On Lent, An Invitation and What I’m Giving Up {Darn it!}

by | Feb 25, 2014 | Book Club, Encouragement, Writing


The first time I wrote for HomeLife Magazine, an editor asked me to write about Lent after reading one of my blog posts. At the time, I thought it was interesting that a Baptist magazine would ask an Anglican to write about the practice of Lent. Actually, it made me nervous if I’m honest. I wanted to be honoring to each tradition which can be like walking a tight rope between mountains.

That was several years ago and recently I re-read that article, because you know, I have a stack of copies and I might’ve taken a photo of my first check. As I flipped through the pages, I didn’t realize I was in good company with the words of Jen Hatmaker and Kristen Welch flanking my article. I was a newbie to freelancing and blogging then.

Practicing Lent is like the evolution of writing for me. When I look back, I have to chuckle about how hard I thought it was to give up chocolate or a glass of wine for forty days. Now, I’m asking God to show me what I need to surrender that  I’m holding on to with a death grip. And He’s pulling out the big guns ya’ll.

I mentioned it in my blog post a couple weeks ago but I wasn’t that serious. I actually talked myself out of it until last weekend.

I’m giving up reading books. For forty days. Except for feast days, there is that hope.

I know. It conjures up all kinds of emotions. Fear. Dread. Sadness. Groveling to Jesus. Pretending to be deaf.

That’s the point, right? To give up something that isn’t easy and hurts a little. I’m kind of embarrassed at the realization, really. I think I depend too much on books (cue my family rolling their eyeballs and saying, “Duh” in unison).

I depend on the words of others for inspiration and guidance and for numbing my emotions when I don’t want to deal with something. This isn’t good, I realize that.

Last weekend, I had a private writing retreat at a beach house and I brought 13 books with me. And that doesn’t include the ones loaded on my Kindle.

Maybe I have a little problem?

But here’s the thing. At the last minute, I threw in Lauren Winner’s, Girl Meets God on a whim. It felt like a God-thing. I was almost walking out the door, the van packed and ready when her book came to my mind. I thought there must be something in the content that’s important for inspiration. After all, the last time I read it was fourteen years ago, why would I be thinking about it, right?

Later, nestled in for the evening under blankets, I pulled out her book and forgot that the table of contents was written to the liturgical calendar. So, I opened the chapter on Lent.

Guess what Lauren wrote about in that chapter?

She wrote about how her pastor suggested she give up reading for Lent. She’s practiced the discipline every year since.

Darn it.

It was a God-thing, just not the one I was expecting.

I’ve known for the past few years, afraid really, that God was going to ask me to give up reading books during Lent at some point. Not because he wants me to be miserable but because surrender and sacrifice are the path to wholeness and He knows I want that.

My word is trust this year, did I mention that? Perhaps I’ll look back on this and laugh too.

I wasn’t ready to do it until Margaret Feinberg asked me to join her for the 40 Day #LentChallenge, reading the New Testament through Lent. The timing seems perfect.

With any discipline, success is more probable when practiced in community so I’m inviting you to join us in reading the New Testament (not giving up reading books, don’t worry). Starting March 5, Ash Wednesday, we’re following this reading plan and making it a book club for six weeks. Join us on the Redemptions Beauty Book Club page on Facebook every Wednesday for discussion on what comes to the forefront in the scriptures and link blog posts you’ve written from the content .

Do you include practicing a discipline during Lent? Share your experience in the comments.


In community with Laura, Holley, Jennifer, Emily and Lyli.

Subscribe for Shelly’s stories and free resources here: https://shellymillerwriter.com/free-resources/


  1. Glenda Childers

    I remember the first time I read Girl Meets God and enjoying the bookish Lauren giving up her books for Lent. You can do it, Shelly! 🙂


    • Shelly Miller

      Your memory is better than mine regarding Lauren’s book Glenda. I’m actually expectant about Lent. It’s gonna be good.

