I'm pleased to be partnering with Family Christian Stores for this Easter post. While the post is sponsored, the opinions expressed here are my own.
I was one of those moms. After discussing it with my husband, we made some rather radical decisions.
We kicked Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy out of our house before they even had a chance to unpack their bags of tricks. We decided our daughter would not grown up believing in these legends.
A couple reasons for this decision. We wanted to place a high value on truth in our household. Always. Also, in consideration of our daughter's developing faith, we intended to celebrate the real reason for every season. Unsure about where that would lead us with the tooth fairy, but...
I know the arguments. I’ve read many articles on the topic. It’s all just for fun. Right?
Well, after parents make a decision like we did, the execution of your best-laid plans can be the greatest challenges. Holiday movies caused a big hiccup.
Instead of telling our daughter Santa didn’t exist, I told her the actual story behind the legend. That Saint Nicholas lived a long time ago and brought little kids gifts. Brilliant, right? She wouldn’t burst her peers’ bubble with the knowledge that Santa was a big, jolly ole fake.
This tactic blew up one night when visiting our friends in their home. Maybe you saw this one coming. I didn’t. The two kids ended up discussing Santa Claus. And our daughter, in all her wisdom, began shouting at the top of her lungs,
“He’s dead! Santa Claus is dead! He’s dead. He’s dead. He’s dead.”
You get the idea.
That was Santa. I thought the tooth fairy would be so much easier. He only flies into the picture a few times anyway, right? Our dentist has a sweet book about the various traditions kids have around the world when they lose a tooth. We read it every six months.
I told Allie we could just celebrate a different tradition with each tooth she loses. One time, we could throw her tooth on the roof like the children in Greece. Or bury it in the ground like they do in Malaysia. No way. When she caught wind of the tooth fairy leaving behind actual money, it was a deal breaker. She wanted in on that tradition.
That brings me to the Easter bunny. She was around two when our intentions got challenged with this one. There was an Egg Hunt at the local park. I’d decided to call them Spring Eggs. That way we could decorate them and hunt for them without tying them to the religious holiday of Easter.
Except, “Spring Eggs” always sounded so weird. Was that what this all was? Weird? And at this egg hunt, the Easter Bunny was scheduled to make an appearance. Was I planning to pick her up and run like a mad woman when she noticed him? Deny there was a six foot creature hopping along beside her wondering if she wanted a photo opp? No. We just stopped, posed for a picture and captured the adorable moment. Period.
If you’re keeping track, I’m zero for three on protecting my wee one from these childhood legends. I’ve had to rethink our approach in every instance.
This childhood peer pressure thing is real people.
So, in a nutshell, here are my adjustments. I don’t discuss these lovely three unless she brings them up. She’s never received a gift from Santa and we’ve discussed that it might be inappropriate to go around telling her friends he’s dead.
Her teeth seem to be holding on for dear life inside her mouth so she’s yet to lose a tooth. We’ll tackle that one when we actually need to.
As for the Easter festivities, she’s never gotten an Easter basket either. I buy some candy and she usually gets a gift. Because I’m the mom and I can give her a gift whenever I want. (sigh) Again, we just don’t make a big deal out of the bunny. He’s really not in our little world. We do decorate eggs and I simply refuse to call them anything. Just color the egg kid.
You’re probably shaking your head at me by now. I know I can have a tendency to go a bit too far. But I take this faith thing, like, really seriously. Instead of refusing to acknowledge these legends, we just reshifted our focus. That’s my solution.
At Christmas, we participate in Advent by piecing together the Christmas Story each day. Directly from the Bible. We sing Happy Birthday Jesus on Christmas morning. Other elements of our faith are woven in as appropriate.
Easter. We discuss Holy Week. What did Jesus do each day starting with Palm Sunday? This summer, we visited Cross in the Woods, which had the Stations of the Cross set along a nature path. We started learning about this tradition as well. We’ve done Resurrection Eggs.
We have several children’s books explaining the true meaning of the holidays. This Easter, might I suggest you look at including one of these in your child’s Easter, er, I mean Spring, (er, no, I don’t) baskets? Whatever you decide to do with Santa, the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny, please make sure Jesus remains at the center. Think the holidays through.
