Spiritual Fitness Strengthens Our Soul

Spiritual fitness strengthens our soul

Spiritual Fitness Strengthens Our Soul/Photo: Kristijan Sekulic/iStock.com

Just as fitness strengthens our body, spiritual fitness strengthens our soul. Millions of people today help their bodies lose weight, improve flexibility, and improve cardio-vascular health through regular exercise. At times, this exercise is prescribed by their doctor to minimize the effects of disease, such as diabetes. People train in local gymns, but also in those with state and national branches. Drive around and you’ll see LA Fitness, 24-hour Fitness, Planet Fitness, and Peak Performance.

Physical Fitness

For seven years, through high school and college, I ran cross-country and track. Several months before our first competitive meet, we’d begin practice with each other, fulfilling the assignments of our coaches: jumping jacks, stretching to touch our toes, then stretching to reach the sky. Each exercise to stretch and strengthen one set of muscles necessitated another to strengthen the opposite set of muscles. Then, light jogging at first, then longer distances—and longer and faster.  Each run tested our capacity. Eventually, our training helped us extend our capacity beyond what we thought possible. We knew our limits, dictated to us by our pain, shortness of breath, and threat of collapse. But together we learned to push beyond our limits and our pain. Eventually we bettered our best times and could defeat our opponents in competition.

The remnant of such training as a teen-ager continues today. I walk aggressively (I’ve chosen to avoid running at my age), for ½ hour, up a steep hill, for as many days in the week as possible. I want to keep my body healthy. It isn’t possible to stop growing older, but we can slow the process. People comment to me about how young I look, and these compliments motivate me to keep up my exercise regimen. For more information on Steps to Physical Fitness, read https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/in-depth/fitness/art-20048269. Just as physical fitness strengthens our body, spiritual fitness strengthens our soul.

Spiritual Fitness

But just as our body needs regular exercise for physical fitness, we also need spiritual  exercise to improve our spiritual fitness. Just as we must stretch our limits to build up physical stamina, we need to stretch our spirits through spiritual exercise. We need to practice spiritual fitness to help us deal with the challenges of life: financial stresses, relationship repair, and in my present circumstances, downsizing. In earlier blogs, I discussed the physical benefits of spiritual fitness. [https://www.gordongrose.com/health-benefits-of-spirituality-i/ https://www.gordongrose.com/health-benefits-of-spirituality-ii/]. Just as physical fitness strengthens our body, spiritual fitness strengthens our soul.

In the same way that I need to more-or-less force myself to do something unpleasant (get out and walk in the cold weather), so also I have to force myself to study Scripture each day. Don’t misunderstand, I love studying Scripture. But with a full day and week, I, like most people, must fight the temptation to delay or avoid my daily meeting with God. When I walk, I feel better; I sleep better. When I read Scripture, I feel better also, although differently. I know I have put God first in my day. At the moment, I’m studying the Apostle Paul’s defense of himself and of his ministry in II Corinthians 5:11-21. The climax is Paul’s words in v. 20: “We are, therefore, Christ’s ambassador.”

I Am Christ’s Ambassador

I’ve been working with this passage for several months. First I record the results of my study on a Word document, date it, and save it. But then I also invite the Scripture to challenge me. I need always to ask myself: “What difference does this passage make in my life today?” So, how can I best represent Christ today in my world of relationships?

In my availability today to serve our chronically ill son, when he calls me to clean up water the plumber spilled in his garage, how can I represent Christ? In mopping up the garage (where the plumber miscalculated and opened a 40-gallon water tank by mistake), how do I represent Christ to my son (who is a Christian), and to the plumber (who is not)? Because the Apostle Paul reminded me that “I am Christ’s ambassador,” I serve our son gladly, sopping up water with paper towels, squeezing the excess out on the lawn, and reusing them to sop up more water. Without complaint. That leaves him and the plumber free to make the needed changes in the water filtration system.

How’s Your Spiritual Fitness?

How about your fitness. Do you exercise? Do you tax your body regularly to bring up your heart rate, breathe more deeply, sleep better, and keep yourself healthy? I hope you do. Just as physical fitness strengthens our body, spiritual fitness strengthens our soul. But about your spiritual needs. I don’t know what place you’ve allowed God in your life, but If He is real to you, you can make him more real by a daily time devoted to reading and applying the Scriptures to your life.

You may already read a devotional book regularly, but as good as some of them are (I can think of Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts, for example), the Scripture is better. Don’t neglect the best means God has of getting your attention for the day. Don’t pick random passages; instead, read a whole book, a little each day. Or study the life of a great man or woman of God. Keep a journal, record your observations, specific application to your life, and how you will act differently because of what you’ve studied.

My wife and I are going through a difficult time, not with each other, but with forces, events, and people we cannot control. “Genesis encourages me,” she said. “All through Abraham’s life and the lives of his children and grandchildren, people had to wait.” God doesn’t act when we want; but He does act. That was the lesson she learned through her personal study of a great, albeit flawed, person’s life. She found encouragement for herself and for me about this stressful time in our lives though a detailed application of Scripture to her life. Just as physical fitness strengthens our body, spiritual fitness strengthens our soul. Start your practice of spiritual fitness today.

