indexing blackcurrants and courgettes

spiceI’ve been sitting here  in this freezing cold house for the past hour indexing all my recipe books so that I can find my recipes quickly. Yes, Thursday night is obviously party night at Dave’s house.

I enjoy recipe books but despite enjoying them I can never find a recipe when I need it which makes me resent my recipe books. It’s just too much bother to look through things when you’re tired and so you might stick on a bowl or porridge or eat a can of tinned rice.

If I bring some courgettes for example home from the market I quickly get tired flicking through book after book until I stumble across courgette recipes I can make with the ingredients that I have. So I’m making a big book that has recipes labelled under different vegetables and fruit and various meat.

My main reasons for doing this are:-

1) I’d like to try and make more meals around whatever vegetables or fruit are in season. If I ever get space I’d like to try growing some of my own. So it’s sort of getting used to the natural rhythms of the seasons and cooking around what we can grow in the UK and Ireland.

2) I’m trying to eat more foods that can be grown locally but seeing if they can be made more exciting or tasty. For instance is there a nice recipe for carrots or cabbages which doesn’t use much energy to prepare and is easy to make but doesn’t taste bland. There are some vegetables which you can get in your local corner shop pretty much anywhere but they don’t seem sexy or appealing on a cold February evening.

3) I’m trying to eat less meat, but better quality meat when I do. Also to try and get as much value from that meat when we do buy it. So are there any good recipes for using cheap cuts of meat like beef shin or livers and that sort of thing.

At the same time flicking through recipe book after recipe book and having your mouth water at glossy pictures can make you more than a little ashamed and guilty.
Here you are indexing recipe books and thinking about how you’re going to try that cassis and blackcurrant recipe while millions and millions of people around the globe go to bed starving and malnourished.  Here you are with all these options and ideas and others are trying to scrap a living from poor soil and land that suffers drought. So I’m trying to remind myself to be thankful for every thing in the cupboards, for water tapped in and energy for cooking at the flick of a switch.

I guess that all this indexing is an attempt to find out if I can eat in better ways than I have been doing, in a way that is more thankful for my daily bread and less destructive to creation. Am I cooking in a way that isn’t wasteful of energy? Can I get 3 meals out of a chicken instead of 2?

But at the same time to be able to cook well because I’d like to be able to cook well for hospitality in the future, especially for wherever we move to next or whatever happens there. Because I’ve heard a lot sermons about the Good News in my time but I’ve experienced the good news most around dinner and fellowship with friends.  Which always reminds of Babette’s Feast.


So this morning I knew that there would a very glowing sermon for the Queen and this made me stay away from this morning’s service,
but wasn’t an option for my better half who has to go, even though she is Irish, as in born in Co. Offaly or lived mostly in Co. Dublin.  Not British yet part of the Presbyterian Church, like many other people. Well like some other people maybe.
So our gracious Queen isn’t her gracious Queen, and if you are from German or Korean, Polish or a republican from Belfast she isn’t your queen.
The point isn’t whether the Queen is good or bad, is gracious,etc  the point is that if you are the Presbyterian Church in Ireland then you are excluding people if you talk about ‘our Queen’ or ‘our nations armed forces’  as they might talk about at the General Assembly when talking about chaplains and the like.

The Presbyterian Church in Ireland means that glowing sermons for the Queen might be divisive in your sister churches a few hours down the road, in places like Cork, Sligo, Dun Laoghaire,  Dundalk area, not even to mention 5mins up the road in west Belfast.

It’s hard, I always seem like I’m moaning about church or my faith, life in general. Yet if you are asking members of the church to bring a friend along to a service but giving glowing sermons for the things British or holding a Remembrance Day with the British National anthem that puts up a barrier to bringing along people who are Republican and saw the British Army as the oppressors….well, you know….it’s the PCNI…

the stretcher

How much should you tell your computer? Tonight I don’t care.

Today was not a good day.  I don’t want life to be like this, but it is. It just is.

My girl is upstairs waiting for sleep to come, I know she is hurting, hurting so bad and what can I do? I can do nothing except what I usually do, be me stubborn and angry or angry and stubborn in the wrong way about things I can’t control, probably tilting at windmills, big wind generating windmills that don’t actually generate electricity or spoil the countryside or use more energy to make than they produce in their entire lifetime and there is always something isn’t there?

There was an old man who lived a few houses down.
He walked slowly along the footpath, I assumed on his way to the pub each day. In my head he was called Jim, hop along Jim.  He was lonely, or looked lonely. I knew he was lonely.

