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)

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Reading and stuff

I used to read the Telegraph online. Used to. Well, I still do. Sort of.

Well what happens is that every day the Telegraph sends me an email of its headlines - a little customized according to my interests - and then I can click on whatever story I'd like to read. It gives me about 8 to 10 headlines, I think, that could conceivably draw my attention, and I click on two or three.

EXCEPT that the Telegraph only gives me a certain limited number of stories that I can read without taking out a subscription. After I pass this limit I kick and it says "Oh no, buster ! You want to mug up, first you cough up!"

What this means is that :

1) I have to look on Flipboard to see if the Telegraph story will appear there, because Flipboard doesn't seem be limited in this way.

2) I read the story on my mobile phone, because that's not limited, either.

3) I have started getting the Guradian headlines sent me as well.

Where I read this article about TED...

 Now don't get me wrong. I do love lots of TED talks.

But the article is very wrong and very right about something. He says that this style of presentation, this type of culture of reflection, is a recipe for civilizational disaster.

I think he's right about civilizational disaster, but wrong because it isn't a recipe, it's a symptom.

Read the article, then ask yourself whether this applies in our current Christian culture.

I think it does. We've slipped from a culture of persuasion into a culture of inspiration. It's HollyCross.

It ties in with another little snippet I read yesterday, where someone was proposing the Christian neologisms for 2013.

One was john-sequitur.

The definition. A logical consequence which would not be true were it not presented by John Piper.

OUCH !

What are the answers ? To reset the focus on truth lived out in community. The Bible, the people of God, relating together, reaching out, sustained by local pastoral ministry.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Gabrieli

Christmas

Monday found Gwilym and I in a mobile phone repair place getting Gwilym's Christmas present fixed. Oh well. Then hurtling round the Simply market supermarket just next door for last minute supplies - the things we'd forgotten, such as extra chicken for Christmas Eve, meat for Christmas Day...

Christmas Eve our meal with our ex-naighbour went very happily.

Christmas Day the family was augmented by just one person, a couch-surfer who's borrowed a flat for the Christmas period. Gwilym found some pieces of beef that were reasonably priced, then reduced to half-price, so we got them, then started to worry about what to do with them.

They looked like steak, but the label just said "viande bovine" (cow meat) in that especially appetizing way... I decided to throw caution to the wind and cook it briefly in a very hot frying pan after anointing with olive oil, mustard, salt and pepper. We found the steak knives (!) and had the steak with chips. It was very good indeed ! Dessert was Christmas Eve Chocolate log and Mint Spies with mincemeat made from the excellent Sorted recipe, slightly adjusted for taste and availability...

The Queen. Doctor Who. Scrabble. Jenga. You know how it goes.

Yesterday, Boxing Day, it occurred to us that we ought to get on and write our Christmas letter, so we applied ourselves as one man to the task and sent it out to everyone up to I. J onwards will follow today.




Wednesday, December 25, 2013

The Wise Man, G K Chesterton

Step softly, under snow or rain,
    To find the place where men can pray;
The way is all so very plain
    That we may lose the way.

Oh, we have learnt to peer and pore
    On tortured puzzles from our youth,
We know all labyrinthine lore,
We are the three wise men of yore,
    And we know all things but the truth.

We have gone round and round the hill
    And lost the wood among the trees,
And learnt long names for every ill,
And served the mad gods, naming still
    The furies the Eumenides.

The gods of violence took the veil
    Of vision and philosophy,
The Serpent that brought all men bale,
He bites his own accursed tail,
    And calls himself Eternity.

Go humbly…it has hailed and snowed…
    With voices low and lanterns lit;
So very simple is the road,
    That we may stray from it.

The world grows terrible and white,
    And blinding white the breaking day;
We walk bewildered in the light,
For something is too large for sight,
    And something much too plain to say.

The Child that was ere worlds begun
    (…We need but walk a little way,
We need but see a latch undone…)
The Child that played with moon and sun
    Is playing with a little hay.

The house from which the heavens are fed,
    The old strange house that is our own,
Where trick of words are never said,
And Mercy is as plain as bread,
    And Honour is as hard as stone.

Go humbly, humble are the skies,
    And low and large and fierce the Star;
So very near the Manger lies
    That we may travel far.

Hark! Laughter like a lion wakes
    To roar to the resounding plain.
And the whole heaven shouts and shakes,
    For God Himself is born again,
And we are little children walking
    Through the snow and rain.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas meals

What with us being in France and stuff it means we have two Christmas dinners, but neither is very traditional.

This evening we have our French Christmas meal with our old neighbor, Joëlle and her family.
On the menu:

Apéro, entrée : we don't know yet, it'll be brought by our neighbour, but it will probably be fishy and gloopy, like oysters or something. It was foie gras with pain d'épices and a nice sweet Cadillac white.

Plat : Escalope de poulet avec sa sauce aux champignons (i.e. the brilliant Campbell's soup recipe) et ses legumes. This worked wonderfully well, as always.

Fromages : Assiette de fromages affinés. You have to have them, but hardly anyone ate any.

Dessert : Farandole de fantaisies festives (Mince pies and an ice-cream log) Our neighbour brought a delicious mega-chocolate log from a patisserie, so our ice-cream log stayed in the freezer.

We've been given some really nice wines this year, but we could do with something fizzy.
I'll have to hunt later.

(For the other wines I might just line them up and let our neighbours choose which one we open. I'd be SURE to get it wrong.) They chose the Bandol, so we still have the Cotes de Blaye

The meal went very well with a good opportunity to talk happily with some progress

Tomorrow we have our family Christmas meal :

Apéro, entrée : skip that, let's get on with it, shall we !

Plat : filet de boeuf that Gwilym spotted in the supermarket (on offer AND 50% off) quite possibly avec ses frites.. We'll see who wins the great vegetable battle. I flash-fried the beef steaks and they were really very good. We had steak-frites, as I thought we would.

Dessert : Pat plans a trifle. More mint spies. We continued to attack the log from yesterday. It is an eight-portion log, but very rich. So far it's done at least 12 portions !

Monday, December 23, 2013

Christmas Sunday

I scuttled off to catch the no 4 bus (what would we do without the no 4 bus!) and pick up the auto cool car to go off to Anglade for the service. Gwilym was duty musician at Cenon - all the other musical types have left for cooler climes - so we dropped him off on the way.

We wondered what to do about the songs, etc. Anglade has a fine electric piano and Catrin could have played, but we decided to take the magic music machine - the Christian Hymns II mp3 files, my computer and our bluetooth speaker. 

O come all ye faithful = O peuple fidèle
Angels from the realms of glory = Des anges dans nos campagnes
Hark the Herald = Ecoutez le chant des anges
Silent night = Voici Noël.

It worked very well, though we had a false start because people started singing lustily and with a good courage in the introduction for O Peuple Fidèle. Once they get going there's no stopping them, so I had to let the intro finish, the folk stop, then say "That was the intro, now we start".

The folk sang with gusto, prayed with joy, read with intelligence, listened with enthusiasm.

We were 18 people, the most I've ever seen at Anglade.

