If you view Lent as a chore, you will miss most of its value. I like to think of it as an invitation. An opportunity to be quiet, reflect and hear the Holy Spirit. If you would like to connect more deeply with Jesus during this season but wonder how you can carve out devotional time, I’d love to recommend Nobody Left Out by Michael Murray.
The Beauty of Lent
The Lenten season is fast approaching. Celebrating Lent in preparation for Easter was never part of my Christian tradition while I was growing up, but in the past few years I have found it to be really meaningful. Easter, the Resurrection of our Lord, which demonstrates powerfully the ability of Christ to defeat sin and death and to rescue us with redeeming love, should be the highlight of our year. Sadly, it often just comes and goes with a few chocolate eggs to remind us of our childhood and the coming of spring.
About the book
Michael Murray’s book Nobody Left Out: Jesus Meets the Messes is a study of the lives and stories of people from the Gospels who were messed up, but loved by Jesus. Some were marginalized and some were not, but they all were broken people whom Jesus restored. Michael Murray describes his book as “a 40-day devotional for messy, broken people (like me!)” which can make it a perfect resource for the 40 days of Lent.
And let me just say that this is a very simple, but profoundly meaningful book which is why I’m recommending it. It’s easy to read and yet deeply engaging. Michael Murray, as an individual born with cerebral palsy, brings so much experience to his sound theology and biblical understanding. The short chapters draw you into the stories of Christ’s interactions with fallen, messed up people, and you find yourself relating more deeply to the Bible as it describes those failings, struggles and doubts that we mirror in ourselves.
The book is divided into eight encounters that Jesus had with individuals during his life on earth. Murray looks at Jesus’ interactions with Zacchaeus, Nathanael, Simon and the woman who anointed Jesus’ feet, the woman caught in adultery, Jairus’ daughter and the woman healed of bleeding, a blind man, the widow who gave all she had, and the thief on the cross. Most chapters are two to three pages in length. You could sit and read an encounter over a day or a week so it doesn’t even require a full 40 day commitment if you either begin late or are simply reading the book through at your own pace.
Also for group study
I’m working through the book with a group because the “Questions to Ponder” after each chapter lead to great discussion. We’ve also spent time reflecting together on quotes that were meaningful or thought-provoking. We all agree that the theology of this book is basic and accessible, but that the book has impacted us. My friends and I have seen these instances of Jesus’ love, acceptance, and healing in a new way that has blessed our relationships with Christ.
A Uniquely Different Study for Lent
Although this book isn’t neccessarily about the cross and Jesus’ sufferings (a typical focus for study during Lent), Murray gives us new eyes to see the love of God demonstrated through the compassion of His Son. Murray shows us how to pause and wonder over the empowering, transformational beauty of God interacting with broken lives. And that, to me, is the meaning of the season anyway, a time to meditate and reflect on the life and work of Jesus Christ, Friend to sinners and Savior through his suffering.
Don’t expect to find this book in bookstores, but it is available from Amazon. You’ll want to get a copy soon so you’ll be ready when Lent begins on March 2nd.