I’m sure you’ve seen Facebook or Instagram photos of ideal quiet times with the Lord. A beach at sunrise. A sunny deck and a glass of lemonade. A comfy chair, throw blanket, and steaming mug of coffee. A reading plan tidily checked off.
I admit I like having a plan and a routine. And there’s nothing wrong with those kinds of inspirational photos. It’s lovely when the setting comes together beautifully with devotional time. Maybe those pictures document the settings specifically because they are so rare.
But I think sometimes we set ourselves up for failure because we don’t reach that ideal. When we struggle to stay awake, when we can’t find a quiet minute in the day, when the kids clamor for attention any time we sit down, when we hit the ground running with meetings all day and our attention span is shredded at night … what then? We often give up on our quiet time because it won’t look like we think it shoud.
But Bible reading isn’t just a nice thing to do when we can fit it in, when we can do all the things we think a quiet time requires. It’s vital to our walk with God. It’s our spiritual nourishment. We have our flesh and an enemy of our souls to fight against.
I’ve written before about finding time for Bible reading, so I won’t go into all that here. I just want to encourage you that real life devotions won’t always look ideal. God can speak to my heart in my comfy chair with a half hour set aside. But He can also speak through His Word (and has) when I am tired, rushed, ill, nursing a baby, traveling, or only have a few scattered minutes through the day.
With that in mind, I started a hashtag on Instragram and Twitter for #reallifedevotions. The idea was to show what real Bible reading time “in the trenches” was like.
Here’s my usual spot:
I used to be the comfy couch and throw blanket person, but then I too easily dozed off. So I moved here. My desk is cluttered, my inbox is stuffed, there’s a sprinkling of dust. My drawer is hanging open for easy access to pens, pencils, and sticky tabs. I do believe in dusting and straightening. 🙂 But if I waited to get everything else done before I read my Bible, well, I’d never get to it.
This is my second real life devotions photo:
I used to journal quite a bit, but then it seemed like I was spending more time writing my thoughts rather than reading God’s. For years I didn’t write anything. I guess some of my blog posts are processing what I have read. But lately I’ve started almost a bullet journal, just jotting down a summary, sometimes just a sentence. Sometimes I’ll write more if I need to process something. I look back at what I have written at the end of my quite time for that day, but rarely after that. (DL stands for Daily Light on the Daily Path, a devotional book I first discovered in missionary biographies and have read for years.)
With my mix of printing and cursive, I don’t know if others could even read my notes. (My handwriting has never been good, and trying to take notes in college lecture classes made it worse.) But they’re not meant for others to read. These aren’t the literary quality of The Journals of Jim Elliot or David Brainerd’s diary.
Nor are my journal entries decorative. I love to see what artistic people do with their devotional jottings, like Karla Dornacher. They can probably whip up beautiful art in journals or Bible margins in no time. I know for many, this is a way to meditate on God’s Word. But for me, trying to be artistic would be a distraction, a frustration, and one more thing to do. Their way works for them; my way works for me.
All of that to say, don’t feel like you have to have a beautiful, artistic, calligraphic journal with a pretty cover to jot down notes from your Bible reading time. You don’t even have to write anything down at all. If you do, great! If it’s lovely, wonderful! But if it’s merely functional, a way to remember or think through what you’ve read, that’s fine, no matter what it looks like.
This third photo is staged because this has not been my practice. It’s in memory of a neighbor from decades ago who had three little stairstep children in a row, all under the age of five. Her washing machine was in her kitchen, and she left her Bible on top of it to get a few minutes reading in as she could.
As I wrote in Encouragement for Mothers of Small Children, the time when my children were little was the most challenging to try to carve out any quiet time, much less to read the Bible in a coherent manner. Yet I suffered spiritually when I didn’t read. It’s important to both read and study the Bible, but some seasons, it’s hard to do either. When I truly only had a few moments, God met with me and fed my soul in that time.
Moses met with God on a mountain. Daniel met with God in captivity. David met with God in pasture while shepherding, in a cave while hiding from enemies, and in a palace. Jonah met with God in the belly of a whale. We can meet with God any time, anywhere.
How about you? What does your real life devotional time look like? How has it changed through the different seasons of life? What was your most unusual devotional setting?
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I am like you. My writing is messy, my artwork is not so “journal ready.” However, my thoughts and my heart are mostly in pretty good shape. God, mostly comes to me at the washing machine kinds of places….when I may not be expecting it. I think it helps me to be open to his word at all times. And, it shows the children in a home that God shouldn’t be a only a special place or a special time but we should be worshiping him at all times and in all places.
