Friday, June 12, 2015

Ground Hog Day!

It hardly seems possible but I am having to get back to London on Monday (15th June) for even further surgical work on my pancreas the next day to try and clear out the stones and debris in the pancreatic duct that is making me so unwell. I have a fever, extreme nausea and appalling pain, all of which are signs that I am blocked again, only one month on from the last trip to University College London Hospital. There are no words that can adequately describe my disappointment that this is the pathway mapped out for me, but I am determined to make every day count for the kingdom of God. It is so much easier to say or to write that than it is to do it, and life is throwing up some very real challenges each day at the moment. I feel that we have to just 'batten down the hatches' and choose to trust in the midst of the storm as we are buffeted and blown about by swirling gusts and opposing tides.

I have been doing some writing just recently as I have been asked to contribute to Scripture Union's Encounter series of daily devotional Bible readings. The study is doing me good and I hope that in some small way others may be helped and encouraged by these thoughts in due course. I was really challenged and blessed by these amazing words from the book of Hebrews "Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today and for ever" (Hebrews 13:8). Along with that amazing statement came into my mind a line from an old hymn "...has He lost His heart of pity? Is the risen Christ less strong?".  My heart shouts 'no' into the tearing wind, and I stretch out my hand one more time, more in desperation than faith, and take hold of a reality that will give me an anchor to prevent me slipping away in the raging storm.

Keep the faith!

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Catch Up Time

Recent events have kept me from posting in my blog as I have been through another prolonged period of struggling to get through life with a dodgy pancreas! This 'infernal internal' gives me so much trouble that I often wonder if I could do without it. The answer is yes - but to get there would involve massive surgery in a much operated on organ full of scar tissue etc and may result in me being a brittle diabetic. Besides, experience shows that these huge and demanding ops don't always resolve pain for the sufferer. Time will tell, and I will be guided by my excellent pancreatic/biliary team, but I thank God that my life is held in higher hands than theirs!

This recent crisis resulted in another admission to UCLH in London and yet another dangerous and delicate procedure under anesthetic to clear out my pancreatic duct (for the 8th time in recent months). They found that my duct was so blocked with stones and debris that the metal stent that had been fitted a few weeks ago to enable flow had itself been pushed right out of the duct by the pressure! The pain has been out of this world. I saw recent research which shows that pancreatic pain is the worst a man can know - as the pancreas is full of pain-transmitting nerves. It certainly is the worst I have ever known! So now I am home again with no stent. The strictures they found in the duct are just the same, and my propensity for making stones and sludge is undiminished, so I don't know how long it will be before another attack of acute pancreatitis puts me back in hospital, but I hope and pray for relief.

Some people ask me how I cope with all this.  I often answer that I am not sure I do cope some of the time!  I get through and keep on going, despite over a hundred hospital admissions and two decades of battling this disease, largely due to the prayers, love and support of others, most notably my wonderful wife Diane. I also know that God is with me, and that Jesus is alive and real - a very present help in trouble as he is described in the Bible. I also know that my body is an amazing machine - even my tiny Pomeranian dog has a pancreas - and the One who made me can mend me, In the meantime, I choose to trust him and wait for whatever he has planned for me in love. Thanks for your interest and prayers.

Saturday, May 02, 2015

Decision Day!

After 4 weeks of incessant electioneering in the UK I expect most folk there must be thoroughly fed up with it! We will have our own general election in 2016 here in Guernsey so we are not part of it, but as most of our media comes from the UK we are subjected to the overflow. It seems to me from a distance that there are big choices to be made at this election and I pray that the right outcome will prevail. One thing that is clear is that just about every vote counts and so I hope if you have a vote in the UK you plan to use it in a week's time.

Choices!  Life is full of them. Many of them are trivial - which coffee to buy, what kind of soap etc - but some are life-changing. When I was away at a Christian Healing Centre a couple of weeks ago I was presented with a very difficult choice indeed. Those kind folk who were listening to my story and ministering to me in prayer felt that I needed to choose to do God's will with joy even if that includes pain for me. As I write this now I am in intense pain, and under the influence of morphine. A recent op in London (the latest of several this year) appears to have failed yet again and the pain is extremely hard to bear. Yet, when challenged a fortnight ago to make my choice I did so, albeit with great difficulty, and I elect to stick with it today. I am content to let God set the agenda in my life whatever that may mean for me. So far it appears to have involved the most painful disease known to man - pancreatitis. In the future I hope that it will include healing and recovery but I am not certain of that.  All I am sure of is that there is a God who loves me, and if he never does take away my pain he has already done so much for me in his Son Jesus Christ that I can trust him for time and for eternity to do what's right for me.

