Pastor's Pastor

Pastor's Pastor: Memorial Day recovery

Pastor's Pastor: Memorial Day recovery

I feel fortunate to be alive.

James A. Cress is the Ministerial Secretary of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists.

Memorial Day, America’s first of the summer holidays— celebrated at the end of the month of May—is a time to remember our fallen soldiers, share family reunions, and enjoy picnics, baseball, popcorn, and the arrival of summer’s warm weather.

This year, Sharon and I would have much preferred visiting a location where we could have remembered her father, Ewell Wyatt, a genuine hero pilot of World War II’s greatest generation, who died just over a year ago. Or we could have shared the day with good friends and a backyard cookout commemorating our wedding anniversary that always falls just a few days after the holiday. This year I had planned to install a birdbath fountain in our garden to honor our 39 years of marriage.

However, instead of fun in the sun, I was convalescing at home after 15 days in the hospital and watching from my sickbed as Sharon valiantly installed the birdbath on her own.

I feel fortunate to be alive. After months of ignoring a low-grade infection, the problem suddenly turned vicious. While Sharon was traveling, I was left alone, unconscious on our bedroom floor for over 12 hours with a fever and disease compromising virtually every bodily system coupled with hallucinations wilder than any drug-induced trip could have produced. When my coworkers alerted Sharon of my absence at appointments, she telephoned our neighbors to search for me, and I was rushed by emergency squad to the hospital.

Although the reasons for my predicament were my own fault—a vastly overextended travel schedule, long hours in the office during tooshort interludes between itineraries, neglecting exercise, disregarding a balanced diet and sufficient rest or even a vacation break—the consequences of this rampant infection spread until our whole family suffered as the doctors battled the disease.

I believe I have learned some serious lessons. Please pray for me as I resolve to change my behavior. I am on a new exercise regimen aimed at weight loss, glucose control, blood pressure reduction, and regaining strength.

My experience has been a particularly bitter education since I had mistakenly presumed that I was the exception to what I understood and preached. I have always taught and proclaimed grace; but I have worked as if I believed that earnest labor would somehow merit God’s protection from the consequences of disobeying His natural laws of rest, balance, health, and exercise. So, when the crash came, it was more than physical as I grappled with the reality that my treatment of the Holy Spirit’s temple in my body had been disgraceful. More than my blood chemistry being out of balance, my entire being had been compromised.

During my month-long absence, my associates performed outstanding service in carrying the workload; and my trust of their judgment and competence was greatly rewarded.The spiritual care I needed was also abundantly supplied as my pastor and the hospital chaplains visited and prayed with me, and prayer chains across the globe included me in their petitions. One group from another denomination even heard of my plight and convened a special Communion service to focus their prayer and fellowship on my needs. How gracious and kind!

Beyond these generous outpourings of thoughtfulness from family, loved ones, and individuals whom I have never met, Sharon and I were particularly blessed by two dear friends whom we requested to spiritually minister to us. As they prayed and read wonderfully assuring Bible passages, waves of gospel joy flooded into my mind and body with reassurances as I once again felt the good news applied to my own soul.

And I cannot sufficiently express love and appreciation for Sharon’s patience and partnership in this long process. Beyond her already-tooheavy load, she undertook many extra detailed responsibilities and functions—in addition to the stress of having a sick spouse whom she describes as “not a good patient.”

If I am not a good patient, I must add that Sharon is not a “natural nurse”—along the model of the good Samaritan who applied sweet oils, bound up lacerations, and tenderly cared for the wounded victim. Instead, Sharon chooses a more direct style. Paraphrasing Jesus’ own command, she says, “Get out of your bed and walk!”

So as I attempt to implement her directive with significant changes in dietary, exercise, rest, and workload factors that sanity should have altered long before this, I solicit your prayers both for me as well as for too many other pastoral colleagues who need this cautionary counsel about rushing down the same destructive path.

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James A. Cress is the Ministerial Secretary of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists.

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