Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Clearing out blockages...

I wish it was as simple as cleaning out a blocked drain.  Unfortunately, stents in the pancreatic duct are not quite as easy to deal with! After only 3 weeks from my last procedure in London I am already aware that the two stents which were inserted into my duct are blocking already. What sorrow this has brought to me, and frustration. When there is a blockage anywhere in the body, the whole body feels unwell. There is great pain, of course, in anything to do with the pancreas, which is situated so close to major pain carrying nerves so that any inflammation or blockage causes immense discomfort and pain. But there are other effects also, all pointing towards this same problem.

The same is true of course, in other areas of our lives.  When there is a blocked duct or tube then communication is hindered and the whole of life gets out of kilter. Whether in our minds or in our marriages, we need to keep using the old plunger if we want to stay healthy. In the Bible book of Genesis 26:17 the Old Testament character Isaac went to the wells that his father Abraham had used and which had been filled up and blocked with stones and soil and he cleared them out. This determination to clear out the ducts and draw water from the same source as his godly father brought Isaac mixed blessings. His enemies hated him all the more for it but God saw his actions and commended him by repeating the promises to Isaac that He had first made to his dad. A cleared duct was all it took for Isaac to be completely renewed in his faith.

I wonder what might be blocking your ducts? I know what's blocking mine and it will mean yet another trip back to hospital in London eventually to get it sorted out. But there are plungers we can use for some of the other channels that get stopped in our lives. Forgiveness, re-commitment, surrender, prayer, all can assist us in getting the life-giving ducts of our hearts clear. Whatever it takes it must be easier than what I am facing, so why wait?  Get plunging today!

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Will I Ever Learn? - Snowbound Enthusiasm

This is not what our back yard looks like today - this is how it was in March 2013! But today we are waiting for the threatening snow that is expected to hit our community, and it is proving to be a bit of a disappointment! Yet, if I turn my mind back to 2013 I can still remember how bad the experience was. We were unable to fly in or out of our island for three days, during which my wife was in Southampton with our son and daughter-in-law for the immensely difficult hospital birth of our first grand-child. I longed to get there to be with them but could not. I had recently undergone surgery (again!  Am I ever not?) and had stitches in, and burst them while shoveling snow! I had to be restitched but couldn't get to the hospital - grrrrr it was a dreadful experience full of frustration and extreme cold. So, why am I secretly hoping that it might snow again?  What kind of masochistic longings do I have to want to go through anything as horrible as that again?

Well, I suppose the old adage holds some truth, that time does heal. I have forgotten the feelings of frozen fingers and toes, the soaking wet freezing mess that goes down your neck when snow falls off the roof onto your shoulders.  And mostly, I have allowed the pain of that experience to fade and am ready for another go! What?  Am I crazy? Or maybe I am not alone in this child-like delight in a blanket of snow on a winter's morning.

The truth is that it's an ill wind that blows nobody any good, and even in the most adverse of circumstances there is something we can marvel at if we have a mind to try. The old story is told of two men who looked out of the same prison bars, one saw the mud and the other the stars. It is all a matter of perspective and, awful as it was, those terrible days of March 2013 did pass, and dear Maggie, our grand-daughter, is doing well now and we love her very much. My wound did eventually heal and I did get to Southampton to be alongside Diane.

And I wouldn't mind if it snowed tonight!  Do you think it will? Oooooh - how exciting is that?

Friday, January 16, 2015

'A pill for every ill' - is the oral myth of the 21st Century. It says that there must be a cure for everything and if there isn't then there should be. Our Western sophistication has led us astray and given us unrealistic expectations of the medical profession. They can treat and care, but only God heals. They can cut and cauterise, but only the Creator recreates and cures. As a long-term user of the medical services because of chronic ill health lasting over two decades I have come to see that we simply cannot expect that our every problem can be fixed in the surgery or the treatment room. The long lines of waiting ambulances queuing up outside UK Accident and Emergency rooms is testimony to the fallacy. Thank God for the expertise and excellent care that is given us but we really should not expect too much from them.

