Thursday, April 26, 2012

A New Creation

Some experiences will change you so profoundly that you are a new person, a new creation, when you come out the other side. Parenthood is a perfect example of this. You come to the experience as a woman or a man and you are transformed into something new: a parent. You will never not be a parent again. You will never be a former parent. You are a new creation.

Other experiences will only change your lifestyle. Changes in technology, natural disasters, relocating, or increases or decreases to your income will all change your lifestyle but in most cases will not yield a new creation.

Resisting either kind of change is probably impossible, and nearly always counterproductive. So why do we do it?  Why don't we simply embrace change?  What is it that we fear: a change to our lifestyle or a change to who we are?  I suspect we fear the former more than the latter and I wonder if it should be the other way around.

We who follow the resurrected Christ call ourselves Easter People. This implies that we believe that we can become new creations. Shouldn't it also imply that we will embrace change, because we understand that it leads to life, and away from the place where there is not change - death? In fact, don't we, as Easter People, embrace the idea that even death itself leads to new life, to a newly created way of being? We bring our children to be baptized, seeking to bring them to new life as children of God. We Easter People should be the very model of what embracing change looks like!

Yet, we all grumble when things change. Change is hard, frightening and uncertain. Yet, if nothing ever changed we would cease to grow.  We are Easter People. We are baptized children of God. We are, in fact, a new creation. Let us rejoice and be glad in it!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Again I say "rejoice"

Rejoice is a word I have known since early childhood. I think I first encountered it in a hymn; specifically in the hymn "On Our Way Rejoicing" which my childhood memory insists was sung at the close of worship, every single Sunday in the summer. There must be something true in that memory, because it is so specific, but I doubt we sang it every week. I will likely never know the answer to that, but I can still wrap my memory of events, however garbled, around me and feel again the well-being that accompanied the word rejoice.

Rejoice is a rich and complex word and is entirely suitable for the Easter season. A word I can use with confidence but not readily define. It's a feeling, an action, an attitude.

A Feeling:  Happiness is close, but for me rejoicing has to do with being happy about something profound, and outside of my control. Like the resurrection, or, for those less religiously entrenched, the fall of the Berlin wall, a new baby, a profound act of kindness or heroism: an event that seems too good to be true, an event or encounter that gives hope.

An Action:  Rejoicing is to acknowledge, affirm and celebrate those things that inspire the feeling.  To rejoice is to sing about, talk about, write about, or take new steps because of the hope that has been generated by the event that gave rise to the feeling.

An Attitude: To set aside cynicism and choose to rejoice, to hope rather than to expect the worst. To go to a wedding with hope that the couple will be married forever and die, still loving one another, 65 years from now, rather than dwelling on the statistics that say 50% of marriages will end in divorce and standing around saying "it'll never last."

Rejoicing may be like gratitude - an attitude that profoundly changes the person who practices it. So why not practice as a family?  Do the neighbors have a new baby? Rejoice with them - take over some food, let the children choose a small toy for the baby, and maybe turn them loose on the driveway with some sidewalk chalk to welcome the newest neighbor. This is rejoicing - sharing in someone's joy. It goes beyond a perfunctory acknowledgement of an event - it participates in the joy! Think of how that new baby will be welcomed from babyhood into childhood by your children. If they cheered his birth, they will also rejoice in his first steps, first tricycle ride, and growing independence.

Every Sunday Christians gather to rejoice in the risen Lord. We gather to rejoice in the profound hope and joy we have because of the Easter events.

So, in this Easter season, practice "rejoicing", for Christ is risen!

Thursday, April 12, 2012


Some people think that faith is a really serious thing. Even in the aftermath of God's great practical joke of raising Jesus from the dead, we still intone Alleluia with a reasonable amount of gravity and decorum. Does anyone else think that the idea of greeting the news of the resurrection with a face suitably composed for the grave-side is slightly ridiculous?

Most kids, as we all know, don't hold on to the serious very long. In fact, we tend to worry when they do. Yet, at some magical point, we declare that they are old enough to "take life seriously!" If they don't, we call them free spirits. . . as if that were a bad thing. (Back to Easter again, wasn't free one of the great gifts of the resurrection?)

