Friday, August 31, 2012

The Grace of God

Some days are really just too much. But somehow I have to carry on, climbing the impossible mountain, carrying the impossible burden. And yes, there are always those who have so much more to cope with, and do so with limitless enthusiasm; so I attempt to put on a brave face and show the world that all is well. Which it is, I know, because I walk with Christ. But despite the implications of such truth, and despite the unshakeable faith in my ultimate destination of heaven, some days my mind and body cry out in anguish at the ongoing struggle. I need a break, brief respite from ‘normal life’. In some ways I’ve had an absolutely wonderful couple of days, yet at the same time the challenge has been almost too much. I spent a few hours yesterday child-minding my eldest grand-daughters. They’re the ones in my picture, though that was taken 8 years ago. I’ll come back to that. And anyway, they’ve grown up a bit now. Well truth be told they didn’t visit to be looked after, but rather to look after me! A week ago, they offered to help by cleaning inside my car, simply as a favour. With mum’s permission I topped up their depleted pocket money… and struck gold! So now it’s been 3 visits in a week and they work incredibly hard, dusting, polishing, cleaning windows and even emptying kitchen cupboards to clean and sort out. I get a real bargain and a very clean house; they learn new skills, get Minecraft Apps on their iPods, and everybody’s happy. It’s been a great summer with my grandkids, I’ve enjoyed their beautiful friendship on and off all summer.

So yesterday was wonderful… and absolute rubbish at the same time. Jane’s mum fell and broke her hip. She’s 98, very frail and suffering from memory loss. She remains quite disorientated, especially having had to move home a couple of times since Jane died. We were her primary carers, and she lived with us for 14 years until palliative care for Jane demanded use of the groundfloor bedsit, and Jane’s elder sister took on responsibility. So I ended up with a hospital visit to check up and pray with her. Today she successfully had some sort of partial hip replacement but I can’t imagine the sheltered housing she’s just getting used to will work anymore. I feel so sorry for her. But no way could I provide end of life care for two in a row.

Ok, today – Friday - I drove 214 miles back down to Deal. Some friends of mine are moving to live in France; so an invite to their leaving do was an excuse to travel. I had a very pleasant journey down and felt quite good all the way, especially as I’ve found a way of dealing with the empty passenger seat. I pray. A lot! It’s great, and a perfect way of moving on from the uncountable conversations I enjoyed with Jane over 40 years of driving together. I used to love working stuff out with her on long journeys. But there you go, the Lord is certainly rather more than just good company for sure. I’m now pitched within a few yards of where my photo was taken all those years ago, which brings to mind memories of so many holidays with our children. On occasion we’d find a way of transporting and accommodating not just our own 4 kids but a couple of their friends as well. That was in our caravanning days admittedly. Tents can be hard work with small kids. But I loved it all. Whatever. Have to admit my motorhome is much easier nowadays… no wandering across pitch black sites, visiting the loo in the middle of the night for me. And an on-board shower is an unimaginable luxury way back in the early days.

After a couple of hours resting from my journey I decided to take the evening air and take a short walk across the site. As I wandered through the tenting fields I began to feel horribly alone. Lots of young couples, kids having water fights, the occasional BBQ and all the rest of it. It was just too much. I normally travel outside of school holidays when sites are fairly empty. Then fatigue kicked in. Back at the van I collapsed with exhaustion; dizziness disorientated and chronic tinnitus turned up it’s annoying volume. But hey, a relaxing hour on the bench, headphones and my iPod to deal with the whistling and I soon feel much better. It’s warm enough to feel ok about a salad for my evening meal, so now I’m totally organised and God is so very good to me. Tomorrow’s a new day, and anything can happen then. I’m just gonna expect the good stuff and leave the Lord to deal with the rest… like the prehistoric data speeds on my phone in the middle of the countryside. Takes well over an hour to transfer this single post!

