Is the Easter Bunny the Anti-Christ?

Last Christmas eve I attended a candlelight service where 50 or so people came together to prepare their hearts for the celebration of Christ‘s birth.

I’ve attended many of these services over the years at many different churches and I like them. I like that we sing the traditional Christmas songs; I like that kids come in their pajamas in anticipation of the wild morning ahead; and I like how it makes me think back to more than 2,000 years ago when the world received the miracle of miracles.

As I walked into the foyer for that particular service, one of the sweetest ladies I know was the first to greet me. I was prepared to give her a hug and wish her a warm Merry Christmas.

But before I could extend a hand and offer a warm greeting, she took the initiative with this:

“Don’t tell me Merry Christmas. Say happy birthday, Jesus.”

And she meant it.

I remember the strong movement a few years ago against the “Xmas” phrase. And for the record, it’s a movement I support. It does, in fact, take the Christ out of Christmas. But Santa Claus isn’t the devil, and neither is the Easter bunny.

For the last few years, I’ve noticed a similar trend. Among many evangelical Christians, Easter has now become “Resurrection Sunday.”

It’s certainly true enough. Among all things, first and foremost, Easter is the time when we recognize the one aspect that makes Christianity unique among all other religions. We serve a living God, not one who is dead in the tomb, or worshiped as a stone carving. Christ is alive, and it’s a belief I hold to be as true as the air I breathe.

So Resurrection Sunday – it’s a good thing.

But what of the extremity of this … because I like Easter.

Ninety percent of the references I heard in my church yesterday were to Resurrection Sunday – not Easter. That’s fine, but when did Easter become such a bad thing that we go out of our way to avoid the word?

I don’t hate the Easter bunny…and I don’t believe Jesus would either.

He’s soft, cuddly and has that really cute cotton tail.

My grandmother loved flowers. She particularly loved the Easter lily. I wonder if it should now become the Resurrection Sunday lily?

I’m not anti-Resurrection Sunday.

But I am pro-Easter.

Hop on Peter Cottontail. Jesus loves you too.

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Happy Transparent Birthday, Dana.

Happy 39th birthday, my sweet love. What would I do without you?

39 Reasons I Love You…

  1. You make me smile and laugh.
  2. Despite my quirks and faults, you love me without condition.
  3. God‘s face shines through your eyes to every person who sees you.
  4. Your compassion, that which comes straight from your heart, is your greatest characteristic.
  5. You forgive.
  6. You came along.
  7. Don’t know a single person whom you haven’t blessed.
  8.  Since I first met you, life has never been the same.
  9. You’ve taught me great life lessons.
  10. You held me through those nights that were so hard.
  11. You gave me a “man” room.
  12. Your face is pure beauty, but your heart is more so.
  13. Basherte.
  14. Helpmate.
  15. Friend.
  16. You make everyone you touch, including me, better than we/they are.
  17. You love my family.
  18. You know when to reign me in.
  19. You make a great first impression.
  20. You overlook my mistakes.
  21. Your sense of adventure inspires me.
  22. You never ask for much.
  23. You look great in a sundress and cheap sunglasses.
  24. Your eyes pierce through to my heart.
  25. You play a mean conga.
  26. I love that you can be cosmopolitan one moment, and country the next.
  27. You never stopped believing.
  28. You understood the hurt.
  29. You bring people together and know your role on the team.
  30. You lead quietly, making things happen, and no one ever knows it.
  31. You care not for the credit.
  32. No one looks better in a funky hat.
  33. Your touch overwhelms me.
  34. Your soul speaks to mine.
  35. You came along.
  36. You came along.
  37. You came along.
  38. You came along
  39. And you saved my life.

-30-

Aggressively Pursuing the UN-balanced Life

Dream as if you’ll live forever. Live as if you’ll die today.”

~ James Dean

For years, I’ve considered my obsessive-compulsive behavior to be a character flaw.

But, alas, I believe I will now embrace it.

Several weeks ago, I hired a coach to help keep me disciplined in specific areas of my life I deem important. We’ve had interesting conversations about dreams, goals, and mostly he has helped me take a view of things not just from the surface but from an “elevation of 20,000 feet.” It’s given me a new perspective on the totality of life.

In our last conversation as time came to a close, he pitched the idea of the importance of living a balanced life. He explained how too much focus in one area can detract from another, and the danger of creating “deficits” in some particular life compartments.

The balanced life.

I’ve thought about it a lot, and I’ve decided, as good as it sounds, it’s not for me.

