Don’t Let Commentaries Slow Your Christian Writing

When I teach Christian writing classes, I emphasize the importance of Bible study. Christian writers have an incredible privilege of inspiring and encouraging readers to draw closer to God and to dig deeper into His Word. That means writers need to know the Bible and have a solid foundation for presenting scripture in their writing.

This doesn’t mean a devotional writer needs to be a scholar of biblical texts. But there are some basics that anyone writing about scripture needs to practice. One of these is the use of reliable biblical commentaries.

When I mention commentaries, a creative writer may sigh and think, There goes the inspiration or There goes the fun or even There goes the Holy Spirit. I get it. I often have the same response. But learning how to use reliable commentaries in minimal ways is important for Christian writers. And the use of commentaries does not need to slow or make tedious our inspirational writing.

I am creating this article as an encouragement to Christian inspirational writers on the importance of using commentaries and some simple and interesting ways to do so.

Why Should We Use Commentaries in Our Christian Writing?

As Christian writers, we need to look at reliable commentaries. Through our writing, we are expressing our voice in Christian community. We need to converse with others in the community over time and space. That need to engage in dialogue is also why we check more than one commentary and see where we find overlap, consensus, or disagreement. I recommend always consulting at least two commentaries to enhance our understanding of a particular Bible passage.

In our writing, we are pointing our readers to God’s Word. We need to understand the weight of doing that. We want to be sure we are presenting scripture in a way that reflects our own dialogue with Christian community, so we are presenting to the reader as a representative of that community. We’re all in this together.

We need to take some effort to grow in our understanding of scripture over the course of our writing lives. The Holy Spirit leads us as we search the depths of scripture. Commentaries offer a good aid along the way.

Our own wounding can cause us to skew the way we understand a Bible verse. Commentaries can help us sort it through and see more clearly.

The enemy loves to mess with Christian writers, telling us one or more of the following: our understanding of scripture is wrong or not good enough; we don’t have the biblical foundation to write about scripture; or we’re going to lead readers astray. The enemy wants to stop us from writing because he knows how powerfully God will use our writing. By consulting reliable commentaries, we will be able to discern and dismiss the lies of the enemy.

When we love scripture, as most Christian writers do, a good, trustworthy commentary can also provide insights that deepen our understanding of a Bible passage. That experience is something to treasure and appreciate. Good commentaries should add joy to the inspirational process of our Christian writing.

Some Tips for Using Commentaries with Ease

Consider your use of commentaries as part of your ongoing long-term biblical growth as a writer. Don’t let it slow your writing. Let your exploration of God’s Word (a lifelong process for all of us) continue to shape your writing as you go along. Start with where you are right now. Take it as God leads. He will guide you for sure!

1. When you start working with a Bible verse, don’t go to the commentaries right away. Begin with your own prayerful work with the Holy Spirit. Don’t consult commentaries until after you have done your own study of the Bible verse and surrounding passages. You want God to work the scriptures into your heart first. Then use the commentaries for confirmation and to shed light on additional layers to explore later.

2. Find your go-to source of commentaries now, so it doesn’t become a big deal each time. It is worth the up-front investment of time to line up the commentaries you will use as a writer. Start with your church. Does your church have a library? Ask your pastor for suggestions on how to find good, reliable commentaries. (Sadly, not all commentaries are trustworthy, so seek advice from your pastor.)

Do you have a college nearby with online databases? Many local colleges give free public access to databases, and many of those databases contain biblical commentaries. Some school library databases also have free online access to full-text articles that may focus on particular biblical passages. You can often search by chapter and verse. I recommend peer-reviewed articles as the most reliable. Talk to your local college reference librarian for help. They will be glad you’ve asked.

Commentaries can be expensive to buy, but keep your eyes on your favorite publishers. Sometimes they run sales on commentaries, and you will often find good discounts on e-book versions. If you enjoy working with a particular book of the Bible, it might be worth it to buy a good commentary focusing on that book.

Do you have fellow Christian writers in your church or community? Maybe create your own co-op for commentaries. Each person buys one, and then you share with each other.

If you invest the time up front to find good sources of commentaries, you will save time down the road when you are ready to consult those commentaries. You will know exactly where to go each time.

