Friday, 18 February 2011

Through the valley of the shadow of death

This week I met with a mum of a young guy who comes a long to our church. His mum has just been diagnosed with cancer for the 4th time. She had her first diagnosis as a young mum of 2 sons in her early 20’s. She was told not to worry and the lump she had found was sure to be benign, it wasn’t and she had to undergo many months of treatment to see this cancer beaten. She fought and won this battle 2 more times and when I first met her 2 years ago she wore some of the scars of these battles on her face with a sadness and frailty that facing death leaves on your soul.
We have been excited with this family for the last few months as her son is getting married this year and so we have shared the joy of this together. Chatting about venues, outfits (the most important thing for all ladies involved) colours and all other wedding related things. She even bravely underwent a breast reconstruction ready to get into the perfect outfit and looking forward to all that is to come in the next few years. She had come to the end of treatment from the last cancer and asked how they would know if she would be ok? To put her mind at rest they did a full body scan. Called to see her oncologist he told her there was a small spot on her hip but he felt this was no problem and to go ahead with the surgery. She was read a letter by her GP stating ‘this does not look suspicious but to put her mind at rest we will do a further scan after her surgery’.
Surgery completed, new breast in place, healing commenced, scan undertaken, called to see the oncologist. The familiar story unfolded and on her birthday she sat with her son (husband away skiing for a break) to hear the news that they were 95% certain this was cancer of the hipbone.
I sat with her in the borrowed attic bedroom of her son’s home on a mattress on the floor looking at the treatment plan the toxic poison that will kill the bad but also the good. Reading the horrendous side effects and hearing that she will lose her hair again, hair that she was going to grow for this wedding and a friend had been discussing styles, but now we were looking at wigs in a magazine.
I tell her that she is a brave lady who can do this because she has done it before, but she tells me she doesn’t want to do it again. She hates medication and her fear of the smell of the chemotherapy that she says invades her nostril as soon as she enters that unit and terror overwhelms her. I hunted for words that eluded me after all I had been here before with my lovely sister diagnosed with ovarian and bowel cancer in 2002, she lost the battle in the same year.
I searched my memory banks for the right words of encouragement, words that would bring her some peace, in myself there was none. We share a common faith in a God who loves and knows us, He was the only word of comfort I could bring to the table. We chatted about the fact that our faith is not the protection against bad things but our God promises to walk with us through the valley of the shadow of death.

Psalm 23
The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

I hold to this for my very dear friend and sister in Christ and also for each of us wherever this finds you today, He is with you in your valley and when it seems to be at the darkest point I believe God will come in and the He will bring you peace.

Take a moment to listen to this beautiful song by Natalie Grant - Held.

Monday, 14 February 2011

Shaping a church community

My lovely husband Alan and I chat a lot and I so appreciate this as vital in our marriage.
We implemented this a few years ago after a difficult time (that is a story for another time).
We walk and talk about anything and everything, I feel the ratio is possibly 70/30 for me having the most to say but he is good and listens very patiently.
This is an important time for us to discuss all that we are up to with our church plant here in Bingley, West Yorkshire we have just celebrated the third birthday of our little church.
The responsibility to shape a church is huge and we both take it very seriously. We have planted a church before and at that time Alan was undertaking an MA in pastoral theology at Cambridge University. His dissertation was titled ‘Towards an incarnational church'. He was able to write this from our experience and all the ups and downs that pastoring a church unveiled as we ministered to the congregation there.
To say that our faith has evolved is an understatement we both feel that so many things have shaped our journey to today so many people and their stories have impacted the way we see church and how it should be lead.
We both never feel enough and the weight of getting it right can sit heavily on our shoulders, but and it’s a big BUT we know that we are called to this role. I watch Alan preach or pray with someone and I see a man who through his own personal fire knows how faithful God is. That God uses each of us when we say ‘here I am send me’, He does.
So here we are again growing church, building community, walking and talking. Reading and absorbing information and inspirational teaching from ministers much further on than we are and yes enjoying it. The responsibility is great but truly the reward is much greater.