Thursday, April 30, 2009

Giving Life to the World

What follows are some of my thoughts for the Contemplative Service this Sunday. Hopefully the act of typing them out will help clarify them for me :)

For the past few days I've been reflecting on a short passage from John 6 'It is my father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.' Specifically focusing on the the words 'Give life to the world.'

When I reflect back on my past, I don't think I've done a very good job of 'giving life'. In my late teens and early twenties I was far more concerned with proving that I was right and you were wrong. My words and my witness left you in little doubt about where I thought you stood with Almighty God - my words were not giving life to the world, I gave condemnation and guilt. No bread, just burdens.

To be fair, that's how I was with myself too. I was convinced that Guilt was the fuel that powered Change in my life. If I could just make myself and others feel guilty enough then that would lead to spiritual growth.

I read Jesus' words in John 6 and I connect them to his encounter with the Samaritan woman a few chapters earlier.
  • Jesus was where he shouldn't be. A 'truly spiritual' person would not be seen in Samaria because they didn't mix with Samaritans.
  • Jesus was talking with a woman. A 'truly spiritual' person would not associate with women for fear that they might become ceremonially unclean.
  • Jesus was talking with a sinner. This woman had a past. She had gone through six husbands, and she was currently cohabiting with a seventh. A 'truly spiritual' person would not be seen with such a flagrant sinner. Doesn't Jesus know that you can judge a person by the company he keeps?

I have an icon of this scene that I have been praying with recently. To one side of Jesus are the twelve disciples. They are looking on astonished that Jesus would talk with this woman. On the other side are the towns people - including a large number of men who no doubt this woman has been intimate with. They are looking on astonished that this woman would talk with Jesus. I can imagine both sides commenting on the scene.

Who is she that she should meet with him? Spirituality isn't for the likes of her. Why is Jesus talking with an outsider like her? Our faith isn't for her sort of people.

Where other people would offer burdens because of this woman's gender, race and lifestyle Jesus offers the bread of life. Instead of guilt, he offers hope.

What do I offer to people whose lives are not like mine? Whose backgrounds, viewpoints and lifestyle choices are different?

Do I offer a burden or do I offer life to the world?

Do you?

'As I have loved you so you must love one another' - John 13:34

Think through the people you come into contact with on a weekly basis. Who are you most likely to offer words of burden too? How can you offer the bread of life to them instead?

Hints for Saving Money

Sunday, April 26, 2009

More british humor - thank heavens the sausage was off!!!

After yesterday's post about the Piecrust Players performance of Hamlet I found myself reminisicing about other classic Victoria Wood sketches.


Saturday, April 25, 2009

It may be Hamlet, but its got to be fun, fun, fun!

I just finished watching Kenneth Branagh's film version of 'Hamlet'. It's the entire play so it is 4 hours long. Zeffirelli's version staring Mel Gibson is only 2 hours!

For most of the play I kept remembering this monologue about another production.


I don't need to lose weight.....

I just need to gain height!

I was playing around with an online Body Mass Indicator today and discovered that if I was 10 inches taller I would be in the healthy weight range for my height.

Anyone got any platform shoes I can borrow?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Beer Can Chicken

I've heard that beer can chicken tastes great, I've never tasted it myself, but I've seen lots of contraptions for sale designed to make holding the chicken and beer arrangement upright.

I've never seen one like this however!

Now your chicken can cook over the beer whilst getting the thrill of riding a Harley!

Some people are too creative for their own good!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

How does your garden grow?

I think the 'church' has become good at the wrong thing.

We are good at campaigning about moral decay, and declaring what is 'Good' and 'Evil'. We make our uneven pronouncements with out ever seeing the bigger picture. We rail against the evils of misused Sex, but rarely do we hear discussions on misused Food or misused Money. And even more rarely do we hear a discussion about whether our pronouncements are misplaced.

In the beginning...

