Month: May 2005

The poppies blow

After a couple of days in Ieper (Ypres) in Belgium, I have to take a sharp intake of breath every time I think back to it. Karen, Sarah and myself set off for Ieper at 5am(!) on Monday with the intention of getting some hands on history, in this case the First World War, with the battles around Ieper in particular. We drove down to Dover, had a two hour crossing to Dunkerque and continued on to Ieper. Karen had booked us into the Cherry Blossom, and Sarah had collated a pile of maps and information about the area and its history. We arrived after about an hour and set about finding the cemetaries and memorials in and around Ieper.

By the end of the two days, we had visited numerous Commonwealth War cemetaries, including the largest – Tyne Cot near Passchendale, as well as the German military cemetary near Langemark, and a number of memorials, including the Menin Gate. By the end of the first day, I was glad to be in the b & b, which was very comfortable, with a very homely feel to it and well-priced to boot. However, I think the lasting memories will be of the cemetaries.

Just looking across the vast number of gravestones at Tyne Cot left one speechless. To see so many gravestones, each one corresponding to at least one life, in precisely placed row upon row. To read the inscriptions on each stone and to see the names of so many unidentified/undiscovered men on the walls of both Tyne Cot and the Menin Gate. To see the locations, the fields, the hills, where these men fell. The past two days have certainly left an impression in my mind. To think so many men gave their lives in the so-called “War to end all wars”. If only it was so. Yet, I think war will always be with us, for as long as our fallen nature is with us. As horrible as it may be. Sometimes, it won’t be the solution to a problem, but sometimes, because of our nature, it might be the only solution to a problem.

Note taking

Hmmm, I just got back from a couple of days away, after getting back from France on Saturday. In between, I went to church and heard two sermons. Usually, I blog what I understood of the sermons, mostly for my own benefit, as it demonstrates to me what I’ve understood and makes me think about what I’ve heard, that I might compare it with Scripture, like the Bereans did with the apostle Paul’s preaching. It also helps me to keep track of what I’ve been told, and gives me something to refer to later on. However, being rather tired after a holiday, as well as packing for a short trip the next day meant I didn’t blog what I heard in the sermon. It would seem, that even after two days, I have forgotten most of the detail! It would seem my blogging actually helps me remember, both in terms of imprinting it in my mind, as well as producing a reference apart from my mind.

What I do remember was that the morning sermon was on faith, with the main gist being that it was not the size of your faith which mattered, but the object of your faith. After all, you could have huge faith in a rabbit’s foot, but it’s not going to do anything for you. Whereas even a little faith in Jesus Christ, who is God the Son, creator and sustainer of the universe, is sufficient to justify us before God. Of course, faith, if it is true, is going to manifest itself in obedience to Jesus Christ. Anyone who says they have faith in Christ, but doesn’t do what he says in any way, is lying. After all, he loves us and knows what is best for us, and if we say we trust him, then we will do what he says.

The evening sermon was on the word of God, the bible. Through it, God tells us everything we need for salvation, and everything we need to be built up in the faith. The bestselling book of all time, was inspired by the Holy Spirit, through at least 30 different human writers across two millenia. Somehow, God through the free will of these writers, brought about the bible. Despite these odds, the bible is internally consistent, and infallible, such that it can be relied upon to show us the mind of God. That through it, God reveals himself to us, and ultimately, God is glorified through it.

Parlay voo arnglay?

The more observant amongst you (whoever “you” are), may have noticed this blog has been quiet for a week. The curious amongst you (again, whoever “you”) are, although if you’re not curious, you should probably ask yourself why you’re reading this blog 🙂 …er…anyway, where was I? Oh yes, for the curious, I’ve spent the past week in France, in a gite, with some very old friends, in Genevraye, a little south of Paris.

As with most holidays, it started with a rather unnatural early morning start in Portsmouth, which is not particularly picturesque. However, as the ferry left port for Caen, there was an impressive array of Royal Navy vessels docked, including two aircraft carriers. The journey by car was fairly uneventful, with no unpleasant surprises like driving on the wrong side of the road, although we did have an unexpected glimpse of an industrial area of Paris.

