Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Year Wishes

I was listening to an announcer at the local radio station as I shaved this morning, nearly causing a chunk of my beautiful looks(!) to be chopped off just in time for the New Year.  He was reporting a vox pop interviewing people in the town centre as what would be their three wishes for Guernsey this New Year.  Most of the answers were banal - people were caught on the hop and couldn't think of what to say.  I'm sure they thought of plenty after he had gone.  I stopped hacking and asked myself the same question.  Now, I'm not claiming to be full of good thoughts, so I surprised myself with these three things that sprang into my mind.
  1. A large number of young people to become committed followers of Jesus Christ.  Many are already doing so, and I am amazed at their boldness and faith, but wouldn't it be great to see a real harvest of young lives for the kingdom of God?  That would change Guernsey and probably the world.
  2. That the island's government, churches and people would spend in 2010 exactly what they spend on themselves in overseas aid.  Let's do some radical giving in the coming year that would bring a smile to millions of faces around the globe! The next year we can exceed this by giving away more than we spend on ourselves but hey, let's not hurry this!
  3. That there be no more unemployment.  I know that our jobless figures are minute compared to the UK and other Western democracies, especially post recession (if we are post??) but every unemployed person is a wasted resource and a huge drain on the public purse.  Why not put them to work in useful publically or privately financed projects that would add to infrastructure (roads, bridges, parks, pathways, sewers, mains etc) or action to reduce poverty and increase self-reliance (creating allotments from derelict greenhouse sites and then giving/renting them to the poor, redecorating church, charity and youth premises to further the creation of a community spirit).
I stepped into the shower and thought 'and what about me?'  Three wishes for my own situation?  Well, for a start, I'd love to have a new pancreas - then I could really get going!

Do let me know your own three wishes for yourself or your community, I'd love to read them.  Have a Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Courage to Face the Future

It takes an unusual kind of courage to face the enormity of being blown up in Afghanistan, losing limbs, and then facing life in a totally different way. Like the courage of Rifleman Craig Wood who was just 18 and was blown up by the Taliban on his first patrol. Losing three limbs and having 27 pints of blood he was given only a 50% chance of survival but he is facing this horrendous injury with an awe inspiring determination.  His youth, his strength before the terrible incident that nearly killed him, the excellent medical, surgical and nursing care are all contributing to his current recovery. Yet, no-one doubts the courage of this brave young man who said to his girlfriend "I have to make the best of it! I have lost a number of good colleagues, I know how lucky I am, in a way".

Courage comes in many shapes and forms.  The young officer walking out in front of his men so that he can detect and deal with the deadly IED's that threaten his troop is an obvious example.  I can think, though, of some examples of courage nearer to home.  A young friend has just endured a painful lung operation in London, a long way from home, and is facing the New Year in pain, knowing that he must move home in the first few days of 2010.  Still he can find examples of how God has helped him through the surgical ordeal and is trusting Him for his future (ably assisted by his wonderful family!)  Another dear friend is battling cancer that came as a complete mystery to him, his wife and children, and yet is testifying to God's amazing grace and presence with them in their trial.

And when you think of the Bible account of the first Christmas, courage came in large helpings too.  Mary chose to go God's way despite the possible loss of her partner Joseph (if he failed to understand or believe her) and in the light of scorn and disdain by her community.  Wise men set out from the East, facing the tyrant king Herod, and defying him, in the courage that faith always needs in order to prevail.

So, I am facing 2010 and asking God for courage.  I know I may well have to endure another long period of enforced 'nil by mouth' total pancreatic rest, and probably quite a while in hospital in London.  I know that the Holy Spirit is the 'spirit of boldness' and I'm looking to Him to help me.  And I can say, therefore, to you, whatever you are facing, that you need to ask Him to fill you with boldness, reassure you with His unique comfort, and walk beside you as your advocate, in a courageous New Year!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Sunsets and Phoney Baloney!

Sunset over Port Soif in Guernsey can be a magnificent affair.  It often comes at the end of a great day of sunshine and blue skies, but is more often the finale to a period of moody weather or even a storm.  If 'Braving the Storm' is your motto, you will, like me, regard the sunset as compensation after a tough day, and the promise of another go tomorrow.  That's a great help when we face storms - just the knowledge that tomorrow is another day, and the very worst of weather will 'come to pass', likely to be replaced by something different, if not better.

