Tuesday, March 31, 2015
Monday, March 30, 2015
Sunday, March 29, 2015
We are eagerly awaiting the arrival of a plumber, who phoned to say he'd be coming Saturday afternoon. This gave us an immediate problem because the person who does Saturday afternoons normally doesn't come till pretty late, if at all. Leah came to my aid and I was relieved at my post at just before 2, then was given a lift home by Pierre le Grec.
Pierre le Grec had come into the shop with my old friend Heber, a student who I used to meet up with years ago. Heber is passing through Bordeaux on the way to visit his beloved in Slovakia, and he brought his customary smile, good humour and a touch of Haitian sunshine to a grey Bordeaux day.
The plumber didn't come.
At five I left for the long and winding journey to Cenon for the Chinese group. Big mistake. The roads were CLOGGED with cars after a football match and the bus was about 1/2 hour late by the time we got to the tram stop. Still, I had a nice nap on the bus!
Still it was a happy time with the Chinese, who again told me that I have not mastered the pronunciation of ANY of their first names.
Back to the bus stop in time for the 10:10 bus 4 to not come, then to take the 11pm instead. Very thankful that it came. On the tram we chatted with a medical student in his sixth year, who is supervised by our next-door neighbour.
On the bus I dozed off again, and awoke to find the same chap standing right next to me. It turns out that he lives in a flat at the end of our road and he knows me because I say "Good morning" to him as he stands on his balcony to have a smoke. We chatted about his job, his family circumstances, his flat and so on.
I got in in time to put some clocks forward and fall into bed.
Saturday, March 28, 2015
Friday, March 27, 2015
Meanwhile Mrs Davey's back is OK. Today she sauntered off to Carrefour to obtain the little essentials that had been left off the list of the megashop I did yesterday, and she is up and about and smiling and saying her back's OK.
Meanwhile it has warmed up a little today. It is hard to believe that yesterday, almost at the end of March, we had the stove lit all day.
And the plumber phoned and said he'll call tomorrow afternoon.
Tuesday, March 24, 2015
Sometimes it's a movement that sparks it off. Sometimes it's too much lifting or carrying. We've been doing some gardening, nothing heavy, but I don't know if that was the source of the current flare-up, but it's happened.
She's cancelled her stints in the Maison de la Bible and started on ibuprofen. We hope that all will calm down this week so that I can come to the UK with no great worries. If it develops into a big problem then I might have to cancel the trip.
Thanks for praying!
Monday, March 23, 2015
And I leave for England on 31st March, and Catrin is studying for her bac, much of which entails the internet...
Well, on the way to the Chinese group on Saturday I was charged with getting some eggs and other comestibles. This I did with such panache and speed that I called in at the Free shop and:
1) ascertained that Catrin's mobile phone is on Free with 20GB of 4G (lots of internet connectivity)
2) it is really easy to switch people to Free, so I planned to switch Pat on Monday
3) switching to Free for the fixed line and internet is also quite easy.
"It takes between 6 and 15 days."
"Normally 6 or normally 15."
The guy looked me in the eyes. "Normally 6." (Ha! We'll see!)
On to the Chinese group. We were not numerous but we were of great quality.
I suggested that since Saturday evening is prime work time for restaurants that people should be asked what day and time might suit better for the meeting...
Each morning we turned off and on the modem to see if the line was working again.
I decided that if on Monday the thing still didn't work I would zoom off to Free and switch Pat's mobile phone over and also request moving the internet.
So Monday morning our workman came to sort out the damp damage in the spare room, then off to Free I went, returning with Pat's new phone card and having signed up for internet.
Then I tweeted about my move.
All of a sudden Bouygues people leapt to reply. "What's the problem? Can we help?"
A couple of hours later the internet is working.
Saturday, March 21, 2015
Hi! Our internet connection is down.
The technicians say it's a software issue rather than hardware. They do autorecovery procedures overnight, so we try out each morning to see if it's back.
The failure coincided with the eclipse, so it may be due to that, or possibly due to hacking by North Korea or terrorists.
Wednesday, March 18, 2015
I haven't attended a council meeting for some months, but since I am away in April for that council AND for the AGM I will be there this evening.
On the bus and tram I chatted with a friendly guy who started the conversation by lamenting the need to travel by bus and tram - "it's restrictive". I told him how liberating I find it and we talked about the various ways of doing the things you can't do by bus - buying furniture, going to the dump, etc.
I told him about Citiz/Autocool and Drivy, and he told me about BlueCub, then we reminisced about bizarre French cars of the past. I told him about my Ami 8, and he told me about the Méhari he once had (I was green with envy) and his DS21 (I'd love to try driving one of those one day) and the Fiat 500 (that one he could keep).
