It’s been a mash-up of a month or so cleaning for Passover, readying myself to lead two Seders with my husband later this week, all the while dipping into, and out of, David Crumm’s Our Lent: Things we Carry, a devotional book to be read during the forty days of Lent. Granted, given that this is Palm Sunday, this is the home stretch but the book is still available and well worth having.
Reading the essays, I frequently came upon familiar touchstones that Crumm took (at least for me) into unfamiliar territory. Kind of like reading a cookbook that incorporates much-used ingredients into completely different recipes. Because I am woefully ignorant of the Gospels, I found myself reading as if through a sheet of cellophane. I could see the words on the page, I could understand them on the surface yet knew I was missing so much meaning because of my lack of knowledge of Christianity’s foundational texts.
The book’s forty reflections connect contemporary issues and struggles with the Gospels’ climactic recounting of Jesus’ two thousand year ago journey to Jerusalem for the Passover observance. In the reading for Day 2, Crumm draws parallels to the apathy toward the plight of Jews during the Holocaust and Matthew’s retelling of two blind men who call out to Jesus while he is passing through the ancient city of Jericho. The crowd following Jesus rebukes the blind men, disparaging them for pleading for mercy.
In Matthew’s retelling, Jesus did what governments the world over should have done during World War II, he stood still; he listened to the cries for help of his fellow human beings. And then he did something about it. Now whether or not I believe the sight of the blind men was restored by Jesus’ touch is less the point for me than is the crucial reminder to listen for in need who are crying out for help. For us this month “standing still” has meant donating to Yad Ezra, Michigan’s only kosher food bank so that fellow Jews have what they need for Passover.
In addition to drawing parallels from the Gospels to today, nearly each day’s reading makes mention of a book on religion or spirituality that is every bit as intriguing as the daily devotion. The depth and span of the resources he weaves into each one is breathtaking. Jeffrey A. Kottler’s Divine Madness: Ten Stories of Creative Struggle (Day 3) likens the disciple Luke with Judy Garland. Former Michigan First Gentleman Dan Mulhern’s Everyday Leadership: Getting Results in Business, Politics and Life (Day 12) on the stones in our path that we work furiously to ignore. On Day 20, Crumm relates the central theme of Lindsey Crittenden memoir, The Water Will Hold You: A Skeptic Learns to Pray – “realizations about life’s deeper meanings only come from an impressive commitment to writing the truth.” Snoopy, The Dixie Chicks, Emily Dickinson and others make cameo appearances day by day.
Award-winning former religion editor of the Detroit Free Press, David Crumm, has spent the last five years webbing together a worldwide community of spiritual seekers through ReadTheSpirit Publishing, and launching with co-founder and software developer, John Hile, the online magazine readthespirit.com. This second edition Our Lent: Things We Carry did what all good books do — made me realize I need to know more, a quality of literature unbound by time or faith.
*Thanks to my good friend Sara Zwickl for the title!