Sunday, December 30, 2007
Tomorrow we have our New Year's Eve Church Pie Social, with games and animations. We Daveys are organising it (!) and we're doing rice and assorted sludge §, including something called la daube. This seems to be a common name for boeuf bourguignon. Rice and sludge has been done before so it should be OK. We don't have much salad promised but I don't think that will be a huge problem.
Pat, meanwhile, has a grave cold. French people take medicine for colds. Here's the conversation I had when I had my serious cold the other day...
Oh, it's just a cold.
Have you been to the doctor ?
What ? For a cold ? Of course not. We never treat colds. In fact we say that if you treat a cold it will last a week, if you don't it will last seven days.
But that's the same... oh.. But there are very good remedies for cold, and if you don't treat a cold you can have serious complications...
Anyway, Pat has been urged to get something called L52. And if you feel a bit frantic, apparently L72 is a good idea... hmmm.
§ incidentally, my favourite cookbook, the name of which escapes me ¤, recommends making and freezing vast quantities of basic slag, which is composed of minced beef, tomatoes, tomato paste/ketchup, garlic and onions. To this you add beans and chilli paste to make a chili, basil and mushrooms to make bolognaise, mashed potato and gravy granules to make cottage pie, etc. etc.
¤ It is so long since I looked at a cookbook.
Saturday, December 29, 2007
Friday, December 28, 2007
It is very tempting to imagine that incomprehensible and profound are almost synonyms.
Of course, they are not.
A challenge for every Christian communicator is to take that which is difficult to understand and explain it simply. Anyone can take what is simple and make it difficult to understand. Nobody excelled at this more than the great Stanley Unwin.
What a great list. And look what it tells us :
1) technology is a good servant but a bad master. People don't want to get mastered by facebook, for example.
2) technology should make life more human, not less. People want to keep in touch, rejoice together, weep together.
3) technology should be as democratic and accessible as possible. The expensive iPhone doesn't figure, but the free-of-charge facebook and web applications are favourites.
4) and there's more yet to achieve - wireless power delivery. The future's electric, isn't it !
Thursday, December 27, 2007
I'm preaching on Sunday ( Ephesians 1 : 15 - 16, probably ! ) and we are spending some time with some of the church folk, too, while they are more available - off work, that is.
It's a good opportunity for reading, too. John Stott's The incomparable Christ and Michael Crichton's Extrème urgence.
Why I believe in the Virgin Birth, by Peter Elwood
There has been much discussion recently as to whether or not the virgin birth of Jesus Christ is a traditional belief of the Christian Church, and as to whether or not it is a necessary belief for the Christian. Little attention seems to have been paid to the relevant historical documents and very few letters or statements in the controversy have claimed support, or even draw attention to, the Biblical record. As a scientist I have little concern for tradition, but I am enormously interested in evidence.
Before one looks for evidence for the Virgin Birth, it is pertinent to consider the nature of the evidence one has for one's own parentage. Little reflection is needed to realise that in the nature of things one can never have proof. Even today, with blood grouping and other technologies, at best a putative parent can only be excluded, never proved. Ultimately the only possible evidence which can relate to conception is the testimony of those concerned, though one can of course draw inferences from the behaviour of those who claim to have been involved as this may give clues to the dependability or otherwise of their testimony. What all this means is that while I can never have absolute proof of my own parentage, I can evaluate the testimony of my parents and their behaviour and I can judge their truthfulness with regard to other matters which have been open to checking.
One might also query why, in a matter which has come under such debate, the Biblical record makes so few references to the conception of Jesus. It could be pointed out of course that we do in fact have far more details than is the case with almost any other figure in history.
At the same time, one must accept that even today with our liberated attitudes, details about conception are intensely personal and few talk openly about such a matter. Furthermore, in the case of Mary, she was probably alive during the time when the New Testament gospels and letters were written and it is natural that the writers should avoid doing anything which might expose her to the public attention and curiosity.
Add to this the fact that the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus was amenable to investigation and there were many who claimed to be witnesses, and it is clear why the early Church stressed and preached His resurrection as the best evidence for His uniqueness, rather than His birth.
One's attitude to the claim that Jesus Christ came by virgin birth must therefore depend on how one regards the evidence recorded in the first chapters of Matthew and Luke. The second of these is crucial, and as a doctor I find it somewhat appropriate that it was to Luke, a physician, that Mary confided her story. Luke claims to have made careful inquiries and his account deserves very careful study.
In the early part of Luke's first chapter, Zacharias and Elizabeth are presented. These were an elderly, childless and intensely religious couple. In fact, they are presented as somewhat austere, just about the last couple to whom a young girl would go for help were she in any trouble. Furthermore, it was a very special time for Zacharias as he had been selected to perform certain duties in the temple, a privilege which probably at most came to a man only once in his life-time. In the middle of all this,
The story now shifts to Mary, a young girl; related to
However, among the predictions by the angel, one fact was given. “Your cousin Elizabeth is six months pregnant.” This was the sole piece of factual evidence within the message Mary attributed to her vision. Luke records that Mary immediately went “with haste” on the long journey to see her cousin, no doubt in a state of considerable agitation and distress at what she had been told.
