Hello, readers! Do have any subscribers left? I haven’t blogged in a long time. This is because I was involved in a legal settlement involving the accident I was in (which you can read a little about here at “Why My Bones Rejoice“). But now I’m free!
Getting the message about the importance (an obtainability!) of joy is so important to me, so I’m using every means possible to do so. So Rejoicing Bones will not be just a blog, but it will be a vlog and Podcast, all done uniformly to tell the same story. Some of my blogs will be read and turned into audio blogs for those like me who struggle to read sometimes.
Together, let’s discover the secret to Invincible Joy. It’s there to be had!
In the last three years since an accident mangled my legs, and in the last five months since half my leg was removed, people have told me that I am an inspiration. Each time I hear that, different feelings well up. Sometimes I feel inspiration myself. I am humbled. Sometimes I feel confused. I wonder in what way people are inspired. Does it mean they will change something?
Sometimes when I’m told I’m an inspiration, I feel guilty. This is because I feel fraudulent. My family has seen how sensitive I can be. They see how my moods swing increasingly as time goes by. My wife, Kathy, as seen me crumble and cry. When I think of this, along with the number of times I’ve fallen while trying to learn to walk again, an inspiration is the last thing I could be to anyone. Or is it?
I’ve never tried to inspire someone – it just happens, I think. But let’s try this once. Meet me where I am right now – in one of my very low places. Let’s talk to our souls together and ask “why, my soul, are you downcast?” Why so disturbed within me?” (Psalm 42:5).
Then let your soul answer. My soul would answer “I am downcast because my body always has pain and it doesn’t work the way it used to. It’s being fed drugs that don’t help the mood. I am stressed over a very long, gruelling legal process. I’m so tired. I feel useless.”
(You fill in the blank here – what would your soul say? __________________________________________)
Then let’s comfort our souls together and say, “Put your hope in God, for I will praise him, my Saviour and my God (Psalm 42:5).
Then let’s focus on our very real, eternal future: “My soul, I ‘…do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary afflictions are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.”’ (2 Corinthians 4:16-17)
“And, soul, even if my circumstances were far worse, I could still say the same: that they are light and momentary afflictions or troubles. The glory I’ll share with Christ forever in person will outweigh them all by far!”
Now read Psalm 42 and 43 until your soul agrees that he or she thirsts for the fountain of living water — God, my joy and my delight.
All trials come down to being a heart issue. Last night I experienced the worst pain I’ve felt since my legs were mangled almost three years ago. It was relentless and prevented me from sleeping. How does one get through these issues? Here are three things that help me:
Yes, that’s right, I said gratitude. What’s to be thankful for when you discover phantom limb pains are not so phantom at all? They’re the real deal and your nerves are miss-firing every which way while your brain turns up the amps and tries to find something. Well, I’m thankful:
a. that I’m not experiencing this in a war zone without proper medical attention.
b. for the fact that I’m driven to Christ.
c. that this episode signifies a new chapter and the possibility of thriving mobility.
d. for verses like James 1:2-4 which are even more real than phantom pains. We are sanctified through these things.
How is this all measured? By our response.
In this case, it’s my response to pain and sleeplessness. Do I get grumpy in the morning because my rubber toast is cold? (It must be said that this is my fault – it took me a while to get to my breakfast. The food here is very good). No I must thank God that I have any food at all while I am experiencing this painful thing.
Another thing that helps me is:
2. Eternal perspective
Yes, that’s right – an eternal perspective. This is temporary; a blink of an eye in light of eternity (and a glorious eternity it is!). 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 covers this well and in light of suffering.
One more thing:
3. God’s Word
God’s Word helps me most, accompanied by the Holy Spirit who makes it real and makes the change inside of me. I can’t cherry pick what I think are the sweet promises of God and not go to the rock-solid passages I list below. No, I must get to the heart of what God is doing and He says what that is in the passages like these. I pray you’ll find the comfort I have if or when you are struggling.
God is good and builds us. What a tremendous tool box he has!
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. James 1:2-4
Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope…Romans 5:2-4
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18
When I met my wife, Kathy, we both confessed to being hopeless romantics. I knew this was a good sign. Our relationship progressed rather quickly. Our claims proved to be true, as our times together included flowers (especially roses), dinner at an Italian restaurant with just the right lighting, dancing with flickering candles to our favourite ballads, and me opening the car door for her.
