Sunday, September 30, 2012

Keep it Simple

Sometimes life gets rather complicated and my heart cries out for escape. A few days ago I returned to my woodland walk after quite a break, and I enjoyed it so much that I determined to go as often as possible. Then stuff happened to take me away. Important and at times enjoyable stuff, but nonetheless a distraction from that which I need to do. Walking with God. Yes, I need to keep my relationship with the Lord fresh, it’s not good when I’m too busy to pray let alone wait upon him for his word. Like this morning, I rolled out of bed feeling rather bleary eyed after a poor night’s sleep, then made it downstairs to deal with the wonderfully sweet aroma of a cat litter tray, showered, dressed and ate breakfast. All in the 45 minutes I had left before leaving for my early morning church meeting. No time for personal devotions there. Should have gone to bed earlier I hear you say… but no, my nephew’s wedding reception dealt with that good idea.

And at the back of my mind I’m thinking about Jane’s mum, sitting in hospital with complete strangers and relatively few visitors. She has some sort of dementia type problem, so can’t remember the fall a few weeks ago when she broke her hip, nor the operation to repair; she has no pain, cannot find a scar and disbelieves any of that occurred. Totally confused she barely knows where she is. And all quite sad for this 98 year old who shared my home for 14 years until just before Jane died. But on top of that I’m spending time talking to my mum after my dad was readmitted to hospital a couple of days ago. He’s having tests to work out his problem, though at least they allowed him to escape for an hour or so to attend yesterday’s wedding. He’s not a well man though.

My live at home son has held down a temporary job for the past year and gets to interview for a permanent position tomorrow; which meant accommodating my very obliging sister, who offered to mock-interview and prep him over the weekend. She recently retired as a senior manager in his workplace, so isn’t that great? Then I really enjoyed a visit from my youngest daughter bearing tales of her recent visit to the Canary Islands. But the whole weekend has been rather too busy with underlying stress as well. So just not easy for me. At least I got invited out for lunch at my eldest daughter’s so that made sure of a well presented meal, after somewhat neglecting my own meal preparation recently. Yes I’ve been home alone all week whilst my son cat-sat for my travelling daughter.

Although my health continues to very slowly improve as I battle with me/cfs, and despite not having to go to work anymore, I still find this pace of life rather too much. Compared with the 60+ hours each week I once worked in my job and for the church, and that on top of my big family, it’s nothing. But whilst dealing with ill health and bereavement it’s too much. I have to prioritise the beginnings of recovery in both these areas. I have to find an escape from tension. I have to meet with God, and walking alone in the countryside is where I do that best. Simple really… if I can just make the time.

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)

Friday, September 28, 2012


Discerning the voice of wisdom is a sign of maturity. I came across several giant hearing trumpets this afternoon, themed as devices to let visitors listen to the landscape. On a day with little wind and no one else around, I heard nothing whatsoever when attempting to use one, but as a work of art maybe that was a good enough result. Yes, I quite enjoy these attempts to introduce contemporary artwork into a historical landscape. They get me thinking about seeing and experiencing the predictable in a totally new way. And as a musician I value my hearing very highly, though it was because of a relatively few mishaps, playing in a highly amplified environment that my hearing got damaged. I guess we’re all familiar with feedback whistle… well I’ve been the unfortunate who just happens to be stretching across a monitor that literally explodes into such life on more than one occasion! So today I wear hearing aids, and common sense says the quality of my musical pleasure is now historical. Not so; as wisdom suggested an upgrade in my home sound system alongside a good pair of headphones would compensate. And it surely does, so I’m well pleased with my midrange Bose kit.

The Lord is by definition the source of all true wisdom. And the Bible, most obviously the book of Proverbs, teaches us much that can benefit in every area of our lives. But occasionally the Lord speaks to me in a less obvious way. I simply open my mouth and find myself speaking words that are so much more than my own good ideas. On reflection I now realise that a couple of quite separate comments I’ve made, in totally different situations, are both demanding more consideration. At the moment I have two mountains in my life that threaten to impede my journey; bereavement and chronic ill health. And I believe that in each of these areas God has spoken to me, through me. So I previously mentioned how in a recent small church meeting, I made the aside that ‘As I no longer have a wife I now have complete freedom to exclusively please the Lord.’ A privileged position I’ve not enjoyed before. Then a couple of days ago I was discussing a dietary approach to me/cfs symptoms, and commented that ‘The body is designed by God to heal itself, maybe one day it can be persuaded to do just that with a little tlc!’ So now I’m thinking ‘Wow, is the Lord actually speaking into my life about how to move my two mountains?’

