A Royal Extension of Time

I am intrigued with tales of kings, queens, and royal intrigue.  In particular, the royal family of England.  They don’t bore me whatsoever.  I follow news of them than other monarchs since their country is named after my family.  HA!

I have spent considerable Bible study time in the books of Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles in the Bible.  These books cover multiple reigns that have the ingredients of drama, adventure, and romance.

One of them who had a longer list than most kings of accomplishments that met God’s approval was Hezekiah.  He purified and repaired the Temple, purged its idols, and reformed the priesthood.  He destroyed the high places which became objects of idolatrous worship.  With that list of accomplishments, no wonder it states in the scripture that Hezekiah was a great and good king.

In chapter 20 of II Kings, Hezekiah was so ill he was near death.  It was a boil to be exact that had caused the King such misery.  I’ve never had a boil myself but it sounds terribly painful.  Isaiah, the prophet, came to see the King and had the worst news.  The boil was terminal.  The prophet advised Hezekiah to get his house in order because his time on earth was about up.  

Hezekiah was not ready to leave Earth.  I can understand that.  I am eager to go to Heaven, myself, but I can’t say I’m eager to go right this minute.  There’s that instinct to wanna hang on a while longer.  

Hezekiah took the Prophet’s grim news so hard.  The grown-up king cried his heart out.  To his credit, he prayed to God.  He asked for an extension of time.  He presented his case to the Lord as if he was his own attorney pleading his case. Hezekiah brought up that list of accomplishments.  He asked the Lord to remember how he had walked before Him faithfully and with his full devotion from his heart.  As he prayed, he continued to weep bitterly.   

Before Isaiah had left the middle court, the Lord gave the prophet a message for Hezekiah.  This time the news was much better.  The King would have fifteen more birthdays.  The Lord had heard his prayer and seen his tears.  I take comfort in this part of the story.   This is an example of God hearing a prayer coming from a desperate man with a heavy heart.  God didn’t dismiss the King’s pleas and tears.  I believe He doesn’t mine either.

Hezekiah wanted a sign that his life extension was for real.  He could have taken the prophet’s words for it but that’s not as easy as it may sound.  I only have to look at my own track record.  So many times the Lord has come to my rescue and saw me through a storm.  But whenever a storm pops up in my life, it is so tempting for me to worry my way through it than weather through it on faith.

It should be noted that God honored Hezekiah’s request for a sign.  Isaiah, being the go-between, told the King the Lord’s sign would be one of two, the King’s choice: to have the shadow go forward ten steps, or back ten steps?  Hezekiah using common sense said it was a simple matter for the shadow to go forward ten steps.  He requested the shadow go back ten steps.  Isaiah called on the Lord and the Lord responded with making the shadow go back ten steps it had gone down on the stairway.  I assume the sign satisfied Hezekiah that he had a 15-year life extension.

I wish I could say he spent those remaining 15 years wisely but his ego got the best of him.  A Babylonian envoy delegation paid a visit to Jerusalem and Hezekiah welcomed them with open arms.  They may have brought him a get-well gift for they had heard about his illness.  Hezekiah was keen to show off and he sure did at that!  He showed off his storehouses, his armory, and everything found among his treasures.  In fact, he went full hog and there was nothing in the King’s palace or in all his kingdom the King did not show off.  The problem was he was showing off to wolves dressed in sheep’s clothing.

When Isaiah heard about the delegation, he asked the King what the men said and where did they come from.  Hezekiah said Babylon and that alarmed Isaiah.  He asked what did the Babylonian gang see in the palace?  At least, Hezekiah was honest when he said EVERYTHING.

I can picture Isaiah nodding and scratch his head.  I wouldn’t have blamed him if he thought he had been on the job too long.  How could Hezekiah fall for those wolves?

Isaiah had bad news for the King again.  There would come a time when everything in the palace would be carted off to Babylon, much at the fault of Hezekiah.  If that wasn’t bad enough news, some of Hezekiah’s descendants would be taken away and become eunuchs in the palace of the Babylonian king.

