Seizures and grace

Person in distress.

My late husband Colin had epilepsy. It sounds like such a little word, but it had such major consequences. He was  unfortunate, in that his epilespy was intractable, and so he would have 4-6 tonic clinic seizures a month, always when he was asleep.

A seizure would start with a loud guttural shout, the change of colour of skin and shaking of limbs, and then his body becoming more limp, and  the gradual restoration of a more rhythmic natural breathing occurred. It could appear pretty scary. Colin was again unfortunate, in that he had long post-ictal periods, so his brain function would not be fully restored for days.

My heart goes out to all who live with this disability. I know that many people have epilepsy that is well controlled by medication, and they have a good quality of life. However for those whose epilepsy is more difficult to manage, my prayers are especially with you, your family and friends.

I guess this is where the grace comes in. It seems like grace, when people around you are understanding. Grace when people call an ambulance when some one has a seizure on the street. Grace when people choose not to walk by on the other side of the road.

We were fortunate too, to have good support from various organisations, including Epilepsy Connections. This organisation provided great practical support, as well as a brilliant befriender. From another similar organisation, we found another support worker, who understood the nuances of how seizures can affect you, and was a brilliant help to Colin, even in demanding and unusual situations. So much grace.

Sadly I know from much personal experience how difficult it can be to support some one living with epilepsy. However it it certainly never dull, and teaches you much about love!  I hope that as a society, we might be better informed about seizures, and more open to learning, and being supportive, and I am grateful for all who work in this difficult area of medicine and social care.

In the bible, Jesus often met people having seizures, and was able to heal them, as in Matthew 4: 24. My prayer is that there would be many opportunities for healing for people with this condition.

Gracious God, You want all people to be well, to be loved, to be at peace. Yet in our world we see such suffering and illness, including epilepsy, cancer and other diseases and conditions. Lord Jesus bring healing, through Your love and power, through medicine, and through wise individuals, willing to go the extra mile. Holy spirit, when people are ill and distressed, by your grace, may there always be some one there to care, to helpfully intervene and to bless,  for in that way Your kingdom comes, Amen.

Peace beyond understanding.

Deep rest.

There are so many sad and disturbing things going on in the world just now, it can be hard to be still. There is too much to make our minds race, and to disturb our equilibrium. The number of people unwell, especially ill with covid 19 at home and in hospital is difficult to comprehend, and the consequent human misery and loss that is resulting for so many families.

In the midst of all this, it is hard to know how best to pray, I pray for the virus not to spread more, and for healing of those who are sick. But I also want to pray for peace for those who are critically ill.

I am so fortunate, as I am relatively healthy, but in times when I have been unwell, I can remember my body feeling so busy fighting infection, that my mind felt very far from reality, as if everything in the world was so far away, I was actually very peaceful. Ironically it felt like quite a safe place to be, where nothing bothers you, because you are not really thinking. You can hear people and respond in your soul, but not necessarily physically.

I was watching a you tube clip of Joni Eareckson Tada the other day, a woman who recently had covid 19. It is quite a challenging, direct and emotional video, so watch it only if you feel able – a summary is below- https://youtu.be/squAX6lV2Aw        

Joni is quadriplegic, so when she got her diagnosis of covid 19, she thought she would die. She was in hospital, fighting to breathe, when she felt a deep trust in Jesus, and an odd calmness- she knew that whether she lived or died, she was with God, that she was resting in the shadow of the Almighty. And she was at peace. She wants everyone to share this peace of Christ, which is why she shares her experience.

People have different experiences and spiritual understandings, but that resting in the Almighty, that deep peace and trust is surely something that we want people to have. So they are not worried or anxious or fearful, but rather completely at rest.

In Philippians chapter 4, Paul encourages the Christians in Philippi to trust God, to present their requests to Him, and then he says:

‘ and the peace of God, which passes all human understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.’ Verse 7

When I feel worried or uncertain, I know I can trust Jesus, and He often shares that sense of peace with me. To be honest, there are still times when I still struggle or am restless. But God wants to bless us with His peace, and that is the gift He longs to share.

May we pray: Lord Jesus Christ, our hearts break over the number of people unwell and dying because of covid 19. We give thanks for all the paramedics and medical staff working with patients, especially in ICU wards, for their medical care and kindness to their patients and their families. Please bless them all, and especially those that are critically ill. May your holy spirit bring to them, that deep peace that passes all understanding, and may they know that whatever happens, that they can find safety in your loving hands, Amen.

Remembrance- Lamentation and brutality.

War horse

Remembrance Day is one of the hardest of the year, thinking of all who have served, been injured and died in conflict and war. We think of the first world war 1914- 18 and the second world war 1939-45. But we also think of more recent conflicts and wars, Northern Ireland, Afghanistan, Iraq.

