Author Archives: virgilmfry

Fearful Courage

 I know fear.  Low-grade or full-blown anxiety.  Fretful worry. Recently I cleared out a stash of papers from 2006, the year my wife Caryl was on dialysis.  Reviewing the list of multiple doctor visits, hospitalizations, and medications surfaced intense feelings deeply buried in my psyche.  The fear, the anxiety became my unwelcome companions again for a while.

William Cowper, a well-known 18th century poet, knew fear as well. He periodically suffered several nervous breakdowns due to ravages of severe depression.  One such episode led him to seek to drown himself in a river.  Taking a horse-drawn carriage in Olney, England, the taxi driver surmised Cowper’s suicidal mindset and feigned getting lost in the fog.  Cowper eventually fell asleep.  Many hours later he was delivered back home.

Refreshed, he took his spared life as a gift, a sign from God.  And that led to the writing of the hymn still sung today:

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take, the clouds ye so much dread

Are big with mercy, and shall break in blessings on your head.

(from “God Moves in a Mysterious Way)

Similarly, Scripture is replete with this divine message:  “Fear not.”  More than 80 times we hear “Be not afraid.”  Rabbi Jesus brings this assuring message from God’s lips:

Don’t be afraid of missing out. You’re my dearest friends. The Father wants to give you the very kingdom itself. (Luke 12:32, The Message)

 Jesus is a clear-eyed realist, knowing that fear can serve us well in emergencies.  Fear forces us to problem solve quickly, to consider what resources we have to survive danger.  Subsequently, though, previous traumas we’ve experienced can, if unacknowledged, continue to revisit us often.

Ongoing fear cripples us. Projecting unknown possible catastrophes that rarely happen is energy depleting.  Such fear robs us of the precious present.  Fear kills our creative spirit full of gratitude for our blessings.  Fear fades as we remember to embrace the full gifts of God’s grace and mercy in the scariest of places.

Mark Twain knew hardship and tragedy.  His personal response was this jewel:  “Courage is not the absence of fear…it is the ability to act in the presence of fear.”

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Self-Care for Caregivers

Listen to this 30 minute Pod Cast: Self-care for caregivers featuring licensed counselor Jennifer Christian interviewing Dr. Virgil Fry. Virgil podcast

Expecting the Unexpected

It may be counter-cultural, even in some churches, but lamenting is truly biblical. Bible readers find that faithful followers of Yahweh all encountered seasons of distress. And more than a few of them openly, verbally, took their distresses and disgusts right to the ears of their God.

They knew, they loved, they trusted in a God who was not immobile, not impotent, not distant. They knew God as one knows an actual loving parent, one open to all expressions: praise and dismay, thanksgiving and frustration.

And they are called faithful.

By: Virgil Fry

Hope for the Journey: He Will Direct our Paths through Illness

It’s not easy being seriously ill. Those I encounter at the cancer hospital will concur. As will those with heart failure, faithmental illness, addictions, long term stays in nursing homes or rehab centers. Or those who self manage chronic, some -days-are-better-than-others, illnessess.

Hospital patients can learn to flourish in trying circumstances, but it’s not easy. Being uprooted from one’s normal daily schedule forces us to tap into resources we’d rather not use. When health crisis hits, faith, family, finances, and future plans get shuffled. Even going home can be traumatic, for lifestyles must be adapted to accommodate limitations.

But perhaps our greatest life lessons are learned here. A normal, rarely uprooted routine can keep us self-satisfied and shallow. We might be lulled into failing to be a good family member, or good neighbor, or friend to the friendless. We might expect, or even demand, that God keep our lives smooth, trouble-free, and distant from suffers.

And then faith becomes a means to manage routine, rather than a means to encounter God deeply.

Once I was privileged to minister to Jane, an educator whose husband as in the final stages of leukemia demise, Jack had tried every medical option available with limited success. by the time I met him, he was comatose and unresponsive. Jane and her mother kept constant vigil over Jack, filling me with wonderful stories of this dying man’s incredible life of public and personal service to troubled adolescents.

At his death, we joined hands around Jack’s now restful body to pray and read the 23rd Psalm together. Gathering her belongings from the bedside, Jane began to relate how hard this battle had been, how consuming the hospitalizations were, how disrupted their lives had become.

Then she revealed her source of stamina as she quoted her favorite scripture: Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will direct your path. (Proverbs 3:3-5)

For Jane, the rough journey had been manageable because of the grounding of those words, the deep commitment of her marriage vows, the emotional support of family, friends, and church members back home. It was not a battle she and Jack choose, but it was one they fought together.

