Monthly Archives: April 2008

Surprised by Angels

I once thought of angels as fluffy beings with wings, like the images portrayed in books, magazines and greeting cards. I was aware of recent reports and biblical angel encounters, but their existence remained theoretical, outside my realm of experience. As a pragmatic male, I believed Christians should concentrate on following Jesus, rather than an “experience”. While grateful for those blessings, or ‘consolations’ I received, I had no idea I was destined for my own very personal angelic encounters.

I was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome after several months of acute loneliness that defied any human solution. It was a most painful emotion of abandonment and anxiety, that kicked in after an eye operation that didn’t go to plan. I felt I was the only person in the whole world, like an infant, left out in the cold. I didn’t know which way to turn, except to God. The problem was He seemed to have left and was nowhere to be found. I had no sense of presence or awareness whatsoever. It was my own Dark Night of the Soul.

Even though He seemed far away, God had caught my attention as never before. I wanted to trust Him to take me through, but desperately needed answers and reached out to Him the best way I could. I spent time searching the bible, to see what was relevant to my situation. I recorded in my journal all that spoke to me, including my feelings at the time.

I liked to be outside in the freedom of the fresh air and was in the habit of going down to our beach. I used to sit on a low rock, just ‘being there in my wilderness!’ I became very aware and sensitive to those things close to hand, such as the surf gently washing in and rattling back over the shingle. I sat there one day, when I became aware – I can’t put it any other way – of Jesus kneeling at my feet, saying “What can I do for you?” This just stunned me. This was my God, kneeling at my feet, desiring to meet my needs.

A week or so later, when my anxiety levels were still high and I hadn’t driven far for a while, I drove my wife and a disabled friend, to visit a garden. On arrival, I left them in the formal garden while I explored a shady wooded area. I sat on a moss-covered tree stump, relishing the lush quiet all around me. I reached out to God in my isolation and almost immediately, I was aware of angels surrounding me. Some standing and some sitting, but all looking at me, protecting, waiting. It dawned upon me, that they had really been with me from the very beginning. I recalled some of the verses I had written down: I know it’s hard …. but you will come to no harm …. I will send my angels to protect you.

About three months later, after a brief appointment in town, my wife and I drove on to a favourite garden. It’s an incredible mix of several gardens, where there’s always a riot of colour, just like an artist dipping his brush in a paint box of flowers. After an hour or so, while my wife explored an old building, I wandered into a small secluded walled area. I was immediately struck by the quiet intimacy of this ‘secret’ garden. I sat on a sturdy wooden bench at the end of the close-cropped lawn. The seat was inviting like an armchair and so old, that the oak was bleached white with the sunlight.

As I soaked in the atmosphere, it suddenly felt like I was sitting on Father’s knee, with His arms around me. I could feel the warmth and comfort of His gentle embrace. I sat there enthralled, mesmerized, not wanting to move, in case He went away! I just sobbed with relief! That was a precious moment, Father and son together and possibly a promise of more to come?

Then, nearly five months after the onset, the state of desolation left as suddenly as it came. My senses began to return, the aching void inside receded and I felt covered by a warm comforting blanket of love.

I look back at that time now and just know that without me having to do anything, God did something deep inside. He knew my deepest need and just how much I could take and arranged those ‘angelic’ visitations to reassure and comfort me that He really was with me. Not the feeling, but the real God.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Christian, Christianity, chronic fatigue, healing, health, health & wellness, illness, lifestyle, personal, spiritual

Fatigue and Knowing Yourself

I firmly believe that CFS/ME is the result of a virus of some sort or other, but I am also convinced there are other factors involved. I wonder how much I really knew myself before I was diagnosed? Why was it that I would work on without giving too much thought to food or drink. Why did I work on our house until I was treading on my tools in the dark? Why did I not give enough heed to what my body was telling me? In other words I was pushing myself and why? I just wasn’t being kind to myself.

What was my heart saying? Looking back now, I know my heart was saying something like “You are giving all this time to listening to others, but what about me? I want to stop!”

Once I was forced to slow down, there was time to get to know myself more. How do we do this? By just giving time to listen and get in touch with our hearts. If we are a Christian we should ask God to show us. But that may not come easily to some of us, especially if we have been entrenched in unhelpful or self-destructive behaviour patterns. To get in touch with our hearts may seem daunting, as we could be in for some surprises. So we may need help to start with. Someone who will give us their full attention and really listen. Such a person may not be easily found and we may even have to go down the route of paying someone.

