Sunday, April 20, 2014

Easter Sunday

Here in a America Easter and Christmas are the two biggest holidays we have.  If you work somewhere and you get only two holidays off a year, those are it.  So why don't these holidays feel their own equal, at least to me.  
      As long as I can remember I have known the true meaning of these holidays.  Christmas is when Jesus was born into this earth, and Easter is when he died and rose from the grave to save us from our sins.  Both of these holidays have their somewhat irrelevant, though fun pagan traditions that we have grown to know well, Santa Claus and the Easter bunny, Christmas cookies and easter baskets, egg hunts and opening presents, and as always with our holidays, copious amounts of food.  To their credit, my parents really tried to bring the focus back to Jesus and what he did for us.  And honestly, they did a great job.  I enjoyed (and still do) these traditions while not letting them override the significance of these holiday.  Celebrating new life and giving are not negative things in my view, though their commercialism and scene stealing can be more than troubling.  But personally, I've never had a huge problem with this, we choose for ourselves where we place importance and what we let fill our hearts and minds - though on a broad spectrum of how these side things water down the holidays, I admit it's troubling. 
       What I have really been thinking about with these two holidays, has nothing to do with that.  I pondering the pure emotions I associate with the two holidays.  With Christmas I am filled with Joy, Love, anticipation and thought for others.  Warm fuzzies fill me up when I think on this time of year.  A baby in a manger, family gatherings, snow falling all around (not in Jerusalem or even Oregon most of the time, but it's still a Christmas association I have,) and lost and forgotten people everywhere being cared for and loved.  Simply wonderful.  I can't get enough of it, and neither can my three year old daughter. She is still talking about Christmas and wrapping up pens and blocks with her drawings for me to open.
       With Easter I have often thought of spring flowers, laughing children hunting for eggs, and death of a perfect man paying a price for the sin that was brought into this world and has been carried out by each and everyone of us, most specifically in my own musings, by myself.  My failure, that's what I have been stuck on.  Now I know that it doesn't end there, that Jesus didn't just die, but that he rose again and conquered death!  This is our hope, that now we can live with him for all eternity!  My problem seems to be that while it is necessary for us to acknowledge that we are sinners and need a Savior, I get to this point and stay there.  I focus more on the wrong that I have done than the wrongs he has wiped away.  A clean slate.  Not a chalkboard wiped clear but with residue of the past as I have seemed to see it, but wiped pure as snow.  This is where I need to live!  We have been set free!  Rejoice! Jesus has conquered the grave and given us new life.  All those new flowers I see and baby chicks represent something vital I have been overlooking, this new life that I need to be living.  So as you watch your little ones hunt all those eggs or simply see signs of them everywhere, be reminded that as we have been forgiven we are called to live a new life!  Have a wonderful Easter my friends.

1 Cor. 15:55-57 "Where, O death, is your victory?
    Where, O death, is your sting?”[a]
56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ."

Thursday, April 3, 2014

The power of our words

      Over the past few days I have been thinking a lot about interactions I have had over the years.  It is amazing to me that something that happened in just a few minutes way back when I was five, or six, or seven can still affect me today, for better or for worse.
       When I was in the first grade we had a reading circle and each day one child would read a book out loud to everyone else, and while they were reading they were allowed to put others names on the board.  I don't know how public schools deal with discipline these days, but when I waslittle the "naughty" children got their names put up on the chalk board, supposedly to embarrass them into submission or something to that effect. What a horrible idea, but I won't go into that now. 
On this particular day during reading time I was feeling a little extra chatty, no shocker there, and the reader called me out and had my name put on the board. have always hated conflict and strived to obey and please those around me, and thus I was a pretty good student, as six year olds go, unlike all those "evil doers" with their names on the board.  However, now, in one mortifying moment, I had been called out as a "naughty" child.  I was horrified.  In a moment of frustration at my interrupting chatter (understandably annoying) this six year old did something that has haunted me ever since. To this day I still occasionally see Sarah around town when I am visiting McMinnville, and though I harbor no bitterness towards her, we were only six at the time, her actions of that day still have lingering affects on my life, though I am sure it is something she has forgotten years ago
        This story could be told a thousand times, with different names and circumstances, but I think we have all experienced momentary instances where someone hurt us, or offended us, often without thought or even intention, and it changed our lives, maybe in a small way, but changed us it did.
        There is however another side to this.  I also have many memories that pop up from time to time of similar situations that had an entirely different effect on me. 
    In 2005- 2006 I spent a year living in Europe, half the time in Switzerland and half the time in Germany.  This year was a life changer for me, and though I had some of the best experiences in my life there, as many times happens, I also had some of my hardest times.  When I first arrived in Switzerland I knew absolutely no german, and though my host family was very patient and helpful I spent many hours feeling very alone.  I had gone from living in the same town my entire life and seeing familiar faces of acquaintances and friends everywhere I went, to having not one single familiar face.  I had no idea how difficult this would be for me.   One day I was on my weekly grocery shopping trip for the family when I heard my name being called.  At first I ignored it, I had gotten used to people saying names that sounded like mine, but talking to other people, after all, I knew almost no one.  But then I heard my name again, and turned around to see a smiling face waving at me.  It was a middle aged man from the the church we attended in the town next to ours asking me about my day.  I had met him a handful of times but honestly didn't even remember his name (probably because I couldn't understand it!)  But it didn't matter.  I was known.  I was recognized and I was remembered.  This was a major turning point for me in my stay there, and a small insignificant comment on his part.  What a difference we can make in people's lives.
       The thing about it is this, not only can we make a difference in people's lives, but we do make a difference whether we want to or not, but it is up to us what kind of difference we make. 
        As a sarcastic person, I am all too familiar with how easy it is to unintentionally say or do things that tear people down in an instant, usually without intent. You can apologize until you're blue in the face, but to a certain extent the damage is done.  You cannot unsay the things you have already said, we all know this.  We all think back with regret on things we have said that we wish we could take back, but that is not the point of this blog.   The point of this blog is the potential we have to encourage and lift up those around us by being aware of the things we say and do, and speaking to others in love. In James 1:19 NLT he says "Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry."    I want to be aware of the people around me and to connect with them in a positive way.  Even in my busyness I want to slow down enough to really listen to the answer from the cashier at the checkout counter when I ask "How is your day going?" and to offer a kind word of encouragement if needed, but mostly just to listen.  As a clerk myself I can remember when people would really listen to me and care, and what a huge affect they had on my day.
     In a world that is speeding up all the time, and turning everyday personal interactions into electronic ones, I want to choose to slow myself down, choose to connect with others and to be aware of more than just my own wants and needs.  As David says in   Psalm 19:14 "May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer."  I want this to be true, that everyday I would turn the little nothings throughout my day into somethings that would plant seeds and bring God's love to earth.