May we all, with God’s help, find such grounding when turmoil strikes. May we also be grounding for others who need words of encouragement.

By, Virgil Fry D.Min., BCC

In the Valley of the Shadow When Grief and Loss Prevail

Death. To speak the work evokes deep sensations. Sometimes fear. Sometimes anger. Sometimes wonderment. Sometimes acceptance.

From the womb, we are created as survivors. The will to live is powerfully tenacious, a motivator stronger than despair. As do the animal and plant kingdoms, we fight death with our inmost being. We liken death to defeat, to being overtaken by an evil enemy.

Such imagery is not unbiblical. Utopian Garden of Eden quaked at the introduction of humans tasting death. Hebrew characters spent incredible amounts of energy defending the lives of thier people and themselves. The apex to the Christian narrative is a 30-plus year old carpenter’s son facing death squarely in the eye, all the while promising onlookers resurrection for himself and for them. The apostle Paul refers to death as the ultimate enemy, an enemy who has been de-fanged.

We spend our lifetimes dancing with death, though not always consciously. We know that nature’s life cycle depends upon the death of current residents. We acknowledge our daily bread comes at the cost of something dying on our behalf. We confront the harsh, ugly reality of death when a loved one dies, leaving us devastated and robbed.

The valley of the shadow of death is a place of loss, of bereavement, of unspeakable pain. But shadows, over time, lessen their impact as small amounts of light bring snippets of renewal.

With honest expressions of grief, with encouragement from fellow “losers,” and with time, God brings us new resevoirs of faith, hope, and love.

Author: Virgil Fry

First Colony Church of Christ

Invites you to a


Including calling of names of those
we hold dear in our hearts.
For anyone experiencing loss and grief
this holiday season

Sunday, December 20, 2009
4:00 – 5:00 p.m.

Chapel: First Colony Church of Christ
2140 First Colony Blvd.
Sugar Land, TX 77479

Phone (281) 980-7070


After a recently rare and welcomed pleasurable day, I bemoaned to a good friend: “Why can’t the enjoyable things and people in our lives last forever?” He kindly offered this corrective: “You do have the here-and-now you know.”

He’s right. We live in the three time frames of past, present, and future. Past memories, pleasant and painful, are a treasure. Planning for the future builds hope. But we can, oh so easily, let those two dimensions diminish the reality of the here-and-now.

A fellow chaplain shared the personal story of his family’s trip to meet another family for ice cream. Every few miles and minutes, his young son asked the perennial question of impatience: “Are we there yet?” Finally the exasperated Dad curtly replied to his son: “Don’t you understand we’ll never be ‘there.’ We’re always going to be ‘here.’ As soon as we arrive at ‘there’ we are actually ‘here.’ His understandably frustrated son then responded to this unwelcomed sermonette: “You mean we’re not going to get ice cream?”

The ice cream was soon enjoyed. On the road, the son’s past experiences elicited joyful remembrances. Anticipation of an additional pleasing consumption followed. But Dad was right: we always, only, have ‘here’. Paradoxically, when we allow ourselves to focus on ‘here’, our narrow perspectives broaden.

Being fully in the here-and-now means acute awareness of our inner voices. We calm our tumultuous thoughts and emotions. We know beyond doubt we are part of the God-created universe. We notice little things that are easily overlooked as important: the ability to breathe, move and think, the chirping of a nature appreciating bird, the unmerited favor of warm friendships and supportive family, the
sustenance of food and water, the crystalline sounds of soul-stirring music.

I’m at a place in my journey that cries out for these calming moments. Four family members have died within a two year span. That harsh reality shatters my heretofore false sense that family would always remain the same. No promise was
ever made that it would be so, yet I tended to live with that presumptive myth.

Paula D’Arcy strikingly realized that we have choices in our spiritual journey either to cling to others or to hold them. Her husband and daughter died in a car wreck when Paula was three months pregnant. Six months later, she desired but could not deliver her baby naturally. At that point God helped her understand her clutching psyche was desperately preventing delivery. With this epiphany, she gave birth to her daughter while being wheeled into an operating room.

Reflectively she states: As I look at my newborn, I see that she is a girl. She is mine to hold, but not to possess. It makes all the difference. You treat a gift differently than you do a possession. (The Gift of the Red Bird)

Lord God, You made us complex, multi-dimensional beings. With grateful hearts we journey with You, One whose name is “I Am”– God of the precious present. Walk with us, Lord, as we seek to live, really live, in the here-and-now You’ve provided. Amen.

Author: Virgil Fry