Category Archives: Personal

Dark Night – The NPCs

This entry is part 2 of 6 in the series Dark Night

For anย  explanation as to why I have a row of Mormon boys as my header image, please see the footnotes ๐Ÿ˜‰

In my last post, Theophilus*, I described how I feel like I am about to embark on another Dark Night of the Soul. While I could be wrong, of course, I did describe it as such because I felt I recognised the signs of its approach.

In the comments for that post, regular reader Jeremy suggested I try to blog a little on what my thoughts are, which would be helpful and interesting. I think that really is an excellent idea, because that then means that someone with a keen observational mind and an analytical brain (me!) would be making those observations and writing them down for others. The only downside to the idea is that the Dark Night might involve taking time off blogging or even taking time off thinking and observing too much. Sometimes the idea of the Dark Night is to take time off of having any commitments at all, so, subject to those caveats, I will do what I can. And I’m going to make it into a ‘series’ so as to keep the posts indexed in some fashion.

Let me make it clear right from the start that this Dark Night is not some form of depression or other mental illness. It is a normal and healthy part of spiritual growth, and, because I have been through it before, I am genuinely looking forward to the experience itself and also to the fruits it will produce. Granted, I am still heartsick from my loss of Fiona – even though that’s now 28 months ago – but this is a different thing entirely. This is spiritual, not emotional, and going through times like this only serves to highlight the difference.

Now, to my observations.

The primary observation at the present time is this: this particular Dark Night has been-precipitated, as was my first one, as a result of interactions with nasty grey legalistic people, my reactions to them, and the need to change my attitudes in my dealings with them. So, dealing with these people. And I need to spend time away from them. Fortunately, unlike those who have these people in their immediate families, I have the luxury of being able to remove myself from them.

My son refers to these people as NPCs. ‘Non-Player Characters’, you know, like in a video game. Every time you approach one of these in-game characters, they act all familiar and ‘Hey how are you, buddy?’ like they’ve known your game character all his life. If you come back to them in-game after half an hour or so, they say the exact same thing – because of course they are programmed to. And that’s what these people are like; they are programmed with all the ‘right phrases’ that they trot out willy-nilly and – more worryingly – they also have all the same programmed attitudes. It’s almost as if they have no colour; no personality. The NPCs. What a great analogy.

As my readers will know, about twenty years ago, my first Dark Night began, in which I avoided all church things like I would Flat Earthers ๐Ÿ˜‰ Every time I went in a church, it reminded me of why I didn’t! That Dark Night lasted fifteen years as I was detoxed from all the harmful attitudes that my twenty-one years as an Evangelical Fundamentalist had given me.

Five years ago, I had a dramatic re-entry into the ‘things of God’ (although I was never really away from Him per se) and He has carried me through losing Fiona and all kinds of other stuff. And my faith life blossomed.

But recently something in me has just snapped. I have so had enough of the NPCs who take it upon themselves to ‘love the sinner, hate the sin’…whatever happened to ‘mind your own business’? And these people cast such a bad light on my wonderful Jesus and my Father God…and I have to make this observation that at present I feel that if I never go into a church meeting again it will be too soon. That, for me, is a characteristic of a Dark Night experience. In a way, being with other Christians – at least in a large meeting – is such a ‘trigger’ for me that it can be harmful. Also, being Aspergic does not help in this regard; I can think of many places I’d rather be than in a room with lots of people!

I’m not saying that people at my Church are NPCs; they’re not. They are lovely. And I know for a fact that part of what Father is doing with me at the moment is that He’s not asking me to go to Church, so in a way it’s almost as if that lack of Church prompting from Father suggets that He’s the One Who’s leading me into the Dark Night – and that would come as no surprise to me. And in a lot of ways I have been at this point for a long while, not having been to the main Church meeting for about eighteen months, although I was in a housegroup for a while (it recently came to an end; not my fault, I hasten to add!)

Regarding the NPCs, it’s always the same. If there are two possible interpretations of a Scripture, these people would always rather swing towards the ‘bad’ interpretation and call it ‘loving’, rather than swing towards the actually ‘loving’ interpretation. And coming up against this constantly has made it so that I’ve so had enough of them. I am so sick of religious people like these, and as a sad corollary to that, I am avoiding all things to do with faith at all, because there are just so many triggers. I’m staying off Facebook because there are people on there whom I care about but who also have a list of NPC ‘friends’ as long as your arm, who trot out the same programmed crap in response to my friends’ posts again and again. I just need a rest from it all, and that might take fifteen days, or it might take fifteen years again.

To quote my reply to one of my friends on Facebook, whose post was being ripped at by grey** NPC miseries,

But the truth of it is that I have had enough of these people. Completely had enough. From now on, it’s an instant block from me. We are giving dogs what is sacred and they simply turn and tear us to pieces. From now on, my job is to minister to the people whom these nasties would seek to destroy, while ignoring and blocking the nasty ones. These are deadly, grey, dull people who spread a gospel of horror, hate and lies, and I’ve had enough of them. There is enough poison in life in general without people like these, who claim to represent a loving god, from bringing even more toxicity. Enough is enough. Let them wallow in the mud of their shipwrecks.

(And that’s partly where my recent post. ‘Shipwrecks‘, came from)

One such grey person thusly replied to my exhortation to reconsider the doctrine of Hell:

“Don’t need to. Hell is forever. You don’t make the rules. God does. Your job is to obey, not figure out God’s logic.”

Case in point. Cold, grey, dull, lifeless. In fact the voice of the Pharisee isย always cold, lifeless, grey, dry, dusty and joyless. By their fruits you shall know them (or in this case, the lack thereof)

Remember:

Dry

Dusty

Grey

Cold

Joyless

Lifeless

Jesus spoke of them as tombs – whitewashed tombs. Lookin’ good on the outside; full of rot and corruption inside. And these are the people who accuse all mankind of being ‘unregenerate sinners…’ for goodness’ sake! If your life looks like that, you need to get it sorted. But then, if your life looks like that, you probably are not reading this because you will have consigned my blog to the heresy pile long ago!

Another key phrase, when given a joke that falls outside the lines of what their group think acceptable, is ‘We don’t think it’s funny’.

Like this one, for example:

“We don’t think it’s funny”, they would say***. Who’s ‘we’? That sort of prohibition only has power when there’s a group of them all agreeing with each other, and presumably nodding sagely, and they find like-minded miseries to sit with.

Even talking to these people is a downer. This is not what the kingdom of God is about! If it’s not righteousness, peace and joy, then it’s not the Kingdom of God.

