Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent, and many Western Christians are wondering how they will mark this holy season 1. In light of the impending season, Accordance Bible Software is making several Lenten devotionals available through their store. As a way of highlighting these resources I was offered a gratis copy 2 of Falling into Goodness, by Chuck DeGroat, to review. This book is currently available through the Accordance website for $8.90.
I’ve never used any version of Accordance for devotional reading, mostly because the reading plans are calendar driven and I find scrolling to be a terrible way to read lengthy texts, but I thought this might be a good opportunity to put it through its paces. I’ll be referencing the iOS version of Accordance in this post, as I use my iPad or iPhone for my devotional reading.
The Book Itself
For anyone familiar with personal devotionals Falling into Goodness is pretty much par for the course. It’s broken up into daily readings for the season of Lent, beginning on Ash Wednesday, and is presented in a simple format.
- A short scripture passage
- A several paragraph reflection
- A prayer
Where DeGroat’s work stands out is in it’s focus. I’ve seen a number of personal devotions which are primarily designed to provide “practical” lessons by which readers can navigate the world. While “practical devotion” is certainly important, when it’s reduced the bite-sized chunks allotted for a devotion “practical” can quickly become “formulaic.”
Falling into Goodness, on the other hand, has a deep awareness of Christian Mysticism. It’s focus isn’t on “practical life lessons” as much as it’s an invitation for people to embark on a journey. One on which they might experience God in a deep and meaningful way. The walk on which DeGroat leads readers is deep, and the way he challenges the assumptions present in much of Western religion are even a bit disturbing. This disturbing movement in the daily devotions seems to spring from DeGroat’s own spirit, as he himself found the Lenten journey to be wonderfully disruptive in his own life.
No one ever told me.
No one ever told me about the power of these words:
You are dust, and to dust you shall return.
As a Lenten devotion, Falling into Goodness is an ideal piece of literature. DeGroat’s writing is succinct, colorful, and deep. And the journey on which he leads his readers is transformative.
Accordance as a Devotional Reader
Falling into Goodness is an excellent Lenten devotional, but how is Accordance as a devotional reader? As it turns out, a seasonal devotional is the perfect format for reading non-Biblical or research texts in Accordance mobile. The format is well laid-out, and Accordance’s built-in table of contents feature 3 works well. The inclusion of a second table of contents within the scope of the book was probably unnecessary as the book structure is easily accessed any time it’s open, but it’s presence is not overwhelming.
Scriptures are set as hyperlinks, and tapping on one opens up the reference in a clean-looking popup window. This allows readers to delve a bit deeper into the Bible when some contextual passages are listed in a particular devotion. It’s a nice way to read, and it keeps readers from losing their place if they happen to follow the links 4.
A feature I found oddly absent, at least on iOS, is the ability to add notes to the devotional. I sometimes like to jot down a thought or two while I read, to communicate what I was thinking “in the moment,” and its absence seemed odd to me. Given Falling into Goodness is available as a native eBook, and the note features on various eReading apps are stellar, it’s a small knock on the Accordance version.
The devotional also cannot be opened in Accordance’s split-window mode. When it’s opened, it’s opened by itself. In some ways this means readers can read without added distractions in the Accordance app, but it creates an odd side-effect. Typically, when I work in Accordance I tend to look for the largest screen possible. Falling into Goodness, on the other hand, compels me to find the smallest screen possible. In my iPad Pro’s “normal” landscape orientation the text seems too wide, and my eyes have to travel too far across the screen before moving back. It’s much more comfortable on my older iPad Air in Portrait mode, which is more usable as a reader, but where the title shines is on my iPhone. The combination of brevity, quality layout, and decent typography almost make it seem as though this version of the devotion was designed for a smart-phone screen. This makes sense. The different readings are small enough to be read in moments, but deep enough to demand some deliberate pauses for focus and introspection. It’s a perfect combination for people “out and about” during the day, and fits well with an “always on my person” device.
Falling into Goodness is a worthy personal devotion to help guide a Lenten journey. While you might want to look at buying a “normal” eBook version if you want to attach notes to the devotions, the Accordance edition is nicely designed. Just make sure to read it on the smallest screen you have on hand.
- Eastern Christians tend to have a set fast from meat, cheese, fish, and fermented drinks. They practice this shared fast because it’s a community first culture. Roman Catholics don’t eat meat on Fridays, and then “give something up,” on their own because Westerners like thinking they are individuals. Many Protestants tend to randomly “give something up” because we feel left out and don’t know any better. But the idea isn’t only about “giving up,” it’s about using energy we might otherwise have used on good things in order to draw nearer to God through prayer and service. ↩
- Consider that “full disclosure.” I’m not being paid to say nice things, but I did get the book for free. ↩
- AKA the verse chooser ↩
- Though, really, an immersive study of different passages isn’t what this spiritual journal is about. ↩