40 Days of Decrease by Alicia Britt Chole

I used this book as my Lenten devotional this year and really liked it. Each day has a short reading and reflection, some quotes, some information about the history of Lent, a suggested Bible reading and also a suggested “fast.” Most of the time we relate fasting to food, and when we “give something up” for Lent, we choose a food item –coffee, desserts, maybe even meat. However, author Chole has some thought-provoking ideas on the subject. What about fasting from something like:

  1. Regrets–put the mistakes of the past behind, and resolve not to dwell upon them
  2. Fixing it–don’t try to fix the problems or pain of others–give them the gift of your supportive presence
  3. Comparison–stop comparing your situation to others
  4. Discontent–redirect the tendency to picture something more to thanking God for the blessing you have

This is just a sampling, but enough for you to get the idea. Some of the fasts are more challenging than others, and you can decide to try them for just one day, or for longer, as a spiritual discipline. At the end of each day there is some space for journaling about the Bible reading, if you’re so inclined.

VERDICT: 5 STARS. I think this is a book I could use over and over during the Lenten season.

For more about Lent see:

Lenten Discipline

Henri Nouwen on Lent

A Lenten Quote

A Different Kind of Fast

During Lent it’s very common to undertake a fast. Here’s an interesting suggestion from the devotional I’ve been using, Good Enough by Kate Bowler and Jessica Richie.

Do you want to fast this Lent? asked Pope Francis.

Fast from hurting words and say kind words.

Fast from sadness and be filled with gratitude.

Fast from anger and be filled with patience.

Fast from pessimism and be filled with hope.

Fast from worries and trust God.

Fast from complaints and contemplate simplicity.

Fast from pressures and be prayerful.

Fast from selfishness and be compassionate to others.

Fast from grudges and be reconciled.

Fast from words and be silent so you can listen.

For more about fasting see these posts:

Martin Luther on Fasting

Taking A Break

Lenten Discipline

I Must Decrease

In the third chapter of John, some of the disciples of John the Baptist are concerned because suddenly Jesus is attracting more followers. John, of course, understands exactly what is going on. Jesus is the bridegroom, the Messiah, the one for whom everyone has been waiting. In consequence of this, John says:

“He must increase, but I must decrease.” John 3:30

John knows he is only the servant, the messenger. It is Jesus who is the real thing.

If we are united with Christ, the same thing is true of us. We must become more and more like Christ. Our sins and our worldly desires should decrease. Our goal in life will be to show others what Christ is like. When we live with the mind and heart of Christ, we will draw others to Him. We will be the face of Christ in the world.

Lent is a good time to think about this. For some it’s a time to emphasize their piety by giving something up — usually fasting from a food or drink they normally indulge in like coffee, meat or desserts. There’s nothing wrong with this if it serves to remind us of Christ. However, as one poet put it, why not fast from “your sin, not your bin.” For the next few weeks try fasting from anger, or envy, or greed. Add generosity and kindness to your plate. Allow Christ to increase in you. If you do this for forty days, you will have created a habit of holiness that will last the rest of your life.

For more about being the face of Christ see:

Have You Seen Jesus?

Portrait of a Christian

How To Be A Christian Witness

The Purple Nightgown by A. D. Lawrence–Book Review

I chose this book because it was presented as “historical fiction” based on a true crime.  It is indeed set around the crimes committed by Linda Burfield Hazzard and her fasting clinic which was operated in Washington State during the early twentieth century.  Linda Burfield was a quack, swindler and possibly a murderer, who lured patients into her clinic with promises that fasting would cure their ills.  Many of them died, essentially starved to death.

The Purple Nightgown (True Colors Book 10) by [A. D. Lawrence]

However, the main plot is a formulaic romance.  Stella, a wealthy heiress, loves Henry, her driver, whom she has known since childhood.  He is in love with her as well, but because of their different stations in life, they do not confess their feelings to one another.  Stella, who suffers from migraines, checks herself into the Hazzard clinic, finds that it is not what she expected, and that people are dying.  When she tries to leave, she is thwarted by Dr. Hazzard.  In the end, she is rescued by Henry, they admit to their mutual love.  As Stella is approaching her twenty-fifth birthday, she will have control of her fortune and can marry as she chooses.  Hooray!  Together they decide to found a home for orphaned children (as well as raising some of their own).

The plot was predictable and the characterization superficial. A situation that should have seemed full of suspense, somehow fell flat. There is a thin veneer of Christianity, but no deep spiritual struggles or insights. If you’re looking for some light escapism, you may enjoy this.  I found it disappointing.

