My #1 New Years resolution

I sat in my wheelchair behind the back pew at church. I was desperate. Nearly a year had gone by since the accident and the physical progress I was sure I would have gained by now was nowhere to be seen. I was still paralyzed and the idea that I would not be working my way out of my chair on my own was beginning to creep into my head.

The pastor’s message that day was infiltrated with somewhat familiar healing stories from the Bible; a book I held in no more esteem than a textbook. It sounded nice, especially considering my current condition, but a connection seemed to be missing. I had not fully bought in. A pastor telling me what “God said in the Bible” wasn’t going to cut it anymore. It was time I looked into it for myself.

My voice software assisted the start of my investigation
My voice software assisted the start of my investigation

It started out of desperation. As I began to grasp the fact that I could not heal myself, I figured my best bet would be investigating the biography of the one person I knew of who made a habit of healing the paralyzed: Jesus. Pulling on my inner archaeologist, I would dig into the Bible a bit deeper each day before I would find something else pushing back at me that I either didn’t like, was confused by, or was flat out frustrating. I would wrestle with elements Jesus addresses such as the supernatural realm, the standard for sexuality, the questions of suffering, and the startling realities of heaven and hell.

The deeper I dug, the more resistance I faced; yet I felt I was onto something
The deeper I dug, the more resistance I faced; yet I felt I was onto something

While my initial posture was, “What can you do for me?” Jesus met me right where I was. God used my paralysis and the story of healing the paralytic (click here for the story) to draw me in to his Word. Before long, the Bible was no longer a recipe book to cook up my healing formula. It had become a source of life I could not get enough of, rather than a dusty book on the shelf. The healing itself took a back seat on my priority list and I was now on a journey to encounter the author Himself.

Here are three main themes that got me hooked:

Authoritative: It claims to be written by God (2 Timothy 3:16.) This statement alone did not convince me of its authority, but it sure made me take a closer look. It was either ludicrous or the most powerful piece of literature on the planet. There could be no in-between.

Controversial: In John 14:6 Jesus states, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” Statements of boldness such as this do not fly in our politically correct crazed culture. Could there ever have been a more offensive claim? As I was reading, I was drawn to how Jesus would not mince words. He did not leave open the opportunity for me to sit on the fence.

Comforting: Psalm 119:92: “If you Word had not been my delight, I would’ve perished in my affliction.” Each time anxiety builds and I start to worry about what’s ahead, I can sift through the pages of Scripture and just the right words speak to me nearly every time, rooting me back into God’s truth.

piers-morgan

I saw an interview on CNN recently in which Piers Morgan suggested we bring the Bible “kicking and screaming” into the 21st century to be up with the times in our culture. Some may agree with his stance while others classify the book as sheer fairytale. Then there are those who take it as rock solid truth. I have come to find myself in the last camp over time, but what about you?

With each new year I set out certain reading goals. One discipline I have taken up has been reading through the New Testament each year. With an email sent containing just a few minutes a day of reading, I get one more way to hear directly from the living God every day. You can join me on this adventure this coming year: Click here to sign up

I’m no Bible scholar. I’m just a messed up guy who has discovered purpose and meaning unlike anything I’ve ever known while sifting through the words that God has put into text. While I initially took a disciplined approach with a trace of skepticism to examine its validity, now I can’t fathom a day without soaking up even just a few words. Everything begins to slow down. Problems seem to get smaller. Worries dissipate. Peace sets in. Passion for the day ahead reignites. I regain clarity for my vision for the future. I firmly believe you can have a similar experience. God promises that when we seek Him, we will find Him (Jeremiah 29:13). Join me today on this journey for the new year.

– –

To check out the latest video update: Click here

To connect via Facebook: Click here.

To follow Ryan’s journey via e-mail, click “follow” at the top of the page

A second grade love story

It was June of 1997 and I hopped in the back of my mom’s blue minivan. I was completely dejected. The girl of my dreams was just not that into me. To make matters worse, she was all about my best friend. Summer break could not come quick enough. The van pulled out of the school parking lot as I tried to distract my mind from my unsuccessful endeavor to make this girl mine.

Life sure is hard on an 8-year-old.

Sharing the stage as the lead characters in the school play did not win me any points
Sharing the stage as the lead characters in the class puppet show did not win me any points

13 years later I lay in bed flat on my back after just returning home from my four month stint in the hospital and the same girl walked into my room. Stephanie was now in massage therapy school, and after seeing the news of the accident on Facebook via a mutual friend, she had reached out to my family to offer her therapeutic skills in whichever way she could help, regardless of the fact that we hadn’t seen each other in over a decade.

The relationship started off professionally. She would come over a few times a week to massage the tightness and knots from my body that had acquired as a result of going through the grinder of car flips, ventilator weaning, and months of hospitalization. This gradually turned into a friendship and one day she brought over one of her assignments from our second grade class that she just happened to stumble upon:

What I learned about the Bible and following Jesus…
“I learned that God did many miricals. I like the one of the parelized man the most.”

My mind was blown (and not just at how big my head was compared to the rest of the picture.) How was this possible? What were the chances? She could have picked from any of Jesus’ miraculous wonders; from walking on water to feeding 5000, any physical healing from blind men to raising the dead. Of all the acts from Jesus’ three-year ministry before being crucified and rising again, she had picked the healing of the paralyzed man (click here for the story). Not only that, there just happened to be a picture of the two of us on the adjacent page. Stephanie had also just happened to save her project and then come across it again 13 years later. She also just happened to be the one person from that second grade class that I now talked to. Could this all really be mere coincidence?

