7 Ways to Celebrate Easter Like It’s 1999

Posted by on Apr 16, 2014 in Blog | 9 comments

I’ve celebrated Easter for 53 years.  53 years of Easter baskets and Easter eggs, of Easter suits and Easter lilies, of Easter Jesus outside an empty Easter tomb.  Being a conscientious Easter celebrator, I’ve gathered what I think are seven of the best ways to celebrate Easter like a mad man.  Like a crazy fool.  Like it’s 1999

Here you go.  Feel free to repost and tweet away.  No credit necessary.

1.     Attend a really dark, depressing Good Friday service.  Counter intuitive, I know, but it works.   You need to get divinely bummed before you can be divinely surprised.  Find a church that leaves the depression in Good Friday.  No smiling.  No happy-clappy.  Jesus didn't clap on the cross.  There were those nails, remember?  Lots of wailing, black, and depravity – that’s what you want.  Coffins of depravity.  Rumination is good for the soul.  To get your head there, consider a world of only Good Fridays.  What if funerals were all she wrote, if cancer had the last laugh, if rape and abuse and divorce and desertion were your life’s defining stroke?  What if the story ended there?  How often have you lived like it did?   Wallow here until you smell like pig mud.  No one wants to live in pig mud but wallowing on the Friday before Easter makes Easter more fun.

2.     Hide Easter eggs in your neighbor’s yard.  Their front yard.  By their garage or wherever they come in and out the most.  That way they’ll find them.  Fill them with wrapped Easter candy so their three year-old doesn’t get an egg of ants.  That wouldn’t be good.  Put them in their mailbox.  Gift wrap a box full of them and place them on their front porch and ring the bell.  (Be sure and run.)  Hang Easter eggs from their trees.  Go crazy like these Germans.  Rather than expect your neighbor to go to Easter, take Easter to her.  Make her smile.  Make her feel like a kid again.  Bring that Easter ‘Aha!’

3.     Read all four crucifixion and resurrection accounts in one sitting.  Over-the-top crazy ambitious, I know.  Probably take you a whole hour and with your busy schedule…  Ok, that was sarcastic.  Sorry.  Most of us have heard of Good Friday and Easter but have never read word-for-word what the Bible says about them.  Matthew 26:47-28:15; Mark 14:32-16:8; Luke 22:47-24:48; John 18:1-20:22 provide eyewitness accounts to these events.  Think USA Today.  Read them.  Mark them up.  Take notes.  Let them soak in so that when you show up in church later this week, your worship is framed in truth.  Take your time with them so when your equally ignorant friend says, “The Bible doesn’t really say Jesus rose from the dead,” you can lovingly redirect him.  (If you don’t have the hour to read all four accounts at once, read one a day.)

4.     Serve Peeps instead of ham.   Ham?  Seriously? Can’t you do better than that?  Where’s the joy in ham?  Ham puts you to sleep.  Peeps pep you up.  Easter is about up.  Rise and shine.  You can get ham any Sunday.  But Peeps, they only happen once a year.  (Ok, Amazon has ruined that.)  Make this a festive meal.  Memorable.  Peeps with gravy, that’s memorable.  Ham with raisin sauce…I’m not sure what to say.  If you’re Peeps challenged, go here.  

5.     Thank those who taught you about “Jesus” Easter.  As opposed to “bunny” Easter.  A friend of mine tells of memories of her mom teaching her about Jesus while giving her a bath as a child.  Bath-time was Jesus time.  Who told you about Jesus and the reason for the crucifixion and the hope of the resurrection?  Who reframed elves and eggs so that they were a part of the celebration but not the center?  How old were you when you realized Jesus died for your sin and rose so you’ll rise?  Who was the Who who taught you?  Dial the number, click “send” on the email, buy a stamp and send a card.  And if the “who” is no longer here – like Leona Elenora Renatta Richter Fischer (now that’s a name), the grandma who taught me – then thank the Creator who keeps her in paradise.  Easter means you’ll go there, too.

6.     Set off those fireworks you saved from New Year’s Eve.  What, you didn’t save any?  What were you thinking???  Imagine this: Easter Sunday, sunrise, 6 am, and “boom.”  Stone rolled away sound effects.  The neighbors might not be totally thrilled but when was the last time someone shot off fireworks on Easter?  Never!  This has your name written all over it.  If fireworks aren’t an option, try party poppers, party horns, and party hats.  Key word: Party!  (If fireworks are illegal in your neighborhood…then find another neighborhood.)

