Thursday, 22 September 2005

The final cry of Braveheart.

There's a verse going round and round in my head at the moment, that I learnt in French in a Beach Mission in Belgium a few years ago: "(John 8:36) Si le Fils vous affranchit, vous serez réellement libres." I don't know why it came to mind. But while it's been in my head, I've been thinking about it. We have in Brussels 2 'Free' Universities - the Université Libre de Bruxelles, and the Vrije Universiteit Brussel - set up in reaction to the monopoly of the RC church on education. They pride themselves on secularity and a secular, 'free thinking' approach. When this touches on religion, in class they study it 'scientifically, objectively' (as if this can be so), and out of class, it's effectively banned - to have Christian meetings on campus, or advertised on campus, would endanger the freedom of the students it seems! In establishing freedom from the imposition of Catholicism, they have rather established the imposition of the faith-system of secularity.

Yet in this sad and difficult context, God is answering prayer. At the VUB, through a Dutch-speaking team member's contact with a Christian in the International office, we've been given permission to flyer for our International 'Open House' events, since the events aren't intrinsically evangelistic, but social (apart from the Christmas one which states clearly on the flyer). We hope to get to know the students at these meetings and offer Bible studies outside of them to those who are interested. When giving out these flyers, our Team Leader Tim got chatting to a member of staff having a cigarette break, who asked, "You know this is a free university?" to which Tim replied, "Yes, we've been given permission to give these out." The guy thought for a second and replied, "Well yes, it is a free university, not an atheist university." That someone would think that at one of these uni's is a miracle in answer to prayer! Praise God :-)

We went to a public lecture put on by the "Centre Interdisciplinaire d'Etude des Religions et de la Laïcité" (laïcité is the philosophy of secularity). They are convinced that secularity is the answer to everything. Convinced that they can have freedom in their thinking. My prayer is that through the power of the gospel in the lives and words of GBU members, some would realise that it is only if the Son sets you free that you shall be truly free.


The watchword of today, and the yardstick: tolerance.

If you look up tolerance in a thesaurus, you'll find not far off the word "charity" - that is, love for one's neighbour. But the tolerance of today is far from that: tolerance instead could be used synonymously with indifference. "You believe differently from me, but I don't care; it's all the same to me." How different to how we are called to live as Christians: with love for our neighbour: "You believe differently to me, and I care for you nevertheless. How strong is the sentiment, attitude and action to which we are called by Christ - not putting up with our neighbour's differences out of dispassionate indifference, but loving our neighbour even in their differences. If we settle for the tolerance of today, we're selling short the gospel life to which we are called - to welcome others as Christ has welcomed us.

Is God then tolerant? Not of sin: to such an extent that his own Son took the punishment for it for those who trust in him. I quote (roughly translated) from David Brown's book 'Passerelles', p.94:

"Can we say that the gospel is intolerant? Yes, it is in its denunciation of evil. However, the steps taken by God to oppose sin are of a pedagogical nature. God reprimands, exhorts and gives time for repentance. God isn't tolerant in the modern sense, that is to say, indifferent, even lax. In a certain sense, you could say that God is tolerant in regard to sin because "He does not deal with us according to our sins" (Ps.103:10). But it is preferable to say that God is patient with his unfaithful creatures, letting them have time to return to Him. It is Christ's sacrifice which took the just and legitimate punishment. Peter said that God "is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance" (2 Peter 3:9). Given this delay, the absence of immediate consequences mustn't lead us into error, because God, as Paul said, "now commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed" (Acts 17:30-31), that is Jesus Christ."

God is not indifferent, but love. He hates the sin to the extent of the death of Christ and of hell. But he is patient with the sinner, giving time to repent. In our interaction with our neighbours, we are not to be indifferently tolerant, but to love.

Francophonisation...or a lack of Dairy Milk

Halfway home following the above incident, it occured to me that the store inspector had called me 'tu' rather than 'vous' at some point in the proceedings - and I came over all indignant at the thought! That lasted 5 seconds, until I realised that I was feeling indignant at being called 'tu', and was rather amused with myself.

After such a minorly perturbing episode, I wanted some nice cheese. I got home, had a piece of nice cheese, and typed the above blog. I then thought, 'Hang on Grier! When feeling slightly shaken, you're supposed to feel like eating chocolate, not cheese for goodness sake!' Oops. Someone slightly francophonised a part of me when I wasn't looking :-\ Of course, when there's no Dairy Milk...

Mlle R Grier, voleuse?

Shopping is frustrating in another country - it takes ages just due to unfamiliarity with the shops, the products, and the language, and I can never find exactly what I want...

It was made rather more daunting though when, having negotiated the supermarket in search of bluetack, raisins, AA batteries and floppy disks, and having only found the raisins and the batteries; having paid, and proceding through the exit, I was accosted by a man who flashed a *hm, it appears to be an ID card but I couldn't see it* card at me and announced he was a store inspector and please step aside to be asked a few questions... rather baffled, at first I thought he must be carrying out a questionnaire of shoppers. But it didn't quite seem to fit. He asked for my receipt and asked me a question which I didn't understand. Seeing that I didn't understand, he guided me back into the shop, trying to rephrase it - asking me something about if I'd bought (phonetic english) 'peel' (des piles). Since I still didn't understand (if you don't know the pertinent word, you don't know the word, no matter how the question's rephrased!), he then asked if I'd forgotten to pay for anything! To which of course I replied with a surprised 'non!' and had more of an idea that Something Wasn't Quite Right about this. Saying that I had had 'des piles' in my hand (eh?), he lead me to the shelves of batteries... Oh! It dawned on me. 'Des piles' = batteries, and the receipt had listed them under their brand name abbreviated: which he hadn't recognised! Relieved, I hurridly said, "mais oui, c'est le Duracel - voila, ce sont les Duracels!" and having produced them from my bag, and pointed it out to him on the receipt, all was well. It took me a while to find the 'exit without purchase' way out, but I emerged (of which I was glad) simply a little shaken.

