You may have tuned into the beginning of Chris Shoenloeb’s story and his fight with the deadly disease, ALS. He shared his miraculous healing story with Walking Our Talk. But how does the story end and where is Chris now? Learn more in this week’s podcast.
Note: Below is a transcription of this Walking Our Talk podcast. Please excuse any grammatical or punctuation flaws, as the transcription is a written version of our fluid conversation.
Pauly [00:00:07] Welcome to walking our talk with Alan and Pauly Heller. Join our conversation as we discuss practical ways to apply spiritual principles to your everyday life and help you walk your talk one step at a time.
Alan [00:00:28] This is Alan Heller with Pauly.
Pauly [00:00:31] Hello.
Alan [00:00:31] We’re walking our talk and we’re talking with we’re doing the second part of a two-part series with Chris Shoenloeb, who wrote a book telling about his unbelievable experience of watching God heal him of ALS. And we were just in our last podcast talking about what led up to it and the difficulty of being told you’re going to die and you might as well go home after being diagnosed by the Mayo Clinic and just saying, you know, you need to get your affairs in order. And that’s what he started to do. And but this podcast, we want to talk about the rest of the story, as Paul Harvey used to say. And so, Chris, welcome. It’s good to have you back.
Chris [00:01:19] Glad to be back.
Alan [00:01:20] So tell us just summarize. We went from a hard-driving businessman. Your health was starting to go. They told you when you got diagnosed at Mayo Clinic that we think you might have ALS. Your health kept getting worse. You tried alternative medicines, all kinds of things, and you were losing your ability to even dress yourself and that sort of thing. And let’s pick up the story from there.
Chris [00:01:48] Well, I was very remiss in our last talk about the role of prayer, all during this period of time. I was on a lot of prayer lists. My wife had been a member of Bible Study Fellowship in various locations. We moved around the country and we have friends from all the cities we lived in. They all were in prayer for me every day.
Alan [00:02:15] Now, was prayer a big part of her life before that or not? Did it become a bigger part because of this incident.
Chris [00:02:22] No. It became a total part of my life every day in every way. And what I found fascinating and going back over it when I was writing the book was, that my prayers, and I remember many of them, were never for a healing. What I was praying for was the ability to cope with what God had laid on my shoulders.
Alan [00:02:43] And why do you think that is? I mean, I think most people would be praying for healing.
Chris [00:02:47] Well, I just believe that that was what was going to happen to me. And I have faith in God did that. I just accepted it. And my whole life has been one of a philosophy of, well, this is where I am, how do I best cope with it? My parents brought me up that way.
Alan [00:03:03] Take what’s dealt with you and you just deal with it.
Chris [00:03:06] And you deal with it. Yeah, it never really occurred to me to pray for healing because it was so finite. This is what was going to happen. And in some ways, I was comfortable with that as a lot less comfortable when I didn’t know what was going to happen.
Alan [00:03:21] Right. So you ended up putting starting to put your affairs in order. You talked about we did some things. We went on a trip overseas to celebrate our fortieth wedding anniversary. And you started talking with your kids. Do you remember any of the things that you said to them that, you know, you felt like you never got to say because you were so busy in your business life before?
Chris [00:03:47] Well, I’m glad you asked me that question, because I don’t remember. But I do find it very fascinating that when you are told you’re going to die and your loved one is going to die, no one wants to talk to you about it.
Alan [00:04:00] Really? The family, everyone moved away?
Chris [00:04:04] They would come over and we would talk about anything but that. They all showed up for Christmas, the year that our house and the elephant was in the room, but no one would talk to me.
Alan [00:04:15] And what would be your suggestion to somebody who gets a diagnosis and is having to live with cancer or something, but knows that it’s stage four, etc.? What would you say to the family members now or what would you say? What advice would you give?
Chris [00:04:30] Talk to them. Because I don’t think there is anyone who’s in the position like that who doesn’t want to talk about it.
Pauly [00:04:38] Yeah, what did you what piece of it did you want to talk about? Did you want to talk about how you were feeling at the moment, did you want to talk about what you were concerned about for the future? What what would you have wanted people to ask you?
