Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Ladies Retreat Devotional

So this weekend, I'm sharing the morning Devotional at the Calvary Chapel Vancouver Island's Ladies Retreat. My subject? Devotions.

Actually, more specifically, I'm sharing about a devotional method that I have found to be very helpful.

It goes by many names, and is packaged many different ways by countless different ministries and discipleship materials; but in it's simplicity (and we love simplicity at Calvary Victoria), it is well, very simple. I first learned it from the old Navigators "2:7 Series" about seven years ago, and haven't
looked back since. But I want to give it to you here, without any packaging, in it's raw form.

To explain it in one sentence, you simply read a chapter of the Bible a day, pick one verse in it that speaks to you, and write down any thoughts you have about it. That’s all.

One chapter. One verse. Write something down.

You may ask, "I'm already reading my Bible every day. Do I really need to write it down?"

That was my initial response, too. But when I was honest with myself, I could rarely recall what I had read two days before, let alone a month ago. And, if I was really honest, I didn’t actually read everyday, either. I would read, for a few days or even weeks, but then something would throw me off, and I would have a hard time getting back into the groove. Often I felt, “I don’t have time right now, I do it later”, because for me, when I read, I wanted to study it too.

But how often did I actually have time for that? So, it became a feast or famine situation. All or nothing. I either read copiously and spent an hour or more in study or meditation on the passages I read, or I barely got anything at all, reading only a few sentences that failed to sink in, or not even opening the Bible. Then, I found that the longer I went without reading, the longer my time would be when I finally got back into it. Which would in turn create another deficit on the other side.

Stuffed or starved.

Then, I was introduced to the method I have already mentioned. It was too unbelievably simple and at first I dismissed it. But as Cameron would regularly report the good stuff he was getting daily out of the Bible, I became curious.
He explained the concept to me: In any decent conversation, both parties talk and listen; there is always an element of response. When we read the Bible, it is like God is talking to us. If we simply read and then walk away, it’s akin to the rather bizarre social behaviour of listening to a friend sharing their heart and then wandering away without a response of any sort.

Some of you are like, “What? That’s not normal? I do that all the time!”

But, seriously, it was a revolutionary thought to me. I was like, “Wait, God wants a response from me?”
All the sudden, it seemed so obvious.

I got a journal, and began to read a chapter a day and comment on one verse that stood out to me from the chapter. I’m still doing it today. Sometimes, it’s not a verse, but an idea, or perhaps, an impression, but there is always something to learn, to receive, to grow in.  I write it down. If I don’t, it’s lost by the next day.  I like to think of the written response as particularly fitting:

God is talking to me through writing, so I will write in reply.

As I mentioned before, this method is both practically doable and remarkably enjoyable.  I actually look forward to it every morning. I make a pot of tea and some toast, and then sit down in my favourite chair, to have breakfast with Jesus (after all the kids are off to school).
 I read my chapter leisurely, meditating on anything that stands out to me, as I sip my tea or crunch on my toast. After the chapter is finished, I grab my journal, which sits by the chair with my Bible, and contemplate which verse or idea I should write down.
When I’ve decided, I pen it in, followed by a brief commentary (often a prayer) on what spoke to me from it, or what I learned, etc. Then I finish my current cup of tea, put my books away, and start on the day. It takes only about a half hour usually, but feels like a retreat- a luxury. I can do it in 15 minutes, but I prefer not to. It is so much nicer to take the time and savour it.

Now, some of you are thinking, “I can understand why that would be enjoyable, but it just won’t work for me in my life, with my schedule. It may be enjoyable, but it is not practical.”

I beg to differ.

I have not always had a big comfy chair and morning pot of tea. That is my greatest blessing of late. Long before that (although not too long ago), I had a baby rocking chair covered with spit up cloths, diapers everywhere, and every young mothers blessed hope- nap time.

I began this devotional journey when I was pregnant with my fourth, and at one point had four children 5 and under. A baby, a toddler, a preschooler, and a homeschooler.

Life was a blur.

I actually can’t recall much of what happened during that season other than endless diapers and laundry, lots of crying (my own), and a devotional time every night, which was my anchor.

As soon as all four kids were in bed (never asleep), around 8pm, I would make a cup of tea in a giant mug, set it down on the lampstand table, and settle into my nursing rocking chair with my Bible and journal. It was the best part of every day. God would speak to me through His word. I grew so much spiritually, through in a hard season, just because of my nightly devotional times, which I guarded zealously. The kids were not allowed out of bed for anything, ("I don't care if you're vomiting!" -JK) and Cam also took that time to read. It was very practical.

It does take a decision, though, to have a devotional time; it won’t happen by accident. But it is doable. None of us are too busy to have a devotion. Even if you are working two jobs, taking care of young family or aging parent, battling a chronic health issue, and volunteering with your church or community, you still have 15 minutes to spare. How do I know this? Because, you eat food. Yes.

You. Eat. Food.

The average person takes 15 minutes to eat one plate of food, (to the horror of chewing enthusiasts). Breakfast, lunch, and dinner, or coffee break in between, averages at about 15 minutes. While you are eating, you can have your devotion. “But I don’t want to carry my Bible and journal everywhere, and besides my schedule is haphazard. I never know when I will eat, or if I will.”

Well, I don’t have an answer for that, but I do have… (drum roll)…an APP. Yes. An app for your phone.

It is called Through the Word, and you can download the app at Wherever you are, when you have a few minutes, you can read your daily Bible chapter right on your mobile device, in text or, get this: AUDIO. Yes, you can listen to the Bible while you drive or eat, or whatever!

“Look ma! No hands!” 

Then you can opt to listen to a 5-8 minute concise and clear teaching on the chapter if you want. Finally, you can then record in audio (talking) or text, what you got from it. And for those of you who love checklists, you can even track your progress on the app!

I myself am a paper and pen sort of girl, with a verging-on-obsessive love of books, and prefer to hold my Bible while I read it, and enjoy the whole sensual experience of writing in my white paged journal with my black fountain pen... but I understand that many of you are far more digitally inclined or simply out and about much more than myself. In whose case, I highly recommend this awesome app.

Jesus said to His Father, “Sanctify them by Your Truth,” and lest we wonder where to find this Truth, He adds, “Your Word is Truth.” (John 17:17) Jesus said we are sanctified by the truths found in the Bible. Sanctify means literally, “to set apart”. Not like a reject or exile, set apart from the crowd, but like a chosen favourite, set apart by the King for special appointment in his kingdom. We are being set apart, sanctified, for God. How is this largely happening? Through the work of the Holy Spirit though the Word of God, the Bible.

I encourage all of you to take advantage of the resources God has granted you and make an appointment everyday to meet Him in His Word, to listen to Him speak, and then to respond to what He has shared with you. Take 15 minutes, read a chapter, pick a verse, and write a response. It may just revolutionize your Christian experience.