Tag Archive for Easter

In the Shadow of the Cross

It’s Saturday, the day after Good Friday and the day before Resurrection Sunday. I’m left only with my thoughts as I sit in the silence between the pain of death and the hope of resurrection. I imagine the friends and family of Jesus sitting silently, hopelessly pondering a myriad of questions. What would happen next? Why did He die? What will become of us? Was it all a lie? I join them in confusion as I look at our world and wonder what the cross has to offer. In a world so distraught by greed and pride, conflict and war, what does the cross have to offer? Closer to home, what can our families and communities learn from the cross? Of course, we know the end of the story, so we know the resurrection brings life and hope. But what of today, the day before the resurrection? What do we learn in the silence?

We learn that the cross calls us to give ourselves up in humble submission to one another. Jesus “gave Himself up” for us in humble submission to His Father. For that very reason, He was “highly exalted” and given a “name above every name.” He returned to “the right hand” of His Father, “having become as much better than the angels.” Giving ourselves up in humble submission to one another opens the door to not only returning home but returning to a home filled with greater intimacy and joy. It opens the door to having a “greater reputation” as one who loves deeply enough to “give himself up” for the benefit of his family, his friends, and his community, as one who models true love for the whole family to emulate. Every family will benefit when they give themselves up in humble submission for the benefit of one another.

We learn that the cross points us toward reconciliation. We all make mistakes. We will offend one another, both unintentionally and intentionally. We will say the wrong thing. We will renege on our promises. We will neglect to speak or act in love. How can a marriage, a parent-child relationship, or a friendship continue in light of such offense? There is only one way: by offering forgiveness and so opening the door to reconciliation. Ironically, in following the model of the cross, the offended one, the one who was wronged, will pay the price of that wrong in order to initiate forgiveness and open the door to reconciliation. The cross teaches us to forgive and even bear the burden of pain brought about by the other person’s offense in order to open the door of reconciliation. Take a moment to think about that. Imagine how that type of cross-based forgiveness will impact your family.

Not only does the cross point us to reconciliation, but it also convicts us of our shortcomings. After all, “it was my sin that held Him there until it was accomplished….” The cross calls us to “speak the truth in our hearts,” confess our wrongs, and bear the fruit of that repentance. In light of the cross, we cannot hide from our responsibility. We must “speak the truth in our hearts” and acknowledge when we hurt our spouse or children or neighbor or friend. We must apologize and seek forgiveness. We must then “change our ways” and live a life that reveals the depth of our sincere apology. To whom do you need to apologize? Your spouse? Your children? Your parent? Don’t wait. Do it.

Giving ourselves up…forgiving one another to open the door of reconciliation…taking responsibility for our wrongs, apologizing, and living the “fruit of repentance… They’re all found in the shadow of the cross. They’re all necessary for a healthy family. Imagine how such actions would impact your family. Then commit to living out these practices starting today.

Easter While “Sheltered at Home”?

Many families have very active Easter weekend full of social gatherings and celebrations: Good Friday services, preparation for family gatherings, Sunrise services, Easter services, and large extended gatherings with family and friends. For Christians, this is am especially meaningful time of the year, a true “holy-day.” This year, however, is going to feel different. But don’t let those differences ruin your Easter. Don’t let Easter slip away without recalling what makes Easter such a special day for us. Be creative and make this Easter special, even as you “shelter-at-home.” Here are some tips to help us all remember the celebration of Easter.

  • Celebrate the Holy Week with creative calendars marking the events of each day during the Holy Week. Here’s one idea for doing a creative calendar.
  • Make resurrection cookies on Saturday night. It is a wonderful way to teach our children about the crucifixion & resurrection while having fun. And, you can enjoy the cookies on Easter Sunday.
  • Sit down with your family and watch the live streaming of your congregation’s Good Friday service and Easter morning service. If your congregation does not have a live stream, watch the live stream of another congregation’s service.
  • Read the story of Aslan’s resurrection in The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. Or, watch the movie (link).  Although we have a little bit of Peter, Susan, and Lucy in all of us, talk about how we are all like Edmund as well. Enjoy the realization of what Aslan’s sacrifice meant for Edmund…and what Jesus’ sacrifice means for us.
  • Watch The Passion of Christ by Mel Gibson. Use caution in watching this movie as a family though. It is very graphic. Consider if your children are ready for such a graphic depiction of the events surrounding the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ.
  • Have a family Easter egg hunt. Easter is still a celebration of new life and the finding of peace and joy in the work of God in Christ.
  • Enjoy a family Easter meal. Easter allows us to become part of the family of God. Celebrate family with a meal. Make it a feast of celebration.
  • As you enjoy your day together, play some classic Easter music in the background. Handel’s Messiah and hymns such as Christ the Lord is Risen Today come to mind. To help out, here is one playlist of Easter songs from YouTube you might like. Easter Songs and Hymns Playlist (Resurrection Theme)
  • I almost forgot….How could I? My daughters would kill me. Watch this video of “It’s Friday But Sunday’s Coming.”

