Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Praying for us

Another heartfelt 'thank you' to all those who diligently pray for us - we do appreciate your care and concern for us, and we are grateful to God for his continued blessing and kindness towards us in Christ.

So here is another installment of information for those who care for us in this way. Please join us in thanking God for...

* Keeping our heads above water in the recent bouts of illness that have come our way. One of us always seems to be either getting or suffering or recovering from some kind of cold like disease. Merciful it hasn't been anything like Mark's long chest infection and Jonathan seems to bounce back reasonably fast and not become too unhappy when he is sick.

* Our liberation from 'survival mode' which we've been stuck in most of the year. Now we can finally find a rhythm and do some extra things or things that have been shelved while we just gritted our teeth and got through. It is fantastic to be out of that mode and we are all feeling the benefit of less pressure.

* The time and space to be able to say 'yes' to some ministry opportunities. Mark is teaching the Moore College correspondence course at St Ebbe's; Jennie is leading a group of women students at St Ebbe's student ministry each week and is trying to get more involved in the church's toddler group (which is slightly tricky as Jonathan's daytime sleeps keep moving a bit). Being involved feels more 'normal' than what feels like a year of merely attending church each week, which we've had to do for most of the past year. We're both thankful for these oppportunities to serve God.

* Jonathan's growth and development, which continues at a sharp clip. He's now wearing 18-24 month size clothing, eating with great enthusiasm and walking about like a little robot. He is usually excellent company and appears to have charmed most of the old ladies in Oxford. Last week he held a bus up while a line of elderly women each stopped to speak to him at length as they were getting off the bus (he worked out that if he put his hand out in the aisle as they walked past, they would stop and talk to him - which thrilled both him and them, less so his mother and, one presumes, the other passengers who were neither little old ladies nor Jonathan).

Please join us in praying that...

* Mark would continue to make good progress on his doctorate and with language acquisition. Now that he can focus all his energy on learning the language properly, he has made significant progress in Classical Greek (somewhat more complex than its Koine cousin), and is hoping to sit the exam about April next year. He is also working on two chapters of his thesis that he hopes to have written by this time next year and hopes to have something serious done by the end of December. Pray that his hard work here will pay off and that writing this thesis will be deepen his love for and knowledge of God.

* Jennie will use her time wisely and well. She holds out fond hopes of doing an exam on the Greek text of Revelation (hurrah for Koine!) around July. There is much to be done between now and then and moments need to be snatched and used well. She has a small pile of other writing projects to finish as well. Please pray that what she writes might be useful to others and that she will be able to be efficient and focussed in her spare moments.

* Mark and Jennie will be good parents for Jonathan, being wise in their interactions with him and faithful in their prayer for and discipline of him. Pray with us that Jonathan will come to know and love the Lord Jesus early in his life.

Thank you for your prayers.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


One of the features of our unit which gives us great pleasure is the window in the dining/lounge room. It faces out over Oxford and helps us realise what season we are in.

A tree grows just outside this window. In summer it completely blocks the view of the road and the surrounding suburb. It's luscious green leaves soak up the excess heat and unit feels enclosed within a glen type arrangement. It feels refreshing just looking out the window.

In autumn, the tree starts to lose its leaves and the road becomes more visible. The road is hardly noticeable though, because of the beautiful orange then yellow foliage. Squirrels scamper up the tree, organising their winter hoard. Pigeons rest on the branches. At night the yellow street lights shine upwards through the yellow leaves and so even in the dark the tree is a thing of beauty.

And then comes winter, sweeping away the last leaves from our tree. Now we have a clear view of the road and the suburb... and the sky. We watch the clouds billowing across the sky, the rain coming in and blowing away. The sunrise spreads its purple red fingers across the sky, the colours changing at every moment. And all against the bare, cold branches of this lonely tree, made more pitiful by the occasional pigeon which rests alone on its outstretched arms in the cold rain.

We are glad God made this tree and lets us watch it change throughout the year. And that in winter, when it rests from all its labours, we can watch such a glorious sky. If we were on a ground floor apartment we wouldn't have such earthly delights. JMB

Monday, November 17, 2008


Last week we celebrated two major milestones in Jonathan's life. They might seem small, but they open up great possibilities for him, for which we are grateful.