At the end of 15 more years, Hezekiah rested with his fathers.  A takeaway of this story is having a talk with the Lord come rain or shine.  To tell him all about whatever is on my plate whether it be a blessing or a concern.  If needed, have a good cry too.  I would never tell someone who has a terminal illness or a loved one who has that if they pray and ask for an extension, it’s a guarantee they’ll get it.   There are folks walking around whose doctor have no explanation as to why that is; however, there are those who didn’t get an extension and went home to be with the Lord.

I try to always remember when praying for whatever that I say, “Not my will, but thy will be done.”  God always knows best, including the granting of extensions of time.

 

The Late Night Griller

I don’t like asking questions and I don’t like answering them. I have plenty of them running through my mind though, more than I want.  It’s one of my challenges of living on the Autism Spectrum.  When asked a question, even one that I should know the answer, my brain doesn’t pop up the answer in lightning speed.  My anxiety can get the best of me and give a dumb answer that I will kick myself later for.  As far as asking questions, I really have to work up my nerve to ask because of my fear of a negative or puzzled response.  Those times when I have gotten up the nerve to ask, then it was a question I probably asked out of sheer desperation.

When Jesus walked upon this Earth, He sometimes asked questions such as asking His disciples who people say He was and then who did they think He was.  He was asked questions, too, from His disciples and followers.  He also got questions from His enemies but they were seeking to discredit Him in front of the crowds.  On one occasion, he was grilled into the night by a Pharisee named Nicodemus.  An unlikely person to interview Jesus because he was a member of a group of Jews, the Pharisees, who did not care for Jesus’s teaching.  He was also a high-level official being a member of the ruling body of the Jews known as the Sanhedrin.

Nicodemus’s grilling of Jesus is told in the third chapter of John.  John reports that Nicodemus came to speak with Jesus at night.  Many speculate Nicodemus chose to meet Jesus at night because he didn’t want to be seen with Jesus in the light of day.  Perhaps he didn’t want his peers on the Sanhedrin to know he was conversing with their perceived enemy.  This may indeed be true but the Scripture only tells us it was a night visit.  It doesn’t say why.

At the start of their conversation, Jesus confronts Nicodemus with the truth that he “must be born again”.  (John 3:3). When Nicodemus seems skeptical, Jesus remarks that since he is a leader of the Jews, he should already know this (John 3:10).

It is in Nicodemus’s grilling that Jesus stated one of the most well-known and beloved verses in the Bible.  It was the verse recited to me by my pastor before I asked Jesus to save my soul decades ago.  The words in John 3:16 mean more to me than words can say:  “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son.  That whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.”   It sums up in a nutshell what the Gospel is all about.  I understand what a church leader of long ago, Martin Luther, meant when he referred to this verse as the “heart of the Bible, the Gospel in miniature.”

It doesn’t say in the scripture if Nicodemus went home that night a believer of Jesus or not.  My thought is Nicodemus either came around that night to believe in Jesus or he eventually did because of other times Nicodemus is mentioned by John which put Nicodemus in a good light.

The next time he is mentioned was when he was on the job on the Sanhedrin as they were considering what to do about the “Jesus” problem.  Nicodemus comes to the defense of Jesus by stating Jesus should not be dismissed or condemned until they have heard from Him personally.  (John 7:51). However, the rest of the Council didn’t take kindly to Nicodemus’s statement and rudely dismissed it.

The final mention of Nicodemus in the Bible is after Jesus’ crucifixion. Nicodemus assisted Joseph of Arimathea in Jesus’s burial.  This is another sign that Nicodemus did take to heart Jesus’s words that night.  Nicodemus brought expensive spices for use in preparing the body for burial and then assisted Joseph in wrapping the body and placing it in the tomb.

