Sunday, November 27, 2011

What am I thankful for???

I carved this in St Louise, while recovering from being dead

11/26/11 Saturday
Thanksgiving is over. When I visited the guys in the local jail, they asked what I was going to do for thanksgiving. “Nothing” I told them and seeing their stunned response explained “All of my wife’s family lives far away. I am not close with any of my family and none of them live close either”. I told them that it was just me and my wife for holidays and that we are thankful for every day we have. There were some new people in the jail so I shared again the miracle of my life, how I had lived a life fraught with drugs and crime, had died in the accident, and how God, in His love, had restored my mind, faith, marriage, and life. I explained that I now know there is a real and living God, who loves not only me but all of them too. At the end I asked what they would like prayer for. I prayed for their families and for one of them that he would find favor with the judge. I didn’t talk of the disappointments we had experienced with the church people who lived close, to whom we had reached out to, hoping for fellowship and to share the love of Christ with, for that would not help build them up. Instead it would reinforce the feeling so many outside of the churches have regarding the hypocrisy of those who call themselves religious, but only have an outward show with no inner true care, concern, or love. They are springs without water, vines without fruit, empty and in danger of facing a fearful judgment when they stand before the living God, who will call us all to account for what we did and did not do while here on the earth.

What am I thankful for? I watched the ABC special on Gabriel Gifford, the senator from Arizona who had been shot in the head. They showed early clips of her rehabilitation, as they taught her to talk, nod her head, and all the basics of life. This brought me back to that hospital in Oklahoma where I woke from the coma. On a strictly medical basis my injuries exceeded Senator Gifford’s. I didn’t suffer a bullet tearing through my brain, instead my brain was torn to shreds through violent impact. That type of injury damages the entire brain, tearing billions of connections throughout that precious organ that enables us to live, breath, and think. In me a focus of the damage was on the frontal lobes, a kind of self-induced accidental lobotomy. Fully ten percent of my brain no longer exists at all and they discovered that I had incurred a stroke at an earlier time of my life along with evidence of multiple brain injuries that date back to childhood.

I watched as Gabriel Gifford struggled with basic tasks, and as she broke down crying in frustration, and remembered well my tears and even screams while still in the hospital. She has the benefit of the best medical help available and the most valuable healing tool, the love of her husband and close family, as well as a nation. It is a marked contrast to what I had. Her coma was medically induced to allow her body to cope with the trauma, my coma was not induced, in fact they doubted I would ever wake up, much less live. I had no insurance, had signed a divorce the day I left town running from the law, and there was no close family there at all, just my brother, who chose not to understand what I had endured or needed.

In essence I was thrown out by the hospital and barely tolerated by my brother, evidently an inconvenience he wasn’t pleased to be saddled with. But to his credit, he did more than anyone else, I’ll give him that. Through the help of social agencies, that I was put into contact with after wandering to a hospital desperate for help for the intense pain and confusion I was experiencing, I was enrolled at the Brain Injury Institute in St. Louise. There I was finally given some basic tools on how to live and function, but I was suddenly extradited back to Toledo, where there were warrants out because I had fled the state.

It didn’t take the judge long to figure out I was a mess, and would be expensive to keep, so I was placed on probation and kicked out to the streets. There I wandered lost and confused, homeless and not remembering much of my past, just bits and pieces like a giant jigsaw puzzle. The Veterans Administration put me in their homeless program and provided some basic medical attention, but seemed anxious not recognize I had incurred a brain injury or was disabled in any way.

But look at me now. Ten years later I can carry on a conversation and function well in society. There are still some issues with my memory and it appears that my ability to socially connect with others is hampered, but I suspect that is as much their fault as it is mine. There are many we get along great with, but always a few who seem to choose to judge and look down their noses rather than love and accept. The saddest part of that is they so proudly wear the “Christian” label and are apparently unaware of just how far from that mark they fall. We pray for them every day.

So life isn’t easy but I am incredibly blessed. I have a roof over my head, I have the first love of my life back and our marriage miraculously restored. My mind functions well, and despite being partially paralyzed and suffering serious pain my body does too. But most importantly, my faith has been restored. So now I have a hope for eternal life, a future forever to look forward to, a goal to aim for of standing before the living God and being found pleasing in His sight. With that is a realization of how far I have to go to achieve that goal, an understanding of my faults and inadequacies, but also knowing that my God loves me and is merciful, extending grace that helps me overcome these faults.

So I am thankful for every day I wake up, for I realize that each one is a gift. I am grateful for all those who display how little they think of me, for it reminds me of who I am with Christ and allows me to practice the love and forgiveness He made the foundation of our faith. I am thankful for every meal, for I have wandered lost without a clue where my next meal would come from. I have been blessed with going hungry for it helps me understand those who have no food to eat. I have been honored to be poor for it has strengthened my faith and dependence on God. Experiencing poverty helps me appreciate the little we have and understand we are truly rich, and that the worlds riches mean nothing in Eternity. So I learn to be content with what I have, and true contentment cannot be bought at any price.

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