Weekend Daybook: lots of reading and some television recommendations thrown in

Until Advent (minus some vacation weeks this summer) I’ll share some of the things helping me to worship God, love people, and enjoy beauty each week for you to peruse during your weekend downtime.

(1) photo from this week

our little patch of springtime

our little patch of springtime


(2) more meaningful resources on the meaning of the Feast of the Ascension

  1. Ascensiontide Novena , What Are the Rogation Days? and Rogation Prayer Bunting via The Homely Hours (I’m so grateful to learn how to intentionally and devotionally prepare for Pentecost! I also printed out that bunting and there’s no small children in my home.)

  2. Saint Augustine’s Homily on the Feast of the Ascension of our Lord via Beliefnet (So profound in so few words.)


(3) new blog posts this week!

  1. Sixth Sunday in Eastertide: Going Away / Coming Down (I’m enthralled with “Sky Ladder”, Cai Guo Qiang’s pyrotechnic installation art. Video included on the blog post.)

  2. Practice Resurrection with Amanda McGill (Southwest Ohio) (Make sure you take a moment to listen to Amanda reading us the poem in the video at the top of the post, and please don’t miss the adorable poetry buffs who show up at the end!)

  3. Ascension Day! (I hope the collection I’ve curated for us this week will be meaningful for you, as well. You can see previous years' Ascension Day meditations here. )



(5) insights into the intersection of literacy and strong towns

  1. Librarians Are Trying to Encourage Children to Read—by Bringing Books Straight to the Laundromat by David Beard via Mother Jones (Several initiatives across the country are turning laundromats into libraries to front-load literacy.)

  2. The Secret Life of Libraries By Eric Klineberg via Slate (The children, readers, learners, neighbors, and karaoke singers who use one local library every day.)

  3. How a Local Bookstore Can Make Your Town Richer—In More Than One Way by Kea Wilson via Strong Towns

  4. 16 Incredible Libraries From Around the World by Jessica Miley via Interesting Engineering (These wonderful libraries both new and old might distract you from your reading. We’ve visited #14 several times!)

  5. Community and creativity in mundane retail spaces via Austin Kleon (In The Great Good Place: Cafes, Coffee Shops, Bookstores, Bars, Hair Salons, and Other Hangouts at the Heart of a Community, Ray Oldenburg praises “third places” where people can just get together and hang out as essential to healthy public life.)


(6) links inspiring us embrace the intersection of spring and summer!

  1. Bookish Spring Weekends: 10 Things To Do If You’re Feeling Bored via A Little Blue Book (Not sure how many of us have the luxury of boredom, but here’s a handy list just in case!)

  2. Liturgies for Springtime via Every Moment Holy (My friend texted me this week that she was praying for me while she planting flower seeds. Beautiful, right? )

  3. It’s BACK! Project Summer: Frugal Fun Guide plus your own FREE Printable Summer Planner via Cha-Ching on a Shoestring (Huge list of free and cheap stuff to do with your kids this summer from my brilliant sister!)

  4. 2019 Summer Reading Guide via Modern Mrs. Darcy (Any of you a Modern Mrs. Darcy groupie? I’m hoping to read at least 1 title from each cateogry this summer!)

  5. 10 Fiction Classics for Summer Reading! via Englewood Review of Books (Some of my favorites are included in this list. I’m adding #8 to my TBR for this summer.)

  6. How to Do Kids’ Discipleship in the Woods by Kelli B. Trujillo via CT Women (Creation care does more than conservation. It cultivates faith formation, says A Rocha.)


(7) blog posts from this week in the archives

  1. 2016 - Alex is a college grad! (A fun update during our Season of Fortunate Events).

  2. 2016 - We’re moving: A stream-of-consciousness reflection (It's these moments when God's love makes us appropriately small so that His presence can loom large that I most believe in His goodness + my Friends playlist!)

  3. 2013 - We are the Pentecost-ed (Before this epiphany I mostly felt a low-grade anger that God letting people die during Eastertide was wrecking my liturgical mojo.)

