So, What’s With the Bunnies?

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Recently a fellow blogger and I were discussing religious traditions. She had a question about Easter and asked, “So, what’s with the bunnies?” I thought I would take the time this week to answer that question. It’s one that I asked myself years ago and here are some of the things I discovered.

Easter, like Christmas, has symbols associated with it that are both religious and secular. Originally, Easter was not called Easter by the Christians. It was celebrated on the first Sunday after Passover as the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. The symbols that were associated with the Resurrection are the cross, the lamb and the empty tomb. In Latin, it was called Pascha, a word derived from the Hebrew Pesach – meaning Passover. The date changes every year depending on when the Hebrew Passover is celebrated. It has always been the highest Holy Day of the Christian religion. It is the climax of their Holy Week; Christ’s last week on earth before he was crucified and rose from the dead. 

So again, “What’s with the bunnies?” For Millennia in the pagan tradition, the end of Winter advent of Spring has been celebrated. Symbols of fertility, rabbits and eggs, have been part of that tradition. Fertility goddesses and stories surrounding them have been at the center of the pagan tradition. Some believe the Sumerian goddess, Ishtar, was central to the celebration early on. As the centuries passed, Ishtar morphed into the Canaanite goddess, Astarte, then into the Greek goddess Aphrodite and finally into the Roman goddess Venus. You can hear the similarity between the words Ishtar and Easter and can see how the celebration could have gotten its name. Others think that perhaps it was named after another goddess called Eostre, the goddess of Spring. 

That being said, how did two completely different traditions become comingled? Early in the fourth century A.D., Christianity became the main religion of the Roman Empire. However, it was not the only religion. Pagan traditions continued on and slowly some of the symbols associated with the pagan celebration crept into the Christian tradition. The pagan celebration of Spring was gradually moved on the calendar until it took place at the same time as the Christian holiday. Fast forward to the twenty-first century and you find that Easter is celebrated as both a secular and a religious holiday. Many people with children will color eggs, fill baskets with chocolate bunnies and have a large family dinner. That constitutes the secular celebration of Easter. Christians may also color eggs, give their children chocolate bunnies, and have a large family dinner. Their main focus however, will be to gather with other Christians to celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.

Many people today do not question the symbolism associated with this holiday. However, a deeper look will show two completely different traditions whose trajectory has merged culturally throughout the last two Millennia.

Note: This is the abridged answer to the question, “What’s with the bunnies?”  Many of the facts about the Pagan celebration were taken from the article: The Ancient Pagan Origins of Easter by Joanna Gillan published April 18, 2019 on the website Ancient Origins.

The Lens of Regret

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Regrets…we all have them. They come in all sizes from big to small and every size in between. Sometimes, if we look at our lives through the Lens of Regret too long, we can become derailed. For the past several weeks, most of us have had a lot of time on our hands. When we have prolonged periods of time to think, our thoughts naturally return to the past. Some are finding that they are experiencing regret over some of their past choices. Some are even looking at the totality of their lives and are filled with regret over the trajectory their lives have taken.

What can we do if that is what we are experiencing right now? First, we must acknowledge our regrets. We can think about where we went wrong and why we took those wrong turns so many years ago. We must then move to the present and ask ourselves, “Is there anything I can do about those choices now?” If so, we have the time to possibly change the final result of those choices. For instance, if we haven’t spoken to a friend or relative for years, we can pick up the phone and restore communication. Or perhaps we stole something from a business we worked for or an acquaintance we knew. Now could be the right time to write out a check and send it to that person with an explanatory letter expressing our regret. 

You see, the thing about regrets is that they are not all carved in stone. Within some of them lies the opportunity to bring us freedom and a resolution from the burden we have been carrying. They might even hold the possibility of personal growth and maturity in a way we might not have considered possible before. 

But what if we are experiencing something deeper than regret, something that feels akin to sorrow? What if we are genuinely sorry for something we have done or for a series of choices we have made that have impacted our lives in a negative way? Unlikely as it may seem, it might be one of the most positive things we could feel at the moment. The Bible calls that emotion “godly sorrow.” It is a sorrow that has been given to us by the Lord to help us turn our lives around. The Bible puts it this way, “For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted;” 2 Corinthians 7:10. 

