Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Christmas Pain

Well - what a surprise! After having boasted that this would be the first Christmas in three that I would not be in hospital, where should I end up but in hospital! Sadly, despite having been doing so much better recently, I had a relapse over Christmas which meant an emergency admission overnight on Christmas Day itself. Pancreatitis is a very vicious and painful disease, and doesn't seem to bother about the date on the calendar either.

My experience is not wasted, however, as it serves to keep a couple of 'home truths' before me. The first is that we can never boast of what tomorrow may hold, only that Someone much higher and wiser than us knows what is best. The second is that even in crisis God provides for the needs of His children. The nurse that received me in the Emergency Department is a member of our church and a dear friend. She held my arm and said comforting and helpful things to me as I trudged the foreboding corridors with a heavy heart. Beautiful decorations awaited me on my arrival on the ward, and the staff were so amazingly kind and understanding. Each of them was away from their family too in order to be able to serve me and others.

So - shades of the stable where Jesus was born in the most unexpected circumstances - yet God's plan was being fulfilled in His life. I have much more to learn yet, but I am comforted by the fact that God knows what He's about.

Happy Christmas!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

The Road to Bethlehem is here again. It hardly seems like a whole year since the last presentation of this Christmas extravaganza with a cast of hundreds! Shades of Oberamergau! Only this time it is the Christmas story and not the Easter one that is being acted out by the cast, including the animals.

Last year 2,000 adults plus many more hundreds of children passed through the big tent and visited the mock-up of the manger scene. Scores of great conversations were had about the real meaning of the season, and lots of good contacts made. Above all, enchanted boys and girls were able to relive the first Christmas, minus the weather, and enjoy the thrill of knowing God's love for them.

So, we are praying for some fine days on Saturday 9th and Sunday 10th December, so that we can present this unique event again. After that, it's heads down for the Christmas rush!

Thursday, November 09, 2006

To Lead is to Serve

So, there are big changes in the American government, with the Democrats now taking the lead in the House of Representatives and possibly also the Senate. Suddenly a Republican President is going to have to work together with others of a different political perspective. But isn't that a good thing? Doesn't it make sense that politics should include a wide spectrum of opinion and the checks and balances of having to share power?

I am increasingly convinced that effective leadership must include the ability to carry along with you those who disagree with you. The kind of autocracy where the leader does just whatever he or she thinks is right and expects others to toe the line is surely out of place in Christian leadership anyway. It simply cannot be right to ride roughshod over others opinions and refuse to listen to the warnings of people we should respect, even if we disagree with them.

There is a lot of talk about the place of authority in the New Testament church, but it should not be overstated. Apostles started churches in some cases, then left them to get on with it pretty much straight away, with an occasional visit or letter, if at all. Elders were always in the plural so that nobody was allowed to be a petty dictator, and were required to show character rather than gifting during the selection process. Deacons were real servants, whose hearts were moved by the needs of the people whom they served. In all this, the real example is Jesus, who laid aside all his reputation and glory to become a servant and washed his disciples' feet.

Maybe those who claim that President Bush is now a 'lame duck president' should consider that possibly his best decisions lie ahead.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

New House New Start

It has been a hectic few weeks. As well as me being in hospital four times in six weeks, we have also moved house! They say that moving home is very high on the stress factors list and I think 'they' are right! Anyhow, at last we are in and enjoying living in this bijou little converted barn type cottage on the west coast of Guernsey.

One of the 'Welcome to your new home' cards we received said that 'a new home equals a new start'. Amen to that. It will be really good to begin this next phase of our lives over again without cholangitis, pancreatitis and any other kind of 'itis.

Part of the joy of the new start is that it is right at the heart of God's plan for us. 'If anyone is in Christ they are a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come' (2 Cor. 5:17). God is in the business of renewal and making a new start. I need that for medical and physical reasons at the moment, but I have also experienced it in the past for emotional and spiritual purposes. It seems important to realise that our best days lie ahead of us. Making a new start means letting go of what might be safe and known, but is holding us back from all the very best.

We had lived in our last home for ten years, and it was hard to let it go. Now that we are settling in here it just all makes sense. This is the next step in our journey. The last one was good, but this one is for now. The next one is in God's hands and we will trust Him for that. Till then, it's just good to be home.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

War Zone

We have been in a warzone today! It all started when we got a letter from the local miltary cadet force to say that the headland where we live - Fort Le Marchant - had been selected to be the assault ground for the cadets' final infantry test. The 'battle' would be complete with blank ammunition, smoke grenades, thunderflashes and 'battle sounds' provided by a local stage props company. We were even told the time when the battle would start and end, and offered a vantage point if we wanted to watch it in safety.

The ensuing blast of noise, shouting, rifle fire and melee of bangs and whistles lasted for half and hour. 'The enemy' were dressed up in tea towel headgear so no guesses as to whom they were supposed to represent. There were lots of screams and yells, and the sound of gunfire and the pungent whiff of smoke spread over quite a large area.

