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Category Archives: Easter

Stand and Behold…But Don’t Forget To Look and Listen For the New…Too!

Christ On The Cross by Andrea MategnaPain, sorrow, grief, agony – They are part of life! But what do we do with them? It would seem Easter is the perfect time to contemplate these deep emotions! I know I have! I’ve taken the time to consider how much pain, sorrow, grief, and agony Mary, the mother of Jesus endured as she stood by the cross, looking up at her Son as He was cruelly crucified with stakes driven through His hands and feet after being maliciously mocked and brutally beaten. The pain and agony He experienced is incomprehensible while Mary’s emotions must have been off the charts as well!

Understanding how Mary endured this onslaught of grief might just help us endure whatever circumstances we face today! We CAN and should identify with Mary because we’ve all been given the great capacity to love. In fact, the love of God IN us is limitless because His love FOR us has no limits!

We read in John 19:25-27 “Now there stood by the cross of Jesus His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus therefore saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing by, He said to His mother, “Woman, behold your son!” Then He said to the disciple, “Behold your mother!” And from that hour that disciple took her to his own home.”

basketball-courtI can relate in a MUCH smaller degree to Mom Mary. Our son was a talented and successful basketball player in high school and college, entertaining to watch though his opponents didn’t enjoy watching him as much as we did. It was common for them to undercut him when he went high in the air, landing him on his back in excruciating pain. I guess the fouls they accrued were worth it to them.

Every time this happened, I instinctively covered my eyes, bowing over in my own anguish, then looked back to see if he got up. I wanted to save him, protect him; tell him to stop playing, stop jumping; please…make it all STOP! I moved quickly from pain to anger, wanting to hurt the boy who hurt my boy JUST because he was alive and on the basketball court. I wonder if that’s how Mary felt. Please…just let it be over; Stop the madness; Stop the rejection, the humiliation, and the beatings. Stop hurting my Son just because He is alive and on the earth.

Its-OverWhen my son’s final basketball season was over, I felt relief. Sure! I would have enjoyed watching him play forever. He was extraordinary. But I was tired of seeing him get hurt; tired of watching him get treatments on his back so he could get back out on the court only to be hurt again; tired of watching him be strong on the outside when inside he was breaking. I was glad when it was finally over.

I imagine when Jesus’ earthly life came to an end Mary felt relief. Sure, she would have enjoyed watching Him continue His ministry forever. He was extraordinary. But she also must have been tired of seeing Him be rejected, hated, mocked, whipped and beaten; tired of watching Him be strong on the outside while His heart broke inwardly; glad when it was finally over.

Many people came to watch the basketball games to be entertained but honestly, none of them were more invested than the parents and loved ones of those men on the court. Think of the many people who stood by, watching this crucifixion! All of them were inconsequential in comparison to those who loved Jesus and stood by His cross as He hung in pain; His mom, her sister, two other “Mary” friends, and His beloved friend, John who stood close by.

Holding handsThank God Mary had significant, special people to get her through this seeming nightmare. I imagine as she stood by the cross she reached out to her friends; holding on to them for dear life; letting their strength seep into her as they held her up!

When my son would get hurt and there wasn’t anything I could do, I grabbed hold of my husband, daughters, in-laws, or friends nearby. I reached out knowing I could rely on them because they shared similar thoughts and feelings as me. Sure…we all experienced it differently but the love binding us together, love for a son, a grandson, a brother, a friend, or a friend’s son helped me as I stood and watched.

Jesus meets MaryFriends, all of us have times in life when there is nothing we can do but stand by and watch. What DO you do when there is nothing you can do? Let me suggest reaching out to touch someone and let them touch you too! The love and strength of a friend’s touch can be a source of strength coming from our source of strength, Father God. A friend’s touch can seep through our bodies and spirits to bring renewed strength to stand. Touch is something we can all do! AND, there’s something else; eye contact!

