Ashes to Atonement

February 15, 2018 |

Daily Lenten Devotionals

Day 1: Ash Wednesday

Across the country people are attending Ash Wednesday services, receiving the ashes and hearing one of two dictums spoken over them:

“Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
“Repent, and believe in the Gospel”

While this is a time to contemplate our own mortality and the role of sin in our lives, it is also a time to look forward in mindful preparation to Christ’s definitive victory over that sin and death.

As we enter into Lent, Ash Wednesday is a day of celebration as we begin the journey to the cross – a journey to our salvation. We are not meant to linger on our sin but turn to Christ and make ourselves ready by penance for the great restoration.

Lent is then, not a time of punishment through that penance, but a time of healing.

Day 2: Thursday after Ash Wednesday

Worthlessness, discontentment, unhappiness – symptoms of the guilt and disappointment when we feel like we don’t measure up…

But what if those feelings weren’t meant to lead to shame? But rather, as Thomas Merton claims, they hold a hidden gift – “a baptism of sorrow.”

These feelings often reveal what we are so afraid of, the reality that we are not meant to do this on our own and without God will not reach the joy and contentment we strive for.

Could it be that this “baptism of sorrow” is meant to lead us more fully into the grace of humility?

Could it be really be true that God’s power is made perfect in our weakness?

A prayer for today:My God, teach me what the gifts are hidden in my human weakness. Open my eyes more fully to your work in my life, through your Son, and how I can become more fully human. Teach me how to love you with my whole heart and love my neighbors as myself.


Day 3: The Friday After Ash Wednesday

As we enter into this season of prayer, fasting and giving, it is necessary that we recognize God’s mercy and that he reveals it to us.

Lent is not only giving something up or taking something for the sake of satisfying some divine debt but rather to prepare our ourselves to find joy and radical contentment in God’s love.

This preparation is receiving this gift of mercy and acknowledging that our salvation is not a reward for any good thing we have done. It cannot be earned, but through faith in the gift that God gave us – God’s mercy through Jesus Christ – we are saved.

But what is keeping us from accepting God’s gracious gift?

What stops us from trusting in God’s mercy rather than our own merit or works?

Await God’s mercy, approach God trustfully in prayer. Trust in God’s mercy and receive the joy and peace that God wants to give us.

Reading: Isaiah 58:4-6, Ephesians 2:8-9


Teach me to trust in your mercy and understand that we are all sinners.

Teach me to trust in your mercy and know that it is not by my own works or merits that I have been saved.

Teach me to trust in your mercy and give to you the control that I want over my life.

Teach me to trust in your mercy and be a sign of mercy to my neighbors just as you have been to me.

Open my ears to your teaching and my eyes to see what you see .


Day 4: Saturday After Ash Wednesday

Typically we hear that prayer, fasting, and almsgiving are the components of Lent’s call to action. Those of you who are participating in Lent, you may have decided to fast from eating sweets, going on social media or maybe taken on reading from scripture each morning as a way to discipline yourself.
But it is important to know the deep meaning behind our fasting for Lent. It is not merely a time to tone up our system or trim the useless fat from our heart and souls. Our Lenten fasting, as Thomas Merton reflects, is to be seen in the context of life and death.
We are denying ourselves in response to the salvation Christ give us. We are denying ourselves, that we may die to our flesh and be made new in Christ. Our fasting then is a symbolic enactment of our burial with Christ in order to rise with Him to a new life.
In what ways is our fasting reflecting this death and resurrection?
Are we truly trusting God in our fasting to provide and strengthen as we either give up or take on certain disciplines?
Reading: Isaiah 58:9-12; Romans 7:15-20
Prayer: Let me recognize by your grace and teaching the sins of my flesh, that which separates me from you and causes harm to myself and my neighbor. Reveal to me my ways that create division rather than community. May I trust in you to provide the strength to deny myself and follow you.

