Tuesday, December 31, 2013

God Has Autism Too or Why Churches Need to Minister to and With Special Needs Adults

God has autism. 

Why?

God is perfectionistic. He created a perfect world. His work was perfect. Then He created these people. Who flubbed up the perfection. 

So God had a meltdown. He punished the people who messed up the perfection. 

People kept screwing up and things got more flubbed up. So God had another meltdown. This time He flooded the whole earth and started over again after He calmed down enough to be more reasonable. 

But God still was not happy. It just was not the same ever again.

So God sent Jesus. 

Now here's the clencher: Jesus was no ordinary baby. Nor was He any ordinary man.

And churches who mess up in this might want to repent sooner than later because the end result will not be good for them.

Many churches do not minister to or with special needs individuals or their families. Particularly adults with special needs. 

This is a very sad reality. 

Anyone who has read earlier posts on here know what I just dealt with with one such church. 

I have been praying that they will see their mistakes before they hurt more people like me. 

If ever there was a more compelling reason for them to repent and try to repair the damage they caused me, and for that matter, a more compelling reason for them and really for EVERY church to minister to and with special needs children AND adults, here it is:

Most of Jesus' life ministry was spent healing the deaf, healing the blind, healing the leper, healing the woman with a bleeding issue. Jesus even said how you treat the least of these is how you treat Him (Matthew 25). And He basically said if you treat them fair and treat them well, then you treat Him fair and well and you will be a sheep. BUT, conversely, if you hurt them, you hurt Him and you will be a goat sent to the fire. He is talking about churches too as the churches are simply comprised of people. So, if your church doesn't minister to and with children AND adults with special needs and instead does what that church did to me, you might need to do one of two things:

1. Go to your leadership and talk to them and even complain and protest. 
2. Run far away from that church for failing to actually do the work of Jesus.

Because here's the thing: Jesus not only did or encouraged foreign missions, but He also did and encouraged special needs ministry. And if a church is lacking either of these things, then it is not really following Jesus at all, now is it? 

Don't get me wrong. I know some churches will claim that they just don't have the resources or the people to volunteer or the people who need it. WRONG WRONG WRONG. 

Let me take, no offense, but just because I am more familiar with them, so let me take Oak Mountain for example.

Excuse 1: Don't have the resources.

Wrong. 

Oak Mountain has over 2500 people by now. It is also in a predominantly affluent area. With the new campaign it is launching, some of the allocation or reallocation of funds can include special needs ministry to both children and adults? The focus is too much on the children. This fails to remember that children with special needs grow up to be adults who still have special needs. But in a church that size or larger, if the excuse is not having the resources, I would be more concerned that they are misappropriating some of the resources rather than that they truly don't have the resources.

Excuse 2: Don't have the people to volunteer.

Wrong.

Oak Mountain never asked. They never expressed the need. Therefore they do not have because they did not ask. If they would announce the need, they would have people who would step up. I know. Because I met several who are interested. But they have not been asked nor have they been made aware of the need. Why? Because as I have experienced, their leaders treat autism as though it is a sin which also means they treat God as though God is a sinner. Read some of my previous posts for clarity on that comment. 

Excuse 3: Don't have the people who need it.

Wrong.

I needed it and still need it. With autism diagnosis rates in children being 1 in 88 and 1 in 50 between ages 6 and 17, and adults being unaccounted for, a church the size of Oak Mountain definitely has the people who need it. And that's just autism! ADHD, ODD, OCD, dyslexia, Down Syndrome, Tourette's, SPD, MR, LD are others that can benefit. I read a statistic last night that bothered me as I have been made a statistic as a result of what they did to me: 95% of families with special needs are unchurched. A smaller percent (55%) was also given. If this excuse is used, I would be more concerned about why this is the case than about this being the case. Why? In my case, I was bullied and abused, more so after the diagnosis of autism came to their attention. And even the offending party (Tom) admitted that to my mom (the only truth he told her). We met others with similar stories with regard to the exact same church. Which means that they are literally doing something wrong. RUN people. Because that is NOT what Jesus would want. 

Why do I write this though? Because right now, believe it or not, bringing it to public light is the most gracious thing I can do under the circumstances. Because someone out there might read this and finally say aha! and might be able to call foul and help correct the wrong. Because no church deserves to be in a position that Jesus would deem as goat. Because every church deserves a chance to do right and repair damage they magnified or caused. Because every church deserves a chance to do better. And because these principles apply to EVERY church. 

Wake up churches! You're hurting people more than you understand right now. You're pushing them away from God rather than drawing them to God. 

By the way, I am a millennial with autism. Double whammy. Churches! Do you want to know how to effectively minister to people like me? Talk to me! 

I challenge each person reading this to evaluate his or her own church though and see if you can identify some of the things I pointed out here. Then do one of those two things. But if you talk and they still refuse, I would suggest running and warning others who would be negatively impacted as well. 

I would rather that NO church be like that with anyone. And the fact a church was like that to me at all is sad and gives me much grief. But grace is winning right now and telling me to give them one last chance to correct things before they can do more harm. They can choose to take advantage of this moment and reach out. Or the alternative is one I cannot fathom right now because it is even worse. 

My hunch is that the reason Jesus has a special place and consideration for people with special needs is because He knows that these are often the people who cannot even defend themselves against a world that can be so mean and cold. And since EVERY person alive is an image bearer of the Creator, then if a child or adult has autism or any of the countless other conditions that I named or even didn't name, then to some degree, God has those characteristics too. Because here's the ultimate deal: Anyone who actually gets to know me for me knows that I am creative, loving, caring, compassionate, loyal, real, honest, and sometimes even funny because I see the world differently. And the thing is, many of my characteristics are also ones that God has! And it's the same with any of us special needs people. If a church rejects us, it essentially also rejects God because we are also God's children. 

I know some of you may be scratching your heads some after this. GOOD! See the comment box below? Use it! Because I want this post to be conversational and to result in conversations. It needs to. And if you follow me on YouTube, keep an eye out for a similar video soon. 

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Modern Christmas

God via text:

Hey Gabriel. I need you to do something for me.

Gabriel via text:

Yeah, what do You need?

God via text:

Go tell Mary she's to give birth to my Son.

Gabriel via text:

Okay. Consider it done.

--------------------------------------------

Gabriel appears on Mary's computer screen. Mary gasps.

Gabriel:

Mary, do not be afraid for I come to you in peace. You are the chosen one. You are to give birth to a child. His name shall be called Emmanuel, Jesus. He is God's Son.

Mary: 

Hunh? But how can this be? I've never even been with a man. I am engaged, but we have never known each other intimately. 

Gabriel:

Just trust.

--------------------------------------------

Mary picks up the phone:

Joseph? Honey, I need to tell you something.

Joseph: 

What's up?

Mary:

We're going to have a child. He's God's Son. But we're going to raise Him together.

Joseph: 

Um.... Mary...?

Mary hangs up.

---------------------------------------------

Joseph texts his friend:

You got a minute?

Friend:

Yeah, what's up?

Joseph:

Just a minute.

Joseph via FaceTime:

Mary just told me we're expecting. It's God's Son. I don't know whether to go through the wedding now or not?

Friend:

Go for it man. You should feel honored man.

----------------------------------------------

Joseph:

Hey Mary, we have to go to Bethlehem for the census. But Bethlehem Travel's website says there might not be any rooms available.

Mary:

That's okay. I'm sure we'll find something.

---------------------------------------------

Joseph and Mary at the third inn:

Sir, surely you have something? Mary's about to pop. We cannot continue any further.

Innkeeper:

Well, there is the stable.

Joseph:

We'll take it!

---------------------------------------------

The wise men receive the text alert on their phones:

The newborn king of kings has arrived! His name is Jesus.

The wise men look at each other. All three: 

He's cute!!!

1: Let's go!
2: Yeah!
3: Siri?
Siri: Yes?
3: Set route for Bethlehem. Stable. Under the star.
Siri: Here you go.

-------The End--------

Christmas Wishes

1. Health. My ear drums to heal (maybe before three months) and hearing to be restored. If the hearing improves, then it will be worth having the tubes removed as long as I stay infection free. Also for the oral surgery this Tuesday to go well.