And I find, as a direct result of my interactions with grey NPCs, that when I’m reading my Bible, my reading voice – you know, the voice that I hear in my head as I read – sounds just like the grey NPCs. And so, unless I feel particularly inspired, I do not go to the Bible all that often. True, when I do get such inspiration, that voice is absent…maybe the lesson there is to not read the Bible unless that voice is absent… This is another of the signs of the Dark Night, and obviously one I have learned from already! ๐Ÿ˜€

Another thing is that, in some ways, I don’t feel as close to God as I normally do. I know He’s there; I still feel the Spirit burning inside. Or maybe that’s indigestion. And worship means little; once again, I can hardly bear to hear the Songs of Heaven. These are two more of my signs of an impending Dark Night.

I think that one of the main things I am looking for in this Dark Night (although of course Father probably has other plans!) is that I need to learn how to deal with the Grey People. The NPCs. If indeed there is any dealing with them. By ‘dealing with’ them, I mean how I personally deal with the effects of interfacing with them on a theological level. Certainly we’re not going to change them; not that I would want to – that’s not my job! And indeed, this brings me to another point about the NPCs and how to cope with them, and it’s this.

When we criticise the judgemental, their standard response is always [predictably] โ€œAh, but now youโ€™re judging me!โ€ It seems to be the privilege of the judgemental that, although they started it, still they think we are wrong to point out their judgementalism; that we are ourselves being judgemental in our pronouncements against their judgementalism. I sometimes think that they set these things up just specifically for that purpose. He who accuses first has the upper hand, it seems!

Talk about a no-win situation!

So, how do we solve this conundrum? How do we tell these people what they are doing without ourselves being judgemental, or even giving them the excuse to say that we are being judgemental? Is it even possible?

Iโ€™m 56 years old and I am still unaware of an answer. Maybe that’s something I will learn in this Dark Night. But I wouldn’t bank on it.

And please be aware that I am actually not blaming the NPCs; all I am doing is to describe how their actions and my responses/triggers have precipitated this new Dark Night. For others, their own entry into a Dark Night will be highly individual, and indeed probably unique to that person. Also, I have not been forced into this ‘course of action’ by these people, because a) it is not my choice anyway, and b) they are not that powerful. The main thing is my response to their trigger reaction in me; that’s what I need to work on.

This may well read like a rant, and I do not apologise for that. What I need to show, above all else in this series, is honesty. Because it will be of no use to my readers if it’s not honest.

And anyway I am allowed to rant. There are no rules in a Dark Night! ๐Ÿ˜‰

I hope this is helpful.

Peace and Grace to you all.


*Pirated from St. Luke in Acts 1:1 ๐Ÿ˜‰

**What’s all this about ‘grey’ people? Well, one of the characteristics of being in a religious cult (which I believe Evangelical Christianity is) is that everyone has to be the same; everyone has to believe the same things, have the same sense of humour (none) and all that sort of thing.

Imagine a group of Mormon missionaries lined up for a game of ‘Spot the Difference’ and you’ll get what I mean.

And that explains the header image (it’s actually taken from a Broadway show called ‘Book of Mormon’ – and they’re not real Mormons; they’re actors...) ๐Ÿ˜‰

(Not saying Mormons are NPCs; I don’t personally know any so I can’t say. But their missionaries, at least, do all dress the same and will therefore do for the purposes of illustration).

And so, despite each NPC being technically an individual, in terms of faith they are not; there is no colour, no variety, nothing interesting going on. Hence, grey.

[Edit: Apparently, the term ‘NPC’ is nowadays common parlance for people who always say the same, predictable things. Shows how far behind the times I am]

***Clue: YMCA ๐Ÿ˜‰


 

30

The Dark Night Beckons…

This entry is part 1 of 6 in the series Dark Night

As my regular readers will be aware, I am a strong advocate of the idea of the ‘Stages of Faith‘, which is a loose set of ideas describing the way in which some of us humans grow and change in our spiritual lives.

One of the Stages of Faith is of course the ‘Dark Night of the Soul‘, which is where God takes a believer into a place where old ideas and preconceptions are challenged and often deconstructed. Once this period is completed, the believer emerges into a new ‘era’, if you will, of freedom and light in the Spirit. As such, the Dark Night is therefore to be welcomed and, even though it might not always be pleasant, the blessings are nonetheless real.

But the Dark Night is not always, nor indeed is it usually, a ‘one-off’ experience. Several times in a believer’s life, God might need to take that person aside for a discussion and contemplation of that person’s belief systems, attitudes, or whatever.

And I, personally, am beginning to enter another Dark Night. I am recognising the signs. Despite the lovely and sympathetic best wishes of my online friends, however, I actually relish the opportunity, because personal growth in God is one of my primary ongoing objectives. My appetite for new learning is insatiable, and in the Dark Night, we learn more about God, His secrets, and the way things work, than at any other time.

In practical terms, this means that my blog posts may or may not be intermittent from now on. I may not even do my monthly ‘Fiona’ articles on the 25th of each month. I would think also that those articles in which I present my own thoughts and ideas will be rarer, and as part of this Dark Night involves a general staying away from my usual external channels of fresh thoughts and concepts, I might not be getting ideas for blog posts from others all that often either. At the very least, others’ posts will be featuring more than my ‘own’. I have been writing this blog now for almost four years, and my output has been reasonably constant. But I don’t want to give my readers poor-quality articles that are not grounded in my deep convictions and deep thinking; I don’t want to short-change you. But, who knows? Maybe this season in my life might bring forth a torrent of inspiration…well, we’ll just have to wait and see, I guess!

So, there we have it. I am excited to see what God has in store for me over this next season, and I look forward to sharing the fruits of it with my readers in due course. It may take a few weeks, it may take a few years – although I would hope the latter is not the case. I just thought I’d better let you know ‘where I’m at’, because I cherish my readership, both those who comment and those who are the silent listeners; you are all welcome and all part of my journey. And I don’t want you to think I have abandoned you!

Peace and Grace to you all ๐Ÿ™‚

20

In So Many Ways…

This entry is part 36 of 36 in the series Fiona

Two-and-a-quarter years ago today, I lost the love of my life to cancer. Fiona was my soul-mate and my best friend; the only person who really ‘got’ me with my weird Aspie traits, and she was the most gentle, kind-hearted and Christlike person I ever met. What a privilege it was for me to be married to such a lady!

And we think about her daily. Not a day goes by without I have a happy memory of her; the way she was, and especially the things she would have found funny. Fiona found so much joy in life; so much to laugh at. To illustrate the point, here is a very blurred picture of Fiona laughing at something our grand-daughter Lucy was doing.

