In honour of my father, Neale E. Strom, 1927-2010. (Originally posted May 2016)
Eight years ago last month I picked up the phone. It was my brother.
“If you want to see dad before he passes, you better come now; he’s losing ground fast.”
It wasn’t unexpected news but the kind that makes you drop everything. My wife offered to book my flight and the next morning I found myself on the shuttle to Sea-Tac Airport to catch a plane to Minneapolis. I rented a car for the three-hour drive to the southwestern corner of the state.
Neale E. Strom was accustomed to running the family business, teaching at church, serving on boards, cheering on high school athletes, and doting on us kids and our children. However in the previous year congestive heart failure and Parkinson’s gradually limited his strength and mobility. After taking a few falls he begrudgingly took to a wheel chair and eventually remained mostly at home in a hospital bed brought in to a main-floor bedroom.
My mom, Jean, remained at his side as his primary caregiver sorting medications, helping him dress, and getting him to and from the washroom.
My sister from Colorado arrived three days before me to support mom and help with dad. Dad had become incoherent and often awake at night, requiring around-the-clock care. Just that week they finally got a live-in nurse.
I arrived at 6:30 p.m. to a house full of people. They cleared the way for me to spend time at dad’s bedside. I was thankful that he rallied to welcome me warmly with clarity of mind.
“Are Shelaine and the boys here too?” he asked.
“No dad, just me.”
His eye-sight had become particularly poor the last few months so I moved in close and put his hand to my face. We talked a bit about my school-end push with marking exams and submitting grades, of our sons and their summer plans, of his tough go the last while and how he was feeling just now.
“Not too good,” he said. “I’m very tired.”
Around the corner mom and Jane prepared a meal for the gathering crowd, and at 7:15 we gathered in the eating area leaving dad to rest a while. We were not gone long when we heard him cry out, “Jeanie, Jeanie.” Mom rushed to his side and in a few minutes he was gone, his eyes closed and body relaxed. The clock read 7:30.
We gathered around his bed and mom wept out a prayer of thanks for Neale as husband, dad, grandfather, and follower of Jesus.
* * * *
The day before dad died he had one of his rougher days drifting in and out of sleep and mumbling. Jane was sitting by his side giving mom a break when dad suddenly sat up in bed, lifted his arms upward, and looked expectantly at the ceiling. He remained there a second, then turned his wrist downward, looked at his watch, and said to someone, “Not today? Okay, tomorrow. 7:30.”
My faith journey is a relatively rational one as I prefer logical arguments for God’s existence, wrestle with theological issues, and prefer the life of the mind over experience to figure out how God moves among us. But when I heard my dad’s story the veil between earth and heaven thinned to a vapor.
Thank you, Dad. I still miss you.
And thank you God.
(This blog is an excerpt from More Than Talk 5th Ed., by Bill Strom & Divine Agodzo)
Unlike previous generations, today’s couples and families must navigate the “3A” facts of internet pornography: it's accessible, affordable, and anonymous. Some users consider the habit a right, or a release, or justified in a poor marriage. On average, women in North America access porn about 30 minutes per week, men for 3 hours. (1)
So is porn really a big deal? The short answer is yes.
The longer answer requires us to consider what you want in family life, and how pornography robs its possibility. Most of us seek trusting, open, affectionate, and responsible relationships with parents and siblings. We hope for sexual fidelity between parents and the timely sexual maturation of brothers and sisters. Our lives become enormously complex when a family member becomes addicted to cyber-porn or when relatives lure nephews or nieces into sexual play. Just how ugly can life get?
Porn can ruin your sex life. While it is true that a poor sex life may draw one to seek online stimulation, it is equally possible that good sex declines after one begins accessing erotica. In experimental studies, men and women exposed to a steady diet of filmed porn (when compared to those who watched non-porn films) tended to:
Porn makes your partner feel like crap. While most women wish for fidelity, intimacy, and trust, those who discover that their husband views porn regularly experience the opposite. These women:
As one woman wrote, “I am no longer a sexual person or partner to him, but a sexual object. He is not really with me, not really making love to me . . . . He seems to be thinking about something or someone else—likely those porn women. . . . He is just using me as a warm body. (3)
Parental use of porn can have indirect effects on kids. Kids do not have to use porn to be victims. They are victims when dad loses his job for surfing porn at work, or splits up with mom over his addiction. More directly, some kids walk in on dad as he acts out, discover his ‘hidden’ files, or overhear his phone sex. None of this is pretty.
Porn hijacks healthy sexual development. Relative to young people who consume little online-porn, high consumers hold distinct sex beliefs and attitudes, engage in certain behaviors, and view themselves differently. In particular they:
Given this litany of liabilities, one may wonder why anyone accesses porn. For many brings pleasure to a boring or wounded life.
What will your response be to the knowledge that, beyond immediate gratification, porn fails to gratify generally?
Sexual curiosity is part of maturing in young adulthood; how will you educate yourself? Are there friends or role models you can confide in regarding porn use, and become accountable in this area? What agreements might you make with such people from this point forward?