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

Wednesday, September 26, 2012


Choosing between right and wrong is not always obvious, though surely possible… with a little care and attention! Last night I made a daft mistake through not thinking; of course I blame it on ill health or age or something. So I had a good time at house group and decided for a change to leave ahead of the others, ‘cause manhandling my guitar means I normally wait until everyone else has sorted coats and shoes. Should have waited, as… I arrived home to the sound of my phone ringing, and the voice simply asked if I had a set of keys in my pocket. Mmmh, yes, but I shouldn’t have should I? Unless I’m wearing someone else’s coat! Similar but not the same meant a second 15 mile round trip, so all a bit silly of me. And that reminded me of the time when I puzzled over my shoes which appeared to have shrunk a size during house group. The best happened some years ago when I used my key to open the car door, sat in the driver’s seat and then tried to work out why it was suddenly rather dirty and filled with rubbish. And why had someone upgraded my car radio? Oops, my identical car was parked two spaces further up the road!

I’ve no idea how to avoid little mistakes like these, but some things I can do differently. Right then, the weather continues to be rather uninviting after an extreme few days. So it’s an indoor day. And I spent my working life using my car as an office, truthfully enjoying every type of weather. But no longer, as I’ve worked out sunshine is good for my health and wet weather less so. Not rocket science of course. Ok, so I’ll not focus upon the rain and a mountain of things I cannot achieve outdoors; but I will at least remember the beautiful cliff top walk when I stumbled across a field of ponies, completely carefree as we all enjoyed a gorgeous day. Music? I quite like Christian radio from California where the weather is certainly hot and usually sunny. And I actually feel much brighter compared with the past few weeks; so for a happy hour I resumed decorating; yes a 3 month break was long enough. Now I not only feel good, I feel as though I’ve achieved something really useful. It would have been so easy to simply crash out on a chair with a book, turn the heating up and shut the world out. Making the effort to choose positive thinking with positive action was worth it. Kindergarten stuff really, but not always put into action.

Revelation 22:5 And there will be no night there—no need for lamps or sun—for the Lord God will shine on them.’ (NLT)

Monday, September 24, 2012


Taking a wrong turn is easily recognised as we look back, but by then it may be too late. Or not! Hence my tree photo and the rather tangled branches that seem to make no sense at all. Maybe it’s the tree type or unusual surroundings that caused this, but I tend to expect growth to be generally upwards towards the light. Not up and then down, or doing U-turns, not such large branches anyway. Puzzling! Anyway, the obvious question relates to the direction my life is going. Does it make any more sense than this tree? Am I allowing my thoughts to wander around without focus, without direction?

Last night I was confronted with a very clear challenge. I was privileged to have someone to take along to our Alpha Course launch, designed to help those outside of church explore Christian faith. A guy I knew maybe 20 years ago was the main speaker and the person I knew in those days is barely recognisable today. He is Miles Hilton-Barber a quite extraordinary blind adventurer - His story told of a medical report at age 20 informing him and his brother that they were to go completely blind due to genetic disorder. Miles had plans to become a fighter pilot in the South African air force, which he simply dismissed along with every other dream, accepting life as a disabled person without much hope of achievement. In due course his blind brother dared the impossible. He built an ocean going yacht in his back garden and then sailed it from Cape Town to Australia, single handed, using audio guidance. Then he rebuked Miles for accepting limits to his dreams. At age 50, Miles, now living in the UK, picked up the challenge of new direction and… piloted a Microlight plane from England to Australia, broke the sound barrier flying an English Electric Lightning jet fighter, holds the lap record for the Singapore F1 circuit as a blind man, attempted a trek to the South Pole and has climbed in the Himalayas - amongst many other achievements. Of course he got to pilot the jet that he would have flown in the air force! Some folk are almost superhuman in their achievements but he gives all credit to the Lord.

So then, what about me? What are my dreams, and what hinders fulfilment, other than my own doubts? Not a lot! Yes, I do have ‘impossible’ dreams, usually squashed by either focus upon poor health or judgement that ‘I’m not skilled enough to achieve them’. Seems I need to see things differently. The real goal has to be in keeping focus upon the Lord, ensuring that all my hopes are shared with him. ‘Cause only he can fulfil them, but it’s really only me that hinders… I feel challenged to take my eyes off the complications of illness and more simply look to Godly dreams once again.

