Susan Jane King

Thriving with Jesus in life's ongoing challenges

What I Learned from Some Autistic Young Adults

Patrick speaking at the panel discussion

My son Patrick recently was asked to serve on a panel that discussed the experiences and advice of young adults with autism. The three young men and one young woman spoke to a room full of parents and caregivers at the monthly meeting of the Rowan County Chapter of the Autism Society of North Carolina. The panelists amazed me with their wisdom and demeanor. Yes, they shared valuable insights into the world of autism, but they also taught some important truths in the way they interacted with one another. Those interchanges impacted me the most. Here’s what I learned from them:

Be honest

One panelist introduced himself as “Gray . . . not Greg, not Gary. My name is Gray. Please do not call me by another name.”

Those of us watching the discussion chuckled at his comment, acknowledging the honesty and literalness you usually find in autistic individuals.

Unfortunately, one of the panelists made the mistake of calling Gray “Greg” about halfway through the program.

“I told you not to call me that,” Gray blurted out.

“Oh, I’m sorry,” Lewis said. “I’m terrible with names.”

He smiled at Gray.

“Me too,” Patrick said. “I’ve always struggled with that.”

That was it. Issue resolved. Everyone said how they felt, and they moved on.

There’s something refreshing about honesty. Everyone knows how they stand. The issues are out in the open.

Recently, I’ve been watching an issue involving some misunderstandings. Everyone is dancing around the subject, instead of addressing things head on. It’s a mess.

We are told in God’s Word, “speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ” (Ephesians 4:15, NASB).

We are also instructed, “Let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one.” (Matthew 5:37, NKJV).

Honesty goes a long way toward clearing up issues. The truth comes out on the table for everyone to see, deal with, and hopefully resolve.

“People seem to like my honesty and literalness,” Patrick said during the panel discussion.

He has always been quick to try to resolve issues, and once they’re resolved, he moves on. Gray did the same. Once he communicated how he felt and everyone acknowledged it, he forgot about it.

The Lord calls us to work out issues in honest, honoring ways . . . whether we are upset, or someone is upset with us.

He says, “‘If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother’” (Matthew 16:15, NKJV). He also says, “‘If you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering’” (Matthew 5:23-34, NASB). Sometimes, the best way we can honor the Lord is to show love and respect to others.

I saw a great deal of honesty and sincerity among the autistic panelists. There was no pretense, no attempt to impress. They were simply themselves, and it was beautiful.

Be kind

Lewis, a young man on the panel, broke out into spontaneous applause several times when he thought a panelist mentioned something significant. By the end of the event, he was getting the audience members to do the same.

Hebrews 3:13, NASB, says, “Encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called ‘Today.’” Encouragement certainly flowed freely among the panelists that evening.

Rachel, a spirited young woman on the panel, floated around the room after the discussion and told each panelist what a great job they did. She asked for their emails so she could invite them to IGNITE, a social group for young adults with autism.

These young people understood and accepted one another. They championed one another’s success. There was no competition, no spitefulness, just a genuine respect and desire to see the others succeed.

Jesus said, “‘A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another’” (John 13:34-35, NKJV).

The word love in this verse is agapao. It means unconditional, unrelenting love; a determined goodwill that seeks another’s best interests.

I saw that kind of love in the panelists toward one another. Love and respect with no strings attached. They gave freely to one another and expected nothing in return.

Be welcoming

Prior to that Tuesday evening, the panelists had not met one another. Yet, they welcomed one another with grace and kindness. One panelists flapped his fingers. Another paused and got stuck in communicating her thoughts. It didn’t matter. Each member of the panel was greeted warmly and accepted by the others.

In a society that often builds fences and categorizes people into groups, the young adults on this panel communicated worth and a warm welcome to one another. They did the same with the adults who attended the meeting and wanted to talk with them afterwards.

They reminded me of how Jesus would welcome anyone who came to Him . . . people like the woman at the well (John 4), the Pharisee Nicodemus (John 3), and the tax collector Zaccheus (Luke 19). In fact, He says, “‘Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls’” (Matthew 11:28-29, NASB).

I experienced a great deal of gentleness and humility in the autism panelists. They nodded gently when panelists shared their challenges, and they laughed deeply when they confided amusing stories. They smiled when panelists offered advice or talked about personal accomplishments. They were available to welcome and help others. I could tell they did not view the evening as something about them . . . they were focusing more on being available to the other people there.

I saw them living out Philippians 2:3-4, NASB:  “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.”

I suppose the panel discussion impacted me so much because I saw the traits of Jesus in those young men and that young woman: honesty, kindness, and a welcoming heart. I’m asking the Lord to develop more of those qualities in me. I saw how greatly He can use those qualities through a profound gathering of young autistic adults.

