Lent 2016

In the midst of a surprise pregnancy and surprise no insurance, the baby who made me a momma turns three. We stay up late cleaning and decorating and readying our first house for its first birthday party.  I hang pink and … Continue reading

Lent Resources

Ash Wednesday is coming up on March 1, which is just a week away!

I’ve been very much enjoying Word and Table, a podcast about liturgy, sacrament, and the great tradition of Christian worship, which also means that I’m continually wiping tears from my eyes while folding laundry, washing dishes, and making lunches for the little people in our home.  I recently listened to an episode about the Church Calendar, which was fantastic. Historically, Lent was the time that new believers would practice spiritual disciplines in preparation for baptism on Easter Sunday.  They would also learn The Lord’s Prayer and the Creed during this time. A really beautiful thing I only recently learned is that this was something that the entire church would intentionally join them in.  This just makes me love Lent even more.  What a beautiful picture of what Jesus has done for us, what it means to be the body of Christ.

Maybe, like it did for me, reading or remembering this reinvigorates your desire to observe Lent as a family.  Maybe it helps to guide you into the areas you specifically want to focus on.  Maybe you’ve never celebrated Lent before, but you’re going to go ahead and give it a try.  Friend, I encourage you to prayerfully consider how the Lord would have your family observe this season of penitence and preparation as we look forward to Holy Week and Easter.  And, because this is a part of my job now (AMAZING!), I have roped together some resources and some ideas and I’m passing them on to you, with a note of caution:

If you’re anything like me, this can get overwhelming.  There are a fair number of wonderful ideas and practices your family could take up during the Lenten season.  I encourage you (and myself) to be cautious.  Pray. Carefully decide what direction you will take with Lent and choose a few things that serve the purpose of continually directing your heart toward Jesus. These practices are no good to us if they don’t stir in us a grief about and hatred for our sin and raise our gaze to Christ.  So, whatever you choose to do, do it in joy and in freedom that the purpose of our fasting and our praying and our giving is to feel the ache of our brokenness, our deep need for a Savior and to lift our eyes to his beautiful face.
Books
Books for Children
Peter’s First Easter– Walter Wangerin Jr.
Amon’s Adventure: A Family Story for Easter Arnold Ytreeide *We haven’t read this one, but it comes highly recommended and is a book you can read throughout Lent, finishing on EasterSunday. Probably best for ages 7/8 and up.

 

Books for Adults or Families with Older Children 
Reliving the Passion– Walter Wangerin Jr.
Bread & Wine: Readings for Lent & Easter– Various including Lewis, L’Engle, Nouwen, Chesterton, etc.
Living the Resurrection– Eugene Peterson (an excellent read during holy week!)
The Good of Giving Up: Discovering the Freedom of Lent- Fr. Aaron Damiani *I haven’t had the chance to read this one yet, but we’ll be reading it this year. It is written by a priest in our diocese, and it’s been suggested to us by a few of our friends from his parish.  Includes a section on celebrating Lent with children.

MUSIC

Here’s a Spotify Playlist  of songs for Lent.

PRAYER

Family Worship: Lent is a good time to establish a family routine of prayer and scripture reading together or to continue in an already established routine.  Perhaps you would like to try to learn the Apostle’s Creed or the Lord’s Prayer together.  Consider using a resource to walk through the stations of the cross, following the revised common lectionary readings, or using a Lenten Liturgy
 
Commit to pray together each day, give special attention to repentance and to praying for the least of these.  Perhaps your family would like to choose a specific group of people to pray for during the season (see more about this in the “almsgiving” section).

Activities 

Prayer Chain: Create a paper chain with 40 links– You can write names of people on them, things your family is praying for, or scripture passages. Each day take one of the links off during family devotional time and pray for the person or issue on the link.

Prayer Station: Create a prayer station in your home. This can be as simple as a chair with a purple cloth or piece of construction paper taped to it, or you can choose to include a small tray or basket filled with items such as: a children’s Bible, prayer book, small pad of paper and crayons or markers, pictures to color or printed Bible verse cards, brave parents of older children could include a candle (or a battery powered one!).  Ann Voskamp has a beautiful piece about how they use a station like this in their home.

FASTING

Many families choose to give something up for Lent– this may be a meal once a week, treats, television, etc.  It is important that no matter what you choose to give up, you explain to your children the reasons we are doing this– to join Christ in his sufferings and to lift our eyes to him. It can help to think of and talk about Advent and Lent as the similar seasons that they are– we are fasting before we feast.  In Advent, we are consciously waiting for the coming Christ, and in Lent, we are actively paying attention to how sinful and empty we are without the risen Christ. Disciplines and practices that we take on during these seasons of waiting (Advent) and penitence (Lent) should always serve to direct our hearts towards Jesus.  
Activites

Burying the Alleluia: This hands-on activity can help children understand Lent as a time to mourn and repent of our sin.  Together make alleluia banners– these can be as simple as markers or watercolors on large pieces of paper or as complicated as fabric banners sewn together– the important thing is that this activity can be done together and can provide an opportunity to talk about alleluia– what it means and why we say it, and to discuss why we won’t be saying it in our services during Lent. Together, either on the last Sunday before Ash Wednesday or on Shrove Tuesday, bury the Alleluia banner, either in a box outside or in a closet in your house, in your basement, etc.  Then on Easter morning, get it back out and display it in your house throughout the Easter season.