Most of the days were spent exploring the French countryside, with its vineyards and towns dotted about the place, sampling the fine cuisine and (for the others anyway) the wines of the region. Destinations included the wine cellars of Sancerre and Chablis, the historic town of Troyes, and the impressive Chateau of Fontainbleu. The only disappointment was the lack of evangelical churches, which meant Sunday, whilst being restful, was not as worshipful as usual. 🙁

I must admit, I haven’t eaten so well quite possibly ever! My previous visits to France had only been as a stop-off point to another European country, but this time, after spending a week there, I was well acquainted with the food. To say it is good would be an understatement. It was fresh, well-prepared, with just the right herbs and spices to maximise the experience, and very reasonably priced. In addition, the French idea of lunch is a leisurely three hour affair, with plenty of time to allow the food to be experienced.

The evenings were spent back at the gite, playing various card and board games, chatting and generally relaxing. A couple of the group are good cooks, so we ate well, and I had a plentiful supply of fruit juices to make up for my non-wine tastes. As the week developed, the weather grew hotter and hotter, becoming almost unbearable – although I’m told there was a heatwave back in Blighty as well. I even managed to pick up a few French phrases, successfully ordering a double-bouled sorbet without using a word of English. (I think I managed the whole week without using the phrase “Parlez vous anglais?” as well).

Eventually, the week came to a close and I arrived home safely, if not a little later than anticipated. Hopefully, I’ll sort out my photos and post some up soon.

According to the evidence

Well, I’ve just concluded an interesting two weeks serving as a juror. I must admit, this is the first time I’d ever been to a Crown Court, so it was all a bit unusual for me. Saying that, the experience has given me an insight into how the English judicial system works (or doesn’t, as the case might be). It’s given me an appreciation of how difficult it can be for a jury to come to the correct verdict, as they’re constrained to answer on matters of law rather than morality, to come to a conclusion from the evidence presented. Above all, they need to be sure, beyond all reasonable doubt before pronouncing a defendant to be guilty of the charges against the defendant. I can quite understand how someone who is guilty is let off due to lack of evidence, or conviction on the part of the jury.

The experience has shown me how important evidence is in a court of law. It has shown me how one person’s account of events might seem correct at the outset, but upon cross-examination turns out to be fictional. It has shown me that two accounts of the same event might be completely different, without either party attempting to distort the truth, and becomes even harder to judge when someone is trying to distort the truth.

Above all, it has shown me that the judicial system is not perfect. This is not because the law is at fault, but because it is run and regulated by humans beings, and is judging human beings by human beings. Alas, there is nothing which can be done about that, but I think the system is possibly the best on offer.

Three more scales

My knowledge of scales on the violin continues to increase, with the scales of E and E flat major to put under my belt, as well as a chromatic scale starting on D. The chromatic scale looks quite tricky, as it involves using the same finger to play two different successive notes. Although saying that, once I’ve mastered one, the rest should be easy. Not sure what is a reasonable pace of progress on the violin though…How long should it take one to start from scratch to be able to play something like Beethoven’s Spring violin sonata, or maybe the solo part of Winter from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons?

Happy Birthday Miriam!

Sometime this week, Miz has a birthday, so Ally organised a birthday meal at the Blue River Cafe in Maidenhead. After fighting through the rush hour traffic, we arrived in plenty of time, allowing us to sit back, get a drink and relax before our meal. Inside, the restaurant was light and airy, and very clean and modern looking. Once everyone was assembled, we shuffled in the the main restaurant. The menu had many mouthwatering dishes listed, making it rather difficult to decide what to have. I finally settled on some garlic and paprika marinated lamb rump, with Mediterranean vegetables and mint infused cous-cous. Most of the others had gone for burgers, probably showing up my age (Although Sarah had gone for the same dish as myself). When it arrived, the food was almost perfect, with the lamb being very juicy and tender and very flavourful. Dessert followed, with a summer pudding, with fresh fruits and clotted cream. A very satisfying meal. Finally we wandered along the Thames towards a lock.
Good conversation on all manner of topics permeated the whole evening. A great evening of both food and conversation, and above all, the birthday girl seemed to enjoy herself.

a.m.: John 7:37-39 p.m.: Ephesians 6:5-9

How can we tell if our faith is genuine? In this excerpt from John’s gospel, Jesus defines the hallmarks of a Christian.

