Thursday, June 30, 2022

Ticked

I'll get back to the subject of ageing but something odd happened a few days ago.  Carol asked me what was the matter with my left leg, pointing to something on the back of my leg, out of my sightline.''I.ve never seen anything like it! she exclaimed. 'It's like a black growth with a black teardrop hanging down. It's really strange and ugly.'  Blissfully unawares I had for some days, showered, dressed, sat and walked while this thing determinedly hung on.

At Tesco pharmacist we asked for advice. At first she seemed loathe to examine me but, when pressed, she pronounced with surprise that I was housing a large tick which needed to be removed at once.  A tick?  Wouldn't I have felt something like that?  Apparently not.  Just over 2 hours later in our doctor's surgery a nurse wielded large tweezers to extract the tick and then jump on it several times. Apparently, NHS regulations suggest killing it by a burning cigarette - that doesn't sound appropriate in a smoke free zone! The nurse from Cameroon said she had often dealt with ticks in Africa but since coming to England I was only her fourth victim.

Then began a watch and see period.  Was the site going to expand, change shape and colour?  Was I going to show symptoms of infection such as headache, fatigue, muscle pain. I am happy to report that a friend who is an experienced nurse has now examined me and declared me free.  There is no mass underneath the bite and I have no symptoms.

The great mystery is where this particular tick has come from. Could it have begun eating me in the US on our visit there?  Or is it homegrown?  Apparently, they are on the rise in the UK.  So, this salutary tale is a warning to us all.  Beware ticks..  

Friday, June 24, 2022

Optimistic faith

 

In fairness, I should give more space to the book with that provocative title: The Joys of Successful Ageing. Written by a popular US pastor George Sweeting it is full of bright optimism. Though he has experienced serious illness, it is also clear that he has enjoyed a successful career and is widely admired. Optimism radiates from the first chapter 'Lighten Up'. He likes the quote: 'We don't stop laughing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop laughing'. Humour, he writes, combats stress and helps creatively cope with life. He calls us 'to use it or lose it' and claims that people of faith tend to live longer. Because they view the physical body as God's temple, trust in God, belong to an extended church family, practice faith with prayer and can experience grace. 

Positively, he unpacks these different aspects with the OT character, Caleb, as his role model. Aged 85 when many people are well into retirement Caleb claimed he was as strong to serve as he had been at the age of 40 ( Josh 14:11).  ‘Rather than seeking security and ease, he asked for an enemy-infested mountain, so he could give it as an inheritance to his children and grandchildren. Caleb is an authentic role model for all who want to age successfully. His last years were his best…and they can be your best as well'.

He commends Caleb's secret: 'Don't be misled by circumstances or frightened by difficulties. They're not what matters. It is you attitude that counts. Caleb won the battles of life because he first won the battle of faith. That was Caleb's secret...and it can be yours.'  

It's a bright and cheerful book. I couldn't help thinking about two sentences at the beginning:  First, he says he was born with a happy disposition, a giggler who sets others off laughing.  Second, he emphasizes how authentic joy has nothing to do with disposition but comes from a spiritual relationship with God. Nothing to do? Isn't it likely that when you are born with a happy disposition, applying Christian faith positively is easier?   I must ponder some more!

 

 

 

Friday, June 17, 2022

Getting back into the swing.

 

Returning from the USA has proved long and weary. Jet lag has lagged on and on. What we could once bounce through in a day or two has taken nearly two weeks. Several have pointed out that not only has the  pandemic interrupted patterns of behaviour, but has wedged two years of misery and ageing into our lives. This certainly hasn't helped any of us. But, whatever the reason, it has been hard work getting back into the swing.

When I turned 70 (a while ago) I was given a Christian book - The Joys of Successful Ageing   It made me think.  What joys lie ahead?  Is joys the appropriate word?  And what is successful ageing?   Is ’joy’ the primary sign of successful ageing?  So that when everything takes more time, faculties dim, friends die, and life becomes more limited, is the ability to keep joyful the symptom of success ? 

For younger readers I realize these may not be urgent questions. (Though, of course, ageing is continuous and maybe there are applicable lessons for those in their forties, fifties!)  But, frankly, I didn’t think much about ageing until I was into my 70’s.  But this book title set me thinking and I need to ponder what word is most appropriate to ageing. 

So, for a post or two I though I might reflect about successful ageing. I rather like the idea.


Wednesday, June 8, 2022

A good hiatus

I know there's a gap in postings. Well, we have just visited our US family, for the first time in 3 years.  Having not flown since (blame Covid) it all seemed to absorb more nervous energy beforehand and some exhaustion afterwards.  But as Carol pointed out, helpfully, everything seems more difficult with age.  But it was so worth it!

