Mark 16:14 –They (the women) staggered out of the tomb, awestruck, with their minds swirling. They ran to tell the disciples, but they were so afraid and deep in wonder, they said nothing to anyone.

Gratitude Day 828

For years, when someone asked me what my favorite holiday was, I didn’t have a very good answer. Christmas? Yes, I love it. But was it my favorite? Not sure.

Then, something happened and Easter catapulted itself into “best holiday ever.” Since then, every other holiday can’t compete. Forever, Easter will be my favorite holiday.

Why? Hope and resurrection and maybe a little story have completely changed my life.

The first two churches I served as a pastor were two small, rural Wisconsin churches. I was a student-pastor, a fancy way of saying that I was attending seminary (school to become a pastor) full-time while working for the churches part-time. The school was about two hours from the churches. I stayed near seminary several days a week and was back at the churches on weekends.

Soon after I started serving the churches, some of the women inquired if I had gotten to know one particular man at the North Freedom church. Did I know he was single? Available? Came from a solid family? Matchmaking started immediately and continued.

This 40-something guy was there the day we reached an agreement that I would be their next pastor. He was the North Freedom church council president. His mother was the matriarch of this particular church, just as her mom had been. After the initial hiring meeting, this guy told his mother there was something different about me. He was going to find out what it was. It was months before I learned about this conversation. This was a good thing.

Yes, this man is the guy I now call Hubby Rick. A few months after I started serving the churches, we talked about dating. A lot was at stake. What if it didn’t turn out well? The churches could not be drug through a bad dating experience. Most churches prohibit pastors from dating church members because it can get messy. We sought guidance. The church’s personal committee had to give the OK for us to date. Fortunately, some of the matchmakers were on this committee. They felt a little proud and a bit giddy as we discussed our dating.

We kept our dating low key. Until Rick’s eldest son was killed in a terrible accident. The next few months were a blur. So much grief. Tons of emotions. I was back in school, wondering how Rick would be when I returned on the weekends. As Lent began, we both felt the heaviness of the season.

Lent is a season of internal reflection. When something life-changing happens, people often re-evaluate their lives. Rick and I both went through a gut check. Life now felt very fragile and could not to be taken for granted. Independently, we questioned what WAS most important in our lives. Was our relationship something we did not want to live without?

Holy Week felt surreal. Rick chose not to attend Maundy Thursday service because it was a bad day. On Good Friday, we stood on the edge of a field, in the cold and wind, and placed a cross into the ground. I could not help but think of Rick losing his son. How could God give up God’s son for our benefit? It felt terribly solemn and heavy.

After the service, we hiked through the woods on Rick’s farm. Rick shared with me that he “could not wait for Easter Sunday.” The hope of resurrection and new life was desperately needed. We both yearned for the message that death does not have the last word.

It was my first Easter as a pastor. The sun was hidden behind heavy clouds, with rain pelting the windows during the Sunrise Service. As I walked into the North Freedom church, the intense smell of bacon, eggs and pancakes greeted me. Energy was high with lots of food and good conversation. As the clock ticked closer to worship time, people slowly moved into the sanctuary, which quickly filled. Ushers brought in a few more chairs so everyone would have a seat.

As we sang, “Up From the Grave! He arose!” I noticed Rick was not sitting in the back pew like normal. Instead, he was in the middle of the church with an aisle seat. Maybe it was the only seat available?  

Worship ended with everyone standing. After a blessing, everyone began the same final song we sang every week. But this day, things were different. Rick walked to the front of the church. He asked Larry, the musician, to stop playing and grabbed my hand. When it was completely quiet, he shared how the last few months had been trying. He thanked everyone for being so supportive and assured them that their prayers helped him. Yet, with all the sadness, something else had happened. He had developed a Christ-centered relationship with me.

A collective gasp filled the small church as a very nervous Rick knelt down on one knee. Still holding my hand, he asked if I would marry him. Right there, on Easter Sunday, in front of a very full church. Every woman was holding back tears or visibly wiping them away from their cheeks. Maybe some men as well. The church erupted into claps and cheers! Did this just really happen? Had they witnessed what they thought they had?

Yes, they had.

Often, Hubby Rick has been asked “Why Easter and why at church?” First, why church. This is the church where Rick grew up. These were the people who had journeyed with him through his entire life. It was the same place where we met. Rick and I felt God had worked it out for us to meet each other. We were committed to a Christ-centered relationship and marriage. For Rick this WAS the only place to propose to the pastor.

Why Easter? Easter Sunday is the end of a challenging, difficult and awful story. It gives people hope that there is more. There is a God who loves us so much that sacrificing his son was not too much. After months of sorrow and heartache, we both were ready for some joy. Easter symbolizes the hope we desperately wanted and needed. We were ready for a new beginning in our lives, which meant serving God as a married couple.

Is Easter my favorite holiday because Rick proposed to me on Easter? NO. Easter is my favorite holiday because resurrection happens in many different ways. Rick saw the opportunity to celebrate the resurrection and have hope that something wonderful could happen in our lives, even after a great loss. He would still grieve his son but healing was also possible. We were ready for a new beginning and the future.  

Is there something in your life that has been particularly difficult for you of late? Do you question whether God has been involved in your life and this world as much as you would like? Do you see more challenges in this world than positives? Is there a loss that feels overwhelming at times? Do you wonder when things will be simpler?

Tomorrow, on Easter Sunday, we again have the opportunity to see the promise of the resurrection and the hope that it brings. As we peer inside the empty tomb, can you resurrect some part of your life that feels heavy? Difficult. Challenging. Before you leave the tomb, be awestruck. Amazed. It’s okay if you do not completely understand this whole resurrection. The women at the tomb and the disciples didn’t either. Their heads were swirling and they were filled with fear. Yet, they allowed themselves the possibility of what the resurrection could mean.

We have the same choice. Each of us chooses how faith guides our lives. Can we be okay with not knowing or understanding it all? Do we seek to feel God in our hearts and minds and know that God’s presence makes a difference?

Easter is important to me because I am reminded that God loves you and me so much that God made this huge sacrifice. As we proclaim “Hallelujah! Christ is risen!” we recall this single event that changed history and the world forever. A story we repeat and revisit even though it happened over 2,000 years ago.  

My friends – I pray that you find a little resurrection in your life this Easter. Experience the joy of an empty tomb. Embrace the hope that you are deeply loved by the One who designed you to be an amazing person. Whether it is your favorite holiday or not, I pray our little story encourages you to love Easter Sunday somewhat like Hubby Rick and I do.

For the promise of resurrection and hope, I am grateful.

Blessings –


Most Holy God – May I feel overwhelmed as I feel the joy and hope and love that embodies the Easter story. May I know deep in my heart Your deep love for me. As I celebrate the risen Savior this Easter, may I discover a little resurrection of my faith and hope as well. Amen.

P.S. – Here’s a song that captures much of what I’m trying to share today. Enjoy!

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