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 Energizer

If there was a video camera on me at 4 or so a.m. in the morning, it might find me jogging in place on the patio deck talking to myself.  Before someone calls out the mental health emergency responders, I am totally aware of where I am, what I am doing, and what time it is.  HA!

The sources of my “step” morning ritual, a Smart Watch on my left arm and a Fitbit on my right, are counting my steps.  FYI: I wear both because I like to compare the totals the two gadgets come up with at the end of the day.  Weird, I know.  The reasons I get up early are so I can be alone to do my thing and to get an early start on my stepping up to the plate.  I will be a uncomfy “aspie” if I don’t reach my daily “step” goal by the end of the day.

A few months ago, I purchased a new car while trading in my old one.  It was hard parting with my set of wheels since I am prone to be strongly attached to my things.  When they told me that all my old car’s tires would be replaced, well, then, I didn’t mind so much divorcing it.

My new car is MY new baby.  I have had it for four months now and I’m still keeping it spicking span clean inside and out.  I will go out and vac inside the car, clean the windows, etc. when I’m in idle mode or nearing meltdown country.  Just another activity I can do that helps smooth the wheels turning in my mind and keeps my “baby” handsome.

One of those most delighted with my turning into “The Energizer” is my Mom who is still active but doesn’t get around at the same speed as she used to.  She has long enjoyed working in the yard, but Arthur (aka arthritis) gets in her way a lot of times.  I started helping out and to my surprise, yard chores have a soothing effect on me as does rocking, pacing, and jogging.  The hard part is knowing when to stop.

My Autism Spectrum Disorder pushes me to perfection.  I can’t leave the yard until it at least looks like I have won the battle with the leaves where there is a heap fewer of them or the hedge looks trimmer than when I started.  Oh, by the way, my Mom doesn’t miss her once quality time with the rake or the clippers now that the energizer bunny has taken it over.

 

 

He is Autistic

I am a frequent Dollar Store shopper.  The check-out lines are sometimes too long for my liking but I admit three or more people ahead of me is what I consider a long line.  I reckon it all depends on your point of view as to what “long” or “short” is.

On one of my shopping trips as I approached the check-out line, I was relieved there was just two ahead of me.  The store manager was manning the register.  He was checking out a red-headed freckled-faced boy who was grinning from ear to ear.  I’m guessing maybe 10-years-old.  The youngster had his dollar bills ready and gave to the manager.  I had my head down when I heard the manager say in a stern voice, “What are you doing?”

I did not see what happened but I saw the boy’s hands near the gadget customers use to purchase with a credit/debit card.  He was probably playing with the buttons.  There was what seemed like a long pause and a red-headed slim woman came up who was probably the boy’s mother.  She just said to the manager two words, “He’s autistic.”

I felt like an arrow hit my heart since I’m on the Spectrum, too.  The manager maybe felt an arrow in his heart, too, because he said in a softer tone, “Oh, okay.”  Nothing more was said.

The boy reminded me of the students I work with as a substitute teacher’s aide.  It is rewarding to work with students like this boy.  It is sad, though, to hear of “shopping tales” that are such a nightmare that parents/caretakers are reluctant or give up taking their child with them shopping.

The incident replayed in my mind over and over for the remainder of the day and into the night.  It took me back to my childhood when a 7-11 store manager was correcting me for something I had no idea was wrong.  His stern warning left such a mark on me that I still remember it a half a century later.

I watched them walk out of the store.  I dare say it wasn’t the first time she had to tell a stranger, “he’s autistic”.  It probably won’t be the last either.  Perhaps she had left her boy at the counter to see if he could handle paying for something all by himself.  He did fine except for the last part.  He just needs more practice, that’s all.

The boy didn’t drop his smile the entire time.  He seemed oblivious to what had happened.  I hope he has no memory of it.  But I’m sure his mother did not get off so easy.  She was the one who took the hit.

 

 

A Mother and her Promise

First off, I want to start off with farming.  Those who know me fairly well know I won’t have much to say about it since I know just a little more about farming than I do nuclear science.

