There are mornings that I wake up from a lovely dream. One in which I am walking, running, pain free. As I wake and turn on a light (by voice), the pain hits me first, normally through my eyes. Did you know, it’s not just love that hurts, light hurts too? My head joins the party next and I have not been at a party drinking the night before. So no excuse and nothing to blame. If my body is in an uncooperative mood (it normally is) it stays still for quite a while. When it does deign to move, it makes it’s presence felt. I guess it doesn’t want me to miss out on congratulating it for the effort of moving.
Once I have turned over. That is a big task in itself. Reached for the bed control and sat the bed up a bit. I skipped removing the CPAP. That’s the bit of equipment that keeps me breathing at night. Anyone with sleep apnoea will know about that. I then look around. No point looking at my tablet computer yet. My eyes can’t focus first thing. Just as well I have a good imagination, I just think.
It’s at times like this; every morning. That I have often contemplated the words of that song. ‘Row, row, row your boat.’ Actually, it’s not that bit I contemplate, that would be silly. I think about the words, ‘life is but a dream.’
As a Christian, I know life isn’t a dream. The Matrix is a great movie, but it’s just fiction. Life is reality, dreams are dreams. But as I transition from the sleeping/dream world into a rather painful and limited reality, I do muse. I muse about how nice it would be if this real world were the dream. If the dream world, of walking, running and being pain free were real.
I did not write this as a ‘feel sorry for me’ piece. Nor is it meant to be maudlin. But, if I never write the truth about being disabled and ill. You will think it is all laughs. I smile and laugh because I make that choice. Every morning as I lie in pain, I make that choice. Often I say to myself, ‘come on Michael, pull yourself together.’ I call myself by my full name when I want to chivvy myself along.
I don’t look down on those who can’t do that. Others suffer far more than I. We can never know what another person is going through. Don’t judge someone because they are angry with being ill, disabled or limited. I can’t know the pain of another; neither can you. I can’t understand what you are going through; it could be far worse than me.
If there is one take away message I would want to give, it’s this. I know that we all have struggles in life. Whether we are ill/disabled or not. Life can be hard for us all. Especially at the moment with all the financial burdens and stress.
Be kind to one another. Be gentle and caring. We all need the grace and strength to get through each day. Let’s help each other through it.
I was playing a game today. It has Zen in the title, so I guess this is a Zen quote.
It says, ‘There is no greater goal than being content with yourself.’
That’s an interesting quote. The thing about pithy and interesting quotes is that we hear them, absorb them and assume they are true.
But think about it for a moment. Why should you accept that statement as true?
1st it is giving us ‘The greatest goal in life.’ So ask yourself, what is the greatest goal in life? Is it really contentment with yourself?
Content = A state of peaceful happiness. In this case, with yourself.
That sounds pretty good doesn’t it and you might well be saying, ‘yes, I agree with that.’ Why not, after all. We are the most important thing in the world aren’t we? So our own state of peace and happiness, should be the first consideration, shouldn’t it?
Fly in the ointment time.
What if we are parents and have a child. Where do they fit? Is their, ‘state of peaceful happiness’ as important as mine? Less important? Equal?
What if we really love another person (partner, lover, friend). Where do they fit? Is their, ‘state of peaceful happiness’ as important as mine? Less important? Equal?
Rubber hitting the road. Choice time, you are in a situation where you are both in danger and you can save yourself or your child/loved one. Who do you save? It’s obvious isn’t it? If that statement I started with was correct. Then we come first. Our happiness and peace is first priority. But that is not what happens, is it? We don’t put our self first.
When we love someone, they come first.
Here is something even more crazy. There are those who love people selflessly. People who are not family. People who do not love them back. Not their partners, but those in need. They love the unlovable. Are they crazy? They are most definitely not living according to that opening statement.
Here is something even more crazy. God is like that. He loves the unlovable, us; you and me. Yeah, I know, you are probably thinking, that you are really adorable. But, you are not perfect; sorry to break that to you. God loves you anyway. Imperfections and all.
God became human. Became a man actually, Jesus, he lived on earth and he did not live by that opening statement either.
Jesus made this statement and I commend it:
There is no greater goal in life, than to: ‘love God and love your neighbour as yourself.’ If you are wondering if your neighbour is just the person who lives next door. Jesus answered that. It is anyone in need.
I love the Buzz Lightyear’s call in Toy Story, “To infinity and beyond.” But what can be beyond infinity? Isn’t infinity by its very nature, unending? If I said that I was going to live forever; then you couldn’t ask me what will happen after that. There would be no, “after that”. As somebody said, “forever is a very long time.” Now that’s not true, is it? Forever, isn’t a time at all. Forever, is another way of saying infinite.
If you limit something, time, space, this blog; then it is not infinite. I can here you cheering that this blog isn’t infinite.
It used to be that people saw the universe as infinite. Then some clever scientists came up with the idea that space might be looped/bent back on itself in a doughnut shape; tasty. Actually, I am being deliberately difficult; not like me at all. Science has many opinions on whether the universe is infinite or not. Many of them state something like: ‘The Universe’ is made up of all the ‘matter’ thrown out by the ‘Big bang’ so it can only be as big as the furthest it has reached/expanded since ‘The big bang.’ Umm, fair enough. But I think us non-scientific folk, include all the ‘emptiness’ that this ‘matter’ is expanding into, when we talk about ‘The Universe.’ I think what most people mean by ‘The Universe’ is everything ‘out there’, not just the bit that matter has reached so far. After all, what we really mean when we say, is the Universe infinite? Is this: “Is there an end point out there? If it were physically possible for me to fly straight out at limitless speed, would I come to a wall, or an edge; would I go around in a circle and end up back where I started?” Really, we are like those first explorers who set out across the oceans asking: “Will I fall off the edge?” Fortunately, we don’t have cartographers, writing: “Here there be dragons,” on the edges of the map of the Universe. We leave that to the Sci-Fi writers. My map of the Universe has this written at the edges, “here there be ET.”
