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Make Someone Smile Every Day

Zach asked that I, as a bearded non-theologian, Google “What is God calling me to do” and react to the 15,800,000 search results.  I am afraid, dear readers, Zach didn’t know what he was getting into asking me to do this.

At first look, 15,800,000 search results seem overwhelming until you compare it to the population of the USA at 325,244,591 people (5% of the population) and even less when compared to the world’s population of 7,600,000,000 people (.2% of the population).   When evaluated as percentages of populations, those search results don’t seem as overwhelming to me.  It is undeniable that people are searching for answers and direction in their life, but what does this mean?  What do we do?  I will be honest with you: I don’t know.

I am admittedly not a religious person and I don’t know I would consider myself a spiritual person.  I am not someone that has motivational quotes hanging around my house or office nor do I have any sayings that I live by.  I do have two thoughts that have stayed with me a long time that I will share that I think help answer the question “What is God calling me to”.  Hopefully, it will resonate with a reader or two.  If not, I blame Zach.

When I watched the movie The Book of Eli I had no clue what it was about.  I knew that Denzel Washington was in it and I generally enjoy his acting.  The entire movie I was trying to figure out what book could possibly be so important that he went to the lengths he did to protect it and deliver it to its destination.  Of course, at the end of the movie we learn it was the Bible, but that is not what stuck with me.  After the book had been delivered, Solara told Eli she never thought he’d give up the book because it was too important to him.  He replied that it was, but he got so caught up in protecting it he forgot to live by what he learned from it.  Solara asked him what that was and it’s his reply to this question that I think answers the question at hand:

 

 To Do More for Other Than You do for Yourself

 

I read an article several years ago about the importance of paying compliments to people when you like something about them, what they did, etc.  While the article covered a lot of ground, my take away from the article was a piece about always complimenting someone, especially a child, when you like the shirt they are wearing.  The author’s point, in short, was everyone gets dressed with purpose each day so an affirmation of their style choices will bring a smile to their face.  After reading that, I aimed to tell at least one person each day that I liked something they were wearing.  My only rule for myself was I had to mean it when I said it.  Not surprisingly, the author was correct.  I don’t believe I have paid a compliment to one person on their shirt, hat, shoes, tattoo, whatever and they didn’t smile when I did so.  Smiles tend to be like yawns in that they are contagious.  They would smile, I would smile and maybe someone around us joins in on the conversation and smiles as well.  Plainly, it feels good to make someone smile.  This one doesn’t wrap up as nicely as the Book of Eli quote, so we will call it:

 

Make Someone Smile Every Day

 

I don’t profess to be much more than a bearded non-theologian, but if I were to offer an answer to life’s biggest question, It would be that your happiness can be found in the service and happiness of others.  This is something instilled in me from a young age by my parents and I continue to find it to be truer every day.


23798220_1894676887529031_1721846366_oThomas Wilson somehow managed to find a woman (Susan) to marry him and have two children (Stockton and Marley) with him. In his spare time, he binge-watches shows on Netflix and swears he will catch up on his backlog of audible books. He recently received the news that he may be a bearded theologian, after all. Thomas holds records in the Youth Baseball League -Coach Pitch, for the number of perfect games thrown in a season (8) and the number of batters hit by pitch (9) in a single game.

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I’ve Been Called Weird…

I’ve been called weird and odd in my life. They were just labels I accepted early on, because I couldn’t even explain the way I was in a manner that made sense with the rest of the world happening around me. No one could truly lay a claim to understanding me. I was the eccentric friend, brother, son, uncle, husband… At least some people liked me and loved me anyway, right?

I left high school early, only to remove myself from college before getting done. Once I got done with college, I swore I would never go back, only to go back twice over (to this point). My worst class was always math, but math has always been one of my strongest abilities outside of school.

I’ve always had people that made assumptions about things I’ve said or my specific behavior in any situation. Always had trouble with it in school. Thought I had gotten away from it outside of school, but haven’t escaped it when I’ve tried to make professional leaps to better myself and my family. There are grown adults spreading rumors about me just in the past two years because they never took the opportunity to figure out who I was and how everything worked with me.
There was one day that my wife and I were visiting with some friends, and I apparently cut one of them off with a correction in a mean-spirited manner. My wife asked me later what in the world I was thinking, doing that. However, I couldn’t recall that feeling ever being present at the time that occurred. That friend, who is also an educator, later told my wife the more she thought about it, she thought I might be Autistic.

I did what I always do and read everything I could find on the subject. I could see how that would be the case that I would be Autistic, but didn’t do anything further with that information at the time. Being parents of a toddler trumped a lot of things at the time, including this. But those two would dovetail together after we began to suspect that our toddler might also be Autistic.

