In a few days we will be celebrating Easter.  Happy Easter to all of you. Christ has risen!  Truly he has risen!

As I reflect back over past Easters my heart is stirred and my mind recalls quite a few images and impressions that left indelible marks upon my heart.  I grew up going to a Greek Orthodox Church and Easter was the biggest celebration in the church.  For my family growing up, we practiced Lent.  As kids I remember wondering why we couldn’t eat this or that and yet we followed the rules.

I remember one weekend during the season of Lent we were driving to my grandparents’ house and we stopped at a little café.  It was breakfast time and my mom ordered and we had dry toast and orange juice because we gave up meat and dairy products.  I don’t even know why we gave up those things but to this day I appreciate the times we did without. Giving something up stirs your heart to be grateful for all you have.  I also remember one Easter when I was in the 2nd or 3rd grade our priest during the service carried out the cross and was weeping (which in the Orthodox Church is similar to a passion play).  It was so sincere and so heartfelt that it made me realize the cost of Jesus’ sacrifice.  After a long evening, which carried into the new day, (yes I mean we were in church til 1:00 a.m.) we had a huge celebration in honor of the resurrection of Christ.   As kids we were so excited about all the food.  It was a wonderful time of community and a time of thankfulness.  Thank you Lord for your great love for each of us!

When we traveled to Israel/Palestine last summer I was so impacted at the Garden of Gethsemane.  Today, it is a small fenced off area for tourists to see. However, there are olive trees that are quite large with a wide gnarled trunk which you could imagine were there at the time of Christ.  Our guide said something that I had never heard before and it traveled deep into my heart…

He said that Gethsemane means olive press.  With this new thought I had a greater sense of the agony Christ endured in the Garden.  Imagine olives poured into a vat, pit and all, and a huge millstone going around and crushing everything into a fine pulp.  It helped me understand why Jesus cried out and caused him to sweat blood. (Luke 22:44)  With this deeper understanding I feel like I have a greater appreciation for the love and sacrifice of Jesus.

Last summer when we were there as a family, I had our friend, Joe, who was traveling with us, film a working olive press, and the tour guide gave a brief description of the meaning. I pray you are impacted and that you would know how MUCH God loves you.

Again I say, Christ has risen!  Truly he has risen!

With love,