This is part of a series called True Colors if you are interested in reading more of this genre.  If you are interested in purchasing this book, follow the link below:

The Purple Nightgown (barbourbooks.com)

VERDICT:  2 STARS.  Not my cup of tea.

The Lutheran Ladies received a free e-copy of this book in return for a fair and honest review.  Disclaimer pursuant to FTC 16 CPR 255.

For more Christian fiction reviews see:

white picket fences by Susan Meissner–Book Review

a long time comin’ by Robin W. Pearson — Book Review

Shades of Light by Sharon Garlough Brown–Book Review



Journey to the Cross from the (in)courage community — Book Review

This forty day devotional is meant to be used during the Lenten season.  The book itself is attractive:  hardbound with a crisp white and green cover and green satin ribbon bookmark.  There is a calendar at the beginning (for those who like to check off their progress) and a space for recording important insights.

Each day is not alike.  Some may be just a Bible verse to ponder;  others are a devotion plus reflection questions;  some are for journaling.  I enjoyed the variety.  Topics covered included fasting, sacrifice, gratitude, obedience,  our calling and more.  If you’re looking for a personal spiritual discipline to undertake during Lent, this little book would be a good resource.   It could also be used with a group, along with regular meeting to share and discuss the material covered.

VERDICT:  5 STARS.  I would recommend this book to others, and it would make a nice gift for a friend.

If you would like to purchase this book, follow this link:


To learn more about the (in) courage community visit:  http://www.incourage.me

To see a review of another devotional from this community follow the link below:

Women of Courage: a Forty-Day Devotional — Book Review

The Lutheran Ladies received a free copy of this book in return for a fair and honest review. Disclaimer pursuant to FTC 16 CFR Part 255

Martin Luther on Fasting

Of fasting I say this: It is right to fast frequently in order to subdue and control the body. For when the stomach is full, the body does not serve for preaching, for praying, for studying, or for doing anything else that is good. Under such circumstances God’s Word cannot remain. But one should not fast with a view to meriting something by it as by a good work. (SL 19, 1017)

No commandment of the Church, no law of any order, can enhance the value of fasting, watching, and labor as means of re- pressing or mortifying the flesh and its lusts. . . . For the body is not given us for us to kill its natural life and work but merely to kill its wantonness. . . . On the other hand, care must be taken lest a lazy indifference to such suppression of the flesh grow out of this freedom; for the roguish Adam is exceedingly tricky in pleading the ruin of body and mind (as a reason for indulging his wanton desires). (SL 10, 1353f)

From Luther’s Works, St. Louis edition

My earlier post on fasting, encouraged me to look up what Martin Luther said about the topic. For what Luther said on other topics see these posts:

Martin Luther on Serving Others

Martin Luther on Married Love

Martin Luther on Growing Our Gifts

Taking A Break

“So I turned to the Lord God and pleaded with him in prayer and petition, in fasting, and in sackcloth and ashes. Daniel” 9:3

Fasting is an ancient Christian tradition, but one we seldom use today.  However, it occurs to me that a fast can be a way of “taking a break” or resting from our usual activities.  The point, of course is to use our time of fasting to grow spiritually.

You may think of fasting as giving up food, or certain foods for a set time.  Some Christians choose to fast during Lent, and give up coffee, soda or desserts.  This can certainly have some health benefits, and can serve as a reminder that Lent is a season of repentance.

But there are many other ways to fast.  If you attend a Via de Cristo retreat weekend, you will be asked to put away your phone, and leave other electronic devices at home.  This allows the participants to focus on God and spiritual matters, laying everyday concerns aside for a few days.  Some people also choose to fast from phones and screens for certain hours every day, so that they can pray, meditate or just slow down and be still.

If you’re an avid reader, as I am, you can decide to fast from secular reading for a while.  You can fast from television, video games, or anything else that distracts you from your spiritual life, or tempts you to sin.  You can fast from eating out or recreational shopping and use the time and money you save to volunteer or donate to a worthwhile charity.

Almost any fast you undertake will cause some discomfort– but in another post, I talked about the fact that the times we grow generally are uncomfortable ( Are you Comfortable?)

Christians aren’t called to sit still.  We’re called to go.  Fasting can be a way to see what going somewhere different might look like.  It can be a way of retiring from the rat race for a while and seeing the real race that Paul spoke about in the book of 2 Timothy:

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”

So, think about this idea.  Take a break from something.  It may change your whole life!


