I love Easter Sunday. Kids’ in their little suits and dresses. Excitement in the halls. Decorations. Plastic eggs all over the playground. Tired women checking the clock worried the ham is going to burn.
There’s crafts, big music, candles. Who doesn’t love a celebration?
It’s safe. It’s fun. It’s tradition.
Yet, with all that I wonder if the world would be better off if every Christian church closed its doors on Easter Sundays.
I’ve always loved Easter. However, working on the “inside” of a church I learned three things about Easter Sunday.
Easter is a celebration for the Christian. It is a time to remember the basis of our faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus.
Easter is time where non-Christians or “Christmas/Easter Christians” who don’t normally go to church may walk through the door. Because of this, there is a huge emphasis on evangelism.
Easter and Christmas are the two biggest giving times of the year. It’s like Black Friday for businesses. It’s a time where budgets get caught up for the year because churches have bills to pay. Salaries, insurance, building payments, supplies, etc. Closing the doors on Easter could be catastrophic – financially.
The reason I think Christian churches should close the doors on Easter Sundays is largely based on #2.
In most churches across the US, the last few weeks have been focused on the service for Easter Sunday. Decorations made. Cool backdrops designed. The order of service has extra music, maybe even a skit. Only the best musicians and vocalist are used on Sunday.
A larger than normal “welcome team” is placed at the door. Extra something in the “welcome bags’ are thrown in. Children’s ministry has better than normal crafts.
Flyers or postcards have been made to “invite” people in the neighborhood. A large banner made with Easter service times posted on the exterior of the church. Website updated. Basically, “the mother-in-law is coming so let’s look put together and impressive as possible”.
What’s wrong with that? Why is a church focusing on evangelism on Easter Sunday an issue?
Because the Great Commission does not say, “Invite”, “Open your doors”, “Welcome in”.
It says, “GO”.
Here’s an idea: What if instead of opening our doors to invite people in, we closed our doors and actually did what the Great Commission says by going out?
It gets even crazier. What if Christians closed their doors on Easter Sundays and went out and cleaned trash, repaired roofs, cleaned the showers and disinfected the beds at the homeless shelters – WITHOUT MATCHING T-SHIRTS!
No, “we’re here from such and such church. Here’s a card if you’d like to join us next Sunday.”
What if we just went out and did our job by loving our neighbor as ourselves.
But, wait- there’s more! What if we didn’t go back and pat ourselves on the back. We forgo the slideshow of all the good work we did that day. We don’t use testimonies to make next year’s Easter “shut the doors event” even bigger and better because this year was such a “success”. What if we didn’t count numbers of how many people walked through our doors because we closed them.
What if we just did what we’re supposed to do.
Tradition? Or Transformation?
You may say, “We don’t want to close our doors because Easter is a celebration for the Christian”. I would agree. Let me challenge you with this then.
All the money spent for flyers, banners, extra crafts, set decorations, outside speakers or musicians, extra goodies in the welcome basket, and the prizes for “who brings the most people to youth group” that weekend was actually spent on your own flock.
You know the ones- the flock that God already gave you. What if that money was instead spent on extra money to the single moms who chose life WITHOUT the humiliating 5 page financial document proving they need help. Their single moms who chose life. Of course they need help!!! They’re not poor because their stupid. They’re poor because- hello- they’re single moms who chose life.
What if the best musicians were sent to the shut ins of your church. Instead of extra goodies in the bags or baskets, the money was used for a breakfast for the elderly.
What if the money raised on Easter Sunday wasn’t used for salaries that pay above the average American wage, but instead went to the hurting right in front of you.
I hear so many Christians over and over again comment on how bad the world is. How “out there” is trying to ruin what’s “in here”. AKA the Christian culture we’ve created.
But I have to ask, how much of the world being bad is our fault? We don’t and haven’t done what we were called to do. There’s no “build a gate”. “You’re better than them”. “Protect what’s yours”. Sorry. I could be wrong, but I’m fairly certain Jesus didn’t say those terms.
If we had closed our doors and done our jobs would “the world” be in this situation.? If every church closed it’s doors every Easter and simply went and did – more transformation by showing love and kindness would happen than any fancy service could ever provide a “non-believer”.
I know. You’re thinking Easter is this Sunday so obviously we can’t do anything about that.
I would ask you to do this:
Think about the above. Is Easter about evangelism, money for the church, or a celebration for the Christian? Pick a lane.