Chris [00:04:54] I wanted to talk about what was going to happen to me. I was going to listen, guys, next few months, I’m going to get worse and worse. And if there’s anything we need to talk about, let’s talk about it now. I wanted to get our affairs in order with the people I was going to talk about, but I wanted to be very open about it. I didn’t want I just didn’t feel very comfortable sitting there and talking about what’s going to happen to the Phoenix Suns.
Alan [00:05:18] So did you do something about it? Did you step forward and say, I want to talk about it or that or that’s what promoted you doing the talks with each person individually. How did it work from there?
Chris [00:05:31] I did the best I could. I’m not exactly a shrinking violet, but I talked to my wife more than anybody.
Alan [00:05:42] She calls it like she sees it.
Chris [00:05:43] Yeah, but she had difficulty, too. And one of the problems that you find when you are in was in my position is people don’t want to talk to you who are very close to you because it affects them. They start to cry. They don’t want to go feel that inward or that they feel awkward. They just don’t want to do it. So one of the things that happened to me was I had a Stephen ministry.
Alan [00:06:06] Stephen Minister. What does that mean?
Chris [00:06:08] A Stephen ministry is a ministry that many churches have where you have a trained person walk alongside you, listen to you, and just let you talk and pray with you. And it’s kind of like what your ministries, you walk alongside someone and let them talk and never give advice, but let them know that they’re loved and let them know that God is with them. And it was a wonderful thing for me. As a matter of fact, because of that, after I became better, my first question was, Lord, why’d you save me? You killed 30000 people.
Alan [00:06:49] Who die each year with ALS?
Chris [00:06:51] And I didn’t. So why me?
Alan [00:06:53] So then what did you do from there? Well, it’s how long did it take to get that question answered?
Chris [00:06:59] Until I figured out that God wasn’t going to tell me. I had to go out and find out. And because he knew I was type and he knew I would. So I went out and knocked on a few doors and one opened at the North Phenix Baptist Church and one thing led to another. And my wife and I founded a Steven ministry there. We trained over one hundred people. We had a huge ministry for that big church.
Alan [00:07:22] And doesn’t that happen often where we comfort those with the comfort whereby we’ve been comforted, we get impacted by a ministry, and then we want to share it with everyone.
Chris [00:07:31] Right. And Stephen Ministries particularly that way, almost anyone who’s a Stephen minister is what I’d call a wounded healer. They’ve been through a divorce so they can talk to you about the pain of divorce. They’ve been through the death of a loved one or a death of a child.
Pauly [00:07:46] I think, Chris, you’re touching on a topic that is so important for people who are in a close relationship with someone who’s dealing with a terminal illness. Because as a mother who’s lost 32-year-old son to cancer, I know how difficult it was for me to talk with him about how he was feeling and what his fears were because he as a young man wanted so desperately to believe that God was going to heal him. But everything in his condition was pointing to the fact that he was going to die. So how do you know how was I supposed to talk to him about what I thought was going to happen when he really didn’t want to hear any negativity? He wanted people around him to be really positive.
Alan [00:08:45] Right.
Pauly [00:08:45] And you have to have faith that I’m going to be healed. Don’t you believe God is going to heal me? But at the same time, I wanted to be praying for him that he would find comfort no matter what happened. Does that make any sense?
Alan [00:09:00] And I think, too, we have a friend whose wife did not want to hear any negative comment, no negative. You know, right up until she died. She just wanted to say I am going to be healed. And everyone says, OK, so they were healed by dying and going to be with Jesus. But she meant that she was going to turn around in her health and even her husband wasn’t allowed to say any negative thing because that wasn’t what they believed. So what would you say to Pauly’s question?
Chris [00:09:32] It’s difficult because I had such a different approach to the whole issue. But I think you have to talk about who God is and that he’s sovereign. And I can’t offer comfort to someone who doesn’t want to hear anything, but I’m going to be healed, right?
