My Brother From Another Mother

My Brother From Another Mother

Have you ever met someone who is almost identical to you in personality, hobbies, and other characteristics? That’s how it is with me and my friend Kevin Von Maxey. We’re both diehard University of Miami fans. We’re also both longtime suffering Dolfans as well. We both share the same Mount Rushmore-esque affinity for Dan Marino, and we’re both sports geeks in general. Add to that our quirky sense of humor, love of movies, and overall desire to be witty and smart in just about every situation, and you’ve got yourself personality twins separated at birth.

I met up with Kevin and his family this evening. As part of our downsizing experience, it was obvious to me Kevin needed to be the recipient of all my Dolphins and Hurricanes memorabilia and collectibles. With all apologies to his wife April (part of me felt I was just dumping my junk into their lap), I handed over to Kevin items that helped shape and define my childhood growing up.

To say Kevin was appreciative is an understatement, and I know he’ll be like a kid on Christmas morning once he starts going through all the items in the bags and boxes (yes, plural) that I gave him. I also know Kevin will be geeking out with his sons Taylor and Alex as he explains the details of every item in that collection.

I’ve known Kevin and April for over a decade, great friends that, like so many others, I met through the music of Sister Hazel. Although our interactions have been limited given the geographic distance between our families, Lee and I share many great memories with K&A, mostly post-concert shenanigans involving diner food and storytelling. And with Kevin, I could always pivot to anything Dolphins or Canes related and he wouldn’t miss a beat.

VM1

VM2

But I want to pivot this blog post to something not involving football or music. I want to write about the power of prayer and how, I believe, an army of prayer warriors helped save April’s life last year. I will let the video below tell the details of the story, but I will add my recollection to April’s life-threatening experience. So many people from so many walks of life, many of whom would not call themselves spiritual, came together to rally for April.

I remember praying diligently and intentionally for her recovery, and the fact I was able to give her a big hug this evening is a reminder that God honors our big prayers. I believe He specifically honors the prayers of a collection of people coming together with laser focus to plead for His healing abilities. At the end of the day, that is the church. And no one will ever convince me otherwise the reason April is alive today is that so many people came together to pray for her. It was those prayers that gave her body strength. It was those prayers that guided the medical team treating April’s illness. It was those prayers that allowed Kevin to navigate the terrorizing uncertainty of that experience.

Social media is a great platform through which people can request spiritual support. Whatever the reason, whatever the season, someone always needs our prayerful help. April’s story is a testament to the power of prayer.

Build On The Pain

The screams were deafening. The shredding of human tissue insufferable. Body parts washed in lactic acid produced a symphony of sharp, burning pain.

And this was just my biceps.

If there is anything that merits the title of grueling, starting a new exercise regiment at the gym after a few years decade hiatus is one of them. Still, that’s where I find myself this week as my wife and I bit the bullet and signed up for membership at the Health & Wellness Center at Florida Hospital Wesley Chapel.

I know what you’re thinking. A gym at the hospital? I was a bit skeptical at first, too, but the facility is state of the art, and the staff has been nothing short of exceptional. Besides, I’m glad I’m in the same physical structure as an ER just in case I go crazy and push myself too hard.

But the moral of this story is starting over. I will admit it’s been easier, psychologically speaking, mostly because I’m on a bit of a ‘new thing’ high. Lee and I have been waking up early to make 5:30 AM classes (Body Flow kicked my butt, BTW), and we’re motivating each other to start every morning with a fitness routine. But the toll on my body has been tough. Aches, pains, soreness; I know they’re all good and normal for someone like me starting out again, but I look forward to the day months from now when I laugh at myself for having been such a wimp.

Muscle Homer

It turns out that as I kicked off this workout week, my friend Rick Christensen wrote an excellent blog post titled Spiritual Bench Press. It got me to thinking about my recent faith journey, and how five years ago I was a spiritual couch potato in need of working on my faith. Although I always revert to my caveat, “I didn’t have a crisis of faith so much as a crisis of church,” I was very much failing to act like a Christian.

