Sunday, April 20, 2014

New life is yours! Happy Easter!

Happy Easter! 
This is the day the Lord has made….I will rejoice and be glad in it.  In a couple of hours I will head to church to celebrate Mass. Easter is the biggest celebration in the life of a Christian. Sometimes it’s hard for me to comprehend that something that seemed so impossible….rising from death to new life….could have really happened.  I mean, who does that?  Who comes back to life after being “dead”?  How does that happen? Is it really possible? 

For most of my life, the Resurrection was a doctrine that was “taught to me”, and event that was supposed to be the core basis of my faith; something that we celebrated every day at Mass when we proclaimed the death and resurrection of Jesus. As a child, Easter was a much bigger deal in terms of the “holiday rituals” than it is today; likely because my parents and grandparents were alive.  I always had a new outfit for Easter; complete with new white patent leather shoes and matching Easter bonnet.  The house was always filled with the scent of Easter lilies and ham cooking in the over before mass. The week before Easter was just as exciting and filled with all kinds of rituals and customs ranging from Palm Sunday celebrations, the washing of the feet on Holy Thursday, coloring of eggs, and the blessing of the food at church on Holy Saturday. Easter really was the biggest day of the year.

It was my mother’s favorite holiday and the Easter Sunday festivities were typically held at our house each year.  Those traditions have all changed now that my parents have passed, and honestly, it’s bittersweet for me to think of them because I miss my parents, my priest friend, Fr. Tom, and those celebrations. I have to fight really hard in the weeks prior to Easter not to allow myself to slip into a “poor me” kind of mind-set. I used to deal with it with peanut-butter eggs and chicken Peeps. Now I deal with it in quiet reflection and choosing to celebrate quietly. Although I’m always invited to attend a family dinner/celebration out-of-town, I usually find it best for me ‘emotionally, nutritionally, and spiritually” to stay put and have a quiet dinner at home.  It gives me the opportunity to truly reflect on EASTER….on the message and meaning….and to get in touch with what it really means in my life.

Although the Easter miracle has always been something that I was taught, and believed without questioning, I have never been so certain of anything in my life.  Jesus has risen; He is risen indeed!  The “new life” that will we sing about in a couple of hours is not just an event that happened 2000+ years ago, but it is something that I LIVE each and every day since beginning this journey.  Today it is not just…..HE is risen…..but I AM RISEN……and YOU are risen as well!  I don’t need “proof” that Jesus died, was buried, and rose from the dead: I see it every time I look in the mirror.  I don’t need something to explain how someone who was “at rock bottom” can be brought back to life: I see it each time I look at the wheelchair in my office or the walker in the garage. I don’t need someone to explain to me how a man who was “beaten down, bruised and battered, mocked and abandoned”; one did nothing but try to spread love, forgiveness, and peace, could experience so much pain and suffering, and not remain dead: I see it every time I look at those horrific “before” pictures that are now circling the globe.  JESUS died…..and rose…..so that I MAY LIVE!  It’s never been clearer to me in my life. I mean, who does that?  Who comes back to life after being “dead”?  How does that happen? Is it really possible?  YES, indeed. It was not only POSSIBLE for me; but it’s POSSIBLE for you too!

 So today…. I rejoice, I celebrate, and above all, I give thanks, that not only does He live; not only has He died and rose, but because He did it, so I can….and you can…..do it too!  Easter is not just about something that happened many years ago. It’s not just about something that we read about or hear about in churches around the world today. It’s about YOU and ME, and the NEW LIFE that we can and will have…..BECAUSE of the death and resurrection of Jesus.  The miracle happened….the price was paid. All we have to do is believe it and choose to live that new life!

It is quite obvious that my life has changed dramatically in recent years. Oftentimes, people read my story or see my pictures and they immediately see the obvious: I LOOK totally different today than I did 250+ pounds ago. That cannot be denied. But what isn’t so obvious from a photo is the “changes” that have taken place in my heart and head. Those changes have transformed me in a more profound way than the weight loss. Those changes continue to happen; continue to take work; continue to challenge me to grow and adapt; to FEEL emotion and confront pain, fear, and doubt.  This is certainly not an easy process by any means and sometimes the temptation to just reach for a cookie or candy bar instead of confronting and working through the struggles, is overwhelming. I’m guessing many of you know what I mean, even if your “drug of choice” comes in a bottle, or a pill, or a credit card.

Transformation…..Resurrection…..New life…..whatever name you want to give it, is a daily, life-long reality. It’s a choice we have to make each and every day: Either we choose to LIVE a new life, or we choose to remain “dead”; trapped in a life of depression, sadness, addiction, defeat or pain.  Today, I choose LIFE. I hope you do too!

In the coming days, I will be sharing some very exciting news with you. Last Friday, Good Friday, I had the privilege of meeting three wonderful people; individuals that I believe are all part of the plan that God has prepared for me to share this new life with the world, for HIS glory. My head has been spinning all weekend thinking about the conversation and the possibilities for the future. All I can say at this point is that I am blessed beyond measure and there is NO DOUBT in my mind today that HE has risen; HE has risen indeed!

My prayer and wish for you today is that you will be immensely aware that the Resurrection is not just something that happened many years ago to one person. It is happening all around you and it is happening to you as well; even if you don’t recognize it today.

 You might still be “hanging on the cross” or “feeling dead, defeated, and hopeless”. You might still be “in the tomb” waiting to be brought back to life, to be set free, to be raised up.  TODAY….I encourage you to BELIEVE…to take the first step out of the tomb; to start taking off those “burial clothes”, to slowly drop that heavy load of pain and suffering you are carrying….and come out of that tomb.  Take the first step out of the darkness….and walk in the NEW LIFE that was won back then and is ALL AROUND YOU.   Make it a Happy Day; a day to celebrate and rejoice!