So, Lent is approaching again. Because they move around each year, I find Lent and Easter can so easily catch me out so, here’s the heads up; Ash Wednesday 2015 is on the 18th February (and Pancake Day the day before!)
As I wrote last year, I didn’t grow up in a tradition which made a great deal of Lent but, as an adult, I’ve come to appreciate that, while the bible trumps church tradition for me, very many wise men and women have gone before our generation and have thought through the very thing that appeals to me; how to create a rhythm in the year that leads us to consider all the different facets of our faith at some point. C.S. Lewis writes in the Screwtape Letters about how humans are drawn to both predictability and variety and that God created us so, placing us in a world which is subject to seasons, giving us both change and soothing repetition in one fell swoop.
Edie Wadsworth from the delectable blog Life (in) Grace explains this so well. This post is actually about Advent but explains how she has come to value the church year since converting to Lutheranism from a non-liturgical church background. It’s not the only way to do things but it is a really helpful structure. There are times of preparation and waiting like Advent and Lent, times of celebration like Easter and Christmas, times of rest and recuperation like the summer and of hard work like harvest. If you follow the lectionary, a set of bible readings for each day set out by various churches, you read through the whole bible every three years. There is no dodging the uncomfortable bits or avoiding the topics we’d rather ignore.
I think I’m done with giving up chocolate for Lent just because my friends do (although it wouldn’t do my waist line any harm!) so what meaningful ways could help me and my family savour this season of preparation?
We discovered last year that a Jesse Tree style Lent bible reading plan didn’t work too well. Lent is 40 days PLUS 7 Sundays and that’s an eternity when you’re 5. Or 39 and sleep-deprived. If we’re doing anything daily it needs to be little and doable, maybe even a habit that we mean to continue.
Last year we printed out the poster above from Catholic Icing, blew it up to A2 at Staples and coloured it in.
I made a tiny pair of footprints and we blu-tacked these to the poster, moving them on a day at a time. The children really liked it.
I liked the way it helped the children figure out where Lent was leading and how the events of Holy Week fitted together. Here’s some detail of the final week:
We’ll definitely be getting the poster out again this year.
We then made a huge deal of Holy Week as in previous years.
The calendar works because it’s a very simple daily action and very visible.
Also visible on the fridge will be this Christian Age Lent countdown focussed on social action and awareness of world poverty. I’m hoping our kids’ growing awareness of world poverty will reduce the cries of “It’s not faaaaaaiiiiiirrr!!!” which currently abound. What can I say? I’m a dreamer!
And finally, I’d like to try taking the family on a prayer adventure. I thought we’d pick 47 names of people we know and put them in a bowl on the kitchen table, picking one out each day to pray for. Could be interesting to see what happens! Especially if I manage to e-mail people on the day we pray for them to let them know.
One final idea if you have slightly older children is to check out Michelle Guiness’ book The Heavenly Party. She has a number of weekly projects for each week in Lent focussing on acts of service, each reflecting on the theme of scrifical love. If you resonate with this blog, you’ll love this book, even if the ideas are mostly for families with children from about 7 up.
So, how do you mark Lent and how do you incolve your children? I’d love to know!