Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Lament for a Drop

Tomorrow in Denver, the temperature will drop thirty degrees. This is just a quirk of this mountainous region for many; for others, it is horrible and (literally) dread-ful. They dread what it does to their fragile and pain-wracked bodies. Those with many chronic illness are given a body blow by these barometric plunges. All their symptoms exacerbate, and they can rule out most meaningful activities on these cold-before-much-warmer days.

I lament for all of you--wherever you are--in these times. Truly the whole world groans together in travail awaiting its final redemption. We, too, groan; and we all groan differently. The chronically ill groan in ways little understood by others. But I understand. I groan and lament with you all.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Being in the World

Our being in the world is determined by presence and absence, by fellowship and loneliness. We are never truly alone because our life is conditioned by others. This is so obvious, but one notices it when either a loved one loses much of their previous personality through illness or one simply loses a loved one to death. After this, one is not the same. You are alone; you are lonely. The other is not available in the same way (because of illness), or not available at all (except in memory) through death.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Art of Condolence Writing

As I read cards and Facebook posts and emails of condolence, I wonder over the art of writing a condolence message. What, exactly, makes it apt? A few elements come to mind.

Of course, one should express genuine sorrow, which may or may not be captured by a prefabricated card. But if one used a set text from such a card, one needs to add a few of one's own words in one's own handwriting. The sorrow should not be despairing (which is the sin of giving up on God), but respectful and tender.

Another aspect of condolence is remembering and appreciating the life now over: a few words about the deceased smile or laugh or kindness. This sparks bright memories that dispel a bit of the harsh darkness of death.

The better condolences also offer hope for the bereft, the bereaved, the grieving; they offer some non-cliched reason to believe your sorrow will lighten, your life will move into brighter places, that this death will one day be swallowed up in victory (if that can be honestly said of the newly dead).

Other condolences are less wise; their vices include overused phrases robbed of meaning through overuse: "earth's loss is heaven's gain," and so on. Better to use your own faltering words than to steal such stock phrases. Yes, "its the thought that counts"--but why not try to match the right words with such sentiments?

Perhaps the most grievous failure in words of condolence is silence--no words at all. Those close to you and your beloved deceased write nothing. Why is this? Perhaps these souls are overwhelmed by the prospect of writing such weighty words. Instead of failing (after all, how many of them are professional writers or pastors or counselors--people who are supposed to know how to do such things?), they succeed by doing nothing, claiming an inability that renders them mute, thus making the bereaved even more lonely in their losses.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

My mother died on Dec. 6, 2010.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

In Praise of my Mother, Lillian C. Groothuis

As my mother's earthly life draws to a slow and sad close at age 80, I want to give her tribute. She was always motherly in the best sense: supportive, encouraging, appreciative of my gifts and ministry, even when she did not completely understand them.

She was as thoughtful as anyone could ever be to her family and friends: never forgetting an important event to commemorate with a card, gift, or call. She was frugal in her own finances--living simply--but was always generous toward others. She put me through college on a working class salary and as a single mother. (being a dunderhead, it took me years to realize what an achievement this was.) This allowed me ample time to study and to enter deeply into the world of ideas, which turned out to be my divine calling in this short life. See Psalm 90 on this.

Mom was a cheerful person, interested in others (even servers at restaurants), and a passionate lover of children. Although she wanted six children, she had only one surviving son. She compensated by being motherly and grandmotherly to many others.

Mom was a superb cook, particularly of Italian food and Christmas cookies, the latter of which she shared with many to their great delight. I will miss them so much this (and every following) year.

Even after the death of her first husband, my father (Harold Fred Groothuis) in 1968, Mom never lost her faith in God or questioned his wisdom. She regularly prayed specific prayers and the Lord's Prayer. During the last few months (and especially during the week I was with Mom in Anchorage), I have assurance that she knows Jesus Christ as Lord. She said so. Thus, I need not grieve as does the world, but hope in our reunion one great Day.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Jesus, Death, Life

The only one who has met death and conquered is Jesus of Nazareth. The only way to find hope in the face of death and eternal life and resurrection after death is through trusting in the matchless, death-defeating Cross and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. By this truth, I shall live, and die, and live again.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010


What is dreaded (then suffered) in the lingering death of a loved one is both the dying (since recovery is not possible or at least not expected), and the dying itself. Thus, one is deeply torn: my loved one should not continue in this advanced state of decay and debility; it should end in death. Yet death, how horrible it is when it takes your loved one! Such life--if we dare to love at all--"under the sun" (Ecclesiastes) and amidst this groaning cosmos (Romans 8:18-26).