  4. 2013 - This one’s for you [Ryan] (I love you, Ryan Anthony Hill.  Happy Birthday, brother and friend.)

  5. 2012 - You don’t have to be a worship leader to worship God in a mall parking lot (Meditating the practice of everyday worship in honor of my aunt and because I lived in Austin at the time of this writing and was learning that sometimes dependent prayer is the only tool I had left to find decent parking.)

  6. 2011 - A new way to be human guest post: Forgiveness (I collect stories of radical forgiveness and this one from my friend is a good one.)

  7. 2009 - Confession: Part 1 and Part 2 (Disciplines of the Inner Life series)

  8. 2008 - Pick your own metaphor (How many times have we moved during the month of May?!?)

Alex grad.Brian.jpg

3 years ago

Father and son at Alex’s graduation from Rice University, Houston.


May your weekend include plenty of space to practice resurrection. Hallelujah! Christ is risen, friends!

p.s. This post may contain affiliate links because I'm trying to be a good steward, and when you buy something through one of these links you don't pay more money, but in some magical twist of capitalism we get a little pocket change. Thanks!

Our favorite Lent devotionals and online resources

 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.

Lenten flowers.jpg

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!


Devotionals

Bread and Wine: Readings for Lent and Easter, by C. S. Lewis, G. K. Chesterton, Jane Kenyon and more, Plough Publishing House, 2014

Plough Publishing | IndieBound | Hearts & Minds Booksellers

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

Amazon | IndieBound | Hearts & Minds Booksellers

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

Amazon | Hearts & Minds Booksellers

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

Amazon | IndieBound | Hearts & Minds Booksellers

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

Amazon (It’s currently out of stock, but you can find used booksellers.) | Hearts & Minds Booksellers

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

Amazon | IndieBound | Hearts & Minds Booksellers

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

Amazon | IndieBound | Hearts & Minds Booksellers

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

Amazon | IndieBound | Hearts & Minds Booksellers

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

Amazon | IndieBound | Hearts & Minds Booksellers

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

Buy from the author’s website.

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

Amazon | IndieBound | Hearts & Minds Booksellers

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

Amazon | IndieBound | Hearts & Minds Booksellers

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

Amazon | IndieBound | Hearts & Minds Booksellers

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

Amazon | Hearts & Minds Booksellers

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

Amazon | IndieBound | Hearts & Minds Booksellers

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

The Cross of Christ by John Stott - Amazon | IndieBound | Hearts & Minds Booksellers

Meditations On the Cross by Dietrich Bonhoeffer - Amazon | IndieBound | Hearts & Minds Booksellers

The Crucifixion: Understanding the Death of Jesus Christ by Fleming Rutledge - Amazon | IndieBound | Hearts & Minds Booksellers

The Seven Last Words From the Cross by Fleming Rutledge - Amazon | IndieBound | Hearts & Minds Booksellers

The Day the Revolution Began: Reconsidering the Meaning of Jesus's Crucifixion by N.T. Wright - Amazon | IndieBound | Hearts & Minds Booksellers

Death On A Friday Afternoon: Meditations On The Last Words Of Jesus From The Cross by Richard John Neuhaus - Amazon | IndieBound | Hearts & Minds Booksellers


Fiction with Lenten themes

The Wrinkle In Time Quintet - Amazon | IndieBound | Hearts & Minds Booksellers

Easter Stories: Classic Tales for the Holy Season by C. S. Lewis, Elizabeth Goudge, Leo Tolstoy, and more - Plough Publishing House | IndieBound | Hearts & Minds Booksellers

Silence: A Novel by Shusaku Endo - Amazon | IndieBound | Hearts & Minds Booksellers

Gilead: A Novel by Marilynne Robinson - Amazon | IndieBound | Hearts & Minds Booksellers

Housekeeping: A Novel by Marilynne Robinson - Amazon | IndieBound | Hearts & Minds Booksellers

Peace Like A River by Leif Enger - Amazon | IndieBound | Hearts & Minds Booksellers

The Violent Bear It Away by Flannery O’Connor - Amazon | IndieBound | Hearts & Minds Booksellers

The Complete Stories by Flannery O’Connor - Amazon | IndieBound | Hearts & Minds Booksellers

Forty for 40: A Literary Reader for Lent


Non-fiction with Lenten themes

The Sabbath by Abraham Joshua Heschel - Amazon | IndieBound | Hearts & Minds Booksellers (Follow along with me and other readers this Lent through Englewood Review of Books!)

