Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Winter Sun

A change of perspective is sometimes all we need to breathe life into the bleakest of circumstances. Like my tree photo on a recent walk, a few steps sideways and all you get is a leafless tree preparing for the winter season. Taking just a moment of time to allow the sun to shine a little brightness into the very centre changes everything! These past few years I've journeyed through the most impossible of challenges I could ever have imagined. To see the woman I've loved so very much, suffer and eventually die from a pretty awful cancer was almost completely unbearable. Yet throughout I chose to recognise the place of Jesus Christ as being in control of every tiny detail of both our lives. That is a very, very hard thing to do, but in reality the only sane way to cope with what happened. Yes I've known the presence of the Lord with me at every step of this impossible journey, and despite the intense pain of loss I live daily with the peace and comfort that only such a faith journey can bring. And the pain has eased massively over the past 19 months. But even this morning I awoke in my bed thinking of Jane, and within minutes found myself once again on my knees before the Lord… crying uncontrollably, though comforted in those very same tears as I know full well that they must be shed in full measure before I can move on.

And, of course, I know beyond a shadow of doubt that Jane lives in the physical presence of the Lord, in that most mysterious of places called heaven. Yes she has truly moved on by now and left behind all her pain and suffering for the rest of eternity. One day we’ll be reunited. But in the meantime I need to embrace my new life, which can never be the old one I shared with the love of my youth. I'm middle aged and one day, not too soon, I will grow a little older… though yeah my intention is to keep the teenage Dave alive inside of whatever this weather worn body decides to look like! And having walked with God over these past months and years I've learned to recognise his direction, his favour when he brings it across my path, which is exactly what he has truly done. I am the most blessed person on planet earth as I daily discover that I am able to live and to love again! Am I still sad in this winter season of my life? For sure! But only a little… just to make sure I'm completing all that needs to be done on my bereavement journey. However right now I'm also beginning to feel like the teenager I once was… and have every confidence in an absolutely amazing future, whatever happens, as I continue to walk on this great journey called life, with my Lord.

Isaiah 61:3 ‘he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair.’ (NLT)

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Out With The Old

Our past can either be a stepping stone into the future or an anchor that keeps dragging us backwards. My photo today reflects my visit earlier in the year to Delamere Forest, and yeh I'm ready to return there sometime very soon. The powers that be have restored an ancient lake by felling part of the forest and changing drainage to allow flooding. Of course old tree stumps make great perches for our flying friends determined to keep their ‘feet’ dry. Not so good for nesting anymore so I guess they've moved on to new pastures for that particular activity.

I've been carefully reflecting upon my own journey through life over the past few months. And looking back I can clearly see a step change in how I'm feeling after the heavy trauma of last year. Well of course I realise that bereavement has no quick or complete fix and there are still difficult days; but nonetheless since this summer I've begun to feel like I'm in a totally different place, though it’s only because of more recent events that I've realised what has been happening. Basically as I've been reaching out to the Lord, he has changed my heart in a very special way. I enjoyed the most amazing marriage for 37 years and remained totally devoted to Jane from a couple of years before and until after she passed on. Indeed it seemed impossible for me to imagine any other way of living; yeh married life suited me totally and especially with Jane. But then God began to change me as day by day, step by step, I increasingly found complete contentment with him as my most intimate companion. A total transformation in my faith walk compared with the decades of prayer I’d enjoyed with my wife by my side. And I never imagined that the presence of God could be so real and so truly precious to a lonely ‘old’ widower like me. Although my thoughts were still trying to reconcile my potentially quite long term future with being permanently single, my heart was definitely totally at peace. I was just enjoying the Lord as I got to know him in a totally new way. I suppose you might say that I had found a place of complete acceptance in my return to being single again and was really starting to actually like the idea… until a certain rather special widow came into my life. I reckon the Lord’s timing is, as always, perfect; but somehow I can’t help but imagine him sitting on his throne in heaven with the most enormous smile on his face. What a perfect Father he is and what a great sense of humour! He truly knows what’s best for each one of us…

1 Corinthians 7:32-34 ‘I want you to be free from the concerns of this life. An unmarried man can spend his time doing the Lord’s work and thinking how to please him. But a married man has to think about his earthly responsibilities and how to please his wife. His interests are divided. In the same way, a woman who is no longer married or has never been married can be devoted to the Lord and holy in body and in spirit. But a married woman has to think about her earthly responsibilities and how to please her husband.’ (NLT)

Sunday, December 02, 2012

The Wilderness Walk

One of my Kedleston walks over the past year


A great mix of wildlife


And stately home stuff 


Space to be alone


The miniature Dexter’s are ‘cute’


A favourite avenue


Just love the woodland


With early frost


And reminders of past glory


Finding my way back home now…

Isaiah 43:19 For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness.’ (NLT)

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Follow The Light

The next step we take in every area of life is always the most important. No matter the major decisions already taken, no matter our present situation, there’s always gonna be potential to effect change, for better or for worse. So do we choose to continue on our present course whatever that is, or change direction at the next opportunity? Or maybe we can always just sort of drift along, ignoring even any pretence of trying to work things out; just spontaneously doing whatever we want, whenever we want. Seems foolish to me, an invitation for yet more problems. So then, what’s done is done, and for sure time travel is not going to be an option any time soon so perhaps now is the time to move on. The next page of life, in the big and the small, is always going to be completely blank until we start writing, so why not believe for something good, no matter the disappointment of yesterday? Doesn't hurt to have an outline script to hand though does it?

I’m increasingly beginning to understand that prayer actually works. Of course the Lord has his hand of favour upon my life, yeah I know that, no problem. But it’s so easy to presume that he will automatically answer unspoken prayer without us making even a little effort to reach out to him. Just recently I've started praying, just briefly, about occasional very small things that are about to happen. So for example, when I write this blog sometimes I will specifically ask the Lord for inspiration, whilst at other times I’ll basically just sit in front of my laptop trying to dream up a good idea. Of course looking back, it’s not too difficult to recognise the very few days that seem to say something truly engaging. Maybe I need to remember to pray more, stay on track and not wander off on a whim?

Yes, only the Lord has complete understanding about our past, present and future, so walking with him along this great adventure of life makes really good sense!

