Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Love is...

St.Valentine's Day has come and gone and now it's back to work after a weekend of love! Flowers, chocolates, perfume, gifts, romantic movies, wining and dining were all used to express love. I hope each young man reading this blog treated his young lady well! February 14 is widely celebrated as Saint Valentine's Day, and yet there is a lack of reliable facts known about this saint of love himself. I cannot fill in the blanks for you but in this blog I wish to get you thinking about true love.

The focus of St. Valentine's Day is upon romantic love, but there are various other forms of love. There is the love of things....wealth and material possessions, fame and power. There is the love that family members have for each other. Family love and loyalty often displays the truth in that old saying: 'Blood is thicker than water.' Then, there is that loving care for our fellow human beings. We may not necessarily like or deeply love them but we do not wish them any ill and we will help those in need. But true love goes much deeper than all of these. It is that unconditional, self-sacrificing love that will even love those who seem unlovable. It is love in its purest form and it is often referred to as agape love. It is Divine love. God's love far transcends all other love. We cannot love as God but we should seek to emulate His love in our lives.

The Bible tells us that God is love (1 John 4v16). He does not just love us. He is love. The greatest display of His love is Him sending His Sinless Son Jesus Christ into this world to save us guilty hell-deserving sinners.
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. John 3v16
Christ loved us and gave Himself for us (Ephesians 5v2). This is the pure sacrificial love of Christ. The fruit of the Spirit is love (Galatians 5v22). The Holy Spirit enables us to love with that pure agape love (Romans 5v5). God has commanded us to love the LORD with all our heart, soul, strength and mind and to love our neighbour as ourselves (Luke 10v27). He expects us to love our enemies (Matthew 5v44). If we truly love God we will keep His commandments (John 14v15). Having this pure agape love shows that we are His disciples (John13v35).

Love God's way 1 Corinthians 13

But what is this pure agape love? All of the Bible verses above speak of this agape love but read 1 Corinthians 13 to see how God describes it. This chapter is known as the great love chapter in the Bible. The word 'charity' in the KJV means love. The Greek word is agape. So, this chapter tells us what agape love is like. Think about each of these descriptions of love in relation to your own. Pure agape love....

  1. Love suffers long (very patient). We will be long suffering to those who annoy us, hurt us and wrong us.
  2. Love is kind. We will show simple acts of kindness and speak kind words to those all around us.
  3. Love does not envy. Envy is a very damaging sin that only leads to hurt. Love will have nothing to do with it. We will not envy others because of their possessions, blessings, talents and opportunities in life. Don't have a spirit of sour godliness.
  4. Love does not vaunt itself. We will not parade ourselves, wanting the limelight to show off what we have done to get others to praise us.
  5. Love is not puffed up. We will not be proud and 'big-headed'....not even spiritually proud where we look down on others who have not advanced as far in Christian knowledge.
  6. Love does not behave unseemly. We will not behave rudely or inappropriately to others. This is not referring to having etiquette and a stiff upper lip, so that you cannot have fun and enjoy a good laugh!
  7. Love does not seek her own. We will not be selfish and self-centred or insist on our own way. We will care about the needs of others.
  8. Love is not easily provoked. It is easy to be provoked or irritated with those who are just plain annoying. But true love won't 'loose the rag' quickly.
  9. Love thinks no evil. We will not invent and devise evil. We will not keep storing up memories of wrongs we have suffered or be resentful. Yes, we will try to see the best in people rather than misjudging them for their motives.
  10. Love does not rejoice in iniquity. We will not rejoice in hearing, seeing or doing sinful things. We will not be glad when others fall into sin. We will want the best for others and refuse to colour things against others.
  11. Love rejoices in truth. We will stand for and find joy in truth. We will not delight in lies, slander and gossip.
  12. Love bears all things. We will not give up on people no matter what they have done.
  13. Love believes all things. This doesn't mean we will believe lies or be gullible. We will not believe evil unless the facts demand it. We will choose to believe the best about others.
  14. Love hopes all things. We will confidently face the future, hoping for the best, hoping and trusting in God.
  15. Love endures all things. We will keep on going and never give up no matter what life throws at us.
  16. Love never fails. Love will never end. Genuine pure agape love will melt even the hardest of hearts.

Think about each of these love facts in relation to your own life. How do you measure up to this standard? I don't know about you but I fall far short. But praise God, we are not left alone to try to practise this agape love in our lives. God teaches us how to love one another (1 Thessalonians 4v9). We just need to be willingly to let Him work through us! So as we head into a new week of work, let us endeavour to practise pure agape love. And may we do so for His glory!

