Newton’s Birthplace

newton-tree-and-house

Stopped off at Woolsthorpe Manor, the birthplace of Isaac Newton, England’s greatest mathematician and the namesake of our son. It’s just a couple of minutes off the A1, and just an hour from Cambridge, and the perfect pause when you’re on a long drive down from the North.

We arrived ten minutes before closing time, which is after they usually let the last person in, but the lady at the entrance let us in for a quick peek at the famous tree whose falling apple inspired good ol’ Isaac to elucidate the nature of gravity. Apparently it didn’t hit him on the head though, he just saw it fall from his bedroom window.

And I bought a copy of James Gleick’s biography of Newton.

Fountains Abbey

Fountains-Abbey-aerial-view

Above photo from Andrew Rickmann.

Went yesterday to this beautiful ruined abbey. It was started by Cistercian monks who wanted to return to a more rigorous observance of the Rule of Benedict. We had a guided tour, which explained the history, including also the Georgian water garden, with its peculiar architectural ‘follies’. There’s also a deer park, and a picturesque old church. Definitely worth a visit — we were there four hours, and could easily have spent twice as long without coming anywhere near to doing justice to it.


Getting a Car (The Story)

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Since this blog is a sort of depository of my first-hand accounts of significant moments (and of course thoughts) in my life, and since finally getting a car last Christmas was probably one of those, I thought I might at last put down in writing the sequence of events which led to it.

Not having a car
It all starts with me not having a car. And more particularly, having missionary parents living at their mission HQ in Singapore, where they used the base car, which was only insured for over-25 year-olds. And when I came to university in England, I came to Cambridge University, which has draconian rules banning the possession of cars.

In Britain you are allowed to get a provisional driver’s licence at age seventeen, and it is something of a traditional birthday present for seventeen-year-old’s to be given a course of driving lessons, often insured on their parents’ car, so that before too long they can be drivers in their own right.

But in the situation I found myself, it was clear that there was no car on which I could straightforwardly and affordably begin learning to drive.

Getting ideological
So I accepted and resigned myself to this situation. But around the same time something else happened. I came across a book called 50 Facts That Should Change The World. Among these facts, I read that cars kill more people in the world each year than guns. Which is horrific. And thus was added to my disappointed carlessness a smug self-righteousness at my non-driving freedom from guilt by association with car-drivers.

I actually contemplated writing up a ‘why I don’t drive’ manifesto (though I never quite got round to it). For once you go down the root of questioning the necessity of the automobile, there’s actually quite an arsenal of arguments that you can amass against cars: environmental (they pollute), social (they isolate the individual from the travelling public), financial (they are expensive), political (urban environments designed for cars are inhuman and unwalkable).

Having a baby and changing my mind
But the reality of today’s world is that the car has conquered, and systems and structures are set up expecting the vast majority of–well, if not people, then certainly families, to have their own cars.

And having a baby was the litmus test that showed that my theoretical assent to the moral superiority of a carless lifestyle was not prepared to bite the bullet and count the cost when things got tough.

The debacle of driving tests
My plan was to do an intensive driving course and go from complete novice to having successfully passed my test in the nine weeks between the DTS leaving for Kenya on outreach and our son Isaac being born. But what I hadn’t reckoned on was the unavoidable long weeks it takes between booking a test and actually taking it: about four for the Theory Test, and another eight for the Practical. And of course you can only book the Practical once you have passed the Theory.

Anyway, I booked my Theory Test, I practised multiple choice practice tests and hazard perception demonstrations — and I passed. So I booked a Practical, and booked in some extra lessons to make sure that I would be up to scratch in time. The day came, I drove to the Test Centre — and lo and behold, I was told that my examiner had gone on strike, and so (even though there were other examiners doing tests for other people) I would have to go home and wait for an email to tell me when another test could be arranged.

The test was rearranged for a few weeks later, and again I booked in a few extra lessons to make sure nothing would go wrong. And on the afternoon before the Test, I had my final preparatory lesson, and I took my provisonal driving licence and accompanying paper counterpart so the instructor could make sure all was in order — which of course it was. Until, that is, I forgot to take the paper counterpart of the licence out of my trouser pocket before putting my trousers in the wash. So I discovered about an hour before the Test that the required paper counterpart was in tatters. In vain hope I tried to gently piece it back into something resembling what it once had been. The official invigilator at the Centre — a former police officer — was not convinced. I was sent home with a sound rebuke that these shreds of green mush did not ‘constitute a legal document’.

So again I had not been able to take my test. This time it had been my fault, so now I had to pay again and book another test. Having no real choice, I did so. And then, not more than a week before the date was due, I received an email telling me that my Test had been postponed until the 11th November at (wait for it!) 11:11am. Bizarre. This test I finally was able to take, and I passed with just three minor errors.

The gift of a Vauxhall Corsa
Meanwhile, we had been given a ’97 Vauxhall Corsa just a few days after my first test was meant to have taken place. It was from the mother of a friend of my parents, who was leaving Britain to return to the United States. It was quite old, but we were delighted to be gifted any sort of car really. It had a valid MOT, it was taxed for several more months, it would do us at least to start with.

