Monthly Archives: May 2012

A Unique Archaeological Experience

I want to stay in Calvin’s town of Geneva for another post. While visiting Geneva, which included trips to the Reformation Wall  and the Reformation Museum, I also came across a most unique archaeological experience – a visit under  Saint-Pierre Cathedral (St Peter’s Cathedral).

The archaeology under the Cathedral has unearthed infromation going back millenia. It tells us a story of Geneva from early times, through the Roman period and into the arrival and development of Christianity.

The uniqueness of this site is that it is under the Cathedral. The Cathedral has been structurally underpinned so that the visitor can explore the history underneath. It is beautifully presented and the information is extensive and yet presented in an easily accessible manner.

Their own website can be accessed at:  Any visit to Geneva will not be complete with out encountering this unique experience.

The most exciting aspect for me, a Christian, was to see the development of Christianity and some of its practices (e.g. baptism) develop and mutate over time. A more sobering reminder was how in Western countries in general, the accepted faith in Christ which grew over many years has been diluted in such a short space of time in recent generatiuons.

The site under St Pierre is a reminder that history and archaeology need not be dry and dusty. In fact it proves that it can be aesthetic, immediate and enticing.

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The Legacy of John Calvin

Reformation Wall – Geneva

Recently I achieved a long held aim to visit the Reformation memorial in Geneva. This memorial celebrates the key men of the Reformation in Geneva and beyond. On reflection, I asked myself why I was so keen to see it.

The answer lies in the messages I heard as I grew up.  The message that the Word of God – Scripture, is God’s word to us and the basis for our knowledge of Him as well His will for our lives, was drummed into me from an early age. In time, this truth was one that I grew to believe for myself.

It was John Calvin, also known as the “Reformer of the Holy Spirit”, who struggled to return people to that message at the time of the Reformation. Church tradition, our own mystical and rebellious beliefs, then as now,  must be confronted by and conformed to the Word of God.

Calvin was unrelenting in his views. One of the great cries of the Reformation was Sola

The Word in Hand

Scriptura – Scripture alone. In our post modern age where everybody’s opinion, no matter how bizarre, “has value” Calvin’s words may well be the antidote.

Calvin, like us, wasn’t perfect. He made mistakes. But his legacy to us is that we need to know God’s Word and apply it to our lives with passion and vigour – and without excuse.

At a time when the fabric of society is unravelling, when relationships are fleeting and absolutes are being diluted, in effect when our solutions haven’t worked, a return to “Sola Scriptura” may just be the way to go!

Categories: christian, Christianity, Devotional, Faith, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

An Appreciation for Walking

Walking is time to be refreshed
and renewed.
The steps allow the mind
to wonder and plan,
ponder and create.
Every day is renewed with
fresh paces
for the feet
and the mind.
There is time alone with God,
self and creation.
When the journey ends
and the day begins,
renewal has begun.
I’m ready for anything!
Categories: Christianity, Church, Devotional, Poem, poetry, Reflections | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Pilgrim Was I …

Blessed are those whose strength is in you,
whose hearts are set on pilgrimage. Psalm 84:5

Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles … 1 Peter 2:11

A pilgrim was I, and a wandering,
In the cold night of sin I did roam,
When Jesus the kind Shepherd found me,
And now I am on my way home.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days, all the days of my life;
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days, all the days of my life.
And I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever,
And I shall feast at the table spread for me;
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days, all the days of my life.
Verse 2:
He restoreth my soul when I’m weary,
He giveth me strength day by day;
He leads me beside the still waters,
He guards me each step of the way.
Verse 3:
When I walk through the dark lonesome valley,
My savior will walk with me there;
And safely His great hand will lead me
To the mansions He’s gone to prepare.

John W. Peterson & Alfred B. Smith

Categories: Bible, Camino, christian, Christianity, Devotional, Faith, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Larsson and Sorolla: A Study in Priorities

From the Sorolla Museum, Madrid

Let me begin by saying that I am not art expert. I belong to the “I know what I like” school of art. A school that many critics would deride.

Through my wife’s influence I have encountered two artists who impress me. The first is Joaquín Sorolla (27 February 1863 – 10 August 1923) and the other is Carl Larsson (May 28, 1853 – January 22, 1919). The first Spanish and the second a Swede. I doubt if they ever met.

What impresses me about these two men, is that what is important in their lives permeates their art. They cannot stop their passions being predominant in their work. And in both cases, the recurring theme is wife and family. Both men have so many works that celebrate family life – both formal and informal. The children, celebrations, family life, sadness and happiness are all revealed unapologetically in their art.

Breakfast Under the Big Birch Tree

You can visit the homes of both men in Madrid and Sundborn, and nearly a century later, family warmth still exudes from these places.

Both artists also reveal a connection with faith; Catholic and Lutheran. I cannot judge their hearts but it is clear that faith and its expression was a core part of each family.

Matt 6:21 states: “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

From the Sorolla Museum, Madrid

In a century’s time, if people were to explore and research our lives what would they deduce about our passions and priorities? Would it be obvious or vague? Distilled or ravelled? Would they find an example of C21st ego-centrism or someone unique and special, whose character defied the spirits of the age.

If anyone were (foolish enough) to look for a trace of me in years to come, I hope their conclusion would be that I was an imperfect man who had a passion for faith and family.

