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)

Saturday, December 31, 2016

2016 - a litany of deaths

It was interesting earlier this year to preach on Genesis 5, a litany of deaths with the constant refrain, "and then he died...".

2016 has seen the death of a long list of celebrities, young and old, from screen, stage and song. I think it's fair to say that lots of people have expressed their protests in the media. Even Fidel Castro, who apparently survived over 600 assassination attempts, found that 2016 was too strong for him and got him in the end.

2016 bit hard in my family, too. We knew a tragic and sudden death that hit us with great force.

2017 won't be any better. Why should it? There are still lots of celebrities left and death is still as widespread as ever - 100% mortality rate, they tell me.

A year like 2016 is valuable and important. We are confronted by the reality of death, and we try to cope with it in different ways. Sometimes we defy it : 'death is nothing'. Sometimes we try to ignore it and forget it. Sometimes we glorify it, whether by the idea of glorious death - dulce et decorum est - or by the "justification by death" that our society so loves. Everyone's a saint once they've died. Sometimes we just hope to stave it off as long as possible by dieting, fitness drives, health fads, green tea and ginseng, whatever.. But it stalks us all the same.

2016 doesn't hold out much hope in and of itself. But Genesis 5 does. Amidst the list of deaths there is one who didn't die, but who walked with God and then one day went to be with God.

It's a pointer to the great hope we have in the face of 2016 and of every year where death dogs our steps. Our great hero died and rose again, he conquered death, so that we need not fear death or fear any killer year. He rose and we rose in him and we will rise to be with him and so we will be with him for ever.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

My family does not eat cake

Hey, it's not my fault!

Farewell to Dan

I took the keys back. It was not without incident.

I suppose I arrived at the restaurant at about 3 in the afternoon and the grill was open but the door was locked. The lights were on, a computer was turned on on a table, but there was nobody around.

I knocked. No answer.

Meanwhile a woman was hanging out of an upstairs window across the narrow street crying.

I phoned the restaurant and got the answering machine.

A man came round the corner and yelled instructions and insults to the woman. "Die, son of a prostitute," he cried.

She threw a glass down at him, which shattered and spread shards all over the street.

I sent a message to Jérôme via sms and Facebook.

"Phone the police!" yelled the woman. And say what, exactly, I though to myself.

The man periodically left and returned, repeating his instructions and insults to the woman.
He noticed me and decided I was calling the police and taking photos. I assured him that I was waiting for the restaurant, but then I decided that it wasn't absolutely necessary that I hand the keys over in person, posted them through the door, left a message saying the keys were there and left.

Jérôme later phoned me and we had a nice chat. He'd been in the kitchen preparing the New Year's Eve meal.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Christmas thoughts - food

It's hard to imagine Christmas without especially nice food, be it wintry cakes with lots of dried fruit, or rich puddings, or good meats, or roast vegetables.

I am sure a lot of this is from old practical customs - because of the cold season you need more calories! And because harvest is past and there is little that is fresh, then you need to eat things preserved by drying, sugaring or curing. In warmer climates the customs are different. Here in France Christmas dinner has a large element of seafood - shellfish or lobsters - as well as various kinds of poultry - capons, guinea-fowl, geese, ducks etc...

Christians are sometimes ambivalent towards Christmas. We can't be sure of the date. There's this suspicious coincidence with the pagan celebration of the winter solstice. There's all the materialism and consumerism. And then surely all that fat and sugar isn't good for you.

So some avoid Christmas like the plague. Others argue that it is too good an opportunity to miss to share the central Christian hope with a world that for once seems willing to listen a little.

But others embrace it and go for it.

I'd vote for that.

After all, if we celebrate Christmas at all then we are celebrating the birth of hope! And that hope is of a world renewed, fruitful, abundant, a world where the Kingdom of God is described in terms of feasts and festivities. What earthly nation could be described in those terms today?

So to enjoy a moment of plenty, as best one can, in the middle of the winter seems to me to be a very fitting way of looking forward to what God had promised he will do when he refashions everything just right.

We had a very decent chicken, corn-fed, accompanied by all the usual trimmings, except no parsnips. Parsnips are not popular in France and when we saw them we did not snap them up. We had a splendid Waitrose Christmas pudding with a nice rum and raisin ice-cream - an inspired combination! And a very swanky bottle of wine from the posh château next door - well, from their wine shop. The chap in the shop persuaded me to buy it, though it cost about double what I intended. I don't regret it. It was a fine 2007 Medoc and absolutely delicious.

As good a foretaste as possible of the peace and plenty to come.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Some Christmas Eve Dvořák

8th symphony.

Back on track

This morning I went out running again, after a two week break.