What can you do in your own home? Can you make one less side dish and give to feed a starving child in Syria? Can you tip the waitress at Easter brunch not double – but triple- WITHOUT saying what church you’re from??? Zero words. You just did the deed.
Be mindful when you throw out celebratory words this Sunday, without truly thinking about the implication to the person on the other end.
There is no difference between you and the Ukranian Christians right now who have had their tongues cut out, raped or shot. There’s no difference between you and the black brother or sister who has been shot in the back of the head. There is no difference between you and the parents who can’t afford ONE single gift or special food for their child this Easter.
It is not grace, because many of them know God, too. Use what resources you’ve been given in heart, spirit, but also in practical hands. Do what’s right because you can when others can’t.
In regards to our hearts at church on Easter Sunday:
‘We have fasted before you!’ they say. ‘Why aren’t you impressed? We have been very hard on ourselves, and you don’t even notice it!’ “I will tell you why!” I respond. “It’s because you are fasting to please yourselves. Even while you fast, you keep oppressing your workers.
What good is fasting when you keep on fighting and quarreling? This kind of fasting will never get you anywhere with me.
You humble yourselves by going through the motions of penance, bowing your heads like reeds bending in the wind. You dress in burlap and cover yourselves with ashes. Is this what you call fasting? Do you really think this will please the LORD ?
“No, this is the kind of fasting I want: Free those who are wrongly imprisoned; lighten the burden of those who work for you. Let the oppressed go free, and remove the chains that bind people.
Share your food with the hungry, and give shelter to the homeless. Give clothes to those who need them, and do not hide from relatives who need your help.
“THEN your salvation will come like the dawn, and your wounds will quickly heal. Your godliness will lead you forward, and the glory of the LORD will protect you from behind.
THEN when you call, the LORD will answer. ‘Yes, I am here,’ he will quickly reply. “Remove the heavy yoke of oppression. Stop pointing your finger and spreading vicious rumors!
Feed the hungry, and help those in trouble. THEN your light will shine out from the darkness, and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon.”
Stacy Pedersonis a funny motivational speaker who has almost died a bunch.
You took on the hardships, therefore they shouldn’t have to.
This is the “world according to Stacy”.
My daughter, Kathryne, has struggled with pain and fatigue since she was 16 years old. She’s been in and out of the ER. They did surgery last August on her ovaries.
This past February, her blood work tested positive for auto immune disease.
I was not happy. (To put it mildly.)
I told God that I found this to be highly inappropriate and unnecessary. I also shared that it hurt my feelings. I went through a lot, therefore my kids should not have to. Period. End of sentence. Then I wanted to give Him the silent treatment.
He was annoying because the more I pouted and put my hand up (literally-“talk to the hand” moment), He showed me it wasn’t my battle.
I had memories of my daughter, Kathryne, running around with her play-dough, paint, and crayons. She had boundless energy. Never slept. Soooo verbal she could repeat the alphabet by 18 months.
Her and my son fought since his birth. She ran over him with her doll stroller the very first time I laid him on the floor as a newborn. They fought fiercely, laughed fiercely, and always had each other’s backs.
She always loved the garden. She loved the kitchen. She loved picking fruits and veggies out of fields and going to the farmer’s market. She loved animals. She cried for days when a tractor ran over a waterbirds nest she had discovered and checked on daily at the age of 7. The eggs were crushed. She was crushed. I knew then I probably had a vegetarian on my hands.
She was fascinated by natural medicine. Spent her money on books. Tried nutrition school, but the professor refused to accept her accommodations with her dyslexia. The reading and constant harsh grading on her spelling became too much.
She was always stubborn but loyal. Loud but sensitive. Exciting but pensive. Social but suffered from severe homesickness. Bossy but giving.
She was her own. Honestly, that’s all I ever wanted for her from the get go. To be comfortable and feel loved as her true self.
After my illness, her Dad’s illness, she and her brother were not meant to suffer anything physical. Both her parents had taken on that so they wouldn’t have to. She was raised organic with a daily requirement of going outside to “get sun on her bones”.
This is what God showed me. Of all the people to struggle with an unknown diagnosis/cure, Kathryne was out of the box with food and medicine. She was stubborn and would try things on her own and never let a “we don’t know” stop her. In all of it, she would be able to give voice to her health journey through her art.
I’m still mad about it, though. I don’t like it. It’s uncomfortable. I think it’s unfair. I can’t fix it for her, and this is a problem for me.
