Posts Tagged ‘Easter’
I can still hear the little voice on the other end of the phone: “Nana, we’re having Easter at our house next Sunday. And . . . can you come over?”
“Oh, how I wish I could, Soren.” My four-year-old grandson, who lives in New Hampshire, had no idea what it would take for me to just “come over” from where I lived in Wisconsin at the time.
Suddenly I am transported to that long ago afternoon when Soren’s father, 4 years old at the time, had invited a friend to come over during Easter week. The boys were playing on the back porch while I was busy in the kitchen. “No, Mark,” I hear Bjorn say. “No, remember you are the angel and you say ‘He is not here, He is risen, just as he said.’” I peek out on the porch. Bjorn, who always loved to act things out, is apparently staging and directing a small Passion Play. I smile and wonder what Mark thinks of all this. The next day, Mark’s mother calls to thank me for the play date and adds: “And Bjorn did such a wonderful job of explaining Easter. We have just stuck with the bunnies and eggs and had never known how to tell Mark the real story. Thank you.”
I sit here by my fire this morning (yes, it can still be winter—sort of—in April in New England) and wish all of you could come over. To meet my neighbors. To talk about Easter. How this Pivotal Event in all of history alters our world view entirely. As I wrote last Easter, the cross and the lily change everything.
Why do I wish you all could come over and join my neighbors and we could chat? Because we live in a broken and bleeding world. Because I know many of you, like the many moms I see every Thursday and the moms I pray for every day, are struggling with all kinds of broken things. Broken career dreams for you and/or your husband. Broken relationships. Broken finances. Broken bodies—sick kids, secondary infertility, chronic diseases, special needs.
I live amidst what my new favorite poet Ben Palpant calls the “Broken Brave” (Sojourner Songs, p. 32). Friends and neighbors grappling with failing eyesight and fading memories and compromised mobility due to brain tumors. And no, I don’t actually live in a “senior neighborhood”; there are also two babies due—arguably a different kind of bravery.
So what does Easter have to do with all this? It’s a reminder. No, more—it’s proof. God loved us enough to enter our broken world and become broken Himself—and rise again whole—that we might one day be completely whole again. We say it at communion: “the body of Christ, broken for you.”
One day what is broken in our world will be restored. And whole.
My friend asks the question. A friend who has lost much. We are talking about medical conditions that seemingly have no earthly “cure.” I share with her about a time of disappointment when what seemed to hold promise of a cure didn’t work out that way.
“So what did you do?” she asks.
“I talked with God about it,” I say.
“And what did He say?” she presses.
“He reminded me that one day—in Heaven with Him (an unfamiliar concept to her)—all will be well and whole again. Forever.”
Then comes the real challenge: “And that was enough for you?”
A long silence while I ponder: What is the true answer of my heart here? And then: “Yes, my dear friend. That is enough.”
Is it? It’s the Big Question, isn’t it? We grappled with it last week in Mom to Mom talking about prayer. We struggle with it often in everyday life. Much too big a question to address in this humble blog post, which is one reason I wish you could all “come over” and we could talk about it. We could listen together to one of my favorite songs: “Even If” by MercyMe. And talk more.
But in the meantime, Good Friday is coming. And—praise God!—Easter after that. He Who was broken for us conquered death for us—and for our children. It is enough. Because HE is enough. He Who was Himself “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” walks alongside us every step of the way in this broken world. He gives us strength in our weakness, comfort in our sorrow, mending for our broken places, and—sometimes—healing in the here and now. But always, Hope. Hope in what is yet to come: “. . . the Great Story which no one on earth has ever read: which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.” (C.S. Lewis, at the end of The Last Battle)
Because of Easter. Come on over!
In the midst of Lent and as Easter approaches, a brief reflection from the past. And for the present. And the future.
I was a craft-challenged mama. Sort of the anti-Martha Stewart. The very words “Next week we’re going to do a simple craft” struck terror in my soul. When it came to “making things,” my fingers just didn’t seem to work. The fingers that could play the piano and write essays and turn book pages by the hour simply froze when the popsicle sticks and glue came out. My heart just wasn’t in it. It’s a good thing Pinterest wasn’t around when my kids were small. I can’t imagine how I would have beat down the false-failure-as-a-mom (please note the word “false”) feelings.
I was also a tradition-oriented mama. I loved creating family traditions that would make memories for our kids and help them remember the things that really mattered. I believed deeply that children often remember feelings more than facts. I also knew my three children had very different learning styles. One remembered every word ever read to him. Another wanted to build things and take things apart (and put them back together—the only one in our family who could do that!). Our third loved—and remembered–anything you could sing and dance to.
