Monthly Archives: April 2014

A Resurrection Perspective

 

JesusTree

Today I am taking down our Jesus Tree, packing away the ornaments and all our Easter decorations.  I sigh a little as I pack each thing up…sad to see this beautiful season end, wondering what we’re going to do next.  But then I remind myself that Easter is not really over…it’s never really over.  That’s the beauty and the wonder and the glory of what Easter was…what Easter is.   Easter is the celebration of the Resurrection…but every day we get to live the beauty of the Resurrection…every. day.

Jesus is Risen.  In Him, we have new life…abundant life.  Because of His resurrection we have hope…broken things can be mended, painful things can birth hope, dead things can be given life…and ALL things can be counted as grace.

And yet…how many days do I live like He’s still on that cross, or in that tomb?  How many days do I teeter on the edge of depression and fear and anxiety, overwhelmed by the circumstances that surround me, unable or unwilling to see beyond the emotions and the pressures of the moment?  How many days do I live as though I’ve forgotten what He said and what He did?  How many times do I forget the hope that I have in Him…how many times do I allow the noise of the world around me to drown out His still small voice inside me…how many times do I fail to embrace the power of His resurrection in my every day life?

How many?  Too many.

Angie Smith said it this way, “I often live my life like a spectator to His death instead of a witness to His resurrection.”

It’s true.  There are far too many days I pray to God as though I have no hope, as if He doesn’t hear me.  There are way too many times that I allow the circumstances around me to cloud my thinking and control my emotions and my reactions.

But Jesus is not dead.  He conquered the grave, defeated sin, crushed the enemy, and is alive today so I can live every day in the power and the beauty and the hope of His resurrection.

I want to embrace each day in light of His resurrection, knowing that in Him ALL things are working together for His ultimate glory and for my ultimate good.  Having a resurrection perspective means that there is always hope in my heart, and there is always thanks on my lips.  Because everything truly is grace, a gift from the One who loved me so much that He died for me and then rose back to life for me.

I love how Ann Voskamp has written it out as an anthem of praise, an anthem of hope:

AnnQuote_ResurrectionPeople_square

May this be my song every day as I move past Easter and onto whatever is next…

A Last Supper Meal – so we will remember

In Luke 22, Jesus and His disciples were having the Passover Meal together. The Passover Meal was an important tradition.  Each piece of the meal was full of symbolism, full of significance…it helped them remember.  They remembered where they came from, remembered how God rescued them from slavery in Egypt, remembered how God made a way where there was no way through the Red Sea, remembered how the blood of the lambs on the doorposts saved their children from the curse.

Passover.  A meal that helped them remember.

At this particular Passover meal, this Last Supper in Luke 22, Jesus tells them to remember something new…not just the freedom from Egypt or the passing over of the curse of death by the blood on the doorposts. Jesus breaks bread and pours the fruit of the vine and He tells His disciples to eat and to drink and to “do this in remembrance of Me.” (Luke 22:19)  He wanted them – He wants us – to remember Him.

Because everything that the Passover was, everything that it pointed to, everything that it symbolized…Jesus fulfilled.  When His body was broken and His blood was poured, when He laid His life down and then rose back to life again…when Jesus became our spotless lamb, broken and sacrificed for us…every prophecy, every promise, everything was fulfilled.  So when we break the bread that represents His body, and when we pour the drink that represents His blood, we remember – we remember where we came from, we remember how God rescued us from the chains of sin and death, we remember how Jesus made a way where there was no way, we remember that HIS blood covers our sin and saves us from the curse of death.

We remember.

So on the Thursday before Easter – on Maundy Thursday – we gather as a family and have a special meal together.  We call it our “Last Supper” Meal, and it has become a very special tradition for us.

The girls help me make unleavened bread.  We pull out some sparkling grape juice.  We decorate the table and light some candles.  We prepare a special meal.  (This year I tried a new recipe for Maple Glazed Cornish Hens – you can get the recipe here).

