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

Thumbs Up

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Dear Praying Friend,

I have come up with a new way of reassuring my love to Fulton.  Once a week when we are alone I say to him, “Son, let’s go over the basics.”  He gives a big thumbs up, which means, Yes, I want to do that. 

Then I say to him, “Son, you realize you are my son." Thumbs up.

"There’s absolutely nothing you can do about it.  You will ALWAYS be my son.”  Thumbs up again.

Then I say, “I will always be your father, and there’s nothing you can do about that either.  Nor would I want you to.”  He gives me the thumbs up with a big smile.

I continue by saying, “You realize I would never leave you, no matter what.”  Another thumbs up. 

Then I hit him with the clincher.  I say to him, “Son, there’s nothing you can do, or fail to do, that would ever stop me from loving you.  PERIOD.”  He then responds with a thumbs up and a huge smile, and we hug.

One reason why I go over the basics is because I don’t really know how he feels, or even if he remembers from week to week.

I have spent a lot of time thinking about our little ritual.  It seems to me God, too, goes over the essentials of his love for us many times because we would either forget it, or ignore it.  So the next time God shares his love, give him a big smile and a thumbs up.

The Bible says in Jeremiah 31:3, “Long ago the LORD said to Israel: "I have loved you, my people, with an everlasting love. With unfailing love I have drawn you to myself.”

Thumbs up!

Roommate Troubles

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Dear Praying Friend,

I learned a lesson about humility this week.  It seems like my pride is always there, getting in the way.  Fulton was moved to a new room.  They assured me it was a bigger room with more light.  What they failed to say was Fulton’s new roommate has some real problems. 

He’s a 40-ish man who had a major stroke and he never stops making loud noises.  It’s hard to be in the room with him for very long.  Talk about annoying…

I was furious.  How could the staff do this to my son?  Why should he have to live under such conditions?  I was ready to confront the administrator, but cooler heads prevailed.  Instead I asked Fulton,

Do you like your new roommate?
He gave me a thumbs up.  (Yes.) 

Does he get on your nerves?
Thumbs down.  (No.) 

Do you want me to look for another room for you?
Thumbs down.  (No.) 

Do you want to stay here, in this room?
Thumbs up.  (Yes.) 

As we used to say, GO FIGURE...  Fulton is happy in his new room, annoying sounds and all.  That’s crazy, but who am I to be against it?  This whole situation has started me thinking…Jesus never had a bed, and yet both the Father and the Son allowed it to happen and he never complained. 

And I must admit, Fulton’s roommate is getting easier to love, and I am learning more of the sacrifices of Christ.  The Bible says in Luke 9:58, "Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head."

Moving is a Big Deal...To Fulton

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Dear Praying Friend,

I got a call from the nursing home this morning with the news that Fulton was going to be moved to another room.  The staff person went on and on about how much better Fulton’s new room would be.  All I was thinking was of how unhappy Fulton will be.  He’ll have to adapt to a different room, on a different floor, with different staff. 

Fulton, like most of us, doesn’t like change and his brain injury can make him even more obsessive.  In the long run it will be better for Fulton – bigger room, bigger windows, etc.  But right now, I’m asking God to help me be sensitive to him.  This move may not be a big deal to me, but it’s huge to him.  Once again, I am forced to look at life from Fulton’s point of view. 

God is like that with us.  The huge things in our lives aren’t so big to God, yet he knows and lovingly carries them with our weaknesses in mind.

The Bible says in Psalm 40:17, “But as for me, I am poor and needy; may the Lord think of me. You are my help and my deliverer; you are my God, do not delay.”

Never Alone

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Dear Praying Friend,

I was talking with one of Fulton’s techs the other day.  She told me something amazing.  She said that every staff person on her shift takes time to come into Fulton’s room to talk with him.  What encouraging news that is! 

One of my biggest fears for Fulton is that he must face hour after hour alone.  My son is one of the most social persons I know.  He loves to be involved in relationships.  It’s always hard for me to leave him all alone having no one to talk with while he faces his massive handicaps. 

But God understands my fears and Fulton’s needs.  I am comforted that while I am writing to you, someone at the nursing home is loving on Fulton.  These last few weeks Fulton is even more aware than ever and is really happy.  I know you have prayed him to this point in his life.  Your prayers are at work every time someone walks in the room to talk with Fulton.

The Bible says in Psalm 68:6a, “God places the lonely in families.”

In His Chair in the Dark

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Dear Praying Friend,

I went to see Fulton at the nursing home Sunday night to watch the Super Bowl.  He was extremely excited.  Fulton is a BIG Patriots fan and loves Tom Brady.  When the game was about to begin I realized life around Fulton seemed different at night. 

For example, he did not want the lights on. Period.  He doesn’t want the heater adjusted and he wants the sound of the T.V. LOUD.  I tried to change those three things and Fulton pitched a fit.  (He likes things a certain way, so don’t mess with him!)  The only seat in his room was his wheelchair.  So while Fulton watched from his bed, I watched the game in his chair, in the dark, with the T.V. being our only light.  Sitting there, I began to have a different perspective of what life is like for him. 