The Problem of Pain by C.S. Lewis - Amazon | IndieBound | Hearts & Minds Booksellers

A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis - Amazon | IndieBound | Hearts & Minds Booksellers

Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson - Amazon | IndieBound | Hearts & Minds Booksellers

Lent 2015 – Recommended Books to Read and Discuss via Englewood Review of Books

Raising Racial Awareness: Book Recommendations from Englewood Review of Books

4 books on grief you’ll actually love


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

A Suggestion for Lent & Soup: Let’s Get Ready for Lenten Suppers! from Like Mother, Like Daughter

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.)

Lent begins in 2 weeks! [Lent Daybook explained]

Lent is not intended to be an annual ordeal during which we begrudgingly forgo a handful of pleasures. It is meant to be the church’s springtime, a time when, out of the darkness of sin’s winter, a repentant, empowered people emerges.

Put another way, Lent is the season in which we ought to be surprised by joy. Our self-sacrifices serve no purpose unless, by laying aside this or that desire, we are able to focus on our heart’s deepest longing: unity with Christ. In him—in his suffering and death, his resurrection and triumph—we find our truest joy.
— Dorothy Sayers, Bread and Wine: Readings for Lent and Easter

Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, March 6. Have you thought about participating this year?

Why Lent?

No season of the liturgical year has been more formative in my healing journey than Lent. While, my religious background trained me well in the reality of sin, death, and crucifixion, it did not provide much in the way of liturgical or devotional practices for lament, grief, and confession.

In my experience, this dissonance between teaching and practice fostered a sentimental approach to Jesus' life, death and resurrection. I was spiritual stunted in my ability to experience or to walk with others in their suffering. In this , the cross becomes a photoshopped decoration hanging in the background of a Church resistant to the invitations of the Suffering Servant who longs to save us in our suffering, and make us completely new in resurrection.  

Of course, personal and global suffering permeate every day of our lives in one way or another. We live in a broken body on a broken earth, and the Church calendar doesn't intend for us to ignore the entire spectrum of human suffering and joy based on the liturgical season. Instead, the cycle of fasting and feasting, celebration and lament provides practice, piece by piece, to form us wholly as Christians. Through each season, we meditate specific portions of Scripture year after year to learn the whole story of God and His people, and not just the portions with which we are most comfortable.  

When we celebrate the liturgical seasons, we grow not only in our knowledge of Scripture, but we learn also how to embody its life-giving truth. In the wisdom of our Church fathers and mothers - themselves informed by the collective memory of millenia of Jewish feasts and fasts initiated by the Creator - each liturgical season marks itself with daily, physical practices.  

We are not disembodied spirits just gritting our teeth until we are released from these bodies, like an unwanted overcoat, when we die. Nor are we merely defined by the physical matter that just happen to contain a spiritual being for those who care about those things. In the accounts of the Incarnated Christ we read through Advent, Christmas and Epiphany, we discover year after year a Christ, God made Man, who is not either body or spirit, but both body and spirit. During Lent, Eastertide and Pentecost, we set up camp for longer periods of time in each essential part of our being: body and spirit.  

Because my calling to Jesus lasts a lifetime, I need to think about growth in repentance over many years, not just one Lenten season. As Eugene Peterson said, we are called to practice ‘a long obedience in the same direction.’ As I practice repentance—the turning of my whole self to God—it’s obvious I will need a lifetime of Lenten seasons to mature into the likeness of Christ.
— Jack King, Anglican Pastor blog

Lent is a 40 day lesson in what it means to be bodies cursed by death and decay. If you've ever received the cross-shaped ash on your forehead, you've heard the pastoral reminder of a very real, and very sad state in which we find ourselves: Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.

