Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Oh Man. . . We're Excited About This! . . . .

One of our goals here at CPYU is to help parents, youth workers, and teachers effectively teach kids how to integrate their faith into all of life. One of the most discouraging marks of churched and professing Christian kids today is that they are living very disjointed lives. While they might be applying their faith effectively and consciously to one or more areas of their lives, they fail to see how their faith should inform other areas of their lives.

Perhaps you've been frustrated by the growing number of kids who never endeavor to think consciously and Christianly about what God and His Word might have to say about the hours and hours of media that they engage with each and every day. Our duty and calling is clear - we must teach kids how to integrate their faith into their media use and choices. To that end, several years ago I wrote a little media evaluation guide that's been taught and used with tens of thousands of kids. It's called, How to Use Your Head to Guard Your Heart: A 3(d) Guide to Making Responsible Media Choices. Kids are using this guide to filter everything they see, hear, and use in their media world.

Now, we're really excited to tell you about another media evaluation tool we've developed in conjunction with Doug Fields and our good friends at Simply Youth Ministry. The folks over at SYM are known for developing cutting edge DVD curriculum for use with kids. I was thrilled when they came to me and asked, "How would you like to do a DVD curriculum with us that youth workers, parents, and teachers can use to help teach kids how to use your 3(d) guide?" Easy answer. . . . "SURE!" So, we put together Download: Teaching Teenagers to Filter Their Media Choices with Walt Mueller, a 3-part video curriculum that you can learn more about here.

As the fall kicks-off and you're looking for something substantial to use as a teaching tool with your kids, please consider using Download. This isn't a once-and-done proposition. Once you've gone through the 3 lessons with your students, spend one meeting or small-group time every month practicing the skills and engaging in real-life Bible study.

Here's a little clip from Download to give you a taste of what's on the DVD:

Monday, August 30, 2010

The Big Problem With Marriage. . . .

A little over three weeks ago I experienced the marriage of one of my children for the very first time. Josh married Sheila. It's a relationship God cultivated through the gift of weak ankles. Sheila was one of the student athletic trainers working with Josh's college lacrosse team. She taped his ankles every day that year. . . and only Josh will ever know if they needed to be taped every day or not! Perhaps it's no coincidence that Josh severely sprained his ankle playing lacrosse a week before his wedding.

Watching them recite their vows not only reminded me of the very same vows Lisa and I had recited to each other 28 years earlier, but it served as a reminder of how many young couples who stand and recite those vows in today's world will never keep them. I trust that the Lord will sustain and build their young marriage. I hope that as their marriage is built, any false hopes, dreams or ideas they have about love and commitment will be quickly shattered and then replaced with a heavy dose of reality.

It's also no coincidence that my kids - including the newlyweds - have had a front row seat from which to see the power of marital love in action over the course of the last four weeks. My varying degrees of physical helplessness and dependency on others has created a situation where the girl who 28 years ago promised to love me "in sickness and in health" has been doing just that with an eagerness and gusto that has brought me to tears on several occasions. Her commitment is not at all surprising to me.

Sadly, I'm not so sure that kind of marital commitment is on the rise in today's youth culture. Many kids are choosing to not get married. Of course, there are a variety of factors contributing to this growing reality. One of those factors is the lack of any compelling and realistic models of marriage to look up to. After all, if marriage didn't work in my family, why should it work for me?

This cultural trend has been one that's been chipping away at me for quite some time. More than alarming, it's something I know we need to more directly address at CPYU. We need to help parents and youth workers not only see the trend for what it is, but address it in ways that will prepare kids for the realities of marriage so that the tide can be turned and the institution realistically understood and thereby strengthened in our culture.