Then, all of a sudden we were at his stop and he got off. Still, it was an agreeable start to the day. I hope we meet again.
Monday, March 16, 2015
1) Meeting the Men of Meaux - representatives of a church that dates back to the time of Briçonnet, Farel, and the others of the Circle of Meaux. I ate lunch yesterday with the heirs of the reforming Bishop of Meaux. How awesome is that.
The church is currently not attached to any union of churches and so they are seriously considering becoming members of UNEPREF.
2) Meeting Nely Vos, the missionary attached to the Friedland Church in Marseille. I had heard so much about her but it was good to meet her.
3) Meeting my host couple, who lived in Bordeaux years ago, when Yves was pastor of the Eglise Libre.
4) Meeting Arnold, an alarmingly young theologian, Calvin specialist, now working on the Trinity in the OT, who was great fun.
5) Being back in the Cévennes, where the valleys, villages and coal tips remind me of the Rhondda.
6) Seeing some very dramatic restructuring of the church committees and regions achieved peacefully and with rigour.
7) Hearing Yannick Imbert speaking on Apologetics and inter-religious dialogue.
8) Not having to count the votes this time!
9) Good journeys there and back, on the way in Harriette's comfortable car, on the way back in a comfortable train.
Here's some photos.
Thursday, March 12, 2015
So later today we will drive 6 hours to La Grand'Combe, not far from Alès, which isn't far from Nîmes, which is just up the road from Montpellier, in the deepest darkest Cévennes, for the National and General Synod of the Nation Union of the Protestant Reformed Evangelical Churches of France.
I'm travelling down with Harriette in the Smitmobile but coming back on Sunday by train. It will mean 7 hours by train. I think. Between then the synod will accomplish marvels. The regions of France are to be abolished. The South-West region will be no more. Neither will Languedoc-Cévennes nor Provence-Ile-de-France.
The new denominational structure will be lighter, leaner, slimmer, swifter, more adaptable, quick-thinking and decisive.
As a humble pasteur-associé I don't have a vote, but I usually end up counting the votes so ... let's just say that there are ways and means.
I will try to add photos and perhaps the odd reflection from Synod.
Monday, March 09, 2015
Anyway, they all arrived, they ate, they had the first session, they went to settle for the night, then it all began. Catrin just vomited. Others had diarrhoea. All had to use one of those special turkish toilets - a hole for squatting. Que du bonheur!
We had a picnic sat on a bench in the first sunshine of Spring.
Then some television together, listen to last week's message from Deeside, and preparation for Sunday.
Sunday evening was a happy time. We were a few people fewer, probably because of the Mark drama being put on by the GBU in Latresne that evening.
However, our friend Nico was visiting and he was able to have a good discussion with one of our young folk who has read and been impressed by a singularly unhelpful book by some US presbys who decided to cross the Tiber, "Rome, sweet home". As Nico is currently engaged in swimming the Tiber in the other direction, I was extremely glad to get them together and let them talk. After all, I may know what indulgences are and how one uses a rosary, but I've never been in the system.
When I got home Catrin was waiting to recount her adventures, still looking somewhat ... drained ... but basically OK.
Saturday, March 07, 2015
Book review : God's Battle-plan for the Mind, The Puritan practice of Biblical Meditation, by David Saxton
Well, it's not put quite like that. Instead a time of mindfulness is recommended. To turn aside from daily pressures and our usual mindlessness(?) and to focus simply on who and where you are. Previous meditation techniques spoke of emptying the mind. Now we are told to focus the mind, to be fully present.
Christians have a third way. (See what I did there?) Instead of emptying the mind, which David Saxton says opens us to the possibility of "spiritual predators, and instead of focusing the mind on me and my circumstances, we can raise the mind higher. Paul would say, in Colossians 3, "set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things"
Saxton tells us that the Puritans considered long and hard how to put into practice Paul's exhortation, as well as the other countless encouragements to turn our thoughts and minds to God, his word, his promises, his goodness and the salvation he has accomplished for us.
This is not a long book. It has 12 chapters, but some of those chapters are very short indeed. There is some repetition. But there probably is no book that more thoroughly considers how practically to engage the Christian's mind with the truth of God. It's an encyclopaedic vade mecum of Christian meditation.
Are there weakness? I would say perhaps two, and I hesitate to mention them.
Firstly sometimes the book comes across as being somewhat gloomy and joyless, more focused on the dangers than the delights. It's a pity, because I think that those who may benefit best from the encouragement and practical advice in this book may give up reading it or even be put off. We are called to persuade the unwilling and not just to "preach to the choir".