I love that aspect of showing our children an ordinary walking with God through everyday moments. It’s good to get away alone with God sometimes, as Jesus did with His Father. But we shouldn’t compartmentalization our time with God into our devotional time and not interact with Him the rest of the day.
Like you, my devotional time has changed both in routine and location. This morning it was had under a blanket on our couch as I was so cold. I am very grateful that no matter the changes it has taken, one thing remains the same – He meets with me morning after morning, faithfully, and He has never changed. Blessings to you, Barbara!
Amen, Joanne. As long as that remains the same, nothing else really matters.
Hmmmm …. mine is not all that interesting. Reading often occurs at night lying in bed before I go to sleep. I often walk by my nightstand sometime during the day and pick up/read my short devotional book’s devotion for the day. Prayer occurs all throughout the day, and especially at night when I wake up or before I wake up/just after waking up in the a.m. before the alarm goes off 🙂
Sounds perfect! That’s often how my praying occurs, too.
I would label my study area as “controlled messy.” 🙂 I can’t think well in a cluttered space, so I have to keep it somewhat organized. But I have too much on my desk to call it totally clean. It’s on my to-do list to straighten it up this week.
That would best describe my desk, too. If’s it’s too cluttered, I am distracted and can’t think. The books I’ve just read and reviewed tend to stack up there for a while til I figure out what to do with them. 🙂 But clearing my desk is on my to-do list this week, too.
I am a dining room table person. I like to spread out my (messy) journal and my Bible along with any other books I’m using, and all the soft pillows and comfy blankets just get in my way. And since I have to sweep all that stuff out of the way in order to use the dining room table for its (ahem) intended purpose, it all goes into the laundry room. 🙂
I begin my day with the Word typically….not always first thing but typically after my shower (on a work day) or after i’ve poured a cup of coffee. I tend to sit in my family room if no else is up because that’s where the morning sun is and I love reading my BIble in the sun.
I’ve been known to sit on the beach with my BIble (in the mountains where we rent a cottage for summer vacations or when we used to camp). I guess that’s kind of unusual. I also used to read it while nursing my girls when they were infants. I rarely read it before bed as I don’t retain the information. Unless it’s a Psalm to quiet my heart. I tend to read God’s word in the early morning and again for deeper study in the late afternoon after work. on the weekends I tend to read it in the quiet of the morning. but i have no one set place. Sometimes it’s in the family room, other times in my bed after bringing my coffee back to bed, sometimes on the deck, sometimes in the dining room……and I’m a huge journal-er but it’s more like bullets of what God is whispering to me. 🙂
I do best with a stack of books, lots of pens, and my Bible. My journal is somewhere in the stack and even though it gets written in almost daily, it is a scattering of thoughts that God lays on my heart. It is a way for me to process what He is teaching me. Thank you for sharing your “real” devotional time.
I loved this post, Barbara! It’s so true we get our expectations up when we plan to spend BIG moments with God. Most of the time, it doesn’t work out that way. The best times are usually unexpected. They catch us off guard. They are astonishing! I am reading a new (to me) version of the Bible right now. I’m just in Exodus. I haven’t been journaling but maybe I will start. I think your idea of writing down just a sentence or two can really cement the lessons into my brain. Thanks for the wonderful recommendations.
This is so encouraging because it’s so easy to put off till another day, this very vital practice of feeding daily on the Word. Sometimes, I tell myself, “Even if it’s just a verse….” Thanks for sharing. Many blessings to you!
I spend a good amount of time delving into His word since we retired. I am writing on the spiritual disciplines on my blog as well. If you want to guest write sometime, I would love to have you. https://www.mandyandmichele.com/meditation-why-why-how/
Thanks so much, Mandy!
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God was speaking to me this morning about just this topic. My quiet time doesn’t need to be complicated or take hours. I just need to make space and time for Him and let Him fill that space with His words. Thanks for the confirmation! It’s always great finding you in the Grace and Truth link up!
Barbara, What a great post. I loved reading about your time. I think I might incorporate notes. I tend to lean heavily on the reading and less on listening and talking to God during my devotional time. I am striving to hit a balance. I want to incorporate verse writing into it.
But what I think is most important is doing what works of each individual.
My most unusual time was when I read through the bible while drying my hair.
Being thankful even in the darkest hour, accepting life’s challenges and searching for love and peace in the everyday makes me feel closer to God. Thanks for linking up with #globalblogging
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