One Faith, Many Paths: Trevor Justin Gawthorne

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This month for my “One Faith, Many Paths” project, I decided to interview one of the members of my Autistic Christians group on FB. Here’s Trevor Gawthorne from Down Under!

1. How old were you when you became Christian? When I was 16. I got bullied a lot over it.

2. What was your childhood like? It was all right. Most of it was decent. Eight years old was the last time I remember it being good.

3.When were you diagnosed with autism? Did you receive any help? I was diagnosed at 6 with autism and ADHD.

4. What is your current job? Unemployed.

Continue reading “One Faith, Many Paths: Trevor Justin Gawthorne”

One Faith, Many Paths: Lamar Hardwick

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For my latest interview as part of my “One Faith, Many Paths” project, I’m interviewing Lamar Hardwick, an autistic pastor in Lagrange, Georgia at New Community Church. Their website can be reached here: http://www.ncclagrange.com/contact-us

1. What was your childhood like?

My father was in the military so I grew up traveling around the world. We moved every 3 years and sometimes we lived outside the country. I spent a few years living in Germany when I was in elementary school. My father was also a minister, so we grew up going to church every Sunday. As a child, I rarely understood my peers. While I had a few friends, I don’t remember having really strong friendships because we moved so often.  I have three siblings, but I was always the quiet one and spent most of my time alone reading books.

2. When were you diagnosed autistic?

I was diagnosed in 2014, when I was 36 years old.

3. What made you decide to become a preacher?

In 2001, after graduating college I began to sense a calling from God to dedicate my life to serving the church.  At that time, I was becoming regularly involved in my church and I had a sense of fulfillment in the work that I was doing.  It took me nearly a year to understand exactly what my calling was, but by that time I was sure that God had called me to become a preacher.

4. Does being autistic present a challenge in your profession and in interacting in your congregation?

In some ways being autistic does present challenges for me because I have to spend extended amounts of time around larger crowds and it can sometimes become overwhelming to me.  Autism can also present a challenge when communicating with people because I often don’t read social cues and body language very well.  There have been times when people misinterpret things I say or vice versa.  Now that everyone in my church understands me better, they know that the best way to communicate with me is to be direct and to expect me to be direct as well.

5. I’ve often seen autistics who are either disdainful of Christianity or atheist. What reason do you think may cause this?

I think there are many reasons for this and most of the reasons that non-autistics are atheist is the same reasons that many autistics are atheists.  I think that most people who are atheist base their beliefs on a negative life experience that they believe cannot be reconciled with the existence of God.  Autistics tend to be very literal, so this can even provoke a stronger resistance to the idea of God. The problem with most people who come to the conclusion that God does not exist is that they are basing their rationale on very limited existence as well as a very subjective point of view. Most people don’t believe in God or have a disdain for Christianity because God doesn’t cooperate with them, but lack of cooperation doesn’t necessarily disprove that someone does not exist.

Continue reading “One Faith, Many Paths: Lamar Hardwick”

One Faith, Many Paths Follow-up: Arri Lemons

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My Facebook Friend Arri was my first interviewee for my “One Faith, Many Paths” series. You can read her first interview here. She asked for a follow-up interview, so I sent her some new questions. Arri had a troubled past to say the least, and she’s since risen above it. Here’s what she had to say.

  1. When you decided to become a Christian after being a Buddhist, did anyone help you in your conversion? Yes and no, maybe? It’s hard to say. Thinking back on it I was a kid that was angry, grieving, and depressed. At the time, my grandmother and best friend had passed away close to the same time. My thought was what many others tend to think when losing a loved one: if God was kind then why did He take them away? I turned to Buddhism when my biological father mocked about being one, and so I began to study it and several other religions. Buddhism is a philosophy, and so I gravitated towards that aspect.  My path to being a believer in Christ happened one evening when I was home alone; I was hurt and angry and over all of it and grabbed a knife. Before I could go further, I felt a great presence wash over me which I still cannot adequately describe. It felt as if someone was there to tell me I wasn’t alone. I broke down and had my first real talk with God. Since then, I have done my own study of Christianity through the lens of artwork. Mostly, if anything has helped me continue my religious path, it has been the people I have become close to–you, being one. It has given me a new perspective to look at God, which to me has helped immensely. Religion isn’t a fixed thing; it’s also about the journey, not just the destination.
  2. Continue reading “One Faith, Many Paths Follow-up: Arri Lemons”

One Faith, Many Paths: Clay Gilbert

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This month for my “One Faith, Many Paths” project, I’m interviewing Clay Gilbert, a friend of mine who writes science fiction for PDMI. Among his books are Annah, (part of his “Children of Evohe” series) and Dark Road to Paradise. He is a recent convert to Christianity from Wicca.

