Hi Daddy!

08/24/2011

We, as the children of God, can be this familiar with our Father in Heaven. We can say, “Hi Daddy!” Our Abba Father, our Daddy loves that! He loves it when we are excited to be in His presence, to love on Him and direct our focus on all that He is and all that He is doing in our daily lives. The thing is, many times, we don’t focus on our Daddy…many times we neglect our relationship with our Daddy and we withdraw from Him. We don’t listen to Him, we don’t speak to Him, and we are in our own world doing our own thing.

Recently a friend sent me a song to listen to. The lyrics said this:

“I don’t want to talk about You like you’re not in the room.
I want to look right at You, I want to sing right to You.”
(You Won’t Relent – Jesus Culture)

That made me stop and think, I do that don’t I Lord? Sometimes I talk about You like You’re not listening, like You can’t hear me, like You’re not there at all. Sadly, sometimes we do that with special people in our lives too. And sadly, sometimes they do that with us.

Recently, I had an interesting experience with my four-year-old granddaughter, Maren. I was in Oregon visiting my son and his wife and their three children. Maren is Autistic, and Maren lives in her own world much of the time. She is highly intelligent, and can put puzzles together like no other four year old I have seen. Most times it “seems” that Maren isn’t aware of what is going on around her, or what is being said about her, or anything else we are talking about—but I think she is much more aware than we might give her credit for. One of my favorite things to do with Maren is to sing right to her, and to have her look right at me. This is a special time between us. I start to sing, “If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands,” and she looks at me, and she waits, and then she claps with me. This time I tried the “stomp your feet,” and she would do that with me too. So far, it is only with this song that I can get her undivided attention.

Here is a sweet song that captures the heart of Autism:
Rainbow, a Song for Autism Spectrum Disorders

On this recent visit to Oregon, I noticed something very interesting with Maren. She is smart enough to know when to “tune in” and when to stay tuned out. But how does she know that, and just how does the mind of an autistic child work? There are so many questions still to be answered about Autism.

The ponderings for this writing came to light while attending a new church with my daughter-in-law Cami, and my other granddaughter, Kylie, who will be six in a couple of weeks. The speaker that morning was talking about the times when we ignore God. Times when we want to do what we want to do, and we aren’t listening to God because we don’t want to. Now some may say that autistic people are unable to do some of the things I am about to talk about, and that may very well be true. I am no expert on autism, but for me, my autistic granddaughter helped to open my eyes to how we relate to our God, our Daddy, our Lord.

I watched Maren for the few days that I was with her. My heart longed to know her more and for her to know me as her Oma. I would love our relationship to grow and blossom as it is with my other grandchildren, but it is more challenging with a child who has autism. It is hard to get Maren’s attention and it hard to keep her attention for any length of time. With autistic children there is a lack of eye contact, sometimes a lack of physical contact, and usually a lack of verbal communication. I have learned a bit about autism because of Maren, but I have a lot more to learn to be able to understand what she might be experiencing in her mind. Even the medical experts are trying to figure out not only the cause of autism, but also how to treat it in the best way possible so that these children can be helped to live to their full potential in life.

As Cami and I were sitting in church, I started to think about the times we ignore God and really don’t hear Him. Is it because we aren’t listening to Him, thinking it’s just not that important to us a lot of the time? I know that if my mind is elsewhere, I don’t hear the birds chirping outside my window. But if I focus on them, their chirping comes in loud and clear. It’s not that they hadn’t been singing, it’s that I wasn’t paying attention to them.

With Maren, I noticed that she doesn’t pay much attention to the people or events around her. She is a busy little girl, but she is usually involved in her own activity, quite satisfied to be by herself. But then my son started to make some chocolate chip cookies, he said to me, “Watch Maren,” so I did. She came alive, she became more aware, and she went over to him and I heard her say, “Hi Daddy!” It was the first and only time I had heard her say that during my visit. She was more than willing to say, “Please” when requesting a cookie. She was more than willing to say, “Thank you.” What had happened? Why was she suddenly so in tune to her surroundings? Because she wanted something very badly, so she focused on it instead of just doing her own thing. Her mind worked, and it worked very well when it was something that she really wanted.

