Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Aphorisms 8

Sometimes I think I understand everything, then I wake up.

If at first you don't succeed, see if there’s anything for second place.

I started out with nothing and still have most of it left.

Talk is cheap because supply exceeds demand.

Life begins at forty; it also begins to show.

Monday is an awful way to spend 1/7th of your life.

A clear conscience is a sign of a bad memory.

Change is inevitable... except when you need it for a slot machine.

Tomorrow I plan to be spontaneous.

If you think nobody cares about you, try missing a couple of payments.

Always borrow money from a pessimist - he doesn't expect it back.

Men talk to communicate information; women talk to transmit mood.

Looking back

It hardly seems a decade since we were being told to be worried about the Millennium bug. As a matter of fact, I wasn't at all worried and thought the whole thing was newspaper hype.

As I look back over the past decade what do I consider important? On a personal basis, I retired, I took up blogging and I developed cancer. I also achieved international recognition for my life's work on CLL. I had a couple of extra grandchildren. I joined a small group for Bible study. I watched my children succeed in their chosen careers.

In the world I have watched people get very upset about global warming. I have seen the AIDS epidemic subside slightly under the control of pharmaceutical intervention. I have seen bird flu and swine flu and SARS have a much less severe effect than the media led us to expect. I have watched wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. I have seen Tony Blair and George Bush fall; I have seen Gordon Brown rise and make a hash of almost everything he touches. I have seen Obama triumph and then watched as he disappointed people. I have seen the European Union squelch forward, suffocating all around it.

What effect has the last decade had on me? I have become more skeptical of what I read. I suspect that everything written has an agenda before it, often unconnected to the subject of the article. I am more conscious that we are all sinners. I have become alarmed for the evangelical faith; I suspect that many of the leaders have been 'got at' by unbelievers and compromised their message. I have become less concerned about personal wealth. As I see my children less dependent on me and my accounts all paid, I see no point in earning more. As one of the world's wealthiest 1% I am more concerned for those who have nothing.

I am learning the value of talking to people. Previously I had thought of conversation as a woman's thing. Men talk to communicate information; women talk to transmit mood. Perhaps transmitting mood is more important than I thought.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Leg cramps and CLL

Back in 1972 when I was still a trainee hematologist, my boss, Jeremy Lee Potter, told me that leg cramps were a feature of CLL. I couldn't find any data to establish this so I set about collecting my own. Sure enough, several of my patients complained about leg cramps, although lots of them denied ever having had a leg cramp. Some said that they had never had leg cramps before they had been diagnosed with CLL.

Of course, no study is complete without a control population, so I set about asking other people with hematological diseases of the same age, as well as patients admitted to hospital for routine surgery if they had leg cramps. Unfortunately, it soon transpired that lots of other people had leg cramps too, and I was never going to assemble a large enough population to establish whether or not there was a statistically significant difference in incidence.

I had some ideas about why patients had leg cramps, largely surrounding the enlarged spleen - patients with splenomegaly are known to get ischemic leg ulcers - but I couldn't make it stick.

I explored treatment too, including magnets under the mattress and soap on the sheets, but the one thing that always worked was quinine 200mg at night. I prescribed this for 30 years without mishap, but lately the pharmacologists have advised against it because of the rare occurrence of quinine induced immune thrombocytopenia. The reckon that leg cramps are not severe enough to warrant the tiny risk. I tend to ignore them.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Slaughter of the Innocents

Can anyone out-Herod Herod? At this time of the year Herod makes his most important entrance on to the world stage. He is not known for his construction of the Temple nor for engineering works such as the development of water supplies for Jerusalem, the building fortresses such as Masada and Herodium, and for founding new cities such as Caesarea Maritima. Nor does his claim to fame rest with the murders of several members of his own family, including his wife Mariamne. He is most famous for the murder of several little boys under the age of two in the environs of Bethlehem.

With this in mind I have watched a couple of movies of high quality in recent days.

The first was Changeling directed by Clint Eastwood and starring Angelina Jolie. This is very closely based on a true story from 1928 about the Wineville chicken coup murders in which a Canadian, Gordon Stewart Northcott, kidnapped and molested up to 20 young boys before brutally murdering them. He was assisted by his 13-year-old nephew, Sanford Clark, whom he had also molested and abused. The film focuses on the mother of one of the missing boys, Christine Collins, and her reaction when the LAPD foists on her another child that she knows not to be her son. The film exposes the incompetence and corruption of the LAPD and demonstrates how far we have come today in the treatment of women. In 1928, just a few years after female suffrage, they were treated as empty-headed, emotional, flibbertigibbets, who could be locked up in a psychiatric hospital if they didn't do what a man told them.

Perhaps coyly, no allusion is made to the sexual abuse of the little boys, but the hanging of the perpetrator is shown full-frontal. Eastwood believes that abusers of children are most deserving of the death penalty.

The second film was The boy in the striped pyjamas, directed by Mark Herman and starring David Thewlis and Vera Farmiga. The plot is developed from a novel by John Boyne and is told from the point of view of Brno, a little boy like any English boy of the period (1940). He plays at being a soldier or a airplane pilot, except that he's not English, he's German and his father is the SS Commandant of a Jewish extermination camp. Brno misses his friends when they move out of Berlin, but he finds a mate called Shmuel who like the other people on the 'farm' is dressed in striped pyjamas with a number on them. If the point of The Changeling was to demonstrate that women are people, the point of this film is to demonstrate that Jews are people too.

Brno's family are Christian and you see them a couple of times at prayer, yet they are seemingly unaware of the horror that is being committed in their name. This aspect of the film has been criticized as it seems to exculpate the ordinary German. Gradually it dawns on the Commandants wife what is happening. Meanwhile Brno lives in his own world and one day he digs underneath the wire and dons the striped pyjamas to help Shmuel to hunt for his missing father, with terrible results.

We are all particularly sensitive to the abuse and murder of children and these two films use the murder of children to highlight the plight of others who are oppressed, women and Jews, but by extension they speak to us of all who are subjected to unjust treatment. Few of us will experience the horror of the holocaust or be involved with a pedophile ring that uses 'snuff' killings for sexual gratification, but these horrors are the ultimate extension of the sort of attitudes most of us have to other people. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus equates looking at a woman lustfully with adultery and anger with your brother with murder. Not loving your neighbor as yourself by the same extension arrives at the horrors described in these movies.

Monday, December 21, 2009

The real meaning of Christmas John 1:14

Oliver Cromwell abolished Christmas. Sometimes I can see his point. His problem was that the story of the Nativity had been stirred up with pagan tradition to provide a Christmas pudding that was neither nourishing nor true. He blamed the Roman Catholic Church for this and in part he was right in doing so. Many people would agree that the ‘conversion’ of the Roman Emperor Constantine was a mixed blessing. It might have placed Christianity as the state religion, but this involved adopting the existing pagan beliefs and producing a synthesis that they thought would be acceptable to the multitudes.

As I have stressed before, Father Christmas is a purely Pagan figure, who probably owes most to Odin’s December character, Jul, with a seasoning of Lord Winter from the Saxons and Saturn from the Romans. In fairly recent times he has merged with Santa Claus. St Nicholas himself was a rather murky figure derived from Bishop Nicholas of Myra in modern Turkey. The real Nicholas attended the Council of Nicea in 325 AD and certainly supported orthodox Trinitarian Christianity, but many legends have grown up around him including one of bringing back to life some pickled children. He was only named as a saint in the Nineteenth Century, although, of course, according to the Bible, all Christians are saints.

Our current Christmas celebrations have their recent origins in the Victorian era. Prince Albert brought us Christmas trees from Germany, although there are some that say that they were taken there by a English missionary from this part of the country, Winfrith, who later became St Boniface. Christmas cards are also Victorian and some believe that the whole Christmas tradition really began with Charles Dickens and ‘A Christmas Carol’. The poem by the American Clement Moore, “Twas the night before Christmas” gave us the sleigh and reindeer and Santa coming down the chimney and the American artist for Harper’s Weekly, Thomas Nast, gave us the red coat and white beard.

The commercialisation of Christmas really began in a big way with the appropriation of Santa by Coca Cola in 1931 and it is this that people object to when they ask us to remember the real meaning of Christmas. The whole of December has become one long Christmas celebration (the Romans had the same problem with Saturnalia – Caligula tried to restrict it to 5 days). But what is the ‘real story of Christmas’?

The nativity story that we garner from Sunday School and carols is almost as bogus as the Oxford Street one. ‘We three kings’ says the carol, only they weren’t kings or even wise men by today’s reckoning. Magi – primitive sorcerers or astrologers – are what they were. This little Lord Jesus who ‘no crying he makes’ must have been a strange baby since this is how babies let us know that they want food or changing. The holy couple going from door to door being rebuffed by innkeepers has no basis in Scripture and there was no ox or ass witnessing the holy birth. Manger there might be, but no mention of a stable. And the Magi might have come as late as two years after the shepherds, since Herod killed all the little boys aged two and under, when he calculated when the star first appeared. They came to a house where Mary and Joseph were living. There was no ‘little donkey’ mentioned although a heavily pregnant Mary probably didn’t walk all that way. She may have come in a cart – carpenter Joseph ought to have had the skills to build one.

