Monday, October 31, 2011

31st October

So today we go shopping. Not really much for me though, just a bathroom blind, rather more for my newlywed daughter and her husband. They were blessed with all manner of cash and voucher gifts as wedding presents and so today they went and upgraded their house contents. The biggest item was a new corner settee, so I reckon they’ve done very well out of their special day but they are a lovely couple and deserve it. And it was rather a long expedition so I managed to find my way back to the car, where I listened to the radio whilst wishing I’d thought of bringing my Kindle to pass the time. I’m fairly patient as I’ve spent countless hours in recent years waiting in hospitals for appointments to happen so it doesn’t bother me anymore; it just seems to be part of life so why worry. Anyway if anyone wants a quick recap on the Radio 4 programme exploring regime change and the different merits of removing brutal dictators by summary execution, criminal prosecution or early exile into a life of luxury… I’m your man! But I find it tempting to presume that the legal process, resulting in whatever punishment a court decides is the best option. The suggestion was though that that solution, as do each of them, comes with a high price usual paid for by the lives of the innocent. So summary execution is obviously a criminal act, but it does provide a clear point in time with no going back, completely neutering ongoing violence aimed at reversing the progress towards change; and releasing any new government from the shadow of the past. Similarly with the exile option. Either route probably saves lives; for example in Libya, if Colonel Gaddafi had taken the offer of exile several months ago many thousands more might be alive today. But he’d be sitting in his tent at the side of a pool living in luxury somewhere… and that doesn’t sound right for sure.

Isn’t justice complicated? I feel so privileged to live in a relatively safe and modern democracy. For sure there are real complaints but by and large justice works. I suppose the price we pay in having some criminals escape justice on a technicality is that it is equally hard for any prejudice of those who might wrongly prosecute to decide criminal outcomes. The law has the last say, not the judge, or magistrate or crown prosecution service or any police force. The problem is that the law generally reflects the people of the country, so if we live in a Godless society, which by and large we do, the law over time becomes increasingly Godless. I see little of the ‘fear of God’ in public or private life around me. Many have chosen not just to completely ignore the Lord but actively mock and ridicule those who confess faith. The Bible as the Word of God is disparaged as an irrelevant ancient historical book. Truth is no longer absolute, but seen as the changeable will of the majority. Heretical scientists set themselves up as mini-gods, all knowing with absolute authority, and intriguingly they rant and rave about religion in a manner strikingly similar to the classic fundamentalist ‘hell-fire and damnation’ preacher seeking to cower converts into submission. So the law of our country is changing in ways that ignore timeless truth and wisdom found in scripture. And though the Bible, today, is not intended to be used legalistically it does have many principles that if adopted as a foundation to our legal system, would transform society for the better. For me it is not just a book that reveals God and Godliness, it is a complete handbook of life, showing us how to live in wholeness and harmony with those around us.

Ultimately we will all, without a single exception, stand before the Lord and give an account for the whole of our lives, including every thought, word and deed. And he will judge with perfect justice.

Romans 2:14-16 ‘Even Gentiles, who do not have God’s written law, show that they know his law when they instinctively obey it, even without having heard it. They demonstrate that God’s law is written in their hearts, for their own conscience and thoughts either accuse them or tell them they are doing right. And this is the message I proclaim—that the day is coming when God, through Christ Jesus, will judge everyone’s secret life.’ (NLT)

Sunday, October 30, 2011

30th October

What a special day it’s been, challenging though, with sadness all mixed up with the fun of spending time as family. But I was really blessed this morning as the Lord spoke to me in a very personal way. I don’t need to share the word here as what he said is not, at this point in time, as important as the fact that he actually spoke to me. It was probably a couple of decades ago that the Lord first spoke this word to me and I found it instantly intriguing as I didn’t understand it’s clear meaning. And I still don’t.  It’s sort of a puzzle that he speaks to me and I presume that one day he will make clear what it means and how I can respond to it. But the point is that when he speaks this word I chew it over for a short period of time and try and work out what to do with it, before laying it on one side and forgetting about it. Sometimes for a month or two until he speaks it again, but more often a year or even longer will pass until quite suddenly the words pop into my head. And then I know beyond a shadow of doubt that there is a God in heaven who wants me to spend some time with him. Perhaps that’s enough, for now, as the words reflect the intimacy of a close relationship built over many years. A bit like my marriage, when so very often words were not needed to communicate a shared thought… just a glance of the eyes was usually enough to know what each other was thinking. I call it the language of love and why should our relationship with God be any less intimate?

And I do need to say thankyou to the Lord for a good night’s sleep, but even more helpfully I woke this morning without any trace of the bad headache I’ve suffered for the past few days. But this whole weekend has seen tears flowing so very freely and I feel so wonderfully privileged to have such really close friends to share them with. I’m talking about my children. One of my daughters had her birthday yesterday and she shared that she’d spent much of the day crying. As did I. And the community Memorial Service at the local Parish Church went well this afternoon, very sad but suitably respectful for a mixed congregation including those who don’t normally attend church. The place was packed with those come to remember the loss of loved ones. But I found it rather challenging having so many memories of being there with Jane, as we quite recently spent 12 months as part of that congregation when Jane was recovering from an operation and couldn’t travel much further.

The family birthday party was really what the weekend was all about though. In my imagination I saw Jane giving her approval to the whole thing, but more especially the effort I made to host the event. I’m not really a kitchen person but at one stage we had 3 different curries, a pan of rice and bhajis in the oven all being prepared by 3 or 4 cooks at the same time over one small cooker. And most surprisingly I was right in the middle of it all! That’s never been me, it was always Jane…

1 Kings 19:11-13 “Go out and stand before me on the mountain,” the Lord told him. And as Elijah stood there, the Lord passed by, and a mighty windstorm hit the mountain. It was such a terrible blast that the rocks were torn loose, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there was the sound of a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And a voice said…’ (NLT)

Saturday, October 29, 2011

29th October

I’ve tried to do as little as possible today. A little cleaning then resting as much as possible, although that is as always very frustrating and quite boring when there are so many things I could be doing. But M.E. is a bit of a beast when ignored and I have all the signs of borderline relapse, particularly the blinding headache I wake up with every morning.  I hate it, I just want to feel healthy again and get back to work! At the moment all I can do is manage the condition to maximise my quality of life, which is actually pretty good as I get to do most things I always have, only in small portions. But I’m not complaining… am I? Anyway, I did have the privilege of collecting my newlywed daughter and husband from the airport, back from their honeymoon in Amsterdam. They seem to have had a great time cruising on the canals, shopping, an evening gig and a trip to the local cinema. The film they went to see was promoted as being subtitled so they were a little hesitant but then it turned out to be in American English with Dutch subtitles so that worked well. Apparently just about everyone not only spoke but wanted to speak in English so it was very easy to get about, unlike some European cities. Ah, young love on an adventure… I’m not jealous, really I’m not. Not much anyway. They brought me some interesting cheese back though, so I’m happy.

