Supporting churches to include people with Autism and Learning Disabilties

Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

She danced for Him.

A short story by Lynn McCann

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Susie didn’t like getting up that morning. It was cold and Ken was cross with her. She refused to get out of bed and short of pushing her out, there was nothing Ken could do.

By lunch time she was very hungry so she made her way in her pyjamas to the dining hall. Susie put on her fiercest face so none of the staff would challenge her to get dressed. She didn’t even like the thing called shepherds pie that they gave her but she ate, one mouthful at a time until it was cold and everyone else had left the room.

Susie didn’t like going to the lounge. Usually Ken or Sandra would try to make her join in something. Mostly she didn’t understand what they were saying and whatever they put in front of her, usually a piece of board with numbers or writing on it made Susie want to throw it across the room. She was getting good at aiming for certain people who might have annoyed her sometime. They stopped asking her to join in eventually. Susie preferred to sit in her room watching Strictly Come Dancing, over and over again.

It wasn’t Susie’s fault that she punched Kevin that day. He came far too close and she was fed up of him trying to touch her boobs. But Ken and Sandra hadn’t noticed that. As she watched Kevin fall to the floor in slow motion, the staff bounded across the room like superheroes blocking the baddie’s escape and holding Susie’s arms so tightly behind her back that the pain rushed into her head and screamed.

Susie couldn’t remember screaming hysterically or biting Sandra, but she could remember the way they pushed her to the floor and pinned her down. Susie might have been small and round but Susie knew what danger was and she was going to fight it. She was exhausted from the writhing, kicking and convulsing as they carried her to the punishment room. They didn’t even change her. She sat in her damp clothes, staring at the blank wall and retreated into Strictly Come Dancing land where Susie could dance in the pink sequinned dress she had always dreamed of.

Susie didn’t know why they came to get her. It wasn’t even night time. Sandra hissed at her to stop humming and Ken told her to behave for the visitor. Susie was too tired to fight but she wondered what visitor would ask for her especially and whether he would mind that she stank of pee.

Susie shuffled into the lounge and Ken and Sandra ushered her to one of the empty chairs at the back. Then they left her alone. The room was full. Everyone from every ward seemed to be there. No-one seemed to have noticed that she came in, their whole attention was focussed on the Man stood at the front of the room. Only he wasn’t stood still, he began to move towards the people sat at the front, touching each one and whispering to them. Susie wasn’t going to look but she found herself desperately wanting to hear what he was saying…and desperately wanting that look each person he touched displayed on their face.

The room began to buzz with humming, singing, laughter and conversation as the Man walked up and down the rows, missing no-one out. Susie was the last person, sat apart from everyone else.

She found herself unable to look at Him. She felt bad for all the times she’d hit out lost her temper. She felt dirty because she had wet herself and he smelled so lovely. Susie felt sure he wouldn’t speak to her. When she was bad, no-one did.

Susie, would you dance with me?”

In shock she looked up at the kindest most beautiful face she had ever seen. It was as if stars burst out of his eyes and the whole world was etched on his face. Without taking her eyes from His she nodded and He took her hands gently in His. Together they glided towards the front of the room and suddenly there was music. Susie felt as though a waterfall came down from heaven and washed her dirty, smelly clothes away and replaced them with a pink sparkly ball gown that swished and bobbed gracefully as she danced across the floor with the Man.

Susie, will you follow me?” He whispered in her ear.

Yes!” she squealed with delight, “I will.”

Will you teach others to follow me too?”

Me?”

Show them how I danced with you, tell them I AM JESUS.”

The hospital found her a place to live, a lovely home with friendly house-mates and kind staff who take her to the dance school every week. Susie still dances for Him. And at the end of her dance she tells the audience how Jesus came to dance with her. People are amazed at her peace and joy.

 

This short story was inspired by a conversation I had with my brother about an old ‘mental hospital’ (that’s what it was know as) in our county that I had once visited as a student and he had once worked at. The way that people with learning disabilities were shut away and treated was quite appalling at times and we were both thankful that the old hospital had been closed and the residents moved into group homes in the community. My brother told me that patients were sometimes locked in the toilet, naked or in their wet clothes for the whole day as a punishment for needing more than one incontinent pad a day. I just wanted to remember that Jesus cared for those people too and what might have happened if he had visited it for one day.