It came home to me today how long it has been since my last blog.  I felt sad that I have lost touch with you, and stirred to do something about it.  Part of the reason for the long silence is that I have been going through a particularly bad storm.  Despite the great thrill and joy of being able to preach again in November after a year out of the pulpit, the battle has raged around me, and the illness I fight has waxed and waned in its perfidious strategy designed to destroy me. (That's no exageration; take a peek at 1 Peter 5:8-9). I have made a commitment to myself and to you that I will only be honest in my blogs.  No sugarry cover-ups, no religious make believe, no phoney baloney!! But then - there is only so much you can say about pain, tears, weakness, loneliness and sorrow - without boring the socks off those who read or listen.  So, here are some positive things that are going on despite the storm:
  1. God is wonderfully providing all our needs.  We have not been on a salary since July 2008 and we have wanted for nothing!
  2. We have met some really great people and are learning from how God is working in their lives.
  3. So many people tell us that they pray for us every day - now that is amazing!
  4. I have been kept alive through 3 major operations in the last year and several potentially dangerous attacks of acute pancreatitis.
  5. Every day God's Word has spoken to us and is a lamp to our feet and a light to our darkened path.
  6. Several trips to London for Diane and I have been covered by generous giving and practical love and support from others.
  7. The sun sets daily as a reminder that God is faithful and has granted us another day.
'I’ll never forget the trouble, the utter lostness, the taste of ashes, the poison I’ve swallowed. I remember it all—oh, how well I remember—the feeling of hitting the bottom. But there’s one other thing I remember, and remembering, I keep a grip on hope: GOD’s loyal love couldn’t have run out, his merciful love couldn’t have dried up. They’re created new every morning. How great your faithfulness!  I’m sticking with GOD (I say it over and over). He’s all I’ve got left.' (Lam. 3:19-24 The Message).

Monday, October 19, 2009

God's megaphone?

'Pain is God's megaphone to speak to us' was the phrase that stuck in my mind as I reached for the medicine drawer again this morning. It had been a painful night, despite huge amounts of a morphine based slow-release pain medication. Early morning found me sitting curled up on the side of the bed rocking to and fro in agony and crying out to God for relief. Despite three major surgeries in the last year my pain is no better - in fact, it's worse (wasn't there a woman in the Bible who spent all her money on doctors and didn't get well, as they only made her worse?). It was then that phrase went over in my mind like one of those 'Name That Tune' ditties. I was too sad, too tired and too jaded to even find out who said it and why.

Uncharacteristically for me, I uploaded the statement to my Facebook status and started a long list of contributions from people who know me. One from a close friend reminded me that it was C.S.Lewis who used the phrase. I ferretted around in my bookshelves and found the guilty script - the magnificant 'The Problem of Pain'. Just finding it has helped me today. I have realised my mistake. My tortured mind offered me a misquotation from the Maestro. What he in fact said was this. 'God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.' And he said it in 1940 when there was quite enough pain to go round and plenty to spare.

You wouldn't use a megaphone to speak to anyone close would you? No, nor would I. But Lewis is making several points and among them is the comparison of how much we can learn about God from our pleasures, our consciences and our pain, and obviously the pain gets the biscuit even though we want to relegate it to the bin. Also, the real target of God's megaphone is 'a deaf world'. You see, we go through stuff so that others, usually even more deaf to God's words than we might be, may catch His message through the way we trust Him, and by His grace we hold on to our faith when we want to scream and let go.

Lewis also makes the profound point (well he would wouldn't he?) that we may ignore the voice of conscience, or even the point of pleasure, 'but pain insists upon being attended to.' Wow, that's why so many people read his books. As for me, if I had a megaphone, you bet that the world would know that I'm hurting too! Mind you - I've got me blog haven't I?

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Why me?

'The noblest souls are the most tempted. The devil is a sportsman and likes big game. He makes the deadliest assaults on the richest natures, the finest minds, the noblest spirits.' (John Lawrence)

Welcome to the club. You may not remember when you joined. I do. I was in my mid-teens. I took my life, about the only thing of value I possessed. I gave it to God and I said 'Take my life and let it be, consecrated Lord to Thee'. That day I gave God a blank cheque. He filled it in with blood at Calvary, not my blood but His.