It’s blurred because the camera shutter speed was slow (the lighting was poor) and because Fiona was laughing and moving her head, but it illustrates her wacky sense of humour. You see, Lucy is holding a Chocolate Orange, and that particular confection is composed of twenty segments of orange-flavoured chocolate which you traditionally tap on a hard surface in order to separate the segments, before you unwrap the orange, so that you can eat the pieces one by one. However Lucy hadn’t heard about that bit, and so she’d taken the chocolate out of its wrapper and tried to get the whole thing in her mouth at once. Fiona’s reaction is easily visible despite the picture being blurred ๐Ÿ˜€

Even now, and usually on a daily basis, we (my daughter Ellie and I) laugh at many things, and often say to each other, ‘Mum would have found that hilarious’. Because she would. I’ve just thought: if there is indeed a Judgement Day video where all our life is played back in Blu-Ray quality, mine and Fiona’s is going to be bloody hilarious… ๐Ÿ˜€

I often notice habits or attitudes that I have, which were put there by Fiona, just by her being herself and being such a great lady. There are things that I notice each day, like those funny things or those attitudes, or maybe little trinkets decorating the house, or maybe a certain arrangement of furniture, but things that remind me of her. Things that we still do that she too loved to do, like going out places and going for walks, things like that. It all reminds us of Fiona.

In so many ways, then, much of who Fiona was is still with us, and while it is of course painful for us when these things remind us of her loss, still, what we do in these circumstances is to remember her with joy – which we do without even trying – and in that way her legacy of goodness, love, joy, wisdom and laughter will never be lost. It’s kind of bittersweet, I suppose.

I have also learned, and I continue to learn, huge amounts about the vast wisdom and love of God in situations like ours. I have endeavoured to share with my readers as much of this wisdom as I can, or at least, as much of it as is communicable, and as much as is not personal revelation that is not for others. I am increasingly aware that death is not the end; I know this because God has given the Holy Spirit as a guarantee of my inheritance – I can feel the Spirit there all the time; I live in a constant awareness of the Presence of God – and because He has shown me that this is the case. And so, on that level, I am confident that I will see Fiona again; because I know that Jesus has conquered death, and because I know that I died with Him and therefore I will also live with Him (Rom 6:8; 2Tim 2:11).

It’s just that I miss her so much now, right now. I still dream about her most nights. I still miss the light of her presence in the house. And yet still I have that unshakable hope: I will see her again in Glory.

You see, God is present in everything; all of Creation is shot through with His sustaining power and His amazing creative energy; His love, His bubbling enthusiasm. And all Creation worships Him in response (Ps 66:4; Ps 19:1). The entire universe is infused with His presence; what David said in Psalm 139:7 is true –

Where can I go from your Spirit?
ย ย ย ย Where can I flee from your presence?”

…amongst other things (read the psalm; you will get what I mean) – God is just so vast, huge, great and incomprehensible.

Given that God is so bubbling with Life and Love, how can I doubt that everything that Fiona was is somehow taken to be incorporated into that incredible Presence? If I can feel that Presence now, even as weakly as this body allows, how much more will Fiona, in that Place beyond all places, be soaking in the immediate, overwhelming Power of God? I think that’s awesome, and the reality of that concept is part of what sustains me. After nearly 40 years of walking with Jesus, I have learned sufficiently of His ways and His truth to know that He’s so much more amazing, so much more wonderful, than I can possibly imagine. And because of that, I know Fiona’s in the very safest of hands, and that I, one day, will go and join her there, and I will never need to miss her again. And what a day that will be! ๐Ÿ˜€


Header picture shows Fiona meeting Lucy for the first time, once Lucy had been brought home from the maternity unit.

20

And So It Began

This entry is part 35 of 36 in the series Fiona

Today would have been Fiona’s and my 35th wedding anniversary.

And five years ago today – around our 30th wedding anniversary – was when I really began to be seriously worried about Fiona’s health, and, unbeknownst to me, we were about to enter the hardest time of our lives – the beginnings of the really serious cancer pains and all the meetings and tests and clinics and so on that this entailed.

But I can’t believe it’s five years ago. The memories are so strong that it seems like only yesterday. And the grief has, once more, taken hold of me. I have to say that it goes up and down: for months I will be fine, but then all of a sudden it all hits me again. It all goes to show that there is no easy answer; no set/fixed timescale, no timetable for recovery. Each of us grieves and heals in his own way, and in his own time.

And Jesus has been close to me all this time. I have to say that He has given me the ‘peace that passes all understanding’ (Phil 4:7) and helped me through this last few years. He’s been my faithful Friend and, although it might sound trite, He has been my Rock, my Refuge, my truly present Help in time of my need (Psalm 46:1). The Lord draws near to the broken-hearted, and He saves those who are crushed in spirit (Psalm 34:18). I find it amazing (and yet unsurprising) that the same God that those Psalm writers wrote about, being close to them in their time of need some 3,000 years ago, is present for me in my time of need right now in 2019. That’s pretty awesome when you think about it.

And so, on my third anniversary without her, I am thankful once again for the incredible times we had together: the adventures, the joys, the sorrows and heartaches, the fun, the laughter (and there was lots of that!), the walks, the music, the meals, the kids, the dogs. Our life together was full and fun, and I am so grateful for having had that time with her at my side.

I miss you more than ever, Fiona. You were my companion, my soul mate and my best friend. And your legacy lives on in those who loved you; those for whom you were such a part of their lives that your influence and input still remains even though you are gone. We won’t forget you.


Header picture shows Fiona at our favourite beach, Porthcothan Bay in north Cornwall. When this picture was taken, in September 2013, Fiona had already been feeling the tumour pain for a few months and we were only just beginning to have it investigated.

10

Facing into Bereavement, Part II

This entry is part 34 of 36 in the series Fiona

I know that it can be very hard at Christmas time for people who have suffered bereavement. At this highly traditional, cosy family time which is always known for its joy and ‘good cheer’ (has anyone ever explained what that actually means? ๐Ÿ˜‰ ), the absence of our loved ones is always more poignant.

It’s similar for me, as the 25th of each and every month is always harder for me because my wonderful wife Fiona died on a 25th; the 25th October. That’s why I do a ‘Fiona post’ every 25th or thereabouts.

But as I wrote a few months back, although for me, my faith helps me through it, I do appreciate that not everyone has that faith. And that’s why I wrote that article, to try to help others, without such a faith, to cope.

But what I want to write about today touches not so much on matters of faith, but rather on those of heartlessness and what amounts to spiritual terrorism, especially when directed towards those who do not share a ‘faith’.