 

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Jesus reduce me to love.

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I have always been intrigued by the Jamie Owen Collins song “Charity” and the line “Jesus reduce me to love…” http://www.mp3olimp.net/jamie-owens-collins-charity/

The song is based on 1 Corinthians 13 – a famous passage often read at weddings.

However…why do we need reducing to love?  What do we add to LOVE on top of it being patient, kind, not envious, not boasting, not proud? Why do we make it more than not dishonouring others, not being self seeking or easily angered? Why can’t it just be these things and keep no records of wrong, rejoicing in truth, allow it to always protect, always trust, always hope, always persevere?

Why does love seem to fail…when the Bible says it NEVER fails?

The things we add to LOVE are the things that this passage says LOVE does not do. We add envy, boasting, pride, putting others down, selfishness, anger. We keep record of wrongs done to us and the wrongs we do so that we feel inadequate. Therefore for many of us – LOVE fails.

There are many aspects I could write about but one I have been thinking about today is how we clothe LOVE with expectations.

We expect perfection from ourselves or we expect that we will fail. Both are unrealistic. This leads us to be unhappy, dissatisfied and feel unworthy of others love. If we feel unworthy we feel depressed, angry and aggrieved. Resentment builds up like a brick wall that we can hide behind. We feel hurt and our hearts are broken. However hard we might try to disguise it – we then reflect what we feel about LOVE onto others. We love them with the same conditions we love ourselves. We may end up having very low expectations of LOVE and our experiences do nothing to lift us out of this pit. This is further compounded by the fact that others are putting their own expectations on their love for us…we end up with all of us chasing unconditional love whilst displaying conditional love to everyone else.

You think not…? We might think we love our spouses or children unconditionally, but have you ever complained about them, withdrawn your attention or favour because you are mad with them and they don’t deserve it? Have you ever bought your child a treat because they had been particularly good?

Or maybe your heart has been broken so many time by people that should have loved you well, that all you can do is hide behind a 20 foot thick concrete wall that is protecting your fragile heart from being broken by anyone ever again?

Both of these conditions are a poor reflection of what God intended LOVE to be. He didn’t leave us guessing, he got his servant Paul to write it down for us and remind us how much we need this real LOVE. In fact, if you really read and study the whole Bible, God shows this kind of LOVE all the way through.

How do we want others to LOVE us?

My guess is without a list of things we must do to earn their LOVE…ie. UNCONDITIONALLY.

Don’t you think God knows that? Don’t you think he is able to offer you that kind of LOVE?

That is what the gospel is about. It is why, when you look at what Jesus did on the cross, we see an act of LOVE. To deal with our sin, to make a way to come back to God and enter into his perfect LOVE is what we all really long for…search into your broken, messy, hurting heart and you’ll know that is what you really want. And what is more…this LOVE of God is an inclusive LOVE.  No-one is excluded from being able to know this LOVE. 

Part two will look at loving yourself as God loves you. He is the one who can heal our brokenness and bring us into his perfect LOVE. He can “Reduce me to love” by taking away all the things we’ve added and teach us to love Him, ourselves and others as He loves us…and who wouldn’t want to experience the LOVE in 1 Corinthians 13?

A day in the life of a writer.

Pad of Paper & Pen

Me..a writer?

I became a member of the Association of Christian Writers this year as I work hard at writing my blog, a children’s novel and various other bits and pieces. I write lots of training materials about autism and have started to write talks for the Good News Group.  In joining a writers group I was eager to make links and learn from other writers…and the group has been brilliant for that – and for the occasional good on-line laugh!

It was a big step in acknowledging that I was a ‘writer’… a curious label that I have struggled attaching myself to!

So armed with a bit of reckless enthusiasm I entered their 500 word competition “A Day in the life of a Writer” just for the experience and then attended a writers day in Birmingham.  (which was brilliant).  I can’t say how surprised I was to listen to the competition results and realise that I had been HIGHLY COMMENDED!

So, because other writers have been posting their competition entries on their blogs, I thought I would do the same…helps me get over some of my fear of having people actually read what I write!!!!!!

So here it is…..

