Month: March 2007

Congratulations Karen and Nigel!

rings.jpg

I had the privilege of taking part in the wedding of two good friends today. Starting at around 7am(!) I attempted to carry out the duties of best man, stuff like ferrying the groom to the church on time, shunting people around for photos and making a speech (of sorts!). I must admit, I’m thoroughly exhausted, but had great joy in seeing my friends get married.


Gimel

גDo good to your servant, and I will live; I will obey your word.
Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law.
I am a stranger on earth; do not hide your commands from me.
My soul is consumed with longing for your laws at all times.
You rebuke the arrogant, who are cursed and who stray from your commands.
Remove from me scorn and contempt, for I keep your statutes.
Though rulers sit together and slander me, your servant will meditate on your decrees.
Your statutes are my delight; they are my counsellors.

Psalm 119:17-24


E!

It’s been one of those weeks which just hasn’t stopped! The only prevailing memory from my violin lesson on Tuesday was learning to play Chanson de Matin, by Elgar. It starts in third position, which is bad enough, but later one of the notes is the fourth E above Middle-C! When I first saw it on the page, I had to stare for a while, count the ledger lines and then work out what I was going to do to play it. It’s so high that you’re really just relying on harmonics in order to ensure you’re in tune. Saying that, I’ve heard the piece played by competent violinists and it sounds beautiful, there’s something quintessentially English about it, very much cucumber sandwiches and afternoon tea. Hopefully, with a lot of practise, I’ll be able to do it justice.

Wednesday evening was spent at Vic and Barb’s to catch up on their latest travels and merely to share friendship and fellowship. A nice relaxing evening.


VisualDNA


You seen my bruise?

Attempted to play football this evening with the bruise the size of a foot size in situ. Any attempt to run was accompanied by slight pain and turn into a fairly quick hobble, rather than a graceful gazelle-like movement. Saying that, after pushing it for an hour, my leg actually felt better for it. We’ll see how I feel in the morning.

Finished the evening round Nige’s with some of the other lads to watch District 13 (Banlieue 13 for the more cultured amongst you). Pretty silly story, even compared with some other Luc Besson films, but some great feats of skill and athleticism.


a.m.: Mark 9:1-13 p.m.: Romans 4:17-25

As a disciple of Jesus, Peter was beginning to understand who Jesus was and why he was on earth. In order to help him along, Jesus gave him a glimpse of his true glory, transfigured with Moses and Elijah. This wasn’t some escape from reality, but it was reality revealed. This was a glimpse of the world as it really is, not just the material, but the spiritual as well.

Peter was right when he remarked

Rabbi, it is good for us to be here… Mk 9:5

but had misunderstood the point of him being there when he said

Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah. Mk 9:5

For this glimpse of reality was to be merely that. A lesson in what it meant to follow Jesus, to listen to him because his authority came from heaven. They weren’t meant to stay in this state, but to go out into the world to spread the good news of the messiah, the Lamb of God who had come to deliver them from sin.

Just as Peter needed a glimpse of reality in order to be able to do his work, we need glimpses of reality through the word of God. We are so prone to forgetting that there is more to reality than what we can sense. We are to listen to his word, both in private study, and in meeting together to listen and to discuss, that we may know God better and so have a true view of reality.


Ready, steady, cook…!

I’m becoming used to these nice long Saturday morning lie-ins. I think it aligns well with my natural tendency to sleep. 🙂 Another cholesterol loaded breakfast of bacon, eggs and tomatoes, and then down to the park with Sam for some footy.

When we got there, we met up with the others – It was freezing! I think this was the general consensus! Once the game had started, things improved as the cold was less noticeable as we ran around a little more. The aim of this after noon was to improve our game playing as a team, with an emphasis on passing, marking and positioning. I think we did rather well, and the team which kept thinking about its strategy won out in the end.

A nice hot bath and a clean change of clothes later, we (and some of the girls) descended on Sarah’s house, for an interesting cooking competition. (Sarah’s idea, not mine!) The aim was to choose a recipe from a list of eight, purchase the ingredients, and then produce the final cooked product. In the interests of health, the recipe was a dessert. The group was divided into two teams, and the criteria would consist of time taken to purchase ingredients, budget considerations of ingrediants, time taken to get food into oven, presentation, texture, taste and cleanliness of resulting kitchen. The two teams chose their recipes and were off. After 2½ hours of slaving in the kitchen, the two teams had their creations ready for Sarah’s parents to judge. The team consisting of Dave, Deanna, Karen, Susanna and Tim was declared victorious, despite a little protestation. A fun evening, and interesting insight into the culinary skills of the participants. Maybe the next challenge will be a little greater…

A good day. 🙂


Our Father, in heaven

Q: What rule hath God given for our direction in prayer?
A: The whole word of God is of use to direct us in prayer; but the special rule of direction is that form of prayer which Christ taught his disciples, commonly called The Lord’s Prayer.

