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Drawing spiritual parallels from Fulton's recovery after a traumatic brain injury on December 11, 2010.

I'll Take Whatever I Can Get

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Dear Praying Friend,

Perhaps you, like me, have been following the tragic saga of Otto Warmbier – a 22-yr-old college student arrested, convicted, and imprisoned in North Korea for stealing a political sign.  His family worked tirelessly to rescue him from the horrible captivity.  It was about a week ago that Otto’s family learned he was in a coma the entire 15 months he was in captivity.  Finally, Otto was released and sent home to Ohio, reunited with his family for a few days before passing away.  The Washington Post reported that his father “wanted to highlight the bittersweet relief that his son is now home in the arms of those who love him – and anger that he was so brutally treated for so long.”

His family was willing to take back their son, no matter what condition he was in.  In a small way I can relate to them.  Fulton was in a deep coma right after his accident, clinging to life.  I remember telling God, “Please let Fulton live.  I’ll take whatever I can get.“

That’s what God feels for us.  We may be broken but God takes whatever he can get.  Now that’s love.  “This is love,” the Bible says, “not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” —1 John 4:10 (NIV)

Fulton Got A Gift

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Dear Praying Friend,

These are exciting days for Fulton.  One of the techs went on vacation and brought him back a really fine hat.  It’s his favorite kind because it’s a New England Patriots hat with a white leather bill. 

A gift like that is a small thing to most people, but not to Fulton.  His world may be small, but it’s still his world.  It’s not a small thing to me, either.  It really touches me when someone thinks of Fulton.  There’s a saying:  Touch a man’s son, and you’ve touched his father. 

There are many acts of love that happen all the time, and we seldom see them.  But God does and it moves him greatly.  Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” —Matthew 25:40 (NIV)

Special thanks to that very kind tech.  She did a small thing in the eyes of some, but a big thing for me, Fulton, and God.

God Has His Ways

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Dear Praying Friend,

My family and I recently met with the staff at Fulton’s nursing home.  It was clear everyone in the room loved Fulton and only wanted his best.  We were able to tell stories of Fulton’s struggles and victories, and what God is doing in his life. 

At the end of the meeting, I asked if it would be okay if I led them in prayer.  They were in full agreement.  I pleaded to God for Fulton’s healing.  And praised Him for what He had already done through the tragedy. 

I left the nursing home convinced God had arranged a divine appointment that day.  It occurred to me, I could not have ministered to the nursing home staff if there had not been an accident.  God has his ways, and His ways are always right.

David said in Psalm 34:1, “I will bless the LORD at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth.” (NASB)

Comforting a Stranger

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Dear Praying Friend,

Last week on a plane going from Nashville to Dallas, I sat next to a woman who was on her way to spend the weekend with friends.  As we talked, I discovered she was grieving the loss of her 33-yr-old daughter to cancer six months ago.  She laughed at my attempt at humor, but below the surface I knew she had a broken heart.

Throughout the hour-and-a-half flight, I told her of some of the lessons I am learning about suffering due to Fulton’s accident.  She cried as we touched on some of the pain that comes with profound loss.  I spoke of God’s amazing wisdom and how nothing happens to us that does not go through His holy strainer-of-love.  I explained why her daughter would not want to come back to this earth after being in the presence of God.  I shared how proud I was of her courage in going to the reunion and how her friends would understand her heartache.

As the plane was landing she said to me, “You really helped me because you have gone through so much, too.  I didn’t know how I was going to face this weekend.  But I know I can.” 

God knew this woman needed help getting through the next phase of suffering.  And I was thrilled to be used by God to make a difference.  Experiences like this one bring great joy.  They also help ease the pain I continue to carry in my heart for Fulton.  God is good. 

The Bible says, “All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort.  He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.”  —2 Corinthians 1:3-4

Loving the Hard to Love

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Dear Praying Friend,

I have learned a lot about life through my visits to Fulton at the nursing home.  One thing for sure, there’s a lot that’s not pretty.  There are people who are barely recognizable to what they were when they were young.  But now the cold and cruel years have come. 

Wrinkled, confused, disfigured, weak…and in many cases, alone, it’s hard to believe that anyone could love some of these downtrodden people.  Especially if they are hard to love.  Sometimes I try to fool myself into thinking I won’t end up like they are, knowing full-well we are all marching to our appointment with death.

It’s taken me a long time to recognize God’s love for these tired, confused, and dying folk.  But I am reminded of the breadth of God’s love in Psalm 145:9, “The LORD is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made.”

Recovering from Grief

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Dear Praying Friend,

I received a newsletter from a national leader who has a dynamic walk with God. He wrote about the day tragedy struck – his only daughter was killed in a car accident. 

God used one particular part of his letter to speak to me.  He wrote:

“Our pulverized hearts would never fully recover.  She was our only child.  It would take seven years before I could believe God cared to answer my prayers and He loved me.”

There was a time in my life I would’ve thought it shocking that a godly man would take so long to heal.  But because of Fulton’s accident I now understand – recovery from some heartaches takes a long time.  But God is kind and faithful, working daily to put us back together again.

