Meet my sister-in-law, Haley. She homeschools her two boys, grows a garden in her backyard, cooks excellent meals, is a born-and-bred-nurturer, and always makes the running of her household seem like a smooth and easy task. She is prepared for every holiday at least two days in advance, while I am running around like a chicken with my head cut off. Think Ma from Little House on the Prairie (minus the girdle), and you’ve pretty much got the right picture. Plus, she is beautiful to boot.
So it comes as no surprise that she had the best idea when it came to making Easter baskets….she introduced us to the Easter Nest.
The Saturday night before Resurrection morning, she takes her boys out to the grassy area behind my in-law’s ranch house and helps them build their Easter Nest with rocks and grass. The next morning the boys awake to see what the Easter bunny has left in their nests.
For the past three years, Aunt Haley has helped my girls build their own Easter Nest, and the tradition has stuck. Who needs wicker baskets and bows when rocks and grass make a much cozier spot for the Easter Bunny?
This year, the image of the nest and the grass brought to mind the words from the prophet Isaiah: “The grass withers, and the flowers fade, but the Word of our God stands forever.” Isaiah 40:8
So on Easter morning, my girls awoke to find the words to Psalm 19:7-11 in their Nests:
“The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul;
The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.
The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart;
The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes.
The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever;
The judgments of the Lord are true; they are righteous altogether.
They are more desirable than gold, yes, than much fine gold;
Sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb.
Moreover, by them Your servant is warned;
In keeping them there is great reward.”
Most of the gifts we will give our children this year will fade. Most of them will break. Or get lost or thrown out or worn out.
But one thing will never fade or wear out or burn out, nor will your children ever tire of its beauty or its reward: The Word of God.
We will build lots of nests for our children this year. We build them nests to come home to after a long day at school. We build nests for them on sports teams or in a special interests or hobbies. We build nests in the vacations we take and in the fun outings we make. But are you building them nests, day in and day out, that house the Word of God in their lives?
One day, when they have homes of their own, and tragedies of their own, and struggles, triumphs, joys, and tears of their own, will they have nests of the Word planted deep within them?
Do not make the mistake of satisfying your children with building them the nests you think they want; build them the nests they NEED and fill them with what will LAST.
“The grass withers.” Just look at our Easter Nests now, gone with the heat of the sun.
“And the flowers fade.” Just look at the lilies from our table on Easter Sunday, brown with uprooting.
“But the Word of God stands forever.” The Scripture that is planted in their hearts yesterday and today will abide in their hearts forever, springing forth into eternal reward.
As Easter People, sitting at an Easter Table, build Easter Nests, filling them with the Word of God, which will last forever.
The table I set for Easter looks different than the table I set at any other time of the year. My table sometimes has flowers; it sometimes has candles. At Christmastime it has an Advent wreath, and at Thanksgiving it boasts a ceramic turkey. But Easter is the only time it has a cross.
I must confess I did not set this particular table. It was beautifully done by a beloved family friend and mentor at my in-laws’ table in Brenham, Texas.
But her table, and my table at home, got me thinking: shouldn’t our tables, no matter the season, no matter the meal, always be set with the cross at the center?
As we serve our plates, shouldn’t we also be serving up grace to those who sit in our chairs? As we unfold our napkins, shouldn’t we also be unfolding mercy and tucking in compassion, particularly to those in our seats who are suffering?
As we pick up our forks, shouldn’t we also be picking up patience, ready to have it at our lips in responses to those around us? As we fill our stomachs with food, shouldn’t we fill our hearts with love – love that does not seek its own but leaves the confines of our own schedules, our own emotions, our own weariness, our own inconveniences and seeks to shoulder the burdens and minister to the wounds and weariness of those around us?
Perhaps it just means listening as opposed to talking. Or talking instead of sulking. Perhaps it means putting yourself in the other person’s shoes instead of judging. Or giving grace instead of nitpicking.
But if we are Easter People, then at the center of every table, Easter weekend or not, should be the Cross.
Joanne Thompson in her excellent book Tablelife says it best: “Jesus isn’t at risk of catching the disease of sin because He eats with sinners; sinners are at risk of being drawn to grace by eating with Jesus.”
