21 Days to Easter

Reflections on the cross and resurrection

BONUS: 22

The Cross

by Wes Strieter

While focusing on the cross it has been hard for me to separate it from the empty tomb. Knowing the whole story, I wrap up all my hope in the cross. The cross is where the work was done. It is the moment the last check for my debt was written to God. Our receipt was the empty tomb. That is our proof.

However, I seem have to have found myself surrounded more than ever with people who do not want anything to do with Jesus. People who see only the moral rules we try to enforce on them. People who see an outdated worldview compared to science. People who believe that dead men stay dead. For these people the cross is where the buck stops.

And that could very well be the same for us. Good Friday could have been Jesus' last breath. The cross is the final natural moment we have of a supernatural worldview. However as stated before I have this hope because I have the whole story. I have seen and felt the effect of a risen Christ. For me the cross is where I buy. For me the cross is where the buck starts. 


21

Resurrection Sunday

by steve rieske

This is the reason we celebrate: the King has returned. This is no human king, full of selfish intentions and vain ambitions. This is a king sent to be a servant; to teach us the ways of the Kingdom. Where the world says take, He says give. Where the world says run, He says stand. Where the world says raise your sword, He shows us how to sheath it. He preaches a Kingdom of love and a world of hate rejects it, and still, He persists.

    He persists in loving and showing us how to love. He kneels and washes our feet. He heals our wounds and our iniquities. To the outcasts of the world He keeps close and to the haughty he walks away; He refuses to play their game. All of this was in a desperate attempt to show us the way of the Kingdom; the way of His Father; the way we were meant to live.

    Yet the world of hate rejected Him. They connived and they schemed. They abandoned and they taunted. They betrayed and they arrested. The King of Love and Peace was branded as a heretic. They tortured Him, they mocked Him, they spit upon Him; yet the King made no defense. He raised no hand but instead taught the ultimate sacrifice that love was. There, he died rejected, alone, and defeated. But that is not the end of the story. 

Our King marched into the gates of death. He grasped the snake by the throat as He marched. Relentlessly, he marched onward: He picked up every chain that bound us to the grave and every demon that tried to destroy us. Onward into the pits of hell. This act in itself is enough to remember His legacy: the King who died in our place, the King who defeated death, the King who set us free. But that is not the end of the story.

The gates of death stood for three days: cold, silent, dead. Suddenly, they shattered. The King of Love and Peace, the Lion, burst forth. With Him he brought the keys to that shattered gate in case death sought to destroy again. He marched out of death alone, no longer accompanied by demons or chains. Out of the grave he walked, with an open hand: the King returned with a promise--anyone who trusts in Him and lives the ways of the Kingdom can do the same.

    This is why we celebrate. This is why we worship. This is why we dedicate every fiber of our being and tacit of our life: the King of Love and Peace has broken death and taught us to live in perfection. What more could be worthy of our lives?

"But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us."
Romans 5:8 NIV


20

The King Returns

by Tyler bock

This is the reason we celebrate: the King has returned. This is no human king, full of selfish intentions and vain ambitions. This is a king sent to be a servant; to teach us the ways of the Kingdom. Where the world says take, He says give. Where the world says run, He says stand. Where the world says raise your sword, He shows us how to sheath it. He preaches a Kingdom of love and a world of hate rejects it, and still, He persists.

    He persists in loving and showing us how to love. He kneels and washes our feet. He heals our wounds and our iniquities. To the outcasts of the world He keeps close and to the haughty he walks away; He refuses to play their game. All of this was in a desperate attempt to show us the way of the Kingdom; the way of His Father; the way we were meant to live.

    Yet the world of hate rejected Him. They connived and they schemed. They abandoned and they taunted. They betrayed and they arrested. The King of Love and Peace was branded as a heretic. They tortured Him, they mocked Him, they spit upon Him; yet the King made no defense. He raised no hand but instead taught the ultimate sacrifice that love was. There, he died rejected, alone, and defeated. But that is not the end of the story. 