Platon-Varquez-Son-Behold-Your-Mother-16x20-Oil-1996While Mary stood by watching, Jesus looked down at her from the cross and their eyes met. Mother and Son! I think if Mary wasn’t already hanging on to her friends for dear life, she did, the moment she made eye contact with her Boy. The helplessness she must have felt at that moment is haunting. Perhaps she was tempted to look away from His pain but she couldn’t. Did she cry, scream, shout, or attack the attackers? Did she plead with the guards to take her Boy off the cross? What message did she convey with her eyes as she gazed into His eyes; the Boy she birthed, nursed, raised, loved, and watched grow to manhood? When their eyes met, what depth of love did they communicate to one another?

One time the athletic trainer called us down from the stands because our son was hurt badly. When I walked into the training room and saw him in the throes of severe pain, my heart broke. When his eyes met mine I saw desperation. He didn’t speak but I imagined only two words…HELP ME! And there I stood…helpless! My touch wouldn’t still the pain…my comfort wouldn’t ease the torment…my prayers though welcomed wouldn’t end the torture he was experiencing…my sympathy was useless…and at that moment…my love felt like nothing for him.

How many of you reading this have beloveds in your life who are in pain; physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual? Your touch doesn’t still their agony. Your comfort doesn’t ease the torment. Your prayers, though welcome, don’t stop the torture. Your sympathy is useless and your love, though deep and passionate does nothing to stop the insanity.

What DO you do when your eyes meet the eyes of loved ones in these situations? What depth of love is communicated as your eyes meet? What DO you do when you can’t help them? When you can’t take away pain from a child, parent, or friend? When there are no words to still the hurt?

6a00d8341fd10e53ef0167636db06c970bI want to do what Mary did…she stood! She watched! She looked into her Son’s eyes. And then…she listened to Him. In the throes of pain and agony Jesus did the unthinkable; He declared a new love relationship! He glanced at John and then at His mom. “He said to His mother, ‘Woman, behold your son!’ Then He said to the disciple, ‘Behold your mother!'” Jesus He gave His mother a son, and his beloved friend a mother.

Mary and John had a decision to make. They had to take their eyes OFF Jesus and behold one another! Look away from what “was” and look at what now WAS. They looked into each other’s eyes as mother and son! Wow! If I were Mary I might have screamed, “NO, I don’t want John. I want YOU Jesus!” But Mary, in the midst of sorrow, looked into the eyes of her Son; she heard His heart, she heard His words, and then she looked away to behold the new!

Take time today to consider how Jesus gave up His mom to do His Father’s will. He was always thinking of others so He made sure His mom had a son to carry on with. And Mary? She is quite amazing too! She gave up her Son to do her Father’s will. She was also thinking of others so she went home with John to be his mom…AND she let him be her son. Pretty special…Pretty healing!

Whatever you’re facing today…whatever loved ones in your life are facing today… give them up to your heavenly Father to do His will. Know God has a plan and He gives us friends and loved ones to stand with, to touch, to look into each other’s eyes, to behold, and to embrace the new, whatever that might be!

 

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Jesus Is Risen! It’s Time To Take His Exchange and Put On Our Garments of Praise!

Well!  Easter is FINALLY here!  If you have been passionately preparing for Resurrection Sunday you are excited!  For weeks I have meditated on this holy event in the life of every Christian!  This past week has been somber, solemn, sorrowful, serious, and sad as I focus my eyes on the suffering of Jesus.  To fully embrace the gravity of His pain, to relate to the mockery, accusations, betrayal, hatred, beatings, reviling, taunting, and blasphemy  Jesus endured is a journey of helplessness, weariness, thankfulness, gratitude, and surrender!  As I have read and re-read the biblical account of His suffering and death there were times I cried out in my heart  “Let it be over, please!!!” because I felt I could not take it anymore and yet Holy Spirit kept saying, “Stay here!  Keep embracing the pain and suffering.”

And now the time is here to celebrate His resurrection with His Body!  As I get ready to celebrate, I  imagine Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bringing spices to anoint Jesus very early in the morning when the sun rose.  I try to picture them talking to each other as they walked, questioning who was going to roll away the stone from the door for them.  Then see them arrive at the open tomb with the large stone rolled away.  Ahhh…. This makes my excitement build! 