In any case it certainly didn’t happen on 25th December 1 AD – the December bit was a crude attempt to Christianize a pagan festival and the year a mathematical mistake by Dionysius Exiguus, a Scythian monk. We have two statements about Jesus’ age in the Bible. Luke 3: 23 tells us that he was ‘about thirty years old when he began his ministry’ and John 8:57 has the Jews telling Jesus “you are not yet fifty years old”. In order to accommodate known facts about Jesus’ life – born before Herod died in 4 BC and began his ministry in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius – we have to make ‘about thirty’ mean thirty-something. Lots of thirty-somethings will tell you that they are about thirty. In truth, despite some interesting delving into 2 Chronicles, we do not know precisely when Jesus was born.

Shepherds would not have been out tending their flocks in December, even in Palestine, so ‘See amidst the winter’s snow’ and ‘In the bleak midwinter’ are wrong, and it wasn’t a ‘Silent night’, not with all that angelic singing. We have no evidence of a ‘lowly cattle shed’ and I have never heard a mother giving birth, ‘how silently, how silently’.

So what is the true meaning of Christmas once we strip away the accretions and come to terms with the fact that December is a dark and dreary month in the Northern hemisphere and we could all do with a bit of cheering up? In John’s gospel, there is no Christmas story; no shepherds and angels, no Magi and Herod, yet a marvelous truth is told: ‘the Word became flesh and dwelt among us’.

This ‘Word’ or ‘Logos’ is a mysterious character. He (or it) was with God and was God. Without him (it is a him, then, not an it) nothing was made that has been made. Through him all things were made. He was there at the creation of all things when only God was there! In him was life and that life was the light of men.

How to unpick this! The Word is a person. The Word is Divine. The Word was there from the beginning. The Word is eternal. The Word took part in Creation. Is not God one God? Yet here we have God in two persons (and elsewhere we shall discover that there is a third person) One God, three persons. Blessed Trinity!

In him was (or is) life. The word ‘life’ in this context refers to the whole essence of Godliness: holiness, truth, love, omnipotence, sovereignty. This second person of the Godhead does not differ in his nature in the slightest way from God the Father. Yet, as we shall find elsewhere, he is subordinate to him. This ‘nature of God’ is what was breathed into Adam to give him life; it is the light of men. Since the Fall mankind has become occluded by darkness. Nevertheless the light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome, comprehended, eclipsed it.

John the Baptist bore witness to the light. He himself was not the light, but he brought this message, “The light of the world was coming into the world!”

What was the good news? What is The Gospel? It is this: the Word became flesh.

How could it happen? How is it possible? How could the creator become subject to the whims of his creation?

He is in control – what limits him? He came, not like Superman, with X-ray vision, impervious to bullets and able to leap high buildings with a single stride; rather he came as a vulnerable baby who could have been slaughtered with the other innocents had Herod caught him. Here’s a carol that gets things right, ‘Mild he lays his glory by.’ And here’s another: ‘Thou who was rich beyond all splendor, all for love’s sake becamest poor’. As Paul put it in his letter to the Philippians: ’He did not consider equality with God something to be clung on to, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.’

The incarnation is what we celebrate at Christmas.

There are lots of stories of gods becoming human or even bovine or creaturely in some other way. We rightly hold them to be myths, like Santa coming down chimneys and circumnavigating the world with his magic reindeer in a single night. What makes Jesus different? It is the second half of the sentence. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.

This was not a fleeting visit. He lived before clouds of witnesses. Other children knew him as a boy. He was a lost child in Jerusalem – people would have remembered how worried and panicky Mary and Joseph were when they had all returned a day’s journey back to Nazareth and suddenly found him missing. They would have known his brothers and sisters. He was well known in Nazareth, so much so that when he preached there, his neighbors despised him, “Isn’t this the carpenter?” much as we should say “Why should we listen to the garbage collector lecture us on nuclear physics?”

His brothers, James, Joseph, Judas and Simon were all named. His sisters mingled with the other women of the village. His ministry attracted thousands to follow him and a lot of important people to oppose him.

When these important people finally caught him and killed him people started saying that he had come back to life. At first it was a few women. Who can believe a few gossipy women? Even his friends thought it was a tall story. But then others claimed to have seen him; his close friends at first but then others among his followers until at last he appeared before 500. Mass hysteria? Have you ever been in a crowd of 500? There are always some who don’t go along with the ‘mass hypnosis’. Where were the skeptics?

Of all historical events there are few that are better witnessed. He was in the world and though he had made the world, the world did not recognize him for who he was. Even his close friends were confused. It was only when he conquered death that they began to understand. He was and is the Lord of Glory. And to those who believe he gave the right to become Children of God.

We understand all about birth. We have no need for lectures about the birds and bees. But this birth is different. Jesus called it being born again. John calls it being born of God.

Finally, we have it! The true meaning of Christmas is that it was all a plot. Not the Passover plot that modernists have conjured up; a plot to steal the body and pretend a resurrection. No, this is a plot by God to deceive the Devil. John tells us later in his gospel that Satan entered into Judas to lead him to betray Jesus to the Jewish authorities. “Let us kill the son and take his inheritance”. Jesus had signaled it in the parable of the tenants, but Satan swallowed the bait and got his head crushed as a result.

For us, it was not a plot but a plan; a rescue plan for those who were lost. Christmas was the first step in an audacious salvation. Who but a helpless baby could sneak under the radar; even then it was a close run thing, but Herod’s assassins arrived too late.

The Angels sang, “Glory to God in the highest!” Glory indeed!

For men they also sang, “Peace!” Not just peace among men, but peace with God. Jesus was the instrument of peace, the one who made it possible. John tells us about what happened when John the Baptist baptized Jesus. John recognized Jesus as the Son of God and pointed him out, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” It is the death and resurrection that remove the guilt and power of sin from all believers.

“Now ye need not fear the grave;
Jesus Christ was born to save.
Calls you one and call you all,
To gain his everlasting hall.
Christ was born to save.
Christ was born to save.”

Global warming

In those days before jets, airplanes used to have propellers. Do you know what the propeller was for? Obviously it acted as a fan to keep the pilot cool. You don't believe me? Well, you should see how they start sweating when the propeller stops going round.

I remembered that story when I thought about those huge wind turbines that the Copenhagen lot have been erecting to try and keep the planet cool. Silly! It isn't going to work. What's more it isn't necessary.

I reproduce this graph from Lord Monkton's recent publication to demonstrate what has actually been happening to global temperature in the past 20 years. Everyone goes on about 1998 being the hottest year on record, but this graph shows it to have been an anomaly, not part of the general trend. The fuss of Copenhagen seems to have been an argument over whether future global warming should be kept at 2 degrees for the next century or at 1.5 degrees. The current graph suggests that for the past 5 years it has been running at 0.9 degrees per century.

Coupled with the recent Climategate e-mails, Monkton's publication (he is despised as an amateur by the AGW cabal) surely makes any true scientist suspicious that the carbon dioxide hypothesis might not be correct. Of course the alternate hypothesis is that all those huge propellers in the sky really have been cooling the planet.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Chlorambucil rituximab for CLL

This is an Open-Label Phase II Study to Investigate the Safety and Efficacy of Rituximab Plus Chlorambucil in Previously Untreated Patients with CD20-Positive B-Cell Chronic Lymphocytic Leukaemia (CLL), conducted in the UK and presented at ASH 2009. First author Peter Hillmen.

A planned interim analysis based on the first 50 patients out of the total 100 patients from 12 centres shows the median age to be 70.5 years (range 48–86), 62% were male and 52% had Binet stage C CLL. The most common adverse events were gastrointestinal disorders. There were 25 serious adverse events reported in 17 patients. The most common were infections. Additionally there were 3 episodes of febrile neutropenia – grade 3 or 4 neutropenia was reported in 40% of patients. Overall response rate on an intent-to-treat analysis was 84%. When compared with the well matched subset of Chlorambucil-treated patients from the UK LRF CLL4 study, the overall response rate was 17.3% higher (95% CI 4.7% - 30.0%), indicating that the Chl-R patients have improved responses. Based on this planned interim analysis, the addition of R to Chl is a feasible combination with no unexpected adverse events. The combination of R and Chl was effective for untreated patients with CLL. It is important to note that the median age of patients in this study was considerably greater than the median age of patients in the UK LRF CLL4 and other large trials in CLL, and more representative of the typical age of patients presenting with CLL in the clinic. The combination of R and Chl was well-tolerated and effective for untreated patients with CLL who cannot tolerate a more intensive regimen, and suggest investigation in a Phase III study is warranted.

This is a trial that I have been pushing for some years and I am glad to say that some of the patients that I was dealing with when I was still practising have been entered into it.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Christmas game.

Here is a game to play at Christmas. Take the first line of any Christmas song and write a new second line. The funnier the better.

For example: 'Deck the halls with boughs of holly' might be followed with 'another year of Christmas folly' or 'Santa's fallen off his trolley'.

Christmas preparations

This has been a busy week. At the weekend we attended two carol services, one at Winchester Cathedral and one at Lansdowne Baptist Church. On Monday I finished off my Christmas shopping, then on Tuesday I visited my 90 year old mother to take up the Christmas presents for my family and in the evening I attended the Tenovus Christmas dinner.

