Another year over and a new one had just begun. And as I take a stroll outside, I thank God for allowing me to remain alive to see this particular day in human history. Yes, I thank God for just being alive. And that after considering how many people who were considerably younger than me, yet have already met their end, in many cases, unexpectantly. As the apostle James once wrote that I ought to consider the will of God when making future plans because nobody knows what's just around the corner (James 4:13-17).
Therefore, I have come to learn over the years how precious life really is. I remember so well during my younger years how vain I felt over certain issues. The biggest was probably my position on the social stratum. Working class? Or should I say, a mere pleb? And I looked up to the middle classes with an element of envy. Maybe it was because my parents wanted to produce a successful son who would have lifted his family's social status to a higher plane. When I failed at school my parents were disappointed. Bless them. Who wouldn't be disappointed? Without a doubt, I would have loved to have seen my daughters attend university. I would have been so proud, witnessing my own offspring achieve a level I failed to achieve myself. And so it was no surprise having known how my own parents had felt.
Looking back, I have always believed that world travel has always been intrinsically linked to my social dissatisfaction. And who knows, I might not have been alone with this idea. For example, the Round-the-World backpacking trip I made in 1997 was partially inspired two years earlier by an Aussie builder who had a temporary job in the USA. When he shared his experience with me at an HI hostel in San Diego, not only did he inspire me to visit Australia myself but also reminded me of an Irish builder I had a lengthy conversation with at the backpacker's hostel in Jerusalem a year earlier in 1994. He related his experience to me of his year's contract as a construction worker in the Middle East, most likely on one of the new high-rise hotels which had back then recently sprang up in resorts such as at the Dead Sea and Eilat.
|San Diego Harbour, taken 1997.|
However, my curiosity about Australia may have also been stirred a decade earlier during the mid-eighties when I was a member of a triathlon club in Reading, known as Thames Valley Triathletes. That was when a new member suddenly appeared at the swimming pool changing room. A tall, slim but very fit-looking athlete with longish hair and a high-pitched voice, he quickly made known his country of origin, and his six months stay in the UK sustained by his temporary work. What job he had I cannot at this point fully recall, but I think it was to do with computers. However, my dominant thought was, if he could travel halfway around the world, could I too? And if not, why not? In those days, after two trips to North America and to Israel in the 1970s, I was working to build my own window-cleaning business, and therefore I considered myself fortunate at that time to just cross the English Channel. Indeed, the mid-1980s was my "bleakest" decade for travel, if it can be classed in this way.
How I wished that I was more mature in Christ during those days as a singleton! Such would have saved me from much of this emotional turmoil. But I guess being in a healthy and robust marriage goes a long way towards a better sense of self-esteem. And with this heightened sense of self-worth as a husband, comes my greater appreciation of God's goodness. And when it came to retirement, a permanent ceasing of work, I knew that I had arrived at a major turning point. It was a reminder that I wasn't getting any younger, but more of the feeling of having one foot already in the grave. I guess I have achieved a new title based entirely on my present income - a pensioner.
And by my sudden realisation that I'm in this present phase of life has come a long way in my acknowledgement of God's goodness, his grace and mercy. Knowing that since gestation, my heartbeat was sustained by him together with the bloodstream in full flow, along with all other involuntary functions such as digestion, organ secretions such as from the liver, spleen and pancreas, the ability to see and hear, and (most of the time) involuntary breathing. And also the immune system, still little understood by science, and the vast complexity of the brain and nerve function, and the skeletal structure providing such an adequate framework. Then not to mention the dizzying complexity of every living cell, its nucleus being the home of the genome, the very essence of our existence. Such as admission to God's magnificent design. Indeed, if the Father saw fit to send his Son to atone for us, then we must be highly esteemed in his creative powers.
In divulging into this, during the Christmas holidays, we watched a programme on the television, A Day in the Life of Earth, presented by Dr Hannah Fry. Just by watching I caught the significance of how God remains committed to sustaining all life on our planet, even over just 24 hours. There is volcanism, for example. Usually perceived as such a destructive force if too close, even wiping out expanses of woodland as well as burying whole villages under a flow of lava. Yet, according to the programme, volcanism is one of the main forces in creating land and balances out the rate of erosion. This sort of negentropy versus entropy keeps our planet from ending up as a universal ocean. Then there is another issue which fascinated me. That is, not only oceanic tides at work to sustain life, but the moon also has an effect on land too. Known as solid earth tides, the land which we actually stand on literally rises and falls by a metre every day. Yet it remains totally unnoticeable.