3. Start with Bible verses you know well. One of the best ways to get your feet wet with using commentaries is to start with Bible verses you already know. When you know the meaning of a verse really well, the use of a commentary won’t bring a huge learning curve. It will simply confirm what you already know. That’s one of the easiest ways to get used to looking at commentaries.

A commentary brings you into dialogue with Christian community regarding the interpretation of a Bible verse. For some of the more commonly referenced Bible verses, you have already lived out that dialogue in Christian community. You know the interpretation of that verse and can be confident of how you are sharing it with your readers.

When I chose the Bible verse for my devotional, “Firelight,” I was very certain the core message in my devotional expressed at least part of the meaning of that verse. Why? Because I’ve heard that verse taught, preached, sung, and lived out over my entire life. I had already experienced conversation about the verse in Christian community.

So, start with Bible verses you have heard taught and discussed many times. Verses you know well. Then see how the commentaries reaffirm what you already know. That’s a great way to get used to using commentaries.

4. Start by reading just a few paragraphs from a commentary. For devotional writing and many other inspirational writing projects, you will most likely focus on one Bible verse at a time. You don’t need to read a huge portion of a commentary, just the part that covers your verse. You can read more, of course, but don’t let that cause you to put your writing project on hold. Take baby steps and grow from there. Take a quick peek at the commentaries and keep writing.

5. When you start out, you will notice how much the commentary agrees with your own understanding of your Bible verse. That shouldn’t surprise you because you know God’s Word. That’s really all you need to do: just confirm your understanding of that verse with reliable sources. It’s great if you want to explore further and discover where the commentary offers new insights. If you have a really good commentary, you may find that enjoyable. But you don’t need to do that at the start. Simply confirm: “Yep. We agree!”

6. Remember Bible verses will often have layers and nuances of meaning. If you are writing devotionals, your message will be very focused. You will just be looking at one aspect of the Bible verse you are writing about. You can skim the commentary, looking for your particular focus, and skip all the other aspects the commentary covers. That way you won’t get overwhelmed by all the layers of meaning.

When you are starting out as a Christian inspirational writer, keep it simple. Take one step, then another. With each step, you will move more deeply into your journey of Christian writing. Before long, commentaries will become a simple and natural part of prayerful preparation for your writing.

 

Devotional Writing: Two Ways to Begin

This lesson is taken from my online course, “Let’s Write a Devotional.”

While a classic-style devotional begins with a Bible verse and is followed by a reflection (sometimes called a meditation, or story), that may not be the order in which the inspiration comes to you.

Sometimes you will start with the Bible verse, and then you will ask God to help you write a reflection that relates to the verse.

At other times, you will start the other way around – you will know the story, the object lesson, or the testimony first, and then you will ask God to lead you to the scripture verse which that story expresses.

Notice I said that the story expresses the scripture verse, and not the other way around. It is tempting to make the scripture verse fit the story, but that’s not what you want to offer to your readers. Whether the Bible verse or the story comes to you first, you want your readers to begin with scripture. The story should help your readers see the scripture verse at work in daily life. So, even if you get the story first, and then you find a scripture verse to go with it, be sure you are using a scripture verse for which that story is a natural expression – as if it had come to you the other way around.

For example, if I am writing a story about hope, I want to be sure the scripture verse is about hope. If my reflection or testimony is about healing, I want to be sure the Bible verse I use speaks a message of healing that sheds light on my story. A common mistake is to write the story, quickly grab a Bible verse that “sounds like” the story, and put them together. Take the prayerful time you need to find the right verse. If God gave you the story, He will give you the verse.

This is where it helps to dig deep with the Holy Spirit into your study of the Bible. Be sure you know the verses you are using and what they mean. Spend regular time in the Word. Let the Spirit lead you. Look at each Bible verse in the full context of the surrounding passage.

Make Spirit-led Bible study a spiritual practice – not just when you are preparing a devotional. The more you meet God in His Word, the more that understanding will come to you as you write. Even when you gain a deeper understanding of the Word, always stay humble and be open to God’s instruction and leading. This process is as much for your spiritual growth and your relationship with God as it is for your readers. God will use it for both, if you let Him.

