Thursday, April 10, 2008

10 Lenten Traditions to Enrich Your Family's Easter Celebration

Lent begins February 6!

I'll never forget our family's first Christian Easter. With the children snuggled down for the night, my husband Tripp and I dutifully filled five waiting baskets as we had done all the years before. But something seemed to be missing, which was strange because something had really been added - our understanding of the true meaning of Easter - Jesus' Death and Resurrection.

"Did we forget anything?" I asked as we arranged the last colored eggs.
"I've got the same feeling," Tripp said. "I think it's just because we've changed. The most important part of Easter now will be church tomorrow morning."

Looking back some 20 years later, I understand the unsettled feeling we were sharing. Two children who had celebrated Easter with baskets and bunnies had grown up with little else to pass on to their own children. Yet since we wanted our new relationship with Christ to be part of our family's daily life - not just Sunday only - Tripp and I were always interested in ways to bring the message of Jesus' resurrection home.

We needed traditions. Traditions - especially those children can see, hear, feel, smell and taste - provide vivid impressions on which parents can build year after year. There are many which will enrich your own family's celebration of what might be more accurately called Resurrection Day. Choose a few from this collection, share their meaning in whatever words your children will understand, and keep the ones you like as part of your family's Easter heritage.

Lent is a forty day period before Easter set aside as a season of soul-searching and repentance. The forty days reflect Jesus' withdrawal into the wilderness for his own time of spiritual reflection. Sundays, because they commemorate the Resurrection, are not counted. In the early church Lent was a special time when new converts were instructed in the faith and prepared for baptism on Easter.

Churches which follow a liturgical calendar - annually reliving the major events in Jesus' life - place great emphasis on Lent. Whether your own church makes much or little of these forty days, your family will benefit from preparing in advance to celebrate Jesus' Resurrection. Children will cherish Easter more with anticipation sweetening the weeks before.

1. New Life: As Lent begins, help your children plant crocus, daffodil, or hyacinth bulbs in a bowl of sand, covering halfway. Leave in a dark closet for two months, keeping soil moist (a process known as forcing bulbs). When shoots appear, let them bask in the sun. Don't forget to leave one bulb unplanted as a reminder of how they began.

2. Devotions: Lent can be a time of family focus on the meaning of the Christian life. You may want to commit to a regular pattern of family worship - daily, weekly, or whenever you can. Or you may post Bible verses, especially the words of Jesus, on the refrigerator, bathroom mirrors, wherever a busy family is sure to see them. Talk about them at dinner or on the way to school - especially how verses apply to events in our daily lives.

3. Giving up: Traditionally, especially in Europe, during Lent there were no weddings, no dancing, no singing. No flowers or alleluias in churches. Some families may find spiritual value in giving up something for Lent - television, sweets, video games - not as a penance, but as an outer symbol of dying to self during a season of spiritual reflection.

4. Mite box: Select a charity that helps those in need. Help your children decorate a box with a slot on top. Display where everyone at home will remember to contribute their change. On Easter, empty box, count together, and put a check in the mail. This custom can be directly related to the preceding one: giving up to give.

5. Pretzels: Bake your own pretzels (check your own cookbooks, library or Internet for recipe - or buy the frozen ones). Pretzels originated as early Christian Lenten treats, designed in the form of arms crossed in prayer.

6. Easter Seals: Support or volunteer for this organization, founded in 1934 as a means to raise funds to help children with disabilities. In the original words, "Easter means Resurrection and New Life, and the rehabilitation of crippled children means new life and activity . . . physically, mentally, spiritually."

7. Jonah: In Matthew 12:39-41, Jesus, points to the story of Jonah as a sign of his own destiny. So this is a great time to review it with your children, discussing the issues of sin, obedience, and God's mercy.

8. Easter in Cyberspace: Check out for many, many Christian Easter links, including history, poetry, drama, and daily meditations.

9. Giving: While we usually think of Christmas for gift-giving, Easter has a richer heritage. God gave His Son. Jesus gave His life. Find ways to give unconditionally: money to the homeless person on the corner, treats for those in nursing homes, old clothes to children in another country. Jesus told us clearly, "Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me." (Matthew 25:40)

10. Handel's Messiah: Invest in a CD or tape and bathe your family in this beautiful classic, clearly composed under divine inspiration - each segment a Bible verse prophesying the birth, life, death, and finally the resurrection of Jesus. (The Hallelujah Chorus was a celebration for Easter morning following the Lenten absence of alleluias.)

Look for more ideas from Barbara as we approach Holy Week and Easter.--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Barbara Curtis has 12 children - including three adopted sons with Down syndrome - and 10 grandchildren so far. She is also an award-winning author with nine books and 800+ articles in print publications including Focus on the Family, Guideposts, Christian Parenting Today, and The Washington Times.

Barbara is a popular speaker at MOPS and women's events, as well as writers' conferences. Online you can find her at MommyLife and Mommy, Teach Me!.

Marital Mistake: Igniting Fires with an Untamed Tongue

Dr. David B. Hawkins
source: Crosswalk

Fire is one of those elements that can either be our friend, keeping us warm and dry, or our foe, creating incomparable damage. Likewise, the tongue can either encourage or destroy. As the Apostle James said, "With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God's likeness." (James 3: 9) James goes on to say the tongue is like a spark that can set a mighty forest ablaze.

