Lent isn't just about giving up chocolate or beer or whatever vice you know you probably should cut back on anyway. For Catholics, there are three prongs to a Lenten observation - sacrifice, prayer, and almsgiving. Sometimes, I think the "sacrifice" is easiest. 40 non-consecutive days of skipping something (Sundays and the Solemntities of St. Joseph and the Assumption are not days of Lent) isn't impossible. Yes, you're cutting something "fun" out as a penance, but it's easy to say "I'm skipping dessert." Almsgiving isn't too hard either - it may hurt a little if your budget is already feeling a pinch, but God doesn't set a tax for us and accepts whatever we are able to sacrifice. (Remember how the two pennies from the widow were more valuable that the huge donations from the others?) What I find hardest is the "prayer" part. Why? Because it involves a commitment of time.
Yes, this Lent I'm giving something up. I'm giving up mindless junk eating, that falls in the "I know I shouldn't do this anyway" category. Luke and I are working on a course about the great churches of history, and the architecture and decor is simply stunning. I'm going with "My body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, and if I wouldn't dream of destroying one of these buildings with junk and random spray-painted graffiti, then WHY am I doing this to myself?" Don't get me wrong -- I'm not going to start extolling the virtues of a particular diet. These buildings have survived because generally people have made small adjustments and repairs all the time to keep them pristine, with the occasional major overhaul, so I'm taking the same attitude - some small adjustments now, and an overhaul when the time is right.
However, I've decided that the prayer side is where I want to focus this Lent. I want to get into the habit of a daily prayer time, set aside and dedicated to God. However, I'm not a "devotional" type of person. I know that it's not something I can do consistently - it's not my "thing". Sure, Lent is about sacrifice, but I think that it's kind of silly to attempt something that my heart won't be into just because I "should" do it. In hindsight, one of my favorite college classes was my freshman required theology course, Women in the Bible. I've decided that I want to go back and explore the often overlooked women and how they quietly led lives for God, and find ways to emulate them. By the calendar, Lent is about 6 weeks long, so my plan is to read one book each week. It will be sacrificing fun time (anybody else have an obsession with the Candy Crush flavor du jour??), but I think a worthwhile one. Here's my reading list, along with their synopses. (Note: Not all of these are "Catholic" books, but I'm ok with that.) Each Friday of Lent, I'm planning to share what I've learned. I hope you'll join me!
1. Twelve Extraordinary Women: How God Shaped Women of the Bible and What He Wants to Do with You
Celebrated for their courage, vision, hospitality, and spiritual giftedness, it's no wonder women were so important to God's plan revealed in the Old and New Testaments. It wasn't their natural qualities that made these women extraordinary but the power of the one true God whom they worshipped and served.
In Twelve Extraordinary Women, you'll learn more than fascinating information about these women, you'll discover-perhaps for the first time-the unmistakable chronology of God's redemptive work in history through their lives. These women were not ancillary to His plan, they were at the very heart of it.
2. Bad Girls of the Bible And What We Can Learn from Them
Ten of the Bible’s best-known femmes fatales parade across the pages of Bad Girls of the Bible with situations that sound oh-so-familiar.
Eve had food issues. Potiphar’s Wife and Delilah had man trouble. Lot’s Wife and Michal couldn’t let go of the past, Sapphira couldn’t let go of money, and Jezebel couldn’t let go of anything. Yet the Woman at the Well had her thirst quenched at last, while Rahab and the Sinful Woman left their sordid histories behind.
3. The World's First Love: Mary Mother of God
With his characteristic eloquence and brilliance, Fulton J. Sheen presents a moving portrayal of the Blessed Virgin Mary that combines deep spirituality with history, philosophy and theology. All the major aspects and events of Mary's life are lovingly portrayed in this word portrait that is a never failing source of information, consolation and inspiration. Sheen also gives profound insights into all the Marian beliefs ranging from the Immaculate Conception to the Assumption to the miracle of Our Lady of Fatima. While considering the different phases of Mary's life, Bishop Sheen discusses various problems common to mankind of every age and reveals clearly that every problem can be resolved. He emphasizes the unique dignity, strength and gifts of women and their ability to help heal the world's problems.
4. Hail Holy Queen
Most Christians know that the life of Jesus is foreshadowed throughout the Old Testament. Through a close examination of the Bible, as well as the work of both Catholic and Protestant scholars and clergy, Hahn brings to light the small but significant details showing that just as Jesus is the "New Adam," so Mary is the "New Eve." He unveils the Marian mystery at the heart of the Book of Revelation and reveals how it is foretold in the very first pages of the Book of Genesis and in the story of King David's monarchy, which speaks of a privileged place for the mother of the king.
5. Having a Martha Heart in a Mary World
An invitation for every woman who feels she isn't godly enough...isn't loving enough...isn't doing enough. The life of a woman today isn't really all that different from that of Mary and Martha in the New Testament. Like Mary, you long to sit at the Lord's feet...but the daily demands of a busy world just won't leave you alone. Like Martha, you love Jesus and really want to serve him...yet you struggle with weariness, resentment, and feelings of inadequacy.
Then comes Jesus, right into the midst of your busy Mary/Martha life-and he extends the same invitation he issued long ago to the two sisters of Bethany. Tenderly he invites you to choose "the better part"-a joyful life of "living-room" intimacy with him that flows naturally into "kitchen service" for him.
6. Walking with Mary From Nazareth to the Cross
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