But tomorrow is a biggy.  First the afternoon Remembrance Service for the recently bereaved, and then my daughter’s birthday tea.  I’m hosting a family party for 15 with curry as the chosen favourite of the birthday girl. So that’ll be busy, but fun. And challenging without Jane. But what better way to remember her, when the family party was really her very special thing. She loved them. And I still love her, and miss her terribly. Bereavement is so absolutely final as there’s no going back; though earlier today my dodgy imagination starting playing tricks when I had this thought that wouldn’t be nice if Jane just popped in for a flying visit. Just to say a quick hello and let us know she’s alright. A bit like an old friend come calling every now and again…

But really there’s only one ‘old friend’ I need in my life right now. The person of God. He’s all I really need to live a full life and in his strength I will persevere in letting go of Jane. I’ll never forget her, she’ll always have a treasured place in my heart but I refuse to allow grief to hold me back from moving on into all that the Lord sets before me. And tomorrow he’s setting before me 4 children, 3 sons-in-law, 4 grandchildren, my mum, my dad, and Jane’s mum! Is there anyone more blessed than I am?

Psalm 127:3 ‘Children are a gift from the Lord; they are a reward from him.’ (NLT)

Friday, October 28, 2011

28th October

I’ve been watching and waiting today. Obviously a little impatient, but who wouldn’t be? But I do feel a little better, and I decided to have a lie in until around 10am this morning to try and catch up on sleep after a poor few nights. I still woke around 6am before resuming my late snooze and at that early time completed my morning Sudoku and read for an hour. Apart from the novel I’ve now finished I’ve been enjoying an ESV study Bible, on my Kindle, every morning before getting up. The last couple of years my devotional time focussed upon simply reading a chapter of the Bible (NLT) before working on memorising quite big chunks. So I’d forgotten how valuable a good study Bible can be when used verse by verse and today I looked at Luke 11 where Jesus teaches on prayer, specifically introducing a version of the very familiar Lord’s Prayer. But it’s the following few verses that the study opened my eyes to, the story of the midnight visitor knocking his friend out of bed simply to ask for bread. Now I must have read these verses dozens of times over the years and probably heard them used in quite a few preaches as well, and I always heard the message about persistent prayer yielding results. But apparently the original doesn’t actually use the word persistent even though it’s an obvious interpretation in the context of the following verses. So really it’s more to do with impudence and the NIV translates it as shameless audacity which certainly puts a whole different perspective on how we might approach Almighty God in our prayers! And that certainly fits with the childlike walk of faith that we’re called to… my adult kids know that they can ask for just about anything and I’ll do my best to give it to them. How much more does the Lord desire to answer our prayers as we come boldly before his throne of grace?

Oh yes, the watching and waiting thing. That’s about my new bird table, fully loaded with seed and water waiting for hungry visitors. They’ve been taking seed from my feeder very regularly over the past few months and I’m expecting great things. But so far I’ve seen nothing, though previous changes took quite a while for birds to connect with. The problem is that I don’t actually spend very much time looking out of my window so the chances are that I’ll miss the action anyway. But that won’t stop me putting food out…

And that makes me think of my faith journey. We can’t actually see Jesus Christ can we? Nor is it always easy to recognise or understand the work he’s doing in our lives until after the event. So, today, I journey through my season of loss and to be honest I don’t always feel very appreciative or particularly thankful to the Lord for being left all alone without my wife to help me along the way. Of course I’m thankful that he’s received her to himself and that her suffering has ended, but I’m still walking through the trials of life and it’s much harder on your own than with a partner. I’ll get used to it, for sure, and even though I don’t always recognise the hand of God upon my life and even though I don’t always feel thankful… I will still proclaim that his hand of favour is towards me and I will daily give thanks for his goodness. Maybe in the same way that the birds take their food without being seen, the Lord will direct my paths and take away some of my problems without his obvious intervention. Isn’t that what faith is all about? Being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we cannot see (Hebrews 11:1).

Psalm 23:1-2 ‘The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need. He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams.’ (NLT)

Thursday, October 27, 2011

27th October

So today I’ve faced up to a couple of challenges and come through victorious. But the day didn’t start that well when I woke around 5am feeling rather restless and unable to sleep. I suppose it was my own fault really as I’d allowed myself to drift into a negative thought pattern late last night. My solution to times like that is to take a hold of an absorbing distraction… that means Sudoku on my DS – playing against the clock I allow myself 8 minutes to complete each game and persevere until I can do it. And some kind blog reader recommended ‘The Sword’ as a worthwhile Kindle novel and it was, so much so that I’ve nearly finished the sequel called ‘The Gift’. Problem is that the third book in the series has yet to be published so I’ll have to swap track to a different series if I want to sleep tomorrow night. I managed only about 5 hours the past couple of nights and that’s not so good. I’m beginning to think about campsites again so maybe in the next week or so I’ll have to go find a motorway to speed me on my way to the hills or a forest or maybe the sea… it’s nice being free to roam wherever I want, which I need to at the moment. I’m still thinking of a year off from all optional extra commitments as I still feel rather burnt out.

Ok then, challenge number one involved a simple trip to the local garden centre for a coffee with my eldest daughter and grandchildren. But this was a favourite activity of Jane’s, we went there countless times and as often as not it was her choice for a distraction on a day of test results at the hospital. Obviously the place is bulging with Christmas decorations at the moment and the last time I went there was with Jane just after last Christmas. Oh dear, I do miss her don’t I? Anyway, today I survived and certainly enjoyed the company although as always the cake portions are always too big and too sweet for young children. I remember Jane scoffed the grandchild leftovers one of the last times we went there. Jane’s mum wanted to buy me a leaving present so today I chose a bird-table and now I can do my bit for garden wild-life through the coming winter.

The second little challenge involved editing the wedding video. I’ve only ever done a couple of home movies and one of them was over 20 years ago involving VHS dubbing, a very different kettle of fish from over 70 AVCHD clips to play with on a computer. My daughter and her husband had a quite original idea when sending out their wedding invites, they gave everyone a CD of their favourite music, so that made my choice of background music a no-brainer. Anyway, despite my apprehension it seems to have turned out really well. I’ll present it to my family on Sunday as they’re all coming for a birthday tea for one of my daughters. But that’ll be immediately after the service of remembrance for the recently bereaved at the local parish church… and that’s another challenge to face. But we’ll do it as a whole family. I’m not alone, and never will be.

