Saturday, December 23, 2017

Christmas 2017

We tried to do Christmas cards this year but started too late... anyway, here's the news which I wrote for inclusion with the cards in case you (very likely) didnt get one. Three of the images below link to albums rather than just one photo.
2017 was not exactly full of good news globally. We have heard things from migrant friends at church (e.g. re. Cameroon) or through the media which caused us mixed feelings of sadness but also lifting our hearts in thankfulness for our mainly comfortable and peaceful existence. Our lives are finely balanced though and it does not take much to radically alter our circumstances.
Christmas and New Year 2016-2017
We began this year in Scotland again but only the kids are making the trip this time - Ally's mum has become unwell, sadly, she was diagnosed with dementia. This was not long after having moved next door to Ally's sister in Bourne End. As well as trying to be there, Ally’s time is limited by going full time in November, as a research nurse helping to run clinical trials into urology cancer treatments. In April, Mike finished data collection for his doctoral project. Writing up is difficult for many reasons but he is grateful for support of family and friends: he's been away staying at a friend's flat in Pembrokeshire for several writing retreats.
Moli, 21 this year, has been full-on with student life at Swansea and, having successfully negotiated first year, is 'experiencing' the step up to 2nd year while events organiser for the Christian Union.
Moli is 21 Asher has continued with A-levels, hockey and TKD. He's hoping to seal a place to study physiotherapy in England or Scotland next September - decent results in Biology, Chemistry and PE will open that door.
Boaz continued with piano (Cruella De Vil often chimes out of an evening), GCSE's, Athletics and TKD. He's thinking about psychology medium-term - but at which high school...?
France 2017
This August we again borrowed a more comfortable car to drive for a break in the hills above Nice. We marked the 500 year anniversary of the Reformation with a visit to Geneva on the way down.
At the Reformation Wall
Mike and Ally took a brief 3-night break to Faro, Portugal as part of celebrating Ally's 50th. We had no qualms at leaving the boys in charge.
Faro
This time of year is as much about those who have left us as those whose company we can still enjoy, especially with Padi (who would have been 20 last week) and Neil's birthdays falling close to Christmas. Upon a recent visit to Padi's grave, I noticed that our dear former pastor W. Vernon Higham's new memorial stone featured his favorite verse: The Lord is good, a strong hold in the day of trouble; and he knoweth them that trust in him (Nahum 1:7). Whatever 2018 holds, we know that God is good and his hold on us is strong. May you know this too by His grace.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Notes on Numbers 12

McCheyne's calendar takes us to Numbers once a year. Matthew Henry has provided ample material for helping us learn from this neglected book.
 
In this chapter we see the meekness of Moses. There are lessons here for how we should die to self.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Friends

I have some very good friends.
Of course, the best Friend sticks closer than any brother could (Prov 18:24).
I don't mean dogs - although they're wonderful hahaha! :)
Or the amazing brother lost to us last year (flickr album, youtube elegy, justgiving memorial).
Or Padi's best friend, WV Higham, also gone to be with our Lord.
Nor, this time, do I mean the many so kind friends who I have known through work, study or church over many years.
I am called back to this blog to note the goodness of God in sending migrants into our lives over the last months. If you had told me a few months ago that today I would count Eritreans and Iranians amongst my most esteemed friends... I would not have been able to hide a curious smile of disbelief. These dear people have fled in agonising separation from almost all they held dear, to preserve a future for them and their families, and invest their considerable talents and uncommon nobility of character into my country. But in many instances they leave the frying pan, for the fire. The unimpeachable judiciary have rejected claims for some of my friends' asylum on the most absurd grounds. One had so much evidence of their Christian conversion, only a criminal mastermind could concoct it... and so that is exactly the line his judge took! Other questions included, 'What is the Eucharist?', as if someone who has only ever known other Christians in the micro-house church they narrowly escaped arrest with would be conversant with CofE ritual! Honorably abstaining from applying for membership or baptism was interpreted as suspicious. Can someone please explain to the judges what a Christian is?
Anyway, in the last week or two, we have taken great joy in baptising one Iranian and welcoming another into membership (sound is better quality on this youtube and the simple membership ceremony is followed by an awesome sermon about what a Christian is). I found the prospect of local mass baptism 'less than ideal', and am happy that we have waited, in keeping with what used to be the normal Welsh practice of old, to see the depth of the profession of brothers like Kaveh and Arman. In days when a pall of wicked unbelief has settled upon the hearts of the Welsh, these 'foreigners' are taking heaven by storm. Many British would not have this Jesus to rule over them (Luke 19:14). But these Iranians, despised on many levels no doubt these days, reveal the joy and love of God. What a force for good in our country would a host of these real Christians be - humble, gentle, honest, brave, diligent, full of love towards even their enemies, 'of whom the world was not worthy' (Heb11:38) and the UK is proving we are not worthy of them. They put us to shame. And shame on us if we send them back to their own nations to face certain death, however glorious, as martyrs (that is what Islam requires done to apostates). Hopefully, some of our own digital resources will help in upcoming court appeals. Let's make Britain Great again by giving these guys asylum.
Unjust judges are condemned in the Bible (Ps 82). There is no way of knowing what kind of evidence such people will accept when they are prejudiced. Thankfully, we are all in the hands of God and can commit our dear friends into His almighty care and keeping. Psalm 130 is the one I think of with regard to them:
1 Out of the depths have I cried unto thee, O LORD.
2 Lord, hear my voice: let thine ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications.
3 If thou, LORD, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand?
4 But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared.
5 I wait for the LORD, my soul doth wait, and in his word do I hope.
6 My soul waiteth for the Lord more than they that watch for the morning: I say, more than they that watch for the morning.
7 Let Israel hope in the LORD: for with the LORD there is mercy, and with him is plenteous redemption.
8 And he shall redeem Israel from all his iniquities
I also commend Winslow's 'Soul Depths and Soul Heights' on this Psalm (Grace Gems full text link).

