BRAINERD, Minn. - Thanksgiving is a way of life for a Brainerd pastor paralyzed after a fall from deer stand last year. Pastor Max Day, 67, says he's just thankful to be alive.
Pastor Day climbed into his seat in deer stand in Itasca State Park, November 5, 2011, when it split from the tree. He fell 15 feet, flat on his back, crushing his T11 vertebrae. In that instant, he became a paraplegic.
"The pain was horrible. But I reached over and felt something and thought, that is a log. And thought, wait a minute, I have cleared everything out from below the tree, that's my leg," said Pastor Day.
Three months later, he was back part time at Faith Baptist Church where he is an associate pastor. When Pastor Day preaches, the pulpit is empty, but if you look just in front of the pews, you will see he is clearly grounded in the Word.
"I feel funny asking you to stand and I sit," said Pastor Day, eliciting laughs from the congregation as he preached from his wheelchair.
After the accident, most people would have immediately called for help, but Pastor Day did something else - he began to pray.
"I know that may sound strange to people, but you know, because I knew, my dreams were shattered, if that is the way to put it. God just has something else for us, I don't know what it is exactly," said Pastor Day.
He began to find his way, once back at home after nearly six weeks of rehab at Sister Kenny in Minneapolis. While he was away, his congregation remodeled his house to make room for a wheelchair.
The Days have since adapted a new definition of gratitude.
"I'm so thankful. We could have planned a funeral," said his wife, Sharon Day.
Sharon Day, 67, believes every new turn has brought trust, for a couple that has walked in faith together for 46 years.
"Some days he will go to his office and I will sit and cry, because there is a profound sadness," said Sharon Day. "But, we can choose to be miserable or we can choose to make the best of it. I think how we walk through it is important, hopefully we can walk through it honorably."
"I really believe hardships usually make people very bitter, or makes them better because they learn even more to trust the Lord," said Pastor Day.
Every week, he offers that comfort with others who may also feel confined. He leads a bible study the Crow Wing County jail, telling inmates that even for a pastor, life does not go as planned.
"Is God unfair? No, God is not unfair. He knows what he is doing. The fact that we are alive is by the Grace of God," he told the group.
So no matter where you sit this holiday, remember Pastor Day. This week, he's back out deer hunting, and has already been out several times, with a special permit to use firearms from his wheelchair accessible van.
With his Sunday sermon is focused on abundant blessings, it's no accident he finds Thanksgiving in every day.
"One of the things I have noticed is, all the kids want to come up to give me a hug now, I don't know if it's because I'm at their level, but that is kind of neat, I like that," said Day.
Day is now back full time at Faith Baptist church, adding that just last week, he clocked 47 hours, and has no plans of retiring.
He hasn't quite yet mastered his other love, of fishing, but says he's working on that too.
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