7.     Party with a group of other Jesus crazies.  Partying alone is a drag.  Find a local Christian Church (no such thing as an un-Christian Church but sometimes I feel like not everyone knows that)…find a local Christian Church and join them on Easter Sunday.  Try to sing all of the songs, even if you don’t know them.  Listen to the Bible readings.  Count how many smiles you see on the faces.  Hopefully you’ll count over 100.  Consider that your true, real, life-defining moment wasn’t the crisis or the failure that pinned Jesus to the cross in your place, but rather the empty tomb and Risen Savior promising “Empty tombs for everyone!”  Easter defines you.  Your flawed body is on borrowed time, but one day it will be on Easter time, restored, renewed, and never to die again.  That’s why you can celebrate like there’s no tomorrow.  Because when Easter defines you, there always is.

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6(66) Ways to Not Be A Bad Christian On Halloween

Posted by on Oct 31, 2013 in Blog | 1 comment

I come from a long line of Halloween celebrators.  I was born a poor Lutheran boy — well maybe not poor, poor, but we ate hamburger helper by the case and used powder milk "to save money," so there was definitely an austere element.  Halloween, therefore, was by no means an expensive affair.  But it was an affair.  A dress up, candy-seeking, quasi-terrorize the neighborhood affair.  We knew how to celebrate it.  Went all out.  (Mind you this was before Christmas lights went all orange and migrated back two months to Halloween, but that's a whole other rant for later.)

I meet many Christians unsure how to treat Halloween, especially when the doorbell starts ringing.  Halloween has changed over the past few decades.  No surprises since we've moved beyond "Christian" to "Post-."  But the fun part still exists.  So let me suggest living out the fun side of Halloween with your next-door neighbors.  Show them some respect and see what bridges you can build.

Here are 666 :>) things you might consider as you do Halloween well.

1.  Buy great candy.  Don't buy the cheesy, no-name stuff.  Buy Almond Joys and Twix bars and Reese's Peanut Butter Cups.  Buy Twizzlers and full-size bags of Skittles.  Halloween is synonymous with candy.  Reinforce the connection so that the kids double back to your house.  Throw sugar caution to the wind.  Be THAT neighbor.

2.  Get yourself a costume.  Something fun.  No need to freak out the little preschoolers.  But get into it.  Pretend you're back in highschool.  Become the cool neighbor who always dresses up for Halloween.  Work it.  Go lightly on the blood, perhaps, but heavy eyeshadow might suit you.  Work it.  If you're one of THOSE KIND of people, you could even get something for your pet.

3.  Stay home.  Some of you want to skip out and go elsewhere.  "I hate those little kids." No you don't.  You're just confused.  You think children are made to torment you.  (Maybe it's because you need to lighten up so God routinely sends under-age tormentors?)  Seriously.  Stay home.  And don't go hide in your entertainment room and watch Jason Bourne kill people or some Real Housewife of Beverly Hills spend $1,000 on a hairdo.  (Like that's Christian entertainment.)

4.  AND LEAVE THE FRONT PORCH LIGHT ON.  Thought you had me there, didn't you?  "He said all we had to do was stay home, Joyce, and we'd be good little Christians."  Turn on the light.  Send the signal you're ready and waiting.  Even set up a chair on the front porch.   Make yourself known.  Be present.

5.   Give out lots of candy.  Don't be stingy.  Christians aren't stingy.  If you are, then slap yourself.  Go find your baptism certificate.  (If you don't have one, ask your pastor why not.) Grace is our middle name.  Should be.  It's your God's middle name.  Be generous with the candy.  Give out so much they need help lugging the bag off your porch.

6.  Compliment the costumes.  Find something nice to say.  "Wow, your zombie makeup looks real.  Oh, you ARE real!"  "Wow, I didn't realize we had pirates in this part of town.  Nice peg leg."  "Whoa, now that is one scary ghost.  Nice sheet."  Treat them like they're your spouse fishing for a compliment and you want the evening to be a great one, so you give it…even if you have to make it up.  Seriously.  What's it going to cost you?  End result: your zombie goes home with a word of encouragement in her re-born head.   

You've been sent to your neighborhood.  Be a good neighbor.  Be a Jesus neighbor.  Don't rain on your neighbor's Halloween.  Let the weather do that.

