Easter for everyone

Although Andrew is now experiencing his third Easter in life, this is the first year that I have really thought about how to start explaining to him what happened at the very first Easter, because 2 years ago he was just a couple of months old and last year he still wasn’t understanding things we said half as much as he does now. To get some inspiration for how to tell the Easter story in language that a toddler will grasp, I’ve turned to the various children’s Bibles that we have.

Both boys were given some Bibles for their dedications (Joel’s was last week), but despite the number we have, we’ve only ended up with a couple of duplicates between both boys. Some are board books aimed at babies and young toddlers, some have paper pages but lots of pictures and simple text for age 2 years plus, and some have more text aimed at early-school-age children. This is good because as they grow up we have a nice progression of Bibles to read with them.

There is something very refreshing about reading the Bible in a version that is meant for children. It brings me back to basics and reminds me of some of the most important points there are to know about God.That’s not to say that I don’t want to explore the more detailed and challenging points of what we are taught through the Bible using a version meant for adults, but sometimes in studying the more complicated bits, it’s easy to lose sight of the simple truths. So this Easter I have been reminded, through the simplicity of children’s books, of the enormity of what Jesus did for me by dying on the cross and rising again.

The two board book Bibles that Joel was recently given, which are aimed at babies and young toddlers, don’t actually say that Jesus died, but put it more figuratively: ‘Some people did not like Jesus. They took him away….Then Mary saw Jesus. Jesus had come back to life again!’ (The Baby Bible); ‘The people hurt Jesus and then put him on a cross, and soon Jesus was gone. Jesus’ friends took his body down from the cross and carried him to a tomb with a big stone door.’ (Baby’s First Bible).

For about the past year or so, we have been reading a Bible story to Andrew each night before he goes to bed. We’ve been using the two Bibles for toddlers that he was given, and although he doesn’t understand everything, he enjoys looking at the pictures and talking about what’s in them as we read (I say ‘we’, but since Joel’s been born it’s mainly been Daddy reading). As we’ve worked our way through the Bible, we have of course got to the Easter story; he has heard it, but he doesn’t yet understand what it means when they say ‘they left him to die’ (Candle Bible for Toddlers) and ‘Jesus died on the cross’ (The Beginner’s Bible).

However, he does understand that some of the people in the story were very sad about what happened, as he sees the sad faces on the pictures and we explain that they were sad. But the great thing about the Easter story is that although Jesus died, he also rose again, so it’s a happy ending and we can explain to a toddler that the people who were sad became happy again, shown by their expressions in the pictures in the books.

These emotions of sadness and joy are at the heart of how I feel when thinking about what happened to Jesus and why we celebrate Easter. It is so very sad to remember that Jesus died, and in particular that he suffered a horrific death, tortured and killed on a Roman cross, even though he had done nothing wrong – in fact He went through this to make up for all the wrong things that I do which separate me from God. This is such a massive thing to fully appreciate, and it’s quite easy to forget throughout the rest of the year just how hard that must have been for Him, so in the days leading up to Easter Sunday, particularly on Good Friday, I think it’s the least I can do to reflect on this with feelings of sadness and thankfulness.

But in the sadness there is always hope! Death was not the end of Jesus’ life, death did not beat Him. Having been through all that suffering, He rose again back to life from the dead. Now that is definitely a reason to be so very happy. What’s more, Jesus promised that whoever believes in Him and that He died for them to make up for everything they do wrong, they will have everlasting life with Him in heaven after their life in this world. That’s even more reason to be happy, and that’s what I am celebrating today. I have this song in my head and will no doubt be heard humming/singing it several times today 🙂 Happy Easter everyone!

Counting my blessings

Since I started blogging just over a year ago, I’ve come across lots of other mummy bloggers online through various things like the BritMums bloggers network and the Keep Britain Breastfeeding Scavenger Hunt. I wouldn’t say that I know them well, but I do feel a connection with them as we write about similar topics, giving our own individual takes on them, and I was pleased to meet quite a few in person, albeit briefly, when I attended the BritMums live 2012 conference, which allowed me to put face to avatar.