2. The decision from court. It has been significantly delayed.

3. Improved financial health for the family.

4. An attorney. The reality is that after all the more gracious attempts to give Tom Patton the opportunity to do the biblical and Christian thing, II Corinthians 13:11 - "Aim for restoration" and enter biblical conciliation, he refused. And the thing his, he spread lies and false accusations that have caused real damages, not only emotionally but also financially with regard to my reputation and my relationships in the community at large. So I have chosen to do the next most gracious thing I can do which in this case is to pursue legal action in order to seek the justice I deserve and to hold him accountable for his lies. According to the scripture, Mr. Patton no longer even qualifies to be in the position of a pastor because he is no longer "above reproach." I have already submitted a complaint to higher authority and am anxiously awaiting the time they address it and hopefully form whatever investigative committees are necessary in order to either seek the whole truth about he and Oak Mountain put me in some stupid box and broke all the biblical rules to create and break their own rules from there, and most importantly, to deal with his lies because he either lied to me, my mom, the person who can verify that he had no justification to break his promise or compromise regarding Facebook, the advocate, and the therapist I no longer have and cannot replace due to the severe lack of services for adults with autism who were not already established clients with the people who provide the therapy I need OR he lied to the guy who was trying to get him to do the right thing to enter biblical conciliation. Either way, he lied. What he told me and everyone else is that his job was threatened just for being my friend just because as he had admitted the church was wrong in how it handled things with regard to me and as a result I asked the higher authority for help because it was clear that yet again the church leadership was going to fail to do what it should have done to start with. 

The people who are in some more expert positions and know more about the workings of the PCA and how it should work have had issues with the way Oak Mountain leadership have been treating me. And to be honest, it is outright abusive, evidences bullying, disregards scripture and the Book of Church Order, and needs to be brought to the attention of the public. Their leadership has been corrupted and it is corrupting the entire church. Their leadership is abusing people who are different, treating people with special needs as though their conditions are a sin (by the way, remember how Jesus explained to the disciples that the blind man was not blind because of sins committed, but Oak Mountain treats people with autism as though the autism itself is a sin which if autism is a sin, then according to Oak Mountain, God is a sinner which cannot be, but that's how they are acting). Look aroun on a given Sunday morning. Do you see anyone, other than people with physical handicaps, who have mental challenges, Down syndrome, autism, Tourette's, ADHD, etc. If not, then you need to ask yourself why and ask them why. And push for the truth. And then see what they do. The thing is Oak Mountain leadership does not like the truth. Truth to them is apparently like kryptonite to Superman. It is scary. Yet church is supposed to be safe and honest. Yeah. I see one of my friends points: Oak Mountain puts its politics over people's hearts and forgot how to truly minister to them. And that's sad. But also true. 

The good shepherd will leave the 99 to go after the 1 who is lost or hurt. Yet the shepherds at Oak Mountain will actually abandon any who are lost or hurt and stay with the ones who are not. Yes, I just used Mr. Patton's excuse to abandon the friendship instead of doing the right thing and entering conflict resolution in accordance with Matthew 18 against him. I'm not sorry for doing that either because it further evidences that he is in direct violation of scriptures. Matthew 25, Jesus separates them into sheep and goats, if you hurt the least of these, you hurt Him. That passage makes me afraid for the people at Oak Mountain because of how the leadership has treated me and the others my mom has met who have also been hurt by them for similar situations as my own. 

I make a promise to whoever reads this though and I would ask that this be put forth by them:

IF, and ONLY if, Mr. Patton will agree to talk with me and to me directly and IF, and ONLY if, the church leadership will agree to ONE meeting with me, and BOTH conditions MUST be met and the meetings or conversations do not have to be before Christmas but must have been scheduled for immediately after the holidays by Christmas, THEN I will not pursue legal action against Mr. Patton or anyone else from the church. If not, then I will continue to seek justice. At this point though, I cannot nor will I retract any complaints to higher authority UNLESS Mr. Patton talks with me directly before Christmas and tells me the truth and either enters restoration or gives me true closure. 

Here's the catch that could get Oak Mountain in trouble: The leadership NEVER enacted church discipline with me. Then it did some document that stated that if I didn't sign, I agreed to be limited to Sunday morning worship and missions conference only. Then it said in the same document that Mr. Patton swore neither of us were subject to if I terminated my membership this allowing him to be friends with me which he evidenced wanting more than me but in hindsight he could be cited for abuse by certain outside parties based on certain things he did, but I never thought him to be abusive except in one area and I viewed him more like a father figure (which I need back at least on Facebook) than a friend), but that same document which THEY signed stated that if I was out of bounds that the church session must and will engage in official church discipline. 

We have requested any minutes regarding any action against me for the record. They have not provided them. We will try again with the notation that it is because complaint was filed with a higher court. 

My concern is that the membership, not the leadership, is correct. Church discipline has not been done because I have not done anything to warrant or justify it. If that's true, them the church leadership is wrong and has done things inappropriately and need to be brought under disciplinethemselves. If that's not true, then the church leadership must engage in proper church discipline in accordance with Matthew 18 and the Book of Church Order. If it begins the process before January, then I can withdraw the complaint. If not, the complaint remains. 

If church discipline is done correctly, then it is a very redemptive process. If it is not done correctly or not done at all, then it is destructive, not only to the hearts of the victims of the abuse, but to those around them. 

That grace that Oak Mountain seems so find of? Where is it now? Because grace would dictate that Mr. Patton and I talk and that Oak Mountain leaders do the correct thing and meet with me. Period. As things stand now, there is no grace at Oak Mountain, never has been, and never will be. And Mr. Patton and its leaders are the worst offenders. 

But wait, I am requesting, again, a meeting with at least him and am offering, again, to void pursuit of action if he does talk to me. Wait a minute. Isn't that GRACE? Because TRUE grace dictates that I at least offer the opportunity for the offender to correct himself with regard to the offense against me. 

Ultimately, this wish is not so much for an attorney which is more of a need, but for restoration. Biblical restoration of a valuable relationship, at least on Facebook. 

I should be getting ready for church now, but wait, I can't. Because Oak Mountain leaders are corrupt and abusive and bullied me and incorrectly punished me over a misunderstanding that they refuses to resolve and failure to properly execute scriptural mandates and said I could never come back because they didn't want to handle things according to scripture but instead broke their own contracts and rules that said I could attend. And because of Mr. Patton and because of the corrupt leadership, I no longer have the desire to try anymore church anywhere because I'm too afraid that I'll get hurt again just because I have autism and am different. And because as it turns out, apparently Oak Mountain is NOT a true church since it blatantly disregards truth and blatantly violates scripture. And I dare Mr. Patton and the leadership to prove me wrong by scheduling a meeting with me. Seriously. I dare them to prove me wrong. Because based on my experience, I am correct. And I am disheartened by their abuses. 

5. For oppression of the least of these, including me, to stop. For more churches to accept people with special needs, including adults like me. Period. And if the existing churches won't do it, then for church plants to do it. Because in Birmingham area alone, we need that. We aren't being ministered to or with. We're being hurt and abused and bullied. And I'm tired of it. And so is everyone else. Because we're all seeking, but not finding. 

That's it. And I know number 4 is confusing because I am hurt and confused. And I need answers. Honest answers. And Mr. Patton is the only one who can give them to me. And he knows that. 

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Sadness

I am sad that despite of efforts of many people to bring about Biblical conflict resolution that all the efforts were turned down. More sad that he has continued to spread lies about me. Sad that not once did they ever handle things correctly. Sad that they outright bullied and abused me, more so after they learned I have autism. Sad that churches are not the safe places they should be. Sad that a church that talks so much about grace doesn't actually practice it. Sad that corrupt leaders stand up in front and talk about grace while hypocritically never actually do grace. I tried II Corinthians 13:11 and I tried Matthew 18 with regard to conflict. And they retaliated. I am sad that I now have no other choice but to pursue legal recourse. I never wanted to have to resort to that, but the lies have cost me far too much and they can no longer be tolerated. It is with much grief that I write this. Much sadness. And to think, all it would have taken was for him to talk with me and we truly would not be where we are now. It is just a handful of people who will be named. These people, including him, will be named in the case. The fact that they broke all the rules, even the very ones that they made, is what I find to be the worst. Well, second only to his lies. 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Offer of Good Faith

I publicly make this offer of good faith and it is now up to him to make amends beyond this. I have tried to extend the very grace that was not extended to me. But if Tom Patton will reinstate Facebook by December 10 (he made a compromise then ended up breaking his end without justification even though I had in fact kept my end until after he broke his end) and have ONE conversation so we can clear the air, then I will retract, delete, and even apologize for the things I have said since he broke the compromise and broke the biggest and most important promise he has ever made to me. 

