Friday, 31 December 2010

New Year's Eve 2010

I am writing this with less than 2 hours of 2010 left and what a year it has been. Firstly we had the planned happiness of my daughter's wedding (which went very well) and then later in the year my wife and I celebrated 30 years of marriage and on the next day she had a significant birthday (I'm not saying how old she is but she can now use SAGA.) For these last 2 we were at Greenbelt but we also treated ourselves to a week in Venice in October to celebrate.

These were all expected events but there have been some surprises this year as well. One really big surprise was our son getting engaged to be married next year - he wasn't even going out with her in April when our daughter got married but she is lovely and both families think they are doing the right thing.

I started the year on sick leave with depression and although I did get back to work I couldn't handle it and took the option of early retirement when it was offered. In my mind I had planned to work until I was 65 but I found myself retired at 56 with very little pension until I'm 60. Still I'm sure I did the right thing and God is leading me somewhere.

The big shock of the year was the deacons constructively dismissing the ministers; something that the church failed to reverse at a special church meeting. This has hit me hard (but not as hard as them) as not only are they friends but I was growing spiritually under their guidance.

What the future holds (apart from my son's wedding) for me I have no idea but I'm beginning to get the first hints of God leading me into something. I have no idea what so it is a case of watch this space. My current plan is to start looking for part time (2 - 3 days a week) work in January but God may have something else in store for me.

Finally I want to wish a Happy New Year to anyone who happens to read this.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

The Pre-Existent Christ

I know I haven't updated for a while but my depression has been been dragging me down and sapping my energy.

Anyway what I wanted to say was that I have just finished reading one of my son's college text books "The Pre-existent Son: Recovering the Christologies of Matthew, Mark and Luke" - snappy little title isn't it! Why did I read it? Because it looked interesting. Did I understand it all? No way but I did get the general gist of it.

The central argument of the book hinges around Jesus saying "I have come to..." (or occasionally demons asking why her has come) which is a phrase that supposes purpose in coming from one place to another. By using this phrase Jesus makes plain that he has come to earth from heaven therefore he must have existed prior to His incarnation. This pre-existence is, of course, made plain in John's Gospel and in Paul's writing. From what I understand there was no need to spell this out in the earlier Gospels because it would have been already understood by the readers but by the time John wrote his Gospel it had to be said plainly to stop the church wandering into heresy.

What fascinates me wasn't in the book at all. If Christ existed before the incarnation it means that He was in the Godhead during the act of creation. But God is beyond time so in the act of creation He knew that He would have to enter creation and suffer and die. Despite this He still did it because He loves each and every one of us that much.

I feel that I should leave the light reading behind now so the next book I'm going to read is "
The Gospel According to the "Simpsons": The Spiritual Life of the World's Most Animated Family"

God bless you all.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

A New Asthma Treatment?

I have just entered my Peak Flow (lung function test) figures for November into the 2010 spreadsheet and I noticed something about the annual graph:




Apart from the fact that I haven't entered the December figures it starts rising in July which is when I started taking fluoxetine for my depression. Does this mean that fluoxetine helps treat asthma or that fluoxetine relaxes me so that the stress is no longer an asthma trigger?

Any views?

Monday, 22 November 2010

Prayer Meditation 3 - Authority

Daniel 7:13-14
"In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.



Authority?
No one tells me what to do!
Even if we don’t say it we think it.
We reject earthly authority if we don’t like it.

But all creation is meant to be under your authority
And that means us.
Every hidden little bit of us
Should be under your authority
To bring glory and honour to your name
And not ours.

Lord help us to submit to your authority
So that we may live in ways that glorify you and you alone.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Why Life Is Grey 2

One of the bugbears in my life is people, and particularly Christians, who try to see everything in terms of a rigid right and wrong morality instead of recognising that life is mainly about grey areas and not just black and white. To illustrate this here is a photo from which I have removed the grey shades to leave it only black and white:


Not very good is it?


Can you tell what it is?


Here is the same photo with the greys all added back in:



Now you can see it's a picture of my son with his wonderful fiancee (plus a woman in the background).

Life isn't black and white but it's mainly grey or, as I put it before, grey areas are where dogma and love clash and it is important to let love win. Alternatively 'My Karma just ran over my Dogma.'

For those who missed it here is a link to 'Why Life Is Grey'

http://brainatthedoor.blogspot.com/2010/06/why-life-is-grey.html

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Prayer Mediation 2 - The Fellowship of the Believers

Acts 2:42-47
The Fellowship of the Believers
They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favour of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

The disciples were together
How often are we together?
We meet on Sunday mornings
And some in the evening
But are we together?

They sold property to look after the needy.
Are we prepared to do that?
Give up our comfortable lifestyles
To help anyone in need?
Do we even know the needs within our own church?
Let alone those outside our fellowship.

Lord help us to fully enter into fellowship with each other
So that your name, and your name alone, may be glorified.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Prayer Meditations 1

As I mentioned in my previous blog there are some serious problems at the church I attend and while there has been a lot of destructive behaviour there has, so far, been one positive - the church has gathered for 2 prayer meetings to pray about the issues facing us. 'The church has gathered' may be over stating it as there weren't as many people present as I would have liked to see but it was a start.

My wife and I were asked to lead the first meeting and then led the second as well, recycling a lot of the material, using Bible passages followed by a short meditation / prayer. Rather than let the material sit on my hard drive I thought it would be a good idea to share them here on my blog.

Colossians 1:15-20

The Supremacy of the Son of God

15 The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.


Lord how often do I call this place my church?

How often do we call it our church?

We try to take ownership

To do things our way

Because this is our church!


But Lord it isn’t our church.

It’s your church.

Your body here on earth

And we should be doing your will

Not our own.

Lord help us in this time

To surrender our will and ideas

So that this may truly be your church

Your body here on earth.