So what do our kids remember about Easter? A cross and a lily. Every Easter morning (well, most Easter mornings), they awoke to something special for breakfast (the kind of “special” that you can manage when running off to teach Sunday School classes before church). And Easter baskets accompanied by an “Easter book” which was a Bible story of some kind. But also—and maybe especially—an Easter lily with a simple white cross in it. I even made the cross—very simply cut out of cardboard and planted in the midst of the lily.
Why am I telling you this? Two reasons. First: Because of Mom to Mom, I know—and love—scores of young moms. Very dedicated moms. Very gifted moms. Very busy moms. They want desperately to make memories for their children. To help them know and treasure in their hearts the things that really matter. They have tons of great ideas for ways to do all that. They do, after all, live with Facebook and Pinterest. And, those glossy magazines illustrating all-you-can-do-with-your-kids are still there at the checkout. And most of them are probably not craft-challenged like me. But these moms also have children. And, as you may have noticed, children can be very time-consuming. And they tend to get sick at holiday seasons.
So I want to commend to you the simple lily and the cross. Not elaborate. Very simple. But they remember it. Also the reading of the Easter story. Again and again. From different age-appropriate Bible story books with different styles and illustrations. Act it out. I still remember our 4-year-old on our back porch instructing his mystified (but learning!) friend in his role in their self-directed little Easter play. (“No, Mark. You are the angel. You say “He is not here. He is risen, just as He said.”) Build the story with blocks. Use some of their action figures to represent the major players. Sing it. With “He’s alive!” hand motions if possible. Or maybe dancing.
Because here’s the second reason I’m telling you this. The cross and the lily are, in the end, what matters most about Easter. In any season of life. In the good times and the bad. When you have a houseful of kids or grandkids. And when you don’t. Jesus died. He rose. He lives. All for the love of you and me. And when you “get” that love (and help your kids to), it makes all the difference. As one physically-challenged young mom told me years ago, “Linda, here at Mom to Mom I have understood, for the first time, how much God loves me. And when you get that—really get it—it makes all the difference.”
Yes it does, sweet mom-friend. The cross and the lily. They make all the difference. From here to eternity.
I’ve been thinking about walls and windows and doors lately.
No, we’re not building a house. I’ve seen a number of people “hit the wall” recently, in various ways (and I seem to do it myself all too often). We’ve also had some precious times with grandchildren this winter . . . I love driving up to the house in New Hampshire and seeing eager little faces watching out the window for us to come. And oh yes: we’re getting ready for a trip to Ireland soon to see our family there. I just can’t wait to walk through the door into their house and be engulfed by hugs and smiles and tangles of bodies in the joy of happy reunion.
Also, it’s Easter week as I write this. In the past 10 days or so, there have been too many funerals: A much-too-young husband and father cruelly snatched from his family by a car crash on slippery roads. A much-too-young mother slipping away after a long courageous battle with cancer. Our daughter-in-law’s grandfather.
I keep thinking of author Peter Marshall’s unforgettable proclamation that because of Easter, death is no longer a wall, but a door.
And I am, of course, reading Walter Wangerin’s Reliving the Passion again. He writes of the paradox of the window of heaven being opened to us even as the heavens were, for a few horrific moments, closed against Jesus on the cross, becoming a door into heaven for us: “a doorway made out of nails and wood, a crossing, a cross” (p. 134).
Wangerin also writes of joy, of part of the purpose of Lent being that we prepare for joy. Against the backdrop of all these funerals, against the backdrop of my own life, amidst a world of walls, his words ring truer than ever this year:
“The difference between shallow happiness and a deep, sustaining joy is sorrow. Happiness lives where sorrow is not. When sorrow arrives, happiness dies. It can’t stand pain. Joy, on the other hand, rises from sorrow and therefore can withstand all grief. Joy, by the grace of God, is the transfiguring of suffering into endurance and of endurance into character, and of character into hope—and the hope that has become our joy does not (as happiness must for those who depend on it) disappoint us.” (p. 31)
This is the joy we celebrate at Easter. A joy birthed out of the Hope and Triumph of our resurrected Lord. A durable, stubborn joy for all seasons. Not only the endless winter we’ve had (and still have!) in the Northeast. But a joy that sustains us even in our grief. Wangerin, again:
“Grief, while you are grieving, lasts forever. But under God, forever is a day. Weeping, darling Magdalene, may last the night. But joy cometh with the sunrise—and then your mourning shall be dancing, and gladness shall be the robe around you. Wait. Wait.” (p. 138)
“Whooping joy,” Wangerin called it, describing the exhilaration he felt as a young child when his pastor father read the climax of the Easter story. Because of the window and the door, because of the triumph of the Resurrection, I wish you “whooping joy” this Easter—and far beyond.
“It changes everything, you know.” It’s the day after Easter, and that’s the sentence that keeps echoing through my mind. Because it does. Easter. It changes everything.
