Sep 18 2013
Radio Guy With Aspergers Asks Radio Guy With Aspergers Questions About Being Radio Guy With Aspergers

(Below is from email exchange this week.)
 

Hi Christopher!
 
First, let me say how honored I am that you took the time to write me. That's a very, very big deal to me.
 
Secondly: I'm going to answer your questions, but I'm going to be typing quickly. I apologize in advance for poor writing, or lack of clarity. I figure it's better to write sloppily than to not write at all, and I'm so absent-minded, I'm afraid if I don't write now, I'll kick myself later for forgetting to get back to you.
 
So here goes…
 
Subject: In Need of Advice and Encouragement
 

Dear Brant,

I am a huge fan of Air 1 and your work.  I find it extremely inspiring after reading your testimony of how successful you've become in broadcasting that whoever has obstacles can make it with God's grace.

I actually happen to be in broadcasting as a board operator and producer, not to mention having been living with Aspergers since I was an infant.  There have been times I had not been able to read other people's reaction very well as a result of anger, misinterpretation and uncontrolled emotions.

I've also been a Christian (or at least trying to be one) for the past eleven years of my life. It has not been easy as I go through a lot of trials to where I often question why I'm going through crap and why people don't want to hear from me.  I will say that Christ has saved my life from situations I would've gotten into if I wasn't saved.

I wanted to ask you:

1.  How does a person with Aspergers stay devoted to Christ, even in midst of trials?
 
Christopher, I don't know how "devoted to Christ" I actually am.
 
I honestly don't. And I see that you wrote you're "at least trying to be" a Christian. So I hesitate to simply answer the question, merely  because I don't want to give you the impression that I'm something you're not, or I've achieved a status you haven't.
 
This said, I think having Aspergers helps me love God. This is true for many reasons, but let me give you two: I'm EXTREMELY skeptical. And it's not a one-way skepticism that questions Christianity. I question the alternatives, and find them, quite honestly, wanting. I don't see anyone but Jesus accounting for the heart of man, the brokenness in my own self, and then actually doing something about it.
 
Secondly, we Aspies tend to root for the underdog. We value fairness, justice, and love seeing the vulnerable protected and the bubbles of the self-righteous big shots burst. And Jesus is the ultimate expression of this.
 
Jesus says if we've seen him, we've seen God. If God is like Jesus – and I believe He is – once again, that's sweet medicine for the heart of an Aspie.
 
Trials, to me, only make sense in light of Christ. We know we're going to suffer – that's a given – but rather than running away or "detaching" from suffering, it's apparent that God laments it, but embraces it.
 
2.  What would be a good tip to read scripture without distractions and forgetting?  I've had trouble following the Bible because I've not made time to read or I get distracted with life and pop culture that stops me from understanding and memorizing.
 
I haven't been good at memorizing, I'm afraid. Music sure helps – scripture, put to music, is a beautiful thing. I remember scripture from my childhood for this reason. I've been thinking about writing simple melodies and putting scriptures to them to help me.
 
More honesty: I've only recently begun to WANT to the read the Bible. For years, growing up, I really didn't see the over-arching narrative about Jesus. I lacked the Big Picture, though I thought I knew it. Instead, I saw it as a bunch of atomized verses useful for proving points or winning arguments are trying to take them out of context, put them in a row, and finally figure out how to fix my problems. I used to think it was like an Owner's Manual for a car, or something. (I think I thought this because someone told me, "The Bible is like an Owner's Manual for a car." Yeah. That might have done it.)
 
But it's not. It's way, way better. Owner's Manuals don't give people goosebumps. Stories do, and a Great Story is even better. Now, I see God at work, Jesus at work, Genesis through Revelation, and I get goosebumps.
 
I also finally realized – for some reason, it took decades – that we're no longer under law, for real. That Jesus fulfilled the Law on our behalf, and the temple veil was torn in two. This is not religion-as-usual. Once I finally was free of that, the idea that this book was here to make me do stuff better, I actually wanted to read it.  Once I realized that the true Word of God is Jesus himself, that this book was a signpost, pointing to Him, I wanted to read it. 
 
Such a great story.

3.  I've had bad situations involving my temper and attitude, even lashing out or taking dramatic actions involving not wanting to face the problems.  How should a person like me keep its reactions on check?
 