Friday, 29 October 2010

Update

It has been a while since I updated mainly because a bit too much has been going on and I don't want to air some of it in a public forum.

Firstly I am now retired. There was an offer to take Voluntary Early Retirement at work and, despite it leaving me with little money for just over 3 years until another pension starts paying, we (my wife and I) decided that given my physical and mental health it was the best thing to do. I haven't decided whether to take another job in the interim or what else to do as I need time to get myself back in working order.

Secondly we had a wonderful week in Venice. This was a special holiday to celebrate our being married for 30 years and my wife having a significant birthday the following day at the end of August. This was our third trip to Venice and, finance permitting, I don't think it will be our last; there is just so much to see. The lack of traffic seems to help my chest so I'm going to ask my GP whether the NHS will pay for me to move there!

Thirdly we came back to news of some serious problems at our church. I'm not going to go into details here as I don't think it would be right or helpful but when you find a church that you have attended all your life in danger of tearing itself apart it is very painful.

To finish on a more cheerful note here is a picture that captures a tiny part of the beauty of Venice.

Friday, 24 September 2010

Giving Away My Daughter 2

The poem 'I Gave Away My Little Girl' formed in my head over 2 or 3 days before I typed it up late one morning. That afternoon I was rubbing down and re-staining the window frames at the top of the house when the following poem sprung into my head. I was thinking about how lucky we are in this country and what my daughter's situation would have been like in a completely different country and culture.

I SOLD MY LITTLE GIRL TO A STRANGER

I sold my little girl to a stranger
I didn’t really want to
But we needed the money for food

I sold my little girl to a stranger
She couldn’t get married
As I couldn’t afford a dowry

I sold my little girl to a stranger
I needed to keep my sons
As boys are strong
And can work our fields

I sold my little girl to a stranger
Even though I love her.

I sold my little girl to a stranger
To stop the rest of us starving.

I sold my little girl to a stranger
He said he would look after her
But we haven’t heard from her since

I sold my little girl to a stranger
And they tell me now
He is a sex trader.

I sold my little girl to a stranger
My heart is broken.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Giving Away My Daughter

I was recently at the wedding of two of my son's friends and one part of the service struck me as odd, why do we still have the father of the bride 'giving her away'? In the days when women were regarded as property I suppose it made sense but now?

Oddly it didn't strike me as peculiar when I gave my daughter away earlier this year, in fact I felt it was an honour, but it did get me thinking. As I thought, over a period of a couple of days, a poem took shape in my head which I hope gives some idea of the emotions of a father giving away his little girl.


I GAVE AWAY MY LITTLE GIRL

I gave away my little girl
It was an odd thing to do.
The preacher asked ‘Who gives this girl?’
And I replied ‘I do’

I gave away my little girl
The tiny little thing
Whose furrowed brow made me smile
In the delivery room.

I gave away my little girl
Who questioned everything
Why this? Why that? Why anything?
Like Why Bird on TV.

I gave away my little girl
Who loved to go to school
And learn about all sorts of things
And make some friends there too.

I gave away my little girl
Whose music filled our house.
From Bach to Britten and Bernstein
Sibelius but no R Strauss!

I gave away my little girl
Whose make up was all black
Despite the school rules saying
It should be paler than that.

I gave away my little girl
Who came to share my faith
In Jesus Christ who loves us all
Whatever creed or race.

I gave away my little girl
Who went away to college
And returned a very clever girl
With lots and lots of knowledge.

I gave away my little girl
To a fine young man
And though she now belongs to him
She’ll always still be mine.

Friday, 10 September 2010

Spiritual Journey

Of late I have been pondering how I have moved in my spiritual life. My upbringing was fairly traditional evangelical so how have I ended up in a more radical view on Christianity.

My problems started in my late teens / early twenties when I started questioning parts of my faith and found that my peer group would describe what I was saying as heretical. As a result I shut up and just got on with being an evangelical but my faith got weaker and weaker. I knew I was the 'seed that fell on thorny ground' but I had no idea how to get out of that situation.

Eventually, in my late forties, I bought a 'Bible in a year' and started to work through it. I admit that some of the Old Testament is hard going but two things in the New Testament were to completely change the way I looked at my faith. The first, which I have already blogged about, is in John 1 where it is clear that Jesus, and not the Bible, is the Word of God.

The other occurs in several places in the Gospels and it is how Jesus proclaims his message, he says 'The kingdom of God is near you.' and not 'The Kingdom of God is something you go to when you die.' To Jesus The Kingdom was about good news to the poor, oppressed and outcasts here and now. Now the classical evangelical way of looking at things is that Jesus' mission was all about what happens when you die and, although that is part of the picture, Jesus preached about the here and now.

These two things enabled me to start asking honest questions about my faith and finding that there are answers. It also leads me to a much bigger picture of God and His work in the world.

Friday, 3 September 2010

Greenbelt 2010

This year my wife and I went to Greenbelt for the first time. Our daughter has been going for 6 years and it seemed like fun so we thought we would give it a go. However rather than camping we were rather extravagant and hired a motor home for the long weekend.

Our plan was to drive down Thursday afternoon and 'camp' in the racecourse car park so that we would be near the front of the queue. Things didn't quite go to plan as after a (predictable) delay on the M25 we found that the M40 was shut and spent one and half hours driving along the old A40 through High Wycombe to cover what would have been 15 minutes of motorway driving! As a result we arrived at 11:30 exceedingly tired!

We did wake up in time to be near the front of the queue and so, more by luck than judgement, we found ourselves in a nice spot on the far side of the race course. The programme, all 120 pages of it, was rather overwhelming but with a little help from my daughter, who was camping elsewhere on the site, we managed to plan some things to attend.

