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One Day at a Time…Part 2 (Living with ALS)

TERMINAL

The following is part 2 of “One Day at a Time”. It is one of my dad’s letters upon getting the confirmation that he was indeed diagnosed with ALS. Although he wasn’t speaking well at this point (he would later lose his speech altogether), he was able to write. As his journey with ALS was just beginning, these were his thoughts. He would go on to endure 6 more years of agony but still never wavered from an attitude of thankfulness. These are all his words, they bring me such comfort even now as I can rejoice that he will be celebrating his first Christmas with Jesus in heaven. This is what he wanted all of us, his family and friends, to understand and I am so grateful to have these precious words from him…

On July 2012 my wife received a call from the Hampton VA Medial Center with some words that no one wants to hear. The health official said, “I am sorry to inform you that your husband has ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease).”

It was really not a total shock to us because for eighteen months they had been testing me and the handwriting was on the wall. I am the fifth person in my family to have ALS. When it comes to treating ALS, all the doctors can say is “I’m sorry,” and they informed us that there is no further treatment and no cure…this disease is terminal.

As a Christian, I thought about the word terminal and began to think about what that means here on earth. Yes, we will all die someday a physical death. But for the Christian, the word “terminal” does not apply.

Jesus said to Martha in John 11:25-27, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?”

Martha answered Jesus, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.”

This is good news for all of us! You may be a picture of health but no one can live forever in our earthly bodies. So those who are in Christ will live forever and the word “terminal” has no affect. In 1972 I received Christ as my Savior and was taken from darkness into His marvelous light. Be of good cheer! Death has lost its sting and we will live forever with Him!

Vickie and I again say thanks for all the support, encouraging words and prayers for our family. We find strength in God to live each day and live it to the fullest.

Gary Tingwald

Just a Note: What is the definition of a good day? Here is my definition: Knowing that God is there every moment and I can breathe. That is a good day.

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Live, Uncategorized

One Day at a Time… Part 1 (Living with ALS)

The following is a short letter my dad wrote right after he was diagnosed with ALS (Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a motor neurone disease, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease).  This letter was published in the SCM News (Southeastern Correctional Ministry) in June of 2014, a ministry where he served as Senior Chaplain until his disease took away his ability to speak.  He passed away in February of this year and we miss him terribly but treasure the words he left behind as an encouragement for all of us.

Joyce Everett, current Senior Chaplain of SCM wrote:

“In life we meet so many good people that love the Lord Jesus and serve him with all their heart. The former Senior Chaplain of SCM, Chaplain Gary Tingwald, is one of those people. He is such a blessing. Once you meet him your life is never the same.

I have been senior Chaplain a little over a year and I have received so many calls asking about Chaplain Gary, I felt led by God to ask him to address the SCM family in this months news letter edition and this is what he wanted to say to all of you:”

A NOTE FROM CHAPLAIN GARY:

I wanted to give all of you an update on what has been happening. Some one asked me, “how are you doing”?  This is my answer: “I’m doing fine but my body has a problem.”

I am no longer able to talk or eat.  All of my nourishment comes by way of a stomach tube and I have devices that help m15235664_10211303763934484_3329934996245866820_oe communicate.

It is not as bad as you might think because God’s presence is always with us.  We are traveling to visit family in many different states and God uses Vickie and I to minister to them.  God has blessed me with a wonderful wife and supportive family.

I really miss the jail ministry and seeing all of you.  Our prayers are with you as you continue to bring the good news to the jails.  God Bless.

“So we do not loose heart.  Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.  For this light monetary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison…”  2 Corinthians 4:16-17a

Chaplain Gary

It is not as bad as you might think because God’s presence is always with us.

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Facing the Holidays Without A Loved One

Always keep open communications with God during seasons of suffering.

I don’t know if it’s because I am an introvert but I fight the urge to just want to completely shut down when I feel overwhelmed with grief and the challenges we face during difficult seasons. Feelings of just wanting to withdraw from my family and friends during those times can take over my thoughts, in many ways it’s a feeling of not wanting to be a burden on them, sometimes it’s just as simple as not knowing how to express my feelings. In those times I find myself even shutting God out as if my burdens are too insignificant and I shouldn’t bother the Creator of the universe with my silly issues.

I don’t like that place of sadness and life interrupted by pain. As the holidays are quickly approaching, I find myself feeling like I need to grab onto something firm and steady myself for the waves of sadness that come rolling in when I think of my dad not being here this Thanksgiving and Christmas, this is the first holiday season without him. When I think of my mom facing this season without her husband and love of her life, it just seems unbearable.

A few lessons I’ve learned over the past couple of years as we endured suffering and loss is that it’s important to maintain open and honest communication with God. As bad as you may feel and as painful as your situation may be, don’t be afraid to trust God with your circumstances and emotions as you experience tough times. Be open and honest with those closest to you, communication is so important.

Go to scripture! God speaks to us through His Word. As I explored scripture and read over familiar passages I was struck at how much more meaningful the words in the Bible are when I’m going through trials. From the very first book in the Old Testament to the very last book in the New Testament, the Bible is full of people facing hardship and unbearable circumstances. I found comfort in reading through the Psalms and could relate to many of King David’s prayers and heartfelt laments to God. I see Paul suffer persecution time after time but never wavering and always encouraging the New Testament Churches, oftentimes from prison! The love Jesus showed as he was beaten, mocked, hung on a cross and died a gruesome death because of His love for me is so unfathomable that it’s hard to even come up with the appropriate words of gratitude. When you take the time to study scripture it’s evident time and time again that God understands and knows suffering and pain. I find comfort in knowing that.

