Saturday, March 31, 2012

31st March 2012

I reckon I successfully followed the ‘signs’ in choosing Deal as my destination, and of course I’m back home now. In the distance you can just about see France and I wonder how long before I make that journey again? For now though I have road tax to sort out, an MOT and also child-minding duties, so no choice. And yet another good journey to be thankful for. I made 216 miles in around four hours with a couple of brief halts included and that’s quite acceptable given the size of my motorhome and the apparently permanent roadworks on the M1… 3 years to widen and maybe the same again to install traffic management is totally baffling. Why not do both at the same time, and what will they dream up next to continue travel chaos? A couple of days ago I wondered if I might end up stranded in Deal as filling stations were beginning to have long queues and I did not have enough to get back home. I ignored it for as long as I could and then found no problem apart from the profiteering on price. Anyway, this evening I feel a little tired. So, the question is ‘was the travel hassle worth it?’ and the answer of course is ‘yes!’

The unusual March weather has been fantastic and I feel so much better for spending time outdoors. Then again, I spent quality time with the Lord and for the first time began to properly recognise, experientially, that he is all I really need to live my life to the full. Of course I’ve always known that, but head knowledge is sometimes a long way from the heart. I continue to miss both Jane as a person and also marriage. It suited me and I now feel like a fish out of water, flapping around, gasping for air! But now I’m gaining confidence that God truly is my all sufficient one. That is a Christian fundamental in the face of adversity. One day the Lord may say ‘it is not good for this man to be alone’, but then again he may not. In the meantime I have to get on with living and serving others to the best of my ability.

And I mustn’t overlook my encounter with the Christian widower travelling alone in his motorhome. He had a similarly lengthy marriage to myself, though his wife died 9 years ago and he was in rather a different place from me. I’m quite sure I saw a tear in his eye at one point and he shared some quite difficult stuff about his first year of bereavement. Anyway spending such a long time with a complete stranger was a real unexpected blessing and boosted my friend-making confidence no end.

Proverbs 3:6 Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.’ (NLT)

Friday, March 30, 2012

30th March 2012

A very different day today, though my picture was actual taken a few days ago. No idea who Denise is either, I just like the pic. Although the weather this evening is similar, for much of the day it’s not been like this at all, much more overcast. So as I’ve had a more difficult day I thought it good to remember how things can be with a nice sunny photo! Yes I’ve spent the day alone and that was right as I’ve almost unavoidably been thinking about Jane. Funny how I didn’t see it coming either and felt quite good first thing; I was simply planning to enjoy myself with my final day on holiday. And yes, unfortunately I need to go find the motorway sometime tomorrow morning. No rush though.

So there I was simply walking along the seafront in Deal and I passed by one of the benches with a memorial plaque fastened to it. I recognised the name of a lady I once knew, having stayed at her house several times. She was a close friend of my parents and she passed away 2-3 years ago. And I just felt so sorry for her very elderly husband. So I shed a few tears in sympathy for him and his loss. Then another bench had bunches of flowers attached with cards addressed to Dad and Husband. I’ve no idea who these people are, but again my heart opened to them with yet more tears. I kept walking and eventually settled on a bench by myself where my own memories and heartache began to engage more openly. I thought of the life I’ve lost… I realised I miss the so very regular prompting to stop for a coffee, it doesn’t feel right sitting in a café all by myself. And in recent years Jane was often easily tired and we’d joke about sitting on every other bench to rest… of course there are a lot! As I sat thinking I imagined Jane was by my side… and she would often pull her art book out of her bag together with a whole selection of rather messy chalk pastels. She always smeared them together with her fingers, so upon completion she’d blow the dust everywhere, spray fix the completed picture and liberally use up half a packet of baby wipes on me and the bench, as well as herself! I miss all of that.

Yes, I did get particularly upset and so decided to walk along to the special place where we scattered her ashes last year. I made a small pebble heart on the shoreline and knelt to pray for quite a long time. Ok, so now I have sore knees! But I feel a little better knowing that I’ve honoured Jane with some quality time before the Lord.

Psalm 56:8 ’ You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.’ (NLT)

Thursday, March 29, 2012

29th March 2012

I made a mistake today. Just a little one, and no harm done. For a start, I dithered a little this morning trying to decide what to do; I’ve not been along the famous White Cliffs of Dover so far this week and that seemed a logical choice, especially as the wind is so light. Yes, in places it’s quite a precarious footpath and I often feel a touch of vertigo when I walk along it. But even though the views are quite magnificent I still felt pulled towards Deal, and to be honest, despite my encounter with the Christian guy in a motorhome, I felt there was something more the Lord wanted of me there. Funny how imagination works isn’t it? How about an attractive Christian woman to idle the day away with… I could cope with that! For sure I miss female company. Anyway with said thought at the back of my mind I parked up and walked along the seafront towards the pier. After a couple of hundred yards I began to feel a little cold as I only wore a short sleeved shirt in the glorious sunshine. Naah, I’ll survive a brisk walk for an hour I thought. No need to turn back for a jacket. You’ve guessed it now… that was my little mistake.

So I parked myself on a bench near the pier and started to daydream. Maybe an ice-cream, I wondered. That would suit the sunshine though not really the temperature. I deliberately left space and sat on one end of the seat to wait on the Lord. Last year in exactly the same place I had a very special God encounter when he filled every part of my being with a perfect peace. I began to doze, as best as you can listening to Christian stadium rock at high volume. ‘O Lord what have you got for me’ thinks this emotionally worn out ‘old’ man. ‘How about a beautiful blonde/brunette/red-head with a Phd in grief-counselling?’ That would distract for sure, but truth be told, I’m lonely and just need a friendly face to keep me company. A shadow passed across my half open eyes and I found myself wrenched from Bogota Stadium in Columbia all the way back to Deal Pier. Then I realised a wooden fork with attached chip was being presented with an offer to share a few. Always tempting, though I summoned up my reserves of self-control and accepted only the initial offering out of consideration for the guy’s lunch. Yes, of course it was my new found friend of yesterday. I must have spent the next four or five hours in wonderfully engaging conversation with this fellow widower. I shivered for all that time and continually regretted my laziness in not returning for a jacket earlier.

So then my picture today is of course Deal Pier and from a rather different perspective from normal expectation. And that about sums up our conversation. I love to talk about the Lord and his Word and my new friend was fully qualified and ready to do both. Over the years I’ve found that when you put any two Christians together and get them talking, they’ll always have at least a slightly different position on Bible interpretation. I’m sure we had much in common, but as always there were some areas with rather different understanding. I love it. It’s so important to be challenged to elucidate why we believe what we believe. Rather than just accepting things without thinking them through. That which is truly of the Lord will never be shaken.

Luke 24:45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.’ (NLT)

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

28th March 2012

Yes, I made it to the beach today. So, after a leisurely stroll for an hour, this is where I settled down to think and read… yes Kindles are perfect for the beach, you can believe the marketing blurb! I’m not sure if my camera captured the light properly, it was amazing, almost otherworldly, with a slight haze filtering the clear blue sky, and not a chance of seeing the French cliffs today. I was actually quite close to where we scattered Jane’s ashes, though being honest I wasn’t able to tune into that at all. Jane is living a very full life in heaven and not at all connected with historical events on Deal beach. Maybe at some point in the future I’ll need to visit this place to stir up memories in honour of my wife but not this afternoon. My heart is still bursting with love for her and I’ll carry that around for the rest of my life, I don’t need to go anywhere special. But the pain of loss is easing and I’m beginning to think I’ll be able to move on. When my season of grief is concluded I’m asking the Lord to send his Holy Spirit to place a seal upon my heart. A bit like a Royal Seal, where my love of Jane and the pain of loss is locked away, only to be let out with special approval. A sort of God moment. Maybe there’ll be many of them, maybe they’ll be few and far between, but whatever, I cannot live the rest of my life like this. I will let go and begin to function more normally again very soon.