Except that the kerfuffle over actually taking a driving test meant that by the time I’d got my licence, the Corsa’s MOT had expired, plus I had had to cancel its road-tax and file a ‘SORN‘. Once I had been granted my licence I was therefore still left facing something of a Catch 22: I couldn’t drive the car unless I was insured; I couldn’t be insured unless the car was taxed; the car couldn’t be taxed without a valid MOT; I couldn’t drive the car to get an MOT unless I was insured. Oh, and the battery had also died.

When I eventually called in Hamish to help me out of this predicament by helping me get a new battery and then driving it to a garage to have the MOT, I was told that the car had failed its MOT on eighteen counts and would cost far more to repair than it was worth. And what’s more, the garage that had done the MOT wasn’t even able to do the necessary repairs even if I had wanted them done.

So that was the end of the Vauxhall Corsa.

A Renault Clio Estate Sport Tourer
By this time I was ready to actually be driving a car. What I had hoped would take nine weeks had taken nine months.

So we prayed — initially hoping for God to give us something outright. I also started looking on AutoTrader, trying to get a sense of what the possibilities were. A few days passed and no-one had gifted us a fully functional Mercedes (or anything else, for that matter!) I felt like we should just go ahead and get something. Prayed again, asking God for guidance. What came to mind was the thought of a ‘Renault Clio’ from ‘a dealer on Milton Road’. I didn’t really know what a Renault Clio was, and I wasn’t entirely sure there would be any dealers on Milton Road. But investigation revealed that were three — and one of those dealers was selling a Renault Clio that looked like it would work well!

Except when I popped in to have a test-drive it materialized that it was the dealer’s branch in Bury St. Edmunds that had the suitable Clio. ‘No matter’, they told me, ‘we can have it driven to Cambridge for you to test-drive on Monday’.

So that’s what happened. It turned out to be a Renault Clio Sport Tourer. I drove it, I liked it, I bought it.

Va va voom!

(And I’ll leave you with this wonderful collection of Renault adverts.)

Nostell Priory

nostell-priory-scene

Nostell Priory is almost exactly half-way (in time if not in distance) between our house in Cambridge and the YWAM Cottage in Burton-in-Lonsdale where we have come with my family to holiday together for the week.

So we paused our journey to stop here for lunch, and Taryn and I made the most of our NT membership and had a quick peek inside. There was a fabulous dolls house (very like Uppark House’s); there was a wonderful tapestry room with exquisitely detailed scenes in the style of the finest Renaissance painting (and in the corner of the room a stunningly ornate wall-cabinet); there was a painting of the Procession to Calvary which was fascinatingly to (swiftly!) study.

The place also proudly mentions its collection of Chippendale furniture, so I paused admiringly before several nice-looking wooden chairs — although to be honest, I don’t know which of the items of furniture were the Chippendale specimens, since I didn’t stop to ask.

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#markMark 16:9-20

In Summary
I have to be honest and say that I don’t believe that this passage is part of Scripture ‘as originally given‘ — and so having a bible study on it was a little peculiar. Because the reason I try and gather people to study the Bible is that Scripture is God-breathed, and uniquely powerful to cut through our minds’ fuzzy logic and our hearts’ wobbly feelings with the living and active Word of the Lord. And I want to create communities in which there is a contagious culture of fiery faith in all that Scripture teaches, not dodging the difficult doctrines or avoiding the awkward affirmations that the Bible sometimes gives us.

There are of course some fantastic bits in this passage: there’s the Great Commission to preach the gospel to all creation; there’s the promise that the Holy Spirit will confirm the coming of the Kingdom with miraculous signs; there’s the reminder of the simple truth that salvation comes if and only if you believe in Jesus; and of course there’s the resurrection of Jesus witnessed multiple times!

But then there’s the weird bits about drinking poison and messing around with snakes. Which unfortunately undermines how strongly you can press the point with the other things. (Though there are some Pentecostal Christians who embrace snake-handling, God bless them!)

Eating: Bring & Share Picnic
Present: Peter (and parents) & Taryn + Isaac; Linda + Adam; Lucy & Theo, Ryan, (Sophie); Mrittunjoy; Rebecka; Jono, Hannah; (Alyssa, James); (Sandro & Deborah)
Passage: Mark 16:9-20

As usual we spent some time scribbling on Scripture to work out what’s going on in the passage:

Then eventually we come to the
Questions & Comments

___________________

On that subject…
– In case you missed it in my answer to the relevant question, Wikipedia has a comprehensive account of the various bits of manuscript evidence regarding this passage.

– If you’re interested in the question of the textual reliability of the New Testament more generally, then a twentieth-century scholar called F.F. Bruce wrote the definitive book on the subject: ‘The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable?’. And it seems that as well as being for sale on Amazon, its text is freely available here.

– And on the subject of snake-handling, here’s a fascinating and somewhat unsympathetic five minute report from CNN:

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#markMark 15:40-16:8

In Summary
‘You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen’

Except the women hadn’t come consciously looking for the risen Jesus — they were just hoping for a way to get into the tomb so they could pay their respects to his dead body. And this revelation was so overwhelming that they didn’t respond as if they were even glad to hear the news. Just alarm, bewilderment, fear.