In the Creation narratives, God places Adam and Eve in the garden and they are to 1) Be fruitful 2) Care for the Garden and 3) Walk with God

We weren't created to issue pronouncements about 'Good' and 'Evil'. In fact God did not even create us to know the difference between the two. The tree was there but we were clearly told "Don't Touch". It seems that now we have eaten of the fruit of the tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil we want to make sure that everyone knows it. We issue our statements, declare opinion as fact, and leave the garden untended. We're too busy talking to go walking with God.

I feel hardwired this way. To stop my judgements feels wrong. If I stop judging others, then next I'll stop judging myself. If I stop judging myself then I might 'wander into sin'....but if I stop judging, maybe I'll start living.

I need to focus on tending the garden of my life. So that whatever seeds God plants can grow.

Voltaire knew this. 'Candide' is the satirical story of an Optimist who believes that 'all is for the best in the best of all possible worlds' In this scene from Bernstein's musical from the novel Doctor Pangloss explains how everything fits into this world.

The world is ordered and everything has its place...

...until Candide's world is turned upside down through a series of tragedies and misadventures.

At the end of the Opera Candide comes to the same conclusion I have: that the best we can do is tend our gardens.

"You've been a fool
And so have I,
But come and be my wife.
And let us try,
Before we die,
To make some sense of life.
We're neither pure, nor wise, nor good
We'll do the best we know.
We'll build our house and chop our wood
And make our garden grow...And make our garden grow.

I thought the world
Was sugar cake
For so our master said.
But, now I'll teach
My hands to bake
Our loaf of daily bread.
We're neither pure, nor wise, nor good
We'll do the best we know.
We'll build our house and chop our wood
And make our garden grow...And make our garden grow.

Let dreamers dream
What worlds they please
Those Edens can't be found.
The sweetest flowers,
The fairest trees
Are grown in solid ground.
We're neither pure, nor wise, nor good
We'll do the best we know.
We'll build our house and chop our wood
And make our garden grow.
And make our garden grow!"

I'm neither 'God enough' or good enough to be making statements about good and evil.
All my statements are stained by my own imperfections.
Let the rest of the world make judgements - I have a garden to tend and a God to walk with.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

When Traditions Collide!

"Hot cross buns,
One a penny buns,
One a penny,
Two a penny,
Hot cross buns."

In the U.K. it is traditional to make and serve these on Good Friday, unfortunately I didn't have time what with marking out a Prayer Labyrinth with masking tape and candles in the morning, and singing solo in the Tenebrae in the evening.

So, I made up a batch of these from a different recipe to the one I usually use. I wasn't that impressed to be honest. I couldn't really taste much of the fruit, the mix was heavier than I anticipated and the crosses piped on the top were almost invisible under the apricot glaze.

Wikipedia reports the following -
English folklore includes many superstitions surrounding hot cross buns. One of them says that buns baked and served on Easter Sunday will not spoil or become mouldy during the subsequent year. Another encourages keeping such a bun for medicinal purposes. A piece of it given to someone who is ill is said to help them recover.

Sharing a hot cross bun with another is supposed to ensure friendship throughout the coming year, particularly if "Half for you and half for me, Between us two shall goodwill be" is said at the time. Because of the cross on the buns, some say they should be kissed before being eaten. If taken on a sea voyage, hot cross buns are said to protect against shipwreck. If hung in the kitchen, they are said to protect against fires and ensure that all breads turn out perfectly. The hanging bun is replaced each year.
I don't think I'm going to be hanging any up in my kitchen however.

I also baked Challah - Jewish Sabbath bread

The plan is for us to use this for Communion at the Contemplative Service tomorrow. Normally we use unleavened bread, but as we are celebrating the Resurrection, it seems fitting to use a bread that has 'risen'.

I'll let you know how it tastes.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Stony Reflections

Thought 1

I was reflecting on Mark 16:1-8 in my small group on Thursday. The passage says that the women were on the way to the tomb to anoint Jesus body with spices, as they were travelling they realized that they would need help to roll away the stone from the entrance to get to the body. When the women reach the tomb they discover the stone already rolled aside and an figure dressed in white telling them that Jesus isn't there. They leave, but they are too afraid to tell what they have seen.