I usually try to keep it simple but special.  One of these days I would love to try to make a Christian Passover/Messianic Seder meal, but for now we’ve chosen to just focus on the unleavened bread and juice…and I do love the simplicity of it.

We sit down to eat and we talk about Jesus.  We remember His life, and all the wonderful things He did.  Then we pull out the Bible and Mark begins reading, first from Exodus 11-12.  We talk about the first Passover.  We remember how God rescued the Jews…how He protected their firstborns by the blood of the lambs on the doorposts…how He made a way through the Red Sea.

Then we fast forward to Luke 22, where Jesus is sitting down with His disciples to eat the Passover meal, where they are looking back and remembering that first Passover.  We read about the New Covenant. We talk about Jesus’ body and His blood. We pray and thank God for Jesus, for His sacrifice.

We break the unleavened bread and remember Jesus’ broken body.

We drink the grape juice and remember Jesus’ blood that was poured out.

We do these things and we remember how God rescued us…how He protects us by the blood of Jesus, the Perfect Lamb of God…how He made a way for us to know Him and to be with Him.

Our Last Supper Meal is not perfect.  It’s not super fancy or ritualistic.  But it is very intentional.  We intentionally set aside this time to slow down in the crazy pace of this ever-busy life to focus on Jesus…to remember Him.

 

If you’d like more details about our Last Supper Meal, check out my Easter Family Devotions kit.  All the details for our Last Supper meal is in there, including all the passages we read and links to other great resources.  (I kinda goofed up on the kit, though…I had the Last Supper meal listed for Day 12 (Friday), when it should be for Day 11 (Thursday)…oops!  I’ll fix that for next year.  But really, it doesn’t matter which day you do it…the point is to do something to remember Jesus, and to intentionally point our kids’ hearts toward Him too.)

So whatever it is you do to remember Him, I wish you slow, quiet moments over these next couple of days to draw close to Jesus…to remember His life, to be awed by His love, and to be lavished by His grace.

Happy Easter!

A Crown of Thorns

We have this little tradition that we started last year at Easter…a simple little activity that has become quite significant for us:  a “crown of thorns.”

A Crown of Thorns - a family Easter tradition

(I first read this idea in a post by Ann Voskamp here: Three Bowls & A Crown of Thorns on Holy Week)

I put a little grapevine wreath on the dining room table, right beside our Jesus Tree.  Next to the wreath is a cup of toothpicks.  The wreath is the crown and the toothpicks are the thorns.  Every time we do something that needs forgiveness in these days leading up to Easter – for every sin each day – we pick up a toothpick and add it to the wreath…we add a thorn to the crown.

A Crown of Thorns - a family Easter tradition

We’ve encouraged the girls to pray and talk to God each time they add a thorn…acknowledge that sin, and thank Him for His forgiveness.  We don’t necessarily share each one out loud – it is a personal, between-me-and-God thing – but our wreath is filling up, and I often see the girls quietly adding a “thorn” and bowing their heads – it’s sinking in.  Mark and I are adding our thorns too….every day.  There is just something significant about physically adding each toothpick, acknowledging each sin, realizing the depth of God’s love and forgiveness as I recognize how very far from perfect I really am.

A Crown of Thorns - a family Easter tradition

A Crown of Thorns - a family Easter tradition

It’s a simple activity.  A small tradition.  But we do it to remember.  We do it so that Jesus’ sacrifice, His suffering, doesn’t become mundane or trivial in our hearts.

Because there is nothing mundane about His death.  And there is nothing trivial about His forgiveness.

I think it’s easy to put ourselves in little boxes and say that “all those other sins” are what caused Jesus to really suffer…my sins aren’t that bad…sure, I need forgiveness, but not as much as “that” person.   We play this comparison game, whether to make us feel better about ourselves or maybe so we won’t feel so bad about our own sin.  And we read the story of Jesus’ death and think to ourselves that we would never have yelled “crucify!”  We would never have nailed Him to that tree.  We would never….

