Mike Cope's blog

Sunday, September 12, 2004

If you don't want to start your week off with the rantings and ravings of a lunatic, please -- stop right here. This weekend my wife talked for a long time to a woman who is one of the unnamed, unrecognized saints in this world. This woman (in another state) gives round-the-clock care to her mentally-handicapped son who is about the age Megan would be if she were still alive. The two have talked a lot over the years. They both understand how wonderful, yet challenging the life of a caregiver is. Recently this woman got an anonymous letter from another woman at her church, asking her if she wouldn't mind keeping her son in the cry room during the assembly because during the songs he tends to get loud (since he loves singing). It bothers her, and she's quite sure she's speaking for others who aren't "bold enough" . . . (excuse me while I pause to laugh) . . . to write to her. The chances of Anonymous being a reader of this blog are not good. But just in case. Dear Anonymous: How about this? Get off your selfish, complacent butt and help this woman!! She cares for her son 24-7. Would it kill you to give her a hand? Offer to take care of her son while she's at church. The moment we walked in the door of Highland in 1991, someone stopped Diane and took Megan's hand. She said, "For the rest of the week, Megan is yours. When you're here she's ours. You need to be able to worship with the rest of your family." And if you aren't willing to pick your butt off the pew, maybe you could listen to this young man's utterances. It might be that there is an angelic choir near you, but you aren't hearing it. For crying out loud, how have we lowered the bar of discipleship so low that someone could go to church week-after-week, year-after-year without even coming close to the way of Jesus Christ? In Christian Love, Mike Cope

24 Comments:

  • Mike,

    It is a beautiful thing to see your pastoral gifts at work!:). This morning I worshipped with the Impact Church in Houston. Impact is a diverse group of folks who celebrate life. There are several beautiful souls who have some type of handicapping condition that allows them to sing loud, but not anywhere near "four part harmony." This morning I thought of the illustration from Oliver Sacks you use in your message, "He Who Lives Forever: The God Who is Worthy of Our Praise," about the "lost mariner" with Korsakoff's Syndrome. You quote Sacks: "It was in worship that Jimmie found continuity and reality, in the absoluteness of spiritual attention and act."

    That is what I thought about this morning. Thank you for sharing both stories. God's power is displayed boldly in weakness. Maybe someday even in those who need to get their spiritual butts moving.

    By Blogger David Michael, at 9/12/2004 01:53:00 PM  

  • BRING IT! The gospel can be blunt (as you have been) and I am grateful for your willingness to be so. I try to be exceedingly patient with those who have complaints, but anonymous letters go straight to the circular file. I leave with a word from Mary...

    "He has brought down the powerful from their thrones and lifted up the lowly
    He has filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away empty."

    By Blogger chrismith, at 9/12/2004 01:54:00 PM  

  • Amen.

    If this woman were so convicted in her 'boldness,' she should have at least had the guts to sign her name own name. Apparently she doesn't speak for anyone -- not even herself.

    I've erased several paragraphs wherein I wrote things that I will admit were not exactly expressions of a loving, Christian character. But it does make me wonder whether this woman wants all singers who hit notes other than those written on the page to be seated in a special section for the musically impaired or whether she thinks the tactless ought to be issued muzzles at the door.

    I think somehow we as a body got the idea that "decently and in order" means "things are the way I like it" or that worship is a play that should be repeated weekly without any differentiation, no divergence from the script.

    I don't think you were ranting, Mike. I think you were exceedingly restrained. And I love the people who welcomed you to Highland and who stepped up to love Megan with you. I hope your unnamed saint finds similar brothers and sisters in her congregation. And I hope in the future I'll be one of them where I am.

    By Blogger Q, at 9/12/2004 02:39:00 PM  

  • Mike, you know that we get a chance to hear that kind of worship (yes, it is- and probably among the most pure) at Highland often because we worship with a lot of the folks from DRI. Every time I hear someone holding a note out too long, or singing off-key or sometimes even singing something recognizable I smile and so does Kendra. I only hope that those who think they sing well have a heart for worship approaching that of Jeff or Wallace Ann or any of their friends.