Lenten Discipline

This article was originally published in our denomination’s magazine, The Lutheran Ambassador.  I thought it would be appropriate to post during this season of Lent.

Are you a disciplined person?  Do you go to the gym or walk regularly to exercise your body?  Do you take all the training offered in your workplace so that you can advance in your career?  Do your read child development books and Parents Magazine in the hopes of becoming the best mom or dad you can be?

All of these activities require discipline, and most of us are willing to practice discipline when the end result is important to us.

Lent is a season of spiritual discipline. At the time of the Reformation,  when some wanted to eliminate Lent,  Martin Luther argued for keeping it saying,

“Lent, Palm Sunday and Easter week should be retained, not to force anyone to fast, but to preserve the Passion history and the gospels appointed for that season”  Luther’s Works 53:90

Adopting a Lenten practice has real spiritual value.  It can help us develop self-control by detaching our desires from worldly things.  We may identify more strongly with Christ’s suffering and meditate on the true meaning of discipleship.  It is a concrete way to express sorrow and repentance for our sins.

Most often I hear people say they are observing Lent by giving something up (in the case of Lutherans, this is usually coffee or desserts, which seem to be our particular vices!)  There is nothing wrong with fasting for Lent, especially if we are avoiding something which is a particular area of sin or a distraction for us.  I am an avid reader and I sometimes “fast” from all secular reading during Lent.  This opens up more time for reading the Bible and devotional literature.  You might “fast” from watching TV for the same reason;  or give up recreational shopping or eating out and donate the money you save to a worthy cause.

Adding something to your schedule is another way to practice spiritual discipline.  If your church has a weekly Lenten service, go — this is a discipline that will help you grow in your faith!  One year our congregation shared our favorite Bible verses and committed ourselves to memorizing one new verse each day during Lent. It was marvelous to see the variety in God’s word and an incentive to strengthen our spiritual muscles.  You might try setting aside extra time for prayer, offering your services to a local ministry, or writing notes of encouragement to people who need God’s love.

We are each unique, so be creative in finding the Lenten exercise that stretches an increases your faith.  If you think of Lent as a journey, you may very well end up in a new place when it is over.  Make it a time of exciting discovery instead of that dreary season you have to endure on the way to Easter.  Have a blessed Lent as you seek his face.


Take a Break

“Is not this the fast that I choose;  to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? ”  Isaiah 58:6

Fasting isn’t in vogue these days.  Occasionally during Lent someone will tell me they are fasting from a particular food or drink:  soda, coffee, alcohol, desserts, or meat, for example.  Fasting is a spiritual discipline, undertaken to draw us closer to God.  The idea is, if we fast from food, our hunger reminds us that it is God who gives us everything and nourishes us, not only with food but with His Word.

True fasting means putting God in His rightful place, giving up our idols–or in our modern way of thinking, our addictions.  What distracts you from God?  What fills your time without really “nourishing” you?  Maybe it’s watching TV, surfing the internet, reading romance novels, gossiping with friends, failing to leave your work at work.  Maybe it’s something that seems really commendable like serving in a dozen community organizations, or constantly taking the lead at church.  Too much of a good thing can also distract us from the main thing.  It’s been said that if the devil can’t make you bad, he’ll make you busy.  Multi-tasking is in vogue, but sometimes we need to take a break.  We need to fast.

One of my daughters recently decided to close down her Facebook account, at least for a while.  She said she was seeing a lot of anger about the election, sports teams and other people.  She was reading details of people’s lives that were upsetting and way more than she needed to know. She said there was a lack of courtesy and sensitivity that she found distressing.  She said checking people’s posts was only making her feel upset and frustrated. She also wanted to send a message to her daughter that we can live without social media.  She’s taking a break, a break that will “feed” her in a more nutritious way, and benefit others.

As Lent approaches, I encourage you to think this year about what you need to take a break from.  What can you give up that will be helpful to you and to others.  Take a break from some busyness to pray and read the Bible.  Take a break from Facebook, and send encouraging cards to your friends instead.  Give up sodas and donate the money you save to a worthwhile cause.  You get the idea.  I’m sure you can come up with more.

Here’s more from Isaiah about what will happen if you fast appropriately:

“if you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday.  The Lord will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong;  and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.”  Isaiah 58: 10-11

Writers and readers … please tell me how you plan to take a break.

PS….I wrote this post early Sunday morning and left it in draft to use today.  I was astounded when I picked up the church bulleting to discover that this passage from Isaiah was the Old Testament reading!  That tells me God is really trying to get the message across to me at least!