From Ash Wednesday to Holy Saturday, we follow the account of Christ as he makes His way to the Cross. In Epiphany, we encounter the light of divinity dwelling on Christ, inviting us to join Him as the light of the world. In Lent, we recognize and mourn the curse of sin and death that has separated man from God, even as we are invited to carry our cross and follow Christ on the road of suffering. We grow in humility and gratitude with the Lenten practice of remembering that once we were alienated from God and lived as people with no hope, and we seek mercy for those still living in that state.

There's so much joy to be found in humility. If you haven't ever fully entered into the practice of Lent, would you consider joining me this year? May I encourage you that this doesn't need to be (and probably shouldn't) be complicated.  

So, it needs to be said that Lent is about dying. But it also needs to be said that Lent is about asking God to bring about new life in us. We are a people who have died with the Lord Jesus Christ in the waters of Baptism and have been raised with him to newness of life. This is not a one-time occurence, but beginning there – continues through one’s life. When we fast, it is about desires and impulses dying in us, to make room for new life. When we give something up, it is to make room for something else – something better, something good, something life-giving.
— Fr. Lee Nelson, Anglican Pastor blog
Lenten wreath.jpg

 

Here are a few essential practices for a faithful Lent:

1.  Attend an Ash Wednesday service.  

2. Make a simple commitment to participate in three historical practices of the Church throughout the 40 days of Lent:

  • Fasting

  • Praying

  • Almsgiving

We have followed this pattern in a variety of ways throughout the past nine years we've been practicing Lent. While there’ve been years we've practiced a more severe fast (e.g., all sugar, alcohol, processed foods, and television), perhaps the most beneficial years are the ones we chose one or two things to give up. We've also learned to take up practices in their place. For example, you might choose to give up eating an entire meal (or day of meals), and in place, set aside extended time for prayer or meditation. You might fast from a certain technological device while taking up reading, walking, or letter-writing in its place.

The point is to make space in our lives to give up reliance on one thing in order to grow in dependence on Christ.

3. Choose a daily devotional guide. I’d be honored for you to choose my annual Lent Daybook devotional posts which you can read about in more detail below. We also enjoy a variety of other devotional books which you can read about here.  

4. We light candles, look at art, sing hymns, pray and read Scripture together. We try to do this every day, but we average more like 4 out of 7 days. My best tip for you if your family feels awkward doing this? Turn the lights off! There's nothing like sitting in the dark looking at a few flickering candles to break the ice of awkward family Bible time.

Eastertide.7.JPG

How to enjoy Lent Daybook posts: Look, Listen, Read, Pray, & Do

Each day of Lent (March 6 - April 20) I’ll publish a devotional post. The Lent Daybook posts leading up to Holy Week will include a work of art, song, daily Scripture passages, a short prayer, and a simple activity to help you practice the prayerful days of Lent. During Holy Week, I’ll publish the seventh annual series, Retrieve Lament. Each year, I ask friends to share a "mourning story" from their own life as a way to help us see Christ in the midst of suffering.

Look

Some might call this devotional practice of visual contemplation Visio Divina, or a divine looking. It’s not the actual work of art that is divine, but the Holy Spirit’s invitation to encounter Christ through nonverbal reflection. Throughout the year I collect digital images that I think will enhance the Scriptural themes of Lent. You’ll notice that some of the images evoke traditional scenes of the Passion of Christ, while others seem to have nothing to do with the traditional images of the season. The images rotate through classic and contemporary art of all media. Each week I include an image (usually a photograph) from news headlines of the year. My hope is that the Scripture passages for each day orient the visual art selection and sometimes, honestly, that’s a difficult task.