Fire creates searing heat. Perhaps more destructively, however, is the fact that fire consumes the oxygen needed to survive. Fire robs us of life just as the tongue can set a mortal blaze in our marriages, stealing vitality from our life.

For any fire to continue it needs fuel. Thankfully, fire cannot burn on its own. I received a vivid lesson about fire and fuel one warm summer day when I was about ten years old. I was lying in the tall grass behind my house with a couple of buddies. With stalks of dried grass hanging out of our mouths we were telling stories and enjoying ourselves. Life couldn't have been sweeter.
To ten-year olds, those stalks of grass were temptingly similar to a forbidden cigarette and one of us wondered what it would be like to "smoke" a few of those blades of grass. It all seemed innocent enough. We gathered our "cigarettes" and proceeded to light up. Suddenly, without warning, a spark caught in a bundle of dried grass, and then another, until we were faced with an inferno beyond our control. Realizing the potential danger of the fire, we ran for the help of my dad. Three screaming boys immediately caught his attention. We formed a "bucket brigade" and were able to douse the fire and get on to the next important issue—explaining all of this to my very angry father.

An innocent outing, an impulsive act, a furious outburst of potential danger. We contained the problem quickly and limited the damage.

Like that field, a marriage can become tinder dry at times, ready for a spark to ignite things. A season of dryness, or ongoing conflict, can set the stage for an angry outburst of deadly proportions.

"But, I just can't help it," twenty-seven year old Karen said recently. "I just get so mad that I say what's on the top of my mind. I know I can be extremely hurtful. We have called each other the most horrible names, and are embarrassed about it. We both have biting tongues, and know it."

Karen and Doug, clients of mine, were newly married and already having problems. I watched as Doug nodded his head to Karen's rendition of the problem. I asked them to explain more about their problem.

"My husband and I can't seem to agree on anything. I mention to him that I want more help around the house, and somehow we end up in World War III. I hate it."
"It's true," Doug said soberly. "We don't know how it happens, but when we fight, which is not all the time, it gets bad. We say things we would never say at other times, and we've nearly called it quits because of it."

"Well," I said slowly. "I have a saying—'If it's predictable, it's preventable."
"It certainly is predictable," Karen said wryly. "The preventable part is questionable."
I could clearly see the pain Karen and Doug were in. They had hurt each other deeply with, impetuous, ill-spoken words.

"It takes a lot of self-control to slow things down enough to see what you two are doing so you can change the pattern."
"Doug is just as tired of my biting tongue as I am," Karen said.
"I can get pretty sarcastic and angry, too," Doug replied, "and we're both tired of our bickering."
"Good," I said. "Being tired of how things are going is a great place for God to work in our lives. We have to get to the point where we are at our wits end—then God can step in."

We spent the rest of our session exploring the roots of their anger and biting tongues. We discussed how their anger and sharp words had caused tremendous pain in their marriage, to the point where they had nearly separated several times. It had scared both of them, and they wanted to learn new tools.

One of the tools I shared was "speaking from your most vulnerable self." This requires slowing down the process and exploring what other feelings could be shared rather than anger—which so often is hurtful. We discussed how anger is a secondary emotion, and how we need to look beneath the surface and learn to share other more vulnerable emotions that lay below the surface.

We discussed common underlying feelings known as GIFT:
• Guilt: anger often covers feelings of unexpressed guilt.
• Inferiority: anger often covers feelings of insecurity or inferiority.
• Fear: this is often an emotion that is difficult to express, but can be powerful when expressed appropriately.
• Trauma: conflicts often reawaken previous trauma in your life, creating hypersensitivity to an issue.

Karen and Doug seemed relieved to hear that their problems were normal and could be remedied. They agreed to slow things down when they became defensive, to guard their tongues and to look deeply to see if there were other, more vulnerable emotions needing expression. They agreed to take time outs when needed. It would take work, but they agreed to take these new insights home to practice.

Are you using an untamed tongue in your marriage? Have you said things you regret later? Consider taming your tongue. Recognize and own your primary feelings, practice some of the tools in this article, and allow God to heal problems without anger and harsh words. You'll be glad you did.

Editor's note: Do you need sound, Biblically-based advice on an issue in your marriage or family? Dr. David will address questions from Crosswalk readers in his weekly column.

Submit your question to him at This article was adapted from Nine Critical Mistakes Most Couples Make (Harvest House Publishers, 2005).Dr. David B. Hawkins is a Visiting Professor at International Christian University and specializes in interpersonal relationship counseling as well as domestic violence and emotional abuse in relationships. He has been a frequent guest on Moody Radio Mid-day Connection, Focus on the Family, and At Home Live. You can visit his website at .

