O my God, “Happy Easter”? My yard looks more like “Merry Christmas.” This snowy Monday morning seems to have killed off any possibility of life. But OMG, when You make up Your mind, not even an uncooperative weatherman can stop Your Resurrection!
We suffered through everlasting classes of English and arithmetic, drooling at the prize: a chocolate bunny with a yellow bow tie.
As we sallied forth to the playground, I dreamed of delectable treasures I would discover: yummy jelly beans (all but the black licorice kind), chocolate eggs, fat pink marshmallow chicks. Where would I conceal my Easter loot from my siblings?
The kiddie crowd’s roar at the starting point dissolved my blissful sugar fantasies. Only our omnipotent principal kept us from rioting.
He boomed, “Ready. Set. Go!”
A horde of barbarians, we attacked.
I could run fast. However, with zero sense of direction or strategy, I dashed randomly within the hunt’s borders — not unlike the way I now seek parking spaces — arriving just in time to see others grab the goodies.
I complained, loud and clear. Why did the Easter Bunny put us through such agony?
While I stood by the merry-go-round, debating the hunt’s constitutionality, two kids found a nest of pink, blue and yellow eggs under it.
I stomped across the playground — and smashed an egg left in plain sight.
By hunt’s end, I found only jelly beans. Black licorice ones.
Some did. I received more black jelly beans.
I survived Easter-egg-hunt trauma. You did, too. But as all grown-ups know, adulthood does not immunize us from empty-basket syndrome. After a steady diet of motivational speeches, we may improve our egg-finding techniques and even win a chocolate bunny or two. Often, though, we watch others celebrate success while we count black licorice jelly beans. And we ask God, “Why?”
To us empty-basket wonders, He says, “More than you can imagine. You don’t have to hunt for Me.
“Actually, I hunt for you. You’re the lost coin I treasure, the clueless, obstinate lamb I love — yes, I’ll even leave 99 winners to search for you, no matter where you wander. Stop fighting Me and let me hold you close.”
I still dream of finding the chocolate bunny with a yellow bow tie. But if I don’t, that’s okay.
My basket already runneth over with His love.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Do you consider yourself an empty-basket wonder?
For years I celebrated holidays by directing church musicals. One fateful Easter I chose Watch the Lamb, which focused on Jesus as the Lamb of God. A live lamb would make the ancient story come alive.
During rehearsals, the cast greeted our lamb with enthusiasm.
Church janitors did not. “Do something before that animal pees all over — or worse.”
Why hadn’t I considered this minor complication? Especially as the lamb made entrances down different aisles. Most Passover lambs in 30 A.D. did not wear Pampers®
What other option existed?
God provided the perfect solution: we would cover the stage and church aisles with the burlap-like backside of my recently discarded carpet.
However, God didn’t send angels to cut, arrange and duct tape the carpet throughout the sanctuary. After two unspiritual, aching-knee days, all my bases were covered. No worries now, right?
Loony the Lamb had his own ideas about entrances and exits. A hay bale helped keep him quiet, but for obvious reasons, we avoided feeding him too much.
The 60-member cast’s noise made Loony more nervous than your Aunt Nellie. Kids petted him without mercy. Bright lights and heat caused him to hyperventilate. During dress rehearsal, Loony the Lamb collapsed onstage in a wooly, quivering heap.
Watch the Lamb? No audience would want to watch this.
Two animal lovers carried the prostrate lamb outside while we prayed — and Loony recovered. One guy built a pen outside the stage door where our prima donna cropped grass between scenes. Visiting hours were restricted, with no autographs. We did everything but paint a star on Loony’s gate.
Thankfully, he showed no new signs of cardiac arrest. His brassy baaaaa erupted only once during performances — during solemn prayer after the crucifixion.
Our ingenious actors shifted and blocked escape routes, all the while looking very holy.
One child earned my special appreciation: “Loony was peein’ on my foot the whole time Jesus was on the cross, but I didn’t say nothin’.”
Even after Loony returned home, I couldn’t shake off sheep. Scriptures about lambs leaped from the Bible’s pages. Jesus frequently called his followers His sheep. After Watch the Lamb, I figured He didn’t mean it as a compliment.
Nevertheless, the King of Heaven volunteered to take on the title “Lamb of God” — what God in His right mind would do that?
Even one dithery pageant director named Rachael — which means “lamb.”
Have you participated in a pageant/play that taught you more than you expected?
Many of us anticipated an Easter filled with church celebrations, family and fun.
But what did the day after Easter bring?
Parents sometimes dread it. “Who ate the head off my chocolate bunny?” “He tasted my jelly beans, then spit ’em back in my basket!”