Listen

Most of the songs I share each day are worship songs and contemporary versions of old classic hymns, but each week I try to mix in a classical instrumental or choral arrangement. Lent is particularly suited to highlight the rich canon of old Spirituals and Gospel songs. Paradoxically, mainstream pop, rock, indie, and country catalogues are chock full of songs the reflect the weariness and anxiety of living in a broken world so you’ll hear some of them, too! I try to select quality recordings and include both a Spotify and YouTube version for your convenience. Since the music is chosen to enhance the visual art, my family chooses to play the music as a backdrop for contemplating the image. You might choose to do each separately. I also include a link to lyrics for each song so you can sing along if you’d like!

If you love seasonal playlists as much as I do, here’s links to all five (5!) of my Lenten playlists. Add any of the lists to your Spotify account by clicking ‘Follow.’

Lent 2019 on Spotify:

Read

Oh my goodness, I love the lectionary. I’ve always been intrigued by the interweaving of Old and New Testaments for the beauty of the literary rhythms as well as the deep satisfaction of experiencing the living, breathing word of God that looks backwards and forwards at the same time. It’s so rich. If you don’t do anything else with the posts I send each day, read the Scripture passages. I include a link for the complete lectionary passages each day and then excerpt the portions that particularly spoke to me as I was preparing the post. I use the English Standard Version most often, but if you click through the link to the Biblegateway page, you can adjust the version to your preference.

From March 6 - April 13, Sunday Scripture readings are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary (Year C). Daily Scripture readings are taken from the Book of Common Prayer (Year 1) with only one or two of the daily Psalms.

Starting on Palm Sunday, April 14, we’ll shift away from the lectionary to focus on the litany of last words Jesus spoke from the cross; we refer to them as the Seven Last Words of Christ. The deathbed words of the Suffering Servant provide a framework for the stories of lament I’ve asked seven friends to share with us from their own life experiences of grief. This is a highlight of the year for me on the blog and 2019 is our seventh year helping each other retrieve a Christlike lament for the brokenness of our lives and world.

Pray

Each week the prayers are formed around the Sunday collect (prayer said by the congregation in Sunday worship). While you could pray directly from the daily Scripture (especially the Psalms) or the hymn lyrics, I include a guided prayer for each day. Once a week, I invite you to a form of intercessory prayer termed “Prayers of the People” from the Book of Common Prayer. This allows us to set aside at least one day to remember each sphere of our world with particular prayer from your context.

Do

The spiritual practice of contemplation, at its best, moves between stillness and thoughtful action. We were made by a Creator to love Him, our neighbors, and ourselves with heart, mind, soul, and strength. I’m delighted to invite you to some simple, daily actions to demonstrate that love outwardly. Some of the activities will feel familiar to the traditional Lenten customs of fasting, prayer, and almsgiving, and some will feel new and counterintuitive. It’s all good.

A Lenten Community

When I first started this series, I was compelled to create something I’d been looking for and couldn’t find online. While I own and enjoy several printed beautiful devotional books for Lent and Eastertide, I was intrigued by the idea of a multi-media, shared experience that can be cultivated online. Since then, many new and wonderful resources release each year. It’s tempting to dabble in each one, but I encourage you to find what works best for you and to simply, prayerfully walk through each day with intentional companions. I’m honored to be included in your Lenten journey.

I’ve also known from the beginning that I wanted this to be a free offering. The ability to access a world of beauty for free on the internet literally changed my life. I want to be part of that free stream, and since I’m mostly curating the work of other people I encourage you to click through the source links to purchase their art. If you’re appreciating the posts and would like to support my work on the website, I’ve include a PayPal “tip jar” on the blog page and in the bottom of some of the Lent posts - (paypal.me/TamaraHillMurphy).

Join Us!

Conversation makes a community so please comment here on the blog or social media regularly! Let me know how you’re experiencing God’s invitation through the Lent Daybook posts or any other part of your day. I love to hear from you.

  • Instagram - I’ll be sharing the daily posts as well as occasional Stories at the blog’s Instagram account. If you’re on Instagram, you can follow me there.

  • Facebook - I’ll link the daily posts. In order to make sure you see each post, you'll need to "like" the page and click on the "Following" button and then the "On" option in the drop-down box.

  • Twitter - I’m not very active, but I do cross-link the daily posts for those of you who like to hang out there.