Q: What doth the preface of the Lord’s prayer teach us?
A: The preface of the Lord’s prayer which is, Our Father which art in heaven, teacheth us to draw near to God with all holy reverence and confidence, as children to a father, able and ready to help us; and that we should pray with and for others.

(Questions XCIX and C of the Westminster Shorter Catechism).


An octave in one bow

Well, after a short hiatus due to various issues, I was back to learning the violin. Surprisingly, I hadn’t forgotten much, and moved onto attempting to play an octave scale in one bow. This wasn’t too difficult with just one octave. It got harder as it moved into two octaves, and by the time I got to three octaves, my fingers were tripping over themselves as they attempted to shift multiple times within one bow movement. Needless to say, some practice might be required. The rest of the lesson was distictly baroque themed, with some further development on a Corelli piece and then looking at some simplified arrangements of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons.


a.m.: Mark 8:34-9:1 p.m.: Romans 4:1-16

“If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it.
What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?
If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.” Mk 8:34-38

Here, Jesus speaks of the costs associated with following him.

  1. Those who follow Christ will seek to put Christ first, rather than themselves. It is expressed in one of the earliest and most fundamental Christian confessions – Jesus is Lord. It is important to note that self-denial doesn’t make one a Christian, but being a Christian causes one to be self-denying.
    Just as litmus paper turning red doesn’t make a substance acidic, but shows the acidity of a substance, self-denial is the mark of a Christian.
    This is not to say Christians will be perfect, for there are still remnants of the old sinful, self-seeking, nature, but someone who claims to be a Christian but shows no hint of self-denial needs to examine themselves.
    It is also important to note that this self-denial is not the same as being joyless or ascetic, for if we put Christ first, his joy will be in us and will be made complete.
  2. This self-denial won’t be easy – Jesus likens it to taking up a cross. For although our salvation is given freely, it will be cost us many things in this world. It requires a constant battle against the old, self-seeking, nature. It may cost us many things which this world counts as worthy, such as money and status. However, we can take none of this with us when we die.
  3. Despite how much personal cost is involved, a look at the bigger picture brings it all into perspective. When you consider how much this cost God, who gave his Son as a ransom for many. When you consider that Jesus Christ laid down his life of his own accord for his people.

    Were the whole realm of nature mine,
    That were a present far too small;
    Love so amazing, so divine,
    Demands my soul, my life, my all. Isaac Watts


Testosterone, adrenaline and petrol fumes…

After a pleasant lie-in, I finally awoke and cooked myself a breakfast of bacon, eggs and tomatoes….mmmm. Plenty of calories for the day!

Met up with some of the lads from the church – and some others who were brave enough to associate with us – for a game of football. Despite the injury I sustained on Monday, I was able to move, albeit slowly and without too much vigour! The teams were very even, ending in 3-2, which is very low for a five-a-side game.

After a quick shower and McDonalds, we were off to Premier Karting in Reading for Nigel’s stag evening. Once we’d all convened, paid-up and digested a quick safety briefing we were racing! The evening was broken up into 24 heats of 6 contestants per heat, culminating into a final of the top 8 drivers. It was very well put-together, and you weren’t left waiting around for too long if you weren’t racing. While Nigel didn’t end up as the winner at the end of the day, that fell to Trevor, he did have the honour of having the fastest lap time during the heats. I came 10th out of 24, which wasn’t bad considering the competition. A fun evening, and I even managed to get some photos. 🙂


But we aren’t a game.

I saw The Last King of Scotland not so long ago, and thought this film is worth more words than many films I’ve seen. It weaves fiction with the very real horror inflicted on Uganda in the dictatorship of Idi Amin, played by Forest Whitaker.

Unlike Hotel Rwanda where the main character is taken from real life, the main character in this film is a fictional brash young man, Dr Garrigan played by James McAvoy, recently graduated as a medical doctor. He goes to Uganda in search of excitement and adventure, maybe sow some oats and make his mark. He’s quite sure of himself, but knows very little about what he’s getting himself in for.

This can be seen quite early on as he gets overly intimate with the natives even before he’s started working, and as he settles in he doesn’t take any of the hints from his coworkers concerning the culture of Uganda, or even his own culture.