Assume for a moment a change in the narrative.

The women reach the tomb not knowing that it's empty. They strain for a very long time to move the stone, after many hours the stone begins to move, slowly they continue pushing until eventually it rolls to one side. Exhausted they pick up their spices and oils to anoint Jesus body...but when they walk in, they discover an empty tomb.

That change in the narrative is my life. It feels like I wasted a large portion of my life trying to move a 'stone'. I was convinced that the 'stone' stood' between me and Jesus, and that if I could somehow remove that block I would have access to God. I convinced myself that moving that blockage was vital. I poured my time, energy and money into changing something, into moving the immovable... surprise mirrored the surprise of the women when one day, by an act of God, I discovered that the stone wasn't in the way of my getting to God....God was not behind the stone, he was somewhere else entirely.

And like the women, I am afraid to speak what I have discovered for fear that I will be misunderstood or thought mad.

The stone isn't the problem. My expectations and understandings were the problem. God was not where I expected him to be. if you are wrestling with something, something that keeps you awake at night crying tears of frustration, something that causes wordless prayers of desperation to rise up from the very core of you, it could be you are trying to move a 'stone' that doesn't need to be moved, it could be that the very place where you think God is, is just an empty dusty tomb.

Thought 2

I wrote the following song on Easter Sunday 2001 at the height of my depression. I no longer feel this way, I haven't felt this way for quite a while. It's nice to look back and see growth.

Put Back the Stone

Put back the stone Lord that closed up Your tomb,
I don’t want to see that there’s plenty of room.
I want to believe that Your body’s still there,
So close up the tomb Lord and I’ll be unaware.

Where are the angels who rolled it away?
Bringing in sunlight that first Easter day.
Can they roll it back please and shut the grave tight,
So I can still live just like I lived last night?

Pick up the grave clothes put them back on
Lie down in the silence; I’ll pretend that You’re gone
With no Resurrection to shatter my views
My conscience won’t prick me; I’ll live as I choose

So put back the stone Lord I don’t want to see
A tomb that is empty; a tomb meant for me
And lying within amid grave clothes and dust
My shame and my struggles, my fear and disgust

That tomb is not empty; it’s filled with my sin
So put back the stone, I don’t want to see in.
For I’ve learned to love all the sin that I crave,
I don’t want to quit; I don’t want to behave!

My heart is like granite, heavy and cold
Hardened by faith that’s grown fickle and old
But don’t take it to soften, leave me alone
Your healing hurts Lord, just back the stone.

Friday, April 03, 2009

More Apple Pie

After the success of my apple pie last weekend, I decided that I'd make another one. I enjoyed the pastry work, but the apple peeling was rather tedious. A friend told me about an apple peeler she had that worked wonders, so I went off to Sur La Table to purchase one :)

When I unpacked it, I found myself staring at something that would be at home in a medieval torture chamber. What with blades, spikes and springs, it looks rather 'Heath Robinson'

...and yet it works quite well.

Here is me getting ready to peel an apple (note the screwdriver in the picture for fine tuning the device)

Here I am mid peel.


The device not only peels the apple, but it also cores it and cuts one long spiral through it, so all it takes is one cut with a knife and you have perfect pieces for apple pie.

As you can see it isn't perfect, it did leave some peel on - I imagine making a perfect apple peeler would be quite a challenge, but all it took was a little knife work and my apples were ready.

5 Stages of Grief

A friend posted this on facebook and I wanted to steal it for my blog

Sorry about the language (it's not child or work appropriate), but it is funny...

....and as someone who has walked through his fair share of grief over the past few years, scarily accurate!

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Weight Update

It's the first of the month - time for me to report on how my weightloss goal of 5 pounds a month has been going.

In March I lost a total of 7 pounds - which is pretty impressive given the large amount of baking I've been doing over the past few weeks.

I've still been doing the exercise program and I've also gotten a little better at portion control. I'm cooking smaller amounts of food or putting food away as leftovers before I start eating.

This means so far this year I have lost a total of 17lbs.