Since our son Ezekiel passed away two and a half months ago, Breena and I have been often asked: How are you doing? The truth is, we’re doing well. This fact can be difficult for some to understand. After all, our 4 1/2 year old son died of a terrible disease that slowly destroyed his brain and his body for more than two years. How could we possibly be doing well after experiencing something like that?

IMG_0158The only answer we have to that question is that we’ve found a hope that transcends death. We’re doing well because we have hope that there is something, or someone, who is greater than death. This hope, which has buried itself deep within our hearts over the past two years, is rooted in Jesus and his resurrection from the dead. We believe that Jesus conquered death once and for all; not that he has yet eradicated it and our bodies will never die, but that he has risen again from the dead, thereby destroying the power of death. If Jesus rose again, then death isn’t final, at least not for those who follow Jesus.

Nothing else on earth offers this kind of hope. No other religion or ideology offers the kind of hope that Christianity does through the resurrection of Jesus. The cross and resurrection, the “true message of the Gospel,” gives humanity a hope that no other way of life can – a hope that strips death of its power to make us afraid and replaces it with a vision of an unimaginably glorious and good life beyond death. As Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15,

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It’s been about two and a half weeks since our sweet Zekey passed away. I think about him every day, almost all day. But when I think of him now, I don’t usually remember the sweet, mischievous little guy running our house in Westerville. Nor do I think of the sickly little boy bedridden at my parents’ house in Toledo. No, when I think of Zeke now, I see a tall, handsome young man with tons of dark hair, big brown eyes, and a big smile on his face. I see him standing in front of me, without seizing, without twitching. He is ready to talk to me. We’re about to have our first conversation.

This is Zeke as he is now, in heaven with Jesus awaiting his resurrection. He is whole. He is healthy. He is untainted by that damnable disease.

Although Zeke’s life was short, and he was sick for almost half of it, he has left a profound impression on this world. If you’re reading this, then it probably means that his life and death have moved you in unexpected and unlikely ways. I believe that this is God calling you.

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We held out for healing. We prayed for it. We laid our hands on his head. We called out for God’s kingdom to come on earth, in Zeke, as it is in heaven. But the healing we wanted never came, and finally, after far too long, Zeke took his last breath at 3:00 this morning, passing from life to death, and on into eternal life.

“Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?”

Zeke is with Jesus. I’m jealous of them both.

I’m jealous of Zeke because he gets to rest from all of his trials. He gets to see what I can only hope for. He gets to know Jesus face-to-face. He is made whole, today, in the presence of his Savior and Creator.

I’m jealous of Jesus because he gets to talk to Zeke. Because of this disease, I was never able to have a real conversation with him. He could only respond nonverbally because the speech function in his brain was not allowed to develop. But now that he’s made whole, the first person he ever gets to converse with is Jesus. So I’m jealous.

On this mountain the Lord Almighty will prepare
a feast of rich food for all peoples,
a banquet of aged wine—
the best of meats and the finest of wines.
On this mountain he will destroy
the shroud that enfolds all peoples,
the sheet that covers all nations;
he will swallow up death forever.
The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears
from all faces;
he will remove his people’s disgrace
from all the earth.
The Lord has spoken.

Our hope is built upon the resurrection of Jesus. We don’t imagine that Zeke is whole or that we will see him again because we are looking for ways to comfort ourselves. Rather, we comfort ourselves in the historical fact of Jesus’s resurrection and what that means about the future for all who believe in him.

Zeke’s bed is empty, and I feel that same emptiness in my heart. All of the pillows and blankets that protected his flailing feet and arms from hitting the bedrails are still there, but his body is conspicuously absent. My heart is wrung dry. My stomach is churning.

For half of his life he suffered from the effects of seizures. Now, for eternity, his body is made new, never to seize again. I rejoice that his suffering is over. I lament that he is gone.


My sweet boy, the next time I see you we must have a long chat.

I love you.

I rejoice with you.

You are missed.

I will never forget you.

A photographer, who is a Christian, reached out for help. “I have several gay friends, and they keep telling me, ‘When I get engaged/married, I’m definitely having you shoot the photos.’ While I’m honored by their compliments and love them dearly, I’m conflicted about whether or not I can, as a Christian, participate in their weddings as the photographer.” When her friends ask her to shoot their wedding, what should she do?


What did it mean for Jesus to eat with sinners?
A Christian college student at a state university wants to join a fraternity, but they have a reputation as a party house. He thinks he can be a witness for Christ in the house, but there is a lot of drinking and drug-use that goes on there. When they ask him to join the house, what should he do?

These are complicated questions that require serious reflection. One of the most common responses I’ve seen to these types of questions goes like this: “Jesus ate with sinners, so you should [shoot the wedding/join the frat/go to the party].” But is it really as simple as that? What, after all, did it mean for Jesus to eat with sinners? And why was it such a big deal?

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Ashes to ashes. Dust to dust.

A refrain spoken over the dead. A reminder for the living. We are but dust, and to dust we shall return.

Ashes to ashes. Dust to dust. We close our eyes and abandon ourselves to God. These are the symbols of our humility, the reminder that our time here is short, and that we are not in control.

Ash and dust bring us into confrontation with our own mortality, our own sinfulness, and the fleeting nature of our lives here on earth. Ashes and dust are a reminder that our hope and faith must be in God alone, and not in what we can accomplish in our short time.

What, then, are we to do in the face of such confrontation with our own mortality? We must repent. In dust and ashes.

The ancients placed this symbol of death, these ashes, upon their heads as a sign of their repentance. Like worship, it was an external action that reflected an internal reality. Finally seeing the folly of their old ways, they repented in dust and ashes, hoping that the god to whom they prayed was a forgiving god. A gracious deity. A merciful Lord.

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