Whatever your beliefs, you will have heard religious people – usually Christians, and to a lesser extent Muslims (these are the only two faith groups, apparently, that believe in it) banging on about Hell. About a terrible place where bad people go when they die, to be tormented for ever. Or, indeed, you might even have heard someone say that everyone goes there, apart from, of course, the people who adhere to the ideas of the group making that claim.

So, I’m going to be talking a little bit about God today, but only in the context of trying to help you past any of these fears you might have. either for you or for your departed loved ones (or both!). If God doesn’t exist, then you don’t need to fear any afterlife of eternal torment in Hell. If God does exist, I would say you also don’t need to fear such an afterlife either, because, I believe, God is good and loving. Bear with me as I explain.

To my dismay, I have even heard of religious preachers at funerals perpetrating their despicable claims about Hell, at grieving relatives, destroying them in the process. Well, I am here to tell you today that, no matter what your beliefs in God, afterlife, whatever, Hell, as depicted by these nasty Religious people, does not exist.

Think back to those preachers I mentioned, who destroy grieving relatives at a funeral by claiming that the person they are mourning has gone to Hell. I can’t even imagine how someone like that can claim to be a follower of Jesus, the one about whom the Bible says that he will not crush those who are grieving; instead, he will gently lift them up. How do I know I am right, and these preachers are wrong? Well, you can tell by the effects – Christians would call it the ‘fruit’ – of what they say. If their words bring grief, destruction and sadness, they are not speaking the words of God. If, on the other hand, their words bring comfort, reassurance, even joy, then this is from God and is therefore true.

There are those who seem to really want to believe everything bad about God that they can. If there’s two Bible verses that contradict each other (and despite the contrary claims of certain religious people, the Bible does indeed contradict itself, regularly, blatantly, and often [1]) then why do they always go with the verse that means the most grief for the greatest number of people? I really don’t know the answer to that. But what I do know is that we need to remember Jesus. If you are afraid that God might not forgive you (for whatever), look at what Jesus did. He forgave people who were actually in the process of driving huge iron spikes through his wrists and his feet. If you are afraid that God is a grumpy old radge just waiting for someone to throw thunderbolts at, then tell me, did you ever hear any stories of Jesus doing anything like that? (Hint: Luke 9:54 where Jesus actually refuses to do just that) If you are afraid of Hell, be aware that Jesus did not speak once about such a place. Jesus actually shows God as a nice guy.

No, Hell is what happens here on earth when people are horrible to each other. Hell is the tragedy of lives wasted; lives lost to alcoholism or other addiction, or to religious fundamentalism, or whatever: anything where people are prevented from living to their full potential. Hell is nasty religious preachers telling people at funerals that, even as they speak, their loved one is burning in some terrible fire and being prodded by devils with pitchforks. That’s hell.

And Jesus came to set us free from that; both from its effects here in this world, and from the fear of its happening in the next. The afterlife – including for your loved ones, dear heart reading this – will be glorious, joyful; full of amazing colours and light and scenery and full also of the presence and love of God. Tell you what, since it’s Christmas Day today, let’s remember what the angels said to the shepherds:

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men, on whom His favour rests! (Luke 2:14)

It doesn’t mention only certain ‘chosen’ people; it says that there is peace to men (meaning all mankind) on whom His favour rests. This means that actually God likes humans. He’s not mad with us; no, He loves us and in fact likes us! This is a million miles away from the story told by those who would call everyone miserable sinners. Jesus never once did that. He just loved people, and demonstrated practically the claim of the angels; that God’s favour rests on humanity. God likes us!

And so, please be assured. Your loved one is not in a Hell of any kind. They have gone on to be with the One Who loves them – present tense – both in this life and in the next.

Don’t listen to anyone who would have the gall to tell you otherwise!

Be encouraged, dear heart.


[1] For example, the adjacent Bible verses Proverbs 26:4, and Proverbs 26:5. They go like this:

v.4: Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you yourself will be just like him

v.5: Answer a fool according to his folly, or he will be wise in his own eyes.

So, which is it? Do you answer the fool, or don’t you? That’s a contradiction, plain as day. Oh sure, people will try to explain it away, and as a Bible college graduate, I do understand what it means. But it contradicts, and there’s no getting away from it.

00

Weddings

This entry is part 33 of 36 in the series Fiona

Twenty-five months ago today, my precious wife Fiona died of pancreatic cancer. She’d been fighting it for three years.

And in the midst of the horror, we chose hope over despair, joy over grief, and love over despondency. Four year ago, on 5th December, 2014, about eight months after her diagnosis, Fiona and I renewed our wedding vows together in our Church in Torquay.

Hope for healing (didn’t happen, at least not this side of the veil), hope for the ability to live life one day at a time and appreciate everything that each new day brings. Renewing our vows so that, no matter how long we had left together, we would publicly declare our commitment to each other and our intention to live out our time together in freedom, joy and love. Because of our faith in Jesus, Who died and then came back from the dead, we believed (and I stil do) that death is not the end. That kind of belief gives a person the power to live free of fear, and to live in the freedom of the moment. Not that fear and horror are not part of the ‘cancer journey’ – they are! – but thatย  the fear is not one of losing someone forever to ‘death the great divider’, but that our lives go on through the veil of death and on into a glorious afterlife with Jesus. And that definitely affects the way that we live our lives, including the ability to live in the light of that blazing truth.

Fiona and I were married in January, 1984, at Guiseley Baptist Church in Guiseley, West Yorkshire. In the same way that we first promised to ‘have and to hold, in sickness and health’, that promise became actual and real in the face of the ultimate sickness of terminal cancer.

I’ve scanned in some of the photos that were taken at our wedding. The header picture is one of gorgeous Fiona, here reproduced in colour:

Wasn’t she stunning? Like I’ve said elsewhere in this series, Fiona was easily the most beautiful girl I had ever set eyes on, and, for me at least, it was love at first sight. ๐Ÿ˜€

Happy days, eh? ๐Ÿ™‚ I was twenty-one (nearly twenty-two) on our wedding day, and Fiona was nineteen (nearly twenty). I count myself the most blessed man to have had such a gorgeous, amazing, wise and clever lady as my wife, and we always agreed how glad we were that we had met when we were young so that we could spend our entire lives together. And what amazing lives we led. The sheer amount of adventure we packed into our nearly 33 years of marriage was incredible, despite me (at least while in Leeds) being in a low-paid job and raising a young family on a shoestring. We were so happy together.