Afterwards a brief time of hugs and kisses, then we rearranged the benches and tables for the meal together. A pot au feu of ham and beef with potatoes, carrots and leeks. First the broth is served, and very good it was, too. Then the vegetables come out piled up on one plate and the meat on another. It looked like Desperate Dan's Pig and Beef Stew and tasted very good indeed. The pot au feu was followed by cheese, then squelchy, gooey cakes. I was sat opposite George our ancien combattant, who was in good form, telling us stories, making jokes, reminiscing and doing word play. It was a very happy time.

We left to return to Pessac and return the car. The sun was shining through the windscreen and I was pretty sleepy, but we escaped certain death on the roads and I got my head together a little for the evening. 

The English Service was going to be a small affair. Most of our regulars have flown to cooler climes for their family festivities, so we anticipated being perhaps 8 to 12 people. Just in case we brought a plastic table in from the garden. Pat had concocted a bolognaise sauce for spaghettis. I had a brief talk ready that allowed time for discussion - more Bible study than sermon, really.

Then folk arrived - and by the time we finished we were 23. Two families came who can't normally come because of the evening meeting-time. It's school holidays. I had three points to my study, then thought of a fourth - even more important - but didn't write it down, mainly because I was feeling a bit dopey... Well, of course, I couldn't remember what my fourth even more important point was... Then it came to me. Thankfully. People were happy to discuss my points, which were - The toddler who is God, Worship him, Give to him, Receive great joy from him. 

We sang Christmas songs again and then ate the bolognaise, now bulked up a bit with some red kidney beans! and nice gooey cakes to finish.

I talked with some folk about scheduling and timetabling and so on. We could do with a general discussion before taking decisions. 

All in all a happy, joyful, gooey, cakey, worshipful Sunday.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Things that are good, and Things that are essential

This is just something that's stewing away, but I think we have a tendency to confuse things that are good for Christians to do, and things that are essential for Christians to do, that is, that are of the essence of being a Christian.

This little ponder, muse, reflection was provoked by something what I read in an article by a person who had, for some reason, been prevented from attending church for some time. When they resumed attendance they wrote something that I thought was a prime example of cart / horse spatial confusion. They said :

Sermons are complementary to your daily Bible reading.

If you want you can pick this up and run with it. I don't have time to write about this till early next week, but for me it provokes LOTS of reflection, biblical, historical, geographical, personal, ministerial...

Thursday, December 19, 2013

When extreme positions seem eminently sensible

I once witnessed a conversation that went like this :

A. There are so many true stories in the world we decided not to expose our children to anything fictional or made-up.

B. So do you think that Jesus knew the sower who went out to sow, and the name of the prodigal son?

Jesus made up stories. The Bible has lots of made-up stories. We can usually tell fact from fiction, though sometimes one does need to ask, "Is this a true story?"

I mention this in connection with two things :

Firstly, the whole discussion of Santa Claus, Narnia, trees, etc...

Secondly, to point out that nobody who belongs to a crazy extreme sect says to themselves "Here I am in this crazy extreme sect." From the inside the sect seems logical and the rest of the world seems crazy.

And here's the scary thing. There's a spectrum. Sometimes groups of people go nuts to a greater or lesser degree, but the people inside the group can't tell...

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Sunday arrived bright and sunny

we went on a visit to Pessac Baptist Church, the nearest church to us and the easiest to get to - just no 44 bus to Unitec, then walk to the church. I introduced Pat and Catrin to the bus driver, who I had seen three times this week, the first time in the company of a lady who he assumed was my wife but in reality I had just met her for the first time. Funny the impressions people get...

Anyway after the service, where we sang Christmas Carols with great gusto,, we hustled back home ready for Gwilym, Sally and Harriette to arrive for lunch of quiche, salad etc...

Quiches out, turkey in. We'd hunted in the the carcass for the giblets and found only the neck, so we replaced it with halved clementines, enclosed it in foil then popped it in the oven for an improbably short 3 hours, which on our oven means pressing the button three times...

Three LONG hours later out came the turkey, impeccably cooked. As I carved it I found the giblets, tucked under the skin at the neck end... Oh well.

Move the tables. Observe. Move the tables again. ... Hmm. That will do. Place chairs. People start to arrive with festive food. One couple were fashionably late. It's Christmas, we'll wait for them.

Joy to the World, Hark the Herald, See Amid the Winter Snow, Joy has Dawned upon the World. Matthew 2 - The kings and the King ! Then festivities.

Monday morning we were like wet rags.

Saturday frolics

began with printing out leaflets for the Carolsfest. One of the BIG drawbacks of the Mac - I think the only drawback, really, is that the Windows printer driver for my printer allows automatic printing of booklets from an A4 document. It's GREAT and as easy as pie. But the mac driver doesn't have the same options.

However in OpenOffice there was the option - print as a brochure ! The interaction with the driver options was a bit complicated ) I got one good copy off so I used that to copy the rest. Did 30 copies. Thought we'd need 25.

Then three wise men arrived from the east bearing gifts of Turkey, Bandol and tinned Pumpkin pie, the east in this case being Marseille. Lunch, talk, then off they went to central Bordeaux. I washed up and tidied everything away then scurried off to the second half of Trombone Christmasfest at Gambetta.  I was greeted like a returning war-hero, played like a short-sighted idiot and then chatted with Big Band members about why I am not there at the moment... It was all great fun !

A cavalcade of motorbiking Santas made a cheery sight. The buses home were stuffed fuller than any turkey you ever did see and the roads were blocked with happy, festive shoppers enjoying the fine wintry weather, so I was glad to arrive home.


Friday, December 13, 2013

Book Review - The NEW CALVINISM Considered - A personal and pastoral assessment

First some necessary statements :

1) I received the book free in electronic format in return for producing a review. I am not required to write a positive review.

2) I know Jeremy personally : we spring from the same theological stock, I married his baby-sitter. I wanted to say that my wife used to dandle him on her knees, but she tells me this isn't strictly true. But Jeremy did buy a flat from us.

You can hear Jeremy in an Interview with the inimitable Shaun Tabatt here.

So this is a friendly review. However, sometimes they're the worst. OK. Here we go.

I do welcome this book. It addresses some issues that have been troubling me for some time. Issues like :

Tribalism. How do we understand and relate to all the various tribes that now exist? Jeremy names but some. T4G, TGC, ACE, 9Marks, R21, SGM, A29, Resolve, City to City, Porterbrook, etc. etc. I was thinking just a few days before starting this book that it would be good to have an infographic relating these different groups and the personalities at their core. After all, with all these TLAs (Three Letter Acronyms) I think I can be forgiven for having my HIS (Head In a Spin).

Since the earliest days of my Christian walk I have been confronted with this tribalism. I began my pastoral training in the early 1980s in a group so narrow that only one church really belongs to it. Maybe that's OK, but the missiles thrown at every other group were not. A plague on all your houses! is neither good Shakespeare nor good grace!

Jeremy talks about groups that unite around a central truth, and groups bounded by common convictions. These things need discussion, and with real humility. Firm, well-defined theological convictions held in common do not sufficiently protect against tribalism and division, or there would not be all these presbyterian denominations all adhering to the Westminster standards, would there?