[Credits: Photo: https://istock.com. Artist: Kristijan Sekulic, aka skynesher]

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“Stay Strong!” Doesn’t Help Those In Grief And Loss

Vanessa Misses Kobe: My Best Friend

Vanessa and Kobe Bryant/TMZ

People yet to be deeply affected by the death of a loved one, often urge the bereaved to Be Strong, or to Stay Strong. Earlier, I described NBA legend Kobe Bryant’s tragic death (https://www.gordongrose.com/ the-death-of-kobe-bryant/). People on Twitter have expressed their support for Kobe’s wife Vanessa by urging, “Stay strong, Vanessa!” In fact, “Stay Strong!” doesn’t help those in grief and loss.

“Stay Strong, Vanessa!”: Twitter

Here are some responses from people on Twitter: “Vanessa Bryant is strong. A different type of strong. How is she able to post this week?? Strength!” “Glad she is holding up strong. We will just keep supporting her and her family.” “My thoughts and prayers for his wife and family and It hard for her losing both her husband and daughter in tragic helicopter crash. I’m praying for her and his family to be strong.” “Praying for you and the family @VanessaBryantKG: I love you and miss you Kobe and Gianna. You will always be my strength.”

“Thanks For Your Support”

In her first public statement since Kobe’s death, Vanessa graciously expressed her appreciation for the outpouring of support to her and her family. “My girls and I want to thank the millions of people who’ve shown support and love during this horrific time,” she wrote on Instagram. (CNN.com) She recounts how much she misses her “best friend” (https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/vanessa-bryant-remembers-best-friend-kobe-bryant-instagram-n1131056).

I raise this issue of urging “strength” on the bereaved, or complimenting them for it, because, in most cases, saying, “Stay strong!” does not help people in grief and loss. Many of our responses to others in crisis enable us to cope better with the tragedy. As we try to put ourselves in the shoes of the other person, we feel at a loss. We don’t know what to say, so we attempt to comfort in a way that helps us move on from the issue as quickly as possible. “You’re so strong, you’ve got everything under control, so I can leave you without feeling guilty for abandoning you.” In other words, the last thing we want is to have to feel the impact of the loss through hearing the emotional pain of the recently bereaved.

Stay Strong! Won’t Help Those in Grief and Loss

The reason “Stay Strong, Vanessa!” won’t help those in grief and loss: that’s what we want. These well-wishers need Vanessa to “Stay strong!” for them. Put yourself in the bereaved’s shoes. Having just lost your husband, wife, child, or parent, what would you think if someone suggested to you that you “Stay Strong!” I believe they would think, Thanks for the thought, but you have no comprehension of how I feel. They may even think, Do you even care how I feel? Or they may think, “I know you mean well, but I can’t cope with what you’re saying. I need to leave.” So they thank us for our kind concern and get back to the business of coping with their loss and grief– alone. We feel relieved we no longer have to deal with such deep emotional pain.

So what is the correct thing to say? First recognize that in the categories we use, we tend to impose our perception on the grieving person. Strong v. weak is not in their purview at the moment. They want to know how they can get through the next day, the next hour, or even the next few minutes without their lost loved one. What would we say, then? If we want to be genuinely helpful, we need to discover what they may feel and key our response to support that.

“How Should She Feel?”

A number of years ago, at a Christian camp in the east, one of the men attending suddenly died of a heart attack. The speaker immediately sought to minister to the widow. He used Scripture to instruct her. When challenged, the leader responded, “We know how she is feeling, but what should she feel?” He assumed from his role as speaker to the conference that he was anointed to assist. But in fact he sought to impose a “correct” attitude toward her loss, the only Christian attitude to hold. I felt deeply sorry for that poor widow. The leader didn’t care enough to listen. The self-appointed comforter, like Job’s colleagues, rushed to conform her experience to his pre-conceived theology. Just as it felt too painful to listen to Job’s wish to die (Chapter 3), like Job’s friends, the speaker issued a Christian bromide for this woman to swallow. Another version of “Stay Strong,” but it doesn’t help someone in grief and loss.

How does Vanessa feel? She already told us! We probably slid over how she described her experience (I did). Recall, in thanking her well-wishers, she calls it, “this horrific time.” Just how much horror do we really want to hear?

Grief And Loss: What To Say

I’ve addressed this issue of what to say to a person sin grief and loss in a previous blog (https://www.gordongrose.com/what-words-do-yo…-grieving-friend/). But there are times I don’t know what to say. I barely know what to ask. So first, I’d begin with asking the grieving person to describe what happened: “Tell me what happened.” In the recounting of the events of the tragedy, the healing begins. Then, I’d listen. In the listening of the caring friend, the healing continues. Finally, I’d offer prayer. “May I pray with you?” In your prayer for the Lord to be close to those who are brokenhearted, the person may feel you understand. That thought may link to: “If this person understands and prays for brokenhearted me, maybe God understands me also.”

Rachel G Greenberg (Twitter @ConnectionsHope), another widow, responded to Vanessa’s loss. “My heart hurts for her,” she wrote. “All of the outpouring of grief and love for the passing of Kobe Bryant is massive. I wish every bereaved person could get the same amount of loving kindness. So many grieve alone.”