Tenovus is a cancer charity founded in Wales in 1943. Ten business men decided to raise money as a medical charity after visiting a friend in hospital. They called themselves ten-of-us, hence Tenovus. As well as a research institute in Cardiff, in 1970 they built research labs in Southampton. It was here that I did most of my CLL research over the year and the idea for monoclonal antibody treatment of CLL began. Rituximab, Campath and all the other monoclonals had their genesis there. In later years we did the work that established IGVH mutations there and developed the idea of cancer vaccines. In 1978 I founded a local branch of Tenovus here and over the years we have raised over $5 million for cancer research. Most of this has come from legacies, of course, but we have organized an awful lot of coffee mornings, sales of work, raffles and auctions. This was the 31st Tenovus Christmas dinner. We were entertained, as usual, by the beautiful voices of the Bournemouth Gilbert and Sullivan singers, singing Christmas carols.

On Wednesday afternoon I spent all afternoon broadcasting on Hope FM, the local Christian Community Radio Channel. I was able to give my testimony, read a Christmas poem, tell a few jokes and send out a couple of thoughts for the day. The audience ranges from a few hundred to a few thousand. The DJ for the afternoon is a local pastor who is also a water engineer, and regularly takes gifts to Africa - mainly water purification plants, that cannot be converted into Presidential Mercedes by the ruling cleptocracy.

On Thursday I went out to buy our Christmas tree. Normally at this time of the year, since we are so near the New Forest, Christmas Trees are for sale in every pub car park at knock down prices. I bought one there last year, but it was so bereft of pine needles that I was teased that I had imported it from Chernobyl. This year almost everybody had sold out. I was forced to go to a garden center and paid five times what I paid last year. Mind you, it is a very fine tree, seven feet tall and thick with branches and very dark needles. However it does not perfume the house with pine the way that last year's did. In the afternoon we spent the time decorating it. The glass baubles that are so prominent, derive from glass candle holders from Martin Luther's day. They were there to prevent the rats climbing up and eating the tallow. No candles on our tree. The three sets of lights that flash and flicker have lasted for three Christmases now without failing. Some things get better. The Angel at the top of the tree must be 35 years old, and various odd decorations are mementos of our children's school life.

Yesterday evening I went out carol singing with the church. We gathered in the Square in the center of Bournemouth. There were loads of shoppers walking by and many stopped for a chocolate and a chat. I was quite hoarse after an hour. It was a very cold night; out exhaled breath inscribed surtitles for those who could not hear.

Today we went to Marks and Spencer's to buy Christmas cakes for our visitors next week. And that is us almost finished. We still have to buy and cook the turkey, but all the presents are bought and wrapped. The cards are hanging over the hearth. WE will have another carol service on Sunday when our daughter will arrive as our first visitor. Our second son will come on Christmas eve and our other daughter on Christmas day. In the week after Christmas my other son will come with his family to stay.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Rage against the machine

There is a great shortage of speech programs on the radio. In England we have two, provided by the BBC, Radio 4 and Radio 5. This morning on Radio 5 live an American rock group called 'Rage against the Machine' were invited to perform live on the airwaves. I didn't hear them, but there has been a public outcry because the song they shouted out contains in its lyrics certain swear words.

It seems that the BBC were very naive to think that they would refrain from swearing on air. I heard an excerpt of their performance later (without teh swear words), and I have to say that the noise they made bears no resemblance to what I would call music, but nevertheless I object. Not to the lyrics, which I never heard and therefore cannot have been offended by, but to the encroachment of pop music onto speech programs. Is there not enough pop music on the airwaves? Please BBC, give us our sanctuary for speech.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Aphorisms 7

The quality of a movie is inversely proportional to the number of
helicopters in it.

The one thing that unites all human beings, regardless of age,
gender, religion, economic status or ethnic background, is that, deep
down inside, we ALL believe that we are above-average drivers.

There is a very fine line between "hobby" and "mental illness."

If you had to identify, in one word, the reason why the human race
has not achieved, and never will achieve, its full potential, that
word would be "meetings."

The main accomplishment of almost all organized protests is to
annoy people who are not in them.

You should not confuse your career with your life.

A person who is nice to you, but rude to the waiter, is
not a nice person.

On the other hand, you have different fingers.

Disneyland: A people trap operated by a mouse.

Common Sense Isn't.

Sooner or later, EVERYONE stops smoking.

Light travels faster than sound.
This is why some people appear bright until you hear them speak.

The best way to save face is to keep the lower part shut.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

A beautiful woman. 1 Peter 3:3-6

Thinking back to last week's study on the submission or wives, I came across this:

Put another log on the fire.
Cook me up some bacon and some beans.
And go out to the car and change the tyre.
Wash my socks and sew my old blue jeans.
Come on, Baby!

Now, don't I let you wash the car on Sundays?
Don't I warn you when you're getting fat?
Ain't I gonna take you fishin' some day?
A man can't love his wife more than that!

Ain't I always nice to your kid sister?
Don't I take her drivin' every night?
So, sit here at my feet
'Cause I like you when you're sweet.
And you know it ain’t feminine to fight!
Come on, Baby!

You can fill my pipe. And then go fetch my slippers.
And boil me up another pot of tea.
Then put another log on the fire, Babe.
And come and tell me why you're leavin' me.

Is that your idea of submission? Let me warn you, that is a few verses time Peter will be dealing with husbands.

Meanwhile here are some suggestions from John Piper on what submission is not:
(1) Submission does not mean agreeing with everything your husband says. If as Peter surmises the husband is not a Christian, he will often have a different world view, so submission can't mean submitting to agree with all her husband thinks.
(2) Submission does not mean leaving your brain or your will at the wedding altar. Peter does not tell her to retreat from her commitment to Christ.
(3) Submission does not mean avoiding every effort to change a husband. Peter goes on to say that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives.
(4) Submission does not mean putting the will of the husband before the will of Christ. There is a system of priorities: submission to Jesus relativizes submission to husbands—and governments and employers and parents.
(5) Submission does not mean that a wife gets her personal, spiritual strength primarily through her husband. If he is a Christian a good husband should indeed strengthen and build up and sustain his wife. Verse five says that her hope is in God in the hope that her husband will join her there.
(6) Finally submission does not mean that a wife is to act out of fear. Verse 6b says, "You are her [Sarah's] children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening." Submission is free, not coerced by fear. The Christian woman is a free woman. When she submits to her husband—whether he is a believer or unbeliever—she does it in freedom, not out of fear.

But today's study is on what makes a beautiful woman: 1 Peter 3:3-6 Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight. For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful. They were submissive to their own husbands, like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her master. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear.

We have a distorted view of beauty today. Have you been following the Tiger Woods saga? Every day another woman crawls out of the woodpile. They all look very much the same - blonde, buxom, thick-lipped and provocative. Young girls starve themselves to achieve the Victoria Beckham look. Others have plastic surgery or liposuction, or spend a fortune on skin creams with pseudo-scientific names for ingredients that in reality cost tuppence a ton. Someone should tell them you can't get beauty from a bottle.

Do you remember the film Sunset Boulevard? It was about the beautiful film star who had become 'past-her-prime'. We recognize the symptom in women. I am old enough to have seen the pretty young things on television become wrinkled old ladies playing grannies on the soaps. But what about William Holden? The bright young bachelor was featured in a BMJ as an example of how smoking turns your skin into parchment with as many wrinkles as an elephant's trunk.

There is nothing wrong with trying to look your best, but do it appropriately. Short skirts on fat thighs are repulsive no matter what your age. Gold rings with large diamonds can't hide arthritic knuckles.

If we look for beauty in physical appearance, it will soon fade. What will you do then, husband. Trade in your wife like you trade in your car? What will you do to stop him, wife? Cover yourself with gold and fine jewels? Bathe in ass's milk? Buy your clothes at more expensive shops? Color your hair with the latest shade?
Instead, your beauty should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit.

You see, true beauty does not fade with age. As you grow older you become wiser. Men of fifty don't put up with simpering teenagers for long. If you saw the Steve Martin movie 'LA Story' you will remember how Martin, who must have been past 40, takes up with a a roller-skating, gum-chewing youngster. It was horrible!

It is possible for Christians to go to far the other way on this. Culture is important. At our church in the 1970s we used to see holidaymakers from Northern Ireland attend in the summer months. They used to dress in the fashion of the 1950s. Now they may have felt comfortable, but was it a good witness? Children of Christians often leave the church when they first go to University. One of the reasons for this is that they see their church as hopelessly old-fashioned. Believe it or not, even the dress of Church of England vicars was fashionable once. I'm not sure whether that was in the sixteenth century or the seventeenth century! We mistake culture for good behavior. A ban on television, cinema, dancing and pop music doesn't make young people more holy.

So how do you make yourself beautiful? Cultivate a gentle and quiet spirit, but don't become a doormat. I am amazed that so few Christian women have read the last chapter of the Book of Proverbs. Read there about a paragon of wifely virtue. You may not be able to live up to such an ideal. Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Here is a paraphrase from The Message:

A good woman is hard to find, and worth far more than diamonds.
Her husband trusts her without reserve, and never has reason to regret it.
Never spiteful, she treats him generously all her life long.

She shops around for the best yarns and cottons, and enjoys knitting and sewing.
She's like a trading ship that sails to faraway places and brings back exotic surprises.

She's up before dawn, preparing breakfast for her family and organizing her day.
She looks over a field and buys it, then, with money she's put aside, plants a garden. First thing in the morning, she dresses for work, rolls up her sleeves, eager to get started. She senses the worth of her work, is in no hurry to call it quits for the day.

She's skilled in the crafts of home and hearth, diligent in homemaking.
She's quick to assist anyone in need, reaches out to help the poor.
She doesn't worry about her family when it snows; their winter clothes are all mended and ready to wear. She makes her own clothing, and dresses in colorful linens and silks.

