Today as we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus it is the day of greatest joy because He bought our freedom.
But what is joy ?
It’s not the same as happiness.
Pursuing happiness is like trying to catch the wind because often it is a by-product of pursuing other things.
The bible talks very little of happiness but in contrast says a lot about JOY.
We may lump them together but actually they are very different . You can seek joy because it is not fleeting or superficial but solid and deep rooted.
Its hard to define but we know it when we see it in someone like Pastor Alexandre from DR Congo. We are drawn to joyful people. In contrast no one loves a misery or a moaner.
Galatians 5v22 says the fruit of the spirit is LOVE, JOY, PEACE.
1 Thessalonians 5v16 says “rejoice always” so it’s a command.
What can take away our joy?
Joy can be stolen by stress, anxiety or exhaustion. Its not easy to avoid these things in certain seasons like with small children but we should seek help and support where possible and look to God for strength.
Getting overstretched financially can mean we try to work more and this causes pressure. Overwork is literally dangerous. Japan has an epidemic of young deaths from overwork including strokes, heart attacks and suicides.
We need a life /work balance.
Joy is not dependent on possessions.
Some of the most materially poor are the most joyful on earth. We have had the blessing of being in developing countries where big smiles and generous hearts make us feel very humble. They are content with very little. I once gave a toothbrush to an orphan in the Philippines and he carried it round all day!
We have traveled a lot ands been privileged to stay in some amazing places. But apart from the birth of our children my greatest moments of joy have all been on mission in some of the poorest places on earth. Like playing on a beach in the Philippines with a dozen orphans who had never been to the seaside. Or doing Sunday school with 30 Amarindian children in a jungle clearing by moonlight. Or seeing the face of a four year old on a rough council estate when we gave him a muffin with a candle in – because he had never had a birthday cake. Watching the joy of a Congo refugee with polio when we gave him a wheelchair and some cobbling equipment.
Joy does not depend on circumstances
In 2004 we visited Uganda and met a delightful lady in her late fifties who was always singing, talking of her wonderful saviour and raising money for an orphanage. We later discovered that she was a widow because Idi Amin had murdered her husband and the next regime had murdered her oldest son.
We can rise above our circumstances.
Joy often follows great sorrow
A young woman we know in Philippines was diagnosed with aggressive bone cancer causing huge swelling of her thigh and requiring complete amputation.
She had to travel by overnight boat to the next island and on the way as the sun rose her three year old boy prayed with great power that she should not lose her leg. The three hour operation was booked for 8am but the surgeon got badly delayed in traffic and arrived to late for such a big procedure so decided on a further biopsy which revealed that this was in fact a severe bone infection and her leg was saved. Her joy was profound and we were able to share that joy on our visit two months later. She can now sing and dance again as she leads worship.
It is a privilege to be involved with each others lives because going through sorrows together gives us more joy as a community as we come out the other side.
Lets pray that this will be our experience as we struggle through this time of crisis together and can rejoice when its finally over.
What is Covid 19 teaching us?
It’s a word used rarely in recent years except perhaps at the D Day remembrance when it was a time to reflect on the debt we owed to so many young men who laid down their lives in two world wars to gain the freedom from tyranny that we enjoy today.
Sadly there is a new and unseen tyrant on the loose and once again “soldiers” who didn’t enlist in any army are paying with their lives as they serve the needs of their fellow men. This applies to bus drivers and others and not just NHS staff.
As we approach Good Friday we again reflect on the one who deliberately chose to make the ultimate sacrifice. He was not freeing us from Hitler or Covid 19 but from the tyranny of our own sin which is part of our human nature and follows us every day in our thoughts words and deeds.
Last week I reflected on the depth of Jesus love for us that drove him to the cross. He knew what suffering lay ahead and even asked God to spare him from it but went ahead anyway. Jesus sacrifice has inspired generations of believers to lay down their lives in order to share his love with a needy world.
1John 3:16 “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.”
For some that has led to martyrdom. For many missionaries of old they left friends and family to work in distant lands. Many have left well paid jobs and luxury to serve in His church. Many have just given time and energy that could have been spent in other more self centred activities.
