Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The last day of June

It is hot today. It was hot yesterday. It was hot all last week although we kept hearing that rain was coming. Now, I'm not complaining one bit but yesterday was 32° and today feels at least that hot. Even though I'm sitting in my office, sweat is running down my back under my white cotton shirt. Going to the lake has become a required afternoon activity for the little ones.



Christopher is sitting his Diplôme national du brévet today and feeling very grown-up doing it, I daresay. He's had to travel across town to the local high school (where he'll likely be next year) to sit the exam which is his coming of age assignment.

Before the last war schooling was obligatory until the age of 14—eight grade, I reckon. Here, as in England, it is the age one passes from middle school to high school. I remember leaving grade eight myself and the big move to grade nine at a different school, a Junior High School. Apparently it was not until after the war that the minimum school-leaving age was upped to 15.

From that time on it's done nothing but increase until today we have the ridiculous extremes of adults well into their twenties and thirties still living with their parents while they try to finish their schooling. Poor kids... No work experience, ever learning yet never coming to a knowledge of the Truth. I'm so glad I insisted on our children not wasting their valuable, irreplaceable youth on sitting in the back of a classroom.



My father would have been 87 today had he lived to see it. As it was he died at what seems to me, now, to be the tender age of sixty. Can't seem to go past this day without a nod to him and suppose I never will. I think his modest life will be found to have been of more influence for good in others than many of his peers who seemed to make such a splash when it was their turn.

I wonder what he'd think of his sons, if he could but see them. It takes a lifetime to learn the real lessons of life—especially for youthful, extremist, hotheads like I used to be. I say 'use to be' simply because I'm no longer youthful, not because I think I've changed.

And I fear that if I had it to do over again I would do precisely the same thing, every time. When one is sincerely trying to do the right thing, how can one ever say, 'I'd do things differently'? That is a phrase surely only reserved for those who've made bad decisions knowingly, willfully, or spitefully selfish—against their teaching, morals, and values.

And who knows, in the end, what ultimate good anyone has done? But I find that I must believe that in some way, somehow, and some day, I am to be graded on this experience called life to see, in the end, how well I did. I cling to the thought that somewhere someone is taking notes.

I think that were one not able to believe in the ultimate triumph of goodness over evil and of generosity over selfishness and the calling to order of all the participants, one would quickly apprise this life to be the biggest of hoaxes and little worthy of the attention we give it.

And, of course, it's not about religion. It is, in fact, probably the very farthest thing from religion. It is reality itself. Religion is the sedimentary crystallization of reality; the gradual institutionalized congelation of the essence of life itself. Everything within me is repulsed by the concept and practice of religion—almost to the point of sometimes wanting to scream out loud, but always to the point of taking great pains to avoid it. But mother, it hurts!

You can see that I'm not a man of the pack; a boy-scout, a team-mate, a good club member. If I should find myself within such an assembly I'd do my utmost to get off by myself where I can think clear thoughts without vanity and pride or position or profit—no rabble-rouser, mind, just solitary and alone ... and sometimes a little bit lonely.



So as not to close on such deep and melancholy thoughts here's a picture I'm showing off of the happy parents-to-be that Sarah took of on Sunday. Roo always seems to look the real cowboy—whether he's wearing his leather hat or not. :-)

Bets are on for the date and gender of little baby, by the way ... make them public below, if you dare.


Monday, June 29, 2009

Our baker-ess


Passing by the kitchen late tonight Sarah caught our baker (female variety) kneading four loaves to rise for breakfast. She just thought it was so photogenic that she snapped this shot for you. I'm glad she did!



Sunday, June 28, 2009

A blue-sky Lord's Day

Today is 30° outside and that is hot! Thank the Lord we can stay fairly cool inside as long as we keep the door and windows closed. But it's shaping up to be a nice summer.

This morning, for morning watch, we (Becky, Christopher, and Claire — with Nat & Mum too, of course) studied chapter eleven of the NBS during our morning watch. We started the series by Watchman Nee a week and a half ago and today's study was called Early Rising. It's been years since I read it the first time and this was the first read for the little ones, of course. We really enjoyed it greatly and love his style which is idiosyncratically repetitious but immensely practical.

After some rousing songs together, we read a great article from Peter Hoover this morning for our Lord's Day meeting. This was part two of his current series on Russian Mennonite Communities and we were reminded of a lot of what he wrote in The Russian's Secret — his mastery of church history is really quite amazing and there is so much for us to learn today from the lessons of the past.

This afternoon I went out with Becky on a maintenance visit to the hives — we have three now — and we were so encouraged by the state of the colonies that we added a second super to Hive 2. Hive 3, which is a small half-size holding hive, seemed so bursting we were worried it might swarm any day. So in the end we traded a couple of frames around between Hive 3 and Hive 2. I really feel this is going to be a good harvest — at least all the signs are pointing that way. We already got over fifteen kilos in May and the next harvest will probably be mid-August so if we do twice as well then we'll have a good reserve for the year built up.

Lastly, I want to say a special "hello" to our dear friend Mats. I just noticed he's signed up as a "follower of this blog" yesterday and I can see the little red dot on the map below that shows what part of Sweden he's calling from. I see also a red dot in the Netherlands (hi, Bas!), another one in southern Alberta around Lethbridge (hi, Wendy!), another near Boston (hello, Ammi) and even one in the mountains of Nepal! (It's true — look for yourself; hi Eva!) Others that I didn't recognize will just have to identify themselves. Welcome all!

If Peter's taught me anything about newsletters by example it's the beauty and utility of always illustrating every page with a lovely photograph of some kind. Here's one for you that Rebecca took of Olivier yesterday when he was working in the garden with Jonathan. Enjoy!


