Remembering Jonathan

I told a friend of mine I’d write on a different topic today, and well, some things happen and I’ve had to change my mind. My apologies to my friend. It’s my blog though and it’s my choice. Today, I am confronted with the loss of a friend of mine in another state who at the age of 17 died from complications with dealing with a brain tumor.

I am not really an emotional person, but I do have great sorrow in me now, though you might not know that if you saw me here at the moment as I am reserved, but my friend Jonathan was a great guy. No. IS a great guy. As Lewis said when his wife died, “If she is not a person now, she never was a person.” 

I never got to meet Jonathan face to face, but yet somehow I was blessed to get to impact him from a distance and he impacted me as well. On the floor here, I have a book that I ordered that he said he had read recently. I never got to tell him that I ordered it simply because he recommended it. I never even got to tell him I ordered it. It’s next on my reading list though and I wonder how hard it will be to read, not because of the content of which I expect no difficulty, but of thinking that with each page this is kind of like the last statement of my friend to me.

Some of you might know about a book called Tuesdays With Morrie. Jonathan’s class at school was reading that and each student was told to track down a “Morrie” to have conversations with on a weekly basis about various topics. Jonathan asked me to do it and I was honored and so began a series of discussions. Each time I would drop all other instant messages I had and any web surfing I was doing at the time and just focus on him. I remember one particularly where he said we would talk about love and on that one word, we had well over an hour of discussion time. 

I’m a teacher type and this is something I naturally enjoy. I like the idea of being the professor type and getting to fill a young mind with the wisdom I’ve learned over the years and that’s something that always amazed me about Jonathan. He was always willing to learn and I could tell he had an intense education already at his young age and it made me wish I’d been doing that kind of stuff when I was his age. 

Jonathan also had a loving heart and I could care he cared about people. I talked with him often about some of the emotional struggles he was going through. While I am an apologist, we did not just talk about apologists. We would often, as guys do, talk about girls. He would add that he was praying for me and I would pray for him as well. He’d pray that I’d find the wife I’m looking for and I’d pray that he’d find a good girl that would treat him right.

It was those conversations that helped bond things together as Jonathan was like a younger brother type to me. Our interests were different in many areas. He was an Avatar fan and I’m the Smallville geek. We came together though in our love of Christ and our deep interest in apologetics and just being a guy. I always wanted to be the guy that he could talk to at any time about anything that was bothering him.

I believe I am rambling now and it’s quite likely true. When something like this happens, you just have no idea what to say. I think though about eternity awaiting me and how I will get to meet my friend I never saw but always knew. I wonder if when I get there I will somehow know him. Will I be able to say “I never saw your face, but I recognized your heart from a distance?” Will it instead be he’ll say “We never met on Earth, but I’m Jonathan, and it’s good to finally meet you.” I don’t know.

Out of discretion for the family, I’m not putting information up about last name or location. If others want to, that’s fine, but I choose to remain secret here. However, I do plan to get this to them as soon as I can. Jonathan was like a younger brother that I never had and already I miss him and wish I could just have one more Tuesday with him discussing any topic whatsoever.

Farewell Jonathan my friend. May I see you again someday.

My Thanksgiving Blog

I’m interrupting our look at the Lord’s Prayer and the Sermon on the Mount as a whole to write my Thanksgiving blog. As I write this, I am dead exhausted. Why? I had some friends over tonight and their car happened to die on them and I had to run out to where their parents were, and when I say run, I mean run, as we live in an area hard to find but everyone can find a nearby location.

And yes, it’s quite chilly this time of year.

But I’m thinking, “What an awesome Thanksgiving this is.”

Personally, I’d prefer to spend a day in a strange adventure.

I’d like though to list other things I’m thankful for.

I’m thankful that God is God and he is on the throne and I am not. Do we take time to recognize God for who he is? I don’t believe we do. The attributes he has seem to us to be abstract concepts more than actual realities. Have we really taken a look at the God we serve and realized who it is that we serve?

I’m thankful for the cross and the empty tomb. Without that, there would be no salvation and that would make pretty pointless anything I did here for the greater good and would render my eternity to be a bit less than preferable. That the Son was willing to come and die on the cross for sinners like myself is quite amazing. 