I’m 46 years old. Had some major highs, and some of the lowest of the lows. Each high and low has been a great lesson. There have been some mistakes, and I’d take a “do-over” on some things, but I’ve had a great life, unbalanced as it may have been.

And I’m not sure I can change that now. The last thing I want to be is milquetoast. I don’t want to pursue a little bit of anything.

I want to stand on the equator, close my eyes and marvel at the magnificence of God‘s creation.

When I can wrap my mind around running again, I don’t want to exercise for 30 minutes a day. I want to train for one last marathon.

I want to make a difference in the lives of underprivileged children.

I want to exhibit the radical love that Jesus showed to the woman caught in adultery.

I want to feed the hungry, comfort the hurting.

I want to collaborate with a small group of committed people…and change the world.

I want to lavishly spoil my wife, kids, mom, best friend and other friends with love, kindness and gifts.

I want to write books, not for the sake of calling myself an author, but to be a best-selling writer, and to offer readers a new perspective on things that really matter.

I want to drink thousand calorie milkshakes whenever the urge hits me.

I want to live life to the RADICAL EXTREME.

A balanced life. It sounds so right…and yet so boring.

-30-

Taking a Break from Breaking News

 

From 8 to 5 or so each day, I have the privilege to work with a tremendous group of people.

With about 30 or so employees, we are small in number, but significant in influence. The work we undertake has a positive impact on nearly 2,000 companies internationally.

As it exists, our work environment is male-dominated. Ninety percent of our staff is men, and it creates a certain culture, particularly since every individual is entrepreneurial, driven, vision focused and committed. It also just so happens that we all get along really well. It’s a great place to work.

Our shared personality traits make for a dynamic work environment where we focus corporately on the task and hand, and we also have a lot of fun.

And, on a fairly frequent basis, we have some pretty intellectual conversations.

At mid-morning yesterday, one of my bosses, an intellectual, worldly and thoughtful man, handed me a daft letter he’d composed as a letter to the editor for our local newspaper. Seems my boss had become (I’ll use the word disillusioned) with the media coverage of the Trayvon Martin case, and the inflammatory nature of its portrayal, particularly in the television broadcast arena. It pushed him to his tipping point, enough so, that he took time out of his day to communicate his utter frustration.

And for what it’s worth, I agree with him.

The news stresses us out.

Just last week I read three local newspaper accounts of a local police chief charged with sexual assault of a minor, a pastor from my hometown who had kidnapped and assaulted a minor, and another law enforcement official 10 miles down the road involved in an internal department scam. A bloodpressure spike is a great way to start the day.

How does a news junkie like me control the natural tendency to stress over the news and its impact on my local community.

Later in the morning, I had lunch with another work colleague. We often talk about our life’s journey, the challenges we face, and give encouragement to one another to keep moving forward.

As we talked about the news, he shared an interesting experience.

Years ago, he said, a study in which he was engaged suggested a weeklong “news fast.”

His study indicated that a morning dose of the daily news, with all its negativity, hype and hoopla could subconsciously get our day off to the wrong start.

It can mean the difference between being outwardly impacted, or inwardly focused.

Isn’t that interesting.

I’ve always felt a need for the news. For many years, it’s been my livelihood. The need to be informed, is crucial, I’ve thought.

Or is it?

I’m thinking about taking a break from the breaking news.

This will be interesting.

The Binge: 12 Lessons Learned

“The only book that shall ever be written is the one that flows up from the heart, forced out by the inward pressure. When such a work has gestated within a man, it is almost certain that it will be written. The man who is thus charged with a message will not be turned back by any blase’ consideration. His book will be, to him, not only imperitave, it will be inevitable.” ~ A.W. Tozer from “God’s Pursuit of Man.”

Over the long weekend, I reverted to a style that has served me well from college to the present.

I was never good at composing research papers over extended periods of time, never embraced studying a bit each day, and really never have been good at doing a “little bit” of anything. For most of the things I do, I have to go “all-in.” It’s why I stay away from casinos.

I’m a binger.

It goes agains the conventional writing style that most experts will offer. Most say the best way to begin writing is just that, begin writing … write something each day, even if it’s just a few hundred words. That’s good advice for beginning writers, I’ll grant you. It creates a habit, and habits are good things for writers.

But if you’ve moved to a point where you’re more serious in your work, the notion of bits of pieces of writing daily may no longer work.

It’s become apparent that if my first book has any chance of being released by Thanksgiving – I must binge.