Saturday, June 27, 2009

Becky's music


Well, it was all over last week and I never even had time to mention it! After months of working over notebooks and the piano, Becky finally finished composing the three songs that were obligatory for the contest she wanted to enter at the conservatory and last Saturday she went off to Le Mans to record them with a few friends and musicians.

A couple of days ago Raph finished making a great label for the CD and we've now duplicated enough for her to send a copy to those who were involved and Becky can sit back and enjoy the music.

This morning I just put a page together on our family web site where you can go and listen to the songs being sung or just an instrumental version, if you like. Each song is only a little over a minute in length so if you want to download any of them, it won't take you long. They are in mp3 format, of course.

So if you're interested, do go and have a listen by clicking here. If you want to leave any comments for Rebecca, feel free to do so. Her email address, if you don't have it, is rebecca (at) connaitrelabible (dot) org.

Happy listening!

Friday, June 26, 2009

US education in 1895

This evening I received an interesting little tidbit from a mailing ist that I'm on concerning modern education in the US. I know there is much debate everywhere on this subject because everyone knows children are not getting anything like the education that their parents got.


We always like to see our culture as an upward progression constantly improving but we are really kidding ourselves badly. Everything, everywhere is in decline — it's an immutable law of nature and one of the most basic laws of thermodynamics.

Languages, for example, start complex and always go toward simplicity, rounding off the edges and making things simpler. Our western culture went from Greek through Latin to the modern Latin languages which are all greatly simplified compared to their parents'.

So, along this theme I want to post an actual Eighth Grade Final Exam as it was presented to children in the town of Salina, Kansas in 1895. The time allowed for the exam was five hours.


8th Grade Final Exam: Salina, KS - 1895.


Grammar (Time, one hour)

1. Give nine rules for the use of capital letters.
2. Name the parts of speech and define those that have no modifications.
3. Define verse, stanza and paragraph
4. What are the principal parts of a verb?
Give principal parts of 'lie, ‘play', and 'run'.
5. Define case; illustrate each case.
6. What is punctuation?
Give rules for principal marks of punctuation.
7 - 10. Write a composition of about 150 words and show therein that you understand the practical use of the rules of grammar.

Arithmetic (Time, 1 hour 15 minutes)

1. Name and define the Fundamental Rules of Arithmetic.
2. A wagon box is 2 ft. deep, 10 feet long, and 3 ft. wide.
How many bushels of wheat will it hold?
3. If a load of wheat weighs 3,942 lbs., what is it worth at 50cts/bushel, deducting 1,050 lbs. for tare?
4. District No 33 has a valuation of $35,000.
What is the necessary levy to carry on a school seven months at $50 per month, and have $104 for incidentals?
5. Find the cost of 6,720 lbs. coal at $6.00 per ton.
6. Find the interest of $512.60 for 8 months and 18 days at 7 percent.
7. What is the cost of 40 boards 12 inches wide and 16 ft. long at $20 per metre?
8. Find bank discount on $300 for 90 days (no grace) at 10 percent.
9. What is the cost of a square farm at $15 per acre, the distance of which is 640 rods?
10. Write a Bank Check, a Promissory Note, and a Receipt.

U.S. History (Time, 45 minutes)

1. Give the epochs into which U.S. History is divided.
2. Give an account of the discovery of America by Columbus.
3. Relate the causes and results of the Revolutionary War.
4. Show the territorial growth of the United States.
5. Tell what you can of the history of Kansas.
6. Describe three of the most prominent battles of the Rebellion.
7. Who were the following: Morse, Whitney, Fulton, Bell, Lincoln, Penn, and Howe?
8. Name events connected with the following dates: 1607, 1620, 1800, 1849, 1865.

Orthography (Time, one hour)

1. What is meant by the following: alphabet, phonetic, orthography, etymology, syllabication
2. What are elementary sounds? How classified?
3. What are the following, and give examples of each: trigraph, subvocals, diphthong, cognate letters, linguals
4. Give four substitutes for caret 'u’.
5. Give two rules for spelling words with final 'e.' Name two exceptions under each rule.
6. Give two uses of silent letters in spelling. Illustrate each.
7. Define the following prefixes and use in connection with a word: bi, dis, mis, pre, semi, post, non, inter, mono, sup.
8. Mark diacritically and divide into syllables the following, and name the sign that indicates the sound: card, ball, mercy, sir, odd, cell, rise, blood, fare, last.
9. Use the following correctly in sentences: cite, site, sight, fane, fain, feign, vane , vain, vein, raze, raise, rays.
10. Write 10 words frequently mispronounced and indicate pronunciation by use of diacritical marks and by syllabication.

Geography (Time, one hour)

1 What is climate? Upon what does climate depend?
2. How do you account for the extremes of climate in Kansas?
3. Of what use are rivers? Of what use is the ocean?
4. Describe the mountains of North America
5. Name and describe the following: Monrovia, Odessa, Denver, Manitoba, Hecla, Yukon, St. Helena, Juan Fernandez, Aspinwall and Orinoco
6. Name and locate the principal trade centers of the U.S.
7. Name all the republics of Europe and give the capital of each.
8. Why is the Atlantic coast colder than the Pacific in the same latitude?
9. Describe the process by which the water of the ocean returns to the sources of rivers.
10. Describe the movements of the earth. Give the inclination of the earth


It'd be nice to think our children today could sit this test just as easily but I have doubts. I think I'll give it to Becky to see how she gets on! Might be fun ...


