Thursday, March 31, 2016

My friend, Zach

I’ve had people tell me that they are inspired by how I live my life.  They’ve said that seeing me maintain a positive attitude despite my challenges inspires them.  Those complements are as powerful as they are humbling.  And though I’m never quite sure how to respond to such kind praises, I always feel grateful to know I’ve helped uplift someone.

Today I’d like to tell you about someone who uplifts me; my friend Zach.

I met Zach at church in Virginia.  We weren’t bosom buddies, but the friendship came easy; we were similar in age, our kids got along well and our wives were friends.  Zach and his family are the kind of people you always feel good around.  His wife, Ginet, makes these awesome chocolate marshmallow cookies that I absolutely cannot stop myself from pigging out on.  And, wouldn’t you know, whenever I really needed a cookie, like when I was struggling to recover from surgery and life had me feeling down, there’d be a knock at the door and Casey would open it to find Ginet and the kids standing there with a plate of goodies.

Time passed and we both moved, Zach ended up in Colorado and I landed in California.  We followed each other via the wonders of Facebook, which was all good until last year when I read an update status that shocked me; Zach was diagnosed with cancer.

Over the months that have followed, my courageous friend and his brave wife have graciously allowed friends and family to keep appraised of their happenings through a blog.  In reading their words, I have had the tremendous blessing of not only staying informed of Zach’s progress, but of witnessing his/their strength.

The dignity, honesty and fortitude with which my friend is battling cancer are a testament to the might of the human spirit.  To the might of HIS spirit.  Some posts openly discuss hardship and disappointment, others celebrate advances and express optimism surrounding his treatments – all reaffirm gratitude for friends, family, faith and prayer.  Each specifically acknowledges the personal growth and spiritual development that come as a direct consequence of maintaining an eternal focus. 

These days, I find myself thinking of Zach and feeling encouraged, hopeful and determined.  There’s just something about seeing him getting out there and getting it done.  Some days he feels down, other days he feels up; but he is never defeated.

Zach never stops.  And because he never stops, he never ceases to press forward, never ceases to make strides and never ceases to inspire.

Fight back Zach; we’re all riding with you.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

A promise of things to come

I wrestle with Easter. Not the ham, the chocolate bunnies or the time with friends and family. That part is easy. 

The part of Easter that I struggle with has to do with the fact that I have an unwavering, sincere testimony that Jesus Christ is my savior, that he died for my sins and that he was resurrected three days after being laid in a tomb.  

How can a testimony of such beautiful truths be a struggle? Good question. I'm not sure I can fully answer it, but I'll try. 

Part of my struggle comes from having spent a lifetime grappling with the realities of a debilitating neuromuscular disease. Indeed, without feeling sorry for myself or going into too much detail, I can honestly say that this body of mine has some serious city miles on it. And the pain that I have, and do and will continue to feel is real. 

And so, in thinking about the resurrection, this amazing miracle of miracles, the conquering of life over death, this unfathomable promise that one day my limbs will be fully restored - that every hair on my head will be accounted for and perfected - that I will live in a healthy, pain-free body that does not tire or falter is a dream so rich in its fullness of God's love and mercy, so abundantly filled with compassion and tenderness that the mere thought of it evokes an immensely deep and meaningful celebration, wonderment and reverence within me that I almost don't even dare allow myself the joy of contemplating it for more than a brief moment at a time for fear that I'll lose myself in its promise. 
Put simpler, I look forward to the day when, in my resurrected body, I raise my wheelchair over my head and toss it off the edge of the earth. But, because it would be very easy for me to get lost in that daydream, I try not to spend too much time thinking about it. 
Instead, I try to focus on what I consider to be the even greater miracle associated with Easter; the atonement. 

I say greater because while the resurrection means I'll live again, which is pretty fantastic, it is through the atonement that I can live again with God. To me, that is what brings true value to the promise of a resurrected frame; the opportunity to use it to dwell with my Heavenly Father. 

There are no words to adequately describe the abundance of that miracle. 

Unlike the promise of the resurrection, I find no danger in thinking on the atonement. In fact, I find that the more I think on it, the more it does for me. 

Pondering the atonement makes me more cognizant of my Savior's love for me, of my divine potential, of the gift of forgiveness, the importance of humility and the promise of eternal progression. Put simpler, thinking about the atonement makes me want to be a better man, which, in turn, makes me an improved man. 

And therein lies the blessing. 

Mine is an incredibly blessed life, far from perfect, but wonderful by nearly every measure. And yet, it pales into nothingness when compared to the prospect of eternal life; dwelling with God in a resurrected body. 

Thankfully, we don't have to choose between the two. The promise of eternal life is available to us all. That's what we celebrate and that's where we find our joy - in He who gave up all that we might each posses it.

And so it is that, with a smile on my face and hope in my heart, I wish you and yours the happiest of Easters. 

Oh, and good luck finding all those eggs!