Tuesday, March 8, 2011

A Simple, Do-able Lenten Plan


Lenten Jars 2010
Lent, already? 

My heart so wanted to be prepared for it this year, but my head has persisted in being too crowded with other things.  So, I have yet to lay our plans out, organize our materials and prepare our home for this vital faith-filled season. 

Thankfully, our Lord is a forgiving and encouraging one who gives us new gifts each moment of every day.  One of these gifts is the gift of the precious present.  The moment of NOW that erases what we have failed to do up to this point and helps us look forward to, without worrying over, what has yet to come.  It is a gift of love – in us, through us and among us – that comes through His grace.

As I experience this gift and let it wash over me, guiding the moment I am now in, I breathe, think and feel the presence of God.  I sense He is telling me to SIMPLIFY.  Let go of the sundry wonderful, but not-for-us-this-year ideas about observing Lent that I have browsed online.  Avoid adding to any mental, physical or to-do list clutter that threatens to crowd out the essential truths of this liturgical season.  Instead, choose a few simple, do-able ideas to embrace.  Use these activities as instruments to train up our children and focus ourselves on the true meaning and purpose of the season.

I’ll be writing more about the ideas as the season progresses, but for tonight, I just wanted to share one:

 “Pray-Fast-Give” Jars
Last year, we made very simple jars for each of us to reflect upon and keep track of our efforts with prayer, fasting and almsgiving during the Lenten season.  (They are pictured above.)  Basically, we just made holes in the top of some jars and then created labels that said “pray”, “fast” and “give” along with our names.  We placed these on our Liturgical Table, and, nearby, we kept a jar of dry beans.  Nightly, we reflected on how we prayed, fasted or offered ourselves to other people, adding up to three beans to our jar in accordance with what we did.  Then, at Easter, the beans were "made new" by taking them away and replacing them with a sweet, long-lasting treat (lollipops, by the kids choice) to symbolize the enduring gift of Jesus. 

This simple daily activity really helped drive home the message to our children that Lent is a time to cleanse and prepare ourselves for the joy of Jesus’ coming through prayer, fasting and giving.  By Easter time lat year, both Nina and Luke understood, at their own developmental levels, the core ideas of prayer, fasting and almsgiving.  They also thoroughly enjoyed the object lesson about the joy and sweetness of Easter!

In fact, our Lenten Jars made such an impression on the children, they have asked to make them again this year – and so a tradition begins....

Tomorrow, we will make our second annual Lenten Jars.  Already, we have discussed part of what we will be holding ourselves accountable for with them.  

Our Commitments
Nina said she is going to try to fast from "hitting" and "taking stuff" that doesn’t belong to her in the house.  Instead, she wants to use her hands to give up some of her toys "to the Easter Bunny for him and for him to give to other children.(Yes, I hear you:  What’s the Easter Bunny doing in there?  Well, she’s three and she connects Lent and Easter.  I figure, as long as she has the idea of fasting and giving, she’s doing just fine.  And – bonus – she also believes that the Easter Bunny comes to remind us of new life and the joy of Jesus.)

Luke said he is going to fast from" using up all the tape” and from "hitting".  Instead, he will use his hands to share one of his talents – "coloring pictures for everybody in our 'distended' family(um, I think that means extended”) and other people, too.  As he made these intentions known, I  was so pleased to realize that he is connecting the idea of using his own special time, talents and treasure to what he might give.

While Daddy paused to think about what he might fast from, Luke suggested that he should give up "the computer".  When I asked Luke what Daddy should do in the time he usually spends on his computer, he said, “Pray”.  Wise young man!  Daddy has agreed to try.

Likewise, Luke and Nina said Mommy should limit time on the computer, too.  And, what should Mommy do instead of being online?  “Spend time with her children doing anything her children want her to.”  Out of the mouths of babes.

And, that leaves Jack.  Nina and Luke could not think of anything their little bro should fast from, but they did think of something he can offer others:  “Smiles!”  They also offered to help him do so, by being good older siblings and by making him laugh. I just love it!

And, so it is that we begin the Lenten season tomorrow with personal commitments to improving ourselves and our walks with God through a simple activity that will help make the sometimes difficult concepts of prayer, fasting and giving concrete and real for the kids.

Simplicity can be grand!

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