Friday, April 29, 2011

Reflections on Easter

Note:  This post is a companion post to my last one, which by comparison has very few words.  It might be worth checking that one out first.  It will only take a minute.

Easter always gets me thinking.  It should, right?

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I have come across a lot of people who are offended by the notion that there would be only one way to God when there is such a beautiful variety of people who have so many sincere ways of seeking him.  Or her...or...

They are offended by the idea that anyone would be excluded from "all God's children".  (With the possible exception of Hitler.  Or people like that. You know, bad people.)  I get that.  My theme song is, "Can't We All Just Get Along?"

Honestly, sometimes Christians don't help that much.  Think about it this way: If you want to see me come unglued, just watch me when I see my kids run across the street without looking when I can hear a car engine headed our way.  It will sound like I am angry, when in reality, I am just scared to death for their safety.  Christians can come across sort of panicked and overly urgent when we are concerned for the well-being of people we care about.  Sometimes it's not all that pretty.

All of that aside, let me ask you this:

Have you ever had one of those moments?  The kind where you say, "THIS is what I was made for!"  Maybe a creative moment or an athletic moment or a parenting moment.  Maybe a discovery or an adventure or an accomplishment.  Maybe a moment of love or friendship.  Maybe even a moment of worship. That sense of awe and speechlessness.  The smile.  The laughter.  The tears. The sigh.

"This is what I was made for."

It's a declaration that we have a maker.  A glorious declaration.  The discovery of God's fingerprints on the clay of our existence.  Indeed, we WERE made for moments like this.  All of them.  By a purposeful and loving creator who enjoys them right along with us, every bit as much as we do.  But to God-sized proportions.

One more question:

Have you ever had one of those moments?  The kind where you think, "Whoa, I was made for so much more than that!"  The kind that was not one of your finer parenting moments.  The kind where you spoke words that you wished you could pull right back into your mouth, because they reveal more about you than you cared to have anyone know. Where you made a risky or rebellious choice, and are left to deal with the consequences.  Where you began to discover a prejudice within that you would have flatly denied because you LOVE people who are different from you.  Most of them.

A broken promise, broken trust, broken body, broken rule, broken relationship.  Any brokenness you helped to cause will do.

Regret.

Indeed, we were made for so much more than this.  We all fall short of the glory of our creator, the glory of his purposes for us.  And we know it.

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We know John 3:16, right?  Here are the next two verses (quoting Jesus here):

"For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.  Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son."

There is so much theology tied up in Easter.  Jesus' death for us, and his resurrection victory over death.  And good heavens, I am no theologian.

But here is what I know.  Jesus did not come to condemn ANYONE!  We are already condemned by that which causes our regret.  We are condemned because our heads are bent down in shame and we fail to hear him speak our name. We fail to recognize his loving hand reaching down to gently lift our chin that we might dare to look up and meet the gaze in his eyes that brings us overwhelming peace.  Because ultimately HE is what we were made for.

God gives us the option of keeping our head down and living under condemnation of our own making.  The option of rejecting him and living separated from him, so that he can't reject us.  After all, if we don't look up into his eyes, we don't have to face the possibility of his look of disapproval.  But it's eyes of forgiveness we are missing.  We were never born to live condemned lives!

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Could God have provided the way back into relationship with him through any other means than sending his one and only Son for Good Friday and Easter?  I suppose he could have made another plan, back then before the dawn of time when he was figuring it all out.  But he chose to send Jesus. What kind of God would he be if he offered Jesus, the ultimate sacrifice of his Son, as one option--leaving the option open for all of his creatures to come back to him with counter offers if Jesus isn't their preference?  God didn't just put Jesus out there on the table for us to consider as though we were his equals.  He put Jesus on the wooden altar of the cross, once and for all, regardless of what we thought.  Now it is up to us to decide what we will do with him.

"For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost."  Luke 19:10

I'm so thankful that I looked up when I sensed him seeking me.  I can't imagine life without Jesus.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Created

What would you do

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if this were the scene in your living room?

I wonder. 

 I might snatch up the trash and wonder who was so inconsiderate.  
March right over to the garbage to get it out of here.

Worthless, wrinkled-up wad of paper!
Not in my living room, no siree.

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Or, I might notice.

The wrinkles.

They form sort of a pattern.

