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The Taste of Communion: Reflections a Year Later

It was Communion Sunday, the first Sunday of the month, and on this day in June I was preoccupied with the end of the school year—my last—and the many plans I had both for the summer and retirement. My autistic adult son sat beside me quietly, waiting until the usher approached our pew and motioned us to the altar, where Pastor Amy waited with the bread and wine. I slid into the aisle first, Allen immediately behind me. He held his hand in front of the cup of wine, indicating to Tom that he did not want intinction. Tom nodded and Allen returned to his seat.

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And then it hit me: the grace with which Allen took communion and all its sensory parts had become commonplace to me. But it was just a little over a year ago when the act of walking up to the altar and accepting communion from someone’s hand was a challenge for Allen.https://lindaca1.substack.com/p/the-texture-of-communion?utm_source=publication-search

“The Texture of Communion”, written in May of 2023,  detailed the way in which Allen had to prepare himself to partake of this important ritual in the Christian faith.

My heart swelled with joy; my son was fully able to experience this moment, this fellowship, this reminder of the sacrifice of Jesus. Here, Allen belonged.

As an adult on the autism spectrum, Allen does not easily connect with things he cannot see or feel. While he and his siblings were raised to go to church and Sunday School, Allen attended more out of parental expectation than belief. According to a 2018 study done at Boston University, individuals on the spectrum were 20% less likely to identify with a church or religion. The reasons cited are not just a lack of intellectual understanding of the concept of God, but the social demands of church. Often, religious environments do not accommodate the sensory and learning needs of children and adults with diverse needs. Allen has, in fact, been known to walk out of a service if the sensory overload becomes too much.

In his book, Disability and the Church, Pastor Lamar Hardwick, an adult on the autism spectrum, speaks about the minority community of the disabled, a group anyone can join if they are differently-abled in any way. It is the way the church should seek to greet everyone, says Hardwick, being observant and considerate to those with diverse needs. Some people, Hardwick states, do not need fanfare to welcome them to the church; they just need quiet acceptance.

Here, at this little church in Claymont where Allen and I sought comfort and refuge after the death of my husband, Allen belongs. He is accepted. He is loved. He embraces the older ladies who tell him, “You give the best hugs.” He high-fives the men. He helps set up and take down the coffee for the fellowship between services and he assists with any dinner or picnic.

Here, he is not seen as autistic. Here, he is just Allen.

He turns to me in the pew, the taste of the Communion bread still on his lips, and whispers, “I never know what to do with the napkin.” Then he slides it into his pocket.

And this small act brings tears to my eyes because he did not hand it to me.

He took care of it himself.

Have you ever realized how difficult Communion might be for those that have sensory issues or are differently abled? How does your church welcome and support those who might be different?

Widow Work

Deuteronomy 10:18: “He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing.”

This is a sad but true fact: 97% of married women become widows. According to Gitnux Market Date Reports 2024, 7000,000 American women become widows each year. Widows are 30% more likely to die within six months of losing a spouse. And 50% of widows report a decrease in social support within three months of widowhood. Sobering facts when we consider what the Bible has to say about widows:

  • Deuteronomy 10:18: “He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing.”
  • Psalm 68:5: “A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling.”
  • James 1:27: “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”
  • Isaiah 1:17: “Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.

     

    Ruth: God’s Love for a Young Widow — Grace Baptist Church

But just WHO is looking after the widows and their children? The US Census Department reports that the median income of widows over the age of 65 is $17,000 annually. Many women stopped working to look after a family and now face a life of near poverty without social support.

Wow.

I was widowed at 65 but couldn’t receive widow benefits until I was 66. Luckily, I had a job as a teacher and while the first few months were a financial strain, my son and I survived. But it was the lack of social support that was the hardest to accept. The church my husband and I had attended and served at for most of our marriage had a lovely funeral and luncheon. And then? Well, nothing. Oh, the occasional, “How are you doing?” but no real support. I found myself sitting alone in the sanctuary, Sunday after Sunday. My best friend moved away. I made attempts to approach other women. I even set up an appointment with the head of women’s ministries to talk about the plight of widows.

She canceled the appointment and never rescheduled.

So, 18 months after Ron’s death, I left the church where we had raised our children and sought a new place for myself and my autistic son. I knew then that something was incredibly wrong with the way the church and society treated widows. But I was still too raw with grief, too new at widowhood, to be of help to anyone else.

Support Groups for Widows - Heartache To Healing

And now? Now I am stronger. I have not only survived but thrived. I have found a new and wonderful life with my son and I look forward to the next season, which may well include writing for or helping widows.

