Lent begins in less than a week. For the first time in three years, it actually feels like the beginning of a new season rather than a continuation of a pandemic-induced eternal Lent. So I want to honor this Lent in ways that we might have before the pandemic, while still honoring the people we are now because of the pandemic.
My children are (once again) unable to attend an Ash Wednesday service, so we will hold our own simple liturgy with imposition of ashes at home following supper. Rather than thinking through my sermon for church that day, I’ve been thinking about how to talk with my middle school children about death, resurrection, and the season of Lent in general.
I want to connect the ashes we’ll mark on our foreheads to the penitential practices involving ashes throughout Hebrew Scripture. As Christians we mark our ashes in the sign of the cross to remind us of human sin and the resulting injustice that is part of life. The cross reminds us that our innocent teacher, our brother, our savior Jesus Christ was abused, tortured, and executed. But, these ashes also remind us that the cross is not the last word. Resurrection always lies beyond it.
We’ve talked so much about mortality and sin in our house the past year. Beloved family members have died, church friends have died, students have been murdered at schools across the country, and Black men have been murdered by the police. My kids do not need a simple ashen cross to remind them of the frailty of life. However, I think they do need those ashes to remind them that resurrection always exists beyond death and the cross. We all need that reminder.
This weekend as we discuss what practices we might take on this year or what we might give up, I want put such spiritual disciplines into context. Why do we do this each year? It’s not about willpower or self-control. It’s about abstaining from behaviors that keep us from fully experiencing God’s love for us. It’s about taking on practices that allow us to more fully experience God’s love for us.
I’m looking for resources to use at home this Lent to help draw us even deeper into this loving relationship with God. The first one I’m considering is SALT project’s “Love Builds Up” for families which includes scripture readings, conversation prompts, and suggested practices for children and adults. It’s a downloadable purchase that you can use digitally or print as a booklet. It’s a more of a weekly resource than a daily one, and it skews toward younger children.
The second resource I have in mind is Lenten Micropractices from Vibrant Church Communications. Honestly, I love everything that Jo Nygard Owens creates and use her social media offerings for my small church with regularity. This is the first time I’m considering using one of her resources with our family though. There is a small spiritual practice for each day of Lent as well as callbacks to scripture placing the practice in context. I think these micropractices will work best for tweens and older.
We will pair one of the above with familiar family Lenten traditions such as taping Forward Movement’s Join the Journey Lent calendar to our refrigerator and baking pretzels, a common Lenten snack dating back to the 4th century. We’ll set our little blue box from United Thank Offering (UTO) on our kitchen table where it’s sure to be noticed multiple times a day. The United Thank Offering website states that UTO “encourages people to notice the good things that happen each day, give thanks to God for those blessings and make an offering for each blessing using a UTO Blue Box.” We never have cash or coins in our house, so a daily financial offering doesn’t work for Team Liles. This year I hope our family members will take note of acts of love shown or shared each day, write them down on a slip of paper, then drop it in the box. During Holy Week we can read through the notes and write a check to UTO that we can deliver inside the box on Easter morning. These reminders of God’s love for us and our love for one another are exactly what we all need.
What do you want your household to remember this Lent?