Jesus and a Man on a Mat

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. 

Hebrews 11:1

A short definition of a word that isn’t hard to find in the Bible.  I haven’t looked up how many verses in the Bible has this five letter word, but I have no doubt whatsoever that if I went to work looking them all up, it would keep me busy for a while.

In the Gospels that give us an account of Jesus’s life on this earth, there are many stories where you’ll find the word faith.  One of them is in Luke, chapter 5, verses 17-26.  It’s about Jesus, a man on a mat, and some of the man’s friends.

One day as Jesus was teaching, there was a huge turnout that included Pharisees and teachers of the law who had come from every village of Galilee and from Judea and Jerusalem.  From what the scriptures tell us, they didn’t gather to hear Jesus because they were His believers.  They had their own interpretation of the law and it wasn’t quite in sync with Jesus’s teachings.  Some may have sought to use Jesus’s own words against Him.  Others in the crowd were perhaps curious from what they had heard about Jesus’s healing powers and were more interested in miracles than Jesus’s teaching.  And, maybe there were some actual believers in the crowd too.

Among the crowd was a man who was paralyzed and was being carried on a mat, or couch, by some of his friends.  They weren’t there to simply get a glimpse of Jesus to satisfy their curiosity.  They weren’t skeptics for if they had been, I don’t think they would have gone to all the effort they did to get Jesus’s attention.  They must have heard about Jesus’s power to heal and sought Jesus for the healing of the man whose legs were useless to him.

The crowd was so huge they couldn’t make their way through to get Jesus’s attention.  Some other friends might have told their paralyzed friend they had done all they could and might as well head back home.  Perhaps better luck the next time Jesus was in town.  But not these friends.  They put their minds together and came up with another way of reaching Jesus.  A rather unusual effort under the circumstances.  They climbed up on the roof carrying their friend and lowered him on his mat through the tiles into the mìddle of the crowd right in front of Jesus.

When Jesus saw their faith in action, He said unto the man on the mat “Man, thy sins are forgiven thee”.  The man who could not walk was a sinner.  The friends who lowered him down from the roof were sinners.  The Pharisees and teachers of the law were sinners.  Everyone in the crowd were sinners.  The only one who didn’t need forgiveness was the One who could forgive sins and cause the lame to walk.  

The Pharisees and the teachers were buzzing like bees reasoning among each other, “Who is this which speaketh blasphemies? Who can forgive sins, but God alone?”

Jesus knew what the buzz was all about.  He replied to their reasoning by saying, “What reason ye in your hearts?  Whether is easier, to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Rise up and walk?  But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power upon earth to forgive sins, I say unto thee, Arise, and take up thy couch, and go into thine house.”

The man immediately stood before them, walked out on his own two feet, and went back to his house praising God all the way home.  His faith and that of his friends had paid off.  If they had not taken him or had given up due to the huge crowd, the story would have had a different ending.  It should be noted the man was rich in more ways than one.  He had friends who cared enough to carry him to Jesus.  

The healed man and his friends were not the only ones who were amazed.  The crowd was amazed and glorified God.  Some hearts were changed from skeptics to believers.  They had seen strange things that day that would stay with them for the rest of their days.

Miracles didn’t stop when Jesus returned to the Father.  I’ve heard doctors speak of patients’ recovery they had no medical explanation for.  I’ve heard of people outliving their death sentences handed down by their doctors.  It’s a comfort to know that events happen every day that defies logic.  If only what we could see and explain with human reasoning is all that ever happened in this world, what would be the point of faith and hope?

If you ever had a prayer answered, as I have many times, you have witnessed a “strange” thing as that crowd did so long ago.

 

The Story Behind My Fidgeting

I fidget!  It’s one thing I don’t have to work at to be good at.  It comes naturally!

I found out why I fidget when I learned I was living on the autism spectrum.  Repeated movements is a common autism trait.  It can be fidgeting, foot tapping, leg bouncing, finger drumming, hand flapping, nail/finger biting, lip biting, rocking/swaying, etc. This is also sometimes called stimming, or self-stimulating.  Fidgeting is something that folks who aren’t on the spectrum do as well.  It’s just different with me living on the spectrum.