So now, when I feel down, in pain, useless, lonely, confused or afraid, I remember that my life is something I gave away. It's no longer mine to keep, to fret over, to barter with, to have any 'rights'. At the cross I gave up my human rights at the place where He dealt with my human wrongs. He didn't say it would be easy. He never promised a scented path up a gentle incline till I arrive at heaven's door. No. Like Winston Churchill in 1940 he spoke of tears, sweat and blood - His as well as mine. I am no longer my own, I have been bought with a price.

If you are struggling with the question 'why me?' I hope this blog will cause you to take a moment to examine the title deeds for your life too.

'Yesterday, when I said "Your will be done"
I knew not what that will of Yours would be,
What clouds would gather black across my sun,
What storms and desolation waited me;
I knew Your love would give me what was best,
And I am glad I could not know the rest'

- but I'd still do it again! Would you?

Monday, September 07, 2009

The Sound of Silence

I am in an enforced, prolonged and painful period of silence. I have not preached for nearly a year, am unable to use the computer for more than about 20 minutes at a time - hence no blogs recently - and have no writing projects on the go at the moment, which is just as well, as I would be too weak and in too much pain to pursue them.

The amount of drugs needed to control my illness and manage the pain means that even my praying has taken on a new, and almost child-like complexion. I tend to 'hang around' with God rather than talk, and occasionally cry out for His mercy and a drop of relief.

The sound of silence is awe inspiring, deep with heart-hearing rhythm and womb-like feelings of getting ready for something big! And surely this 'birth' must be imminent? Can the soul bear so much travail and not bring to birth? I insist that this period must produce something in the end, even it is only the relief from pain that heaven offers.

And so - no strength left to blog. Just silence. And a God who vacated the howling wind and missed the earthquake, but showed Himself by a 'still, small voice'.

Can you hear it?

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Keeping the Faith

Two young women stand condemned before a court of law charged with 'apostasy' because of their faith in Christ. If found guilty the pair are facing the death penalty. Here's an account of their plight from Elam Ministries ( 'In a dramatic session before the revolutionary court on Sunday August 9th in Tehran, Maryam Rustampoor (27) and Marzieh Amirizadeh (30) were told to recant their faith in Christ. Though great pressure was put on them, both women declared that they would not deny their faith. Maryam and Marzieh were originally arrested on March 5th , 2009 and have suffered greatly while in prison, suffering ill health, solitary confinement and interrogations for many hours while blindfolded.

On Saturday August 8, Maryam and Marzieh were summoned to appear in court on Sunday August 9 in order to hear a verdict on their case. The chief interrogator had recommended a verdict of ‘apostasy.’ However, when they arrived, no verdict was actually given. Instead, the court session focussed on the deputy prosecutor, Mr Haddad, questioning Maryam and Marzieh about their faith and telling them that they had to recant in both verbal and written form. This made it clear that in the eyes of the court, Maryam and Marzieh’s only crime is that they have converted to Christianity.' The report goes on to quote the direct appeal by Mr Hadad to the women in the courtroom, calling on them to recant their faith. They stood firm and replied, “We will not deny our faith.”

Please pray for them as they face the very real possibility of being executed or perhaps jailed for a very long time because of their faith. That's what I call 'keeping the faith'.

Mind you, there are other circumstances where we are charged with keeping the faith, that do not include a sharia courtroom. Some may face endless battles with serious ill health, or the constant terrors of the night caused by mental and also physical disease. Others feel the sting right now of bitter betrayal or family break-up, or just the pressure of going God's way rather than our own. When the years of agony roll on, as they have done in my own case for more than 13 years, will we deny our faith, or recant?

When Jesus asked his twelve disciples if they, like others, would jettison their faith and turn back from following him, Simon Peter replied 'Master, to whom would we go? You have the words of real life, eternal life. We've already committed ourselves, confidant that you are the Holy One of God'. (John 6:68)

Have we? (made that commitment?) If so it will be tested. Some may have the faith for miracles and be delivered, but it takes a precious, ultra-refined, covenant keeping love to 'keep the faith' when the price and the disappointments are piled high.

Let's pray for each other that we will keep the faith. After all, if you and I were to stand in the dock charged with being a disciple of Christ, would there be enough evidence to convict us? With Maryam and Marziah the answer is in the court record: 'Guilty as Charged!'

How about you?

Thursday, July 16, 2009

'Abba, - Daddy!!'

