Showing posts from February, 2015

Book review - Spurgeon's sorrows, by Zack Eswine

I was thinking the other day of how much we owe to fragile, damaged, broken men. The greatest example for the British is Churchill. Opinionated and stubborn, he was hardly a role-model in terms of personal fitness or healthy living. He also suffered from what he called his "black dog", his depressive episodes. And yet he was a remarkable writer, painter and probably the greatest statesman of the twentieth century. Christians will think of Martin Luther, of Cowper or, of course, of Spurgeon. "Spurgeon's Sorrws", by Zach Eswine, is subtitled "Realistic Hope for those who Suffer from Depression" and in this book Eswine has done a remarkable work of research and collation to scour Spurgeons writings and sermons to glean information but mostly helpful reflections on depression and how to deal with it. En route he reminds us of some of the battles Spurgeon faced, both early in his ministry in the Surrey Gardens catastrophe as well as later on when he

Sanary sur Mer

We've been very fortunate this week, some friends live in Sanary sur Mer, just along the coast from Bandol on the Cote d'Azur, and they have an office, the office of the International Christian Communities, which can accommodate a small family for a short stay. So we hopped on the train on Monday and spent some very happy days in the sun at Sanary.

Le France, terre d'accueil

You may remember some happy adventures I had with asylum seekers from a middle eastern country some months ago. These friends were in a pickle because she had become a Christian and started going to a Christian house church in their home country. Her brothers heard about it and put pressure on her husband to use violence on her to stop her. His response was to pay a crook for a visa to get into Europe where they could go to visit some family in a Northern European country and ask for asylum. The visa delivered was for France, so they came to France and then travelled to their hoped-for destination. On asking for asylum they were told that as their visa was for France they had to apply for asylum in France and they were put on a bus to Paris. After a few weeks on the streets in a country whose language they do not speak they returned to the Northern European country. This time they were put in a refugee centre while better arrangements could be made. These better arrangements involv

Well that was fun!

Today we met up with James Hammond of GBM and Jim Sayers also of GBM for lunch. We ended up in the Hippopotamus Grill, where the steaks were very good, and then after a post-prandial discussion we hot-footed it, somewhat later than usual, to Dan for Bordeaux Church. At lunch the waiter brought up some wine and poured some in my glass for me to give my approval. I saw from the label that it was a Saint Emilion. I said, "J'en sais vraiment rien." The waiter laughed. "Mais je fais semblant." He laughed again, "Comme tout le monde." It was actually very nice. "Ah non, c'est bon!" quoth I. The Dutchies were coming for the service - that made 9 people - as well as Harriette, Alexandra and Myriam. But we knew that some of our folk would be away, so I thought we'd be OK for chairs. However some folk came who haven't been for a good few weeks, and in the end we were 32 people - one more than the number of chairs (Harriet sat on

Help from Meredith Kline on the Sons of God and the Daughters of Men in Genesis 6

Who are these Sons of God? Seth's descendants marrying Cain's unbelieving daughters? Angels marrying girls? Or something else? Like the first city-kings becoming polygamist tyrants. Look here .

Catrin's dossier

Have I talked about Catrin's plans for further studies? Well the plan is to go to the University of Bordeaux Montaigne from September for a degree in Musicologie - chanson française. It's a degree course that combines musical analysis and history with composition and performance of songs, recording, production of concerts, etc. etc. It sounds like a good all-round music education, ailing mainly at songs than at anything else. That would be followed by a masters course at the Welsh College of Music and Drama, either in Opera or in Musical Theatre, depending on what Catrin's voice turns out to be most suited for and where her interests lie most. Well, anyway, entry to Bordeaux Montaigne is by dossier, which means you have to compile a list of documents such as : Lettre de motivation. This, I think, roughly equates to the personal statement that people now do in the UK. Curriculum Vitae. This speaks for itself. Bulletins scolaires . For the years of lycée. Diplô

Last night,

which seems like a LONG time ago, we had a nice soirée crêpes with tabletalkbibletime about the issues raised by the film Fifty Shades of Grey. We didn't discuss the acting, the script, the cinematography, or anything like that, but we did discuss issues of abuse, consent, love, etc., and during my preparation for animating this discussion I found a quote that I now can't refind... But that said that the underlying theme of Fifty Shades of Grey and of Twilight, of which it is fan-lit, is the desire to be loved by someone awesome. When you think about it this is a pretty constant theme in Disney, too. And it is the huge central theme of the gospel. We are just so totally loved by someone just utterly awesome!