Thursday, June 25, 2009

Tenth anniversary

June 25 — our Thanksgiving Day 2009, and as it happens this is our tenth! Tradition dictates that the evening meal which follows a prayer of heartfelt thanks consist of store-bought pizza and some ice-cold rosé de Provence and tonight was no exception — how could it be on our tenth?

I don't spend much time in the kitchen so I don't know: how many pizzas do you get for fifteen people? I settled on ten and picked up a three litre bag-in-box of rosé to go with it. In the end the count was just right for there was neither left at the end of the evening. Here's a shot of the whole tribe:



This morning I came across the most amazing news concerning events of eight years ago. I've been disturbed by all the inconsistencies of 911 and have followed developments fairly closely for the past four years or so. It's funny, but once a thing like this gets under your skin you just can't seem to let it go without some kind of explanation; then it can rest.

Well I came to rest on this issue about a year ago, having satisfied myself of the main elements in the story. There was thereafter nothing more to do or say. It's almost like in my mind the dossier is now closed, a judgment made, and a decision reached and accepted.

So, in that context, I didn't expect anything to rock my boat again on this subject. But what I found out this morning by tracing edits through Wikipedia and through another blog was the most amazing thing to find out and I can't grasp the motivation of it yet. Simply stated, it has emerged that someone from American Airlines has brought corrections to the AA page under the heading of "accidents" to state categorically that neither flight attributed to their company were in the air on the fateful day.

This is not the place for me to elucidate but if the subject even mildly interests you, do read the whole story on the following site. Click here. If you are at the point where you have not made up your mind yet on this subject, this link is a must-read. However, I would say to be aware that all is not sweetness and light at that link and also it contains what the BBC likes to call "graphic images"—as if there were some other kind. If you're under 18 stay away from it, please.

I thank God at every thought of it that He brought me to live where I do. Thirty years ago it didn't seem a popular move and fifteen years ago it was harder still. But His still, quiet voice of guidance is always the most faithful of guides.

God bless you. I wish you all a good day!



Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Debbie and the Nunnery

Well, Debbie had her photo taken today and I thought it was so nice you might like to see it. This Friday is her last check-up (Camille had hers yesterday) and so the two of them start their countdown in earnest now as they go into their ninth month. This picture was taken in front of "La Providence" this afternoon where all the children went to sing.

This particular venue was chosen since Laurent works there and made the arrangements. "La Providence" is a care home for elderly "sisters" who have given their lives to others and to the Lord. They live pretty solitary lives now and greatly appreciated the children's visit. You can see the "old folks home" in the background. Every Wednesday the children all get together for fun and games and scripture and we've been looking for an outreach we could use to teach them to give—and this may turn out to be the thing we need.

Rebecca, of course, was "in charge" since it was her inspiration and motivation that carried the day and trained all the younger ones to sing well. Christopher alternately played his violin and his guitar while Becky played a little flute (they have no piano there!) when she wasn't singing.

Here's a shot of the whole crew, from left to right: Christine, Olivier, Ludovine, Marie, Rebecca, Claire, Céline, Romain, and Christopher (on the guitar) with little Susanne and David in the front row—how cute they looked!

This evening, after I got home, I got a short message from Raph which consisted of nothing more than a picture of the railway station in Munich. The title of the email was "Goodbye Munich".



This afternoon the plan was for him to leave Munich by train to Strasbourg where a hotel awaits him. Tommorrow morning he'll hop on the train for Tours, arriving here around noon—maybe in time for lunch! Davey can't wait!

The sun is finally starting to sink. I'm off to bed.

Good night and God bless you, wherever you are.

(PS - Check out some of my daily reading list of web sites that I enjoy. I call your attention especially to a new arrival called "Agence Eureka" (which I know nothing about) who has an absolutely glorious array of scanned coloring books, cut-outs, paper folding, and so on. I just discovered it this weekend and we've used dozens -- though she has thousands available!)



Tuesday, June 23, 2009

A little news from Munich


Regarding my German it's true that it is "un-rusting" a bit (does that exist ?).

I do have an interpreter so I can speak most of the time in English but sometimes we get going fast enough so the interpreter doesn't need to translate when I either can ask the question in German directly, or understand the answer in German. All in all it's quite fun.

Since our software is so good it's also fun to stun them after they show me how they do it on their current software, I show them how we do it .

At the hotel the people are always speaking German to me absent-mindedly and since I don't look bewildered they tend to keep it up. It also helps that I have a good imagination, which makes up amply for my lack of vocabulary. When they rattle off some tongue-twister and wink at me in a knowing way, I laugh heartily back and either say "Ach, so !" or "Stimmt !" and then quickly retreat into the elevator before they have time get any deeper into the subject.

But all in all I feel my attitude helps when trying to learn a language : for one thing it makes it so they keep on trying to address me in German instead of resorting to pidgin-english (actually their English is usually remarkably good) ; plus it boosts my own self-confidence and encourages me to keep it up.

Of course you can get your knickers in a twist though sometimes, like when I was at the hotel in Munich and I sauntered up to the front desk trying to look as Germanic as possible and sort of cleared my throat as I said good evening.


This tricked her and she answered back "Habt Ihr eine Reservierung ?" (which I understood) so I said "Ja" (which is easy to say), then she rattled off a couple of questions that I answered immediately because the answer was either Ja, Nein, or a number between 1 and 10.

However this rapid exchange of information totally unarmed her and she settled into the staunch assurance that I was a true Deutscher and so after typing furiously on her computer for a while she let out this unbelievable sentence, stringing pairs of polysyllabic words together and launching them at me at such a speed that I couldn't make out a single word !

