Family Lenten activities, part 2

Lent is the 40 days (minus Sundays) leading up to Easter. A long, long time ago Lent was the period in which new converts to the church prepared for baptism. They learned about what it meant to be a Christian before becoming a member of the church community. It was basically “spring training” for disciples!

baseball - spring training!

Lent is a great time for your family to take a serious look at your calendars. It’s all about focus. Is there time for being a disciple of Jesus? For including Christ in your lineup? (An hour a week at church isn’t enough!)

Time Out. Talk about…Ask…A speech bubble
What can our family do? We’d like to spend some of our time together warming up our faith.


Last week I had given you ideas for family activities to try out during Lent. If you missed that it’s here. (These activities are not time-sensitive.) It seems only proper to provide more activities to help everyone be a “utility player!”

Ready to “take the field” for Lent?

  • Practice gratitude: Set up a place for praises. In a noticeable location, place a stack of papers and a pen near a basket or a bowl. (Or post a list on the refridge; or give everyone their own journal.) Encourage everyone to draw or write about things that make them grateful. Once a week, ponder your collection. For more ways to transcribe thanksgiving, visit here.
  • Celebrate: Life is a precious gift from God! Work in the habit of celebrating this in some small way, every day! Perhaps start off your day in song (“This is the day” would be a good choice. I often woke up my kids with this one.) Or perhaps change the words to the Superman table grace, adding in “Thank you God, for giving us life.” Re-writing this could be a fun, dinner table activity!
  • Serve others: pick one way to offer your time to someone else from this incredible list. (Includes ideas such as creating “snack packs for Ronald McDonald residents” but did you know they are still collecting pop tabs?
  • Practice solitude: First introduce the concept of breath prayer. Then, designate a signal for when it’s time to gather back together. Next, for an age-appropriate amount of time send everyone to opposite corners of the house. When the “time-out” is up, discuss your experience.
  • Give something up (Fasting): Rather than fasting food try giving up a word. How about the word “no” – try it and see what happens! (Remember that an alternate for the word no can be “let’s think about that.”)
  • Prayer: Make time for prayer every day. Visit here for ideas.

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Photo credit:
Spring Training by Michelle Riggen-Ransom, licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY 2.0).

How can your family prepare for Easter?

I recently learned something new:

The 40 days of Lent is a tithe of the year.

40 / 365 = 0.109589041096

Lent is indeed pretty close to one-tenth of the year!
(I had to prove it to myself by doing the math. Broke out my trusty abacus.)

These 40 days (not including Sundays) before Easter, is a time when we traditionally prepare our hearts and minds for the awesome truth of Easter; a day that is so special that it deserves ahead-of-time forethought.

A tithe is one-tenth of something, traditionally thought of as one-tenth of one’s income given to support the church and other charitable organizations. In this case we are talking a tithe of time; taking time-out to think about the meaning of Easter.

Of course it’s not possible for most of us to spend all day, every day during Lent, contemplating Easter. What can your family do to intentionally put God at the center of your life – say for about for 10 – 15 minutes a day?

Here are ideas for your family’s Lent experience. Try one (and repeat daily)!
  • Ask questions: Agree to spend 12 minutes a day with your family discussing this month’s Bible story. For March/April 2019 use these discussion questions as a guide, or dig deeper into the reading-the-Bible-a-bit-a-day plan for the story of Holy week.
  • Experience God in nature: Go for a walk outside. To give your walk some focus make it a discovery walk (to notice one new thing) or a smelling walk (what smells come to your attention) or a prayer walk (pray for everyone whose house you pass).
  • Journal through Lent: Leave an open notebook on the counter with a pen handy. Ask everyone to jot down or draw instances where they have seen God at work in their daily life. Review the entries over dinner.
  • Bless your child(ren) and yourself! Read about this way to enrich your child’s life here. For blessings to choose from check out here.
  • Give up something: Can you fast from using anything dependent on electricity? Can you turn off the phone, the TV, the refrigerator? (Hey, it’s only for a short time. As long as you remember to turn it back on!) Eat dinner by candlelight. Tell stories of past Easter celebrations.
  • Add something: Silence. Can everyone agree to be silent for a set amount of time? (Okay, age appropriateness may come into play here.) Ask everyone to think of when they experienced beauty. In their mind return to that particular scene. Study it in silence. Talk about it afterwards. Where was God in your picture?
  • Improve upon your “silence” experience by having everyone chip in to create a “sacred spot” in your household. What visual reminders will enhance this place? A cross here, scripture written on an index card there? Allow touching and rearranging and additions and subtractions.
  • Serve others some happiness: Look for opportunities to be the difference in someone’s day. Compliment janitors at work on how nice the building looks, how you appreciate the work they do. Whom else can you thank?

How will your family prepare to take in the full meaning of Easter?

Need more Lenten family activities? The list continues here.

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Photo credits…
An old-fashioned way of calculating by Leo Reynolds, licensed under Creative Commons (BY NC-SA 2.0).