The thing is, he has spread falsehoods about me, and it has cost me dearly, not only with the church which has also spread some falsehoods via misinterpretation or misunderstanding, but in the community at large. However, if he reinstates me and talks with me so I can get the answers I need that only he can provide, nothing further will happen and despite the fact that I have only posted the truth, I will retract and delete it. 

We have tried to extend grace to them and they have not done the same for me. 

Right now, the most gracious thing I could do has been done and is being done. I didn't want to do it, but Tom broke his end of the compromise without justification and without explanation, so I had to do it. Not out of retaliation, but out of love. 

The most gracious thing he or that church leadership could do and should do right now is to place me under the proper order of church discipline. Believe it or not. But I am tired of them not doing what is biblically correct and acting against the BCO.

Tom could very well have said okay let's talk. He could very well of left the friendship intact on Facebook, and I would not have had to go to the proper authority about it. He could have done that and I would have never have had to report it. But he didn't. So I did.

Where is the grace? The mercy? The justice? The love? The forgiveness? 

When Tom broke the compromise, he repeated the pain I suffered when my own birth father disowned me. And it's a pain that I can NEVER recover from. 

NOTHING dictated that he sever the Facebook friendship. I had done everything right. I didn't do anything to warrant it. I kept my end of the compromise. I have witnesses. But he still broke the compromise. As a result, the truth came out.

When the shepherd lost just one sheep, he left the others to go in search of it. That's what a true shepherd does. But Tom threw the sheep under the bus. He then spread falsehoods about it. And to make things worse, he then threw it out the window. The sheep has been battered and abused. And Jesus has been hurt because this particular sheep has a handicap. 

Jesus is unwelcome in that place because one of the least of these was bullied. Instead of sticking up for what is right, and Tom knew what is right and acknowledged their wrong, he joined the bullies. It saddens me. 

When leaders don't apply scriptures equally and repeatedly target an individual and bully and abuse the individual, they bring down the entire organization to a very dark and corrupt level that God cannot stand. 

Power. It's often a power hunger that causes it. There are a lot of interesting articles pertaining to the bullies of church leadership. 

Abuse. When instead of exercising the biblical principles of conflict resolution, they either ignore it or do what they did to me, that's corruption as well. Often also due to being power hungry.

Destruction of friendships. Power hungry bullies who want to control everyone under them will do what it takes to destroy relationships. They are usually jealous of the friendships. 

But here's my prayer:

That Tom and I do get the needed meeting and that the Facebook friendship will be restored. 

That somehow a meeting with the church will take place so that all the misunderstandings which were made abundantly clear by Tom's own actions can be cleared. 

Grace is a beautiful thing once you start grasping it and desiring what I want and need like this. I just wish they would extend the grace they say they believe in. 

Justice. It's definitely a desire for justice. And justice by the world's standards say that I should forget trying to extend grace to Tom or even them and just bring action. But justice by God's standards say that I am to extend grace. What grace looks like right now is exactly what I am doing, have been doing since he broke the compromise, and will continue to do until things are made right. 

Holiday hope. It's all I got right now. 

Sunday, November 24, 2013

A Corrupt Leadership Makes an Equally Corrupt Church

In this particular case, ONLY THREE correct scenarios exist:

1. Neither Tom nor I are subject to the document presented last year IF they truly removed my name from membership. At this point, because I never received any written notification that it was done, I honestly do not know. But if that is the case, and if they did, then neither Tom nor I are subject to any of the restrictions. Now it's a matter of Tom doing the RIGHT thing and engaging in II Corinthians 13:11 with me so we can restore a friendship that NEVER should have suffered from the corruption.

2. Tom and I can have restricted friendship (FB only) AND I can attend Sunday worship as per the document they threw back up. Again, I have NOTHING else in writing saying I cannot do that.

3. The church session MUST enact official church discipline. When church discipline is done correctly in accordance with scripture and the BCO, it is a VERY REDEMPTIVE process.

ANYTHING outside of these three parameters is supposed to be delivered via an action of the session and followed by official written notification.

Tom's incorrect actions have made him as corrupt as the rest of the leadership. And a corrupt leadership makes for a corrupt church. A corrupt church is NOT something God can tolerate. Look at how he handled those corrupt churches in scripture. He was NOT very kind to them or their members. 

Because of Tom's actions, unless he opens his eyes and his heart and does the RIGHT thing, I have to seek justice by the world's view of how one goes about getting the justice he/she deserves.

But it is my heart' sprayer and desire to not need to resort to that.

Here's another reality:

Member or not, the BCO defines my current situation as being still under the jurisdiction of the session on which Tom sits. That means that the above scenarios are the ONLY correct scenarios that can truly exist.

Sadly, also according to the BCO, in chapter 34, the presbytery is responsible for handling complaints against ministers. 

This week's agenda in effort to restore peace and purity to an already very corrupted church includes e-mailing the elder who was asked to HELP, and was in fact, the ONLY person who I OFFICIALLY asked for help from. Asking for help or intervention in a volatile situation is NOT dragging them into something. Oh, how Tom's eyes need to opened to how incorrect his perceptions have become. After knowing me well for 10 months, he should KNOW better than he has evidenced with all the lies and untruths that have surfaced lately. 

It baffles me how they can be so corrupt and how he could just join in the corruption after the past ten months. And it hurts. 

ALL he had to do was talk with me, talk to me, and we would NOT be where we are today. 

A corrupt leadership makes a corrupt church and I have experienced the corruption and inequality of scriptural application firsthand. 

Inequality? Yes. After all, the Bible is clear about church discipline and it applies to EVERYONE EQUALLY. Yet the church failed miserably. 

I have made an offer and I now make it publicly so that anyone reading this can not only hold me to it, but also convict them to hold to it.

IF Tom will talk with me either before Thanksgiving or at least schedule something by Thanksgiving for immediately after Thanksgiving holidays AND reinstate me fully on Facebook, THEN I am willing to retract and remove any and all posts that I have made, regardless of the truthfulness of them, from wherever I have posted them. Furthermore, IF the church will uphold the very document that they threw back at me and allow me to attend church worship OR place me under church discipline, I will write a letter of retraction to the outside sources as well.

If not, then I will pursue justice against a select few of the men with whom I have experienced the corruption, now including Tom, in the way the world permits justice to be served. 

But I make this offer because I would much rather see the REALITY of the "peace and purity of the church," something they falsely accused me of violating once because I asked for help resolving a conflict at one point and the person it was with chose to exacerbate things more just like Tom did this time. 

I have identified within the leadership FIVE specific bullies who became more corrupt after I was diagnosed with autism. And we know what Jesus says about the way you treat the least of these. They have bullied Jesus as well. 

I am prayerfully engaging this week though as something needs to be done to stop them from destroying the church even more than they have already. 

I'm sad that such a level of corruption exists at all, especially in a church. 




Friday, November 15, 2013

The Truth

Since Tom Patton clearly chose to violate his end of the compromise he made with me without telling me directly himself and unfriended me and blocked me on Facebook without justification as I so diligently kept my end of the compromise for the past month, I am no longer obligated to uphold my end of the compromise and therefore am within my rights to make public the violations of Oak Mountain Presbyterian Church. 

At this point, I have nothing else to lose because it is has become clear that Tom Patton lied to me the past 10-11 months about being my friend because a real friend would NEVER do what he did. Also it has become clear that neither Tom nor the church care about scripture when it comes to restoration (II Corinthians 13:11) or discipline (Matthew 18) or the least of these (Matthew 25).

I would not ordinarily drag names into a post, but I will no longer protect the offenders. However, for those who were only trying to truly help, I will only use initials.