Now, I’m not saying that chocolate chip cookies are the cure to autism, or that Maren is faking her autism, or that she is even capable of communicating like this all the time even if she really wanted to. I’ve gathered enough information on autism to know that there are physical things going on in the brain that are different and that make it very difficult, if not near impossible, for autistic people to communicate like non-autistic people. But still, something clicked in Maren, and something clicked in me also…she was modeling for me much of the human race who ignores a Father who loves us very much until we want something from Him…and then, we are quite willing to focus and say, “Hi Daddy! Please!?” And our loving Father is always there for us, quite willing to love us no matter how long we have been away from Him doing our own thing.

“Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the
child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!”
Isaiah 49:15 (NIV)

When children with special needs are around, sometimes we forget that they can hear us, and sometimes we might even forget that they can understand us. Recently I was with a young woman with special needs, and while I was attending to her, another person was attending to her prayer needs. When she was asked what her prayer request might be, I was surprised to hear her answer. She didn’t request healing and being able to walk again, leaving behind a wheelchair that had been with her since she was a small child. No. Her request was that her mother would listen to her. Listen to her… She felt unheard by the one person who loves her the most, her mother. When I was done cutting her hair, she looked me right in the eye and tried to verbalize three times, “Thank you.” It was a struggle to voice the words, they were not easy to understand, but her heart was pure and her thanks came through loud and clear. Like Maren, she lives in a body that makes communication with others difficult. Thank You God, You listen to us without any problem understanding our thoughts and our needs.

You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar.
Psalm 139:2 (NIV)

Our Daddy in Heaven always listens to us, He knows our thoughts, but we may not know Him or feel close to Him if we are not paying attention to Him. When there is no communication, there is no closeness. I try hard to “be” with Maren, to sit with her while she does puzzles and talk with her about them, whether she answers me or not. Usually she seems unaware that I am there. There are glimpses of a relationship there, but it takes work. I want to know her, and I would like her to know me, but only time will tell how that develops. Since my job is cutting hair, I always take my scissors to Oregon when I go. The whole family gets a trim, including Maren. She doesn’t like it much and I usually stand behind her when she is doing a puzzle and cut without her realizing fully what is going on. But as she gets older, she’s realizing what I’m doing.

The other day at work a young boy of about six or seven came in to get his hair cut. I asked his mother if he had special needs, and she told me he was autistic. He sat in the chair pretty well, and I worked fast, but he was even faster. He saw my shiny clippers hanging on the hook in front of him and he reached out for them with the speed of lightening! But, his mother was even faster and got them from him. I commented on how quick she was, and she commented back—basically, she knows her son, she knows his interests, and she watches him closely. In their own way, they have a close relationship.

Many of us would like a close relationship with our Father in Heaven, and Heaven knows He surely would like to have one with us—but if we are going through our day wandering down our own paths, living in our own world seemingly oblivious to any conversation He might be having with us, or any acts of kindness He might be showing to us, then we are missing out on a beautiful relationship that is being offered. We become the “Autistic” children of God when we live our lives separated from God physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Maren may not be able to sit and read a book with me yet, but we as adult children of God are fully capable of sitting and reading the Good Book with our Father. Are we doing it? Often?

It is to be with him, and he is to read it all the days of his life so that he
may learn to revere the LORD his God and follow carefully…
Deuteronomy 17:19 (NIV)

In talking with my brother about all this recently, I told him I was looking for a word for “Autistic” children of God, maybe some new word that might describe how we are when we are not paying attention to our Daddy. He gave me a word, and an Acronym for it, and even though it is not a new word, it is a perfect word in describing what we are doing. He said it this way for those of us who do believe:

S –Sense of
I – Identity
N – Neglect

And I thought of:

S – Serious
I – Identity
N – Neglect

That hit the mark I was searching for. I didn’t need a new word, the word God has used all along surely captures it. SIN. When I go through my day and I’m not focusing on my relationship with my Daddy in Heaven, I am neglecting my identity as a child of God. Maren goes through her days living with her family, singing with me when I am there, playing with her siblings as best she can, but does she have a sense of being part of the family, or knowing their relationship with each other? Perhaps she does, perhaps there again it’s one of those things she understands as much as any four year old can, but being autistic she cannot express? But as children of God, we need to not SIN—we need to pay attention to our Daddy and His involvement in our going out and coming in—to sense His presence in our day, and to remember that we are part of the family of God always.

…whenever anyone turns to the Lord, then the veil is taken away.
2 Corinthians 3:16 (NLT)

Once again, out of the mouth of babes….My other daughter-in-law, Holly, was giving final instructions to our grandson, Jack, recently. He and his sister, Laila, were going to be picked up by their aunt to spend the night with her family. Holly ran through the typical instructions we all give our children, “Be good, remember your manners, and say ‘please’ and ‘thank you.’” Jack answers back, “Okay, I’ll be good, I’ll remember to say please and thank you and I won’t sin.” Jack had been in a Vacation Bible School all week…it seems he was paying attention!

