Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Why bother to journal? Part 4

The Daily Devotional Journal

Having daily devotional time is one of the most valuable parts of our day! It is a time of deepening our relationship with our heavenly Father,  a time of reflecting on His words and learning from them as well as a time of personal growth as we find guidance and answers from the Word.

But in this hustle-bustle, gotta-hurry-up-and-wait world, we don’t always have time to get into the Word and let it soak into our spirits. Often we pick up a daily devotional guide like grabbing a cup of coffee and sweet roll for breakfast as we rush out the door. We know we need the spiritual nutrition, but we have to get it “on the run.”

Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing bad about using a daily devotional guide. Many times God has spoken to my heart through the author’s choice of verse for that day. But a wise writing mentor once said that daily devotionals are more beneficial for the writer than the reader.  The writer is studying, living and applying the scripture he or she uses to write the devotional material. It is too easy for the reader to gloss over it and say, “Okay, I’ve had my devotions for the day,” without applying it personally.

So here are some ideas to get the most out of those devotional guides:

1. Keep a notebook or journal with your devotional guide.

A journal is a place to write your personal reflections. By keeping a journal with your devotional guide you give yourself permission and motivation to personalize the message of the day. Over time, it will become a habit to jot down anything that comes to mind during these devotional bytes.

2. Look at how each devotional is written.

There is a formula for writing devotional guides. Most include these three elements: A daily verse or passage, an illustration from the author’s experience generated from that Bible passage and a prayer. Some will also include a core truth - a few words in bold print stating  the focus  or key thought of the devotional.

You can set up your journal the same way. Jot down the verse at the top of each page, along with the core truth. Under it, leave space for any thoughts the scripture generates like life experiences, testimonies, feelings, questions.  Leave room at the bottom of the page for a personal reflection or prayer.

3. Read the Scripture passage from your own Bible if possible.

It’s okay to read the verse from the devotional guide. but if you pick up your Bible and reread the verse, you might see something else that jump-starts your spiritual thought processes, like notes in your Bible from sermons on that passage, or dates from a time when God spoke to you from that verse.

You can also read the context  – the verses before and after it, which give you a clearer picture of the setting of the verse in the devotional guide.

At times, the devotional booklet will include additional reading suggestions. If you have time you can read those passages as well for an even stronger understanding of the passage.

4. Ask the Lord to show you  something from that verse or the author’s illustration to think about for the day.

Perhaps as you read the author’s illustration, it will trigger memories of a time you felt the same way or had a similar experience.  Write that down in your journal. It may be the Lord giving you encouragement that you are not alone in your spiritual journey, or a reminder to trust Him through the day’s circumstances.

By asking God to speak to you about the scripture or illustration, you are taking a moment to connect with Him personally and asking Him to be part of your day rather than just reading about Him.  As you take time to open your heart and listen, He will speak – giving you something to take with you that will nourish and sustain you through the day.

5. Jot down a prayer generated from the devotional experience.

Whatever the Lord drops into your heart, whatever you need from Him that day, take time to write down the prayer. it may be just a few words. It may become more of a praise than a prayer. No matter what you pray for, you have taken time to speak with Him one-on-one rather than just rushing off to start your day.

Daily devotions don’t take the place of praying, reading and studying God’s word for yourself. They are what they are – brief moments spent with the Lord, kind of like the good-bye kiss I give my hubby as he goes out the door.

Devotions can become commonplace without meaning; just something we do out of habit or because we’re supposed to.  Or  they can become a glad reminder of his presence that we carry with us through the day. The more personal we make these devotional times, the more real He will be to us ,

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