Before he know’s it, he’s the personal physician of Idi Amin, and is slowly drawn into Amin’s bosom as a confidante and advisor. Initially he sees this as a good thing, as Amin is an amiable, charming, likable man with plenty of character. As Garrigan’s knowledge of Amin grows, he begins to realise he’s in the presence of a very dangerous and evil man. Even before he realises this, Amin has made it virtually impossible for him to leave Uganda. It’s only during the hijacking of a plane bound for Paris from Tel Aviv at Entebbe that Garrigan, with the help of a Ugandan doctor who sacrifices himself, is able to leave.

It’s interesting to see how the film uses the fictional character of Garrigan to tell the snippet of Ugandan history under Amin. To see a coup d’etat take place under Amin’s command, with the stated aim of improving the life for every Ugandan, to see Amin’s aims compromised by Amin himself as his taste for power increases, triggering fears for his own personal safety. The film, albeit rather indelicately and without too much depth, also shows how Europeans have treated Africa and are, in part, to blame for the situation most Africans are in today. If it were not for the British, Amin might not even have seized power, in fact Amin might not have even made a mark on African history. As Amin, Whitaker gives a remarkable performance of a man who, from the outside, appears to be a good thing for Uganda, but as more is revealed of him, is ultimately shown to be delusional and even worse than the man he replaced.

A good film giving a small, but focused, glimpse into the history of Uganda and its people. Well worth seeing.


Happy birthday Richard!

Managed to damage myself somehow on the football pitch this evening. I tried to quickly change direction and suddenly found pain in my lower back! I didn’t do much running or direction changing after that. Maybe I’m getting too old for running around?

Anyway, after a rather painful game, I sauntered up to Hayes to the Grapes Tandoori to celebrate Richard’s birthday with a few others. I remember when he used to be a plucky teenager – another hint I’m getting old! An enjoyable evening spent relaxing, chatting, adjusting my back and celebrating.


a.m.: Proverbs 11:4-31 p.m.: Roman 3:21-31

Of the many subjects the bible speaks about, and the book of Proverbs in particular, money is one of the most frequent. Wise use of money is a mark of godliness.

It can be easy to fall into a simplistic trap of thinking that being poor is a virtue and that being rich is sinful, yet the writer of Proverbs thinks otherwise…

Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the LORD?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonour the name of my God. Pr 30:8,9

Money can be used wisely, for the glory of God. For money is the means by which we, and our families, physically are sustained. If we are unable to provide for our families, Paul is quite unequivocal.

If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. 1 Ti 5:8

Whether this is as a husband, or a father to provide daily bread for one’s family, or as a son or daughter who earns enough to pay for their keep and maybe even support one’s parents. We are to work to earn money that we may support our families. In keeping with this, we are to spend our money wisely, not frivolously, to spend only that which we have, and not borrow unnecessarily.

The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender. Pr 22:7

We are even to save, but not hoard, such that we are able to provide for others in the future. In our investments, we are to be ethical, being careful to see our money is used wisely. Money may provide some measure of security – a roof over our head and food on the table, but we are not to trust in it.

Dishonest money dwindles away, but he who gathers money little by little makes it grow. Pr 13:11

As well as spending and saving money for our families, we are to share it, giving generously to those in need.

One man gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty. A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed. Pr 11:24,25

This is not to say we’ll be a soft-touch for those seeking a lazy life, but we are to give those who really are in need of, and would benefit greatly from, financial assistance. Nor are we to pay the debts, or put our money down as security, of those who are unwise with money.

He who puts up security for another will surely suffer, but whoever refuses to strike hands in pledge is safe. Pr 11:15

We must be careful who we lend money, that it may be used wisely.

Finally, money cannot buy salvation. He who dies with the most toys leaves the most toys. It cannot be taken with us when we die. The debt we owe God cannot be repaid with money.

For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. 1 Pe 1:18,19

Will we place priority on settling our accounts with God?


I’m a cynical man

One of those crazy Saturdays! It was another very tiring afternoon playing football on a pitch with long grass. It’s amazing how a few inches extra causes so much more effort to be required. I guess the positive side is that I got a good amount of exercise!

In the evening, I went to a talk on how God justifiably demonstrates his wrath, a subject which deserves its own entry. Watch this space. 🙂

Finally saw The Illusionist, which tells the story of an illusionist who uses his talents to get the girl he loves. The story is based in Vienna during the time of the Austro-Hungarian empire, and tells most of its story through suggestion. Of course, this leaves you to try and piece together what is actually happening, as well as trying to sift out correct and incorrect conclusions. The film is very cleverly put together and not only shows the techniques of an illusionist being used on its characters, but uses those techniques on the audience. At the end, you go away with the idea that the good guy has won, but after a little thought you wonder if he really was the good guy. Worth watching if you’re looking for a piece of light entertainment, with plenty of impressively crafted scenes, both in terms of effects and in cinematography.