Tuesday, October 30, 2012

A Special Day

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

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

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

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

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Broken Dreams

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

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

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

Friday, October 26, 2012

Facing A Challenge

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

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

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

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Swan Dive

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

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

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

Monday, October 22, 2012


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

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

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Fighting the Blues

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

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

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

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Answer to Prayer

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Every Cloud Has a Silver Lining

Becoming a Christian, walking with God, does not guarantee an end to life’s problems. But it does mean we have someone very special to share them with! And my pic again tries hard to illustrate a beautiful sunny day threatened by a boiling mass of fluffy white clouds. Of more concern are the black storm clouds, seeking to really put a dampener on the day’s events. Yes, I may be back home but my heart is very much still on holiday so one more seaside photo. And I've had a difficult couple of days to deal with as well. I guess I’ve overdone things a little and am paying the price with a health relapse. It’ll pass. But I also feel rather low, just returning to my empty house with no wife to share it is still pretty rubbish. An almost sleepless first night doesn't help; it was 4am before I managed to immerse myself into a moderately disturbing dreamland. Somewhere in my subconscious though, resides an eternal optimist; I eventually woke up walking along with two quite delightful companions, one on each arm and of course both female. Totally non-romantic, just very friendly. That’s all I want. But a shame the dream finished so abruptly as I have no idea where we were going. And I can still hear their laughter today…

Anyway following my somewhat emotional return to Derby, I did have the most wonderful experience last night. Exhausted, I went bed very early, around 8pm, and submerged myself in Kindle-Land whilst listening to UCB Christian radio. I've found that to be a perfect wind-down before sleep. So the end of each day they broadcast a Worship Hour programme, and I often engage quite nicely with their track choice. But part way through I met with God; his amazing presence filled my bedroom and his peace and joy filled my heart. I was truly bursting with happiness! I want to live like that 24/7. One day I will. Just like Jane. In the meantime though, my life is well and truly worth living.

John 16:33 I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.’ (NLT)

Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Journey Home

They say all good things come to an end… I don’t accept that! So today I returned from my holiday, and yes I have had a good time, and yes I have just driven 215 miles. But actually I also enjoy travelling, especially driving my motorhome.

Today was one of my best ever journeys. Relatively little traffic and very little to slow me down.

But yeh, always road works. I’ve been making the same trip to the south coast for many years, and cannot remember a single journey without many miles of cones. Let’s stay positive then… at least it’s good for fuel economy on my large vehicle!

A few years ago I spent 4 hours almost within sight of the Dartford tunnel, as it was closed after an accident. Never did work out why we couldn’t use the alternate tunnel, maybe the bridge was closed due to high winds or something. Anyway, today no problem, and only a momentary halt at the toll booth.

So was I tempted by this picturesque service station? Not today.

And certainly no diversion to the safari park.

Philippians 3:14 I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.’ (NLT)

Friday, October 12, 2012

Wishful Thinking

I guess there are few who don’t dream of winning the lottery, and of course plan their wonderful spending spree. Technically I’m one of them as I have never bought a ticket and don’t expect to. But I can still daydream, can’t I? And I do possess an ancient £1 premium bond; the monthly first prize is at least a million so you never know… Ok I’m not holding my breath, and having been raised as a good Methodist I don’t understand gambling of any description. It’s just not me. But it’s still game on with ‘if you had the money what might you spend it on?’ And today I visited Ramsgate and enjoyed a walk around the harbour. Yes, yes, I know it’s not the South of France and theoretically with a bit of financial juggling, I suppose I could find a way to buy one of these. That’s not the game though, is it? At least not if I have to downsize my house. No, the idea is that daydreams are supposed to be just that. Out of reach. Anyway, today I played the game with my son, and no way would this older sailboat do the trick. It just happens to be headlining my photo. We both choose something rather less demanding, a boat with a big fat motor, and large enough to live comfortably as we wander over to the continent. Ah well, maybe if we lived by the coast we’d go study for whatever licence you need to drive one, and then who knows what might happen. But we don’t, it’s just a game. Except today it wasn’t. ‘Cause last time I visited this place I was with Jane, maybe a couple of years ago. And we played the daydream game then…

