Yesterday was stunningly beautiful. My boys and I enjoyed the Spring-like weather and spent some quality time outdoors. I’m hopeful that the change of temperature will help their bodies finally get over the hump of winter colds. In all the playing in the leaves, digging in dirt, and swinging action, we had a few talks about life and its counterpart, death. While we relished the wonderful time spent outdoors, we also thought of our sweet labrador, Clyde, who passed away last week. This was our first time playing without him bounding alongside us, and his absence was certainly felt.
My boys are still young—one will be four this April, and the other turned two in January. Even at their tender ages, they understand Clyde is no longer here. My nearly four-year-old certainly comprehends much more than his brother, and, without prompting, he has said some profound things this week. From “Jesus loves Clyde more than us” to “I love Jesus so I’ll see Clyde in heaven,” I’ve found myself in shock as he processes the topic of death—a topic many adults tend to shy away from. There are age-appropriate ways to discuss sensitive issues, and they shouldn’t be avoided if we want our kids to grasp the fullness of the Gospel. The message of Jesus means talking about death.
“Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die.'” ~John 11:25-26
Clyde happened to pass away one week before Lent 2016. While his death is not something we foresaw or desired, I find myself embracing the timing as a wonderful opportunity to teach my children about the season of Lent and focus on what Christ did for us on the cross. While not every believer recognizes Lent, for those who do, it is a profound season that can be a practical way for children to see and grasp the message of the Gospel. If you are looking for things you can do as a family to prepare for Good Friday and Easter, here are some wonderful ideas several people have shared with me.
*Less is more! My family (and others I know) physically discard 40 items (or bags of items) throughout the next 40 days. Not only is this another opportunity to count your many blessings, it physically teaches your children not to cling to the things of this world, but to store up treasures in heaven.
*Paper prayer chain. Every kid loves glue and paper, right? Make a paper link chain with 40 links. On each link, put the name of a specific person or family you know. Tear one off each morning and purposefully take time throughout the day to pray for each name.
*Get dirty. Even if you’re not a big fan of digging in dirt, consider doing it as an opportunity to talk about beauty that comes from the ashes. Plant flowers together, and as you watch them grow over the next 40 days, talk about the resurrection of Christ and the newness of life.
*Resurrection eggs. If you don’t yet own resurrection eggs, I encourage you to make this the year you purchase them, or make your own. Each egg contains a physical item representing part of the story of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection, as well as Scripture to read aloud as you talk about each one. As always, we will add links to our closed Facebook group HERE so you can see examples.
Lent is typically associated with giving something up, but most of the things listed above you are actually adding to rather than taking away. In leading our children to Christ, this season of reflection offers a precious opportunity to focus our minds and hearts on all our Savior has done for us. Yes, Jesus rose from the grave, and yes, we celebrate His triumph over death as the ultimate victory! But before He rose, “He was pierced for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with His wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5). That is a reality too often placed on the back burner of the Christian life. Easter Sunday brings unspeakable joy and hope, and it shows the world that we celebrate a risen Savior! Let’s not forget, however, that we would not be celebrating had the profound offering of life not been given on our behalf. With somber hearts, we teach our children and remind ourselves that Jesus lived a sinless life and still chose to cling to a cross because of our sins and the sins of the world. What a wonderful Savior we love, and what a blessed hope we have!
Gabbie Nolen-Fratantoni loves Jesus and is passionate about serving him through the arts by leading worship and writing for various ministries. She is married to Greg, her hard-working, iron-sharpening-iron spouse. They are opposite in personality but equal in dedication to their marriage and family. Gabbie and Greg are the proud and sleep-deprived parents of two active, sweet, and fun boys and are eagerly anticipating the arrival of their first daughter in March 2016. An Aggie and graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary, Gabbie is a small-town country girl trapped in the city and loves getting to know people and encouraging them as they seek to know Jesus and make him known.
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