Public Discourse

For those of you who have experienced Christians as hateful, tight-fisted, paranoid, selfish, self-serving, power hungry or callous, I express regret. Here I am referring to politics and to comments on the internet. I am talking about the conversation you overheard in line to buy your coffee, and the relative at the last family event. I hope this impression has never come from me, or the people with whom I am closely connected. If it has, however, I am sorry. Please allow me time to reflect on that and to make the difficult but appropriate changes.

This is not the Christ we follow. Sometimes people professing his name miss the mark or get it wrong. Always, Jesus is better than the people who serve him. This is what we want to be able to do – look to him and model his example of love and service. I know we fail. Our full intention, however is genuinely to emulate him.

We recognize that many of you who are not Christians, or are not religious, are also striving to attain to the ideals you believe in. We know you fail at times, like we do, but we also see diverse people working together to create goodness for thriving communities. I am so grateful when this happens. Please know the hateful speech and the bitter accusations do not reflect the Christ we love.



Whether or not you are surrounded by family, or virtually alone, whether or not this has been a good year full of prosperity and joy, or one of struggle and pain, my family and I wish you a merry Christmas.

May the good news the angels proclaimed two millennia ago be true today.

Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. (Luke 2:11).

May the ancient prophecies be fulfilled in our hearts.

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son and you will call him Immanuel [God with us] (Isaiah 7:14).

May you not only be grateful today for the symbol of the cross, but the meaning bursting forth from a tiny feeding trough.  May we marvel at the wonder and love of a God who has completely shared, and still shares, in our humanity.  God with us.  God, a part of us.  Love in flesh and blood.  Our reason why we search for ways to practice and emulate grace for those without.

For we do not have a [Christ], who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet was without sin.  Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (Hebrews 4:15-16).


God is with you.

Pulling Tolstoy off the shelf

Pulling Tolstoy off the shelf one day I flipped through Anna Karenina while waiting for my son to collect his shoes. The hefty volume opened easily, and I was a little surprised to discover the following:

“You’re very, very funny,” Darya Alexandrovna repeated studying his face tenderly. “Well, all right, it will be as if we never spoke of it. What is it, Tanya?” she said in French to the girl who had just come in.

“Where’s my shovel, Mama?”

“I am speaking French, and you should do the same. ”

The girl wanted to do the same, but forgot what a shovel is called in French; her mother told her amd then proceeded to tell her in French where to find the shovel. And Levin found this disagreeable.

Now everything in Darya Alexandrovna’s house and in her children seemed less nice to him than before.

“And why does she speak French with the children?” he thought, “How unnatural and false it is! And the children can feel it. Teaching French and unteaching sincerity,” he thought to himself, not knowing that Darya Alexandrovna had already thought it all over twenty times and, to the detriment of sincerity, had found it necessary to teach her children in this way.

My thoughts instantly applied these words to my own parenting and home education. Living and teaching educational and moral integrity are a great concern to me. So often I fall prey to comparing myself to others, or even worse, comparing myself to unrealistic ideals, which live solely in my own head. In the end, my children may be the ones to suffer. Instead of allowing them to explore their own, genuine interests, I demand standards which do not honor who my children really are. I want to be authentic, full of integrity. I want to love my children for who they are, allowing them to pursue their own fields of study, despite the fact that they may be far from my own. Relationships before arithmetic. Sincerity and strong moral character before chemistry. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. 1 Peter 4:8.

What parent doesn’t want their child looking to them with love and respect? First, I need to show them the same love and respect, perhaps in even greater quantity. Even if it entails encouraging the compilation of Hogwart’s spells. Or let’s say, baseball statistics.

As I speak and live for my children, let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer. Psalm 19:14.

Sliding Tolstoy back on the shelf, I help G tie his shoes.


We were outside playing and pulling weeds.  Then, we decided to fill the watering cans.

“Flowers need to be strong!”  His little nose wrinkled up when he said it, and he flexed a tiny fist.