The incredible thing about the universe is the balance of it all. The perfect way in which forces operate. Gravity, light, heat, all the different types of radiation. The way these forces have shaped and enabled the complexity of the universe and the very life we live. Many scientists have become and remain Christians on the basis of the what they have discovered and observed.
Those scientists who look at the universe and see random chance, remind me of those who would look at an iPad and say: “What an amazing thing, look how time and random chemical and physical reactions can produce really useful technology.” Of course, Apple might take exception to that viewpoint. Would anyone seriously argue that an iPad could come about randomly, even given millions of years for it to happen? Yet it is argued that a much more complex thing, a biological cell containing DNA (1 gram of DNA contains 215 million gigabytes of information), that’s much more data than contained in an iPad, came about by random chance. I find it as hard to believe that life in all its complexity is a chance accident. After all, would you think that your, house, phone, iPad, car, PC, office building, the infrastructure of our country or anything else man made came about by chance?
I have heard it suggested that an infinite number of monkeys typing on an infinite number of type writers could produce the works of Shakespeare. What utter rubbish; that could only work if it were monitored and every time the first few words of Shakespeare were randomly produced it was saved to one side. Then we wait for the next bit, a few million years later, add that etc. An intelligent brain would need to be involved. The reason such absurd suggestions are made is because they cannot be tested. I’ll make a challenge, a really easy one. This is not for something complex like Shakespeare or an iPad or a biological cell. Find me an Ikea white ceramic plate that has been randomly formed by chance anywhere in the known universe. With Ikea printed on it. Not the whole works of Shakespeare. Just a simple white plate, circular. If complex things can come about by chance, so can this. Think about it for a moment is it any more likely that life in all its complexity would spring spontaneously into life than a plate appears spontaneously? After all we only think life makes sense and is a natural thing to happen because it is here; we live it. But what is there about chemistry and physics that would make you see life as any more a natural progression than a plate, an iPad, a robot, a sock? I don’t see the logic beyond one very obvious reason; it is an explanation of this: ‘How did we come into existence?’ We know how iPad’s, socks, plates etc. came about, intelligent beings created them; us, well not me personally, but humans. But we fail to grasp that the much greater complexity of human life could possibly be by intelligent design. How ignorant and silly of me to suggest such a thing.
When science is able to create a single cell organism out of the chemicals that they say it sprang from spontaneously; I will take their argument seriously. I am not talking about taking things containing DNA and splicing them. I can build Lego models from blocks intelligently designed by others. I am talking of the base chemicals only. For those who don’t know, that cannot be done. There is no evidence to back the theory.
Don’t see me as anti-science; I am not. Science at its best is an exploration and understanding of the Universe God gave us. It enables us to harness the physical world, fight disease, and make life easier. At its worst it can destroy and contaminate. I am pro the best in science.
Well, it’s been a while since I last watched Toy Story. Maybe it’s time to strap on that firework and roller skate and shout: “To infinity and beyond.”
We were listening to Mariah Carey’s song, ‘The hero lies in you.’ It has some powerful words that I am sure resonate with many people. Words like, ‘So when you feel like hope is gone, look inside you and be strong.’ It’s a song about love lost of course. But it has wider appeal and meaning to many. Mainly because it suggests that we all have an inner strength, what is referred to as ‘a hero inside our hearts.’ That’s not a line from the song, but a combination.
What is a hero? We use that word a lot and it has resonance for us. It moves us in this song. What does it mean in this song and generally? Hero can be a character in a piece of fiction who does great feats and is admired, the lead character. Hero can mean a person in life who we admire and who achieves great things, who overcomes obstacles, who does something great. Generally, the hero rides in to the rescue when things go wrong. They are the character in fiction and in real live that we credit with rescuing a person or situation.
These days, in this post-modern world we are much more likely to look at anti-heroes than heroes. The very concept of heroes has become passé and unpopular. Humans are a fickle lot, a fact that has been pressed home on me by watching the first series of Masterchef Goes Large. It’s not just that Greg Wallace and John Torode look so young in 2005, but it’s their comments. The idea that it is not desirable to mix the food of different nations. A concept that is lauded in the latest series. The complaints at food being presented in to fancy a manner, or veg being too crunchy. These are all food fashions that have changed. There is an old song called ‘Putting on the style.’ It so captures the idea that each generation just puts on a new style/fashion. It’s so serious to them, but as you get older and see the many ‘re-runs’ it becomes absurd.
Back to being our own hero. In our lives the song writers, including Mariah are suggesting that we can be the hero. Is that true? That’s an interesting question. Can we save ourselves? Be our own hero. There’s an American TV series called ‘Heroes’ it’s about a group of people who ‘evolve’ super powers. So, these ‘heroes’ are super-heroes. In a way that is what a lot of us think when we consider the idea of ‘hero’ we almost unconsciously add ‘super’ to it. Marvel comics have produced a whole series of comics and the follow-on films about ‘heroes’ some of whom do not have ‘super’ powers. Their ‘super’ powers are the weapons or armour they use. Characters like Iron Man and Falcon fit that bill. You probably think I am a huge comic book geek now? Actually, I don’t read comics at all. But I do occasionally watch films about comic book characters. They are escapist fun.
