Yesterday, Ash Wednesday, signaled the start of Lent. Since we’ve had such a mild winter for this zone 4.5 location in the mountains of western Maryland, I decided to check out the garden and pray as I walked.
As I squished over the mushroom mulch Dave put down last fall, I came upon daffodils, irises, and tulips all fully above ground. “Not wise,” I whispered to them. “You know there will be many cold days yet and our last snowfall usually occurs in April.”
I don’t always wander about the yard talking to plants, but I do fear these fledglings will not survive to bloom because they’ve poked themselves through the soil too soon.
My investigations led me to cross through the garden; there I spotted a host of what will eventually blossom as bearded irises. Most of these flowers found their way to our garden from my good neighbor Joan. When abundance comes to her garden, she digs up flowers and shows up at my door with offerings for our yard.
So here’s my Lenten offering to you. Put down the TV remote, the spy thrillers, crossword puzzles, historical fiction tales or whatever else may now occupy your evenings. Instead, decide to tackle a book that will take you to the cross. Choose to read a book that will stretch you spiritually and, at the same time, bless your sacrifice of time and effort as you are drawn closer to the risen Savior.
I like this overstuffed chair that rests in the quiet of our basement. There, a gas fireplace nearby keeps me warm. A keyboard on the far wall also provides an outlet if I decide to stop reading and walk over to play a hymn. This cozy alcove calls me to stop and read; it often beckons me to listen and worship.
If you want an easy read, try Max Lucado’s No Wonder They Call Him the Savior. Lucado’s word artistry will draw you to the realities of the God-man who walked through Galilee straight to Golgatha. Lucado possesses a gift to handle both the deity and humanity of Christ.
John Stott’s The Cross of Christ represents a much for difficult work. The inclusion of a study guide in the 20 Anniversary Edition makes this a serious undertaking, one that may take Lent 2012 and 21013 for me. But the more I read of this book, the more I cling to I Corinthians 1:18. “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”
Although Philip Yancey’s Reaching for the Invisible God is not specifically about the cross, Yancey grapples with many questions other Christian writers avoid. He has walked the steps of doubt, and can talk about God when He “seems absent, indifferent or even hostile.”
Lent allows time, if we believers in Christ will take it, to have some significant worship experiences with the Lord through rereading the Gospel accounts of His passion.
Additionally, if we tackle a demanding book by a thoughtful Christian writer, we can discover a richness to Lent that we may have missed in previous years.