Subtle Abandonment

“Stay strong” doesn’t help those in grief and loss.” We need instead to support the grieving in their loneliness. When we recoil from their emotional hurt at their loss, we abandon them to solitary grieving. Too hot for us to handle, we fail to key in to the bereaved’s need. In all probability they won’t even know what they need, so we may have to initiate help. Even a brief few moments of intense listening shows enormous caring.

Instead of “Stay Strong, Vanessa,” we help the grieving better by saying: “Tell me more, Vanessa! What happened?”

[Picture Credit: Kobe and Vanessa, https://www.tmz.com/2020/02/05/vanessa-bryant-kobe-bryant-posted-gianna-instagram/]

 

 

 

 

 

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What We Learn From The Death of Kobe Bryant

The 9 lives lost

Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna, and seven others die 1/26/20

All of us, especially those in and close to the NBA and the sports world, felt shocked to learn of Kobe Bryant’s death. The long-term star of the LA Lakers, along with his 13-year old daughter Gianna, perished in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, CA. They weren’t the only victims, as seven others, including the pilot, died as well. Tributes poured in. The Lakers postponed one game with the LA Clippers in honor of Kobe and to allow the team and organization to mourn.  The death of Kobe has touched many thousands. To many the news seemed impossible to believe. “The NBA family is devastated by the tragic passing of Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said. At the news, fans and celebrities exploded with grief on social media. A basketball superstar, Kobe Bryant was 41. I want us to look at what we learn from death of Kobe Bryant.

Accusation

Bryant’s 2003 rape accusation tarnished his professional image, and he sought counsel from his Roman Catholic faith. He apologized in 2004, including to the other person involved, and took steps to rebuild his life. In a 2015 issue of GQ Magazine he described his meeting with a priest, who asked, “‘Did you do it?’ And I say, ’Of course not.’ Then he asks, ’Do you have a good lawyer?’ And I’m like, ’Uh, yeah, he’s phenomenal.’ So then he just said, ’Let it go. Move on. God’s not going to give you anything you can’t handle, and it’s in his hands now. This is something you can’t control. So let it go.’ And that was the turning point.”

After his retirement, Kobe continued to teach basketball to young people. “Coaching youth sports is so important to take very seriously,” he said, “because you’re helping the emotional [development] of young kids.” Coaching involves tolerance for others’ errors:  “It’s understanding not to be overcritical and understanding that [there] are going to be mistakes.” Kobe also began writing books. “You got to do what you love to do,” he said. “I love telling stories. I love inspiring kids or providing them with tools that are going to help them.”

Kobe and Gianna

Kobe and Gianna

The Impact of The Death of Kobe

The loss of such a high-profile figure such as a sports star confronts us all at the deepest level of our being. If the death of Kobe happened so unexpectedly, maybe it can claim me! That loss, therefore, faces us with what we seek to avoid at all costs: our death. As I discussed in an earlier blog, we avoid the D word, (https://www.gordongrose.com/death-we-dare-not-speak-your-name/). We no longer (in the west) conduct a funeral. We celebrate the life of the deceased with memorial services, without a body because this represents the wishes of families and sometimes the deceased.

How The Death of Kobe Affects Us

But now, it seems, with the death of Kobe, all of our efforts to avoid the unpleasantness of death comes to naught. As a student of the Ancient Near East and of Biblical history, I find the struggle with death universal through the centuries. Usually, we die reluctantly, unwilling to yield to its inevitability. Yet, every living organism dies. It’s born, grows, reproduces, declines, and dies. Can you think of an exception?

In fact, Scripture is realistic in the face of death. “A voice says, ‘Cry out,’ and I [Isaiah] said, ‘What shall I cry?’  [The Lord answers:] ‘All men are like grass, and their glory is like the glory of the flowers of the field. The grass withers and the flowers fall…but the word of our God stands forever'” (Isaiah 40:6-8 NIV). If it’s immortality we seek, we’re sadly mistaken to think it comes in this natural life. Like flowers that bloom, we bloom; like flowers that fall, we fall. What, then, do we learn from the death of Kobe Bryant?

What we learn from The Death of Kobe Bryant:

  1. None of us is exempt. Just as grief is the price we pay for the love we feel when we lose a loved one, so death is the price we pay for the gift of life we share.
  2. Because our time here is limited, we do well to make the best use of it. We have only today. Have you examined your relationship with Death, or with the eternal word of God, recently?
  3. If we seek immortality, we’re looking in the wrong place if we avoid the word of God. Only God lives forever. Connect with Him, therefore, through his eternal word, and through his living Word in Jesus Christ.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           Sources: https://www.foxnews.com/sports/kobe-bryant-interview-death-helicopter-crash. Edmund DeMarche: https://foxwilmington.com/sports/weather-conditions-eyed-in-kobe-bryant-helicopter-crash-officials-say-2/ https://www.breitbart.com/sports/2020/01/26/how-kobe-bryants-catholic-faith-helped-him-turn-his-life-around/
    Images: Kobe Bryant and the 8 other crash victims: Twitter, Terrence Williams; Kobe Bryant and daughter Gianna: Modern Loss
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When I Lost My Computer–I Felt Amputated!

Apple 13" MacBook Pro

Lost, Misplaced, or Stolen?

