Monday, September 29, 2008

'Serious Financial Consequences'

One million people, mainly children under five and pregnant women, die every year of malaria, most of them in Africa. Now in a new development, world leaders have gathered and decided to do something about it. Result? They're going to give $3 Billion to end this scourge.

The largest slice of the new money comes from the Global Fund to fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria, which has approved $1.62bn in country grants over two years and then the World Bank, which is putting $1.1bn into Africa over three years.

The Bank is focusing especially on Democratic Republic of Congo and Nigeria, where 30-40% of all malaria deaths take place. Group president Robert B Zoellick said that endemic malaria also has serious financial consequences for families.

Ah - that must the key! 'Serious financial consequences'. Never mind that a million people die per year - what is this costing the global economy?

Maybe that is why there is all the action to bail out the US banking industry to the tune of $700 Billion! And it is amazing how quickly this has been resolved. 'Serious financial consequences'

Ask not how many people die of AIDS each year, or how many are starving. Don't enquire too closely where much of the existing foreign aid ends up anyway, as the people die in third world countries and their political leaders get fatter by the day. Ask only 'are there any serious financial consequences?' Going by the fugures involved in the twin bail-outs, that's all that really matters to us anyway.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Facing your Demons

It was the valley of death for me. If you have read my book Braving the Storm you will know about that. The Intensive Care Unit of my local hospital is where I have fought battles with the powers of death - and Hell! Last Wednesday I found myself there again.

The young nurse who welcomed me to the surgical ward could not have been kinder. It was her throw-away comment that gave me the eebie jeebies! 'Oh you won't be coming back here after the op, you'll be going to Intensive Care'. All at once the images of pain, humiliation, fear and near-death encounters rushed unbidden into my mind. ICU? I thought I would never have to set foot in the place again. Well, I didn't have to set foot there - my feet were firmly on the bed - but I did go there last week and I survived.

As the ICU nurse was leading my trolley back to the ward a couple of days later I said to him that the time there had been healing in more ways than one. Physically, of course, I needed to be there, and am grateful for their care after a painful big operation. Spiritually, and emotionally, my short time there taught me many lessons. Among them was the fact that sometimes, even after many years, you can't get completely free of some things until you face them.

I wouldn't have chosen to do so, especially at this low ebb in my illness. But God had other plans for me, and other business to transact in my soul. Back into the fiery furnace I needed to go. Back into the lions' den. And God was with me. He did bring me through, as He had done the first time. And you know what? I did feel His presence there, and His peace. 'Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil for You are with me.'

I hadn't planned to face my demons last Wednesday morning, but it was in God's appointment book for me. Thanks to your prayers and His blessing, I am here to tell you about it.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Step up in Faith

I have been reading Mike Mason's book The Gospel According to Job. It has already proved to be a real inspiration - a great read. It is helpful to me that it comes in bite-sized chunks of just a couple of pages per chapter, which is just about all I can manage in one go at the moment. It quickly becomes clear in the reading that Mike has suffered, and he has a heart for those who suffer also.

Job speaks to me. As a Bible book it is remarkable for what it does not say. No mention of Israel, of temples or tabernacles, Law or prophet. That's what makes some scholars think it might be the oldest book in the Bible - pre Abraham even. Yet I find it bang up to date with what I am going through right now.

One early lesson from Job chapter 1 is the picture of the man with all the weight of his appalling suffering bearing down on him, on his face in worship before God. 'The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away' he said 'may the name of the Lord be praised'. The author of the book then makes the incredible statement 'In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing'.

A preacher visited an island church recently and challenged the congregation to 'step up to a higher level of faith and claim your healing'. Some who have survived appalling circumstances, like Job, without accusing God of wrongdoing were in that meeting and struggled to step up to the new mark being set for them by the earnest young (healthy) preacher. None of them were healed that day, but then none of them needed to step up any further than where they already stood.

It may take faith to receive a miracle or to heal the sick, but it takes an even higher level of faith to look God in the eye after losing your children, your wealth, your reputation and your health and say through cracked lips and choking cry 'May the name of the Lord be praised'.

Thanks Job, and thanks Mike Mason for reminding me of that.