Activity:

Begin with prayer and ask God to lead you in this process. Choose a Bible verse. Read the verse several times, meditating and praying over the verse. Then read the surrounding passage. Ask God to help you see how that verse connects with the larger context of the whole passage. The process of lectio divina is very helpful here. If you are not familiar with lectio divina, you might enjoy learning about it. This is a common way of scripture meditation practiced at monasteries.

After you understand the verse in its own original context (as those who heard it for the first time would have heard it), then pray about what that verse means to you today. Write down whatever God shows you – it might be emotions, a story you have experienced, ideas, specific problems people struggle with, or even a different Bible passage. Don’t edit yourself. Just makes notes in your journal – whatever comes to you. Don’t leave anything out.

That is the depth of immersing yourself in the Word that you will want to bring to every scripture verse in your devotionals. It takes time, but it is worth the effort, and God will use that time to work in your heart as well. Get in the habit of doing this every time you write a devotional, whether you begin with scripture or come to the Bible verse after you have the story. The time with God will affect your life in so many ways beyond the devotional you are working on.

At the end of this time, if the Bible verse turns out not to be the right one for your devotional, that is okay. You had an amazing time with God. You were shaped by His Word. And you have still come away with journal notes that might lead to other devotionals in the future. Keep those references in your journal. You never know when God will prompt you to use them down the road.

God, thank You for every moment we get to spend with You in Your Word. What a life-changing privilege every time. In Jesus’ name. Amen

*****

If you would like to learn more about devotional writing and take a guided, self-paced, online course where you will write a devotional and receive feedback from your instructor, you might enjoy my online course, “Let’s Write a Devotional.” Come visit the course page, and you can get started with devotional writing today.

Read as a Writer: A Lesson for Devotional Writers

This lesson is taken from my online course, “Let’s Write a Devotional.”

In this lesson, we are going to read several devotionals. Hopefully, this reading will be enjoyable for you. The more you enjoy devotional reading, the more that joy will come through in your devotional writing. And the more devotionals you read, the easier it will be when it comes to writing your own.

As you read the devotionals in this lesson, I want you to read specifically as a writer. This lesson will take some time, but it is well worth the effort. You are setting a foundation that will help you greatly when you begin to write your own devotionals. Enjoy this time, move slowly through this process, and make the most of it. This is all time spent with God. Be blessed.

Finding Devotionals to Read

You might have a favorite source of devotionals. If so, you can go ahead and turn to that now. If you don’t have devotionals on hand, here are several places where you can find them:

The Upper Room publishes devotional booklets, and they also publish some of their devotionals online. If you visit their website at https://www.upperroom.org/devotionals you can immediately read some of their devotionals.

The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association publishes daily devotionals online in calendar format, which is very user-friendly. If you visit this website https://billygraham.org/devotions/ you can read today’s devotional or any devotional titles that grab your attention.

My own website Adventures with God is a place where you can read some of the devotionals I have written. Here is a link to the “devotional” category on my blog – this will bring up a list of devotionals you can scroll through: https://adventureswithgod.blog/category/devotionals/

These are just a few sources of free online devotionals to get you started. You will discover many more as you grow as a devotional writer.

Reading Devotionals as a Writer

First, pick three devotionals to read. Here’s what you will do with each devotional, one at a time:

1. Read it first, straight through, prayerfully, as a reader. Do this just to get the context and understanding.

2. Now, re-read it, and this time, read it as a writer.

What does that mean?

Try to see what choices and decisions the writer made in creating this devotional. Put yourself in the writer’s place and think about why certain words are used, and why certain stories are shared.

As you go through each devotional, reading as a writer, I recommend capturing your reflections and making notes in your journal. This will help you later on, when you get ready to write your own devotional.

The steps that follow will help you in learning to read devotionals as a writer. Be sure, most of all, to pray and let the Holy Spirit lead you in this process.

3. As a writer, look at the devotional’s message.

Think about what the person who wrote this devotional is trying to get across. What is the main message? How does the writer share this message? Does the writer share a story, a teaching, or a personal reflection?

Can you tell if the message is important to the writer? What are some clues to this? Does the writer use certain words that show how much the writer cares about the message?

