And has promised we can join Him.
On this Easter Sunday I am remembering my mom, who died a few years ago after suffering terribly with Parkinson's disease. She was loved by many, but was very difficult for those closest to her. I had struggled in my relationship with her my whole life. Try as I might, even with prayer and counseling and setting good intentions, I could never really relax in her company.
The morning after her death I sat down with a cup of coffee, intending to pray and gather myself before the busyness of notifying people and preparing for her funeral. As I settled into my chair and tried to quiet, something happened.
She was there.
I didn't see anything. I didn't hear anything. I just knew. What startled me most was the realization that this was the resurrected Mom. I was suddenly in the presence of the person God had created her to be, without the junk, without the qualities that drove me crazy during her lifetime. She was just her shining, joyful, loving true self. All my tangled thoughts and emotions melted away and I was flooded with happiness, for her and for me. I was filled with awe at God's goodness and the mystery of the human heart.
In a few minutes she was gone. Later I shared the story with my brother, an ER doc and a skeptic about near-death and at-death stories. He described a similar encounter with Mom minutes after her death, before he'd learned the news of her passing.
I now understand a little better what Mary experienced at the tomb. The unexpected wonder, joy, transformation. Skepticism from others, certainty within. Renewed hope that someday it will be my turn.
And gratitude. Deep, deep gratitude.
Scientists have begun studying what some call the "spiritual emotions," feelings like gratitude, compassion, hope and awe. An unexpected glimpse of a sunset, crocuses poking bravely through the snow, a toddler's kindness to a weeping friend, soaring birds in flight. We all know the sudden shift we sense when witnessing something awesome. But who knew that feeling was actually good for your health?
In a recent project researchers studied 119 college freshmen to discover the relationship between positive emotions and health. They measured students' levels of interleukin-6, a protein associated with stress and inflammation in the body. Not surprisingly, those students reporting more negative emotions measured higher levels of interleukin-6. Those reporting more positive emotions had lower levels.
What surprised researchers was which emotions dropped interleukin-6 most dramatically. Awe came in ahead of love, enthusiasm, inspiration and all the other positive emotions on the list!
We can up our awe-quota by paying closer attention to awesome moments in our lives and by setting ourselves up for new experiences. For a three-minute video sure to take your breath away, click here. Some lovely person captured starlings in flight over Scotland and then added stunning background music.
God bless technology.
And starlings in someone else's back yard.