Her husband is greatly respected when he deliberates with the city fathers.
(Who wouldn't be with a wife like that!)

She designs gowns and sells them, brings the sweaters she knits to the dress shops.
Her clothes are well-made and elegant, and she always faces tomorrow with a smile.
When she speaks she has something worthwhile to say, and she always says it kindly.

She keeps an eye on everyone in her household, and keeps them all busy and productive. Her children respect and bless her; her husband joins in with words of praise: "Many women have done wonderful things, but you've outclassed them all!"

Charm can mislead and beauty soon fades. The woman to be admired and praised is the woman who lives in the Fear-of-God. Give her everything she deserves! Festoon her life with praises!

Sunday, December 13, 2009


Some 35 miles from here, our local cathedral is Winchester. Yesterday we went to the Lord Lieutenant's Carol Concert at Winchester Cathedral. Winchester has one of the most magnificent cathedrals in the world. It is also one of the largest cathedrals in England, with the longest nave and overall length of any Gothic cathedral in Europe. The cathedral was originally founded in 642 AD on an immediately adjoining site to the north. This building was known as the Old Minster. Saint Swithun was buried in it, before being moved to the new Norman cathedral. Mortuary chests containing the remains of Saxon kings such as King Eadwig of England, first buried in the Old Minster, and his wife Ælfgifu, are also housed in the present cathedral. The Old Minster was demolished in 1093.

Construction of the Norman cathedral began in 1079 and completed in 1093. The crypt of the present building dates from that time. William II (William Rufus, shot with an arrow while hunting in the nearby New Forest - perhaps murdered) of England and his older brother, Richard, Duke of Bernay are both buried in the cathedral. The squat, square crossing, Norman-looking tower was begun in 1202. Work continued on the cathedral during the 14th to the 16th centuries. During the early part of the last century waterlogging of the foundations threatened to bring the cathedral down. A deep well was sunk to the foundations of the south and east walls and a diver, William Walker, descended and packed the foundations with more than 25,000 bags of concrete, 115,000 concrete blocks and 900,000 bricks. He worked six hours a day from 1906 to 1912 in total darkness at depths up to 6 metres, and is credited with saving the cathedral from total collapse.

The Cathedral is certainly an impressive place, but the acoustics are dreadful. They are fine for choral music, but it was hard to listen to speech from the pulpit because of the echoes. I begin to understand now why the High Church has beautiful music and short sermonettes.

The music was performed by the Choristers of Winchester Cathedral, directed by Andrew Lumsden, with the baritone Stephen Gadd. The congregation sang O come all ye faithful, God rest you merry gentlemen, O little town of Bethlehem and Hark the herald angels sing. The pieces for the choir included In the bleak midwinter, Ding dong! merrily on high, Bethlehem Down, Carol of the bells, Britten's This little babe, Wither's Rocking Carol, Tomorrow shall be my dancing day, and Vaughan Williams's Fantasia on Christmas Carols.

The Winchester choristers should not be confused with the Winchester Quiristers, though both attend the same choir school. The Pilgrims' School is home to two professional choirs, the Winchester Cathedral Choristers and the Quiristers of the Winchester College chapel choir.

There are twenty-two Boy Choristers. they are all boarders at the highly acclaimed Pilgrims' School, from which the majority of them gain musical scholarships to the next school. They sing an average of six services each week during choir term time. There are twenty Girl Choristers, who sing one service a week during choir term time. They rehearse at two other times during the week and are given help with the costs of instrumental tuition. Both treble lines sing with twelve adult singers, the Lay Clerks, music professionals from a wide variety of backgrounds.

Auditions to join the choir are held on a single day - in November for boys and February for girls. Openings for lay clerks are advertised when they are available.

On 28 March 1394 William of Wykeham formally opened his college at Winchester with 70 poor scholars, a warden, headmaster and second master, ten priest-fellows, three chaplains, three lay clerks, 10 commoners (that is, those who paid for their commons) and 16 quiristers. The quiristers had to be paupers and under 12 years old, well mannered and with an ability to sing. They were to be eligible for Winchester college scholarships and would have a free education under a chaplain or other teacher in return for their singing. Today Winchester College is one of the most expensive Public (ie private) schools in England. In prestige it rivals Eton, in scholarship it surpasses it.

The most famous teacher at the school was William Whiting (1825-1878). He had charge of the school 150 years ago. He was waiting at Southampton docks for the return of a friend on the ship, The Great Western, from America. The Channel and Southampton Water had been beset by the sort of fierce storms that are common in November (just as we have had in the past few weeks and no, they are not due to global warming). Many ships had foundered. In response, he penned a poem that he gave to his friend when he returned to America. Two years later John Bacchus Dykes set it to music. It has become quite well known.

Eternal Father, strong to save,
Whose arm hath bound the restless wave,
Who biddest the mighty ocean deep
Its own appointed limits keep;
Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee,
For those in peril on the sea!

O Christ! Whose voice the waters heard
And hushed their raging at Thy Word,
Who walked on the foaming deep,
And calm amidst its rage didst sleep;
Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee,
For those in peril on the sea!

Most Holy Spirit! Who didst brood
Upon the chaos dark and rude,
And bid its angry tumult cease,
And give, for wild confusion, peace;
Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee,
For those in peril on the sea!

O Trinity of love and power!
Our family shield in danger’s hour;
From rock and tempest, fire and foe,
Protect us wheresoever we go;
Thus evermore shall rise to Thee
Glad hymns of praise from land and sea.

John Betjeman's Christmas

The bells of waiting Advent ring,
The Tortoise stove is lit again
And lamp-oil light across the night
Has caught the streaks of winter rain.
In many a stained-glass window sheen
From Crimson Lake to Hooker's Green.

The holly in the windy hedge
And round the Manor House the yew
Will soon be stripped to deck the ledge,
The altar, font and arch and pew,
So that villagers can say
'The Church looks nice' on Christmas Day.

Provincial public houses blaze
And Corporation tramcars clang,
On lighted tenements I gaze
Where paper decorations hang,
And bunting in the red Town Hall
Says 'Merry Christmas to you all'

And London shops on Christmas Eve
Are strung with silver bells and flowers
As hurrying clerks the City leave
To pigeon-haunted classic towers,
And marbled clouds go scudding by
The many-steepled London sky.

And girls in slacks remember Dad,
And oafish louts remember Mum,
And sleepless children's hearts are glad,
And Christmas morning bells say 'Come!'
Even to shining ones who dwell
Safe in the Dorchester Hotel.

And is it true? and is it true?
The most tremendous tale of all,
Seen in a stained-glass window's hue,
A Baby in an ox's stall?
The Maker of the stars and sea
Become a Child on earth for me?

And is it true? For if it is,
No loving fingers tying strings
Around those tissued fripperies,
The sweet and silly Christmas things,
Bath salts and inexpensive scent
And hideous tie so kindly meant.

No love that in a family dwells,
No carolling in frosty air,
Nor all the steeple-shaking bells
Can with this single Truth compare -
That God was Man in Palestine
And lives to-day in Bread and Wine.

Betjeman was a strange man. In himself he was short and ugly, and he was a romantic dweller in the same imaginary world as Agatha Christie and Enid Blyton. But his poetry, while written in a traditional form had an immediacy that caught the imagination of ordinary people. We think of it now, as of a period, but it was written in that period and caught the atmosphere magnificently. He recognized the need to set it in real places, London shops, The Dorchester hotel, Slough that isn't fit for humans now, Aldershot sun, and anchor it in the experiences of ordinary people - who hasn't received a hideous tie, so kindly meant?

He was a High Anglican - typical of his social class and generation - with a simple faith, but in this poem in a gentle way he separates the nostalgia from the reality. Jesus Christ was God and he really did intervene in Time at a particular Place. We may not have the date right - December 25th in the year zero does not exist - but there was a Day and a Date.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

More fun

I had my swine 'flu jab on Thursday. My arm was a lot sorer than with the seasonal 'flu jab and I had a headache and painful joints yesterday. Today I am fine again. Because I am supposedly immunodeficient I have to have a booster jab at the beginning of January.

This evening we are going to the carol concert at Winchester Cathedral (where Jane Austen is buried.)

I have finished writing all my Christmas cards this morning. Here is a tip for all those who think that cards have got ridiculously expensive. A birthday card nowadays seems to cost at least £1.50 and often as much as £2.50. It seems an awful waste, especially for something so ephemeral. You could, instead, send electronic cards which are remarkably cheap and the same card can be sent to as many as you like. Alternatively, go to a bookshop or any store that sells gift tokens. Buy a token for £1 and you get a free card with it. I don't suggest that you pocket the token and just send the card, but just imagine that 10 people had the same idea. The lucky birthday girl would have £10 to spend when the cards came down, instead of some cardboard to send to the recycling. Put a little note in saying you don't expect a thank-you note or all the profit will be consumed by the postage. I am told that this is how George Soros got so rich, but, of course, I don't believe it.

Talking about thank you notes, perhaps you will like this little poem by Mick Gower:

Dear Auntie
Oh, what a nice jumper
I've always adored powder blue
And fancy you thinking of
Orange and pink
for the stripes
How clever of you!

Dear Uncle
The soap is
And such a kind thought and
How did you guess that
I'd just used the last of
The soap that last Christmas brought.