While I've been laying around, one of the books I've been reading that addresses these issues from a very practical, hopeful, and realistic standpoint is Paul Tripp's What Did You Expect: Redeeming the Realities of Marriage. In his typical fashion, Tripp addresses the culturally-promoted lies we come to believe with the counter of a Biblically-based explanation of the way things really are. Tripp cuts to the chase and warns readers against believing that it's always the other guy who's the issue. Instead, the reality is that the biggest problem in your marriage is well. . . you. He writes, "The big battles you fight in marriage are not the ones you fight with your spouse. No, the big battles are the ones being fought in your heart. All of the horizontal skirmishes between a husband and wife are the result of this deeper battle. Remember, there is still sin remaining in your heart, and the DNA of sin is selfishness." As my pastor once told me, we are deeply depraved people living in a depraved world. Conflict is inevitable. You will live with it until the day that you die. Maybe that's the most important thing a young couple can latch on to before they recite their vows. And maybe if they know that's true, they can take the steps necessary to receive and show God's free gift of grace in ways that make those vows come alive each and every day. . . . as they stay together "until death do us part."

Paul Tripp goes on to challenge readers to make these six mutual commitments in their marriage:

1. We will give ourselves to the regular lifestyle of confession and forgiveness.

2. We will make growth and change our daily agenda.

3. We will work together to build a sturdy bond of trust.

4. We will commit to building a relationship of love.

5. We will deal with our differences with appreciation and grace.

6. We will work to protect our marriage.

I've been married 28 years and I'm learning much from What Did You Expect? I want my kids to learn the lessons in this book. . . which is why they are each going to be given their own copy. If you're a parent or a youth worker, read it for your own edification, then live it in front of and talk about it with your kids. False expectations and ideas are killing marriage. Let's do all we can to breath some redemptive fresh air into an institution that if our culture stays on its current course, is in great jeopardy.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

One Miserable Man. . . .

Over the years I've morphed into what I believe is a more God-honoring way of looking at the world. Many of us in the church have been hammered into believing that living the Christian faith requires a clean and shiny set of rose-colored glasses and an unrealistically positive (if we're honest) outlook on life. Don't think negative thoughts. See the good. Etc. Etc. But I've learned that in order to see and appreciate the beauty of God's goodness and grace, you have to reckon with the truth that surrounds us that is actually quite ugly. If I don't understand sin and depravity in both myself and the world around me, I might be fooled into thinking that I have no need for the Redeemer. In the end, that's dangerous, deadly, and a fast-track to the deceptive pull of idolatry.

So, it's a good thing when God exposes me to the darkness of my nature and the expressions of that sinful nature in my life. It's good when I look around and see pain, suffering, and hopelessness wherever it exists. We need to see the world as it is. Then - and only then - will we learn that we cannot save ourselves.

One side effect of this growing realization is a growing appreciation for the good stories we encounter in the world of books, film and TV. A "good" story doesn't have to be one that ends with the story of the Cross and a call to faith. No, a "good story" can be one that simply tells the truth, even if that truth is incredibly ugly. I believe that God uses those "good stories" that so many Christians might argue are "incomplete" as one small piece in the grand and great story He is working out in our lives and our world.

One of those small pieces that I got back to this week is season 4 of the AMC drama, Mad Men. At times, I've found myself watching this show and feeling like I might be no different than my grandmother who took time out each weekday afternoon to catch up on her "stories" . . . or as they are more widely known, soap operas. But then I quickly snap back into a reality check and realize - as series creator Matthew Weiner has said - that the show's tragic main character, Don Draper, is a man who has everything, yet is a man who has nothing. And that's what I love about Mad Men. All the promises of redemption that come with our North American culture of marketing, materialism, fast-living, and promiscuous behavior end in darkness. Mad Men effectively trumpets that truth. Perhaps the power of watching a fictitious guy like Don Draper unravel before our eyes is that God can use that to keep us from going down that same road in our very real lives. Right now, if I was only allowed to watch, ponder, and discuss one TV show, this would be it.

The Scriptures from Genesis to Revelation present the ugly truth about our condition along with the wonderful and beautiful truth of God's plan and provision for the restoration of shalom in our lives and world. The writer of Ecclesiastes - like Don Draper - reminds us that "everything is meaningless. . . completely meaningless." And, he tells us straightforwardly and simply that his final conclusion is this: "Fear God and obey his commands. For this is everyone's duty."

