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Ministry: Lent

Lenten Devotional Week 2: Fruit in the Garden of Solitude

March 01, 2018

Modern Christians have found incredible spiritual benefit in expanding their partial fast beyond the physical appetite to abstaining from other trappings of modern life. Many of us have instant access to any kind of entertainment, information, or mental stimulation we desire, for little to no cost. When I read Jesus‘s words about “the cares of the world“ that choke out the word of God, I’m reminded of the glowing, chirping screen in my pocket… What ever might capture our imaginations and mental energy is fair game to give up for Lent: movies, TV, the news, social media, video games, sports, texting—you name it. Christ might ask us to lay one or more of these distractions aside for something better. (from The Good of Giving Up, by Fr. Aaron Damiani)

I can relate to this quote from Fr. Aaron, especially as I started this year’s Lenten journey. I felt a special nudge from the Lord to enter more deeply into a spiritual practice that I have been resisting for a long time—the discipline of silence. I’m not afraid to be alone. That’s simply the spiritual discipline of solitude. But I’ve been afraid of solitude combined with the spiritual discipline of silence. That combination scares me. So instead of entering into silence, I find noisy distractions, listening to podcasts, reading heated debates about political controversies, watching TV dramas.

But this Lent the Lord Jesus has been whispering, “Press into the silence. I have some gifts for you apart from the noise and busyness both around you and inside your head. Let me turn the desert of silence into a garden of solitude.

In the process of pressing into the spiritual discipline of silence, I’ve also been reading a book by the Catholic writer Robert Cardinal Sarah titled The Power of Silence. The subtitled especially grabbed my attention: Against the Dictatorship of Noise. Imagine that—noise has become a cruel dictator. Listen to some of these wise and challenging words from Cardinal Sarah:

In modern society, silence has come into disrepute; this is the symptom of a serious, worrisome illness. The real questions of life are posed in silence… Noise gives a security, like a drug in which we have become dependent… But this noise is a dangerous, deceptive medicine… The dictatorship of the image, which plunges our attention into a perpetual whirlpool, detests silence… Modern civilization does not know how to be quiet… Noise is a deceptive, addictive, and false tranquilizer… Contemplative silence is a fragile little flame in the middle of a raging ocean… We cannot hear the Word if we have not been previously transformed by God’s silence… Without silence, God disappears in the noise… Unless the world rediscovers silence, it is lost.

As I reread these quotes from Cardinal Sarah I’m afraid I must stop typing. I’ve already said enough. It’s time to break free from the dictatorship of noise and words. Lord, let’s enjoy some silence together. So, signing off for now…

Deacon Matt Woodley

Reflection Questions:

1. Pause and take a brief listening tour through your day. What are primary places and times in your where you have the opportunity for silence? Do you find yourself uncomfortable in these spaces?

2. Imagination can be a very powerful tool to be used by God, but can also be a great distraction keeping us from God. What would it look like for you to harness your imaginative energy towards God through what you listen to, or don't listen to?

3. Sometimes silence and solitude require us intentionally removing ourselves from the company others. What are times you can participate in this life-giving separation this Lent?


Read the first post in our devotional series here.

Find more practical guidance as you walk through Lent in The Good of Giving Up: Discovering the Freedom of Lent, a new book by Fr. Aaron Damiani, the rector of our church plant, Immanuel Anglican in Chicago.

Lenten Devotional Week 1: Clearing Cluttered Spaces

February 22, 2018

“In the course of our life, we accumulate a different kind of waste. We might call it toxic waste for the soul; shameful moments, destructive patterns, and tragic choices… Lent provides forty days for us to behold Christ and His cross, not only to understand it more deeply, but also to cast our soul’s toxic waste upon it.”(p. 62-63 from The Good of Giving Up by Aaron Damiani)

My wife and I have this closet upstairs that we’ve been trying to ignore for a while. Maybe you have a closet like this yourself, the one you fill with everything that doesn’t seem to go anywhere else. Ours has winter clothes, old movies, a few exercise relics from optimistic former times. Recently, on a Saturday afternoon whim, in a moment of clarity, we had a revelation; How great would it be to have that additional, functional space, if we simply cleaned out our closet?  It was like an epiphany! Imagine the possibilities of storage, of order, of design that could take place if only we had a fully cleared closet. Why hadn’t we thought of this before? Because of course, there was only one catch. In order to use the closet, we needed to clean the closet, and as we soon discovered, cleaning out our closet was going to take a lot of hard work. 

I think some of the beauty of Lent is its invitation to us to clean the cluttered spaces in our hearts. As the year has moved along, and the ordinary time of summer has passed into the colder seasons of fall and winter, so too have our hearts and lives accumulated clutter large and small. For some of us it’s been the simple distractions of home, work, school, kids,  and friends. For others of us, it has been significant temptations, enticements, or perhaps even sins that we’ve tried to tuck away, nervously hoping that out of sight will eventually become out of mind. However the Church has been given the season of Lent from our Lord precisely because He knows our need for a season of serious cleansing. A season of examination and self-reflection. A season of fasting and refraining. A season where we give generously, to be reminded of what we’ve been given. The season of Lent is an invitation to clean out the cluttered spaces of our heart, precisely because we’d far rather ignore them. The truth is, this type of cleaning is likely going to take some serious work. But there is a vision set before us of possibility and hope, of what God can do with the new space in our hearts that have been cleaned out for Him. May you therefore be courageous in this season of Lent to open up your own cluttered closets, so that you may behold the cleansing Christ wants to bring.

Reflection Questions:

  1. Where have you seen “toxic waste” or “cluttered spaces” building up in your life?
  2. What does “cleaning” those cluttered spaces look like for you this Lenten season?
  3. How might fasting, prayer, confession, or almsgiving overlap with the cleaning God wants to do in you this season?
  4. In the same way closet cleaning opens new space for design possibilities, do you see any creative opportunities to replace an area of temptation with something new and good?


Find more practical guidance as you walk through Lent in The Good of Giving Up: Discovering the Freedom of Lent, a new book by Resurrection church planter Fr. Aaron Damiani.