Book: Polishing God's Monuments: A story of severe ME and the Christian response to suffering

Countrygirl

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One of our long-term members here has sent me a copy of the first chapter of his father-in-law's book called Polishing God's Monuments: Pillars of Hope For Punishing Tmes. It relates the story of his daughter's devastating ME and MCS and tackles the thorny question of suffering from a Christian perspective.

The author is Pastor Jim Andrew's who combines biographical material of his daughter Julie and his son-in-law Paul, both of whom have ME since 1987, with Christian responses based on biblical sources that relate to the question of suffering and pain. The book's purpose , explains his son-in-law, is to show the power of God's Word to sustain those who are living under tremendous pain and suffering.

This is a description of the book written by Tim Callies.

Polishing God's Monuments is the story of a young woman and her devoted husband who have faced a lifetime of mysterious, devastating illness. Written by Jim Andrews, the young woman's father, the book intersperses narrative with teaching, experience with theology.

When she was young, just a senior at Wheaton Conservatory of Music, Juli Andrews contracted mononucleosis. Though mono is not usually a devastating or long-lasting illness, in Juli's case it set in motion a bizarre series of events that culminated in her being diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (now referred to as Chronic Fatigue Immune Dysfunction Syndrome) and eventually a horrifying accompanying disease known as Multiple Chemical Sensitivities. This is an affliction that causes some patients, and Juli among them, to become extremely sensitive to chemicals that do not bother most other people. Paul, Juli's husband, contracted mononucleosis and then CFS at around the same time as his new wife. The young family was devastated.

Juli's condition left her in terrible condition, unable to care for herself and often unable to do even the simplest things. Her chemical sensitivities rendered her unable to handle even the fainest smell of perfume or the chemicals used in inks and fabrics. Eventually she even developed extreme sensitivity to light, to the chlorine in water and even to the presence of electricity, leaving her lying day after day in the cold and the dark. Her disease left her unable to live even a semblance of a normal life for year after year. But through it all her husband tended to her, cared for her, and searched far and wide for something, anything, that might alleviate her condition.

This is the story Andrews tells in this book. A pastor for the last seventeen years and a seminary professor before that, the bulk of the narrative comes in the form of letters he wrote to his congregation to keep them updated on the drama of Juli's life. But woven between these touching letters is straightforward theology--biblical reflections on the nature of suffering, the character of God, and the important discipline of looking to what God has done in the past to remind us of His faithfulness in the present and the future. That discipline, which Andrews refers to as "Polishing God's Monuments," gives title to the book.

Andrews writes about suffering from the perspective of one who has seen suffering in a close and personal way and one who has suffered by watching and participating in the afflictions of the ones he loves. He writes well and in a way that equally affects the heart and the mind. The following is drawn from the web site of Lake Bible Church where Andrews is pastor:

"Though some think of Jim as a cerebral preacher, he is not your typical academic. True to his down-to-earth "country roots," he comes to the pulpit with a dead-on, look-you-in-the-eye, tell-it-like-it is prophetic style that never hesitates to go toe-to-toe with the conscience. As he himself describes his preaching philosophy, he strives in the pulpit "to herd biblical truth and the issues of life into violent collision at the intersections of the mind and heart." Jim models that old adage that sees the preacher's job as "comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable." He candidly explains that his ministry is not for "navel gazers, but for star gazers.""

Those collisions between truth and life at the intersections of the mind and heart are evident throughout the book. He constantly shows how truth must prevail even when it seems impossible. And he writes the book in such a way that it must bring comfort to those who are suffering while at the same time afflicting the hearts and consciences of those who are far too comfortable.
"This book doesn't tiptoe around the topic of suffering, but hits head-on the hardest questions we have about the goodness of God and the problem of suffering. Juli's story will shake you as well as inspire you!” ~ Joni Eareckson Tada

“A true story so gripping and moving and inspiring that one cannot put the book down. To enter into this theological reflection on suffering is to accept the challenge to grow deeply in Christ, and to cherish the sure and certain promise of the gospel.” ~ Bruce A. Ware, Professor of Christian Theology, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
https://www.challies.com/book-reviews/polishing-gods-monuments/

Polishing God’s Monuments was an unexpected surprise. A book that arrived (as do so many others) without any fanfare, I quickly skimmed the four endorsements and paused only when I saw Bruce Ware’s name and his claim that this title is “so gripping and moving and inspiring that one cannot put the book down.” Based on my respect for Bruce Ware, on the enthusiasm of his endorsement and on the track record of the publisher, Shepherd Press, I decided I should at least give the book a try. Am I ever glad I did!
Polishing God’s Monuments is the story of a young woman and her devoted husband who have faced a lifetime of mysterious, devastating illness. Written by Jim Andrews, the young woman’s father, the book intersperses narrative with teaching, experience with theology.