Oodalally, golly, what a day

The day started chilly and damp, but off I set to hunt for firewood as we were down to our last bundle and the heating was non-functional. This morning as I entered the 13.8°C living-room I reflected on how effective our heating really is and on how much you miss it when it isn't working, then set off to get a car and go to hunt for fuel. I found not logs but "densified wood briquettes", each one designed to burn for an hour and give out lots of heat. I thought I'd take a chance and bought a week's supply. Well they turned out to be rather wonderful! They light easily and last for almost exactly an hour each briquette, giving out lots of nice heat.  I returned to await the plumber. He arrived. I put on the heating. No leak. Innit marvellous. Meanwhile we inflated the diaphragm of the expansion vase as there was some suspicion surrounding the hot water tank and the last leak we had some 18 months ago... The plumber left saying to phone him if suddenly the le

MB, ComExSO and catastrophe!

Wednesday I was at the Maison de la Bible all day, replacing my friend and colleague, Jean. It was quite a busy day with quite good sales. James, colleague from Bordeaux Church, came in to talk and eat lunch together, and Tim, colleague from the Cenon church came in to talk, too. Thursday found me on the train to Montauban, TGV both ways, for the meeting of the Commission Exécutive Sud-Ouest, or ComExSO as we tend to call it. This little group meets to discuss and encourage the life of the churches of the South-West of France, and it is always a privilege to meet up with the guys. As the regions of the UNEPREF are being abolished for a lighter operation without levels of discussion, we are aware that the clock is ticking for our merry band. But this doesn't stop me resisting their suggestion that I take up the role of secretary for the group, a role vacant since an American brother returned to the States just over a year ago. I'll do mailshots, coordination of documents and p

That's the way to do it


A festive family boat trip

Pat's sister flew home this evening, so we wanted to make her last day a nice one. We hummed and hah'd and discussed and weighed up, and finally came up with the idea of a boat trip on the BatCUB. Pauline's 7-day tram and bus pass covers the BatCUB and so we hied us away to Stalingrad to catch the boat. We have done it a few times - a nice round trip from Stalingrad to Lormont, then back to the Quays, then to Quinconces, then to Stalingrad once more. Except the 12 o'clock boat went straight across the river to Quinconces then was going to go back. Oh well, we decided to take a stroll along the quays and find somewhere to get some coffee. Then we saw the other BatCUB coming along behind us from Quinconces to the Quays. It moored. We jumped on. I asked the lady what was happening. She explained that for about 18 months now the BatCUB doesn't do the round trip any more, though the leaflets, website and even the timetable give the impression that it does. I

This weekend in view

1) Love and Marriage with the Chinese Group this evening from 17:30 2) "All in the name of the Lord Jesus" Col. 3:17 with the International Church

More about le Père Cent

Some photos of yesterday's Père Cent to be seen here . When I arrived in town for a lunch date with a friend Victoire looked like a giant uncooked pancake. OK, I exaggerate a bit. There were big holes in the crêpe. Down Sainte-Cathérine where the shopkeepers had tried to wash the flour and eggs away it had become a sticky, slippery mess. GROOO.

Cheeky monkeys!

Today is the "Père Cent" (Father Hundred) - one hundred days before the Bac exams start - and it signals high jinks outside the lycées of France as the pupils in terminale throw food at those in the years below them. Last year Catrin arrived at school with her coat doused in ketchup only to find the gates locked and the staff refusing to let anyone in. This year the proviseur has sternly told pupils that the Père Cent will not be tolerated. Also Catrin's school day doesn't start till 10am. Also she's in Terminale, so she should be the sniper, not the target. Also she's promised her friend, Paloma, that she'll be at school because most of her friends are just taking a day off. But because it's not just her school that's involved in Père Cent she's decided that if she gets to the bus stop and sees a flour and ketchup fight going on she'll just stay on the bus, go round the circuit and come home. Late News Update : Catrin got safely

Fifty shades of grim

I've had to work with people who are in abusive relationships. That is why the magic word 'consensual' doesn't carry much weight with me. I still remember the day I said to one woman, "You don't have to live like this." I saw the light come on in her soul. Anyway, amongst the ghastliness of the whole Fifty Shades of Grim phenomenon, and the bizarre sight of women flocking to see this kind of abuse glamorised - do we even have a word for this kind of pornography? - I was glad to laugh at a headline in the Telegraph this morning. "Fire Brigade issues Fifty Shades of Grey warning about getting trapped in everyday objects."