7 Healthy Easter Recipes

(recipes from lifescript)

Ham, Gruyere & Spinach Bread Pudding

An elegant dish that's simple to prepare, high-quality smoked ham complements the spinach, peppers, rosemary, and Gruyere perfectly. To make this recipe ahead of time, prepare the pudding through Step 3 and then refrigerate overnight. Let stand at room temperature while the oven preheats, and bake as directed in Step 4.Serves: 6 Preparation time: 30 minutes

For the custard:
4 large egg whites
4 large
cup skim milk
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 teaspoon minced fresh

the bread & filling:
cups (4-6 slices) whole-grain bread, crusts removed if desired, cut into 1-inch cubes
5 cups chopped spinach, wilted (see Tip)
1/2 cup chopped jarred roasted red peppers1 cup (5 ounces) diced ham steak

For the topping:
3/4 cup shredded Gruyere cheese

1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Coat an 11"x7" glass baking dish or a 2-quart casserole with cooking spray.
2. To prepare the custard whisk egg whites, eggs and milk in a medium bowl. Add mustard, pepper and rosemary and whisk to combine.
3. Toss bread, spinach, roasted red peppers, and ham in a large bowl. Add the custard and toss well to coat. Transfer to the prepared baking dish and push down to compact. Cover with foil.
4. Bake until the custard has set, 40 to 45 minutes. Uncover, sprinkle with cheese and continue baking until the pudding is puffed and golden on top, 15 to 20 minutes more. Transfer to a wire rack and cool for 15 to 20 minutes before serving.Enjoy!

Nutrition FactsPer serving 276 calories 10 g fat (4 g sat, 3 g mono)169 mg cholesterol 25 g carbohydrate 21 g protein 3 g fiber746 mg sodium422 mg potassiumNutrition Bonus: vitamin A (70% daily value), folate (37% dv), calcium (30% dv), vitamin C (20% dv)

Tip: To wilt greens, rinse thoroughly in cool water. Transfer them to a large microwave-safe bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and punch several holes in the wrap. Microwave on high until wilted, 2 to 3 minutes. Squeeze out any excess moisture before adding to the recipe.

Mint-Pesto Rubbed Leg of Lamb
What better way to celebrate Easter than with this traditional spring dish, but with an Italian twist. Have your butcher "butterfly" a boneless leg of lamb (that is, open it up to a large, flat cut of meat), and ask that any visible fat be trimmed off. To toast the pine nuts, use a small dry skillet over medium-low heat. Stir constantly, until the nuts are fragrant and lightly browned, 3 to 5 minutes.

Serves: 12

Preparation: 2 hours

1/2 cup packed fresh basil leaves1/4 cup packed fresh mint leaves1/4 cup packed fresh parsley leaves2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts 2 tablespoons grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil1 clove garlic, peeled1 teaspoon salt, divided1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper1 3 1/2-pound boneless leg of lamb, butterflied and trimmed of fat

1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. Sprinkle lamb all over with 1/2 teaspoon salt.
3. Place basil, mint, parsley, pine nuts, cheese, oil, garlic, remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, and pepper in a food processor and process until fairly smooth. Reserve 2 tablespoons of the pesto; spread the rest over the top side of the lamb and roll it closed. (It will not be a perfect cylinder.)
4. Tie kitchen string around the roast in five places; do not tie too tightly or the pesto will squeeze out. Rub the reserved pesto over the outside of the lamb and place in a roasting pan.
5. Roast the lamb until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part registers 140°F for medium-rare, about 1 hour 20 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board; let rest for 10 minutes. Carve the lamb, leaving the string in place to help hold the roast together.Enjoy!

Nutrition FactsPer serving
(3 ounces)192 calories10 g fat (3 g sat, 5 g mono) 76 mg cholesterol 1 g carbohydrate25 g protein0 g fiber228 mg sodiumNutrition Bonus: selenium (37% daily value), zinc (29% dv)

Asparagus Topped with Creamy Tarragon Sauce

Your Easter table just wouldn't be complete without spring greens such as asparagus. Dress up tender spears with our luscious tarragon sauce, similar to a rich bearnaise, but without all the calories and fat.

Serves: 4

Preparation time: 15
2 bunches asparagus, tough ends trimmed
1/2 cup low-fat plain
tablespoons reduced-fat
teaspoons chopped fresh tarragon or
1 teaspoon dried1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon water
2 teaspoons Dijon mustardSalt & freshly ground pepper to taste

1. Bring 1 inch of water to a boil in a large saucepan. Put asparagus in a steamer basket, cover and steam until tender-crisp, about 4 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, whisk yogurt, mayonnaise, tarragon, lemon juice, water, mustard, salt, and pepper in a small bowl. Drizzle the sauce over the asparagus. Serve warm or cold.Enjoy!

Nutrition FactsPer serving
114 calories 7 g fat (1 g sat, 2 g mono); 8 mg cholesterol 10 g carbohydrate 4 g protein 2 g fiber 350 mg sodium 336 mg potassiumNutrition Bonus: folate (42% daily value), vitamin A (25% dv)

Minted Peas & Rice with Feta
The flavors of fresh mint and feta liven up traditional peas. Toss any leftovers with grilled shrimp for a satisfying, easy lunch the next day.Serves: 4 (3/4 cup each)

Preparation time: 25 minutes

1 1/4 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
3/4 cup instant brown
1/2 cups (6 ounces) frozen peas
3/4 cup sliced
/4 cup finely crumbled feta cheese
1/4 cup sliced fresh mintFreshly ground pepper to taste

1. Bring broth to a boil in a large saucepan over high heat. Add rice and bring to a simmer; cover, reduce heat to medium-low and cook for 4 minutes.
2. Stir in peas and return to a simmer over high heat. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low and continue to cook until the peas are hot and the rice has absorbed most of the liquid, about 6 minutes.
3. Remove from heat and stir in scallions, feta, mint, and pepper. Cover and let stand until the liquid is absorbed, 3 to 5 minutes.Enjoy!