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

Saturday, September 22, 2012

The Call of God

There’s nothing quite like the call of God to catch the attention. Well something certainly persuaded these two love birds to sit up and take heed! Probably not the Lord, but who knows… yes I’ve discovered that when the Lord has something he wants to say he’ll always find a way. No problem. And if I ignore him the first time he’ll simply allow his word to come back to me time and time again until I do respond. But it’s always a surprise to hear him speak in a way that I don’t want him to speak. Yes I’m quite capable of working stuff out for myself, I pretty much know what I want out of life. My needs, hopes, desires could be listed quite succinctly and articulated for presentation in any prayer time you like. Problem is, the Lord knows me better than I know myself and is more than able to direct my paths, provide for my every need, and yes basically sort me out with little input from myself. So anyway, he more often than not answers my prayers by ignoring them. I have to say that’s fine ‘cause I’d probably be in a right mess if I was actually in control of such power. Yes it is power I’m talking about. The encouragement and enabling release of the power of God to fulfil his every desire. His anointing of authority over every hindrance is a precious gift never to be spurned.

Lord show me your way, strengthen me to do you will. Direct my paths according to Godly purpose and pleasure!

Over the past few years I’ve been reading a lot. Usually fiction… though different genres, each for a season. Like this past year I’ve read over 80 sci-fi novels, maybe a tad too many, but wonderfully escapist. Which is exactly what I’ve needed.  Anyway over quite some time now I’ve kept having thoughts about writing my own novel. Sort of a near future thing, though bordering on what might be deemed fantasy or maybe apocalyptic, but with more than just a glimpse of heaven to enthuse. Still just a novel, no other claims whatsoever. Last year I tried to make a start and ground to a halt almost immediately. Seed ideas kept popping into my head, but words wouldn’t flow. Yesterday was different, dialogue appeared without forethought, simple structure began to form and… I avoided the whole thing! It’ll go away; I’m too tired, a waste of time and all the rest of it was my conclusion. Oh and other writers have covered similar ground already. But isn’t that always the case with every book ever written? I even made an exit by keeping busy all day, eventually collecting my son from work at 8pm as a favour on a rainy day. One hour later an angel stood in front of my bedroom door, blocking the way… all right that might be my imagination, but stranger things have happened! I was really tired, ready for bed, but that’s normal. So a few steps to my spare room, now my home office, and I fired up my laptop to start typing. I already had an opening sentence, though I stubbornly avoided that as I fiddled around for half an hour trying to grasp a title. Still puzzling today. But once I started work for real the words simply flowed. I couldn’t type fast enough to keep up with the ideas that just flooded in. Occasionally I’ve read a book that is so gripping that I can’t stop reading until finished. Last night was one of those occasions, I couldn’t stop writing. Not for writing’s sake, but rather because I wanted to know what was going to happen next! Yes I’m writing the thing blind, with no idea what is going to happen next. At least beyond the next sentence, which always seems to pop into my mind. How cool is that? Ok, I couldn’t finish the whole thing, but 4am this morning I was just about collapsing with exhaustion and felt released to retire to my bedroom. 3,000 words is a pretty good start I reckon.

Numbers 22:21-31
‘So the next morning Balaam got up, saddled his donkey, and started off with the Moabite officials. But God was angry that Balaam was going, so he sent the angel of the Lord to stand in the road to block his way. As Balaam and two servants were riding along, Balaam’s donkey saw the angel of the Lord standing in the road with a drawn sword in his hand. The donkey bolted off the road into a field, but Balaam beat it and turned it back onto the road. Then the angel of the Lord stood at a place where the road narrowed between two vineyard walls. When the donkey saw the angel of the Lord, it tried to squeeze by and crushed Balaam’s foot against the wall. So Balaam beat the donkey again. Then the angel of the Lord moved farther down the road and stood in a place too narrow for the donkey to get by at all. This time when the donkey saw the angel, it lay down under Balaam. In a fit of rage Balaam beat the animal again with his staff.
Then the Lord gave the donkey the ability to speak. “What have I done to you that deserves your beating me three times?” it asked Balaam.
“You have made me look like a fool!” Balaam shouted. “If I had a sword with me, I would kill you!”
“But I am the same donkey you have ridden all your life,” the donkey answered. “Have I ever done anything like this before?”
“No,” Balaam admitted.
Then the Lord opened Balaam’s eyes, and he saw the angel of the Lord standing in the roadway with a drawn sword in his hand. Balaam bowed his head and fell face down on the ground before him.’ (NLT)