Of course I’ve been wondering if I’d get to meet someone after the thoughts I had before travelling. Yesterday I spoke to no-one, today every person I passed refused to catch my eye and they all looked a bit miserable anyway. I’m used to National Trust visitors smiling and chatting at the slightest excuse. So as I returned to my motorhome I glanced at a very similar vehicle parked right in front of my mine. And noticed a fish badge in the window. It belonged to an older guy with hair as long as mine, complete with elastic tie – there’s a thought – anyway, he was sitting outside with coffee and iPod to isolate from contact. Not good enough I decided, ‘Hi, what’s the badge for’ I asked ‘are you a Christian or do you just like fish?’ An hour and a half later we’d had the friendliest of conversations about any number of people that we both knew quite well, particularly a whole group of church leaders. One of the women in his church had even sung with me in a worship band back in Derby. He’d also lost his wife with cancer and was travelling alone, though he chose to ‘wild-camp’ by the side of the road quite regularly. Far too noisy for me.

But our conversation did wander into all manner of interesting areas. Including a consideration of how the church can help the socially disadvantaged. Yes, the average church has seats filled with relatively affluent families. Maybe a scattering of professionals and a whole bunch of ‘dinkies’… double income no kids couples. My new friend enjoyed visiting a drop-in centre supporting alcoholics, drug addicts and the like, but struggled to see how these so needy people could ever feel comfortable in most church meetings. It was a long conversation…

1 John 3:17 ‘Suppose someone sees a brother or sister in need and is able to help them. If he doesn't take pity on them, how can the love of God be in him?’ (NIRV)

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

27th March 2012

Well then, for the enlightened I’ve obviously been on Deal Pier today. And I met the famous TV star, Stumpy the Turnstone. Or was it? BBC’s Autumnwatch visited Deal Pier in 2010 and filmed such a one-legged bird apparently surviving completely normally. For sure this one appeared quite happy, hopping around with another bird. And it is the mating season so why not be happy? I’ve just been watching a pair of Wagtails fluttering feathers everywhere just outside my motorhome window. Maybe the one leg condition is hereditary and not caused by an accident? But whether I met Stumpy or Son of Stumpy I have no idea as this condition may well be quite common. I felt quite star-struck! Hey, that guy on a push-bike looks just like Paddy Ashdown… what do you mean ‘never heard of him!’?

Yes I’ve had a very relaxing day, after a really good night’s sleep. I love the peace and quiet of campsites, though the woodpigeons started the day off in fine voice, before clomping around on my van roof! That woke me up. But I’ve thoroughly enjoyed myself, spending the morning immersed in my book before tackling a little church project I’d been asked to resource. A happy hour on my laptop and that was sorted. I’m very happy working for the church even on holiday though part way through my daughter texted ‘I’m on the pebble beach in Brighton, where are you?’ That made me feel a little guilty as I was stalling doing the same even though the weather is amazing. It was mid-afternoon when I eventually wandered down to the shoreline after strolling around Deal, and then I realised I’d done the right thing. I was exhausted, really tired and had the beginnings of a bad head coming on. I just can’t do that much. But as much as anything I believe it’s grief related, and I shed a few tears as I was walking around the local Sainsbury’s.

I’ve actually discovered the most perfect remedy for a broken heart. I simply fall on my knees and sob as I tell the Lord how much I love him and need him to help me. Then after just a few minutes I feel fine and quite ready to move on. Maybe I should give myself permission to do just that in the middle of the supermarket! But in the meantime I have a fall-back to help me survive, my iPod. Yes, full on in shuffle mode and that’s serious escapism with my new headphones. We celebrated our wedding anniversary a couple of years ago in Liverpool, so now I have several Beatles albums. And ZZ tops, Eric Clapton, Rodrigo y Gabriela and the Best of British Folk all mixed up with Matt Redman, Chris Tomlin, Tim Hughes, Barry Segal, Robin Mark and so much more. I’ve only recently explored shuffle mode and enjoy the unpredictable leap from Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Froggie Went a Courtin’’ to Delirious singing ‘Majesty’ in Bogota Stadium. It takes my mind of things. Until I find space to pray to the most famous person ever. Jesus!

Psalm 55:22 Give your burdens to the Lord, and he will take care of you.’ (NLT)

Monday, March 26, 2012

26th March 2012

Ah, this is the life! Idling the day away on holiday… mmm, sort of, I’d just driven a four hour journey with only a brief halt part way through. So I reckon I deserved a sit down to recover for a few minutes… I can hear my kids saying ‘get your feet off the table dad!’ Well I should have stayed much closer to home, but sometimes logic and common-sense have to go on the back burner as you just have to go with your heart. I had a busy weekend, after a busy week driving well over 300 miles all over the Midlands. Last night, as I was returning from Nottingham, I felt totally exhausted and whilst still determined to go camping I just couldn’t contemplate a long journey. So this morning was making your mind up time and motorhomes allow wonderful go-anywhere, just about anytime flexibility. Common sense suggested Delamere Forest again or maybe the Lake District at a push. But my heart said Deal, and I had no choice but to make the 200+ mile journey, and though I made good time after a late start it still felt really long. An early night and a long lie-in should do the trick, and then as much time as possible in the rather unseasonal sunshine for a few days.

Over the years I’ve learnt to respond to God when I believe he’s leading. Many times I get it wrong and it’s just my imagination rather than the Lord, but nonetheless I remain determined to keep stepping out in faith. That’s really why I’m here and not elsewhere, though it’s got to be a win-win situation as I love being here anyway. So this morning as I woke up I saw myself on the front in Deal meeting someone. Not really sure who, but basically an opportunity to connect with someone who maybe lives in the area. I remembered last year, when I spent a happy hour or so, with an older guy who was just out walking his dog and it turned out he went to my school in Derby and at one time lived very close to where I now live. Just a random encounter that passed the time in a fairly pleasant way. A few years ago Jane and I visited a church here and began to connect with that whole community of believers. Subsequently we were invited into a number of homes for meals, parties and the like, and we even house-sat one week looking after someone’s pets whilst they were abroad… that was a cheap holiday, though it snowed! But this past couple of years I’ve had to allow a more distant connection to develop with these nice people. Jane and I planned to relocate here but it didn’t work out, and I wouldn’t really want to do that all by myself. I’m lonely enough in Derby without starting from scratch on the south coast. I had a little moan to the Lord this evening… I don’t like being on my own. I never used to need a tripod and self-timer to take my picture!

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

Sunday, March 25, 2012

25th March 2012

                GNU Free Documentation Licence 1.3 from here
Another busy day, although not with jobs this time. This morning my niece invited the whole family to her baby daughter’s church blessing, and that was great. She’s connected with a particularly lively Methodist church near to where she lives and I thoroughly enjoyed the meeting. Of course, a room hire at a country pub to continue the celebration left me a little tired… I’m thinking I’ll prep my motorhome first thing in the morning and go find a motorway! I need to switch off for a few days again though I’ll decide where to go tomorrow.

