Friday, May 20, 2016

Trekking North for Breakthrough.

We are setting off for Newcastle-upon-Tyne in the north of England this evening as we prepare for a few days of tests, meetings and discussions that may well lead to a major operation in about four weeks time. This statue is of the 'Angel of the North' and we are really glad that the Lord of the north is going before us! Why Newcastle?  Well it is the only place in Britain now that offers the surgery that I need - a total pancreatectomy with transplanting of the islets of Langerhans into my liver! Wow - space age stuff eh?

I confess to being very nervous even of these few days, but I do feel a settled peace in my heart, and it is so important in life to 'follow your peace'. Getting the funding for this operation was a miracle of answered prayer in itself, and so this is just the next step in a long journey that we hope and pray will lead to a better day.

Thanks for being with us in prayer as we make this journey.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

This motivational text was used by the UK government during the Second World War in an effort to raise the people's morale at a time of great distress.  Enemy bombs were raining on some major cities and the young people of the nation were losing their lives in huge numbers at the front. There were food shortages and evacuations such as only those who have had the misfortune to live through a war can know, and the desire of the country's leaders was to try and get folk not to panic.

Recently this same slogan has returned as a decoration for mugs, tea-cloths and wall hangings, and this has had the effect of trivialising the words so that they have almost lost their power, but recently I have come to understand them in a brand new way. You see, I have found out that the fear of something can be almost as bad, and sometimes even worse, than the thing happening itself. As this has come about I have had to re-learn the wisdom of the old adage and "keep calm and carry on!"

I am facing major surgery once again, probably about the tenth time, although there have been more than thirty 'surgical procedures' each of which has been fraught with danger and pain. But, this is the big one!  An op that the professor described as 'the mother of all operations' awaits me in about a month, that has the potential to end my two decades of battling crippling pain and illness. But - I am really afraid and I don't mind admitting to it! I know that God is with me and that He will guide the surgeon's hands, but I'm only human and have had rather too much of this particular trial thank you. So, I have decided to live as if I am at war - fighting fear and the negative thoughts that assail me.  I recall the Bible verse that says 'take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ' (2 Cor. 10:5). What I face is terrifying but I am determined to "keep calm and carry on" trusting in Christ to see me through. Praising God and keeping the powder dry you might say!

Monday, May 02, 2016

Lessons from Weakness

Sorry to have missed out on blogging for a while. Things have been a bit tough for me recently. In the last month or so I have spent 3 weeks in hospital with a vicious attack of acute pancreatitis on top of chronic pancreatitis. This has also involved a tangle with ascending cholangitis (nothing to do with the colon - this is an infection of the bile ducts and/or liver) and left me with pleurisy in both lungs and a partially collapsed lung. I just wanted to say all that to show that I haven't been lazing around all day taking it easy! It has been particularly difficult this time because of the problem of physical weakness just when I need to be strong for the possible major transplant op planned for this summer in the UK. But also because I want to encourage you if you also are passing through a time of weakness for any other reason. This too shall pass.

I think it's a man-thing not to want to own up to any weakness. We blokes like to see ourselves as immune to frailty or fragility of any type and it is so hard to become dependent upon the kindness of nurses and relatives to be able to meet even the basic demands of the day or night. My time in hospital has given me insight into the awful frustration that men and women feel when they become overtaken by weakness. All I can say is that I believe that this experience will not be wasted, and that it can have a really formative effect on our soul, our faith and our experience of God. When we place our weak hand in his powerful grip then despite our weakness we can learn, develop and grow spiritually.  That's why the apostle Paul said "When I am weak, then I am strong" (2 Cor. 12:10).

One of the ancient prophets of Israel, a guy called Habbakuk, once went against the grain of the myth that says if you are a reasonably good person then you should enjoy success, wealth and strength. He wrote: "Though the fig-tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Saviour. The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights". (Hab.3:17-19)

Saturday, April 02, 2016

The Scan that Reveals All!

Home again at last! After nearly a week in hospital I am so glad to be able to lie in my own bed again. Tho' it be e'er so humble there's no place like home! My days and nights of restless struggle in hospital were made more bearable due to the presence in the next bed to me of a dear friend. We did not chat much - neither of us were well enough for that - but as we both attend the same church and have a similar taste for peace and quiet, I enjoyed his company and know that he did mine. I hope that he is better now and can go home soon also.

