The only time I have ever fainted was in church on an Easter Sunday morning. I was about 13-years-old. While not all of the details are clear I do remember the highlights of my embarrassment. My whole family sat together in church as was our custom. During one of the Easter hymns, I fell over sideways into the pew. I was next to one of my parents who quietly took over the situation. Apparently since I was colorless, they roused me and gave me a Smith Bros cough drop. It worked. I made it through the rest of the service that morning, but I was the topic of teasing by my younger sisters for quite some time.
Easter Sunday always held a special place in our family life. My parents were married on April 25th on Easter Sunday afternoon in 1943. My father wore his Navy uniform and my mother wore a simple dress with a corsage. The church was already filled with Easter lilies and lots of other flowers. So each time our family went to church for Easter our parents always reflected on their joyous wedding day. Poetically, my mother died in her sleep on their 60th wedding anniversary weekend and Dad died a few months later. Easter was interwoven into their hearts and their love.
Easter has always been about joy overcoming sorrow, love overcoming sin, and life overcoming even death itself. The Cross demonstrated to us the full extent of God’s love with words such as, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Jesus died and was buried, but on the third day, our Easter, He arose!
I have been blessed all of my life to be able to go to church every week with my family and the people of faith who are like family to me. Every now and then something embarrassing happens, but that is part of life and living with each other. Today the preciousness of Easter fills my heart to overflowing.
Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Celebrate Easter. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.
The Children’s Message is a time fraught with great danger and unexpected delight. Sunday’s dialog with the children was one of those occasions. I began with the ordinary observation that many people were wearing green, followed by, “Do you know why?” I was anticipating, “Because it is St. Patrick’s Day.” I was not expecting the boy’s response, “So you won’t get pinched.” Now that I was slightly off balance, he pushed it further with a discussion of “leprechauns cannot see people wearing green, so they can pinch those who aren’t, but people do it for them now-a-days.” “How do you know that?” I inquired. “Because we Googled it up.”*
I tried to steer the conversation towards the story of Patrick, the pirate-abducted teenager who answered the call of God to become a missionary to the people who had enslaved him. “His name was Maewyn Succat,” replied the confident voice. I did not remember that and was not even certain how to repeat his name to the congregation. “It’s one of the Veggie Tales stories.” There was a time I could at least appear to be smarter than a 2nd grader. The children’s message may be the riskiest part of the worship hour. Adults tell me they enjoy it–possibly just to see what might happen next. Worship services can become quite predictable, but danger and delight can suddenly appear when children are involved. Most sermons are one-sided conversations. It is safer for the preacher that way.
On any given Sunday morning I can look out and see people engaged in Smartphone Praying—heads slightly bowed texting, reading, gaming or looking things up. Not too much different from coloring, doodling, passing notes or searching pockets for candy. The reality today is that anyone can check the accuracy of anything a minister says, quotes or asserts. I believe that is good for the minister and good for the people. It keeps the sermonic conversation honest.
Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Google it up. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.
*This story was used with permission from the 2nd grader and his mother.
Locusts are crunchy, chewy and sort of taste like Doritos when properly prepared. The locust is a healthy food choice for the poorest of people in Africa and parts of the Middle East. It is a food of survival. A vast swarm of locusts recently left Egypt and arrived in Israel—three weeks before Passover. The symbolism is not lost on the people of both nations. This reminder of Moses and the plagues upon Egypt brings quickly to mind the story of the Angel of Death passing over a people whose door posts were wiped with the blood of a lamb. But locusts in Israel have raised a debate among some rabbis: Are locusts really kosher and are they only to be eaten by the poor?
Eating bugs that are eating all of your plants is no one’s first choice of diet. I have seen the starving supplement their daily foraging for millet with locusts. Eating locusts means living. We may stick up our noses at the pan-fried locust, but I know what I have eaten deep-fried at the State Fair. Locusts are more nutritious and do not fill anyone’s arteries with grease. Passover is March 26 this year, right between Palm Sunday and Easter. Our Scriptures tell of a Last Supper, a Passover Seder, led by Jesus with his disciples. We are invited to eat of Him. His crucifixion parallels the blood-washed doorposts with the sacrificial death of the Lamb. He died that we might live.
The locust has a distasteful appearance. So does the story of Jesus and the cross. Something has to die in order to come alive. Easter is meaningless without Christ’s death.
Resurrection Day is a victory day over sin and death. It is the holiest day of the church calendar. Plagues of sin and chaos can descend upon us like the locusts eating their way through our lives. There is a way to victory.
Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Look to Easter. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.
The term airbus took on a new meaning for me when my plane departed the runway at Niamey, Niger. It wasn’t so much the chicken being chased down the aisle by the young boy; he apparently was supposed to keep it contained for our flight. It was that the whole episode had upset the goat. The carry-on rule was loosely enforced on Ethiopian Airlines back in 1997. My destination was N’djamena, Chad.
I settled in for the flight seated next to a gentleman who did not speak English. I do not speak French or Arabic. (As former French colonies, French is still the language of commerce in North Africa.) After things settled down, a stewardess offered us a cup water or coffee. I opened my book and sipped the coffee gingerly. I was on my way to encourage some of our missionaries in Chad’s capitol city and lead a PrayerWalk with the leaders of the only Baptist church in town. We hit a little turbulence and a portion of my hot coffee landed on my seatmate’s thigh. I tried to apologize but I could tell he was not happy with me. I did the only thing I knew to do at the moment. I dug out of my carry-on a fun-sized bag of M&M’s and handed it to him. He smiled, I smiled and everything else went well. Never travel without M&M’s, bubble gum or hard candies.
One of the realities of travel is encountering beggars, especially the children who beg. At first I carried a roll or two of freshly minted coins, but they now cause luggage screeners to search everything; therefore, the switch to candy. Our time in Chad was well spent with God’s power being evidenced in new ways for the believers and a new mission point started at the invitation of the leaders of a local village. But never underestimate the power of candy. Candy speaks a language of its own. It can thank, reward, apologize and even bring smiles in awkward situations. It is amazing how small kind acts can bring so much joy to others. Encourage someone today. Use candy, if necessary.
Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Stay sweet. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.