Sunday, February 26, 2012

In praise of the local church

These last two Sundays I have been back to our local church to share in morning worship and our bible class. Last Sunday I was utterly stunned by the volume of love that pressed on us from every side. It seemed as though every person we met had been praying for me and was now rejoicing with me. It felt a little like being placed on an Oscar red carpet by the sheer goodness of God's answer to prayer and being cheered on every side. Apparently the pastor had announced the good news about my surgery outcome the previous Sunday and there had been applause! We both feel humble and deliciously warmed. At its best, belonging to church means belonging to real community with love and prayers in action. We have tasted that again.

Today, was less extravagant in its emotion (!) but one event particularly spoke to me. When we met in class, the leader began with a question: "What helps you stay close to Jesus Christ in discipleship?" I suppose there were about 40 in the room. Immediately answers began tumbling out: reading Scripture, seeing answers to prayer we do not deserve, asking the Holy Spirit to empower us, doing service for Christ, marveling about God's perfect timing, being encouraged by other Christians. So many spoke and some even told short stories. I wish I had written down a list - it was rich.

What struck me as I listened was the authenticity and quality of ordinary disciples sharing their stories. Too often we talk from the front and fail to let others' speak. (I am guilty!) In a smaller group such sharing is a delight. You can imagine how affirming it was to be part of this chorus. One person described how it was like each person was striking a tuning fork and finding a harmonious hum as more and more people joined in.

I didn't speak but I would have echoed many of the others and added my up-to-date experience of what it means to belong to such a community of love in action during these past few weeks. Yes, I know it is easy to critique the local church and point out its failings. But how I rejoice in my good story that really helps me stay close to Jesus Christ. Again, thank you for your care and prayers.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Rest Intensively

I remember reading about President Franklin Roosevelt back in 1940 who was taken to his room in a condition of extreme exhaustion looking very old and tired. Yet, in an hour's time he came out again a new man, looking twenty years younger. His daughter remarked: "Father is like that; since his illness (he suffered from polio) he has trained himself to rest intensively; that is how he goes on."

That's such an interesting concept: to rest intensively. To allow rest to be the dominant mode for body, mind and spirit. I know how attempting to rest the body without resting the mind can leave us as tired as before. You know, hours of tossing and turning in bed when the mind will not close off! But, resting intensively means making a conscious effort to give your mind with the rest of yourself over to peace. It reminds me of Scripture promises like: "You will keep in perfect peace whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts you" (Isa 26:3). Older versions had: "Thou will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on thee." And this peace is not some suspended fluffy feel-good animation. It is living in maximum harmony with God and his creation by his power.

I have been trying to learn this steadfast, staying peace principle over the last few days. Keeping trust in God's big promises and big picture for me and living wisely by his power. Was my return to teaching on Monday and Tuesday a good idea? Well, perhaps it was a little too soon because I felt old and tired the next couple of days! But, I know it was such a boost to be back with my students and to feel useful again. In fact, sometimes doing something like that addresses the staleness that tiredness brings.

I shall keep getting it wrong. Not keeping the balance between doing, thinking and resting, not resting intensively. Several of you have warned me about rushing back before I should. But I give thanks for encouragements as I enter my fourth week after the operation that resting is working. Thanks for all your caring. I'm on the way.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

You have a life!

At last I rouse myself to post a comment. I really value Carol hi-jacking this blog so effectively these last few days. Her posts prompted more responses than I have ever received over the past 4 years! As one of you said: 'She writes from the heart' and you can sense how heartfelt our thanks have been.

When the surgeon said: 'You have a life!' it struck with great force. I guess he may have used that line many times before. Even though medical science has made great strides in dealing with cancer, the knowledge that you have to live with the big C inevitably clouds the future. When he declared that I may be finished with cancer (with May 3rd the definitive date for hearing!) the sun came out.

As a Christian I love to think about Christ's gift of eternal life - a life with God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit - that has already begun. Life, life abundant, is how Jesus Christ invites us to live now by his resurrection power and not even death will break us from his love. Oh yeah! But when the shadow of serious illness suddenly threatens you are thrown into dark places. Fear is an all too natural response and questions inevitably flood in. All future plans are thrown in confusion.

The certainties that Carol and I can testify to through this journey:
- the power of prayer. For the pathologist to find lower cancer levels than the biopsy showed is a miracle.
- the wonder of Christian fellowship. The way tens and tens of people connected with us in so many different ways, offering prayer and practical support was overwhelming in the best way possible.
- the marvel of healing. After painful days I am really improving. Indeed, I am planning to go into seminary and teach on Monday and Tuesday this week. Carol will be there to keep watch (as always!)

With thanks to God for healing through doctors and His Spirit I look ahead. Bless you for sharing along the way.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Update by demand!

Hi everyone
It has been so marvellous to realise that friends are reading this in Australia, England, Canada & of course the USA! It makes us feel so grateful for all the wonderful people that are in our lives because of Michael's ministries and our travels around the world. We have always felt it a tremendous privilege to be part of people's lives, both in the good times & in times of need or sorrow. Now it has been our turn to receive all the love & care & I can honestly say it has been overwhelming in the most humbling and wonderful ways. All we can say is a huge THANK YOU as we value each & every one of you.
So many have asked how Michael is doing -I can report that he is making slow progress with each day seeing an improvement. He is moving better & is in less pain. Today was our first outing going to our dear friends the Rupprechts for lunch. It was great to feel normal again, even though it meant a prolonged rest later.
So we keep hopeful, praying that May 3rd confirms the cancer free diagnosis.We wish we could see you all, especially our church friends from Blackburn, Lancs and Cambridge, but all of you have been special showing such support and love of Christ to us

God Bless you all & your loved ones wherever they are
Love from us both, Carol

Thursday, February 2, 2012

The Power of Prayer

We have just returned from the hospital where we received the best news in the circumstances that we could have been given. The surgeon told us that Michael was one of the rare patients who was 'downgraded' following the pathology. He'd expected to tell us that things were worse like he has to many patients (and he had already warned us about expecting Gleason level 8). In fact, it was downgraded to 6 which is obviously better news....and all the surrounding lymph nodes and tissue are cancer free. They believe they have caught all the cancer.
I told him that we had many people praying all round the world and he said, "Prayer is very powerful", and he seemed as thrilled as we are at the outcome. Full recovery will take a little while but the next major point is in 3 months when PSA test will (hopefully) confirm the good news that cancer is no longer there. He smiled at us and said: "You have a life!"
How can we thank you enough for being on this awful journey with us and upholding us with prayers and caring. It has been overwhelming experience and although we wouldn't wish this worrying time on anybody there are positives where people show such love and care. And that is so amazing to experience and be on the receiving end. Thank you, thank you, thank you. With the greatest thanks to God for hearing our prayers and bringing about this healing.
With love from us both, Carol.
Hopefully. Michael will be back at this screen soon as energy returns.