Dear Gran
Many thanks for the hankies
Now I really can't wait for the flu
And the daisies embroidered
in red round the 'M'
For Michael
Thoughtful of you!

Dear Cousin
What socks!
The same sort you wear
So you must be
The last word in style
And I'm certain you're right that the
Luminous green
Will make me stand out a mile.

Dear Sister
I quite understand
It's a risk sending jam in the post
But I think I've pulled out
All the big bits
Of glass
So it won't taste too sharp
Spread on toast.

Dear Grandad
Don't fret
I'm delighted
So don't think your gift will offend
I'm not at all hurt
That you gave up this year
And just sent me
A fiver
To spend.

Friday, December 11, 2009


Round 1
Question 1 d] green
Question 2 d] Thomas Nast in Harper's Weekly
Question 3 b] Father Christmas is pagan; Santa Claus Christian.

Today there has been a conflating of Father Christmas and Santa Claus - largely deriving from the US where there has been a mixing of various European history and folklore. It's not just England that Father Christmas is predominant; in France (a Catholic country) he is Pere Noel. Other countries have different traditions: Kriss Kringle in Germany, La Befana in Italy, Julinesse in Denmark and Dedushka Moroz (meaning Grandfather Frost) in Russia. The British Father Christmas appears as a pagan figure in the middle ages. Portrayed as a merry old man he was associated with feasting and drinking and the pagan festival of Yule. He had an entirely separate origin from Sinterklaas, a version of St Nicholas, and he was definitely not a gift-giver.

The earliest reference to him as Sir Christëmas comes in a mid-fifteenth century carol. He appears again as Old or Captaine Christmas in Ben Johnson's play Christmas, his Masque, which was first presented at the Court of King James I in 1616. Christmas was described as being attired "... in round Hose, long Stockings, a close Doublet, a high crownd Hat with a Brooch, a long thin beard, a Truncheon, little Ruffes, white Shoes, his Scarffes, and Garters tyed crosse, and his Drum beaten before him."

The Romans brought Saturnalia to Britain in AD 43, and Father Christmas and December 25th probably originate here. When the Saxons invaded at the start of the Seventh Century their custom of personifying the weather elements: King Frost, Father Time, King Winter or Lord Snow was merged with the Roman god of winter. An actor in a pointed cap and cloak or cape, and draped with Ivy would represent the Season, and would be invited to a midwinter feast, made the center of attraction while toasted with mead. Two hundred years later the Vikings brought with them their main god Odin, who had twelve characters. The character for December was sometimes known as Yalka or Jul and his month was known as Jultid. From this, we get Yuletide. During December the Vikings believed that Odin would come to earth on his eight legged horse, Sleipnir. He was disguised in a long blue hooded cloak, and he carried a satchel of bread and a staff. He was believed to sit and listen to his people and see if they were contented or not. He was portrayed as a Sage with long white beard and hair.

With the Normans came St. Nicholas a Christian saint popular in Europe from the ninth century. Born at the end of the Third Century AD Nicholas was Bishop of Myra in Asia Minor, the city now known as Demre, Turkey, and attended the Council of Nicea in 325 AD. He died on 6th December 343 AD. He was a devout orthodox Christian. After his death many legends accrued concerning him. He became Patron Saint of Russia and Greece, of Moscow, Paris, and Fribourg (Switzerland); of pilgrims and preachers, infants and children, orphans, scholars and students, spinsters and many others.

The cult of St Nicholas eventually rivalled that of the Virgin Mary in many regions. One popular tale was of his rescue from death of three children, who had been pickled for eating by an innkeeper. When combined with his reputation as a gift-giver, all the key elements were in place for the transformation of St Nicholas into the modern giver-of-gifts to children. The most significant manifestation of this, from the perspective of Santa Claus, is the Dutch Sinterklaas. Whilst Sinterklaas clearly derives from St Nicholas and his feast-day of the 6 December, he differs from the earlier portraits of St Nicholas in a number of ways, not least in his flying white horse, evidence that even he has been contaminated by pagan legends.

Despite strenuous efforts were made by the puritans in both England and America in the seventeenth century to do away with this character, they did not succeed. From the 17th - 19th century country mummers plays kept Father Christmas alive in Britain. With the removal of religious popery, the saintly bishop was replaced by the half pagan impersonation of the Element or Season of Christmas.

In the nineteenth century Father Christmas benefited from the general Victorian revival of Christmas and can be found in, for example, Dickens' Christmas Carol.
In the Christmas Carol, Scrooge is confronted by the a strange spirit: "I am the Ghost of Christmas Present," said the Spirit. "Look upon me."

Scrooge reverently did so. It was clothed in one simple green robe, or mantle, bordered with white fur. This garment hung so loosely on the figure, that its capacious breast was bare, as if disdaining to be warded or concealed by any artifice. Its feet, observable beneath the ample folds of the garment, were also bare; and on its head it wore no other covering than a holly wreath, set here and there with shining icicles. Its dark brown curls were long and free; free as its genial face, its sparkling eye, its open hand, its cheery voice, its unconstrained demeanor, and its joyful air. Girded round its middle was an antique scabbard; but no sword was in it, and the ancient sheath was eaten up with rust.

However, from the 1870s onwards Father Christmas became increasingly like the American Santa Claus, both in terms of his actions - he started giving gifts - and his appearance, with the result that for most people the two are nowadays virtually inter-changeable. The transformation of Saint Nicholas into Father Christmas occurred first in England, then in countries where the Reformed Churches were in the majority, and finally in France, the feast day being celebrated on Christmas or New Year's Day.

Santa first became airborne in the early 1820s and he was joined by the full crew of reindeer in 1822, in the poem A Visit from St Nicholas, by Clement Clarke Moore. Red-nosed Rudolph did not join the reindeer team until 1939.

Moore's poem which begins with the line "'Twas the night before Xmas," introduces many of the familiar characteristics that make up the modern Santa. Mentioned for the first time are not only the sleigh and the sack of toys but also the chimney, the red nose and the big belly.

The modern image of Santa comes from the work of Thomas Nast, an artist who drew for the magazine Harpers Weekly. He painted Santa from 1863 to 1886 and in 1869 illustrated a book called Santa Claus and His Works. The book showed how Santa manufactured toys for boys and girls at his home at the North Pole. Although originally portrayed in a brown furry coat (and wearing the Stars and Stripes - this being the time of the Civil War and Santa was definitely on the Unionist side) by the time of the 1869 book he had donned his familiar red coat.
In the 20th century, an all-red outfit with white trimmings became the norm, especially after a Coca-Cola advertising campaign exploited his figure in 1931. The artist, the Swede Haddon Sundblom, also gave him a drooping tassled red cap like those associated with elves and gnomes.

Robin Redbreast stems from the same pagan tradition as Father Christmas. The Oak King rules from midwinter until midsummer, and the Holly King rules from midsummer until midwinter. Every year at Yule, the Oak King cuts off the Holly King's head and rules for six months until midsummer, when the Holly King kills the Oak King and the cycle begins again. In Celtic tradition, Yule is the time when the Oak King triumphs over the Holly King. The Holly King represents the death and darkness that has ruled since the onset of Samhain. At Winter Solstice, the Oak King brings the opportunity to be reborn and begin new life. The Yule Season raises one's spirit and brings tidings of comfort and joy. The ritual hunting and killing of a Wren, little King of the Waning Year, symbolises the killing by Robin Redbreast, King of the Waxing Year. The Robin finds the Wren hiding in an Ivy or sometimes Holly bush.

Question 4 c] Hogfather presided over Hogwatch.

Round 2 Reindeer.

Question 1 b] The poem "Twas the night before Christmas" The names were Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner and Blitzen.
Question 2 b] All of them. Reindeer are the only species of deer where both male and female have antlers, but males shed theirs in October or November, so by Christmas only females have them. Santas reindeer always have antlers according to the illustrations.
Question 3 b] A give-away advertising feature by the Montgomery-Ward department store.

The popular poem was alternatively known as 'A Visit from St Nicholas?' and 'Twas The Night before Christmas' (it's first line). The poem was first published anonymously in 1823 and is commonly attributed to Clement Clarke Moore, although some believe Henry Livingston was the true author.

The song 'Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer' was written by Johnny Marks, the brother-in-law of its creator. Rudolph was created in 1939 by copywriter Robert May for the Montgomery Ward department store chain in a free Christmas promotional story. He later cast it as a poem to extend the Clement Clarke Moore 1823 poem. It was first sung commercially by crooner Harry Brannon on New York City radio in the latter part of 1948 before Gene Autry recorded it formally in 1949. The lyric "All of the other reindeer" can be misheard as the mondegreen "Olive, the other reindeer", and has given rise to another character, Olive. Johnny Marks also wrote Rockin' around the Christmas tree, a hit for Brenda Lee.

Question 4 c] 4 wild boar called Gouger, Tusker, Snouter and Rooter.

The elephants carry Discworld on their backs while balancing on a giant turtle. The hippopotamus is too ridiculous not to appear in Terry Pratchett. We have The Hippo: A lozenge-shaped road in Morpork between Five Ways and Losing Street, heading for Onion Gate. Even nearby residents, without the benefit of an aerial view, tend to assume that it is named after the city's famous hippopotami. Its shape suggests it was probably a racetrack in the days of the Empire, probably called the Hippodrome, in the Ephebian fashion. Binkey is, of course, DEATH's horse, Broomstick what the witches fly on, Snowdrop is the pen name of someone on Terry Pratchett fan sites and Susan Sto Helit is the daughter of Mort and Ysabell. Ysabell was the adopted daughter of DEATH and Mort was, briefly, DEATH's apprentice.

