Easter Every Day

Easter, considered to be the most significant Christian holiday, has come again. Filled with bunny rabbits, oval-shaped chocolates, and wild Easter egg hunts, the occasion holds more than just the short-term blessings of joy and happiness; Easter gives us a chance to celebrate and receive once more, with grateful hearts, the eternal blessings of hope, peace, faith, and love. Two thousand years ago, a Jewish man, the son of a carpenter, hung fragile and exposed on a cross. It may have seemed somewhat insignificant to the onlookers, and even today many groups, communities, and nations believe it to be so. But to the Christian, Easter commemorates the life-changing gift of salvation through the death and resurrection of the world’s Savior, Jesus Christ.

Although this celebration occurs only once a year, Christians all over the world honor Christ’s sacrifice daily. The cross is the core of the Christian faith and Christian living. It not only grants all of us a way into eternal life, but restores our relationship with our Creator. Christians, those who have accepted God’s wonderful gift, now share life with Him every day, abiding in His delightful and sweet presence, alongside Him who is a constant helper, companion, protector, and friend. With the promise of His continual presence and a glorious inheritance, we can know that God has abundantly blessed us both here on earth and in life after death.

For Christians, these truths about God’s promise of blessing hold the energy to transform our lives day by day. Firstly, knowing that God waits for us in Heaven, gives us tremendous hope: hope enough to stand when life knocks us down; hope enough for us to see the light when we feel that the darkness is closing in; hope enough for us to keep walking even when storms are headed our way. Because the cross proclaims that this life is substantially brief and momentary in comparison to the eternal glory to come, we can have joy in all circumstances. Secondly, because God has gifted us with His unceasing presence, we can constantly speak to Him, present our requests to Him, and intercede for others on their behalf. He has promised to hear us. God sees everything and generously supplies all of our needs. He has promised to carry us through every single day.

Therefore, Easter, unlike many other holidays, far transcends its bounds of one week in the springtime year after year. Instead, it permeates each and every second of a believer’s life. Outside of charming Easter decorations, blissful fellowship with family and friends, and overflowing Church services, the true joy to be found in Easter is grasped in the stillness of the mundane, in the repetition of work and routine, and in the times of defeat, struggle, and pain. The cross is worn on millions of pendants, displayed in thousands of windows, and stuck on the bumper of countless vehicles but its reach is far beyond a worldwide festival. It holds the weight, power, and glory to give hope in every situation, to shine light into every circumstance, and to remind us of everlasting love every day.

Written by Jeka

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Silly Love Songs

“Some people want to fill the world with silly love songs. And what’s wrong with that? I’d like to know” (McCartney, verse 1). Valentine’s Day is my favorite holiday. It represents something beautiful: love. Love seems difficult to define and to obtain. Sometimes it acts like an emotion, while other times it’s a choice or even a fated destiny. Love can even take different forms linguistically, being defined as either a verb or a noun. Personally, I think that love can have different meanings to different people at different times. In fact, one of the attributes of love I am fondest of is this sort of graceful, catch-all nature it seems to have.

Valentine’s Day has come to be known especially for its representation of romantic love. I’ve always thought that a romantic kind of love was magical. Once upon a time, I was a little girl swooning over Disney princesses as they danced with their princes. Now, I’m an adult with a heart that bursts with excitement as I watch the people around me fall in love, get married, have children, and grow in love day by day. I definitely want to get married someday. I think of marriage as a friendship you’ll never lose and a chosen partnership for life. You choose a person and that person chooses you. Comedian Ray Romano described his own marriage this way: “You wake up—she’s there. You come back from work—she’s there. You fall asleep—she’s there. You eat dinner—she’s there. You know? I mean, I know that sounds like a bad thing. But it’s not” (Raymond, episode 9).

real-heart-hands

Love can also take a much simpler form than a lifelong partnership with a husband or wife. Love can be found in a single act taken by one person on behalf of another. For an example, the week or so surrounding finals last semester was a rough time for me. During my Sunday morning church service that week, I was all but exhausted mentally and physically. An older married couple who are members of my church came to see me after the service to tell me that I’d been on their minds lately and ask if there was any way they could pray with me. Their coming to me and asking to pray communicated so much love to me in that moment; it was exactly what I needed, and it reminded me of God’s everlasting love for me.

