Friday, May 20, 2016

Trekking North for Breakthrough.

We are setting off for Newcastle-upon-Tyne in the north of England this evening as we prepare for a few days of tests, meetings and discussions that may well lead to a major operation in about four weeks time. This statue is of the 'Angel of the North' and we are really glad that the Lord of the north is going before us! Why Newcastle?  Well it is the only place in Britain now that offers the surgery that I need - a total pancreatectomy with transplanting of the islets of Langerhans into my liver! Wow - space age stuff eh?

I confess to being very nervous even of these few days, but I do feel a settled peace in my heart, and it is so important in life to 'follow your peace'. Getting the funding for this operation was a miracle of answered prayer in itself, and so this is just the next step in a long journey that we hope and pray will lead to a better day.

Thanks for being with us in prayer as we make this journey.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

This motivational text was used by the UK government during the Second World War in an effort to raise the people's morale at a time of great distress.  Enemy bombs were raining on some major cities and the young people of the nation were losing their lives in huge numbers at the front. There were food shortages and evacuations such as only those who have had the misfortune to live through a war can know, and the desire of the country's leaders was to try and get folk not to panic.

Recently this same slogan has returned as a decoration for mugs, tea-cloths and wall hangings, and this has had the effect of trivialising the words so that they have almost lost their power, but recently I have come to understand them in a brand new way. You see, I have found out that the fear of something can be almost as bad, and sometimes even worse, than the thing happening itself. As this has come about I have had to re-learn the wisdom of the old adage and "keep calm and carry on!"

I am facing major surgery once again, probably about the tenth time, although there have been more than thirty 'surgical procedures' each of which has been fraught with danger and pain. But, this is the big one!  An op that the professor described as 'the mother of all operations' awaits me in about a month, that has the potential to end my two decades of battling crippling pain and illness. But - I am really afraid and I don't mind admitting to it! I know that God is with me and that He will guide the surgeon's hands, but I'm only human and have had rather too much of this particular trial thank you. So, I have decided to live as if I am at war - fighting fear and the negative thoughts that assail me.  I recall the Bible verse that says 'take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ' (2 Cor. 10:5). What I face is terrifying but I am determined to "keep calm and carry on" trusting in Christ to see me through. Praising God and keeping the powder dry you might say!

Monday, May 02, 2016

Lessons from Weakness

Sorry to have missed out on blogging for a while. Things have been a bit tough for me recently. In the last month or so I have spent 3 weeks in hospital with a vicious attack of acute pancreatitis on top of chronic pancreatitis. This has also involved a tangle with ascending cholangitis (nothing to do with the colon - this is an infection of the bile ducts and/or liver) and left me with pleurisy in both lungs and a partially collapsed lung. I just wanted to say all that to show that I haven't been lazing around all day taking it easy! It has been particularly difficult this time because of the problem of physical weakness just when I need to be strong for the possible major transplant op planned for this summer in the UK. But also because I want to encourage you if you also are passing through a time of weakness for any other reason. This too shall pass.

I think it's a man-thing not to want to own up to any weakness. We blokes like to see ourselves as immune to frailty or fragility of any type and it is so hard to become dependent upon the kindness of nurses and relatives to be able to meet even the basic demands of the day or night. My time in hospital has given me insight into the awful frustration that men and women feel when they become overtaken by weakness. All I can say is that I believe that this experience will not be wasted, and that it can have a really formative effect on our soul, our faith and our experience of God. When we place our weak hand in his powerful grip then despite our weakness we can learn, develop and grow spiritually.  That's why the apostle Paul said "When I am weak, then I am strong" (2 Cor. 12:10).

One of the ancient prophets of Israel, a guy called Habbakuk, once went against the grain of the myth that says if you are a reasonably good person then you should enjoy success, wealth and strength. He wrote: "Though the fig-tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Saviour. The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights". (Hab.3:17-19)