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Sunday, 11 May 2014

Ever Felt Like a Pillock?

This past week has been quite eventful. We had Bank Holiday Monday, or May Day, a public holiday with no religious significance, unlike Easter just a couple of weeks earlier, or Whitsunday, still to come. On that day I took Alex to Oxford, with a combined purpose of clothes shopping and having a day out. At least the weather was good. Being in her present condition, I had to push a wheelchair from home to the station, then when we arrived at Oxford, she had an easy ride around the city while I burned excess calories providing transport. Then by mid-afternoon, we made our way through the grounds of Christchurch College (of Oxford University) which is open to the public, to the riverside, where we found a space on the lawn. Here, Alex got out of her wheelchair to lay on the ground beside me, arm in arm and sharing intimacy.

This was a moment of happiness, the feeling of liberation from the housebound restrictions her illness had imposed on her. In fact, this was the first time we had a decent day out together without involving doctors or hospital visits. She took the situation well, with no emergency call made for the ambulance. But just as important to us, I think this train trip to Oxford for the day has opened the door to taking longer breaks, even if they are in the United Kingdom. After all, I think we both would prefer some time at the beach, or at an area of outstanding beauty in questionable weather, than not to go anywhere at all. Alex was able to board the train without assistance, leaving me to load the vacant wheelchair onto the train, behind her. Modern stations are wheelchair-friendly, with lifts designed not only for wheelchairs but also for infant prams, pushchairs and heavy baggage. Certainly, we have come a long way from the 1960s, when I would have wheeled Alex across the tracks themselves, then up the platform ramp, while young mothers would had to fold up their pushchairs before ascending the stairs with her kids. I have wondered why it took such a long time in railway history for such ideas as a lift or even a footbridge ramp to be thought through.
While my wife and I were relaxing by the River Thames, she expressed regret at the loss of the dagger I bought her while we were in Scotland in 2005, and she longed to have it back. She suggested reporting the theft to the police, but I assured her that sometime in the future I would try to replace  the ornament, and encouraged her once again to let the thief keep his loot if he wanted it so badly. (See my last blog, The Love of our Possessions.) To reiterate: About a week earlier, soon after the Easter break was over and I had returned to work, Alex went down with a seizure, and I arrived home to find her in such a distressed state. So I dialled Emergency Services for an ambulance. When the paramedics arrived, we managed to revive her without the need to take her to hospital. After the paramedics left, life slowly returned to normal, not noticing that the dagger was missing, such a suggestion had never entered our minds.
Alex phoned me the next day, while I was at work, reporting that the dagger was missing. In the wake of having my bicycle stolen from our back yard, it seemed obvious that this too, had been stolen. And the only people we had in our house were the paramedics. Nobody else called, as far as I know. I recall seeing one of the ambulance crew standing with his back to the ornament and facing us. So we put two and two together and concluded that we were extremely unlucky to have been visited by a dishonest paramedic! After all, he was a total stranger in our home, and except for his uniform, he could have been anyone in the street.

If I had recorded the paramedic's name, I would have had a lead with to hand over to the police. But since we felt no need to record his name, we both decided at the end that if the thief wanted the dagger so much, then let him have it. This was also the attitude Jesus had when someone takes something which wasn't theirs. Matthew 5:40-41 is one classic example:
If someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

Also Matthew 6:19-21 is worth considering:
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

These words spoken by Jesus himself seems so out of touch with reality that I doubt that most would take them seriously enough. The very idea of someone taking what is not theirs, or even going to Court to get an order for transference of goods seems terribly distressful. And in particular something that is an heirloom, handed down by generations of the family, or a possession gotten from a loved one, therefore having special meaning, must be heartbreaking to find it stolen, or for someone to apply for a Court order to take possession of it, maybe in payment of a debt. And yet, so I read in one book written by a medical doctor to the Christian layman - that calling the police, filling in forms, appearing in Court, or to fight out legal cases involving lawyers, solicitors and other legal personnel, is so stressful that it can be detrimental to health. And simply taking the advice Jesus has given can save us from a barrel-load of embarrassment!

So only this weekend, this has happened to us. On Saturday morning, while I was relaxing in the sauna, Alex accidentally came across the dagger underneath the armchair while she was doing some cleaning. So our precious ornament wasn't stolen after all. Instead it got somehow mislaid during housework, and forgotten about. Thank goodness we did not report the theft of the dagger to the police, no matter how expensive it was when I bought it. Imagine accusing the paramedic of burglary when he was innocent all the time. Imagine one of us finding it in the presence of a couple of police officers, and perhaps the paramedic too. What out-and-out plonkers we would have felt! In fact we might have been charged ourselves for wasting police time. Instead, we took the advice of Jesus, and allowed the thief to keep what we thought he wanted without making any fuss. When the dagger was found, our obedience to the Lord's advice had saved us from heaps of embarrassment, as well as wasting police time.

