Easter Eggs

Are you familiar with the term “easter egg” as it’s used in relation to movies? Just in case you aren’t, essentially it’s a little extra “something” the movie makers planted in the background for movie goers to discover. The folks producing the Marvel films are notorious for doing such things. I remember the first time I noticed an easter egg in the very first “Iron Man” film. As the camera panned through Tony Stark’s lab, I caught a glimpse of Captain America’s vibranium shield being used to prop up a portion of his experiment. There it was, a little something special, and a nod to the Marvel nerds that we should be expecting a film about the first Avenger on the near horizon.

The reason this comes to mind is because this past Saturday while having lunch at Subway with Evelyn, we were talking about easter eggs in movies. At one point she asked, “Do you hide stuff in the things you write?”

It was an insightful thing to ask. And yes, I do. I hide things in my articles. I plant them all over the place in my books. I weave them into sermons. I drop them into so much of what I scribe. I think a lot of writers do. In my opinion, sometimes the hidden things are the best tools for teaching.

For example, it’s most often true that you shouldn’t just lob the entirety of an idea at someone who’s never confronted it before. It can be startling. Instead, planting the idea in various forms over the course of time is a great way to help someone become familiar with the idea long before they realize the familiarity is actually there. It’s psychological, of course. But if not abused, it’s a great way to make an out-of-the-box idea less frightening, and in the end, to move the ball down the field toward a goal.

I suppose a looser example would be the things I hide for myself. They’re there, but I’m the only one who knows about them. I shared with the Board of Elders once that if I find myself struggling with a sermon, sometimes I’ll muscle through the effort by actually making the task harder. I do this by establishing unusual rules for the manuscript. One way I do this is by requiring myself to make the first and last sentence of each paragraph have a certain meter or rhyme scheme. No one in the pews ever notices—at least no one has ever told me they’ve noticed—but I know the pattern is there. And it has a purpose. Its purpose is, more or less, to force me into a stricter mode of concentration while I’m crafting the sermon—to work harder at understanding what I’m really trying to say and to choose the best words. It might sound crazy, but in the end, it usually comes to a conclusion with me feeling a little more like each paragraph is more closely knitted to its surroundings.

I shared this secret with a fellow LCMS pastor in the area and he laughed out loud, saying it was a ridiculous practice. Well, whatever. Weird? Yes. But it seems to work for me.

I spent last Thursday reading through portions of my book Type One Confession: God, a Pastor, and a Girl with Type 1 Diabetes. I’ll read it on occasion as not to forget just how far God has carried me and my family in the past few years. If you know the pulse of the book, then you’ll know it’s a visceral mixture of conversations between me and God. The whole book is filled with easter eggs, but there’s one chapter in particular—Chapter Fourteen—in which I take time to translate the Christian ability to see how the various things of God along the weary of road of life fit together. They’re there. Maybe we notice them and maybe we don’t. Either way, they create a Christian universe that spins around a bright-beaming message at the center of its gravity. I call the ability to see the universe “Christian Recognition.” Not a fancy term. And instead of explaining it, I’ve included the chapter below. It’s a quick read. Take a minute with it and I think you’ll see what I mean.

After you’re done, I think you’ll also have figured out what’s hovering at the center of the universe. If you guessed the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ for your salvation of your soul, then you’re right.

I Think It’s Warm in Pasadena

I wanted to share a quick fabric of thoughts that came to mind resulting from a conversation that occurred this morning while walking into the church with Madeline, Harrison, and Evelyn. It started when Harrison said somewhat randomly, “I wish we lived in Pasadena.”

“Why Pasadena?” I asked.

“Because I think it’s warm there,” he answered.

“You don’t even know where Pasadena is, Harrison,” Evelyn chimed in a less-than-helpful way. “For all you know, it’s in Antarctica. Pasadena is prob’ly full of penguins.”

This particular interaction recalled for me another interaction between Evelyn and Harrison this past Monday at a park near our home. I posted the conversation details on Facebook right when it happened. Here’s what I wrote:

“Harrison!” Evelyn shouts across the public playground filled with families. “I need to ask you something really super important!”