Thursday, September 20, 2012

A Rainy Day

Some days nothing feels right, the world is all upside down and I’m completely out of sorts. Maybe it’s just the weather, but I feel cold; more than that, deep within I feel almost useless. Ugh, I need to shake that one off somehow ‘cause I know it’s a lie come to take away my peace. I’ve felt really good for some days now, on a bit of a high; but still the cyclical nature of grief with the continuing rollercoaster ride of high emotion needs taming somehow. And yet I’m moving on for sure as it’s not so much missing Jane that’s my problem. I think I’ve cried my way through that one for long enough, ok there’s still some way to go… maybe there’ll always be space for at least a brief excursion into ‘tearland’; but tears of grief, sadness and all the rest of it are completely normal and actually very healthy. A gift from God to help us process loss. The shortest verse in the Bible, John 11:35 - ‘Jesus wept’ is a perfect example of how the Lord deals with bereavement. No my problem is the emptiness of my life without Jane. Even whilst on her cancer journey she completed two University degrees. Given her complete lack of academic history, leaving school at age 15, I found that wonderfully inspiring and it was a real privilege to share her success. Indeed we were so close it almost felt like my success. But it wasn’t, and she achieved far more than I ever have despite my start in life at an all boy grammar school. She introduced me to the world of academia, taking me to art galleries in New York, Paris and Barcelona as well as all over the UK. From her I learnt the basics of being an artist, gained an insight into psychotherapy and was shown how to be gentle and caring. She taught me how to be a good dad and a good husband… blessing me with 4 wonderful kids and now 4 beautiful grandkids. Her inheritance will bless me for the rest of my days.

So why do I feel down? My photo was taken when Jane was 51 years of age and in my judgement she was stunningly beautiful, refusing to relinquish youthful vigour. And yet her good looks were the very least of her qualities, she enriched my life in so many ways. I did not deserve her complete devotion for almost 40 years for sure and never, ever understood what she saw in me. I adored her and my love was always exclusively hers. She enriched and filled my life in every way.

So now I find it really hard being left to my own devices, limited by my own creativity and yes even my own 3 or 4 recipes. She was an amazing cook. I know the Lord can more than fill this gaping hole in my life, I know that I have opportunity to grow and become more me, more the person God created me to be. I know that my future will always be better than my past – even my earthly future… but it’s just today, I mean only today I’m having a day of feeling sorry for myself!

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

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

A New Beginning

When opportunity presents itself, sometimes you just have to go for it. Who wants to remain stuck in the past forever? Like my keyboard skills are almost non-existent compared with guitar, yes I understand basic music theory but that’s about it. Some time ago I was presented with a very usable instrument, but unfortunately found my life filled with more pressing needs when looking after Jane. Anyway this week I started again with ‘Merrily We Roll Along’ and suchlike, and felt like a bungling musical amateur. Very humbling, considering a substantial history of playing guitar in public as a worship leader. Ask me to play my new instrument on stage and I suppose I’d ‘recognise’ a call to go live abroad somewhere far, far away! But playing in my front room is a totally different story. It was great fun, almost laugh out loud with the rather corny accompaniment, and made me feel happy. I need to engage the new. It’s the right thing to do.

I also feel as though my health difficulty with me/cfs is on the change after many years of straightforward predictability. In some ways I feel much better, though unfortunately at the same time and in different ways I feel much worse. So in myself, a sense of overall wellbeing is slowly growing, perhaps allied to walking through bereavement rather than remaining trapped. Yes the initial shock is beginning to wear off. So that’s good as I’m beginning to embrace a real enthusiasm for life again. The main problem is fatigue, lack of stamina and a few other symptoms like pain, adopting a whole new level of disablement; but nonetheless I feel well encouraged. Who knows, maybe it’s having a final fling and I really am on the mend. I need to be for sure, I have stuff to do! Yes I’m ready to step through the doorway into good health and resume normal life asap. Losing my wife is challenge enough, I’m all done with sickness… I don’t need it, who does?

Early this evening I spent some time with my 12 year old grand-daughter. She’s very special, and I guess we must be getting along quite well as she’s started visiting me, once a week, rather than spending time alone after school. But today she shared some stuff about her life, a very real privilege, and eventually I passed comment that I was now single and eligible to start dating. Then out of her mouth came wisdom beyond her years… don’t do it Grandad, you’ll never find anyone as nice as Nana! She could well be right about that, so now I have an opportunity to embrace being single, pursuing God and God purpose without distraction. It’s quite hard accepting the thought that I might never again enjoy the really close friendship that only marriage can provide. But unless the Lord puts such opportunity right in front of me I cannot conceive of going looking for it. Yes I want to learn to enjoy being single though I suspect it might be easier learning to play keyboard.