Psalm 136:23 ‘He remembered us in our weakness. His faithful love endures forever’ (NLT)

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Dealing With Everyday Life

We all thrive on encouragement, yet as often as not we find our most difficult days depend upon simple perseverance to see us through. Through gritted teeth and holy muttering, raw willpower must needs suffice. Yet the alternative and much easier route of simply giving up would get me nowhere. Yes I’m talking about my M.E. journey and how I deal with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. So today I was encouraged with a particularly lucid reminder of how this devastating condition affects folk. Revelation TV aired a programme on the subject - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4HqRmUCXnUg&feature=g-all-u - interviewing a Christian guy who has almost identical symptoms to me. Just watching this normal looking person talk helped me realise how others must see me. The only give away was that part way through he began to blink as he apparently struggled with concentration and maybe light sensitivity. I know exactly how that feels. Sometimes I have to lie down, on the floor even, and remain totally immobile for at least a few minutes to recover. I normally don’t of course, but many times I’ve found myself leading worship in church trying to look normal, when on the inside I feel absolutely terrible. Like the worst dose of flu ever… for over 13 years. So it was good to listen to this guy determined to make a difference by helping others in a similar situation. I’m not alone.

But no matter the challenge, ultimately only faith, hope and love can carry us through. I believe we need all three… take even one out of the equation and everything begins to feel very different. Having God at the centre of our life is the real key to successful living, as any faith and hope can only truly be meaningful when focussed upon Jesus Christ. And of course he is love personified, the greatest of all gifts to mankind. So when I feel really ill he is always only the briefest of prayers away from revealing himself to me. And when presented with opportunity to serve or simply enjoy others his so very gentle touch guides my heart; sometimes I can say no. With clear conscience. Other times I say yes, grit my teeth behind willing smile and mutter a prayer for strength and heavenly help, before enjoying whatever deed is set before me. With total confidence that I am doing the right thing, even if I pay the price of a few days recovery. But I remain determined to engage with life, no matter the personal cost. I love to work and despite the strain on health I love spending time with people. So one day (soon?) I’m trusting the Lord for complete healing and restoration.

Done it again… half a thousand words without mentioning Jane. D’oh!

Matthew 7:13-14 ‘Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.’ (NIV)

Monday, August 27, 2012

A Different Perspective

Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. So the saying goes anyway, and this little fellow is surely a prime example. I reckon it looks rather splendid, and for many who come across it I guess thoughts would move rapidly towards next Christmas. Yes, turkey and cranberry sauce with a choice of at least half a dozen different veg and all the rest of it sounds distinctly mouth-watering. Or does it? I’ve been quite strictly vegetarian for several years now and have absolutely no inclination to change. Strange how the Lord so very gently touched my heart to leave behind a lifetime of Christmas dinners! I try and rationalise that decision as being connected with Jane’s cancer journey, as is my aim to eat organic; but truth be told I just want to honour the Lord. So until he say’s something different I’ll just keep going. I don’t miss it one bit. Very similar to my decision to grow my hair long, after decades of a simple number 2 razor cut I now feel like a rather aged hippy. Yes of course I was once the real thing but that was decades ago. I now prefer to dress smartly and a rather ragged appearance doesn’t totally work for me. But there you go, I will honour the Lord and trust him to speak again on the subject as and when… or not! Right then, nearly forgot about the turkey, a splendid beast isn’t it? Unless you are my ten year old grand-daughter; and then you cringe at the sight of it’s most peculiar and brightly coloured neck. A bit like it’s insides are on the outside. Soon afterwards we explored a museum exhibit of an early 19th century kitchen, complete with larder storing half a pig and sundry dead birds hanging from meat hooks. Suddenly becoming a vegetarian briefly held quite some appeal to said young child!

My life was once so very beautiful. In my eyes anyway. A wonderful wife and family and plenty to keep me busy. Today my wife has left to go live in heaven and my girls have left to go live with husbands. I feel rather lost and have plenty of time on my hands. Health restricts activity in the workplace but never inclination. I suppose I’m still in recovery after the years of trauma dealing with Jane’s cancer journey, but nonetheless my life currently feels rather empty and somewhat lacking. No wife or family at home. Just me and my adult son. No job and no church leadership role either. So is that a valid judgement, a healthy perspective of where I’m at? It may reflect some sort of reality, but it is for sure not how I want to see myself. I need to keep my eyes fixed upon the Lord, catch sight of his plans for my future, reach out into potential change and basically walk away from emptiness into new fulfilment. Something has to change, I can’t remain stationary for much longer, I’ll have to make a move. Yes, my present is very different from the past. And I’m determined that it must be very different from my future.

