les Davey de France

Alan and Pat live and work in Bordeaux. Alan is a pastor and Pat was a nurse. Now we work with UFM worldwide. Read on! (If you'd like to know what took us to Bordeaux, then start with the archives from September 2004)

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Well there we are - it was Matthew 2

The King and the king. Now I am SO tired. For reasons I won't go into. Phew.

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...

Oh, really.

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

UK Doctors say no to abortions in their surgeries

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml;jsessionid=FNOFOZ1J4Y52RQFIQMGSFFOAVCBQWIV0?xml=/news/2007/12/29/nabort129.xml#form

Friday, December 28, 2007

Stanley Unwin Baffles the Carry On Team

Just in case you don't know about Stanley Unwin, here's a fairly good introduction. There's an odd advert at the end but it ends immediately it begins.

Al and the archbishop

No, not me, silly...

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.

http://www.albertmohler.com/blog_read.php?id=1072

BBC folk discuss their favourite hi-tech development of 2007

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/7153642.stm

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

Between Christmas and New Year

things go kind of quiet at the student centre, though I'll be seeing some of the chaps for one reason and another.

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.

Do you have a ministry of discouragement ?

Why not read what Tim has to say ?

http://www.challies.com/archives/articles/holiness-of-character.php

Why I believe in the virgin birth - by Peter Ellwood

This article was published either in the Western Mail or in the South Wales Echo during the years I lived in Cardiff, and written by the doctor, Peter Ellwood. I have it stuck in the front of my favourite commentary on Luke and have long intended sharing it more widely. It is shared here with the permission of neither author nor newspaper, but I hope that no objection would be raised. Anyway, here we go. I can always delete it, can't I.

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.

Personal

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, Elizabeth became pregnant – perhaps something of an embarrassment for both fo them in view of her age and his special duties at that time. However, Luke simply adds that Elizabeth hid herself, though characteristic of a doctor, he notes the stage of Elizabeth's pregnancy – the sixth month.

The story now shifts to Mary, a young girl; related to Elizabeth but living a long way from her. Luke records Mary's claim that an angel had appeared to her and had predicted that she would become pregnant. Mary's reaction is utter amazement - “How could this happen, I have not known a man ?” Further developments in her vision perplex Mary even more and in resignation she states, “So be it.”

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 Elizabeth presents her as hardly a natural choice as an understanding counsellor for a young girl had that girl behaved foolishly and got herself pregnant. On the other hand, if Mary’s story as recorded by Luke is true, then what would be more natural than for Mary to have gone to Elizabeth in order to check the one fact in her vision.

Extraordinary

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 Elizabeth was delivered of her child. A normal pregnancy then, as now, lasts nine calendar months, and so the six months of Elizabeth’s pregnancy at the time of Mary’s vision is validated. However, in this casual note of timing lies further very powerful evidence in support of Mary’s story. The record states that Mary had gone “with haste” to see Elizabeth. The timings given by Luke give remarkable incidental support to this and imply that Mary had gone without even waiting for any evidence of her own pregnancy. Had her story not been true, and had she behaved unwisely, Mary would certainly have waited at least one month and possibly several before seeking help.

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

One Year Bible Reading Plan for use with no matter which translation

http://www.oneyearbibleonline.com/readingplan/oneyearbiblereadingplan.pdf

Poythress books you can read online

The Gender-Neutral Bible Controversy: Muting the Masculinity of God's Words

God Centered Biblical Interpretation

The Returning King: A Guide to the Book of Revelation

Redeeming Science: A God-Centered Approach

Symphonic Theology

Understanding Dispensationalists

http://www.frame-poythress.org/poythress_books.htm

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

A sudden death

Catrin's Christmas has been somewhat overshadowed by the passing of Patch the rat during the night.

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).

Gaudete!

Keeping the faith in China

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/7150613.stm

Monday, December 24, 2007

King's College Cambridge Hark the Herald Angels Sing

Born to raise the sons of earth..
born to give the second birth...

Happy Christmas !

Posted by Picasa

Imagine posting your cards here

llythrdy - postoffice
cofnodiad - souvenirs
Posted by Picasa

St. Michael's Church Paris Christmas Carol Service 2007-2

Every one a cracker !

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/global/main.jhtml?xml=/global/2007/12/19/noindex/njoke119.xml

"I found the eye ointment"

Oh, where was it ?

In the bathroom...

I wondered if it was, but I couldn't see it.


Ho Ho Ho....

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Well there we are

There was a tram and bus strike. For me it meant that instead of taking me to Pessac Centre the tram stopped at Bougnard so Pat had to come out and get me there instead of at the centre.

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

Hark the Herald Angels sing

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

When a child is born

We heard this today while hunting for a dressing-gown for me for Christmas, and it brought back powerful memories of thirteen years ago.

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 ?

I'm looking forward to this weekend

I have the great English Class on Saturday afternoon but before that we are going to distribute tracts among the Christmas shoppers. There was a threatened tram and bus strike, but they have reached an agreement (I think - last time I read anyway) so the trams should be running fine.

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.

Brass quintet playing Christmas music

In Manchester !

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Just in case you thought the French had it in for monarchies in general...

http://www.linternaute.com/actualite/depeche/afp/30/440779/elizabeth_ii_devient_le_plus_vieux_monarque_britannique_de_l_histoire.shtml

Here's an article talking about the moment (5 pm apparently) when the Queen became Britain's oldest ever reigning monarch.

Beatus vir qui timet Dominum

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

Des résistantes !

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programmes/from_our_own_correspondent/7142424.stm

What I feared

We'll have the Sarko saga soap opera now... At least in the British papers, we will...

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2007/12/18/wsarkozy118.xml&DCMP=EMC-new_18122007

Whitney's ten questions

Our good friend Don Whitney, author of Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life (SDFTCL), looks splendidly seasonal in his Christmas newsletter.

