Wednesday, June 27, 2012

27th June 2012

Given enough time all things change. Yes nature runs through it’s seasons month by month, year after year, and that’s good. It’ll always be so. And when we go through our season of trouble it’s reassuring to know that somewhere down the line things will get better. They say time is a great healer, and for sure painful memories fade eventually, but deep seated trauma can take hold and cause permanently damage. The end of life care that I chose to provide for Jane was not easy for me for any number of reasons. Not least because over some years I surrendered just about every personal desire in order to give her my whole attention. Whatever she wanted, whatever she needed I tried hard to provide. She deserved it, and a whole lot more. Many times though, I felt emotionally and physically wrecked as my CFS troubled body cried out for relief from the continual battle. But now she’s gone. And in one sense my own life has come to an end as well. I feel very selfish at the moment as I find it hard to really engage with the needs of others. Yes I can empathise and even shed a few tears when I come across situations, but when it comes down to anything practical I’m basically out if town. I can’t cope. I’m all out of give. Though if asked I’ll always respond, it’s just that I don’t go looking to help in the way I once might have. I don’t like living like this, it doesn’t fit who I am. But until I recover my health, until I get my head straight that’s where I’m at.

Sometimes I think about the measure of love that Jane and I shared and the emotional challenge of providing palliative care in the home. And I wonder if I must find engagement of equal measure to move on. Whatever, I do believe in living life with great passion and I need to keep my eyes open for a new adventure. The last 40 years have been wonderful, the next will be even more so. But only the Lord can make it so.

Psalm 16:11 You will show me the way of life, granting me the joy of your presence and the pleasures of living with you forever’ (NLT)

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

26th June 2012

There’s something very Godly about embracing brokenness… for a season! The tree in my pic has gone way too far though and for sure there’s no way back! Occasionally over the years I’ve come across people who’ve been assaulted by great personal challenge, maybe through bereavement or otherwise broken relationship. Many have struggled to deal with financial disorder or sexual compulsion. Others are damaged with a basic lack of social skills, and then some just have a downright bad attitude. I love to come alongside those who genuinely desire change, though I’m not sure about my staying power if I sense that I’m being used. Yes I’ve seen far too many become trapped for years, unable to move on for whatever reason. Usually a deep seated mental block that demands a revelation of truth and release of power from heaven itself. Third party prayer and counsel often help for a time, but permanent change is sealed when we take personal responsibility and reach out to the Lord ourselves.

When confronting the need for change in an area of challenge we all can benefit from a little support. Sometimes a little sympathy and encouragement is all we need to motivate a step in the right direction. I feel a little like that today. I do have a few people around me, encouraging, sympathising and I could be in a far more difficult position than where I actually find myself. Yes I feel like the tree in my picture right now as if all the good things in my life are a bit broken. I know that’s not true, and I’m not talking about my wonderful family and friends. But that’s how I feel. Broken. So, again, that’s not necessarily a bad place to be in. For a season. I can be stubborn bloke. Aren’t we all? And I do try and work things out… all the time. I’m no longer a young kid, I’ve done a lot of stuff, I have mature skills in lot’s of different areas. I know how to fit a kitchen, change a car engine, double dig a veg patch and lead several hundred worshippers into the presence of God. Give me a rock band and I’ll teach them a great version of Good Golly Miss Molly! Give me an interview and I’ll agree a financial plan for the whole of your life complete with introduction into God’s plan of salvation for the afterlife. Ok, my financial services product licence has expired but I’ll do the second bit no problem.

But sometimes we need to lay down our earthly understanding and just meet with God. I can do things my way or I can do things God’s way. My way is a lot better than when I was a young man and believed that Gaffa Tape, WD40 and a 13mm spanner could mend almost anything. But nothing compares with yielding to God and his complete understanding of every area of life. I’ve spent a lot of time with the bereaved, I know a lot of stuff. Right now that’s not enough. I need the Lord. And the less of me there is to hinder that which he would do in my life the better. I’m a broken man. And that’s a good place to be. I don’t want to patch myself up, just to get by. I want to be made whole, to live life to the full, to embrace love and joy and peace and hope and every good thing that the Lord sets before me. Only God can do that.

John 3:30 He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less.’ (NLT)

Monday, June 25, 2012

25th June 2012

Now that’s not something you see every day. Over 50 swans all sharing the same space without a hint of territorial argument. I found them in the canal basin at Stratford a few years ago, and I reckon they’re well able to cope with their normally ‘difficult’ companions when tourists are throwing food at them all day. Yes, they’re a happy bunch for sure, perfectly adapted to their surroundings and actually thriving, though I cannot conceive of there being any real predators to worry about. Maybe the occasional barge to avoid and that’s about it.

I’m quite seriously ill with CFS at the moment and need to find a way to break out of the ongoing relapse. It’s all very frustrating. Today I completely gave up trying to manage my activity levels. After coming downstairs one step at a time, which just feels stupid when I’m quite a strong bloke able to walk several miles on a good day, I spent the morning collapsed in a chair. Come lunchtime I decided to ignore how I felt and picked up my paintbrush to continue decorating. Fortunately a friend called around after I’d been working for only a short time and so an early coffee break stalled my recklessness. But late afternoon I picked the brush up again and made reasonable progress, though how it affects my fatigue levels I won’t know until tomorrow. I can’t get much worse that’s for sure.

Somehow I need to work harder at adapting to my surroundings. I’m ill, I can do very little to affect that. I’m widowed, I can do nothing about that whatsoever. These are both things that I have to accept. At least today. For sure God has allowed them to come my way and he is the only one who can change things. Maybe tomorrow he will, though science has no cure for my illness and of course I’ve tried everything on offer. In the meantime my focus has to be upon the Lord and the good things that he is doing; not upon the things that he is yet to do.