When she was young, just a senior at Wheaton Conservatory of Music, Juli Andrews contracted mononucleosis. Though mono is not usually a devastating or long-lasting illness, in Juli’s case it set in motion a bizarre series of events that culminated in her being diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (now referred to as Chronic Fatigue Immune Dysfunction Syndrome) and eventually a horrifying accompanying disease known as Multiple Chemical Sensitivities. This is an affliction that causes some patients, and Juli among them, to become extremely sensitive to chemicals that do not bother most other people. Paul, Juli’s husband, contracted mononucleosis and then CFS at around the same time as his new wife. The young family was devastated.

Juli’s condition left her in terrible condition, unable to care for herself and often unable to do even the simplest things. Her chemical sensitivities rendered her unable to handle even the fainest smell of perfume or the chemicals used in inks and fabrics. Eventually she even developed extreme sensitivity to light, to the chlorine in water and even to the presence of electricity, leaving her lying day after day in the cold and the dark. Her disease left her unable to live even a semblance of a normal life for year after year. But through it all her husband tended to her, cared for her, and searched far and wide for something, anything, that might alleviate her condition.
https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/097675827X/ref=olp_product_details?_encoding=UTF8&me=

Used copies can be purchased quite economically from Amazon.

http://thepurposeofpain.blogspot.co.uk/2011/11/polishing-gods-monuments.html

A new third edition is now available.
 

Countrygirl

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I have just been reading chapter two of this book and I must say I am very impressed with the description of Julie's illness, which includes, as for so many of us, MCS. It is one of the best descriptions of the illness I have read, one that is suitable to give to someone who has no insight into the disease or even, like so many, do not believe it exists or believes it is just chronic fatigue.

This is one book I shall give to a few people who need some education in the disease.

I hope the author will be be happy with this as I am just going to copy a short extract from chapter two here for you to read:

Because of her CFS, Juli has become completely bedridden. With
her energy descending down to minus zero, she can barely lift her
head off the pillow and walk to the bathroom. She needs help even to
take a bath. It’s so hard to watch such a high-spirited, life-loving girl
wasted by a total vacuum of physical energy. It’s also heartbreaking
for Juli, who loves sunshine and pretty flowers, to be imprisoned in
her bed and to have no energy for a single creative outlet.

I’m often asked by well-meaning folks eager to understand Juli’s
plight, “Chronic Fatigue Syndrome? Is Juli just tired all the time?”
That is a natural question, given the misleading name of the illness.
This, by the way, is as cruel as naming Parkinson’s disease “Chronic
Shaking Disorder,” or paraplegia “Perpetual Sitting Syndrome,” to
paraphrase a certain CFS patient and author. Unfortunately, the
symptoms she has in no way resemble the typical use of the word,
“fatigue.” Let me try to explain.

Juli describes the sensation as a kind of “temporary painful paralysis,”
where every movement bathes her muscles in what feels like
a paralyzing poison—causing pain, heaviness and intense pressure.
Continued exertion increases the symptoms until she has no alternative
but to lie still and rest until the toxins break up and leave
her system. Only then can she attempt another movement, which
starts the whole process over again.

No, Juli is not simply “tired.” Imagine for a moment having
the strength literally drained from your body so that the slightest
exertion leaves you utterly exhausted and unable to move for hours
or days. Imagine living in constant pain, where every movement
you have the energy to make is agony. Add to that a devilish sleep
disorder, which makes it impossible for you to sleep, sometimes for
weeks at a time. Mix in the pain of being misunderstood, labeled a
malingerer, lazy, or simply depressed, making this whole nightmare
somehow your fault and something you could fix if you simply had
the will. Don’t forget the pain of seeing your dreams for the future
vanish like smoke as year after year, instead of growing stronger,
your situation grows more desperate with each passing day. Ponder
well these things and you will have only a glimpse of what Juli and
Paul have been enduring.

As if all that weren’t enough, things have intensified with Juli’s
chemical sensitivities. She is now sensitized to almost any type of
chemical (especially phenol and formaldehyde, which seem to be
in almost everything). She detects and reacts severely to odors that
only animals can smell at such distances. It is now at a point where
she even reacts to Paul if he has one of these chemicals on his person.
Her condition and required care is almost beyond belief. It is
a wonder that she, Paul, and my wife are in their right minds. If
something doesn’t give soon, one of them may go over the edge.
As I’ve told many of you, the burning and searing pain in her
veins and muscles that these reactions incur is out of this world.
Psychosomatic? Try to fool her system and her body immediately
reacts from any place in the house. Although skepticism remains
in the medical community, other people have reported the same
phenomena, though it is something we had never heard of or could
have imagined before this.

Here are some examples of the situation we face daily.
A few months back, Juli experienced a severe reaction to a shirt I
was wearing. I had removed my sport coat, but the shirt, undetected
by me, contained a residue of dry cleaning fluids. Within minutes,
even with a barrier between us, she had a reaction. Who could
believe such a thing?
The book's third edition is soon to be available from jimandrewsbooks.com for $7.99