So what do we do with that sorrow? We bring it to the Lord, i.e. we confess it to Him. We tell Him about what we have done wrong and that we are sorry we have done it. We ask Him to forgive us those things (our sins) and we ask Him to have His Son, Jesus, come and live in our hearts and make us new people. That is what we call being “born again.” It is available to anyone at any time. God is always there to here our call. The good news is that He sent His Son Jesus to die on the cross and be raised from the dead in order to bring us close to Him by making us part of His family.

Regret or godly sorrow? We each must decide. And if we can move in a positive direction, let’s make that move. We won’t regret it!

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A Time Out

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When you were a child, did you ever get sent to your room for a “time-out?” If you did, you know that you didn’t go there with the friend you got in trouble with. You also didn’t go there with the brother or sister you were fighting with. You were basically “in solitary” for a while.

We are at a time in our world when we have all been given a time out. The difference is that we are not in our rooms alone. The whole world is basically in a forced lockdown. When we see photos from friends and relatives around the world, we realize that we are all in this together. This should give us a feeling of solidarity and unity. This epidemic is a world-wide event  and it is something that we will all remember together.

What can we do while we are experiencing our “time-out?” We can keep our perspective and realize that it will not last forever. We can think about and pray for those essential workers who are working in the public arena, doing more than an ordinary public service. They are literally keeping things running, i.e. our medical workers are keeping the hospitals and clinics open for us. The retail workers are keeping the grocery stores open and those in the transportation industry are keeping the flow of  goods moving where they are most needed. We can also pray for our government officials who are trying to figure out the best way to keep the public safe. They are under a tremendous strain as they attempt to navigate this public health crisis. When it is over, may we never take any of them for granted again.

Yes, we are in a time-out, but it doesn’t have to be an unproductive time. May we use this unexpected gift of time to lift up and encourage our neighbors and friends. May it draw us closer to those near and far as we experience this unique time together.

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A Cautionary Tale

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The Dark Lord, Satan, sat on the highest mountain of the earth. He surveyed the kingdoms of this world and did not hear the normal din of everyday life. The earth  was eerily quiet; he could see death and destruction everywhere. It made him almost gleeful. He savored the feeling for a few moments and then turned to his most powerful demons. He smiled and with a smug look on his face said, “What do you have for me today?”

Fear spoke first, “We’ve got them on the run. The earth is filled with fear and they are worried. I believe I am accomplishing my finest work yet.”

The Dark Lord nodded, “I knew I could count on you in any crisis.”

“My business is down. The prostitutes and pimps are not on the street. and sex trafficking has slowed,” Lust whined.

“Not to worry,” the Dark Lord consoled. “You will back in business soon enough.”

“It’s been a bad few weeks for me. Everything I have built for people to worship is being knocked down,” Idolatry complained. 

“I’ve been going through a rough patch also. Kindness and Generosity have been rampant. I can’t seem to put a stop to it,” Selfishness chimed in.

“You think it’s been bad for you? I’ve had the roughest weeks yet. Thousands are turning back to The Father of Lights and His Son, Jesus,” Unbelief  said as he erupted in frustration.

The Dark Lord watched as his henchmen all started to talk at once; each one vying for his attention. He let them get their frustrations out and then he looked at each one. “My time is almost here. Those that won’t turn to the Father of Lights and His Son will be looking for a savior. I am almost ready to take my rightful place in the earth. I will be worshipped by millions and we will finally have our day. Take heart, it is coming soon.”

With that statement, the demons fell at his feet and groveled. They too had been waiting for his time. It was going to be their time also…a time of suffering and sorrow like the world had never seen.

“Soon,” the Dark Lord repeated.  He looked at each and every demon, “Now, get back to work. We must get the world ready for my appearing.”

Image by Leonardo DeCarvalho. Courtesy of Pixabay.

When did 60 become the new 80?

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Did you ever have a birthday and someone say something to you that sounded like this? You know that 40 is the new 30? Or maybe, 50 is the new 40? Or perhaps, 60 is the new 50? Have you ever given a thought as to why people say those things? It’s because we have been living longer based on advances in our healthcare system. We now have antibiotics and medicines that can prolong our lives that previous generations did not have. People are now biologically younger than they were at any given age if they are relatively healthy.

About thirty years ago, a relative of mine was on a State Board that was formulating decisions for health care. There was only so much state money to go around when assisting people on aid and so heath guidelines were being developed on how to allocate those funds. For instance, if you were an alcoholic, you would not be considered for a liver transplant. If you had already had a liver transplant, you may not be given another. Those funds would be allocated to someone else in order to give them a chance at life. Conversely if you were a certain age, say 80, and you had breast cancer, you would not be considered for chemotherapy or radiation as the negative effects of the therapy could be worse for you than just living with the cancer and dying of natural causes several years down the road.

