Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Happy Spring from the Bondurants

Who doesn’t love Spring? Well, those who suffer from allergies don’t generally love Spring, but for most of us there is something altogether wonderful about Spring. The mornings are crisp yet pleasant and the days are perfect, with new life springing up everywhere you look—flowers blooming, leaves budding, caterpillars turning into butterflies, eggs breaking forth with baby birds, and of course baby bunnies! We have a chrysalis and two bird nests in our backyard and we can’t wait to see the new life emerge!

God has a way of speaking to us through the seasons, doesn’t He? Just when we think that winter will never end, He reminds us of the hope of new life through the season of Spring. And while Spring and Easter have become synonymous for most of the culture through decorations and celebrations, Easter is a distinctively Christian holiday.

I remember Easter as a child fondly. It was one of the days that we would attend church. We would have supper at my grandparents home and hunt eggs and get Easter baskets full of fun surprises. It was really like a second Christmas for us. Leading up to Easter we’d always participate in a town Easter egg hunt and get pictures with the Easter bunny of course. Growing up, for me, Easter was about all of the fun stuff, and not necessarily anything distinctively Christian.

 I became a follower of Christ when I was 15, and Easter and Spring began to take on a whole new meaning. Every Spring I am reminded of the new life Christians have in Christ when I see the glimpses of new life in His Creation.  A passage in the Christian Scriptures says, “ Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” So for me, Spring takes on a deeper meaning. Each Spring it is as if God is reminding me that because of His Son Jesus and because of His death and His resurrection, He has made me into a new creation.  My “old has passed away.” My life before Christ was that of an enemy of God, someone full of sin, shame, and unclean, not desiring God. Yet another passage in the Scriptures says, “ but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us”. Christ willingly gave up His life and took on Himself the punishments for our sin, and this was all because of God’s love for us. But it doesn’t end with His death. Death and the grave couldn’t hold Jesus. There is newness—new life through Christ.  When I became a follower of Christ, my whole life changed. The Scriptures say we are given a “new heart” and that the Holy Spirit dwells within us.  We are changed even more than the metamorphosis of a caterpillar changing into a butterfly-- our whole identity changes.  In one instant we are enemies of God, and in another instant we are His beloved children, made holy and blameless by the blood of Christ and the resurrection.

Yet, this all hinges on the resurrection. Did Christ really rise from the dead? Did He really ascend into Heaven? And if He did, then what does this mean for each of us? Well, first we have to believe in the validity of the Scriptures. (If this is your hang up, let me know and I can discuss with you why we CAN trust the Holy Bible.) We also have to believe that Jesus was who He said He was. Jesus said that He was THE WAY, THE TRUTH, and THE LIFE, and that the only way to God was THROUGH HIM. He said that He would die and then rise again THREE days later. We either believe Jesus or we don’t. If we don’t believe Him then either we don’t trust the Scriptures or we don’t trust Him, or both. If we do believe He was telling the truth and that He wasn’t lying or confused and crazy, then we must acknowledge He was Lord. And if He is Lord we must examine everything He has said and live lives of loving obedience to Him. The wonderful thing is that His love is what motivated Him to give Himself for us on the cross and His love is what motivates us to live a life of obedience to Him. 

This is what Easter is all about for followers of Christ. Bunnies are cute and it’s fun to color eggs, but it is about so much more. The whole Christian faith hinges on the resurrection.  The resurrection is why we can have “new life”, and the resurrection is what Spring points towards. Christ rose from the dead, conquering sin and death, and now lives and reigns in Heaven at the Father’s right hand. This is amazing.  The Scriptures say that Christ willingly gave His life for us because of LOVE. We are given “new life” so we can love God and have a relationship with Him through Christ. We are free to love God and receive His love, and then pass that love on to everyone else. This is what new life is all about. This is what the resurrection is all about. For those that are followers of Christ, this is what Easter is all about!

It is because of the resurrection and new life through belief in Christ that we can have hope. In times of death, cancer, wars, genocide, & trials of many kinds, we can have hope. Jesus has promised His followers not only an eternity in Heaven, but comfort, hope, love, strength, and grace for life on earth. This all hinges on the resurrection. Jesus’ promise of eternal life gives us hope in this sometimes very dark world-- hope of His grace and strength here, and the hope and promise of eternity with Him in heaven. Because Jesus rose and conquered sin and death, we can trust His promise of new life and a home with Him and in Heaven, where He sits at God the Father’s right hand. “Behold, He is making all things new.”