After attending the first of his 4 talks I made an effort to hear all of Richard Rohr's talks on 'The Art of Looking Sideways at the Bible/the Church/Us and Jesus - all very interesting and challenging. I didn't get to many of the music events but Courtney Pine was brilliant. On a lighter note Tickling in Public (for children of all ages) was hilarious - the custom built electric glam rock ukulele was not to be missed!

Monday, the final festival day, was our 30th Wedding Anniversary so we met up with the children (daughter, son-in-law and son + girlfriend) in the morning. Tuesday was my wife's birthday (a significant one at that ) so they all joined us in the motor home for breakfast.

Thankfully the journey home was uneventful (even the M25) as we were both very tired.

Will we do it again? We hope to but are unlikely to afford a motor home again so are now looking at trailer tents on e-bay. Next time it shouldn't be so overwhelming so I hope we will be able to get to more talks, music and comedy.

Overall a very good way to spend a Bank Holiday weekend (with a few days either side).

P.S. I'm still puzzling over the boy who pointed at me and said 'Father Christmas' - I wasn't wearing my red suit at the time.

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Humility

The sad news that a British Baptist minister has been charged aggravated sexual battery in the US will, I hope, stop protestant churches pointing the finger at the Roman Catholic Church over these issues.

I hope it but, unfortunately, I'm not over optimistic.

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Faith

'There are no facts, only interpretations, and this is an interpretation.' Freidrich Nietzsche

I read this on the tram on the way to work (no - I wasn't reading Nietzsche but this was quoted in a book) and immediately thought about how it lined up with what I think Christianity is all about.

At the centre of Christianity is mystery and not certainty. We have the mystery of the virgin birth, the mystery of the resurrection and, centrally, the mystery of the Trinity; plus, I'm sure, a few more mysteries. If we had certainties we would have no need for faith for we would be compelled to believe but that would deny Love, as Love is never based on compulsion.

We may say we are sure of things, our salvation, the resurrection, etc, but what really mean is that our interpretation is that these are facts and that we are prepared to put our faith in them. In doing so we open ourselves up to the biggest mystery of all, that God loves each and every one of us.

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Pink Floyd

I have long been a Pink Floyd fan and knew that some of their work was about break downs and mental illness but I never thought that I would find that they had described my situation so well.

However part of Dark Side of the Moon was going through my head the day I was admitted to hospital following my breakdown. I don’t know why I thought of it but at the time it just seemed right. Looking it up I seem to have merged 2 verses together from the track Brain Damage because all that went through my head for several hours was this:

And if the dam breaks open many years too soon
And if there is no room upon the hill
And if your head explodes with dark forebodings too
I'll see you on the dark side of the moon.
And if the cloud bursts, thunder in your ear
You shout and no one seems to hear.
And if the band you're in starts playing different tunes
I'll see you on the dark side of the moon.

Not only did they feel right at the time but looking back they are so accurate. I had so lost contact with reality that it was like being in a band where everyone else was playing a different piece of music, I felt as if my head had exploded and all the while I was screaming inside – where no-one can hear.

While I was in hospital I began to improve but I felt as if I was walking in a dream and that all my emotions were happening at a distance. I became fairly content with my lot but I wasn’t feeling anything properly; I began to think of myself as Comfortably Numb – the title of one of the tracks on the Pink Floyd album The Wall.

When I left hospital and entered a period of counselling I began to realise that I was more like the central character in The Wall than I realised. Like that character I had gradually withdrawn into myself until I had no real deep contact with anyone but myself. As a result I was only looking at life from my point of view; it was me against the world and I was always right.

Gradually the reasons why I became like this began to surface, going back to my teens and before, but without, as far as I could see, anyway of dealing with them. Then, quite suddenly, a couple of things happened that moved me forward so fast it surprised me. My counsellor saw the change and believes that I have got as far as I can with this treatment for now so next week will be my final session. I may need more sessions in the future but for now I should be able to get on with my life without it.

In Pink Floyd terms it could be described as my walls coming down but to me it feels much deeper. I feel like a new person. I can look back at how I behaved and treated people and now see that I was wrong, I can feel sorry for what I did but I can’t regret it because that was how I was and not how I am. To use a Biblical phrase I feel as if I’ve been born again.

I don’t expect like to suddenly become perfect, I know that there will be ups and downs but I now understand myself better and believe that I should be able to cope.

Friday, 13 August 2010

Dinner

The other night I was stir-frying dinner when I asked my wife if should prefer a bread roll with it instead of rice or noodles. She looked at me as if I had gone mad and told me that she didn't think a roll was a sensible suggestion.

So I looked straight at her and said:


wait for it




"Surely you've heard of wok and roll!"

Pills Depression and Work

Time for an update. Put briefly I am back at work and still taking fluoxetine - but that doesn’t tell the whole story.

These days the Home Office makes us print out our own pay slips but not being in the office I have been finding out how much I was paid by checking my bank account on-line. Now I knew that I had been off sick a lot and was expecting my pay to alter at some point but I was assuming that I would be told first. Imagine my surprise then to find I had hardly been paid anything!

Luckily I had to go into the office the following day (more about that later) and so managed to print out my pay slip only to find that I had been put on Nil Rate pay – retrospectively! So not only was I only being paid statutory sick pay but I also owed them money! As I had other money in bank account I haven’t gone overdrawn but I have paid out money that I wouldn’t have spent if I had known about this in advance.

The surprising thing is that through all this I have remained calm and have not rushed back into a pit (or box) of despair. The reason is that the fluoxetine seems to be working without making me over tired and I have made a lot of progress in my counselling sessions.

In my post about Drifting With the Tide I talked about how I was waiting for something to happen so I could move forward and my pay situation was the second of them. Needing some money to live on I went back to the GP to discuss going back to work and it was agreed that I should do so starting last Monday. It did feel strange and not all the issues that have impacted on my mental health have been resolved but at least it was a step in the right direction.