You might even hang up those tacky Halloween lights.  

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Do you believe?

Posted by on Apr 24, 2013 in Blog | 0 comments

Do you believe Jesus is able?  The suffering we go through, the events that pull us to our knees either to serve or to pray, there divine formation takes place.  There a life that matters is being shaped in us.  That’s the experience Jesus is using in our lives to deepen our dependence on Him, our belief in His abilities.

Do you believe Jesus can bring healing to your broken body, that He can arrest the cancer, reconcile the marriage, restore the sight?  That He has authority to unstop the ears, remove the paralysis, mend your back?  Do you believe the resurrected Jesus continues to walk beside you, that through your baptism His Spirit lives within you, that same spirit that raised the centurion’s servant from his sick bed, raised the young man from his funeral bier, and raised Jesus from 3 days in the tomb?

A life that matters believes in Jesus’ abilities, and so it gives generously, appreciates authority, and serves selflessly, every day, right here, right now.

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Face Your Doubts

Posted by on Apr 17, 2013 in Blog | 0 comments

It was only natural that when I first launched into leading people to follow Jesus, I dug into learning about the bible and the Jesus it promotes.  Because after all, you’ve got all of these people—billions throughout history—who have embraced the resurrection as true, and Jesus as the Son of God sent by God the Creator to redeem His creation, a creation that still retains the fingerprints of God all over it but is no longer on the course originally set by the Creator.  You have all these people who believe The Creator originally set the Creation – that would include you and me – on a course to glorify Him and bless others, to love Him with all of our heart, mind, soul and strength and to love our neighbors as ourselves – but we have been sucked into a selfish eddy that spins and spins us around on our own needs, stuck in self-centeredness, worshiping our own selves.  You have all these people who believe, then, the need for a perfect God/man Jesus to keep a foot in both worlds of divine and human and pull those worlds back together, to reconnect them you might say.  Billions of people believe this about Jesus and His purpose and seek to extend that message throughout the world. And they base their faith on the words of the Bible.

Now while I was one of those people, I realized my faith was based more on how I was raised and what my peers did than upon what I believed and I knew to be true.  So since I’m the kind of guy who’s wired to not take things at face value, and I love the intellectual, I decided to bring all of my doubts to my study and see how the God of the bible stood up.

If you want to talk theological terms, you and I can learn a lot about God by simply studying His creation.  This would be called “General Knowledge of God.” But the Bible teaches us what Creation cannot.  That would be “Revealed Knowledge of God.”  They’re not at odds as much as they are they are “discoverable on your own” vs “discoverable only with God’s help.”

And that’s what I’m challenging you to do.  You owe it to yourself to bring whatever doubts you have about Jesus and His claims to the forefront of your wrestling.  Don’t wrestle with them in silence.  Don’t lock them in some closet, thinking they’ll die in the dark.  Darkness breeds doubt.  Bring them out.  Introduce them to my doubts.  Set them a place at the table.  Because that’s the only way you’ll move beyond them.

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No Death, No Resurrection. No Resurrection, Just Death.

Posted by on Mar 29, 2013 in Blog | 0 comments

Easter arrives in 3 days.  But before you open that package, remember Good Friday.

Good Friday – the day all hell broke loose – is the Tim Lincecum to Easter’s Sergio Romo.  A biblical Yin to the happy Yang.  The carrot cake that demands cream cheese frosting.  A ‘step 1’ that leads to ‘step 2,’ without which ‘step 2’ would be meaningless.

Good Friday makes sense of Easter.  No death, no need for a resurrection.

Good Friday at our congregation  equals somber, joyless, and dark.  No happy.  No clapping.  No laughing.  Just an incredibly vivid depiction of the crucifixion that fuses the ancient shadowy service of Tenebrae with modern imagery and music.  Your entire being experiences the breaking of Jesus’ body, the pouring out of His blood.  And then your same being receives both as you leave in silence.

It is by far the most powerful service you will ever attend.  And it deepens your love for Easter because you now understand how you got to the end of the game and why the frosting needs to be so sweet.

In a divinely ironic way the darkness of Good Friday makes Easter’s brightness even more so.  Death enriches resurrection.

Easter undoes all of the death in the world.  Be sure you worship on Easter.

But I also hope you gather with other Jesus-followers for Good Friday.  It is the reason for the resurrection, the why behind the empty tomb.

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