  • Subscribe via Email - I’m looking forward to spending the next coming weeks together. If you’d like to receive the daily posts in your email inbox, subscribe with your email below. (You don’t need to do this if you already receive posts via email.)

A Holy Lent to you and yours. Lord, have mercy on us all.


What are some traditions you keep to help you slow down and pay attention to the presence of God in the days leading up to Holy Week and Easter?  Comment below - I'm listening!

*Please note that, in an effort to be a good steward of time and resources for our family, this post includes affiliate links.  When you purchase any item you click through from these links, you'll pay the same amount, but we'll get a few pennies in our coffers.Thank you!*

How we prepare for Lent (join us?)

Lent is not intended to be an annual ordeal during which we begrudgingly forgo a handful of pleasures. It is meant to be the church’s springtime, a time when, out of the darkness of sin’s winter, a repentant, empowered people emerges.
Put another way, Lent is the season in which we ought to be surprised by joy. Our self-sacrifices serve no purpose unless, by laying aside this or that desire, we are able to focus on our heart’s deepest longing: unity with Christ. In him—in his suffering and death, his resurrection and triumph—we find our truest joy.
— Dorothy Sayers, Bread and Wine: Readings for Lent and Easter

Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, February 14. Have you thought about participating this year?

Why Lent?

No season of the liturgical year has been more formative in my healing journey than Lent.  While, my religious background trained me well in the reality of sin, death, and crucifixion, it did not provide much in the way of liturgical or devotional practices for lament, grief, and confession.

In my experience, this dissonance between teaching and practice fostered a sentimental approach to Jesus' life, death and resurrection, which produced Christians stunted in their ability to experience or empathize with suffering. In this view, the cross becomes a photoshopped decoration hanging in the background of a Church resistant to the invitations of the Suffering Servant who longs to save us in our suffering, and make us completely new in resurrection.  

Of course, personal and global suffering permeate every day of our lives in one way or another. We live in a broken body on a broken earth, and the Church calendar doesn't intend for us to ignore the entire spectrum of human suffering and joy based on the liturgical season. Instead, the cycle of fasting and feasting, celebration and lament provides practice, piece by piece, to form us wholly as Christians. Through each season, we meditate specific portions of Scripture year after year to learn the whole story of God and His people, and not just the portions with which we are most comfortable.  

When we celebrate the liturgical seasons, we grow not only in our knowledge of Scripture, but we learn also how to embody its life-giving truth. In the wisdom of our Church fathers and mothers - themselves informed by the collective memory of millenia of Jewish feasts and fasts initiated by the Creator - each liturgical season marks itself with daily, physical practices.  

We are not disembodied spirits just gritting our teeth until we are released from these bodies, like an unwanted overcoat, when we die. Nor are we merely defined by the physical matter that just happen to contain a spiritual being for those who care about those things. In the accounts of the Incarnated Christ we read through Advent, Christmas and Epiphany, we discover year after year a Christ, God made Man, who is not either body or spirit, but both body and spirit. During Lent, Eastertide and Pentecost, we set up camp for longer periods of time in each essential part of our being: body and spirit.  

Because my calling to Jesus lasts a lifetime, I need to think about growth in repentance over many years, not just one Lenten season. As Eugene Peterson said, we are called to practice ‘a long obedience in the same direction.’ As I practice repentance—the turning of my whole self to God—it’s obvious I will need a lifetime of Lenten seasons to mature into the likeness of Christ.
— Jack King, Anglican Pastor blog

Lent is a 40 day lesson in what it means to be bodies cursed by death and decay. If you've ever received the cross-shaped ash on your forehead, you've heard the pastoral reminder of a very real, and very sad state in which we find ourselves: Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.

From Ash Wednesday to Holy Saturday, we follow the account of Christ as he makes His way to the Cross. In Epiphany, we encounter the light of divinity dwelling on Christ, inviting us to join Him as the light of the world. In Lent, we recognize and mourn the curse of sin and death that has separated man from God, even as we are invited to carry our cross and follow Christ on the road of suffering. We grow in humility and gratitude with the Lenten practice of remembering that once we were alienated from God and lived as people with no hope, and we seek mercy for those still living in that state.