On a busy day last week, I misplaced my laptop from my car. Had it been  stolen? I had parked close to where the tire people could retrieve it to replace my 4 worn tires with a set of new Premium tires. Then I drove to a supermarket where I left my car for a half-hour or so. Finally, I drove to my counseling clinic where I was to meet with clients that evening. Because another counselor was already using the room I was assigned for the next hour, I brought my materials with me into the clinic, but set them down in another room. When that other counselor ended his session, Frank and I transported my stuff to the new room.  But later, when I lost my computer, I felt amputated!

I Lost My Computer

That evening at home, upon emptying my car of my Daytimer, Professional case, lunch box, and water thermos, I found…no computer! Bought in 2018, it contained everything valuable to me and my ministry. Materials for the Sunday school classes I’ve taught, including outlines, handouts, and slides. Sermons. Workshop presentations. In addition, the Login to my blog: the UN and PW, no longer worked.

Also, all of my most recent personal Bible study notes, 23 single-spaced pages: “Christian Morality,” on the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5-7. And, most recently, accumulation of 17 pages of detailed notes on II Corinthians 5:11-21, on what “We Are Christ’s Ambassadors” means. Finally, I couldn’t print my spreadsheet containing my 2019 business expenses and income from speaking and selling my book. My tax information, too? All those hours I had put in entering and totaling–gone!

I Felt Amputated!

I had lost all my work, all my backlog of preparations, all my resources. “Well, Lord, it’s now just You and me!” I could count on nothing but Him to revive my memory of my previous work, or to give me something new to share. Where was my computer? Had I left it at the office? The next morning I returned to the clinic where I do volunteer counseling (https://goodsamraitanministries.org) to check the room I had used–no computer. I told a couple of people to be on the lookout.especially Rick, a colleague who spends more time around the office that I do.

Another friend, Frank, led me in believing prayer that, if it had been stolen, the thieves would be shamed into returning it promptly. On Frank’s advice, I retraced my steps and began asking questions. First, I went to the tire place, then to the supermarket to report it lost–or had it been stolen? That afternoon I called the police to report it stolen. I theorized what could have happened: taken from my inadvertently-left-unlocked car at the tire place, at the supermarket, or maybe the parking lot of the clinic. But that computer contained…years of work.

Self-Doubt

Did I slip up locking my car after a stop? How could I have been so stupid, or, more likely, careless? That still felt stupid! I checked Craig’s List to see if  my computer showed up. One of the officers said, if I found it there, a police officer would accompany me to buy it and I could show proof it had been stolen. I had the original bill of sale ($2100, https://apple.com). I explored with he insurance broker whether or not I should file a claim.

Then my wife helped me problem-solve: I could still access my Blog through the family computer, which I had bookmarked. I began to feel less frustrated. But my stress over missing my computer had led to losing sleep. I wakened between 4 and 5:00 a.m. Then (of course?) I began to feel a little soreness on the back of my tongue–and began sneezing. Now I was getting sick. I had missed my computer on Monday evening, talked to my colleagues at my counseling clinic on Tuesday morning, and  investigated the room I had used the previous night. Tuesday afternoon I reported the missing computer to the police and called my insurance company. Wednesday I felt sick and stayed in bed. But on Thursday morning, my wife fielded a call from Rick, my colleague at the clinic.

An Unexpected Call

“Hey, Gordon,” he said, “I was vacuuming your room and found your computer wedged beside the baseboard,” he said. “I opened the case and found your name: Gordon Grose.” I had a psychology manual in my case, with my name on it. Then I began the pleasurable tasks of feeling better physically (I had already begun taking our home herbal anti-viral remedies), retrieving my computer, and returning to the tasks which my computer, once lost, now found, enables.

Lessons From Losing My Computer

I learned what it feels like to lose my right arm, to feel amputated, cut off from all my accumulated resources, and to be totally dependent on the Lord for every future preparation. In reality, we need to learn that lesson over and over. With whatever tools we use to create, we must always rely on the Lord’s leading for the next task. We dare not ever rely on our resources or our selves to serve Him. The Lord had graciously returned my resources, but He also taught me my need to more fully depend on Him. Through Frank, he taught me the value of believing prayer.

What have you lost? Is it a piece of technology? your cell phone? or a part of your life? or a relationship? Whatever it is, you can, like me, tell Him, “Okay, Lord, It’s you and me. I need to depend on You fully.” Recalling that amputated feeling helps me remember anew what depending on God means. What deep need will you unload on Him?

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Lessons Time Teaches Us

Time to reflect on lessons time teaches

What Time Is It?

We are well into the New Year by now. Day three of a new decade as well as a new year. Friends at church say: “I can see better, now that it’s 2020!” People celebrate the turn from New Years Eve to New Years’ Day with “Happy New Year!” toasts. We all hope to have a happy New Year. We hope others do also. I’m still in good health and have led a busy 2019 teaching and preaching. I certainly hope you have a Happy New Year! But the New Year should lead us to explore some lessons time teaches us. In a 2017 blog (What Time Teaches Us, See link below), Victoria Logan identifies four lessons: 1. To Grow, 2. To be Grateful, 3. To Forgive, and 4. To not waste it. Her thoughts help us a lot, but I want to share some of my own reflections.