I’m thankful for my friends. I’ve got a great roommate here who puts up with a whole lot from me and is still in my corner anyway. Since coming to this town, I’ve managed to make several other friends and I am just amazed by that. There are people in my life who I had no idea even existed a couple of years ago and now I’ve got them plugged into my cell phone.

I’m thankful for my family who has seen me off to go live out my dream and am cheering me on. Unlike many others, I didn’t get to see my family tonight, but they did call and that includes the extended family. I do plan on getting to see them again at Christmas, but it’s good to know that they’re out there.

I’m thankful for the education that I’m receiving and how I’m progressing along just fine on it. I really wasn’t expecting to do as well as I’m doing, but I am. My professors are quite excellent and I’ve been blessed to be seen in a good light. It makes me thankful for all the preparation that I did before I came here.

I’m thankful for a new job also that will give me a chance to do what I love to do the most and make a better living. The pay should also ease a lot of the financial burden that I have. This is the kind of opportunity that I’ve been waiting for for a long time and now it has finally come upon me and I am grateful.

I’m thankful for the church home that I have. My roommate and I get along great and I’ve got to do a number of classes. It’s great to be a member of a body where you are well-respected and even last Sunday when I ended up missing a service, I had a phone call from one of them to make sure everything was well.

I’m also thankful that I have been blessed materially. I have a huge library right here in my apartment and a number of gaming systems that are great to have when friends come by and we want to hang out together. My family has never been wealthy by any means and yet, I have somehow managed to amass so much.

I could probably go on and on, but ultimately, there’s much I’m thankful for this year. How about you?

Obama, Socialism, And My Story

I started a thread on TheologyWeb where I often post about what Barack Obama said to a plumber who is concerned about his tax plans. I won’t deny it here. I am not a fan of Obama in any way. I urge you if you are though to not stop reading now. I’m not writing this to attack him specificially. My stance is against his for another reason though. I wrote on this on TheologyWeb and a wise friend suggested I blog about it. I resisted it, but I thought eventually I might as well. 

My stance was that I find what was said insulting. I don’t appreciate the idea that if I’m going to be a success, I need the help of the government. Someone responded to me and told me that some people have inequalities and it isn’t as easy for them so get over it. Now that really ticked me off and I had to respond and I am giving a longer form here of what I said there.

I’ll also say that this is something difficult to write. My wise friend would tell me that if anyone attacked me for anything I said here though, it would be their problem. I agree with her astute wisdom once again.

The truth is, I have those inequalities. My scoleosis is well-known actually though. In speaking about that, I’m not really limited. I played ultimate frisbee earlier this month at our Seminary and I was the fastest one on the field. It is interesting to go to the Y though and be at the mirror and keep trying to contort myself in every way to see the scar on my back and how it is, but I can’t. No one has ever asked me about it though, but I honestly wouldn’t mind if they did.

At an earlier age, I was diagnosed as autistic. Some people think I’m Asperger’s, so I prefer to say Aspie/Autistic these days. I’m not sure what it is entirely, but I will say life is difficult at times. If I get in a social situation, I’m not really the best. I thrive on the intellectual. I see the world through a different set of eyes. I can illustrate this with my coming into work today and a co-worker trying to engage me in a conversation. This person started the conversation.

“Hi!”

“Hi….”

“How are you?”

“Hello.”

“Anything new?”

“Hello.”

“Are you reading anything new?”

” ‘The Trinity’ by Saint Augustine.”

The other questions are the small talk questions that don’t really go over so well. I never know exactly what to say with my penchant of wanting to be honest and realizing that if I’m honest in this case and I’m feeling great, what will happen in the day when I’m not? If I’m not feeling great today, then it is not appropriate to be honest.

If anyone wants more info on this, I recommend reading a chapter of a book by a guy with Asperger’s named “John Robison” called “Look Me In The Eye.” The chapter is called “Logic and Small Talk.” I read through it at the bookstore and thought the guy was inside my head. This is a book I definitely plan to buy someday.

Let me go back to my history some though and talking about inequalities.

I remember being taken by my parents often to the Birth Defects Center as it’s believed I have some muscle disease also that limits my strength. It’s not conclusive. A muscle biopsy didn’t reveal anything as far as I know and I don’t think about it much, but the autism aspect I think was a strong reason behind my being there.