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

Saturday, August 25, 2012

A Different Point of View

Sometimes we need to take a second look in the mirror to see what’s really going on. How we see ourselves can be a very different view from how other’s see us. Every time I use my motorhome this is brought into particularly sharp focus. It’s shower-room has a great corner mirror. So with the split reflection I see myself side by side, both as in a normal mirror, on the right, and also the reversed view… which is exactly as the whole world normally sees me. So I’m right handed and no way would I normally take a photo with my left hand, no matter what my ‘normal’ reflection shows. And until I grew my hair I had a side parting on the left, though I only ever saw it as being on my right. Most confusing, and not a little odd to come face to face with such reality. Yes the guy I normally see wears his watch on the wrong arm, has a shirt pocket on the wrong side and buttons fastened just like a woman’s blouse. How weird is that? I now wear my wedding ring on my right hand so the reflection looks correct for a married man. Though I’m not anymore. Question is, when I look at myself do I still see myself as married? Maybe I need to take it off all together and store it with Jane’s rings… that’s a biggy. It sort of signifies that I’m embracing singleness. But I’m certainly not ready for a new relationship, though chance would be a fine thing anyway. And maybe I’ll never be ready, it sounds well scary. Oh to be that rather na├»ve teenager I once was, content with playing in a rock band and not too fussed when a girl asked me out. Hey, I pretty much behaved myself! Sort of. Ok, not really. So anyway, I think I was born a perfect gentleman, but maybe other’s see me differently? Anyway relational etiquette is very different from where I stand today. Yes the Lord is my sole companion right now and my aim is to walk with him into whatever he has for me. Learning to be content with my new reality is a challenge though.

So how does the Lord see me? I reckon neither of these perspectives is even close to God’s viewpoint. I suppose I mostly see my mistakes and focus upon the areas of life I struggle with. Like negativity. Those around me will commonly have to deal with my failings, maybe misunderstanding things I’ve said or misinterpreting motives in some of the things I’ve done. It’s so easy to just get things out of proportion, so easy to damage relationships with incorrect preconceptions. And stubbornness. God’s not like any of that. Not at all. He formed each one of us in the womb. No exceptions! Only he can breathe life and bring a person into being. I am not who I am by chance. Ok along the way I’ve messed things up, a thousand times. But the Lord still sees me as being on track, he never gives up on any of us. He always has a way forward, from wherever we find ourselves. All he asks is that we reach out to him and he’ll respond. Yes, he really does see the end from the beginning. One day I’ll be living in heavenly perfection. I find that hard to even imagine, but the Lord doesn’t. That’s how he sees me and relates to me right now. Somehow that’s a standard I need to live up to. And also how I need to begin to see those around me…

Ephesians 1:4 Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes.’ (NLT)

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Love


I love you
I will always love you
Endless love
That never fails

Every morning
I remember
And give thanks
For life you gave me
No need to wonder
More sure than can be

Why hesitation
Burdens lay down
Time to walk
Towards great divide
Yet love fills my heart
A hope ne’er denied

Heav’n my destiny
There waits true love
Impatient
Longing to be there
Though race to finish
Great hope I must share

I love you
I will always love you
Endless love
That never fails


2 Corinthians 5:1-10
‘For we know that when this earthly tent we live in is taken down (that is, when we die and leave this earthly body), we will have a house in heaven, an eternal body made for us by God himself and not by human hands. We grow weary in our present bodies, and we long to put on our heavenly bodies like new clothing. For we will put on heavenly bodies; we will not be spirits without bodies. While we live in these earthly bodies, we groan and sigh, but it’s not that we want to die and get rid of these bodies that clothe us. Rather, we want to put on our new bodies so that these dying bodies will be swallowed up by life. God himself has prepared us for this, and as a guarantee he has given us his Holy Spirit.
So we are always confident, even though we know that as long as we live in these bodies we are not at home with the Lord. For we live by believing and not by seeing. Yes, we are fully confident, and we would rather be away from these earthly bodies, for then we will be at home with the Lord. So whether we are here in this body or away from this body, our goal is to please him. For we must all stand before Christ to be judged. We will each receive whatever we deserve for the good or evil we have done in this earthly body.’ (NLT)

