Category Archives: Scripture

What happens when you yell at church?


Something happened at church. Or perhaps what you need to know is, what didn’t happen.

I pulled up to the church and Max bounced out of the car swinging his favorite vacuum. Several people were unsuspectingly milling around by the front door, exchanging greetings. “Watch out for the people!” I yelled behind Max as I watched his 8-pound Oreck swing like a ten ton wrecking ball. I fully expected to see the crowd part like the Red Sea, people diving into the bushes head first as Max and his vacuum bolted toward them. But instead, they extended their arms for a handshake, or a pat on his back.

Every time I walk through the doors of our church I remember the years we lived in isolation, and the five years of staying home on Sunday mornings when we could not find our place. Autism held us hostage. But it is not a bitter memory; it is the soil from which God grew a victory. When I cross that threshold now with Max, it feels like holy ground. Max comes most Sundays to serve as a greeter, and at the Welcome Center, and as part of the clean up team, otherwise known as the “Grunt Crew.” Max has clearly been given one of the lesser-known spiritual gifts of vacuuming. But what has changed Max’s life is what has changed mine: he is loved. He belongs. He is indispensable. We have been back at church for twelve years now, and none of this has been easy; sitting quietly is not part of Max’s skill set. But it’s as if the whole church is learning to breathe a little deeper, and in that, we find there is enough room for everyone.

After a wonderful and slightly aerobic morning, we could see from our seats at the Welcome Center that Pastor Paul was finishing up the message, or “the talking” as Max calls it. That’s Max’s cue. He flew into the sanctuary and took his position in the back. This is Max’s spot, up several stairs beside the sound booth. He worships there most Sundays, all 190 pounds of him, dancing above the congregation. Most Sundays Max bounces so hard that one would expect him to go right through the wooden platform floor, dunk tank style. But he won’t. Some of the men at church noticed the same risk. They got together one day and reinforced the floor where Max dances. It was months before anyone told me what the men had done. There was no mention of cost or inconvenience; no suggestion that perhaps the sound booth should not be used as a 1960’s GoGo booth. Instead, they just strengthened the floor. Maybe this is what we all want – to find the spot where we belong, and to know that others will hold us up in it. My friend, Pastor Brooks, said to me recently, “We move from a family attending church, to a church that becomes a family.”

Max and I could now see the music team taking their positions on stage. Max started dancing even before the music began, bouncing on his toes as if he were walking on hot sand. He was extra excited this morning, anticipating our church picnic that would follow the service. But when the music started, it wasn’t a dance song at all. Instead, it was slow and piercing, a quiet rhythm that pulled us forward. Everything became still. There was a shift in the room, as if the Spirit was pouring in like a gentle tide, surrounding us, lifting us, washing over our feet. The entire church rose in unison to stand in the deep, with our hearts turned to God. And when the song ended, no one moved.

Well, almost no one.

Max could no longer contain himself. He threw his arms over his head and leapt from the platform. He got some good air and then stuck the landing with the precision of a Russian gymnast. And when he landed, he yelled. Loudly. This was not your average run of the mill shout, or even the kind of noise one might expect when leaping from such a height. No, this was the kind of sound one exerts when instigating a food fight.

“BAR-BE-QUE! Max yelled across the church, his arms still stretched to the sky.

I ducked down to make myself slightly more invisible in the now well-lit church, wishing there were a dressing room curtain I could quickly hide behind.

Through squinting eyes I watched as the church moved in unison once again. But this time every head fell forward, every shoulder curled. It was as if a single rogue wave had crashed over the entire congregation. A moment later those same heads bobbed back up for air with a burst of laughter that filled the sanctuary. And then the most remarkable thing happened. Or perhaps, didn’t happen.

No one stared…or sighed…or scowled. No one even turned around to see where the sound had come from. Instead, every person just wiped the salty spray from their faces and turned to smile at the person beside them. The same sweeping tide that had lifted us to God in worship was drawing us together in love.

Max darted into the crowd and started shaking hands with people as if he were campaigning for office. I just leaned against that reinforced platform, trying to decide if this was completely embarrassing, or achingly beautiful. And then I heard something in the distance. It was a man’s voice, rising above the laughter in the church,

“That’s our Max.”

1 Corinthians 12:18,22  “But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be…those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable.”

Thank you friends,

Emily Colson

Wrestling with Eeyore

Close up

“What do you think 2015 will be like?” Max’s tutor asked as we sat around the dinner table helping my son with conversation skills. I took a bite of dinner and sighed, “I hope it will be better than this year.” The room grew quiet. Did I say that aloud, I wondered? Was that my voice? I am the certified and licensed cheerleader of the house, the girl who was nicknamed “Smiley Emiley” in grade school. I looked at the faces around me and nearly choked on my gluten-free grain-free pizza, which is not so hard to do. There was no way to take it back; the words hung in the air like the little black rain cloud that sometimes hovers only over Eeyore, the pessimistic pal of Winnie the Pooh.

We have had an extraordinary year filled with an abundance of blessings. Doors have not just been opened; they have been blown off the hinges. Yet there has been this cloud following me, a real and looming struggle that has cast its shadow on the way I’ve seen all of life. And I hadn’t realized it until those words slipped from my lips.

Pay attention, my heart whispered. Pay attention to the blessings.

A few days later on New Year’s Eve, I ripped a bulletin board off an old display and lay it flat across the table. “Max, lets do a project,” I said, thinking it was more for my benefit than his. We spent the next hour looking back over our shoulders and writing down the blessings of the past year. “Riding a zip line,” Max yelled as he held his pen to paper. “Working at the Car Wash!” “And our church, Max,” I added. “Let’s put that on there.” And then I pulled out a stack of cards I had filled in with some of God’s promises for our new year ahead. Max read each one aloud as he placed them ceremoniously on the board.

“Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5

“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:13

“And we know that in all things God works together for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”  Romans 8:28

“Where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord” Psalm 121:1-2

“I am the vine, you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”John 15:5

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13

full bulletin board

We finished listing blessings and promises just in time to dash over to the TV and see the big moment in Time Square. Standing side by side we watched the ball drop, the brilliant reflection filling Max’s wide eyes. I smiled realizing this was a first in his 24 years. The moment and the music swept us both in and we danced around the living room shaking the house until I had wrestled Eeyore and every dark cloud of discouragement to the ground. In the midst of autism, and the challenges of life, I refuse to miss the blessings. God’s goodness is abundantly clear.

It was 1:30 in the morning before Max’s light was out. That’s hardly a first, except that this time it was actually on purpose. As I turned to walk down the stairs, I heard him begin to talk -but it wasn’t his usual video scripting. Instead, he was breathing his own words of resolution into the air.

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

Emily Colson