Sunday, October 19, 2014

Listening with Grampy

Last week I was left in charge of my two older grandchildren while the others went shopping.  Anton, who is just 10 years old told me that his birthday gift was a stereo system and that before he goes to sleep he loves to listen to classical music.  What?  Currently there is an schools' initiative to encourage children to listen to classical music, but his (apparently independent) commitment startled and thrilled me.  I also love to listen to classical music on my personal CD player when my head hits the pillow  So entranced was I by the thought of Anton's new enthusiasm that I made a daring decision.

For six weeks I have not ventured down the garden to my shed/sanctuary.  Wobbling on crutches over grass has not seemed a good idea.  But with the help of Luca and Anton, with well positioned chairs for me to overcome steps at either end, I ventured forth.  The shed was in need of airing, but we all sat down as I reached for an LP to play on my stereo.  Both sets of eyes opened wide. What was I doing.  Vinyl revolved, the stylus lowered, followed by a slight crackling from the speakers.  'Look,' said Luca, 'it's gradually moving towards the middle.'  They had both declared that they like Elgar (good choice!)  So I had put on his Symphony No. 1 which is one of the best English symphonies of all time.  It begins softly with a solemn drum beat.  Suddenly, a wonderful tune bursts out.  I confess I had set the volume high! Their faces were entranced.  Yes, really! Anton stood up and started conducting the orchestra, arms wide open to the majestic sound.  'This is wonderful, Grampy',  they said.   The telephone rang shortly afterward and interrupted the concert, but not too soon to rob me of an unforgettable moment bonding with my grandchildren. We need to seize and treasure such moments, don't we?

Monday, October 13, 2014

25,277 and counting!

A friend sent an email today which contains a calculator to help work out how many days we have been alive.  You submit your birth date and instantly the number appears together with the day on which you were born, for me a Monday, as well as other details like the number of weeks lived so far.  Again, for me 3611.

It really is an eye opener!  That over 25,000 times I have woken up with a clean sheet of life to be lived.  Some of these days have passed very rapidly;  others drag (and I've had a few of those these last weeks!)  As I think about that number and marvel at how many days have already passed I realize how I should treat this statistic as I look ahead.
  • To regard each day as a gift to keep me grounded with thankfulness to my Creator. 
  • To see each day as opportunity to grow wiser, building on lessons and experiences from the past.
  • To treat each day as valuable because I never know how many more there might be. There is a limit!
When the psalmist wrote: Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom (Ps. 90 12) it was set in a context of living every day wisely, even though they quickly pass. Their total length may be seventy years, or eighty if you have the strength, says the psalmist.  But what really matters is that we slow down and recognize that each one counts as gift, opportunity and so valuable!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Hope, fed-upness and hope

Looking at yesterday's posting I realize I could easily come across as someone who has risen gracefully above disappointment, and that Hope has utterly vanquished any frustration I might feel. That I am a poster boy for spiritual serenity!

I just need to put the record straight. I do believe in the bigger picture of God's hope with all the purpose that brings to the life of faith.   But I have also been downright fed-up.  Yes, honestly, the combination of continuous dull pain, strong drugs, confinement to chair and crutches, inability to access my study for nearly six weeks, has made me really really fed-up.  And the unanswerable question about why this stupid accident had to happen sorely circles around  - especially in the early morning hours. 

So my experience of the progression of suffering - perseverance -character - hope is not a straight forward, shining journey.  It continues to be a choppy one with ugly doses of fed-upness!  I think that is probably how the development of continuous perseverance works to deepen character through bouts of fed-upness that are not allowed the last word.

Wonderfully, today, just as I needed to put the record right about my fed-upness Carol heard from her consultant that her colonoscopy yesterday proved to be clear of cancerous polyps.  And that good news has made such a difference to my own journey of hope.  Oh yes!  Thank you, Lord.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Cancellation and Disappointment

Today we had planned to stay at Heathrow Airport overnight before flying out to Chicago tomorrow.  Everything was organized with an action-packed month ahead full of good things.  The Evangelical Homiletics Society annual meeting Oct 9-11,  sessions working on the Lilly preaching initiative, lectures at Moody Oct 30, 31 were to be interspersed with events on a wild social calendar.   Carol, the social secretary, had booked up nearly every day in order for us to catch up with friends - mostly eating together!   You can imagine the fun we had planning it all.

The reality hit hard this week as we realized how far short we have fallen of fulfilling these grand hopes.  I still have more than two weeks in my wheelchair (with heavy painkillers) until my next X rays which (hopefully) will allow me to start the next phase of recovery of bearing weight on my damaged foot.  And, compounding the dour mood, today Carol has to undergo a rerun of the colonoscopy in hospital after a failed procedure last month.