Some may consider all this to be self-indulgent and introspective. Well, look at Jesus! He was extremely busy, but even He needed to get away to the hills to recharge. Some years ago when I was faced with making a very important perplexing decision, I tramped the moors for a day to find out what to do. I asked God to tell me, but all I got back was, “What do you want to do?” Why did I find it difficult to answer that question? Because my head had not fully connected with my heart! Being a Christian is a heart to heart relationship. If we say we know Jesus, then we must know ourselves. The two go together.

I surprise myself by saying that despite the physical restrictions of chronic fatigue, in some ways I am more alive than before. I am more myself. More of a human being than a human doing. However, the journey of discovery continues and there is more, much more to come.

Leave a comment

Filed under Christian, Christianity, chronic fatigue, healing, health, health & wellness, illness, lifestyle, personal, spiritual

My Clifftop Cabin Retreat

An important and significant two weeks.

I had entered my third year with Chronic Fatigue and although there was some improvement, I still experienced considerable physical restriction and the occasional relapse. I felt the urge to get right away on my own for a time. Some friends of ours had a cliff top cabin which became available for a couple of weeks and I jumped at the opportunity. This was the first time I had arranged to spend such a length of time away completely on my own.

At the end of a narrow Cornish lane, I eased open an old wooden gate and fought through overhanging foliage to reach a grassy clearing. Halfway along stood a bungalow. The cedar wood shiplap was bleached white with years of sunlight and salt-laden winds. Cared for, but it had seen better days. On three sides, trees and shrubs affording absolute privacy and seclusion, but allowed magnificent views out to sea.

The interior was very basic and functional, but I had all I needed. After unloading my belongings, I settled into an armchair and looked around. I took note of the thoughtful provision of little extras, like the bowl of fruit and selection of books. I had arrived! This was to be my home, my refuge, for the next ten days. No distracting phone calls, television or radio. Closed off from the world. It was a good feeling. I just sat for ages and feasted on the panoramic ocean view. Passing clouds cast moving shadows over the dappled surface of the sea. A coaster slowly disappeared over the horizon and fishing boats returned to port with the day’s catch.

I decided on an early night and snuggled under my quilt. The cabin didn’t have the luxury of insulation – not ideal for someone with a wonky body thermostat – and I soon woke feeling cold. I piled on extra blankets and pulled on a woolly hat, before trying to settle down again. As I lay there, the sound of the sea had increased to an incessant roar. The Atlantic rollers pounded the length of the bay below. I listened, fascinated, before eventually dozing off.

Next morning, feeling dazed and bleary-eyed, I sat with cornflakes and coffee, contemplating the first day of solitude. I just wanted to ‘be’, Father and I, drawn into intimacy. I needed to hear what He had to say to me, but realised I couldn’t force anything. It would come in His time and His way. I wandered outside and breathed in great gulps of the stiff Atlantic breeze as the gulls circled squawking overhead. It felt like taking in life itself and I wanted it to go on for ever!

The honeymoon period didn’t last however, as by the next morning doubts began to creep in. I was getting restless and began to question what on earth I was doing such a thing for. Perhaps I should call it a day and return home to reality? Thankfully, I dismissed the doubts and fears and pressed on. Sure enough, by the next day a peace began to set in. It’s hard to describe, except to say that I felt settled, stilled inside, at one with Father. Even when I ventured out for a very short walk, my ‘retreat’ went with me. I felt cocooned, set apart.

The following days fell into a sort of routine. Bible reading, listening, writing and journaling and more listening. Whatever thoughts and feelings came to the surface I explored them to see where they would lead. One day an emotional ‘wound’ that had dogged me for years was uncovered, cleansed and healed. As the truth took hold, I became aware of a tremendous sense of freedom and elation. On another, the reality sunk in concerning an important decision I had to make. I just knew what I had to do.

There were no further revelations during the remaining days, just a cementing-in of what I had already heard and received. My wife joined me for the last two days and we revelled in the fresh air and coastal scenery together. All too soon the day of departure arrived.