The first thing that got me moving again was a ‘phone call from my line manager about a redundancy scheme currently being offered. It was that which meant I had to go into the office to discuss it with my line manager and that showed me that I was able to get back into the building – something I had doubted I would manage. I have applied for Voluntary Early Retirement but there is: a) no guarantee that I will get it and b) I may not be able to afford it but it might be the direction I should be going.

All in all I am a lot better and can distinctly feel the hand of God pushing me forward; but to where I have no idea.

Saturday, 7 August 2010

Made with WHAT?

My local supermarket is at it again. Last Monday I noticed this sign:

What puzzles me is how they make doughnuts without any dough or sugar! Obviously they do because the sign says they are "made with 100% raspberry jam" - nothing else, just raspberry jam. Needless to say I played safe and bought custard doughnuts instead.

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Health Scare

With all the fuss going on about meat and milk from cloned cows entering the food chain another health scare has largely gone unnoticed.

Scientists have discovered that the hole in a doughnut and the hole in a toilet seat have exactly the same chemical composition. It is not yet known whether this is a coincidence or whether there has been some cross contamination.

The health implications are not yet clear and, although no cases of someone falling ill from this source have been reported, the government is taking a cautious line and asking the public not to use toilet seats until it can be shown that they do not cause a fatal level of obesity.

Thursday, 29 July 2010

Silence

The other night I woke up at about 4am and it was silent. That is so unusual in London that I noticed it. I enjoyed it; that wonderful peace of silence.

However something worried me, why hadn't I 'heard' this before? The answer was simple, I usually heard birdsong at that time but now there wasn't any.

Over the last few weeks a group of crows (or rooks - I can't tell the difference) and some magpies have been around and they have either frightened away or killed the birds that sang. All that is left are sparrows, pigeons, starlings and martins; birds that don't sing to proclaim their territory.

In a way that is what it's like living with depression; everything goes on as normal but the birdsong is missing.

P.S. Is a black bird called Sid James a Carry On Crow?

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Drifting with the Tide

Something you tend to hear every now and then in Christian circles is that if you aren't making progress in your Christian life you are going backwards. That may, to an extent, be true but it does result in pressure to be always progressing and then to feeling like a failure if you don't feel you are progressing (still with me?)

In my current situation my life is in limbo until I find out whether or not I will be returning to work. However that is beyond my control and so I have thought of myself as drifting. I then remembered the Thames Lightermen who used to move loads up and down the river on barges using just the tide; they were drifting but drifting in a controlled manner and so drifting began to seem to be something constructive.

I am still drifting but now I can accept that as a pause between activities; a time to prepare for the next stage.

Yet again I have tried to write this as a poem.

Drifting

Drifting.
I'm drifting.

I'm drifting on the tide of time.

All is foggy.
I can't see behind me very clearly.
I can't see to the sides.
I can't see ahead.

So I drift.
Drifting on to...
Who knows where.

But drifting is moving.
Moving slowly.
Moving on.
Into the unknown.

So I watch and wait.
Waiting for something.
Watching for a landmark in the mist.
Waiting for a wind to clear the air.

Then I will hoist my sail
And move forward.
Purposefully.

But till then I must drift.
Drift and watch.
Drift and wait.

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Back on the Pills

It has taken me a few weeks to pluck up courage to write this blog. There is something very personal about trying to write about your own mental illness which doesn’t happen when writing about physical illness; it’s as if you can separate the body from who you are but not the brain.

Anyway here is the update. I’m back off work and back on the pills again – there I said it.
This sounds a bit like failure so I better expand that a bit because, very oddly, it still feels like I’m making slow progress.

To go back to work I took a risk and came off the Citalopram so I could be awake all day and found that my mind was clearer without it. Things seemed to be going OK but what I didn’t realise was that I was walking a tightrope and it was only going to take a small push for me to lose my balance. That push came in the form of a move to ‘hot desking’ where, in theory no-one has a set desk and you keep all your papers etc in a locker and find a free desk when you come in. As it turns out they allocated 17 desks for 18 of us and those desks were allocated to 17 designated members of staff – guess who didn’t get one. This made me feel totally excluded and was more than my fragile mind could manage so, after 2 attempts to work, I went back to the doctor and haven’t been back to work since.

The doctor said I needed longer on some form of antidepressant and, after some discussion, I ended up on fluoxetine which is a newer drug than Citaopram and, so far, doesn’t seem to have as many side effects. I don’t know what is going to happen about work but I have agreed to have another meeting with the occupational health doctor. What happens after that is outside my control and so I’m waiting to find out what happens. Through all of this I have remained aware of God being with me and so I’m trusting Him to show me the way ahead.

One thing that has helped me examine my condition is to write poetry; I don’t claim it is any good but it does reflect how I see things at that moment. Here, in case it helps someone else in the same position, is my latest effort.

Alone, Solitude, Lonely

Alone,
I’ve always liked to be alone.
Alone with myself,
My thoughts,
My ideas.
I like solitude.

But somewhere it went wrong.
I wasn’t alone
I was on my own.
Lonely

When did it change?
How did it happen?
Why did I lose touch?
Where’s the way back?

Questions.
But no answers.
I’m alone in my box.
But I like being alone
Provided no-one disturbs me.

Slowly, Oh so slowly
I realised someone was with me.
Even in my box.

You where there.
Saying nothing.
Not telling me I was wrong.
Not nagging.
Just being.

Sharing my loneliness
Not because you must
But because you wanted to be there with me.

You know lonliness.
The loneliness of being different.
The loneliness of the desert.
The loneliness of the cross.

And so you stayed with me.
Your very presence spoke more than words.
You understand.
You have been there.
No words convey that.


P.S For those who don’t know fluoxetine is better known as Prozac!