Day 5: First Sunday in Lent

We are not “saved”
Did that get your attention? Yes, we are saved in Christ, but NOT in the static, “in the past” sort of way that that word suggests. We are not merely “saved” in the sense that God excuses the debts contracted by our sins but are called to something greater. Not only are we saved from death but we are given life through the deep love of God, in Christ.
We are called to be active participants in our faith as God is actively loving us. May we respond to this love by living likewise – following Christ’s example and actively loving out our salvation.
How are you proactive about your faith?
In what areas of your life do you see God actively loving you?
Reading: Jeremiah 29:11
Prayer: Lord Jesus, challenge my complacency. Open my eyes to see your love actively working in my life and in my community. Give me the courage to answer the call of faith through your powerful love. Give me the courage to follow you.


Day 6: Monday of the First Week of Lent.

Our taking on or giving up during Lent is a visible expression of our repentance. The call to these penitent actions are not to merely keep our spirituality “in shape” but because the “Kingdom of God is close at hand.”
It is a preparation for God’s Kingdom come and so that we may be instruments for God’s will to be done on Earth as it is in Heaven. This preparation through penance and self-denial breaks the hardness of our hearts that prevent us from understanding and carrying out God’s command to love.
In what ways are your expressions of repentance in fasting or discipline breaking down the walls around your heart?
Why did you choose to to give up or take on the particular discipline you chose this Lenten season?
Reading: Matthew 25:31-40
Prayer: Soften my heart to understand your love more fully. Teach me the intimate connection between the love of you and the compassion you have for all. May that compassion make a home in my heart that I may be at one with those who struggle and suffer.

Day 7: Tuesday of the First Week of Lent

The Holy Spirit never asks us to surrender anything without offering us something greater and much more perfect in return. The practice of discipline or self-denial is meant to lead to true life and a positive increase in your spiritual energy and faith. As Merton says, “The Christian dies, not merely to die but in order to live.”

In what ways have you felt the positive increase, a sense of ‘new life’, in disciplining yourself – denying your fleshly desires?

Reading: Psalm 34:11-15

Prayer:Lord, let me follow your example of self-denial, that I may seek and find the joy, peace and true life that you offer us. May I surrender to you those things that pull me from you and turn from what my flesh craves. Thank you for your sacrifice that we may experience eternal life with you.

Day 8: Wednesday of the First Week of Lent

We are called to a proportional point of view, one that is remarkably balanced. On one hand it demands that we make an uncompromising break from the world and on the other hand encourages us to understand our existence within the world – be in the world but not of it.
So then we are not provided with a flight from the world or a refuge from stress, distractions and temptations but rather we are enabled to enter into the world bearing the light of Truth with a renewed mind. In doing so, we are able to shed that light on the confusion of this world and carry with us the transforming power of the cross – love and sacrifice.
In what ways or areas is your life lacking a sense of balance?
Reading: Luke 11:33-36; Romans 12:2
Prayer: Lord, help me to remove the plank in my own eye so that I can clearly see your holy work in my neighbors’ hearts. I pray for discernment daily as I confront the temptations, frustrations, and distractions of this world. Let your holy spirit penetrate my heart, that is may shine from within me for your glory to anyone that I may come across.

Day 9: Thursday of the First Week of Lent

To live a holy life, a life set-apart. Are we being called to separation, to live without the creation around us in this fallen world?
It seems that a holy life is just the opposite, that it is in the stewardship and deep understanding of God’s love throughout creation that we are able to commune with our surroundings and, in turn, do the will of God. We are not called to abstain from creation around us but to utilize it in such a way that everything we touch, see, use and love gives new glory to God.
We are called to be in the world in such a way that we are aware and at one with the deep harmonies of God’s glory within it and through Holy discernment we are able to uncover that glory for the world to see.
How has God been good to you?
How can you see and make known God’s glory in a fallen world?
Reading: Matthew 7:7-11
Prayer: Thank you for the world we live in and the infinite creativity of your creation. Anywhere I go, you are there. You are present in everyone and everything I see. Open my eyes your glory and love that is everywhere around me. May my heart delight in your all parts of your creation.

