The Lenten Calendar was put together by our dear friend Sarah Cowan Johnson. For more of her family discipleship and coaching resources visit her at sarahcowanjohnson.com
Due to an unforeseen printing delay we are posting week 2 below. You can pick up all six calendar cards this coming Sunday.
Lent is a 40-day season in the Church year that leads up to Easter. During Lent, we remember Israel’s 40 years wandering in the desert wilderness, and Jesus’ 40 days of fasting and being tempted in the desert wilderness. We also reflect on the human condition—our sinfulness, our mortality, specific areas of temptation in our lives, and our need for redemption.
Many people fast during Lent as a way of preparation and consecration, as a way to empty themselves in order to be filled by the Holy Spirit, and as a means of reflecting on the deepest and truest human hunger and thirst, which is for God.
When the Israelites wandered in the desert, God fed them with manna, bread from heaven that fell on the ground like dew. If you are unfamiliar with this story, consider reading it at the beginning of Lent (Exodus 16). We will use the idea of manna to reflect on God’s provision and goodness.
Regular confession of sin is a common practice during Lent. Confession is merely revealing what is already known to the One who loves us no matter what. For the believer, confession is a pathway to freedom; never to condemnation.
Spiritual practices of “resistance,” or abstaining from something good, often help us to see and experience God in a unique way. Fasting is one such practice, and so are practices like solitude, silence, Sabbath, etc. We will focus on practicing silence together, but you may also decide to fast from food or other things during Lent.
The 40 days of Lent do not include Sundays, because every Sunday is a mini-Easter when we remember Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. There are 6 mini-Easters in Lent to celebrate and remember this Very Good News.
This Lenten Calendar will rotate us through three repeated practices. Repetition is an important learning tool, and these practices are appropriate for both adults and children.
For those using this calendar with children, consider setting aside time at dinnertime or bedtime – whichever is the least stressful and chaotic in your home. For parents with babies and toddlers who will be unable to participate fully in these practices, practicing them yourselves alongside your children will serve as important modeling and will shape your devotional rhythms as a family.
- LOOKING FOR MANNA
This practice is intended to help you become more aware of God’s goodness and provision. For small children, it could be a very simple practice of thanksgiving: “What’s one thing you what to thank God for today?” For older children, and for adults, the practice could go a little deeper and serve as a way to look for evidence of God’s presence during the day, his provision and protection, or his activity in the world. Another name for this practice could be a God hunt: Where have you seen God today? The goal is to recognize and remember God’s provision, even in difficult wilderness-like circumstances.
2. SILENT CONFESSION OF SIN
This practice helps us to enter in to one of the primary themes of Lent. For adults, this practice is self- explanatory. For those practicing silent confession with children: Teaching our children to confess their sins not just to us, but directly to God, is an essential part of helping them to foster an intimate relationship with God. Too often we prefer to be mediators of this relationship, rather than facilitators. For very young children, this exercise may be complex. If they can’t practice confession silently, they are welcome to do it verbally, but do encourage them to “talk to Jesus” rather than to you. It’s important to remind our children that they are loved, that they are forgiven, that nothing they can say will ever surprise God or cause him to reject them. At the end of the silence, thank God for his forgiveness.
3. 60 SECONDS OF SILENCE
This practice is also self-explanatory for adults, but may be very challenging to execute as a family. For those with young children: Have a sense of humor about it and use every experience—even the less- than-ideal ones—as a learning opportunity. As you attempt to keep silence personally, ask God to share his thoughts with you and to encourage you in the journey of leading your children spiritually.
Each day’s prompt includes a reflection question after the practice.
- For adults using this calendar solo, take some time to reflect and/or journal.
- For adults practicing together, consider it a conversation prompt.
- For families with older children, think of this as a conversation-starter for the dinner table. Invite your children to share their opinions freely without fear of being “wrong” or saying something you won’t like. For teenagers especially, do your best to hold space for their doubts and questions, as threatening as they may feel to you. Questioning is an essential step in the development of an adult, owned faith.
- For parents of very young and/or non-verbal children, if there are at least two adults in the household, you can have the conversation yourselves while your children listen in. Modeling and learning to talk about spiritual things with your children is a key piece of helping them to grow and develop spiritually. If you are a single parent, you can share your thoughts with your children, knowing it may be more of a one-sided conversation—and that is completely fine!
During Lent, every Sunday is a mini-Easter! On Sundays we remember that Jesus is alive, risen from the dead—and so we celebrate! For many who fast during Lent, Sunday is a day of feasting and fast- breaking. This calendar will lead your family through 6 mini-Easter celebrations. The practice for Sundays is the practice of Family Blessing.
For adults using this calendar solo, you could consider taking some time to bless a friend or loved one via text, phone, or a hand-written note.
For adults practicing together and for families: Around the dinner table, ask each (verbal) member of the family to give a blessing to each other member. Put someone in the “blessing seat” (literal or figurative), and ask each other member of the family to thank God for something wonderful about that person. This is a way that we can honor and celebrate not only each other, but God’s beautiful creativity in thinking each one of us up.
When you bless each other, try not to focus on attributes that have to do with their accomplishments— that is praise—as much as attributes that have to do with their being—which is where true blessing happens. For example, “Thank you God that Rylie is so smart she got all As,” has a very different ring from, “Thank you God for Rylie’s creative, curious mind.” Help your kids to notice the difference too, and to grow in their ability to bless people for who they are, not what they do.
We also encourage you to enjoy a special meal on Sunday. This could mean simply lighting candles or using fancier plates, but it could also mean ordering takeout, cooking everyone’s “favorites” over the 6 weeks, having breakfast for dinner, making a special dessert, etc. How can you make your mini-Easter meals memorable?
“Where did you feel joy today?” is the reflection question on every Sunday prompt. Enjoy this joy-hunt and thank God for his goodness to you!
During Holy Week, you’ll notice that the Scripture passages become longer and the practices shift. Through the week, we will be tracing and remembering Jesus’ path to the cross—his anointing at Bethany, the clearing of the Temple, Judas’ plot to betray him, the Last Supper, his death on the cross, and then the excruciatingly silent day of waiting on Saturday.
On Thursday, we remember the Last Supper, and the washing of the disciples feet. If your church does not have a foot-washing service on Maundy Thursday (some do!), this can be an incredibly powerful practice to do at home.
For adults using this calendar solo, you could consider inviting friends to join you to celebrate together.
You’ll want to get a bowl of warm water, some wash clothes, and several dry towels. In the final section, you will find a liturgy that you can use as you remember this special night together.