'If you took the love of all the best mothers and fathers who have ever lived in the course of human history,all their goodness, kindness, patience, fidelity, wisdom, tenderness, strength, and love and united all those qualities in a single person, that person's love would only be a faint shadow of the furious love and mercy in the heart of God the Father addressed to you and me at this moment.'

That phrase, taken from Brennan Manning's wonderful book 'The Furious Love of God our Father' (David C Cook, Grand Rapids, 2009) moves me to tears. It challenges the deepest depths of my frustration with God's will for my life, and stands as a statement of faith that kept Jesus going right up to the cross (Luke 22:42). Today, I commit myself to believe it and to accept it, despite having pain that I would not want my dog to endure, fear of a forthcoming physical assault via surgery, and the loneliness and discomfort of constant hospital admissions.

Today, like Jesus, I look up and cry 'Abba - Daddy! If you are willing, please take this cup of suffering from me; yet not my will but yours be done'.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Of Frying Pan and Fires!

It has been quite some time since I blogged but a lot has been happening while I have been silent. I spent a few days as an inpatient at the UCLH hospital in London, and then another few days at the PEH hospital in Guernsey. In between those visits I have tried several times to blog, but have never got far enough before strength failed me and pain dictated a prone body position.

During the last few days we have sizzled in 33C temperatures back in central London to meet with our surgeon there. It was on the hottest day of the year so far, and in a baking hot consulting room, that we heard that the outcome of all this will be a major operation in London on the 24th July. We were quiet on the train back to the airport. Neither of us wanted to say the words that burned to be expressed, or to weep the tears that would have dried instantly even if they did begin, in that rattly old train full of sweat, rubbish, commuters and swine flu!

As the blazingly obvious begins to take hold, Diane and I have been aware that God is speaking to us. 'Did not our hearts burn within us as He spoke with us on the way?' Firstly we have been so helped by the prayers and intercession of the believers back home in Guernsey and those of you who support us around the world. Then God took me to a phrase in Jeremiah 1:12 'for I am watching over my word to perform it." Among the many precious words and promises we have received over the last 13 years of this struggle, one has stood out - 1 Peter 5:10! 'After you have suffered a little while, our God... He personally will come and pick you up... and make you stronger than ever!

Phew! Though medically speaking I am facing a long and uphill struggle, it is not down to me to fulfil God 's promises. He is watching over his word to fulfil it.

If you are burning under the blazing attacks of the devil's arrows of fire, then take heart. God is still on watch for you to see that His promises prevail.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

We are So Much More!

The knowledge of our true identity is a vital key to getting through the tough times in life. From a faith perspective it is important for Christians to remind themselves often of who they are in Christ. Our identity is not just what our parents, our education or our training have made us. We have a much higher and more significant identity than that.

Knowing who we are in Him makes a very real difference to our attitude towards the circumstances through which we are passing. Revelation 1:5 & 6 offers a wonderful benediction: ‘To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father—to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen.’ It says that God loves us and that he has made a kingdom and priests to serve him. That means we are not just a number in a hospital, school or anywhere else. We have royal blood in us! We are princes and princesses in the kingdom of heaven! When you accepted Jesus, He accepted you and put a royal robe around your shoulders. You have a throne beside his. You are seated with him in heavenly places, (Ephesians 2:6).

When we pass through hard times the pressure can force us to forget all this. We feel wretched, small and insignificant. Our future may be befogged by fear, while present problems loom large through the murk. What we need is a magic mirror - like the one above! God's Word, the Bible is just such a mirror. We look into it and see the state of our hearts, but we also see the greatness of what God has made us in Christ! Hold on to that when the going gets hard.(I have written much more about this in my book Storm Force: winning the battle for the mind which you can obtain by clicking on the left)

Inside every pussy cat there is a lion waiting to be set free!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Update on Opdate

We have returned to Guernsey after two more trips to the University College Hospital in London and are now booked to have major corrective surgery there on 10th July (provisionally).

This is a tough time for us both because we have been through similar surgery before in 2005 at the old Middlesex Hospital and we know what is involved. It will be hard for me to face going down the steep valley of a big operation once again, but it will also be tough on Diane staying in a hotel in central London for the duration. At least we know the area well after more than 50 visits there for treatment in the last five years, and we know that a lot of you will be praying for us at that time and before.

