What Do Cows Have to Do with It?

I grew up on a ranch. So when I think about meditating on God’s word, I think of rumination.  The dictionary definition of “ruminate” is: 1. to meditate or ponder, or 2. to chew the cud.  Technically, the biblical words for meditation have more to do with repeated murmuring out loud.  However, the idea of ruminating is not far from the essence of that biblical idea.  When one ruminates on face_to_faceScripture, they ponder it over and over.  Whether out loud or to oneself, the repeated pondering of the meaning and application of Scripture is an important discipline to spiritual growth.

This brings me to my ranch experience.  Cattle have several compartments in their stomach by which they digest the plant life they swallow as they graze.  The process of digesting these plants is aided by the cow regurgitating clumps of it, called “cud” and re-chewing.  Cud chewing serves to further break down the fibers of the plants and speed the digestive process.

Actually, “regurgitating” is a nasty way of describing a process that appears to be quite enjoyable for cattle.  Have you ever seen a cow chew its cud?  It appears to be such a relaxing and peace-filled event.  Usually they are lying down.  Their eyes are half-closed, and they are chewing away as if they have no cares in the world.  “Ruminating” is such a nicer word to describe this process.  The cows meditate on the pleasurable experience of chewing their cud, extracting all the nutrients they can out of it.

I like to think of my devotional time as my time to graze on God’s word.  When I SOAP journal my thoughts on a Scripture passage first thing in the morning, I store God’s word in my mind.  In the same way that a cow needs to ruminate what she has put into her stomach, I need to meditate on God’s word that I have placed in my mind.  There are several ways to do that:

  1. Write on an index card the verse or passage on which you journaled.  Carry that index card with you throughout the day and ponder its meaning and applications over and over.  Ask God to give you fresh insight as you go through the day.  Take time to share your insights with others.  Talking out loud about the verse is a great way to solidify in your mind and heart what God is saying to you through it.
  2. Meet with others individually or in groups throughout the week to share your devotional thoughts together.  Let them hear what God is saying to you through your journaling and give the Lord a chance to speak further to you through them.  This week I will meet four different times with different groups of people to share devotional thoughts.
  3. During your devotional time, read your journal entry from the same date the year before.  I do this and it gives me one more opportunity to reflect on the passage and hear how God wants to apply it to me.  It reveals where I have grown and where I still need to grow.

Let your meditation on God’s word be as pleasurable to you as chewing the cud is to a cow.  Enjoy the benefits of extracting every bit of nutrients for growth out of God’s word to you as you can.

What ways of meditating on God’s word work for you?

Why Devotions Are Not Enough

I recently learned something I wish I had learned years ago.  I should have known it; it is everywhere in the Bible.  It was in my theology – that is, I had it in my brain.  However, it never worked itself into my life.  Because of what I recently learned, my life will be forever changed for the better.

I learned that spiritual growth requires more than a personal relationship with God.  It also requires me to process life devoson a deep, heart level with safe people.  Not only do I need a strong devotional life, which is what this blog is all about, but I also need others to help me incorporate God’s work in my life.  I need people who will walk with me through life.  I need people who will empathize with my pain, my hurts and my losses.  I need people who will celebrate victories and will be a support team to help me become more like Jesus.

Until recently I believed that Jesus was all I needed for navigating life.  I really thought my personal relationship with him was sufficient.  In fact, if I admitted needing others in my life, that would be dishonoring to God.  For example, when my son was born prematurely and died after two days of life, I went to God alone with my pain.  I found Psalm 139:16 and reasoned that if God had ordained those two days of life before my son was born, then I would consider them a gift.  To grieve the loss of more days with my son would be to dishonor God’s gift.

What I know now is that I needed some safe people who could have come alongside me and grieved with me.  Grieving isn’t dishonoring to God; it is healing.  I missed out on the full extent of God’s grace because I ignored my loss.

Were my son’s days ordained by God? Yes. Were they a gift? Yes.  My personal relationship with Jesus was not the problem; my devotional life was strong.  My theology was not the problem; it was just incomplete.  What I failed to understand was that when Jesus sent the Holy Spirit (John 16:7-15), God was once again incarnate in the world.  Now he is not just incarnate in one man – Jesus, but he is incarnate in his church – the body of Christ!  I knew this theologically, but now I know it experientially.  Finally, I am beginning to experience the healing power of bringing my losses to other Christ-followers who will share in my grief and will extend God’s grace to me.  I love it that I can be 55 and still not too old to learn life-changing lessons!

The point is this: a strong devotional life is a must for spiritual growth, but so is a strong, community of safe believers.  Continue to nurture your relationship with Christ through the disciplines of Bible reading and prayer, but don’t neglect building a community of safe people through whom God can extend his grace to you.  My devotions will work bigger changes in my life when I process life with others, inviting them to walk with me on God’s path.  For a much better understanding of this, read How People Grow by Henry Cloud & John Townsend.

What does your community of safe people look like?

%d bloggers like this: