Is this your first time to practice Lent? Here's a simple introduction.
Lent begins in a little less than a week! I wanted to share a quick list of devotional books and other resources we've enjoyed over the past few years.
First things first: Lent is mostly about recognizing God’s heart for us and the gaps between what we understand about His heart and what we actually receive. You may or may not need any additional resources beyond meeting regularly with your church for worship. If it’s helpful for your daily practice to have a devotional book or meditative prompts, the rest of this post is loaded with ideas. If you’re new to Lent, here's a simple introduction.
I’m someone who relishes the “community” of the written word, art, and other resources. I’m also just as likely to avoid God’s heart for me by losing myself in a pile of devotional resources. You might decide that this year you need one Psalm and a good hiking trail or empty journal or small group of trusted friends to consider God’s heart together. You might only need a Scripture verse to meditate through the 40 days (plus 6 blessed Sundays!) of Lent, a special candle and bouquet of flowers to catch your attention each morning.
All of that to say: please proceed with caution. Know you are deeply held in God’s heart and He is most interested in the space you’ll make for Him to share himself with you.
Here’s our favorite resources - in print and online - we’ve found helpful through the years. You'll notice that we definitely lean toward art/literature/liturgy in our devotional material. Also, we've used each of these books (some every year) unless otherwise noted.
I’d love to hear what you’d add to the list!
Bread and Wine: Readings for Lent and Easter, by C. S. Lewis, G. K. Chesterton, Jane Kenyon and more, Plough Publishing House, 2014
Like it’s Advent companion, this collection will satisfy the growing hunger for meaningful and accessible devotions. Culled from the wealth of twenty centuries, the selections in Bread and Wine are ecumenical in scope and represent the best classic and contemporary Christian writers. Includes approximately fifty readings on Easter and related themes by Thomas à Kempis, Frederick Buechner, Oswald Chambers, Alfred Kazin, Jane Kenyon, Søren Kierkegaard, Thomas Merton, Henri Nouwen, Christina Rossetti, Edith Stein, Walter Wangerin, William Willimon, Philip Yancey, and others.
Living the Christian Year: Time to Inhabit the Story of God by Bobby Gross, IVP Books, 2009
Living the Christian Year remains one of the best devotionals we've seen that covers the entire liturgical year. Whether you're familiar or unfamiliar with following the liturgical year, this book makes it easy to do, offering here the significance and history of each season, ideas for living out God's Story in your own life, and devotions that follow the church calendar for each day of the year. The author’s uncomplicated, but substantial, introductions for each liturgical season are especially helpful for those who are new to following the Church calendar.
The Rising: Living the Mysteries of Lent, Easter and Pentecost by Wendy M. Wright, Darton, Longman and Todd, 2005
I'm always grateful for devotionals that cover the whole arc of a liturgical cycle. We gain so much when we walk with Christ through the biblical narratives of Lent, Easter and Pentecost. Like in her Advent corollary, I appreciate Wright's devotional voice. In the narrative she interjects from her own life she manages to speak with both warmth and soundness without tipping over into sentimentality or prescription. I appreciate the balance, and find it lacking from many female devotional writers. I’m especially grateful to Wendy Wright for her applications of classic music and literature into the weekly Lent reflections.
40 Days of Decrease: A Different Kind of Hunger. A Different Kind of Fast. by Alicia Britt Chole, Thomas Nelson, 2016
Our church used this devotional together our final Lent in Austin. This is an excellent guide for anyone wanting to understand better the spiritual practice of fasting.
Devotionals and Meditations especially suited for families
Let Us Keep the Feast: Living the Church Year at Home (Holy Week and Easter) by Jessica Snell, Doulos Resources, 2014
A mercifully simple, but substantial collection of ideas for living out the liturgical year with your family. This book is especially geared toward families with young children.
The Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name by Sally Lloyd-Jones, illustrated by Jago, Zonderkidz, 2007
Every person I know who owns this book loves it (and many adults admit they love it for themselves as much as for their children). "...invites children to join in the greatest of all adventures, to discover for themselves that Jesus is at the center of God's great story of salvation---and at the center of their Story too." While it is a storybook that covers the whole Bible, many families enjoy intentionally following the journey of Christ during Advent and Lent. You can download a free Jesus Storybook Lent Guide for your family.
Wisdom in the Waiting: Spring’s Sacred Days (Stories from the Farm in Lucy series) by Phyllis Tickle, Loyola Press, 2004
I just discovered this charming little trilogy of books for the liturgical year from the religion section of our library book sale. I knew Phyllis Tickle's work in the Divine Hours prayer manuals, but had no idea she was a long-time columnist and wrote such lovely prose. I also had no idea that Mrs. Tickle was mother to seven children, 5 of whom she and her husband Sam moved to a Tennessee farm when they wanted to recover their own childhood rural roots. Each brief, engaging story in the book is taken from the family's escapades making life work on the farm.
Seamless Faith: Simple Practice for Daily Family Life by Traci Smith, Chalice Press, 2014
I browsed this book on recommendation and then quickly passed it along to my sister to use with her preschool kiddos. This is the kind of book I wish I’d known about when my kids were little. If you try it, let me know what you think!
