"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."

Monday, April 30, 2012

Enduring Joy!

Today is April 30 and this blog post is an excerpt from my book, GRACERUNNER - FAITH ON THE RUN. As you read, you'll soon find out much about me that you don't know. You'll also notice that my "celebration" run this year is the 26th anniversary of the day that changed my life forever.  

Read my story and you'll understand why I must continue on this path that God has laid out for me....There truly is a place called grace! 

A Miracle of God’s Unimaginable Grace!

“And we know that in all things God works for the good
of those who love him, who have been called
according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28

On April 30, 1986, I left my office to go out for a run. The day had been shortened for me as the athletic teams at Samford University had finished practices a bit early on that day. As the Head Athletic Trainer at the university, it was extremely rare for me to get a little free time at the end of a day. So, I was excited about going out for a long run and having some time alone for reflection.

Little did I know that, on this day, my life would be changed forever. My life as I knew it would never be the same again.

I ran an unusually fast pace that day. I ran a route that was somewhat new to me. I took a wrong turn and had to make my way down to a very busy highway just about the time of rush hour. I couldn’t get across the highway to run against the traffic so, I moved to a spot several yards off the shoulder of the road and ran alongside the traffic. I had a few hundred yards to run before I would reach the entrance to the Samford University campus and be able to walk back to my office for a cool down from a very good run.

Suddenly, I was involved in a serious, unimaginable accident. While running along the very busy Lakeshore Drive in Birmingham,Alabama, I was struck from behind. I was propelled forward more than 30 feet. I thought that I had been hit by a car! I was face down on the shoulder of the road and I knew that I was hurt badly. I couldn't feel my legs and I had significant pain up and down my spine. I was alert and conscious during the entire event but still had no idea what had happened. It felt as if time stood still.

Several people stopped to help. I heard sirens in the distance and a flurry of activity ensued. One of the people who stopped to render aid was a nurse. I spoke to her and told her that I was a certified athletic trainer and understood what was going on medically. Therefore, I had many questions. “Do I look broken up? Am I bleeding? What hit me?Will you take my blood pressure to make sure that I don’t have any internal injuries?”

The answers were good and bad. She told me that I did not appear to be mangled and that I was not bleeding. She took my blood pressure and assured me that it was fine. Still, I couldn’t feel or move my legs. I could hear the sound of sirens getting closer and closer. The nurse stayed with me until the paramedics arrived. I never saw her face. I never spoke to her again. Nearly 24 years later, I still do not know the name of this wonderful person who stopped to comfort and help me after this devastating accident.

Police arrived on the scene and I finally found out that I had been struck by something that had flown off the back of a pick-up truck. I didn’t know what the object was, but I knew that it must have been something pretty significant!

As I lay face down on the ground, I overheard the policemen describing the object that had hit me in order to record it in their incident report. I heard them describe the object as a “5 feet wide by 9 feet long sheet of plywood.” For some reason I thought -- “They don’t make plywood in that size.” So, I asked the EMT to get the policeman over to me. I asked the officer about this 5’ X 9’ sheet of plywood and was told that it was painted green with white stripes.

I was puzzled by this until he told me the rest of the story. Bottom line: IT WAS A PING PONG TABLE! This “table” was being hauled on the back of a pick-up while two men held it down from the cab of the truck.This very large piece of wood, that soon became a flying missile, was not tied down or restrained in any way whatsoever. I had been hit by a flying ping pong table! What are the odds of that?

God went to the extreme to get my attention during my afternoon run! He does that sometimes! Sometimes it's a soft whisper, sometimes it’s a loud roar, and sometimes it's a ping pong table!

After being immobilized on a spine board by a team of very capable emergency medical personnel, I was transported to a nearby hospital where I regained feeling in my legs a couple of hours later. I was kept in that hospital for pain and injury management for 17 days. A few days after my first hospital stay, I was back in the hospital for surgery and a stay that lasted until the end of June of that year.

My sacrum had been crushed. I had lost nerves. I had significant muscle and other soft tissue damage. I had tremendous swelling and eventually turned black and blue from the top of my shoulders to the bottom of my feet. This injury would affect me for the rest of my life. I was very fortunate to be alive.

Serious rehabilitation was ahead of me. I was told that I would be lucky to walk normally again and running was most likely out of the question forever. In my wildest dreams, I could not envision running again.

If I had been struck a foot lower, my legs would have been damaged significantly. If I had been struck six inches higher, I most likely would have been a paraplegic. If I had been hit in the neck region, I would have been a quadriplegic. If I had been hit on the head, I could have been killed. God spared me for a reason. I continue to uncover His reasons more than two decades later.