Don’t let the differences of this year take away your Easter joy. Celebrate. Enjoy your Easter.

What are some of the creative ways you are celebrating Easter this year?

Jesus Did It For His Family. Will You?

way to the GodThe religious leaders had determined to kill Jesus several months ago, right after He raised Lazarus from the dead (John 11:53). Months before that, Jesus had begun telling His disciples that He would be crucified and buried. Now the time had come. The leaders had paid a traitor to identify Jesus in the garden. They had arrested the Son of God and tortured Him in preparation for His crucifixion. More than enough time had elapsed for Jesus to grow bitter in response to the constant traps, manipulation, and name-calling; but, He did not. He could have allowed resentment to rise up in His heart in response to the lies, the mockery of a trial, and the total disregard for His life; but, He did not. When they mocked Him, beat Him, and spit on Him, He could have blown up in a righteous rage, called down ten thousand angels to exact a righteous judgment and stood in victory over the defeated rubble; but, He did not. Instead, Jesus, an innocent, appeared to be broken before His accusers—beaten and bloodied, surprisingly humbly, and silent.


We would understand it and even been sympathetic if He had muttered curses at the people who watched Him carry His cross; but, He did not.  He could have cried out against the character of those contributing to His death, cast an angry glare at those yelling hateful names and cursing epithets at Him; but, He did not. I would have expected somebody in His shoes to harbor a silent desire, for revenge and carefully contemplate how to execute a host of malicious acts upon His enemies after His resurrection…but, He did not!


No, Jesus did not respond with anger, wrath, bitterness, or harshness. Instead, He revealed kindness and compassion. Rather than utter threats, His speech revealed kindness and truth to the one man who had the power to crucify Him (John 19:11). When soldiers beat him, He said nothing. He simply accepted their hate and committed Himself to “the one who judges righteously” (1 Peter 2:23). When a convicted criminal recognized the justice of his own punishment and repented, Jesus responded from a tender heart of compassion and promised him, “Today you will be with Me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43). As Jesus’ mother stood nearby weeping in the arms of a disciple, Jesus did not think of His own pain and isolation but offered words of comfort and care to His mother—”Woman, behold your son” and to His disciple, “Behold your mother.” In the midst of personal pain and suffering, He saw the pain in His mother’s heart. He reached out to her in compassion and assured her needs would be met. Jesus even looked with compassion at the crowd that mocked Him and spat upon Him; and, rather than condemning their actions He prayed for their forgiveness: “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).

cross against the sky

Even while enduring the humiliation, pain, and despair of crucifixion, Jesus acted in way that put flesh and blood to Ephesians 4:31-32: “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”


He gave us an example of kindness, compassion, and forgiveness to follow in our own lives. He showed us how to do it under the worst of circumstance…during the absolutely worse day of anyone’s life! Following this example begins in the home…in relation to our spouse and our children. Just as Christ showed us kindness, compassion, and forgiveness, we need to show our family kindness, compassion, and forgiveness.  You will have days that seem to go from bad to worse in your family. Your family will have disagreements and arguments in which you or some other family member will make harsh comments. A curse word may slip out. Bitterness may threaten to rise up in your heart or anger lash out in your speech. Temptations to say something harsh about your spouse’s character or your children’s intention will arise. Your children may even slander your character. This is the perfect time to follow Christ’s example…to “be kind and compassionate…forgiving…” Jesus did it for His family. Will you?