Are those at your table drawn to grace because the cross is at the center of your table, your meal, your heart, and your lips? And have you invited those who do not Jesus to regularly sit at your table? Those who need the risk of exposure to a grace-filled God?
Hear me loud and clear: when it comes to sinners at the table, I am chief. I have been known to tell my children to stop touching me at the table when they desperately needed a touch. I have selfishly told my children to be quiet and keep their stories to myself so I could have a moment’s peace. I have kept the placemats at my table tight, only five, when others have desperately needed to be let in.
Setting a cross-centered table is one of the most difficult parts of my day. And just because I did it well yesterday doesn’t give me the day off today. It is a daily death, a day in and day out, year in and year out, act of surrender.
But today. Today. Today I choose to take up my cross, and follow Jesus, and make Him the center. Of my table. My conversations. My meals. My servings. My heart. Why? Because the people around me, starting with the four whose lives I have been entrusted to serve, need grace from me that points them to Grace from Jesus. And it all begins with having an Easter table with the cross at the center and a heart that is willing to serve. On Easter Sunday or Monday morning or Wednesday night.
As Easter People, join me this year in daring to have an Easter Table.
“Soon afterwards Jesus went to a city called Nain; and His disciples were going along with Him, accompanied by a large crowd. Now as He approached the gate of the city, a dead man was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow; and a sizeable crowd from the city was with her. When the Lord saw her, He felt compassion for her, and said to her, ‘Do not weep.’ And He came up and touched the coffin; and the bearers came to a halt. And He said, “Young man, I say to you, arise!” The dead man sat up and began to speak. And Jesus gave him back to his mother.” Luke 7:11-15
I know a momma who lost her only son a couple years back. And I thought a lot about that momma this Easter weekend. And after the glorious wreck of the Resurrection, I wondered why. Why couldn’t Jesus have stretched out His Resurrection Hands and touched with Resurrection Life this woman’s son like He did the son of the widow of Nain? Why doesn’t He touch all cold, lifeless sons with Resurrection power so that mommas don’t have to grieve anymore?
And I don’t have any easy answers.
But perhaps it is because we are Easter people. And perhaps it has to do with our limps. Because while we are people of the Resurrection, we are also people of the Crucifixion. The hard call to all those who are serious about following Christ is to take up your cross to follow Him (Luke 9:23-24). And the last time I checked, the Resurrected One is also the Crucified One. The One we follow who has Life in His veins also has nail prints in His Hands.
Perhaps He lets us bear our cross, bear the death of only sons, bear the pain of sickness and illness, bear the frustration of repeated sin – one step forward and two awful steps back – because, let’s face it. If we only walked in full resurrection power in the here and now and never with a crucified limp, we would ever really find our need for a Crucified God?
Perhaps our limps are there to drag us to our Savior. Over and over and over again.
Perhaps they are there to remind us that Resurrection is coming. But first we must follow the Crucified One to the grave in the great hope and belief that whatever dies in surrender to the Son comes back with Life evermore (John 12:24-25).
I don’t know this son-less momma well. Don’t know her well enough to take her in my arms and just hug her long and walk alongside of her, reminding her that Resurrection is surely coming and her son will stand in her arms again one day. But it’s what I want to do every time I see her.
But I do know the Son well. And I know that every time I have hit a wall and all I see are dead ends and dead relationships and my own dead heart, He is faithful to breathe Life. Because we are Easter People, and He is our Easter God. Who meets us in our limps, heals all of our diseases, and promises to raise us up with Him in glory…just like the widow’s son.
So limp along this week…and dare to live like Easter People who serve a Crucified, Glorified Easter God.
Can I share something with you? Let you in on a secret?
I have a very small story.
I have a husband who is a godly man, who loves me and our girls sacrificially and selflessly.
I have three beautiful daughters whose lives continually reflect to me the astonishing miracle of grace that I am the one who gets to be their mom.
But my story is very small.
