Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Back from the Brink

We are back home again after 5 weeks in Newcastle-on-Tyne. I have had a massive operation in the International Transplant Centre there and am so grateful to Professor White and his team. This is the only place in Europe that offers this treatment. They operated on me for 16.5 hours non-stop and were able to remove my pancreas and spleen plus clean up my abdomen by repairing a tear in my duodenum. This space-age surgery was filmed by BBC 2 with interviews before and after and is to be the subject of a 90 minute documentary this coming Autumn. The Prof had not seen a pancreas in quite the state of mine, but having the disease for 20 years is the reason. The pancreas was like coal and they had to dig it out. Thankfully the islets of Langerhan (Google that if you want to know more) were able to be harvested in a nearby laboratory and then the Prof transplanted them into my liver where they are already chugging away producing insulin!

My week or more spent in ICU was very demanding and tough, as was the ward but now I am here with no pancreas, no pain, virtually no opiates, plus a healthy set of islets. Praise God! We both (Diane and I) felt that we were so lifted up on people's prayers, and all I can say is that we were recipients of amazing favour in answer to your praying! "Thank you" seems inadequate but it is heartfelt.

The awesome weakness that I feel might last for 3 to 6 months according to the team, or even longer due to my age. I need to learn to really rest and recover though it is all in a good cause. "To God be the glory, great things He has done".

Saturday, June 03, 2017

Freedom spelt R_I_S_K

This is Kate, the open boat in which my father's Uncle Jack made his escape from Nazi occupied Guernsey in August 1943. His wife had left the island before the jackboot stamped on normally peaceful Guernsey, as she was expecting their first child. All the 7 people who made their bid for freedom faced a dreadful ordeal. Sailing the hundred miles or so in an open boat is one thing, dangerous enough, but with the channel seeded with mines and German E Boats and other warships patrolling their route it was almost foolhardy. But their risk paid off, and they arrived in England just as the war was beginning to turn the Allies' way. For them, freedom was spelt R_I_S_K! But then it often is. Sometimes the only way to escape enslavement in any realm is to take a risk and step out in an unknown but different direction.

On the 14th of June this year I will take a known and calculated risk to overcome a dreadful illness that has occupied far too much of my life over the past 20 years. I am not unaware of the dangers involved, nor am I wearing too rosy coloured spectacles as I view what life after the operation might be like. Expectations have to be realistic, tempered with reality. When Jack reached England he found that he had a baby son, but not a wife.  She had not survived to greet her escaping hero. But he was needed, and he also provided very welcome care to his young nephew, my father, who had been evacuated before the Occupation began. So my hope this month is not in the surgeons nor in my own ability to endure. My hope is in God, who loves me and gave his son Jesus for me. He has a good plan for my life, here and in eternity.

For each of us life's challenges will be different and unique. Whatever binds us and holds us back has to be faced with courage and faith in the call of God. Our own version of 'Kate' might seem just as frail and inadequate, but if we step out trusting in God and his love for us, we shall discover a degree of freedom and triumph over adversity that only those who take a risk can understand.

As you can imagine, I have a soft spot for 'Kate'.  If you want to see her she is outside the front door of the German Occupation Museum in the Forest, Guernsey.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Keep Calm and Trust God

This week has seen a lot of concern about so-called cyber attacks on NHS computers around the UK. Folk are genuinely worried that these may compromise care or delay treatment. Now I have no desire to minimise the dangerous implications of such 'malware' but I am fairly convinced by now that the NHS can manage to delay treatment in particular quite well enough without it! You may know that it is over a year now since I was passed fit to receive a major surgical operation in the UK, by a leading hospital and cutting-edge team, only to be delayed again and again. Thankfully, this week we have learnt that there is a strong possibility that I will receive this treatment in the second half of the month of June.

Learning to wait due to something that you know is serious and could affect your well-being or even endanger your life, is a very tough call. It has not been easy to go through this period of waiting without a rising panic in my mind, but it has been made possible by the grace of God and the encouragement of his word. "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding" is one of the challenging Biblical verses that comes to our aid at times like this. "You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast because they trust in You" is also a simple statement of fact for us as we grapple with the limits of our human understanding and the amazingly patient love of God. For God, being eternal, without beginning or end, does not need to explain himself to me as if my tiny brain could somehow contain his immortality and power.

Even if computer glitches worry us and make us fear that our future is out of control, or maybe that our own personal data may be 'out there' in cyberspace, wisdom tells us that there is nothing to gain by panic, and no benefit in rage. I am grateful that the log-jam blocking my surgery is moving now, but ultimately the doctors are not in charge, nor the IT specialists or even the hackers. My life is held by higher hands and I would not wish it any other way. Keep calm and Trust in God!

Saturday, April 29, 2017

It's a "yes" from me!

I am not exactly inundated with high performance, high value cars, but if I was I'd be worried. It appears that thieves in the UK have developed a way of stealing these vehicles with apparent ease. They creep up to the owners dwelling in the dead of night, and by waving a device, held in a plastic bag, at the household's security camera, can somehow extend the range of the car's key fob and convince the motor that the thief has the necessary with which to start up! It seems that technology has gone mad here, both by equipping cars to drive without an ignition key or by devising a bag full of crafty deception devices.

The whole issue is one of consent. The thieves are pretending to have the right to drive away the car when they don't. They are creating an illusion of ownership that is costing owner's and insurance companies greatly. Using technology they are stealing what they have no right to even touch.

Jesus called Satan a thief and described him as one who has come to steal, kill and destroy.  These things are the very opposite of what Christ came to do, as he offers us life to the full (John 10:10). In this time of frustrated waiting and longing for surgery and freedom from pain, there are some precious things that I know my enemy would want to steal from me. My precious peace, my joy, my sense of being special to God and those I love, my ability to work and serve others - all these things mean more to me than any puny supercar. I must remain alert to every attempt to take these away.

