It is Ash Wednesday: the day we are called to be reminded of our mortality by receiving ashes – the symbol of mourning and repentance – in the sign of the cross on our foreheads…
From dust we came and to dust we shall return.
It is on this day that we hear the prophet Joel’s commission:
Return to the LORD, your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love.
And it is on this day that we begin our Lenten path: our journey through the wilderness and to the cross… Our time to retreat from the busyness of life, to reflect on what it means to be human and children of God, and to open our ears to hear and our eyes to see the ways God is present in our lives and around us.
It is our time to recognize that life is short, and therefore to reevaluate how our own lives have and can have meaning in this world.
And as Jesus wandered in the wilderness 2000 years ago between his baptism and the beginning of his ministry to prepare for what was to come, Lent is also our time to wander in the wilderness in preparation for the journey to the cross and Resurrection.
During Lent, some of us take on the ancient practice of “giving up” something… However, whether it is giving up chocolate or coffee, Facebook or tv, this practice does not serve as a means to prove our willpower or to cut a few calories in our diets. But rather, it serves as a means to cut out something in our lives that we seem dependent upon or that consumes us and takes us away from experiencing the grace of God in our spiritual lives, in others, and in ourselves. And some of us also take on an ancient practice of “taking something on” in our lives (in that newly created space) to help us return to God and to focus on the important things in life that we too often miss in our busy schedules: whether it be a prayer or other spiritual practice, a new family activity, a form of community outreach or service, or a physical activity that will improve one’s health.
Yet even now, says the LORD, return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning.
Whatever we do, let us be intentional this Lent. Let us return again and again and again to our God with all our hearts.
“[This is] what Ash Wednesday and Lent is…a thousand opportunities to return to God with all your heart. Returning again to the only thing in which we have any true self-hood …and that is the eternal and divine love of God. The eternal and divine love of God which created you from dust and breath. The eternal and divine love of God to which you will return after your last breath when again you are dust.” – Nadia Bolz-Weber
RESOURCES AND ACTIVITIES FOR LENT PRACTICES AT HOME:
1. Individual practices and devotionals. Some of my favorites are:
D365 devotional (There is a free app for this.)
3 Minute Retreat (There is a $1 app for this.)
Daily Lent Devotionals (by Presbyterian Mission)
Daily Lent Devotional (by Michelle Derusha in conjunction with Southwood Lutheran Church in Lincoln, NE)
2. Devotionals and rituals for Lent to do as a family:
Weekly or Daily Lenten Family Practices:
Lenten Candles (Family of all ages) – weekly devotional and candle lighting ritual
Bedtime Meditation (Young Families)
One Time Lent Activities/Discussions:
Intentionally Celebrating Lent and Easter as a Family (Family of all ages)
Family Activities for the 40 Days of Lent Ideas (Family of all ages)
Ash Wednesday (Adult or Teen Family) – the holy season begins. Learn about this holy day.
The Meaning of Lent (Adult or Teen Family) – questions about Lent? Answers here.
Purpling Your Home (All Families) – some home decorating may get you in the mood.
A Song of Ashes (Young Adult) – what does a popular Bastille song have to do with Lent?
Get Your Ash On (Teen Family) – Did God make mud pies?
Gang Up on Lent (Teen Family) – we’ve got each other’s back.
Planting Alleluias (Young Family) – plant an Alleluia garden and come Easter, celebrate new life!
Lent: Learning to Love (Just for Kids) – it’s a season to practice love.
3. Doing Random acts of kindness:
Random Acts of Kindness Resources: (For everyone!) website with all sorts of ideas
Acts of Kindness: (Teen Family)
4. Sharing what we have with others (our time, gifts, compassion, and money) through volunteering in the community. There are great opportunities in your community where you can volunteer and serve as a family (such as homeless shelters, women and children shelters, community or soup kitchens, etc.): *You and your family will often be surprised at how much you receive from those you planned on “serving.”
Volunteer Match: website that can help locate agencies in your area in need of volunteers
H2O Project for Lent: (For everyone) make water your only beverage during Lent and help give water to those who don’t have access to clean water
Learning to Love (Families with kids)
Family Shield (Young Family)
If you live on the north side of Chicago, some great places to volunteer at are:
Care for Real (Edgewater’s only food and clothing pantry) – hand out food or help sort winter coats and clothes
A Just Harvest Community Kitchen (community kitchen that serves meals every day in Rogers Park) – serve a meal
Sarah’s Circle (women’s shelter in Uptown) – there are many different ways to volunteer
The Night Ministry – serve meals to people on the street (multiple locations)