Late Amendment… immediately after writing this, a guy at my church asked me to think about joining a small team visiting Africa next year. I really should be more careful about writing ‘just go for it!’

Revelation 3:8 ‘I know all the things you do, and I have opened a door for you that no one can close. You have little strength, yet you obeyed my word and did not deny me.’ (NLT)

Sunday, September 16, 2012

No Real Surprise

It’s too easy to take great privilege for granted. Like my photo, taken at Croome Park a couple of years ago. Yes, I’ve visited loads of National Trust properties over the years and sort of expect fabulous views to appear at every turn. I seem to remember it rained on this particular excursion, but what a great vista to compensate! And technology seems to move on and on and on, seemingly without limit… I well remember my first ‘digital’ watch, many, many years ago. It was basically a wind up thing with little flaps that ticked over every minute. Weird. Almost as much as the really enormous communicators visualised in early Star Trek, and imagined as cutting edge technology 400 fictional years in the future. Ah well, I prefer my slimline Samsung any day. But don’t we absolutely take these things for granted nowadays?

One thing I never want to do is take God for granted. Yet I suspect that’s exactly what I do over and over again. There’s always a natural inclination to take co-incidence as just that, rather than overtly acknowledging divine intervention. So last week I was 200 miles away listening to a church message presented by a complete stranger to my home church. The talk was very much about God presence 24/7, with the obvious consequence of living with that reality. So I ‘heard’ the Lord talking to me about 100% devotion to him and all his ways. Of course this morning, back in Derby, I listened to the very same message; albeit wrapped up in a rather different package. So am I surprised? No, not all as I’ve experienced this many times over the years; so much so that I expect that there are churches all over the world preaching a parallel theme this very week. Given that the Lord is speaking so clearly, at least to me, dare I ignore the challenge? My journey with God over the past 30 years has been so very precious in so many ways; he has truly given me a wonderful life, and I owe him everything! So the least I can do is to share my everything with him, to use as he sees fit. Whenever, whatever… I will seek and serve him.

A few days ago I made a passing comment to an acquaintance at church; I have few responsibilities with no job and no wife, so I’m in a very privileged position with only the Lord to please. But I need to get real on that, don’t I? Maybe that would release real heavenly surprises in Dave’s world. Truly living God’s way rather than mine…

Romans 12:1-2 ‘And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don’t copy the behaviour and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.’ (NLT)

Friday, September 14, 2012

Looks Can be Deceiving

It’s so easy to judge with invalid presuppositions. So last weekend I attended a 3 day church workshop, and if anyone had shared that info with me I’d instantly have a very clear idea of what it was all about. Yes, I’ve been on enough Christian and work related events to determine that businesses use conference facilities; churches use dedicated church buildings of varying quality and function. So my pic today is of a sizable private property, sited immediately adjacent to an historic castle, looking directly across the English Channel towards France. Quite idyllic. A large room downstairs provides for a church office; but many other rooms were made available for the weekend workshop. The view from the substantial 1st floor balcony is amazing and I actually got lost wandering up and down different staircases. A quite unique experience for me, and nothing like so many church halls or industrial park warehouse facilities that churches use nowadays. My home church recently bought and converted an office block opposite the old music hall we use for Sunday meetings. City centre traffic provides little competition to a beautiful seascape though.

Anyway, I still feel really good after my time away. Enthusiastic and almost energetic, almost like my pre-illness old self… until I attempt to do something. Yes my head feels good, but my body just won’t co-operate. I have almost zero stamina which is really annoying. This afternoon I set out to do long overdue hedge-cutting, and managed maybe 10 minutes before dizziness and heavy fatigue reared it’s ugly head. I’m so frustrated with ill health. I just want to live normally without having to pace my every activity. But to the outsider, I guess I just look completely normal. Apart from the increasingly long hair that is. And Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is a life changing condition for sure, but no way do I give up. I’m determined to live normally, just not doing as much and a bit slower for now. So one day I hope to return to running and badminton… still not sure about squash!

Well medical science says that there is no cure for M.E., I can’t accept that. I want my life back. My future may look bleak – I’ve lost my wife and my health – but I see things very differently. A challenge for a season, that’s all. I really enjoyed Julia Bradbury’s ‘Coast To Coast’ walk across England, on TV a few years ago. I’d like to do that one day. Now there’s a challenge.

