Peace On Earth, Good Will To Men

As it was in the American Civil War, and many other conflicts as well, the First World War began with the expectations of “it will all be over by Christmas.”  But as the winter of 1914 closed in, the European conflict had entered stalemate with both alliances bogged down into trench warfare.

In the midst of this there was a moment of hope with the unofficial “Christmas Truce” of 1914.  This event has become part of the popular perception of the war, and it has featured in popular culture in such films as the 2005 Joyeux Noel.  

I am not a great fan of commercialised Christmas, but one of the most outstanding television advertisements I have ever seen is the 2014 Sainsbury’s Supermarket ad.  I have posted it below, and believe it really does capture a bit of the spirit of Christmas – Peace on Earth, and good will to me.





Clouds, The Plane, The Sun, Sky, Flight, Floating


Turbulent – life can be

Like the gathering clouds of a storm

Swirls of chaos oft is all we see

As worries around us swarm

The cyclones which beset us though

As great as they may seem

Pale in comparison to the power of God

Who offers us peace supreme



Matthew 11:28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

This is a passage Dianne reflected on in the face of cancer, fatigue, and pain.   It was not an empty exercise.  She found peace in the trials, and trusted in His promises.  It allowed her to not only “find rest” but to joyfully continue on.




Woman, Asleep, Girl, Sleep, Dreams, Face


Rest can be an illusive thing.  I am not speaking necessarily of a time of relaxation or  breath catching after some act of exertion, though it might include these.  I am speaking more of the regeneration brought about by the putting aside of labours altogether.  A time to let the mind as well as the body to rest.

I have for the last few nights found such rest more difficult than is my norm.  I have faced some stresses related to the practical demands of settling Dianne’s estate, and of the needs I have in settling into my “new normality.”   Sleep has been less deep, and of shorter duration than I am accustomed.  But as in so many areas of my life, Dianne offered me advice from her own experience.   I came across a citation in her journals where she spoke of her cancer-induced insomnia.  She reflected that no matter how extreme her physical tiredness she could still find mental rest in God.   “Return to your rest, oh my soul, for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you (Psalm 116:7).”  God provides.  He deals bountifully.  There is no need to let the concerns of finance, ill-health, or a multitude of daily issues rob us of peace and rest.

Dianne on acknowledging this, actually found the insomnia less powerful.  Yes, the cancer still changed her physically enough to make for “boom and bust” sleep patterns.  But even if physically fatigued, she was able to be “at rest.”

I pray that I too will find rest: sleep if I am lucky, but restful peace bountifully.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest (Matthew 11:28).”  


Weary But Renewed Each Day

Sunset, Dawn, Nature, Mountains, Landscape, Kaçkars

Dawn – Image by RÜŞTÜ BOZKUŞ from Pixabay 


Daily life can be hard.  Aging can make it harder, as can illness.  We scramble to make ends meet, and all to often we try to carry on on our own.  But this is a foolish approach.  My wife Dianne discovered that early in the final stages of her cancer.  She was not Super Girl or Wonder Woman, at least not in strength and endurance.  It was at that moment of revelation and realisation* that she turned to the scripture, 2 Corinthians 4: 16 “So we do not give up. Our physical body is becoming older and weaker, but our spirit inside us is made new every day.”

It was plain to her, and should be to us, that even when we are physically strained, our spirits are lifted by He who made us.  He provides us with a renewal each and every day, this is through not only a good night of contented sleep, but through enlivening our souls with His promises, and with fellowship with our brothers and sisters.  Through prayer, time with the Word, and in our contact with those who love us in unity we are renewed.

How obvious is that, when we reflect on Jesus’ own words!

Matthew 11:28-30 tells us,  “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Are we laying our burdens before God?  Or are we so ego driven that we forget the simple promise?  No man is an island it is said, but there is a Rock on which we can take refuge.

