Wednesday, November 29, 2023

A brief follow-up

 We have just heard from Simon who has returned home, exhausted and in pain.  They told him the op. would normally be 20 minutes but his would be longer. Well, it was over 90 minutes during which Simon heard (courtesy of local inaesthetic) of several complications which needed the supervising prof's intervention. The prof commented to his surgical team that it had been very tricky.  We are not surprised with all the complications along the way. 

He was told nothing positive but when he returns to hospital in 3 weeks time they will examine him again.  I guess they cannot really tell for a while and probably have to scan the eye to establish how much bleeding was hidden behind the cataract.  So, we continue in prayer.  

Thanks for reading this personal post from an anxious parent. 


Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Recovery of some sight

To interrupt  my posts on life statements  (though  I must admit some difficulty in finding another one!) I am asking all those readers who are pray-ers whether you would please include a prayer for my son Simon. He undergoes some long-awaited eye surgery tomorrow at Moorfields, our national eye hospital in London.  For years he has struggled with different diseases in each eye which have deteriorated at contrasting rates.  Whenever there has been a bleed in either eye they have injected (in his words)| a superglue to stop the bleeding. But each time that bit of sight has been lost.  The downward slope of  unretrievable sight is continuous.

However, on his worst eye the plan tomorrow is to remove the cataract which has grown on a tissue paper surface (his consultant's words) to establish how serious the bleeding has been behind.  The sensitive scanning of his eye condition has been blocked by the wall of his cataract (again, the consultant's words), so they have no idea whether removal of the cataract, without damaging the retina (a dangerously possible outcome), will help the underlying condition.

Our under-pressure NHS has delayed action for many months but on Weds. 29th. November at 8:30 am his surgeon will operate.  So, prayers please.  As an editor whose work with magnified large font just about continues, and as a Dad whose family life has been incredibly diminished, we pray that the Lord of Healing will bless tomorrow's surgery.  Thanks for reading. 

Sunday, November 19, 2023

Life Statements 3\)

 A few months after my Ordination I was inducted to Leamington Road Baptist Church, Blackburn on September 2nd. 1972.

Being called to your first pastorate tests your faith and your motives in ministry. As I entered my last year in training there was much advice I could call on to ascertain God's leading. But two remarks particularly stayed in my mind. One was the ironical remark of an eminent Baptist minister, a Northerner, who said;' 'How strange it is that the Holy Spirit calls so many ministers to the South-East of England.' That challenged me as an absolute Southerner. I felt it would be unfaithful to limit the scope to the South and, indeed, coveted a church in the North for my first ministry.

A second valuable piece of advice came from my father. It concerned the emotion I should ideally feel when confronted by the right church. He said 'You should fall in love with it!'  Well, I have now fallen in love twice in my life. The first time does not concern us here. But when Carol and I visited Leamington Road last October, for the first Sunday of your interregnum, we both fell in love with the church and tow.  It was the Rev. Peter Lorkin who had suggested me as a pulpit-filler and that happy visit remained in our memories for a long time. At that stage the likelihood of my receiving an invitation to meet the deacons seemed remote. However, when in the Christmas post, I received an invitation to visit Blackburn again my excitement was considerable. After meeting the management committee I returned to Oxford exhilarated. Even though my experience of living north of Oxford was nil, and the scope of Leamington Road sent my knees trembling (and still does!) I prayed that this might be the right situation for Carol and me. In our devotions we  prayed earnestly that God's will would be clear for us.

When I came on the weekend of January 29/30th 1972 there was little doubt in my mind. There was plenty of opportunity to meet man y of you on the Saturday evening and during the Sunday I had a strong conviction that God was leading me here. That conviction has never left us, and has been reinforced by other events. My prayer is that your step of faith as a church entrusting the pastoral oversight to a young man may be blessed as together we commit our future life to the Lord.

Though I wrote this statement down my developing speaking style already gave me freedom as I spoke.  I know that the emotional engagement was high as was the gratitude to God and the humbling awareness that this was it. My first place for actual ministry! I was to write in block capitals: GOD HAS CALLED ME HERE TO SERVE FOR HIS GLORY.  I had to remember that!

Monday, November 13, 2023

Life Statements 2)

 Ordination statement cont.

