Oh, I Could Write a Sonnet about Your Easter Bonnet and All the Fur Trim on It…

“Oh! precious is the flow
That makes me white as snow;
No other fount I know,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.”

This verse from the much-beloved hymn “What Can Wash Away My Sin” was on my mind when I woke up to a freshly laid blanket of snow yesterday morning.  The scenescape was a far cry from the brilliant pastel-hued world filled with chicks and bunnies frolicking among tulips and daffodils that are featured in advertisements this time of year.  And as I donned layers of clothes – including insulated overalls and snowboots – for outdoor work, a sleeveless sundress was the last thing on my mind.  Since moving from a more southern clime to the Northland several years ago, I realized that warm weather was not guaranteed for Easter Sunday, and I have shivered in sandals or saved the cute shoes for a more appropriate time – like Independence Day.  This is Minnesota, and the only predictable thing about our weather is its unpredictability.  Still, when the ads bombard us with images of green rolling hills, brilliant blue skies, and warm yellow sunshine, we cry out, “Isn’t winter over yet?”

But a sparkling white layer of snow – what a beautiful reminder of God’s grace, and how appropriate for Easter weekend!  The dusty, dirty, dun-colored world that exists from winter’s end to the green days of Spring is hidden from view.  Though this snow will disappear eventually, while it is here we can see it and remember how Jesus, when He submitted Himself to the pain and humiliation of crucifixion, He was an offering for our sins:

“Our sins are washed away and we are made clean because Christ gave His own body as a gift to God. He did this once for all time.” (Hebrews 10:10, NLV)

While this snowfall might cancel a few outdoor Easter egg hunts or make us ladies wear thermals under our dresses, perhaps it will shift our focus from the auxiliary aspects of Easter to the main point: celebrating Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, the power He gave us over sin, and the hope we have in life everlasting.

“When this that can be destroyed has been changed into that which cannot be destroyed, and when this that does die has been changed into that which cannot die, then it will happen as the Holy Writings said it would happen. They said, “Death has no more power over life.”  O death, where is your power? O death, where are your pains? The pain in death is sin. Sin has power over those under the Law.  But God is the One Who gives us power over sin through Jesus Christ our Lord. We give thanks to Him for this.” (1 Corinthians 15:54-57, NLV)

So even though communities around our state received a blanket of 1, 5, or 10 inches of snow this weekend, the sun still

 

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The Palm

 

I stand alone, a mighty palm,

In desert lands I promise balm

To weary men with dusty feet

Who rest under my shade so sweet.

My fruit I give without a thought

To whether it is sold or bought.

When victors shout their battle cry

And raise my leaves up to the sky,

My heart within – for one I hold –

Swells with pride in sunlight’s gold.

But once I saw, for I am tall,

And look over the city walls,

My branches laid on dusty ground,

By men and women swarming ‘round,

Before a man upon a colt.

The image gave this tree a jolt.

“Who is this man?” I thought as He

Rode past the throngs so joyfully

That sang out psalms and shouted praise.

“Hosanna!”, “Bless’d!”, “Ancient of Days!”

And as I watched, two men drew near

And rested in my shade so dear.

“He’s here today,” one man announced,

“I reckon soon Rome will be trounced.

For if this man can raise the dead

And out of air can conjure bread,

Then He can bring empires down

And gain for Him a kingly crown.”

“No, no, my friend,” the other said,

And with a smile shook his head.

“This man has power, that is true,

But won’t wield it like others do.

He heals the sick, strengthens the weak,

And says His kingdom we must seek.

Just like this palm,” he looked at me,

“Which gives to all – completely free –

Fruit and shade which can refresh,

He gives to souls – in earthly flesh –

The chance to be with God above

Who – while we sin – still shows us love.

This ‘Son of Man,’ is God on earth

And promises a second birth

To any who will follow Him

And leave behind his life of sin.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Front Pew Kid All Grown Up

All front pew kids, put your hands up.

If you don’t know what a front pew kid is, then you are not one.  Front pew kids are the sons and daughters of pastors, praise leaders, teachers, missionaries, elders, deacons, women’s committee directors, etc.  Essentially, if your parent/s help “run” church on Sunday mornings (or Saturdays, if that was your thing), you are a front pew kid.  If you no  longer attend youth group and actually have some responsibility in this world, you are a front pew kid all grown up.