John’s Gospel leaves many questions about the one who grilled Jesus late into the night.  Was he born again? What did he do after the resurrection? The Bible is silent on these questions. Perhaps Nicodemus’s final recorded act was his declaration of faith.

Since I have trouble asking questions even from those people I know, I give Nicodemus credit for asking questions from someone his peers was opposed to.  He’s a good example to follow for all believers can and should ask Jesus questions that are in their hearts.

After all, Jesus is still open to questions, even late into the night.

The Sign Seeker

Before there were kings of Israel, there were judges.  Their stories can be found in the book of Judges in the Old Testament.  One of them was Gideon who received three chapters worth of Bible coverage (Judges 6-8).  My impression of Gideon from the scriptures was a man who wasn’t a born leader.  He wasn’t bold and energetic like King David or outspoken like Apostle Peter.  This is one of those stories where God picked the weakest instead of the strongest to do His work.  It’s a comfort to know that the Lord can use all of his children who have different personalities, strengths, and weaknesses.

Gideon lived at a dark time in Israel’s history.  The first verse of Judges states the bad state of affairs.  The children of Israel had strayed from God as they sometimes did.  As a result, He delivered them into the hand of Midian.  The Israelites had a change of heart and cried out to the Lord for mercy.  Once again, the Lord heard their cry and chose someone to lead them out of the Midianites’ hand.  This is the part in the story where Gideon comes in.

An angel of the Lord came and sat under an oak tree near where Gideon was threshing wheat by the winepress to hide it from the Midianites.  The angel spoke and told him the Lord was with him.  Gideon responded by basically asking, “Where has the Lord been?” Gideon felt forsaken.  He had been living through seven years of slavery under the Midianites and longed to be out from under their brutal hand.

The Lord’s answer was He had heard Israel’s cry and chosen a leader to deliver them out of bondage.  There was a “but” for Gideon:  he was the chosen one.  That had to come as a shock “Who ME?”

Gideon told the Lord that his family was poor as if the Lord didn’t know that.  He added that he was the least in his father’s house.  I don’t know what Gideon meant by least, but he obviously saw himself as such.  His confidence was slim, but his ego wasn’t fat.  I can relate to that since I don’t welcome new challenges with open arms.

Gideon asked for a sign of assurance he was indeed speaking with the Lord.  Maybe he thought he was daydreaming or was hearing things.  He probably never would have seen himself as a military leader in a million years.  Now one might say Gideon should have just taken the Lord’s word for it and not asked for a visible sign.  Well, maybe so, but I being opposed to immediate and drastic changes in my daily life, I give Gideon credit for not running for the hills.

A sign must have been okay with the Lord because He gave one.  Gideon was instructed to prepare a young goat and unleavened cakes of flour; to put the flesh of the goat in a basket and put the broth in a pot and place it under the oak tree.  The angel told Gideon to take the flesh and cakes and lay them all on a rock and to pour out the broth.  Then the angel put forth the end of the staff that was in his hand, touched the flesh and cakes; fire rose up from the rock consuming the goat and cakes.  Then the angel disappeared out of Gideon’s sight.

The roasting convinced  Gideon he was talking to the Lord all right.  What was wrong then?  He was frightened.  He believed that if one saw an angel face to face, it meant that one’s time on Earth was about up.  The Lord patiently assured him he wasn’t going to die; not then anyway.

This was the beginning of Gideon’s journey.  It wouldn’t be the only time Gideon would ask for a sign along the way.  The Lord was patient with him and granted Gideon a sign each time he asked for one.

For his part, Gideon followed the Lord’s instructions such as reducing the number of his soldiers.  Maybe Gideon’s weakness was in an odd way his strength.  Gideon followed God’s instructions because he sure didn’t know what to do on his own.  He relied on the Lord because he knew he couldn’t rely on his weak self.  He was well aware he could not go up against any army relying on his smarts alone. With the Lord at his side, Gideon did conquer the enemy with only three hundred men with no weapons; just a trumpet in every man’s hand, with empty pitchers, and lamps within the pitchers.