Perhaps inevitably, we have reflected on how disappointing this turn (actually twist) of events has been.  Yet, we also acknowledge that coping with disappointment positively is a vital lesson of growing up.  Remember how utterly crushed we were by disappointments in childhood?  Oh, the gross unfairness and the railing against the world that would never be the same again!  I can still remember some of those times.  But we also recognize that we can develop the positive progression that Paul outlines in Rom. 5: 3-5.  'suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.  And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us'.   It's true - such hope does not disappoint us. God's hope always looks beyond, putting troubles we face along the way into kingdom perspective.  Roll on, God's solid future!

Sunday, September 28, 2014

The carer

Over the last four weeks I have indulged in some personal reflections following my freak accident. Early on I rightly commended the nursing care I received in hospital and gave thanks for the patience and tenderness of care I received.  But I really need to make special mention (and this is not just because she may likely read this post herself) of Carol, who has suddenly become my arms and legs...and much much more. 

I have lost count of the times that Carol has come to my aid, night and day, as she had prepared meals, changed and washed clothes, coped with going up and down the stairs with food and drinks, positioned crutches and wheel chair for expeditions to hospital and doctors' visits, answered the phone, organized medicines, cancelled flights and plans, and been an omnipresent source of strength and encouragement. Those who know her will not be surprised that she has somehow also found energy to give meals to visiting friends on several occasions.

Some moments have pushed the envelope.   A few days ago I woke at 5:45 am and reached for the glass of water by my bed in order to take the next round of drugs.  Clumsily, and very noisily, I knocked the glass over and anointed everything on my bedside table (and underneath).  As Carol shot awake and clambered out of bed to remedy the situation I was reminded of our marriage vows.  When I was asked to repeat after the minister the words 'for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health' Carol gave a running commentary under her breath (which only I heard)!  'For worse... for poorer.. in sickness'.  She was smiling as she said it  - at least in my memory she was!  I confess that over 46 years I have given her more than my fair share of grief yet every time she has come up trumps.  Truly, I thank God for her love, grace and humour - we have at least four more weeks ahead with me on crutches and I pray my spectacular carer will keep on going.   

Friday, September 26, 2014

Keeping balance

I have found out just how useful a second leg is!  It will be no surprise to those who have attempted to master crutches just how complicated every move becomes when you cannot put weight on your right foot.  I was given a hospital leaflet briefly explaining the process. Its two diagrams showed an athletic man swinging forward on crutches.  However, this totally (and I stress totally) failed to prepare me for the high tension wobbles that threatened to wreck my very move when I tried. Indeed, I failed to leave hospital on the planned day because my physiotherapist was so dismayed by my lack of balance. I still fail to impress.

However, on a later visit a physiotherapist told me that the trick for moving around corners is to imagine I am negotiating around a large 50 pence piece (sorry there is no six-sided US equivalent!) Each tiny shift around its sides requires many segments of immense concentration and effort. I am retraining myself to see the hazards lurking in the simplest of moves and to employ the 50 pence strategy.

It will get better and I am sure the stress on my arms and shoulders will build up muscle (eventually).  But a curious thing happened as I looked out of the window while typing this.  I found myself marveling about the people I could see walking, cycling and even jogging down our road. Truly marveling.  Every one of them seems to stay upright without any trouble, without apparently giving any thought to the balance required.  I smiled to myself at the absurdity of projecting my wobbles onto ordinary everyday walking. But, we do take so much for granted don't we, and I shall need to remember this when I have the use of my right foot again. Oh, the lessons I am learning!

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Wheelchair compassion

My brother called me recently.  His wife has been unwell for some time and needs a wheelchair whenever she leaves the house.  As I shared my news that I had joined the ranks of wheelchair users, he described his amazement at the level of compassion people showed whenever he wheels her out.  'It surprises me, how genuinely caring and sorry people seem to be.' he said. 'I'm sure you will find that too!'

Three days ago I had my first outing around the block where we live.  As soon as we left the front door our neighbours came out to greet us and it was true - there was sadness in their eyes.  Indeed, the man almost seemed to well up.  As they said how sorry they were and how they hoped the healing would improve they really seemed to mean it.

The next day we were more adventurous and went to a major store, with a Subway next door.  As I was parked at a table by Carol, trying to protect my right leg which inconveniently lies horizontal, I found myself next to two ladies. "Oh, love,' said one, ' whatever's happened to you?'  As Carol was buying our rolls (it took 15 minutes!) I found myself drawn into their counselling as they expressed their sorrow and told me how patient I should be (and what herbal drugs I should take!)  True, in the big store there was less kindness in all the busyness but even there a store manager went with us to the car pushing our shopping cart for us because she said that I looked rather tired (and I was)!

At times it seems that compassion is in very short supply in our world but how wonderful it is to report from my own little experience (so far) compassion is alive and well, and adding a glow to the pain and awkwardness of disability.  Thank you, all you compassionate people out there.