I have a friend in quarantine. He has about a week to go of his 14 day sentence. It’s hard going. Meals put down outside his door. No mixing with hotel staff or anyone else at all. Twenty minutes exercise per day – less than many prison regimes. And his crime? Arriving in Guernsey from the UK to work in our local hospital. Our borders are firmly closed. Anyone arriving in this little group of islands has to isolate for two weeks, or face a fine of up to £10,000. One man was recently fined £6,000 for his first offence!
My experience of chronic pain is that it isolates the sufferer. You can’t go out socialising because you simply don’t feel up to it. Even within families and homes you can’t take the noise and hassle of chatter and being with others. Sadness is compounded by loneliness as you ask yourself ‘Will I ever feel different?’.
Yes, you will. You are not shut up for ever. Try to look beyond the confines of your situation. Even lying in bed you could FaceTime or Skype someone you love. Above all, keep your mind on the fact that you are never truly alone. Jesus said “I will never leave you, I will never forsake you”.
For some of the lessons that I have learned in my many periods of real isolation caused by pain and recurring acute pancreatitis, get hold of my book ‘Through the Storms: a manual for when life hurts‘. And get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org as I would be pleased to hear from you.
My friend will emerge from behind his cage next week. I will be pleased to see him, and I hope he will be even better equipped to understand how people in chronic pain feel.
I am tempted to say ‘all lives matter’ but that would risk being patronising and overlooking the dreadful injustices being heaped upon people from ‘BAME’ communities in the US, Europe and even in Africa today. I see the same issues of police brutality, racism and corruption in Zimbabwe as in America, and feel the pain of my brothers and sisters in both places.
The violent death of a Christian man, George Floyd, who was doing his best to bring about purpose and meaning for young people in his community, has become a global tragedy. Piled upon the disproportionate effect of the Corona virus on communities of colour, the huge increase in unemployment as a result, and a centuries old tally of injustice, there is almost a ‘perfect storm’ erupting on the streets of the USA. Its effects will be felt across the world.
In these times of international angst and upheaval we need more than ever a faith that keeps us focused on the love and grace of God through Jesus Christ. Never was my story and my book more timely. You are welcome to get a copy from https://amzn.to/36TlNBJ or else email me at email@example.com and I will mail you a signed copy.
Today I pray for the governments and people of these troubled lands. The USA, Zimbabwe, the UK, Hong Kong and mainland China, sub-Saharan Africa where the virus is spreading like fire – never has the storm been more virulent – never has the need for prayer been greater.
I was scandalised while listening to BBC Radio 4’s morning programme Today on Weds 20th May 2020, at approximately 8.45am. Not my usual reaction to this typically well-balanced current affairs programme, but the story was appalling. They interviewed two disabled people who had separately been deprived of their home based carers due to the pandemic. It was a real struggle for them to cope without this support. But, the real shocker was that both of them had become aware of a government ‘frailty’ list which had suggested that certain folk would not be offered ventilation or intensive care if they became seriously ill with Covid-19. They felt that they had been written off as unworthy of being helped or saved!
Each of these two dear ladies had written a letter to their family, copied to their doctors, in which they made a plea that they might be considered as worthy of being saved. They both mentioned that they had cats who depended upon them, and one had children and grandchildren. They admitted to really scraping around to find anything that might convince others of their worth. This is a horrifying example of the depths of worthlessness and despair that can afflict the chronically ill.
I tackle this issue head-on in my book Through the Storms; a manual for when life hurts. In the chapter ‘How much am I worth?’ I talk about the epidemic of low self-worth there is in the Christian church today, which is reflective of a wider problem in our society. Throughout the two decades of my battle with chronic illness I struggled to believe in my own worth. It led to me being unwilling to seek medical help, even in emergencies, because I felt that I was being a nuisance. I learned to deal with this issue, and offer practical steps as to how you can too.
To my disabled friends – and those who are chronically ill – you are of immense value to God and the rest of us. You matter now, not just when you are recovered. And whoever thought up that so-called frailty list deserves to spend some time on it! They might discover what it means to have to assess their own value and offer reasons why they too should be spared.
Most parents of little children know the phrase ‘are we there yet?’ from long car journeys with their families. The kicking of the back of the front seats can drive you crazy! Young minds cannot always fully grasp concepts like distance and timing yet and are easily bored. Thankfully, they are also easily distracted.
When life’s troubles go on for a long time, like this lockdown, similar questions arise in our adult hearts too. ‘My soul is in deep anguish. How long, O Lord, how long?’ (Psalm 6:3). I asked that question many times during the twenty-two years of my battle with serious and chronic ill health. I longed for the trials to come to an end.
Early in my ordeal I felt that God gave me 1 Peter 5:10 as a personal promise. ‘And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast’ (1 Peter 5:10). I held onto the ‘little while’ part of the verse like a drowning man clasping a piece of flotsam. But as the months, years and finally decades passed without an end to my problem, I started looking again at what the Bible means by the phrase. God’s ‘little while’ turns out to be quite unlike my own interpretation of those words. His timing is not my timing.
