We can help create the conditions for this relationship by modeling our own relationship with God. Keep it real though, because artificially flavored spirituality tastes like cough syrup. We can also help our children set up habits towards relationship with God by helping them reflect on God’s presence in their everyday lives.
On April 5th, I am beginning a blog series on how to help children thrive, entitled Help Along the Way. Years ago when I began this work I told a dear friend of mine that I would never write or speak on anything close to parenting. (I also said my kids would never have a phone before they were sixteen. Humble pie tastes like old shoes.)
Lent is a few days; it begins on Valentine's Day this year. There are endless ways to mark our lives by the life of Christ during Lent and one way many churches have engaged is meditation and prayer using a Labyrinth.
Labyrinths have been around for thousands of years. People have used them for various reasons, but Christians have been using them for prayer since the Middle Ages. Labyrinths have the wonderful possibility of moving prayer into our bodies.
Children are notoriously good at expressing all things with their bodies. Just take a toddler into a lively worship service and their joy will leak out into their bodies and maybe on the floor, but that's another matter.
Today I’m sharing an attempt at a Guided Prayer: The Way of the Cross for children.
Some ways and places for this meditation might be-
· As a guided conversation with God (prayer) while walking a labyrinth
· As guided prayer while engaging the Stations of the Cross
· Older children can use this meditation alone while walking a labyrinth or Stations of the Cross
· Younger children can share the time and meditation with an adult who loves them while walking a labyrinth or Stations of the Cross
Please feel free to print out this guided prayer , fold it in half and offer it to children within your sphere of influence and take a conversational walk with God.
One last reminder, the conversations of children with their God can be private. It’s helpful to keep the words of George MacDonald in mind,
“A parent must respect the spiritual person of his child, and approach it with reverence, for that too looks the Father in the face and has an audience with Him into which no earthly parent can enter even he dared to desire it.”
If a child shares their conversation with God with you, you are on sacred ground indeed. Respect the holiness of that moment by not sharing the conversation with anyone else, unless you receive the child’s permission.
If a child doesn’t share anything with you, you are on sacred ground indeed. Surely we remember from our FFA class that seeds germinate in the rich, secrete space of hiddenness. There is no space where the Spirit is not working up something, even if adults can’t see it.
Yes. Let it be so.
Many of us think of our families as tiny monasteries used by the Spirit to deepen our relationships and form us into the likeness of Jesus. As such, setting our life to the rhythm of the Seasons of the Church helps us to mark our life by the life of Jesus. This rhythm has seasons of celebration, seasons of monotony and even seasons of lament. Lent is a season of lament. Lent begins with Ash Wednesday, the day that marks the beginning of our season of lament.
We open the door for lament when we begin with the knowledge that God created all things good and for good. As we hold the knowledge of the good God intended with the knowledge of how that goodness has darkened, we lament. We lament darkness on all levels of community: worldwide, nation wide, local community, family, and personal. We take a step deeper into lament when we reflect on when we have forgotten that we are God’s beloved, when we have forgotten God’s mandate for good. We reflect on the ways we have not lived into our true identity as the beloved of God, purveyors of good. We also reflect on the ways we have forgotten that other people are God’s beloved. We reflect on when we didn’t give the honor due to a beloved of God.
Keep in mind, lament often leads to more lament. When we make space for grief, our other losses may rise to the surface. This is an opportunity to offer those losses to God, to grieve them with God and then seek the healing.
What would it look like in your family to make space for an ongoing conversation about loss, to give voice to lament, to grief?
What would it look like in your family to ask the Spirit to heal darkness at every level of community?
Ash Wednesday in many churches is marked by the imposition of the ashes on the forehead in the shape of a cross. The person giving the ashes rubs their thumb in the ashes and then makes a cross on the forehead of the person receiving the ashes.
You may choose to attend an Ash Wednesday service in your local church and receive the ashes there or maybe you’d like engage this sacred tradition at home.
Ashes are created from the palm fronds from last year’s Palm Sunday. The fronds are burned and then mixed with olive oil to make a paste. See the following Youtube video for creating your own ashes. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hZaG46H72sQ If you do not have palm fronds from last year, you can purchase them from a florist and put them in the oven on very low heat to dry them out. Then burn them and mix 2 part ash to 1 part olive oil. The ashes symbolize our grief and sorrow. The olive oil symbolizes the Spirit’s healing of wounds.
Talk about the significance of the ash and oil. Then on Ash Wednesday gather together and light the Christ Candle. Read Genesis 1: 26-27, talk about how God created each person in his image to reflect God’s likeness. Discuss what God’s likeness looks like. (Hint: It looks like Jesus.) When have you forgotten that you are God’s beloved? When have you forgotten that someone else is God’s beloved?
When imposing the ashes it is often said, “Remember that you are made from dust and to dust you will return.” Feel free to say this while imposing the ashes.
As children are just building upon their relationship with God, the following may also be said to remind them, to remind all of us, of our true identity.
“God has said, ‘You are my beloved. Chosen and marked by my love.’”