One of the many learnings from the pandemic is that there is a necessary toughness needed to be a pastor or church leader. And it may come with a price. If we are not careful, over time this toughness creates a thick skin, and we become a hardened and frozen botox smile. We fear sharing true feelings, lack trust in members and colleagues, and even lose touch with the God-center-seed in our hearts. Lent is the opportunity to crack the layers of thick calcium that develops while doing the work of ministry. Lent provides an opportunity to strip away folds ofhurt, pain, and grief. Lent forces us to deflate our egos as we ponder ashes. Lent brings us back to the basics of prayer and word, solitude, and service.
Thanks to the wisdom of Rev. Deborah Block at Emanuel presbyterian church in Milwaukee, for the past 10 years I’ve read a book a week during Lent. In addition to my Lenten reading this year, I’m revisiting God Hunger: Discovering the Mystic in All of Us by John Kirvan. This book grounds me. It reminds me that although I’m just an ordinary person, I have fallen in love with a God who seeks me as much as I seek God. Kirvan reminds us that, “We are seeking to replace ‘success’ as the standard of our lives with a spirit centeredness. . . It’s a reversal that requires us to turn our lives upside down, inside out.”
I am looking forward to this Lenten journey. I’m inviting the Presbytery of Chicago to journey with me. Each of our congregations have special worship services. Some have Lenten devotionals and Lenten programs that encourage the congregation to walk together. There are resources available in the Presbyterian Outlook and on the PCUSA website as well.
As we walk with God and with one another during this Lenten journey, may we be guided by these words of Kirvan: “The God we pursue is also our pursuer. What keeps us apart is not God’s distance but our flight. We need perhaps more than anything else, to stop running and let ourselves be caught.” May it be so with each of us.
My books for Lent 2023
Under the Skin: The Hidden Toll of Racism on American Lives and on the Health of Our Nation
The Quiet Before: On the Unexpected Origins of Radical Ideas
Indigenous Continent: The Epic Contest for North America
In Love: A Memoir of Love and Loss
Rev. Craig M. Howard