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.

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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.

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Stupid bumper stickers only go so far

I sat in front of the mirror one morning after my shower. The same big head with thick sideburns that I’ve gotten to know pretty well over the years stared back at me. But as I started to look down, I could not help but notice how vastly different everything looks below my neck. A deep scar rests at the base of my neck from having a ventilator tube pump air into my lungs for two months. Lines above my heart mark the incision where a pacemaker was placed to keep me alive after multiple episodes of cardiac arrest in the initial weeks after I broke my neck. The gaping hole that I like to refer to as my second bellybutton sits above my stomach as a reminder of three months on a feeding tube. My bones protrude from my shoulders and lead down to skinny, muscle atrophied arms. Let’s just say my abs are pretty far from absolute steel. I’m not one to worry much about how I look, but the reflection echoed more than just a physical look. Rather, it was a reminder of the radical lifestyle transformation that I’ve been forced to acclimate myself to over the past four years.

It’s on occasions such as this in front of the mirror, or when someone can’t help but stare in public, that I’m reminded of how utterly hopeless my situation may look to an outsider. Multiple people have asked me with full sincerity if I would rather have died in the November 2009 car accident than live in the physical condition I do. (Nothing says “Your life must really suck,” quite like this question.) I sure don’t feel that way, but sometimes when I take inventory of my life I wonder if I’m processing correctly. The doctors said I would never move anything below my shoulders for the rest of my life, I’m dependent on others to take care of my every need throughout the day, my peers are moving full steam ahead in the post-college world without me, and the icing on the cake is that I’m 25 and live down the hall from my parents. And yet…there still seems to be a silver lining. Hope still remains. I still believe I have a great future ahead. I still have confidence that a bigger purpose than I can even fathom is occurring.

I hear it all time: “You’re so optimistic. You have such a positive mindset!” As if I wake up each morning and start chanting pithy bumper sticker-worthy clichés to get me revved up for the day.

bumperstickers

Give me a break. That may work for a few days, but let’s be real. After four years, thinking happy thoughts is just not going to cut it. In the same way that I am unable to overcome the physical mountain on my own, putting my hope in myself to stay pumped up mentally does not have the power to last day after day. I firmly believe I’ve had a first-hand encounter with the peace described in Philippians 4:6 – 7:

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

While I believe there is value in keeping a positive attitude, I’ve noticed that as hard as I try, I cannot find this peace mentioned above anywhere else. Jesus makes it clear that the peace He offers is not in the form that the world offers (John 14:27). When I begin to feel the weight of my less-than-ideal circumstances, “positive thinking” doesn’t get me very far. However, when I press into Jesus, He provides me with peace that truly does transcend all of my understanding. Sometimes I wonder if I’ve become numb or if I am in denial. The peace is truly supernatural.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not as if I always take the words of Philippians 4:6-7 to heart and am beyond getting anxious. It’s not as if it’s this warm and fuzzy feeling that has me thinking, “Time to put on a smile, it’s a great day to be paralyzed!” There are still days when my patience runs thin with those who love me the most, out of sheer frustration that I’m relying on them for tasks as simple as scratching my nose. My body may jolt into a spasm at 3 in the morning, leaving me wide awake to stare at the dark ceiling flat on my back for hours, calling out to Jesus to remind me that He hasn’t deserted me.

Instead of trying to fool myself into believing the mirage of positive thinking or looking elsewhere for an escape, I want to continue to press into the peace that Jesus offers that is sustainable, life-changing, and downright supernatural.

Often times when I sense the angst, this peace helps remind me of the distance traveled and remember that a rough moment today is only a snapshot (as defined in the song below) of my entire life and does not define my future. As Psalm 30:5 says, “Weeping may stay for the night, but joy comes in the morning”

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