Why do I fidget?  While researching autism, I learned the reason is because I have so many thoughts and feelings crowding my brain that I need to have something I can touch in my hands, or put in my mouth, or occupy a part of my brain so I can more easily concentrate.  If I can keep that part of my brain that is being overwhelmed with all these sensory messages busy and calm, then I can use the remaining part of my brain to think and work.

For instance, I always have gum with me in my purse or in my pocket on the job. When I’m bored or stressed, I reach for a gum stick.  I admit, though, my gum chewing is routine and not necessarily when I just feel like chewing.  My gum chewing habit was one of many revelations as to how autism impacts my everyday life.

Since learning I was living on the spectrum, I have sought additional ways of coping.  One is carrying items to fidget with.  Just recently I found on the ground a toy key on a key ring.  It is now mine.  I keep it in my pocket in the jacket I usually wear to school.  While monitoring the kids, such as on the playground, I’ll take out the key and fidget with it.  I also found a broken set of ear plugs that I will fidget with by unsnarling the wires while watching the kids playing at recess.

I can use everyday items to fidget with.  A rubber band will do the trick by repeatedly stretching it.  When subbing in a P.E. class, I’ll sometimes dribble a basketball or bounce a tennis ball.  At home, I do a lot of jogging in place.  I get exercise and stimulation at the same time.  For me, even jogging is “soothing” repetitive movement.

Fidgeting is helpful when I’m bored too.  I’m in a far better state of mind when I am occupied doing something, even if it is not exciting such as sorting laundry.  Sitting quietly, for instance, while listening to a lecture is torture!  I can’t keep my body still and I can’t keep my focus on the speaker.  It helps if I have something to fidget with in my pocket.  It’s either that or biting my nails, something else I’m really good at.

 

 

 

Tablet Meltdown

It was a relaxing afternoon since Fridays are most welcomed by school students and staff alike, more so the staff I suspect.  I was subbing in a special ed class.  The youngest of seven students was a kindergartener who was quite a pickle, but cute as a button.

Like so many little and big kids, she takes a fancy to the tablet.  She knows how to use her fingers to switch from one view to the other and with one finger touch the icon that suits her fancy.  She knows what button to push to pull back up the home screen.  We didn’t hear a peep out of her until she let out a scream.  She was giving the tablet a talking to with a face that could kill.

The teacher and the regular aide did the right thing in admonishing her to use her voice and ask for help instead of throwing a tantrum.  It is a message she has to be told each time it happens.  I think that day it happened about a half dozen times.

I whispered to the teacher that there were many a time I wanted to do the exact same thing.  In my private moments, I have thought or spoken a few choice words to my tablet, desktop, laptop, or other devices.  I couldn’t tell the kinder I had done what she did since I didn’t want to discourage her from following the teacher’s instructions.

The teacher chuckled since she knew what I meant.  Most any of us have wanted to scream at a device that has gone haywire.  Such as tossing whatever out the window.  Most of us don’t because we’d have to pay for it and the window both.  Even worse, when it isn’t our device or our window.

The regular aide was asking me how I had been doing since my autism diagnosis.  I told her about my meltdowns and how I went about coping with them without damaging property.  She said, “At least, you know what they are and have coping skills.  These children don’t yet.”  She had a good point.  Those who occupy a different spot on the spectrum who can’t communicate what is going on suffer tremendously.  They don’t know what to do about it other than scream, kick, cry, etc.

There was one moment when she was playing on the carpet. We don’t know what went wrong but she started screaming again.  But this time, she was rocking back and forth on her knees.  Now that I relate to since I rock too when I want to scream.  And I admit there have been times I have screamed at my tablet.

 

 

 

 

Meltdown Degrees

My meltdowns are at varying degrees.  One can be in the 30’s (a short upset), in the 60’s (a longer teary-eyed fit), or in the 90’s (when hopefully the only thing I’ll throw around the room is a pillow).