They obviously do a good job of store security, if he'd spotted me with batteries, thought that I hadn't paid for them, and gone to the exit to accost me - but a bad job, that he hadn't spotted that I'd paid for them, & didn't recognise them on the receipt! But given that they can't keep an eye on everyone in the store, in what way did I arouse suspicion? Is it the NUCU hoody that looks dodgy? ;-)

Ah la belle vie! You're reading the blog of Mlle R Grier, suspected thief extraordinaire.

I thought I'd got out o Norn Iron!

Conversation with shopkeeper (translated, obviously!):
me: [something inconsequential]
him: ah, you're British?
me: [Thinking: do you have to point out how obvious my accent is?] Yes, I'm British
him: which city are you from?
me: Belfast
him: oh, so Irish then, not British!
me: uh, no in fact, I'm British...
him: but you should say, "I'm Irish!"
me: "ça m'est égale": at the moment, it's part of the UK, so I'm British - I've British rights, privileges, and responsabilities...
him: oh, so you think you're better off British?
me: uh, it's the same to me.
him: but England took over Ireland!
me: I say I'm British because I am, and if it changes, *shrug*
him: you'll follow?
me: yup.

What is it with norn irish politics? A Belgian shopkeeper for goodness sake!

Thursday, 15 September 2005

Cats, dogs, and drowned rats.

This afternoon I spent putting up posters on the nearest university campus. The event is tomorrow evening: an Open House event for international students.
Aside to Warwick grads: I'd designed the poster, and it was for int'l students, so in memory of Warwick days under Sarah Holt, I opted for fuchsia coloured paper in the copy shop!
Anyway, doing that in such weather as it was gave rise to an explanation to my two Dutch team-mates of not only the concept of 'raining cats and dogs' (to which they'd been introduced by their English textbook!) but its resultant 'looking like a drowned rat' concept. Now just praying that (a) the posters don't get taken down before tomorrow afternoon and (b) it isn't pouring tomorrow when we flyer just outside campus - aren't allowed to do it on campus (indoors!).
Oh and you could pray that GBU would get some more money from somewhere: despite having been treasurer and publicity coordinator, I've never yet run into the idea of actually not being able to flyer (for GBU groups in this case) because we can't afford to print flyers.

[Posted after delay on 22/09]

Tuesday, 13 September 2005


At the w/e I asked several of the responsables individually what they like about GBU. They each replied that what they like about GBU is meeting other Christians their own age. In a country where the evangelical churches are a small despised minority, and each is probably the only one aged between 18 & 26 in their church, this fellowship is precious. Yet it also makes it difficult for them to think beyond the safe bounds of their fellowship and reach out in evangelism. They have non-Christian friends and acquaintances, but evangelistic expectation needs prayer and encouraging.

Monday, 12 September 2005

GBU Camp pour 'responsables'

Arrived in Brussels on Thu eve and on Fri left for the GBU leaders' start of year training w/e. Although we (the IFES team) were exhausted to head straight into this, I'm very glad for it: it was great to meet the responsables (GBU group leaders - one per group) and get to know them. Pleasant surprises/answers to prayer with remembering their names, being able to follow most of the French and converse (albeit with mistakes, but they were kind considering my 'go for it whatever the blunders' policy!), and growing to love them and have a hope of being able to be used in building them up in Christ. It was also a great way to get a feel for the GBU, 'where it's at' and so on. So thank God for all these things in the w/e. And for having today off!

(This was posted belatedly.)

Thursday, 8 September 2005

Strange unbidden thoughts

Being in a strange situation has caused me to think things which are against what I actually know to be true and believe, and alarmingly self-interested. It's as if my mind, taken by surprise, jolts up feelings/thoughts unbidden. Perhaps a sort of in-built self-preservation thing. So anyway, I found myself thinking at the airport: "Why on earth am I doing this? This is madness. I could've been comfortable in England. Someone remind me of why I'm stepping on this plane!" So I had to talk back to myself (a good discipline): of course the answer to Why on earth am I doing this? is that it can't be done in heaven, and it's what we're called to do as part of 'your kingdom come; your will be done on earth as it is in heaven'. It is following Jesus' example of leaving heaven to partially inaugurate heaven on earth; it is a sign of the gospel's power to redeem us from the curse on Babel's rebellion; it is a sign of not belonging to one tribe or nation but to the kingdom already inaugurated in the people of God on earth; looking forward to Rev 7:9-10. If you could remind me of that every so often I'm sure it'd be helpful :-) and pray that in my innermost being I'd delight in God's word, not seeking self.

PS I'd forgotten about mosquitos. D'oh.

(This was posted belatedly.)