Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Easter Ache, 2009

From The Austin American Statesman, Saturday, April 4, 2009
Faith & Beliefs

In Your Words / Susana Fletcher

Separate the biblical roots of Easter from the bunny and baskets
     When bluebonnets sprout every year and little girls wear pastel-colored frocks, I should be smiling all the way to church. Why, then, do I feel so depressed?  It's because I feel burdened about the one word on every Christian's lips -- Easter.
     My quest for biblical truth and historical knowledge smacked the ignorant Easter bliss right off my face. I'm the church party-pooper, because I've uncovered the truth: Easter was never intended to be about God nor Jesus rising from the dead. It is the pagan celebration of rebirth, the setting for worshipping the earth and goddesses of fertility. When you say the word “Easter”, you are invoking the goddesses Ishtar, Ashtoreth, Astarte, Eostre, Isis, and all whose names have been called upon by barren and expecting mothers, by lust-filled men, and by priestesses promising fertility. It's a lot to put in your basket, but the truth is easily found by a simple Internet search.
     So what is holy? When poured through the biblical sieve, and Easter baskets, eggs, and all things pagan filter out, here's what remains of our Christian holiday: the Last Supper, Crucifixion, Resurrection. What do we call it? Actually, it already has a name -- Passover.
     According to Exodus, the blood of the sacrificed lamb saved the Israelites from the angel of death, and they were set free from slavery in Egypt. I know what you're thinking. It's a Jewish holiday. Yes, the Jewish people honor their deliverance from slavery through Passover celebrations. But Christians -- yes, Christians -- celebrated Passover for nearly 300 years, from the time of the Last Supper (a Passover meal), until the time of Constantine. Suddenly the New Testament, 1 Corinthians 5:7-8, makes more sense. “For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Therefore let us keep the Feast.”
     Taking Jesus’ sacrifice and resurrection away from Passover is a disservice to the Scripture. The exodus from Egypt was a foreshadowing of the deliverance to come. The gospel of Mark, chapters 14 and 15, shows us that everything in the "Holy Week" actually occurs during "Passover Week." Jesus says in the upper room, "I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer." He was giving them a sign. Jesus, having been one with God for eternity, was waiting for the appointed Passover to shed His perfect blood so that all could avoid the angel of death.
     Enter Constantine the Great, who, among other things, sought to conquer and unify the world under his sword of Christianity. Desiring to appease the pagan and religious demographics, he separated the celebration of the Resurrection from Passover and linked it instead to the vernal equinox and pagan celebrations of Easter. As recorded by Eusebius, an attending member of the Council of Nicaea in 325AD, Constantine clearly stated his motive: “It was declared to be particularly unworthy for this, the holiest of all festivals, to follow the custom of the Jews, who had soiled their hands with the most fearful of crimes, and whose minds were blinded…Consequently, in unanimously adopting this mode, we desire, dearest brethren, to separate ourselves from the detestable company of the Jews.” Thus Constantine derailed the biblical course of the faith.
     Passover is the celebration of a sacrifice that set a people free. It was set into motion in Egypt, remembered through the ages, and proclaimed anew by Jesus the Messiah. On the night he was betrayed, He took the elements of Passover, lifted them up, and spoke the words, “Whenever you do this, do it in remembrance of me.” The celebration of Easter, on the other hand, is irrelevant to the Christian faith, even in it's most benign state. What has a bunny to do with the cross? But considering its pagan and polytheistic origins, should one even use the word “Easter”? Exodus 23:13 says no. “Do not invoke the names of other gods; do not let them be heard on your lips.” 
     This spring, I will pick out pink dresses for my girls, and force my camo-wearing boy into slacks and a collared shirt for the Passover Seder. Although I part ways from the Christian mainstream, I cling to the ancients. I see countless covered heads, spread throughout time, uttering the words that I speak today. The same words that Jesus spoke to His disciples in the upper room. I feel connected to the Scripture and my savior, the Sacrificed Lamb, in real and undeniable terms. And every year I do it in remembrance of Him.

Susana Fletcher, a former teacher and University of Texas graduate, is a mother of three and occasion writer who continues to look for the biblical meaning of authentic Christianity.

I decided to post this article this year because The Statesman has let it drop out of the searchable archives. I reference this entry every year, and needed a place to put it. :)

Monday, February 25, 2013

I Wonder

Sometimes I feel so overwhelmed at the beauty of creation. At the staggering mysteries of the universe. This morning, I looked at my little seedlings of cabbage and collards and kale and romanesco sprouting in the peat pots and it made me so happy it nearly hurt. In my mind, I climbed inside the spongy soil and hugged a tiny stem and sat under a 1/4 inch leaf and fell asleep on its tiny trunk with a book on my lap. I marveled at the seedlings' bravery, waking from dry death and finding life at their core, reaching up out of the grave and moving toward light and life and rebirth. Each morning, I check their progress, cheer them on, and speak words of joy and wonder to anyone who'll listen. Look! They're so big today! Look how many! Oh, there's a new one! Come see! It's just so amazing.

I know that you think I'm a mental case. I can see it in your eyes when I tell you about things like magical sprouts or the mathematical fractals and natural tessellation found in nature or the red worms that I have vermicomposting in a closed bin in my kitchen and how I'm so excited about the hard work they do. Or when I speak about space or infinity or the strong force that inexplicably holds together every nucleus of every atom in every part of the known universe and how it just might be the hand of God that binds each one. When Paul writes in Colossians, "He is before all things, and in him all things hold together," I believe that this is a literal and profound statement about how intrinsically intertwined our Creator is with his creation. And I find myself crushingly awestruck.

