How devoted are you to devotionals? {Book Club}

One more week until we start talking about Ann Voskamp’s The Greatest Gift  a Christmas devotional and our first book. I love talking about books and am eager for next week (but also want to soak in this week, know what I mean?).

Here’s the schedule for the next four Tuesdays:

December 3rd: have read December 1-3

December 10th: have read December 4-10

December 17th: have read December 11-17

December 24th: have read December 8-24 (maybe the 25th if you just can’t wait!)

And if you don’t have the book, don’t let that hold you back from reading the posts and comments and joining. All are welcome!

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In preparation for reading and discussing a devotional, let’s talk about devotionals. The idea of having devotional material, quiet time, QT, whatever you want to call it, was introduced to me in high school. Wait, back up. Actually it was in summer camp. After breakfast we campers were sent with our Bibles, a writing utensil and a booklet out into the woods to find a space alone with God.

As alone as you can be with 100+ girls around you and people vying over patches of sunshine in the chilly mornings.

But it was summer camp that the idea was introduced and modeled and practiced. Later in the day we’d gather in cabins and do a Bible study based on what we’d read.

As a high school gradation present my youth leader gave each of us a copy of My Utmost For His Highest by Oswald Chambers and I remember each of us flipping through the pages to see what Oswald/God had to say to us on our birthday.

And here I’m not sure how to segue into a confession. Even though I come from solid devotional stock and have been given devotionals, they don’t work for me. I’ve tried. You would think they would, given that I am a fairly disciplined person and a devoted reader. But nope.

One of the many things I love about God is that he’s relational and has many paths for relating with him. What works for me, my personality, stage of life, and feeds my soul (instead of being a task to be checked off on a list) is this. I’ve got the One Year Chronological Bible NLT  both in physical book and on my kindle for traveling and I daily read in it. After I finish reading the selection for the day, I’ll read in another book that nudges, encourages, prods me along.

Right now I’m reading A Million Little Ways by Emily P. Freeman. This year I’ve also read The Art of Dying: Living Fully Into the Life to Come by Rob Moll, The Rest of God: Restoring Your Soul by Restoring Sabbath by Mark Buchanan, Sober Mercies: How Love Caught Up with a Christian Drunk by Heather Harpham Kopp. You can see I’m a bit all over — but that’s what makes it work for me. I know that I need variety and wrestling with reality (dying, resting/ceasing, addictions, hello life!).

Now you may not be a reader and so instead of this approach feeding your soul, it feels like an albatross around your neck. I don’t think it’s the package so much that God is after, but the practice. The practice of connecting to Him, to ourselves, and to our world through regular contact.

And it will change and morph over time. If you’ve got little kids, you probably do not have time for lots of outside reading and music might play a bigger role. Or maybe you live in a big, loud, dirty city which makes getting into nature a challenge. You also might be in the valley of the shadow of death and your brain cannot process long chunks of information. God knows, God sees, God doesn’t care what form it takes because he loves you.

How about you? What helps you stay connected to God? How do you see your personality, stage of life, and interests influencing factoring in? And if you are a devotional reader, what suggestions do you have for us?

See you in the comments! Amy

Photo Credit: Charlotte90T via Flickr

21 Comments

  1. Ashley November 25, 2013

    I’ve had my seasons of devos. I’ve had my seasons of the chronological Bible. I’ve had my seasons of waking up at 5am to study for a solid hour while drinking coffee. Uninterrupted. I’ve had my seasons of consistent journaling–oh, how I miss it! My season now? A hot mess. Some friends and I were just talking and confessing the other day that every time we fill out a little self-reflection form (every semester), our “what do you need to work on” section ALWAYS says something about our QTs. *sigh* Will it ever get better? Will I ever be consistent again? I just asked some friends to hold me accountable for some consistency. Let’s hope that gives me the kick in the pants I need. Having a devo to discuss will surely help. I wouldn’t wanna be left out! 🙂

    1. Amy Young November 25, 2013

      Love the idea of seasons! And knowing that kids held a special place for Jesus and he made them so (darn) needy, he gets this season too. Truth that we all need input/connection … But grace that it might be in fits and starts in this season. Rock on, girlfriend!