Oswald Chambers writes: “Whatever our circumstances may be, that holy, innocent, and eternal Child must be in contact with His Father.” But later he writes, “Am I simple enough to identify myself with my Lord in this way?...or have I carefully pushed Him to one side?” (Aug. 8th, My Utmost for His Highest)

Even as believers, sometimes we push our Lord to one side and just get on with the business at hand, doing what we want to do in our own little world…forgetting who we are and the God we serve.

Now for those who do not believe, my brother writes the Acronym for SIN this way:

S – Saying
I – I
N – Need Not God

Whatever form SIN comes in, it is still SIN, and it still needs to be dealt with. It is what stands between us and a wonderful relationship with our Daddy. Jesus has made a way for us to be as close to our Father in Heaven by making us His brothers and sisters. Let’s be aware of the Heavenly Family that is ours!

God was showing me so many things through Maren. Not only does autism cut her off from those she loves, but it also cuts those who love her off from her—not only are we missing out on a beautiful relationship with our Daddy in Heaven when we pay no attention to the fact that He is in the room, but it is painful for Him also. Our God wanted children, just as my son and his wife did. Our God wanted children so that He could have a relationship with us, and the really cool thing is, it doesn’t matter to our Daddy in Heaven if we can speak, if our mind is 100 percent able, if our body is fully functioning, because He already knows our thoughts and He is able to have a relationship with people even with the most severe cases of autism or whatever else the case might be. But with those of us who live each day with so-called fully functioning minds and bodies, and yet are choosing to ignore our Daddy…there is a separation in our relationship with Him because we have chosen it. We have to realize that even if we haven’t chosen it, even a non-choice is a choice.

“But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you,
then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve…”
Joshua 24:15 (NIV)

We all choose how to spend our time, and who to spend our time with every day. By not choosing time with our Daddy, we have made a choice. And honestly, don’t we all feel closer to those who look us in the eye, who talk to us, who spend time with us, who ask us questions about our day and who share their day with us too? That is what having a relationship is all about. That is what our God; our Daddy in Heaven would like to have with us. If we are not feeling close to Him, it has been asked, “Who moved?” It’s not that there aren’t times when we feel distant from our God, and times when we struggle in our relationship with Him, but when we truly know God and the character that He has, we will know that He is there, always, whether we feel Him or not. The ebb and flow of life will happen, but the Rock we stand on is Solid when it is our Lord.

While in Oregon, Cami and I went to see the play, “The Last Days of Judas Iscariot.” It is a courtroom drama that attempts to render an innocent or guilty verdict about Judas’ participation in the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Many people are put on the stand during the play including Mother Teresa, Freud, Caiaphas, Pontius Pilot, and even Satan himself. It’s very well done although the language was hard to take at times. The point of the play seems to be to get us to think about things in a way we may never have before. It brings up discussions between people, instigates conversations that otherwise might never be had. During intermission, I overheard two women close by discussing the difficult subject of suicide. (Judas hung himself after he sold Jesus’ whereabouts for 30 pieces of silver.) The one woman revealed that her 19 year old son had committed suicide, and the other woman was quite taken aback. They spent the entire intermission talking about this very difficult subject, and I was intrigued by what the play had brought out in their discussion. The play was long, and by eleven o’clock at night our eyes were very droopy, but it was well worth the late evening because we too had even more to talk about when it was finished. Communication, a sharing of ideas, new thoughts, spending time together, this is what makes life what God meant for it to be. And this is what will make our relationship with God what He desires it to be, not only for us, but for Him also!

Maren has taught me to pay more attention to my Daddy. To always remember that in any conversation, God is in the room, and He can hear me, and what I say affects Him. Since I have returned home from Oregon, many times in my day I am drawn back into a conversation with God, not wanting to have SIN: Serious Identity Neglect. I don’t want my Daddy to be sad because of my neglect of Him, of not calling out to Him and realizing He is there! It reminds me of a young man who used to visit our home; he was one of our son’s friends. He would come in and always be exclaiming, “Jesus Christ!” Whenever I would hear him, I would ask him, “Are you talking to Jesus? Because if you’re not, don’t be using His name.” Jesus is a real Person, He can hear us, He is in the room, He lives in the heart of believers. When we’re using His name, let’s make it personal.