Where was I? Being our own hero. Can we be our own hero, save ourselves? At last, I am going to give my answer to that. Take it or leave it, weigh it for yourself. I don’t believe we can save ourselves. Which is not the same as saying that we should give up. I believe that we should be strong and try hard in our lives. I believe we should not give up. But I also believe that there are points in our lives when we need help. Things are just beyond us. We cry out in desperation. There is an answer. That answer comes not from within us, but from Jesus. I know, you want to stop reading now. Mike is banging on about Jesus again. Being all religious and talking twaddle. Actually, I am not being religious at all. I am the least religious person you are ever likely to come across. I do not blindly follow any rules. I don’t believe in a set of instructions that lead to salvation. I don’t worship a holy book. I do not advocate a man created ideology or religiosity. I have no time for the concept of working you way to heaven, or say that only good people can meet God. I dispute the idea that church is full of people who have got it together. I certainly do not put on a smile and say, ‘everything is wonderful because I know God.’ No, I am a real human being. I know about God, because I have a relationship with him through Jesus. My ‘faith’ is a real faith based on a real person.
There is nothing special about me, other than what God has done. I am totally unable to save myself. But God can do anything. I do not follow a set of instructions; I follow a loving God. I don’t worship a holy book. I read a book of life; The Bible, God’s Word. I don’t claim that I have my life perfect and together. I fail, I fall over, I get in a mess. God loves me in that mess. Helps me through it and pulls me out of it. When I go to a church meeting it is full of people just like me. Imperfect, weak, real and needing God. It is from that point that I am saying there is an answer. Jesus is the answer; because I have experienced it. Jesus is not a swear word, or a concept, or an irrelevancy. Jesus is a person we can know and be known by. More than that, Jesus is God’s son who came to earth so that we could know God and have hope and a future.
When I say we cannot save ourselves, it’s because we need God’s help. When we search for a hero inside ourselves; what we find is Jesus waiting to meet us and help us. You can choose to be self-sufficient and do it all alone, but ultimately you will then find you are too weak. We humans are full of bravado, singing loudly about how great we are. Inside we know the truth. Frightened, weak and lonely. We need each other, friends and family, but most of all we need God. Jesus will help us get to know him. Or you can decide to try and go it alone.
I have often suggested Alpha.org as a free, non-pressured way to ask questions about Christianity and I do so again.
Please like and share this blog. Contact me if it raises any questions.
I have been scanning photos while lying in bed. Mary is sorting through old photo albums and I am digitising them onto my laptop via a portable scanner. It’s a fascinating process, I am time travelling from 1870, no not my childhood, that’s my early adulthood. Now come on really! It’s distant family relations that we have photos of through to our childhood, courtship, marriage and early married life and our children. It is quite a trip through memory lane.
As I lie here in bed looking out at the garden I can see flowers that are already losing their blossom, a tree just gaining leaves and birds that live just a few years. Scanning the photos of long dead relatives has made me contemplative, not maudlin, but thoughtful. Life is so brief, we are born, go to school, get a job, hopefully, maybe get married, sometimes are blessed with children and grandchildren, then we grow old and die. We do so much while alive. Work, build, create, love, laugh, cry, debate, write, sing, paint, teach, encourage, heal, help, and much more. Then there are the negative things people do, fight, steal, destroy and kill among others. It made me think of the lines from Macbeth:
“Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow, Creeps in this petty pace from day to day, To the last syllable of recorded time; …. It is a tale Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing.”
Such an image of futility.
I would think Shakespeare had Solomon’s words from the Bible in mind:
In the book of Ecclesiastes 2:11 it says:
“Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had spent in doing it, and again, all was vanity and a chasing after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun.”
This from the wealthy King who had everything his heart desired.
Wow! That all sounds very depressing and before you all rush off in despair I have a ray of hope. No I am not going to start singing “Circle of life,” from The Lion King, because I am not a pantheist. I don’t worship a god of Earth, Wind and Fire. There I go again, you’ll definitely be expecting a song now.
I believe in a very personal God, a real and living God. A God who we can know and experience. Not a god of the forest and fields, but a God who made the forest and fields and everything in the universe. Not a god in my image, but a God in whose image I was made. There is a very big difference. How does that give hope? Because life in all its brevity and seeming meaninglessness, actually has meaning. King Solomon talked about the pointless and meaninglessness of things, of possessions, things. If you know one thing about Kong Solomon, I bet you know he was wealthy. He had riches coming out of his ears, not literally. He had many wives and concubines. Hey, this was the norm at the time, so don’t get on your moralistic high horse about it. The point is, he had sex a plenty. So anyone who thinks sex on its own is the answer to happiness, it’s not. Anyone who thinks money and power alone are the answer, they are not. Obviously you need enough money to meet basic needs, beyond that money does not bring happiness. King Solomon knew that only one thing would bring him ultimate fulfilment and that was knowing God.
We are really lucky today, because unlike King Solomon we live in a time after Jesus came to Earth. Which means we have a really easy way to get to know God. It’s so easy that it seems too easy. Often people add bits on to make it harder. There are many Christians who think that they need to do extra bits to get to know God. They just can’t believe that God would make it so simple.
Here you go are you ready for the what you have to do? Believe in Jesus Christ. Belief and trust in Jesus that’s it, it really is that simple. No rules and regulations, no club to join, no fees to pay, nothing else. I can here you all shouting out, ‘what about the Church?’ You have to join that. No, you don’t, the Church means the gathering of the people of a God and you become part of the Church when you become a Christian. Once you become a Christian you will want to be with other Christians, just because they are family. But the form that takes will vary greatly. You will also notice that the things you used to do before you knew Jesus, not all of them will feel right. Changes you make won’t be because you have to change to be a Christian, but because you want to change now that you are. It’s reverse to your expectations. In fact here is a shocking statement, you could carry on doing everything you did before and also not gather together with other Christians, it won’t stop you being a Christian. But you will find you lack joy and fulfilment. You will feel the lack. You see being a Christian isn’t about what you do, but who you are. Once you get to know Jesus and say yes I believe in you and trust you, you become an adopted child of God. Who you are has changed even if you never act any differently. The reality is that most people can’t help but act differently when they realise the change of who they are. For many they do change, but it can be slow. One thing to be very aware of is that being a Christian doesn’t make us perfect. We still do things wrong. It’s just that God forgives us. I have heard people say they couldn’t go to Church because they aren’t good enough. Well join the club, neither am I. Another common thing said is that all Christians are hypocrites because they are not perfect. But as I said, becoming a Christian changes who you are not what you do. What you do changes slowly over time.
