Friday, November 13, 2009

SOAP Journaling: A Resource for Biblical Reflection

Early in 2003 I encountered a simple devotional resource that I've been using ever since. Created by Wane Cordeiro of New Hope Christian Fellowship, it's called the Life Journal, but I always think of it as my SOAP journal because of the acronym it works with:
S - Scripture
O - Observation
A - Application
P - Prayer
Simple enough. On the blank pages of the journal, you write down a verse or passage of scripture that hits you in some way. Make a few observations about it - maybe the context of the verse, or questions it raises - whatever you'll need later to recall what was going on and why it caught your attention. Then you write about how this applies to your life. That's the kicker... it keeps you mindful that you're not just reading to read, but to be changed. This is underscored (literally) by the phrase printed lightly at the bottom of each page of the journal;

"How will I be different today because of what I have just read?"

You finish up with the P for prayer, writing a prayer that relates to your entry.

Then comes my favorite part. There are pages at the front for you to create a Table of Contents of your journal, recording date, text, title of your entry and keywords. Over time, you generate your own library of biblical reflections that you can return to and rediscover through the index you generate.

One other thing I love to mention about the Life Journal is the daily reading plan it includes. There's certainly no shortage of reading plans out there, but Cordeiro has structured this one to present the Old Testament narrative chronologically. For example, you read the sections of Kings and Chronicles that deal with the same incidents on the same day, rather than reading all the way through Kings and then some weeks later going back over those events in the Chronicles version.

This has several benefits. It makes the sense of following a story much clearer. It also lets you see how the different authors sometimes bring strikingly different perspectives to things. (For the most glaring example I know of, compare 1 Samuel 24:1 to 1 Chronicles 21:1.) The narrativizing of the readings also allows Cordeiro to sprinkle the Psalms throughout and this often makes them easier to understand as well. Similarly, he's placed the prophetic books in their narrative context vis-a-vis the historical books. The New Testament readings are also re-sequenced somewhat, though I confess I haven't caught all the logic at work behind his arrangement there. Reading about four chapters a day, the plan takes you through the OT once and NT twice in a year.

Plus they're cheap - $6.50 each, less in bulk.

It's a good tool. I highly recommend it.

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