In February, I finished my slow read through the Psalms. One hundred fifty psalms should have taken a mere hundred and fifty days, but I’m sure the math wouldn’t come out right if one were to check the dates in my journal. My purpose was to pray my way through the psalms, a goal that meets none of the criteria of measurability but crushes the standard for relevance.
On this first Sunday after Ash Wednesday, our entrance to the season of Lent, I want to give up the huge magnifying glass I’ve been using to scrutinize my spiritual practices–and pretty much everything I do. Rather than experiencing Lent and the days leading up to Easter as a season of deprivation, what if we embraced it as an experience of rest?
What if we rested from the unhelpful ruts we’ve dug and began to make room for God to do a new work in our hearts? A posture of rest leaves room for life-giving rhythms, habits of holiness, a daily meeting with God for the sole purpose of enjoying God!
When we rest from the hurry up and hustle, we stop asking, “Did I do enough today?” We find grace to receive prayer as relationship without worrying that we did it “right.” We name our sins in the same breath with which we thank God for his forgiveness.
Rather than experiencing Lent as a season of deprivation, what if we embraced it as an experience of #rest? A posture of rest leaves room for life-giving rhythms, putting an end to the hurry and hustle.Tweet
Rest as a Subversive Act
If this sounds subversive to you, you’re not alone and you’re not the first. When Jesus drew back from the crowds for restorative rest, his disciples all but scolded him, and they interpreted his nap in the stern of a pitching boat on stormy waves as apathy: “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” (Mark 4:38)
Rest in the life of Christ came with a whiff of rebellion. Likewise, when you receive God’s invitation to slow down, you may bump into the expectations of people who enjoyed your productivity or who mean well, but simply don’t understand the specific call of God upon your life.
Remember, God is not opposed to working, only to earning. We may be called to do hard things, but never for the purpose of earning God’s love. All true acts of righteousness come as a response to his great love.
So if you sense a call to fast from some activity during Lent, receive it as an invitation to rest from it, to clear the decks, and to make room for something better. If God calls you to give up a meal or a particular food as an act of worship, thank him for the opportunity to rest your body and to focus on feeding your spirit instead.
Rest as an Act of Faith
Isaiah delivered a wistful invitation from God to his restless people:
For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel,Isaiah 30:15
“In returning [or repentance] and rest you shall be saved;
in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.”
Resting in the reality of God’s faithful protection and his plan for their future was just too big of an assignment for Israel. God said “rest,” and they would not, preferring instead to take matters into their own hands.
Are you willing to rest in God’s love for you, to trust in the effectiveness of his salvation? Does YOUR plan of salvation require props that you provide–work that you alone can do? Does it require affirmation from the right people and places?
Hear the word of the Lord:
Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you,Isaiah 30:18
and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you.
For the Lord is a God of justice;
blessed are all those who wait for him.”
Blessings to you as you rest in God’s great provision and delight in his means of grace.
Holding you in the Light,
And now, let’s talk books…
(Be sure to keep reading–there’s a book giveaway below!)
The Art of Lent
I got a head start on Lent this year with the arrival of two beautifully illustrated little books from the creative heart of Sister Wendy Beckett (1930-2018), who, according to the Washington Post, “became a TV star by describing art with a mixture of glee, ecstasy, and wonder.” Now, through this posthumous project, she leads her readers on a journey through Lent. Short devotional passages shed light on the spirituality behind some of the greatest works in history—and some that are quite unknown but well worth knowing.
Although I don’t recall seeing the term in either book, The Art of Lent: A Painting a Day from Ash Wednesday to Easter and The Art of Holy Week and Easter: Meditations on the Passion and Resurrection of Jesus are an invitation into the practice of Visio Divina (sacred seeing), a slow and prayerful pondering of visual images (paintings, photographs, sculpture, etc.), noticing the details that catch our attention and draw us into conversation and communion with God. Under Sister Wendy’s tutelage, each painting becomes a shaft of light, illuminating some spiritual truth suggested by the artist’s work or life.
She begins Ash Wednesday with the reassuring truth from Romans 8—even my need for repentance from continual transgressions can never separate me from the love of Christ. This is a powerful lesson on its own but set against the image of The Great Wave by Katsushika Hokusai, it’s clear that however fragile my righteousness compares with the unpredictable risk of just-plain-living, God will not allow my frail vessel to capsize.
As a Lenten practice, a painting a day from Ash Wednesday to Easter (The Art of Lent) provides a daily pause over spiritual truth and some very surprising works of art. The more intensely focused The Art of Holy Week and Easter picks up at the Triumphal Entry in Part One. Parts Two and Three portray violence and betrayal as Christ is “bruised for our iniquity,” but Part Four illustrates and narrates resurrection reassurance, all through traditional paintings that correlate with the specific event.
I was pleased to note that the story wasn’t cut abruptly with the empty tomb, but continued on to the Ascension, illustrated by the disciples crowding together and craning upwards, a watchfulness fueled by love. Certainly, time spent in meditation over the life and sacrifice of Christ provides a solid emotional link with our Savior and a reminder of our own waiting posture and the work he has left for us to accomplish until he comes.
As a Lenten practice, a painting a day from Ash Wednesday to Easter and time spent in meditation over the life and sacrifice of Christ, provides a solid emotional link with Jesus. #theartoflent #sisterwendybeckett via @ivpress #visiodivinaTweet
40 Days of Lent (and a Give Away!)
Plugging into the details of Jesus’s poured-out life always heightens my celebration on Resurrection Day, and Susan Chamberlain Shipe has provided the road map for the journey. 40 Days of Lent 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.
My generous friend Susan is ready to mail a copy of her book right to your home! Enter the drawing for the book by leaving a comment below. I’ll randomly choose a winner on Saturday, March 12. (United States addresses only, please.)
And One Last Thing…
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Many thanks to InterVarsity Press for providing copies of these books to facilitate my review, which is, of course, offered freely and with honesty.