Yesterday was Autism Awareness Day. It’s an awesome day marked by great organizations around the world working to increase the awareness of autism, raise funds for research and therapies and make the world a kinder place for those children with this disorder. My son is one of those kids. I am very aware of autism. In fact, one in 88 moms and dads are very aware of autism.
In the media, there is much written about equality for children and adults with special needs. I appreciate their motives and I firmly believe that each person has a right to fair treatment regardless of their physical or mental challenges. But I think equality has become a term we throw around and don’t really think about the consequences of truly fair treatment. My youngest says its not fair that her brothers get to stay up later, but she doesn’t want the responsibility yet of being older. The oldest says she gets special treatment, but doesn’t want to go to bed at 9:00 so that fairness is achieved. Any parent of ANY child realizes that there is no such thing as equality in a family. At any given time, any one of my three children will need “more” and only one of them has autism.
Sam has been blessed by non-equal treatment by more people than I can count or name. His school has always held him to high standards, but never to standards he couldn’t obtain. It has not been easy, but my son is being well educated by staff that care in a class that accepts him. Although this is the goal for each student, in order for that to happen for Sam, he has needed special teachers, special helpers and even a different curriculum. He is blessed by this inequality.Our customers have been extra patient while an inept, but very willing server, refilled their drink or just sat down to visit. They, and especially our coffee group, have involved themselves in his life. A host of grandparents to love you is not what most kids get. Our church family practically cheered the first time he read the scripture before the lesson. Even now, if it takes awhile to adjust the microphone just right and find the right passage; there is nothing but joy over a boy achieving far more than reading words. Perfection is never the goal. An uncle that makes sure that Sam knows for certain that he IS a “motorcycle dude” (contrary to what his sister says) doesn’t care about equal rights because sometimes equal isn’t better. A church camp that makes sure that passing out milk is THE most important job that week doesn’t worry that he isn’t being treated equally. I don’t know what we would do if the whole world expected Sam to be anything but Sam.
Having said that, any parent of an autistic child will tell you that there is no equality in a meltdown. There is no equality in speech sessions where he was so frustrated by us trying to get him to say “ha” that he simply screamed. There is no equality in the screaming; the screaming that happened during bath time, during fingernail cutting and especially during hair cutting. And there certainly wasn’t equality during potty training. None. There were times that my best wasn’t good enough; and that isn’t fair. This inequality that Sam must endure, that we must try and guide him through is difficult; it is enough to make us angry. There have been tough times, but there isn’t much a hug doesn’t fix.
It is my hope that next time you see someone who might need a little leniency, that you will not treat him equally. You have no idea what a couple of minutes of patience, an encouraging pat on the back or the acceptance of a meltdown can do for someone….even those with autism. You see, all of us have struggles. Nobody deserves to be held to standards that WE think are appropriate. There is no greater gift than being special.
Beginnings and endings are difficult parts. Sometimes the middle seems so hard to endure, but yet I tend to stay there because the end of it and the beginning of another is too difficult; sometimes even painful. I know the middle. I may not always like it, but I know it. And so, beginnings and endings remain my most difficult part.
Beginnings require us to realize that what we were doing isn’t right or good enough any more. Beginnings require us to end wherever we were. Endings require us to be different from this point on. (You may insert your personal favorite joke here regarding change and a lot of people’s resistance to it!) Although I don’t like the process of changing, the effects of changing are awesome. If there were no need to do things differently; if I were going along at maximum performance then change wouldn’t be necessary. I don’t mean not learning or growing but the process I use to live life. But, I’m not at maximum and so change is necessary which means I must end and begin.
Recently, I talked with a young person about ending a life and beginning a new one. Ending a life devoid of God and His grace and peace and beginning a life unlike any that she has ever had modeled for her. It’s a tough thing. This girl accepted Jesus as her savior. That’s the beginning. But, ending old habits, some old relationships and old ways of dealing with life will take her a lifetime. The beginning was a pretty easy choice for her and she was baptized yesterday.
Another guy I know struggles with the beginning of being a new creation but has done so much work ending his past life. He is certainly not the man he used to be! We are still waiting for him to accept the beginning Jesus offers him and realize that he will never be good enough or will have changed enough to earn this newness. His beginning is a struggle for him.
Jesus required a group of religious men to question their lives in front of a naked adulterous woman. When they left, he told her to end her current life and begin a new life. We don’t know the rest of her story. I would like to think I will get to hear it from her lips someday. The instruction is easy; end and begin. But, it is often very difficult to carry out. In fact, I can’t do it on my own for my own good. But rather, I do the hard things for God, with God and through God. He defines Himself as the being the beginning and end. If God IS the beginning and end, by all means He can supply me to work through beginnings and endings in my life.