This sudden decision by Mary to go and see her elderly, childless, religious cousin is of great interest. The account of
The account ends with the somewhat prosaic statement that after a stay of three months with Elizabeth Mary returned home. The delay was no doubt occasioned by Mary’s need to obtain unequivocal evidence of her pregnancy, and perhaps to give time for her to be strengthened sufficiently to enable her to return to the gossip and questions she would have to face in her home town, and the inevitable disbelief of Joseph.
However, Luke, again in his medical concern for the stages of pregnancy, mentions in passing that it was after Mary’s three-month stay that
Of course, one has to face the possibility, suggested by some theologians, that the virgin birth was a story devised by the early Church. But what an extraordinary story for the early disciples, ridiculed and persecuted as they were, to devise. As far as is known, there was no belief among the Jews that their Messiah would come by virgin birth, so there was no expectation which the early Church might have wished to fulfil. There is no hint in the records of any irregular behaviour by Joseph, so there was no need for a pre-marital conception to be covered up. Indeed, Matthew’s record portrays Joseph, when he learned of his fiancée’s state, as having reacted in a perfectly natural way to what he must have taken, at least at first, as evidence of unfaithfulness, and he determined to dissolve his engagement.
One wonders therefore is the theologians who suggest that the story is a “gloss” devised by the early Church have really thought through the full implications of their suggestion. That Joseph was not involved seems certain, so the suggestion seems to leave no alternative explanation other than some grossly irregular behaviour on Mary’s part. Do our theologians really want to have a part in such a suggestion? Indeed, further implications follow because it is necessary to suppose that Luke and Matthew, and perhaps others, all of whom taught in the name of absolute truth and urged men to be prepared to die for the truth, were themselves perpetrators of deliberate deceit. The suggestion founders on an unacceptable moral inconsistency.
The fact of the virgin birth is totally consistent with the central Christian claim that Jesus is God incarnate, and is fully consistent with the other evidence of his deity.
A belief in the virgin birth does not, however, necessitate blind faith on the part of the believer: there is compelling evidence in the written records.
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
God Centered Biblical Interpretation
The Returning King: A Guide to the Book of Revelation
Redeeming Science: A God-Centered Approach
Tuesday, December 25, 2007
The other rats (Ratty and Black Beauty) are unwell with large and growing tumours, though they seem quite at ease, relaxed and free from pain. Patch was simply a little arthritic in his back legs, but this morning we found him dead in the bottom of his cage.
He was a happy, friendly, affectionate rat, the least ratty rat you could ever meet. He lived a happy and contented life and helped Catrin as she settled into her new country. He left his mother (Ratty) and sister (Black Beauty).
Monday, December 24, 2007
Born to raise the sons of earth..
born to give the second birth...
Sunday, December 23, 2007
We had a happy time with tract distribution and then in the English class, though this week for the first time I had Fiona's group - so we worked on "the thing", and on tongue twisters, and on the entire conjugation of the present tense in regular English verbs (You must pronounce the s on "he /she/it walks"), and on reading aloud and I suggested they sing along to cds.
But I have been bitten in the eye by a mosquito again. Brutes ! Me left eye again, and it is all puffy and swollen. I didn't have time to go to the doctor, so I've put some anti-histamine cream on it, but I think it will just take time to go down again.
To begin with I wasn't sure it was a bite - I wondered if it was an allergic reaction, but I am told that there are still mosquitos around even now, after a week of hard frosts !
I hate things like this because it isn't painful or dangerous, but it is obvious so it attracts people's sympathy and concern quite disproportionately. Oh well...
Saturday, December 22, 2007
Ecoutez le chant des anges
Vient d'éclater dans les airs,
Joignons aussi nos louanges
A leurs sublimes concerts:
Gloire à Dieu! Paix sur terre,
Aujourd'hui Christ est né
Jésus s'est fait notre frère,
Un Sauveur nous est donné.
Son palais est une étable,
Une crèche est son berceau
Et pourtant, c'est l'admirable
C'est le fils du Dieu très haut.
Il vient à nous débonnaire
Et de Grâce couronnée.
Jésus s'est fait notre frère,
Un Sauveur nous est donné.
Avec vous, bergers et mages,
Aux pieds de notre Seigneur,
Nous déposons nos hommages,
Nous lui donnons notre cœur.
Tout son peuple sur la terre
Dit, avec nous prosterné;
Jésus s'est fait notre frère,
Un Sauveur nous est donné.
Friday, December 21, 2007
We were living in a condemned house in what was known as Tintown on the Aston Hill. The house was condemned because of a Welsh Office plan to widen the road that ran about 50 yards from the house.
It was a tiny house - two tiny bedrooms, one of which served as my office. The bedrooms were about 9 foot square. With our bed, two small wardrobes and two chests of drawers stacked one on top of the other when you came into the room you had to walk sideways to get through.
And Pat was expecting Gwilym. When he was born we were negotiating to move house to Shotton Lane. He was born on Christmas Eve at about 4am (if I remember rightly). We brought him home in a carry cot and put the carry cot on top of the two stacked chests of drawers. We had to move before he grew out of his carry cot ! We moved on 31 January, into a house that must have been four times the size.