The first is the screwed-up-nose face. This once discovered, was promptly used to communicate a wide range of emotions and concepts. He's used it to communicate many things from "I'm not eating that!", "That child just hit me on the head with a toy", "Give me that camera!", "Raw broccoli tastes weird" through to "I'm screwing up my nose just because I can".
It's a great step forward for him, giving him other options apart from the edges of the communicative spectrum: the cry, the whine and the winning smile and contagious giggle. Now, he can communicate uncertainty, displeasure, disdain, and just have fun screwing up his nose, which is always a good thing.

The second milestone was the first step, following closely by the second, third and fourth steps. There was no falling from our perfectionist son, who has been cruising since he was eight months and practicing walking at any and every opportunity. Jonathan does not like falling. The few times he does fall now he usually doesn't hurt himself but wails loudly, we think because he is cross with himself for falling. So, if walking was going to happen, there would be no falling, and so while we think he's been ready to walk for a while, there was (at least in his mind) probably the possibility of falling, which precluded the possibility of walking. But this has been overcome and now there is walking. This of course, opens up many possibilities. Already he has started pouring the energy he poured into learning to walk (without falling) into learning to climb, which is the next stage. And then there is running and dancing, and later, running away and jumping in puddles (for which we are well located).

And of course, by the end of the week, it was all old hat and he was pulling faces and walking at the same time. He's a clever one, this boy. JMB

Monday, November 10, 2008

Genuine Cornish Bears!

This is a genuine Tasmanian Dwarf Elephant. Often known just by its initials (TDE).

(Eraser included for comparison purposes only.)

No really. It is. It is a Tasmanian Dwarf Elephant. Have another look. It is a Tasmanian Dwarf Elephant. Just tell yourself this as you take another look. It's latin name is Loxodonta Tasmana Pumilius Pumilio. It's a very rare species of elephant, so it's possible that you've never seen a photograph, or even seen the latin name for it before. But life is all about learning new things. So here's your new factoid for today. The genuine Tasmanian Dwarf Elephant.

There's a story behind this genuine Tasmanian Dwarf Elephant. I bet you guessed that would be coming. It's not to late to move on to another blog.

We went to Tasmania in 2004 for a two week holiday. It was the first time that we took more than one week of holidays at a time and that we decided to do more than just encamp in the one location. We travelled around Tasmania in our car, having driven to Melbourne and then catching the impressive ferry to Tasmania. We had a blast, and saw lots of non-elephant related things. Although we did see this elephant-themed sign which still gives us the giggles years later. Some might say we giggle easily but they don't know us very well. Our giggles begin deep within us and usually manifest themselves as an amused smile or a hearty chuckle. Mark occassionally even laughs - which most people find disturbing.

It's a great sign. But, on reflection, it's a bit of a tangent from the very important story of the Tasmanian Dwarf Elephant (or Loxodonta Tasmana Pumilius Pumilio to give its Latin name, but you can shorten it to just TDE if you find either 'Tasmanian Dwarf Elephant' or 'Loxodonta Tasmana Pumilius Pumilio' too cumbersome for everyday use).

The story goes like this. One day in Tasmania we stopped at a medium sized town (for Tasmania) and, among other things we did there, entered a larger than average Newsagency (for almost anywhere, unless you happen to be in a place given over to unusually large Newsagencies, in which case you might want to write a blog entry on it - people are writing blog entries about all sorts of meaningless chaff these days).

In this Newsagency was a largish stand given over to a range of animal themed, casted plastic toys/models by a company with a European sounding name. The animals (the toys/models, not actual animals, of which there weren't any in this very civilised larger-than-normal Newsagency) were of varying quality - some looking remarkable lifelike, once one factored in the fact that they were significantly smaller than the genuine article.

Jennie likes elephants. Really really likes elephants. They're in her top three animals (unlike cows, which she considers a kind of mould). So we bought her one. The one in the photograph as it so happens.

We stuck it on the top of the dashboard of our car. From time to time people travelling in our car would ask us, "What's up with the elephant on the dashboard?" A not unreasonable question to ask when someone is transporting you at high speeds in a metal box - it doesn't hurt to vet the driver carefully. But perhaps doing it before you get in the car would be advised.

We would answer triumphantly, "It's a genuine Tasmanian Dwarf Elephant!" Being the perfect joke for us. We would lay the irony on thick (not easy to do when pronouncing an exclamation mark at the same time) and the joke would reference something only we knew anything about, thus preserving our general batting average for our jokes (somewhere just slightly above a perfect run of golden ducks - yes folks it's an animal themed post today).

