Off to Italy

Lorenza in front of the Ponte VecchioLorenza and I are off to Italy for a three week break. We are taking our car – a ferry crossing and a two day drive through Belgium, Germany and Austria. We will spend much of our time with our family and friends there, mostly in and around Florence. We hope also to see some sea and some sun.

This means I will be blogging little if at all until the beginning of September. I hope still to be able to keep up with comments and contact e-mails. But don’t expect any meaty new posts. Meanwhile I hope you my readers all enjoy your August.


Our last few days in North America

Lorenza and I are preparing to fly home from North America to England, on Wednesday. We have had a great time here. But we are rather tired, especially after our four week road trip to the west coast. We are now relaxing for a few days before our journey home.

I have now put together four Facebook albums of my photos (which should be accessible to everyone). The first two are the same as I linked to in my last post, except for some minor updates and comments:

The following are two new albums of our trip west:

When we get home on Thursday we need to get ready to move house within two weeks. So don’t expect an immediate return to regular blogging. In fact I will be rethinking everything I do, so my blogging may stop or may branch out into new directions. Watch this space!

Having a great time in North America

Sorry that I have not been blogging for some time. My wife Lorenza and I are having a great time visiting North America. But we have been too busy with friends and churches, and sightseeing, to spend much time blogging.

We have been taking quite a lot of photos. I have put the best of them into two Facebook albums, North America summer 2010 part 1 and North America summer 2010 part 2. I think these albums are accessible to anyone, not just Facebook users, but please report to me any difficulties. Meanwhile here are a couple of sample photos.

We return to the UK on 19th August. But we will then be busy moving house, so I am not promising to start blogging again straight away.

With this post I have at last made it to a total of 900 on this blog. I might yet make it to a thousand!

North America here we come

My wife Lorenza and I are getting ready for an extended trip to North America. We will be there from 25th May until 18th August, nearly three months. For much of that time we will be based in Monroe in northern Louisiana, where Lorenza has friends and a church. We will also spend some time touring around – in the south west USA from Colorado to California and perhaps further north, also possibly in New England and to the Niagara Falls area of Canada where I have relatives. This is in some ways a delayed honeymoon, as our trip to Italy at Christmas was not so much that as a chance for me to meet Lorenza’s friends and family.

If any of my blogging friends are interested in meeting us, especially but not only if you live in the areas we are already planning to visit, then please let us know in comments here, or by e-mail to peter AT gentlewisdom DOT org DOT uk.

I’m not sure how much blogging I will be able to do during this trip. It may depend on what Internet access we can get.

After we return to the UK we expect to be moving to Warrington in north west England, between Manchester and Liverpool, where Lorenza intends to complete her training as a dance teacher. But our detailed plans are still uncertain.

Normal service may resume shortly

Lorenza and I are safely home from Italy. In fact we have been for a week now. More about the trip later, perhaps. But it has taken that week to get back to a semblance of normal life, especially with things here being disrupted by snow and ice – which arrived, or returned, only after we did.

So I have no more good excuses not to blog. But I’m not sure if this blog will ever get back to normal service, of the kind my readers got used to before my wedding.. However, I am working on a post more like what I used to post, so watch this space!

Not a white Christmas, but a fun one!

It seems that much of the northern hemisphere has been enjoying a white Christmas, even in places where this is rare like my home in southern England, and like a part of Texas where the last white Christmas was in 1926! Here in Italy the weather looked to be heading that way less than a week before the big day, with thick snow and daytime temperatures below freezing. Here are Lorenza and I on the Sunday before Christmas in the snow outside her cousins’ house, in a beautiful hilltop location on the edge of the Chianti and overlooking the city of Florence. My car only just made it through the ice and snow.

Lorenza and Peter in snow

But by two days later the weather had completely changed. All the snow had gone, and the temperatures started to feel almost summery – so much so that on Wednesday we decided to visit the beach, at Viareggio, and I even put my feet briefly in the sea.

Peter paddling at Viareggio

With the thaw and the rain came floods, and by Christmas Day the motorway to the beach was inundated and closed. Yesterday, with the weather still mild but briefly bright, we went back to Lorenza’s cousins, and were able to make the tour they had promised us of the hidden jewels of the Chianti – beautiful little hilltop towns and villages set in amazing countryside, enjoyed with a glass of the local Chianti Classico. The only snow in sight was on a distant Appennine peak.

