Merry Christmas! May you all know the peace and joy that comes from Christ’s saving grace today and in the coming year.
Wednesday, 24 November 2010
What holds you back from giving your all, or giving anything, to God? For some people, the answer might be pride. For others, stubbornness. For others, fear. For me, one thing that often holds me back is my own feelings of unworthiness and I think deep down, that is the case for most people. I feel unworthy, because of sin, because of failures, because of lack of faith and so I shrink back from seeking God and feel more and more distant from Him. Although in principle, I know that I am saved by grace and not my own works, I feel that I’ve only really started to grasp what that means in my life over the summer and it is incredibly liberating, though I’ve still got some way to go before I feel like I’ve fully absorbed what it means. The fact is we are all unworthy, we all fall short of God’s standard and nothing we can do can change that. That is why grace is so amazing – grace steps in not because we are worthy, but because we are unworthy; not because we can, but because we can’t; not because we are good enough, but because we will never be good enough. The exact ways in which we each feel unworthy differ depending on who we are and what we’ve done. But the amazing story of God’s grace is that none is counted worse than any other – we all fall short – and we can all be redeemed and saved. Grace is about God seeing that I can never be worthy, never be good enough, and coming to earth to deal with my unworthiness personally.
It is one thing to know with my head that God’s grace pays for my sin and gives me a new start. It is another to fully grasp it with my heart. Grasping it with your heart means fully acknowledging the enormity of our wrongdoing and then realising that no matter how enormous it is, it is atoned for – as Jesus said on the cross, “It is finished” (see John 19:30). I believe that it is only when we fully grasp the truth of grace in our hearts – our sin, our helplessness and yet, our redemption, that we are able to fully forgive ourselves.
“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.” (1 Peter 2:24)
Friday, 12 November 2010
Unfortunately, I’ve hit a dearth of funny signs, so today I’m giving you a recipe instead. When my sister got married last year, one idea we had for wedding favours was biscuits. So I set about experimenting to come up with a recipe that gave us quite firm/crunchy biscuits. In the end, we didn’t make biscuits for wedding favours, and no-one but my husband has actually tried these biscuits. But he seemed to enjoy them, so I thought I’d share the recipe today. All the ‘cup’ measurements below were made using a 250 ml mug made from clearish glass (it makes guessing the fraction measurements easier!). These biscuits seemed to store well in an airtight container and even stayed crunchy for quite a while after I made them.
What you’ll need for the biscuits:
1/3 cup margarine
2/3 cup white sugar
1/2 cup golden caster sugar
2 1/2 cups self-raising flour
1 pinch salt
2 rounded teaspoons of ground mixed spice
What to do:
1. Pre-heat your oven to gas mark 4 (or check online to see what that is in Celsius or Fahrenheit).
2. Cream together the margarine and the two sets of sugar.
3. Sift the flour, salt and mixed spice into the bowl and mix into the creamed margarine/sugar (I did this with an electronic beater on a slow speed).
4. Add and mix in the eggs (again I did this with an electronic beater on a slow speed) until the mixture in the bowl looks like breadcrumbs.
5. Using your hands, draw the mixture together in the bowl and then (when its a relatively solid mass) gently and briefly knead the dough on a floured surface. Then roll the dough (to about half a centimetre in thickness) and cut. My limited repertoire of cookie cutters extends includes only Christmas shapes, so I went for stars, which seemed for ‘weddingy’ then Christmas trees and Santa Clauses.
6. Place the cut shapes onto a greased baking tray and bake for about 20 minutes until just browning on the edges. Remove from the oven and cool on a cooling rack. Whilst the biscuits cook and cool, make the icing, which can then be liberally swirled over the biscuits when they are cooled.
What you’ll need for the icing:
1 cup icing sugar
1 dessertspoon vanilla essence
1 teaspoon margarine
1/8 cup + 1 dessertspoon boiling water
What to do:
Melt the margarine by putting it and the 1/8 cup boiling water into a bowl and then mixing them together. Add the icing sugar, vanilla essence and dessertspoon of boiling water and whisk until thoroughly mixed. When the biscuits are cool, swirl icing over the top to decorate them. You can do this either with a teaspoon direct from the bowl or by putting the icing into a bag and piping it out. The icing is pretty runny initially so be prepared for a bit of a mess. I found it best to put some brown paper under the cooling rack and then decorate the biscuits whilst they were still on the rack – that way stray icing ends up on the brown paper which can then just be thrown away, rather than getting icing all over a countertop. Wait a few minutes for the icing to dry and then munch away!