Of course, the last part of the story was traumatic. Cancer has a way of changing one’s outlook and priorities, but that doesn’t have to be a change for the worst. The illness meant that although we had wanted eventually to grow old together, we knew this wasn’t going to happen, and that’s quite disappointing when you realise it. And yet, over the time of the illness, we were so close: we learned so much about life and death; God and others; illness; compassion; dedication and commitment. Truly, that time enriched us as people, and we certainly didn’t let it go to waste.

For some time, we had wanted to renew our vows, so what better time to declare our love for, and commitment to, each other, than in the face of a terrible terminal illness? On that 5th December 2014, then, we stood in front of our family and our Church family, and many of our relatives and old friends who had come hundreds of miles to be with us on our special day.

In the face of that evil illness, we lit a bright light of hope and joy. We had decided that we were not going to let the illness defeat us as people, nor to let it cloud what remaining time we had together. And it’s interesting, but we actually enjoyed our second wedding far more than we did our first. Which, I think, speaks volumes.

Here are some photos from our second wedding:

Look at her wonderful smile, and that despite the ravages of the chemotherapy and the cancer. Because we had such a great life together, I often find it hard to point to a specific event and say ‘that really made her day’ – there were so many such events! – but in this case I think I can safely indicate that this was one of those occasions. She was just so happy! As you can see on this next shot, with Fiona dancing down the aisle because she was so full of joy ๐Ÿ˜€

I’m so glad we did that renewal of vows wedding. And at the time of the publication of this article, it’s almost exactly four years since our second wedding, and I still look back on it as one of the happiest days of my life, mainly because my lovely Fiona was so happy.

And doesn’t that smile say it all? It compares very well with the one she’s wearing at our first wedding, in the top picture above!

This next point is quite personal. Just lately, I have had the experience of seeing elderly people living in a care home. And while the care home in question really is an excellent one, still it is less than ideal; there is little privacy, there is of necessity a regimented approach to mealtimes, the patients have no freedom, but to be honest what else can they do? If someone is incapable of looking after themselves, then someone has to look after them, whether that’s family, or, if unavaliable/unable/unwilling, the local care system. But it’s horrible to see, even though the staff are lovely and the care home is excellent. I find it incredibly traumatic to see it. And here’s my point: although obviously I miss Fiona greatly, it would have broken my heart to see her in a situation like that, should we in our old age have become unable to look after each other any longer. Or being separated from each other; some elderly couples are (for whatever reason) not together in the same care home. We would have found that unbearable; completely and heartbreakingly unbearable. It hurts to even think about it, but I know of course that I will be spared seeing her in that situation, and for that I’m grateful. And she too has been spared the pain of either being in that situation herself, or seeing me go through it. I mean, sure, the trauma of losing her, and that of coping with her having a terminal illness, was immenseย  for both of us. And in some ways I have already been through the heartbreak. But this is one heartache I will not have to face into. Fiona had the chance to live her last years in dignity and in freedom, and only for her last two weeks or so was she in a hospice – and even that was supposed to be temporary.** Maybe that sounds like I’m glad she died young – it’s not that; all I am doing is being grateful for ‘small mercies’, and finding another silver lining in the dark cloud of her loss. But I’m glad that I was spared that care home trauma, and of course I’m glad that she too has been spared it either way.

Anyway, with our second wedding, we effectively thumbed our noses at death and disaster. We declared by our actions that tragedy wasn’t going to have the last word over our happiness, and that was indeed how it worked out. Our last two years together were spent in joy and fulness, living the Kingdom life that Jesus gives, and being shining examples of joy in the face of adversity.

Fiona, my love, I love you and I miss you. Thank you so much for our second wedding, for what you said to me there, and for affirming once again that deep, deep love we shared.

It meant everything to me, and it still does.

I’ll see you soon, and then we’ll never be separated again.


*During our first wedding, itย  was throwing a blizzard outside and this is why all our photos were done indoors.

**As she was going in to the hospice (for a closely-monitored pain control regime), Fiona did jokingly ask, “When people go into a hospice, do they ever come out again?” “Oh, yes!” said the nurses…but in her case, they were wrong! Even at times like that, Fiona thought it funny. Our sense of humour together was funny and flippant; I’m still like that (have been so since about 1980) and I would have it no other way ๐Ÿ˜€

In fact, I almost did even more dark humour and called this piece Two Weddings and a Funeral. For this purpose, I took a photo of Fiona’s gravestone, which I reproduce below to complete the ‘joke’. The Scripture quote is Psalm 116:7, Return to your rest, O my soul, for the Lord has been good to you

Our family name has been redacted because I want my site to stay semi-anonymous. With disabled people in my family, and given the propensity of certain Christians to take exception to heretics like me, the last thing I want is for a mob of rampaging Pharisees to turn up on my doorstep brandishing King James Bibles ๐Ÿ˜‰


I must also say that credit for the photos of the second wedding go to my friend Ella. Well done, chick ๐Ÿ™‚

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The Sound Boys’ Yo-Yo

Most of my readers will know that I used to be a worship leader in a Charismatic-style church; we’d have ‘open worship’ with, as well as the singing, things like tongues, prophecy and other spiritual gifts. There’d be singing ‘in the Spirit’ too, and it was all most uplifting.

My particular setup was that I had an electronic keyboard/piano: a Roland JV-30, which at the time, and despite having only five octaves (thus limiting my pitch range capability), was pretty much state of the art.

The JV-30 does not have its own internal loudspeakers; it requires external amplification. In this case, and since we were using a public hall for our meetings, the keyboard’s output was piped over to a sound desk at the back, manned by a couple of teenage non-musician lads that we nicknamed (unsurprisingly) the ‘Sound Boys’.

We also had other musicians: three vocalists – myself, Fiona and Cathy; Steve, our bass player; and sometimes an acoustic guitarist. I won’t give any names for the guitarists because there were quite a few of them and we never really knew who we were going to get from one week to the next. And in addition to the keyboard, each of these ‘inputs’ – the microphones for the vocalists, Steve’s bass guitar, and my keyboard, plus any guitarist(s) we had (playing into an electronic pickup clipped to the guitar’s sound hole), also went into the sound desk, each input with its own dedicated channel, to be dominated controlled by the Sound Boys.

The relationship between the musicians and the Sound Boys was somewhat complex, and often pretty fraught*. I usually felt that the Sound Boys had the volume of the piano turned way too far down; this was long before we had any ‘foldback’ (a loudspeaker set up facing the instrumentalist so that they can hear what they are playing) so not only could I not really hear myself playing, but I also had to trust the Sound Boys that the congregation was able to hear what we were playing. They assured us that they could, but I was never fully convinced!

