The Same 88 Keys


My piano teacher ended every lesson the same way. After thirty minutes of my plunking on her Steinway, she would scoot me off the bench to watch her play some impressive, advanced piece. At the end of the last note, she’d look up at me, gesture to the keyboard, and say, “Now remember, you have these same 88 keys on your piano at home.”

She was trying to encourage me, but sometimes, especially after a rough lesson, it felt like an accusation: You have everything you need… so why aren’t you playing better? What’s wrong with you?

After four years of lessons, it was evident that I lacked many things, but mostly I needed a deeper desire and a different DNA. No matter how hard we tried, those 88 keys just weren’t enough.

Eventually, I ended up trading my piano books for basketball shoes.

However, I still think about what that piano teacher taught me, usually during Lent – which begins next week, by the way.

Lent is the forty days before Easter. It’s a season of the liturgical calendar where Christians focus on simple living, prayer, and fasting in order to grow closer to God. – (from the Upper Room).

Similar to my lesson, it’s when we seem to spend most of the time remembering how hopeless we are:

“…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”  -Romans 3:23

Then, it ends with us standing for the Hallelujah chorus and a hopeful reminder:

“…the same Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you…”  -Romans 8:11

And sometimes, especially after a rough winter, “you have the same spirit” can sound a lot like “you have these same keys…”

You have everything you need… What’s wrong with you?dayne-topkin-60559.jpg

As a poor piano student, I needed more than practice and encouragement. And as a rebellious child of God, I always need more than penance and an empty grave.

“…remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, … having no hope and without God in the world.” -Ephesians 2:12

We celebrate Easter because God responds to the greatest needs of His people.

He gives me the same Person who walked every station of the cross in my place, suffered for my sake, and died for my debt.

He gives me the same Spirit who revived Jesus in the grave, reformed His torn flesh, and rewrote the history of sinners everywhere.

He gives Himself – the same yesterday, today, and forever.

This kind of personal provision is counter-cultural. At work, our bosses send us to training, set us up with budgets, and then step back behind closed doors.

Modern parenting gives our kids every resource, endless opportunities, and everything except our time.

We even see it in our marriages when we choose results over relationship.

It’s a kind of radical pursuit that’s hard for us, and especially hard to believe about us.


It takes me a good forty days to relearn life’s not about having everything I need. It’s about having the One I need.

And if that lesson’s never covered, we can end up with a lifetime of my piano lessons.

Resurrection power doesn’t come from a mysterious energy we can tap into when we want to perform better. It’s not some strange force for us to master, like with Luke Skywalker and his closed eyes and sweaty brow.

The Holy Spirit is a Person who loves you and wants you to live with Him forever. If you do nothing else for Lent, learn that song by heart…

“My dwelling place shall be with them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” – Ezekiel 37:27

If I’m not careful, this season can play a dissonant chord on my soul. With all the fasting, praying, and self-denial, I’m prone to believe that Easter is mine to earn. I’m tempted to scoot away from God and trust in my own hard work and sacrifice. Or worse, in some grand or upright ritual.

It is good for us to sit in our ashes for a while and remember what we really deserve. And it’s important to delight in what we were meant to be.

But it’s a matter of life and death that we know the Person in whom we can do both without shame or pride.

“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” – John 14:18

This Lenten season, play because you are loved, friend. Stand because He’s enough. Face the music because the God Omnipotent reigneth in you. Yes, that same One.

King of kings and Lord of lords
And He shall reign forever and ever

Holly Barrett

piano pic: Ryan Holloway/ sheet music pic: Dayne Topkin/ sunrise pic: Cristina Gottardi

13 thoughts on “The Same 88 Keys

  1. Mary Geisen February 21, 2017 / 7:55 am

    This right here —-> This Lenten season, play because you are loved, friend. Stand because He’s enough. Face the music because the God Omnipotent reigneth in you. Yes, that same One.

    Amen. I will be reflecting on your words as we approach Lent and I walk through it this year.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Karen Brown February 21, 2017 / 8:03 am

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting, Mary!


  2. Joanne Viola (@JViola79) February 21, 2017 / 8:15 am

    Karen, I loved this right here > “Face the music because the God Omnipotent reigneth in you. Yes, that same One.”


  3. Michele Morin February 21, 2017 / 9:37 am

    Stopped in my tracks by the truth that Easter is not mine to earn. And even though I return time and time again to that Ephesians truth that the same power that raised Jesus from the dead is also alive and well today by His Spirit, you’ve given me some clarity and help in thinking about it that will impact on my own celebration of Lent in the coming days.
    Thanks, Karen.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Karen Brown February 21, 2017 / 1:47 pm

      Thank you so much for this encouraging feedback, Michele. Have a blessed Lenten season!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Lesley February 21, 2017 / 1:48 pm

    It’s sad that what I’m sure your piano teacher intended to be encouraging felt like an accusation. The same can be true as we see God’s standards and how we fail to measure up. It’s so important to remember that it’s not about our achievements or effort but about taking hold of all that God offers, and Lent is a great time to remind ourselves of that.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Karen Brown February 21, 2017 / 1:53 pm

      Lesley – yes! taking hold of all that God offers. What a great thought to propel us into the Lenten season. Thank you so much for stopping by to read and comment. Much appreciated!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Jeanne Takenaka February 21, 2017 / 2:46 pm

    Such good, wise words here, Karen. I took piano lessons as a girl. And I quit after 6 months. Not proud of that fact. If I had it to do over, I would have stayed with it, knowing what I know now. I guess that’s what can be beautiful about Lent. Knowing Jesus, knowing the work He did on the cross, the sacrifice He gave because He loves me, knowing that He doesn’t want my rituals, He wants my heart? When I can be still enough and stop the frenetic obligatory “do-ing” that’s when I’m best able to meditate on Him, Who He is and the unfathomable gift He gives each of us.

    Loved your analogy of the 88 keys, my friend.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Karen Brown February 21, 2017 / 2:53 pm

      Jeanne – Thanks so much for reading and taking the time to comment. Yes- that is the beautiful thing about Lent. Amen.


  6. betsydecruz February 24, 2017 / 6:16 am

    Karen! 🙂 Thanks for encouraging us to think about pursuing God during Lent. I like this: “It takes me a good forty days to relearn life’s not about having everything I need. It’s about having the One I need.” I think it might take me longer than 40 days! But I do appreciate this encouragement.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. SunSparkleShine February 25, 2017 / 6:27 am

    Yes, I want to play because I am loved. This is so encouraging!

    Blessings to you, Karen.
    Marva | SunSparkleShine

    Liked by 1 person

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