Our King marched into the gates of death. He grasped the snake by the throat as He marched. Relentlessly, he marched onward: He picked up every chain that bound us to the grave and every demon that tried to destroy us. Onward into the pits of hell. This act in itself is enough to remember His legacy: the King who died in our place, the King who defeated death, the King who set us free. But that is not the end of the story.

The gates of death stood for three days: cold, silent, dead. Suddenly, they shattered. The King of Love and Peace, the Lion, burst forth. With Him he brought the keys to that shattered gate in case death sought to destroy again. He marched out of death alone, no longer accompanied by demons or chains. Out of the grave he walked, with an open hand: the King returned with a promise--anyone who trusts in Him and lives the ways of the Kingdom can do the same.

    This is why we celebrate. This is why we worship. This is why we dedicate every fiber of our being and tacit of our life: the King of Love and Peace has broken death and taught us to live in perfection. What more could be worthy of our lives?

"But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us."
Romans 5:8 NIV


19

Jesus Freaking Loves You

by Ricky May

JESUS FREAKING LOVES YOU.

Stop. Stop what you’re doing right now and think about this:

What if God is not mad at you?

What if he forgives you for that horrible thing you did (yes, that one, you know what I’m talking about)?

What if His Word says that he has separated you from that sin as far as the east is from the west? (Ps 103:12)

Jesus loves you so much he thinks you’re TO DIE FOR, and that’s what Good Friday is.


Now go back and read this 3 more times. Sit in silence for five minutes, close your eyes, feel the brightness of God shining through your eyelids, and bask in His presence like it’s a day at the beach. 

Doesn’t that feel good? 

Now. One more thing. Go in your car and put this song on blast: https://youtu.be/iX59fjowutw

Worship God. Soak it up. Drive into the country for a couple miles then drive back. Revel in the awesomeness that is God!

DO IT. I know you’re busy. But do this ONE thing for God today. It’ll take 10 minutes max. Take a detour on your way home from work. Or use it as an excuse to go get ice cream and worship God as you eat an amazing delicious hot fudge sundae. 

I promise it’ll be so worthwhile!


18

Abide With Me

by erin Kessler

John 15:9 - “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you.  Abide in my love.”

In reflecting on Jesus' death and resurrection, I am incredibly grateful and humbled that it means that I get to have a personal and intimate relationship with him. I recently did a six-day exercise in a spiritual discipline called centering prayer: you set aside twenty minutes each day to focus on God’s love, and choose a word or part of God’s character to concentrate on to harness your wandering thoughts. It was really fun that each day something different stuck out to me (a few examples are the river of life, fullness of joy, and lover of my soul)! 

Now I must confess that as much as I try to not enter prayer with any expectations of feeling God’s presence, there is always a lingering fear and lie that is lurking that God isn’t going to show up. But you know what? God ALWAYS shows up! It just may not be the way that I want him to, or would like to feel after getting up from a time of prayer. However, the Holy Spirit reminds us and whispers to us that he is still with us, even when our minds and our feelings cannot make sense of it. He really is the “with us” God!  

My prayer for you, dear reader, is that your gaze will be fixed upon God today. During Lent, we practice different ways of remembering and reflecting, and they are very good exercises to do, but my prayer is that your focus is not on any particular spiritual discipline or fruit of those exercises, but on God himself! Purely, simply, God, and He is oh so worthy of our praise and adoration.


17

Carpe Diem

by deb Kelly

What pain are we hiding behind our smiles?

Everyone walks around looking like they have their lives together, but no one talks about the pain swirling inside our heads--the pain that keeps us awake at night worrying about what happened yesterday and today or what on earth will happen tomorrow. 

During this Easter season, let’s take time to imagine the pain Jesus took for our sins before we celebrate his rising on Easter Day! 

