The similar phrase 'Worldly Christianity' is one used by Bonhoeffer. It's J Gresham Machen that I want to line up most closely with. See his Christianity and culture here. Having done commentaries on Proverbs (Heavenly Wisdom) and Song of Songs (Heavenly Love), a matching title for Ecclesiastes would be Heavenly Worldliness. For my stance on worldliness, see 3 posts here.

A blog's Christmas in Wales

So I'm enjoying a pretty relaxing time with the family in London and Wales. We were up fairly early on Christmas Day to open presents together. Nothing particularly interesting I guess. We gave Rhodri a stylophone, which was fun. Mostly clothes. No CDs or many books for once. All Rhodri and Sibyl's gifts were from Vietnam (even my tie, which I would have expected to come from Tie-land) Eleri bought the boys a portable DVD so they watched Sleeping Beauty and Elf when we hit the road.
We had a decent turn out of around 50 in church, even though several were away. I preached on Luke 2:19.
We had goose for lunch, which was okay but not my favourite. We had invited one or two who were on their own but they declined and so we were on our own. We have also made trips to Wales - to Cardiff and Aber - to see various members of the family including my dad and sister who came to see us in Cardiff. I preached in Childs Hill on the Lord's Day from Isaiah 53 and a new year sermon on James 4. Again we were a decent number. We moved the evening service time forward and managed to fool our South African LTS friends, always a danger however well you publicise.
There's been time to play football with the boys and some friends in Aber on the astroturf, for some fun games (Kids trivia, Headbanz, Last word, Keep on humming, consequences, categories, drawing monsters, etc), eating and talking, TV (Gavin and Stacey - great, 39 Steps - poor) reading (Richard Evans on the Nazis, a festschrift for O Palmer Robertson, A child's Christmas in Wales [aloud] and a little Sense and sensibility) and rewatching It's a wonderful life.

JW darkness

We were giving out copies of the Christmas Evangelical Times. One lady, Samantha, who I've spoken to in the past, introduced herself as a JW (she has grwon up in the movement) and we spoke about whether Christmas is biblical and about soul sleep and the danger of trusting in an organisation, etc. Such a very nice lady (a lot nicer than me I would guess) but lost as lost can be.
Such encounters bring us back in part to election and God's inscrutable purposes. Why me? And why, as yet, not her? God is sovereign.

Van Leer Home Concert

Someone alerted me the other day to the existence of a new Thijs Van Leer CD which I have treated myself to for Christmas. It is called The home concert and was recorded back in 2005. As the title suggests this is a simple one angle fairly amateur production (in a good sense) by a friend of Thijs's (Daniel Earnshaw). The hybrid CD consists of video footage where Thijs is chiefly asked questions or talks through a piece. There are also a full 11 tracks of audio on piano and flute, mostly from the Focus 9 period. Two strangely titled tracks which I have partly heard before are called Amok in kindergarten and came in response to the Dunblane tragedy.
This is a lovely compilation revealing a true musical genius and a warm human being. Only for the converted I guess, which is a shame. To get a flavour check out Mr Earnshaw's website here.

Cyngerdd Nadolig

We went along to see the youngest boys Christmas concert the other night in the Welsh School. It was called Christmas around the world and was the usual mishmash. I think they'd reached Australia by this point.

Deck the Halls

We watched the 2006 Christmas comedy Deck the halls the other night and mostly enjoyed it. It has been widely panned (see here) but didn't seem any worse than any other such movie. (I notice that Christmas with the kranks which we went to see the other year and thought okay was also panned). Certainly Deck the halls had extraneous jokes, not a great soundtrack and few great moments but it was okay. I guess part of the thing with a film like this is who you're watching with. More here.

Brooks David's public spirit

In the intro to Thomas Brooks' Cabinet of choice jewels he commends public spirit at length and says by way of example

And so David was a man of a public spirit, for "after David had served his generation according to the will of God, he died and was buried," Acts 13:36. The Spirit of the Lord has put this upon record for David's honour and our imitation. David's soul did not live in a narrow bowling-alley. He was not a man of so poor, low, and narrow a spirit as to make himself the centre of his designs and actions. David was a man of a generous, noble spirit. The public good lay nearest his heart, and to serve his generation he was willing to spend and be spent.

The wren in the furze

One Christmas album I'm particularly enjoying again this year is the live Chieftains celebration from 1991 The Bells of Dublin featuring not only the Chieftains but several guests too. Towards the end there is a medley (The Wren! The Wren!) of 5 or 6 songs (The Arrival of the Wren Boys/The Dingle Set - Dance/The Wren in the Furze/A Dance Duet - Reels/Brafferton Village & Walsh's Hornpipe/Farewell:The Piper Through the Meadow Strayed/This is the Season to be Merry).

The medley reflects music that may have been heard when the wren boys came calling to bury the wren on St Stephen's Day (December 26) as they traditionally did in Ireland, Wales and elsewhere. (More here). The boys would chant (as is done here and as Kevin Conneff sings) "The wren, the wren, the king of all birds. Up with the kettle and down with the pan. Give us a penny to bury the wren." The medley features dance music, a couple of pieces by Northumbrian piper by Kathryn Tickell and my favourite - "The Wren in the Furze" which is as Irish as a song could be. Kevin Conneff sings the lead accompanied by the Voice Squad.

Children of Abraham

John 8:9 Abraham is our father, they answered. If you were Abraham's children, said Jesus, then you would do the things Abraham did.

