Keeping a Holy Lent

Create in me a beautiful heart, O God,
and put a new and faithful spirit within me


Joel 2:12-14

12 But there’s also this, it’s not too late—

God’s personal Message!—

“Come back to me and really mean it!

Come fasting and weeping, sorry for your sins!”

13-14 Change your life, not just your clothes.

Come back to God, your God.

And here’s why: God is kind and merciful.

He takes a deep breath, puts up with a lot,

This most patient God, extravagant in love,

always ready to cancel catastrophe.

Who knows? Maybe he’ll do it now,

maybe he’ll turn around and show pity.

Maybe, when all’s said and done,

there’ll be blessings full and robust for your God!

The Message Bible



Take all of who I am,

the me-ness of me,

what makes me who I am,

the special, the unique,

the brilliant and the unpardonable,

all I’m so proud of, and so ashamed,

that I’ve worked so hard to fashion,

that I’m still working on,

what I can’t part with

because there wouldn’t be

anything left of me—

take it.

Take it.

I lay it in your hands.

Gather it into yourself,

into your dark, generous mystery,

and in the flame of your creating heart

burn it.

Then into the dust and ashes

breathe your breath,

and with gratitude

I will receive

who rises

when in your grace

you give me anew.

Steve Garnass-Holmes


Steve Garnaas-Holmes,
Used with permission.

A Light Hold


after years of more
clutching, grasping, weaving, planting –
more insisting all remains –
blew a gentle breeze inviting
something else for tired hands:
A light hold.

Ego’s habits railed and thrust
persistent drives and cloudy ruse,
surroundings also reinforced
resisting change, remaining closed –
and yet my heart pulsed life, real life,
open, curious, present, now:
A light hold.

Oh, the risk of loss and change.
Oh, how awkward not to hold
tightly as I have before.
What if suddenly I find
nothing – just nothing – for these hands?

Holding lightly feels like limbo,
unsupported, almost painful,
weak, unstable, vague somehow,
and yet that gentle breeze insists
hope and wonder, pause and rest.

A light hold needs not manufacture,
not exert undue efforts.
A light hold checks my expectations;
A light hold bids simple and less;
A light hold honors what is present,
receives all shapes, attends with love;
A light hold echoes deeper trust –
my hands do not form this life.
All they do as best they can
is hold this lightly,

by John Kiemele
Selah Community


The Lenten Desert

Led by the Spirit of God,
you will be united intimately
with a global multitude of Lenten Pilgrims.

As your Lenten prayers and works
will influence their Easter pilgrimage,
so, likewise, their prayers and deeds
will influence yours,
as together we are reformed and renewed
during these Desert Days of Lent.

A Blessed and Grace-filled Lenten Pilgrimage
and a Joyous Feast of Easter.

Edward Hays
priest, author, storyteller, artist

From Craving to Longing

After hearing these words from God the Father “This is my Son, chosen and marked by my love, delight of my life,” [1] Jesus leaves the place of his baptism to enter into the wilderness (also known as the desert). From a place of abundant public belovedness to the quiet and solitary dismantling of all that is more easily relied upon, namely food and comfort, Jesus moves toward the unknown in his desire to hear God’s voice.

Speaking of food, because it is definitely on my mind, my husband, Bill, and I are doing the Whole30 nutritional plan to address some health goals while eliminating those foods that tend to create more cravings and addictions. We’re in the phrase where all I can think about is what I’m not eating, and wishing I could. It happens that our decision coincides with Lent which helps in the motivation to join Jesus in his fasting while in the desert.

However, I’m not so sure I have the same attitude as Jesus. While I would like to hear God’s voice, all I can hear right now are my cravings for foods that don’t really satisfy over time. Craving by definition is a “powerful desire for.” As I admit the reality of my cravings, I find some comfort in realizing that it’s not that far off from what Jesus was having as a craving, only his was to be in communion by intentionally being present to God through solitude and silence in his fasting. He lives into his powerful desire to be with God the Father and Creator of all.