Since I committed myself to this vocation and began training at Regent's Park College in Octobers 1969 there have been confirmations that this is the right course. The most recent is my call to Leamington Road Baptist Church, Blackburn, which sets a seal on my training for the pastoral ministry.

But there is one thing more I must say to this congregation in Chatsworth. On 3rd. August 1969 Chatsworth took a great step of faith - it invited me untrained, inexperienced and very nervous to preach.  Only I know how great your faith was! Preaching, of all the aspects of the ministry was one where I felt least adequate and there are churches not far from here which, courtesy of the London Baptist Preachers' Association will readily agree. Yet, when I climbed the mount for the evening service on that August date I experienced something which will always stand on a peak. I cannot really describe the loss of self-awareness, the peaceful confidence, not rooted in a careful script but grounded in the humbling strength of the Holy Spirit.  Only those who have known extremes of butterflies, dry throat and a crippling ill-ease which may accompany public speaking can appreciate why this experience is a turning point I can never forget. It gave me for the first time the happiness of preaching the good news unhampered by my own limitations and borne up by the Spirit's power.

I cannot explain why I felt this until I remember the prayers of this people, with me every minute. For those prayers and that day I thank God.

As I read these words I picture this Ordination day in sharp focus.  But, when I describe what happened on 3rd. August I realize how I pulled my punches. It really was true that preaching was part of my calling which I dreaded.  As a lay preacher I had recently visited a Baptist church, travelling by tube.  That day's pulpit experience still makes me shiver.  No one spoke to me at the end and the Treasurer grudgingly flipped me half-a-crown (old money = 25p) to cover my travel!  It was awful. What happened on 3rd. August was so momentous I felt it was too presumptuous as a young man to mention it.  Surely many would think it was the product of an overwrought imagination rather than spiritual reality.  Only many years later did I dare to tell the story how God had unmistakeably spoken to me. Even while I was preaching another voice clearly said: Michael I call you to preach.  As I later wrote in 360degree Preaching: God gave inadequate me a vivid, lifelong commitment to preach. 

I think I was right to keep quiet in 1972 but am sure I needed to go public later. It explains so much of my subsequent life.  It also raises questions about whether God calls specifically for preaching. Is this among the gifts to the church? Good questions.

Tuesday, November 7, 2023

Life Statements (1)

 Occasionally I have needed to explain myself in a public statement. These have come at critical junctures of new beginnings. I have just found the first two relating to my Ordination and my Induction to my first church. They reveal wrestling and conviction. Please forgive my introspection but reflecting on these has provoked some deep thankfulness to God.  My Ordination was in Chatsworth Baptist Church, Carol's church which had become mine (see romance post!) on May 21st. 1972.

It is not easy to convey the sureness of my conviction that brings me to my Ordination, and yet do justice to the chequered course of events leading here.  There have been periods of confusion doubt and of slipping backwards, and even as I declare here that I believe God wants me to be his minister there is still sheer disbelief that God wants me.

Today I give thanks for those powerful influences for God in my life - the most important of whom are my parents. Their saintly example gripped me as soon as I could think and the effectiveness of my Christian home began in my conversion and baptism by my father in 1959 and continues fittingly as my father ordains me. My younger brother, already a Baptist minister reinforces this testimony to my home.

But the thought of following in my father's footsteps as a 'clergyman' always horrified me, and still does. When I first went to university to read Geography I was determined to be a dedicated Christian, but a layman. However, towards the end of my three year course, as I was drifting into a probable teaching career, I suddenly felt acutely dissatisfied with the way I had decided my future with God, certainly no wrestling. In my indecision I was advised to wait, to take time to work and pray out my future. And in my waiting, quite out-of-the-blue I was asked to consider a new appointment at the Baptist Union Headquarters, working amongst students. This was a God-given opportunity to test my faith and future. Many events occurred within the first few months and throughout I prayed and thought hard.

It took nearly 14 months for me to accept the new direction towards which God was thrusting me. After hours of discussion with friends, of talking with my wife, a heaping up of experiences and sharing in student missions I found my devotional life was giving me less and less room for maneouvre. People  prodded me, unawares but irritatingly on this sensitive spot - the full-time Christian ministry. The Holy Spirit was compelling me to think again and again, as the needling persistent conviction grew that I could never be happy outside the full-time Christian ministry.