Last weekend, Friday 3am through Sunday noon was a 57 hour writing session with very few breaks. It was productive, resulting in nearly 10,000 words of decent copy.

When you write for three days straight, you inevitably learn some lessons. Here are 12 I learned:

  1. Without moving your cell phone’s switch to the “off” position, it will continue to ring.
  2. A.W. Tozer is magnificent.
  3. Periodic naps help.
  4. Grape juice keeps you going.
  5. One moment, you think what you’ve written is brilliant. On second read, it can sound really stupid.
  6. Sometimes, just sometimes, volume trumps quality.
  7. There’s no substitute for a good chair.
  8. The environment in which you write can make a huge difference.
  9. If you have a random thought, put it on paper immediately.
  10. Sometimes, it’s more important to write randomly, than chronologically.
  11. It’s ok to take a short Facebook break now and then, but just a short one.
  12. It’s going to take at least three more binges to get this thing done.

—30—

Going on a Binge

BINGE – an act of excessive or compulsive consumption…

Twenty-four hours from now, I’m going on a 60-hour binge – a writing binge that is.

If you’re like me, you necessarily live your life in compartments – work, play, family time, hobbies, service, etc.

Our hope is that the lessons from the good compartments somehow permeate over into the not-so-good ones and that, in the process, we somehow find a pleasing life balance.

Unfortunately, I live life in binges.

Never have I been able to do a little bit of anything. I can’t just run 3 miles, it has to be 10; can’t just plant a small garden, it has to be an acre-plot; can’t just grill a few burgers and steaks, it has to be enough to feed the entire neighborhood.

And to be effective, I can’t just write effectively in spurts, it has to be extended, focused, dedicated time with a closed door, silence and no distractions. It has to be hours, not just an hour. And sometimes, days.

The book is now written and complete in my head, but it does me nor anyone else any good in that foggy place. It’s time for the vision to move through the heart, pass though the fingertips and onto the keyboard.

The interviews are complete; I see the pages; the sidebars are tucked away in the right corner of my brain; the graphics are in sight; I see the bolds, the itals and the garamond fonts; and the cover, it’s a thing of beauty to me.

But alas, they are but a vision. It’s time to let the Light produce the vision so all can see it.

The 60-hour binge is almost here.

I’ll see you when the binge is over.

I hope the hangover’s not too bad.

—30—

The Church “On the Verge”

(The following excerpts are notes I’ve highlighted from “On the Verge,” written by Alan Hirsch and Dave Ferguson. Full credit for these observations goes to the authors. This book was written as an observation from a 2011 meeting of pastors from 12 megachurches across the U.S. who analyzed their ‘attractional” vs. their “missional”growth strategies.)

  •  60% of Americans report significant alienation from contemporary church growth models.
  • This means a greater number of churches are competing for the 40% who do relate to current growth models. The question posed is how do we reach the 60% who are alienated? Bringing them to church no longer works. We must take the church to them.
  • Jesus intended the church to be much more of a movement than an institution.
  • Christianity is designed to be a people’s liberation movement, a social force, a viral idea passing from one person to the next through the medium of gospel and discipleship, creating gospel communities in its wake, and yet by most accounts, most churches can be described as institutional in form and nature.
  • Jesus reserved his harshest criticisms not for the so-called sinners, but rather for the religious people of his day. It explains why he chose and empowered ordinary people and not the religious elite to take the gospel to the world.
  • Jesus is a big believer in the human imagination. His parables are a perfect example.
  • Imagination is soaked in possibility. It can see around corners.
  • In order for the church to move forward, it must continually look back to the original model of the 1st Century.
  • Organizations can, over time, develop into impersonal institutions that tend to impose conformity (that is, crush creativity). They can become controlling entities that resist the promptings of the Spirit and undermine the people dynamic of the gospel.
  • Again, 60% of America’s population (much higher in Europe and Australia) is increasingly alienated from the prevailing forms of the church. In missionary terms, it means they are culturally distant from us. We need to ask the question, what is the gospel for this people group, otherwise we simply leave them in the dust.
  • If we persist with the current status-quo, we are in effect asking the non-believer to do all the cross-cultural work in coming to church. WE are the sent ones – not them. What is church for these people?
  • The church doesn’t consist of its institutions; it consists of the people of God. We know this in our theology, but our practice is almost entirely at odds with this belief. We have so identified the church with its rituals, theology, denominational templates, symbols and professional clergy that we can’t see this remarkable truth.
  • God is not only the creator, but also creative and constantly creating and reimagining.

