We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand. ~Isaiah 64:8

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Our Disciplines of Lent

There are three areas of discipline we will be engaging in this Lent: prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.

Now, you say, shouldn't you be doing those ALL year? Well, yes. But Lent offers us a time to re-double our efforts...to go a bit beyond our normal practices...to perhaps recommit to those disciplines we may have recently let slide...or to begin something new.


Prayer
We want to foster family prayer beyond our usual meal grace and nighttime parent-child prayers, so we have decided to begin family prayer times twice a day: morning and evening. Now, we know we won't manage to get both in every day, but we've set that as the goal for Lent.

The key here is to keep this short and sweet. Literally: Short. Sweet.

We have a family altar set up in our study which serves as a nice gathering point. A bible, cross and Christ Candle are on display with a ribbon corresponding to the church season color wrapped around the base of the candle and cross. (One child is my designated candle lighter and one is my snuffer. They love these "jobs"!)

We gather, light the Christ Candle, and read prayers from the The Anglican Family Prayer Bookfor Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer. We also do the weekly prayer cycle (a different prayer focus for each day) in the morning. In the evening, we offer up personal prayer needs.

For Lent, we will add:

  • On Ash Wednesday, this book has a gentle explanation of the meaning of the ashes and a lovely prayer derived from the Book of Common Prayer.
  • On Fridays, we will close our evening with the Lenten Litany from the above book.

  • For Good Friday, I'm considering hosting a Stations of the Cross for children.

Personally, I'd like to recommit to mid-day prayer for myself using my Anglican Rosary. Dear Neighbor has loaned me her copy of Praying With Beads: Daily Prayers for the Christian Year, which I enjoyed using during Epiphany and will continue for Lent during my mid-day prayer time. I guess I need to purchase my own copy, though!

Each week, I will present a new christian symbol to display on the family altar. These are lovely woodcut-style designs from a great resource:Rings, Kings And Butterflies: Lessons on Christian Symbols for Children. The author offers a symbol each week to correspond with the liturgical year (and the Lectionary) with some background information, activities, and further bible reading.


Fasting
As a family we will enter into "fasting" on Fridays by forgoing our usual Pizza Night and instead having a simple bread and soup meal. I like the idea of finding a way to fast as a family rather than only as individuals. We've never done this before, and I think it will be an encouraging time for us all.

In the book A Continual Feast: A Cookbook to Celebrate the Joys of Family and Faith Throughout the Christian Year, the author explains the historical approach to lenten fasting which "has involved two things... : a reduction in the amount of food eaten...and a change in diet." Modern Roman Catholics refrain only from meat, while Eastern Orthodox Christians have a much more austere fast during Lent (often no meat, dairy, fish, wine, or olive oil on most days of Lent). The point of any fasting is not to do "good works" to their own end, but to offer these self-denials as sacrifices to God.

If you desire to eat more simply, A Continual Feast has many great recipes (not only for Lent, but for the WHOLE church year). Here are some examples of traditional lenten fare the author suggests: Italian Pasta e Fagioli (pasta and bean soup), French Onion Soup (made with vegetable stock), Rumanian Lenten Eggplant, Medieval Lenten Salmon Tart, Pretzels, Greek Palm Sunday Fish, and Rosemary Buns.

My own fasting will involve a few areas: skipping a favorite treat (Starbucks), a focused fast on Fridays (beyond what we do as a family), and giving up my late-night hours.


Almsgiving
Often you hear, "donate the money you save through fasting or simple meals to charity", but I find it hard to figure out the actual difference in cost - beyond a "guess". I think I really have to stick with giving a predetermined amount of money from something not purchased. Since we will not be purchasing pizza dough each week, we'll put money into our alms box. My Starbucks money will also go there.

I'd also like to find a way for the kids to earn some money to contribute to the alms box. If you have any ideas, please share!

This year our alms will go to help a special orphanage-support mission in China. They are working over time right now trying to help provide necessities to the orphanages hardest hit by the recent severe winter weather there. Some of these orphanages are in usually temperate areas and have no heat, so they are unprepared for the snow and ice. The orphanage where Dear Neighbor's new daughter lived in one of these orphanages. Here is a recent report from that orphanage:

Chenzhou CWI, Hunan – still facing the most difficulties of the orphanages we’ve reached. They’ve had no electricity or running water for 8 days and there is almost no possibility that power will be restored before New Year’s Eve (the 6th of February.) Because of the blackout, the hospital is closed. 20 children are ill and being cared for by institution staff as well as they can. The banks are closed so staff is contributing personal funds to buy food, coal and diapers. Prices are skyrocketing as all roads to Chenzhou remain impassable.


Please consider giving! (see the red button on the link page)

Read the rest of the series.

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