Alongside

As I leaned into the wall by the patio door, I was only looking for a moment to breathe between breakfast and the day. My daughter, Eden, was born with Down syndrome a year earlier. As difficult as Down syndrome had seemed in the hospital, the reality of Eden’s medical needs was more overwhelming than I had imagined. I was weary in soul and body—weary of waiting rooms and surgeries, weary of loneliness and busyness, weary of well-intentioned but insensitive words from others. And I was deeply sad.

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Resurrection Love

I hope that I’ll never forget a phone call I received several years ago on a Saturday morning.

“Fil, this is Eric’s mom. Can you tell me what happened to him? He’s not the same person!”

“I’m not certain I know what you’re referring to,” I replied.

“Ever since he came home from that camp, Eric’s been a different person. He’s so happy and pleasant to be around. Whatever happened, his dad and I are utterly amazed and we want to thank you.”

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A Blue Ribbon Day

It was a season rich with symbolism. A path I’d followed, clearly at God’s leading, which had stopped abruptly in a dark woods. An orbit which held me fast in its gravitational pull. A complex maze which only God could lead me out of.

My struggle revolved around a vocational conundrum. I’d endured five years of searching, wrestling, initiating and waiting without discovering a path to freedom.

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Resurrection & Resistance

On reading the theme for this month’s blog, ‘resurrection moments’, resistance spontaneously rises; a wincing from deep within causes me to internally recoil. As I consider this reaction, I think it flows from a tendency I see in many Christians to view following Christ as a carefree stroll down the yellow brick road, rather than an arduous trek along the via Dolorosa (way of suffering or way of grief). This combines with two other thoughts that simultaneous float into my mind as I read the words ‘resurrection moments’: 1) there is no resurrection without a crucifixion, 2) we as Christians tend to jump to the ultimate, while minimizing or completely disregarding the penultimate. These ingredients mixed together create an inner aversion for me to the words ‘resurrection moments.’

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A Gift Gone

Years ago, a gift was taken away from me. It was a God-given gift but I was worshiping the gift and not the Giver. So God took it away.

I am a church musician. I have a Masters in Church Music and Organ and have worked as a church musician since I was 12 years old. From the womb, I believe, music and faith have been intricately intertwined for me. I could sing the liturgy from memory when I was 5 years old. I loved practicing for hours, first the piano, then the organ, violin, harpsichord, and recorder. I sang in church and school choirs from early on.

But the gift is never more important than the Giver. So in my early twenties, God took it away. It wasn’t like I forgot where middle C was or couldn’t sing on key any more, but, I couldn’t play the organ. Practicing didn’t help. My hands and feet lost their coordination. It is hard to explain other than to say, the gift was gone.

It was a hard time. A death, a desert, a wilderness. Not fun. Confusing.

Then, one day. It came back. Lightening out-of-the-blue. The gift was handed back to me, a more humbled me, a me who understood Giver vs. gift a tiny bit better.

I stood up in church to share, tentatively, not exactly sure what had happened or why. A dear friend led everyone in singing the Doxology. A resurrection moment.

This was the same friend who had told me the reason I played the organ was it was the only thing bigger than my personality. She saw the resurrection happen before I fully understood it. She was the person outside my Lazarus tomb, who, when I stepped out blinking and unsure, led the “Hallelujah” while unwinding the grave clothes.

I have never forgotten that moment. It has tempered me when I have been tempted to forget the right order: Giver and then the gift.

“I once was lost, but now am found; was blind but now I see.” And play. And rejoice in the Giver, as well as the gift.

Join the Conversation

Have you lost a gift? What was your response?

Did you receive it back? What changed in that time?

Costly Hope

Resurrection hope makes no earthly sense. In fact it often makes little sense to those who claim to have it. When we witness resurrection hope in its unvarnished authenticity, it looks very different from the softer forms of spirituality to which most North Americans are accustomed. Take the prophet Ezekiel for example. The writer of Hebrews surely envisioned Ezekiel as one of an elite group of unnamed faithful leaders who “placed their hope in a better life after the resurrection” (Hebrews 11:35).

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