Jeffrey M. Gallagher
From the emotional and poignant blog entries posted during his son Jacob's uncertain birth, trying surgeries, and first year of living with Down syndrome, author and pastor Jeffrey M. Gallagher reflects honestly and candidly on disability theology, God's place in tragedy and hardship, how the church welcomes (or not) people with differing abilities, and the joys-the wilderness blessings-that Jacob's life has given him.
Appealing to pastors, people of faith, readers interested in disability theology, parents and family members of those who are differently-abled, those who are interested in issues of inclusivity and acceptance, and those who struggle with understanding how God speaks and where God moves during difficult times, Wilderness Blessings: How Down Syndrome Reconstructed Our Life and Faith is a unique book that gives a pastoral and parental perspective into the reformation of a life and faith that have been blessed by the addition of a child with Down syndrome. After reading this book you may look at life and blessings from God in a new way.
Della O'Shea on Goodreads wrote:
As the grandmother of a beautiful little girl with Down syndrome, I eagerly read this book, assuming I would find some parallels between the author and me. What I found instead was a rekindling of my lapsed faith, and a deep respect for Jeff Gallagher as a writer, a pastor and a father. Those were bonuses, of course, to the exquisitely written account of his and his wife's lives before and after the birth of their precious Jacob.
The journal (blog) excerpts combined with narration make this a work of art. The raw human emotion exuded on every page are akin to a storytelling. I didn't feel like I was reading words. The narration came alive, and I felt like I knew this family and was part of their at-times harrowing ordeals. That's the mark of a brilliant writer.
This is a book for everyone to read. It isn't limited to those with a loved one with Down syndrome or other disability. This book awakens the human spirit and soothes the soul. I hope as Jacob grows this author will keep readers apprised of their lives as a family.
While this book is filled with insights by a pastor who never fails to inspire each Sunday, the following words from page 94 were especially meaningful to me:
'Well for me, prayers do not have to be in words, though they can be; they do not have to be in silence, though they can be that too; they certainly don't have to be well thought out and articulated; they don't even have to be understood by the person doing the praying (in fact, sometimes I think the best aren't). Prayer, really, is a state of mind. It is, as the Jewish authorAbraham Joshua Herschel writes: "an invitation to God to intervene in our lives...the opening of a window to [God] in our will'."
This is a comfort to one whose mind begins buzzing as I sit in church and hear the words, "Let us pray...." I imagine everyone around me being focused and intent as they silently talk to God, while my doubting mind simply wanders or fiercely erupts with questions "Is there a God? What does that mean? What should I say as a prayer?" When I put all the questions aside, I do recognize that unseen, positive interventions have occurred in my life more than a few times. I used to be fond of saying, "Oh I just fell into this [or that]" but now I believe that a guiding force has been, and is still, at work in my life, allowing me to receive what some would call grace. I also recognize that this happens when my state of mind is open like a window allowing a bright breeze to enter. If this, as noted above, can be called prayer, then I guess I'm not such a stranger to giving and receiving prayers.