You can pick up any of these books at Family Christian Stores. Or click on the links to order online. Maybe throw in some fun faith-based trinkets too. My daughter can’t get enough of these when she visits our local store. Whatever gets the faith conversation started and keeps it going.
The Easter Story - This one just came out in January. Beautiful illustrations and tells the story in great detail. It's recommended for older children, ages 6-9.
The Tale Of Three Trees - I've had this one since my college days. Be sure and have Kleenex handy when you read it. Every. Time.
The Easter Story - I love the cover! Also just out in January. This book is recommended for a younger audience, ages 5-7.
I received a copy of the DVD "Confessions of a Prodigal Son" from Family Christian Stores for the purpose of generating a review. This movie just came out this week! Italicized quotes are either Scripture or from the movie. The opinions expressed here are my own.
The Parable of the Prodigal Son is perhaps one of Jesus’ most well-known parables. Right up there with the Good Samaritan. Some of His teachings known even beyond Christian circles.
I often think, though, what we don’t realize, is the cost involved in these stories. The pain endured. The humiliation suffered. If these had been real people....
Of course, these stories are lived out for real in all of our lives at some time or other. Which was absolutely the point Jesus set out to make.
When asked to review the DVD, Confessions of a Prodigal Son, my first thought was
I already know this story inside and out.
However, this was Sean’s story. His friend Cameron. The attractive girl who catches Sean’s attention, Ali. Sean’s parents, who go for two years without hearing from their son.
Sit in that for a moment. And the next time you read the story of the Prodigal Son (found in Luke 15:11-32), I’d encourage you to sit and reflect on that one too.
Sean grows up a PK (preacher’s kid). As he starts considering college options, he tells his parents in no uncertain terms that he wants to go out on his own. He wants the freedom he feels has always alluded him because of the high expectations put on him by his family and the church.
His parents give him half of his college savings and he does set out on his own. Finds new friends. Makes his own choices. We hear him rant time and again about how he wants to write his own story. He doesn’t want to answer to anyone. He’ll do it himself!
It’s all very hard to watch. Some of it reminded me of my younger years. At other times, I could see the future of my own CK (church kid). Also an Allie.
Predictably, it all falls apart. One too many bad choices. Too much “me me me” never bodes well.
At rock bottom, Sean makes the difficult choice to return home. Viewers watch a compelling sermon from his father, who openly admits on that particular Sunday, he just misses his son.
My favorite part of the parable of the prodigal son is found in this verse:
So he got up and went to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. (Luke 15:20)
In this movie, we see it happen right before our eyes. Right after the father’s sermon. No excuses. No questions asked. Just an outpouring of great love for the son who’s come home.
In Sean’s words,
“To rise from the ashes involves destroying a part of who you were. The beauty is revealed when we see who we can become.”
He parts ways with Cameron, who just isn’t ready for that kind of life change. He sets out to see about repairing the damage with his romantic interest, Ali. He explains to her all that’s happened. Here’s her response:
I’m not here because of who you’ve been. I’m here because I can see the man you’ve become and I’d like to know that guy.
This movie offers a good, modern-day retelling of the parable. An excellent living-out to show our youth. Also, what a reminder to us. Again, in the words of Sean,
I’ve heard it said every saint has a past; every sinner has a future.
We don’t have this conversation every Sunday. But at random times, my daughter doesn’t want to attend church.
I already know all those Bible stories (as if).
I want to watch a movie instead.
Why do we have to take time to do that?
Somewhere along the way, I developed a few answers I give her in response. Now, I have her tell me the reasons from memory.
Because it makes God happy.
Church fills us up.
In my years of ministry, I’ve heard so many stories of adults who were forced to go to church as a child. Every. Time. The. Doors. Were. Open. They grew resentful. Some stopped going altogether the first chance they had. Others refuse to make it a priority after having it shoved down their throats.
I don’t ever want to respond with “You’re going to church because I said so.” (Even if it’s true.) Instead, I try to teach about the relationship we find at church. Why I believe God would have us to go.
A few weeks ago, I mentioned these phrases to my mom. Immediately, she added one of her own to the list.
Someone there might need you. I knew instantly, she was right.
God loves to be in relationship with us. When we willingly, cheerfully, attend His house, He sees that our hearts want to worship Him. Singing with praise (even if it’s off-key), spending time in reflective prayer, responding to the words in the sermon, bringing our tithe, remembering Him through communion. All of these things please His holy heart.
