[Jesus is so kind. Just after declaring that summer felt over, not only did Jesus give me a number of days in a row that were toasty warm, but he is giving me the gift of a weekend at the beach with friends! It was an unexpected gift, and a beautiful reminder of how Jesus cares for my heart. He truly gives the best gifts. Because of that, Friday’s post is coming to you a day early. Enjoy!]
Personal devotional time with the Lord has always felt somewhat secretive to me. I remember going to the bathroom after getting up in the morning and catching a glimpse of my dad in his blue bathrobe, reading his Bible or praying. I know I could have asked him what he was talking to Jesus about or what he was reading, but it always felt so private and special. It’s almost like seeing two people share a kiss. I love seeing the warmth and tenderness, but I also want to keep my distance as that is their special moment, not mine.
But as private as that moment may be, I don’t think our relationships are private at all. Not with Jesus or with each other. What we do in private directly impacts who we are becoming. I remember my friend Evan talking about marriage and sex in a chapel service and saying that it was communal. Of course, all the Christian college students giggled, thinking of all kinds of inappropriate things. But Evan clarified that it wasn’t the act of sex that was communal, but the fact that what we do in private directly impacts our community. I think our private lives with the Lord are the same way. You may not see what I’m doing and I may not see what you’re doing, but we’re impacted nonetheless.
I’ve heard over and over again that devotional time with the Lord is important. But I’ve struggled at different points in my life to know what this practically looks like. For a while, I felt guilty anytime I didn’t go through my whole devotional routine. If I didn’t read this many verses and pray and read the devotional for today’s date, I didn’t do enough.
And while I think it’s important to have goals, I also think there’s a lot of grace in just showing up. I think about what my sweet husband tells me about work-outs. He says that even doing something is better than nothing. If all I can do today is squats or a wall-sit, that’s far better than the nothing I would have done just feeling guilty about it. And usually by just showing up, I do more than I thought I could. Even if all I could do was a little, it still helps get me that much closer to my goal for next time. Guilt isn’t from the Lord and it has no place in a work-out or in my devotional time.
I’ll confess that I don’t do the same thing every day. Depending on the day, devotional time looks like 5 minutes or multiple 5 minute chunks throughout my morning or a quiet 30 minutes to be alone. Sometimes I read all the things I have in my stack. Sometimes I just read one. For the season I’m in, the flexibility helps me connect with the Lord better and have grace for myself instead of guilt.
Regardless of what I do, I’m convinced more than ever that what I do in private matters. I can sense a difference in my day when I spend time with Jesus and when I don’t. Even if those in my life may not see how I spend my time, no doubt they are impacted by whether I connect with the Lord or not. My hope in sharing is that you can be encouraged to find what works for you and the Lord to connect, and come to time with him with hopeful expectancy. This time matters, and it is okay to still be figuring out what works. What worked before may not be working now. What was a good fit in one season might not be a fit in this season. When my daughter was born and I was feeding her around the clock, it felt like all I could do to sit and whisper a few prayers and read Jesus Calling. I don’t think that would have been enough for my heart in other seasons, but for that short newborn season, it was the right fit.
In this season, here’s what is my “fit”:
Savor. I like Shauna’s conversational way of writing. She has good thoughts and usually a reflective question or two. Her entries are typically easy to read, but make my heart sigh and say “me too.” I don’t deeply connect with her entries every time, but I do often enough to keep me coming back. And bonus, she gives you some yummy recipes scattered throughout the pages! My family is a big fan of her “Wild Rice Salad.”
Jesus Calling. As someone who grew up in the church, I need fresh ways of hearing truth. I need the familiar from a different angle. Jesus Calling uses verses (that are referenced on each entry) to create a short conversation of what Jesus might say to me. It is full of truth that helps me see scripture as more personal. I love how these words help my heart believe what Jesus says about me. I typically look up the verses that inspired the writing to reflect on what the Scripture says and compare with what was written here.
Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing. This is a devotional book designed for children, but I’ll confess, I’m in love with it. If I have time to sit, I’ll read an entry and look at the illustration, and feel a sense of wonder for how the Lord loves me. This week’s favorite is “Close to the Heart” (page 94) and I’ve read it probably 10 times now. It keeps gripping my heart in a new way as I see myself as the panicked sheep, being held close to the heart of God.
Illustration by Jago
Streams in the Desert. I have a love/hate relationship with this book. I love it because it tells me exactly what I need to hear about suffering. I hate it because it tells me exactly what I need to hear about suffering. In hard times, this book has been underlined again and again, with the margins filled with desperate prayers and tears. The stories and metaphors have brought great deals of comfort as it points me to a story that is bigger and beyond myself. I need this more than I can say.
ESV Bible. Right now, I’m slowly working my way through James. My husband and I are reading it “together” in the sense that we’re both reading it, but the actually reading of it is done separately. It is a gift to be able to compare notes and talk about what we’re learning in the same book.
The Message. I appreciate getting drawn out of familiar language to hear what a chapter sounds like with more modern verbage. I’ve really been enjoying re-discovering Romans 8 here. Some days I really enjoy reading a chapter in both my ESV and here and comparing the difference. I think it helps me engage more and pay better attention.
My journal. My husband made me this notebook when we were dating, and I have been waiting for the day that I get to use it! I finally filled my journal this summer and got to start in on this sunny book in June. It makes me happy every time I get to write in it. I know it’s a small thing, but having something I’m excited to write in feels like it makes a big difference. I try to write something that stood out to me from something I read each day. It helps hold me accountable to not just skim through, but actually grab onto something that my heart needs. Sometimes I write out my prayers. Sometimes I write out what I’m grateful for that day, especially if my heart needs help being grateful. Even if it only a sentence or two, I can tell a difference on the days that I put pen to paper. I’m always better for it.
My phone. I really try and put my phone away and turn it to silent. I’m embarrassed at how often I’ll find myself gravitating to it when I don’t feel like time with the Lord and only “look” like I’m reading my Bible. Putting the phone out of reach does wonders, and forces me to sit still.
Cards and envelopes and postage stamps. So many times out of what I’ve read or reflected on, the Lord wants me to tell someone about it. Sometimes this is in a text or an email, but it is also often in a physical card. I trick myself into thinking these take more time than they often do. So often the first action step the Lord has for me after time with him is to share truth or encouragement with someone I love.
Time spent with the Lord doesn’t always feel good and I don’t always want to do it. I think the same could be true for my marriage or my friendships or any relationship for that matter. As much as I want to let my feelings dictate what I do, I don’t think they matter as much as I want them to.
Showing up is what matters.
Grace not guilt.
My prayer is that I would be someone the Lord trusts to do his work. I want to be someone who is faithful in the small things, so that if he needs me for the big stuff, I’m his girl. I think a big part of that is what I’m doing in private. And that’s why I’m trying to show up in the morning to meet with him, whether I feel like it or not.