After he was born I went home, put a message on the answering machine and went to bed. The next day being Christmas Day we had our Christmas morning service - it was a grand time - an entire congregation of two-tailed dogs ! Then I went to the hospital laden with bags of gifts : baby-clothes, all sorts... The nurses had kept me a Christmas dinner and we ate it in the day room together.
Gwilym was an unusually handsome baby. He had nice strong shoulders and a splendid round head. One of the midwives used to do a quick ward-round and she got on the other mothers' nerves by admiring Gwilym's looks in a very loud voice. "Oh this one is handsome. Oh, yes, he is handsome." He was (and is) but one ought not to crow, eh ?
When a child is born was our song at that time, though we had made up our own words that took you through the stages of labour, bit by bit.
Memories, eh ? Now Gwilym is as tall as Pat and wears my size of shoe.
We didn't find a dressing gown - or at least we did. At Ikea. A gloriously stripey one, but they only had small and I am not small, so for Christmas I am having a note that says IOU a dressing-gown...
It's funny how life changes. Pat and I were staring at shops and thinking of all the things that we could want, and don't really want, and all we really need to make us utterly happy is a nice cup of tea and maybe a piece of cake, preferably chocolate cake. That's bliss, really, isn't it ?
Saturday evening I have a final rehearsal with the lady who's going to sing the descant for "Adeste fideles" (Salut blanche étoile) on Sunday afternoon. I'll blast out the descant with her (an octave below, of course) and the congregation will be primed to sing that last verse with especial gusto. It has, as they say, two chances. Either it'll work or it won't.
Then Sunday morning we'll visit one of the churches in Pessac, the Eglise Libre. I know the pastor fairly well from ministers' fellowships and so on, so it will be good to attend that church.
Then Sunday afternoon the service at 4h30, with hot chocolate afterwards.
Christmas Day is an important day at the student centre because we have our Christmas lunch then and we usually get a nice number of students and often we get people who come for the first time.
In addition, Monday is Gwilym's birthday. A bit more about that in another post.
Thursday, December 20, 2007
Here's an article talking about the moment (5 pm apparently) when the Queen became Britain's oldest ever reigning monarch.
Blessed is the man who fears the Lord. We sang this in the Aber Bach Soc Choir towards the end of the last century.
This choir does nicely - they take it at a good lick. Strings a bit dodgy here and there though...
I found this when I was looking for a piece of Bach Christmas Oratorio to post. Haven't found the Bach yet. Oh well...
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
More to the point he suggests 10 questions to ask at a Christmas gathering, and makes it available in A4 format.
Monday, December 17, 2007
Five Sundays a year all the shops are allowed to open and one of them was yesterday. It was noticeable that Pessac town centre was quite lively. Workers in Meublerama (a big furniture chain) get double time and time off in lieu for working Sunday.
However Parliament is discussing changing the law to permit shops to open every Sunday from next year. I am not clear what shops are included in the law and whether it would result in France having a British-style Sunday trading pattern or not.
"It's like eating the sea", said one of the DEFLE lecturers. Strange to relate, I have never looked at the sea and thought "yum, yum...".
Foie gras. A Christmas without foie gras is pretty unthinkable. Oysters and foie gras. Perfect. The ducks and geese have been despatched and their big yellow livers are everywhere. The anti-foie-gras lobbyists insist that it is cruel while the foie-gras producers say that foie-gras has been produced here since Roman times and that the geese and ducks come running up to be fed. Or at least they did. Until they were despatched.
Bûches de Noël. In the absence of a Christmas pud or a good plum duff one eats a Christmas log - either a big cake-thing or a log made of ice-cream.
Poultry. You need your dictionary and a book of edible birds when you go shopping. After all, knowing that a pintade is a guinea-fowl, I think, doesn't help me all that much. What is a guinea-fowl, anyway ? If the poultry are too baffling you could always get a joint of venison or wild boar.
Chocolate. Essential. Yum !
Meanwhile 33 departments have activated their "Big Cold Plan" (Plan de grand froid) because it is really cold here. At present we are on stage orange of the plan - below zero at night but above zero during the day. At code orange extra temporary housing for the homeless is found. However, if it stays below zero during the day then we go to code red and the remaining homeless are ushered into railway stations and anywhere possible to spend the night.
Of course for us it is difficult to know whether France is genuinely a little colder than Britain (I have my theory that Spain blocks the Gulf Stream from reaching our shores) or whether this is an effect of global warming. Thankfully the cold, though sharp, is short. In February we'll be eating on the patio again, probably.
A friend, lacking confidence in our wood stove, brought round a fan heater yesterday while I was out. Pat forgot to mention that we already have a fan heater which we use as a fan-assist for the stove to blast the hot air round a bit. The stove works pretty well, though it does conjure up strange images in my mind as I stoke it - a mix of the Cannonball Express and Nebuchadnezzar's burning fiery furnace, heated seven times...
Sunday, December 16, 2007
minim = une blanche (as in "J'ai pas fait la blanche")
crochet = une noire
quaver = une croche
semi-quaver = une double-croche / une double...
dotted minim = une blanche pointée
dynamics = les nuances
a bar = une mesure
the beat = la pulsation
the key = la tonalité
intonation = l'intonation (phew ! at least one is the same )
c = do, d = re, e = mi, f = fa, g = sol, a = la, b = si
sharp = dièse (this is also the gate/hash key on your phone)
flat = bémol (but if someone were to sing flat that's not bémol, that's trop bas.)
