Tag: Easter

Pastor’s Corner: Hope and Reconnecting in Lenten Season

Lent

Take a moment to reconnect with God — and hope — this Lenten season

Published: February 25, 2013 

By DANIEL GRISWOLD — danielgriswold@gmail.com

Our church has a wonderful basketball program for children called Upward. Each year it has grown, and I love being in the midst of so many kids learning teamwork, respect and the skills they need to play like pros. The coaches are great role models, and I’m proud of their hard work and humility.

Usually Coach Bob gets to do the devotion, but a few weeks ago I had the opportunity to speak on the definition of “hope.” Upward defined it simply as “the ability to see the positive even when bad things happen.” I spoke about puzzle pieces given each day by God and how we don’t always see the big picture, but that God sees it all — he has the box; he made it. We learned that we can trust in God and that he is going to bring about good things, even though bad things do happen.

I used a simple illustration: My wife, Amanda, and I had been searching for a miniature Schnauzer to fall in love with as we celebrate 10 years of marriage. We felt it was time, but whenever tried to set up appointments to meet with a possible adoptee, something went wrong or the puppy was given away. I kept getting my hopes up, and then it would all be over that evening. It was very sad, and my hopes sagged.

Then one day Amanda told me a family was coming to visit and they had a 3-year-old named Bella. I once again became excited, and that Thursday evening we officially adopted Isa-bella, the fluffiest, cutest, most amazing mini-Schnauzer to have ever lived (in our opinion, of course). My heart was happy, and she instantly became a part of our family. So much so that I have a hard time not talking about her all the time. We even set up a Facebook page devoted to her atwww.facebook.com/bellas.beard. She’s incredibly adorable.

The big picture of that puzzle certainly wasn’t apparent to me, and I had lost hope. I tried to bury my optimism because if I hoped too much I’d feel disappointed. In the back of my mind, though, in a small corner of my heart, hope grew. That small part of me celebrated when we met her. It was like when the angels celebrate as a person comes to God and begins to trust in him.

Yes, I felt very glad when it all came together.

Now that we have entered the season of Lent, I have even more reason to feel hope and gladness. As we retrace the horrible events that led to Christ’s self-sacrifice on the cross, we’re getting closer to the annual celebration of Easter — the day Christians remember Jesus’ victory over sin and death. It all looked so grim, and suddenly there was a win.

In this time, we look inward and try to remove anything that hinders our spiritual walk, and add things that will bring us closer to walking in the footsteps of Jesus Christ.

In my case, that means I’ll be turning off NPR — “fasting” for portions of my car ride — and I’ll be listening to God’s quiet voice (through prayer). It means I’ll try to rearrange my life into patterns that help me love all people (alms/doing good), which means I really need to give a little more of myself to more good things. Less “me” and more “us.” And I’ll be doing this in thankfulness for what God has given me, because when it comes down to it, everything I have belongs to God — including you, including me … and, of course, Bella.

Lent is a good time to resync with the one who created us; to plug into the source and feel his goodness. My hope is that no matter what darkness is in your life, you’ll see the dots of light surrounding you and that you’ll find in yourself a flame that will never die.

Columnist Daniel Griswold is the director of youth at St. Andrew By-the-Sea United Methodist Church. Follow him at twitter.com/dannonhill. Read his blog atwww.danielgriswold.wordpress.com.

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Optimism Isn’t Dead: Moving Evil Aside With The Stone

My wife and I visit family in North Carolina near the Outer Banks around July 4th each year.  Believe it or not, the summer is just around the corner full of family get-togethers, beach time, golfing (or more golfing) and kids out of school for the harvest – aka television and texting to get a sleep over together.  As for our family we enjoy the sunny festivities in a particular NC town by the water.

Watermelon immediately comes to mind.  Also, bouncy inflatable castles, kids with snow cones and music playing.  There are miniature train rides for children and the usual carnival foods we indulge in.  I wear a hat not to get sunburned being a very fair skinned person.  We usually spend a few hours in the day and then come back for fireworks at night.

Our nieces and nephew absolutely love it.  Seeing their smiles is the heart of why we do these things, which makes sense.  I noticed a few years ago that the Optimist Club puts the festival together with the ethos clearly written: “Friends of Young People”. According to their website, Optimist Clubs assess the needs of young people and put plans into action.  They also have a creed, which basically amounts to – be positively optimistic – so much so that you beam it.  I like that and it encouraged me.

Despite the problems our country and our world faces, I believe with the Optimists, that we can always look up and see the brighter side of things.

Culturally, at least in media, Americans seem to be losing the spirit.  I don’t blame us considering the circumstances.  In fact, there is a spirit of full-blown anxiety over the future of our reputation in the world concerning our military presence, our economic prowess, and our ability to pay our debts as well as balance our budgets.

Recent tragedies also remind us that our world is not a safe place.  We are people that live on land masses floating on superheated rock, surrounded by water, beneath the clouds which strike with the electrons of lightning and we look to see closely the vacuum of space which has no oxygen for us to breath.  It would be easy to dwell in the pit of despair.

