The Desert of Compassion: Devotions for the Lenten Journey
Rachel M. Srubas
Westminster John Knox Press, 192 pages | Published January 10, 2023
Srubas invites readers to follow Jesus’ example, retreating for 40 days into the “desert” in order to emerge as more compassionate, hopeful humans who rely on God. This book of daily reflections invites transformation; by working through our wounds and repenting with open hearts, we realize that we are being sought by the God who “is seeking to transform (our) hurts and yearnings into (our) wholeness and fulfillment.”
The Desert of Compassion is the companion I chose for my own Lenten journey — I read just enough to recommend it and am eager to return for a closer and more devotional reading starting Ash Wednesday. The combination of short Scripture passages, stories from the author’s life and poetic prayers speak to what I need this year.
A Just Passion: A Six Week Lenten Journey
Contributions by Ruth Haley Barton, Sheila Wise Rowe, Tish Harrison Warren, and Terry M. Wildman
InterVarsity Press, 80 pages | Published November 8, 2022
A Just Passion invites people of privilege to “explore what it means to love the justice of the Lord.” Short and sweet, this devotional includes a reading, breath prayer or poem for each day of Lent (minus Sundays), selected from earlier writings of IVP’s most insightful authors, and united by the theme of “examining and confessing our complicity in injustice.”
This does not, however, mean that the focus is on guilt or (even worse) shame; on the contrary, daily passages invite us to live with open hearts and hands to more fully experience God’s love. A Just Passion is flexible — some days include a simple prayer or excerpt from Scripture (from the poetic First Nations Version), while other entries ask questions and invite deeper personal reflection. This forgiving approach recognizes life’s demands, allowing readers to engage with the material in varied ways.
Finding Jesus in the Psalms
Abingdon Press, 160 pages | Published December 20, 2022
The Psalms were Jesus’ prayer book and have spoken to God’s people through prayer, poetry and song for thousands of years. Roos connects six Psalms with the ways we understand Jesus – as our shepherd, our hope and strength, and ultimately as our Savior—and she lovingly suggests that the Psalmists’ words can reach us when no one else can, “connecting our hearts with God in meaningful ways.” She also provides a healthy amount of context from the life of King David (to whom several Psalms are attributed) and applies lessons from his life to the Psalms. What’s missing is the recognition that the Psalms continue to nurture a love of God in our Jewish siblings that has nothing to do with Jesus; Roos could have included this while still inviting Christians to seek Jesus in the words of the Psalter.
The six chapters in Finding Jesus in the Psalms are an excellent choice for readers seeking a weekly biblical deep dive. They also lend themselves to a six-week Lenten study for small groups; Abingdon Press offers a Leader Guide and DVD to make this an ideal choice for churches looking to bring people together throughout the season.
Lent: The Season of Repentance and Renewal
InterVarsity Press, 112 pages | Published November 8, 2022
Part of IVP’s new “Fullness of Time” series, this slim book is best for those seeking a deeper academic and personal understanding of Lent, rather than (or in addition to) a daily devotional. McCaulley describes relevant spiritual practices including fasting, confession, engaging in social justice and more. Particularly interesting is the way he brings together his Baptist upbringing, current Episcopal tradition, and ancient church practices to suggest ways that we can deepen our own activities to draw nearer to God.
Lent could be read prior to Ash Wednesday or throughout Lent, as it does not follow a daily or weekly approach to the season. It would also find a welcome home in a church library and could be used to teach newcomers to the faith, confirmands, or others about this holy season.
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