Nutrition FactsPer serving
134 calories3 g fat (1 g sat, 0 g mono)8 mg cholesterol22 g carbohydrate7 g protein4 g fiber321 mg sodiumNutrition Bonus: vitamin A (30% daily value), iron (15% dv), vitamin C (15% dv)

Potato & Sweet Potato Torte
Layers of potatoes and sweet potatoes meld into an impressive vegetable "cake" that forms a golden crust during baking. Serve as a vegetarian centerpiece or alongside your Easter lamb. Short on time? The torte will keep, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. Reheat, covered, in a 350°F oven.

Serves: 6

Preparation time: 1 hour

1tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 large leeks, trimmed, washed and thinly sliced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to tasteFreshly ground pepper to taste1 pound (about 2 small) sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/8-inch-thick slices
1 pound (2-4 medium) Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/8-inch-thick slices

1. Position oven rack at the lowest level; preheat to 450°F. Coat a 9 1/2-inch, deep-dish pie pan with cooking spray. Line the bottom with parchment paper or foil and lightly coat with cooking spray.
2. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add leeks and thyme; cook, stirring often, until tender, about 5 minutes. (If necessary, add 1 to 2 tablespoons water to prevent scorching.) Season with 1/8 teaspoon salt and pepper.
3. Arrange half the sweet potato slices, slightly overlapping, in the prepared pie pan and season with a little of the remaining salt and pepper. Spread one-third of the leeks over the top. Arrange half the potato slices over the leeks and season with salt and pepper. Top with another third of the leeks. Layer the remaining sweet potatoes, leeks and potatoes in the same manner. Cover the pan tightly with foil.
4. Bake the torte until the vegetables are tender, about 45 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of the torte to loosen it. Invert onto a serving plate. Remove paper or foil and serve.Enjoy!

Nutrition FactsPer serving 144 calories3 g fat (0 g sat, 2 g mono)0 mg cholesterol30 g carbohydrate4 g protein4 g fiber221 mg sodiumNutrition Bonus: vitamin A (240% daily value), vitamin C (50% dv), potassium (35% dv), fiber (16% dv)

Carrot Cake
This timeless favorite has a healthier nutritional profile, but is still as moist and delicious as ever. You can find whole-wheat pastry flour in large supermarkets and in natural-foods stores. It contains less gluten than regular whole-wheat flour and is just as tender in delicate baked goods.

Serves: 16

Preparation time: 1 hour, 10 minutes + 1 hour cooling time


For the cake:
1/2 cup chopped
cups whole-wheat pastry flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3 large
1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup nonfat buttermilk
1/2 cup canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 20-ounce can crushed pineapple, drained, juice reserved2 cups
(4-6 medium) grated carrots
1/4 cup unsweetened flaked coconut

For the frosting:
2 tablespoons coconut chips or flaked coconut
12 ounces reduced-fat cream cheese,
softened1/2 cup confectioners' sugar,
sifted1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

To prepare cake:
1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat a 9"x13" baking dish with cooking spray.
2. Toast walnuts in a small baking pan in the oven until fragrant, 5 to 10 minutes.
3. Whisk flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon in a medium bowl. Whisk eggs, sugar, buttermilk, oil, vanilla, and 1/4 cup of the reserved pineapple juice in a large bowl until blended. Stir in pineapple, carrots and coconut. Add the dry ingredients and mix with a rubber spatula just until blended. Stir in the nuts. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, spreading evenly.
4. Bake the cake until the top springs back when touched lightly and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 40 to 45 minutes. Let cool completely on a wire rack.

To prepare frosting & finish cake:
1. Place coconut in a small baking pan and toast in the oven at 300°F, stirring several times, until light golden, 5 to 10 minutes.
2. Beat cream cheese, confectioners' sugar and vanilla in a mixing bowl with an electric mixer until smooth and creamy. Spread frosting over the cooled cake and sprinkle with the coconut.Enjoy!

Nutrition FactsPer serving344 calories17 g fat (5 g sat, 6 g mono)56 mg cholesterol43 g carbohydrate6 g protein; 3 g fiber349 mg sodiumNutrition Bonus: vitamin A (40% daily value), fiber (12% dv)

Ruffled Phyllo Tart with Spring FruitStrawberries and rhubarb are a familiar seasonal pairing, but adding apricots to the mix takes it to new heights. The day before you plan to bake the tart, thaw the frozen phyllo in the refrigerator.

Serves: 8

Preparation time: 3 hours


For the filling:
/2 cup plus
2 teaspoons
1 tablespoon honey
1 pound (about 3 cups) fresh rhubarb, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
1/4 cup cornstarch mixed with 3 tablespoons cold water
1/2 pound (about 4 medium) fresh apricots, pitted and quartered
1 cup strawberries, hulled and halved
1 teaspoon freshly grated orange zest
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

For the crust:
3 tablespoons canola oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
9 sheets phyllo dough, thawed
1 tablespoon dry unseasoned breadcrumbs
Confectioners' sugar for

Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat a 9-inch pie pan with cooking spray.

