I bet you eat food every single day. You do, right?
Why? Because your body needs it. Through the miracle of digestion, your body breaks that food down into the nutrients that sustain you, heal you, rebuild and energize you. You probably don’t spent much time thinking about giving up eating altogether. It’s just too important.
You also sleep every day. Even if you have a job that requires long shifts, eventually you have to sleep. You find a safe spot; you cuddle up and off you go. In that state of sleep what happens? Your body repairs itself. Your mind integrates your experiences and refreshes itself.
Just like eating, you probably don’t consider going without — at least, not for very long. Why? Because you need food and rest to live.
But what about your spirit? Do you feed it in the same way? You should!
You need to Breathe!
We need food and rest not only to live but to grow and flourish. In much the same way you need inspiration.
The word “inspiration” comes from a root word that means “to breathe.” It’s related to perspiration and respiration. But instead of breathing in oxygen to keep your brain sharp, you are breathing in truth and goodness to keep your spirit engaged and healthy.
If you go too long without inspiration, you’ll feel it. Your inner world will start to feel dank, heavy, stuffy.
I have a process that has evolved for me over the years that I call First Things First. Here’s why I do it, what mine looks like, and how you can come up with your own. For me, this is a mostly-daily process, usually five days a week. I start my day with it. My First Things First routine includes several things essential to my spiritual and emotional well-being. One of those is a time of reflection and inspiration—an opportunity to breathe in truth and goodness to recharge my spirit.
For the past several months that time has been centered on a book that I am going to recommend to you. The Listening Day: Meditations on the Way, Volume 1, by Paul J. Pastor. On the surface, this is a simple daily devotional. Each page is a short entry. It starts with two scriptures. Then, there’s a reflection and a brief prayer. None of this is unexpected in a daily devotional, and it’s something you could read in just a few minutes if speed were your goal.
I usually avoid the “daily devotional” format. Sometimes because it’s too trite, or too simplistic, or because the lone scripture is often dragged from its context with no respect for the text. I gave The Listening Day, V1 a try after getting to meet Paul Pastor for coffee. Our conversation was so rich and meaningful; I suspected that his little book might be more than I expected.
That was a good risk, for this has turned out to be one of the most impactful devotionals I’ve ever read.
A Deeper Devotional
First, let’s talk about the scriptures. Paul didn’t pick scriptures just to buoy up some pastoral agenda. He didn’t pick them to try and match a certain topic. I suspect he spent as much time selecting the scriptures as he spent writing the book. Usually, one passage was from the Old Testament, and one was from the New. Always the two verses had tension or a dialogue between them, immediately creating a conversation in my mind. Often one passage expanded on the other, sometimes in unexpected ways.
So, I would start by reading those two scriptures. Slowly. Not reading like we so often do, skimming to bring the familiar passage to mind, but instead sipping and savoring, like a delicious hot beverage. I’d taste each word and reflect on what it means. I’d listen for Holy Spirit’s whisper. After I read both scriptures, I journaled on the dialog between them, just a brief paragraph or so on what the passages say, and how they reflect on each other.
Then, I’d move onto the reflection. Now here, Pastor has done something unique. This isn’t the normal devotional with quick illustration and a life-application point. Instead, the reflection is written as a dialogue between the reader and God. The dialogue grows out of the verses and reflects questions you might have in your heart. The responses from God reflect and expand on the scriptures.
After reading the reflection, I’d spend a few moments journaling. Are these questions mine? How would I expand on them? How do I think God relates to these concerns? Do I hear Holy Spirit in this?
Finally, the page ends with a short prayer. The prayer often tags back to the verses and weaves through the questions from the reflection. I’d use these words like a diving board, catapulting into prayers of my own. By the end, this short page which could easily be read in three or four minutes guided me into 20 or 30 minutes of prayerful conversation with Jesus.
The icing on the cake is that the words are so well written. Many people write devotionals, but few of those people are honest-to-goodness authors who craft their words with the care of an artist. The Listening Day, V1 is throughout gentle and picturesque, sometimes more poetry than prose, each sentence sculpted to move the heart.
A Daily Pastor
There’s been only one devotional book that I’ve read more than once. That was Oswald Chamber’ classic, My Utmost for His Highest. I expect The Listening Day to occupy that same kind of space for me. I will return. In the meanwhile, I’m so glad that Paul has since written a 2nd volume. I’ve already ordered it.
You need daily inspiration, a time to focus your heart and mind on Jesus, where you practice listening to the Spirit. This book is a wonderful resource to guide you through that time. It’s undergirded by scripture. It’s soaked with a view of God’s presence. It’s written by a skillful writer with a clear pastoral heart.
In fact, spending time with this book most days over the past several months, I’ve felt like I had the benefit of a caring, insightful spiritual director meeting with me each morning. My own daily pastor.
Sound good? It might be something you need. I recommend The Listening Day to you as a part of daily spiritual practice.
Whether or not this book sounds like a good match, my prayer for you today is that you would find a daily practice of inspiration that feeds your soul. Get started without feeling the need to be perfect. And when you miss a day, waste no energy on guilt or regret. Simply return to the practice the next time you can, anticipating God’s presence.
Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are Affiliate Links. This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an infinitesimal affiliate commission, which I solemnly swear to spend on important books and trivial electronics. Regardless, I only recommend products, services, or books that I have personal experience with and that I believe will be of benefit to you. More information here.