For those that have ever read my earliest posts I chronicled about the tensions with Bob Flayhart and why I ultimately left Oak Mountain in December. I chronicled about the abuses that I personally experienced.

Well, let me tell you what the past 10-11 months have brought me through. 

A time of self-discovery. A battle with health. Glimpses of God.

But God is unattainable. But God remains out of reach to me. Because to me God might be a bully just like it turns out Tom and those leaders at the church were and are.

Tom said I hadn't had a meltdown in six months. And this meltdown was certainly the first one in the one month I visited Oak Mountain this time.

So I ask where is that grace they talk so much about when after one mistake they threw me out without just cause and without EVER having exercised proper church discipline?  

Somehow though apparently to them church discipline is only applicable to people who do not have autism. 

Last year I posted a picture of their document.

As I learned in the days that followed their action, when I became a member at Oak Mountain in 2009, my agreement was a legally binding document. They expected certain things of me but I also expected certain things of them. 

One of the things I expected was that if I truly caused offense that they would exercise Matthew 18 regarding church discipline. But they NEVER did. Instead they waited until the conflict had gotten so bad before they ever assigned anyone to me.

Then the care team said its purpose was restoration. Instead of restoration, I got handed a document that was very much divisive. A new contract if you would. A contract that was deemed as bullying and declared immoral. A contract that Tom Patton said neither he nor I would be subject to if I withdrew my membership, a contract that remains unsigned because of the undertones, a contract they have now bound Tom to by threatening to fire him for being my friend because they retaliated when I sought help, a contract they are trying to bound me to now as a non-member, a contract they have breached. The contract says that even unsigned, I may attend Sunday morning worship services yet after one meltdown that did not actually happen at church therefore did not disrupt church, they barred me from attending worship and threatened police force. The contract also says that if I violate any boundaries that the church session must conduct official church discipline (again they did NOT). 

The meltdown? Tom exacerbated it when he broke a promise to me by acting before explaining. Which he has now done again which is now why after nearly a month I am finally telling the truth about what happened.

Tom kept saying words that hurt me. It was when he attached the friendship to it though that things got worse.

I was already in a meltdown from all kinds of things including what Tom said.

Tom then exacerbated things. Is it possible that I overreacted? Yes. But he also knows he was at fault when he exacerbated things. 

I got in my car after trying to find someone to talk with me through the initial crisis of what Tom did to exacerbate things. I started my car and checked my messages. That's when giant Gordon approached my car. I was about to leave after checking my messages and he approached my car. I trusted him to help, not make things worse. Tom claimed that I dragged him into it, but I didn't. He approached me after I had already started my car. He then detained me until after a friend and her son drove up to ask me to lunch. 

Tom told my mom that he recognized that it was after my diagnosis that things at the church got worse. He actually wrote that as well. 

He also claimed I asked SR to go to the bathroom with me. I did not. I was already on my way to the bathroom when she ran into me also going to the bathroom. In the bathroom, she noticed I was distressed. She offered assistance I needed when I needed it and helped defuse a meltdown. She did the right thing. 

Tom was supposed to talk with me about what happened but before he had a chance to do so, I got a phone call saying I couldn't return to church and police force would be used if I did. 

So after having gone to the one person who worked on conflict resolution with Tom and me in the past, and doing what I was instructed by Gordon, and Tom's half-hearted attempt to explain what he did after the fact that he exacerbated the meltdown, they jumped straight to that?

So I contacted the higher authority. I asked what can be done if a church skips the entire order of church discipline and jumps straight to barring a person from worship? 

I wrote this:

"When Tom Patton asked if I believe in church discipline, here is what I finally got around to saying:

'U asked if I believe in church discipline. I believe if church discipline is done according to the outline in Matthew 18, then it is reasonable to perhaps shun a person, but never to bar them from worship b/c God might actually use worship to bring the person back around. I was NEVER brought under church discipline as a member nor a nonmember and so this is skipping all the way to the last step. And if that keys to the kingdom thing means that a person is going to hell then is that not assuming that man can somehow judge a person's heart? Tom, either I misunderstood you or the church definitely screwed up this time? Or both?'

"His response:

'Both
Turn off ur brain'"

I asked for a meeting. The e-mail was forwarded and the leaders retaliated by threatening to fire Tom for being my friend. All because I asked for help.

The leaders at that church have a pattern of doing that.

Tom wrote a very beautifully worded honest letter to advocate for me when I had to do court last month (probably the biggest disruption and factor in the meltdown).

I am going to share the two paragraphs that are relevant and even acknowledge how the church's document was misguided. 

These also make me cry because it seemed like he finally got it, yet his actions of last night proved that neither he nor that church will ever get it.

He wrote: 

"Susan is extremely bright. The first couple of years that I dealt with her, I struggled to understand why she would respond or react so strongly in certain situations and circumstances. After the diagnosis, it became abundantly clear. Susan does not handle stress or ambiguity or confrontation well. In an effort to help "mainstream" Susan, our church formed a small care team to work with her and coach her. Over more than a year, that team spent innumerable hours trying to help Susan grow in a number of areas. They sought to coach her towards developing a number of socialization skills. She struggled the whole time and in the end left the church in frustration. In some ways, I think our expectations were askew. It was as if we were asking a paraplegic to walk.

"Susan has capacities and capabilities but she does have tremendous struggles with social interaction. Those challenges are magnified when she is put in stressful, demanding or highly relational contexts. Others struggle as well because they don't know how to relate to her in a helpful manner. It has been our experience that this compounds the stress and frustration on both sides and can become quite counter-productive."

Tom was spot on in that. Too bad he failed to remember it when they retaliated against him and when he chose to violate the compromise and thus cause permanent damage which now means that the chance of relational restoration may be impossible now save for attorneys to walk everyone through where they went wrong and work on arbitration with them before they have a chance to hurt and abuse and bully more people with autism and other special needs. 

Jesus talks about the least of these in Matthew 25. According to that passage, the leaders at Oak Mountain are goats. 

How can you effectively minister and do missions when you fail to exercise your mission statement to share grace and show grace to all? You can't. 

It is with a very sad heart that I am writing this. One that has been broken beyond repair. 

And because of Tom's actions of last night where he violated the compromise he made with me altogether even though I had diligently kept my end of it, now there is another chance that he could still lose his job if and when the leaders retaliate against him and me again. 

But maybe he needs that this time because maybe then it will open his eyes to his own mistakes in all of this.

You see, I have a whole lot of people who rallied for a meeting to happen between Tom and myself. ONE meeting for closure. ONE meeting that could have prevented this blog post from being done, attorneys being contacted, letters to both the session giving them a chance to correct their mistakes and the presbytery showing where the church went wrong and filing an official complaint and asking for a court. But he refused. Repeatedly. He did not do II Corinthians 13:11. He did not do Matthew 18. And now because of him, the truth is out there and he has damaged the church in more ways than I could ever even begin. 

Are there consequences to this post? Probably. But I don't expect that the biggest consequences will be to me at this point because I really have nothing else to lose since Tom did what he did last night. 

ALL of this could have been avoided if Tom had just talked with me though. If he had just shown grace and talked with me. 

But he didn't and they didn't. And they probably never will.

Jesus is sad today.

Because when Oak Mountain denied the least of these and abused the least of these, they denied and abused Jesus. 

Is there ever going to be a truly SAFE church for adults with autism? 

Because that's what we need. 

