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.

Friday, January 22, 2016

I was jogging along and then this thing came up ahead of me!

A major hurdle in my twenty year battle with serious illness has been passed this week. On Wednesday we heard that the local health authority has granted funding for a major transplant operation to take place in Newcastle upon Tyne in the north of the UK. After turning me down twice this was a much welcomed turn-around and has brought a ray of hope to keep me running in this hurdles' race.

Initially I will be travelling to London again next week for further treatment. After that I will need a preparatory operation which will probably be done in Guernsey. There is at least a six week wait for that, and I will need a month after it to recover. Then, or perhaps before, I get to go up to Newcastle for a week of intensive assessment and 'working-up'. If they find me suitable then I will approach the final hurdle that will be the major op itself. This will involve removing my pancreas, spleen, duodenum and part of my stomach, and then transplanting the tail of the pancreas containing the 'islets' into my liver, so that it can continue to produce insulin there if all goes well. If I am still running after that hurdle I will be looking towards the finishing line!

Seeing life as a hurdles' race is a helpful analogy for me. The Bible speaks about running the race of faith and going into training for success in that race. I sincerely hope you will never have to run the particular race that I have run, but then I probably could not have hacked yours!  We are each called to our own individual race, but the important thing is not to give up! "let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus"... I really hope I can keep doing that as each of these hurdles comes along!

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

When I read these words on New Year's Day, I wept.

Early on New Year’s Day I was looking through my favourite version of the Bible for inspiration after a difficult Christmas period. I had been up to A & E over the special season, including on Christmas Day itself, and in touch with my GP twice in the space of four days or so. I endured the usual diet of overwhelming pain, fever, the rigors, extreme nausea – all the signs of a classic flare-up of my old enemy chronic pancreatitis. I say “old” because it was Christmas 1995 when I was admitted to hospital in Cardiff for the first of what would become over 100 such admissions in the last two decades.  Twenty years of frustration, struggle, and the loss of my ministry due to no fault of my own. It’s starting to get to me as you might well imagine.

And then I came across this promise of hope. God, speaking to His people Israel in the Old Testament, promised them that “I will restore to you the years that the locust has eaten” (Joel 2:25). Wow, that really hit home to my discouraged heart. Years ago, when we lived and worked in Africa, we were hit by a small locust swarm one evening. With the sound of an approaching express train it descended on a large bush in our garden and stripped the lot in seconds. When it lifted, like a swarm of hornets into the air, what had been a large and fruitful shrub was left a desolate collection of bare branches.

Maybe you have faced the hordes of locusts too. Whatever length of time has gone by, you probably can’t forget the sense of grief and loss you feel at opportunities denied you, relationships gone sour, loved ones taken away in their prime. The ‘not fairness’ of life takes its toll on us all, whatever the cause of the pain.

God knows our distress and hears our cry, even in the dark of the night. The Bible says in typically pictorial language that He keeps all our tears in His bottle. He must need a tanker for mine! I don’t know if the locust swarm will leave me in 2016 though I sincerely hope it does – but if not, this promise of God keeps me going as I start a third decade. “I will restore to you [place your name here] the years that the locusts have eaten”!

I don’t know how, or when, but I do know who will achieve this, and I’m holding on to Him for dear life!

Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Momentary troubles

I have chosen this photo of Diane and myself with Maggie, our much loved little grandchild, during our visit to see the family in Jersey last weekend. That was the high spot of this Christmas season but it has gone downhill quite a lot since then.

I think I want to apologise, really, that I haven't been posting faith-building blog posts recently and have fallen a bit behind, but the fact is I have been - and am - quite ill.  Things began to go down a bit for me, health-wise, the day before Christmas Eve. Since then we have been in A & E twice and the doctors surgery, seeking help with a real flare-up of chronic pancreatitis. Sadly, there is not much that can be done other than hit it on the head with very strong antibiotics and heap up the morphine pain relief in the hope of getting on top of the appalling pain. That has not been successful yet, but we live in hope.

We continue to await news of our application for funding of the huge operation that could fix this all for me, but which, as far as now anyway, the States are not willing to finance. We are being told that we should hear something in January, so we need to hold on some more. Diane's dearly loved sister is seriously ill and needs constant care.  Of course, in the light of the huge toll of human suffering that there is in the world our tiny microcosm of need is minute. But to me, it all seems a bit overwhelming. The house is full of food and I can't stand it at all!  Everyone is bursting with Christmas cheer and I am far from being a bah humbug type, but it doesn't touch my deepest need.

What does touch me deeply, though, is the real point of Christmas.  Emmanuel means God is with us, in the pain, in the sickness, in the bereavement, or whatever you are facing.  And these amazing words put it all into the correct perspective: "For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all" (2 Cor. 4:17).

So, if Christmas cheer leaves you a bit cold today, or even disappointed, I want to recommend a relationship with the living Christ who alone gives hope to live by and if necessary, to die for!

Happy Christmas!