Do you feel like the writer cares about you, the reader? What makes you feel that way? Be as specific as possible – is it certain words, a feeling you get, the way the message is written?

4. As a writer, consider how the devotional affects you, and why.

What impact does this devotional have on you? Does it make you want to read the Bible more? Pray? Serve? What specific response do you have after reading this devotional?

Now get even more specific: What did the writer do to encourage these responses? What part of this devotional makes you want to pray, read the Bible, or help someone else?

5. Read the entire Bible passage.

Let’s go a little deeper. In your Bible, look up the Bible verse that begins this devotional.

Note: You can use a printed or electronic Bible. As a devotional writer, you may discover that using your own physical Bible will help you connect more deeply with the Holy Spirit in your writing. However, I understand that sometimes writers do well when they are out in nature or in different settings. You might not be able to bring a physical Bible with you. A Bible app on your phone is still God’s Word. Do what works best for you. What is most important is that you connect with God in His Word as you read and write devotionals.

Now that you’ve looked up the Bible verse that leads off the devotional, read the entire passage that surrounds this verse. The whole passage might include what comes before the verse, after it, or both. You decide how much to read, but be sure to read everything that is relevant to that verse.

How does the devotional message connect with that entire passage? Are there other lessons in the passage? Would they also make for good devotionals?

Why do you think the writer shared this particular verse, and this particular lesson? What lesson might you have shared about this passage?

Take your time with this process. Spend your time prayerfully with God. Enjoy it. Make the most out of it, and don’t rush through it. By taking your time with this exercise, you are building a strong foundation for yourself as a devotional writer.

When you have finished going through the first devotional with the eyes of a writer, move on to the next one. I recommend you go through this process with three devotionals before completing this lesson. It takes time, and effort, but it will be well worth it when you begin planning and writing your own devotionals.

For Reflection: Do you have any insights you want to include in your journal for your future reference? Anything you’ve experienced through this process that might help you when you start writing your devotionals? Write those notes while they are fresh in your heart, and they will serve you well later on.

God, thank You for the privilege of helping us read devotionals with the eyes and heart of a writer. We are grateful to enjoy this time with You. In Jesus’ name. Amen

*****

If you would like to learn more about devotional writing and take a guided, self-paced, online course where you will write a devotional and receive feedback from your instructor, you might enjoy my online course, “Let’s Write a Devotional.” Come visit the course page, and you can get started with devotional writing today.

A Child Is Born

I was delighted to run across a meditation I wrote five years ago. I wanted to create a collection of seasonal meditations and managed to write a few before life took me on another writing path.

The writer’s life can be that way, and that’s okay. As long as we are following God, we are moving forward, but the path can meander. God has amazing treasures in store for us on each trail. It’s most important to be present and take in whatever is in front of us in each season.

Whether I will go back and continue writing these meditations in this new season, I don’t know yet. Right now, I’m just enjoying having unearthed them.

These meditations start out in a way similar to devotionals, but with some added steps. Kind of like guided devotionals with a response and an activity, so readers can be not only inspired but also can dig in a little, get some dirt under their fingernails while they experience God’s presence in their midst.

I’m always interested in ways to create deeper studies and experiences that build on the basic idea of a devotional. As writers, we have so much creativity available to write in ways that encourage people to interact with God in His Word. I hope this devotional meditation for the Christmas season will help you reflect on creative ideas for your writing. Be blessed!

Winter Meditation

A Child is Born

Scripture

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, upon them a light has shined. Isaiah 9:2 (NKJV)

Reflection

I love when the warmth of Christmas meets the cold winter landscape. I didn’t grow up in a cold climate, like the one where I live now. But there was still something about the warmth of Christmas … the light shining in the darkness. Something that welcomed every heart to respond with joy: our Savior is born!

Over the years, that message has never failed to move me. Through every Christmas Eve service of the nearly five decades of my life to date, I have felt the warmth of the presence of Jesus in a way so sweet it makes my heart weep.

This year, the Christmas message was sweeter than ever as it poured its warmth and love into an aching heart. I’ve experienced so many losses over the years, and Christmas is when the remembrance of all of them comes bubbling to the surface.

