Getting a Jump on Easter
About the Guest
The culture doesn't make much of Easter, but believers should. After all, it is the day when we remember Christ's death and burial and celebrate HIs resurrection. Barbara Rainey and Tracy Lane tell what they do to make Easter special in their homes.
Barbara RaineyAfter graduating from the University of Arkansas with a Bachelor of Arts degree in history, Barbara joined the staff of Cru® in 1971. With her husband Dennis, whom she married in 1972, the Rainey’s cofounded FamilyLife®, a ministry committed to helping marriages and families survive and thrive in our generation. Barbara is a frequent speaker and guest on FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s award-winning nationally-syndicated daily radio broadcast. She is the author or coauthor of...more
Tracy LaneTracy Lane--wife to Matt, mom of 3, writer at FamilyLife --is trying to juggle the dream. She enjoys cheering on her husband's baseball team and encouraging others with the truth of the gospel. With Tracy you get what you see: a mom who carries the weight of caring for a chronically ill daughter, but is also doing her best to teach her family how to make the most of every day we are given for God's glory. Follow her motherhood journey online at Hea...more
The culture doesn’t make much of Easter, but believers should. Barbara Rainey and Tracy Lane tell what they do to make Easter special in their homes.
Getting a Jump on Easter
Bob: Most people in our culture won’t stop to think about Easter until sometime in the middle of Holy Week. In fact, a lot of people in our culture won’t even stop to think about Easter at all this spring. Barbara Rainey says we, as Christians, should take advantage of this time.
Barbara: This is a great opportunity for Christian families to be a witness. I think the culture looks at us—and they see us doing nothing for Easter—so they think we must not believe it either. If we can make a big deal out of it in our families and in our churches, and we can declare publically to our friends and our neighbors that Easter is everything to us, then they might go: “Oh! Well, maybe there is some truth to this Easter story.” But if we do what the culture does—and make nothing of it / make little of it—then why should they investigate our faith? Why should they look at us as having something that they don’t have?
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, February 6th. Our host is Dennis Rainey; I'm Bob Lepine. Remember, back in November, when you couldn’t walk into a store without being confronted with Christmas? What if we started, now, talking about Easter? We’ll talk with Barbara Rainey about that today. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Tuesday edition. Here it is—the start of the second month of the new year. We got a lot of people who are still paying the bills from Christmas.
Barbara: —from Christmas!!
Bob: Right! Still putting away some deco—some people are still putting away their decorations. They still have house lights for Christmas. I’m about to take some signs around the neighborhood—you know, some little handbills and say, “It’s time to take your lights down,”—right? [Laughter]
But we want to get a jump start on our thinking about Easter, because most of us don’t think about it early enough. There’s a great discipleship opportunity for moms and dads, right here, in the weeks leading up to Easter.
Dennis: That’s a good way to put it, Bob. Discipleship is a spiritual discipline of passing on truth—teaching your kids to know God, to know the Bible, to know who Jesus Christ is / why He came; and then, how to begin to follow Him and how to live in a world that is really very, very troubled.
We have a couple of ladies with us today on the broadcast. My wife, Barbara, who’s here again. Welcome back, Sweetie.
Barbara: Thanks; I’m glad to be back.
Dennis: And her comrade at Ever Thine Home®, Tracy Lane, joins us. Welcome back, Tracy.
Tracy: Thank you for having me.
Dennis: They’re trying to help families be successful in seizing the holidays.
I’ll never forget, Bob—in fact, I think you were there—when Ever Thine Home was first birthed by Barbara. She stood up front of a small group of people and said: “I’m going to help you regain the reason for the season around Christmas. We need to reclaim the spiritual realities of who Jesus Christ is—“What does it mean?—Emmanuel, God with us.”
She created Adorenaments®, and she was telling that audience about that. Spontaneously, the audience—[clapping]—began to applaud. Remember that?
Barbara: Yes; I do.
Dennis: And what they were saying was: “Give us help!” “Give us the Bible, practically, so we can pass it on to our kids; because we’re busy, we’re pressured, we’re under stress,” and “What we need are simple ways to pass on the reality about Jesus Christ.”
Bob: I’m guessing, if we took a poll and asked the average Americans to rank their five top holidays, Christmas would probably be number one for everybody; wouldn’t you think?
Bob: Number two—
Bob: —probably be Thanksgiving. Number three is maybe Fourth of July. Although, Halloween—
Barbara: —is way up there with people.
