Saturday/Sunday November 26th/27th 2011

Two guys walk into a garden centre to buy a Christmas tree. The guy in the shop says: “This one?” to which the two guys respond: “Yup!” 15 minutes later the tree is in the car and they’re on their way home.

No, there’s no punchline, it’s just a matter of fact retelling of what happened on Saturday evening following Annie’s request that we get a Christmas tree earlier this year. Usually when Annie and I go Christmas tree hunting, I am simply there to pick the tree up and put it in the car. I’m also there to make unhelpful and ridiculous comments like “This one looks good.” Annie, however, has a finely tuned list of properties by which she selects ‘the perfect tree’…within the space of a few hours. With Cousin Doug’s assistance we managed to do the entire trip, selection and transportation within 30 minutes. And if I don’t say so myself, it’s a very handsome tree!

Of course, I truly did miss being able to go and get the tree with my wife. In fact, I am finding that in recent weeks, I complain a lot less about the little niggles that I sometimes have with the manner in which Annie does certain things. I’m daily reminded that those little niggles and nuances are signs of my precious Annie and I would be lacking the lovely reminder of her presence if they were not around. Where I might normally grumble and complain, I grin and contemplate: “Things are like that cos my Annie’s here.”

Counting our blessings is a great replacement for dwelling on our niggles.

Well, this weekend has been enough blessing to last us for a while. On the whole, Annie had a better deal of health than she had done last week. There was still sickness but it did not come with the same force. Her energy levels continue to be very low. It’s hard to see your 35 year old wife walk upstairs only to take a break halfway to catch her breath. I was flicking through some old video footage yesterday and I saw a video I had of Annie dancing in the kitchen only a few years ago. I would put the video on this blog, but it was the kind of freestyle dancing you do when you think nobody is looking and so I ought to honour that assumption! Also, I don’t want to give Annie a reason to muster up and expend her precious energy administering a dead-leg on me! It was a bittersweet clip to watch because although I was smiling, it had me feeling like I was 50 years older than I am now; like I was revisiting the long gone days of our youthfulness on a cinereel.

It’s a universal reality; no matter how little or long it takes, we are all going the same direction of physical weakness. I remember my former Pastor, Paul Mallard, saying:

“A man enters this world hairless, toothless, wrinkly and full of tears, and with time, he’ll depart it the same way!”

But I love the promises of God’s Word to those who trust in Him.

but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. – Isaiah 40:31

There’s an eternal reality that Annie and I and all God’s people are headed for. One day we will have our new resurrection bodies with which to enjoy the blessings of heaven and more importantly, the King of heaven. Those bodies will not be hindered or limited by the weaknesses we suffer now. Our resurrection bodies will better than they ever were here on earth. In heaven, we will be better singers and dancers than we ever were on this ball of earth! And with Jesus, the King of Heaven, dwelling with us, we will have endless reasons for endless days in which to honour, praise and enjoy Him.

the Lord Jesus Christ…will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body. – Philippians 3:20-21

The Word of God promises that in heaven we will have transformed bodies…‘like Jesus’ glorious body’.

When Jesus was resurrected from the dead He didn’t come back as a ghostly vapour but rather in His resurrection body. A body in which He was eventually and publically recognised by His disciples – and many others. As hard as it was for them to believe and comprehend what they were seeing, they knew who they were seeing. Peter recognised His voice and jumped out of his fishing boat to eat breakfast with Jesus. Even Thomas, the doubting disciple, confirms by sight and touch that he was seeing and touching the Jesus he knew and loved and walked with for three years before the day of the cross.

In heaven we will not be like some disembodied cherubic clones, saddling the clouds with only a harp for company. The Word of God promises a transformed body like Jesus’ transformed body. It will be us, only better! A body with an eternal life expectancy! Bones that will never break; flesh that will never wear and tear. An eternally heightened sense of touch, smell, taste, hearing and sight with which to enjoy and explore heaven and adore the King of it.

I love how the Apostle James says that actually, as Christians, this life is the vapour, not the heavenly one!

What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. – James 4:14

I also love what Joni Earekson Tada says about this:

“Somewhere in my broken, paralyzed body is the seed of what I shall become. The paralysis makes what I am to become all the more grand when you contrast atrophied, useless legs against splendorous resurrected legs. I’m convinced that if there are mirrors in heaven (and why not?), the image I’ll see will be unmistakably ‘Joni,’ although a much better, brighter Joni.” – Jon Earekson Tada

And yet God continues to bless us even now with a foretaste of heaven. Before Doug and I ventured on our 30 minute mission, I came home experiencing my own sense of disbelief at what my eyes were beholding. Sat on the couch I saw somebody who resembled our good friend, Philippa. But there was no way it could have been Philippa because she was way out east on the mission field and not due to be back for at least another half a year!?

Using Thomas’ methods of validation, a hug confirmed that it was indeed our dear sister and friend, Phil! I could see from Annie’s eyes that different kinds of tears had been shed! What a wonderful surprise. We could hardly believe it, but someone had wanted to bless us by flying Phil over to be back in Worcester through Christmas. In fact, as I write this Annie and Phil are sat in the music room writing and transposing the music for a choir piece that they hope to put together for a Manor Park Christmas service next month. This truly is a wonderful blessing. It’s hard to find the words to describe how special Phil is to us. But for those of you who are fans of Anne of Green Gables, Annie would describe Phil as ‘a kindred spirit’. And for those who are not, let me assist you with your Christmas list! Click here!

We finished Saturday evening with a meal with Doug, Jess, Phil, Fran and Ruby at Cafe Rouge which was amply covered by some supermarket points we had saved up. We had only wished that we would also have had dear Anna (Czech Anna, who we like to call ‘Annaczech’) with us! It’s a reminder that on this earth, even our foretastes of heaven are not as perfect as they will be in heaven!

After a great Saturday night of sleep for both of us, Annie was physically a bit fragile and spent the morning with Phil and Jess while Annie’s brother and his family (Tim, Joy and the lovely Tabitha!) joined Doug and I for the morning worship service at Manor Park and for lunch which they kindly prepared. Then came the sad part which was saying goodbye to Doug as he travelled back to London with Tim in preparation for his flight on Monday. Doug was such great company and we really, really miss him. It was strange to only fill the coffee pot up once today instead of the 7 or 8 times we would normally with Doug here! We said a temporary goodbye to Jess as she headed north for a missions meeting before spending the night with us again this coming Wednesday.

If you’re with me counting the blessings so far, we’re into the triple figures I think. With the house feeling quiet and empty again the Lord soon blessed us with a lounge full of young people who had come for the Sunday evening youth bible study. Once again the couches and beanbags were filled and the sound of praise and praying filled the air.

Sure enough, when we finally hit the pillow, unlike the shepherd who was the subject of our Sunday morning sermon, the only thing we weren’t counting, were sheep!

Blessed be the name of our Lord,

R&A

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