Until one day.

One day our passenger (an Australian, as it happened) replied brightly, "Really?! I didn't know they had elephants in Tasmania!"

There was stunned silence from Baddelim for fifteen seconds as we processed the words, reprocessed them, turned them around and processed them again just in case we were missing some really fiendish reverse irony. Then through the dawning horror we had to work out what to do. The whole point of the joke was to have a small laugh at the Baddeleys as it was obvious there is no such thing as a, wait for it, Loxodonta Tasmana Pumilius Pumilio (but its friends just call it TDE for short). It wasn't supposed to set people up for social embarrassment (apart from being exposed to such lame humour). We didn't have any contingency plans ready. How does retrieval ethics work in this situation, when the good of humour has been lost? (Small Moore College ethics joke there.) Digging the person out of their hole seemed impossible, but just letting it go would leave them open to potentially much greater embarrassment down the track. We undid the damage we did. Unsurprisingly, the person has never spoken with us again about any elephant related topic.

We've never enjoyed our joke the same way ever since. And, like war, you can't be only half-committed to a joke.

With this little back story in place, we would like to share with you, gentle (and stubbornly persistent, if you've reached this far) reader Baddelim's latest English expeditionary discovery. Presenting a sleuth, or sloth if you prefer, (yes, those are the right collective nouns for bears, only polar bears have the collective noun 'pack', presumably because it is too cold for either detectives or sloths in the polar regions) of genuine Cornish bears!
And I bet you didn't know that they had bears in England. That's two new things you learned today. So now you're ahead for tomorrow as well. (Please, let the reader understand!)

MDB (JMB didn't think I could turn the story of:

  1. we bought a toy elephant in Tasmania.
  2. years later, we saw some life-size wooden bear statues in Cornwall.
into a soaring epic with a little lesson about the vicissitudes of life and laughs. She was obviously right, but I sure spent some electrons proving it.)

Monday, November 3, 2008

Stopping Traffic

Walking down to the shops, head lowered against the cold, cold wind (it snowed on Tuesday night), I reached the traffic lights. I pressed the button and looked up to wait for the 'walk' sign. That was when I noticed that the traffic lights were not working.

Inwardly I sighed, and calculated how long it would take me to walk down to the next crossing. As I did, I glanced up at the traffic, and noticed that a bus coming along the road was flashing his lights.

"But I haven't done anything!" I wailed inwardly.

And then I realised that he was slowing down.

"Oh, he's stopping to let me cross" I thought, surprised at the concept and slightly worried. No traffic would stop on the other side of the road, so I would no doubt inadvertently delay this (lovely) bus driver.

Even as I thought this I glanced to the left, and there was a car, slowing down. Stopping even.

I crossed the road. In peak hour. Without waiting. With no lights forcing the traffic to stop! And nothing short of miraculous - a bus stopped for a pedestrian when not forced to do so.

When I recounted this to Mark, we both remembered our first taste of Sydney traffic. Even on side streets we learned (very quickly) to stop and make absolutely sure that no cars were coming or intending to come in the near future, before venturing to cross. In fact, for a while, we had a theory based solely on our experience, that in order to retain your NSW driving licence, you had to provide evidence that you had caused serious harm (of a physical or psychological nature) to at least one pedestrian per year. Nothing else seemed to adequately explain the aggressively anti-pedestrian policy we encountered. I can safely say that if after six months in Sydney, a bus had stopped to let us cross the road without being legally obliged to do so, we would have stayed safely at the sidewalk, assuming that this bus was trying to lure us onto the road for some nefarious and possibly lethal purpose.

Here in Oxford it seems that the opposite rule applies, given the number of times we have seen really dangerous jay walking in the last year. (Top of the list are those with limited mobility who we've seen walk out in front of traffic. By Sydney standards, limited mobility with regards to jay walking may mean wearing inappropriate shoes for a short, sharp sprint. But in this context when I mention limited mobility I do mean limited mobility: wheelchairs and walking sticks not excluded.) In Oxford, the traffic just... stops and there is no yelling, horn blowing or road rage that we have encountered. Of course, it makes driving a nightmare because pedestrians expect the traffic to stop and act accordingly.