Bob: In terms of spending, it’s gotten to be a big deal.
Dennis: Mother’s Day and Father’s Day would have to in the top five too; wouldn’t they?
Bob: You’d wonder if Easter would even make the top five.
Bob: I’m thinking back to 20 years ago when—Barbara, I remember you saying, “Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.”
Bob: That’s changed over the years.
Barbara: That has changed. I still love Thanksgiving—I still love the fall and gathering together. But ranking holidays for me, Easter is now at the top; because I have come to understand that, without Easter—Paul says it—our faith would be in vain. If you take away Easter and you take away the cross, the New Testament is gone.
Bob: The whole Bible disappears, really.
Barbara: Yes! Exactly! When I began to understand the importance—I always knew it was important / I always knew it was essential—but when I began to see how significant it is / how, without the cross, everything else is useless—then I began to realize we are undervaluing this holiday—we’re under-celebrating it / we’re ignoring it—we’re just treating it as a special Sunday, where everybody gets dressed up and then we go home and the TV goes on. There is just nothing that makes it holy as it should be / or set apart as it should be.
Yet, by contrast, we spend too much money at Christmas—all the decorations are out at a lot of the stores, if not in July, then early fall. TV ads are on, starting November 1st for two full months. What kind of support do we see in the culture for Easter by contrast? The answer is: “None!”
Dennis: What kind of support do we see in the church at Easter?
Barbara: Very little.
Dennis: Again, we’ll celebrate together, as a congregation; but to equip moms and dads—Tracy you’re raising a young family. Do you feel like you are being equipped to know how to communicate the truth around Easter to your kids?
Tracy: I really don’t feel like I have. I think that is echoed in my group of friends. Even—my kids go to a Christian school. They have a huge Thanksgiving feast / they have a big Christmas party—we don’t have an Easter party. We’re off for Good Friday / we’re out of school.
But out of school doesn’t mean as much to them as this big class party, where we all bring cupcakes and streamers. Why are we not doing that for Easter? Our culture doesn’t really give us the tools that we need to teach our children how important this is.
Bob: So, this is a subversive holiday. I mean, you stop and think about it—it’s counter-cultural to make a big deal out of Easter; but isn’t Christianity, by its definition, counter-cultural?
Dennis: The message of the cross is offensive—
Dennis: “You’re a sinner;—
Dennis: —“you’re not going to make it. You need a Savior.”
Bob: Yes; a baby in a manger is something everybody in the culture can go, “Oh, that’s sweet.”
Barbara: Yes! Well, we love babies; we love angels; we get the music at Christmas—all of that—but who loves a cross? It was a form of execution. Who wants to talk about blood and death?—nobody! It’s harder to make much of Easter because the symbolism, even though it’s great and powerful, isn’t quite as friendly.
Bob: In a culture that’s been dominated by modernity, the message of the Resurrection is kind of like: “Nobody really believes that anymore; do they? I mean, nobody thinks that really happened.”
Dennis: When you speak of modernity—
Bob: Yes, I’m talking about an empirically-based people, who say, “What’s true is what we can verify through the scientific method,”—that’s how modern man thinks. Reality and truth is based on things that are provable. You have to able to replicate them in a laboratory.
Postmodern people say, “What’s true is what I feel.”
Christians say: “What is true is what’s been revealed to us,” and “What’s been revealed to us—by God, in His Word / through His Spirit, in history—is that Jesus didn’t just die on a cross but, three days later, He rose again.” If that’s true that changes everything!
Dennis: A lot of men and women, who set out to disprove the Resurrection, and in the process?
Bob: —have come to faith in Christ! If you start to do a serious investigation of the evidence for Christianity, and if your heart is open to the possibility that it’s true, God meets you there and shows you: “This is indeed true.”
Our hope in talking about this early—and the resources that you’ve been working on, Barbara—our hope is that moms and dads will say: “Let’s be counter-cultural. Let’s go against the flow; and in our home, let’s make Easter as big as or bigger than Christmas.”
You do that by building some anticipation for it with the resource you’ve created, Barbara, which is a banner that hangs in your home that’s like an Advent calendar—an Easter Advent calendar. You move a marker every day as you count down the days toward Easter. Then, there’s a flip calendar that you put on your breakfast room table. Every day, there’s a verse to read / some questions to talk about. It doesn’t take long, but it gets everybody looking forward to the big day.