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

100 miles. . . 100 miles. . .

Somewhere along the way I forget that today was to be the day. I realized it about mid-morning when I checked the date. Today was going to be the day for me to tackle my 100 mile bike ride along the Jersey Shore coastline to raise the additional $10,000 we need at CPYU to pay for our server and laptop upgrade. Ironically, it was during my 54 mile 54th birthday bike ride (part of my training to build up for today's ride) back on July 30 that my biking - at least for the remainder of this year - came to an end.

Even though my ability to complete the 100 mile fundraising ride (I had been hoping for 200 people to donate $50 each, or 50 cents a mile) came to a quick end, there have been some people who still want to see the ride happen, and they have expressed a willingness to ride in my place. Among them, a college friend wants to take a 300 mile plus ride from Pittsburgh to DC and raise money for us. A couple of CPYU friends in the midwest have offered to ride the century in their community. And now, the healthy members of the CPYU staff are offering to complete a team ride that would total 100 miles.

To this point, I've been so overwhelmed by time devoted to healing and recovery that I've had little time to focus on a response to these generous offers. But looking at the calendar this morning has renewed my desire to see the hundred miles logged even if it's in a variety of places, by a variety of people, and in a variety of ways. . . without me having to climb back on the bike.

So. . . here's the deal: in the coming days we're going to develop a plan. I'm not sure what it's going to look like but we'll need a couple of things. 1) We'll need people anywhere and everywhere who believe in the CPYU mission to ride and raise money. We'll set aside a day or a period of days within which you can ride. We'll give you the info you need to recruit sponsors for our cause, and we'll tell you how they can support you in your quest to help us through their tax-deductible gifts. 2)We're going to need an army of people to step up and help us make this a success. In other words, we'll need people who can't ride to make a donation on behalf of those who do. Again, keep your ears and eyes open as we'll be getting the info out through all our channels in the coming days.

In the meantime, you can still make a donation towards our server by clicking here. Remember, every little bit helps us to stay connected with you and the thousands upon thousands of people worldwide who depend on CPYU's information, analysis, ministry, and resources.

Finally, an update on my progress. Let me begin by saying "thanks" for all the prayers on my behalf. They are sustaining us. I'm still having pain, but it's bearable. I'm walking more in the neighborhood. My follow-up appointment on Monday was a good one. My ability to breath is still hampered a bit by the pain from all the rib fractures, but it's slowly improving. Physical therapy should be starting soon and I hope to aggressively attack my left shoulder so that I can regain strength, full range of movement, and use of my arm. I'm feeling more and more comfortable in my bones as they heal. I experienced a small disappointment this morning when the trauma doctor informed us that I won't be able to fly until February 20. While that will certainly hamper my schedule, trains and cars will come into play for some of my travels,and Lisa and I will be able to enjoy doing some driving together. Most of all, I am greatly blessed to be a man who has been adopted by a loving Father who is using this to His glory while teaching me far too many things to recount here, and far more than I'm even aware of. I'm not sure how to describe it, but God is leading me by the hand into some amazing places that I never imagined or knew even existed. It's been a joy to share this journey with Lisa (a person who eagerly embodies the marriage vows we made over 28 years ago),and I hope to be able to share more of it with others as I process everything that's happening.

This morning, I was comforted by these words from Psalm 84: "What joy for those whose strength comes from the Lord, who have set their minds on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. When they walk through the Valley of Weeping, it will become a place of refreshing springs." Those aren't just words anymore.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Never Stop Praying. . . .

"When is it going to end?" I asked Lisa that question last night as we went through the routine of getting me hunkered down for the night in the hospital bed that now sits in my family room. I know the answer to the question. God will bring it all to an end as he brings his purposes to pass. . . some day. Still, I asked out of the frustration of another day of being exposed to the suffering, hurt, and heartache that exists in our world.