Let me be clear. My parents are very good people and very supportive. They didn’t do perfect though. They shielded me from a lot and I had to learn a lot when I got out on my own, but I did prove to them that I can handle things and with their last visit here to see me, they got to see that firsthand. It’s still hard for them of course, but they’re pleased. They are also both Christians who raised me in the church.

I also hate that kind of term though of the place I was. “Birth defects.” I may not be functioning on all cylinders like everyone else, but I am not a defective product. Could it be part of our view that tends to treat people like they’re machines? I do not socialize well. That is true. Because of my condition though, I do a lot of other things well.

As an example, I was talking to a philosopher friend of mine on Facebook recently and he was surprised when I told him I’ve never had a formal class on logic. He told me he was stunned because I seemed to have such a grasp of it. Well that’s the way my mind works. I can see a 10-digit number and memorize it. I do mathematics the way a lot of people breathe. It’s just innate. 

However, many counselors seeing me growing up were quite hesitant. I was told for instance that I would never finish High School.

I was in public high school and I didn’t have special help. The only case really was when I had the scoleosis surgery and due to physical weakness then, someone else had to carry my bags for me and I had to leave class five minutes early so I wouldn’t be out in the hall during the rush when the students got let out.

Nevertheless, I finished. I would say I was a lazy student though simply because I did not need to study. I grasped ideas immediately and was able to recall them. Did I interact with students a lot though in things like dating and such? No. I had a lot of crushes, but I didn’t really act on them. My friends were few, but they were there.

I graduated though. Okay. The other side was wrong.

So I go to Bible College. I hadn’t even heard of apologetics yet, but there was a lot of stuff going on in my life and I needed to find answers and I had a natural grasp of the Bible and I had friends telling me I should be in ministry as I was already doing evangelism on the internet and actually enjoying that more than anything else. 

How did I get there? My family is not rich. VOCRehab paid for my education. It’s an organization that pays for those with “disabilities.” They didn’t really like my choice though. They urged me to not go into ministry as my mind could be better put to use in something like engineering (Which I had no interest in) and I just couldn’t speak well of course.

It’d have been nice if they’d had been there when I preached my senior sermon before the faculty and student body of my Bible College which would be about 1,000 people.

I loved my college years and was increasingly educating myself. For the first time after having discovered apologetics, I was buying books and books and books. Last night, I told my roommate that I’m going to need to go and buy another bookcase. This had never happened with any interest before. Before too long, I was an authority.

Did I graduate? Yes. I am the first in my family in a long time to have a college degree. Looks like VOC Rehab was wrong.

However, I have yet to get a ministry position and in my hometown, I eventually knew that I wanted to come where I am now. I moved out on my own to a local apartment which my folks had concern about. Nevertheless, I proved to them that I can budget and in fact, they tell me that I budget better than my married sister. 

VOC Rehab when they found out had offered to give me classes on living on my own. Forget it. I don’t need a class on that. I taught myself much of what I know. They also offered to have someone help me get a job. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t care for my job at all. However, I also wanted to be sure of something. I plan to get a job because I’ve earned it and not because I need help due to disability.

I got accepted to the Seminary I wanted to go to and I am there now. My president knows my condition as do much of the staff. I try to be open with them about it. They don’t treat me the way they do out of pity though. They do it because they respect me and believe that I have the ability to do the things that I want to do.

I work right now in a situation where I am doing a non-intellectual job that is socially geared. It’s anathema to me. That kind of stuff just wears me out. When there’s too much activity going on and too many people talking, it wrecks my thinking. It is that time at the end of the day when I sit down and read or do something else I enjoy that I get restored.

I am especially thankful for my friends, especially my roommate. I find it amazing at times that he willingly agreed to live with me knowing all these things about me. It is thinking of a friend like him that gives me some comfort in whatever goes on in my life. Of course, this doesn’t discount my Christian faith as keeping me going, but I’m so thankful that God gave me friends.

Sometimes, those of us with Autism/Asperger’s are seen as rude and we really have a huge disadvantage. If you see someone in a wheelchair, you don’t challenge them to a footrace. If you see someone without arms, you don’t ask them to play a game of catch. When you see me though, I look like everyone else. You can’t see a social disorder like that.

My friends though are the ones that I can be open with, but even still I can be guarded. I speak more with sounds and actions. Music plays a big part as I usually have a tune or a song in my mind. I will often try to gesture to someone that I don’t know. It’s a lot easier to me than talking and frankly, I can’t tell you why. The exception is if the conversation is about something I know and it can be anything. Talking about Smallville, for instance, can get someone into my world.