The first break was after I phoned the doctor and she told me to see her the following day and meanwhile to rest all day with my feet up. This had two effects - firstly I learned how annoying it is to rest all day with your feet up and secondly I put off going running till I had the all clear from my blood tests, which happened on the Thursday.

The break continued because of late nights and consequent lie-ins! The early morning runner needs to get to bed on time.

Anyway, I got back out there this morning and, apart from sluggishness, it felt good!

Some Christmas thoughts - loss

This Christmas especially I am thinking about friends and family who are spending Christmas without their better half - perhaps for the first time. And other friends whose better half is victim to dementia and in that twilight world of not being really present but not being absent either.

Some have the bittersweet experience of happy memories of past years. Some have the assurance of a better eternity to come, reunited with their loved one at Jesus' feet.

For all of them Christmas brings pleasure and pain, warmth and a chill, smiles and hidden tears.

For us all Christmas demands patience and understanding, as well as cheer and festivity.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

A taste of a British Christmas

It's a rum do, this music thing. We were engaged to go and sing for a Christmas evening when some friends and colleagues who are engaged in street evangelism here invited friends and neighbours round for a Christmassy evening. We had to sing "Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer" as a family, then lead everyone in singing "Oh little town of Bethlehem" and "Silent night", this latter in French.

It was a pleasant evening and I got to know our friends' neighbour, who works in information technology.

The first Day of Christmas

Gwilym our son is with us at the moment. He arrived on Saturday with his girlfriend, Beth, who is also a student at the London School of Theology. Beth returns to the UK on Friday so we decided to have a phased Christmas this year.

Today was the first Day of Christmas. This entailed:

. The postman bringing parcels of 480 PG Tips tea bags - that will keep us going for about 3 months, I reckon. He also brought some jars of really good chutney. I'd forgotten how good really good chutney is.

. The opening of the stockings and one present.

. Christmas dinner. We got a nice, free-range corn-fed chicken from a local store and we ate very well. Dessert was French-style, an ice-cream log.

. A snacky tea of Waitrose "stollen bites" and a mince pie.

. Playing Monopoly and Bananagrams

although we did not go for the planned walk to the gardens of Château Pape Clément, it has nevertheless been a nice day.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Thanks for clearing that up!

One of our neighbours, an elderly lady, said to Pat, "Come with me".

Pat followed her into the bathroom...

"That is a shower. What you have is a bath."

Saturday, December 17, 2016

The last Friday night of the year

Christmas Carols, short reflection on Luke 2:8-14, prayer time, jacket potatoes and Christmas cookies.

Then hugs as folk leave, some for good...

Friday, December 16, 2016

Carols by Candlelight


Thursday, December 15, 2016

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Off to be bled

I had the prescription for my annual blood test - my doctor likes to know what's coursing through my veins - she said, "We need to get that done now." So off I trotted at about 7am to the local blood-letting parlour which is just at the end of the vineyards.

By 8am I was back home having left my samples for testing and bought a nice pastry for breakfast for being a good boy and bleeding nicely.

The results will land in my email this afternoon, I expect.

This is what I saw on my way:

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Carols at the Palais Gallien

All went off well.
It was happy, direct, honest, straightforward, Word-centred, friendly and we had some great cakes!
People brought family and friends. Some people just came from invitations etc.
It was a good occasion.
Thanks for praying!

The Minister's Fainting Fits

Here's a funny one.

We'd just opened up at Dan on Sunday and three new folk arrived, from Réunion Island. As I was getting to know them a little I was aware that I had lost part of the sight in my right eye. Or at least that that part of my field of view was not clear. I blinked and rubbed. No, it wasn't tears. Maybe some strange retinal problem. I could still see, however. I said nothing and carried on.

Then during the service I had a paragraph to read from Acts 2 in French. Much to my horror, I read it like a 10-year old, or possibly like someone with dyslexia. I skipped words, read things that made no sense to me, then realised what it said and had to go back over it. I realised that something was wrong, and I was concerned, but there wasn't anything anyone could do, so I carried on.

"That was a struggle!", said Pat. "Yes," I said.

By the end of the service I was feeling OK again. It had lasted about 1/2 hour. In the tram on the way home I told Pat what had happened. We wondered what it could be - it didn't seem to be a stroke, though I have maternal aunts and paternal uncles who died young of strokes. It didn't seem to be anything permanent. Perhaps one of those transient ischaemic attacks people have? Or a migraine?

I decided that unless it happened again I would not worry about it. Then I thought the better of it and decided to phone my doctor.

"Oh", she said, "that's a vagal malaise - a fainting fit, a sudden drop in blood pressure - come and see me early tomorrow morning and we'll check you over and get your bloods done. Meanwhile rest today with your feet up."

I hate resting with my feet up, especially on sunny days, but hey...

