Dear friend: An invitation to consider what you need as Lent begins 🌿
My Lenten companions this year and a few gentle recommendations for you.
I’ve shared before about how I didn’t grow up with any Lenten practices, and there was a time that all I knew about it was that you gave up something. It almost felt like a secret club where you went without, as a badge of honor. I saw people giving up social media or coffee or sugar, and didn’t think it was anything terribly important. I put it in the camp of a showy way to practice a little self-discipline.
It has been a quiet discovery in my adult life to create space for Lent, seeing it as so much more than just abstaining from something for 40 days. I now see it as a way to connect with the Lord. It feels like this beautiful invitation to less, so that my eyes are open to more.
I’ve grown to believe that Lent isn’t meant to be another project or one more thing to add to a to-do list. In fact, there have been times where I was eager to have a sense of control in a season of loss that I was hungry for giving up something. In that time, the Lord invited me instead to experience his rest and his abundance. I’ll admit it was hard to receive. In case you’re in a similar place, I wanted to share just a little of that felt like, with this excerpt from the essay where I shared the whole story:
I recognized my own discomfort with the idea of not doing something. I want to give up something for the Lord. I want to feel spiritual. I want the familiar of giving up and sacrifice. I want the familiar of hard things. I want him to take something from me, to keep me in check. I pressed into this discomfort, this familiar pressure I put on myself to measure up and cover ground.
Beloved, I just want to be with you. I want you to rest and enjoy good things for Lent. I don’t want you to give up anything else. You have forgotten that I put good things in, not just take them away. Let me love you abundantly. Rest and abundance are what I have for you.
Dear friend, I don’t believe the Lord pressures and shames us. I feel sensitive to the fact that this has been a painful year of loss for so many.
May Lent beginning next week be your gentle invitation to listen with the Lord about what is true for you in this season, what your heart may need. Perhaps it is a practice of giving up something, but perhaps it is a practice of receiving. Even as I write this, I’m praying for you on the other side of this letter. I’m praying for the courage to be honest about how you’re doing, the courage to ask the Lord for an invitation here.
May you experience more of the Lord's kindness and love for you, as you ask him what you need here.
As Lent begins next Wednesday, I feel hopeful for the days ahead of spending more intentional time with Jesus. I’m feeling heavy and weary, and I’m grateful for the invitation for unhurried space to listen and be with the Lord. In case you’re looking for a tool or book to journey with you, I wanted to share a few of my intentions for Lent this year, as well as some books I’ve had as gentle companions in years past.
My Lenten companions for 2022:
Visio Divina is something that’s newer to me, but I’ve heard it described as “praying with your eyes” and it is a practice that has been a gift to me in recent years. (You can read more about the practice here, if you’re interested.)
I’m looking forward to this devotional, The Art of Lent by Sister Wendy Beckett, inviting me into a place of slowing down and prayer with a painting for each day. The paintings come from across the centuries, and there is a short reading with each day to act as a guide.
My friends, Sue and Katie host a gentle space for writers, The Writer’s Refuge and are offering an invitation to see writing as a prayerful activity during Lent. I’ve deeply appreciated the space they’ve created in the past, and am hoping to join in some of the virtual writing rooms and connection in the weeks ahead. You can find out more about how to join for free here or can sign up directly here.
I’m always grateful for the gift of someone coming alongside me, and that’s exactly what Rev. Summer Gross’ Lectio Divina offerings feel to me. When my thoughts are loud or I can’t seem to find space, beginning one of these videos where she reads Scripture slowly is a tremendous gift. If you join her on Patreon, you can access all the videos she made for Holy Week last year, but here are her videos for Good Friday and Easter that are free. I’m also so grateful for the space she creates twice a month in her spiritual direction group, Table of the Beloved. While this isn’t just for this season of Lent, I’m grateful for the gift of gentle contemplation with others who want the same.
Lenten companion recommendations:
Alicia Britt Chole is one of my favorite teachers. 40 Days Of Decrease helped me discover Jesus in new, deeply meaningful ways every time I’ve read it. She invites the reader into different kinds of fast for each day of Lent, fasting things like “Fixing It,” “Avoidance,” and “Criticism.” Her insights about the life of Jesus and what that means for me have been transformational for me. I experienced Jesus’ presence more because of the gentle and truthful invitations offered in these pages. This is a book I’ve returned to time and time again.
Ps. I also took WAY longer than 40 days to read this one the first time and have no regrets. If you need to take your time with this one (or any of on this list!) please do. The point isn’t to read a certain amount every day, but to experience more of the Lord’s presence.
Instead of giving up a substance or a practice, Asheritah Ciuciu invites you to consider sacrificial love as you enter into Lent. With daily reflections on the specific ways Jesus loves us, I was challenged to consider who I am invited to love and the costly way I am loved. I really love the inclusion of suggested family activities each week, a simple weekly liturgy, plus more Scripture each day if you want to go deeper on your own. This one feels very accessible for a family or group to do together, as well for individual reading. Also, a small bonus, this book is really beautiful, with it’s floral cover and hardcover!
Remember Me is fiction that offers an invitation to wrestle and grieve, through the lens of the Jesus’ suffering. I honestly haven’t encountered books quite like what Sharon Garlough Brown has written. Instead of preachy narrative, I have found myself utterly undone by the truth and honesty in her characters that were so easy to relate to. I find myself using her books as my own guide to reflect and be with the Lord, and this one was no exception. I also highly recommend her Sensible Shoes series, with the fourth book, An Extra Mile taking place during Lent/Easter. If entering into a story sounds more accessible than reading a devotional, this one might be a good fit for you.
PS. While you can read Remember Me as a stand alone, it does follow the book, Shades of Light.
The Passion of the King of Glory
I absolutely loved Russ Ramsey’s books in this series, as they all feel like the Jesus Storybook Bible for grownups in the very best of ways. This one is all about the life of Jesus told in an imaginative story format. It isn’t a devotional in a traditional way, but there are 40 chapters that could be read daily leading up to Lent. As someone who grew up in the church, I sometimes need help with seeing past the familiarity of Scripture. I’m so grateful for this humble, rich storytelling that makes Jesus feel closer.
I love that this book is full of familiar Biblical narrative but written with a freshness, as a story all about who Jesus is. I love the lack of preaching, as it assumes that the power of this story is enough. And it is. This one also sends me to my Bible to compare the compelling writing of Russ Ramsey to the Biblical narrative. I’m so impressed with how much Scripture is used, even as he is using imagination to bring life to familiar stories. In the introduction, he states, “my hope is that this journey through the pages of Scripture will capture your imagination in ways that will serve your life long study of the Bible.” For me, that has been true. I’m grateful.
Dear friend, however you choose to engage with the Lord these days leading up to Easter, I pray that you feel his kindness and gentleness towards you. I pray you feel his face turned towards you, the invitation to experience his heart of love.
And as always, I'd love to hear from you! Feel free to just hit "reply" to this email. Whether you want to share a prayer request or if my words brought up anything for you, I’d be so glad to know.