I thought only of the bright fuschias, reds and pinks in our meager flower beds.  Strength just didn’t seem to be a characteristic.

Gently wateringDo all little boys revere strength?  From the moment they can compose a sentence, they claim the boast for themselves.  “I can do it!  Look how strong I am!”  Precious young man, may you ever be willing to help.  While this mama brags on her son for his growing muscles, she also recognizes another need.  And yet does not voice it.  Little boys need gentleness.  Enter my job as his mama.  In learning to stop and use a gentle touch, in being compelled to slow down and rein in their impulsive, continuous movements, they just might grow into stronger men.

Carrying water requires strength.  Helping carry one another’s burdens requires even more.

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ…Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.  Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people…” Galatians 6:2,9-10

In knowing what it means to brush a petal softly, to pull a weed tenderly, a boy might one day know how to use his inner strength when it is most needed.  One day he might be a man who knows the strength it takes to embrace gently.


Be devoted to one another in love.  Honor one another above yourselves….Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Romans 12:10,12

Curriculum: an Asperger’s Reading List

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could purchase a full curriculum to teach us what it is like to be on the Autism spectrum, and to have  reference material to help us troubleshoot those sticky, daily problems?  As a mom with a twelve-year-old son (EEK!  He just had a birthday and is now so proud to sit in the front seat.) who was diagnosed with Asperger’s, I would love if this were a reality.  The truth is, however, one does not exist.  Just like there does not seem to be a book to teach me to stop being so impatient.  And yet, there are several helpful books to help ease the burden, make things a little clearer, and to provide inspiration.  The following list is hardly comprehensive.  In fact, it is only just the beginning.  I have listed, however, the books or materials we currently possess or have used.  Here I am primarily including books for younger readers.  Most of these are geared toward individuals  6-16 years of age.   These are the ones which have made a difference TO US.  I hope you find something useful, hopeful, inspiring in at least one of these tools.

blogphotos 001 All Cats Have Asperger Syndrome by Kathy Hoopman – If you know a parent of a child on the spectrum, it is very likely they have a particular fondness for this book.  In fact, I know many parents who have used this exact book to help guide their first conversation with their child about what it means to have Asperger’s.  It was the perfect choice for us as A has always loved cats.  He finally got his own two Christmases ago.  And I strongly suspect that Mittens is indeed on the spectrum!

The first signs of Asperger Syndrome are usually picked up very young.  An Asperger Child looks at the world in his own unique way.  He likes to be near those he loves, but doesn’t want them to hold him, preferring squishy places to a hug.

Each page is sweetly accompanied by a photo of an adorable kitten.  The words are poignant enough, yet stated simply to enable it to be used with a wide variety of ages.  While not every statement may be true for your special one, it provides wonderful openings for constant dialogue about what makes us all unique.  You may also be interested in the author’s title All Dogs Have ADHD.

blogphotos 004Different Like Me: My  book of autism heroes by Jennifer Elder, illustrated by Marc Thomas and Jennifer Elder – A loves biographies, so this seemed a natural choice for him.  I do not remember how I first discovered this title, but it has been interesting beyond the topic of autism.  It is comprised of twenty one-page biographies of famous people who have excelled in various fields, such as science, mathematics, music, art and computers.  Some of the choices are speculative as they predate the 1940s knowledge of autism and Asperger’s.  For example, Isaac Newton and Lewis Carroll share space with Andy Warhol and Dian Fosey.  Autism spectrum disorders are not mentioned, perse, within the bios, but they do provide an understanding of their unique challenges and victories.  A good read for 8-12 years old.

blogphotos 002Temple Grandin: How the Girl Who Loved Cows Embraced Autism and Changed the World by Sy Montgomery- Full of personal photos of unarguably the best-known person with autism, this biography covers Temple Grandin’s early years, school and college life, as well as her current work with the cattle industry, and autism awareness.  This fabulous read, probably geared for a pre-teen or teenage audience, ends with the appendix “Temple’s Advice for Kids on the Spectrum.”

