This week on the Beardcast Matt and Zach sit down and talk about a little bit about the Zephaniah lectionary reading.
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.
Thomas 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.
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.
Tim 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.
Seek: verb; attempt to find (something)
Adventure: noun; an unusual and exciting, typically hazardous, experience or activity.
Simple words, but they’re not always the easiest to follow for a wanderlust traveler like myself. I have driven thousands of miles across the last few years in search of new sights, new creatures, and new experiences. Most of my time has been spent in the American Southwest. I’ve spent countless weeks in this area hiking along trails and looking for reptiles/amphibians. I love the heat, the giant cactus (especially the saguaro in Arizona), and the rugged beauty of the landscapes. More importantly, I love the sense of adventure.
When I think of the word ‘adventure’, I typically picture a several day trip to some state park, national monument or national park where I camp hundreds of miles from home beneath a sea of stars with a campfire crackling a few feet away. Even driving to these locations is an adventure because of the sights and sometimes the traffic. I can spend hours outdoors hiking and exploring nature. Going off the beaten trail in search of a lizard or snake I thought I saw. Standing in a forest or on the side of a mountain listening to the quietness that fills the moment. Someplace wild where I lose the familiarity and comfort of everyday life.
Adventures such as this are rare, particularly for the everyday working person. We wake up early in the morning for an 8-5 Monday thru Friday job and seem to only live for the weekend. Even on the weekends, we are too exhausted to do much besides things around the house or spend an evening out with friends. We now daydream of adventures with family and friends but we can’t break out of the daily grind we have found ourselves in. Having to deal with the real world just sucks some days, especially when you’re stuck in the office planning your next trip almost a year in advance. The longing for a wander will become a real issue at this point, and it will make you want to leave your job to find the nearest nature trail.
Leaving your job isn’t the best answer however, but I have found that in our daily grind, we can find small adventures. This can be anything from saying hello to a new person, to trying a new restaurant, or just driving around an area of town we aren’t familiar with. Just by saying hello to a new person we may make a new friend and that new friendship could turn into another adventure. By trying a new restaurant we may experience new tastes and possibly find a new meal that we fall in love with. By exploring a new area of town we may find a business or building that offers a unique service or activity for us to try out.
When I first moved to Lubbock, TX I worked at the University Medical Center. It took me a while to talk to the people I worked with but when I finally did, I became really good friends with them. From there they introduced me to a new restaurant that I love (Torchy’s Tacos is the best) and they invite me to random places where we hang out at. It may not seem like it, but I consider all that to be an adventure nonetheless. These smaller, personal adventures keep me going until it’s time for the next big adventure.
An adventure is meant to be something that gets you out of your element and to experience something new. As much as we badly long for the epic adventures, these adventures don’t fit into our daily routines. As much as I’d love to be outdoors hiking and seeing wonderful views, I’ve come to realize that the small, daily ones challenge me in different ways, and they matter just as much as the grandiose adventures.
Jacob Kemmer is a young man from Lubbock, Tx who seeks adventure everywhere he goes. I’ve known Jacob for a long time and his passion for nature and the creatures in it is inspiring… minus the snakes… snakes are never “cute” or “cool”. I’m pretty sure Jacob is one of the Wild Kratts brothers… GO WILD KRATTS!
(Sometimes I enjoy writing bios for people ~Zach)
Have you ever had a book pick you? Recently, my family traveled to stay at Lake Erie. We were doing some shopping as a family. My seven year old asked to go into the bookstore. So I journeyed with her to the children’s section. While I was waiting, I thought I will peruse the religious section beside the children’s section. My eyes rolled across book after book. There was one book that I noticed, but I was not in a book buying mood.
I walked back to my daughter and discussed her selection. As I walked to the front, I picked up the book that had caught my eye. I actually thought to myself, you don’t need another book. I didn’t even know what the book was about. Waiting for the cashier, I glanced at the back of the book. I noticed that two of the people making comments were football people, Tony Dungy and Chris Carter. I was still not excited by this book, but I could not convince myself to put it down. I purchased the books, one for my daughter and one for myself. As I exited the store, I chastised myself in my head to myself about all the books I own that are not read or not fully read. “All I need is another book.”
The next day I started reading the book. I was finished reading in 3 days. I believe the Holy Spirit prompted me to make my purchase of the book that day. I am very thankful for the promptings of the Spirit. That book was exactly what my heart needed. It very much prepared me for the journey I would take in the next couple of weeks.
In the Gospel of John, Jesus tells Nicodemus that he needs to be born of water and the Spirit. Uncertain of Jesus’ words, Nicodemus questions the meaning of this birth. In today’s world, I fear, we have lost our understanding of what it means to be born of the Spirit. When we accept Christ we become a vessel of the Spirit. That means we are transformed by the Spirit of the Living God. Wow! Impressive! Overwhelming! How amazing is it that we can be filled with, transformed and guided by the Holy Spirit!
In the world today we need the Holy Spirit so desperately as we encounter issues such as addiction, diseases, financial crisis, and relationships (just to name a few). I am drawn to the words of Francesca Battistelli’s song, “Holy Spirit, You are welcome here. Come flood this place and fill the atmosphere. Your glory God is what my heart longs for to be overcome by your presence Lord.”
Kara Rowe is an ordained Elder in the West Virginia Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. She currently serves Newell and First Chester United Methodist Churches. She lives in New Cumberland, West Virginia with her husband, Michael and her three children: Caleb, Abigail, and Jakoba. In Kara’s free time she is a crime fighting ninja, but don’t blow her cover!