Remembering a few things has really helped me:
 
  1. Most of the time, it's not about me. If someone else is doing something stupid or rude or whatever, it's often completely about them. I don't need to take it personally. In fact, it's foolish if I do.
  2. I've got to quit being so down on myself. If GOD LOVES ME, but I'm constantly berating myself, it's apparent – just speaking logically, here – that I believe that what I think of me is more important than what He thinks.
  3. "This, too, shall pass". I can get enormously frustrated with myself. I always have. ENORMOUSLY frustrated. But, I think as I get older, I realize most things just aren't that important. Most things are actually pretty funny. Most things are pretty silly. Seriously. I can kinda take a step back, see myself getting ENORMOUSLY FRUSTRATED and realize how silly the frustration is. 
  4. I've traveled a lot, as an adult. I mean, a LOT – all over the world – to some of the most difficult places on the planet, in terms of poverty and human suffering, and man, has THAT put my own frustrations in perspective.
  5. If someone has wronged me, I get to forgive that person. I don't think I'm wronged, truly wronged, very often, really. And Jesus tells us we are forgiven as we forgive. I think there's something to remembering that "This is my chance to forgive." I joke about this, on the air, but there's really truth to it: I now view traffic as "forgiveness practice."

4.  How does a person with Aspergers controls anything involving emotions, tears, stress and anxiety issues?  I've gone through those and they've sucked a lot of life out of me.
 
You can read more on the blog here about one way I've dealt with this: A low dose of fluoxetine. I've heard this can help Asperger's.
 
I do NOT recommend this for anyone else. But I have to be honest, in full disclosure, and tell you that it's helped me with the constant self-incrimination that's led me to quit jobs, for instance. As the blog explains, it's a struggle for me to question, "Why isn't Jesus enough…? Or maybe he is, but…?"
 
Please read the blog. Beyond that, I'm kind of more hyper-logical, Mr. Spock-like in my emotions, by nature, so I don't know much.
 
Stress is often about perceived threats. I highly recommend praying for wisdom, daily, for perspective. So often – almost always – there are no threats, really, only what we perceive as possible, could-happen-tomorrow threats. The animal world doesn't work that way, hence (as biologists have written) zebras don't get hypertension…
 
5.  How does one deal with changes especially, last minute ones?
 
I don't like them. I don't have a good answer for this. They throw me. I often get a flash of anger, now that I think about it. Thanks for asking this question. I have never thought about this before. Hmmm…
 
6.  How does one deal with the past, especially negative moments?
 
This is a lousy answer, but I tend to forget about them. Especially if it's from childhood. I just… can't go there. I just can't. Don't want to be there.
 
Not helpful, huh?
 
A friend of mine said something wise. He said, "You know, we make a HUGE deal out of our childhood, but, honestly, it's a relatively short time, a relatively long time ago."
 
I didn't like it when he said that... but he's right.
 
I don't want to diminish the importance of our "formative years", but I like to think the rest of my life has been formative, too. I'm constantly being formed. I'm still living with my Father, right?
 
I used to roil with regret, but that was, and is, immaturity. God is so consistent about taking our mess-ups, even our sins, and making something beautiful out of them. I've seen that enough that I now believe that to be His M.O. One glance at the genealogy of Jesus is enough to prove it.

7.  If I don't want to be influenced by the media, which I had been all my life, what should I do to keep myself from letting images and people take over my life, especially negative ones?
 
This will sound simplistic, but seriously: Stop looking at them. 
 
Sometimes, we just have to hear someone say the obvious, I've found, so maybe I can play that role: Stop watching certain TV, or movies, or whatever it is that's the root of this. This is usually not THAT hard, honestly, for adults who have things to do, or books to read, or people to talk to, or whatever.
 
Change your entertainment, change your thinking. Few will say it, but in an entertainment-worshiping culture, it should be obvious.
 
Another wise friend (who admitted his struggle with pornography, by the way) pointed out that for a lot of people, the struggle really starts with watching stuff that's not even rated R, but finding things through the day that are moderately arousing, and letting them simmer. He found that controlling his mind at that point was vital for him, well before watching things that are blatantly pornographic. 
 
Pornography is a mammoth issue, as you know, and has so much to do with who we are, and what we're REALLY looking for. For a great discussion of that, and a message of hope, and how we can "reboot" our brains, I can't recommend the book Surfing for God enough. 
 
