>> Monday, February 19, 2007
It seems to be a contradiction in terms – an oxymoron. How can Lent possibly be lovely? The trick is to find beauty in complete simplicity; simplicity of faith, simplicity of living – taking away all the excesses that turn up the “noise” in our lives and create distractions from our attention to God and His will. The Shakers were masters of finding simplicity in everyday life, the lovely scent of fresh baked bread, the satisfaction in creating a fragrant soup that will satisfy both body and soul. They knew that God (not the other guy) is in the details, the tiniest little things. Their beautiful hymn could be a Lenten Anthem:
'Tis the gift to be simple, 'tis the gift to be free,
'Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
'Twill be in the valley of love and delight.
When true simplicity is gain'd,
To bow and to bend we shan't be asham'd,
To turn, turn will be our delight,
Till by turning, turning we come round right.
We are called to see the beauty in starkness. For in starkness, the color and grain of bare wood comes into sharper focus, we note the way the light plays on objects within our homes, or through the windows in our churches as we sit in quiet meditation. One lady who really does understand the beauty in 'everyday' is Donna Cooper O’Boyle, she wrote the book on it. If you can’t get enough of her beautiful writing, please visit us at These Forty Days. We’ll be featuring some excerpts from her work throughout the season. Another lady who truly understands the loveliness of Lent, is Wendy from The Bluebird of Happiness Comes to Tea.
Lent also calls us to compassion. Compassion literally means to share someone’s suffering. Outwardly, we are sharing in Christ’s suffering in the desert by leaving behind our old habits, hurts, and luxuries. We can unite ourselves to the poor, hungry, sick and lonely by fasting, giving alms, donating clothing, offering hospitality, caring for someone who is homebound. We can use this time to pray more often for someone who is ill. Our family has chosen a prayer project for Lent. Often, these acts of charity ignite a passion that lasts the rest of our lives.
That is precisely what God wants. He wants us to make a change for good - to experience a conversion. It doesn’t need to be a grand sacrifice; it can be something small but significant. Karen agrees, as does Margaret at Minnesota Mom. You needn’t even give something up – you can choose to take on something new, such as offering to join a ministry, or making a resolution to say “God Bless You” to every person you meet. It is a time to get outside your comfort zone and grow spiritually.
As parents, we must gently lead our children to learn the ways of our Faith, just as Elizabeth patiently does through this beautiful and touching conversation. Lent could easily become a cumbersome trial that children would learn to loathe. If we cheerfully approach Lent ourselves - setting the tone as Elena does, and gather ideas for fruitful activities (Ruth and Karen offer some amazing suggestions)they will grow into a deep knowledge and love for Lent. First, we must explain to them what Lent is. Dawn’s post “What is Lent” offers a beautiful, rich description for both children and adults.
This is a perfect time to delve deeper into our spiritual heritage with our children. It is important to understand the culture of the time in order to appreciate the importance of the events leading up to Easter. My children and I will be immersing ourselves in ancient Middle Eastern History and Culture. We have also been investigating the similarities and differences in how our Anglican brethren observe the season, and what other Protestant denominations think and feel about this holy time of year. Elizabeth Foss will be exploring the Lenten traditions of the Eastern Church with her children, inspired by this beautiful weblog by Katherine.
Because Lent is a long six weeks, organisation is important. These beautiful weekly calendars from Julie at Trinity Acres will help guide your children to grow in holiness throughout the Season. If you need further inspiration on your journey with Jesus toward Easter, please visit These Forty Days.
So, as the children and I are setting up our Rice Bowl, our sacrifice jar, hanging mourning on our Lenten Cross, and stringing sacrifice beads, we'll be praying that your eyes are opened to the Simple Gifts of the Lenten Season!