Btw, that’s another reason I love Smallville. I see a lot of myself in Clark Kent. Why? Clark Kent lives with a secret and he looks like everyone else. He wrestles so much with existential struggles involving his humanity and what it means. How are people supposed to feel? Nevertheless, he’s out there trying to use his abilities to make the world a better place.

Now what about VOC Rehab also? Are they paying for my Seminary? Nope. I made something clear. I would not get my education out of pity. I would get it out of ability. I am paying for everything. If I earn a scholarship, that is different. Right now, I’m not sure how things will be paid for, but they will be. I have some dentistry bills coming. I’m not sure how it will be paid for, but it will be. 

What does this have to do with Obama and his statement? Here’s the truth. I don’t want pity. I want the government to simply ensure that I can have the freedom to go out and make a success of myself. I consider Obama’s idea that I need that help an insult. Do I have an inequality? Yes I do. Don’t underestimate me though. I have overcome a lot thus far and I can rest assured any detractors out there that we’ve only just begun.

I Love Friendship

I spoke today at my church on the topic of homosexuality in response to the Connecticut Supreme Court decision to life the ban on homosexual marriages. One aspect I touched on was that just because two people live together does not mean they should have the privileges of marriage. I gave as an example, my roommate and I.

Later, I recalled an event that we had happen once where two Jehovah’s Witnesses came to our apartment and accused us of being homosexuals after just meeting us. They didn’t come right out and say it but talked about how evil the world is and said “Just look at you two for instance, living together like this.”

I’m sorry, but I don’t know much other way to take that.

However, as I ponder it, in many ways, that’s a kind of back-handed compliment. Friendship between men is often lacking I think and if two friends are close enough that they can be told a remark like that, then that is a close friendship. As I have witnessed events over the past year though, I have come to see more and more how important friendship is.

I could tell you many times that my roommate did something for me that was totally unexpected and yet, it was done. I could not explain it but in my mind I was thinking “Wow.” Often times, it’s not even explicit things. It is implicit things that I notice from the actions done that show that I am being considered in a way I would not have realized.

Of course, this goes both ways. As I said in my message today, if he was heading home and he got in a car accident, I would be the first one at the hospital. No doubt about it! Our friendship is unique and I would do whatever I could to help him out. There is no sense in even asking the question. Simply put, there is no question about it.

Aristotle spoke highly of friendship amongst the virtues and while there was a golden mean for the other virtues, there wasn’t for friendship. He even believed that friendship was essential for happiness and said that the essence of friendship was living together. Of course, that takes on a new connotation when one gets married where the spouse becomes one’s best friend, but even still, the true friends you’ve had will remain true friends throughout.

It also makes one think of the future. What will it mean when we each marry some beautiful ladies? I think of time with him and with other friends I’ve made here as well as we watch our children grow up together and start our careers. Should I get a book published, I can imagine them telling other friends that they knew me beforehand and getting those free author’s copies and acknowledgments going out to them.

Friendship is just unique. It is a chosen relationship like no other. One could say that the eros relationship is done for bodily pleasure, though few of us today I think would say we marry solely for that reason, but with friendship, the pleasure is in the joy of the other person and how you share the good and bad times together.

Friends are those people you can be open and honest with. My roommate gets a unique trust from me that my own family doesn’t even get. It’s just a different relationship and I’m sure there are many men out there that can relate to that. There are things you will tell your friends that you would never dream of telling your parents.

It’s something that needs to be restored also. In talking about homsoexuality, one person came to me afterwards and asked how he can help a man he works with who he’s trying to evangelize who is homosexual. I gave the advice of being a friend. Men who struggle often need good male friends who will just be friends with them and accept them as men. When it comes to talking about Christianity, don’t talk about sin first. Talk about Christ and his grace.

Friendship is a gift from God. I urge anyone who wants to consider more to get a copy of C.S. Lewis’s book “The Four Loves” and read on Phileo. Naturally, the Nicomachean Ethics of Aristotle as well. Something to consider is that friendship was a unique term in Plato as well. In the dialogue that discusses what a friend is, which is called Lysis, at the end, Socrates isn’t sure how to define it as per most dialogues, but he wants to depart from those he was dialoguing with as friends.

I think there’s a really deep truth to that.