This caught me off guard and I was completely stunned for a couple seconds and I instinctively looked down at my shoes and stroked my chin as if I was carefully pondering the answer to her question. Unfortunately the context was insufficient and even my imagination couldn't come up with a reasonable supposition so I had to break into English and ask her to rephrase.


Anyhow, I suppose with trying to speak you must get better. I wish I had brought a pocket dictionary though because at times like this you can probably learn vocabulary pretty quickly if you are able to use it straight away.

That's all folks !

See you on Thursday,

Raph




Monday, June 22, 2009

Family news

Well, the longest day of the year fell on Sunday this year. From now on the days start to get a little shorter as winter approaches. (Used to drive the kids wild when I presented that joke to them each June — now they're wise to it!)

But I think we're in for a hot summer because Spring has been well on its way for some time with temperatures in the upper twenties or low thirties and yesterday, Sunday, was downright hot sending all the little ones to the lake again for an afternoon.

Saturday was a fuzzy hot morning without too much direct sun so I went up to the vineyard with Raph to cut grass and trim the vines a bit. Camille went up with us and sat out on a camp chair and knitted. Céline and Romain had spent the night here with us on Friday as a help to their father who's been haying most of the week. The rain has held off and he should be baling this weekend. We're doing four and a half hectares this year and are trying to get it in smaller, manageable bales.

Later on in the afternoon (after the obligatory swim at the lake) all the children played and ran around and had a great time together. I did some paper craft work with Becky and Claire who made some quaint children's animated cut-out toys for Christine and David.

We had some lively singing on Sunday morning as usual with the Sallès and Catherine and then continued our study working through Matthew. Right after the meeting Raph had to leave for Tours to catch a train as he's off to Germany on business till Thursday. (Microtec's biggest customer is part of a larger group who now also want to implement our software into their system so it's going to mean a big order and a lot more work for several of the programmers.)

Just after Sunday lunch Gérard called to say that another baby buffalo had been born. Too bad Raph missed it — he really loves those beasts!

Raph is the member in the family that is always on the cutting edge of technological advances and I suppose that's to be expected. I certainly find little joy in trying to keep up with all these things and learning afresh every month how the thing works.

However, since Raph is now on his third handheld device (a Blackberry this time) I have inherited his former one which was a Palm Tréo 860. So I spent a little time over the weekend getting to know the thing and I'm surprising myself by starting to like it—I always condsidered it too big and heavy. My former phone, a Motorola W510, has been given to the girls since their's has finally given up the ghost. I always liked that phone and have the complete book of Proverbs on it in mp3 read by Alexander Scourby. It also takes great little pictures with a surprising resolution of 1280*1024 whereas even the Palm, for all its other features, is reduced to regular 640*480 images. Still, how often do I ever really use my phone for taking pictures? Only in a pinch!



Sunday, June 21, 2009

The Presence

The Presence
by Alex Peterson

"Abide with Me"
I need Thy presence every passing hour.
What but Thy grace can foil the tempter's power?
Who, like Thyself, my guide and stay can be?
Through cloud and sunshine, Lord, abide with me.
—Henry F. Lyte (1793-1847)

Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton (1874-1922) was an Irish explorer who is best remembered for his Antarctic expedition of 1914-1915 in the ship Endurance, described in his book South. Less well known is that Shackleton had an unseen source of strength to draw from—his faith.

The journey over the frozen deep was fraught with danger. The Endurance became trapped in pack ice and was ultimately destroyed by it. The crew had to abandon ship.

After trekking over the ice, dragging three of the ship's lifeboats they had salvaged from the wreck, they managed to get to Elephant Island. From there, Shackleton and four other men set out to summon help.

In the largest of the three boats, they journeyed 1.200 km through rough seas to the southern Atlantic Ocean island of South Georgia, where Shackleton and two others crossed glaciers and razorback ridges to reach a whaling station. Of that epic journey, Shackleton wrote:

"I had a curious feeling on that march that there was another Person with us

"When I look back on those days I have no doubt that Providence guided us. I know that during that [final] long and racking march of thirty-six hours over the unnamed mountains and glaciers of South Georgia, it seemed to me often that we were four, and not three.

I said nothing to my companions on the point, but afterward Worsley said to me, 'Boss, I had a curious feeling on that march that there was another Person with us.' Crean confessed to the same idea.

One feels 'the dearth of human words, the roughness of human speech' in trying to describe things intangible, but a record of our journeys would not be complete without a reference to a subject so very near to our hearts."

Shackleton made one last expedition, from which he did not return. Just before leaving, he repeated his testimony concerning their unseen companion and quoted the Bible. "Whither shall I go from Thy Spirit? Or whither shall I flee from Thy presence? If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there shall Thy hand lead me and Thy right hand shall hold me" (Psalm 139:7-10).

On his last voyage, Shackleton took a recording of the song "Abide with Me"—another testament to his belief in his unseen Companion. A London writer commented at the time, "Just think of those words—'I need Thy presence every passing hour'—ringing out across the icebound wastes of the Antarctic!"


Thursday, June 18, 2009

Partings

This morning as I opened up the main doors to the offices I glanced out and saw the morning sun streaming onto the vegetable garden and it looked so lovely I went and recorded the moment for you to share. Unfortunately, this picture really does not do it justice but it's all I have.


Yesterday Andrea returned to his home in Lombardy—he didn't specify when he'd be back, though his parents are due for a week's visit in September so I don't think he'll stay away too long.

This morning Hannah is off back to Georgia after a wonderful visit. I somehow think it won't be the last time we see her, either! Knowing it was her last day, I took a lovely shot of her yesterday in front of the studio.