The Glory of Christ - R C Sproul - the chapters on the birth of Christ are just wonderful ( Glory in the Fields, Glory in the Temple ). OK, it's not John Owen but it'll still do you good.
This morning we have young people 10 - 12, except I have to leave at 11 to come home to fetch the family.
Then a church lunch 12 - 2.
Teaching the Wilcocks descant for "O come all ye faithful" to our coloratura soprano.
A church meeting 2 till 4, approximately.
Then the service at 4:30 at which I am preaching. I am going to preach a slightly beefed-up version of last week's message on Luke 1 : 5 - 25 - When Zechariah's prayer was answered.
Can you imagine how VEXED the Bordeaux shopkeepers are to have NO PUBLIC TRANSPORT AT ALL the second Saturday before Christmas ?
Saturday, December 15, 2007
This is a roundabout that we pass on the way to the centre of Pessac. There's no shops or anything nearby. It is simply a beautiful roundabout, and the trees have twinkling Christmas lights at the moment.
Friday, December 14, 2007
There's a transport strike on, and yesterday there were no buses running at all, but the trams ran. Today sure enough we parked the car near Gwilym's school and the tram came to take us into town. We wrapped and then came time to come home.
No trams. AAARGH !
Ben to the rescue ! He collected the kids from school and we hopped on the tram to Mérignac. ( there were no trams on line B to Pessac, and lines A and C were strongly perturbed ) We were very glad to see the Griffinmobile at the tram stop in Mérignac !
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
Sunday, December 09, 2007
"Next tram in 56 minutes, after that more than an hour", said the board. What ? Oh, the board's telling lies again. Hang on, the tannoy is saying something.
"Because of a demonstration in the centre of town there are no trams and no replacement buses."
OK. I phoned the centre, then phoned Pat, then settled down in the drizzle to wait for her return to pick me up.
No candied peel in the fruitcake of this weekend.
Saturday, December 08, 2007
Just today I was reading the weblog of a good friend of mine who is doing missionary work in
After a while it dawned on me that though I was enjoying listening to these carols I did not have a clue what they were actually singing about. Sure I could understand, ‘O Holy Night’ and ‘O Come All Ye Faithful’ but only because I recognised the tunes. The ones with unfamiliar tunes were complete mysteries to me for the simple reason I don’t speak French.
In those moments I caught a glimpse of what Christmas must feel like for many people who are not Christians. It’s that time of year when they enjoy the experience, get into the festive mood but don’t really understand or care what’s behind it all. As I thought about this it occurred to me how sad this was. The sad fact is though as a nation, we spend millions of pounds celebrating Christmas, few actually understand the significance of the birth of Jesus Christ. It is easy to get despondent about this or even worse start pointing a critical finger and blaming our unbelieving, secular culture for being so ignorant of Christianity.
I do actually think that blaming people for not knowing the significance of the Christmas story is a bad thing to do. Whose fault is it that people don’t know the facts or their significance? The short answer is it is the Church’s fault or to put it bluntly, our fault. Are people born with an innate knowledge of the Christian gospel? Is it something that goes along with a British passport or a British education? No. The Bible itself makes it clear, the ‘good news’ needs to be explained regardless of culture or education. It tells us that remarkable life changing things can happen when the story is explained. (“Faith comes through hearing the message” Romans 10v17.) It goes on to tell us that it is the Church’s unique work to tell the message of Christ to the world. No one else is going to do it, if the Church does not do it.
This is both highly challenging and very exciting at the same time. You see, we have our work cut out this Christmas when it comes to telling our society about Jesus Christ. We live in a culture that made Richard Dawkins’ ‘The God Delusion’ a best seller last Christmas and is likely to take to its heart Philip Pullman’s ‘The Golden Compass’ with its atheistic sub plot, this Christmas. It’s also a culture where many seem to think that life’s very best times are when our bodies are filled to capacity with food, drink and laughs. It’s a tough call to go to this culture with a two thousand year old message that calls for humility and self sacrifice in us. A message that though beginning with the mystery of a virgin birth will have its ultimate focus in a brutal death by crucifixion.
But as tough as it is, as Christians we have one great comfort. This is not our message or even ‘the message of the Church’, it’s God’s message. For two thousand years he has been using the message of His Son Jesus Christ to draw ordinary people like you and me to Himself. So as you give hospitality and gifts this Christmas, make sure you give the good news about Jesus away to as many people as possible. We all have something we can say about how wonderful Jesus Christ is – lets say it.
And just in case you are really not sure what to say let me leave you with this lovely little thought provoking quote from C S Lewis’ The Last Battle, ‘In our world, too, a stable once held something that was bigger than the whole world’. Maybe that will get the conversation started.
May God bless you all this Christmas, in a very special and personal way. May you feel the reality of His love towards you and the unique joy that comes from believing in Jesus.
For me the biggie is tomorrow where I begin the day at Blaye with preaching at Anglade ( Luc 1 : 5 - 25 ), then straight to the groupe de jeunes for Christianity Explored, then collect the family for church at 16h30.