Often in John's Gospel we find Jesus and the Jews talking at cross purposes and misunderstanding each other. Jesus has spoken to them about being free. They have responded that they have always been free – though what was going on in Egypt on this basis is hard to see. Part of their claim to freedom is tied to their being descendants of Abraham. It is a nationalistic argument. What Jesus is talking about is spiritual freedom – freedom not to sin. He is quite happy to acknowledge that they are Abraham's descendants but they are also children of the devil as sure as he is the Son of God. Of course, they do not follow his argument and reassert that they are Abraham's children. But Jesus counters that if they were truly Abraham's children in the fullest sense then they would not be planning to kill Jesus but would embrace him and his teaching. Paul later takes up this point that the true children of Abraham are those with the same faith not those with a mere biological connection to him. An adopted son who truly loves his father can be much more of a son to him than one who is biologically linked yet opposes all that his father holds dear. What matters is not being a direct descendant of Abraham, Jewish or whatever, but doing the thngs that Abraham did, which sprang from faith in God.

Imperfect world

My favourite guitarist Jan Akkerman has recently been working with a Balkan guitarist Vlatko Stefanovski and in a perfect world may be I could read Serbo-Croat. In a less than perfect world I can at least get this partly informative, partly humourous translation thanks to google. (My italics).

Therefore, neither the "Thunder from the Blue Sky" can not be considered as a big surprise, not even kuriozumom: a rock-soul must be, when then-gift blues, if at all aware of themselves, especially if, as Stefanovski, while still tirelessly and prebire by raznorodnim ethno-heritage.
Therefore you can say to a greater predstavlja miracle scenario in which Skopje master revealed the end of his career, and that it was not recorded significant piece of blues - than this, in which he plays an hour and twelve minutes, with triom in an entirely new set, nor pojačanoj even less than -
Janom Akkermanom.
Focus cult guitarist and
one of the largest gitarskih star of the sixties and seventies with the izrasao time in almost legendarnu figure as classic, and fusion; for Stefanovskoga even showed sudbinskim choice, considering that the two musicians met by chance on jazz-festival in Kumanovo.
Although the disc during a somewhat more difficult to conclude where the Akkerman, and begins Stefanovski, and vice versa, there is no doubt that cooperation from the jovial sky (whether hence the name of the album?) was in good measure affected - it shows, but also extremely intro "Amazing Grace" , in which recognizable,
very subtle guitar Stefanovskog bezgrešno fall into the well cosmic Akkermanovog arrangements.This super-miniature eklektična represents, however, only eksces in 'pravovjernom' rest of the album, which he (re) aranžerski fully signed Stefanovski - but how will it sound, much more clearly suggests šestominutni "Stormy Monday Blues," Blues sporokotrljajući epitaph T-Bone Walker.All those who had hopes Guitar duel Akkerman-Stefanovski, can forever stop visiting Betting: both musicians during the 72 minute only cooperate on the same task, without a twinge of competition.The movements will even okorjelije fans surely not find the quality of English in which Stefanovski without pardon sing all the texts. Brave maneuver, which has no: although he surely knew that no way will not be able to reach the relaxation (and related žovijalnost) crnačkih old masters, decided to catch the ukoštac with blues-vocal and largely succeeded - places where you accents and pronunciation zastružu by ear, you can enumerate fingers on a hand (eg "Need Your Love So Bad"), and his vocals holds water, although the range with years became something flat - each honor.

Jehoshaphat's prayer

2 Chronicles 20:12 O our God, will you not judge them? For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you.

These words are the closing ones of a public prayer that good king Jehoshaphat made at a time when Judah was under threat from the Moabites and other enemies. It is a prayer that received a definite and positive response from God when first of all a prophet called Jahaziel assured Jehoshaphat and the people that the battle was the Lord's and then when victory in battle followed. In this particular verse there are four parts. First, a request – for judgement on their enemies whose cause was most unjust. Then there is confession – both of weakness and of ignorance as to what to do. Finally, there is that desperate yet hopeful but our eyes are upon you. Here is a model for prayer. Make your request, one that is shaped by the teaching of God's Word as this one was. Then confess your utter helplessness and your ignorance about what to do. Finally - look to the Lord. This should always be our attitude, whatever the crisis. If we fail to look to the Lord, for whatever reason, then we will suffer for it.

No more tears

Revelation 7:7 For the Lamb at the centre of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.

Here is a great verse that is full of comfort for believers. One's eye immediately leaps to the statement that God will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Although as we grow older we generally cry less often, we conversely tend to see more reasons for tears. The idea of God's acting like a loving parent and using his hand to gently dry our eyes is a powerful and striking one. The shepherd figure that precedes the parental one is also striking, even more so when we consider that the shepherd is the Lamb, the Lord Jesus who was slain. Though at the centre of the throne of the universe, he also leads his grateful sheep to refreshing springs. The prospect for the believer then is not only the negative one of relief but just as much the more positive one of refreshment too. God is our Father and Christ our Shepherd here on earth – and even more so in the world to come. And so we press on.