Hearts should be




at the same time.

Friday, November 26, 2010

On Not Talking to Mother

My mother has been my irreplaceable confidant. I am so lonely for her: the mother of my past, of her younger days, the mother of our conversations, and the mother of all talkers! Now the words are few that she can utter.

Oddly, I want to tell my mother about my mother's demise. I keep wanting to pick up the phone to "call Mom" about this new beguiling anguish: Mom's dying. Mom had heard most all my other complaints, laments, yearnings, hopes, frustrations--and (far fewer) joys. Now the listening ear and the speaking voice are receding, retreating, leaving me alone. in the hospice, I can tell her I love her; read Scripture to her; touch her. But I cannot "talk to Mom" any more... Not yet.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Lamenting the Loss of Sacred Space

As I left my dear mother's hospice room (called a "comfort room"), tears fresh and hot in my eyes, my heart warm with both pain and love, I looked at, then walked toward, the Catholic chapel room. I pondered entering and praying there. But, no.

The jukebox in the reception room was playing loudly in the area right next to the chapel. Even if I entered the supposedly sacred space to weep and pray, the sound of "White Room" by Cream would have drowned out too much of what was needed in that poignant moment (no matter how aesthetically excellent that piece of music is in its own right in its own place).

Even a Catholic chapel could not save me from wrongful noise. I left and wept on my the silence of the truck--and before the face of my God.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Last Chapter

No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were: any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee."--John Donne.

I will soon be with an aged loved for her last journey of this world. While tested in giving care for chronic illness (and with a very mixed record), I am utterly untested in helping someone die. Others have given counsel and prayer, but I have no experience; I feel fear and dread. Yet love compels me to take courage.

Monday, November 8, 2010

From The Book of Common Prayer

For Recovery from Sickness

O God, the strength of the weak and the comfort of sufferers: Mercifully accept our prayers, and grant to your servant N. the help of your power, thathis sickness may be turned into health, and our sorrow into joy; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

or this

O God of heavenly powers, by the might of your command you drive away from our bodies all sickness and all infirmity: Be present in your goodness with your servant N., that his weakness may be banished and his strength restored; and that, his health being renewed, he may bless your holy Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Dying Well

If anyone has suggestions for how a Christian with a terminal illness can learn to die well, please offer them here. Thank you.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

I sent this to our two Colorado Senators

Dear Senator:

I read that 100 watt incandescent bulbs will be illegal to produce after 2012 and the same goes for 40 watts after 2014. If this is the law, it is a terrible imposition on the choices of American citizens.

My wife has chemical and environmental sensitiveness, and cannot stand fluorescent lights. They literally make her sick. This is true for millions of Americans as well.

Is there any provision for these environmentally sensitive people under this new oppressive legislation. If not, there should be.

Doug Groothuis

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Loss of Contact

One of saddest of the many sad things about protracted illness is that the one suffering often loses some of or all of their ability to express his or her thoughts in speech and writing. This loss is painful, of course, for the one experiencing it; but it is likewise painful to the sufferers friends and family.

My aged mother, who lives far from me, has been experiencing severe physical problems for over two months. Her maladies have compromised both body and mind. When she is on opiates, she simply is not her normal self. But even when she is off of them, her pain, fears, and fatigue make her different from the person who would always so readily talk with me over the phone--the person who was a famously faithful letter and card writer. There is now more silence than speech; and no more cards or letters. I cannot simply call Mom to check in or to lament or to rejoice. I miss her voice, her cheerfulness, her faithfully-expressed love for me and my wife.

Others experience similar losses in other settings. The once-vibrant friend now struggles to find the right words and gets confused so often. Words slip away and an awkward silence ensues. We look into eyes and wonder what lies beyond them.

These long silences of illness, the absence of welcomed and wanted words, are among the most painful of pains for those suffering along with the wounded ones.

Yet even as his earth-bound, and disease-ridden creatures go mute, God continues to speak, to speak through the testimony of Scripture, through the loving acts of friends, and even--if we listen carefully enough--through the long silences of the suffering...