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Happiness

Sometimes the simplest of pleasures can put the biggest smile on our faces. Back home my grand-daughters have a wide choice of expensive electronic gadgetry to engage their every waking moment, and yet I doubt if their smiles are anything like as broad as on the day out I just gave them. A good old Punch and Judy fight; that does the trick! This past couple of days have been really special as I spend time with my family; yesterday I took the two girls and mum to Shugborough Hall which provided a very full day out. They’ve made great effort to recreate a working estate set in 1805, designed to immerse you in life at that time. Costumed figures galore were briefed to ignore all knowledge of 21st century life to help us explore their everyday lives. This was the girls’ second visit and so now they’ve hands on experience of curds and whey when making cheese, seen how to cook pancakes on an open hearth, grimaced at a rather bizarre turkey and explored a working flour mill; all whilst avoiding attempts to lure them into service as laundry maids! We wandered through yet one more museum exhibit illustrating early dentistry and an operating table complete with straps to hold down the patient without anaesthetic, before mum and I needed to escape into the sunshine. The children loitered a while longer seemingly engrossed in a display explaining how to make shoes of all things. Who needs an iPod, Wii or Xbox? I suppose they do…

Today was my youngest daughter’s birthday and I hosted a BBQ for all my girls and grandkids in my garden. Ok, they sorted almost everything out and I was really just the facilitator, but it was another great day. I actually feel happy. And that’s a very odd thing to say as this last couple of days have also been very, very sad. Yesterday morning I broke down, as normal, thinking about Jane and how much I love her and how much I miss her. I wiped my tears away and pursued a most wonderful day out with family. Great! This morning was similar, compounded with a delightful and particularly creative video I watched very early morning on GodVine, a Christian website I follow on my Facebook page. This elderly widower had been married for 65 years before losing his wife in 2010, and it was so very sad despite his sure hope of reunion in eternity. I understood exactly where he was coming from… not so many cookies nowadays and garden flowers don’t plant themselves apparently. Today was the first time I’ve used my garden for anything more than drying washing. It was where Jane and I spent much of our time, our special place. So I found it enormously challenging, at times I was almost shaking it was that hard. My grandson sorted me out though with, ‘tell me a story grandad!’ And again, and again, and again… they seem to like my spontaneous made up stories. Today I stumbled into the tale of a little boy who would only eat peas, and he turned very, very green! Nicely distracting it all was…

I’m always amazed at how I can feel so desperately sad and yet so completely joyful at the same time. Tears are surely a gift from God to help us deal with loss. Laughter and an ever present inner joy, as we live with the love of God filling our hearts, strengthen us to fully live… whatever today and tomorrow bring. I’m excited about my earthly future! Don’t know what it’s gonna be about yet, but God does.

Nehemiah 8:10 ‘Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength!’ (NLT)

Sunday, August 19, 2012

A Glimpse of Heaven

I keep thinking about heaven, what it may be like there and wondering what Jane may be doing… right now. Of course I’ve written about this before, but I have reason to dwell just a little longer. I need clearer vision of Jane’s reality today in order to more surely deal with the trauma of yesterday. In some ways the 4 years of her cancer journey were the most complete of my life, almost as if they were what I was born for, but though the pain of loss is easing it will only truly pass as I embrace my new life. As Jane has hers, a fact I can barely grasp. So, anyway what is heaven like?

My photo shows Jane with our eldest grandkids back in 2004 and typifies a massively favourite activity for them all. Indeed even this last week the two girls were again asking for paper to draw on. They’re into graffiti as an art-form now. I cannot imagine heaven without creative art to add a personal touch by those so inclined, so that’s a given. And leaving aside the especially busy years spent caring for our young children Jane always had a pencil or brush in her hand, so given the slightest opportunity I’m sure that’s what she’s up to. But the Bible gives not the slightest suggestion that there will be children to enjoy, indeed marriage itself is no longer. So I struggle to get a handle on that, but there you go, the Lord has something better for us I’m sure. And no way will there be an empty space to fill.