Day 10: Friday of the First Week of Lent

How are we supposed to use God’s creation to bring glory to God if we do not have control of ourselves?
We are not in control of ourselves if we are under the control of the desires of our flesh. Therefore, we cannot give ourselves wholly to God if we are do not belong to ourselves but are enslaved to those desires and our own ego.
Is the answer to liberate ourselves from the desires and needs of our bodies? The reality is that we all are flesh and therefore are subject to the needs and desires that follow. So, the real calling is not to liberate but to bring our whole person, body and soul, into complete submission to God’s will as it is expressed in the fallen, demanding, painful and beautiful world we live in.
In what areas of your life do you think you have the most control?
Where do you find God in those areas of your life?
Reading: Ezekiel 18:21-24
Prayer: Lord, give me the wisdom to acknowledge your divine will and love in this world as I also acknowledge my own fleshly habits, my own poverty, and by own constant blindness to who I truly am and who you truly are for me. Help me to understand your work in me.
Just as I am, you have come to set me free.
Just as I am, you love me.
Just as I am, you will heal me.
Today, make clear to me my sins and forgive me of them. I want to follow your way and become truly your disciple.

Day 11: Saturday of the First Week of Lent

Following the example of Christ is characterized by wholeness and balance. Jesus does not admit to any division. Either we are all in or we are not, either with are with Jesus or against, either we are hot or cold. God asks us to give everything – that is using all things and giving all of ourselves for God’s glory.

Even in this all-giving there is balance. It does not mean that we must always be visibly performing acts of service or praying over the sick but rather that in our resting and our working we glorify God. Our whole life should then be ordered in such a way that keeps the heart and mind united with the God’s will and His loving, indwelling spirit.

Does renouncing some comforts of life and practicing self-denial have any role in your life?

Reading: Matthew 5:43-48

Prayer: Order my disordered heart, Lord. Create an inclusive heart in me. May I live in balance that informed by the Holy Spirit and bring peace wherever I go.

Day 12: Second Sunday of Lent

Today let us realize that we meet the same Christ who went about everywhere doing good as we read scripture, attend church service, worship in community, serve those in need and offer our prayers to God.

As T. Merton shares, We are able to meet Christ who is still present in the midst of us wherever two or three are gathered together in His name. We meet Christ by sharing in His life and His redemption. We meet Christ in order to be Christ and, with Him, save the world.

Reading: Luke 9:28-36

Prayer:Lord, be in the midst of your community of believers who gather in your name. Make known the power of your death and rising. Quiet our daily anxieties and open our eyes to see a glimpse of paradise as we commune together in your name.

Day 13: Monday in the Second Week of Lent

Individualism and freedom are held highly in our society. But what gives us freedom? Some may say making a lot of money, being the most beautiful, being the best at a certain skill, or being the smartest are tickets to earning your freedom and individuality.

But these are just fleeting shadows of the true freedom that God offers us. God calls us to true happiness and prosperity, plans for good and not for evil, plans to give us a future and a hope, if we would only enter into that freedom that God offers.

So what holds us back? Is it our fear of true freedom? Is it that we aren’t willing to pay the price of the freedom God offers? Are we like the rich man who wants to follow Jesus but turns back when asked to give up all his wealth in order to do so?

Reading: Luke 6:20-26

Prayer: Lord, you teach me the price of genuine freedom – to enter willingly into poverty for the kingdom of Heaven knowing that your plans for me and for good and to prosper. Lord, give me the courage to accept the freedom you offer, surrendering all I have and everything I am to follow you.



