Wednesday, September 30, 2015

For when a little while seems a long time!

Every Saturday evening several millions of viewers sit down to watch another edition of the long-running medical soap "Casualty". As one of them from time to time I am amused by the fact that such complex problems are always solved within 50 minutes or at the most a couple of episodes. Great issues of life and death come so neatly packaged that they simply can't be real! Life just isn't like that.

A couple of decades ago Diane and I felt encouraged by a Bible verse which we took as a personal promise from God to us. It's in 1 Peter 5:10 "And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast." We took it then as a sign that my dreadful battle with pain would be time limited - and it will be - but there is a catch, an issue with God's timing. It seems so different to ours. We want the whole problem fixed within an hour at the most, but his "little while" may vary in length greatly.

In John 16 the disciples of Jesus had the same problem as I do. They kept asking each other, "What does he mean by ‘a little while’? We don’t understand what he is saying." God's timing seems so different to ours. I was just thinking of this the other day when it came to me just how long some of God's dealing with his people Israel were. They were in slavery in Egypt for 400 years.  That's the same as from the year 1615AD to today! Think of how much has happened in our country and continent in those 400 years. Then when the people were being led by Moses they were turned away from the borders of the promised land because of their unbelief and wandered in the desert for 40 years - a whole generation! When poor old Joseph was put in prison for something he didn't do, he was probably there for 20 years. Yet even after all that he was able to say that God meant it for his good (Genesis 50:20).

So what I am saying is "slow down a bit - God's not in a hurry"! He doles out his plan for us one day at a time, and the timing is OK in his hands. In fact, I prefer it that way, and I want to learn to move through life at his rhythm not mine. I recall the lyrics of that old song "One day at a time, sweet Jesus" and determine that what matters is who is in charge and calling the shots, not how fast my problems can be dealt with. Now, that would probably not make a good story line for Casualty would it?

Friday, September 25, 2015

Small breed big personality!

She may only be tiny - all of 2Kg in weight - but our little Pomeranian dog is a huge personality! She almost dominates our lives with her expectations of walks and outings. Her barking can sometimes drive us to distraction BUT she is so sensitive to my pain. In the last few days it has returned with a bit of a vengeance as I think the latest stent is starting to block, but this little character knows my deepest feelings and whenever I am in pain she nuzzles my hands and asks to come up and sit on me. Sensing even the site of my anguish, if I lie down she curls up on my abdomen (perhaps the softest place around!) and settles down to nap with one eye on my facial expressions! This is a one man dog with a big heart, and we often say that if the Holy Spirit is called "The Comforter" in the Bible, which He is, then this little doggy works for the Holy Spirit!

Isn't it amazing how God puts things and people into our lives just when we need them?  It might be a timely book or article, or even a helpful TV programme.  Mind you, flesh and blood comforters are the very best, so cats and dogs come into that category. They may not be able to speak but the language of their love and understanding has much more than words in its vocabulary.

So, although I would love to be free of this pain today, I count my blessings and give thanks for the small ones that add a ton of value!

Friday, September 18, 2015

You Don't Deserve this!

The migration and refugee crisis currently dominating the news in all of Europe and beyond is unlikely to go away any time soon. Hungary may have sealed its borders for now, but the flow of Syrians and others fleeing war and desperate danger is unstoppable and will find other ways through to the nations of north-western Europe. Listening to a radio interview this morning from within Serbia, a non-EU country along the route being taken by hundreds of thousands of migrants I was struck by one comment the lady speaking made. With a desperate choke in her voice she sobbed "we don't deserve this!" My heart went out to her and her children as they stumble along the harsh highway from hell in the Balkans.

This started me thinking about the apparent unfairness of life generally. It can seem unbearably so sometimes, and must do today to the countless thousands fleeing misery in this way. Maybe you are feeling like this too. I know that I do from time to time, and it doesn't pay to analyse too deeply how others get along and seem to do so well when one's own load is so heavy to bear. If you have time to read Psalm 73 you will see that Bible writers also wrestled with this issue of unfairness and their words can be a help to us when this problem gets us down.

We don't always get what we deserve in this life. In fact, very few do. The creator of the universe surely had a right to be respected and obeyed by the people he had made when he appeared among them, but they crucified him instead. In fact, when all the furor of the first Christmas died down, the Son of God became a refugee in Egypt. He too was hauled along by terrified parents fleeing the screams of bereaved mothers in the Middle Eastern village where their baby had been born. They had been warned by an angel to get going and took to the road with what little possessions they could carry (not much room there for gold, frankincense and myrrh!). Jesus didn't deserve that, and neither did his dear mother, who might well have been interviewed on the road out of Israel if media had been invented then.

And you don't deserve the pain you are feeling today - neither do I. Yet if I am honest, if I got what I really deserved out of life, I might have been in hell today. In some ways then I am relieved not to get my just deserts! When the load seems too heavy to bear, remember the holy family on the road to homelessness in Egypt and thank God that he knows what you are going through. "Lord, I am always with you, you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel and afterwards you will take me into glory... My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion for ever." Psalm 73:23-26.