Being part of this community is mainly fun and encouraging as people share their snippets of life with a family. But along with the smooth comes the rough, and recently there have been some tragic losses of life, a blogger herself and babies both inside and outside the womb. Hearing of these awful events has made me feel so sad, even though I don’t know the people involved as well as I know my close friends offline, because I see how they are families just like us – ordinary people living ordinary lives – and it makes me realise that bad things can happen to anyone.

When such tragic events happen, it makes me step back from the busyness of daily life, the getting on with things regardless, where there is a danger of taking things for granted; it makes me count my blessings. I usually don’t mind the current night feeding that much, but this week I’ve positively delighted in the opportunity to hold my baby close. Often cheeky toddler antics wear me out, but this week I’ve savoured the moments watching his wide grin and listening to his giggles. Although as parents of two young children we don’t get to spend much time alone together, this week I’ve made sure that Daddy gets the recognition, appreciation and affection that he deserves, particularly after he came off his bike one evening on the way home from work (he escaped with only a minor gash to the chin, a grazed knee and a few bruises).

As a Christian, when I count my blessings, I thank God because I believe that they come from Him. The question of why such awful things happen in this world is a tough one, and I don’t claim to have a definitive answer on it. But I do know a few things that help me at times of pain, either my own or seeing others’: first, Jesus Himself went through great suffering when He died on the cross, so He knows what it is like to experience extreme physical and psychological pain; second, Jesus never said that following Him would be easy, or that it would involve no suffering – in the Gospel of John (chapter 16, verse 33) Jesus was recorded as saying that we will have trouble in this world – but the good news is that He also said to take heart because He has overcome the world, through His death and resurrection, and anyone who believes in Him will have everlasting life with Him in Heaven after life in this world; …which leads onto point three…. I believe what God said through the writings of John in the book of Revelation (chapter 21, verse 4) in the Bible that in Heaven there will be no more tears, crying or pain. For these reasons, I know that death is something I do not fear, although of course it is a natural human emotion to feel sad and mourn loss of life from this world, and that is absolutely fine to do.

Although I have not experienced such tragic loss on the scale of some bloggers and their families recently, I have found the song ‘Blessed be Your Name’ by Matt Redmann helpful, both when I’m going through a tough time and feeling very down and when things are going well and I’m happy. I’ve given the lyrics below and a video at the end. The words remind me that there will be times when I’m on ‘a road marked with suffering and ‘there’s pain in the offering’, as well as times when ‘the sun’s shining down on me’ and the world’s all as it should be’, and that my attitude towards God is the same throughout – praising Him – because He is constant, unchanging, always there for me no matter what life throws at me. The last few lines of lyrics as shown below remind me that God gives and God takes away, and although it’s hard for me to see the bigger picture, I trust that He has a plan and everything that happens throughout eternity fits into that. My time on Earth, however long that turns out to be, is a small drop in the large ocean of eternal life. It may seem hard to praise when there’s such a strong feeling of pain or sadness inside, and in my experience it really is, but it’s times when I’ve felt the lowest that I’ve drawn closest to God and He has helped me get through it.

I find to hard to know what to say to those who are going through such difficult to deal with times, but I know there’s one thing I can do for them, and that’s pray for them.

Blessed be Your Name – by Matt Redman

Blessed Be Your Name
In the land that is plentiful
Where Your streams of abundance flow
Blessed be Your name

Blessed Be Your name
When I’m found in the desert place
Though I walk through the wilderness
Blessed Be Your name

Every blessing You pour out
I’ll turn back to praise
When the darkness closes in, Lord
Still I will say

Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your name
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your glorious name

Blessed be Your name
When the sun’s shining down on me
When the world’s ‘all as it should be’
Blessed be Your name

Blessed be Your name
On the road marked with suffering
Though there’s pain in the offering
Blessed be Your name

Every blessing You pour out
I’ll turn back to praise
When the darkness closes in, Lord
Still I will say

Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your name
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your glorious name

You give and take away
You give and take away
My heart will choose to say
Lord, blessed be Your name

What’s so good about Good Friday?