It is all sacrifice. So this Easter as we remember His great love let’s reflect in what way Jesus might be calling us to “ deny ourselves, take up our our cross and follow Him.” Mt 16:24
What is Covid 19 teaching us?
When our kids were small we used to read the Mr Men books and enjoyed the characters many of whom reminded us of folks we knew! We loved Mr Happy and Mr Tickle but no one likes a Mr Grumpy in books or everyday life.
In situations like this pandemic it’s easy to feel down or miserable, which doesn’t help us at all. We can see our glass as half empty or half full. If we can choose the latter we feel so much better, and the key is thankfulness.
Some years ago Becci spent a full calendar year taking a photo of something she was thankful for and writing a blog about it. She found it life changing. It has probably been vital in helping her to live with a positive mindset through the frustrations and challenges she and Elikem have faced since moving to Ghana five years ago.
I watched a news report, yesterday, of an elderly man who had been ventilated and recovered. He was enjoying his second chance at life and thankful for everything from flowers and trees to toast and marmalade!
So in the middle of these challenging times let’s look for things to be thankful for, however small. It will lift our hearts and our spirits above the present situation.
What Covid 19 is teaching us.
We have learnt in the decades of peace and prosperity to be quite independent and focused on our selves or our nuclear families. It feels that as we are locked down in our household units the value of other people has been heightened.
We have certainly realised how much we depend on the hardworking staff in the NHS. Those of us who have spent our careers in the health system know that nurses have always given far more to their jobs than is ever reflected by their pay. It’s good to see them being rightly recognised and applauded.
We have also learnt that we are dependent on so many other unsung workers like shop assistants, delivery staff, cleaners or farmers.
Most of us have missed direct social contact with friends and family and are grateful for the connectivity of technology. It is interesting when we travel in the developing world to see how much more time people have for one another.
I just saw a news article from South Africa that drug gangs have called a cease fire between rival factions and instead of delivering drugs they are delivering food parcels to needy families.
Let’s pray that there will be lasting change in these communities and good would come from this awful pandemic.
Here in the UK let’s pray that when the lock down is finally over we will make more time for the people around us and continue our gratitude for those who do ordinary jobs that are so vital to our existence.
What is Covid 19 teaching us?
As the reports came in from various countries there were a lot of jokes and cartoons around and the situation was not taken so seriously. As cases have rapidly increased and reports of deaths have came through, leading to lockdown, it seems that a wave of fear and panic has taken hold of our country.
Fear is a strange but important emotion because without it we would not recognise situations that are dangerous. Some of us are naturally less fearful than others and happily embark in more risky sports and activities. And sometimes fear is specific for each one of us. John was calm and cool when we were alone in our yacht battling a force 7 wind on the Irish Sea while I was petrified. Yet when I decided to parapente off the mountain in France John was definitely not keen to join me!
When our daughter in law was learning to ski and struggling on a slope too steep I encouraged her that she was the brave one because our son did not have any fear to overcome but she did!
So if we do feel fearful with the unseen enemy of Coronavirus it’s normal but we can overcome our fear.
One of my favourite verses is in Isaiah 41:10 which says “Fear not for I am with you, be not dismayed for I am your God, I will help you, I will uphold you and I will strengthen you.”
Psalm 46 says “ Be still and know that I am God”
Jesus also promised us we could access His peace to calm our hearts.
So when if we feel fear or anxiety rising let’s just focus our thoughts on our Heavenly Father who loves us.
What is the Covid-19 Pandemic teaching us?
As a doctor I have often been aware that illness and death treat everyone the same. It has certainly been apparent that Covid-19 has infected anyone from our lowest paid workers through to the Prime Minister of our country and even Prince Charles.
Those patients who sadly need ventilation all wear nothing but the standard hospital garb. Whatever their status are equally helpless and isolated.
We arrive naked in this world and we actually can’t take anything with us when we leave. The Pharaohs believed differently, but actually their possessions didn’t join them in the afterlife. Instead they mostly ended up as tourist attractions in Egypt or in numerous museums around the world!