Possibly a new advertising slogan for pedestrian tourists (you know, the ones with a small carbon footprint...): "Come to Oxford: Enjoy the Traffic". JMB

Photos courtesy of the ruined cathedral in St Andrews.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Signs You Are In Another Country Part I

One of the things we have really enjoyed about living in England has been the signs about the place. The English, so we are told, love to be instructed, which is the function of most signs.

The English also have a far more sophisticated approach to the (wait for it) English language than that with which most Australians function. This is the land where Yes Minister is more of an instruction manual on the uses of ambiguity and understated misdirection in daily life than an exotic excursion into purely political misuse of language a la Yes Minister in Australia. England is a country which revels both in what the English language is capable of doing, and the legitimate ambiguity and range of meaning inherent in the simplest of phrases. At times it appears that almost every game show on Radio 4 is designed for language afficondos to show off the potential of English for amusing miscommunication and skillful precision - often at the same time.

We are of the opinion that it is only this profound self-awareness of how easy it is to misunderstand even the simplest communicative act that can explain English signs. English signs are prosaic in a way that makes mere prose look like Wordsworth. They leave nothing, completely, absolutely, utterly nothing to chance. If a sign delivers information, it spells that information out in excruciating detail. More often than not it will then proceed to help the reader understand exactly how they are to respond to receiving such information. Nothing is left to chance. Every time we read a sign over here we get the impression that the writer thinks that we are idiots...on a good day.

There also seem to be more signs over here - things that would just be trusted to someone's common sense in Australia will probably have it's own sign here. This maybe because anything designed to tell an Australian what to do will suffer being ignored (at best) and altered or defaced (at worst). Either way, there is probably a serious case to be made that manufacturing signs in Australia is a waste of public money. Obeying signs is really not the Australian way. It is probably on that secret list of 'unAustralian' qualities we need to avoid.

So, we have been enjoying the signs over here, and had thought to run a sort of competition listing the top three signs we've found. But there have been so many, that we thought we'd turn it into a kind of series that we'll probably return to from time to time while we are over here. Our first offering is this set, that we believe illustrate the pedantic and multiply redundant nature of English signs.

These signs we found in Penzance (of Pirates fame). They surrounded a large pool, filled with seawater. There were a number of signs around the fence, designed to appeal to a broad range of people.

First, there is the explanation of why you should not swim in this pool after it is closed.

I can't imagine the average Aussie's attention span surviving past the beginning of the fourth line, let alone "operational procedures mean the depth of water cannot be guaranteed" which in Australia would read something more like, "water may not be the depth it appears".

Then, in case you are of a more legal mind, there is a more obscure sign explaining under which circumstances you may enter the pool and when you may not.

Note that "Opening Hours" cannot be left to the reader to interpret for themselves. It needs the explanatory phrases, "when the gates are unlocked", and "and the pool is patrolled". And that last phrase needs its own qualifier, "by lifeguards". What possible chain of events required such a careful excluding of every possible interpretive cul de sac for the basic instruction, "Do Not Enter When Pool is Closed"? After a few encounters with signs like this we begin to worry whether this country is either exceptionally lawless or exceptionally stupid and we've just been oblivious to it. We think they should have given us a sign about this at Heathrow.

Then, in case you don't understand any of this, there is a simpler version.

And finally, if this has all been rather difficult and you don't understand what all these signs are telling you, there is one with a picture.

Nothing. Completely, abolutely, utterly nothing is left to chance. Just stay out of the pool already, OK? MDB & JMB

Friday, October 17, 2008

The Baddeley's are Moving On...

From the Master of Studies that is.

Not from Oxford.

In fact, we are pleased to announce that we are staying in Oxford.

The person in our family who came up with that joke, really enjoyed it. That should clue you in as to who it might have been...

We are relieved to have a decision (you can tell by the fact that this is going up some time later than our last post suggested it might that it's been a Big Week for decision making). After a tricky time of deciphering exactly what was meant by the offer Oxford gave us, we finally got some clarity on this and could make an informed decision.

Mark has been offered a position in the MLitt programme. If his thesis written work is good and he does well in a further Greek exam (Mark's fears about his performance in the MSt exam half-way through the year appear to have been well-grounded - Oxford would like some further assurance on that front) then he'll be upgraded to the doctorate programme. As this enables Mark to keep the supervisor he had for the last year, it enables us to stay at Oxford with the people we've already begun to get to know, and as the examiners recommended Mark for the DPhil once the Greek was satisfied, we think this is a better route than taking the doctoral offers from Durham or Edinburgh.