Luke 1:37 For nothing is impossible with God’ (NLT)

Sunday, June 24, 2012

24th June 2012

Sometimes life gets messy. And despite the best of intentions we just have to live with it. For a time anyway. Am I the only one to shortcut much needed cleaning when feeling tired? For the whole of my life I gave very little thought to the problem of spider’s webs. Very, very rarely I might have found one that needed dealing with. Usually around the back of a heavy piece of furniture that only I would move out of it’s place. Basically though, they just didn’t exist in my house. Until a few months ago, when I suddenly realised they were quite plainly visible in almost every corner of every room. Then I remembered Jane quite proudly showing off some sort of duster on a long stick which she used at every opportunity to clean our ceilings. She always knew how to deal with mess. I feel like a complete amateur.

A year or two ago, in my TV watching days, I remember a contestant in Masterchef being gently ribbed about his somewhat messy approach to cooking. Yet he produced amazing food, every time. My son’s just like that, indeed there ought to be some sort of warning sign in our kitchen when he’s at work! It may take a couple of days to clean up but the results are absolutely wonderful. Yes, he sure knows how to produce something good from the biggest mess. And my pic today is of my granddaughter hard at work in every child’s favourite activity… hand painting. I reckon just about every good artist has something of the child at work within them. They love to create work from the messiest of materials, often with the messiest methodology. At times Jane’s hands were totally wrecked as she often discarded brushes and palette knives and simply used her fingers. To great effect. This week I even donned rubber gloves when using a paintbrush to decorate. And my excuse is that I need to protect my musician’s hands…

My life feels rather messy at the moment. Nothing really organised due to out of control emotions and poor health. And of course as I gaze around I can see my vacuum really will have to have an outing tomorrow morning. Not this evening though. I need to prioritise listening to the Lord. So now I’m believing that my messy life will be transformed into a thing of beauty by the God of heaven.

Isaiah 61:3 To all who mourn in Israel, he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair.’ (NLT)

Saturday, June 23, 2012

23rd June 2012

I wonder what graduation in heaven looks like. Nothing like our experience at Derby University just a few years ago, I’m sure. For a start I wasn’t there to put my arm around Jane when she arrived. And surely there’ll be something rather more special to wear as well… I still have that shirt and jacket in my wardrobe, maybe it’s time to go shopping again! Then again this photo was taken in the main student entrance area which looks far more like the local pub than anything else. So what will heaven look like? Like nothing on earth I reckon. The perfect presence of Almighty God will fill the place with the most wonderful glory, his peace and understanding will be almost tangible and every trace of evil will be banished. There’ll be no locksmiths in heaven, so there skills will need challenging in a different arena. Maybe the police will find occasional occupation organising crowd control, but otherwise be completely redundant. And as for bankers or any financial service, well I can’t really conceive of any need for currency in God’s perfect provision of everything we need. Imagine a baker who just loves to bake, amongst other things of course. And a farmer who loves to grow stuff. Or a technology guy who loves to create new gadgets. And so much more… all done solely for the love of doing, a complete reward in itself. There’ll be no selfishness, so no hesitation in everyone just giving and giving and giving after doing what they love best to do. Though quite likely we’ll all enjoy career change every now and again as well. Ok, this is just me speculating and the reality will be far better than any of my ideas!

Graduation to Heaven Checklist
1. Admit that I have been living my way and not how God wants. The Bible calls this sin and separates us from the Lord. The Bible says the penalty for sin is death.

2. Believe in who Jesus is, the Son of God, born as a man who was the only person ever to have lived a perfect life, a life without any sin whatsoever. He was wrongly convicted then executed, taking our deserved punishment for sin upon himself. He then rose from the dead having conquered death itself, all so that we might receive forgiveness and know God in our lives for all eternity.

3. Commit to living God’s way, not our way.

Some first steps… read the Bible, join a church and then of course, baptism in water is the perfect opportunity to confess new life. Ok, I’ve passed that particular list. It’s the post-graduate course I’m still working on…

Romans 10:9 If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.’ (NLT)

Friday, June 22, 2012

22nd June 2012

There’s no point trying to live in the past. This evening I was thinking that I really could do with something to brighten the day, to bring a little colour back into my life. Of course this spring crocus is well and truly gone for another year now, but it was a very welcome splash of colour a couple of months ago. So now I have a very plain and completely green garden once again. All rather boring, but at the moment the whole thing feels like a chore that needs avoiding. Jane and I almost lived outdoors at times and absolutely loved it. Every step I take across the lawn reminds me of her. I can’t keep on engaging with that too much, so I’ll live with the weeds and overgrown flowerbeds for another year. That’s no problem, I don’t mind. Dealing with the emotional entanglement of the past is another story though, as I cannot continue living in a grief storm much longer. It triggers a CFS relapse, and I’m totally fed up with being so ill all the time. Living with total exhaustion and a permanent bad head is not my idea of a fun life. Sometime soon I’ll have to go camping again. That always works out well.

Yes, I’m struggling with motivation right now; somehow I need to engage with the new, to take a hold of life with fresh passion. The old way of doing things has lost it’s appeal. Actually just about everything has lost it’s appeal, I’m clean out of enthusiasm. I know I need help, and I’ve lost my number one helper… Jane. She truly was a gift from God and together we battled through every obstacle that life put in front of us. And there were many. Today I have my kids and a few others around me. But it can never be the same, they all have their own challenges and I’m much more inclined to support them than have them support me. So unless the Lord gives me another partner, he alone is my helper, my companion through the trials of life. And truth be told I need no other, he is my all sufficient one, especially in the midst of bereavement, the greatest challenge of my life.

Acts 3:20 Then times of refreshment will come from the presence of the Lord’ (NLT)

Thursday, June 21, 2012

21st June 2012

There’s always another way of seeing things.  Artists are particularly good at exploring that idea, and so this is part of my daughter’s degree work from some years ago. Though it really is light years away from her current preoccupation with finely detailed pen drawings. And a little pic on a computer screen really doesn’t do this one justice, especially as I seem to remember it being rather too large to even fit over my fireplace. Anyway I think it’s a great alternate worldview and to me makes much more sense than any humanist influenced atheistic philosophy. But I could never imagine the world without a creator God, it makes no sense; I’d rather imagine planet earth as some sort of distant relative of Mars, complete with a giant space station hanging over Australia. There’s got to be a good storyline somewhere in that idea I reckon. Hey, are those alien spaceships I can see? Can’t wait to make first contact… yes I know, I’ve been reading too much sci-fi just lately!

