by Jack L. Kennedy
The importance of both physical and spiritual health is a subject in which many can identify. I Fought the Lord, and the Lord Won, a memoir by James W. Anderson (West Bow Press) takes the reader down both paths, as Anderson reminisces about his upbringing, and what his mother and father and grandpa gave to him as boundaries, tips from role models, directions and experiences.
The book has a certain charm as it recollects the events in Andersonís life from longtime friendships to two wives to lessons learned as he moves up the DuPont corporate ladder. Along the way he seems to enjoy and understand a variety of people and religions and bumps and bruises of the spiritual or physical sort. He believed he was rather a good Christian as he began as a Methodist, raised kids as a Roman Catholic and had a best friend who was an Episcopalian.
Anderson's spiritual journey had him touch and learn from a variety of people. He began to realize more and more that understanding himself did not necessarily equate to mere regular church or synagogue attendance or a specific denomination, but to observing and caring about and understanding others.
Life appeared to have been good. The promotions and changes of scene came and he moved on at a rather comfortable upper middle class pace.
Anderson, pictured at left, had been told at a very young age, as he began swimming and other athletic pursuits, that his congenital heart defect was no major concern and would heal itself over time. However, it did not. Perhaps, the stress of a divorce, job relocation and striving upward were the culprits when he began noticing pain. Then in his 50s he had a string of heart attacks, strokes and comas.
His illnesses and subsequent rehabilitation, physical therapy and recovery lead to a reassessment of his spiritual journey--his donations to some mega-churches and tv preachers--as he tries to heal both physical and spiritual pain.
At one point, Anderson after witnessing a white light, claims he had a long near-death experience and rather lengthy and specific talk with God, which he later recalls line for line on paper. He was given a mission by God, he says, to reach out to others, have faith, and heal body and spirit.
The amazing grace from I Fought The Lord does not lie in whether the reader believes in such visions, or specific denominations or outgoing self-proclaimed ministries. It is in the rather simple, touching, often familiar day by day story of a man, who is making a variety of friends, questioning, loving but directing his children, being open to new ideas and willing to take chances. It is the story of a man who learns gradually how to deal with physical and spiritual pain without self-pity.
Eventually, he goes back to work--in a wheelchair but feeling freer, not handicapped. He even writes his own understanding of the Bible, in an appendix to the book.
The major lesson, perhaps,one can take from Anderson is that physical and spiritual health both take time to nurture and define and develop, and we must not give up on either, or on other people. And we definitely forgive him for not catching the typo of the word "soul."
Title - I Fought the Lord, and the Lord Won, a memoir
Author: James W. Anderson
Publisher: West Bow Press (Oct. 17, 2011), 276 pp.
$15.56 (paperback), $3.99 (Kindle) at amazon.com
ISBN-10: 1449727727/ISBN-13: 978-1449727727