Monday, August 16, 2010

Favorite devotions meme

Day 442: PreciousCheeky Pink Girl tagged me in a meme about favorite devotions. She's a conservative Catholic blogger who writes very honestly and sometimes stridently. The meme she tagged me in isn't something I would usually think of writing about myself, but she commented that she was interested to hear how a Protestant would answer the question.

So, in the light of perhaps comparing just one Protestant's devotional practices with others, I'll answer.

What are my favorite devotions?
I'm going to modify the question a little a walk you through a few devotional materials I've used over the years and my thoughts on them. My thoughts have often changed from when I first used these materials!

My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers

Oswald Chambers - My Utmost For His Highest

Ah, good 'ol Mr. Chambers. This has been huge in evangelical circles, so I asked for it in high school and used it for a few years. There's a little page of devotional thoughts for each day of the year. Like other similar devotions, it has profound moments that can be convicting and thought provoking. I still think they can be valuable, but I stopped using this type of one-page devotional when I grew so cynical about evangelical culture. At that point I didn't want to hear one man or woman's devotional thoughts - those can be so arbitrary.

Beth Moore Bible Studies
IMG_1403.JPGBible studies of various sorts are huge in the evangelical world. I have really appreciated a few of them.  When I was in high school I enjoyed the study "Experiencing God" by Blackaby, and in college I joined the floods of women doing Beth Moore Bible studies. These studies allowed me to dig deeper or perhaps get a broader perspective on the text then I would have been able to in my own limited knowledge. On the other hand, they can take a lot of time and, while being rooted in scripture, still reflect the culture of the author. Beth Moore is so girly, and so Southern, and sometimes I feel like she's from a whole different world than my mk self. I find it pretty difficult to get into these types of studies now.

Prayer Journaling and Walking
I used to be a champion journaler. I would journal daily, I would journal about everything, and I filled books. I express myself in writing and so as I talked to God I did so best through journaling prayers. In high school and college this was wonderful - I could pour out my heart and feel like I was truly communicating with God. I also used to take long walks, especially in high school but also often in college. I worship in the context of nature, and being able to pray while surrounded by the mountains, the flowers, the fresh air, the beach.... somehow I feel the presence of God and great joy when I simply walk and pray (and sometimes sing!). These days I journal less, mostly because the emotions of my teenage years have faded and I do see how narcissistic and shallow this can be if it is my own devotional practice - so focused on self and never moving outside of my own thoughts and emotions. I still think there is a great place for it, but it isn't my primary form of devotional exercise. As for walking, unfortunately Dallas isn't a great walking city. Maybe one day I'll get this back!

The Valley of Vision - Puritan Prayers
the valley of visionI have two books that I've been given over the last few years that are just prayers. The first is shown here, The Valley of Vision. It's a collection of prayers from the Puritans. Sometimes their language is quite different from what we use today, but sometimes the shock value of that is really good for me, because it really makes me think about what I'm praying. I also have A Handbook to Prayer - Praying Scripture Back to God by Kenneth Boa. This is simply scripture put into the form of prayer. I have really enjoyed using these books to guide prayer that is not my own narcissistic thoughts and words.

Ancient Christian Devotional: A Year of Weekly Readings by Thomas Oden
Reading the Church Fathers and Church liturgy is something that I've picked up since college and my disillusionment with evangelicalism. I longed for a connection with the early church, with the church throughout history, and with the church outside of my culture. This devotional is one option I have in that arena. It takes readings from the church lectionary for each week and pairs them with observations on the passages from the Fathers. Your time is begun and concluded by an ancient creed or prayer. I find some of this deeply meaningful. However, a little paragraph or two taken from the Fathers out of context doesn't necessarily offer much - I think to truly gain from them you would need to read more.

Scripture Reading
Despite all of the great and perhaps not as great resources I've listed above, I am totally a Protestant Evangelical, I suppose, because the vast majority of my devotional time past and present is spent simply reading scripture. I pick a book and walk through it. If a section really intrigues or stumps me, I pull out commentaries and read more or discuss with Isaac. If something is very powerful or applicable, I'll read it several days in a row and journal about it. I generally intersperse a Psalm or a few Proverbs whatever book I am also reading. I know reading scripture in a void can lead to misinterpretation, but that danger is minimized when you read scripture in the context of your church, your Christian community, and the church throughout history (which is why the Fathers are so valuable!). I don't always find that scripture hits me deeply, but I do love it. It guides my praise, engages my mind, challenges my life... and is new all the time, despite reading it my whole life.


Rach said...

I like this post.... It reminded me of some ways to "branch out" during devotions. My standard is Scripture reading (usually meditation on one or two chapters) and prayer/prayer journaling. Although I have had a lot of trouble being consistent lately. It's a constant battle.

I feel the same way about one page devotional guides and Beth Moore. Her studies don't really do much for me, but I have to remind myself that she (and many women like her) have blessed and continue to minister to thousands of people.

Jaimie said...

I'm glad I'm not the only one who finds Beth Moore studies distractingly girly.

Jaimie said...

... having JUST done one. But it was written by Kelly Minter (on the book of Ruth). So it was less Beth Moore.

Kacie said...

Yeah... it's like, I so appreciate her love of scripture and devotion to truth and love of Jesus. She's a great lady. But man, our cultures are WAY far apart and I am way less girly, and way less Southern, and when she drives home an emotional point that Southern women really respond to (I've seen it), I feel like I'm really listening to a conversation that I'm not a part of because I can't grasp the emotion and it's not communicating the same power to me.

Aaron E Elmore said...

I like the Valley of Vision prayer book as well, and I agree the language was a little difficult at first...but I think I am starting to get used to it.

Another great prayer book I use is Prayers for the Christian Year by William Barclay. I probably like it better than Valley. I don't follow the calendar with it, but usually read one of the prayers most mornings.

If you like Oswald, a similar daily short read it Morning by Morning by C.H. Spurgeon.

I have also integrated some ancient practices from the Orthodox and Catholic backgrounds into my Protestant theology. (Jesus Prayer, Sign of the Cross, etc.) This came after reading a great book by Tony Jones called The Sacred Way.

Thanks for sharing! AE

Aaron E Elmore said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Aaron E Elmore said...

btw...I think you meant Chambers when you said Oswald Sanders

Kacie said...

Aaron - true! Hah, I read it over a couple of times and something sounded funny but I just had Sanders stuck in my head for some reason..

Lauren said...

I admit I have several devotion books, but always end up using the same one: The One Year Bible (in NAS until my husband obsconded with it, and left the NIV in it's place, lol)
I read The Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis many years ago, and still carry several of the lessons learned. I recommend.
I loved that you mentioned The Valley of Vision. I recently purchased it, and had never heard of anyone else reading it. I find it like poety, the language is so gorgeous.
I am going to look up several of these mentioned. I read the One-Year-Bible in the morning, and would like to read a devotion in the evening. Of course, I have some by Chambers, Lewis, Spurgoen, Philips and Yancey, so it may be a while before I purchase anymore, lol. ~ L