One of the blessings of my own personal condition right now is that God is doing something in my life. Part of that something is a new exposure to the world of pain, hurt, and suffering that's always been there. . . but that my own creature-comforts and self-absorption with the everyday affairs of my life have kept me from seeing and understanding. I can't, however, say that I'm liking this. Even my simple trip to the hospital for my first post-trauma follow-up appointment yesterday left me shaking my head. The waiting room was filled with folks who were going to heal from breaks and tears like my own. It was also populated by folks who have very clearly been ravaged by disease. . . some of them hanging on by what appeared to be a thread. There was our quick conversation with a couple who like us, was trying to find their way through the maze of hallways to a particular suite. In the short few moments we talked I learned that the man had just spent 6 weeks in the hospital and that he was one day away from having his lung removed. Then, late last night we learned of a difficult diagnosis that has left some friends asking questions and wondering about the future. Tomorrow, a 60-year-old fellow church member who loved Jesus and loved kids will be buried after a lengthy and difficult battle with ovarian cancer. I've been burdened for another friend who is struggling with some family breakdown and is wondering what in the world happened. The list goes on and on.

What am I to do with all of this? The reality is that beyond supportive involvement, there is little or nothing I can do that will bring any lasting change with the exception of prayer. In his first letter to the Thessalonians, the Apostle Paul gave them this simple instruction: "Never stop praying" (5:17). I've known this my whole life. I'm not sure I've ever understood it as deeply as I do now. And so when I woke up at 1:30am, I knew it was time for me to pray for these and others who have exhausted their own strength and resources to the point where they can only rely on the Lord. . . which right where he wants us.

After falling back asleep and waking up again this morning, I knew I had to give thanks for those who have been praying for me. To be honest, even I'm surprised at how much I've healed in three short weeks. Sure, there's lots of healing left to be done, but I got to thinking about how meaningful it is that people are praying for me.

While still laying in bed, I grabbed my blackberry and scrolled through the emails the messages that came through the night. As it's happened almost every night for the last 50, I had a message saying that Alisa Parrett had posted an update on Gary's condition to their Caring Bridge site. Today, Alisa shared these words regarding her Dad's day yesterday at the rehab hospital: My mother met with my dad's new doctor today--he had actually been instrumental in working out my dad's transfer from Korea, but this was the first time any of us had met him. My mom was so blessed by meeting him--we pray blessings upon him and upon the rest of the hospital staff. The doctor spoke to my mom today about the power of prayer. He said that in a field as unpredictable and unknown as brain injury, patients who have large bases of prayer support always seem to recover better than expected. We know that my dad has a large prayer base, and we are so grateful for that! God answers prayers.

I selfishly covet your prayers. I want to get better. But don't forget that there's a host of people right under your nose who need your prayers much, much more than I do.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Heartbreak, Hope, And Places We Ignore. . . .

I didn't think I'd be returning to the hospital so soon. After several bouts of shortness of breath earlier this week, we decided it best to contact the trauma team at Hershey Med Center late Wednesday afternoon to let them know what was going on. We followed their instructions and went to the ER, which resulted in a two-night stay, some concerned moments, and what to this point is the successful completion of a procedure Friday morning to removed fluid from my chest cavity. It seems that the accumulation of this kind of fluid is fairly common in trauma cases involving the ribs and lungs. The fluid was putting pressure on my lungs and making it difficult for me to breath. I was able to return home last night and had a good night of rest.

These days have been filled with what seems like a never-ending cascade of eye-opening experiences and lessons from the Lord. And it always seems that just when I start to focus on MY issues and injuries, God expands my vision to the massive amount of pain, hurt, and suffering that surrounds us in every direction, but which we so rarely see by choice or circumstance. I'm having it easy. Those of you who have spent any time at all in a hospital know exactly what I'm talking about. Your blinders get ripped off your face and you are forced to reckon with the presence of great pain and suffering that exists in the world.