During my stay it was necessary for me to be given a CT scan once again. This powerful and searching experience reveals so much to the medical team that can't be discerned by other examinations. This scan was key to understanding why my pain has got so much worse recently. It made me aware, though, if I had forgotten, that God sees who we really are, and not what we might like them to see or think about us. There is a searching and knowing process that is undertaken by God's all-seeing spirit, and He knows us better than we know ourselves. In the Psalms King David prayed "search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting." (Ps 139:23-24)

I hope that my scan will be a step forward in my treatment and contribute to my healing. God's scan may reveal negative and unhelpful issues in our hearts, but He is still the great physician, and through the power of all that Christ has done for us that first Easter of the Christian era, "one touch from the King changes everything". Why not pray like David and invite a spiritual scan of your heart also? It might well be the key that unlocks your healing too.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

A great warrior receives his reward.

This week a great warrior for the Christian faith died. Jerry Bridges, the author who challenged more than a million readers to take seriously God’s command for holiness, died on Sunday at 86. His best known book was "The Pursuit of Holiness" but to me he will always be remembered for penning the book that radically changed my life and thinking, Trusting God with the subtitle "even when life hurts". My life was really starting to hurt when I first picked up that book in 1997. It was the start of twenty years of agonising pain and frequent hospital admissions. This book, and the issues that it dared to raise, became a real source of strength to me.

Now the book represents a theology that not all will find easy to swallow or follow. But in it, Bridges asked some powerful questions like: "Can you really trust God when adversity strikes and fills your life with pain?" or "Do you have such a relationship with God and such a confidence in Him that you believe He is with you in your adversity even though you do not see any evidence of His presence and His power?".

If you don't love the Bible more than all the philosophies of men: if you don't treasure the things of God more than all the glittering gadgetry of the age in which we live - then don't ever read this book.  But, if you do read any of Jerry Bridges' work, you will be impressed with the writings of a man convinced that God is always in control, and that His ways are the best for us despite the limits of our understanding. A very humane and humble man, Jerry Bridges blessed my life and the lives of countless others I'm sure. Now he is entering the eternal reward that waits for all who trust God, even when life hurts.

Wednesday, March 02, 2016

The Power of Good News!

I had an amazing experience this week of the power of good news to lift your spirits and give you victory over pain and despair. I was lying on the settee at home around midday on Tuesday when the phone rang. My plan had been to try and get to our doctor’s surgery, or maybe even A & E at the local hospital due to the pain that I was in.  The phone call, however, was from our son who lives away from us, to say that he and his wife had just welcomed our new grand-daughter into the world!

You can imagine our joy and enthusiasm for this wonderful gift.  We knew, of course, that a baby was coming, but not its gender nor the actual day, but just a tad early the little girl was born and mother and baby are doing well.  This good news surged through me like an injection! I did telephone the doctor for advice on the phone about pain control doses etc but my whole condition perked up at the news I heard.


I am still physically unwell and in pain, but the power of good news and the birth of a baby overcame it temporarily at least. And this is the heart of the gospel – the good news of God!  His Son was born for our salvation and healing and the great news of his coming should be spread everywhere. Each place it comes and is received by faith, the good news will do its rejuvenating work. “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!”

Friday, February 12, 2016

A Sign of Hope as we Face the Biggest Question

A good friend reminded me recently of a precious promise in God's Word found in the book of Job. "For a tree there is always hope. Chop it down and it still has a chance—its roots can put out fresh sprouts. Even if its roots are old and gnarled, its stump long dormant, at the first whiff of water it comes to life, buds and grows like a sapling" (14:7-9). Wow! I feel a bit like that tree - getting older and certainly cut down by pain and serious illness - but God is the lord of renewal, breakthrough and hope and he still has plans for my life. What a source of comfort at a difficult time. Hope is such an important commodity in a pretty desolate world. It gives the ability to endure all kinds of trials and to 'hang in there' long after you've been cut down and set aside.

I also received in the post recently a copy of a DVD and accompanying group leaders' manual on the subject "The Biggest Question" about why a God of love allows suffering. It features interviews with many folk with powerful stories to tell. You can see part of it here.
If you would like to see more, or order a copy of the DVD and/or the notes, especially for a small group you may be part of, you can find out more at www.focus.org.uk. I do hope you might find it helpful, and as my strength allows, I would be pleased to hear from you by email as we all struggle with this biggest question of all.