Ashes to Atonement
Daily Lenten Devotionals
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
Day 5: First Sunday in Lent
Day 6: Monday of the First Week of Lent.
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
Day 9: Thursday of the First Week of Lent
Day 10: Friday of the First Week of Lent
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
Day 16: Thursday in the Second Week of Lent
Day 17: Friday in the Second Week of Lent
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.”
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.