Barbara: I think, too, Bob, as we were talking about the culture today—and what people think today—I think this a great opportunity for Christian families to be a witness. I think the culture looks at us—and they see us doing nothing for Easter—so they think we must not believe it either. If we can make a big deal out of it in our families and in our churches, and we can declare publically to our friends and our neighbors that Easter is everything to us, then they might go: “Oh! Well, maybe there is some truth to this Easter story.” But if we do what the culture does—and make nothing of it / make little of it—then why should they investigate our faith? Why should they look at us as having something that they don’t have?
Bob: So is there a way—I’m just thinking about how you’d engage your neighbors / how you make a statement to your neighbors that this is a big deal. I’m thinking back to our neighborhood; and honestly, there was more decoration for Halloween in our neighborhood than there was for Christmas.
Barbara: Amazing; really!
Bob: There were more ghosts—
Bob: —and goblins out in the front lawn at Halloween than lights up at Christmas.
Barbara: —than Christmas.
Bob: And there’s nothing for Easter.
Barbara: Yes; for sure!
Dennis: Be careful, Bob—you’re giving her ideas! [Laughter]
Barbara: Yes; you are!
Bob: I’m starting to think—there’s a banner we can hang on the door that is an Easter banner. That’s one way to make a statement to the neighborhood. But there aren’t a whole lot of things you do to the house to say to folks: “We’re excited about the Easter celebration!”
Barbara: That’s exactly what I am trying to do—you nailed it. [Laughter]
Bob: “Coming next year!”
Barbara: “Coming next year”; exactly. But I do think that it is a start to hang the Easter banner on your front door. I put mine on my front door and have for the last couple of years. I don’t get that many people who come by, but just making that visual statement on your front door—
Bob: The mailman comes every day; doesn’t he?
Barbara: Yes; the mail—and somebody sees it—that we are focusing on Easter, in our family.
Now, this new version of the banner—we’ve had an Easter banner for several years—this new version has the brass marker that you move that counts down the days / the 40 days before Easter.
You may or may not want to put that on your front door, especially if you live in a cold climate; because you don’t want the whole family having to go out in the cold to move the marker every day. You may want to hang it in your house. But I will probably hang mine on my front door as a way to proclaim that: “This is the Easter season, and we’re going to make much of it in our home.”
Bob: Okay; I’m going to drive by a couple of days during—just to see if you’ve moved the marker and if it’s on the right day. [Laughter] I’m going to send you an email if you don’t—if you haven’t moved your marker.
Barbara: Okay; it may not be on the right day, but I will have it on my front door. [Laughter]
Dennis: You know where we live. You’re not going to just drive by, Bob; you’re going to have to be intentional to get there. [Laughter]
Let’s just take a moment to take a peek at the flip calendar that has 40 three- to five-minute devotionals—right?—
Dennis: —that the mom or the dad—or the grandparent—can read to the kids and ask some questions.
Bob: On most days, there’s a Bible verse and some questions that follows it.
Bob: But on Sundays, you go a little longer. You’ve got a story that you read to the kids. It sets up what they are going to talk about all week.
Barbara: —for the whole week; that’s right.
I’m going to ask Tracy to read it; because she’s a young mom—as we’ve said—she’s got two little kids. I want her to read this as if she was reading it to her kids.
Bob: So, do I get to be the child who acts up this time?
Barbara: Yes, you can be Annie; and Dennis, you can be Audrey. I’ll be her husband and listen to her read this. [Laughter]
Tracy: But you have to know—my kids are obedient. [Laughter]
Barbara: So, we can’t say anything. [Laughter]
Tracy: No; they’re not.
Okay; this is Day 36 / this would be a Sunday reading.
Hundreds of years after Adam and Eve lived and died, God called a man named Abraham to leave his and follow God to a new land. But God didn’t tell Abe where it was. Abraham followed God’s leading each day until he arrived in the new land. There, God blessed and his wife Sarah. They became rich, but they didn’t have any kids which made them very sad.
After 20 years of waiting and, even though they were older than your grandma and grandpa, God did what He had promised. He gave them a baby boy, Isaac.
“Can you imagine anyone older than Nana and Papa?”—[Laughter]—that’s what I would ask my girls.
Barbara: “…having a baby?” [Laughter]
Tracy: Yes! [Laughter]
When Isaac was a young teenager, God asked Abraham to do a strange, almost impossible thing. He commanded Abraham to take Isaac to a specific mountain and sacrifice him. That meant kill him as an offering to God. This story is a very important one for our faith, because it contains many clues showing us what God was going to do one day to His very own Son for us.
