By Alli Bauck
“Dear soul, little do [you] know that the abiding in Christ is meant only for the weak and is so beautifully suited to [your] feebleness. It does not demand the doing of some great thing or that [you] first lead a holy and devoted life. No, it is simply weakness entrusting itself to a Mighty One to be kept—the unfaithful one casting self on One who is altogether trustworthy and true.”
Andrew Murray, Abide in Christ.
Prior to February of 2020 I did not have an established routine of personal devotion time. I witnessed fellow brothers and sisters in Christ engaging in the Word on a daily basis but, instead of being encouraged by their example, I felt guilt. I had tried reading devotions or Psalms each day; however, I was getting more fulfillment from checking it off my To Do List than being filled spiritually.
My sinful self justified my lack of devout discipline with excuses like being a young mom of a toddler with one-on-the-way. Then, my mother asked me to do a “faith experiment” with her. She had learned of a resource through Visual Faith™ Ministry and Next Step Press that incorporated hymns with visual faith practices. Little did I know that saying “yes” to her invitation would put me on a path toward new opportunities.
I think we all recall the events that influenced the “Lentiest Lent” in recent history. While circumstances kept me closed off from familiar comforts, the Holy Spirit ministered to my soul through the songs, Scripture, devotions, artwork, and visual faith experiments of When From Death I’m Free. I felt delight as I unpacked the weekly chapters. It was more than notes and lyrics on a page, or carefree coloring activities, or some Jesus-y words to quickly read in order to “cross it off my checklist”: it was a daily conversation with the Triune God. There was a relationship being revealed to my heart through what I was hearing and reading and creating.
I specifically remember an interaction with the lyric page of the hymn “Stricken, Smitten, and Afflicted.” An image came into my head of the back of Christ, slashed and marred by the lash of the whip. It was a vivid reminder of what He had suffered for the sake of my salvation.
I took a scissor blade and visualized a “t” shape in the middle of the page. My breath was shallow and my heart pounded. The hesitation I felt unnerved me. My hand trembled as I carved a cross-shaped gash into the paper. Next, I took some of my toddler’s washable red finger-paint. Dipping a paint brush into my cup, I “whipped” the paper: vibrant crimson splattered everywhere. This was no ordinary art project: this was the love story of Christ for me.
In addition to abiding with the Holy Spirit through the hymn journal, there was a virtual community of people going on this journey with me. In the When From Death I’m Free Facebook group I found encouragement and inspiration; it was a place where I could safely—without judgement—share what I was discovering. Despite depressing coronavirus news, I found joy in pulling up Facebook every day, eager to see what others were posting in the hymn journal learning group.
At the conclusion of the journal there is a section of questions. One of these prompts a “next step” that Jesus is leading you to take. Honestly, I thought I didn’t need to go anywhere with Jesus; I was content right where we were.
Then, very unexpectedly, opportunity came knocking. I was asked to be a co-presenter for “Abide”—a virtual prayer retreat put on by Visual Faith™ Ministry. Not having any clue what I was getting into, I took a step of faith. My mother and I are leading a session about the practice of devotional journaling.
Ironically, devotional journaling is a form of daily exercise that I had been neglecting. Instead of just quickly reading through a devotion or Scripture selection, there are follow-up applications to help me reflect, respond, and remember what I had read. In this pause, the Triune God is more tangible and God’s message for me more visual. I am looking forward to experiencing this retreat with others; it is very humbling to be part of something that seeks to enhance the prayer lives of people I may never know!
“Abiding in Him is not a work that [you] have to do as the condition for enjoying His salvation, but a consenting to let Him do all for [you], in [you], and through [you]. It is a work He does for [you]: the fruit and the power of His redeeming love. [Your] part is simply to yield, to trust, and to wait for what He has engaged to perform.”
Andrew Murray, Abide in Christ.
It is now nearly March of 2021—and I still don’t have a personal devotion habit in place! However, with the resources from Next Step Press and the abundance of ideas and examples from the Visual Faith community, I have been led to adventure outside of the “traditional” interaction with Scripture.
Instead of viewing devotion time as a daily requirement, I now look at it as a pause for conversation with my Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier. It will never be completely obvious to me what path my life in Christ will be—especially at times when I just want to sit and contentedly smell the roses. I’m not certain what spiritual “prescription” I should take for that precise personal devotion practice.
Yet, I will try: try new ways to walk with Christ; try not to give up too quickly on Divine dialogue; try and say “yes” to more ways to be a vessel for His will. I trust that, in this coming year, I will experience many more joyful moments of being in God’s presence—even if it means stepping outside my comfort zone.
As a Visual Faith™ Ministry Coach, Alli Bauck is will be presenting at Abide Virtual Prayer Retreat on March 6, 2021. To register or find out more, visit www.visualfaithmin.org/abideretreat.
Alli will also be one of the moderators for the When from Death I’m Free Social Learning group on Facebook for Lent of 2021.
Join the group at www.facebook.com/groups/wfdif and find out more about the hymn journal at community.findmynextstep.org/when-from-death-im-free.