My own ‘little while’ appears to have ended now, although storms will not cease completely till we reach heaven. I praise Him for His sustaining grace in the trial and for bringing me out of it. As in Ecclesiastes chapter three, ‘there is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.’ Take courage from that assurance today. God has the timing in His hands, and He will bring you out of this season when its time is done. When Jesus calmed the wind and waves on the Galilee, the one that threatened to drown his disciples, He stilled the storm when He was finished with it, not when they were. His timing is always perfect and His sovereignty and power unlimited.
I received an email from an old friend who just happens to be a retired consultant psychiatrist. He shared his concern about an impending ‘avalanche of mental illness’ following this period of lockdown. I share his concern and pray often for those who are closed in with issues of the mind that are being intensified and increased by this enforced isolation.
One factor of this is the absence of the grace of touch for many millions. I recognise that I am greatly blessed in this regard because I am at home with my loving wife, but for so many, it may be weeks since they touched anyone, or were touched in return. I learned the value of human touch in Intensive Care, which I tell more about in Through the Storms. I had been there for two or three weeks on that occasion, hooked up to the many machines that were keeping me alive. Every now and then a nurse would have to come and take my pulse the old way, holding my wrist gently between thumb and fingers. I relished those moments of simple kindness, physical contact with a fellow human being. Touch brings reassurance, the sharing of life, closeness, and science tells us, can even increase our store of the well-being hormone Serotonin.
If you have a pet, you will know how much they mean in this regard. If not, then the absence of being touched is just one of the pressures you are facing. Can I just point you to the One who reached out and touched so many while He was on Earth? Jesus was criticised for His willingness to embrace those who were untouchable in society, such as lepers and people of low moral reputation. Some years ago we used to sing; “When I feel the touch of Your hand upon my life, it causes me to sing a song, that I love You Lord”. It may seem a bit sentimental but it is real to many millions of believers in Christ who are finding that He is there with them in their isolation at this time.
I am also grateful for the technology that can help us all keep in touch at this time. Our church is using Live-streaming via YouTube to broadcast hope-giving services each Sunday morning at 10.45am which can then be viewed later if you wish. Just search for Vazon Church on YouTube or go to the church website http://www.vazonelim.org.gg. We are also part of #stayconnect Guernsey which is making wifi and tablets available to those who are unable to keep in touch with loved ones, and if you know anyone who could benefit from a free loan or gift of such things, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will try to help.
Meanwhile – some folk are recommending my book as ‘essential reading’ for the lockdown, and I would really encourage you to get hold of a copy. Here’s a link you can use, https://amzn.to/3ayFJdj, or email me at the address above and I will send you a signed copy by return with an invoice for bank transfer. But above all, stay safe – in every way – including mentally! God bless.
Who could have foreseen this global lock-down just a few short weeks ago? And that it would reach from the deep interior of China through most of Asia, the Middle East Europe, the Americas and now even deep down into Africa and Australasia. A tiny virus invisible to the human eye, has virtually grounded the world’s entire fleet of aircraft and shocked the global stock markets. Science is running to catch up with a storm of almost biblical proportions.
But in this crisis the real issues are not trans-national, nor even governmental. They are personal. Grief, fear and loneliness are even bigger pandemics than Corona virus even if the latter is the cause. People are desperate.
It is into this melee that I am glad that my book Through the Storms; a manual for when life hurts, has been published. I marvel at the timing of this. The book came out on February 20th just as the pandemic started to a begin its assault on the UK. In it, I speak about my own battles with fear, isolation, disappointment and grief. I have also had several experiences of actually being in Intensive Care, sometimes for several weeks on end, so I can empathise closely with those affected by it now, or whose loved-ones are in that environment.
If you would like a copy of the book, click here for Amazon UK, where you can obtain either a Kindle version or a paperback. If you have any difficulty, email me at email@example.com and I will get you a signed copy.
Also, you can get weekly help, hope and encouragement in your own home by tuning into the Live stream from my church, Vazon Church Guernsey, as below. You are not alone! We will get through this storm.
Raging floods have hit Britain this week and more rain is threatened. Storm Dennis has moved away but in its place torrential rain has saturated soil and swollen rivers beyond tolerance. An Environment Agency boss, David Throup, who manages the area of Herefordshire and Worcestershire, tweeted that the River Wye has hit levels not seen in 110 years. According to the BBC, the Agency has said that there is still a “heightened flood risk” in the Midlands with five severe warnings – meaning there is a danger to life – still in place near the Welsh border around the rivers Lugg, Severn and Wye.
Hundreds of people have been evacuated from their homes in the worst-affected areas, which include south Wales, Herefordshire, Worcestershire and Shropshire. You can only imagine the distress and sadness of the people whose lives are affected, and whose homes are inundated with mud, flood water and sewage. Suddenly, the issue of climate change becomes less of a theory and more of a daily reality.
Life’s storms are very real. In a moment, what was chugging along nicely can be turned on its head. Where once were security and familiar circumstances there can come uncertainty and chaos, bringing with them fear and apprehension on a grand scale. For me it was the sudden onslaught of devastating chronic ill health. Along with it came a flood of problems like – how will we pay our rent? Who will provide food for our family? Will I even survive?
