Easter Around the World

Screen Shot 2017-04-17 at 10.43.36 AMIt’s been fun watching people celebrating Easter around the world.  From the comfort of my own home, I’ve watched videos and seen pictures from celebrations in Papua New Guinea, Japan, Bulgaria, Peru, different parts of the US and all up and down California.  The pictures included here are from some Easter traditions that I missed not being in PNG or California.  In Papua New Guinea a sunrise service is held and a cross is decorated with flowers that everyone brings.  It is beautiful!  And in Camarillo the sunrise beach service is always wonderful.  Such an amazing visual reminder of light overtaking darkness.  Screen Shot 2017-04-17 at 10.54.18 AMMaybe we’ll have to start a sunrise service tradition here.  Easter was very low key, with a typical service pointing to Jesus and the resurrection but we enjoyed a wonderful relaxing afternoon.  We hope you made more family memories this year and enjoyed your Easter traditions new and old.  I’m thankful that Jesus is alive, although we remember it especially during Easter, it’s true every day of the year!

 

Anticipating the Resurrection

Today is our last day of waiting.  40 days of remembering, learning and anticipating.  Tomorrow Christians all over the world will celebrate Resurrection Sunday, the day that marks Christ rising from the dead.  Our God is not dead.  He’s alive.  Hallelujah!  Screen Shot 2017-04-15 at 4.53.29 PMSo today we went to the park and sat, enjoyed the beautiful day and remembered.  We’ve read devotionals for the past 40 days, learning more about scripture and the final candle has now been blown out.  Palm Sunday marked the beginning of Holy Week as we anticipated the events that had to happen in order to fulfill the prophecies.  We celebrated with a Passover Seder, ate and drank and remembered.  We heard a beautiful sermon on Good Friday, Christ was dead, buried and in the tomb.  And now we wait.  Because tomorrow we know what happens but that doesn’t make it any less marvelous.  He is surely alive.  Hallelujah!

Tomorrow we will light all the candles, we will sing songs of His glorious resurrection and we will celebrate Christ overcoming death.  It was worth the wait.  Hallelujah!

Where’s the Matzah?

Growing up in California, Easter was always marked with the beginning of spring, pastel colors and new baby bunnies and little chicks.  Easter was filled with family and church celebrations, a special Easter outfit for Sunday was a must and supermarket shelves were filled with chocolate eggs, bright colored candies as well as all the makings for a passover meal.  This includes shelves of kosher wine and, of course, matzah bread.

In preparation for a Christian Seder* meal tonight, I went to the store to grab a few special ingredients.  Apples, walnuts and wine to make the charoset, horseradish for the maror, parsley for the karpas, chocolate prizes, a few other things and the special Matzah bread.  While we did find a whole section filled with chocolate goodies, bunnies and eggs, there was no Passover section.  And when I asked about the Matzah bread, the man had no idea what it was, and I was told to look in the specialty crackers by the deli.  Matzah was no where to be found.  There are many different substitutes, unleavened bread in flatbread form, I could make the bread, like I did when I was in Papua New Guinea, or we could use another form of cracker.  However, I am still surprised that Matzah isn’t easily available at this time of the year.

Sometimes I could almost forget that it is autumn here in the southern hemisphere.  The weather is still warm, there are new little goslings in the neighborhood park and it’s Easter after all.  I could almost forget that Australia and the US are different, even more than just the accents and kangaroos.  But then something simple happens and I realize that I am not in the US and there are things here that I can’t take for granted, like easily finding Matzah in the regular grocery store.

*Tonight we will celebrate a Christian Seder meal with a group of friends.  This will have many of the elements of a traditional Passover meal including being celebrated at sundown but instead of hoping for an unknown Messiah, we will acknowledge the Messiah Jesus Christ and take communion together.  I love the history and tradition that is woven into this beautiful meal.  It is a wonderful way to acknowledge our Christianity’s roots in Judaism, celebrate Holy Week and prepare for Good Friday.

Ryan Preaches on Palm Sunday

“Hosanna to the Son of David!  He who comes in the name of the Lord is the blessed One!  Hosanna in the highest heaven!” Matthew 21:9Screen Shot 2017-04-09 at 6.30.33 PMI’ve been looking forward to Palm Sunday all year.  Since I love Easter, I am disappointed when we miss or overlook all the amazing things leading up to Resurrection Sunday that anchor our faith in history and point us towards Jesus as he fulfills prophesy.  Palm Sunday does both and Ryan preached a great sermon reminding us of the impactful history of our faith and pointing us towards Jesus, not just as the one who fulfills prophecy but the one who died to save us and loves us so much that he weeps when we reject him.Screen Shot 2017-04-09 at 6.28.28 PMAfter church in Brookton, we always share a morning tea, which is feeling more and more like a family gathering.  Today we had all sorts of treats that included leftover birthday cake, fairy bread, muffins, other goodies and the special Easter hot cross buns.  We prefer ours sans fruit so I just make them with lots of cinnamon:-)  Fellowship and treats are always a sweet way to spend a Sunday.screen-shot-2017-04-09-at-6-31-17-pm.png

Bible Study Routines

Post-it notes remind me of prayers.  When I started attending Ryan’s Bible study in Camarillo while we were dating, it was already a routine.  At the end of every study he brought out post-its and everyone wrote down a prayer request and then these were passed around.  You write a post-it and then you take someone else’s post-it.  It could be anonymous or you could put your name down but either way that request was prayed for over the week.  I know a few people who would put the post-its up on their bathroom mirror as a reminder to pray.Screen Shot 2017-03-28 at 5.19.44 PM.pngOn Wednesdays Ryan now drives out to Brookton.  He teaches the Bible study and each week brings post-it notes so that everyone can share prayer requests.  Even though I don’t usually attend, I’ve started writing a prayer request to send with Ryan because I enjoy getting a prayer request back to pray for during the week.  I love being connected to this community through simple, weekly prayers.  Post-it notes have a lot of other uses but for me, they will probably always be connected to prayers.  I look forward to seeing what God will do through the prayers that will be written on these post-its.

