Saturday, September 16, 2017

Let Some Things be Sacred

Another terrorist attack has just happened in London and many hundreds of people who were on the train that was bombed will be grateful today that they are still alive. According to the news media, the bomb did not fully detonate and so mass fatalities were narrowly avoided. We can thank God for this small mercy in what would otherwise be a significant disaster. What compounds this dreadful act is that those who perpetrate such things do so in the name of their god. Well, he isn't my God and if you want to know what he is like, you only have to look at the person and deeds of Jesus Christ, the prince of peace!

But I was really concerned that the national newspaper I bought the following day contained page after page of intense analysis, pointing out how such a device could be made from information online. There was even a detailed account of what it presumed the police and MI5 would be doing in order to catch the culprit.  Wouldn't it be much better and safer to keep some things under wraps until a later stage when their investigations are more advanced?  And should certain subjects be off-limits completely? Of course, we have grown accustomed to this level of media speculation but we should not forget that it is being done to sell papers and make a profit.

I felt the same when the news media reported the fact that a stalker had got access to the school where Prince George is studying. They included close details of when and where the school is, what security it has in place, the positions of security cameras etc and even how and where the police might be setting up their presence there. What a giveaway to any terrorist group wanting to do the royal family and the nation harm.

Some years prior to the Good Friday agreement that brought the Irish 'troubles' to an end, the government told the media to cease giving terrorists the oxygen of publicity. Now I am not suggesting that such draconian methods would be right today, but surely there is a place for certain aspects of news to be played down, or even kept to the relevant authporities at least for the time being? What do you think?

Thursday, September 07, 2017

Destruction in Paradise!

 We have had the joy of living and working in what many would describe as an island paradise. I am referring to Seychelles, a wonderful chain of fabulous islands in the Indian Ocean. We found the humidity and heat to be quite challenging but there were so many positive things to enjoy and even to marvel at. Thankfully there were no hurricanes in that part of the world, but there were occasional heavy storms of torrential rain.  My heart goes out, therefore, to the folk living in the chain of islands in the Caribbean which have been so badly hit this week by Atlantic storm Irma. Their glorious paradise has been turned into chaos and disaster by this huge storm and even lives have been lost in its destructive track.
It must be so hard to find a lovely homestead or other property being trashed by the powers of nature. The fear and dread among children and adults alike must be great, especially when evacuation is not as easy as it might appear on the US mainland. I am praying for those affected by Irma and all involved in rescue, recovery and repair, as there is another storm expected soon in that part of the world.

It seems to me that we need to realise that sometimes our dreams of paradise and a fabulous lifestyle on Earth surrounded by the warm waters of the Caribbean, may be just a pipe-dream. There will also probably be cruise liners taking shelter at this time, robbing the hopeful passengers of visits ashore in this blighted archipelago. But this is a much more normal understanding of life. In the most sublime of situations, dreadful storms can come and cause us so much pain. Whether through family upheaval or divorce, sickness and pain, redundancy or loss of meaningful work through retirement, our image of a great life can be spoiled in short order. This is one of the reasons why I have published at least 2 books on the subject of storms - Braving the Storm and Storm Force and am currently working on at least one more (After the Storm!)

Jesus led his first-century followers through many storms - quite literally on the changeable waters of the Sea of Galilee - teaching them that in the most awful storms threatening our lives and dreams, he wants to be with us and see us through. After 20 years of being struck repeatedly by one of the most painful illnesses it is possible to endure, Diane and I have proved again and again that life can be rebuilt, and even if not down here, there is a Paradise that awaits Christ followers that no storm can destroy.


Tuesday, August 22, 2017

I have been watching birds around our home lately and am really amazed at the freedom they have just to spread their wings and take off. Well, it's my 65th birthday today, and at the age when most people are winding down and retiring I just feel I have been given a new lease of life! Certainly, following the massive surgery of last June I have a real sense of being spared - there was a risk of death in the operation - and spared for a reason. So I'm going to say this day is my retyrement day - new tyres on an old vehicle ready for the start of a new journey.

Thank you so much all of you who have sent me good wishes and cards etc. In Diane's card to me she wrote this Bible passage: "See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland. The wild animals honour me, the jackals and the owls, because I provide water in the desert and streams in the wasteland, to give drink to my people, my chosen, the people I formed for myself that they may proclaim my praise".

So like the free bird pictured above, and despite the immense weakness I feel in my body after the op, I am stretching my wings today to catch the breath of God's Spirit, and prepare for the new things he alone can give us. How about you?

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Strength from Weakness - the key to understanding the season you are in!

Apologies for not refreshing this blog recently as I have been at home trying to rest and recover from the massive surgery I had in Newcastle. My GP sent me an email with her own advice for this season.  She said "what you need now more than anything is rest, rest and more rest"! Wow - was she right, and it is so heard for a grown man to accept. The Professor warned me that my recovery may take 6 months to a year, but it is worth it all to know that I have no pancreas and no pain after 20 years of it! God is good and he has been so good to Diane and me during this season. Take a look at this passage from the New Testament book of 2 Corinthians 12:9. It pictures God speaking to those who follow him and receive his love. "My grace is enough; it's all you need. My strength comes into its own in your weakness".(The Message)

So - weakness is not wasted. It can be the forerunner of a whole new day in our lives if we will own up and embrace it. I feel as weak as a lamb just now but I know that it is the weakness of preparation, the fragility of fruitfulness. If you can identify with the way I feel, be encouraged. God is not finished with us yet!

Thanks for your prayers for my safe return from this major transplant surgery.  Please continue to pray that my recovery be effective in achieving in me all that God has planned for this season of rest.

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!