On Palm Sunday, the traditional Christian day of remembering when King Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey (not exactly the grand entrance from a majestic King the Jews were expecting), I woke up with Holy Spirit speaking in my ear, “Oh, how He loves you!” I kept repeating it to myself, soaking in the depth of His love! Often, I can’t help but stop everything I’m doing and bask in the knowledge that Jesus Christ, Master of the Universe, the One who lived, died, and rose again, the only One who shed His blood for you and me, is true God, and the Lover of my soul! That Father God created me and wants to spend time with me. That Holy Spirit longs to lead, guide, and encourage me. The love of God is astounding! Actually it leaves me speechless, sing-less (I know-it’s not a word), and stunned!
So I thought about His words all morning, all day, and I’m sure I will think of them for a long time to come. But it wasn’t just the words themselves that struck me. It was the “way” He said them! It wasn’t a statement but an invitation to explore how He loves me (and you). The tone in His voice was comforting and encouraging but there was also a sense of pleading to discover the depth of how He loves me (and you). It is humbling to hear from our God! Even though love is not just a feeling but it is action, Holy Spirit was urging me not to focus on the action, on “what” God has done for me, but to explore the feelings, and “how” God loves me.
We know Jesus loves us – after all He died for us – and trying to measure that kind of love is beyond our realm of comprehension. But God lives with us! Oh, how He loves that He would choose to make His home with us. Jesus reminds us if we love and obey Him, Father God will come to us and live in us. John 14:23 “Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.” Father, Son, and Holy Spirit will come to you and to me, and they will make their home with you and me. I wish I could find more words to express what that does to a person, but I hope you are feeling how He loves you!
I could go on and on showing bible verses demonstrating His love for us since the Word of God is jam-packed with love. For example: He created and breathes life into us; He leads, guides, directs, chastens, restores, protects, shelters, and keeps us. He suffered, died, was buried, and rose for us. He redeemed us. He renews, uplifts, empowers, equips, and anoints us! He makes and keeps promises and covenant with us. He does all of this because He loves so deeply. At the same time we don’t read many times in the Word where God says the words “I love you” yet He does! Therefore we must ponder how He loves us!
It is no coincidence Holy Spirit spoke these words to me on Palm Sunday. They have become a catalyst for exploring how I feel about how He loves moving into Holy Week and Resurrection Sunday. As I pondered how He loves Holy Spirit started bringing Easter memories to the forefront of my thoughts, which causes me to remember and experience more of how He loves me. I pray this will stir you to do a little memory hunting, but even more importantly, begin today to do a little more memory making, as you too feel just how He loves you!
Easter is a time Americans fix their gaze on a bunny, candy, decorating eggs, and “The Hunt”. Fun times are had by all, especially as families gather to celebrate and enjoy special meals together. Growing up, my parents convinced me the Easter Bunny was real. We would bake cookies and the night before Easter I would put a few out on a plate along with two of the most beautiful eggs I had decorated, salt and pepper, and a glass of milk. I did want him well fed but my true motivation was to get something in return; I wanted and expected an Easter basket filled with goodies! We even left the back kitchen door unlocked which was unusual since we lived on Grand Street in North Minneapolis, Minnesota, not necessarily the safest part of town. Yet, for Easter Bunny I guess it was worth the risk. (Little did I know my parents locked the door as soon as I was in bed and got up to unlock it before I was out of bed in the morning.)
Every year I was amazed to find huge muddy “bunny” paw prints from the kitchen door to the table, in both directions, so there was no question in my mind the Easter Bunny was real and appreciative of the treats I left for him. Not only did he mess up our floor but the milk glass was always empty, the plate had only egg shells and cookie crumbs remaining, and yes, he always brought me a very special chocolate bunny to devour at my leisure in a basket full of colorful candies and toys. Oh, how the Easter bunny loved me!
