Friday, October 29, 2010

A Fist Unfurled

Last evening our house-group came to call.  They wanted to pray with Diane and I before we set off for hospital in London.  We had a short but special time together reminding ourselves of God's promises and being the family of God.  Toward the end I had a picture in my mind of an upraised fist.  It seemed to me that this angry gesture was waving in the face of God.  I felt that God was showing me this so that we all could just examine our hearts, and especially me, to see if our attitude towards God at this time was the right one.  Now don't get me wrong - I don't think that God was saying that there is no place for anger in our lives.  Anyone who has read my book Storm Force will know that there is a whole chapter in it about the appropriateness and normality of anger when facing storms of all kinds.  Yet there is a good anger and a bad anger, a healthy anger and an unhealthy anger.

When I shared this picture with the group, one of them said that she was just going to read the verse Psalm 4:4 'Be angry, and do not sin. Meditate within your heart on your bed, and be still.' which is very similar to Paul's advice in Ephesians 4:26 'Be angry, and do not sin": do not let the sun go down on your wrath'. So it seemed that the Holy Spirit was trying to get through to us. The well known Christian writer and quadriplegic Joni Eareckson Tada has said 'Any crisis is meant to awaken us to the reality of God, His nearness, His care, His presence and His ever-present help' yet in my experience it is so hard to hold on to that kind of perspective.  My own battle with ill health is nothing compared to the conditions being faced right now by Christians in places like Iraq and Zimbabwe yet many of them have found it possible to keep trusting God in the most appalling circumstances and to remain hopeful and free from bitterness.  I aspire to those great goals... but hey, am I alone in saying that going is tough?  How should we respond?

The picture in my mind began to change.  The fist unfurled and the hand opened up, fingers flexing and extending.  God was showing me my part in the process, small as that may be.  He wants us to open up our hands to receive his amazing love, relax our anxious accusations and let go of our fears, worshipping and trusting him alone.  As Joni went on to say ''Will we allow the truth of God's promises to change the way we see life, with all its challenges and obstacles?  To ease our fears and calm our anxieties?  To give us hope and confidence when there doesn't seem to be any earthly reason for either?' (A Place of Healing: Wrestling with the Mysteries of Suffering, Pain, and God's Sovereignty)  As the group left our home last evening I felt more determined than ever to see God's perspective on yes even next week's trial, and to turn my fist into an open hand.  How about you?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Confronting the Unthinkable

Preparing for Battle
We all have our personal battles to fight.  Some will be minor skirmishes, others a matter of life and death.  One of the latter hit me in 1997 when I was subjected to a surgical/medical procedure known as ERCP - this what the Pancreatitis Supporters' Network warns about it: 'These are HIGHLY dangerous to us with Pancreatitis.  Our advice is ALWAYS make sure they are properly qualified and they are doing it for a valid reason - see statistics in Information Pack download for risk statistics'. It nearly killed me. I cannot describe to you the devastation it brought to my life.  I am only alive today by the grace of God and in answer to many people's prayers.  But it was one awful battle. 

Next Tuesday I will have another one!  'Is he mad?' I can hear you ask.  No, just very sick and desperately in need of the treatment, which despite its terrifying dangers does offer some hope of relief.  It will be a therapeutic procedure - even more dangerous than a diagnostic one like the one I had in 1997.  They will try to remove a stone that is blocking my pancreatic duct.  The team will also leave behind a stent to keep the duct patent and overcome a stricture or narrowing of the duct at present.  The pancreas in someone like me is a very unforgiving organ.  Once provoked to 'go rogue' and start using its meat-dissolving enzymes to eat itself and its surrounding organs it is almost unstoppable.  But - it can be beaten.

My team will be the best in the country.  Based at University College Hospital in London they know their art. I don't know how long I will be in hospital, but Diane will be with me, staying as she always has done during the more than 60 times we have been there, in a nearby hotel.  (It has cost us more than a medium sized new car for her to always be with me but I could not be without her support.  We have been amazed at the way people have given to us, and supported us with their gifts as well as their prayers.  Thank you Lord!).

So, today I am preparing for battle.  I am stacking up my ammunition - reminding myself of God's promises and soaking my mind in God's Word and His presence.  I am loading really good music onto my iTouch player, and got some great books to go with me.  Will I read them?  Maybe not, but I would rather prepare in hope.  By the end of next week I will know.  I am in a win/win situation.  Even if the worst happens and I succumb to deadly haemoraghic pancreatitis, I will wake up in the most exciting place in God's universe.  But hey - I feel I still have work to do.  So please join me as part of my back-up team.  I love and appreciate you.  Jesus does too. Bye now.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Cutbacks and Setbacks

The whole of Britain is waiting with bated breath for the UK Chancellor to announce his spending review and with it the details of the government's cutbacks in public spending.  Although we are not part of the UK here, we share an interest in what happens over the water as it will undoubtedly have an eventual effect upon us in time.  In any case, even though we have no national debt to speak of, Guernsey is facing a similar process of reigning in the spending of public bodies so as to avoid a deficit here too.  The phrase 'no gain without pain' comes to mind!

When it comes to undergoing pain in order to grow or make gains, I feel that I may have just a little experience of that in my own life!  Serious illness forces you to cut back and expend less energy and activity just to get through, and you find yourself having to let go of activities you would once have thought essential to your own sense of who you are.  These cutbacks appear to be setbacks, but they can actually also be opportunities to review and refocus on what really does matter.  It is amazing how much you think you need to hold onto in order to fulfil your calling, and how much you can let go of without losing effectiveness in ministry.  What we are is so much important than what we do.

I am reading a superb book on a similar subject at the moment. Written by Joni Tada A Place of Healing: Wrestling with the Mysteries of Suffering, Pain, and God's Sovereignty is a tremendous outline of the theological position I myself have written about in Storm Force.  It is such a comfort to those of us who believe in a God who heals, yet who are in chronic pain, to discover that in the kingdom of God there has been no cutback in the comfort of the Holy Spirit or the ministry of the Word of God.  We have had to cut all sorts of activities and busyness, but are still able to serve God in small ways each day.  I recommend this as good reading for you too.

Cutbacks don't necessarily have to be setbacks when God is in charge.