Speaking of prayer, there are a few practical requests for prayer at this point. Please pray:
  • for pain to come under control (the recent celiac plexus block has not worked)
  • that I will not have any of the serious attacks of cholangitis prior to surgery
  • that the op will not spark off another acute attack of pancreatitis
  • that the surgery will go ahead on the due date or before
  • that the surgery will be successful
  • that God will provide the place for Diane to stay and the needed resources
  • that we will both keep the faith and dignify the trial by trusting God throughout.

It's great to be linked with you through the amazing network of the Web and to know that we are not alone in this ongoing nightmare. Sometimes people ask me how I go on being a Christian when so much trouble has come our way. The only answer I have for them is the words of St Peter 'where else can we turn Lord, You alone have the words of eternal life'.

If you have not yet read either of my books, 'Braving the Storm: survival tactics' or 'Storm Force: winning the battle for the mind' then click on the links to the left and get hold of a copy today.

Monday, May 04, 2009

A step beyond thanksgiving

This time of the year is breathtakingly beautiful in Guernsey. Diane and I wander around the tiny lanes with eyes agog at the handiwork of our glorious creator God. The hedgerows are alive with colour, and the gorse is not only a blaze of burnished yellow, it's fragrance fills us with nostalgic impressions and heady remembrances of our youth in this lovely island.

For a Christian the effect is immediate. 'Wow, look what God has done! Praise Him!' That may not be the same for everyone, but most of us feel some sort of stirring in our hearts in the great outdoors.

But there is a step beyond that in my heart at the moment. In our church last Sunday we were looking together at the Bible's teaching about worship (you can hear it on Jon told us that the first mark of true worship is intimacy with God. I remembered the New Testament Greek word means literally 'to kiss toward' or as Jonathan put it 'to turn towards as if to kiss'. Now you can experience that whether you are in a garden or a prison cell, in a church meeting or a hospital bed.

And then I recalled how Job reacted when disaster hit his life. When all his possessions were taken from him and his children were all killed, Job bowed before the Lord and worshipped. He turned his tear-stained face to kiss the God who had allowed all this to come into his life. And then I feel like saying 'Wow'! At the moment my life is blighted by acute and chronic pain and frequent hospitalisation, but I pray for the ability, by God's grace, to go beyond praising Him for the beauty of His creation, and to kiss His hand in worship.

'I worship Thee, sweet will of God,
And all Thy ways adore,
And every day I live, I long
To love Thee more and more.'

Monday, April 13, 2009

Easter Blues

It's great to see the daffodils and the bluebells, and sniff the scent of gentle vanilla from the gorse bushes anouncing Spring has really sprung. And a later Easter than usual has produced glorious weather too. Time to be out and about, walking the beaches, running after the little dog, just enjoying the wonder of God's creative genius.

So what did I do? I got sick(er) and was admitted to hospital, that's what. Would you believe it? We had just enjoyed the stirring Good Friday songs and hymns with our good friends out in the country chapel at Zion Christian Fellowship, and welcomed Matthew on a brief visit with his latest girlfriend Sarah (who is an absolute delight - he couldn't have done better) and I started to boil up and yuckify into an attack of cholangitis.

There I was on Easter Day, waking up on a surgical ward to the smell of poo, wee and socks, tied to a drip pole and feeling like I had just been run over by a truck. I fumbled in my black bag to see what Diane had hastily thrown in for me, and grabbed my iPod. 'Ah good,' I thought, 'I will listen to some stirring worship songs in my earphones.' But no go, my iPod was as dead as a dodo. How did St John the Divine manage to be 'in the Spirit on the Lord's Day' without an iPod? So, I tried to tune my liitle radio for a broadcast - the batteries were flat.

Well, I thought, God's people are gathering in their millions around the earth to celebrate the risen Lord and I'm not going to let this get me down. I began just to praise Him in my heart - and then I found that He was with me! Yes - you wouldn't credit it! No iPod, no radio, no Bible, no church and me as sick as a parrott surrounded by human debris, tormented by pain and He was with me. Don't ask me how, but for a moment my faith was stirred by His presence, and a bit of His joy dripped into my arm and onward to my sore heart.

I'm not going to say it was a miracle. It was just a relief that when they came to check me out that particular storm had passed, my fevers had subsided, and though still in pain I was well enough to go home and have at least a little bit of Easter Monday with Diane. When I think about it, it just makes sense that He would want to be in a surgical ward on Easter Day. After all, if the grave could not hold Him there's no telling where He might turn up, is there?