But for me there is nothing more important, especially when raising children, than acknowledging the place of God in our lives. And also the church. I spent my teenage years and beyond as a Methodist and have the happiest of memories of that period of my life in church. My picture is of that church in Mackworth, Derby where I spent ten years up to and including my wedding. Quite recently the place was closed and I believe demolished due to lack of attendance. In the sixties it would almost fill every week and was truly a centre of the local community. I was completely involved in all manner of social events as well as Sunday meetings, but unfortunately I did not tune in to responding to God. Although, retrospectively I can recognise that the Lord was there and even speaking to me, I never became a committed Christian. Just a faithful churchgoer. And there’s a world of difference. I stopped attending but have no idea why others did. It’s funny how some churches disappear and others grow and grow. This evening I visited Trent Vineyard which basically began with 4 couples moving from London to plant a new church in 1996. I didn’t count but perhaps with 600+ attendance in the main meeting and ignoring concurrent youth meeting elsewhere on campus that’s a totally different ballgame. I guess the morning meeting would be similar though also for young families.

I love the church, and for sure it has been so very important in defining and shaping my journey as a Christian. Indeed, I can’t really see how it’s possible to grow in a faith journey without regular attendance. But if that were all there were to it I can’t see how belonging to such a group of people would be much different from any other social activity. Maybe, debatably, a little more emphasis on personal morality though certainly the church has always had valuable work amongst the needy that can only be applauded. Yes, it has often been at the forefront of social action, pioneering work in health and education as well as engaging with disaster relief. But there are other people groups with great compassion for such needs doing admirable work as well. So whilst the church may seek to be first it’s certainly not alone in caring. There is one totally unique aspect though for many Christians… the claim to have a personal relationship with Almighty God. So, whilst my teenage church attendance was fulfilling on many levels, ultimately it wasn’t enough. Immediately after getting married I lost focus and just stopped going. And I never missed it, not one bit. For a whole decade. My life was full up in a very different direction. I had the most wonderful of personal lives counterbalancing a pretty horrid and challenging workplace.

But then, quite unexpectedly, a marvellous thing happened. Our 6 year old eldest daughter was invited to a holiday club at a Baptist Church not so far away. To cut a long story short, within a couple of months both Jane and I had a personal encounter with the Lord and we committed our lives to following Jesus. The best thing we ever did and we never faltered for a moment on our journey. That was almost thirty years ago and I doubt if I’ve spent much more than a handful of weekends away from a church meeting in all that time. I believe in God and I believe in the church. They belong together.

Hebrews 10:25 And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.’ (NLT)

Saturday, March 24, 2012

24th March 2012

What a beautiful day! Yes spring has certainly arrived in Derby. And despite my earlier doubts a few of my daffodils have survived to add their particular splash of colour to the garden. I’ve been busy most of the day as well, which is encouraging as I still feel ok. Yes, the morning started with a bit of extra cleaning around the house which for sure needs it, and then my daughter and her youngest paid their usual Saturday visit, so a little more effort had to be the order of the day! But then I got carried away fitting the newly washed curtains and bedding back into my motorhome, and of course I just had to get my bucket and brush out to clean the outside. That can be quite a job as it’s rather a large vehicle, though today I avoided getting a ladder out to tackle the roof. But after another load in the washing machine I needed to sit down… and so I read my book for a while, over lunch. Ok, I admit Formula 1 qualifying kept me seated for an hour as well but then, as it was still sunny, I couldn’t resist getting my lawn mower out for the first time this year. And now I feel satisfied with this almost ‘normal’ day.

But it’s all relative. I still had a bad headache and needed to overcome mild exhaustion in order to get going, and whilst I’ve been able to get through a list of jobs, the pace of work is almost painfully slow. I so want to see the back of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. I love to work, long and hard, and life is enormously frustrating when I can’t. But today was a relatively good day and I’m really hopeful of good progress through the course of the year. Especially as I don’t usually feel this ‘lively’ until after the summer months. I need to continue with careful activity management and persevere with my pacing programme, which is focussed upon walking as often as possible. That and plenty of sun could see a step change for the first time in several years. I’m also considering another short break this week as my most recent camping holiday was particularly beneficial. I just have to ignore the decorating that desperately needs doing and focus upon my health. That’s not easy. It may sound strange but much as I love camping I really would prefer to work.

Colossians 3:23 ‘Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters’ (NLT)

Friday, March 23, 2012

23rd March 2012

Yes, I’ve had another nice day out with my son. This time we visited the museum at RAF Cosford where I caught my ‘little’ boy reading up on Spitfires. The place was certainly engaging with a variety of displays designed to applaud the bravery of the few who got to fly these amazing machines. I never served in the military but from where I stand, those who do are incredibly brave, and always an inspiration when facing personal hardship or danger. But ignoring the perils of war, just flying in any of the machines we saw today would be way past my personal spirit of adventure. And actually there were quite a few I don’t think I could even climb into, the cockpits were so small and awkward to get at. It’s a young man’s game for sure.

One display brought back some old memories. An early Mini Car sat there waiting to be peered into, and I’d forgotten how small they were. Yes it was in the early seventies, as I remember it, that I could be found driving such a machine around the mostly southern coastline of England. There were three of us who decided to explore every coastal road from Bristol, all the way around to Lowestoft in Norfolk. It was fun as we put our tent up in Butlins’ asphalt car park in Minehead… it was dark, out of season and we didn’t realise where we were! Then, possibly the UK’s steepest hill at Porlock demanded that two of us got out and pushed. I lost my beloved tennis racket as it fell off the roof rack somewhere between our Crystal Palace campsite and the Marquee Club in Wardour Street. I can’t recall whether it was Yes or King Crimson who entertained for that night but we drove a thousand miles in 10 days in the tiniest of underpowered, unheated cars! The day after we returned home it failed it’s MOT test, being totally unsafe with serious corrosion, and was immediately scrapped. Yes, I enjoyed every mile of that journey being totally unaware of any danger; so not for a single moment did it demand bravery. But there are those who walk a very different path through life.

Of course the morality and validity of a call to take up arms against one’s fellow man demands serious questions, and the national debate belongs to government. Individuals always have a personal choice. Whilst the threat against our country’s security is very real, and of course we need our armed forces, I have grave concerns about many foreign interventions. For example in recent times we’ve been involved militarily in several countries, attacking armed forces that often caused civilian casualties and property damage. So, a simple question… if, upon engagement we ‘knew’ that a like for like response would be unavoidable within the boundaries of our own nation, how readily would we rush into war then? Maybe our interventions are truly justified, but really I just don’t know any more who’s speaking truth. The always confusing web of propaganda, which accompanies every conflict, never reveals the full story and the eventual war inquiry can do little to relieve the grief of thousands. War and the destruction of so many lives is the ultimate evil. Today I stood beside a presumably empty 9 foot long cylinder. An early atomic bomb. But try as I might I just cannot conceive of any circumstances, in the world we see today, that would morally justify using such a thing. And I certainly don’t trust any politician to make the decision to push the button either. Don’t get me wrong, I fully recognise that there are times when war is unavoidable and fully justified. It’s just that one twisted election promise and one illegal phone tap too many have rather brought out the cynic in me. After following both the Iraq War and the Leveson Inquiries that’s not likely to change anytime soon either… my nice day out got rather serious. Sorry.