I try hard not to be religious. It seems to me that religion is a major ingredient in putting folk off of church. It sure puts me off anyway, and I love going to church meetings. Maybe I need to qualify that statement by defining my understanding of what religion is. To me religion is man-made, man inspired and having little ongoing interaction with God. It often has at root an historical move of the Lord that was undeniably genuine, but more relevant to the past than the present. I’m as guilty of this as many others. It’s good to remember the hand of God’s favour upon our lives when we look back, but it’s not so good when we pigeon hole the past work of the Lord. We should expect the new; our past need not define our future. The only constant is the Word of God as found in the Bible, everything else is stuff we make up. The world has many ideas exploring the purpose of existence, but at heart is the simple decision we all have to make concerning the claims of Christ. His life split our calendar in two and even today divides the world between those who follow and those who don’t. His is a message of love and compassion, gentle and caring, yet filled with the power of faith and the determination of hope. He has the answer to the evil grip of sin, every illness and even death itself. To use unbiblical religion, human philosophy and science to create an alternate worldview is foolishness in the extreme as none can stand against the wisdom of God.

I only want to do the things I see my Father in heaven doing today… not yesterday. The person who was not healed yesterday may well get healed today, the unemployed find work, the impoverished receive provision, the lonely find companionship and the lost find a way home…

Psalm 144:9 I will sing a new song to you, O God!’ (NLT)

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

20th June 2012

Our destiny need not be determined by our present location. So then, did Claude Monet really need his garden in Giverny as inspiration? Was it the gardens and their lily pond that inspired the impressionist movement, or was it the man himself, together with his friends, and how they chose to see the world? Maybe, just maybe if he’d lived in Allestree and visited Kedleston and it’s willow trees as I did this afternoon he’d still have changed the face of the art world. And I’m sure we could find have found work for his colleagues as well. I can just imagine Renoir studying the local populace in Derby Market Place as they dine outdoors on a summers evening, and Degas would have fitted in quite perfectly in a ballet class down at the local church hall. Then Cezanne would surely be well content with a still life created from my garden apples perhaps perched on one of my wonky chairs, though I can’t remember coming across a group of nudes posing in Allestree Woods just recently. Ok never! It seems these great artists all met as students at a local Art School… so we’ve got one of them set up at the local uni as well, complete with a Thirsty Scholar to drink the evenings away. Yes they’d have been right at home in Derby I’m sure, though I guess we’re 150 years too late. Never mind.

Today I am a middle aged widower. My life has changed forever, though after 40 years of marriage I feel unable to imagine another way of living. But then again the chances of finding a second soul mate are quite remote and I really can’t imagine even beginning to seek out another relationship. Then I’m also too ill to work with an ongoing problem with CFS; and for many years I led various teams as I engaged with voluntary work at church, but no longer. Very occasionally I’m set to task on a one off solo event. Apart from my 24 year old son all my kids have married and left home, so I’m all done with that as well. So is that it for Dave? I could get depressed thinking about how I ended up like this, my life was so very full not so long ago. Too full, providing palliative care for Jane I suppose, which partly explains my withdrawal from much church involvement. Ok, I know I still need space to recover from that ordeal, but looking around I feel no inspiration to re-engage and almost no opportunity set before me anyway. At least in the areas I have experience in. So again, is that it, am I done doing stuff for God? Should I embrace early retirement and go pleasure seek? God forbid, as that holds no attraction whatsoever. I’m a worker, that’s all I want to do. To serve God, to make a difference and all the rest of it. But I feel stuck in a rut of ill health exacerbated by grief. I can do nothing without the Lord’s leading and enabling. Today he says my destiny is not determined by my present location…

Matthew 17:20-21 ‘I tell you the truth, if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it would move. Nothing would be impossible’ (NLT)

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

19th June 2012

It’s a Dickens of a choice, whether to pick up Great Expectations or stay with Bleak House. Mind you the interloper Treasure Island sounds fun as well. I could just do with an adventure like that. Yes let’s sail away to a tropical island, chase off a few pirates and work out if X really does mark the spot. Ok, maybe not just yet, as today really does feel quite bleak. I’m really struggling with Chronic Fatigue again. Everything has to come to a halt when I’m this ill, and I’m seriously fed up. I need engagement, even simple entertainment would be welcome. Playing Tower Defence on my phone may pass the time, but it sure is a waste of time. For me anyway. Though I’m not gonna let the thing beat me! At least I have plenty of books to work through, and I do enjoy reading. But don’t get the wrong idea… these are really Jane’s books and not exactly my choice. My taste tends to change from time to time, but basically I’ve landed quite squarely in sci-fi, judging that extreme escapism is excusable for a season. Mind you, the Science Fiction folder on my Kindle now has 69 full length novels in it and I’ve read almost all of them in the past 12 months. Perhaps it’s time to move on to a different genre. Or even a different occupation.

I’m fed up living in a Bleak House and feeling down. I’ve never actually read the book though I have watched the TV adaptation, at least a couple of times and thoroughly enjoyed it; but one thing struck me, the house named after the book title was misnamed, for sure. It just wasn’t at all bleak, despite the troubles of those living there and certainly compared with any of the other homes portrayed. And that was down to the wonderfully generous and caring benefactor who owned it, and yes he had a lovely gentle spirit. My life may well have been blighted by premature bereavement but that is not the whole picture. Of course Jesus Christ is the true head of my life and the main influence upon the atmosphere that I seek to live in. I will live with hope, and peace and not a little joy… and I certainly have great expectations for the rest of my days. The best is yet to come, especially as I’ve just found Treasure Island in a freebie folder on my Kindle!