Sometimes love is in the thought that one person expends for another. It really can be the thought that counts when it comes to love. In recent years, my siblings and I have begun exchanging little Christmas gifts. It’s my idea because I like buying ridiculous things for my brother and sister. My sister outdid me last year, though, when it came to thoughtfulness. She told me a week before Christmas that she’d picked out my gift and that it was not what I’d asked for. Naturally, I was worried and even a little annoyed. After all, my sister likes to think things through her own convoluted mental processes. She has even told me on several occasions that she cannot predict what I’ll say, do, or want in any given circumstance. On Christmas Day, she presented me with a radio adaptor that would let me play music from my phone through my car’s radio. She remembered that I didn’t have an auxiliary plug in my car and that my grandmother had gotten a Wow Hits 2007 CD stuck in the player years before she gave it to me. She took the time to think about what I really wanted and gave me a stellar gift I still use to this day. When I opened it and realized what she’d done, I felt remembered, considered, and loved.

Love is multi-faceted, easily felt, and always better in excess than in lack. Valentine’s Day gives me an extra reason to celebrate the love of all the wonderful people around me. Love, in all its forms and with all its facets, is a trait to be cherished. It is more than silly love songs; it is the very core of Jesus Himself.

Written by Becca

McCartney, Paul. “Silly Love Songs.” Wings at the Speed of Sound, Capitol, 1976. “The Lone Barone.”

Everybody Loves Raymond, created by Philip Rosenthal, performance by Ray Romano, season 3, episode 9, 1998.

Image credits: Header image, Heart-shaped Hands

The Most Miraculous Time of the Year

I don’t know about y’all, but I love Christmas – the cold weather, the sweaters, scarves, boots, and most of all, the cheesy Christmas movies, which are so alluring to me. It isn’t called the most wonderful time of the year for nothing. The atmosphere is full of happiness and love. Families come together to celebrate and exchange gifts while roasting chestnuts on a fire. Hot cocoa and apple cider are the choice beverages of the season. But despite all the many glorious things that Christmas brings, perhaps the most important aspect of this season is the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ.

Sometime around the 25th of December way back when (most experts think He was born in spring) two expecting parents in the Middle East, Joseph and Mary, sought shelter for the evening. They had ventured to Bethlehem, Israel, the place of Joseph’s birth, for the census required by Caesar. Having found none who would take them in, they were forced to rest in a stable. That night, it came time for Mary to have her baby. In the midst of the livestock and hay, a beautiful baby boy was born, and they called him Jesus. This was the baby promised to them by the Angel Gabriel. Little did Jesus or his parents know the amazing things that he would do in his life.[1]

In a cave elsewhere, shepherds were protecting their flocks. An angel of the Lord came and spoke to them declaring that the wondrous birth that had just occurred. They began their trek to marvel and praise God for the little baby. Likewise, three wise men saw the Star of David appear in the sky and came to bring gifts to the newborn. Gold, frankincense, and myrrh were presented to the “king of the Jews.” It was a marvelous sight: Mary and Joseph bent around a manger holding Jesus, livestock stood and slept around them, and shepherds, wise men, and angels praised God.

Most people have heard this story time and time again, but I think we often forget the magnitude of hope that this story brings. I go to a Christian school, I work in a strong Christian atmosphere, I am involved with a Christian sorority, and I serve on Wednesdays with the youth at my church. I am surrounded by Christianity and Jesus on a daily basis. Sometimes, I get a little numb to Christian topics as a whole, so when I hear the Christmas story, it goes in one ear and out the other. But when I really look and dissect the story, it is quite extraordinary. Jesus is the Son of God. He did not have to come to earth in the form of a baby; He could have simply appeared in His true form. Yet He came as a lowly baby to identify with man. If He did not come to earth as an infant, He could not have lived a fully perfect life as a human, and then He could not have died a wrongful death on the cross. This birth was required in order for Jesus to be unlawfully crucified, buried, and raised on the third day to conquer sin and death. In order for us to be reconciled to the Father in Heaven, someone had to die. But this someone had to be blameless, which was only credible through the Son of God.