Friday, December 07, 2007
This year, because of global warming, so far the winter has been quite mild. So much so that on Tuesday night Pat and I were both bitten by a mosquito. He got me on the elbow and yesterday my whole arm was sore.
Meanwhile in Britain, because of global warming, the number of wind storms has risen dramatically over the last twenty years to reach the level of the beginning of the 1900s !
Where's the mozzy-killer stuff ?
What's an aulx ? It's obviously something you eat because the Israelites were nostalgic about the food in Egypt, the melons, leeks, cucumbers and the aulx.
Anyway it's garlics. un ail, des aulx.
Pronounced unnaye (like "aye" for yes) and dézo (sounds like eaux, or "oh!").
It took me six months to discover how to say one garlic and two years to discover the plural.
I am just not right for this job, am I !
Anyway Acts includes Acts 2, so we're doing that in four sessions.
Last week's was the most important part - the point of Pentecost being the firstfruits of the gospel. Incidentally, it's not all that easy in France to hold on to the fruitfulness of the gospel.
This week was what the tongues signified. Verse 12 - What does this mean ?
Before the study I was talking with one of our French guys and we were grumbling a bit about how hard it is to reach the French (though the Chinese students are very responsive !)
Anyway for the study we were six. Me and five French guys aged between 19 and 35.
Ha ha ! That'll teach me !
The study went well - we traced three paths -
Babel to Jerusalem,
Moses wish (Numbers 11) to Joel 2 to Acts 2,
Isa 28 and Jer 5 to Acts 2 via 1 Cor 14.
I was pretty unsure how the guys would respond because everyone's from different backgrounds ranging from dispensational fundamentalism through to Assemblies of God, but there was great discussion and happy unity.
Five young French guys. Off you go lads !
Thursday, December 06, 2007
Wednesday, December 05, 2007
I don't know about you, but they scare me witless.
Strange to relate, while discussing what to call our children Guto and Rhydderch were rejected in favour of Gwilym (he's glad) and Flosshilde and Woglinde in favour of Catrin (she's ecstatic).
In the UK in the absence of the fundamentalist movement, neo-evangelical is sometimes used as a term of contrast against an older, more doctrinally focused evangelicalism.
An example of faux-amis within two branches of the same language !
Tuesday, December 04, 2007
Today has been about preparing for the weekend, for Christianity Explored on Sunday afternoon and preaching Sunday morning. Here's some Vaughan Williams. See ! I DO love England. Vaughan Williams was English, isn't it ?
Don't look at the video. Don't read the young guy's blurb. Just listen.
Monday, December 03, 2007
mon défenseur saura plaider,
cet avocat s'appelle amour,
il intercède pour moi toujours.
Mon nom est gravé sur ses mains,
mon nom est inscrit sur son coeur,
puisqu'il défend ma cause au ciel
nul ne pourra me condamner.
Et quand Satan me fait douter,
vient me tenter et m'accuser,
je lève les yeux vers celui
qui a payé pour mon péché.
Mon Sauveur était innocent,
sa mort me rend la liberté,
oui, Dieu le juste est satisfait
et il pardonne mon péché.
Voyez l'Agneau ressuscité.
Il est le Roi plein de bonté.
Non, il ne changera jamais,
lui ma justice, mon bien, ma paix.
En lui j'ai la vie éternelle,
par son sang il m'a racheté,
pour toujours ma vie est cachée
en Jésus, mon Sauveur, mon Dieu.
The yellow cartridge was almost empty so I'd bought another. However about 10 from the end the printer told me the cyan was nearly empty too. Oh dear ! This is one of the hazards of my colour vision - no matter how I stare I cannot see the level of cyan on the computer screen. Anyway, it lasted till all the photos were done. Then I scuttled off to the Eglise Baptiste de Caudéran where I discovered that "Before the throne of God above" exists in French.
Then home to collect everything for the afternoon (computer, etc.) and off to the Griffins for lunch. We were taking desserts and we had a four seasons fruit tarte I found in the supermarket and a huge chocolate and raisin tarte that someone had given Pat at the Christmas bazaar.
Then to the centre for 3 to prepare for the service. I had the order of service so while Pat was off helping to frame the photos I set to to get the PowerPoint done. I think it was ready about 7 minutes before the service was due to start.
Sammy suggested I do simultaneous translation into English for the choir. This was interesting. Because I know him quite well now sometimes I would translate his next sentence before he had actually said it, and sometimes quite a long sentence would translate as Fifth thing. I quite enjoyed doing this - the hardest thing is knowing how loudly you can speak because you don't want to interfere with the French message. I suppose it is quite a challenge listening for the next sentence while delivering your translation of the last one... We didn't do any soppy pauses or anything like that. I had a bit of trouble with sac de poubelle. I said ,"Bin bag - uh, garbage sack, trash bag, trash sack..." Bin bag means nothing to Americans, apparently, but all the rest were OK.
The children have really clicked with the kids from the choir, as has Pat. We're going to have to visit North Carolina. Hmmm.
So they said their fond farewells, then home to bed.
Sunday, December 02, 2007
Saturday, December 01, 2007
The morning I updated the blog, then prepared for the English Class and I also tried to suss out Audacity, because I think I am going to have to start editing MP3 files. As well I tried to reduce some sermon sound-files down to a size that can be emailed. It's just dawned on me that I sent some of these to my deeside.org.uk address, which redirects to gmail, but they haven't arrived yet !