I wish life's battles were as easily choreographed. If we got a letter saying that 'the enemy of your soul will be attacking you next Sunday at 1.30pm' wouldn't that be a helpful bit of warning? Then we could quickly put on the armour of God and bunker down. Or - if we knew that his attack would only last for half-an-hour? Now that would be a luxury (speaking as someone who has battled life-threatening illness and crippling pain for 10 years!). But we are granted no such luxury in the Christian warfare to which we are called. And then - blank ammunition - all noise and no pain, I could sign up for that to be used against me.

What are assured of is final victory. Even more certain than the demise of the towel-heads at Fort Le Marchant today is the ultimate downfall and defeat of the prince of darkness. We are in the army of a victorious king, who has already triumphed over sin and one day will eradicate pain, sickness and death. 'O death where is thy sting? O grave where is thy victory? Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.'

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Afraid? Moi?

'Be afraid; be very afraid!' said the cover of the book I had just picked up to browse in the bookshop. As if that would sell it to me! I've got enough struggles with fear without paying 7.99 to be scared even more.

Having waited several days following our recent medical trip to London for some results it appears that they have found a blockage in my pancreatic duct that requires urgent removal. So I am facing a readmission into hospital for several days in the near future and a surgical procedure which in my case has a 1 in 3 chance of causing life-threatening side effects. (At least - that's doctor speak for 'don't blame us if it all goes belly up!) I spent last night reliving my terrible weeks in Intensive Care on a previous occasion I had the same procedure.

Then - God spoke to me. He did so this morning from the ancient book of Isaiah. These words were written hundreds of years ago but they were just what I needed to hear. 'So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.' (Isaiah 41:10).

Now that's the kind of book I want to read.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Travel and Treasure

Off we go to London again. Going to spend my birthday this year once again in hospital - just like last year. On this 32nd trip to the capital for medical reasons I feel a bit like a commuter, turning up at the airport with a bag of pills instead of a laptop. ~Ho hum. At least I get the chance to experience the current security scare at the nation's airports from the inside. Endless queuing, radical searches, vast crowds, noisy children, screaming babes and surly security people with scowling glares.

All this is made easier by the Bible passage I preached on at church this morning. 2 Corinthians 4:7 'For we have this treasure in jars of clay'. I am very aware of the clayness of my jar, but what has really caught my attention is the wonder of the treasure. The gospel, the radiance of Christ, the presence of God Himself in my life - that makes me a very special kind of traveller. I wonder if this kind of treasure will show up on the scanner? 'Excuse me Sir, did you know that you have got incredible riches on your insides?' Maybe not, but the knowledge of it keeps me going.

In the same chapter, Paul writes ' though outwardly we are wasting away, inwardly we are being renewed day by day'. I know it's the clay pot that they are going to be fiddling with this week, but I'm going to fix my mind on the treasure. 'Fix your eyes then on what is unseen, because what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.'

Someone very kindly sent me this link to a very moving webpage about the kind of vessel God chooses to use - take a look at http://wandascountryhome.com/potter/ Enjoy!

Back again soon. God bless.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Lifted Up!

How does it feel to be prayed for? I should certainly know. For the last week or 10 days loads of people have been praying for me here at home and around the globe. What an immense privilege. This encourages my heart no end.

We leave home this weekend to travel by boat to the mainland of the UK in order to see the senior surgeon at the University College Hospital in London. After 10 years of incredible pain and loads of recent operations it is likely that he will want to open up my abdomen again. On the way we will visit the church being led by Rev Peter Lawrence, author of 'The Spirit Who Heals' so that we can be present at a healing service. What we are praying for is:
  • That God will have His way in the situation
  • That God will heal
  • That God will be glorified whatever the outcome.

So, how does it feel to be prayed for? It makes me feel very special and very grateful. It gives me a peace that all will be well because God is in charge, not me, not the doctors. It reminds me that I am part of a worldwide family. Most of all, it tells me that my heavenly Father cares for me, and that if I could never do another work of service for Him, He's still my Dad and wants my company.

Now that's pretty uplifting!

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Flying High!

This is the aircraft in which I have just been up and about in for a free flying lesson. It was given to me as a gift by a very kind friend in the church that I attend. What fun! The temperature was around the 25 degree C mark and we were flying into a thunderstorm, but it was amazing. The instructor, Frank, let me fly the plane around in the air, up and down and banking turns etc and then, he allowed me to land it. I am amazed that he risked the mirth of his colleagues who may have been watching our approach as it left a lot to be desired. Still, we got down.

Of course I'm not fooling myself. I know that if Frank hadn't been there, or if something had happened to him, I could not have successfully landed that aircraft. He was the guiding hand, the encouraging voice, and the one who could have baled me out of trouble at any point. I'm so glad that in life Jesus is my instructor too. He does not seem to do a lot sometimes, but I'm not fooling myself, I couldn't make it without Him. His guiding hand and encouraging voice are so important to me, but the knowledge that His skill is always at my side is vital.