Another tradition was the excitement in shopping for just the right Easter dress. My mom saved up money to buy us special new “Easter” outfits, though I am convinced they were more for her to show us kids off than for our pleasure. I mean seriously! Don’t you think the white gloves are a little excessive? Just kidding! Hey, if you like them, go for it! Along with those awesome Easter bonnets! Anyway, the new flowery or white dress, the new white tights or socks, the new little white purse with pretty little white gloves, were all “gotten” to celebrate one day – Easter Sunday! It almost felt like a fashion show at church on Easter because of all the “oooo’s and ahhhhh’s” from the older folks. Talk about being put on display! But we felt so special because Mom made sure we looked just right. Oh, how my parents loved me!
And then there are church memories! For Christians, Easter is a day to celebrate Jesus’ resurrection, the day He broke the bonds of death and redeemed us from the power of sin and the devil! By Easter Sunday, most Christians have just spent six weeks (forty days) focused on prayer, repentance, and self-denial during the season called “Lent”. I loved the season of Lent because it meant I was in church a lot more than usual. Plus, we had these great Lenten suppers so we went early to eat and visit with friends before we went into our worship services. As Holy Week approached things just got better and better for me because we had Thursday and Friday evening worship services plus three hours of church on Friday afternoon to focus specifically on the time Jesus hung on the cross! I went to public school but we always had Holy Week off because THAT was Spring Break! Good Friday meant schools were out and employers let their workers off in the afternoon so Christians could meet to remember! My, how things have changed! Then there are the thunderstorms that often occur on Good Friday! How I love them! Every year I watch the weather and am in awe if it gets dark and stormy, a simple reminder of how dark the day was when Jesus died!
But then!!!!! Sunday morning happened! Easter Sunday! Resurrection Day! I loved getting to church and having people say “He is risen”, responding with, “He is risen indeed!” Nobody could say those words without a smile, even the notorious grouchy people. It IS one of the few days EVERYONE in church looks happy for at least a moment! (Come on – you know what I’m talking about!) The resurrection of Jesus Christ is indeed Good News! PLUS, there was this thing called Easter Breakfast! I loved to partake whether I was the one serving or being served. Such great memories! Oh, how the Church loved me!
BUT….as a child, putting all these things together brought a bit of puzzlement! I was a thinker and didn’t understand what all the bunny and egg stuff had to do with all the Jesus stuff. I suppose I enjoyed it all but remember feeling confused about what was real and what wasn’t. And I do remember being upset and unappreciative of the bunny deception when the baking and footprints stopped. Okay! I was naïve – but still! Oh, how Easter bunny, my parents, and my Church loved me – but what was Easter really all about? One minute we were praising Jesus for being alive and the next we were praising Easter Bunny or someone else for all the treats! Memories!
My husband and I raised our children with many of the same Easter traditions minus Easter bunny of course since I needed counseling when I discovered he wasn’t real (Just kidding with the counseling but imagine my surprise when my parents confessed they were the Easter bunny!) Memories for our family include lots of church services, Lenten meals, Easter baskets, egg coloring, and candy hunts (in lieu of egg hunts since the kids preferred candy to eggs), and new matching Easter outfits, even dressing my son in pastel colored shirts (Oh, how he loves me for that)!
Why all this memory searching? Because through it all – “Oh, how He loves you” is felt deep within! Nothing is wasted with God! He was and is with me and you through it all! Easter is the perfect time and reason to experience how He loves you. But don’t stop with a simple acknowledgment of His death and resurrection. Instead take the time to really feel how He loves you today! Take the time with your church family to experience how He loves you. Don’t let yourselves get caught up in all the other stuff in life. Get caught up in how He loves you. Let everything you do be a reminder of how He loves. But don’t stop with reminders! Bask in how He loves!
There is purposely not a lot of Scripture provided in this blog. Holy Spirit said we must all go on our own little expedition – Go on a love hunt today! Just like you would go on an egg or candy hunt, go on a love hunt! Get into His Word! But don’t look for all the ways God demonstrates His love for you or even how much God loves you! Simply look for how He loves you! ! Go ahead and feel how, now!
And if you’re reading this and it is not Holy Week – no problem – Easter is an everyday experience! After all, He is alive everyday – He is risen everyday! Oh, how He loves you!