A festive Thursday

Yesterday since Pat's sister is visiting us I replaced Pat at the Maison de la Bible. This worked out well because our manageress' son was ill, so I was happy to man the store alone. The morning was quiet, so I watched Wolf Hall on iPlayer. The afternoon perked up and came to a wonderful climax with a muslim lad who came in to buy a Bible saying he wanted to compare the Bible and the Koran. We had a four-way conversation with a catholic lady adding somewhat unhelpful remarks. I gave him my card and said if he ever wanted to discuss to contact me. Then off to Monoprix to get my commissioned Fruit Shoot and home to find a small gang of girlies gathered for a Birthday Tea for Catrin. Her favourite meal, tune pasta bake, with some of her favourite people.  Meanwhile Pat and Pauline, her sister, had met up with Sally - who looks like she could be her sister - terrorised Pessac Alouette.

The morning after the "confit de canard"

I feel like the revered elected leaders of our dear European Union - GREASE EVERYWHERE! We had 10 people round for a meal last night, including dear friends from Marseille, so we did confit de canard because I saw it on offer in our local supermarket and because it is REALLY easy to do - you just have to get it good and hot. But it comes in it's own eco-system of thick, congealed duck fat, which it shares generously with all spaces and all surfaces. Lovely stuff!

Colossians 3 and Ephesians 5

I think there is a danger of making too much of this, but it is interesting how in these parallel passages Paul says slightly different things. For example : Colossians 3:16 - Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly , teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Epghesians 5:18-19 -And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit , 19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, It doesn't seem to me to be enough to EQUATE being filled with the Word of Christ and being filled with the Spirit, but surely we have to conclude that they are linked in Paul's mind. Then : (and I am thinking of my preparation for this weekend, where for the Chinese group on Saturday evening I am talking about Love and Marriage for Valentine's Day, and on Sunday about everything in

Bordeaux, voted best European destination 2015

See here . Obviously we're very pleased, but the problem is that when you live here anywhere else you go is quite frankly a bit of a disappointment. That's why we try and see people we love when we go away, rather than places!

Malagar, the estate that belonged to François Mauriac

For francophone friends, this film was produced by Mollat, the big independent bookshop in Bordeaux and features Alan's grammar and literature teacher from the language school, Caroline Casseville, who's an expert on Mauriac.

Book review : Mike McKinley : The Resurrection In Your Life

This book wasn't at all what I expected, mainly because it's a long time since I read McKinley's previous book : Passion. I was expecting a closely argued, systematically structured, theological and practical discussion of the doctrine of the resurrection - perhaps beginning with a section on the evidence or the resurrection. What I got was a book based on a sermon series from the end of Luke's Gospel and the beginning of Acts. And it's a really good book. In the course of ten chapters McKinley talks about the centrality of the doctrine of the risen Christ for the faith of His people, for the life of His Church and for the future of the His world. He deals with God's plan of salvation, God's peace for the disciple, God's pattern for the church, God's gift of the Holy Spirit, God's programme for the world. I think pastors could give this book to almost any member of their congregation, and most would find their faith encouraged, their vision c

One bone to pick with Apple

though I have become an Apple fan-boy (c'est vrai, je l'assume) that does not mean that I approve without question of all that Apple says and does. One example of something where Apple is part of the problem, not the solution, is the pushed obsolescence of good items of technology. The iPad came out in 2010. Not even five years ago! And the technology is pretty solid and long-lasting. If the screen hasn't cracked then there's every chance that your old iPad will still be working fine. But the newer releases of iOS are not compatible with the original iPad. OK. If you still have an original iPad and you are still using it, bravo! It can still be useful in lots of ways, and if it works with the old version of iOS, why not. But my problem is with the mindset that we end up struggling with, that something four years old is now worthless. (I'm fifty-five years old, by the way.)

Hurrah for Bouyguie-Wouyguie Telecom!