Literary Lives

I noticed this fairly new series today.
Wordsworth Literary Lives makes available once more (they say) classic Biographies and Autobiographies of some of the most famous names in Literature. They give readers of Classic fiction a fascinating insight into the character and personality of these literary giants.
Each book has specially commissioned Notes & Introductions which put the books in their historical context, and in many cases include some interesting facts on the authors themselves, some of whom - Chesterton on Dickens for example - are famous in their own right.
More here.
Editions so far:
Austen-Leigh, J. Memoir of Jane Austen 256 9781840225600
Blind, M. George Eliot 9781840225693
Carswell, C. D.H.Lawrence (The Savage Pilgrimage) 256 9781840225686
Conrad, J. A Personal Record - Mirror of the Sea 304 9781840225723
Chesterton, G.K. Charles Dickens 176 9781840225624
Doyle, A.C. Memories & Adventures 368 9781840225709
Gaskell, E. The Life of Charlotte Brontë 448 9781840225648
Hardy,F. The Life of Thomas Hardy 528 9781840225594
Harris, F. George Bernard Shaw 9781840225662
Harris, F. The Man Shakespeare, His Tragic Life Story 9781840225631
Harris, F. Oscar Wilde: His Life & Confessions 400 9781840225549
Kipling, R. Something of Myself 144 9781840225679
Maude, A. The Life of Tolstoy 9781840225617
I bought the Dickens. The material is, of course, out of copyright and can be accessed here.

Beethoven's Muppet

Saw this over on Rhodri's blog - clever and funny right to the end.

Bloggy Man 47

A precious remedy

Looking at Thomas Brooks' Precious Remedies I noticed this slightly seasonal (see italics)antidote to Satan's painting sin with virtuous colours.

REMEDY 4 Seriously to consider, That even those very sins that Satan paints, and puts new names and colours upon, cost the best blood, the noblest blood, the life-blood, the heart-blood of the Lord Jesus.
That Christ should come from the eternal bosom of his Father to a region of sorrow and death; that God should be manifested in the flesh, the Creator made a creature; that he who was clothed with glory should be wrapped with rags of flesh; he who filled heaven and earth with his glory should be cradled in a manger; that the almighty God should flee from weak man — the God of Israel into Egypt; that the God of the law should be subject to the law, the God of the circumcision circumcised, the God who made the heavens working at Joseph's homely trade; that he who binds the devils in chains should be tempted; that he, whose is the world, and the fullness thereof, should hunger and thirst; that the God of strength should be weary, the Judge of all flesh condemned, the God of life put to death; that he who is one with his Father should cry out of misery, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (Matt. 27:46); that he who had the keys of hell and death at his belt should lie imprisoned in the sepulchre of another, having in his lifetime nowhere to lay his head, nor after death to lay his body; that that HEAD, before which the angels do cast down their crowns, should be crowned with thorns, and those EYES, purer than the sun, put out by the darkness of death; those EARS, which hear nothing but hallelujahs of saints and angels, to hear the blasphemies of the multitude; that FACE, which was fairer than the sons of men, to be spit on by those beastly wretched Jews; that MOUTH and TONGUE, which spoke as never man spoke, accused for blasphemy; those HANDS, which freely swayed the scepter of heaven, nailed to the cross; those FEET, "like unto fine brass," nailed to the cross for man's sins; each sense pained with a spear and nails; his SMELL, with stinking odor, being crucified on Golgotha, the place of skulls; his TASTE, with vinegar and gall; his HEARING, with reproaches, and SIGHT of his mother and disciples bemoaning him; his SOUL, comfortless and forsaken; and all this for those very sins that Satan paints and puts fine colors upon! Oh! how should the consideration of this stir up the soul against sin, and work the soul to fly from it, and to use all holy means whereby sin may be subdued and destroyed!

Bismarck Quote

According to A J P Taylor Otto Von Bismarck the German leader interestingly once said
A statesman cannot create anything himself. He must must wait and listen until he hears the steps of God sounding through events, then leap up and grasp the hem of His garment.

X-Box 360

The x-box 360 is proving very popular with the boys these days. mostly they play FIFA 2009. More here.

Is this the way to Amaryllis?

The amaryllis plant is apparently a favourite for Christmas. A South American tropical beauty it is supposed to be easy to grow and exhibits huge colorful blooms in red, pink, white or orange. It blooms like no other bulb. Usually a bulb will produce 1-2 tall flower scapes each featuring up to 4 flowers. This is ours.

Oh yes they did

The youngest boys had a school trip to see a pantomime today - Peter Pan at the Richmond Theatre. Bonnie Langford was Peter and Simon Callow Hook. They enjoyed it though they were surprised that Peter Pan was a woman and that you could see the wires when people flew. Eleri found the obnoxious attitudes of the kids from private schools a pain. Ah London life.


Popped into Foyles on the way home. I hadn't been there for a while. I'd forgotten what a delight a really well stocked bookshop can be. Not the obvious place for bargains but a joy nevertheless. Website here.

George Whitefield

This painting of Whitefield hangs in the vestibule of the American church. Probably not contemporary it looks fairly accurate and is rarely seen.


Rhodri continues to download his videos to Youtube and on his blog. I liked these two. HE still has a head (and a beard again now - mae yn blewog).

Grace publications

Grace Publications Trust have purchased an eminently portable banner recently. I took it from the meeting on Friday and used it in Pains Hill adn at the Westminster Conference. I then put it up last night in the church. If you double click you might be able to read it.

Quotation Thomas Watson

In his Art of divine contentment Thomas Watson writes
Grace is beyond gifts; thou comparest thy grace with another’s gifts, there is a vast difference; grace without gifts is infinitely better than gifts without grace. In religion, the vitals are best; gifts are a more extrinsical and common work of the Spirit, which is incident to reprobates; grace is a more distinguishing work, and is a jewel hung only upon the elect. Hast thou the seed of God, the holy anointing? Be content.
Thou sayest thou canst not discourse with that fluency as others. Experiments in religion are beyond notions and impressions beyond expressions. Judas (no doubt) could make a learned discourse on Christ, but well-fared the woman in the gospel that felt virtue coming out of him, (Lk 8:47) a sanctified heart is better than a silver tongue. There is as much difference between gifts and graces, as between a tulip painted on the wall and one growing in the garden.
Thou sayest thou canst not pray with that elegancy as others. Prayer is a matter more of the heart than the head. In prayer it is not so much fluency that prevails, as fervency, (Jas 5:16) nor is God so much taken with the elegancy of speech as the effficacy of the Spirit. Humility is better than volubility; here the mourner is the orator; sighs and groans are the best rhetoric.