Matthew 28:18,20 ‘Jesus came and told his disciples… be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’ (NLT)

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

26th October

Well that’s a relief. It’s been a couple of weeks since I last felt well enough to walk far, even though that last experience did me a lot of good. And I’d begun to wonder if the progress in health I’d made over the summer was about to slip away, so today I simply set off on my 3 mile route, through the woods at Kedleston, to see how far I could get. And it was absolutely no problem; I really am much stronger physically than I was earlier this year and may consider taking up swimming again fairly soon to round off my new fitness regime. After lunch I called in to check up on Jane’s mum in her new home and found that she was doing fine, with lots of visitors to keep encouraging her. Technology seems to baffle her, so we have to keep explaining how the door intercom and her phone work but hopefully she’ll get used to them soon. I’ve no idea if she’s tried the electric shower yet, but at least she says she can remember how to work the remote for her satellite box to listen to Christian TV. I think she’ll be alright once she settles in so that’s a relief as well.

The real encouragement of the day came as I was on my walk. Although it was a little chilly and somewhat muddy underfoot I really enjoyed myself. I’d downloaded the latest Chris Tomlin album to refresh my mp3 player so with the sun shining overhead all began to feel well with the world again. There’s something about the joy of the Lord which counters the pressure of difficult circumstances, God is quite simply bigger than any problem that we could ever have.  More than that, the joy of knowing his salvation at work in my life, despite the apparent difficulties to be faced, is enough to release happiness from deep within my heart. And now I feel strong again, ready to face whatever challenge the new day brings my way. It would be nice if it was something pleasant though.

An interesting challenge came across my path recently in the form of an invitation to join a sponsored trek to Everest Base Camp in Nepal. Now things like that I tend to automatically dismiss as impossible, and I’m not really saying I would dream of considering it. But… maybe I need to see my life differently, today I may have a disability with M.E. that limits my activity, but should that restrict my dreams for tomorrow? Is my ill health too big a problem for God to overcome? I’ve known those who’ve made a complete recovery so why not me? I am determined to fight ill health by not just managing the condition but reaching out to the Lord for his favour and his healing. I will not remain ill for a day longer than he allows, I will dream dreams and I will put no restrictions upon the call of God upon my life. The trek in the Himalayas may not be part of God’s call next year but, for sure, I do have a mountain of grief to deal with. And that particular challenge will to be conquered!

Mark 11:22-23 ‘Then Jesus said to the disciples, “Have faith in God. I tell you the truth, you can say to this mountain, ‘May you be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ and it will happen. But you must really believe it will happen and have no doubt in your heart.’ (NLT)

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

25th October

So today I’ve needed to rest, I’ve done almost nothing. Watched a movie, researched some music and fed the cat. That’s about it, although I do have house group this evening so there’s something to look forward to. And I did have a visit from a friend this afternoon which was good as we often end up discussing challenging subjects. He’s running a film club at a local church and they’re next showing ‘Of Gods and Men’, a true story of a group of French Cistercian Trappist monks threatened by fundamentalist terrorists. Stationed with an impoverished Algerian community they must decide whether to leave or stay. So my friend and I then spend an hour or so thinking of the way the world is changing and how difficult it is to even keep up with events let alone interpret them. I think we both agree on concern for the political changes across North Africa and the fallacy of a singular belief in the introduction or reformation of democracy as a panacea for bad national leadership.

I find it difficult to trust any initial understanding of world affairs, as so often events unfold in a very different way from that which is predicted. It seems that for every publicised comment made by a politician there are half a dozen interpretations of what he or she is really meaning. And the news medium through which we gather information always has it’s own bias anyway. So who can we trust to share truth?  I’ve found the Bible, when read with plain common sense, can be accepted at it’s simple face value. It doesn’t have to be seen as too complicated, or a mystery to be understood only by scholars. Indeed it was always intended to be primarily used for public reading and therefore useful to untutored men and women… that’s me I suppose. The original Greek found in much of the New Testament was the Greek of the common-man or ‘Street-Greek’ if you like and few of our translations properly reflect that. So I see the Bible as having many uses, but for a start it is a plumb-line revealing God’s righteousness on one side and exposing man’s sinfulness on the other. And Jesus Christ, being the Son of God who became a man, is the only person who can provide a way to cross that divide. And the Bible, which is really a collection of 66 books, can also be seen as a handbook of life including God’s take on history, life-education, law and prophesy; as well as some quite marvellous poetry to be incorporated in our worship. It is the only definitive, unchallengeable description of God, Godliness and God purpose that exists in my opinion.

So what does the Bible say of world affairs in our day? Reading it simply I would say that we are living in what the Bible calls the end times, and it says that there will be a rise in evil everywhere. But alongside that will be a rise in goodness as the Bride of Christ, the church, is made ready through her good deeds, for the return of Christ to Planet Earth. Yes, he is coming back soon, and certainly at a time when we least expect which for me would be right now. But our role is simply to be ready, whenever he comes. We may not be able to change the whole of our nation for good but at least our little bit can be honest, caring, respectful and hardworking… basically Godly in every way.

Matthew 24:12-14 ‘Sin will be rampant everywhere, and the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. And the Good News about the Kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world, so that all nations will hear it; and then the end will come.’ (NLT)

Monday, October 24, 2011

24th October

Well I feel a bit better today, apart from a few extra aches and pains that is. And I reckon somebodies been praying for me as I feel a lightness in my spirit, as if the joy of the Lord is rising up once again. This morning was quite challenging as I helped Jane’s mum to move into her new home. Jane’s sister has placed her in sheltered accommodation about a mile from my home so she can be easily connected to her old lifestyle once again. And already my daughter and grandchildren have visited her to welcome her back to Derby. But she remains severely depressed and at age 97 is struggling to adapt to losing Jane, who was her primary carer, as well as missing the home she lived in for over 14 years. I can’t help but feel a little guilty that I’m no longer offering her a place in my home, even though it just wouldn’t be right for two blokes to be providing semi-disabled care for a very elderly lady. Not only would it not work practically and also relationally but I reckon the emotional turmoil of living in my home with a missing Jane would be completely unbearable. It almost is for me, for sure. and although I’m choosing to make no major decisions in the short term I may yet decide I have to move house in order to move on. But the old lady is totally beat up at the moment, really confused and doesn’t know whether she’s coming or going. Anyway I’ve helped move some of her stuff into the apartment she’s been given and she was pleased when I managed to connect her old Skybox so she could watch a selection of Christian TV again. I’m young enough to rebuild my life, more than that I potentially have several decades left to accomplish just about anything I choose. But Jane’s mum is not in that position at all and is really struggling with motivation even to live. She should be well cared for, having plenty of choice of activity and nearby friends on a sheltered housing estate, so whilst all concerned say I shouldn’t feel guilty, I still do. I know such guilt is not of God as I’m convinced I have a different pathway now and anyway I no longer have direct responsibility as Jane’s sister is her next of kin. I just find it difficult to let go sometimes… I hate to see anybody suffer, but some things I can’t make right no matter how hard I try. Jane’s gone and I can’t get her back.

