Yesterday was Ash Wednesday, a day when faithful Christians share these words: “Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” It’s a reminder that we are mortal and fragile. It’s a reminder that Jesus, in coming to the world, chose to take on death, and to do that for us. The meaning underneath what we do with an Ash Wednesday service is significant, and I don’t want to lose sight of it. We enter the season of Lent with the realization that denial of self, and, ultimately, death are the core of what gets us to Easter. We can’t get to resurrection without the pain that leads up to it.
As you and your family use the next few weeks to prepare yourselves for Easter’s resurrection, there are a lot of opportunities to have activities and conversations to enhance faith and discipleship away from church. For example, I’ve secured a workbook called “An Illustrated Lent for Families.” There are weekly devotions, a coloring activity that you can use to spark conversation about the scriptures for each week, and real world actions that you can take on to enhance service and learning with each thought. The full digital guide is available here and you can download and print what you wish from the full resource. I will have a few hard copies available at church; let me know if you’d like one. Note that this devotional guide would be available for anyone to use, not just families with children.
There are two things I especially like about this guide. First, I think the finger labyrinth (like the one at the left) and prayer activity to begin on Ash Wednesday would make an excellent ritual for reading and prayerfully working through the Scriptures for each week. It’s similar to a walking labyrinth, and you or your kids simply and deliberately trace the path while the text is read. There’s a very helpful guide for the activity, and I’d use it each week rather than just the suggested Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. Second, the devotional and activity for week 2 centers around fear and growing through fear out of love. What a powerful conversation you may be able to have as a family to talk about the ways we, even as adults, can experience fear, and how we can all take assurance from the God whose perfect love casts out all fear and who has promised to be with us, even in the valley of the shadow of death.
Some of you will have conversations about spiritual disciplines during Lent at home, and here are a few things to keep in mind. First, the long stretch to “give up” one thing over the course of six weeks can often be hard for kids. There’s wisdom in the idea of choosing a different item or activity to give up for each day of the week, or choosing something for one week at a time. I also like the emphasis of “taking on” a discipline. As an example on a practical note, here’s an idea I found about decluttering at home – “40 Bags in 40 Days,” a challenge now in its eighth year. Beyond the benefits of clearing out a closet or more, think of all the creative things and prayerful expressions of faith that could be in your mind or home if some “clutter” wasn’t in the way. Remember, the point of giving up and taking on is to refocus our spirits on the way of Jesus and to remove the every day impediments to following that path.
I wish you well on your Lenten journey!