I’m not sure where I’m going with this, or why I’m going there. Maybe we’ll find out as we jog on. I may say some banal things, come to some obvious conclusions, treading a familiar path and you’ll turn away, yawning. But at least with a blog I don’t see the yawns… so, feel free!
I’m asking myself again why I write a blog. Is it because I desperately need someone to talk to? If so, that’s not quite what a blog is, few of you respond in any way and when you do it’s understandably concise, reflective, and you’re not able to engage in a real discourse with me. So, why do I blog? Is it because I think I have great wisdom that must be imparted? No, I have precious little wisdom or wit, and I really don’t mind because if you’re bored you’ll stop reading. Do I blog because I’m an empty vessel (and we all know that empty vessels make the most sound) ? Or do I blog because my head is so full of notions and half-thoughts that I can keep track of them only if I write them down? Yes, that’s partly it. I complete my thoughts only when I write them. Is that weird?
OK. I can cope with being weird.
I want to talk about ice. And pleasure. You regulars know that I have a dying friend and concern for her is filling my life just now. So, listen, death is nothing to fear, we all know that, but we all know – all, universal acceptance – that the process can be bloody awful. My friend, I think, I pray, is over the worst of the awfulness and now she is sleeping more and more, pain free, nausea under control and just weary. The bad days are done (again, we pray). So now, while we’re all knackered, emotionally done-for… her sister grey and anxious, her son pale and shaken …. my friend is sleeping. Thank God. Thank God.
Yesterday she could barely speak, her mouth dry, the mouth preparations just not doing the trick, and she was desperate for water but could take only the barest sip, unable to swallow. So I went home and took some ice and smashed it up with my little hammer (she would have laughed to see me bringing out my tool box, a huge great manly tin thing in which there is a screw driver, a jar of screws and one hammer. She and I both love absurdities). Then I sat on her bed and fed her the splinters one by one. That was bliss. The expression on her face, the tiny murmurs of appreciation, the whispered ‘more, please’ was bliss. Bliss.
Look at us! Look at you and me. We have so much. We have strength and breath and robustness. I have the energy to write this, you have the focus to read it. Bloody hell, I walked on the beach for two hours this morning, sat on a log, joked with a poet, I’ve made and drunk two great mugs of strong coffee….. and I bet you’ve all done the equivalent. But I’ll tell you what, my little dumplings, whatever your day has been thus far, and whether you’re in a mansion or a hovel, old or young, loved or lonely, you and I do not know the bliss my dying friend experienced yesterday, or the gratitude she felt as she said “Thank you, Lord, for this … it’s so delicious.”
Lying there, dying there, slipping away from us, fighting to breathe…. rejoicing in the tiniest slivers of ice in her poor parched mouth…. “Thank you, Lord.”
That is the grace of God. Right there.
On the beach this morning I read a verse with the word ‘contend’ , and then a little later again the word ‘contend’ and I realised that the writer, Paul, was talking about prayer. I know what the word means, it’s a common word, but it was interesting to see it used and emphasised in this way.
Contend: ‘struggle to surmount’
‘assert something as a position in an argument’
Paul was talking about prayer, and as I prayed and thought about not just my dying friend, but many of the people I know, I understood that prayer is contending. It is. Truly. If you have ever prayed for something you desire with all your heart and being, your soul, you will understand that to pray is to contend. As I sat at the bedside yesterday and turned to God for help I was contending. When she asked me to read a Psalm, she was contending. When we prayed together, her lips moving silently to finish the ‘amen’ we were contending. We were struggling to surmount.
We were struggling to surmount.
And in Christ we did. When we contend in Christ, we triumph. He triumphs in us.
It reminds me of a history I read just a while back in 2 Chronicles (I’ve not got a great understanding of the Old Testament, but I’m learning that its lessons are wonderfully relevant), of when the Moabites were going to attack Judah and God sent this message “You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you, Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow, and the Lord will be with you.”’
That’s what I said to my friend. Do not be discouraged. You don’t have to fight this battle.
Why not? Because it’s already been won. Jesus has triumphed over death, His own and hers and mine and yours, if you know Him. And if you know Him there is joy and bliss to be had, in even the smallest sweetest, hardest thing.