In the same way, this applies to everyone making their way through life, busying themselves with the day’s business, attempting to attain their small ambitions. But the truth is that they are looking for Jesus! They might not realise it, and when told so they might deny it, but God has set eternity in every human heart, and there is nothing like the reality of the risen Jesus that so resonates with the inner spiritual nature of a person; there is nothing else that can satisfy the spiritual hunger within every human soul.

*You* are looking for Jesus! ‘See where he was laid’ — examine the evidence, it is robust enough to stand up to the most inquisitive of questioning. And then ‘go, tell’ what you have seen — this news that the crucified Jesus is risen and alive is too good to be kept to yourself.

Eating: Honey Mustard Baked Chicken, Mashed Potato, Green Peas; Choc Ices; Cheeseboard; Coffee.
Present: Peter & Taryn + Isaac; Sophie, Lucy & Theo, Ryan; Linda + Adam; Jono.
Passage: Mark 15:40-16:8

As usual we spent some time scribbling on Scripture to work out what’s going on in the passage:

Then eventually we come to the
Questions & Comments

___________________

On that subject…
— I love this visual depiction (specifically from 1:57, though the whole video is great)of the spiritual significance of the Resurrection:

A Day at the Hillside Intensive

hillside-intensive

Taryn and I had been sorely tempted to sign up for the Hillside Intensive week of worship training, but in the end had concluded that with my parents and sister coming to camp out in our house the following week it wasn’t possible. But then our old friend Sarah Schrack (whose account of the whole week you can read here) — who we first met at the London Olympic Burn that our Circuit Rider outreach team connected with — got in touch to say that they were having an open-day and would we like to join?

So we leapt at the opportunity and got up early to drive over to the mothership that is the YWAM Harpenden base, which happened to be hosting the week. It was cool to be back–the chapel is slowly but surely being transformed into the Prayer Furnace at the community’s centre that it is called to be, and the walls are now adorned with beautiful works of prophetic art. The group involved with the Hillside Intensive was smaller than the video (made for the US version) had led me to expect — there can’t have been more than thirty people in the Chapel: staff, students and yours truly all included.

We had a time of worship before hearing from Jeremy Perigo, who is now on the faculty of London School of Theology after having spent a number of years as a missionary in Turkey where he was involved with Burn 24/7. He was speaking on the Call to Excellence. It’s a subject I have never heard taught on from somebody who so appreciates that true spiritual excellence is not about achieving some arbitrary standard of acceptably accomplished musicianship, but about continually seeking to develop the gifts God has given you, even as you step out in willingness to be faithful with whatever little you currently have.

I loved the story he told of a YWAM outreach team that was asked to lead a two-hour worship set in Turkey — and after two hours of them just strumming two chords and singing very simply, ‘I love you Jesus’, Jeremy had someone come up to him and tell him, ‘I’m sorry, I love their hearts–but I can’t take another ninety minutes of this!’ But a little later a Muslim came in and after sitting for a while, asked what was going on. When an explanation was given, he then continued, and shared that as these (musically-limited!) YWAM worshippers had been singing, he had had a vision of Jesus!

We also broke out into small groups (which we were able to join in with even though we were just visiting for the day) where we were encouraged to share — and believe in! — our different individual strengths. For me: I am good at courageously singing out spontaneously, and thus creating a culture where others feel the freedom to do the same.

In the afternoon, Sarah Schrack did a session for the ladies on the Power and Beauty of Being a Woman. Taryn was really impacted–I took advantage of the fact that I wasn’t invited to have a coffee with Andrew Bowers, and go chat to Yan Nichols about the upcoming Cambridge DTS Gathering. And then we had to head home before the evening session had really got going, so that we could put Isaac to bed.

soaking

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#markMark 15:21-39

In Summary
Almost two years after starting reading through Mark’s Gospel, we finally come to The Cross. Here the Son of God was forsaken, so that despite our sins we might never be. Here the ‘temple’ of Jesus’ body was destroyed, so that the curtain in the Temple barring us from accessing the presence of a holy God might be torn in two, once for all, from top to bottom. You can miss the point in mockery (“can’t Jesus even save himself? “) or in mysticism (“Elijah might be coming!”), but The Cross invites us to respond to Jesus in simple faith (“surely this is the Son of God”).

Eating: Roast Chicken, Mashed Potato, Roasted Vegetables & Green Beans; Apple Strudel & Ice-Cream.
Present: Peter & Taryn + Isaac; Abigail, Lucy & Theo; Linda + Adam; Doug; Jono; Asha, Rajiv, Manoj.
Passage: Mark 15:21-39

As usual we spent some time scribbling on Scripture to work out what’s going on in the passage:

Then eventually we come to the
Questions & Comments

___________________

On that subject…
Here’s a scholarly essay on the idea of Jesus being forsaken by God.
— We’ve been giving out DVDs of Billy Graham’s recent video ‘The Cross’.