Happy Easter! Followers of Christ have a tradition of saying, “He is Risen”, and then responding, “He is Risen Indeed”. And He is!

For those reading this who have never heard the story of Easter or of Jesus I invite you to let me tell you more anytime you’re available. Jesus is my greatest joy and my greatest hope and I delight to share about Him and my relationship with Him, and His many wonderful teachings. I am available in person or via skype or telephone or email, etc.

If one would like to read more about the teachings of Jesus, start here with the Gospel of John. (If you’d like a hard copy I can get that for you.)

If one would like to research more I am linking to a GREAT resource and a few more links. This resource has an article called “EASTER: A lawyer examines the case for the resurrection” on pages 4-10.

Here are some great questions some may have. Give them a listen:
Did Jesus really rise from the dead?, The Death and Resurrection of Jesus, Part One, Part Two

If I believe in the resurrection and that Jesus really rose from the dead and that He deserves our worship, obedience and love, and I kept silent and didn’t tell my family and friends, then that would be unloving and selfish of me. So please consider this Easter letter a gift of love from my family to you and yours. And please dialogue with me if you have any comments or questions, even if you adamantly or vehemently disagree.

Check out our family blog to read about some of our fun Easter traditions. www.chalbond.blogspot.com

Monday, March 21, 2016

Easter Traditions

Happy Spring and Easter!

Here is a glimpse into some of our favorite Easter traditions so far. 

First of all, BOOKS. We read through lots of books during the month leading up to Easter and here are some of our favorite read alouds for 2-6 year olds. We put all of our books in our purple Easter basket and there they sit for easy grabbing and frequent reading! 

Hymns. Through the year we do hymn study, but during the month leading up to Easter we do a few that are specific to the cross or the resurrection. Last year we did "Jesus Paid it All", and "Up from the Grave He Arose" and this year we did, "Were You There?" and "Up from the Grave." Our hymn last month was "Nothing But the Blood" so that ushered in the Easter season well also. 

Easter Egg Hunts. We've done community egg hunts, which are a little chaotic for me to be honest. We've also done some fun friend egg hunts, which are my favorite. We didn't do one this year, but hope to make it a tradition with friends and neighbors. 

During the week leading up to Easter we read through the biblical accounts of Holy Week starting with Palm Sunday. My favorite story Bible to use is the Catherine Vos Children's Story Bible, but we also use the Jesus Storybook Bible. We have a few favorite videos we watch as well, such as Buck Denver What's in the Bible Volume 10, and the Read and Share Bible Easter DVD. 

On Good Friday we make a resurrection garden. We usually build a "tomb" out of duplo blocks and lay a figure in the tomb wrapped in linen (er...kleenex). We find weeds and grass from our yard to decorate the garden. 

In the past we've gone to a Good Friday service but I think this year we will do a family Good Friday service at home with Bible reading, hymns, prayer, and watching one of their Easter videos. Either way, we do some sort of a worship time on Good Friday evening, either at home or at a church. 

On the Saturday before Easter we color eggs and decorate them! We usually listen to a wonderful Spotify Easter playlist and just enjoy some fun family time making beautiful eggs. 

When the kids wake up on Easter morning they find that our resurrection garden has been transformed. The droopy and dying weeds have been "transformed" into beautiful flowers, symbolizing new life. Also, the figurine is gone and the tomb is empty. Up from the Grave He Arose!

On Easter morning we do a family Easter egg hunt where we hunt for the eggs we colored the day before, as well as our Resurrection Eggs. We use one of our companion books to tell the story of the resurrection through the resurrection eggs, Benjamin's Box or Lily's Easter Party. We will then have a bigger than normal breakfast and hopefully read through the Easter Story from a story bible and maybe another book depending on the kiddos attention span. 

Then it's off to church to celebrate our Risen Savior with our church family, and then usually a supper and one more egg hunt with grandparents and extended family. 

None of these traditions are original to me, so feel free to copy any that you like. I pray they enrich your holiday season celebrating the Risen Lord with your family. Treasuring God in our Traditions by Noel Piper has been an especially helpful resource for me. 

Happy Easter. He is Risen!