And so I went. She said, "You've lost weight!"

"Yes, about 5kg since I've been running."

"Hop on my scales. No, you've lost about 10 kg, and you look well."

She listened, measured, counted and did the stuff doctors do.

"Tell me all about everything", she said.

"OK. Everything you've said is reassuring. I think we need to reduce your meds. I think as well that it's just your way of coping with a stressful and busy weekend. I think it doesn't do any harm to faint now and again. It gets stuff out. I don't want to philosophise medicine, but you're a man who takes the Word and looks life and death in the face. I'm not concerned about you. We'll check your bloods, however."

So there we are. Now then, do I tell folk in the church or let them just think I had an off-day? I mean, in a way, that's what it was.

Friday, December 09, 2016

"Throw away your cheap running shoes"

This was the title the inimitable Tim Challies used for an article based on Hebrews 12. His title provoked a reaction from some people who can't afford expensive running shoes! Maybe the text needs some careful reflection in order to bridge the gulf between the world of the 1st century despised apostles and the world of 21st century first-world Christians who jog. It made me laugh, anyway.

And it set me thinking about my running shoes. Soon I will have been running for a year. There's a sentence I never thought I'd write! And it is recommended that you replace your running shoes after a certain distance, in my case that works out to about a year.

When we started running we both bought the cheapest shoes that our local Decathlon had. Mine are a kind of pale bluey grey, with white soles. The thought was that if we didn't continue running we would not have made a huge investment in paraphernalia. We could always buy better shoes later on if we needed to.

And the shoes have been excellent! They're light, supportive and comfortable and apart from the initial adjustments that my tendons and ligaments made, I have had almost no discomfort whatsoever.  It was perhaps the finest 13 euros I have ever spent!

While in the UK in June I visited a Nike outlet shop. I had heard of these amazing light running shoes made of a knitted fabric and specially designed to give you the impression of running barefoot while still protecting your feet. I saw some pairs. They were beautiful. Normally they cost about 10 times what I pad for my shoes. In the outlet shop they cost just 5 times as much. I was tempted, but they didn't have my size.

Now it's time to think about replacing my shoes. I won't be near a Nike outlet shop any time soon. And meanwhile Decathlon have reduced the price of the same shoes that I have.

I think I know what I'll be getting.
"Throw away your cheap running shoes" and buy another pair just the same!

Fürchte dich nicht, ich bin bei dir

At Aberystwyth I sang this with the Bach Society Choir. The same evening we did Cantata 4, Christ lag in Tödesbanden.
At the time I thought it was entirely normal to sing Bach motets for double choir, and settings by Pergolesi, Schubert, Wolf, etc.. while a student.
I'm only now realising how privileged I was!

Overnigh dodes

Lots of recipes are being suggested for overnight oats. I always eat porage for breakfast and I am very happy to continue doing so, ringing the changes by adding mashed banana, sliced pears and a couple of squares of chocolate, etc...

But never let it be said that I am an old-guard stick-in-the-mud reincarnation of Colonel Blimp, living in the past and unwilling to try anything new! I tried overnight oats.

This is what you do (for the recipe I tried):

In a jar you put a teaspoonful of peanud budder (peanut butter) and a teaspoonful of honey.
(They also added chia and flax seeds, but there is reason!)

Then you add 3/4 cup of milk and shake as if your life depended on it. This will disperse the peanud budder throughout the milk (ha ha! the glob of peanud budder just sank.)

You then add 1/2 cup of oats, screw the top on the jar and leave in the fridge overnight before eating in the morning.

Well it was OK. I may try this again in the high summer when the thought of hot oats in the morning is unappealing.

Ce n'est pas essentiel

Two things spark this brief reflection:

1) A tweet from John Stevens saying this:

I genuinely didn't know that the FIEC is a network of complementarian churches. Or maybe I knew it was de facto, but not de jure. Anyway, I guess this is specified somewhere in the confessionnal documents.

2) A recent CNEF meeting where significant growth and direct preaching was noted in one of the institutional churches of Bordeaux. Many evangelicals are finding a home there. Someone asked about the issue of same-sex marriage. I remarked that while the denomination had approved same-sex marriages, individual parishes and clergypersons were not obliged to perform them. "She's already done some! She's already done some!" came the quick and loud reply. And the evangelicals think? "It's not of the essence! It's not of the essence!"

It's all very interesting, isn't it. I suppose we draw lines in the sand, but then when people cross them we can rub them out, pretend they were never there and draw another one. Or just forget lines and sand altogether, and go with the feeling.

I suppose what I think is that it's all much more complicated than one issue politics divisions suggest. Faithfulness to Jesus doesn't boil down to one issue, but to many - with one thing at the heart and core. He is Lord and not me.