Hug your loved ones, be kind to everyone, and never presume everyone around you is ok. Share your struggles with someone so you know you aren’t alone. 

Lend an ear to a friend or acquaintance who may be trying to share their pain with you!

You never know who’s life you may be saving....just by being kind.

Isn’t that God’s reason for us to be here? To love God and everyone around us?

In memory of Eric Baer, who’s smile I will never forget, and all who suffer this pain. 


16

Hello

by Martha Chandran Dickerson

I was shopping for groceries in Meijer, pushing my cart past people, wondering what their stories were. People-watching has a certain wonderment; a pastime I derive a measure of pleasure from. Perhaps it’s because I’m a voyeur, or even a straight-up stalker, or perhaps it’s because I’m from foreign places where staring isn’t socially awkward. Or, perhaps the reason I read others is because I am a writer. The writer’s work is all about the delicate details,  the negligible nuances, the story surrounding the story. People are mystery and minutiae within tissue and skin.


So this day, I was doing what I was always doing, scoping out sales, avoiding carnage with carts, and then I saw him. A middle-aged man with a red baseball cap on. Baseball caps are one of the most iconic American accouterments, and, as of 2015, divisive. Divisive when they have the MAGA slogan embroidered on them. I had seen several on the news, but not a single one within stone’s throw. Anddd I froze. Here was a person who might see someone like me and (for all I know) might despise me. Here was a person who I was convinced could be nothing like me.


But then the Spirit stirred within, and as I watched him push his cart to the frozen food section and pull out microwaveable meals, my heart suddenly softened. I decided that I knew nothing about him other than how he presumably voted. Maybe he had experienced profound loss, maybe he was lonely, maybe he didn’t dislike people like me. So I decided that I would not push my cart away. I would not let my fear have the final say. So I pushed my cart purposefully forward, smiled at him, said, “Hello.” He looked back at me, nodding in acknowledgment.


When Jesus abdicated His heavenly throne, took human form and hung Himself on the cross for me, He did it because He knew my story: He was its writer. He loved me even when I did not love Him first; He pushed His cart towards me and said, "Hello.”


15

Take The Plunge

by Tracie Wilhelm

Take the plunge into the river of life with Jesus.

Without him there is no true passion of love and life. Wickedness and sin take hold of our hearts without us even realizing the depth at which they grow and flow from us.

Without Jesus we do not realize the ripple effect the darkness in our lives causes for our family, friends, and those we come into daily contact with. Those ripples become waves that crash down and beat us into submission, leading us to believe we are unworthy, unloved, and cast aside. Those dark places deliver hurt, pain, and anger that can break even the strongest individual. Please do not lose heart….

Take the plunge into the river of life with Jesus.

Wake up renewed, refreshed, and rejuvenated in the blood of Christ. For no matter where you are, where you’ve been, or where you’re going, Christ is with you. He loves you, He wants the best for you, and He already gave the ultimate sacrifice for you. You are forgiven and redeemed. Lift your weary head and see the light that has been seeking your heart this whole time. Let the waves become a gentle roar as the shield of Jesus protects you. Pure love and passion have found you in an instant with Christ. Restore and keep your faith held strong, for you have chosen to…

Take the plunge in the river of life with Jesus. 


14

Not Supposed To Die

by Beth stratmann

I saw the emergency vehicles outside his house on the drive home. Jonny was absent from school that day. Since we were neighbors, I watched the chaos from a distance. When they wheeled him out, an EMT stood on his stretcher, continuously doing chest compressions, trying to bring Jonny back. My 8th grade classmate died that day. I was shocked. Fourteen-year-olds are not supposed to die. I went to his funeral, attended his graveside service, and sat with friends in confusion for days. 

In a small way I can relate to Jesus’ disciples. Surely Jesus was not supposed to die. He was coming to rule as King. He paraded into Jerusalem just days before. But then he died. They watched the chaos of the cross from a distance, saw his lifeless body, noted where he was buried, and sat in confusion for days.