I’m struggling. Yesterday I woke up thinking about Jane, and her final few hours. The last goodbye, after a forty year romance. No avoiding it, it’s just how I woke up. And I meandered through the day thinking about my lovely wife, pretty much constantly. Even made myself ill at one stage, as we wandered around a Battle of Britain museum. Recent family holidays, using my motorhome and multiple tents, have involved a dozen kids and grandkids. Constant activity is nicely distracting; this week it’s just me and my adult son. Just the two of us on an out of season camping holiday is a serious reminder of the countless similar excursions I enjoyed very recently with Jane. Except it’s totally different. He’s a big bloke and very young, he likes to talk about cars and phones and stuff like that. He’s not a beautiful and very feminine woman, who enjoys political debate on a global scale. Keep your eye on the second coming of Jesus Christ and stuff like that. Then we might pray and sing a worship song together. So video entertainment has moved on from Shakespeare and The Holiday, to a rerun of The Bourne Identity and James Bond. My paper based word games have been transformed by computer tablet and smartphone. Subway filled rolls have completely subverted the more genteel visits to tea shops and the like. Garden centres are no-go areas. I enjoy my son, he’s great. But he’s not my wife. And I’m missing both her and the life we enjoyed together. I’m struggling to put my heart into the new, for sure. I want the old back. But that’s just wishful thinking.

Matthew 5:4 ‘God blesses those who mourn, for they will be comforted.’ (NLT)

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Just Another Day

Sometimes change comes along simply with the passage of time. Sometimes we must do something about it! So a couple of days ago, in nearby Deal, we endured torrential rain and high wind. Today, on the cliffs overlooking Dover the weather is gorgeous. Perfect holiday weather, especially for October. And there’s nothing we can do about the weather anyway; aside from relocating to a sunnier country, and that’s not an immediate option as I left my passport at home. But as I sit here overlooking Dover Harbour, watching ferries come and go, I have to admit I’m just a little jealous of those sailing across to France. Maybe next year. Yes, I used to really enjoy driving on the ‘wrong’ side of the road on my continental adventures… with Jane. All sorts of things I don’t get to do anymore though; like cuddling up on the settee to watch a romantic movie. Stop it David, there’s no point thinking that way! Ok, I wonder if there’ll be alternate cultures to explore in heaven, bound to be I guess, with inhabitants from every tribe and nation. From ancient Egypt to 21st century Tokyo, Amazonian Pigmies to Icelandic Eskimos, there’ll be quite a variety of folk to enjoy and get to know for sure. Yes heaven must be filled with many different homes for the many different races. But, though I may be wrong, I do reckon that the Lord will have us all speaking a common language. No more division on that score. And it certainly won’t be English, so that could be fun!

One day, at the right time, when all is done that needs to be done, I’ll get my own ticket to heaven. I’m in no rush. I do enjoy my life, even though it has changed rather radically. Yes losing my wife is not easy, but then lots of things in this world are challenging to say the least. At least I live in a relatively prosperous and democratic country, with every modern convenience to hand. Most folk I meet are polite and courteous, charitable giving is always high, and despite welfare cuts, most have a roof over their heads and food in the larder. The real suffering I see is relational and in those who live a dysfunctional lifestyle. Many though, are lonely and crying out for support in their disability. City centres are almost no-go areas late in the night, when drunken disorder abounds. Workplace bullying, wife-battering, human trafficking and so much more, and worse, is never far away from my own cushy little world. It’s impossible to avoid and immoral to ignore these things. This world can be a better place, though I believe that goodness and evil will exist alongside each other until the Lord himself returns. All we can do is to always make sure our little bit pleases him, and reach out to others with his goodness, seeking to spread the boundaries of righteousness even further. But that demands we get involved, get our hands ‘dirty’ as it were by reaching out to the lost and the needy with the love of God. It’s always challenging to ignore my own needs and give preference to others.

