutterable gift of thy grace that I may perfectly love thee, and worthily praise thee. Amen."


October 1, 1994

A delightful morning. I am staying at the Holiday Inn, 1548 Montgomery Highway, Birmingham, Alabama. Behind the Holiday Inn is a small lake with chairs, tables, and ducks. It is perfect for a spiritual retreat. One man walks from place to place fly fishing. I read Caretto: "This waiting, this not making plans, this searching the heavens, this being silent is one of the most important things we have to learn. The moment will then follow when we are called.

The extraordinary thing is that God uses us, who are so insignificant and unworthy. Make some desert in your life. Every now and then leaving men and looking for solitude to restore, in prolonged silence and prayer, the stuff of your soul. This is the meaning of desert in your spiritual life. One hour a day, one day a month, eight days a year, for longer if necessary, you must leave everything and everybody and retire, alone with God. If you don't look for solitude, if you don't love, you won't achieve real contemplative prayer. It is HE who is looking for me."

Returning home tonight, I found that my Mother had a stroke today and is in the hospital.

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December 17, 1995

The following is a prayer memorized by Harry S. Truman as a young boy.

Oh! Almighty and Everlasting God, creator of Heaven, Earth, and the Universe.

Help me to be, to think, to act what is right, because it is right; make me truthful, honest and honorable in all things; make me intellectually honest for the sake of right and honor and without thought of reward to me. Give me the ability to be charitable, forgiving and patient with my fellowmen - help me to understand their motives and their shortcomings - even as Thou understandest mine! Amen. Amen. Amen


October 17, 1996

I went to visit Thomas Mertons' grave today. I drove to New Haven (Ky), east on highway 52, and north on highway 247. The only signs indicating the monastery was near were a few road signs with only the word "Trappist" on them.

The first indication that the monastery was near was a cross on the knob of a hill. Seeing the cross brought awe, a sense of excitement, that I was finally at the place I have wanted to visit for many years.

Just a cross on a hillside to point the way. And, in reality how appropriate: a cross on a hillside. That was how Jesus left his mark: A CROSS!


February 10, 1998

I have begun another spiritual journal related to the works of the monk, Thomas Merton. The Journal, titled More Thoughts in Solitude, is along the same lines as this journal.


August 12, 1999

This has been helpful to me in my own study of God's Word.


FORMULA: SPEED TRAP is the word used to key specific questions in one's mind to ask of the particular Biblical passage in question.

S= Are there any sins in my life that the Scripture passage brings to mind?
P= Are there any promises to claim in the passage?
E= Are there errors pointed out in the passage that I need to avoid in my own life?
E= Are there examples in this passage that I need to emulate in my own life?
D= Are there duties in this passage that I need to perform?

T= Are there truths to learn in this passage. I need to note them.
R= Are there rules for living in this passage?
A= Are there ways I can apply this lesson to my life?
P= Are there any prayers in this passage to echo in my own life?


Journals -Journals -Journals

Wow what a site. Catherine deCuir's Mining Company site is the ultimate in journal keeping. Bookmark it!

Journal Writing Resources

More of Dan Phillips Journals: Solitude1 and More Thoughts in Solitude

If you desire further information about developing your own spiritual journal, or you have examples from your own spiritual journal you would like to share with me, please send e-mail to Dan Phillips .


E-mail Dan Kenneth Phillips

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  Updated July 12,2011

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