It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!
You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
Mike Cope is an author, blogger, professor, minister and magazine editor. He has written four books, including What Would Jesus Do Today? and One Holy Hunger. He was a minister for many years at the Highland Church in Abilene and now works with Heartbeat Ministries. He and his wife, Diane, live in Abilene, Texas, and have two surviving children: Matt, a resident in internal medicine at Duke University, and Chris, a junior in high school.
Mike Cope’s best teacher was his mentally disabled daughter—Megan. In her ten years of life, she taught her father secrets more profound than anything he’d learned in college or seminary. In his moving remembrance, Megan’s Secrets: What My Mentally Disabled Daughter Taught Me about Life, Cope shares those secrets in a way that will make readers laugh, cry and find new hope.
Megan was a beautiful pint-sized girl whose only spoken words were “I’m Megan!” Although a child of few words, the best scholars in the world could not teach what she did in her brief life. Her life exposed some of the insanities of the world and revealed some life-giving secrets such as:
We are often fascinated with things that are impressive from the outside but which may not be that important to God.What really matters has to do with the heart: keeping promises, seeking justice in a brutal world, learning to see those in greatest need and living with courage, joy and unconditional love.
God uses our brokenness to His glory.
This unique inspirational book wraps these secrets and more into stories that will restore hope to those grieving. All readers who long to see modern-day examples of the “little ones” Jesus held on his lap and loved will be inspired and moved to exult in God’s incredible wisdom. What Mike discovers is that life with Megan, who slept only three hours a night, was exhausting, challenging, and even disappointing but also filled with joy and truths.
Max Lucado, best-selling author and minister, says, “The world would look at Megan Cope and her brief little life and see limitations. Imperfections. Inabilities. Her dad, just like her heavenly Father, saw something else entirely. Joy. Big heart. Love. Wisdom. Raising a disabled daughter, and then saying goodbye after a brief ten years of life, Mike knows the struggles, triumphs, pain, everyday miracles. . . and the secrets. Secrets God shares with those who care for the least among us. In Megan’s Secrets, my friend Mike shares the wisdom he learned from loving Megan.”
AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:
I gave this mite a gift I denied to all of you—eternal innocence. . . . She will never offend me, as all of you have done. She will never pervert or destroy the works of my Father’s hands. She is necessary to you. She will evoke the kindness that will keep you human. . . . This little one is my sign to you. Treasure her!1
MR. ATHA (the returned Christ) speaking of a child with Down Syndrome in Morris West’s The Clowns of God
A while back, I read an essay in Atlantic Monthly by Jessica Cohen, a Yale University student. She told about spotting a classified ad in the Yale Daily News: EGG DONOR NEEDED.
The couple placing the ad was looking for an egg from just the right donor, and they were willing to pay big bucks, to the tune of twenty-five thousand dollars. She learned that they wanted an Ivy League university student who was over 5 feet 5 inches tall, of Jewish heritage, athletic, and attractive and who had a minimum combined SAT score of 1500.
Being a bit short on cash, Cohen thought she might follow the lead. Cohen began corresponding with the anonymous couple. And as she did, she was introduced to a whole world of online ads by such desperate couples. She found one website with five hundred classifieds posted. An eBay for genetic material, she thought. Plus, there were ads like the following from young women wanting to sell their eggs:
Hi! My name is Kimberly. I am 24 years old, 5’11” with
blonde hair and green eyes. I previously donated eggs and
the couple was blessed with BIG twin boys! The doctor told
me I have perky ovaries! . . . The doctor told me I had the
most perfect eggs he had ever seen.
Cohen’s e-mails with the husband were strange. He and his wife were concerned about her scores in science and math. Then she sent a few pictures they had requested. The husband responded: “I showed the pictures to [my wife] this a.m. Personally, I think you look great. She said ho-hum.”
After that, Cohen’s correspondence with the couple abruptly ended.2
What kind of bizarre world is this? Our culture is fascinated with the “accidents” of birth: looks, athletic ability, and IQ. What if volcanic ash suddenly covered the United States, and it wasn’t until centuries later that archaeologists dug down to uncover our civilization, but the only written material they could locate were magazines from the checkout counters of grocery stores? What would those archaeologists assume about us? Maybe that we were the most shallow group of people ever?
This world of genetic engineering would favor my sons. But who—in our success-driven world—would want my daughter’s genetic makeup? She was, after all, mentally disabled. She would never take the SAT test, she wasn’t headed toward an Ivy League school, and chances were really good she wasn’t going to be over 5’5”! She couldn’t produce anything, had no fame to be proud of, and couldn’t brag of any trophies. We have classes in schools for “gifted and talented” students. By that standard, my daughter
wasn’t very successful.
And yet she was the most radical witness to the love of God I’ve ever met. She changed our world. I wonder: What if our society awarded friendliness, forgiveness, endurance, joyfulness, and unconditional love?
Megan was a quiet, loving witness to the gospel. She was an incarnation of God’s love. She received whatever gifts of service we offered to her without expecting more. She embodied the truth of 2 Corinthians 4:7: “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.”
Let the world search for “the perfect egg.” But our eyes have been opened by the breaking through of the kingdom in Jesus Christ. We’ve heard him say, “God bless you—you who are poor in spirit. God bless you—you who mourn. And God bless you—you who are meek.”
