A little Easter reflection….

I’ve been a Christian for a long time. Long enough for some aspects of my faith to seem routine. Sundays can be pretty predictable as my family follows the same schedule each week. Wake up, get dressed, grab breakfast, listen to praise music as we drive, attend church, eat lunch, and then host a small group in our home.

Other areas follow a routine, as well. Reading my bible, investing into other people, prayer, and even certain behaviors are habits and seem to happen without thought. And, sometimes it’s tempting to go through the motions of the habit without experiencing the passion of the practice.

But this weekend is Easter, a time when Christians the world over will remember the passion God has for us and the bold sacrifice Jesus made on our behalf. Even now, as I meditate on what my sin cost my Savior, my throat constricts and tears fill my eyes. While I was a sinner with no desire to know God, He sent His son as a sacrifice for my sin. He loved me when I was unlovable! And, as I’ve walked with Him for 32 years, He has been my friend. He has defended me, been my Father, provided for me, corrected me, blessed me, taught me, and revealed Himself to me. He has been big and loud, and He has been soft and quiet. He has shown me His goodness and grace and allowed me to see Him at work in the lives of others.

None of that would have been possible without Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. Without His death. Without His resurrection. 

But His sacrifice wasn’t just for me. It was for my husband and kids. It was for my friends. It was for YOU. My heart is incredibly happy knowing God has made a way for all of us to live an abundant life here and a spectacular life in eternity.

If life has become routine for you, I pray that this Easter will ignite a new passion in your heart. God loves you. Meet Him at church this weekend, and celebrate the incredible gift He gave you 2000 years ago.

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Doing the Bunny Hop

I opened my mailbox the other day to find this magazine.  Do you see the tag line at the bottom?

Build A Bigger, Better Basket. Over $80 In Coupons Inside

Inside the magazine is a kid’s dream world.  Fisher-Price Smart Tablets, Toy Story 3 characters, DVD Combo sets, Battery Powered Ride-On Toys, and yes, even Dream-Come-True Bedroom Collections.

I don’t know who does the marketing for this particular store, but my hat is off to them.  (Ok, I don’t wear hats, but if I did, I would tip mine to them.  I wouldn’t actually take it off since I’ve seen hat-head.  It’s not attractive.)  They’ve done a fabulous job enticing us to buy all sorts of (not so cheap) goodies for our little ones.  The pictures depict happy kids, living the high life since their Easter basket was, in fact, bigger and better.

I don’t know about you, but I’m doing the bunny hop this year: I’m hopping right over all of that craziness.

Now, before you think I’m going to deprive my kids of Easter fun, let me put your mind at ease.  The Lovejoy’s will wake up to fun-filled baskets.  We’ll hunt Easter eggs filled with candy.  Several times.  I’m simply keeping our focus a little more on Jesus and a little less on “bigger and better.”

Instead of the sports or beach themed baskets I see so prevalently displayed at my local big box store, we’re going old school.  We’re actually going to celebrate God.  Go figure.  Music and books will make an appearance – my kids actually love that stuff.  Rubber bracelets with cool sayings will be stuffed in an egg or two.  If it will help them know God better or just have fun with faith, I’ll throw it in.  My goal?  Teach my kids about God’s great love for them.  Oh, and since chocolate is one of His greatest creations, there will be plenty of Reese’s Cups nestled down in the plastic grass.

Why not join me in the bunny hop?  Cut the craziness! Don’t fall victim to thinking your kids need bigger and better baskets.  What they need is God.  He’s all the “bigger and better” they’ll (and you’ll) ever need.

Holiday Traditions

Worship services with family and friends.  Lunch around Grandma’s table.  A house full of hustle and bustle.  Hunting for eggs full of candy.  Pretty dresses and new shoes.  Dying eggs for a colorful basket display.

Ahhhh, the traditions of Easter.  Or, any spiritual holiday, really.  I have fond memories of my extended family gathering together and sharing life.  But, once Shawn and I gave our lives to full-time ministry, some of that changed.  We moved away from extended family to answer God’s call on our lives, and those holidays have the tendency to get swallowed up in the demands of ministry.  It’s a very, very small sacrifice to pay to honor my Father.  Nevertheless, several years ago, I found myself misty-eyed one Easter as I stood in the lobby of Mountain Lake.  I was listening to many people relay their plans for their Easter afternoons – complete with family gatherings and memory-making moments.  My family was worn out from all the prep, planning, and execution of multiple worship services and had absolutely no energy reserves to go home and whip up a holiday feast.  And, as for family, well, they were miles away.  So, I was feeling a little left out of the holiday fun…..and realizing that my children weren’t experiencing all the traditions and celebrations of the holiday.