More to the point he suggests 10 questions to ask at a Christmas gathering, and makes it available in A4 format.

http://www.biblicalspirituality.org/inserts/a4/xmasa4.pdf

Monday, December 17, 2007

Du vin en usb - Quel produit révolutionnaire !

Encroyable !

The continental Sunday under threat

At present here almost everything is shut on Sundays. About the only things you see open are the petrol stations, the bakers and the oyster stalls by the side of the road. Oh - and some cafés and restaurants. Even articulated lorries are banned from the roads unless they are carrying refrigerated goods. They park up until Monday in big lines at the service stations on the rocade.

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.

A French Christmas

Oysters. The Arcachon oyster farmers have started their big push - over the next few weeks millions of the little knobbly critters will be slurped, still living, from their shells.

"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

A quick musical glossary

semibreve = une ronde
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.)

Some cracking Christmas books

The King has Come - James Montgomery Boice - I LOVE this book. I hope I find it again soon.

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 weekend

a complete strike of tram and bus drivers meant there was no English Class again - well, two stalwarts turned up. So that meant I was free to get my head round today more.

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

Dundee David debates Dawkins delusion

http://www.e-n.org.uk/4045-God's-border-crossing.htm

And they say the French don't know how to do Christmas !

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

Well that was exciting !

Some of the young folk at the church run an association which raises money to help an orphanage in Bulgaria. They arranged to do gift-wrapping at a sports equipment shop in central Bordeaux and were looking for volunteers to help out. Well Pat and I said we could do 2 till 4 this afternoon.

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 !

Christmas reading

Martin Downes is reading Augustine's Confessions this Christmas.

What are you going to read ?

(I haven't decided yet. I may take my cue from you.)

The blog has been quiet recently

It's because I have been very ill with a cold. A nasty cold. I am gravement enrhumé.

I hope to be better soon, but at the moment it is touch and go.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Visit to churches in the UK

It will be sometime during the period 24 March to 17 April, depending on how that suits the churches.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

OK - so what happened to the candied peel ?

Pat dropped me off at the tram stop and drove away. It was 15h50. The English Class starts at 16h30. Easy.

"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

Phil Swann has been listening to neige-folle and writing to his church.

Just today I was reading the weblog of a good friend of mine who is doing missionary work in France. For those of you unfamiliar with this term, a weblog is a kind of diary that is kept on the internet. In my friend’s blog as well as writing about what he is doing, he often includes interesting things about the French and their culture. Today he wrote about an interesting website that was playing French carols, twenty four hours a day. Out of curiosity I decided to visit this sight and sure enough it was playing the most delightful French carols, many of which were instantly recognisable by their tunes. They were beautifully sung and had the right mix of the simple, sober and jolly that you would expect at this time of year.

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.

It's a fruitcake weekend - full of good things

Today Catrin has the éclaireurs évangélique (Scouts) Christmas extravaganza - we all go along this evening. Gwilym has the church club for collégiens this afternoon. I have the English Class this afternoon. Pat has taxi duty.

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

Drive yourself NUTS with Radio Neige-folle !

Non-stop Christmas music in French (well, non-stop except for the adverts)

Oh no ! Mosquitos !

For the last two years, because of global warming, we have had quite harsh winters. The first winter we were here was amazing - frost to the tops of the trees !

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 !

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/main.jhtml?xml=/earth/2007/12/07/eaclimate107.xml&DCMP=EMC-new_07122007

Where's the mozzy-killer stuff ?

How do you say that, by the way...?

Aulx.

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 !

Acts 2b

I want to tell you about the Thursday evening Bible study last night. Last year we did evangelistic Bible studies all year and everyone who came was already a Christian. So this year we are doing Bible Studies through Acts aimed at equipping the Christians and there's a guy who comes most weeks who isn't yet converted. OK.

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

In case you thought indulgences were a thing of the past...

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2007/12/06/wpope106.xml&DCMP=EMC-new_06122007

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Wagner - Die Walküre Act 3 - Ride of the Valkyries

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).

Calgary Clint's Cowboyology Classification Clarified

http://cowboyology.blogspot.com/2007/12/explaining-streams-of-calvinistic.html

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

Rhosymedre by Vaughan Williams

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

Challies December giveaway

December Giveaway

Bach Contrupunctus I

We haven't had no culture on the blog for a long time have we ?

Nicolas Sarkozy's battle to change France, says the Telegraph

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/global/main.jhtml?xml=/global/2007/12/03/noindex/nrsarko102.xml&page=1

Devant le trône

Devant le trône du très Haut
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.

Sunday began early

There were thirty photo-montages to print for the choir members, and my printer does it quite well ( thankfully ! Otherwise I'd have had to have done it at the student centre ! ) So I started them printing.

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.

ZZZZZZZZZ.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Ecouter la Bible en français

Here are recordings, chapter by chapter, of the Bible in French.

Thanks, Joy, for pointing out the site.

http://worldwide.familyradio.org/fr/mp3/bible/

Saturday, December 01, 2007

OK - so that's how it is, then.

It looks as if we have settled into a happy pattern of frantic weekends. Saturday began gently but then accelerated.

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.

No problem.

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 !

Early Christmas shopping

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Christmas café

with star
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and again

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Expecting trouble at the student centre, officers ?

I don't know why the riot police always park at the end of our road.

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 ?
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Why our bathroom is so clean

Cillit BANG
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Animated Bayeux Tapestry

I am fairly sure I have posted this before, but it is worth another look as a suitable Saturday subject. ( OK, that's enough ! Stop the stupid alliteration )

Calgary Clint's Cowboyology Classification

http://cowboyology.blogspot.com/2007/11/reformed-renewal.html

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 !