“Repent!” 21-month-old Dorothy squeals in delight. Chubby arms extended, she flings herself into my embrace.
Not two seconds later, her giggles still surfacing, she locks eyes with me. “Again?” she asks with anticipation.
“Again,” I affirm.
Her toddling legs carry her away from me. Back turned.
“I love you, Dorothy! Repent.”
And she literally does. She repents — or, as the word means, she turns around. Once again, she flies into my open arms.
To my four daughters, “Repent” is a fun game my husband Ted taught them; an activity he borrowed from singer and songwriter Andrew Peterson. Each girl takes her turn walking away from her papa (or sometimes mama), ears alert for his call. At the sound of his “I love you! Repent!” she turns around and runs into his waiting arms. Happy laughter echoes through the hallways of our home.
It’s a simple means of conveying to kids our Heavenly Father’s heart; a heart that beckons, “You can always come home to me. My grace never runs out.” And it’s a game I couldn’t help but think of as I read Ann Voskamp’s new devotional, One Thousand Gifts Devotional: Reflections on Finding Everyday Graces.
In this companion work to her best-selling book, One Thousand Days: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are, Voskamp writes, “There is always only more grace.” She goes on to explore 60 different aspects of grace in the daily readings with topics ranging from “Ugly Grace” to “One-Hundred-Times-A-Day Grace.”
While many of the pieces are based on content from her 2010 book — even to the point of being word-for-word — the work does contain new readings as well. And, although I’ve never been one to like compilation CDs or books, I do love this blend of old-meets-new devotional. For me, it takes the heart of Voskamp’s original writings and breaks it down into concise, daily readings that offer me just enough to chew on slowly.
Of all the devotionals I’ve read, this is my favorite. Like Voskamp, I need to be reminded daily to appreciate and count God’s graces in my life. For me, One Thousand Gifts Devotional is a helpful tool to, as she writes, “move thanksgiving away from a holiday to a lifestyle — that all the days might be holy and set apart for real joy.”
Each of Voskamp’s reminders of grace calls to me, “Repent!” of ingratitude and discontent. And, like 21-month-old Dorothy, I find freedom as I thankfully fling myself into my Heavenly Father’s waiting embrace.
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Other Devotional Picks
Solo by Eugene Peterson
In 2013, I’ll read Eugene Peterson’s devotional, Solo, for my daily Bible study. Using The Message version of scripture, Solo follows a “lectio divina” — divine reading — approach to God’s Word, with Scripture, reflection, and prayer. Six days a week, Solo provides four sections: read, think, pray, and live (lectio, meditatio, oratio, and contemplatio). Every seventh day is for reflection, to remember the passages studied earlier in the week, and let them “soak in.”
I first read Solo a few years ago, and really enjoyed it. Since I’m not very familiar with The Message, I gain a lot from hearing familiar passages told in fresh words. I also love the way that Solo’s simple format still leads to deep reflection and transformation. Where many devotionals challenge me with the author’s own insight — and there is definitely a place for that! — Solo is an introspective, interactive reading of the text, where God Himself prompts the insight from His word.
“If you have taken God’s Word to heart,” says the introduction of Solo, “and truly made it part of you, it will by its very nature change you. And when it does, you will find yourself called to act.” That’s the goal of daily Bible study: not to “log pages” as dutiful Christians, doing our obligatory homework for God. But to encounter the God who loves us, come to know Him better in His Word, and become more like Him.
Morning and Evening by Charles Spurgeon
Personally, the devotional books that move my heart and soul the most are classics like Charles Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening and a collection of Puritan prayers called Valley of Vision, compiled by Arthur Bennett.
A perk about Morning and Evening is that Bible Gateway offers a free service in which you can sign up to get the daily devotion entries sent to your e-mail inbox every morning. I can’t tell you how many times the verse and commentary of the day has been exactly what I needed at that very moment.
I marvel at the way that Spurgeon is able to take a single verse of Scripture and draw out such deep and rich treasures. His insights have cut straight to the heart on numerous occasions. His writing challenges, encourages, and — most importantly — elevates Christ to His rightful place, as Supreme over all — even, and especially, our hearts.
I keep a copy of Valley of Vision close at hand, and although I don’t read it everyday, it is a gem of a resource when I am struggling with a particular issue. There is a contents section at the front, and the prayers span topics from “The Awakened Sinner” to “Voyage,” from “Backsliding” to “Year’s End.” Without fail, every time I open its pages, I am humbled to the core by the mindset and worldview of the Puritan writers. It is a book filled with beautifully written, doctrinally sound, and thought-provoking prayers that I can highly recommend to anyone.
The One Year Book of Hope by Nancy Guthrie
The One Year Book of Hope by Nancy Guthrie is my favorite devotional. Guthrie writes with the tenderness of someone who understands pain — having heart-wrenchingly experienced the loss of two children — yet still holds tenaciously to biblical hope.
This is a year-long study that has a different theme for 52 weeks, yet does not have dates so that if you miss a day there is no false sense of guilt or needing to catch up. Each day has a verse and devotional thought if you’re short on time, but if you have more time, there are extended passages and questions to read and contemplate. I loved that it offered longer passages of Scripture to study, which helped me not just take Guthrie at her word, but instead to take God at His Word.
Old Story New by Marty Machowski
As a homeschool mom, I’m regularly on the lookout for Bible curriculum I can use with my four kids. In 2013, I plan to incorporate Marty Machowski’s Old Story New: Ten-Minute Devotions to Draw Your Family to God into our daily lessons.
This family devotional continues where Long Story Short left off. Aimed at parents with preschoolers and elementary-aged children, this 78-week devotional walks families through the New Testament.
Each week contains five 10-minute devotions centered around a particular New Testament story or concept such as “The Wise and Foolish Builders” and “A New Creation.” Day 1 includes a story that encourages children to “Picture It,” while Day 3 teaches kids how the passage connects to the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
As a parent who sometimes doubts my effectiveness in explaining the gospel to my kids, I love that Old Story New offers me a teaching tool that’s clear, concise, and all in one. I’m excited to see how our family’s faith grows as we read it together.