These were the kinds of things we were hoping for in a relationship and it ticked boxes for both of us. We had normal expectations of any new relationship that seems to be going well. We’d date, get engaged when the time is right, and get married with a big ceremony. The marriage would also be full of romance, we’d pool our resources, and do pretty well from the world’s perspective.
That romantic idea was just an idyllic dream. It wasn’t long before we had a better one. I’d crash my motorcycle (with someone else’s “assistance”), mangle my legs, and end up in the hospital for almost two months. I’d propose to her in the hospital, marry her in the registrars office, and honeymoon in the hospital because of an infection. We’d be apart for over a month after that as I went to a live-in rehab centre.
Our dates from then on involved her driving, loading my wheelchair into the car, and then helping me push myself to our destination.
For almost our whole time together, Kathy has been acting as caregiver to varying degrees (which involved unmentionable help with personal care in the early days). She has gone through every minute of my pain, which has been great pain at times! She has taken part in the struggle to regain some abilities and she helped me figure out how to walk again with crutches. We have ridden the rollercoaster together of hospital appointments and disappointments. Hopes were dashed and dreams were revised.
Kathy has had to relive the single life again numerous times due to extended hospital stays and we kept our hearts warmed over video the best we could. We accepted together that limb reconstruction had failed and amputation was inevitable (indeed, beneficial). There were (only brief) discussions about post-amputation attraction and renewed talk of commitment and loyalty.
Yes, that is romance – romance at its best. This is a romance that shows the love of a sacrificial, servant-hearted God to the world. I am blessed.
I have possessed three Harley Davidson motorcycles in my life. The second you can see in the picture on this blog. Of all the material things I’ve ever had in my life, this was the most valuable, valued and cherished. I had almost become one with it. When I sold it, I fought back the tears and got all choked up remembering our times together.
I remember buying it. My son, Tim, was with me. I traded it in for the first Harley, which we outgrew. I say we, because the darn boy grew so much that our feet bumped each other on the smaller Sportster when he rode pillion. This would not do! We went to the showroom of the dealership in New Market. There she was. A thing of beauty.
When I look back at that transaction, I think of it quite differently than I did back then. Let’s think through it together. It’s like any other transaction that we participate in. For those not interested in motorcycles (there must be a name for that condition), you can imagine my living room set. My wife, Kathy, and I brought it home a couple of years ago. It’s a nice leather corner sofa with a matching chair.
You see, that motorcycle, or that living room set – or anything else – is not mine. This is how I try to look at the things. It’s more like, I went to the showrooms where these items were, and had them moved to my house. No, wait, I had them moved to the house I was living in. The house wasn’t mine (even though, in one case, my name was on the deed).
How can we say we own anything? God created the universe and everything in it. It’s all his. Am I stating the obvious? If so, then why do we strive so hard to buy the next thing? Why do we covet what others have and become discontent with our own possessions? No, I don’t think I state the obvious at all.
How preposterous it is to stress over getting on the property ladder, which is so difficult in the United Kingdom, or to presume upon fulfilling the American Dream. We can have our names on titles, deeds, or etched on our jewellery, but it doesn’t mean we own it. That patch of ground had been here thousands of years before some guy came along, staked it out, and pretended it was his. The land watches us come and go just like countless people have done before.
So when I saw that beautiful Harley Davidson Softail Custom in the showroom, I chose God’s motorcycle, made from God’s materials by God-created hands, skill and intellect. I paid for it with non-money that sits in the “cloud” somewhere in the form of bits and bytes. It was taken from God’s showroom to God’s garage for prep, and I took it to God’s house where he let me live. Harley Davidson never owned it. Nor did I. We were just at different points in the transaction.
The same is true for the living room set. I liked it. So God let me transfer the non-money from his account that has my name on it to the account that bears the furniture store’s name, after which the furniture was moved to his house he lets me live in. It was his before I saw it and it’s his now. When I sit in my chair with my feet up, I feel like a cherished guest.
Why does it pay to see things this way?
It’s the truth.
It always helps to recognise the truth.
It fosters contentment.
If I feel unhappy with my sofa, I start to feel guilty – as if I’m insulting my host’s property! More than this, if I live in a mansion or a tiny shack somewhere, it’s God’s mansion or tiny shack, and what a blessing it is! I should never insult my Landlord!
