Lent Lite for Families
The forty days of Lent have started. Given the stresses and oddball nature of the last 11 months, this year our family offerings are generally Lent
Listed below is a menu of things you as a family—some or all of your
family— might do for the next 40 days. Pick a few that fit the ages of
the youth in your life. Find a time to do the ones that work for you.
We hope you enjoy exploring new ways to strengthen the spiritual life
of your family.
However you do it, honoring the season is important; it’s the gateway to Easter and the hope and promise of sanctified new life. Coming when the days are beginning to lengthen Lent is a sort of springtime of the soul—a time to grow in faith and nurture the faith that is already there.
PRAYER AND FASTING
Two of the traditional practices of Lent
PRAYER PRETZELS: Did you know that the pretzel with its crossed “arms” has been a symbol of prayers for centuries? A German monk is said to have created the first prayer pretzels in the 7th century. Buy a bag of pretzels or the big dough version. Enjoy a pretzel snack and talk about the ways people of different faiths pray and the different kinds of prayers.
WOW, THANKS, HELP: The author Anne Lamott used those three words to think about important ways to say daily prayers. Spend a little family time thinking about prayers of WOW (in other words, praise), Thanks (gratitude) and Help (guidance and strength)
ADOPT FAMILY PRAYER ROCKS: Find a nice fist-sized rock or several, one for each family member. Decorate or wrap each one in a bundle. Put one on your dining table to remind you to say prayers of thanks at mealtime. Put individual prayer rocks under your pillow to remind you to say bedtime or morning prayers.
HEADLINE PRAYERS; Does your family talk about the news and the day’s events at mealtime? Share insights and reactions. End the meal with a prayer for people and events you’ve heard about in the newspaper, online or on television. What help or guidance do those newsmakers need? What are the positive characteristics of the people in the news?
GIVING UP: By long tradition, Lent has been a time of fasting. In times past it was rigorous, even grueling. Nowadays, during Lent a person may decide to give up a special food or habit. Is there anything you as a family might give up or limit?
A variation on fasting would be to eat more meatless meals. Why might
that be a good idea? Just taking time to really think about the things
we eat and reflect on the people and activities that helped us have food
on our tables and in our refrigerators is a good Lenten practice.
HERE AND THERE ACTIVITIES
MAKE A LENT PAPER CHAIN: Cut 40 strips of purple construction paper into strips about 2” wide. Each strip represents a day of Lent. Do you know
that Sundays don’t count as days of Lent? It’s true: Sundays are
considered “little Easters”. There are six Sundays in Lent. Choose a
different color for those Sundays. Staple or glue the links together—6
purple strips and then one of another color representing Sundays. Find a
place to display it...perhaps around your signs of spring?
SIGNS OF SPRING: The word Lent comes from an old Anglo-Saxon word that means springtime, the time when the days are warmer and longer. Talk about signs of spring all around you. Make a bouquet of greens or flowers to remind you of the beauty of springtime. Anybody have a green thumb? Buy some quick growing grass seed or nasturtiums (they grow fast), plant the seeds in a small pot, place in the sun and water as needed. If you start early, you’ll have lots of green growth by Easter.
SYMBOLS OF LENT: Opening conversation: What is a symbol? How many symbols can you name? For teams? For stores? For Advent? For Christmas? For St. Patrick’s Day? Colors can be symbols, too. What is the traditional color for Lent? Why? During Lent there are no flowers or decorations in church. For that reason, symbols for the season are sparse.
Here are some of the symbols of the last week of Lent, leading to Easter. Invite drawings of these images. And then talk about how they relate to the events of Holy Week.
A rooster - a bag of coins - a palm branch - a crown of thorns
WHAT’S IN A WORD—A day’s activity: Pick a word from the word bank below or decide on one of your own. Introduce it to the family. During the day,
think about the word. Does it apply to anything that happened during the
day? Were there insights about the role of that word/idea in daily
life? At the end of the day, share insights and new understandings.
Sample Word Bank:
Strength - Light - Quiet - Cold - Noise - Friends - Strangers - Kindness - Gift - Shadow Silence - Remember - Adventure - Imagination
SPARE CHANGE: Pennies, nickels and dimes add up and can turn into a donation for a cause or charity of your choosing. Set up a Spare Change container somewhere in plain sight. Lighten your coin load and at the same time add to your family’s contribution. Kids: can you add spare change for special coins you do? A good idea. At the end of Lent have a family discussion to decide where to donate your Easter offering of spare change.