One of Megan’s much older friends was inspired by her life and wrote the following about her:
Megan proclaimed her message in her life. She was a
walking icon of Christ’s admonition to take no thought for
tomorrow, but simply, in faith, to let each day unfold on
its own. I doubt it ever occurred to Megan to make long-range
plans or to fear what the next five minutes might
bring. Megan, like the birds of the air and the lilies of the
field, trusted in the Creator, through his human agents,
to supply whatever requirements she might have. She
knew no other way to live. And in that respect, she sits in
judgment on us all, and leads us toward a more primitive
and perfect trust.
So many people were drawn to Megan. I think many college students in particular were drawn to her because they were being constantly bombarded everywhere else with messages about who they were supposed to be in order to be successful in this life. And the powerful reminder they always received from being with Megan was that success has more to do with internal qualities of the heart than with external circumstances and accidents of birth.
A society reveals a lot about itself by what it esteems and rewards. Apparently, we tend to value accidents of birth that we chisel and hone into perfection, then put on display—and even then we airbrush out the imperfections: how you look in a swimsuit, what you score on your SAT, how fast you can run a forty-yard dash.
No wonder so many people end up feeling bad about themselves. Some express this in self-loathing, others in arrogance. We watch anorexic models on television who’ve had surgical assistance with their shape, and we start feeling bad about ourselves. We often feel we’re too short, too tall, too wide, too skinny, hips too big, hips too small, curve too much, don’t curve enough. No wonder plastic surgery is such a booming business. Convince enough people that they are a mess as they are now, and you have an endless supply of business.
Megan had a way of exposing the insanity of all this craziness. As my friend Thom Lemmons said:
Megan was a flesh-and-blood display of the topsyturvy
economy of the kingdom of heaven. She was one
of the least of us, yet she occupied the apex of our care,
absorbing all the loving service we could offer, and able
to absorb still more. Without any thank you, without any
false reticence, without even seeming to notice, she took all
that we could give her, and still we were left with the sense
that it was not enough.
And yet, to anyone who held her down for a breathing
treatment, or marched with her through the church
parking lot, singing, “I’m in the Lord’s army. Yes, sir!” or
changed her soiled undergarments, or tried in vain to
rescue some semi-edible artifact from her unbelievably
quick hands, or held her as she gasped for breath—to
anyone who ever poured a minute’s worth of love down
the bottomless pit that was Megan, the blessing that
followed beggared any other reward.
Megan taught us all the difference in value between
receiving and giving. We only wished we could have done
more: there was no question of doing less. And all the
while, we were the ones being made over—by her innocent
carelessness and her shattering need—into a closer
imitation of the One who poured out his life as a ransom
One day, Thom and Cheryl Lemmons were taking care of Megan at a time when she needed oxygen to survive. Thom describes how he thought he’d figured out a secret to Megan’s care.
The trick was to keep Megan within a short enough
radius of her oxygen tank to permit the tubes to stay in
her nostrils and simultaneously remain connected to the
hose. She was also prone to seizures then, but I didn’t
know that. At one point, I remember having her in my lap
on the floor of the living room, and I may have even been
singing to her. For a few moments, the ceaseless thrashing
stopped, the grasping fingers were still, and she stared up
into my face with what appeared to me as a beatific half smile.
Then, after a minute or two, we resumed the Greco-
Roman wrestling match. “What a wonderful, peaceful,
very brief interlude,” I thought, as I put her oxygen tubes
back in place for the 5,357th time, “no doubt, made
possible by my instinctive gentleness and boundless
patience. Surely, even Megan is not immune to my gifts.”
Later, over lunch, I was relating to the Copes and
Cheryl my moment of epiphany with Megan, there on the
living room floor. Diane got a slightly embarrassed look
as I described the scene. Cheryl leaned over to me and
whispered, “Thom, she wasn’t listening to you sing; she
was having a seizure.”
Classic Megan: if ever your sense of “Christian duty”
became self-congratulatory or the least bit inflated by
a sense of its own worth, Megan would simply leave you
holding the punctured bag, and allow you to deal with
your own deflated ego. Megan, how could we ever repay
all that you taught us?
Megan’s simple-yet-profound life reminded us that God is a heart specialist who looks deeper than accidents of birth.
On the day she died, Diane and I were leaning over her praying for her, telling her we loved her, and assuring her it was all right to go. We almost forgot that anyone else was in the room. But the moment she took her last breath in the pediatric intensive care unit, my mother stood up from her chair behind us and began singing Megan’s favorite song:
I may never march in the infantry,
ride in the cavalry,
shoot the artillery.
I may never fly o’er the enemy,
but I’m in the Lord’s army.
Later it hit me: Megan had been preparing us her whole life with her simple little song. It’s like she’d been telling us that there were many things she’d never do, but we shouldn’t worry, because she’s in the Lord’s army. There’s a little grave just outside Abilene that bears her name, the dates of her abbreviated life, and then the words “I’m in the Lord’s army.”
This tiny minister taught me more than I learned in ninety hours of graduate school. She taught me that God will use my brokenness to his glory. She reminded me that the power is God’s, not mine. She made me remember we are often fascinated with things that are impressive from the outside but which may not be that important to God. She taught me that what really matters has to do with the heart: keeping promises, seeking justice in a brutal world, learning to see those in greatest need, and living with courage, joy, and unconditional love.
Now, years later, my diminutive instructor-daughter is still guiding me.