As I sat in his chair the thought came to me:  To understand Fulton you have to intimately know what his world is all about.  Then I thought of Jesus.  He entered our world and became man to understand us and serve us completely.  He did more than just sit in a wheelchair, he became amazingly involved in our lives.  I kept thinking of the words found in Philippians 2:5-8:

“In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.  And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!”

Fulton was ecstatic over the outcome of the game.  And so was I.  If he’s happy, I’m happy.  We had fun and I learned some new things about him, sitting in a wheelchair with very little light.

The Nearness of Dad

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Dear Praying Friend,

I went to see Fulton Sunday afternoon. When I arrived there he was alone, but his roommate had his entire family there playing board games and having a great old time. Fulton was sitting in his wheelchair right up next to his bed. I got on his bed and began to watch old football films with him. I said a few words of encouragement. He said a few things through his hand gestures, but I didn’t think much was communicated. So I put my hand on his withered arm leaving it there and patting it from time to time.

This went on for 45-minutes. Not a word was spoken. Just my hand touching his arm. I asked if it bothered him and he said an emphatic, NO. It was a magical time where we were happy to be together. I finally left knowing he received what he needed – the nearness of his dad and the touch on his withered arm.

As I thought about this moment it caused me to think about God. He loves to be near us, and us to Him. The Lord doesn’t need any fancy words or works to please Him. He just wants us to enjoy His presence and His loving touch.

David said in Psalm 73:28a, “But as for me, the nearness of God is my good…” (NASB)

Six Words Make All The Difference

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Dear Praying Friend,

I received an email from a woman named Ida and it really encouraged me. She wrote,

“I know exactly what you mean Dawson. I have a daughter with cerebral palsy and I celebrate the little things she accomplishes, those we sometimes take for granted…”

Ida’s vey encouraging words got me thinking… God allows us to celebrate with him the little things that are not so little after all. I read an article about a woman whose son had traumatic brain injury and had not spoken in twelve years. But one day he started to speak and now he speaks six words.  The woman was absolutely beside herself with joy – all over six words!

I didn’t understand it at the time, but now I would be more than thrilled if Fulton was able to accomplish that. Now I am praying he will. Just six words, but what a difference a few words can make. Meanwhile, Ida and I will be looking for all the little things we can celebrate. Little things that aren’t so little after all.

Paul wrote, “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”  2 Corinthians 12:9 (ESV)

Face Time

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Dear Praying Friend,

I was in Fulton’s room the other day when in came his favorite tech. She wasn’t Fulton’s tech for the day, but checked in to see how he was doing. She chatted with him for a while and then gave him a big hug and a kiss on the cheek. It was endearing to see Fulton trying to kiss her in return. He has obviously been moved by her.

But what caught my attention the most was when she said to him, “I’ll be back and give you some face time.” That was her secret. She had mastered face time with Fulton. This very kind tech was not only in Fulton’s room but was willing to give him focused attention.

That’s what God wants from us. He wants us to be ready to have powerful face-to-face time 24/7 with him.

“The LORD would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend.”  —Exodus 33:11 (NIV)

Assuming the Worst

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Dear Praying Friend,

I received a call from Fulton’s nurse. I am always uneasy when she calls. (Until I learn differently, I assume the worst.) The condition I dread the most is pneumonia, Fulton’s number one enemy. He had been doing quite well but now she had troubling news. Fulton had a temperature and a worrying cough that had a rattling sound to it. To make matters worse, Fulton was pointing towards his lungs, a sure sign he was hurting.  The nurse told me she had left a message for the doctor but didn’t think he would be in.

So off I went, headed towards the nursing home with dread in my heart. When I arrived, what did I find? The nurse and the doctor standing at the nurse’s station discussing Fulton’s situation. What a beautiful sight. His doctor said to me, “Dawson, Fulton doesn’t have pneumonia. He has bronchitis and we have already started a round of antibiotics.” He went on to say, “I only live five minutes from here. If you need me, I’ll be there.” It doesn’t get much better than that. 

While I was stewing and heading for panic, God had gone ahead of me to make the rocky road smooth.  It was as though God was saying, “Calm down. I’m in control.” How often do we torment ourselves when we stew, leaving God out of the picture? Not only is the doctor nearby but so is God. Fulton has finished his round of medication and is doing much better.

“The LORD of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our stronghold.” —Psalm 46:11 (NASB)

Little Gifts Keep Us Going

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Dear Praying Friend,

God blows my mind with the gifts He is giving to Fulton. Just about the time I think Fulton has plateaued, God does something amazing. Two weeks ago I was convinced Fulton had gone as far as he could go in his recovery. I was telling God all about it when, lo and behold, Fulton started moving his good arm and leg further than ever. His range of motion had increased! I could see Fulton was thrilled. It was like a young child learning for the first time he could walk. He was so proud of the new movements he could do with his body. I can only imagine the confidence God has given him because of this.

God is amazing with his little gifts that keep us going. He knows exactly what we need. Fulton needed a greater range of motion and God gave it to him. Pretty amazing, huh?

The Bible says, “For You, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive, And abundant in lovingkindness to all who call upon You.  —Psalm 86:5 (NASB)

Life Lessons with Dawson & Fulton

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