I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” Rev 22:13
I am learning how to die. I’ve tried to die, and I do pretty well for awhile, but then I quit the dying process and believe I should live. Not only do I think I should live, but I think that I deserve to live. After all, I am a pretty good person……right?
Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. Col. 3:2-3
Dying starts in the mind. When I set my mind on the things of this world, that is when I start to want the things of this world. But, that is not what we are called to do. We are to shun the world and live to bring glory to the Father. That is what Jesus did. He asked if there was any way other than the cross. He knew there wasn’t. Jesus died a painful, humiliating death so people like me can have eternal glory. He had to die to His own life before He could die for mine. What Would Jesus Do? I don’t know, but I know what He did.
Peter told Jesus that he would never leave Him. He vowed that he would not deny Jesus, would even die with Him before denying Him. It didn’t take long before Peter did that very thing. Peter had to learn how to die.
Paul was a Jew among Jews. He was an up and coming star. But it wasn’t until he lost his sight that he realized how blind he really was. Then he had to begin a whole new life. Paul had to learn how to die.
The tax collector, the fisherman, the doctor and the demon possessed woman; they all had to learn how to die. The woman at the well had to learn her life was worth dying for and then she had to die. I hope I see her in Heaven, I have a lot of questions.
Mary and Joseph had to endure the shame of whispered accusations when Jesus was born and the inconceivable pain of watching Him on the cross. They had to die in order that He might live as a man.
Dying does not come naturally. In the physical world, we fight against it. We don’t want our physical bodies to end too soon. Spiritual death is even more difficult. Our self centered psyche fights against it and Satan encourages us to live for our own desires. Spiritual death may be hard, but the reward is a fullness and wonder to life that cannot be equaled. God will help me die, I just have to be willing.
What is spooey? Well, technically it isn’t anything. It’s actually how you pronounce the acronym SPUI which stands for “Single Point Urban Interchange”. In short, it’s a great big intersection for a great big highway. Where I live, we have a single red blinking light that signals a four way stop at the busiest intersection in town. A spooey would, in fact, freak me out.
A spooey works by passing all traffic through a single set of lights and allows for concurrent left turns thus increasing the capacity of the interchange. Got it? Well, a really smart engineer does, but I don’t. However, it got me thinking. Roads and paths are a metaphor that is used so powerfully in scripture. The road we travel is not to be taken lightly, but rather should be walked deliberately. However, I find myself on several roads. Each road seems to pull at me, want to divert me from the destination; and let’s face it, it only takes one wrong turn to end up going the wrong direction or in the middle of a wreck. That’s where the spooey guide comes in.
No matter how many roads we travel, all of them must be passing through the same signal; Jesus Christ. It isn’t easy, so many times I don’t pass EVERY road I’m on through the signal. I have no problem taking Spiritual Street through Jesus. Most of the time, Parent Parkway and Marriage Avenue are no problem either, although there are times when I have to “catch up” Jesus with the latest in our world. Those roads, however, are certainly not the sum of the roads I travel. My life is complex and involves many different roads, or roles, both publicly and privately. It’s only when I begin to live my life, all of my life, for God and not for me and realize I’m ON the road, not the road BUILDER that my life begins to have purpose. I must die to my own selfishness and my own foolishness and allow God complete control.
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
What does this say about the areas of life that I’m not happy with? If I am completely dead to my self and live only to God, is it possible to be dissatisfied? Is my frustration with my situation born from selfish desires? I don’t think we have to love the road that God put us on all the time, but when I begin to behave that my road is precisely where God needs me, then I can begin to look around and see what it is that He wants me to do on that road. That is passing all roads through Jesus and using the spooey guide.
What roads are you not passing through the signal? How can I help?
Jesus betrayal was bought for 30 pieces of silver. Yesterday I talked about how I betray and deny Jesus every day for my own comfort and ease. It seems harsh and it’s hard to look at those words. After all, it was never my intention! I love Jesus and I know that it is His sacrifice that enables me to be saved by grace but, I just don’t know how to be the person God wants me to be. The answer, of course, came from scripture.
Jesus, in the upper room with His disciples, told Peter that in just a short time he would deny their relationship. Peter could not accept this. None of us would. He pledged his own life with Jesus’ and was adamant about his devotion. But listen to Jesus:
“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers. ” Peter said to Him, “Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death.” Jesus said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow this day, until you deny three times that you know me.” Luke 22:31-34
“Turn again” or flip the coin, look at the other side. We typically flip a coin to see who has the ball first or who does what no one wants to do. What happens if we flip the coin to see the other side of situations? When I see what is wrong in my life flip and see what God has given me and then be grateful for it. When I’m frustrated with someone, flip and realize they have their own sadness, fears and frustration. When I feel hopeless, flip and savor the promises that God has given me. When I don’t want to risk being humiliated by telling someone the Gospel, flip and remember the shame and humiliation of the cross. ”Turn again” and when you do, you will have been sifted and will then be able to strengthen your brother. Flip the coin and begin to live in Christ.