  2. Karyn November 25, 2013

    My favorite devotional is “31 Days of Praise” by Ruth Myers. I especially appreciate that she lived overseas and served for many years, and has walked through some serious trials, including the death of her husband while her children were still young. I love her international perspective, and just the timeless truths she is able to share.

    1. Amy Young November 25, 2013

      Karyn, thanks for the suggestion! Sounds like she’s been through the refiner’s fire and we could benefit from her teaching.

  3. Jo November 25, 2013

    I can’t seem to do devotionals in the house anymore. There’s too much washing to do, the floors need cleaning, even if the kids are asleep thry’ll wskd uo and need food soon… so I have coffee with God. My husband looks after the kids while they nap (then when they wake up he gets to play with them for a bit too) and I go for coffee and a chat! I take my Bible, my notebook and pen (you can’t really talk out loud to God in a coffee shop!), I get myself a coffee and off we go! No interruptions, no distractions and even in a Muslim country, reading a Holy book is a pretty respectful thing for a woman to be doing with her free time, so it doesn’t matter if anyone realises what I’m doing. I tend to chose the same places each time, so we get over the ‘Where are you from? How come you speak my language instead of the Soviet one? Do you teach English?’ conversation early on – after all, I can do that with my kids there! And my husband picked a time when the shopping centres are empty, so no one minds me sitting alone, reading, thinking and writing while I sip my coffee. The really great thing about it, is that it’s the first time I’ve REALLY looked forward to quiet times. When you’re going out for coffee with God instead of trying to squeeze in a Bible reading before the kids wake up, it’s much more of a soul refreshing thing. The only problem is that it’s only once a week, but I figure it’s better than my previous attempt at something daily with kids around. Thst really didn’t work for me.

    1. M'Lynn November 26, 2013

      Love this. Coffee once a week out of the house. It’s like going on a date with Jesus!

  4. Emily March November 26, 2013

    Wow! That’s awesome! I would love to go for coffee once a week. 🙂 But that is not the season I am in at the moment. My husband is currently working on a masters as well as his full time teaching job. I have a 2 year old and one on the way. It will be long before I can have a “regular quiet time.” Although, I don’t think I have ever been good at that anyway. The thought intrigues me, and I have tried many times. I’m consistent for a few weeks, months even, but then the consistency trickles away and I realize it’s been a month since I opened my bible here at home. However, I am thoroughly enjoying this season because Jesus’ words have been resonating in my head recently. “Whatever you do for the least of these…you do for me.” These beautiful kids of mine are my saviors face, and He keeps me close to him through little reminders all the time. I praise God so often that he keeps a close grip on me, and doesn’t let me wander far!

    1. Morielle November 26, 2013

      Emily, love this: “He keeps me close to him through little reminders all the time.”

    2. Amy Young November 26, 2013

      Oh yes stage of life determines/influences all aspects of life, so why would this be any different? It sounds like you are having “regular quiet time” — I understand why people over the years have emphasized the importance of connection to God, but I think they have reduced it and in doing so, lost some of the mystery. Sounds like you are on to something that works for you and God now. Blessings, sister!

      1. M'Lynn November 26, 2013

        “I understand why people over the years have emphasized the importance of connection to God, but I think they have reduced it and in doing so, lost some of the mystery.” You nailed it, Amy. My feelings exactly. I love the idea of a daily quiet time and have had seasons where that really worked. But, when seasons come along where that really DOESN’T work I’m tired of beating myself up about it (and, to tell truth, feeling beat up by others about it). In those seasons, I often reflect on what life must have been like for women in the time of Jesus. Mary…our Savior’s own mother might not have even been able to read. Did she compartmentalize her relationship with God into a system of bible reading and coffee drinking? No. She invited God into the real moments of her life and had a true relationship with him. I’m not saying we don’t need bible reading. We do. I’m so thankful for God’s Word and its active role in the life of believers. But, there is a way to connect with God in the daily mess of things. I love the book by Brother Lawrence called “Practicing the Presence of God.” It’s a short book but took me forever to read because it’s so deep. Soak it up. Learn to practice His presence. Learn to look for Him in the mundane. Learn to appreciate life’s simple tasks as they give a chance to connect to the holy one. I guess this hits near to my heart as I just had a baby 2 weeks ago. Haven’t had much organized Bible since then, but I’m still rejoicing from the “quiet time” I was given while in labor. At the hospital, contractions were only 10 minutes apart which seemed quite slow and laid-back when compared with previous labors. So we cranked up Josh Groban and relaxed. Sitting there, soaking up the beautiful music, I was struck with the awesomeness of our God and wept in His presence and rejoiced in His blessings in my life. I really think that moment filled my soul and pleased my Savior more than a month of “checked off” devotionals ever could. Jesus wants our heartfelt offerings and gives us so much freedom in what those offerings look like. Praise Him for that! Oh, I have a “One Year Bible” that I’m working through. I just keep a book mark in it instead of looking at the dates. Even though that can drive my type A personality crazy if I let it, it gives me a place to go when I do get a good chance to read, but I don’t invite the guilt upon myself when I miss a day if the dates are ignored 🙂

