Monday, January 25, 2010

Another Bruised or Broken Body Part

I have plans for you. Not for evil, but for good. Plans to prosper you and make you a success . . . God's word - for God's people - to the Prophet Jeremiah

When we finished unloading our belongings on Tuesday I started to have some pain at the base of my neck. On Wednesday it radiated into my left shoulder. On Thursday the tips of my pinky finger of my left hand started getting numb - except for the burning sensation that would come and go. On Friday my entire left arm, from just above the elbow, and 3 of my fingers went completely numb. On Saturday I didn't have enough strength in my left hand to loosen the cover of my water bottle. It felt like jagged pieces of glass were coursing through my veins and muscles on a river of molten lava.

Throughout the week, Sandy tried to massage the knots and pain away; I methodically used ice and heat, stretching, traction, and took 3-4 thousand milligrams of Ibuprofen every day believing the pain would eventually go away. I kept going all the while unpacking, putting things together, journaling, writing posts, and talking to friends. Sandy and I even hiked 6 miles on Wednesday.

But you know how that goes . . . I will go to a doctor on Wednesday . . . Well, maybe a chiropractor would be a better choice . . . I will give it another day to heal . . . It should be better tomorrow . . . We are in a tornado watch so I can't go today.

By 2 this morning I could not sit, stand, lie down, or find any position that did not leave me gasping for breath and feeling faint, so we headed for the Emergency Room at Providence Hospital.

When we pulled into the parking lot of the ER, a worried and stressed looking mom was hustling across the parking with her little girl cradled in her arms. The tiny face, circled by ringlets of blond hair, was streaked with tears and her raspy, ragged cough made MY throat hurt. Once they got inside, Robin, a male nurse with a teddy bear persona, immediately took the little girl in his giant arms and began rocking her, speaking lovingly and sympathetically. The effect was magical; she quit crying and coughing in seconds.

Confession . . .

My stinking neck, shoulder, forearm, and fingers hurt so bad, I found myself wishing Robin would either pick me up and heal me, or body slam me and kill me!

In a few minutes I was signed in and led to a room where Emily, a nurse that looked like a 13 year old, told me a doctor would see me shortly. She took down some more information, while commenting that I didn't look too good. "Are you in pain?" she asked. I think my ashen face and trembling body gave me away.

"Most definitely," I responded. She continued, "Dr. Boyer is with another patient, and it will be a few minutes before he is free. Are you sure you are alright? I will ask him if we can give you something for the pain." Just then the doctor came in and began banging around on my left arm with one of those little rubber hammers. There was almost zero reflex. "I am going to get some X-rays, and schedule you for an MRI at 8 a.m. We will have to take you to another hospital. We don't have an MRI. You can sleep here until then."

Emily returned a few minutes later with a needle and syringe. "I am going to give you a shot. It's a mixture of Demerol and [some other drug] that will help with nausea (For my friends who know me well . . . no, I did not tell her that I am 54 years old and have never vomited. Although it is a story worth telling).

Highly motivated to get this pain under control, I began to roll up my sleeve . . .

"Sir, I will need to inject this into a bigger muscle."

"You are going to stick it in that muscle?" Just for the record - I didn't even flinch when that needle penetrated the dermis of my derriere. In no time at all the pain began to subside, and I was being pushed in a wheel chair to the X-ray lab (They would not let me walk on my wobbly, Demerol-influenced legs).

Here's the really cool part . . .

After the X-rays - sure enough - two EMT's were waiting to put me on a stretcher and load me into the ambulance, and we were on our way for the MRI. Sandy rode with us. Sandy was in the front talking to the EMT Kelsey. I was in the back talking to the EMT Dave.

It just so happened that Kelsey and his family train "cutting horses," and his mother is a teacher. It also "just so happens" that Dave is an advanced kayaker, and his wife is a media specialist in the Columbia school system! Just like that, we have two new friends! Sandy has 2 direct contacts into the school system she desires to teach in, both of us love to kayak, and I will get to ride (and fall off) horses again!

But first I must finish regimen of Prednisone and wait for the inflamed nerve canal to cool down. A neurologist will decide where we will go from there. More good news: the pain killers prescribed help me enjoy this brand new adventure!!

Friday, January 22, 2010

From the Mountains to the Seas

His mercies are new every morning. Great is your faithfulness O LORD ~ From the Psalms

It is official. We now reside in Columbia, South Carolina - Home of the University of South Carolina. The Palmetto State received us with a sunny 68 degree smile!

Everything of consequence is unpacked and in place. Our 2 bedroom apartment has a warm feel to it. Just beyond the back patio, which has a western exposure, is a man-made lake surrounded by deciduous trees stripped naked by the cycles of nature. But soon they will be cloaked in their newest spring fashions with floral schemes. Yesterday, I sat outside and watched a family of Mallard ducks bob for food as they paddled from the edges of the shore-to-the-center, and back again. A gaggle of geese gracefully glided to the placid surface - their webbed feet skidding to a less graceful stop. A tall, bony legged heron stood statue still, but on the ready to stab an unsuspecting fish with its spear-point beak.

