Tuesday, July 22, 2014
It tells you the route that brought you where you are today.
It warns you of the mistakes and errors that others, wiser than you, made.
It inspires you with stories of heroism shown by people in worse circumstances than you.
And the history of the church is especially God's Story.
Dr Brian Cosby is pastor of Wayside Presbyterian Church in Tennessee, and he has sketched out this little survey of Church History for students.
Here we hit our first snag. British people will think the book is aimed at university students, at kids of 18 - 21. If the book is aimed at university students of age 18 - 21, then I suggest it is aimed a bit low. But high school kids would appreciate the level of Dr Cosby's approach.
The book is the product of a pair of theologically safe hands. You can generally see where the author is coming from in his treatment of the reformation, of the puritan period, of Christianity in the New World, etc. On the other hand the Anabaptists get one sketchy paragraph and the twentieth century is skimmed over very quickly. Also it's very centred on Europe and the USA. We don't get anything about the faith in China or in the Middle East. North Africa disappears after Augustine. For information about the Missionary Movement and the growth of the church in the southern hemisphere the student will need to look elsewhere.
What the book does, however, it does pretty well. I would suggest that rather than it being a history of the church, really, it is a history of the theological roots of the reformed churches today.
There are some clangers due perhaps to sloppy editing - for example I googled "ad fonts" just in case, and got some fascinating information about typefaces, rather than the renaissance return to the sources, ad fontes.
And is it true that the Western Church adopted latin rather than greek because the latin language was not tainted by its use by the Roman persecutors, who spoke greek? I always thought that it reflected the historical use of the languages, greek in the eastern empire following the conquests of Alexander the Great, and latin in the western empire following the conquests of Caesar. Google and Wikipedia didn't help me and after all, what do I know? Gentle reader, can you help?
I enjoyed the book, and it could be useful for kids in their late teens to give them a quick overview of the road that got us where we are. But I would want them to move on to something more substantial and more thorough pretty quickly.
I received a review copy of God's Story free of charge from Cross Focused Reviews. I was not required to write a positive review.
Here's a video promoting the book :
Sunday, July 20, 2014
Some of her friends from Holland were visiting.
They came into the bookshop earlier that day, which was great.
The Dutchies and Daveys evening was spent in the usual European high-jinks, including :
: Making those wristbands out of rubber bands, you know the things...
: Trying to work out how to make a Dutch "r", by vibrating something deep in your throat that I am sure does not exist. Catrin is a natural at this.
: The "Sing a song that has this word in it" challenge. We failed on scissors. (There is a Dutch song about the dentist, would you believe...)
Then this morning, by unhappy coincidence, I discovered that some person or persons unknown in Germany and in Holland has been accessing my Hotmail account.
I have now set up two-step verification and a password SO ENCRYPTED that even I don't know it.
Saturday, July 19, 2014
But météofrance forecast a nasty storm, so they cancelled it.
(no storm came)
Then last night was the first night of the reenactment of the battle of Castillon, which ended the Hundred Years' War and returned Aquitaine to French rule. Also various open air music concerts were planned.
But météofrance forecast a nasty storm, so they cancelled it.
(no storm came)
This time we did have some brief downpours of rain and thunder rumbled a bit. But nothing that would make you batten down the hatches or cancel your stuff.
I hope météofrance doesn't swing the other way, though!
Friday, July 18, 2014
But her camera is a bit... well... she could do better.
So she's been saving up. We said we'd pay half and so on.
So the other day we started looking seriously at what might suit her. We looked at websites and videos done by people who make videos.
Some of them - well they say "An inexpensive set-up" and wave this massive device at you that would cost thousands.
One lady said "I use my iPhone."
One person pointed out that for singing the important thing is to capture the voice well with an external mike, so that set us on a more helpful quest. So off to the Fnac we went to hunt for cameras that take an external mike.
I'd been fancying a Lumix FZ200 for her, really because I'd like one myself, except it's too big so an LX7 would be the best for me, but the lens on the FZ200 is a marvel... Our trip to the Fnac confirmed that it has an external mike socket and we mugged up on microphones, too. We didn't have enough money saved up, but we'd get there...
Then on the way out of the Fnac they gave us a magazine all about photography and cameras and I saw another beast, the Canon Eos M, at a very reasonable price. And it has an external mike socket.
I mugged up on it. It got bad reviews because of its slow autofocus, but they fixed that with a firmware update. I looked on the Fnac website and, yes, it was available at Bordeaux.
AND... there was an offer where if you bought gift vouchers in advance they would add 25% to their value.
Which means getting 25% off.
Then you use the vouchers to buy whatever - in this instance, Catrin's camera.