One thing I know is farmers need water.  Not too much since floods are bad and not too little since droughts are bad too.  If I were a farmer, I’d surely pray for rain.  There is a catch.  If a farmer doesn’t tend to his farm chores, it won’t matter if it rains or not.  Crops don’t plant themselves.  That’s a lesson I take from farming.  I do my part while trusting the Lord to do His.

There was a woman in the Bible by the name of Hannah who had a heavy burden on her heart.  She was one of two wives to a man named Elknah   She had no children while the other wife did.  She lived in a society that frowned on women who did not give birth.  Her husband, who loved her dearly, could not understand Hannah’s sadness.  He said, to her, Hannah, why weepest thou? and why eatest thou not? and why is thy heart grieved? am not I better to thee than ten sons?”  Not that I would know being an unmarried, but my married friends have often said to me, “My spouse just doesn’t understand….”  I guess that’s as old a problem as marriage itself.  

Perhaps Hannah was in what we call a depressed state.  The Bible describes her as being “in bitterness of soul”.  Instead of sinking further into depression, she turned to the Lord in prayer at the temple.  She sorely wept while telling the Lord her petition from her aching heart.  She asked for a child and she wanted a boy.  She went a step further by making a promise that if the Lord blessed her with a son, she would give her son back into the Lord all the days of his life.  

Hannah was mumbling this prayer to herself.  I relate to that because I often pray mumbling to myself.  I often do this while I take a walk in the park.  Once I got the attention of someone who asked me if I was okay.  I reckon it would look strange if I saw myself on video but it doesn’t matter.  I doubt that it did to Hannah because she was entirely focused on her prayer and not on who might be watching.

The priest Eli saw Hannah’s lips move without her voice and wondered if she was drunk.  He asked her as much and she told him the truth.  Eli was convinced and told her, Go in peace: and the God of Israel grant thee thy petition that thou hast asked of him.”

Immediately Hannah felt much better and was longer sad.  Her faith had been restored and wasn’t surprised when she soon learned she was pregnant.  She wasn’t surprised either giving birth to a boy instead of a girl.  She named him Samuel, the name meaning he was asked for from the Lord.

Hannan did not forget her promise to return him to the Lord after the child was weaned.  She had waited so long for a child and now that she had one, she had to give him up.  Although I would imagine she got to visit, it wouldn’t be the same as having him under her roof.  But she had made a promise and did her part in fulfilling it.

Hannah had a part in something far bigger than herself.  She couldn’t have known that the child she asked for would grow up to one of the most well known prophets of the Bible.  She couldn’t have known that her story would be recorded in the scripture and her story told down through time.  Hannah wasn’t supposed to figure the big picture out.  She kept her promise and God did His.

 

 

A Calming Scent

I was substituting for a 1st-grade teacher’s aide when I first saw something that reminded me of a lamp shooting out smoke before a genie popped out. I asked the teacher what it was and she told me it was a diffuser. She explained that it contained water and a few drops of peppermint oil. That explained why I had a craving for a peppermint candy. She went on to tell me about aromatherapy.  Her claim was it helped calm the children and she had even noticed a drop in absences since she started this therapy.

Could a scent from a bottle calm down 1st graders? I told my Mom about this and she said she wished she had known that back when I and my brothers were growing up. My Mom’s humor fails me sometimes. The teacher’s endorsement of aromatherapy did arouse my curiosity but it would be a year or so later, a diagnosis of autism, and a Best Buy gift card before I would go beyond mere curiosity.

Since electronic gadgets are my obsessive interest, an electronics store gift card was exciting as a Christmas present in July. As all gift cards have, it had a price limit on it. I had to shop within the gift card range which is what brought me to the diffuser and oil aisle. I debated about it and left without purchasing one preferring to sleep on it. I did some comparison shopping on-line and more sleeping on it. Buying spontaneous, even with a gift card, goes against my “tend to overthink” autistic trait. Eventually, I selected the cheapest of the dispensers and bought the oils at the Wal-Mart.

After testing a few oils, I found lavender to be my favorite scent. It claims to help calm stress and anxiety and to help promote sleep. “Sleep” is the operative word for me. I was impressed with it the first time I used it and still do. I turn my diffuser on with a few drops of lavender before I fall into bed. It does carry the warning of just a few drops to do the trick. Too much can undo the trick and turn lavender into a stimulant instead.

