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Sunday, 5 October 2014

Being Thankful

We used to sing a song, which was included in our church wedding ceremony:-

Father God I wonder how I managed to exist
without the knowledge of your parenthood and your loving care
But now I am your son
I am adopted in your family
and I can never be alone
'cause Father God, you're there beside me.
I will sing your praises x3
Forever more
I will sing your praises x3
Forever more.

It's a pity that we don't sing it anymore at our meetings, as if it has been thrown into the garbage bin as an oldie, and therefore obsolete. And yet it carries a powerful message, especially when going through the trials of life, on the basis of day to day living. And that was the main reason why, on the day Alex and I were wed, this song was sang by all of us in the building - the minister who married us, bride and groom, the members of both our families, and the rest of the congregation - many who have never heard the song before, let alone sang it. Thank goodness for the song sheet everyone had on the day, at least the song was sang well and with enthusiasm.

But there is much truth in the song, as I recall it to mind after returning home from our anniversary break in Bournemouth. Yes, we have returned to Bournemouth in the middle of last week to celebrate our 15th anniversary, a little less than three months after our Summer visit to the same resort. And I found myself actually swimming in the sea, one of a tiny minority, due to the unusually warm sunshine in October. Sometimes it can be so pleasing to visit a resort out of season, free from the bustling crowd of tourists and holidaymakers, and with the main promenade empty of the fun-fair which was so dominant in Summer outdoor partying, the open space brought out the more sedate Autumn atmosphere while the kids were back at school, students having returned to college, and adults back at their workplaces.

But in the days leading up to the holiday, there was a funeral for my father which my wife and I attended with the rest of my remaining family, along with Alex's parents, and some friends and neighbours. Then to add to this, because of my heart problem, there were appointments to go back and forth to the hospital, in Slough of all places, making public transport extremely awkward, particularly when the medical team asks me to arrive by eight in the morning. With trains, I would have had to change in Reading, making a near thirty mile journey to cover a twelve mile distance from home to the hospital, along with long waiting at the platforms. As for the buses, they seem to take delight in a scenic tour of much of Southern England before arriving at the hospital. Not to mention some prat of a car driver way up in front whose erratic early morning navigation causing the bus I'm in to be caught in a resulting snarl-up - while the clock ticks away relentlessly, showing no consideration for the patient stuck in a bus.

That is why we have brothers and sisters in the church whose heart is to do the will of God, motivated by love. I have one friend who has taken me to Slough three times already, always arriving in good time. (As you may already be aware, I don't drive - yet I have travelled the length and breath of the UK, and a good part of the world as well. Ironic, isn't it?) It goes to show that a little showing of love goes a long, long way!

The Bible says that we should rejoice and be thankful in all circumstances. I know, it is easier said than done. Throughout the last fifteen months my beloved wife had lost her ability to walk properly. I had to watch her remaining confined at hospital bed up to four months last year (2013). Every evening, without fail, I made sure that I was at her bedside after a day's work. I have shed rivers of tears. Our 14th wedding anniversary came and went totally unnoticed by my spouse, as she spent that day in a deep sleep, induced by the medicine administered by the hospital. With the missing of last year's anniversary, an annual celebration higher on my list than birthdays or even Christmas, resulted in the cancellation of our dream holiday to the Mediterranean island of Crete. Then after all that, transporting her around in a wheelchair whenever we left the house, as well as running to and fro on errands she always did herself while I was at work. One tedious task is to constantly monitor her intake of daily dosage of medicine, to ensure she does not run out before I need to collect her next order.

On our 15th Anniversary, Bournemouth

Then on top of all his, I watched my father alternate between being housebound and bed-bound in hospital for up to a couple of years before passing away recently. To make matters worse, I have no assurance in my spirit that he is now with the Lord in Heaven. This is one of the things I cannot decide or judge, as God alone knew he state of his heart during his passing away. Yet he admitted several times that he was never afraid of death, and acknowledged that when it was his time, he must go the way destined for all men. At the funeral, a tear rolled down my face as I sat next to Mum, herself weeping as the strong but emotional tenor of Pavarotti's top hit Nessum Dorma, one of Dad's favourite tunes, filled the crematorium chapel as the curtain closed, concealing the coffin from view for the very last time. All this exactly one week before our 15th wedding anniversary.

So with the passing of my father, Alex mobility limitations and myself awaiting open heart surgery, I guess we are passing through a dark hour of our lives. And yet it looks to me that we ought to be thankful in all circumstances, rooted in the faith of Jesus:-

Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord; let us shout aloud to the rock of our salvation. Let us come before him in thanksgiving and extol him with music and harp.
Psalm 95:1-2.

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!
Philippians 4:4.

So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.
Colossians 2:4-7.

Easier said than done, I must admit, especially when I see others around me, better off financially, going away on foreign holidays, tales of backpacking adventures, owning a nice home and fast car, and best of all - enjoying good health. As I carry the ladders on my window cleaning round, I look up to the clear sky and watch a distant airline flying south, leaving a white trail behind as it crosses the sky. Or the distant roar of airline engines as its boosters roar after taking off from nearby Heathrow Airport. Often I sigh: I wish...