Ted Hughes Parson Grimshaw

Ted Hughes (1930-98), poet laureate from 1984 until his death, was brought up in the village of Mytholmroyd, near Haworth and the effect of Grimshaw’s ministry upon the whole area had also left a strong impression on him. Faith Cook notes that writing in Remains of Elmet in 1979, Hughes could say of Grimshaw:

To judge by the shock-wave that can still be felt … he struck the whole region like a planet … To a degree, he changed the very landscape. His heavenly fire, straight out of Blake’s Prophetic Books, shattered the terrain into biblical landmarks; quarries burst open like craters, and chapels – the bedrock transfigured – materialised, standing in them.

Westminster Conference 02

The second day of conference was at least as good as if not better than the first day. Certainly the standard of discussion seemed a little better. Robert Oliver, Jeremy Walker and Robert Strivens chaired.
We kicked off with Westminster Seminary West President Robert Godfrey on tradition. Drawing on the work of Heiko Oberman (The Dawn of the Reformation) and one or two others he helpfully untangled the muddle of tradition using Oberman's three types and adding a fourth of his own. Oberman says
"Whereas in Tradition I truth is grasped and held through reflection on Holy Scripture and in Tradition II through reflection on Scripture and Tradition ... (in) Tradition III, truth is grasped and held by introspection and self-analysis on the part of the Church focused in the Teaching office".
So T1 is a school of interpretation such as the Reformed one; T2 involves an appeal to oral tradition as is common in Eastern Orthodoxy; T3 is tied up with J H Newman's idea of development of doctrine.
Godfrey's T4 includes ideas passed won that are a matter of prudence rather Scripture.
Having set this out at some length and illustrated it by reference to the controversy over images, Dr Godfrey went on to speak of the necessity of certain traditions and the usefulness of others. he closed by warning of the obvious dangers of traditions.
Of course, the difficulty is in disentangling what sort of traditions our traditions are.
In the second session Jonathan Watson tackled Thomas Brooks' excellent Precious remedies against Satan's devices. This sort of paper can be done badly but was done very well on this occasion. After a brief biography (there is not much to say as we have seen on this blog) we had a four point summary of how to deal with Satan's devices.
1. Know yourself
2. Know your enemy (his names, pervasiveness, hatred for us, great experience and his requiring a double leave to move - from God and then from you!)
3. Know your weapons
4. Helpful directions for Christian soldiers - there were 10 of these, to do with obeying the Word, not grieving the Spirit, seeking heavenly wisdom, resisting at the first moment, endeavouring to be Spirit filled, keeping humble, being on guard, keeping up communion with God, never relying on self and being much in prayer.
The book contains 38 devices and 189 remedies!
The final paper, given by Faith Cook, was on William Grimshaw. Much of this material was familiar to some of us but it was good to be reminded again of his example in this anniversary year.
On a personal note I have found the conference most heart warming. I especially appreciated the reminder of the Puritans commitment to godliness through disciplined highlighted in Brooks' gem of a work.

Westminster Conference 01

It was good to be one of around 200 today who gathered in the American Church in Tottenham Court Road for the first day of the annual Westminster Conference. We had three papers from three older men - Iain Murray, John J Murray and Paul Brown. Erroll Hulse, Robert Oliver and Phil Arthur chaired. J J Murray has recently produced a book on the rise of the Reformed movement and he sought to recap on some of that. Paul Brown looked helpfully at the life of the first principal of London Bible College, Ernest Kevan. Perhaps the best paper was Iain Murray's on what we can learn from the Puritans. He considered six areas -

1. The vital nature of conversion
2. The need for method and structure to live the Christian life
3. The sanctification of the Lord's Day
4. The importance of Christian unity - not developed but perhaps it will be in the printed paper
5. The danger of Roman Catholicism
6. The power of the preached Word

Sadly, discussion was as unproductive as ever. It is difficult to see how it can be improved unless we distribute papers before hand.

Kerst met Thijs & Co

One of the delights of the season is getting out my Christmas CDs especially these 4 Thijs Van Leer offerings from 1976, 1982, 1996 and 2000. Each of the albums is slightly different in its approach and they include a variety of musicians accompanying Thijs's flute. Some 54 tracks are presented altogether, mostly Christmas carols. Several tracks are repeated - Ave Maria, Away in a manger (on 3 of the 4), Gloria in excelsis Deo, Hark the herald, Joy to the world, Mary had a baby, O Jesulein Suss, Silent Night.
Also there are the Adeste Fideles, Coventry Carol, Ding Dong Merrily on High, Er is een Kindeke geboren op aard´, Es ist ein Ros´ entsprungen, For unto us a Child is born, God rest ye merry Gentlemen, Hoe leit dit Kindeke, Ich steh´ an deiner Krippen hier, In the bleak midwinter, Maria die zoude naar Bethlehem gaan, Mary's Boychild, Mary Sing Alleluia, Schlummert Ein, Süsser Trost Mein Jesus Kommt, The First Noel, The Royal Line, Tous Les Bourgeois de Chatre, Vom Himmel hoch and What child is this (Greensleeves).
There are more secular Christmas songs on the two later albums - Deck the halls, I'll be home for Christmas, When a child is born and White Christmas - and some tracks that have no obvious Christmas connection (Rondo 1, Fin de Siecle, House of the King, I have a dream, Tango, pieces by Corelli and Vinci).
Things can get a little muzacky at times but all in all these are great albums mainly highlighting the solo flute skills of a great musician.

