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5 Stars Out Of 5
April 17, 2012
I am impressed at how helpful this book would be for a new believer in Christ. Many struggle with daily devotions. However, Karen makes it so simple that anyone can follow her plan. This is a must read and must share!
As promised in her book title, Karen Kolbu provides a "how-to" book for those who wish to begin and/or improve their personal daily devotions. The book does much more than just informing a person of the importance of daily devotions; it gives six weeks of guided, how-to develop a spiritual habit that will make them stronger and more intentional about their devotional life.
The book is divided into several sections, the first is an explanation about the importance and practice of doing daily devotions; it is followed by six separate chapters which takes the readers on a daily devotional discovery of six weeks that, upon completion, will solidify a holy habit of daily devotions in their lives.
Let me begin by saying, I'm a fan! I'm hooked on the book. I find Beginning very readable and useable. I have taught "Spiritual Formation" as a college class since 1998 and have not found a better book which, step by step, leads a person through a how-to of developing one's daily devotions. All through the book, Kolbu is very encouraging; it seems as though she is sitting next to you as you journey from day to day through the six weeks.
At the very beginning of the book, she states: "What will this book do for me?...In a nutshell, our purpose on this earth is to serve God and along the way become the people he made us to be_. This book is designed to give you direction in talking to God (prayer) and hearing him talk back to you" (pp.19-20).
If I had to use only one word to describe this book, I would say it is a book about relationships. Part of my reason for that word choice comes from Kolbu's own words describing a Christian's relationships, she says: "Developing a relationship with anyone takes time, effort, and commitment. But first it takes trust. It can be even harder when you can't touch that person physically. With that truth in mind, I designed this book to:
â€¢ Help you develop a habit of spending time alone with God daily, which in turn allows you to know him better. [Remember, habit formation takes time.]
â€¢ Give you a tour through some biblical doctrine_ [Don't worry that, she makes it informative without putting you to sleep.]
â€¢ Help you memorize verses. [Perhaps you don't think you can memorize anything, but what about the phone numbers, addresses, birthdates, etc. that you already have memorizedâ€”you can memorize scripture, this book will help you.]
â€¢ Help you experience God through contemplative prayer_ [Don't be afraid of that word "contemplative" because it is already a daily practice of yours. When you are thinking about anythingâ€”but especially people who you are in a relationship with, i.e., your spouse, children, grandchildren, or friendsâ€”you are contemplating; only during our devotional time, we turn our contemplation (thoughts) to God and his Word in our effort to get to know him and his will for our lives better.]
â€¢ Help you develop the practice of journaling_ [There is another word not to be afraid of; journaling helps us write our thoughts on paper so that we can remember them and think about them later.] (pp. 22-23).
A second reason I would also ascribe the word relationship to the book is because of the way Kolbu helps to guide the reader through the process of learning this new skill. Throughout the pages in which she leads the reader through six weeks of practicing the discipline of daily devotions, it seems like she is right there with you, offering her encouraging words as you work your way through them. Also she promises to pray for the reader every step of the way. It reminded me of the Apostle Paul's words to pray for the various readers in his Epistles (e.g., Philippians 1:3-4; Colossians 1:3; 1 Thessalonians 1:2). As I am sure those first century Christians never doubted Paul's concern or prayers, I do not doubt Kolbu's for her readers. Also, half-way through the book, she gives her e-mail address, encouraging readers to "let me know how you're feeling about your developing devotional practice and more importantly, your relationship with God" (p.112). Twice more after that she prompts the reader to e-mail her (pp. 164, 214) and share with her how things are going with their new devotional experience. Her primary concern is for her readers' progress in developing that holy habit of daily devotions. It's about relationshipsâ€”you and God; the reader and the author; you and other readers.
If I had a negative thought regarding Beginning, it was that the book left me wanting more. However, after guiding the reader through the six weeks of devotion development, she gives ideas as to how to expand their devotional journey into several more weeks (pp. 215-218) with "follow-up assignments." All habits take time to flower into a normal practice.
Beginning is a book for the serious minded Christian who desires to "grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" (2 Peter 3:18). If the reader does their part, this book delivers on its promise to help the reader develop a habit of spending time alone with God.
Kolbu closes her book with "my friend, my time with you for this book has come to an end, but our faith journey continues_I pray your relationship with God is deeper than it was before and you have a better understanding of his ways and his will. But mostly, I pray you have a greater understanding of God's heart_Be blessed, dear friend, and know that I continue to pray for you" (p. 219). The Christian lifeâ€”it's all about relationship.
I had the pleasure of opening my computer each weekday to read Karen's Verse of the Day and I grew to depend on the verses and insights Karen would glean from them. Her book, Beginning, is the perfect next step for anyone that wants to learn how to develop a life-long habit of daily devotional time with God. As a Bible scholar, she shares from the Word; and as a trainer, she has designed the book to be a teaching guide that we can use to build our own method of communing with God each day! Jo61