Imagine for a moment that you woke up tomorrow and found out that you could choose to be an adopted child of the Queen, or if you are not into royalty then an adopted child of some billionaire or a top film star. How would that affect how you saw yourself? I assume you couldn’t help but see things differently. You would realise you had new rights, new privileges, new access, a new standing in the world etc. Well that is all true but a million times more when you become a child of God.
Is life meaningless, do we work and toil at things without real purpose? It can seem that way. But as a child of God we can have a hope and a future that will not perish or fade. A hope and a future that is secure. Our lives will not be meaningless or signify nothing. Instead they will have purpose, meaning and significance. There is hope and a future.
As always if I have raised questions you want answered I suggest Alpha. It’s a free, no strings attached Christian course. Check out alpha.org
There is a recently released Amazon Prime series, made before the virus. It’s an absolute mine of insights to the modern psyche. It is funny, mostly intentional, thought provoking, exciting, it’s even a love story and a general fun romp. Warning there are bits that will be unsuitable for some people. I won’t spoil the whole plot in case you haven’t seen it and are going to, but the basic premise is that when you die you can choose to have your consciousness uploaded into virtual reality called ‘heaven’.
It’s that basic premise that gives me the basis for this blog. For many years people have been trying to extend physical life, ever since people stopped generally believing in God and heaven. After all if you think this is all there is, you need to extend it. Upload is the current generations answer to that issue, your consciousness, which they say is who you are, could continue in a virtual world. Doesn’t that open a whole can of worms. Are we just the total of our memories and the contents of our brains. Do we equate to content on a hard drive? Which by the way is how a persons consciousness can be transported in Upload. It is a satire, so you can’t analyse it too closely, but it still raises interesting issues. ‘I think therefore I am’ becomes ‘the content of what I think is who I am’. I don’t know about you, but I reckon that a human is more than the sum of their parts. There is something beyond mere memories and thoughts. A baby has not yet got memories and can’t really think in the way we understand it, but they are human. Are they less human because they have less content? Is a genius more human? Does a person with brain damage who has lost the ability to remember anything cease to be human? Surely you would all agree that there is something beyond memories that makes us human. You cannot upload what you do not comprehend. If you only uploaded memories what would that be? Would it be a human?
Another thing that Upload highlights is that in the man made heaven of Upload you pay not only for the privilege of upload but day by day and for extras while there. That is such a horrible thought. We pay for everything here, heat, light, water, food. I think most of us would agree that at least when we die the cost of living ends. Not in Upload. Again I know it’s satire, but it is pointing at things that are part of how people think and act in our world.
Then there is the cross over between the two worlds. You can visit the virtual heaven with VR glasses and suits. That is a whole other area of humour, and shock in the series. It’s playing on the idea of mediums and ghosts but with tech. Actually while I am on the subject of entering the VR world from the physical it’s a good time to make another observation about humanity. The people visiting are effectively just looking in from outside. Their whole existence, reality, consciousness, still exists in the real world, they are just using VR goggles or a suit to look into and possibly feel the VR world. That is very different from the uploads. The uploads have ceased to exist in the real world, they only exist in VR. Hence my earlier comment about containing the whole of who someone is within their memories. Because that is all that is transferred. We are more than our memories.
I will finish with this thought. I believe there is a real heaven and a real God. We get to know him through Jesus. If you want to know more about Christianity there is a course that is free to attend and has no pressure or follow ups. It’s called Alpha.org I realise that during lockdown there will be no physical meetings. But the website will have information.
It’s that time of year, excitement is building, kids are getting ready. Yes, a new Star Wars movie is due. Anyone who reads my blogs will know that I have my tongue well and truly in my cheek.
We were in Dawlish last week and we heard that someone had committed
suicide at the railway station. Christmas is for many people a time of loneliness
and sadness. If you are ill or limited that is exacerbated even more. Seeing
bright lights and cheery smiles can just highlight unhappiness in yourself.
Often we don’t focus on our pain and difficulties. After all it’s better to be positive.
But how hard is it to keep that up when everywhere you turn the message is about
fun and excitement.
I started with Star Wars for a reason; it’s make believe, it’s
fiction. Life is not a movie, life is not perfect, life is messy, life is full
of difficulties and trials. Yes there are good times and joys. But there are
also tough times. My point in saying that is this applies to everyone. It’s
easy at Christmas to see the images around us and think that it’s only us who
are suffering. That is not true. Many people find it tough. We are not alone.
You are not alone. Big smiles often hide broken hearts.
It’s easy to discount the central message of Christmas. A
baby in a manager. Just a kids story, irrelevant, boring, untrue. But Jesus is
the only person who makes sense of everything. He didn’t stay a baby. He is
real, he is relevant and he is true. You might think, yeah he’s ok but his followers
are a bit rubbish. All those church folk. There are certainly a lot of imperfect
people who go to church. What a relief eh? That means you don’t need to be
perfect to go to church. Church isn’t about the people who go to it. It’s about
Church is a family and family is a warm and strong unit that
can support and help us. Yes families also get it wrong and occasionally cause
each other pain. We are human. But family is great and at this time of year if
you are feeling isolated and alone isn’t family what you want? Try dropping
into a church and see what I am talking about. Who knows you might like it.
A long time ago… well actually now you might be struggling. It’s
a tough time of year. But don’t give up. Maybe try the Church see if you can
find family there. If that’s not your way forward, then chat to a neighbour, a friend
or find someone to talk to. But please don’t give up.
A quote from ― C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
“I hope no one who
reads this book has been quite as miserable as Susan and Lucy were that night;
but if you have been – if you’ve been up all night and cried till you have no
more tears left in you – you will know that there comes in the end a sort of quietness.