So what did I do?
I did nothing.  As usual I did nothing.

‘and at once I knew I was not magnificent’

The police stood outside his house today, then the white overcoats and face mask and on the way back from the shops a stretcher. I didn’t look. H___ wanted me to ask, but I didn’t.

As usual I did nothing. So I don’t know. But I suspect and that fills me with sadness. He was so lonely. Did he have any family?
Worse, you knew this or guessed this and what did you do?

Then there is THE ISSUE.
It’s there.
It can’t be ignored. And Jesus  and God and the Holy Spirit it’s killing us so can you cut me a bit of slack? Won’t us give us a break?

That’s unless of course you don’t really exist because it’s at times like this that it just seems so lonely and silent that I just can’t see it myself.  I tried to imagine you standing in the corner of the bedroom last week, what you actually might have looked like. I couldn’t do it. It was an Obi Wan Kenobi type hologram, a wisp of mist in the corner when what you want is a real and physical, for real flesh and blood, suffering yet risen reality. What I got was a shady corner of my imagination.

Or  a book, or books and letters and versions and exegesis and preachers and church on a Sunday morning with a pipe organ and red hymn book, blue ‘Glory to God’ and ‘The Source’ and cups of instant coffee in a soul less church hall with uncomfortable looking middle class people and  mention (probably) of The Queen’s Jubilee.

This is what we get. Jesus, it’s hard to believe.

How much can you tell the computer?

This much. And there’s more. But nobody will care.  It’s just lonely old men and the money you didn’t earn because you are you and there is no job that is good enough for you or suitable for you and you won’t go and work the production line of Moy Park chicken or something (because you’re busy tilting at big wind generating windmills or something)  and the work you do do is not valued as work because it’s not paid and competition and better train harder or ask the right questions and answer to prove that you are the most suitable person for the opening.

There is the money you forgot to put in the bank to pay for the rent that you remember about on a Saturday night on a special Bank Holiday weekend meaning that you will probably be charged by greedy banker, or something like that.  So you can work hard and still not get paid.

Thing is, stretchers and old men, banks, THE ISSUE, church of clay feet,me being me, entropy is not what I want defining and embittering me, or scaring me,  I don’t want that.

Miracle please…stretcher me through a hole in roof, I can’t do it myself.



‘It is also true that many corporations are efficient and well managed.
But they are, by definition, managed in interests at variance with those of the public.  Their directors have a ‘fiduciary duty’ towards the shareholders: they must place their concerns above all others. The state, by contrast, has a duty towards all members of the public…’

George Monbiot, Captive State

I’ve been thinking about corporations and shareholders for years now and wondering how I am supposed to react to them as a Christian.

Obviously it would be very hard, if not impossible to function in our society without coming into contact with corporations.
Right now as I type this I can see a ‘Dell’ logo staring back at me and another ‘Samsung’ logo on my mobile phone.

But there is a problem as I see it from a Christian or church going point of view.

As George Monbiot mentions above or as this clip from ‘The Corporation’ shows they are required (by law?) to place the bottom line of it’s owners above the public good.

Or to put it another way, public corporations operate by favouritism at the expense of  other people. They favour (by law?) those who are the  shareholders. The financial interests of its owners (whoever they are) are more important than the public interest.

The problem from the Christian point of view, or for someone who is trying to follow Jesus with their whole life (not just the Sunday morning church going life) is that Jesus doesn’t do favourites.
Or at least that’s the official line on Sunday mornings from the pulpits and on the pages of the New Testament even though we fail miserably at living it out.

Surely it should be fundamental that the Christian doesn’t favour one group of people over another group of people? If Jesus loved and died for everyone and we’re called to follow him then that means that we’re to show self sacrificial love to everyone, not just a select group of people such as the shareholders of a company.

This is not the way the good news should operate if it’s really the counter-cultural kingdom it’s supposed to be and not some made up myth.

When I worked for that well known DIY company with the black and orange shirts there was different levels I worked on.
On one level I was simply working to earn money for rent and food, for clothes and the occasional trip to the cinema. This is the basic survival level, the level at which you would do nearly anything to make sure you’ve enough money to keep going and function in society.
But it was the other bigger picture level that always troubled me.
Who was I working for?
Who where these shareholders that I was earning money for each time I hauled 20 boxes of polished porcelain tiles into a Nissan Micra?

