These next 40 days make up Lent. Lent is a season of reflection, repentance, and preparation as we prepare for the new life celebrated on Easter Sunday. In our busy culture, the Lenten season is a gift. It offers us a time to slow down, breathe deep, and focus on our spiritual practices – those habits that draw us nearer to God and help us to sense the Spirit’s movement in our lives. We hope these daily reflections from the “Running from Empty” 2023 Lent devotional will help you to cultivate attentiveness to the ways God is present in your life.

Introducing our 2023 Lenten devotional by the Stillspeaking Writers’ Group:

Introduction — Empty Life these days. It’s a lot. If you don’t find yourself exhausted and overwhelmed in this era of existential threats ranging from ecological to geopolitical to national crises (to say nothing of personal chal- lenges), please call me immediately. I’ll have what you’re having. What’s more, many of us are constantly on the go, not only because our production-ad- dicted society demands it, while shaming those with too little to do, but also because staying busy is a familiar way to avoid existential anxiety and angst. We are simultaneously running from empty while running on empty. Sometimes our “running” is frantic and dramatic. Sometimes it is subtle. I can be found running from (and on) empty in habits like nail biting, overthinking, eating, Netflix, and doom-scrolling. You likely have your own forms of running. At this point, Jesus might ask, “Beloved, is empty the worst thing that can happen to you? Is stillness and doing nothing so awful? Perhaps the thing you are running from is the very thing you most need.” Enter Lent, which is all about surrender, emptying and letting go . . . even during activity. Lent does not mark the time Jesus checked into a retreat center for long periods of medi- tation and yoga between gourmet vegetarian meals (not that there’s anything wrong with that). He was constantly on the go even as he emptied himself of everything that led away from the cross. The pages that follow offer invitations to embrace the empty places we might prefer to avoid, one for each of the forty days of Lent, plus Holy Week and Easter. May they inspire you to breathe deeply, love fully, act justly, and find Jesus in stillness and in storm. – Matt Laney for the Stillspeaking Writers Group

Devotional for Ash Wednesday, the start of Lent:

Can You Keep a Secret? “And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Parent who is in secret; and your Parent who sees in secret will reward you.” —Matthew 6:5–6 (NRSV, adapted) VINCE AMLIN | In a workshop with Athol Fugard many years ago, the renowned play- wright warned us aspiring young writers, “Don’t tell anyone about the project you’re work- ing on. Keep it to yourself for as long as you can.” His point was that, as soon as you told someone what you were writing, it lost a little of its magic. Sharing that story, however briefly, lessened its urgency. Better to keep it a secret. To walk around the world with the hidden knowledge that you were about something. To let your work be animated by the mystery you were holding onto. Jesus says the same about prayer. When you do it for others to see, it loses its power. The reward is immediate but fleeting. Better to keep it a secret. To walk around the world with the hidden knowledge that you are about something. To let your life be animated by the mystery you are holding onto. What would it be like to have a secret with God this Lent? To take on a prayer practice and keep it to yourself for as long as you can? To be animated by something urgent and powerful that others can only guess at? PRAYER Holy One, can you keep a secret?

About the Writer:
VINCE AMLIN is Co-Pastor of Bethany United Church of Christ in Chicago and co-planter of Gilead Chicago.

Source: “Running from Empty” | 2023 Lent Devotional by the Stillspeaking Writers’ Group, made up of United Church of Christ ministers and writers who collaborate on resources for people in the church, outside the church, and not sure about the church.