The Rhythm Journal: Guest Post by Corby Stevens
Last Spring Michael allowed me to post a link here to a survey. The survey was a series of questions about how people do devotions or quiet times in addition to time and task management. I wanted to say “thank you” to those who helped me out. That survey helped me set the direction for a project I started over a year ago and is going to become a reality this month. I’ve been posting about it on social media and Michael invited me to share more about it here. Let me introduce you to; The Rhythm Journal; a guided journal to help you walk with God at His PACE. It is going to launch on Kickstarter sometime this month.
It’s not for everyone, but it might be for you
Last year I was going through a period where I was looking for ways to help people connect God’s word into their lives. I realized that I wasn’t doing a very good job of doing that for myself. So I took a beat and examined what methods helped me the most, as well as some key scriptures about how we are all called and commanded to become more like Jesus. What I came up with helps me. It might help you too.
Being guided helps me
I like being walked through a process. Not forced in an isolated direction like cattle through a series of gates. More like there is a beginning, an end, and a series of steps along the way, but I have some freedom in those steps to wander a bit if I want.
Writing helps me
As digital as I am, most everything I do for work or otherwise begins with paper and pen. There is a significant amount of research pointing to this process as being better for learning and creativity. But I don’t enjoy writing for very long, just writing short summaries is best for me. Like a Tweet but with a pen.
Seeing progress helps me
I need to see where I’ve been, where I am, and where I want to go. Some people are wired and content to live life on a hamster wheel. That’s fine. That might sound harsh or critical, it isn’t intended to be. Many fine people function that way. I am just not one of them. I need to see progress.
What, Why, and How
No, this isn’t the law firm of The Three Stooges. But it is descriptive of three key scriptures behind The Rhythm Journal.
What – Romans 12:1-2
To me, there is no better summary instruction of what it looks like to live out the Gospel. The phrase “present yourselves as a living sacrifice” is the root of the verse. It means to present and keep on presenting continually. All of the other instruction that follows in these two verses describes what this looks like. Do not be conformed, instead be transformed by the renewing of your mind so that you might demonstrate what the good and complete will of God looks like. What does it look like to do this? How often do we wake up and think, “How can I present myself as a living sacrifice today?”
Why – Ephesians 5:15
Have you ever heard of a “theology of productivity?” It could be a whole other blog post, but it’s the idea that being a productive person is a teaching one can find in the Bible. It might not be a spelled-out doctrine, but it is an exemplified one. If there is an instruction for it, it could be found in these verses. “Walk circumspectly.” In other words, walk intentionally. Walk with a plan. Walk paying attention. Don’t walk accidentally. Don’t walk with your head in the clouds or in the sand. Be present. “Redeeming the time.” Buy back the time that sin steels from you. I love that idea.
How – Luke 9:23
Deny yourself, die to self, and follow Jesus. It’s simple. It’s straightforward. But rarely do I ever hear specific examples or directions on what it looks like. Why not? Because there isn’t a single set of them to pass down. It’s mostly in the moment. It’s about watching Jesus intentionally. It’s about playing “following the leader” with Jesus. Sadly, this isn’t taught as much as it should be. Yet Jesus said to do it “daily.” How do we do this?
The “Rhythms” of The Rhythm Journal
After some trial and refinement, after the help and feedback of some beta testers, The Rhythm Journal came to be. One journal has enough pages to last 13 weeks, which is basically three months.
The Rhythm Journal is an attempt to reorient our lives around some specific rhythms, patterns, and instructions in the Bible so that our lives can be in step with God’s life.
The Bible is full of rhythms. Evening and morning. Weeks. Seasons. Cycles. Lifespans. We go through changes while God and His word never change. However, our understanding of God and His word changes. How we experience God and live out His word changes. One day God is gracious and loving. The next He seems harsh and judgmental. Did He change? No, something about us or our world did. The trick is adapting and learning through these changes and rhythms. God doesn’t adapt to me, I adapt to him.
The Bible describes people who live with God as having a “walk” with Him. As I chewed on this I realized that God has a pace. Being a teacher, I had to turn PACE into an acronym.
- P – Purpose. Everything God does is purposeful. Learning to see God’s purposes helps us to keep in step with Him; not getting ahead nor falling behind.
- A – Action. God takes action through His people. Learning what God’s actions look like and what His voice sounds like helps us to know when to step and when to stop.