So there it is, possibly the biggest decision we'll make for several years is now done. We're putting down longer term roots in Oxford. And we couldn't be happier. Praise God. MDB & JMB

Saturday, October 11, 2008


We had an unexpected few days where we had no commitments, no looming exams and no reason to stay in Oxford. And some very kind friends offered to lend us their car.

So, we jumped in said car and took off to explore Cornwall. We stayed in a ramshackle old farmhouse which although furnished with 1970's furniture was probably older than white Australian settlement. Apart from the furiously fast traffic on the main roads, it was totally quiet. We could see the stars at night. And there were various farm animals about the place. Sheep in Cornwall seem to be roughly as stupid as sheep in Australia. There's a factoid for next time you're playing Trivial Pursuit: The Farming Collector's Edition (UK/Australian comparison version)

Everywhere was green. Luscious, deep, vivid green. Odd-shaped green fields, embraced by green hedgerows, containing large green trees... The people who owned the farmhouse looked amazed as we described the drought in Australia and how it turns things a dirty kind of yellow. Farmers in Cornwall get concerned if there is an absence of rain for more than a month.

We had a great few days - the bulk of the MSt was behind us and the Vive Voce (oral examination) still to come - which no-one could tell us how to prepare for. Jonathan really enjoyed the increased amount of space he had to explore in the farmhouse, which was several times as large as our two bedroom flat. There were lots of things to see and absolutely no need to go anywhere. We enjoyed finding a church on Sunday, and met some friends of a friend (quite randomly) and had tea with them during the week - which made it even better. It added a distinctly Christian note that hadn't been part of our experience in going to York, Wales, or Scotland.

So, here we are. Back again after our few days rest. Refreshed, and ready for a decision from Oxford as to whether they will offer Mark DPhil candidature and what preconditions they might require. (Check back here early next week if you are interested as we will post something when we have a firm indication.)

Mark has done his Vive Voce on the Wednesday just gone. It was a definite examination rather than a chat, with the examiners testing Mark's views on a couple of scholarly debates that his dissertation touched on, and seriously challenging his position that Origen's influence on third century theology is generally overestimated. We even have the results - Mark has successfully completed the Master of Studies in Theology (Patristics), with grades that, overall should qualify him for an offer. (The pleasant surprise was getting a 'First' for the dissertation given that it was written entirely while ill).

But the offer is still yet to be officially made, so there is still uncertainty to face over the next few days. But we're grateful that Mark has successfully completed the MSt and so there will be doctoral studies happening somewhere over here. And in the midst of all this, we still have the pleasant memories of a beautiful, green part of England. JMB & MDB

Saturday, October 4, 2008


Jonathan was baptised on 21st September, 2008.

Here is how he looked before the baptism.

And here he is after.

Before he was baptised, the congregation prayed...

O God, our Father, we thank You for Your great love for us and the promise You have made to us through Your Son Jesus Christ that You will be our God and the God of our children also. We ask that Jonathan will grow up trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ and knowing You as his Heavenly Father. Strengthen him with your power, and give him victory over the world, the flesh and the devil, so that he may live a life that will please You. We ask this through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Which we think is a great prayer to be prayed for him, and may well adopt it to pray it for him more frequently.

The congregation welcomed Jonathan after he was baptised with these memorable words...

We welcome you, Jonathan, into this congregation of Christ's Church. Do not be ashamed to confess the faith of Christ crucified, fight bravely under His banner against sin, the world and the devil, continuing as Christ's faithful soldier and servant to the end of your life.

Which we also think is a great welcome and highlights for us just how valuable things like liturgy can be. It is a very 'manly' welcome, that stresses conflict, a refusing to be ashamed, and bravery - notes that many Christians today wouldn't choose to stress if they were to craft a congregational welcome (or come up with one spontaneously, for non-liturgical traditions).

All in all, it was a great morning, and we're very grateful for what Christ has done through his death and resurrection that has caught Jonathan up because he is part of this household which is founded on these realities. Our prayer is that as he grows up we'll show him what it means to live in this grace, and he'll own it for himself.

Jonathan Dean Baddeley. Brave soldier and faithful servant of Christ. We can't think of a higher accolade we could ask for him.


Monday, September 15, 2008

It's In!