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Coming Home

Family and friends beckon us back home.
But experiences in far flung places thrill in our hearts.
The warmth of home, children and friends,
fights with the
fire of memories and places.
I was born a traveller, a gypsy.
In one place too long and a restlessness creeps.
An itchiness,
the feet jiggle, there is
a yearning to move, see, experience …
But the wonder, oh! the wonder of creation
fills me with rapture!
Every bend I turn,
person I meet,
experience I encounter,
God, in some way,
greets me.
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The Atlantic Road

One of the reasons I wanted to visit Norway was to travel the Atlantic Road. This relatively short stretch of highway hops from rock island to island just south of Kristiansund through a nature park. The road swerves and weaves over islands and along water for 8 kilomentres. Without too much hyperbole it could be suggested that this road with its bridges is a work of art.

People were fishing, having picnics and generally enjoying the sights on the day that we went. It was cool but sunny and the road looked magnificent. All this is, of course, set against the dramatic backdrop of Norwegian scenery.

We liked it so much that we made three separate journeys along this road before we finally took the (expensive) tunnel into Kristiansund.

There are great coastal highways in the world. The Pacific Coast Highway in California and the Great Ocean Road in Victoria, Australia but this 8 km stretch is in a category of its own.

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It Was a Good Idea At The Time …

On the 10th of August 1628 the pride of the Swedish navy, the Vasa, glided magnificently from its berth in Stockhom into the harbour. The dignitaries and royalty on board were impressed as the sails billowed out and this brand new ship sped forth. After 1300 metres a gust of wind caught it. The ship rolled, water rushed into the open gun ports and the Vasa plummeted to the bottom of Stockholm harbour, not to see the sky again until it was dredged up in 1961.

Today it can be seen in the beautiful Vasa Museum in Stockholm. The wonderful craftsmanship, the carved figures and the ornate stern are there for us to wonder at.

The story goes, that the king was so eager to show off his ship that it was not properly equipped with ballast. Hence things went awry. The Swedes, at the time, were so ashamed, the ship was not spoken of again.

It is such a human story. Pride, carelessness, impetuousness, lack of foresight and so on. I am sure we have all been guilty of some or all of these at some time. In the Vasa case it cost lives, national pride and of course, one brand new warship. (Today, however, it is making money as the top tourist attraction in Stockholm.)

For me, this story reminds me that God is aware of my human frailty. He is aware of my failures and stumbles. Yet, he still loves me. Even my worst failures have been dealt with by his son. He has even forgiven the disasters that my brokenness has caused.  That is a comfort beyond words.

Back to the Vasa. I wonder what the ship builders and artisans thought when the boat they had lovingly crafted for months, disappeared under the waves? Their work was irredeemable. Lost, they thought, for ever. They had little idea that it would become a money making tourist attraction.

We too, need not be hopeless. Christ can take us, you and me, and make us new again.

Categories: christian, Christianity, Devotional, Faith, Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Getting a Perspective

When we were near Tarifa in Spain, my wife got very excited by the fact she could see Africa – namely, Morocco.


She got that excited that later she lost her glasses in the sea. (That, of course, would hamper her perspective!)

Perspective is a wonderful thing. It opens up vistas and horizons. We look beyond ourselves. We look with a framework, a plan or map and we see how various things, places and etc. fit together. It saddens me how many people I meet who have no perspective. They are focused on the here and now, in a very limited and temporal sense.

When we looked across the straits, we got out a map (on the iPad) to make sure it was Africa we were peering at and not just across the bay to another part of Spain. We needed a sense of direction to give our perspective an anchor or starting point.

My map, the anchor or starting point that enables me to have direction in my life is the Bible – the Word of God. Without it I would be stumbling in the dark in every facet of my life. It enables me to get a perspective on the past, present and future. The temporal and spiritual also also find their focus point in the Word of God.

It never ceases to amaze and encourage me that people with this perspective seem able to withstand amazing tragedies and traumas in their lives. Their view of what life is, and means, is not tied to the moment, but to eternity and God.

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Jesus in Bubblewrap

Jesus in Bubble-Wrap

In the magnificent Cathedral/Mosque, the Mesquita in Cordoba, we came across a bizarre sight in one of the alcoves.

Large representations of Jesus and Mary, which had obviously been used for the Easter festivals, were wrapped in bubble-wrap protecting them until next year’s celebration.

Being an English teacher, I see metaphors in most things, but this metaphor was screaming at me!

For me it was a picture of how Jesus is so often treated: the Jesus of Christmas and Easter or the Jesus who comes out at hard times and forgotten about when things are OK. The token Jesus. The aspirin Jesus.

Even those of us who profess a strong faith have times when we remember to pray with a passion, only, because there is an issue that needs to be dealt with in our lives. At other times we have placed Jesus in “bubble-wrap”.

The image in Cordoba was a reminder for me personally, to be aware of how I treat our Lord. I am his child, He is not at my beck and call. Jesus is my 24/7 Lord, not my occasional remedy.

So from now on, whenever I see this picture from Cordoba I will be asking myself some hard questions. Maybe I should hang it on my study wall …

Categories: christian, Christianity, Devotional, Faith, Jesus | Tags: , , , | 6 Comments

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