I know this post is coming a little late, as Lent began two days ago, but I almost didn’t write it at all! I wasn’t sure if anyone would really have much interest in our Lent challenge…and I let doubt come in and push it off. Then a few sisters encouraged me to share what we are doing and I decided, LET’S DO THIS.
What is Lent?
Before this year, all Lent was to me was a season where I pretended I was going to give up breadchipssugarsoda, anything that was “bad”, for a season. When I was younger our church would mention it and we would all sign up. I would proudly tell my Mema exactly what I would give up for Lent and she would tell me hers. To be completely honest, Mema usually won. In my childhood mind, Lent was a time to “win.”
Then we came up to my years struggling with an eating disorder and I’m ashamed to say, I used Lent as a means to restrict food even more than usual. I would purposefully abstain from bad foods. I would claim to be fasting different things that had higher calories. I talk about how my eating disorders most lethal weapon was taking away my faith.
My favorite post I’ve read on the matter of what Lent is for can be found on Arabah Joy’s blog. I was written by a woman I follow on Instagram who writes at the blog Joy Pursued. The post can be found here.
My basic understanding when I began writing this challenge up for our children was this: Lent was a time to prepare our hearts for the gift of Jesus and Resurrection Sunday. It was 40 days to reflect the time Jesus spent in the desert, being tempted by the devil yet never faltering nor failing us.
I really wanted to make clear this was a season to prepare our hearts for Jesus, not to simply give up something we kind of like.
So I dove began praying over what we could do for those forty days as a family that would bring us closer to Jesus. And in my moments of prayer, words began to stick out to me. Fasting, of course. There’s no denying that fasting is a real way to connect with Jesus. Prayer. Loving others. Serving others. Giving. Being thankful.
I wracked my brain to try and find a way to put this all into a little box and pretty metaphor and in the midst of prayer it came to me: GIFT.
What is GIFT?
GIFT, very simply, stands for Giving, Intercession, Fasting, and Thankfulness. Upon reading more posts about Lent, the more I felt convicted to talk about these four areas for Lent.
Each night at dinner, I am presenting the challenge for the next day. The challenges that are daily are based on giving, intercession, and fasting. Each night at dinner we will also be sharing what we are thankful for and writing it on our thankful board.
Why Giving? Why Intercession? Why Fasting? Why Thankfulness?
The Gospel is very clear about giving: time, money, our spiritual gifts…it tells us all to give. Whether we are tithing or volunteering, we are to be cheerful givers. While my children are currently “okay” givers, especially when it comes to material things, I want to raise them to give as much as they can. I want to raise them to believe that their discomfort is acceptable as long as they are giving to others whom they love dearly. And I want them to understand that they should love every other person in this world dearly. Our giving challenges are focused in all forms of giving.
“Every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the LORD your God which He has given you.” Deuteronomy 16:17
“But be sure to fear the LORD and serve him faithfully with all your heart; consider what great things he has done for you.” 1 Samuel 12:24
I have also felt a huge push towards prayer, or intercession the past few months. I’ve read a few books on the matter lately and have felt so called to cultivate a healthy prayer life. In that I want to create a healthier prayer life for our children as well. While I believe we are okay with giving, I fear we have not pushed prayer as much as we should. We hear of the stories where Jesus went out on his own and sat in prayer, we hear of the power a healing prayer, we are told He hears our every prayer. Yet here we sit, not using this wondrous gift as much as we should. Our prayer challenges are all about praying for others, praying together, and praying in intercession.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” Philippians 4: 6-7
“Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” 1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18
Fasting is a spiritual tool that has also come to my mind and heart recently, but in different ways. I’ve been trying to inentionally fast from television during the late hours I’m not sleeping, from my phone while we are all together as a family, and I’m planning a fast to try and hear God’s voice clearer later this month. The fasting we are doing as a family will not come a full food fast or anything like that. We will be fasting from television, snacks, saying unkind things and the likes.
“Whenever you fast, do not put on a gloomy face as the hypocrites do, for they neglect their appearance so that they will be noticed by men when they are fasting Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. “But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face so that your fasting will not be noticed by men, but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.” Matthew 6: 16-18
And our final challenge is in thankfulness. We try very hard to talk about how thankful and grateful we are each day, but we have fallen off the wagon recently. So much so Josh and I have had a few talks about what we could do to help reinstate our usual dedicaton to thankfulness. This Lenten season came at the perfect time. Each day we will be writing down what we are thankful for on our board.
“Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.” 1 Chronicles 16:34
Our list is pretty great, all of it, but to save some space, I only want to share a few of the ideas we are using. I hope upon reading these you come up with some ideas that work really well for your family as well!
Pray for a leader in the church
Clean the church
Pray for someone you don’t like
Make cards for shut ins in the church
Research a charity
Pray for the charity
Donate money to the charity (These three are my favorites I think. I cannot wait to see my kids research injustices and choose who to help)
Pray for our pastor
Pray for our church family
No television for the day
Give up something you love for 24 hours
Pray for someone you don’t like
Don’t say anything mean today
Smile at people you meet
Clean up an outside area
Help with a chore at home
Clean up our yard
Make cookies and give them to people
Collect loose change and donate it
Donate clothes or toys
Pick out a canned food to donate
What are you doing for Lent? Are you giving something up? Are you recognizing it with your children?