I wake up, I sip on a cup of coffee, sometimes two, I spend time in God’s Word, I wake up my girls, I make breakfast, I make lunches, I fix more heads of hair than I can count, I take people to school, I do dishes, I clean the house, I pay bills or answer emails or sometimes sneak an hour or two away alone once or twice a week, I run errands, I drive carpool, I take people places like swimming or piano or ballet, I help with homework, I fix dinner, I do dishes again, I put people in pajamas, brush more heads of hair than I can count, I put people to bed, I read a page or two in a book before falling asleep myself, and then I wake up the next morning and do the whole thing over again.
But can I tell you something else?
I serve a very big God who is telling a Great Story.
And because of His mercy, He lets me be a part of that Story.
Jason and I went to a conference last weekend to listen and learn about the Bibleless peoples of the world and what the Spirit of God is doing all over the face of the earth to draw men, women, children, and entire people groups to Himself. Drawing them from darkness to light. From suffering, sickness, and sadness into mercy, joy, and hope. From having no language with which to know and be known by God to learning that God does, indeed, speak their language.
And He invites us to be a part of that Story through our giving, through our going, through our praying, and through our speaking on behalf of those 2000 people groups who have yet to have one word of the Only Word that saves.
This story of the Great Commission has been going on for the past 2000 years since Paul took up the baton by taking the message of the Gospel to the Gentiles, yet our generation is the first generation in the history of the world to be able to stand and see the finish line in sight. In the next ten years, ministries from all over the world are coming together to see that those last 2000 people groups have God’s Word in their heart language and hear the message of the Gospel – the message that Jesus is the Only One who Saves.
The culmination of this Story will be when a great multitude from every nation, tribe, people group, and tongue stands before the throne of God and the Lamb and cries out with a loud voice, “Salvation to our God who sits on the throne and to the Lamb” (Revelation 7:9-10). But until that day, we are to run hard with the Hope of the Gospel in our hearts and our earthly treasure in our hands, ready to give it to the building of the church of King Jesus here on the earth and to those who have yet to hear that He came, He died, He rose, and He waits to come again…until every last people group has heard.
Learning about that Story and our very small part in that Story lifted my head above the smallness of carpool, the smallness of my own story, and given me eternal perspective. Eternal Purpose. It put a weight of glory in my soul that far outweighs the trivial trip-ups and irritations of every day life.
I came back on Sunday night…content. All of a sudden, the size of my house, or the ugly brown carpet, or the lack of landscaping, or the gaps in my wardrobe, or the stresses of end of year scheduling, or the imperfections in my children, my family, and myself did not matter anymore.
God is doing awesome things all over the face of the world that no other generation in the history of the world has ever had the privilege of seeing or being a part of…and I am worried about carpool??
I don’t know where your stresses lie this week: maybe they are financial in nature, or relational. Maybe you feel that God has been sloughed off in a corner and you are not sure where to find Him, or your heart is consumed with the cares and worries of this world, and, like me, you need a good shot in the arm of the reality of eternity. But my encouragement to you is the same to me:
“Lift up your heads, O gates,
And be lifted up, O ancient door,
That the King of Glory may come in!
Who is this King of Glory?
The Lord, strong and mighty,
The Lord mighty in battle.
Lift up your heads, O gates,
And lift them up, O ancient doors,
That the King of Glory may come in!
Who is this King of Glory?
The Lord of Hosts,
He is the King of Glory.”
Lift up your heads from carpool, from a full schedule, a full life, from a sink full of dishes and a house full of little ones, from a desk full of papers and an inbox full of emails, from a life full of stresses, from a heart full of sickness and pain, from a past full of darkness and a present full of despair…and let the King of Glory in!
He stands at the door and knocks, He stands at the gate and pounds, He stands at the highest point of the city and calls…to be let IN.
And I can promise you this: you might still have a small story. But you will be LOST in the JOY of knowing a Great God who takes every story, especially the small ones, and weaves them into a great and glorious Story that spans the ages, spans continents and cultures, and culminates with all peoples before His throne worshipping Him.
Invite this King of Glory into your story. The pages of your life will never look the same.
(One more thing, if you want to learn more about the Bibleless peoples of the world and how you can be part of the Story of helping them to know Christ and be known, click here – www.theseedcompany.org – and check out what The Seed Company is doing in Bible translation all over the world.)