On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified. Jn 7:37-39

“If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink”, Jesus first describes a Christian as thirsty. When a person physically needs water they become thirsty and realise they need water. Similarly, a Christian is someone who has realised they need something they do not have. In the beginning of his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus describes a Christian as someone who is “poor in spirit”, someone who has become humble before God. A Christian realises they need the Spirit of God, to make them right before God – to justify and purify them, as well as to enable them to do Gods will, and accepts the freely offered grace of God. Anyone who thinks they can make themselves right before God through their own efforts, without God’s help, is not a Christian. Anyone who believes they need the Spirit of God, offered freely by his grace, but does not accept it, is not a Christian.

“Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said”, Jesus secondly describes a Christian as someone who believes in him, according to his word – the Scriptures. God has made himself known through the bible, that Christians can know him. As such, any authentic experience of God a Christian has, will be in accordance with the bible, as God will not contradict himself. Accordingly, any experience which is contrary to the bible is not from God.

“Streams of living water will flow from him”, Jesus finally describes a Christian as someone who’s behaviour is governed by the Holy Spirit. In comparison to their old, sinful nature, there should be a difference in their conduct, as the Spirit works in them, producing his fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Gal 5:22-23) This is not to say they will be perfect, as the sinful nature will still be contended with until death, but that the Spirit will have a significant impact in their lives.

Ruislip….oh Wryslip!

I’m getting used to these lazy Saturday mornings. I managed to stay in bed until noon, when I finally decided to kick myself into life. I had a shower, put on some clothes and trundled down to Kingston.
The main purpose of my journey was to exchange a DVD at the Virgin Megastore, as I already had it, but had been given another as a gift. It might also be an opportunity to purchase various odds and ends for forthcoming holidays and the like. Little did I know that, when I came to the last known location of the Virgin Megastore in Kingston, it was no longer there! Duh! I decided to get a meatball sub from Subway and wander around Kingston for anything else I might need. Eventually I came across a Millets and decided it might be worth getting some clothing suitable for Kenya. On exiting, I had purchased a pair of light coloured, light material trousers, impregnated with mosquito repellant, which had been tagged as £40, but I paid £12 for as the till said they were £12, so despite the DVD disappointment, not a wasted trip.
In the evening I made my way up to The Plough in Ruislip, to meet up, and have a meal, with former members of the choir I used to accompany on the piano. It was good to spend the time catching up with each other, seeing how each other was getting on and getting our weekly musical fix. Some had joined other local choirs, some were even going to be performing at St Martin-in-the-fields! Good food and good company, producing a good evening.

Once there were four children…

Ooh…. this looks cool.

Who do you say I am?

When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”
They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”
Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it…” Mt 16:13-18

Whilst in Caesarea Philippi, Jesus asks his disciples first who do people around say he is. Sometimes we have a picture in our minds that the world recorded in the New Testament was very different to the one we live in today. Whilst the technology and fashions might have been different, the philosophical and religious environment was not so different. Both Greek and Roman thought were pluralistic when it came to religion, morally ambiguous with a great number of clever arguments bandied around, much like today.

It was in this environment that Simon Peter declared that Jesus was the Christ, the Messiah, the Saviour of the world. It was in this environment he declared Jesus to be the Son of God, Lord of all. In this same environment, Jesus declared that his church, his people, would prevail. That his church would be built on this declaration, that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of God. That the church would be founded on Christ. That, though the church was a congregation of saved sinners, the very powers and authorities of hell, who would congregate at its gates, would not be able to destroy the church.

This same declaration still applies today. The church which is founded on Christ will prevail, and the gates of hell will not overcome it. It is only by the unique work and person of Christ, the Son of God, that we might be saved.

What country are you?

You’re the United Nations!
Most people think you’re ineffective, but you are trying to completely save the world from itself, so there’s always going to be a long way to go.  You’re always the one trying to get friends to talk to each other, enemies to talk to each other, anyone who can to just talk instead of beating each other about the head and torso.  Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t, and you get very schizophrenic as a result.  But your heart is in the right place, and sometimes also in New York.
Take the Country Quiz at the Blue Pyramid