This is one of my favorite websites for widows. A Widow’s Might: Daily Christian Devotion for Women (awidowsmight.org)

If you’ve been widowed or know someone who has, what did you want people to know? What did you need help with? For me, it’s not having someone who can advise me about who to hire for repairs!

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I’m Not Always Good at Being Mom

I yelled at Allen last week. I could blame the lack of sleep, the arm that ached from the latest COVID-19 shot, or my very full class schedule. But the truth is that I was out of patience with my autistic adult son. I’d explained innumerable times over the past two weeks why his car was in the shop. That I understood he wanted his car back. That I knew it bothered his routine that his car was not sitting out front. I was calm. I was aware of the synapses in his brain that took longer to process information because the rich club network had failed to pare down the pathways when he was young. I knew his inability to multi-task resulted in a dogged determination to hang onto one thing at a time.

 

But I was tired.

“When will my car be done?” he asked the minute I walked in the door from a long day at school.

“I don’t know. They’re waiting for a part.” I dropped my schoolbag in the dining room and headed up the steps to change.

“Why don’t you know?”

“Because I don’t. Because I have nothing to do with the part. Please, please, stop asking.”

He didn’t. “I just want to know when I’ll get my car back. It’s MY car. I should know that. Can’t you find out?”

I paused halfway up the steps. “No. I can’t find out. I’m busy all day. The mechanic will call when it’s done!” I finished my climb and, totally over it all, leaned over the banister and shouted, “Sometimes it’s really hard to be your mother!”

I saw the shock on Allen’s face: eyes wide, mouth open. I seldom yelled. I went into my room and, for good measure, slammed the door.

I needed a minute. One minute away from parenting this wonderful but challenging adult. Maybe two. I sat in the rocker in the corner of my room, kicked off my shoes, and rocked.

 

Here was where I’d rocked all my babies to sleep. Even Allen, my youngest. I remembered the feel of him in my arms, all 8 pounds and 15 ounces in a blue sleeper, snuggled against my shoulder. I closed my eyes, remembering his baby smell, sweet and powdery, the warmth of him as he slumbered.

I regretted slamming the door. His brain worked the way it did. It was just the way he was born.

I rocked a little more, each motion the memory of a hope I’d had for him. He’d been a docile baby, easy to pacify. He would have friends who would hang around the house and go to school dances together. He was long and tall. Perhaps he’d play basketball. I dreamed of a career for him, a girl who would fall in love with his beautiful blue eyes. Grandchildren I could rock in this chair.

Not this. Not still living with me at past thirty, only able to work part-time at Walmart because social activities and sensory issues fatigue him. Not a brain that worked differently and confused both of us. Not a father who’d died too soon. Tears fell onto my lap.

 

One more minute, I told myself. I’d go downstairs and apologize. I’d be grateful to God for who Allen was, not what he was not. The rocking soothed me. It would be alright.

There was a soft tap at my bedroom door.

“Come in,” I said quietly, continuing my gentle rock.

Allen slipped in, his large frame filling the doorway. His beautiful blue eyes glistened with tears.

“It’s NOT hard to be my mother,” he said, his voice little more than a whisper.

I continued rocking, remembering the early diagnosis of learning disabilities, the years of special education classes, and the later news of autism. “Sometimes it is,” I said. “Sometimes I don’t think I’m very good at it.”

He stepped into the room and sat on the edge of my bed, reaching out a hand and laying it on my knee. “You ARE good at it.”

I kept rocking, the door slam still echoing in my mind. “Sometimes I don’t  understand you.” I sighed.

He nodded and moved to the floor, where he rested his head on my lap. “I NEVER understand me,” he said. “At least you do sometimes. But you keep trying. That’s what a good mom does.”

We stayed where we were, rocking. He let me smooth his hair back from his forehead, accepting my touch. There’d been no rules to follow after the diagnosis of autism and my husband’s death. We did the best we could. We would just keep doing the best we could. There might be other slammed doors, other loud shouts, and other feelings of not being up to parenting this autistic adult.

But Allen and I are in this together. With his older siblings off to their own lives, and his father living in Heaven, we continue to function as a family of two.

With an occasional slamming door.

A Long Journey

The “Magi from the East” probably took the same path Abraham traveled from Ur to Canaan. Led by the Star, Eliot makes it clear with these lines that the three travelers could not choose the time of their trip. Who would have intentionally set out in the dead of winter?

Eliot noted that he wrote this poem very quickly. ‘I had been thinking about it in church,’ he told his wife, Valerie, years later, ‘and when I got home I opened a half-bottle of Booth’s Gin, poured myself a drink, and began to write. By lunchtime, the poem, and the half-bottle of gin, were both finished.’