You feel as if nothing is ever going to happen again.”
Some nights just seem so dark, some days for that matter.
Can you identify with the quote above? I can, I have been there, cried out,
dried out my tears. Had that feeling of emptiness. Often, we say that, ‘Hope
comes in the morning.’ Or ‘you’ll feel better in the morning.’ But that isn’t
always true. Sometimes things feel as dark when we wake into the bright
sunshine. Hope still seems as far away. Tears just keep coming and they do not
dry up. I am writing this for all of you, because I have been there, I do know
what it feels like. It is a place I know.
Despair is the most awful feeling of all. That sense that
nothing will ever be the same again. Life is meaningless and empty. The very
light goes from around and within us. Even when standing in brilliant sunshine,
we are in darkness. Even when surrounded by friends and family, we are alone.
It’s no good me saying you will feel better. Things will
improve. Light will come. Pain will cease. Because you won’t believe me. I
would not have believed myself when I was in the darkness. There is a word
bandied around that has lost it power and meaning through overuse; ‘faith’. Whatever
I say, you will have no ‘faith’ in those words. They will be trite and
‘Faith’ is to ‘put our trust in’, ‘put our weight on’. The
reason that anything I say about hope and the future is ultimately empty is
that you have no ‘faith’ in me. You cannot put your whole trust in me nor lean
your whole weight on me, I would collapse under it. The same goes for your
friends and family. The same goes for tv personalities, stars, gurus, writers, experts
etc. People collapse under the weight of our expectations. If you want to be
able to ‘put your weight and trust’ on something or someone, then it must be up
to taking that weight and trust.
There is only one place to turn that is up to the job, and it is where CS Lewis turned; God. Because faith can only have meaning and power if it is faith in something or someone that can bear it. I want to make two asides here:
1/ Don’t switch off to truth because you think, yuk religion. This is about ‘faith’ not religion.
2/ I trust in God, but I am not claiming that makes things simple or easy. I am not being trite.
How do you go from a place of absolute darkness to a glimpse
of hope? That bit is simple. God is always waiting with open arms. He sent
Jesus Christ into the world so that we could be rescued. As it’s recorded in the
Gospel of John chapter 3 verse 16:
“16 God loved the people of this world so much that he gave his only Son,
so that everyone who has faith in him will have eternal life and never
really die.” (Contemporary English Bible)
You see not only is
God the only one who is able to ‘bear the weight’ of our expectation and is
worthy of our trust. But he is also ready and waiting with open arms so that as
we turn in ‘faith’ to him, he has already turned to us. If that sounds too ‘religious’
to you, then you have a very different view of religion to me. It is in fact
the only hope and future that we really have.
Hope does come in the
morning even when we cannot see it. God is there waiting for us. For those of
us who already know him, we can still suffer despair. As I said, life isn’t simple
just because you have faith. The Psalmist talks of this in Psalm 6 verses 6-7:
“6 My groaning has worn me out.
At night my bed and pillow
are soaked with tears.
7 Sorrow has made my eyes dim,
and my sight has failed
because of my enemies.”
The difference is that
when you have faith in God, and you are in desperation and tears, then you know
where to turn. In turning to God through Jesus we are assured of hope and peace.
See Romans chapter 5 verses 1 & 2:
“Therefore, since we
have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace
with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. 2 Because
of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved
privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfullylook forward to sharing God’s glory.”
If you have stayed with me to this point then I have two suggestions:
1/ If you already have faith in God, keep on going.
2/ If you don’t, then turn to him. Or at least investigate further. Check out a free Alpha course: https://alpha.org/
“I was wrong.” As Mary said this, I tried not to look surprised,
but I was. It’s not something she says very often, annoyingly because she isn’t
I, on the other hand make mistakes as a hobby. Mistake is a word
that definitely features in my dictionary, it comes right after spelling and
just before grammar.
When we make mistakes, it’s tempting to hide the fact. I remember
as a child we had a large glass coffee table. It was great for playing card
games on, you dropped something and as you picked it up you could glance under
the table at your brothers and sisters’ cards. Oh no, now they’ll know I
cheated. What you couldn’t drop on it, we discovered, was anything heavy.
The sound of breaking glass is not a sound I enjoy. It brought
back memories of when I was even younger, and I slammed a glass door in my sisters’
face when she was chasing after me. Why do children run with their arms
outstretched? The scars on her arms are still there as a reminder of that unfortunate
episode. The breaking coffee table was a scar waiting to happen. All of us children
froze, this was the era when parents punished you for being naughty. Unlike
today when you might get put in the naughty corner. We were not looking forward
to dad coming home and seeing his expensive coffee table in pieces. At least
mum was due home first. I will leave to your imagination his response. If you
were born in the 1960’s you will understand.
School was always a place where I exercised my mistake muscle most. Primary school in particular was a training ground for error making. We had ink pots when I went to school. No, not quills, plastic pens to dip in them.
I went to school in Buckinghamshire, they didn’t believe in new-fangled things like biros, Mary’s school had those, her birth county was far ahead of mine. The fun thing about ink pots is that they have actual ink in them. One day a friend showed me an amazing trick. He turned the ink pot over in one swift movement without spilling any ink. I was so impressed, I decided to copy him. No, I have no idea what was happening in the class, I’m sure there was a lesson going on, the teacher was probably talking, you can’t expect me to remember everything when there are ink pots waiting to be turned over. I swiftly turned the pot over, but my hand couldn’t turn all the way 360 degrees, so the ink poured onto my desk. Why the teacher chose that moment to stop talking and look at me I don’t know. I do know that we still had the cane in our school, and I was very familiar with it. My bottom said hello to it again that day. Maybe that’s why I have such a soft bottom today, it’s like tenderising meat, it got pounded so much as a child. I later found out what I had done wrong with the ink pot trick. In order to turn the ink pot 360 degrees, you must start with your hand upside down, strained slightly ready to spring (see photo).