I’m wandering and wondering through my own wilderness of giving up foods that I normally enjoy about what a craving, or even deeper, a longing means to be in communion with God. It is here that I turn to the book In the Name of Jesus by Henri Nouwen where he describes the first test of Jesus in the desert. Jesus faces the first test of three temptations from the Devil who says “[s]ince you are God’s Son, speak the word that will turn these stones into loaves of bread. Jesus answered by quoting Deuteronomy: ‘It takes more than bread to stay alive. It takes a steady stream of words from God’s mouth.’ ”[2]

Nouwen relates how the Devil appeals to the desire we have to be able to fix what’s immediately in front of us, to choose those things that make the most sense for the situation we’re in. If you’re hungry and you have the capacity to make food, why not change stones into bread? Make things right that need to be made right.

But Nouwen addresses something deeper than the seemingly obvious need of food. What’s the motivation behind wanting to make things right in that very moment, touching the chord of our humanity to do what we can as soon as we can? The attractive proposition, or test as commonly cited in this scene, is the desire, the craving, the longing to be relevant in that moment. By relevant, Nouwen describes it as those places where “the self can do things, show things, prove things, build things.”[3] Could it be that we, like Jesus, are being asked to consider another way – a third way – that doesn’t respond immediately to what is relevant? Could it be that we are called into a different posture to speak what is more true, a discernment that comes from being in relationship with God?

That posture is prayer. Moving towards God again and again in the longing to be in communion – that is prayer. Instead of reacting to what it immediate, we can lean into a listening place where we no longer rely on what makes us relevant, or more intelligent, or more adept at a particular skill like changing stones into bread. We can live within the “steady stream of words [spiritual nourishment] from God’s mouth.” Jesus experiences freedom in the desert, even in the midst of his fasting. He knows the longing beyond the perceived craving, a knowing that comes in his willingness to stay focused on the One who fulfills those longings.

Our prayer does not mean we don’t act when we are called to act. Rather, Nouwen offers this perspective: [S]ecurely rooted in the personal intimacy with the source of life, it will be possible to remain flexible without being relativistic, convinced without being rigid, willing to confront without being offensive, gentle and forgiving without being soft, and true witnesses without being manipulative. [4]

Perhaps then, for me, if I consider this third way, I may not seek to be relevant as much as seek the one who is my source of life. In fact, as I continue this nutritional plan (my own type of fasting), I might be a bit kinder to my husband, an act of being gentle and forgiving. Even more so, I may have the capacity, while in the hardest of places, to frame the way in which I act toward others through the lens of love that comes from communion. Like Jesus offers, it takes more than bread to stay alive. To live fully alive means to be present to God.

  • Mary Pandiani, Executive Director

[1] Matthew 3:17b, The Message

[2] Matthew 3:3-4

[3] Henri Nouwen, In the Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership, (NY,NY: Crossroads, 1989), p.16.

[4] Ibid, p. 32.

Catch Me in My Scurrying

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 with you
and with my neighbors on this earth;
to grudges and indifference,
to certainties that smother possibilities,
to my fascination with false securities,
to my addiction to sweatless dreams,
to my arrogant insistence on how it has to be,
to my corrosive fear of dying someday
which eats away the wonder of living this day,
and the adventure of losing my life
in order to find it in you.
Catch me in my aimless scurrying, Lord,
and hold me in this Lenten season:
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 dis-ease 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 watch squint-eyed for your crooked finger
in the crying of a child,
in the hunger of the street people,
in the fear of nuclear holocaust in all people,
in the rage of those oppressed because of sex or race,
in the smoldering resentments of exploited third world nations,
in the sullen apathy of the poor and ghetto-strangled people,
in my lonely doubt and limping ambivalence;
and somehow,
during this season of sacrifice,
enable me to sacrifice time
and possessions
and securities,
to do something….
something about what I see,
something to turn the water of my words
into the wine of will and risk,
into the bread of blood and blisters,
into the blessedness of deed,
of a cross picked up,
a savior followed.
Catch me in my mindless scurrying, Lord,
and hold me in this Lenten season:
hold my spirit to the beacon of your grace
and grant me light enough to walk boldly,
to feel passionately,
to love aggressively;
grant me peace enough to want more,
to work for more
and to submit to nothing less,
and to fear only you …
only you!
Bequeath me not becalmed seas,
slack sails and premature benedictions,
but breathe into me a torment,
storm enough to make within myself
and from myself,
something new,
something saving,
something true,
a gladness of heart,
a pitch for a song in the storm,
a word of praise lived,
a gratitude shared,
a cross dared,
a joy received.
-Ted Loder


Guerrillas of Grace: Prayers for the Battle
© 1981 Ted Loder, Augsburgfortress Books

Excerpt from
Reflections: A Journey through Lent into Easter
from Selah Center
Available now on Amazon

Let Your God Love You

Be silent.
Be still.
Alone.  Empty
Before your God
Say nothing.
Ask nothing.
Be silent.
Be still.
Let your God
Look upon you.
That is all.
He knows.
He understands.
He loves you with
an enormous love.
He only wants to
Look upon you
With His Love.
Let your God –
Love you.