My Reflections

As my wife and I have aged, we’ve decided to downsize. We’ll live with our daughter and her family (if we can work out the interminable complications of building a new story to their home).  Now I must also find a home for my many books, collected over a lifetime. Some, when new cost me just $4.00, but now, even though they would be $20 or more new today, nobody wants them. Nobody wants books. Too much space to store them. Learn what you need on line. Google it! Our real estate agent says nobody wants our beautiful silverware set, either, or our fine china dishes. As time as edges us closer to the end of life (although living to 80 is like it used to be to live to 60), the creeping of time has taught me some important lessons. Time teaches us the everything is temporary.

Lesson Time Teaches us: Everything is Temporary

That’s something I’ve learned. All of our possessions, our home (which has provided great comfort and security) we must relinquish. Too big for us now, for people my age. Hard to keep ahead of the weeds, moss, growth. Too expensive to pay taxes on. Time to consolidate. I’ve had the opportunity to lead worship services to people in retirement homes. When I asked one lady where she was from, she said, “Dallas, Texas.” Why is someone from Dallas living in Oregon? Well, she had to leave her familiar surroundings, her treasured relationships with friends, doctors, and perhaps church friends, and move closer to family. In other words, time forced her to yield all of her life against her will. Everything she was and had was temporary. There’s another lesson time teaches us.

Lesson Time Teaches us: Loss is Real

In her move to Oregon, that lady had to leave behind her life. We avoid thinking of loss, setbacks, and disappointments, but they find us. Welcome or not, we have to face the realities of accident, death, disease. Talking with relatives across the continent (Dad came from Maine, Mom from Newfoundland), at least those who are still alive, I find they are slipping physically. One lost her husband two years ago. He was the last brother of my mother’s siblings. Another, one who married a cousin can’t get up out of her chair without help because of vertigo. She used to write chatty notes at Christmas, but not this year. One pastor friend lost his wife unexpectedly. Such is the result of the advance of time.

What About You?

Another lesson I’ve learned is how time forces me to think big thoughts. I recall commenting to a friend, “Why should I live another year? To see who wins the Super Bowl?” Big deal! Another friend, a physician who spent his life as a ob-gyn in Africa as a medical missionary, told me, “If we didn’t die, we’d never do anything. We’d be couch potatoes!” That’s true. Death limits our options; it forces us to get our priorities at least a lot better than if we lingered forever. Well If “they” must come to terms with Time, and I have to, what about You? What lessons has time taught you?

What Lasts?

Writers of Scripture reflected on lessons Time taught them. Twice in Scripture, we read, “All men are like grass, and their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord stands forever.” (I Peter 1:24; a quotation from Isaiah 40:6-8). We all think ourselves quite important, but Scripture is realistic- grass! Here today, and tomorrow, just like those who died last year, celebrities, younger than you and me; we outlived them and others will outlive us.

What is it that you’re doing that lasts? What legacy will you leave your loved-ones, friends, co-workers? How will we leave our mark? The key is the extent we live, love, and pass on the word of God. What will be my legacy, I wonder? Or yours? What lessons is time teaching you?

[Image: iStock photo.com; Article: Victoria Logan, https://www.theodysseyonline.com/what-time-teaches]

 

 

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Every Day Is A Gift We Need To Use Well

Your Christmas Gift: Life

Your Christmas Gift: Life

Christmas 2019

“Every day is a gift,” my 80+ year-old church friend Allen said. I had probably commented to him on his aging and the infinities he and his blind wife experienced. He led her on his arm everywhere she wanted to go. I can’t remember how it happened, whether he became ill, but Allen is gone now. He “passed” or “passed away.” I prefer the term we in polite society seem incapable of stating: he died. His wife still attends church and our class for seniors. I spoke with her again yesterday, December 22. Every day of life is a gift we need to use well.

It wasn’t too long ago that my friend Allen made that comment, but it’s one I’ve not forgotten. Nor do I intend to. The older I get (approaching Allen’s age when I spoke with him), the more I recall those words of wisdom. Every day (of life) is a gift. Life has revoked Allen’s gift. But I still have mine.

Every Day A Gift: Using Mine

I enjoy good health, due, in large part to the Texas doctor I saw in the early 2000’s. I live in Oregon, but through a complicated set of circumstances, our son, daughter-in-law, and wife all saw him for a time. Last year I actively taught classes, preached in several congregations, led a pastor’s retreat, and attended a national convention across the country in Virginia Beach. I especially want to spread the word about the hope I found in the Book of Job, so wherever I go, I share my book (Tragedy Transformed: How Job’s Recovery Can Provide Hope For Yours, 2015). I produce a monthly update on my activities and encourage supporters on my mailing list to pray for me as I continue to serve Christ and people’s needs. Every day of life is a gift I need use well.

But my gift makes all of this activity possible. God has given me a gift to use for Him: day by day I use that for service in Jesus’ name, help for hurting people, hope for the depressed. As long as God gives me each day as a gift, I intend to continue these activities as well as to provide support to my wife, four children, eight grandchildren, and three great grandchildren. Every day of life is a gift I need to use well.

 Using Your Gift

Well, since every day of life is a gift all of us need to use well, what about you? Life has not so far revoked your gift, right? You still have that same gift: Today! How will you use your gift this Christmas 2019?