I did my research on aromatherapy.  I learned it was based on the principle that essential oils from certain plants or flowers can affect our moods, and consequently how we think or feel at any given time.  The oils are each unique.  While my favorite, Lavender, is a calmer, peppermint is a mood lifter.  Well, I recall the first-grade kids that day appeared to be in a good mood and so did the teacher.

I can’t say how much the aromatherapy helps me. It may be just having my “genie-like” oil lamp is of comfort just as having my favorite pillow to hold, my eye mask to protect my light sensitive eyes, and playing white noise to protect my sensitive ears. It’s kind of like having comfort food at bedtime.

 

The Trigger Effect

I want to state unequivocally that if I could get by with it, I’d only ride on the passenger side in the car. I can’t do that since a car won’t run without someone behind the wheel and I don’t have anyone to take my place. Taxis are out of the question since their drivers don’t drive for just a dime. Whenever my 81-year-old Mom is riding with me, I con her into driving.  It doesn’t take much convincing since she has had some breath-taking moments with me behind the wheel.

Driving is something I struggle with and based on my web research on driving and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), I am in the majority among my fellow Spectrum travelers.  That’s not to say that there aren’t those who have ASD who are good drivers who haven’t had to use their auto insurance except when it was someone else’s fault. My record of accidents, or lack of them, has improved in the past decade, but in my younger years, an insurance company divorced me over a couple of fender bends in a course of a couple of months.  When I discovered I was on the Spectrum near the end of 2016, it explained a lot of things, including why driving felt like performing an acrobatic act with one hand tied behind my back.

I assume a good driver is focused on what’s ahead, what’s coming up the rear, and the side attractions. Focusing on multiple things at one time is beyond me. I assume a good driver can react at the twinkling of an eye to make the right move whether it be to speed up, slow down, turn left or right, brake, etc.  My brain thinks but not that fast! I need time to process before I can react and driving doesn’t afford me that luxury.

I have so often gotten discouraged when I have had an accident or came awfully close to one. Not long ago, I almost had an accident backing up in a parking lot at a park. The “backing up” is one of my driving weaknesses.  After the adrenaline rush, I was relieved but kicking myself for not looking at my rearview camera that displays on my dashboard.  I am often in my own world as I go for a walk.  On that day although I had finished walking, I was still wrapped up in that world. I was just sick about it even though there was no accident. I feared I might not get off next time and I didn’t want there to be another time.

One of my Autism traits that come in handy is thinking outside the box. So I put my noggin to work on finding something that could trigger me to look at the camera as well as looking to my left and right when backing up. The buzzer that goes off when the rear camera display comes on isn’t sufficient to be the trigger mechanism.  I needed something stronger!  After considerable analysis, I came up with an idea.

This may seem like an awfully strange idea, but I was willing to try just about anything.  At a dollar store, I purchased a car deodorizer. This particular one is a clip that hangs on my steering wheel. Whenever I get in the car, I have the reminders of the smell of the deodorizer, the sight of the clip in front of me, and the touch of the clip deodorizer as it slides around on my steering wheel.

How’s it working?  My camera display has become a familiar sight to me because I am looking at it more when it comes on.  That was what I was hoping for.  My “sensory” reminder isn’t a guarantee and I didn’t expect it to be. There’s still the possibility I will still forget to check my surroundings before backing up, but I’ve improved the odds by having the trigger effect of my senses of sight, sound, and smell in a clip to click back my mind to the driver’s seat.

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.

 

 

The Meltdown Mystery

I was on a date with my tennis racket and ball at a campus practice wall when another meltdown started brewing.  There are six practice wall cages and when I arrived, I was by my lonesome.  Then someone showed up with a DVD player and my opinion of their music was:  you call that music?

Seriously, the DVD was letting out a strong bass tone that felt like someone thumping at my ears.  I felt a meltdown coming on.  What does that feel like? A rumbling volcano comes to mind.