Now we find ourselves with a global pandemic. Unfortunately countries are having to make difficult decisions as to who will receive extraordinary life-giving care and who won’t. Some have suggested the cutoff age for that care be around 60 or 65 depending on which hospital, state or federal government makes those decisions. Although it may feel like a kick in the teeth, this idea has been around for centuries. Remember when the ship was sinking at sea and the rule was “Women and Children First?”  People have always had to make life and death decisions based on the greater good for society. 

So what can an older person do if they find themselves in that position? What can you do to increase your chances of survival should you be attacked by a virus or any other life-threatening illness? The following are a few thoughts from my perspective:

1. If you’ve been living the high life expecting the doctors to perform a miracle should you have a problem, give up the fallacy. The next time you wake up with a hangover, take a good hard look in the mirror. Throw some cold water on your face, give yourself a slap and say, “Snap out of it!” You can’t live like the devil and expect your doctor to swoop in and save you or your tired liver should the need arise.

2. If you smoke or vape, stop! Almost 1/5 of deaths are smoking related and you can increase your chances at life simply by stopping. You know your doctor has been begging you to stop for years so why not listen to his advice? Pick up that cell phone, give him a call, and get that prescription of Nicorette he’s been wanting to write for you.

3. Put down that remote, get those tennis shoes on and walk out of your house. Take a spin around the block and then each day or so add another block. It will increase your circulation, build your stamina and lower your blood sugar. Within a week or so, you will start to feel more alive than you have for years.

4. Slow down on the fast food. Try to eat a few fruits and vegetables.  Honestly, they won’t hurt you. No one is saying you have to eat kale, just add something green to your diet. Something red or yellow won’t hurt either. Eating healthy will also give you more energy and help clean the slog out of your system.

5. Put down that beer or Coca-Cola and grab a glass of water. Try to drink several glasses a day to help clean out your system. It will help your kidneys function better and will remove toxins from your body. Your skin will even look younger.

6. Take a Multi-vitamin. Yes, gummies count. Get those needed vitamin and minerals inside of you. They will also help build your stamina and strength.

7. Stop putting you faith in the healthcare system and try putting it in God. He’s the only one that can save you in this life or the next. Why not look to Him to help you survive? 

It may be true that 40 is the new 30, 50 is the new 40 and 60 is the new 50, but when it comes down to it, our birth certificates will reveal our true age. Let’s do our best to take personal responsibility for our health and not rely on any doctor or healthcare system to save us.

Image by Michal Jamoluk. Courtesy of Pixabay.

Really?

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Sunday was a lovely day and I decided to go for a walk in the park near my home. Most people are cordial as you pass by and greet you with a friendly “Good Afternoon.” It is a pleasure to interact with others, even from a safe distance these days, as our interactions seem so much more precious than they used to. Even a friendly “hello” from a neighbor across the street brightens my day. 

As I was finishing my walk, a lady walked by in her mid-twenties. She looked very angry and would not even look at me. She was Asian and I think Chinese. I didn’t think much about it except that she must have been having a very bad day. I thought about her a few more times that afternoon and then forgot about her. The next day, I read in the New York Times that many Chinese Americans are being harassed by others. They are being called names, spit on and even physically attacked. I was shocked at this behavior and began to wonder if perhaps someone had said something to the woman I had seen the day before.

For a bit of personal perspective, I grew up in a region close to the California border. About twenty-three miles south of where I lived was a Japanese Internment Camp near Tulelake, California.  About 120,000 Japanese Americans were placed in one of those camps during World War II. As a child, I toured the camp and tried to imagine how daily life must have been for those interred there. When I grew up, I hoped we had learned our lesson about displaying hatred and prejudice to those of a different nationality or race during difficult times. 

Apparently, not so.  Again, we are seeing fear and hatred rear their ugly heads. People feel out of control having to deal with the vagaries of the coronavirus and they are lashing out at innocent people of Chinese descent. Do we honestly think that our neighbor, those we work with or those who run the Chinese restaurants in our cities, had anything to do with the Coronavirus? Really?