Sunday, October 27, 2013

12 Months of Lessons-Lesson Two: Speak Life

Speak Life by TobyMac (Video available on YouTube)

Some days, life feels perfect
Other days it just ain't workin'
The good, the bad, the right, the wrong
And everything in between

It's crazy, amazing
We can turn a heart with the words we say
Mountains crumble with every syllable
Hope can live or die

So speak Life, speak Life
To the deadest darkest night
Speak Life, speak Life
When the sun won't shine and you don't know why
Look into the eyes of the brokenhearted
Watch them come alive as soon as you speak hope
You speak love, you speak
You speak Life, oh--, you speak Life, oh--

Some days the tongue gets twisted
Other days my thoughts just fall apart
I do, I don't, I will, I won't
It's like I'm drowning in the deep

Well it's crazy to imagine
Words from our lips as the arms of compassion
Mountains crumble with every syllable
Hope can live or die

So speak Life, speak Life
To the deadest darkest night
Speak Life, speak Life
When the sun won't shine and you don't know why
Look into the eyes of the brokenhearted
Watch them come alive as soon as you speak hope,
You speak love, you speak
You speak Life, oh--, you speak Life, oh--

Lift your head a little higher
Spread the love like fire
Hope will fall like rain
When you speak life with the words you say

Raise your thoughts a little higher
Use your words to inspire
Joy will fall like rain
When you speak life with the things you say

Lift your head a little higher
Spread the love like fire
Hope will fall like rain
When you speak life with the words you say

So speak Life, speak Life
To the deadest darkest night 
Speak Life, speak Life
When the sun won't shine and you don't know why
Look into the eyes of the brokenhearted
Watch them come alive as soon as you speak hope
You speak love, you speak
You speak Life, oh--, you speak Life, oh--

You speak Life, oh--, you speak Life, oh-

Some days life feels perfect

-----------------------------------------------

Are the words you are speaking words of hope, love and encouragement? For if they are not, they can destroy a spirit and crush it. Be mindful of how you speak. Those words could be your last ever. 

Psalm 109
This Psalm is very condemning of those who speak curses. 

I Peter 3:8-22
Talks about suffering for righteousness' sake. Not repaying evil for evil but rather seeking peace and pursuing it. Reminds about Christ suffering for sins.

Job 5
A hard book to find in the Bible. Apparently it is before the Psalms and not after.

Job suffered a lot. And it was unfair. In many ways, this chapter is encouraging. And gives me hope about the compromise I was presented when I was challenged. Oh the reunion after the challenge will be so sweet!

Psalm 15
Chapter heading: "Who Shall Dwell on Your Holy Hill?" But this is where words must be chosen carefully. Reproach. The person who doesn't take up a reproach against his friend.... Reproach: expression of disapproval; a cause or occasion of blame, discredit, or disgrace. Have you blamed someone today? Failed to consider your own part in whatever happened? 

Proverbs 15
"A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger." A gentle tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit." How might the words you have said broken a spirit and possibly turned them away from God? How can you reach out to someone who needs life and hope restored? 

It really is amazing how one muscle can produce both good and bad. 

12 Months of Lessons-Lesson One: Forgiveness

Every day, or as much as I can, I am following a goal. I was presented a challenge. And so begins my journey through that challenge. There are many things to learn in the 12 months I have been put to task on. But I am determined to see the fruit of the 12 months. 

Where are my lessons coming from? For the remainder of the month of October, I am focusing on TWO songs. Beginning November 1, I will begin a journey through the Psalms. In December, I will begin a journey in Proverbs as well. I will then restart anew with Jesus Calling Kids/Teens. Before you ask, the main difference between Jesus Calling and the Kids and Teen versions is the wording of the text. They all follow the same passage though. I am committed to using this blog to share my lessons. Which you will learn why in my second lesson. 

I have determined that if I miss a day due to illness that I am NOT going to beat myself up over the head about it. I got off track in the devotional because with the autism, I have sequential thinking. I try to follow the order of the pages, so when I miss a day, I think I have to make up days. Then I get exhausted. So the additional challenge is to retrain my brain to concentrate more on the date and not the page orders. So it is possible that I will be starting Jesus Calling back this week. 

Songs? Yes. Because music is one of my languages, I can learn something through songs. What kind of songs will I share? Everything ranging from TobyMac, Jamie-Grace, Britt Nicole, Newsboys, Newsong, Rebecca St. James, Jump5, ZoeGirl, and Superchick to Lady Gaga and Katy Perry (hey, don't judge). Anyway, today I will start with lesson one. 

TobyMac "Forgiveness" (Video available on YouTube)

Lyrics:

'Cause we all make mistakes sometimes
And we all step across that line
But nothing's sweeter than the day we find, we find

It's hanging over him like the clouds of Seattle
And rainin' on his swag fallin' deeper in his saddle
It's written on his face 
He don't have to speak a sound
Somebody call the five-o for we gotta man down

You can go and play it like you're all rock and ro
But guilt does a job on each and every man's soul
And when your head hits the pillow at the nightfall
You can bet your life that it's gonna be a fight y'all

'Cause we all make mistakes sometimes
And we've all stepped across that line
But nothing's sweeter than the day we find
Forgiveness, forgiveness
And we all stumble and we fall
Bridges burn in the heat of it all
But nothing's sweeter than the day, sweeter than the day we call out for forgiveness
Forgiveness, we all need, we all need, we all need forgiveness
Forgiveness, we all need, we all need

Mr. Lecrae
My momma told me what I would be in for
If I kept all this anger inside of me pent up
My heart been broken, my wounds been open
And I don't know if I can hear I'm sorry being spoken
But those forgiven much, should be quicker to give it
And God forgave me for it all Jesus bled forgiveness
So when the stones fly and they aimed at you 
Just say forgive them father they know not what they do

Now you can go and play it like you're all rock and roll
But guilt does a job on each and every man's soul
And when your head hit the pillow at the nightfall
You can bet your life that it's gonna be a fight y'all

'Cause we all make mistakes sometimes
And we've all stepped across that line
But nothing's sweeter than the day we find
Forgiveness, forgiveness
An we all stumble and we fall
Bridges burn in the heat of it all
But nothing's sweeter than the day, sweeter than the day we call out for forgiveness

No matter how lost you are, you're not that far, you're not too far
No matter how hurt you are, you're not that far, you're not too far
No matter how wrong you are, you're not that far, you're not too far
No matter who you are, you're not that far, you're not too far
From forgiveness
Ask for forgiveness

'Cause we all make mistakes sometimes
And we've all stepped across that line
But nothing's sweeter than the day we find
Forgiveness, forgiveness
And we all stumble and we fall
Bridges burn in the heat of it all
But nothing's sweeter than the day, sweeter than the day we call out for forgiveness
Forgiveness
We all need, we all need, we all need forgiveness
Forgiveness
We all need, we all need

No matter how lost you are, we all need forgiveness
No matter how hurt you are, we all need forgiveness 
No matter how wrong you are, you're not that far, you're not too far
No matter who you are, you're not too far, you're not too far

We all need forgiveness, forgiveness
We all need forgiveness, forgiveness
We all need forgiveness, forgiveness
We all need forgiveness, forgiveness 

-------------------------------------------

In this song, I learn that we are ALL sinners and we are ALL in need of forgiveness. I learn that Christians, especially more mature Christians, are called to forgive others. I learn that no matter what may have occurred that we are able to be forgiven if we just call out for forgiveness. 

This song gives me some consolation right now as I reflect on the person who presented me with the 12 Month Challenge. Because I can see how forgiveness will be there when the time ends if I show myself faithful to complete the challenge.

I also learn that no matter how hurt I feel in the now, I am only one step away from forgiveness. 

Ultimately, God is the great forgiver, but other people help is to see that. 

So lesson one, forgiveness. We need to practice lives of forgiveness. We need to seek forgiveness. And we need to be forgiving. 



Saturday, October 19, 2013

Struggling - An Open Letter to Someone I Care About

Tom, if you are reading this, here is what I WANT to say:

1. Closeness. Let me define closeness of friendship for you because I think you misunderstood me. When I said I didn't say the same thing to J as I did to you, the closeness I was referring to was one that came from time invested and you have known me longer. So of course it feels like you are closer. It was not referring to level of friendship because both of you are on the same level with me and others are reaching that level as well. You just need to be patient and stop forcing it to happen before I am ready.

2. Forgiveness. What does it mean to forgive? When you said you forgave me then turned around and broke your promise without even talking to me or with me first, do you honestly think you acted with forgiveness? I want to believe the best. I want to believe it was a mistake. Because I find anything else to be askew. If it was intentional, I feel like if you truly had forgiven me, you would have held off on doing that until you and I had had a chance to actually talk things through. But surely, it has to be a mistake, because you said you forgave me. But it has created a serious fracture that is only going to make things harder. Tom, I am hoping against all hope that you understand this more than anything and more than anyone. Look how many times we have had our arguments and had forgiveness. Tom, I am going to trust that you are already trying to correct things, but that you ran into the same wall a lot of us do: those pesky Facebook limits! We all make mistakes. I know I did. But forgiveness will allow us to talk through things. However, until things are fixed, my hope that we can resolve things is rapidly vanishing. I prayerfully challenge you though to act with that forgiveness you said you had and to restore it in good faith moving toward conflict resolution. 