What an experience.

Monday, July 17, 2006

It Ain't Half hot!

Well, summer's here at last and we Sarnians (the old name for Guernsey folk) are sweltering in 30+ degrees of heat. Mind you, we've lived in Africa, and I quite enjoy the heat when it finally comes. Here in Britain it's a case of 'don't blink or you'll miss it!'

We haven't been swimming in the sea yet. We're waiting for the water temperature to rise to at least 18 degrees C - shouldn't be too long now. When it does we'll be in there, splashing around like toddlers pretending we can really swim well.

There's nothing quite a like a cool swim at the end of really hot day, when the tide is up at the top of the beach, the air is still and the whiff of barbied bacon and sausages fills the air. That's about as close to Paradise as it gets this side of the line! Wish you were here?

See ya soon.


Thursday, July 13, 2006

What Really Matters?

I'm getting over last week's attack of acute cholangitis (blocked bile ducts) but am still feeling a bit grog. All this resting is giving me a resting overdose! I am at work, but need to make plenty of space between assignments so as to be able to cope.

This has got me thinking as to what really matters in my life. I am having to prioritise and evaluate everything I do into what is really important, what can wait, and what doesn't really need my attention at all. That's not a bad discipline even for those who are well. Even Jesus refused to dash around Israel doing good everywhere and paced himself to do only those things that he felt God the Father was telling him to do.

I was chatting about this to my friend Stuart when he reminded me that we are called 'human beings' not 'human doings' and that we all need to know that we matter, not because of what we do, but because of who we are. Now I'm trying not to resent the process of sifting everything in the hope that it will stand me in good stead even when I am doing better.

It's an ill wind!

Saturday, July 08, 2006

A Tough Week

It's the weekend again after a really tough few days. I've been ill with an attack of acute cholangitis - temperature of 39.7 (104!) with rigors, nausea, pain etc. Not a happy chappie! I can never go through these attacks without thinking of those who live like this all the time. I am really blest to be able to enjoy a fairly normal life in between spells of sickness, but I know some folk who are in pain 24-hours a day, seven days a week. I admire those who suffer like that and keep cheerful, even trusting God through it all.

Diane and I remember last 7th July very well as I was in hospital in London just a few days later. Exactly one week after the bomb attacks, we were in the streets around Oxford St at the time of the bombing, when everybody came out of their offices and shops to mark the minute with silence. It's awesome to think of the pain that the grieving relatives are facing every day, as well as the hundreds who were disfgured and injured.

What a sad old world this sometimes seems to be? Does God care? Can He do anything about it? I love Salvador Dali's painting Christ of St John of the Cross. It says it all really. He does care and He is involved. He's involved in my pain too, and I'm grateful for that.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

More Restoration Pics

When I started thinking about what Len had done to that old heap of remains, I found some more pictures I thought you might like to see:

This is definitely a 'before' shot!

These are definitely 'after'! Well done Len.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Restoration Blues

What a mess! Would you know where to start to restore this lot? My friend Len did. He saw this heap of rusty old parts for a Morris Minor pick-up truck several years ago, and took a real shine to the old pile. Amazingly, he had hope for it even thought there was nothing to really hope about, just a heap of broken pieces. Four years of hard work, sweat, labour and love, have worked their charm on the rusted remains, and what exists today is a work of real effort.

Wow! A real restoration masterpiece. Every part of it is original, except for the seat covers and the wing mirrors, and the great thing is - it works! Now, whenever I'm feeling my age, struggling with illness, aware of being a bit of a wreck, I think of Len's Minor. He worked at it because he had a love for it, and a vision for the outcome. He knew that what was there was not all that could be there.

You know what? Len is a bit like Jesus. (He would laugh if he reads that - so would Eileen his wife). But he is, because Jesus is in the business of rescuing wrecks like me. He's got love and vision enough to give me a brand new start. Hey - my 'blues' are turning to 'whews'!

Monday, July 03, 2006

Go Island Hopping!

We have just had an amazing couple of weeks island-hopping here in the Channel Islands. Sark is a unique piece of Western Europe, broken off from the coast of Normandy. 600 people live there and there are no cars at all - just a few tractors and the gentle clip-clop of horses' hooves! We enjoyed the cliff paths and watching dolphins swimming in the bays. Then it was on to Jersey, quite a contrast in traffic terms but just as quaint and interesting.

Islands have something very special about them. Some people can't cope with the sense of isolation, but we love them! We used to live and work in the Seychelles, a chain of 100 tropical islands in the middle of the Indian Ocean, at least one thousand miles from land. In fact, we'd love to go back there. They say that once you have eaten breadfruit in the Seychelles you are bound to return.

Now that would be an island-hopping idyll. Bring it on!