Exodus 13:21 The Lord went ahead of them. He guided them during the day with a pillar of cloud, and he provided light at night with a pillar of fire. This allowed them to travel by day or by night.’ (NLT)

Friday, November 23, 2012

Don't Look Down

Sometimes you've just got to take a chance, even though one careless step might lead to a far more serious problem. Yeah, I really love this walk across the cliffs at Dover, but for sure vertigo has me feeling just a little queasy at times! I've been on any number of similar walks as well, but no sign of even beginning to get used to it just yet. The rewards are always great with tremendous views, and an inner satisfaction, having conquered fear to complete the more challenging stretches. I never enjoy high wind at such times though!

I allowed myself to be challenged a few nights ago, when offered the opportunity to lead worship at a monthly mid-week meeting in the church café  So rather more than a small house group and it’s been a while since I did that. Quite naturally I was a little nervous, particularly as I struggle with concentration due to me/cfs. But in the event I didn't fall off the cliff and managed to get through the evening thoroughly enjoying myself, almost like the ‘old-days’ it was. And now I have another ‘gig’ tomorrow, Saturday, so nerves have now been conquered and I feel quite chilled. It was good to be pushed.

I made a new ‘friend’ a couple of weeks ago and I'm currently walking along the scariest cliff edge I've ever walked… yeah vertigo and everything! After 40 years with Jane and still madly and always in love with her, actually starting a new relationship was strictly off limits… until the Lord placed a very like-minded widow right in front of me, impossible to ignore. She understands my pain and allows me to talk freely about it. I know for sure that God’s peace is with me so I guess I can trust that he knows what he is doing (I don’t) but there are no real guide books about how to walk through grief and beyond. It’s make it up as you go along time, though let’s just say I’m determined to go slow, very slow. But I'm having real fun for the first time in a very long time!

Joshua 1:9This is my command—be strong and courageous’ (NLT)

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Under The Surface

It’s always a good idea to take a second look and work out what is really going on. Yeah, first impressions can barely scratch the surface when we first meet people. So here’s my beautiful granddaughter outside Buckingham Palace on our outing a few weeks ago. Cheeky little smile for Grandad isn't it… and for the sake of completeness, here’s her ‘ I'm having fun’ younger sister.


So what have we got then? I guess for those of you who have no relationship with my family all you get out of these snaps is ‘OK, cute kids in Dave’s life… that’s nice!’ And of course that’s exactly what I see, though of course I see a whole lot more as well. I first met them a few hours after each one was born, and pretty much have visited every week since. So in 12 years that’s quite a few Christmas and birthday parties, not a few camping holidays, plenty of chocolate bars and more than just an occasional tall story. In the last week I’ve learnt all about prisms and a dictionary definition of ‘impetuous’ whilst child minding. I set them on Kleenex duty looking after weepy adults after Jane passed away, gave them extra pocket money to clean my house in the summer holidays and listened very carefully to the story of One Direction’s connection with Derby City… still don’t understand that one! These kids have won my heart, I’d do anything for them!

I have another particularly special person in my life today, though for maybe half my life I basically ignored him. I’m talking about Jesus Christ of course. Yeah, I went to church all through my teenage years, a great church. But all I saw was a fun time, in a relatively safe and moral environment. I used to love all night table tennis, snoozing on the church floor for sleepovers, decorating the hall for discos and pretending I was DJ John Peel! I learnt to play guitar in a genuine 60’s rock group and… kissed a few girls as a forfeit in the ‘take a bite out of a bobbing apple game!’ I always seemed to lose when playing the equally dated ‘flour game’ though… that’s the one where you make a flour ‘sand’ castle with a sweet on the top, slices are cut to trim the thing and when the sweet falls guess who has to bury their head in the flour to eat it? All wonderful harmless fun in a very innocent time of my life, but absolutely nothing that happened led me to a faith decision. Church was simply a great moral social club for me. Ok, some of the older lads taught me how to drink beer, not ideal in a Methodist Church, and eventually I learnt how to kiss a girl away from the crowd. But that’s part of growing up as a child of the 60’s I guess… rather innocent by today’s standards I suspect.

So back to my faith story. Do I know God by just accepting a belief system, engaging with a religious organisation, and stirring up personal determination to live ‘right’… whatever that means? Nope, for me none of that comes even close to being enough. I met the Lord at a point of spiritual awakening, I know God as a personal Saviour, as close a friend as a friend can be, the reality of his existence is tangible, the relationship intimate. And all these other things quite simply follow on from that starting point. My Lord is far more than an image on a stained glass window, an atmosphere in a cathedral or an emotion stirred by great music. He has won my heart and I would do anything for him!

Psalm 18:1
A psalm of David, the servant of the Lord. He sang this song to the Lord on the day the Lord rescued him from all his enemies and from Saul. He sang:
I love you, Lord’

Monday, November 19, 2012

Nobility

Our future need not be determined by our history. And whilst the past, for better or for worse, most certainly shapes who we are today, we can always decide that the future can become different. Very different. So today I am bereaved, indeed widowed, and still walking through my journey of grief. Yeah, I’ve sure come a long way but still one or two hurdles to get past at the moment. Why are supermarkets so difficult to deal with? Most visits I’m pretty much ok, but a couple of days ago I once again found tears streaming down my face, as I remembered that Jane was no longer by my side, on this most mundane of chores. Ugh! Anyway I’m not as bad as I once was, just not quite there, that’s all.

Today was a big challenge, as I ventured out to Calke Abbey, an old National Trust favourite, filled with so many wonderful memories… like taking grandkids on craft days, Christmas lantern walks and all the rest of it. A couple of years ago we watched Autumnwatch, a BBC Natural History programme mostly with live outdoor programming; and they had a wonderful feature on rutting stags. So let’s go see them strut their stuff we thought at good old Calke, and yes they can’t half roar when they choose to, these truly noble beasts! Of course today Jane was missing so got to be sad? Naah, not too much anyway, as it turned out to be great having the company of a new friend I very recently met, and found myself chattering about everything under the sun! Nicely distracting and very understanding of my recent journey…

I occasionally wonder about my family history and wonder what effect my heritage has upon who I am. So whilst any research I do only points toward ancestors in relatively commonplace workplaces, there’s always the thought that somewhere back down the line I might find that royal link, a famous person in history or whatever. I suppose even a genuine certified rogue would bring a little colour into my trawling through ancient censuses though! But the best I can come up with, for better or for worse is an apparent namesake as founder of the Knights Templar, though as no certifiable lineage pretty meaningless. So is my future destiny one of overwhelming mediocrity, just a normal life, same as almost everyone I ever meet? Well no, I just don’t accept that, though the full outworking may well have to wait for my entry into the next life. Yes, the fact of the matter is that I do actually have royal connections, ‘cause my brother is a King. Actually the greatest King who ever lived… his name is Jesus. So yeh, now I know true nobility. Wow… that’s a thought to ponder on for sure. Where’s my bodyguard? And fancy limo to get me to the royal palace. Hey, what about a helicopter… that would help me escape from Sainsbury’s a little quicker next time out! Cool or what?