We are the early adopters! We live at the cutting edge! Our highly esteemed internet provider, Bouygues Telecom, has developed a revolutionary new internet TV box called the BBox Miami. Instead of our big old blunderbuss of a BBox Sensation, with a hard disk and various other gizmos, now you have a tiny little 6" square black box with no lights nor nothing, but it DOES have inside it a smartphone's gubbins, running Android. This means you can download a selection of Android apps from the play store and run, for example, Chrome on your TV. etc. How marvellous is that? Anyway a nice young lady from Bouguie-wouguie phoned me on Saturday and said that our BBox Miami is on the way and it will cost us no more at all and she said all sorts of stuff and it will come soon!

The return of the oven - Volume Three of the Saga of Samsung

Well today has been a very carful day. It started with a trip to the airoporto to pick up Pat's sister. Now I ought to explain to you, reader, that whatever high officials are in charge of these matters have decreed that Easyjet flights from Gatwick to Bordeaux and British Airways flights from Gatwick to Bordeaux should take off and land almost simultaneously, but the passengers thereof should be admitted to La Belle France from opposite ends of the airoporto. Thus it was that Patricia and I were to be found staring at a stubbornly closed door at the Billi arrivals - the door all the Easyjet passengers had passed through on their way to Cheese-and-Wine-land. Meanwhile Pat's sister was to be found sitting at the British Airways end of the airport thinking that we MUST have the day right this time because she told Pat on the phone she wasn't coming yesterday. (Oh yes, I didn't tell you about the mix-up over the days, did I) Anyway because we had plenty of time we

Just when you think that you've seen it all -

underwater rugby.

Book review : Romans 8 - 16 for you, by Tim Keller - "for reading, for feeding, for leading"

This is the second volume of a two part presentation of the letter to the Romans, aimed at everyone. This isn't a technical commentary. It's written at a popular level and should be accessible to most Christians, useful for personal study, for Bible study groups, for one-to-one studies, etc. It's a very helpful book. Tim Keller has a simplicity and an economy to his writing that makes the book very easy to read. At the same time he discusses all the big questions that the latter half of Romans raises, quoting Lloyd Jones a lot, as well as other writers and commentators like John Stott. The books would give a good overview of the gospel for Christians, either read individually or in a group, while more experienced Christians would also benefit from reading it or using it as a help for studying Romans. The book isn't without its more debatable issues. Keller advocates an ethic of gratitude, which has gone out of favour in some circles. In his discussion of Israe

Well that was a hairy Saturday!

Later on, in a calm house, with the sun shining in through the window, breathing slowly, I hope that the risk I took works out OK... It was a lady who bought one book and wanted to exchange another and claimed she was going to take it to the bookshop manager tomorrow and so on... Oh well, if it was a con, it was a con...

A la Maison de la Bible

CATASTROPHE! The computer that runs the till had had severe problems last night, which meant it crashed and we were not sure whether our somewhat byzantine system had completed all the end of day procedures. Not only that, but our folk couldn't even look at the system remotely because the pc had crashed and refused to reboot. (I ought to explain that the system runs under Windows XP and is organised centrally from Switzerland) So the first thing I did when I arrived at the bookshop was to get the PC to boot, then we had to run through the transactions from yesterday, paying particular attention to the credit card transactions, to ensure the system was working. Oh, and sell a study Bible to a client and advise on the availability of red-letter Bibles. Thankfully my colleague on the end of the phone knew that the Thomson bible is red-letter. Oh, and advise someone on the perfect book for a nominal catholic who is struggling to reconstruct their marriage after being cheated

A review in French of Soumission with a very optimistic conclusion

Read it here.

