Saturday, September 17, 2011


Recently someone told me they had read a book about a person with a brain injury (maybe a stroke) who loved to ski but couldn't. At some point, someone determined that this person could snowboard instead and it changed their life - it was freeing to them. So the person said, "I bet that's how you feel when you go skiing."

Well, sometimes... the times when everything connects and I'm cruising. But isn't that true for most people? I hurt my shoulder and had shoulder surgery over a year ago. Knowing I had a bad shoulder, I developed a habit this ski season which made my shoulder worse, so skiing became a bit frustrating although at one point, a few years ago, it was freeing.

Same thing with handcycling. It was freeing to climb a big hill near our house and then go down. I trained to climb a mountain called Vail Pass and it was freeing to fly down it. But that's how I hurt my shoulder - training to go up to Vail. So the freedom of handcycling isn't the same now - I have to be careful.

So what then is freeing now? It's about discovery - finding something new - maybe that something finds me.

For me, the something has been, probably surprising to others, more powerful than the freedom I once felt when skiing or handcycling. It's not that fast - it's not zooming down a hill. It started 2 days after I started taking Ampyra, when I could stand at 5pm talking to my mom, and my legs still worked. It resulted in a bunch of new freedoms... some would be surprised that these are more freeing than skiing or handcycling, but they are...

- Visiting Mt. Rushmore, holding binoculars steadily with both hands without losing my balance - core muscles were working. I don't think most people are quite as excited to see Mt. Rushmore. Freedom: stability.

- Frisbee! Our family had a picnic and as usual, brought the frisbee, which I usually only catch if it hits me in the stomach and accidentally lands on my lap. But this summer, I could reach for the frisbee, grab it, and not drop it. Freedom: balance.

- I go to weekly PT and walk on a special treadmill that holds my upper body. It's helped my walking. I can walk further - not pretty, but it's walking. Freedom: mobility.

- I actually have a standing frame. I have a crank and I go from sitting to standing and it holds me. Standing straight involves a ton of muscles and I took this all for granted at one point. But I'm getting better at standing straight and it feels fantastic. Freedom: getting back things once taken for granted.

So freedom, and being free. I suppose I surprise myself by saying that the most profound freedom is getting things back that I don't think I even realized I had lost. Sure, I knew I couldn't walk. But I didn't realize I wasn't sitting straight, that people can reach and catch frisbees while sitting, that I could stand much straighter.

And a really great part? When I wake up some mornings (not all mornings) and my whole body decides to do a big stretch. I stand and stretch up on my toes and feel all my muscles tense. That is incredibly freeing - simply stretching. It's as if God is saying "reach for me."

I look up. There's an invisible hand. It's guiding me through life.


Sunday, September 11, 2011

Remembering 10 years ago

I've been told that with days like September 11, everyone will remember where they were when they heard, and much of the day. I think that is very true.

I was at work at a time when the work environment involved a happy, healthy yelling of information across cube walls. We worked and laughed together constantly - it was fantastic.

All of a sudden the morning of 9/11... I had just arrived to work...

2 rows down: "Oh my gosh - a plane just crashed into the World Trade Center."

Thought: See, that's why I don't like to fly - something went wrong with a plane so badly that it hit a big building.

Across from me: "It's not just one. It's 2 planes. And there's something about the Pentagon."

Thought: This is different.

Up we got, 2 of us. It was time to search for a TV! Surely our building had one. A guy and I looked everywhere. We found a TV, but it didn't get any reception. Now what?

And the day went on. I had one Internet site open, someone else had another, someone else had the radio going. And we exchanged information and "come look at this." This was done over cube walls - over the cube walls and across hallways, we communicated effectively. I called Dave and we shared our disbelief.

In the middle of the day, Steve came to report that his dad, who works in that area, is ok. That's the only person I vaguely knew there.

But we left work with images of people struggling to leave the city, on foot. It was unimagineable.

Fast forward to this past summer. A fire engulfed the area surrounding Rainbow Trails Lutheran Camp, somehow leaving the camp untouched. Now it's the green bubble in the middle of a burned area. It's amazing. Some say God stepped in to "save" the camp. But I don't think that's it. If God did that, then why didn't God save all those people who lost their lives 10 years ago?

I think there is good and evil in the world. God is with us, through it all. But God doesn't decide that Rainbow Trails should survive while the Trade Centers fall. God is with the people - the people at Rainbow Trail who were relocated for half the summer to a different camp and made it. God was with the people at the Trade Centers and others where there was a much different outcome, but so many perservered.

There were amazing firefighters and many others that were part of 9/11. They risked or lost lives. Some have longterm health problems. But thanks to so many people, 9/11 seemed to bring people together as a nation. During the fire this summer, there was a coming together for people involved with Rainbow Trails, trying to keep things going in the midst of chaos.

Now, as a nation, it often feels like we have forgotten the bonding we had after 9/11, when politicians stood united, when people really seemed to take a step back and care for each other.

As we remember on this 9/11, I wish we could remember how we came together. I wish we could come together over silly cube walls that have been made smaller and offset from each other which decreases the fantastic collaborative noise. I wish we could come together over political differences and that instead of creating division, found common ground. I wish we could remember what we all did then, and use it today. Regardless of what we choose to do, God is with us. But I think God wants the post-9/11 behavior, the (people involved with) Rainbow Trails behavior, the behavior that came with people all working together in the midst of chaos. I don't think we should need chaos to bring people together, but maybe we could use the lessons we learned there and start to apply them again. There is hope.

And though these words have a different context within the song "Someday," Rob Thomas' words hit me recently, as some kind of strange perspective of
this hope...

"Cause maybe someday
We'll figure all this out
We'll put an end to all our doubt
Try to find a way to just feel better now, and
Maybe someday we'll live our lives out loud
We'll be better off somehow


Monday, September 5, 2011

Giving it to God

Retreat this weekend at Rainbow Trails Lutheran camp - amazing. Could be many blog entries.

The weekend was about pausing and resting.

The final night we sat around the fire. There was a box on the outside altar. In the box were little pieces of paper where people wrote things that distracted them in life, things that were bothering them, small or large.

My little paper had about 6 things quickly scribbled. They wake me up at night. They have been consuming almost all of me. To me, they are huge; they hurt sometimes and invoke anger at other times. And they hold onto me, just as I hold onto them.

The box with a ton of little pieces of paper was thrown into the fire. And we were to try to let go. By throwing this box in the fire, we were to give these things up to God.

And I stared. I stared at the box burning. The fire circle was adjacent to a large cross which caught my eye. I looked to the cross. I looked back at the box, with a bunch of bitter and hurt feelings aimed right at that box as I just stared. I alternated - cross, intense box staring, cross, intent box staring, cross, then looking up beyond the cross, at the smoke flying past the cross, looking up, toward the shadows of clouds and bright stars shining through it all. And at some point, when I was done with this strange sequence of events, I left. I left it there.

That night, last night, was the most peaceful mental night I've had in some time.

I'm sure I'll revert back to the other nights.

But somehow, for that one night, with that sequence of events, I could somehow briefly let go and hand the whole big mess over to God. It was powerful and good, just as we are reminded that no matter what happens, God is good.

Peace of Christ.