"When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?" Psalm 8:3-4

Reading this scripture, I am laying next to the psalmist David in the damp grass, surrounded by warm nestled sheep, looking up into the expanse of the heavens with fascination, both of us nearly losing our bearings in the swirling marvel of light and darkness.

And I have come to this conclusion. Some have the gift of teaching. Some of leadership. Some of prophecy. Some of organization and helpfulness. Some of empathy.

I have the gift of wonder.

I know it is a gift because it had no origin, no beginning, no source of earning or learning or acquisition. One of my earliest memories is laying on my belly in the school yard with my feet in the air, chin on my forearms, four inches from the ground, staring at a patch of white clover weed. I remember abandoning myself to the striations of the leaf veins, the heart shaped leaves, the white flower petals that grew from soft pink legs that all came together to produce this thing, this thing of intense beauty that made perfect sense in the world but for which I had such a strong feeling, an ache that I could neither explain nor describe except to exhale slowly and say, wow.

The gift that you gave me has not been squandered. It has not waned. I still say wow, God. For the work of your hands is indeed a thing of wonder.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Struggle Virtue

"We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win." John F. Kennedy, 1962

My husband quotes this speech to our kids often. He shortens it to, "We choose to [do these things] not because they are easy, but because they are hard." It's used as an encouragement to a child who is frustrated and trying to give up on homework/chores/project/anything. It's a pep talk of sorts, to keep them on track, to help them plod through. To bolster their resolve, in order to finish the task.

It doesn't always work.

Our kids give up quickly. They are easy to come to me and say, "Mom, I need your help," when they don't really need my help. They get frustrated when something seems too big, too daunting. And while I may have been quick to come to their rescue when they were younger, I am starting a weaning process that should have been done years ago. I want my kids to view struggle not as a weakness or failing, but as a strength. After I heard THIS NPR STORY, it reaffirmed something that I knew to be true. In the west, we put so much emphasis on our natural ability, on our inherent skills, rather than the process. We say that a kid is good at something because they are smart, or athletic, or artistic. But if they can't do something, we allow them to push it aside in favor of something they can do.

I think of kids who are forced to play piano (not so common as it used to be). They hate it, they complain, but they do it. They are made to practice, practice, practice. And then, guess what? They can play the piano. I think about scientists who work for years and years and years on the same problem, daily putting in their hours for a solution and coming up empty at the end of the day. I think about artists who don't whip up a painting in 30 minutes, but work for months and years making sure it is just right. Thomas Edison said it perfectly, "Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration." Struggle should be a natural part of the learning process.

There is so much in the scripture about hard work, too. There's a bunch of Proverbs that summarize to this: The more you work, the better you'll eat. And then there's this one in the second testament:"Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters." Colossians 3:23

God told Noah to build an ark. He told him how. But He didn't do it for him.

God told the Israelites to build a temple. He told them how. But He didn't do it for them.

Jesus told His disciples to go and make disciples IN EVERY NATION. That's a load of work. And hard. And dangerous. But He left them with, "And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." Matthew 28:20

If I am to make people who will go forth from my house into the world, I want them to be brave. I want them to persevere. I want them to change the world.

And I don't want them to call me and say, "But Mo-ommm, it's too haa-aard."

Just as my friend Jen put it HERE in her blog about raising brave and dangerous (in the good way) kids, so I also want my kids to have the skills to see struggle as a part of life, to view adversity as an opportunity to overcome.

Academically, I want them to flourish. In life, to persevere. In faith, to learn patience and value struggle and accept the big big challenges from the Lord. Not because they are easy, but because they are hard.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

In the Quiet

I've been fake-reading a book (listening to an audiobook) called, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, by Susan Cain. Now, before you go ahead and state the obvious, I KNOW I'm not an introvert, okay? My Myers-Briggs personality is ENTP, with Extrovert right there at the beginning. But I'm married to an 'introvert'. (You can stop rolling your eyes at the thought of Billy being shy.) He's an introvert in the cerebral sense. He's a thinker, and prefers the solitude of fishing and hunting, and craves routine, whereas I prefer community and urban life and spontaneity. I'm pretty sure that two of my three kids are introverted. Again, NOT SHY. Read the book.

I'm starting to understand the value of introspectivity. We have so little time in our over-scheduled world. We fill it the second we get it. FaceBook, Twitter, Instagram, Netflix, YouTube, StumbleUpon, WordsWithFriends, SongPop, texting, [insert your own vice here]. And we don't allow silence. Since moving just out of the city, I've found myself with a little extra time. Not much, but a little. And once I get past all the time fillers, I find silence waiting for me to call, like a long lost friend. I've been reading more. I've been thinking more. I've been sitting in silence more.

And now I'm a teensy bit addicted to silence. It's so important.

It's where I work out how I feel.

It's where I remember.

It's where I create.

It's where I meditate and pray.

It's where I listen.

It's where I breathe.

As I embark upon 2013, I want to make space for more silence. I want to go against my extroverted-must-have-human-interaction tendencies, and embrace my inner introvert. It starts with some mild solitude, but I also hope that it spills into other areas of my life. That I will allow time to think before I speak. That I will allow time for my children to have silence. That I will let others lead conversation, and think about what they're saying and not what I'm going to say next.

It's important to see the balance of these personalities. Just as we force introverts into the open, into social situations, into business presentations where they stretch themselves to meet the social expectation of extroversion and interaction, so we extroverts must see the value of the other side, must allow ourselves to look inward, to enjoy silence and routine, and find things there that we didn't know we had. That we hadn't ever allowed for. To find ourselves...

...in the quiet.