Time and time again, I would look back at that picture trying to wrap my mind around every intricate detail that had to align for the pieces of this picture to sit in front of me 13 years later. It spoke of, looked like, and seemed like God’s hand, but that would only lead to more questions. Did God use an 8-year-old girl who I would run into later in life to write down the exact injury I would sustain at 21-years-old just to show that He already knows everything that’s going to happen? Was it to encourage me as one of many confirmations over the past few years of Jesus healing me? An interesting twist was added three years after the accident when Stephanie and I began dating. Was that predetermined as well?

    16 years later, the flame rekindles
16 years later, the flame rekindles

Rather than focusing on trying to figure out how this picture came to be and what it could mean, my attention turned to what all this may say about God.

Psalm 139: 16 says, “You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.”

It sure sounds like He has everything under control. As time went on, I began to see how God has been and continues to be creatively involved in every step of my life, from the time I was born, to my second-grade classroom, to lying on the side of the highway unsure if I would survive, to providing supernatural peace in the time since. I can rest with confidence knowing God cares about small details and apparently even has a bit of a sense of humor.

While I am grateful for what has come about with Stephanie and for what I believe is one of many confirmations of the physical healing to come, I am most comforted by the fact that in some mysterious way, God has absolutely everything under His control. All the way down to the pencil in the hand of an 8-year-old, unknowingly prophesying the days to come.

– –

To check out the latest video update: Click here

To connect via Facebook: Click here.

To follow Ryan’s journey via e-mail, click “follow” at the top of the page

Seeking the Healer

Summer of 2010 was coming to a close and time was running out. I peered down at my lifeless legs as the therapists moved them back and forth on the treadmill. Everything inside of me wanted to deny it, but the realization was inevitable: I would not be walking back on campus when classes began for the new school year.

Simulating a walking motion while being suspended in a harness over a treadmill
Simulating a walking motion while being suspended in a harness over a treadmill

I had tried everything. I’d spent two months at a spinal cord injury facility in Atlanta, Georgia. I’d spent hundreds of hours at a local spinal cord injury rehab center. I’d been regularly receiving treatments of physical therapy, chiropractic, massage therapy, craniosacral therapy, acupuncture, reflexology… all in addition to supplements and diet modifications. Each day was scheduled with an array of efforts intended to work my way back up to standing on my own two feet.

The plans in my head were pretty resolute: Work my way back to full health and be back in full swing to the life I knew on campus by the fall. I was so confident in my own ability that when running for a treasurer position in a group on campus, I told the other members not to worry about my lack of ability to hold money; it would be back by the fall. But then it wasn’t. As stated in a previous post, “Want to make God laugh? Tell Him your plans.”

This just wasn’t going along with the pattern of life I was accustomed to when it came to working hard. Practice and lift weights? Perform better on the athletic field. Study and stay diligent with schoolwork? A 4.0 GPA would follow. While being paralyzed below the shoulders was quite a mountain to overcome, I figured surely I could make my way over the top through rigorous physical therapy.

The humbling reality set in when I heard the hypothetical question, “Is there anything you are doing right now that you actually have to rely on God for in order to succeed?” The truth is, up until this point I was under the impression I could do it all on my own. As months passed by, putting my hope into my own physical performance would only lead to disappointment. Nothing was happening and I could not do a thing about the fact that signals were not connecting from my brain to the rest of my body.

The realization began to take shape: no matter how hard I worked, no matter how much effort, ingenuity, creativity, or time spent, I had to accept the plain and simple truth: I cannot do this on my own. I began to realize my hope was in my own physical abilities rather than in Jesus. I was simply seeking healing when, in actuality; seeking the Healer Himself is all that I need.

It started out in desperation. I knew I could not heal myself, so I figured my best bet was going to the only one I knew of who made a habit of healing the paralyzed: Jesus. While my initial posture was, “What can you do for me?” Jesus met me right where I was. As I began to swallow my pride and surrender the idea that I could do it all on my own, He became more real. A genuine relationship was developed and He was no longer a genie to rub to get my wish of walking once again. The Bible became a source of life I could not get enough of, rather than a dusty book on the shelf. The healing itself took a back seat on my priority list.

Does that mean that all the difficulties of paralysis just disappear into thin air? Absolutely not. Does it mean that I’ve given up on the idea of walking again one day? Not for one second. Does believing Jesus is the only one who can heal me mean that I just passively sit in bed all day waiting? Not at all.

Weight bearing in the standing frame for 30 minutes has become part of my daily routine
Weight bearing in the standing frame each day reminds me of the view from 6’1″

I still do daily physical therapy. Stretching, strengthening of muscles that do currently function, and standing up in the frame pictured above are all a part of my routine. 1 Timothy 4:8 says, “Physical training is of some value but godliness has value for all things in this life and the life to come.” While I believe the therapy is crucial for the best possible care of my body, it’s no longer my primary focus or how I spend all my energy. One of the main reasons I wanted to share my progress video in “Remembering the distance traveled” was because questions about physical progress are what I get more than anything. What am I supposed to tell people if there has not been any recent improvement? Sometimes I feel like the spotlight is on me and not being able to report anything reflects a fault of my own, as if somehow it’s my responsibility that my spinal cord is currently not yet relaying the signals from my brain to the rest of my body.

If at the end of each day I took inventory on physical progress and based my mood and attitude on new improvements, I would be very depressed. Thankfully, that’s no longer at the top of my priority list. There are more important aspects of this journey to focus on and share. Instead, I want to remain intentional about seeking the Healer rather than just the healing, because everything that Jesus offers far outweighs the second chance I believe I will have to walk again.

– –

To check out the latest video update: Click here

To connect via Facebook: Click here.

To follow Ryan’s journey via e-mail, click “follow” at the top of the page