Question: What has the Lord taught you about Himself through observing others? Comment at the link below.

 

Ephesians 4:15; Matthew 5:37; 16:15; 5:23-24; Hebrews 3:13; John 13:34-35; 4; 3; Luke 19; Matthew 11:28-29; Philippians 2:3-4

2 Comments »

Lessons from the Gym

Until recently, I’ve struggled trying to find some kind of exercise that will work for me. I tried walking and running, which I had to stop due to plantar fasciitis. I tried aerobics, which threw out my back—twice. I tried the elliptical and weight lifting, which aggravated my carpal tunnel syndrome.

Geez, I thought. Am I ever going to find the thing that I can do?

A few months ago, my husband came home from the YMCA and announced, “Hey, they’ve got these new rowing machines in the Functional Training Center. You ought to try them. You could row a little on the machine and then run a little on the track upstairs. That way, you won’t stress yourself too much by doing one thing for a long time. And, by the way, they’re having a rowing challenge—to see if anyone can row 50,000 meters by the end of the month. You should sign up for it.”

Well, I tried out the rowing and running, and I loved it. I would row 1,000 meters and run a quarter mile 5 times during my workout. It was mid-month when I started, and I figured out how many days I would need to go to the FTC in order to row 50,000 meters by the end of the month. Despite my physical challenges, I could do the exercise, and I completed the rowing challenge! I have found the thing I can do!

Life is like that. We all search for “our thing”, what God made us to do, the thing that feels right. Above all, He made us for a relationship with Him, that we might truly know Him (Isaiah 43:10) and find abundant and eternal life through Jesus His Son (John 10:10; 3:16). Yet, beyond that, He also made each of us with an eternal purpose in mind (Ephesians 2:10), and He wants each of us to find the thing we can do for His glory (Isaiah 43:7), to bring praise and honor to Him. If we are persistent in finding this thing (Jeremiah 33:3; 29:13), He will lead us to it (Psalm 32:8).

We each have our own race to run.

One day, when I was exercising at the YMCA, I started my brief run around the track and soon came up behind an older man, who was shuffling around the pathway. He struggled to walk, but he was making progress. A few minutes later, the door to the track flung open, and three high school boys emerged. They zipped around the circuit, the floor pounding under their feet.

Each of us was doing our thing at our own pace and rhythm. Hebrews 12:1, NASB, says, “Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,” and it goes on to say how we do that in verse 2: by “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith.”  We don’t need to be comparing ourselves to others and their “things” or their pace; we just need to be doing our thing with Jesus. The joy comes from running our race with Jesus while we do what He created us to do.

We are meant to encourage one another in the great race of life.

While God created each of us for a special purpose (Acts 13:22, 36), with an individual race to run, He also designed us to do our thing in a community of believers, where we can encourage and help one another (Hebrews 10:25).

Just a few weeks ago, my son Patrick began joining me in my exercise routine. He is much stronger than me and totally dominates that rowing machine and track, but we often high five one another as we pass going to and from the track. His boundless smile keeps me going, and his encouraging words lighten the load of the workout. Hebrews 3:13, NASB, says, “Encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called ‘Today’”. That’s what I experience at the gym with my son, and that’s what I experience with God’s people.

Sometimes, when I am rowing at the same time as Patrick, I try to keep up with him, rowing at the same speed, matching his movements. It pushes me to do my best. We can do the same with other Christians. We can learn from their godly examples and try to imitate their example. Paul encouraged this practice when he said, “Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1, NASB). Godly role models and mentors can be a great blessing in our lives. The Lord can use them to inspire us, just like my son inspires me at the YMCA.

Jesus is waiting for us at the finish line.

Sometimes, when I go to do my thing at the gym, my body doesn’t want to cooperate. Fatigue, tired muscles, and even pain sometimes plague me, but it’s all worth it when I finish the workout and feel that sense of physical and emotional accomplishment. Some days, I pray my way through the exercise, asking God to help me finish; other days, I race through the program, thanking the Lord for the strength and exhilaration I feel. Either way, I am doing what He led me to do with Him, and that creates tremendous joy.

An even greater joy awaits all of us who know Jesus. Despite the fact that we face limitations, struggles, heartache, and pain this side of heaven, one truth overarches it all:  Jesus is waiting for us at the finish line, when the “workout” of our earthly lives is over.

It says in 1 Corinthians 9:24, NASB, “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win.” Lots of folks in this world are running after lots of different things, but our prize is Jesus.  We run with, for, and toward Him; as Philippians 3:14, NASB, says, “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

Jesus said, “‘Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also’” (John 14:1-3, NASB).

Much to my surprise, when I completed the rowing challenge at the YMCA, I was awarded a gift card. A YMCA staff member told me I had rowed the largest number of meters. I was dumbfounded. I didn’t even know there was a prize.