If you have been suffering and it seems like your heartache will never go away, don’t beat yourself up.  In God’s time, you will heal and you will be closer and more usable to God than ever.

Job 10:12 says, “You have granted me life and lovingkindness; And Your care has preserved my spirit.” 

The Simple Things

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Dear Praying Friend,

I was thinking about Fulton’s life - how extremely simple it is.  Yes, he has his family, his helper Randy, the staff at the nursing home around him, his friends at church, and he has his own van.  But for the most part, his life is small and predictable.  I’ve been thinking about that…  Then I started thinking about his hat. 

Last week Randy and I took him to a huge mall.  But all he really wanted to do was to go to one store.  It’s called Lids.  It’s a store that sells nothing but hats, and boy does Fulton love his hats.  We got in the store and he lit up!  Surrounded by hats…Now we’re talking heaven here! What could be better than being surrounded by a bunch of hats?

We ended up having to order his New England Patriots 2017 championship hat.  It arrived yesterday and I have it in the backseat of my truck.  When I see him today, we’ll have all this fanfare.  I’ll tease him and say that the hat really belongs to me.  Believe me, we’ve played all these games before, but he will be as happy as can be.  He’ll be wearing that new hat 24/7.

Just a simple thing.  A hat.  Fulton will be content, but sad to say, there are tens of millions of people who can’t say that.  If you should feel less than content, think of Fulton and his hat.  Paul said, “I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need.  I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:12-13)

Boy is Fulton going to be excited when he gets his hat!

Fulton Could Have Given Up

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I was talking with some nurses and techs about Fulton the other day.  It was quite a sight – all of us gathered around the nurse’s station talking about him.  There were tears and smiles as I told stories from the accident.  As I was walking away, one of the techs came up to me and said, “What I like about Fulton is his joyfulness.”  I felt so proud as I heard those words.  There’s no doubting it - people are drawn to Fulton because of it. 

To be joyful means feeling, causing, or showing great happiness; full of joy.  There are so many reasons why Fulton could be just the opposite – full of bitterness, anger, and self-absorption.  After all, he can’t walk, talk, or eat on his own.  He can’t even hold up his head without assistance.  And yet, he’s full of cheer. 

Think of all the people you know who have little or no joy.  They’re miserable.  Oh, they can walk, talk, and take care of themselves, but lack contagious love and peace.  Fulton is far ahead of them.  He could have given up on life a long time ago but he continues on, full of joy, impacting others.  He is a living example of what God can do through His love and power. 

The accident was terrible.  Fulton’s life is hard, but the tragedy couldn’t steal his joy.  David wrote, “For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime! Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning.” (Psalm 30:5)

Fulton was Stood-up

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The church next door has some wonderful people who have committed to help Fulton attend his Sunday school class.  It’s a big deal to him.  He has been going there now for nearly 4 years and he loves these people very much.  However, on Easter there was a miscommunication.  No one came to help Fulton.  Fulton was stood-up. 

What’s it like, I wondered, having to be totally dependent on others?  What’s it like to be excited to go to church, and find out at the last moment you won’t be there? 

I felt sad for him, so I asked him, “Did it hurt your feelings when no one came?”  He slowly lifted his arm and gave a weak thumbs-up.  Yes, no one came.  And yes, it hurt his feelings.

The more I thought about it, the more upset I became, knowing I can’t protect Fulton from all of life’s hurts.  But God spoke to me.  I heard him say, “I was there with your son and we had a good time together. Fulton might have been forgotten, but I have not left him.”  Jesus clearly understands what Fulton went through.  Fulton’s sufferings are nothing in comparison to being forsaken on the cross. 

It’s so wonderful to know no matter what the circumstances, God is there for Fulton.  People may let him down, but God won’t.  Jesus promised never to leave us alone.  He said in Hebrews 13:5, “Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you.” 

The next time you and I are stood-up let us remember Fulton sitting in his wheelchair all dressed up with no place to go.  I’m convinced God ministered to Fulton and he will surely do the same for us, no matter what.

Faith: Walking Through Salon Doors

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Dear Praying Friend,

I had a very revealing experience happen to me the other day.  I was with Fulton while he got his hair cut.  As we were leaving, three stylists came up to say goodbye.  One of them said, “Fulton, one of these days you’re going to come walking right through these doors.”  Suddenly I was flooded with a tremendous sense of joy as the reality of what she was saying sank in.  I will never forget that moment. 

As I later thought about how I felt, it struck me that I have become more accepting of the status quo and not believing God for a miracle.  But even if God doesn’t answer all my prayers, he still wants me to ask and believe.  The Bible says in Hebrews 11:6, “And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.”

Now when I picture Fulton walking through the door with a big smile on his face, I thank God for the amazing things he has done and can do.  That simple act of faith pleases God.  I want to encourage you to ask God to show you ways you can believe more, and therefore receive more, while pleasing God all the way.

Life Lessons with Dawson & Fulton