Our family observes the season of Lent. People have asked me if we're Catholic. No, we're not (though I was growing up). Denominationally speaking, we've been all over the place. Several years ago, we became a part of an Anglican church and fell in love with liturgy. Basically, liturgy is a pattern for worship that follows the Christian calendar year.
Do you know that (very old) country song--I Was Country When Country Wasn't Cool? Well, John was liturgical even back in his Southern Baptist pastor days. He'd break out the Advent wreath and preach thru the lectionary readings and even incorporate some Lenten stuff into worship. These days, we're at home in a Lutheran church (which we LOVE) and I'm telling you all of this so you'll know that Catholics aren't the only ones who observe Lent.
Lent begins today (Ash Wednesday) and continues for forty days (weekdays, not Sundays) until Easter. I thought this site did a pretty good job explaining the facts about Lent.
I sat down a week or so ago and made a list of things I want our family to do during Lent. I've always found it easy to focus on Holy Week (the week preceding Easter) but I feel like this season deserves more than just a week. Traditionally, Lent focuses on three areas: prayer/penitence, fasting, and alms (giving). With those themes in mind, I decided on some activities for us to do together.
I hope that we can have some focused scripture reading as a family after our evening meal. Maybe not every night, but a few times each week. I talked over this plan with John and he offered to come up with all the scripture readings and to handle this part of things. I readily agreed. I have no idea what stories/verses he is planning to use, but we both feel that it's important for our children to really know the gospel events leading up to Christ's death...and resurrection.
Prayer/Penitence: The Sin Box. I have an empty box (cereal box--reduce, re-use, recycle!) that I want the kids to help me cover with some sort of red scrapbook paper. I plan to keep it on the kitchen table/kitchen cabinet and if the kids have something they want to confess, they write it on a slip of paper and put it in the sin box while explaining that Jesus' death on the cross bought forgiveness for our sin. It's private stuff...between them and God, and I will NOT force them to write something/anything down on the paper. It's completely voluntary
Fasting: Giving something up. Isn't that what most people think of when they hear the word Lent? Maybe it's just me but giving something up for 40 days seems a bit extreme for kids. I don't doubt my kids can do it, I just don't want them to see themselves as failures if they don't (and a couple of my kids have a tendency to be really hard on themselves).
So, we're asking them to give up something for a week at a time. This week it might be dessert, next week it might be television. John explained to them that sacrifice is involved and that when we're reminded of what we're giving up, it's an invitation to spend time thinking about the sacrifice Jesus made for us.
My son told me today he was giving up his time on the Wii. The girls have chosen to forego listening to their ipods for a week. (They all suggested at dinner the other night that I give up the computer which I thought was hysterical...and highly unlikely). As a family, we're going to give up eating out. John shared this article with me this morning and I thought it had some great ideas for me. I'm still undecided as to what my "thing" will be.
SO, at the end of each week I want to reward the kids for their sacrifice. I look at it as positive reinforcement. If Will didn't play Wii all week, then he'll get a yet-to-be-decided, small monetary reward. Same with the girls. BUT...the money isn't for them to keep. It will go into our Blessing Bank.
Alms (Giving): I have a can that we're going to decorate as a Blessing Bank. I think we've decided to give whatever money we collect to a missions group through our church.
Any money we would spend on a family meal out will go into the Blessing Bank also. Should I decided to give up Starbucks, I'll chunk that change into the bank as well.
Our church is having some Lenten services on Wednesday nights which we'll be going to as a family. Our theme for Lent is The Road First Traveled and all of that kicks off tonight with the Ash Wednesday service. Our church also has an Easter drama production during Holy Week and rumor has it that my long-haired husband might be playing Jesus. *wink*
Oh...a couple more things before I forget. I read this article about pretzels, and how they have been traditional Lenten fare. I think one night we're going to try our hand at making some...just need to find a recipe. Or even easier, I could just open the box of frozen, soft pretzels in the freezer!
I thought this site had some very simple and easy devotional thoughts to use with kids.
And my friend, Wendy, is posting her Lenten devotions on her blog each week! She's also good at coming up with crafty ideas for kids.
I feel like I'm leaving tons of stuff out, but I really want to get this posted before my crazy afternoon/evening begin! If I think of something earth-shattering, I'll add it later.