- C – Choice. Following Jesus means making choices daily. Learning the ways of Jesus helps us to know what our choices are, what to choose, and how the Spirit leads us.
- E – Evolve. Evolve means “change over time.” Learning to walk and work with Jesus, watching how He does it, and learning His rhythms, will grow, mature, and change us into someone who looks more and more like Jesus over time.
The over-arching purpose of The Rhythm Journal is to help us walk with God at His PACE. Over the course of one’s life, if we are being transformed into His image, by definition there should be a gradual change more and more into a person that looks like Him. In The Rhythm Journal this is measured with two sections called The Beginning and The End located at, you guessed it, the beginning and end of each journal. The user is guided through a set of questions to help them take stock of their progress and set or readjust goals.
Every Sunday there is a page with a process called RENEW that is built around Romans 12:1-2. RENEW stands for Release, Examine, Notice, Exchange, and Walk. There are prompting questions for each that have you examine the previous week.
Along with RENEW there is a section to Review last week, and Preview this week. The purpose of these is to help map out Daily Rhythms that God wants to develop in you or demonstrate through you. A Daily Rhythm is a Godly characteristic that you can partner with the Holy Spirit to cultivate in your life. These may be patience, brotherly love, compassion, creativity, leadership, or servanthood. These, in turn, are practiced in the week to come.
RISE and REST
Monday through Saturday in The Rhythm Journal consist of a page to be done in the morning called RISE and a page to be done in the evening called REST. Some of you may be thinking, “This sounds like a lot of work!” Like I said, it isn’t for everyone. And it is really about 15-30 minutes in the morning and again in the evening. However, the benefit is that you are being intentional; you are doing something on purpose with purpose. I need that mindset when it comes to living out the key verses above.
Reading, Inspiration, Supplication, and Expression make up the morning routine. They aren’t a checklist, they are a kind of flow. At the end of the time you take all that you have done, turn it into a prayer for your day, and hopefully have made some additions to whatever you use to plan out your day. When you go into the day with your “Holy Spirit Radar” on, looking for opportunities to build God’s Kingdom in your day, it radically alters things.
Review, Engage, Surrender, and Thanksgiving make up the evening flow. Most of the days of my life have ended with a sense of, “Is it over yet? Can I go to bed now?” As I have engaged in REST I find that I catch things I need to deal with in my own heart, things I need to give over to The Lord, and things I forgot to thank Him for. Just like you have a conversation with your spouse or kids to hear about each other’s day, you get to do the same thing with Jesus. Maybe He wants to give you an “atta-boy/girl” or maybe there is something He wants to correct. Or both. REST is the opportunity to have that conversation.
The real product is relationship with God
I never want to pitch a product. I’m not selling “Sham-wows.” What I most want to see happen in people’s lives, what I think God has called and equipped me to do, is to help equip others with ways to connect God’s word into their daily lives. When I read the Bible I see people living out their relationship with Him. God is always available and ready. We are the ones who have to make the choice to follow Him daily. I need help doing that. I suspect others do too. If that’s you then this might be for you.
To help with that I want to do two things right now.
- Here is a link to a ZIP file that contains a PDF of all of the “front matter” of The Rhythm Journal. All the instructions and sample pages with stuff filled in so you have some idea of what it looks like. The ZIP also contains a couple of images of the journal.
- I am running a giveaway contest to give away one journal, one free access to an online workshop on how to use the journal, and four books that have been foundational to my own understanding of discipleship as an individual and as a pastor. It’s the “Follow After Jesus” bundle. I need help spreading the word about the Kickstarter. If you join my email list you get 10 entries. If you share the link to the contest you get 10 more. You can earn all kinds of other points by Liking the Facebook page, visiting the website, Following and retweeting on Twitter, following and posting tagged pics on Instagram. Click as many of the entry options as relates to you and you can increase your chances of winning the giveaway.
If this is something that interests you please do sign up for the email list and share the contest link, even if you aren’t interested in the giveaway. The more people that know about it the more likely I will be able to fund the project on Kickstarter. If you are also interested in following me on social media, please use the contest links to follow The Rhythm Journal. My own feeds can also be found @corbystephens on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
I’m happy to field any questions or chat about how people do their own devotions. It’s an important conversation and the more information and ideas we share the better.
Thanks again, Michael, for the chance to share here.