Yet, we are told as believers that a prize waits for us—eternity with Jesus. One day, each of us will leave the gym of life and step into eternity.  May each of us be able to say, as Paul did, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith,” knowing . . . “in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing” (2 Timothy 4:7-8, NASB).

See you in the gym!

Question:  How is your “workout” going in the gym of life? How can we pray for you? Comment at the link below.

 

Isaiah 43:10; John 10:10; 3:16; Ephesians 2:10; Isaiah 43:7; Jeremiah 33:3; 29:13; Psalm 32:8; Hebrews 12:1-2; Acts 13:22, 36; Hebrews 10:25; 3:13; 1 Corinthians 11:1; 9:24; Philippians 3:14; John 14:1-3; 2 Timothy 4:7-8

Leave a comment »

For the Weary and Weak Ones

The scripture I discovered on the mat at the YMCA

I had just finished my workout at the J. Fred Corriher YMCA and was stretching on the mat that covered most of the floor in the Functional Training Center.

“Lord, I am so tired today,” I prayed. “Please give me the strength to keep going and to do what You would have me do today.”

I glanced down at the corner of the mat, and I couldn’t believe what I saw!

Handwritten on the corner of the mat were these words: “He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Isaiah 40:29.”

Tears welled up in my eyes, and I whispered, “Thank you, Lord.”

All of us have times when we feel weary and weak, whether it’s physically, emotionally, spiritually, or a combination of the three. In those times, it’s comforting to know the Lord meets us there and personally provides what we need.

The word weary in this context actually means exhausted, fatigued, faint, and tired, while the word weak means lacking vigor [good health, energy, enthusiasm], generative power [relating to or capable of production or reproduction], wealth, or physical strength. These words focus on the energy and influence of our lives, and Isaiah 40:29 tells us that God supplies what we need to keep going and to have an impact for His kingdom in this world. Here are some of the ways He does it:

Through an encounter with His people.

This past Sunday, I had a heavy burden about something. I felt worn out and sad. A good friend of mine just happened to slip into the balcony and sit right beside me in the church pew. A gifted soloist later sang a song about trusting God, and the tears started flowing down my cheeks. My friend put her arms around me and just let me cry. It was as if the Lord, Himself, was holding me.

I believe that’s one of the reasons Hebrews 10:25 tells us to never stop meeting with other believers and to always encourage one another—because we can experience the love of Jesus in one another. “We love, because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19, NASB). I attend a weekly ladies Bible study group, and we share about the things that make us feel weary and weak. Last week, I shared about my current burden, and those ladies loved and encouraged me and gave me strength to keep going.

Jesus said, “‘A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another’” (John 13:34-35, NASB). The love and encouragement from other members of God’s family can help us to keep going when we feel, as they say in the South, “slap worn out.”

Through an encounter with His Word.

That scripture on the gym floor spoke volumes to me. God’s Word is alive (Hebrews 4:12), and the Holy Spirit ministers it to our weary hearts and strengthens them (John 6:63).

We are told His Word “sustains the weary,” and the Lord desires to instruct us in it every day (Isaiah 50:4, NASB). The Word of God revives us and strengthens us  (Psalm 119:25, 28), and it is often in these weary and weak places that we discover new treasures from the scriptures than bless us for the rest of our lives (Psalm 119:71-72). I have been meditating on Isaiah 40:29 lately, and it is going deep into my heart. I know the Holy Spirit will bring it up again whenever I need it for the rest of my life (John 14:26).

Through an encounter with His Son.

Jesus said, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:28-29, NASB). He was talking about receiving what He did for us (solving our sin problem), and giving our lives over to Him, letting Him lead and take care of us.

Personally, I find I get most tired when I slip into thinking I need to do everything in my own strength. Yet, Philippians 4:13, NASB, says, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” The “Him” is Jesus. He gives us the strength and power to go through our daily lives—no matter what might come—and make an impact for His kingdom.

The Lord says, “‘I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand’” (Isaiah 41:10, NASB). We receive a new strength through our relationship with the Lord. His presence invigorates us and empowers us to keep going. As it says in Isaiah 40:30-31, NASB, “Though youths grow weary and tired, and vigorous young men stumble badly, yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary.”

Jesus shows up. In His people, in His Word, and in His presence, which lives inside us in the form of the Holy Spirit (John 7:39; Acts 1:8). It’s through Jesus’ presence in us that He “is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20, NASB).

That’s because in the end, it’s all about His capabilities and not ours.  We discover in our weariness and weakness that “the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves” (2 Corinthians 4:7, NASB). He tells us, “‘I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint’” (Jeremiah 31:25, NIV). Hopefully, others will see Him working in the midst of our weariness and weakness and be drawn to Him too. We can all look for Him and know He will be there when we find ourselves down on the mat.