At a later date, I had a really bad day at work. It felt like I was having a bit of a breakdown, so I sought out a psychologist. In one visit, that psychologist had identified me as Autistic. (To be fair, he said Asperger’s Syndrome, but the current diagnosis standard has everything rolled under the same umbrella as Autism Spectrum Disorder.) So my breakdown that led me to the psychologist could more accurately be described as a meltdown.

In the last 18 months, it’s been tough to walk around quiet about it. Some days, I’m really spent because certain things just violate the sensibilities I have that sometimes only make sense to myself. There have been things that seem to be new issues for me when the truth is I am only just now understanding things that have caused me trouble my entire life.

It’s been an interesting ride at home not only re-learning about me, but also learning about my son in an additional light finding out he is Autistic as well. I’ve also selectively told people I thought would be open-minded.

I share my story now for a few reasons. One, it really is tiring not to share with those that know me best out of everyone. I’ve always been an open book for people, and that still hasn’t changed. Two, the battle amongst the growing Autistic community to dispel the stigma of being Autistic requires education and understanding of others about the troubles gone through to persist in a world not designed for you. I like to make bold moves, so I decided I wanted to jump from one at a time to many
at a time.

A little about Autism:

Autism Spectrum Disorder is a neurotype that is legally classified as a disorder in the United States, as well as many other countries. Diagnoses have spiked in the past decade because the knowledge of what Autism is and isn’t has only just started hitting its stride. Most adults diagnosed as such probably should have been diagnosed as children. There is still a lot being learned about Autism.

The one confirmation the medical community has made about how a person ends up with Autism is that there is a heavy genetic causality.
Autism manifests itself differently in every individual identified as Autistic. Because it can cause a severe effect on development, some Autistics will require assistance the duration of their life. Others may need no assistance because they’ve learned ways to “fit in” to a level where most people would never know how different they really are.

There are some general areas in which Autistics process differently than everyone else.

1. Executive Function: This is the ability to operate every day, doing normal tasks that anyone has to do. This can be a minor or a major issue. For me personally, I operate nominally as long as I have things hammered into a routine. The moment that routine has to change is when my world can get turned upside down, even on the tiniest of things. This is why I like project management. I am a planner!

2. Processing of emotions or emotional information: The stereotype is that Autistics have no emotions. This is untrue. They just process differently. If you allow me to be a fly on the wall, I will have the entire room read in no time flat. However, if you insist I interact and be involved with anyone, it can take me hours to days to process their emotions and what they said. This makes me seem uncaring at the time, and “late to the party” when I revisit something later. Even just a little bit of distance allows me to be more efficient.

3. Sensory Processing: This is something that manifests itself differently for every Autistic person out there. This is something I am even still learning more just about myself. Sound, smell, touch, sight, taste… All these things have the possibility of being hyper-enhanced. I often have issues with sounds that are needlessly loud. They create physical stress reactions. I can function through them, but in the case of attending a college football game where the loudness of the experience (not including the noise produced by the fans in attendance) was indiscriminate, it took me about 3 weeks to recover.

4. Honesty: The saying goes that honesty is the best policy. But that is never held to be true always. Some people will lie, or withhold the truth, to spare feelings. Others will do it to avoid consequences. There are many reasons people will lie. The way Autistic people are wired, they tell the truth…every time…practically. For most Autistic people, they would be bad liars. Manipulative ulterior motives are rarely ever existent for an Autistic who is telling the truth about something. Some people have suggested this is tied back into the emotional processing issues.

5. Meltdowns: Over-stimulation in any area can cause meltdowns. Meltdowns are basically when the brain short-circuits on you. Meltdowns can be loud and messy, especially with, but not exclusive to, younger kids. They can also be very quiet, where someone just shuts down and doesn’t participate in the world for a little bit. Meltdowns go away at some point after the removal of the over-stimulation.

Goals for Autistic people to self-regulate often include exercise, diet adjustments, yoga, and meditation. Goals for “normal” people to be inclusive of Autistics include having an open mind and allowing time (in multiple ways) for whatever the relationship is supposed to be to form, as well as always communicating in the most direct way possible (we don’t normally understand innuendo).

In spite of these differences Autistics have with “normal” people, we often learn things faster, are very loyal (sometimes to a fault), and are already extremely hard workers just trying to keep on par with others in a world not designed for us.
Remember, Autism is a little bit different from person to person. What I would share with you that specifically applies to me may not work in the same way for anyone else. That being said, I am always happy to answer anything I can.


63618_182980491719336_5407577_nTim Brewer is an awesome Husband and Father to his wife and son.  Tim currently lives in the Panhandle of Texas, where the star are bright at night and you can watch your dog run away for three days.  Tim is also a great friend of the Bearded Theologians.