Death hurts so much because it was not part of God’s original plan. Death was not supposed to happen. But God is such a masterful storyteller that not even sin and death can twist the plot. When death was introduced, God determined to let his Son die to trump sin and death. Imagine the disciples’ surprise when the tomb was empty, reports Jesus was alive circulated, and then He was right there in front of them. All his promises finally made sense. The ancient scriptures announced the Messiah would die and come back to life, to rescue those trapped in death and give us eternal life with him. 

Jesus was not supposed to die; I was. But He did, so I could have life.

“Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.” I Cor. 15:3-4


13

Unwrapping Redemption

by amy seiffert

There's something incredibly sweet about who was first to know that Jesus is alive. That Jesus is a tomb-survivor. That Jesus slayed death.

There is something lovely and telling that God wanted a faithful group of women, who came carefully and tenderly to wrap up a broken body, to be the first to know. To be the first to understand that the one they put so much faith in could still be trusted. 

They came ready to wrap up death. But instead God unwrapped life.

To some average women.

It's healing. Seeing these women and sisters and mothers running to tell some incredibly shocking news. 

It's beautiful. Seeing Peter in action to see for himself because of the words of these women.

It’s captivating. Seeing women, like myself, in the story. I love being one of them. 

It's redeeming. Eve carried death with her out of Eden. Mary carried The Good News in her belly. These women carried the resurrection story to the world. 

As carefully as the women came to wrap up Jesus' broken body, God carefully unwrapped the redemption story. 

And this was always His way. During Jesus’ time on Earth, He unwrapped redemption wherever He went. He took the weak and made them strong. He took five loaves and fed five thousand. He took the voiceless and gave them voice. He took nameless women and named them His. He took His body to the grave. He left death there to stay.

Praise to the One who unwrapped redemption in every possible way. 

“But very early on Sunday morning the women went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. They found that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance. So they went in, but they didn’t find the body of the Lord Jesus. As they stood there puzzled, two men suddenly appeared to them, clothed in dazzling robes.

The women were terrified and bowed with their faces to the ground. Then the men asked, “Why are you looking among the dead for someone who is alive? He isn’t here! Heis risen from the dead! Remember what he told you back in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be betrayed into the hands of sinful men and be crucified, and that he would rise again on the third day.”

Then they remembered that he had said this. So they rushed back from the tomb to tell his eleven disciples—and everyone else—what had happened. It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and several other women who told the apostles what had happened. But the story sounded like nonsense to the men, so they didn’t believe it. However, Peter jumped up and ran to the tomb to look. Stooping, he peered in and saw the empty linen wrappings; then he went home again, wondering what had happened...”

- Luke 24: 1-12 NLT


12

Why Do We Look For

Life Among The Dead?

by brad yaniga

But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared.  And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.  While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel.  And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, "Why do you seek the living among the dead?  He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise." (Luke 24:1-7)


The introduction to Luke 24 is one of my favorite passages in all of Scripture! The profound truth of the Gospel is told in a simple and clever way. It is first seen that, early in the morning, women who had witnessed the crucifixion were going to the tomb to anoint the body of Jesus with spices they had prepared, but they were perplexed when they arrived to find the stone rolled away. Though Jesus prophesied His own crucifixion during His ministry, they (1) were committed to anointing the dead body of Jesus and (2) were perplexed at the site of the empty tomb. They didn’t put it together themselves. How often do our own assumptions get in the way of the direct application of Jesus’ teaching?!

Suddenly, the angels appeared and asked why they sought the living among the dead. I often interpret this as a delightful and innocent question with the express purpose of directing them to an obvious solution. Angels, though unable to participate in God’s salvation, can rejoice in its fulfillment. It feels similar to someone wanting to give a huge gift at Christmastime. Has this ever happened to you? Someone has a great gift to give and asks a leading question to reveal it? The joy of Easter morning and the message sent to tell of Jesus’ resurrection! There is much rejoicing in the mere asking of this question. We are reminded in our own lives today of this question: why do we look for life among the dead? Look to Jesus for life! This is one of my favorite passages.