1 Timothy 2:1-2 I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity.’ (NLT)

Thursday, March 22, 2012

22nd March 2012

I seem to be surrounded by people needing to go to hospital. Last week it was Jane’s mum who was given a simple prognosis and treatment that turned out to be ‘Good News’. Yesterday my mum was unexpectedly referred with a fairly minor problem, they talked of keeping her overnight but as today is my dad’s birthday she was allowed home. Anyway she’s ok and had to return for very simple treatment today; on arrival this morning they remembered the family celebration, so she was taken to the front of the queue and on her way back home within just a few minutes of arriving! Being quite elderly and rather frail she needed that, so again real ‘Good News’. My dad had a biopsy taken a few weeks ago and has had a rather tense time waiting for results. Anyway he’s received a letter confirming no sign of the obvious unwanted problem. He’ll need another very minor op soon, the same as his previous two, and I would expect that to be a simple overnight stay again. Of course that’s ‘Good News’ as well.

I also spent a couple of hours at the same hospital this morning where there was certainly no queue jumping for the 5 minute interview! Nothing to do with me, it was my friend and his follow up appointment with the consultant oncologist. Basically they’ve confirmed his eligibility for treatment and he’ll return next week for the prescription issue. Given the expense of the drug and NHS budgetary constraints that’s one more item of ‘Good News’. I took him home and he let me play with his new iPad 3 as a reward… drool, drool, I’m not envious though. Honestly!

This afternoon when I visited my parents, my mum kept putting her hands together and mouthing an upward looking thankyou for the answers to her prayers. My friend is especially grateful to the Lord for his favour. As am I. After so many years of challenging results for Jane I feel blessed out of my socks that all these wonderful people have a much easier pathway to walk down. Although difficult, I have to say with absolute conviction, though, that my wife was no less blessed because of her ill health and premature death. Indeed it’s true to say that the grace and favour of God in the midst of our greatest challenge is truly beyond compare. So my motorhome holiday photo is evidence of that. A few weeks before this, Jane was almost at death’s door (literally) whilst going through chemo, and here she’s completely bald wearing her prescription wig… have you ever seen a happier, more full of life person? That is a real mystery. And surely ‘Good News’!

Isaiah 52:7 How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of the messenger who brings good news, the good news of peace and salvation, the news that the God of Israel reigns!’ (NLT)

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

21st March 2012

Well I never saw that one coming! Yes I’ve spent the day at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, a very simple car journey up the M1 for about an hour. My son decided he’d be quite happy visiting the place with me and we had a great time puzzling over Joan Miró’s work. Perhaps like so many contemporary artists, the question, ‘What is that all about?’ must echo around the exhibition space more than any other. Of course we adopted the prerequisite intellectual posture when within earshot of other visitors. But really? My son’s snapshot above includes a longstanding Barbara Hepworth ‘Family of Man’ sculpture which I gave up puzzling over years ago. So for completeness here’s ‘Mujer’ (Woman) by Miró, one of many within the same theme. At least I think it is…

My 24 year old son has never been exposed to modern art in this way before and was completely surprised by what he saw. He’s basically computer science educated with on-line gaming as his main recreational activity, so when he saw works like this he instinctively likened it to certain characters in the games world he’s so familiar with. That had me thinking. Given that Miró created most of this work maybe forty or fifty years ago I wonder where the computer games artists got some of their inspiration from? But then again I’m sure I saw a likeness to Wallace and Gromit not far from this one. Maybe I should be careful not to speak too loudly about that though!

I love the creativity of accomplished artists. Whether I totally appreciate, let alone understand their work, is totally irrelevant. I don’t have to find space in my home for any of it, limited edition prints of even some of his ‘paintings/drawings’ were priced at up to £4500…whoa! But actually it’s all pretty amazing stuff and it always stirs one’s own creativity. Ok I can’t imagine casting a 12’ high bronze figure in my back garden but there are lots of other avenues to explore. My totally amateur watercolour paintings are always enjoyable to produce. I’ve not done one for ages. Likewise my song writing experiments are far too hit and miss. My Loughborough daughter is part of a song writer’s group that meets to critique and encourage, and she played me a delightful song she’d written and recorded when I visited yesterday. I could do that, I’ve got all the gear. There’s nothing to stop me doing anything I choose. And the beauty of it all is that I only have myself to please. I don’t have to work towards any particular goal. No, my artwork will never make the Tate and I really don’t expect to play my music at the Albert Hall either!

I’ve played guitar and sung before royalty though. And that’s a thing! Yes Jane brought that to my attention a couple of years ago. One day we were singing and playing together, guitar and whistle, and completely lost in worship. Suddenly Jane had a revelation… she ‘saw’ the Lord in heaven calling for attention, ‘Listen to that’ he said, ‘Jane and Dave are singing to me again!’ We still do that, only we’re not together anymore. But I do wonder what it’s like to hear the Lord sing…

Zephaniah 3:17 ‘For the LORD your God is living among you. He is a mighty saviour. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.’ (NLT)

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

20th March 2012

What a special day it is! And that statement provokes the obvious response querying what makes it different from any other day. Let me think then… well it’s Tuesday, so that means it’s the day I have to remember to put my bins out for tomorrow’s early morning collection. No, that doesn’t make it particularly special. Yes I’ve got it, I did my weekly shop at Sainsbury’s and had the lowest bill for some time. That’s good, or would be if I hadn’t visited the place three times in the last eight days! Ok that’s not very special either; truth be told a little boring. As was cleaning out the cat litter alongside a long list of other domestic chores… most of them ignored today by the way. All very normal so far and no sign of anything worth labelling as special. 

Well then what about my trip to Loughborough? Yes visiting my daughter and pre-school grandson is always very special. My son-in-law stopped by for a quick lunch break as well. Great stuff. But my daughter is really quite nervous at the moment, as she’s been in training for the Loughborough Half-Marathon all year and is currently nursing a knee injury. It's on Sunday! She was roped in to this challenge by her work colleagues at Baca, a charity focussed upon the vulnerable involved in forced migration. Currently they work supporting ‘Unaccompanied Asylum Seeker Children’, I understand it to be mostly young males aged between 16-18. They’re trying to raise a few thousand pounds to begin a parallel work with those involved in Human Trafficking… I expect these to be young women needing a lot of help. Anyway I think what she’s doing is very special! More info on her My Donate page: http://www.facebook.com/l/MAQGWuSK-AQHAEywXZ21WZKykwAWyM5lzr_DJ1_siGul3XA/https%3A%2F%2Fmydonate.bt.com%2Ffundraisers%2Fmelaniepage1

I haven’t mentioned my live at home son yet. He’s taken this week off as a holiday from work. So he came to Loughborough with me. That was nice. And we’re talking of day trips around the country, visiting maybe an aero museum and, if I can persuade him, the Yorkshire Sculpture Park. London could work if we can get inspired with an agenda of mutual interest. We’ll see what happens, neither of us need to make firm plans. We just get up and go where we fancy on the day.  So yes, having my son as companion is also very special.

This morning we also visited Jane’s mum. She’s 97 and not been doing at all well. She’s been very depressed and quite distressed just recently with a health problem. A hospital visit yesterday suggests it’s only a minor problem which can be sorted out without much fuss. So that’s good. Despite being very unhappy I was able to cheer her up with a few words of encouragement and basically left her not just smiling but actually laughing out loud. So that was special as well.

All in all it’s not been a bad day, though on the face of it quite ordinary it’s had it’s special moments. Sometimes I think it’s more important how we see life than what we actually do. One thing is for sure, Tuesday the 20th March 2012 is a unique date in the history of the world. There’ll never be another. And it’s a whole day of my life so I needed to make the most of it. Whether it be a plain day or an exciting one is irrelevant. I’m just grateful that I could live to do my best with it.