So what does the Bible actually reveal about our time in eternity? Very few details unfortunately. But a couple times just recently I’ve had the story of a poor man called Lazarus (copied below) put across my path and this seems to give a real glimpse of the afterlife. This story was told by Jesus which makes it particular noteworthy. Some suggest it is only a parable. I don’t get that for a number of reasons… it would be the only parable to name names including historical figures, and it describes a realm beyond earthly reality, the places where the dead go to. Would the Lord ever mislead us? This story is also told quite plainly with no explanation or qualification. It is what it is. Ok so after Jesus himself died he paid a visit to one of these places and some sort of transformation occurred, but we can still draw lessons from the story. And I’d like to focus upon a future in heaven rather than the alternate of eternal punishment. That’s for another time and all to do with our decision to accept or deny the claims of Christ. But it’s clear that Lazarus suffered greatly in his earthly life and subsequently was comforted. It’s also clear that the rich man remembered his family and was concerned for their eternal wellbeing. Jane suffered immensely with physical problems for many years compounded with terminal cancer. She had to leave her beloved family behind and never saw her hard earned career qualification put into practise. There was so much she still planned to do. Despite the perfection of paradise I reckon she’s needed quite a bit of comforting and I really don’t see a ‘brain-wipe’ as standard procedure on entry to heaven! Then of course she must be as interested in our unfolding lives as she ever has been as well. Maybe she can see only as much of our world as we can see of heaven. Maybe she cringes as I put yet one more frozen pizza into the oven and sees everything. Doesn’t matter. She’ll never stop praying anyway. And that’s what the Lord is doing right now for each one of us.

Luke 16:19-31 (NLT)
Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus
19 Jesus said, “There was a certain rich man who was splendidly clothed in purple and fine linen and who lived each day in luxury. 20 At his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus who was covered with sores. 21 As Lazarus lay there longing for scraps from the rich man’s table, the dogs would come and lick his open sores.
22 “Finally, the poor man died and was carried by the angels to be with Abraham.[a] The rich man also died and was buried, 23 and his soul went to the place of the dead.[b] There, in torment, he saw Abraham in the far distance with Lazarus at his side.
24 “The rich man shouted, ‘Father Abraham, have some pity! Send Lazarus over here to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue. I am in anguish in these flames.’
25 “But Abraham said to him, ‘Son, remember that during your lifetime you had everything you wanted, and Lazarus had nothing. So now he is here being comforted, and you are in anguish. 26 And besides, there is a great chasm separating us. No one can cross over to you from here, and no one can cross over to us from there.’
27 “Then the rich man said, ‘Please, Father Abraham, at least send him to my father’s home. 28 For I have five brothers, and I want him to warn them so they don’t end up in this place of torment.’
29 “But Abraham said, ‘Moses and the prophets have warned them. Your brothers can read what they wrote.’
30 “The rich man replied, ‘No, Father Abraham! But if someone is sent to them from the dead, then they will repent of their sins and turn to God.’
31 “But Abraham said, ‘If they won’t listen to Moses and the prophets, they won’t listen even if someone rises from the dead.’”
Footnotes:
  1. Luke 16:22 Greek into Abraham’s bosom.
  2. Luke 16:23 Greek to Hades.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Just Dreaming

My heart is filled with dreams of heaven. Yet all around, my life feels like the worst bad dream I’ve ever had. Bereavement, after a lifetime of love is tough. Quite unreal. I’d love to wake up and find that it is was all just a dream. Everything, I mean absolutely everything, feels wrong. That sense of belonging… gone. Forever? I simply feel incomplete, split apart. My heart is broken, without even the temporary relief of numbness. Raw undiluted grief never more than the next heartbeat away. I am stubborn, determined to walk as I see fit and find the challenge to change direction not yet compelling. Should I now resist the call of extreme sadness and simply shrug away tears? I will not allow entrapment to thwart God purpose for my future. He has a plan for all who live. And every day of my life is written in his book. But is my season of mourning complete? Is it time, is it yet possible for me to let go of the only true love I’ve ever known? Perhaps more to the point, am I ready to say goodbye to the life I loved so very much. The life of a married man, sharing every decision, every possession and just about everything I ever did with another person. My lovely wife. We cried, laughed, shouted and whispered our way through 40 years of love. No more. It is done, she’s gone. Forever. Until we meet in heaven… and take that woodland walk in true perfection.

I cannot live in the past. I have to embrace my future. Yet all I have are dreams. Insubstantial, and impossible to grasp in their incompleteness. But always the first step is right there waiting to be taken. I must take hold of God vision for tomorrow, leaving behind unchangeable history. What’s done is gone. That which is to come may yet be shaped and where needed reshaped, by God purpose and man’s determination. My determination. I will live again. To stir imagination, creativity and focus is next. All within the bounds of God presence. I’m encouraged with some small improvement to my health, even though today saw a small setback. A migraine after a poor night’s sleep. Irrelevant. Maybe a statement of practical goals is needed… it’s time for me to start writing music, learn a new instrument, get out my art materials, and even begin to write a more substantial work. It’s time to be more focussed upon prayer and seeking the Lord for his word for my life. It’s time to dream a dream for tomorrow. And as often as possible I will walk out of my house and engage with whatever this world sets before me.

