Saturday, March 5, 2011

Launch Into Lent: Read More

When I first heard people talk about adding something to their Lenten lives (instead of giving up something, like chocolate or sugar), one of the things that people talked about adding was additional devotion time. Now, you may have a different view of devotion time (maybe a yoga class?), but for me, when you say devotion time, I think about reading.

I can already see the eyes rolling at my suggestion that we read more. Maybe you're thinking about that book that you started during your last vacation but didn't finish, and now you can't remember the plot, and you feel like you should finish the book, but to do that you'd really need to start over again, and in the meantime, there are all these other books you'd rather read.

Oh, wait, that's my reading life. And that's my approach to things, an all or nothing, I'm going to read 200 extra pages every day!, I'll read my way through the whole Bible this Lent! kind of approach.

It's the kind of approach that sets us up for failure. Let's be kinder to ourselves.

Let's think about some ways that additional reading can be a nourishing Lenten discipline without being an overwhelming burden.

Increase your Bible reading:

--Choose one Gospel and read your way through it this Lent. We're in Lectionary Year A, which means the Gospels are primarily from Matthew. You might want to read Matthew through or you might want to choose another Gospel, so you can be on the lookout for how they're similar and how they're different.

--Read one Psalm a day. That shouldn't be too hard. Some of them are as short as 6 verses.

--Open the Bible at random and read a page or two.

--Don't forget that there are many sites that will give you Bible readings as MP3s that you can take with you (listen in the car; listen on your iPod) and there are sites that will send you a Bible verse a day, and there are sites that will send you pinging reminders )on your mobile device or computer) to read a verse or two. Harness the technology that so often rules our days and use that technology to enrich your life.

Read the Works of Spiritual Masters

--Most of us have a theologian or two that we've been meaning to read. Lent is a great time to make time for that.

--If you're convinced that you don't have time for a complete work, there are books that are set up as a daily devotional resource with a short passage from the work of an author. Look for titles like A Year With ____________.

--Augsburg Fortress has a great series, the 40-Day series. There are 11 books, each featuring a different author. You get a Bible reading, some passages from the author, a prayer, and some questions for you to think or journal about. Go here for the complete list. I've used the Madeleine L'Engle and the Kathleen Norris book and enjoyed them thoroughly; our high school youth group is working their way through L'Engle, which convinces me of the wide appeal of these books.

--Let me put in a vote for my favorite Lenten devotional resource: Henri Nouwen's Show Me the Way. It will not surprise me if future generations view Henri Nouwen as one of the most important theologians of the last half of the 20th century, and I'm so happy to find out that this book is still in print.

Read a Poem Each Day

I am not one of those people who takes the Bible literally. I'm a poet and an English Ph.D; I see the Bible not as a history book, but as a lyrical text that gives us very important information in an often non-rational, non-linear way.

And as a poet, I'm biased, but I would go ahead and argue that reading poetry trains our brain in a way that no other discipline can, and our trained brains will be better able to appreciate the Bible.

And just to demonstrate, so you won't be cast adrift on your own, during each week of Lent, on Tuesdays, I will present one of my poems, complete with explanation, and with thoughts about how understanding my poem can enrich your understanding of the Bible. At the end of the post, I'll recommend other poets and poems so that you can continue your study of poetry throughout the week.

Yes, Poetry Tuesday--I like the sound of that!

1 comment:

Beth Lewis said...

Thanks for mentioning our 40 Days with _________ Series as a Lenten discipline (and fun to read, too!)

Another excellent resource is in our collection of Book of Faith resources, "Seven Wonders of the Word", another Lenten Journey resource.

Wishing you a blessed Lent!
Beth Lewis, President & CEO
Augsburg Fortress