What a miraculous story it is. When we think about it, it is actually very beautiful. I am comforted by the fact that, through Jesus’ birth, life, death, and resurrection, I can now come boldly to the throne of God and worship at His feet. Let us not forget the weight and necessity of the Christmas story. When we walk past nativity scenes, let’s not allow our eyes to glaze over and simply keep on our way. But let’s ponder the significance that is the birth of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world.

[1] See Luke 1: 26-2:20 and Matthew 1:18-2:12

Written by Maddison

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Giving Up Chocolate is Hard to Do

Easter weekend in the South is always quite an affair. Any proper Southern girl debuts her brand spankin’ new Easter dress, a product of long hours spent online shopping or perusing what the local mall has to offer. As for guys, well, they usually break out the bowties and button-downs in varying shades of pastels. Easter in the South means chocolate (and lots of it – we ain’t ashamed), flowers, Facebook feeds clogged with “Happy Easter!” [insert flower and bunny emojis] or “Easter Sunday with the fam” photos, He is Risen yard signs, and color EVERYWHERE. It’s become quite the cultural event, especially for college students. One hallmark of Easter season is when friends start talking about what they are going to give up for Lent. This is a fairly common occurrence across denominations, even though it originated as part of the Catholic celebration of Easter. For those that genuinely choose to participate in a Lent fast, social media, chocolate, or caffeine are often the targets of this time of “sacrifice.” Some college girls see Lent as the perfect excuse to begin their annual diet.

However, the real reason for Lent is to further one’s relationship with God by attempting to understand, albeit in a minute way, His sacrifice for mankind. Lent mirrors Christ’s fasting during temptation and is a picture of how much He gave up for you and me.  Lent is usually a period of 40 days leading up to Easter; scripturally, 40 day periods served as preparation for something to come.  Noah and his family were on the ark for 40 days and 40 nights, Jesus fasted in the wilderness for 40 days, and the Israelites wandered in the wilderness for 40 years.

So what does this have to do with me?

What sacrifices did I make this past Lent season, or can I make in the future, to be a better person? Maybe you’re not into the whole “God” thing. Maybe you find the resurrection of Christ hard to believe.  That’s a certainly understandable and valid viewpoint; nevertheless, one man’s sacrifice for the lives of many ought to inspire me to live in a selfless manner, regardless of my personal religious beliefs (or the lack thereof).  What can I give up to grow as a person, whether I’m catholic, protestant, or couldn’t care less about either one of those lifestyles?

That said, what does this have to do with Southern, college student me?

As I pondered the idea of giving up something for Lent, all the options that came to mind certainly made me cringe a little on the inside. Netflix. Nutella, breakfast of champions. Chick-Fil-A. Starbucks. Social media *GASP*. (Actually, if we’re going to be truthful, it was more like a giant wave of consternation slapping me right in the face. But I digress.) However, I think I was missing the point. Lent and Easter weren’t meant to make life miserable for a period of 40 days so I can remember how miserable Christ must have been. They were meant to remind us that because of Jesus’ incredible, painful, sacrifice, we don’t have to live devoid of hope and purpose and joy. He gave His life so that we don’t have to spend our lives in constant sacrifice, trying to earn acceptance from God or somebody else. Easter and Lent are celebrations of that freedom. So when I give up something as insignificant as collegiate comfort food (as difficult as that may be), I can be reminded of and rejoice in God’s great sacrifice for me. And that, my friends, is the point of Lent – experiencing the joy of His selfless love. This Easter, may you grow into a new and better person, and may you know just how much you are loved.

Ephesians 3:14-19: “For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.”

Written by Carilee

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