One who loves a pure heart and who speaks with grace will have the king for a friend.
Proverbs 22:11 (NIV)

We can’t understand fully yet the mind of an autistic person, but we can pay attention to our own minds, and use them to draw close to God. Temple Grandin, a highly functioning autistic person, helped me understand more about how the mind of an autistic person works. You can hear her speak at:
Temple Grandin, The World Needs All Kinds of Minds

Just because an autistic person doesn’t communicate as easily as some, it doesn’t mean they don’t know exactly what is going on, and that what they are feeling is very important to them. That’s why there is a level of frustration that comes out in crying and screaming, because they can’t get their feelings out in any other way.

I was watching anther program about autism and there was a young boy in the documentary. He had NEVER communicated one sentence to his parents; they had no idea what he thought about day in and day out. There was a teacher who was able to get the children to point to letters with a pencil, and with great difficulty they were able to express themselves for the first time. His first thought shared with his parents? “I would like to play the piano. I’ve always had songs in my head from very young.” That doesn’t sound like a child who doesn’t know what’s going on in the world around him to me!! Even if he couldn’t communicate his thoughts and desires, they were still very much there!

…God is greater than our feelings, and he knows everything.
1 John 3:20 (NLT)

There are times when Maren gets very frustrated because she can’t communicate what her needs are, but the better we can get to know her, the easier that makes it for her. Her mom and dad can understand things she is saying much better than I can because I am not able to be with her a great deal of the time—and Maren knows what she wants! She likes to play a particular video game, but she can’t get through the first part of it, it is too hard for her. When it gets to a certain point and she can press the buttons to move the shapes into their right places, she loves that part of the game. She knows she needs help to move through the first part of the game, and she will come and hand the game to her sister and have her do it for her, and then when the first level is accomplished, she wants it back so she can do the shapes part. She cannot voice any of this, but she certainly can think it and act on it!!

Cami just found this acronym for Autism. She said it does describe Maren:

Always
Unique
Totally
Interesting
Sometimes
Mysterious

Our responsibility is to understand Maren and others like her as best we can, and to help them do the things they can do and to learn what they can learn in the best way they can absorb it. Like Temple Grandin’s amazing brain, we need to appreciate the magnificent mind that autistic children have been given, and realize that even if they go about this life differently than most, it is still their life, and it is the way that God designed them, and He understands them perfectly and loves them with His perfect love. Our other responsibility is to not SIN, to not be Autistic children of God. Some children are born autistic, and some even grow out of it in time. Perhaps when we are born into the family of God, we are all somewhat autistic in the early years, but the difference is, we can choose to grow out of it by making the choice to daily focus on our Daddy and build that relationship with Him.

Maren does not yet comprehend how much we want to know her. She doesn’t understand fully how much it means to her parents when she says one simple sentence, or how her daddy lights up when she sees him making cookies and he knows he’s going to have her full attention, even if it is just for a brief amount of time. She doesn’t know how my heart thrills when she looks me in the eye and waits to clap her hands along with me as I sing to her…because that is our moment of connection, and they are few and far between. In the same way, we can’t know the thrill and the joy that our Daddy in Heaven feels when our eyes meet His for even just a brief moment, when our thoughts are turned towards Him without distraction. We can’t know how He must smile when we say, “Hi Daddy” and spend a few moments with Him in our day. We can’t know the longing He has in His heart for us to know Him more, but as His children, we can remind each other along the way that He is there, and He loves us, and He wants a relationship with us more than anything else in the world. That’s why He created us. Let’s not run to Him and give Him our full attention just because He has a cookie waiting there for us….let’s do it merely because we know He is there, and we are His—because the love between our Daddy and us is more precious than gold.

In telling some about the play concerning Judas, I have been asked, was he found guilty? Well, yes he was, but the juror who came to tell him so also told him a story about his own life, and the mistakes that he had made along the way and the precious things he had lost because of it. He ended by telling Judas that Judas had given up the silver, but this juror had given away gold in his life. Judas felt beyond redemption, but as the stage lights went out we watched Jesus take off Judas’ shoes and wash his feet. We as the audience saw that Judas was loved by a God who knows all, and loves us anyway. The least we can do with a God who loves us that much is to realize He is in the room when we are speaking, that He desires a relationship with us, and to focus on our loving Daddy in our day as much as possible. God has designed us so that we can communicate with Him…let’s not give away that precious thread of gold!

Until we meet again,

Diane