It’s my unschooled, poorly researched and late night opinion that you can divide the personalities of human beings into one of two categories: silly or serious. You can be a bit of both (indeed with age and responsibility you simply have to be) but your personality is predominantly one or the other. Instinctively, each group know their own and can detect their counterparts, even if they have never met. We might work it out from observing any number of signals: footwear, facial expressions, email addresses, books on shelves, number of book shelves, reaction to sudden strange noises during a period of public silence. We work it out intuitively and adapt accordingly.
Annie and I are in the same group. It’s one of the first things we discovered about each other and it drew us closer together. The resulting marriage did nothing to change that. If you were the oldest fly in the world and you happened to live on a wall in our home, you would have picked up some of the many phrases, habits and traditions (largely silly) Annie and I share that we collectively refer to as ‘Ryannies’.
One of those phrases is “It’s my turn to be poorly.”
After one of us has passed through a period of illness, the other will invariably say a short while after “It’s my turn to be poorly.” which basically means, ‘I took care of you while you were sick, can you now do stuff for me…even though I’m not actually sick right now’.
Those of you that are of a serious disposition will either be tutting or have tuned out; but if you’re still with me, please don’t read ‘marital problems’ into this. It’s just a bit of fun that we have, within the space of our own four walls (home, not asylum).
Sillyness aside, in the last few weeks it really has been my turn to be poorly. I’ve had my share of sleepless nights and sickness (in the guise of a cold and headaches both of which won’t seem to leave!) Although I won’t be playing that joker with Annie. She does continue to be poorly but as horrible as sleepless nights are for me, I count it a blessing to look over my shoulder and see Annie blissfully asleep. Again, thank you to all our brothers and sisters in Christ who are praying persistently and specifically for sleep; and thank you Father!
Last week there were a couple of nights where I felt like the needle of a radio dial painfully passing slowly through each tiny moment of time, tuning in and out of the most random thoughts and concerns as I did. When I attempted to pray, overwhelming tiredness would consume me but when I tried to sleep those background thoughts and concerns grew in volume and interference and developed into worries and anxieties. When the dawn chorus finally started it felt more like a lullaby than a wake up call.
The reason for my sleeplessness isn’t just physical illness. I know that there is a lot on my mind and sometimes it’s allowed to feel overwhelming. I also know that Satan and the enemy within is at work. In fact, I am more sure of this than I am sure of anything else recently!
I don’t know if I ever mentioned that over the last couple of years, in conjunction with our home church, Annie and I have been beginning the journey of church planting in our neighbourhood. It’s been both tremendously challenging and encouraging so far. As we get closer to incarnating this long awaited and prayerfully deliberated expression of church in our neighbourhood there’s a growing sense in which I start to think ‘This couldn’t have come at a worse time.’ or rather ‘There couldn’t have been a worse converging of two difficult events.’ You see, there’s never a good time for cancer to check-in and a brief look at the history of church planting tells me it rarely had problem-free launch conditions.
The other day in our time of morning devotional Annie and I read a small familiar passage that has once again restored peace and sleep.
On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. – John 20:19-20
In two verses we see the disciples go from overwhelming fear to overwhelming joy. It was night and they were so afraid of being on the hit-list of the Jewish religious leaders that they bunched together in one room and bolted the door. Late, fearful and tense; not even a double shot of Night Nurse would help you sleep that kind of night off. But suddenly the risen Lord Jesus appears among them and it’s as if everything changes. Not everything does change but it might as well have done, so significant was Jesus’ visit. Although their circumstances don’t change, the disciples absolutely do. They’re still the Jewish religious leaders most wanted but they go from fearing to cheering simply because Jesus was with them.
I know Jesus is alive. He lives and reigns today.
I know that my sins and my worries can cloud His presence at times but He reminds me… no…He commands me to cast both of those upon Him because He cares for me and is able to deal with them and replace them with something much better: His righteousness for my sins; His peace for my worries. And when He does that, through eyes of faith, I see Him more clearly. And when I see Him with me, no matter what life’s circumstances will be, good or bad, it’s alright. It’s alright because He’s right there with me. He is my light in the darkness, my shepherd in the valley, my victor in the battle, my fortress in the siege. His presence is the living embodiment of all His good promises to me. The Word of Life.
We rest on Thee, our Shield and our Defender!
We go not forth alone against the foe;
Strong in Thy strength, safe in Thy keeping tender,
We rest on Thee, and in Thy Name we go.
Strong in Thy strength, safe in Thy keeping tender,
We rest on Thee, and in Thy Name we go.
From Friday through Monday, Annie went from great to fantastic! We enjoyed all the mundane and the majestic of a typical weekend together. On Friday night we both popped out for a take-away free of nausea and tiredness. As we walked from the car to our local take-away Annie remarked how for the first time in a while she hadn’t experienced any breathlessness. It might not sound like a remarkable journey but by Annie’s recent standards and stamina it was a veritable expedition! As mundane as that little trip was it was a majestic memory for us.
The truly majestic stuff came about on Sunday as Annie was able to not only endure but enjoy and engage in our youth bible study on Sunday evening. She even had the stamina to enjoy some after-hours fellowship with a couple of the girls from our youth group. This used to be a regular tradition in years gone by but more recently and painfully contrary to Annie’s desire, she had been too fragile to even sit-in for some of our meeting.
To misquote our joint-favourite girl-band, it was ‘Just another magic Monday!’ Of course, by ‘magic’ I do mean ‘blessed’! Later on in the day I took Annie for a long wheelchair walk with a very pleased Milo alongside. It’s been a long time since Milo has been out for a walk with both of us and so he finds it especially precious and opportunely accommodating to his occasional mid-walk lethargy strikes. There are times when in the middle of a walk he will simply dig in his heels, insisting either he doesn’t want to walk any further or, sometimes, any more. Consequently we physically have to carry him for the remainder of the journey! So the option of sitting on Annie’s lap while I walk and push is a real deal-breaker for Milo. Our circumnavigation of the wider neighbourhood gave us time to talk to God and also stumble across good company, in the form of the home of our good friends, Larry and Debbie who turned our ‘just stopping by to say hi’ into ‘lunch’!
Tuesday and Wednesday haven’t been terrible days but when you juxtapose two average mid-week days next to a great long weekend, those average days feel a lot worse than they probably are. On Tuesday, Annie started to experience frequent but mild nausea spells and today she has just been very tired. We really were looking forward to going to home group together this evening but just before tea time Annie started to feel the effects of pain and fever which kept her from going and on this occasion I needed to stay home to see Annie through that.
It is a busy week and there’s still a lot of stuff ahead over the next few days. We value your prayers especially that Annie would have sustained health and strength over the next few days. Tomorrow (Thursday) evening we have a key church plant meeting and on Saturday afternoon, our dear friend Anna (from the Czech Republic) is going to be arriving here with her sister and two friends and staying with us a couple of days before they move on to Manchester where they hope to settle down and start a new chapter in life.
Please pray for Anna. It was wonderful to see the way God called her into His family last summer – something Annie and I continually rejoice over when we think about it – and we are sure that the Lord is unfolding a great plan in her life. We are now in the process of helping Anna find Christian fellowship in Manchester. Manchester is just full of fellow brothers and sisters in Christ; please just pray that the Lord will lead Anna to the place she can call home-away-from-home among God’s people.
He that is in us is greater than he that is in the world,