The Book of Matthew is the only one of the synoptic gospels to include the visit of the Magi. Scholars argue that it is possible because of the declaration of “kingship” that these three foreigners bring to the Infant.

 

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Another interesting fact about the opening lines of “Journey” is that they are an almost direct quote from a sermon given in 1622 by a preacher named Lancelot Andrewes. Eliot puts the lines in quotations since they are not his original words:

“A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a long journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.”

How could a Magus. traveling to worship the Christ Child, quote a line from a 15th-century preacher. It and the use of Biblical quotations the Magi could not possibly know add to the mysterious narration of the story.

 

REFLECTION: These few lines make it clear that Eliot did not find the road to salvation to be an easy one. How hard—or easy—was it for you to accept the gift of Jesus? Were you, unlike the Magi, prepared for the journey?

 

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A Cold Beginning

A cold coming we had of it, just the worst time of year for a journey.

 

TS Eliot’s journey to faith began with doubt. Just as many hardships challenged the Magi, many difficulties assailed Eliot as he attempted to leave his past life behind and seek spiritual truth. Eliot’s earlier works, such as “The Hollow Men”, refer to the afterlife as “death’s other kingdom” and imply that we are all living meaningless lives. But after converting to Christianity, Eliot’s works took on a more hopeful tone. “The Four Quartets” has been cited as being “overtly religious” while “Journey of the Magi” centers on the Birth of Christ and the meaning it gives to humanity.

Eliot always contended that he had no “conversion experience” but quietly became a believer.

REFLECT: While he considered his salvation a very private matter and kept this conversion secret, it had such an impact on him that he wrote a poem as an allegory. How do you honor and recall your own salvation?

Journey of the Magi

Journeys are never easy. Each year as I set up my creche, I wonder about the mysterious Wise Men who journeyed from the East. We have only a few scant verses from the Book of Matthew about them:

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”

Tradition has it that they were three astronomers who had been tracking the moving Star and believed in the prophets who foretold the coming of the Messiah.

Surely, I would think to myself, these three men—not Hebrews—were changed by their journey. It was the idea that eventually led me to write a previous Christmas story, A Star for Zachary, which told the tale of an elderly man who was a shepherd on a hill the night the Heavenly Angels announced the Holy Birth. His life had been changed forever.

T.S. Eliot’s poem, “Journey of the Magi”, holds the same fascination for me. Eliot penned the poem in 1927, the same year he became a British citizen. While the poem itself tells an allegory of the Three Wisemen’s journey to the Christ Child, making frequent reference to prophecy and Bible verses, it was also written by Eliot as an analysis of his own conversion journey to faith.

For me, the last four years have been an immensely difficult journey, full of obstacles and doubt as I was plunged into widowhood and the single parenting of an autistic adult. Yet along with the difficulties were also amazing discoveries of my abilities as a writer, the building of a readership, and the decision to make the 2023-2024 school year my last as a full-time teacher.

Please join me on this Christmas Journey as we follow the Wise Men along the route to Bethlehem and reflect for a few moments on the Great Gift that leads us to Christmas morning.

DID YOU KNOW?

This week’s post is brought to you by Sandy Vidro. Thanks for sharing with us, Sandy!

He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. Colossians 1:17

 

OUTWARD

When we look at the human body, it appears fairly normal to us. We all have a head, neck, arms, hands, fingers, body/trunk–some more than others!–legs, feet, toes, and bones. But should we dig a little deeper?

Our Creator God does not get the understanding or praise He deserves from His children for the intricate way He created us! The thought He put into the creation of men must have been phenomenal.

Genesis 126:27 says, “Let us make many in our image, in our likeness…” So God created man in His Own image. In the images of God He created him; male and female He created them.

INWARD

Let’s look inward at just how much thought God did put into making us, His children.

For you created my innermost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Psalam 139:13,14

Have you ever wondered what holds us together? You have a brain, heart, lungs, kidneys, liver, stomach, and spine; a myriad of organs and parts that all work together to keep your human body running. Each organ is made up of different kinds of cells, each unique to itself. For instance, what keeps the heart’s cells from separating and floating off into the bloodstream? What holds the brain together so it doesn’t resemble Jello? What keeps the liver together so our skin doesn’t turn yellow?

WHAT HOLDS US TOGETHER?

He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. Colossians 1:17

Let’s discover God’s wonderful intrinsic creation of how He holds us together on the inside and the outside.

We have these wonderful, tiny little cells called Laminin. Wikipedia describes them: “Lamins are a family of proteins that are an integral part of the structural scaffolding of basement membranes in almost every human and animal tissue.” They are called adhesion molecules. They are what holds one cell of our bodies to the next cell. Without them, we would literally fall apart.

