Easter Fun!

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Last weekend was packed with fun family Easter activities. We had Easter baskets, egg hunts, dying eggs, and a baptism service at church. I thought I’d share a few pictures of our weekend with you!

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I hope you had a happy Easter as well! How did you choose to celebrate with your family?

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Easter Movies for Kids

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As I mentioned in a previous post, about a year ago our family instituted a tradition of Sunday Family Movie Nights, in which we each take turns picking a movie to watch as a family on Sunday evenings. This has become a fun tradition that my boys look forward to (although Mr. Not-quite-three only stays up for part of the movie).

With Easter coming up this Sunday, I wanted to share a few of our favorite family Easter movies with you.

  • VeggieTales: An Easter Carol – In this Easter veggie version of A Christmas Carol, Mr. Nezzer learns the true meaning of Easter from a music box angel named Hope (voiced by Grammy winner Rebecca St. James). There was one part that scared my little guy at first, when Grandma Nezzer pops out of the picture and Mr. Nezzer thinks she’s a ghost. But she is quick to reassure him that there’s no such thing as ghosts, and that he’s having a vision (“like a dream, with a point”), and then she breaks into song and my little guys was fine after that.
  • VeggieTales: Twas the Night Before Easter – In this cute animated tale, reporter Marlee Meade wants to save the local theater but gets into a “pickle” (pun intended!) when there is competition with the local church production. My kids really liked the “Hopperena” silly song too! This one reminds me a lot of the plot of another Veggie Tales movie, The Star of Christmas.
  • The Easter Story Keepers – In this movie a group of orphans are being helped by a Christian baker and his wife during the persecution of Emperor Nero. During the tale, the baker tells stories about Jesus’s life.
  • The Miracle Maker – this is probably my favorite movie from the list. In a combination of claymation and animation, the story of Jesus is told from the perspective of Jairus’s daughter, whom Jesus raised from the dead. It is overall very accurate and it even includes the scene of Jesus appearing to two followers on the road to Emmaus.

I hope you enjoy the time this weekend with your family spending time reflecting on Jesus’s death and resurrection!

Easter Books for Kids

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Last week I shared some ideas for sharing the hope of Easter with your kids. Today I’d like to share some of our favorite Easter themed books for kids!

  • The First Easter retold by Catherine Storr – this story begins with the disciples making preparations for the last supper and ends Mary seeing the risen Jesus in the garden. One of the things I like about this book is that is has details from the gospels that are sometimes missing in children’s books, such as the release of Barabbas and Pilot’s wife’s dream.
  • My Easter Basket and the True Story of Easter by Mary Manz Simon – I really like this book as it associates the colors in the Easter basket with the resurrection story. It is a sturdy board book with glittery cut-out pages and has fun, rhyming text. This would be a great book to use during an Easter egg hunt, telling the story with colored eggs to match the text.
  • Benjamin’s Box by Melody Carlson – this book is designed to be used with the Resurrection Eggs, though it also works as a stand-alone book. It tells the story of a little boy named Benjamin as he follows Jesus during his last days and who collects “treasures” that he uses to tell the story. A similar book is Lily’s Easter Party by Crystal Bowman.
  • The Story of the Empty Tomb by Bryan Davis – with it’s colorful illustrations and rhyming text, this book tells the resurrection story.
  • The Easter Story From the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John from Tommy Nelson Publishers – this is a great copy of the Easter story as the text is taken directly from the International Children’s Bible, New Century Version. This version starts with the triumphal entry into Jerusalem and ends at the Ascension.
  • Little Bunny’s Easter Egg Surprise by Joan Hood – while this book is not a religious Easter book, I like the overall message of this book. Here little bunny is the littlest bunny in his family and he is tired of always being so little. Mother bunny tells him that it’s not whether he’s big or little, it’s what’s inside that counts, and Little Bunny learns this when he finds an egg with a special surprise.
  • The Tale of the Three Trees retold by Angela Elwell Hunt – This book tells the story of three trees who have big dreams of being important but who end up being used as ordinary, every-day objects. But each of these ordinary objects take on new meaning when they are used by the Savior. Honestly, I have a hard time reading this book without crying at the end!

There are lots of other great books about Easter. What are some of your favorites?