Sometimes they even used to mute my output channel completely, such as during the sermon, or if there were some prayers going on; or if for whatever reason they ‘thought’ (and that’s being generous) that the piano was not needed at that time. It was almost as if they didn’t trust me to handle my instrument correctly, and to not do a huge bloody great big ‘dead body in the bath’ chord in the middle of the notices.

And so it seemed that, despite our best efforts, all that we did as a band was subject to the power-crazed whims of the Sound Boys and their all-powerful sound desk. Whenever you lead public singing, you need to have quite a bit of, well, let’s call it ‘authority’, but I don’t mean it in a domineering kind of way; more a practical way. When you are leading 300-400 people in singing, you need to be heard, so that they can follow your lead. For example, sometimes the congregation’s timing goes a little off so you need to lead them back into time again. To do this, you’d boost your volume to emphasise the timing and allow people to hear what you are doing and to re-synchronise. Or maybe they have drifted off pitch (out of tune), but this is actually quite rare. The problem comes when you can’t lead the music properly because your sound volume is turned wayoooh-doooowwwwn and you don’t have the oomph; thanks a bunch, Sound Boys.

And so, I had to develop a little trick to let me lead properly and thwart the best efforts of the Sound Boys. I called it the ‘Sound Boys’ Yo-Yo’.

Here’s what you do.

Set the keyboard’s volume control to about 30-35%, and do all your sound checks from there. Begin the worship with the same volume setting; the Sound Boys will have set you at a moderate volume for the opening song, and hopefully they will boost you once the congregation join in and the general volume in the hall increases. So far, so good.

But let’s say that after a couple of verses, you realise that the congregation’s timing is drifting (possibly because of the low lead instrument volume – who’d ‘a thunk it?!), so it’s time to ‘assert your authority’ as lead musician and bring it all back together again for them. Your piano isn’t yet loud enough to re-establish the rhythm, so you’re going to need more volume; trouble is that the Sound Boys don’t realise this is what you need to do, and if you gently nudge your volume up, they will correspondingly gently nudge your channel volume down in response, and to show you who’s boss of course. So there’s no net effect on the volume and things get worse for the song being sung.

So, you don’t do it that gentle way. What you do is to whack your volume control slider up into afterburner – say about 90-100% setting…

Afterburners on a Typhoon fighter

…and this allows you to use that increased volume to stabilise the song’s rhythm or whatever it is that’s drifted. Before long, of course, the Sound Boys will have rumbled what you’re up to, and will have reacted to your gross misbehaviour by drastically racking your channel volume fader right back down again. By that time, though, they’re way too late and they’ve proper missed their boat; you have brought things back into line again, in musical terms, like you wanted to do. And that was easy. Just doing my job.

However, at this point, of course, the Sound Boys have solidly put you in your place; your channel volume is a long way down and your keyboard volume is maxed out, although nobody can tell because the net effect on your piano volume as heard by the congregation is unaffected, and no-one’s any the wiser apart from yourself and the Sound Boys, of course. So now you need somehow to recover that reserve power so that you can use it again, possibly soon. And this is the clever bit, and the part that gives the Yo-Yo its name.

While playing, and in a reverse of the actions that the Sound Boys would perform if you boosted your volume gradually, you reduce your keyboard volume equally gradually, say by about 10% per minute. Maybe you could do this after each verse of the song you are playing, especially if you’re varying your song’s dynamics, which disguises what you are doing very nicely. One hopes that the Sound Boys will notice that your volume is getting a bit low, so they will (ideally!) advance your channel volume bit by bit until they can hear you better.

You continue doing this until your keyboard volume slider is back at around 30-35% and then you can use your afterburner again as required. You have now restored your ‘volume reserve’ and it’s available for use once more. Lather, rinse and repeat.

And that’s the the Sound Boys’ Yo-Yo, so called because you move your volume slider up and down like a yo-yo.

Granted, if you are an instrumentalist in a similar position and you’re thinking about using this trick, remember thatย  your Sound Boys might have read this too, and therefore they will be wise to what you’re up to, but there’s nothing they can really do about it if they want the congregation to hear the piano at all.

Or maybe you’re extremely lucky and have Sound Boys that actually listen to you and provide the service you need. In which case, I envy you.

But it’s still a useful trick to have in your repertoire!


*Sound Boys, if you should read this, don’t worry, I forgave you a long time ago, and this is just humour, ok? ๐Ÿ˜‰

 

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‘Sully’

I’ve just finished watching the movie ‘Sully’, starring Tom Hanks as Capt. Chesley ‘Sully’ Sullenberger, the airline pilot who landed his crippled Airbus 320 passenger jet on the Hudson River, New York, on 15th January 2009. (Can’t believe that’s nearly ten years ago!)

After a double engine failure due to multiple birdstrikes, Sully and his First Officer, Jeff Skiles, glided the jet down for a forced water landing, on to the Hudson River, in one piece and, despite several injuries being sustained, there were no fatalities. Of the 150 passengers and five crew aboard, all survived. Fittingly, it was known as the ‘Miracle on the Hudson’.

Well. What a superb movie.ย  It tells the story of the flight; what happened, the decisions of the crew, the investigation by the US NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board) and also a little about the people involved. While the NTSB investigation is not shown in a good light – the members of the investigation panel are more hostile than they were in real life – this only helped, I thought, to highlight just what an amazing job Sully and his team did.

It was technically (i.e. from an aviation point of view) perfect. So often, in movies like this one where aeroplanes are simulated using Computer Generated Imagery (CGI), the computer-generated aeroplanes fly nothing like the real thing. For a Pilot, it’s usually very painful to watch. But this was perfect. Also the other technical details were accurate too.

Captain Chesley ‘Sully’ Sullenberger

As my regular readers know, I fly aeroplanes for fun, and I often practice emergency situations, including simulated engine failures. I know how to cope with an engine failure, and I have over twenty years of flying experience to call on. I sincerely hope that, should the same sort of emergency situation happen to me as happened to Sully that day, that I too would manage to pull it off and land safely*. Mind you, not with 155 people on board…

Sully had been flying for twice as long as I have. I love the modest quotation from him that sums up the experience and training aspect of his amazing feat. He said, “One way of looking at this might be that for 42 years, I’ve been making small, regular deposits in this bank of experience, education and training. And on January 15, the balance was sufficient so that I could make a very large withdrawal.”

I personally think that the movie will also increase passenger confidence. Many people have a fear of flying, and seeing the professionalism of the aircrew on this movie is bound to help. Mind you, the sight of a flock of Canada geese knocking an airliner out of the sky is a bit worrying… Also, they go to great pains to explain that a forced landing is not a ‘crash’, as the media love to call it. It’s not even a ‘ditching’; it’s a forced water landing. One implies lack of choice. The other implies being in complete control. I’ll leave you to guessย  which is which.