John 14:26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.’ (ESV)

Sunday, October 23, 2011

23rd October

I like feeling happy, I don’t like feeling sad… who does? Today I feel sad. But that’s pretty much normal at the moment and though I remain determined it’ll be temporary, today’s been a bit rubbish. I made it to church this morning but still find myself breaking down with tears part way through. It makes me feel ill and really has got to stop, somehow I have to toughen up and stop myself from thinking of Jane all the time. I know that God’s grace is sufficient for every challenge that life brings my way, but allowing myself to think about Jane rather than concentrating on the Lord and the church service is part of my problem. Some days it all feels too much to cope with. Yesterday was a high; today I’m feeling rather low. Although it may be understandable, it’s certainly not desirable and I have to find a way of breaking this pattern of emotional turmoil.

Yesterday’s wedding was a wonderful distraction, it went so well and today I’ve taken my very excited daughter and her husband to the airport for their week long honeymoon. I wish I were going on honeymoon. It sounds wonderful, a new start in life with the person you love. And now I’m talking rubbish, I’ve already enjoyed a lifetime of permanently young love. I was on my honeymoon for over 37 years; our love never grew stale and despite life’s challenges simply grew stronger year on year. But right now I long for a new life; everything has already changed, though from my point of view very much for the worse. The ‘new’ life I’m currently living feels pretty horrible and can only be bearable knowing it to be transient. But the new life I will live is another story and it will be a good one, filled with love, I’m sure, because God has filled my heart with his love. And God’s love is for sharing.

Romans 8:28 ‘And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.’ (NLT)

Saturday, October 22, 2011

22nd October

What a special day. I now have three married daughters and they’ve all chosen wonderful partners, what more can a father ask for? The happy couple wanted a simple fun day out with only a small group of closest friends and family at the actual wedding. So we’ve spent the day at the Midland Railway Centre, a preservation railway, with the marriage ceremony in a signal box and the lunchtime reception in a dining car pulled by steam train.

I’d wondered what it might feel like as I’m quite big on church weddings myself, but actually it was beautifully moving, being very sensitively led by the duty registrar and included a couple of great readings. I enjoyed sitting with my son-in-laws parents and gran, the food was excellent, the weather was perfect and my four grandchildren were as delightful and entertaining as ever. The party has continued right through the day and tonight they’ve booked a room in Derby for more of their friends to come and celebrate. My new son-in-law hosts a website promoting some local bands and a couple of them agreed to play this evening so that was fun, though rather loud. But when I was a lad – that phrase too easily rolls off the tongue doesn’t it? – I remember Status Quo playing in a not much bigger venue only a few hundred yards away and they were seriously loud. Anyway, tonight was apparently some sort of Indie Pop and though I don’t pretend to understand the genre, I can recognise and enjoy great musical skill when I see it. And they’ve honed to perfection the ability to lay down multiple musical loops producing a big sound for a three piece band. But the image of my five year old grand-daughter dancing the night away really made it for me…

Today could have been very difficult but each of my four kids in different ways has been really considerate, continually asking after my wellbeing. And my bridal daughter has some close friends who also made a special effort to befriend the ‘old man’. One of them even chose to say a particular thankyou for my part in making the day happen, which I thought was very considerate… dads have to pay for daughters’ weddings don’t they? I did have to make a little space this afternoon though and I came home to be alone for an hour or two in between events. I picked up my guitar to play one of the songs I’d performed at Jane’s funeral – Amazing Grace blues version – and then spent a while crying out to the Lord. Ok, it was more like crying with the Lord for a few seconds until the real sobbing kicked in. One day I’ll get past this phase, but not today. I’m basically very happy really though.

Oh yes I forgot to mention, the bride was beautiful. Actually, spectacularly beautiful… Anyway I survived a twelve hour celebration before calling it a day and I’ve left the youngsters to party for a while yet. Tomorrow I’m the taxi to the airport and they’re honeymooning in Amsterdam for a week. Then I’ll be getting to grips with editing the ‘official’ wedding video, so I just hope I managed to capture enough footage as I’ve very little experience of movie making and it could be a bit random. We’ll see.

Psalm 127:3 ‘Children are a gift from the Lord; they are a reward from him.’ (NLT)

Friday, October 21, 2011

21st October

How can something so wonderful and so very special be so very challenging? It’s the missing mum at my youngest daughter’s wedding tomorrow that’s causing the heartache. Jane was the perfect party organiser. More than that, she loved family gatherings of any sort and at the slightest excuse would have us sharing food and fun. She really was at the centre of our family, ensuring we spent lots of time together. So through the week I’ve felt increasingly tense about how I’ll feel on the day and to be honest I never gave much thought about my kids and how they might feel. They all miss their mum massively, I know, and tears are only ever just below the surface, but they’re all busy so that helps distract. But then last night the bride to be let me know she felt exactly the same as I do. I’m not alone in my suffering and sharing with such good friends, as my kids are, is a real comfort. Tomorrow will be good, very different from the church weddings my older daughters chose, but equally special and the bond of love celebrated deserves every blessing I can offer. And I will be kept busy as I’ll take both still and video cameras. But first, I’ve just been asked to taxi the bridegroom and his best men which is quite a privilege. Mustn’t be late though as we’ve a train to catch!

And I’m reminded of how the Lord views marriage. He holds it in the highest esteem. Indeed right at the beginning of the Bible, where we read the story of creation, we see the first man and woman united in the context of marriage, joined as if one and made for each other. Scripture has many stories of marital success, and also failures. with clear guidance concerning that which is right behaviour and that which is wrong. I believe the strength of my own marriage was directly related to the Biblical principles that we jointly adopted and I have to say that the number one ingredient of importance was that we prayed together as man and wife almost every day after becoming Christians in 1982… ok I once spent 3 weeks in Ghana with poor access to a phone, but that was it really.