To prepare filling:
1. Combine 1/2 cup sugar, honey and rhubarb in a large saucepan. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring often, until the rhubarb is juicy and softens slightly, about 5 minutes. Increase heat to medium; gradually add the cornstarch mixture. Cook, stirring constantly, until the juices thicken, 2 to 3 minutes.
2. Combine apricots, strawberries, orange zest, and cinnamon in a large bowl. Mix in the rhubarb.

To prepare crust & bake tart:
1. Mix oil and butter in a small bowl. Cover phyllo with wax paper or plastic wrap and a slightly damp kitchen towel to prevent it from drying out. Center one sheet of phyllo in the pie pan, letting the edges hang over; gently press it into the pan. Dampen a pastry brush with water and lightly brush some of the oil-butter mixture over the phyllo. Sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon breadcrumbs over the bottom. Repeat with 5 more sheets of phyllo, laying each at a 45° angle to the previous one and sprinkling each with breadcrumbs.
2. Scrape the filling into the crust. Brush one of the remaining phyllo sheets with oil-butter mixture. Place another sheet on top at a 45° angle. Repeat with the last sheet. Place the stack on the filling. Fold the overhanging phyllo up around the tart, creating a ruffled border. Dab any remaining oil-butter mixture on top. Sprinkle with the remaining 2 teaspoons sugar. Cut 4 slits in the center for venting.
3. Place the tart on a baking sheet and bake until nicely browned and bubbling slightly, 45 to 55 minutes. Cool on a wire rack to room temperature (about 1 1/2 hours). Dust with confectioners' sugar.Enjoy!

Nutrition FactsPer serving268 calories9 g fat (2 g sat, 4 g mono)8 mg cholesterol44 g carbohydrate4 g protein2 g fiber150 mg sodiumNutrition Bonus: vitamin C (30% daily value), vitamin A (15% dv)

15 Ways to Observe Holy Week with Your Family

Barbara Curtis

Editor's Note: This is Part II in a series on celebrating Lent and Easter. To read Part I, click here.
Traditions - especially those children can see, hear, feel, smell and taste - provide vivid impressions on which parents can build year after year. There are many which will enrich your own family's celebration of what might be more accurately called Resurrection Day. Choose a few from this collection, share their meaning in whatever words your children will understand, and keep the ones you like as part of your family's Easter heritage.

Holy Week

11) Resurrection Eggs (TM): An egg carton filled with a dozen plastic eggs, each containing a symbol of the Holy Week. Accompanied by twelve brief child-friendly lessons. Make them yourself with directions from or order from FamilyLife Ministries.

12) Palm Sunday: If your church doesn't make much of Palm Sunday, you might consider just once attending one that does. For an in-home celebration, read Matthew 2:1-11 together. If you have a large family or a few friends, you can put together costumes and act out Jesus' arrival in Jerusalem.

13) Seeds: Seeds offer a clear message to children of the power of new life. Rest eggshell halves filled with soil in egg carton. Plant a marigold, petunia, or grapefruit seed in each (or even grass seed for fastest results). Place in sunny window.

14) Art Museums: The Passion of Christ is the most-portrayed subject of Western artists. If you live in a metropolitan area, a visit to your local art museum may give your family much to ponder.

15) Housecleaning: Wednesday of Holy Week has been a traditional day in many countries for housecleaning - from the Jewish custom of cleaning before Passover.

16) Passover: Each year more Christians are drawn to celebrate Passover, the feast commemorating the departure of the Israelites from slavery (Exodus 12). Jesus had come to Jerusalem to celebrate and was actually crucified on Passover Day. He is the fulfillment of this tradition, as our own Passover Lamb. For more information on connecting the Old and New Testaments in this way, visit Introduction to a Christian Seder: Recovering Passover for Christians.

17) Foot Washing: This Maundy Thursday event speaks volumes about Jesus's desire for us to serve. Read John 13. Wrap a towel around your waist, as Jesus did, and wash your children's feet. Your lives might never be the same.Good Friday

18) Three Hours: Observe Jesus' crucifixion by reading the Biblical account together. Sing old hymns of the Crucifixion and the Cross: "Were You There When They Crucified My Lord?" "The Old Rugged Cross," "When I Survey the Wondrous Cross." Most Catholic churches offer Stations of the Cross, fourteen plaques circling the interior walls which depict the final hours of Jesus' life. You may want to visit and contemplate these, one by one.

19) Hot Cross Buns: Traditional Good Friday fare for the family to make and eat together.Saturday of Holy Week

20) The Passion: Watch Mel Gibson's portrayal of Jesus's last hours with older children (warning: graphic but realistic violence). If your children are younger, If your children are younger, watch the Jesus Film Project's beautifully-crafted evangelical movie, scripted only with words from the Gospel of Luke.Easter Sunday

21) Easter Greeting: Greet each other with "Alleluia, the Lord is risen!" and answer "He is risen indeed!"

22) Sunrise Service: Attend one offered by a church, or climb a hill with your family, worship together, and share a picnic breakfast.

