Week 2 Self Denial: Setting Our Minds on Things Above

Lectionary readings for Second Sunday in Lent (Cycle C)
Genesis 15:1-12, 17-28; Psalm 27, Philippians 3:17-4:1a; Luke 13:31-35

Come my heart says, “Seek his face!”  Your face, Lord, do I seek.     —Psalm 27:8

Most years I don’t feel quite ready for Lent with all its demands and disciplines—especially the call to self-denial and fasting. I don’t want to just “give up chocolate for Lent” because God is the curmudgeon in the sky who wants to keep it from me.  I don’t want anyone (including myself) to see the spiritual life as a joyless existence that eschews God’s good gifts.

And yet, I don’t want to miss anything either!  I don’t want to miss the possibility of having my life stripped down to its barest essence through fasting from those things that keep me out of touch with my longing and need for God.  I don’t want to side-step this “spring cleaning of the soul” intended to clear out the junk and garbage in my life so there is more space for God. I don’t want to miss the chance to abstain from soul-numbing distractions so I can be more attuned to God’s voice ringing as clear as bell in the depths of my uncluttered soul.

My guess is, you feel the same way, too. So let us pray together…

Catch me in my anxious scurrying, Lord,

and hold me in this Lenten season;

hold my feet to the fire of your grace

and make me attentive to my mortality

that I may begin to die now

to those things that keep me from living fully

with you and for you…

Hold my heart to the beat of your grace

and create in me a resting place,

a kneeling place,

a tip-toe place

where I can recover from the disease of my grandiosities

which fill my mind and calendar with busy self-importance,

that I may become vulnerable enough

to dare intimacy with the familiar,

to listen cup-eared for your summons…

And somehow,

during this season of sacrifice,

enable me to sacrifice time

and possessions

and securities,

that I may experience

something new,

something saving,

something true.


©Ruth Haley Barton, 2013.  Not to be used without permission. Prayer adapted from Ted Loder, Guerillas of Grace, pp. 117-19.

Ruth is founder of the Transforming Center, and author of Pursuing God’s Will Together, Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership, Sacred Rhythms, and Invitation to Solitude and Silence (InterVarsity Press).

Lent Calendar (Cycle C) and guidance for using the lectionary

Read the post Lent: A Season of Returning by clicking here.

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Ruth Haley Barton

Ruth (Doctor of Divinity, Northern Seminary) is founder and chief essence officer of the Transforming Center. A teacher, seasoned spiritual director (Shalem Institute), and retreat leader, Ruth is the author of numerous books and resources on the spiritual life including Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership, Sacred Rhythms, Life Together in Christ, Pursuing God’s Will Together, Invitation to Solitude and Silence, Invitation to Retreat, and Embracing Rhythms of Work and Rest.
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Loving this series… “Spring cleaning for the soul” is a wonderful description for this season.


So glad!

[…] this question that dominates discussions around the season of Lent. Yes, if the season involves “spring cleaning of the soul” (I like that expression), then letting go of our junk makes […]

Having just finished reading your book “Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership…” and signing on to these eReflections had me excited for this Lent. Plenty of “garage cleaning of the soul” needed to make (and keep) space for our Lord … but first, some quiet time listening at the burning bush.
Your sensitivity to the love of God is exceptional. Thanks for sharing your gifts.
God bless you and those in your ministry.

Perfect timing!!!! Speaking loud and clear:)

[…] The Season of Lent […]

Dear Ruth,
I loved the words you shared in this Lenten devotional. Since beginning my journey with the Transforming Community I have longed to experience more the mystery of my faith. Being an Evangelical Protestant for over 30 years, I have not experienced some of the beauty and mystery of our Catholic brothers and sisters. I decided this year to “do” lent. I started out with attending an Ash Wednesday service with my husband (who was a Catholic for over half his life). It was a wonderful experience and I learned that Lent was about prayer, fasting and almsgiving. I am also using a Lenten Reflections book for my morning devotions. I had previously made the decision not to “give up” something for lent, but rather add something. That something was a special place of worship with a candle, music and my Lenten Reflection devotions. One morning I knelt and prayed because I was feeling guilty that I was not giving anything up. I asked God, why don’t I feel like giving something up. Why am I so selfish and sinful that I don’t want to deny myself. In my spirit I felt Him saying to me. This time I just want you to receive. I want you to receive my love for you. The “giving up” will come, but for now I just want you to rest in my love. Thank you for allowing me the privilege of being a part of the Transforming Community.

Thanks for this, Nancy. It strikes me that you are “giving something up”–whatever it is that would normally take up the time and space you are setting aside for worship. And that’s the beauty of it, isn’t it? When we give up lesser things in order to create space for the which is of ultimate value, it doesn’t feel like giving anything up at all because it is so deeply satisfying. When you are making yourself available to God during these times of worship, there are lots of other things you are abstaining from in order to create that space for what your heart wants most.

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