And yet.

And yet…we did.

With each angry outburst, with every jealous thought, with each word of gossip, with every little white lie, with each choice made from greed, and with every unkind deed – every single sin, however “small” or “big” we make it in our mind – every. single. one – was torture to Jesus.  He took on ALL of our sins…ALL. Of. Them.  Each one pierced His head, cut through His hands, stabbed through His feet, straight into His breaking broken heart…He took on every single sin, and poured out His very life…because of me.  He died for each of those little thorns I put in this wreath on our table.  He suffered and bled and was tortured…for ME…for MY sins.  So that I could be forgiven.

That’s a big deal.  That’s important.  That’s something I never ever want to lose sight of…I never want to forget.  His death was not just some picture in a storybook – it was bloody and messy and painful and horrible.  But it was also the most beautiful sacrifice, the most selfless love, the most amazing grace.  Jesus willingly took on all my sins and died…for me – then He defeated death and broke the curse of sin…for me.  He did it all…for me…for you…because He loves us so much.

A Crown of Thorns - a family Easter tradition

So today, I’m sure our crown will receive a few more thorns…because daily we fail.  But daily He loves us.  And each time we add a thorn, we remember the immensity of His love and the depth of His forgiveness.

Our sins pierced His brow so His love could pierce our hearts.  He was broken so that we could be made whole.

May we never take for granted this indescribable gift.  May we always remember.  May we always give thanks.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

More ideas on creating meaningful family Easter traditions are in my Easter Family Devotions Kit.  Read the original post here: Creating Traditions That Help Us Remember.  Or go directly to the entire kit here: Easter Family Devotions Kit.

Creating Traditions That Help Us Remember: A Free Easter Family Devotional Kit

At the last supper with His disciples, Jesus told them to “do this to remember me.” (Luke 22:19 NLT)

There’s something significant about traditions, about doing something that means something in order to remember something important.  As a family, we want to create traditions that have significance, that point our hearts to something, to Someone…I want traditions that help us remember.

We’re big about traditions around Christmastime.  We have an Advent calendar and countdown to Christmas, we have special family nights full of fun activities and crafts, we read stories and we sing Christmas songs.  This past Christmas season, we even started a Jesse Tree and added ornaments each day and had a special devotional together every night…we read stories from the Bible leading up to the birth of Jesus. (We used the book, The Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp as a guide).  We did all those things because Christmas is a special day…it’s the day we remember Jesus’ birth.

But Easter….for some reason, I’ve never put nearly as much into Easter traditions.  I mean, we color eggs and put out Easter baskets and have Easter egg hunts…but as far as traditions that help us remember what Easter is really about…well, we don’t have many of those.  Last year, I started rethinking how we do Easter.  I wanted to be more intentional.  I wanted my girls to know – to really, truly, deep down KNOW – the meaning of Easter.  And I want them…I want us all…to remember.

So we started small last year.  We added one tradition: A family Last Supper Meal.  I had read about a Christian Passover Meal/Messianic Seder, and was very interested in doing something similar because it has so much significance and meaning to it.  But I wasn’t quite sure if it would work for our family, and I wasn’t really confident enough to properly pull off the whole Passover meal…maybe one day I will try it…but I did want to teach my girls about Passover, and the significance of the Last Supper.  So on the Friday before Easter, we baked unleavened bread and talked about the Last Supper. We read from the Old Testament and learned about Passover, and what it meant. And then we broke bread together and drank sparkling grape juice together and read through the verses in Luke 22 about Jesus’ last meal with His disciples.

baking unleavened bread

It ended up being one of my most favorite nights we’ve ever had as a family.  It’s definitely a tradition that we will continue every year.

And this year I want to be even more intentional as we lead into Easter.  So I’ve been working on some family devotions that will help us learn more about the life of Jesus and prepare our hearts as we get ready to celebrate the most important event in all of history: Jesus’ Resurrection.