Monday, March 30, 2009

The G21!

As Barak Obama mounts the steps of his Air Force One Boeing 747 jet, and Angela Merkel prepares her VW Beetle, all to get to London for this week's summit, I am about to turn it into the G21!. Yes, I am off to London as well, and I understand that I will be staying quite close to where the US President will be staying in Regents Park. He will of course be staying at the American Ambassador's residence whereas I will sleeping on one of the benches! (joke)

The purpose of the G20 leaders is to save the world from its financial illness. My own is to seek further medical help to find the key to a sickness of a very different kind. I have been referred back to the Consultant in the hepatobiliary/pancreatic unit at the University College of London Hospital (UCLH). I have been there many times before, more than fifty, but this time I am going in possibly in a pretty low state. Pain, nausea, exhaustion and the side effects of massive medication makes it difficult for me to travel anywhere, let alone London.

So, while you pray for the G20 will you please spare a moment to pray for the G (Gaudion) 1?

Many thanks. And I'll let you know how I get on. Don't forget my new website at

Monday, March 23, 2009

Storm Force

At a time when I am feeling really unwell and so helpless, along comes the publication of my new book to cheer me up! (See my new website at It was submitted to the editors in June of last year and has taken these months to publish, but I think the timing is just right. One of the main issues dealt with in the book is the cross and whether or not we can claim our healing as a legal right because of what Jesus did there. I also wrote the book to give courage and heart to all those who, like me, are in God's waiting room, suffering chronic illness or deep trouble and not yet healed. Like a lot of other pastors in the Pentecostal/Charismatic wing of the church I know that God can and does heal the sick. But what about when He doesn't?
  • How do you keep believing when time drags on with no obvious intervention by God?
  • What do you say to those who accuse you of not having enough faith to be healed?
  • How do you deal with anger?
  • What about guilt - when it doesn't seem to go away
  • What about the future - what's the long-term outlook?

I believe that Storm Force will make the difference for thousands of people in pain and for their carers, and also for those who preach to them. Like Braving the Storm before it, I am expecting to hear from people around the world whose lives will be touched by this new book. Please pray that this will be the case.

If you are in the UK or Europe, and would like to buy one, try your local Christian bookshop or go to or you can email me at and I will send you a copy post free for £8.99. If you can pay by PayPal then I can email you back with a clickable payment tab which you can use to pay me. Outside the EU, the book can be obtained from (in a short while), or let me know and I will email you the cost of postage on top of the book price.

I am really hoping that this is just the second of three books, and that the next one will be called 'After the Storm!'

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Faith commended

When faith is under fire there is no better place to go than the Word of God. From the pages of the Bible come words that sustain, strengthen us and carry us through. No superficial words here - no easy believism - no phony baloney, just enough to keep us hanging in there.

During the great trial of faith through which Diane and I are passing the scriptures have been our emergency rations every day. Even when we have been at our lowest there has always been a word in season. This morning we were really struck by this passage in Hebrews 11 - the great chapter of faith:
And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and the prophets,33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions,34 quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies.35 Women received back their dead, raised to life again. Others were tortured and refused to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection.36 Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison.37 They were stoned; they were sawn in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and ill-treated—38 the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground.39 These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised.
That last line really spoke to us. These biblical heroes were commended by God for their faith and yet they had not received what had been promised to them! Their basket was empty, their pain unrelieved, their hopes were unrealised. Yet, God commended their faith.
From this I draw the consolation that not all faith is 'receiving faith'. Some is just 'persevering faith' or the faith to endure. If that faith alone is yours today you have God's commendation on your life.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Struck down but not destroyed

'Surgery was abandoned due to risk to patient's life' intoned the nurse addressing the duty consultant doing ward rounds a few days ago. I was still pretty groggy and in soaring pain (still am today) but at least I had got back to the main ward after my time in the Intensive Care Unit. What gagged me more than my circumstances was the growing realisation that I had undergone that dangerous and tricky procedure for nothing. Due to the amount of scar tissue found in my body, the surgeon worked on me for about an hour and then closed me up. Now I still have daily inescapable pancreatic pain, enough in itself to make me curl up into a foetal position and long for deliverance, and on top of that the pain of an operation, wounds, stitches and all.