Monday, 12 July 2010

Age Checked

This evening I bought a few items at Sainsbury's including my 'medicinal' chocolate and some wine. The cashier has carefully looked at me and confirmed that I was over 18 as shown on the receipt:

However did you notice what I bought? Yes it was 4 bottles of alcohol free wine! I was age checked to buy alcohol free wine - the only type I'm allowed on my current medication.

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Multibuy - not to be missed.

Doing the shopping last night I saw this wonderful offer:-



What worries me is how many people will buy 2 thinking they got a bargain.

Monday, 14 June 2010

God's Love

The other night it was rather warm so we opened the Velux window in our bedroom to let in a breeze. As a result I could see some stars as I lay in bed and the following thought went through my head.

As I contemplated how far away those stars are (were?) and how vast the universe must be I found my self thinking about the God who made it all. It was then that I realised that not only would God have become man and suffered for each and every one of us but that he loves us all so much that even if we were the only person who was going to exist he would still have made this vast universe just so he could love us.

Wonderful isn't it.

Thursday, 3 June 2010

Why Life is Grey

Normally I'm not in favour of abortion but, like so many issues, you end up in all sorts of problems if you treat it as a black and white issue. This is what the Roman Catholic Church has done in the US and excommunicated a nun who approved an abortion to save the mother's life. To me this is one of the grey areas where a bit of love and judgement have to be used. By agreeing to one abortion the nun was acting out of love for the mother and not, as far as I am aware, condoning abortion on demand.

This, to me, is one of the grey areas where dogma and love clash and it is important to let love win. To put it another way this is where 'What would Jesus do?' becomes a real not a hypothetical question.

Read more about this story here:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/worldnews/article-1283480/U-S-Catholic-Church-facing-uproar-excommunicating-nun-saved-pregnant-womans-life-allowing-abortion.html

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Dilemma

I have a very comfortable pair of Karrimor walking shoes which I wear to and from work which are showing their age. The uppers are fine and they are still very comfortable but I have worn out the sole and heel. There is a firm that can re-build them with a new sole but this will cost £52.50 while I can buy another pair of Karrimor walking shoes for £30 at Amazon.

At first glance the obvious thing to do is ditch the old shoes and buy the new ones on-line. However I can't be sure that the new ones, which are less than half price, are as good a quality as the old ones.

My main dilemma is about waste. Why should I through away a perfectly repairable pair of shoes? While it may make sense in terms of cash in terms of use of the worlds resources it is a much hirer cost.

Does anyone have any views on what I should do? More importantly what would you do?

Films

Some headlines just make you smile and this one, that I just spotted on the BBC News site, did it for me:

Sex and the City 2 beaten by Shrek at US box office

My only problem is that I already have the box set of the Shrek trilogy as a Father's Day present so I'll end up with one loose DVD. Still this isn't the first time I've ended up with more than 3 things in a trilogy as I have all 6 books that make up ther Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and I have all 7 books that make up Asimov's brilliant Foundation Trilogy.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

The Best Laid Plans...2

OK - I was so sure God was with me working on my daughter's car and then this happens:


Not her, or her husband's, fault - someone swung the door of their BMW open right in front of them.

So what happens now? I spent a lot of money on it to get it running well as the thought was it would be passed on in the near future to my son. However insurance companies don't take account of how much work you've done on a car, the fact it has only done 43,000 miles or that it has sentimental value being the the last car my mother owned and are likely to right it off.

Does this mean I was wrong think God was guiding me when I was working on it? No. For some reason I'm sure I was doing the right thing spending money on this car. It's just not very clear why and what the outcome will be at the moment.

Sunday, 23 May 2010

Wells - updated

Since I posted about this the 'stations' my daughter produced have been put up on our church wed site. So here is the first meditation and my response:


Celts revered the well as a sacred space because it is the source of water, the cradle and
assurance of life itself. Yet that source of life is only reached by descending into the depths of a deep, dark shaft.
Not all of our memories are charged with the energy of joy. Some carry energy that feels destructive and negative. Yet these ‘wells’ of our lives may be the very place from which we draw living water.
Take some time now to look deep into some of the times in your life when you have felt at the bottom of the well. Without any kind of judgement, of yourself or of others, just acknowledge your memories and let them be there. Write down or draw what comes to mind.

And here, again, is what I wrote:

Dark, it's so dark.
There doesn't seem to be any light.
But God is there.
Sharing the darkness.
Sharing with me.
And somebody saw you in me.

For all the meditations have a look here:

http://beckenhambaptist.org.uk/sites/beckenhambaptist.org.uk/files/GoodFriday2010.pdf

In-laws

In my last post I mentioned my son-in-law which seemed perfectly natural since he married my daughter 4 weeks ago. Of course this makes me a father-in-law which I quite like but my wife isn't so happy as she has become a mother-in-law. Why are all the jokes about mothers-in-law (Les Dawson - 'My mother-in-law has got a job at Heathrow - kick starting jumbo jets.') but none about the father-in-law?

Ecumenical Movement

I've got loads of ideas buzzing round my head to blog but life seems to have gone into hectic mode and finding time to sort them out into a blogable format doesn't seem to be available at the moment. However I do want to quickly post about the state of the ecumenical movement here in the UK.

This evening, on Pentecost Sunday, my local Churches Together group announced that we would all join together at one of the local Anglican services. I know it was a nice sunny day but only 3 of us from the Baptist church turned up. Looking around if my son-in-law hadn't been with me I don't think anyone under 50 had come from another church. This disappointed me but then made me think has the ecumenical movement run its course?

When I was in my late teens and 20s the idea of different churches getting together was radical - particularly if you included the Roman Catholics. However the young Christians of today don't seem to have problems with denominational boundaries so has the ecumenical movement actually seceded and so should it, like the Fountain Trust, wind itself up and say 'Job done'?