Isaiah 9:7 Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end.’ (NIV 1984)

Monday, October 08, 2012

A Day of Rest

Sometimes good intentions are just not enough. So maybe 6 months ago my son tried to book his annual leave and found the earliest available date was October. Not much of a summer holiday for him then, but that’s what happens when you’re in temporary employment. We first discussed a trip to New York but he decided he’d rather save money for a car, and ‘I’ll take you on a camping holiday’ explains why I have company this time around. We both enjoy being in Deal, which is a little strange as there’s nothing here really. Just a sleepy seaside town on the way to nowhere. So here we go then with a lovely photo of Deal Yacht Club! And we decided rather foolishly to ignore the weather and take a stroll along the seafront. Didn't work at all well as we basically got soaked within a few hundred yards, despite waterproofs and a large umbrella. A bit like yesterday, when I ignored the advice of the campsite manager to pick a hard standing pitch; well there really didn't look much of a problem on a gently sloping grass pitch, where I parked only a month ago… until I tried to move forwards and discovered the seemingly dry surface was actually waterlogged. And I got well bogged down causing damage with wheel ruts until eventually recovering to tarmac. Humble apologies sufficed, as being end of season the guy wasn't too fussed.

So 4.30pm on a rather wet October day my son is now thoroughly enjoying himself… fast asleep on my motorhome bench whilst I’m playing with this blog post. We’re both happy. Who cares about the weather, sometimes just a change of scenery is all we need to enjoy a break. And yes, I can hear birds singing, I've seen rabbits chasing and squirrels running and all is well with my world. Tomorrow promises to be a little drier. And a quick shopping trip provided cheap DVD entertainment for this evening; called Lionheart, it’s a tale about King Henry ll. I love to immerse myself in a good historical book or movie, but I've never heard of this one, so we’ll see. My son is good company anyway… especially when he’s not snoring! And I sure need a rest after a few days of ill health and a 4 hour+ journey to get here yesterday. Maybe 15 miles from our destination and perfectly timed with the Japanese F1 on TV in mind, traffic police suddenly closed the duel carriageway dumping us onto a narrow country lane without explanation. Ah well, sometimes you just have to let go of trying to make things happen and simply go with the flow.

Psalm 119:105 ‘Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path’ (NLT)

Saturday, October 06, 2012

A Special Day

We should always make a special effort to celebrate and remember important events in our lives. Like family birthdays and wedding anniversaries… oops, what’s the date today? Oh dear, until reminded I clean forgot my own wedding anniversary! And maybe that’s not such a bad thing. Yes, yes, I know it was perhaps one of the most wonderful days of my life but in some miraculous way I seem to be moving on. I'm not looking back too much any more  and there’s no point as that’s not where my future lies. So I know I think about and indeed write about Jane quite a lot still, and that is an important part of grieving; but it’s no longer painful in the way it once was. There truly is a lightness in my spirit, a sense of joy and gratitude for the life I was so blessed with. And although the love I have for Jane can never diminish, in some mysterious way it has changed; or should I say it has moved. No longer in that painful and very raw place as an open wound upon my heart, it has been completely enclosed inside the love and the grace and the peace of God, which fills my heart to overflowing. I feel so much more secure emotionally when thinking of Jane. Not quite finished with the tears yet, but certainly far more in control.

I recently had a brief conversation about bereavement, and the fact that it doesn’t seem right. Of course ‘rational’ thinking makes complete sense of life and death; we’re born, we live, we die, just like every other part of the natural world, end of story. It’s just that something inside of me says that there has to be something more, and that something is God. So there was a day, many years ago when I explored that idea. And I discovered, quite wonderfully, that it does not have to be a distant relationship, dependent upon religious ceremony, and only to be made certain upon our own death. Rather, we can know him today as he fills our hearts with his presence and stirs our spirits with his word. Yes, God truly speaks and works in our lives in as real a way as the closest of friends ever. In fact life only truly makes sense and only really has meaning with God in the equation.

Sunday the 7th October 1973, I drove to the Lake District for my honeymoon and had a great time, so tomorrow I plan to go find the motorway again. But instead of a beautiful 19 year old bride, I’m taking my 25 year old son who is suggesting we buy a new wok for culinary entertainment! Not quite the same, though yep, I’m looking forward to it. I did offer to drive him anywhere, and originally he mentioned Cornwall, but then it came back to Deal. I don’t mind.