23) Special music: Listen together to Sandi Patti's moving "Was it a Morning Like This?" Listen again. Discuss how it must have felt to see our risen Lord. Was anyone who saw him ever the same? Jesus said those who believe without having seen are blessed (John 20:29).

24) New clothes: New converts were traditionally baptized at Easter, wearing new white garments to symbolize their new life. If your family has new Easter outfits, share with your children where this tradition came from.Somewhere in the Easter celebration, you may be coloring eggs and visiting relatives. Eggs then can become subtle way of sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ. Like seeds, eggs are very much a symbol of new life. Traditionally they were also a symbol of Easter joy because they were a forbidden item during Lent. Nowadays, dyed to take to grandmother's for an annual Easter egg hunt (as our family does each year) they can bear all manner of joyful messages.

Share with nonbelieving relatives and friends what your family is doing for Easter this year - maybe next year they'll join in. Whatever traditions you keep, remember that for believers Easter is a celebration that really never ends.

Make It Real for Little Ones
Young children are not abstract thinkers. To learn, they need to see. Experiences like growing seeds or bulbs give them a concrete image, providing a bridge into the abstract concept of new life.

Easter Diorama
with lots of pictures are a must for children to understand Jesus' death and Resurrection. For preschoolers, go easy on the torturous events leading to the Crucifixion as they could be too intense and upsetting. Concentrate on the tomb - finding it empty holds a lot of drama for children.For even more excitement, make the story three dimensional.Using clay or papier mache, construct a tomb and a stone. Create a scene, as simple or elaborate as you wish, of Jesus' burial site. Make or look through the toybox for plastic figures to represent Jesus and the guards. Wrap Jesus in a shroud (gauze from the medicine cabinet is perfect), place him in the tomb on Friday. Roll the stone in front of the opening of the tomb, using appropriate vocalizations to show how heavy it is. Now station the guards in front. No one is to touch the stone, although with the children's help, the guards may march back and forth to stretch their legs.

On Easter morning the children should find that during the night the stone was rolled away. The guards are lying outside the tomb, the gauzy shroud is inside, but Jesus is gone!

Read whichever Biblical account fits your children's ages or attention spans - some gospels have more information than others. Then "discover" the Jesus figure nearby. Now the words have meaning:
"He is risen!" "He is risen indeed!"

Barbara Curtis has 12 children - including three adopted sons with Down syndrome - and 10 grandchildren so far. She is also an award-winning author with nine books and 800+ articles in print publications including Focus on the Family, Guideposts, Christian Parenting Today, and The Washington Times.

Barbara is a popular speaker at MOPS and women's events, as well as writers' conferences. Online you can find her at MommyLife and Mommy, Teach Me!.

Affairs of the Heart

by Debra White Smith
Author, Marriage Revolution
source: CrosswaLk

My lover is mine and I am his. ~ Song of Songs 2:16

Passage: Song of Songs 2

During the last few years I have communicated with a number of wives and husbands who are concerned about their mates' other relationships. The scenario goes like this:

My mate is very good friends with someone of the opposite sex. He/she spends lots of time with this person either on the phone or in person. I even overhear him/her talking about me and our marriage. I have expressed concern over this friendship, but my spouse repeatedly tells me that they're nothing but friends and I'm just being jealous.

Sometimes the friendship existed before the couple got married, so the mate has had a platonic-but-close friendship with this special friend for years and has no intention of putting boundaries on it. Often the spouse who is expressing concern feels deeply betrayed and frustrated. And well he or she should.

Many times what is going on is an emotional affair. Emotional affairs happen when a platonic friendship turns into a crush or thoughts are entertained such as, "If I were single, this is the person I'd go after." Sometimes light flirting happens. When the spouse involved in the emotional affair gripes or puts down his or her spouse or discusses negatives about the marriage, verbal infidelity has occurred. Often verbal unfaithfulness coupled with an emotional affair leads to sexual infidelity.

Emotional affairs resemble a sexually chaste dating relationship. When coworkers have emotional affairs, they regularly do special things for each other, such as bake cookies or small repair jobs. They might walk to their cars together at the end of the day and spend breaks and lunchtime with each other. Many times when a man has an affair with his secretary, she starts out doing thoughtful, wifely things for him. This grows into a friendship, which blossoms into an emotional affair, which eventually becomes sexual.

In order to combat any chances of an emotional affair, some Christians run every time they see someone of the opposite sex. This is really only necessary if the person is spiritually, emotionally, or sexually weak. In such cases, the remedy lies in strengthening the marriage and his or her relationship with God to the point that fierce loyalty to the spouse and the Lord overrides temptation.

People have to work and interact with people of the opposite sex. In our ministry, my husband and I are surrounded by male and female acquaintances and associates. We're both very careful to not let any of these friendships grow into a relationship that might lead to an emotional affair. If we sense someone is too interested, Daniel and I report to each other with a "What do you think? Am I being paranoid or do you think this person might be trying to warm up to me?"