For me, the choice as to who rules my life is not expressed in a ballot box but in my heart. I recall the words of a very special prayer, prayed each New Year in the Methodist Covenant service.  It goes:
"(Lord) - I am no longer my own but yours.
Put me to what you will, rank me with whom you will;
put me to doing, put me to suffering;
let me be employed for you or laid aside for you,
exalted for you or brought low for you.
Let me be full, let me be empty, let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and wholeheartedly yield all things to your pleasure and disposal.
And now, glorious and blessed God,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
you are mine and I am yours.
So be it... Amen"

Hmmm. Can you say 'Amen' to that? On May 7th in the UK you will express your choice with a cross.  God has also set out his desire for us at a cross, but we must daily cast our vote.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Trusting When it Seems so Wrong to me

Last week I had a few glorious days at Harnhill Christian Healing Centre in Gloucestershire, a truly wonderful place of ministry, peace and quietness. I went to wait on God for his guidance in my life but also to receive prayer for healing. I was not disappointed and really enjoyed my time there, but I learned some valuable lessons by just observing nature around me. With the warm weather that week and the sights and sounds of scores of new born lambs leaping in the sunshine it felt like a glimpse of heaven! I saw one ewe give birth to triplets, only then to discover that there was a fourth lamb on its way. This tiny creature slithered into the world and the long-suffering mother began to lick off the protective yellow coating with a sigh as if it had just come in home late after falling in a puddle. Yet the beauty of the week was challenged by the fact that the farmer had to then remove two of the lambs due to the ewe not being able to suckle them all. He seemed almost heartless in his matter-of-fact approach to his task even though I knew him to be a man who cared deeply for his sheep. The bereaved ewe could not have known this but those lambs would be given to other sheep that had lost their own lambs by being stillborn. There was method in his harshness and even a touch of mercy in his apparent indifference to her bleating cries.

Clearly from the ewe's point of view the shepherd was being really harsh and cruel, taking away her precious offspring and the fruit of her hard work. Only he really knew what the gift of those lambs would mean to some distant bereaved sheep, perhaps even on some other farmer's land as they co-operated together in lambing time. Being a shepherd is a tough job and those who undertake it are not soft, though they are usually well meaning and wise. Our divine shepherd asks us to keep on trusting him even when his actions may cause us grief or pain. Having been a patient in a London hospital many times in the last 12 months I have reflected on this mystery often. What I have discovered is that in every circumstance of life it is important for the sheep to keep trusting Jesus who described himself as "the good shepherd who gives his life for the sheep". No flock could ask for more from its shepherd even if they fail to understand his methods. He has good plans for us even in the difficult times. He knows what he is about and our job is to welcome him and trust in him.

So Harnhill was good for me.  It enabled me to reaffirm my confidence that I am willing to let God set the agenda in my life even if that means the awful pain I go through daily. I can't discern or describe any worth or purpose in this but I do acknowledge that my 'good shepherd' has a plan and I choose to trust in him.  And you?

Saturday, April 04, 2015

Easter Saturday - a place of comfort and strength!

"It's Friday - thank God Sunday's coming!" is an attitude to Easter that I can understand. But Saturday seems to have fallen off the Christian radar as an irrelevant day. Jesus died on Friday - so that dreadful day becomes Good Friday for those who realise that he died to obtain our salvation, the forgiveness of our sins. Sunday is self-evidently the highlight of the Easter story. Jesus did not remain dead, he rose again and destroyed the power of death over our lives. But hey - don't forget Saturday!