James 1:5-8 If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. But when you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God alone. Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind. Such people should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Their loyalty is divided between God and the world, and they are unstable in everything they do.’ (NLT)

Monday, June 18, 2012

18th June 2012

Sometimes life is sad. It just is. And that’s how I feel today. Tired and very sad, as though simply getting through the day is a real effort. I almost can’t be bothered. Almost. But I do, and I will persevere as no matter the depths of grief, I cannot deny the hope that always burns deep within my heart. Some days it’s hidden a little deeper than others. Like today. But always there. Though in reality all I have is hope, as nothing clear is set before me. I keep thinking my active life is coming to an end. No not my actual life, I see no reason not to expect a few more decades ahead of me. I want to work again though, I hate being ill, it seems such a waste of time. I spent an hour or so decorating today and ended up completely exhausted. That is so frustrating. I just want to be normal again. I love to work; I really have had enough of resting the days away. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is rubbish!

Oh Lord, help me to be patient, forgive me for complaining; help me to persevere with all that you, and only you set before me. Thankyou for the good things you do bless me with day by day. Thank you for my lovely children, the encouragement of my sons-in law and the delight that grandchildren bring. But my God will you heal me? Set me to task once again, I want to make music, I want to care for the needy and share the reality of your goodness with all that cross my path. Fill my heart, fill my life with your love, I want to help build your church, I want to find that special place of belonging once again. Show me a way forward, please Lord, and let your Kingdom come, let your will be done in my life as in heaven…

John 14:13 You can ask for anything in my name, and I will do it’ (NLT)

Sunday, June 17, 2012

17th June 2012

What a lovely smile, yeah don’t they make a happy couple! Yes more miniature cows to talk about today. And close inspection reveals consecutively numbered ear tags, so I guess they’re sticking together for the duration, for better or for worse as it were. They should be safe for a while though, as they were purchased  initially to graze an area of conservation woodland. But I can’t say the same about the hundreds of fast growing lambs in the nearby meadows as I guess few will ever see a birthday. What a strange and very short life some animals face. Then again, given the beautiful surroundings and quality care things could be an awful lot worse.

And everything about my life feels strange nowadays. Nothing is normal anymore. I loved being part of a happy couple doing the ‘for better or worse, until death did us part’ thing. I’m still finding my feet as single bloke, wondering what I should or shouldn’t do. I have no restrictions, I’m completely free to do anything I want. But what do I want? Well as a ‘good’ Christian there are many proscribed behaviours I wouldn’t pursue. Not just because my Bible says not to either; no for me the hedonistic pathway of wine women and song holds little if any attraction. It leads nowhere, so I won’t even begin to walk along it. One thing I’m beginning to discover though, is how simple it is to change long term patterns of behaviour. So for example I’ve always been a bit of a news junkie, quite happy watching or listening to reports multiple times throughout each day. Not so good really. But no longer, as without forethought I started filling my day up with alternate activity, and suddenly realised that some days my TV never once got turned on. How weird is that? I suppose the basic lesson is that I need to keep busy in a healthy way and there’ll be no space left for temptation to steer into the less helpful.

Philippians 4:8 And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honourable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.’ (NLT)

Saturday, June 16, 2012

16th June 2012

A single tear
I’m waiting
For the sound of heaven
Voice of an angel
Yet every breath

Then ne’er a word
But footfall
Springs lightly from on high
Footsteps on the stairs
She comes to me
Standing tall

Near me to sit
As ever
This womanly vision
Who once was my wife
Called to glory

Isaiah 6:5 Then I said, “It’s all over!’ (NLT)

Friday, June 15, 2012

15th June 2012

“Come on kids, it’s time to do a runner! You see that guy over there, the one with a camera, he sure looks like trouble!” If I thought raising 4 kids was a challenge, how about this pair with double that number? Obviously they don’t know me very well, as even though Canada Geese may be seen by some as Britain’s most loathsome bird, I quite like them. Apparently they mate for life, and they’re obviously protective of their young. I love to see them flying and honking in their large V formation, so I guess they have some sense of community as well. I’m not so keen on the mess they make of every local park though, yes they can be a bit of a pest. But it’s not their fault; I blame King Charles II for introducing them in the first place…

I’ve had another good day, though borderline doing too much. I’ve been decorating again, so once I get geared up and start painting it’s annoying to have to stop before finishing. I did pause for a couple of hours, part way through, after I felt a prompt from the Lord. So that was good. Then some very welcome news as the post arrived. It seems I’ve dodged a bullet myself today! After years of walking with Jane through countless interviews, giving results from scans looking for cancer, I found it rather challenging to voluntarily place myself in the same position. Ok it was only an age related routine screening as I have no related symptoms whatsoever. Nonetheless I stalled engaging with the offer for several weeks after it came through the post. I just couldn’t face it. Last week I did feel a prompt to just get on with it, so I did. And today a letter arrived giving me the obvious all clear. It may not sound like a big deal, but I guess I’m still a little traumatised after spending so many years supporting Jane in that world. Christian rock band Delirious wrote a song with a verse related to chemo, and they used a very powerful phrase which I find helps when facing any fear… ‘Stare the monster down’. No matter what we face there is one who is greater than every adversity. His name is Jesus and I choose to be carried in his arms of love.

1 John 4:4 You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.’ (NIV)

Thursday, June 14, 2012

14th June 2012

No matter the challenge, press on through. Yes, my path was seemingly blocked this afternoon by a herd of miniature cattle, each one still approaching half a ton and including at least one bull. Those horns at the back sure look sharp and one has a nose ring, so maybe more temperamental… naah, a bunch of softies these are, though I really wouldn’t want to get into an argument with any of them. I’ve had a good day today, aside from my walk I’ve managed to achieve quite a lot back at home. Painting my staircase, followed by preparation for the next section. But it feels very satisfying being able to tackle a much needed job and I can’t wait to get on with it tomorrow. And I do feel quite well now, so the trick will be to make sure I don’t overdo it. Activity management is the key, though the greatest challenge, as always, is simply saying no when temptation to live normally is set before me. Slow but steady. One day, I’ll break out of the dreaded Chronic Fatigue Syndrome cycle of ill health.

