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Saturday, 31 January 2015

In This World Of Troubles...

I recall 1976. This was the year I flew my parent's nest, set up my home as a bachelor, started to buy my own vinyl pop singles and albums - and began my travels outside Europe for the first time in my life. Of all the singles, one song stood out - John Miles' hit Music, which made it to #3 in the UK pop charts. Such an impact it had on my being, that just a few weeks after it was released, and as I flew out for a three-week backpacking stint to the Holy Land, the song kept ringing in my mind. What was it that set this hit from all other hits at the time? Was it that it was recorded with a proper live orchestra rather than a band as with all other chart toppers? To me at least, orchestras are found in opera houses, and tend to entertain the upper classes with highbrow pieces such as Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake, or Ravel's Bolero, (my favourite classical of all time), or pieces from Mozart. But John Miles had created a happy union of a highbrow orchestra with drumbeat-type rhythm and a vocal to result in such a classic. You can listen to it yourself on You Tube (after reading this blog!) by typing Music - John Miles on that website.

The combination of the pop song Music with Israel was brought to mind only last night, when answering an opening post of a social website forum thread, who asked, Who has been to Israel? Share your stories. By sharing my lifetime experience totalling 23 weeks altogether, I was able to relate about the backpackers hostel in the heart of the Old City of Jerusalem, along with  a time as a volunteer in Ishfya on the summit of Mt. Carmel, downtown Haifa, and trips to Tel Aviv, Nazareth, Acre, Tiberias and the ruins of Capernaum on the Sea of Galilee, Bethlehem, Hebron, the desert resort of En Gedi on the west bank of the Dead Sea, the remains of Herod's fortress on the summit of Masada, and the rich coral under the turquoise waters of the Red Sea at Eilat. But what I have found most striking was an example of archaeology still fully functional - Hezekiah's Tunnel, opened in 701 B.C. and still carrying water from the Spring of Gihon to the Pool of Siloam, within the ancient city walls during the king's reign. Of all surviving relics, this is specifically mentioned in the Bible, with the Holy Spirit inspiring it twice, to dispel any skeptics's doubts on its authenticity (2 Kings 20:20, 2 Chronicles 32:30.)

Hezekiah's Tunnel, June 1976, then aged 23

As I waded through the tunnel with just one other person, each holding a candlelight, the beat of the music went round my mind. But it was the lyrics which also struck a cord, perhaps helping me to set upon the course of Christian growth and sanctification. The lyrics contains the line:
In this world of troubles, my music pulls me through.

In this world of troubles. And that is what is like constantly living under the shadow of a delayed major heart operation - hence the writing of this blog - after receiving another phone call of a cancellation, twice in a row, with another appointment for admission set for the following week. Even at present I now feel that this will fall through as well, hence prolonging the frustrating wait to have the procedure over and done with, and a slow recovery to get life back to normal again. Maybe I could take this whole episode firmly on the chin, if it had not been for my wife's infirmity. Instead, because of her mobility limitations, it remains down to me to ensure that her medicines: three main drugs, two sets of painkillers and a daily nutritional supplement in a form of a small bottle of prescribed milkshake, are all well stocked up for the period of myself as a hospital in-patient. So it seems, if the operation went as originally scheduled, her medical care would not have posed such a problem, having already stocked up to cover the period of the original appointment. Instead I may have to cross swords with a skeptical G.P. to get him to sign for further prescriptions for stocking up. All unnecessary stress, with concerns for my beloved's welfare weighing well over my own concerns.

In this world of troubles, my music pulls me through. No doubt, listening to my favourite tune has a relaxing tonic, the ability to soothe my spirit.  If the tune has a regular drumbeat, it has the ability to excite the emotions on some positive topic or circumstance, thus helping me to overcome various issues. But as I fully agree with John Miles' solution to this troubled world - music, like all earthly panaceas, are temporary fixes. What I need is something a lot more permanent.

And that was why I flew to Israel in 1976 (and three more times after that) - having discovered the Bible and delved into the Old Testament from more than three years earlier towards the end of 1972, when I was first converted. As visiting Jerusalem and exploring the sites in the Holy Land brought the Bible to life as well as authenticate its inspiration, so mixing reading of Scripture with faith helps me to face these problems without sinking too low.

Coral Beach, Eilat - taken October 2000.

The incident of the Lord allowing Peter to walk on water provides a classic case point (Matthew 14:25-33). When the disciples saw Jesus approaching the boat whilst in the middle of the lake, they were at first terrified, thinking that they are seeing a ghost. When the Lord reassured them that it was he, Peter alone had both the faith and courage to ask Jesus if he too can walk on the water to meet him. That's where the glory of Jesus comes in. He could have said, Don't be a fool, Peter! I alone have that divine right. Instead, he bade him to walk. And while he had his eyes fixed on Jesus, the miracle was performed - he walked on the surface as if dry land. But most likely, one of the disciples remaining in the boat called out a warning of an approaching wave, and being typical of Peter, he impulsively took his eyes off the Lord and took caution of the approaching wave. And immediately he began to sink.