Then Pat had told a friend that she'd help her on the tea stall of the Bordeaux Anglican Chaplaincy's Christmas Bazaar, so we delivered them there for 2pm. I had a brief talk with a few people, including the vicar, especially about church premises. It's a constant headache for newish churches in France. Then off to the student centre for the English class.
It's lovely driving through central Bordeaux at the moment because there are lights everywhere. The trees along Cours Georges Clemenceau have little lights and floodlit branches and the other shopping streets have lights strung across. It's quite magical.
The English Class went well, then off to Chartrons for the last of the concerts given by the American youth choir, the Musical Heirs. We eventually found somewhere to park and I noticed that it was 7:30. The concert started at 8:30 so we ducked into a pizzeria and I told the waiter we were in a hurry.
How long have you got ? A half-hour ?
Forty minutes, I said.
So the pizzas came swiftly and we ate quickly, paid and scuttled off to the concert just round the corner. I had heard the choir's programme 3 or 4 times before, but this was the best I had heard them.
Then hot chocolate and a quick chat with some of the more musical people in the church - some of them are keen to start a singing group.
I couldn't direct it, but you could, said one lady.
I'm not sure she's right, but I am very pleased she said so from the point of view of language !
Well, I know why they were there - the judges and barristers were demonstrating against the rationalisation of the courts of assizes. ( The demo closed six tram stations of line B ! )
But why always our street ?
I was thinking the other day about Dr. A...w and his comments on taxonomy. He talked about lumpers and splitters.
The splitters are the taxonomists who say "These two populations of creature are clearly different, we'll split them into two different subspecies, or even species."
The lumpers say "These are obviously two types of the same beast. They belong together in the same species." §
I often think of lumpers and splitters in the church. Calgary Cowboy Clint has classified American calvinistic baptists into several streams.
Here in France when you say "Baptiste" and "réformé" or "calviniste" in the same sentence it elevates the eyebrows of those who hear and evokes the exclamation "Tiens !"
As for me I wonder if neo-evangelical has the same negative connotation in the US as it does in the UK ?
§ incidentally to show you how fascinating and controversial taxonomy can be, the ordinary British bluebell even in my short lifetime has been Endymion, Scilla and Hyacinthoides. It's a real hotbed, I can tell you !
Friday, November 30, 2007
In France it isn't that easy to find protestant churches, and anyway they are all sects aren't they, and there was that war wasn't there, and so there are people who come to a biblical faith in Jesus Christ and take a very long time to leave catholicism.
Proverbs 10: 12 Hatred stirs up dissension, but love covers over all wrongs.
Proverbs 17:9 He who covers over an offense promotes love, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends.
From which I conclude that the godly man confesses his own faults and admits his own errors but covers over the errors of others as much as he can.
You're supposed to hand over when things are going well and you're in full flight.
Thursday, November 29, 2007
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
One couple are moving into the area and were staying at the centre while they look for a house, so we chatted about the different suburbs of Bordeaux and about prices etc. They're teachers.
Some folks were, I think, from the Villenave church, including one elderly lady who joined in with the French carols. To begin with I thought it was an effect of the acoustics, or difference tones, or that one of the lads' voices had changed suddenly - then I saw her lips move.
The biggest surprise was one young couple who came in - he's the son and step-son of one of our couples. He and his partner came in and said to me, "Do you remember us ?"
I had to admit I didn't.
"You did a survey with us on campus a couple of weeks back."
Then I remembered this pleasant young couple who were sat under the trees eating their lunch when I was doing surveys. It was really nice to meet them again, and interesting to contemplate the ways of God when there are, after all, 100,000 students in Bordeaux.
I am not sure that there were any folks there last night who would have much interest in an International English language work. So we won't be beginning monthly evening services for a while yet ! However, there could well be logistical reasons for that, too - the centre is hard to find and inaccessible by public transport. 7 pm is a bad starting time in France, just when you are about to sit and eat. Things need to be start later. Next thing we do - whether it is a Christmas thing or something for Easter - we'll need to do on a Sunday evening in the centre of town somehow.
The choir were tired. Add together jet-lag and a strenuous visit to the Dune de Pylat, and you'll understand why.
Saturday 9 am - 9 pm (roughly) Synode Régional of the fellowship of churches
Saturday 2 pm Pat's brother Nigel arrives at Mérignac airport
Saturday 3 pm Deliver posters for choir visit to office in the Chartrons
Saturday 4:30 - 6:00 English Class at Student Centre
Frankly I wasn't sure how all these things in the afternoon would work given that there's no public transport to the centre where the Synode was taking place and that everything else was dotted round in different parts of Bordeaux.
However by means of the GPS God got me where I needed to be and he did what no GPS can do, providing each time just the one parking space I needed when and where I needed it. That's no small blessing in Bordeaux on a Saturday.
I was glad not to have cancelled the English Class because a new student came, a Syrian muslim guy. We read Acts 3 and worked on the present perfect, imperfect, past and pluperfect tenses from the text.