For resources regarding pornography and how to deal with it, see Fight the New Drug.
1) Kasper, Thomas Edward, Mary Beth Short, and Alex Clinton Milam. 2015. "Narcissism and Internet Pornography Use." Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy 41, no. 5: 481-486.
2) This research discussed in Jill C. Manning, “The Impact of Internet Pornography on Marriage and the Family: A Review of the Research,” Sexual Addiction & Compulsivity 13 (2006): 131–165.
3) See Raymond M. Bergner and Ana J. Bridges, “The Significance of Heavy Pornography Involvement
for Romantic Partners: Research and Clinical Implications.” Journal ofSex & Marital Therapy 28 (2002): 197, as quoted in Jill C. Manning, “The Impact of Internet Pornography on Marriage and the Family: A Review of the Research,” Sexual Addiction & Compulsivity 13 (2006): 142.
4) This research discussed in Eric W. Owens , Richard J. Behun , Jill C. Manning & Rory C. Reid, “The
Impact of Internet Pornography on Adolescents: A Review of the Research,” Sexual Addiction &
Compulsivity: The Journal of Treatment & Prevention 19 (2012): 99-122.
Looking for relationship resources?
I have recently added links to the following organizations on my site Relating Redemptively.
My hope in directing you to these resources is that you may increase your awareness and skills for thriving relationships with friends, family, and co-workers.
Do you have a site you’d like to see on RR? Let me know.
Bill Strom, Ph.D. email@example.com
Professor in relational and leadership communication
Trinity Western University
Langley, BC Canada
With Father’s Day around the bend, it’s worth reflecting on the present that a dad's presence is in developing emotionally healthy kids.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, almost 25% of kids in the United States grow up in fatherless homes. One out of four boys and girls lack a day-to-day model of a loving man whose primary role is to nurture, protect, and provide for them.
But what about the majority of kids? What influence do dads have on kids and family?
According to research posted at the National Center for Fathering, children who grow up with dad present are more likely to experience economic stability because dads generally work fulltime. The same kids are more likely to stay clear of drugs and alcohol since they have less need to block out pain or look for quick fun. They are more likely to be emotionally stable and secure in their identity and relationships, and not prone to becoming sexually active or marrying before finishing high school. Moreover, boys and girls whose dad is at home are more likely to finish high school rather than drop out.
All these benefits put children on the road to personal wellbeing and help them make good choices even after they leave the nest.
Are you a dad? If so, did you know your presence has powerful redeeming influence on your kids? Are you a dad who is separated from your children just now? What choices do you have to connect and support your sons or daughters? It may take some effort, but the payoff is rewarding.
We sometimes say that God is father to the fatherless, at least in spiritual terms. Perhaps now we realize that His Spirit, in us, present with our children, is part of God’s plan for our kids to know Him for significant gain.
Dear God, Thank you for the nurturing role you gave dads. Help us to nurture our kids to become responsible, godly citizens who love you, people, and your world. May your Spirit strengthen us to make wise choices as we raise our kids to your honor and glory. Amen.
Colleagues and friends,
I am pleased to announce that the fifth edition of my communication textbook is now available through Kendall Hunt Publishing.
As you know, one of my passions is to understand close relationships--and communication generally--through the lens of covenant--that resolute commitment to making and holding to promises that benefit everyone in our lives.
To that end, I've invited colleague and co-author Divine Agodzo to update and revise More Than Talk: A Covenantal Approach to Everyday Communication. Divine first read More Than Talk for his masters degree in communication at Spring Arbor University, Spring Arbor, Michigan, and is full-on with the scope and purpose of MTT.
From the publisher's website:
Featuring an invigorated commitment to social science, humanities, and biblical perspectives, the NEW fifth edition of More Than Talk continues to develop the biblical idea of covenant for understanding and appreciating everyday communication. In addition, it includes more intersections between covenantal ideals and communication practice and more theological insights in order to shed light on covenantal principles across diverse contexts.
The publication integrates “What do you think?” sections that encourage readers to consider current issues in popular culture and social media, and diversity in our growing cosmopolitan world. In addition, poignant case studies, contemporary issues for reflection and discussion, illustrations, pull-quotes, cartoons and more help the reader comprehend information presented.
See more details and availability here.
I am so proud of Shelaine! Her book, But Pain Crept In, was shortlisted for a Word Guild Award in the category Christian Non-Fiction, Life Stories. See full list of shortlisted honorees here: thewordguild.com/word-awards-finalists-listings/
In 2010, my wife went from living a vibrant life as a career and life coach to being sidelined with excruciating pain from crumbling jaw joints.
She writes, “But Pain Crept In is about losses and finds. It’s about how pain strains relationships and clarifies values. It’s about the choices pain demands that we make day in and day out, just to cope. Just to survive. Much of the content is straight out of my journals. It’s the unfiltered wrestling and raw processing of living in constant pain.”
But it's not a depressing read. In her winsome and honest way, Shelaine tells her story between hurt and hope, from agony to worlds renewed. Through tears and humor, her memoir signals gratitude and perseverance, yet no simple answers to the problem of pain.