How I survived All Saints’ Day with help from an impenetrable fog

The day’s first light disclosed a thick, soupy fog. My initial thought:
Drat! Another bleak, dreary day; so common in autumn around these parts.

The weather matched my mood.

A foggy day on the lake

How appropriate, I thought, for this to be my window-view…

On the day we celebrate “All Saints’ Day” in church – an event that I wasn’t sure I could handle.

But then…

(surprisingly)… upon closer scrutiny of the dark greyness…

I discovered…

amiable beauty in this somber landscape!

Curious coloration.
A softness to edges.
An almost mysterious misty-look.
Peaceful.

So what is All Saints’ Day (United Methodists? Celebrating Saints?)
and how does it relate to an impenetrable fog with uplifting elegance?

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First, All Saints’ Day…

  • Actually occurs on November 1st but is celebrated on the first Sunday in November.
  • Got started for the Western church, around the 4th century, initially honoring those who had died, who had led holy, laudable lives for Christ. (Think of the capital-S-real-stuff Saints.)
  • Later expanded to include everybody – dead or alive! Anyone who has shared their faith; who has leveled the path before us. Often referred to as the great cloud of witnesses.
  • For United Methodists, “saints” are different than those in the Roman Catholic tradition. In the FAQ about what United Methodists believe, it clarifies our tenets on this matter.
  • Includes in particular remembering those who have died in the past year who were members of the congregation, and… well… those who were close to you who have recently left this earth.

The latter point ties the fog to the memory of saints.

I lost both my parents this past summer. Five weeks apart. I wasn’t ready to face (again) a remembrance of so-close, lost saints. (Are we ever?)

It has been hard. Sort of like being in a deep fog.

But then I remembered… As he receives the Ten Commandments, Moses goes up the mountain and “approached the thick darkness where God was.” Exodus 20:21.

Darkness can contain the presence of God.

The fog this morning was a reminder. In what could be seen as dreary darkness, when I looked closer, I found reason to give thanks for beauty. God was with me in my darkness.

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Photo credits:
An as-it-was, un-retouched photo from my archives. Shared at Flickr; licensed under a Creative Commons (BY NC-SA 2.0).

Hero Central VBC – a check-in

The logo for our Hero Central VBC

At Hero Central Vacation Bible Camp (VBC) at FUMC the week is flying past. But we’ve been learning plenty and…

Discovering Our Strength in God!

Here’s a slide show of photos from our most recent activities! You can visit other posts on our Hero Central VBC, to see more pictures.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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Every morning, the first thing we do when we gather at Opening Assembly is to engage in some rowdy singing and dancing. Among the songs we’ve been singing are Leap of Faith and Everlasting God and Superheroes. Based on the level of participation I do believe that singing is the favorite activity of the day.

We love to help lead the singing!

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Each day during VBC we are learning a character quality that helps all of us be God’s heroes. Wednesday we learned that:

God’s Heroes Have Wisdom!

What was the Bible story that went with our day about wisdom? It was about an experience Jesus had as a young boy. Read about it in Luke 2:41-52. This was a time in Jesus’ life when he grew strong and wise. (Kind of like our kids are doing!) He was also growing in other ways: he was exploring his calling; he was delving into his spiritual self.

Do we allow our kids the chance to grow spiritually?.

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Thursday’s hero character attribute was:

God’s Heroes Have Hope!

Our story from the Bible that illustrates this Hero Code is from The Beatitudes, found in Matthew 5. The Beatitudes tell us about God’s priorities: being humble and compassionate; working with our community to provide hope for others.

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This year we have such a large Grad Group, that they have been able to divide (and conquer) lots of different service projects.

  • Cleaning up the grounds around our Green Wood campus, and tending the veggie garden that is there. (Everything that comes out of this garden gets donated to the Food Gatherers Faith and Food program.)
  • Help distribute food from the pantry at Bryant Community Center.
  • Working with young kids during academic rotations at one of Community Action Network (CAN)’s summer camps.
  • Making and delivering lots of healthy snacks for the CAN summer camps. These camps are designed to prevent summer loss of learning. Having great snacks to eat helps learning!
  • Collecting, counting, and delivering our VBC service project items. Everyday at the closing time they report on our progress towards our goal.

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Continue the learning at home!

Here are a couple of questions to talk about around the family dinner table. (Or wherever your family is gathered together – perhaps in the car?)

  • When we say God values wisdom, what is “wisdom”? What are some ways that we can grow in wisdom? (Jesus calls all of us to be his “disciples” – and what is a disciple but a student!)
  • When was the last time you hoped for something? Did you have to wait for what you were hoping for? What are ways we can bring hope to others? How can bringing hope to someone else, end up blessing us?
  • How can being kind (merciful) or working as a peace-maker bring hope? Which of the other Beatitudes can empower us to offer hope?

~~ Carol, on behalf of the VBC Team


Photo credits:
Hero Central images used by permission of Cokesbury.
Rest of photos courtesy of various volunteers at VBC!