Is a non-tribal catholicity of spirit possible? I hope so, and I hope I have seen some examples in my brief but blest life.

The Charismatic non-question. I must have blinked and missed something, but all of a sudden the Charismatic issue was no longer an issue. When? Who decided? Was there a proclamation or something? I know that John MacArthur Junior's "Strange Fire" conference ruffled a little feathers, but honestly, how long can we ignore the elephant in the room ? (Oops !)

What does it mean to be Calvinist? Another question that has exercised my poor little grey cell recently has been this whole question of the word "Reformed". Who has the right to define who is and who isn't reformed. I think it was Jeremy himself, as a card-carrying Reformed Baptist who found himself argued out of existence in a brilliant burst of logic by some Presbyterian brothers and collaborators.

The Law and the Gospel. An old calvinist (Presbyterian) colleague and I were chatting on a journey. After a while he said, "I don't know if I could work in a Lutheran team." My reply was that he certainly had a strong old Law-Gospel opposition going on in his thinking. We'll never lay this question to rest, it'll run and run. The discussion continues.

I do have one or two questions to ask Jeremy.

How do you decide who is a New Calvinist and who is just a plain old vanilla flavour calvinist ? Some of the people in your list look pretty ancient to me. Does someone become New Calvinist by embracing the doctrines of grace (the 5 points), or can an old calvinist become New by speaking at a conference, or blogging on one of the mega-blogs or whatever? I know it's a hard question to answer, because by its nature the movement is a bit fuzzy round the edges, but I do think it's a serious question.

Then, and I do say this as a friend, Jeremy, please work on your prose. Work on writing short sentences using short words. Read Fowler. He'll help. Get a nasty editor to help you with your writing.  Use one of those tools for hunting down the fog. Look, here's one of your sentences : Where there are no aberrations which genuinely compromise these commendations (and there are many instances in which our assessment can and should be substantially positive) and where there exists significant overlap, or where there are common causes in which we can, without conceding anything weighty, properly cooperate, I believe and hope that with mutual affection and respect we can stand together on matters of first importance and shared interest. No. No, no, no!

Then something a bit more general. Perhaps when raising questions with people it's best to address them, rather than to speak about them in the third person. I sense already some ruffled feathers in the blogosphere about your book. I think you have generally been very fair. But imagine that you're in a room of people and they start discussing Jeremy, and his good and bad points. In the third person. Talking about you, not talking to you. It's actually quite rude! Is it possible for us to address our brothers directly, irenically, in a kindly, brotherly way in our books, such that they may disagree with the points we make, they may want to argue with us or even say we were unfair, but at least they'll know we are talking to them, not about them...

The New Calvinism. What will it become? Please God let us all grow in grace and in knowledge, in love and in holiness, in faithfulness and service, in likeness to Christ!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Soutenance de thèse

Annie was defending her PhD thesis today. It's a public defense, so I went along and sat with the Chinese at the back of the room, just in front of the other PhD students, Annie's colleagues.

I was very happy to understand basically what she was talking about - essentially about creating different substrates for stem-cells to bind to and to begin differentiating into bone cells. The techniques for detecting the results were largely greek to me - like confocal doodahs and stuff. But essentially what she was working on was not hard to grasp if you had at least a very basic knowledge of cell biology.

Then we all had to leave the room while the jury deliberated. I am sure they played a round of cards, because in a neighboring building a buffet was already prepared to celebrate and the doctorate certificates were printed ready for signing, but anyway after some 10 to 15 minutes were all called in and, all standing, the president read out the procès verbal of the jury, conferring her doctorate on Annie.

Hip hip ! Hurrah !

Lots of speeches by everyone thanking everyone else. Then off for a buffet and to chat.

Bravo Annie ! Bravo !

Sunday, December 08, 2013

Wow ! Providence again !

So this morning we dispersed, we Daveys...

Pat and Catrin hied them to the Eglise Libre de Pessac, taking the No. 44 all the way.

Gwilym was off to Lormont, while I directed my steps to the centre of town and the Temple du Hâ.

The Temple du Hâ is right in the middle of Bordeaux near the cathedral and is part of the United Protestant Church of France, recently formed from the merger of the Reformed Church and the Lutherans.

I was surprised to be greeted by my music friend, Seb, who I didn't recognize in different surroundings and clothed in a natty suit. "You're protestant ?" He explained that his better half is protestant and that they were there to get their daughter baptized.

I haven't seen Seb for a couple of months at least, so it was great to catch up with him.

The service was interesting - conducted quite quickly with usually no announcement of hymns and canticles - the organ would launch off and you jolly well kept up. Or not, as the case may be. We didn't sing a psalm, which I was a bit disappointed about. I'd rather like to learn a few more of the nice French psalms with their jerky, jaunty, irregular rhythms that caused them to be nicknamed "Geneva jigs".

The sermon was on Isaiah 62, watchmen on the walls of Jerusalem, and how we should be watchmen, and the preacher had the fastest delivery I ever remember hearing. After she finished I thought "Phew!".

The city was beautiful this morning, cold and sunny. Very cold.  

Parsifal at the cinema

They're doing Parsifal from the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden in one of the Bordeaux cinemas this Wednesday.

The thing is, it lasts for five and a quarter hours. It starts at 5:45 and is due to finish at 11.

I don't know.... Perhaps one day.... But five and a quarter hours.

A musical day

This morning saw Catrin's first concert at the Espace Musical de Pessac. She was due to be singing "Le Mariage des Roses", a sing by César Franck. So we scuttled along at 11am, hampered by the locked gates of the park, arriving late, but well in time to hear our girl sing.



Hurrah ! Bravo !

Over lunch Pat said, "so what time are you out this afternoon ?"

Oh no ! The Christmas Trombones rehearsal !

So I grabbed my red plastic trombone and my music and hurtled out to catch the bus and tram to Forum and to find the rehearsal room at the Ecole Joliot-Curie in Talence.

We've rehearsed there before. It took me a while to find them then, but now I know where the room is - and I found a choir ! Then locked gates, empty rooms and no sound of trombones anywhere. After about 15 - 20 minutes of hunting I turned round and went home !

Meanwhile Catrin and Pat had a more fruitful time selling cakes and tea at the Anglican Christmas Fayre and Bazaare. We'd kindly donated two big bags of books we wanted to get rid of, and I threatened violence if Pat came home with any books.

She didn't even try to hide them !

Saturday, December 07, 2013

Châteaux Haut-Brion et La Mission Haut-Brion





Yesterday we went with the ex-pat club to visit two of Bordeaux' most prestigious châteaux, and it so happens that they are in Pessac and that we pass them every day on the number 4 bus !

Château Haut-Brion dates from the 1500s and the main house was built then. In the 1800s the château was classed among the premiers crus de Bordeaux, which means it's a very classy and expensive wine. After exchanging hands between various families (notably the de Pontac) the château was bought by an American family, the Dillons, then passed by marriage into the ownership of the Prince of Luxembourg.