[Credit: Photo istockphoto.com]

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Hope Through Tragedy Reading Job – Facing the Unavoidable II

"Our messy room" college dorm

Our messy room- Tobin

Finding Hope In Tragedy

At our son Paul’s college graduation my world began to turn upside down; tragedy snuck up on me. After six months, Paul also developed mononucleosis. Mono for each led to myalgic encephalomyelitis, also known as chronic fatigue syndrome. Juli later developed multiple chemical sensitivities and experienced vasculitis, a painful inflammation of her blood vessels upon chemical exposure. For years, I resisted facing it, but my son and daughter-in-law’s medical condition forced me to change my thinking, my habits, and my relationship with God. We never know when we will confront an overwhelming, inescapable demand to deal with tragedy. Although initially disappointed with our son Paul, eventually I had to face the unavoidable. But eventually I found hope through tragedy reading biblical Job.

Although the crises come less often these days, Elaine and I still never know when our son will need us to pick up a prescription or, unable to leave Juli, ask me to buy plumbing supplies on a Sunday morning because he accidentally broke their water pipes.

Hope Through Tragedy Reading Job

“Can I find hope through tragedy reading Job?” you ask. As we hunt for ways to grapple with personal tragedies, many people turn to the most famous story of personal tragedy we know—Job. “Job is my favorite book of the Bible,” people tell me. “The things that happened to him…” they say, their voice trailing off. Job’s story helps them put their problems into perspective; in light of Job’s tragedies, theirs seem minuscule.

But reading Job’s story for consolation, insight, or perspective creates difficulties. Like most of us, I tune in better to the prose of the story than to the poetic dialogue. As a result, when I read the book, I grasp the storyline at the beginning (the first two chapters) and at the end (the last chapter), but I find the disputes between Job and his friends tedious. I bog down in their well-meaning, but hurtful counsel, even when I read some elements of truth in what they say. I also find the long speeches toward the end wearing. What’s the point?

I’ve studied these sections again and again, though. And in them I see huge benefits. I found hope through tragedy. I write, therefore, to help us benefit from the large central section, the part we tend to skip. After careful study, that’s where I found the greatest treasure to deal with my tragedy. In the poetry of the dialogues with his wisdom colleagues, Job’s recovery comes to light. When I face the worst life brings, teasing out the life-lessons from Job’s inner experience through the middle of his story gives me hope. If Job gets better, maybe I can, too. If you need hope to recover from your tragedy, maybe Job’s story can also provide that hope for you. When tragedy confronts you as a disappointment to your expectations in the end may help you also face the unavoidable.

Where is God?

When we’re going through tragedy, one important question arises: Where is God? Easy answers, like He’s the sun above the clouds, trivialize our hurt; complex answers, like God’s omnipotence (He does what He wants), frustrate us; yet receiving no answer at all may seem to confirm our worst suspicions—God has forgotten us, abandoned us to Fate. If you’ve questioned God’s presence in tragedy, however, you’ll find in Job’s story at least the kernel of an answer. Job not only feels abandoned, but with great eloquence, he tells God about it. And, in a surprise, God responds, though not in the way Job expects.

Whatever tragedy we’ve experienced, Job’s story can encourage us, because through it we become aware of God’s very real presence. But it also warns us that the Sovereign Lord is not subject to our demands for answers. The answer Job receives rocks him every bit as much as his tragedies.

Hope for Our Story 

Job’s story, then, is our story, key to finding hope through tragedy. Along with observing his response to tragedy, we will see people today in tragedies similar to his. We’ll learn about their faith amid horrible life circumstances. Through no fault of our own at any point tragedy can disrupt our lives, cause untold grief, and, if we survive, change us forever.

In the book from which this material is excerpted (see below), modern-day fellow sufferers let us in on their real and poignant struggles as they faced strange physical illness, a natural disaster, a serious mental disorder, and insurmountable grief. They’ll show us how they’ve come to live a new normal— and how, even as victims of tragedy, they can and have recovered. Job’s story and theirs can provide you the hope you need for your recovery. Because they recovered, you can too. When unusual physical illnesses immobilized Paul and Juli, tragedy hit our whole extended family. When two state police officers with unwelcome news rang her doorbell, tragedy ambushed Melissa. Tragedy struck Andrea and her family when Hurricane Katrina’s waters flooded their city, church building, and home.

[Resources: For more stories of how people today found hope through their tragedy, read Tragedy Transformed: How Job’s Recovery Can Provide Hope For Yours at https://amzn.to/2mLvCeB or order to the left of this page through PayPal. Linda Kruschke also blogs on life and death, faith and fearlessness, music and poetry at https://anotherfearlessyear.net/my-blog-posts/ Our son Paul writes of his own experience with this same illness at https://www.gordongrose.com/chronic-fatigue-…fs-ii-guest-blog/ Photo: Picture: Xanadu II, Oscar Wilde House, Our Very Messy Room, Tobin, Flckr.com]

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Disappointment With Our Son — Facing the Unavoidable

"Our messy room" college dorm

Disappointment: Our Very Messy Room- Tobin

My wife Elaine and I took one look at our son Paul’s college room, then stared at each other. Disappointed, we saw: papers, books, clothes, bedding, dust, paperclips—and, as we got down on our knees to clean, dirt. Two days from his graduation, our son had nothing sorted, and nothing packed. We needed to box—and ship—everything in those two days. Elaine and I felt proud to have our son attend our alma mater. Paul demonstrated academic achievement, musical gifts, and an outgoing personality. We knew he would go far. But now we felt disappointment with our son.