Edwina Gately VMN

Gateley, Edwina. “Let Your God Love You.”  In God’s Womb, Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2009. with permission.

Excerpt from
Reflections: A Journey through Lent into Easter
from Selah Center
Available now on Amazon

In Solidarity

My plan for today is to share about the first of three temptations that Jesus experiences in the wilderness. But after receiving a note from one of our Selah companions, Zoe Pearson, I realize something else is needed. Here’s my wondering.

Before the temptations, Jesus has to choose to walk into the wilderness, a place of unknown outcomes and presumed scarcity. When Jesus enters the wilderness, he had no idea what will happen. In previous wilderness experiences for the Hebrew people, they fail to trust for their provisions. They are afraid and hide in their fear. What is different about Jesus?  What does he practice that gives him strength to face the temptations?

He prays.

What strikes me by Zoe’s note, and now I share with you, is that we’re in a similar place of wilderness, a place of unknown outcomes and presumed scarcity where we are we cry out to God for the people of Ukraine. What can we offer in this place of wilderness?

One of the gifts of Lent is the call to prayer. It is a time to intentionally seek to listen and cry out to God. In times such as these while our world watches those in the throes of war and displacement, it can be difficult to know how to pray or wonder if prayer does anything at all. In her note, Zoe sent me a NY Times article by Tish Harrison Warren (see below). The article speaks of the many ways people are praying for and praying by Ukrainians.

What compels me and Zoe is a video created by the Bible Society that shows Ukrainians, some in basements and bomb shelters, who pray Psalm 31:

“In you, Lord, I have taken refuge; let me never be put to shame;

Deliver me in your righteousness. Turn your ear to me, come quickly

To my rescue; be my rock of refuge, a strong fortress to save me.

Since you are my rock and my fortress, for the sake of your name

Lead and guide me. Keep me free from the trap that is set for me, for

You are my refuge. Into your hands I commit my spirit;

Deliver me, Lord, my faithful God.”

The Prayers of the People


For Lent, let us pray together with them, in solidarity. For all the world that is broken, hurting, and torn apart, we remember that God is our rock of refuge, even in the place of wilderness.


“How readers around the world are praying for Ukraine”, by Tish Harrison Warren, The New York Times

Hand Over

Eternal Love,

May my pointing hands refrain from forging dark divides
and seek instead to guide along the potent paths of Love.

May my drooping hands retell of efforts sown and pauses reaped,
of wholeness sought and second buddings eager to appear.

May my wringing hands be still and simply fold in rest,
releasing outcomes, oughts and shoulds, reclaiming fear-tossed peace.

May my clenched hands unfurl strife, untether tight control,
and in the widening space receive and nurture and support.

May my open hands refuse to strike, suppress, exclude,
and rather gather silently with deeper sights in view.

May my cupped hands reach toward Love and find compassion there,
quickened to the hope-filled life,
to untapped gifts and dreams,
to Eternal Love.

John Kiemele

Blessings for the Wilderness

Matthew 4: 1 – 11

Jesus Is Tested in the Wilderness

Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted[a] by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’[b]

Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written:

“‘He will command his angels concerning you,
and they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’[c]

Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’[d]

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”

10 Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’[e]

11 Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.


  1. Matthew 4:1 The Greek for tempted can also mean tested.
  2. Matthew 4:4 Deut. 8:3
  3. Matthew 4:6 Psalm 91:11,12
  4. Matthew 4:7 Deut. 6:16
  5. Matthew 4:10 Deut. 6:13

By Jan Richardson
Painted Prayer Book

The first time they met, they were in the waters of their mothers’ wombs. On that day, John had leaped with joy at the presence of his cousin Jesus. Now the kinsmen stand together by other waters. On this day that they meet at the Jordan, they see each other with different eyes. There is a deeper knowing in their gaze, and in their recognition of each other a joy perhaps no less keen than at the first but with a wiser edge. Here at the river, John and Jesus have lived out nearly their entire lives. Yet there is still much to do; everything to do.

