Thursday, February 20, 2020

Fertile Soil and Growing Light

In these clear, bright days I have been extra attuned to the beauty of the growing light. We're about to enter the season of Lent. Like Advent it's a season of anticipation. But unlike Advent which heads steadily into darkness, Lent anticipates new life and the light grows. It is also a time of waiting readiness. Under the dark soil, seeds are being germinated and prepared, inside the buds, trees ready themselves to bloom.

In worship this season, we're using the theme "I want to see," acknowledging the difficulty in following through on Jesus' message and the gap in our understanding of what we're really supposed to do as disciples. As the adults in the lives of young people we're not only trying to be disciples ourselves, we have this extra responsibility (if we take it on) of bringing the kids in our lives along on the Jesus road. During the time of growing light, we're praying that the light may grow in us too. During this time of fertile germination, we pray that moments of clarity might bloom.

I wonder Lent gives us some opportunities for introducing faith formation practices into our homes and to our children. Seasonal practices can be times to say, "Let's try this thing for a few weeks as we wait for Easter." I know lots of adults who give something up for Lent - the practice of fasting intended to make space in our spirit for a depth of connection with our Creator. But giving up food isn't necessarily going to be a fruitful practice for a little one - or for a family to practice together.

Last year for a time I tried prayer cards with dinner prayers and psalms. It worked for awhile until the cards became a source of conflict - who gets to pick the card, which color we'd read, etc. This year I'm going to try again with beloved Bible texts - especially prophetic and hope-filled verses that have helped me to remember the coming newness of life, and which I hope my children will also learn to know.

Here are a few other suggestions for practices for Lent. Maybe some of them will resonate or be adaptable for your family.

Reading together: In her book Faith at Home: A Handbook for Cautiously Christian Parents, Wendy Claire Barrie suggests a family read-aloud, choosing a book with spiritual resonance like The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe or A Wrinkle in Time. I remember my mind being blown as a pre-teen when I began to see the Biblical story in the story of Aslan and the Pevensies in C.S. Lewis's book.

Planting Seeds: If you're a gardener who starts their own seeds, now is a great time to start plants and to use that opportunity to talk about new life. Lacy Finn Borgo and Ben Barczi in Good Dirt: Lent, Holy Week and Eastertide suggest planting a seed next to the side of a clear cup, so that you can see the roots grow and change. Each time the seeds is watered and observed is a time to remember the way we are 'watered' and nurtured through a relationship with God.

Grow a Butterfly: Borgo and Barczi also suggest ordering a butterfly kit to see the growth and transformation of caterpillar to butterfly in real time. A butterfly emerging from a cocoon is a beautiful way to draw a parallel to the coming story of Easter and resurrection. This seems like a very cool project and I think I'm going to try it! The authors suggest Carolina Biological Supply but I'm sure there are plenty of other suppliers if you Google.

Collecting an offering: Almsgiving (along with fasting and prayer) is one of the 'Three Pillars of Lent' A Catholic family I know keeps a collection box on their table which they fill through the season for a church relief organization. As a family you could choose either a local organization or food bank or an international organization like Mennonite Central Committee to collect for. Keep talking about why you're collecting and include them in your prayer if you pray together at meals.

I hope that whatever you decide to do (or not do!) during this coming season, you and your family will be filled with God's Spirit.

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