As we desire for our children to be formed by the story of Jesus, it’s been challenging for me to engage my kids in spiritual rhythms without becoming legalistic.  I want them to participate because I believe we are all formed by the stories we choose to listen to, but eventually I want them to embrace God for themselves.  I want to “make them” do things so ultimately they will want to do them.

It is much like serving new vegetables to my kids (my son in particular).   At first I just put the veggies on his plate so he can see them, smell them, push them around with his fork, and tell me in no uncertain terms that he doesn’t like it.  Then the next time I serve the horrid item, he not only gets to maneuver them on the plate but needs to take a bite or two (formerly known as the “no thank you portion”).  Many times, as he takes a bite and the rest of us stare at him waiting for his reaction, a small, sheepish smile comes over his face and he shrugs his shoulders – meaning “it’s not as bad as I thought”.  From that point on he will usually eat the new vegetable with little resistance and sometimes great delight.  (This has been true for everything from lettuce to peppers to broccoli to sweet potatoes.)

I say all that because sometimes those of us who are trying to shape “story-formed kids” meet with ardent resistance.  We get worn down – from schedules and whining voices – and we may think our efforts are fruitless.  Well…they are not.  Keep telling the story; keep living the story.  Just remember it may take a few (hundred!) times on the plate before they are ready to eat it all by themselves!

My simple ideas for Lent and kids:

1.  Find a small box that will hold 3×5 cards.  Help your kids decorate it any way  they want – coloring, wrapping paper, tissue paper – and write “Lent 2009” on the bottom of the box.  Each evening have your child write out a verse from the scriptures (use the psalms, a lectionary, read through the bible in one year, whatever) on one of the 3×5 cards.  Talk about it – what it means to you and/or them, why they chose it – or have them “illustrate” it – draw a picture on the card that goes with that verse.  Keep all the verses inside the special box they made.

2.  Have a weekly sabbath meal.  Make time for the whole family to sit around the table once a week and talk about what God is doing in you, around you and through you.  Or read certain Biblical stories together and talk about them.  (By the way, we’ve decided to make our sabbath meal on Sunday morning for breakfast.  We attend church on Saturday night and since our kids LOVE good breakfast food, we’ve decided to make it a family celebration.)

3.  If you live in a climate that will cooperate, plant seeds in a garden (or pot).  Teach your kids the rhythms of planting by faith, watering and caring for something they can’t see yet, and watching new life grow in its own timing.

4.  Check out this website too.  Click on “essay of the month” at the top of the page.  It is a good read and has great ideas at the bottom of the page.  (The organization is called Raising Micah and I really like their passion and vision for raising kids who do justice and love mercy.)