As I prepared for our Christmas Eve services this year, I had a revelation. God reminded me that despite all the lost relationships in my life, I never lost the one He offers. I confess there have been times when that offering hasn’t satisfied the pain in my heart. There is a season of grief and it is vital for healing. God knows that. But there are times when I chose to carry my sadness of loss much longer than I needed to. I wanted to hold onto my sense of injustice for all that those losses had taken from my life. I refused to exchange that pain for the comfort, healing, and peace He offers.

This Christmas Eve, I decided to let go of my pain. There are losses I will still grieve, as memories surface. But I choose to come out of agreement with a spirit of heaviness that has spent too many Christmas Eves, and all the days in between, in my heart. My heart belongs to God. I choose to let Him come in and dispel my sadness and my sense of injustice and of a life “incomplete.” He is my justice, my wholeness, my joy, and my peace.

As I watched the children of our church family put on a Christmas Eve pageant that included a live baby Jesus, and listened to the words of a song that asked if my Lord Jesus knew, from the first moment He opened his infant eyes, that He would be my Savior, I wept. These were not tears of grief, pain, or loss. They were tears of joy, that this tiny infant’s love for me was greater than all my losses. The life I have in Him is so filled with love and peace that I have yet to fully receive.

I choose to lay down my sadness, to step away from the bleak landscape I’ve inhabited in my thoughts and emotions, and receive the warmth of Christ’s love into my whole heart. Thank You, God, for the warmth of Christmas.

Prayer

Lord Jesus, thank You for coming into our lives – to save us, to lead us, to transform us, to redeem us. Thank You that Your love is stronger than death, stronger than loss, stronger than all the things the enemy throws at us. Thank You, Lord, that You know You’re our Savior, and that it is Your greatest desire that we receive that good news in every part of our hearts. Thank You for bringing the warmth of Your love into our lives. We love You! It’s in Your precious name we pray. Amen

Thoughts

Are there parts of your heart where you haven’t yet received the warmth and fullness of Christ’s love? Will you invite Him to show you what stands in the way … and to help you lay down those things at the Cross, so He can enter into those parts of your heart that you’ve kept locked away?

Is there a loss in your life – a loss of any kind – that you still struggle with? If so, talk to Jesus about that right now. Ask Him to help you find healing and peace through His presence in your heart.

Do you know the difference between healthy, healing grief, and an unhealthy spirit of heaviness, sadness, and despair? Ask the Lord to show you the difference. If you are grieving a loss, ask Him to help you grieve in a way that is healing, and to lift your despair.

Activity

Take a walk or drive to look at Christmas lights. If you drive, if at all possible stop and park your car, so you can spend some time looking and reflecting on the warmth of the Christmas lights. Ask the Lord to join you. Reflect on how those beautiful lights demonstrate the way His light shines into your heart.

Close-Up

For the next five minutes, sit quietly and invite the Lord to sit with you. Do nothing; say nothing. Simply enjoy His presence.

Journal

In a journal or notebook, share your thoughts in a letter to God about what it means to let the warmth of His love fill your heart. Listen for His response and write what you hear.

God’s Invitation to You

Do you know how precious you are to Me? Do you know the depths of My love for you? Do you feel My love in those parts of your heart that have been hurt? Will you allow Me to come in and bring peace?

Your Response to God

God, thank You for loving me with Your whole heart. Help me to give my whole heart to You. Sometimes the thought of opening my whole heart scares me, or feels overwhelming, or seems too much to ask of You. But I want that. I want a heart that is full to overflowing with Your love. God, forgive me for [tell God what you would like forgiveness for, and know that He will forgive you]. God, thank You for [tell God the things you’re thankful for today]. God, I need You. Please help me with [tell God how you would like for Him to work in your heart and life today]. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Sensing God’s Presence

Where do you sense God’s presence?

I sense God’s presence in the scent of the Christmas tree that He lovingly raised in a pine forest and filled with His presence just for me.

I sense God’s presence in the warm smells that come from a Christmas kitchen and in the memories of childhood Christmas meals with family and friends.

I sense God’s presence in the beautiful face of a baby that reminds me of the infant Jesus, and in the sweet chorus of children’s voices as they proclaim His holy birth.