And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity. 1 Corinthians 13v13 KJV

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Iron Woman

Yesterday afternoon I was at Craigavon hospital for a venesection. That's simply giving a unit of blood. And as you can see from the photos it's not an experience that I particularly enjoy. Maybe you're thinking that I'm great for donating blood to help those in need of it. Well, what would you think if I told you that my blood is disposed of by burning? It does not go into the blood bank or even be used for research! So, why do I give it? Simple answer: I've inherited a condition known as haemochromatosis and the treatment for it is to give blood.

What is haemochromatosis? Haemochromatosis is very simply an iron overload. You see my body absorbs and stores too much iron. I'm an iron woman! LOL  The excess iron is stored around my joints and organs and over time that causes harm to my joints and organs. If haemochromatosis is left untreated, it can lead to conditions like arthritis, diabetes, liver disorders, heart disease. (Please understand that not everyone who has these conditions has haemochromatosis). If you want a more detailed explanation, Google haemochromatosis, or read this Haemochromatosis Society Leaflet
I like this little video as I think it gives a good overview of haemochromatosis:
What is haemochromatosis? video

How was I diagnosed? I suppose it was about 5 years ago, when I went to the doctor with joint pain and tiredness. My ankle, in particular, would swell and be sore, causing me to limp a bit sometimes. I felt I was just too young to have arthritis or such like. I was tired and thought I must be needing iron so I was taking multivitamins and iron tablets. They didn't cure my tiredness and little did I know that I was only making things worse for myself! The doctor referred me to the rheumatologist at the hospital. I was x-rayed, had blood tests and was referred to the haematologist. In the end, I was told that I had haemochromatosis. I had never heard tell of haemochromatosis before this.

What is the treatment? There is no medication to take for it. For this I am thankful as all medications can have side effects. But every fortnight I went to have a venesection. The idea is that after I give blood, my body will make up new red blood cells by drawing from the iron stored in my body around my joints and organs. At one of my first venesections the haematologist nurse said that they were hoping to get my ferritin level down to about 20. I asked what mine was and she said that it was 2000..!! It took over a year to get my ferritin level down. Now that it is down it needs to be kept down. So every 3-4 months I have simple blood tests done to determine whether or not I need a venesection. If my ferritin level goes above 50, I have to go and give more blood. It's been about 9 months since my previous venesection but my ferritin level was 98 so I needed to get rid of more iron.

What about diet? I just have to be sensible but eat a healthy diet. I am to avoid too much red meat and iron fortified cereals. I'm not to take multivitamins and iron tablets. Vitamin C helps with the absorption of iron in the body. I love fruit and pure fruit juice so I should be careful taking too much of these with meals. However, the tanins in tea help prevent the absorption of iron....just as well that I love tea!

How do I feel now? I'm delighted that I was diagnosed before any major damage was done. I'm not dancing on the rooftops but can still enjoy a good walk. I love a good walk in Peatlands Park but about 2 and half miles is my limit. The fact is, some days my joints are stiffer and sorer than others. One day I could walk with a spring in my step and another day I would limp a bit and find going down stairs difficult. You see, what damage was done cannot be undone but hopefully keeping my iron level under control will help prevent haemochromatosis causing more damage to my joints and organs. However, it is a blessing that my family are supportive and we can even enjoy a joke about it together!

Diagram showing Family Risk of inheriting Haemochromatosis

Let me make it abundantly clear, I have NOT written this blog to get your pity. I do not wish to be cushioned or treated with kid-gloves. I know my limits and try to live within them. I wrote this blog to help raise awareness of haemochromatosis. It's not only men in their 30's or women in their 50's who develop it. It is a condition which is inherited and can show itself at any age. It is also called 'The Celtic Curse' as a higher percentage of people of Celtic origin have it. It may be described as a silent-killer as the symptoms are often treated but the real cause overlooked. Remember the symptoms are not unique to haemochromatosis. If you are concerned that you may have it, talk to your doctor. Routine blood tests do not show you have it. Blood tests showing ferritin levels need to be done. If a family member suffers from it, I advise you to get checked out. You need to have the gene test done to determine if you have inherited the haemochromatosis gene.

To conclude, I wish to thank my good friend Elizabeth Wallace for bringing me for my venesection and for taking the above photos for me.