Oh yes, my long haired rather odd photo! There was a day about 4 years ago when Jane and I visited Hanbury Hall in Worcestershire, and as is quite common there’s a box of dressing up clothes for the kids to have fun with. Anyway what else do you do when it’s a school day so no kids to embarrass and with no one looking? I seem to remember Jane’s psychotherapy text books call it Past Life Regression! I just call it ‘special’.

 Psalm 118:24 ‘This is the day the LORD has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it.’ (NLT)

Monday, March 19, 2012

19th March 2012

It’s so easy to think about Jane, and wonder about her new life. Time and time again. I believe it’s much healthier to think of the life she’s living right now, rather than looking back into the past and recalling how she suffered. So there we were driving into Dover, about 5 years ago, when Jane saw the farm sign offering public access to new born lambs. ‘I’ve always wanted to hold a lamb’ she said and she did. Not exactly new born, but close enough. The funny thing is, that was the first time she ever mentioned that particular dream. I knew nothing about it. But there are other dreams we did share. And we made plans for the future…

Not too long before Jane died she asked me what I would do after she was gone. I said I’d cry a lot but didn’t want to think any more about that. I’m still basically at that stage, though the tears have eased considerably and I’m now much stronger emotionally. Anyway our conversation then returned to our future together in eternity. That was when we agreed to our first date in eternity. Yes I know there’ll be no more marriage but God joined our hearts together and surely would have us meet up and catch up. And that was just one of many conversations that we had over more recent months and years. Funny how facing up to our own mortality focusses attention in that direction. But actually there’s very little we could say about heaven and our speculation was more to do with the Lord’s return to planet earth. That is far easier to imagine as heaven is a mystery and basically beyond imagination. We know it to be paradise, whatever that means. Pretty good I reckon, but we’re a bit lacking in detail, especially when it appears we’ll have spiritual bodies rather than physical ones. How does that work? No idea, though for sure we’ll retain our own identity and memories of the life we’ve left behind. I like to think of it as very similar to the physical world we know so well, only more spiritual. Why reinvent the wheel? When God created the world he created perfection, it’s only man that messed things up. And one day, in the apparently fairly distant future, heaven will descend to earth and in some way there will be a joining together, or a transforming or whatever. That mystery is beyond my imagination.

But Jane and I dared to dream dreams of a different era. I believe the Lord will return to planet earth in the not very distant future. I hope that will be in my lifetime and suspect it to be much sooner than might be expected. Yes when the Lord Jesus returns this world will change forever and with him will come all those who died as his followers. This world is beginning to go through times of great trouble; the World Wars of the 20th century are a foretaste of that. For a relatively short period of time things will become much worse than anything we’ve ever seen before. There are those who suggest that the church, the ‘Bride of Christ’ will be taken away to heaven before the very worst happens. I have some sympathies for that position but remain determined to be open to the Lord doing things his way irrespective of any human eschatology… for the record I lean very slightly towards Dispensational Premillennialism, though the Bible actually has very little to say on the subject so it should never be a major focus of attention. There are more important things to occupy us than a detailed understanding of the future. But for sure one day the Lord will return for good, and I expect those returning with him will be set to task in putting the world to rights. So basically I’ve arranged to meet up with Jane asap… I have a date! Maybe the much debated ‘rapture’, but whenever. And we even speculated on the work God would have us do together. When the Lord returns it’ll be after a time of trouble the likes of which the world has never seen. But what next? I reckon there’s gonna be quite a mess to clear up. And maybe a lot of people who have no idea what’s been happening. They’ll need help. So the eco-friendly movement will really take on a new momentum. One way or another we’ll be kept busy for a very long time.

Jane and I liked to dream. And I’m sure there’ll always be a new born lamb to look after.

Revelation 20:4 ‘They all came to life again, and they reigned with Christ for a thousand years.’ (NLT)

Sunday, March 18, 2012

18th March 2012

By Gil Abrantes from Portugal (IMG_6971.jpg) [CC-BY-2.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)],
via Wikimedia Commons

There are very few things that I enjoy now that don’t specifically involve either church or family. One of them though, is Grand Prix. So today was the opening F1 race in Melbourne and this new season promised to be a rather stop go affair with free-to-air BBC withdrawing from half the races. It felt like one more thing in my life was changing in a not so good way. Yes I know it’s not that big a deal, but it’s the only spectator sport I take much interest in and really I doubt if I watch TV for more than 3 or 4 hours per week, on average. So subscribing to Sky cannot be justified and I’m not sure why I even bother with a licence as I could avoid live TV altogether without much effort. Anyway, today I was invited out for lunch at my eldest daughter’s and they offered to watch the race highlights programme with me. The surprise was that it felt like a normal length race and was just as enjoyable as ever, especially as I instinctively root for Jenson Button who drove a perfect race win. But I still miss Jane’s fervent encouragement of Lewis Hamilton as she usually watched each race start. Within minutes she would be horizontal and snoozing on the settee waking only to ask about the final result. But then she’d sit engrossed for the Red Button behind the scenes ‘soap opera’. I have to admit that that could at times be far more entertaining than the actual race.

One problem I’m finding right now is dealing with the minutiae of life. I’m a raw beginner at housework. Jane, for some reason lost in our early history, picked up most of the chores; so I mended the broken, she cleaned and polished the dusty. And she became proficient. I didn’t. And now I feel awkward wielding a duster, and very tearful because I can so clearly see Jane moving ornaments around whilst working. She always knew where they belonged as well. I don’t. The mantelpiece display I had to construct from scratch caused one of my daughters to remark in a complimentary way recently. I was surprised she said she liked it and asked why. Her response was that it was ‘different’. It sure is! I haven’t a clue. My home is filled with countless memories of Jane as we lived here for over thirty years. Everywhere I look I can see into the past and remember our life together. But I’m gradually changing things, building new memories, building a new life. My house is being remodelled with a new way of living and new possessions. Jane never saw my bookshelves, the latest decorated room or our daughter’s wedding photos. She can’t proof read or censor my blog anymore. She doesn’t see my son and I sitting down together for an evening meal. That would have especially pleased her. His cooking skills and creativity remind me very much of her own. I can see her smiling now. My eleven year old grand-daughter is turning into a young woman. Another year or so and all four of our grandchildren will be at school. No little one to sit on knee and read to. The eldest are both totally absorbed in iPod world. Jane is missing all of that and much more. But I’m not and I love it. And I will embrace this new life as it is set before me.

Yes the more that life unfolds around me the more I’m building memories that do not include Jane. Of course that can be seen as sad, but it hurts to remember Jane being involved in everything I ever did. So it’s good to move on. I cannot function on the edge of tears all the time. I gave my heart to Jane many years ago, forever. But that love must now be ‘sealed’ away for a different life in eternity. It’ll always remain, nothing can ever change that. It’s just that I no longer have any way to express it in a practical way. I’m not into building shrines and the like, Jane’s legacy is to be found in the way my life and that of others has changed through knowing her, as well as in the family we grew together. One day soon I’ll draw a line in the sand to step into my new future. Grief is for a season, not a lifetime. No matter the measure of love.

I guess I will always shed a few tears for Jane and my loss of such a special companion, but that must become an occasional ‘special moment’, and not the continual almost daily outpouring of grief that I live now. I just have to finish this particular grief journey, leaving nothing undone that should be done. And my heart is beginning to grow warm again. There are people I care about, things to do, places to be and all the rest of it.