    By Blogger Val, at 9/12/2004 07:30:00 PM  

  • Mike, I'm doing this anonymously, b/c I think I know the mother and mentally handicapped son you wrote about...but since you did not mention their name, I won't either, because I want to respect their privacy...and I could not find an email to write you directly. The son claps and makes noises...especially during songs about heaven. Several months (maybe a year or so...time flies) ago the song leader (who had taught special ed and was now a principal) stopped mid verse and asked the congregation to listen to the expressive joy of this child. He said he hoped we realized that the Godhead and the angels in heaven were rejoicing over his participation in the worship service. As I see this mother walking to church with her son, I ache for her...yet her example is a powerful sermon of love and perseverence. Yes, he's loud at times...often just as the song ends...but I think of what this family has been through...emotionally, financially...and rejoice at their faith. They are truly an example of faithfulness!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9/12/2004 07:42:00 PM  

  • Preach on, Mike!
    I needed your impassioned ranting, as it could have been addressed to me a few years ago. Makes me examine myself for traces of old stuff that might be lurking in dark corners. I need the call to discipleship as often as I can get it.
    You're no lunatic--you have so much to say that we all need to hear, and bursts of truth such as this deeply emotional pronouncement are good for all of us. Fire--passion--fervor--give us more!
    Sarah

    By Blogger Sarah_RN, at 9/12/2004 08:11:00 PM  

  • Never heard you use the word butt...makes me laugh!
    I can only imagine your outrage at this. I feel sorry for people who do not understand the blessings that come from working with, teaching, be-friending and loving the mentally-handicapped. My life was forever blessed by Megan. I feel lucky to have known her. But yes it is hard sometimes. That poor anon. person just does not get it. I can not imagine the empty life one must lead to actually spend time writing a letter like that. God bless this anon, for he or she truly needs and added measure of your grace and mercy. . . but I guess we all do.

    By Blogger SG, at 9/12/2004 09:17:00 PM  

  • Mike, The boorish insensitivity of some people is truly astounding and this Anon is no exception.

    As mentioned before, one of my dearest and deeply missed friends in San Diego is a woman confined to a wheelchair and 24/7 care for every physical need. She cannot do one single thing for herself. For instance, the communion elements must be place in her mouth since she cannot do so herself. Her's is a physical disability, (CP)rather than a mental challenge. Speech is a slow and painful process for her, but when she finishes one of her quips, her wit and joy of life come sailing through. [You want a wonderous mental image? Picture Rita, with her speech difficulties, at her voice activated computer. The computer extends amazing patience to Rita. LOL)

    One of the great blessings for me was to sit as close to Rita as possible, but far enough away that I could capture the sight of her face while she "sang" in worship to the King. Few have shown the great love and awe of God that she when in worship.

    In the fall of 1993, I returned to Oak Hills for the SW Singles Celebration, and Rita was among those that went with me.

    Just one note from that Celebration. The closing night, there was a Michael Card concert. During one of his breaks I noticed there was a crowed around Rita. Michael Card was kneeling in front of Rita's wheelchair singing softly to her and talking with her. [This was a repeat - earlier that day, Jeff Nelson had done exactly the same thing with Rita.] When he [Michael Card]resumed his concert, he sang one of his compositions, written for a little handicapped boy in his home church. In the introduction comments Card said, "This young boy has taught me that we ALL are handicapped in ome way or another." Rita laughed with joy and in here own tortured manner of speech said, "I think I'm in love with that guy." They were beautiful moments.

    I feel very sorry for Ms. Anon. She has placed herself on a starvation diet, spiritually speaking, imho. How sad.

    By Blogger Kathy, at 9/12/2004 09:43:00 PM  

  • Well said, Mike. I would have at least mentioned some concepts such as 'wrath of God', 'hellfire', 'nearly beyond grace' and perhaps 'self-righteous hypocrite' .. but you did pretty good.

    By Blogger JD, at 9/12/2004 10:25:00 PM  

  • Mike - There's an older man who sits right up front on Wednesday nights who reminds me alot of my dad. He has one of the most beautiful off key voices with no words and radiant smiles I have ever seen. He always goes up for prayer and I always pray for him. He is one of the things I miss most about Wednesday nights when I'm in class instead of church. Thanks for ranting. I'm sure we all needed to hear it.

    By Blogger Candy, at 9/13/2004 04:41:00 AM  

  • My sweet 9-year-old son, Duncan, (CP & mentally retarded) often yells and giggles LOUDEST when we are quiet in the assembly. It's obvious that he loves it. One time I took him out because he was making so much "noise" and a dear elder caught me and said, "you better not be bringing him out because of us in there --don't you do that." It meant the world to me that he understood his worship and participation. That elder is the same man who kneels down and speaks with him every Sunday, looks into his eyes lets Ducan put his fingers into his mouth to have a "relational moment." Speaking of moments, I wonder if Megan ever stared intently at something just over your shoulder as Duncan often does. He's really looking at something, it's obvious. When I move in front if his focus, he moves to see again, and it's not the TV. A ministering spirit sent to serve those who will inherit salvation? If Ducan indeed can see this, then where does it put you and I? Okay, I know I'm out there, but having a special needs son begs these kinds of questions all the time. It's actually part of the joy associated with it. I get the most wonderful and facinating people coming up to me (well, actually Duncan)who either have a great spiritual sensitivity or who have a story of their own to tell. I imagine anon to be an older person who is just doesn't have a file folder for coping on this sweet child of God or who has never needed to ponder the questions I do everyday. That's normal behaivor. But as Christians, we are called to look to the unseen rather than the outward appearance. I've been praying for her as she is the poor and weak person in this scenario.