3. My response. Ugh. But in the end, I came through. I did the right thing. I got help. I sought wisdom. And now I am in the hardest part - the wait. But I am afraid. I am scared. While everyone else has complete faith and confidence that we will work things out, I feel scared. What if we don't or can't? Look at point 2. Tom, that's a pretty serious breach that is going to make things more difficult. Even though I turned in a couple of promises that have to go into your care, I have NOT written a letter yet. Besides, I need your help. The fact that I have NOT written the letter means I am not giving up on you. Not yet. Why should I? Up until the breach in point 2, you never gave up on me, so it wouldn't be fair for me to give up on you either. Now...I have to answer the question: Have you ever done anything to give me reason to doubt you? YES!!!! Dang it Tom! 

4. You asked me why I didn't send the same message to J as to you. To put it simply, she didn't say the words. You did. Everyone else I have talked with are happy I might return. They have been nothing but encouraging as they have also seen that I am in a different place now than I was before. You're the only one who has expressed anything different. And in case I never get to tell you in person or on the phone, here's the  conflict, the struggle: You acknowledge the progress. But instead of just believing in me based on the progress, you said you didn't want the old drama to return. But here's the worst part, you attached the friendship to the deal. Something that you shouldn't have done. And, in a sense, by saying that, you were actually not only looking for drama, but contributing to the creation of drama. And now I am confused. Because then the other thing, you also immediately ASSUMED that this conflict, my lashing out at you, had to do with my coming back. No, Tom, it didn't. It was your words. And nothing but. Matter of fact, I am very sad that until and unless we talk and work through this conflict and you restore the Facebook situation in good faith that I cannot come to church. I was looking forward to talking with you about what reasonable expectations might be and drawing up a contract with you that you can present on my behalf. But now due to point 2, I am now having doubts that you're even the right person. Although you do need to share what you wrote in that letter for me for court. It was beautifully expressed. 

5. Tom, did I mess up? Yes. I know I did. I was frustrated and confused and I was feeling discouraged. I have had one of those weeks from hell that you wish would just go away altogether. But in light of point 2, can I be honest and say that you really didn't help the situation any? Whether the deletion was intentional or not, it is the way you did it that will present the challenge for me to believe the best about you. I do honestly feel that had you simply waited and talked WITH me first rather than acted in a manner that feels so punitive, that we could have easily worked through things. Now I have more people than I can count who are praying for me and fighting for my heart as your action has shaken my trust in God a bit roughly. Neither of us will come out of this without scars, but those scars don't have to be deep if you will act in good faith knowing that not only do I want to work things out and resolve things, but there are people fighting for us to do just that. G said it was like when a family fights. They say things they don't always mean. They do things they regret later. But then they come together and they work things out, and things are better than before because of the experience. He said that in a sense we are family Tom. He said he has complete confidence that you and I will work this out. I am not as confident. You shook me up. Tom, maybe you should just try to stick to not trying to figure out what caused meltdowns until meltdowns have calmed down. I think this time, it only made things worse. You're right, the meltdowns are WAY less frequent. But coming back to church had nothing to do with it like you so quickly assumed. But this was a meltdown that was brewing. Probably the wisest thing this time would have been to just send a text that said, "Susan, stop and think and when you're calmer we will talk." But do you think point 2 helped? Because I think that only made it worse. 

6. All I can say, again, is I am sorry. At the end of this day, do I regret the contacts I have made? No. Because here is what happened: I had a breakthrough with G. One that would indeed make you smile and say amen! And he and I connected on a heart level that far surpassed the fact that his size can be very scary for a little one like me. But in that, I found that he has a soft spot. And he is a very compassionate man. I also got to spend time with L and her oldest son. And it turns out we kind of have the same passion when it comes to the need to expand special needs ministry at church. The kids are aging out and then there's not really anything to draw them or their families in. What if the church could piggyback and form a very small, internal, special needs adults group with two pastors and two elders and their wives, sort of like a LIFE group? It also meant I was able to get to know another new friend better. And she could possibly be of help to you and the church as well. And it meant that another breakthrough happened. Up until this, I never hugged June. NEVER. And here's the thing. Each of these connections are fighting for US, fighting for you and I to work through this. And now I have another person on my side. One I didn't even know I had. So I guess they were right. Beautiful things can come out of the pain. But now, can you please do your part to ease the pain? I'm not asking you to fix it because that's God's thing. Just ease it (point 2). 

Whoa.... Supernatural literally just happened. And I just heard God for the first time since point 2. God said trust baby. Trust. God is telling me that you are in fact working on the issue in point 2 and reassuring me that we will definitely talk. And He just wrapped His arms around me. Oh, how I want to trust God right now and believe the best about you. I feel sad and hurt and scared. I am not angry anymore. I know you didn't mean to hurt me. Not with your words nor with your actions. I know you are hurting too because you feel my pain right now. And I know you are struggling right along with me. And Tom, I think we both just proved that people with autism do have empathy. Shame on anyone who says differently, right? Because they don't know me. Tom, I want to come to church Sunday. But only if you WANT me there. REALLY want me there. Know what? This sucks. Why? Because we are two people who are in conflict with ourselves and with each other. Is it going to be easy to resolve things? No. It never is. Is it resolvable. Yes. 

Steps toward resolving things that we both can take now:

1. You can act in good faith and restore the whole Facebook thing. I will not hold it against you, but I will expect you to uphold your promise to NEVER do that without FIRST talking to me and with me. 

2. I can act in good faith and come to church and sit with you just to show I am better than that. And in doing so, I will be exemplifying through my actions that I can forgive you and want to work through things. 

3. We can sit down this week and go over some CLEARER boundaries that will need to be very consistent for the next couple of months. With that being said, I don't know exactly what those boundaries will need to include just yet, but I will refer back to the first thing. OR, we can keep the appointment we had made for the 29th and plan on close to 2 hours, and in this week, I can talk with the appropriate person at the church who can help me to prepare to talk with you. And either he/she will talk with you as well, or he/she will just present you with what is discussed with me so you know how to respond. Either way, we should both draw some boundaries just to make things safer for each other. After a couple of months, we can revisit them and either relax them a little bit or tighten them or tweak them. But Tom, I need you to understand something. When you lash out in response to a meltdown, you accuse me of abusing the relationship. But have you stopped to think that if the boundaries were a little more clear and consistent, you wouldn't ever feel that way? Have you considered that? I keep asking for clear and consistent boundaries, but I have been hearing friendships don't work like that when I ask. No, Tom. Here's what I learned from what happened with B: ALL relationships NEED boundaries. But for a person with autism, those boundaries NEED to be VERY CLEAR and VERY CONSISTENT. The purpose of setting boundaries isn't to punish someone, but rather to say, I love you and I value our relationship enough that I want to protect it and will do what is necessary to safeguard it. Boundaries help protect relationships from harm. They help protect the people in those relationships from getting hurt so much. They help the people learn and grow. As much as you might hate having to set boundaries, you need to do that if you do care about me. I want to believe that you do. We need to agree to the boundaries. We can either set the boundaries on our own, or we can have another person enter in to help set the boundaries. Either way, we need boundaries, and for the first two months, they will need to be consistent. If after we set them, you find you have reason to need to bend them, you need to make alternative plans to help satisfy them even if it might mean that you have a make up plan. If we set the boundaries on our own, then we can re-evaluate them ourselves. If we let someone else help set them, then we will have to let them determine how we are doing. 

4. Believe in me. Don't tag stipulations. 

5. Don't assume. We both have a bad habit of that!!! What do you call them? Vain imaginations? 

6. From now on, if either person feels there is a problem, he or she needs to send a flag that signals we need to talk. No more yelling or one-sided conversations. 

So, Tom, are you willing to act in good faith out of the forgiveness you said you had and move forward with me to resolve this? Because I'm waiting. And my arms are open. 

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Identity Crisis

It has been almost two years since I was referred for an evaluation for autism and was diagnosed. I was a little over 33 years and one month in age. 