I suppose this happens to me and I guess all other believers - taking our eyes off the Lord and worrying about our own situations, whatever they may be. And we sink, often into despair, as I often do. But this is also a good reflection on why I had received another cancellation. The hospital staff was very apologetic, and did not merely palm me off as an inconvenience. Instead, she explained that there has been an unusual spate of heart transplants taking place at the cardiac hospital. Admitting that there is usually a spike of admissions during the post-Christmas blues, with the prospect of a Winter with cold, unpleasant weather and nothing to look forward to, nevertheless, this year has seen a higher than expected rate of donor deaths, hence the prolonged delay. By the looks of it, I was unfortunate enough to be caught in a vortex of sheer bad luck.

But as I think about this spate of deaths, I could not help thinking about the loss of the loved ones among their families, and the joy of other families receiving hope for their loved ones when a donated matching heart becomes available. No doubt they take priority over the likes of myself, an elective patient. However, the high spate of deaths, and particularly at this time of the year, may have been due to a high level of disappointment, stress, or anxiety, so according to one Medical Doctor.* Also, according to statistics, divorce rates are at its peak throughout January, and I believe, although I can't substantiate this, suicides seems to be up as well. It all boils down to a sinking feeling of hopelessness throughout the cold, dark and wet season, without an object of faith which can bring hope, if not the solution itself. As Peter looked on the approaching wave and began to sink, likewise we too can take our eyes off Jesus and start sinking in thought and emotion, and furthermore, incur various physical illnesses as well, which include heart attacks.

My natural tendency is to see the glass as half empty rather than half full, to believe that evil triumphs over good, to look on the dark side of life. But I am also in good company. For example, Jacob saw mud rather than the stars. When he thought that he had lost his favourite son Joseph to a wild beast, his mournful dirge was that he will go to the grave with his son, (Genesis 37:35) everything is against me (42:36) you will bring my grey head down to the grave in sorrow, (42:38) and as for me, I am bereaved, I am bereaved (43:14). Such was Jacob's prolonged attitude over the loss of his son, which occurred some twenty years earlier. Moses too saw the glass as half empty as well. In Numbers 11:11-15 we read of Moses' complaint to God:

Why have you brought this trouble on your servant? What have I done to displease you that you put the burden of all these people upon me? Did I conceive all these people? Did I give them birth? Why do you tell me to carry them in my arms, as a nurse carries her infant, to the land you promised an oath to their forefathers? Where can I get meat for all these people? They keep wailing to me, "Give us meat to eat!" I cannot carry all these people by myself; the burden is too great for me. If this is how you are going to treat me, put me to death right now - if I have found favour in your eyes - and do not let me face my own ruin.

And all that despite that Moses saw all the great signs and wonders performed in front of his eyes, including the daily provision of manna from heaven. The Hebrews' lack of faith in God and their thankless attitude had wearied his spirit to the point of sheer hopelessness, as with the case of Jeremiah the prophet. His grief over the destruction of Jerusalem under the siege of the Babylonians was intense enough to write the book of Lamentations. Only faith in God can overcome these negative emotions, such as the case of the prophet Habakkuk, who was with Jeremiah as they saw the land devastated. However he wrote that even if the fig tree bears no fruit, nor be any grapes on the vines, the olive crop fails, and the fields produce no food, there be no sheep in the pen nor cattle in the stalls - yet through faith continues to praise and thank God for his goodness (Habakkuk 3:17-19). Habakkuk's faith had triumphed over his own pessimism, an area where Jacob and Moses had failed to overcome theirs.

At the Citadel, Jerusalem, taken October 2000.

I guess faith is the key. Despite the repeated cancellations, I must believe that God has everything in his hands, including my future. I should rest in God's assurance that everything works for the good of those who loves him, and absolutely nothing can separate us from the love of Christ, whether it be physical or spiritual (Romans 8:28, 38-39) and my wife's medicine supply will be fully met while I'm in hospital.

Faith is believing that the Bible is the inspired Word of God, and is the source of rest for those who fully trusts God through it. After all, its authenticity is verified through my visit for 23 weeks in Israel, where most of the Bible was written.

Especially if I waded through a 2,700 year old hole in the wall!

*Dr. S. I. McMillen MD, None of these Diseases, Lakeland Books.


  1. Dear Frank,
    So sorry to hear that your procedure has once again been postponed. But God's timing is always perfect, and we can have faith that He is working all things together for our good.
    You are blessed to have been able to visit the Holy Land from such a young age and to experience first-hand the places most of us can only imagine. Hezekiah's tunnel seems particularly intriguing.
    Thanks as always for the great post. Continuing to uplift you and Alex in prayer.
    God bless,

  2. Still praying for you about the surgery.