What was your childhood like? I’m an only child, and in many ways, through much of my childhood, my life was the stereotypical suburban family story–the “Beaver Cleaver” family stereotype, as my mom has said on a few occasions. Dad worked, and Mom stayed home and took care of me. Later on, when I was a little older, Mom periodically worked, but our family was pretty traditional.  It really was a great time. My parents encouraged me to read, and encouraged my passion for writing.  They taught me good values–including raising me in a knowledge of Christianity, and the Bible, which we read a lot in our house. I also went to church every Sunday.  But for certain reasons, which were my own, I didn’t claim Christianity as my own faith until January of 2016. It was the “faith of my fathers”, as the old hymn says, but I had to take my own long road to reach it for myself.

What kind of instruction did you receive in Christianity? Tons, man. My family wasn’t one of those ‘check off the box’, go to church on Sunday and forget it kind of Christian families.  The Bible and the teaches of Christ, and the perspectives of Christian figures in the larger culture, were a constant presence in my life.  I attended Sunday School as well as Sunday Services, and I read the Bible for myself. I’d estimate that by the time I was thirteen–the age of Confirmation class in the Methodist branch of the Protestant Church–I’d read it all the way through at least four times. There are some Christians who seem to feel that those who aren’t Christians just haven’t been exposed to the Gospel. In my case, that wasn’t so.

What is your favorite biblical passage? Easy. It’s Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” We try to do stuff on our own, so much in this world; in this culture.  But I know for myself that I am much stronger with the Lord Jesus in my life than I ever was when I was wondering around trying to get things done without Him.  And I know He was there all along, knocking on the door and waiting for me to be ready to open it.

Continue reading “One Faith, Many Paths: Clay Gilbert”

One Faith, Many Paths Special: Interview with…Me!

I’ve reached another milestone. This will be my 200th post. I’ve decided mark this occasion by presenting an interview with someone I will interview in the future and allowing him to ask the questions, rather than the other way around. I figured this would be a great way for new readers to know me better.

  1. You’ve been a Catholic all your life, and I know your faith is central to your life. Have there been times when you questioned? How did you handle that? I believe that if you go through your life as a Christian without once doubting yourself, then you are spiritually blind.  Yes, I’ve doubted. When I learned about all the atrocities that are often linked to Christianity, I doubted whether I should consider myself part of it. What kept me in the faith was that I reminded myself that I only have my own actions to ask for, not anyone else’s. God knows my heart. I also read up on the saints. When I saw all they did for the glory of God, I wanted to be a part of that.
  2. Your autism is another part of you. When did you first realize you were different–even special in terms of those around you? I think it first happened in high school. When I finally became mainstreamed, I never experienced a desire to wear a mask and pretend I was something I wasn’t. Then in college, my counselor told me and my mother that she thought I had Asperger’s. At first, It never really clicked. But my mother insisted that I do research on the disorder, if only to explain it to others. It was that research that opened me to the possibility that it was a gift. It also made me realize that God had possibly meant for me to spend all those years in Special Ed that I had spent for my bad behavior, especially my temper.
  3. A follow-up to that–what do you think is the biggest misconception about Autism and Autistic people? I think there are two. The first is that it is something that can be removed or outgrown. While it is true that some autistics can “pass” for being neurotypical, that doesn’t mean we’ve outgrown autism. It just means we’ve adjusted to what society expects of us. The second is that we don’t have emotions. I think this is often perceived because we often express our emotions differently from those not on the spectrum. In fact, there has been research that has concluded that our emotions and those of our peers can often overwhelm us, perhaps more easily than those not on the spectrum.
  4. What are some of your favorite hobbies and what do you enjoy about them? I am an avid reader, especially of science fiction. I think what’s best about it is that it allows me to escape from the pressures of this world. It allows me to unwind when I experience a world that is different from my own.
  5. How would you define your life philosophy–to put it more simply, do you have a personal motto? My motto is to always try to find the good in everything. I’m not always living by this principle, but I’ve learned there is good in everything that happens. If I focus on that, it helps me not to fall into despair.
  6. Favorite Books? I’d have to say the writings of CS Lewis, primarily. Not just his fiction, but also his non-fiction. His non-fiction is so simplistic. He doesn’t rely on purple prose or empty words. He explains everything about Christianity as simply as he can. He’s often been discredited because he’s not a theologian, but I don’t think that should dismiss him. I’d have to say his best book that isn’t connected to Narnia would be Mere Christianity. It’s a great bare-bones approach to Christianity, and I always recommend it to anyone who wants to know where to start with his non-fiction. Continue reading “One Faith, Many Paths Special: Interview with…Me!”

