Friday, December 26, 2008

Mountain View

By Jim Hukill

In the late 1960's, my father, a Texan, picked up a church magazine and read an article about the need for pastors in the poorest region of our country, the Appalachian Mountains. Those paragraphs stirred my dad's heart. So, in December 1973 our u-haul truck backed up to a small apartment attached to a small church in Richlands, VA and our family began a ministry journey that would last more than thirty years.

When in that region of the world, one can be easily captivated by the culture of the people; their music, their charming dialect, and sense of strong community. There, deep into the heart of earth, coal miners work endlessly in conditions that take their breath away at life's end and kicks up a dust that settles on everything nestled back in the deep hollows of the hills. Nothing, however, is quiet as breathtaking as those beautiful mountains. Rising above the dust, the poverty, and personal struggle of life are the most awe inspiring mountain ranges… stretching on without end.

Among all the hypnotic charms of that life, what I remember more than anything, is the strength of my father's call to that place and the people that lived there. It was among these majestic monuments of God's creativity that my parents gave of their talents, invested their relationships, and sowed their spiritual passions into the lives of people in need; the mountain folk who just needed a pastor.

There were times when my dad, brother, and friends would tie ropes on my chair to traverse terrain that was virtually impossible. I recall my dad pushing and tugging my wheelchair through brush and weeds, across rocks and terrain so steep that my chair would nearly turn over. He would exhaust himself. For what? So, we could sit together along a creek and fish, talk, experience, learn.

Amazing! There was so much to be in awe of; things that could grab one's attention for hours.

Wow, those days were so enlightening. One lesson I took from those moments: when life's struggle is overwhelming, from a mountain's summit one can rise above it all. You see, at the top of the mountain you would almost forget how hard the climb is. Through every struggle of life, I am so motivated by that life experience as a teenager. Every challenge seems to drive me toward another vista.

The power of a call. The power of a view. The power of Dad.

Recalling these experiences has never been as important to me as they are today. December 28, 2008 marks the second anniversary of my Dad's passing. Thanks Dad for giving me the power to climb.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Living Strength

By Jim Hukill

Bump, uh. Bump, uh. Bump, uh - one step after another. After several flights of stairs, the third floor of the old college administration building couldn't come fast enough. It was the fall of 1980, pre ADA, and I was being drug up the stairs of this old building just to audition for a music group that would travel and represent our school.

After the exhausting ride to the third floor, my friends parked me in a room to await my turn to tryout. Several other candidates came in, including one young man who sat next to me. He seemed very self confident, friendly and a bit inquisitive about me, my chair and my story.

During our time of chitchat, this guy asked me the question "Do you miss walking?" My reply, "You can't miss something you've never had."

At the age of twenty months, I was diagnosed with a rare neuro-muscular disease. Ultimately this form of Muscular Dystrophy would lead me to the use of a power wheelchair and into many confrontations with uncertainty. Words of confinement and limitation intruded into my will for life. "Your son will never walk and he'll never live to see the age of ten." This is the context of my journey, clashing between impending dead and promised life.

The great conflict between existence and nonexistence is whether disability will be a state of physical positioning or a prison of emotional confinement. I refuse to surrender to a notion that a lack of physical activity is a vital sign of my existence. The first great life-swing I will take at this face of impending lifelessness is that I will have a determination of participation. When events remind me of my disability I cannot lie back and take life as it comes. I must activate myself to contribute.

A life-encounter of this importance will require me to maintain a global perspective of my disability. While I may be the one who carries in my body the weight of disability, the world on the outside of the armrest of my wheelchair is bigger than the world sitting between the armrest of my chair. Disability did not just happen to me it also intruded on the lives of the people who love me.

A life-punch that is a knock out blow is a spirit of enjoyment. Just because my body carries characteristics of lifelessness, it doesn't mean death. In fact, this is an opportunity for my spirit to rise up in life. It is here that the power of God pitches its tent and demonstrates that His grace is enough. The blood of Jesus flowed across my ground of lifelessness to give life were life is not intended.

Strong legs, walking, running, jumping have never figured into my 'missed' equation, but feeding myself, holding a cup of coffee, brushing my teeth, signing my name…each of these I have had and life, my precious friend, has taken them away. What is left is a 'missing' of the one who breathes through me. Soon I will stand and embrace Him with living strength.