God bless her and keep her as she travels.

And here's the latest entry in our guest book:

"Thank you so much to all of you here for welcoming me into your homes for these two weeks. It has been such a blessing to spend time with you and experience the Lord's work that you are doing here in France.
I loved hearing the stories of your lives and how God led you here together. It was so much fun to worship together, learn nice French songs, make goat cheese, and milk the goats—and the moments spent reading The Wind in the Willows with the children and going with them to feed the animals I'll miss a lot. May God bless each of you. Thank you again."



Sunday, June 14, 2009

Hello

Just felt like saying a warm hello to some of you. Thanks for your call tonight, Ammi—it's always good to hear you! We were thinking about you today, Bas, and wondering how you're doing up there—it'd be nice to see you again. Eva, we send you our love and greetings and hope you're keeping well. Wendy, thanks for your comments; it's a nice way to keep in touch, isn't it? Paul it was so good to hear from you! You are much in our thoughts and prayers.

We had a good week last week keeping up on things but the past couple of days have been too hectic to even come here. I forgot to mention that Roobie got back last Wednesday then went to Chinon on Thursday for her end-of-term scan: apparently all is well, thank the Lord.

We had a nice time this morning and, as always, started out with some rousing singing led by Raph. The Sallès and Catherine couldn't make it this week so we were down to the bare core. (Andrea is still staying at the hotel while Hannah is with Nat.)

I decided to read the weekend letter from Peter Hoover that we got yesterday and it was very appropriate. Afterwards I read "Why We Live in Community" by Eberhard Arnold and we were all much fed and inspired.

We ate outside again today as it was up in the low thirties, I think—a hot day. An hour or two later Camille brought out her "birthday cake"—those of you who've been here will remember it. She's got into the habit of making two nowadays since one never seems to make it around, no matter how thin we slice it. Here's a picture Raph took of the occasion.



Hope your weather is fine where you are and that you also enjoyed a blessing this Lord's day. We send our love to all.




Saturday, June 13, 2009

Our Saturday

Saturday is market day in Château du Loir and a little custom of mine is to "do the market" every Saturday morning, coming back with the trappings of the midday meal. I've discovered what we all consider to be one of the best charcutiers anyone has bought from: his rillons, pâtés, and rillettes are simply the best. He's also very light-handed with the salt, too, which we all appreciate.

Since Rebecca had a piano exam in Le Mans today, Sarah and I drove her up there, leaving early so we could take her out for a "birthday meal" at the Cheval Blanc in Beaumont-Pied-de-Bœuf which we stopped in at on the way. We had a simple meal but couldn't stay as long as we would have liked because of Becky's exam which was scheduled for one thirty.

Since I was sitting opposite my "two girls" it was easy for me to take a quick picture with my phone to immortalize the occasion.

We were outside on the terrace and the girls were still at the pleasant task of deliberating over the menu. Anyone who knows me knows I never take very long on that job. (If I don't order a goat-cheese salad it's because they don't offer one, in which case what am I doing there?) :-)

The exam proceeded before a panel of five judges and seemed to go well, according the Becky (she'd chosen sans paroles by Mendelssohn). She said she'd get the results next weekend. She really was very good!

We got home in the middle of the afternoon to find everyone busy at farm activities; either weeding and cleaning and digging in the garden with Jonathan or else up at the vineyard doing some pruning and regular maintenance work.

Gilles (Camille's father, who's a professional vine-dresser and wine-maker) and his wife Catherine came over to give Raph some advice on how to go about things and so they spent a few hours up there moving afterward down to the island to install new gates on the buffalo barn (guess why?) and some new electric fencing.

I contented myself to help with weeding, as did Claire, Debbie, Andrea, Christopher, and Nathalie. All the others were up in the vineyard and we didn't get together again, tired, till early evening. Gilles & Catherine, who had planned to stay for the evening meal, had to return earlier than expected since Catherine works in the medical feild and was on-call this weekend.

Claire and Rebecca inspired me to do a lot of work on our French "house church" website www.eglisedemaison.com and to add a lot of new pages especially appealing to young people. They came up with a lot of lovely pictures to decorate the site as well as some lovely texts they've been collecting over the past couple of years.

You can visit their mini-site by clicking here and following the links (this page is the "Young People's Corner" but don't forget to follow to the "Young Girl's Corner" by the link at the bottom of the page). Some of the texts haven't been put up yet but the skeleton menu structure is in place with dozens of sub-menus and many edifying pages of text.

Hope you all had a happy weekend! See you later.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Two videos with a message

OK I'm going to try to share a couple of video montages with you but I don't know how well it will work nor how long they will last so enjoy them while you can!

There are a few people in the world who would have my confidence, politically and economically—though I've never been politically involved. But I think Gerald Celente is a sensible New Yorker with something worth hearing. Ron Paul is an sincere politician with an important message. The economic adviser during his presidential campaign last year is an honest man talking common sense and is a joy to listen to. What do you think?












Thursday, June 11, 2009

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Who is the Bible for?

Most Bible-believing Christians would say that the Bible is the Word of God and is applicable to their lives on a daily basis. But I want to go deeper than that and ask who it was actually written for and why.

For many years I held the idea—with many others—that God's word, though written so long ago, is just as relevant and pertinent to us today as it was to those to whom it was initially given. But I've gradually come to see how this view fails to make a distinction between any of the sayings of Jesus or commandments of the prophets—for example—and can lead one very far afield and present a very inconsistent hermeneutic that creates problems for the honest seeker.

