Monday, January 24, 2011

Young Guy Turns Out Not So Bad After All!

Hey Dude?  Who is this good lookin' young guy then? He looks bold and brash and yes, he's even started shaving!  I'd say from that distant look he's just set eyes on his intended.  He's watching her across the room and hoping that she will eyeball him too.  Who'd have thought that they would marry at 20 years of age!  What, so young?  And then, stay together through nearly 39 years of marriage, serving God and other people, believing the God of the Bible and urging others to believe Him too. Just what is it that motivated this young man and his girlfriend to go all out for the gospel when countless others around them were hell-bent on pleasure, money and power?  And what is it that has kept them following after the crazy message of the grace of God through illness, bereavement, sorrow, frustration and pain?

Well, a big part of it is that there is nowhere else to go.  Once when the disciples of Jesus saw that quite a few early followers of Christ were turning away from Him, they were startled by the Saviour's question. 'Will you also go away?'  'Master', they replied, 'Where else would we go? You alone have the words of eternal life'.  Through more than 40 years of discipleship on three continents and in several cultures this young guy and his girl were to find that there really is no other way to find life, joy and peace, nor the assurance that life with Christ never ends.  So much else is temporary, and so much tarnished by flimsy motives and selfishness - but following Jesus Christ really does make sense, even into the 21st Century.

And so the years have taken their toll.  Early enthusiasm and confidence have given way to measured balance and honest doubts.  Things that once were so certain have long since passed their warranty but are still hanging on! The waistline has widened and the hairline taken flight, but down deep it's still me, and I still love Diane and am fascinated by her beauty.  And what's more, if I could do it all over again, I would not change one bit of it.  No, not one bit, because even the bad bits that didn't kill me have made me stronger, and the sad parts have been the shadows that only go to prove that beyond the clouds the sun is still shining.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Bon Voyage!

When I was searching for a title for the book that would tell the story of my long battle with serious ill-health and chronic pain it was a 'no-brainer'. Braving the Storm: Survival Tactics said it all.  I felt like I was battling to make headway against a raging, howling wind and a strong tide against me.  To a certain extent I still feel like that, but there is a notable difference.  For most of the struggle I have felt pretty sure about the nature of my enemy - it was a physical fight against a measurable disease.  Now, like the mariners who gathered in convoys to cross the Atlantic during the Second World War, I realise that the greatest danger lies beneath the waves.  The unseen realm of the U-Boat wreaked a terrible toll on the convoys.  For my part, the invisible, insidious and underhand tactic of the attacker that poses me the greatest risk is depression.  'Ah yes, Eric,' you may say 'but you don't have to worry about that do you?  After all, you are a pastor and Christian leader, and they should not get depressed, should they?'  'Get real, Pal' is my response!  Even Jesus was described as 'a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief' and when it came to Satan's tactics against him we also read 'he was oppressed and afflicted' - now that's pretty depressing.

Why are Christians among the last to be willing to admit that they get depressed?  They usually either refuse to take medication or do so ashamedly, afraid to admit to others that we might need some chemical help to overcome a condition that is often chemically based or exaggerated and complicated by the drugs we need to take for pain.

Convoys were difficult to organise, but they worked.  Ships gathered together with others heading to roughly the same destinations, and they travelled as one.  Of course they were limited to the speed of the slowest among them, but the idea cut the death toll drastically and led to a painful though marginal victory in the battle of the Atlantic.  So - I get depressed, and when I do I need others who understand what it means to face this bleak and heinous enemy to make the journey with me. It simply is too dangerous to make the trip alone. It is also sad and silly to reject any means of grace, even if it is received by mouth!

The book which followed on from this was called Storm Force and enabled me to look more closely at some of these unseen tactics of the enemy.  I thought that the next one should be called 'After the Storm' but as I am writing it I am finding that neither the storm nor the lessons from it are decreasing.  So, I'll let you know the title once it has been confirmed, after all - you are probably in the same convoy and we need each other!  Bon Voyage!