Susan Jane King

Thriving with Jesus in life's ongoing challenges

Real Love Demands Everything

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When he was about four years old, my son bit a little girl at church. I tell about it in my book, “Optimism for Autism.” What I didn’t tell in the book is something my husband David and I recently discussed: We were at a pivotal moment with our church family.

To be honest, we were overwhelmed and exhausted in parenting our special needs son. We were trying to help him and felt we were failing. When Patrick got overstimulated or other children came into his space unexpectedly, he would sometimes hit or bite to make the painful stimulus go away.

How could we be part of the church with his behavior? Did the church want us there? Maybe we should leave. Maybe the little girl’s parents or the church leaders would tell us we weren’t welcome anymore. We had experienced that reaction from other people in the past.

What happened after the biting incident forever impacted our family and cemented our relationship with this body of believers . . . and with Jesus Himself.

The mother of that little girl sent me a note, thanking me for comforting her child, and telling me she thought I was doing a wonderful job with my son. She told me she cared and she was praying for me and my family. She drenched me and my family with the love and grace of Jesus.

We stayed at First Baptist Church in Salisbury, North Carolina. The Lord used that body of believers to introduce Himself to us. All six members of my family came to understand the gospel and to accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior there. I teach Sunday School at that church. My husband serves on the worship team and in church leadership. We all get to tell others about the love and grace found in Jesus.

But it could have gone the other way. We could have been rejected. We could have left, never knowing about the love and grace Jesus has for each one of us.

Real love demands everything. The Greek word for love is “agape” in the New Testament. It means “unconditional, unrelenting love; a determined goodwill that seeks another’s best interests.” Based on that definition, Biblical love has three qualities:

Unconditional 

That means we choose to love someone regardless of what they do or don’t do. It’s a love not based on the performance (works) of another person. That’s what Elaine, the mother of the little girl, did for me. She chose to love me and my son, even though her daughter had been hurt. That’s the kind of love Jesus has for us. The scriptures say, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8, NASB).

Unrelenting

We don’t remove our love when things don’t go our way. We keep loving. Even when it hurts. We don’t use love as a weapon to overpower or control others, giving it when we’re happy, withdrawing it when we’re hurt. We continue to love by the strength God gives us. We ask Him to help us keep loving others the way He does.

The apostle Paul was grounded in the love of God. That’s how he could share it with others. He said, “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-89, NASB). Paul knew the Lord would not withdraw His love, and he determined to do the same.

Elaine kept loving me by the power and grace of God. She didn’t stop after an offense.

Choosing the Best for Others

“A determined goodwill”—that’s choosing to speak and act in a way that is good for others. It is a chosen disposition toward kindness and compassion. It involves refusing negative feelings and actions and embracing thoughts and actions that convey the love and grace of God.

“That seeks another’s best interests”—that involves laying aside our own demands for self and thinking about and acting in a way that benefits someone else.

Elaine chose to focus on my hurts and needs instead of her own at that pivotal moment in time. She thought about what I and my family might need, and she acted on it.

“Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3-4, NASB).

That’s love. Love that demands everything. The kind of love Jesus displayed: “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself [laid aside His rights and privileges as God], taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:5-8, NASB).

Jesus died because His sacrifice was what was best for us. He paid the penalty for our sins so we didn’t have to, so that everyone who puts their faith in what He did for them could have their sins forgiven and could be with Him forever.

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16, NASB).

Now that’s love. Love that demanded—and gave—everything.

Question: How have you experienced the love of Jesus through others? Comment at the link below.

Visit Susan’s website: susanjaneking.com

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Praying Through It

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To be honest, I was pretty overwhelmed this past Friday. I wasn’t feeling well. I had a lot to do. I’m sure you can relate to those feelings at times.

As my son Patrick was heading out the door, I asked him if he would pray for me and told him how I was feeling.

“We can pray right now,” he offered, turning back toward me. He grabbed my hand and prayed the sweetest prayer for his worn-out mama.

Then, I was overwhelmed for an entirely different reason.

Over the years, as we have dealt with the many different aspects of Patrick’s autism, I was the one reminding and encouraging him to pray. I would grab his hand, and we would go to the Lord together, asking for help, thanking the Lord for His great love and faithfulness, trusting Him in the midst of whatever we were facing at the time.

On Friday, Patrick took the leadership role in praying. I thanked the Lord repeatedly for allowing me to see that Patrick knows the value of prayer, and that he is now encouraging others to pray.

