I stretched back, luxuriating in the warm water, watching the stars through rising steam, and reflecting on the wonderfully nourishing evening I had just spent with a group of friends. After sharing a potluck dinner (tabouli, garlic bread, hummus, fresh fruits and vegetables) outside on a beautiful late summer evening, we took turns sharing books, poems, and ideas we had found to be inspiring, and then we retired to the hot baths (part of a commercial hot springs owned by one of the group). I closed my eyes sleepily, wanting nothing further that day, either emotionally or physically.
Then E began to speak.
She had waited until last because she hadn’t brought a book to read from or a picture to share, and her words came out shyly, haltingly. “This month I’ve just been working on re-establishing my core. I’m not studying much else consistently, but I am reading the scriptures and writing about them. At first my goal was only twice a week. I didn’t always make it.” She paused, unsure what we would think of her comments, then took courage and continued. “I kept increasing the number of days each week, and now I’m reading and writing half and hour every day. And I’ve realized that I really, really love the scriptures.” She blushed and spoke more quickly, “I mean, I thought before that they were true and all, but I had never felt this kind of an outpouring of love and direction in every area of my life. I KNOW now that I am daughter of God, and I feel my Father’s presence.”
My mind danced backward then, away from the good meal and hot baths to memories of times that I had strongly felt the sustaining nourishment that comes from devoted spiritual study. As a newly activated Church member I spent hours each afternoon curled in my bed, a snuggly two year old on one side and a nursing baby and a stack of Ensigns gleaned from Deseret Industries on the other, all of us bathed in the warmth of light and goodness. I remembered the energy I gained years later from rising two hours early for uninterrupted telephone calls with a friend and spiritual mentor. And I remembered the many dry spells in between, times when I read the scriptures grudgingly, if at all.
Suddenly I felt hungry after all—hungry for the kind of spiritual nourishment my friend was describing, and I was remembering. Although I wasn’t exactly starving, I realized that it had been some time since I really feasted on the Word. And that’s when I remembered Maralise’s book challenge. Could I successfully adapt it to personal devotional time? And would I feel buoyed or burned out by the experience?
Here’s the report:
Letter of the Law: C minus. I stretched Maralise’s original assignment to include reading, pondering, and writing about the scriptures or related materials. I also counted some hymn time at the piano, and then at some point I lost track of counting all together. I’m not sure what my final score was–probably a little short timewise.
Spiritual nourishment: A. Yep, it worked. I went from reading the scriptures largely out of a sense of obligation to loving my time. I filled a notebook with realizations gleaned from passages I would have glossed over before (I highly recommend writing as part of scripture study for bringing those epiphanies to the surface), and I was so excited about them that I brought my scriptures and notebook to breakfast every morning to share my latest discoveries with the family.
Staying Power: B Minus. My long term goal is along the lines of what E described–meaningful, consistent time in the scriptures. I’m not hitting every day with the same excitement and consistency I had when finished the original experiment, but the desire is there, and I’m trying a lot more sincerely.
Inspiring friends: Another A. If you haven’t headed to the hot springs for a night out with your girlfriends lately, I’d highly recommend that one too. Thanks, E.