Prayer is one of my biggest challenges. I suppose the disappointment of losing Jane after so much prayer, from so many people all around the world has had not a little effect upon my perseverance in that arena. But I do persevere. And will continue to do so, for sure. So, I’m reminded that there was once a man who always prayed perfect prayers, and those prayers were always answered, completely perfectly. I’m obviously talking about the Lord Jesus and a couple of interesting events in his life come to mind. In Mark 8 we read of the time he healed a blind man, and the first attempt was only partially successful. It took a further step to completely restore the man’s eyes. I find that encouraging. I will persevere.

On another occasion Jesus asked his Father to save him from the most terrible ordeal that would lead to his own death. In the Garden of Gethsemane just before his arrest, he knew he was facing execution and prayed for deliverance. Not just any prayer either, as such was his fervency he even burst a blood vessel! Yet throughout this greatest cry of prayer he prayed ‘Not my will, but yours’. Sometimes God’s purposes are greater than any suffering we may face and our prayer must always seek God’s will over our own needs. I don’t find that easy.

Luke 22:41-44 ’He walked away, about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” Then an angel from heaven appeared and strengthened him. He prayed more fervently, and he was in such agony of spirit that his sweat fell to the ground like great drops of blood. (NLT)

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

13th June 2012

After a long day at work it’s always nice to have someone waiting back at home. Ok I can’t imagine ever living in Waddesdon Manor, an historic Rothschild property. It just wouldn’t suit me! But we all have to live somewhere, don’t we? So a particularly wealthy banking baron may well feel completely at home in this place, whereas I prefer somewhere much more modest. And much as I enjoy visiting, via the National Trust, and seeing how the other half once lived, I really don’t belong anywhere like this. And even my 1920’s 3 bed semi is far too big for just me and my son; one day I’ll downsize to something more manageable I guess. Our property buying days ground to a halt over 30 years ago when we moved here and just loved the environment, despite our constant need for more space. Anyway right now my house no longer feels like home, I belong somewhere else.

I often think about heaven. And I wonder what Jane is doing right now; yes I do miss her so very much. She’ll be waiting for me, I know, and watching for so many of the family and friends that she knew in this life. But I don’t believe she has more than the barest glimpse of my new life and those she loved. Surely having heaven filled with tears, sharing in the upset of those still journeying in this life, just wouldn’t fit. Our hearts beat as one, we knew each other in the closest possible way; we shared absolutely everything, our hopes and dreams, our fears and failings... it’s all ended now. At least until I get to join her. Then for sure we’ll live and love in a way that cannot possibly be imagined on this side of that great divide, the step into eternity that we all will take one day. But there’s no greater peace than the assurance of salvation, the certainty that one day I get to live forever with my God. And the wife of my youth.

Till he returns or calls me home. Here in the power of Christ I’ll stand! (A great modern hymn written by Keith Getty & Stuart Townend).

Philippians 3:20 But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Saviour.’ (NLT)

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

12th June 2012

When our kids fell and hurt themselves we’d bandage their wounds, and then hug until it didn’t hurt anymore. As often as not we’d distract with a treat. So at the end of 2006 Jane had her first major op with subsequent urgent phone call from her surgeon explaining a cancer problem. Within days she was engaging with radiotherapy, so for sure that was a pretty big fall and Jane needed a real treat to distract. At the first opportunity we headed for the Costa Brava, and as it was out of season that worked well for us. We had a great time and after the pretty horrid treatment Jane had endured, life felt good once again. So then being new to the cancer journey, with no idea of what was ahead, we were ready to put the whole ordeal well and truly behind us. Jane was brilliant at coping with difficulty and then moving on. I could do with her help and inspiration right now…

Yes I’m feeling a little low. I’ve not had the easiest of days either, having spent time decorating and gardening. Both activities that I shared with Jane, so I can’t help but remember the times we’d work until the early hours when we were young. That was often the only way when raising children. And I took Jane’s mum out to her old folks meeting this morning; of course she ended up crying again about Jane, though this time she also started talking about Jane’s dad, who died some 30 years ago. All very sad. As was a visit from my parents with a reminder of happier times in a video from the early 2000’s.

I need to get away again, I suppose. Maybe I need a treat, but right now no treat I can imagine means anything much. And I do keep getting a glimpse of a new way of living that is not totally unattractive. I never asked for it, I never wanted it but the thought of being completely independent as a single person certainly has advantages… I’d still rather be married though.

Psalm 147:3 He heals the brokenhearted and bandages their wounds. (NLT)

Monday, June 11, 2012

11th June 2012

Slow progress, for sure, but I reckon I’ve turned a corner and can see daylight just ahead. Yes, recovering from a Chronic Fatigue Syndrome relapse is quite straightforward… basically do very little for a few days, and then be very picky about any stressful activity! The real challenge is in avoiding another fall into ill health when temptation to overdo things comes along. I’m not very good at that, I like to do stuff and keep busy, I hate idleness. Hey, I managed a little decorating this morning and then went shopping. So two jobs in one day is pretty good at the moment. But it’s not enough, as at the moment my list of things to do is getting longer and longer. I’m just not catching up on the work around my home. And that is so frustrating.

Somehow I need to reach out to God for grace and wisdom to live today and find a way forward. I can’t imagine living without hope and for me that needs to be a tangible hope, not a figment of my imagination or even an intellectual reasoning. I’ve walked with the Lord for almost 30 years; the reality of his presence has been proven time and time again with so many answers to prayer. My faith in God is certain, and anytime I need to understand his way of doing things I simply open my Bible. I trust that more than any other book ever written. And I trust the person of God more than any other, so I have a simple rule… I have determined to live my life in accordance with scripture; anything contrary to God’s word is not of the Lord.