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Symmetry.  Balance.  Light.

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Really, those wrinkles look almost purposeful.

Who knew wrinkles could be a good thing?
But yes, it looks like these are there for a reason.
What, though?

Is it meant to be a bowtie?

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A kite?  Batman logo?

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Oh, a crown?

I heard that somewhere, a princess will be needing one.

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How about a star?

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No, not these wrinkles.

These wrinkles were precisely placed for this:





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Lovely, no?

A paper crane.  So graceful.


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What if that crane spoke to its maker and said,
"Wow, great job!  Thanks, I'll take it from here!"?

It would sit there
and look pretty
until it got in the way
like a worthless, wrinkled-up wad of paper.

But that's not what it was destined for.

The crane was created and destined 
to stay in its maker's hand,
where it would be free
to do this:


Created.
With just the right wrinkles.
For just the right purpose.
And freed by remaining in the hands of its maker.
Freed to do all it was created to do.
By staying connected.

Just like us.


For more thoughts about this, click here.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

This sums it up



Pretty much my favorite Easter egg ever (courtesy of Bethany):

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"...shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life!"
Philippians 2:15-16

Happy Easter!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Stripes

The next day the great crowd that had come for the Feast 
heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem.  
They took palm branches and went out to meet him shouting:

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(John 12:12-13)


But (later that week) the chief priests and elders persuaded the crowd 
to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus executed.
"What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called the Christ?" Pilate asked.

They all answered,

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(Matthew 27:20, 22)

"But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was upon him..."

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"We all like sheep have gone astray,
each of us has turned to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all."
(Isaiah 53:5-6)


Monday, April 18, 2011

Bubbles, picnics and division

Lately, Bethany's nemesis has been homework.  Namely, division.  It didn't help that she missed two days with strep throat while they were learning it.  She has had a lot of homework.  She has really struggled with it.

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Yesterday as the boys left for baseball and I called her in for supper (and after that, the homework she had put on hold), she made a counter offer.  She said,

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"How about if we have a picnic?  On a blanket.  I'll take my homework outside and you can bring me my supper." The girl can be hard to resist.

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You know what?  She got right to work.

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Thinking.

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And eating.  Who knew cheez-its were brain food?

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She got on a roll, and things started clicking.
After a while she needed a little break.

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She got that homework done.  And now she understands division.  The last couple of pages were a snap!

Whew!  

And just like those bubbles...



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...she is flying high!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Ahhh, Friday!

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On Friday nights we are all just ready to unwind
and have a little change of pace.

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I'm ready to let someone else do the cooking.
Lee is especially glad if it's "home" cooking.

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The kids are always ready..
but they may or may not bring a book along.

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They still might play with the things on the table.
It's not as much of a problem as it was when they were two.

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These are the weeks I'm especially glad to find a place that's nice to linger...

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...because baseball and softball are just around the corner.
We'll love being outside, but no one else in my family
will be keeping me company in the bleachers.

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Our Fridays have been a tradition forever.
That guy behind Lee is a little jealous.

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He should be.

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Bethany says that Ben should have a new TV show:
"Boy vs. Food"

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She is right.

Ben says he doesn't like it when there is pointless music on the radio. 
He says he likes the "Star Spangled Banner".
"Now THERE's a song with a point!" he says.
I asked him what the point of it is.
"Hey!  Is that flag still up there??  It's dark, so I can't see."

See what I mean?  Friday.  The perfect night to find out what's on everybody's mind.

Boys

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Yesterday was "Poem in Your Pocket" day at school.  If any staff member stopped you and asked you for the poem in your pocket, they would reward you with an ABC Ticket (=school currency).  Ben checked out two poetry books in the library and scanned them thoroughly for the poem he loved that would take the least time and effort to copy just the right poem.  I'm thinking the school's plan worked.  Here is his poem (credit to Colin McNaughton):

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Can you read it?

Cockroach sandwich
For my lunch,
Hate the taste
But love the crunch.



I love that boy.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Backyard Baseball

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Finally.  Spring has arrived (at least for now).  Time to revel in the national pastime.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Family Passover Meal (Updated)





Over recent years I have heard of a number of families and churches observing Holy Week through the tradition of the Jewish Passover meal, or seder (SAY-der).  This is the observance that commemorates God's faithfulness to Israel by providing protection and rescue from slavery in Egypt. It is an extremely powerful experience in that it appeals to all of our senses to help people of all ages grasp God's redemptive work on behalf of His people throughout history.