The amazing thing about the Laminin cell is that it is in the shape of the Cross. This proves that Christ was there, as the Bible says, at the beginning.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. he was with God in the beginning. Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made. In Him was life, and that life was the light of men. John 1:1-4

A CRUCIAL DESIGN

He designed us to carry a crucial part of Him that holds us together in the shape of a cross. We have been carrying the sigh of our resurrection, forgiveness of sins, and redemption within our bodies, since the creation of man. Our bodies are a living prophecy of the coming of Jesus Christ. Our bodies of a living prophecy of the return of Jesus. Laminin, a gift of prophecy from Jesus Christ, is the Cross that holds us together.

Laminin protein in our body thats in the shape of a cross its what ...

 

Tender Eyes

Leah’s eyes were tender, but Rachel was shapely and beautiful.
Genesis 29:17

“You have beautiful eyes,” he said, and here Dr. Scheie paused dramatically–or at least he should have paused dramatically, because what he was about to say would have a major impact on my life–“but you have a rare and serious disease. It’s called keratoconus and it deforms and destroys the corneas. I’m afraid that you have it in both eyes and while we can deter the progress, we can’t cure it.”

It is hard to believe that it has been more than forty years since I heard those words, forty years since my mother and I drove up to Penn on a wintry January day. I was nineteen at the time, a freshman at Millersville State College headed towards a teaching degree in elementary education. But headaches and blurred vision, episodes of dizziness, and walking into walls had convinced my parents that something more than just a change of glasses was needed. No one expected that the appointment would reveal a disease that would ultimately become a major player in the story of my life. But our lives often have unexpected plot twists. Take, for example, Leah, in love with Jacob, who was in love with the younger daughter, Rachel. Talk about a love triangle!

Many interpretations of the Bible claim that Leah’s eyes were not one of her best features, that she was cross-eyed or near-sighted or–it’s possible–suffered from keratoconus. But with my own eyes both my best and my worst feature, I’ve always identified with poor Leah, who spent years in the shadow of her lovelier sister, Rachel. According to the Hebrew  4 Christians website, “weak eyes” is not, as some Biblical scholars have stated, a negative comment. Leah, about to be forced into marriage with much, much older Esau, wept until her eyes hurt. She prayed that she might become the mother of the righteous, and God saw her tears.

I, too, have tender eyes. Many have called them beautiful. The first words my husband ever said to me were, “You have the most beautiful eyes I have ever seen.” So, of course, I married him. But having tender eyes–eyes that see through misshaped corneas–is not easy. While more is known about KC–as it is commonly called–now than 40 years ago, it is still a pretty rare disease, with fewer than 200,000 cases reported per year. Common symptoms–and yes, I have them all–include ghost images, multiple images, glare, halos, extreme sensitivity to light, and starbursts. I also have the tell-tale gold rings–Fliesher’s Rings–that often come with keratoconus. While not yet proven, the disease is thought to progress with pregnancy, but I wouldn’t trade Dennis, Bonnie, or Allen for 20/20 vision anyway.  15 to 20% of KC sufferers will require a transplant at some point in time; I’ve had three.

Image result for keratoconus

Leah, my tender-eyed friend, was honored by God. It was through her son Judah that both King David–and ultimately Jesus- descended, and through her son Levi that both Moses and Aaron came. The word translated as weak in the Talmud is the Hebrew word rakkot, the plural form of rak. According to the Talmud, rak--tender–connotates royalty. Leah’s eyes, whatever their condition, placed her as the matriarch of a royal line.

Years ago, when I was 19, I had no idea just how big a part KC would play in my life. I did not know that I would someday–as I have now–reach a point where certain things are no longer possible for me because of my tender eyes. I do remember this, though. I remember praying on the drive home from Penn: “Lord, I want to serve you. If I will do that better as a blind person, then so be it.”

I am not blind. While my vision is distorted and severe eyestrain has become the plague of my life, I still want to serve God in whatever way He deems fit. I may not become the matriarch of a royal line, but I know that I am a child of the King.

Tender eyes and all.

Finding Comfort in the Different

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.

 2 Corinthians 1:2-4 (NIV)

A STEP OF FAITH

It was raining that Sunday morning and the drops outside my windshield matched the sorrow in my soul. I was on my way to church, but I was not heading to the place of worship where my husband, Ron, and I had raised our children and spent most of our married lives. After my husband’s death a year before, I had found no comfort in the church where we had both taught Sunday School, where I had served as Awana Commander, where Ron had been a trustee, and where we had dedicated our three children to God.