 May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you.


11

First Communion

by sam schmitt

The first time I took communion after becoming a believer was a Friday. It was Good Friday. Walking toward the front where the elements waited, I wondered what sin, what brokenness, hung on me as a result of my own wrongdoing. Too, what could be hanging on me as the sin-induced hangover of humanity: the rind of some forbidden fruit, every child of God overlooked, the ash from Auschwitz? It is no small miracle (since there are no small miracles) that we ever have communion, let alone for the first time. And how easily we miss Jesus the Christ for who He is and for what He did! The passage below draws me back to that Friday night, and to that Friday millennia hence. The sentences below are a warning for us: may we never be so clever or so refined that we do not deign to recognize or follow Christ in suffering for others.

"Just as we were all, potentially, in Adam when he fell, so we were all, potentially, in Jerusalem on that first Good Friday before there was an Easter, a Pentecost, a Christian, or a Church. It seems to me worthwhile asking ourselves who we should have been and what we should have been doing... In my most optimistic mood I see myself as a Hellenized Jew from Alexandria visiting an intellectual friend. We are walking along, engaged in philosophical argument. Our path takes us past the base of Golgotha. Looking up, we see an all too familiar sight--three crosses surrounded by a jeering crowd. Frowning with prim distaste, I say, 'It’s disgusting the way the mob enjoys such things. Why can’t the authorities execute criminals humanely and in private by giving them hemlock to drink, as they did with Socrates?' Then, averting my eyes from the disagreeable spectacle, I resume our fascinating discussion about the nature of the True, the Good, and the Beautiful."   
                                               -WH Auden, A Certain World


10

Long Live the King

by Steve Rieske

The cross. The grave.

Evil sometimes looks like it has Good defeated or held down.

Judgment and condemnation come speeding on the wing to accuse and to shame.

The accusers stand with arms crossed, smug looks on their faces, thrilled to watch the Righteous fall.

The abusers walk away from their crime, assuring themselves that might has made right.

The Thief—that ancient foul rebel—exults in his victory, congratulating himself that his thievery has worked, as though he actually can kill and destroy.

And just when it looks like evil really has won...

The King, thought lost forever to that ancient abyss from whence none return, tears its gates asunder and walks out as not only Lord of Heaven, but as Conqueror of the Cosmos and Defeater of Death itself. Death?!? Death, who loses to no one, has met the one who cannot be held in thrall and has been crushed underfoot!

What can the accuser say?

The King has won.

The Thief has lost.

His destruction lasts for a moment, but the Resurrection is forever. All he has left are his threats and lies. Don’t believe him. He’ll try to convince you that his minion Death will hold you under and that he can defeat you. But all who are in Christ cannot be held. Though they be crucified, accused, rejected, abused, or persecuted, they cannot be held in death. Resurrection is theirs forever!

All hail the King! The King is risen!

The Lord of Life is risen! He is risen indeed.


9

Life: A Gift!

by Kerry Stoots

“Hey Mom? I think Dad is going to die first,” I hear my four-year-old shout from the living room. It’s the kind of comment that stops me in my tracks (not to worry: according to his logic, Dad is the oldest in our family, and people die when they’re old.)

There’s been a lot of talk about death in our family this season. After my uncle passed away, I found myself thrown into conversations with my two and four-year-old that I wasn’t prepared for. “No, we don’t live on Earth forever.” “Sorry, I can’t show you a picture of heaven on my iPhone.” “I’m not sure if people wear shoes in heaven.” “Yes, heaven is a GOOD thing--we are excited to go there!”

All of these questions brought this Easter season close to mind. What if I didn’t have an answer to life after death? What would our lives look like without the Cross and the Resurrection? The death of our loved ones, of our children, of US would be just that: the end.