Ecclesiastes 3:11 Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.’ (NLT)

Thursday, October 04, 2012

All Things New

Clinging to the past is not usually a very good idea. Unless maybe you own a classic car like this! It’s an Austin 7 built somewhere around the 1920-30’s and looks like great fun; and I once spoke to an owner who was quite happy driving to France in the thing. But this particular vehicle was simply towed by a fairly new motorhome, on a trailer, which made much more sense to me. So for short runs and rallies I can certainly see the attraction of owning one. Well, ignoring the specialised challenge of parts supply, they must be simpler for amateur maintenance than any modern car with countless sensors driving computer technology. And this one would be worth a few quid as well, but given the socio-economic mobility demands of modern life I’d suggest not so practical today, even though perfect when new.

My life was once almost perfect. Or at least parts of it were; specifically my home life and health. Work was more challenging, but that’s not too unusual is it? Having the security of a wonderful wife and family to return to, no matter what the world outside threw at me meant everything. Being able to share every concern, then prayerfully resolve any issue was a privilege I now miss enormously. It still feels weird, almost wrong, making even the smallest of decisions without getting Jane’s input. I’m just not used to only pleasing myself. I don’t like it. But the real question is about how I see my future unfolding. Can it ever be as ‘good’ as my past? I loved being married to Jane, as without doubt she was a gift from God to me, and getting my head around being single is still tough. But increasingly I am convinced that marriage for marriage’s sake is not at all what I want. Should the ‘impossible’ occur and I meet another soul mate, then I’m sure that’s a way of life I’ll embrace wholeheartedly. But in the meantime I aim to embrace being single, I must learn to enjoy my unasked for independence and explore a new freedom serving the Lord with no questions asked. And maybe, just maybe, I’ll find myself in a position where marriage really would not fit my new way of life. A bit like an Austin 7 with a top speed of 50mph, driving a couple of hundred miles down the M1… my romantic heart says go for the classic car, enjoy the journey, it’s an end in itself, even if you have to take a couple of days! My ambitious heart reaches for a big engine vehicle designed for today, bespoke sat-nav, bluetooth, auto-parking and all the rest of it. Yes, I reckon I may well be able to get places I never dreamt of before. For sure I don’t want more of the same, no matter how wonderful it was.

Did I somehow just liken Jane to an Austin 7? Oops, I’ll cop for that when she finds out; there goes my double-chocolate black forest gateau at my reception party in heaven!

Isaiah 43:18-19 ‘But forget all that— it is nothing compared to what I am going to do. For I am about to do something new.’ (NLT)

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

A New Season

We can find something to enjoy in every season of the year, and autumn heralds a particularly special pleasure as trees embrace their end of year glory. Conifers may have an unrivalled fragrance, but the evergreen thing is rather too predictable for me. I like a bit more variety. Truth be told though, my afternoon photo opportunity, taken at the start of my walk, was immediately interrupted by rain. Again. And that very much reminded me of our earlier spring and summer, and how our seasons seem to have merged somewhat this year. But at least I can now look forward to my woodland walks along golden red footpaths, with long shadows cast by the sun as it settles low in the sky in the late afternoon. And, who knows, maybe I can capture something of the spectacle of migrating birds, gathering for their winter journey to warmer climes. I came across a flock of geese, over a hundred, all resting in the meadow very close to my intended pathway; and I was so tempted to approach them with the expectation that they would all instantly take to flight, giving me another great photo-op. But I felt rather mean about that, and it was pouring down with rain so fiddling with an umbrella and camera would not have been easy anyway. So I didn't  But maybe tomorrow I won’t feel quite so generous.

Gradually, step by step my journey through bereavement is taking me into a totally different place. A new season of life, with much to look forward to. I feel so much better. So this afternoon I had a laugh with myself, yes I know that’s a bit weird but that’s what happens when you’re on your own. Now, don’t get me wrong, no way do I believe in communicating with the dead; the Bible is very clear about not engaging with séances and all the rest of it, so I wouldn’t dream of attempting a thing like that. But, maybe only in my imagination, I caught a glimpse of heaven and the heavenly host were watching over the affairs of mankind. Then I ‘saw’ Jane watching me stumble through the mud on my Kedleston walk and a silly idea entered my head. No-one around to see me, though I’m not too fussed anyway… I lifted my hand and waved to her! Oh yes, I can do things like that, why not? Then I really got carried away as I blew her a kiss. Wonder if she managed to catch it? Yes I’m feeling much happier!

Hebrews 12:1 ‘Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith…’ (NLT)