Each year on the anniversary of this event, I celebrate that I'm able to walk and run. I celebrate that God used a tragic moment in my life to get my attention. I celebrate that he did a miracle in my life and now I have been blessed to be a part of the running community through a ministry such as TEAM 413 that was planned and ordained by God Himself! I praise Him that I am able to be a part of something that is so much bigger than we could ever comprehend, envision, dream, or imagine.

On the day of celebration each year that marks the anniversary of this STRANGE event and injury, I go out for a run at the time that the injury occurred, about 5:30 PM. Each year, I ask others to join me on that day either in person or wherever they are at that moment. They run with me and they pray with me. It’s always a very special day to thank God for miracles of GRACE.

Each day of my life I pray that God will continue to get our attention and then use us in ways that we cannot comprehend. I also pray that He will be glorified through the ministry that we call TEAM 413. God has entrusted us with such an amazing outreach ministry. We consider this a miracle after the incomprehensible circumstances that occurred on that day in April 1986.

As we continue on our journey through life, we give thanks for God's grace… ~ And so I run ~ And so I care ~ And so I share ~ And so I praise His name for His goodness!


Under HIS Grace...


Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Don't Steal the Joy!

It was a busy day at the 2012 Covenant Health Knoxville Marathon Expo. We had made contact with new people who wanted to be part of TEAM 413 all day, renewed friendships with folks from days gone by, and shared the message of TEAM 413 with thousands of people. Still, it would be the "least" of these who I would remember the most.

Late in the day a young boy about 8 or 9 walked by our booth. I watched him read the banner hanging at the back of our space. I saw him check out the shirts and other ministry tools that we showcase at marathon expos all over the country. He continued his stroll down the isle and he suddenly stopped, turned around, and walked up to the front table. He reached in his pocket and pulled out a crumpled dollar bill and dropped it in our donation container. Then, he gave me the thumbs up, smiled, and walked away.  

For a moment I thought about stopping him to give him a wristband for the donation, but I didn't because something inside me kept me from doing so. I believe if I had done this, I would have stolen the joy of his gift. He had pondered this for several minutes -- he had walked by and turned back around in a deliberate act of obedience to what I believe to be God working in his heart -- to have minimized that gift and the joy that came along with it would have been discounting the tug on his heart, the joy deep within, the goodness that he modeled.

Lesson learned -- "When God nudges someone to be a blessing to you through words or actions, never take away their joy by feeling like you owe them something in return. Their reward is in being obedient to the Master!" 

On the way home from Knoxville, Kiki was driving the rental van. She said that she thought we might have a flat tire. We pulled off to the side of the road and sure enough, our driver's side rear tire was flat. We pulled as far off the interstate as possible -- folks really drive fast and, quite frankly, don't seem to care about the safety of people on the side of the road.

We had to find and read the owner's manual to locate the spare tire which was underneath the van between the front seats. You literally had to use a special tool to lower the tire to the ground from the inside of the van! Then, the jack and tire iron looked like something that you would use to work on a toy car! I swear they turn changing a tire into an IQ test! I'm certain that the folks who make the cars have hidden cameras somewhere on the vehicle and they check out the video footage each day. I know they were laughing at us!

We were struggling with the getting to all the stuff, getting the lug nuts off, watching for traffic, and figuring out how to replace a full size tire with a tire half the size! We were surprised when an SUV pulled off the interstate in front of us, backed up, and a young man and his son got out of the car. We would later meet his wife as well. The family had been in Gatlinburg for the weekend and evidently felt compelled to stop.

"Need some help?" was music to my ears! They immediately jumped in and helped us get everything done and soon the job was completed. They cut the time that we spent on the side of the road in half! When we finished, we laughed about the tools that we used, discussed where the spare tire was located, and admired our handiwork. Before they returned to their vehicle, I asked them to hang on -- that I wanted to give them something.

The dad immediately said that it was not necessary, but I insisted. I asked Kiki to get three TEAM 413 shirts for them. After being presented the shirts and reading the back, the mom said, "I know that's right!" We talked briefly about TEAM 413 and our new TEAM MEMBERS were off to complete their trip.

Kiki and I also returned to the vehicle and we were on our way as well. God sent some angels to us. He aligned this meeting for reasons we may never know.  

"When God nudges someone to be a blessing to you through words or actions, never take away their joy by feeling like you owe them something in return. Their reward is in being obedient to the Master!" Instead, this time, I felt the nudge to do something for these wonderful people. They, too, learned to share in the joy that I had in giving them those shirts. Now they will enlarge the outreach of TEAM 413 in a way that we never saw coming ... God works like that! 

Enough writing for now ... I have to start reading about all the spare tire locations on different types of vehicles and the instructions on how to us the "Tonka Toy" jacks and tire tools that go along with them! If a gray headed guy with a very cute wife stop to assist you in changing a flat or lending a hand in some other way, let us help -- don't take away our joy of sharing it forward!

Under HIS Grace...