But fortunately the Cross and the Resurrection changed everything. Our lives won’t end on the day we take our last breath on Earth. Instead, we’ll get to experience eternal life with the God who created us. What a gift!

So, as Easter approaches, take some time to reflect on the joy of LIFE that the Cross and Resurrection give to us. We can rest in that truth. We can find peace. We can have hope. And we can know that, even in the darkness that the circumstances of our world can bring, the LIGHT is on its way.


8

Redemption

by Rebecca kendrick

In a broken world where all seems lost, redemption sits upon the cross.

It waits to heal the tear-stained cheek. It beckons both the strong and meek.

It is not earned. It is not lost. He laid forgiveness over cost.

Our ransom paid before our birth, when love came down to save this earth.

Why pay this price? What could be gained?  

Our world of hate and sin is slain.

The sin that nailed me to the cross was soaked in blood – not mine – not tossed.

But shattered wholly seen no more, through grace forgiven, life restored.

From cross to grave its power lost. Christ arose. He paid my cost.


7

What’s On Your Mind?

by savilla bannister

“What’s on your mind?”

“Is your mind wandering?”

“Are you out of your mind?”

These are questions we frequently ask of those closest to us, because (unless they tell us) we have NO IDEA what might be going on inside their heads. Our amazing brains…the thoughts we think…the dreams we dream…and the lies we tell. Our thoughts can keep us moving forward or completely derail our progress. So how do we keep our minds in check?

Great news! The transformational power of Jesus can renew our minds! When Jesus defeated death and sin, he defeated the enemy’s ability to control our minds, and this is a marvelous gift. Putting on the new self, like putting on our new Easter outfit, is a decision we can make. Let’s do it!

"Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will." - Romans 12:2

"You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness." - Ephesians 4:22-24


6

It Should Have Been Me

by amber hines

It should’ve been me. 
I’m the one who’s lied, 
cheated, 
coveted, 
dishonored her parents,
idolized people and things of this world,
toiled on the Sabbath, 
and used our Father’s name in vain. 
But not you, Jesus. Your soul was clean. Not dirty like mine. 
So it should’ve been me up on that cross and not you, an innocent man. 
You took my place, died the death I deserve. 
Each day I try to not let your death be in vain. 
And each Easter I am so grateful for the sacrifice that you made so that I may live and praise your holy name.


5

The Absurdity of the Cross

by john steiner

“Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.’” -Matthew 16:24

I often need to remind myself that nobody in the 1st century Roman empire wore a little golden cross on a necklace.

Nobody wore clothing with the image of a cross embroidered or painted on it. Certainly, nobody would permanently inscribe a cross on their skin as a tattoo. 

I need to remind myself that the disciples would have found the cross to be as horrifying as we might find waterboarding. Because the cross wasn’t meant to symbolize victory. It was, and is, one of the most horrifying, painful, and humiliating ways that we have ever invented for killing a person.

As a disciple of Christ Jesus, I need to be ready to deny myself in more ways than I am comfortable with. I fast from certain foods for weeks, or from all food for a short time. I push myself to be spiritually and emotionally vulnerable when I could just tell my community that I’m “fine, just a little tired.” I even put effort into encouraging my friends and praying for their needs. And while it’s easier not doing those things, I’m relatively comfortable doing them. 

But taking up my cross means being ready to look like the lowest, most hated member of society. It means letting go of comfort, social approval, and every other thing that God might ask me to abandon.  And this absurd choice can only make sense because of Jesus’s promise in the next verse:

“For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” -Matthew 16:25


4

To Life

by traci weaver

I am dead
I am lost 
I am alone
I am wrong
I am scared
I am scandal
I am scarred

I’m hazy,
numb,
mistaken,
insecure,
panicked,
broken, 
blistered
and blind

I am small

a turn, a
spark in a seemingly 
sunless moment, a hint of
light through the haze

It does not feel good.

