Tuesday, 28 January 2014

The wise understand how the world works..



Great stuff from Peterson on Psalm 14

1 The fool says in his heart,
    ‘There is no God.’
They are corrupt, their deeds are vile;
    there is no one who does good.....

7 Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion!
    When the Lord restores his people,
    let Jacob rejoice and Israel be glad!

 'The opposite of foolish in Scripture is wise.  Wise refers to skill in living. It doest not mean primarily, the person who knows the right answers to things, but one who has developed the right responses (relationships) to persons, to God. The wise understand how the world works; know about patience and love,  listening and grace,  adoration and beauty; know that other people are awesome creatures to be respected and befriended,  especially the ones that I cannot get anything out of;  know that the earth is a marvellously intricate gift to be cared for and enjoyed; know that God is an ever present centre, a never-diminishing reality and all-encompassing love...
The wise know that there is only one cure for the fool.  Prayer that is as passionate for the salvation of others as it is for myself:  "O that deliverance for Israel would come out of Zion!" Prayer that is convinced that there is no wellness until everyone is restored to a place a blessing: "When the Lord restores the fortunes of his people."  And prayer  that sees the community as a place not of acquisition but of celebration. "Jacob shall rejoice Israel shall be glad" (v7)'

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Undercover, isolated or embedded?

Us Christians don't often make a good job of representing and sharing our faith.  For reasons of pride, fear or laziness we mess up. Tim Keller helpfully explores these issues with typical insight, clarity and hope. Please invest 23 minutes of your life in watching..

Friday, 17 January 2014

Eat, pray, love.

According to Elizabeth Gilbert in her 2009 memoir,  Eat, pray, love, 'we don't realise that somewhere within us all, there does exist a supreme self who is eternally at peace.'  Subtitled, One woman's search for everything, it tells of Gilbert's journey to find happiness after fleeing an unhappy marriage by travelling. Initially happiness comes from discovering  food in Italy (Eat), then spirituality in India (pray), and then love in Bali (love!). It has sold 8 million copies and comes recommended by Britney Spears, and Elle McPherson ("every woman should read it"... Phew, gets me off the hook).

So successful was the book that the 2010 film of the book, with the lead role played by Julia Roberts, grossed over one million pounds on its first weekend in the UK. Not bad for a story described as, 'Gap yah for grown ups', by one Amazon reviewer. It does  come across as somewhat trite and offering half truths as mantras for life (oh yes we do indeed have a 'supreme self' but we are far from eternally at peace!).

Last Sunday our Pastor Ray Evans taught us from Peter's first epistle chapter 4.7-11
7 The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray.8 Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. 9 Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. 10 Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms. 11 If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.

Three things that all believers are urged to  do in the light of  the grace of God shown to us.

1. Pray...what a great and simple privilege. All sorts of prayer are encouraged. Pouring out our frustrations, offering up our grateful thanks, praying for one another, asking God to make himself known to our friends and family who may not yet have found a living faith, confessing our needs and failures, mulling over the privileges of being a believer. What a wonderful multifaceted gift is prayer for the believer.

2. Love...out of all the 'one-anothers' so often mentioned in the New Testament, one third of them encourage us to love one-another. And the idea of covering over each other's sins is not a question of downplaying wrong doing but of fostering an atittude of  'there but for the grace of God go I',  and not delighting in other's wrongs. Quite a challenge. But that's what loving deeply means.

3. Hospitality..or  perhaps, Eat! All believers are called to show hospitality-and especially in this context-to fellow believers. It needn't be of the posh variety, but simply sharimg life and sharing homes and sharing the cup of cold water Jesus urged us to provide the 'little ones'.  Taking someone out for coffee or a pint, opening up our homes to each other, wellcoming families, singles, young and old to share in  table fellowship, whether crumpet or casserole is just a small token of God's hospitable generosity towards us.

Pray, love, eat doesn't roll off the tongue quite so well as  Eat, pray, love, but it has rather more substance coming from the well tried and tested 1st century inspired words of the Bible.

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Great Britain's Great War.

No doubt there are many books yet to be published in the next few years as we enter the anniversary of the beginning of the Great war, 1914-1918. I've already read many on the subject, but Jeremy Paxman's, Great Britain's Great War is one of the most interesting and well written to date.