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Grasshopper Drags Himself Along--Along With the Adult Child

Recently, I was called upon to parent my parent. This came during a recent trip to help my mother get out of rehabilitation and back into her long-time home. Since I have not reared children, this was a radically new experience. This is not the teacher-student relationship. That I understand (to some degree). This is not the preacher-congregation relationship. That I understand (to some degree). Rather, it is an adult child having to coach, coax, and prod an ailing and out-of-sorts (but brave and tough) elderly parent. As the younger mortal, I have abilities--mental and physical--that are waning for my dear mother; thus, I am the one to do the research, make some tough decisions, and insist on some things she would rather not do--along with her loving husband of eighteen years.

One feels inadequate, stretched, and--at times--desperate. Yet I found that God encouraged me through some passages in Psalm 25 ("in you I put my hope all day long") and in the general sense that God was present and working through it all. Things have declined further since I left after my not quite one-week trip there. The progress she made has been lost and she is back in the hospital. And I am a thousand miles away, beginning a more than a full-time teaching load.

Most adult children will weather this kind of lamentable endeavor as they and their parents age. While some are derelict in their duties, it is a divinely-appointed time to reflect on one's own mortality and morbidity (see Ecclesiastes 12), and to depend on the strength and wisdom from above to navigate some unfamiliar and unpleasant circumstances (James 1). Yet all should be done within the imperative to "honor your mother and father" and to "love your neighbor as yourself." But this must not be in our own strength, but rather "yet not I, but Christ who lives within me."

The grasshopper, once so young and spry and sassy, now drags herself along--or has to be lifted and dragged by others (Ecclesiastes 12). We watch and lament, seeing in this elderly mortal an image of our own decay and degradation (should we make it that far). Prayers seem to bounce off heaven and ricochet back on our heads.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Dog's Life; Dog's Death; Her Life

A chronically ill woman pondered the euthanizing of a young dog, put to sleep because of untreatable epilepsy. He is out of his misery; her misery remains. And euthanasia is wrong for humans...

Thursday, July 29, 2010


For many with chronic illness, doctor visits are their main form of social interaction. Do you wonder why they are sad?

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Put on the China Hat

A friend of mine was counseled on how to help a chronically ill person who was going to stay at her home for a few days. The host said, "I'm going to put on my China hat." By this, she meant that just as she had to learn the culture of China when she lived there, she was willing to learn the culture of the chronically ill person when she came to visit her.

This is much wisdom in this. The chronically ill may be part of your "culture," but their experience of that culture is far different, given the abnormalities of their bodies. If you want to help them, put on "the China hat" and listen to their culture. Please.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Contemporary Philosophy at Denver Seminary

Terry Smith, who has an MA from Talbot under JP Moreland, will be teaching Contemporary Philosophy this fall at Denver Seminary. Please consider taking his class and telling others about it. Here is his description.


Contemporary Philosophy attempts to identify current “hot issues” within the field of philosophy. This course in Contemporary Philosophy will attempt to answer the following question: Is Secular Humanism philosophy's best method for answering problems facing humanity in the 21st century? We will give special attention to the following "hot issues": Meta-Philosophical Foundations to 1) The New Atheism; 2) The Epistemology of Scientific Naturalism; 3) Secular Humanism; 4) The Meta-Ethics of Moral Knowledge; 5) Justice, Human Rights, and the Problem of Genocide (and whether any of the above secular outlooks have a sufficient answer to the problem); and 6) Meta-Ethical / Moral Psychological Concerns with a Realist Ethic

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Weather Drops

Many do not know that precipitous weather changes, particularly from warm to cold, are torture for those with chronic illnesses. When the barometer plunges, so do the spirits of many who suffer, suffer, and suffer from fibromyalgia, arthritis, chronic fatigue, and other such plagues. Some are consigned, against their wills, to live in areas where this often occurs--such as Denver, Colorado.

The next time you laugh or even get a kick out of such a weather changes, remember your brothers and sisters in sorrow. Yes, "this is the day the Lord has made," but it is next to impossible to "be glad in it."
I am getting a lot of stupid, one-line posts, or posts in some Asian language. These, of course, will not be posted and are a waste of my time. Is it really a good idea to litter a page on chronic illness with this kind of pollution?

Thursday, May 6, 2010

For The Personhood Amendment in Colorado

Societies will ultimately be judged by how they treated the least, the last, and the lost. The most fragile need the most protection and love from those with the power to provide it. None are more fragile or more endangered in American today than the unborn. With fewer rights than endangered animal species, unborn human beings are slaughtered legally at the ghastly rate of more than one million a year. This must change. The fetus is living being with potential, not a potential life; a human being with potential, not a potential human; a person with potential, not a potential person. As a member of the human species and family, the fetus has the right to life, the right not to be killed.