Question:  Are you feeling weary and weak today? Comment at the link below, and tell us how we can pray for you.

 

Isaiah 40:29; Hebrews 10:25; 1 John 4:19; John 13:34-35; Hebrews 4:12; John 6:63; Isaiah 50:4; Psalm 119:25, 28, 71-72; John 14:26; Matthew 11:28-29; Philippians 4:13; Isaiah 41:10; Isaiah 40:30-31; John 7:39; Acts 1:8; Ephesians 3:20; 2 Corinthians 4:7; Jeremiah 31:25

2 Comments »

Lessons from the Hummingbird

Sarah and the hummingbird

“Mom, I found a hummingbird on the floor of the garage, and I think it’s hurt,” my daughter Sarah said.

I scurried out the back door and down the steps as Sarah crouched over the tiny bird. Its legs were all tangled up in some sort of string or webbing, and its chest was heaving in and out with irregular movements.

Sarah gently removed the string-like material from its legs.

“It probably is weak from not eating,” I said. “Hummingbirds have high metabolisms, and they need to feed very frequently.”

Sarah scurried off to the kitchen to make some hummingbird nectar. I watched in amazement as she dipped her little finger into the bright red liquid and held a tiny drop up to the delicate bird’s slender beak. I was even more surprised when a sliver-like tongue curled out the bird’s mouth and began drinking the ruby-colored fluid. This process continued for an hour and a half. Then, very carefully, Sarah scooped the beautiful creature into her hands, stepped outside the garage, and raised her cupped hands to the sky. The hummingbird flew off into the distance.

Watching Sarah with that fragile winged beauty reminded me of how the Lord so lovingly cares for each of us.

The Lord stays with us

We all have times when we feel broken. The disturbing diagnosis. The terrifying newscast. The broken relationship. The financial crisis. The heartbreaking loss. When these times hit, we feel like that limp bird on the floor of the garage, weak, vulnerable, and struggling to survive.

In the midst of it all, we can rely on this truth: “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18, NASB). When we feel numb and broken, He carries us like a loving father carries his son through the wilderness (Deuteronomy 1:31). He promises to never leave or forsake us (Joshua 1:5).

“He will feed His flock like a shepherd. He will carry the lambs in His arms, holding them close to His heart. He will gently lead the mother sheep with their young” (Isaiah 40:11, NLT). Whatever we are facing, we never face it alone. The Lord is always with us (Matthew 28:20). Like the little hummingbird, we are safe in a loving Hand every day of our lives, even those days when we feel overwhelmed and weak

The Lord gives us what we need

In those especially difficult places, the Lord feeds us and helps us grow stronger, just like my daughter did for the little bird. We are told in Psalm 23:1, NLT, “The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need.” The New Testament says it this way: “And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from His glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19, NLT).

Because He loves us, He takes care of us. When the prophet Elijah was terrified and exhausted, the Lord gave him food and water and encouraged him to rest (1 Kings 19:1-8). The Lord knows what each of us needs in our current circumstances, and He provides those things for us. We are told, “He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might He increases strength” (Isaiah 40:29, NLT).

He also says, “‘Do not fear, for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand’” (Isaiah 41:10, NASB). The right hand is the hand of power and authority; in other words, He has the power and authority to provide everything and anything we need. He rained down bread from heaven for the Israelites so they had food every day of the 40 years they wandered in the wilderness. He is able to give us our daily bread too (Matthew 6:11)

The Lord helps us to fly

After our seasons of brokenness, after we have spent time in His presence and experienced His provision, He lifts us up to the sky and enables us to fly.

He promises us, “Yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary” (Isaiah 40:31, NASB). The idea of waiting on the Lord involves waiting confidently and expectantly, trusting in Him, relying on Him. We grow stronger in that place, and He equips us to soar to new heights with Him.

We discover in that place that He is “the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4, NASB). In other words, not only does the Lord help us to fly with Him above and beyond our difficulties, but He also equips us in the process to help others to do the same.

My daughter’s encounter with the hummingbird happened many years ago, but I still remember the truths the Lord taught me through it. May you experience His presence, provision, and power to fly wherever you are today. The Lord is faithful, and He will help you to soar!

Question: How has the Lord helped you to fly? Comment at the link below

Psalm 34:18; Deuteronomy 1:31; Joshua 1:5; Isaiah 40:11; Matthew 28:20; Psalm 23:1; Philippians 4:19; 1 Kings 19:1-8; Isaiah 40:29; Isaiah 41:10; Matthew 6:11; Isaiah 40:31; 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

4 Comments »