Editor’s note: This is the first of a two-part series on activities that help you prepare spiritually for Easter. Check back tomorrow for part 2!
When it comes to spiritual matters, I often show up without my homework done.
I arrive at church expecting that God will meet me there in the pew with a gift bag of enlightenment, good feelings and blessings. Nevermind that 10 minutes earlier I was begging and bribing my family to hurry up to get there on time – not exactly creating an environment that welcomes stillness or reflection or prayer.
I’m the same way about holidays, too. I might spend hours making invitations by hand, cleaning and cooking, only to forget to welcome God to the celebration. But I was determined to change that, so a couple of years ago my family started a list of things to do every day during Lent.
The list (everything from starting seedlings for neighbors to coloring pictures for people in nursing homes) was cut in strips and put in plastic Easter eggs for my boys to open.
It seemed simple and straight forward – until God got involved.
Our oldest son wanted to help with an Easter egg hunt at Community Lutheran Ministry in Rochester, NY. He donated the $26 in his charity fund but when aunts and uncles, grandparents and cousins heard about it, the fund swelled to $250. By the time Easter rolled around, he had helped put together the hunt and 100 Easter baskets for kids in one of the toughest parts of Rochester.
When it was time to put together a care package for a young friend of ours in foster care, it was Benjamin, our then 3-year-old, who was available to go shopping with me. For an hour we wandered through the store talking about what would make Deniese smile. What I thought was a bit beyond him, he fully grasped.
Oh, don’t misunderstand. We failed miserably some days. In fact, coughs and drippy noses kept us from cooking extra meals for the freezer. We wanted to share meals when friends suffered losses or were ill, but we didn’t want to share germs.
Those eggs, and a few others, were left unopened until Easter morning when I turned them over to the boys to play with. It bothered me that I hadn’t done everything, but then I did something rare for me. I forgave myself quickly.
We had done our homework and our hearts were ready for Easter.
Would you like a glimpse at our list, so you can get ideas for your own?
Here are the basics: We chose 40 activities and prayer requests. Some of the activities repeat, and some are really steps toward a larger project because we didn’t want to overwhelm ourselves – or our budget.
Some tips: I numbered the eggs so that the more time-consuming projects would fall on the weekends. I also bought supplies for all of the activities before Lent so I’d have what I needed on-hand, even if someone grabbed the wrong egg.
1. We’ll watch a DVD from Water for Sudan. (You can learn about Salva Dut and his nonprofit on YouTube.)
2. A friend requested prayer for her daughter who is starting a business. We’ll pray for her to have wisdom and favor.
3. Our boys will draw pictures and we’ll send them to a nursing facility to brighten someone’s room.
4. We’d like to have meals on hand to share with friends who are going through medical situations or facing other challenges. We’ll make an extra meal today and freeze it.
5. Community Lutheran Ministry in Rochester, NY, is collecting pennies to support its after-school program and its summer camp. We’ll start a penny jar at our house.
6. We’ll skip some TV time and instead read books to each other.
7. We’ll find 40 things that our family can give away or throw away.
8. It’s our dog’s birthday, so she will get an extra long walk with the whole family.
9. We’ll thank God for five people or things.
10. We’ll start seedlings to share with neighbors.
11. Food pantries can always use help. We’ll see what we have to donate.
12. A friend requested that we pray for people to “truly worship God.”
13. We’ll send a card to encourage or thank someone.
14. My family will de-clutter another 40 items.
15. Working together, we’ll turn scrap fabric into cloth napkins.
16. We’ll go to bargain stores and see how many books we can afford to buy. We’ll put them in Easter baskets for kids in need.
17. We’ll pray for someone at work.
18. We’ll send a card to someone – a teacher, a mentor, a minister – who inspired us.
19. We’ll read books to each other.
20. I’ve always liked the idea of donating “birthday bags” to a food pantry. We’ll include a cake mix, candles and other goodies to help people celebrate.
21. I’ll play Monopoly with the boys. I hate that game, but they love it.
22. We’ll make another meal for the freezer.
23. A friend requested prayer for her mother, who is burdened with health and financial worries.
24. We’ll do something kind. And we’ll do it secretly.
25. Just once, when we could complain, we won’t.
26. We’ll pray for someone at church.
27. We’ll invite friends to our home for dinner. We haven’t done that as often as we should.
28. Today, we’ll put together an Easter care package for a dear friend in foster care. (Children Awaiting Parents always knows of kids who could use a little surprise. Call (585) 232-5110.)
29. We’ll send an unexpected card or note to a loved one.
30. Again, we’ll de-clutter 40 items.
31. At dinner, we’ll write something we love about each member of our family.
32. We’ll pray for someone at school.
33. The egg we open today will be empty. We’ll talk about Jesus’ tomb being empty.
34. We’ll invite family over for brunch for no particular reason except that we like them.
35. It’s our eighth wedding anniversary. We’ll pray for relationships to be strengthened.
36. We’ll look through photo albums and tell family stories.
37. Just for today, we’ll trade household chores so we can practice looking at things from another person’s perspective.
38. We’ll skip complaining three times today.
39. We’ll invite friends over to decorate Easter cookies.
40. We’ll help with an Easter egg hunt at Community Lutheran.