Romans 8:15 ‘he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father”’ (NLT)

Saturday, November 17, 2012

The Lord's My Shepherd

Choosing right from wrong can sometimes be a real challenge. And I'm not thinking about the obvious inner/outer battle to do with Christian morality and behaviour. No, I'm talking about discerning God’s guidance for my life. So do I believe that the Lord has a plan, a pathway that he would have me walk down? In the large and the small things of life? Well, yes but only up to a point! I've met folk who sincerely believe that the Lord’s guidance goes right down to the smallest detail of their every activity, even including what they would wear. Yep, what colour tie and everything! And who am I to dispute their core belief, though it for sure wouldn't work for me. Well surely our journey is more a partnership than a dictatorship; the Lord may well hold the universe together by the power of his word but his intent is that we live freely and explore our own inner creativity. So on the fairly rare days I actually need to wear my suit, if I want to wear my Mickey Mouse chasing a lump of cheese tie… I really don’t think the Lord minds at all! It’s completely up to me.

Likewise my longing for a walk across Kedleston Park this morning. Yes my body is crying out for the sunshine fix of vitamin D, it works a treat with me/cfs every time I escape to the big outdoors. My photo was taken a couple of weeks ago and I'm sorry to report I've not been well enough to visit since then. Today I probably could have taken the morning air and benefited quite nicely but chose instead to clean my house. Why on earth would the Lord have any opinion whatsoever on my choice of priority today? He doesn't mind one bit about such things… yeah, yeah, my house never gets too bad anyway. Bit behind on decorating that’s all! And at least it was relatively tidy when my daughter and son-in-law turned up with all the ingredients for an amazing little meal.

But there are some decisions we make that really do demand a little help from on high. So not a little prayer, but a big one with lot’s of waiting on the Lord, seeking wisdom and discernment and favour. But then when we do make our choice, I've found that as we include him in the reckoning, the Lord always stands with us in the outworking. I'm thinking about things like where we live, career, church and suchlike, as well as and in some ways more importantly, our choice of friends. Yes, who we spend time with can have an enormous influence on behaviour, attitudes and faith. So most certainly I want Jesus to be my best friend! Alongside a few other special folk of course…

Psalm 23:2 He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams.’ (NLT)

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Romantic Capital Of The World

So who in their right minds would take teenage kids to Paris for a supposed ‘romantic’ weekend? Yep, that’s my wife, educating said children in European culture a few years ago. Never slept for two days… I shared the hotel room with my son and he had quite a snore! So leaving aside the unavoidable traffic jams, we actually had a great time, first visiting the Musée d'Orsay and it’s great collection of Impressionist art. 


Yes here’s my son, bored out of his mind, playing on a Gameboy next to the most amazing polar bear! Ah well…


After a beautiful journey by boat along the River Seine we had our picnic at the foot of the Eifel Tower. Lovely it was.


Next day we explored the beautiful château de Versailles, where I particularly enjoyed a special meal in their outdoor restaurant. Fabulous. As we walked back towards the house the musical fountains erupted into their spectacular display. Quite moving, and a treasured memory for sure.

Mais pas pour moi!

So I was just wondering… is this the best that life can offer?

1 Corinthians 2:9 ‘No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him’ (NLT)

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Digging For Gold

I have determined that my best days lie ahead, in this world and the next. A challenge ‘cause in so many ways my life has already been wonderful, though marred with some pretty serious hurdles… yeah, dealing with long term ill health and bereavement is always gonna be tough. But no matter, my God is greater than any difficulty set before me and in him I have absolute confidence; walking through palliative care with my once teenage sweetheart would have been soul destroying without the Lord! Change is not exactly easy though and adjusting to my new reality, after almost 40 years in a relationship, is always going to be at least a little confusing. There’s no guide book that I’ve come across to explain how to live as a middle aged widower. It really is not at all easy relating to my previous peer group, who are basically all married and enjoying their own long term relationships. Without exception they are all incredibly caring, supportive and all the rest of it. It’s just that they are married and I’m not, that’s all. A continual reminder of what I have lost. I really need a new way of seeing things, a new vision for life and hopefully new friends to share that journey with me. As I say though, I don’t have a guide book, so it’s make it up as you go along time for Dave.

My picture taken on a recent visit to my favourite beach, in Deal, demonstrates the unsightly brute force needed to provide effective sea-defences. Transporting many thousands of tons of shingle from the Isle of Wight, and rock from Norway, was quite an undertaking. The process was ugly in the happening to say the least, but necessary. Changing the profile of a mile long beach was for sure quite a task, but without this work the whole town lived with the risk of severe flooding. I have to change my profile. Yeah no way can I stand still, living with the ever present threat of my own flood of tears! Ongoing grief is disturbing my health, which in turn affects my freedom to ‘get out there’ and meet new people. I missed a great evening a week or so ago when my daughter performed her own songs, as a supporting act, at the Malt Cross in Nottingham. I was so disappointed not to have been well enough, hopefully next time though as she’s been invited back! Yeh, that’s my little incentive to start digging for gold again. And I’ve been reminded of a simple technique to side step grief… if I allow myself to think on Jane and ‘remember’ stuff I pretty much always get upset. That’s healthy, but only up to a point ‘cause I reckon it’s time to move on. I’ve cried myself silly for almost 18 months. That’s enough! All I have to do now is stop thinking about Jane, not easy when love was so fulfilled, and I almost feel guilty about turning aside from my so very faithful wife. I protected my marriage with the fiercest determination and struggle to let it go now. Of course it’s totally wrong to think and live like that now; our love is destined to last through eternity and I’m not in that place just yet. Got to get tough with my thinking, I have to lock such thoughts away or I’ll become trapped in the past, living with only hope for the future… and no love for today. Yes my God is a God of love… he can fill my heart with a joyful love of life, a caring love for others and who knows what else?

