I’ve been getting a lot of questions lately about my favorite devotionals and Bible studies and also what all the colorful markings are on my Bible pages and where to start if you want to read the Bible. I thought that was a perfect opportunity to share with you a peek behind the scenes at what my morning quiet time looks like.
When I sit down to start studying a new book of the Bible, the first thing I always do is search for that book on The Bible Project website. I’m a very visual learner and their visual overviews of each book help me get an idea of what I’m about to start reading.
I participate in a women’s Bible Study called CBS and each week we have assigned reading. My Life Group also is typically reading in a particular book of the Bible, so I’m almost never just opening up the Bible and reading at random. 1-2 days per week I’m doing the reading from CBS and 1-2 days per week I’m doing the reading for my Life Group. The other days I’m doing a quick devotional. (Scroll all the way to the end to see a few of my fave devos!)
I have a favorite chair in my house that I like to read my Bible in. It’s by the window in my room and I have a little table where I keep my Bible, my journal, and a cup filled with all my colored pens. That way, when I sit down with my Bible in the morning I have everything I need to dive in and no excuses as to why I can’t. Wherever you chose to read, I’d suggest setting up your space in a way that allows you to dive in without distractions.
I also have a couple of favorite tools for getting the most out of my quiet time.
The first is the YouVersion Bible app. I love it because it lets me switch between different versions of the Bible, so if I’m having trouble understanding what’s going on in a particular verse, I can check it out in another version and try to get more understanding. I’m usually reading in the ESV English Standard Version and my go to when I switch versions for understanding is usually the AMP Amplified Version.
The second tool I love is the Blue Letter Bible app. I use it when I don’t know what a word means. I can pull up the verse, click on it, select “Interlinear/Concordance” then click on the “Strongs” which will indicate what the word was in the original Greek or Hebrew language and will give not only a definition of the word in this context, but also other verses where you can find that word. Checking out the other verses often sends me down rabbit trails but always leads to deeper understanding.
And the third tool that I use each time I study the Word is a system for color-coding my notes. Yes, I write directly in my Bible. I recently heard Matt Chandler make a joke about this… he said “People always say you shouldn’t write in your Bible because you can get confused about what’s actually the Bible. But the way I do it is if it’s printed on the page, that’s the Bible. If it’s written in my handwriting, that’s me.”
If writing in your Bible is wrong, then I’m in big trouble because mine is marked up all over in a rainbow of colors, but I’ll tell you I think God will give me a pass because my knowledge of His Word has grown so much since I started studying this way and I enjoy it so much more as well.
This is the system I use for color-coding my notes, which I adopted from Jane Johnson‘s explanation of how she studies her Bible. I use a different color pen to denote different things.
Purple is my own personal thoughts
Black is a definition or an alternate word found in a different version of the Bible
Red is a cross reference from another verse
Blue is the thoughts of someone else I want to consider – a pastor, a podcast, one of the commentaries in the Blue Letter Bible app, etc
Pink is a prophecy. I absolutely love making the connection between where something is originally spoken and it coming to fruition.
Orange is anywhere something is repeated 3 times or more. I pay attention to these much more after reading Jane’s thoughts on this:
“I know that all Scripture is God-breathed, so every single sentence has divine weight. When God says something once, it’s important. When He says it twice, pay attention—He’s emphasizing a point. But when He says it three times (or more)? You’d better stop and take notice.” – Jane Johnson
These are the pens I use: Pigma Micron
They don’t bleed through the pages and the tips are skinny enough I can write really small.
This is the Bible I love: ESV Journaling Bible
It is a journaling Bible, which means it has wide margins and lines specifically meant for writing notes. And it’s so very pretty… a super soft leather with a leather cord for closure.
Here are a few of my favorite 5-10 minute daily devotionals:
Jesus Calling by Sarah Young
Sarah is a missionary and these 5 minute devotionals are written as if Jesus is speaking to you and give supporting verses for you to look up. They are dated one for each day of the year and it’s always cool to me to see which ones fall on special and important dates to me. This is a great place to start if you’re new to reading the Bible, in fact my copy is on loan to a friend right now and I’ve started her next one, Jesus Always. There are versions for kids as well.
100 Days to Brave by Annie F Downs
Each day seems to meet me right where I’m at. Annie uses stories from her life to explain God’s intention for us to walk bravely in our faith in Him. It’s taken me a little more than 100 days to finish this devo because I alternate what I’m reading each day, but I’ve loved this one from start to finish, especially because Annie is young, a creative and so relatable!
Ruth Simmons Chou’s Gracelaced
I am still working through this devo and absolutely love it. I typically break each chapter up over 3 days because every single page is filled with verses, content and beautiful watercolor art. I am also doing the Gracelaced journaling guide Gracelaced Seasons: a Guided Companion as well as her book Garden of Truth.
Emily Ley’s A Standard of Grace: A Guided Journal
I always find that journaling brings thoughts to the surface that I maybe didn’t realize I had, so I love answering the prompts on each page. Journaling keeps you honest with yourself and accountable to areas you can improve. I typically start the week off with one of these.
Here are a few of my favorite in-depth Bible studies:
Jane Johnson has a plethora of resources and studies available on her website and meeting and hearing her speak at a women’s conference years ago, then completing her study Treasures of Darkness totally changed the way I read the Bible. I also love Mercy Like Morning and 25 Days of Advent. She just has a way of explaining things in a rich way and simultaneously making a deep Biblical understanding very accessible.
Jen Wilkin’s Flower Mound Bible Studies
Jen has studies for many books of the Bible and they are very in depth. Each week you have assigned reading + questions to answer + a 40ish minute podcast teaching by Jen. I have only done the Joshua study (Joshua and Exodus are my fave books of the Bible!) and I really enjoyed it.
Community Bible Study is the women’s Bible study I attend everything Thursday morning. Each week consists of assigned reading + followup questions. Then we meet on Thursday mornings to discuss our answers in a small group format, then listen to a 30ish minute teaching on the week’s lesson. There are chapters all across the country and it’s a great way to meet other women who want to learn more about the Bible. You can visit their website and click “Find a Class” to see if there is one near you.
I hope that is helpful! Feel free to leave questions below in the comments or reach out on Instagram!