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Dr Martyn Lloyd Jones on Aberfan, in Iain Murray's biography

Aberfan is much in the news and I wanted to put something else online about it. Much of the commentary is, as one might expect, godless. Before anyone counters that 'God should have stopped the Aberfan disaster', please consider that,
  1. The human causes, based in greed and callous negligence are well documented. Last night I was talking to someone who was very close to the disaster, part of the actual community. They said with a heavy heart that the most moving programme of all the recent coverage for them was the one about the causes of the disaster... When will 'we' own our God given responsibilities/duties to carry on life on earth with the princely dignity, equity and righteousness we have been invested with? Your conscience screams at you 'do not do it' - so, do not do it. If you ignore your conscience for long enough you simply harden your heart and confound your moral compass, making you unfit to discern right from wrong, still less act on that.
  2. God, by any meaningful definition of that word, has a perfect right to run the universe as he sees fit and that might mean picking up the pieces after suffering and death have done their worst. You might have a problem with that? Take it up with him while you still can. Meet your Judge on the way, not at the trial. Rather that than take it as a pretext for denying his existence. Ah but that would involve humbling yourself... and there's the real rub...
  3. When you 'blame' God, you follow a long line of infamy all the way back to the first sin, amply demonstrating your infernal nature. Man was created to be 'like God', in love and holiness, yet in falling from these attributes, he blamed Eve, and Eve blamed the serpent. Nothing new or daringly clever about blaming God then. It's just the same old slander.
  4. Any conception of 'suffering' must invoke the point that an extremely horrific amount of suffering leading to an abject death was endured by Christ in crucifixion and yet this achieved the overwhelming benefit of salvation. Tremendous suffering entails overwhelming blessedness. Which chimes in with the text mentioned below in an extended quote from Iain Murray's 1990 biography (p570-572)...

Saturday, December 19, 2015

18

Padi would have been 18 today so we were delighted that Bluebells had space for us. It seems a fitting place to be. We always looked forward to our stays here. The games room and pool are favourites. There's acres of space. Being in the South East brings us within 40 minutes of Ally's family, so they were able to visit for a turkey dinner on Thursday evening. This was especially opportune because her father's not able to travel as far as Cardiff at the moment, for health reseaons. 
Padi has a page in the Bluebells book of remembrance, amongst the 100's of so-called 'butterfly children'. The photo provides a point of reflection, dating back to our first trip here when the kids were considerably smaller. Life moves on, more or less comfortably. We have mused on the progress and growing-up of his siblings and especially his friends, since meeting the latter is less regular. Ally resumed work at the Velindre cancer centre, which occasionally throws up some predictably difficult moments, no matter how supportive the staff are. We recently moved house too, escaping something of a debt trap. Our new old place, built in the 1890's, is very handy for church and suits us well. Padi did not want to leave Heathwood Road but the time was right; providence expedited our purchase of Donald Street, just a few doors up from the house where Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones was born. Pads would be pleased we made it to Bluebells anyway. Ally was browsing the unique collection of bereavement-related resources yesterday. The charity, http://www.sebastiansactiontrust.org , doesn't stand still: they've extended the property and tamed the large garden. They're even in the final stages of approval for another site: Bluebells 2. There is huge demand for these kinds of services
We like short breaks. Yesterday, leaving the kids in the pool, Ally and I took a brisk walk to North Waltham where the idea hatched of visiting a national trust property. Needless to say, the kids were happy to let us go without them. The Vyne is a splendid Tudor mansion, just the other side of Basingstoke from Bluebells. The site began its use as a church and, although quite small, provides a major claim to fame through the stained glass currently being restored. Another notable feature is the 100 guinea oak. You can read how it was named on the Vyne gardens blog: https://vynegardensnt.wordpress.com/2011/08/15/a-grand-old-friend/
Various scraps of religious significance were observed, with Christmas just around the corner. The National Trust always likes to tap into festivals and their relevance for the particular site's history: the restoration of Christmas post-puritans was noted with some glee in one Trust historian's blurb. We flinch at the violence dished out upon celebrants back then. Our view holds that the Lord's Day takes precedence over any other 'day', but that there is worth in noting and giving special attention annually to the glorious divine interventions of the incarnation and crucifixion of our Lord Jesus Christ. This is only ever done in a measured way, for example, the special scripture readings we follow:
Principally, these seasons are useful as opportunities for the gospel: we travel back later to the carol service. Catch it online if you can: http://youtu.be/H7WM4cm4VmY
Previous trips to Bluebells in 
February 2013 Was a much shorter, more subdued trip - Pads hardly ventured out of his bed. http://mrmrj.blogspot.co.uk/2013/02/back-from-bluebells-again.html