I guess the best way to change is by more fully engaging with the present whilst walking into my wonderful unexplored future. So methinks if I were to practice guitar, and song write a little more, maybe I could get to play at some of these great venues… not really one of my better ideas, but who knows, and the village hall is excitement enough for now!

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

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Can't See The Wood For The Trees

The urgency of today can easily thwart our plans for tomorrow. Yet walking with God always leads us into life. So this past couple of weeks has been a real struggle with my health. I seem to be continually exhausted, no matter the measure of rest I take. Of course bereavement is in the equation and just recently I've felt quite sad again, and crying makes me ill. I need a pick me up, something to take my mind of things as I really need to move on. At least for a season. Yeah, I don’t presume to have completed my journey of grief; it’s just that I need a break, a respite, time to recover health. But what to do? Most recently I've usually thrown some clothes into my motorhome and driven off down the nearest motorway. Problem is, just recently I've needed to use a diary and can’t easily find space to travel, and that’s not something that’s happened for quite some time. December looks good for my camping break though. Brr!

So then, when I'm ill I rest, and then I recover. That’s how ME/CFS works, at least when not getting upset. But I have committed to support a smattering of church meetings, though at times really struggle to even attend. The interesting thing is that on every single occasion I've really enjoyed myself and felt all the better for making the effort. And actually these are the sort of things I would like to be more involved with, ‘cause there’s a real feel good factor that counters the downer of grief. So if I can break through the immediacy of chronic fatigue and embrace life, even in small measure, maybe I can take a positive step forward in overcoming illness. If nothing else I feel happier. Spending my time sitting around at home is seriously boring! Oh yes, I have a few worship leading ‘gigs’ lined up as well, so definitely looking forward to serving in that way again. And I remain determined to take up running again… just not today that’s all.

Hebrews 11:1 Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.’ (NLT)

Friday, November 09, 2012

Follow The Leader?

When normal life comes to a standstill is when God deserves my full attention. Problem is though, the cry of sickness, the pain of loss, the fear of the future and even sometimes trying to get through the day becomes all consuming! And the still small voice of the Lord is drowned under a tidal wave of self-pity. Yet he always speaks. To each and every one of us he has a personal message; a word of comfort, hope and perfect love, leading us on the pathway of restoration, with Godly provision for every need. These are times when we need to cease in our struggling, let go of worry and just rest in the presence of God. Yeah, my photo? This clean living animal has no say in his future, and whether it’s destiny is to provide for Sunday lunch or a designer cardigan is totally irrelevant. He feeds well, a shepherd cares and a continual chain of National Trust visitors enjoy his company. A simple life for a simple creature. And he sure knows how to follow the leader! When not resting that’s pretty much my ambition as well.

Why do we make things so complicated? Everything we need for guidance, and every instruction we need for living well can be found in God. Seeking his pleasure yields my greatest reward. And for sure the Bible makes a great handbook, with the Ten Commandments a perfect starting point. Nothing wrong with ‘Do not kill’, ‘Do not steal’, 'Do not commit adultery’ and all the rest surely? But there is so much more to be found in this amazing book, indeed with just a little attention a pattern for the whole of life can be uncovered. And as we align ourselves with God’s way of living we share in his blessing and favour. Much of our legal system has it’s origins in Biblical principles, respecting both God and one another, so over many centuries the UK has been a blessed nation. Increasingly in recent decades though, plainly read Biblical principles are being discarded and replaced with man’s understanding and values. Of course this is a reflection of ‘the will of the people’, and I believe the Lord sets leaders over us that we deserve. But ignoring the revealed will of God will always have consequences.

Isaiah 53:6 All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own’ (NLT)

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

A Matter Of The Heart

On a cloudy day we rarely see a rainbow; yet when troubles overshadow, true Godliness may be revealed. Some days are very ordinary, nothing special happens, and yet within, a heartfelt cry longs to see God at work. I love to see a rainbow on a rainy day and oftentimes associate a double arch with extra special blessing; yet this most visible of God’s promises is actually quite rarely seen by me. Yeah, I suspect I'm usually indoors or looking the other way when they appear! I love the sunshine and being outdoors, it makes me feel so much healthier… and happier, but in the UK many days are actually very similar to my photo, and just a little dull.

So where is the Lord in all this? I believe He lives in the hearts of men, at least when invited to do so. So when the often present challenges of life seek to overwhelm, the infinitely caring power of God is right there, as close as the next heartbeat. And that is where the Christian journey must begin; a heartfelt recognition that the natural desires of the heart are inclined towards independence, completely self-centred and in rebellion against God. The Bible calls that sin. Yet within every man, woman and child lives a measure of goodness, yes Godliness, that if nurtured recognises the claims of Christ as perfect truth. This then is the battle within… do we work things out our own way; pursuing earthly pleasure, dreams and understanding with no real regard for God’s will. Or do we seek the Lord for his purpose and his pleasure for our lives. Yes, I believe that all who genuinely seek the Lord will find him and that hearts will be ‘strangely warmed’ by his presence. His goodness can truly fill us with a peace that conquers every fear, and overcomes every doubt. And it begins with the smallest seed of enquiry… ‘seek and you will find me’ says the Lord.

Ezekiel 36:26 And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart’ (NLT)

Monday, November 05, 2012

Hope

Sometimes all you have left is hope, ‘cause all around is a shipwreck. So today I need to hoist that particular flag as high as high can be. Ok, you caught me, it’s an excuse for yet one more of my Deal holiday snaps as well! But having spent the better part of a couple of months living there this year, that should be no surprise. Travelling that couple of hundred miles on a number of occasions was far more important than a simple holiday though. Yes, my health, both mental and physical, are at the forefront of my shipwreck concerns at the moment. And that little seaside town on the south coast works wonders in both departments.