Many of us have relatives that have fought and died, and we seek to honour their memory. But the sad fact is that many veterans who come home, have PTSD and mental health problems which can become overwhelming, and which leaves them homeless on the streets of our cities. We see them every day.

The sheer brutality and violence of war is haunting and visceral. Whether it is in the muddy trenches of Flanders, or the streets of Belfast, at Dunkirk or the opium fields of Afghanistan, shooting, bombs and explosions maim, wound and kill.

We often see such conflict expressed in film, snd I remember especially seeing the film ‘War horse’. Seeing that horse entangled in the barbed wire, the barbs getting deeper into its flesh the more it struggled, and its cry of distress and pain, somehow embodies for me the cry of all who suffer the long term effects of violence and war.

The horse entangled in the wire on the battle field, reminds me of Jesus on the cross, innocent yet suffering such great pain. Jesus had done nothing wrong, but he suffered because of the guilt and violence of humanity, paying the price for our greed and selfishness, so we could be cleansed and forgiven.

When I think of my late husband Colin Gardner, and his struggles as a veteran having come home from mitary service, I think of his pride in his service, but also his colossal frustration with his disability, his perpetual recounting of traumatic experiences and his feeling that nothing else in his life could ever mean as much as his military memories. His pain, physical and emotional were enormous. This time of year and the 5th November and all the noises of the fireworks made him want to dive for cover, and to draw his gun, and retraumatised him.

The death of Jesus Christ, reminds us that on the cross, love ultimately wins, transcending hatred and cruelty, bringing forgiveness for all who seek peace. We learn even from the most horrendous pain and brutality, and find renewed purpose in working for a better world, a kingdom of justice and peace.

In this season of Remembrance, we remember all who gave their lives in conflict and war. We also give thanks for all who served, and returned, but whose experiences maimed and scarred them for life. We lament on their behalf and pray for them and for their families. May God bring to them the healing and peace they seek.

Jesus’s words from John 15:13 : Greater love has no- one than this, to lay down one’s life for his friends.’

Let us pray, ‘ Gracious Father, Eternal God of hope and peace, we cry to You to have mercy upon us, for our world continues to be a place of conflict and dispute, of greed and violence. Lord Jesus Christ, you died alone on a cross, because of the greed and selfishness of our race, to be the perfect sacrifice to bring redemption and forgiveness for all. Holy Spirit, cleanse us from our pride and wilfulness, heal us from our wounds, help us to support and pray for all who struggle with the nightmares and brutality of war, and help us find new strength and peace, so that we can build for the future, Amen.

Praying in desolate places- finding courage!

Holidaying in Scotland is mixture of experiences, some of colour and vibrancy, but also of mist on bleak grey landscapes.

At times, when you have got soaked yet again, you question the meaningfulness of wilderness experiences. Traipsing through the horizontal rain and squelching mud can be challenging. But then the clouds lift a little, the light changes and you find unexpected beauty that takes your breath away. It is all worthwhile.

Recently I have been reading Brene Brown ‘s ‘ Braving the wilderness’ about having the courage to be your authentic self, even when it might unsettle or offend. Her insights into the vulnerability and empathy and belonging are so very moving, and encourage us all to have the courage to be honest. For me, writing ‘ love song for a wounded warrior’ has felt like telling our story in a wilderness of fear and potential judgement.

I was reading Maya Angelou the other day, and she said ‘ there’s no greater agony than having an untold story within you’ and certainly it can feel like a festering wound. After a while, the fears around telling the story become less than the consequences of not telling it.

The wilderness is often part of a journey. For the Israelites, they were 40 years in the wilderness, learning to rely completely on God before they got to the promised land. For Jesus Himself, when he was tired and burdened, he often withdrew to desolate places to pray. In these bleak landscapes, there are no distractions or places to hide- it is just us and God, and so His tender love becomes our sole focus and reality- the moment of illumination that we seek.

Whatever place we find ourselves today, even in a place of questioning and shadow, may God help us find the courage to pray and to be our true selves, ready to speak the words that are on our hearts, let us pray

Dear God, when clouds gather, we confess that we tend to like the days of sunshine more than the rain- forgive us our selfishness.

Thank you that even in the most dark dreich wildernesses, Lord Jesus, You call us not to be afraid, to surrender all that is false, and to commune more deeply with You, so that this enables us to find the courage to be both vulnerable and honest.

Holy spirit, You transform our lives through your loving purpose and inspiration. Summon out our courage, and creativity, to be true to our calling , and to journey forward, in Jesus’ name, Amen