Feb 21, 2015

On being a Lent "newbie"

As a non-denominational protestant, I have been strangely drawn in the last year to some of the meditative practices of my orthodox brothers and sisters.  Though I don’t do things JUST “for tradition’s sake” and I believe every soul saved by grace is a true Saint and we only pray to God not saints, I do find that some of the traditional practices have a place in my Christian heritage and they are worth a look.  Sometimes I feel we contemporary protestants throw the baby out with the bath water especially when it comes to the contemplative and meditational aspects of Orthodoxy.  Traditions when kept fresh and done with the intent to draw us close to God, practiced with grace, outside of legalism, add rich nuances to the Christian walk. 
  
I would say that for contemporary protestants, we do practice traditions during  Christmas advent though.  Each year I carefully craft advent activities each night for 25 nights that bring us into a reflection of the gift of Christmas.  Not only do my children look forward to them every year, but every year we do it just a bit different to keep it fresh and it’s definitely my children’s highlight of the season.  But when it comes to matters of Lent, I tend to dismiss it as a Catholic tradition.  Why?  I think it’s just because it’s unfamiliar and outside of my normal traditional upbringing.

This year, I decided that we were going to practice a season of Lent which started on Wednesday.  Let me just tell you, this gal is a “lent newbie”.  I started just about knowing nothing except there was this odd tradition of ashes on the forehead on Ash Wednesday.  I mean, since I knew nothing about it, it seemed odd to me.  Then I decided to delve more into the purpose of Lent inside the traditions and I found quite a bit that resounded with my soul. 

And I thought, what if I took some of the traditions and meditations of Lent and made the next 40 days purposeful just like we do at advent?  I’m not sure there is a “right” way to do Lent anyways, but it seemed that the traditions of alms giving, fasting, and meditations on the life of Christ could add rich meaning to my own family.

This is probably the part of the post where all my orthodox friends chuckle and nod their head with understanding.  But for my kids and I here is what we have practically decided to do to count down towards Easter Sunday:
We are going to spend the next 40 days reflecting on the ministry of Jesus and we started with the temptation in the wilderness.  I have a book called, “The Bible in Picture for Little Eyes” and it’s perfect for Tessa.  There are 45 stories on the life of Christ and each one has a beautiful illustration and at the bottom is the corresponding scripture.  So we are reading one each night (I know the math is off, I’m not worried about that), and Hunter will read to us the short scripture from his own Bible.  Easter week has about 10 stories that tell about His death and resurrection so I figure we’ll double up there.

In addition, we have little activities to do during the season.  The first activity was decorating our Lent money jar.  The kids will work for money to give to a cause at the end of the season.  I let them decorate the jar, so it’s definitely zany, but I love what it represents.

Other activities will be service projects (luckily our church is doing neighborhood serve projects during March we can participate in), crafts, object lessons (such as resurrection eggs), and other games.
Ann Voskamp has a short meditative Lent devotional for each day.  Actually she’s written two.  I chose the first one.  I cut off of the picture end of the devotional and turned them into ornaments for our “Lent tree” though she has gorgeous pictures in the second set that could also be used.  I am using the devotional side myself for my daily meditations and the children hang the pictures each night since they are numbered one through forty.

Here is where I threw in the “fasting” loop.  I started the South Beach diet this week and am cutting most sugar for the kids and have bought more fresh produce.  Literally, the first two weeks of the South Beach diet stink.  No carbs, no sugar.  Period.  I have never ever completely cut that in my life.  Meals are bland.  Eating bland and healthy as an act of worship is very new for me.  I have never really reflected on the correlation between food and worship and though it is scattered throughout the Bible, I always figured I live in New Testatment times so nothing is forbidden.  Bring on the fried chicken tacos and salsa!  I’m sure that’s what it means.  I should also say that I am not doing this because I have any weight to lose.  I would just like to be healthier.  I would like to take care of this body that God gave me, and caring for it seems to be honoring to God.  One week in, I’m not gunna lie, this is so tough!  But I’m in for the long haul.  I’ll let you know how it goes.   Hunter and Ainsley aren’t minding too much, but cutting a lot of the sugar in the house and adding more veggies has Tessa in fits most meals.  So this will be good for her too.

I know many Orthodox people study and learn about different Saints.  Since I believe all believers are saints, I chose to focus on inspiring missionaries of the faith.  I bought some children’s biographies on Corrie Ten Boom,  Hudson Taylor, Amy Carmichael, David Livingston, Jim Elliott and others.  We will be reading and reflecting on inspiring people who sacrificed for the love of others around the world and perhaps even some of the martyrs of the faith.  If we are looking towards the victory of Easter and the resurrection, it seems that looking at people who have gone before us who have lived their lives in that victory and sacrifice would be inspiring.


Sadly, I have only every focused on the season on the three days of Good Friday, Saturday and Easter Sunday and have missed the season of reflection and build up towards the day.  This year we intend to be more intentional and see what God grows in us this season.  If you have practiced the season of Lent as a family, what was the most meaningful part of the season for you?  Is there something you would recommend this newbie trying?

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