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Cambridge MA

On Saturday we went up to Cambridge to see my daughter get her MA. For those of you who don't know the university website states that this is conferred by right on holders of the BA degree of the University not less than six years from the end of their first term of residence, providing they have held their BA degree for at least two years. My daughter put it this way 'You work for 3 years for a degree and 4 years later they give you another.' This ancient system exists only at Cambridge, Oxford and Dublin.

So what is the point of it? According to the university site it gives the right to:
  • participate in Discussions (part of the University's decision-making process)
  • vote in the election of a new Chancellor or High Steward
  • borrow books from the University Library
  • Many colleges also offer their senior members the opportunity to dine at High Table on a certain number of occasions each year.
However I see it as:
  1. An old tradition that should be kept alive.
  2. A sign of commitment to the on-going life of the university.
  3. A good excuse to get together with your friends.
On a practical note my son-in-law, who received his MA last year, told the Senate House doorman that he was a senior member of the university as we entered to see my daughter receive her MA and we were shown a reserved front row bench. Part of the proceedings, which were in Latin, were then addressed to him as representing the body of the university.

Here is a picture of my daughter and some of her frinds proving that my third point is correct.

Sunday, 9 May 2010

Wells

On Good Friday my daughter had arranged a prayer labyrinth in the church based on Celtic Christianity and one of the meditations used the imagery of the well. My thoughts went back to a recent time I spent in a psychiatric ward and how, despite everything, I was always aware of God being there with me. I didn't talk about my faith but, towards the end of my stay, one of the women on the ward told me that she used to dislike Christians but had changed her mind because she had met me.

Dark, it's so dark.
There doesn't seem to be any light.
But God is there.
Sharing the darkness.
Sharing with me.
And somebody saw you in me.

Stress Time

On Friday I was stressed - and I mean STRESSED. The reason was simple, yet another meeting at work to discuss my sick record. Now I know, given the amount I've been ill, they have to have these meetings but the the last couple had turned a bit confrontational due to the attitude of one of the senior managers and there is always the possibility that this may be the start of a process leading to redundancy / medical retirement.

So, from about Wednesday on, I was getting stressed about any number of things that could happen at the meeting. I prayed about it; praying that God would be with me and that He would calm me down. I remained stressed.

So when the day arrived what happened - a small meeting with no senior managers in which I received good support from both my immediate manager and the lady from HR.

Did God answer my prayers? Of course - He was always with me but I remained stressed. Is that a failing on my part? Possibly. I could have trusted God more but I knew he was with me even when I was stressed. Alongside me, not judging, just there with me.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

The Best Laid Plans...

Given that both my physical and metal health are a bit shaky at the moment it seemed a good idea to take the week off after my daughter's wedding to rest, relax and recuperate. However things didn't go as planned as this happened:


This, to be precise, is my daughter's car, a 21 year old Rover Metro. Now on the Sunday before the wedding it had decided to die outside our house and, despite several attempts to fix it, it was still standing in my garage on the day of the wedding.

In the end I spent most of the next week working on it instead of resting despite having a chest infection. I think I was running on pure adrenalin and almost worked myself into the ground. All it took was a new carburettor, distributor, coil and cylinder head - the wonder is that it was running at all before!

The odd thing was the feeling that I was meant to be doing this despite several setbacks along the way - in particular when a sheared bolt meant taking it all to bits again. If it was going to die the best place to do it was where it did so we could push it into the garage, the new carburettor had been on the shelf for so long that it was 1/3 the price of re-conditioned unit, a long search on-line and phone ended by locating a cylinder head within driving distance and all the time I seemed to have just enough energy. I can honestly say there were times when I was aware of God with me in the garage up to my elbows in grease.

It's as if God was saying 'I know this has got to be done and it's got to be done by you even though you are hardly in a fit state to do it. But don't worry I'm here with you and I'm making sure it doesn't get too much for you.'

I just hope I can carry a bit of that into the rest of my life.

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

The Price of Oil

My local supermarket is selling milk at the eqivalent of £0.76 a litre

If I'm lucky a pint of beer in a pub will cost me £2.50 or £1.42 a litre.

So what is the cost of petrol? Is it about £1.20 a litre?

Or is it this:

Monday, 3 May 2010

Steroidnightus

Steroidnightus - yes that's right I'm suffering from steroidnightus even though I can't find it listed in any medical dictionary. As I mentioned in the post 'Mrs Newman' I woke up on the day of my daughter's wedding with a chest infection which, like a lot of people living with bronchiectasis is not an uncommon occurrence. To clear these infections I not only need antibiotics but also a course of oral steroids to dampen the inflammation in my lungs and let them clear.

Now oral steroids, even though necessary for me, are not something to be taken lightly because they are powerful drugs that can have all sorts of odd side effects. The ones that cause me most problems are thinning of the skin, a particular problem as I have always cut easily, and disrupted sleep; in particular being awake from about 3 am to 6 am. Whenever I'm on steroids for more than about 5 days I find I can't sleep at night and I can't stay awake during the day. I listen to a lot of radio via an earpiece (so as to not disturb my wife) during the night and then spend the next day walking round like a zombie. I have tried taking the steroids in the evening and the morning, sleeping in the day, not sleeping in the day, reading till I fall asleep etc but none of it makes any difference. When I'm on steroids I have trouble sleeping.

Now oddly I was never warned about this when I first went on steroids or have I noticed it in the enclosed patient information leaflets (although I haven't bothered reading one for years - all those listed sided effects are enough to make you ill) but I only found out in conversation with my GP. S I'm posting this just in case someone else thinks they are going crazy when taking oral steroids.

Wedding Etiquette

My married daughter is back from her honeymoon and slowly moving her things from our house to their maisonette. Great progress must have been made because I can now see carpet in 'her bedroom' (how long will it take us to stop calling it that?) from the doorway almost as far as the radiator under the window - I'm not sure I've seen that bit of radiator for several years!

