Lifestyle

FAITHFUL LIVING: Develop a relationship with Christ, and rejoice

Christians around the world have been participating in traditional Easter Week activities these past few days. For my family, the Easter focus began in earnest six days ago with a Palm Sunday celebration that recalled Christ’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem.

Yet, it feels like Easter has arrived with great suddenness because other life experiences have captured my attention. In my case the war with Iraq, helping my daughter recuperate from oral surgery to remove 4 unwanted wisdom teeth, working fulltime and running three kids to sports practices and extracurricular activities while my husband travels out of state this week has captured my focus and energy during those rare down times in my schedule. Only when I read a grocery ad mid week, featuring a pound of butter for 99 cents and spiral-cut hams, did I realize that tomorrow is Easter.

And while I forgot to pull out the Easter window clings and I made Easter brunch reservations rather than spending the day cooking a formal meal, those things do not seem to matter as much as they did in years past. What I am unwilling to miss is a personal experience with Christ this Easter. I deeply desire an experience much more than the trappings. To miss a moment with Christ feels far worse than realizing that the new Easter brunch recipes I gathered will remain untried this year.

To jump-start the experience of meeting the living Lord, I committed to praying during my quiet moments this week and who did God bring to mind but my friend Diane Bringgold. We met when I was a teenager and she was on tour to promote her book, “Life Instead.”

Together with her husband Bruce, Diane knew what it was like to live the American Dream. They had three great kids and a beautiful home. His successful law practice provided them with social status, financial rewards and opportunities. On one particular Saturday they planned to fly over the beautiful terrain of Northern California in a private plane, along with a law colleague and his wife.

Bruce loved to fly and confidently slid into the pilot’s seat. His passengers were buckled in and the luggage was carefully arranged for even weight distribution. With the plan inspected, Bruce took off. But the weather changed quickly and a quiet but unavoidable concern crept into what he had hoped would be a dream flight.

The family vacation became a nightmare moments after the place departed. The lovely aerial view of California’s Mount Shasta was obliterated by fog and Bruce was forced to rely on his instruments as he maneuvered the plane. Diane recalls Bruce’s growing anxiety but not the crash that demolished the small plane onto the side of Black Butte.

Silence and the smell of fuel and fire immediately filled Diane’s senses. Yet she knew the kids would need her. Determined, she managed to unbuckle her seatbelt and work her way in the dark to her children.

Not one child survived. Neither did Bruce, although Diane would later learn that their friends had managed to crawl out the other side of the plane, relatively unharmed.

Realizing that the skin on her face was slipping off and her hands and arms were burned to a point they were not usable, Diane slid herself out onto a grouping of rocks, hoping the exposure to the brutal terrain would end her life.

I can’t go on without them,” Diane cried out, “Please Lord God, just let me die.” But this was not to be. Instead Diane heard a gentle yet firm voice.

“I will not let you die,” someone said. Thinking her friends had heard her cry, she looked up, yet her gaze up to the rocks, she says, revealed the very same Christ whose resurrection we celebrate tomorrow. Although Diane was not able to make out His face, Christ’s physical presence was unmistakable and His words were audible and life changing: “It is not your decision to die,” she heard Christ say, “but I will help you go on from here. I will take your pain and give you life, instead.”

Most of us will never see Christ in this life. We will not hear His audible voice. We will not suffer the loss of a husband and three children. But we can take Diane’s experience and add it to the thousands of moments we have felt Christ’s gentle yet definitive touch in our own lives. We will sit beside our neighbors, to sing and pray and celebrate His resurrection with confidence, for He lives!

Freelance writer Joan Bay Klope’s address jbklope@

hotmail.com

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