Share with God some examples of where you sense His presence.

God bless you. He loves you so much.

If you enjoyed this meditation, you might like to read two of my spring season meditations:

First Planting – available to read on my blog.

Blanket in the Shade – this link will take you to Reflections Christian Online Magazine, where you can read this spring meditation online.

Advent Is a Great Time for Writing Devotionals

The Advent season will be here soon. A wonderful way to celebrate is by writing devotionals. There are so many creative possibilities to explore. You can write Advent devotionals personally, as a family, or as a church.

Personal Devotionals

Advent is a great season for writing creatively and for reflecting on scripture in your writing. You might enjoy writing your own personal devotionals.

You can take a scripture verse and write a devotional for each week of Advent. If you feel like really digging in, you can write a devotional every day. When the season is over, put your devotionals together as a collection and save them to read each day of Advent next year.

You can also write devotionals as Christmas gifts. Pray for a Bible verse that is meaningful to a family member or friend. Then write a devotional with that person in mind. Give it as a gift. You can also write a devotional as a prayer or blessing for their new year.

Family Devotionals

Writing devotionals together as a family can be a wonderful way to celebrate the Advent season.

On one Sunday of Advent, you can spend family time together writing a devotional. Think about which Bible verse you’d like to share with each other and what story you want to tell to illustrate that verse.

Or maybe take each Sunday to work on one part of a devotional that will be ready by Christmas. Then you can read and pray through the finished devotional together on Christmas Day.

To create your family devotionals, you can choose a scripture verse and decide on a theme. Have each person write a paragraph or even a sentence, then piece those together like a beautiful quilt. You can even write the words on pieces of colored paper and glue them on construction paper – and maybe add some artwork.

Or your family can all pitch in with their thoughts, and you can write them down and weave them into a devotional message.

You can also divide up the parts – one person chooses the scripture verse, another person (or two!) tells the story, another writes the prayer, and someone else chooses the closing thought for the day.

Whichever way you choose to write your family devotional, the important thing is to spend time together, reflecting on what it means to each of you that Christ is born.

Church Devotionals

I enjoyed many years of editing church devotional collections. Each year, I offered a workshop to help people learn devotional writing. Then we would choose our theme and scripture verses. Each person at the workshop would write a devotional – sometimes they would take it home to work on it, but they would start it that day at the workshop and we helped each other.

If other individuals or families wanted to write but couldn’t attend the workshop, I would email them a devotional writing guide, let them know what the theme was, and assign them a scripture verse.

Usually we would have an overall Advent theme, and then a more specific theme for each week of the season. We had enough writers that we wrote a devotional for every day of Advent. But if that’s too many, it would be a blessing to write a devotional for every Sunday in Advent.

Then we would create a PDF file and upload it to the church website. We would also print a few booklets for shut-ins and people who didn’t have internet.

When you are preparing a devotional collection for your congregation to use, it’s important to have pastoral oversight and guidance. Sometimes a devotional writer might inadvertently take liberties with scripture. Your pastor can help you find a loving way to edit the message so it lines up with God’s Word.

The devotional for Christmas Day needs to have a joyful impact. Sometimes the pastor might want to write this one. Or whoever writes it, be sure Joy is the theme and that it really takes readers through a celebration of Jesus’ birth.

Wishing you and your family a very creative and blessed Advent season!

 

Devotional Writing Basics

I love writing devotionals. They are a wonderful way to stay focused on scripture in your writing. Devotionals are a powerful way to reflect on what God is doing in your life. They offer a testimony to your daily encounters with God.

Devotionals also make it easy to share those experiences with others. Sometimes when I want to share a discovery, I will write a devotional about it and send it to friends who I think would appreciate it. I’ve also written devotionals to capture experiences my friends and I have shared. I publish the devotional on my blog and then send them a link as a remembrance of that moment.

How to Write Devotionals

As a writer, you will find that writing devotionals is a good way to grow in your writing skills. Devotionals can also help you plug in as a writer – at your church, in an online magazine, at a prayer group, or on your blog.