Some churches, I recently learned, treat the 2nd Sunday of Easter as Holy Humor Sunday. I absolutely love this idea!  I think that God, who created us with the capacity for joy and laughter, would feel our worship as we come together to laugh and rejoice. I also think this would be a fantastic experience for children.

We don't have this at my church (yet!) but I have made it my mission during the Easter season to have lots of laughter at every event with children, and to connect that laughter with the Alleluia (Ha-llelujah) of the resurrection. I don't think that this linkage will necessarily sink in on any conscious level, but I hope it will leave an Easter afterglow that will stay with them for a lifetime.

Just before Easter a friend posted this 1 minute video to Facebook. The video quality isn't that great but just listening to this baby chortle can make your day. You will hear it echo in your head, long after you watch it. 

Don't your insides feel great? There is plenty of science to back up the old cliche' about laughter being the best medicine. So why not add a dose of laughter to your family's daily routine? Let the kids lead the way - they are naturally silly and, if you aren't focused too closely on making them into serious people, you will find plenty of opportunities to laugh.

If you're not sure how to get started with this, the "Ha-Ha Game" is a great shortcut to breathless giggles. It's this simple: Say Ha, the next person says Ha-Ha; continue taking turns, adding another ha until someone cracks up completely - and then start over.  As you gain experience, you will have to work harder for the laughter, but it will be just as sweet once it arrives. Try it out! You'll have fun, and you will give your kids a great gift!

I plan to bring you more laughter as we progress through the Easter season. May the joy of the resurrection seep into all the dry places of your life and wake them to new growth.

Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed, Hallelujah!!!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Easter Joy

I will never forget my first Easter in Texas. We had been here about six months and decided to take advantage of the long weekend and check out South Padre Island. We were living on my unimpressive secretarial salary so we couldn’t actually stay on the island, but instead opted for a cheap hotel in Brownsville. We did get to attend a bright and sunny sunrise service on the beach, but once that was over we just kind of wandered around, looking for an open restaurant and staring in wonder at what we saw.  Down in the Rio Grande Valley it’s nearly always possible to gather outdoors, and people do. The Brownsville parks were filled with families cooking barbecue. PiƱatas were hanging from trees, cousins were chasing each other, screaming with delight and (it appeared to me from the car windows) smacking each other on the head. It was festive in a way I had never seen.

Growing up in the Midwest I had certainly celebrated Easter with great joy. Trumpets heralded the empty tomb, light drenched the sanctuary that had been solemn and clothed in black and purple on Friday. The very contrast made it significant. What was different about this Texas celebration was the pure fun that accompanied it. And, as always, I was attracted to the fun.

What makes Easter significant to kids is the exuberance that underlies the celebration. Even children old enough to understand death and resurrection really don’t completely understand its significance – but they sense it. They may not have experienced great grief or joy yet, but they recognize that something amazing is happening. They don’t really "get" that eggs are a symbol of new life, but they love searching for them anyway. Down the road the significance of the symbols and ceremonies will dawn and they will feel the joy well within. So give them lots of traditions to reflect on later!

Two quick ideas for adding Easter symbols and fun to your family Easter basket:

Cascarones – pictured to the right, are eggshells that have been washed, dyed, dried, filled with confetti and closed with a circle of tissue paper. They are made for breaking open on someone’s head – that’s what the children of Brownsville were doing when I thought they were smacking each other. What a powerful symbol – new life, empty tomb, alleluia, all wrapped up in one little package!

Resurrection Rolls – You’ll need refrigerated crescent rolls, large marshmallows, cinnamon, sugar, and butter.
  • Mix 1/4 tsp. cinnamon with 1/4 C. sugar in a small bowl.
  • Melt 1 Tbsp. butter in another small bowl.
  • Lay out one triangle of dough. (This is the "tomb".) Roll the marshmallow ("Jesus") in the butter, and then in the cinnamon-sugar mix.
  • Next, roll up your marshmallow in the dough. (Jesus is in the tomb.) Make sure to pinch the sides and corners fully closed.
  • Roll your filled dough in the cinnamon-sugar mixture and bake according to package directions.
After they have cooled, enjoy your Resurrection Rolls. Surprise! The tomb will be empty!

Blessed Easter!