Isaiah 42:16 ‘So I will lead them along paths they had not known before. I will guide them on roads they are not familiar with. I will turn the darkness into light as they travel. I will make the rough places smooth.’ (NIV)

Sunday, June 10, 2012

10th June 2012

I need to stay on the trail, following the signposts. A gap in the trees helps me see where I’m going, and it doesn’t look that far… all I have to do is climb over a few fences, avoiding any barbed wire the local farmer has decided to employ and I’ll get there more quickly. I’m sure I can cross the ditch and a rather high wall I know about, no problem. But that’s not what I do, so it’s the long way round for Dave. And I’d much rather walk through the woods than across a grassy meadow any day. Playing Hopscotch with sheep droppings is not my idea of fun! The last time I walked here I got caught in a thunderstorm, so I did take the short way back across a field though still ended up rather damp. Today was great and felt wonderfully peaceful as I walked with God as my companion. And I was more than happy to walk the long walk; indeed if I wasn’t still carrying a foot injury I’d have been tempted to tackle a second trail in a different direction.

Then, as I walked it seemed to me that the Lord spoke. For many years, even decades, I worked incredibly hard. Too hard… yes overwork is quite probably an ingredient in my becoming ill with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. I remember a school report, when I was aged about 11, using the word conscientious and wonder if I’ve taken it a little too much to heart. I’ve always tried to do the right thing by other people and only most recently tried to look after myself just a little. I still instinctively push hard though. Today the Lord was talking about entering his rest. Obviously a principle I’ve tried to adopt for many years, but the difference now is that God is speaking, it’s not just my understanding. And his words have life. This morning my church pastor preached and made an interesting observation about children. They’re totally dependent upon parental support for their care needs. So a good parent will provide food, shelter, education, friends and all the rest of it. The very young can do nothing to help any of that. I’m guilty of doing too much in my own strength, I need to let go and let God look after me as a child would. Where he leads I will follow, the work I see him doing I will do. No shortcut by climbing fences taking my own idea of a route through life; I need to stay on God’s trail. That’s the plan anyway!

Psalm 23
The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need.
He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams.
He renews my strength.
He guides me along right paths, bringing honour to his name.
Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me.
Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me.
You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies.
You honour me by anointing my head with oil.
My cup overflows with blessings.
Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the Lord forever.’ (NLT)

Saturday, June 09, 2012

9th June 2012

We should be careful about where our food comes from. Sure, I guess these swans are designed to feed by poking around in the mud at the bottom of an inky black lake. But we’re not! Over the past few years I’ve become more diligent in trying to understand the food I eat; though is true to say my perseverance is often governed by my emotional well-being and the quick fix of processed food. My focus quite recently was upon a cancer recovery diet and also understanding Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. I’ve never had a weight issue, so my aims lie elsewhere and I eat an organic vegetarian diet, with fish and dairy. In practise I’m almost teetotal, drinking limited coffee, fruit juice and as much bottled or filtered water as I can manage. I’m really trying to limit my toxic intake whilst eating a fairly balanced diet. I’m a newbie cook but I’m getting there.

A greater challenge is my faith journey. And I must ask the obvious question… is Jesus truly at the centre of my life and do I really care about the needs of others more than my own? Then, what about my inner purity? I rarely watch TV and few movies as they lead me down a pathway I don’t want to walk. Too much bad language, graphic violence and sex. No way do I seek to condemn or judge others, that’s none of my business; I just know I’m not strong enough to cope with regular exposure to a lifestyle that’s not for me. No matter the entertainment value. I find it too easy to become desensitised and accept unacceptable behaviour as normal. But what am I feeding on? Do I really want to become like so many of the hero figures portrayed in such media? Or do I want to become more like Jesus and prepare myself for a life in eternity… in heaven there’ll be no bad language, violence or sex in our entertainment. For some reason it seems that such content is not just acceptable, but necessary, and much as I might enjoy it I know it’s not good for me. A bit like too many cream cakes with pizzas and beer and whatever…

Matthew 4:4 Jesus answered, “It is written: Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”’ (NLT)

Friday, June 08, 2012

8th June 2012

We can never deny the cry of our hearts. A few days ago my son started to talk about the pair of us making a trip to New York. Within hours he began to backtrack, as reason suggested buying a car would be much more sensible. But, as of a few minutes ago, he’s still drawn to an adventure across the Atlantic. It’s on his heart for sure. So I had a quick look through the photos taken on my visit there in 2003 and found this. Yes, I managed to find a woodland wilderness in one of the world’s greatest metropolises. Of course it’s Central Park, and I’m guessing looking west, as the building in the distance reminds me of the apartment where John Lennon lived. My point is… whatever I do, wherever I go, my heart grows warm when I find myself walking through the countryside. I love being outdoors, it’s who I am. So despite the excitement of a few days in The Big Apple, and don’t get me wrong it was a great visit, and I would do it all over again no problem; but if it really came down to it, I’d just as soon go camping.

Sooner or later we always take heed of our hearts desire, as trying to ignore the things that we really care about, for an extended period of time, can be soul destroying. Determination is not enough, but it is possible to reshape our desires. I remember many years ago being told by my dentist to cut back on sugar. I did, though coffee tasted awful for a few weeks. Nowadays I wouldn’t dream of ruining a good cup in that way. My taste changed. And it’s exactly the same with my heart, there are many things I’ve desired that ‘taste sweet’ but are ultimately bad for me. So I’ve learned the value of spending time with the Lord, understanding how to please him, and now my heart’s desires are becoming more and more like his. Now I’m working on turning aside from the quick fix, short term pleasure, in favour of the long term deep rooted peace that comes from a life that pleases God. I’m not ready to put aside my L-Plates just yet though…

Right now my greatest desire is to embrace the life I lived with Jane for so many years. That can never happen. So I have to change, I cannot remain fixated upon the past. And for me, the Lord is the only one who can help with that. I will live God’s way, and he will refill my heart with Godly love for life once again.