But just as I hope to do so with my physical fitness, I am able to look back now and see how far I’ve come in my spiritual journey. I can see how much stronger I am as a Christ follower, working out my soul by reading the Word and acting on His behalf. I’m not perfect, far from it. I struggle daily with the pitfalls and temptations of life. But I am very proud to see I’m closer to where I want to be than I was this time five short years ago.

And it’s not a destination you reach. It’s a lifelong journey of lifting the weight of your burdens and placing them at God’s feet. It’s a perennial run away from the enemy and towards the light He had provided for us. It’s feeding on the nutrition found in the Bible, the words of life that nourish us from day to day.

The best part is there’s no soreness to deal with or fatigue after a good spiritual workout (i.e. doing good for others). Instead, it’s a feeling of reward that can only be described as exhilarating.

I may never reach my goal weight. My BMI may remain plotted on the ‘unhealthy’ side of the chart. I may forever struggle to do curls with 20 lb dumbbells (seriously …. my upper body strength is so lame), but as long as I keep my spiritual wellness at the top of my priority list, I know I’ll be fine. Besides, God doesn’t care if His soldiers are a little soft around the edges.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.” Hebrews 12:1

Pain and Simple

I think the last time I was in the emergency room of a hospital as a patient, I was about six years old. I had stuck the bomb of one of the model planes I was building so far up my nose, it required medical attention to have it removed. (Don’t judge me …. I was just a kid).

I spent the better part of this past Sunday afternoon in discomfort with a shoulder problem that had been on again, off again for the better part of 18 months. Nothing serious, just a sharp pain in an isolated spot on my shoulder. I historically shrugged it off as having slept on my shoulder incorrectly or having tweaked it while lifting something heavy.

But on Monday, the pain was constant. It aggravated me all day and impacted by ability to be effective at work (I spend 8-10 hours a day at a keyboard). Later that evening, as I dropped my daughter off at her mom’s house following dinner to celebrate her eight grade commencement, I noticed my left had was terribly swollen. What started as isolated pain in my shoulder turned into a sharp, shooting pain in my entire arm. I couldn’t close my hand, and I had virtually no mobility with my arm. My wife agreed and we made the trip to the ER.

The service I received from everyone at Florida Hospital in Wesley Chapel was wonderful, After a sonogram, an x-ray, and a few hours of waiting, we were able to rule out some possible causes. Thankfully, the tests ruled out blood clots – my biggest fear given all the swelling – and bone injury. I was discharged with several prescriptions and sent home.

On Tuesday, too stoned and drowsy from the Flexeril and Vicodin, my wife drove me to an orthopedic doctor who assessed my situation. The diagnosis was severe bursitis and tendinitis in my shoulder. The doctor gave me a Cortisone shot and sent me home with prescriptions for both medicine and physical therapy.

As I sit here typing, I can feel the numbness creeping back into my joints, the fingers on my left hand laboring at times to stroke the keyboard. And all I can think to say is, “Thank you, God.”

Thank you for not letting it be something life threatening like a blood clot.

Thank you for letting it be something that doesn’t require surgery to repair.

Thank you for letting it be my left arm and not my right.

Thank you for letting it be manageable pain.

I have a family member undergoing surgery on Wednesday to remove his thyroid. Then he has to endure radiation treatment to ensure the cancer found in his thyroid doesn’t return. I remember the other patients I saw as they wheeled me from my room in the ER to radiology. They all looked to be in so much pain and anguish. By comparison, the pain in my shoulder was merely a toe stub. Nothing serious. Nothing lingering. Something that will get better with time.

My faith allows me to accept the challenges God puts in my way. His promise to me is love and salvation, and not smooth sailing or coasting through life. It’s in moments like these, where simply putting my hands in my pockets causes me to wince, or typing another paragraph requires a certain amount of mental push, when my faith in God is strengthened and renewed. Because as annoying, aggravating, inconvenient, and – on occasion – tear inducing this pain has been, I see how it could easily have been so much worse.