Dennis: “Hold it! Hold it! What’s a clue?”
Tracy: “A clue gives us a hint about something—it gives us ideas of what we are looking for.
The Old Testament is filled with clues about Jesus. We can read through the whole Bible and every part of the Bible points us to Jesus and who He was.
This is a lot like a scavenger hunt. This reading, these 40 days, give us different clues, and we’re on a hunt to find out who Jesus is.
Dennis: “I like scavenger hunts!”
Bob: “Can we do a scavenger hunt instead of doing this?” [Laughter] I’m sorry! I shouldn’t have said that. [Laughter] “It was his idea!” [Laugher]
Tracy: “Okay; listen and obey!” [Laughter]
Genesis 22:3 and 4: “So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two young men with him, and his son Isaac. On the third day, Abraham lifted his eyes and saw the place from afar.”
“How many days did Abraham travel to the mountain?”
Bob: “Did it take—was it two or three? It was three—three days.”
Dennis: “He wasn’t listening!” [Laughter]
Bob: “I was! I got it right. It was either two or three.”
Tracy: “You got it—three days.”
Bob: “Thank you!”
Dennis: “I’m always smarter than him.” [Laughter]
Tracy: “In this story of Jesus dying on the cross, what else took three days?”
Bob: “Well, it was three days before He rose again.”
Tracy: “That’s right! You can see how the Old Testament stories give us clues/hints about the story of Jesus. This is one of those.”
Tracy: I want to say to moms out there: “This is easy—this is so easy. This does not take very long at all. We can take time.”
I remember our family was going to Disney last summer. Oh! We had time to talk about that every day / we had time to plan for that. We planned our vacation, for this coming spring break, last September—we took time to prepare, and make reservations, and get our children excited.
“We can do this! Moms, we know how to do this—we do this about so many other things—and this is the most thing to do it about.” We are going to be doing it in our home this year.
Dennis: I think, too, the Disneyland illustration is a good one—to say: “Build some anticipation / have some fun with it. You might figure out a way to maybe supplement one of these—like the one you just read with the scavenger hunt; you know?—and run around the yard and find things—but then come back and talk about these clues and how they are pointing to Christ.”
Bob: The idea of incorporating activities—I know you built some in to each day—having something that kids can do in the middle of this. Moms can be creative as they go through this—
Bob: —and expand it out however fits their family; right?
Barbara: Exactly! That’s the whole idea—is to make learning about the Bible interesting and fun. Because this has the little activity, where you move the marker every day, there is something that engages the kids every single day. There are some activities that we’ve included on a few of these—not every one—because I didn’t want moms to feel like failures because they couldn’t do them all.
It’s open to all kinds of possibilities. I love the fact that God allows us to be creative. He made us to be creative. Moms and dads can be creative in adding what they know will work with their kids into this.
Bob: If your kids were middle school and high school age—you didn’t have any young ones at home—would you still do this?
Barbara: I would, because I want my children to understand the Bible. I want them to understand how all of this was woven together by God to a grand culmination on Resurrection Day. Even if they already knew some of it, I would bet that most middle school and high school kids don’t know it all. They may roll their eyes and they—because our kids did—and they may act uninterested and bored—
Bob: “Do we have to do this kiddie stuff?”
Barbara: Oh, yes; I know.
But if you start when they are younger, it’s a tradition that they will anticipate and they know it’s going to happen—again they may roll their eyes and complain—but again, you’re the parent; and you want to—you want to teach your kids why Easter matters. Go for it!
Dennis: I just want to encourage a parent to do—is look past the kid, who’s rolling her eyes or his eyes. I’ll never forget one of our kids put a napkin over—
Barbara: —her face!
Dennis: —over her face and leaned back—it was like a burial cloth or something. [Laughter] It was like: “I am not interested in this. I don’t to hear any of it”; but the reality is—
—they do listen. They really are hearing.
Barbara: Yes; they do!
Dennis: You don’t think they are; but “Don’t lose heart in well doing,”—that’s
Galatians, Chapter 6. You may need to memorize that.
Have you noticed that your kids pay attention to not paying attention?
Tracy: Yes; my five-year-old will cover her ears if I’m telling her something she doesn’t want to hear. [Laughter] But it’s interesting—because usually, within an hour’s time, that’s what she’s telling my three-year-old—is the same instruction she apparently didn’t hear. I can see, just in that short time span, she’s getting it. I can trust that will happen here too.
