What a Roller Coaster Ride with my Autistic Son Taught Me about My Heavenly Father

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“Connor understands more than he lets on.” If I’ve heard that once I’ve heard it 1000 times. I believe it’s true. Autism might have left my son’s world silent but his mind is very active. People who spend any time interacting with him soon come to realize that there’s a lot going on upstairs.

But how much does he really understand? How much can he comprehend of this world around him? That’s always a big concern for us and it was in the forefront of our minds when we took Connor and Grace to Holiday World a few weeks ago. Continue reading

What Easter Eggs Taught Me About Easter

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I have to admit; I put off Easter as long as possible. Back when we first got married, Trish and I decided that the focus of Easter would be nothing more than the resurrection of Christ. There would be no bunnies, no eggs, no Easter grass, no marshmallow peeps and no chocolate eggs (ok…maybe some chocolate eggs).

Then we actually had kids—Megan to be exact. When she was two years old, Megan came home from the sitter’s with stories about eggs and bunnies and all manner of strange things that she didn’t quite understand. I finally decided that if we were creative enough about it we might be able to focus on God’s gift through Christ as well as have some fun with a dozen eggs and some cheap dye. All in all, it worked out very well.

Megan “helped” by supervising that year. She carefully watched as I dipped each egg in a different color—calling each color by its correct name. She kept an eye on them while they dried and then carefully helped me place each egg in the basket we had bought. For the next couple of days she watched those eggs like a mother hen, not really with a sense of expectation but a sense of pride for what she had helped accomplish.Eastern eggs

Easter Sunday came and we were busy with church and family dinner and all manner of activities. When we finally got back home I saw that the kitchen needed to be cleaned up so I started stacking dishes, putting away the clean ones and getting the dirty ones ready to be washed. The Easter basket, still full of eggs, had been left on the kitchen table, so I carefully placed it on the counter out of my way—or so I thought.

That’s when it happened. After putting away several clean dishes I turned to my side, bumped the basket with my elbow and knocked it to the floor. The eggs hit with a dozen dull “thuds.” Every one of them was cracked, broken, ruined.

I’m still convinced that under better circumstances I could have fixed them. I’m pretty good with tape and Superglue. Maybe some White-Out and colored markers would do it. Unfortunately Megan was standing right there when they hit. She saw the whole thing. There was no way to hide my mistake.

That’s when a two year old taught me about Easter. I expected tears, I expected screams and I expected loud accusations that would lead to expensive hours on a therapist’s couch for years to come. Instead, she looked up at me and said, “It’s ok, Daddy.”

And something deep inside me said, “That’s Easter.” We’ve made a mess of our lives. We’re broken beyond repair—no amount of tape and glue can put it back together. What’s worse is we did it all right in front of God’s eyes. He saw the whole thing, there’s no way to hide it. He could yell, he could scream, he could wipe us out in a heartbeat for the mess we’ve made, but instead he sent his son to bear our mistakes and sins on the cross. The death he died is the death we deserved, but Easter is there to remind us “it’s ok.”

The penalty has been paid, the mess has been cleaned up, and Jesus Christ has risen!

For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God.

1 Peter 1:18-23

The Martian and the Cross

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I picked up a copy of The Martian the other day. It’s a gripping novel that’s soon to be released as a movie. Several friends recommended I read the book first and—true to their endorsements—I couldn’t put it down!

The Martian tells the story of astronaut Mark Watney who gets left behind on Mars after a storm forces his fellow astronauts to abandon the red planet. Everyone thinks Watney is dead but he survives by luck and his own ingenuity. Being a mechanical engineer and botanist he sets about the work of making his home habitable for him and the few plants he can grow.

There are a few references to God here and there in but the book concentrates mostly on Watney’s scientific knowledge and his spirited attitude for survival. There was one portion of the book though that made me stop and think.

themartian

Watney needed water to survive. Without it he would die. Finding water on Mars was impossible, but he had brought the two ingredients he needed to make his own: oxygen and hydrogen. However, combining them would require combustion and NASA—true in the novel and true in life—designs their spacecraft without any combustible material. A lesson learned in the tragedy of Apollo 1.

It’s at that point that Watney finds a small wooden cross that had been brought along by a fellow astronaut who was a devout Catholic. It’s the only piece of wood available on Mars. Watney carves off a part of the cross and uses it as a make-shift match to ignite his oxygen/hydrogen fire and save his life.

“I chipped his sacred religious item into long splinters using a pair of pliers and a screwdriver. I figure if there’s a God, He won’t mind, considering the situation I’m in.”

Whether the author knew it or not, he presented The Martian with the only means of survival that anyone on earth has—the cross of Jesus Christ.

Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 1:18, “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” In order for us to be saved God’s Son had to be broken on the cross. The sacredness of his sinless body splintered, broken and bleeding. It’s our only means of survival.

