19 February 2012


Jesus answered, “How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he is with them? The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; then they will fast.                    Matt 9:15

Ash Wednesday is February 22.  Here is a modified version of what I posted last year for Lent (with some additions)!  

Brief History 
Catechumens in the early Church usually were baptized into Christ on Easter Eve, and so they would prepare themselves by fasting and repenting while being taught the Faith.  Soul and body preparation also anticipated reception at the Lord's Table.  This preparation for Easter eventually was lengthened and broadened to include all Christians.

In the West, Easter's date is determined by the phases of the moon: It is the first Sunday after the full moon that occurs on or after March 21.  To determine Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, forty days are counted back from Easter, excluding Sundays.   (We often forget that each Sunday is a feast itself, a mini-Easter to celebrate Christ's victory over sin, death and the devil!)  The forty days is reminiscent of Jesus's forty days in the wilderness, Moses's forty days on Sinai, the forty days and nights of rain during the Great Flood, etc. 

The Church sets aside Lent as a time of repentance and preparation for remembering the Crucifixion and Resurrection.  Matthew 6:1-14 outlines the three traditional practices of Lent: alms, prayer, fasting, and is a good focus point for keeping our Lent evangelical, not legalistic.

Pastor Weedon over at Weedon's Blog on keeping our fast, prayers, and charity evangelical (emphasis mine):

The Gospels for these Sundays teach us that our salvation is a gift, not the result of our efforts; that it is accomplished by the power of God's Word; that by faith in our Jesus, we will go up to Jerusalem with Him, having our eyes opened to see that He is indeed the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.  With this wonderful theological grounding, we also remember the wise words of Adolf K√∂berle:  "At all events even asceticism can be described by the paradoxical statement:  Its exercise can give salvation to no one but its neglect can corrupt anyone." 
So as not to fall into that corruption, the Lenten disciplines are set before us.  Not as though they are tools we ought use only during the Lenten days, but as training for all our days of battling the old man in the power of the Holy Spirit and with the joyful concurrence of the new man."

Remember that these suggestions are just that--suggestions--and not a checklist of what you should do. Pick and choose.  Also, take into consideration your particular situation.  I will not be fasting, since I'm pregnant nursing.  I also will strive to keep my meals simple (no elaborate seafood or vegetarian meals).  I would much rather fulfill my vocation by loving my children and husband than fulfill what the world would see as "Lenten duties."  Prepare for Easter with joy and reflection!

*Change the color on your family altar or Church Year bulletin board to purple, the color of Lent and repentance.  (Maybe you just have something small, like dining room table candles you can change as the church seasons change.  The point is a physical reminder around the house of what time of the church year we are in.)  

*Place a prayer book and small "collection plate" or bank for alms on the family altar, to remind all of the Lenten focus.  

*Begin a family devotional practice such as family lectionary reading (Treasury of Daily Prayer or the Daily Lectionary inside the Lutheran Service Book are wonderful resources to begin this), or simply family prayer time, if you don't already do that.  

*Learn a new prayer (my kids will learn the Morning Prayer, so far the hardest for us to fit into our routine). 

*Begin (or return to) self-examination and repentance of sins each night.  This is a great opportunity for your children to become familiar with with the liturgy of private Confession and Absolution.  

Have you taken your child to private Confession?  How old was he?  How does your church introduce this gift to the little ones?  I've heard some kids just go along with their parents for a while, but I don't know about that...  I'm eager to hear about your experiences or church's practices.

Learn an appropriate hymn and Bible verse(s) for Lent.  Ask your pastor what hymns your church will be learning or singing a lot.

* (Speaking of...) Start meeting your pastor for private confession  and absolution on a regular basis. (Perhaps when mom and dad go on a regular basis, the children will naturally (out of curiosity) desire to go, too.)

* Read  Meditations on Divine Mercy.

* Make a Jesus Tree

* Study a particular country whose Christians are under persecution.  Pray for those Christians every day

Practice hospitality.  Sundays feel more like the feasts they are during Lent than other times in the year.  Ask people in your congregation over for Sunday dinner, especially people you don't get a chance to talk to very often.  Ask neighbors over for dessert and coffee during the week.  

Give generously to those in need, both in your church and in your community.  Find out who is unemployed in your congregation.  Visit shut-ins (some may see no one from their church but their pastor for months).  A fond memory I have of my childhood is visiting a nursing home once a week, bringing little crafts or goody-bags.

Other ideas?  Please send pictures of your Lenten family altars!

18 February 2012


Battle of Carnival and Lent by Pieter The Younger Brueghel
Battle of Carnival and Lent Peter the Younger Brueghel

Shrovetide, the Monday and Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, are used to prepare for the season of preparation!  Make practical plans to fast (alter menus and grocery lists, talk as a family about how you will fast), prepare Lenten decorations, and go hear the proclamation of forgiveness in private Confession and Absolution. if you don't confess regularly already.  

And on Tuesday, make pancakes!

From fisheaters.com
At Westminster School in London, the "Pancake Grease" is held, an event during which the schoolmaster tosses a very large pancake over a bar that's set to about 15 feet high. The children make a mad scramble for it, and whoever emerges with the largest piece is the winner. 

14 February 2012

Valentine's Day (February 14)

An idea for Valentine's Day:
Write up lists of what you love about each family member.  Give all the lists to said family members.