In thinking about this story, I have to admit I seek signs too.  I need, receive, and am thankful for signs that God does work in my life.  An answered prayer isn’t only about the answer, but a sign that my prayers go beyond the ceiling to the One whom I’m praying to.  That’s beyond awesome!

The 11th chapter of Hebrew is devoted to the word “faith”.  I’ve heard more than one person describe this chapter as the “Hall of Faith” because the chapter has a list of names like any hall of fame.  Each person listed in this chapter has a story of faith.  Gideon, the sign-seeker, made it on this list (Hebrews 11:32).  By faith, he believed the signs came from God.  He fulfilled his part in being part of something far bigger than himself — the conquering of the enemy and deliverance of God’s chosen people.

God calls His extroverted and introverted children.  The pessimists and the optimists.  The popular ones and the nerds.  The strongest and the weakest.  And the sign seekers.

 

 

 

The Right Answer

When I learned I was on the Spectrum, I had my explanation for why I’m not quick on my feet. It also explained why I am physically awkward on my feet.  If there’s something to stumble over, bump into, or trip over, one of my limbs will find it.  Anyway, my brain doesn’t operate at the speed of a dime. But in its defense, with sufficient processing time, it can come up with a good answer that sometimes even surprises me.

Quickness on one’s feet is a nice attribute to possess. It’s a good quality to have for those whose jobs constantly put them in emergency situations where they do what needs to be done with little or no time to think.  I can only wonder what it is like to be able to give a quick and accurate response to a question at the drop of a hat. Or be able to mouth off a “gotcha” answer silencing the asker.

Most folks can identify with being asked directions by a passer-by. I was recently put on the spot when a family driving by asked for directions. The location they were seeking was a place I knew like the back of my head. But they wouldn’t have known it by my hem-hawing. They patiently waited until my brain came up with the right answer. If I had given them an answer off the top of my head, odds would have been good they’d have to ask another stranger.

One of the many things I admire about my Lord and Savior is how He interacted with people when He walked upon this earth. Since social interaction is difficult at best living on the Spectrum, I appreciate how Jesus was a master of it.  He interacted with His disciples who sought His teaching, the multitudes who sought Him for miracles, the outcasts who sought His attention, and His enemies who sought to silence Him.

Jesus got lots of questions.  Some genuinely wanted His answer such as Nicodemus who grilled him into the night.  Then, there were those who were deceptive.  They were aiming to use the Lord’s own words against Him.

Such as in Luke 20:1-8 where we find Jesus teaching in the temple when a gang of chief priests, scribes, and elders came to Him posing a question: “Tell us, by what authority doest thou these things? or who is he that gave thee this authority?”

Jesus could have responded with a long answer.  He could have gotten into a debate with the group.  But instead, he answered with a question: “I will also ask you one thing, and answer me: The baptism of John, was it from heaven, or of men?”

The scribes, priests, and elders weren’t expecting to be put on a spot by a question themselves.  They got together and reasoned it among themselves before answering. I picture them in a huddle like they do on a football field. They thought if they said John’s authority to baptize come from heaven, Jesus’s comeback answer might be, “Why then believed ye him not?” If they said John’s authority came from men, the people would stone them for the crowd believed that John was truly a prophet of God.

So they came up with an answer that is still popular to this day.  I often use this answer myself.  It is a good one to use when it is a truthful answer.  It was basically:  “I don’t know”.  That answer fell right into Jesus’s hands.  In other words, the group walked right into that one.  The Lord, quick on his feet, just stated:  “Neither tell I you by what authority I do these things.”

I never cease to be amazed by Jesus’s answer in this story. In this round, Jesus had the last word. He gave them an answer they couldn’t use against Him. This was just one of a number of times when Jesus put his enemies to shame by His words alone.