I’ve been ill for too long. Today I feel real grotty, though I’d rather not talk about it. Indeed I suspect most folk I come across have no idea that I do have a health problem. ME/CFS is like that, hidden from sight unless severely afflicted, which I’m not. It normally just slows me down, though today I’m completely stationary. So do I have a plan for recovery? Not really, but I do have hope! And a few indicators that promise more, like walking. Yes the Lord has placed within my heart the strongest love of the big outdoors. More than that, I actually feel more alive with mud under my feet and a bright blue sky overhead than in any other environment. And something within my heart says that one day I’ll be able to take up running again…

I am bereaved, but no longer totally bereft. I’m in recovery, my broken heart is mending, which is really rather exciting! So, on the face of it, though my life is as empty as empty can be in that department, I still have hope. All right, that hope has no clear definition as I have no idea whether the Lord or a second wife will fill that particular gap; but I am confident that it will be filled. Loneliness is still a major issue and such as last night, ongoing high emotions left me more than a little weepy. I rarely watch TV, and last night was Downton Abbey, the type of programme my wife would have thoroughly enjoyed; so without giving the plot away, there was a steady trickle of acts of kindness, changes of heart and all the rest of it; all designed to stir the emotions. Which it did of course, as I sat watching, all alone, in the middle of my settee with no-one to cuddle. Apart from Jane’s still grieving cat that is. He continues to howl day and night, whenever he’s not getting any attention… yeah, he does like my almost empty yoghurt pots!

Now here’s an interesting thought... a person I know, who suffered ME/CFS for years, made a more than full recovery around the same time as they met their current spouse!

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 ‘And now, dear brothers and sisters, we want you to know what will happen to the believers who have died so you will not grieve like people who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and was raised to life again, we also believe that when Jesus returns, God will bring back with him the believers who have died.
We tell you this directly from the Lord: We who are still living when the Lord returns will not meet him ahead of those who have died. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, the Christians who have died will rise from their graves. Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Then we will be with the Lord forever. So encourage each other with these words.’ (NLT)

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Family

Family is the primary building block of a healthy society. And I like to think I've done my bit in that regard. But what exactly do we mean by family? Well yeah, obviously most of us have some combination of spouse, kids, parents, cousins and all the rest of it, though not all.  And I find that I more easily connect with some than others. Like my kids and grandkids, they’re always easy to get on with as we spend a lot of time together. The call ‘party time’ goes out most months, and the 12 of us gather at a moment’s notice. So we make an effort to see each other and get on really well. What about my own sisters or parents? For sure we see much less of one another, as life got busy and we all moved on. But nonetheless when family tragedy struck they were incredibly supportive and sympathetic. So whilst relatively distant, still very much family, and I consider myself privileged to have had so many caring folk around me when needed.

Not so with everyone I guess as it’s not at all unusual to see relationships break down. But I do feel saddened when stubbornness over a comparatively minor issue destroys a lifelong connection. At times I’ve certainly put my foot in it with loved ones, but refuse to allow pride to cause damage. So I try and avoid being judgemental and if things were to go sour I’d willingly take the blame, and try and change my ways. I’d do just about anything to stay close to my family! Yes loyalty, more than just within the context of family, is an admirable trait we all should aspire to. But so many lack the measure of natural family that I am so very blessed with. Maybe it’s understandable when work colleagues share so much time together that they consider one another to be family. That’s got to be good, though it’s only when trouble strikes that a real test comes along. So often, business activity is prioritised, sweeping aside all pretence of care. Unfortunately I’ve seen that all too often, even in the church, which is really sad. And really bad. Plainly wrong; and treating folk as cogs in a machine is just not right, no matter the operational needs. But that is exactly why we need family, whether it be in the home, the workplace, in church or even an internet group… we need folk around us who support and care and understand and all the rest of it.

Families have fun together… yes bonfire time, that’s what today is. Though this evening we skipped on Guy Fawkes and fireworks, so just had a bonfire. Alright, bonfire toffee came along as well. Of course my eldest daughter phoned this lunchtime asking to ‘borrow’ my untended garden to do the deed. My son immediately got the lawn mower out to tidy up the rather wild lawn. First time this year at the bottom of my overlarge garden! Then said family appeared asking for tools, and did a wonderful job of clearing all manner of problem tree branches, before emptying my unused greenhouse of sundry scrap wood. So for a happy couple of hours we enjoyed bonfire night once again. That’s what family is all about! Pity Jane wasn’t here with her baked potatoes and spicy chilli though… she would have got me buying fireworks as well. I wonder what sort of parties she gets to organise in heaven?

Psalm 68:6 God places the lonely in families’ (NLT)

Thursday, November 01, 2012

The Vanishing Vacuum Cleaner

Sometimes you just have to laugh, ‘cause crying about life’s little problems is pretty pointless. My day began around 12.30pm as I sat down for breakfast. Yes, that’s what needs to happen after a big day out, and ongoing ill health threatens to take it’s life destroying grip! If I rest, I recover. So stay in bed awhile. Quite simple, though more than a little frustrating as I’m not particularly tired. Just ill. But then, no way can I relax to start eating, as the cat needs sorting out. Ok, I’ll open a window and tidy things up first; yeh, let’s have a quick run around with the vacuum… strange, it’s not in the normal cupboard. So where can it be? I don’t recall using it since yesterday; maybe my son has borrowed it to clean his bedroom. But it’s not a leap year so that can’t be the answer. Oops, did I really write that out loud? Silly old Dave, it is a leap year so maybe he does have it. A quick search all around my home and still no cleaner in sight. So I try the original cupboard again and it’s still not there. I'm going crazy, how can a fairly large machine simply disappear? First thought is, it must have been stolen… but how, and why a cheap vacuum when my house is filled with all manner of expensive electricals? And how did they get in as doors are still locked and no sign of forced entry? Weird, that’s what it is, just weird. Aliens, yes that must be it! Beam me up Scotty technology is the answer, only then I remember Star Trek is just a movie; it’s not real. Or is it? Right, let’s start again with a more thorough search in every room, under the beds, behind furniture and all the rest of it. Still no vacuum! Then for some reason I opened the small door fitted under my staircase, where I used to store the cleaner over 15 years ago. So what on earth caused me to put the thing back there after all this time?

Ugh, just a bad day living with M.E. so let’s get on with my breakfast. I reach into my cupboard for a packet of cereal only to take out a jar of coffee, and puzzle over the overlarge spoon in my hand about to measure it into my cereal bowl. Daft, that’s what. But success and a sit down at last, until it really is time for coffee. I reach into my cupboard feeling well pleased as I remember it is actually coffee I'm after this time… then unthinkingly I take a cereal bowl out of the drawer and come within a whisker of spooning coffee into it again. Ok, I know I overdid it the other day, no problem; it’ll pass if I rest long enough. The migraine is annoying, but no big deal, likewise fatigue and dizziness. Plenty of folk are far worse off though, aren't they?