The good news, however, is that this is nothing new.  People in every empire, tribe, nation, or family have had to come to grips with the reality that living life is not an easy thing.  Corporately, it is even harder as the human family grows to fill more niches.  In spite of all danger, what the optimist has that the one who despairs does not, is the ability to get beyond the situation.  You can’t make a plan if you’ve already given up.  If you fear the future, you can’t run to it.  Time moves onward whether you’re hiding or running into the winds.

On the Friday before Easter Sunday, we retell the ending moments leading to Jesus on the cross and the darkness overwhelms his story.  If anyone deserved a good ending, it was Jesus, a teacher – a healer.  But he was killed and died like very other human that ever lived; and in an unjustified and terrible way.  Then three days later a stone rolled away, his tomb was empty and an angel told the people “he is not here, he has risen.”   God did the “impossible” to show us that evil and destruction are merely obstacles that when confronted are walls that can move.

I don’t think an optimist is someone that denies that the world is a crazy place.  I think that they are just those who see it and choose to make things better than they were before they arrived. That can mean cutting watermelon for the kids on July 4th, or being a voice that forces a nation to realize petty arguments. Each person is created, and has the potential to do an infinite amount of good.

Want to See What People Gave Up for Lent this year Through Twitters Eyes? Wonder No More – And Happy Easter ;)

Christianity Today posted this visual representation of what people gave up for Lent this year.  As Easter comes, I will start wondering what life with Television is like again as I stop fasting.  Looks like there is a lot of sarcasm, but a lot of people giving up social media.  Very interesting.  Well, they’ll be back after tomorrow 😉

You Version Bible App Opened My Eyes to Lent’s True Meaning On My Iphone

Lent helps us celebrate Easter with fresh eyes, clear hearts

Published Wednesday, April 20, 2011

I’m going to warn everyone, the beginning of today’s column might be a little dry and geeky, but it gets juicier, so stick with it, and you will be rewarded with some actual insight into Lent.

There is a new app for the iPhone called You Version. It is an online Bible with many contemporary and traditional versions. It offers an interesting option of using a reading plan. I recommend it to everyone who has a smartphone, simply for its ease of use.

The front page of my smartphone, which holds all my most-used applications, has become a representation of who I am and what I use in my digital life. The first button is for my email, the next for Twitter, then Facebook and then a Web browser. Other apps on the front page include games, a calendar, contacts and Dropbox, a storage app that has made flash drives unnecessary.

I felt strongly that I should also make a Bible app prominent, if only to remind me to do my devotions.

At first, I used Paul Avery’s Bible, which was a straight app completely loaded on the phone, but I found that I often didn’t open it. Like that huge Family Bible on the coffee table, it gathered dust. Then I started seeing tweets about You Version, so I decided to try it out.

I opened the app and saw the reading plans. I decided in this season of Lent — and it is the first time I have ever been at a church that truly celebrated the season of Lent, I would dive in.

The app has changed my perspective.

My wife and I went into Lent knowing we would deny ourselves something, or fast, in order to be closer to Christ this season. I thought it was meant just for us to relate to Christ’s sufferings. So I chose TV shows (a difficult decision) and, harder still, my wife chose cheese, not realizing that almost all the food worth eating is smothered in wonderful cheese.

We denied ourselves and tried hard to be perfect like Christ was perfect.

But we found ourselves stumbling all the time, though not purposefully. We would have breakfast sandwiches and halfway through my wife would lament, “No! I’ve eaten cheese!” Or I would find that on Thursdays, when my favorite comedies came on, my eyes would wander from the book I was reading to the TV screen. My wife would just shake her head.

It wasn’t until I delved into You Version’s Lent devotional plan that I started to understand the fullness of what was happening.

In a short paragraph, it was pointed out that in Lent we try and often fail to be like Christ. In its fullness, Lent is about relying on and remembering the grace we have all received because of what Christ did on the cross.

So as we were messing up and crying out in our mistakes — much like stubbing your toe and being quite upset — we began to see us for what we are: imperfect people who are trying to become more perfect but are still dependant on Christ’s sacrifice.

It is all about Jesus! Not our own ability to be stoicists.

As Easter approaches, it has become quite clear to us, thanks to the words sent across the electronic highway of the Internet, that we are still in need of a savior and that we can celebrate Christ’s resurrection with fresh eyes and hearts cleared of self-pride.

Daniel Griswold is the director of youth at St. Andrew By-the-Sea United Methodist Church. Follow him on Twitter @dannonhill.

Pass It On: Easter is Coming

The easter season is still on us people.  My pastor came to me wanting to show this video in service, and I was blown away.  It starts off so heavy, but you’ll find it is powerful and well worth it.  If you haven’t thought about the power of Jesus, a guy that lived 2,000 years ago in the Middle East, this video may refresh and inspire.