There's so much joy to be found in humility. If you haven't ever fully entered into the practice of Lent, would you consider joining me this year? May I encourage you that this doesn't need to be (and probably shouldn't) be complicated.  

So, it needs to be said that Lent is about dying. But it also needs to be said that Lent is about asking God to bring about new life in us. We are a people who have died with the Lord Jesus Christ in the waters of Baptism and have been raised with him to newness of life. This is not a one-time occurence, but beginning there – continues through one’s life. When we fast, it is about desires and impulses dying in us, to make room for new life. When we give something up, it is to make room for something else – something better, something good, something life-giving.
— Fr. Lee Nelson, Anglican Pastor blog
Lenten wreath.jpg

 

Here are a few essential ingredients we've learned to faithfully practice Lent:

1.  Attend an Ash Wednesday service.  

2. Make a simple commitment to participate in three historical practices of the Church throughout the 40 days of Lent:

  • Fasting

  • Praying

  • Almsgiving

We have followed this pattern in a variety of ways throughout the past eight years we've been practicing Lent.  While there have been years we've practiced a more severe fast (e.g., all sugar, alcohol, processed foods, and television), perhaps the most beneficial years are the ones we chose one or two things to give up. We've also learned to take up practices in their place. For example, you might choose to give up eating an entire meal (or day of meals), and in place, set aside extended time for prayer or meditation. You might fast from a certain technological device while taking up reading or walking or letter-writing in its place.

The point is to make space in our lives to give up reliance on one thing in order to grow in dependence on Christ.

3. Choose a daily devotional guide. I've listed some of our favorites below.  

4. We light candles, look at art, sing hymns, pray and read Scripture together and we try to do that every day (but we're more like 4 out of 7 days). My best tip for you if your family feels awkward doing this? Turn the lights off! There's nothing like sitting in the dark looking at a few flickering candles to break the ice of awkward family Bible time!

Eastertide.7.JPG

 

A few of our favorite devotional books for Lent:

  • God For Us: Rediscovering the Meaning of Lent and Easter - This is my favorite Lenten devotional. 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.

  • Bread and Wine: Readings for Lent and Easter - 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.

  • Lenten Meditations: A Book by James B. Janknegt - 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.

  • Let Us Keep the Feast: Living the Church Year at Home - A simple collection of ideas for living out the liturgical year with your family. This book is especially geared toward families with young children.

  • Living the Christian Year: Time to Inhabit the Story of God by Bobby Gross is a great devotional for the entire year.

  • The Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name by Sally Lloyd-Jones - "...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."

How to enjoy Lent Daybook posts: Look, Listen, Read, Pray, & Do

I'm planning to post each weekday during Lent, combining daily Scripture readings, art, prayer, song and a simple meditative exercise for each day. You can receive the posts in your email inbox by subscribing in the sidebar (top right of the blog web page).  I'll also link each post at the blog's Facebook page and Instagram accountIn order to make sure you see each post, you'll need to "like" the page and click on the "Following" button and then the "On" option in the drop-down box.

1. Go to the blog's  Facebook page .  2. Click "Like"  3. Click "Following"  4. In the Following dropdown box, under the "Notifications" heading, click "On".

1. Go to the blog's Facebook page.

2. Click "Like"

3. Click "Following"

4. In the Following dropdown box, under the "Notifications" heading, click "On".


Do you obeserve Lent? Why or why not?  

What are some traditions you keep to help you slow down and pay attention to the presence of God in the days leading up to Holy Week and Easter?  Comment below - I'm listening!