La Mission Haut-Brion was started by an order of missionary priests founded by Saint Vincent de Paul, who produced fine wine but also lived out their monastic discipline just a few hundred yards from their secular neighbors. In the 1930s the Dillons bought the Mission Haut-Brion, but their improvements and renovations have tried to keep the origin of the château in mind.

Here's some photos. I think La Mission was the most beautiful place I have seen in Pessac.

Friday, December 06, 2013

How does she do it ? How ?

Yesterday I made my third visit to the Irish Shop. Not bad after 8 years.

Afterwards I excitedly jabbered to Mrs Davey :

They've got everything.
Everything !
They've got mincemeat,
they've got crackers,
they've got Christmas Cake,
they've got gravy granules,
they've got pickles,
they've got this Christmas spiced tea that smells like Christmas...

Have they got mince pies ?

No, they haven't got mince pies.

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Huzzah for the Insurance company

I had a rendez-vous at 9h30 in our insurance office at Pessac to talk about various policies, insurances etc... A nice young lady had suggested back in August that I make an appointment towards the end of the year as various new contracts were going to become available that might suits us very well.

So in I went, talked with a lady who at first I dreaded a little - you know the type, the lady of a certain age who gives every appearance of having achieved unmatched excellence in dragon-taming...

Anyway, she was the one who said "Monsieur" so up I went.

And she proceeded to refund us 100€ at a stroke, reduce our monthly payments quite dramatically, AND we won't pay anything till March.

Bravo, Madame, and "huzzah!" for the insurance company.

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Last but one visit to the hospital

Yesterday morning we met up with an American missionary couple who are coming to serve, either in Toulouse or in Bordeaux, to start with alongside the existing church, then to bring a church-planting team in three years time. It was good to talk with them in Pain and Compagnie (other cafés were closed).

Then to the hospital. The doctor was very pleased with the progress of Pat's thumb. Essentially, the part that she sliced off has regrown in the moisture of the plastic dressing. The smell was impressive, but so was the lovely pink healing.

Now we switch to a pansement gras, that is, a dressing with vaseline, to encourage the skin to form nicely. Two weeks of that, which Pat can do herself every other day at home, then a last visit in two weeks time to ensure all is well.

Pat came away with enough gauze, tubigrip, etc, to dress a small defeated army !



Monday, December 02, 2013

Hhhhmmmmm - providence

We hummed and we hahed. Which church to visit on Sunday morning ?

Catrin would be with us. What to do ?

Gwilym would be at our church in Cenon. Maybe we'd return to Lormont.

Or maybe to the Eglise Libre.

Or Lormont. Or the Eglise Libre...

In the end we decided on the Eglise Libre and took the 44 from just round the corner.

We got to the church and went in, found a place roughly in the middle.

Then a woman came forward from the back of the church - Patricia ! Alan !

Our friend from language school, that is 8 years ago in my case and from Marie-Anne's class in Pat's case had spotted us and came up to say hello.

"It is my first time in a protestant church in France. Yes, at home we are protestant, but I didn't go very often, but this weekend I just felt I wanted to go to church and this one is near."

She sat in the row behind us and after the service I introduced her to the young pasteur stagiaire. I also mentioned her to some other folk who would keep an eye on her.

Amazing. God's plan.

Sunday, December 01, 2013

‘Calvinism’ – Latte? Cappucino? Americano?

So which is yours to be, the ‘Calvinism’ of the 5 points, a ‘doctrinal Calvinism’, a ‘Calvinism’ which identifies it with Calvin’s children, who went their own way when the discussion went beyond Calvin himself, or the ‘full package Calvinism’, which is not a full package at all, since Calvin’s view of the magistrate’s role in upholding the Reformed faith has been excised from it? (And in this roll-call \’Neo-calvinism in its various guises has not even been mentioned. )
Whichever it is, no-one can stop you calling your choice ‘Calvinism’. You see, unlike ‘Cadbury’s’ or ‘Chevrolet’ or ‘Calvin Klein’ ’ there is no copyright or trademark that covers the use of the word ‘Calvinism’. Any more than with \’inerrancy\’ or \’justification\’ or any other central theological term.
Irritating, isn’t it?
See also me !
(I'm especially pleased that the great Professor Helm and I both independently ended up with Humpty, though he relates it to a slightly different word : Calvinism as opposed to Reformed.)

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Un Pibal, deux Pibaux

I have seen two Pibaux at close quarters this week. This represents 10% of the total number of Pibaux in the world!

The first was just outside Mollat, the bookshop. It was being ridden by a gentleman who was discussing his itinerary with a woman. While he was stopped I took a quick photo and it is this photo that you can see below, with his head cropped to preserve his anonymity and to focus more on the Pibal.

The second was being ridden near the cathedral : we were both waiting to cross the road, I saw it and said "Un Pibal !" The lady riding it was very chatty and said that, yes, it is as good as they say it is, that no, it is light and she happily carries it up steps and so on and yes, the footplate is useful for carrying children and you can still pedal even with a child stood thereupon.

Jolly good !

Here we have a photo of one of the pibaux, plus a vidéo with Philippe Starck



It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas

Hanging gardens of Bordeaux

Sun and shade - sunny means cold

A Pibal ! the Bordeaux Bike by Philippe Starck

Brrr... It's COLD !

Festive traffic !

Festive pedestrians !

Guess where

Today we're meeting up with two students who have asked to interview us as part of their research into the diets of ex-pat-Brits what live in France.

Guess where we're meeting ?

We're in

Cold, but sunny.


There's a friend who calls me in spates, this week was a spate, so on Thursday evening the phone rang, I thought it was him, I picked it up and waited.

Nothing.

I waited some more.

Still nothing.

"Âllo ?"

"Just ringing to say that your application for membership of the International Club of Bordeaux has been approved."

Just in time for us to go to the reading group in a café in the middle of town. (See, this café thing is not just us.)

This month it was "The Stranger's Child" by Alan Hollinghurst. I enjoyed parts of the book, some parts were quite funny. It reconciled me a bit to Ian McEwan. I went off Ian McEwan when his books started to resemble, to me, propaganda on various moral issues of the day - Amsterdam was the most blatant, for me, but Saturday was the same really, and after that I gave up for a while. Anyway perhaps that's what some literature has to be about. Propaganda for one or other view on moral issues.
Warm wraps on the chairs of the café 

We're a varied group of people : Russian, French (in an international kind of way), American, English Public School, Pat and I, and it's interesting watching people take positions, defend them, cede them, negotiate, all in a friendly and warm atmosphere.

And we're members !

As we talked a group of chaps came through in orange woolly hats. Aha ! The Frankfurters !

"Hi!", said one.
"Who won?"
"We did!"
"So ! Happy Frankfurters!"
"Yes"
Outside the cinema in Pessac
Then off to ... another café to meet up with a French friend who's very active in feeding the homeless. He also decides to feed me from time to time in the associative café where lunch is 4€ for main course, dessert, wine and coffee. He's protestant and feels he owes me eternal gratitude because I buried his mother.