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

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Sail Away

Letting go of responsibility is not always easy. I’ve just had a really enjoyable break away from home, with only myself to please and no firm commitments. It was so wonderfully relaxing with little pressure to do anything at all, unless I chose to. Which I did. In some ways my life is always like that, except that there is always stuff to sort out. It feels as though my feet have barely touched the ground since returning home on Monday… driving a couple of hundred miles should normally have demanded a few days of rest for this M.E. afflicted man. But actually I feel pretty good, at least in my head which is a good starting point. Ok, I still have little stamina but with careful pacing I’m doing quite a lot. Like driving to Loughborough to visit my daughter and grandson. He’s great! Then my lovely daughter played her newly written song and showed me the most amazing sharpie tattoo all over her Taylor guitar. Ok she did get a first in Fine Art at Uni so it may well be value added to a rather expensive instrument. And I’m almost tempted to ask her for a similar work on my collector’s edition Ovation which cost substantially more than her Taylor.

After my weekly shop and a visit to my parents, I kept my eldest grand-daughter company after school… she didn’t believe my tablet OS was called Jelly Bean, until I showed her the Google sculpture garden of man-sized Gingerbread, Ice-Cream Sandwich and all the rest of it. So eventually I remembered to check my answer phone, and discovered my house-group was re-starting after the summer break so ‘would you bring your guitar and lead a time of worship?’ I’m not organised yet, but no real problem, apart from M.E. pains in my hand which make it painful to use double barre chords. Ah well. So today, after sorting out my house and also motorhome, I had the cat to sort out with a trip to the vets. My wallet says ouch! Yes my rather elderly mog has apparently scratched his eye and needs treatment, poor thing. He’s also quite deaf and has a heart murmur, but otherwise doing ok. Attending the surgery was quite educational… I can now spell Chihuahua after the receptionist asked an owner for help. You’d expect her to have come across that one. But then again her co-worker tried to insist my cat’s eye ointment should be inserted into his ear every evening. What?!? And somehow I have to find time to go visit my mother-in-law who’s just been transferred to a community hospital. Busy, busy, busy… doing nothing but normal life, which is what I really need to be thinking about. Yeh, what to do with the rest of it. Maybe I can just sail away and leave everything behind, find space to do my own thing? Problem is I like all these beautiful people, they’re my family and the most important people on planet earth. And in a bizarre sort of way I almost feel attached to the cat, even though I’m not naturally a pet person. I keep remembering him sitting on Jane’s lap, for year after year after year… he still howls because she’s not there anymore.

Jeremiah 6:16 ‘This is what the Lord says: Stop at the crossroads and look around. Ask for the old, godly way, and walk in it.’ (NLT)

Sunday, September 09, 2012


And yes, once again the unexpected sneaks up when I’m not looking. Like just a few minutes ago I heard a strange noise on my motorhome roof, like a pattering sound which I initially guessed was the wind maybe blowing leaves off an adjacent tree. But I absolutely couldn’t believe it when I realised that it was actually raining! My photo illustrates the uninterrupted view I’ve enjoyed for the past couple of days. I reckon the best weather of the year. Perfect. And exactly what I hoped for and expected to enjoy when I travelled to Deal a week ago. Yes, yes it’s been great all week really, though the best came last. Cloudy weather is consigned to history and soon forgotten. The real problem is that I’ve just spent the weekend mostly indoors, usually scurrying past this incredible view on my way to church meetings. Never saw that one coming. Returning to my van in the dark involved an even more spectacular view which I’d forgotten existed, and I’m not just talking about the gentle sparkle of lightships across the English Channel. And I was too tired to play with my camera tripod, so sorry no pic of that today. I’m actually talking about the night sky, as seen away from the light pollution I experience in Derby City. Marvellous. I feel so very happy.

The real surprise though has been the workshop I’ve attended over the past 3 days. To be honest the teaching topic, even though engaging, was very much secondary to the company and friendship I’ve experienced with many of those attending. I suspect that my deep loneliness had a lot to do with it but it was a real surprise to find myself talking to so many nice people. I felt totally welcomed and completely accepted. No matter my habit of talking too much… don’t all lonely people do that? Go find any young mum who has only had tiny tots for company all day, they’ll illustrate quite nicely what I’m talking about. This church is rather different from any other church I’ve connected with, and not without a certain amount of controversy. It’s distinctive is that it is a Therapeutic Faith Community, overseen by mental health professionals. Nonetheless very definitely Christ centred and attended by those who have very particular challenges, some drawn there from right across the globe.