If we have the opportunity, let’s make an effort to reach out with kindness to those Chinese Americans living among us. Let’s let them know they are safe around us and try to treat them the same way we would like to be treated if we were in their position. If there was ever a time to apply the Golden Rule, it is certainly in this situation. After all,  “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you,” should not be just another positive maxim, it should be the standard we use as we continue to weather this difficult crisis together.

A Glimpse

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Have you ever been given a glimpse of something? Perhaps you were at a party and saw someone who had been drinking too much. He started saying things he would not normally say and you had a glimpse of what might be hidden deep in his heart. What about a glimpse of something on a larger scale? Have you ever been given a glimpse of something like that?

Those of us who study prophecy and end-time events have been given several glimpses in the last few decades of what future events might look like. To name a few, there was the tsunami that occurred in the Pacific and Indian Oceans several years ago. We had a glimpse of how hundreds of thousands of people could be wiped out in less than a day. It was staggering to see the incredible loss of life and economic damage that occurred. After that, we saw a person running for national office and watched tens of thousands of people worldwide turn out to listen to him. We had a glimpse of how people could be totally enamored by a charismatic figure they believed could rescue the world from its own destructive tendencies.

Now, God in His infinite mercy has given us another glimpse. With the current worldwide pandemic, we have seen how a disease can spread around the globe in a relatively short amount of time. We’ve watched how it can affect healthcare systems and how economies can be on the brink of collapse within a matter of weeks.  I even heard a commentator speak of how this epidemic could crash the world economy. Surely, if our hope is in our money, stocks, securities or 401 Ks, we must realize they will become worthless in the face of a total economic collapse.

Those of us who believe in end-time events, the Tribulation and the Second Coming of Jesus Christ see these glimpses as precursors of what is to come in perhaps the not too distant future. If you are a materialist and believe that none of these events have any spiritual significance, I would implore you to take a second look at what is happening. Perhaps there is more to all of the turbulence in the world than simple naturalistic cause and effect. 

At some point, the current crisis will pass and the world will return to business as usual. As the inconvenience of our current situation fades, will we forget about what we have seen and what we have experienced? Again, God in His infinite mercy has given us a glimpse of what is to come. He wants us to turn to Him, seek Him and look to His Son, Jesus Christ, for our ultimate Salvation. In the end, other than Him, there will be nothing left to protect us from what might be approaching on the horizon. 

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Fear: The Ultimate Contagion

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Over the past few weeks, I have thought about what to write. The media has inculcated the public with an irrational fear of the COVID19 Virus. I have been in different situations and heard people speak of the fear they are experiencing. I have also spoken to people from the medical community who are not living in fear because they face worse germs every day when they go to their workplace.

This particular Coronavirus is real, of course. It does have about a 1% mortality rate, and those who are elderly or have underlying health conditions are the most vulnerable.  These facts are nothing to sneeze at (pardon the pun). It is highly communicable and it did not start in this country, so there is an element of the unknown about it. Each person does need to practice good hygiene procedures and make individual decisions about where they will travel and how they will limit their own risk of exposure to the disease.

That being said, the next condition to deal with is the underlying fear that is present in our culture today. We need to ask ourselves if we are going to give in to that fear. That answer will be different for each one of us based on our age, our health and ultimately the spiritual center we use to guide our lives.  Those who have no belief in God and are completely dependent on their own resources will have little reassurance. Those of us who do believe in God are in a much better position to defeat this particular enemy.

No matter what situation we are facing, the Lord does not want us to live in fear. He has promised us in His word that He will take care of us. “Fear Not” is woven throughout the Scriptures. For this particular circumstance, we have Psalm 91 to read and take comfort in. He tells us that if we are His and we abide under His shadow that: “He shall cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you shall take refuge; His truth shall be your shield and buckler. YOU SHALL NOT BE AFRAID of the terror by night, nor of the arrow that flies by day, nor of the pestilence that walks in darkness, nor of the destruction that lays waste at noonday.” These are just a few of the verses from this Psalm that we can read and rely on. We can trust God to take care of us no matter what is going on around us.

I am not saying that we will not suffer or that bad things will not happen to us. I am saying that we can trust HIM to take care of us no matter where we find ourselves. For those of us who believe in HIM, let’s take a few deep breaths and remain calm. Let’s trust HIM with our lives because HE ultimately holds them in His hands. And let’s ask ourselves, “Who else would we rather have taking care of us?” He knows our every breath and knows the number of hairs on our heads. He just wants us to trust HIM. 