Then the women walk in and see a young man in a long white robe sitting on the right side!  What?  They came to anoint a dead man and find a live man!  Of course they are alarmed!  (When my alarm goes off Easter morning it will be a whole new experience for me!)  The young man speaks the words we know and love but they never grow old!  “You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified.  He is risen!  He is not here.  See the place where they laid Him.” YES!!!! He is RISEN!  He is RISEN indeed!  Finally!  AND, it gets better for them and for us!  The man says “But go, tell His disciples – and Peter – that He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him, as He said to you.”  (Mark 16)

Oh, that’s right!  They already knew He would rise because He told them!  But as we all know, very often we need to see before we believe and they were told they would see Him!  They were trembling and amazed at the same time!  I can relate, how about you?  Sometimes the thought of getting to “see” Jesus is so incredible and the anticipation so powerful my body cannot handle it so I tremble and am amazed at the same time.  Easter morning is one of those days! 

Even though I know He is risen, live in that reality every day, have celebrated Easter for some forty-five years, it is still one of the most exciting and exhilarating experiences of my life!  Easter is never the same because every year my relationship with Jesus has changed, hopefully grown, and every year I am expectant of something new.  And so like those women, I go quickly to find Him.  Resurrection Sunday!  It’s a new day!

As I was allowing myself to “get excited”  to celebrate His resurrection Holy Spirit said, “It’s time to put on your garment of praise!”  I know we don’t typically associate Isaiah 61 with the resurrection of Jesus but let’s try it on anyway.  v. 1-3 “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, because the Lord has anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn, to console those who mourn in Zion, to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified!”

Jesus quotes part of this in Luke 4 as He proclaims the Spirit of the Lord was on Him without measure and He was anointed in His service to the Father as our Redeemer, the Messiah, the Christ !  Jesus is recognized here as deliverer, prophetic preacher, priest to heal, and king to issue proclamations, all the qualities we witness through His life, death and resurrection!

Think of the mourning experienced by Mary, the disciples, and others who loved Jesus as they watched Him be treated worse than a common criminal.  Think of the heaviness in their spirits as they saw Him suffer and die.  We too should share in His suffering, mourn, feel the weight of sin, humble ourselves before Him and then we truly begin to appreciate and revel in His comfort, in the beauty He gives, the oil of joy, and the garment of praise!  Can you see the exchange?  He replaces one thing for another so if that “something ” doesn’t exist  how do we receive a replacement?  Jesus did the hard part and we get to receive!   

 He comforts and consoles all who mourn!  I pray we have mourned this week and not just went on with life as usual, approaching Resurrection day as just another day to go to church, enjoy an Easter breakfast, color a few eggs, eat a great meal and a bunch of candy, or just get together with family and friends.  I pray we all have taken time to stop and consider long and hard what Jesus did for us.  If we have done it a million times we should do it a million more.  And then…we receive His comfort and consolation!  Thank You Jesus!

He gives beauty for ashes!  Ashes represent the remnants of our mourning, our faces to the ground, humbly bowing before our King and Savior in the dust of the earth.  Our beauty as followers of Christ comes from Him and is a reflection of our humility before Him.  The beauty He gives us is a precious ornament of our faith in a holy God.  This exchange is amazing and instant!  Thank You Jesus!

He gives the oil of joy for mourning!  There we have it again folks!  Lots of mourning going on here!  And again we instantly receive what He freely gives to us!  His oil of joy makes our face shine.  Mourning tends to age and mar our countenance but His oil of joy instantly removes all sadness and renews our countenance!  We mourn quietly and often privately but our joy radiates openly. Thank You Jesus!

He gives the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness!  These are beautiful garments worn on days of Thanksgiving.  Along with the joy this garment is seen by others. The heaviness and mourning is in the secret place and Jesus rewards us openly.  Wherever there is joy there is praise!  When we get the oil we get the garment!

After the exchange – He gets all the glory!  So let’s get receive His comfort and consolation and then get our beauty treatment!  Yep, men too!  And then let’s put on His oil get dressed in His garment then let His joy be expressed in our praise!  Now is the time!  Have a Blessed Resurrection Day!  He is Risen!