My foremost coping skill is a talk with Jesus.  Just telling him whatever is going on inside of me is the best place to start conquering the meltdown.  Oh, I could talk to someone which is not bad advice, but I seldom take that option.  It carries the risk of the person advising me to calm down.  Telling me to do such when I’m in meltdown country is like holding a red flag in front of a bull.

Sometimes I walk into situations where the odds of having a meltdown increase tremendously.  Such as going to the $1.00 store a few days before Easter.  That was a bad idea.

Easter decorations were flying off the shelf.  I don’t like to shop anywhere where there’s a crowd.  However, since I needed some items in that store at the affordable price of a dollar, I took the meltdown risk.  I’m a miser at heart too.

There wasn’t that big of a line when I walked in, but it seemed like when I went to get in line, there had been a cattle call to get in line.  I stood waiting while three ladies who were together separately purchased oodles of Easter bunnies, baskets, eggs, etc.  Now I knew, rationally speaking, they had every right as I did to be there.  But sitting through their purchases raised my odds of a meltdown.

Before I got out of the parking lot, I had to wait for cars to slowly, and I do mean slowly, back out of their parking space.  That’s what one should do when backing out, but I wasn’t thinking rationally at that point.  I started having one of those short meltdowns.  No tears but tension running throughout my body.  My steering wheel got a beating.  I shouldn’t have been driving but it was too far to walk home.

My next stop was what I call my “toy store”, Best Buy!  It was on my official “Saturday Morning Shopping Plan” that was written in my mind before I embarked.  It is my favorite store because I possess a common “autism” trait of collecting things and what I collect is in that store.

While browsing inside my “utopia”,  the crisis passed.  My anxiety level shifted downward.  I came home feeling extra tired because a meltdown, even a short one, can be draining.  There won’t always be a Best Buy around when I need one, but on that day, I coped as best I could at Best.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hit the Wall

I was subbing for a teacher’s aide in a special education class on my list of favorite hangout spots.  Some of the students I have known since I started subbing back in late 2014.  There are a couple of boys who are recent additions and have through no fault of their own have turned the class upside down.

I admire tremendously the teacher and her two sidekicks for coming to school day in and day out to maintain some sense of order in the midst of chaos.  The teacher is often holding one student in her lap while another aide is trying to catch the other one on the loose.  The remaining aide is trying to help the other students to ignore the commotion and concentrate on their classwork.  They didn’t have much luck in doing that the day I was there.

After I got home from the long school day, I needed to decompress.  Although I remained cool, calm, and collected through the class time, the tension was building up.  My home computer was not cooperating and my banging on the keyboard wasn’t just about my computer’s slowness.  I needed to get away by myself before I exploded on people and things around me.

I went on a tennis date with my racket and ball to the practice wall at a nearby college campus.  It felt good to be outside and walk the campus trail by myself.  I hit the wall with the tennis ball for about a half an hour.  After my tennis date, I was able to go back home feeling calm instead of a live wire.

The class is still high on my list of favorites.  The boys who require extra attention are special in their own right.  They have their sweet moments.  At the end of the school day, I walked one of the students to his daycare.  I have a connection with him since knowing him for the last two years.  He took me by the hand and we walked hand-in-hand until I dropped him off.  It was the bright spot in an otherwise day where I had to go hit a wall to help melt a meltdown.

 

 

 

Joshua, Israel, and a Wall

“By faith, the walls of Jericho fell down, after they were compassed about seven days.”

“They” were the Children of Israel, God’s chosen people.  Their leader at the time was Joshua who took over the reins after Moses’s death.  Jericho was a city surround by a wall.  God told Joshua the city was theirs for the taking, BUT…  There was a but.  God didn’t hand it over to them on a silver platter.  Instead, God gave Joshua a battle plan to deliver to His people.

God delivered Joshua an unusual strategic battle plan.  He was to have his armed men march around the city once each day, for six days, in total silence.  No use of weapons, no jumping over the wall, and to keep their mouths shut.  There were seven priests, too, bearing seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark.  On the seventh day, they were to march around the city seven times, with the priests blowing the trumpets.  On the 7th time around, when the priests blew a loud blast with the ram’s horn, and the people heard the sound of the trumpet, they were all to shout with a great shout; then the wall of the city would fall down flat.

