In one of the boxes of books in my attic is a paper back book with the image of a sunrise (or a sunset?) behind a cactus. I haven't opened it for many years but I can imagine the shape and size and feel of a once beloved devotional. Daily Light. I have at least 4 other copies of that simple book.
Another somewhat used copy of Daily Light is on my bedside table - open to today's date - with a heart-shaped rock anchoring it.
Until recently, I never wondered what book was my very first book. But I begged, borrowed, or stole a small, black-linen bound volume from my parents. The inside cover is rubber-stamped with their last name and contains an inscription of their wedding date - a gift from their pastor. Also - some pencil scribbles by toddler-me! Likely the very first book I ever wrote in. The book: Daily Light on the Daily Path. I'm quite certain my parents didn't hand it to me with a pencil for my note-making. But in the days before board books (so hard to believe!) - I somehow got my little hands on that little book. I left my marks on many pages and I didn't rip any - thankfully!
It's precious for me to think that Daily Light might have been a first book for me. The cactus-covered version was my favorite devotional from junior high to college. At some point, I remember well, it seemed too blah. I needed devotional material that was meatier - more lofty - more verbose. And I put Daily Light aside.
I'm not sure why I resumed reading it in the early 1990s - but I did. I found a lovely version published by Billy Graham's daughter (Anne Graham Loetz) - perfect in size and design. True to the original (except in NIV instead of KJV and re-titled Daily Path for Every Day). It held a high place in the Graham family. The introduction of Loetz's version describes how her mother (Ruth Bell Graham), when she was five years old, was given a copy by her mother and was said to have read it every day of her life. Anne Graham Loetz was given her copy at ten and gave her children theirs at ten. That's at least four generations of a family reading the same passages - mornings and evenings through seasons of life. The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association published at least one edition of the classic devotional.
Other notable people have gained sustenance from Daily Light: Amy Carmichael, Elizabeth Elliot (a daily routine started by her father in her childhood), Geraldine Taylor, Oswald and Biddy Chambers, among others. Untold numbers of readers have read it - day in and day out, year in and year out. It has never been out of print since it was first published c. 1875 (it's exact publication date isn't know). There have been over 365 editions in many languages. 732 readings - one for each morning and evening plus additional readings for specific occasions and needs.
There's not much to tell about the origins of this old book. Samuel Bagster was a publisher/printer in London in the late 1700s-early 1800s. His vow was to never print or sell anything that wasn't true and edifying. He saw the need for an affordable Bible for the masses so he set about printing them - many versions - some with Hebrew and Greek and Latin. He had 12 children; the Bible was central to their family life. Later, his son Jonathan, for his own family's worship, provided a verse or several verses for his family to pray about and identify other verses that related.
One of Jonathan's sons, Robert, wrote of the origins of the book: texts "were carefully considered, discussed and arranged by common consent of all those present, after which the manuscript would be laid aside for prayer and meditation to see if there would be any guidance for further improvement. Sometimes it was weeks before it was felt that the reading for a particular day could not be improved and then that page would be sent to the printer to be set in type. Later it would be read and corrected and all the references would be verified. Each day for two years the readings were compiled, corrected and improved in this way until the whole book was ready for publication in two volumes, one of the Morning readings and the other of the Evening readings."
He said: "Daily Light on the Daily Path was prepared entirely within our family...Few are able to appreciate the heart-searching care with which every text was selected, the days, nay the weeks of changes, alterations and improvements, until at last each page was passed to the printer."
This would be a herculean task in 2022 with searchable online Bibles and word processing technology. But in the 1800s?! All gathered by memory and recorded by hand? It suggests a prodigious knowledge of the Bible and a great dedication to the family project.
Each reading has a theme verse as a heading - then a selection of other verses, strung together to underscore the first one. Nothing more: no commentary, no interpretation. Just words of the Word. Some may lament: but the verses are out of context! Yes - they are. But, I have often seen scriptural connections through the Daily Light readings that I would never pick out on my own. And I have never seen them mis-used.
How refreshing it is to have the words of the Word just stand together - with no human voice explaining them.
I'm at a loss to describe how I and many other Daily Light readers I know, are met with just the right passage on just the right day. It seems the Bagsters were anointed in their vision; the collection and connection of passages. So so SOOOO many times, I've thanked God for that family - for their enduring help in my life. I doubt that they had any idea that their humble book would shed such light into the 21st century. They have bolstered and challenged and convicted and strengthened Kathi for several decades now. The fruit of their prayerful, word-work is immeasurable. Almost every day: my first glimpse in the morning and my last at night, providing a quick read as I jump into my day or a deep pondering if the time and mood provide. Daily Light doesn't make up the bulk of my devotional routine now but there have been seasons when it was all I had time for - and it was enough!
Morning and evening. Day in and day out. Year in and year out. Daily Light for my path. There is something so comforting in the awareness that I have read this very page - on this very day - for these many years. If the day has held anything notable, I sometimes scribble a dated note along in the margin.
There are many versions of Daily Light, in a variety of sizes and cover art. There are about 15 versions on Amazon at the moment and over 30 on eBay. There are ebooks and apps. Surely, there's a version for you, if you find yourself needing some light for your daily path!