Celebrating Easter – Today’s Reality

A couple days ago I blogged about the Easter Sunday services I remember so fondly from childhood – the exuberant celebrations I have not experienced for decades and yet earnestly long for.

Today’s Easter Reality, on this Sunday, April 1st, is a far cry from what I long for. Outside, sun glistens blindingly bright on the snow and the temperature is a mere 28 degrees Fahrenheit. Pretty chilly for a day set apart for Easter Egg Hunts in the grass!

Indoors, I have chills too. And a cough. Sinus headache. Pain. Stiffness. And a fever – I’m on my third day of running a fever.


In spite of my symptoms, I actually feel better this afternoon than I did last night. But I’m sofa bound. I was so excited about feeling better this morning that I actually made my bed, throw pillows and all.  Now, rather than mess it up by taking a much needed nap, I’m stretched out on our living room sectional, bundled under a vintage camp blanket, trying to ward of the chills.

As you know, when you’re sick, you have a lot of time on your hands. And I lay here thinking about how (in my mind) Easter Sunday is supposed to be, compared to what is.

So I grabbed my iPad and a pair of ear buds and went on a YouTube search. Surely somewhere there must be a recording of “Christ The Lord is Risen Today,” with full-on organ and trumpets! Admittedly, it wouldn’t be the same as standing in church, looking up at my mother as she joyfully sang that glorious hymn.  But still, I did find a version that brought tears to my eyes!

I wish I could share it with you, but I’m not that tech savvy yet. You can hopefully find it by doing a search of the hymn title, plus Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church.

I pray your Easter Sunday is greatly blessed. For, regardless of our present circumstances, because of Jesus Christ, we have much to celebrate!

 

 

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Celebrating Easter

I SO miss the celebration of Easter I knew growing up. Easter was a big deal! We talked about it, planned for it, weeks in advance, all while observing Wednesday Lenten services leading up to the Big Day.

Though we had little money to spare, Mom sewed new dresses for us girls. (Never paid attention to what my four brothers wore.) It was a “given,” everyone wore their best to church on Easter Sunday. I don’t ever recall it being a fashion show, but more a way of honoring God. It was HIS Day!

Easter Sunday started early with a Sunrise Service (followed by a Pancake Breakfast in the church basement). At the time, I had no idea what a feat it must have been for Mom to get all us kids up, dressed, and out the door at such an early hour!

The church was fragrant with lilies. Other colorful floral displays filled the altar. We had a good view from the balcony, where our family usually filled a whole row. Or two, depending on where we got seats.

My favorite part of the service was the special only-on-Easter-Sunday trumpets. I could hardly wait to hear them!

Finally…

The congregation stood up, the organ gave a powerful rumbling prelude, and then, with a mighty blast of triumph, those golden instruments led us in announcing His victory… “CHRIST THE LORD IS RISEN TODAY…ALLELUIA…”

We sang our hearts out!

 

Five Years Later

So here’s the deal.  It’s been almost five years since my last blog post. Needless to say, there have been a lot of changes with WordPress and this site. And a lot of changes with me (laugh lines included)!  Lately that inner nudge to write has been poking me again.  And sometimes it’s been coming through people as well.  So I’m squirming. And listening.  And exploring.  Can I find my way around here again, tech-wise, I’m asking myself?  Guess we’ll find out…

Tithing – The Touchy Topic

I realize the very word – “TITHING” – generates strong emotions. And I get it; not every TV preacher is honest.  If a pastor of a church preaches on the subject, parishioners think he just wants more money. Or, in this economy, who can afford to give ten percent?  Then there’s the argument – do you give a full ten percent before or after taxes?  Do you tithe to your local church or can you give it elsewhere?  I can’t afford to give if I won’t get a tax deduction.  Fill in the blank.  I know there are more objections than these.

Frankly, I don’t even feel like addressing those questions.  I could.  But that’s not where my heart is.  What really beats in my chest is the longing for people to know that they are cheating themselves when they don’t tithe.  Yes, the Bible says if we don’t tithe we are robbing God.  And in my opinion that’s a very big deal.  But I long for people to know that God is not a cheapskate.  He is not stingy, nor miserly.  And He is a debtor to no man.  It’s impossible to out give God!

A couple years ago, a very precious friend asked me if I tithed. I responded with a laugh. “I can’t afford NOT to!”

And I really meant it. I’ve been tithing for over 40 years and in that time the Lord has never, ever failed to take care of our finances.  We’ve not always had a big surplus, but He has always met our needs. Always.  And we did it on one income at a time when society insists that both parents must work to make ends meet.

Not only did our Heavenly Father provide so we could pay our bills consistently, He also did things for us that to this day do not compute on paper. How in the world did a family of five, living on one blue collar income, manage to take vacations – sometimes flying?  We still laugh about it.  It was pure delight to see how God came through for us.

One time, he gave us a “two for one” vacation. Because of an overbooked flight, we surrendered up our seats, which garnered our entire family flights for another vacation the following year.

I could go on and on about how God took care of us because we faithfully tithed. No, I’m not patting us on the back because we did it. How can I? Tithing works for anyone. God doesn’t play favorites. I even know of a business man who was not a believer, but he knew that tithing worked so he did it. And God blessed him. A lot.

When I see people struggle with finances, the first question I want to ask them is, “Do you tithe?” I never say it. But I think it. And I feel sorry for them because I know they’re experiencing a tremendous amount of angst that isn’t necessary.

