Why I Am Struggling with That Bunny

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“So, tell me the one reason we celebrate Easter.” This is the question that I asked my class during the service at church on a recent Sunday morning. As the eager hands began to raise, I couldn’t help but wonder what answers were going to spill out of their mouths.

“To have Easter egg hunts!”

Try again….

“So we can eat lots of chocolate!”

Yes, but…

“The Easter Bunny comes!”

Oh, here we go…

I never told my kids about the Easter Bunny. As a pastor I struggle with how that whole idea plays into the true story of Easter. But, before you start to believe this post is all about passing judgement on how one chooses to celebrate Easter, let me be the first to recognize that-yes, I know we all have different views on this thing that hops around to drop chocolate in little baskets. And, we all want our kids to “just be kids….” However, personally…for me-I want mine to forget the whole bunny shebang!

The world taught my kids about the Easter Bunny.

The same world that tries so hard to take the focus off the real reason for celebrating Easter.

Christ.

That’s right. It ain’t about pretty dresses, and a bunny!

It’s about Christ.

Which is why this year, I am really struggling with that bunny. The one my kids expect to visit. To drop chocolate in their neatly placed baskets.

And, as I sit among the carefully selected items to add to an Easter basket that will still hopefully keep the focus on Christ…well, I am still struggling with that bunny.

See, the world has told our kids that as long as they are “good,” that this bunny will hop around in the wee hours of Easter morning and leave cute gifts, yummy treats, and cool toys in their baskets.

As long as they are “good.”

Yet, we have the cross. The cross that reminds us that even when we are not “good,” when we have been bad, when we have sinned…we are still forgiven.

And, when we think about the person of Jesus. The mockery. The beatings. His death. His innocence weighed against my sins. How does the world’s view of Easter even compare?

So, can you see why I may be struggling with this bunny?

“He isn’t here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay.” Matthew 28:6

I want my kids to be filled with that type of excitement. That type of anticipation. To be excited about the empty tomb. The promise of a risen Savior. Not by the promise of candy that awaits in a plastic egg. Not with the promises that if they are good, their baskets will be filled with goodies galore, but that even if they are not, that the empty tomb promises forgiveness, and a life filled with much more than a hollow chocolate bunny.

Don’t worry. I don’t plan on crushing my childrens’ Easter bunny dreams. Not this year anyway. Nor, am I making the case for you to do the same. (Again…different strokes, folks). But, we will focus on the reason for Easter. Not on egg hunts looking for chocolate. Or the new shoes to match our pretty new clothes.

But, on the bloodstained garments of an innocent man. One, who died so we could live.

We won’t focus on who got what in their basket, or on the Easter Bunny.

But, on the cross.

On Christ.

On a risen Savior.

The reason we have new life.

My One True Valentine

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We love each other because He loved us first. 1 John 4:19

“Mommy, please…PLEASE help me! I can’t find my valentines!”

And so began the task of looking in every bag, every box, every nook, every cranny for the valentines that the little fella swore were in each place we checked. Until we finally gave up in disappointment and defeat. Using the moment as we should have-teaching responsibility for one’s things. Even debating whether to allow him to be left out of the Valentine exchange to reinforce that same lesson.

But, as parents. We want to rescue our children from their choices. From their mistakes. We want to swoop in and save the day. Be the hero. And, while I may be the “superstar” on some days for my kids. The one who saves the day. To drop off left lunches. To repair ripped projects. To bandage boo-boos. To recover lost toys. And, yes, to even bring home a new box of valentines, I am truly not the “superstar” at all.

I am not the “superstar” to be celebrated this Valentine’s Day. And yet, you won’t find his face emblazoned on any cardboard valentine. You won’t find him among the red and pink teddy bears, the foil wrapped hearts, and conversation hearts. Among the red roses and pink balloons.

“I have called you by name; you are mine.” Isaiah 43:1

The “superstar” that urges us each day to be his. The “superstar” who knows that love has nothing to do with cute heart shaped lollipops, or raspberry filled candied hearts.

The title of “superstar may belong to me when I come to my kids rescue, but ultimately it belongs to the one who truly saved. The one who poured out enough love to save a wretch like me, and a multitude of others like me. The one who never asked for anything in return. Who often never receives a thank you. Whose reminder of his saving grace is not a sticky note or a sappy valentine, but a wooden cross.

Who expressed his love not with the point of a pencil, but with the point of three nails.

Who doesn’t reserve his love for just one day, but every day.

The true “superstar,” and our one and only Valentine!

When Loving Others is Hard

Love one another with brotherly affection. Romans 12:10

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Love. Defined as admiration, desire, or attraction. Most of us think of this definition when we think of the meaning of the word. No matter our walks in life, most of us, probably all of us, have experienced admiration, desire, or attraction.

Love. Also defined as unselfish and loyal concern for the good of another, or brotherly concern for others. This definition is what Christ-like love can be defined as, and I’ll be completely honest-at times in my daily interactions, circumstances, marriage, and as a parent, I don’t show “brotherly concern.”

