It was sunny out, but it was cold. Not that I could feel any sun as I carried the split wood down to the rusty iron fire ring, nestled in a shallow dingle among acres of fir trees – each of them 1 foot wide and 60 feet tall, draped in dangling moss and bristling with widowmakers. I come out here once in a while, usually when it’s cold, to light a big fire in the woods and sit with my maker. There’s no agenda, there’s no plan – it’s just me and my journal, my Bible and my God…and fire.
This is what we call a DAWG Day at Bootcamp. Without fail the practice lists on the top of our suggestions, even above engaging in a Band of Brothers, but it’s also something that raises more than a few eyebrows. For a few the practice may seem ascetic or monastic but mostly it’s just something folks are unfamiliar with and their looks say “What on Earth are you talking about?” So today I wanted to write a quick blog to describe the practice and offer encouragement to give it a shot.
The secret to a DAWG Day is in the name: Day Alone With God.
The point is so simple it’s easily missed or messed up. It’s not about Bible memorization or devotional reading. It’s not about “wrestling with God” or seeking some specific answer to a question or problem. In Gary Chapman terms it’s an exercise in the love language of Quality Time. It’s hanging out in the most undistracted, unstructured way possible. When we set aside a DAWG Day we go open handed and without any agenda to simple be with God.
We generally suggest you bring a journal for the purpose of writing down anything you hear. Memory is a slippery thing and many a good word from the Lord gets lost only because we forgot to write it down. But be prepared to hear nothing. That’s OK too and if that’s your experience you’re not doing anything wrong. On that day describe above – I barely heard a peep from on high. That said, most of my DAWG Days are the times I hear the deepest and most profound words, so being prepared to write them down for later is just wise.
We also suggest you bring a Bible. Like a good Berrean it’s wise and appropriate to have scripture handy and to check what we hear against the Word. We are shrewd to remember that there is an enemy who would love to take the open microphone and sow confusion in such a vulnerable time. So keep your sword handy, but try to avoid the impulse to get bored and dive into scripture reading as a way to break an uncomfortable silence. There’s lots of time to study the Bible, but a DAWG Day isn’t it.
For me an outdoor setting is ideal but that’s a matter of personal choice and I know men who would rather slip away to the beach, get on a boat, or retreat into their man cave than get numb toes outside in the wind – to each his own. Think about the places where God has spoken to you in the past – environments like that are a good place to start. The one thing you want to keep in mind is the “alone” part. While shutting the door on your garage may seem private it’s surprising how much “life” will try to intrude. Sometimes that’ll be the enemy trying to crash the party. Other times…well other times it’s just your kids. No devilry there, but a distraction all the same. So finding a place where you can be certain of your solitude is a big bonus. If you’re lucky enough to have any abbeys or monasteries nearby, most have rooms that you can reserve and spend your time in peace.
The final piece of advice is probably the most difficult, especially given the busyness we can all get addicted to. Stick with it. Fight the urge to expect too much too quickly and get bored or frustrated. If you enter the day with an attitude of practicing an ancient spiritual discipline then it helps get your mind off of the outcome. On the other hand, it’s not a religious attempt to be particularly holy or spiritual, be easy on yourself. Instead just consider it as time invested in getting to know a friend or loved one. Be yourself. Relax. And let your mind and spirit Go toward God in whatever way feels natural in the moment.
That’s it. Not much to it really but a heart to be with the Father and enjoy His presence.
Ever since I started this practice I find I need these days to keep alert and oriented. There’s something profoundly grounding in the practice and I always come back to the world refreshed, reinvigorated, stabilized…and smelling of campfire smoke.