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).

Fasting

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.


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Baby Bottle Campaign

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Your loose change can save a life and give hope to a woman facing a crisis pregnancy.

The teachings of Jesus often seem unrealistic when you are raising a family. For example, what do you with the command, “sell your possessions, give the money to the poor and come follow me”? How does that work when you have a house, children to feed, schedules to keep, soccer games to get to, parent-teacher conferences, credit card bills, fevers, trips to the emergency room (if you’re my family) and three events scheduled at a time with two cars and one parent to drive said cars. You get the idea. I don’t even have time to think about the poor, let alone set up a fire sale for everything I own and then find the courage to give the proceeds away.

And yet the command still stands, “sell your possession, give the money to the poor and come follow me.” Now imagine this scenario. Your kid happens to be reading the Bible and he asks you, “dad, what did Jesus mean by sell your possessions?” How do you answer? “That command is optional”?  “Jesus didn’t really mean it”? You see the problem. You’ve left yourself wide open for this comeback question, “Is obeying your parents optional too?” At that point they’d have you.

So what do you do, when the lifestyle that Jesus calls you and your family to love is radically different to the one you live today? Let me tell what I’ve learned not to do. (I’m better as a role model in reverse, just ask my kids.) Don’t throw up your hands, say it is impossible and do nothing . Because we can’t do it all right now, does not mean that we can’t do something. Sometimes following Jesus is about taking small, consistent steps in His direction.  In other words, start by doing something small and see where life takes you.

In the last posts we’ve talked about giving away our trash. Today, I’d like to talk about the possibility of donating our loose change. Easy. Painless. A small but significant step towards the radical life that Jesus laid out for us in the Gospels.

My friend Daryl Breda works for an organization called A Woman’s Concern.  Daryl’s group works on a shoestring budget to provide alternatives to abortion for women and their families who are facing a crisis pregnancy. You’ve probably seen images of abortion protests on television with people screaming and lobbing word grenades such as “baby-killer” and “fascist anti-choice woman hater” at each other. What is obscured by our sensationally driven media is the fact that there is a young woman, usually scared and alone, who believes that her only chance for a future is to abort her unborn baby. What if there was someone there to offer her not condemnation but a real choice? You don’t have to kill your baby. You have friends. You have a community. We will do whatever it takes to provide you and your baby with a future.

That is the question that drives the volunteers at A Woman’s Concern and they have saved countless babies and their mothers from the horror of abortion. They do this is through volunteers and a very small budget. One of the ways they raise the money they need is through your loose change.

Each year we set out baby bottles for families to take home. We ask that you fill then with quarters, dimes, nickels and pennies and bring them back. Real simple, but $10 – $20 can be the difference between life and the destructive force of abortion. Set it up in your home and encourage your children to get involved. They will ask you what it is for and you can tell them about what it is like to be young, pregnant, scared and all alone. Depending on how old they are, you may have to decide how much you are going to tell them them about teen pregancy and abortion, but if they are in elementary school and higher they may have already heard about it.

You can share how Jesus felt about people who were despised because their sin was so obvious. (Jesus and the Samartian woman at the well in John chapter 4 is a great example.) Instead of condemning the sinful woman, Jesus gave her acceptance, hope and the power to live a new life. Giving our loose change to support a scared young woman facing a pregnancy is a way that we as a family can imitate Jesus. It’s not the whole vision of Jesus, but it is a great step forward.

For more information

A Woman’s Concern’s Fall River clinic is in the process of renovating a new facility in the heart of downtown Fall River. Their new location will be more accessible to the clientele they serve who are dependent on public transportation. They are currently seeking plumbing and electrical expertise and volunteers to help with the construction of the new clinic. They have raised close to $8,000 of the $30,000 that they need to complete the build out. If you would like to volunteer or find out more, we encourage you to get in contact with A Woman’s Concern.  Their contact info is provided below.

A Woman’s Concern

484 Highland Avenue
Fall River, MA 02720

Phone: (866) 435-7292

Email: info@awomansconcern.org