    By Blogger Cindy, at 9/13/2004 04:55:00 AM  

  • The degree of separation between the brightest of us and the one we call "challenged, handicapped" or whatever, is infinitessimal when compared to the abilities of the Creator. Yet he extends his love to us all, and invites us all to reciprocate. We ARE all handicapped, and when we realize that, all we can do is pray that our OWN worship is acceptable. Perhaps we think too much..........

    don

    By Blogger don, at 9/13/2004 07:54:00 AM  

  • A loud, seven-fold AMEN! from my pew. Jesus said, "Let the children come unto me." I don't recall any "qualifiers" mentioned. I do recall a Savior who exemplified lots of love for those with steeper hills to climb.

    God Bless you, Mike, for your words, and your friend as she teaches a church about a love more like Christ's.

    James

    By Blogger James, at 9/13/2004 08:54:00 AM  

  • Would it be unwholesome of me to point out that there is Scriptural precedent for the use of the word 'ass?' Yes, it would. Nevermind.

    The more important questions I have to ask myself in light of this debacle are:

    "How titillating is it to vilify this anonymous woman, however misguided her actions?"

    "How much easier is to join the cyber-lynching than to pray that God would give this woman compassion for that mother and child?"

    and, "Does this righteous indignation produce a more Christlike spirit in me as it relates to those with whom I have disagreement or conflict in my own church?"

    Calling out this woman's actions may very well be both justified and necessary, but piling on might not make me more like Christ.

    By Blogger Grant, at 9/13/2004 09:43:00 AM  

  • Very well said Grant.

    By Blogger SG, at 9/13/2004 11:10:00 AM  

  • Thanks for these comments. Cindy, may the love (and REST) of God be on you and precious Duncan. For saints who "get it," we are most thankful.

    Grant, I'm tempted to say: "So, Amos, don't call them Cows of Bashan. Just encourage these women to be less ungodly."

    But, alas, I'm not Amos. Not nearly. I warned of ranting and raving. Matt rarely got to sit in a church assembly until he was 9 years old, because I was preaching and Diane was stuck in a cry room with Megan. ("Stuck" doesn't tell the whole story, of course. It was a blessing. But being in the worship assembly alone with Matt at times would also have been a blessing.)

    But we receive your encouragement to pray for compassion.

    Isn't it still true, though, that we have come to not expect people to be formed in the way of Christ? We tolerate constant complainers year-after-year, reminding each other they everyone should be heard. And of course, everyone should be heard . . . but can't we help people quit their carping? It's still Monday. I'll be back to my normal, compassionate self tomorrow morning.

    By Blogger Mike, at 9/13/2004 11:13:00 AM  

  • I am fondly reminded of my days at Highland and my consistent seating companion, Chris. Chris could be disruptive when he wanted to be, and I dug it. Best Sunday ever was when Max Chance walked in 5 minutes late and sat next to me and Chris. It's a fairly subdued part of service and Chris whispers (louder than I usually talk) "MAX, YOU'RE LATE." Max whispers "Yes Chris..shhh." "YOU'RE LATE MAX." And Max whispers "Yes, THANK you Chris." And Chris keeps insisting and I just sat there holding my laughter in and shaking with tears coming down my face. Max was, of course, never late again. Man, I miss Chris on Sundays.

    By Blogger chrismith, at 9/13/2004 11:23:00 AM  

  • "For crying out loud, how have we lowered the bar of discipleship so low that someone could go to church week-after-week, year-after-year without even coming close to the way of Jesus Christ?"

    Unfortunately, this is the state of many of our brethren. I have often wondered how some could be subject to the teachings of Jesus for 20, 30, 50 years and not be moved closer toward His image. Is it the teaching? Is the hearer's heart? Is it our culture that seems to negate in an instant the teaching? What is it? I am constantly amazed at attitudes of people who surely ought to know better. It breaks my heart.