For example, I spent most of my day on Thursday playing the waiting game. I knew that some type of procedure needed to be performed to remove the fluid from my chest. Enough of the options had been presented to leave me with the knowledge that none of them would be pleasant. So, my mind went to work pondering the unknown. It became a battle to lay it all at the foot of the Lord and to trust the Great Physician. And just as I was focusing on myself, my temporary stay in a two-bed holding room became an opportunity to gain some much-needed perspective. At some later point I might be more comfortable sharing the entire story of what happened. The short story is that I had a roommate come in who was being readmitted due to some complications from a previous surgery. In a brief conversation with he and his wife, Lisa and I learned that they were Christians and that their son was involved in youth ministry. Then, in a matter of a few gut-wrenching moments heard through a thin curtain, their physician loudly and directly informed them that some serious cancer had been found in his body. As quickly as the physician arrived, he was gone. Lisa, Bethany, and I sat in stunned silence on our side of the curtain as the couple quietly, intimately, and emotionally processed the news and then prayed together. While I felt like our presence was such an insensitive invasion of their privacy in this life-changing moment, I know that it was in God's plans for us to be there. The three of us were moved. . . and the emotions continued with the arrival of their pastor as we listened to him sensitively minister to this couple. Then, we listened as the man poured out his heart to the Lord in prayer at the invitation of the Pastor. I can only hope that I would exhibit such deep faith and maturity in a moment like that. I'm sure that sometime soon I will feel the freedom to share more of what the Lord was doing in that moment.

I was happy to return home last night. . . very happy. I returned home with a body that was feeling better, and a God-placed burden that I hope and pray will never disappear. As someone involved in youth ministry, the burden might best be expressed with a question: "What are we doing to expose our kids to the reality of pain and suffering in the world, and what are we doing to equip them to minister to the suffering and point them to the hope of the resurrection for those who are in Christ?" Our tendency to avoid pain and seek pleasure leads us to avoid those who are in pain. I'm not sure exactly where this is all heading for me, but I know the curtain has been pulled back for me over the course of the last three weeks, and I'm seeing and experiencing things that I never before knew.

One last thing. . . I want to publicly say "thanks" to my wife, family, and friends for all their care and concern for me. I am a blessed man.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

God Hit My "Pause" Button. . . .

This morning, I read these words in Proverbs 16: 9 - "We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps." I've always believed this to be true. Now, I believe it to be true even more. Lisa and I have often reflected back over the course of our life together at how the script we had dreamed and written isn't the script that God has chosen for us to play out in our lives. We thought our script was good. . . the best, in fact. It didn't include any stress, pain, heartache, brokenness. It seemed perfect. To be honest, my script was all about me. But God in His mercy and grace has chosen to write out and implement a drama for my life that's much, much better. I can't help but think about Joseph and his brothers.

In an effort to pass the time while the long process of healing unfolds, I've been working hard to regain my focus and use some of the time to read (along with doing Sudoku for the first time. . . you know, those number grids where I've found the puzzles labeled "easy" to be "diabolical"!). I've been reading Paul Tripp's fantastic new book on marriage, What Did You Expect? This morning I read these words that relate to the unexpected and never-imagined circumstances of my own life since my bicycle accident on July 30: "His grace purposes to expose and free you from your bondage to you. His grace is meant to bring you to the end of yourself so that you will finally begin to place your identity, your meaning and purpose, and your inner sense of well-being in him. . . . To add to this, he designs circumstances for you that you would have never designed for yourself. All this is meant to bring you to the end of yourself, because that is where true righteousness begins. He wants you to give up. He wants you to abandon your dream. . . . He knows there is no life to be found in these things."