This is why I support the Personhood Amendment. Join me for the sake of sanity and morality.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Difficult People

We are the difficult people.
We do not fit in.
We stand out, awkwardly.
And we annoy you, perplex you, vex you.
We try your patience.
We loathe being this way,
but we cannot help it.

We raise the bar of love.
We call forth new patience,
new kindness.

"Love never fails,"
but many fail us.
We are too damned hard to deal with
We stand out by falling down.

We raise the bar of love.
Our hurt hurts you.

Let that hurt help
Let that aching pain raise the bar of love
So high
So high
That only grace can raise it.

The shape of our Cross is sharp;
it cuts away life.

What is the shape of your Cross
before our Cross?

Saturday, April 17, 2010

The Long Wrong

So much
So wrong
For so long.

Too much
Too wrong
For so long.

There must be more
To right the wrong
To heed the lament
To strain the world dry of woe.

Monday, April 12, 2010

In this broken world, there in no final escape from the torments of love.

Sunday, April 11, 2010


My sister-in-law, Sandy, who along with her husband, take care of my wife's aged father, has suffered a massive heart attack last night. It is very serious. Please pray for her and all those involved. Pray that I would have strength to do what needs to be done to help my distraught wife and the rest of the family.

Saturday, April 10, 2010


Cracked, wracked;
marred, charred;
battered, shattered,

but not abandoned.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

From Moby Dick, "The Try Works"

Nevertheless the sun hides not Virginia's Dismal Swamp, nor Rome's accursed Campagna, nor wide Sahara, nor all the millions of miles of deserts and of griefs beneath the moon. The sun hides not the ocean, which is the dark side of this earth, and which is two thirds of this earth. So, therefore, that mortal man who hath more of joy than sorrow in him, that mortal man cannot be true - not true, or undeveloped. With books the same. The truest of all men was the Man of Sorrows, and the truest of all books is Solomon's, and Ecclesiastes is the fine hammered steel of woe. "All is vanity". ALL. This wilful world hath not got hold of unchristian Solomon's wisdom yet. But he who dodges hospitals and jails, and walks fast crossing grave- yards, and would rather talk of operas than hell; calls Cowper, Young, Pascal, Rousseau, poor devils all of sick men; and throughout a care-free lifetime swears by Rabelais as passing wise, and therefore jolly; - not that man is fitted to sit down on tomb-stones, and break the green damp mould with unfathomably wondrous Solomon.

Friday, April 2, 2010

A Small Piece of Advice

To those of you who know the spouses of the chronically ill, I have a piece of advice. While we are grateful that you are concerned about our spouses, it is often painful to have to tell people over and over that our spouses are no better or even worse. We are happy to just avoid the issue sometimes. So, please do not always bring it up. Ask us about other things.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Friendships Lost

bellowed, whispered, or silent.

to acknowledge, to respond.

where words should be.

where something should be.

Part of me
with part of you--forgotten or spurned.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Medical Tests

Medical tests are spiritual trials. One must face the unknown through the unpleasant and the frightening. Groundless optimism is no better than morose and unwarranted pessimism. One does not know. One would rather be doing anything else than having one's body prodded, pocked, or penetrated by alien mechanical objects operated by strangers.

The trial of testing is but another opportunity to trust in Someone beyond medicine. I bring Scripture verses on cards to these tests, whether I am tested or someone else. I read and reread them; try to memorize them; and meditate on them. The medical environment can be grim: sick, sad, and scared people all around. We need to direct our souls to God through Scripture and not be dragged down by it all.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Tail of Leviathon; the Face of God

This is from Melville's epic, Moby Dick, chapter 86. It highlights the difficulty in knowing God's face, although approached through a chapter on the difficulty of understanding and explaining the tail of a sperm whale.

The more I consider this mighty tail, the more do I deplore my inability to express it. At times there are gestures in it, which, though they would well grace the hand of man, remain wholly inexplicable. In an extensive herd, so remarkable, occasionally, are these mystic gestures, that I have heard hunters who have declared them akin to Free-Mason signs and symbols; that the whale, indeed, by these methods intelligently conversed with the world. Nor are there wanting other motions of the whale in his general body, full of strangeness, and unaccountable to his most experienced assailant. Dissect him how I may, then, I but go skin deep. I know him not, and never will. But if I know not even the tail of this whale, how understand his head? much more, how comprehend his face, when face he has none? Thou shalt see my back parts, my tail, he seems to say, but my face shall not be seen. But I cannot completely make out his back parts; and hint what he will about his face, I say again he has no face.