So, as we heard a children’s choir singing yesterday in a Chianti village square, the Italians, or at least the Tuscans, are still only “dreaming of a white Christmas”.

But Lorenza and I have had enough adventures in less than a month here that I think I could write a book about them. Or maybe a series of blog posts – so watch this space!

Off to Italy for Christmas

With this post I have reached a milestone of 800 posts on this blog (the numbers in the URL are not a good guide). And I am marking it by going for Italy tomorrow morning. My beautiful bride and I will spend a month there, in her home town which is near Florence. I look forward to meeting more of her relatives and friends, and enjoying Italian hospitality over Christmas and the New Year.

We are going by car, and ferry across the English Channel. This takes two full days, about 900 miles of driving including crossing the Alps – at least u,nderneath them, through the St Gotthard tunnel in Switzerland. We are glad no snow is forecast for this weekend, and hoping the first weekend in January will also be clear.

We are taking my laptop and expect to have good Internet access. So you may not notice any slowdown in my blogging, from its already very slow rate of the last few months. I wonder if I will ever make it to 1000 posts? We will see.

Wedding photos

Thanks for all the best wishes for Lorenza and me on our wedding day. It is hard to believe that this was already more than a week ago! We had a good few days away. We spent the first two nights at a local hotel with a spa – the weather was so good that we were even able to sunbathe outside briefly. Then we went to Eastbourne on the south coast and enjoyed some more pleasant fine weather there.

By popular request here are some pictures of our wedding, copied from Facebook, courtesy of our friends Joyce and Simona. Click each photo for a larger view.

Outside the church

Outside the church

Peter and Lorenza in the church

In the church

Lorenza, Peter and flower girls in the church

In the church with flower girls

Peter kissing Lorenza in the church

Kissing in the church

Cutting the millefoglie at lunch

Cutting the millefoglie at lunch

A lunchtime kiss

A lunchtime kiss

In our wedding car

In our wedding car

Carrying the bride over the threshold

Carrying the bride over the threshold

An evening toast

An evening toast

Cutting the cake in the evening

Cutting the cake

Experiencing God and believing the Bible

James Spinti makes an interesting point, in his musings at the end of his review of  The Bible Among the Myths by John Oswalt. James writes about how he approaches the historicity of the biblical text, probably thinking mostly of the Old Testament:

I would be classified as a “maximalist” by most. The reason I would be a “maximalist” is that I have seen and experienced God breaking in on my life and the lives of others. Once you have experienced that, the stories in the Bible are not so hard to believe. If you read the archaeological reports and the biblical text with a “hermeneutic of sympathy” rather than a “hermeneutic of suspicion,” you can see that it is possible for the text to be correct.

Don’t misunderstand what I just wrote! I am not saying that archaeology “proves” the Bible! I don’t think that archaeology can “prove” anything. Archaeology can be used to interpret what we see, and what we see depends on our theological paradigm. If you have a paradigm of non-divine intervention, you will come to a radically different conclusion than one that allows divine intervention.

One view is not more scholarly than the other! To believe in a God who can—and does—intervene in human affairs is not naïve and unlearned; it is taking the given data and analyzing them just as carefully as possible. As Sherlock Holmes used to say, if you look at the data and you have dismissed every other possibility, the remaining one must be true—however illogical it seems!

I would echo all of this. I too “have seen and experienced God breaking in on my life and the lives of others”. So I too have no trouble believing the stories in the Bible, at least from Genesis 12 onwards. That doesn’t mean that archaeology proves the Bible. It does mean that I trust the biblical text unless archaeology disproves it – and I don’t think it ever has done, although it has prompted some reinterpretation.

Very often when “minimalists” claim that archaeology disproves the Bible they are arguing from silence. For example, they hadn’t found the ruins of Jerusalem from the time of David and Solomon, so they argued that it never existed. But the real reason those ruins hadn’t been found was that no one had looked for them in the expected place, because this place was under an Arab village. In recent years, controversially, Israeli archaeologists have been looking there, and guess what they have found: ruins of a significant city provisionally dated to the time of David and Solomon! But have those “minimalists” eaten their words?