I decided to do this on a whim (and after Emily inspired me).  I forgot to get anything (anything!) for my husband today, so I sent him this list via email.  I used to journal once a month or so about what the kids are up to, but I haven't in a year.  So now Google will save a list each February 14 of my kid updates.  And I can look up the lists whenever I'm feeling grumpy or resentful.

When the kids are older, they can participate.  Nothing like telling folks you love how much you appreciate them!

I love M----- 
for his scratchy beard
for going to Logli's late at night to get peanut-butter M&Ms (or Reese's Pieces.  OR BOTH)
for forgetting Valentine's Day, just like me (we're made for each other)
for working 21-hour days sometimes
for making spinach balls
for building bacon-houses and elaborate church-castles and towers out of DUPLO
for reading more than I do, and telling me all about what he's read
for being so contrarian

I love C-----
for helping me every day with the babies
for being such an interesting, earnest little conversationalist
for being  OC about what we're supposed to be doing or forgot to do 
for reminding me to pray every time we hear a siren
for using her hands for emphasis when she's explaining something to me
for loving to read and being read to (5 chapters of Little House on the Prairie yesterday...)
for being my girly-girl

I love G------- 
for his energy and abundant enthusiasm
for putting together 100-piece puzzles
for narrating his life as if it were a story ("and then he stomped down the hall.  What was behind the door...? A great big spider.  He killed the spider and went on his way.")
for his beautiful Pauling smile
for his intense unblinking stillness when listening to something he likes 
for his impatience and frustration in wanting to get the good part or point of anything
for wanting to wear foot-jammies all the time

I love R------ 
for his low voice and gruff way of talking
for being my snuggliest, kissiest kid yet
for pushing himself right into the middle of anything (combination of wiggling and bullying)
for his lower lip
for his sometimes green, sometimes brown eyes
for being so sturdy, like the bulldog on his jammies
for being so good-natured, laid back, and jolly

I love M--- 
for sleeping 12+ hours a day
for arching her back so only her head and tip of her toes are on the ground
for tolerating (and sometimes returning) her siblings' clumsy affection
for laughing socially (earliest I've ever seen)
for crying pretty much only when she's lonely (not much chance of that here...)
for loving mirrors
for singing baby songs to her mama

13 February 2012

This week in the church year...

Here are links to posts I made last year.

February 13 Priscilla, Aquila, and Apollos
February 15 Philemon and Onesimus
February 16 Philipp Melanchthon
February 18 Martin Luther

Of course, Valentine's Day is this week.  Making all the valentines and decorations takes enough time.  I usually just briefly talk about the man on his day, and tie the color red with martyrdom. What do you do?

02 February 2012

The Gesimas and Eastertide

The time between now, the end of Christmastide, and February 22, the beginning of Eastertide, feels like no-man's land.  Do we use green or violet for the family altar?  The God-revealing themes of Advent-Christmas-Epiphany and God-redeeming themes of Lent-Easter-Pentecost are so clear.  What do we focus on in February?

For guidance, check out Pr. Peperkorn's site, HistoricLectionary.com.  Specifically check out this bulletin insert. Based on the Sunday readings, "These three Sundays before Lent constitute catechesis in the Grace of God in which that grace is examined from three perspectives."  Grace is undeserved and completely due to God's goodness (Parable of the Good Landowner); Grace is passively received (Parable of the Sower); and Grace is not easily understood (Apostles not understanding Jesus's purpose--to die).

Our church does not use the historic 1-year lectionary, but I still think focusing on grace the next few weeks will be a wonderful bridge between Christmas and Easter.  We will memorize Ephesians 2:8-10, talk about the parables and read relevant passages from the large and small catechisms.

(Poke around that website.  There are some great resource links at the bottom.)

Also, once you get your family altar set up for Lent, email me a picture and I'll post them after Ash Wednesday.

The Purification of Mary and Presentation of Our Lord (February 2)

An edited version of what I posted last year:
And when the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every male who first opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord”) 24 and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the Law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.” 25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 26 And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ. 27 And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, 28 he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said,
29 “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace,

according to your word;

30 for my eyes have seen your salvation
31 that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
                            and for glory to your people Israel.”                                    

Luke 2:22-32

Hymns: Variations on the Nunc Dimittis LSB 937, 938 ; TLH 131

The Presentation of our Lord is when we swing from focusing on the Incarnation to concentrating on the Crucifixion. (Of course, the two can never be completely separated.)   The canticles of Simeon (and Anna) in Luke 2 reveal to us who the Christ child really is (God's incarnation we celebrate at Christmas and Epiphany), and what he will do (save us from our sins by his work on the cross and resurrection, which we celebrate at Easter).

Activities and Lore:

This is the end of Christmastide, so our very last Christmas decoration, the Nativity Scene was boxed away .  We also wrapped up all our Christmas picture books, to be reopened next Advent (HT Aubri, I think).

It was popular in the Western church to hold processions, carrying candles to be blessed at the service (hence "Candlemas").   So, we will light a bunch of candles for dinner.  At festalcelebrations.com I got the idea to make our own candles.

Coloring page!

Crepes in France.  These are only to be eaten after 8pm, and if the crepe-maker can flip a crepe successfully while holding a coin in his other hand, the family will have success all year.
Tamales in Central and South America.  Whoever gets the coin (or metal doll) in their piece of Rosca De Reyes (a version of King's Cake) on the eve of Epiphany has to make the tamales and throw a party on Candlemas.

Our Groundhog Day grew out of older Candlemas superstitions ("If Candlemas Day is clear and bright, winter will have another bite.  If Candlemas brings cloud and rain, winter is gone and will not come again").