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The Prince of Peace

The word PEACE is often used in our vocabulary as the absence of conflict but in the context of scripture it means complete or whole, a state of completeness.  To make complete or to restore.  The Jewish people thought Jesus was born to bring them political restoration.  Jesus’ plan was much bigger, His purpose was to restore mankind to Him.

Unfortunately, I try to find peace in this troubled world in my own wisdom and strength. Instead of just trusting in the fullness of Christ, I want Him to fix my earthly problems, much like the Jewish people in their hopes that He would overthrow their government.  I’m so busy focusing on the here and now that I don’t see the bigger purpose, the eternal plan.

Last Christmas our family was clinging to the last few excruciating weeks of my dad’s life on earth.  Only then, almost a year ago, as we gathered each day in my parent’s bedroom around my dad’s hospital bed, did I finally learn what true peace was.   Even in our struggle and trauma that life can bring to us….Jesus is enough.  As we watched my dad slowly slip away day by day, there was nothing we could do.  In those moments, we only had Jesus, and that was all we needed.  Somehow in the sadness and desperation of our situation, Jesus gifted us with His powerful peace.  I don’t understand it, I struggle to articulate it but the restoration and wholeness of Christ brought miraculous peace into an otherwise devastating circumstance.  As terrible as those last couple of months were, I  am humbled and thankful for God teaching me the true meaning of peace and the shift from an earthly perspective, to a heavenly one.

The following two paragraphs are my mom’s words about our time as we, as a family, had the privilege and holy experience of watching God usher my dad into His presence and the peace that we felt in such an unexpected place…

Somewhere along the line of our journey with ALS, our bedroom became transformed into a hospital room.  All the equipment needed to care for Gary took over the room more than we liked but it was all part of the process.  Our master bedroom (turned in-home hospital room) became our place to live, read God’s Word, pray, sing,  greet friends, laugh, cry, worship and fall more in love with each other and Jesus.  We also learned to be more eternally minded rather than focused on earthly things.  Learning to cherish every moment given and doing the best to make the most of each minute of every day.  Our bedroom became a sacred place where we lived out those last precious months with Gary.  It was where we held hands and remember our lives together.  We shared our love for one another and our hopes and dreams for our children and grandchildren.  It was in that room that we said our goodbyes and shed many tears as God ushered Gary into His eternal presence.

It was strange after Gary was gone how quickly our bedroom was transformed back to it’s original purpose.  The hectic daily routine of nurses visits, aids giving showers, medications being administered, tube feedings prepared, and visitors ceased and it was as if my life stopped along with it.  Now our home is quiet and feels so very empty.  No more hectic daily “care routines” or the sounds of the struggle for life.  Only stillness and loneliness fill the void.  Life will never be the same again in that sacred room.  Neither will the battle for life there be forgotten.  Yet in that room I still meet with God and cry and rejoice over life and it’s challenges.  God has given us a promise of hope.  He tells us we will be together again for all eternity.  So you see, our trials here on earth are but a vapor…  Here one moment and gone the next.  Our promise is for “eternal life” with our God and King.  It’s like Gary said when he was given his diagnosis…”We are all terminal”.

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“For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us;
And the government will rest on His shoulders;
And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Eternal Father, Prince of Peace”

(Isaiah 9:6).

As Christmas approaches, let God in His eternal completeness bring you miraculous peace.

Jesus is enough.

 

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One Day at a Time…Part 3 (Living with ALS)

WHAT ALS CANNOT DO…

The following is an email my dad sent out in January of 2015.  This would have been right in the middle of his ALS journey.  He underwent a very invasive surgery a couple months prior to this email to insert a trachea tube in his throat.  He was in the hospital for about three weeks following that procedure with tremendous difficulty adapting to it, yet he maintained a thankful and tender attitude toward God.  If  you are facing difficult circumstances, please read the following and let God speak to your heart as you enter this Christmas season…

Greetings to all of you.  My prayer is that you had a wonderful Christmas and a Happy and Blessed New Year.  God is faithful and His mercy and love are new every morning.

Recently my brother-in-law, Tom, who is battling lung cancer, gave me a saying that I thought was very good.  It’s title was “What Cancer Cannot Do.”  In my case I would like to substitute the word cancer and replace it with ALS.  You can do the same thing with what you are struggling with.

WHAT ALS CANNOT DO…

ALS cannot cripple love

ALS cannot shatter hope

ALS cannot corrode faith

ALS cannot destroy peace

ALS cannot kill friendship

ALS cannot suppress memories

ALS cannot silence courage

ALS cannot steal eternal life

ALS cannot conquer the spirit

Like I say, you can substitute any sickness or struggle you are going through.

In October, I had a trachea tube installed.  It’s purpose is to connect to a ventilator while I am sleeping at night.  The trachea tube was a real challenge for the first eight weeks, but now I have adapted fairly well.  I do rest better with the vent at night and wake up more refreshed.  Vickie and I continue to keep our eyes on Jesus and walk day by day with Him.

“His delight is not in the strength of the horse, nor His pleasure in the legs of a man, but the Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in His steadfast love.”  Psalm 147:10-11

We are not going to let ALS rob us of our peace and hope.  Thank you so much for your prayers and support.  It really means a lot t us knowing you are praying.  God is faithful.

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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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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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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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