Depending on the direction we choose, a commitment of 90 minutes behind a windshield will put us at the foot of mountains, or the shores of the Atlantic. For centuries rugged, mountainous terrain has tugged at the hearts of explorers and adventurers. I am one of those men drawn to scaling rocks and cliffs, and walking the ridges. Taking a seat on a benched shaped outcropping to log my sojourn, trace the sunset, behold vistas - constantly changing as shadows shorten and lengthen - mesmerizes and recharge me spiritually. Grandeur puts things in their proper perspective - the infinity of the Creator - the finiteness of his creation.

When we lived in Columbus, Zach Thomas, a good friend and an Army Ranger, taught me to rappel - feet first and head first (Australian). Our first leap was off the roof of the educational building at Morningside Baptist Church. My second leap took place in the sanctuary of Morningside Baptist church. Zach and I rappelled from the rafters of the soaring vaulted ceiling onto the platform. At the time it seemed like a good idea - it was part of a promotion for our men's event, "The Call of the Wild." Since then I have rappelled in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, and from platforms designed for that purpose in other places. I hope to hook up with some like minded guys down here and pick up where I left off.

Sandy loves the ocean. Over the years she often retreats to the rugged, rocky shore lines of Maine where the incoming tides violently crash into granite seawalls and natural cliffs, or to the feel of sand beneath her feet as she strolls along the endless strands and textures of beaches on the coast of Massachusetts and Florida. Such places are akin to the Celtic lore of, "Thin Places." Sounds, sights, and smells, elicit tranquility, comfort, and meditation. Journaling, long walks, collecting drift wood, peculiar stones, sea glass, shells, or quietly waiting for the sun to rise or set soothes her. Toes buried in the sand, pant legs rolled above the curve of her calves, wading through the surf, wind tussling her hair, and watching waves gently caressing the shoreline- fills her cup to overflowing.

I know that we will not be frequent guests of the majestic mountains or mesmerizing seas for some time. Getting the first Planet Fitness franchise off the ground is going to occupying most of my time, and presents a learning curve and challenge of a new kind - one I am anxious to get started on. Columbia represents: new adventure; new friends; new Faith community; new doctors and dentists; new geography; new experiences, and new responsibilities. This side of eternity nothing remains the same. His mercies are new every morning . . . and I am grateful that it is so.

Let the Adventure begin!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Appraised Value

We left New England later than we planned, but the extra time in Massachusetts was well spent. Justin, Josh, and I loaded the truck - more fun than work. Whenever the three of us get together it is always a good time. Sandy, and our daughter-in-law, Erika, packed the house while the Shorey men got the bulk of our belongings from storage and packed them into the truck. Time flew by, and the job was really a breeze.

Sometimes such events bring about poignant "moments." One came about for me as I placed the last of the boxes and miscellaneous on the truck. I grabbed the looped strap to pull the roll top door down - then stopped. I stared at the insides of the big white box of the beige and orange U-Haul. It contained all of our possessions after 32 years of marriage. "It's not even full," I thought to myself. A splintery question emerged, "Is that good, or is that bad? Should there be more material evidence of success and prosperity?"

Some would say, "Yes."

Some would say, "No."

I would say, "It depends."

Over the course of a lifetime each of us develops a value system that steers (actually dictates) our life. Yet, almost every person I know has pursued a set of goals only to conclude, It's not worth it. The price is too steep. At a higher level we experience an epiphany, awakening, or change of perspective, and in most instances come to realize that we over-valued a specific dream at the cost of under-valuing an even greater one. Wisdom tells us to abandon the chase and reset our course.

So the question arises, "Is there a single, precise, and correct way to assign value to things we deem worthy of our pursuit? Is there a catalyst for an epiphany, awakening, or change of perspective?" I believe there is. Fair warning - if you espouse it as the most important consideration in prioritizing your life - be prepared to make some drastic changes.

Here it is . . .

God is keeping the records that count, and His account is the only one that will one day count.

In the end, that is the only appraisal we need to be concerned with.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Offering

When Jesus saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because there were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he [Jesus] said to his disciples, "The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. ~ The Gospel according to Matthew (9:36)

This morning Miss Meagan called to catch me up on her adventures, and to bounce some things off Dad. Meg graduates from College in May, and for at least 2 years she has been talking about backpacking in Europe with her best friend when school ends. That led up to her telling me that she was seriously thinking about going to Haiti on a relief mission, rather than touring parts of Europe on foot. Meagan is uber compassionate, passionate, mission minded, and to use a cliche, "Puts her money where her mouth is."

