We are getting closer and closer to the release of my first book For My Girls. For today’s post, I want to give you a little taste of what you can expect from the book. Here’s an excerpt from the chapter Sustained:
Over the years of working in college ministry, I’ve compiled a list of ways I’ve interacted with God and the Bible to share with my friends, their friends, and all of our disciples. Hopefully some of what I’ve found useful will be helpful or at least spark creativity for your own ways of interacting. Reading the Bible and having quiet time can quickly become an empty service to God when it’s so routine we hardly pay attention to what we are doing. We often find much more pleasure with God in creative approaches to our time with Him. When your Bible time feels dry, switch things up. A secret I live by is that there’s no such thing as a “dry season” with God. You have a fountain of life in you because the Holy Spirit doesn’t run out. So let’s dive in.
Contemplative Meditation: Meditation was a part of God’s desire and plan for us before it was an Eastern calming technique or pathway to enlightenment. Meditation is a discipline of attention and focus. Joshua 1:8 instructs us to meditate on the Word of God day and night. Meditation is also highly referenced and recommended throughout the Psalms. My parents introduced meditation into my Christian toolbelt when I was only seven. They had learned a method of meditation through the ministry they were a part of that I still use as a part of my regular devotions with God. We would divide the paper with two lines: one down the right side with a one-inch margin and another across the bottom of the page. We used the side margin to write down distractions and the bottom for cross-references we wanted to look at later. We would pick a single verse in the Bible and write it across the top of the page. We’d then close the Bible, remove electronics, maybe play some music in the background, and wait for God to speak as we pondered a portion of the verse on the page.
Our options in this method were to look at the Scripture and read it, write it again, sing it, say it, or pray it. It required discipline that developed over time to remain focused only on the verse at hand. I was tempted to think about what else I had to do or other aspects of God’s character instead of what was in front of me. But when I chose to engage with the piece of the Word I picked, I learned how much more of God there is to discover than I knew before. Every time I meditate, I learn something new about a verse. Some verses I have meditated on dozens of times and I still receive fresh revelation each time I come back. That’s the power of the living Word that is available to us. I strongly recommend starting this technique with an hour set apart. It may seem unbelievably long or unnecessary, but the students I mentor and friends I’ve shown who have tried it have loved it.
Creation Meditation: Creation Meditation is one method that my parents taught my siblings and I based off of Romans 1:20, which states, “For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.” In our application of the verse, we would go outside and pick something in creation—a tree, a leaf, a cloud, a river. Then we would set an amount of time to focus on that piece of nature and talk to God about it. I like to ask God questions like:
Why did you create this?
What does this reveal about your nature?
What does this reflect in my life?
Is this written anywhere in the Word?
Write down what you feel like God is saying in response to your questions. Write down your thoughts and go back over them later. Then every time you see that part of creation, you’re reminded of God. Sooner or later, wherever you look will be a souvenir of time you spent bonding with God over His creation. When I meditate on creation, I’m essentially living out Psalm 8:
“When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. You made him ruler over the works of your hands; you put everything under his feet: all flocks and herds, and the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas. O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!”
It may seem strange to look for God in nature, and it could be highly misguided if you’re not also grounding yourself in Scripture. But it’s actually just inviting God into another aspect of your life and letting Him speak.
Narrative Meditation: Narrative meditation is meditating on a passage of Scripture by inserting yourself there. Write a narrative as if you’re a person mentioned in the passage or even as if you’re yourself but in that time and place. I used this when I was doing a personal devotion time one morning before work. I had just finished reading through my chapters of Deuteronomy for the day. I wasn’t feeling much refreshment so I opened the Bible to Matthew 14 which shares the story of Jesus feeding the five thousand. The chapter starts with “After this.”
I wanted to know what event preceded Jesus feeding five thousand, so I looked at the beginning Matthew 14 which tells the story of John the Baptist’s beheading. Now we know John was a relative of Jesus. When Jesus found out about John’s death, He went to be alone with the Father. But by the time He stepped off the boat to find solitude, a crowd had gathered. He was filled with compassion and began healing. The disciples told Jesus it was time to go because people needed to eat, but Jesus worked a miracle and fed all of them. Jesus sent the disciples away and stayed a while longer before dismissing the crowd. Once they had all left, He was finally able to be alone and pray.
At dawn, He went back to the disciples and continued His ministry to them. This revelation was so timely and powerful for me because I was learning how to balance ministry while grieving after the death of a family member. I allowed myself to wonder what Jesus was feeling then. I imagine He was heartbroken, maybe angry. Anger may have risen up from the taste of death that He had come to free us from. I asked God how that must have hurt Him and how He dealt with the pain when there were so many people around Him who craved ministry from Him. It was a moment I connected with God because of something I was going through presently that He had gone through thousands of years before. I felt less alone in my attempts to follow God, being compassionate toward those around me in ministry while also embracing comfort from God myself.
I am so excited to share more of my book with you this summer! Those are just a few of a long list for how to interact with God and the Bible. I hope this encourages you to connect with God through whatever means you have around you.