Monday, 26 October 2009

What I would have said... given a greater presence of mind.

Yesterday, at the church I have the privilege of helping to lead, we publicly thanked and released one of our fellow elders from the responsibilities of that office.

Craig Mackay has been on the eldership (Christian-speak for leadership team) of Reading Family Church ever since its inception back in Feb 2000. However, since the beginning of the year, he has been on long term sabbatical, caring for his wife who, to all our surprise, back in December 08, was diagnosed with an advanced form of ovarian cancer.

Mercifully, thanks to God, and advances in medical technology, we are optimistic about the possibility of remission, for which we are very grateful. But the road to recovery that they want to travel down is still at best long and at worst not secured yet. So with this in mind we felt it fairest and best to release them as a couple from any future leadership expectation and allow Craig to continue to give himself to caring for his wife and family.

I was one of the people who publicly thanked them. Whilst heart-felt and genuine, the truth is, after a busy week with a trip to France amongst other things, I hadn't given what I was going to say much thought and thus didn't feel I did them justice.

So if I had a second chance it might have gone something like this, (though probably a little shorter)...

Craig and Karena have been models of great kindness to me. I first properly met them when they invited me round to Sunday lunch, not long after I arrived in the Summer of 2004. In a desperate (British) attempt to reciprocate the hospitality, about six months later, I invited them (and their three kids) to lunch.

However, back then I was an even more ignorant bachelor than I am now and didn't think that, whilst ok for adults, maybe a wicked strength barbecue chicken (It had a huge amount of vinegar in. I'm sure it was a misprint!) would not be the best thing to serve up to kids.

Craig happily lapped it up, seemingly oblivious to the comic levels of British politeness being displayed by Karena who, at the opposite end of the table, was trying to persuade the children that this was not worse than the thought of eating their own vomit.

If I am not mistaken, Karena enjoyed it. Whether her enjoyment came from the flavour of the food, the fact that she was grateful for not having had to cook for her tribe that day or from a charitable desire to affirm me in my fledgling attempts at hospitality, I have never dared to ask. The kids, (bless 'em) were left with rice and peas, but at least their delicate stomach linings remained intact and all was forgiven when the banoffee pie appeared with more than enough calories in it to make up for the shortfall in the first course.

This "Kindness-to-the-idiot-bachelor" theme has continued sporadically down the years of our friendship as Craig once offered to burn one of my less flattering and very over-worn t-shirts, (he was serious!)

...I still have the said t-shirt.

But joking apart, once the enjoyment that comes from the memory of shared experiences has been had; (memories like meals, crazily early triathlon races and training, Irish holiday pop-ins, tool borrowing, babysitting, prayer meetings, crying with laughter over our toe-curling mistakes in giving sermons and the like), Craig and Karena remain an outstanding and godly couple whom it is my privilege and joy to know. Their incredible generosity to me and others has been and is such a blessing. I thank God for them not least nearly every time I drive the car that they gave me.

(She may not look like much and the only think she may have in common with a Ferrari is colour, but that little Nissan Micra hasn't let me down yet! Nor does she give any sign of doing so in the near future!)

Their simple love of Jesus, confidence in him and faithful obedience to him, which is on display in their every day lives and even more so since this cancer chapter began; has been and will continue to be a great inspiration to me and many others, I know.

And so I continue to pray for Karena to be healed, but more than this, I pray that just as Jesus has been glorified in them, and continues to be so, that he would also vindicate their trust of him, both now and in the age to come when he is revealed from Heaven.

PS The Sermon from that morning "Rested 4" was excellent. Find it here when it goes up on the website at some point this week.

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