Daniel Fast Part 2: Confession is Good for the Soul

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Last week I shared that I am doing a partial fast, or “Daniel Fast,” in preparation for Easter.
This week I’d like to share with you some of the things I’ve been learning. It has now been 10 days since I started this 21 day journey, and God has been showing me a lot throughout this time. As I mentioned before, doing a fast is about taking away food (either partially or fully) in order to seek the Lord during prayer and Bible study. I started this fast 21 days before Easter so that I could take this time to meditate on the true meaning of Easter and prepare my heart for worship during this time.

But ladies, God has been showing me so much more than I expected during this time! One of the studies I have been doing during this time is the “Why Easter Matters” study from Good Morning Girls. Week 1 was about “Why the Last Supper Matters.” Week 2 is “Why the Crucifixion Matters.”

As I’ve read and studied these passages, I’ve been seeing more clearly my own sin as well as the significance of Christ’s sacrifice for me.

When I started this study I wasn’t thinking much about my own sin. I mean I knew I sinned from time to time (um, can you say sin of pride right there? Yikes!), but I wasn’t expecting the kind of conviction I came under as I began to examine my own heart, especially in light of what Christ did on the cross for me. I began to see the angry, critical spirit I have sometimes used when dealing with my children and husband, my desire for personal recognition when all the glory is due to God, and my anxious attitude, which revealed a lack of trust in God.

It has been too long since I have taken a good hard look at my own sin, confessed it for what it is, and asked God to create a new heart within me. In her book, The Ultimate Guide to the Daniel Fast, Kristen Feola talks about the need for confession at the beginning of a fast. She relates how the children of Israel, in the book of Isaiah, fasted and prayed, but did so without confession, and thus received nothing.

So as I read through the passages in the Good Morning Girls study, I started to become more aware of my own sin and the price that was paid to take away my guilt and give me eternal life. In studying the last supper, I was reminded of the command in 1 Corinthians 11 to examine oneself before partaking. I realized that I needed to take this command more seriously and to examine my heart regularly, not just once in a while. When I fail to do this, I am dismissing God’s holiness and hatred of sin. I take his sacrifice too lightly and fail to use the proper reverence due him.

During Week 2’s readings, I was reminded of the heavy burden Christ endured for that sin. Isaiah 53:5-6 says:

But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned – every one – to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

It was my sin that caused him such piercing, crushing, wounding pain. He took the punishment that I deserved, even though he had done nothing wrong.

Never should I forget that I am completely in Christ’s debt and that I can never (and need never) repay it. There is nothing I can do that would be good enough to earn that salvation. Nothing I can do that would make me worthy of such a sacrifice. But I am thankful that I do not have to earn it. I am thankful that in Romans 5 it says Christ died for us while we were still sinners. We don’t have to clean ourselves up or get our acts together to accept Christ’s sacrifice. He died for us just as we are, full of sin, and He is the one who takes our lives and makes us clean. What a humbling thought!

Easter Activities for Kids

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I love Easter. It is easily my favorite holiday. I love that it occurs every year in the spring when the weather begins to get warmer and things which appeared so cold and dead all winter, once again show signs of life. Spiritually, it reminds me of Jesus’s sacrifice on the cross. His triumph over death raised our hearts, which were dead in our sins, to new life in Christ when we put our faith in him alone (Eph. 2).

Sharing this season with my children is a privilege and joy. Every year I look for new ways to share with my children the hope of Easter, and I wanted to share a few of those ways with you today.

One tradition we have every year is to do daily Bible readings in preparation for Easter. This year we did the Life of Christ Family Reading Plan from Intoxicated on Life.

  • This reading plan follows the life of Christ in chronological order throughout the four Gospels, and the readings are designed to be completed once a day, five days a week, from New Years through Easter. Yes, this is a long time commitment (15 weeks this year, though the reading plan has other examples for shorter time periods, depending on when Easter falls each year), but I liked that it incorporated all four gospels at once and covered everything from Christ’s birth, to his ministry and major teachings, to his death and resurrection, in chronological order. So every morning during breakfast we listen to the passage being read using our Superbook Bible App (this is a full version Bible that has a read-to-me feature so we can all listen at once without me trying to read in between bites of cereal!).

If you’re looking for a shorter set of readings to do during Passion Week, Home With the Boys has a reading plan and short daily activities using the Jesus Storybook Bible.

