An interview with Joanna Weaver, author of At the Feet of Jesus
Author Joanna Weaver confesses to being a fellow struggler when attempting to find a quiet time for study and reflection. She understands the challenges we all face. In her latest release, At the Feet of Jesus: Daily Devotions to Nurture a Mary Heart (WaterBrook Press / October 2, 2012 / hardcover / ISBN: 978-0307731005 / $ 15.99 / also available in e-book), Weaver gives readers the structure they need to grow closer to God. This 365-day devotional encourages and inspires women who want to deepen their spiritual lives as they spend a year at the feet of Jesus.
At the Feet of Jesus combines a conversational tone, real-life stories and insightful Bible teaching to engage readers at an emotional and spiritual level. Each page-per-day devotional includes a brief inspirational reading, a short Bible passage and a reflection question designed to create a greater hunger for intimacy with God.
Q: You admit to being a fellow struggler when it comes to finding quiet time for God. How do you find time to work on your relationship with God?
I’m learning that intimacy with God is a choice I have to make every day. It’s so easy to allow other things to crowd out my time with the Lord — to allow the “tyranny of the urgent” to take priority over what is truly important. But when I allow that to happen, it isn’t long before my soul begins to feel what my spirit lacks. And a malnourished spirit affects every part of my life. While I’m not completely disciplined at having a quiet time every day, I’m learning that if I set aside a consistent time and find a consistent place to meet God it really helps keep me on track. And when it comes to time alone with Jesus, the more time you take the more time you want!
Q: What tools have made it easier for you to structure your own devotional time?
Though I’d been raised in the church all my life and was a young pastor’s wife in full-time ministry, no one had taught me how to have a daily quiet time with the Lord. I knew I was supposed to — but I didn’t know how to. But God was so good to lead me to a year-long discipleship course that changed my life, offering structure and accountability as well as the how-to tools I needed to have a deeper relationship.
TIME + THE WORD + PRAYER has always been the formula for intimacy with God, but the discipleship class showed me how to read the Bible in a way that made it come alive to me. I learned how to read it as a love letter then respond to it through prayer and journaling, turning my quiet time into a living dialogue with and that has changed everything.
Q: In the story of Mary and Martha, Jesus says of Mary, “This is the better part.” What did he mean by that?
I believe Jesus was inviting Martha to enjoy the friendship Mary discovered as she sat at His feet. Martha was so busy serving Jesus, she didn’t realize she could know Jesus. And that is the trap we all fall into from time to time — even those of us who are seasoned Christians.
Martha was a woman who loved Jesus. She was operating in her gifts — the Greek word for “preparations” in Luke 10:38 is diakonia. It can be translated as “ministry.” Martha wasn’t showing off. She was doing what women did back then, working really hard so everyone else could worship. But Jesus offered her something she didn’t know she could have: intimacy with Him. It wasn’t “more” that Jesus required. In fact, I think it was less.
Jesus was saying, “Martha, Martha . . . come sit at my feet. Come find life for your soul.” And that’s the invitation He gives to each one of us today.
Q: Would you mind sharing with us what the words “at the feet of Jesus” mean to you?
Ah, I love that phrase! I had always viewed devotions as a duty — something all good Christians should do. One more thing to be added to my to-do list. But I’ve found that it’s so much more than that! When Jesus told Martha that Mary had chosen the “Better Part,” He wasn’t insisting that she add one more thing to her busy day ; He was offering her a relationship — a chance to take off her apron and lay aside her duties and just rest in His presence. That’s what “at the feet of Jesus” means to me, Hanging out with the Lord, just loving Him and allowing Him to love me.
Q: How was At the Feet of Jesus designed to be used? How long does each devotional take per day?
Devotionals have really added a rich structure to my time with the Lord, especially in the beginning. But I still find them a wonderful addition to my time in God’s Word. It’s my prayer that At the Feet of Jesus will serve as a companion like that.
With one page per day, the devotionals don’t take much time to read at all. But I hope readers will go to their Bibles and look up the verses included at the bottom and take time to reflect on what they learn there.
Q: Each day’s devotional is dated, but does it matter if you start at January 1?
It doesn’t matter at all. Being a perfectionist — albeit, a frustrated one! — I understand the feeling that I must start at the beginning of the year if I’m going to do it right. But just as each year has a first month, so each month has a first day. Each day has a first hour, and each hour has a first minute! Etc, etc. Just begin. That’s what the Puritans suggested, and I love their advice! “Start small, but begin.”
Q: At the Feet of Jesus excerpts portions from your previous releases. What features and new materials are included for those who may have read Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World or one of your other books?