We live very full lives. Even when much of our weeks are spent doing good - working as to the Lord and not unto man, attending Bible studies, meal ministries, volunteer hours - we can arrive at the weekend running on fumes. Enter Sabbath. A time to stop working. Rest. So many Sundays I step into the sanctuary needing this time with Him. The words in a song, the Scriptures we read, the application offered from each sermon or learned in a Sunday School class. They mean something.
As I mentioned, there are times I get to Sunday morning and my spiritual tank runs dangerously close to empty. God knows this. He also realizes that while seeking out those who need a hug or a greeting or a prayer might seem like work, really it’s all about filling me up too. Opening my Spiritual eyes. Refocusing myself on what God would have me to do.
For my daughter, to offer her big, genuine smile to everyone who greets her. In Jesus’ name. A chance to welcome those who are new to her Sunday School class. The opportunity to say a kind word to a peer who’s maybe having a hard morning and comes to class withdrawn and quiet.
I give these reasons to my daughter.
But really, they remain my reasons as well. The Big Three. Which reminds me of another three we read about in I Corinthians. The Love Chapter. They offer excellent reasons to be in church on a Sunday morning as well.
Now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love. I Corinthians 13:13 (HCSB)
I received a copy of "You're Loved No Matter What: Freeing Your Heart from the Need to be Perfect," written by Holley Gerth, from Family Christian Stores for the purpose of generating a review. Italicized quotes are from the author. The opinions expressed here are my own.
I dream of retreating to a monastery some day. The world is a noisy place and I do more than my share of contributing to it most of the time. Sometimes I just long for a place to reflect in silence.
If I ever get the opportunity to do a retreat like this, I’d take “You’re Loved No Matter What” by Holley Gerth with me. Right there in the bag with my Bible and pen.
Throughout the book, Holley explores our deep need to appear perfect. Why are we like this? How does it harm us? What can we do about it?
Early on in the book, she reminds us how beneficial making a mistake can be (yes, really) and how messing up in this way has different results than when we sin:
Mistakes help us learn; Sin is a choice we deliberately make even though we know better.
Mistakes are done with innocence; Sin comes from a heart that holds rebellion.
Mistakes lead to growth; Sin leads to decay.
Further, Holley moves on to helping us realize the benefit of saying no. We fear looking less than perfect when we can’t do it all. But guess what, we can’t do it all!
As she shares with us, even Jesus said NO:
No to becoming King (see John 6:15)
No to offers of instant satisfaction, wealth, and power (see Matt. 4:1-11)
No to coming right away when Lazarus became deathly ill (see John 11)
In addition to being a writer, Holley is a certified life coach. Much of her book walks you through things she’d work with if you met with her one on one. This part in particular made me long for a time of retreat. Long periods of uninterrupted time to explore the various personality tests in chapter six. Time to think through what practical applications from chapter eight I could implement in my own life.
You can’t read this book in one or two settings. It’s a slow, reflective process.
Using a variety of Bible stories and Scripture, Holley drives home the point that our very best weapon against perfectionism is the realization that we serve a God who already loves us so much.
God can’t be unloving.
God’s love has no limits.
God’s love has no requirements.
God’s love can’t be earned.
Just reading these words again made me sigh in relief.
Through the years I’ve looked into the eyes of hurting women and asked, “Do you really believe God loves you - not just tolerates you?”
This passage took me a recent activity we did in Bible study. We all wrote down “God does not hate me. He loves me!” Seemingly a simple phrase, but do we believe it? Enough that it changes us from the inside out?
“In the Christian life, our focus is never to be on results. Instead it’s to be on remaining.” (see John 15:5)
Finally, she takes us from examining how much we believe God loves us to how this effects the way we treat other people.
Our striving for perfectionism negatively effects those around us. This book gives example after example.
In discussing the various ways, I underlined and highlighted this sentence:
Gossip, criticism, and condemnation have one opposite: encouragement.
Every chapter ends with a series of questions to answer. In the back of the book, there is a “Go Deeper Guide.”
My reality is I don’t see myself getting away for a spiritual retreat any time soon. Chances are you don’t have that opportunity either. But this book could offer some real opportunity to reflect in the meantime.