It comes round once more – Ash Wednesday

So we start again. Yesterday – call it Mardi Gras or Shrove Tuesday or Pancake Day – concluded the season before Lent, and today marks the entrance into the season of Lent.

As of late Linda and I have been reading Timothy and Kathy Keller’s book, The Songs of Jesus: A Year of Devotions in the Psalms. Yesterday’s reading for March 5 calls one to,

Build an identity that gets it significance (“glory”) – makes its “boast” (Jeremiah 9:23-24) – not from our accomplishments or racial identity or talent or moral efforts or family but from God …. How can we get such an identity? By not just believing in God but “tasting” and experiencing God’s goodness in prayer (Psalm 34:9). And by comforting afflicted peoples with the comfort we have received (Psalm 34:2, 2 Corinthians 1:3-4) until they can glorify God with us (Psalm 34:3). (p 64)

Psalm 34:1-3 – I will extol the Lord at all times; his praise will always be on my lips. I will glorify in the Lord; let the afflicted hear and rejoice. Glorify the Lord with me; let us exalt his name together.

As we enter the season of Lent, by what we do or don’t do, by our fast or by our feast, maybe we can let the focus not be on our success or failure in our Lenten practices but on how God uses such to root our identity in God’s goodness, grace and glory.


{ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est”

What are you doing (or not) for Lent – #5

One last thought before the start of Lent tomorrow, Ash Wednesday.

Do you doodle, color, draw? If you do, or maybe think about such, or have any coloring books around (adult or kids), I have something for you to look at.

Sybil MacBeth is the author of Praying with Color and has a website ( ) where she offers this for times when,

1) You want to pray but words escape you. 2) Sitting still and staying focused in prayer are a challenge. 3) Your body wants to be part of your prayer. 4) You want to just hang out with God but don’t know how. 5) Listening to God feels like an impossible task . 6) Your mind wanders and your body complains. 7) You want a visual, concrete way to pray. 8) You Need a new way to pray.

And, for your more immediate consideration on her blog she offers several Lenten calendar templates – you can print and try out for yourself.

Of course, you are not limited to her templates. Get a sheet of paper, or open your journal, pick up some coloring pencils or crayons, and see what happens.


{ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est}

What are you doing (or not) for Lent – #4

The Society of St Andrew has published a small devotional booklet for Lent ( ). The devotions are short and are accompanied by a suggested scripture passage and a prayer.

I’ve read a number of the devotions already (is that cheating on my Lenten practice?) and to me they seem to offer an intriguing blend of loss and blessing. At first that annoyed me. But then I realized maybe that is not so intriguing after all. Maybe that is one of the reminders Lent can offer us.

The Society publishes a paper copy of the devotional booklet. They also have a PDF copy you can download. And you can subscribe to the devotions to have them delivered to your email each day. While the Society has no more of the paper booklets to mail out, I was able to get some to share with our congregation and have some left. If you want a paper copy of the booklet leave a comment here (but don’t post your email address or street address here) and I will work out getting a copy to you.

Also, visit the Society’s web site and read about their work in feeding the hungry. They do an impressive amount of good for folks.


{ubi carias et amor, Deus ibi est}

What are you doing (or not) for Lent? – #3

Can I give you one more suggestion to add focus to your walk through Lent.

How about prayer? How about some help in bringing focus to your prayer.

Rachel Hackenberg wrote the book Writing to God. She suggests that when we take time to write our prayers we are able to focus “our prayers through the tips of our pens, we can shift our self-consciousness into creativity and engage God anew, as prayer becomes an active experience of mind, body and spirit.

Each week she emails a prayer prompt which includes a sentence or two from Scripture, a thought and a brief prompt to encourage your seeing the Scripture leading you into a conversation with God. For example, in her book, when reading Ezekiel 37:1-3, she writes,

“What dry bones in your life need a breath of fresh air, a burst of new life, from the Spirit? Let your written prayer to God be God’s words of encouragement to you as you let God dust off the dry and weary places or your spirit.”

During Lent Rev Hackenberg emails a daily prayer prompt. If you would like to subscribe to her emails, you can visit the contact page at her web site ( ) to subscribe.


{ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est}

What are you doing (or not) for Lent? – #2

Yesterday I started our thinking about Lenten practices with some links to a “40 Day Journey with Dietrich Bonhoeffer” and today I want to offer another suggestion.

But first, a word of caution. Please, please, don’t think I am suggesting you take on two, three, five, seven or more Lenten practices. You can buy into too many activities and can’t pay the price in time, or focus for any one of them. I know this from personal experience. Be cautious. Over the next few days I will offer several suggestions and hope you find one that draws you and you give it a try.

So for #2 I want to point you to an online discussion I read about recently.

Englewood Review of Books will be hosting a Lenten Book Conversation on Abraham Joshua Heschel’s book The Sabbath. While I have not yet read this volume of Heschel’s, all I have read of his in the past has been not only well written but profitable.

When I first read of this online discussion a digital copy of the ebook was $1.99, unfortunately the price is now $9.94. While I still recommend the book and discussion, I also recommend waiting to see if the price goes down again. If I see that it goes down, I will post an update.

Before we close today, a few words from Heschel,

Six days a week we wrestle with the world, wringing profit from the earth; on the Sabbath we especially care for the seed of eternity planted in the soul. The world has our hands, but our soul belongs to Someone Else. Six days a week we seek to dominate the world, on the seventh day we try to dominate the self.

Maybe Lent could be, in part, a time for withdrawal from the daily routines to a place of Sabbath rest and … you tell me – what does your soul need?

What are you doing (or not) for Lent? – #1

You may be like me and come from a tradition in which Lent was unnoticed but also like me maybe you heard folks speak of “giving up” something for Lent.  Folks still practice various types of Lenten fasts but I hear more and more folks speak of adding something, a practice, for Lent.

Since we are a week away from the start of Lent (Wednesday, March 6, Ash Wednesday), I thought I would post a few thoughts about taking up a Lenten practice.

The first idea I want to share is why not add a reading from Dietrich Bonhoeffer for the 40 days of Lent.  (If you are not familiar with Bonhoeffer take a moment to do a quick internet search for this modern day saint who was martyred, hanged in a German prison, at the close of World War II.)


you will find a link to subscribe to 40 days of short readings delivered to your email. 

And at

you will find day 1 of the readings so you can see what you think about it.

I like the pattern – a Quote from Bonhoeffer, a Scripture, some Questions to provoke your thinking/meditation, a sentence or two from a Psalm, a statement or question for your Reflection, some ideas for Intercession, and a sentence Prayer.  An altogether good pattern to try on for a few weeks.

Let me know what you think and let me know If you have any trouble with the links.


{ubi caritas et amor, deus ibi est}

243 – Easter Challenges – Intention on the Spiritual Journey

Easter Sunday has passed … but has the Easter season passed? In this season between Easter and Ascension Day and Pentecost it is a good time to think about how we can live as “Easter people.” What can we learn during this time? It was time of learning for the first disciples and can be for us also.

Let me share a brief quote I recently came across,

“We get used to ‘knowing’ in a particular way. We are uneasy with things we can’t master or that don’t match our categories. We’re always trying to fit things into time, space, matter ; even when we encounter something utterly new like ‘dark matter’ or particles that we know only by their traces, we want to fit them in to some familiar conceptual framework. But the resurrection of Christ cannot be fitted in like that. It is not something that we can master; it is only something we can receive. We can only let it transform us and our whole way of thinking and seeing and being. In a sense, we find the resurrection difficult not because we are so earth bound – the whole of creation sings it; it is because we are so self-bound, we see only the problematic absence of the empty tomb.”

from; James Harvey,

I fear some of us may have “fit” the resurrection into categories we understand and are too comfortable with it. We are so comfortable it has become familiar, and easy to deal with.

It should never be easy to deal with. It should always challenge us to open our lives to what is beyond our reach and our understanding.

How in these days of Easter will the resurrection challenge you to see beyond into God’s vision of life?

{ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est}


242 – Holy Week – Intention on the Spiritual Journey

We have moved though Lent, past Palm Sunday and find ourselves today on Maundy Thursday. Good Friday and Easter Sunday are just around the corner.

