faith and family
by Marcus J. Carlson
This is the 10th anniversary of Connections magazine. It is hard to believe it has been around that long, and I remain thankful for it, both as a writer and a reader. Its ministry to me as a disciple of Jesus, husband, father and pastor has been of great value. It continues to be an honor and joy to write a faith and family column. I am humbled to have had the opportunity to serve in this way and have certainly learned much along the way.
This is also the Easter edition of Connections, one of my personal favorites each year both to write for and to read.
I do not know if you have noticed or not, but the world is a bit of a mess as of late. This is not new and throughout history we have always had challenges, though the names and faces have changed over time. There is great uncertainty politically and economically. There is tremendous division and unrest all around. Fear is being used as the primary tool of government, media, marketers and others. The family is busy, frazzled and overwhelmed as the understanding of what constitutes a family is a point of disagreement and division in our culture. The Christian church is in decline in North America, with far too many consumers and far too few disciples occupying its seats. Watching the news makes one wonder how bad can it get or when Jesus might return.
It causes one to consider medication or other means of coping. These challenges are concerning and real and must be addressed, especially by those who identify themselves as Christians, followers of Jesus. That said, I think we have also lost sight of a core Christian principle and reality, one that is at the center of Easter.
The truth is that every day should be Easter, but I often forget in the midst of life to treat each day as if it were Easter. That is one of the reasons I am profoundly thankful for the yearly celebration of Easter as a much-needed reminder of an important, powerful and central message of the Gospel.
At the center of the message of Easter is hope. Easter, the resurrection and the Gospel of Jesus are centered on the principle of hope. In Jesus, we have hope, both eternally and for the here and now. So often our understanding of hope is focused on the afterlife or the eternal, but the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus gives us hope now and hope for each day.
As I have written before, the cynic sees the glass as half empty, the optimist sees the glass as half full, the realist sees a glass with water, but the disciple of Jesus sees the glass as re llable. Hope is the reality that the glass is always refillable. There is always more, there is always hope and there is always Jesus.
As a family, we have always had pets of some kind, including dogs. In the past couple years, we acquired two purebred Border Collies, a new breed to us. Our Border Collies, Oreo and Reeses, are incredible animals. They are off-the-charts intelligent (they can do over 30 tricks, including basic math) and are very loving.
They also have a lot of energy and su er from separation anxiety, a common issue for Border Collies. When I arrive home from being gone, whether I have been gone for minutes or weeks, the Border Collies greet me with an excitement, love and joy unlike anything I have ever seen. To them, I am the most wonderful thing in the world and can do no wrong. Sometimes I think to myself, I wish I could be half the person my Border Collies think I am!
They also get quite excited every time they see me grab the keys to my truck. There is a pecking order of what is important in their lives: at the top are balls, because playing fetch is the world to them. Second on the list is my truck. I cannot say or even spell the word truck without them getting excited. I am third on the list, with food being a very close fourth.
Now, my Border Collies have gured out the various things I do before I leave, and so they intuitively know and sense when I am going to leave. They notice the minute I pick up my truck keys, and if I ever use the remote starter, they can hear the horn and the engine start from anywhere in the house. They stand at immediate attention, get quite excited and move ahead of me toward the door. In fact, when I cannot get their attention, all I have to do is say the word “truck” and they stop in their tracks.
When it comes to the truck, they live in a constant state of hope. There is nothing I can do to cause them to be anything other than hopeful for even a short five minute ride in the truck. They have not and will never become cynical about the truck or their chances at riding in the truck, not matter how rare it might occur. It is both telling and convicting for me when I realize that my Border Collies have a greater sense of hope for a truck ride than I often do for the work of God in the world and in my life.
As Christians, as an Easter people, we are a people of hope. Hope abounds! The triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are constantly bringing and stirring hope in, through and around us. In Jesus, there is always potential for so much more than we see at face value. Through the continued work of the Holy Spirit, potential brews and hope abounds. I fear that when it comes to the world around us, our churches and our families we do not live as an Easter people, a people filled with hope, looking for potential and the work of Jesus and the Holy Spirit in our lives.
As a parent, I often nd myself worrying about my kids. I worry about their safety, I wonder and worry about their future. When they are sad or stressed, or have had a bad day, I nd myself worrying about them and wanting to fix their pain and problems. As a parent, it can often be easier to worry about my children than to be lled with hope. It can be easier to think about what can go wrong than to look for all the potential. It is easy to fear the world in which our children and grandchildren will grow up than it is to look forward with hope to what God can do.
While all real hope comes from God, it is not accidental. We get to choose our perspective. We have the ability and opportunity to instill, share and bring hope to our children, families and churches. The choice is ours.
Happy Easter. Hope Abounds!
Marcus J. Carlson is an ordained pastor (LCMC & NALC), with a Doctor of Ministry focused in fam- ily ministry. He currently serves as Senior Pastor at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church, Auburn, IN. He and his wife, Jessica, have two children.
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