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Thankfulness in the Ups AND Downs

As I reflect upon the last several weeks, we as people have experienced a lot of grief, fear, devastation, and tragedy.  There have been earthquakes, hurricanes, shootings, political decisions, day to day struggles, loved ones have succumbed to illness, others have started treatment for cancer, and the list could go on and on and on.  As we approach the holiday season when we are supposed to be thankful and cheerful we may find it hard.  Do not feel guilt or shame because you find it difficult to be thankful and find joy this season.  There is a lot going on in our world near and far that makes our hearts weigh heavy.

On the other hand, there is a lot to be joyful about this season.  Despite all this is going on in the world, our lives have brought us hope.  There have been opportunities for healing, to see family and friends, maybe even starting new projects or jobs that are life-giving.  I am hearing stories from people across the country that in the midst of tragedy they are finding hope.

My encouragement for all of us this season is that we take a cue from the Psalms. When we read the Psalms we find there is often great lament for the heavy heart.  There is an outpouring of grief and pain.  In this season if this is you, please pour out.  Please grieve, please name your pain.  In this outpouring remember that the Psalms teach us with an outpouring of grief, comes an outpouring of thanksgiving because we have opened our hearts up to healing and with healing comes hope and thanksgiving.  Don’t forget to pour out in thanksgiving as well.

Life is a lot like a rollercoaster.  There are ups and downs, twists and turns, anxiety, anticipation, fear, joy, excitement, and sometimes we get off the ride and our stomachs hurt, others times we can’t wait to ride again.  No matter where you find yourself, in the ups or downs of life, God is always there.  God is there in the ups standing with you.  God is truly there in the downs, reaching out a hand to help you up. Psalm 138 is a great outpouring of thanksgiving and in its conclusion reminds us that Gods faithful love endures forever.

No matter where you find yourself this season, up or down, grieving or joyful, God’s faithful love endures forever.


22366779_10155962606633694_6767176542225626637_nZach Bechtold is the Co-Founder of Bearded Theologians, as well as a Husband, Father, Pastor, an avid Colorado Rockies fan.  In his free time, he enjoys hiking and being in the mountains.  You can listen to his sermons and find out more about his church at http://www.umchoteau.net.

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It’s Time #MeToo

#MeToo is popping up all over social media in response to sexual harassment/assault allegations against Harvey Weinstein. The news cannot stop talking about the women who have come forward, his alleged behavior, the women who were paid to keep their mouths shut, and the consequences he is now facing.

They all sound shocked that this happened…shocked that so many women would be quiet for such a long time…shocked that such a successful man could possibly do these things.

Before Weinstein, the press was preoccupied with Taylor Swift’s groping trial. Again, there was shock – a DJ grabbed Swift’s backside during a photo shoot. You can clearly see this in the photo and a jury agreed that Swift was NOT, in fact, responsible for the DJ’s shattered career.

Before Swift, we saw photos of the women who accused Bill Cosby of sexual assault. We even saw an artistic image with an empty chair sitting next to women who had been brave enough to come forward; that chair reminded us of all the other women who might have been assaulted, but whose silence made them invisible. How many were there? Will we ever know?

What did we see and hear from the media? Shock. Absolute shock. A beloved American icon was facing abhorrent accusations and for some reason, we found it very difficult to separate our admiration for the lovable, Cliff Huxtable, while grasping the overwhelming possibility that Cosby might not be quite as respectable.

Before Cosby, there was #YesAllWomen. Women flocked to Twitter and used this hashtag to express how they had been sexually assaulted, harassed, and degraded. More than 1 million tweets went out within the first four days of the hashtag’s existence…1 million tweets showcasing misogyny at its finest.

You know what we heard from the media? Shock. It was shocking! It was ridiculously shocking that so many women would have these experiences and would talk about them on Twitter. It was also distressing, so much so that another hashtag developed. #NotAllMen (Obviously, their shock caused them to miss the point entirely.)

Here is the problem. This isn’t shocking news. Women have been talking about these issues for years, generations even.

Women shouldn’t have to feel compelled to keep talking about it so others will believe this is a real issue. Women shouldn’t need to feel compelled to share deeply personal and tragic stories of sexual assault and harassment on social media – telling their stories so society can finally realize the massiveness of this problem. We have already told these stories

Women do not owe it to society to continually prove this is real.

The shock needs to end. It is dismissive to women across the world. It reinforces the idea that our experiences are not believable and questions the possibility that men, especially talented or powerful men, could perpetrate such despicable actions. We can allow men to be innocent until proven guilty, without perpetuating the nonsensical charade of shock. Doing so will not make us anymore complacent about misogyny than we already are.

