Monday, 18 February 2013

little lenten lessons

With four children age five and under, I find it challenging to strike a balance between a Lenten atmosphere in the home that is "too much" with one that is "not enough".  Last year's "Lent Report" sort of gives an idea of how hard it is for me to find (and stick with) a plan given all the variables at play!

One new element we're going to give a whirl this year involves this guy......

He's got some buddies too.

My girls' group in New Zealand crafted some fabulous little Biblical hand puppets. We didn't even sew them - we used glue guns (with old clothes, yarn & google-y eyes). It took no time at all. The little critters debuted in a puppet show in Mt Maunganui, illustrating parables during Children's Liturgy - and then a few of them came home to America with me. They've been untouched in a box for over a year. Until.....

I'd been thinking about how to embed Scripture verses in my children's hearts. This process has led me to consider both what and how. I thought a lot about what verses are important, simple and brief enough to be accessible to very young children. Which verses did I most want to plant in their minds and souls, to strengthen and bless them in the years to come? Which would be most valuable given the temperaments of my children and the areas that we are most working on together as a family? And how should I approach this? Drilling for straight memorization didn't appeal to me, but I was having a hard time thinking creatively. Then I suddenly remembered the little puppets and I knew!

I used several resources to begin selecting verses. My Google searches were disappointing and did not fit my purpose well, but they were a good start. Then I "googled" my own heart and jotted down some of the verses that have been important in my own life. I've begun reading my nightly Scripture with an eye for pithy & powerful verses. I'm also paying careful attention when I hear or see Scripture verses in conversation, homilies, books, music & prayer. Anything that's a good fit for what I'm trying to do here gets jotted down on an index card. Some of my "possibilities" so far include:

God is love.      ~1 John 4:8

The Lord is my Shepherd, there is nothing I shall want.       ~Psalm 23:1

Speak the truth in love.     ~Ephesians 4:15

Even children are known by their acts, by whether what they do is pure and right.  ~Proverbs 20:11

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.      ~Philippians 4:13

My child, if sinners entice you, turn your back on them.     ~Proverbs 1:10

Since I am starting this as a Lenten experiment, and using one verse per week, just seven verses or so will be sufficient for my purposes at present. If this is a huge hit, I hope to keep it going, but for now it is a "Lent thing". 

After dinner tonight, my little puppet introduced himself to my children as St Paul. He got to know them a little and then announced that he wanted to share with them something that he wrote to the Hebrews. [He didn't get into the debate that surrounds the authorship of said Epistle, he just claimed authorship (silly puppet).]

 He told them that what he was about to share with them was going to help them love Jesus and love others. After much dramatic throat clearing, he finally read off the index card - enunciating as clearly as any muppet would-  "Encourage - one - another - daily." He asked them if they knew what "encourage" and "daily" meant. Their faces were priceless. Wide-eyed, open-mouthed smiles, staring directly into his google-ing eyes, they silently shook their heads "no".  Even Joseph was beaming at the puppet and struggling to repeat the word "daily". The puppet asked Papa if he knew what those big words meant. He did. After everyone was clear on the terminology, Puppet Paul cleared his throat a few more times and re-read his quote. He pointed out one piece of encouragement that each child (& parent!) had either given or received that day. Then he asked us all to try to practice being an encourager this week (daily) and promised to come back tomorrow night after dinner to talk more about giving encouragement. 

For a week we will reread this one verse and focus on it. Next week, we will move on to a new puppet and a new verse. And I do say "we". I caught myself tonight as I tucked the girls in - usually with a bedtime kiss, I say to each child, "I love you so much. You are such a good little girl (or boy, as the case may be)." Tonight, in lieu of the blanket "good girl" affirmation, I whispered to each girl one particularly good thing I'd observed her do that day. I could see in their eyes how much more that meant to them. I feel excited that this is a Lenten activity that can meet each person in the family on their own level. At the very least, we're all learning Scripture by heart. At best, we'll be living it.