Along with the devotionals, I also designed some pictures that go along with each story.  Then I turned those pictures into ornaments that we will use on a special “tree” that we will add to throughout the two weeks leading up to Easter.  We’re calling it our “Jesus Tree.”

(The Jesus Tree is not my own original concept.  I’ve been reading and researching a lot lately, and I was inspired by others who do similar things with their families…there are really SO many great resources and ideas out there!  You can search Pinterest or Google and find tons of ideas for Easter Trees or Jesus Trees, and lots and lots of resources for Easter devotionals or Lent devotionals.  I was particularly inspired by Ann Voskamp and her blog at annvoskamp.com.  She does an Easter Tree, and she has a GREAT resource on her site with family devotions and pictures for ornaments as well.  You can check her resources out here: Free Family Lent Easter Devotional.)

I ended up deciding to focus on stories from the life of Jesus, so I wrote my own devotions for our family and gathered an assortment of activity ideas, and put them all together in this Easter Family Devotions Kit.   And I’d love to share it with you!  Because maybe – just maybe – I’m not the only mom who struggles with being intentional about celebrating Easter.  Maybe I’m not the only mom who has spent more time picking out pretty dresses and filling Easter baskets than I have picking out meaningful Bible stories to tell my girls and filling their hearts and memories with meaningful traditions that help them truly remember Jesus.  Maybe I’m not the only one who has been so busy just trying to survive life that I have failed to take the time to share HIS life.

I put together this kit for my own family.  I picked stories that I felt would prepare our hearts for Easter, and I designed the ornaments using symbols I thought would help trigger our memory of the stories.  Please feel free to use this kit as a starting point for your own family Easter celebrations.  But also feel free to add to it and personalize it for your own family.

I have provided a lot of different activities in this kit.  But our family will not do all of these activities.  The whole idea is to be intentional about celebrating Easter, but not to make it so busy that we are stressed and exhausted by the time we get to Easter Sunday.  I provided multiple activities so that you could see how easy it is to extend the devotions if you want to.  For our family, we will choose probably two or three activities that work best for our family, or that are most meaningful to us, and focus on doing those.  But most nights, we will simply talk about the Bible story and add our ornament to our Jesus Tree.   So please do not feel like you have to do everything.

The point is not to add more to your already busy family schedule…the point is just to intentionally slow down and focus on what is most important this Easter season. 

Maybe your family is in a season where you can easily do an extra activity every day and it adds meaning and fun to your family, not stress and busyness.  If that’s where you are, great!  Do it! You can even look for more ideas online – there are so many fun ideas out there that can help connect your kids’ hearts to Jesus!

But if your family is in a season that is already busy and full, maybe what works best for you would be to just focus on slowing down long enough to read a Bible story together every night…maybe print the ornaments and just hang one on your Jesus Tree each day and that’s it.  Even just doing that alone will make an impact on your family, by intentionally turning your hearts toward Jesus this Easter season.

So take these ideas, take these resources, and tweak them and make them work for your family, in your season, where you are now.  Even if you just try one thing…just start one tradition this Easter…just one thing that points your family to Jesus…it will make a difference.

What is included in this kit:

  • Directions on how to make a Jesus Tree.
  • 14 Days of Family Devotions – each devotion has a scripture reading, some questions, and a prayer prompt.
  • Set of 14 Jesus Tree Ornaments – these are hand-drawn images, each one corresponds to a Bible story from the devotions.
  • At least 1 extra activity idea per day.  (Crafts, activities, recipes, etc.)
  • Extra Resources – all recipes, craft instructions, and activity directions are included in the kit.
  • A Last Supper Meal – detailed, step-by-step information for making this special meal happen for your family, including a printable for your table decorations.

 

Click HERE to download the complete Easter Family Devotions Kit

 

Wishing you so much joy as you intentionally focus on Jesus this Easter!

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