Almost a decade ago I went to the Christian bookstore and nearly ripped apart the Teen section looking for something specific. I led a small group of teen girls and a few of them had recently committed their lives to Christ. I wanted to give them a book, a devotional, something to get them started.
Coffee in hand, I sat in the middle of the teen section and started laying out books. I read a few chapters, made some piles, and came up with... nothing. I found a few good devotionals on prayer and isolated topics. I found plenty on sex and dating, but that was putting the cart before the horse. I didn't want to merely give my girls nice Christian ideas for decision making (hands of anyone else that was more screwed up because of Christian dating books? *Insert cringe here*.)
I was looking for a daily devotional that would give an overview of the Bible to my girls. They wanted to trust Jesus but they didn't even know what sacrifice was or why Jesus on the cross made any sense. I wanted them to understand their identity through the lens of Scripture, not from some author validating self esteem and throwing in a random verse or two. I wanted them to hear about the character of God- to get a glimpse of who He is. How can I convince them He's worth following otherwise? I wanted them to understand Christian living and sacraments. I went home with an empty coffee cup and no purchases.
Sean and I talked about what we wished we could provide for the students in our ministry, many of whom had very little Bible knowledge. We were overwhelmed at how to impart God's Word to students in a short 90 minutes a week. By the end of our conversation Sean asked, "What would it look like if we made something to give these kids?" Wheels began turning. It ended with me saying, "Forget this! I'm writing it. I'm writing something- even if only my small group reads it."
I grabbed a notebook and Bible and wrote what would later be named A:life, at my kitchen table. It turned into a 29 day devotional with a DVD and leader guide so small groups could use it together. We copyrighted it in 2006. It was the first thing I ever wrote for an audience of more than one.
I've spent the last couple months re-writing A:life. After reading through it this fall, I found changes I wanted to make for a new edition. This version will be a 40 day devotional for students who have recently given their lives to Jesus (or who want a little more grounding in their faith). Each day has some explanation, Scripture to read, a few questions to reflect on, and a simple prayer.
When people hear I write devotionals for middle and high school students they often say, "Wow. It must be challenging to be relevant and write in a way that fits their life, or about things that are important to them."
I'm a 34 yr. old mom. I drive a suburban. I hate overnighters. I'm not even pretending to be cool or "relevant" to students (who were born after '98 when I was cranking up Third Eye Blind and The Cranberries in my '89 Ford).
Thankfully, Scripture is always relevant. It always answers the deepest parts of our soul and "fits" our life.
When I write, I consider where our students are at developmentally, what they love, who is important in their life. I consider how concrete versus how abstract I am when I communicate. Aside from that, I hope to keep my examples and voice minimal so the timeless Truth is gained.
Design work for the new A:life is in the works and I have a self publishing company picked out so you all can buy a copy on amazon when it's completed. Here's an excerpt to give you an idea of what is to come:
Day 4 The Choice
Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” Genesis 3:1
Adam and Eve were faced with a choice: to obey and trust God knew best and had a perfect plan for them, or to disregard consequences and do what they wanted. God didn’t make them robots. He allowed them to make their choice.
The serpent (Satan) knew what to say to get Eve to doubt God’s goodness. She began to wonder if God was holding out on them. Was God as “good” as they thought? Would life be better if they took things into their own hands? The doubt imbedded and turned into disobeying God… also known as sin.
When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Genesis 3:6
A sick feeling came over Adam and Eve. They realized they were wrong and had broken their perfect relationship with God. Where there had been freedom and openness, they immediately felt shame and guilt. Instead of running to the God who loved them, they ran away. When God asked Adam about it, Adam responded, “I heard you in the garden and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.” Genesis 3:10 Adam was frantically trying to fix the problem on his own… but was completely unable to solve what he had ruined.
God is perfect and holy. He can’t tolerate any sin (things we do wrong). Adam and Eve chose to break their perfect relationship with God. Because God always follows through with His promises, He had to kick them out of the Garden. Death, ugliness, hard work, jealousy, deep painful loneliness, and separation from God emerged.
God didn’t choose sin and an imperfect world. People chose when they thought they knew better. God allowed them to choose. Yet… God had a plan. Adam and Eve wouldn’t see it unfold in their lifetime but God knew His people would need saving and already things were in motion for that plan to come…
Have you ever made a choice thinking you knew better than God? What happened?
Lord, forgive me for times I have made choices thinking I know better than you. Forgive me for breaking my relationship with you. I know you have the best in mind for me, even if I don't see it. Help me when I doubt you. Amen.
Just throwing myself out there a bit...