Secondly, what preacher is not aware of the danger of sounding more like his puritan heroes than the puritans do? We can slip into archaic forms of speech that are unhelpful. Obviously when one quotes puritan authors then those quotes will be in 17th century English. But the reader needs to be able to tell at a glance the 17th century puritan quote from the 20th century author's own text. We must write simply and directly. I think the puritans would if they lived today.
So this is a very useful book that deserves and will repay slow, careful study. Think on!
I was thinking about this this week in the context of two discussions.
The first is a controversy that is smouldering about the work of the Spirit in relation to the Scriptures.
The historic evangelical position has been that when the Bible is preached, even if the preacher has done his work impeccably, with reflection, exegesis, analysis, application, illustration, structure, prayer and all, still for that word to have a powerful effect in the lives of the hearers the Holy Spirit must apply what they hear to their mind, heart, conscience, will, etc.
It is said that this position is no longer held by the vast majority of British evangelicals, with the watchword being "The power is in the Word". What this means is that the preacher must do an excellent job of reflection, exegesis, etc... and if he does, then the preaching will hit home. If he doesn't, then, hey, try harder next time.
I am disturbed by the "the power is in the Word" position because it effectively puts all the power in the hands of the preacher, which, incidentally, is just where we want it in our culture of celebrity. The gospel trains us never to exalt people, least of all ourselves. Only Christ.
(Incidentally putting preacher's mugshots on posters, or advertising services "With Fred Bloggs". Where does that come from?)
The second was a book on meditation that I have to review that, in the first chapter or so, gave the impression that "if you do these things you'll grow as a Christian and if you don't then you won't"
Anyway, I wonder whether in both these areas our heritage of philosophical modernism is doing us no favours. Modernism sees the world in terms of systems, and it is fascinated with working out how the system works and how we can understand, manipulate and control it. It's main fruit is technology.
Its drawback is that philosophical modernism believes in a closed system, where what we can see, analyse, manipulate and control is all that exists. If you can't see it, it isn't there.
Hence the "do this, it works" and the "the power is in the Word" problem.
We need to be able to do it, to make it happen.
Just a thought.
For next year he is thinking of doing a course in Theology and Music at LST - the London School of Theology, erstwhile London Bible College.
Discussion centres around:
1) the suitability of the faculty - it's the only course in music and theology he's found
2) the fees - at £14000 per year including full-board accommodation they are not excessive by British standards. However they still amount to well over half our annual salary. He'll end up with a very large student loan. Some help may be available from trust funds and he can invite help via stewardship services.
Could he achieve the same results by doing a non-residential course in theology combined with another training position and music studies at LST by distance learning?
3) the goal. Gwilym wants to reach young people with the gospel. He doesn't have any sense of call to pastoral ministry.
Well there we are. We're thrilled that he wants to serve the Saviour, though the route there seems winding.
She's had her first result already, but from her weakest subject.
She's full of dread for her OIB American literature because the teacher has been absent a lot and they spent too much time on poetry.
It'll be fine!
It started with the CNEF33 committee meeting which was to be held at the Caudéran Baptist Church.
Caudéran used to be a suburban town, independent of Bordeaux, just like Bègles, Pessac et al, but it was bought, it was purchased by Bordeaux. So it projects out over the boulevards, the inner ring road that approximately delineates the frontier of the town. It is regarded as being a particularly bourgeois neighbourhood, containing the lovely Parc Bordelais, but it has LOTS of blocks of flats and no tram line. So I booked a pool car and popped the address into Waze.
Well that was my first surprise. When I started the programme Waze knew what was in my diary on my phone, and suggested that I wanted to go to Caudéran. I supplied baptiste, and it found the address and plotted a course. Bravo, Waze!
Second surprise - instead of directing me to the rocade as I expected, it sent me off through backroads of Mérignac. Now Mérignac is one of the towns that fascinates me. Like all Bordeaux suburbs it has these remarkable space-age looking blocks of flats in curved or angular geometric shapes with foil exteriors or balconies poking out eccentrically. But next-door may be an old house looking like a settler's cabin in the forest of the Landes. You get a sudden vineyard, a level crossing, a fine stone chateau, some post-war cottages built very simply with pent roofs and graffiti on the walls. So I had a wonderful trip driving through the first day of Spring sunshine.
The meeting was a delight, though part of it was spent trying to work out who can replace our brethren who are leaving Bordeaux for other fields of service. Then another lovely drive through little winding streets back to Pessac.
Then dash home through the congested streets on a number 4 bus that was just too big to sneak through the gaps like the Vespas. A brief Skype interview with one of the glitterati of GBM, James' sending agency, followed.
Then off again in the other pool car to take Catrin from one side of Pessac (singing lesson) to the other (music option for bac). While she did her class I scuttled off to get some of those new magic wonder-logs from Leroy Merlin, past the Pessac vineyards with a gloriously golden sunset. Did I mention that today was the first day of Spring sunshine?