The truth is that we only have today, it is the only day we have been given. Let’s not live it in fear.  Let’s pray, practice good hygiene and spend time with the Lord in His word. There we will find everything we need to live in peace and to defeat this ultimate contagion. 

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On the Fence

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Have you ever been on the fence about something? Maybe you couldn’t decide which way to go. Maybe you wanted to make a decision but were afraid. We’ve all been there. Perhaps, you are there right now. Some decisions are easy to make; others not so much, especially when the decisions are life-changing.

Life-changing decisions take a lot of thought. Who am I going to marry? Which job should I take? Where should I live? Should I follow Jesus or not? All of these decisions need to be well thought out before we make them. No one can ultimately make them for us because we are the ones who will have to live with the consequences. 

I remember when I was in a period of my life when I was looking for the Lord. I think I had found the truth about Him but I was afraid to commit to the decision. Why? Because I knew it would have profound consequences for my life. I knew some of my friends and family would reject me if I became a Jesus follower. I knew I would have to change my lifestyle if I did. I didn’t know what my new life would look like and I was hesitant to make the decision, i.e. fully commit to Him.

It took me a few years to finally make that decision. It did have its consequences. Some of my friends did reject me. Some in my family were very disappointed that I didn’t go to the church they did. I did have to change my lifestyle but I am not sorry that I did. Looking back, it turned out to be the best decision I ever made.

Perhaps, you are sitting on the fence at the moment and are trying to decide whether to become a Jesus follower or not. There is nothing wrong with being deliberate about the decision. Jesus himself tells us that we must think about the cost of following Him in Luke 14: 25-32. He uses the examples of a builder and of a king going off to war. Each one must count the cost before he begins his particular undertaking. Likewise, each of us must weigh the cost before committing to follow Him. 

Being a Jesus follower does not always come easy but it is always worth it. I haven’t met one person yet who is sorry they made the decision to follow Him. Anyone will tell you that the benefits far outweigh the price we must pay. Even those living in countries where they pay the ultimate price for following Jesus are willing to do it for the joy He gives them. And that is not even mentioning the eternal benefits waiting for those that follow Him.

Are you on the fence at the moment? Fine, consider the cost but don’t take forever to make your decision. The world is changing quickly and the longer you take the harder it will be to follow Him. I urge you to come to Him while there is still time; it will be well worth it in the end.

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Waiting for the Truth

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How many of us have been waiting for our governments to tell us the truth about a particular subject? I expect the people of Wuhan are waiting for it also. The poor pangolin has been blamed for being the missing link between bats and humans in spreading the coronavirus but could it have escaped from the Level 4 Biolab in Wuhan? No one in China has mentioned it but one wonders if perhaps while scientists were working on a vaccine, the virus somehow migrated out of the lab?

Most of us have learned not to look to our governments for the truth about much of anything. Facts and statistics can be skewed depending on the political bent of the encumbent administration. We should remember that when listening to our favorite politicians talk about any subject. We should take what we are hearing with a grain of salt and then do our own research. If we want to have a grasp on the truth, we must check out several sources and not just the ones that uphold our particular political views.

Governments from time immemorial have been giving their citizens their own versions of whatever story they are espousing. Look at the hieroglyphics on the pyramids. They give the reader a dynastic history the way a particular pharaoh wants to be remembered. Remember the great fire of Rome? The Roman emperor Nero sent out a story that Christians had set fire to Rome while most historians believe that he was responsible. He needed room for his next building project and certain neighborhoods in the city needed to be razed. Ah, the ancients had The Spin down to a science.

I don’t know about you, but I am still waiting for the truth about the Kennedy assasination. We were promised that papers would be released fifty years after his death but then whoops – not possible. We were again told the information was still politically sensitive. Maybe, but it is hard to swallow when it has been fifty years since the death of John F. Kennedy and few if any of the citizens believe “The Official Version of the Story.”

Sometimes, we are lucky, no thanks to the powers that be. Remember Benghazi and that official story? Because there were eyewitnesses and lots of people involved, the truth eventually came out during the congressional hearings. Even after that though, the government still did not amend its original story. It would have been too embarrassing to actually admit to the truth.

There are many historical occurrences about which we will never know the true story. We can wait forever but it will not come. We should keep that in mind when we are being told stories that have been fabricated by whichever ruling political party in order to protect its own position of power. Whatever the story, whatever the subject, let’s do our own research. Otherwise, we will be waiting forever to find the truth. 

What particular truth are you waiting for?