Pauly [00:09:49] And I think you have to at least that as a visitor or somebody out beyond the person, to give that person an opportunity anyway to express how they’re feeling, what whether they’re wrestling with that positive negative aspect. Well, I wanted to have faith, but I also am afraid of dying. And I’m in pain. But I want to believe that God is going to heal me, at least have the opportunity to express that rather than talking about some superficial thing about like weather, sports or television.
Chris [00:10:33] Which drove me nuts.
Alan [00:10:35] Yeah. And I just think, um, I had to accept as the father of a young man that was dying. I mean, there was a lot of denial. He was very angry because he was having to deal with his mortality at thirty-two years old and all the things that he was going to lose and not experience. He’s not going to get married. He’s not going to have a child. He’s not going to do many of the things that all of us in our mind think that we’re going to do. And I had to finally just come to grips with the fact that, you know what? This is just where he’s at. And if he wants a five-dollar water and he thinks that’s going to heal them, I’m going to go out and get it. But, you know, at first, I got upset because I’m going, why are we spending five dollars on water when it costs a buck? I don’t even know why we pay a buck for water either, but I’m just saying I had to finally just be resigned, that, you know, he’s the one that’s dying. I am not. He’s dealing with this and I need to let him emote and feel and think whatever he wants. I would also offer you know, here’s what I think God says about that, but I wouldn’t argue anymore. But it took a while to get there.
Chris [00:11:43] Yeah.
Alan [00:11:44] And I counsel and I help people in pastoral settings and that sort of thing. So I am trained. And yet when it’s your own son, when you know and for you, your family, we never thought our dad would go through this.
Chris [00:11:58] No, they never did. And it was very difficult for them. As I said, I think it was more difficult for them than it was for me.
Alan [00:12:05] So after you’re getting better and you’re seeking out Lord, what is my purpose? What did you end up coming up with? I mean, you end up writing the book because you wrote the book. How long did that take you?
Chris [00:12:17] A long time. What happened was but it was inevitable because when I was at my neighbor’s, when I was at my worst, when I could barely walk, I had an electric cart to walk with. I was having people dress me. A very dear Christian friend of mine said leaned across the table where we were having lunch and said, Chris, you must promise me something. I said, OK, Raj, what? He said, you must promise me that when you’re healed and you will be healed. You will tell everyone about it for the rest of your life.
Alan [00:12:54] Hmm. Wow.
Chris [00:12:55] And you must promise God you’ll do that. And I said, oh Raj, he’s already saved me from ALS, all I’m going to do is become a cripple. I don’t see this ever happening. But if you insist. Do it, he said. I said I’ll do it. So I did. I prayed to God every day that if he healed me, I would tell the world about it for the rest of my life. And guess what? Two years later, I was faced with that promise and I’ve done it ever since. Any place I go, Hi, I’m Christian Shoenloeb. I’m a walking miracle.
Alan [00:13:26] And what are some of your reactions when you say that to somebody?
Chris [00:13:30] Normally, the first thing they say is what? Didn’t you have any medicine? And the second reaction was, wow, that’s pretty special. But I’m not sure that they all accept that God did it. But certainly, there is no other explanation. Absolutely. In my book, I build the case very strong because there isn’t anyway. The other thing that I found out was that God wasn’t done with me. I have had a wonderful 20 years since I was picked out of the gutter and made whole.
Chris [00:14:04] I have become an elder of our church. I have become involved with the Phoenix Rescue Mission, and I’m on their board and have worked very hard to help the homeless. In many ways, I’ve become involved in Bible studies and I’ve been mentoring five to seven young men at various times in my life. And in the meantime, I’ve been blessed to see my whole family grow up. I have four children, nine grandchildren, three great-grandchildren. I’ve watched their marriages, their graduations. And it’s just been a great time.
Pauly [00:14:37] And how would you say your relationships with your kids have changed from before ALS to post-ALS?
Chris [00:14:49] Well, I think I was no longer the authority figure and I think they gained a greater appreciation of who I was and I gained a greater appreciation for who they were. We’ve been a very close family for the last 25 years. I’ve been very blessed. We have no divorce in our family. We have all believers.