Round 3 Turkeys.
Question 1 c] The turkey was brought to England via teh Levant which was then part of the Turkish Empire.
Question 2 f] All of the above
Question 3 a] India
Question 4 c] tuppence each.

There are a number of possibilities on why turkeys are called turkeys. Some say Columbus thought the land he discovered was connected to India which had a large population of peacocks. Columbus thought turkeys were part of the peacock family. He decided to call them tuka, which is the word for peacock in the language of India.
Others say that the name turkey came from Native Americans who called the birds firkee, which sounds like turkey. Some say that turkey name came from the sound turkeys make when they are afraid - "turk, turk, turk."

These are all fairy stories. The English were the only people to believe they came from Turkey; nearly everyone else, including the Turks, thought they originated in India, or at least in the place they then thought was India. Turkeys actually came from Mexico and Guatamala, and were first brought back from there about 1520, at a time when that area was called The Spanish Indies or the New Indies. As a result, a lot of European languages, as well as others like Arabic and Hebrew, called it something like the “bird of India” (for example, indianischer Hahn in old German). In a few languages, including Danish, Dutch, Finnish and Norwegian, the bird was named instead as coming from Calicut (Dutch kalkoense hahn, Danish kalkun), which is a seaport on the Malabar coast of India, the same place after which calico is named. As the turkey didn’t reach India for about a hundred years after its European introduction and naming, this looks mysteriously specific. At about the same time, the 1530s, Portuguese merchants reintroduced the guinea-fowl from West Africa, which had last been seen in England at the time of the Romans. As it was the same Levant merchants who brought this into the country, the guinea fowl was also known for a time as the Turkey bird, though this confusion didn’t last long. The heraldic arms granted to William Strickland in 1550 featured “a turkey-bird in his pride proper” and the bird shown is quite definitely a proper turkey. To confuse thing further, in Portugese the bird is called 'peru' even though there are no turkeys in Peru except for those taken there to be eaten. Israel is the country that eats more turkeys per head than any other nation; perhaps because they call pork, turkey?

The Aztecs, who kept domesticated turkeys for hundreds of years before the Europeans arrived, had a perfectly good word for the bird in their Nahuatl language: xuehxolotl, but I've already fractured my tongue twice in trying to pronounce it. The country was already called "Turki" or "Turkeye" in English by 1275, hundreds of years before the bird was known in the Old World. So why was it called "turkey" in English? Probably because it was introduced to England by so-called "Turkey merchants" who traded with the Mediterranean region, including the Ottoman Empire (which then controlled the eastern third of that sea). A similar confusion caused another New World species, maize or corn, to be called "Turkey wheat" or "Turkey corn" in England.

Wild American turkeys (silvestris, or cousins of the huexoloti) were sleek and ravenous scavenging birds that raced from one meal to another eating nuts, seeds, berries, grapes, snails, crickets, beetles, and delicate shoots arising from many cultivated crops. Resistant to control or reproduction in captivity, they were notorious enemies of proud farmers. Fleet afoot, able to fly short distances, and properly cooked a tasty dish, they lack the proper manners to live in an agricultural society. They were, in fact, killed everywhere by European colonists as nuisance birds.

English settlers in both Virginia and Massachusetts, spoiled with the familiar, though less tasty big birds that came from the mediterranean region, immediately demanded to bring their own turkeys to America. English turkeys deriving from Europe arrived in Jamestown in 1614 and in Massachusetts prior to 1629. As European settlements spread, so did their flocks (the proper collective noun is 'rafters') of domestic turkeys. They had the great advantage of scavaging for beetles that threatened to destroy the tobacco crop. The wild cousins of the huexoloti that once inhabited most of North America retreated to more congenial frontiers--as did their native names. Thanksgiving turkeys eaten every November in America are descended not from native wild turkeys, but from the European imports, which have been selectively bred, so that the males, being so fat and barrel chested can no longer mate with the females. All turkeys are now produced by artificial insemination.

Round 4 Christmas songs
Question 1 b] The Beatles in 1963, 1964, 1965 and 1967.
Question 2 b] I love You in 1960
Question 3 e] Grandad by Clive Dunn (You were probably thinking of "There's no-one quite like Grandma" a hit for St Winifred's School choir in 1980.)
Question 4 c] Dire Straits

Round 5 It happened at Christmas
Question 1 a] Charlie Chaplin died on Christmas Day 1977. The USSR ended on December 26th 1991, The Curies announced the discovery of Radium on December 26th 1891 and Christmas disease (a type of hemophilia occuring in a family called Christmas was published in the Christmas BMJ the week before Christmas 1947.
Question 2 a] 1813. In 1564, archery and dancing took place on the Thames, but the first real 'frost fair' came in 1683. The river froze over in December, and stayed frozen for two months. Because only prolonged and severe winters could make the Thames freeze over, frost fairs were quite rare. However, fairs took place in 1715-16, 1739-40 and 1813-14. The frost fair of 1813-14 was the last. In 1831 the old London Bridge was replaced by John Rennie's new bridge. This had far wider arches, which improved the tidal ebb and flow of the river and made it impossible for the Upper Pool to freeze over, even during the most severe winters. Nothing to do with Global Warming.

Question 3 d] Pope Pius XII (It was Pope Pius VI)
Question 4 Britain changed from the Julian to the Gregorian Calender in 1752, so that Christmas came 11 days earlier. January is colder than December in England.

Round 6 Carols
Q1 Thou didst leave thy throne.
Q2 Good Christian men rejoice
Q3 Christians awake
Q4 See amidst the winter's snow
Q5 In the bleak midwinter
Q6 O little town of Bethlehem
Q7 As with gladness
Q8 Let heaven and earth combine
Q9 Hark the herald angels
Q10 Joy to the world
Q11 In the bleak midwinter
Q12 O holy night.

Anybody get it all right?

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Christmas Quiz

Here is my Christmas Quiz for this year.

Round 1 Father Christmas

Question 1. What colour coat did the original Father Christmas have?

a] silver
b] red
c] brown
d] green

Question 2 How did Santa Claus get his red coat? Was it:

a] Because he derives from the story of Robin Redbreast – the robin, of course has a red breast?
b] Because he featured in a Coca Cola advert from 1931 drawn by Haddon Sundblom who put him in Coca Cola livery?
c] As St Nicolas and Bishop of Smyrna he wore a Cardinal’s red robe
d] Thomas Nast a civil war artist drew him for Harper’s weekly for 30 years from 1862 and gradually changed the colour from brown to red.

Question3. Which is true?

a] Father Christmas and Santa Claus are the same person.
b] Father Christmas is from a pagan tradition; Santa Claus is from a Christian tradition.
c] Father Christmas is the protestant name and Santa Claus the Catholic name
d] Father Christmas traditionally brings gifts for children.

Question 4. Father Christmas features in books by JR Tolkien and CS Lewis. In the Terry Pratchett Discworld books there is a Father Christmas-like figure.

a] Father Pig
b] Rinceweed
c] Hogfather
d] Father Mincemeat

Round 2. Reindeer.

Question 1 We know the names from
a] The venerable Bede
b] The poem ‘Twas the night before Christmas’
c] The film ‘The nightmare before Christmas’
d] The song ‘Rudolf the red-nosed reindeer’

Question 2 Which of the reindeer were female?
a] None of them.
b] All of them.
c] Vixen and Cupid.
d] Rudolph

Question 3 Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer first appeared in

a] A song by Gene Autry in 1949
b] A give-away advertising feature by the Montgomery Ward Department store in 1939
c] A poem by Robert May in 1941
d] The film “A Miracle on 34th Street in 1947

Question 4 In Terry Pratchett’s Hogfather the sleigh is pulled by

a] 4 reindeer called Thunder, Lightning, Rudoph and Olive
b] 4 elephants called Tusker, Trunker, Thunder and Trumpeter
c] 4 wild boar called Gouger, Tusker, Snouter and Rooter
d] 4 hippopotamuses called Binkey, Broomstick, Snowdrop and Susan

Round 3 Turkeys

Question 1 Turkeys are so called

a] After the country
b] The country is called after the bird (it used to be called Osman.)
c] The turkey was brought to England via the Levant which was then part of the Turkish Empire.
d] From the noise it makes which sounds like turk, turk, turk.
e] Christopher Columbus adapted the Indian word for them which was Firkin pronounced something like turkey.

Question 2. Before we had turkeys at Christmas we used to eat

a] Chicken
b] Pheasants
c] Peacocks
d] Geese
e] Swans
f] All of the above
g] None of the above.

Question 3 In other countries with different languages Turkeys are named after different countries. Which is most common?
a] India
b] Mexico
c] Peru
d] Guatemala
e] Israel.

Question 4 In 1526 Yorkshireman John Strickland imported 6 turkeys from America and sold them in Bristol for the price of
a] a pound each
b] a penny each
c] tuppence each
d] threepence each
e] a florin each.