It dissuades covetousness.
When we see someone with something that we’ve just got to get our sweaty palms on, it puts things into a better perspective when we know that person doesn’t really own it, whatever it is. It also helps us not have that unhealthy envious feeling of dislike. Sure, he or she has that cool widget, but why covet what they don’t own?
It loosens our grip.
Thinking this way of material things will help us loosen our grip and will direct our hearts to where our treasure should always be (where moths and rust don’t corrupt (Matthew 6:20-21).
I hope to own another motorcycle again. Or should I say “use” another motorcycle? Keep another? Arrange for the transaction?
Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.
Bespoke. It is a funny word. It’s one that Americans don’t use much, at least when I last lived there 16 years ago. The Oxford dictionary says it is a British word. It simply means something is “tailor-made” or made for a specific customer. It’s a good word and very handy to use. Let’s use it to set the stage as I recount a story from the last time I was in the hospital (15th to the 25th of March 2020).
I was moved from the hospital’s A&E (accident and emergency) to the very familiar orthopaedic ward. This time was because I’d developed two types of infection in my failed leg – the leg that has been under reconstruction for the last two and a half years. During this hospitalization, I was prepped for amputation. It even had the ominous black arrow drawn on it. I said goodbye. Then the amputation was cancelled due to the corona virus pandemic. But meanwhile, over those ten days, I stayed on intravenous antibiotics.
My bedroom for those days was a bay with seven beds. I was in the middle on the left. Four beds were across from me, each adorned with colourfully lit, beeping machines, wires and tubes. In fact, those beds were, in a manner of speaking, bespoke: set up specifically for each customer of the bay. There were no walls between our seven beds until someone came and enclosed a bed with the blue curtains hanging from the walls. The room was painted light green and to my left I could look out the window and see the countryside. It is one of the best views in the hospital overlooking some of the biggest hills Cambridgeshire has to offer. If you know Cambridgeshire, then you know that’s not saying much.
My roommates were older than me, except one. The men across from me (from left to right) were Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. (I use these names just for the sake of remembering who I’m talking about). Peter was to my left, and Paul to my right. It was an orthopaedic ward, so we all had issues with bones. To some, that is stating the obvious, but if you’ve never spent time in the hospital, it may not seem relevant. Let me just say there was a lot of pain in that room. The pain was compounded by other issues which made for restless nights.
Every night Luke would say, “Dorothy? Is that you? Where are you, Dorothy?” This might begin at about 2 or 3am and continue for the next few hours. Luke was a gentleman and very a good husband. “Dorothy, did you make that noise? Are you OK?”
Mark would stir at Luke’s words and say, “pardon? What did you say?”
“I’m sorry?” Luke would answer.
A nurse, aware that Peter and I were trying to sleep, desperately and pleadingly tried to settle Luke down. “Dorothy is at hooooome, Luke. You’ve had a faaaaall. You’re in the hoooospital.” It was a very repetitious singsong. It was a truth he could accept for a moment, but he’d soon forget.
John would wake up and be very angry about something or other. Just when things began to settle down, Matthew would determine in himself to try to get out of bed and go home. He was going to walk if he had to. He was not physically capable, but he didn’t seem to care. Was he bluffing? Paul, to my right, had undergone surgery and during the night, under the influence of anaesthetics, became a very different person. He began his socializing with the staff at about 3am.
Yes, pain, confusion and distress were three words that describe the feelings observed in my roommates. Peter was a bit younger than me. He had diabetes and he also had such bad neuropathy that he couldn’t feel his legs enough to walk. He had fallen out of bed and broken a leg (hence his stay with us). He was cheery, but I couldn’t help but be concerned for his wellbeing. This made me stop and think.
I was very unhappy about my situation. My leg decided to pack it in right when the medical professionals were ramping up for the war with COVID19. I was fed up with the 33-month long battle of trying to walk. But what about Peter? He had a broken leg too, and it had problems with infection. Not only that, but he couldn’t walk even before the break. He also had a chronic illness that would threaten his lower limbs and organs. He was destined to suffer poor health and be wheelchair bound for life. My guilt was appropriate. I wasn’t suffering as much as he was.
So, I looked around the room at the others. Matthew, Mark, Luke, John. Paul. No, I really wouldn’t want to trade places with any of them, with their various breaks and other ailments that coincided. Though I was crippled for life, I otherwise had good health in mind and body.