I'm dealing with these questions too rapidly. So sorry. Again, figured it's better to write sloppily than not write…
 
8.  How do you handle people giving you crap or hurting your feelings, especially if you take it the wrong way?  Also, how do you deal with difficult people who belittle, dictate, correct or even point out things that are tough to handle?
 
See above answers about frustration and forgiveness. Pray for wisdom.

9.  How do you learn new skills in broadcasting and how do you stay motivated to learn even if proven challenging?
 
I'm motivated to learn because of two things:
  1. I'm on a huge stage, and 
  2. I have no idea what I'm doing.
True, though, if the stage were smaller, every person listening would still be priceless. If it were ten people listening, I'd likely do the exact same show. Plus, the second thing on the list up there would still be true. I don't know what I'm doing.

10.  What are the fun aspects of working in radio, especially Christian?
 
I love being able to talk about the Kingdom of God. It's what people are YEARNING for. They don't even know it, most of the time. They can't put their finger on it. But they are dying for it.
 
I can probably do this on mainstream radio, too, but this is where I am, now, and it's fun working alongside people who are brothers and sisters, and who also believe in the ultimate goodness of God.
 
I'm just trying to get better at showing people - not just telling, but showing - that goodness of God. I want people to see the Kingdom, through their ears, through the radio: Joy, restoration, healing, even the simplicity of childlikeness, and the simplicity of freedom. And I've learned, if I'm focused on me, it just doesn't work very well. And if I think I *do* know what I'm doing, it doesn't work very well, either. 
 
So what's fun about it? At the end of some shows, when I feel like I blew it, I read a wonderful email, like yours and I think:
 
"What a mess. But look what God did with it."
 

Aug 26 2013
Sorry, Miley

 

I'd like to apologize to Miley Cyrus on behalf of All Adults. 

I know this seems grandiose, or inappropriate, but I'm going to do it, anyway, because I see people issue class-size apologies all the time, plus this is my blog and stuff. 

Now, this next paragraph is so blindingly obvious, so stunningly simple, I almost deleted it. But then, I told myself, apparently it's NOT so obvious, because we, you know, don't do it:

Adults are supposed to protect young people. Adults are supposed to refuse to treat young people like little gods, put them on pedestals, and parade them on stages. But adults do it, anyway, and our culture is just dumb, and just numb, enough to act like it's perfectly normal. Turns out, as we've always known, celebrity messes with people's heads, particularly the young.

A few years ago, I remember talking about this on my radio show.

Me: I'd never, ever let my kid be a celebrity. And not because of a few anecdotes, but because it messes with their           heads, teaches them narcissism, and skews their view of the world.

Callers to the show: But Brant, a good Christian family can raise a celebrity. And kids NEED great role models from strong, Christian families, like, you know, the Cyrus family, or the Biebers, and...

No, actually, kids don't need other kids as role models.

Kids need adults.

And adults are supposed to step in before their children, say, inhale poison. But, as safety-obsessed as we are, we won't do that. So kids, we've polluted our cultural atmosphere - now take a long, deep breath. Just make sure to wear a helmet.

We're supposed to step in, too, before you humiliate yourself imitating our own sickness. We're supposed to say things, impossible-sounding things, like "No." We know you're not going to like us; but we're adults, and adults protect. Kids need adults.

But kids might even want to be celebrities! They might even like the attention! - but kids need adults. Adults who say, "This is not what life is about, and we're not doing this." This isn't a pile-on for the Cyruses, by the way. Miley's father has already voiced his deep regret. Honestly, I feel horrible for him. I simply can't imagine much more humiliating, for a father, than... whatever... that... was... on the VMA Awards.  He's already said what I'm saying: His daughter's celebrity was a horrible mistake.

Am I making excuses for a 20 year-old? Maybe. Or maybe just explanations. I think, were I a child celebrity, I would have a profound lack of perspective, too.

Miley's just doing what she likely suspects she needs to do in her business: Shock people. She's grown up watching, say, Britney writhe with a snake on the very same awards show, so it's hard to blame her if she's surprised by the universally negative reaction. She's doing what she thought we wanted.

The problem, this time, is that our society feels like it knows her, knows her backstory, knows she's someone's daughter, and isn't able to forget it. Other women, like the ones on stage with Miley, the ones no one is complaining about? Well, we can sexualize them, reduce them to toys lacking a story, but this girl? We know her dad!