Acts 2:17 ‘In the last days,’ God says, ‘I will pour out my Spirit upon all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy. Your young men will see visions, and your old men will dream dreams.’ (NLT)

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Counterculture

I believe there’s a lot of value in cultural experience. It’s too easy to view the world from our own blinkered perspective. And we can maybe learn something from history as well. So this week I actually ventured inside Kedleston Hall for the first time in a couple of years. I’m not obsessed with the place, honest, it just happens to be a couple of miles from where I live. And this visit only really happened as my eldest grand-daughters requested a look inside as we walked the grounds last week. But I quite enjoy wandering around these places, seeing how ‘the other half’ once lived. Ok still do! The Curzon family remain in residence in their private wing though my only encounter has been literally jumping out of the way as they ignored both a speed limit and one way traffic system on a narrow access road. No comment. I did find it sad though to hear of thieves taking totally unique valuables a couple of years ago when security was basically non-existent. The present Lady Scarsdale quite rightly made great complaint to the National Trust about that, but then I wondered how the family became wealthy in the first place… for example they exhibit many curiosities brought home by one Lord Curzon when Viceroy of India around a 100 years ago. So whilst I have no reason to suggest they were in any way spoils of war, and I’m happy to presume local tradesmen were paid whatever the going rate was for their goods at the time; nonetheless I would condemn our military presence and rule of that nation and many others. No matter the challenges and needs faced by any trading company. But maybe the wealth we often simply took is now being returned? Yes, a sizable proportion of our national wealth is being exported to sundry back-office and call centres located in India. But I’m not so sure we pay them the real going rate today, Apple had some bad press on their manufacturing base in China I seem to remember. Cheap labour and still charging top price. Better that, than our historical human trafficking and slave trade I guess. That’s where much of the wealth of our nation, and others, originated so I reckon we should remember that history lesson. I wonder sometimes if we’re not all slaves to the FTSE 100 and it’s kin. Pursue profit at any cost in our materialistic, celebrity focussed western world. There has to be another way of living.

I believe the face of Christianity should often be countercultural. So today the post-modern norm suggests that there is no absolute truth, and all apparent realities including religion are simple social constructs. This popular belief system is totally incompatible with Christianity, and a personal relationship with the God who holds all truth makes that clear. God is not just a man-made idea. His existence to me is as tangible as any person I ever meet. Having once met with the Lord I could never turn away from his reality.

And our legal system is still rooted in many basic Christian principles… do not kill, do not steal are obvious examples. But increasingly there are laws today that cannot be reconciled with the Bible, which is the actual word of God. No principles which run counter to it’s writings can make that claim. So today divorce is way too easy and devalues even marriage itself. As for the proposal to redefine marriage to include same sex couples, it may be a great idea in the name of equality and fairness so I could be all for that principle. But it can never be said to please God as the Bible is quite clear about the nature of marriage. One man, one woman, for the whole of life. I’m out of space to talk about abortion. And I’m not suggesting that Christians are the only ones who believe this stuff. We aren’t. But ultimately it’s not what we think that matters; it’s what the Lord says that counts. Some things may be allowed legally and encouraged socially but we should not adopt them into our lives. There’s a very different way to live. So, again, the only truly reliable word we have from God is in the form of his book… the Bible.

Luke 6:37 ’Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn others, or it will all come back against you. Forgive others, and you will be forgiven.’ (NLT)

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Family

Where would I be without my lovely family? Yes these are my grandkids, and together with my own four children and partners we all had a very special time this weekend with a picnic at nearby Elvaston Castle. Ok, it’s really a country park with only an old manor house and from what I can see never has seen a castle as such at this site. But there you go, we were only bothered about climbing trees and bizarre concrete follies anyway. My family means everything to me, especially at the moment. And I love my grandkids, we always have a wonderful time together. I’m constantly surprised that they are happy to spend any time at all with this lonely old grandad. Hey, less of the old Dave! Just this afternoon the eldest paid a brief visit with her mum to collect their computer which had needed repairing; and she even asked to stay a while longer. Maybe she had chores waiting at home; doesn’t matter, she still asked. They have to be one of my life’s greatest blessings and such a privilege that so many don’t have.