In Ireland my daughter tells me it’s a holiday. Easter Monday. How fitting: That the day after Easter be—instead of a “let-down, back-to-the-humdrum” kind of day—a holiday. It’s not, after all, “same-ol’ same ol.’” How can it be, when redemption has been accomplished, sin forgiven, death defeated, and a glorious eternal future opened up before us? Because He came, He lived, He died, and He rose again, nothing is ever the same again.
But we are easily fooled. Is anything really all that different? On this particular Monday in my life, I am jet-lagged and missing my grandkids after two wonderful weeks in Ireland. There’s a lot that’s been left undone while I’ve been away. My “to-do” list looks longer than my day. And several items on it are things I’d rather avoid. It was a lot more fun to shout “He is risen! He is risen indeed!” yesterday in church than to schedule doctor’s appointments and follow-up mammograms.
And you. I’ll bet your kids got up just as early this day after Easter. Or maybe your teenager didn’t want to get up at all. And the laundry pile, the carpool, the grocery list, the budget crunch, even the creeping anxiety about one of your kids or your husband’s job—it’s all there.
Which takes me back to where I originally heard the sentence I can’t get out of my mind: “It changes everything.” Let me give you some context. Several years ago I was speaking at a women’s event in another part of the country. The hosting church had just that year begun a Mom to Mom program. After I spoke, a buffet was served. I was told “just sit anywhere you’d like.” As I scanned the room, I was drawn toward a nearly empty table. Something in my head said, “Just sit down and see who the Lord brings to sit next to you.”
I’ll never forget the beautiful young woman who came and joined me. I can’t remember her name, but I will always remember what she said. She began by thanking me for doing Mom to Mom. She told how helpful it had been to her, particularly with special challenges she experienced as mom with a disability. “But the big thing, Linda,” she said, “is that through this year, week after week, I have felt God’s love as never before. For me. Personally. Particularly. Powerfully. For the first time in my life, I have felt completely, totally loved by God. And when you know—really know—how much God loves you, it changes everything, you know.”
Oh yes, my sweet friend, it does. It changes everything. How I think about laundry and food shopping and even mammograms. How you look at your husband and kids and even laundry. More importantly, how you think about your past (yes, you’ve blown it, but because of Easter, you’re forgiven and given a fresh start), your future (He will be with you every step of the way no matter where that way leads)—and even your present, your today (He can give you His love for the unlovable, His strength for your weakness, His peace amidst your pain). He said it in a sentence just before he left this earth: “Lo, I am with you always . . .” (Matthew 28:20)
His love changes everything. And what more powerful reminder of His love than Easter? It’s worth remembering—even, or maybe especially, on this Easter Monday.
Holy Week always feels chaotic to me. Inwardly chaotic. Emotionally chaotic. I can’t decide how to feel.
On Palm Sunday, children sing and palm fronds are waved and Jesus is hailed as a King. Such rejoicing! But then the real chaos begins. In a few short days, how the crowd turns. By Thursday night, one of Jesus’ own has betrayed Him. On Friday—just five days after His triumphal entry into Jerusalem—the crowd is shouting, “Crucify Him!”
Wait! My heart cries out: What happened to the triumph? And why is it that I—one who joyfully, even ecstatically, welcomed this King into the City—now find myself amidst this other, uglier, angry crowd? That’s the horror: my sins put me right there with them.
It’s true, the line we sang in church recently (from “How Deep the Father’s Love for Us” by Stuart Townend and Keith Getty): “Ashamed, I hear my mocking voice call out among the scoffers. “ Martin Luther was right: “We carry His nails in our pockets.”
So it made great sense to me last Sunday when the young preacher said of Palm Sunday, and Psalm 118, which we were studying: “Today we celebrate the God of Reversals.” And then this week I came across a series of long-ago Christianity Today articles on Holy Week under the title “The Great Reversal.”
The God of Great Reversals. Watch Him at work through Holy Week. Temporal, fleeting triumph turns to terror, and torture, and death. For a day there is silence—holy, awesome silence. And then the Great Reversal: RESURRECTION. ULTIMATE TRIUMPH OVER SIN AND DEATH. ETERNAL LIFE.
The God of Great Reversals. A God in Whom the empty become full, the weak become strong, and sinners like me are forgiven and freed. And death—yes, even death—is destroyed, “swallowed up in victory,” as Paul puts it.
Enter the laughter. Now there’s a reversal. No one was laughing much during Holy Week. But now there’s laughter “from the other side of death,” as author Philip Yancey puts it. I came across the exact quote this week. The words had long echoed in my ears. But there it was in an old file. Yancey’s conclusion to a chapter in his book I Was Just Wondering . . . entitled “The Fragrant Season”: “Listen, Christians. Can you hear the laughter from the other side of death? Breathe deeply of a fragrance like no other. Let it fill your lungs this spring, this Easter.”
I’ll be listening for the laughter this Easter. Can you hear it with me?