Sunday, September 22, 2013

The Man Watching - Rainer Maria Rilke

 I can tell by the way the trees beat, after
 so many dull days, on my worried windowpanes
 that a storm is coming,
 and I hear the far-off fields say things
 I can't bear without a friend,
 I can't love without a sister.

 The storm, the shifter of shapes, drives on
 across the woods and across time, and the world looks as if it had no age:
 the landscape, like a line in the psalm book,
 is seriousness and weight and eternity.

 What we choose to fight is so tiny!
 What fights with us is so great.
 If only we would let ourselves be dominated as things do by some immense storm,
 we would become strong too, and not need names.

 When we win it's with small things,
 and the triumph itself makes us small.
 What is extraordinary and eternal does not want to be bent by us.
 I mean the Angel who appeared to the wrestlers of the Old Testament:
 when the wrestlers' sinews
 grew long like metal strings,
 he felt them under his fingers
 like chords of deep music.

 Whoever was beaten by this Angel
 (who often simply declined the fight)
 went away proud and strengthened
 and great from that harsh hand,
 that kneaded him as if to change his shape.
 Winning does not tempt that man.
 This is how he grows: by being defeated, decisively,
 by constantly greater beings.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

A Dangerous Question

Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (which means “son of Timaeus”), was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”

Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.”

So they called to the blind man, “Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.”

Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus. 

“What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him. 

The blind man said, 

“Rabbi, I want to see.” 

“Go,” said Jesus, 

“your faith has healed you.” 

Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.

Every weekend 2100+ people attend worship at Chapelwood. We are here for different reasons, some noble, some maybe not so. some of us come for specific reasons, help with a problem, seeking a healing, escape from other people. Others of us come with a vague sense of unease that being at church helps us manage. Some of us are here because it's what we've always done and is what is expected of us, others because the way we've been living life hasn't worked so we are trying something new.

Jesus' question to Bartimaeus is a question for us.

'What do you want me to do for you?' 

Like many of Jesus' questions, this is one that is harder to answer the longer you sit with it. When I am honest, the answers I give to Jesus' question reveal a lot more about me. When I hold out my answers to Jesus I find myself examining why I ask for what I ask for. Bias and selfishness show themselves hidden in my response. Ego and greed appear mixed in. I find myself playing mind games with Jesus, trying to guess the answer I think He wants to hear.

Eventually I don't want to answer the question at all because I judge all my responses as flawed or less than.....and then I realize that I spend too much time in my own head....

...and maybe that's why I come to worship. To step outside the storm of myself and try and get in touch with something larger and more beautiful.

So as you go to church this weekend how do you respond to Jesus question?

What do you want me to do for you?

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Peach Crumble Cake

When I was a child my Mum would sometimes make Apple Crumble. Her topping was normally more soggy than crispy and I would usually complain that there was too much fruit and not enough crumble. Mum would point out that the fruit was the healthy part and a dessert with as much crumble as I wanted would not be good for me.....

....and here is that dessert. Lots of glorious crisp crumble encasing the fruit!

I've made this with nectarines and it was yummy. I would be intrigued to see what other fruits would work.
This is a great way to get an easy hot dessert on the table. It tastes awesome with simple whipped cream or ice cream.

1 cup ground almond meal
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
2 cups all purpose flour
Pinch of kosher salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, diced.
1 1/2 pounds nectarines, peaches or some other fruit.
Sugar for sprinkling.

Preheat the oven to 350F and butter the bottom and sides of a 9 inch spring form pan.

Put the first 4 ingredients into a food processor and pulse until mixed.

Add the butter and pulse until the mixture clumps together and resembles wet sand.

Scoop two thirds of the mixture into the bottom of the buttered pan and press it in place.

Cut the nectarines into thin wedges (or small chunks if it it is easier) and and spread them in an even layer over the base. Scoop the rest of the crumble mix evenly over the top and press in place. Don't worry if some of the fruit pokes through.

Sprinkle with sugar.

Bake for 40-45 minutes in the oven. I would place it on top of a baking sheet just to be on the safe side as sometimes the juice does bubble. Allow to rest for 5-10 minutes on a cooling rack and then voraciously consume. :)

Saturday, September 07, 2013

Lamb Stuffed Tomatoes

This is a very yummy improvisation. It's still a work in progress, but it was delicious enough for me to record it here :)

Lamb Stuffed Tomatoes - Serves 2 as a nice supper.

4 Large tomatoes (about 8 ounces each)
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 fennel bulb. Trimmed of stalks (cored if needed) and chopped fine)
1/2 red onion, diced fine.
1/2 lb ground lamb
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup couscous
1/3 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup feta, crumbled
1/4 cup walnuts
2 tablespoons, chopped fresh mint
Thin slices of goat cheese

Slice the top 1/8 inch off each tomato (step end). Using a paring knife and a spoon remove the core and the seeds from the inside. Sprinkle the inside of each tomato with 1/8 teaspoon of salt. Place the tomatoes upside down on a few layers of paper towels and drain for 30 minutes.

Put an oven rack in the upper middle position and preheat to 375F

Add a drop of oil to a medium saucepan. Crumble in the Lamb and cook until brown. Remove to a strainer set over a bowl to drain.

Take a tablespoon of the drained lamb fat and put it back in the sauce pan. Add the fennel and the red onion and saute until softened, about 7 to 9 minutes. Stir in the garlic and saute for about 30 seconds. Add the couscous and cook until lightly toasted 1-2 minutes.

Add the lamb and the chicken stock. Bring to a brief simmer and then cover, remove from the heat and let rest for 5 minutes.

Stir in the feta, walnuts and mint.

Pat the inside of each tomato dry with paper towels. Line an 8 inch square baking dish with foil and spray with oil. Brush the cut edges of the tomato with oil.

Divide the filling between the four tomatoes and firmly but carefully stuff them.

Place a slice of goat cheese on each tomato

Bake until the cheese is lightly browned and the tomatoes are tender, about 20 minutes.

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

The Egotist's Psalm 24

This is my world, I own all that is within it.
 For I have forged my own space and made my own way. 

Who may enter my world; who may stand in my universe? 
Only the one whom I decide is worthy. 
The one who meets my standards and does not pollute my life. 
The one who agrees with me and holds true to my beliefs. 

I will bless them and encourage them. 
I will fight for their right to be just like me. 

I will close up my gates and barricade my doors. 
No one shall enter except those I approve. 
I am king of my world and I am glorious. 
I will cocoon myself in the castle of my life. 
For I am king of my world and I am glorious.

I wrote this selfish version of Psalm 24 for use in our Contemplative Service this past weekend. While writing it I was reminded of the poem Ozymandias by Percy Shelley, one of my favorites.  The Psalm sounds like something Ozymandias would say.

I met a traveler from an antique land 
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone 
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand, 
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown, 
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command, 
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read 
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things, 
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed: 
And on the pedestal these words appear: 
"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings: 
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!" 
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay 
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare 
The lone and level sands stretch far away