To illustrate the problem: we all know the Sunday School joke of the guy who, seeking for divine guidance, cut open his Bible twice; the first verse told of Judas hanging himself and the second was Jesus own words "Go and do thou likewise." But this is only a joke because it is so obviously not divine guidance. Our laughter is mingled with a little nervousness for we don't know really where to draw the line.

Yesterday I ran across a line on a Christian web site I was visiting that I liked a lot for it seemed to encapsulate a partial solution to this problem and is certainly the conclusion that I have been coming to of late:

The Bible was written for us but it was not written to us.

These things are written that you might know ... and believe, says John. All these things happened to them (the Old Covenant people of God) and are written as examples to us ... upon whom the ends of the age are come, says Paul to the Corinthians. We take much edification from the countless stories in the Old Testament but how far can we take the admonitions and apply them to our life today? There is a fine line.

When Jesus gave specific instructions of things he expected his disciples to do we seem to know instinctively which ones we should really carry out. (We don't usually take to heart his command to go out and buy a sword, if we don't have one, though we do take to heart the idea of going into all the world and preaching the gospel to every creature.) But what about sayings that are not commands but just instruction, edification, or general teaching? Let me give another example that illustrates what I mean.

When Jesus said to the twelve that some of them would not die until they'd seen him come in glory with his holy angels, or told the multitudes that their generation wouldn't pass away until everything was fulfilled, or when he told the high priest that he would personally see his second coming in the glory of his father, what do we do with these sayings?

Eschatology has always been a thorny issue and the past two thousand years are full of the Christian follies that have come about by people taking these words as if they were written to them when in fact they were spoken to someone else entirely.

You may say, yes, but Jesus said he's coming and I believe it. Well, so do I. But don't forget he also said he was coming quickly. Whoops!

Doesn't time mean anything to God? And if he knew he wasn't really going to come for, say, two or three thousand years—or more!—what was the point of using words like "at hand", "quickly", "soon", "at the very doors", and "the last hour"?

Maybe there is something we are completely missing in this whole equation because another favorite Christian expression is "the end times". It's just so much a fabric of our culture that I wouldn't be surprised to learn that even unbelievers believe we're living in the end times!

But what I want to know is: the end times of what?

Can't be the Christian age since we're told the Christian age has no end. Can't be the kingdom that Christ established two thousand years ago since we know his kingdom will last forever. Can't be the physical world since we're told the earth will never be moved.

So nowadays when someone tells me we're living in the last days I ask him, the "last days" of what? Strikes me to be a question of some importance with a certain logic behind it.

Jesus spoke constantly of two ages: "this age" (meaning, obviously, the age in which he was living—the mosaic covenant, the law, etc) and "the age to come" (meaning, again, obviously, the next age that would come about once his present age was finished. Well which age are we living in now?

Are we living under the old covenant of moses' law? Or are we living in the new covenant of grace prophesied by Jeremiah and Isaiah and others? And if we are now living in the new covenant of grace (which, of course, we are) then at what point did the old covenant pass away?

Could we have called the days of the passing away of the old covenant the "last days"?






Monday, June 08, 2009

Typing the wrong email address

I came across this bit of good humour and thought you'd have a laugh. Hope you like it!


A Minneapolis couple decided to go to Florida to thaw out during a particularly icy winter. They planned to stay at the same hotel where they had spent their honeymoon twenty years earlier.

Because of hectic schedules, it was difficult to coordinate their travel schedules. So, the husband left Minnesota and flew to Florida on Thursday, with his wife flying down the following day.

The husband checked into the hotel and found that there was a computer in his room so he decided to send a quick email to his wife.

However, he accidentally left out one letter in her email address, and without realizing his error, he sent the email.

Meanwhile, somewhere in Houston, a widow had just returned home from her husband’s funeral. He had been a minister who was called home to glory following a heart attack.

The widow decided to check her email expecting messages from family and friends. After reading the first message, she screamed and fainted. The widow’s son rushed into the room, found his mother on the floor passed out. He looked at the computer which read:

To: My Loving Wife
Subject: I’ve Arrived
Date: June 2, 2009

I know you’re surprised to hear from me. They have computers here now and you are allowed to send emails to your loved ones. I’ve just arrived and have been checked in. I’ve seen that everything has been prepared for your arrival tomorrow. Looking forward to seeing you then!!!!

Hope your journey is as uneventful as mine was.

P.S. Sure is hot down here!!!!


Sunday, June 07, 2009

Our new telephone

For the past several years now we've had a cutting-edge wireless telephone system hooked up here with two bases and four separate units. When they started to break down and wear out we replaced the whole system with what we thought was a continuation of the same line. It wasn't.

Nothing from the new system was compatible with the former system. Grrr. But this is what life is made of nowadays and, like it or not, one must make do with what comes one's way with as little complaining as possible. Planned obsolescence, they used to call it but now it's just the way life is. Ever wonder why guarantees are only ever for one year?

Anyway it started to come to me as an increasingly pleasant prospect to go get a nice old wall phone and bolt the thing to the wall. No more hunting for the handset that's ringing under the sofa or in someone's pocket. No more phoning our own number just to hear it ring and then set off to find it. A wall phone. If you want to make a call, there's the phone.

So I started hunting in earnest a couple of months ago and found just what I had in mind on eBay, and bought it. A month ago we ran a line down and hid it behind the wall covering and plugged the thing in. Everyone was delighted to hear it ring!

The big surprise came when some of the children (Becky is now nearly 17) asked, But Daddy, how do you dial a number? I almost asked her, Why do you think we use the word "dial" when in reality we punch buttons? Yes, it's a dial phone and the kids had much joy in using it for the first time and figuring out how it worked. My, my, my, it really makes one feel old!

