Things have changed somewhat for me as an adult versus how I grew up. When I was younger, one side of my family used to make a big deal about Easter. They spent a lot of energy on what to wear on Easter, a big deal on coloring eggs and holding an egg hunt, decorating the house and yard, Easter baskets filled with candy and toys left by the Easter Bunny, and a huge big deal for extended family get togethers right after church. The other side of my family did not do these things. These extreme differences were confusing as a kid, but it definitely helped me learn how to balance the truth of Easter as an adult and get rid of the things that were not true.
Since I got married twenty three years ago and created a family of my own, the Easter Bunny is not at all a part of our focus, though we have occasionally joined in with others to do an egg hunt. Also a special outfit never was a priority, as my husband just doesn't think it is necessary to go out and spend money to show off a new outfit at church. And he is just as happy eating a pizza if there is no family get together for a big meal, either way is just fine with him. I was ok with skipping a new outfit as it can get quite expensive, but it took me a few years to accept skipping out on a big Easter meal, but eventually I let go of the "have to have a big get together and fancy meal on Easter" and accepted "what ever will be will be, don't worry about it".
Honestly our children enjoy the festivities of any holiday, spending time having fun, and getting lots of candy when either we or others offer it to them. It has been challenging to teach them the true meaning of holidays as holy days, when faced with conflicting messages in our culture. A few years ago, we joined some neighbors in North Carolina who did an annual egg hunt. It was fun, but a few days later our kids discussed with their kids that we don't believe in Santa Claus or that he leaves presents under the tree at Christmas. That mom marched right over to my house and yelled at me to never let my kids tell her kids that Santa or the Easter Bunny wasn't real. Her kids were 6, 9, and 14 years old. You have got to be kidding! I say this not to be mean, but only to make a point about our culture and it's impact on our life. I am not trying to put her down, but only show that the values of the current culture can control a Christian's life and one can be blinded to the truth. She was upset that my 9 year old told her 9 year old that he did not believe Santa was real and she wanted to continue her holiday tradition of them leaving Santa and the Easter Bunny letters the night before and getting gifts the next morning on those holidays. I was sure that her kids had probably already heard at church and in their school from other kids who knew the truth, but it was shocking even still to hear a grown woman talking like this. I was more determined that ever to help my kids understand the different beliefs about the holidays.
We spent the first 9 years of our marriage unable to have children of our own, though we did foster care. We had all of that time to really look at what we believe and how we want to raise our kids to believe the truth and escape some of the "have to..." with celebrating the holidays. So I have had to learn to find and teach a balance in all these things.
Well anyway, here we are in a new place, new community, and at a new church trying to learn new customs blended with old customs. Still trying to balance the truth of our faith with the pressures of our culture. Where do we stand? We believe Easter is about a risen savior and not about a pagan easter bunny or a goddess of fertility. How much "culture activities" do we allow our children to participate in? Thankfully, we live in a free country and we don't have to accept or participate in things that contradict with our faith.
We have found a few fun ways to celebrate this holiday with our kids. Besides fun crafts and Christ centered movies, we recently reviewed Egglo which is a cool glow in the dark plastic egg to use for egg hunts that points the way to Jesus as the light of the world and not to an Easter bunny.
Today I also heard a pastor say that an egg itself testifies of the deity of God. God is three in one, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, likewise and egg has three distinct parts and it reminds us of God's creative power (egg shell, egg white, and yolk) and this was a good visualization to share with the kids. This process is a balance we are still trying to walk out in our life and this isn't the only holiday we find ourselves deeply considering these things.
Heart Preparation And A Song
This year my heart is drawn toward the love Christ felt for mankind. "For God so LOVED the world, that he gave his only son, that who ever would believe in him, would have eternal life." John 3:16
The love that pushed and compelled God to come to this earth in physical form, to endure the human walk, to bring hope to those he met through his message and miracles, and then to walk down the road to his physical torture and death on a cross. The love that overcame Man's free will to choose life or choose death.
I have recently been asked to prepare a song to sing at church for Easter Sunday. Wow. It is a huge honor and responsibility! I am thrilled, and at the same time shaking in my shoes. I prayed for an opportunity to sing for the past few years. I longed for a church to ask me to sing for so long it has almost become a lost dream for me.
If you know me, you know I love to sing. But when we moved to North Carolina and didn't know anyone, and then attended a mega church that was an hour drive away, and life happened with more and more children, I realized I was needed to care for them and singing in public became less and less a priority. It has been 6 years since I stood before a crowd and sang. This seems odd to me because I spent over 30+ years singing, ever since I was a young girl. How could I let my desire to sing die after so many years being so passionate about it? I honestly have been praying earnestly for these past 6 years for God to re-open that door. Now we have moved back to Indiana and I have been given the opportunity to go before a group of people that I only just came to know the past six months of going to church there and do this for them, and bring glory to the King of Kings with my voice. My only prayer in this is that it will be a blessing to them.
The Road Of Suffering
For the past several weeks, since I was asked to do this, I have earnestly prayed about a song that I could prepare to sing for Easter. I kept drawing a blank for weeks! Though I prayed daily about it, and sang in the shower to the Lord, I could not hear him speak about a song for Easter. Instead I heard him speaking into my life as I sang praised to Him.