And so, grudgingly at first, but then with understanding, John the Baptist plunges Jesus beneath the surface. This, at least, he can do for his cousin, can help prepare him for the way that lies ahead of him. John speaks the words of blessing and initiation, raises Jesus dripping from the depths, hears the voice that proclaims from heaven, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”

And then the kinsmen go their separate ways. Where we might expect the freshly baptized Jesus to begin his public ministry, there is instead a curious sort of inversion that takes place: Jesus goes into the wilderness, the landscape that had long been home to his locust-and-honey-eating cousin. There is something he needs there, a way that yet must be prepared within him.

Here at the outset of Lent, what can you see of the landscape that lies ahead of you? Might there be another place you need to go, physically or in your soul, before you are ready to enter the landscape that calls you? Is there a space—a season, a terrain, a ritual—of preparation that you need; a place where you can find clarity, and perhaps a ministering angel or two? What might this look like?

Wilderness Blessing

Let us say
this blessing began
whole and complete
upon the page.

And then let us say
that one word loosed itself
and another followed it
in turn.

Let us say
this blessing started
to shed all
it did not need,

that line by line
it returned
to the ground
from which it came.

Let us say
this blessing is not
leaving you,
is not abandoning you
to the wild
that lies ahead,

but that it is loathe
to load you down
on this road where
you will need
to travel light.

Let us say
perhaps this blessing
became the path
beneath your feet,
the desert
that stretched before you,
the clear sight
that finally came.

Let us say
that when this blessing
at last came to its end,
all it left behind
was bread,
a fleeting flash
of wing.

—Jan Richardson

Wilderness Blessing,”  Circle of Grace: A Book of Blessings for the Seasons by Jan Richardson
© Jan Richardson. Used with permission.
Image: “Wildnerness and Wings” © Jan Richardson

Lent (n.)

Lent (noun). From the Old English lencten meaning springtime or spring. “The fast of Lent,” comes from the West Germanic for “long-days,” or “lengthening of the day.”

Lent (n.) the “period between Ash Wednesday and Easter,” from the late 14th century Lenten (n.) In the Christian calendar (early 12th century), “the forty days of fasting before Easter.” Also from the Old English lencten  meaning springtime or spring. “The fast of Lent,” comes from the West Germanic for “long-days,” or “lengthening of the day.”

In the Christian church, Lent is a time to meditate and reflect on the life of Jesus Christ: his life, affliction, atonement, death, burial, and resurrection. Lent’s length refers to the forty days he spent in the wilderness being tempted by Satan before beginning his public ministry (Matthew 4).

Lent is about our relationship with Christ. Like all relationships, it has seasons of trial and deprivation, as well as seasons of joy. Lent helps us see where our wants have become distorted into needs. It’s the humble acknowledgment that our appetites can and should make us more forgiving.

Lent is a promise to walk with Jesus. To put our hand in His trustingly, no matter what it requires—into the wilderness or to the cross. Lent is the time to renew our promise to follow Jesus. Just as Naomi said to Ruth, “Wither thou goest, I will go.” (Ruth 1:16 KJV)

The trap of Lent is legalism. The spiritual practice of fasting from food, a vice, a bad habit, or a pleasure. Lent should not be confused with New Year’s resolutions. Nor is it a self-improvement project.

Lent is a time of repentance—an awareness that sin separates us from God and what it cost Jesus Christ to reunite us. Perhaps Lent might be a time to give up our resolutions and instead listen for God’s leading.

by Debora Buerk
Selah Community

Excerpt from
Reflections: A Journey through Lent into Easter
Debora Buerk, Editor
Available on Amazon

What Lent Means to Me

Lent is a time we remember the passion of Jesus Christ (the Easter season when Christ completed his mission on earth at the cross). The three traditional practices to be taken up with renewed vigor during Lent are prayer (justice towards God), fasting (justice towards self), and almsgiving (justice towards neighbors).