Here's a picture I took of Claire just after hooking the thing up a couple of weeks ago.

(By the way, if you click on any picture on this blog a new window will open displaying a bigger image. Most of our pictures are taken at 1600 x 1200 but I always scale them down for use here to 800 x 600 so they are not too big as to be cumbersome.)

Now, I just got off the phone to Ammi who called from her home in Massachusetts on a Sunday morning, her time. Sarah answered the phone and Olly came to call me. As I walked in I got this picture of her on the phone which shows you how nice and long the handset cord is.

Afterwards it was my turn to sit on the kitchen table and have a nice little chat. It is good to keep in touch and we too often neglect it.

Here's the picture from just a few minutes ago.

(Give us a call anytime!)

By the way, when she was looking at the pictures I posted a couple of days ago, my eagle-eyed wife Sarah pointed out that actually there was another one of my children looking over my shoulder in that last picture—my little "spirit helper" (as she put it), Eva, who perpetually peers down from her vantage point in the cupboard window-glass and has made it unannounced into many a picture of family around the table.

Maybe one day she'll come and take her rightful seat at the table—she knows she's always welcome, of course!

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Hannah is here

• A year or so ago I got an email out of the blue from a girl in one of the southern States who wanted to come and visit us. She had been born into a Christian community there but wanted to come and see Europe. We corresponded a little but in the end it didn't work for her out at that time.

Hannah wrote again a few weeks back saying she's been working for the past nine months here in France as an au pair girl and that, before she went home she wanted to come and meet us all. She was in Besançon so I gave her directions to get here by train and she arrived at 15:17 yesterday afternoon.

She has a wonderful effusive personality and seems happy with everything. Last night she helped Nat make the cheese and went on about how goat's cheese is her favorite kind.

• Today is the Big Day for Becky! She wrote three pieces of music for a contest she a couple of months ago and she's taught the children to sing it. After working things out with the director of the conservatory today is the day they're all going to make a recording of these songs. She's put a great deal of time and effort into these pieces and has looked forward to this day for a long time—her very own CD! I'll let you know the results when I have them.

• Raph is planning to take all the little ones over to the orchard to pick cherries. Yesterday they went to "number 51" to pick strawberries for the third time, I believe, this year. Now they are starting to fade out we can see it's cherry-picking time. We have one tree at the bottom of the garden, another couple of trees on the island, and a couple more in the orchard. I'll ask Raph to take some pictures for you!

• Over this past week I have been working a lot on our main French web site eglisedemaison.com that we've had up for eight or nine years now. Two main changes were made this week: I got a translation from a brother in Quebec who's helped us a lot in the past with T. Austin-Sparks stuff so I dusted off that section (it had been put into moth-balls the past couple of years) and added his new article, called "The Christ, the Antichrist, and the Church." If your French is up to it, you can read his work here.

The other change is the addition of a new section called the "Young People's Corner" written, compiled, and edited exclusively by Becky and Claire. They've chosen some gorgeous pictures to decorate the menus and all the items are listed even though most of the actual articles have not been prepared yet. We'll get to them as I get time. It'd be very encouraging for Becky to know what you think of her work so go see it here and drop her a line here.

• Finally, you could do us all a great favour by passing on the web site address to any francophones you may know or encounter. It is our main outreach to French-speaking Christians with words of encouragement, dedication, and prayer. Just remember to recommend www.eglisedemaison.com to them—and may God bless you all!



Friday, June 05, 2009

Pictures from David

We just heard from David Bercot to say he'd arrived home safely and to say what a good trip he'd had. As he's been organizing his photos he shared a couple of his favorites with us. Here they are:


Here's our beloved "Roobie"—Jonathan and Debbie followed by this one of some girls: Camille, Becky, and Sarah.



Finally, here's a shot of me and some children. It doesn't look so wonderful to me, but David said, "I particularly like the attached photo of you, Derrick, with some of your children. It was an unposed shot, which makes it all the more special." Well, who am I to argue with that? :)



Hope you enjoy it!

Thursday, June 04, 2009

A very nice man

I've just finished reading a new book I received yesterday and couldn't put down. It has the intriguing title of "What Zizi Gave Honeyboy" and what Zizi gave, Honeyboy has passed along to us.


If I were a voting man, this book would get my book-of-the-month award. It has greatly affected me and moved me and challenged me to make the most of my life while it is still possible.

The author is Gerald Celente and in case he is new to you, you can find out a little about him by clicking here. He is a New Yorker of Italian extraction—just a couple of years older than me but much nicer.

He's a caring person who loves people and loves life and what is really refreshing is the honesty and simplicity of his writing. Of course I would say I love people, too, but I've been greatly challenged by reading this little book for there is so much left undone. And as Francesco once said to Bernardo, "Words, Bernardo, words. There was a time when I believed in words." (Needless to say, I don't anymore, either.)

Gerald is typical of everything I love about Italy and he embodies the best of America. His reminisces bring back my own old memories of a bygone time that we will never see again. Unlike Gerald, who is quite optimistic for our long-term future as a civilization, I can't seem to feel it. We both share a rather pessimistic outlook for the short-term, though, and I think things must get worse before they can get better. But those thoughts are best kept to oneself, aren't they?

Anyway, Gerald is the school friend I never had, the buddy I never grew up with. It seems that today we are on such an identical wave-length that it surprises me how it could be.

Well, thanks for the book, Jerry. Have a good day, and may God grant you a long and happy life!