 

The duvet suspends me in its warm and loving arms. I shiver in the cold winter air. The writer inside me shouts at the duvet to let me go. I could lay my laptop on its soft downy folds and write in bed for a while, but then I remember…no luxurious writing day for me…I have a regular job too. If I’m lucky and have woken up early, I steal a few precious moments reading my Bible and praying for the day.

 

Up – I’m dressed and wave goodbye to the family as we go our separate ways. I drive through the darkness and the rain on a thronging motorway, my mind playing out a scene in my novel. Arriving at work, I start to write. My pen or keyboard never lays still. Occasionally I get to teach and I love the time with the extra special kids. Afterwards I am visiting other teachers, writing notes, writing advice, writing reports and writing social stories. I am no longer cold as the rain subsides and the first rays of sunshine peer through the clouds.

 

Passion, that’s what drives me, keeps me watching, asking, listening and explaining. I want others to be able to support those kids really well…and I help them by more writing. Courses written and delivered; I love to tell stories of real kids and real teachers as I explore the lives and support we can give those with ASD. And now the sunbeams shine through the window bringing hope and laughter as people see a way through the fog and feel there is something they can try. They understand because of my words.

 

 

My stories take shape as I drive home and as I make the tea for my family. Precious time to gently thank God for wisdom that came just in time, for patience and for answered prayer. I thank him for imagination and energy, my heart singing with joy in HIS creativity – a gift to his creation. I thank him too for the difficult days when no words come, when others reject what I write…and I keep writing, for it is a fire in my very being that cannot be quenched. Faith spurs me on. I write because it has been given me to do.

 

As the sun sets, gloriously crimson from my kitchen window, I write some more, a few hundred words of my latest story. My mind escapes from the problems of the day and enters into a new world which invents and weaves its way through the world of someone I’ve created, here on my page. Out pours my love of Jesus through my imagination. Made in his image the Bible says – a creative God and a creative creature.

 

Darkness compels me back to my duvet. Its soft folds envelop me once more and I enter the land of dreams…where once more…I write.

 

 

A bit about why I keep going…

We all seem to face doubt, don’t we? We lose confidence and wonder if we have been fooling ourselves, don’t we?

When the Lord takes us into new territory or tries to expand our horizons it can be terrifying.  That is happening to me right now – does it happen to you?

I wrote this some time ago and just this week found it again.

Marion, Me and my Nan 1984 Marion, Me and my Nan

“It only takes one to love as Jesus did…

When I am overwhelmed and discouraged; I REMEMBER…

When I feel that God is stretching me and challenging me; I REMEMBER…

When I can’t figure out how to reach someone with learning disabilities or severe autism with the gospel; I REMEMBER…

When a friend or family member seems so far away from knowing Jesus, when they are hurting, sad, struggling; I REMEMBER…

There once was an elderly lady called Marion, in her seventies, who walked to church every week. As she passed the kids playing out in the street she would invite them to come to church with her.  In the 1970s it was ok to do that. One quiet, shy six year old went along because her friend from school went too.  For twelve years – week in, week out, the girl accompanied Marion to church…but then she fell away, and for a while her life took a different path.

But Marion still prayed, still loved the girl as Jesus loved, until the day she died.  Marion never knew if that girl ever came back, if she ever choose to follow Jesus who loved her so much.

I REMEMBER… her love of Jesus that shone out of her as a light.

I REMEMBER her kindness, her acceptance, her longing to go to heaven.

I REMEMBER she told me Jesus loved me, but I didn’t really understand.

Not until she was gone.

That day she died I felt her spirit raising up to heaven to be with her Saviour. The greatest joy I had ever felt.

She loved as Jesus did.  She prayed as Jesus did…and didn’t know the outcome.

But two years later her prayers were answered.  I answered Jesus’ call on my life and followed him.

Now, as I struggle to pray for the children and adults with learning disabilities and autism that God has put in my life…I REMEMBER…it only takes one to pray as Jesus prayed, to touch their lives and show them his love.  No matter that we may not know the outcome here on earth.  For as surely Marion knows in heaven that her prayers for me were answered, then one day I will know my prayers for those God loves through me will be answered too.

