If the first thing you do when you open your eyes in the morning is roll over, grab your phone, and begin scrolling through social media and never-ending work emails, Jackie Hill Perry would like to help you change that. The author, artist, poet and speaker, who if you follow her on social media, you know educates her more than 1.1 million followers via Instagram alone on the gospel. With her new book, her third following Gay Girl, Good God and Holier Than Thou, Perry is helping people change their morning routines to make the time for bible study so they can start their days fed — on the right things.
She just released Upon Waking: 60 Daily Reflections to Discover Ourselves and the God We Were Made For, a devotional that unlike many out there, is completely focused on centering God as opposed to centering the reader.
“I think a lot of the contemporary devotionals are probably related to much of even the preaching and teaching and content that is popular nowadays, which is things that just have a focus on us. We even motivate ourselves by talking about ourselves, which is cool. But at the end of the day, we’re limited in our ability to be all that God has called us to be if our focus is just primarily on what we can do instead of who He is,” she tells ESSENCE. “And so I felt like creating a devotional that recenters Jesus, recenters the scriptures, recenters even the truth of the scriptures when interpreted rightly was important because we’re busy people. We have social media, we have businesses, we got parenting, we got jobs, we have a lot of things to do, a lot of things to steward. And I think we would do it in a way that honors the Lord and honors our neighbor if we put Hiim first.”
Perry came to the faith at 19, and a woman who discipled her, named Santoria, had a sticky note on her shared desktop computer that would read, “Do not get on this computer until you spent time at God’s word.” So every morning during that time, Perry would wake up, delving into a recommended text, and they would discuss it, sharing perspectives. This helped her cultivate a practice of digging into the word and hearing from God first.
So with Upon Waking, she is hoping to bring that about for the reader. In 60 short reflections that were collected from what she shared on her Twitter timeline over the last five years and then broken down into theological categories, she focuses on scripture with the goal being, as she says in the introduction of the book, “to stir you up. To whet your appetite, if you will, for God and His Word.” The devotional is meant to be a resource to push readers to dig deeper into the text on their own. That can be difficult for many because Hill Perry says people expect to be entertained around the clock these days.
“You can skip through commercials. If you go to the doctor’s office and you there waiting longer than 15 minutes, you have a cell phone to keep you company, keep you busy. We don’t even like staying on the phone too long if you’re not really interested,” she says. “And I think the way that shows up in our time with God is we are unwilling to sit with him for extended amounts of time because it feels boring or we’re unwilling to read certain passages. Who wants to walk through Leviticus? I want to read the exciting part of scripture, but all of scripture is God breathed. All of scripture is profitable and useful for training and for correction.”
She adds, “And so I think the way you push past it is you recognize that maybe this is flesh talking because how could God, the creator of the heavens and the earth actually be boring? If I allow my boredom to dominate the time rather than the spirit, then when things happen and when stuff pops up and when temptations come my way, I don’t even have God’s word in my heart because I moved on too fast.”
To help you tap in better, Perry recommends sitting with a devotional, and then sitting with the scripture it comes from longer than you sat with the former. You can also listen to the scriptures, listen to podcasts focused on the word, go out to eat with friends who want to discuss passages in the Bible, and just make an intentional effort – the same way you do for everything else.
And if anyone knows about finding the time amid a flurry of responsibilities, it is Hill Perry, who in addition to writing texts and evangelizing, also has a podcast with her husband, Preston Perry (With the Perrys), and four kids at home.
“I think balance is an imaginary term. I think the better term is stewardship,” she says. “And a really practical way that I’ve learned how to steward all the things is that my calendar submits to what I’m stewarding. And so I arrange my days according to what matters to me most so I’m not going to over schedule my time. And I’m not going to give someone more margin than I give my children.”
By 3:30, she says, she’s focused on her family. And when she wants to be “a busybody,” she prays and then seeks wise counsel (from her husband for example) about the best decisions to make.
“Making sure that I’m going to God about what I’m supposed to give my yes to. So as opportunities come, as book ideas come as, ‘Should I hang out with this person?’ comes, I’m going to the Lord and being like, ‘You show me who deserves my yes and who needs my no, because every yes I give is a no to something else.’ And so I think that’s a part of it too.”
This has allowed Perry to avoid feeling overwhelmed (though she’s certainly been there in the past), and in turn, have the time to write her latest work. With that in mind, she says that to make the best use of your time focusing in on your faith, before you even begin, be sure to pray. From there, everything will fall into place.
“Ask God to show you himself. Ask God to show you yourself, and then go to them scriptures and let God speak,” Perry says. “That’s it.”
Upon Waking: 60 Daily Reflections to Discover Ourselves and the God We Were Made For, is now available wherever books are sold.
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