I sometimes get this recurring dream that somehow it was figured out that I didn’t properly finish my education and I have to go back, as an adult, and start again beginning with my high school education. I loved the days of my youth but in that dream it’s such a depressing and distressing realisation. When I wake up there is not only a great sense of relief but also a great sense of joy that all that stuff is indeed finished and never again to be revisited.
After such a wonderful weekend and a great Monday, it’s distressing to get up again today and see Annie revert back to poor health just as quickly as she left it over the weekend. I don’t want to believe it but it’s not a horrible dream, it’s reality.
On Monday, the drip feed was beginning to irritate Annie’s arm. Apparently the drip has a little plastic pipe that enters below the skin, and sometimes it gets bent out of shape and starts to ’tissue’; not a medical term that I understand, but it basically causes irritation and can allow infection to get in which is exactly what happened. So the nurses came round early Monday morning to remove the drip and see how Annie fared. She fared really well!
Monday was another excellent day. I called up a dear brother, Neil, to see if he was free for lunch. That’s the way I have to manage my time recently. Putting things in the diary 2 or 3 days in advance is simply too far ahead to tell. So I try to seize the opportunities as they arise and yesterday (Monday) worked out well. Annie was going to come with me but she told me that she had promised to give the day to the Lord to just meditate on His Word and so that’s exactly what she did for the most part of the day.
I had a great time of fellowship with Neil. I love the kind of lunches where an open bible is right next to your plate. I think I’ve said it before but I think the meal table is the best kind of pulpit. I’ve had some of my greatest times of fellowship and discipleship opportunities around the meal table. Food for the body; food for the soul. We spent a good 3 and a half hours just talking about our Lord’s Work and our Lord’s Word and ended it with a prayer walk. I love walking and praying too. Just getting out into a wide open space and pouring your heart out to God really is a blessing. It reminds me that prayer is talking to God and Christianity is walking with Jesus.
That time of fellowship was like having time up on a mountain and like every trip up a mountain, it must always be followed by a descent into the valleys. Almost as soon as I got into the car to get back home I began to wonder how Annie was. I gave her a call and you can almost tell by how long the phone rings how well she might be doing. If it rings a long time, perhaps she is having to sleep because she is sick again. Before I called her I really did feel the enemy seeking to discourage me. I am not surprised by this and it helps to know your enemy.
Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. – 1 Peter 5:8
I recalled the two important things I reflected on earlier last week: God is love; and God loves me.
It was a real blessing to hear Annie sounding so happy on the phone.
In the evening we were invited to the home of our dear friends, Ben and Rosie. We always love fellowshipping with them and their family – a real home away from home. Annie was in great health and so pleased to be fit and well enough to join them. With the log fire burning, Annie was in her element! It’s been the first time in a long time that Annie had been able to endure a long night out.
I don’t understand how and why someone can dip in and out of health so quickly. I don’t want to believe it. But like I said, it’s a reality.
This morning Annie woke up feeling a bit queasy. That then quickly developed into nausea and then we were back to the drudgery of black buckets and bin-liners and vomiting.
The doctor advised that Annie be hooked up to the same drip but with a small metal pipe into the abdomen so that it was less likely to bend and infect. It’s almost an exact repeat of last Friday. The drip goes in and then comes chronic fatigue and awareness of shocking pain. She has been bed-bound for the entire day. Among other things, it’s very frustrating. Will it follow the pattern of last Friday? Will Annie wake up tomorrow blossoming with health and vitality?
I don’t know.
I invited a few friends over to eat supper with me as Annie was unable to eat and there was a good amount of food to get through. Our conversation around the table meandered but at one point we were talking about 1 Corinthians 13. Many of you will be familiar with that passage even if you are not Christians. It’s one of the most famous and most beautiful descriptions of love.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. – 1 Corinthians 13:4-7
As we were talking about that passage, the Lord spoke to me through one single word. That passage is often all about the verbs – the descriptions of what love does (or does not do). But it was the single adverb that qualifies a number of those verbs in verse 7 that stood out to me: ‘…always…’. No matter what the circumstance, love – true love – never ceases to endure.
On our wedding day, we vowed to love one another through sickness and health, through poverty and through wealth, through better and through worst. By God’s help we aspire to demonstrate our love to Him in the same way. In fact, we cannot love one another that way without His help.
You know, it gives me reason to recall again those two important things that I think every believer needs to remember every day: God is love and God loves us.
That means God loves us exactly and entirely in the way described in 1 Corinthians 13. That means no matter how we feel, no matter how difficult our circumstances, no matter how weak our faith is when things get hard, He ALWAYS loves us. He never ceases to love us. He doesn’t file for a divorce when we let Him down. He doesn’t throw the towel in when our faith wanes. This kind of love always keeps us. It always brings a wondering sheep back to the fold. It always brings a prodigal son back into the Father’s embrace. It is inescapable and irresistible.
Just knowing that our Father in heaven loves us in that way not only encourages us but it helps us to fall deeper in love with Him. It helps us to develop that enduring love. It picks us up when we fall. It carries us when we are weak.
These aren’t words from an inspiring fridge magnet; this is our testimony and experience as fresh as today, December 6th 2011!
This evening we lit the advent candle and meditated on ‘Jesus is The Way’. So we turned to John 14 and read those words of Jesus
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will knowmy Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.” – John 14:1-7
God’s love for His children is eternal. ‘Always’ means ‘always’. The grave will render a number of precious things redundant. ‘Faith’ and ‘Hope’ will no longer be necessary after we die. Christians will have faith and hope replaced with an experienced reality. We will see Jesus and be with Him. But not so with love. God’s love for His children will endure beyond the grave.
But not everyone will share the same experience beyond the grave. That’s because ‘all ways’ do not lead to this eternal love life with the Father. There are many who have professed to know the way to God but they do nothing more than peddle a powerless message of good works and religion.
There is only one way. Jesus is The Way.
Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. – John 15:13
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. – Romans 5:8