Why We Celebrate Lent {Shhh! We’re not Catholic!}

 

Lent 6

It is February 18th today and already, again, Lent is upon us. Every year it sneaks up on me even though I know it is always 40 days before Easter. Last year it came and went without any celebration. I just didn’t have it in me. I was exhausted. I was nursing all the time and trying to stay up with school. The kids were branching out into extracurricular activities and friends and our time was being sucked out from beneath our house feet.

And the kids felt it. Maybe not until it was closer to Easter but, they felt the lack of liturgical fluidity that links Lent to Easter. And they asked about it. And they whined that I “forgot”. So when I was checking the date last night I was sucker-punched again as I realized it was the next day and that, again, I still hadn’t planned for it. But after realizing how much this meant to my kids, I resolved, however imperfectly, to acknowledge and celebrate today.

And the Lord, in His infinite mercy and goodness, helped me along. One of my best friends handed me a 2015 Lenten Devotions guide that she received free through a community service event a few weeks ago. I fished it out under a pile of books and flipped to the first day’s devotion while making breakfast.

Mathew 4: 1-4

The story of Christ and his temptation after 40 days in the wilderness.

At breakfast we read the verses. We read the devotional. We discussed all the rich links.

Why is Lent 40 days before Easter?

What is the link between Jesus 40 days in the Wilderness and Israel’s 40 years in the wilderness?

Why are we to sacrifice for Lent?

What does our sacrifice have to do with Jesus and his 40 days? And with his ultimate sacrifice?

How or what do we sacrifice?

But my favorite discussion came from the little conversations surrounding the quandary of what to give up. We talked about keeping our sacrifice between ourselves and God. (The last thing I want to be is the Lent police picking out how my kids are failing one more time or in correcting them with a more appropriate sacrifice.) We talked about failure and how that is actually a positive thing. Failing at Lent is a perfect practical application for us about how trying to “be good” on our own will always fail. Only one will not fail. Only one has not failed. That one – Jesus – is why his 40 days resisting temptation really means something and why his ultimate sacrifice covers everything. This allows Lent to truly become a walk to the cross as we practice living for Him but, in our failure, rejoice in the Resurrection on Easter morning.

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So, how do we do Lent as a family?

First, we discuss the meaning of Lent, why it comes before Easter, and what sacrifice means.

Next, everyone picks something they would like to sacrifice for the next forty days leading up to Easter. Note – this can be something tangible like giving up desserts or coffee, or it can be something intangible like giving up anger in exchange for self-control towards siblings. And for littles we let them pick regardless of if it seems sacrificial enough for us or not.

Then we take our sacrifices to the fire. Just as we, as Christians, are refined in the fire of the Holy Spirit in order to make us more holy, we offer these sacrifices to be burned out of us in a physical representation of fire. A candle flame is a tangible symbol of this. Each child is allowed to relinquish their sacrifice to the death of the flames.

Afterwards, we take the ashes and make the sign of the cross on our foreheads. This is a great reminder of our promise to God especially as we go out into the word. We are set apart as a people. Others notice. What better way for your child to evangelize as another child asks them why they have soot on their forehead? This is a perfect opportunity for you, as a parent, to also role play with your older teens on how you explain their budding faith.

And – my kids favorite part! – then we color the Lent Countdown Calendar to Easter! What a fun way (that doesn’t involve candy) to countdown to, what should be, the most celebrated holiday of the year for us, as Christians.

 

lent 3

lent 5

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So just because you may be reading this post after Lent has already begun – maybe way after – don’t let that stop you from participating with your kids this year. Start where you are today. Your kids won’t mind coloring in extra spaces on their calendar. In fact, you may discover next year that you, too, have started a new family tradition that makes your family’s faith walk much richer.

 

 

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5 thoughts on “Why We Celebrate Lent {Shhh! We’re not Catholic!}

  1. My beautiful grandkids have open and loving hearts and minds. They feel free to make inquiries about any subject, great or small. All because the Lord gave them you,…a woman after God’s own heart. Their conversations are the “small talk” God told Moses about in Deuteronomy 6: 1-7. I feel so connected to you, my daughter-in-love. Reading your experiences or talking with you has made my life so much fuller. Thank you is such a simple phrase, yet it is exactly what is in my heart and overflowing it with love for you. God be with you each moment of the day and may He grant you sweet rest when your head touches your pillow. You’ve earned it! Yes, I’m actually blogging with you, one mother to another. (: Love & Hugs, Robin…

  2. Fun blog! 🙂 I was raised Catholic…whole parochial school thing and all. For us, it was the “40 days fast within Lent.” Sundays didn’t count ( however, we couldn’t eat until after we had had communion).

    Traditionally, everyone abstained from meat on Fridays, thus the whole fish Friday thing.However, some of our friends growing up were more orthodox Catholic and they abstained from all meat derived products ( eggs, milk, etc.)
    On Ash Wednesday ( when it all began) we would go to morning mass at school where the priest would put the ashes on our forehead. we were not allowed to wash it off until a stranger ( grocery store, whatever) would ask us what it meant.
    We also “fasted” on that day and on Good Friday. We would have fruit and maybe crackers and then at dinner we would have one full “meatless”meal. The reality for us was that it was not “suffering” at all really and just a kind of fun”tradition” that we did because we were Catholic and didn’t really connect to anything solid in the bible… cause let’s face it… as a Catholic I personally ( and no one else I knew) never really truly read my Bible. 🙂

    Later, I did a lot of *research into the traditions and things I was taught as a child in order to be able to back up biblically anything I believed. No longer would I follow a tradition of mere men as if they would make me holy. I didn’t want to fall back into following a tradition or a belief in something without bible backing. So, as a former Catholic,I have to say that I have not celebrated Lent in that way since. That practice went the way of my” bleeding heart of Jesus” postcard that had been signed by the Pope in 1982, my prayers to Mary or any other Saint, and my practice of confessing to a priest, “at least once a month but especially on special church days.” Not that it (Lenten traditions) are bad… it’s NOT! But for me, as a former Catholic, it would have been a stumbling block as a new believer.

    Thanks for sharing your families perspective! Very interesting! 🙂

    *Here is an interesting article I found last year on the history of lent ( I’m always continuing to study and learn–even on things I think I know already or have researched multiple times already) This time, I approached it from the historical aspect rather than the bible theology aspect. 🙂
    http://www.baylor.edu/content/services/document.php/193181.pdf

    • Thanks for your perspective! My grandmother is Catholic so while I was not raised in that way I was aware of the traditions. It wasn’t until I started homeschooling and found so many Catholic homeschool moms blogs helpful that Advent and Lent and living a more liturgical life was even considered. I love the richness it adds to our life. I will go check out the article. Thanks for the link!

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