During that time I was working with what I felt at that time had to be the worst group of people filled with the most hate possible. And I felt like church people were just cruel and heartless. I all but, and almost did, lose faith in God. 

I am not going to rehash anything though. But it did seem very unfair. Well, to be honest, there was a lot of unfairness in what I experienced. Diagnosed in December. Got told repeatedly I couldn't do certain things because I have autism and fill-in-the-blank with whatever misconception of autism is in existence. 

It was three or four months before I was finally connected and sent for ABA therapy. And I was only in therapy for four months when I got a fatalistic document. 

Three more months fighting the unfairness and I gave up and left. 

My friend didn't want me to go, but he let me. He knew I had to do it. He knew I was hurting and as much as he didn't want me to go, he knew that at that moment, it was what was in my best interest.

Now believe me, I gave him plenty of reason to give up on me, but he didn't. I praise him for his stubbornness. Why? Because if he hadn't been so stubborn, I wouldn't be where I am today.

So let me tell you what I have done in the ten months since leaving. 

1. I tried another church that has extensive special needs support for adults. 
2. I continued in ABA therapy.
3. I continued in a social group through Voc Rehab. 
4. I began to come out of my shell and make some friends. And I even began to develop a crush on someone. 
5. I began smiling almost endlessly. And have yet to find a person who doesn't instantaneously fall in love with me as a result. 
6. I decided I didn't need extensive special needs support. Just having a point person within the church who understands autism is enough and having friends in group activities and partners in service activities is enough. And that's true.
7. I began speech therapy. And now I have more confidence.
8. I missed a lot of church because of illness and because I simply didn't like it. 9. I started doing social outings outside of an official group and will pick up again after court.
10. I visited another church. It felt more like a concert than a worship service. I don't know why people like it. I hated it. It felt like torture.
11. I visited another church. I almost liked it until I learned that because I don't know exactly when I was converted and therefore may not have been baptized by immersion after conversion that I might have to be rebaptized. No thank you. But it's not fair to me to try to pursue it if that's going to be the sticking point.
12. I went back to the place I left. My heart never left it anyway because all my friends I already have are there. 
13. I have been doing a lot of self-discovery and self-exploration during this time.
14. I have developed more artistically. With the help of another beautiful friend. She helped me do a pre-wedding collage piece for my friend and revamp an old drabby three legged table converting it to a beautiful four legged table just the right size for a precious granddaughter of my friend. I am no longer afraid of paint getting on my hands, although if it's on there too long, I will start to meltdown. And I still won't touch raw dough or raw meat. And sticky mess is enough to send me for a tailspin as is a ticking clock.
15. I have less meltdowns and the meltdowns I do still have are becoming less self-injurious in nature. 
16. I am lashing out less. I had to work on an emotional color wheel assigning colors to emotions. I hated it. But I found it to be a good start. So now I do a chart. I write, "I feel...," assign colors and words to what I feel, and then state why I feel it. Then I go to the person who led me to feel that way. The chart helps me process so I don't lash out as often. 
17. I have more confidence now.
18. I am also hugging more people because I want to. Although I will pull back if it's not someone I feel safe with.
19. I am still afraid, but I will try anything once. I now like sushi and gluten free paper dosas (Indian). But I don't like wasabi (it burns the nose). 
20. I see the positives more.

All this to say that God is leading me back to where I was and I know that even though I have come a long way, I still have a long way to go, but I am working on it and will continue to do so. 

Thanks in part to my friends, especially stubborn Tom, who through their continual love, time, energy, and grace have exemplified God's character to me and allowed me to see enough of God to help me desire God more. 

So, even though I am really anxious right now over some very grow up issues I never had to worry about before, I am still hoping God will and trusting God to work things out. 

By the way, why did God let me have autism? I don't know. Some days I feel He did it to be cruel, and others I realize God may actually have autism too. PLATYPUS! Either way, God loves me and I love Him; my friends love me and I love them. And my friends have been, are continuing and will continue helping me along the path in life. Tom is my biggest advocate right now. And I thank God for him every day. I also thank God for Janet. And my mom. And my therapists. And even for the mistakes others made with me and the mistakes I made. We can all grow from those mistakes. 

I'm sure Tom and I will have many more discussions regarding church decisions that we have to make so I don't get hurt again and can continue progressing and avoid regression. And that's okay. 

And if that group of people is reading this? I love you. And I forgive you. And I hope you can forgive me too. 

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Dear 9/11

It was a fateful day 12 years ago. Little did any of us know how our lives would be turned upside down.

The night before I told the cat (RIP Peaches, 1989-2006) that if my alarm did not go off to wake me at 6 because I needed some last minute studying for a French exam the next morning. 

Sure enough, I felt a heavy pounce and heard a loud thud. I looked at the clock. It was just after 6. My exam was at 9. I needed to park at 8 and walk over to the student center.

I arrived to a much deserted campus (then Troy State University, now Troy University). I listened to the radio getting some last minute study time when I heard that the first tower had been hit by a plane. 

A few minutes later, I heard that the second tower had been hit. All I could think was "what's going on?" 

I walked into the student center to head to my exam in the disability services office. It was deserted save for my French professor watching the televisions which were tuned to the news.

I arrived back to my car (1998 Honda Civic) and checked the bag phone. Missed call. I called my mom and she asked if I knew what was going on. I said I heard but hadn't watched anything yet but would I got back to the house. She said that Uncle Mike was supposed to fly back to California from Florida (he works for NASA and studies climate issues-hurricanes, the ozone hole, etc.) but that because of what happened in New York his plane got grounded but he was safe. 

I didn't realize the magnitude until later. I got on my e-mail. I had an e-mail from the lady our campus ministry did missions with over the spring break in Manhattan. She was okay, but the ministry was just blocks from the towers.

I looked at my picture I had taken. Less than six months had gone by and now the skyline was different.

Another e-mail. Campus wide prayer rally.

I made a phone call. Are we having puppet practice at church? Yes. 

Puppets was at 6. I told the director that I needed to leave at 6:30 for the prayer rally. He said we'd dismiss early anyway. No one was really in the mood. I left the church. 

Stop light was red. I stopped. 

I had a strange series of dreams where people close to me were going to have different injuries and the dreams kept coming true. The week before it was a car accident. 

Light turned green. I very slow started into the intersection feeling very strange. 

BAM!

I looked up to see a teenage driver talking on his cell phone in a red pickup truck. He ran the red light and hit my front driver's side. 

I motioned to the light. I rolled down the window. I called my mom so she could arrive soon. 

The driver rushed over and asked if I was okay. I heard him tell the person on the phone he had just hit a car and needed the number for the police.

A sheriff arrived and began directing traffic around the scene. 

An African American man who was jogging by came to me and asked if there was anything he could do. I told him I just left that big church over on the corner one block over and the name of the puppet director. He was a police officer that was off duty. Within minutes, the director arrived. I never saw that man again. Was he an angel?

My director helped me start gathering everything I needed for the police. The police finally arrived and instructed us to move our cars to a parking lot across the way. My director tried to start my car back up. It grinded but wouldn't start.

He put it in neutral and got it moved. A piece of the headlight fell off. I went into shock. 

"Susan, are you okay? Do you need an ambulance? Who can we call? How long until your mom is here?" "Susan, we need to tow your car to the shop. Insurance will work with you tomorrow. Do you need an ambulance?"

Total damage to the $9000 car (blue book) was $4500. Air bag had to be checked as well because it didn't deploy. I was in a rental for a month. The insurance said had he hit one inch further back, I could've been killed. The guy was honest and admitted fault even after being advised to lie. And the physical damages to my body are permanent. But I am alive.

Many people died on 9/11. And that event was very tragic. My accident could've killed me, but it didn't. I will never be able to forget it because of when it happened. But I am ready to do my best to move forward. This year is the first time I have to drive somewhere on 9/11. It's the first time I have somewhere to be. I'll probably need to leave earlier and drive slower, but I will do it. 

So now I will ask...What were you doing on 9/11? Where were you when it happened? 

