My approach to my own personal adversity and trauma has been deeply shaped by my spirituality. I grew up in a liturgical church, which means that we kept to something called the "Church calendar" which had seasons built into it for various readings, celebrations and observances. Every late winter brought with it the experience of "Ash Wednesday" that led into Lent, a time of self-examination, observance of disciplines and practices that framed human suffering into a larger context, a grand spiritual "meta-narrative." I did this all in community, not only with my own congregation, but I was mindful of those across the Christian Church, throughout the world, who were making a similar journey towards Easter. My view of trials, temptation, resilience, and triumph are all shaped by these early spiritual practices.
Now, as an adult and a ministry leader to children deeply affected by adversity and trauma, I can see where not every message I internalized as a youth through these experiences was helpful or redemptive. Still, I think that the observance of Lent--especially within the context of community--is an extremely powerful way to build resilience, encourage authentic spirituality, and discuss human suffering and redemption in ways that can bring healing and hope. My wrestling through these issues personally has led me to create a resource that I believe may be of use to those brand new to the observance of Lent, while also bringing a freshness and innovation to those that have been practicing Lenten observance for many years.
In my new Lenten devotional book, From Suffering to Triumph Christ Draws Us Near, I have gleaned lessons and practices I have used over my years in ministry to commend an observance that I think would be of benefit to you.
What kind of devotional is this? Well, that’s a little hard to answer. I know some people like a somber and reflective study for the time of Lent that leads up to Easter. Others prefer a practice that leads them to do, act, and reflect upon serving others. Many consider their Lenten reflection a private time, while others enjoy coming together in community as they journey toward the cross. Some like structure, and others prefer freedom. I, myself, have always preferred a little variety. So, in this devotional you will find an “all of the above” approach.
There are object lessons you could do for children, youth, or family. There are activities suitable to private reflection as well as group times together. There are times to journal or reflect on the Sunday readings and messages within your faith community. I have included traditional practices like praying through a labyrinth (if you have never done this… don’t worry! I have instructions that are easy to follow) and something much more light-hearted, a practice I call “redemptive doodling.” I fully realize that not all activities will be met with the same level of enthusiasm by all, but I would encourage you to try them all… even if you have to get creative about finding a group to lead through one of the object lessons! I truly believe the variety of practices on various days will be a benefit to you.
The object lessons I have written for the traditional Lenten passages each suggest something that can be used a visual reference for the devotional. It isn’t absolutely necessary to have the object itself with you for the lesson. Sometimes a picture will do, or perhaps even a video. In these days of smartphones, these “objects” are just a google search away. However, for those who would like to have these objects close at hand, I have provided a checklist at the back of the book that will assist you in gathering together all that you will need.
So, be creative and flexible, and see where the devotional, discussion, and reflection take you. I hope this is fruitful both as an individual practice as well as a family devotion. If you are blessed to have children or youth to share this devotional with, I think it can only add to your experience of Lent as you prepare for Easter. I am always impressed by the ability of children and youth (all of us, really!) to stumble upon spiritual insight in the midst of creativity and free-flowing discussion.
There are 47 total devotions, one for each day of Lent, and a 47th for Easter morning!
For those looking for a devotional or lesson for a specific Lenten passage, I have even included a Scriptural Index at the back of the book.