I started by making a calendar and marking down the significant events that will happen from now until Easter, which will be on April 4. Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, which is in 2 days. Palm Sunday, Passover, Maudy Thursday and Good Friday are some other significant days.
On Wednesday I am going to be starting a Prayer Pot, which will actually be a glass bowl because I do not have a pot and do not want to go and buy the clay to make one. These are the instructions for the Prayer Pot (to go to the actual site, click here):
On Ash Wednesday: Place the prayer pot in a special place where it can't be missed, perhaps the center of the family table. It reminds everyone that Lent is here, but remains empty for the next few days.
On the First Sunday of Lent: A small heart cut from construction paper is placed in the pot during the main meal, to remind everyone of God's love and that they should show their love for, and be kind to, others.
On the Second Sunday of Lent: A small seed is placed in the pot to remind everyone that God's love for them constantly grows and that they should show love and compassion for other people.
On the Third Sunday of Lent: Place a rubber band in the pot as a reminder that God always stretches His patience and everyone should do the same for others, even when it isn't easy.
On the Fourth Sunday of Lent: A marble is placed in the pot to remind everyone to take turns and share with others in all that they do.
On the Fifth Sunday of Lent: Add a Band-Aid to the pot to remind everyone to help other people when they are sad or hurt.
On Palm Sunday: Place a tiny piece of the palm you get at mass, to remind everyone that Jesus is their King and they should remember to say their prayers to Him.
On Easter Sunday: The last item is a tiny piece of eggshell to remind everyone that Jesus will always be with them and is always ready to hear their prayers.
Last year I made a set of "Resurrection Eggs". These were a HUGE hit with my kids. I would hide the eggs around the house, they'd find them, I'd let them take turns opening the eggs and I'd tell them the story of Easter. By the 3rd or 4th time, they could pretty much tell ME the whole story. I think we did the Resurrection Egg hunt and story about 3 times a day for 2 weeks at least. Here is a link that tells you how to make your own set of Resurrection Eggs. Seriously a great way to help your kids learn the Easter story, even the little ones! There are other things you can put in your eggs, like perfume and a palm branch, so if you don't like the ideas in the link, just google "Resurrection Eggs" and find something that works better for you. I am also planning on making "Resurrection Cookies" at some point, but I might have to do a trial run first to make sure they'll turn out.
One other thing that I am going to do, but haven't totally developed yet, is talk about one "character" who was with Jesus at the cross each week leading up to Easter. This idea came from my dad, who also passed on the following information:
Judas: Matthew 27:1-10
It started with “borrowing” a few coins now and then from the common purse. Nothing big—and besides, I deserved a little something for my work as treasurer. Before long, I was helping myself to a bigger share. I needed the money, and nobody seemed to miss it. And then came my big opportunity: a one-time payoff to assist in a secret arrest. They’ll eventually get Jesus anyway, with or without my help, so I might as well be the one to cash in on it.
But now it’s finally hitting me: What started with pinching a few coins here and there has led to me being an accessory to murder. And the victim is a man who treated me with nothing but perfect kindness and friendship for three years, a person who called me “friend” even as I betrayed him. The money I thought I loved disgusts me now. I tried to give it back, but the men who paid me couldn’t care less.
I wish I could undo what I’ve done—but it’s too late. What I’ve done sickens me. I threw the money down. And now I’m going to do the only thing I can think of . . . exactly what I deserve.
Simon of Cyrene: Mark 15:21-22
My pilgrimage was almost over. I’d traveled all the way from Cyrene in Libya for the Passover celebration in Jerusalem. I was coming up the road on my way into the city when I met the huge crowd of people all staring at something . . . or someone.
Three men carrying stout wooden beams were being nudged along at sword-point, headed for crucifixion. One looked like he should have been dead already—his back bloody, his face beaten to a pulp, his eyes swollen nearly shut. Some sadist had even jammed a wreath of thorns into his scalp. It was awful . . . but what could I do for him? I began to move on.
