Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Lent Preparations 2012

"Yet even now," declares the Lord,
"Return to me with all your heart, 
with fasting and weeping and morning;
and rend your hearts and not your garments."
Now return to the Lord your God,
for He is gracious and compassionate,
slow to anger and abounding in loving kindness
and relenting of evil.
~Joel 2:12-13

Today we welcome Lent.  I wish I were more prepared.  I must confess I have been distracted by other things, other deadlines.  Thankfully, before us lies a whole season to prepare for Easter and focus on our daily opportunity to grow closer to God.  

The themes of Lent are prayer, fasting and giving.  With that in mind, I have tried to come up with ideas for our family that incorporate each of these elements in a special way.  Our plan this year is similar but not identical to our plan for last year.  As always, I have been inspired and encouraged by the Lenten preparations of our family and friends.  


~Prayer Chain Garland:  I know, garlands are usually for Christmas, but this one is for Easter.  Each day during Lent, the kids and I write a prayer on a piece of colorful paper and then attach them one by one to make a prayer chain garland.  Depending on the day, we may write down our prayers for other people, a new prayer we learn together or a Bible psalm.  By the time Easter arrives, we have a long, flowing prayer chain garland decorating our living room.  I also like the idea that at the beginning of Lent our decoration is rather sparse.  As Easter approaches, the decoration of our prayers becomes more visible in our home, representing the positive effects of our prayers in the world.
~Jesus Stepping Stones and Bible stories: Thanks to Equipping Catholic Families for this Jesus Stepping Stones activity, which is based on the Jesus Tree from Shower of Roses.  Each stone is decorated with a picture and Bible verse from an event in Jesus' life and is a wonderful way to incorporate the stories of Jesus' life and ministry into our daily routine.  We'll start tomorrow by making the stones together.  When reading the verses, we'll probably read parts from the kids' Jesus Storybook Bible where possible, and supplement with passages from my Bible when a story isn't included in their book.
Jesus Stepping Stones from Equipping Catholic Families.


~Food shelf box: I don't expect the kids to notice the absence of meat in our Friday meals during Lent.  So in addition, I plan to set out a box marked for a local food shelf.   Before we sit down to dinner each Friday I am going to let the kids go to the pantry and pick out a food item to put into the box.  It will give us the opportunity to talk about how thankful we are for God's blessings and for the chance to be a blessing to others.  We did this last year and it seemed to be meaningful to our kids.  Plus, it gave them their own "stash" of food to take to school and church on "food drive" days and other communal days of giving that come up during Lent. 


~Jar of Beans: This idea comes from an old March edition of Family Fun Magazine that I read several years ago.  On Ash Wednesday, we set out a large jar of dried beans on our coffee table next to a small, empty easter basket.  Each time one of us does a good deed or something nice to or for another,  he or she will get to go to the jar and move a dried bean from the jar to the basket.  I remind the kids that on Easter morning, when Jesus Is Risen, the dried beans will be replaced with jellybeans, representing the new creation we become through Christ: the old is gone and the new has come!  (2 Cor 5:17)  Last year this was a really special part of our season.  

Our bean basket from last year!

~Spring cleaning, 40 bags in 40 days: 

"Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me." ~Psalm 51: 10

House cleaning may not be as important as the spiritual cleaning we pray for during Lent, but it can be a great way to bring Lenten themes alive in seasonal chores.  Details of the challenge can be found here, and I am inspired every year by our friends and family members who adopt it.  Our bags will be smaller this year than last year, but this remains a great challenge for us nonetheless.  It will certainly require an exercise of generosity and total family participation!  

May this Lent be a blessed season, drawing us all closer to the Lord as we prepare for Easter.

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