So today I sat on the sea front enjoying a particularly empathic conversation with a young woman living in Belgium who works as a mental health worker in an oncology unit. She had very clear understanding of palliative care. Very satisfying to share with someone who understands. And she seemed to be a worship leader as well. I enjoyed doctrinal debate with a guy from New Zealand, and gained insight into the world of Whitehall and the Foreign Office… hey, they don’t like the coalition surprise, surprise. Then a lady, who was once a friend of my wife, wrote and performed a very special worship song in the folk genre at the main church meeting this morning. Great. I was totally surprised after I gave a word from the Lord to someone; I shared what I thought was picture language to illustrate what I believed God wanted to do, only to witness a very exact outworking part way through the meeting. The surprise on their face was a picture in itself, though I suspect my word was not instantly connected with the event. The highlight of my weekend was really the quite separate befriending of two youngsters. Ok, one was 25, but that’s young to me. Just spending time sharing life with an American guy and having a real laugh with a teenage girl was an absolute privilege. The guy even invited me to a live gig at a local pub that I had to turn down. A lovely American woman cornered me about how big an issue Mad Cow's Disease was in the UK nowadays?!? An older lady I'd carefully helped up and down steps a few times, was quite delighted as I befriended and made jokes with the husband who’d simply dropped her off. Then she cautioned me with the statement that she believed one day I would remarry (I’m really not sold on that idea at all just yet), but in the meantime I'm to watch out for women as they’ll soon get their claws into me! Whoah! I suspect all of those I met this weekend have their own story of trauma or they wouldn't be in that type of meeting, but they were all so incredibly friendly. So good for me and not at all what I expected a week ago.

Back home tomorrow, Monday.

James 2:23 ‘He was even called the friend of God’ (NLT)

Friday, September 07, 2012

Where Do I Belong

Some things will always remain a puzzle. At least until I get to heaven and start asking the right questions. Or not! Yes I suspect many of the concerns of this world may fade very quickly into history. For example this appears to be some sort of army landing craft, though I have no idea why it was anchored near the end of Deal pier. And it doesn’t obviously belong there. Maybe it was drawn by relatively easy access to the local ale, as has been the lure for many a vessel over the centuries, though they sure don’t need to wait for a favourable wind to head down the English Channel nowadays. And the space reserved for a battle tank or whatever seems to be taken up by a skip sized accommodation unit, so I don’t think Deal is under any threat of invasion today. Anyway I suppose Caesar was the last person to successfully lead his army ashore here… they say just along the prom in Walmer. That was a while ago. But I did enjoy a friendly debate with an older guy who joined me in my puzzling, and that passed the time of day quite nicely.

An ongoing theme of my life over the past year or so has been the subject of belonging. Everything feels out of sorts since I lost Jane, like nothing seems right anymore. I’m in some sort of limbo. Waiting. Dealing with all-consuming grief, managing heightened emotions and adjusting to my new reality demands extreme caution before making life changing decisions. Should I move house? Leave Derby? Start again in a totally different place… like Deal? Engaging with new life is unavoidable, the old has gone. Completely. I love my family and enjoy their company totally, I can’t imagine being separated from them for long at all. But I cannot live my life through them. No matter what their achievements, yes I’m well chuffed with them all; I need to live myself though. I need to re-engage with people and achieve stuff myself. I need a God encounter, these are things I can’t work out for myself. He will direct my path, set before me a doorway of opportunity and counsel with the greatest wisdom. Over the years I’ve enjoyed many meetings where something close to the revival power of God has been present. I’ve attended and occasionally worked in large Christian gatherings with very well-known leaders from across the globe. And yet… these past few days, and especially this morning as I sat alone outside my motorhome, I’ve met with the Lord in the most wonderful way. The sense of his presence was such that I could almost reach out into heaven itself. My whole being was filled with worship. My heart was bursting with the love of God. And I never want to live differently. I may not truly belong in this world but with God’s grace I will persevere, and take a hold of God purpose and God strength to complete my journey. I know where I really belong, in heaven! Just got some stuff to deal with first…

Deuteronomy 6:5 ‘And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength.’ (NLT)

Wednesday, September 05, 2012


There’s no place like home, and yes this is my little home for the week. I’m quite happy living in my motorhome, no matter for how long. It’s almost an extension of my house, it feels so comfortable. And peaceful. My only problem is internet access, a real test of patience. But I’m in no hurry. So anyway, now the kids are back at school the site has almost completely emptied and I have this field completely to myself, probably until the weekend. But it’s never that busy out of season. I love it. I enjoyed a lovely walk across the site after the sun went down last night, scattering dozens of rabbits, flinching when bats came fluttering past. Squirrels do their funny stop start running and wood-pigeons line up in a row on a fence just a yard away from my window. I love it all!