Like my late father, feeling melancholic and seeing the glass half empty rather than half full, is my natural tendency. I think about the coming surgery, and I naturally feel that I will be the one in every 1,000+ heart patients where the surgeons will make a mistake, and I slip away into eternity, while my wife waits anxiously outside the theatre. Or the extreme rare occasion of waking up from the anaesthesia-induced sleep halfway through the operation, as reported on several recent occasions by the Press. Lying on the table paralysed, and unable to bat an eyelid, these patients tell of the pain endured while incapable of letting the surgeons know of their plight. During a pre-op talk with one of the surgeons who will perform the op, I have raised this very issue, only to be told that such tales were rubbish. Well, I hope he is right, for according to the newspapers, it happens in one out of 15,000 patients. Naturally, I would be the next one.

The feeling of naked fear, even doubting my salvation, waking up in Hell from the operating theatre were thoughts which had crossed my mind. Did Jesus really save me, or did I, somewhere along the line, missed the mark where faith is concerned, and ended up deceived? After all, many Moslems believe that they are on the right track to Heaven - who am I to assume that it was Jesus Christ, and not Mohammad, or for that matter, Buddha, or even the Hindu gods, that offers life eternal. Operating theatres don't only exist in the West. Buddhists, Moslems, Hindus and Atheists as well, end up under the surgeon's knife.

That was why I found a couple of days in Bournemouth to celebrate our wedding anniversary such a tonic to my faith. From it, I was able to give thanks to God for his goodness. He even brought good weather of Indian Summer, as it's called here, which allowed me to swim in the sea in October. I wonder whether this is God saying to me:- Look, did I not take care you when you were without a job for a year in 1979/80? Did you run into debt? And when you called upon me during mid-flight across the Atlantic, didn't I keep you safe from trouble that can arise in some American cities? What about that evening walk through that particular street in downtown Los Angeles? Did anyone lay a finger on you? And when you were lost in the middle of nowhere in California, didn't I send a cyclist at just the right time to direct you, and caught the very last train back to San Diego? And who called you to pray for Jerusalem when you were in your lowest and shameful mood?

Travel has brought a new dimension in my walk with God. At least twice, on two different places and occasions I was called brave for backpacking the world on my own, although I wouldn't have associated such kudos with travel. But I can rest in one very important hope. Jesus Christ is the only person to have ever risen from the dead. Mohammad is dead, and his bones are with us in Medina. Buddha is also dead, so are the founders of Hinduism. But Jesus Christ is alive! That is the difference, along with the fulfilled prophecies concerning the Messiah's birth, death and resurrection. Now 1 John 5:1 says clearly that whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God. This is backed by the case of the Ephiopian eunuch, who according to the AV, simply confessed to Philip that Jesus is the Son of God, and he was saved, and baptised at a pond they were happening to be passing. Either the Bible s true or it isn't true. Either the Bible is inspired by God, or a record of highly delusional and superstitious men who knew nothing of modern science.

For my wife's sake, I will go through the operation, trusting in the Lord that I will come out at the other end in fine form. I believe that God wants Alex and I to spend many more years together as husband and wife. By comparison to lifelong separation, it does not matter if she will be wheelchair-bound for the rest of her life, we are united in soul as well as body, we want to spend yet many years together, and I'm fully committed to this. I thank God dearly for giving Alex to me as my wife, and surely he has honoured that pledge.

The Bible exhorts us to give thanks to God and to rejoice in all things. When the chips are down, it would be naturally difficult to thank God for the circumstance, yet Paul and Silas thanked God when they were locked up in prison without a proper trial. And they rejoiced, singing praises to God, enough to bring the jailer to salvation. What were their secret? Believing in their hearts that Jesus is the resurrected Christ, and the author and finisher of their salvation.

And so, with open eyes and a believing heart, I go to the operating theatre, knowing that God will be with me.


  1. Dear Frank,
    I am so sorry to hear of the loss of your father. Praying for a good outcome from surgery. Praise God that He is in control, always doing what He knows is best, even when we cannot understand His plan. Praying for the peace that passes all understand.
    Many blessings to you and Alex,

  2. Hi Frank,
    I too am sorry to hear of the loss of your father, but I would encourage you as regards to worrying where your father is and if he knows the Lord, that all things are possible with the Lord. If He went to preach to the spirits who were in prison, those who were around at the time of Noah, then He can preach to anyone, whether alive on this earth or not. I know that Jesus can heal both immediately and over a period of time and I have experienced both in my life. Even in the trials, and I am going through one at the moment, I would encourage all my brothers and sisters to take every thought captive and bring it into obedience to Christ. It is not Jesus who is putting all those negative thoughts into your mind, it is a spiritual battle we are in. Jeremiah ch. 29 v. 11 is coming to my mind for you Frank, 'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future ' My husband, as you say you do, has often seen the bucket half empty, but has also seen wonderful things happen through prayer. In the Lord, although I have been through many trials, I see my bucket more than half full. I would encourage you Frank to try to trust in the Lord with all your heart and try not to lean on your own understanding ( which is where the thief is at work) - and remember that 'what is not possible with man is possible with God'.
    May God bless both you and Alex with a long and happy life together.

  3. Great post, Frank. I am sorry to learn of Your father's death, but thank you for an encouraging testimony in spite of it. God will bless your faith that he will do what is best for both you and Alex, frightening as it may seem at the moment.