Kids don't need more kids. They know plenty of them. Kids need adults, actual adults, adults adult enough to reject a culture that is so bored, so dead, that it can only feel alive if given one more jolt, one more shock. And it's hard to shock, anymore, but Miley hit that mark.

MTV has largely been about sex since its beginning, and Miley's performance was almost a brilliant parody. It was a beautiful young woman, very scantily-clad, parading in front of millions, and it was... well, repulsive.

Which brings to mind what Mike Yaconelli once wrote, "The more pagan a society becomes, the more boring its people become." And I, for one, can't help but notice:

MTV, you're doing the near impossible. You're making sexuality seem boring.

Anyway, adults aren't supposed to make kids into celebrities. We're not supposed to let kids just "follow their dreams" without regard to how foolishly tragic said dreams might be. We're supposed to step in. If other grown-ups are creating a toxic cultural atmosphere (uh, no Britney pun intended) we're supposed to at least inquire about the emotional health of those grown-ups, while separating you from them, until you're older and wiser. 

But we didn't. Now, after handing you the keys, the car, and a cliff, we stand around and wonder, "Wow! What happened? What a strange girl."

Kids need adults. 

Aug 15 2013
The Cost of Children

So the news media wants you to know: It's going to cost you dearly to have a kid.

$241,000, actually. And that doesn't even count college, and you know how costly college is! Pretty daunting, this whole procreation deal. 

Thing is, my wife and I didn't have the money, either. When we had our boy, Justice, I made $17,500. We rented a duplex, and drove two cars worth a combined - not making this up, this is what they sold for: $125. And this isn't the 50's. This is the 90s.

Foolish to have a kid? Mathematically, sure. And I love math, but math ain't everything. You can't play kickball with it or watch it giggle in the bathtub.

Turns out, my parents couldn't afford me, on paper, either. Maybe they're filled with regret. ("Wow, we paid tens of thousands and we wind up with BRANT? WHAT A RIP-OFF.") But I doubt it, because they seem to not only like me, they like the expensive humans my wife and I produced. (Full disclosure: There's a big downside to this having-kids thing.)

Ironically, on the same day the annual "Cost of a Child" study comes out, there's this guy from American Idol in the news. Justin Guarini was a star - he finished second to Kelly Clarkson in 2002. But now money is tight. Very tight. He wrote on his website that he's had to skip meals to make sure his family has enough.

There was a time when I could have thrown down cash for a house, and had any number of lovers in and out the door. A flashy car and clothes to match. An ego to trump them all.

Now, I rent a home filled with love. I have a wife whom I love and who loves me (me!) and who lifts me up. Children who give me cherubic-lipped kisses before I leave for work and who are the most delicious morsels of joy and peace and prosperity.

I am a pretty wealthy individual. 

And then this, his best line:

I have more riches than I can count. Most of them come in the form of smiles and drool... but they make me feel like a gazillionaire.

Justin Guarini, I didn't watch your season of "Idol", but I'm now a fan. You, sir, are on to something.

And so is Bruce Brander, unfortunately. Bruce wrote a terrific book, called Staring Into Chaos, and it's about how civilizations, you know, go down the tubes. And Brander notes a commonality: Declining civilizations look at children through a cost/benefit lens. They see them as a drag on our personal autonomy, or another personal accoutrement, to enhance our status. It's plus and minus, and minus and plus, and maybe it's worth having one, if it doesn't make me cancel my Bahamas trip.

(Is it incumbent on everyone to have children? Of course not! But you might want to root on those who do, and create a culture and policies that support marriage and families, even big ones. Other people's kids are wonderful, joyful things, too. For one thing, you need them to retire.)

Of course, this whole "kids are too expensive" thing has a funny familiarity to it, and by "funny", of course, I mean, "tragically unfunny". It's precisely where we are. And precisely why western civilization, demographically speaking, is most definitely, irreversibly, going out of business. The numbers don't lie. As a culture, we simply love ourselves too much to burden ourselves with little versions of ourselves.

And then there are those who will continue to see children for what they are: Miracles and blessings. But they are now the counter-culture. The good news is, the counter-culture doesn't just have drool on its carpet and a beater in the garage. It has a future, and that future is at a table, surrounded by the laughs and cries of our grandbabies.

Expensive inconveniences grow up, and have their own inconveniences, and, like Justin Guarini, wouldn't trade them for the world. What, exactly, was I going to spend that money on, anyway?

I know bargains when I see them. They make me smile.

And these two bargains can smile back.