If women are only ever allowed to tell their heart-wrenching stories of harassment and assault, while society listens with attentive shock, we will never start addressing misogyny. Things that truly shock us are unexpected. They are anomalies. We are stunned by them in the moment and then we continue with our lives. This isn’t an unexpected anomaly. Sexual harassment and assault are real problems that can be solved when we choose to hold people accountable for their actions.

It is time to stop the shock. It is time to stop expecting women to tell these stories over and over again as if they were revelations. It is time to get to the part of the story where we fix the problem. That is called the climax and resolution people, the very best part of the story. Do women get to experience that part of the story? Trust me, women are ready to be at that point in the narrative. We are exhausted from living and retelling the ugly first parts as if society at large is just now hearing them for the first time…


leiawilliams

My name is Leia, which should tell you that my dad’s favorite movie is Star Wars and I have some very unfortunate nicknames. I studied International Relations in undergrad and couldn’t find a job to save my life, so I changed my plans and studied communications in graduate school. I served The United Methodist Church for 7 years in fundraising, discipleship, and communications. Currently, I am working as a consultant, but in November I will return to my work with The United Methodist Church.

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Help Is On The Way

 

Hurricanes have always been a major part of my life in southeast Louisiana. As a child when my family decided to “ride out the storm”, I can remember filling the tub with water, taping our windows in the shape of an “X”, and parking our cars on high ground, praying the storm would pass us by. Hurricanes are a way of life that I never got used to. In the back of my mind, I am always wondering if this is the storm that will change my life forever.

Meteorologists can guess a hurricane’s path but we are still at the mercy of Mother Nature. We can’t possibly know where storms will go or what to expect when they hit. We have seen the chaos and havoc these storms can have on communities. People who have been affected by hurricanes, like Katrina, identify timelines in their life as “before the storm” and “after the storm”. An impact of a hurricane can be felt for generations.

Hurricanes aren’t’ the only disasters that have us on high alert. We have seen quite a bit of devastation in the United States over the past few months with heat waves, forest fires, flooding, and earthquakes. No matter what your views are on global warming or the environment in general, you have to admit these natural disasters are more dangerous and happening more frequently, and not just in the United States, but around the world. No matter where these catastrophic events happen it is God working in His people that remind us that it is not what we lose but what we gain in our most challenging times…each other.

Matthew 25:35-40 is assurance that when we are most in need, most desperate, God is present among us through the kindness and generosity we show to one another.

Our first responders are a perfect example of God showing up for people in distress, but they are not the only ones. We have seen heroic efforts from everyday citizens going above and beyond to help the “least of these.” We have witnessed an overwhelming response of donations and support to nonprofit organizations devoted to response and recovery, like the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR). We have also heard reports of everyday citizens risking their lives to rescue souls from danger and getting them to safety, even going as far as offering refuge in their own home. God is present among us!

In 2015, I had the honor of traveling to Bellagio, Italy to share my experience of recovery after Hurricane Katrina with leaders from around the world. At this convening hosted by the Rockefeller Foundation and the Municipal Art Society, representatives from countries impacted by natural or manmade disasters told stories of pain, recovery, and hope. Each delegate was faced with the question, “What makes a community resilient?” Our conclusion regardless of ethnicity, language or region, resilient communities exhibited determination, inclusivity, and philanthropy, which is parallel to the research conducted by the Rockefeller Foundation 100 Resilient Cities. Resilience is about people.

We sometimes want God to shield us or protect us from harm. We pray for grace and to be spared from pain. However, God doesn’t guarantee that we won’t experience heartache. The Bible has numerous examples of good people enduring the most extreme circumstances. Sometimes the storm hits and rocks us to our core, and sometimes it spares us. If a storm tears our world apart, rest assured, just as it entered our lives, it will also pass and the skies will clear. In the aftermath, we can give thanks and know that God’s love will be living and moving through the courage of His people. When someone helps a neighbor in need, or gives without expecting anything in return, or opens their heart to the broken, we know this is God showing up for us just as He promised!

So, when we pray for safety in these most uncertain times, may we also pray for resilience. Just as one is spared by Grace, another is seeking Grace. Our faith tells us that God will show up! May we each be used as God’s hands and feet, when our neighbors need to see His presence the most.

 


shortphoto

 

Mrs. Sabrina N. Short is a ministry consultant specializing in community engagement and outreach. Mrs. Short has been recognized for her work with youth around social justice and youth-led community organizing. A former faith-based community organizer, with PICO National and All Congregations Together, she works closely with United Methodist Churches across the country and its national institutions advocating youth leadership in ministry, social justice and mission. She has over 15 years experience in the non-profit field, partnering with numerous organizations to serve disenfranchised communities.