P.S. Put on your dancing shoes too!  Try this praise out for size!

  

 
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Posted by on April 23, 2011 in Easter, Uncategorized

 

More Questions Than Answers About the Church and Saving!

I am writing this on Good Friday, the day Christians remember the suffering and death Jesus endured on the cross to redeem us from a meaningless life to one filled with forgiveness, healing, restoration, and fullness in Him.  Not void of problems mind you, but we can do all things in Christ because of His sacrifice on the cross! So as I sit pondering the great cost to be saved, I think about how consumed we are with saving things in this world.

Go ahead and do a Google search “Save the” and you will get an idea how concerned we are with “stuff”!  “Save the planet”, “Save the Whales”, “Save the Elephants”, “Save the Manatees”, “Save the Trees”, “Save the Tiger”, “Save the Chimp”, “Save the Rainforest”, “Save the Children” to name a few.  Then we have our idioms like “save face” (attempt to keep our integrity intact) or “save our skin” (avoid getting into serious trouble).  We count ourselves blessed if we are “saved by the bell” (rescued from a dangerous or tricky situation just in time).  And we hope to possess a characteristic that compensates for all our character defects, which we call our “saving grace”. 

We love to be involved in saving things! We attempt to save whatever is important to us be it in our lives, ministries, jobs, churches, homes, or family.  Saving is high priority!  It is for God too though I think He would find most of these “savings” to be of little value compared to His Son!  And so it is in this vein of “saving mentality” that I share some thoughts about saving in the Church because as Easter Sunday approaches we witness many churches doing everything they can to get people through their doors in hopes of getting them saved! But without Jesus’ death and the cross what are we saving them to?

In our attempts to save though, I wonder if we are doing more exploitation than salvation!  I don’t know – it is just a thought!  Recently I heard a pastor describe their unique approach in attracting people to fill the seats of their church, saying “I have no problem with bribing people with crap in order to meet Christ.” The crap he is referring to is 3D televisions, Nintendo 3D’s, and 3D movie ticket packages.  He said these are the tools they are using to get people to come to church because it is awkward to just invite people to church and so to alleviate some of the “weirdness” of inviting they are simply offering bribes making it more comfortable. Another one of their pastors said most churches are dying and willing to just sit back and let it happen while they are just crazy enough to do wild things to get people in. The report did end that most everyone who shows up to win a prize returns one more time.

I am not trying to debate the rightness or wrongness of this approach and I am not dealing with any particular church, just used the quotes of one pastor who spoke publicly so please don’t take this as an attack on a church.  I am merely mentioning what was said publicly as I share some thoughts about salvation since it cost Jesus His life to save us! It would be difficult to argue with the success of these kind of tactics churches use to get people in, especially if you have a church that has little more to offer than the Gospel, the love of Christ, and the love of a few worshippers.  It even appears that offering “crap” is necessary in the American Christian church to get people in the doors with a “chance” to be saved.  Maybe we don’t have to go to the extreme of spending $8000 dollars in prizes but still… growing churches are those who have great music, lighting, singers dressed in cool clothes, flamboyant preachers, programs for all ages and needs, diverse people in the church, and relevant messages for people in our society. We would be hard-pressed to say anything less than church has become more about us than about Jesus!  Even the way we now “attract” people is done in a way to save ourselves from awkwardness, weirdness, or being uncomfortable.

I really can’t talk though since it seems impossible for us to even compel Christians to come to church without all the “extra’s”!   Our church looks like one of those dying churches mentioned by the pastor because of our few numbers even though we are anything but willing to just sit back and let it happen because we are crazy in love with Jesus, and share in His desire that all would be saved and come to the knowledge of truth.  Yet, we are not wild enough to bribe anyone to come to church. So how does all this fit into the “saving” mentality in the church today?     