The dissertation was handed in about 10am on Friday morning.

Later that day, Jonathan obliging did a victory dance in honour of this great event. Being a little shy of 9 months old, he doesn't really understand that in this dimension (unlike Pylea) children are not obliged to engage in dances to express their parents' emotional state. So, he made a good effort to fulfill what he thinks are his filial duties.

It was an excellent victory dance. It was quite complex and moved through a kind of latino phase before emerging into a final hip-swivelling, energetic jig, which aptly expressed the immense joy the removal of this load has injected into our lives.

So impressed were we by his efforts, we have contemplated renaming him Numfar, but that might be confusing.

Thank you to those of you who have been praying for us. There were moments during the week when it looked less likely that it be finished in time: like when it took Mark almost a full two days in the last week to recover from a trip to the library! The final sprint was an all-night affair involving both of us, accompanied at various times by Jonathan (who had a bad cough and kept waking up). But by 8am, it was completed and bound and ready to go.

Mark's supervisor was quite pleased with the final product, which was particularly encouraging given that Mark has been ill for almost all the time he was working on it. It also means we are still slightly hopeful that we may be able to stay at Oxford. In any case, we now have a few weeks to rest and recover before Mark does the Viva in early October and we find out what the future may hold for us. Mark has blood tests on Wednesday, but is feeling much better. And made his first real Dad joke on Sunday. (But then, he's been making Dad jokes for some years; only now it is legit).

We now turn to the long list entitled: Things We Need To Do After The Dissertation Is Submitted. JMB

No longer do the dance of victory, Num... no, um, Jonathan!

Friday, September 5, 2008

We've Been Tagged.

We have to complete a 'meme' apparently, divulging six random facts about ourselves to the waiting world.

Apparently there are rules about this as well. We have to tag people and so on.


We're not going to follow them.

We're on the other side of the world.

So, what'dya'gonnadoaboud'it?

Well, we'll hand over the random facts. We won't do the tagging, not because of the beligerent attitude but because there is a dissertation due next week. And anyway, we not really good at linking to other blogs. Like Facebook, this is a skill on our list of things to do after the dissertation.

Random Fact 1
We like gloomy, rainy weather. Thunderstorms, especially Queensland thunderstorms are occasions of great excitement. Pouring, torrential rain is also cause for rejoicing. A check of the weather for the week revealing a full week of wet weather is our idea of a Good Week. We are constantly surrounded by people who find rain a tragedy, but we secretly thank God for it. Though, as it turns out, not so secretly anymore. Yes, we're the traitors people. String us up.

Random Fact 2
We don't own a TV. When we were in Australia and we owned a TV, whenever we really liked a TV show it would be axed or moved to an impossible timeslot (like 3am). So, we tend to watch DVD's of TV shows. Our favourites are: Morse, Lewis, Press Gang, Veronica Mars, Buffy, Angel, Bones, Gilmore Girls, Sherlock Holmes, Dead Like Me, Wonderfalls, Firefly and for a brief week Dr Horrible's Sing-Along Blog. We don't just watch TV either, to the annoyance of most of our friends (and unwary acquaintances), we analyse the shows we watch. A lot. Continually. With great excitement.
If you look at this list, you'll realise that all these TV shows have something in common: they explore what it means to be human and to relate to others. That interests us a great deal. And a good script doesn't go astray either.

Random Fact 3
We used to get together at the University of Queensland when we were studying there in the early 1990's and pray for revival. Fairly seriously: about 5 hours per week. There were four of us who got together regularly and we would read bits of the prophets out of context and pray. The group was called Dead Prophets Society, (named by Mark), and although we didn't get the great exciting, earth shattering revival we prayed for, God did graciously answer our prayers in that now it is easier to hear the gospel at UQ. You have to avoid certain people if you don't want to hear it, as we understand it. God was very gracious to answer our prayers like that. And Mark and I were falling in love at the time, which is kind of an added bonus.

Random Fact 4
Mark wore a black cape to our wedding reception. We only got one photo of it. But it was cool. He looks good in a cape. Swashbuckling good.

Random Fact 5
We both like cooking, together. It is almost impossible to do this these days, but we used to love planning a menu for a dinner party and then cooking it together. We even had speciality areas. Our greatest moment was cooking a roast dinner at a houseparty/camp for about 120 people. We worked on it all afternoon and tag-teamed the last hectic hour. As far as we could tell, people enjoyed the meal and we were very pleased with ourselves.

