City Lifestyle

Want to start a publication?

Learn More
Featured Image

Featured Article

Books to Enrich Your Lenten Experience


Article by Mary Ellin Arch

Photography by Bruno van der Kraan on Unsplash

February 17 is Ash Wednesday, the traditional start of Lent, the 40-day period of preparation for Easter and the Christian celebration of Christ's resurrection. It's typically a time of fasting and abstinence (witness the giving up of chocolate and coffee and the folks who announce their temporary departure from social media, right after living it up one last time at Mardi Gras and Fat Tuesday celebrations). In addition to subtracting something, some also like to add in a new spiritual practice, and for these, an easy way is to choose a Lenten book or devotional title to explore and meditate over during the weeks leading up to Easter. Note: Don't worry if you can't start to read exactly on Ash Wednesday or the first Sunday of Lent - these books (with the exception of the last one) are quick, easy reads, allowing you to still keep a reasonable Lenten pace.

Here, a few of my favorites:

Women of Easter: Encounter the Savior with Mary of Bethany, Mary of Nazareth and Mary Magdalene, by Liz Curtis Higgs

Simple, easy to read, with a discussion guide for those who want to go deeper or use the book as a Bible study or weekly devotional. Higgs immerses her readers into the extraordinary lives of the women closest to Jesus, and the roles they played in His ministry, an astonishingly modern and enlightened approach in the deeply paternalistic culture of the time. Akin to another Higgs book, Women of Christmas, which takes readers on a similar exploration into the personalities and roles of Mary of Nazareth, her cousin Elizabeth and the prophetess Anna. This light, entertaining book is perfect for those just dipping their toes into devotional or spiritual reading. Rating: 3 out of 5.

Who Moved the Stone? by Frank Morison

I try to read this book every Easter. I simply love Morison's logic as he details his research into the circumstances surrounding Christ's arrest, death, the empty tomb, and the beginnings of Christianity. I especially appreciate how he puts the Gospel accounts of Passion Week side-by-side to provide a kind of four-in-one timeline of everything included in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. While Morison does engage in a good deal of speculation, because as we are all aware the Gospels are not known for incredible detail, he does so in a way that makes logical sense and, more importantly, makes you think. My Kindle version of this book also has a Forward by Lee Strobel, the atheist-turned-Christian, former award-winning legal editor of The Chicago Tribune, and best-selling author of more than 20 books including The Case for Christ. Additionally, my admittedly very inexpensive Kindle version also has more than a few typos (think "Hod" for "God," ouch!) even after an update pushed out to supposedly correct them. I wish the book had detailed footnoting and a bibliography, but I'm unsure if that's a factor of my apparently poorly edited Kindle version. I highly recommend the book despite these flaws, especially if you acquire a non-discounted version from a mainstream bookseller. Rating: 4 out of 5.

Inside the Miracles of Jesus: Discovering the Power of Desperation by Jessica LaGrone

I chose this title, one of several 2020 Lenten book selections, because my pastor patterned his Lenten sermon series after each of the chapters in this book, and I wanted to follow along. Unlike some Lenten reads of mine, I read this all at once instead of one chapter at a time stretching out through Lent, although the book contains a 40-day reading plan for those who might want to use it as a daily Lenten devotional. I didn’t learn anything particularly new or extraordinary, but I did enjoy reviewing some of the Gospels’ best-known miracles through the lens of desperation. We’re all desperate at one time or another in our lives - perhaps multiple times - so we can all find comfort in stories of other desperate souls who had their prayers finally heard, and answered. Recommended, and not just for Lent. Rating: 3 out of 5.

40 Days of Decrease: A Different Kind of Hunger. A Different Kind of Fast. By Alicia Britt Chole

This Lenten devotional takes the reader on a deep and meaningful journey - to cast off our society’s pressures to improve and better ourselves, and instead to diminish ourselves so that Christ can become More in our lives. While many observe Lent by fasting from the the easy and the obvious - favorite foods, addictive online games, and the like - this book takes you through 40 far more difficult things from which to fast: from regret, comparison, escapism, and spectatorship, to name just a few examples. Recommended for veterans of Bible study and Bible reading, as it’s a spiritually deep devotional, not the easiest read, yet still a worthy companion over the 40 days of preparation for Easter. It's also the sort of book you can acquire and read for this Lent, put it aside for a few years, and then pick up again for a future Lenten re-read, to grow in faith and continue the practice of decrease so that Christ can grow in you. Rating: 3 out of 5.