It is tempting when confronted about one’s religious beliefs to respond in anger. But doing so may just give the confronter exactly what they want. It is better to give no response than to get in the mud with someone. One doesn’t walk away from a mud fight without getting muddied up him or herself.

Jesus’s answer was short and to the point. Sometimes a few words are best. How does one know what to say on any given day? Pray daily for the words from the Master of right answers.

 

 

A Wise Wish

Once upon a time, there was a king who was given one wish.  He could ask for whatever in the world he wanted and had the assurance from God he would receive it.  His name was Solomon who had just become king after his father, King David’s, death.  Solomon was given a wish from the Lord who appeared to him in a dream in a place called Gibeon.  “God said, Ask what I shall give thee.”  (I Kings 3:5)

I don’t know what I would ask for if given one wish.  It seems that no matter what I would ask for, there would be both positive and negative issues with it.  Such as money, for instance.  Money does pay the bills and buys things I need and extras, but there are headaches.  Not that I would know.  I’ve just heard too many stories of unhappy and suicidal billionaires.  

Solomon didn’t pick such popular items as wealth, a peaceful reign, or a long life.  Solomon instead said, Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart to judge thy people, that I may discern between good and bad: for who is able to judge this thy so great a people?” (I Kings 3:9)

God was pleased with Solomon’s answer of wisdom.  Although he was new on the job, he realized he needed oodles of wisdom to recognize good from evil, to make sound judgments, and be the leader God’s chosen people of Israel needed.  God granted Solomon a wise and understanding heart so that there was none like him before him nor after him.

Even though he was the wisest king who ever lived, his reign did not run as smooth as silk.  His strength was wisdom but he had a problem with lust.  According to the Bible, Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines.  A bit much if you ask me!  It wasn’t just that he had so many but the wives were described as foreign princesses.  Despite his better judgment, Solomon allowed his foreign wives to bring in their national deities, building temples to their gods Ashtoreth and Milcom.

Solomon does have me puzzled when it comes to women.  In the Biblical book of Proverbs, whose author was Solomon, Chapter 21:9 states,   It is better to dwell in a corner of the housetop, than with a brawling woman in a wide house.”  This is coming from a man who had a household of 1000 of them.   I don’t get it but I’m one who has never been married.  Maybe Solomon would have much better off single like me or married to one woman who loved him, supported him, and believed, too, in the One who granted him his wish.

I have kept in the back of my mind a simple definition of wisdom:  the ability to use the knowledge one has.  One can have an extensive knowledge of the Bible, quote scriptures galore, but if one doesn’t put into practice the verses that fall easily of their tongue, one lacks wisdom.  On the other hand, one who couldn’t recite that much scripture but takes to heart and puts into practice “love thy neighbor as thyself”, he or she is not lacking in wisdom.

Solomon wasn’t a total flop as a King.  That moment he asked for wisdom above all else was a defining moment.  His failures don’t erase his successes.  Solomon had his achievements, but he could have done better with his wise wish.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Fruits of her Labor

There is a story of a woman in the Bible that begins with the woman’s death and ends with her being presented alive.  This isn’t usually how someone’s story begins and ends.  But this is a story from the Bible where miracles were told and hers is one of them.

The woman was described in Act 9:36 as being a disciple from a town called Joppa.  Her name was Tabitha, which by interpretation was called Dorcas.  She was described as being full of good works.  That isn’t a compliment easily earned.  The following verse states that Dorcas became ill and had died.  Her body was properly washed and laid in an upper room.  This is the beginning scene in Dorcas’s story.

Disciples who were grieving over the loss of Dorcas heard that Peter was in nearby Lydda.  They sent two men to ask Peter to come to Joppa.  I don’t know if it was for consolation or they thought Peter might perform a miracle similar to Jesus bringing back someone from the dead.  Whatever the reason, Peter was sent for and returned with the men.  The disciples brought Peter into the upper chamber.  He found widows weeping for Dorcas.  They showered Peter with words of praise for their friend and showed him garments Dorcas had made for others.