Penblwydd hapus Rhods

Pains Hill Chapel

I set off around 9 am yesterday to travel the 33 miles through London to the little country chapel on Pains Hill near Oxted and Limpsfield in Surrey. Most of the journey is very familiar due to several recent trips to Gatwick. I've preached there more than once before anyway. The connection is an Aber University friend who is in the congregation. As it turned out he was unwell and so I didn't get to stay with the Averies but had a very nice afternoon with the Copemans who I did not know at all. Alan is heavily involved in Pilgrim Homes and it was interesting to find out more about them.
The chapel is very well looked after. The people are serious minded and appreciative of the Word too, though they all travel in to the chapel. (Someone told me that the illustrator Arthur Rackham [1867-1934] used to live next door, which I'd not realised before.) I preached on Mark 8:1-10 and Ephesians 2:1. I'd been at a GPT meeting last Friday and so I took some leaflets along and put up our new roll out display. I was encouraged when one woman said she'd gone to the Evangelical Library to try and read Luther, etc but found it hard going. They recommended to her GPT's Christian Classics (abridgements of the greats) and she found it really helpful. Being involved in both organisations I was glad to know they'd been such a help.

Christmas meal

We had a Christmas meal mainly for older folk at the chapel on Saturday. My wife and a deacon's wife ably assisted by others provided an excellent meal for a round a dozen. I spoke briefly on Bethlehem and we finished off with a quiz. It was alovely time. We tried it two years ago but weren't able to get it together last year. I'm glad we did this time round. it was really appreciated by those able to be there.

Rhodri's back (and front)

Rhodri got back from Vietnam last Wednesday. I collected him from Gatwick first thing. He was wearing this T shirt. On the front is his name (as Sibyl says it anyway). The Vietnamese just couldn't get it at all. On the back it says "You're worth a square world" (a genuine idiom he reckons). He's busy updating his blog but should be over today to celebrate his 19th birthday.

Dechrau canmol

The youngest boys were singing with their friends from the Welsh School on Welsh TV yesterday on the Welsh equivalent of Songs of praise Dechrau canu Dechrau canmol (start to sing, start to praise?) The programme was recorded last week in a Welsh Baptist chapel in central London (see here). One has mixed feelings about such things but such programmes do some good I'm sure. The producer has managed to get them sounding very good. For the next month or so the programme is available here. Huw Edwards introduces the short piece (Little drummer boy) around the 11:40 mark. Click the owl for subtitles.

Michael Praetorius

In the December Grace Magazine I notice that, among other good things, Mike Perrin has an article chiefly on the composer Michael Praetorius (1571-1621). Praetorius is well covered on the net. See here (wikipedia) and here (Cyberhymnal) and here and here, etc. I knew In dulci jubilo, of course and Ein Ros ist Entsprungen but not much more I confess. The above is just an audio track featuring two nice dances from his terpsichore.

Drive the Cold Winter Away

As a little Christmas treat I recently downloaded Horslips 1975/6 acoustic album Drive the cold winter away. It has lost some of its impact over the years (now everyone does the unplugged thing) but it is a lovely and quietly Christmassy album. It has 13 quite short tracks using mandolins, fiddles, tin whistles, banjos, harpsichords, etc. Brilliant!

1. We start with a medieval arrangement of Rug Muire Mac do Dhia (Mary Bore a Son to God) a traditional carol in Gaelic (probably Jim Lockhart's voice).
2. Next up is Sir Festus Burke a jolly Carolan tune. It's joined with the festive Planxty Tom Judge known as Carolan's Frolic.
3. The Snow that Melts the Soonest was picked up from a Newcastle street singer in 1821 and reminds us of fiddle player Charles O'Connor's North Eastern roots. it must be him singing.
4. The Piper in the Meadow Straying is a hornpipe suggested by guitarist Johnny Fean. It has a "Deck the Halls" feel.
5. Playford's "Dancing Master" 1651 is the official source for Drive the Cold Winter Away and was contributed by keyboard player and flautist Jim Lockhart. Some nice banjo work here. It was this tune's use in the recent BBC Tess that reminded me of the album. They resist singing until the very last line.
6. Thompson's and Cottage in the Grove are a pair of reels featuring O'Connor's concertina
7. Ny Kirree fa Naghtey (Lockhart sining again) is a Manx carol. The title translates as The Sheep 'neath the Snow. Manx is quite like Donegal Irish and Scots Gaelic (in Irish the title is Na Caoirigh faoi Shneachta)
8/9. Crabs in the Skillet is a jig played with Denis O'Connor, another Carolan tune first played on Christmas day 1723.
10. Lockhart again sings on the Gaelic carol Do'n oiche ud i mbeithil (that night in Bethlehem)
11. The Lullaby is done as an instrumental but can be sung with various words
12. The Snow And The Frost Are All Over/Paddy Fahey's instrumentals
13. When a Man's in Love is another O'Connor suggestion. Presumably he sings.


