My church’s senior pastor shared a simple, yet meaningful journaling format called SOAP back in December to help us get more from our daily reading. It took me a few months to fully adopt it, but since I have, it has made a tremendous difference in my prayer life.

I am applying it to a Bible in a year reading plan, but you could apply it to any study or reading format to go one step deeper and really listen to what God might have to say to you through your reading. And by logging your entries, it will be a snap to look back later on and see what you have learned.

All you need for your study/ journaling time is your Bible, a notebook, pen and about 20 minutes, depending on the length of your passage.

Here’s what I do:

Pray, asking God to guide me through His Word and clear my mind of distractions.

Read the passage and find the one thing I believe God is telling me that morning. Then I journal about it using the acrostic SOAP as a guide.

S: Scripture-Write the ONE scripture that I feel God is using to speak to me in today’s reading

O: Observation-What might He be telling me with that scripture?

A: Application-How can I apply it to my life?

P: Prayer-What is my prayer to ask God in helping me to make that application?

When I am finished, I look back over the entry and come up with a short title and write it on the top of the page. Then I go back to the front of my journal and log the title. This way, I can easily look back and find the messages God has sent me.

As you try this out, feel free to get as detailed as you like, but simple answers are perfectly acceptable. This journal is only between you and God and whomever else you may want to share it with, no need to try to impress. Just write from your heart. And try your best to really listen to Him. Clear your mind and listen. Then write.

I log all of my entries in a spiral-bound notebook and then I expand on them here in my blog. Yes, blogging about it probably does change my responses a bit because I am inviting an audience to join me. But by journaling on paper first, I can get out all of my thoughts without worrying what all of you might think. Then I listen to what God is directing and type away.

If you haven’t read any of my entries, just scroll through my blog or do a category search for SOAP. You’ll find one for each day and see how simple it can be… and yet also very enlightening.

This journaling format has really worked for me. I hope that it can lead you, too, to experience a fuller relationship with Christ and our Heavenly Father.

And if you’d like to check out all sorts of real-life solutions to all sorts of other things, check out Works for Me Wednesday at Rocks in my Dryer.


Crave spiritual milk

Scripture: 1 Peter 2:2

Like newborn babies, crave spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation.

 Observation: He wants us to want to grow in our knowledge of Him, to crave it and be unsatisfied until we get enough.

 Application: I need to remain in a good reading and journaling habit so I am continually fed and consequently continually wanting (and getting) more. When I’m in the routine, I’ll notice when I fall out-and I’ll correct myself.

 Prayer: Thank you, Lord, for showing me how to remain in a good study of your word. Please keep feeding me and encouraging my appetite as I depend on you to grow.

Living as He intends

Scripture: 1 Peter 1:13-14

13Therefore prepare your minds for action; be self controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. 14As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance.

 Observation: I am instructed to:

  1. Educate myself
  2. Control myself
  3. Focus on the grace I receive through Jesus Christ
  4. Be obedient by turning away from the desires that distance me from God. I should use the knowledge I am gaining of God through Christ to set my path.

 Application:  Where do I need to change my life to live as He intends for me to live? Am I preparing my mind for action? Do I exercise self-control? Am I fixing my gaze on Jesus’ grace or on worldly things?

 Prayer: Thank you Lord for your gentle reminder. Please guide me in preparing my mind for you and in keeping it sharp. Please point me in the right direction of my studies so that I can know you as you intend for me to. And so I can share you with others. Guide me also in being self-controlled, to choose the right actions and be mindful of them. And help me to keep my focus on you and your grace. It is so easy to get distracted and be pulled in the wrong direction. Please keep me close. And thank you for continuing to keep me close, even after countless mistakes on my part.

A few more things to bring along on a family vacation

Third in a Mom’s Toolbox series on family travel


We’ve covered the carry-ons and how to fly through the airport. Today we’ll talk about your big bags. What else do you need… and how do you pack it all?

A few things we always bring:

Carseats/ Boosters— Depending on the age of the child and how many parents are flying, we typically bring a carseat and use it on the plane. This means we already have it for our destination. I have rented carseats and booster seats from the car rental company before which made packing easier, but I typically just pack our own. Carseats and boosters typically do not count in your baggage allowance, but check with your airline to be sure. The policies seem to be changing quickly these days.

Masking Tape-For minor childproofing in a pinch or labeling bottles and sip cups if your child will be in any type of kids club.

Sharpie marker-For labeling almost anything on the go. I label all clothes and anything else that might go with my kids to a kids club setting. I also use the pen to label toys along the way so there isn’t any question  who owns which new car (or whatever else).

Small Plastic Toys– We have found that little plastic toys go a L-O-N-G way for entertainment. Legos, Little People, Fisher Price Snap & Style babies and other small plastic toys are easy to pack and easy to carry to almost anywhere you might be going to entertain at restaurants, in cars or while waiting almost anywhere. Plus, you can use them as bath toys, as well. Throw in a one of the plastic cups the hotel provides and you’ll really be in business at bathtime!

Zipper top plastic bags-For snacking on the go, to carry small toys (and limit what your child is allowed to take with him), to house new collections of rocks, leaves, coins, bottle caps… whatever! I usually grab a handful of the quart size and of the gallon size to take along for whatever. They almost always get used. And don’t forget to keep one quart-sized for liquids at airport security.

Medicines,  dosages and a few first aid items-Save yourself a frantic shopping trip and throw in a few medicines and their dosing cups just in case. We bring fever reducer, pain killer, cough syrup and allergy medicine. I write the appropriate dose on each of the bottles. I also pack antibacterial cream and a few bandages.