One Faith, Many Paths: Kyle Maximilian Sweeney

This month, I’m interviewing a fellow Catholic named Kyle Maximilian Sweeney, a fellow Catholic I met through Geeks Under Grace.

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  1. How long have you been a Christian? 22 years
  2. What was your childhood like? It was good. My parents were very supportive, pushing me to do my best: not to do my best, but to do my best, which is a very important distinction. They sent me to good Catholic schools for both a good religious and secular education.
  3. What evidence can you give for God’s existence? The teleological argument works well for me. The simplicity of the laws of physics which then produce all of these amazing reactions.  It’s strong proof of a creator.
  4. Do you have a favorite Bible verse? Why? Don’t have one. Though I like “Be still, and know that I am God” as it can be very reassuring. Also it can be challenging.
  5. Who is your favorite biblical figure besides Jesus? Moses is pretty rad and bad ass, but I don’t have a favorite biblical figure.

Continue reading “One Faith, Many Paths: Kyle Maximilian Sweeney”

One Faith, Many Paths: Sue Abramowski

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For this edition of “One Faith, Many Paths”, I am interviewing my Facebook friend Sue Abramowski. When I started joining autism groups, she was the first person to friend me. I always enjoy seeing her posts on my feed. She always has a positive outlook on life, and I thought she would be a great person to interview.

1. How did you first discover the possibility that you were on the spectrum?

I’ve always known I was a little different. I was diagnosed with ADHD, OCD and anxiety at 25. I don’t remember how, but one day I stumbled upon a blog titled Aspie From Maine. As I read the author’s story, it stuck a chord with me: I could relate to her on such a level that a light bulb went off. Could I have Asperger’s, too? I did a lot of online research and took quizzes, and they all pointed to me being autistic. My psychiatrist at the time wasn’t convinced, simply because I gave eye contact and “engaged” while talking to her, so I got a second opinion. I also realized that the same psychologist who had diagnosed me with ADHD conducted autism assessments! I got an appointment, and three sessions and a few questionnaires later, it was confirmed. On March 19, 2014, I was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome (or ASD Level I on paper).

2. What was your childhood like?

I had a fairly typical childhood, despite not being a very typical child! It was suspected that something was up back in preschool. While the rest of my class was paying attention to the teacher and doing as they were told, I was off in another direction, doing whatever I pleased. I’d often go to the Little Tykes playhouse, or just do cartwheels on the circle time rug. I went to a psychologist at that time, too, and remember playing with toys as he spoke to my parents. He dropped the ball, though, when his wife had a baby and he took a leave of absence, as he never got back in touch with my parents. Something tells me that had I actually had some kind of assessment, something may have been discovered from the get go. Through the years, I was always a bit different from the other kids. I remember trying to play along, yet something just didn’t click. As I approached middle school and later, high school, the differences became more apparent. The other girls started becoming interested in things like boys, makeup, their appearance, and fitting in. None of those things mattered to me. I wasn’t interested in the least bit (and still am not, at 33!). As I got to college, I continued to do well academically as I had all along, and changed my major from Biology Education to Social Work after I realized where my niche lay. I received a Bachelor’s in Social Work in 2006, and have been working in mental health and developmental disabilities ever since.

3. How does your autism manifest? Do you stim? What about things like synesthesia?

My autism flew under the radar. While it’s definitely there, one may not recognize it until they really get to know me. I interpret things literally, see things in black and white, have sensory sensitivities, and notice the fine details. I do stim. For me, it entails fidgeting with my fingers and examining them, wiggling my legs, looking from side to side, and playing with fun stimmy toys! I also have to feel every fabric I pass by in the clothing store. I’m a sensory-seeker, and a very tactile person. I also have synesthesia! For as long as I can remember, letters and numbers have colors. It carries over into days of the week, months, and street names. Friday has always been orange, for example.

4. What evidence can you give for God’s existence?

The evidence I can give for God’s existence is that everything happens for a reason. He created me different, because He has a special purpose for me. I feel that this is to help others, especially those on the spectrum and with mental health issues, since I live with both. I’ve also had dreams in which I feel God has given me a “heads-up” for what’s to come. I feel that it’s the gift of prophecy, in a sense.

Continue reading “One Faith, Many Paths: Sue Abramowski”