“Stay close to the Lord.” That was my last bit of counsel four years earlier in our last moments together. I said my piece, then I left him to introduce himself to new class- mates. Now here we were knee-deep in the multiplied stuff he accumulated in those four years. But what we didn’t know: he was facing the unavoidable illness of his future wife.

“I had to help Juli.”

Paul wasn’t immune to the concern that showed on our faces. He defended himself, “But, Dad and Mom, I had to help Juli.” He was right, he did. Six weeks earlier Paul’s fiancée, Juli, came down with infectious mononucleosis. Too weak to attend classes, she needed daily tutoring. In addition to completing his studies, Paul stepped in to help Juli keep up her classwork so she could graduate.

But it wasn’t just graduation that weighed heavily. The couple’s wedding was looming closer even than graduation. Juli’s dad, the Rev. Jim Andrews, and I were going to conduct the ceremony together. Some friends the couple wanted to participate—bridesmaids, groomsmen, and performers in a string quartet—were children of missionary parents. The day after graduation, they would depart for destinations around the world. The only day to have everyone together was the day before graduation.

Anger

Elaine and I, anticipating the pleasure of Paul’s wedding and graduation, felt angry that he’d left the cleaning of his room for us. But we weren’t the only ones to face disappointment. Because of the need to clean Juli’s room, her mother Olsie didn’t even make it to their graduation. That was the initial impact of Juli’s illness on Paul and all of us parents. That impact didn’t lessen in the years that followed. Initially, Elaine and I felt disappointed and angry with our son Paul, but eventually, we also had to come to terms with Juli’s illness.

[From Chapter 1, Tragedy Transformed: How Job’s Recovery Can Provide Hope For Yours (2015). This book is available on this website through PayPal or at https://amzn.to/2mLvCeB.  Look for another excerpt next week. Paul writes of his own experience with this same illness at https://www.gordongrose.com/chronic-fatigue-…fs-ii-guest-blog/ Picture: Xanadu II, Oscar Wilde House, Our Very Messy Room, Tobin, Flckr.com]

Posted in The Sufferer | Comments Off on Disappointment With Our Son — Facing the Unavoidable

Help Partner Help Addict

To help your addicted loved one, help their partner, friend or spouse. In many cases that may be the only way to help change an addict’s behavior. “Could you get my husband to stop drinking,” a young woman wanted to know, “for my sake and for the sake of our children?” A member of my congregation, she expressed concern to me, her pastor, about her drinking husband. Her appeal for her children tugged at my heart. But I needed to help this partner help her addict.

In a recent blog, I discussed one reason addicted people drop out of church (See https://www.gordongrose.com/signal-addiction/). Here I want to explore how to draw an addict in. Usually it’s a wife who comes to their pastor to complain about a husband’s excessive drinking.  Then there’s the request, stated or implied, that you do something about it.  You can reach out, talk to them, or take them to an AA meeting.  Life for them has become unbearable.  You suspect, however, that, on the one hand, the risk of alienating is much greater than the probability of receptivity. On the other hand, however, if you turn her down flat, you risk alienating her. What do you do?

Helping The Spouse

Help partner help their addict. Because active addicts tend to blame others for their decisions, living with them is fraught with conflict. Some experience it as hell on earth. Addicts need a way to avoid dealing with how badly they are addicted, and how unable they are to take charge of their life. They, therefore, deflect criticism to others and from their own guilt within. They will argue, blame, excuse themselves, and otherwise make getting along with them all but impossible. Only by succumbing to the temptation to placate their wrath by giving in to their every whim: buy my alcohol, call my boss and say I’m sick, you should have known better, etc.

Jesus challenges us to live as a child of God in whatever situation we find ourselves. Because it runs counter to our human nature to love our enemy, in the case of an addicted loved-one who declares war, we’ll need help to do it. We’ll also need time to practice love.  

What To Expect

To help your addict, you will need help. To You can’t do it alone. You’ll need coaching support in your battle to love your addicted husband, wife, or child. Here is what you can expect of the coaching process: At first, failure; then, insight after the fight; eventually, insight beforehand almost averts the fight; finally, you stand firm with kindness, with no fight (at least from you). To learn to live as a gracious child of God in such a relationship will require a lot of support. We also need Jesus’ love. Pastor, you can coach others to practice Christian love and to help them place responsibility for the addict’s behavior where it belongs. Al-Anon and Celebrate Recovery also provide invaluable support. Check out www.celebraterecovery.com     

In my case, I was this woman’s pastor. Sometimes a woman will approach a friend or relative of her husband in order to elicit help with her husband’s drinking. In general, when a person seeks you out for help, it is they who have the problem. That is never more true that with the spouse of someone addicted. Because they are aware of their need for help, your challenge is to enlist them in the process of change. Of course Al-Anon and Celebrate Recovery will help them, but what can you do to help them?

Help Partner Help Addict

When that young wife came to see me, I proposed a series of meetings with her about how she could handle herself. I had recently read a paper that outlined a strategy for dealing with people with alcohol addiction, so I applied those lessons to help her.

