Measured By Loss: Duane W.H. Arnold, PhD

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26 Responses

  1. Xenia says:

    I have been thinking about this a lot myself. The folks that I was eating with at our parish’s weekly post-Liturgy pot luck were asking me about my masters program, now in its 2nd year. I said I hoped my brains held out long enough for me to finish it. So far, so good!

    I find that young people wear me out. I prefer the company of my book club friends, fellow museum volunteers, and of course, my church friends. All are about my age and we all understand each other and are able to laugh with each other about our increasing list of frailties. We are all happy. To be honest, this is one of the happiest times of my life. (The happiest time was when the children were little.) I worry about my husband, who is older than me.

    The clients on our Meals on Wheels route are usually about 20 years older than me and I pay close attention to what they have to say. I asked Miss Lily how she was doing one morning, and she said, with a smile, that earlier she had tried to fold up a big blanket and couldn’t manage. “Well Lily,” she said to herself, ” That don’t work no more.” Every morning Miss Lily discovers some new thing she can’t do anymore. But she’s always got her Bible on her lap and she’s the one I go to when I need advice in certain areas. Best smile ever.

    I used to be able to plow up, with only a hoe, my entire garden plot in one day. Now I lucky if I can get a few raised beds in shape. It doesn’t matter, it’s still gardening.

    Anyway, the fact that I am a little bit less able every day is often on my mind, I laugh and say with Miss Lily, “Well Xenia, looks like that don’t work no more!’ and go off and find something I can do, which is an enormous amount of things.

    Some of our children do not want to hear that we are getting older. A few are in denial. A few act like we are already in our 90’s. It will all work out. 🙂

    Anyway, closer to Home.

  2. Duane Arnold says:


    So many of us are living the same paradox… Closer to Home, indeed!

  3. Michael says:

    As the losses have piled up over the last couple of years…the loss of people and the loss of my own vitality…I note that my losses have been replaced in a way with a settled faith and (unwanted) maturity.

    I have become more and more dependent on God in the mundane matters of everyday life and the fact that I’m still here means He’s faithful.

    In some ways it’s learning to use a new set of spiritual tools..

  4. Duane Arnold says:


    To some extent, it is the stripping away of the assumed certainties…

  5. Xenia says:

    In some ways, it’s a big relief. I used to spend hours in the church kitchen preparing vast quantities of food for various church holy day feasts and the last time I said nope, not enough stamina. So a young person did it and she did a fantastic job with new insight and I heaved a great sigh of relief and thanked God.

  6. Michael says:


    There is that…and the recognition that my copies of “The Institutes of the Christian Faith” did not bring me comfort…only my relationship with Christ does…

  7. Xenia says:

    I think the key, as one who is just entering this stage of life, is knowing when to cheerfully- and I emphasize the word *cheerfully* – let things go. Don’t feel guilty about it, either.

  8. Duane Arnold says:


    Sometimes “letting go” is the hardest thing to do… especially for some personalities! ?

  9. Jean says:

    Over the weekend, Tom Brady said that the chances that this weekend’s Super Bowl will be his last game are 0%. That is an assumed certainty. Whereas, James warns not to boast about tomorrow. It is the Lord that numbers our days, not us. So, I find that aging reminds me of my mortality and trains me to live more purposely and thankfully each day, one day at a time. With that I find contentment in aging.

  10. Em says:

    Get that knee replacement. If my late stepfather is any example, it will do wonders for your mental outlook. ☺

    That said, it is strange, but necessary to come to terms, as Xenia’s Lily, that our flesh is not who we are…

  11. Rick says:

    Another wondrous post; thank you. At 62, 3/4 of the way through chemotherapy cycles, I am finding the enforced weakness a pathway to a blessed humility. I think spiritual rest is impossible without an embrace of humility. Thanks to all who have shared so far; water to this thirsty soul.

  12. Duane Arnold says:


    You will certainly be in my prayers. Yes, I think at times humility is “enforced”… not always the easiest!

  13. Rick says:

    Thank you, Duane. Learning that sense of being rather than doing as a source of contentment. Also, God’s ‘Common Grace ‘ expressed through the oncology nurses and staff. Lots of wonder…

  14. pstrmike says:

    Great post and comments on this thread.

    I have been reflecting on what I want to do with the rest of my life, which includes recognizing when to let it all go and step out of the picture.

    Seminary has engrained in me the habit of daily reading, and I hope it is something that I continue. I have a holding pattern from floor to ceiling of books I want to read, I guess I need to get more comfortable with kindle as my bookcases are already overly stuffed.

  15. Duane Arnold says:


    I hear you…

  16. pstrmike says:


    Much of what God reveals to us is a paradox.

    Along with Paul’s thorn in the flesh, the book of Job presents us with the paradox of Job’s life, and the only concrete truth to take away is God’s sovereignty in spite of the rather long leash He affords to evil.

  17. Randy Davis says:

    Duane, so much of what you wrote parallels my life. Losing physical strength, reading slower, losing loved one and contemplating death in general all see to me a part of my life. I’m close to your age and I guess our age produces the same general results.

    I’m more skeptical and cynical about church life. I get depressed about the way the world goes and I feel helpless to offer any change. Somethings I get depressed about it all. I’m not as strong as you or Michael. I seek God but sometimes He is hidden. My prayer life is spastic.