Consultations on every hand. Catrin was happy. Fnac staff assured me it was right and it would work.
Well I bought the vouchers.
Waited till they were credited to my Fnac card.
Went into Bordeaux having printed off my account details showing the vouchers.
Fretted and prayed all the way - these things rarely work as you think and you often have to rant in the shop... :-(
Saw the same lady as yesterday in the camera department. Thanks !
She remembered me. Thanks again!
She remembered what I wanted to do. Many thanks!
She sorted it out and lo and behold off I walked with the camera at 25% off an already very good price!
I said, "Vous savez, je pensais que ça n'allait pas marcher, mais voilà, sans même râler!" (you know, I didn't think that would work, but there you are, without even having to rant)
She laughed and said, "Ouais, toujours souriante!" (yes, smiling all the way)
Bravo Fnac and bravo lady in the camera department.
Now we need to buy a microphone...
At lunchtime I came out of the nice, cool, stone-built bookshop into the heat of the afternoon sun on the hottest day of the year so far, 38°C.
When it's 38°C in Bordeaux it's a bit like when you check the barbecue to see if it's nice and hot.
The sun beats down at you mercilessly and you need to drink lots of water and seek the shade.
Everyone walks very slowly. Very slowly indeed.
Thankfully there were nice breezes, but still the side facing the sun was getting nicely cooked.
I had an errand to run in town, then home on the nice air-conditioned tram!
Thursday, July 17, 2014
Another thing that you can"t help but notice is the number of Ukrainian families seeking asylum in France.
Youngish parents, one family with 6 little children, all sat in a row in the préfecture. Imagine!
I remember a conversation with one of the church leaders of the congregation where I had preached. He criticised another denomination because they had lost the truth, "gone rotten from the bottom up" because of their independency and democratic church government. "Our system kept the church pure", he said.
I thought, 'You don't get out much or go to your denominational meetings, do you?', but I listened politely, treasured up what he said and pondered it in my heart.
His answer to decline was having the right structure.
Even more years ago I was very keen on a strong independency myself. "Groups of churches go down the Swannee", I would say, "keep pure, keep keen, keep out".
Trouble is that individual churches go down the Swannee, too, in all sorts of ways.
I read stuff now that says, "A confession of faith! Otherwise you'll go down the Swannee."
Or "Proper liturgy" or "simple dependence on the means of grace" or "expository preaching" or "seminary-trained pastors"... well the list goes on.
A robust confession of faith, good Biblical structures, expository preaching, simple dependence on the means of grace, strong, qualified leaders, well-trained pastors, expository preaching,
All these things are very important indeed.
But none of them works apart from the grace of God.
Nothing works, apart from the gracious influences of the Spirit of God.
Only he makes things grow and keeps things alive.
Let's pray, folks.
Tuesday, July 15, 2014
Sometimes I try and encourage them to go to a hairdresser.
Pat likes to go to a stylist now, but the kids still prefer me to do their hair.
But I was a bit daunted when Catrin said she wanted me to cut her a fringe.
I resisted for a long time.
She found a video on Youtube showing how to do it.
My resistance weakened.
I found another video.
This morning my resistance crumbled.
So she has a fringe. And she looks fabulous.
Sunday, July 13, 2014
In Bordeaux there are the Firemen's Dances tonight from 8pm to, I think, 3am.
Then tomorrow evening the military parade complete with parachutists and alphajets,
followed by fireworks.
In Pessac there is the 14 juillet extravaganza.
From 16h tomorrow the park opposite our house gets turned into a fair from the year 1900.
Everyone is invited to come dressed up. (I'll wear a cap and braces)
There'll be period burger stands and crepe-mongers.
There'll be a méchoui - a spit-roasted lamb stuffed with cous-cous.
There'll be singing and dancing and giant wooden games.
There'll be fireworks at the end of the evening.
Hmm.. Bordeaux or Pessac?
Saturday, July 12, 2014
Then their celebrations continue at the church in Auros at 4, but we're not going to that.
Auros is about 30 mins by car outside Bordeaux.
We were offered a loan of a car, but by then I'd been asked to preach for the Chinese group.
So at 6 I'll have the joy of preaching for the Chinese.
Last time was on the Trinity.
This time will be on Jesus, his person and his work.
You never know.
All went quiet just after 10.
Then "Mum, come here..."
Then all went quiet again.
Then the silence grew deeper and more ominous...
Catrin had passed all her exams, with
a very respectable 15/20 in Science,
14/20 in Geography and History,
but 11/20 in français écrit
and 10/20 in français oral.
That was the first silence.
The deeper and more ominous silence was as she began to hear from her friends.