I’d like to offer a challenge to all people who do not believe in tithing. Here’s how I’d set it up: In one column, I’d have them keep track of their income – their full income before taxes. In another column, I’d have them record the amount their tithe (ten percent) would be, before taxes, if they DID tithe. Every entry would be dated. In a third column, I would have them record any unforeseen expenses, car and appliance breakdowns, furnace malfunctions, air conditioning going on the fritz, sick pets, anything that isn’t a predictable expense. At the end of a year, I would have them compare their totals – the amount it would have cost them if they HAD tithed – and the amount they paid out for “disaster expenses.”

I’m not saying people who tithe never have unexpected expenses. But I am saying that God PROMISES that if we give what belongs to Him, the ten percent (minimum), He will “pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.” God actually invites us to test Him on this! He promises other things, too, but I’m not telling you here. Read it for yourself! It’s in the Bible – Malachi 3:8-11

I dare you to take the challenge. If you’re not ready to trust God yet, then start keeping track like I suggested. Let me know in a year which column is bigger. I’d love to hear.

But seriously, I hope you’ll take God’s challenge instead. There is no greater thrill than interacting with the God of the Universe – the One who loves you more than you can imagine – and discovering that He cares about you…and your finances!

Put away the Cell

Deer Stand - June 2, 2013“Can’t you even put away your phone long enough to take a walk?”  Those weren’t the exact words but it was something to that effect.  Because of unusual circumstances at this stage of life, I am alone a lot. Much of my connection to the outside world is via internet, TV, and my cell phone – upon which, I admit, I’ve become far too dependent – to check email and Facebook connections.

This became far too apparent when I went out on the trail this afternoon.  I made my way through the trees skirting the canyon and came out on the paved walking trail. Immediately, my first instinct was to log on and check FB and email. That’s when the admonition sounded clearly in my thoughts.  Seriously?!  Can’t you put it away even for a walk?

I immediately shut off my cell and forced it into my too-small back jeans pocket.

I looked up.  And out.  And listened.

It is late afternoon. The marshland thrives with life.  A Mallard drake and his hen leave gentle ripples as they lazily glide along the pond. Frogs – by the hundreds, thousands? – signal their presence.  The familiar trill of Redwing Blackbirds remind me of a rusty well pump handle squawking in protest. I feel frustration because I can’t identify many of the multitude of other birds songs calling across the canyon.

To the right of my path, a cotton-tail freezes, hoping I won’t notice it, while on the other side and a little ahead another bunny high tails it into a thicket.

I walk on. Scurried motion in shrubbery on both sides of the path reveal the presence of other creatures rushing for their camouflaged cover. It works.  I know they’re there but I can’t see them.

In the distance at water’s edge, I see more movement and wish I’d brought binoculars to identify either the wild turkey or pheasant taking a drink.

I walk on. The path curves and I make a mental note to keep my mouth shut as I forge through the local swarm of gnats.

Ahead is one of my favorite landmarks – the gnarled tree with weathered strips of wood nailed to its trunk – once a ladder to the primitively constructed deer stand in its overhanging branches…

I reach in my back pocket and wrestle out my iPhone, no longer interested in logging onto anything.  I simply want to capture – document – savor – this walk.  This balm to my soul.

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When It Comes to Hurts

I realize that blogs are for writing essays, pithy commentary, etc.  Sometimes, though, I only have a specific thought on my mind, one which doesn’t need paragraphs to communicate.  So, since this is my blog, I am taking the poetic license to, from time to time, sum up my blog entries in one or two sentences.  Today is one of those days, and here is my thought:

 

When it comes to hurts and offences, if I had to choose, I would rather be the one to suffer the hurt, than the one who causes it.

 

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My Dream Garden

     When I was a child, ours was not a family of “means.”  I was very aware that other kids in the neighborhood, and at school, seemed to have more than we did.  It still amazes me that I can say that not once did we go on a family vacation.  Nor did we ever eat in a restaurant.  Not once.  But what we didn’t have, and what we didn’t do, is not what this post is about.  It’s about what we did have.

A fence separated our back yard from the neighbors’.  Along that wire border grew lilac bushes which, every spring, filled the air with a fragrance that planted itself in my DNA. Also along that fence grew a few stray purple iris, and further down the fence, at the other end, stood a mulberry tree, perfect for climbing.

On the other side of our back yard, along the fence that protected us kids from our other neighbor’s ferocious (and I’m not kidding) chow, was another, smaller mulberry tree.  This one yielded berries every summer, and we joyously ate them.  We also delighted in sucking the nectar from the tips of columbine blossoms, which grew around the base of the tree. 

Because this fence was on the north side of the yard, and because of the tree, it provided the perfect spot for other shade-loving plants as well.  Such as fern; their unfurling fronds were endlessly fascinating.  Every spring, nestled in this same semi-shady area, bloomed exquisite “bleeding hearts.”

There wasn’t more than about five feet between our house and the brick four-plex to the north.  It was almost always shady along that side and lilies of the valley grew in great profusion.  We knew the chow was locked up when his owner was at work so we dared to edge into that small “alley” to pick stems of those little white bells.  We brought them to our mother who displayed the diminutive bouquets in a juice glass.

At the base of the steps from our back porch, hollyhocks bordered the sidewalk in vivid pinks, fucias, yellows and coral.  (This photo is not from that time.  These were grown from seeds three years ago – a gift from my sister who knows how much, to this day, I love hollyhocks.)  

Following the path around to the front of our house, framing our screened-in front porch, grew great bushes of, what we called, “bridal wreath.”  Their tiny, lacy white flowers bloomed for a time, and then the petals fell, coating the sidewalk and grass like snow. 

All of these gardening wonders appeared in our yard every spring and summer without my mother’s tending.  We children took them all for granted.  It is these memories which are so precious.  A part of my childhood that I long to re-create, it is these flowers I covet most for my Dream Garden.   

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