I love the opportunity that Lent offers for intentional spiritual growth in & through community, which can be especially meaningful in a small group setting. Choosing a book to study as a small group can provide focus and ready-to-go content that is engaging while also being low-prep for the small group’s organizers (or shared leadership).
I recently had the opportunity to review Bruce Epperly’s new book, The Mystic in You: Discovering a God-filled World, which is well-suited for a Lenten small group. As I shared with the book’s publisher, Upper Room Books:
Into a world that is raging and rushed comes a book to remind us of wonder and joy. The Mystic in You is a wise companion for such a time as this, and Bruce Epperly is the quintessential pastor as he gently points our harried hearts toward the presence of God, not for our own peace alone but for the healing of creation. A book for dreamers and activists, skeptics and scholars, and all of us who are seeking to attend more fully to life’s heartaches and holiness.
As a book for the Lenten season, The Mystic in You provides a rich opportunity to explore and affirm our awareness of God’s presence throughout daily life and all creation. As Epperly writes, “I believe that ordinary people can become mystics! At any moment every day, anyone can experience holiness” (p 7). How fitting to Lent that we should take time to pay close attention to God’s proximity and delight.
Each chapter of The Mystic in You is designed to teach and then engage: first sharing stories of mystics who were particularly attuned to God’s presence, and then providing spiritual practices for us to arouse our own awareness & awe. Small groups will recognize some of the mystics named and also meet less familiar mystics (both Christian and non): from Saint Francis of Assisi to Howard Thurman, from Mechthild of Magdeburg to the Baal Shem Tov. Likewise there will be familiar and new spiritual practices to enrich the Lenten journey: praying through daily tasks and dancing, advocating for environmental policies and practicing appreciation of beauty.
For small groups using The Mystic in You in Lent, I recommend that participants read two chapters per week (twelve chapters in six weeks) and choose one of the suggested spiritual practices to observe in their daily lives for the week. The small group meetings can provide time to discuss the two chapters that have been studied and to share individual experiences of the spiritual practices that have been used. (Individuals who use The Mystic in You for Lent can follow the same basic schedule.)
Want to read more? If The Mystic in You resonates and sparks a curiosity for more Christian mysticism, I highly recommend For Lovers of God Everywhere: Poems of the Christian Mystics.