        1. Emily March November 27, 2013

          Yes! I had almost forgotten that book. 🙂 It’s fun how God finds ways to remind me of past lessons. “Practicing the Presence of God” changed my life!

  5. Morielle November 26, 2013

    I’m a jogging/hiking/walking/biking/generally enjoying being outdoors while listening to sermons and studies kinda girl. I also love reading things about EVERYTHING even remotely related to spirituality like you, Amy. I love Oswald Chambers but I can’t read consistently day-by-day.

    1. Amy Young November 26, 2013

      LOVE that physicality is mixed in with this practice, Morielle!

  6. Kimberly Todd November 26, 2013

    My mainstay practice to stay connected to God is a weekly stop-day (Sabbath). And the books that have nudged, encouraged and prodded me along this term are the “The Spirit of the Disciplines” by Dallas Willard, “Mudhouse Sabbath” by Lauren Winner, and “Invitation to Solitude and Silence” by Ruth Haley Barton. For the past year and a half I have used the devotional “God Calling” by A.J. Russell. Some days I skim it and move on, I wonder at the orthodoxy of other entries, and some days it’s the door to the house of God. That said, I’ve been unable to consistently nurture my spiritual formation through some of the more common approaches (like devotionals), but exploring less common disciplines and practices from more liturgical traditions has been life-giving in this stage of raising two young boys. Challenging, yes. Sanctifying (wink wink, Amy), yes. Limiting, no.

    1. Amy Young November 26, 2013

      Kim, this fall, I’ve given myself permission to visit all of the churches near me — permission because it feels “bad”/”wrong” to not be “strongly plugged in” to one body. But it has been life giving to see the wide spectrum of ways that people worship, love, and connect with God and each other. I have been especially fed at the more liturgical services (and show my age/stage of my soul in those places where the singing feels more like a concert. But I think that has as much to do about ME and know that in transition it’s easy to be judgmental). Limited by God, yes we all are :)! Wink, wink back on being sanctifying, though! Amen, and amen.

      1. Kimberly Todd November 26, 2013

        Graciously limited by God, agreed! I mean to say that even in stages where it may seem there isn’t room for faith practices, we may soar. And in the reverse, there are stages where it would seem there are wide open spaces, but it’s not a given that I will go there.

        1. Amy Young November 26, 2013

          Kim, yes, yes, yes. Soaring or sinking is not result of a predictable math problem. You said it poetically! Thanks.

  7. Kristi November 26, 2013

    I’ve used devotionals every year for maybe 6 years or so. (off and on before that) I seem to recycle the ones I like. I need/like outside input into what I think/feel about something. Devotionals help. The danger for me is to make it an assignment and just check it off my list when completed. The heart attitude can make it or break it like in other things. Right know I’m using Morning and Evening but do both readings in the morning. I like to read other books before bed. Streams in the Desert has become a favorite in the past few years. Like any book experience changes how we read. Last year I did a advent type devotional and really wanted to do one this year as well. Thanks for sharing this one.

    1. Amy Young November 26, 2013

      “The danger for me is to make it an assignment and just check it off my list when completed.” Yup! I tend to shy away from asking folks “have you had you QT today?” and want to know more about connection and feeding and fellowship and enjoyment. Love that that’s happening for you!

  8. Michelle November 27, 2013

    I found that devotionals don’t work well for me. I have moved to reading the bible and then listening to music. The music speaks the most to me. I also tend to find myself singing it all day long. Since I have been in transition a lot recently this has waned but I am hoping that studying together will help me get back into the habit. You all shared really good ideas.

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