Sunday, February 28, 2016

Observing Lent with my Kids - Week 3

Today in church school the girls heard the story of Jesus's baptism. On the way home I mentioned our lenten table, and Alessia suggested a bowl of water to go with the story. Up until this point I've made all the suggestions about what to put on our lenten table, so I was glad that she made a suggestion of her own. This afternoon we read the story of John baptizing Jesus, and then we went back and read the creation story. We talked about how the water that God created in the beginning was the same water that Jesus was baptised in and the water that we were baptised in. Interconnectedness seems to be the theme of our Lent. I hadn't planned on that, but the girls are really enjoying it, and it is an idea that has grown in importance for me over the years as well. I showed them the shell that the minister Alessia gave us at her baptism, and I talked about how priests along time ago used shells to pour the water when baptising. The girls brought up the book Big Anthony by Tomie dePaola. In the book, Little Anthony is being baptised and he knocks the shell out of the priest's hands and spills the holy water everywhere. Olivia put the shell on our lenten table and Alessia and I got a bowl of water. They were pretty ready to run off and play at that point, but I got them to stick with me long enough to bless the water as we do in church before a baptism.

Friday we found ourselves talking about Ash Wednesday again. Olivia and I were at the library and I found a book called Stars Under Your Bed: the Surprising Story of Dust. While the book itself is not at all religious, it fit in well with our discussion on Ash Wednesday and our theme of interconnectedness. So I brought it home to read in the afternoon after Alessia got home from school. On the way home from school we made a quick stop and as we were getting ready to leave, Alessia said to no one in particular "When a kid dies they turn to dust." Oh. I said "yes, honey. Remember when mamma told you that the minsters on Ash Wednesday say 'remember you are from dust'? They also say 'and to dust you shall return'." I hadn't said it on Ash Wednesday, because I had wanted the focus to be on our creation. I quickly added "but there is another part of us, inside, the part that makes us us, that continues, that goes on to be with God." We were in a public space and heading out the door, and so I ended the conversation there. When we got home we read the dust book. Both girls loved it. They loved the idea that the dust around us comes from everywhere, animals, plants, sea spray, and even, yes, the stars, and some of that dust has been around for a very long time. I brought up what Alessia had said when we were out, and again I said that our bodies turn to dust, but there is another part of us inside. I said that that our bodies are a gift from God, our bodies are what allow us to see, hear, taste, touch, and smell the world around us (Alessia got a big smile here as she loves reading about the human body), but that there is also another part of us. Olivia demanded in her 3-year-old way "what's it called?" And I realized that I've never used the word soul with the kids before. "Our souls, our souls live on. My dad's body turned to dust after he died, but his soul, the part of him that was him, the part of him that loved me, that part went on to be with God." I hadn't intended to say any of that. It just came out. And all three of us sat there absorbing it, before we picked up the next book.




Monday, February 22, 2016

Observing Lent with my Kids - Week 2

Today we read the story of the young Jesus staying behind in Jerusalem to talk with the men in the temple. We focused on Jesus' response to his parents, "Did you not know I would be in my father's house?" I asked the girls what other time we hear God talked about as Father. Alessia said in church when we pray. So we talked about how Jesus taught us to pray that way, and how we can think of God as our father, just as Jesus called God his father. We also talked about how we can pray "Our Mother, who art in heaven," because God is neither man nor woman. As something to help us remember to pray to God, we put on the lenten tray a rosary that my father gave me before he died. My kids had never seen a rosary before, but they each have protestant prayer beads so they recognized the rosary as prayer beads.

Alessia goes to a Catholic preschool. I asked her how they start prayers at school. She made the sign of the cross and said "In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, Amen." I told them that some people also say "In the name of the Creator and the Redeemer and the Sustainer," and another way to think about God our Mother/Father is to think about God as our Creator. This tied in to last week when we talked about God as creating us and all people and animals and plants and the whole earth. I asked them if there was something we could put on the lenten tray to help us remember that God is our creator, something else in the house that is alive that God created. We ruled out daddy and the cat as they might get up and walk away. In the end we settled on a house plant.

It's been amazing to me how my kids light up when I tell them that God created them and all people and animals and plants and even the rocks and the dirt of the earth itself. This sense of being connected to God and all of God's creation is very meaningful to them.



Sunday, February 14, 2016

Observing Lent with my kids

This year for the first time I am observing Lent with my girls. At our church we present Lent to the children as a time to prepare ourselves for the Mystery Easter by learning how Jesus' life prepared him for Easter. Each Sunday, the children learn a story from Jesus's life and are invited to connect that story to other stories they have heard in church school. So on the third Sunday of Lent when we teach the story of Jesus' baptism, the children might connect that to the liturgical lesson on baptism. On the fourth Sunday when we teach the story of Jesus' time in the desert, the children might connect that to the Old Testament stories that take place in the desert.

At home we are going to follow up on the stories told in church school by reading them together in a story Bible. I'm going to put a tray on the table where we had our manger scene this past Christmas, and as we read each story I'm going to discuss the story with the kids and then invite them to help me add things to the table. In church they will be connecting the stories about Jesus to other sacred stories. At home we will be connecting the stories told about Jesus to our own experiences and life stories. I have objects in mind for each week, but I want to leave it open to their ideas as well. The tray I have is fairly large and there is room on the table around the tray if we need it.

We started on Ash Wednesday. We read the creation stories, and I told them that in church on Ash Wednesday ministers take ashes and make crosses on people's foreheads, just like they do with water at baptisms. I told them that the ministers say to people, "Remember you come from dust." We talked about God creating man from dust in the creation story, and God creating us from the same dust as all the other people and creatures and dirt on Earth. Not having any ashes on hand, we put some dirt from a potted plant in a bowl and added that to our tray.

Today, the first Sunday of Lent, we read the story of Jesus' birth, which is by now very familiar to my girls. Alessia was almost bored in fact. I told them that Jesus came here in the same way that we did, as a tiny human child, to share our humanity with us. This got Alessia interested again. We put our baby Jesus from our Nativity scene on the tray, along with baby pictures of all four of us.