Then there are the Biblical pictures of the church to think of. For starters I would suggest that Scripture does not talk of the church as a building, so to me the bricks and mortar thing is really just a facility hopefully designed to inspire and encourage us to meet together. No, the church is really made of people and more than that, whether they are meeting together or separated in their day to day lives they are still just as much church. And the Bible describes the church using quite powerful imagery. Whilst it talks of the Body of Christ, the Army of God, and a Royal Priesthood and also makes clear we are part of God’s family being joint heirs with Christ Jesus; for me the picture of the church as the Bride of Christ has always felt particularly special. If the Lord chooses to see his church, his own chosen people, as a Bride that surely places the highest value on the institution of marriage.

The church of today has many ordinances, many ceremonies, and many customs with some being more religious than others. Whilst much of how we do church has real value, Biblically there are very few specific activities that are truly commands – certainly Baptism in Water and Holy Communion or Breaking of Bread. The rest of what we do as church gathered is really down to creative inspiration mixed with historic tradition, but that’s fine by me when we avoid legalism. Then there is one other significant institution… marriage. Although not for everyone – Jesus himself never married – it is nonetheless one of God’s good ideas and when worked out in a Godly manner quite wonderful.

Revelation 19:9 ‘Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding feast of the Lamb.’ (NLT)

Thursday, October 20, 2011

20th October

I look for my love and what do I see
I see an empty life
For love has flown to another
Where heav’n rules has gone my wife  
And I am content

I look for my love and what do I see
I see from sickness freed
To gain no pain a step so short
Yet none can wander for need
God’s call must first end

I look for my love and what do I see
I see a hand shall ask
What toil for goodness must do
Kingly purpose is my task
That race gains my r’ward

I look for my love and what do I see
I see a heart now full
With greater love and greater need
Shall work ’till harvest pulled
From fields so rich n’ripe

I look for my love and what do I see
I see the Lord Most High
With e’er a smile and joy within
With Him to walk then time does fly
Heav’ns gates wide open

Oil on canvas – Jane Paine

John 4:35 ‘You know the saying, ‘Four
months between planting and harvest.’
But I say, wake up and look around.
The fields are already ripe for harvest.’ (NLT)

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

19th October

Today was a real challenge. I’d hoped to continue decorating the upstairs bathroom but that idea was binned, along with the electric shower in the downstairs bathroom. Annoying, as it wasn’t that old and I’m now on my 4th unit in 14 years, but somewhat satisfying in that I was able to replace it without help from a professional. The task itself was quite straightforward, apart from the increasingly convoluted plumbing, but keeping in the right frame of mind to finish the job was another story. It’s hard to believe that this time last week I felt quite well and almost happy. I woke this morning with a bad headache and things sort of went downhill from there. I’ve just felt so ill with M.E. and had to pace myself very carefully with several extended breaks in order to get through the day. But I persevered and completed the job and that was good.

This is what I’ve been looking at all day…

And now I can imagine Jane telling me off. Countless times over the years she would tell me not to complain or even admit that I was ill. Something about confessing illness not being a very good idea makes a lot of sense. They say confession is good for the soul, but it needs careful handling. Of course when we do wrong we should confess that wrong to the Lord and ask his forgiveness. But sometimes the wrong we do affects another person and then we need to apologise to them personally. And whilst the Catholic priestly confession doesn’t fit my style of church, reaching out for support with an ongoing problem, to an accountability partner, can be a real good idea. So when I keep saying I feel ill maybe that reinforces the negative making it a bigger problem than it need be. Of course it’s true that I am ill and today I feel really ill but perhaps I shouldn’t complain so much. It’s getting me down; I’m feeling quite low… and I have no-one watching over me now. Jane never put up with any of this nonsense, she’d soon put me straight!

I need a totally different focus, that’s the answer. And it has to start by fixing my eyes upon the Lord. He knows my every thought, he cares about me enough to count the very hairs on my head, he provides for my every need and answers my prayers before I even ask them. And those who live in the shelter of the most high, will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty. He is my refuge, my place of safety; he is my God and I trust him. No evil will conquer me, he will send his angels to protect me wherever I go. He is with me in all my troubles, he will rescue and honour me, and when I call he answers Nothing can separate me from his wonderful love, neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow – not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below – indeed nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.

1 John 4:8 ‘But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love.’ (NLT)

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

18th October

I suppose it’s an age thing. Feeling the cold. When I was younger I would welcome the break in weather as we moved closer towards winter. The darkening and usually damp evenings gave the house a nice warm dry feeling, something to look forward to at the end of a long working day. And the weeds, lawn and hedges all began to slow their relentless growth, which lightened my workload as I have an oversized garden.  I always felt that in winter I could wrap up or turn the heating higher whereas in summer there was no escape from the heat and I loved the snow anyway. But this evening I just feel chilled and I want the sun back. More than that I think I’m now a sun lover and could happily live in a sunny climate all year round. So then the hottest October on record has left me feeling rather spoilt, but it’s quite clear the season’s on the change and there’s no going back.

The season of my life whilst caring for Jane on her cancer journey was the most intense imaginable. For several years I gave her my undivided attention, stepping out of all other responsibilities and prioritising her needs and desires over everything. Whilst I lived with hope and persevered in seeking the Lord with every possible effort I determined to give myself to her for whatever she wanted. So with very few exceptions I acquiesced to her every whim and actually 2010 was a happy and very healthy year for Jane, despite the stress of difficult results and treatment decisions. But this became increasingly challenging and her final weekend I reached my physical and emotional limit when I was forced to stay continuously awake for almost 3 days dealing with all manner of medical interventions. But I did it and feel so grateful to God for his strength at that time.

Both Jane and I at times over the past 3 or 4 years began to grieve together for the threatened loss of her life. She would cry out to God asking that we would not be separated as we were truly and completely one. But from last November when she determinedly went sledging with grandchildren whilst coughing up blood it was obvious her time was limited. We persevered in asking God for his mercy, reaching out for prayer, but both knew for sure that there was no real medical hope of more than a short extension of life. She needed a miracle, and actually got one. The greatest miracle of all… an entry pass to heaven and the presence of Jesus for all eternity. But that leaves me alone and with a new season of life to walk through. My season of grief.

 My shed last winter.

And right now my life feels rather overcast, the days are short and for sure a chill is in the air. Maybe a little fog. But I'll have my eyes open for the first sign of spring, once winter's run it's course new life will burst out of the hardened ground. Snowdrops, Crocus, Daffodils and Tulips are but the forerunner to a splendid summer of sunshine and beauty with the promise of a bountiful harvest to follow. I’m so glad my God is a God of seasons. And winter's on the way.