I was a front pew kid.  Before I was a stowaway aboard the S.S. Mother, my dad played in the church praise band, and he still does to this day.  Piano, guitar, drums, bass – he can play them all.  He has used his God-given talent to help stir the hearts and souls of churchgoers through the universal language of music, and I am awed by all the time and energy he has put into serving the Lord this way.   My family changed churches every few years as I grew up, and as we felt comfortable enough to volunteer at each one, my dad committed himself to the praise team.  For easier and faster access to the stage, I have always known my dad to sit at the edge of the pew (or row of chairs) near the front of the church.  Being a tightly knit family unit, we always sat together in church, and so, as soon as I graduated from nursery, I became a front pew kid.

Church attendance was expected.  I did not rebel against this; it was just part of life’s rhythm.  On the off chance we did not attend church, I felt a strange nagging, a lack of purpose.  Wearing pajamas until 10 AM on a Sunday, a habit for probably much of the U.S. population, was so…abnormal.  “Normal” was hauling a drum set, keyboards, and speakers in my family’s van to our church’s temporary building every Sunday.  We would set up all the instruments and audio equipment, worship God, listen to the sermon, and then tear it down and pack it up.  I was a roadie by age 10.

I grew up with other front pew kids.  Every Sunday, the pastor and other praise team members brought their rather sleepy-eyed children to learn about God and make friends with “good” kids.  As I grew, I noticed that, since our parents were literally front and center, since we came to church despite threatening blizzards or tempting sunshine, since we could recite all 66 books of the Bible, older people assumed we were “good” kids.  Many people who knew about our consistent whereabouts on Sunday morning assumed that a Christian life had just seeped into us via osmosis, what with the endless hours of sermons and praise songs we had been exposed to since we could understand flannel graphs.  And so, like good little sponges, we would always face any devilish temptation with the thoughtful consideration of “What would Jesus do?”, know exactly what Jesus would do, do it, and, thereby, avoid all sin.

Maturation of Christian faith is not that simple.  Yes, I am so thankful that my parents were involved in church so I grew up knowing godly people and learning about God and His salvation He offers through Jesus.  But choosing to follow God – to obey Him – did not become as natural and automatic a thing as setting up a hi-hat and ride cymbal early on a Sunday morning did.  Sometimes going to church feels like an involuntary routine – a necessity – rather than an exciting  experience  to fellowship with other Christians and worship God.  I, along with many other front pew kids, did not come from a home in which God was an option or even forbidden.  His existence was taken as fact.  I was so surrounded by Bible verses, crosses, Michael W. Smith songs, and people speaking “Christianese”, that in this rose garden of my childhood the beauty of the roses was often lost on me.  As I grew older, though, and was torn from the garden to wander through deserts, I remembered the beauty of the blooms and the sweetness of their scents.  I realized that flowers – the blessings of life and hope of salvation – found in the desert were to be cherished and treasured, and shared with other wanderers in the wasteland.  Still, on one day I might spot the smallest blossom, hold it close, and smile about it for hours, while at another time I might stomp through an oasis, kicking the heads off orchids, not caring about the Gardener who grows them.

So it is for this front pew kid, all grown up.  My mother no longer sings me to sleep with “The Old Rugged Cross.”  I must choose to listen to it on my own rather than to a scintillating song with lyrics that do not honor God.  Front pew kids grow up with the best seats in the house to hear and see what God has done, but this does not guarantee a close adult relationship with God.  They accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior…or they don’t.  They go to church after leaving home…or they don’t.  They remember the words of their teachers and pastors and parents…or they don’t.  We cannot trade in the gold stars on our Sunday School attendance chart for a ticket to Heaven.

I am writing this for several reasons.  I want to hear from other grown up front pew kids.  We have taken different paths, and I am interested in their stories.  I also am writing this to prove the existence of Millennial Christians.  I was born in 1990, smack dab in the middle of the Millennial generation (1980-2000).  My views do not match many generalized notions of Millennial views mostly due to my faith.  I am also writing merely for the pleasure of writing and the challenge to voice my ideas politely and intelligently.  My high school band teacher used to say it does not take talent to play loud and fast; it takes talent to play softly and slowly.  So instead of through ranting and virtual Bible-thumping, I aim to deliver insights without giving the reader a headache.

Opinions and viewpoints will not come from a seminary graduate.  They will merely come from a front pew kid all grown up, still remembering (or not) what her Sunday school teacher taught or what she learned from VeggieTales, and still wondering, “What would Jesus do?”