Thursday, December 8, 2016
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South Texas Living

The spiritual dimension of life

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March 23, 2016 | 1,328 views | Post a comment

I’ve had one of those weeks when one is reminded just how fragile life is and how unexpected physical challenges can pop up at any time. My visit to the specialist to inspect my vocal cords was not what I was hoping. It seems the cord just worked on this past December has already blossomed again and surgery is scheduled for the 29th of this month.

My wife has been dealing with medicines that are no longer working as physical changes have made them ineffective. In the search for replacement meds she has been very sick for about a month, but it appears the doctor has found something that is going to work, hopefully lifting her quality of life.

My sister in Houston, having had gone through several cancer surgeries and treatments, is now in a state of terminal illness. A trip to Houston and back put my life on hold for a couple of days and another trip the first of this week will do the same again. If that wasn’t enough for one week, my little Bella started coughing and snorking demanding a visit to the vet to find out what was going on there. A springtime allergy is our best guess at the moment and some medicine to see if that helps. One doesn’t know whether to scream or sit and cry.

Howard Rutledge, a U.S. Air Force pilot, was shot down over North Vietnam during the early stages of that war. He spent several miserable years in the hands of his captors before being released at the war’s conclusion. In his book In the Presence of Mine Enemies, he reflects upon the resources from which he drew in those arduous days when life seemed so intolerable. “During those longer periods of forced reflection, it became so much easier to separate the important from the trivial, the worthwhile from the waste. For example, in the past, I usually worked or played hard on Sundays and had no time for church. For years Phyllis (his wife) had encouraged me to join the family at church.

“She never nagged or scolded, she just kept hoping. But I was too busy, too preoccupied, to spend one or two short hours a week thinking about the really important things. Now the sights and sounds and smells of death were all around me. My hunger for spiritual food soon outdid my hunger for a steak. Now I want to talk about God and Christ and the church. But in Heartbreak’s (the name the POWs gave their prison camp) solitary confinement, there was no preacher, no Sunday school teacher, no Bible, no hymnbook, no community of believers to guide and sustain me. I had completely neglected the spiritual dimension of my life. It took prison to show me how empty life is without God.”

It took the presence of a POW camp to show Rutledge that there was a center to his private world that he had been neglecting all his life.

[Ecclesiastes 12:13] Carri, my sister, has settled into an assisted living facility where she will spend the rest of her days in this world. It may seem hard to find any joy or a silver lining in terminal cancer, but one doesn’t have to look very deep, for my sister is wearing it like a coat of many colors given to her by the Father who loves her very much. She, like most all of us, had once neglected her spiritual well-being for a while, but rekindled the flame that is this day keeping her warm in the knowledge that there is a home waiting for her after departing this life. Ask her and she’ll tell you all about it. She says she is experiencing a calming peace she has never had before and is not afraid or worried about a thing. At present, her physical and spiritual hungers are being filled.

Thomas W. Bonham is an associate minister with the Floresville Church of Christ. Email him at Find his column on his blog at

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