Celebrating Lent with your Family

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Unlike most people in our church, I did not grow up Catholic so Lent was an unknown to me until I became an adult. For those of you who did, you might remember the traditions of eating fish on Fridays or giving up something for Lent like chocolate, or television (God forbid), or your smart-alec brother who declared that he was going to give up homework. Not many parents in an evangelical church like ours give serious thought to celebrating Lent, but that is exactly what I would like you to consider.

Contrary to some of our experiences, Lent is not a “works thing”, an attempt to win God’s favor by offering him a sacrifice. You know, if you give up chocolate then God will cause your kids to behave. If you make the supreme sacrifice and give up Dunkin’ Donuts coffee or gasp, the Red Sox, well you can expect God to provide with the funds to go on that cruise you always wanted to.  If that was what Lent was about, I wouldn’t want to celebrate it either.

Lent, at its heart, is about what Christ has done.  It is not about what we do. Immediately after Jesus was baptized, the gospels tell us that he as driven out into the desert where he fasted and was tempted by Satan for forty days. For this reason, Lent runs for forty days beginning with Ash Wednesday and ending with Good Friday and Easter. The season of Lent was created to remind us of what Jesus did for us during those forty days.

He entered the desert. He went without food. He was tempted by Satan. He overcame that temptation and he did it for us.  That is the essence of Lent. And it is a part of the gospel we often forget. We remember the fact that Jesus died for our sin.  He bore our punishment so that we might be forgiven. But that is only half of the gospel. A fuller understanding of the gospel is something like this:

  • Jesus died the death that I should have died so that I might live.
  • Jesus lived the life that I should have lived, but didn’t, so that I might receive the blessings of God he earned for me.

When we remember this, Lent takes on a whole new meaning. We give stuff up for Lent, not to impress God, but to remind ourselves of all that Jesus gave up for us. When I give up something I crave, I remember the hunger pains that Jesus experienced in the desert as he resisted Satan’s temptations for me.

So with this new understanding in mind, think about how you could incorporate these simple Lenten traditions in the life of your family.

Giving up and Taking on

Robert Webber in his book, Ancient-Future Time, makes the point that Lent was never solely about giving something up, it was giving something up in order to take on something important. It is about simplifying in order to create room for us to connect to God and to love our neighbor. That’s why for thousands of years, the church encouraged its members to fast (give something up), pray AND give to the poor (take on something good).


Encourage each person in your family to give up something significant for the season of Lent. It could be something that costs you money (deserts, McDonald’s, Chuck-E-Cheese, coffee) or time (video games, Facebook, television, sports watching).  Remind your family that we don’t do this to get God’s love, rather it reminds us of the love that drove Jesus to give up food for forty days and the temptation he overcame for our sakes.

Prayer and giving to the poor

As was said before, Lent is not simply about giving up something, it is giving up in order to create space to take on something good. As your family gives up significant things during Lent, there will be time freed up and money that will be saved. Ask your children to find a local charity or a needy family that you could contribute time and money to.

There are a lot of great local option. Here are a few: A Woman’s Concern, Mobile Loaves and Fishes, the Tolupan Project, the Branch Community Supper (Soup Kitchen in Fall River – see the deacons).  If you have a great local charity share it with us by posting a comment.

Sharing your ideas

Do you have any ideas for families that you would like to share? Post a comment. We’d love to hear from you.


Changing a Child’s Life through Child Sponsorship

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Did you know that nearly 22,000 children die every day, most due to things that can be prevented like hunger, disease, and poverty? Did you also know that nearly 72 million children do not attend school? Child sponsorship is a way to for you to make a real and lasting difference for a special boy or girl in need. My family sponsors a little girl from Ecuador named Marianela. Marianela will turn 17 in July and I have been sponsoring her since she was 8 years old. I have been able to see her grow up. Because of my sponsorship she receives Christian education, medical check-ups, health education, nutritious foods, field trips, and homework help. When I hear statistics like the ones you just read I think to myself, “Not my little girl!” My family has been able to help Marianela by removing the obstacles that poverty has put in her path. We also get to have a relationship with her through the letters that we write. She always draws me a picture on the back of all the letters and those are special to me.

World Vision is a Christian humanitarian organization dedicated to working with children, families, and their communities worldwide to reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice. As a sponsor for $35 per month you’ll demonstrate God’s love and transform a child’s life! God tells us in Matthew 18:5 that “whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes Me.” He also tells us in Ephesians 2:10 “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Please pray and see if God is calling you to become a child sponsor.

I would like to share a short story about a family in Ethiopia whose lives were changed by sponsorship. Tsehay, 7 lives in Ethiopia. She has five brothers and sisters and her mother has taken an orphaned child into the family. Tsehay’s mother struggled to support the family by selling firewood but earned very little. The children had to go to work tending cows in the field. Their mud-brick hut had a cracked roof that leaked water during the rainy season. Life became so much better after Tsehay’s oldest sister was sponsored through World Vision by a woman in Nevada. Her gift made it possible for the family to build a new home and even enjoy electricity so the children could study after dark. Today, the children have access to assistance such as school fees and supplies, basic healthcare, and improved nutrition. For Tsehay’s family, sponsorship was an answer to prayer. “I knelt down and prayed to the Lord, ‘Please deliver me.’ That’s how sponsorship came,” says the mother of Tsehay. Would you like to be an answer to prayer as well? If you would like more information about child sponsorship you can visit World Vision’s website at www.worldvision.org/sponsorship. You may also call them toll free at 1-800-806-4468 or talk to Nicole Gardikis at church. A presentation was done at church on January 22nd about child sponsorship. If you missed that presentation we still have two children in need of sponsors. A child is waiting—for you.

(article by Nicole Gardikis)