Editorís note: This is the first of a two-part series on activities that help you prepare spiritually for Easter.
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. Never mind that 10 minutes earlier I was begging and bribing my family to hurry up to get there on time Ė not exactly creating an environment that welcomes stillness or reflection or prayer.
Iím 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 Ė until God got involved.
Our oldest son wanted to help with an Easter egg hunt at Community Lutheran Ministry in Rochester, N.Y. 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, donít 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 didnít 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 hadnít 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.
Marketta Gregory is a former religion reporter who now shares her own journey of faith with readers. She lives in Rochester, N.Y., with her husband, their three young boys and one very vocal Pomeranian. To contact Gregory, email email@example.com or write to her at P.O. Box 12923, Rochester, NY 14612. You can also visit the Simply Faithful page on Facebook and follow her on Twitter (@MarkettaGregory).