It’s a Bank holiday, right? No wait, we get to eat hot cross buns – that must be what the Good refers to. I love a nice hot cross bun, especially indulgent when topped with melting Nutella – yum! I’ve been contemplating whether my bread fast should extend to sweet buns. Technically I guess it should, but it’s Good Friday, and it wouldn’t be the same without them. Tough call. Although I can’t deny the goodness of hot cross buns, I know that they are not of course the real reason why Good Friday is good.

A cross of hot cross buns

The word Good here is used in the sense of ‘Holy’. On Good Friday, Christians like myself remember that Jesus died on a cross (that cross is what inspired the tradition of a cross on a hot bun). In the time leading up to his death, he was living in an area of the Middle East that was at that time under Roman rule. He was brought before the Jewish High Priest in Jerusalem, because he claimed to be the Son of God, which the Jewish priests thought was blasphemous. After that he was sent to the Roman governor, Pilate, but after questioning Jesus he decided there was no reason to sentence him. However, with mounting pressure from an almost riotous crowd of priests and others, demanding that he be crucified for claiming to be God, Pilate ultimately, in fear, handed Jesus over to be put to death. Jesus hung on a cross, tortured for several hours before he died, in between two criminals who had been tried and found guilty of crimes, even though Jesus himself had not actually been found guilty of anything under Roman law.

So why on earth call this day of torture and death, by one of the most excruciating means ever devised by man, Good?! Well, that’s not the end of it! (And remember that Good here is in the sense of ‘Holy’ – Jesus’ death and what happened afterwards were a sign of his ‘Holiness’ or ‘Godliness’). Jesus’ body was taken away, wrapped up in cloths and placed in a tomb, as was the custom at the time. On the third day, what we now celebrate as Easter Sunday (i.e. Friday = 1, Saturday = 2, Sunday = 3), some women who knew Jesus well went to his tomb and found that his body had gone. He then appeared to them, and later to some of his disciples (friends who had followed him closely before his death), showing them that he had risen from the dead and was alive again. These people, who had witnessed his death and then got to meet him in the flesh, alive again, became the first to believe that Jesus Christ really was the Son of God – they were the first Christians, and they went on to spread the Good news of what had happened to others.

You see, Jesus’ death and rising again were exactly what had been foretold (prophesied) in the scriptures, the religious texts, that the Jewish priests would have known inside out – but they just didn’t recognise him when they actually met him during his time on earth. It was written in these scriptures that God would send a ‘Saviour’, who would sacrifice His life and rise again from the dead, in order to make up for all the ways that all of us people fall short of being perfect like God. So we could then draw near to God, be forgiven for our wrongs, and live a new life in Christ, one that lasts beyond our time on Earth. We just have to accept that Jesus died for us, and follow Him, putting Him at the centre of everything we do (which I’ve found you automatically want to do if you’ve accepted the enormity of what He did for us). This message is the Good news that those early Christians went around telling people about, and what ultimately (several centuries later) I got to hear when I was a child, and then later came to understand and accept in my life for real during my early twenties.

So what’s the good bit about Good Friday for you? Do you have a soft spot for hot cross buns like me? Or do you like to take advantage of the Bank holiday and go somewhere different or do something fun? If you’re curious to find out more about the original reason why Good Friday was called that, get in touch and I’d be happy to talk some more about it. For now, have a Happy Easter everyone! 🙂 We’re just about to go on holiday for a week. I’ll leave you with the words of one of my favourite songs (check it out on youtube)….

The greatest day in history, Death is beaten
You have rescued me
Sing it out Jesus is alive
The empty cross, The empty grave
Life eternal You have won the day
Shout it out Jesus is alive
He’s alive
Oh happy day, happy day
You washed my sin away
Oh happy day, happy day
I’ll never be the same
Forever I am changed

(by Tim Hughes)