Rise: An Authentic Lenten Devotional

John Pavlovitz
Chalice Press, 80 pages

If you are looking for a Lenten practice to take on this year, Rise: An Authentic Lenten Devotional is an easy-to-read, accessible guide to help tune your heart to God each day of your Lenten journey. With 46 devotions, each day includes a brief Scripture passage and short reflection for the 40 days – plus Sundays – of Lent.

Popular author John Pavlovitz writes through a progressive theological lens, allowing space for questions, mystery and complicated (rather than easy) answers. For example, when speaking of the resurrection story he notes, “I don’t know whether you read this passage and you receive the story at face value — or whether you find in the words a metaphor for your own rise from the valleys and the tombs and the lost causes you’ve experienced.” Simply acknowledging that some of his readers may struggle with the resurrection as an actual, physical event in history will resonate with many who try to live out an honest and critical faith. It is refreshing to see such a theology reflected in the daily devotional format, which is often dominated by more conservative or fundamentalist ideologies.

Each devotion is honest and real. He addresses mental health issues like anxiety and depression several times, without stigma or shame. His stories are personable and personal, showing him in both a positive and not-so-positive light.

While the reader will likely appreciate his candid transparency, some personal stories would probably resonate better if we had a relationship with the author. The stories are akin to those that a pastor might share in her sermons; due to the relationship the congregation has with the pastor, there is understanding, humor, and grace. For those of us with no previous relationship with the author, however, the stories may not land in quite the same way. Nonetheless, he is truly authentic, and his reflections and stories offer tangible ways that we might understand and live out God’s word in our daily lives.

Undergirding the premise of rise and fall, Pavlovitz writes of simple, real-life ways to experience God in both the rise and the fall of our spiritual journey. He often ends the devotion with words to take with you for the rest of the day. For example, “Today, resist the frenzy and the obligations and the performative — and be here.”

These nuggets of wisdom are simple, but they are not easy. Pavlovitz insists that we are enough and that we have enough. He encourages us to be fully present and perhaps maybe, just maybe, even put down our phones occasionally. Again, these are simple but not easy ways of connecting with the Holy each day. And these days, in our busy, consumeristic society, they are counter-cultural ways of being in our current world.

While these devotions will likely not revolutionize your faith, they remind us to be more present to a God who is always present with us. And perhaps, this Lent, that is enough.

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