So I lost speaking, leading, visiting – all went from the diary. I thought I’d be able to catch up with some reading, but that was a major reality check too. I had two piles of books waiting to be brought into hospital, but my wife laughed when she saw them – and she was right. In hospital, even a couple of pages of Tom Clancy was a challenge. On a good day.
I could manage to read a psalm, or a paragraph of the Bible, but that was it.
Writing? Not a chance. Many people have noticed that the blog has gone quiet this year – and the answer is quite simple. When you’re ill, you don’t have the intellectual energy to create. I’ve had many weeks when I couldn’t even reply to emails because of the effort (open email, read email, decide what do say in reply, write reply and send – it’s all too complicated).
The task of writing a book seemed laughably distant.
So early on, even before I knew how much I would have to ditch, I had identified the one thing I knew I wanted to do – for myself, my family, and for our church, and that was to pray. It sounds really pious, but in the end that was what it all reduced to.
Back in January 2015, before chemo really kicked in, I read Tim Keller’s book on prayer, and it was a magnificent help, not least because it opens with the story or a battle with cancer, and being reduced to nothing but praying – which shows how thin one’s prayer life is.
Feeling much better now, I’ve tried to use some of the returning energy to make sure that prayer doesn’t slip back into the murky shadows of a busy ministry life. The church now has a daily prayer focus, which is published in our weekly news email, and also fed through PrayerMate.
Because the story I’ve been forced to reflect on, time and again, is the one of Mary and Martha (Lk. 10:38-42), where Martha is so busy doing things for the Lord, that she has no time to spend with him. I don’t know if she was reading commentaries, planning meetings, booking up personal work, attending leadership conferences or even writing her blog – but they were all distracting her from her Lord. Busyness drove out core business.
And in Acts 6, the apostles are freed for prayer and ministry of the Word; I hear lots of my contemporaries talking about Word ministry; precious few talk about the double emphasis.