As I drove down Philadelphia Pike, trying to keep resentment from my heart, I reminded myself we had not done those things for the church building, but for God. And if the congregation did not know how to address the needs of a new widow, then I had every right to seek solace in another community. I had no idea where I would find it, so I let God lead me.

 

There were, on that rainy Sunday morning, two notions in my head. One was a ministry that had existed several years ago called Angel Food, a non-profit organization that provided groceries to those in need at a reasonable price. The second notion was my husband’s voice, echoing his idea that, “That seems like a nice little church” whenever we passed the stone building in Claymont.

 

Prodded by those two thoughts, I pulled into the parking lot at The Atonement Methodist Church.

 

5 For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. 6 If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer.

2 Corinthians 1:5-6 (NIV)

NEW BUT FAMILIAR

 

I entered the building a bit warily, only passingly familiar with Methodism from the times my paternal grandmother would take my brother and I to Sunday School. But the building was warm and friendly, and I was greeted with equal warmth. I made my way into the sanctuary, uplifted by stray rays of light emerging through the stained glass windows. Raised as a Catholic by my mother, the colorful displays of Jesus were familiar to me. I took a seat in the back.

 

Alright, I said inwardly to my husband, let’s see if this really is a nice little church.

 

Several women seated near me offered their names and a smile. One moved over in the pew and asked me to join her. This is nice, I thought. Since my best friend had moved last year, six months after Ron’s death, I had sat alone in the pew, despite reaching out to several women including the Women’s Ministry Leader.

 

The organ began to play the prelude and I felt myself drawn back again to Grandmom’s church where the pipe organ’s notes cascaded through the room. This felt good, I realized. This felt right.

 

It wasn’t too much longer before a gentle woman with gray hair slid into the pew next to me. “Hi,” she said. “I’m Pastor Amy. What brings you to our church today?”

 

And I found myself telling her, this kind but veritable stranger, how I had been widowed and feeling lonely and a bit lost. How the church where my husband and I had served for so many years didn’t seem to quite know what to do with me. How, when I asked the minister, I was told it was because of the COVID pandemic.

 

“Nonsense,” said Pastor Amy. “You are still a widow in need. I  hope you find comfort here.”

 

And I did, returning the next week with my autistic adult son who could not take the sensory overload of blinking screens and loud drums on the stage, but could settle in quietly next to me and spend time in worship.

 

 7 And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.

2 Corinthians 1: 7 (NIV)

THE RIGHT PATH

Three years later, and Allen and I have been embraced by the people of Atonement. We have found comfort; we have found ministries; we have found friends. It was not easy, but I dared to step into a new life as a widow with a disabled son; God led me to the doors of a “nice little church” where my writing ministry has continued to blossom.

 

Undertaking a new path and allowing God–and my husband!–to lead me was not easy. But as Atonement Methodist enters into a new phase, I know we are on the right path.

A NEW NAME

AUTHOR’S NOTE: This week my Substack post was about the acceptance of my autistic adult son Allen that his deceased father had been given a new name in Heaven. Allen and I continue to make our way into a life without Ron. You can read the complete blog post here.

 

As we transition from our formal association with the United Methodist Church and enter into our fellowship with the Global Methodist Church, we will be called by a new name: The Atonement Methodist Church. I have taken these words from many Bible passages, all listed below. And please listen to the poem of Hosanna Wong, who says it better than I can!

 

We are not the names of our past;

We are the names we have chosen to answer to.

As the conquerors, we listen to what

The Spirit says to the Church.

In the hidden manna, written on the white stone, 

Is a New Name.

It is an Everlasting Name.

Friend.

Chosen.

Masterpiece.

We are called by the mouth of the Lord

This new name.

We are called by another name.

Hand-made.

Purposed.

A temple.

Let everyone who has an ear, listen;

Let everyone who has an eye, see;

Let everyone who has a mouth, speak.

Our names are written in the house of the Lord.

Messenger.

Child.

Greatly loved.

Tangible words

Written on us.

The name of My God, and the name of the city of My God,

 the new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God, 

and My new name.

Free, free indeed.

Brand new.

I Have A New Name | Hosanna Wong (Official Video)

Hosanna Wong. I have a New Name. Mixology.

Taken from: Revelations 2:17,Isaiah 56:5, Isaiah 62:2, Isaiah 65:15, Revelation 3:12, John 15:15, 1 Thessolonians 1:14, Ephesians 2:10,1 Corinthians 6:19,Acts1:8,Galatians 3:26, Romans 5:8, John 8:36, II Corinthians 5:17

 

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