So many kind and generous people have been emailing, messaging, and calling to ask how they can pray. I am so grateful for that as prayer is what is sustaining me/us right now. Of course, I would ask you to pray for my healing. Things are moving along slowly, but they are moving along. I'll know more after my first follow-up appointment on Friday with the trauma team at the hospital. But just as important if not more important are the prayers I covet regarding what God purposes to do in my life. As one friend told me last week, "God has hit the 'pause' button on your life. Don't miss what He's trying to teach you." In addition, please pray that I would continue to experience the peace that passes understanding that I've known since the moment my body flew over my bike and hit the ground. It's very hard to explain, but it is there. In fact, within hours it was becoming increasingly clear to me that so much of what was happening was in answer to some pretty specific prayers I've been praying over the last few weeks and months. Once close friend told me that after reading the blogs I had written in the month before the accident, the accident really wasn't that much of a surprise.

As my mind clears and I'm better able to concentrate on journaling, processing, and thinking through all that's happening, I will be blogging and writing about it. For now, I thought I would transcribe some scribblings I've been accumulating on a piece of scrap paper that I grabbed a day or two after getting home from the hospital. These are some of the things I've been noticing and learning while on "pause." They've made me think. Maybe they'll spark some thought for you as well.

-God is sovereign and in control. Even in the midst of our pain and brokenness, He is working out His perfect plan.

-So much of what we spend our time on isn't nearly as important as we think it is. For example, having the time to lay in bed and read tweets has convinced me that we are obsessed with the trivial and mundane. Why do we think others should even care? Why do we waste our time on so much of this stuff? Why do we even care? Maybe we should focus our time on other things.

-I was well taken care of in the hospital and that care continues. Cards, phone calls, emails, skype visits, a family that's been there around the clock. . . most people who are suffering, I've learned, don't have that. I'm sure that's especially true globally. They are forgotten. I'm wondering what I need to do with this new knowledge God has given me. How can the church minister to those who are suffering? Out of sight. . . out of mind. . . but that's not the way it's supposed to be.

-At one point during the day of the accident, I was trying to work through my pain when the suffering Servant who died on my behalf came to mind. I was hurting. . . but I can't even begin to imagine what Jesus suffered for us. That was a humbling moment for me.

-Stuff that seemed important to me 3 weeks ago just isn't that important anymore. That's not to say that that stuff is not important. Granted, I'm focused almost exclusively on the issue and task at hand. . . but I'm hoping and praying that any perspectives on things that need to be altered will be altered.

-I have no idea where this will end. I desire my resolve to be that God would glorify Himself through it all.

Finally, many of you have asked how I'm doing and progressing. Let me give you a brief summary. I'm at home now and living in our family room. We have a hospital bed that allows me to sleep more upright so that I can be comfortable and so that my lungs stay healthy. I have had some moments with my lungs - usually during the late afternoon and evening - when it gets harder to breath. That does concern me when it happens, and I try to focus on the breathing exercises I need to do. I walk up and down the steps once a day to get cleaned up and showered in our room. I am able to walk and I'm doing a couple of laps around the neighborhood every day with my wife and one of the kids, my trusty cane (just to help with the balance), and a wheelchair following behind if there's a need to sit, which hasn't happened yet. I'm eating fine, although I'm eating much less. . . a good thing! Once I'm up and out of bed, I'm up and out for the day. I sit in a wheelchair simply because it's the most comfortable chair for me to sit in right now due to the nature of the fractures and other injuries. I'm sure that will change soon and I'll be able to sit more comfortably in a regular chair. I'm working hard to do as much as I can for myself. But since I can't do everything, Lisa and the kids have been absolute saints and servants. . . never a complaint. . . always there and ready to help. Each day is a little better than the day before. I am grateful to God for how He made our bodies to heal. Truly amazing.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Process of Processing and Praying. . . .

Perhaps one of the most frustrating aspects of my current situation is that my normal schedule and routine has been disrupted. I am dependent on others for almost everything. I have yet to get back into the swing of reading, something I hope to do extensively during the recovery process. And my ability to focus on and think about the things I'm used to focusing on and thinking about is severely limited due to my physical condition. Consequently, any writing related to youth culture has been put on hold. My speaking schedule and all the preparation I'm normally involved in this time of year has been put off. Even my ability to blog is limited. In the midst of this, I realize that God is sovereign, in control, saying something to me, doing something in my life. . . . and for that I am extremely grateful. If you would be willing to pray for me, please pray that I wouldn't miss it.