Many times Daniel and I validate what the other is sensing. Then we quietly put boundaries on that person. I've found that sometimes Christians who are wholly dedicated to the Lord can go from one emotional affair to another without realizing or recognizing what's happening.
Occasionally baking cookies for business associates or walking to a vehicle together or having a business-related lunch doesn't automatically mean someone is having an emotional affair. These deeds can be a necessity or simply a polite consideration and nothing more. However, it's wise to be on guard so that habitual kindnesses don't grow into more…not only for you, but also for the other party.

As the outgoing, friendly sort who talks to everyone, I've learned the hard way that those who are emotionally needy can view the offer of friendship as something more personal and serious. Now that I'm a much older and wiser woman, I'm polite but careful to never give men a reason to think I'm available emotionally or otherwise. I also frequently mention God, my husband, and my family and keep conversations benign.

If you or your mate has experienced an emotional affair, perhaps the marriage isn't meeting the needs or fulfilling the one involved in the affair. I'm not saying that the emotional affair is the fault of the other spouse, but I am saying that often trouble in a marriage can drive inappropriate emotional attachments. In most cases problems in a marriage exist because both spouses contribute in some way. If an emotional affair turns into a sexual affair, and then a divorce and remarriage occur, the people involved will likely fall into a similar dysfunction again.
Examine your heart for any signs of an emotional affair. If your spouse is uncomfortable with a friendship you nurture, put some boundaries on that friendship. Don't enable a spouse's inappropriate jealousies that are bred by control and insecurity, but be sensitive. If you're spending time with and getting attached to a person of the opposite sex, your spouse will sense that and voice objections. Listen to your mate. Don't discount what he or she says.

Father, please show me any emotional affairs I might be blind to. Also, make me aware of anyone who is too close to me. Help me put kind-but-firm boundaries on that relationship. I want to be faithful to my mate sexually, verbally, and emotionally. And, Lord, please give my mate the same desires. Give us the wisdom and discernment to avoid unhealthy emotional attachments that violate our wedding vows. Bring us to a point in our marriage where we can joyfully say, "My lover is mine, and I am my lover's" and mean it.

Excerpted from
Marriage Revolution: Rethinking Your Relationship in Light of God's Design
(Harvest House Publishers) by Debra White Smith. © 2008 Debra White Smith. Used with permission. All rights reserved.

Debra White Smith has 52 books to her credit and more than a million books in print, including Romancing Your Husband, Romancing Your Wife, and many fiction romances. Debra's award-winning writing, biblical knowledge, and entertaining humor have made her a reader favorite and a sought-after conference speaker.

Do You Feel You Have to Do it All?

by Sandy Coughlin
source: Crosswalk

"We need a balance between work and play, between kindness and firmness, between waiting and praying, between saving and spending, between wanting too much and expecting too little, between warm acceptance and keen discernment, between grace and truth. The longer I live, the more I must fight the tendency to go to extremes … and the more I value balance." (Taken from Chuck Swindoll's Living Beyond the Daily Grind)
I receive heartfelt emails from readers on a daily basis. This one touched a chord with me, and I bet she is not the only woman who feels this way! See what you think, if she resonates with you:

I have a question. I'm feeling so overwhelmed lately with all the demands from school for me to volunteer, driving kids to sports events, teaching bible class, etc. It all takes up so much of my time, I couldn't even fathom entertaining, much less actually being able to get anything done. How do you balance everything? Do you put a limit on outside demands? I'm feeling a little frustrated this week, and need a little advice if you have a couple minutes to spare.

Goodness – her life sounds like my life and, I bet, most American moms' lives!
There once was a season where I thought I had to do it all. I've now pulled back from too much volunteer work (I put my time in for many years!), and I don't go to parties (or Bunko) during weekday evenings. I've even limited myself to how I want to serve at church. Just for this season, I value being available for my family. How much longer will we all be together? When the kids are gone, I will have so much more free time to volunteer.

My husband was the one who helped me attain this concept.I used to feel guilty if I didn't "serve," but now that I have learned that serving begins smack-dab in the middle of my home, I'm freed up to reach out in different ways. For example, some of the ways I get to serve is through Balcony Girls (done in my home), making meals for others, taking cookies to neighbors, feeding teachers, having a friend over for lunch, setting up meals for a needy family, and making sure there is plenty of food for my teens (and their starving friends ). I've even been a college mentor through a scholarship program – again, pretty much done in my own home. And in the midst of serving those outside my family I, of course, prioritize serving my husband by balancing "date nights " – something I hugely value for a healthy marriage and great for my kids to witness!

Tips on Bringing it Home Even though I've managed to bring much of my life home, I still need to be intentional at seeking out balance. I actually work from home so I have to be incredibly disciplined with my time. It feels horrible when my home gets out of control -- and believe me, it does! -- because I'm working almost full-time. I only shop when I absolutely have to. And during this season, I squeeze in necessary alone time by getting up early to exercise with wonderful running partners then coming back for a quick study on my own (currently working through Beth Moore's Fruit of the Spirit study).

Less is More. Less time in my car is more time at home. We are blessed to be about 0.8 mile away from the kids' schools and activities so I do very little driving around. For the times that I need to get somewhere, I set up a carpool. I'll drive one way and arrange for another parent to drive the other way.

I've learned to say "No" to many outside activities so I can keep my home flowing and at the same time teach my kids about hospitality and the art of homemaking.