The Bible also warns us not to store up treasure on earth, but to store up treasure in heaven. So whatever earthly possessions or status we may have don’t count for anything in Gods eyes, because He is looking at our hearts.
We have all been humbled by the dedication and selflessness of NHS staff and key workers. I hope that this virus will help us as humans to value celebrities and idols a little less, but rather value people a little more for their kindness and integrity. 😊
What is the covid pandemic teaching us ?
This crisis is reminding us that as human beings we are very weak and we cannot control everything however how much money or power we have. If we hope only in this short life on earth then the fear of losing this becomes so very great. Of course this life in all its fullness is something to be enjoyed and every moment is to be treasured. The bigger picture is that we are just passing through, and if we choose heaven then it can be our final destination.
And while we prefer to remain here, we can feel less anxious about the possibility of not surviving the covid19 infection.
Many of those we meet in very poor nations like DR Congo have such hard lives that they really long for heaven where there will be no more tears and no more suffering.
Several young members of the Polish Church in Liverpool have a cleaning company and are the only cleaners prepared to do the deep cleans after covid patients in the Royal Liverpool Hospital.
It is also that they feel Gods protection as they do this vital work.
Being sure of heaven is not based on arrogance because it’s not something we have gained or could gain in our own merit.
If you want to know more look at “Christianity Explored” which is available on You Tube.
Meanwhile we continue to pray Psalm 91 which promises that we do not need to “fear the terror of the night or the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday.”
We personally knew this protection some years ago when we found ourselves in the midst of a Marburg outbreak in Uganda. Like Ebola the death rate is over 50 %. When my very non technical friend emailed us out of the blue on that very day we knew that our Heavenly Father was looking after us.
So this crisis maybe we are reminded to be thankful for our lives and our loved ones.
What is the covid pandemic showing us?
John first picked up the news on an epidemic starting in China before Christmas. This didn’t register with most of us till January as we watched the situation in Wuhan on our TV screens but it all seemed very remote. Then the cases emerged in the ski areas where it was spreading rapidly as people were mixed together in close proximity. Perhaps we still felt we were safely distant and not affected but gradually as cases emerged in the UK the reality of the contagion has dawned on us.
The lockdown initially seen as restrictive has become more like something that folks want as the fear level rises with news of more cases and deaths even among the young and fit.
We are in a war scenario and yet our enemy is unseen and thus more scary. So what hope do we have?
As I quoted a few days ago “ We don’t know what the future holds but we can know the one who holds our future.”
Those of us who are believers are walking through these days with our hands in the hand of our Heavenly Father.
I’m aware that some see this pandemic as the judgement of a vengeful God but I don’t believe that.
In reality it appears that this has arisen through the foolish behaviour and actions of human beings. Although it was created by a few individuals eating wild creatures in an open market in Wuhan other factors have facilitated the spread.
God has given us free will to choose how we live and whether or not we engage with Him. So to a large extent our world systems and business communities function in a largely godless way based as Ghandi said on greed not need.
In the developed world we have come to believe that we are totally self sufficient and in absolute control of our lives. The advent of covid 19 has shown that this is far from true.
So where is God in all this mess?
Let’s explore this in the coming days.
I have been slow to put pen to paper or keyboard as the last few weeks have felt quite busy.
Firstly we had the blow that we couldn’t make our planned trip to our projects in Uganda and DR Congo. So I unpacked and re- stored all the medical and educational stuff we planned to take. Then came the concern that the community centre we had taken over as a church was financially in trouble as user groups stopped meeting. Then we decided as we couldn’t travel in coming months we could get a dog to replace our beloved Rio who died 5 years ago. A black spaniel puppy called Smudge joined our family 2 weeks ago and has kept us quite occupied and entertained ever since.
Finally with concern over the easy spread of the virus we felt the need to bring my Mum back from the care home and isolate her here which has kept me busy up and down the stairs looking after her. I don’t have a step watch but guess I’m doing plenty!
I have found time to start getting the garden under control and plant some seeds for a bit of self sufficiency!
As I prayed this morning I felt it was time to put some thoughts on digital paper for those who might be interested. So from tomorrow I will write a short blog available on face book or WordPress.
Keep smiling, we will get through. 😊