It provides a broad overview of the conflict without getting bogged down in any facet, whether it be the complex of causes of the war, the strategy of specific battles, or the behaviour of the tommy in the trench or the general behind the lines in his chateau. What he does give us is great social detail on the conditions back in Blighty. So we hear of strikes by factory works and even the police, the increasing move throughout the war, towards conscription and the experience of conscientious objectors. The changing role of women and the devastation of venereal disease (over 400, 000 British troops affected). There are excellent summaries of the disastrous Dardanelles campaign,  the contribution towards our war effort and premature death at sea of Lord Kitchener, and the Easter uprising in Ireland.

The journalist in Paxman is to the fore in his observation of the baby boom of 1920 (957,000 births-never since then exceeded), and frequent reference to debates in the Common and the Lords (one fascinating debate over the necessity of moving the clocks forward one hour to increase daylight working hours, lead to an anguished speech by one patrician Lord who was concerned about twins that might be born at just the moment the clocks changed, resulting in the younger twin theoretically being born before  the elder, thus wrecking inheritances in wealthy families!).

Yep a good sweep of the conflict 'over there' mixed with lots of social detail. Not a bad place to start if you haven't yet read much on this conflict which still resonates so strongly after all these years.

Thursday, 9 January 2014

Not just ideas, concerns and expectations.

One of the most useful adages for GPs is 'Ideas, concerns and expectations', aka ICE. It is a convenient way to judge the success or otherwise of any particular consultation. So the patient with a sore throat has the idea that a sore throat means a visit to the doctor. And what is more she is concerned that if her sore throat doesn't clear she won't be able to make the theatre trip at the weekend. Her expectation is that a prescription-likely an antibiotic- will be given. Addressing each of these factors leads to a satisfactory consultation. The idea will have been discussed, the concern acknowledged, and the expectation....well you can't please everyone all the time.

But of course there is so much more that is often needed. And not  least for the bulk of patient interactions in general practice which are not just about one specific presenting symptom.

One of the joys of working long term in a practice is the number of elderly patients one gets to know. However so often that knowledge is very limited and seldom includes an awareness of the ageing, and sometimes, dementing patient's past. I have become especially aware of during this past week since I have discovered that two of my elderly patients had written and published their life stores. Sadly one of them died just over one month ago, so I'll have no chance to discuss with her the fascinating experiences as a school matron in India during the war, nor her  training as a nurse in 1953 and her varied subsequent experiences. She rather humbly call's her memoir, Just a nurse. Brenda Ashford, still fighting fit in her 90s, has written of her early years as a Norland nanny, in A spoonful of sugar. Its a wonderful read. I really must make the most of the opportunity to chat with her.

And all to say that it is so important that doctors appreciate that patients have a past as well as a present and a hoped for future. But the traditional, 'Past medical history', with its lists of operations and established illnesses,  needs broadening out at times into simply the patient's past history. This is especially important when caring for the demented patient, when all trace of a lively and full past can seem to have been lost. And all of this feeds into the patient's 'ICE'. Perhaps ICE needs updating to RICE, to recall the patient's past, especially if that only comes from a memoir written or stories from a close family member. Ah well, another question to add to the already rather long list in the well worn and familiar, 'taking a history'. "Have you written a book'?

Sunday, 5 January 2014

How kind Thou art

Whenever one person loves another-whether it be partner, children, siblings, parents or friends, there are times of rugged commitment as well as times of tenderness of some sort or another. As a mid 50 year old man I recall telling my dad that I loved him during his find illness. This hadn't been a frequent topic of our conversation over the years, although our love for one another was a sort of given. However it was good to verbalise it.

As an adult male follower of Jesus Christ I guess the predominant mood is one of grateful discipleship, but even here there will be/should be times of intimacy. As a young Christian growing up within the Pentecostal tradition, I was more inclined to the emotional aspect of my relationship with Christ. Indeed a favourite hymn in my teens was that written by Bernard of Clairvaux,
Jesus the very thought of Thee, with sweetness fills my breast, but sweeter far Thy face to see and in Thy presence rest.
I hadn't given this hymn much thought over recent years, but whilst clearing some of my dear mother's papers yesterday I came across a page where she had written out all the words of that lovely hymn. She had then underlined for emphasis  these beautiful reassuring words,
To those who fall how kind Thou art, how good to those who seek.
I'm immensely grateful for the kindness of God. Oh yes,  kindness doses not embrace all of God's attributes, but oftentimes, indeed when we fall as we frequently do, we need reminders of his tender mercies and kindness. Thanks mum for reminding me.
 

Don't lose the shock!

I was talking to a patient this week who has worked in very senior positions in a number of companies. We were discussing how new employ...