I look forward to Lent each year: to the hours of reflection, to the reading, the candlelight, the poetry, to the length of the season that starts in the cold, darkness of Winter and walks us into the slightly warmer and significantly brighter arms of Spring.
I’ve been on the edge of my faith for the past several years, hanging on to words such as, “I will never leave you or forsake you,” and “nothing can separate you from God’s love”.
As often happens in midlife, I have more questions than answers, am regularly upset by the patriarchal tone of the Bible, and I see more parallels in other faiths than perhaps I’d like to see. But the core story I still love for all its extravagant, unbelievable, raw and violent beauty. And that has never left me.
Bread and Wine is a collection for Lent and Easter written by various authors. There are more chapters than days leading to Easter, but as they are written by authors such as C.S.Lewis, Kathleen Norris, Oscar Wilde, Walter Wangerin, Henri Nouwen, and many more, you will want to read each one.
God is on the Cross by Deitrich Bonhoeffer has a short reading each day, followed by a prayer. Many of the selections are from his book, The Cost of Discipleship. I typically prefer longer readings, but each passage contains no fluff–it gets right to the meat of the matter and addresses the deep heart issues.
The Celebration of the Disciplines by Richard Foster is a classic which addresses the need for people to go after God with consistency, and yes, with discipline, in order for spiritual growth to occur. And as Foster says in the introduction, this book is not only for Christians, but for people who are simply seeking spiritual truth. He covers twelve disciplines including meditation, fasting, celebration, study, solitude, and confession. Although this isn’t a Lent book, per se, I think it fits with the spirit of this season. I’ve decided to re-read it.
Freedom of Simplicity by Richard Foster is again, not necessarily a book for Lent, but it might be just what many of us need. This is another book I’ve decided to re-read during this season. The first section of the book deals with the foundation of simplicity and the second section is divided into inner, outer, and corporate simplicity.
40 Days of Decrease by Alicia Britt Chole is a book I purchased only this year. Each day has a reading, a reflection, a suggested fast for the day, a bit of Lenten history, and a blank section where you may write your reflection if you wish.
The Selfless Way of Christ by Henri Nouwen. If you are a Christian believer or a spiritual seeker who asks probing questions and wants to hear the honest thoughts and experiences of an intelligent and devout, yet very human person, you might pick up one of Nouwen’s books. I wish I’d been able to hear him speak in person while he was alive, but am thankful for the writings he left the world.
Joywares Cradle-to-Cross Wreath: This wreath/labyrinth is unique and I’m so glad I found it! Ann Voskamp’s son makes these. You can use them for Advent, Lent, and then from Easter until Ascension!
Sarah Clarkson’s Vimeo recordings I’ve read Sarah’s blog posts for years now and have recently been enjoying her videos on Instagram and/or Vimeo in which she shares some of her reflections on faith and reads poetry. Some of you might enjoy her too!
Bach’s St. Matthew Passion is a must for me, especially for Passion Week, but anytime leading up to Easter. I listen to it in English, but I should make an effort to listen in German this year.
Handel’s Messiah is a must-listen for me, again, in English. If I haven’t heard it through at least once before Easter, then I have it on all afternoon on Easter Sunday.
I will leave you with another poem by Mary Oliver. Lean into love today, friends.
Making the House Ready for the Lord by Mary Oliver.
Dear Lord, I have swept and I have washed but
still nothing is as shining as it should be
for you. Under the sink, for example, is an
uproar of mice it is the season of their
many children. What shall I do? And under the eaves
and through the walls the squirrels
have gnawed their ragged entrances but it is the season
when they need shelter, so what shall I do? And
the raccoon limps into the kitchen and opens the cupboard
while the dog snores, the cat hugs the pillow;
what shall I do? Beautiful is the new snow falling
in the yard and the fox who is staring boldly
up the path, to the door. And still I believe you will
come, Lord: you will, when I speak to the fox,
the sparrow, the lost dog, the shivering sea-goose, know
that really I am speaking to you whenever I say,
as I do all morning and afternoon: Come in, Come in.