resources for your journey with jesus
LENT IS HERE
FEBRUARY 22-APRIL 8
Wrecks me every time
Lent begins tomorrow. Almost a quarter of a century ago I began to meditate on Jesus' final hours in the days before Easter. Little did I know my contemplation would last over a year and one day become a book to guide others in their own Lenten journey.
Recently our church added a song that captures the beautiful mystery of Calvary -the pathos in the chorus wrecks me every time:
I hope sometime tomorrow you will find a quiet place and sit with this song--I can't think of a better way to begin Lent. Here are a few other resources:
ORDER THE BOOK--forty days with Jesus in his final 18 hours. Narratives, Scriptures, reflections and more.
A LENT FASTING GUIDE: There are many ways to focus on Jesus through this season. Discover how with this simple guide.
DAILY SCRIPTURES FOR LENT: Work your way through the narratives of Jesus' final hours, along with other relevant Scriptures.
Since I first journaled my way through the passion narratives decades ago, I have been wrecked again and again. How can it be otherwise, given the ineffable love story that unfolds there?
I pray that you will experience Jesus like never before in this Lenten season. As wars rage and uncertainty settles like a shroud, may we experience rest and wonder in the shadow of the Cross.
I read once of an elderly woman who went to her priest for advice because she still wasn’t experiencing God’s presence after praying faithfully for years. He instructed her to stop talking to God and instead get quiet and just knit before the face of God for 15 minutes each morning. After struggling for a few days, something happened as she began to realize that in the silence God was there with her. This awareness changed her life.*
I have always loved that story because it did for me what I believe this book can do for anyone with desire for more of God or frustration over their prayer life. Simply put, Where Prayer Becomes Real charts a path that sets us free from religious constraints, and redeems duty-driven spiritual practices that have not been as life-giving as prayer is meant to be.
The best thing about this book is that it is heavily practice oriented. While the second part is devoted to unpacking specific practices, Coe and Strobel carefully interweave Part One-What We Need to Unlearn about Prayer-with meaningful invitations designed to peel back the layers of our good Christian prayer assumptions. For example, Chapter Two addresses ways we avoid God, even as we offer up prayers. When we think prayer is up to us or feel obligated to do it well, we focus on the doing, and hide the true state of our soul. The practice for this chapter opens a way for us to think more deeply about what it means to be with God in truth.
To be honest, I never realized how much I talk to myself in prayer until I read this book. Coe and Strobel point out that we can tend to ignore the messiness of our own hearts because we think God wants us in an improved state. As a result, prayer becomes an internal conversation about how to do better. I have found a new level of freedom in prayer as have begun to recognize the ways I do this.
a little taster
For Strobel and Coe, intercession centers around being present—to the people we intercede for, to our own hearts and to God. They note that often: “(1) I am absent from the person I am praying for, as I name requests to mark off a list; 2) I am absent from myself, since I am not actually entering into the heart of the request; and 3) I am absent from God because I am not with him with these requests. I’m just lofting them at him.” (page 157) The art of presence as they refer to it, has brought a refreshing energy to my practice of intercession.
why you should get it
This book is about the most important relationship in the world and that alone is reason enough to get it now. But beyond that, When Prayer Becomes Real makes us want to pray, drawing us in with the simple invitation to be ourselves with God. This, plus the many practices ensure that there is enough help to keep anyone growing in prayer for years to come.
*told in School of Prayer by Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh.
READ MORE HERE.
Those pesky weeds
As a SoCal weather wimp, I’ve felt perpetually chilled for weeks as our nights have dipped down into the low 40’s. So, when the sun came out after a stormy interlude last week, I took my morning coffee break to sit on a rock with the local lizards and soak up those rays.
It felt glorious, until I glanced around and saw the incredible weed infestation that had sprung up overnight (whoever told us that rock gardens with indigenous plants are low maintenance was sorely uninformed!)
Weeds are amazing, when you think about it. They shoot up unbidden, having powered through layers of protective plastic, rocks and even boulders, and then they spread profusely, wreaking havoc like kamikaze warriors. I have never been able to figure out why our regular plants demand such care--fertilizing, balancing the soil, watering enough, but not too much—while weeds seem to flourish with no help from us at all.
Getting rid of the weeds in my soul feels like a never-ending task. Cynicism or judgement or self-pity or pride or a hundred other sins can spring up unbidden and before I know it, that garden within where Jesus has made his home, is a mess.
That reminded me of one of my favorite spiritual authors—Teresa of Avila, a 16th century saint, who shared amazing metaphors for our spiritual journey. For example, she describes our souls as gardens that can be very barren and “full of abominable weeds” that Jesus pulls up so he can plant good seeds. As we care for these seeds, our souls “bud and flower and give forth a most pleasant fragrance to provide refreshment for this Lord of ours.” Something about that mystery—that Jesus comes to enjoy the garden of my soul, makes me long to do whatever I can to make it a lovely experience for him.
Getting rid of the weeds in my soul feels like a never-ending task. Cynicism or judgement or self-pity or pride or anxiety or a hundred other sins can spring up unbidden and before I know it, that garden within where Jesus has made his home, is a mess.
This is one reason Lent is such a special season for me. It offers a time to journey with Jesus through his suffering, opening my soul to his tender care and boundless love, as he rips out the weeds that threaten to choke the flora of grace and virtue that he’s planted there. In the shadow of the cross, Jesus himself comes to water the dry places, till the hardened soil, and turn the budding plants into a profusion of beauty whose fragrance brings him joy. Nothing drives me more than the unfathomable privilege of bringing pleasure to my Lord.
I hope you'll join me in a soul-gardening venture this Lent!
A VERY COVID CHRISTMAS
I woke up with a tension headache again this morning. While I’d like to think I can manage stress at this point in my life, the knots down my neck and across my shoulders are telling a different story, one forged through the twists and turns of a global pandemic that we all thought would be a thing of the past by now.
This week San Diego went into lockdown again, forcing Joe and me to pare down Christmas until it feels like the Grinch himself is calling the shots. For decades we have hosted our family Christmas Eve celebration, replete with a panorama of Danish traditions my mom brought into our home as a young bride.
Letting my friends and family know we wouldn’t be hosting this year has been excruciating for me—not only because of my own sense of loss, but the disappointment I knew many of them would feel. I didn’t realize how much this weighed on me until this morning as I read these words from the prophet Isaiah: “And the government shall be on his shoulders.”
In this prophecy of Christ that was penned hundreds of years before he came, the Hebrew word for government suggests wrestling until one wins the power. In that agrarian society, where most people survived through manual labor, the image of that fight being hefted like a load onto one’s back, spoke volumes. As I massaged my tense shoulders, I pondered how Jesus came to contend in my place, to wrestle to the point of death so that he could lift the burdens of brokenness and disappointment and sadness and sin from my shoulders.
Tears began to flow as I envisioned just that—all the weight I have been carrying for days, sliding off of me and onto his shoulders—and as I did, the headache gradually disappeared.
I am not under the illusion that I’ll be stress-free from now on, or that headache won’t come back, but today, in this moment, my heart is captivated by the eternal beauty of a Savior who came to earth to carry our burdens and fight for our souls. COVID restrictions have lost their capacity to cancel my Christmas joy in light of this.
12 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS DEVOTIONALS
Contact Tricia here.
Tricia McCary Rhodes
Author of 7 books and pastor of Global Leadership Development at All Peoples Church in San Diego, Tricia specializes in helping others experience God’s presence through practicing soul-care.