Round 4 Christmas songs

Question 1 Who has the most Christmas Number 1s
a] Cliff Richard
b] The Beatles
c] Band Aid
d] The Spice Girls

Question 2 Cliff Richard had 3 Christmas No 1s; Mistletoe and wine in 1988 and Saviour’s Day in 1990. The other was
a] Living Doll
b] I love You 1960
c] Devil Woman
d] Millennium Prayer
e] Bachelor Boy

Question 3 Novelty songs as Christmas Number 1s are quite common. Which of the following was not a Christmas Number 1?
a] Two Little Boys (Rolf Harris)
b] Ernie the fastest milkman in the west (Bennie Hill)
d] Mr Blobby (Mr Blobby)
e] Grandad (Clive Dunn)
f] Can we fix it (Bob the builder)
g] Lilly the Pink (The Scaffold)
h] Long haired lover from Liverpool (Jimmie Osmond)

Question 4 Don’t they know it’s Christmas by Band Aid was No1 3 times but each time it had a different line up of musicians. Who was not in the original line up?
a] Spandau Ballet
b] Duran Duran
c] Dire Straits
d] U2
e] Frankie goes to Hollywood
f] Culture Club

Round 5 It happened at Christmas

Question 1 Which of the following is the odd one out
a] Charlie Chaplin died in 1977
b] The USSR finally dissolved in 1991
c] Christmas disease was described in the British Medical Journal in 1947
d] Marie and Pierre Curie announced the discovery of Radium in 1891

Question 2 The last Christmas Fair on a frozen River Thames (known as a Frost Fair) was during which year?
a] 1813
b] 1913
c] 1713
d] 1613

Question 3 Which of the following was not born on Christmas Day?
a] Humphrey Bogart
b] Kennie Everett
c] Isaac Newton
d] Pope Pius XII
e] Anwar Sadat
f] Sissy Spacek
g] Annie Lennox

Question 4 Why did white Christmases become less common in Britain after 1752?

Round 6 Carols

Question 1 Which carol has the line:But with mocking scorn and with crown of thorn

Question 2 He hath oped the heavenly door and man is blest for evermore.

Question 3 And heaven’s all orb with hallelujahs rang

Question 4 Throned in height sublime, sits among the cherubim

Question 5 A stable place sufficed

Question 6 While mortals sleep

Question 7 Ever seek thy mercy seat

Question 8 To bring our vileness near and make us all divine

Question 9 famous composers have written carol tunes. Which did Mendelssohn write?
Q 10 Handel?

Q 11 Holst?

Q 12 Adolph Adam?

Answers on tomorrow's blog. Click here.

Human-animal hybrids

The Academy of Medical Sciences (of which I am a Fellow) is a college of academic physicians and medical scientists who, among other things, produce reports on contentious matters of policy concerning medically related issues. Currently they are being asked to look at mixtures of humans and animals. The report had its genesis in the suggestion last year that human embryonic ells could be constructed without going to aborted fetuses, by putting human DNA (instead of bovine DNA) into a fertilized bovine egg, The only genetic Material from the cow would be the mitochondrial DNA from the cytoplasm of the cows egg. All the genetic products would human.

This proposal as met by a chorus of protests about Frankenstein's monsters. Shortly afterwards a picture appeared in a paper of a human ear grafted on to the back of a mouse, which seemed to confirm people's worst fears.

The Academy intends to take a serious look at such procedures to see what should and should not be permissible.

For a start we already accept the use of heart valves from a pig being used to replace diseased valves in the human heart. and we seem happy to use a baboon's liver to process human blood in patients with liver failure. When we make monoclonal antibodies we have to fuse a human lymphocyte with a mouse cancer cell. And in order to test medicinal products we construct laboratory mice so that they possess certain human genes. None of this has raised a public outcry - perhaps because the public don't know about it. One suggestion has been that regulations must stop human neural material must not be placed inside an animal. Other have suggested that it would be wrong to produce human eggs or sperm in this way. I would very much like to know what my readers think.

Back at Gene Therapy

I haven't been to the Gene Therapy Advisory Committee since February. I attended the last meeting of the year yesterday, and I took some time to get back into the swim of things. There were three proposals for us to look at. The first one dealt with the problem of cytomegalovirus (CMV)in transplant recipients.

CMV is a herpes virus; most of us get it, usually subclinically, but it remains in a dormant form ready to reactivate if ever the immune system fails in its surveillance. This is likely to happen following a marrow transplant, especially when the donor stem cells come from a seronegative individual. There are drugs that are fairly effective like gancyclovir and foscarnet, but these are themselves toxic. The idea here was to transfect the donor cells with a T cell receptor that reacts with CMV antigens and infuse these into the recipient as a virus specific donor lymphocyte infusion.

The second idea was to deal with Parkinson's disease. This is another disease for which there is a treatment, but it becomes unsatisfactory as time passes. L-Dopa gets converted into dopamine which is a neurotransmitter in the substantia nigra in the brain. As the cells in the substantia nigra die there are too few to do the conversion, no matter how much L-Dopa there is. The idea here is to transfect other cells in this part of the brain with the genes to make the necessary enzymes to do the conversion.

The other submission builds on the progress made in both the UK and the USA in injecting genes directly into the retina of the eye for some forms of retinitis pigmentosa. In theory this technique should work for any single gene disorder that causes blindness. One such is choroideraemia which affects 1 in 50,000 people. The missing gene is REP-1 and this ought to work.

We have also been given the responsibility for supervising stem cell research. Thus far we have not had a proposal to consider. It may be that we will be able to see the successful and safe generation of pluripotent stem cells from the patient's own fibroblasts, before I am forced to declare my opposition to embryonic cell treatment. The one company that looked like being able to go forward with an embryonic cell line seems to have been stymied over regulatory issues.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Submissive wives; 1 Peter 3:1-2

We used to have a saying in our house that I made all the big decisions and I delegated all the trivial ones to my wife. So I decided whether or not we should invade Iraq, whether anthropomorphic global warming is true, and what we should make of Intelligent Design, while she dealt with the minor matters of where the children should go to school, where we should buy our groceries, when the house needed redecorating and so on.

The role of women is controversial even in the secular world. Are mothers better designed to bring up children than fathers or is it just a cultural imperative? Can women ever be equal in the workplace? Is it fair on unmarried women that married women with children should always be taking days off because the children are off school or leaving early because little Johnnie is in a school play? And what about ideas of beauty? Nothing irritates a man more than those adverts that have some air-brushed beauty telling you that she's worth it.

A young girl may be crushed by an inopportune pimple. Tell me, did Ruth or Rachel have cellulite? Is it right to be driven to plastic surgery for fear of losing a boy friend's affections?

All men would approach today's passage in 1 Peter with trepidation. Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives.

I can feel the flak from the feminists already. Peter is just following Paul, the misogynist, who keeps women in their place, covered up and silent. Women should be docile doormats. Remember how women from the 1960s onwards wanted the wedding service changed; no more love, honor and obey.

But Paul doesn't decree that women should obey. Examine the parallel passages in Ephesians and Colossians. Slaves are to obey their masters. Children are to obey their parents. But women are to submit to their husbands. Is there any difference between submission and obedience? I think there is. We are talking about functions, not value. In verse 7 of this chapter husband and wife are heirs together of the gracious gift of life. There is no suggestion that sons inherit before daughters. If Prince Charles and his two sons were to die in a helicopter crash, the heir to the British throne would not be Princess Anne who is older but Prince Andrew who is younger, but the Bible does not give men this precedence in inheritance - men and women are heirs together.

Note also that a wife is not to submit to any man, only to her own husband. The NIV has interpolated a bit of interpretation here. The Greek says 'submit' (active) not 'be submissive' (passive) and 'to your own husbands'; the NIV leaves out the 'own'.

The idea of submission is a military one. Who is to blame for the slaughter of millions in the First World War? Do we blame the foot soldiers who went over the top into a hail of machine gun bullets? Silly people what were they thinking? Didn't they know that a worsted jacket won't stop flying lead? Of course not! They were brave men, but they were men acting under authority. We blame the generals who were so pig-headed that they would not see the consequences of their orders.

There is a responsibility in leadership. My son has recently been promoted to the Board of the Care Quality Commission. Before he just ran the department than garnered the data and analysed the findings. But as a Board member he has to take responsibility for the decisions of the organization. He has to face the Press and the Government. He has to justify what he has done against those who have a different agenda. He may find his weekends taken up by e-mails and conference calls. Before he was covered by those in authority over him; now he is exposed.

The Bible has dire warnings for those under-shepherds who betray their pastoral duties and leave their flock astray. It is an awesome responsibility to take a leadership role in a church. It is equally a responsibility to take a leadership role in a family. I know a lot of women will struggle with this. I know plenty of marriages where the wife is cleverer, better organized, has more initiative, and is altogether more competent than the husband.

When I was working at the hospital I had a spell as Deputy General Manager, when I was Medical Director. Afterwards, I went back to being an attending physician and researcher. I got on well with the General Manager and although we did not agree on everything, we could always come to a decision that we could live with. He listened to me and made changes when I had a sensible argument, but ultimately it was his decision that counted and I had to submit to it - he outranked me. Later, when I had left management and he had moved on to higher things, there came a new ruler who knew not Joseph. I found it hard to accept his decisions sometimes, but the decisions were his responsibility not mine. I might well have though that I was more intelligent than he, that I knew more about medicine and knew the hospital better than he; but I still had to submit to his authority and what is more I had to try my hardest to make his decisions work. It would have been wrong of me to be subversive.