From the Book of Common Prayer

59. For Quiet Confidence

O God of peace, who hast taught us that in returning and rest we shall be saved, in quietness and confidence shall be our strength: By the might of thy Spirit lift us, we pray thee, to thy presence, where we may be still and know that thou art God; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Churches and the Chronically Ill

Churches could do one simple thing to help "the least of these" who are chronically ill. Hold evening services on Sunday. Many chronically ill folks just cannot do things earlier in the day. However, they can work up to an evening event. Yet, so few churches have this option. Moreover, many of us who are not chronically ill are not "morning people" and prefer services later in the day. Nowhere in the Bible does it say that the early Christians met in the morning. We are not told when they met nor are we commanded to meet in the morning.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

This, not That

not dazzled.

not rejoicing.

not prevailing.

not comprehending.

not growing.

not promoted.

not welcomed.

not astonished


Looking up--
while beaten down.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

I cannot post comments written in languages I cannot read. Sorry.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

God's Witness Through Illness

A young and very bright woman is a candidate for a faculty position at Denver Seminary. When asked about her Christian journey, she said that her family was foundational to her Christian faith, particularly the witness of her father through a twenty-year chronic illness. He never lost hope and used his many hospitalizations to speak of God's faithfulness to all who would listen: nurses, doctors, and other patients. When this woman questioned Christianity in college, she could not deny the witness of her father through his sufferings. She could not walk away from the reality of God in this life.

This speaks to me. This man is now left this life under the sun. The illness took him, but the illness did not steal his testimony. If God does not heal, we should endeavor to trust him through the ordeals of life in a fallen world. This fallen world is not the final word for the redeemed.

Thursday, January 21, 2010


I am sorry, but I will not post things in non-English languages, since I cannot make editorial judgments on them.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

A Title, A Judgment

This is the title of an instrumental piece of music from the 1976 Keith Jarrett release, "Mysteries"--"Everything that lives laments." This stunned me.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Shifting Responsibilities

We live by faith, not by sight--2 Corinthians 5:7.
Love...always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres--1 Corinthians 13:7

One of the toughest aspects of a couple dealing with the chronic illness of one spouse is the changes required in the relationship due to the demands and deficits of the illness. Illnesses do not ask our permission to rattle relationships and shift responsibilities between partners.

Every marriage involves a division of labor, so to speak. This should be based not on preset gender stereotypes, but on skills, desires, and opportunities. This is how good friendships work. But chronic illness scuttles all that, with pieces flying everywhere.

"The strong one" has to take on more; the "sick one" has to give things up and feels terrible doing so. Business as usual becomes a negotiable, ever-shifting puzzle. Grace, forgiveness, and trust are needed. Reliance on God is not optional, but mandatory. Both partners must trust beyond sight, absorb disappointments and frustrations, apologize when needed (as soon as possible), and endeavor to have hope through it all.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Guess Whose Coming Over: Hospitality for the Chronically Ill

Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.
— Romans 12:13

Hospitality is a lost virtue for many, although it is encouraged in the Bible in many places. Hospitality always involves adjustment. You open your home to someone from another home (or no home). There are overlaps in ways of living, but also discontinuities: When to take the daily shower, what time to eat, and so on.

Hospitality toward strangers means welcoming them as friends. They are strange to us simply because we do not know them. But chronically ill friends may seem strange, not because we do not know them, but because we do not understand their plight. When a chronically ill person must leave home and stay elsewhere things become considerably complicated and combustible. This is because that person has so many special needs, schedules, medications, and "issues" that it may confuse and frustrate those offering their homes. It is incomprehensible to well people why the chronically ill need so many different things at different times, and why they are not "flexible" (especially if they look healthy).

The answer to this problem is empathy and patience. Try to image what it is like to live inside a perpetually compromised, irritating, and under-performing body. Try to image the emotional strain and spiritual anguish this brings. And, very importantly, try to believe what these sufferers say about themselves and their needs. They wish--far more than you do--to be well, to be normal. But they cannot be. Neither can they fake it for very long until the bottom drops out. They need understanding and love.