During that time I wanted to search out and prepare a song, but instead I was bombarded by life events beyond my control. I learned I was pregnant; my husband's job of only 4 months came to an end; then we found out he didn't qualify for unemployment payments because he did not work in the state during the qualifying period; then the stress caused him to develop a digestive imbalance and gout in his feet making him bedridden for a couple of weeks and unable to work on anything around the house or take on a side job while he waited for a new job to open; and we ran out of money; I had to do a lot more for him; the stress of no income was devastating while sending out resumes and job applications; then he got several interviews and three job offers each a week apart, but they didn't pay enough to meet the bills; then I started spotting and went through a miscarriage; and then the next week he got a job offer that would meet the bills, but had to wait another week to start, and then he won't see a paycheck for another three weeks. We are just barely holding on. Why GOD? We have had to tell the kids to wait to get their animals for 4H projects, wait to do this or that, wait to get shoes they need, etc. There just isn't any money to buy things for this Easter holiday celebration either. If I don't have it on hand, then chances are we won't be able to go out and get it. I tell you, I drew a blank about what to sing at church for Easter with all of this going on in my life.
But last Sunday, after the opening prayer and just as the singing during praise and worship began, I closed my eyes and prayed again something like this "Lord, I only have two weeks from today left to get something prepared to honor you on this holiday and share with these folks. What do you want me to do?" and he answered me with a vivid vision of Christ walking down the middle isle of the church carrying the cross.
The only thing I could understand from this vision was love. It was love for all people that carried that cross. It was love made manifest in a human form. His love is strength that goes beyond human understanding. It goes beyond being mistreated, beaten, laughed at, wrongly accused, injustice, hostility, war, being robbed, intolerance and indifference. His love goes beyond a job loss, income loss, the death of a child, sickness, disease, and heartache. His love for you and me gave him passion to see it through, to carry the cross even as he bled, to reach calvary and complete his mission, his mission to save mankind from eternal damnation. His love pushed him to be slaughtered as an innocent lamb and offered as a sacrifice to God. His love that was completely pure and free from sin paid the price for my sin on the cross. His love gave him strength to suffer and die for my sake. He knew the truth. He knew the end from the beginning. Through love, He would defeat sin, eternal damnation, and Satan. Through love, He would redeem mankind to God. Knowing the outcome, he could continue on through the suffering because of love.
God spoke to my heart and said it is when man understands this love, that is when their heart chooses to believe and accept Christ's sacrifice, and their heart is redeemed to God.
God showed how much he loved us by having Christ die for us,
even though we were sinful.
As I looked at the man carrying the cross in the vision, I saw love. Then I saw another soldier forcing him to walk and carry it, and then another soldier. Then I saw Marry, Christ's mother weeping. I saw love continue to carry the cross. I heard in my heart "the road of suffering", "love will overcome evil", "love will bring knowledge of one's sin and need for Christ's sacrifice to bring redemtion to God". Then I heard in my mind a voice singing the Sandy Patty song "Down the Via Delorosa" the road Christ walked to calvary called "the way of suffering". I knew then it should have been called the "Road Of Love".
I was so excited through out the rest of the service to finally know the song I was to sing. I leaned over and told my husband that the Lord had spoken to my heart the song I must learn and prepare for Easter Sunday. I asked him if he would be able to build me a cross to use as a prop if needed. As soon as service was over I shared this news with the pastor, and the music leaders. I told them about the possibility of involving the young people to carry a cross down the isle and also to play part of the movie "Passion Of The Christ" perhaps without sound, just pictures only. I just wanted the folks to view the video of the moments that Christ carried the cross and the suffering he went through. The music leaders said they had a cross they had used as a prop many years ago that it is still around and I would be welcome to use it, and they would see if they could find a video they could use with their equipment. The details are still being worked out and I don't know for sure how all of this will come together. But my heart is overwhelmed with excitement that preparations are in the works and something wonderful will transpire no matter what it is.
Then today, I went on a search online to see if I could find the soundtrack for this song. It has been many years since I heard this song (could it be 20 years?), and I don't even know if it is around anymore or how hard it will be to find. While searching, I came across some YouTube videos. One video is of Sandy Patty singing this song in the 1980's. Another is a video is only 4 minutes long, and is of someone who used the movie Passion Of The Christ and added Sandy Patty's song to it to use in ministering to their church in China. This was amazing, because it was a confirmation to me that what I had felt I was supposed to do, God has also inspired others to do similar things to reach people with this message.
There are also some amazing videos interviewing the actor, Jim Caviezel, who played the role of Jesus in the film, Passion of the Christ. This is amazing to me as it is one of my son's favorite actors. He played in a movie called Madison which is a true story about Madison, Indiana. He also played in other movies and TV shows. It was encouraging to watch the interview with my son and learn how much this role in the movie really impacted Jim's faith. Only God could have made this happen, for my son's favorite character to be a man who truly loves God and acted in the role of Jesus and found his character through learning about the very love Jesus had for humanity. It was another confirmation that this is the message I am to focus on and to share for Easter.