Genesis 8:22 ‘As long as the earth remains, there will be planting and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night.’ (NLT)

Monday, October 17, 2011

17th October

I’m not sure if I should be doing this, writing my blog at this particular time tonight. I usually write quite spontaneously and most evenings, I sit down and stare at a blank page for no more than a couple of minutes before writing whatever comes into my head. And tonight that’s not good as I’ve just been thinking about Christmas. I was just making a very tasty Balti and suddenly remembered shopping with Jane. Last December we separated in Derby for a 30 minute ‘buy each other a surprise Christmas present’ excursion. And we had fun trying to avoid spotting where we each shopped, yes it was surprisingly enjoyable as I don’t normally like shopping there, but it was all Jane could cope with. The assistant pastor from church was there with his wife supporting their child involved in a school thing and it was all just so very nice. But that is not at all how I feel right now. I feel horrible thinking about Christmas, I’m not interested, I feel like avoiding it, it’s too painful.

I had a successful morning though having started a new project at home. This is officially Day 1 of my redecorate the upstairs bathroom project. As always in recent years the plan is to do something every day, whether that be 5 minutes work or 55 minutes it doesn’t matter as the job will get done. So I’ve dismantled the 3 old bathroom cabinets ready for the tip; and now we’re just 2 blokes with 2 toothbrushes, shampoo and soap we don’t need so many shelves for dozens of bottles of who knows what and I’ve been shopping for a much simpler replacement. I feel quite satisfied with progress so far.

It was on my way out shopping that I had another little challenge. The local funeral parlour in co-ordination with local churches has planned a memorial service on the 30th for their customers benefit. As part of the service a Roll of Remembrance including Jane’s name will be read out and it seems a nice thing to do. But it did need a trip into their office again to let them know we would be supporting the event and that wasn’t particularly easy. Well nothing’s easy at the moment. I keep thinking about the oncology department at Nottingham City Hospital which we visited countless times over the past few years. It became almost like a second home with all the people we got to know and I particularly remember the receptionist in the CT scan department and the friendly chats we always had with her. The last time we went there she said the worst part of her job was when the regulars stopped coming… and now I actually miss the place, which is a weird thing to say. I miss sitting, making brave jokes, in the consulting room waiting for the bad results that were the norm. I miss the friendly consultant proudly showing us pictures of his new baby. I miss his research assistant telling tales of her dog getting into trouble. I miss the so caring chemo nurse patiently finding one more elusive vein for yet another infusion. I don’t miss the sheer terror of leaving Jane outside of the operating theatre and the uncertainty of what would happen, I hated that. But everything else I could live with, quite gladly, in support of Jane in her time of need. If only she still needed me… it’s all I feel like doing at the moment, helping my sick wife through the impossible. Oh dear I’m really feeling down tonight aren’t I?

Compared with some we had it easy. When Jane went through radiotherapy I spoke to an older woman who was all alone going through the treatment. She needed help then getting to the other end of the hospital to visit her husband who was seriously ill on a ward. One time earlier this year I spoke to a guy supporting his wife through chemo and he told me that she was his second wife; his first had been through the same treatment on the same ward and eventually died of cancer. Another time a woman had travelled 30 miles unaccompanied for chemo having left her elderly husband at home recovering from a stroke. She sat for a couple of hours simply waiting for transport home after her treatment was completed. I feel so privileged and grateful to God to have been available for Jane absolutely every step of the way and no matter what she went through she was always a delight to be with. She did not know how to complain, ever.

1 Thessalonians 5:18 ‘Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.’ (NLT)

Sunday, October 16, 2011

16th October

I love being a grandad, although I feel far too young to be granted that role. It’s so much easier than parenting when small kids come in relatively short doses and you just get all the good bits. But I’ve done my time having helped raise four of my own children. So today we fed my youngest grandkids and their parents with a Sunday roast prepared by my son. He’s becoming quite popular at the moment with his newfound cooking skills and I’m happy to stay out of the kitchen for sure. But I’ve been informed it’s my turn tomorrow so we’ll be back to rice or maybe pasta… mind you homemade chips with battered fish has a nice sound to it, we’ll see. And we even made the cat happy with chicken leftovers and a taste of trifle! But I’m happiest ‘teasing’ my grandkids with tall stories of the gorilla family living in the trees at the end of the road and making up names for their little ones. And then we play the game of seeing who can spot the most imaginary elephants on our car journey through the inner city. Agreement was reached on the laziest creatures seen on our short trip… human beings all driving around in cars, we can’t even be bothered to walk on a nice sunny day. Grandads are supposed to be a bit naughty aren’t they?

I need my family. They are so special and such good friends that I don’t know where I’d be without them. I so much needed this distraction today after finding myself getting really upset again at church this morning. People are so kind and caring, offering to entertain and feed me but I still feel so very lost especially in an environment where I always had Jane by my side. I’ve always found worship to be an emotional experience, especially when led sensitively, as the Spirit of God seems to touch my heart with his wonderful presence and I’m so grateful for the wonderful life I’ve been given. But when tears are barely kept under control anyway I stand no chance when God shows up. For some weeks I’ve been listening to a new Mat Redman album and for the first time we used the title track in church. It’s called ‘10,000 reasons’ or 'Bless the Lord O my Soul' and for me it fits perfectly where I’m at, being a declaration of determined commitment. I will bless the Lord no matter what comes my way.

Verse 1
The sun comes up, it's a new day dawning;
It's time to sing Your song again.
Whatever may pass, and whatever lies before me,
Let me be singing when the evening comes.

My youngest had her hen-party yesterday and one older daughter reports a real good time was had by them all. They hired a canal barge and set sail for a picnic along the canal for the starter event, and despite a few nearly expensive crashes with a lot of laughs they managed to return it safely in time for an evening meal together. It all sounds so much more respectable than my own rather inebriated event in 1973… Derby had a mile of pubs leading into the town centre commonly used for stag and hen events so Jane and I set off independently, with our respective friends, only to find we’d chosen the same itinerary when we met at the destination. But that was fine and we sobered up nicely for our wedding the next day. Those were the days… stop reminiscing David, stop it!

