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Five devotions to consider this new year

Amy Pagliarella suggests five devotions to consider as you set new practices in 2023.

With the beginning of a new year comes the desire for new rhythms and practices to draw closer to God, one another and our best selves. With that in mind, we’re reviewing recently released devotional reading, as well as connecting you to our website for resources from prior years and our winter books issue.

The Lives We Actually Have: 100 Blessings for Imperfect Days

by Kate Bowler and Jessica Richie
Convergent Books, 256 pages | Publishing February 14, 2023

Oh, dear ones (as Bowler says), if your days are tough or tedious, this might be the devotional for you. She and Richie respond to a culture of “#blessed” with a volume of poetic blessings that illuminate the good and holy in all of us, while also revealing what is enduring about God.

Their collection speaks to situations from the traumatic – loss of loved ones, suffering, feeling abandoned by God – to the quotidian – sleeplessness, exhaustion or just plain grouchiness. They accommodate those seeking a regular practice by offering seasonal blessings for Advent and Lent, but their book will work just as well tucked into a backpack or nightstand drawer, ready to be pulled out when the situation demands.

A Year of Slowing Down: Daily Devotions for Unhurried Living

by Alan Fadling
InterVarsity Press, 336 pages | Published December 6, 2022

Even the cover of Alan Fadling’s devotional inspires us to slow down; reading a single entry may lead to relaxed shoulders, deeper breathing and perhaps even a slow and stretchy sigh of relief. Each entry is concise, with short sentences that get right to the point yet seem invitational rather than curt. Fadling opens with God resting (using the words of Genesis to remind us that God declared rest holy) and then makes his way through the entire Bible, reflecting upon snippets of Scripture that celebrate a gentler way of life, full of quiet walks with God and others. While Fadling makes an effort to use careful language to describe Jewish characters, it’s not enough — his examples occasionally obscure the fact that (since Jesus and most of his followers were Jewish) these are conflicts within a community, not between two different religions. Some may find this worrisome, given ongoing concerns of anti-Semitism; regardless, this is a meaningful guide for those looking to sink more deeply into God’s presence in the year ahead.

Reflections on the Sunday Gospel

by Pope Francis

Image, 304 pages | Published November 1, 2022

Pope Francis draws upon his many homilies as well as the writings of saints like Augustine and Gregory to reflect upon lectionary gospel passages. He explores each Bible story fully and reflects upon its application in the church today; this is a meaningful choice for those seeking accessible explanations of Jesus’ context and the biblical world rather than stories of the Bible applied to the day-to-day.

By quoting extensively from the church fathers, the Pope relies on exclusively male language, which may prove off-putting to some. Others may enjoy the traditional language and the richness of these weekly devotions.

Mission Possible: One-Year Devotional for Young Readers and Mission Possible One-Year Devotional

by Tim Tebow with A. J. Gregory
Waterbrook, 384 pages | Published November 8, 2022

When I first received the Mission Possible series, it seemed more likely that the Detroit Lions would win the Super Bowl than I would review it for the Outlook. If you understood that reference, then Tebow’s devotional is a good choice for you or the sports fans in your family.

A football player known for publicly sharing his faith, Tebow offers earnest pep talks that implore readers to find and accomplish their God-given purpose. My teenagers and I read his devotional for young readers aloud at the dinner table, leading to lively debates about substitutionary atonement and one son dusting off his Bible to refer to the Moses stories! Our family often disagreed with Tebow’s more conservative theology, but he backs up his beliefs with Bible references and occasional dips into New Testament Greek, as well as enthusiastic examples from life and sports that will appeal to many readers. Allow me to publicly repent — turns out that a Heisman trophy winner who’s eager to share his love of God has a great deal to offer.

Everyday Connections: Reflections and Practices for Year A

Heidi Haverkamp, editor
Westminster John Knox, 592 pages | Published August 30, 2022

Lectionary preachers (and other fans of the liturgical year) will welcome this rich and practical devotional. Heidi Haverkamp understands what inspires preachers, and she delivers a guide chock full of biblical quotes, brief reflections, suggested practices and the occasional spot to write a personal connection to the text. It’s a flexible resource, meant to be read daily, weekly or as needed alongside a Bible; busy readers can pick and choose from among the Scripture passages offered, while those looking to savor the Word can spend time in lectio divina, the Examen and other practices.

Everyday Connections is part of a series that includes Worship Companion, liturgy and prayers for every Sunday in the church year, making it an ideal choice for those enjoy their devotional reading with a side of worship prep.

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