I now know that they spent a long time pondering a question of etiquette for which the wedding books didn't provide and answer. They don't tell you when to update your Facebook status to married and change the bride's surname!!! Rather than surreptitiously using a mobile during the service or during the reception they opted to do it while in the taxi from the reception to the hotel; while drinking a bottle of champagne.

Here is another picture of the bride in her finery:

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Chocolate is good for you! 2

Further to my previous post today's news as the headline "Chocolate lovers 'are more depressive', say experts " or, as they said on the radio "Chocolate Causes Depression." Of course if you read the full article it says nothing of the sort only that people who eat a bar of chocolate or so a week have a slightly higher depression score.

However I stand by my original post for 2 reasons:

  1. They research admits it doesn't know if it is cause or effect, people who are depressed may eat chocolate as a mood enhancer.
  2. I was only talking about high cocoa chocolate and not the the mass produced bars that make up the majority of the western chocolate consumption.


Here is the link to the article on the BBC News site as it is worth a read:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/8644016.stm

Sunday, 25 April 2010

Mrs Newman

My daughter has now changed her name and is Mrs Newman and no longer Ms Aylward. Here are a few on my pictures - I didn't take many and most of the ones worth seeing are on Facebook. However this may be easier viewing.

One thing I didn't mention yesterday, because I didn't want my daughter to know, was that I woke up with a chest infection. Thankfully though bad not as bad as some and I keep antibiotics and steroids at home for these occasions. However I got through the day without keeling over - probably because the barrel of beer was finished fairly early in the evening!

This is the bride in all her finery.

The bride and bridesmaid - I like this picture.

The car - an 1930's Rolls Royce Wraith

The bride and groom. As you can see the weather couldn't havce been better.

The view from the top table in the marquee on the church lawn. This is the central section, there's another the same side to the right (actually 2 half size ones) with and one half the size to the left. There were about 170 guests, we lost one to the volcano flight cancellations and two when the husband went down with food poisoning the night before following a pub meal, but most of those who had to fly in made it.

The big day has come and gone and life will never be the same again. Tomorrow will be spent down at church tidying and packing up and then it will feel like it is all over. I booked leave for most of the week (I do have to go in on Thursday for a meeting) to ensure I have plenty of time to recover.

My daughter is now on her honeymoon in Venice and will come back and move to their flat which, thankfully, is only 1.5 miles from here - close enough to be in contact but, for their sake, not too close. And so the rich circle of life goes on and we have to adjust to being only a 3 person household; in other words I have a room to re-decorate to turn into a guest room before my son turns it into a recording studio!

Saturday, 24 April 2010

Wedding

Today is my daughter's wedding and by the time I got up (6:15) the friend who is doing hair and makeup for the bride, bridesmaid and bride's mother was already here and working!

So far I've had 3 mugs of tea, a bowl of fruit, croissant with cheese and ham and a glass of bucks fizz. I suppose I'd better get showered and dressed at some point.

Photos will follow.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Stress Time

In 3 days time it's my daughter's wedding. Today I am meant to A) be at church to let in the people putting up the marquee (in the garden not in the church itself) and B) be at home to accept delivery of a barrel of beer.

Just to add to the stress my daughter's car, an old Metro, stopped working on Sunday evening and so far I have failed to get it going despite fixing at least 2 things that were wrong.

On top of that I'm still editing my speech as I'm not sure it is as good as it should be.

Hopefully I will get to Saturday without having a breakdown.

Friday, 16 April 2010

Concert

Tomorrow night (Saturday 17 April) my wife, daughter and my self will be singing in a performance of Bach's St. Matthew Passion at St Clement Danes church; better known as the RAF church in the middle of The Strand.

The church website publicises the concert which they descibe as "this unique performance". Unique? What do they mean? The dictionary defines unique as "being the only existing one of its type or, more generally, unusual or special in some way" so is that because we are only giving one performance or because it will be 'unusual or special in some way'? Tomorrow night should answer the question!

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Why Goodyear Left GP Racing

Earlier today I was wearing my new shoes, bought for my daughters wedding in 9 days time, around the house to roughen up the soles before the big day. They are probably the best shoes I have ever owned and I doubt if I would have bought them if they hadn't been half price!



Shiny aren't they. However trying to walk on a carpet in them is like walking on ice; there is absolutely no grip. It was only when I looked at the sole that the reason became clear:



Here is a clearer picture:



Yes, they have parts made by Goodyear who left GP racing in 1998. Now if their GP tyres had as much grip as my shoes it's no wonder they left!

Monday, 12 April 2010

Chocolate is good for you!

If, like me, you like good dark chocolate and suffer from depression the news is that it can be good for you.

Yesterday I had another bad day with my depression, not helped by my asthma playing up, which made me wonder whether I was wise not to go back onto the antidepressants. Then the penny dropped - I hadn't had my daily chocolate the day before. Let me explain that. When I was in hospital my wife read an article about depression being helped by eating chocolate - but only dark chocolate which is high in cocoa. She therefore decided that I should have about a third of a bar of good dark chocolate a day - I prefer Green and Black's Dark 85% Organic.

I have just realised that on Saturday I had a very busy day, watching my son play rugby and going to my son-in-law elect's stag night, and forgot my chocolate. Now I have forgotten before and noticed that I didn't feel as good (to put it mildly) the next couple of days. The reason is, when you realise it, obvious - dark chocolate contains serotonin and the antidepresant I was on was meant to work but raising the serotonin level in my brain.

Now, as I said before, the antidressant had all sorts of side effects that stopped me feeling like me but, provided I don't eat too much, the chocolate has the same effect on my mood without the side effects. I realise that everyone is different and this might not work for everyone but for me here it is - my favourite antidepressant:



P.S. This morning I spoke to my GP about this and she agreed the chocolate is right for me but that doesn't mean this will work for everyone; some people will need the tablets either for a short period or permanently.