Alan [00:15:15] And they’re all very, um, they’re performing rather well in their areas of expertise. I mean, just say what you have one. That’s a principle of a very big high school, a great school, high school and what’s it called?
Chris [00:15:32] North Valley Christian Academy.
Alan [00:15:34] He’ll get you on that one. Yeah, he will.
Chris [00:15:37] My son is a chef. My other son is a chef. And he’s done very well. My daughter is a great teacher of English and is and my other daughter has been ill. But that’s OK. We have a great family.
Alan [00:15:55] That’s terrific.
Pauly [00:15:56] Yeah. That’s wonderful. I think about how you approach life as a younger man, just going kind of like a bulldog after whatever it was that you wanted, moving 37 times and more and leaving like a train of broken relationships behind you. How have would you say your personality or your approach to relationships has changed as a result of ALS? You still have those same core values that cause you to go after things or do you think you wait more? Are you still aggressive in how you go after goals?
Chris [00:16:52] I’m somewhat aggressive. I think age more than Lou Gehrig’s disease has changed that age and wisdom. I mean, after so many years, you begin to realize that you can’t do it all on your own and somebody is going to have to help you. But I think the biggest change in my approach to people occurred when I became a Christian until I became a Christian, I was a terror as a boss. I always viewed someone as and called them idiots and everything else, if they didn’t do exactly what I wanted them to do. And after that, I value – I looked at someone saying they must be trying their best, they must be doing what they’re trying to do because they need a job, I need to help them, not yell at them.
Alan [00:17:33] And you think that was because of your reading about and looking at the Bible from a different perspective? And what how Jesus I mean, how did you where did you get that change?
Chris [00:17:44] I got it the minute I accepted Christ. I had a secretary call two weeks later to my wife’s house, our house, and she said, What’s happened to your husband? He’s nice.
Alan [00:17:59] So it’s the spirit of God that came into your body.
Chris [00:18:04] It’s another miracle, really.
Alan [00:18:07] And so as you look at us, we only have a couple of minutes left. As you think about your future. I mean, you’re 83?
Chris [00:18:16] Eighty-five.
Alan [00:18:58] Eighty-five. And you’re still you’re writing a book, you’re on a couple of boards. You’re as active is as any 40 year old. Um, what do you see for the future? What what do you think God’s got for you in the next few years or what’s your I mean, I know we’re in a Bible study together and I know you, the Lord sort of spoke to you and said, get your affairs in order again, not because of a crisis, but doing it more just for the benefit, because, you know, you’re not going to be around here forever. But it doesn’t seem like that seems like you’re going to keep running on. But so in the short term and the next few years, what are you hearing the Lord say to you to do or how are you to live?
Chris [00:19:03] Take one day at a time, do the best you can, and move on. And don’t forget that all people have value. They all have a story. Try and be a blessing to them, not a hindrance or in any way get in their way, try and help them. And I think I’ve mellowed quite a bit because one of my core competencies is not humility. But I do think that it’s important to keep going. God didn’t write anything about retirement in the Bible. There’s nothing there. So I think I’ll just keep going until I can’t go.
Alan [00:19:45] Yeah, that’s great.
Pauly [00:19:46] I like that.
Alan [00:19:47] So we’ve been talking with Chris Shoenloeb, who God chose to heal of ALS and because of a good friend telling him if you get healed, uh, I want you to tell everybody you come in contact with, uh, who did that for you. And that’s what Christian love does now. Whenever he can. If you want one of his books, you can either go on Amazon or go to our website, walkandtalk.org. And we’ll make sure we get one to you. And thanks for being with us, Chris. Yeah, it’s a great journey.
Chris [00:20:27] I really enjoyed this, thank you.
Alan [00:20:28] And you know, to me, what Chris is exemplifying is what Jesus said. He said, Love God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength and love your neighbor as yourself. And our desire is that we will walk our talk. And so we’ll see you next time.
Pauly [00:20:48] This has been walking our talk with Alan and Pauly Heller, where we put into action those principles, we know from God’s word one step at a time, you can find more help at our website: walkandtalk.org.