Because I tend to “write to find out,” I often end up with extra material that doesn’t make it into my books. While it is excruciating at times to “murder my little darlings,” as writing experts advise, it is necessary to the editing process. When I came up with the idea of intertwining excerpts from my books into a devotional, I got excited about including some of my favorite “outtakes.” I hope readers will enjoy them, as well, and get a small peak into the process of writing a book.
We’ve also included sidebars to give readers tools to go even deeper in their quiet time and study of God’s Word: tips for creative quiet times, scripture memorization helps, inductive methods of Bible study, as well as other resources.
Q: At the Feet of Jesus includes sections called Out Takes, which are made up of material that didn’t make your previous releases. In the case of movies, outtakes are often some of the best parts of a movie. What goes into deciding what does and does not make it into a book?
That is such a good question. I suppose it is different for every writer, but for me, it happens a couple of ways. My tendency to write without an outline leads to some interesting detours and dead-ends. I usually discover what works and what doesn’t in a portion I’ve written when I read it out loud. But it is often my sweet, all-knowing, all-wise editor who deletes the portions. When I don’t miss the piece she’s removed during my read-through, I know it has to go. It was fun to revisit my outtake file and pull the pieces I especially loved.
Q: What are some of the areas that you encourage your readers to dig deeper into?
I really want people to get into God’s Word for themselves. Before I learned how to have my own quiet time, I once heard a woman say, “I love this book!” and she hugged her Bible to her chest. I remember sitting there thinking, “Wow. A lot of the time I don’t even understand that book.” But as I’ve spent time in the Bible, I have fallen in love with the Word of God. And that’s my prayer for those who use this devotional.
Don’t worry about what you don’t understand in the Bible. Start with an easy-to-understand book like Mark or James or one of Paul’s smaller epistles. Read slowly and in smaller portions. Think about ways to apply what you read to your life. Don’t worry about getting through the Bible in a year if you’re just starting out. Just let the Bible get through to you.
Q: Tell us more about the Bible reading plan included in the back of book. What are some of the ways readers can customize the plan by going to your website?
As I mentioned before, I am a fellow struggler when it comes to spiritual disciplines. For so many years, I would make a resolution to read through the Bible in a year. I’d start in Genesis only to give up in Leviticus or Numbers. But when I started using a Bible reading guide that took me back and forth between the Old Testament and New, my time in the Word really came alive.
That reading guide is included in the back of the devotional, but a special program is also available at www.becominghis.com. It allows you to create a reading guide to your specifications. Just fill in the date you’d like to begin and the book you’d like to start with. Then with a push a button, you’ll receive a personal reading guide you can print off and keep with your Bible.
Q: How do we find a balance of both worship and service?
As a pastor’s wife and mother, I’m constantly trying to find the answer to that question. To be honest, it looks different every day. Some days I have more time for contemplation and worship. Other days, it is busy, busy, busy. But I’m learning to invite Jesus into every moment rather than compartmentalize Him into a part of my day. To prayerfully ask Him to walk with me as I go about my tasks, rather than beat myself up when I haven’t kept my quiet time schedule. But I’m also learning to purposely guard and prioritize my time with Him. Because the truth is, I need Jesus! I don’t have enough on my own to be the wife, the mother, the friend I want to be. But He’s promised to provide everything I need if I’ll seek His kingdom first.
Q: Most of us lean naturally toward being like Mary (worship) or Martha (serving). Which are you more like?
I am a schizophrenic Christian. I want to worship like Mary, but the Martha inside keeps bossing me around! I truly have characteristics of both — good and bad! I’m driven, but I’m not so hot in the kitchen. I get things done, but I also have a lazy streak. Most of all, I really do love Jesus. And that was true of Martha and Mary, as well.
Q: Can you tell us more about your webcast on November 8?
This is a new adventure for me — I’ve never done a webcast, but I’m really excited about it! We are going to talk about developing a quiet time and different ways to approach that. We’ll also share helpful tools for deeper Bible study.
One fun addition to the webcast will be Angela Howard, who helped me compile this devotional. Angela will bring her own experience to the table. She and I are a lot alike, only really different! She’s disciplined and organized. I’m not. She’s had a regular quiet time with the Lord since she was a child. I have not. Basically, she’s got it together, and I’m a mess.
I think it will be fun to chat back and forth with listeners of all backgrounds and personality types. Because here’s the bottom line: It doesn’t matter whether you are more of a Mary or more of a Martha. We are all invited to sit at Jesus’s feet. That’s what November 8 is going to be about, and we really hope everyone will join us!