Psalm 30:5 ‘Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning.’ (NLT)

Saturday, March 17, 2012

17th March 2012

So this just about sums up my life at the moment. And I find that a bit sad. But it’s all I really do, nowadays, just walk and walk all by myself. Of course I see people fairly regularly and I live with my son with whom I get on quite well. Saturdays work well as my daughter and one grandchild often stop by to say hello and teach me how to enjoy chocolate bars. Grandad’s always got a Twix or Kit-Kat in the cupboard for such visits though they’re becoming just a little predictable so maybe Jaffa next week? I only occasionally fancy the things so they last for ages. Fresh fruit is much more fun I reckon, but maybe that’s an age thing.

Ok, so family and friends are great but I still keep thinking about my personal future and what I’m gonna do. I’ve obviously got unfulfilled dreams… haven’t we all? Some of those dreams I might even dare to believe are God inspired as well. Then when I think things through, I can determine a few possible pathways I might walk down; unfortunately for me that’s not enough. I only want to live a life of faith, to make decisions based upon Godly inspiration by recognising the Lord’s call upon my life and in accord with his timing. I firmly believe that the Lord speaks to every single one of us; though most of the time we either don’t recognise or believe that he is speaking, or we ignore him completely, or stubbornly keep asking the same questions time and time again as if he might respond differently.

I suspect I get things wrong quite often but I do try. And I actually believe that as long as we seek the Lord and then respond in an honest and diligent way he will cover over our failings and grant favour. It’s quite rare that in my Christian journey I’ve had to consider a fundamental change of direction. That’s where I’m at right now of course. And I find the guiding hand of the Lord to be clearly pointing in a particular direction. As always I’m impatient and would love to find a shortcut out of here, but nonetheless I am determined to complete my season of mourning. I will grieve for Jane for as long as it takes and that is going to take first place in my life until the Lord leads me on in a new way. I will take no baggage into my future; I’m determined to deal with it all today. Yes that is the word of the Lord for me… grieve well!

Hebrews 3:15 ‘Today when you hear his voice, don’t harden your hearts’ (NLT)

Friday, March 16, 2012

16th March 2012

Well this little chap has certainly worked out how to keep his feet dry. I wish I could. I could sure do with finding a shortcut to climb up out of my present circumstances. But anyway, yes I managed one final walk through the forest and around the lake this morning before returning home. And after a few cloudy days the sun came out for my final trek so that was particularly welcome. I’ve enjoyed my few days away and feel quite rested now, especially as my headache has gone away. Methinks another break in a week or two seems a good idea as well… oh dear where did I find that word from? I could refer to Shakespeare but it was more likely Star Wars’ Jar-Jar Binks as I only watched it a week or two ago! Is recycling Old English eco-friendly?

I’ve been thinking about going away for a few weeks but kept finding reasons to stay home. Truth be told I was beginning to wonder if out of season camping was beginning to lose it’s appeal, so now I’m sure it hasn’t. At times the weather was certainly cold and rather dull but I found that to be completely irrelevant. I really enjoyed myself. Yesterday was a little windy but, having all the gear, it didn’t affect me at all. Though they may be rather expensive I’ve discovered my Bose headphones make excellent ear muffs! At least I now get a smile out of passers-by… hey, why can’t I pretend to be a cool young student, I’ve got the hair now haven’t I? What’s that? Should have bought Monster Beats, a nice crisp white pair. But I prefer Bose and if that’s the only difference between me and a 21 year old no-one will notice. Won’t they? I can start my life over any which way I choose, and I choose to ignore that grey hair I just spotted. Might be another one as well.

Everything I do, everything I say feels completely unreal at the moment. I still can’t get to grips with Jane being gone forever. Having been together for so long I instinctively consider sharing every idea and every bit of news with her, so at times I feel all bottled up with no-way of expressing what I’m thinking or feeling. I suppose that’s one reason why I write, but actually I feel like an alien, nothing seems to make sense anymore. Jane always understood my nonsense ramblings. Or at least pretended to. I can’t imagine anyone else would. Maybe my grandkids. A little. Until they grow up.

John 17:16 ‘They do not belong to this world any more than I do.’ (NLT)

Thursday, March 15, 2012

15th March 2012

I sort of enjoy these wildlife sculptures, though not as much as grandchildren when they’re with me. Jane and I first came across them many years ago when walking through Grizedale Forest in the Lake District, where there are dozens of the things about. That was one of our original ‘special places’, having honeymooned in the area back in 1973, though we saw no sculptures in those early days. But we did climb the hills and walk the wooded trails. Funny, as I wandered through the forest again it struck me that I could be in almost any conifer plantation in the country. They’re all the same, barring a few steeper hills. And they’re all becoming just a little commercialised, which doesn’t work quite as well for me. I just like to walk and enjoy nature. A broad scattering of outdoor sculpture is just about acceptable, but I don’t need to ‘Go Ape’ or attend a Will Young concert. I even came across a mountain bike class of about a dozen being taught how to do ‘wheelies’. I’m too old for that game, though the cycle hire shop had a selection of electric bikes. But for some reason it just doesn’t feel right that you can now go chasing around the forest on an all-terrain Segway...

We’re all different, enjoying ourselves in our own ‘unique’ ways. And when we find something we like, given a choice, it quickly becomes part of our life. Of course if I were a teenager I’d love to be doing some of the newer forest activities, but I’m not. So I just walk. Right now my life has changed though, and there are many activities that were a regular part of my life that I can no longer enjoy. If I want to move on I’m going to have to find a new way of living. More than that I suppose I’ll have to keep finding the ‘new’… I can travel, that’s easy. But I do need to meet new people and that’s definitely challenging. And there are many other things on my ‘must-do’ list that need action as well. One step at a time.

2 Corinthians 5:17 ‘This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!’ (NLT)

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

14th March 2012

I struggle a little as a photographer so, after claiming there were thousands of birds, it’s taken three days to get a photo of more than just a handful. Yes there have to be a couple of hundred in this tiny slice of activity alone, and I’m guessing they’re some kind of gull, but the main thing for me is the birdsong anyway. Unfortunately I left my video camera at home so can’t properly capture that this time, but really I’m just trying to keep myself occupied in as simple a way as possible. I’m not pretending to share a dedicated hobby as I’m a complete beginner, and I just like being outdoors.

So today I began to feel quite a bit better in myself, though I still have a bad head. That should ease before long I reckon as I feel increasingly relaxed in this beautiful environment. And I didn’t bother one tiny bit when I came across a couple of women out walking several dogs, and only one was on a lead. A long lead though, and I like to keep my distance from unknown dogs as I’ve been bitten quite a few times over the years. Their Rottweiler was left to it’s own devices, and came within sniffing distance before wandering off into the trees. That was good. No, it was the dog on the lead that would happily have taken my leg off if released and that certainly broke the peace! It got within arm’s length before being hauled in, and whilst they didn’t exactly apologise they explained it had been attacked by another dog and was still being trained to be more sociable. Each to their own, but dog walking looks like hard work to me.

I’m trying to do nothing. Just relax with my book and walk a little. Okay, the walk was my longest in several months, maybe 4 or 5 miles, but basically I’m succeeding. But just now I was half listening to Front Row on the radio where they were reviewing the new Joan Miró exhibition at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park. This was one of our favourite places for a day out and we went there in January last year as a birthday treat for Jane, even though she was becoming seriously ill by then. I have many wonderful memories of the place and would love to create some more, though I’m not so sure about Miró as his type of work always provoked engaging debate for the journey home. I don’t know if I’m ready to visit on my own just yet; it could be a very sad day out. Ugh… and now I’ve made myself feel all lonely again! I need a friend to do things like that with.

