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Retired Presbyterian pastor pens ‘The Big Book of Christian Encouragement’

The Rev. Charlie Gross’ latest book, all 401 pages of it, comes from the 181 pandemic podcasts he created

by Mike Ferguson | Presbyterian News Service

LOUISVILLE — The Rev. Charlie Gross, who’s honorably retired from Donegal Presbytery, signs his emails with “Extravagant Blessings!” You get the feeling he wrote the book on Christian encouragement.

In fact, he did.

For about 2½ years during the pandemic, Gross, whose last ministry call was at West Grove Presbyterian Church in southeastern Pennsylvania and who previously served on the staff of Donegal Presbytery, has offered up “Encouraging Words” podcasts designed to, as he says, “uplift you, encourage you, make you smile, make you laugh, make you think and give you wisdom and insights for your own path in life. With God’s help, they may enable you to be an encourager and give you new resolve.”

Gross began compiling his podcasts into brief books on encouragement. Now he’s gathered them into “The Big Book of Christian Encouragement,” a hefty 401-page compendium of 181 short encouraging broadcasts. Learn more here.

“Just as God made you beautiful and unique, God uniquely blessed me to be an encourager,” Gross says in his book, where he recalls the origin of the podcasts in April 2020. He and his wife, Lisa, had just returned from a cruise around South America. “I was holed up in my office, reading, thinking, praying, writing, and staring out my window at God’s beautiful Creation,” he writes. “It dawned on me: I needed to share encouragement with the world that certainly needed it.”

Part of the feedback Gross has heard to date is appreciation for the way his podcast uses real-life experiences to interact with portions of Scripture. Among the book’s promoters is Gross’ mother, who’s 88 and “very active. A lot of her friends have read it,” he said, “and she sends it to people.”

The Rev. Charlie Gross

Here’s an excerpt from “Encouraged by Checklists” that relies on Gross’ Air Force and Air National Guard service that preceded his career as a pastor:

“Today’s encouragement is the use of checklists. Checklists — just like the compound word suggests, it’s a list that you check … I first learned the importance of checklists back in 1979 in the U.S. Air Force … I was a second lieutenant, a deputy missile combat crew commander in the Titan II weapon system. Checklists were used for every aspect of the operation: from checking out a vehicle from the motor pool, to getting on the missile complex, to monitoring maintenance activities and even for simulated missile launch exercises … After three years … I entered Air Force pilot training. Once again, checklist use is paramount, essential and vital to safely flying aircraft … I’ve become so enamored and encouraged by the use of checklists that I’ve used them to ensure I had what I needed for work, I’ve used them to ensure I turned lights off and set the temperature correctly before leaving my office, and I even use checklists to produce podcasts … So, if you want to enhance your error-free performance in life, study or work, develop a step-by-step checklist to help. Then use it every time!”

In “Encouraged by the Blink of the Eye,” Gross tells of meeting his wife-to-be after his brother told him about a Friday night coffee house in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. A 16th birthday party was underway for Lisa Martin and her best friend, Kay. Gross was immediately smitten with Lisa, and they were married three years later. “Life changed from a simple remark from my brother, just a blink of an eye,” Gross says. Years later, Gross was having lunch with his wife. “Somewhere over a sandwich, chips and a pickle, Lisa said, ‘You’re being called into the ministry and I’m OK with that.’ Boom. Just like that, everything changed. I spent 20 wonderful years in ministry and am now retired. Do you see why I’m fascinated by these blink of an eye events? … After spending years reading the Bible, I find similar blink of an eye events changing lives. Think of Saul’s walk on the road to Damascus when BOOM, the Lord struck him blind, spoke to him and changed his life forever. Think of that younger prodigal son trying to eat with the pigs. Boom! Hit rock bottom and turned toward home … Friends, I’m fascinated by these stories sprinkled through life. You can’t plan them, or predict them, but we can expect them, watch for them, and live encouraging lives through them.”

Gross said he’s praying for solid book sales “only because I keep praying God would be glorified in this.” Another reader he appreciates is the husband of his wife’s cousin. The couple belongs to the River Brethren faith tradition.

“I keep pointing to how accessible God’s Word is,” Gross said. “He’s an avid reader of mine. He said, ‘You help me understand the Bible much better, and I’m grateful for that.’ That’s one of the highest compliments that I got.”

Click here to listen to Gross’ podcasts or to purchase “The Big Book of Christian Encouragement.”

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