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

It's Roobie's turn

Good evening friends, family, and followers. Today got off to a slow start as a result of Mum, Christopher, and Claire getting home late from a concert they went to in Le Mans. I passed the evening alone with Becky and we had supper with Nat and Grandma so that was very cozy.

Things have been on the move a bit lately. Did I tell you that Paul left last week? His three week visit was over and he had to get back to Ohio but I think we'll see him again—he's talking about coming back with his son Clayton next time. I hope it happens because we got along well and it was so good to have him around here.

Raph was telling me of a new project expansion that Penngar are pushing through with their sister company in Germany which will involve rewriting the whole program (Mona) and translating it into German as well as providing training and support in English. It occurred to me that once this happens it may open a door for Paul to get on board in a bigger way than currently, while still keeping tabs on CopyCat support.

Anyway, it's Wednesday evening and Jonathan & Debbie left this morning. Sarah took them down to the station in Château at ten this morning—and apparently they made it! They are off to the UK to visit with our friends in Darvell since they are the only two of us left who have never yet had the opportunity to visit with them. I'm sure it will do them a lot of good and they'll return very inspired and encouraged!

Received a new book in the mail this morning. Recently I've been buying through Amazon's associates and very often manage to get new books (or, sometimes, used) in excellent condition much cheaper than Amazon is selling them. The book I received today I bought for $5—which, when you translate that into Euros, is a simply ridiculous €3.50.

Anyway, it's a big change from what I'm generally reading but it's by a guy I have come to believe and like: Gerald Celente. The book is called "What Zizi Gave Honeyboy" and is a wonderfully warm and moving true story of his relationship with his aged aunt. I won't tell you more than that right now but it's not a long book and I can't put it down.

Got a note from Hannah saying she'll be in Château on Friday the 5th at three in the afternoon. I told her we'll meet her and are looking forward to her visit. With Roobie gone we've decided to shut the hotel for a week since Bocar aussi left today and since Paul is gone that only leaves Andrea, who will stay up at the main house for a week.

I see the outside temperature is still at 24° so that explains why I feel uncomfortable. I think this is going to be a hot summer. Day's over; I'm off. Good night to you all and may God bless you with His peace and grace.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Followers

I put the "Follow" box in the left-hand column a few weeks ago and am enjoying seeing friends and family sign up as beings readers of this site.

So as some of you I know, and some I don't, let this be my welcome to you all. Feel free to express yourself and your reactions in the comments to any of the posts.

By the way, I've been posting a lot of pictures lately and I wondered if everyone is aware that you can click on the picture to see a bigger version of it. When I remember, these pictures will open in a new window so you won't lose your place in the text.

Enjoy!

Monday, June 01, 2009

Pentecost

Today is Pentecost Monday and, in France until a few years ago, a bank holiday. Aunty and I had the same discussion every single year: she would say how that Pentecost was always marked in England, too, (they called it Whitsun, for some reason) until the holiday was officially abolished by Harold Wilson. She never forgot it was he that did it!

Here, it is still a bank holiday but it is not official and the story about that is total confusion and red-tape as only we French can do it! After the disastrous heat wave of 2003 in which over ten thousand people died (almost exclusively the sick and elderly) the government unilaterally decided that every worker would be allowed to contribute one day's wages to help the most vulnerable in our society by the state building up a solidarity fund, for stemming off just such events.

Well, faced with the horrendous number of dead throughout the country no one that I can remember raised any opposition to the measure. After all, what is one day's wages in the grand scheme of things when old folks lives were at risk through lack of proper ventilation and cooling systems and so on. So, generally speaking there was agreement with the idea.

Then came the implementation of the plan.

It was decided to simply do away with one of our numerous bank holidays (above and beyond the statutory five-weeks paid vacation that every worker has, no matter how lowly his task). After reflection it was decided that (you guessed it) Pentecost was a little-used, little-appreciated holiday with minimal value even to the Church, and could probably be deleted, coming as it does (naturally enough) in late May, called the swiss-cheese month, it is so riddled with holes.

I'll guarantee you one thing: the reigning government never guessed the reaction they would get by doing away with a holiday! As it turns out, any holiday! Their appreciation of Pentecost was accurate but they certainly never expected the outcry from so many quarters that they got at that time!

Well, to shorten the affair, after searching for another settlement with the trades unions and the employers unions, the government was forced to back down and look for another day to abolish. This proving, in the end, impossible, they simply gave up and said well, do as you please. In other words, as long as you pay the contribution (might as well call it a tax), we don't much care which day you work it off!

Anyway, if my memory serves me correctly this was the summer of 2004 and Pentecost 2005 was months away so the thing was carefully tucked away till later.

But now every spring every employee and every employer (unless he was born into a bed of ledgers and his parents gave him calculators instead of a rattle to play with) — everyone is totally confused and unsure of how to attack this day. Holiday or work day?

Every year I call my accountant and have him go over the whole thing with me again. In the end, things being what they are, we decided to work today and I told the boys so last week. However, we noticed today that banks are closed, post offices are closed, and schools are closed. What gives? These are government institutions, for cryin' out loud; just the organizations you'd expect would be working.

I asked my accountant: how will this affect me? She said, you've already been paying the contributions for years — financially it won't make a bit of difference.

Still, things don't quite sit right with me. I have the sneaky feeling that I'm forgetting something or that someone is pulling the wool over my eyes. If I'm paying the contribution anyway, what does it matter which day we work for it? When she says "you" have been paying it for years now does she mean "me" as an employee or "me" as an employer? I wear two hats, you see.

I think I'll call her again tomorrow and try to understand. Again.

Good night!