But I am disappointed because I know I really can't continue my 3 mile prayer walk thing... after a successful 10 walks interrupted only by a day visit to London with the grandkids. And I've been praying for family, and my son has just seen off the competition to get his first permanent job. I'm happy... but ill, and frustrated. So I now sit feeling sorry for myself and not too spiritual at all. And the presence of the Lord falls upon me in the most wonderful way! Within minutes I'm laughing and filled with the Spirit of God. Life really couldn't be better! Isn't the Lord so wonderful and patient even when we take our eyes off him?

I almost never watch TV. BBC News 24, Formula 1 and Downton Abbey are really about it. So why did I turn to Revelation TV just and watch part of a repeat of Howard Condor interviewing Pat Robertson? And Pat said that "there is no such thing as a bad day for a Christian!" Of course he contextualised this with the verse about God working for good in all things, and explained a better translation is that God shakes things up to work for good. Mmmm... yes I often feel quite shaky. But then he starts talking about the major Christian Revival that is certainly coming to the UK and I'm beginning to feel enthused with life all of a sudden. Oh I do love Jesus... isn't he so very wonderful?

Hebrews 12:28 Since we are receiving a Kingdom that is unshakable, let us be thankful and please God by worshiping him with holy fear and awe.’ (NLT)

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

A Special Day

Overcoming long term health problems is never easy, but the rewards can be great. And me/cfs is a rather mysterious illness with no definitive research, so understanding how best to live with it is oftentimes pure guesswork. When I first became ill, 13 years ago, I persevered in going to work, doing my best to meet performance targets. After only a week my boss told me to go home and recover, as I just couldn't do the job properly at all. I never did regain normal health even for a single minute; indeed I became even more ill. And then found partial relief. And then relapsed! Yes the condition is cyclical, but there always remains an underlying debilitation similar to the flu. You get used to feeling pretty grotty all the time, totally exhausted, suffering brain fog, poor concentration and short term memory loss. Headaches lasting weeks at a time are a nuisance, as is muscle pain that can occur almost anywhere. A common experience is that the initial onset occurs as a post viral complaint; others suffer shock, maybe an emotional fright or for some, chemical exposure. I seem to have a consistently moderate condition, so though unable to work I can manage to live a partially normal life. I know of others who become bed-bound without strength to move at all. And if I completely overdo things I end up housebound with complete exhaustion myself. Stress is a major ingredient affecting things for me, so I chill out, and have determined that no problem I face compares with the challenge Jane faced with terminal cancer. So I refuse to worry about anything. When I remember not to that is…

Anyway, yesterday was my attempt at living a normal life and I took my eldest daughter and her two children to London. To visit the Queen? Nah, I don’t think she was at home. But my photo was taken in front of Buckingham Palace, where we played the game of wondering who was behind open windows. But we certainly walked quite a way doing a mini tour on foot, and maybe my day out was reckless, inviting a serious relapse, but I don’t think so. So despite a long journey on a very familiar motorway, I had great fun initiating my family into the rock and rolling delights of the Tube where almost everyone had phones or even Kindles in their hands. Weird how life has changed over the past year or two isn't it? So first we visit the Science Museum, and they were all totally disorientated trying to engage with the vast collection of exhibits and activities, sufficient to occupy for a week, let alone a few hours. Eventually we left to begin our walk and immediately puzzled at the rather unfortunate clothing chosen for school kids playing rugby on Hyde Park. So glad we live in sensible Derby I'm sure. Then we took photos of Big Ben on the way to a rather damp and drab Downing Street. A Chinook helicopter clattered past at very low level as we watched armed police ushering a crowd of youngsters through the massive gates guarding our Prime Minister’s home. Theatre land looked splendid as the sun went down and eyes lit up as I mentioned Leicester Square and it’s red carpet for film premières  Of course the whole walk had really been spent on a search for One Direction, just in case they were in town! Yeh, all very different from my grandkids’ wonderfully sheltered upbringing.

I’m pleased to report that today I feel fine. A few aches from the long walk maybe, but actually my biggest problem has come from peeling garlic and chopping onions… yes I've been cooking again, and for sure my fingers are going nowhere near my eyes for a day or two! So all rather mundane in Dave’s world. And that’s exactly what I want at the moment. Just a normal life without illness.

Psalm 91:14-16 The Lord says, “I will rescue those who love me. I will protect those who trust in my name. When they call on me, I will answer; I will be with them in trouble. I will rescue and honour them. I will reward them with a long life and give them my salvation.”’ (NLT)

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Broken Dreams

It’s hard to live with broken dreams, but far worse not to have them in the first place. And I've pretty much made my home, for almost my whole life, within the boundaries of this photo. Ok, maybe it needs widening a bit, but this is the City of Derby as seen from a hill on my regular walk around Kedleston. England’s green and pleasant land! And somewhere here is every school I ever attended, every place I ever worked and every house I can remember living in. Yeh, I was born in Singapore but too young to have any memories. My parents, four sisters and three of my four kids have their home here as well. Seems we don’t move around much do we? But there’s nothing special about the place at all, not for me anyway. Except that this is where most everyone I particularly care about lives. There’s one special very person who’s gone to live with Jesus in heaven of course. And I also have a daughter in nearby Loughborough. But they’re rather more accessible aren’t they? So I see her and her family quite a bit! But not Jane; not until I get my own one way ticket. It would make life much easier if the Lord would issue say a day pass now and again wouldn’t it! Well I can dream can’t I?