Lenten Lights

Easter is one of my favorite holidays but unlike Christmas with the big build up that you can see in the stores, listening to Christmas music and participating in holiday festivities, Easter can sometimes creep up quietly.  I do admit, there is some candy out in the stores this time of year even in Australia and, of course, Girl Scout cookies in the US seem to mark the beginning of this special season somehow in my mind.  But unless your church observes lent there really isn’t a huge build up towards Easter/Passion Week.  Since getting married Ryan and I have done our best to observe this season and mark it in our own way.  Lenten lights are my favorite tangible reminder.Screen Shot 2017-03-20 at 3.49.29 PMAt the beginning of the season (Ash Wednesday) it begins with 7 lit candles.  We have a special candle holder but 7 tea lights on a plate would do the same thing.  Then each night during the meal or at another time during the day all the candles are lit and each day has it’s own reading.   This is the one we’re using for this year: Lent Devotional.  On each Sunday during lent one candle is blown out and the following week one less candle is lit during the daily reading.Screen Shot 2017-03-20 at 3.50.35 PMThree weeks in and now we’re only lighting 4 candles each day.  And slowly we will work our way down to blowing out the last candle on Good Friday.  Seeing the darkness represented tangibly is a powerful reminder for me that helps my heart prepare for the joyous celebration that is Easter/Resurrection Sunday.  It may seem counterintuitive but understanding what Jesus did on the cross, makes the celebration of His resurrection more beautiful and more jubilant.  I look forward to continuing this transition and making it a part of how our home marks the Christian seasons.

American Politics in Australia

I’m an American, a citizen of the United States and unless something unexpected or drastic happens, that’s not changing anytime soon.  However, I’m living in a very multicultural city in Australia and meeting new people every day.  It doesn’t seem to matter what their background, pretty much everyone has some sort of interest in US politics.  I couldn’t escape the conversations if I tried, so I don’t try to avoid them, I listen.  Listening allows me to hear what others think and also gives me input to continually reexamine and check my own attitudes and assumptions as well as values and beliefs.  I am generally encouraged by these conversations and my personal convictions are strengthened, although I am often challenged to look deeper into certain issues and policies.  Screen Shot 2017-01-31 at 1.59.50 PM.pngConversations aside, I do realize that I am somewhat removed from US current events.  Although, the news here covers the main issues and my Facebook feed is an ever present reminder.  But I’m not in the US so, even if I wanted to, I can’t join the marches and protests.  I am not around to be a part of certain US organizations that are on the frontline when it comes to refugee resettlement.  I don’t have the time or the energy to devote to writing to US political leaders or to organize something more substantial.  Even if I was still in my safe, insulated US community, I would probably find it difficult to engage appropriately with the current policies that I agree or disagree with.  This is what, in my experience, often leads to apathy.  I can’t be the only one who recognizes something should be done but then doesn’t have the time, energy, resources and/or knowledge to do anything that might be deemed worthwhile.  So what are our options?

  1. Pray – Pray for wisdom (James 1:5).  Pray for your leaders (I Timothy 2:1,2).  Pray for your enemies (Matthew 5:44).  Pray for those who agree with you.  Pray for those who disagree with you.  Pray.
  2. Read the Bible- Justice (Isaiah 1:17), mercy (Micah 6:8), love (Leviticus 19:18), compassion (Matthew 25:25-37), all of this and more is addressed in the pages of scripture.  I didn’t struggle to find verses here, the struggle was to choose just a few.  The Bible is an amazingly rich and holy resource.
  3. Love your Neighbor-  I mean your neighbor in the broader sense of Luke 10 (the parable of the Good Samaritan).  Your neighbors are those people you come into contact with during your daily life.  This can be as simple as loving and serving your family in your home, the person across the street, the man or woman who is driving next to you on the road, the person bagging your groceries, serving your meal at a restaurant, etc.
  4. Do What You Can- There are a lot of important issues that we can advocate for and be passionate about but refugees are close to my heart.  World Relief, one organization that I have worked with and respect just posted this to their blog: 3 Things You Can Do Right Now to Show Support for Refugees.  There are probably simple things to do online or in your community for almost every social cause that needs attention.

As divided as my Facebook feed is at the moment, I am generally encouraged by the real discussions that are happening, the hypocrisy that is being confronted across the board and those who are rising up to the challenge of practicing what they are preaching.  I can not fight every battle and shout from the mountain tops over every important issue.  But I can pray, I can read my Bible, I can love my neighbor and I can do what I can to live justly, love mercy and to walk humbly with my God.