So, what clever little piece of pithy prose shall I put into my blog today? That's right - none at all. I am thoroughly p****d off. Almost incoherent through weakness and absolutely clueless about what is going on in my life. Yet there is just a tiny pinprick of glow like a little firefly flickering stubbornly on at midnight in a vast dark empty African wilderness. I remember a bible passage that says, 'We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.'

That's it then. I won't try to understand it. I'll leave that to Him. Be content just to 'carry about in my body the death of Jesus' and leave the rest in His hands. Does anybody know a good song that will cheer me up? Answers on the back of a postage stamp please.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

In God's Waiting Room

Sometimes when people ask us 'where are you these days?' we reply 'we are in God's waiting room'. This is not to be clever, just to state a fact. People with chronic health problems do spend a lot of time in waiting rooms - hospitals, doctors' surgeries, radiology departments, you name it and we've been there. They are such cold places - not because the central heating has broken down - but because people are feeling so nervous and often so unwell that they sit in silence (at least in the British culture) and almost dare you to say anything. The inevitable copies of yachting magazines and women's weeklys is about the only thing that breaks the monotony. It seems you wait for ages and then spend precious few minutes consulting with the person you need to see.

So why would I describe my experience as being in God's waiting room? Well, it's different there. In God's waiting room there are promises posted all around. 'Don't be afraid, I will be with you' and 'I am the Lord who heals you' are the type of thing. Then there are the warm and wonderful people who share the experience with you, people who are praying for you, who care about how you are feeling. Instead of mouldy mags there is the life-giving Word of God, and most amazing of all, there is constant free access to the top consultant Himself! The only thing that is the same, then, is the waiting.

The Bible says a lot about waiting. The Psalms are full of it. Look it up yourself and you'll find I'm right. God uses waiting not because He is overburdened with needs and cannot fit ours in, but because He wants to deal with our character and not just our condition. Who we are and not just how we are feeling is what is about to be operated upon.

So, we pray for patience to stay in God's waiting room for as long as He chooses. 'Wait, wait upon the Lord' is the choice we must make daily.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Here we go again!

I can't get rid of the phrase from my mind 'Led like a lamb to the slaughter'. I do hope it is not symbolic of problems to come! Anyhow, I have now been rebooked for major surgery here in Guernsey for Friday February 27th. This is now the third attempt to get this operation done, so I am really hoping it will go ahead ok and that all will go well.

Quite a few of my friends have been coping with disappointment recently too. It is so hard when you build yourself up to expect something and get everything ready and then all your plans fall through at the last minute. It is especially tough when the fault is not your own and you feel powerless to do anything about it. As I look back on my life, though, I know that I have grown more as a person through my disappointments than through my triumphs. There have been many more of them, of course, as triumphs seem few and far between. But there is no doubt that what I am today owes more to frustration than faith, and to loss rather than gain.

There is a remarkable passage at the end of Romans chapter 8 where Paul lists all the things that go wrong for us - things on earth or in heaven or under the earth etc. None of it, however frustrating, is able to seperate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. What's more, the writer describes those of us who face such overwhelming challenges as 'more than conquerors' through Christ's love.

So the last few weeks have been tough, and distinctly painful, but in God's economy they are not wasted. Here we go again then!

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Cancelled at the last hurdle!

Oh boy am I mad! It was really hard to get to the winning post today only to be cancelled at the last minute. I had spent a rough night last night worrying about today and finally managed to brave the snow and ice (Diane driving the 4X4) to get to the hospital and was directed to a bed on the ward.

Diane went off to the funeral of an old friend and I settled down for the inevitable - only it wasn't inevitable. After more than two hours this blue uniformed matron arrived. She explained that as there was no Intensive Care Unit bed available for me to use they had no alternative but to CANCEL MY OPERATION! No date for the procedure - might find out more in the morning. Disappointed beyond words, I caught a taxi home.

I do realise that it is difficult to obtain beds in the very small ICU and that I will need one for up to 3 days after this op. I suppose one can only pray that one will become free very soon, and that the special anaesthetist and surgeon will both also be available on that day to do me. 'Hope deferred makes the heart sick' says the Bible and I agree!