Our God is a healing God.  One of his names is 'the God that heals you' and even before Jesus began his amazing miracle ministry God has revealed his desire to heal and restore those whose lives have been blighted by disease. My long experience of illness has not dimmed my understanding of this great truth nor my hope that he will heal me. I submit to his sovereignty and great wisdom, and acknowledge that he has plans for my life that I cannot understand this side of eternity, but my hope is in God - not in the medics. That does not make me anti-medicine. No, I am pro-recovery and that puts me on the same side as the medics!

I was deeply moved by the kindness expressed in the voice of a young registrar from University College London hospital who telephoned me today to say they are expecting me next week. I felt sorry for his obvious frustration and sympathy for me in my extremely painful condition, and was touched by his desire to help me. I am grateful, but I wanted to reassure him that I am not expecting him to heal me.  To treat me yes - but not to heal me - because that job belongs to God. And into his loving, healing hands I commend myself once again.

Friday, January 09, 2015

Change of Plan

As 2015 begins we islanders are being faced with a bracing rash of road closures. Routes that have been long part of local travel-lore are suddenly shut to us as pipes burst, mains need laying, cables require maintenance and surfaces damaged by flooding and heavy lorries require renewal. So with the usual dogged perseverance we accept the inevitable and fume in line as we waste time and fuel on long finger-tapping diversions. The good thing is that nowhere over here is far and we will all get there in the end, we just may need to take the scenic route for a while!

Recalling my long habit of getting very frustrated by diversions and sudden changes of plan I remember one wag suggesting that such things are sent to enable our souls to catch up with our bodies. I doubt very much that my soul is far behind my body these days as I have slowed down considerably, but there is a lesson in this for me anyhow. These changes of my plan are not unplanned - it's just a different plan!  There is a higher power who knows what he is about even if I don't!  I was supposed to be having surgery this January at the Princess Elizabeth hospital in Guernsey but the anesthetist decided I was too unfit to proceed. Apparently I need to get back to London and face another of these difficult and dangerous pancreatic procedures to replace yet another prematurely blocked stent. I can feel my soul trying to tell me to calm down and keep trusting.

So it is more of the same in this New Year. All I pray is that I may know him more clearly and follow him more nearly so that my diversions will be guided by His all seeing eye. Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Take Heart

As we enter the New Year in less than 24 hours I find myself feeling a mixture of sorrow and hope. Sorrow at what has been a very difficult year for us as a family and hope that this new year is full of opportunity. As I spent a few moments this morning in reflection and prayer I came across this verse from the book of Psalms "Praise be to the Lord, to God our Saviour, who daily bears our burdens." (Psalms 68:19) and then in the New Testament book of Hebrews these words of Jesus ""Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you." (Hebrews 13:5).

In our saddest moments during 2014 we have not been left alone. God has been with us even though we have not found it easy to discern his presence at times. I have a very close friend, Martyn, whose dear wife Gill died suddenly just over a year ago, and who found great help and comfort in his grief in a song by Fernando Ortega, "Take Heart my Friend" and it has become precious to me also.  In the dark nights of pain I have played it often. It has been my encourager as I have sat in my car watching the waves pounding angrily on the sea-shore. As I face tomorrow with its wet sand just waiting to be written upon by whatever God has planned for Diane and me, I do take heart from the fact that we are not alone. Read the lyrics here and see if they help you also.

Take heart my friend, we'll go together
This uncertain road that lies ahead
Our faithful God has always gone before us
And He will lead the way once again

Take heart my friend, we can walk together
And if our burdens become too great
We can hold up and help one another
In God's love, in God's grace

Take heart my friend, the Lord is with us
As He has been all the days of our lives
Our assurance every morning
Our defender in the night

If we should falter when trouble surrounds us
When the wind and the waves are wild and high
We will look away to Him who rules the waters
Who spoke His peace into the angry tide

He is our comfort, our sustainer
He is our help in time of need
And when we wander He is our shepherd
He who watches over us, never sleeps

Take heart my friend, the Lord is with us
As He has been all the days of our lives
Our assurance every morning
Our defender in the night