  2. Lynn D. Morrissey

    Shelly, I am sooooo excited for you! God asked me to do this last year, and it was life-changing. I had wanted to for some time, but then God made it crystal clear (as He just has for you). He confirmed it through Rebekah Gilbert’s blog (I will ask her for the link–just looked and can’t find it), and also in how Jesus said, “Come to me, you who are weak and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” I knew that Jesus was telling me to come to Him alone and not to books and others’ opinions. It’s a very hard thing for a Christian author not to read Christian books (and admit it), but that’s what I did. You’ll get over withdrawals soon enough, and then it will be just you and Jesus, the Word, with no other words in between. Im very happy for you (and yes, I read that in Winner;s book, too, after I’d taken the plunge, and it was yet another confirmaion!
    Let me know about the writing retreat. Have been praying for you!

    • Shelly Miller

      How interesting that you also read Lauren’s book and got a confirmation Lynn, the serendipity in that leaves me a little awestruck.

  3. JViola79

    I began practicing Lent a few years ago. it was not the way I was brought up & the thought of giving up something for 40 days intrigued me. It is amazing to me how difficult “sacrifice” comes to me. I am doing the NT reading for Lent as well although I do not know yet what my sacrifice will be. I recently read this definition of the word “sacrifice” –> the surrender of something desirable for the sake of something considered as having a higher or more pressing claim. All I do know is that He truly is the higher and more pressing claim. Loved this post!

    • Shelly Miller

      For some reason I didn’t observe Lent growing up either, but I’ve enjoyed the evolution of the practice. Every year it gets richer with depth and intimacy. Thanks for sharing that definition and glad you are joining in the #LentChallenge.

  4. Lynn D. Morrissey

    Shelly, here is the blog post over at wonderful (and often welcomingly edgy) author Rebekah Gilbert’s blog, where I first met here, and she and I diaolgued about not reading Christian books for a season. You are talking about books, generally, but this was a gutsy thing for Rebekah and me to do–because for Christians not to read Christian books sounds so illogical. But it was life-transforming for both of us. Because it parallels what you are doing, I thought you might like to read about it here: http://www.anewsongtosing.com/toxic-me/#comments

    and here: http://www.anewsongtosing.com/three-month-hiatus-update/

    Shelly, I can’t wait to see what fruit God is going to birth in this Lenten season for you!! very excited!



    • Shelly Miller

      Love Rebecca and her sweet spirit Lynn, thanks for sharing this with us. I know, I’m excited to see what He has in the works for me with Lent too.

  5. Leigh Kramer

    Whoa, Shelly! When I read Girl Meets God, I remember thinking there’s no way I could give up reading books for 40 days. But I am trying to be more intentional about when and how I read and I can see how this could be a good practice. Maybe some day. Good luck to you!

    • Shelly Miller

      I said that too — maybe some day. I always hoped I wouldn’t have to, but now I’m expectant because I know that in the surrender there will be a great freedom and life lesson.

  6. Janet from FL

    As a child, I grew up Catholic, and we gave up something for lent each year. Usually I would give up some food like chocolate. In more recent years, I have tried to ponder the life of Jesus, leading up to Easter. To do this, I have chosen a book each year to read. It might be on Easter or about Jesus or devotionals. This year I am joining you reading the New Testament. I get more meaning from Easter this way, instead of just letting Easter fly by without any special treatment. Easter deserves special treatment, a day set apart, and a season of Lent preparing for it. Thanks for reminding us of that.

    • Shelly Miller

      I grew up Catholic too Janet and I don’t remember giving up anything while growing up. It was actually much later in life that I started observing a discipline. The time is always rich, sometimes painful and always worth whatever little thing I give up.

  7. Mel

    Lent is new(er) for me…I’m a former Baptist, now Lutheran…but really, I’m just a follower of my Father. 🙂 But I love the idea of reading through the NT…I think I will join you all. Happy Wednesday!

    • Shelly Miller

      Oh wow Mel, lovely to have you join us. Come over to our discussion on the Facebook page if you want to join the weekly discussions.

  8. Megan Willome

    I was gonna mention the Lauren Winner thing …

    • Shelly Miller

      What were you going to mention about it?

  9. Jody Ohlsen Collins

    Shelly, this post hits a little close to home as I am a fellow book hoarder–random reader extraordinaire. The Holy Spirit reins me in about very 3-4months with, “these voices are too noisy, Jody, you need to be listening to MY voice” and I let go and let Jesus help me balance it all out. Maybe your fast is not so much giving UP books but giving IN to the voice of our Saviour.
    Nothing but good can come of it.