Please join with us in prayer that this delay will be very short indeed and that it will not be long before I can have this much needed and long awaited surgery. Thanks.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Darkness and the Light

'Out of the darkness I cry to You' are some words written by a man (or woman) who knew God and who knew pain. After two millennia these and similar words continue to help me as I struggle with one of the worst pains known to man - the searing internal (or should I say infernal) agony of chronic pancreatitis. Another one gives me heart - 'the darkness and light are just the same to You Lord'. That is not just a comfort when you can't sleep and yet are not free to make a noise so that you don't wake anybody else up - it also reminds me that God is just as real and just as close in the bad times as well as the good.

Today, 3,000 miles away in Washington DC, Barack Obama sat at his desk and signed the decree that declares that the imprisonment at Guantanamo Bay will end in one year from today. One day my Commander in Chief will sit at His desk and write out something similar about me and this prison cell of pain. There will come a day, and a moment when this cell door will open and I will go free. 'Please Lord, for the sake of your elect, let it be soon.'

It's been over twelve years now since this appalling pain first touched my life and ignited the war within. During my countless times in hospital and frequent brushes with death, I have become almost used to the fight. So today I just sat down and reminded myself of some stuff I needed to hear:
  • God's not finished with me yet
  • God's gifts and callings are irrevocable
  • Pain can't stop me praying, even if it limits the clever stuff (not a bad idea anyway)
  • The Bible is still true ('heaven and earth may pass away but My Word will never etc')
  • God is good, all the time
  • Jesus loves me.

The pain is dreadful, but it would be infinitely greater if I didn't know the above. Thanks to those of you who join me in my longing for healing and release. Just ask the Lord that in the meantime I will remain faithful, dignifying the trial, until he signs the executive order.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Hail the Chief!

Millions are gathered today to express their joy at his arrival. They throng the hillsides and fill to overflowing the enormous mall in the heart of Washington DC. When he came out onto the dais they yelled and cheered like people posessed. Well, in a way they were - posessed of a new hope and a fresh impetus because of one man - Barak Obama.

It cannot be healthy to begin a new job with the kind of expectations and with the adullation that attend this man. He ascends to office with an almost God-like Messianic expectation. Things will really change now - our time has come. 'Yes, we can' declare the posters, and the cry of the multitiudes is 'You bet!'

Is it ever right to put so much store by any man or woman, however gifted or attractive they may be? Obama is just a man like you and me. He will make mistakes, and because of the size of his responsibility they will be big ones. He needs God, and he needs to surrender his life daily to God if he is to have any effect at all. He will find it hard to give due place to his family and probably even harder to resist the temptation to believe his own PR people. But he must remember his first place is to be a husband and a father, and that humility is the key to wisdom.

Rick Warren, the pastor of Saddleback Church in California set us an example today. He doesn't see eye to eye with the new White House on many issues, but he stood alongside the relatively young Obama today and prayed for him openly. So must we, but we must also resist the cult of celebrity. Barak Obama is not the Messiah - only Jesus is. From today the new President stands in need of prayer, in need of God and in need of patience and forbearance as he comes to office in what must be the most difficult of times, just before Jesus returns. When that day comes, of course, we shall really have reason to sing 'Hail to the Chief!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Disabled but not disqualified

Martin was one of my co-patients in hospital last week. He really impressed me because of his attitude. Despite being good-looking and well-spoken, this educated man has been brought low by the disease diabetes, as a result of which he has had both his legs amputated. I was with Martin when they took his first leg off, and now four months later we were neighbours again in the same ward after they had amputated his other leg. He has suffered appalling pain, and is now beginning the realise the giant task that lies ahead of him in learning to walk again with false legs which will take some months to be manufactured and fitted. Yet he was positive and forward looking, joking that at least he had lost weight now! His goal is to get driving again, and to be able to get around just as freely as he could before he lost his limbs.

My encounter with Martin is one of those things that remind me that despite my many admissions to hospital, I am so blessed to be even as well as I am. I have to go back into the ward for major surgery on 3rd February and would appreciate your prayers for a successful outcome. Then, after that, I am to go back to London for further tests to see if the surgeons there can stop these attacks of cholangitis and pancreatitis which have put me in hospital three times in the last four months. But when I am tempted to feel sorry for myself, I remember Martin and his courage, his fortitude and faith, and decide to keep going a little longer.

You see, Martin is a sufferer from disease - but not a victim. He is in pain - but not in despair. He is disabled - but not disqualified. And I want to be like that too.