Day 15: Wednesday in the Second Week of Lent

In this society, we have an almost cult-like obsession with individuality, originality, experimenting, and individual creativity. People express themselves in ways growing more and more frantic as they realize that the individuality and unique difference they are trying to express doesn’t actually exist.
What happens when we are striving after this individuality that we can never quite grasp?
On the one hand, it can breed indifference, an apathy and isolation. On the other hand, there is a real and deep craving to be noticed, to be accepted and to be understood.
This is not saying we do have individuality. We each have unique talents and callings, but these are not meant to set us a part but to create a community where we mutually depend on one another, elevating the whole rather than the self, to bring God’s glory.
In what areas of your life do you want to be noticed?
How do your unique gifts and talents make you a key part of a community you belong to?
Reading: Jeremiah 18:1-17
Prayer: Lord, have mercy on my self centered ways. I long to be heard, seen and deeply understood. I know that you, God, have formed me in my mother’s womb. You know and accept me just as I am and all that I am. Lord, help me to recognize the unique gifts and individuality you have given me while also recognized my place among your community of believers.

Day 16: Thursday in the Second Week of Lent

We are into the second week of Lent and the practices you have taken on or chosen to give up during this time. Today, be encouraged as you meditate on these words:
Listen to the Lord and not your own doubts. God’s power is made perfect in your weaknesses so do not be afraid to lean wholly upon God. He is leading the way that he has laid out that are to bring you a future and a hope. You are never alone on this path. God is ahead of you and alongside you. Put your trust in the Lord as the path He has laid out is revealed day by day and moment to moment.
Reading: Psalm 119:105, John 21:22
Prayer: Lord, give me the courage to give all I have to follow you, the wisdom to live as you have called me, and the love that you have given to so freely to me that I may show that same love to my neighbors. Make your presence known as I walk in faith, day to day and moment to moment.

Day 17: Friday in the Second Week of Lent

Not only are we seeking to discover God this Lenten season but also the secrets of our inner most self that God has placed within us for us to know Him more and use for his glory.
Discovering the secrets of our individuality does not mean that we are meant to flaunt them like a spiritual beauty contest, but rather, in discovering our own inner most self, our secrets and unique God-given beauty, we are called and are able to more clearly see that beauty in our neighbors. In doing so, we begin to see God’s presence in every person we meet.
What do you know about yourself that you can’t quit communicate?
What is your most personal, a thus perhaps your most beautiful, secret?
Reading: Matthew 6:1-8
Prayer: Lord, help me to see the beauty in those around me. Help me to respond with love and joy to your presence, God, within them.

Day 20: Monday in the Third Week of Lent

Nature is beautiful. When you look at a stunning sunset, stand at the edge of a canyon or see Mt. Rainier on a clear day what do you feel? It tends to be a sense of overwhelming awe and bewilderment – a feeling that points to something higher, something sublime. That is just what this feeling is meant to do, to point us to the creator in seeing the beautiful mystery throughout God’s creation.

Slow down in your busy week and look at the creation around you. See the fingerprint of God and be turned toward His glory through it.

Reading: Job 12:7-10

Prayer: Lord, help me to slow down. Still my heart and mind that I may see your creation in all its splendor. Lord, open my eyes to see your glory, majesty and mystery in all that is around me. 


Day 21: Tuesday in the Third Week of Lent

People are beautiful. Yesterday we meditated in the beauty of nature – the love and awe inspiring mystery that god has woven throughout His creation. But this wonder that points us to God is not meant to just happen when we look at nature. We are meant to feel the same awe, the same bewilderment, when we look at each other and even when we look in the mirror.

We are made in the image of God, yet we aren’t stunned in awe and wonder at our own image or the images of others. Even more so should we be in awe of what is made in the image of God.

So, then, why do we not feel that wonder when we see our neighbors?

Why do we not feel that awe when we look at own reflection?

Reading: Genesis 1:27, 1 Corinthians 15:49

Prayer: We are made in your image. God, open my eyes to see your love, beauty and majesty in the people around me. Lord, help me to see those things in myself as well. Teach my heart to recognize your image reflected in everything and everyone that come across today.


Day 22: Wednesday of the Third Week of Lent

Words to meditate on as you interact in community and relationship today:

“The key for successful personal relationships and ministry is to understand and accept others as having a viewpoint as worthy as your own.” – Marvin Mayers

Reading: Deuteronomy 10:17, Ephesians 5:21



Day 23: Thursday of the Third Week of Lent

What shall a man give in exchange for his soul?