There’s nothing more I wouldn’t love then to keep my kids in a nice fenced area away from all harm in life. Cute and cozy. However, I know they’d be parked at the fence trying to figure out how to get over it or through it, so I have to remember to leave the gate open.
I remind them on their journey to eat and drink water, be careful about those they choose to journey with, and if they need me I’ll come get them. However as they become, adults I mostly just watch them walk. Sometimes they stumble. In this case, I feel like a boulder fell on my daughter. I can rush to help, but eventually she’ll have to choose to get up and walk with a limp on her own.
I had a bad anxiety day. I have PTSD and most days are fine but some days I get a little panicky. I’m not at the window screaming for somebody to let me out…visibly anyway….
It’s more of an inability to calm down on the inside. To sit. Think. Create. I pace a lot. Get exhausted. Can’t find peace. Talking to people is too much. I move a lot but accomplish little.
I’ve learned over the years what sets those days off for me. It was inevitable because I set myself up for it.
I’ve been working too long for the last two weeks. Some people thrive on working until 9-10 at night. I don’t. My work requires a lot of thinking in order to create and it’s eventually exhausting.
My work also requires me to be an extrovert, and I am anything but. Putting myself “out there” all the time is innately uncomfortable. I adore and love people, but I also need to be a hermit away from social media, especially.
Some people hurt themselves running marathons, fighting wars, battling blazes, or reaching up to grab a cup off the shelf. Others of us hurt ourselves falling in prairie dog holes.
I was taking my dog Hazel for a walk. Now, I know what you’re thinking:
“Why were you walking out in the open prairie.”
I wasn’t. I was less than one block from my apartment building. I live in annoyingly white suburb that has as much diversity as a typical NFL coaching staff.
Hazel and I were meandering along the sidewalk when I caught a glimpse of another dog and it’s owner ahead. I, doing the correct thing, (since my dog is crazy) stepped off the sidewalk to make way for them and proceeded to fall directly into a prairie dog hole.
I woke up to the familiar sounds of an IV and vitals machine, but the walls were different. It was my fourth time in the hospital. The infection came out of nowhere-once again.
I could tell I was on the ground floor because of the trees outside my window. I didn’t know it at the time, but those trees would be burned into my memory so clearly. On days when it snows here in Colorado, I often have flashbacks of the snow falling on those trees.
They told me the hospital was full on the regular floors. I was the sickest outside of ICU, so they had moved me to the cancer ward.
The room was bigger than I was used to with tasteful wallpaper and paint. It had a serene feel. Serene for a hospital cancer ward, anyway.
The nurses were different there. They were less scurried and more present. Present enough for one of them to hold my hand when I fell apart and cried. It felt like the illness was a constant roadblock that kept me from moving forward with my life.
I was wrong. The illness would be THE thing that would give me an actual life.
The first night fell and I was alone. It was 11:20 pm when I heard it for the first time. It started as a muffled cry, then suddenly a shout. Then a wave of uncontrollable sobbing. It was from a woman down the ward.
I leaped out of bed this morning ready to contribute positive things to this world. Ok. That’s a lie. I hit my alarm for over an hour straight. Then slithered out from under the blankets begrudgingly and trudged all 4,000 miles to the kitchen for a glass of warm water.
“I just need to move around”, I thought. I finished laundry. Emptied the dishwasher. Stared out the window a lot. Then made the bed so I wouldn’t crawl back in it.
“Focus on others to get you going”, I told myself. I focused on the news. I focused on social media. I focused on how miserable I felt. When I thought, “focus on others” that wasn’t exactly what I had in mind. It was more, “focus on helping others”. That usually gets me perked up.
Hours later with an audition still to do and ½ finished script still to write, I’ve not done so great today. I have managed to go to the post office, make a smoothie, and research why your stomach gets so fat in your mid-forties. Followed by googling, “do any men like women with fat stomachs”. (Just as an FYI, don’t google stuff like that. I got a little more then I was requesting….)
You’ve been given opportunity. What are you doing with it?
Do you want to:
Further Your Education?
Start a Business?
You’ve been given opportunities other don’t have. Use it.
My kids are the first generation born in the USA on their Dad’s side. The first to have access to education, medical care, nutrition, job opportunities and in-door plumbing.
It was great because when my daughter was a teenager complaining about school I would say, “You could be married with three children at the age of 16 spending three hours a day carrying a jug of water on your head.” Why? Because that would have literally been her life.
People come to this country for opportunity and for freedom. Lay the politics aside and ask yourself the hard question, “What have I done with the freedom and opportunity I’ve been given?”