Not a chance

Finally managed to spend some time playing Civ III. It’s been a while since I’ve played a full game from start to finish. Of all the computer game genre’s, the “god game” is my favourite, and Civ III is probably top of the pile in my opinion. This particular foray proved as interesting as ever (to me anyway – not sure about you :)), where I started off as the Chinese, with the Aztecs and Americans in the far distant north. As the game progressed, my empire grew, until eventually I had land borders with the Americans and Aztecs. On the other side of the Aztecs were the Koreans, and in a three-way partnership with the Americans, we swapped technologies keeping ourselves top of the pile in terms of technological advancement. Eventually the Aztecs tired of me and declared war, but due to more advanced technology and a mutual protection pact with the Americans, the Aztec nation was consigned to history. As time went on, two major powers on another continent, the Greeks and Babylonians, starting vying for supremacy and trading relations. Seeing as the Greeks were nice rather than threatening, they benefitted from swapping technologies, eventually becoming the dominant power. If it were not for the fact the Americans and Koreans were now fighting a resource sapping war, allowing me to surge ahead technologically, I might well have lost to the Greeks. Anyway, in the end I triumphed, with a space race victory, being the first nation to send a ship to Alpha Centauri. Who says computers games are a boring, anti-social, waste of time? 🙂

a.m.: John 18:28-40 p.m.: Ephesians 6:1-4

In this passage of John’s gospel, Jesus is taken to Pilate by the Jewish leaders, as only Pilate could legally order Jesus’ execution. They did not enter Pilate’s palace though, a Gentile residence, as that would defile them and would make them unable to take part in the celebration of the Passover. Inside the palace, Pilate could not find any legal reason to sentence Jesus to death. Pilate’s motivation in offering the choice of Jesus and Barabbas’ execution to the people was more out of pragmatic politics than seeking justice and truth.

In keeping the ceremonial law, the Jewish leaders had missed the pointer. The Passover commemorated the deliverance of the Jews from their captivity in Egypt, specifically through the sacrifice of a lamb, and the daubing of that lamb’s blood on their door posts, that the angel of death would pass over them and only cause the death of Egyptian boys, which would cause Pharoah to release the Jews. Yet, the Passover also pointed forward to the Messiah, the Lamb of God, who would be sacrificed to take away the sins of the world, to release his people from the captivity of sin. The Jewish leaders were, probably unwittingly, delivering the Lamb of God to be sacrificed, whilst observing the celebration which pointed to their acts.

We also, in our observance of religion, can miss the point. If our religion is concentrated more on the things we do, rather than looking to what Christ has done, we miss the point. We can concentrate too much on the rituals themselves, like the Lord’s Supper, instead of the Christ to whom the rituals point. Or we think there is something magical about the Bible, treating it like a superstitious charm, instead of reading it to know more about the Christ it speaks of.

Then there is Pilate, who dispensed with justice and truth in order to come to a politically pragmatic solution. After all, he was there to ensure the province was run smoothly and efficiently, an uprising because of a carpenter from Nazareth would not be good for his career. Even though, in Jesus Christ, the truth was staring him in the face, he chose to take the unjust path, the path of least resistance.

If we consider ourselves to be following Jesus Christ, the way, the truth and the life, we should act with integrity. If we are faced with situations in which the truth could be dispensed with, in order to have a pragmatic solution, we should endeavour to stick to the truth.

A walk in the park

Another Saturday, another glorious lie-in! 🙂 Finally dragged my body out of bed at around noon, had some breakfast, showered and headed down the the snooker hall where I beat David 4-1 frames. Not a great game of snooker, a little scrappy in places, but good practice.
Spent the evening walking the long walk starting in Windsor at the castle, through Windsor Great Park with the usual suspects. The weather was beautiful and dry, with a gloriously painted sky illuminated by a bright setting sun. It was great to be able to chat in the serenity of this vast Royal Park, to catch up with friends and discuss all manner of things, whilst surrounded by the beauty of God’s creation. We then wandered into Windsor to find some food, and continue chatting until late. A very relaxing day.

Making a mark

Well, I didn’t get any replies to the email which I sent to the main candidates standing to represent the parliamentary constituency in which I live. So I was left to decide for myself from various sources available to me. The most useful document was an election brief published by the Christian Institute and showed the party policies on morality issues amongst other things, and the BBC also produced a useful guide detailing the parties’ policies on the popular issues. Armed with this information, I decided who I would vote for, wandered down the polling station and made my mark. All there’s left to do now is sit back and watch the election coverage and see what Peter Snow’s Swingometer does this election. Saying that, I might just lie down and have a nap as I’m knackered from just going out to vote – I think I’ve got a viral infection.