While most businesses are spamming you with ads for Valentine’s Day, there’s another season coming that is probably flying under the radar. This year, Lent starts on February 13. While this may create a crisis for all the people giving up chocolate for Lent, I thought I’d give you some of my favorite suggestions for readings for this journey with the Church universal. And, if we can get our heart-shaped gifts in time for Valentine’s, you can definitely get these books in time for the season
Simplifying the Soul: Lenten Practices to Renew Your Spirit by Paula Huston
I used Huston’s book as my devotional for Lent in 2012, and I will tell you that it is both a rigorous and freeing journey through the season. Each week has a theme, and each day a reflection. I will say that I didn’t make it all the way through every reading, every practice, but the ones that I did transformed my over-scheduled life in to a place of rest and openness. (And my oven got really clean. You’ll have to read the book to understand why.)
Lent for Everyone: A Daily Devotional by N. T. Wright
Frankly, I’ll read just about anything N. T. Wright writes. This is a slight, straightforward devotional with a Scripture reading from the Lectionary (make sure you get the Year C version of this book) and a short meditation by Wright. Challenging, but simple. And it comes in Kindle version, if that’s your thing.
Show Me the Way: Daily Lenten Readings by Henri J. M. Nouwen
“…true joy comes from letting God love me the way God wants, whether it is through illness or health, failure or success, poverty or wealth, rejection or praise. It is hard for me to say, ‘I shall gratefully accept everything, Lord, that pleases you. Let your will be done.’ But I know when I believe my Father is pure love, it will become increasingly possible to say these words from the heart.” This devotional is a compilation of Nouwen’s work, so it may read to you as a little disjointed. However, as with any dip into the writings of this wonderful teacher, you will come away with an appreciation of the downward journey and a sense that you are held by a Father who loves you.
Sacred Space for Lent by The Irish Jesuits
Sacred Space, a website maintained by a Jesuit community in Ireland, provides a place for guided prayer and meditation for thousands online. Sacred Space for Lent is a compilation of those prayers and reflections, all in the tradition of Saint Ignatius of Loyola, that will guide you through the season. If you particularly crave mental stimulation and prayer exercises for a Lenten practice, this one will be for you.
Bread and Wine: Readings for Lent and Easter by Orbis Books Lewis, Chesterton, Yancey, L’Engle, Beuchner… how could you go wrong? One of the things that I like about this daily devotional is that it moves all the way through the Easter season, not stopping on Easter Sunday as many devotionals do. The readings are meaty and good, although I will say that the lack of continuity that multiple voices bring irritated this J type when I used it three or four years ago. If you like variety, and you love any of the authors mentioned above, I highly recommend this.
Wondrous Encounters: Scripture for Lent by Richard Rohr O.F.M.
Father Rohr has been rocking my world ever since I got to interview him in 2009. This set of readings encourages the reader to encounter Scripture in often new and unexpected ways. If you’re struggling with Church in general, Rohr’s words are often refreshing and freeing. His perspective is a fresh one, and will sometimes challenge or disrupt you—which I think is one of the main themes of Lent for me: challenging the ways that I’ve let my relationship with Jesus and the Word go stale and routine.
Lent and Easter Wisdom from Thomas Merton: Daily Scripture and Prayers, Together with Thomas Merton’s Own Words by Thomas Merton and Jonathan Montaldo
If you are someone who journals, this series of daily meditations, Scripture passages and questions for reflection will most likely be a great resource for you. Thomas Merton was a Trappist monk who wrote in profound ways about the necessity of the contemplative life as a movement toward wholeness in this world. And, if you’d like a voice other than Merton’s, with journaling questions, this series also has Lenten guides from the writings of St. Francis and St. Clare of Assisi, as well as Henri Nouwen. One of the wonderful gifts of this book is it’s permissive and open approach to journal keeping: “However you write in your Lent and Easter journal, be truthful to your own experience. The question proposed for each day is only suggestive. Give your heart and mind free range… (p.3).”
So what about you? Do you have any favorite Lenten resources that I haven’t mentioned here?