Celebrate Lent As A Family

Lent begins this week. The observance of Lent reminds us to prepare our lives for the coming Christ. Traditionally, people observe Lent by practicing some sort of fasting (giving something up), generous compassion toward others (justice), and prayer (communion with God). To me, this sounds like a great opportunity to practice grace in our family as well as in the world at large. Grace begins with giving others the gift of acceptance. It builds to giving to others, and culminates in giving ourselves up for the benefit of others. What better place to learn and practice grace than in our family? With that in mind, I wanted to offer you a calendar of daily ideas for observing Lent with your family. The Family Lent Calendar focuses on aspects of grace (giving acceptance, giving of ourselves, and self-sacrifice) as we prepare for Easter.

The Family Lent Calendar (like grace) begins with giving up our pride so we can give the gift of unconditional acceptance. As a family, we learn to accept one another just as Christ accepted us (Romans 15:7). Christ accepted us (and even engaged in self-sacrifice for us) while we were still helpless disappointments who engaged in activities that set us at enmity with Him (Romans 5:6-10). Don’t get me wrong, He still convicts us of wrong behavior and disciplines us. However, in the midst of that teaching, conviction, and discipline He accepts us. He continues to come alongside of us and show us kindness. Since we have experienced Christ’s acceptance, we practice accepting one another. Family offers a great training ground for this type of unconditional acceptance. In fact, if we cannot learn to accept our family, how can we accept those outside of our family? For this reason, the Family Lent Calendar begins with accepting one another.

Acceptance sets the stage for grace, but grace quickly moves to giving, especially giving of ourselves. As a result, the Family Lent Calendar includes giving our time, attention, and energy to one another. Family helps us learn to generously give our full attention to others without distraction or selfish motive. We learn to give the energy necessary to share the burden of sorrowful emotions and the celebration of joyful emotions within the family. Family provides us the opportunity to invest our time and energy in sharing accountability, forgiveness, and deep connection.

Grace not involves giving of ourselves, it also includes giving ourselves up. Self-sacrifice is the pinnacle of grace. Each time we graciously give of ourselves, we practice some level of self-denial. I sacrifice “my desires” to benefit “us” as a family. I give up “my time” in order to invest that time in “our” family. I give up some of “my availability” to sports games, work, or music in order to remain available to “our” family. Studies suggest that families that willingly sacrifice for one another grow more intimate, share more joy, and experience more long-term stability. A level of self-denial contributes to healthy family life. The Family Lent Calendar makes several suggestions to help you offer this level of grace to one another in the family.

I hope you will review the Family Lent Calendar. Even if you do not use the whole calendar, consider the ideas on the calendar and implement some in your family this Easter season. As you do, you will prepare yourself and your family for Easter by sharing grace—acceptance, generous giving, and self-denial.

Family Life at the Foot of the Cross

Yesterday we celebrated Easter. During the weeks leading up to Easter, I spend time thinking about Christ’s death on the cross and His victorious resurrection on Easter morning. As I meditate on these events, I recall hearing people speak about living in the shadow of the cross. This year, though, I thought about family. I contemplated what it would mean for our family to live in the shadow of the cross. How would family life change at the foot of the cross? Living at the foot of the cross promotes a healthy family life. Here are just 5 of the powerful lessons families can learn at the foot of the cross.
Give Sacrificially: Jesus gave sacrificially to restore an intimate relationship between His creation and His Father. He gave up His home in heaven. He gave up His reputation. He gave up His eternal nature as Creator to take on the nature of a servant. While on earth, He gave up His heavenly authority and submitted to the authority of His earthly parents and His Heavenly Father. Ultimately, Jesus gave up His life on the cross to make it possible for us to become sons and daughters of His Father. Giving sacrificially to our family promotes security, unity, and peace. Recent research suggests that 50% of married couples who report giving generously (sacrificially) to their family are “very happy” (sacrificially) while only 14% of those who do not give generously are happy. Give yourself to your family as Jesus gave Himself for us.
Share Kindness: As Jesus hung on the cross, He asked John to care for His mother and His mother to accept John into the family. Even as He suffered, Jesus made sure that His family was cared for. Jesus exhibited a deep kindness and compassion for His mother in this act of kindness. Families that live at the foot of the cross do the same; they share kindness and compassion with one another. They take action to meet one another’s needs. Their actions reveal that relationships matter, family is important, family members are valued. Show compassion to your family. Reach out in kindness to meet your family’s needs.
Forgive: Jesus also asked His Father to “Forgive them for they know not what they do.” Jesus could have easily harbored anger, bitterness, and resentment at the cross. Instead, He gave those who crucified Him the benefit of the doubt (“they know not what they do”) and offered them forgiveness. He forgave those who treated Him harshly. His forgiveness opened the door to reconciliation, restored peace, and invited intimacy. At the foot of the cross, we offer forgiveness when family members offend us, hurt us, or treat us harshly. The shadow of the cross shines brightly on a forgiving spirit and brings peace, restored intimacy, and deeper love to the forgiving family.
Trust in the Father’s Care: Jesus proclaimed, “Into Your hands I commit My Spirit.” He rested in His Father’s love. He gave His troubled spirit and anguished life into His Father’s care. Families living at the foot of the cross can give their troubled spirits, their worries and concerns, their anxieties and fears into the Father’s care as well. We can rest in the assurance that our Heavenly Father will care for our whole family. We can rest in His love for our family, knowing that He will never leave us, even in the midst of dire circumstances.
Hope for Tomorrow: Jesus could “endure the cross” and “despise the shame” because of the “joy set before Him.” He knew that Friday looked bleak, the cross appeared victorious, and His life seemed to be slipping away…but, Sunday would bring renewed hope. Sunday would bring new life, new assurance, and new joy. Families that live at the foot of the cross live in the assurance and hope of Sunday. They live with the assurance that our Heavenly Father ultimately has all things in His control and, because of that assurance, we can move into the future with a “joy set before us.”
I realize that Easter Sunday is past, but the hope and assurance of Christ’s resurrection lives on at the foot of the cross. When families give sacrificially, share kindness, offer forgiveness, and trust in the Father’s care they find the assurance of greater family intimacy and joy each day…all at the foot of the cross.