She had to have been an exceptional woman with all the praise heaped upon her and the evidence of her good works in the garments she had sewn.  Peter had the people leave the room.  He prayed.  Then he turned to the body and commanded: “Tabitha, arise.” (Acts 9:40)

She opened her eyes and when she saw Peter, she sat up.  Peter gave her his hand and lifted her out of bed.  He called the disciples and widows and presented her alive.  I can’t imagine the joy of seeing their dear friend again, alive and well.  I can’t imagine what was going through Dorcas’s mind either.   She was one of the few we know about in the Bible who returned from the dead.  What she had to say about her experience of death and returning to live among her loved ones is not known.  

Her story went beyond her and those who witnessed her return to life.  Word spread throughout Joppa, probably like wildfire.  It resulted in many believing in the Lord.   This wasn’t just a story that affected Dorcas or even the widows grieving for her in the chamber.  There were those in Joppa who might not have ever believed in the Lord if Dorcas’s miraculous return had not happened.   If Dorcas’s life had not been full of good works, the story would have probably had a different ending.  There may not have even been a Dorcas in the Bible.

There’s an old saying that actions speak louder than words.  That certainly applies to the story of Dorcas.  Her actions were evidence of what a good follower of Jesus she was.  Words fall easy-like off our tongues, but good deeds do not come easy.  It’s far easier to do the opposite because of our sinful nature.  Our sins may bring us pleasure but it is temporary; whereas, good deeds never die.

An even older and similar saying was what Jesus said in Matthew 7:16, “Ye shall know them by their fruits”.

My Eye on the Ball

One of the common autism traits I both possess and enjoy immensely is “unsociable” hobbies.  It’s not that I don’t like people; I just don’t like to be around them much.  I can’t recall ever liking to play games unless I could compete with one person – myself.

My favorite one is going on a date with my tennis ball and racket at a nearby college campus. The campus has the tennis cages where there is a practice wall.  I confess it is a big treat if all the cages are empty or at least all the ones on one side of the wall.  I’ll usually play less time if there are others around, especially if accompanied by blasting I-pods.  This may sound like a boring way to play since the wall always wins every match, but I’m not out there to win.  Just play that’s all.

I don’t remember all the tips my tennis coach gave me in high school but I imagine “keeping my eye on the ball” was one of them  I know if my eye is on the ball, I improve the odds of the matches against the wall being longer.  In other words, I’ll spend more time hitting the ball and less time fetching it.

It occurred to me this is true in my daily walk with my Lord and Savior.  Just as I need to keep my eye on the ball, I need to keep my eye on Jesus.  This is easier said than done because there is the constant temptation to take my eyes off of Him and look at whatever is on my plate.  Sometimes what is on my plate has the visual appearance of a dark night without a star in the sky.

If my focus is on the darkness, I will drown in that darkness.  The depths of despair will overwhelm me.  Such as when I’m having a meltdown.  A meltdown is common to those of us on the Autism Spectrum.  There is no more such thing as a “good” meltdown as there is a good tornado.  When one comes, if my focus is on the overwhelming tension rising in my body, it just aggravates it.

A meltdown is tough but I don’t have the words to say how much it helps to feel the Lord’s presence.  I can’t explain it better than that.  His Spirit is comforting me as if He is literally holding my hand.  He directs me during the meltdown such as where I could go or what I could do to help until the storm passes.  The reassuring voice tells me to hold on; it will pass.  If I keep my eye, or focus, on Him, I will not drown in the pit of self-pity and despair.