Proverbs 4:23 Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.’ (NLT)

Thursday, June 07, 2012

7th June 2012

I keep thinking a Hobbit might appear just around the next bend… was the amusing aside made by my friend as we walked into yesterday’s thunderstorm. And on reflection I reckon that expectation, or even just the hope of a new encounter is a big part of the attraction of my woodland walks. No, I’m not thinking about Hobbits, I've long decided that I need to keep walking until my life changes… ok right now it’s more of a hobble as I have a puzzling problem with one of my feet. But I still keep going, though very slowly and with not a little pain. I need to meet with God, and for me getting back to nature is the absolute best way to quieten the complicated distractions of 21st century city life. I love the peace and quiet, the fragrant smells and the beautiful birdsong that follow me everywhere. Occasionally, the rousing hum of gathering insects has me scurrying along, but really that is the only threat. It’s my safe place.

My hope is that one day I’ll reach a crossroads, with an option to change direction. Maybe it’ll be the Lord whispering ‘go do’, maybe he’ll send someone to help me see and hear more clearly. Whatever, I will change direction! My heart burns with a desire to honour God and serve the needy in some way or other. I can still do stuff, so that’s my plan. In the meantime I’ll make music in my heart and sing to the Lord with my whole being; yes I’ll keep walking, just got to get around the next bend…

Genesis 3:8 When the cool evening breezes were blowing, the man and his wife heard the Lord God walking about in the garden.’ (NLT)

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

6th June 2012

We ignore warning signs at our peril. Whether they be placed on a crumbling sea wall or in the never ending battle for health. Even today I made a simple mistake, sort of, yes a lovely sunny afternoon and a weather forecast that seemed to suggest the possibility of showers, though of course I missed the thunderstorm bit. A gentle and pleasant 3 mile stroll around Kedleston beckoned as my friend and I considered the European economic crisis and the work of God in the world. What’s that? A very light shower barely touched us through the heavy tree canopy in the woods… but then a prolonged thundering cloudburst changed our ideas completely. We’re neither of us young enough to have left full wet weather gear at home so it was no real problem, just not a lot of fun. But we never saw it coming.

Just like my recent holiday; I so much want to leave my grief journey behind, and I felt so good, so of course wrong expectations grew too soon. So today I remain in the deep waters of recent bereavement. It feels recent anyway, and 12 months is not really that long for sure. I totally refuse to live here forever though. I’m gonna learn to swim, live and love my life once again.

Isaiah 43:2 When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown.’ (NLT)

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

5th June 2012

We only remember the good times… yes, it’s often tempting to look back and say that life was once rather better than it is today. That’s obviously true for my tulips, but is it true for me? Well right now I feel pretty much exactly like my picture, somewhat past my best! I don’t actually believe it, though I can’t deny today’s feelings. Nonetheless I cling to the stubborn hope of a changed life, a new beginning; however first I’m working on ending the old one. I keep getting a glimpse of a way forward, and that vision was particularly clear whilst I was away last week. Over the past year I focussed my attention upon my journey through bereavement, and of course I’m not quite ready to close the door on that part of my life. But it is apparent that I have to work harder on restoring and maintaining health, as the lesson from the weekend is that when I overdo things I become ill with Chronic Fatigue. I’ve always known that, it’s lesson number one, but now I have a fuller understanding of how serious fatigue opens a door to grief. When we’re ill we all need someone to look after us…

For years I’ve sought to carefully manage my activity levels, sometimes more successfully than others. Spending a couple of weeks away on my own, in the sunshine, was wonderfully beneficial. I felt great when I returned home. Ready to tackle life head on again. But all it took was a couple of evenings and all day Saturday in a church conference and I’m back in the world of pain and heavy fatigue again. Most annoying, but not irrecoverable. As soon as I get just a little stronger I’ll be able to drive and find a field to go park my motorhome again. That always works.

So then, if I could, would I really want to turn the clock back and recover my life with Jane? For over a decade she suffered serious ill health, and lived with a death sentence for over 4 of those years. No way would I want to go back to that, no matter her stoic resolve to live normally. She deserves the reward she receives today. The pain of bereavement is nothing, absolutely nothing compared with all that she went through. I’ll get there, I’ll be stronger than ever as a person and I will serve the Lord with my whole being for the rest of my life. It truly is a privilege to know God and to walk with him through whatever life sets before me. I have the rest of eternity to live in heavenly paradise, today is what really matters though because that’s all I have right now. And I want to make every day count for something.

Romans 14:7-8 For we don’t live for ourselves or die for ourselves. If we live, it’s to honour the Lord. And if we die, it’s to honour the Lord. So whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.’ (NLT)

Monday, June 04, 2012

4th June 2012

Very early this morning I gave in to temptation and woke up with a beautiful young woman by my side. But we simply held hands for a very long time and I was really very happy! Ok, for those who know me… a few years ago, whilst Jane was in hospital for several days, I really hated being separated from her, and she me, so quite separately we found ourselves dealing with the problem in exactly the same way. I’d lie in bed, stretch out my hand and imagine I was holding hers, and she did the same. It may sound silly, but it was nonetheless very comforting. Today I did exactly the same, except in my imagination I saw her in heaven reaching out her eternally youthful hand to hold mine. And who knows, maybe it really wasn’t my imagination. I’ve no idea what the saints get up to in heaven, but for sure they don’t have a memory wipe; so Jane’s love and care for me will be as strong today as it has ever been. Maybe she’s remembering the hand holding thing at the same time as I am. I’d like to think it was God inspired, though I haven’t asked him about that.

Mid-morning I really let myself go as I sat in my chair gently rocking myself into dreamland. I allowed Jane to come sit on my lap for an extra-long hug. I’m not sure how healthy revisiting my grief journey really is. All I know is that I miss my wife, and I’m too ill to engage with anything distracting at the moment.