Thank God that we don’t have to face life’s storms alone. God says ‘When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.’ (Isaiah 43:2). The storms of life can be endured and overcome when we know the active, manifest presence of Almighty God with us. That’s why I am thrilled to have published this week my latest book ‘Through the Storms; a manual for when life hurts‘. If you are going through devastating storms right now, or you know someone who is, get a copy of this book for yourself or to give to them. Click here to order one in paperback or Kindle format. Or you can email me to obtain a signed copy at firstname.lastname@example.org or fill in the contact form on my home page.
Don’t wait till the waters rise or the floods come. Remember the motto of the Scouts movement; ‘Be Prepared!’
Millions of pounds worth of damage caused by high winds, combined with spring tides at the coast, record levels of rain, hail and sleet, and sadly, one man killed by a felled tree. That’s the story of Storm Ciara in Britain this weekend. Lives and livelihoods ruined by flooding, travel disrupted and widespread power cuts all coincided to create the mayhem of what has been described as ‘the storm of a decade’.
But is this so unusual? In these days of climate change and global warming we may well see much more of this. And, of course, this reflects life doesn’t it? Just when you think that one of life’s upheavals is past, another looms into sight! I was planning to call my latest book ‘After the Storm‘ but decided to change it to ‘Through the Storms‘ when I realised that these attacks on our well-being never really end – they just morph into the next one! Whether it’s serious illness, as it was for me over 22 years, or divorce or debt or danger, life is not short of stormy weather!
So, if you want to read more of how my faith in God carries me through my storms, and find out a few pointers to how you can cope when life hurts – contact me using the form on my home page or email me at email@example.com for your own pre-publication copy. It would be great to hear from you.
When storms hit, it is best to be ready. Sea defences are a vital part of the infrastructure near my home on the West Coast of Guernsey. Here, we are exposed to the huge swells that roll in from the Atlantic, driven by powerful westerly gales. If combined with a high tide, this can produce flooding and causes huge seas to crash over the sea-walls.
Being ready means you don’t wait until the storm comes before you prepare. Life has plenty of storms to throw at us. In my case, 22 years of agony with frequent hospitalisations and surgeries. In the aftermath of my physical storm I now wrestle with mental ones – as waves of PTSD hurl themselves against my defences. Your scenario will be different, but even if all is calm just now, getting ready is still wise.
My book, Through the Storms; a manual for when life hurts, is written as part of personal storm defences. It doesn’t presume that things are rough for you just now, but offers insight, advice and encouragement for when it does. It also gives you a resource in your hands to offer others as they battle with the elements.
Contact me on the form below, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to order your own signed copy today. £8.99 plus £1.75 p&p in the UK. Or, you can pre-order the book at Amazon by clicking here https://amzn.to/2SfwRSO.
Does Britain have an opioid crisis? Dr Michael Mosely thinks so. In last week’s Horizon programme on BBC 2 he highlighted the dreadful statistics from across the pond in the USA as a warning to us here. He said that in the UK over half a million people are taking opiates like morphine for chronic pain. His claim is that there is evidence that for most of them (he says 90%) the pills are doing no good and can lead to addiction. He also cited the increased danger of accidental overdose – something that happened to me on more than one occasion. I actually stopped breathing once, shortly after putting on a 75mcg patch of Fentanyl and was saved by the presence of a nurse in my home who called the ambulance and got me into hospital. So, I know the stuff he is talking about after 22 years on varying doses of opiates, sometimes up to 5 times what the programme described as ‘dangerous levels’.
But, as my book Through the Storms; a manual for when life hurts covers in one chapter, there is another side to this so-called ‘opioid crisis’. How about ‘a chronic pain epidemic’? Because the problem is that with all this kind of publicity there is a danger of heaping shame and guilt onto sufferers of chronic pain without offering them viable alternatives. Often, it is not their fault that they have been prescribed these drugs by well-meaning doctors, but they are made to feel wretched for needing them. I certainly was at times.
There are research programmes into alternatives to opiate prescribing but they all too often fall into one category or another. Either they are looking into other equally strong but frighteningly powerful drugs, such a gabapentin or similar, or else they are based around well-being. This may all be well and good but, in my case, I don’t think a bit of gardening with friends would have dealt with crushing agony of chronic pancreatitis with recurring acute episodes!
I am so thankful for the temporary relief I received from a spinal neuro stimulator and also for the amazing surgical intervention I finally received at the Newcastle International Transplant unit in 2017. Today, after 22 years of appalling pain, I am largely pain-free and also free of any need for opiates.
There is a scandal surrounding the easy availability of powerful pain killers over the counter in the UK, but in my book I am concerned for the many affected by chronic pain without hope of relief except by means of these potentially dangerous opioids. Government funding should be moved into research into alternatives alongside any public information programmes such as this one.
If you are in pain, and can’t wait for the publication date for my book on Amazon (20th Feb) please email me at email@example.com and I will send you one by mail and can include an invoice for you to make a bank transfer or send a cheque.