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Pastoral letter to my readers

My dear friends:

Let us all come to the quiet that God gives us in the noise of our lives.

I want to take this opportunity to thank you for faithfully reading my posts. You teach me through your comments more about this journey of faith with all its mystery, beauty and enduring grace.

A dear friend and sister in Christ sent me a beautiful get well card. I was deeply touched by her comments. Here is one of them.

Joy is not in our circumstances. It resides solely and completely in our God.

My dear friends, many of you have written to me about the difficulty of your circumstances. God hears your private tears no one else may see. Your Lord understands your fear. He feels your sorrow. He hears your pain both spoken and unspoken. My wife, Karen, and I lift all of you up before God’s throne of amazing grace. May our Lord guide and bless you as you go through your times of trial.

James says that we can show a pure kind of joy when we are going through a rough time. He says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:2-4, NIV).

What does James means when he says we should show a pure joy in the difficult experiences of our life? In William Barclay’s Daily Study Bible, he offers this insightful perspective.

Here is a great and uplifting thought. Hort writes: “The Christian must expect to be jostled by trials on the Christian way.” All kinds of experiences will come to us. There will be the test of the sorrows and the disappointments which seek to take our faith away. There will be the test of the seductions which seek to lure us from the right way. There will be the tests of the dangers, the sacrifices, the unpopularity which the Christian way must so often involve. But they are not meant to make us fall; they are meant to make us soar. They are not meant to defeat us; they are meant to be defeated. They are not meant to make us weaker; they are meant to make us stronger. Therefore we should not bemoan them; we should rejoice in them. The Christian is like the athlete. The heavier the course of training he undergoes, the more he is glad, because he knows that it is fitting him all the better for victorious effort. As Browning said, we must “welcome each rebuff that turns earth’s smoothness rough,” for every hard thing is another step on the upward way.

Barclay says that the process of testing referred to uses the Greek word dokimion. Quoting from Barclay:

It is an interesting word. It is the word for sterling coinage, for money which is genuine and unalloyed. The aim of testing is to purge us of all impurity.

If we meet this testing in the right way, it will produce unswerving constancy (or steadfastness as the Revised Standard Version translates it). The word is hupomone (Greek #5281), which the King James Version translates as patience; but patience is far too passive. Hupomone (Greek #5281) is not simply the ability to bear things; it is the ability to turn them to greatness and to glory. The thing which amazed the heathen in the centuries of persecution was that the martyrs did not die grimly, they died singing. One smiled in the flames; they asked him what he found to smile at there. “I saw the glory of God,” he said, “and was glad.” Hupomone (Greek #5281) is the quality which makes a man able, not simply to suffer things, but to vanquish them. The effect of testing rightly borne is strength to bear still more and to conquer in still harder battles.

Karen and I are going through our own testing experience. I have a rare auto immune condition called mastocytosis that is flaring up. It simply means my mast cells (cells as part of my immune system and in my organs and tissues) are acting like allergy on steroids. It’s much more complex than that. Suffice to say that as it is an auto immune disorder, my body is attacking itself.

My family doctor and neurologist are making a referral to Bridgepoint Health Care Centre in Toronto. They deal with Mr. Rare and Mrs. Rare. My doctor I had in Toronto says that one day there will be a medical encyclopaedia with the name Kevin Osborne. Next to that name will be: see all rare hard to define conditions.

No one really knows how many people in the world have this awful disease. In the UK estimates are 1 in 150,000 for systemic mastocytosis and in the United States 200,000 people or less, since it is classed as an orphan disease  These are diseases that affect fewer than 200,000 people. There is no known cure for the condition. With proper management many people go on to have productive lives. Unfortunately, in many people it also means a life filled with endless medical challenges. Yet, even those people can make a contribution as they shine God’s light of hope as they struggle.

Sadly, many people who have this disorder experience judgement from some doctors and even specialists in the medical community, who have no knowledge of mastocytosis. Doctors have practised psychiatry without a licence on me. That which they don’t know ergo does not exist. Thankfully, I also have doctors who acknowledge that I have this condition. They help me as I deal with its challenges to Karen’s and my life. Symptoms vary in severity from skin rashes and digestive problems to central nervous system damage, neurological problems, anaphylaxis and respiratory failure.

God is allowing this condition for His Kingdom purposes. I am seeking by His abiding grace to be one of my Lord’s shining lights of hope and a love that gives without reservation. I don’t know what the future will hold for Karen and I, but we know and believe that God does have a future for us, as He has for all of you.

In thinking and praying about this testing experience James and William Barclay refer to, I offer you this poem I wrote.

Faith in a Cloud

When your life is a cloudy sky

And you ask your Lord the reason why

When you’re feeling sick and blue

And you don’t know what to do

Even if it is hard to do

Sing a song of love to God so true

It will comfort you in your sorrow

Help you see a brighter tomorrow

Look beyond the clouds of doubt

That’s what faith is all about

The testing of your faith this will do

Develop Christ-like character in you

When your hope is low

And you’re attacked by the foe

Share your pain with God and those you know

Your Lord will turn your grey skies to blue

The blue which is the purifying of your heart

So you can say to all you know

Faith in a cloud is always the best way to go

The peace and comfort of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.