Tag Archive | pain

Throw out the Walking Stick…

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There is a temptation to believe that God only turns up at big Christian festivals, or in buzzing charismatic churches. We really should have learned by now, that He turns up wherever He is invited – from damp prison cells to dusty pews, and from crowded shopping malls to isolated mountain tops.

Yesterday we played as part of a Sunday morning service, in a church in Kislingbury, Northampton. we were also there on Saturday evening, doing a small concert. But yesterday, the rector had kindly invited us back to hijack the Sunday morning worship. We did our normal thing – sang songs and told stories; this time, to an audience of about fifty to sixty people, most of whom had been attending one church or another in that benefice for many years.

A quiet Sunday morning service in a fourteenth century church – pews, tradition, no one under the age of fifty years and liturgy. We were happily shoehorned into the middle.

Untitled designBoth last night and today, there was a lady (we’ll call her Sue) who sat fairly near the front of the church with her husband. She told me later that she had seen an advertisement promoting our coming to the church, and on the strength of that, had decided to come.

When she got up to go forward for communion, it didn’t take any great deductive skills to work out that she was in great pain. Slowly – painfully – carefully, with a much needed walking stick.

At the end of the service I got chatting with her and her husband; I asked what the nature of her pain was; I was told it was arthritis which had started in her knee some years ago, but in the last five to six months has spread with extraordinary aggression to her hips, her shoulders and her spine. She expressed real fear about what she saw as the inevitable spread to her neck, and what that would mean.

I asked whether it would be ok for a couple of us to pray for her. She said it would, and I toddled off to find a prayer partner from the host church.

We sat with Sue and her husband, and with permission, laid hands on knees, shoulders and back.

Let’s be honest – I didn’t have any real clue what I was doing – which of us do when we pray for people, right? I did my best Robbie Dawkins or Todd White school of healing prayer. You know – ask what the pain level is at the start – in Sue’s case, seven out of ten, with ten out of ten expected when she went to bed that night – and we started to pray. We invited the Holy Spirit in and off we went.

We prayed for about ten minutes, during which I felt the heat from my hands that I’ve become familiar with when the Holy Spirit is present, and then I asked how she was doing. She said that her pain had reduced to about a three or a four. She was also tearful and expressed a feeling of huge spiritual and emotional release.

We carried on praying.

About ten minutes later, I asked how she was doing again, and was told that her pain had reduced to a two.

Now, this was all very pleasing, and we were very grateful, but my prayer partner was called away for something else, and my woefully limited patience was suspicious that we weren’t going to get any further, so we stopped and chatted. Then I asked her whether she could lift her arms, and she found to her surprise that she could.

She sat and cautiously experimented with this new activity for a moment or two, and we chatted a bit more.

Then I felt God prompting me that whilst I thought we’d finished, He didn’t think so, and we were to continue praying.

So we did.

Once again there was heat under my hand as we prayed, but much greater this time. We can’t have prayed for more than another five minutes, but when we finally finished, she was able to stand up with a lightness that took her breath away.

She stood, her face radiant

She and her husband had both connected with us on Facebook, so I was able to pick her out and contact her through Messenger later. She has been walking easily, without a stick ever since, and is praising and thanking God in no uncertain terms.

New faith, new hope, new life…

Not wishing to overstate the obvious, but so are we.

Right now I feel like the snotty nosed kid who managed to turn up on bonfire night, and someone shoved a sparkler in my hand. The fire isn’t mine, but it sure is beautiful. I am breathless, delighted and struck with astonished awe to be allowed to be there.

Thank you Loving Father.

Closer to You

Click this link to watch the Closer to You video


Grief…

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I’ve talked about grief before. The grinding, end-of-world kind of grief that shatters lives. No promises are made to contrary – the one thing we can all know is that there will be pain,, hardship, suffering. The best we can hope for is that we might be spared it for long enough to reach our adult years unscathed…

But all too often, that’s not the way it goes; recently, I attended the funeral of a friend who had died suddenly while on a kite surfing holiday in Morocco. Apparently he’d just sat down on the beach at the end of a fabulous day of doing what he loved, had a massive heart attack and was found dead some time afterwards. The funeral was a heartbreaking exposure of the grief of his much loved wife and their three teenage children.

In the crematorium and at the reception afterwards, there was one word hanging over us all, often unspoken, but, none-the-less ever present… ‘why?’

Why do our loved ones get taken at what, so often, seems to be the peak of their life?

To the best of our knowledge, my friend was healthy and had everything to live for; he had been vibrant with energy and zest for living. He was loved and needed.

shutterstock_182053358Among his friends and family, the question ‘why?’ was followed by largely unspoken accusations against the capricious God who had stolen their loved one away without just cause or warning; others saw it as unwelcome proof of the absence of a god at all.

As a Christian, those that know me, and know my reliance on Jesus Christ, will at some point ask me all the questions and point some of the accusations that they are burdened with in my direction. I have no answers except this…

Along with all the much wiser people who have gone before me, I have no explanations for suffering and the brutalities of loss. All I know is that Jesus Christ never claimed, for one moment, that a life in His presence would be a life unburdened by hardship (John 16 v33), though He did promise to bring us comfort to help us bear it all (Matthew 11 v28).