I took two of my boys and 4 of 6 other young people from the church through the fog to a (CCIW) camp reunion in Worcester today. We left around 8.15 this morning and I dropped them off at the Wood Green FIEC church where they were until 6 pm. About 50 young people came there to use their excellent facilities.
As for me I spent the time in Worcester itself exploring a town I don't think I've visited before. I had a coffee first in the Caffe Nero and then did the Cathedral (described on its website as possibly the most interesting of all England’s cathedral’s although I'm not sure why) and a walk along the Severn. King John is buried in the cathedral, which stirred my interest. There was also a plaque to Elgar. One recent former bishop was descended from Thomas Charles I noted. Oswald adn Wulfstan were their big stars. Cathedral life is whole world quite outside my ken. One hopes someone is bringing the gospel to such people, surrounded as they are with so many prompts. An odd thing with me is that such a setting doesn't stir me to pray much. I think it is the lack of association in my mind - or proof of indwelling sin.
It was cold, of course, but didn't rain. Worcester is a moderate sized town with a bit of history. Some buildings go back to Tudor times and there are plenty of Georgian ones. It was important in the Civil Wars. I didn't cross the Severn and most of the town seems to be on the north side. Quite monocultural the local accent seemed to be a cross between west country and brummie. There were plenty of Welsh accents too (even one pair speaking Welsh). They come up on coach trips for the Christmas shopping. Quite an effort had been made with lots of stalls and a fair (ferris wheel, carousel, etc). I saw men on stilts and a man juggling fire, etc. There was also a sally army brass band that stopped each time I came near for some reason. Some sort of celtic combo was performing in the street too. Along with the bells of the cathedral and the music from the fair there was quite a lot of pleasant noise.
I also did a little reading and and praying and some preparation for tomorrow on the laptop and the time soon passed. We got home about 9.30 pm. What a pleasant day. God is good.

Rhodri in Vietnam

Rhodri my son has been in Vietnam visiting his fiancee Sibyl. He's home next week and blogs are starting to appear. Watcha Rhods!

Wales wizard against Oz

I was out all day so I didn't see the game but I hear that Wales beat the Aussies 21-18. That's the first time a home nation has beaten a SANZAR team this time round. Well done Wales!

Do badly Orwell?

How about these five beginnings from novels by George Orwell? Do you recognise them? The first two are easy.

1. Mr. Jones, of the Manor Farm, had locked the hen-houses for the night, but was too drunk to remember to shut the pop-holes. With the ring of light from his lantern dancing from side to side, he lurched across the yard, kicked off his boots at the back door, drew himself a last glass of beer from the barrel in the scullery, and made his way up to bed, where Mrs. Jones was already snoring.

2. It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen. Winston Smith, his chin nuzzled into his breast in an effort to escape the vile wind, slipped quickly through the glass doors of Victory Mansions, though not quickly enough to prevent a swirl of gritty dust from entering along with him.

3. The first sound in the mornings was the clumping of the mill-girls’ clogs down the cobbled street. Earlier than that, I suppose, there were factory whistles which I was never awake to hear.

4. The clock struck half past two. In the little office at the back of Mr McKechnie’s bookshop, Gordon—Gordon Comstock, last member of the Comstock family, aged twenty-nine and rather moth-eaten already—lounged across the table, pushing a four-penny packet of Player’s Weights open and shut with his thumb.

5. The rue du Coq d’Or, Paris, seven in the morning. A succession of furious, choking yells from the street. Madame Monce, who kept the little hotel opposite mine, had come out on to the pavement to address a lodger on the third floor. Her bare feet were stuck into sabots and her grey hair was streaming down.

[Answers: animalfarm1984theroadtowiganpierkeeptheaspidistraflying

Bloggy Special 33

Cwmbran Trip

With dad

On Tuesday I took a National Express bus from Victoria to Newport to see my dad. I chose this particular journey a few weeks ago as it was a funfare at only £3 (also £3 to get back plus 90p to Victoria and 90p back again). I took two books with me - one on Christ's session, which I am studying at present. A J Tait's 19th Century work is a full and scholarly opus but I made a dent in it. I also had with me a popular work on Copernicus by William T Vollman. I've read three other books in the series (on Darwin, Curie and Rutherford - this didn't read so easily).
Of course, having reached Newport, I still needed to get to Croesyceiliog. It cost me the same amount to get as far as Cwmbran Town Centre (I enquired about a black cab and that would have cost £12!). My dad then picked me up from there and took me to the little flat he now lives in. We had thought of going out for a bit but my nephew William was home ill and staying with his granfer so we just sat and catting and watching TV.
I never see day time TV and if I do it's the kids watching their programmes. So I had a brief introduction to a whole fairly new world. Our schedule took in five programmes.

Dickinson's Real Deal (ITV1 14.30ff)
Spin Star (ITV1 15.15ff)
Countdown (C4 15.25ff)
Flog it! (BBC2 15.45ff)
Deal or no deal (C4 16.15ff)
The Paul O'Grady show (C4 17.00ff)

So that's an antiques show, two gameshows, another antiques show and another games show then an interview show. I'd seen the upmarket gameshow Countdown many times and was aware of most of the other programmes. Spin Star was new to me (Only for unmarried ladies - my dad liked my pun!). The sponsors are William Hill (who on my mental map are only a few doors down from the Antichrist) but it was a well devised gambling and quiz show and somehow watching other people gambling like that doesn't feel wrong. I was particularly impressed with the way the questions were easy yet worth asking. I'd heard of Noel Edmonds' Deal or no deal and was glad to get to the bottom of how it works. It's another well devised gambling game that creates some tension. Paul O'Grady had Julie Walters and Maureen Lipman on selling their books. Both are brilliant raconteurs (or national treasures as he called them) but it didn't quite work with two of them.
Anyway it was good to chat with my dad who keeps quite well though he has trigeminal neuralgia in his face, which cuts in now and again and is a little unsteady on his feet. I'd hoped to see my sister too but that didn't work out and so my dad took me back to Newport for the 6.30 bus home. I did some more reading and then got chatting to a Hindu doctor heading to London for a conference. I thought it was interesting that rather than defending Hindu doctrine she just felt life works better if you believe in God and listen to your conscience.