Some had got 7. Some had got 5.
7 is bad. 5 is the pits.
Some few had done better.
Still, she's accumulated 20 or 21 points towards her bac next year,
though it seems that some of her fellow students are starting with a negative score.
Friday, July 11, 2014
Thursday, July 10, 2014
1) the charming Italian lady in the office whose English was better than her French, which meant I had to correct her spelling a bit.
2) the sheer glory of our friends' national calendar. It is NOT the Islamic calendar. It is another lunar calendar in which we are in the year 1393. This meant that working out the parents' and siblings' dates of birth was an exercise in complicated mental calculations. I KNEW algebra would be useful one day.
3) the application to join the French health scheme, a thick wedge of documents sealed in a plain brown envelope accompanied by colour photocopied instructions to :
1. take bus 15 direction Les Aubiers,
2. alight at Place de l'Europe,
3. find the tall building in the photograph, indicated on the map, then
4. enter, ascend to the second floor then
5. place the plain brown envelope into the hole in the wall pictured in the further photograph.
We actually laughed, but it was not a joke.
Wednesday, July 09, 2014
Tuesday, July 08, 2014
Now he's married to a super godly girl, and they have a little boy who is growing up fast. They are looking for a church, which is not so easy when you're in a Chinese city of 10 million people. It was an encouragement to me to work with these Chinese lads.
It's essentially the story of Reformed churches in China (Reformed in this context meaning presbyterian) Bruce Baugus is the editor, with different authors for the different chapter, the book is organised into four parts :
1) The Story of Presbyterian Missions in China
2) Presbyterianism in China today
3) Challenges and opportunities in China today
4) Chinese appropriation of the Reformed faith
I don't know of that sounds all that appetising to you. What if I tell you that along the way you'll read discussions of :
how to conduct overseas mission such that strong indigenous churches result,
how to face up to doctrinal shift in ministerial training,
how to pastor in today's connected mega-cities,
the practical implications of covenant theology in church and family life,
ministry in times of social upheaval
as well as a detailed exegesis of Acts 15 ?
It really is a most stimulating book and I wholeheartedly recommend it. If you care about China, if you care about mission or if you care about the church, this book is for you.
I received the book free of charge from Cross-Focused Media in return for a review. I was not required to write a positive review.
Monday, July 07, 2014
So 7:30 found me haring off to the bus stop for the 7:41 bleary-eyed bus to Bordeaux.
8:25 we were in place. 8:30 the doors opened and we were in line.
Then sat waiting in the reception area.
I fingered the tricolour sitting proudly in the corner by my seat.
Its bold colours were taken up by the reception area -
bright blue doors
bright red desk (this was a bit of an eyesore, frankly).
But it did get the message across. This was not Kansas, either, Toto.
A gentleman came in and called out the name of our friends.
We followed him by a circuitous path to an office where he entered all their details on computer.
Voilà. By 10am I was back home, making and answering phone calls
and sending out an email with details of the meeting
for the little team that is taking over from next week.
Can you imagine it. A trip to the OFII and you don't end up carrying home a bottle!
Sunday, July 06, 2014
No problem - we'll use the amazing, magic, electric barbecue.
Plug it in. It heats up.
POP. The electricity trips.
Unplug it. It still trips.
OK... Let's get the Davey nose on the job.
In the kitchen there's that familiar smell of hot wires...
Unplug the kettle, the coffee machine and the oven.
Turn on the electrics. Fine.
Turn on the barbecue. Fine.
"I think it's the kettle". That's bad news, eh?
So we put the kettle to one side and plug everything back in.
An hour later.
POP. The electricity trips.
Well it isn't the kettle. Get the Davey nose on the job again.
Oh dear. It's the oven...
Still - at least it's not the kettle! Let's get some tea made.
UPDATE : it tripped again, so it isn't the over either. Perhaps it's the coffee machine.
We'll leave the lot unplugged overnight and try it in the morning.
UPDATE : finally tracked it down to the extension lead the kettle and oven were plugged into. :-D
Friday, July 04, 2014
Well the boy done good. He got an average of almost 70%, buoyed up by 100% in his three English exams, but sustained by good marks in Geography, Commerce etc.
He ends up with a Bac Pro Commerce Admis avec Mention Assez Bien.
Bravo, fiston. Tomorrow he starts his summer job at smart togs in Bordeaux.
Wednesday, July 02, 2014
The lady at the OFII was charming. She said, "You'll have to come back next week."
A bit of discussion uncovered the reason why. All the relevant staff were at Paris for meetings.
So there we are. Rendez-vous next Monday, 8h30 at the OFII.