Afterwards he tried to get me to go for another coffee somewhere but I had a list of emails to answer as long as your arm, so I had to get home. So instead we walked through the city a little, he showed me the shop Ding Fring where they sell off end of line clothes very cheaply, and I showed him Books and Coffee where I have to meet up with some folk very soon....

On the tram we found ourselves in a group of people with black and white scarves.

"Attend, il y a un truc. Vous êtes qui ?"
"Nous sommes de Francfort"
"And your English is better than your French?"
"Yes"
"So why the black and white scarves and why the orange yesterday ?"
"Black and white are our colours, but have you seen the film a Clockwork Orange?"
"But it's very violent!"
"So are we!" said one grinning, moustached German, looking as violent as a hamster.

Home to emails...

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Café crawl

Dan
On Thursday we went to check out a restaurant run by some friends of ours - he's French but he's worked in China and she is Chinese. The restaurant is kind of Asian-French-Fusion. It was also a kind of postponed birthday lunch for Pat. So we went off and found Dan, (the restaurant's name).

The meal was exquisite, the restaurant pretty and intimate, the staff small, our friends were manning the kitchen and quickly realized we were there, it was a super time. No coffee, thanks.

Afterwards we had a rendez-vous with visiting dignitaries from one of the UK missions, so we hastened off to the cathedral where we'd said we'd meet them at the base of the bell tower. A happy hour of discussion ensued at the Cheverus, the café where I used to do the advanced English conversation. They had another rendez-vous at 15:30, so we delivered them back to the bell-tower, then Pat and I separated. Hot Chocolate.

I had half an hour to get to Les Mots Bleus, so I dawdled via Mollat, the big bookshop, then panicked when I got a text message saying my student friend was already at les Mots Bleus. We spent a happy couple of hours talking about courtship, engagement, marriage, studies, work and future ministry possibilities, then we parted and I sauntered off to my last café rendez-vous. Coffee.

At Flunch, where this time I didn't get a drink, but my student friend was eating burger and chips, so I thought I could get away with having nothing. We talked, read and prayed together, then it was time for him to go off and teach English and for me to miss my first bus, catch my second and run the gauntlet of excited and well-watered Frankfurt football fans, all wearing orange.

Home.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

La Passion dans l'art

Tuesday evening FAC and GBU held a presentation in the public rooms in the centre of town on the depiction of the crucifixion by artists through the ages, with special reference to Michelangelo. It was expertly given by Julie, the GBU Staff Worker. Here's some photos.


Tuesday, November 26, 2013

At the hospital

At the A&E for Hands department last Thursday night we met a charming nurse and doctor who said," We'll use a special protocol which involves just covering the wound with a transparent plastic dressing and leaving well alone. It will macerate and it will smell, but you'll see, within quite a short time the flesh will grow to fill the wound and the skin will grow back. It's the best protocol for this kind of wound to avoiding scarring and loss of sensation. But it will mean coming back every week for us to redo the dressing."

So yesterday we went back. Pat's appointment was for 4. There are 36 ways of getting to the hospital from here so I chose one that allowed us 20 minutes to find the department once we got there. It meant the 4 to Barrière de Pessac, then the 11 to the hospital. Champion.

We arrived at the hospital and, with our dim memories of the site on a dark rainy night, quickly found the fire escape style staircase we used to get out of the unit and retraced our steps. 10 to 4 ! Perfect !

Not so fast young man. "Have you got your new feuille de machin?" asked the receptionist. We didn't even know what one of them is. So it meant we had to find the reception area - the place where the zombies roamed that fateful night - and take a number, then get a feuille de machin.

We saw the reception area below, but all the lifts said Strictly reserved for the sick. So we hunted for a stairway. The panic rose. Would we NEVER be able to get down there ? A lady found us huddled in a corner.
"We can't find a stairwell. We need to get down to reception."
"Here's a lift!"
"But it's strictly reserved for the sick"
"C'est pas grave".
We fell on her neck, hugged and kissed her, went down and got our number. 

743. They were currently on 72.
We found a seat.
I got out my book.
Pat got out her book.
484.
Oh! Good!
73
732. 74. OK. We see how this works.

After about 15 minutes spent happily reading and people-watching (French white coats are unflattering) our number came up and we won guichet C. Pat didn't have her passport but since she's already known to the hospital they didn't ask for it. But her carte vitale was out of date. "Go and update it at the terminal by the door." I did it. It worked. So I did mine, too.

"OK. Here's your feuille de machin." We went up brazenly in the lift strictly reserved for the sick - c'est pas grave - and found our way back to the hands department. The nurse was waiting for us (reading her book).

The doctor told her to remove the dressing. The nurse removed the dressing.

"Oh yes. That's very good. See, it's starting to smell. You could clean a little closer round the edges. I'll take a photo." The nurse wrapped Pat's thumb in plastic, put on a strip of elastoplast to hold it in place and off we went.

From the window of the hands department I was sure I had seen a road quite nearby with what looked like tram wires... We went that way - and found the tram stop after just 50 yards !

This time Tram A to Peychotte and bus 23 to Macedo and home. 

Monday, November 25, 2013

Sunday night

Several new folk at the Evening Service, which was on 2 Samuel 7, the humungous promise to David. David's prayer has long been a favourite passage.

We were about 23 to 25 - really it isn't easy to see how we could get much bigger in our home. We have 38 chairs if we use them all. We have fitted 30 people in our home, but with chairs in tight rows... It may be preferable to find another venue. We'll see...

Way to go, Jésus

Sunday morning found me and the kids at the Mérignac church plant. It was my third visit. The first time there were 16 folk, last week 12 and this week we must have been about 30.

Todd and Terri and Tim and his wife (name forgotten - Tina ?) were there. Todd led the service and Tim preached. I like them very much. Tim says things like "Ca m'a fait la semaine" and "Way to go, Jésus!"

The chap who preached last week came and gave me a big hug.

Well a small hug. He's a small chap.

Pat stayed at home feeling somewhat dizzy. Time to stop the strong painkillers, she thought...

At the hospital

When I got back from Synode I discovered that Gwilym's foot was "just" sprained and no x-ray, cast or amputation was necessary. Good.

Pat's thumb was not a huge hindrance to life, though it did exempt her from washing-up duty. She didn't seem very distressed at that.

Today we had to go back to the hospital to get the dressing changed. The doctor was very pleased with the wound's progress. "Yes, nice and smelly ! It's doing very well"

Jolly good.

Thanksgiving

At the synode I fended some surreptitious messages concerning Bordeaux Church's first ever  Thanksgiving Meal.

"I'll be late with the green beans".

"Is it OK for me to come?"

"Can I bring a friend?"

In the end there were about 25 people, some of whom we'd never met before, and it seemed to be a good time. Pat said, "There was no spiritual input, except I read a psalm of thanksgiving and someone prayed."

Well, anyway it was a good time, and on Sunday we ate left-over turkey, mash and sweetcorn.


The Synode of Montauban

So 8:45 found me high-tailing it to the railway station where I hopped on one of our super regional trains to Bordeaux Saint-Jean. I sat in one of the curved sofas and zoomed along above the Pessac streets that sped by below me. Then onto my train for Montauban. Grey skies, sunny orchards, the canal, the coloured stucco of Agen, I was soon trotting through the cold streets of Montauban to the Temple de la Faculté where the Synode would be held.