In the bleak midwinter

I heard somewhere that In the bleak midwinter was voted best Christmas hymn again - for the tune I think. The words are good too. Previously blogged here and here.

Focus University

Others have noticed this but the Irish fellow O'Leary from Cambridge on University Challenge does bear a passing resemblance to the young Dutchman Thijs Van Leer of Focus, as the above suggests. Are they related? Should we be told?

What the Dickens?

For no particualr reason I thought some of you might like to guess which Dickens' novels these 10 selections begin. The first is one of the hardest so I'll give you a clue - A BBC production is currently showing on TV. Number 3 is the most famous. Numbers 4, 7 and 9 should be easy.
1. Thirty years ago, Marseilles lay burning in the sun, one day. A blazing sun upon a fierce August day was no greater rarity in southern France then, than at any other time, before or since. Everything in Marseilles, and about Marseilles, had stared at the fervid sky, and been stared at in return, until a staring habit had become universal there.
2. Among other public buildings in a certain town, which for many reasons it will be prudent to refrain from mentioning, and to which I will assign no fictitious name, there is one anciently common to most towns, great or small: to wit, a workhouse; and in this workhouse was born; on a day and date which I need not trouble myself to repeat, inasmuch as it can be of no possible consequence to the reader, in this stage of the business at all events; the item of mortality whose name is prefixed to the head of this chapter.

3. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way--in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.
4. Now, what I want is, Facts. Teach these boys and girls nothing but Facts. Facts alone are wanted in life. Plant nothing else, and root out everything else.

5. Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show. To begin my life with the beginning of my life, I record that I was born (as I have been informed and believe) on a Friday, at twelve o'clock at night. It was remarked that the clock began to strike, and I began to cry, simultaneously.

6. There once lived, in a sequestered part of the county of Devonshire, one Mr Godfrey N______: a worthy gentleman, who, taking it into his head rather late in life that he must get married, and not being young enough or rich enough to aspire to the hand of a lady of fortune, had wedded an old flame out of mere attachment, who in her turn had taken him for the same reason. Thus two people who cannot afford to play cards for money, sometimes sit down to a quiet game for love.
7. Marley was dead: to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. The register of his burial was signed by the clergyman, the clerk, the undertaker, and the chief mourner.

8. The first ray of light which illumines the gloom, and converts into a dazzling brilliancy that obscurity in which the earlier history of the public career of the immortal P______ would appear to be involved, is derived from the perusal of the following entry in the Transactions of the P______ C___, which the editor of these papers feels the highest pleasure in laying before his readers, as a proof of the careful attention, indefatigable assiduity, and nice discrimination, with which his search among the multifarious documents confided to him has been conducted.

9. My father's family name being Pirrip, and my Christian name Philip, my infant tongue could make of both names nothing longer or more explicit than Pip.

10. London. Michaelmas term lately over, and the Lord Chancellor sitting in Lincoln's Inn Hall. Implacable November weather. As much mud in the streets as if the waters had but newly retired from the face of the earth, and it would not be wonderful to meet a Megalosaurus, forty feet long or so, waddling like an elephantine lizard up Holborn Hill. Smoke lowering down from chimney-pots, making a soft black drizzle, with flakes of soot in it as big as full-grown snowflakes--gone into mourning, one might imagine, for the death of the sun. Dogs, undistinguishable in mire. Horses, scarcely better; splashed to their very blinkers. Foot passengers, jostling one another's umbrellas in a general infection of ill temper, and losing their foot-hold at street-corners, where tens of thousands of other foot passengers have been slipping and sliding since the day broke (if this day ever broke), adding new deposits to the crust upon crust of mud, sticking at those points tenaciously to the pavement, and accumulating at compound interest.

(Answers: 1dorritlittle2twistoliver3cities2oftale4timeshard5copperfielddavid

New Photo Series 14

Scooters, Soho

10 Irish acts

All these have given and do give pleasure to a greater or lesser extent. Sláinte!

1. Horslips
2. Enya
3. The Chieftains
4. U2
5. Clannad
6. Thin Lizzy
7. Snow Patrol
8. The Corrs
9. Planxty
10. Van Morrison

New Testament idols

1. Artemis (Diana) Acts 19:23-37 the Greek name of the Great Goddess of the Ephesians, the great Mother goddess, she was associated with orgiastic cults and mystery religion and was known also as Cybele, Sulla, Ma, Bellona, and Isis
2. Castor and Pollux Acts 28:11 sons of Zeus by Leda, guardians of sailors
3. Zeus and Hermes (Jupiter and Mercury) Acts 14:11-13 the high god and his messenger