And those irresistible baby rabbits Mommy bought? They’ve already matured, married, and are multiplying hourly.
Happy Day after Easter!
But for some of Polish descent, this day rates a major celebration. The first spring I lived in South Bend, Indiana, I figured the newspaper headline was an April Fool’s joke: “City Celebrates Dyngus Day.” Turned out, “dyngus” was not a driver in an adjoining parking space who smacked my car opening his door, but a for-real holiday. Participants polka with a sausage in one hand, a beer in the other, simultaneously shaking hands with politicians. Lacking coordination, I opted for the ancient ritual of eating Reese’s Peanut Butter eggs, 50 percent off.
Munching these one Dyngus Day, I wondered what Jesus, Easter’s originator, did the day after.
Though some had accused Him of being a party animal, the Bible makes no mention of Jesus’ hobnobbing with polka-dancing politicians. We know He surprised women friends, including Mary Magdalene, on Easter morning. He also nearly sent His paranoid band of disciples into seizures, showing up despite dead-bolted doors.
But what did He do the next day, while they depleted their cell phone minutes spreading the news? While they rechecked their eyes at the optometrist’s and their minds at the psychiatrist’s to confirm what they saw?
After Passion Week’s agony and the Resurrection’s ecstasy, perhaps Jesus craved a little quiet. Maybe He sat anonymously in a garden, listening to birds’ hallelujah choruses, watching baby green leaves unfold tiny, tender fingers.
Or, since time and space didn’t appear an issue after the Resurrection, He might have visited the Sea of Galilee, 80 miles away. Perhaps He played on the beach with children He had healed.
I imagine Jesus visited his mother. The Bible does not place her at the tomb with Mary Magdalene or with the disciples when He appeared Easter evening. Did they tell Mary they saw Jesus? Perhaps, still incredulous, they wanted to spare her false hope. However, rumors no doubt reached her ears. They always do.
But nothing prepared Mary for that “Hi, Mom.” For Jesus’ strong arms around her again, for the still-wounded hands that dried her tears.
A skeptic interrupts my reverie. “Wait. How do you know what Jesus did? You weren’t there.”
No. But since I will live forever because of Jesus’ resurrection, someday, I plan to ask Him.
How do you think He spent that day?
Oh, my God, it’s the day after Easter, and the Reese’s Peanut Butter Eggs are 50 per cent off. I’m celebrating all over again! But, Jesus, what did you do the day after Easter? Take a day off? You certainly deserved it. Did You surprise Your mom? OMG, what a hug that must have been!
Still, faith can be found living in the oddest nooks and crannies of life—even in March.
- Retailers demonstrate their faith. As if they are following some capitalistic Ten Commandments, they put snowsuits and boots on clearance. Defying the weather, they fill racks with golf shirts, tennis garb and bathing suits. They stuff shelves with Peeps, chocolate bunnies and pastel plastic eggs, believing spring will come. They stake their financial lives on it.
- The young flaunt faith. At the first sign of temperatures above freezing, they escape Mom’s wear-your-coat-are-you-trying-to-get-pneumonia rant. On the playground, discarded jackets bloom like big flowers. The brave and brainless don shorts and flip-flops. But they’re already tasting joy. Their expectations rub off even on those of wintry disposition. Otherwise, why would we refer to tourney/blizzard time as “spring break”?
- Track and baseball teams practice faith. If parents forced teams outside amid snow and sleet, the kids would call Child Protective Services, the Civil Liberties Union and ten lawyers apiece. Instead, they and their coaches believe they will have fun.
- Ice cream vendors sell faith. With Easter approaching, small stand owners across the chilly Midwest unlock their doors and offer ice cream to the frostbitten masses. Near my house, Ivanhoe Drive In posted a sign reading “Fresh Strawberry Shortcake.” Carloads of shivering, faith-minded, faith-stomached customers have filled the parking lot.
- Farmers and gardeners cultivate faith. Long before snows retreat, they nose through seed catalogues and sniff dead land like hounds, baying with gladness at the sight of tiny emerald spikes and buds. They believe with all their hearts, green thumbs and soon-to-be-aching backs that iron ground will nurture life.
- Animals act out their faith, too. Gingerly walking an icy sidewalk, I encountered four robins huddled in a patch of snow. Did you guys make a wrong turn? If I had built-in flight available, I would retreat to a warmer perch. But despite chilly little claws and backsides, birds instinctively know they will build nests, hatch eggs, and teach their young to soar in sunny skies.
Jesus, who created the world, set off this chain reaction of miniature resurrections. His own enormous Resurrection turned March into Easter and reduced cemeteries to odd hotels, temporary stops until we reach where we’re really going.
Why not believe in Him, too?