Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Air Freshener or Fly Spray?

We keep our air fresheners in the smelliest places in the house.  There they are, right where they are needed.  Personally I don't like the kind of fragrances they usually pretend to have - lavender, flowers of the field, or lemon.  Why can't they go for freshly baked bread, roasting coffee or Bar B Q?  Mind you, I think some of the good old Anglo-Saxon smells produced in some of the places that we keep them are probably to be preferred to the scented variety!  Never-the-less we do buy air freshener and we keep it right where it is most needed.

Those of us who are recipients of God's grace are called to be grace dispensers right where He has placed us. Like air fresheners we are called to be givers of grace wherever we are.  There is a verse in the New Testament that says that 'Christ through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of Him'.

Sometimes you might be forgiven for thinking that Christians are more like Fly Killer - they see something moving and ZZZap!  Any previously undiscovered life and Whack!  Sadly our image is dented and some folk think of us as 'the bank that loves to say NO'!  But wait - it was never meant to be this way.  Maybe we need to draw more deeply ourselves from God's well of amazing grace and then we would have enough to give away.  Then we may find that God chooses to keep us right next to the smelliest of places.  So if the whiff where you are is a bit rich, perhaps you have been selected for the unique bit of 'climate change' that only Christ can bring - through you.

Air freshener or fly killer?  Ask those around you.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Does it Matter that we Pray?

Well it certainly seems to matter to these two anyway! Both their faces display such an earnest intensity that I am sure they will get results!  Sometimes, though, we can feel like we are wasting our breath.  When things don't work out as we had hoped - or even become worse than before we prayed - discouragement sets in.  Throughout my long and painful battle with serious ill health I had spells of wonderring if there was any point praying about it any more.  I understood the attitude taken by some (like Jennifer Rees-Larcombe just before she was healed) who say 'enough is enough' and decide not to seek or receive prayer for healing because of their many disappointments.  'Hope deferred makes the heart sick' says the Book of Proverbs and maybe it colours our prayers also.

But wait.  God in His sovereignty has decided to work through the prayers of those who trust in Him.  He didn't have to do that but he did so in order that we might receive 'training for reigning' in this life. Prayer creates a channel for the Holy Spirit to work in both the situation prayed for and the one doing the praying.  It changes things and us!  When I was really ill there were long periods when I couldn't pray for myself.  I was too weak and too sad to do so.  That was when I learned the power of a praying wife!  Also, I was carried on the prayers of loving Christian believers in many lands and churches.  So, let's join dogs and boys to keep on keeping on in prayer.  'People ought to pray always and not to give up'!  Hang in there!

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Into the Sunset

A long vigil has ended and the sun has set over the life of a much loved mother and grandmother, Gill.  I spent time with her family around her bed at the local hospice last night, not long before she died. It was impressive to see their devotion to her and their care for one another in their grief.  Their ordeal had gone on over several nights and was preceded by weeks of pain for Gill and increasing awareness that the end was coming. The call that came in the night summonsed me away from my bed and into one of those pastoral situations that are so deeply challenging, especially when the one in the bed is younger than the Pastor!  I think that perhaps the long exposure to serious ill health that I have known has in some ways prepared me to be of more use than some might be in the same circumstances.  I certainly hope so.

One thing has changed this sunset for me, and I know it did for Gill.  Some weeks ago she sent a message to me via her doctor asking me to visit her in her hospice room.  She knew her time was coming and she wanted to get right with God. 'I want to be ready', she said, fixing my gaze with her steady, determined eyes.  She did not need religious ritual or fancy prayers, and I didn't give her any.  She needed Jesus in her trial, and when we bowed to pray she handed her life over to Him, asking for His forgiveness and inviting Him in.  Through our tears it was clear that she understood what she was doing.  She was ready then, because Jesus said 'whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life' (John 5:24).

So, goodnight Gill.  See you in the morning.

Friday, March 02, 2012

The High Price of Pain

The British Prime Minister, David Cameron, has led tributes from countless people who were shocked and saddened this week by the tragic death of PC David Rathband.  This brave policeman was brutally attacked by a fugitive from justice who had declared war on the police, Raoul Moat. Pc Rathband was shot twice by Moat, in the face and the shoulder, as he sat in his patrol car on the outskirts of Newcastle in July 2010. He spent 17 days in hospital and despite several operations to restore his eyesight he was still classed as being "black blind". Sue Sim, Chief Constable of Northumbria Police, said PC Rathband's life had "changed forever" when he was shot by Moat. "David showed outstanding bravery in what was a terrifying situation," she added. "He was a dedicated officer who acted in the best traditions of the police service."

What strikes me about the case, apart from the fact that David was the victim of a cruel and heartless attacker, was the discovery that he was also suffering immense physical pain since the attack.  I believe that it was this, combined with his devastating loss of sight, that brought him to an end of his resources.  As someone who suffered more than 15 years of chronic debilitating pain I feel great sympathy for this dear man who gave himself in the service of his community.

I hope that the manner of David's death, and the notoriety of his attacker (now also dead incidentally) will not detract from the memory of his self-less bravery and sense of public service.  I also hope that it will not discourage others who are coming to terms with sudden blindness or awful pain and who wonder if they can go on.  Above all, I hope that the publicity surrounding David's case will raise the profile of the problem of chronic pain and bring it back to the gaze of those who control health budgets and public purses.  Certainly in my case, the tens of thousands of pounds spent by my Health Authority to give me pain relief by means of a spinal neuro-stimulator has been a real life-saver - literally.