I don’t like devotionals, so I decided to write one.
What is the first thing you do after waking up? I’ll admit that I reach for my smartphone—mostly because it’s my alarm clock, but also to browse the headlines (I like to know if Vladimir Putin killed anyone overnight) and to check my email. As it turns out, I’m not alone: 79% of us reach for our phones within 15 minutes of waking up, and 62% go for it immediately. Among 18-24 year olds the numbers are even higher.
Occasionally I’ll wake to a genuinely important headline or email, but my phone usually greets me with braincell-killing celebrity gossip and an inbox of spam. Is that really the best way to receive the gift of a new day—Kardashians and car rental coupons?
Four years ago, I released my book WITH: Reimagining the Way You Relate to God. Since then, I have been astonished at the responses I’ve gotten from people who have been affected by the book. Everyday I receive an email, Facebook message, or Tweet from a reader expressing how WITH has transformed their faith. The fact that the book is selling more briskly now than three years ago, the opposite of industry trends, indicates I’m not the only one thirsty for a life with God and not merely one for him.
So what does WITH have to do with Kardashians at 6:30 in the morning?
What if we redeemed those first moments of the day by using our phones to jumpstart our communion with God? That’s one reason I created With God Daily — It’s a smartphone-formatted email that greets us first thing in the morning to turn our eyes toward God with a reflection, readings from Scripture, and prayers.
Here’s the second reason I created With God Daily—I don’t like devotionals. I know a lot of people read them, but they’ve never been a regular part of my spiritual practices. I find most of them to be overly sentimental. They may be chicken soup for the soul, but they rarely offer enough meat for my brain. Most modern devotionals also neglect any awareness of Christian history or traditions. They’re written as if Christianity was invented in the 1940s somewhere in the Midwest.
So, I decided to take up the challenge of writing the kind of daily devotional I would read—one that targets the affections as well as the intellect and draws from the best spiritual traditions of the church.
That raises another question—Why not just use a devotional book from ages past? There are wonderful devotional writings from great Christian thinkers like Lewis, Chambers, Calvin, Loyola, and Spurgeon. Some of them are on my shelf and I use their quotes and insights in With God Daily regularly, but these classic works lack something we desperately need: wisdom for navigating our rapidly changing culture.
My Utmost For His Highest is a beautiful work, but it does not address how to love our LGBT neighbors or respond to the soul-stealing power of global consumerism. I would love to know what C.S. Lewis thinks about the politicization of Christianity in modern America, but his writings about faith and cultured ended in 1963. With God Daily draws from the spiritual wisdom of the past, but it’s written to engage the challenges of faith in our contemporary, pluralist culture.
If you’ve struggled with devotionals like I have, maybe With God Daily is what you’ve been searching for—thoughtful but accessible, rooted but relevant.
Ultimately, I created With God Daily because I want to help our generation commune deeply with God and engage the world without fear or anger. That challenge begins first thing in the morning when we reach for our phones.
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