But how strange the change

from lumper to splitter... I hope you'll excuse the technical terminology from taxonomy, but I think the meaning will be pretty clear as we go on. Many moons ago, when the world was young, or at least when I was, I was Senior Pastor and Global Leader in a church in a small, post-industrial town on the very edge of civilisation in North Wales. We belonged to a Wales-wide group of churches, the AECW, to which we were wholeheartedly committed and in which we invested seriously. We also belonged to a UK-wide group of churches, the Grace Baptists, to which we were half-heartedly committed and to whose meetings we never went. (Well they were sometimes held in London during the week, though I frequently went to the Grace Assembly.) We then decided to join a wider fellowship of churches, and opted for the FEBE, the Federation of Evangelical Baptists of Europe. They held conferences in exotic locations like Poland, Mallorca, etc. I never went. Predictable. At that time I was a l

"At least the food is good"

First they decided that dark chocolate is good for you. (YIPPPPEEEEE!) Then red wine - no more than a glass a day, mind, and it should be a Bordeaux, of course. To be honest with you I can take that one or leave it, but hey... Then pizza! Yes! Pizza! Because of the cooked tomatoes! (HURRAAAAAAAH) Porage, of course! (YESSS!) And now what to take for those irritating persistent coughs? Honey and coffee. Yes! HONEY AND COFFEE! Here. I LOVE science!

Frankly, I am rather disappointed about this

More of a misunderstanding than a mistranslation, one often-repeated phrase might have been reinforced by racial stereotypes. During Richard Nixon’s visit to China in 1972, Chinese premier Zhou Enlai famously said it was ‘too early to tell’ when evaluating the effects of the French Revolution. He was praised for his sage words, seen as reflecting Chinese philosophy; yet he was actually referring to the May 1968 events in France.

The Creative Writing Group

Alan entered the flat rather hesitantly. "We have eleven people today, so I've put the tea and coffee out here." Alan gazed despairingly at the gorgeous coffee cups. Fine porcelain, shaped like champagne glasses, they seemed paper-thin. One day he KNEW he'd break one. Please, not today. The hot coffee encouraged him and he entered the room, took a seat and folded his arms. Oh who cares about the body language! "Who did the assignment?" It was to write a descriptive passage of at least 350 words with no adjectives. Timorous Alan raised a trembling hand. Four other assiduous people had done their assigned homework. "Alan, would you like to go first?" Yes, Alan would! It would get it over with! He gazed hopelessly at his text, a description of a character from his childhood, "Gladys". He thought of all the best Welsh voices: Dylan Thomas, Richard Burton, Andrew Davies (but not too loud or booming). "Good vowels, lad", h

Musique pour mardi


Hhmmm. The Oven saga continues.

So I booked a car to take the stupid oven all the way back to the repair place in Bègles. But before I set out to get the car I thought I'd phone the people I bought it from and also Samsung. I phoned CDiscount. This is an internet sales firm based just outside Bordeaux so I like to do business with them. Well, I used to. "We have the same problem again with the oven." "You'll have to take it back to the repair place." "Each time I do that it takes a couple of hours and we have to hire a car. You did suggest we post it but can you imagine the cost of posting a microwave oven?" "Well I'll give you Samsung's number, but we can only replace it if a repair is not possible. Oh, and can you fill in the questionnaire about the service you received on this call." "Well, the oven isn't fixed yet..." "No, it's just about the call." Well I filled it in. The man on the line was very nice but the o

Vous êtes Belge, non? Ou Suisse?

The elderly lady had started up a conversation on the tram after teetering to her seat. "No", quoth I. "I'm Welsh" (she looked baffled) "from Wales". "Ah! D'accord!" She was a Very Nice Lady, and a true Bordelaise!

Soumission, by Michel Houellebecq

With the ongoing hoo-hah I thought I ought to have a go at reading this book which is currently France's number 1 bestseller, as notorious as it is famous. It's my first time reading Houellebecq. He's a controversial author at the best of times because he writes obscene passages. His book, the Periodic Table, les Particules Elémentaires , I'd heard, is particularly graphic. So, forewarned, I bought a copy of the book from the Kindle store. My impressions? It's a clever story. The idea is that France, with most of Europe, has lurched politically towards the extreme right. The centre right and left parties are reduced to virtual impotence. Meanwhile a sizeable muslim party has grown, representing the islamic folk of France who identify morally with the right wing, but who are alienated from it by their immigrant status. In the 2022 elections the socialists and the muslim party negotiate a coalition to keep the extreme right out of office and France's first Isl

Foiled again!

Last night Miguel our Mexicano would be at church, but also Irma, a Mexicana visiting on placement from seminary.  So on the way to church I was practicing,"?como te llamas? ?y de donde eres?" and so on. But when Irma entered the church she immediately spotted Miguel, made a bee-line for him and off they went in Spanish.

Would you believe it

The oven has broken down again.