For my Muslim friends this is a bit like Ramadan. It’s a time to be sober, reflective and circumspect. A time to ponder the deeper things of Jesus Christ and how we are invited to faithfully follow his example. I think this could be a practice for our society in general, even if one doesn’t claim to be religious, or a Christian.

I welcome the time to draw closer to God, to reflect, and to try to do life more generously. Serving others. Being good neighbors. Loving our enemies. Being somebody who makes this world a better place. Watch this space.

Dr. Rev. Andrew Larsen
Selah Board of Directors
Pastor, Worldly Holiness,
and Photographer

About Dr. Rev. Andrew Larsen

Andrew Larsen works as a consultant and player-coach with many churches and organizations seeking to understand the “other” and empower peacemaking initiatives. He is a public speaker and preacher but also comes alongside as a teacher and leader to help groups engage each other. He utilizes relationship building between communities, often using photography and a growing network of relationships across the country in both churches and mosques. He aligns in ministry with the Covenant Church (consulting with both Love Mercy Do Justice and Serve Globally–departments within the denomination) but also collaborate with other groups. He helps advance this kind of ministry through multiple program ideas they’ve perfected over the years including: peace feasts, multi-faith dialogue events, “cultural listening” events where they learn about a specific demographic in the Muslim community, visits to the other community, and many other community building activities.

Additionally he works in peacemaking and storytelling in the Palestinian/Israeli conflict, completing two documentary films called, “Blessed Are the Peacemakers: One Man’s Journey to the Heart of Palestine” and just recently finishing another movie, “Make Hummus, Not Walls.”

Excerpt from
Reflections: A Journey through Lent into Easter
from Selah Center
Available now on Amazon

The History of Lent

By Mary Pandiani
Executive Director
Selah Center

Ash Wednesday is the day on which the season of Lent begins. It is named for the ashes used in the service to make the sign of the cross on one’s forehead. Created from last year’s Palm Sunday palms, the ashes are used to remind worshipers that all humans are mortal, hence the phrase used at committal services in cemeteries: “ashes to ashes, dust to dust.” This phrase, in turn, is based in part on Genesis 3:19, the concluding words of God’s words to Adam who hides in shame, recognizing the separation from God that entered human experience and history in the Garden of Eden:

                        By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread until you return to the ground, for
out of it you were taken; you are dust, and to dust, you shall return

Genesis 3:19

The use of ashes is based on the practice in biblical times of imposing ashes as a sign of penitence and mourning about that separation. We are mourning sin that so easily entangles us and our world, the separation that leads to human mortality, resulting in death.

Lent is a period of forty days of spiritual preparation for Easter. The forty days are taken from Jesus’ forty days of temptation in the wilderness before His ministry began. The counting of the days excludes Sundays, which are regarded as “little Easters,” thus the total of 47 days. The English word “Lent” comes from a German word which means “spring.” The observance of a 40-day period of preparation for Easter in the Christian Church can be traced back as far as 325 AD. The name “Lent” came much later. Historically, it has especially involved the spiritual discipline of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.

In present time, regardless of a particular church tradition, the season becomes a time of reflection and intention to honor the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus the Christ. It provides a time to consider one’s own life in light of a relationship with the Holy Mystery we call God, knowing we are being invited, again and again, into a transforming communion. No longer separated, we linger in this place of prayer, fasting, and giving of ourselves to God and others. The faint hope of Easter, ever present, builds through the season, preparing our hearts to receive the gift of God’s self in Jesus the Christ, an ongoing discovery of what resurrection offers us all.

Blessing the Dust

For Ash Wednesday


All those days

you felt like dust,

like dirt,

as if all you had to do

was turn your face

toward the wind

and be scattered

to the four corners

or swept away

by the smallest breath

as insubstantial—

did you not know

what the Holy One

can do with dust?

This is the day

we freely say

we are scorched.

This is the hour

we are marked

by what has made it

through the burning.

This is the moment

we ask for the blessing

that lives within

the ancient ashes,

that makes its home

inside the soil of

this sacred earth.

So let us be marked

not for sorrow.

And let us be marked

not for shame.

Let us be marked

not for false humility

or for thinking

we are less

than we are

but for claiming

what God can do

within the dust,

within the dirt,

within the stuff

of which the world

is made

and the stars that blaze

in our bones

and the galaxies that spiral

inside the smudge

we bear.

Jan Richardson
Painted Prayer Book