Never let it be said I don’t learn fast. There was no way I wanted to be caned again, I was feeling sorry for the headmasters’ arm. So, I was very good for a long time after that. It was not my fault what happened next, I know you’ve heard that before, but hear me out, I was innocent. We had a swimming pool at our school and in summer term it was open immediately after school for pupils to use. It was only small and positioned six feet outside the staff room so the staff could keep an ear out for problems with us kids, this was a 1970’s safety feature instead of lifeguards and for extra safety they put a hedge all around the pool, including between the staff room and pool. This was the days before health and safety went mad, you know the days when the odd child dying or getting injured was not seen as such a problem. Those halcyon days often mentioned with rose tinted glasses on social media when we used to do dangerous things and get hurt or killed. The days many want to return to, but those who were injured are happy have passed. I know we had fun; I’m just adding some balance.
Back to the swimming pool. One afternoon my mates and I were
playing in the pool and I had a great idea for a game. Lifeguard and drowning
children. What child doesn’t like drama. Every child in the pool was up for the
game. I arranged two groups. One smaller group of lifeguards and everyone else
to be in the pool screaming out that they were drowning. It was a warm summer afternoon;
the staff room windows were open just 6 feet away over the hedge. You probably
know where this is going.
As my mates started screaming “help, I’m drowning!” and the
pretend lifeguards were shouting “you save that one, I’ll get the other.”
Teachers started to run out of the staff room. I don’t think I had seen them
move so fast. Fat teachers, thin teachers, large teachers, small teachers, the gym
teacher, and the headmaster, they all came running red faced and panicked. As
they rounded the hedge, they desperately looked around for the children to
rescue. Instead they saw lots of surprised and happy children.
Isn’t it amazing how you can go from being really popular and
looked up to by your mates, to the scapegoat? When the teachers had finally
caught their breath and calmed down, they looked to apportion blame. Isn’t that
always the way? Every finger of every child pointed at me. My bottom got
another hammering. Oh well, more tenderising.
Do you find when you make mistakes you want to hide? Pretend it
wasn’t you, or just gloss over it. In this day and age, we tend to act as if
there are no such things as mistakes. Everything is just relative, shades of
grey. There seems to be no right or wrong anymore. Yet we all know that’s not
true. Perhaps all that’s happened is we’ve lost the courage of our convictions.
It’s no surprise when we end up being led by liars and cheats if we refuse to
draw a line in the sand and say, ‘lies are not acceptable’. If truth becomes a
flexible commodity to be strained and tested by social media is it any wonder,
we don’t recognise truth anymore. The idea of absolute truth has been refuted
and abused. So, what are we left with?
I made and still make mistakes. The reason I know that is that I
recognise there is such a thing as right and wrong. There is good and evil in
this world. People do both. There is a God who loves us and unlike the
headmaster, who caned me when I made mistakes, God loves me in spite of my
mistakes. You see when I drop ink all over the desk of my life, God doesn’t
shout at me or cane me. When I smash the glass table of my life, God isn’t
cross with me. When I do stupid thoughtless things, that seem like fun to me,
but are problems to others God doesn’t call me to his office in the sky and
look sternly at me, preparing a metaphorical cane. No, God accepts me,
mistakes, failings, stupidity and all. Then rather than leave me in a mess, he
helps me change.
I can look back at laugh at my mistakes because I have a God who
loves me. I can look at the grey uncertain world around me and know that
whatever lies abound, there is absolute truth. Jesus said “I am the way, the
truth and the life. No one can come to the Father (God) except through me.” People
often say, ‘how can you be so upbeat and joyful in your situation?’ This is how.
It’s because despite all my mistakes and faults, God loves me.
I will end where I began, Mary doesn’t make many mistakes. She
made one big right choice when she chose to follow Jesus many years ago. She
made another great choice when she took me to Church in 1981 and I began to
follow Jesus. Don’t dismiss my faith as being OK for me but no good for you. No
matter what mess your life is in, God loves you. No matter how much trouble you
are in, God loves you. He is there to be found. There is a great free course
that gives an opportunity to explore about Christianity with no strings. It
runs all over the world, it’s called Alpha. Check out a local one at https://alpha.org
“Oh no, I’ve given you another excuse to
sing.” This said by one of my carers, after she inadvertently mentioned a song
title in something she said.
Can I help it if I love singing? These days I only sing a few words, a line at most, but it brings back the memories of singing. I don’t claim to be the greatest singer or actor. But I did love singing and acting in Nailsea Musicals (see Biography of Mike & Mary). ‘The sun has got its hat on’, has never sounded the same as when I sang it. Just as well really.
The production of ‘Lest we forget’ demonstrated why I shouldn’t become a dancer. Amazing bottom wiggles aside, which, let’s face it, did look good in my sailor whites, every other move lacked style.
My rendition of a verse in ‘Bless em all.’ Had to be seen to be fully appreciated. Maybe the fact that I hadn’t understood waist measuring had moved between 1940 and 2000 didn’t help. I measured my hips, 36”. In 1940 waists were measured around your tummy, mine was 40”. When my 1940’s uniform arrived with a 36” waist, it wouldn’t fit over my 40” inch belly. Even after Mary moved the button and I breathed in; tears were in my eyes the whole of the song. Perhaps I looked more emotional, maybe I had a higher register, or was I just in great discomfort.
I relive my glory days as a singer every
time I am hoisted now with a line from ‘Up, up and away.’ Or the beat box sound
of Thunderbirds. I shan’t tell you what I sing when I use the bedpan in the
morning. I’m sure your imagination can fill in the sounds and all the other
People who meet me tend to say what a ‘happy
chap’ I am. That’s before I start singing. Maybe I could change that if I sang
a few choruses to them. It could be that the silly grin I often have plastered
on my face, or my daft sense of humour gives people this idea. But I am more
than happy. I have talked about this before in my blog “How can it be OK?” Happiness
is about what happens to you. I do have lots of good things to be grateful for.