Over the course of the coming weeks I am determined to be intentional about processing and sharing what it is that God is teaching me through this. In addition, I am trying to learn more about what actually happened when I wrecked my bicycle on July 30. Thanks to the good dective work of my daughter Bethany, I was able to contact and talk to one of the witnesses who saw everything happen and made one of the 911 calls. I was especially curious to know how far away from my bike I landed. She told me that she really didn't know because she was on the phone with the dispatcher the entire time and was too scared to get out of her car. She did tell me that I was thrown at least 10 feet in the air, that I flipped, and that I landed like a "rag doll." All this reminds me of the wonderful mercy of God, sparing me any injuries to my face, head, neck, spine, legs, or right side.

Many of you have told us that your are praying for us. I can't tell you how important that is right now. As you pray, would you please remember these specifics:

-for my family to experience the blessings of God's sustaining power and grace as their lives are disrupted by these circumstances and they have to do so much to care for me.

-for my body to heal quickly, properly, and without complications.

-for continued lung health.

-for CPYU. . . what is already a difficult financial period is now getting that much more complex. Please pray that our financial needs would be met. Pray for our staff as they pick up and carry so much of my load.

-that God would be glorified through these circumstances.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Here's What Happened. . . .

Yesterday I received a call from a surgeon friend who had called to discuss some of my medical questions regarding my bike accident on July 30. He asked a question that many people have been asking over the course of the last week and a half: "We know you're hurt, but what happened?" Now that I'm up, in front of the laptop and able to type, I thought I'd give you the Reader's Digest condensed version of what is a very long and twist-filled story.

Friday July 30th was my 54th birthday. I started my day with some writing (got to hit the deadlines!). While writing, I was already getting excited about getting outside and on my bike. My bike is not a motorcycle as some have thought, but a bicycle. . . a road bike to be specific. Bicycling the roads here in Lancaster County has been an awesome form of relaxation and exercise for me over the course of the last four years. This summer, I've been riding anywhere from 22 to 30 miles a day, six days a week. A few weeks ago, I informed our CPYU staff that I would like to do a 100 mile solo ride to raise the remaining amount of money needed ($10,000) to purchase and setup a new computer server at the office (long overdue) along with some new presentation laptops (long overdue as well). I had just decided that the 100 mile ride would take place in the last week of August. Then, since it was my birthday and a beautiful day, I said to myself, "Why not ride 54 miles on your 54th birthday?" figuring it would be a nice way to train for the ride at the end of August.

After hopping on my bike I stopped at the CPYU office to let Lisa know that my ride today was going to be a long one. I always give her an estimate of my time away, even though she can contact me by cellphone. She made sure I had my red Road ID strapped to my wrist and she sent me off. I texted my good buddy Andy Brazelton over at Simply Youth Ministry to inform him of my plans. Andy's into cycling as well, and he thinks he's pretty tough since he once fell off his bike and wound up with a nice case of road rash on his hip. I always want Andy to know that I'm just as tough as he is even though he's young enough to be my son, so I was sure to let him know about my 54 mile birthday plans.

Initially, my ride took me through some very familiar roads here in Lancaster. In order to stretch out my ride so that I could get the needed mileage, I decided to ride on the road that parallels the Susquehanna River, goes past Three Mile Island, and then heads through Middletown and past the Harrisburg International Airport. This is a road that I've never biked and one that I've driven only a handful of times.