Bathroom Finish

Here, at last, is an image of the finished bathroom:



No a great picture I know but is very difficult to get a picture in a small room.

We had an amusing side effect of the work yesterday evening when foam started to come out of the front of the washing machine. I suspect that means the water softener is working and we don't need as much washing poweder (or tablets) in teh wash from now on!

Friday, 9 April 2010

Wedding

Tomorrow it will be 2 weeks to my daughter's wedding and the whole house is now descending into panicky chaos. I know this is going to be hard going for me as I have taken the decision to not go back onto anti-depressive drugs as I feel I need all my wits about me during this period. Still the way things are going I may end up looking like the sane one!

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Christianity and Depression

God moves in a mysterious way

Those are the opening lines of a hymn written by William Cowper, poet, hymn writer, friend of John Newton, evangelical Christian and manic depressive. Yes this renowned Christian hymn writer, who also wrote O for a closer walk with God was, like me, a Christian battling with depression.

Now too often mental illness is frowned upon in Christian circles as a sign of a weak faith – ‘If you really believed you would feel better’ ‘Cheer up, Jesus died for you.’ etc etc

I’m sure some of these comments are well meant but they miss the point – they are equating being a Christian with an emotional feeling. Faith is not built on feelings it is built on knowledge and understanding. If what we believe depends on what we feel that would mean that on the days when we felt bad God was irrelevant.

Now I can tell you that is wrong. When I was at my very lowest it was my faith in God that enabled me to keep going. I felt terrible but I was still aware of God’s presence and, most wonderfully, His sustaining love. Did this make me want to shout for joy? No, I was in no state to experience joy but it was a comfort to know He hadn’t given up on me.

Here is Cowper’s wonderful hymn in its entirety, read it carefully and you catch glimpses of his fight with depression and his unwavering faith in a loving God.

God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the storm.

Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never failing skill
He treasures up His bright designs
And works His sovereign will.

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break
In blessings on your head.

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.

His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flower.

Blind unbelief is sure to err
And scan His work in vain;
God is His own interpreter,
And He will make it plain.

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Getting Old?

Yesterday I got 2 reminders that I'm not as young as I used to be.

Firstly I had to have a new photo pass for work and, as part of the procedure I had to take in my passport as 'photo ID'. Now my passport photo dates from 2002 and given that I was bald and bearded then you would think very little could change. Wrong. In the past 8 years my hair and beard have gone grey making me look even older.

This was brought home to me in the evening when I caught the tram home. I got on and looked for a seat. Usually there are some free seats at that time but yesterday there were none and so an involuntary sigh, not very loud, escaped from my lips. At this point a young woman got up and offered me her seat which I politely refused. No-one has ever offered me a seat before; do I now look that old?

I know I'm like the late Dave Allen, who said inside he felt 25 but when he looked in the mirror there was this old git looking back, but oddly I actually feel fitter than at any time in the last 8 years. My chest conditions are under control and the pains I had breathing and walking have both been traced to my back and sorted out by first seeing and osteopath and then starting on some back strengthening exercises. This morning I did 22 press ups - not bad for an oldie who 6 months ago could only manage 3!

Monday, 29 March 2010

To Tab or not to Tab

Last Wednesday I had a bad relapse into depression. The following day I saw my care co-ordinator and, despite being exceedingly tired due to lack of sleep, I was rapidly feeling better. She, however, was worried enough about me to call me in to see the psychiatrist on the Friday.
He wants me to go back on anti-depressants as he now accepts I’m depressed; oddly he wasn’t convinced when I was put on them in hospital! I don’t want to go back on them because, as I posted before, the main effect was to dull my brain and I need all my brain working if I am going to sort myself out.
We couldn’t reach an agreement but he has given me the prescription in the hope that I will get it made up.
The question now is do I go with my instinct and avoid medication as it won’t help my recovery or do I go with the opinion of the expert who has only seen me 2 or 3 times.
To misquote Shakespeare – To tab or not to tab, that is the question.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

How Are They Going To Do That?

I have just spotted a headline that says "More help for missing people" which begs the question if they are missing how do you find them to help them? Of course once you've found them they are no longer missing so they wouldn't get the help anyway.

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Yesterday I went to Work

Yesterday morning I woke up at 4:45 and didn't get back to sleep properly because I was worried; worried because I was going to work. Normally going to work isn't a big deal but yesterday was my first day back at work since early November when I had some form of mental breakdown. Going back to work was one of the big steps back to normality and I was worried: worried about how my colleagues would react and worried about how I would react.

Of course it went OK; most of the things we worry about never happen anyway. We had moved office while I was off so I spent part of the day unpacking 3 crates and working out how to fit it all into one desk, a lot of time clearing some of the 979 (approx) unread e-mails and a short time talking to my boss. All in all it was a gentle, stress free day and yet I had been worried about it.

Was I right to worry? I don't know. But what I do know is that God was with me and I was supported by a lot of prayer and without them I would have struggled.

When I was first ill I thought work was one of the main causes of my situation but I have now come to see that most of my work stress was self induced. It wasn't the work that was wrong but my reaction to it. A reaction born out of situations that have existed from as long ago as my childhood. An understandable but wrong reaction.

It's still early in my journey back to normality (whatever that is) and I'm only working part time at the moment but the great thing is that I'm on that journey.

When I started this blog one of the subjects I said I was going to cover was living with disability. At the time I defined that as being 'dyslexic with knackered lungs' but I now realise that my biggest disability is living with depression. Of course I'm still living with lung disease and dyslexia but it's the depression that has the biggest effect on me and, more importantly, those around me. I hope that in my future posts I will be able to shed some light on what it is like to be a Christian living with depression.