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.