Coincidentally, I had just finished reading and viewing online the pictures of the devastating earthquake in Haiti. Needless to say my daughters words touched me deeply, and I was trying to keep my voice from quavering as I responded to her devotion. Our conversation continued around missional themes, and we swapped anecdotal illustrations to explain our personal perspectives. One thread of conversation led to the financial aspect of missions. After all - you have to have money to put your money where your mouth is.

Meg proceeded to tell me about a podcast on Youtube; a message spoken at Mars Hill Church. The theme was about missions and giving. She briefly summarized what she had heard, and described how a line of buckets separated those who spoke from those who listened. Meg then began to tell me how the message ended.

Those buckets were there for an offering.

Before Meg even finished the story my mind cynically raced ahead to a probable conclusion, "Let each of us prepare our heart to give an offering. Let's fill these buckets remembering, '"Give and God will give even more to you . . ."'

I was blindsided.

I was wrong.

There was no emotional appeal for an offering. No video clips to pull on your heart strings. No promise that if you would give a Hamilton toward God's purposes - God would give you a Benjamin. There was no plea for an offering at all - the buckets were already filled with cash. Instead, an offer was given to any and all present, "Many of you are trying to survive terribly difficult financial times. We will not ask you for anything, but anyone who needs money come forward, and take as much as you need."

I lost it.

Meg consoled me, "Dad, I cried when I listened to the podcast."

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Getting Re-Centered

On January 15-16, Sandy and I will be at Planet Fitness Corporate Headquarters for pre-sale training (Sandy is going to work with me until she starts teaching). On January 17, pull an ox out of the ditch (we load up a U-Haul on Sunday). Early in the morning on the 18th we head south. This week is incredibly busy, and we have a list of people we want to see next week before we leave. Stress is trying to gain a footing in our spirits. We keep pushing back.

Both of us are adventurous, but we also realize that once again we are starting over. Starting over is not a new thing. Several times during our 32 years of marriage our journey has required that we let go of a lot of stuff and travel light - this time we are traveling ultra-light. At the present all we know is that we have a home address in Columbia, and that we have employment. This one is a whole new journey - this one is definitely different.

For us, these are times when the hand of God is the most difficult to trace. Personally, more than any of the other moves, I think I understand the trepidation biblical Abraham must have felt when God (who was a complete stranger to him) spoke, told him to pack up his belongings, and depart for a land he would eventually show him. Never have I felt I knew so little about the One who directs our steps. Faith looks very different from this view from the deck, so God looks different.

Also, there is an in congruency that is mine right here. Right now. Physically I am dead tired, yet my mind and soul are beyond wide awake. I know I am out of balance. Wobbly. Scattered. But it is through journaling that my mind, soul, and body begin to get reoriented toward God. It creates a vortex that helps draw everything toward a center, rather than spiral out of control.

Friday, January 1, 2010

All Things? Yes, All Things

And we know that all things work together for the good for those who love God, and for those who are the called according to His purposes. ~ The apostle Paul

2010 . . .

It's here!

Now what?

If the world continues until January 18 - and presuming that Sandy and I also do - we will be moving to Columbia, South Carolina. Not in our wildest dreams (or nightmares) did we believe we would be making such a quick turnaround. We moved from the Southeast to the Northeast in 2009. Now we are moving from the Northeast back to the Southeast in 2010.

2009 was a spiritually, emotionally, and physically draining year. So much transpired it has been really hard, if not impossible, to process all of it. I just don't have enough context at the present.

Spiritually nothing went as I thought it would when we returned to the Northeast. Spiritual growth has come through facing my own failures. If you have traveled that road you are fully aware of how unglamorous it is, and how deeply God is drilling.

Physically there was the ruptured plantaris that kept me hobbled for at least 2 months, and then in July the violent motorcycle accident that damaged my back. Six months have since passed, and I continue to experience back pain that never takes a day off.

Emotionally, 2009 left me with little reserve. It often seems that my soul continually sighs. But there is always enough desire to keep the pace that life demands.

Writing a post such as this exposes a dark side that one does not ordinarily reveal. We would rather display our bullet proof side. But there is a reason I just go ahead and write. It is a simple reason. As a young boy I was introduced to the Bible. I was told it was inspired by God. It was explained to me that its central theme was God's unrelenting determination to redeem man - restore His image in his beloved. The central character of the Book, Jesus, was God's rescuer. The rescue cost God's Son his life. But he conquered death - because the life in him was God. Since his death and resurrection he extends a 24/7 offer to any and all, "Come to me . . . I am the way to God, I am truth, and I am the life you need. I will restore you." Many years ago Jesus called me, and I responded. Since then, few moments pass when I am not aware of my need for for Him to show me the way, lead me into truth, and bring me the life I need.

At the top of this post are the words spoken by a man in desperate need of redemption and rescue - the apostle Paul. God had taught him, "all things work together for the good for those who love God . . . "

So, whether it be times when all is well, or whether it be times when life is hell - it is this settled belief that God is in "all things" that fuels my hope to "Enjoy the Adventure."