Stacy Pederson is a funny motivational speaker who has almost died a bunch.
2020 has been a year of exhaustion, refocus, more exhaustion, more refocus. Pivoting. Being paralyzed. Stressing. Relaxing. Sleeping more. Stressing more. And frankly wondering what in the heck I’m doing.
In quarantine I’ve been like hamster on a wheel. 1,000% in a cage. Going a hundred miles an hour with nowhere to go. The industry I work in vanished overnight. I found the need to create a new “income stream”. Hence the pivoting, refocus, paralysis….At the end, I’ve accomplished very little.
I “should” have handled it better. After all, I know how to do this. Embrace change. Deal with elements I’m not in control of. Live with the fear of losing a lot. I got this down.
And I do “handle it” considering I’ve been down this road before. With all my lack of grace and competency in 2020, I have remembered and held on to something very important.
The greatest lesson I learned in my past trek of getting sick, almost dying, living in financial straits, having PTSD and struggling with depression (how’s that for a positive sentence) is this:
In the abundance of fear, illness, lack of control, and stress, many of us have had to face scarcity for the first time in our lives. Scarcity of toilet paper beginning in March, scarcity of space in our homes, scarcity of jobs, scarcity of time, scarcity of support and scarcity of security/stability.
The tendency to hoard, to hold on, to hide out when things are scarce is a natural reaction. Recognizing the abundance you still have is a way to release some of the fear. Release some of the stress.
Abundance helps you release that tight grasp. Abundance helps you move towards a more open heart. A more open hand to give.
In the old days (pre-2020) we didn’t recognize all that we had. It was almost grotesque how much we took for granted. We walked into grocery store and got whatever we wanted, paid our bills, sent our kids to school while we worked, met with friends, watched sports, ate out on Tuesday…Wednesday…pretty much any day so we didn’t have to cook.
Yet we complained because, with all we had, we were still discontent.
Then came 2020. With it came scarcity. We crammed into our houses and had to look at the people we lived with in the eye. Some for the first time in a long time. We looked at the décor on our walls and the items shoved in the back of our closets. We looked at our emails and the news wondering if our jobs were next. We looked at the food we ate, the shows we watched, and the photos of the people we missed. We took a long hard look at our life.
With the lack of space, time, friendships and freedom we began to learn a very important lesson. A lesson contrary to every success book, every entrepreneur “secrets to being amazing”, every advertisement trying to entice us to buy more. A lesson I learned in a hospital bed.
-Homeschooling your kids while you worked and finding that little bit of heaven when nobody bothered you in the bathroom for 10 whole minutes. A small thing that meant so much.
-When loneliness crept in and your dog or cat hopped on your lap and looked you in the eye telling you there’s not just you. With him or her there’s always two.
-When taking a walk in the fresh air and open spaces lifted our butts off the bed and our mood in ways we never noticed before. A small thing that changed our whole day.
-When your paycheck came it held more significance. That job you hated was a lifeline you didn’t know you had.
-The phone or zoom call from family or friends – now took top priority.
-When the holidays came and you remembered eating your Grandma’s meal as a child. A small moment in the grand scheme of your life. But now the memories and the meaning hold such sweet abundance.
-Your health meant more. Having 8 rolls of toilet paper meant more. Watching your kids actually grow in front of your literal eyes. It all means more.
-There’s been abundance in our scarcity. Because we are forced to notice all the things we took for granted and missed.
When you think of the happiest moments of your life-most are in the small. Playing outside with your friends until dark. Driving in the front seat of your dad’s pick-up truck. The first time he or she caught your eye. Playing in the snow. Watching the waves. Getting your first small promotion. Laughing uncontrollably with someone you loved. This is where life happened. In the small.
In 2020 we’ve been faced with scarcity which has caused us to live in the small. This is where the abundance of real life-the good, the bad, and meaningful- all happens.
My hope is as life moves forward into 2021 and we find ourselves in something new, yet all too familiar, that we each remember the lessons we’ve learned. For so long we blindly believed the lie that more is always better. Bigger house, better job, more money, better body. Push harder. Be more. Do more.
May we remember what it meant to be squashed in a house full of people we loved and hated and loved some more. May we remember the value of having a small bowl of soup with someone special that far outweighs a fancy meal in a room full of people we don’t know. May we remember the value of a paycheck our hard work brings. May we remember the feeling of gratitude of having good health. May we remember all the small moments, all the small gifts, that made our life abundant in all the scarcity.