Cold February is no context for thoughts of spring. Like the daffodils, our hopes are asleep under a crust of dirty snow. Nonetheless, retailers rush to display Easter candy and sleeveless, frilly dresses for us to admire in our winter coats and boots. Thoughts of resurrection seem out of place somehow when bare trees can’t quite stop shivering, but then, the weeks leading up to Easter, if we use them wisely, can raise the temperature of our hearts to match the truth that our whole following life is spent in the practice of resurrection, day after day, trying to get it right and to live our way into the freedom Christ won for us.
I’m following that path with my reading in these days leading up to a come-when-it’s-ready spring. As a Lenten observance, a slow read through the four gospels adds depth to my understanding of Jesus’s road to the cross: the daily mundane obedience on dusty Palestinian roads, shared meals with a big side order of Kingdom clarification, and always, always, always, the will of God like a straight arrow, cutting through every competing or conflicting thought that came His way.
Plugging into the details of Jesus’s poured out life always heightens my celebration on Resurrection Day, and this year, Susan Chamberlain Shipe has provided the road map I’ve been using on the journey. 40 Days of Lent: The people, places, and events surrounding the Passion weaves the Jesus story together with insights gleaned from Shipe’s following life. Because Scripture has been embedded within each day’s reading, it’s easy to follow the dots between action and application, and because Susan is a student of the Word, she has done a lot of the leg work for her readers, including both historical and geographical details to fill in the gap where the text is terse.
One story, one main idea, and then words of application followed by probing questions take the faithful reader through the people, places, and events on Jesus’ road to the cross. Like life itself, the “Lenten road is hard” (19), but it is also an opportunity for redemptive self-evaluation and a gentle push toward considering the next good choices we need to make in our lives.
And Hey! There’s a Give Away!
To receive a free, autographed copy of 40 Days of Lent, simply leave a comment below. I will have my adorable grandson draw a name on Sunday, March 3, and Susan will send a book your way to guide you on your own Lenten journey.
Whenever our family gets together under one roof, I’m thankful. Brotherly friendship and loud laughter are great gifts. The privilege of getting covered in flour with my grandson, and then teaching my small granddaughter that glue sticks are not edible stand at one end of the family bandwidth–while on the other end, our youngest son is doing the very grown-up research that goes into buying his first car. Really? How has this happened?
Small gifts, given with great love warm the heart. A cranberry candle, a book, a cup of hot tea with milk. I’m blessed on this country hill.
Our family said goodbye to a dear friend this month. We have spent the last 20 years worshiping in the pew behind Buzzy and Eleanor, so we will miss her seed-planting ways and her blue-eyed smile. “Little people, little problems,” was one seed of wisdom she planted with me long ago when I was getting whipped up over some small boy’s minor infraction on a Sunday morning. Her passing makes me very aware of my responsibility to be planting seeds of truth now. It’s my turn to step up.
February Reading and Writing
The Amazing Gift of Volunteer Love — Reviewing fiction always feels like a huge risk. What if I give away the punchline? Or worse–what if I completely miss the point? Lights on the Mountain: A Novel was well worth the risk. With a pen like a paint brush, author Cheryl Anne Tuggle has fashioned a cast of unique players, and her writing is enriched by subtle characterization and delightful similes that underscore the close connection between the words simile and smile.
How to Do the Hard and Holy Work of Faithful Friendship — Certainly not by any design of mine, two books on friendship have come in the mail, and I was delighted to share them both here on the blog. First, Becoming Gertrude: How Our Friendships Shape Our Faith in which Janice Peterson remembers lemonade on the porch and shares her deep conviction that friendships can be life-altering in all the best ways.
Lasting Friendship in a Lonely World — Then, Sally Clarkson has teamed up with her daughters to inspire and instruct readers in the art and science of cultivating deep and lasting friendships with her latest book, Girls’ Club: Cultivating Lasting Friendship in a Lonely World.
It’s always a joy to share writing with warm and welcoming communities! During February vacation friends at (in)courage opened the door of hospitality to my story about our search for a church home. (Yes, we may possibly have been in search of the perfect church . . . and we may have had teensy commitment issues.)
Then, I was thankful that The Perennial Gen shared my review of Kate James’s Can You See Anything Now? Be sure to visit some of these welcoming communities for encouragement and a kind of virtual fellowship in the gospel!
Coming up in March
Does anyone else recall the days when we could take our hairspray and a normal sized toothpaste anywhere in the world?
Lord willing, I will be traveling to Mountain Lake Park, Maryland to teach the Bible at Faith Evangelical Free Church’s Women’s Conference on March 23rd. I’m always thankful for opportunities to open the Word of God with a roomful of women, and I would appreciate your prayers that I would serve this gathering well, and that God will bring together the words I’m preparing and the needs that are present.
And while I’m studying, I’m wondering: What are you struggling with these days? I may not have an answer–and we may be struggling over the same things! However, I promise to read every response, as your thoughts will definitely shape my reading and my writing in the coming weeks. If the comments section here seems too public, here’s my email address: firstname.lastname@example.org.
I look forward to hearing from you!
May you know the love of Christ (which passes knowledge),
Don’t forget: You can enter to win a copy of Susan Chamberlain Shipe’s 40 Days of Lent by leaving a comment below!
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