This can only be done by consent - by a daily choice to make Jesus Lord and to go God's way and not my own. And to use the terminology of the Roman soldier from the Bible, I need to put on the armour of God every day in order to defeat the strategies of evil. As the thieves develop their techniques, we rely on God's protection 24 hours a day. There is no better device.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

A Tomb with a View

I am so glad that there is a tomb at the centre of the Easter story. A place of cold grief and bitter tears. A real tomb for a really dead man, not just somewhere for a swooned imposter to await rescue by his fellow conspirators. This is God's tomb, where God the Son tasted death for me. This is the devil's best, an attempt to wipe out the catalogue of miracles and mercy that Jesus wrote in Galilee and substitute his own pathetic offering of "always look on the bright side" and "did God really say..?" doubt.

And the view from the tomb of Jesus is magnificent. It casts a quick flicker of hope over a place of suffering and pain, Golgotha or Calvary, and slowly expands towards the brilliant dawn that is already starting to change the colours we see only through our tears. Yes, this is God's tomb, but much more than that - it is MY tomb as well. For, in the words of the Apostle Paul, "I have been crucified with Christ" (Galatians 2:20). The old me is dead and buried, and just as Jesus breaks forth from the tomb outside Jerusalem, so I am set free by Christ from self, from having to impress others, even from the fear of death itself.

And here's an offer you won't see in many catalogues - it can be YOUR tomb as well! "Oh thanks Eric" I can hear you say "that's all I need on top of everything else I am suffering". But that's the whole point, this tomb is the place where you can lay your sufferings down, and your achievements, and stop trying to impress God and others. You can be identified with Jesus in His death also, and rise with Him to a completely new life!

Because He lives, I can face tomorrow
Because He lives, all fear is gone
Because I know He holds my future
And life is worth the living just because He lives.

Have a very happy Easter!

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Our Road - in the Middle...

Our road is, in the words of a well-known worship song, “a road marked with suffering where there’s pain in the offering” (1). You might not think so, as Guernsey’s semi-rural roads are studded with pretty homes and bungalows, where no two are the same in design, and not one of them would give you much change out of half a million pounds. But fragrant gardens and granite surrounds with spotless drives lead to front doors that speak of beauty before functionality, and certainly welcome over any kind of security. Neighbours greet each other warmly, and life is never dull around here while you have a window. Dog-walking regulars and school-bound pram-pushers pass each other with warm greetings and the polite “after you” “no-after you!” that oils the passing of the day, not just their journey. Most days, and certainly weekends, will see horses and their riders as the only traffic in the road, their exhausts providing heaps of nurturing manure for the quick witted, bucket in hand, rose tenderers.

But our road is in pain. From the end of the road at the beach-front, back to our house and via the local shop, folk hesitate in their busy days to enquire after the well-being of loved ones. A neighbour’s father died last weekend, and his mother is in care with dementia. A wealthy pair who own most of the properties on one side of the road, are both in dementia or after-stroke care. Recently it seems that in almost every other home there has been a crisis, couples have been yelling at one another and have separated, and tragically, three or four more have been diagnosed with life-limiting illness, mainly cancer.

Of course, that’s not the whole story in our little idyll. A sweet new family is moving in next door, having bought the large old house that served as a home for my wife and her parents over decades. So, our road may be much like pretty much any other when you peel back the curtains and peer behind the outer facades. And at the corner is our church, Vazon Church. For more than a century its doors have been open wide to receive the pain-wracked and broken in our district, and the newcomers and those just seeking somewhere to meet others and make deep friendships. And I thank God that it is there. And this Easter it will proclaim again a God who knows what happens behind our doors and yet loves us unconditionally. The cross is our sign of His care. Whether well, or struggling with life’s apparent unfairness, it stands witness to a loving Saviour.

1.       1. Matt Redman, Blessed Be Your Name Lyrics, from Sing Like Never Before: The Essential Collection, MetroLyrics.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Farewell to a Great Friend

Sunset over Guernsey's famous west coast - at Cobo to be precise. It was near here that my long-time close friend David Tinnion and his lovely wife Bobbie, stayed the last time I saw them. They were in the island to help out in the church where I was the Pastor and where my chronic ill health was making it hard for me to continue. I recall the words of an old hymn that seem appropriate to that time "he to the fight and to the rescue came!" I know that the hymn writer was talking about Christ, but then the Lord Jesus Christ could be seen so clearly in my friend David. Now, he has gone to be with his Lord and mine, and I, for one among many thousands, am going to miss him.

David and I first met when he came to my home church as a young Bible student to look after the church during the pastor's holiday. I was struck then by his deep passion for the Lord and the gospel. His favourite phrase will be mentioned by many, I'm sure. "Only one life, 'twill soon be past, only what's done for Christ will last". Those words had burned their way into the heart of the young David as they were spoken to him by his blind father. They make no finer inscription for any kind of earthly memorial because they became his motivating passion for most of his seventy years.

David's life was not all sunshine without shadow, but then, all sunshine makes a desert! One such dark time was prolonged and awful, and almost took him from us then. But into David's life and the ministry he was yet to fulfill, stepped Bobbie nee Marcus, the dynamic yet self-effacing other half of this story. Diane and I are praying for Bobbie right now and if you know her, so will you.

The great thing about a sunset is that as the shadows lengthen and the daylight slips away, just beyond the horizon a whole new day is dawning. People waiting there, like loved-ones straining to see the coming of their friend, will cry out "here he comes!" Our loss is their gain.  Our sunset over Cobo speaks of dawn in the land of everlasting light.

Goodnight my friend.  See you in the morning.