Take this morning for instance. Our family has been subjected to ridiculing letters, phone calls, and environmental control visits courtesy of our neighbors. This morning was no exception. One of our “anonymous” neighbors showed concern for the state of our beloved dog, not by paying us a visit…but by calling animal control. A dog, I will add, that is 15 years old. A dog that is on her last leg (literally, she can’t walk on one of her legs), and a dog that is dying. At Christmas. Frankly. we don’t have it in our hearts to make the tough decision we know we need to at this time (Did I mention it’s Christmas time?). Frankly, we want her to enjoy one last Christmas, one last stocking. Frankly, I did not feel an ounce of “brotherly concern” for my “anonymous” neighbor!

So, after I called my husband, let off some steam, as I am sure it was coming out of my ears. After I plotted posting signs in our backyard, and thought about calling to price 12 foot privacy fencing, I took out my Bible and opened it up to what is often referred to as the Love Chapter-1 Corinthians 13. The first 13 verses of this passage are frequently read at weddings around the globe. It was read at mine almost 8 years ago.

But, do I live out its words each day of my life? Do I practice love with each encounter I have day in and day out? Do I truly show love to my husband, my children, my friends, my neighbors, or even strangers?

Am I an example to others of the true definition of love?

Love is patient, love is kind (v. 4). Am I truly patient? No, I have patience issues on the road, and I often fail to show patience with my children. I also hate to wait, for anything, period!

It is not irritable…(v. 5). Um, well….this morning’s rant about my neighbor was definitely not full of happy thoughts, or words for that matter. I was definitely irritable. Downright angry! And, ask the husband who has lived with me for 8 years, and I am sure he can attest to my frequent displays of irritability. I am sure “love” has not been displayed to a shopper blocking the aisle with their cart, or to my children who have spent hours fighting and screaming at each other.

It keeps no record of wrongs (v. 5). Well, I know I keep a record. I’m surprised I have not framed some of our mailbox letters. My ability to list everything my husband has done in the last day, week, month, year to irritate me during an argument is pretty solid proof that I keep a running tally of wrongs.

Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance (v. 7).

This means….

The friend who is so different than you-show love.

The neighbor who has persecuted you, blown leave in your yard, or just irritates you-show love.

The co-worker, acquaintance, or family member who has a different set of beliefs than you-show love.

Your children, husband, mother, sibling, or anyone who wears your patience thin-show love.

Loving our neighbors as ourselves (Matthew 22:36-40) does not mean we only love those who live in our homes, or those who live next door. It means everyone with whom we come into contact. It is displayed to those in the community, in the grocery store, at work. It means loving those you happen to like, and those you don’t like so much.

Never ceasing. Never failing. In every situation.

Show unselfish and loyal devotion. Show brotherly affection. Show love.

Three things will last forever-faith, hope, love-and the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:13

Why a Little Magic at Christmas Doesn’t Hurt

“It is good to be children sometimes, and never better than at Christmas when its mighty Founder was a child Himself” -Charles Dickens

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The picture above is, in fact, a picture of the Elf on a Shelf. This Elf has been a part of this household for two Christmas seasons now, and in all honesty, I don’t see a thing wrong with it.

Sure, he is a little creepy looking. He takes a little extra work during a time that is full of extra chores, errands, and tasks. To some he also represents everything that is anti-Christian, or even said to be anti-Jesus. Some may say the idea of magic doesn’t have a place in a Christian household.

I beg to differ. I am a Christian. I believe in the virgin birth. I believe in the birth of a Savior, and I believe He was born to save us from our sins. I believe in the transformation of lives that can only be possible through the power of salvation and the grace of God.

Is that, in and of itself, not magical?

I also believe in the childlike wonder we often miss out on as we become adults. When life starts to throw us curve balls. When we begin to muddle through our messes, endure disappointment, and see anything but magic in our lives.

So, yes. I let my kids believe in magic. I let them believe in Santa. I let them believe Jolly Old Saint Nicholas also sends this creepy, stuffed elf to our home every night. I let them believe he steals their toys, takes marshmallow baths, eats all the cookies, and knows how to make a fishing pole out of a pencil and yarn.

I let them believe in magic. I let them believe in elves. I want them to believe in fairy tales. Why? Because the day will come sooner than I would like when life will slap them dead in the face. When they have to deal with their own curve balls, and muddle through their own messes. The time will come when they don’t take the time to realize that even small moments can truly be magical. When they stop believing that yes, maybe their life could be like the one they see and read about in fairy tales.

So. I let them believe in magic.

“There is no connection between the worship of idols and the use of Christmas trees. We should not be anxious about arguments against Christmas decorations. Rather, we should be focused on the Christ of Christmas and giving all diligence to remembering the real reason for the season” -John MacArthur

And there is no reason a little magic cannot accomplish this. So, while my kids may wake up every morning excited to find out what Snoopy was up to the night before. While I may have to take an few extra minutes to make the “magic” work, clean the “magic” up, or even remember to move the “magical” elf, my children are still learning about the real reason we celebrate Christmas. They are being reminded of the magical birth that took place in a manger. They are reminded through the school lunch that was “magically” packed about the call to serve others. Our elf has left a DVD, a board game and popcorn as a reminder to create magical moments with the family. He has left a card to send to their uncle to remind them to think of the family that can’t be with us this year.

I want my kids to believe in magic. In the magic of Christ’s birth. In the magic of his death and resurrection. In the magical memories we cherish as a family. In a magic that can extend farther than Christmas, but everyday of the year.

I let my children believe in magic, because….well, sometimes even Mommy wants to believe in magic, too!