Stop. Pray. Listen.

Lilium longiflorum_Easter Lily_DBG-CO_LAH_4375

Today is Good Friday. If there was ever a time I want to spend with God, it would be today. This is the day when I want to post something deep and truly significant. Something that brings us into the presence of the Father. Something that points to Jesus, His sacrifice, His love.

Why then is that so hard?

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Invite a Friend To Church

Pots of blooming bulbs greet me as I walk into Walmart. Last month’s heart-shaped boxes of chocolate have been replaced with jelly beans, pastel peeps, and chocolate rabbits. Displays at the end of the aisles feature stuffed bunnies and lambs. And at church, there’s the annual push to invite guests to the Easter service.

This year, Easter (aka “Resurrection Sunday”) falls on March 27. That’s only a couple of weeks away. If we are going to invite anyone to church, we’d better hop to it.

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Resurrection Sunday

Easter is my favorite day of the year—Resurrection Sunday, the reason for my faith in Jesus and my hope of heaven. While Christmas is buried under tons of tradition, Easter has escaped relatively unscathed. Perhaps that’s why I like it best.

Sure, Easter gets mingled with the renewal of springtime. When I was small, my secular parents observed this holiest of days with jelly beans and marshmallow peeps, a chocolate bunny and perhaps an Easter egg hunt. But there are still ways to focus on the significance of the resurrection. When I became a Christian at age 18, I started attending the sunrise service held on our college campus. I can still imagine every detail of the warm spring sunshine (it was California), green leaves, singing birds. We sat on the dew-covered grass and listened to a pastor from a local church praise God for the resurrection. And we sang:

Hear the bells ringing. They’re singing that you can be born again. Hear the bells ringing. They’re singing Christ is risen from the dead.

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Spring for an Easter Garden

Celebrate Easter. Celebrate spring. Sometimes it seems as if there’s a tension between the two. The stores advertise cute little lambs and chicks, jelly beans and hollow chocolate rabbits. Us more spiritual types prefer to concentrate on the resurrection.

Spring and Easter do not need to compete for our attention. Budding plants, baby animals—they should all remind us of the new life possible because Jesus died and rose again. I don’t believe it’s a coincidence that the renewal of life and the resurrection of Jesus happened at the same time of year. (Of course, those living in the southern hemisphere miss out on this connection.)

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Risen Bread for the Risen Lord

There is one time of year that I make a point of baking bread… and not any bread will do. Given that we’re celebrating resurrection this Sunday, I like to make a yeast bread. It too shall rise!

Our traditional Easter bread is the Finnish cardamom loaf Pete’s family always made. It’s very good, and I posted the recipe last year.

However, we have a son-in-law who loves honey, almond flavoring, and coconut, so I went hunting for another bread to make in his honor. These Honey Almond Buns are amazing. Totally decadent. Too bad he lives so far away—and the buns do not ship well (you need to eat them warm from the oven!). On the other hand, that means there are more for us.

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Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged. The soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head. They clothed him in a purple robe and went up to him again and again, saying, “Hail, king of the Jews!” And they slapped him in the face.

Once more Pilate came out and said to the Jews gathered there, “Look, I am bringing him out to you to let you know that I find no basis for a charge against him.” When Jesus came out wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe, Pilate said to them, “Here is the man!”

John 19:1-5 (and I highly recommend
reading the rest of the chapter)

Easter Lilies have come to symbolize the resurrection of Jesus, but for Good Friday, I find the Crown of Thorns to be more appropriate. The pretty red flowers are deceitful. The rest of the plant is a collection of horrors.

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Finnish Coffee Bread

Easter (or Resurrection Sunday, as our previous church called it) is coming in a few weeks. I don’t want to distract you from focusing on Jesus, but like all holidays, Easter can become more meaningful when family traditions are incorporated into the celebration.

Back when Pete and I became engaged,  his mother, Martha, gave me a copy of the Finnish cookbook she frequently referred to, as she endeavored to pass along her Finnish heritage to her six children. I was then politely (but firmly!) informed that if I was going to be a member of the family, I should start learning how to make Nisu! This mouth-watering yeast bread, also known as Pulla, is served year-round in Finland, but I don’t have the time and energy to make it every Saturday. At our house, it’s the most important part of our annual Easter brunch.

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