I knew if I remained in the cage, I would feel like a caged animal and so I walked out of the cage.  At least, I had the luxury of walking away from a meltdown trigger with a mile’s worth of walking trail out of earshot range.  The internal rumbling stopped somewhere along the trail. Eruption averted.  After walking the entire lap, the tennis player with the DVD player had left.  I didn’t return to the cage because the humidity and walk had done me in.

Of all the symptoms I deal with living on the Spectrum, the meltdowns are the toughest.  They are the volcanoes. Sometimes they just produce a rumble; but oh, my goodness, there are those that spew out lava (aka tears).

I usually know when I’m having one, but I don’t always know what the trigger is. Before I learned I was on the Spectrum, I used to have peculiar and frightening meltdowns at night. This went on for many years and I didn’t know what was behind them. They would come on me suddenly and would feel like my bed pillows and sheets were conspiring against me. I would get up out of frustration and throw the pillow down as if it was a bully.  I’d sling the sheet/bed cover on the floor as if it was my worst enemy.  The picture that came to mind was behaving like a cat with its tail caught underneath a rocking chair.

After this happened enough times, I knew it was something I had no control over and I just had to “rock” my way through it. The rocking was “stimming” but I didn’t know what stimming was at the time. As surely as it came over me, it left me after minutes passed. The minutes, however, seemed much longer than that. Fortunately, I haven’t had one of those in a couple of years.  I’m guessing that my antidepressant medication which has helped me sleep much better have something to do with that.

However, I do still have “daytime” meltdowns. Those haven’t stopped paying me visits.  Sometimes they come upon me without any obvious trigger, but most of the time there is one. It can be a sound or smell that rises the tension in my body. It may be a pet peeve and my reaction is way out of bounds with it. If I can walk away from the annoyance, the odds improve of a lighter meltdown or not having one. If I can’t, it’ll be Mount St. Helens all over again.

 

God’s Plan!

Positively Poetic

Every time a baby is born, it is a blessing from Him! When there is a special birth, one that is different from the norm, people tend to think that something is wrong! Well, maybe those people are the ones who are wrong. A special birth may just mean that something is right! God has a plan, and He knows what He is doing!

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Something’s Right!

They say that something’s wrong with you
But we don’t think it’s true,
We think God has a special plan
Saved only for a few.

To them you do not seem the same
As all the other’s born,
They look so sad and talk to us
As if we should just mourn.

We do not understand their view
We guess they just don’t see,
That you’re the one we’ve waited for
To fill our destiny.

To them you’re not the perfect one
You’re different…

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A Rainy Day

Boredom came after the clouds burst with rain and the thunder band in the sky started performing. It was a Saturday morning and my plans for an outdoor date with my tennis racket and ball had been canceled thanks to the weather. No walk in the park either since I don’t care for walking in the rain.

My Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) doesn’t make it easy for me to be in the indoors with nothing to do. I’m not a couch TV potato. I was when I was a kid but that was back when I was obsessed with soap operas. I am not in a good place when my fingers are idle.

I came up with a plan by nurturing my ASD line of obsessions/interests. I started with organizing! I love to do that. I overdo it, but no matter. The problem was I had run out of my own stuff to organize. I’d re-organize but I had already gone through multiple re-orgs. I spotted my Mom’s boxes of unorganized materials tucked away in her huge computer desk. Ah hah! These boxes were long overdue for an organization. By the time I got through, I discovered my Mom owned oodles of pens and marks-a-lots, half of which had long run out of ink. Days later, my Mom mentioned her re-org desk and said, “I can’t find a thing.”  I didn’t get my “org” gene from her. HA!

Then, I played with my electronic gadgets: my smartphone, my smart TV, my smart watch, and my equally smart Google and Alexa home assistants. As their owner being smart, that’s debatable. On that Saturday, I discovered more ways of how they can talk to one another. I was amazed at how much I learned to do with them!  I was like a kid in a room full of new toys. This kept me occupied until late in the afternoon and by then, the thunder band had finished its performance and the clouds had dried up.

Some of the Saturday was salvaged. I went outside and picked up the twigs and leaves the wind had knocked off from the trees. That’s another one of my ASD obsessions – picking up what the wind has blown down after a rainy day.