Another important component when in seasons of suffering is to find community with others. Friends that you trust with your emotions, those you can talk openly with. People that will walk alongside you and lift you up in prayer when you find yourself in dark and lonely places. Likewise, it is important that you be someone who is not afraid to lift others up when they need encouragement and support. There’s nothing more precious and Biblical than Christian community, helping one another through life’s challenges.

Lastly, just embrace your circumstances no matter how difficult they become. Let God mold you and teach you during those hard times. As crazy as it sounds, I always feel the closest to God when I’m in such a desperate place that there is nothing left of my strength. I know if I turn everything I have over to Him, He will meet my needs in His perfect way. Don’t stop loving and serving others, but continue to let God work through you giving you strength to do so. The most powerful witness of God’s love is even when you are experiencing suffering you still have a desire to be obedient and be used by God to help others on their spiritual journey. God works powerfully in and through our pain. What a beautiful picture of a pure and complete love that only comes from above. I am weak but in my weakness I am strong through Christ’s strength! There are so many people in similar circumstances during the holidays, trying to manage grief and holiday cheer all at the same time. Don’t be scared to embrace your pain and sadness and let God, His Scripture and your Christian Community comfort you. In doing so, you will find peace and grace and you will be able to comfort others in their moments of deepest need.

I know My dad is happy and pain free in heaven. I know that we will be sad without him here but we will make new memories as a family, always keeping my dad’s memory alive and close to our hearts. As those waves of sadness come I know I have to hold on to Christ to steady me, He’s the only sure and safe foundation in the hazardous rip currents of our lives.

Psalm 62

Find rest, O my soul, in God alone;
My hope comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation;
He is my fortress, I will not be shaken.
My salvation and my honor depend on God;
He is my mighty rock, my refuge.
Trust in him at all times, O people;
Pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.
Psalm 62:5-8 NIV

 

Live

I Choose Suffering

Isaiah 51:6 “Lift up your eyes to the sky, Then look to the earth beneath; For the sky will vanish like smoke, And the earth will wear out like a garment And its inhabitants will die in like manner; But My salvation will be forever, And My righteousness will not wane.

Have you ever felt like a sinking ship being tossed to and fro in a relentlessly angry sea? I have. I feel quite certain that I am not alone, I’m sure there are others that are sinking in the raging waters even now. Sometimes we face the ugly reality of suffering because we have made a bad or possibly several bad decisions, facing consequences that we must resign ourselves to. What happens when the harsh pangs of suffering find us because of circumstances outside of our control, like a ship sailing perilously into unavoidable winds. For the past several years (seven to be exact) our family has been flailing in the open waters of a raging sea, clinging with every bit of strength we can muster to a water logged life preserver. You see, my dad was diagnosed with a monster of a disease called ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis). This was a death sentence that slowly robbed him of his ability to speak, eat, move and sometimes even breath on his own. My mom spent her days tirelessly but lovingly caring for him until the very end. The past couple of years of his life were absolutely excruciating for him, he had constant issues with bed sores and excessive weight loss, pain meds were unable to keep us with his dreadful discomfort. He was trapped inside his own torture chamber day after agonizing day. Even in the midst of the myriad of feeding and ventilator tubes in his make shift hospital room in their home, there was a strange peace that accompanied his mighty tempest of suffering. The peace was one that could only be gifted from one source, Jesus. My dad was a pastor before being forced to retire due to his inability to speak not long after his diagnosis. This was a man that had always walked out his faith, he was an unassuming shepherd that loved God and people passionately. His ability to minister to others was done with a uniquely quiet strength that I have never seen in another individual. So, that is how he faced his dreadful last few years, choosing suffering with a quiet and peaceful strength that only comes from God. I learned so much watching his love for Jesus and others around him- even while he was on his bed of affliction, a prisoner in his own body, those who came to visit him would find themselves leaving encouraged and strengthened in their faith.

Life is strange sometimes…

Life is so strange sometimes. I wish my dad wouldn’t have spent the last few years of his life the way he did, I wanted him to be able to throw the football with my boys, to wrestle on the floor and chase them around the house until they were out of breath from laughter. But that wasn’t the life we were given. To say I spent many hours questioning and wrestling with God would be a gross understatement. Somehow through the pain and suffering we had countless holy encounters with our creator, times that only He was able to issue the strength, courage and ability we needed to keep moving on this terrifying journey. My faith was reinforced and even invigorated even in the sadness and constant sorrow of loss. It was an unexpected and divine gift that came out of an atrocious season of suffering. My heavenly father faced suffering I can’t even imagine. My earthly father faced suffering that I could barely find the courage to watch toward the end. Not only did Jesus endure horrible suffering for us but he chose it. He chose it so that you and I could be free from sin. I don’t understand it, but I am so humbled and grateful for it.
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I choose suffering because it was and is God’s plan, I choose suffering because He met me at that place of exhaustion and made me a better follower of Him. He used my dad as a beautiful vessel to teach me and countless others the lesson of loving Christ deeper even when suffering. I live by the ocean. It’s beautiful and frightening at the same time. This life is beautiful but suffering will come, embrace it. Learn from it. Be stronger because of it. Allow Christ to meet you in your most dreadful storm that life will certainly throw at you. My dad did and he taught me to embrace it through the power of our heavenly Father. The Prince of Peace.
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