    • Shelly Miller

      I agree, nothing but good. And the best things in life are usually a result of an uncomfortable process that involves risk.

  10. rachel lee

    giving up books? oh Shelly, that almost hurts! I pray that this 40 days is a recharge and a reconnection between you and Jesus Christ. love you, dear one.

    • Shelly Miller

      It does hurt. I guess that’s the point, right? Thank you, I’m praying for that too.

  11. Kendra Roehl

    Shelly, I love this! My friends and I actually started observing lent last year and are doing it again this year as well. We pick a different country, cause and thing to give up each week. It’s been sacrificial but also eye opening to focus on and pray for areas of our world that are really hurting. Bless you as you start!

    • Shelly Miller

      Wow, what a great practice Kendra, love that.

  12. Laura Boggess

    OUCH! Shelly, please get off my toes! ((grin)). Seriously, though, I echo what Lynn says, I’m excited to see what God has planned for this time (of deep, heart-rending sacrifice!). I’m still praying about Lent. Maybe I need to pick up my dog-eared copy of Girl Meets God…

    • Shelly Miller

      Me too Laura. It’s a sacrifice in light of the fact I’m writing that book and usually look to what I’m reading to inspire my thoughts. But I’m sensing God saying I need to have confidence in my own thoughts and to quiet the voices I lean on. Yikes, it feels scary.

    • Lynn D. Morrissey

      Don’t read that book, Laura–that is if you want to keep reading during Lent! I could NOT believe when I read what she had written after I’d made my decision–as if God were not going to let me off the hook. CAn’t believe this is what Shelly found too…..ah, yes, what Shelly said about serendipity. I love how you are one of Shelly’s greatest cheerleaders!

  13. Lyli Dunbar

    Shelly, I had to laugh when you said that you packed 13 books because that is “so me.” My dad used to get infuriated at the weight of my suitcase on family vacations.

    I am praying for you today — that God will fill up the extra space in your 40 days with Him. I’m excited for you.

    I read a lot less these days now that I am married. (But, I can’t fast my husband for Lent).

    So glad you linked up at Thought-Provoking Thursday! 🙂

    • Shelly Miller

      Thanks so much for your prayers Lyli, you are so dear to me. I’m glad to know I’m in good company regarding hoarding books. And no, we cannot fast our husbands, ha!

    • Lynn D. Morrissey

      Lyli (love that spelling!)….I really smiled broadly when I read that about your dad and the weight of your suitcase full of books. Somehow, until I met other authors and bloggers, I thought it was only *I* who read all those books. Our basement is sinking for all the books boxed in it. And my grandmother literally used to buy books by the pound when they were on sale! =]

  14. Ashley Tolins Larkin

    You express your journey with God in such fresh and alive ways, friend — as a deepening invitation and journey. I love that about you. Still haven’t made a Lenten decision, but you have me thinking. Hmmm…

    • Shelly Miller

      That is such a sweet compliment Ashley, thank you friend.

  15. Marie Bride

    Oh, Dear Shelly,
    May I confess I wish I could not relate to this blog post as much as I can.
    Several years ago like you I realized giving up a certain food (well to be honest for me was no big deal; I may miss it but so what).
    I wanted/needed to go deeper with sitting @ the feet of Jesus (so to speak)
    I am a convert to being catholic so as I was sitting in church before Reconciliation having my quiet time with Jesus the thought came to me more.
    As I sat in front of the priest I heard these words come out of my mouth (one of your God things, one of my brothers always says that & I am smiling as I finish this). I need to give up frustration & anxiety for Lent.
    As I look back & forward I have grown in leaps & bounds but I still need to use myself imposed penance of giving up frustration & anxiety for Lent & I am smiling as I believe Jesus agrees sitting at His feet my growing is taking time & He is not done with me yet Thank Heavens!

    • Shelly Miller

      I’ve thought along the same lines Marie, about giving up things like anxiety and frustration. My words would be different than yours but what a good discipline to recognize those things in our lives and surrender them to Jesus. I’m praying about what mine should be.

  16. Lisa

    Happened on your blog via Emily’s site just in time to join in for the Lent challenge. Yay. Also, in light of your book fast, might I mention Ecclesiastes 12:12, which I love in the New American Standard Version… this verse has helped a bibliophile like me so very much over the years! Maybe it will help. Blessings to you


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