Book Bites: Lenten Devotionals
By Cheryl Arnold
Every year beginning on Ash Wednesday, we are invited to put aside some of life’s distractions and seek God in deeper ways. One way to do that is with daily Lenten readings and reflection. Grace will soon be publishing a booklet with devotionals written by church members, and you may want to pair that with another Lenten devotional, perhaps beginning your day with one and ending it with the other.
Bitter & Sweet: A Journey into Easter by Tsh Oxenreider
Released this February, Bitter & Sweet is the follow-up to Oxenreider’s best-selling Advent devotional Shadow & Light. To explain her theme, she writes, “Most every sin first tastes delectable but then rots to an acrid bitterness, leaving us a caustic palate for more and more sin. Sin pulls us further from God and our truest selves. However, the flavors of righteousness are delectable and sweet, surpassing the purest honey. Aligning our appetites for the flavors of virtue brings us closer to God and who God made us to be.” Her Lenten devotional begins with a brief history of Lent, a look at the Lenten disciplines of fasting, almsgiving and prayer, and guidance for how to use the book. For each day of Lent, there is a short reflection, scripture reading, contemplation question, prayer, and song. For each Sunday there is also a work of art, which she says is intended to be a small break from fasting. She plans to post links for the music and art at www.bitterandsweetlent.com to simplify and streamline the reader’s devotional time. I loved reading Shadow & Light during Advent and am looking forward to reading Bitter & Sweet during Lent.
Bread and Wine: Readings for Easter and Lent by Plough Publishing
Plough is an international magazine of faith, culture, and society published weekly online and quarterly in print. They also publish books including literary nonfiction and fiction, Christian books, and children’s books. Bread and Wine is their collection of more than 70 reflections on Lent from a wide variety of classic and contemporary Christian writers including John Donne, Thomas Merton, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Fleming Rutledge, Barbara Brown Taylor, C.S. Lewis, Brennan Manning, N.T. Wright, and Philip Yancey, to name just a few. The reflections are grouped by themes: invitation, temptation, passion, crucifixion, resurrection, and new life. It is not set up as a daily devotional; readers can choose selections that interest them or are written by a favorite author, and can return to them throughout the year. I have read some of the essays in this book during past Lenten seasons and have found that they often help me reflect on Lenten themes and my faith in deeper ways.