It was coins that bought Jesus’ betrayal, but the betrayal was only one side of the story. The other side of the coin is the redemptive work of the cross and because of that I no longer live in fear. When I see the cross, then I am strong, brave and bold. When I flip the coin, I have a peace and hope that I can’t help but share.
Judas betrayed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver. Roughly that’s the amount of one months wages for a laborer. In my terms, it’s a lot of pizza! Judas is often listed as one of the “big” sinners in the Bible, after all, he is the one that was the traitor. We, as Americans, hate traitors. We, as humans, can’t imagine following someone for three years and then selling him for a month’s wages. We, as Christians, can’t imagine turning away from the Christ and leading the executioners to Jesus. We can’t imagine anything worse than what Judas did; for 30 pieces of silver.
Peter insisted to Jesus that he would not deny Him. Peter pledged to Jesus his life instead of denial. Fear, in just a few hours time, consumed him and made him forget the promise to Jesus.
But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are talking about.” And immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed. 61And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, how he had said to him, ”Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.”62And he went out and wept bitterly. Luke 22:60-62
I cannot imagine Jesus’ face at that moment; it had to have haunted Peter the rest of his life. It’s easy to say that we will not betray, but it is harder to live up to. Am I so different from Judas? Do I not betray Christ every day? Does Peter make me angry knowing that at Christs’ most vulnerable time, he swore an oath (Matt 26:72) and then invoked a curse on himself and swore (Matt 26:74) that he was not a follower. Yet, how often do I try to blend in with the world or walk a thin line to not appear too “religious”? I am guilty. Most of the time, it’s for far less than a months wages. I betray Jesus for comfort when I don’t reach out, for convenience when I don’t serve and for self righteousness when I don’t care. Every day when I preserve self in some way instead of living Christ; I betray Him. And to make it worse, I explain it away. I tell myself that if I’m not current and relevant, I won’t be able to witness and then tell myself that I don’t have the gift to witness. I tell myself that the traditions were old fashioned and make sure that I don’t stand out in the crowd. I tell myself that I’m liberated and loving when, in reality, I’m making it easier to be a follower. No, this isn’t about man-made rules versus the Word. This is about me denying, betraying and breaking Jesus’ heart. I am no better.
Luckily, there is another side to the coin and we only have to flip it!
………….to be continued!
We will be going on vacation in one month. Therefore, I have made reservations, have begun to plan my “to do’s”, and started two lists (“to get” and “don’t forget”). Getting the house clean, the business books in order, the bills paid, the mail stopped and the dog cared for all takes time. The week before we leave is scheduled – VERY scheduled. The day before we leave is a frenzy of last minute activity that can’t be done until, well, the last minute. There will be more lists and reminders as the weeks go by. So many things need to be done just to leave for nine days.
Someday, I’ll leave this world for good; we all will. Someday, the lists and the bills won’t matter and we won’t have any warning. In the wake of yet another false prediction of the the end of the world, I have had to laugh at the idea that God would let us know when Jesus is coming back. I think that most of us would become so preoccupied with what we needed to do to get done that we would forget to take anyone with us. Not knowing gives us both great freedom and great urgency. We are free because there is no need to worry about it. There is no use for canned goods stored in the basement for Jesus’ coming. No bottled water, flashlights or even a cell phone will go with us (yes, we will have to leave our phones when we go to Heaven!). We are free from the worry of what will happen at the end of the world – we will be in paradise. However, the urgency with which we must wake up with every morning should be far more consuming than the vacation planning. Have I made a list of who I need to invite to eternity? Have I made up a schedule, consulted my calendar, decided on a plan of action? No. But, I do all this for vacation? I fail the priority test.
I will someday have to answer to God why I worried about the things I did so much and didn’t love the people He gave to my life more. It scares me. I would love to go on a mission trip someday. I think that it would be awesome to take Christ to another country, even raise my kids in that way. But I wonder what would happen if I put that much effort and planning into reaching people that I see every day? It is hard to see those close to us as a mission field. It’s easier to plan and go.
God didn’t tell us when He would come again, because we won’t need anything this world has to offer. Relationships will be there with us. I think He knew we would become overly preoccupied with leaving and forget about the living He is allowing us.