If I keep my eye on the tennis ball, I have longer matches and more fun playing against a wall.  If I keep my eye on Jesus, life is far more enjoyable and calmer than it would otherwise be.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Thorn

A thorn sticking into one’s flesh is a might uncomfortable.  I just imagine in my childhood exploring days on my Grandparent’s farm that I encountered enough thorns that I learned to be wary of thornbushes.  There are thorns on bushes and then there are thorns we encounter in our lives.  Apostle Paul knew a lot about thorns.  He had one according to 2 Corinthians 12:7-10:

And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Paul didn’t say what the thorn was and so no one knows for sure the name of it.  The important thing isn’t what it was but how Paul chose to cope with it.  First off, he prayed about it.  Then, he continued praying about that thorn until an answer came.  The answer wasn’t what he had hoped himself.  The Lord did not remove it.  Paul accepted the answer without throwing a tantrum or cutting back on his mission trips to spread the Gospel.

Instead of removing whatever the thorn was, the Lord granted Paul the grace and strength to live with it.  Paul has a positive attitude by seeing this thorn in a different light.  Instead of seeing it as a roadblock; he saw it as something that humbled him and helped to make him a better Apostle than he might otherwise be.  In other words, it helped him from getting a swelled head over the talents the Lord did bless him with.

This thought of a thorn being a humbler makes me think of one of my country’s presidents. He wasn’t one of those born in a log cabin.  Quite the contrary!  He was born into wealth and privilege.  Even early in his career, he had his eyes on the presidency.  But on his road to the White House, he encountered a thorn in his flesh that would remain with him for the remainder of his life.  Its name was polio.

An unforgettable day for Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) was when he couldn’t get out of bed on his own two feet. From then on, his legs would be useless to him.  I don’t think FDR would have been the president he was if he hadn’t been humbled by this thorn in his flesh.  I think his battle with polio inspired him to say one of his most familiar and quoted lines:  There is nothing to fear but fear itself.  FDR knew about fear; he knew about thorns.

He led a country through a depression and a world war.  He served in the Oval Office longer than his president before or after him.  But although the leader of the free world, he still had to have someone to put him to bed every night and help him up the next morning.

We all have thorns to deal with on any given day.  I discovered near the end of 2016, at the age of 58, the name of the thorn I had unknowingly lived with all my life: Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).  Some call it Autism, others call it mild Autism, or highly functional Autism, or Asperger’s Syndrome.   My trying to figure out which of the names suits me best is as useful as trying to figure out what Paul’s thorn was.

I perceive the negatives of ASD are the actual thorns.  I say that because there are positives to my constant companion.  I source my passion for writing as an ASD trait.  I appreciate the compliments I received from my God-given talent of writing.  But I know that if I ever were to leave the Lord out of my writing, my words would fall on deaf ears.  I often think of myself as merely taking dictation.  The Lord gives me the words.

I don’t pray for the Lord to remove my thorn.  I’m thankful that at the right time, place, and way I received the knowledge of what this thorn was called.  I cope with it better now that I am no longer in the dark about it.  My thorn gives me empathy on my job as a substitute teacher’s assistant working with children who have similar thorns.

If it wasn’t for my thorns, I reckon I’d need many servings of humble pie.

 

The Grateful One of Ten

It can be a tough road when one doesn’t follow along with one’s peers.  Even if one is on solid ground, it can be a daunting task to be the one and only left standing.  In one of the stories in the Gospel of Luke, there was such a man, a Samaritan leper.

His story is told in Luke 17:11-19.  Jesus was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee, on His way to Jerusalem. He entered a village and was approached by ten lepers.  Leprosy robbed these ten of their quality of life as well as threatened their life.  It was an isolating illness separating them from their loved ones, their home, and society.

The ten must have been an eyesore to behold, but Jesus did not look away from them.  While keeping their distance, in unison, they pleaded to Jesus for mercy.  He did not turn a deaf ear to their cries.  Jesus instructed them to show themselves to the priests and like obedient children, they did as they were told.  As they went their way, the horrid disease left their bodies.  The leper spots were gone.

They continued on their way without looking back except for one.  The Samarian in the group turned back to where Jesus was and fell at Jesus’s feet. He thanked Jesus for healing his body.  Jesus asked, “Were not ten made clean?  But the other nine, where are they?  Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this STRANGER?”