James 2:23 ‘And so it happened just as the Scriptures say: “Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith.” He was even called the friend of God.(NLT)

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

13th March 2012


Well I’ve done very little today and I’m beginning to feel better for that. I can almost feel a physical sensation of peace slowly enveloping me as I relax and tension begins to fade. I can’t stop the occasional waves of intense sadness, as I think of Jane, but a few minutes on my knees crying out to the Lord and I begin to feel better. I’ve never been here before and Jane would have loved it. Apparently it’s the remnant of a much larger medieval forest, though with very little of the original remaining an action group is fighting to preserve and even restore as best as they can. It’s been managed by the Forestry Commission, and after unsuccessful oak and pine planting they decided to return this lake to it’s natural wetland environment. Twenty years ago it would not have looked like this, but this evening I found it very peaceful; wandering along trying to take a few photos, but really just enjoying the birdsong again…

I’m trying really hard to get used to being alone, I always avoided it, rarely going anywhere on my own. It’s not really who I am, I don’t like it, though I’m quite fussy about who I spend time with. At least for any length of time, though I can genuinely enjoy just about anybody’s company for an hour or two. I love to meet people and listen to their story, which happens now and then on campsites including today. Most folk are quite happy to pass the time of day sharing their travelling tales, though the guy this morning was simply expounding the benefits of keeping fit playing golf and riding his bike. Apparently his caravan was not large enough to accommodate both activities so he alternated them. Riveting stuff! Yesterday another neighbour shared his lesson on folding bikes, including the perils of leaving your compressor at home. Wow… but actually I need to take things this slowly and I enjoyed just talking to these nice people.

A few hundred yards from my pitch I came across a sizable and newly constructed bivouac hidden in the forest. I wondered what that was all about. Perhaps just a bit of fun, maybe a temporary shelter for goodness knows who or what. But I remember in my Boy Scout days, taking my Backwoodsman Badge, building a smaller and not dissimilar thing. Hey, mine was completely waterproof, but open doors for the local bugs unfortunately. Then I had to light an open fire with only two matches allowed, prepared and boned a whole fish for cooking without using a pan… can’t remember how that worked, maybe large leaves or damp newspaper (probably cheated with kitchen foil!), before placing in the cooling embers for a long time. Then we stripped the bark off a stick and used it to toast some sort of very plain tasting sticky flour mixture. It was supposed to be a waffle but I wouldn’t recommend trying that at home! Come sundown I had read in my Baden Powell handbook that it was a good idea to bury any remaining fire embers under a layer of damp turf to make the next day’s fire starting much quicker. Let’s take the initiative, got to be a good idea I thought… until in the midnight darkness of the secluded wood I woke to the sound of whistles and leaders running around trying to put out the fire I’d started. Oops!

Life can be good, I just have to re-engage.

John 10:10 ‘I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.’ (NLT)

Monday, March 12, 2012

12th March 2012

Seen one seen them all? Yes a forest trail is a forest trail, but this one is almost 70 miles from home so it must be different from my normal walk. A bit greener maybe? But still muddy! Anyway this photo was taken less than 50 yards from my motorhome so that’s great and, for me, a taste of heaven. Yes, I’m on a campsite somewhere near Chester, on the edge of Delamere Forest. I only had a short walk but nonetheless found it wonderfully engaging. Midweek out of season suits me fine, and apart from one jogger with dog I saw no-one to disturb my contemplation. So, around 5pm this evening I wandered down the trail and found a lake, with thousands of birds going about their fascinating business. Swooping, diving or just paddling around, they appeared very busy as the sun began to get lower in the sky. But the most amazing thing was that every single one seemed to be singing… oh yes, I reckon a song of praise to my God. A truly heavenly anthem and who needs an mp3 player in such a place? It was the most beautiful birdsong, really loud, and as far as I could see I was the only person there to enjoy it. So that was just what I needed and exactly why I needed to get away.

My son and I had a special ‘treat’ this morning. An 8.30am appointment at the dentist! We moved to this practice around 18 months ago and quickly discovered our new dentist insisted upon drilling and filling almost all who came her way. So at that first visit Jane acquiesced to her demands, as did my son. Fortunately I was last and having fed my credit card into the chip and pin machine 5 times, to pay for all the extra treatment, I got crafty and jokingly pleaded poverty. With just the slightest sigh the dentist said ‘Ok, next time then… but make sure you floss’. Anyway this morning, apart from the mandatory clean, we were both given the all clear! Is that weird or what? No, she’s obviously had the business targets moved in a different direction. I’ve not had a filling for over twenty years and my teeth are fine… prior to that I had fillings strictly every other visit and boosted that guy’s pension scheme quite nicely I reckon. I knew no different then and just accepted his professional integrity. So now I’ve got a mouth full of very old mercury amalgam fillings and read about how that can be associated with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. But no way can I face having them all replaced on the off-chance that it might improve my health.

I really needed to get away from all this stuff… so I have and that’s good. I seem to be surrounded by people I care about who need support in one way or another, and I totally want to be there for them. I can’t do that if I’m ill, so hopefully this break will help my recovery. A week or so ago my son-in-law was knocked unconscious as he played rugby and spent the rest of the day in hospital; my daughter didn’t even tell me until the next day when he’d recovered. For sure I would have driven over to Loughborough to help in whatever way I could; even though that was the day I had severe chest pains. I’m so glad she left me out of that particular loop, but even more relieved about his complete recovery! Helping others is in reality my ‘raison d'être’ at the moment. Until the Lord leads me in another direction I’ll continue to serve as best as I can.

Isaiah 49:13 ‘Sing for joy, O heavens! Rejoice, O earth! Burst into song, O mountains!’ (NLT)

Sunday, March 11, 2012

11th March 2012

I’ve not had a headache like this for quite a long time now, so for that I’m grateful. I hate the things as for quite a lot of years I’ve suffered them for months at a time, and I’m quite convinced they’re M.E. related. But what to do? Stronger painkillers work but I’ve really had far too many of them over the years so by far the better option is to tackle my ill health in other ways. Basically I need a break, get away from everything and go sit on a campsite for however long it takes to recover. I have a window of opportunity maybe this week but I have to make sure I’m well enough to drive first. I’m rather fed up with the rollercoaster ride of Chronic Fatigue and the continual challenge to disengage with normal life in order to moderate the condition. I just want to get on and do stuff! But at least the peaks and troughs of grief have levelled out a lot over the months. I’m certainly not ‘there’ yet but I’m well on the way. At least I’m far more in control of when I choose to get really upset… yes, I can easily switch on the tears just by thinking about Jane and particularly how she suffered towards the end. But I’ve found I don’t need to dwell upon that for as long now before I’m ready to move on.

I miss Jane terribly, and that’s compounded by not being able to do many of the things I really enjoy anymore. Because I did them with her. I’m struggling to get a handle on doing things on my own. I never did; Jane and I were inseparable for 40 years! I suppose there’ll be a steady stream of ‘firsts’ as I begin to tackle activities over time but it feels like slow progress at the moment. I hate it! Even something straightforward such as going to church by myself and finding I sit next to someone different every week. I know I have to restart living in many different ways, as the emptier my life the more I’m always going to be inclined to look back. I have to press on into the future not yearn for that which has gone forever. I often would sit in church and simply hold Jane’s hand… last night I sat on my settee at home, reached out my hand to where Jane might sit and in my imagination did just that. I cried then and I’m crying now.