Sundays are Feast Days: Lent is 40 days plus Sundays. Sundays are always feast days.  Decide together whether you will continue your fast through the Sundays or whether you will choose to feast on the Sundays: if you choose to eat simple meals during Lent, for example, perhaps you would have pancake breakfast on Sundays.

ALMSGIVING
The third spiritual discipline observed during Lent is almsgiving. It can be beneficial to focus on a specific group of people for the entire season, to learn about them and to commit to pray for them.  Some examples include: refugees, the unborn, children in poverty, people in the 10/40 window, orphans, foster children, etc. There are many tangible things that your family could do in addition to monetary donation during Lent to support ministries and organizations that are dedicated to these populations and bountiful resources online to help your family learn about them and pray for them.

Activities: 
Gift Jar: Throughout Lent, place money in a jar to give as a gift on Easter.  Together as a family decide where that money should go.  Some families choose to eat simple meals and put all the money saved in this jar, other families agree to put a portion of any money they receive as gifts in the jar– talk together about how you will give sacrificially during Lent.

40 bags/items in 40 daysGo through your home and collect things that you no longer need (one bag/item each day) and either donate them, or sell them and add the money to your giving jar.

I hope that these resources are helpful to you as you prepare to enter into this season with your family.  If you are interested in more resources, I will be adding ideas and suggestions to this Lent Pinterest Page throughout the rest of the week, so please check that out if you are looking for more ideas.

Maybe this is old news to you, or you have practices your family has treasured practices for celebrating Lent.  I’d love to hear about them!

Lament

Two years ago, I wrote these words.  I have written a lot of words and talked a lot about that in the last two years.  Most of the words I have written I cannot share.  They are too personal and too deep and they carry too much ache.  David read some of the words I wrote this week, and he said, you wrote that just a few days ago? That’s so vivid.

Because that’s how this sort of experience is. It’s vivid. And it stands apart from your other memories like some kind of etherial experience that you wish was a dream. And it whispers to you and it breathes at you in quiet and secret places when your mind is too busy to keep it down.

One of these pieces I wrote and I can’t share, but I so deeply want to.  I so deeply want other people who have been hurt in the way I have been to know that they aren’t alone. That it’s not okay.  That people who speak for God are still just people and sometimes they don’t actually speak for God. I want people to understand what it does to a heart, to a mind, to a soul, to hear words spoken carelessly that you can never unhear. I feel like people don’t stand up enough and say NO. You cannot speak that way. You cannot behave that way. It is NOT. OKAY.  But I don’t have peace about sharing it, and so I can’t.

One of the ways that I heal, that I make sense of life is by writing about it. And by thinking of you, dear reader, and hoping that in some way the Lord will redeem tiny moments– beautiful ones and especially the not so beautiful ones to glorify himself. That in the reading of my words, your eyes will be lifted to the face of Christ, and he will grow more beautiful to you.  It helps me to behold and to remember and to adore the face of Christ in my circumstances when I sit down to try to show it to you.

I am learning another way to behold Christ in the midst of brokenness.  And when I say “am learning” I mean I have barely begun.  It is the language of lament.  It is being willing each day, when even two years later, I hear whispers of lies as crystal clear as if they had been spoken to me today, I weep, I pray, I lay it out before Christ, my rescuer, in words and in sobs and in sighs. And he doesn’t tell me to get over it or to move along, sister.  He weeps with me. His nail scared hands remind me that he has carried the burdens of my sins and the sins done to me. His grace carries me when shame tries to empty me.

I am doing this with more than just this residual pain that seems to keep coming back around every few months. I do this when I hear both sides of the abortion debate. I do it when I think about just every broken thing that America is right now. That our world is right now. I do it when I think of refugees, of children and men and women in slavery.  I just lay it out before the Lord and I lament. And I say yes to feeling the hurt, and yes to living with the ache, because the same Holy Spirit that was present with Jesus as he said yes to death is alive in me.  And I am finding that when I don’t try to steele myself against brokenness, when I don’t just try to move on, be a grown up, and keep it together, my heart grows soft to hear Holy Spirit whispers of how to join Jesus as he makes all things new.

I think sometimes we’re afraid to be sad. Afraid to really look at what has happened in our stories or in our world or in our community because we know we will find things that are worthy of lament, and then we will be overwhelmed and we won’t know what to do and we will just be sad and hopeless and angry.  Friend, Jesus is strong enough to carry lament.  And it is a soft and broken heart that can ache with longing for a future inheritance.  It is a soft and broken heart that clings to Jesus, aware that obedience is not something it is capable of apart from the grace of God.  And it is a person with a soft and broken heart that has open ears and ready feet to obey Holy Spirit whispers of redemption that will bring God’s kingdom now, while we wait with expectation for the day when all will be made new.