Well I’m continuing to feel stronger and beginning to function more normally. I even managed a little hedge cutting this afternoon, though the battery lasted only a few minutes for which I was grateful. But I did it! I’m determined to remain as strong, fit and healthy as I possibly can by persevering with ‘normal’ activity as much as possible. I’m trusting that one day I will make a complete recovery from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and intend to hit the ground running…

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

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Doing the Right Thing

Living God’s way is always a challenge. At least it is for me. So often I find myself in a must do or must have situation which could easily lead to a mistake. Nurturing spiritual sensitivity by allowing the Lord to gently lead is the key to Christian maturity. So after 30 years on that particular journey I may know some stuff but some days I still feel like an infant. Reaching out for anything I fancy, complaining when things aren’t quite right and all the rest of it. Today was very different. Yes for the first time in some weeks I felt the heaviness of Chronic Fatigue begin to lift. And I know exactly what God wants of me. Quality time alone with him. So I went walking under the open sky at Kedleston, and though our words were few I really enjoyed being outdoors once more. I’m beginning to feel happy again. And rather stronger as well. But I’m really grateful to the Lord for keeping things simple just now, he says ‘come walk with me’. So I do, a gentle 3 mile trek through the woods and no problem. At last!

My life could have been very different. Somehow the Lord has kept me from harm, always watching over me despite the behaviour of those all around. He allowed me to make my own ‘mistakes’ without penalty. And somehow I learned right from wrong. All I ever did was try to do the right thing and when I failed, picked myself up and had another go. I’m still there to a certain extent as well! But I saw the result of deliberate wrong behaviour when I met another old friend this week. I’ve known him for maybe 25 years and can remember him sharing some personal stuff even back then. On many occasions since I’ve felt completely inadequate as I’ve tried to encourage and support him in his own Christian journey. This is not the place to say too much but the consequences today could hardly be any more severe. At least he’s now forced to engage with professionals who may even help him.

Yes I know bereavement and an ongoing battle with ill health creates a serious challenge. But I do feel so very blessed, grief will ease and I’m still believing for healing, whilst working hard to manage and improve my health all the time. This week for example I’ve started a new dietary supplement that some have found helpful. We’ll have to wait and see. But it’s a real privilege to know God, to be called for his purpose and his pleasure. His favour is truly all I seek and whatever he allows to cross my path I’m just grateful that he looks out for me.

Psalm 121:8 The Lord keeps watch over you as you come and go, both now and forever.’ (NLT)

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Just Catching Up

Keeping in touch with old friends is not always possible. And you were my closest friend for so many years, yes, hi Jane. It’s been far too long since we were together. Then again likely as not it’ll be a way long time before we meet up again, so maybe I can play catch up with this little letter. Hey do you like Mel’s artwork? Inspired by an old photo of you and the girls walking through a forest somewhere. Probably the Lake District, though I have no real idea. You know where it is I’m sure. Anyway she’s taken to writing folk songs and this is her latest album cover. One track is all about Ruth’s hen party. Sorry you missed that, but the girls all had a great time as they hired a barge for a trip down the canal. The themed wedding was fabulous, totally Ruth and Dan. Nowhere near a church though as they used Midland Railway Centre with the reception on a steam train. You’d have loved it all. A very special day. But one of the album tracks is all about you. It’s called Still Here, which we all are. It’s just you that’s moved on. It makes me cry. A lot. So I have to ration my listening.

Before I forget, James has a full time job now. He loves it! Working in an office really suits him. And he even shares the household bills, which means I get to save for some of the bigger work still needed on the house. I got a new driveway so that’s a good start. Ok, I also get to go visit campsites whenever I want as well! Then it was Digory’s birthday last week, he was 4 and he’s still a lively little chap. But it's weird that he starts school in only a month’s time. I’ve got this crazy thing going with him and Nina, I get them looking for elephants and giraffes hiding in people’s gardens! But they aren’t so sure about the invisible lion under the kitchen table… or the orang-utan playing on the tyre swing.

Just had a lovely day with Bec and the girls on one of my walks around Kedleston. Their house is in a mess as they’re having a new kitchen fitted. So I get them for a few hours and we watch the Olympics together as well. You might not believe me when I say I’m really getting into it this time around. I suppose my favourite is the cycling. I watched a road race last week which lasted for maybe half a day. Amazing stuff. We didn’t win that one though. And I just had a smile with Google’s search page as they have a little hurdle game running there. I was rubbish!

