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There is a middle-aged guy in our church who consistently surprises me. His name is Jesse, and he happens to have Down syndrome. I have no idea what Jesse’s IQ is, but it’s not very high. He’s functional but childlike, and he always has and always will live with his mom.

Anybody who knows Jesse knows he is passionate about four things: karate, country music, drums, and Jesus. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him without a cowboy hat or a t-shirt displaying his favorite country western musician, and he often has been seen playing air drums during worship time in church.

Week after week, Jesse shows up early to get a front-row seat in our church auditorium. (He doesn’t understand that most people come early to get the back seats.) He sits up front near me because he enjoys being close to the action and the drums in the worship band. More than many others in our community of faith, Jesse engages with all of his heart in worship. His love for Jesus is both obvious and humbling.

Me and Jesse this morning at church

One Sunday morning during a worship song that deeply touched me, I ended up on my knees singing, crying, and quietly praying. I’m sure several of those around me noticed, but I didn’t care. I was lost in the presence of Jesus. My eyes were closed, and my arms were lifted up when a small hand on my shoulder startled me. I opened my eyes to see who’d had the nerve to interrupt me. It was Jesse; his eyelids were squeezed shut, and he was praying for me.

To say I became a blubbering, sobbing mess at that point would be an understatement. In no time, I was sucking carpet. What I saw first as an interruption became one of the most powerful spiritual moments of my life. Somehow I knew Jesus was touching and blessing me through my friend Jesse.

DS Man in Prayer

So what? What can you and I learn from Jesse? A lot, but this particular lesson is simple and clear: Maybe we worry too much about the way we look or the way we sound rather than the condition of our hearts in praise.

Few of us suffer from any debilitating handicap. Most of us are quite capable of doing whatever we want to do whenever we want to do it. But too often we hold back in fear or check out in apathy rather than jumping into worship with heartfelt enthusiasm. I’m not suggesting we all need to play the air drums in worship, but we should engage God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength.

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We need to be more like Jesse. We need to function with the clear and simple focus of whole-hearted devotion for God. We need to pursue the Father with passionate abandonment. We must learn to live with a determined and deliberate desire to discover all that our Creator has fashioned for us to experience in Him.

If Jesse can do it, so can we.

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  1. Kurt, a couple nights ago, I attended a stage production called PACE Has Got Talent, directed by friend and SFCC professor, Judy Mandeville (also retired Sacred Dance instructor at Whitworth for many years). The performers were all the developmentally challenged students from her SFCC classes. The 2 hr. show brought me to tears, filled me with joy, and made me realize why God blesses our world with those with Down Syndrome and other conditions out of the normal. They are our teachers. They remind us to be what Jesus said, “like little children,” and they inspire me, as you emphasized in your article, to be less conscious of how I look, sound, and act when I know I’m obeying God.

  2. I would have checked out tonight had I not read this article. If it only keeps me alive one more day, so be it, but at least I have that one more day to go before God and ask Him to help me understand events of the past 12 horrific years. My special needs daughter, whom I adopted out of the horror of abuse and neglect in 1980, and I were victims of facility abuse over the past dozen years in a nursing home/assisted living facility we were only supposed to be in a month. My health was stolen from me. I suffered severe traumatic brain injury, and my precious child was hurt beyond belief, as I lay unconscious for 27 months. Now I am special needs. I love God no less. I have never thought to ask Him, “Why?” I’ve never asked Him, “Why me,” or “why Crisi Dee.” I awake every morning and go to sleep every night merely asking, “What do I do?” I was born deaf, and my daughter is deaf. She also has cerebral palsy, diabetes, epilepsy and autism. I can’t explain to her the horrors that were visited upon either of us. I can’t tell her I’ll always be here to love, protect and care for her. I can only look into my precious daughter’s eyes and see her broken soul. I weep for her, and I weep for me. I cannot fix what our abusers broke. I will bow my heart before God for the rest of my life if it takes that long and plead with Him, on behalf of both of us, to finally show me what to do. I know He must love her enough to tell this broken Mama what to do to set this right. Otherwise why did He leave me here!?!

    • Dear Coral, my heart weeps with yours. Stories like this remind me of how dark and broken our world is…and yet…how Jesus came to give us hope. I wish I could tell you He came to make life easy. I wish I could give you answers. Frankly, the old part of me wants to hurt the people who hurt you and your precious daughter. However, what I can tell you is this…you are loved by Him and by me. Somehow, out of our brokenness, God uses us to help others, and often in ways we don’t even see. You matter to Him. You matter to me. You may never “understand the events” of your past, but please do not give up. Not today. Not ever.
      May I pray for you?
      Jesus, I don’t know Coral or her daughter, but You do. You know them and love them more than Your own life. Please wrap your arms around both of them right now. Whisper into their ears and hearts how much you love them beyond words. Let them know your peace and presence. Show Coral what You have planned for her future. Into this situation that seems so hopeless, breathe hope as only You can do. In Your name I pray…
      Thank you Coral for sharing a bit of your story with me. I will continue to pray…

    • Pastor Kurt Bubna’s words are only just beginning to soak in. I will continue to ponder them in my heart. They triggered memories of Scriptural references I want to search out in my Bible. Nearly everything I searched, learned and understood that led to my decision to accept Christ as my Savior 57 years ago, was wiped from my memory in the violent abuse to my head and body that caused the horrific brain injury. My faith alone stayed strong, but the foundation upon which it was built did not survive with it. I yearn for things I cannot even remember. But I will find them again. I sought and found decades ago. I asked and I was gifted. I knocked and God opened His rich store of knowledge of His Holiness, grace, mercy and salvation for me decades ago. He will do it again.

  3. thank you for your blog…AS ALWAYS…it comes to me when I really DO need it the most…I am forever grateful that i stumbled across your blog..bought my first book of yours…Epic Grace and have since bought the other two. Thank you for your words…and may you PLEASE continue for a VERY LONG TIME.
    In Jesus name and Love

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