  • Just being with family after a long separation.  Yes, just being.  Relaxed, sitting, talking, listening and eating.  I guess that the fact we had missed being together for 3 years intensified the experience. They have worked so hard improving their home in Warwick, NY, with 1 and half acres of grass, trees, with deer, chipmunks and flourishing flower beds. A lovely home.
  • Kindness in so many ways.  Planning for us very thoughtfully. Their checklist included visiting Carol's favourite store in their town (three times); seeing Downton Abbey together; strolling through a huge outlet stores complex where Carol spent birthday money; cheering Elliot playing trumpet in the school jazz band as it led the town's Memorial Day procession;  being amazed at Sophie's skill on her computer design programme; enjoying ice cream served by Elliot at the farm shop where he works part-time; celebrating the Platinum Jubilee with BBQ steaks, fire pit and sparklers. 
  • They planned a Grand Finale on the day before we flew home.  Rob had booked a session in a photography studio to capture us as a family group.  But, to my astonishment, he presented me with a plaque celebrating the 50th anniversary of my ordination.  Which I had to hold for some of the poses!  All slightly embarrassing but so generous and thoughtful. 
I know family reunions can vary greatly.  But I just wanted to share with thanksgiving how ours worked out.

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

When a local church surprises

Sunday morning we had arranged for church flowers (Carol's favourite blue and white) to mark the 50th anniversary of my ordination.  A great practice for all in church when celebrating various special events!  My honest expectation was that the minister would likely say a word in passing. It was a packed service led by our Brazilian elder and his wife, Bart and Zara, who came to us after lively leadership in Brazil.  After much singing and a testimony they began talking about us. No?? 

Zara had worked hard on an embarrassing piece about our ministry but with a good emphasis on my partnership with Carol.  Generous and totally unexpected. And then we were invited forward as the congregation applauded to receive a rose plant, a large chocolate cake surrounded by chocolate cup cakes (see a theme?) and most importantly, prayers from a couple of friends. Then afterwards we had to cut the cake together (!) on a table groaning with cakes for all. 

Carol and I joined this church when retiring 7 years ago.  We reflected how remarkable it was that the whole congregation shared in this event with such kindness and enthusiasm.  How wonderful it is when a church family acts like family.  We are truly grateful.

Friday, May 20, 2022

Just one more reflection

Forgive a further (last) post.  But, after all, 50 years doesn't come round often. My ordination was a heady time. We were expecting our first child, final Oxford exams were close, soon we would move to my first church at Blackburn but, most demanding of all, were the vows, laying on of hands and public declaration that this was it!  I was giving myself (and my family) to all the unknowns about our future life together for God's sake.  

  • Extraordinary grace - only by God's gifts of love and strength can any of the story be told. Year after year he has kept us going - through serious illnesses, church difficulties, family life and the constant demands of Christian leadership.
  • Unnerving unknowns. Thrust into all those expectations in my first church when we were also setting out in parenthood, not knowing how I/we could cope.  Praying for strength and wisdom far beyond our years.  And that continued to be the story of need throughout 50 years. 
  • Out of control.  Unusually, not one of the moves we made in ministry was sought! Always they were initiated by others....sometimes against my preference.  Blackburn approached me because a previous minister had a vision that 'I was the man'.  Next, Cambridge approached me 2 years before I said yes....so convinced was I that it wasn't for me.  Spurgeon's then approached me - the strangest call of all. Utterly beyond my radar!  Lastly, Chicago seminary approached me - a delegation whom I did not know challenged me in Dresden. We knew nothing of the situation and yet had to leave all the family and pick up fresh responsibilities in a very different culture.  Fancy having a life where you don't direct any moves!  
  • Solid partnership.  Among the recent list of 14 surprising facts about pastors (churchleaders.com) no.4 reads: 'Our families feel the weight of our calling more than they will ever tell you.'  That's true, and none of the journey would have been possible without Carol's total commitment in co-service.  I could fill a few posts on this.
  • Prayer power.   Among friends along the way, I know we owe huge gratitude for the untold prayers of those prayer warriors who upheld us and our ministries.  We shall never know how much the God-happenings were due to their diligence and sacrifice. 

You've hardly changed..NOT

On Sunday May 21st 1972 a (Buddy Holly) bespectacled ministerial student was ordained into Baptist ministry, in Chatsworth Baptist Church, West Norwood (where we were married in 1968).  So many rich memories of the occasion crowd in - with Barrie White the preacher and my dear Dad sharing in the laying on of hands.  Members of my first church in Blackburn travelled down to share in the service, and one of them took the photo on the front of the Induction Service leaflet and blew it up so that nobody with poor eyesight could miss it!  Tom Baldwin, one of my future deacons, was the official Blackburn town hall photographer who loved enlargements.  

Carol and I are quietly and thankfully sharing memories this weekend with a good dollop of wonderment about the 50 years since.  All with profound gratitude to God who has seen us through. I know it's asking your forbearance but I hope to post some reflections soon.