I continue
I continue
I continue
I dive
I struggle
I reach

It cracks and seeps

Do I hear?
Do I seek?
Do I find?
I continue
I continue
I continue

I blunder
I wander
I wonder
I see
I feel?
I meet

I am found.

I step
I stumble
I steady
I follow
I follow
I FOLLOW

I focus
I grip
I cling
I melt
I hold...
Am held

I belong

I know now
I am clear
I am filled
I am renewed
I am joined
I can

I bloom
I expand
I reach
I give
I lavish
I love

I am alive.


3

White Dress Shoes

by JEss hover

I grew up in a fairly ‘formal’ church: mysterious rituals, group unison readings, lengthy sermons, and worship anthems that went on for days. As a kid, I distinctly remember Easter Sunday being the first day of wearing the new season’s white dress shoes. They were SO tight, painfully stiff, and as uncomfortable as the hard pews in which we sat. Oh, but they were shiny and unmarked by the scuffs that summer would bring. 

The pastor would begin the Easter service with the classic call-and-response, “He is Risen!”, and the congregation would excitedly reply, “He is Risen indeed!”

 The energy of the crowd in saying those words...the tears in my grandpa’s eyes as he sat beside me, shouting them out...that moment when we recognize Jesus ROSE. HE ROSE. For us. And we are changed. Redeemed. Energized. Transformed. And just like my white, shiny shoes, everything was pure again. Easter was and always will be a reset for me: an opportunity to fully embrace the fact that we are forgiven, that the covenant with God is written on our hearts, that we are so loved.


2

Holding My Breath

by Christy boggs

I find myself

Holding my breath

Unaware

Until I push it out

Focused

Through tight lips

Exhaling

Against the weight

of sorrow

of pain

of the way I think the world

Should be

Against the weight

of the things I don't understand

can't accept

So I hold my breath

And wait

for a time when

The breath in our lungs

Can't be taken

by cancer

or sorrow

or violent men

I wait

for a place where

With Your breath

in our lungs

We can finally

breath free

Fully alive


1

Freedom: Effort vs. Earning

by trinity gawron

Even as a young Christian, I understood that Christ’s death freed us from sin. Freedom from the death that sin brings and from the cycle of sin in which we as humans get trapped. 

As I’ve grown in life experience and faith, I’ve watched in wonder at the ways Jesus has brought freedom from addiction, freedom from shame and fear, freedom from impatience and anger. I’ve seen how He has breathed freedom into marriages, churches, and relationships. 

Although I know in my head that my life was purchased through the love of our Father and that I’ve been adopted as His daughter, I still struggle in my heart with the idea I need to strive to be and do my best, maybe earning something with God as I live.

Any other people pleasers out there? I so quickly believe the lie that I’ll be totally fulfilled when everyone has been cared for and is happy. If no one is disappointed with me, I can finally breathe easy.

Anyone else feel tremendous worth when you’ve worked hard and accomplished a ton? I can really rest when all the things have been crossed off the list.

Anyone else feel like you’ll be proud of yourself if you do all the things right, love all the people well, and serve for all the right reasons? And maybe--even if it’s hard to say aloud--I believe that’s what will make God proud too, or make Him love me more. 

As we approach the days remembering His death and resurrection, I’ll be preaching to my own heart: the cross gives me the freedom from earning. That doesn’t mean I need to stop working hard, stop serving, or forget about living out the Bible’s instruction. But it means I can breathe and rest BEFORE I do those things. I can breathe in the truth that God loves me regardless of whether or not I can make my whole sphere of people happy. I can rest in the truth that He won’t love me more if I crush my whole to-do list like a boss. I can feel my worth in the fact that He cannot love me anymore than he does already if I am more or do more. 

As children of God, we are freed from the striving, 
freed from the futile pursuit of trying to earn God’s love.