  • This reading plan is to be used specifically during Easter week, so it is only a week long, and I like the hands-on activities associated with this reading plan, as it helps bring the stories to life.The Jesus Storybook Bible is one of our favorite children’s Bibles because it shows how the entire Bible, Old and New Testaments, tell one story, the story of God’s plan to rescue us from the curse of sin.
  • Below is a video of the Resurrection story as told by the Jesus Storybook Bible:
Easter Story–Jesus Storybook Bible

 

One of my favorite traditions that we use every year are the Resurrection Eggs. These are a set of plastic eggs with different items inside that help to tell the story of Christ’s death and resurrection. There is a pre-made kit you can buy, or you can make your own. I really like these because they give a visual, tactile experience, which is great for kids. We usually hide the eggs and then once the kids have found them all, we open each egg in order and read the corresponding scripture.

Here is a link to different ways to make your own set of resurrection eggs:

Our final Easter object lesson that I like to do with the kids is to make resurrection rolls or resurrection cookies, where the end result is a “empty tomb.” You can find the instructions here:

  • Resurrection Cookies – each step in making these cookies (which are very easy for children to make) corresponds to part of the Easter story. For example, breaking the nuts into pieces reminds children that Jesus was beaten for us, the vinegar reminds us of the vinegar he was offered to drink on the cross, etc. The fun thing about these cookies is that you leave them “sealed in the tomb” (oven) overnight and when you take them out in the morning and eat them, you’ll find that the inside is now hollow (like the empty tomb).
  • Resurrection Rolls – for these rolls, you take a marshmallow (which represents Jesus’s body) and wrap it inside a crescent roll and bake it. The marshmallow melts and “disappears,” leaving an “empty tomb.” Just be sure to seal the rolls carefully, as I had trouble with ours leaking! But they were still tasty. Smile

These are just a few ideas our family uses to celebrate the true meaning of Easter. What ideas would you add to the list?

Daniel Fast Part 1

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At the beginning of the year I was introduced to the idea of a “Daniel Fast.” I had always thought of fasting as being abstaining totally from food, such as when Jesus fasted for 40 days in the wilderness. But I didn’t realize that partial fasting is also in the Bible.

For those unfamiliar with fasting, it is basically a time set aside in which a person or group of people stop eating in order to use that time for prayer, repentance, and/or preparation. There are many examples of fasting in the Bible. Here are just a few:

Moses fasted while waiting to receive the 10 commandments (Exodus 34), David fasted while praying for his dying child (2 Samuel 12), Esther and the Jewish people in the city fasted before she went in to talk to the king (Esther 4), and as mentioned earlier, Jesus fasted for 40 days in the wilderness where he was also tempted by Satan (Matthew 4).

These fasts lasted various amounts of time, from 3 days of fasting in the book of Esther, to a full 40 days of fasting for Moses and Jesus, in which they neither ate not drank, but were supernaturally sustained.

The prophet Daniel also fasted, saying, “Then I turned my face to the Lord God, seeking him by prayer and pleas for mercy with fasting and sackcloth and ashes” (Dan 9:3). In Daniel 10 we find that Daniel fasted by eating “no delicacies, no meat or wine entered my mouth, nor did I anoint myself at all, for the full three weeks” (Dan. 10:3). So in this case Daniel’s fast was a partial fast, wherein he ate plain food and water, no meat, delicacies or wine, for 21 days.

So during a “Daniel fast” a person does a partial fast, abstaining from things like meat, sugar and sweeteners, bread made with yeast, dairy products, refined or processed foods, etc., and instead eats fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, seeds, and so on, using the time of fasting to focus not on physical food but spiritual food. Taking time to really seek the Lord in Bible study and prayer, in order to deepen that relationship with Him.

I have decided to participate in a Daniel fast in preparation for Easter, based on the guidelines in The Ultimate Guide to the Daniel Fast by Kristen Feola. Like the Advent season at Christmas time, I want to spend the weeks leading into Easter focusing on Christ’s sacrifice for me. This is just one way to prepare for Easter, and I will share my experiences with it soon, as well as why I chose this particular kind of fast, but there are lots of other ways to prepare our hearts for Easter too.

What are some things you are doing to get ready for Easter?