Tuesday, July 01, 2014
Monday, June 30, 2014
My favourite IP hasn't preached on that verse, but he has preached on how to not have a troubled heart.
Another preferred chappie went on at length about coronary heart disease.
Saturday, June 28, 2014
Just inside the nearer gate there is a plum tree. In the park. A communal, civic plum tree.
And in June the little, dark purple plums are soft and sweet and juicy and delicious.
I walk round the tree and take only those plums that are just about ready to drop. I never pull, I never twist, I just give a gentle tweak and if the plum comes away then its abscission layer is ready and it's ripe. Otherwise leave it. It will be ready to come tomorrow.
And so every time I catch the number 4 or 44 bus the experience is sweet.
"Ah. Nothing." And usually Spurgeon hadn't either.
OK. No help there.
Thursday, June 26, 2014
I like the owners and I went in there thinking that maybe they would have something I have found nowhere else.
Wednesday, June 25, 2014
Tuesday, June 24, 2014
"Dear Life" is a book of short stories from Alice Munro, Nobel prize winner, who a kind of specialist. I really like short stories because of the discipline and artistry necessary to encapsulate a life, a landscape, history, into just a few pages. Incidentally, if you can read in French then Philippe Delerm is great for this. He aims to capture an impression or a moment, sometimes in just three pages.
I'll be honest, I almost gave up on this book. The first story in the book centres on a casual sexual encounter on a train, the next three stories also have significant moments of sex and I began to tire of the book.
After the book group meeting I thought again and decided to plough on with the stories, and I'm glad I did.
Munro's stories are set in Canada. It's important for the stories because you need to understand that they're set in a big country, sparsely populated, with small towns where everyone knows each other. This is not city life. And cars, trucks and trains are important in the stories.
The stories feature people who are shaped, often damaged by their past. Sometimes you know what happened. Sometimes you just conjecture. Different people come to different conclusions about the before and after of the stories.
The stories are about how people cope with each other, how angular people fit together, how damaged people live with each other's sharp edges.
You don't often get resolution. Apparently, we are told, there is always a moment of epiphany, when someone in the story realises what's going on. OK. Maybe. Again, apparently, we are told, people need to read one story a day, then ponder it - a bit like daily readings. I didn't. I finished one story, then ploughed on...
I enjoyed the stories, once I got past those first four, and they encouraged me to think of reading more short stories.
Monday, June 23, 2014
Saturday, June 21, 2014
Afterwards home for pancakes for lunch, then work on the order of service for tomorrow.
Then into town for my annual fix of bandas.
To the Porte Cailhau where our friends' jazz band was playing.
Then to Place Saint-Projet where there was first a pipes band, then Los Téoporos, one of my favourite bandas. They're medical students so they're absolutely barking mad. It's the stress.
They were followed by Lesbogoss from Bègles, who were quite disappointing. They played well, in tune and in time. What's the fun of that?
Then to Pessac, which was buzzing', to hear les Brasseurs de Vent, our own Pessac Banda.
All through my Christian experience I have hugely appreciated the preaching and writing of Don Carson. Especially his preaching. For me the fact that Don Carson is preaching at a conference is a good reason to attend.
I have noticed certain ... let's say anomalies, irregularities... over the years. Not with Don's preaching. He maintains his exegetical thoroughness, his concern to exalt Christ, his love for his hearers with a consistency to which I aspire sincerely.
No, the anomalies and irregularities have been evident in the circumstances surrounding Don's messages. Especially the times of worship. Let me explain.
An anomaly. I don't know what else to call it, if not a glaring clash. In a conference a few years ago Don spoke on the need for A Biblical Evangelical Spirituality. I think it was that very morning that the group leading the worship announced that all the songs that morning would be accompanied by percussion alone, especially the djembe, which in Africa is highly prized for its healing qualities and greatly used by Christian healers, too.
Um, someone pinch me, please.
An irregularity. On our arrival in France we quickly learned one of the favourite praise songs in our churches. It sets words from Revelation 15 : 3 - 4 to a lively tune in broadly hebrew style. The words are followed by a chorus on "laï, laï, laï" which mounts chromatically. You sing "laï" typically 82 times, depending on the number of times the chorus is repeated. So far so good.
But at one conference where Don was about to speak the music group omitted the verse and just had us sing "Laï laï laï".
Don is a gentleman. His tact and politeness are admirable. He is a model of restraint and control.
But all the same I would LOVE to know what he thought and to hear his views on these things.
Well read Terry Johnson and you'll soon know what he would say! This book is a call to serious reflection on the manner, style, concern, intent and content of our worship. Terry wants to call us back.
Back to a serious approach to worship.