But I could also focus on the negative limitations. I don’t do that, I find an
inner joy, because joy is not reliant on events and situations. Joy comes from
within. My joy and my peace comes from knowing God. 38 years ago, I had my eyes
opened and my life felt like it started again. That is the real reason I am
such a ‘happy chap.’
My carers often say that spending time
with me cheers them up, because I am very positive and upbeat. What they are
experiencing is the joy and peace I know from God. I can be as grouchy and as
much of a pain as anyone else. I am by no means perfect. But despite my
imperfection, even though I fail, God never does. He shines out even on my
I want to just say a quick aside about
religion. I am not religious. I don’t follow a set of rules. There is not a
list of things I must achieve for God to love me. If you think there is, then
think again. That is a legalistic way of looking at God. It makes God into a
big bad distant figure in the sky. A sort of white bearded disciplinarian,
waiting to punish us for getting it all wrong. That is not the God I know. That
is not the God I met 38 years ago through Jesus. God is a loving, forgiving
father, a father more loving and caring than any earthly father or mother.
Back to my wonderful singing. When I was
a child, I used to sing a duet with my sister ‘Come my dear Franz, just one
more dance.” A Harry Belafonte song. Very odd to sing to your sister, although
I was too young to understand what it was about. We were quite a musical family,
I hesitate to say Von Trappe, because that would be totally untrue. My Granma
used to sing on stage at the local Church social club. My mum sang at Church
but was always very nervous and sang quietly. On long car journeys my mum and
dad sang duets and sometimes all five of us children joined in. ‘Puff the magic
dragon’ sounds amazing sung by seven voices in an estate car on a motorway.
You’re probably thinking, “where can I
get to hear this incredible voice?” That’s just rude, if you weren’t thinking
that. Well I’m sorry to tell you I no longer sing on stage, although there are
videos that change hands for incredible amounts of money, I think the last sold
for…. Wait they don’t sell at all. But I do still occasionally sing in public.
I have been known to burst out in song with the odd line as we are wheeling
along Wellington High St. What a treat you are in for if you pass us by. It’s a
shame you’ll miss the infamous bottom wiggling from ‘Lest we forget.’ You just
need to track down a video from Nailsea Musicals. They are as rare as hens’
Being limited and long term ill doesn’t
have to make you miserable. Find something to hold onto. Focus on what is good.
Find that inner peace and joy. I would obviously say seek God and he will be
Check out Alpha www.alpha.org it’s a way to explore Christianity.
“You were on your feet once; you can do it again.” What great, encouraging words. As if somehow, I had anything to do with God healing me in 2015. There is almost a hidden suggestion that it involved some positive thinking or right attitude on my part. In reality I was neither waiting nor ready to be healed when it happened. God just did it. I lacked faith at that time, I was quite distant from God in 2015. In fact, I would say the only person who needs faith with payers of healing is the person praying. There was one point where my faith kicked in. That was once I knew and felt the reality that I had been healed. Let me repeat that in another way for clarity. Once I knew, absolutely that something had changed, then I acted in faith and stood up. At that point I had a choice, act in faith and accept that change or act in disbelief and don’t.
There is a lot spoken by some Christians about “naming and claiming” healing. You cannot claim what you do not have. That would be folly and stupidity. Like a blind man claiming he could see when he can’t. If a blind man is healed, he knows it because suddenly he can see. That’s the same with all healing. When you are healed, something changes, and you are healed. Not because you name the healing and claim, “I am healed, and I am believing it.” But because it actually happens. The problem comes, because it’s easier to say someone else lacks faith, when they are not healed if you pray, rather than accept the truth. When we pray for someone to be healed, either they are healed, or they are not. It is the faith of the person praying that is significant.
Don’t mishear what I am saying. God can do anything, and He does amazing things. God heals today in the most incredible ways that are beyond all medical explanation. I am only talking about how faith, the faith of the person praying is so significant. Further I am emphasising that the people prayed for don’t have to be full of faith to be healed. Jesus raised the dead; they certainly didn’t have faith. Jesus healed those at a distance who didn’t even know he was praying. Friends brought a sick man to Jesus. Jesus picked people from a crowd to heal. If you are sick or disabled it will not be how much faith you have that makes a difference to whether you are healed.
When Jesus prayed for people, everyone was healed. That is no surprise, his faith was so great. When the early Church prayed for people a similar pattern, because of their faith. If we do not see as many healings, it is our faith, the faith of those praying, not those being prayed for that needs to increase. I believe that is why we see fewer healings today. We as a Church are less full of faith as we pray for healing. But I also believe we are in a time of partial revelation of the kingdom of God. There is a time coming when there will be no more death, sickness or war, but now we only see glimpses of that coming time. Do not condemn those who are sick or disabled when they do not leap up when prayed for, it is not a weakness in them. Pray instead to Jesus that he grants you more faith as you pray.
For me I was able to walk after years of not being able to. I did not suddenly gain extra faith on May 3rd, 2015. Mary was granted extra faith that night, as a gift of God and as she prayed, I was healed in Jesus name. This is not ‘faith’ healing in an abstract sense. But healing by God in Jesus Christ’s name.
When my ability to walk stopped in January 2018 it wasn’t a lack of faith and if God gave me the ability to walk again that would not be because I had gained more faith. I don’t know why my ability to walk ended, but I don’t have to understand. I just accept the healing as a gift that lasted two and a half years. God didn’t say this is until you die when he healed me in 2015. If you think about it, no healing would ever be that. As we age our bodies become frail and weak, so sickness always returns.
When people say, “you can do it again.” You can now see why I see that as folly. I did nothing the first time. If people say well done, they have missed the point, it was all God, not me.