    By Blogger MarkS, at 9/13/2004 11:24:00 AM  

  • I'll be glad when this internet fad is over. I'm losing faith in the IM/chat room setting as a forum to adequately share ideas. I can't see facial expressions or hear inflection, and the little hieroglyphic symbols - :) - don't quite cut it.

    Mike, having this kind of an exchange with you is kind of like two people in the same room talking to each other on cell phones. I could have, and perhaps should have, e-mailed or talked to you personally about this. Or just not said anything at all.

    I wasn't suggesting we let this anonymous woman off the hook. On the contrary, I think she should be held accountable for her actions. I'm just tossing out the idea that it's possible for us to become the complainers, complaining about her complaining and how so many people don't "get it," then feeling justified and proud about which side we've come down on, even if it's the correct one. And when it's all over, the woman in question has been burned in effigy but probably never truly encouraged through direct confrontation or through our supplication in prayer to follow the way more perfectly.

    It may have been entirely appropriate to call out this anonymous woman and hold her up as an example of who we don't want to be. But I fear her anonymity has given us tacit permission to more roundly and rabidly condemn her.

    It wasn't until after my initial post that I read the final sentence of Cindy's comments, which captured more concisely and convincingly the essence of my thoughts. As usual, I should've read more and talked less.

    By Blogger Grant, at 9/13/2004 01:00:00 PM  

  • My favorite part was "In Christian Love."

    By Blogger john alan turner, at 9/13/2004 02:17:00 PM  

  • "I'm just tossing out the idea that it's possible for us to become the complainers, complaining about her complaining and how so many people don't "get it," then feeling justified and proud about which side we've come down on, even if it's the correct one. And when it's all over, the woman in question has been burned in effigy but probably never truly encouraged through direct confrontation or through our supplication in prayer to follow the way more perfectly. "

    Thanks, Grant.

    By Blogger Q, at 9/13/2004 02:51:00 PM  

  • If anything warrants ranting, surely, this does.

    But, reading Cindy and Don's comments today touched me deeply. Seldom do we inspire the repentance in another person by meeting their arrogance with our own, even when we are right. I may be totally wrong, but I believe someone like Cindy, who lives in beauty and wonder, being led into those places by her son would also have the gift to melt the heart of that woman, were she given the opportunity.

    But even if that woman doesn't ever change, I think it is truly wonderful that Mike and Diane continue to be there as a support, a buffer, and an understanding ear for other parents who have been entrusted with these special children.

    By Blogger Serena Voss, at 9/13/2004 07:54:00 PM  

  • All of this talk points to a weakness in us beyond only how we respond in a worship gathering to those who are mentally "off" just a bit. My dad suffers from Alzheimer’s and try as we may we within our church and family, we cannot get people to go and sit with him, feed him, hold his hand or just take him for a walk...nevermind praying over him, blessing him in song or reading scripture to him. Our family does do these things and we see, oh do we see, the spirit that is still very much alive, well, responsive and hungry within him. How we deal with those who are unlike us (unchurched as well as unstable) indeed has much to say about how far (or not) into our hearts the (supposed) transformative teachings of Christ have penetrated. In speaking to the leper, the outcast of all outcasts in that day and time, Christ showed us his modus operandi toward the loud, off key, and drooling among us. Be it during worship, or in an assisted living center, nursing home or hospice, some of our most clear glimpses into the mind and heart of our Lord can be seen when we engage those who we see as not being like us. Now, if we'll just get up, go and open our eyes...

    By Blogger Rob, at 9/15/2004 10:33:00 AM  

  • I agree with Val. I LOVE to sit in the DRI section because those folks really love the Lord. Their worship is pure and uninhibited. I love to hear them sing off key at the top of their lungs because I know they love the Lord and I love to see them raise their hands because I know they love the lord and worship him completely. Just tonight I sat behind them and the two young men in front of me just reached over and hugged one another right during the singing. It was priceless. I get all choked up inside because I LOVE them with the love of Christ. They are truly God's gift in all of their simplicity. They give the right perspective to us who blow it with our complications sometimes. There is wonderful Karen Tarver who comes to Faithseekers class and always has a hug and a word. Then there is Paul Melville. He is a greeter at heart. He comes up and shakes my hand or gives me a giant sized hug at Oasis. The kind that lasts for a week. Because he truly has the concept of love and fellowship.

    AS for miss anonymous, you gotta love her too because she is just acting like the world does when the Lord's love hasn't pierced then through. She's not learned the meaning yet, but I'm sure there's a lesson up ahead for her and God has it all under control. Just pray for her heart to be softened.

    By Blogger Dianne, at 9/15/2004 07:56:00 PM  

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