A fine meal with the Commission Exécutive, then the delegates arrived and the Synode began. Discussions about our international relationships, the ethical challenges of our outreach, finance, of course, the life of the churches, good meals, fun with the delegates, some serious discussions in quiet corners, fin bref, a synode.

Then back with Christophe, Patrick and Harriette in the Harriette-Wagen and restored to the bosom of my family.


Friday, November 22, 2013

Book review - Preaching ? Simple teaching on simply preaching. by Alec Motyer

Quite simply, this is a great book, even a wonderful book. Somehow in very few pages Motyer manages to provide instructions and examples on understanding the text, organizing ones thoughts, presentation, the preacher's devotional life, pastoral care, prayer - it is not easy to think of an area of preaching that he does not address.

Of course, it's a short book, so you won't find a seminary level course on hermeneutics, exegesis, homiletics, historical theology of preaching or whatever. But I dare to think that the seminary that set this book at the beginning or at the end of its pastoral training would be doing something very useful indeed.

Why is the book so good ? Motyer writes with humility. Hurrah ! At last a book written by an acknowledged expert who does not proclaim himself an acknowledged expert ! He confesses his struggles. He does not parade his great learning - after all this is the author of the magisterial commentary on Isaiah. He writes with humour. Sometimes the book is downright funny. He writes with honesty. He addresses issues that are sometimes painful to face. He writes with faithfulness. Hurrah ! At last a man who has nothing to give except the Bible ! And he writes with lots of useful nourishment. The book closes, rather strangely, with some devotionals taken from various places in the Scripture.

Buy the book. Read the book. It's not expensive and for the good it will do you it's very good value indeed. And soon you'll preach a really helpful sermon on Mary Magdalene sitting at the feet of Jesus.

Five stars. If I could I'd give it six!

I received the book free of charge in Kindle format in exchange for reviewing the book. I was not required to write a positive review.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

What !!!???

Well the good news is that Catrin thinks her Bac blanc went OK. She says she wrote a lot anyway, and since they mark by weight then that should be OK.

HOWEVER...

We got a phone call at about 5:15 - Gwilym was on his way home on crutches after hurting first his knee, then his foot playing rugby this morning.

So Pat phoned for a doctor's appointment and he's in for 16:45 tomorrow.

Meanwhile I leave for the Synod of Montauban on the 8:45 train and get back Saturday evening.

And we have the Thanksgiving meal here on Friday evening.

Hey - it's fine ! Hurdles are for jumping, aren't they !

The crust and the core

I couldn't possibly agree more with Kevin DeYoung's blogpost here.

Pat's unusual birthday

Poor girl !

What we imagined was a happy morning at Maison de la Bible, followed by lunch at Dan, a new east-west fusion restaurant owned by some friends here in Bordeaux.

Instead Pat's lying in bed with most of her thumb and I'm making appointments to be seen in weeks to come and making a quick dash to the pharmacy for painkillers.

Still, Pat does like a lie-in, and I will be able to crack on with my reading, so it could be a whole lot worse.

URGENCES MAIN

Gwilym phoned 15 and talked to them about Pat's thumb while I looked for different ways to stop bleeding. My favourite - pressure and frozen peas - was near the top of the list, and they told Gwilym that we had to go to urgences.

At Hôpital Pellegrin there's a special department for A&E Hands, so that's where our friend Rhian took us. She dropped us by the sign "Urgences Main" and we followed the arrow. Then the next arrow. Then the next arrow. We found a reception area, deserted apart from a small group of zombies disguised as humans who wandered aimlessly, hopelessly, sightlessly round the entrance door, attracted by the lights, perhaps. 

A guy in a white coat was smoking outside. "You work here?" "No." Perhaps he just likes white coats.

Another guy came along. He was very tall and walked quickly and purposefully. "Can you direct us to Urgences Main?" "You have to go upstairs, look there's a lift, it's upstairs." When he pointed we saw that he had the hand and arm of a gibbon. It augured well. If they can give a man a gibbon's arm they could surely fix Pat's thumb.

We took the lift, by now a bit spooked, and followed the deserted corridors. Urgences Main - 8h30 - 19h30. said the sign. It was 20h00. We were becoming discouraged. The next door said "Urgences Main Sonnez et Attendez". We rang, we waited.

A charming nursing auxiliary unlocked the door, looked round, then hurried us into the department. A nurse came and started filling in the forms and entering us on the computer. It was Pat's third visit to A&E so she was already on the system.

We waited for the doctor. The nurse gave Pat some paracetamol and a tetanus jab. A nursing manager came. He was very charming. Then a junior doctor. He was also very charming. Then the doctor came. She looked at Pat's thumb then charmingly said which protocol would be used, at which the nurse started dressing Pat's thumb with plastic film, followed by a large compression bandage.

"You'll be coming back once a week to get the dressing changed", said the doctor. "The protocol we're using keeps the wound covered, clean and moist. It may smell bad, but it gives the best results in healing and regrowth of skin and tissue, avoiding scarring and loss of sensation."

The nurse showed us a rear exit where we could scuttle down a fire escape stairway and get out of the building without passing all the scary people. Our friends, Xavier and Rhian came and took us home.   

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Sunny morning, ghastly afternoon.


The American folk are hosting a Thanksgiving meal at our house on Friday so Pat and I wandered off to Picard to look for a turkey roast. No turkey roast, but we got some turkey. Anyway it was a lovely morning. Here's some photos.

The afternoon was back to rainy greyness.

Then Pat decided to make "tartiflette" for tea, and to slice the potatoes rather than dicing them, using her mandoline. It has a nice handle thing to stop you slicing your thumb. If you use it.

Thus it was that at about 8:30 pm we were in the HANDS A&E waiting for the doctor to come and decide what to do about the wound on the side of Pat's thumb. They are using a special kind of dressing that encourages natural healing of the thumb by keeping it moist under plastic wraps. We'll be back there once a week, probably till Christmas, to get the dressings changed.

How to get the seeds out of a pomegranate (mild bad language alert)

A spot of domestic science

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Prayer time at the Maison de la Bible




Tuesday is Pat's day at the Maison de la Bible. She wanted to be home waiting when Catrin got back from her Bac blanc (mock A level) Science exam so she asked me to take over from about 4. Always keen to get into the city centre, I went in after lunch and explored a little before hieing me to the bookshop and sending Pat on her way.

Catrin's science exam went OK. She said "They must think we're really stupid, the exam was easy."


Meanwhile at the bookshop the supporters and volunteers were gathering for the monthly prayer meeting. To be honest with you I was a bit of a spare part. I held the stepladder for Joel, advised a lady who wanted an ESV, helped select books for the book table at the second-hand fair, etc... Then it was prayer meeting time. Every group has it's own prayer meeting habits. I remember the encouraging grunts of South East England, for example. In the MB prayer meeting one mistunes quietly to the others pray then all give a hearty "Amen" afterwards as one man.