I am honoured and blessed that this ministry is not mine alone, I learn from and share it with others.  Thank you – you know who you are.

And we all thank Jesus.

New Year Challenges.

Everyone thinks about the future at this time of year. Maybe for you it feels full of dread, or worry. Maybe it feels full of hope, or of new beginnings.
Whatever you THINK this year will bring we can never be certain. The Bible says “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.” Proverbs 19:20-22 and I think that if you are a Christian you can certainly agree with this.
I have plans and ideas for this next year and there are things that others have planned that will affect me too. I cannot say however, if anyone will die, or win the lottery (not me, I don’t play!), or lose their job, get ill, or become famous, or be promoted, or become pregnant or pass all their exams.

As human beings we also dream…and for me this year is a year I want to work on my dreams. I’m middle aged now (apparently) and I am realising that time does get shorter. I’ve no idea how long I have but I can make the best of what I have. As a Christian I feel that God has given me dreams and desires in line with his will, and those dreams are about sharing his love and his Word with others in different ways. Especially to people with learning disabilities and through writing. I don’t want to be self serving, but Jesus serving…so we will see what happens.

If you are a parent of a child with special needs or a carer for an adult with special needs, I want you to know that God loves you and cares for you. He loves and cares for your child and the adults you care for. He knows what you go through each day and how hard that is a lot of the time. He knows too, what they can understand and we must not underestimate his Spirit in their lives. We don’t need to water down the Gospel or the truths of the Bible, we just need to communicate it in a way that is right for them.

Over the next few months I want to write about some of the challenges that face the church in reaching people (children AND adults) with autism, Asperger’s and learning disabilities and how we try to teach good solid Bible truths to the adults we work with in our church. This term we are looking at the book of Daniel and how he foretold the coming of Jesus.

I would love you to come on the journey with us.

Church and ASD – Survey

Me and a friend explaining the Bible to adults with learning disabilities

Can you help me with some research?  I would like to know about whether as parents of a child with autism or Asperger’s Syndrome you have ever taken your child to church and what happened?  I have already come across lots of bad experiences and would now like to hear the good and the bad so I can begin to formulate some ideas and materials to help churches and families have a better and more meaningful faith.

So tell me about:

  • One-off visits for christenings, weddings, funerals, Christmas, events etc. (any denomination)
  • If you are a Christian family finding ways to include your child and make it meaningful to them
  • If you are interested in going to church but don’t feel you would be welcome or catered for as a family (particularly your ASD child)
  • What responses you have had from other church-goers
  • What has or could work – what are your ideas?
  • Any other issues that come up in your family about faith and church

Please pass this onto others – I am specifically looking at the UK to start with but am looking to write materials and resources that can help churches to be more inclusive.  In my experience most churches WANT to include, but don’t have the training and resources that would help them do so effectively.

 So will you comment and help me out?

 Thanks in advance.

 Lynn

Odd one out?

Just the other day I had coffee with three lovely ladies who were all mums of children with disabilities. We were brainstorming ideas to support other parents through dealing with some of the everyday issues that cause so much stress.  We have a chance to work with a couple of local charities to produce materials that will hopefully be really helpful to parents of children with autism. It was a fascinating meeting, with tears and sharing, which resulted in great ideas and a sort of plan of action.

But I did feel at one point…what am I doing here? I definitely was the odd one out. To me autism is fascinating and I am passionate about helping children and families…but it is also my job and I can come home at the end of the day and have a break from it.  I admitted I am out of place in this group, as a few parents have said to me, it’s not as fascinating when you live with the consequences every day 24/7.  And what amazes me is the constant battles the parents I know have to go through. Fighting with systems and authorities to get their child understood and have their needs met. No wonder they don’t find it fascinating.

The only answer I have is a God who cares enough to put a passionate heart in an imperfect woman and use her to come alongside other imperfect people.  He has pushed me to gain knowledge and experiences that are useful contributions to our project.  He does this all over his world…bringing people together to minister and help each other, just when they need it.  He loves us and cares that we get exhausted and don’t know what to do when things get rough. He leads others on a path of knowledge and learning so that they can come at the right time to bring knowledge and life’s mess together to find the answers. I don’t know what I can do or where this will lead…but I trust a Lord who does.

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