Of course there are also those whose argument that the Bible is inaccurate is basically that miracles and predictive prophecy cannot happen, and so stories with these elements cannot be true. I can understand that argument as it follows logically from that world view. But from what I have seen and experienced I know that that world view is inadequate, that God can do what appear to us as miracles and can reveal what will happen in the future. So I have no trouble believing these stories.

Yes, indeed the genuinely Christian approach to the biblical text is not the scholarly “hermeneutic of suspicion”, meaning an assumption (usually applied to the Bible far more than to other ancient literature) that the text is unreliable unless it can be proved right, but a “hermeneutic of sympathy”, an expectation that the text is right unless proved wrong.

Honest Scrap award

Honest Scrap awardIt is two weeks now since Kevin Sam nominated me for the Honest Scrap award. I have been too busy blogging about communion to respond to his nomination. But I will do now.

To quote Kevin,

I’m supposed to tell you 10 HONEST things about myself and then nominate 7 other blogs that I think deserve to receive the Honest Scrap Award.

Well, here goes. My answers are deliberately modelled on Kevin’s, but of course changed to what is true about me.

1. I drive a 1995 Astra, pictured hereCar-Astra (as it looked just before I bought it, in 2002). That is, a Vauxhall Astra, which is almost the same car as is known as the Opel Astra in continental Europe, the Saturn Astra in North America, the Chevrolet Astra in Latin America, and the Holden Astra in Australia. After 14 years (but only about 66,000 miles) this is now nearly a piece of scrap, but at least it will be “honest scrap”! And then I may well go for another Astra.

2. I very rarely watch TV, largely because there is so little worth watching on the limited range of terrestrial channels I can receive. Yet for some reason I collect TV sets that are given to me or left at my house. Not long ago I took two to the dump/tip to be “honest scrap”. Perhaps I should do that with the remaining one.

3. This will probably have to be the last item in my list directly about “honest scrap” – but I own an entire garage full of assorted furniture, mostly unattractive or in a poor condition, which I don’t think I can even sell as “honest scrap” – although I am open to offers.

4. I can quote Kevin on this one:

I’m a thinker-type, as opposed to a feeler-type and so admit that I don’t have a lot of patience for people who don’t make any sense when they get angry or flustered.

I too try to have patience, but I’m not a pastor so I don’t have to try so hard!

5. I spent 16 years training and working as a Bible translator, including seven years living in a former Soviet republic. But now I am back in my home town.

6. What really turns me on in a Christian setting is not preaching (although I appreciate a good preacher) but worship in music, if led with both technical skill and a real heart for worship, and if there is genuine response from the congregation. When that happens the style of music is largely irrelevant, although I do struggle with hymns accompanied on the organ.

7. Where I most differ from Kevin is that I am not at all a Calvinist. Well, I might accept about half of one of the five TULIP petals. All I can clearly agree with is the “T” if defined properly, i.e. in agreement with this Wikipedia point:

Total depravity does not mean, however, that people are as evil as possible. Rather, it means that even the good which a person may intend is faulty …

8. Politically, I am a Liberal with a capital “L”, a member of the Liberal Democrats party here in the UK, and I have been their candidate in a local election. But don’t blame me for the bad policies of many so-called liberals around the world, even those of Barack Obama.

9. I have lived in turn to the south west, the south east, the north east, the north west, and now again the north east of London, but never within the boundaries of Greater London (except for two years at London Bible College which was just inside the border) and also never more than about 50 miles from London – with the exception of the seven years that I lived in a former Soviet republic for my Bible translation work.

10. Unlike Kevin, I am by no means a city slicker. I was brought up in a country village and still prefer that lifestyle. I am happy to live on the edge of a medium-size town, so I can easily get into the countryside but also easily access the town’s facilities. But I rarely go into London, and don’t miss it.

Well, as usual I have written quite a lot. Now for seven other bloggers to tag:

David Ker

Sam Norton

Doug Chaplin

Dave Faulkner

John Meunier

Rachel Marszalek

Mike Aubrey