Also according to the documentary, volcanism is the result of Plate Tectonics, the moving of the continents caused by radioactive decay deep under the earth's crust, of the heavier elements to lighter elements, releasing energy equivalent to 27,000 Hiroshima bombs each day.
Then the daily growth of phytoplankton in the oceans, five billion tonnes of it each day. This absorbs carbon dioxide and releases oxygen, as all plants do. There is so much of it worldwide, that literally speaking, every second breath we take is directly linked to this ocean phenomenon. Also, the presence of phytoplankton is the cause of the largest animal migration taking place daily. That is of the zooplankton which rises from the seabed each day to feed on these minute plants, therefore keeping the oxygen content in our atmosphere well balanced.
Then the discovery of a fine dust layer deep in an ocean cave in the Bahamas was identified as from the Sahara Desert. Each day, up to 500,000 tonnes of mud dust is blown across the Atlantic Ocean to fertilize the Amazon rainforest, another sponge for carbon dioxide absorption and a vital source of oxygen. I wasn't aware of any of either of these two issues. But God is, for it was he who initiated it.
Then, by using satellite technology, it was worked out that if the growth rate of all the trees in every forest around the world were assimilated into just one tree, then each day the tree would grow by three kilometres. A very important fact considering that our lives and that of all fauna depend on the forests.
Finally, the programme focused on our planet's relationship with space. Its orbit lies within the Goldilocks Zone, that narrow path where water can be frozen, liquid and vapour all on one planet at the same time. Its satellite has a size and mass just right to keep the Earth's rotation steady and to avoid wobbling like a spinning top slowing down. In turn, the sun is one of a great many stars orbiting the core of the galaxy at a velocity of 828,000 km/hour, or 19,872,000 km every 24 hours, or approximately 12,266,667 miles each 24-hour day. In turn, the whole galaxy itself is moving through the cosmos at a velocity of 2,000,000 km per hour, or 48,000,000 per 24-hour day (approx 29,630,000 miles).
That means if at 12.00 noon today I was at a particular location in the universe, that means I will not be at the same location at twelve noon tomorrow. And never again shall I be at that same spot, even after a full year - ever again!
In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth. - Genesis 1:1.
True science provides the most fascinating facts proving that everything around me, including myself, was by intelligent design, a divine Creator. Yet most people believe that all this came about by pure chance! Amazing, coming to think of it. Really, the only difference between the majority of mankind and of Creationists such as myself is that we acknowledge God as the Creator.
This should give me the right perception for the coming year. This great God who created everything fine-tuned to perfection, is his arm too short that he cannot save? Is his ear so dull that he cannot hear? Or am I lacking faith in him? I need to look back on my life, all sixty-six years of it. Have I ever ended up homeless, naked, starving or in prolonged poor health? Have I ever lacked resources to pay my creditors? If I can answer "No" to all these questions, then I can testify that God has looked after me well, even during the days I didn't know him. Therefore he who keeps the Universe and the Earth tuned to a fine perfection, why should he not take care of us in the coming year?
Living as a Christian is not easy. It can be quite difficult. It has always been hard and this coming year will be no exception. I have already been diagnosed with heart failure. I have to spend the rest of my life on medicine, particularly on anticoagulants. At the same time, my love for my wife Alex will always bid me to remain her full-time carer as well as a husband. She will most likely suffer episodes of intense pain. She may be in-and-out of a hospital. And on this day, as I write this, it is Sunshine Saturday, the peak time after Christmas when Britons book their summer holidays abroad. The thought of a booked vacation greatly helps in bearing the long cold "Winter block of weeks" (as I call it) which follows the end of the Christmas break and can last up to Easter.
But with Alex's condition, and perhaps mine too, the thought of foreign travel is out of the question. Yet we both miss it, especially when foreign travel is in my genes! But by trusting God, he will fulfil the desires of our hearts without the risk of putting ourselves in jeopardy while out in a foreign country. Then again, this line of thinking could be stemming from a lack of faith in God whilst abroad. And here is the difficult bit: Am I confusing faith with presumption? I don't know unless we both have a definite revelation that it will be okay to travel and be safe.
In the meantime, I'll make it my intention to trust in God in all things and be dependent on his goodness. Like that we can't go wrong.