There is a tremendous wealth of insight through any of her books.


blogphotos 003Can I Tell You About Asperger Sydrome? by Jude Welton, illustrated by Jane Telford – This brief book was specifically written to help other children grow in their understanding of what it means for their friend to have Asperger’s.  Each section is introduced as a running dialogue between “Adam” and a friend.  It covers topics like sensory issues, confusion over social cues, and problems dealing with change.




iPad Screenshot 5

The Social Express by The Language Express,Inc. Initially intended as a curriculum for classroom or home usage, The Social Express is now available as a convenient app for your 7-15 year old.  Join Zack, Emma and her dog Sunny as they navigate their way through town, across friendships  and social situations.  This social skills learning program introduces “hidden social keys” like body language and emotional vocabulary.  Emma and Zack frequently consult their DPS (digital problem solver) to decide how to respond in difficult social situations.  In this way, your child is constantly interacting with the characters, helping them to make good choices.  While this program is already fairly basic for A, he still occasionally enjoys revisiting it.  They are always good reminders.

THE BIBLE– Ok, of course the Holy Writ does not specifically mention any type of Autism Spectrum Disorder.  However, there are so many verses on love and tolerance within its pages, that I think it should apply, whether talking about someone on the spectrum learning the world about them, or the “neuro-typical” in understanding and appreciating the spectrummy brain.  Just listen:

Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another.  Forgive as the Lord forgave you.  And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

Colossians 3:13-14


Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.

Ephesians 4:2





Unseeing Eyes

Have you ever read something for the hundredth time, only to discover bridges linking it to other stories or pieces, at least in your mind? This is one of the myriad reasons why I love reading good literature. I love discovering similarities in myself or seemingly disparate characters across varying genres. Often humanity and fraility, vulnerability and faith convey the same basic truths even through vastly different voices.

Recently I re-read Willa Cather’s “Old Mrs. Harris.” It is a slow-moving penetrating story, a peering through a side window into a midwestern family at the turn of the century. In it we see the final portion of an elderly woman’s life, a woman who lived in a time when the female gender was marginalized particularly as they were widowed and grew more feeble. In it, we also see the beginning of a young girl’s life, a girl who desperately wants her life to be different. The story reveals the psychology of familial relations during this era in American history.

“When they are old, they will come closer and closer to Grandma Harris. They will think a great deal about her, and remember things they never noticed; and their lot will be more or less like hers. They will regret that they heeded her so little; but they, too, will look into the eager, unseeing eyes of young people and feel themselves alone. They will say to themselves: ‘I was heartless, because I was young and strong and wanted things so much. But now I know. ‘”

Why do we still marginalize the elderly in the West? I even see this neglect in churches. Instead of taking advantage of the wisdom, knowledge,experience, and love they have to offer, I have seen us ignore them, discount the weightiness of what they still may offer. Have I been heartless, because I wanted something so much? Myopic because I found urgency in the wrong thing?

And here is the bridge my mind built. It connected Willa Cather to, of all people, the apostle John. Not to the young man who followed Jesus around, and leaned up against him during their final meal, but to the aged man, living in Ephesus, who had survived isolation.  Now, as a revered church leader, decrepit, elderly, he is carried daily to the city center.

There is a church tradition, which says, that when John was evidently an old man in Ephesus, he had to be carried to the church in the arms of his disciples. At these meetings, he was accustomed to say no more than, “Little children, love one another!” After a time, the disciples wearied at always hearing the same words, asked, “Master, why do you always say this?” “It is the Lord’s command,” was his reply. “And if this alone be done, it is enough!”


It is difficult to imagine that the beloved apostle was ever marginalized or pushed aside, forgotten, or trivilialized. After all, he had been with Jesus! Do you know someone who has been with Jesus? Someone who is continually with him, and has been for decades? May we never underestimate what is behind a failing exterior. May we never demand something more complicated from life than what is. May our eyes be forever seeing, our ears always listening.