Bob: If this did become a tradition in a family—and if every year, for ten years, you went through these same verses leading up to the celebration of Easter—your kids would have a pretty powerful apologetic for how the Old Testament points us to Jesus and how God, all the way through history, was leaving clues and signs so that, when the Messiah came, they would go, “This is the One who has been prophesied.”
Dennis: Bob, you are hitting on something really important. It’s a parent’s responsibility to equip their kids to know how to handle those who are going to say, “There is no God,” when they leave home and high school—and to go away to work, to college, to service, to their own houses—and a bunch of other messages crowd into their lives.
I remember, when I was a junior in college, hearing Josh McDowell, at the University of Arkansas, speak about the evidence that demanded a verdict—the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus Christ. I remember what that did for my faith—to say: “Yes! This is a fact in history as much as you can prove any fact in history.” There is all kinds of evidence that does demand a verdict by individual people.
You, as a parent—you’ve got to prepare your kids for this; because they are going to have their faith undermined as they go away to college, to service, to work.
They are going to have people who don’t think and believe like them. Give your kids the foundation / the apologetic for their faith so they can stand firm.
Barbara: It reminds me of something that a really good friend of ours once said—that I’ve never forgotten. Crawford Loritts—we’ve known for decades / he’s a pastor in Atlanta—and he said, years ago: “There’s a problem”—he believes—“in the Christian community / in the church of biblical illiteracy.” That really stuck with me because I thought: “You know, he’s right. We go to church, but a lot of people don’t know the Bible.”
This is a way that parents can help their kids know the Bible; because they need to know what God’s Word says, because it will give them the foundation—just as you were talking about—for their lives. They may have questions and they may act like they’re not interested; but they are hearing, and it will plant the seeds of God’s truth in their heart if you go through this with your kids, year after year.
Bob: There are some families, who go to churches, where Lent is talked about / where it’s observed. If you are in one of those churches, you’re already hearing about Lent; because it starts on February 14th this year. Easter is April 1st.
If you are not in one of those churches, you might think Lent seems unusual or like it’s something that you don’t believe in. All Lent is—is a marking out of the period before Easter for focused attention, concentration, some spiritual disciplines in there.
I know people talk about giving things up for Lent. Do you give things up for Lent?
Barbara: We have, but I would much rather focus on learning more about who Jesus is and what He did. If I still had kids at home, that would be my focus—not on what we give up.
Bob: Yes; well, again, I want to encourage listeners to go to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com, to see what you’ve been working on to help moms / to help families be focused and intentional in the days that lead up to Easter, the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection.
Go to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com—and look at The Messiah Mystery Lent kit that Barbara’s put together / also, the Waiting for the Lamb Easter banner—other resources that are there. Again, the website, FamilyLifeToday.com; or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY if you have any questions about these resources. Or if you’d like to order by phone, again, the number is 1-800-358-6329—that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
We want to just take a minute here and say, “Thank you,” to those of you who are regular supporters of the ministry of FamilyLife—those of you who are Legacy Partners and who, regularly, invest in this ministry. We are grateful for your partnership with us as we seek to expand the reach of this ministry—to reach out to more people more regularly with God’s blueprints for marriage and family.
One of the ways we are doing that, this spring, is through the Blended and Blessed™ event that we are going to be hosting in Charlotte, North Carolina. It’s actually going to be available via livestream in churches and communities all across the country. The date is April 21st; Ron Deal is giving leadership to that event.
When you support this ministry, you are helping us defray the cost of making that event available to more people. Last year, we had between twelve and thirteen thousand people who were able to participate in the event. We’re hoping to reach even more this year. So, keep in mind—when you support FamilyLife®, you’re helping us provide practical biblical help and hope to people in every family situation, helping them understand God’s design for marriage and for family.
If you are a regular listener to FamilyLife Today, and maybe you’ve never made a donation, today would be a great day to go to FamilyLifeToday.com—you can donate online—or call 1-800-FL-TODAY to donate over the phone. You can also mail a donation to us at FamilyLife Today at PO Box 7111, Little Rock, AR; and our zip code is 72223.
Now, tomorrow, we want to talk about your kids and the world in which they live and what you know about that world—or maybe, better—what you don’t know about their world. We are going to have David Eaton and Melanie Mudge joining us tomorrow to talk about how moms and dads can better understand and engage with their kids around their culture. I hope you can tune in for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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