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Five Ways to Get the Most Out of Easter

When I was four years old I got into bull nettles down at the family farm on Easter.  When I was six I rode a horse for the first time at the same family gathering.  I caught a chicken the next year and was super happy until my uncle yelled at me for picking the chicken up.  Apparently if you catch them they won’t lay eggs anymore.  (Who knew???)

So I guess you could say my relationship with Easter started off mostly hit and miss.

And while I’m at it, let me admit to you that it wasn’t until I was fourteen years old that I even knew you could go to church on Easter.  True story.  My family always went down to the family farm and I had no clue church was even open that Sunday.  I thought everybody just hung out and ate barbecue like we did! 

For those reasons, and maybe a few more, the Easter season was not a big thing for me growing up or even during college and seminary.  It turns out, though, that Easter is the holiest day on the Christian calendar.  (I didn’t know that existed until I was in seminary.)  Accordingly, I’ve had to adjust my approach to Easter in order to take it in and put myself in a position to be moved by it in the way God might be intending. 

Here are five ways I try to get the most out of the Easter season that I hope will be helpful to you, too:

Buy Easter Candy – There is nothing spiritual about this, unless you equate sugar highs with spirituality. It just helps me get in the mood for Easter. If you’re wondering, I prefer to get the Marshmallow Eggs, jelly beans, and things like that. 

Read the story  Does it seem to you that we always read the Christmas story, but we never read the Easter story? Me too. I try to read through the Easter story every year the same way I would the Christmas story.  I find out something new about myself and my faith every time I read it.  Try reading from the moment Jesus begins heading to Jerusalem for the last time. 

Focus on the Resurrection – We generally end up thinking about the cross when it’s Easter time. In a society that focuses on Penal Substitution as the primary belief about the Atonement, that makes sense. But can I tell you that the starting point of our faith is not there?  It’s in the Resurrection. The thing that gives us hope that we can be saved is Jesus’s victory over death.  The fact that he rose again from the dead because he was God and sinless means much more to me than that he just happened to die.  Lots of people died on crosses in those days, but only one has ever risen from the dead.

Find a song that resonates with you – Music is sometimes as powerful as the sense of smell. Like when you hear a song and it takes you back to 1998 and you remember yourself wearing super baggy jeans and the original issue Jordan’s. You sing along, too, because you still know every word.  Chicka chicka Slim Shady.  Music is powerful and the right song can communicate truths that we want to keep close to us at all times. What if you found a song that you really stuck to during the Easter season and it always reminded you of things you wanted to remember about Jesus?  Right now, my Easter song is Reckless Love by Cory Asbury.  My song last year was Death in His Grave by John Mark MacMillan.  Yes, you can steal those.

Spend time with family and friends – My favorite Easter memories are the ones with my family and it’s not just because my grandparents put money in some of the eggs during the egg hunt. It’s because we were all celebrating together, even if some of us didn’t understand the truth we were celebrating yet.  When you celebrate with your kids, you teach them things they will remember forever.  When you invite your friends over, you have the opportunity to share about what Easter means for you, personally, whether they are believers or not.  Just putting yourself in proximity of friends and family on this day that’s so widely celebrated opens up opportunities for growth for both you and them.

So those are the things I do.  What about you?  What is it that you do?  How do you make the most of your Easter season?

Peace, 

Josh

Posted by Josh Plant with

Why Baptists Practice Lent?

I grew up going to Baptist & Methodist churches (we moved 5 times during my childhood), but I specifically remember the first time my family recognized Lent. For most of my childhood, Lent, the ashes, eating only fish on Fridays, all of that was foreign to me…only my Catholic friends would do those things.

For spring break growing up, my extended family and I would camp at James Island in Charleston, South Carolina. There was this delicious soda fountain we would go to at least once during our week together. One day at lunch (I was in 6thgrade, I believe) everyone was talking about what flavor ice cream they were going to get (chocolate chip cookie dough here!) and I remember my aunt saying she wasn’t going to get any. Now, this woman loves ice cream. So, for her to pass up ice cream, I’m pretty sure the Earth stopped rotating for a few minutes.

I asked her why she wasn’t going to have ice cream and she explained that she was giving it up for Lent. I honestly replied back, “Oh I thought that was only for Catholics.” That led into a discussion that many Baptists, and Christians in general, have. Who should “celebrate” Lent, what do we do (or don’t do), and why recognize Lent?

Well, instead of me answering these questions, check out this great blog post from Alan Rudnick, who is way more qualified than I, to explain as to Why Baptist Should Celebrate Ash Wednesday (and Lent, in general).

So, why do I bring up this topic? I was at the grocery store on Sunday buying items for the kids’ Ash Wednesday activity and this lady behind me asked if I was making dirt cups (I had chocolate cake mix, pudding, and gummy worms…yes, might seem like an odd combo for Ash Wednesday, but just hang tight!). I told her what it was for and she was surprised that Baptists do the ashes. She admitted to coming to church very irregularly and asked what the ashes were all about anyway.

I’ve thought a lot about that conversation in the past couple of days. My perception of Lent has changed a lot since my first interaction in the 6th grade, as it seems like everyone gives up something for Lent these days. It feels now to me that it’s just a part of culture to “do Lent.” In college (I went to UCF, not a religiously affiliated university), it seemed like my peers used it as a good reason to give up junk food and lose weight; now the ever popular sacrifice is social media.  My new friend from Publix even admitted to giving stuff up, but not exactly sure why she did it.

So, why do we recognize Ash Wednesday & Lent? Ultimately (and very simply put), Ash Wednesday is to recognize our sins and the need for forgiveness. Lent is the season (40 days) to prepare our hearts and minds for Holy Week and Easter. You can use the time of Lent to get right with God.Traditionally, you chose to focus on one thing to give up during Lent, but it can be so much more than that. When preparing our kids for Lent, focus on three pieces during this time – prayer, giving, and fasting.

I find it extra special that Ash Wednesday falls on Valentine’s Day this year. A day we recognize love is also a day we recognize our sins and need for a love far greater than any earthly love. And that love is free – no strings attached!

I leave you with this question – how will you practice Lent this year?  This is my last blog post as a staff member; as I am transitioning to be a full time stay at home wife & mom, and I want to stress how important it is that we make a daily effort to constantly improve our relationship with God. No matter what life has thrown at us, or we might be angry with God, or we might be frustrated with church, I encourage you to really use the next 6 weeks of Lent to make your faith stronger. 

Thank you for allowing me to serve you as a staff member the past two and a half years. I look forward to now serving alongside you.

Many blessings and Happy Lent,

Crystal Holic

Minister of Community Outreach

P.S.: Here’s a link to the kids’ Ash Wednesday chocolate cake activity. I love, love, love doing this with kids. My prayer is that it sticks with them as they continue to grow in their faith.

Posted by Crystal Holic with

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