Friday, 29 October 2010
Although today’s sign is, quite frankly, extremely politically incorrect, I’m still in the process of trying to figure out who it discriminates against most…
Is it singling out plebs and forcing them to go left as if they are somehow inferior, not allowed to take the A-road but having to settle for the B-road? Or is it discriminating against non-plebs in that all are allowed to go right but only plebs get to see what’s to the left? Leave a comment and tell me how you interpret the sign (other than the obvious but rather boring, “I think a few letters have disappeared”).
Friday, 22 October 2010
Friday, 8 October 2010
Well, the first thing I need to do is apologise for the very looooong hiatus in postings. I’ve been away and busy with work. But I’m back and hopefully will be posting more regularly (though don’t hold out too much hope, given my past record). I thought I’d start by going back to the halcyon days (all four weeks or so of chaotic, non-Friday and missed-Fridays of them) of Funny Sign Fridays. This sign comes courtesy of my aunt, who was visiting Britain from Australia and discovered that the museum may have some way to go before it catches up with the idea of circulatory museum patterns. What I want to know is where next after ‘next’?
Thursday, 5 August 2010
As far as I am aware it is commonly known that the continent of Africa has an very high HIV/AIDS rate, with many of its countries ranking amongst the highest in the world. I was surprised, therefore, to find out in a conversation the other day, that the HIV infection rate in South Sudan is only 2%, largely, apparently because of the recent war. However, the person I was talking to went on to say that increasing prosperity in the region, now that the war is formally over, will probably lead to an increase in HIV infection rates. So one tragedy will end and another begin, just when things should be looking up for the people of that part of the world. I find that incredibly profound and incredibly sad. To me, it just shows how much the gospel is needed even in places where to worldly eyes it may seem like things can only get better.
Friday, 30 July 2010
I’m going through a situation that I’m finding incredibly stressful at the moment (basically involving getting permission to do some work for my PhD). I feel like there are multiple bureaucratic hoops and every one that I get through seems to throw up five more for me to get through. In addition to this, time is getting short and I need to start making practical arrangements to carry out this work.
Psalm 37:5 says “Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him and He will act.” This verse challenges me. I feel that I should trust the Lord and know that in Him and through Him everything will work out but that letting go is hard, especially when there are various things I need to do at different times to sort everything out. I feel like I’m learning a lesson I’d rather not be taught – can I let go of my human worries, of what I think needs to be done and of my worries about the costs of doing it and trust God to lead me in the way that He knows is right. The message of the verse is obvious and undeniable. There is only one option – to commit my way to the Lord and trust in Him. So not only am I praying about the situation. I’m praying that God enables me to do what I should and commit it to Him.
Thursday, 24 June 2010
Wednesday, 28 April 2010
Spring is one of my favourite seasons. After months of dark, gloomy colours (think blacks and greys and browns) suddenly the world becomes awash with beautiful colours and the air seems to be extra bright and fresh with hope. There are two flowers that I particularly associated with the end of winter and the start of spring, and with the hope that this season seems to bring – snowdrops and daffodils. A few weeks ago, I went for a little walk with my family, and found evidence that spring was on the way in multiple ways – the warm(ish) day, lambs and daffodils. I thought I share some pictures in the hope that they’ll bring a little spring sunshine into your day today.
Friday, 23 April 2010
This recipe is really easy and needs only to be accompanied with some freshly steamed veg or a salad. I used 450 grams of mince when I last made this. However, different supermarkets seem to sell pork mince in different size packs – some are 450 grams and others are 500 grams. You can use either without it making much (or any that I’ve noticed) difference to the final outcome. Weighing out 450 grams of mince from a 500 gram pack is far too much effort!
For the meatballs, you’ll need:
A 450/500 gram pack of pork mince
2 slices of bread
2 cloves of garlic
Seasoning (salt, pepper and herbs of your choice – I can’t remember exactly, but I used either sage or oregano)
1 egg (if needed – see below)
For the sauce, you’ll need:
2 400 gram tins of tomatoes
2-4 fresh tomatoes
Gravy powder or powdered vegetable stock
Herbs (use the same herbs as you used for the meatballs)
You’ll also need:
Pasta – I used vermicelli, but you choose whichever you like and cook however much you need for the number of people eating (if I ever write a cook book I might need to tighten up on the precision of my ingredient instructions!)
What to do:
1. Peel the onion and divide into quarters. Then remove the skin of the garlic. Place the onion and peeled garlic into a food processor and whizz into a pulp. If you don’t have a food processor, chop the onion and garlic into the tiniest possible pieces you can. When you’re done, put the onion and garlic in a large mixing bowl.