*Please note that, in an effort to be a good steward of time and resources for our family, this post includes affiliate links.  When you purchase any item you click through from these links, you'll pay the same amount, but we'll get a few pennies in our coffers.Thank you!*

Trinity Sunday as imagined by Rublev & Babette's Feast

Trinity  (icon) by Andrei Rublev, 1410  (Source )

Trinity (icon) by Andrei Rublev, 1410 (Source)

Batter my heart, three-person’d God ; for you
As yet but knock ; breathe, shine, and seek to mend...
— John Donne, Holy Sonnets XIV

An excerpt from my reflection on Trinity Sunday 2012:

My whole life I've been taught the image of God as three-in-one, one-in-three.  I learned the Trinity as one egg with three parts: white, shell and yolk.  Water as ice, liquid and steam. Also,  I think there was a metaphor using an apple?

I'm grateful for that sort of teaching and the layers of understanding that were added as I grew up in the Church. But it wasn't until I served as a shepherd over a worship ministry that I began to ask questions.  Questions like, "So what?"  and "What difference does it make?"   

Turns out it makes a world of difference.  In the three-person'd God we are invited, commended even, into  mystery.  Egg yolks and apple seeds aside, our most intellectual theologians can only barely imagine the wonder of "let us make man in our image".  For myself, the invitation toward mystery looks a bit like the Ghost of Christmas Present lifting  his robe and bellowing, "Come in and know me better man!"    

Beautiful mystery, yes.  Also, beautiful community.  The Psalmist tells us that God puts the lonely into families.  He should know, he lives and moves and has his transcendent Being as one-in-community.  He is a We.  

This matters more than we imagine.  If He is a We than how possibly can we think ourselves solely as a me? We must submit everything we do to mark ourselves a Christian to the power and beauty of this spiritual reality.  Distinct as persons, yes.  Made in the image of God as a man or a woman, in particular, and then as a unique person. Mysteriously and gloriously, this designed particularity never finds itself as an identity apart from the created Whole.

The great part and whole paradox transforms everything.  The answer to the question, "What difference does it make?":  all the difference in the world.  We submit every part of our lives -- individually and corporately--to the Three-in-One God.  How we gather, how we pray, how we sing, how we make, how we intercede, how we eat and play together and alone. How we hear music, read books, return emails, browse Facebook, shop at the market and weed our gardens.  All of it comes under submission to the Three-person'd God. 

Donne gives another poetic description for our three-person'd God as the "knotty Trinity".  The poet-theologian seems to be saying this reality is beyond our intellectual grasping no matter how many metaphors we dream up but we are drawn to keep on trying.  He reminds us that the work of communicating mystery is no banal task.  Every day we have the opportunity to try again.  The great Three-in-One captures our imagination, making the Trinitarian Presence irresistible to the working out over millenia.  We are caught up as one part of the Whole.  Paradoxically, we find true solace surrounded by an ancient and future communion.  

As a newly-minted Anglican, I've relished the practice of marking myself with the sign of the cross.  This physical discipline trains my ears toward the Trinity, crossing head to heart, left to right at the mere mention of Father, Son and Holy Ghost.  It is an act of submission, an antidote to spiritual amnesia. Even that self-sealing motion is done as one in a whole.  I know this because each week I've learned my cues while I, hopefully subtly, study my worshiping community.  Trying to sync my rhythm with theirs, with the Church in time before me and time to come.

Corporate worship that is not Trinitarian in both word and deed, leaves us as juveniles seeking our own versions of fantasy worship.  Seeking to heal ourselves, please ourselves, know ourselves all by ourselves.  Practically speaking, this a rejection of the very nature of God.  Yes it matters very much.  It matters when we are gathered together and when we are scattered, sent out to reflect the image of our Three-In-One God to a world broken off from the Whole.

I read once that the film Babette's Feast  presents within its storyline a beautiful representation of the Trinity. Writing this post,  I watched again an excerpt, and all I can say is YES!  Imagine for a moment, the absent father for whom the feast is called as our own God the Father.  And Babette, giving up all her fortune to serve the feast as our own God, Jesus.  And the exuberant General, instructing the people in the joy of the feast, as our own God, the Holy Spirit.  

Watch these two scenes (or the whole movie) as a meditation today.  What do you see?

Babette's Feast on YouTube

Babette's Feast on Amazon (affiliate link)