One early morning, during the dawn chorus, I had forgotten this new perspective and began to crack. My roommates were very active most of the night, like all the other nights, and I couldn’t sleep. I had been sleep-deprived for several consecutive nights and I lost most of my ability to cope. Not only was the talking, yelling and arguing disrupting my sleep, it was a very negative feeling that I can’t quite describe. So, I picked up my crutches and hobbled out of the bay and limped down the hall and left the ward. It was about 4am. I found a staff meeting room and curled up on a little sofa – a two-seater. Since my leg doesn’t bend, that didn’t work so well.
A fantastic, caring health care assistant found me and escorted me to a new room with only two other men. I’ll call them James and Jude. James had two broken legs with Taylor Spatial Frames on them and little prospect for complete recovery. He had many breaks and infections. Jude was another diabetic who had a break in his lower leg and I have become familiar enough with the world of orthopaedics to know his recovery was not straight forward. He, too, was facing amputation. James was discharged and replaced by Timothy.
Now, Timothy…finally someone who had less of a problem than I did. He had an injured knee and would probably have a knee replacement. There were no underlying health problems and I suspected he would recover nicely. He would not qualify for a blue badge. That’s when the penny dropped. I asked myself if I’d rather trade places with him. Eight other men were obviously worse off than me, at least to my mind. But here was a young man who should fare much better I will. So now would I trade places? No, I would not.
I was thankful for this object lesson because it showed me that, despite my difficulties, I love my life. I am blessed. My suffering – my trial – is mine and mine alone. It is designed just for me. It is my cross to bear and no one else can carry it. Our crosses are uniquely made for just the right test of obedience. Would I endure it in obedience or grumble and dishonour God? Will I let it do its work to conform me to the image of Christ or fight against it? Luke’s cross is made for Luke, and Peter’s is made for Peter. But I have my own bespoke cross, which I carry because God saw fit that I do so, just as he did for you as well. What shape is your cross? Do you carry it or try to leave it behind? Do you try to trade it for someone else’s? I encourage you to carry it. It will produce perseverance, character, hope and maturity (Romans 5:3-4, James 1:4). Glory to God.
A week ago, I spoke in a vlog (see here) about the “stop, serve and surrender” model for life. I said there is a lot of talk about peace lately, but that there was something missing. I figured that surrender was the necessary element for peace to exist. And for surrender to exist, we must stop. The Corona Virus (CV) has done that one thing nicely: getting us to stop. I encouraged everyone watching to stop, surrender (an enemy army can’t surrender without first ceasing to resist!) and then serve out of the joy, peace and love that overflows from “being in the room” with God.
Right after I spoke those words, a nurse came to my hospital bedside and told me to prepare myself for amputation on Wednesday. It was discussed amongst the staff that it would be less risky than to wait until COVID-19 was in full swing. They soon whisked me away and put a central PIC line in for antibiotics and drawing blood. There was a flurry of conversations and activities that prevented me from really getting my head around it all.
The next day, Tuesday, I spent the day saying goodbye to my leg. I made a couple of videos, putting my toes in the grass, putting a shoe on my right foot, and wearing jeans with my right leg filling up the material one last time. I talked about how this leg had served me well for over 50 years with too many walks and adventures to remember. Honourable mention was given to walking 100 miles across the thumb of Michigan when I was 17, hiking through the dense woods in Canada’s Agawa Canyon, and the 24-Peaks Challenge in England’s Lake District.
I was just coming to terms with the fact that I would go to bed the next day without it. Then another nurse came to the foot of my bed and said the amputation was cancelled. I was sent home the next day with osteomyelitis in my tibia as we hedged our bets that I’d be OK; it would be less risky than compromising my immune system with traumatic surgery while the pandemic crisis rose to its peak.
Over the next few days, I felt something akin to PTSD, which could have only been worse if they had actually cut off my leg. Never, in the 32 months since the accident, have I felt so much anger and angst. Yes, I wanted an amputation (who says that?!), but complicated issues had kicked that can down the road for a while. We had just got to the point where I knew I’d be able to schedule something soon. Then IT came along. After coming to terms with what was coming and what would happen to the NHS, I resigned myself to the fact that my amputation would be delayed indefinitely. As soon as I surrendered to that fact, we discovered the infection. The rollercoaster really took off.