After a stop in Middletown to pick up a Gatorade and a snack at a local quick-mart, I hopped back on my bike and quickly hit the 30 mile mark. While I remember everything that happened during and after the spill, I'm not sure what it was that distracted me as I picked up the pace to about 20mph to pass through a busy intersection. Usually very cautious, observant, and careful, I didn't see the railroad track embedded in the concrete road until my front tire had twisted into it and my bike had come to a sudden halt. I was thrown over the handlebars, hitting my left shoulder and side and then landing on my back. I immediately knew I was in big trouble from the pain and from my inability to draw a breath in. I was screaming loudly but still heard the screams and shouts of people stopping and running over to help. The next who knows how many minutes spent on the hot road were excruciating, but by the grace of God I was able to keep my thoughts rational while screaming out in pain. I was able to think through who needed to be contacted and which hospital I needed to be taken to. Within a matter of seconds, I heard two female voices screaming at everyone else to get out of the way as they were EMT's who "just happened" to be passing by. One stabilized my head and neck (yes, I was wearing a helmet and it was still on) while the other went to work on holding me still as I was squirming around quite a bit even though I couldn't get off my back. Several other people started making phone calls while talking to me to keep me alert. After a black-out (not sure how long) due to the shock, I came to and heard the police sirens. Eventually, the ambulance arrived, I was stabilized, rolled onto a back board (ouch!), and rushed to the Hershey Medical Center. Lots of stuff happened during this entire process that was pretty amazing and that I might relay to you all later.

I was taken into a Level 1 trauma room where a large team started yelling and doing all sorts of things (including cutting off all my clothes. . . my expensive biking shorts - ouch again)to assess my condition. I quickly learned that my injuries were extensive - 8 broken ribs (each fractured in multiple places), a broken Scapula, a broken collarbone, a punctured lung, abrasions, and extensive bruising down my left side. I spent the night in ICU being comforted by a great family, a great hospital staff, and some powerful anti-pain drugs. The next 8 days were spent in the hospital trying to get well enough to get home in time for my son Josh's wedding on Saturday, August 7. When all was said and done, I made it home in time and I was able to stay through the reception and even muster up enough strength to walk in with the mother of the groom (thank you PT department for pushing me to get walking).

I'm now at home, sleeping in a hospital bed on the first floor, and beginning the long process (8-12 weeks) of healing, therapy, and recovery. The pain was intense, is still significant, but is being managed. The swelling and disfigurement on my left side is also still there.

There's so much more to tell you about but I will do that at a later time. For now, let me simply say that even in the midst of that initial feeling of being catapulted into a concrete wall, God's peace and presence have been incredibly real. We know that this is all in God's great plan for our lives and we will do what we have to do while learning what He has in store for us to learn.

So far, the prayers of so many hundreds if not thousands of people, the cards I've received, and the constant flow of visitors has been a major boost. Our spirits are good. I can get comfortable. I know I'm going to get through this. My wife, Lisa, has been absolutely amazing. The week before her first child gets married she was spending 13 hours a day with me at the hospital.

I would ask that you continue to keep us in your prayers. My buddy over at Youth Specialties, Adam McClane, posted a very touching blog last week. I would urge you to give it a read as he summarizes well how you can pray for us during this time. It's been difficult, yes, but it's also been exciting. Anticipating what the Lord has in store for me is an exciting place to be. In addition, I'm grateful for the fact that my face, head, neck, spine, arms, and legs came through strong, even though my left arm will be in a sling for quite some time. Pray too that my body would heal. None of the fractures can be set or surgically repaired. They simply have to heal. Thank God, as well, for the amazing complexity and design of the body He designed. It blows me away to think that this will heal.

Finally, if you're in the neighborhood, visitors are fine. I don't look like I'm knocking on death's door and my sense-of-humor has remained intact. . . it just hurts like crazy to laugh!

Thanks for caring. There were many people in similar situations in my hospital wing whose phones were silent and whose rooms were empty during visiting hours. I was sad for them. This, however, wasn't the case for me. Again, I was blown away.

May God and God alone be glorified through what has happened and what lies ahead.

By the way, at 2:04pm on the day of my ride (about the time the accident occured), Brazelton texted me to say "How are you doing?" Andy, I'll be fine. . . and I'm still tougher than you!