I have taught many workshops on devotional writing – to writers and to church members who have never written a printed piece before. Now I offer a self-paced online course: Let’s Write a Devotional that will help you get started in devotional writing.

6-Day Devotional Studies

Years ago, I began writing devotional material for small group ministries and retreats. I designed a 6-day devotional study format that I taught to the writers in my online workshop. I also wrote several of these studies and really enjoyed the process.

A 6-day devotional study helps the reader focus on a theme for the week. Morning, noon, and evening devotionals, each day for 6 days, take the reader on a journey through that theme. The devotionals build on each other and are followed by reflection and study questions. These can be used individually, as a family, or as a small group.

A similar concept can be used for a retreat, with 3 days of morning, noon, and evening devotionals focused on the retreat theme. If you know a retreat leader, this might be a great way for you to participate as a writer.

If you would like to get a sense of what 6-day devotional studies are like, here are two studies I wrote many years ago. You are welcome to download and read them:

Moments-with-Jesus-Janet-Eriksson

Kingdom-Home-Janet-Eriksson

You’ll notice in the Kingdom Home devotional study that the font changes color in different sections of the study. This was a way to enhance the reader’s experience by representing the kingdom in increasing clarity.

No matter what kind of writing you enjoy, I encourage you to try writing some devotionals.  They are a wonderful way to spend writing time with God.

First Planting

Spring Meditation

Bible Verse

“Through the LORD’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22-23)

Reflection

I had come through the hardest trial of my life. Uprooted overnight, I watched the New York City skyline fade in the rearview mirror. Hours later I arrived in north Georgia. I was scared to put down roots. The echoes of trauma and abuse kept me awake at night.

Then a friend coaxed me on a journey to the garden department of Home Depot. A sea of color, fragrance, and shapes stretched before me. It was a gift I had not known since I was a child: a chance to wander and breathe in the goodness of spring, and to smile with delight.

Such joy bubbled up inside me later that afternoon, as I ran my fingers through the warm dirt, as I gently, lovingly placed my new garden family in a variety of pots. Hostas, vine tomatoes, and a little clump of border greens that I put in its own pot, just because it said, “Life” to me. The first planting of spring. The first planting of my new life.

Prayer

God, thank You that the first planting of spring reminds us that Your mercies are new every morning, and that new life awaits us on the other side of trial – here on earth and in our eternity with You. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Thoughts

Has God recently shown you that His mercies are new every morning? How has He shown this to you?

What does the first planting of spring mean to you?

Do you have a favorite spring flower? What is it? Why do you love it?

Activity

Go to a garden center or to your own backyard and look for a flower you have never noticed before. Look closely. Do you see God in that flower? What can you learn about God from that flower?

Close-Up

There is nothing quite like the feel of potting soil between your fingers. The soft earth, rich in nutrients, the promise of new life. How wonderful for each plant to take hold, to dig deep, to draw water and sunlight, to spread its green stems and leaves, and to blossom into the beauty God created it to be.

Journal

In a journal or notebook, share your thoughts in a letter to God about what the first planting of spring means to you. Listen for His response and write what you hear.

God’s Invitation to You

God’s message to you: Do you know that My mercies are new for you each morning? Every day when you wake up, and all day long, you can receive from Me all that I have in store for you. Will you open your heart to receive the fullness of each moment with Me?

Your Response to God

God, thank You that Your mercies are new every morning. Please help me open my heart to receive from You. God, forgive me for [tell God what you would like forgiveness for, and know that He will forgive you]. God, thank You for [tell God the things you’re thankful for today]. In Jesus’ name. God, I need You. Please help me with [tell God how you would like for Him to work in your heart and life today]. Amen

Sensing God’s Presence

Where do you sense God’s presence in the first planting of spring?

I sense God’s presence in the earthworms He created to enrich the soil.

I sense God’s presence in the invisible nutrients that cause plants to grow.

I sense God’s presence in the riot of color in the garden shop at Home Depot.

Share with God some examples of where you sense His presence in the first planting of spring.

If you enjoyed this meditation, you might like to read two of my other seasonal meditations:

A Child is Born – available to read on my blog.

Blanket in the Shade – this link will take you to Reflections Christian Online Magazine, where you can read this spring meditation online.