This wasn’t the typical way to conquer a city.  I doubt Joshua in his wildest dreams could have come up with the plan all by himself.  We don’t know if he had any internal doubts about it or not.  He was human after all and it would have been understandable if he had.  However, maybe he was okay with it from the start with the attitude of whatever you say, Lord, I’ll do it.

He relayed God’s instructions to the Israelites.  There may have been those, if not all of them, who were first taken aback by the plan.  A week is a long time to march around the wall of a city inhabited by their enemy.  What was to stop their enemy from attacking them as they marched on any of those seven days?  My point is this wasn’t a simple task because their lives were on the line.

Joshua and the children of Israel followed the plan.  If they had any doubts, they conquered them.  On the seventh day, the Israelites marched around the walls of Jericho seven times.  At the seventh time around the wall, the men gave a great shout, and the walls of Jericho fell down flat just as God said they would.

In any of life’s battles, big or small, there are options.  One can ignore it, give up, or attempt to handle it on their own.  Another option is by faith, praying to our Father for instruction and following whatever that instruction may be that He lays upon our heart.  This is the option the children of Israel took as they marched around a wall for a week.  And they found it to be the option that gave them victory.

 

 

Autism Never Sleeps

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a neurological condition.  It makes up the core of me.  It affects how I see, hear, and experience the world I live in.  It sometimes even enters my dreams.

ASD never sleeps.  I wouldn’t get far from running from it since I would be running from myself.  It leaves me with a lot of reasons for what I do or not experience.

It is a daily task to make my constant companion as invisible as possible.  I didn’t know until after my diagnosis that there is a word for this:  PASSING.   I was “passing” long before I ever heard the word “Autism”.

I cannot in public get away with “stimming to my delight” without getting stares.  If I rock too much in a chair that isn’t a rocker, if I pace in circles, or carrying on a conversation in public with myself, I would receive unwanted attention.  Since I’d rather not be the headline story amidst my social circles, I follow the social do’s and don’t’s.  I “pass”.

Passing is doable.  I’ve had plenty of practice.  It can be exhausting, though, to wear a smile when I’m in meltdown country and a volcano is erupting inside.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Compensation

While subbing for an elementary school’s P.E. coach’s sidekick, I was on the sidelines of watching students roller skate on the gym floor.  The coach had his own pair of skates on as well as one of the teachers.  Me?  I was on the sidelines sitting on a stack of gym mats with some additional mat padding on the wall behind me.  I wanted to have a soft landing if one of the skaters lost control and landed on me.

I don’t remember putting on a pair of skates when I was little.  I think I must have tried it at least once and at some point decided my being a roller skater was only going to happen in my dreams.   One of the autism spectrum disorder (ASD) traits is a struggle with motor skills.  Motor skills do come in handy in keeping a skater on their feet rather than landing on their rump.  I do remember trying ice skating once in my teen years on one of those rare times  I was on a date.  The sweet guy could skate well since he was repeatedly able to get me up off the floor without falling himself.

My diagnosis of Asperger’s changed my life.  It has filled in the reason of why I did whatever, why I felt whatever, and why I couldn’t do whatever.  Roller skating is just one thing on my list of “don’t do’s” that I suspect ASD is the culprit.  There is another list of things I can do but were harder for me as a child to learn such as tying my shoes, blowing my nose. or unlocking a combination school locker.

A common ASD struggle is with social interaction.  Some days I do fine interacting with my fellow man; whereas, other days I get frustrated and wish I had the wings of a dove so I could fly away to a deserted island (with nice living accommodations, of course).   I have no doubt that my never-married status is tied to ASD.  There are plenty of people living on the spectrum who have married and some have done well and some haven’t.  just as those who don’t have ASD.  But dating was awkward at best for me.  I’m not ruling out marriage because I shouldn’t say never, but I’m not looking for a gentleman caller.

I missed some experiences that my peers have had such as roller skating or walking down the aisle or getting a valentine card from one’s grandchild.  But ASD has given me compensation as it has others with ASD.  A special talent of my own – writing.   It’s something I don’t have to struggle with doing as I do with social interaction or any activity heavy on motor skills.

