Some adults observe Lent by giving up a bad habit or starting a good one. Lent may make others feel guilty that they aren’t doing enough. They believe everyone else understands more and “has it together.” Lent can send us into our own desert of fears: Are we good enough parents? Are we good enough Christians? Does God still love me? What if I don’t understand or believe in (fill in the blank)? Will my church still accept me? The short answer is, “Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes.”
The 40 days of Lent echo the 40 days Jesus spent in the desert after he was baptized and proclaimed as God’s son. God prepares us to live our life in Jesus by following him into the desert to face our demons. This is not just for a holy few: we ALL wander in a spiritual desert at some point in life: a place where we feel lost, and wonder if we have the resources we need to sustain life. But our faith promises that we are not alone: God is with us, especially in the wilderness. From the Exodus onward, this has been God’s way. Through God’s redemptive love, the harsh, barren desert becomes a place of growth and transformation for us.
In Lent, we are preparing ourselves to celebrate resurrection at Easter. For children, Lent is less like a desert and more like preparing a garden for spring. For them, it is a season to draw even closer with their beloved, Jesus. In the atria, children will drape prayer tables in purple cloth, color their own “Alleluia” card, and “bury the Alleluias” in a box that will be stored under the prayer table until Easter. In the atria, all work is prayer, but we also have specific items to nurture prayer such as finger labyrinths and prayer beads. Young children use great concentration while scooping beans and pouring water (see the post on “Practical Life” for more info https://stphilipsatrium.wordpress.com/2011/09/02/practical-life-in-the-atrium/). Children of all ages enjoy making prayer cards, drawing pictures, and setting up the prayer table, a quiet place set aside to enjoy being in the presence of God.
Lent at Home: Lent is the perfect time to try something new at home! You can try some of the things we do in the atrium to nurture prayer, or look to what nurtures your spirituality for ideas (gardening, carpentry, yoga, running, etc.). Some older children may want to consider a Lenten discipline. The older a child is, the more they need to complement worship and family prayer with private devotional time.
Here are some ideas from St. Philip’s families. Add your own suggestions in the “Comments” section:
Hands-On Spirituality: The Slaughters like to plant a Lenten Garden. On Ash Wednesday they put out a wide, shallow container with just dirt and ashes in it. They leave it bare until Holy Week. On Palm Sunday, they begin to create their Lenten garden by making a clay cave, a leafless tree, and adding candles to count down the days until Holy Saturday. On Maundy Thursday, they plant a few wheat or grass seeds. On Holy Saturday, make a clay caterpillar, wrap it in cloth, and put it in the cave. On Sunday morning (with a little help from an unseen person in the night), the tree is flowering, the caterpillar becomes a butterfly, and many other little extras appear in addition to the first sprouts from the seeds. Rebecca Slaughter’s full directions for a Lenten Garden will appear in the “Comments” section below.
Reading the Bible: The Level 3 families will be reading Exodus together at home, to supplement atrium Bible study. We are supporting each other with a Facebook group. Younger children enjoy a short Gospel readings either with a lit candle at the dinner table or snuggled with a parent at bed time. We use the NRSV (New Revised Standard Version) in the atrium, but The Jesus Storybook Bible is an excellent beginner Bible.
There are lots of other ideas on the internet. Here’s one great resource: http://www.brickchurch.org/RelId/608938/ISvars/default/Parents%253a_Celebrate_Lent_with_your_Children.htm