To do it alone I can but strive

But I grow more weary if in this way I strive

There is a promise to which I must hold

He will comfort give me, and lighten my load


We trust in our own strength

Just a bit too much

Our pride will betray us

If we cling to such


So let us lay our burdens down

And be renewed as we walk our way

His promises fulfilled

Day by day



*Dianne’s journal 9 June 2019

Finding Calm


Finding Calm

Serene surroundings reflect,

Upon a glistening surface calm,

Unaware of any turmoils which may lie below


How like we  – with outward face,

Showing but tranquility,

While in our minds we are tossed upon billowing sea


Our lives are oft rapids rough,

Of mountain heights which blow,

But in our inward journey onward to the valley shall we go


The gleaming valley calls to us

In its shimmering waters our peace

Serene surroundings reflecting upon the glistening water calm











Biscay Cruise (Part Five): The Basque Region

Our next port of call, Bilbao, brought us to the Basque country.  Bilbao is an attractive city, and a gateway to the Basque region. It is home to the Guggenheim Museum (in the shape of a ship, but also with titanium tiles like fish scales), and of some outstanding engineering in both its White Bridge and the Transporter Bridge. The city is fairly clean, and has less graffiti than I saw in some other regions of Spain. With the ferry, and cruise ports it is an excellent place to start any visit to the Basques. We, however, deferred checking out the city and headed inland.

Our first stop was Guernica (Gernika).  This was a powerful and moving place to explore.


Picasso’s Guernica

The horrors of war were brought home to Guernica on a Monday morning in April 1937. This small market town was purposely and symbolically attacked from the air by Franco’s Nazi/Fascist allies. This was a direct attack on democracy, and on a civilian population. It is not surprising then, that Guernica should be along with Hiroshima a living reminder for the need for peace.

The attack on Guernica so appalled the artist Pablo Picasso that he began a monumental mural to call the world’s attention to the atrocity.  A tile reproduction of that famous work now stands near the Magistrates Court in the town.

The town also is the site of the Gernika Peace Museum. This museum and its fronting square serve as a reminder. Here the horror of war, and need for peace are focused on. There are several international photo displays on the outside as well, showing a kindred theme.

As I have noted, Guernica was purposely chosen as an example.  This is because the town was the home of the Basque Parliament.  One of, if not the oldest continuous democracies in the world.

This ancient democracy originally met in the shade of an oak tree.  The stump of the old oak is preserved under pillars, and its offspring now officiates in front of an additional pillared structure.

This said, there is now a “modern” assembly house for the Basque Parliament, the Casa de Juntas.  This serves as a debating and law making chamber. The assembly room is full of paintings and the red chairs for the members of the assembly, but an outer room with a huge stained glass ceiling is used for informal discussions, and has loads of symbolism most notably of the oak.

Under the chamber there is a small cinema area in which a very informative presentation on the Basque democracy is presented and explained, and again the oak is featured.

The Basques are a proud people with a huge legacy.  Our guide noted that their language is unique in that part of Europe, and that the people were notable for having never  been conquered by the Romans or the Moors, as was the rest of Spain.

Casa de Juntas is a great place to learn about the Basque people, their democracy, and history more generally. It is highly recommended.

After Guernica we went to the fishing village/town of Bermeo.  There is a vistors’ centre, a really lovely park with a sculpture trail and a carousel, and several nice tapas bars.  We went to the one called Akatz.  We had some really nice coffee and tea from an iron teapot.  We also had some really high quality tapas, in the regional style of everything served with toothpicks or skewers.  The prawns were is a wonderfully spiced seafood sauce, and served with a soft baguette.


Ballenero Aita Guria is an old whaling vessel and is along the port area of Bermeo near the tourist information and the waterfront park. It is an interesting dark wood ship, and while it has no masts, still gives the feel of the bygone era.

After a brief stay we were once again on our way.  This time to San Juan de Gaztelugatxe. This is in a fascinating bit of the Basque coastline with the surfer bays, rugged islands, and outstanding scenery.  It is now famous as well for being one of the filming locations for Game of Thrones. There is some lay-by parking available to look down on the area from above for those for whom the walled walks and rugged paths are beyond their abilities.


Basque Coastline

After taking in the scenery, we made our way back to Bilbao, and to the Vizcaya Bridge,
the world’s oldest transporter bridge, This is an incredible feat of engineering. Built in the late 19th Century by one of the students/colleagues of Eiffel, this bridge bears all the hallmarks of that relationship. The bridge ironwork looks much like Eiffel’s tower, and the mechanism of moving the platform across the river in ingenious. While it only carries a few vehicles at a time, the crossing only takes 8 minutes, and foot passengers are carried across on the sides as well. The high beam allows river traffic to move, and the platform is quickly cleared away as well. This too is a “must see.”


Transporter Bridge

Our day coming to an end, we returned to Aurora to begin our journey towards France.