Take heart my friend, the Lord is with us
As He has been all the days of our lives
Our assurance every morning
Our defender in the night

When the time comes, Diane and I wish you all a very Happy New Year!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Lighten our Darkness

It is so appropriate that in our part of the world Christmas comes at the darkest time of the year. Displays of light, whether consisting of candles or LED's, abound as we make the most of this dark season to proclaim the coming of 'the light of the world'. But in another sense this reminds me that every year, almost without fail, the most appalling acts of darkness, natural or unnatural disasters, seem to take place at or around Christmas. Even in my own short memory I recall events like the Penlee lifeboat disaster from 1981 in which 8 volunteer life-boatmen gave their lives to rescue the crew of a sinking freighter at Christmas. Then there was the dreadful downing of the Lockerbie PanAm flight right near the special day, and of course, 10 years ago, I was in London for hospital treatment when Diane came back from a Boxing Day carol service to say that thousands were feared dead in a terrifying tsunami. By the time that particular horror had run its course nearly a quarter of a million people had perished - what a Christmas! And then this year we have wept at the savage, inhuman slaughter of the little ones in Pakistan.

A Child in DistressBut then, like it or not, that's how Christmas started out. We love to idealise the stable scene with its kneeling wise men, adoring shepherds and hushed animals all worshiping the baby in the manger, but the reality included much less savoury facts. The young parents in Bethlehem were very soon to be engulfed with the most appalling sorrow as every child under 2 years of age was put to death by evil King Herod. The young Jesus with his Mum and Dad escaped as refugees like thousands of others in Jordan and Syria today, leaving behind them mourning and crying as the prophet Jeremiah described so powerfully, "Rachel crying for her children and not able to be comforted".

Why is there this dark side to Christmas?  Just co-incidence?  Maybe if you subscribe to the co-incidence view of history, but I prefer to recognise that the coming of Jesus was the greatest threat to the powers of darkness that they had ever faced, or would ever face. Just as evil King Herod feared that this baby had come to take away his kingdom and power, so there are forces in our world that tremble at the sound of the songs of Christmas. The birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus are the hinges on which the door of human history hangs. As we celebrate his coming this Christmas let's not lose sight of the dark side but rejoice that the light has come! "Joy to the world, the Lord has come.  Let Earth receive her king!" Amen to that!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Pre-Christmas Exhaustion and its Cure!

A mum was out Christmas shopping with her two children. After many hours of looking at row after row of toys and everything else imaginable; and hearing both her children asking for everything they saw on the shelves, she finally made it to the lift to leave the store. She rubbed her weary eyes with a hand weighed down with three loaded carrier bags and sighed as she waited for the lift to come to her floor, the kids pulling constantly on her coat sleeves and screeching in tired frustration. She was feeling what so many of us feel during this time of the year. Overwhelming pressure! Pressure to go to every party, or get the kids to theirs, taste all the holiday food and treats, get that perfect gift for every single person on our shopping list, not forgetting anyone on our card list, and the pressure of making sure that Christmas is altogether 'magical'.

Finally the lift doors opened and there was already a crowd inside. She pushed her way into the lift and dragged her two kids in with her and all the bags of stuff. When the doors closed she couldn't take it anymore and muttered with bitter resignation, "Whoever started this whole Christmas thing should be found, strung up and shot." From the back of the lift everyone heard a quiet calm voice respond, "Don't worry, we already did that - we crucified Him." For the rest of the trip down the lift was so quiet you could have heard a pin drop.

It can be so hard to keep our heads above water at this time of the year and find space to maintain our own peace, and especially our walk with God.  I don't think Jesus invented the modern Christmas and must be feeling pretty left out of it all anyway. But I came across a really helpful translation of a passage in the ancient gospel of Matthew that just about sums up what Jesus might say to us if we had a minute for him. "Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly." (Matthew 11:28 – 30 from The Message).

If Christmas feels "heavy or ill-fitting" we can be pretty sure Jesus didn't lay it on us, and maybe we should spend a few moments tuning his way at a time supposed to be all about him? Give it a go anyway and see if you can get through this season "freely and lightly".