Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Sins Swallowed Up (and a chance to win your own Repentence Box!)

This is the second in a series of ideas for Lenten devotions and activities.  Whatever you do (or don't do) during Lent, I pray your journey to the Jesus' sacrifice on the cross is filled with the love, peace, and amazing grace of God.

Sometimes, when you are a random abstract person, you come across a great idea, seize it and hug it and love the fuzz off of it, and then — when you want to share it with the masses or at least a handful of friends — you can't find the original source for all the searching in the world and it's enough to make you scream or slay dust bunnies or cross your eyes and foam at the mouth and lay in a frumpy heap on the floor in the middle of the slaughtered dust bunnies.  Can you tell I'm in a bit of a tizzy about this?  Today this random abstract source-seeking person is me, and the English teacher in me is none too happy about potential plagiarism.  My legal-minded Mister wouldn't be happy either.  Intellectual property and all.

That said, this is NOT my idea.  And if you know where it comes from and whom I can credit, please do share and assuage my guilt.

There.  I've laid my plagiarism sin bare.  I promise to try and track sources better from here on out.  And I beg forgiveness from the originator of... The Magical Sin Swallowing Box.

Okay, that's not what it was originally called.  I'll take credit for the name.  But that's as far as I can go.

As we journey through Lent and look to Jesus' sacrifice on the cross, the biggest thing I want my kids to realize is how big, how powerful, how cleansing Jesus' loving forgiveness is.   

We are all sinners, stuck in mistakes (plagiarism and worse), lost on our own.  Jesus knows that.  He loves us in spite of that.  And that love — God's love — carried him through his darkest hours of crucifixion.  And because he gave his life for us, we get a clean slate every time we repent and return to God.  Every time.  

We get to cuddle in close to God even when we're dirty and stained and streaked with tears.  He doesn't say, "Hey, not so close to the shining white robes," or give us a scolding look.  He looks over at Jesus, they shrug their shoulders and smile at one another in knowing fashion, and then God pulls us in close and cleans away our dirty sins with a heavenly hankie: the grace of Jesus' sacrifice. 

It takes a bit of imagination and a lot of faith to trust in that forgiveness and salvation.  My kiddos — a lot of people — benefit from a visual aid to reinforce the idea.

And that's where the Magical Sin Swallowing Box comes in.

During Lent, we...
  1. Write our sins on dirty gray hearts. 
  2. We confess our mistakes and offer up our hurting hearts to God, asking him to forgive us and renew us as only he can.  
  3. Then we slip those scraps of sin into a shoebox.  
  4. As we let the paper go, we ask God to help us truly let the sin go, to erase the hurt and the guilt and the distance from God in our hearts, our heads, our souls, to help us embrace his forgiveness and grace.
  5. And then we repeat.  Often.  
Forty days of sins released fills up our box.  Then on Easter morning, we open the sealed box.  And where one might expect to see dozens of gray hearts, scribbled with sin, what God gives us is this...

A box of clean, white hearts.  Clean slates.  Do-overs.  Invitations to come to him pure and clean and forgiven.  God doesn't just forgive our sins.  He forgets them.  All we have to do is repent and believe.

You are wondering what happened to the gray, sin-filled hearts.  This is where the magic comes in.  That shoe box has been outfitted with a hidden compartment.  The sin-filled hearts are trapped in a 1/2" deep cardboard tray glued inside the lid of the box.  Sneaky, eh?  (I am mildly afraid that this is the year my kids will figure it out.  If that happens, I'll turn it into a lesson on dimensions and measurement...)

Here's how you make the box.
  1. Procure a good, old-fashioned shoe box. 
  2. Measure the inside length and width of the lid.  Add 1" to both measurements (this will give you an extra 1/2" on each side to fold up and glue to the lid, making a 1/2" secret compartment).
  3. Cut a rectangle of cardboard (an empty cereal box works nicely) according to your original lid measurement + 1" ( this becomes your secret compartment bottom).
  4. Draw a line 1/2" inside each edge.
  5. Cut away a 1/2" square from each corner.
  6. Go over the 1/2" lines with a boning knife (or a ball point pen) to create a narrow groove which will make it easier to fold the cardboard.
  7. Fold the 1/2" cardboard edges up at a 90° angle.
  8. Cut a cross-shaped slit in the center of the box lid and the secret compartment bottom.  An Exacto knife or box cutter makes easy work of this step.  Make the slit about 1/8" wide, at the most.  If it's too wide, the secret compartment might be obvious.
  9. Wrap the box and the lid in wrapping paper.  
  10. Warm up your glue gun or get out some rubber cement or tacky glue.  You want an adhesive that will set quickly and securely.  Apply a line of glue on the inside of the lid, along the sides about 1/4" away from the top.
  11. You can print this for free.  Wheeee!
  12. Slide the secret compartment into place and hold until the glue sets.
  13. Once the secret compartment is in place, you can have the kiddos decorate the Swallowing Sin Box.  We just put a simple Bible verse on ours, but Easter stickers, crosses, or pictures of Jesus would all be snazzy.
  14. Cut hearts from gray paper.  We do 40 hearts for each family member, enough for one a day if we're diligent and consistent.  We use a paper punch for this, which makes the heart cutting go MUCH faster.
  15. In secret, well after the kids are asleep, cut out the white hearts.
  16. Put the white hearts in the box and seal it.  You can break out the glue gun again for this step.  Wheeee!

And if that strikes you as too much fuss, know that there are other Repentance Box ideas out there.  Such as decorating a box, writing down sins, and then burning the notes on Easter day.  Or this... one of many inspiring ideas from Ann Voskamp at A Holy Experience.
Family Repentance Box

Much simpler.  But no hot glue guns are involved.  And I do love my hot glue gun.

How ever you encourage your family to name, claim, and surrender their sins, may you and your loved ones know that saving power of God's forgiveness and grace this Lenten season.

Leave a comment about this post and you will be in the running for one 4 3/4" x 7 3/8" Magical Sin Swallowing Box made by yours truly, complete with secret compartment, 160 dirty gray hearts, and 160 clean white hearts.  I will ship said box to you, the randomly chosen winner, a.s.a.p.  My posts typically average 0.03 responses, so this shouldn't be too tough.  Best of luck!


  1. Liz, this is a beautiful idea. I want to "step it up" a bit with my family for Lent this year, but I don't want to be (once again) in the teacher role. This puts adults and kids on the same level; we all commit sins, we each are looking for forgiveness and grace. Lovely, blessed friend.

  2. love this! so cool! can't wait to do this with Lulu one day and the hubs now!

  3. Congrats, Kim! You are the lucky winner! Will you be working at church tomorrow morning? I could drop it off then...

  4. So when Easter Morning comes and you burn those hearts, do you continue to it for the rest of the years?


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