Bereavement messes everything up. Jane and I were making all sorts of plans until her final few months. So if the Lord had chosen to miraculously heal her she would have hit the ground running with one or two business projects for sure. And over the years we had many conversations about relocating to any number of different locations. Like the Lake District, just briefly in our early years, though I even spoke to my boss about a transfer to that region. Then when we were young we idly talked of emigrating to Canada or New Zealand for a real new start. And when we became Christians we adopted a whole new approach as we recognised that it is the Lord who directs our paths. Yes he chooses the very place that we should live. So we reached out for guidance and at every opportune moment explored vision. I guess there’s something inside that keeps stirring towards moving on. Then our visit to New York and Jane’s engagement with Art Therapy got us to look at the possibility of working there for a season. Her master’s degree was based on work in that city. Some very English friends once obtained a temporary work permit, as housekeepers, somewhere near Chicago, so why not us? But time and time again over the past few years we talked of living in Deal, Kent. So we began to push at that door, expecting it to open, until ill health demanded constraint. It’s hard to live with broken dreams, but far worse not to have them in the first place…

Colossians 3:2 ‘Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth.’ (NLT)

Friday, October 26, 2012

Facing A Challenge

Today’s problem should be viewed as tomorrow’s success story. Unless you’re a young swan of course, though I have no idea if these are simply preening or ferreting out unwanted guests. Whatever, it’s seems to be a permanent way of life as they continually reach into every nook and cranny with their wonderfully flexible necks. So this past 17 months I gave myself permission to grieve the loss of my wonderful wife. More than that, I chose to prioritise my season of mourning over and above everything else. At times the pain was unbearable and the intensity such that I couldn't imagine ever being free again, but I knew that was exactly what I needed to do to recover. And I have. Not completely but substantially for sure. So engagement rather than avoiding reality is paying off. Indeed I've felt quite good just recently which is well encouraging, though not without suffering the occasional setback for a day or two. So one day this week I woke up feeling really quite happy and ready to face whatever the day brought my way. Except I wasn't,  as a small reminder that I'm still on a journey came crashing into my life. A letter from the hospice that I took an offering for at Jane’s funeral arrived in the post. Should not have been a problem as I owe them big time for what they gave me… a palliative care specialist nurse able to guide and provide for Jane’s massive medication needs on the night she died. She sat with us for an 8 hour shift in my home, for most of Jane’s final hours, and was wonderful in making her as comfortable as humanly possible. And she was, comfortable and totally at peace, though because of the drugs she was actually unconscious. Until she so slowly passed away into the loving and eternal presence of God, leaving myself and our four kids alone at the bedside. But what an awakening!

Anyway Jane is doing real good today and in general so am I. It’s just I can’t exactly cope very well with re-visiting the memories of that final night. I’m crying now. So, really sorry Treetops Hospice but any support I give will have to be in the future, as right now I have a total breakdown just thinking of that time. It’ll have to wait until I'm stronger. And I will be, for sure. Just not today, that’s all, ‘cause I need to do a bit more preening or ferreting to sort myself out first.

Luke 23:43 ‘And Jesus replied, “I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise’ (NLT)

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Swan Dive

Success invariably follows failure, though perseverance and determination must be in the mix somewhere. I remember talking recently of trying to capture a photo of birds in flight, and since then I've remained particularly aware of that small ambition. On rare occasions over the past few years I've had varying success, and my proudest shot is a massively blurred, rather distant, photo of a barn owl taken a minute after it swooped right by my motorhome at only head height. Yes I was busy drinking coffee and it took too long to get my camera out! Anyway, I faithfully carried my camera around up until yesterday when low cloud and drizzle had me more focussed upon keeping dry. My camera free walk began with one of nature’s most extraordinary sights, an adult swan in full flight over Kedleston Lake, impressive it was. Honestly! A short distance on, maybe 50 geese swept overhead at fairly low altitude and then simultaneously ‘crash-landed’ in the lake. Love it! Keep walking David. Ok, not in flight but next I happened upon a swan simply walking around, stretching his amazing neck in front of one of the giant hearing trumpets by the lake. Could have taken a great photo and dreamt up some sort of caption for sure. Then a coot and partner repeatedly hopped and skipped across the lake trying to become airborne. Very nice! My walk finished back at the lake with a flock of at least 100 pristine white small gulls swooping around and around the lake. So I guess you could say my photo exploits are a bit of a ‘bummer’ as week old shots of a swan grubbing in lake sediment are ten a penny.

It may well be an urban myth but the story of Edison’s 1,000 failed light bulb experiments, before eventual success, has to be an encouragement to persevere. Apparently he is accredited as the 4th most prolific inventor in history so he must have done something right. So if it stops raining I’ll take my camera and have another go; though if nothing else the autumn colours are beginning to look quite amazing. So now I've managed my 5th 3 mile consecutive walk, which for any normal fit and healthy person means absolutely nothing. Those with even moderate me/cfs like myself will understand a little more of that achievement. I’d like to manage 21. Let’s see what happens; so far so good and no swan-dive for Dave just yet.

Romans 5:3-5 ‘We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.’ (NLT)

Monday, October 22, 2012

Foolishness?

I'm so glad that God has a plan for my life, though it’s pretty hard knowing that his way is not my way. I tend to think of myself as somewhat cautious and rather analytical. I like to work stuff out in advance then walk through a plan. That’s the way God made me, so I don’t fight it. But sometimes he speaks and gently suggests a step of faith that defies logic. So a few days ago I had this thing put across my path to make a decision on, and without any real thought found myself engaging. That was no problem as it involved people I am unlikely ever to meet as they live in internet land. So all around the world, and they suffer a similar health problem to myself. A 21 day prayer, fasting, Bible study thing is what it is, with the fasting discipline to be some sort of Daniel fast. Yeah, he’s one of the guys in the Old Testament who went veggie, giving up ‘choice foods’ in order to honour the Lord. So my initial challenge was to choose how to fast. And I immediately struggled with that as I've been living meat-free for a number of years, after the Lord led me that way. So I sort of see that as an extended Daniel fast already, though it’s not a challenge anymore. I enjoy it. Ok, I could go back in time to previous fasts such as no breakfast, no in between meal snacks, no TV, no alcohol. Yes I've done all those things, some of them for years at a time! And currently none of them would be at all sacrificial. Yes the idea is to ‘sacrifice’ something that’s important to show God you’re serious. What to do then? And this is where God’s way of thinking doesn't fit my way. To be honest, I'm hating writing this as I don’t know if I can do what I believe he’s asking, though there’s very little at stake if I fail. He’s asking for my short term health??? Or more precisely he’s asking that I trust him with a particular exercise… my 3 mile walk around Kedleston, every day for 21 days. Can I really trust God with control of my health and commit to such an extended exercise? Always before I've simply stayed home when I've felt ill. That’s what me/cfs demands in order to avoid a more serious relapse. But it wasn’t half muddy today, not that this swan was bothered. Yes it’s a great walk, whatever. And today is day 3…