Enough to digest for now, I think.

—30—

The 3-7-12 Principle (Part 2 of 4)

 

Seinfeld‘s George Costanza was on to something in the episode where he had a burning desire to name his firstborn “Seven.”

Seven Costanza – has quite a ring to it.

In introducing the 3-7-12 Principle last time we took a biblical look at the number 3, and many of its’ possible implications. Generally, we view the number three from its’ basis in the Trinity, and the “completeness” that it signifies throughout scripture.

So to begin the idea of the 3-7-12 Principle, we first have the completeness of three.

Now – what of seven?

It’s another undeniable theme throughout both the Old and New Testaments and the meaning is clear. I submit to you that God does not inspire subliminal messages in His Word. Among the examples:

  • Seven days of Genesis.
  • Seven seals of Revelation.
  • Seven angels.
  • Seven plagues.
  • Seven colors in the rainbow.
  • Seven Feasts.
  • Seven loaves and fishes.
  • How many times shall we forgive? Seven? No. Seven times seventy.
  • Seven – is mentioned seven times in Genesis 7.
  • Seven notes in the musical scale.
  • Solomon build the temple over seven years.

This is not the stuff of vagueness. It’s clear that God is telling us something here.

In seven, we have perfect completion. A finished task without error.

Clearly, God shows us there is application in this idea. Not that there’s anything magical about it, but there is something quite holy about it.

In the next post, we’ll take a look at the final number in the 3-7-12 Principal – the number 12, and then we’ll try to tie all this together and see what it means as a whole.

May God bless you and keep you, and may His mighty countenance be upon you.

—30—

The 3-7-12 Principle (Part 1 of 4)

(Blogger’s Note: This is the first in a series of four posts outlining the 3-7-12 Principle in my upcoming book: “Light Wins! …and the darkness is defeated forever…”)

John Maxwell has his 21 Irrefutable Laws; Rick Warren has his 40 Days of Purpose; and Stephen Covey has his 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

So, as we say down here in Arkansas … we’re already walking in some pretty tall cotton.

From the first printing of God‘s Word there’s been an interesting and ongoing dialogue about the significance, or lack thereof, of  the symbolism of biblical numbers. Could it be pure coincidence that we see the repeating theme of numbers throughout both the Old and New Testaments? I’m a believer that there’s not a single coincidental word in the Bible and so as a reader and a writer, I must conclude God desires that we delve into the meaning of these numbers for a greater understanding of his Holy Spirit as it lives in each and every Believer.

I’m no Robert Langston (the symbologist portrayed in Dan Brown‘s “The DaVinci Code“) … oh, but to be as suave and debonair as the character Tom Hanks portrayed in that series … but it seems the significance of certain numbers in the Bible, simply cannot be denied.

The writing process is one that comes with great learning. As we seek to learn about other things, we, in the process, also learn much about ourselves. And so the fascination of a writer’s journey is compounded with certain revelations.

I’ve noticed (with the help of others) that my own particular writing style is relatively metaphorical in nature, and that I subconsciously use numbers as an expression of those metaphors … particularly the numbers 3, 7 and 12. Those who write with a metaphorical tone are in good company, I’d say. The parables Jesus related throughout the New Testament were the ultimate, and most profound metaphors.

For now, let’s take a look at the Biblical significance of the number “3,” mentioned exactly 523 times in Scripture Some quick facts and observations:

  • Three attributes of God: omniscience, omnipresence, omnipotence.
  • Three crosses at Christ’s crucifixion.
  • Jesus was resurrected on the third day.
  • Jesus ran with a group of 12, but His inner circle consisted of three.
  • At 120 years old, Moses’ life was divided into three distinct periods of 40 each.
  • Three is God’s numerical “signature.”
  • The Godhead consists of three. Add up the Father, Son and Holy Spirit and you get “three.” But multiply 1 exponentially by three, and you still get “one.” 
  • Our earthly lives consist of three phases: Birth, Life, Death.
  • The Ark of the Covenant contained three sacred objects.
  • Holy, Holy, Holy.
  • It was in Genesis 1:3 when God spoke Light into being, eliminating the darkness forevermore.
  • “And if one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A chord of three strands is not quickly torn apart.” Ecclesiastes 4:12

And the list could go on and on…

There is power in the perfection of three. There is holiness and grace in the promise of three.

And there are principles we can follow in the priority of three.

(Next Post: “The Promise of Seven.”)