Pray for everyone who lost someone that day. Pray for those who were somehow affected. Pray for the families who lost loved ones in Iraq and in Afghanistan in the months that followed (including the Spann family of Winfield - cousins). Pray for anyone who has to travel. Pray for this nation, for its leaders, and for its citizens. 

What was meant for evil, God turned into a blessing. And God is in control. 

So dear 9/11, your power over me, your ability to create fear in me, is now over. I have to move forward. I have to do it for me. I will always remember you, but I am tired of your grip on me. I'm going to kick your butt this year. Sincerely, Me

Thursday, August 22, 2013

720 Hours or 30 Days

You have 30 days in an average month. 720 hours. How are you spending all of those hours? 

You see I have asked the following of a friend: One 10 minute phone call per week, one in person quality time visit per month. In the grand scheme of things, I have asked for a little less than 2 hours of time in one month. 2 hours of 720 hours. That still leaves him with 718 hours to do the rest of everything he has to do with his life. 

But he basically said no. He said he doesn't have time. Doesn't have time to be my friend. Doesn't have time for friendship with me. 

The struggle I have considering what I consider to be a very REASONABLE request is that he has essentially said he has no room for me, no room for a friendship he and I fought so hard for, no room for a friendship he fought harder to keep than even me. 

The message I got was that I am not wanted anymore. That I am expendable. That I am not loved. That I am less deserving of friendship with him than anyone else. 

I understand he has work and family and maybe other friends. Well good for him. But of 720 total hours in 30 days, he cannot find less than 2 full hours a month for me? 

It hurts. And yet again, I am left wishing I was normal and that God hadn't created me the way He did. I am left wondering why God hates me, why my friend hates me. 

720 hours, 30 days. Are you too busy for friends? 

Friday, August 16, 2013

Why I Don't Want or Need More Friends Right Now

Because I'm tired of being hurt. Especially by some of the ones I already have. Maybe it was not their intention to cause such hurt, but they did. I don't want more because more means more hurt.

Because I cannot handle a lot of people. I like the friends that I have and I am expanding my social connection by working hard to establish a community based social group that will hopefully incorporate volunteers from area churches who get right beside adults with special needs who are higher functioning. This approach would put adults with special needs right where we are expected to be-in society. It will also foster building natural mentoring relationships and friendships and build bridges between an underserved population that is ripe for the ministries to reach out to. 

Because it's too hard and too scary. Especially when schedules change so much that some friends become too busy to remain friends with me and we then lose the quality of the friendship which is what friendship should have regardless of who the person is. 

Tom told me the other day I need more friends. To some degree, I agree, but not if it means losing quality with the ones I already have and am already fostering. But it's because of what he said that I now feel really sad and hurt because it honestly feels like he doesn't want me anymore, and if that's true, if we lose the quality of the friendship we do have, I don't want to try anymore. I will gladly give up a lifetime of phone calls and texts with him to have quality time in the friendship with him.

He said tears can be good because they can reveal our heart's desire. My desire is to have what everyone else wants and needs: quality friendships. Friendships that don't need frequent phone calls or texts but rather one long phone call every so often and even once a month sit downs where the two (or three) talk, and that time is when the rest of the world amazingly stops so they can enjoy the conversation. 

He said he wants to set a good example of what healthy friendship, healthy relationship, and healthy marriage is like. So I'm asking him to step up to the plate and meet me halfway. By making my willingness to make substantial sacrifices so public, I am opening myself up to having others hold me accountable to my end. But he has to meet me in the middle. 

Because here's the thing, if he sets a good example by his actions for me, I can then turn around and do the same for others. And if I have success in that, then there is definitely still hope for me. 

And right now, these next two months, I need all the hope I can get. A lot of big things are happening and we need positive outcomes on as many of them as possible. 

But my tears are telling me I need a healthier friendship with Tom, one that has quality to it. After all, I have another friend who came along when he did, and she and I don't talk as much, but we do have quality. 

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Why I Can No Longer Be "Pro-Life"

1. Extremists - These are the people who scream the loudest judging women who have abortions as being murderers not caring about why the woman chose abortion citing inaccurate things against birth control except keep your legs closed but then don't give a care about the person after they are born because they don't want to pay taxes and have them feed the hungry, heal the sick, or help the poor (which means I feel sorry for Jesus).

2. These extremists have earned a new name: pro-birthers.

3. I am not pro-choice except that I DO believe a woman should have access to birth control and cost should not be a deterrent. On grandfathered insurance, I pay $80 a month just to prevent life threatening iron anemia which can happen if I bleed too much. 

4. Pro-birthers have lost their argument against the ACA and between Scripture and theology classes, I can find at least 10 reasons why the ACA is the most Christian law we can have. But maybe that's because I have what are deemed pre-existing conditions now and can't get a more comprehensive plan until next year, so I see things through a different lens. But pro-birthers lost their argument when the FDA decided to allow Plan B to go over the counter. Because by going OTC, insurance no longer pays; tax payers no longer pay.

5. Plan B. What is it really? Not an abortion drug. It is 3 days worth of regular birth control in one pill. It is best taken within 72 hours. And let's see, biology and human physiology classes told me it takes 24-72 hours for an egg to fertilize. It even says right on the package that it does not end existing pregnancy. I'd be more worried about other OTC medicines or chemicals in the food causing a spontaneous abortion than I would about Plan B. 

6. The ACA covers preventive care. Birth control is preventive medicine. Between increased access to birth control and education, abortion rates can be significantly decreased!!! Duh!!! But the pro-birthers REFUSE to see it that way.

7. So I am no longer pro-life because of extremists but neither am I pro-choice because I really don't like abortion, but I will not judge a woman who chose abortion because for the last few years I was infiltrated with messages about grace and I heard a very influential pastor  give a message titled SWOOP in which he opened some eyes and hearts to the plight of the least of these in Matthew 25 and told about the woman who chose abortion so she can afford food for her already living children and how we have no right to judge before we have heard their stories. Then I learned Pennsylvania either still has or very recently had a law that essentially forces a woman to choose: If the woman receives assistance to feed her children then gets pregnant again (and let's say she was abandoned by her husband and raped), she can choose to either continue receiving assistance to feed her children and abort the baby or carry the baby full term and lose all assistance for feeding her children. It's sad that this reality exists. 

8. Let's define what pro-life really is. Pro means for. Life means anything that is living and breathing. It is typically self-supported because many creatures lay eggs and until those eggs hatch, the creatures are just that-eggs. Eggs are not self-supported. Now let's go back. A human baby may in fact be life. It lives and breathes through a sac inside of the mother. And God even says He knew us before we were born, He knit us in the womb. But if you take the roots of pro-life, it means you are for life at all stages of life, from conception until death and not just while in the womb. So if you claim to be pro-life but support letting government take away or reduce food stamps which could lead to people starving, letting government take away or reduce welfare and social security which could mean more homeless people, and repealing the ACA which will finally let people with pre-existing conditions get insurance so they can receive preventive care which costs less than treating illnesses, you are not pro-life. You are pro-birth. And hey, I know I just stubbed some toes, but maybe those toes need stubbing. Mine got stubbed as I got hit with a reality stick this summer. 

9. Under the current direction of the pro-life movement, it goes against my own Christian convictions to associate with pro-life if all pro-life is is pro-birth. But nor am I able to associate fully with pro-choice except to say that I support increased access to birth control which by the way is not unbiblical because it is in the grey area and therefore any religious entity saying it is is just being a bit legalistic. Not that I'm against a non-profit tax-exempt religious institution exempting itself from the ACA coverage for women, but I do feel Hobby Lobby should be required to provide because they make a profit and pay taxes. Big difference!!!! 

10. Oh, and I know where I stand in my faith in God. I struggle just as any other Christian does. And I know He pursues me even while I have been in a funk. So before judging me for having different viewpoints and beliefs, look in a mirror at your own heart. If you are without sin, you may cast stones at me or at the woman who chose abortion, but if you have any sin whatsoever, even just a heart sin, put that stone down and stop judging. 

I am going to add a couple more points: 1. Planned Parenthood is NOT just about abortions. For women who cannot afford insurance, these clinics are where women go for care and for birth control. 2. Making abortions illegal will NOT stop abortions. All it will do is force women who seek abortions to go find another less safe means of getting one. Like the back alley behind some bar in a slum. 
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