I know many very clever wives who go out of their way to make their less clever husband look good. I can guess that they put more input into decisions than their husband does, but they never take the credit. I learned as a manager that you can get almost anything done if you don't want the credit for it. This is the mystery of marriage. The two shall become one flesh. Submission is not absolute. Just as wives submit to their husbands, so husbands have those in authority over them. A wife should not connive at crime. The civil authorities are in authority over her husband. If he intends to rob a bank, she should try to persuade him to pass on this one, but if he will not, then she should go to the police. Similarly, the elders in the church are in authority over him. If he slips into sinful behavior and won't repent, she should go to the elders of the church. I have been an elder and I can say that the last thing elders want to do is interfere in other people's marriages. But supposing a man is a gambler losing money. As a consequence he neglects his children and the home that they live in. His wife as begged him to stop but he can't. It is the elders' duty to try and help the situation, which won't go away if it is ignored. However, suppose he is a rich man who likes to play a little poker with his friends. She may not approve but in reality the stakes are not high; sometimes he is a buck down, sometimes two dollars to the good. What is she to do? Taking it to the elders seems a little OTT. In these circumstances, I think she has to submit, even if she makes it clear that she is not happy about the gambling.

Submission is Christ-like. In Ephesians chapter 5 Paul likens the relationship of a man with his wife to that between Christ and the church, and in ! Corinthians 11 Paul tells us just as a man has authority over his wife, so Christ has authority over the man and God (the Father) has authority over Christ. Remember how Jesus prayed in the Garden, 'Not my will, but yours.' Jesus did not go eagerly to the cross. There was nothing gung-ho about it. He was reticent. 'Let this cup pass from me.' But he submitted to the will of his Father.

The world sees submission as weakness, but God sees submission as powerful. The submission of the Lord Jesus Christ rescued countless millions from Hell. Do you remember that incident in the Indian Ocean when special forces rescued the sailors captured by pirates? How we praised the strength of purpose of the rescuers, the resolution of their response, the accuracy of their shooting. What a powerful rescue. I bet the pirates thought twice about messing with them. How does that compare with the weakness of Christ's submission? When he surrendered to evil men, to the scourging, to the nails and the spear, he rescued not a handful of captured sailors; He led captivity captive. His rescue was limitless.

Husbands may be saved by the submission of their wives. People are saved though hearing, but having heard they are convinced by behavior. Seeing the purity and reverence of a Godly wife has brought many a husband to submission to Christ. How often have you heard people say, I want what you have? Then is the time to tell them what we have. Preaching can become nagging unless it is accompanied by submission.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Cancer statistics

It is probably easier to lie with statistics than in any other way. If you put a number to your lie and draw a graph you bully people into believing you. The truth is that many people are afraid of figures.

That is what is currently happening over health service statistics. Let us consider the case of cancer survival. It seems as though it should be simple to compare whether patients with cancer who attend different hospitals survive for longer or shorter periods. If you look carefully you should be able to find out what is wrong with the system and put it right.

Recent statistics demonstrate that the UK is doing particularly poorly when it comes to cancer patients surviving the first year. There are several possible explanations. One is that NICE prevents patients getting access to the latest drugs that would help people to live longer. Another possibility is that the European Working Time Directive, which restricts junior doctors' hours to 48 hours a week means that our surgeons and oncologists are not properly trained when they are let loose on the public. Or it could be that we have too many immigrant doctors, whose training is not up to Western standards, but because of political correctness we cannot say so. Or perhaps it is the nurses' fault, or the managers', or the government's.

But generally I find that when there are marked differences it is because we are comparing apples and oranges.

Although we have quite good measurements for when a patient dies of cancer, we have pretty poor measurements of when a patient contracts cancer. I say quite good measurements of deaths, because quite a lot of patients with cancer die undiagnosed, especially among the poorer members of the community. If you can't afford healthcare insurance then you don't seek out a physician for minor symptoms. You certainly don't buy into executive screening programs. How do you get diagnosed? You die and during your terminal illness your cancer is diagnosed. Or not. This lack of medical attention can have two effects. If you are diagnosed, the diagnosis is too late and you make the figures worse, but if you aren't diagnosed, then you don't get into the cancer statistics which are consequently improved.

Because we don't know when cancer starts, people who are picked up earlier in their cancer journey have better survival figures than those who are diagnosed late. Their longer survival may have nothing to do with better treatment and everything to do with being picked up earlier in the natural history of the disease. One sure way of diagnosing people earlier is by cancer screening of well people. Take prostate cancer. Routinely measuring serum PSA will pick up most cases of prostate cancer (not all because some cancers don't secrete very much). Of course it will also pick up a lot of people with benign enlarged prostates, who will have to undergo an unnecessary prostate biopsy. It will also diagnose many patients who have a well differentiated, slowly growing tumor which would not have presented clinically in the patient's lifetime. These patients will have long survivals, though if they are treated they are exposed to the hazards of treatment that include incontinence and impotence.

It follows then, that if you want to improve your one-year cancer survival statistics you should be a hawk for screening, even though this might not be the best way to benefit patients.

The same is probably true also for breast screening with mammograms. We know that patients are picked up earlier in the natural history of the disease; we do not know that it saves lives. Regular chest X-rays for lung cancer, gastroscopies for stomach cancer, colonoscopies for bowel cancer all have the same result. Does early diagnosis mean that cancer patients live longer? Certainly they live longer than patients who are diagnosed late, but do they live longer than they would have done had their cancer not been diagnosed? The answer is surely yes for some types of cancer, but it is not a given for all types.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

CT scan

I had just about convinced myself that I had rampant secondaries and this morning had a crushing central chest pain. It seemed to be a heart attack, but I remembered having something similar caused by esophageal spasm. I took some Gaviscon and lansoprazole and felt better. It was probably down to anxiety because I had my CT scan today.

I spoke to the radiologist afterwards. He hadn't had a chance to measure anything, but just eyeballing it, there seems to have been no change since last times. No more worrying this side of Christmas.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

1000th blog - aphorisms 6

This is my 1000th blog. Tomorrow I have my follow-up CT scan which will reveal whether the symptoms that I am getting - some abdominal bloating and pains in my joints are the continuing side effects caused by the neuropathy or the sign of returning cancer. I thought I would share some of the pithy sayings that I have accumulated over the past few weeks.

Never argue with an idiot, because people watching lose track of which is which.

Too many e-mails; not enough knee-mails.

Old musicians never die; they just decompose.

If you think all your problems are behind you, you are likely to be towing a caravan

My pine table is knotty but nice.

I try to be a philosopher, but cheerfulness keeps breaking in.

After a campaign to encourage sneezing into your sleeve to stifle the spread of germs, the Swine Flu hotline’s music while you wait was “Greensleeves”.

Many good works are spoiled for the want of a little more.

The peace of God, which by-passes all misunderstanding.

The problem of unbelief is not lack of information but lack of inclination.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Suffer well: 1 Peter 2:21-25

Somehow people seem to believe that Christians shouldn’t suffer. I’m not sure where the idea comes from, certainly not the Bible. All the disciples met violent deaths apart from John and he died in exile, abandoned on a small island. As the writer to the Hebrews explained some of God’s chosen ones were tortured, some faced jeers and flogging, others were chained and put in prison, they were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were put to death by the sword, they went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and ill-treated. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground.

It’s not exactly the carefree life with a large house, luxurious car and hot and cold running golf courses that we aspire to. No mention of trophy wives and holidays in the Seychelles in that lot.

This silly couplet sums it up:
The Lord maketh it to rain upon the just and the unjust fella.
But more upon the just, because the unjust man usually has the just man’s umbrella.

As well as the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, Christians suffer because they are Christians. Only last week a Christian schoolgirl aged 16 received 50 lashes in Sudan because she was wearing a knee length skirt. Quite apart from the fact that Sudanese law bars anyone under 18 from receiving lashes, this was an outrageous persecution. Bonhoeffer said that suffering is the badge of the Christian. When we think of some of the heroes of the faith, like Lord Shaftesbury, General Booth and William Wilberforce, we should not forget that successful though they were, they were ridiculed and jeered at in their day.

But when we suffer we are to bear it well, for we are following in the footsteps of the suffering servant.

Today’s passage in 1Peter 2:21-25 points to Jesus as our example. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example that you should follow in his steps. "He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth. When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

There is a liberal trap that uses this passage to suggest that the crucifixion was all about Jesus being an example to us. It seeks to deny all that stuff about substitutionary atonement. That is clearly stated in this passage. “He bore our sins in his body on the tree.” and “By his wounds we have been healed.” But for that reason, evangelicals have tended to downplay the notion of Christ as an example, but here it is in black and white. Certainly, he was our substitute, but he was also our example.

We should note that his suffering was undeserved – he committed no sin. But he did not retaliate. Some years ago there was a fashion for vigilante films. We would feel good when the police were weak and ineffectual, the hero gunned down the drug addicts who raped and murdered his wife. But in real life the adage is true that two wrongs don’t make a right. We don’t defeat evil by continuing the cycle of evil; rather evil is vanquished by smothering it. If we soak it up like a sponge, its force is lost.

We leave it to a just judge. As it says in 2 Thessalonians 1:6-10: God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed. This includes you, because you believed our testimony to you.

Submission seems like weakness. It seems an unmanly thing to do, but Jesus was not unmanly. He was meek not weak, and meekness is strength under control. A huge Jumbo Jet touches down on the runway without the slightest judder. The passengers applaud. They recognize that the pilot has got this huge beast under fingertip control.

Anger is a huge beast within us that cries out, “It’s unfair! I want my revenge!” That is not the Christian way. That is the astray, way. Return control to the shepherd and overseer of our souls.