“What?!” her brother replies loudly, sounding annoyed.

“When the zombie apocalypse comes, where do you think it’ll start?”

That’s my girl.

Now the first reason I’m sharing these two stories with you is because, as the old adage relays, kids say the darndest things, and with that, I just wanted to share them with you—my friends. Second, because it is once again a reminder of the depth that children possess. If you are really listening to them when they are speaking, you’ll hear (and perhaps even see) a different perspective on the intricacies of life in general. You’ll find yourself being ushered through a portal into a completely different sphere of reality that is both complex and simple all at the same time. It’s really rather fascinating. And third, if you are thinking Biblically, it feeds into the reasons that Jesus instructs as He does in Matthew 18:1-6,10:

At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea… See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven.

Jesus pointed to a simple humility and trust found in children that is iconic of saving faith in the Savior. He wants adults to have it. Such faith lets itself be led. It speaks the contours of its truth unhindered by shame. It longs to be with the One who is its greatest love, and its sad in its deepest corners when there is separation.

But there’s more He wants us to know, even as it actually meets children right where they are.

Again, children let themselves be led. They have no problem saying what’s on their minds. They grow to love most deeply that which is set before them as most important, and they learn to despise the things that aren’t. Parents are the ones setting the pace in these regards.

Notice also how the Lord offers a stern warning to those who would get between children and Himself. He doesn’t mince words. He says that anyone who causes one of the little ones to sin—that is, makes it so that they are led into a life of separation from Jesus, taught to love being away from Him, trained to despise His Word, shaped to see time with Him as one option among many valuable opportunities, molded toward a coldness for the Christian life—Jesus says it will be easier to swim with a two-ton millstone on your neck than to stand against the judgment at the Last Day.

As you can see, He takes this very seriously. As parents, as families together, as a congregation, we do, too. I know that when I look at my own children—when I hear them say the crazy things that they say, when I see them do the even crazier and yet inspiring things that they do—I couldn’t imagine keeping such gems of God’s creative act away from the One who actually made them who they are. I couldn’t imagine sleeping in on a Sunday morning and skipping church—not even once! I belong there. They belong there, too. In fact, according to the Lord’s bidding, this belonging is the point of reference for adults. It is something to which we look for direction, not the other way around. He said we must be like them when it comes to this humble desire and trust. I think Oskar Pank observed it best. In fact, I added the following quotation from Pank to the “Afterword” portion of my book Type One Confessional. He wrote:

“As the flower in the garden stretches toward the light of the sun, so there is in the child a mysterious inclination toward the eternal light. Have you ever noticed this mysterious thing that when you tell the smallest child about God, it never asks with strangeness and wonder, “What or who is God—I have never seen Him,” but listens with shining face to the words as though they were soft loving sounds from the land of home. Or when you teach a child to fold its little hands in prayer that it does this as though it were a matter of course, as if there were opening for it that world of which it had been dreaming with longing and anticipation. Or tell them, these little ones, the stories of the Savior, show them the pictures with scenes and personages of the Bible—how their pure eyes shine, how their little hearts beat!”

True. All true.

As the new school year begins, take these words into yourself and consider them. As parents, be diligent in getting your kids to church. As observing grandparents, congregation members, and friends, consider what you can do to encourage the parents in the pews to keep at it. What can you do to show that you are rooting for them? How can you help in what can sometimes be a struggle with antsy little ones? Maybe all it would take to help the dust of frustration settle a bit would be a smile and a word of encouragement. Maybe a pat on the back and a “Keep at it, mom. You’re doing the right thing” is all they’d need.

I’ve already seen these things happen at Our Savior, which is just one of the many “somethings” that I think makes the church family here so wonderful.

So, those are my introductory thoughts for today. Apart from the Holy Spirit’s leading, of course, I suppose you can thank Harrison and Evelyn for the entertaining moments that stirred them.