My heart felt so light after we prayed together.

Prayer is a Life Style, not an Event.

The Bible tells us to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17, NASB). That means, whatever is happening, we are to talk with the Lord about it and listen for His voice. When we are dealing with fear, worry, anxiety, sorrow, depression, anger, joy, excitement, celebration . . . all those feelings can serve to remind us to seek the Lord, and to stay connected to Him. The awareness of His presence with us enables us to persevere. We pray not because we’ve got to (as an obligation) but because we get to (as a delight in spending time with the Lord.)

Prayer Conveys Trust.

In Luke 18:1, NASB, it says, “Now He was telling them a parable to show that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart.” That’s our choice . . . pray (seek God) or lose heart (give up). If we don’t seek Him, we can easily give in to discouragement. The parable Jesus told dealt with a poor widow who kept going before the judge pleading her case, and the judge responded because of her persistence. The widow trusted that the judge could do something about her situation, that he ruled over it.

“Now, will not God bring about justice for His elect who cry to Him day and night, and will He delay long over them? I tell you that He will bring about justice for them quickly,” Jesus said (Luke 18:7-8, NASB). But then, He asks the all-important question: “However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?” (Luke 17:8, NASB). What seems to concern Jesus the most is that we acknowledge Him (as Lord) and choose to trust Him in the midst of our circumstances. Prayer allows us the opportunity to express both of those things.

Faith is like our physical muscles. It must be “exercised” in order to grow stronger. Our circumstances grant us the opportunity to flex our muscles of faith in prayer.

Prayer Helps Us Refocus.

Hebrews 12:1-2, NASB, says, “let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith.”

How can we keep going? By refocusing on the overarching reality:  Jesus IS our life. He is strong, powerful, loving, merciful, faithful, gracious, wise, and compassionate toward us. He never leaves us or forsakes us (Hebrews 13:5). He can do exceedingly and abundantly beyond what we could ever ask or think (Ephesians 3:20). That’s because He is ours, and we are His. Prayer allows us to speak those things to Him and ourselves.

I am so grateful the Lord allowed me to see that my son has learned the beauty of praying through it, no matter what it may be.

“Therefore, let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16, NASB).

Question:  What have you experienced through your personal prayer life? Comment at the link below.

Visit Susan’s website:  susanjaneking.com

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Finding Inspiration

 Katie Huff

 

My special needs son inspired an MBA graduate, and it moved me to tears.

It all happened this past Saturday.

“A force or influence that inspires someone, that makes them want to do or create something.” That’s inspiration, according to Webster’s Online Dictionary.

Katie Huff used similar words to describe my son Patrick as she spoke at Pfeiffer University’s summer graduation ceremonies this past Saturday. An accomplished young lady who was awarded her MBA that day, Katie chose to focus her comments on a shy autistic young man with a big smile.

Today’s blog photo was posted by Katie on her Facebook page that day with the comment, “Heroes come in all forms.”

Katie first met Patrick in November 2011 when he attended a Pfeiffer University Invitational Swim Meet as a high school swimmer. He asked Katie, a graduate student and assistant swim coach at Pfeiffer, to hold his glasses for him while he swam. Katie was enchanted on the spot. She watched Patrick swim the rest of the season and later convinced the head swim coach at Pfeiffer to recruit Patrick.

“I studied his moves. He smiled constantly, and he was so positive with himself and his teammates. Whenever we watched Patrick at swim meets, he had a smile on his face, ready to swim. That boy wears a smile better than anyone I’ve ever seen,” Katie said during her speech.

Katie shared with the graduation crowd how Patrick was diagnosed with autism and mental retardation. How he couldn’t talk until he was 5 years old, how he battled trying to tie his shoes until he was 13 years old. She talked about a young man who persevered, garnering academic and athletic scholarships to college. She told how Patrick is now a public speaker, singer, and co-author of a new book “Optimism for Autism,” and how he swims on Pfeiffer’s Varsity Swim Team while still maintaining a 3.91 gpa.

But what made the tears fall for me was when she talked about Patrick’s heart, how he encouraged and inspired not only her but also his team and people all across campus by his kindness, encouragement, perseverance, and positive attitude.

“There were days when the stresses of school, work, and life were too much for me, but they would just disappear when Patrick walked into swim practice,” Katie said. “Patrick is an inspiration not only to the team but campus wide.