Thursday, March 05, 2015
In the first round all the candidates are put forward and if anyone gets over 50% of the vote, then he elected.
However it is quite common for nobody to have over 50%, in which case the two front runners of the first round go into the second round, and the winner of that round wins.
Nicolas Sarkozy, who I miss greatly, has befuddled the minds of many people by speaking of those who vote for the FNPS - the Front National Parti Socialiste.
He has since explained himself, saying that when people vote for the Front National in the first round and give that party a good percentage they provoke a backlash which results in people voting socialist in the second round.
I think he is probably right, though he's been perhaps just a bit too creative, cryptic even, in his description as FNPS
Wednesday, March 04, 2015
I thought, "I used to have a photostream on Flickr" and found it. There was good news and bad news.
The good news, the photos are still there.
More good news. Flickr now gives unlimited storage for photos. Yippee!
Now the bad news. Because I hadn't accessed my account for SO LONG I couldn't get into it and couldn't get the password. So I had to start a new one, and not as nicely named.
Tuesday, March 03, 2015
I suggested that perhaps if wished I could speak about relationships, singleness, contentment and so on from 1 Corinthians 7 the next time.
So in Sanary my mind turned to this subject, but I was a good boy and didn't go haring off into commentaries while on holiday.
So on the Friday when I got a message saying, "Tomorrow in the Chinese group, where in Colossians are we?", I was quite glad. I could bring out one of my favourite messages from Colossians 1 from this year and preach on something a bit easier than 1 Corinthians 7.
I want to ask you to pray for the Chinese group.
Some years ago there were the bumper years of the triumvirate, or the three wise man. One avuncular older man who saw his mission as to provide a family for all the Chinese students. One new convert, very gifted and a good team man. One older convert, wised up and with a bit of background. With their energy the group grew immensely. I remember a Chinese New Year where Chinese ravioli was prepared in a makeshift kitchen for 80 people and a room full of new contacts.
Now the group is much smaller and the current leaders, gentle, wise and in some ways, dynamic people, are looking to renew their strategies for reaching the Chinese.
My role can only be to encourage, propose and suggest. I can't do anything at all in Mandarin. And that's a good thing. But they're working on new cards to print and distribute, they'll renew the website, they'll do what they can to get things going once more.
I phoned our insurance people and they told us the good news. We are covered both for sorting out the leak and for repairing the water damage.
The lady and I agreed a sum for sorting out the room and I contacted a friendly ex-pastor who is now working as an odd-job man. He's coming round next week.
The lady contacted a plumbing agency to come and fix the leak. They came on the Friday, I put the heating on - no water. But there was a drip from the hot water tank.
We can't quite work out why water was flowing from the corner of the room, but it is where the hot water tank is situated, so he adjusted the overflow mechanism (expansion vase) and said, "call me if it still leaks."
It still leaked, so I phoned the company and arranged for someone to come back - it would be after our trip to Sanary. When we went away I shut off the power to the hot water tank and turned off the water at the stop cock.
A different plumber came. "What's the new problem? My colleague said it was fixed."
"No, he did something to the expansion vase, but said to phone if it was still leaking, which I did."
"OK, I'll give him a ring."
"OK, he said, don't fuss about, it's the expansion vase. Give them a quote to replace the expansion vase."
He brought back his quote but also said that the expansion vases are prone to failure and a proper solution would be to run an overflow to the outside of the house.
"Anyway", he said, "I've had enough of being a plumber in Bordeaux. I'm off back to Tours. I've had enough of trying to cobble together dodgy setups."
I think I need to find another plumber.
Monday, March 02, 2015
followed by philosophy this afternoon.
We went into Bordeaux for a meeting this afternoon and got in fine, but the bus back was TERRIBLY crowded.
But Catrin's bus, perhaps an hour later, was fine.
Phew, it's good to get a strike day behind you!
This week was quiet week, with many students gone on the GBU skiing weekend and others taking advantage of the school holidays to get away from Bordeaux and the rains of March.
Déviations, retards and perturbations
Speaking of which yesterday was carnival day and the rain was emptying down. Our bus was diverted so we had to get off two stops before we intended, and the tram was not running, so we had to hoof it through the pouring rain. As we approached the cathedral we could hear the samba drums and soon we saw the carnival floats. First minions, then pirates, then a massive DJ nightclub wagon surrounded by sodden revellers, happily dancing half-naked or in disco-spangled-lycra.
By this time I had got separated from the girls, so I sambaed through the crowd and then told them that once they'd passed the disco-float the roads were clear.
I don't think anyone was prevented from getting to Dan by the transport problems, thankfully, and by the evening all was back to normal.
Well, apart from Pooh floating by on his hunny jar, that is.