The hunt for new premises


Various folk have made various helpful suggestions:

1) talk to the Université du temps libre

2) talk to the leaders of Eau Vive (a charismatic Catholic group)

3) talk to the hotels

4) talk to the institutional church in the heart of Bordeaux

Helpful suggestions all, and behold! as I was in the Maison de la Bible on Tuesday morning the pastor fo the institutional church came in. I didn't recognise her at first, I've only seen her once at a service back during my sabbatical. Anyway, we talked. A couple of things she said stood out from our exchange and communicated the subtext "you, of course, should not exist". Things like, "but you are not a pastor?" "Oh yes I am." "Trained?" "Yes, everything. Fourteen years of pastoral ministry before coming to France." "But how far are we going to go with all these churches...?" 

It's clear that the CNEF's goal of a church for 10 000 people has not yet been adopted on a wide scale.

I'm a simple soul and didn't notice how thoroughly I'd been dissed until my colleague remarked on it And of course, once you notice it stings. But anyway, after the initial smart wore off I came to this conclusion: Start with the people closest to you and work out.

Now there's nobody who is both geographically and theologically close, of course, so it's the next sphere out, and I wrote a quick letter and friendly email to the nearest churches asking if we could conceivably rent their building on a Sunday evening. After sending by email yesterday I'll post the letter today then phone early next week.

Meanwhile we don't yet have an answer either way from our closest collaborators. 
Then I'll hit the trail big time.

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Simonetta Carr's little illustrated biography of Martin Luther

I recently saw that this book was being proposed for review. Now some time ago I read and reviewed Simonetta Carr's little biography of Renée de France - see here - and really liked the book. So I was keen to give her treatment of Luther the once-over. However:

1) it's a book for younger readers (no problem - I was younger in the past)

2) it was being sent out in print to reviewers in the USA.

But hey, if ya don' ask ya don' git, and so it was that I received by email the first pages of the book in pdf format - just enough to get to see the writing style, a good look at the type of illustration and the approach that the author adopts.

And it's charming. It didn't feel like an infantile read, so I'd suggest younger teens would be a perfect target readership, as well as a suitable coffee-table book to leave around for folk to pick up and leaf through quickly. The sample I got went as far as Luther's studies in law and the thunderstorm experience, so I'm not able to comment much on how the great conflicts and upheavals are dealt with. However, from the map supplied and the treatment of plague I would expect a very sensible approach, serious and weighty but not heavy.

I think the adult reader would appreciate being reminded of some things, informed of others and shown again the remarkable work of God that the Reformation represents.

So often we are like republicans, we praise little men who did things that they thought were little things and - like a cigarette end thrown from a moving car can set a whole forest ablaze, they, too, saw their little spark light flames that would engulf the whole world and never extinguish. Little men who did little things and saw them fanned to flame by the Spirit of the Everlasting God.

And Joel Beeke likes it, too, see!

Friday, December 02, 2016

And the next one please!

I'm almost back to normal.

Meanwhile Mrs. Davey came home from her day in the bookshop floored by a body blow from a cold that she has been brewing for a few days. The poor thing, she is suffering gravely.

Catrin's OK, however.

Meanwhile we were waiting for a delivery from Amazon.
Chronopost very helpfully tell you when they are coming.
Between 12:35 and 13:35.
So after a couple of errands I made sure I was in.
At 12:50 Chronopost sends another message.
"We have put your large and heavy parcel in a little supermarket just a kilometer and a half away. Have a nice day."

Great! So after some phone calls establishing that "everyone is very sorry about it and nobody can do anything about it and yes, you'll either have to walk three kilometers to get the thing, lugging it back somehow or hire a car, have a nice day" I have been left disillusioned with Amazon, with Chronopost, with the whole sorry outfit.

So I went to see my new friend Eddy who teaches English through theatre in a super little premises right near Victoire. He reckons I should ask if we can use it for Bordeaux Church.

I'll certainly ask.

Thursday, December 01, 2016

This wretched 'flu vaccine

So I am like an old crock.

My ribs hurt on my left side because of applying some force so that Pat could bolt the kitchen door at Dan.

My neck has seized up after the session of massage.

I have frequent bouts of shivering and aches everywhere, especially the head, because of the 'flu jab.

This is not turning out to be the brightest week of my life, not yet, anyway.

Still, as quoth the immortal bard, "even the bad times are good".

And it gives me the opportunity to rehearse the riches of how to express annoyance in French:

Ça m'énerve.
Ça m'agace.
Ça me gêne.
Ça m'incommode.
Ça me fâche.
Ça me daille.
Ça me casse les pieds.
Ça me prend la tête.
Ça m'irrite.
Ça me gonfle.

Some of these are informal, some are regional. And there are more that I have not recalled.