Almost all… “Oh Jane, where are you when I need you?” I’m not cut out for living alone, no matter what pleasures surround me. I never did anything on my own, I shared my whole life with family. Pretty much always gave preference to my lovely wife. When she let me. But she seemed to enjoy the same things as me anyway so I’ve had a wonderful life. I discovered years ago that pleasing those I love the most brings fulfilment that nothing else can compare with. My kids don’t need me so much in that way anymore, they’re all grown up and doing their own thing. Quite rightly. So now it’s just me… and God! And I love pleasing him more than anything. Yes, he’s with me in a very special way at the moment. His presence in my motorhome is so very precious and he keeps guiding me towards folk around me. I’ve had lots of great conversations with complete strangers over the past few days. The church I relate to in Deal is running a 3 day workshop over the weekend themed ‘Practicing the Presence of Christ’. They’ve invited me along so I’ll have company then at least. Ok, I may be getting used to being alone but I sure don’t like it. It just feels wrong. I want to share stuff, experiences, possessions, memories, hopes, dreams, whatever. Some days blogging keeps me sane. Someone to talk to, even though it’s a bit of a one way conversation most of the time! Pasta for dinner sounds good… all organic, anybody like to join me?

Psalm 116:1-2 ‘I love the Lord because he hears my voice and my prayer for mercy. Because he bends down to listen, I will pray as long as I have breath!’ (NLT)

Monday, September 03, 2012

Stop the Train I Want To Get Off

Sometimes the unexpected comes along. So yes, I had ‘fun’ on a train today, though truth be told I could have done without it. No big problem, just hassle. And anyway I’ve been having a really enjoyable time whilst on holiday in Deal, a little busy but that’s ok. I can rest at home; I’m here to meet with the Lord and engage with whatever he sets before me. I met my friends over the weekend, a big party to say goodbye as they’re leaving to go retire in France. Thoroughly enjoyed myself, so I’ll probably meet up with some other folk later this week. And it looks like Jane’s mum has had a successful partial hip replacement so I feel comfortable staying away now. At 98 it’s a big deal, but she’s so confused that when my daughter visited she couldn’t remember having the operation and talked as if she still needed one.

Today I felt tired and chose not to drive anywhere; instead I took the train for the very short journey into Dover and a nice relaxing walk around the town and seafront. No problem until the return journey, and when the train stopped at my station in Martin Mill neither of my carriage doors would open! I scurried along, rushing towards the next coach just as the train departed carrying one rather unwilling passenger. No way off for Dave today. Sitting waiting at the next station for an hour until the return train arrived was not my idea of fun. But I persuaded my phone to generate a wi-fi hot spot and my Nexus Tablet quickly downloaded my latest half read e-book, so time passed quite enjoyably. I find new technologies to be fascinating. Solving the problem of an extended train journey was easy, although a little stressful when I’m not a well person. Why can’t staff offer up even a little apology? He even suggested that only drunkards failed to operate the doors! Two big buttons, close/open so not exactly complicated. Grrr! Then I was concerned about the return journey without a valid ticket… I sort of hid from the attendant whilst keeping her in sight in case more doors failed. No way am I buying another one, even though only a couple of pounds. Would have been easier to drive.

My journey of grief as I persevere in bereavement could do with such a straightforward resolution. I sure don't want to miss the stop on that one. It’s been over 15 months since I lost Jane and that’s been the longest and most challenging period of my life. At least I can see a way forward and feel massively different from last year. Yes, I still get upset and some days are more difficult than others; but fundamentally I feel much better. More in control emotionally, comfortable with who I am and where I’m at. I’ll be wearing L plates as a single for some time yet, but that’s ok I’m in no rush to make big decisions. God will guide my steps. The same with my much longer journey with illness… I have total confidence in the Lord’s ability to either heal or pour out his grace for as long as is needed. It helps if I can avoid stress though! Stop those trains I really want to get off, please Lord.

2 Corinthians 6:2 ‘For God says, “At just the right time, I heard you. On the day of salvation, I helped you.” Indeed the “right time” is now. Today is the day of salvation.’ (NLT)