So now, what do I do? I’m certain that my words about stopping, surrendering and serving in that vlog were for me more than anyone. I have to stop again, because my brain is working overtime. It had been catastrophising, killing me off with a bout of osteomyelitis and septicemia. But that was only after being more crippled up by the infection destroying my whole leg instead of just half. I need to stop. I need to get in the room. There is God. Then I need to surrender these fears (and the anger – which is aimed at no one in particular, I must add).
Steve Campbell, one of the senior pastors of my church (The C3 Church, in Cambridge, UK), convinced me that I need to do this blog. He doesn’t know it yet. While he was preaching on the subject of peace on Sunday, he mentioned having not only the peace of God, but peace with God. Amongst many scripture references, he mentioned Romans 5:1, which says “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ…”
That verse was heavy on my mind last week, especially because I included it in my book and in a little talk I gave at a church in Essex some time ago. (Regarding my book: I received notice from a publisher that they cannot take any more submissions due to virus-related issues – my first rejection notice and right while I write this blog on this subject!). God is reminding me now of a particular point: I once had a problem much worse than this.
You see, before I was justified by faith (that is, declared “not guilty” and pardoned for my sins), I did not have peace with God. I was in a condition that kept me separated from God. I am reminded that this separation could have been forever and this profound problem is the worst one I had in my life, and it had eternal consequences. But going through Christ, by faith, this trouble has been resolved.
Now I am reminded that no other trouble is anything compared to that one which has been fixed. I have peace with God, which means I have access to him as my King, and my Heavenly Father. What does it matter that I have one leg or two? I will stand in the presence of His glory! What does it matter that I am healthy or ill again? I will live with him forever! And this, in a glorified, resurrected body (see my blog about this here).
Friend, are you a Christian? If you are – if you have trusted in Christ to restore you to the Father – then you have had your worst problem fixed forever. Anything else does not compare. You may say, “my afflictions are worse than someone else’s.” It doesn’t matter. The Master has a large tool box and knows just what you need to conform you to the image of His Son. You may say, “my afflictions are not as bad as someone else’s.” It doesn’t matter. We should not rejoice that someone is suffering worse than we are, and let’s not dishonour them by complaining about our circumstances.
Finally, I’m reminded of what Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 4:17: “our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” If we really, really believe this – if it is 100% reality for us – then we can go through any trial and uncertainty with the joy of knowing we have our God, our Saviour, our Joy and Peace with us now and forever.
My mind is very cluttered so concentration is difficult. In the midst of the pandemic crisis, I have developed osteomyelitis. This comes from old wounds from the motorcycle accident. The medical community has decided amputation should be hastened to avoid risking problems down the road. I did this video, instead of writing. I usually prefer to write, but hopefully this will do for now. I pray you are blessed by the message.
“Whenever I find myself in the cellar of affliction, I always look about for the wine.”
The abyss is calling. It is calling everyone with nothing. It offers nothing, takes nothing and gives nothing. Who will answer its call? Normally the answer is nobody, but when people are in pain, then nothing can appear to be a better option. This is when the abyss really re-states it’s call: “I offer nothing, take nothing and give nothing.”
It’s at this point when the call can be tempting. Pain or nothing? The problem is, the more you move into the abyss the more it calls you in. “I offer nothing, take nothing and give nothing.”
If you answer it’s call the problem is that one day you will look around and there will be nothing! You can shout, rant and rave at the abyss and it will take it all and then then still not care because all it will offer, take and give is nothing.
It will just try to draw you in all the more.
To choose life may mean to choose pain, but it is the better option. It may be the hard option but it leads to life. When you hear the abyss calling it is better to turn your back to it and choose life instead, even if it means dealing with pain and hurt. It can be the hard choice to make but it is the better choice to make.
For us as Christians, choosing life can very much so be turning to God. Choosing life can also mean not doing what you feel you want to do. We may need to take it one step at a time, but one small step in the right direction is one small step back to life. They may not be easy steps to take but they are steps that lead back to life.
Rather than allowing ourselves to be drawn into nothing it is better to try and choose life. As always some things are easier said than done. Part of the journey is to be aware that we have a choice. Then we need to endeavour to make the right choices.
This article was written by a friend who wishes to remain anonymous (for now). I am honoured to publish his thoughts for him.