Random Fact 6
We like books. Lots of books. We like to own the books we read. Mostly so that we can go back to them and lend them to people (and lose them forever). We like reading, together, out aloud, to our little boy (who also loves books), and by ourselves. We use books to stimulate us, recharge us and to, yes, you guessed it, analyse the world. When we move (which seems to happen more often than we would like!), we usually feel a sense of belonging and calm when our books are unpacked.

We have officially provided you with some random information. If you read this and own a blog, and wish to contribute to the random facts floating about in the ether, consider yourself tagged, gentle reader. JMB

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Praying for us: the August Edition

Thank you to the lovely people who've asked how we were going and said that they have prayed for us. We greatly appreciate your concern and interest.

Here are some things to give thanks for and to pray for us as we head into September, if you are so inclined.
August has been a tricky month. Mark is trying to write a dissertation for submission in 14 days time. He has been hard at work for nearly two months, but has been battling illness for most of August. This has made the process really frustrating for him and far more intense than we had expected. Thankfully he is a lot better now, but even quite simple things continue to exhaust him and he will have to work very hard to get it done on time.
Please pray that God will enable Mark to finish the dissertation on time and without further difficulty, and thank God for answering our prayers and restoring Mark to health.

We tried to have a holiday in August, going up to St Andrews to see a potential supervisor for Mark and staying a week in Stirling. As Mark got sick and couldn't do much work it didn't quite work out the way we had planned, but we had a great few days before then in St Andrews, Edinburgh and we went for a great drive one day around one of the Lochs north of Stirling at the foot of the Highlands. Scotland is absolutely gorgeous, so just driving through the country was a marvellous thing.
Thank God for his care of us in providing a holiday for us and in keeping us safe as we travelled around the place.

Unexpectedly we received an offer of a place at Edinburgh University. Mark now has two places as well as the possibility of study at Oxford for the next academic year. As far as we can tell, we can make a decision as to which one to take up after the results come in early in October.
Thank God for his kindness in providing good places for Mark to complete his PhD and ask him for wisdom as we go about making a decision about where to go if we can't stay in Oxford.

Finally, we have arranged for Jonathan to be baptised on 21st September. It's been a long road to come to the point that we think that this is a good and right way to declare that he too lives in the sphere that the cross of Christ has carved out, because he is the child of disciples of Jesus. But we're here now, and so Jonathan's status as someone who will have every privilege to grow up into faith in Christ and the confidence that God will be faithful to those opportunities will be declared through baptism. We are glad that this can be organised before we might need to move. We are grateful that our son is growing and developing so well: he is cruising around furniture now and seems to enjoy life a great deal. He has been a blessing to us in this rather difficult year.
Thank God for Jonathan's life and pray for his salvation. Pray also that we will be faithful to the promises we make in September.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

One for the Covenanter Fans

As you know, we've been to Scotland recently, and while we were there we spent a blissful, cold day in Edinburgh. It was an unexpectedly rich day because we found two things: the Covenant and the place where it was signed.

So this is one for all you Covenanter fans out there.

I know there must be a few.

Or at least someone?


You've never even heard of them?


OK. Well, humour me anyway people. If you want to find out about them, you can read my longer post here.

And if you want to become a fan, you can check this site out, and for the low, low price of five pounds per year, receive their newsletter and become an official fan. Or you can just get excited about the Covenanters and become a fan for free.

We wandered down to St Giles Cathedral, because we had read somewhere that Knox (no, not him, the other Knox, the slightly less well known one who was involved in Scottish Reformation), had pastored a church there for a while. We found a statue of him in a corner. He looked out of place, among all the fancy stained glass windows and such. It seemed poignant somehow, having him stand, holding his Bible, poised as a preacher. He looks unimpressive amongst the trappings of the cathedral and no attention is drawn to him.

Yet so many people know God because of him. So many people are safe from God's anger forever because he preached the message of Jesus faithfully.

On the opposite side of the cathedral, they engage in activities that would have made him very cross indeed. Lighting candles instead of praying to God. Ostentatious organ playing (and I like organ music, but this was way over the top). Large, audacious stained glass windows. I suspect he would smash his own statue, and then set to work getting rid of all these other distractions to hearing God's word and taking it seriously.

