Ally’s difficult week prompted her to reflect on an upcoming retreat to God’s creation.

“This week has been stressful,” says Ally Anunciado, a Portland Adventist Academy Senior. “I have a test that is really worrying me. But I’ve been planning a hike with friends and thinking about it reminds me that soon I’ll get to be in God’s creation. That’s why I drew this.”

She shows a simple but beautiful drawing featuring a quote from John Muir about retreating to the mountains.

Ally isn’t alone. Wisdom Journal time is a weekly Bible class ritual that all PAA students have the opportunity to take part of and enjoy.

Every Wednesday, and in every PAA Bible class, pens, pencils, paints and brushes are made available to students along with their very own Wisdom Journals. Some students doodle aimlessly, some replicate a picture found online, some take notes or write, and others sit quietly, all while listening to selected passages of the Bible playing over the classroom stereo.

While visual creation is the face of Wisdom Journaling, listening to God’s word is the heart. “Listening is a lost art,” says PAA Bible teacher, Pastor Stephen Lundquist reflecting on why PAA Bible teachers developed the curriculum. “We wanted all of our students to hear God’s Word. We calculated that if we spent one class period per week listening to Scripture over their four years of high school, they would hear nearly the entire Bible.”

Hand in hand with these listening goals is incorporating physical touch and movement. Recent research has confirmed that doodling can improve attention and memory.  “Art actually helps students connect and express what they perceive and what they learn,” says Mark Kooy, PAA art teacher. “It teaches visual language skills. And beyond that, it helps them see themselves as children created in the image of their Creator.”

Even more important than hearing is understanding. To emphasize quality over quantity, the teachers also built in question and answer time. “Students have appreciated the time to grapple with passages that are difficult to understand,” says Lundquist. And it works.

“When I read the Bible I sometimes have trouble understanding it,” says Anunciado. “But I’ve noticed that by listening to the Bible I hear things I haven’t heard before. And then we get to actually talk about those things.”

Samantha finds Wisdom Journal time to be one of her favorite moments of the busy week.

“I love that our wisdom journals are just between us and God,” says Samantha Torgersen, PAA Junior. “It gives us a little freedom in the day. It lets me completely be myself with God.”

Lundquist says Wisdom Journals also help the teachers to understand their students.  “Several times each school year, I look through their journals,” he says. “This gives me valuable insights into their spiritual journeys. It is our hope that students will keep these journals forever as a lasting record of their spiritual journey during their high school years.”

Jordan is now a student at Andrews University. Her years at PAA introduced her to journaling to God. She continues the practice faithfully.

Not only do many students keep their PAA era journals, but some continue the practice long after they leave PAA. A few have even incorporated it into weekly and even daily spiritual routines.

“After my years at PAA,” says former student, Jordan Skinner, “I was faced with many difficult decisions. I recognized that writing letters to God in my journal was the primary way that I could communicate with Him without having to battle the distractions that sometimes appeared when I prayed out loud. The more I would journal, the closer I felt to Jesus and the more I felt like He was my Best Friend, rather than a distant and far-away God.”

“I keep it up because it’s my way of receiving words from God and writing down what He wants me to hear,” says Sophie Bailey, PAA graduate of 2015. “It has greatly increased the amount of time I spend with God. Because of my journaling, I now spend time in devotion to God every day.”

“All these years later, I still can’t wait to write to Jesus every day!” says Skinner. “When something exciting happens, I write it in my journal. When I’m stressed, struggling or I’m battling temptations, Jesus receives my letters.”

“Wisdom Journals gives me relief from the stress of my week,” says Anunciado, who is facing down the final weeks of high school. “I get to listen and reflect, and then let out my thoughts and feelings to God. That’s what I love about this.”

See their Wisdom Journals at this year’s Education EXPO. Join us on May 3rd, 5pm at PAA.