Hello! Maureen Pratt here with my monthly CAN blog. This time, some thoughts on writing the devotional.
The devotional is intensely personal, but can also provide tremendous support for many. I've experienced this first-hand. When I was first diagnosed with lupus, I suffered from a number of life-threatening symptoms. None, however, was as confounding as the non-life-threatening phenomenon of lupus brain fog, which is much like looking at the world through a pea-soup fog on a chilly day. It isn't permanent, much like those clouds of fog, and it doesn't cause changes in the brain, per se. But it does make memories slippery at times, and frustration quick to rise.
Faced with a horrible diagnosis, I turned to prayer, Scripture, and reflective meditation on what I had read and prayed about. Only, I would forget what I had read and prayed about. Frequently. I finally bought a spiral-bound notebook and started writing down what I read and prayed about. A year later, I looked back at the now-full notebook and wondered, "Could someone else benefit from what's in here?" Then, I prayed. And then, I called my agent. A few years later, my book "Peace in the Storm: Meditations on Chronic Pain & Illness" was published and has been reaching readers like myself, patients of chronic pain & illness, ever since. Such a blessing!
Writing the devotional is a highly personal pursuit, fueled by insight and inspiration born from experience. Not all experience needs to be that of the writer, but ideally each devotion should be linked to a "ripped from real life" instance in someone's life. I liken writing a devotional to being a "spiritual reporter," combining life's events with the place God takes within it all.
As they are extensions of our faith, devotionals spring from Scriptural reflections. Reading Scripture regularly and listening to the passages resonate gives the right context for the meditations you craft for each topic. I also spent much time in an empty church, sitting quietly, reading passages, then sitting quietly again. The waters of the Word can refresh us whenever we partake of them, but they truly nourish us when we let them soak into us completely.
Devotional structure will be unique to each project, but ideally each project does have a structure, an arc, a way in which it builds and carries the reader through to greater insight, comfort, or encouragement. At the same time, devotionals are often read in pieces, and not linearly, so the author needs to keep this in mind (avoid referring to a previous devotion, for example).
Writing "Peace in the Storm…" was exhausting for me, but what motivated me to keep going was the thought of my audience. Each day, I prayed for and thought of someone who would read what I was writing, someone who was suffering with or from the particular problem, or asking the particular question, that I addressed in the devotion I wrote that day. Keeping the reader close to mind and heart enables the words to flow as from a friend to a friend, a very effective and empathetic voice.
Blessings to you!