2. Turn the two slices of bread into two slices of crumbs (I realise that doesn’t make complete sense, but you get the idea). This is easiest in a food processor (no need to rinse it after chopping the onions and garlic – too much extra work). If you don’t have one, tear the slices of bread into small pieces and then crumb them by rubbing each piece between your fingers over a bowl. Add the breadcrumbs to the onion/garlic mixture.
3. Add the pork mince and seasoning to the bowl. Seasoning is a bit of a gamble – I suggest you go with a small pinch of salt and shake of pepper and a reasonably generous sprinkle of herbs (with more if you like things herby). Then roll up your sleeves and dig your hands in and mix it all together thoroughly. If you didn’t pulverise the onions and garlic (which makes them slightly liquidy and helps to bind it all), or the mixture is dry and not sticking together very well, add one egg, beaten, to the mixture. Please ignore the slightly alien looking hand in the picture below…
4. Once all the ingredients are thoroughly mixed, spoon a teaspoon sized amount of meatball mixture into your hand and roll it into a little ball. Place the meatball on a baking tray (I didn’t use a non-stick pan and I didn’t grease it so my meatballs stuck a little – you might want to consider greasing your baking tray, especially if it is not non-stick). Repeat until all the mixture has been turned into little meatballs and then put in an oven on about gas mark 5 until cooked.
5. Whilst the meatballs cook, make the sauce. First, remove the skin from the fresh tomatoes. I find this easiest to do by blanching – score a line around the tomato from top to bottom and then back up to the top again. Then score another line around the tomato (just piercing the skin) at right angles to the first. Whilst you do that, put some boiling water in a pan over a low heat (just enough to keep it simmering) and then drop the tomatoes into the water for a minute or so. When you take them out the water, the skins should peel off really easily.
6. Roughly chop the peeled tomatoes and put in a pan with the tinned tomatoes and start heating. Add herbs and a small amount of gravy powder or powdered vegetable stock, to taste. I like my sauce to be really tomatoey, so added about one and a half teaspoons of gravy powder, just to give a slightly meaty undertone and help it thicken a little. Cook the sauce, stirring occasionally, until warm and reduced to a satisfactory consistency.
7. As the meatballs are coming to the end of cooking, cook your pasta. Then remove the meatballs from the oven and add to the sauce. If you put the sauce to one side whilst the meatballs and pasta finished cooking, you might need to reheat it slightly (I have a bit of an obsession with hot food). Then dish up the pasta with the meatballs and sauce. Or, if you want to do it the Italian way, toss the pasta in the sauce and then dish it up. Either way, it’ll end up on your plate and ultimately, in your tummy!
Friday, 9 April 2010
Happy belated Easter to my vast readership of two! Although I spent a lot of the Easter weekend thinking about Christ’s death and resurrection, I also kept thinking about a certain passage in Luke (5:27-32), which I wanted to share here. In the passage Jesus is asked by the Pharisees why He eats and drinks with “tax collectors and sinners” (verse 30). Jesus’ response is recorded in verse 31-32 which says, “And Jesus answered them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”’ (RSV version). So often I feel unworthy to come before the Lord, particularly when I feel like I’ve failed Him. I wonder how many others share that experience. Or how many people feel like they’ll never be good enough to be in a relationship with God. This passage is a good reminder in these moments of doubt that Jesus came not to call the righteous – those who’ve ‘made it’ in spiritual terms - but sinners – people who can’t make it on their own, who need a Saviour. At the church service that I went to on Easter Sunday, the person giving the talk reminded us that Jesus came to give help in our helplessness and to give hope in our hopelessness. He doesn’t meet us only when we are perfect and righteous. Rather, He meets us in our present situation and invites us to go on from there with Him.
Tuesday, 9 March 2010
On Sunday my husband and I went walking. It was great to get out in the fresh air and actually use my muscles for a change. Although most of the snow from earlier this year had melted, there were still patches of it lying around. However, partially melted snow is not the bizarre phenomenon I wish to share with you today. This is much more exciting and unusual. Apparently (so my clever husband’s hypothesis goes), once upon a time in the very recent past (like the last month – he didn’t give that detail, but I’m taking advantage of poetic license here!) a large cavity of usually boggy ground filled with water. The top layer of the newly-created pond froze over whilst somehow the water below drained away (probably into the ground – the observant husband pointed out a possible sink hole in the area) and the frozen ice sheet on top cracked gently and then settled into its new position. Which resulted in bizarre sight in the photos below. The first two were taken from a path quite high above the ice. The rest were taken from a little wander down to the ice itself – usually not a good idea because the ground is unstable, but on Sunday it was frozen in place and so very conveniently stable for us (although a little embarrassing when three walkers appeared on the path far above looking curiously down on us – it felt like we were unprepared actors in centre-stage!)