We have a huge selection of daily devotions, for youth or adults, mystics or Reformers, saints or sinners, written by all sorts of folks, for all sorts of folks. You can see a list I did for entering into the rhythms of daily prayer and using a devotional resource here or here, or here.
Just for fun, here at the cusp of a new year, I thought I’d name a few that are pretty new, and that might be just right for you or someone to whom you want to give a gift.
Flunking Sainthood Every Day: A Daily Devotional for the Rest of Us
edited and compiled by Jana Riess (Paraclete Press) $23.99 You may recall (we hope you do) Riess’s hilarious memoir of trying to work through spiritual classics called Flunking Sainthood;
it is a refreshing and honest story of what she did (or didn’t!) get out of reading often-recommended, sometimes obtuse, spiritual classics. It really resonated with so many of us who wanted a light-hearted study of books by St. John of the Cross, Catherine of Sienna, Theresa, and those who right about centered prayer and keeping sabbath and the like. Now, she has given us “a daily devotional for the rest of us” and it has great quotes, blurbs, citations, offered one on a page along with her own prayers and proposals for how to apply this stuff into an ordinary life. Marjorie Thompson says it is “refreshingly realistic about our human imperfections and heartily confident of grace.”
I like Lilian Daniel’s quote,
Relax, spiritual slackers. Somebody else has done all the reading. Now you have a book of poetic inspirations, Bible verses, current bestsellers and ancient thinkers, one for each day. Skip a day? No guilt. Don’t understand? You’ll catch up….
Longing for More: Daily Reflections on Finding God in the Rhythms of Life Timothy Willard (Bethany) $16.99 First, I love Tim Willard. He co-wrote Veneer and proved himself a potent storyteller, with a keen eye of the holy in the mundane. Not only has he been in an indie rock band, he served for years for the Praxis Nonprofit Accelerator, a ministry somewhat affiliated with the glitzy Catalyst conference, which was an incubator for those starting social social initiatives. In this book, Willard offers daily reflections, with each week’s writings ruminating around a different theme — joy, love, newness, silence, work, trust, hope and the like. Every 12 weeks he offers a longer essay to ponder for the week, with appropriate reflection prompts. (He calls these “The Long Pause” which, again, is hoping to help one get into a broader rhythm and intention. The theme of all of these colorful, creative pieces is that our life should be alive and robust, with God in it all. If you are seeking the “spirituality of the ordinary” and wanting a devotional to invite you to be honest and real about your walk with God, this is interesting, often insightful, upbeat and contemporary. Willard is a young, hip, example of the newer generation of evangelical leaders, socially engaged, deeply contemplative, joyful and authentic. As his friend hard rocker Lacey Sturm of the band Flyleaf, (author of the moving The Reason: How I Discovered a Life Worth Living) writes,
There are sacred moments when life catches you up in its beautiful mystery. Suddenly everything feels heavy and connected. You want to weep and cheer at the same time. You come away empowered, fully alive. Timothy sets you down in these moments. Get caught up in them and watch yourself come to life.
Saving Grace: Daily Devotions From Jack Miller C. John Miller (New Growth Press) $19.99 I love this small sized shape for a book, a heavy hardback that is small enough to fit in your hand. The pages are dated and designed nicely, with a Bible verse and a brief reading for each day. You may know Jack Miller who founded World Harvest Mission and the network of New Life Presbyterian churches, a Reformed pastor, missionary, preacher, scholar, and activist whose son (Paul Miller) has also written very popular books (such as the wonderful book on Jesus, Love Walked Among Us and the great and important.) This book brings to you what you might call a “gospel centered life” and a daily reminder that Jesus is your saving grace. Blurbs on the back are from thoughtful and wise leaders such as David Powlison of CCEF, Joni Eareckson Tada, and Key Life Radio dude Steve Brown. This is a power-house volume, able to help you see how the gospel can transform your life, grace upon grace, from the inside out. Solid.
We Make the Road by Walking: A Year Long Quest for Spiritual Formation, Reorientation, and Activation
Brian D. McLaren (Jericho Books) $25.00 I hope that you, like me, tire of the nasty or muddled over-reactions by some strident people regarding popular authors in faith traditions or “camps” with whom we may disagree. Rob Bell is either a heretic or walks on water; the emerging church is either neo-pagan or the faithful way of the future, McLaren is a textbook example of the complete loss of orthodoxy or the new Martin Luther. One doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry at such lack of nuance. (I wrote a longer piece about Brian and this book when it came out, if your interested, here
Anyway, Brian is a bit of a lightening rod, and for those that are more progressive, they will naturally love his creative call to be serious about engaging the Scriptures without being wooden or literalistic, learning contemplative spiritual practices, being in a small faith community with people from different views and experiences, to grapple together with the big story of the Bible, and to discern ways to be active in living out faith, especially for the common good, in the world. Social gospel-oriented folks have long wanted to be Biblical within that trajectory, and McLaren’s well designed, year-long Bible study helps us live into that better than almost any such book I’ve seen!
Yet, those who worry that McLaren is less evangelical than he once was need only spend some time with him in the Word to see his love — love, love, love — of the Bible, his strong conviction that there is great truth here, and that the Holy Scriptures are the written Word, of God which point us vividly to the living Word, Jesus the Christ.
As Phyllis Tickle proclaims, We Make the Road by Walking is “one of the most remarkable documents in recent Christian writings…” There is, in it, she says, “a sinewy, but orderly, and open presentation of the faith. The result is as startling as it is beautiful.”
Rachel Held Evans says “It changed the way I engage Scripture, the way I pray, the way I experience communion, and the way I interact with my neighbors.”