I need a break.

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

Saturday, March 10, 2012

10th March 2012

A busy day. But only in spending time with family, and I feel so privileged to have each and every one of them as a friend. I needed to spend the day with friends. I’m a little wobbly today, both physically and emotionally. Yes Chronic Fatigue is still rather a nuisance, though I’m quite hopeful of a change for the better as the weather continues to remain fairly mild. It’s sunshine I really need though, along with time out from my usual routine. I gave my motorhome another short run yesterday, just the couple of miles to Kedleston Hall and hopefully I can soon take the next step of a few days away very soon. As I feel at the moment I wouldn’t want to drive very far at all, I’m just too ill. But that can change over a couple of days so a couple of hours journey would work and I still fancy Delamere Forest near Chester. I never book ahead though and can easily chase the sun if that becomes an option!

Keeping on the go all day is a helpful distraction from my rather fragile emotions. Again yesterday, I had a whole set of unrelated phone calls all concerning Jane’s mum and eventually had to go visit her. She’s in quite a terrible condition now, physically, emotionally and also mentally. I felt so sorry for her, thinking of the fourteen years we were able to share our family home with her and now I see her fading into a shadow of her former self… all alone in her apartment. She gets out meeting people every day and has family visiting each week but it’s not the same at all. At 97 and having lost the will to carry on living I don’t know how long she has, but I find it quite upsetting that it’s come to this. I remember thirty years or so ago that Jane spent time with her, unpacking and working through the depths of grief she suffered after Jane’s dad had died. She was much younger then but still it took several years to begin to come out of mourning. On many occasions Jane would disappear with her for hours before calling me in to pray with the pair of them. I’ve no doubt that she chose the right pathway in becoming a qualified therapist. But Jane’s mum is not the only one who needs that skilled and so very gentle touch right now…

Isaiah 9:6 ‘And he will be called: Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.’ (NLT)

Friday, March 09, 2012

9th March 2012

I’ve been fascinated with trees for years and this is a magnificent specimen which I never noticed until today. I presume it’s seriously old going by the size of the stump, and I wonder how big it was in it’s heyday. It’s certainly a good size now and apparently quite healthy and good for a few more years yet. The National Trust blurb suggests some old oaks could be a thousand years in age and maybe this is one of them. So I’m thinking was it first alive with Æthelred the Unready on the English throne, or one of the Danish Kings who ruled our land for a couple of decades? Then again we had a French speaking monarchy before long as well.

It’s funny looking back in time at our country at that time as it was a totally alien place compared with today. But then again I can recall the 1960’s quite clearly and have many memories which are equally alien. I remember, at the beginning of that decade, visiting some sort of great aunt whilst she was in hospital and she was in her late 90’s… so would have been born I reckon in the 1860’s. So theoretically it was possible for me to have spoken to someone who at least had had a conversation with someone born in 1760’s or thereabouts! All of a sudden history becomes much closer to home as potentially 18th century ‘influences’ could easily bridge a 250 year gap to such as myself with the connection of just a couple of people. I’m grateful for that continuity as for sure on my mother’s side of the family we have a strong church connection, and I like to think that I have relatives waiting for me in heaven when my turn comes. Yes I believe the Lord honours generations of Godly people and maybe I’m just the latest in a long line. And my mum’s maiden name was Kirk which apparently is an informal Scottish name for church. Not sure about the Paine side of the family as the name seems to have it’s origins in the French for Pagan! At least there was an early enthusiast, Hugh de Payen, who sought to guide, with protection, Christian pilgrims journeying to Jerusalem and so founded the Knights Templar. But I have more doubts about their other activities over the years and I’ve no way of knowing if he was an actual ancestor anyway.

Over the generations we see profound change in society; and even over the course of my life I’ve seen my country change radically; beginning with the so called Swinging Sixties and progressing through radical Thatcherism into the somewhat related Blairism. Yes from my perspective each of these time periods saw massive societal restructuring and not without negative consequences either. Yet from the dawn of time, despite the greatest cultural diversity and forced change there has been one constant… the favour and work of God with his people. Yes, there have always been those who love the Lord and honour his word. So where we see love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control we recognise Godliness whether it be in the lives of those who believe or not. But there are those who lift up the name of Jesus allowing him to guide their steps and these are those who truly have the words of eternal life that we should all heed.

Yes, my life has changed quite radically even over the last 10 months so but one thing has remained exactly the same... and always will!

Hebrews 13:8 ‘Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.’ (NLT)

Thursday, March 08, 2012

8th March 2012

Yes I’m back walking for the first time this week, and it was fine with no chest pains or suchlike. I’m still very tired though so it was a bit of a slow plod. There seem to be a lot of trees in a similar condition to this one and it started me thinking about my life… again. Talk about heavy pruning! And just about everything I do has changed and I’m struggling to see any of it as a change for the better. It just isn’t. But is it really as dead as this tree?

Maybe I’m just too impatient about moving on and out of this season of grief… I guess so. But maybe that’s a false premise and I’m destined to carry sadness around for the rest of my life, always looking back at what might have been… I can’t accept that as my destiny. And I have a wonderful family, a real privilege so maybe I should find fulfilment and enjoyment in that… yes, and no! I’m well chuffed with the way my kids are living and all that they are achieving but that’s not enough. I cannot live out my life through them. I have to do stuff myself. But what?

All that I am and all that I do is founded upon my Christian faith and the personal relationship I have with Jesus Christ. That is as secure as it’s ever been, as is my ultimate destiny of a new life in heaven. No, it’s the other building blocks of life that have to be sorted out. So what is the Lord asking of me right now and where might he be leading in the near future? Untangling my muddled thoughts and easing troubled emotions is very much a work in progress and for sure I must complete the twelve month exclusive season of mourning I’ve given myself. I’ve concluded that my long hair is in some way connected with that as well; unless I decide I like being scruffy for a while longer. I suppose I am making progress but I can’t imagine that May 24th will present a ‘magic’ change overnight; it’s just that somewhere down the line I need to draw a line in the sand and really determine to move on.

Over the years I’ve enjoyed doing many different things, many of which are not part of my life right now. But there have been two main ingredients that no matter how hard I try I don’t feel able to let go of. They both remain really important, though in totally different ways, and obviously I’m not saying they’re equal in value. Just that I don’t feel able to let go of either of them at the moment. I’m talking about marriage and music. I can’t get my head around not being married, so maybe it’s because I was with Jane for almost 40 years and I just have to get used to my new status… don’t know, but I think about it a lot for sure. And music, specifically my guitar and playing in a band of some sort; I first played about 45 years ago in a small time rock group earning a regular 8 guineas per gig whilst I was still at school… I think about this all the time as well.

Over the years I’ve learned to trust the Lord when he speaks. And for me he always warms my heart towards that which pleases him. I want to live as a married man and I want to play in a band. But what chance has this middle aged widower with average musical talent got for either of those things to come to pass? Not a lot… it would take a miracle. Maybe I’m just muddled up in my thinking as I try and adjust to my new reality. Maybe my partially healed emotions are messing about with what I really want, whatever that is. And yes at root all I really want is to please the Lord in whatever way he chooses. But I suppose if nothing else I’m facing up to the harsh reality of a lost youth being gone forever… or is it?

 Psalm 37:4 ‘Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you your heart’s desires.’ (NLT)