Yet in spite of this, I still feel like a pillock. Perhaps, after the loss of the bicycle (and that was stolen) we both felt very vulnerable. So to find the ornament missing the day after the paramedics called sent alarm bells ringing straight away. Is it human nature to assume the worst after experiencing a loss of something like the bicycle, along with her incapacity?

Jesus spoke of many things which seemed so unreal to day to day living. Such as not worrying what we shall eat or drink, or what we shall wear. And things like not taking any thoughts for tomorrow, for our Heavenly Father knows that we need these things (Matthew 6:25-34.) After all, the grass in the field don't spin or toil, yet Solomon and all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Yet, at least in my case, I have a disposition to worry about the future, a trait inherited from my father. But here Jesus gives something for someone like myself to aim for - to seek the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these other things will be added as well. It is well documented in the medical world that worry, fear and anxiety are the three great destroyers of physical health. Dr. S. I. McMillen, in his book, None of these Diseases, lists nearly a hundred physical disorders caused by these negative emotions, including cancer and cardiac arrest, two of our biggest killers. Dr. McMillen also recognised the direct link between an upset mind and sick body, and he referred this condition as psychosomatic illness. So when Jesus was preaching the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) he was not only clarifyng what the Law of Moses was all about with the bringing out of our knowledge and awareness of sin, but he also gave good advice on how to stay healthy, and also to save us from embarrassment.

Experiences like these helps me to understand the wisdom and such good advice the Bible offers. For example, of all the instincts found in a human being is the sex drive. Psychologists have rated this the second most powerful instinct after self-preservation. So strong it is in a typical, red-blooded male, that Paul the Apostle gave this advice to all Christian believers:
Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body. Do you not know that the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought with a price. Therefore honour God with your body. (I Corinthians 6:18-20).

If only this piece of advice was obeyed throughout history! Here, Dr. McMillen gives a statistic of the miserable suffering endured by those who thought that the Bible imposed "horrible confinement of religious inhibitions" spoiling sexual enjoyment outside of marriage. To sin against the body is to put the temple of the Holy Spirit to a dreadful risk of disease. According to Dr. McMillen, in the United States alone, between 1955 and 1959, the rate of teenage syphilis rose by 208% in Washington DC; 291% in Los Angeles; 378% in Houston; in San Francisco - 591%; and in New Orleans - 818%.* The author then describes the dreadful sharp pains endured by the sufferer and the associated diseases, including of one man who consulted him, who was no longer able to pass urine through his penile urethra tube, as the sexually transmitted infection caused a blockage. It was a dire situation, along with sufferers whose infection affected their brains, causing madness and insanity. These are dire testimonies of those who thought that the Bible was written by primitive men who were still backward in their evolution, learning and education, and therefore seeing the Bible as thrown onto the dust heap or confined to literary archives.

Yes, concerning the ornamental dagger, after believing that it was nicked by a dishonest paramedic, only to find it under one of our armchairs a week later, makes me feel like a pillock. But by taking the advice Jesus offers at the Sermon on the Mount, and refusing to report the incident to the police, we saved ourselves from heaps of embarrassment. But I wonder who is the bigger pillock? Me? Or the guy who walked into the doctor's surgery as a result of rejecting the Bible?

* Dr. S. I. McMillen, None of these Diseases, page 42.


  1. Glad you found it! But it was wrong to accuse the Man without proof! God has returned it to you, now you must keep it safe or perhaps in a cabinet.
    Happy you both enjoyed your day in Oxford.
    Regards, Andrew.

  2. Dear Frank,
    Praise God that you and Alex are now able to enjoy outings like these, and that the dagger was found, not only so that your love gift was restored but to avoid any trouble. God is so good to answer prayer and faithful to protect us when we obey and follow Him.
    God bless,

  3. While I think McMillen distorted some of the scriptures in his book, There is no question that the Old Testament law provided some very important teachings about health and emotional welfare for both the individual and the society and I agree that to ignore God's advice is quite foolish.

  4. I agree, Donald, that there is much wisdom in Old Testament teaching. Once I was saved, I began following an Old Testament diet (no unclean animals like pork and shellfish, although I miss the taste of these!). I realize that in Christian liberty we are free to eat these, but as a physician, I also recognize that they are best avoided for optimal health. But the foods that Jesus ate and/or spoke well of, like eggs, fish, wheat, and honey, are healthy dietary staples, even though they are much maligned.

    Frank, you are so right that the Hebrews stayed healthy by following God's laws. The cleanliness precautions adhere to modern germ theory, at a time when Egypt, the most "advanced" society of its day, was rubbing dung in wounds thinking it would help healing!

    Thanks as always for sharing so many thought-provoking, Bible-based ideas, and God bless,