There’s loads more I could say, maybe another time and I’ve no idea how to get even these few words to you, but I guess the Lord can sort that one out. And I’m not expecting a reply any time soon either so I just need to say I love you and I miss you so very much though I’m trying very hard if somewhat unsuccessfully to let you go as well. I know we’ll meet again one day, but in the meantime I have to move on. Please pray for me…

Isaiah 43:18-19 ‘Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See I am doing a new thing!’ (NIV)

Sunday, August 05, 2012

Taking the Rough with the Smooth

Life can’t always be a bed of roses. And maybe how we walk through our difficulties is more important than simply looking for a good time. Mind you both can be a test of character. But it’s rare that we get that much control over our surroundings, so for me it’s more to do with how we see things, making a choice to see the good in life. No matter the apparent reality set before us. Yes before now I’ve taken the trouble to drive all the way to the French Atlantic coast, only to sit in my motorhome waiting for the wind and the rain to ease. Just like the UK. Only I drove on the ‘wrong’ side of the road and had to use my non-existent schoolboy French, which kind of made it great fun! So my rather unattractive photo today was taken a couple of weeks ago on a thoroughly enjoyable walk with my grandkids. This was taken with almost maximum zoom, but pan 90° I was alongside Black Rocks beauty spot with the two young girls clambering ever upwards, peering over surrounding woodland. So aside from a snap to provide a blog talking point it really wasn’t that difficult to ignore the dismantling of a nearby hillside. Until the warning siren started and the ground shook as explosions rumbled across the valley!

These past few months have become increasingly challenging. I’m suffering the worst bout of ill health ever, Chronic Fatigue related of course. And I’ve just about given up hope of controlling my emotions ever again. Yes I’m missing Jane, and too regularly allowing myself the dubious reward of feeling sorry for myself as well. No glossing over loneliness, joblessness and ok, complete brokenness for me. Every Olympic Gold our country’s incredible athletes are currently winning leaves me sobbing with grief. Celebrating such triumph is so very hard when I can no longer share it with my always enthusiastic wife. I’m no longer the man I once was. But I will be…

The Lord gave me a wife for a reason, to make me whole, complete. In every way. Now she’s gone, and I have no reasonable expectation of ever finding such love again. So I need to focus my attention more upon the Lord. He can make me whole in a way that no wife ever could. His encouragement is all I seek. His pleasure is my pleasure, his provision makes complete and his presence fills all emptiness. To follow him all of my days is my greatest reward, and where he takes me and who I walk with is in his complete control. Not mine. So do I see myself as a loser? No way! I may be in a battle with some stuff today, but that’s all relative. Many are far worse off. Especially those who have yet to meet with the Lord Jesus, to enjoy a personal relationship with God himself. So I’m gonna keep on walking with him, and keep on praying and hoping for a change in my heart that will bring a release from the hold that grief still has upon me. It’s time to move on, Jane has. Now it’s my turn.

Philippians 3:13-14 ‘ but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race’ (NLT)

Friday, August 03, 2012

Looking for Summer

Today I met someone, and saw a very different future. Just now though I’ve been feeling like this rather ancient hawthorn, well past it’s best and somewhat windswept. But still carrying the suggestion of new growth with the late spring blossom. There’s always hope. So I keep looking for a new summer season to start in my life, despite the seemingly never ending flood of tears. And I can’t ignore my health, I’ve never been so ill with Chronic Fatigue. But enough of that, it’s time for change…

This morning I ventured out in my car for the first time in some days. A brief shopping expedition with my little boy. It’s his birthday, 25 today, all 6' 5'' of him! So we crossed tracks with a guy I’ve known for maybe 20 years, though I see very little of him nowadays. His story is not new to me, but nonetheless always inspirational. If God can do it for him he can do it for me. Why not? Yes my old friend once suffered for a number of years with CFS, quite similar to myself. He’d been working for the local church and I seem to remember became ill whilst in transition to a new career. This obviously stalled. But then quite spontaneously over a relatively short period he completely recovered his health. So much so that today he works in landscape gardening, with ongoing connections as a support gardener to the BBC in their show gardens and suchlike. All very, very physical and he’s not that much younger than myself either. So yes, I want what he’s got, good health, a career… and a wife.

Exodus 15:26 ‘for I am the Lord who heals you.’ (NLT)