On we went, to the Thistle chapel, carved impressively from what looked like wood. There we stood in the tiny space where the Queen comes every so often to do something official. The heraldry around the place represents the famous houses. I'm not sure what house was represented by this deer, but I suspect their motto would go something like: "We run very fast from the people with guns". Sometimes wisdom is in speed not bravery.

We saw memorials to Mrs Oliphant (something for another post), and to Thomas Chalmers (I'm a big fan; one of the most impressive Evangelicals who ever lived: Scotland's equivalent of Wilberforce). It was exciting.

And then there it was.

The National Covenant.

It's a bad photo. It was behind glass. And it was faded.

But there it was.

I won't explain why it is important, because the Covenanting fans will already know. And that is what this post is all about. Giving something to the Covenanting fans or fan, as the case may be. (And anyway, as I've said, you can read all about it here or here).

Shortly afterward, we came upon the church in which the Covenant was signed: Greyfriars. There is also a prison near the church, where some Covenanters were held (many died in prison), before being punished. And an official memorial, which although I looked for it, I couldn't find it.

But I did ask the nice man at the door if I could please look at the very place where the Covenant had been signed, and he ushered me in to see it.

It was signed under the pulpit, and although the pulpit was replaced in the 1950's, it was replaced in the same place as it was in the 1600's. And so there it is: the place of the signing.

Time has moved on. Scotland is not what it once was. The Covenant is an old, faded document, and the church it was signed in hardly seems sensible to all that their Covenanter heritage represents.

But the testimony of these faithful Covenanters lives on, bearing witness to their great and faithful Lord and Saviour. JMB

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Best of British #2: Little Boxes of Colour

One of the UK's great accomplishments is the window box or hanging basket. It may be duplicated throughout Europe for all I know, but here in England and up in Scotland (my only places of research) I can report that they are in fine form. They are all about brightening up things after the grey, dark winter. You prevent winter seeping into your soul by planting bulbs and plants to shatter the gloom with their giddy colour when Spring comes. It's a cold climate survival thing, I'm sure.

There are the basic ones, with the same flower sometimes in a differently shaped pot. These are for beginners like me, if I were to do one of these. (For me the basic skills of finding the flower, the pot and marrying the two before the end of Summer would be accomplishment enough. Then actually keeping the thing alive would be the daily struggle. If I were forced to grow what I eat I would quickly starve to death as the only plant I can successfully keep alive is Rosemary, which does not have sufficient nutrients to sustain life. But it tastes great with roast potatoes and lamb and that is important).

Then there are the more complex designs.

And some people can't choose just one, so they have... lots. And who are we to argue?

Then there are those which have evolved in the mind of a true gardener, who with acres of land and as much time and money at his or her disposal, would create a garden too magnificent for even Monet to paint. These displays are exceptional. They blend colour and shape. They draw the eye for a second glance, not for the sake of any one flower but for the total effect. If 'Art' hadn't moved on and become something quite odd and inaccessible, one would even be tempted to call them works of art.

My favourite is the one on the window near where we live. I don't even know how they got it up to where it is positioned, which is itself worthy of admiration. But it has evolved over the summer so that as flowers died away new flowers (still perfectly colour co-ordinated) have taken their place.

Actually constructing one of these in the first place is impressive. Constructing one which evolves as the seasons change is mind boggling.

This is the kind of thing which probably involves several people and they sit down and discuss during the long cold dark days of winter, while drinking hot cocoa. Probably there are debates about the best contrast of this flower with that, and when exactly a flower will reach its used-by date, and even which scent of which flower may overpower the scent of another. And all this in the spirit of civic mindedness, because window boxes are for public display. They are not closeted away in seclusion but are out there for all to see and enjoy. Aussies have their BBQ enabled back yards, the English and the Scots have planter boxers out the front. As we have commented before, this is an excellent feature of British life, and says more about its values than just the high price of land.

The window box. I commend it to you, good people. You don't need a garden. You just need a box, some earth, some seeds and a moment of inspiration. You can even grow Rosemary in it if you are completely incompetent. These boxes of colour are good for the soul. Other's souls. JMB

Friday, August 8, 2008

In the NORTH

That's where we are this week. The roadsigns all have 'NORTH' in capital letters as you leave the south.

And here in the NORTH, we are enjoying amazing scenery, friendly people and nice, gloomy weather with rain every other day. Just the way we like it.

We'll be back next week.