I researched the concept, and boiled down the wealth of information to some key elements that made it manageable for our family. The scripts we have used are found at these links:

Original script (2010)
Revised script (2012) (Preserves the content, but sets aside some of the structure to make a smoother flowing experience)

Jesus was observing the traditional Passover meal with his disciples in what we now call the Last Supper (Luke 22:7-30--the event we observe in Holy Week as "Maundy Thursday").  The transition from Old Covenant to New took place at the very time Jesus shared this meal with his disciples. No truths are more central to our faith than those demonstrated here.

One thing that intrigued me in my research was that each family or group geared the experience to the participants, and especially accommodated the ages and abilities (i.e. attention spans!) of the children. The script that I arrived at was somewhat challenging for my 8 and 10 year old, but it leaves room for increased understanding in the years ahead. They still thoroughly enjoyed it. They were excited about the idea from the beginning, and even more so when I involved them in the preparations. During the meal portion of the observance, where there is a break in the script for eating and talking together, we discussed what we had experienced so far, and the kids were digging back through the script to remember the details.

An internet search for “family passover meal” or “family seder meal” produced numerous results. I used the two below as resources for no particular reason other than the fact that they gave a lot of background (far beyond what I’ve included here) and complemented one another well in terms of offering very different possibilities that were at the same time consistent in upholding the tradition.

Now, a couple of years later, many more results are listed.  It is well worth reading through several versions to glean the wealth of background and meaning inherent in the traditional meal observance.  I especially enjoyed this script as I did a little further research to revise my own:

http://www.hillcrestcov.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/02/Script-and-Supplies-for-Hillcrest-Seder-Dinner.pdf

As a student of many of Beth Moore’s Bible studies, I am always captivated by her teaching on the Jewish feasts and traditions. She does a beautiful job of making the connections from the origins of the Old Testament practice to the fulfillment or illumination of it under the new covenant through Christ. In her study entitled Jesus the One and Only, she lays out the meanings behind the four cups in the Passover observance. I had never forgotten it from the time that I studied it probably eight or nine years ago. The most amazing part is that after the supper when Jesus took the cup, it was the third cup of the Passover meal, the cup known so well to the disciples as the cup of redemption. In the Old Testament promise associated with the third cup, God said to Israel, “I will redeem you with an outstretched arm.” (Exodus 6:6) At the very moment when Jesus took that third cup, he ushered in the new covenant saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood.” (Luke 22:20) Later he prayed in the garden, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me.” (Luke 22:42) Beth Moore associates this with that cup of redemption, which was so costly for Christ to bear. And then on the cross, indeed, Christ redeemed all of mankind with his outstretched arms.


I kept our meal as simple as possible so that the joy would not be lost in the work. We dyed our Easter eggs a day or two ahead of time. Boiled eggs are a traditional part of the Passover meal, and help brighten the table. It is a festive celebration, and meant to be beautiful. Bethany made the lamb cake the night before from an angel food mix. She even remarked as she poured it out of the package how white it was. I reminded her of that while we ate, because the script had already referenced Jesus as the spotless lamb without blemish or defect. To make the lamb shape, we used a round cake pan and a loaf pan. We then trimmed the circle for the face, and made ears from the loaf, frosted and decorated with marshmallows. I served raspberries with it. 

The afternoon of the meal I bought a rotisserie chicken already prepared at the grocery store, and put it in a covered dish in the oven on low. I arranged all the greens on a plate, with a small bowl of salt water in the middle, and put the flatbread (also store bought) in a basket. I had the kids help me make the haroset. (Another recipe here.) After setting the table, I made stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy from mixes and put them in the oven to stay warm.  I had plenty of greens on the plate to use as salad, so it was very quick and easy to get the meal on the table.



No project has ever touched my heart more deeply than putting this observance together for our family. The evidence throughout scripture of God's plans to continually show us his love and faithfulness takes my breath away. The experience of the meal had a beautiful impact on our family, and the very effort itself was a blessing to me.  It is my hope and prayer that others will be encouraged to participate in a meal like this, and experience God's presence in a profound way.