And of one thing, I’m absolutely sure – I wouldn’t want to go through any of the pain that I see in my friend’s family – and that, at other times, I’ve experienced in my own – without Jesus by my side, bringing me comfort, lighting my way, and making my feet more secure on the craggy rocks of life.

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Trusting to the End… And Warriors All the Way

 Without God’s grace we age like failing white goods, purposeless and ’in the way’ until we get dumped on the tip. But with God’s grace we become warriors, on the front line – where all the action is.

(the thoughts behind our song ‘Closer to You’)

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OK. I give in, I admit it. I probably ought to get my eyes tested and accept that it’s time I started to wear reading glasses. I’m not sure if the resistance has been about vanity or about simple denial of old age. But now the inevitable is starting to get its own way.

And, actually, it’s OK.

I remember a time when I used to lie awake at 2.00am, worrying about the big issues in life, like death and old age. You know, the really big scary ones that can work you into a cold sweat when you’re supposed to be getting some deep refreshment to ready yourself for the rigours of the coming day. Now, if I lie awake at all, it will be to fret about such weighty issues as whether I gave the cat it’s worm tablet or to wonder if I will have time to pick blackberries for the freezer. Life seems to have moved on.

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Which is strange, because old age and, presumably, death are looming a jolly sight closer than they used to be when I lay awake worrying about them. So what has changed?

Well, actually the answer is simple, in short, it’s due to my ever deepening faith in God.shutterstock_197213135

I find that the more I see of this planet, the more I learn, the more I come to be confident that God is calmly at the centre of it all, watching me, loving me and keeping me safe.shutterstock_133138838

’Safe’, of course, doesn’t mean without pain, illness or grief, ’safe’ is bigger picture stuff.  In John 16 verse 33 (NIV) Jesus says:

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

As I say, ’safe’ is not about the journey, it’s about where it all ends – and, I don’t wish to spoil anything for you all, but I’ve sneaked a look at the end of the story – in the end, The Lamb wins.

We will grow old; the alternative is viewed by most as even less attractive, but, as we grow beyond our sixties, many of us will experience a gradual erosion of our self esteem. The modern western world is so inclined to assess our value by how much we earn, what we achieve in a commercial sense. That getting-out-of-bed-to-go-to-work thing has a huge impact on the sense of purpose, and hence, value of all of us.

I’ve been talking to some elderly friends who break the mould recently. Last night I spent the evening with Betsy, who, at 84 is a truly inspiring member of our church. She has had her full share of the ’trouble’ that is a part of living in the world – her husband died seven years ago and she lost a son to a massive heart attack eighteen months ago. I particularly wanted to speak with her because, last year when I was talking with some church friends about God’s continued purpose in our lives, Betsy said “and you know what? It just keeps getting better.”

She laughed when I asked her about this, and told me that if she compares herself now with the Betsy of twenty years ago, she’s grown; she trusts God more – she trusts that whatever pain comes her way, He will work through it with her, and it will be OK. She described peace, the presence of The Holy Spirit; and she also described her increased sensitivity to His presence and what He is asking of her. She hears his voice more easily.

You know that feeling of elation when God has asked you to do or say something to someone? You’ve been brave, done as He has asked you – and then seen from their face that He has used you so that He can work a much needed miracle? Well Betsy gets that all the time. Every Sunday in church, she will be sensitive to who God wants her to ’get beside’, and, every Sunday, she finds that she has been led to a person who specifically needs prayer, God’s encouragement and someone wise to talk to.shutterstock_110911754

I also spent some time with my mother in law, Ella, who, at 79,  positive, energetic and determined to get the most out of life, is an inspiration in so many ways. But we weren’t actually talking about her, our conversation was about her Aunt Miriam. Aunt Miriam was a Methodist Preacher. She married once – to Harold – when she was in her late sixties. He was the love of her life. Four years later he died.

Ella told me that until Miriam was too old to ride her bicycle, she used to cycle round Sandbach, taking cakes, coal, medicines, you name it, if it was needed and she could fit it into her basket, she’d take it to someone.

I met Miriam once, in an old peoples home in Sandbach. It was a few weeks before she died; she was sitting in a chair, fast asleep when we arrived, and when she woke up her face was beaming with deep joy and welcome. She was 92 and utterly beautiful. The memory stays with me.shutterstock_163889813

Two weeks later, she told Ella that Harold had visited her in a dream the night before, he told her he was expecting her to join him in a couple of days time; Jesus had also come to her and she was so excited, she was about to go home. She died peacefully two nights later.

God’s work thrives on the intercession of women (and men) like Betsy and Miriam, and across the world there are successful churches built on the bedrock provided by their unceasing prayer. Listening, obedient prayer warriors. They are at the very forefront of God’s work.

My ambition is that one day, I might become one of them.

Yep – horrible stuff is going to happen in life, a lot of it already has, but we are all so loved, and I have come to realise that, if I allow Him to, God will extract value and purpose out of my every breathing moment.

And then he will take me home.

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