I don’t aim to be a Shakespeare or a Dickinson.  Just write from my heart.  It is a treasured gift that I don’t believe I’d have if I didn’t have my constant companion (ASD).  If there was some magic bottle that could take ASD away, I don’t think I’d take it.  Not if I had to give up my compensation.

A First Grader’s Proposal

He’s a red-haired, freckled-faced first grader who unfortunately knows the principal too well.  He has such a problem sitting still and finding trouble that he has a special spot on the gym floor in P.E. class.  His face is beaming when he hears the coach say they are going outside to the playground.  The playground is not quite Disney Land, but it is close enough to this youngster.  Unfortunately, he loses control and winds up sitting it out again.

He does have his adorable moments.  As the first-graders were lining up at the end of class, he whispers to me, “Can I go sit next to that girl who is so pretty?”  I had to disappoint him and his facial express was, more or less, “Aw, shucks!”  He’s in that phase of wanting to kiss, date, and even marry.  A bit early for 1st grade, but maybe not for a kid on the spectrum.  I remember my first kiss was in 1st grade.  That was when I had six boyfriends.  Or, maybe it was eight.  I don’t remember.  That was the peak of my romantic life.  HA!

I hope first grade won’t be the peak for the cute freckled-faced boy.  He may sometimes be a menace, but I for one find him adorable.

 

 

The Outspoken Disciple

Jesus chose twelve men to be His disciples.  I don’t have their names memorized even though I can recite the names of the Bible and there is 66 of them.   Disciples who had less Bible coverage, such as Bartholomew, are hard for me to remember.  On the other hand, I have no problem remembering Peter’s name.

Peter’s personality is in stark contrast to mine.  Of the twelve, he was the outspoken one. He reminds me of the kid in school who was always raising his hand when the teacher popped a question.  I was the one hoping someone like Peter will answer the question or ask the question I wish someone else would ask.  He wasn’t one to keep his thoughts to himself. He said what he thought.  He was bold and energetic.  While I’m a born follower, Peter was a born leader.

One of the stories about Peter occurred after Jesus had fed the multitude of five thousand men plus women and children.  Jesus sent his disciples off on a boat.  The Lord went up to a mountainside to pray by himself.  Now I can relate to Jesus wanting quiet time.  Time to myself can be precious when overwhelmed by too much social interaction.  This was one of a number occasions where Jesus went off by himself to talk to His Father.  He loved His disciples and the multitudes, but He needed to get away from them sometimes to have quiet time with His Father.

When evening came, Jesus returned from the mountain but the disciples were in a boat considerable distance from land.  The water was unstable because of the high winds.  The disciples were astonished when they saw Jesus coming towards them walking on water.   This wasn’t the first time they had witnessed Jesus perform amazing acts, such as changing water into wine or giving sight to the blind, but His walking on water was a new one on them. Were they seeing a ghost?  Were they all having the same dream?

Jesus told them to not be afraid. He sought to assure them it was Him and all was well. As Peter often did, he wasted no time in speaking up.  He stated if the one walking on water was truly the Lord, tell him to come to Him on the water.  Jesus told Peter to come and so he climbed out of the boat.

Peter was walking on water too. He was doing fine until he turned his eyes off Jesus and focused on the wind instead. That’s when he began to sink. He cried out for the Lord to save him.  The Lord reached out His hand and caught him.  The Lord asked Peter, “Why did you doubt?”

I can’t be hard on Peter.  Many a time my attention has been diverted to the wind.  I focus on what I can see that can be terribly frightening at times.  I identify with the man who cried out to Jesus that he believed, but please help me with my unbelief.

Even though Peter had witnessed time and time again of Jesus performing miracles, he had times of doubt.  Peter later denied Christ three times near the end of Jesus’s time on this Earth.  He could have wallowed in grief about his denial.  He could have done what Judas did and took his life.  But instead, by faith, he got up and kept going.  The Lord put Peter back to work before He went back to the Father.  Peter went on to become a leader in the early church.

What’s important in Peter’s story isn’t that he fell, it’s that the outspoken disciple got up.