    But there is more to the story. When our house flooded a couple of years ago and we lost most of our possessions, God went to work immediately in our lives. My wife and I were knocked down by the flood, but we were overwhelmed by God’s grace.

    What is good about your post is that I see others are on the same trajectory that in on. We are not alone. I’m thankful for your writing.

  18. Em says:

    for many years i have thought that someone should write a book starting about the age where many of you folks are now… keep a diary of changes in body, friends activities etc and then publish it at about age 75 or so… it would help all to not be surprised by what they find themselves going thru…
    the older friends hit home with me as most of my dear and close friends were older than me… so were my doctor, my attorney and my favorite Bible teachers.. all gone now… and here i sit all on my own… well, not quite, but… 🙂

  19. Duane Arnold says:

    Randy Davis,

    Yes, most of us are on that trajectory… whether we want to admit it or not! I think when one has been active in ministry, it is easy to feel sidelined and that can extend to other areas of life as well. There are few guideposts. I spend a good part of my time these days working with younger friends, attempting to help and encourage when and where I can. I think we’re at that stage of needing to let grace become the rule of life – grace from God, grace shown to others. Without that grace – received and shown – it’s easy to retreat into a self-absorbed life (I’ve done that from time to time). One of the reasons I’ve entered another degree program is precisely to prevent that sense of isolation and self-absorption. Anything we can do to help those coming up behind us is a worthwhile endeavor…

  20. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Duane, I can relate here with this aging syndrome as time marches through. As I approach 70 in a couple of months (and my 50th wedding anniversary on Thursday) I see it both in myself and my wife – we were once 16 together – yikes, the age of my granddaughter.
    I too have lost the physical strength and I am glad you and others brought up the changes in reading. I no longer read “heavy” material – I stick to reading my Perry Mason books and my Bible reading barely gets out of Psalms and Proverbs.

    I have told my kids to watch me closely and learn as I will teach them how to grow old and die, so they will know how and teach their kids. No one taught me.

  21. Duane Arnold says:


    The funny thing is, I don’t seem to recall the time passing so quickly. I’m moving back into heavier reading material (now re-reading Ahlstrom’s Religious History of the American People) but it is with less “appetite”. I’ve also gone back to my Greek NT for the daily office readings. It is, however, a bit painful exercising those muscles…

    Happy Anniversary!

  22. Jean says:


    In the event you haven’t done so, there are specific steps you can take to recover your interest, appetite, stamina (call it what you will) for heavy reading:

    1. Make sure you have appropriate reading glasses or the right prescription lenses. There is nothing worse than strained or tired eyes or headaches to de-motivate your reading.

    2. Get a piece of furniture that is comfortable physically for reading for a steady period of time.

    3. Make sure you have good lighting for reading.

    4. Drink coffee. 🙂

    5. Buy a tablet, which enables you to manipulate the font size and brightness of your e-books and take them with you wherever you go.

  23. Randy Davis says:

    I had thought of doing another degree years ago. But I really did not have the time. Now I don’t have the patience to spend time writing papers. I would enjoy a seminar setting. I have taught both undergraduate and graduate courses and enjoyed them. But again, I don’t have the energy now.

    I still read a lot, but mostly fiction—nothing serious, Jack Higgins, James Lee Burke, etc. I still read theology but so much of it is repetitive. I am a little behind on contemporary theology and philosophy. One of the problems is the high cost of books. I’m trying to read analytic theology on kindle. All of my books are still in the attic since the flood and my knees prevent me from getting them, so I read a lot on kindle.

    But I admit it is hard to read theology or biblical studies because there is not much new under the sun. We had Bishop Stephen Neil in a lecture series while I was in seminary. In a Q&A session, someone asked what he was reading. He said not much theology anymore. He was reading about education and economics, and history I got the impression that he was tired of reading theology.

    Like Michael, I find am find more pleasure in my relationship to Chrst over reading theology. However, I doubt I would have the understanding and depth of faith if I did not have the theology background.

  24. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Jean, I don’t think it is so much my glasses etc – I think Randy Davis summed it up best –
    “But I admit it is hard to read theology or biblical studies because there is not much new under the sun.”

    I do read articles – mostly the ones you send to straighten out my theology 🙂

  25. Jean says:

    I don’t disagree that there’s not much new under the sun. Oddly, the book publishing industry would disagree.

    I guess I am in catch up mode on all the old stuff that, if you don’t read it yourself, you’re not likely to hear or learn from the pulpit. Duane’s article this week is a good example. The paradoxes are all true, but it is not what many would consider “marketable” and it goes against the grain of the more triumphant or prosperity oriented theologies that are common today.

  26. Duane Arnold says:

    I think there is good material out there, but I also think that it is more difficult to find. Some are well known – Raymond Brown, NT Wright – but there is so much released by university presses that goes by unnoticed. Additionally, so many other things are out of print, although many good things are available in PDF form online. All that being said, while once I was absolutely enthusiastic in approaching any book on theology or biblical studies, I now find myself a bit “wary”. Maybe it is owing to the fact that once I thought that I had all the time in the world… and now I know that the time is more limited…

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