Ephesians 5:25 ‘Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her’ (NIV)

Saturday, October 15, 2011

15th October

Oh dear, down to earth with a bump. The sense of loss is once again quite overpowering and although I’ve kept myself purposefully busy, tears are never far away. It’s understandable really, having lived and built a home and family in the same house for over 32 years which is filled with so many memories. I spend most of my time in the front room which was remodelled after Jane died and so I have no memories of her in it. It’s all my own design and that helps. I’ve used her artwork to decorate the walls as I like it even though it’s all work that she has not hung for a long time and probably never would have again. But hey-ho it’s my choice now! This is one of her smaller oil paintings from many years ago…

But I did manage to overcome a major hurdle this afternoon. I mowed one of my lawns for the first time this year. I persuaded my son to paint a shed whilst I did this job, which he would normally do. Sounds nothing I’m sure, but for a number of years the garden was really Jane’s thing, although I’ve normally done the heavier work. It’s also where we spent a lot of our time, relaxing at every opportunity. In a sense for me it is almost as challenging as digging into the contents of her wardrobe or bedside drawers or that most personal of places… a woman’s handbag. There’s where I find Chanel No 5 or Estee Lauder White Linen, and despite spending the past 40 years feeling uncomfortable at a Debenham’s gift counter, I have no use for them now. I can’t face making decisions about getting rid of her stuff yet but that doesn’t stop my house from needing work on it. And Jane was always my working partner, helping me finish decorate in the early hours when we had young children, and in later years being patient with my need to visit every DIY store to cover all options and then carefully explaining why showroom fawn is not the colour we should use. And it’s only now that Jane has gone that I fully appreciate how much she did. This evening my son decided we should have a vegetable stew to warm us up, and neither of us could remember how Jane transformed the ordinary into the extraordinary with her experienced use of spices. It’s not just Jane as a person we’ve lost, it’s also all the little things that only she knew about that are now gone forever. But seasoning, some garlic and a stock cube got our meal at least pointing in the right direction. Though we still can’t remember if she used chilli or paprika or cayenne pepper or… I’m not really ready to be on my own am I?

Genesis 2:18 ‘Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper who is just right for him.”’ (NLT)

Friday, October 14, 2011

14th October

I actually feel quite happy now. And that’s a rare event. The sun came out as I started my journey home and I was tempted to stay for one final walk but decided to face up to the journey and coming back to an empty house… not really that empty as it’s filled with memories. Anyway it was no problem whatsoever, I almost feel buoyant, which is a bit weird, and I even started thinking seriously about starting to decorate. That was good as I’ve ignored it for the past two difficult years and several rooms desperately need some tlc. I so much enjoy the room my kids remodelled for me in the week after Jane died and I would love to change the whole house in similar vein if I could… especially the lounge where Jane died. I have to move on and changing my environment helps leave difficult memories behind. I can’t imagine dealing with Jane’s wardrobe yet but her art-work is another story and I’ll probably rehang some of my rooms very soon. She’s left me a small mountain of paintings and drawings to choose from and I’m thinking even some of her sketch books have artwork suitable for framing.

But the real pleasure of the day was picking up my newer guitar; it’s in a completely different class from the one I take camping and so much easier to play. And I got completely lost in worship as I played, despite the pain in my fingers… I’ve not been playing nearly enough over the past month and the pads need to harden again. Naughty boy… God gave me this gift and I’ve been neglecting it! But I can’t just play for playing’s sake, I need to be inspired. So whilst I love playing the blues and enjoy the related traditional folk music my heart is really in worship. And therein rests the challenge as most contemporary worship nowadays lies in the soft-rock genre which I find rather predictable and sometimes a little bland although it works really well for congregational singing, and skilled wordcraft lifts the most mediocre of arrangements anyway.  I bought my latest guitar about ten years ago and after a year or so I had to put it away due to lack of inspiration. I didn’t play any instrument for 12 months, until I was asked to help at a child dedication and then a funeral and then a marriage re-dedication and then there were a whole series of guest services to support… and the inspiration was back.

Ok, what am I trying to say then… at the heart of worship, or rather at the heart of the whole of our life we should find God. And where God is, there we find inspiration and fulfilment and so much more. But sometimes we have to let go of our personal aspirations as they can become a barrier to meeting with the Lord. He is not remotely concerned about our style of worship, be it Low-Church, High-Church, Charismatic, Pentecostal, Evangelical or whatever. No, it’s the heart of a man or woman that reaches out to him in worship that will connect with the throne room of heaven. I personally have had the most powerful God encounter in many different formats of meeting… in the contemporary worship style of my local church, amongst a 13,000 congregation in a stadium, a very traditional pipe organ led midnight communion on Christmas Eve, listening to a brass band in a city street, choral singing on TV and even an orchestral recital. There’s something special about how music can open our hearts to help us meet with God. One very interesting God encounter I enjoyed was when I turned our worship team into a 60’s rock band with a gospel message part way through… the anointing of the presence of God on ‘Hippy Hippy Shake’ was eye-opening! God doesn’t ‘need’ our music to be played in any particular way – he’s got plenty of angels to command surrounding his throne for that – he wants our hearts to be open to his love, that’s what he looks for in our worship.

Anyway, today I was all on my own, playing my guitar (Hillsongs soft-rock – ‘He can move the mountain’) and singing to the Lord when heaven joined in with me. And I ask for nothing more out of life at the moment. I’m happy.

1 Samuel 16:7 ‘The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.’ (NLT)

Thursday, October 13, 2011

13th October

I still feel quite good today which shouldn’t be as much of a surprise as it is. I’m glad I decided to have these few days away as the location is so very peaceful, it’s done me a lot of good. Tomorrow I need to return home, but I can easily get back here especially as my motorhome is nicely winterised. Anyway, I picked up my old ‘camping-guitar’ this morning and had a good time with the Lord. Then I had fun trying to write a folk song which is a first. But it will take quite a lot more work to be anything like presentable and I’d really like to write love songs to the Lord as an act of worship  but my musical skills are at base camp number one in that department so we’ll see. I sang an old Phatfish song called ‘There is a Day’ and that started me thinking about the date I made with Jane shortly before she died, the one where we need to look out for each other when the rapture occurs. So after she stops laughing at my long hair she’ll ask me how it was for me after she had to leave. And as I turn to her, to tell my story of this journey through grief, out of my mouth will come the words ‘I can’t remember!’ Oh yes, for sure we’ll recall our life and especially our loved ones but though we won’t be stripped of our memories we will be healed of the pain and trauma that so much of life offers each one of us. It won’t be so much that we can’t remember pain it’ll be more that we won’t remember, it’s a choice thing. So will I remember pain… no! Will I remember love… yes!