Old Testament idols

The following "gods" are specifically named in the Old Testament

1. Dagon 1 Samuel 05:02 etc Philistine/Ekronian/Babylonian god of agriculture
2. Milcom 1 Kings 11:05 Ammonite god
3. Ashtoreth 1 Kings 11:05 etc Canaanite goddess
4. Chemosh 1 Kings 11:07 etc Moabite war god
5. Molech 1 Kings 11:07 Ammonite God, also called Moloch, most probably Baal-Hammon of Carthage
6. Rimmon 2 Kings 05:18 Babylonian/Syrian storm god involved (as Ramman) with the Deluge; also known as Ramman/Rammon
7. Ashima 2 Kings 17:30 Samaritan Moon goddess
8. Nergal 2 Kings 17:30 Cuth/Assyrian/Babylonian war and underworld god, also called Meshlamthea
9. Succoth-Benoth 2 Kings 17:30 Babylonian fertility goddess ("She Who Produces Seed"), also known as Zarpanitu/Zerpanitum
10. Adrammelech & Anammelech 2 Kings 17:31 Sepharvite gods
11. Nibhaz & Tartak 2 Kings 17:31 Avite gods
12. Nisroch 2 Kings 19:37 Assyrian god
13. Baal/Baalim 1 Kings 18:18, 19 etc Canaanite god[s] ("lord[s]") of fertility, vegetation and storms, pl. a collective of the different aspects of Baal. (Baal-berith, Judges 8:33 A regional variation/aspect of Baal)
14. Bel & Nebo Isaiah 46:01 Assyrian/Babylonian/Sumerian/Syrian gods. Bel = “lord”. Nebo was a god of wisdom and writing, also called Nabu
15. Tammuz Ezekial 8:14 Assyrian/Babylonian God

Coconut Jam

A Filipino couple in the church recently went home to marry and returned bearing a gift. I'd mentioned in passing a penchant for coconut jam which they were happy to help me with. It's a bit like toffee. Very sweet. Apparently Filipino coconut jam is made from coconut cream (the first and second press of grated coconut flesh) and sugar or treacle. More here.


It was a great joy today to be with 8 other preachers at the John Owen Centre in Finchley under the guidance of LTS vice-principal David Green looking at the Book of Zephaniah in Hebrew.
David is a great enthusiast for the Hebrew language and an excellent teacher. He not only teaches Hebrew at the LTS but kindly provides Hebrew lessons for those able and willing to attend. I haven't been able to attend the regular classes for a while but he is currently offering (at a tiny cost, including lunch) some classes of a less demanding nature (though one has to have some idea to benefit I would guess). The hope is to do one a term and this was the first.
David's approach was to set out the Hebrew text on paper with thorough notes on the Hebrew. After a short introduction he proceeded to translate and make observations on the book verse by verse with some opportunity for comment. After each of the two sessions we had half an hour to discuss how to opreach the book. It was very stimulating time indeed and a great way to preapre for preaching through Zephaniah. Of course, it works best with small units and ould be difficult to replicate with larger book but may be there is a way. Anyway we need to walk before we can run. This was a very good start.

D is for dangerous

You know. You get an idea. You film it. Thanks Dylan.

Michael McIntyre

I happened to see this the other night. John Cleese introducing an evening of comedy for Prince Charles is only mildly funny I'm afraid but about 2' 20" Michael McIntyre comes on and after a bit he is hilarious (and totally clean).

A scientist and God

As far as I am aware the great scientist Ernest Rutherford (he split the atom) made no profession of faith but I was fascinated to read that when things got exciting in the laboratory (as they often did with him) he would burst into a raucous Onward Christian Soldiers for some reason.

I also came across this interesting quotation "Of all created comforts, God is the lender; you are the borrower, not the owner." Of course, Einstein would speak of God too but not meaning what we Christians mean. I'm not sure of the context for this statement.

Evangelistic preaching 02

In the course of his message Stuart gave us three nice example quotes which I have tried to trace.

George Whitefield

Blame me not for addressing myself to you; indeed, it is out of love to your souls. I see you are lingering in your Sodom, and wanting to stay there; but I come to you as the angel did to Lot, to take you by the hand. Come away, my dear brethren, fly, fly, fly for your lives to Jesus Christ, fly to a bleeding God, fly to a throne of grace; and beg of God to break your hearts, beg of God to convince you of your actual sins, beg of God to convince you of your original sin, beg of God to convince you of your self-righteousness, beg of God to give you faith, and to enable you to close with Jesus Christ. O you that are secure, I must be a son of thunder to you, and O that God may awaken you, though it be with thunder; it is out of love, indeed, that I speak to you. More here

Daniel Rowland

There is not one grace needful for us, but that is in him ready to be given to the most needy. He is the general treasure house of the church: Canticles 6:1. as soon as the church praised her bridegroom, and set out his excellence; than, the daughters of Jerusalem asked, saying, 'Whither is thy beloved gone, O thou fairest among women? whither is thy beloved turned aside that we may seek him with thee?' In like manner when we are told of the glory of Christ, and the excellency of his grace, we ought to seek for him, and stretch for him.
The third encouragement. He gives Salvation to us. What man, hearing that a kingdom has been left to him, will not quickly ask, where is it? and as soon as he hears, he travels there as soon as he knows. We have heard that in the Lord Jesus there is Salvation to men: run, if we cannot do this, walk; if we cannot do this, roll towards him while it is day, before the night cometh, in which no man can work; therefore, hurry. More here

C H Spurgeon

An old eastern conqueror when he came to a city used to light a brazier of coals, and, setting it high upon a pole he would, with sound of trumpet proclaim, that if they surrendered while the lamp held out and burned he would have mercy upon them, but that when the coals were out he would storm the city, pull it stone from stone, sow it with salt, and put men, women, and children, to a bloody death. To-day the thunders of God bid you to take the like warning. There is your light, the lamp, the brazier of hot coals. Year after year the fire is dying out, nevertheless there is coal left. Even now the wind of death is trying to blow out the last live coal. Oh! sinner, turn while the lamp continues to blaze. Turn now, for when the last coal is dead thy repentance cannot avail thee. Thy everlasting yelling in torment cannot move the heart of God; thy groans and briny tears cannot move him to pity thee. To-day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts as in the provocation. Oh, to-day lay hold on Christ, "Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him." More here