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Easter People

“We are Easter people.”

Whether you’re a religious or spiritual human or not, isn’t there something compellingly hopeful about the theme of resurrection?

That’s why Easter is the best day of the year for me. The holiday is just such a time of joy and celebration, with the pastel color palette, Easter bunnies, Easter eggs, Easter baskets, and the story of a first-century Galilean rabbi who died on a cross and whose friends faced death for claiming to have seen him risen from the dead.

Even though the holiday of Easter is just one day of the year, the story (Jesus rising from the grave) and the season (“Eastertide” for the liturgically inclined) may be exactly what humankind needs as we contend globally with the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

Pope John Paul II put it this way: “We are an Easter people, and Alleluia is our song.

Perhaps these are just faulty words from a faulty writer. Even so, the story of Easter comes with an invitation: Is it just another myth, or could it even be the best possible news? For the person who can’t help but feel convinced of the truth of the Easter story, it can be a story that changes everything.

If that’s you, then the invitation is this: would you consider joining the song of an Easter people?

The world needs a lot of things right now: Love. Masks. Ventilators. Tests. Medicines. Vaccines. Healing. Relief. Peace. Cooperation. And, the world needs the voices of all who are Easter people to join in the Easter song:

Alleluia.

Peace and well-being to everyone,

Bradley Collins


Eastertide Eggs

Just before noon, on a Wednesday about six weeks ago, I walked past a downtown Catholic church and noticed an unfamiliar sight for that time of day: Open doors. Then the clues began to piece themselves together in my mind. King cakes at the grocery store, all the churches are open, and– there it is– ashes on foreheads. “Today is Ash Wednesday,” I said aloud, not as much for my waking companion’s benefit, but to help my own realizations, “and that means that yesterday was Mardi Gras, and that means that today is the beginning of Lent.”

Lent is an important time for Christians around the world. It begins on Ash Wednesday, which falls forty days before Easter (although I should mention that those forty days exclude Sundays), and ends on Easter Sunday, the high Christian Holy-day that celebrates the resurrection of Jesus.

So Easter is here, Lent is over, and it all came and went so quickly. Did I miss it?  COVID-19 certainly overturned the season’s typical traditions, but everything still happened, didn’t it? For six weeks now, I’ve seen clergy wearing purple; last Sunday, the date palms were waving; and jelly beans and Peeps were in the stores as normal. So why do I feel like the season has passed by before I could acknowledge it? And then, once again, clues begin to assemble themselves for me:  It’s the Eastertide Eggs. Where are they? I forgot to look.

Easter morning was an amazing experience as a child. Before the morning had grown to afternoon, my parents would hand to each my brother and me an empty Egg-Land’s Best carton and tell us that the hunt was on. We each had twelve brightly-colored eggs to find throughout the house, and what a joy that was.

Paul said that when he became a man, he put aside childish ways. Sometime between youth and adulthood, I– like Paul– put aside my childish ways; namely, hunting for Easter eggs. I shouldn’t have, though. Maybe I don’t need to scour the house for candy and eggs, but to stop searching for eggs would be a grave disservice to both myself… and God.

We like to search for Easter eggs. When we find one in a Pixar movie (There is it! A-113) or in a video game, it brings a little joy to the soul. It is finding a small message that not everyone will find.  It’s a bit esoteric, and we feel like part of an exclusive group. The Pixar animators left something for their diehard fans to notice, and to find that something carries the same feeling as sharing an inside joke or meeting someone from your hometown.

I wonder if God leaves eggs around for us, maybe even for just you. Not everyone will notice them lying about. They can be so subtle that you nearly miss it–but there it is!– you found it and can share a wink with God.  It could be a coincidence too improbable to ignore. Previously, I had never thought about the Biblical significance of a fig, but on the very day I do, the grocery store mails me a flyer that figs are on sale. That was a good one, God… a little something just to make me smile. Thank you.

As dawn scatters away the darkness Easter morning, I don’t expect to find a dozen rainbow ovoids around the house, but since I’ve taken the time to reflect back upon this year’s Lenten season (which I encourage you, dear reader, to do), I can safely recant my previous statement that Lent has passed me by. As it turns out, I was there the whole time, and if it felt like there were no Eastertide eggs, all I need to do to correct that feeling is to reflect back upon the season, and when I do, I realize that God hid them everywhere. Some were rather obvious, and some were impressively camouflaged, but the truth is that they surrounded me. Those Eastertide eggs– little ways to connect with God and to find the Divine among the mundane– they abounded; they were ubiquitous; they were everywhere; and all I had to do was to acknowledge that the hunt had begun.

Friends, regardless of whether my message today was your first exposure to Lent and Easter, or whether you know all the ins and outs, I encourage you to keep your eyes open for Eastertide eggs, and fear not but take courage, for even after Easter Sunday ends, Eastertide and the hunt continues.