A rough hand grabbed my shoulder. I turned to see the bloody prisoner pinned under the heavy beam. He couldn’t carry it another step. The soldiers were telling me to help him. Of all the people here . . . why me? I’d just made that long trip in from Cyrene, and now I was supposed to lug a cross uphill for an exhausted criminal?
As it turns out, my life would never be the same. The troublesome task forced on me became the greatest privilege any man could ever have—because the bloody stranger whose cross I carried was the Son of God, my living Lord. My sons, Alexander and Rufus, were with me that day. They too became followers of Jesus. We know, better than most, that anyone who does not carry his cross and follow Jesus cannot be his disciple.
The Soldier: John 19:19-24
You get used to it after a while. The first crucifixion is always the hardest. The naked flesh, the oozing blood, the buzzing flies, the first shrieks of pain followed by hours of gasping suffocation—the first time you see it, it turns your stomach. But after a while you can handle it. And if you’re lucky, you might even get a little something for yourself.
Most of the time, you don’t know the people you’re crucifying. You’re a soldier, and your job is to do what you’re told. But this is different. It’s hard to resist having a little fun with a fellow labeled “King of the Jews.” Before you nail him up, give him a stick for a scepter, a crown made of thorns, rough him up a bit, and then bow down to “the king.” Way more entertaining than your average execution.
Today there’s something for everybody. All four soldiers get a piece of clothing they can sell at a local pawnshop. But what about that seamless tunic? It would be a shame to cut it up. Hey, how about a game to pass the time? Calvary Casino! Winner gets the tunic.
See? It’s not so hard to do this. After a while, nothing shocks you any more.
Mary: John 19:25-27
When my son was just a baby, being dedicated at the temple, old Simeon said, “A sword will pierce your own soul too.” That prophecy has echoed often in my ears. At the time I had no idea what those words could mean. Now I know. My firstborn is nailed to a cross. This grief . . . it’s beyond imagining.
John is beside me, weighed down by his own sorrow. He left everything to follow Jesus . . . awed by his miracles, transfixed by his teaching. Over the years he became a close friend to my son. And now this Friend beyond all friends is dying.
John and I stand together near the cross, our world in ruins. Then we hear the voice we both love speaking to us. Through my tears I look into the tender eyes of my son. “Dear woman, here is your son.” I turn my head and John’s eyes meet mine. “Here is your mother,” Jesus says.
I am not alone, and neither is John. Together we will get through this.
The Dying Thief: Luke 23:39-43
My life was a waste—a complete disaster. The world would have been better off without me. In the end it did get rid of me. My crimes and cruelty got me here, and I deserve this death.
At first I cursed the guy hanging next to me, right along with the other criminal. But then I got to thinking: “If God is real, before long, I’ll be facing him.” I knew I was on the cross because I deserved it . . . but Jesus was totally innocent. It struck me then that maybe, just maybe, this wouldn’t be the end of Jesus. I’m not sure where that idea came from, but I became more and more convinced of it. So I said it: “Jesus, remember me. . . .”
In heaven, there’ll be no more pain. No more sorrow. No more hatred. No more guilt. Only joy, peace, delight, and acceptance. Jesus will be there too . . . radiant beyond description. And I’ll be with him forever!
The Centurion: Mark 15:33-39
I’ve never seen anything like it. He turns down the offer of wine mixed with myrrh to dope him up and ease the pain. Seems he’d rather suffer the worst with a clear head. The soldiers strip him naked, spread him out, hammer spikes into his wrists and heels, hoist him up—and what does he say? “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” There’s something unearthly about him.
At noon everything turns dark. It stays that way for three hours. Then, around three o’clock, after six hours of hanging there, when you’d expect him to have no energy left, he suddenly shouts in a loud voice, “It is finished!” It’s almost seems like he’s in control somehow; he decides when enough is enough. “Father,” he says quietly, “into your hands I commit my spirit.” And then he dies.
That’s when the earthquake hits. Is God himself reacting to this? People are staggering, rocks are shattering, as if somehow Jesus’ death has shifted the entire universe. Surely this man was the Son of God!
So we'll see how it goes!