The Family Celebration of Dingus Day

It happens every year on the Monday after Easter.  A friend of mine shows up for our morning exercise group armed with a squirt gun filled with water. Smiling, and with great stealth, he walks toward the women in our group and douses them with water. He even brings an extra squirt gun for me to use (although I usually just save my squirt gun firing for home). Why does he soak women with water? Because it’s Dingus Day! 
That’s right…you read correctly, Dingus Day. Dingus Day, also called “Wet Monday,” is a Polish holiday celebrated the Monday after Easter. On Dingus Day, men find creative ways to sprinkle women with water. (Don’t worry, the Tuesday after Easter women soak the men; unless you women want to get your revenge early.) My friend uses a squirt gun in our morning exercise group, but tells great stories about other ways to accomplish the task of soaking women. You can use a hose, a bucket, water balloons, or any other creative means available to soak another person. “Water traps” that involve water balloons dropping on the first person to open a door or drinking fountains set up to squirt the person trying to get a drink can be arranged. (Click on Smigus-Dyngus and Water Prank to see how others “accomplish the soaking.”) If your family celebrates Dingus Day, you may find yourself awaken by a glass of water poured over your head. (If you are awaken this way, don’t get angry. Just remember that “revenge is sweet.”) All in all, Dingus Day is a fun day of discovering creative ways to get someone wet. Well, that’s not true. Dingus Day is much more than just getting other people wet. After all, why would I even bring it up if that’s all it was? (If you know me, don’t answer that question).  I bring it up because it’s more than just a fun day of getting men and women wet. It’s a family and community celebration of dancing, singing, and joining together. Just check out this website about the Dingus Day celebration in Buffalo, NY, the Dingus Capital of the World.
Dingus Day also has religious meaning. Sprinkling with water represents the new birth, cleansing, and purification found in Christ through His death and resurrection. In fact, the word “Dingus” can be traced back to a medieval word meaning “worthy, proper, or suitable.” In the Christian tradition, people are baptized into Christ’s death and raised up to new life–a new birth, cleansing, and purification. One Polish American has said that on Dingus Day, “our ancient ancestors ‘bickered’ with God to make us worthy (Dingus) through the waters of baptism, and were thus ‘brought back or redeemed’ by Christ.” Dingus Day celebrates the cleansing and restoration found in Christ by creatively washing (read “soaking” or “drenching”) one another with water.
That’s why I decided to write about Dingus Day here. It offers a fun family celebration that communicates the values of new life and being made whole while having a fun water battle. So, go ahead…get wet. Have the epic water battle of all time and enjoy time with your family on Dingus Day, “Wet Monday”…today!