The soul is not something that can be exchanged for anything in heaven or on Earth. But to find ourselves, to find our souls, we must be become who we already are in Christ. Not until we receive God’s calling and have given back that secret and unique answer which no one can say in our place, until we have found ourselves in Jesus, we cannot fully realize what it means to be a person in the deepest sense of the word – to know fully our soul. 

What does God’s calling sound like in your life?

What unique gift might you be being called to use?

Reading: Luke 4:16-22

Prayer: What you have uniquely called me to Lord is a part of becoming fully myself and fully the person you have formed me to be. Give me discernment and wisdom to hear and know in your holy assembly where you have called me. Encourage me to become you I already am in you.


Day 24: Friday of the Third Week of Lent

We all know the temptation to take on too much or to think “we can handle it.” All too often do we end up with a plate full of tasks, responsibilities, hobbies, promises, dare I say more. We take pride in being able to juggle all of these things and even resent those who complain when they have way less things on their roster to worry about.

But we are not meant to take so much on our shoulders. We are meant to share our burdens in community, to share our labor as we share our worship with the body of Christ. In order to do this we are called to sacrifice our private self as well as our pride. The beautiful mystery of this humble act is that we find ourselves and inner peace more fully in sacrificing that prideful inner self we have created.

Reading: Matthew 7:21-27

Prayer: Give me the humility and grace to surrender my inner and private self. Let me place my cares among those who believe in your redeeming and peace-giving power. Give me the courage to surrender control and entire into relationship rather than take everything on by myself. I am not alone and do not have to do this alone. 



Day 25: Saturday of the Third Week of Lent

Quote to meditate on today:

“Discipleship is not limited to what you can comprehend… bewilderment is the true comprehension. Not to know where you are going is the true knowledge.”

-Martin Luther



Day 26: Sunday of the Third Week of Lent

If you have ever encountered a hard decision, it can be overwhelming and quite honestly debilitating – it can make us freeze up and not act at all or make us rush into a decision. First of all, we aren’t perfect. You know that, I know that and most importantly, God knows that.

God has given us tools to face tough decisions. It’s why we are called to meditate on the word and pray unceasingly. So when we do come to a fork in the road, God’s word, written on our hearts, can give us wisdom and discernment.

How does God play a role in your decision making?

When was a time you truly trusted God when you didn’t know how a decision was going to turn out?

Reading: Jeremiah 29:11

Prayer: Lord, mold my heart and my mind to reflect you. Place your spirit and your word in my heart that I may be steeped in your wisdom and holy discernment. Give me the courage to choose what glorifies you despite uncertainty. God want to trust you, give me opportunities to do so. 



Day 27: Monday in the Fourth Week of Lent

It is nice to be recognized. It feels good to achieve something that you have been working toward and to here the affirmation that comes along with it.

It is much harder to achieve something and not be recognized or, even more so, to not be able to achieve because it can only be given to you. That is what the gift of God looks like. We are tempted to work and work for God’s divine gift of grace, love and salvation – to do good, or to be kind, or to give all we have in order to impress the Lord and then maybe, just maybe, we will be worthy of God’s gifts. But that is not the case – it is never a personal achievement. It is always a gift that God gives us when we are called to follow Him. 

Have you ever been given something you didn’t deserve?

Did you feel like you had to do something to earn that gift or pay back the person that gave it to you?

Reading: Psalm 103:10

Prayer: Lord, we know we cannot earn anything. You extend to us freely your love and grace. May we extend the same love and grace to those around us as a refection of you. May we be reminded and humbled by all you do for us and the joy you desire for our lives. 


Day 28: Tuesday in the Fourth Week of Lent

We are called to righteousness. Often this tends to feel like we must be righteous because God has extended so much grace and love, it’s the least we could do – act as God commands us. But righteousness is not a duty we owe to God – this calling to be righteous before the Lord is meant to yield a perfect communion with God. (Cost of Discipleship, Bonhoeffer)

Do you see your righteous actions as something owed to God or a way to connect on a deeper level with God?

