Wednesday, January 20, 2016

40 Days of Decrease by Alicia Britt Chole

In an era when society tells us to accumulate more, whether its possessions, self-confidence, or clout, Chole wants us to practice the spiritual discipline of decrease. This is a Lenten devotional unlike any I've read before.

Through an experience of surgery and loss of strength, Chole realized clutter had been collecting around her faith. She identified “sins of addition” in her life. She knew that Jesus lived an uncluttered life and she longed to follow His example.

There are so many aspects of this book I really like. One is the format. The forty devotions follow along the life of Jesus, each one based on a scene or saying. She adds guidance for reflection, then a suggested fast, a quote for meditation, information on Lent, a suggested Scripture reading, and space to journal.

I like the suggested fast for the day. There were some I expected to see in a Lenten devotional, like fasting a meal. But most of them were surprising. Her emphasis is less about the sacrifice of stuff and more about the surrendering of our souls. Her suggestions included fasting collecting praise for a day, and fasting stinginess for a day, halos (false definitions of holiness), apathy (in the face of justice), intimidation, willful sin, and criticism. These suggested fasts go to the core of our spiritual character. Each day's suggestion really made me think about my spiritual journey in a way I've not had a devotional do before.

I like her extra sections on Lent. Many Protestants do not understand the origin, history, or early practice of Lent. The information Chole includes is very enlightening in conveying the roots of this practice of voluntary discomfort to remind us of the discomfort of the cross.

Chole reminds us of the example of John the Baptist, saying that he must decrease while Jesus must increase. She has done an excellent job of encouraging us to have that same attitude. She reminds us that some of these fasts representing character traits and spiritual practices are really a lifetime commitment. Reading these devotions will help us take one step of that journey right now.

I highly recommend this book to those who have practiced Lent in the past. Chole will encourage you to have a fresh experience. I highly recommend this book to those for whom a Lenten experience is foreign. You'll learn about the origin and meaning of the practice and be encouraged to engage in it on a spiritually transforming level.

My rating: 5/5 stars.

Alicia Britt Chole has a doctor of ministry in leadership and spiritual formation from George Fox Evangelical Seminary and serves as the founding director of Leadership Investment Intensives (www.leadershipii.com), a nonprofit devoted to spiritually investing in the lives of leaders in the marketplace and the church. She and her husband have three children. You can find out more at www.aliciachole.com and @aliciachole.

Thomas Nelson, 272 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher for the purpose of an independent and honest review.
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