Back to a word-centered approach to worship.
Back to a simple approach to worship.
Back to a Spirit-dependent approach to worship.
It's extremely closely argued. You'll need to read the book slowly, because he does sweeping historical surveys in a small number of pages.
It's very focused on a particular liturgical approach to worship. Not necessarily with set words, but with a certain form and structure nevertheless.
It's strongly paedobaptist, as you'd expect. Baptist friends will not be in total agreement with his historical survey.
There are big bibliographies, notes and references at the back of the book which would make it a useful reference work for students at reformed seminaries.
It would also be a useful book for people wanting to work out the implications of their newly found calvinistic convictions for worship.
It deserves to be read, studied, considered and evaluated widely and deeply.
A review copy in Kindle format was supplied free of charge by Cross Focused Reviews. I was not required to give a positive review.
Oh yes, and a local grey cat has started visiting us each day. We've known her for a long time, but she's always been quite timid. Now she's appropriated the house and pops in to survey all that of which she is master.
Wednesday, June 18, 2014
Then Pat and I had three hours to get ready to leave for the Maison de la Bible together.
I had given myself the goal of getting the wifi working, and it turned out that it had been working all along. With a triumph of teamwork, Catherine knew where to look, I knew what to look for, I found the wifi password, connected, checked it all worked and stuck a notice with the password on the noticeboard.
We had a few friendly and charming customers, gave our friendly beggar a cup of coffee and then Catrin came fresh from her exam and Gwilym arrived seconds later. I scuttled off to get celebration fish and chips from the chippie, though Pat and I chose salad instead of chips.
Then the family set off for home while I went off with our refugees for a Bible study. I planned to do the study in the Town Hall Gardens, but they were closed because of the demonstrations being held by the "intermittents de spectacle", showbiz people.
So we toddled off to the big shiny Meriadeck shopping centre where just outside the've set up Meriadeck Plage, with deck chairs, games and jaunty music. In a quiet corner we prayed and read and studied John 1:1-18 together using our different Bible translations and the excellent 1-2-1 study booklets.
Then a cup of coffee in La Brioche Dorée, goodbye to my foreign friends, and off to the music school to sign Catrin up for next year.
Then home in true Blyton fashion. Tired but happy.
Oh yes, and I found my sunglasses which I had mislaid!
As I tottered home from the music school I thought about our happy exchange in John 1 and then thought, "but it's nothing. it's so insignificant. it's like hacking away at Ben Nevis with a toffee hammer."
Yes, but who cares. All big things are made up of lots of small things, and anyway, what do mustard trees grow from, or mighty oaks?
Tuesday, June 17, 2014
Monday, June 16, 2014
People leave Bordeaux in droves, that's what happens.
So far we have said goodbye to a sizeable proportion of our International Church regulars.
Students return to the land whence they came.
Ex-patriates return to the patrie to become in-patriates for the summer.
Exams, that what happens.
Gwilym has French and History today.
Catrin has her first exam Wednesday.
Picnics and barbecues, that's what happens.
So after the International Service we went down onto the quays for a picnic.
Some of my lettuce got blown away, but not much, and it was a very happy time together.
Fete de la musique, that's what happens.
Next Saturday is fête de la musique.
Conceived to incite the French to get their fiddles out of the attic and get playing again, it's turned into a festival of street music in Bordeaux and of well-organised free concerts in Pessac.
We usually spend the day in Pessac charging from square to square to hear fife bands, accordion groups, big bands, heavy metal bands, bandas, choirs and the orchestra of the schools of music playing in the church.
This year we plan to go into Bordeaux. We'll see. We may chicken out.
The FdlM does have it's down side. It's the date when in the late evening you're most likely to see drunks around, though public drunkenness has been on the rise over the past few years, I think.
But my most lasting memory of fête de la musique is of the Brasseurs de Vent playing in the Place de la République in Pessac and the whole square dancing the madison together.
Saturday, June 14, 2014
I notice big differences in timbre, projection, phrasing, rubato, general musicality.
Our GA was a quiet affair at Villenave, followed by a barbecue in the garden of the church/manse.
The association is working very well, the shop is doing well, the volunteers work together well, we are aware of God blessing on the shop and its testimony.
At the same time it isn't easy to find volunteers or even to find respresentatives from the churches to serve on the committee of the shop. The load is carried largely by our friends from the brethren assembly, and all power to them for all they do. They're very willing and keen to welcome others onto the team, however. Please pray for this while thanking God for all he has done.
Now that may be skewed because it's likely that single people use public transport more than married people do...
However, the statistics tell us that our cities are lonely places where most people live alone, and many are single parents in charge of children. The focus group bore this out.