Do you or yours want to walk the Jesus path together? Guided by the light of the Word, in the presence of the living Christ, empowered by the Holy Spirit, in serious community with one another, for the life of the reign of God “on Earth as it is in Heaven” you can build this road. You can. You must. This book will help, I’m sure of it. It is a whole year’s worth of readings, so why not join in now?
Exercising our Worldview: A Collection of Essays
Charles Adams (Dordt College Press) $25.00 This is not exactly a daily devotional, but for those of us who use more conventional prayer books or who don’t do daily devos at all, this could be a resource to help you spend a brief, intentional time each day, or each week, thinking through the implications of the gospel of the Kingdom for daily life. And what a resource this is!
Dr. Charles Adams taught at at Dordt College in Sioux Center, Iowa and started a daily radio show there where he would do these five minute ruminations on everything “from technology to art, from one Christian’s perspective.” These popular broadcasts were called the “Plumbline” program, and he started using a Dutch pseudonym, D. Livid Vander Krowd — a playful nod to being a non-Dutch transplant from the East Coast at this CRC college. Yes, the named alludes to his yearning to be “delivered from the crowd” (another playful nod, this time to Kierkegaard.) We are all called to be somehow non-conformed, to be transformed, to be counter-cultural, to be something other than lukewarm. Here is what it says on the back cover:
So, while these essays may at times inspire you, anger you, surprise and delight you, ultimately they have been written to push you beyond “the crowd” by enabling you to see with the Holy Spirit-filled eyes what faithfulness to God’s Word might look like.
By the way, if you liked the long column I wrote (found under the “columns”
section of the website) about the new set of books by Calvin Seerveld, also published by Dordt College Press, you’ll like this set of short pieces from the Dutch neo-Calvinist perspective; Adams cites Seerveld, in fact. Greatly informed by the liberal arts and a Kuyperian Christian philosophy, the late Dr. Adams was a beloved engineering professor. Here is what a colleague wrote of his classes and writing:
To have Professor Adams as a teacher was to be team-taught by the unlikely quartet of Dooyeweerd, Shakespeare, Kierkegaard, and Dickens, all supervised by the teacher in Ecclesiastes. Neither technophile or technopobe, he was more than an engineer, he was an artisan of life.
Sacred Pause: A Creative Retreat for the Word-weary Christian Rachel
G. Hackenberg (Paraclete) $21.00 I announced this just a few weeks ago when I was listing some books that would make handsome gifts, that were expertly designed and lovely to behold. This is certainly one of those, with the artful design a wonderful platform for the creative content, the beautiful invitation to ponder deeply and experience God’s grace, bit by bit, through these guided readings.
Here is what I said: Leave it to Paraclete to once again
give us a splendid, rich, wonderfully made small book of prayerful
meditation, illustrated with good graphic design and full color
photography and artwork. Hackenberg is a UCC pastor and the writer of
the popular Writing to God, so you can expect a vivid, colorful,
aesthetic experience. Here, she invites us to “reconsider and
re-engage” with the words we typically use to describe our faith. As
Bruce Epperly notes, “This book will awaken you to a sensational faith,
encompassing all your senses and enabling you to experience the holiness
of God in the quotidian adventures of life.” Yes, this is inviting us
to leave behind stagnant faith and tired expressions, but it is
light-hearted and joyful, too. From grammar lessons to poetry, stuff on
letters and helpfully playful definitions, this is upbeat, making you
glad to be reading and pondering and doing such good stuff. She draws
on Microstyle by Chris Johnson, Finally Comes the Poet by Walt Brueggemann, and so many more artists, poets, scholars, pray-ers. Handsome, unusual, nice.
This nice hardback is over 215 pages, with 12 chapters, each with thoughtful questions, stuff to do and ponder, and I could easily see it being use over a period of weeks or months.
Wasted Prayer: Know When God Wants You to Stop Praying and Start Doing
Greg Darkley (Nelson) $15.99 I was concerned when I announced this and promoted it a bit this fall, for fear of giving the impression that we don’t value serious, dedication, zealous, long-term prayerfulness. Indeed, we do value exactly that, and have a huge selection of shelves and shelves about prayer. And yet, we all know that “faith without works is dead” and so might it also be said (as this author does) that prayer without action is wasted? He asks “what would your life look like if you stopped praying about God’s will and just did it instead? How would your church look if it spent as much time serving as it spent praying about serving?”
It seems that the new year may be a perfect time to ponder this very question.
I don’t know if one can pray too much, or if many churches do. I don’t know of any, to be honest. But yet I still resonant with this feisty, spiritually-sound call to action. Greg Darley is a social entrepreneur, speaker, and director of College Mobilization for International Justice Mission (IJM) one of the most action-oriented, but deeply prayerful organizations of which I know. This book offers some powerful, passionate Bible study exploring the interface of prayer and service, contemplation and action, intercession and faithful obedience.
Look: I’ve got this problem, and maybe you do, too. I think if I’ve read a book about prayer, that it counts as prayer. I think if I’ve read a book about stopping sexual trafficking, it counts as abolition. I can read about caring for the poor, and feel virtuous in doing so. Weird, eh?
You certainly know that I believe in the value of books and think that study is a major, serious, urgently necessary call to us all, and that we cannot go half-cocked into Christian service without knowing the theological foundations for and the cultural exegesis of any arena of action, service, calling or vocation. We’ve got to pray, study, reflect. So, yes, we need to read, and we need to pray. But does praying about God’s will substitute for stepping into it? Can a call to prayer and discernment actually be a smokescreen to avoid real faithfulness? Wasted Prayer uncovers the ways we use prayer to dodge responsibility for the work God has assigned us to do. I dare you to read this alongside another devotional, or alongside a more conventional call to prayer. As our friend Bob Goff says, after all, “love does.” Yes!
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