Questions rage in my heart and mind as I consider that question: After using all these “means” to attract people, when is it a good time to tell them the truth about Jesus?  AFTER their first visit, after the second, third or fourth one?  Will they be upset or feel we deceived them?  When do we tell people we just offered them a chance to win a prize because we knew by giving them something, they would come and then we could slip Jesus into the equation? Will they feel disrespected at that point?  And then when do we tell them a life in Jesus is the greatest thing ever but it really isn’t about all this “material” stuff we just gave them but about dying to all these things? When do we tell them we bribed them because it is too awkward to invite them to church and too weird to talk to them about a personal relationship with Jesus? Is it okay to give people the impression Christians are kind and generous people because they give away freebies at church?  Is repentance and our need for a Savior so outdated and awkward that we need to attract people through the lust of their eyes and the desires of their flesh?  Is love so difficult that we need to give people “stuff” in order to get their attention?

My biggest questions include things like what does it mean to be culturally relevant? Is the Gospel relevant? Is Jesus enough?  Do I need to look, talk, act in a certain culturally relevant way to teach the Gospel today?  Or for anyone to listen? Is this what Jesus would do?  Is this what Holy Spirit is instructing His Church to do in the 21st century to save people?  Am I too archaic or stuck in my own paradigm?  Am I too old?  Am I unwilling to consider alternatives? Am I close-minded?  Do I really care about saving people to Christ?

As I asked God some of these questions for the umpteenth time, He chose to answer a few of them by taking me to His Word and to His cross.  As I read and prayed He asked me if people today are any different from His disciples when He walked the earth. I wept and replied “No Lord, we are no different today; in spite of our advanced technology, in spite of our earthly riches, in spite of our vast intelligence, in spite of it all.  No Lord, we are no different! “ And then He showed me what He thinks about saving especially surrounding His death.

Holy Spirit reminded me of what Jesus said “before” He went to the cross. 

 Mark 8:31-35 “And He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.  He spoke this word openly.  Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him.  But when He had turned around and looked at His disciples, He rebuked Peter, saying, ‘Get behind Me, Satan! For you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.’ When He had called the people to Himself, with His disciples also, He said to them, ‘Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it.  For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.”

God’s answer to being culturally relevant is that He IS always relevant and we are relevant when we are God-minded not man minded! God’s answer to sharing Him with others is to tell them the truth about denying self, taking up their cross and following Jesus!  God’s answer to saving your life is to lose it! I will let you figure out God’s answer to awkwardness and weirdness when inviting people to Church. (Hint: It is in bold print)   

Then He reminded me what others said as Jesus hung on the cross! 

Mark 15:29-32 “And those who passed by blasphemed Him, wagging their heads and saying, ‘Aha! You who destroy the temple and build it in three days, save Yourself, and come down from the cross!’ Likewise the chief priests also, mocking among themselves with the scribes, said, ‘He saved others; Himself He cannot save. Let the Christ, the King of Israel, descend now from the cross that we may see and believe.’ …”

People will always be crying out for us to save ourselves, save the Church, save our reputation, even get them saved! In our attempts to show them Jesus we must ask ourselves what are we truly saving them to or from?  Will we teach them how to save themselves or save themselves for Him! And then will we do what they ask or will we do what He asks?  In other words, will we save ourselves or will we die to ourselves.

Then finally, Holy Spirit showed me (again) what Jesus did !

Mark 15:37 “And Jesus cried out with a loud voice, and breathed His last!”

Thank You Jesus for showing us how You save!

So back to the beginning!  How important is it to save today?  It is super important in God’s economy!  Jesus chose not to “save face” but to face death to save us!  He chose not to “save His skin” but to breathe His last that we might live! He chose not to be “saved by the bell”, not to be rescued in the nick of time, so that we could be saved by the grace of God.  And He chose not to rely on “saving grace” but to offer grace that saves! 

I pray this Easter is about the entire experience, His suffering, His death, AND His resurrection!  I pray it is about losing our lives for Jesus’ sake so we live and lead others to this saving grace as well.  I pray this is our passion in life as it was for Jesus!   He saved His best for last!   And if nothing else, I pray this got us all asking some questions of the Lord about His Church and saving at this most precious time in the lives of His followers! 

 
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Posted by on April 22, 2011 in Easter, Uncategorized

 

Oh, How He Loves You!

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!  

 
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Posted by on April 18, 2011 in Easter, Uncategorized

 
 
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