Leave a comment

Filed under Christian, Christianity, chronic fatigue, healing, health, health & wellness, illness, lifestyle, personal, spiritual

You Are What You Eat

Those who take food and diet seriously, sometimes quote the phrase, “You are what you eat!” I looked it up and found it originated in the 1800’s or earlier in Europe. The German, “Der Mensch ist, was er ißt.”translates into English as ‘man is what he eats’. Much later in the 1960’s, it was adopted by the champions of healthy eating and is currently the title of a popular TV dieting series.

After I was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue I looked into diet in some detail, partly because I became intolerant to certain foods. My wife and I tried various recommended diets, but they didn’t seem to produce the promised results and in any case they began to take over our lives and was in danger of becoming a god.

Recently we watched a TV programme about families who were following an extreme raw food diet, omitting all meat, fish, dairy products, eggs, wheat and flour and certain fruits. The food preparation room looked more like a laboratory, rather than a kitchen. They appeared physically healthy, but we were given the impression that it had become the top priority in their lives. A filmed teaching session was shown, that appeared very much like an evangelical Christian service of praise and worship.

So we continue to eat sensibly, buying plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables and keeping fat and sugar to a minimum, plus taking certain vitamin supplements. I still avoid foods that don’t agree with me, although now most of the intolerance seems to have vanished. Having said all this, I admit that whenever diet and exercise is mentioned, I always have that niggling guilt that I am not doing enough!

My top priority however, is taking food of the spiritual variety. I have found that by opening up my life to God and seeking what He says about me personally, is life-changing and healing. When I take in His Word and inwardly digest it, it has an amazing freeing spiritual, emotional and physical effect. It reaches the inner parts that other foods just cannot reach.

I think however, that many of us would rather pop pills, follow a diet or even take part in a sponsored walk across the Mongolian Desert, than allow God to show us what is going on inside and heal us. It can be just too scary to let the hurting recesses of our hearts be exposed. The truth is that He is very gentle and we can trust Him.

I continue to enjoy my food and follow a balanced diet, physical and spiritual – I am still learning.

Leave a comment

Filed under Christian, Christianity, chronic fatigue, disability, healing, health, health & wellness, illness, Jesus, lifestyle, M.E., personal, spiritual

It’s Under My Nose

tn_source-of-the-derwent.jpgI am light years away from the busyness and activity that was my world before I was laid low and diagnosed with CFS/ME! Gone are the ‘badges’ I used to wear and polish with pride: ‘engineer’, ‘manager’, ‘chairman of trustees’, ‘counsellor’, ‘prayer minister’, ‘regional leader’, ‘mountain climber’.

The only badge I have now is ‘beloved of Jesus.’ My favourite Bible character then, was Elijah strutting his stuff on the top of Mount Carmel. A more appropriate personality now, would be Amos, sitting under a fruit tree keeping an eye on his sheep.

This is one of my oil paintings. It’s of the source of the River Derwent in the Peak National Park of England. On one of those sort-after sorties into the wilderness. I followed the river as a stream, winding round higher and higher through the moorland heights. The sides of the valley were splashed in heather in bloom and the banks of the tiny stream rippling between banks covered in vivid green moss. A beautiful stimulating scene, it still stirs me when I look at it.

I have since had to learn new ways, working with ‘what is!’. No more assaults on moorland crags and traversing mountain ridges to complete a challenge. I have become content with a few hundred yards gentle amble – at the most, on the flat, with the wind behind me, on a good day – just to ‘be’ and taking in what is close to. There wasn’t time before, I was in too much of a rush. I now appreciate what is ‘under my nose’ so to speak. This was what my heart longed for, what my soul was crying our for. Be still and take it in. The blackthorn blossom on stark black branches, the kestrel poised for the attack, the early powdery willow catkins shaking in the breeze.

I have found that there is life in the solitude. A change from ‘head’ to ‘heart’. Much-needed time for relationship, first with Father, then my wife and family and the occasional friend. To stop and listen and consider.

The transition between the two worlds was hard, even painful, devastating, and at first most unfair. It was like being catapulted into the unknown. The way forward through the fog was only indicated by a signpost with one word, ‘God!’ I am so glad that I was given the grace to go this way.

But note: there came a time for Amos to go in obedience and deliver his message.

3 Comments

Filed under art, artist, Christian, Christianity, chronic fatigue, creativity, disability, family, healing, health, health & wellness, illness, Jesus, lifestyle, M.E., personal, relationships, retirement, spiritual