Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Get well wishes

After nearly 8 weeks of parading my get well cards in the lounge, Carol has called time!  And perhaps as well because they somewhat dominated our living room.  But, as I look now at the pile in my hand, I must express my gratitude to all who sent them.  It takes considerable effort to find a get well card, especially if choosing with a particular person in mind, and then to write a personal message in it and mail it.  I loved my email messages but you cannot handle them in the same way!
Because I was locked down, drugged and immobile, I spent considerable time valuing each and every card. Some showed beautiful scenes. I happen to love trees and landscapes and several drew my eye into glorious countryside and seascape. I especially loved the ones showing a path through woods with sunshine in the distance. Several were humorous and one unintentionally so. Sent from the deaconesses at  First Baptist Church, Wheaton in Illinois it quoted Ps 84:5: Blessed is the man whose strength is in Thee. However, the picture showed a stout pair of walking boots, a map, compass and rucksack. For a man wobbling on crutches it seemed somewhat pointed!

Several had Scripture verses that I had time to ponder: Jas. 4:8, 2 Cor. 12:9, Ps 105:5, Ps 115:15, Ps 130:5, Ps.25, Lam. 3:22-23.  Most had personal notes, sometimes even a letter, all of which I read with the greatest of care. My family sent me home-made cards with pertinent illustrations. Elliot drew a hospital trolley!  Some surprised me, like a card signed by all the members of the table-tennis group.  Actually, many surprised me because of the kindness and effort shown.

I think you can tell what these cards have meant to me!  Thank you for so brightening these past weeks.

Friday, October 24, 2014

At last - a surprise breakthrough!

Thank you to my long-suffering friends who have digested these medical bulletins. Hopefully, I am turning the corner. And you can skip this bulletin anyway!

7 weeks after surgery, my hospital visit this week involved another set of Xrays, followed by a consultation with my surgeon.  To our delight (oh, yeah!) he announced my bones were healing appropriately and I was even given a photocopy of the metalwork, resembling an inverted Eiffel Tower.  Cautiously, he advised me to keep my boot/cast on and begin weight-bearing by increments of a quarter of my weight each week over the next month. I was left more than a little puzzled by how to  calculate all this, and (honestly) some disappointment that I would inevitably have a hop-along gait for several more weeks.

Then I was whisked off to the Physiotherapy dept.  Conner (a lively Irish lad) who has overseen my exercises immediately tested my progress.  You know how that happens! Pressing hard (yes really hard) against my foot he measured my resistance in different directions.   He expressed pleasure at my improvement. (I must admit I have practiced my exercises relentlessly in order to impress him!)  But guess what!  He announced I could renounce my boot/cast for ever and begin to walk normally, with the help of crutches.  There and then, with him at my side, I walked the length of the room (though with a touch of bladerunner along the bottom of my right foot).

I need to be careful because walking 'normally' without crutches is still a considerable way off (and driving etc). But what liberation!  And what wonderful timing too.  For the next day I had to address a Thanksgiving Service for a friend whom I was proud to know,  David Ridgeon MBE,  whose stature in Cambridge and beyond brought over 600 to the service in my old church at St. A's.   To reduce all the drama of getting a wheelchair onto the platform etc. to a simple shuffle on crutches was a real answer to prayer.  Well, like the whole process has been!  So, I'm on the way.

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!