Hospitality on a Limited Schedule. As I mentioned before, hospitality rarely leaves my home in this increasingly busy season of life – but if it does, it goes with me in the form of a meal, cookies, flowers, or time to someone in need. Pick and choose what is important to you and what you want your kids to learn from it. Here's one practical example of reaching out on a limited schedule.
I got up early one morning last week and turned the oven on to 350 degrees.I pulled my Ziploc bag of Snicker Doodle cookie dough out of the freezer. My daughter and I made up a double batch of dough this past weekend, rolled half of it up into balls, spun them around in a bowl of cinnamon and sugar, and then froze them in Ziplocs. This is the best way to have fresh cookies come out of your oven – in a snap! I had pre-arranged to take dinner to a friend that morning, a friend who'd recently had surgery. Her family became the lovely recipient of freshly-baked Snicker Doodles plus a dinner of Mango Crockpot Chicken , fresh tortillas, and all the fixings to go with it (and canned salsa from my sis's garden)!

Even a quick gesture can make a big difference in someone's life. I am still learning the art of this balancing act.

I like to think that the older I get, the wiser I am becoming with my time as I learn from others.

Sandy Coughlin is a wife and mother of 3. She loves her family and loves blessing other people's lives by entertaining in her home. Sandy's husband, Paul, (who used to be the reluctant entertainer) has come on board, and they often offer hospitality together. Sandy and Paul co-authored a book called Married but Not Engaged(Bethany House, Aug. 2006). It's written to women who are married to "checked out" or emotionally absent men and who want to create a more satisfying, intimate relationship. This article was adapted from Sandy's regularly updated blog "4 Reluctant Entertainers," which you can visit at Get more information on Married but Not Engaged by clicking here. Visit Paul's website at:

Living by a code of honor

By Rebekah Montgomery

It was a mistake. I knew it then and I admit it now.

I was in Atlanta attending a conference where I didn't know hardly anyone. Lonely, I decided to telephone an old friend living there. He came down to my hotel, picked me up, and you can guess what happened next: He fed me barbecue. We talked over old times. Laughed a lot. Then he dropped me back at my hotel about 9:30. No romance. No attraction. Not even a peck on the cheek.

But it was wrong, not because I am a married woman - my husband knew and approved the dinner - but because I am Bible teacher. The Scriptures are clear: God Himself holds those who teach the Word to higher standard. By the way, so do the world and our students. (James 3:1) For this reason as well as others, I take the privilege of teaching the Word very seriously.

As women who minister, our mistakes can be more dangerous than physician malpractice. If a doctor blunders, the patient may die. If we goof up, someone could go to hell to die forever - and take her family with her. As Jesus commented, we would be better off dead than cause someone to sin. (Matthew 18:6)

So I have adopted a Code of Honor for my ministry and I want to share the condensed version with you. It is not meant to restrict as much as protect the Lord's reputation, my reputation, and those who are new believers or seekers from being offended. It is a dynamic document. As I learn, either by instruction or from a mistake, I amend it. But I share it with you now, and perhaps it will serve as a pattern for a Code of Honor for your ministry, too.

A Women's Ministry Code of Honor
When I quote Scripture in a teaching, I will look it up in context to be certain that I am not twisting it to make my point. I will try to memorize the passage so I quote it correctly.
I will make sure that any teaching showcases Jesus and His truth, not me or my pet subject.

When I speak, I will not tell anecdotes about my children or husband without their permission.

When I am a guest at a church, I will not publicly dispute doctrinal issues with which I disagree. I will conform to their social and religious customs provided they do not disagree with my basic faith tenets.

will dress modestly in public at all times.

When I am teaching the Word, I will dress in such as way as to not call undue attention to myself or be distracting.

will not be alone or meet privately with a member of the opposite sex who is not a close family member. If I do have a meeting, it will be in a public place or with someone else present.

I will not pray with or privately counsel a member of the opposite sex who is not a close relative.

I will not flirt in any way with a member of the opposite sex. (Except my hubby, and then watch the sparks!)

absolutely will not discuss anything of a private sexual nature with a member of the opposite sex.
I will not laugh at suggestive stories or jokes.

I will love and treat others as I wish to be treated, considering everyone as beloved by God regardless of their sexual orientation, social status, race, religion, criminal record, addiction, or lifestyle.

I am a servant, not a master. I wash feet, not stand on a pedestal.

I will not take money to pray for or with someone. Since I am not a trained counselor, I will not take money to counsel someone.

What someone tells me in confidence remains private unless he/she has committed a crime that by law I have to report.

I will not pretend to be perfect. But neither will I strip down to my emotional underwear for the purpose of attention.

I will be transparent and accountable. When I'm wrong or hurt, I'll admit it. If I make a public mistake, I'll admit it publicly.

I will be quick to apologize. I will seek restoration.

I will be scrupulously honest in any area that deals with money. I will take a loss rather than allow any suspicion of financial mishandling.

I will avoid personal habits (use of alcohol, smoking, gambling, etc.) that might cause others to sin.

I do not publicly discuss my own political views, but if someone asks privately, I will share my opinion.

Whether I am in public or private, I will be aware that I am a representative of Christ, and because He has entrusted me to teach His Word, my actions have greater repercussions.

© Rebekah Montgomery 2008