Deeply Loved: The End of Lent and Holy Week

Holy Week is over and my Lenten journey has come to an end. Tomorrow I will eat, drink and be merry. Christ is risen indeed! For the most part. Not eating meat and drinking coffee hasn’t been too hard. My Holy Week bustled with visiting relatives and I bent my resolve a little and ate  a roast with my family the last night they were here.  With the busyness of my week I found that I didn’t have the energy to do many of the things I love during Holy Week. My wife and I love to host a Seder and talked about doing it this year, but we were busy tuesday and wednesday night and couldn’t do it then. We didn’t make it to a Maundy Thursday service because I needed to take an assessment for a job I’m applying for (and my wife couldn’t face it with three kids in tow. Good Friday I cam home from a day of work (and fasting), had dinner and fell asleep.  But I am leading worship on Easter and have been working on music all week. So despite missing my yearly rituals, this week has still been sacred space for me.

Deeply Loved has been my devotional for the season of Lent. The 40 day format makes it an ideal for Lent, but the themes of this devotional are broader than ‘preparing your heart for Easter.’ Keri Wyatt Kent describes what it is like to be in relationship with the God who loves you deeply and she suggests “Presence Practices” to help you deepen your spiritual life. I found it fruitful reading this during Lent, but I think that this is a book that could be used as a devotional any time or season.


What I appreciate about this book is Keri Wyatt Kent’s graciousness. Kent challenges readers to partake in various spiritual disciplines: scripture meditation, reading, prayer, journaling, Sabbath rest, intercession, service, celebration, etc. Many of her suggestions will be challenging to a lot of people. But you never feel beat up by Kent. Her challenges are warm invitations to partake deeper in the with-God-life.

I also appreciate that Kent shares from her own experience of the spiritual life. Her reflections and “Presence Practices” are not commending a lifestyle left untried. Kent shares her own faith journey and the insights she has gained. There is a rootedness to her reflections.

Lastly I liked that this is a devotional with content. So much that passes for devotional literature is overly positivistic fluff. Kent draws on scripture and a number of writers on the Christian life to produce a devotional with depth. A number of authors I respect are noted in her daily reflections. I respect that!

I received a copy of this book from Abingdon Press and agreed to post a review. I also purchased a Kindle copy of this book and read from both copies, depending on where I was when I read it. I liked the physical copy better for this kind of book. There is space to check off your presence practice for the day and I find it easier to track with a physical copy for devotional literature.

Lord Do Not Rebuke Me in Your Anger: Psalm 38 (the Seven Penitential Psalms)

Psalm 38:title–22 (NIV)

A psalm of David. A petition.

Lord, do not rebuke me in your anger

or discipline me in your wrath.

Your arrows have pierced me,

and your hand has come down on me.

Because of your wrath there is no health in my body;

there is no soundness in my bones because of my sin.

My guilt has overwhelmed me

like a burden too heavy to bear.

My wounds fester and are loathsome

because of my sinful folly.

I am bowed down and brought very low;

all day long I go about mourning.

My back is filled with searing pain;

there is no health in my body.

I am feeble and utterly crushed;

I groan in anguish of heart.

All my longings lie open before you, Lord;

my sighing is not hidden from you.

10 My heart pounds, my strength fails me;

even the light has gone from my eyes.

11 My friends and companions avoid me because of my wounds;

my neighbors stay far away.

12 Those who want to kill me set their traps,

those who would harm me talk of my ruin;

all day long they scheme and lie.

13 I am like the deaf, who cannot hear,

like the mute, who cannot speak;

14 I have become like one who does not hear,

whose mouth can offer no reply.

15 Lord, I wait for you;

you will answer, Lord my God.

16 For I said, “Do not let them gloat

or exalt themselves over me when my feet slip.”

17 For I am about to fall,

and my pain is ever with me.

18 I confess my iniquity;

I am troubled by my sin.

19 Many have become my enemies without cause;

those who hate me without reason are numerous.

20 Those who repay my good with evil

lodge accusations against me,

though I seek only to do what is good.

21 Lord, do not forsake me;

do not be far from me, my God.

22 Come quickly to help me,

my Lord and my Savior.