Shelaine blogs at www.shelainestrom.com. Her book is available at House of James in Abbotsford, BC and on Amazon.ca.
One Arizona December day, when my wife was fourteen, she took a baseball to the jaw that knocked her out cold, her brain sloshed. Her teammates gathered around her as she attempted to come to, temples burning. Months passed before doctors figured she would be a candidate for surgery to clean out damaged cartilage where mandible joined skull. Metal plates were screwed in to where soft tissue-lined sockets used to be.
Nine years later, when I met her, I could not tell she had had surgery. Scars were faded, range of motion had returned, and her pain was minor—yet persistent. As her new friend, I was all about helping her find relief. Thankfully, a maxillofacial surgeon in Vancouver succeeded with cortisone injections.
Six months later, we married, and together life was good. New careers, budget home, sons one, two, three in forty-three months, school roles, church service, loyal deep friendships.
All the while, mandibles bumping on steel.
Twenty-three years later, on a bright blue day, while hiking Mt. Baker, something twigged, and Shelaine’s smarting became stinging. Zinging. Jabbing. It was more than just downhill to the trailhead.
I learned quickly what happens in a relationship when one person takes a hit physically, emotionally, vocationally. I had to choose each day to support her, adjust, and find new patterns. Together we went from three nights out per week to three per month at most, and we learned to accept help and love from friends and community who cared deeply for our plight.
Shelaine’s jaw journey trudged on month after month, then into years, as specialists scratched their heads as to best next steps. Finally, she received the most radical option—total jaw joint replacement. We entered that season knowing her pain would increase, but with hope for long-term relief. And we continued to make choices regarding work, rehab, careers, and relationships.
Next Tuesday, January 23, Shelaine will provide a glimpse of her sojourn from pain, to surgery, to renewed health and redefined self. She does so at the book launch of her personal memoir, But Pain Crept In.
I am so proud that she persisted, and praise God for his hand of healing.
I hope you can join us in the celebration.
House of James Bookstore, 7 p.m., Abbotsford
This month Shelaine and I celebrate 29 years of marriage. “Twenty-nine and thriving” I told someone.
Lady Gaga laments that her man has given her a “Million Reasons” to dump the relationship. She asks for just one reason to stay.
I offer 29 reasons why I stay committed to Shelaine.
We got away earlier this summer.
The road leading away from the island airport was well paved and passed by a stately resort with neat lawns and waving palms. As we drove further, the taxi driver began choosing his path carefully to avoid bumps and dips, and the homes set back from the roadside became simple and livable. After fifteen minutes, as we neared our destination, we saw a sign: Welcome to Paradise.
I smiled. The sign looked hand-painted and sat at the intersection of two humble roads where tin-roofed houses and empty beverage containers crowded its shoulders. But I knew what the writer meant—the small village, however modest, was in Antigua, West Indies, a kilometer from surf, white sand, and pleasure.
The Genesis story came to mind. God made light—life-giving, back-warming light. Then sky—with clouds never-the-same against azure gray; then earth meeting sea creating horizons pointy and flat; then vegetation like hibiscus, date palms, and aloe; then sun and moon for warm days and nights; then living creatures like laughing gulls, mongooses, and lizards; then amazing people. And God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. Paradise.
The resort where we stayed had a restaurant overlooking the bay—a Caribbean layout resembling a forest station lookout with three walls, some poles, and two Whitewood trees crawling skyward. A tradition at the restaurant is to leave one’s mark by writing your name on wooden planks and nailing them to poles, wall, or trees. Hundreds of signs crowd the view.
So we made one too: “Bill + Shelaine, 2017, ‘… and it was good’.”
So very good.
Welcome to Paradise.
“God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.” Genesis 1:31
Dear God, Thank you for all you made that continues to be very good. May we respect, enjoy, and steward the world around us and not take it for granted. May we marvel at the wonders of your hand, and your sustaining presence, in your creation.
[I write this when our beautiful province is ablaze with over 100 forest fires, and smoke has leached its way to where we live three hours away. May we be careful camping, and be wise with soaring temperatures and poor air quality.]
Need stocking stuffers?
Love to share relationship wisdom with someone?
In the spirit of Black Friday, Relating Redemptively kicks off an opportunity for winning a copy of The Relationship Project. Starts today, and draws held the next three weeks through December 16.
1. Post your story of virtuous relating in the 'comment' section of this post. Make it about self-control, humility, relational work, faithfulness, and/or wisdom.
2. Each week all contributors' names will be put in the draw, and one selected randomly.
3. Winners will be contacted at the end of each week (Fridays).
4. We will mail out hard-copies in time for Christmas.
Thanks for participating.
Bill Strom, Author
I am a believer by faith, a professor by vocation, a husband by choice, a father by blessing, and a friend by hanging out. Along the way I have learned about close relating through my experiences, biblical models, and social science research. Hopefully my ideas and encouragement show up here in ways meaningful to you.