Jane had many admissions to hospital over several years and I remember the very last time she spent a few days there, probably a month before she passed away. One night, as she was lying in bed she felt very strongly that the Lord Jesus came and held her hand all night, in the same way that I would have. He’s far, far better at comforting the sick than I could ever be and I’m so grateful that we know him and trust him completely. No matter the temporary pain of separation. Yes Jane belongs to God, not me. One day we’ll meet again, though it seems that marriage is for this world alone so it’ll be different. I expect an even better relationship, though no way can I understand that. In the meantime I have to sort myself out and get on with my new life in this world.

Mark 10:9 let no one split apart what God has joined together.’ (NLT)

Sunday, June 03, 2012

3rd June 2012

We need to live with colour in our lives. And I can’t hide the fact that today I’m struggling. The world looks a very bleak place… without love, without my wife. Yes I’ve allowed myself to get down, which is not part of the plan at all. But, but, but… is a word that should be removed from my vocabulary when making excuses, no matter how reasonable. I’ve done too much over the past few days, engaging with too many people and too many church meetings. And so Chronic Fatigue Syndrome has struck with a vengeance, at least temporarily undoing all the good work of my extended holiday. I struggled to get out of bed this morning, having a really bad head and annoying pains that come with the condition. I did persevere though, eventually; only to find myself getting upset when looking at Jane’s artwork that adorns almost every wall in my home. It’s not the paintings that bothered me, I enjoy them. Rather it’s remembering Jane sat at an easel producing the work, her favourite activity over many years. Not so long ago I’d spend a happy couple of hours, one evening a week, engaging with an art course she was developing. So I learned how to draw using different shading techniques and suchlike, and then she’d set me homework stirring up the little artistic creative gift I had. Drawing still life was a typical lesson and my favourite evenings always included a glass or two of wine… I got quite good at drawing the half empty bottle! Yes I’m missing her so very much, again.

It’s obvious there’s no quick fix for the pain of bereavement. But, and this is a healthy but, I have found a way forward. I know it. The secret, for me, is to engage with new life and leave the old behind. The challenge is to manage my illness, maybe even to reach out to God for complete healing. And thus avoid the unavoidable inactivity that accompanies a CFS relapse. Yes pretty much complete rest and isolation, for a couple of days or so, is the only way to deal with my very severe fatigue. And then the slog to regain some level of normality begins again. Sometimes it feels as though living a normal life is impossible, but I’ll never give up hope. If nothing else, I can still retreat and go camping in my motorhome again; that always seems to help.

Luke 1:37 For nothing is impossible with God.’ (NLT)

Saturday, June 02, 2012

2nd June 2012

Well I reckon these wonderful lovebirds will be together for the rest of their lives. I spotted them yesterday, and yes, I believe it’s true that swans do in fact normally mate for life. And today I’m quite jealous of them; no, not the for life thing, although such a pairing is certainly something that’s now missing from my journey into the future. But it’s simply being outdoors that I’m missing as I’ve just spent two evenings and most of today, Saturday, in a church conference. Don’t get me wrong, I almost always enjoy being with church and in particular the teaching of Godly men and women; it’s just the busyness of proceedings, and the indoor environment that’s not ideal when trying to manage Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. It makes me ill if I spend too long in it. Hence the longing to be out in the countryside again. Soon!

It’s so easy to live an unbalanced life. There are so many demands placed upon us and so little time in the day to life healthily. For me the foundation to a successful life is to live with right relationships, firstly with God by taking time out to get to know him and his ways. And then with those around us, be they friends and family or work colleagues. These are often the folk we have to live with day by day, year after year; so we need to get it right, by honouring them honestly and with Godly respect. So while we’re at it let’s make all that cross our paths feel just a little better about life for having met us, whether they be current acquaintances or complete strangers.

Then I find it helpful to occasionally review my own health and remember that we’re all made up of body, mind and spirit. A little simplistic I know, but it’s so easy to ignore how we live and then wonder why we get sick. I lived with almost unbearable stress in the workplace for decades so maybe it’s not surprising I end up with CFS. Not good. So now I work hard at eating a very healthy diet whilst maintaining a measured approach to some sort of pacing program. One day I’ll break away from my life of perpetual fatigue and I intend to remain as fit as possible with regular exercise. And avoiding stress is a key to good mental health, for me. So I spend time walking in the countryside. But in actuality my spiritual life affects both my mind and body; the presence of God and his guiding touch always lead me into green and pleasant pastures… no matter the torture and strain of difficulties that come my way.

Philippians 4:8-9 And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honourable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.’ (NLT)

Friday, June 01, 2012

1st June 2012

I suppose you might call this ‘ruling the roost’. So then, no slacking for Dave even on a dull grey day like today; yes it was straight back to my walks around Kedleston, though today I was accompanied by a friend. And we soon spotted Mr Heron watching over the locals as they quite serenely paddled their way along, almost as though they were on parade. But not being a wildlife expert I haven’t a clue what was really happening, though I do find such behaviour rather fascinating. Why do so many ducks and ducklings of different breeds queue up in such a long line? Where were they all going, and why? It was almost as if they were just out for their morning exercise, a bit like me and my friend I suppose, though there were only two of us.

There were hardly any people about today though farm animals and wildlife more than compensated, we saw sheep with hundreds of rapidly growing lambs; and geese with many dozens of goslings… all learning how to make a mess across the fields. And they all seem to be thriving, perfectly suited to their environment. That’s exactly what I need to be doing now I’m back home. Thriving and adapting to my new reality. That’s the challenge. And I’m getting there, learning to live as a joyful positive widower, living in the favour of God. A couple of weeks ago I broke a tooth, not something I’ve done for decades and this morning was my appointment to sort it out. I had a filling, again my first for maybe twenty years and was pleasantly surprised at how painless and incredibly speedy the whole thing was. Technology has presumably moved on apace in dentistry, so I receive that as a blessing from God. What next?

Deuteronomy 28:13 If you listen to these commands of the Lord your God that I am giving you today, and if you carefully obey them, the Lord will make you the head and not the tail, and you will always be on top and never at the bottom.’ (NLT)