1 Corinthians 3:19 ‘For the wisdom of this world is foolishness to God.’ (NLT)

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Fighting the Blues

We all have days when we need a pick-me-up. And when I get tired and ill I find it really easy to start feeling low. Not easy. Especially as I have to deal with me/cfs on a daily basis. But I am aware of some who suffer with far more serious symptoms than myself, and I am truly grateful for the moderate nature of my own illness. Yes I can still do pretty anything I ever did, if I pace myself very carefully and rest when needed. So I actually feel a little self-centred when I do begin to feel down. Ok, of course I'm dealing with bereavement as well, but the truth of the matter is that depression is never helpful. For some it may be clinical and they need professional support; for others, such as myself, I'm trusting that it is a more temporary consequence of challenging circumstances. And I usually find a way to break through into lightness if I persevere, so I remain determined to avoid medication. But what does that leave me with? Well I suppose I've tried everything from chocolate to a glass or two of wine, though not so much just recently. Escaping into a good book or more rarely a watchable movie is a workable option as well. The fact of the matter is, I really have found the perfect way of dealing with negative feelings that so easily could overwhelm… I create an atmosphere of worship, usually by listening or playing music. My day is almost filled with wall to wall worship songs. Well mostly anyway. I do sometimes listen to other stuff. And always, without exception, I meet with God and he quietens the raging storm that fills my mind, pours his peace into my broken heart and comforts me with his wonderful love. Nothing else changes, I'm still ill, and of course there’s never gonna be a quick fix for bereavement; apart from the presence of God that totally wraps me up in his arms of compassion and grace and mercy…

So today I felt pretty rubbishy. Rather weak and somewhat tired. So yes a little down in the dumps. I set out for my normal walk, starting out alongside the lake at Kedleston Hall; but somewhat hesitantly as I was not at all sure of managing the full 3 miles. 20 minutes playing with my camera gave me a nice slow start before I trudged along the particularly muddy pathway, and the beautiful sunny weather helped. As did my mp3 player set to play all my music alphabetically rather than by genre. Yes it may be 50% Christian worship music but the rest can be great fun as well! Every time ZZ Tops comes around I imagine these wonderfully gifted and somewhat eccentric Texans, doing their bearded thing on stage. And that always makes me smile. As do the hilarious lyrics often found in Clapton’s rendition of early blues music. Can’t beat the blues for beating the blues! But as I walk, and pray a little, I meet with God. And once more my heart bursts with gratitude for the privileged life I continue to be blessed with. Odd really… I keep imagining that one day I won’t just manage to walk this particular route, I’ll be able to run again. It’s been many years since I was able to go jogging, and I thoroughly enjoyed that particular exercise. I need to pray more.

Psalm 42
For the choir director: A psalm of the descendants of Korah.
As the deer longs for streams of water,
    so I long for you, O God.
I thirst for God, the living God.
    When can I go and stand before him?
Day and night I have only tears for food,
    while my enemies continually taunt me, saying,
    “Where is this God of yours?”
My heart is breaking
    as I remember how it used to be:
I walked among the crowds of worshipers,
    leading a great procession to the house of God,
singing for joy and giving thanks
    amid the sound of a great celebration!
Why am I discouraged?
    Why is my heart so sad?
I will put my hope in God!
    I will praise him again—
    my Savior and my God!
Now I am deeply discouraged,
    but I will remember you—
even from distant Mount Hermon, the source of the Jordan,
    from the land of Mount Mizar.
I hear the tumult of the raging seas
    as your waves and surging tides sweep over me.
But each day the Lord pours his unfailing love upon me,
    and through each night I sing his songs,
    praying to God who gives me life.
“O God my rock,” I cry,
    “Why have you forgotten me?
Why must I wander around in grief,
    oppressed by my enemies?”
10 Their taunts break my bones.
    They scoff, “Where is this God of yours?”
11 Why am I discouraged?
    Why is my heart so sad?
I will put my hope in God!
    I will praise him again—
    my Savior and my God!
(NLT)


Thursday, October 18, 2012

Answer to Prayer


Fervent prayer is not always sufficient to release the answer we desire. So here is a photo of the person I've prayed for and also with, more than any other. Jane. And a picture of health she looked, eating an organic cereal bar on a delightful country walk, also my favourite environment for prayer. Although only 9 months before she passed on, she was actually extremely fit and very healthy… apart from the secondary cancer that was stubbornly filling her lungs. So I prayed a lot for her to be healed. And so did she; alongside countless others across the world. She was well loved by many. A woman of great faith, enough to reach to God for a miracle of healing when Doctors simply pronounced a death sentence; so a few years ago, we were in Florida, just returned from a wonderful Church meeting and she wandered off in the scorching heat across the hotel car park, to make a phone call back home. She needed to make a faith confession, that the Lord had healed her after prayer. And he had. Yes a real undeniable miracle. Just not the one we were looking for… the cancer remained; degeneration of her hips, unsuccessfully treated with hospital physiotherapy was instantaneously healed and normal mobility restored. She could walk through the countryside again without serious discomfort. But she was still a cancer patient. So we prayed some more, right up until she died. And then the Lord told me to let her go; when all I wanted to do was pray for my long suffering wife to be raised from the dead, and be restored to life and health… and me. My final blessing to her unconscious and massively drugged body was a simple ‘bon-voyage’. I knew it was her time. Time for her to be completely healed in the presence of the Lord, as she entered eternity. And I was so very grateful for that understanding.

Yes, for me that is often the missing ingredient in prayer. Understanding. I believe that God hears every prayer and without exception responds, as only God can. Sometimes his answer is no, at least not at this time, perhaps due to wrong motives or sin. At other times he has a higher purpose than short term blessing. Like with Jane. But there are times when the Lord answers the prayer of faith exactly as we ask and exactly as we would hope. Those are special times, not just because of the answer, but because we can know that we are close to God, praying according to his will and purpose for our lives. And that is the key to successful prayer. Ok, patience is often necessary as well. I want what I want, and I want it now! But the Lord’s timing is perfect. Always. Some years ago I became too ill to work and the first year was fine as my employers continued to partially pay my salary. Savings dwindled and 27 months down the line my income stream nowhere near approached our outgoings. Our two car lifestyle reduced to one, amongst many other savings, and the time approached when a hard decision would be needed on that. So no transport to church, shopping and all the rest of it loomed large. And I have never ever been in debt; my budget always balances. So we prayed. Four days before I would take my car off the road a letter came through the post. My long appealed application for ill health retirement and pension was granted. I finished work at age 47 and that was a real miracle of financial provision. And financially perfect timing. Not so much with my nerves though!

Matthew 7:7 ‘Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you.’ (NLT)