The service was followed by "an apéro with the authorities", except that M. Juppé sent his apologies, then by lunch - then a hurried clean-up and pack-away because the choir were doing their first concert in Blaye. We zoomed off and found the place after asking a few people and the concert went well. It was well-attended and I served as interpreter for an elderly lady who wanted a CD of the choir. They have made one, so they'll send a batch and I'll forward one to the lady concerned.
Then home, tired but happy.
Friday, November 23, 2007
Thursday, November 22, 2007
Next you can see a picture of us all walking along the tram lines to Peixotto. It was quite pleasant. I think it might have been different if it had been emptying down, but it was a rare dry half hour.
Below you can see two pictures I took on my arrival at the cathedral. I thought the trees looked specially nice today. I was glad to see them.
The reply came, "Because that's what we say. It's like aré for arrêt de tram, instead of are, like je marché for marchais, instead of marche, and foré for la forêt instead of fore. It's just like that."
OK - they send out shuttle buses, but how long do they take to come ? While we all waited an 84 bus came. That takes you to Arts et Métiers (illegally pronounced in Bordeaux as arzémetié). Well it was a bendy bus and the driver really went for those roundabouts. I reckon you could train astronauts on those things because the G-forces are amazing. Even sat down I had to hold on tight.
We got to Arts et Métiers. No shuttle bus there. But a 41 would take us to Victoire, and one was due in 20 minutes time. I thought about it. Peixotto is two stops. In 20 minutes I could crawl to Peixotto and thankfully I had left my laptop computer at home so nothing to lug. Off I set among the festive throng.
At Peixotto a tram was waiting for us. We climbed on board with big smiles and feelings of relief. Then the robot lady said that because of an anti-Sarko demonstration the trams would all have to wait in their stations till the demo had cleared Victoire.
One guy started to sound off about how dreadful the trams are - he makes 4 journeys a day and something bad always happens. It occurred to me that I must never get on a tram with him again. It's obviously he that causes the problems. I kept this opinion to myself but I know his face.
By the time we got to my stop at Hotel de Ville the tram was so packed I frankly couldn't see any way of getting off, but everyone else was getting off too so all was well that ended well. I took photos of people processing along the tramlines and I'll pop them on later.
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
Anyway, all four TGV railway lines out of Paris have been sabotaged, seemingly at about the same time but many miles apart. The signalling cables were unearthed and burnt.
Everyone is shocked.
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
Then it's on to sorting out flights for deputation.
I need to avoid the period 3 to 10 March, because I need to cover for a colleague who's on holiday.
I want to avoid being away for Easter, and also I want to be here for school holidays if I can.
So that gives available periods of
1 to 22 February, (21 days)
10 to 22 March, (12 days) and
24 March to 17 April (24 days).
The budget airlines are not flying at the moment, but Lufthansa would fly me via Frankfurt. It's a Sopwith Camel from Bordeaux to Frankfurt, then an Airbus A320 Frankfurt to Manchester.
I know that once I settle on a period everything will go haywire - it won't suit churches, the flights will all be cancelled, special events will crop up here, kids will break their limbs, etc.
No - I was thinking about this the other day - this general feeling of foreboding we can have. Why ? When we can read God's providence backwards, we should be able to trust it forwards !
Anyway, I have emailed two advisers to ask whether flying Lufthansa via Frankfurt would be a bad idea - I can't imagine that it would.
Then I guess it's settle on a set of dates. If I come in April I wonder if the mission would like someone to go with a stand to the Banner of Truth Conference... It's a thought !
Monday, November 19, 2007
At St. Aubin the temple (church) is in pretty bad repair, so we meet in a back room. The back room isn't great, either. There was a fan heater and a gas cylinder with an element screwed into the top, but the gas ran out before the service started and everyone made me scuttle out to the car to get my coat. It's the first time I've preached in an overcoat and I was glad of it. I did think of taking it off before the message but thought better of it. There was an oil-filled radiator, too, but the electricity supply isn't strong enough to cope with both heaters. In fact the lights flickered ominously from time to time...
After the service people discussed the wisdom of meeting in that building in that weather when the temple at Anglade, just 7 km away, has been refurbished and has electric heaters that can get the place to 19°. "These old ladies will get bronchitis and what will their families say then?"
I had a couple of cups of coffee before driving home. Next time I'll take a BIG flask with enough for everyone !
Basically, the church needs rebuilding, but that would need lots of money. Meanwhile the folks are reluctant to sell the building because so many houses are being built in the Blaye area.
It reminded me of Notre Dame des Courants d'Air. I'll find the clip and post it.
Sunday, November 18, 2007
Now you know why I fret so much about buying the wine for communion at church.
And it's raining ! Hooray ! That means it won't be as COLD !
Anyway my cold is better.
We were a bumper crowd at church. Pat counted people during the message and got 63 including kids.
Saturday, November 17, 2007
"60+10+9 = 79 what did you say came next...?"
Quatre-vingts-dix-sept is even worse because it includes multiplication and addition.
"4(20)+10+7 = 80+10+7 = 97 can you repeat that please...?"
I am hoping that for French people the number just comes without them doing the sum, and that one day it may do the same for me.
I don't know the French for a sliproad, either, but I phoned the people and explained that Ben's car had broken down as he left the rocade just before the traffic lights.