“The message that Patrick King brought into my life is the assurance that anything is possible, that we can fight through every roadblock while keeping our faith. There isn’t a doubt that God placed Patrick in my life for a reason. God has set people like Patrick on our paths as a guide so we can go beyond boundaries we have set for ourselves and achieve those things that He has planned. That’s how Patrick has impacted my life—and so many others in the Pfeiffer community,” Katie said.

She then quoted Proverbs 3:5-6, Amp., from chapter three in our book, “Optimism for Autism”:  “Lean on, trust in, and be confident in the Lord with all your heart and mind, and do not rely on your own insight or understanding. In all your ways know, recognize, and acknowledge Him, and He will direct and make straight and plain your paths.”

That’s how Patrick inspired Katie, what he made her “want to do or create” in her life.

I whispered to Patrick after Katie’s speech, “I know it is hard for you at times being autistic, but look at what God is doing. He is using you to inspire others, to draw them to Him. That’s a beautiful gift he is offering through you.”

Patrick’s eyes widened, and he smiled. I could tell he had never thought of himself that way.

In truth, the Lord wants all of us to participate in the inspiration process. Here’s how:

Look for Examples

In Hebrews 13:7, NASB, Paul admonished believers, “Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith.”

We should allow ourselves to be inspired by godly men and women around us. We should look for them, study them, and appropriate their positive examples into our own lives.

Of course, Jesus is the ultimate example of how to relate to the Father and others. We can study Him in the gospels and choose to live as He did.

Be an Example

Paul took things a step further when he said, “Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1, NASB). Paul determined to be a godly example to those who were watching him, and he observed and aimed to imitate Christ, with the help of the Holy Spirit. We can do the same, as we read God’s Word, especially the accounts about Jesus, and ask the Holy Spirit to help us live as true Christians (which means, “little Christs”).

We are all meant to encourage and inspire one another on this journey toward our heavenly home. It is there that we will find the ultimate inspiration—Jesus.

Questions:  What traits of Jesus have you seen in others? How have you been inspired to be more like Jesus? Comment at the link below.

Visit Susan’s website: susanjaneking.com

 

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Accepting Who We Are

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“I wish I were different. Why can’t I be more like her (or him)?”

Have you ever felt that way?

Or how about, “Why do they have to be that way? They are getting on my nerves!”

Basic personality traits, mannerisms, appearances, struggles, strengths, talents, and gifts. We take stock of them in ourselves and in others. We are each distinctively different from one another.

The answer to all those questions, however, is the same: Each of us is fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14).

In fact, Ephesians 2:10 says we are God’s “workmanship,” a word meaning, “a fabric, a work of God as Creator.”

That definition reminds me of a tapestry, interwoven with many differently colored threads, which come together to create a masterpiece, a one-of-a-kind work of art. The Lord does that with each of us.

I’ve been spending some time on vacation this week with my immediate family. I’ve noticed, and appreciated, the unique differences in each member of my household. The Lord is a Master Artist, and His artwork is meant to be appreciated, not criticized. That includes how we view and talk about others . . . and ourselves.

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Look for the Lord’s Weaving

The Lord has woven distinct traits into each of us. He chose how we would be and crafted every one of our lives. Isaiah 43:7 says we were created for His glory. Colossians 1:37 says Christ in us is the hope of glory. In the New Testament, glory means “to manifest, give an estimation of.” In other words, the Lord has woven different features into each of us that show the world a part of Himself. We need to be who He made us to be so others can see that part of Him and be drawn to Him. We should look for those traits He has placed in us and allow Him to use them for His glory. We should look for them in others as well so we can appreciate Him even more.

Seek God’s Purpose

“For it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose,” according to Philippians 2:13, NIV. God has a reason why He created you as you are. Strengths and weaknesses. Gifts and challenges. Personalities and passions. All these features are interwoven to draw us closer to the Lord, as we deal with our own unique traits, as well as the traits of others.

Celebrate God’s Creativity

In the end, we can celebrate that “we know God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28, NASB). Even our own personal challenges can remind us of our need for and dependency on the Lord. He wove even those features into our lives so we can choose to draw closer to Him, which is the best place to be. We can celebrate the many ways we see Him in others, and in ourselves. And in the celebrating, we can trust Him in the way He made each of us.

In the end, we have to decide to accept who we are because God made us that way for His purposes. Ultimately, we must choose to accept Whose we are . . . because the Master Weaver only creates beautiful works of art.

Question:         Which of God’s traits do you see in others? Comment at the link below.

Visit Susan’s website: susanjaneking.com

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