Home via Auchan for the things we can"t get when we shop online. I headed for the self-scan machines. My peppers wouldn't scan. I left them there impatiently.

Monday, November 18, 2013

A walk by the autumn vines

Not far from our house the vines of Château Pape Clément begin, so this morning we took a little stroll up to the second-hand bookshop at Monteil to try and flog some old books of the children's, then came back alongside the vines.

Report on a chilly weekend

Saturday was a sunny but chilly day. The temperature has suddenly fallen here and we are due our first first tonight (thinks, must cover the outside taps today).

Catrin had PILES of homework to do. Apparently the kids have so much work to do at the moment that one girl caught sight of the French teacher in the corridor of the lycée and burst into tears !

So Gwilym went to the youth group on his own and had a good time cycling, wii-ing and studying Psalm 23.

Meanwhile we had a nice visit from one of the retired pastors of the UNEPREF, Maurice Raetz, who was on his way to Cadaujac to stay at the Arragouets and preach ta Cenon on Sunday morning.

Sunday found me on the road to Mérignac to visit the new church that is part of the CMA (or in French AMC). I booked a car to go which cut the journey time from and hour and a half to half an hour. So I put my card against the windscreen.
Nothing.
Ah - perhaps I booked it from 10 and it's not quite 10. After 10 I tried again.
Nothing.
So I got out Mr Smartphone and checked my reservations on the website.
Nothing.
The problem is that when you make a reservation you have to confirm it, and I have lived in DREAD of forgetting to confirm. Now it had happened.
So I quickly reserved the car I was stood by, confirmed, and off I went to Mérignac.

The church meets in a hotel right at the side of the rocade, just 10 minutes down the road from where we live. As I arrived Zach was folding tables and setting chairs in rows. A few people arrived as I did, so we lent a hand. When all was ready we were 12, all the missionaries were away, families were away, but we had music accompaniment of guitar, cello and flute, Pierre led the service and Nathanaël preached helpfully from Psalm 130.

Pat, Gwilym and Catrin meanwhile went to Cenon where the service was to be followed by a meal together then a meeting to discuss the musical accompaniment in the church. Unfortunately Pat and the kids had to leave the meeting early and were brought home by Harriëtte.

Sunday evening we were a nice gang of just under 20, with Judges 1 - does God have the right to judge, my place in God's story, and so on... Vegetable lasagna afterwards. And a bit of a post-mortem on the afternoon meeting.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

International group

After the walk on Thursday we were almost ready to join the international group and so have the right to attend the book group together. We still had to :

Find two members to sponsor us, one a founder member
Fill in our application forms
Read and sign the rules and regulations

So I emailed two members asking for sponsorship and we downloaded the forms and rules, read, completed, signed.

The two members said yes.

OK, we are off. We can send off the forms and await the deliberation of the executive committee.

Meanwhile we are OK to go to the book group in November.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Don Carson - Watch me...

Watch Me! from 10ofthose.com on Vimeo.

A rather unusual day !





This morning I went on a walk round the centre of Bordeaux with the International Club of Bordeaux. The circuit was just 6km and it was scheduled to take 2 hours, but we dillied and dallied, stopped for photos, explored alleys and gazed at hidden houses with roman pillars.

The most surprising thing was the weather ! Gone was the blanket of grey that has smothered Bordeaux' skies for the past week or so. We had fluffy white colds and even some blue skies. Very nice !

At 12 I met Pat at Maison de la Bible and we came home for lunch. Then this afternoon a rendez-vous with one of the Chinese students to talk about things in the Christian scene in Bordeaux. It was a useful meeting which will doubtless feed into our reflections for the future.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

A visit to the quack

Off to the quack this morning, for two reasons.

Firstly when I went to see him some months ago we forgot to put ventolin on the prescription. Oops ! And now it's the fungus season I do need it...

Secondly our health people have sent me a thing to get a flu jab.

Que du bonheur, as one says.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Credo Magazine - Quote from an interview with James M. Hamilton Jr.

You note that there have been a variety of reactions to the Enlightenment’s impact on biblical interpretation, and that even many of the conservative responses to these challenges have begun with the same assumptions found in the more liberal camps. You respond by distancing yourself from these reactions, claiming that biblical theology should be a bridge into another world, namely, the world of the biblical writers. Why is it so important for us to cross that bridge and to breathe the air of the biblical writers?
I’m trying to say in different words what John is after in 2 John 9 when he speaks of abiding in the teaching of Jesus Christ: “Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son.” How do we conceptualize living in the teaching?

The biblical authors are building a symbolic universe in which they intend believers to live. They’re trying to move people into that world, and help them inhabit it. We want to live in the world as conceived by the biblical authors, not the fake-world invented by the evolutionists and secularists and rebels of other stripes.

Read Credo magazine here.

Remembrance Day





The day started with us getting the house back straight after Sunday night, then scuttling off to Pessac centre for the ceremony. On 8 May, 14 July and 11 November the buses have little flags. They're a cheerful sight.

The ceremony went well and started on time.

For eight years I have been baffled by the fact that the Remembrance day service never seemed to start on time. I know we talk about the Bordeaux quarter of an hour, but surely you'd start the Remembrance Day ceremony on time?

Well they have been started on time. I spotted in the Pessac newsletter that the ceremony is announced for 11:15.

Why not 11?

I don't know. Anyway, the Marseillaise was masterfully interpreted by the Société Musicale de Saint-Martin under the baton of Jospeh Clémens. And the rain held off for the ceremony, though many kept their plastic macs on, just in case.

Afterwards some friends came for lunch. Home-made bread, blue and runny cheese, and ham. I had a Skype meeting scheduled with a friend who has recently moved to Cambridge. Our wifi has been playing up, so I did it on my mobile phone and that worked OK, though I haven't dared look at how much data I used!



Then into Bordeaux for a meet-up with one of the students at Subway. We talked, read, walked and prayed together before he went home to prepare for his week and I went home.

Monday, November 11, 2013

A happy Sunday with a happy English Service

Faced with inclement weather we decided to take the easy option and attend the Pessac Baptist Church. It's a traditional, conservative church led by a missionary couple, the Bixbys. The message was focused on James 2:21.

After church we went home and Pat got lunch ready for the return of the kids from the ADD in Lormont. Then a quiet afternoon before getting the place ready for the English Service.

This means :

Clearing the decks - airer must be put away as well as all extraneous papers etc.
Huge plastic table brought in and put end to end with our family table.
Bring in the chairs and sort out the lighting.
Printing out any extra songs we plan to sing that are not in our Christian Hymns books.

We were 23, including our visiting preacher and our visiting preacher's wife. The message was from Joshua 1, and addressed the question of God's will for us, God's promises for us, and so on.

Afterwards Leek and Potato soup and rolls, followed by a "fusion" Asian/English bread and butter pudding with vanilla crème anglaise.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Winter came suddenly

yesterday. It was about a week late. It usually gets cold suddenly on or around the 1st of November.

