Would we do Lent again next year?

 

Yes, I would… in the sense that I would do something to prepare my heart and the heart of my children for the most important celebration on a Christian’s calendar – Resurrection Sunday.  It is in this sense that I am using the word Lent here.  I don’t need to call it Lent, although I probably will.  I don’t need it to last 6 weeks before Easter, although it was much less rushed with 6 weeks to think and prepare.  A week before Easter may be the way it goes some years, depending on the circumstances.  I’m not sure the length of time or the term is the most important part.  Whether a family celebrates a Lent season, or spends a certain amount of days preparing for Easter, Resurrection Sunday deserves more attention than just one day.  In fact, it is such a huge event that it even deserves more attention than any other day in the year.

It’s the biggest pile of rocks the kids ever saw!

Why did the Israelites set up piles of rocks to remember something God did?  What would your kids say if they saw something unusual as they were walking down the road?

“What is that? Why is it there?”

We are visual people and a huge pile of rocks would have been obvious to the eyes of God’s people.  The little ones would notice that this is different than normal and ask why.  Resurrection Sunday is very different than the rest of the year and Lent provided an avenue to display that pile of rocks to our kids this year.

Lent taught us…

…to use our senses to remember.

We do not have a pile of rocks in our yard to celebrate the resurrection, but we did use decorations and colors, like a tablecloth or wreath.  We used foods, games and art to tell stories.  Getting all the senses involved is how kids learn and remember.  I have also learned that If you want a food or game to feel special when you pull it out, it has to be something they haven’t seen in a while.  For example, I found out last year that my family loves figs, but I purposely did not buy figs for a few months so that when I brought them out for Passion Week, they were excited. During Lent we found that the absence of candy or dessert in our regular life made it much more exciting to enjoy on the special day.  If we gave candy or dessert to our kids every day, it would cease to be special.

…how to say no to ourselves so we can hear God.

Fasting is one of those topics that is not talked about much for fear of being labeled a Pharisee parading his righteousness.  This fear is what had kept me silent and unsure how to fast for a long time in the modern context I lived in.  But it was the linking of arms with an older friend that taught me how to fast.  Yes, it can be extremely personal.  Usually very few know you are fasting if any at all.  But how do you teach your own children true biblical fasting if they never know you are doing it?  We attempted to use the Lent season to teach our children a little about fasting.  It was simply a candy and dessert fast…something the kids always want.  This experience helped us explain the heart behind fasting. When you reach for what you want, you are reminded to stop and talk to God about what He wants.  We found it to be an effective reminder, although I was amused at how quickly children turn into Pharisees (and adults too).  Often there were reminders that God wants their heart not their actions.  We felt that this fast for 6 weeks encouraged the kids to say no to themselves and ignore their wants so they could hear what God wants for them as they fight sinful wants.  We did it privately as a family.  Not with friends around. Not as a demanded ritual or proof of our love for God.  Fasting was a reminder, not a rule.  Parenting is such an intimate form of mentorship.  We show them what it looks like to follow Christ in all the Christian disciplines (even if they are not actually a follower).  “Come, my child, let’s do this together.  I’ll show you.”  We don’t command that our children fast, or spend time with Jesus, or pray.  It’s a conversation we have with them and an invitation to be a part of the rhythm of this Christian house.

…to create meaningful traditions.

We tried a bunch of ideas over the last 6 weeks.  Some we will write down to do again next year.  Some were flops and need to be rethought or dropped.  Kids thrive on repetition, so once I find an idea that beautifully points to Christ and that works well with our family, I repeat it each year.  It has to be something I can successfully make happen or happen it won’t.  A journal or notebook is the best way I have found to remember what we did.  After each holiday I sit and make some notes.  Often the simple 5 minute reminders of God are kept.  The all day events are big commitments…so I have to be pretty convinced of it’s value to give a chunk of our day to it.  A unique meal, a new decoration, or 5 minute visuals can be just as meaningful as all day activities. We think meaningful means complicated, but it doesn’t have to be.  I get some of my cues from the memories they have from last year.  Do they remember why this holiday is celebrated?  Do they remember what God did?

It is always interesting to see what gets pulled out again each year.  Each year will have it’s age differences, life interruptions, and seasons of challenge that affect the celebrating of a special day like Easter.  But there always seems to be those few things that are timeless and treasured each year…memories of celebrating Christ together as a family.

Fasting and feasting with God

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