And there was so much to learn from a Pilot’s perspective. ‘Fly the aeroplane’ is the first rule of flying. Nothing else matters more than that. And the discipline; the calm, measured approach to handling the emergency checklist; the effect and benefit of experience and training; the ‘permission’, almost, that the movie gives to make split-second decisions based on that experience and training; the interaction between, and best use of, the crew of the aircraft; the liaison with ground controllers; the ability to ignore distractions. All excellent stuff, and yet accessible by the general, non-aviating public.

So, if you can see this film on Netflix or Amazon Prime, or whether you need to rent/buy a DVD or borrow one from a friend, definitely watch this movie. I heartily recommend it.

“Just doing my job”, said Sullenberger afterwards.

What a hero.


*A forced landing is one where due to loss or lack of engine power – still under full control, but like it or not, the aeroplane is coming down – and you just have to make sure it gets down in one piece. Look at it this way: well before I went on to flying powered aircraft, my flying career actually began on gliders. These are aeroplanes just like the ones I fly nowadays – but they have no engine. In a glider, then, you have a permanent ‘engine failure’.ย  When flying gliders, therefore, Every. Single. Landing. is a forced landing. Since I have about 70-80 flights in gliders under my belt, that means that I personally have performed 70-80 real forced landings. They are perfectly safe when you know what you’re doing!

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What a Day That Will Be!

This entry is part 32 of 36 in the series Fiona

This is the most moving painting I have seen in a long time.

It’s called ‘First Day In Heaven’, by Egyptian artist Kerolos Safwat.

It moves me to tears just looking at it. Something snapped inside of me as I pondered this painting; something deep happened within my spirit.

That’s because this painting reminds me of a vivid picture that God gave me two years ago today: 25th October, 2016, the day my precious wife Fiona began her first day in Heaven. On that day, I saw a vision of her that I can’t describe, it was so simple, and yet so awesome and personal and such that I can’t communicate it, but suffice it to say that it was very similar to this one. And this is why I am using this painting in today’s blog post, marking the second anniversary of Fiona’s passing into that incredible place.

I mean, can you imagine what it must be like to be the lady in that picture? Look at that expression on her face!

It’s saying:

“Yes! It’s all true! Jesus, I love you so much! Thank You, thank You, thank You!”

“Wow, I feel so young again!”

“I’m out of pain! I’m whole! I’m alive!”

“I was so scared of dying…and this is just amazing!”

“I’m home!”

“YESSS!”

This lady can now see – with her own eyes – that everything is ok; everything is fine – in fact, it’s better than fine; better than she’d ever hoped for, better than she could ever imagine (1Cor 2:9-10). No matter what her sufferings in this life, she now has a completely new, whole, functioning, beautiful, heavenly body – and yet she’s still completely herself; more so, in fact, than she’s ever been . She is fully aware that the place she has entered is the most beautiful place she has ever seen: like Earth, like the world she was used to, but the colours are so much more vibrant, the air is sweet and clear, the temperature is just right, there are huge mountains, pastures, lakes and forests the like of which she has never even contemplated in her best imaginings. And, best of all, the Person she loves the most is right there!

The joy that she feels is indescribable. She never knew such joy was possible.ย  Alongside that joy, the greatest earthly ecstasy was just a dim, flickering glow. To see Jesus face to face, and know that she is now completely safe from danger, pain, horror, suffering, weeping (except maybe tears of joy) – it’s the ultimate healing.

She’s been looking forward to being reunited with her loved ones, and with countless other people from all ages and all civilisations throughout history; friends whom she hasn’t yet met. And now that’s going to happen. And she will be reunited with her beloved pets. Like Jesus, she has the ability to do just about anything she wants to do. She can pass through walls, she can enjoy food and drink, she can feel the warmth of His Presence all the time as a constant glow. She can see the full glory of God, and yet she’s so aware that there is all of eternity stretching out before her so that she can learn more and more of Him and His ways. To gain a full appreciation of an infinite Creator will require an infinite amount of time, and she’s got all the time she needs. Time will never again be a constraint on her life or on her activities.

Then there’s Divine justice. The Judgement, which holds so much fear for so many people, but not for our friend here. Divine judgement; Divine justice, is restorative, not adversarial nor punitive. All wrongs will be made right. Everything that was ever done to her that was unjust, undeserved, painful, heart-wrenching, agonising – all this will be made right and her hurts healed forever, to trouble her never again. God will wipe away every tear from her eyes (Rev 21:4). Everything will be made to be as it should be. All wrongs that she ever did to anyone else will be – has already been! – completely forgiven and forgotten (Is 43:25, Heb 8:12). She will have no more enemies, ever again. All her cares and worries are now in the past, and will stay there forever. No more arguments, no more conflicts, no more fighting, no more anguish, no more pain.

Imagine it. Eternity opens up before you, in its full glory and potential, rich in unlimited possibilities. Wow, wow, wow!

This is the promise that is for everyone. Life in God’s Presence, for ever and ever. Sure, there’s lots of people on the Internet (including myself) who remind us that ‘Jesus’s teaching was for this life, not for any kind of afterlife’. And yes that’s true too, because we don’t want to be ‘so heavenly-minded that we are no earthly use’! But the promise of the afterlife with Jesus is key to the Gospel. It takes away all fear (1Jn 4:18) and Jesus gives us His Spirit to guarantee what is to come (2Cor 1:22, Eph 1:14). Isn’t that awesome? It means that the joy that this lady feels in that painting, is the joy that you and I will also feel.

It seems too good to be true, doesn’t it? And if it was something on this earth, something someone was trying to sell us, then yes – it would be too good to be true. But you see the thing is, the Gospel – that God loves us, He’s not mad at us, and He wants us to spend time with Him – is almost too good to be true, except that God is the One who can make good on His promises – to the point that if it isn’t too good to be true, then it’s not the Gospel!

I think that’s a simply mind-blowing concept!

Whatย  a day that will be
When my Jesus I shall see!
And I look upon His face
The One Who saved my by His Grace
And He takes me by the hand
And leads me to the Promised Land
What a day, glorious day, that will be!

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, โ€œLook! Godโ€™s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more deathโ€™ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.โ€
He who was seated on the throne said, โ€œI am making everything new!โ€ Then he said, โ€œWrite this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.โ€ (Revelation 21:3-5)

Please note that Mr. Safwat’s painting has been pirated, copied, even printed and sold by unscrupulous people who had nothing to do with its creation. People have modified it and altered the image to reflect their own agendas. If you want to support the original artist by buying his work, you can visit his Facebook page here. [Edit: Apparently the photo is not called ‘First Day In Heaven’, but actually it’s ‘I found the one I love and I held him and wouldn’t let go’, according to Kerolos’s Facebook page].