At the heart of the amazing achievements of the first Easter is a day of disappointment. The great teacher and prophet is dead. Hope lies discarded in a Middle Eastern tomb. Despair and sorrow are the emotions filling the hearts of all those who loved Jesus. Except perhaps for one. Joseph of Arimathea was the one who asked Pilate for the broken body of Jesus. It was he who pulled out those cruel nails and laid the frail frame down, wrapping him in a clean linen cloth. Then he carried the bloodstained mess to his own garden and laid it in the grave that he had prepared beforehand. I reckon that Joseph had heard and understood the prophecies Jesus made about his coming death and resurrection. He welcomed Saturday as a vital part of the Easter story. He knew that for the power of the Easter message to work there had to be a pit of despair and death in his spring garden. In a miracle much more profound than Christmas Joseph carried the Lord of Glory as a broken corpse and welcomed mystery into the heart of his faith.

As I face my own twentieth Easter with the appalling pain of chronic and recurring acute pancreatitis I find comfort waiting in the garden belonging to Joseph of Arimathea. I find the "now but not yet" message of the Kingdom of God becomes clearer sitting and waiting outside this cold tomb. My Jesus is Lord of Easter Saturday with all its pain and disappointment even if it does not look like it. His broken body did not stay that way but the fact that it was even laid in a cold stone tomb gives me hope.  Of course I can't stay here - because he is not here now He is risen! My own body will one day be like his resurrected body and until that day I choose to embrace the mystery of as-yet unanswered prayer and trust that God knows what he is doing. But for today I take comfort from my Saviour's tomb. "It's Saturday - but thank God Sunday's coming!"

Friday, March 27, 2015

As I prepare to leave for London again on Monday, the tenth such trip for medical help and hospital visits in the last 12 months, I can't help reflecting on the fact that it is the start of Holy Week. My particular battle is with physical pain so that for me, the cross of Calvary is very pertinent, and the sufferings of Jesus there for me seem stark and real like the sudden death of a close friend or loved one. It is amazing that my God should plan it that way so that the maker of the universe was made subject to the most appalling pain on my behalf. There was no accident about this.  Jesus did not stumble into taking my bullet - like the Indian clerk who takes the shot for the lead character in television's Indian Summers - no, he chose to go that way and experience that pain because he loves me and cares so deeply about my destiny.

For that reason alone my pain becomes more bearable.  But there is more. This Jesus did not stay dead. Against all scientific reason and historic precedence he rose again on the third day. Now by his death and bodily resurrection Jesus becomes the means of my own redemption from sin and death. My pain is temporary.  It may be extreme at times, and I long for it to be over, but even if I am not healed this side of eternity, and I pray ever day that I will be, I know where I am going when I do die. Not for me the 'hope so' uncertainties of balancing scales or trying to climb a crumbling pile of good works to see over my skip loads of mistakes and regrets, no!  Because he lives then we who trust him will also live!  His empty grave is our visa and his book of life our passport.

So in this momentous week for every Christian I set off to face the uncertainties of a delicate and dangerous surgical procedure knowing that all will be well. Easter changes everything. 'Calvary covers it all'.

Friday, March 20, 2015

One Step at a Time

After nearly two decades of battling serious ill health and severe pain I am learning to take each day one step at a time. It can be very difficult to do this, especially because I like to have my path well laid out before me and prefer to know where I am going and what is just around the next corner. But that is not how God has led me and life has definitely been, as the old song title has it 'One Day at a Time'.

In the last few months I have been back and forth to London with monthly interventions at University College London Hospital. Each time we have been there Diane and I have looked at each other and said 'this must surely be the last time!' but we have been wrong.  Despite the dangerous and difficult nature of these surgical procedures, and the fact that I seem to be becoming immune to the anesthetics being used so that the last couple of occasions are clear in my memory, it seems that I must have yet another one. So we will leave for London on March 30th for admission on the morning of Tuesday 31st and spend a few more days away while we seek an answer to my desperate situation.

But this step by step approach to medicine and treatment is no stranger to the Christian pilgrim. Our journey of faith is one of daily increments in our walk with God. Any attempt to hurry the divine will or rush ahead seems doomed to failure as we discover that this Christian life is a walk and not a mad dash to heaven! 'Step by step as you go the way shall open before you' is God's promise to us all and we need daily grace to be able to accept that.

So despite the natural fear and disappointment of facing it all again, I guess I need to stretch out and take one more step on this journey, praying that the outcome will turn out to have been a giant leap in securing victory and getting well again. Please Lord!