What actions, areas or thoughts in your life do you feel bring you into communion with God?

Reading: John 14:23

Prayer: Let us pursue righteousness with our whole being. Lord, teach us the deep meaning behind the righteousness you call us to – that it is not something owed but rather a way for us to enter into perfect communion with you.

Day 29: Wednesday in the Fourth Week of Lent

As you go about your day today may your thoughts dwell on and actions exemplify this passage:

“Let your love be sincere; hate what is evil, but hold fast to that which is good. Love one another with brotherly affection, giving precedence and showing honor to one another. Never lag in zeal; be aglow and burning with the spirit, serving the Lord. Rejoice and exult in hope; be steadfast and patient in suffering and tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of God’s people; pursue and practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you. Bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another…give yourself to humble tasks. Never overestimate yourself…” – Romans 12:9-16


Day 30: Thursday in the Fourth Week of Lent

We live in a fallen world. We live in a world where we all carry around baggage, experience brokenness, have trauma – all which we carry around with us into everyday life, into relationships and into our jobs. As Brene Brown says “we are hard wired for struggle.” 

It can all seem hopeless or bleak as we look forward knowing that trials will come. But where the spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. Not freedom from the trials and tribulations that we will no doubt face in this world, but freedom from the burden of carrying the weight of these burdens by ourselves. We are called to live in the knowledge that even though this world is broken, we are children of a God who has overcome the world and loves us unconditionally, wanting a future and a hope for us. 

Reading: John 16:33

Prayer: Lord, may my thoughts always be on what is good and what is lovely. I know that I am hard wired to struggle in this life, but I am worthy of love and belonging. Give me strength to take heart and know that you have overcome the world.

Day 31: Friday in the Fourth Week of Lent

We walk around each day with so many anxieties dancing around in our heads each day – I have to get to this meeting, what do I have to do at work today?, I have to remember to finish my taxes, my mother-in-laws birthday is in two days and I needed to have sent a card yesterday, I have to get one kid to soccer and the other to piano lessons then make dinner, am I doing enough for my family?, am I doing enough for my job?, – dare I go on…

It is easy to get caught up in a consuming cloud of worries, things that need to get done, and rushing to make each appointment in our overbooked schedules. It is not as easy to step back and take time to be still. But it is in those times when we can truly feel God, hear God and see the work He is doing in our lives. 

Reading: Psalm 46:10

Prayer: Give me the wisdom to know when to step back and give me the discipline to do so even when life gets busy. God, let me not turn to chaos or catastrophe but rather turn to you in thankfulness. Lord, help me to see you in the stillness, in the quiet. Open my eyes to your moving in my life as I slow down to linger in your presence.


Day 32: Saturday in the Fourth Week of Lent

What do you think about day to day? What music do you listen to? What are the people you hang around talking about? 

All these things influence what our mind lingers on whether that is the gossip you hear at the office, the encouragement of a dear friend, the Godly wisdom of a mentor, the demeaning jokes of friends, or the careless lifestyle playing through your car radio. What we hear and are around greatly affects how we think and, in turn, how we act and, if we let it influence us long enough, it eventually becomes our character.

God calls us to keep our minds pure. We are encouraged to think about what is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, excellent, and worthy of praise. In doing so, we draw closer to God – we enter into a deeper communion with God. We are able to break away from the gluttonous claws of the world and the subtle things we let enter into our thoughts.

Reading: Philipians 4:8

Prayer: Teach my mind to dwell on what is pure, what is lovely, what is honorable, what is just, what is commendable, what is excellent, what is worthy of praise to you Lord. Break the chains that keep my thoughts on things of this world.


Day 33: Sunday in the Fourth Week of Lent

Words to meditate on today:

“Your struggle is pretty, just sit still and know that I know what is best” – Penny and Sparrow

Reading: James 1:2-4

Prayer: Lord, may consider all my struggles and trials as pure joy. Quiet my heart in the midst of pain, hurt and anxiety knowing that you know what is best and intend the best for me.