It’s music to my ears to hear a “thank you”. Since I should treat people the way I want to be treated, these two words should be words I use frequently instead of rarely.

Jesus told the healed man to go on his way; that his faith had made him well.  By faith, the stranger called out to Jesus for mercy.  By faith, he turned back from the other nine and thanked the One who took away his leper spots.  By faith, he did the right thing.  Although he was the stranger among them, he was the grateful one of the ten.

I Want To See

The four Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John gives us a narrative of the life of Jesus when He walked on this Earth among mankind.  One of the things that gives me comfort and encouragement are the stories where Jesus showed compassion on people who in the eyes of society did not deserve such.

Jesus didn’t limit his precious time on this Earth only to those who were in step with society.  Such as He visited the home of an unpopular chief tax collector named Zaccheus.  He had a conversation at a water well with a Samaritan woman who had a sordid past.  He allowed a woman described as one who lived a sinful life to pour perfume on his feet.

In Luke 18:35-43, there’s a story of Jesus showing compassion on someone who was among society’s forgotten.  Jesus was near the city of Jericho where among the people was a blind beggar sitting on the way side.  The blind man heard the commotion of the multitude and asked what was going on.  He was told that Jesus of Nazareth was passing by.  He recognized the name.  Even though he was disabled and an outcast, he had heard about Jesus, His teachings, and miraculous healing power. 

The blind man cried out, “Jesus, thou son of David, have mercy on me”.  He was hoping that Jesus might be willing to heal him too.  It didn’t hurt to ask!  Those around him were not encouraging him.  Instead, they were doing their level best to shut him up.  I guess they thought Jesus had no time for blind beggars any more than they did.  They probably would have preferred the blind man had left so he could be out of sight and out of mind.  Maybe he made them uncomfortable because of his disability.  Those with disabilities in today’s world could identify all too well with the blind beggar in this story.

The blind man ignored the pleas for him to keep his mouth shut.  In fact, he just got louder with his plea of “Thou son of David, have mercy on me”.

Jesus heard the pleas.  He could have looked the other way and continued on his journey to Jericho.  Instead, he stopped and beheld the man who couldn’t see him.  Jesus commanded him to be brought forward and when he came near, Jesus asked him what did the beggar want.  It had to have been obvious he was a blind man.  But Jesus wanted the man to tell him in his own words what he wanted.  Just as Jesus wants us to come to him in prayer with our troubles even though He already knows all about them.  The man’s response was short and to the point:  Lord, that I may receive my sight”.  He simply wanted to see.

It touches my heart that Jesus didn’t tell the man, “Your blindness isn’t my problem.  It’s your problem.”  Jesus didn’t just utter words about loving thy neighbor; He lived those words.  He taught us our neighbor isn’t only those who looks, acts, and talks like us, but those who don’t as well.  It isn’t just loving those who are physically and mentally healthy, but those who aren’t.

Jesus granted his request telling him, “Receive thy sight: thy faith hath saved thee”.  The man’s sight was instantly restored.  He glorified God and so did the people who witnessed another one of Jesus’s miracles.

The man’s faith did make all the difference.  If he had listened to the crowd who urged him to shut up, he would have gone away still a blind man.  He took it on faith that what He had heard about Jesus being God’s son was the truth.  He believed Jesus had the power to heal him and stubbornly refused to let anyone stop him from calling out to Jesus for mercy.  

On my job as a substitute teacher’s aide, I have the privilege of helping students who are outside of the student body mainstream.  Some of them have Down Syndrome, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), or are blind, deaf, or depend on a wheelchair to get around.  I also have the fortune of working with kids who are living on the same Autism spectrum as myself.  I can’t cure them of their disability any more than I can tell my constant companion of autism to go away.

But I can help them with their classwork, clap at their accomplishments, hug them when they want one, and encourage them to play on the playground.  I can see them and let them know I do.  Just like Jesus saw the blind beggar instead of looking the other way.