As a family in ministry, I knew I needed to make some adjustments to create the family memories I craved.  So, I began making our holiday lunch in advance so I can simply warm it when we come home after a long day at church.  And, I planned time for my family to rest in the afternoon so we could all recoup, a bit.  Then, we have an early evening Easter egg hunt.  We also choose to give the kids their Easter baskets on Saturday morning, rather than Sunday, since Sunday mornings are rushed as we leave early for MLC. 

Many of my friends in ministry have discovered the need to work a little harder to add the holiday traditions into their lives, too.  Our families are worth it, so we get creative. 

What traditions does your family enjoy?  Do you have to get creative like me?

Jesus’ Mailbox

I live in the South, complete with all four seasons, sweet tea, and southern hospitality.  Down here, we use our manners with maam’s and sir’s.  We hold the door open for each other.  We even send the obligatory Thank You note when we receive a gift or some touching act of kindness. Those notes have become something we almost expect.  It lets the gift giver know the gift was appreciated….not taken for granted.  Oh, the recipient sometimes waves off the need for the gift-giver to write a thank-you note with something like, “Don’t worry about sending a Thank You note.  Just save that stamp!”  But, don’t be fooled.  They’re checking their mailbox.  Some of us proper Southerners even have standard “Thank you” prose on hand for quick note-writing.  Just sayin’…

Not long ago, I gave gifts to a few close friends.  Nothing fancy; just a thoughtful token in a pretty bag.  I was so excited, though, to surprise these friends with an unexpected treat.  I get almost as excited as they do!  But, here’s what I’ve noticed over my years of gift-giving: some people simply say thanks; others enthusiastically light up and hug me.  I LOVE the over-the-top reactions.  In some crazy way, I just want to know that I’ve made life a little better for them; that somehow my gift was the end-all be-all of their day. (Now that I think about it, I may have a few ego issues to work on.)

This Sunday is Easter.  Without this day, without Jesus’ willingness to go to the Cross and sacrifice His life for me, I wouldn’t have access to Heaven, to God, or to abundant life here on Earth.  Today, millions of believers across the world will celebrate the greatest gift ever given.  And, Jesus just might be in Heaven right now watching His children and wondering who will nonchalantly say thanks and who will go over-the-top and enthusiastically say, “WOW!  REALLY?  FOR ME?  THANK YOU SO VERY MUCH.  YOUR GIFT IS THE END-ALL BE-ALL!” 

Luke 11:11-17 tells us that He notices when people are appreciative.  It also tells us that He notices when we are not.  I guess Jesus checks His own “mailbox”, too. 

Will you celebrate Jesus with all your heart this Easter?  Will you take some special time to say thanks for the wonderful gift He gave YOU?

  11 As Jesus continued on toward Jerusalem, he reached the border between Galilee and Samaria. 12 As he entered a village there, ten lepers stood at a distance, 13 crying out, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!”

 14 He looked at them and said, “Go show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed of their leprosy.

 15 One of them, when he saw that he was healed, came back to Jesus, shouting, “Praise God!” 16 He fell to the ground at Jesus’ feet, thanking him for what he had done. This man was a Samaritan.

 17 Jesus asked, “Didn’t I heal ten men? Where are the other nine? 18 Has no one returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?” 19 And Jesus said to the man, “Stand up and go. Your faith has healed you.

Happy Easter, my friends,

Chocolate Bunnies

Well, peeps, Easter is just around the corner, and if you have kids, you are likely plotting Easter basket surprises.  Kids everywhere are anticipating what might be in their basket on Sunday morning.  I know moms who make “Summer Time Baskets” full of flip-flops, beach towels, and pool toys.  Others make fruit baskets, and still others fill the baskets full of candy.  Some families go for themed baskets, while others just grab whatever is on sale at Wal-Mart (don’t knock it till you try it!). 

I’m no different.  I love a good Easter Basket full of treats.  We always go for “goodies with a purpose.”  Cd’s from popular Christian artists, age appropriate devotion books, Christian bracelets, and journals are the star attractions of our baskets, although Phineas and Ferb cd’s and Easter apparel have been known to make an appearance.  And, of course, tons of chocolate filled plastic eggs.  What’s Easter without chocolate?  But not those stinking chocolate bunnies.  Those things are deplorable.  They never taste good.  Nope, the Lovejoy’s stick with Reese’s….God’s chocolate. 

So, what about you?  Do you make Easter Baskets?  If you do, what are you putting in them?