There are moments right here on earth when we feel as hopeless and alone as Mark Watney on Mars. The good news of Jesus Christ is God has entered our lives with our only means of survival—our only source of hope. And he paid for it with the blood of His Son spilled on the cross of Calvary.

For he was crucified in weakness, but lives by the power of God. For we also are weak in him, but in dealing with you we will live with him by the power of God.

2 Corinthians 13:4

Bump Ahead

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I was traveling an unfamiliar road a few weeks ago. Being in Illinois, it was straight and flat enough, but the road hadn’t been paved in some time. It was in bad need of repair. At one particular point in the trip I noticed a yellow caution sign on the side of the road. As I got closer I read it. “Bump.”

They weren’t kidding! Potholes covered the next several feet as huge chunks of asphalt were missing. I guess I should have been more appreciative of the warning sign but still I wondered, why didn’t they just fix the road?

2949380-bump+1I don’t know much about road maintenance, but I’m pretty sure that putting up a sign is cheaper than putting down new asphalt. All you have to do is get a sign and put it up in the right spot. It becomes incumbent upon the driver to read the sign and respond accordingly.

If there’s any real cost it’s to the driver that doesn’t heed the warning—they’ll be responsible for the blown tire or messed up suspension.

We are sometimes like those old roads. Over time we develop our trouble spots. Maybe it’s a little bitterness here, a hurt feeling there. Maybe there are potholes in our character. Potholes like gossip or envy or jealousy. These spots need to be repaired and it takes a lot of work. It just becomes easier for us to put up “Bump” signs.

You’ve seen those kind of “Bump” signs, right? Usually they’re whispered to us by others who made the mistake of not recognizing them. “Don’t bring up politics with him.” “Don’t talk to her about forgiveness.” “Make sure you stay on his good side.”

And if we miss the “Bump” sign the only real expense is to the person who didn’t see it. Their feelings, their relationships, their confidence, their joy.

I can’t help but notice that Jesus didn’t have any “Bump” signs, and therefore his followers shouldn’t have them either. Instead we’re called to repair those rough spots in our lives with Christ-like character. We pave the potholes of our hearts with the fruit of the Spirit; love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).

We mend the bridges of our relationships with the peace, love and forgiveness that Paul tells us of in Colossians 3:13-15. “Bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.”

The beautiful thing about these repairs is that Jesus isn’t just the Great Physician, he’s the Great Road Commissioner! Philippians 2:12-13 tells us, “Work out your own salvation (that is, live like you’re saved) with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and work for his good pleasure.”

God’s not in the business of putting up “Bump” signs. He’s in the business of making you just like Jesus. It’s time to tear down the “Bump” signs and let God get to work.

The Krispy Kreme Experience

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krispykremeexperience1Scott Livengood is passionate about his job, but why shouldn’t he be? He’s the CEO of Krispy Kreme Doughnuts. If you’ve ever gone to a grocery or convenience store that sells Krispy Kremes, you might be a little passionate about them too. However, if you’ve never been to an actual Krispy Kreme Doughnuts store, you’re missing out on something!

As Livengood puts it, “We don’t sell doughnuts; we sell a doughnut experience.” Walk into the store and you’re senses are immediately overpowered. The first thing that hits you is the smell. That’s not too unusual though, you’ve probably been around bakeries and smelled fresh doughnuts before. The next thing you notice is the sight. Instead of hiding their doughnut making equipment somewhere in the back, the “Doughnut Theater” as they call it is right before your eyes, behind glass.

You watch as the raw dough on conveyor belts is shaped, fried, flipped, fried some more, and then passes through the amazing “glaze curtain” before entering the display case. Finally, when you take your nose off the glass and actually buy a doughnut, you get the sensation of it hot and fresh in your hand and a taste that simply can’t be had from a box you buy anywhere else.

Trust me, Krispy Kremes in a box at the local gas station might taste great, but they simply don’t compare to that total “doughnut experience.”

Forgive the comparison, but sometimes I wonder if we haven’t bought a prepackaged “God in a box” instead of having an actual “God experience.” I wonder about those who “get religion” only to later grow cold and lose interest. Did they only stumble upon one aspect of God or did they find their whole being immersed in him?

Maybe some of us stumble across the love of God and respond to it because we feel a lack of love, but we never begin to experience him in his holiness. Maybe we find ourselves moved by the worship experience but never even think of what the impact of offering our time and energy in service to him could be. Maybe some enjoy the fellowship of the church and the building of relationships with other people but never dig deep into the word of God to anchor themselves in a relationship with him.

I love what the Bible tells us in Psalm 34:8, Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him! God’s call isn’t just to taste—to experience him one way—but to see as well. He calls us to immerse ourselves in him and find his touch in every aspect of our lives.

Henry Blackaby, in his classic book, Experiencing God put it this way, “You will never be satisfied just to know about God. Really knowing God only comes through experience as he reveals himself to you.” Maybe you’re not in church anymore because you tried that and it didn’t work. But maybe instead of trying “that” you need to try God.

“Taste and See.”