Art & Literature Meditations for Lent
God For Us: Rediscovering the Meaning of Lent and Easter edited by Greg Pennoyer and Gregory Wolfe, Paraclete Press
Like its Advent companion is for Advent, this is my favorite devotional book for Lent. The full-color artwork is gorgeous and the writings include authors like Scott Cairns, Kathleen Norris, Richard Rohr, Luci Shaw, James Schaap and Lauren Winner. We put this book on an easel next to our candles, along with some Bibles for people to pick up and read when they have quiet moments.
Lenten Meditations by James B. Janknegt, 2016
Forty paintings based on the parables of Jesus, one for each day of Lent. Artwork, meditations, and prayer all by the author/artist Jim Janknegt. Brian and I had the privilege to help fund the creation of this beautiful book by one of our favorite Austin artists, and we highly recommend it to you. Great for individuals or families.
Sounding the Seasons: Seventy sonnets for Christian year by Malcolm Guite, Canterbury Press Norwich, 2012
While this collection of sonnets from the Anglican priest/poet/troubadour covers the entire year, his 5 sonnets for Holy Week and 14 sonnets for the Stations of the Cross are stunning.
Word In the Wilderness: A poem a day for Lent and Easter by Malcolm Guite, Canterbury Press Norwich, 2014
We don’t own this book (yet), but I follow Malcolm Guite’s generous blog and have read much of what’s in the book. He is a gift to our generation (and many more to come). One bonus of reading Guite’s sonnets on his blog is to hear him read his sonnets by clicking the link for the audio recording. A real treat from our British brother!
Between Midnight and Dawn: A Literary Guide to Prayer for Lent, Holy Week, and Eastertide by Sarah Arthur, Paraclete Press, 2016
Like its Advent and Ordinary Time companions, Sarah Arthur’s thoughtful Lent reader compiles work from classic and contemporary literature provides prayer, Psalm, Scripture readings, poetry and fiction selections for each week throughout Lent and the seven weeks of Eastertide, with daily selections for Holy Week. Poetry and fictions selections include new voices such as Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Benjamín Alire Sáenz along with well-loved classics by Dostoevsky, Rossetti, and Eliot.This is an excellent resource for anyone wishing to develop more fully in the practice of spiritual reading.
The Art of Lent: A Painting a Day from Ash Wednesday to Easter by Sister Wendy Beckett, SPCK, 2017
We don’t own this book yet, but it’s at the top of my wish list! “This delightful book describes and interprets a series of paintings for each day of Lent. Artists often address subjects that our culture seeks to avoid, and Sister Wendy's brilliant and perceptive reflections will help you to read these paintings with a more discerning eye and encounter deeper levels of spiritual meaning than may at first appear.”
Hinds’ Feet On High Places: An Engaging Visual Journey by Hannah Hurnard, Illustrated by Jill De Haan and Rachel McNaughton, Tyndale House Publishers, 2017
We’re reading this beloved Christian allegory with our church’s reading group for Lent this year. This mixed-media special edition complete with charming watercolor paintings, antique tinted photography, meditative hand-lettered Scripture, journaling and doodling space, and designs to color looks beautiful!
Theology for Lent
Fiction with Lenten themes
Non-fiction with Lenten themes
Lent 2015 – Recommended Books to Read and Discuss via Englewood Review of Books
Raising Racial Awareness: Book Recommendations from Englewood Review of Books
Online resources for Lent
Lent Daybook 2019 from A Sacramental Life (!)
An American Lent from The Repentance Project
Announcing Our Lenten Book Conversation for The Sabbath by Abraham Joshua Heschel, Englewood Review of Books
Artful Devotion, a weekly blog series offered throughout Lent and the rest of the liturgical year at Art & Theology by Victoria Emily Jones
Helpful articles & resources for practicing Lent
Giving Up and Taking Up: What we do (and don’t do) when we keep Lent by Tish Harrison Warren at The Well
Lenten Disciplines: Almsgiving from Anglican Pastor
Making Room: A Child’s Guide to Easter and Lent via The Homely Hours
Ash Wednesday Explained via The Homely Hours
“Grand Ordinariness:” Thoughts on Cooking with Limits via The Homely Hours
Lent Collects: Printable via The Homely Hours
Help in Practicing the Examen by Cobbleworks
Pancakes, Donuts, and Carnival via Pathways to God
An Ignatian Diet for Lent via Pathways to God
Practices & Resources for Observing Lent from Cardiphonia
Please note: Last year I began using Amazon affiliate links as a way to bring in some pocket change from the books I share on the blog. I was challenged by an independent bookseller to reconsider this strategy as Amazon has a poor reputation in its dealings with authors and other members of the book industry. I want to champion local business and humane working relationships and so I've included an IndieBound link that will direct you to purchase any of the following books from an independent bookseller near you. I've also included the order link for one of my new favorite booksellers, Hearts and Minds Books. Using the link I've provided you can order any book through heartsandmindsbooks.com, a full service, independent bookstore and receive prompt and personal service. They even offer the option to receive the order with an invoice and a return envelope so you can send them a check! Brian and I've been delighted with the generous attention we've received from owners Byron and Beth Borger. We feel like we've made new friends! (I also highly recommend subscribing to Byron's passionately instructive and prolific Booknotes posts.)