Lesson 1. Stop your persecution. That means, stop your angry, snide comments. Don’t throw away the substance. Don’t give any excuse to blame you (the spouse) for the addict’s behavior. “My wife’s a b—-! I’m going for a drink.” Instead you consistently demonstrate love, concern, and care for your spouse. All the while expressing your desire they stop using. “I love you, but I don’t want you to _________.

Lesson 2. Stop allowing yourself to be used as a patsy. Just as harassing can provide the excuse your spouse needs to use, so does its opposite. You enable their continued using through your involvement in the addicted’s behavior: buying it for them, doing it with them, or making excuses for them.  When the boss calls, put them on the phone. Stay out of it.

Lesson 3. Be kind, but always straghtforward, truthful, and honest. “I care about our marriage and our family,” you say. “Your (addiction) is your decision. I would like you to find help, but it’s up to you.”

Over a period of weeks, that approach with the wife who came to me finally got to her husband.”He stomped his feet,” she reported, and yelled, ‘Why do you keep saying it’s up to me?’” He fumed, but the changed relationship put enormous pressure on him to change. As a result, he eventually began coming to church with her! This wife needed coaching over and over to keep her on target, but her tough love for her husband broke his addiction and drew him to Christ.

Who Needs Your Tough Love?

Do you live with someone addicted to drugs or alcohol? Gambling? Internet porn? Your life is not easy, but it will be much better if you maintain your love, while holding your loved-one responsible for their own behavior.

[Photo: alcoholtreatment.net No copyright infringement intended. For additional resources consult: https://americanaddictioncenters.org/alcoholism-treatment/spouse and https://www.alcohol.org/helping-an-alcoholic/husband/ Click here for a free ebook: https://docs.google.com/file/d/1rIGOglYpMYKAAL-IR7H6D65sts_WQkfKEVyTrdyz4nI/edit]

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Hope For People with Bipolar Illness

Vincent Willem van Gogh
Self-portrait, 1887

There is hope for people with bipolar illness. Many famous artists, such as Vincent Van Gogh, lived with manic-depression without the benefits of our current state of knowledge. Living with that disorder, now named bipolar illness, presents challenges beyond most people’s comprehension. Most mental illness, we now know, comes from early childhood trauma, as I describe in a previous blog (https://www.gordongrose.com/where-mental-illness/). But some disorders, like bipolar illness, derives from a strong genetic component.

To anyone diagnosed with bipolar illness, however, these questions confront them daily: How do I live with this? Where can I find ways to get through today without allowing my symptoms to develop, intensify, or dominate my life? How do I support myself, my family, and remain productive? How can I make the most of a poor (at best) genetic inheritance?

Although I do not have bipolar illness, I have worked professionally with people who do. And one of my family members is diagnosed with bipolar illness. Let me, therefore, venture to put myself in your shoes.

Finding Hope through Facing My Sadness

Facing sadness can in the end result in hope. Like any grief, my diagnosis represents huge loss. Although I’m relieved I can name it, I also live under a cloud, a handicap as real as any limp. Like any loss, therefore, I must give up pretending I’m normal. I need to allow myself to feel sad, and to let down my defenses. Denial allows me to minimize my disability, expect too much of myself, and shun medications because of their side-effects. Meds also prevent my mania, which I enjoy. Self-aggrandizement allows me to talk circles around others, work without sleep, and fosters my narcissistic sense of superiority. But when my mania fails, I crash: “What’s the use of living?” But there is hope for people with bipolar illness.

My first challenge, then: face my sadness. I do have an illness that hampers my functioning. I feel sad; I need to mourn. 

Finding Hope Through Taking Charge

Hope also derives from taking charge. Moving from my position as a victim of genetics or of circumstances to an agent of change, decision, and choice represents my greatest asset as a person. So can I learn to work within my limits? How do I make the best of a difficult situation? Can I find strength I never knew I had: in God, in a Higher Power, in counselors, and/or in social support? How can I mobilize a team to sustain me: medical practitioners, friends, professional colleagues, neighbors, family? None of us lives life alone, but my living with bipolar illness makes dependence on the good will, and concrete support of others all the more necessary.

Finding Hope to Go On

 How can I find hope to go on? To persevere daily under a cloud of uncertainty? We can also find hope by observing how others dealt with the illness. Others have been where I am now, I tell myself. I’m not the first, nor the only person living with bipolar disorder. How do they cope? In what ways can I draw on their experience, failures and successes to teach me what to avoid, and what to pursue?

Are you living with bipolar illness? How do you face your sadness, take charge of your health, and mobilize the resources that give you hope?

[Note: A earlier version of this article first appeared at http://www.bipolarhappens.com/bhblog/gordon-grose-tragedy-transformed/ My thanks to Julie Fast for her invitation to write a guest blog. If you are diagnosed with bipolar illness, I urge you to visit her site and take advantage of her extensive writing and self-help resources. Another resource: Darkness Is My Only Companion: A Christian Response to Mental Illness, by Katherine Greene-McCreight, Brazos, 2006. The author is an ordained Episcopal Priest and is diagnosed with bipolar illness. Picture: en.wikipedia.org No attempt to avoid copyright intended]

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