Granted, it does strongly appear that Mr. Safwat’s painting was itself inspired by a photo by photographer Paige Stewart; a shot of the celebration of two Canadian Rugby players, apparently.

 

Reference here

But still the painting, however it was inspired and whatever it should be called, still moves me to tears because, for me, it captures just what we will feel when we, too, spend our first day in Heaven. The joy of even the greatest Rugby score pales into nothing when compared with that; indeed, all this earth’s joys are but a pale reflection – and yet perfect models – of the joy we will receive when we get there. Kerolos Safwat has taken this photo and recreated it into one of the most moving paintings I have ever seen. That takes real talent!

10

And What He Says, Do…

This entry is part 31 of 36 in the series Fiona

It’s twenty-three months today since I lost the love of my life, my dear Fiona. Nearly two years.

In that time I have learned so much, I have grieved so much, I have lived so much. I have learned a wisdom and a compassion I never thought possible. I have walked closely with Jesus like I never have done before. I have attained a depth and breadth of understanding that previously I could only dream of.

Truly, I have taken that terrible loss, and with my best friend Jesus walking by my side, we have brought new life from the darkness. New ideas, new concepts, new understandings, new meaning for life and faith.

Of course, I would give anything to have my Fiona still by my side. And the last couple of months, particularly, have been extremely hard for some reason; I seem to have felt her loss more keenly than I have before, at least since the first few months. I dream about her most nights, and that’s good, because I get chance to talk to her about how I am feeling.

But the growth continues; the strengthening of my spirit, the confidence, the complete lack of any kind of fear, the total absence of any compulsion to please men rather than God. It’s almost as if my recent growth has placed me in a position where I feel that I am beyond mere worldly cares and considerations. Sure, I have my responsibilities to my family and to my employers. But the freedom I experience in my life is immense.

I find myself above and beyond the considerations of mere worldly politics and other double-meaning, double-dealing shenanigans.

Here’s an example of this wisdom in action. A friend of mine, the other day; a man who is far on in the faith and has an incredible spiritual maturity, was accused of ‘taking sides’ on a certain matter of dispute because he can see both sides, just like Jesus can. Here’s how he expressed it:

I’m afraid my “middle of the road” stance is gonna get blasted by BOTH sides. You have to either believe everything that a potential victim says and demonize the alleged offender, making him unfit to serve our country in any capacity, or try and minimize what could be a serious crime and call their accusations “fake news”. And I’m not good with EITHER of those positions. I want to know the truth, but I don’t know if the truth can be ascertained in these circumstances. I want justice for [the person in question], but don’t know if justice means destroying a man’s career and possibly life over what COULD have been a stupid macho mistake or terrible misunderstanding. Can I trust a man to handle the law that has potentially hurt someone? Yes, under the right circumstances. But I’m not even clear on what those would be, but I want it to revolve around the truth, admission of any guilt, apologies, forgiveness and restitution. I really just want compassion and justice for all”

I wrote this to him:

“[My friend], I don’t see you as being ‘middle of the road’ at all. I see you as being above the road; being able to see what is going on – but not only not taking sides, but just being Jesus. Remember the theophany in Joshua 5? [Josh 5:13b-14 (KJV)] ‘Are you on our side, or the enemy?’ “No” was the answer. Not ‘Neither’, although that’s not far off, but ‘No’. ‘Neither’ involves the choice of taking neither side. ‘No’ indicates that the question is not germane. There is a detachment from sinking to the level of the human conflict and its ‘choosing sides’, or even choosing the middle road, and seeing it from God’s point of view instead. Any and every Christian has the right to sit in that position of ‘No’; it’s far above a simple refusal to take sides, it’s part of being who you are in Christ. There is neither requirement nor compulsion to declare or assume sides; you are not answerable to anyone because you are a spiritual man. And you don’t have to explain yourself to anyone either.

His reply:

Wow, thanks Anthony. I don’t know that that’s EXACTLY what I’m doing, but it sure is something I would aspire to. I am trying to see everyone’s point of view, to put myself in their shoes and think about what they would need and want. And, yeah, that’s why I can’t just pick a side. Argue for one side, and I’ll just end up telling you why the other side can’t be ignored or belittled. When it comes to perpetrators (or even alleged perpetrators) that becomes VERY difficult in this country [USA – Ed], even among the Christian population. Everyone seems to call out for their pound of flesh. I’m trying to see from the point of view of that flesh”

I finished off the exchange with this:

And that was exactly what was in my mind when I wrote the comment. But as a man of peace, you naturally, well, maybe not always see both ‘sides’, but you at least are aware that both ‘sides’ exist and having that ability to put yourself in both sides’ shoes and try to see things from their point of view is about as Christlike as it gets. Unfortunately, those who cannot understand this see it as picking sides, merely because you express the fact that both sides have a point of view – but without making a value judgement on those points of view. So, you haven’t picked sides, but because you express attempted understanding of both sides, this makes you apparently complicit with both. But you and I both know that this is not the case at all, and this is why the spiritual man cannot be judged by anyone – because we see things from the spiritual point of view, not the worldly. Not that we are superior on anything, but we simply have a perspective that not everyone has”

This is the kind of wisdom that we learn from being close to Jesus and listening closely to His heart. And to bring this back to Fiona, I believe that Jesus has taken the wisdom that she implanted in me, as part of our relationship, and He’s developed it in deeper ways because I have lost her. I can think of several very deep reasons why this is the case, which I will not share here as they are too personal. This really is an example of ”the Secret of the Lord is with those who fear Him.

But be encouraged. You do not have to go through a bereavement process in order to take on a wisdom like this. Simply walk with Jesus, and what He says, do (John 2:5). Ignore what other humans say when it contradicts what Jesus says, even if they quote Bible verses at you that apparently also contradict what He says. Anyone can find Bible verses to support their point of view. But, as I said, Do whatever He tells you (Jn 2:5) and your wisdom will grow simply because you are walking with the Personification of wisdom – Jesus. And in the process, you will also find, almost as an added bonus, the strength and also the wisdom to cope with the hard times that life will inevitably throw at you. Life in its fulness (Jn 10:10) includes the ability to cope with the hard circumstances of life, simply because of Jesus, Who walks with you through those times.

This is faith. This is freedom. This is Jesus.

He will never let you down!


Header picture shows my beautiful Fiona dancing with her nephew, at the ceilidh at her brother’s wedding in November 2011.

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