And the love of God is the foundation of all that is good on planet earth, so if I want to see more of God in my life I have to choose to love more. Jane was easy to love and I’ll have much to take with me into the future. There may or may not be another that I could find easy to love in that way but that’s in the Lord’s hands and certainly not for today. In the meantime I have children and grandchildren and sons in law to love and that’s really easy. And there are lots of other friends and family that I don’t know so well but it’s always easy to respond in love to their needs when they share as well. No, the real challenge is in loving the unlovely… the homeless, the socially dysfunctional, maybe those with learning difficulties and basically all those who aren’t really in my peer group. It’s not that these people are difficult to care about it’s just that it takes a lot of effort to engage with them. But it can be very satisfying and has it’s own rewards. Many years ago I started talking to a ‘street-person’ sheltering in our local Christian book shop, it ended up with us taking him home to feed him and a relationship started that lasted maybe a year or so. He had a lovely gentle Christian spirit, with a profound knowledge of the Bible and some fascinating stories of the miraculous amongst the homeless; but his life was a mess. We had him stay the night on several occasions until he confessed that he’d served a life sentence, for some unspecified crime, which certainly gave us pause for thought as we had young children at the time. But we remained totally at peace and continued sheltering him until he moved on to Leicester and we lost touch with him.

Right now, today, I’m not sure if I have much ‘give’ in me. But the strength to give really comes from God in the form of Grace… and he has plenty of that! So one day I hope to serve again, maybe in the same way, probably in a totally different way. But for sure I want to help people to meet with God, to know his presence, his protection, his care, his provision for their every need and to know that he loves them as much as he loves me. I want some more stories of God’s love to take with me into eternity. Be nice if the pain eased a bit now though… but it’s getting better.

Matthew 25:35-40 ‘For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ (NIV)

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

12th October

Oh yes, the man’s on a roll. It’s been another good day, although I’ve been careful to moderate my activity after yesterday’s exertion. Even so I managed a couple of much shorter walks, firstly around the campsite where I was able to admire half a dozen classic cars belonging to some sort of club I suppose. They were all variations on Austin 7 cars and vans, all way before my time, although I seem to remember borrowing my grandad’s once when I was a teenager… he was a brave man! Those were the days of double declutching to change gear and absolutely tiny cars, the owner I spoke to claimed her car was a 1935 model and they’d just been to France in it. Crazy stuff… my back aches just thinking about it! I remember my very first car was purchased for £5 when I was 16, it was a 1955 Reliant 3 wheeler which needed some major rebuilding including re-wiring but it got me around until you hit a bump which caused the single front wheel to lift right off the road. And then you lost your steering. The doors were wooden with Perspex sliding windows and no locks or even door-handles. To enter you slid the window open and reached inside to pull a cord. I wired an ‘immobiliser’, a simple hidden switch to cut the ignition. Actually, nothing much worked on it. Those were the days you say? For me you can keep them in the past I’ll stay with my boring Ford Focus thank you.

And I’m at it again, reminiscing about a lost youth; I really have to stop as it’s not a good way to live all the time. But it’s hard when almost every minute of every day I’m missing my lovely wife and the only place I can find her right now is in my memories. But they need to be put away, for maybe special times of remembering, not brought out for everyday use. I cannot live in the past, I have to walk into the future which will be very different and it will be good I know. I remember once trying to help a guy who’d been so badly damaged as a church leader that he stepped out of ministry completely and was walking along a completely different pathway. His faith remained strong but he became increasingly unfulfilled in the workplace. The word I had for him may sound a little odd, but basically God does not give a person a second chance when they fall… he gives them another brand new first chance! It’s not second best; it’s always God’s new first choice. And maybe that’s how I can begin to see my future life, yes I am older though perhaps not that much wiser and yes my youthful vigour has moderated a little… but why not expect the best is still ahead? All that’s gone before, amazing as it was, will be just a prelude to the unveiling of God’s new first plan for me.

And my second walk was down to the village green with it’s delightfully picturesque pond, next to the village shop and pub with a 150 year old oak planted nearby and ducks galore wandering around. I remember walking there so many times with Jane, stopping for a drink, buying a loaf of bread, sharing our dreams on a tranquil summer evening… aaah, stop it David, stop it. You’re reminiscing again and you’ll get too sad. Stop it! Anyway here’s my ‘classic car’, quite a rarity as I doubt if there are more than a couple of dozen like it in the country. But this is my second home and it was God’s gift to me a few years ago… it makes me happy.

Revelation 21:5 ’Look, I am making everything new!’ (NLT)

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

11th October

Well that did me good, I feel quite happy today. I’d begun to wonder if I could ever properly enjoy life again and now I know… the answer has to be yes! 25 years ago I belonged to a church that was working it’s way through the minefield of corporate renewal and for all sorts of reasons we suddenly found ourselves without a building to meet in. There were over 80 of us trying to gather on a Sunday and for two weeks we tried fitting into somebodies home, but the neighbours didn’t like it and the press got involved so that didn’t work well. Anyway we then met outdoors for around 4 months on the local playing fields which was quite a challenge. And the obvious thing was that on many occasions we had to pray quite determinedly about the typical English weather. But God answered those prayers by keeping us just about dry throughout that summer and I can remember quite clearly seeing the heavy laden rain clouds surrounding the bright patch of sunshine that we were standing in for our time of worship. I’ve played guitar in worship teams in almost every type of church building and denomination, in schools, in village halls, in tents on parks, inside and outside pubs, on the back of a lorry and even our city Assembly Rooms with a thousand in the congregation… but my favourite venue has always been out of doors and I actually don’t mind if I’m all alone, although I don’t go busking. I love it and was almost disappointed when our church found an available building to use.

Now where was I before the reminiscing took hold of me? Yes, I’m happy and today I enjoyed my longest walk for many years and feel like I’ve achieved something. The Malvern Hills claim a long history of connections with some quite creative people… the composer Edwin Elgar and the poet W H Auden lived around here. And authors J R R Tolkein and C S Lewis sought their own inspiration walking these very hills discussing their likeness to 'The White Mountains of Gondor'. But back to today, the weather took on it’s own interesting pattern which reminded me of the outdoor church experience. Only in reverse. I left some quite reasonable weather to drive only a few miles to the British Camp – an Iron Age fortification – only to find myself in semi-darkness. For the whole of my walk, and only the walk, bright sunshine was clearly visible but always in the distance and on both sides. Nonetheless I felt really good and actually caught myself singing as I walked along with a spring in my step. The 7 mile hill walk left me aching a bit on return though. But I did feel that the Lord was saying something to encourage me. My life is overshadowed with grief at the moment, that’s not wrong, indeed there is a good deal of living and walking with the Lord to be ‘enjoyed’ wherever we find ourselves. I can still sing his praise, but as I keep walking eventually I’ll find myself back in the sunshine where not only will all be well, but also all will feel well.

And a noisy military plane has just disturbed Matt Redman and my background music which reminds me that I too am a man under discipline.

Mark 11:23 ‘But you must really believe it will happen and have no doubt in your heart.’ (NLT)