Tag Archives: prayer

Letter from the Lockdown

April 20th 2020

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Lockdown stops the clock

Hi

How are you? These are difficult times aren’t they.

How am I?

I am under pressure. The virus gives me anxiety. The lockdown confines me. My voluntary work is all remote. My faith is getting more attention in the abstract, less exercise in the real world, and I am missing my family and the normal routine of life with which I was content.

Anxiety took me by surprise. I wasn’t aware of how much I suppress my anxiety until it burst out from under the threat of catching the virus. My throat dries up, my digestion rebels, my head fizzes, sleep is interrupted by distorted thoughts, until dawn restores my perspective.

Action is needed.  Less news. The radio, normally on all day, is off. I watch just one TV news broadcast at 6pm. Reading online news for too long makes me nauseous so I stop doing it.

I’m helped by meditation on the goodness of God, who shares my anxiety and feels my weakness. I have found a daily prayer app called Lectio365 that enables me to focus on good things, to pray out how I feel and to yield to the peace of God in my life.

Exercise. Running, walking and cycling. I take the full allowance of permitted daily exercise and sometimes more. Those endorphins certainly know how to restore well being.

There’s some singing too. Breathlessly to the tunes playing in my head whilst I run – a personal praise party or a good times song from one of my playlists. At other times when my memory is jogged by an earworm replaying something from the online service from church, I’ll whistle the tune or burst into song.

Its counterintuitive for me not to rush off to help someone, with something, somewhere. Any help I now offer is online or on the phone. When tempted to step out of the house in response to a simple request I remember #stayathome – home is the only place I feel truly safe from this virus.

This week I will have three video conference meetings – some may be fruitful; some frustrating and others possibly inconclusive. In this time of lockdown they feel like an intrusion into my home because they would normally be conducted somewhere else. There’s no excuse not to attend, no variety of location, concentration is, at times, difficult and the strain of no proper eye contact makes them less engaging. I have no way of measuring the response in the room to my contributions. It’s quite sterile.

Holidays are now located in Never Never Land, while refreshing and inspiring trips into the lovely surrounding Yorkshire dales and moors are denied.

Add all of this together with lockdown and it is like inhabiting another world; of being ‘away from home at home’, with a constant question, “When can I get back to normal?” A question that has no answer. Life is on hold, but it hasn’t stopped. My grandchildren continue to grow and develop without me. This is especially true of our youngest, Rowan, born just days before the restrictions. I have to be content with seeing his smiles on a screen.

On the positive side, I am at home with Joan and we enjoy each other’s company and generally work well together. Our frustrations with the lockdown are shared. There’s good cooking, some long delayed chores receive attention, the sun is shining and the buds of spring are bursting open in our small garden. Our house is pleasant and especially the garden room.

So I use my frustration to remember those who are confined in less pleasant places, alone and anxious. I use my anxiety to pray for those suffering, serving on the front line of health and social care and parents working from home alongside home schooling in cramped spaces. At times my prayers range wider to the refugee camps and warzones across the world where the pandemic adds more fear and death to those already frail and broken.

I could say ‘who am I to be anxious and concerned about my plight’ when so many suffer infinitely more than me. But it’s right to deal with anxiety and not to ignore it simply because others have greater needs. If I address my needs alongside theirs, I am better equipped to serve – even if action is confined to prayer and other things that can be done remotely. Left to run riot, anxiety will consume all my strength and distract me from ever caring about others.

This is a writing exercise but also a real letter. It’s part of my treatment. Writing allows me to leave the house and imagine better things. It’s a longer letter than I had anticipated, but writing it is helping me to rise above the circumstances. I’ll let you judge its value to you.

Let me know how you are coping in these strange days.

All the best

Barrie

 

Ten o’clock miracle

Deb Stephenson and Alice Newsholme

Deb Stephenson and Alice Newsholme

At ten o’clock they started to pray. Earlier in the evening the family had been called to the bedside of my father as he lay dying in hospital in Preston, Lancashire. They had been summoned by the doctor because he wasn’t expected to survive the night.

The illness had started a few days earlier as he rode his Panther 600 motorbike home to Ambleside from Coventry where his fiancée, later to be my mother, lived. As he battled against driving rain on the old A6 towards the Lake District he developed a headache which intensified as the miles passed. By the time he arrived home it was so bad he went straight to bed to ‘sleep it off’. Next morning the pain was worse and his mother persuaded him to see the doctor who admitted him to hospital.

“TB meningitis” the consultant told his family, “there’s not much we can do. Patients reach a crisis point; some get better, others don’t make it.”

This was before antibiotics were in general use to fight the infection revealed in the tests on his ‘lumber puncture’. I remember my dad describing the lumber puncture process with relish when he retold this story. A long curved needle was inserted between the discs in his back into his spinal fluid. A sample was drawn off for tests. His hands and fingers used to describe the arc and length of the needle whilst his face grimaced as he recalled the experience.

So they waited. The crisis came and passed with no improvement. He hadn’t eaten for days, he was thin and weak and had only slept through the intense pain with help from medication.

After the family returned to Ambleside there was little conversation. My mum’s family, the Newsholme’s, were strong in their faith. Grandad Newsholme was Pastor of a large Pentecostal Church in Coventry. They actively believed in miracles. On my father’s side the family was divided. Some were believers, some not. Grandma Stephenson had helped to start the Pentecostal Mission in Elterwater but her husband hadn’t been involved. All four of dad’s younger siblings were believers too. The four older one’s, I was told, weren’t.By ten o’clock only the believers were left in the room. Grandad Newsholme suggested they prayed for healing. So they did. Thirty five miles away, a dying man went to sleep naturally for the first time for two weeks.

The next morning my father sat up in bed – pain free – and startled the young duty nurse. “What’s for breakfast?” He asked. The nurse left the bedside without responding and called the ward sister. He asked her the same question. “What’s for breakfast, I’m starving?””I think you’d better get him something quick.” The sister said to the nurse. That morning he ate a full English breakfast and waited for the puzzled doctor to arrive. He ordered another lumber puncture and then another one.The doctor had reprimanded the lab staff for mixing up the samples because they reported that there was no trace of the infection in my father’s sample. Convinced there was a mistake he ordered the second procedure with the same result. No infection. He concluded in the light of my father’s surprise recovery that it must have been a miracle. The miracle explanation was confirmed when he was told about the impromptu prayer meeting in Ambleside the night before.Within days dad was discharged from hospital and steadily gained strength and weight to be restored to his family. It was 1947. A few months later, in March 1948, he and my mother, Alice, were married in her father’s church in Coventry. I arrived the following summer.

I often reflect on how my existence is due to a miracle of healing two years before I was born and thank God for answered prayer.

The Age of Stupid

Last night I watched The Age of Stupid. Set in the future it has everyone living in the present firmly in its sights. The premise is that we are the only people who can turn the environmental tide and there’s not much time left to do it. Generations before us either didn’t know or act and it will be too late for our children to do it. My grandchildren could face a bleak future if we ignore these warnings.
As I looked at my daily prayer plan this morning I realised that The Earth didn’t feature – anywhere. As a believer in prayer and “doing my bit for the environment” I was surprised with myself for this omission.
To me, prayer is about being willing to work together with God and others to bring answers and solutions to problems. It’s when I align myself with what I believe is God’s purpose that I can then both trust and act.
If you have the chance – perhaps I could urge you to make the opportunity – watch this film and then act in whatever way you find possible.
We (the inhabitants of Earth) have to change things – doing nothing is not an option.