This week I have been wondering how we communicate why we call this time “Holy Week.”

And not just how we communicate it, but how we communicate in language that is heard today.

I wish I had a fully developed answer to share with you today but I am not there.

Can I ask your help today? I think I will ask our Sunday class the same question. The following is put to us in our class study guide,

“Record in your own words what the resurrection of Jesus means to you.”

How do you respond? How do you respond “in your own words.” Many of us are comfortable using “church” words to talk of resurrection. And no doubt we may have come to regard that as “our own words.” But could you speak of resurrection in different words?

Give it a try. What words come to you that best communicates what Palm Sunday, Holy Week, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter mean to you.

{ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est}


Please feel free to pass this along to friends.

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241 – Lenten Loss – Intention on the Spiritual Journey

I couple of weeks ago I was with a congregation and we were thinking together about something Paul wrote to the folks at Philippi,

“… whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ. More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” (Philippians 3.7-8 NRSV)

As I was contemplating his words, I could not help but connect them with this Lenten season and the article from Christianity Today I mentioned a couple of weeks ago.

Many things we “give-up” for Lent (and even practices we might add) often are on the surface of our lives. They may be small things, or actions, or attitudes, or even more important things and actions and attitudes, but still often exist on the surface of our lives and our encounters with others.

Paul went deeper than that. He went to the things that give me his identity,

“circumcised on the eighth day, a member of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.” (vv 5-6)

How do we go past the surface of our lives, to the deep things of our identity, our souls, if you will?

Is a Lenten practice a good place to begin? Probably so.

Are “spiritual practices” and “spiritual disciplines” helpful? Sure.

But we can let all those things stay surface activities that do not touch our souls.

Where have you been touched deeply this Lenten season? What has been brought to your awareness that needs your deep attention?

{ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est}


Please feel free to pass this along to friends.

If you do not currently receive this mailing each Wednesday and wish to do so, contact me at and I will add you to the list. If you you do not wish to continue receiving this mailing, let me know and I will remove your name from the list.

240 – What we give up for Lent – Intention on the Spiritual Journey

I did not grow up in a church were we talked about Lent or giving up something for Lent.  Over the last years as I have come to some understanding of the season of Lent and of what it can mean I hear people talk not just about “giving up” but more so about adding a Lenten practice.  I had come to the opinion that was the new norm but a recent article in Christianity Today* has me thinking otherwise.

Christianity Today reports that last year nearly 20% of Americans’s observed Lent and they found 400,000 tweeting about it.  Those tweets suggested “giving up” was closely associated with Lent and they reported on the 100 most often things given up.  “The top five choices: School, chocolate, Twitter, alcohol, and social networking …”

I make no claims this list reflects how most people engage the Lenten season but it is interesting that with a few exceptions this list reflects what I heard many years ago.

Maybe a word from Bernard of Clairvaux is worth hearing when we consider a “fast” of any kind,

“If the appetite alone hath sinned, let it alone fast, and it sufficeth. But if the other members also have sinned, why should they not fast, too? … Let the eye fast from strange sights and from every wantonness, so that that which roamed in freedom in fault-doing may, abundantly humbled, be checked by penitence. Let the ear, blameably eager to listen, fast from tales and rumours, and from whatsoever is of idle import, and tendeth least to salvation. Let the tongue fast from slanders and murmurings, and from useless, vain, and scurrilous words, and sometimes also, in the seriousness of silence, even from things which may seem of essential import. Let the hand abstain from … all toils which are not imperatively necessary. But also let the soul herself abstain from all evils and from acting out her own will. For without such abstinence the other things find no favor with the Lord.”

From: Bernard of Clairvaux (1091-1153), Saint Bernard, Abbot of Clairvaux, Selections from His Letters, Meditations, Sermons, Hymns and Other Writings

It strikes me that St Bernard’s counsel is reflected in a number of ways in the list of 100 things most given up, but it also strikes me that many items in the list may not go “soul” deep as he also counsels.  But, maybe it takes time to go soul deep and discover what should be given up and what should be added.

How is Lent going with you?  Whether giving-up or adding a practice, is it touching the soul?

{ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est}