Yours,

Ben Lebout


Tempus

I don’t know a single person whose to-do list contains no outstanding tasks.  To those who think that retirement will provide frequent opportunities to relish in that rare feeling of checking the final box, I am sorry to burst your bubble, but it would be remiss of me to not inform you that, of even my retired friends and family, no one seems to have enough time.

That’s the crux, isn’t it?  Time.  Or is it?  I certainly agree, in part, with that notion, but something very interesting has happened lately.  I don’t mean to derogate those whose lives have been overturned by the recent COVID-19 (AKA Wuhan virus, novel coronavirus, or coronavirus); if you’ve recently lost loved ones, your job, your security, your savings, or anything else, then “interesting” is not likely to be your choice adjective.  Be that what it may, these times are unique, novel, unparalleled, unprecedented, and indeed interesting.

Just one of the many results of the pandemic COVID-19 is that many people have seen an increase in their free time.  Is that their choice?  Almost certainly not.  For most, if time is no longer a scarcity, then something else is: namely, income and employment.

While I wish it were not the case (and no doubt you feel the same way), I cannot help but wonder how people are using their new-found, admittedly unfamiliar, free time.

If I had to guess, online streaming has burgeoned prodigiously.  Relaxation is good, but what about some more constructive ways to spend one’s time?

Today, we want to offer you just a few ideas with the hope that you discover new talents, develop abeyant hobbies, find joy in what you do, bake delectations galore, and look back on your experiences during “the age of coronavirus” and think, I put my time to good use.

Stay safe,

Ben Lebout

Here are just twelve ideas to get you started.  

  1. Take time to relax. No Netflix, no podcasts, no distractions of any kind. Try it for just five minutes.
  2. Meditate. In theme with the previous idea, but consider researching different practices that are agreeable to you.
  3. Learn origami. If ever there’s a piece of paper nearby, you’ll be able to bring a smile to many people’s faces.
  4. Read a book. Fiction, non-fiction, YA, etc. You’ll be glad you did.
  5. Get outside. Go for a walk, jog, bike ride, or even break out some roller skates!
  6. Fill car tires. When’s the last time you did that? No time like the present for simple vehicle maintenance.
  7. Learn a foreign language. Snakker du norsk? If not, there’s plenty of resources online.
  8. Dance. Close quarters getting tighter? You and your partner should learn to dance!  (My suggestion is line dancing.)
  9. Fix bathroom faucet. Or whatever outstanding home-improvement projects have been neglected.
  10. Learn something. There’s an abundance of websites and YouTube channels that are just bursting with knowledge. (My recommendations: Khan Academy, Brilliant, CGP Grey, Today I Found Out, Numberphile, and more!)
  11. Exercise. Look up body-weight exercises, or just go for a run. Still no ideas?  Do burpees…you’ll get in great shape.
  12. Get closer to God. Pray, read the Bible, discuss faith and spirituality with friends and family, and/or check out the online worship that almost every church is currently having. If you knock on God’s door, God will answer it.

‘Tis the Season

For Lucy van Pelt, it is the season of “Santa Claus and ho-ho-ho, and mistletoe, and presents to pretty girls.” For each of us, the holiday season is something different. I don’t mean solely which holidays you celebrate, if any. Rather, for each of us, the holiday season manifests differently: A joyous time, a stressful mess, a time for family, a time for loneliness. Regardless, I think that it would be nigh impossible to ignore the season and let it pass by unnoticed; there’s too many reminders all around. From festive lights to Christmas music, from snow if you live up north to busy airports no matter where you live, the season is insistent and anything but subtle.

Without fail, however, one week after Christmas, a new year begins. And just like December 25th, December 31st is wrought with different things for different people. My advice and encouragement to you is to take the holiday season, but especially New Year’s Eve, and reflect. I understand how unpleasant of a task that is for many, as I too have had my fair share of regretful years on which I’d rather not look back. Do it anyway.

Think about where you were twelve months ago. Where were you living? In what place did you live?  What goals did you have then, and were any changed, fulfilled? Think about what people have left your life and who has entered it. Where has your education or career taken you?  Overall, was 2018 a good year? Mediocre? Terrible? Did you barely make it through or do you wish it will never end?

Is your outlook on 2019 hopeful and full of excitement, or something else? If it’s the latter, why and what can you do to make 2019 better than ’18? What baby steps can you take towards something better?  If you’re of the former outlook, though—hopeful and excited for the new year—then great! Why is that, and who can you thank for the bright future ahead? Better yet, who can you share your joy with, and how can you help make their 2019 just as great as yours will be?

Grab yourself some cookies and eggnog, and conclude this holiday season with all the quirky things and people that you love. Do it your own unique way, but consider taking my advice and pausing a minute or two to reflect on this past year. So, here’s to the winter solstice and warm mead, and from all of us at The Symmetry Podcast, have an amazing holiday season and a fantastic new year.

Yours truly,

Ben Lebout