(I got a few funny looks because I was in the supermarket balancing boxes of cereal on racks of stuff while writing down the police phone number before relaying it to Ben in English. I think they are starting to get used to me in there though...)
"That's the problem", the breakdown people explained. "Anything before the lights counts as the rocade and he has to phone the police to get help." As I suspected they had understood each other very well, but the answer had been so unexpected as to be difficult to take in.
So I relayed this to Ben - and he phoned the police, and they phoned a breakdown man, who came, fixed the car, charged Ben then explained that he now has to reclaim the charge from his insurance. That's the way the breakdown cover works.
Bravo Ben. These Griffins are formidable, you know ! They're getting through it all.
Small and relatively inexpensive, this could be a cracker of a tool for folks like us, especially for people on the move.
I thought about rice pudding but on Monday it would have been too much on top of a raclette. Now it would be just right !
Jenna and Michelle fly home early on Sunday. Poor Vincent ! Still, at least he'll be able to move a bit in his flat...
He'll visit them for Christmas, then in February, then the marriage is hoped to take place in April and Jenna will come home to France.
Friday, November 16, 2007
Ah ! What to do ? A few frantic phone calls and I decided to shut up the student centre, scuttle back to Pessac on the tram and get the car, then the kids. They, dear brave hearts, were sat on the pavement outside the school waiting patiently.
Then I found Ben and we got his car safely stashed on the grass at the side of the slip road. French motor insurance includes breakdown cover, but he couldn't find the phone number to ring if the car broke down. And the office they got the cover from closes at 4 on Fridays and doesn't open on Saturdays. Ben says it opens for an hour in July and for half a day in February.
So I took him into town to get the tram home (I was meeting folks at the student centre at 7pm) and he's going to tackle it tomorrow morning.
Yesterday I spent a good part of the day on the phone finding out who's eating what and when for the church's regional council weekend. Today I have one or two people to finish chasing up on that, then to find a firewood supplier and order a goodly supply of logs, and to suss out flights to Britain in February and in April so as to work out finally when deputation can occur and get in touch with the churches concerned.
Oh, and preparation for Sunday. I'm preaching in Blaye in the morning and in Bordeaux in the afternoon.
Pat is much better this morning. Perhaps the kinésiterrapin has helped.
Thursday, November 15, 2007
A Chinese student applied some Chinese medicine (don't ask - it was fine) and she's a little improved.
She went to see the doctor round the corner from us yesterday and got the forms to change doctor and a prescription for five sessions of physiotherapy, so she should see the physiotherapist (also round the corner from us) tonight.
Spanish is pretty well Latin.
Italin is beautiful.
English is useful.
Welsh is glorious.
German is unthinkable.
French is Latin overlaid with German in a most unhelpful way. All those vowels ! How could anyone think a language beautiful that contains from 3 to 6 nasal vowels depending on where you live, and the sound eux, them. It sounds like the noise you make when you see a molten slug in your lettuce.
but you do get to say some wonderful things.
My all time favourite was when a student (we'll call him Sam) got a letter whose certainty he doubted. As one man we said Si Sam, ça c'est sûr ! - see sam sa sé sûr... Then yesterday reflecting on the RCF broadcast C'est comme ça qu'on sème - sé com sa coñ sem.
"Yes, Sam, that's certain", and "That's how one sows"
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
Well we went and recorded. Emmanuel Alvaraés, the pastor of the Eglise Evangélique Libre in Pessac, looks after Point de Vue Evangélique, so it basically took the form of a very brief, round table interview with myself, Emmanuel, Sammy and Fiona. It's broadcast tonight and also tonight they will come to the student centre and record the programme for next week with a couple of students involved.
We talked basically about the work, trying to present it in a way that might encourage students to check us out. Emmanuel helped us tremendously with his useful questions, of course.
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
Quite often French people greet each other with the French greeting "Salut". We, of course, mean far more by that word than the chaps in the corner café imagine. Salut means salvation.
The thing about baked beans is that they are such a good, cheap, nutritious meal. Except when they are £1.20 a tin, that is ! Some friends who will remain nameless but lived in Provence until recently used to import beans from Britain, and once when we stayed at their house we were warned off the beans !
There is a French version that is about 60p a tin or less - haricots blancs à la tomate. What you have to do is add 1/2 teaspoon of sugar per tin, and tomato ketchup to taste. Some people add a spoonful of vinegar.
The beans are a bit big, but a nod's as good as a wink to a blind horse, as they say.
I'm reading a book I should have read at the DEFLE but I dropped the course - it is called "Une enquête au pays" by Driss Chraïbi and it introduces a Moroccan detective called l'Inspecteur Ali, who stars in the next book too. Anyway, it's very entertaining, and they have just eaten a glorious meal of mutton tajine - mutton cooked slowly with figs and olives. You can eat this kind of stuff in the Moroccan restaurants in Bordeaux, and Joy waxes lyrical about it in her blog (click on the title above).
Anyway, I reckon that with a slowcooker you could do a tajine-alike, so at the supermarket I got a big pack of stewing beef (it should be lamb or chicken, but hey...), some dried apricots and lots of garlic. I forgot the olives.
I found a recipe for lamb and apricot tajine on the internet, but the instructions started "combine the first 15 ingredients". hmmm.