Oh well, in fear and trembling I turned the heating on last night. And it worked ! :D


Saturday, November 09, 2013

Birth of a family tradition

Well we greatly enjoyed our American pancakes during half-term, but that was then and this is now. Weekday breakfasts in term-time are taken on the run, with a 6am rise and a 7am bus to get to lycée for 8am. Pancakes don't fit that schedule. Nothing sociable fits that schedule.

But Saturday. That's a different matter ! So begins the new habit of Saturday brunch. Pancakes.

(We may even introduce bacon or sausages at some point.)

Friday, November 08, 2013

The Power of the word

"When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, 'it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less."
"The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things."
"The question is," said Humpty Dumpty, "which is to be master— that's all."

I have been amused to see two blog posts in the past few days, written by two of my favourite prominent presbyterians, both discussing John Piper and both asking the question, "Is John Piper really reformed?"

Kevin De Young's blog post is entitled "Is John Piper Really Reformed?" and it can be read here.

R. Scott Clark's blog post is entitled "Is John Piper Reformed? Or Holding The Coalition Together (Updated)" and it can be read here.

That two prominent presbyterians differ ought not to surprise us, especially in the USA. In Wales the waves of revival and gospel blessing brought a rich miscellany of churches whose buildings remain as testimony to the diversity that flourishes when vibrant Bible Christianity flourishes. In the USA the Three Forms of Unity and, I suppose, the different countries of origin of immigrants, have given rise to a wonderful kaleidoscope of presbyterian denominations.

This came home to me in a different way over the past few days in trying to research the different worldwide groups of presbyterian churches. So far I have found three but I am sure there are others. We have the Worldwide Communion of Reformed Churches, the International Conference of Reformed Churches and the World Reformed Fellowship. If I ever do my doctorate it will be a historical theological comparison of the three groups trying to explain who belongs where and why and noting any anomalies. You can get the man out of taxonomy studies, but you can't get taxonomy studies out of the man.

Anyway, leaving aside John Piper and the fascinating question of whether he is reformed, Reformed, Really Reformed and whether he cares tuppence what anyone thinks, what interests me as a Welshman living in France is the Power of the word.

What does reformed mean? Is that different from Reformed?
What does evangelical mean?
Also what does baptist mean? And Baptist? 
And is reformed baptist a contradiction in terms ? 
What about Reformed Baptist? reformed Baptist? Reformed baptist? 

STOP !

In the end to argue about words like this is futile. People blindly follow Humpty Dumpty anyway, whatever we say about confessions, definitions, etc. We use words in contexts to mean quite different things. This battery is dead. Communism is dead. My child is dead.

We may, like Humpty, want to be master of the word, but we can't. The word evangelical doesn't belong to me, or to the gospel coalition, the evangelical alliance, the council of evangelicals or to anyone else who might claim the authority to give the word it's final and restrictive definition. The word reformed will mean one thing when linked to baptist, another thing when linked to Church of Hungary and quite another when linked to bank robber.

So who will have the last word over whether John Piper is (Really) Reformed?
Scott Clark? De Young?

"The question is," said Humpty Dumpty, "which is to be master— that's all."

Sorry, Humpty. When it's you against the power of a word, it's the word that wins.

That's what words are like.

   
  

Sunny Montauban

We needed a couple of things - sheets of plastic, paper for school, so I hit the bus 4 and popped into Auchan, then inspected the Christmas Crackers at Hema - They're OK - they come with hats, mottos and a game of "Who am I" where each has a sticker with a name on it. Then to Bradley's bookshop for Remembrance Day poppies (none were in evidence) then Desigual for a spot of colour therapy (Bordeaux gets grey and depressing in the winter) then to the bookshop to transfer the paper etc. to Mrs Davey. Quick cup of coffee and "Ton père va comment?" at the bookshop, then hightail it to the station for a quick MacDonalds before catching the 12:47 to Montauban.

My order was placed in the electronic booth thing at 12:27. That'll be fine. So I was surprised to find myself hurtling along the platform at 12:45 without my Chicken McSandwich. There were HORDES of people, talking to the staff was impossible, it was carnage, carnage I tell you.

Oh well, I'd have time to eat at Montauban. The train was on time, I found my seat, I read and prepared and read and napped.





Montauban was sunny and bright ! As blue and colourful as Bordeaux was grey. I hunted for the kind of place where you can eat lunch at 2:45. In the town centre of Montauban there were restaurants and bistros (you'll be lucky!), kebab places (... um... I'd have to be a LOT more hungry) and boulangeries/patisseries. So it was that I found myself eating a very nice onion quiche followed by a slice of red fruits crumble. A quick visit to Monoprix to find comestibles for the return journey then off to the meeting. I was still pretty early when I spotted a tea room. Oh go on. I was the only punter so over my pot of Ceylon I talked with the owner, a lady from Brittany who had visited Huddersfield in the past.

The meeting of the Commission Executive Sud-Ouest was a happy time discussing the harsh realities of the day together. Then I got a lift to the station.

I got to the station at 19:25 and my train was at 20:40. Hmmm. The Marseille-Bordeaux train was just about to arrive almost an hour late. I asked the ticket office if I could get on that train. "In principle, no, but ask the guard." I asked the guard. "Oh yes!", he said. He was a very cool guard. The train was an InterCity and I occupied a family room - 12 seats, 2 child seats and a play area. I had it to myself.

On my arrival at Bordeaux I went to McDonalds and explained what had happened. "Did you phone ?" "I thought about it but they were already swamped with people." "We'll refund you but next time phone anyway." Bus 11, Bus 4 and restored to the bosom of my family.

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Today I take the train again to Montauban

Last time I went it was Sunday, sunny, beautiful, ten days ago.

Now it's wet, rainy, damp, gray and overcast.

Oh well. It'll be good anyway and good to see the chaps of the South West Executive Commission.

I'll get back L A T E tonight.

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

A sabbatical from Facebook

I haven't been coping with Facebook ! It's been making me anxious and unhappy, so I have stopped using it.
I haven't deleted my account.
Also things will still appear under my name - from Twitter and from Instagram.
I'll scuttle in like a ninja first thing in the morning to greet the birthday people.
I'll also need to use the Android Facebook Pages application to update the Bordeaux Church page, but that's OK.

Climate change ?

Well we're sat here in our gloomy living room with the doors to the garden open having moved logs from one pile to another ready for winter. Pat is reading Sherlock Holmes and knitting. I am reading Greg Beale and blogging. Catrin is in her room cramming Joseph Conrad passages. Gwilym is in his room crashed out.

But it's November 6th and the doors are open and it's 18° in here. I wonder whether we have moved from a classic four-season system to a new two-fold dry and rainy season climate ? Still, the bird are happily eating the pyracantha berries and for the moment there is a pause in the rain.

Calm contentment !

Mrs Davey tells me that Hema, the new Dutch shop in Bordeaux, has Christmas Crackers !

Yipppeee ! Vive les Dutch !

Is the tram dangerous ? Is it more dangerous than buses ? (in French)

Read the statistics and a comparison here.



For them as doesn't read French it turns out that although 10 people have died in accidents connected with the Bordeaux tram network since its inception in 2003, the trams are as safe as one could expect of a similar network and considerably safer than buses.