I find it easier not to focus on whether God will heal me again. It is better to live for now, in the gift God grants us than in a hope or expectation of what might be. Living in a future hope of healing only leads to frustration. If I spend my days hoping I will be healed again then I am not embracing and enjoying now. Today is all we are promised, tomorrow is a possibility, but not a definite. Live in the moment, knowing and trusting God to provide and care for us. That’s what I try to do. I wrote before about how I find peace and joy by trusting God and seeing what he gave me as a gift. To focus on what I do not have would just negate that peace. I am happy to be prayed for and perhaps God will again grant me the ability to walk. But my life can still have meaning, joy and peace as it is.
It’s an odd situation we are in. On the surface everything has gone wrong. I lost my independence, mobility, ability to work and hadn’t even finished the work on the house we own. Yet I am at peace and joyful, I won’t say happy because happiness is based on what happens. Joy is not based on circumstances. You can feel joy when everything goes wrong. You can feel joy even in the hardest of circumstances. You can be at peace in the midst of difficulty. That’s what this blog is about a positive viewpoint on a difficult situation. How can things be OK, when everything is wrong?
The situation we are in doesn’t have to rule the way we feel. Feelings are deceptive things anyway, they so easily rule our hearts and minds. The one thing I have found that is unchanging and sure is my faith in God. I can hear all my non Christian readers turn off here and stop reading. But persevere a little longer. After all, I am saying this as someone who has truly tested this out. So maybe I have something worth hearing.
Faith is not religion, religion is not faith. There can be faith in religion but most often religion is just a blind obedience to a set of rules. A legalistic obeying of laws and statutes expecting a positive result. I am definitely not talking about that. You will not find peace and joy that way, because ultimately that is empty. I am talking about living faith.
What I have found to be true is that knowing a personal God, who also knows you and has a relationship with you transforms your life. Faith in God is life changing.
Forget harps, old men with white beards or dusty old books. I am talking about human relationship. We all understand that and feel it’s lack when it’s missing. God didn’t just create humanity and leave us to it. He saw the mess we were making and came into the world he made as a human being. Jesus was fully human and fully God. He wasn’t a blueprint of a future kind of human. He wasn’t a man pretending to be God. He wasn’t an angel. He wasn’t a prophet. He was the one and only, unique son of God. Fully God and fully human.
What on earth am I talking about!? God as a human. Am I mad, don’t I realise how crazy that sounds. Yes I do. There are many incredible and crazy sounding things in this universe that God created. Particles of matter that can be in two places at once. A force that cannot be seen or fully understood and yet holds everything together, gravity. Something that fills the gaps in the whole universe, dark matter. A perfect balance of push and pull at the big bang that prevents the universe collapsing. The more you look at the universe the more amazing and puzzling it is. I don’t have to be able to explain everything to know truth.
I know what love is, not because I can analyse it. I know what compassion is without pulling it to pieces. I can feel the benefit of mercy without fully understanding it. God loves us, God has compassion on us, God shows us mercy. We may not understand his reason or how he does it. We may not be able to explain how he became a man in Jesus. But we can know it is true. We can feel the transforming power of his love.
Before I realised that truth I was a loud voiced mocker. I see many such mockers now on facebook. We tend to mock two things, things we don’t understand and things we fear. Often our fear is that it’s true. That was the case for me. The more loudly I mocked the more it expressed my desperation. So I don’t feel anger at those who mock. I understand something of what they might be feeling. I know God loves them anyway.
Let me return to why I am at peace and I feel joy. It’s because I know God loves me. Jesus has made that known to me. But how you may well ask.
“Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.” And, “A rose by any other name will smell as sweet.”
Two really well known but equally untrue quotes. Words are very powerful things. Ask any psychologist, in fact ask yourself. What words said to you as a child still ring in your head as an adult.
Jesus is The Word of God he embodies God’s Word but he also spoke it. When we read God’s Word as recorded in the Bible and we receive Jesus the living Word into our lives then God’s transforms us. For some that transformation is instant and dramatic for others slower and less dramatic. But everyone who accepts Jesus Christ into their lives will be changed. The Word of God has the power to change our lives.
It is this change that means I can cope in the midst of disappointment, despair and seeming hopelessness. Because with Jesus there is hope and a future.
Some of you will know that in May 2015 (see video below) I had a miraculous healing, one that the doctors still can’t explain. For about two and a half years I could walk, and even do work on our current house. When in January 2018 that ended and my health again declined, I was devastated.
You may be aware that the most effective form of torture is to stop torturing someone, pretend to let them go and them re imprison them and start again. Doing this can completely destroy a persons spirit. I felt a bit like that. I had been free, able to walk and work, then it was taken away again in an instant. I reeled at the unfairness of it. I shouted at God about it. He is big enough to take that. When I had calmed down I felt I got an answer.
God had not taken anything from me. On the contrary He had given me a gift. Two and a half years of being able to walk again and being able to do normal things. A wonderful, brilliant gift. Far from being angry at the loss, I became thankful for what I’d enjoyed. I started to enjoy re living what I had done. Then I realised all the blessings God was giving me in this new season. The amazing carers God was bringing along for me to meet. The opportunities I had that previously I hadn’t enjoyed. Everything looked different and my joy and peace returned.
Whatever is thrown at us we can find peace and even joy. You might think it’s an empty joy based on nothing. But you’d be wrong. I have a depth of strength and durability to my faith that stands up to the rigours of life. Faith means you can put your weight on it and it can take your weight. My faith in God can bear the greatest testing. I can put all my weight on him. My faith is stronger than a reliance on material things. They come and go as I know all too well. God is unchanging, He is faithful and true.
To a lot of people Jesus Christ is a swear word. To me he is my way, my hope, and my life.
I am aware that I raise as many questions as I answer. One place that’s good to go and explore those questions is a local Alpha course. They are free to attend and run all over the world.