When we read Psalm 32 we explored the experience of having been forgiven and set free. Psalm 38 takes us back into the same territory that Psalm 6 put us in, even beginning with the same words. Repentance is cyclical. Sometimes we buckle under the weight of our sins, sometimes we know fully the joy of being forgiven.

But this Psalm speaks more explicitly about how sin stands behind his calamity. The psalmist knows that his peculiar suffering is caused by his sin [Note: Suffering doesn’t always have sin as a direct cause, other psalms explore the suffering of the righteous].  He speaks of God’s wrath, his guilt, his sinful folly, his sin and iniquity. His sin has caused him to suffer and his health to falter.  He longs for forgiveness, healing and restoration but he experiences none.  And he feels isolated and alone. Even the good that he offers others is repaid harshly.

David (presumably the author of this Psalm) suffered for his sin.  He knew that God was right to be angry with him. He had disobeyed God’s law and misused his power when he took Bathsheba and had Uriah the Hittite killed in battle (more about this when we discuss Psalm 51).  He sinned when he trusted in his army instead of God. At times his anger burned hot and he acted rashly. When he was older he failed to address the sins of his sons Amnon (who raped his half sister Tamar) and Absalom (who avenged Tamar and forcibly wrested the Kingdom from David’s hands for a time).  I think he had difficulty confronting his sons because he was guilty of the same sins. A little leniency from David meant that he reaped the whirlwind and many whom he called friends and allies betrayed him.

We do not know the occasion of this Psalm (or even if   the superscription ‘of David’ means that he  wrote this psalm). But we’ve experienced this. Have you held on to Sin in your heart and seen it poison everything in your life? Have you been bitter against someone who betrayed you and abused your trust?  You were justified in your anger but when bitterness grew in you, you were the one who suffered.  All your relationships were poisoned and you felt isolated and alone.

How about lust? Are you tempted to treat others as objects to be used for your own satisfaction? Or greed? Are you constantly reaching for just a little more and find yourself consumed by your own consumption? Does your pride prevent you from turning to God or others for the help you desperately need?And the list can go on. I know it because I am sinner too and in my own way have suffered what the Psalmist describes.

But the Psalmist knows more than the weight of his sin. He knows that hope for forgiveness and restoration are found in God. He lays his soul bare and cries, ” Lord, do not forsake me; do not be far from me, my God. Come quickly to help me, my Lord and my Savior.” His own actions may have caused his suffering and isolation. His health deteriorated because of anxiety and guilt over what he had done. But he knows that he can do nothing to aleviate his condition. If there is freedom and life and hope, it will come when the God of salvation draws near.

May we also look to the Savior of our souls to free us from the sin that entangles us.  Teach us Lord to turn our hearts to you.

Prayer for Week 4 of Lent

And morning came too early

and my tired body protests.

       the hour lost.

 

Still I rise

 in the strength of 

         Your Resurrection

                     and coffee (Your

                      good gift to us).

 

Too much to do today

and I feel the weight of the

week ahead.

 

Lord give me space 

and time to 

sit in your presence;

help me press in

to all you are

even with a lost hour,

tired body

and too much to do.

 

Make me mindful of

Your road to

Jerusalem

and all that weighed on You 

as you knew

what awaited you.

 

Show me how to give myself to you

      to use for you glory

        in the coming days. 

 

 

 

 

Prayer for Week 3 of Lent

The Sun is shining and

Spring in infancy erupts everywhere.

The brown grass has turned green

and begun its seasonal sprawl

into my garden beds.

The  dry withered clump

of  chives

parts

as green fingers poke

through the earth.

But death hangs in the air

Frost will descend with

    the long shadow
      of night.

 

Some tender shoots will

shrivel and break

and we wait

for the life to come.

 

 

Jesus we celebrate your light

and see signs of new life in us.

Even as we remember your

face set like a flint towards

Jerusalem.

You were alive and Life itself

but you walked towards

arrest, mocking, beating and

death on a cross.

May the Lenten seeds

You have planted

grow Easter flowers.

May you guard the tender new life

you have given us.

And Lord give us strength

for the cold dark days ahead.