A little liquid dishsoap— For cleaning sip cups, bottles and the like.

Flashlight-Find what you need in the dark without waking everyone.

Nightlight-New places can be disorienting. Just don’t forget to pack it when you are coming home, too.

Music-Do your kids listen to music before bed? We travel with an ipod and mini-speakers to soothe away new hotel sounds and help everyone drift off to dreamland.

Books and magazines-If you read to your child at night before bed, continue the trend away, too. The more things you can keep routine, the easier it will be to help your child sleep in a strange place. If you can find a new book or two that covers something you will experience on vacation, even better.

Baby bath soap-Unless I’m staying with a family or know the hotel will provide baby toiletries, I typically throw in a small bottle.

Small travel umbrella-Better to be safe than sorry.

A few toys for the hotel-I almost always go overboard on this one, throwing in too many contingency toys. So this is a reminder for me, too: Toss a few simple toys in for the times you will be just hanging out in the hotel room: winding down before bed, waiting for room service or just waiting while everyone is getting ready. Try to keep it simple here. You won’t be in your room long, but a few toys are always a good idea. That being said, remember that your plans may not always go as you wish. Things can happen beyond your control , causing activities to be cancelled.  A few games might be good to have along in case of rain, sickness or other changes in plans.

Charging cords for anything electronic-and don’t forget to bring them home, too!

One thing we sometimes bring:

Portable crib-Our portable crib rarely travels with us. We usually use the hotel crib or, if visiting friends, we usually use theirs (or a friend of theirs’!). When renting a house, though, check to see if you will need to bring your own. On one beach trip I brought an extra portable crib to use on the beach. I set it up under a canopy so the baby could still nap in the shade while we played with the bigger kids outside.

On the portable crib note, our kids typically sleep in a crib on vacation for few months after they have made the transition to a big bed at home. I find that it helps them sleep better and makes me feel safer, knowing they won’t wake and wander around the hotel room unsupervised.

A few thoughts on packing in general:

Airline baggage allowances are getting pretty strict. Be sure to check your airline’s policies regarding the size, weight and number of bags you will be allowed to check. Then, as you are packing, weigh your suitcases so there won’t be any surprises at the airport. Compare your suitcases empty, too and pack the lighter ones. I have found rolling duffles to be the best for our family because of their weight.

Pack an extra zipper-top bag or duffle for anything extra you might buy so you aren’t stuck paying fines for an overweight bag at the airport.

When deciding what clothes to bring, consider that you can do laundry on the trip. You don’t need to pack clothes for every day.

Depending upon what new treasures you might have acquired on your trip, consider shipping dirty clothes and new purchases home near the end of a trip. The price to ship might be less than the price for checking an extra bag. Check into it.

I put all liquids, even those that are unopened and in shrink wrap, in sealed plastic bags. On our last flight an unopened can of sunscreen somehow sprayed in my bag. I will no longer trust the shrink wrap when all it takes is an extra zip bag.

Remember the flight home. Throw in a few secret goodies to remain hidden until then.

Confession and Prayer

Scripture:  James 5:16

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.

Observation: Community is important. God wants us to share our experiences and prayers with others. He wants us to pray for those around us and hear their confessions.

Application: It is critical to remain in an accountability group to confess my sins, hear others’ sins and pray for each others’ concerns.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you for putting other believers in my life with whom I can confide and pray. In the past I haven’t confessed my sins to others much. Since you are instructing me to do so, though, please guide me in the appropriate way to do that. Thank you for your gentle instruction.

Go to Him. Read His Word.

Scripture: James 4:8

Come near to God and he will come near to you…

Observation:  I must seek God, going to him continuously. And He will meet me.

Application:  Read scripture! It’s the only way to know what is truly from God.

Prayer: Lord, thank you for allowing me to come to you through the Holy Spirit. Thank you, also, Lord, for giving me your word in the Holy Bible. Please guide me in keeping your word in my heart and in my head and on my tongue. Thank you for coming near me and for making it so simple. Please, Lord, do not let me make it difficult and stray from you.

Know that He is God

Scripture: Psalm 46:10

“Be still and know that I am God;

I will be exalted among the nations,

I will be exalted in the earth.

Observation: Don’t forget who God is-He is the mighty One and I owe him reverence.

Application: Thank you for the gentle reminder to listen. And to listen because of whom God is, not because I expect to hear something.

Prayer: Thank you Lord for this gentle reminder to be obedient. You have asked me to be still and recognize who you are, the amazing all-powerful loving Creator and God. Thank you for wanting time with me. Thank you for the loving ways you lead me. I will be still. I will be still in reverence, not because I expect to hear from you, but because you are who you are and because you instruct me to do so.


What an excellent reminder.  I had been letting my listening time slip, justifying that I was reading, writing and praying and that perhaps, that was enough.

This morning I was reminded to take that time and just listen.  And in my listening I asked God a few questions.  Then I remembered that listening time was to clear my mind of me and listen to Him.

It wasn’t long before my mind went to this verse.

 It doesn’t say “Be still because I have a lot to say and I’m going to give you the keys to the universe.” I think what it says is more along the lines of “Be still. I will be exalted. I am all-powerful. Recognize this and do as I ask.”

So I will listen with that in mind. I will also ask questions and engage in conversation as much as He allows. But I also will set aside time to listen just to be reverent and not ask anything in return.

Disclaimer: Now, I as I have mentioned before I am NOT a Bible teacher or scholar, so my interpretations are just that: My interpretations. And what I write is what I hear God saying to me. Ask Him what He wants to say to you. And then listen…. To hear Him and to obey.