Perhaps there are other bigger things to worry about but our work matters and who we are ultimately working for matters as well.  If this stuff is really true then my whole being has been redeemed and every minute of every day matters. Is there any  point in me or any Christian singing something like ‘Only by Grace’ on a Sunday morning then going out on Monday morning to try and win the biggest gains for the company competition?
With a company such as B&Q it was nigh on impossible and far too complicated to ever know who I was ultimately working for.  That used to really trouble me.

The bigger picture beyond my monthly wage was that I was contributing to  shareholders profits and playing along with ideal of competition that seems to be the way the world works and is designed to work.  I wasn’t just selling tile grout, I was using my body to do devils work and trying to grow the company at the expense of smaller companies and my neighbour. I was playing along the strong arm tactics of world leaders and trying to help them build Babel.

Is that too dramatic? I don’t know, I’m only saying this stuff out loud as that’s how I feel about stuff but can never express it when asked about it on the spot.

It’s the whole question of how we’re supposed to live our lives if we’re following Jesus. The way of favouritism and working for a select group of people at the expense of another group of people, doesn’t seem to gel with the truth that we are too love our neighbour as our self. And neighbour means anyone, not just those who are on our side and in our group.

So, there you go. In one way it seems pointless to even mention stuff like this as that’s just the way the world is and sure we have to eat and earn a living and it’s messy, sometimes (or most times) we just have to do stuff we don’t like doing in the race of survival. It’s seem impossible to live without leaving a trail of destruction and death around the place.
I’m using energy writing this that will pollute the atmosphere, who knows how the materials for this computer were mined, who knows how the person who made my fleece and shorts was treated while making them. I guess that’s the way the world has always been as well. Perhaps the last and best bit of advice for making sense of it are the words of a Buddy Miller song I’ve been listening to the last few days

This old world just stays the same
one man wants what the other man gained
one man’s greedy one man’s not
you can’t worship money and god

Cain killed abel that was his brother
sons of abraham still killing each other
c’mon children understand
Jesus washed all away the sins of man

Pray! Pray!
time to love every man woman and child
just forgive and let live for a little while

‘I’m a Paul-ian?’ – married to the minister no.3

That last post might have sounded overly bitter and negative about my circumstances,
as if the Stasi or CIA where outside our house monitoring our every move, which they obviously aren’t.
For example I’m sure that unmarked white van outside the house with the man in a white collar is just fixing the telephone  next door and that camera I found in a rock today was just a child’s toy….
Anyway in true ex youth worker style here is a video clip that I will use to lead into our main discussion even though it hasn’t really anything to do with the discussion

Anyway enough of Rev. Pondering these things has made me realise that the main thought and worry behind these thoughts is what does it mean to be free when you are heavily involved with a church? Can you ever be free?
Is it possible to be yourself or will it always involve wearing a mask and keeping your guard up?

I once did ponder if I should become a Rev myself and went along to a meeting where a bunch of us had assembled to hear the Head of Students of a theological college talk about what it would involve. It was simple process of tests and weekends away, years here, years there, study, study, placements and then eventually a blue shirt and collar. I could see the clones walking out of the building in a robotic ministerial fashion towards the general assembly. Afterwards I went up to him and said

‘I sometimes think that I would like to be a minister but I’m worried that I couldn’t be myself…’

He just dismissed this question as if it was something to be brushed aside and not that relevent. Because of his reaction to this question I decided there and then that I never wanted to become a minister. And that was that until I fell in love and got married and 10 years later wake up on a Sunday and find my wife might be wearing a blue shirt and collar (on special Sundays) or trudging away to youth group or happy that the sermon went well.

This is probably the last thought I have been having about this all (at the moment at least) and it goes way back to as far as I can remember in the Presbyterian church.
Our church often seems to be more obsessed with Paul and his way of doing things rather than Jesus. It is as simple as that sometimes I reckon.

I’m not saying that Paul was a male chauvinist pig and all that stuff, I’m not saying he isn’ t important, I’m not saying that what he writes isn’t the word of God, I’m not saying he isn’t misunderstood etc but from what I’ve seen our church is often based around Paul more than Jesus.

The image I have of Paul is a workaholic who never stopped working for the Gospel,
who always had the answers and had a certain authority because he was a naturally gifted man who had experienced an almighty miracle on the road to Damascus where he was converted.

I have nothing against him, my problem is that we largely think everyone has to be like Paul instead of like Jesus when it comes to a minister type.  Will they bounce around the place from church to church, meeting to meeting? Will they have all the answers? Will they give their life and soul for serving the church just like Paul did?
And if a minister is not like Paul he should be more like Paul.

Again,I’m neither claiming this is theologically correct, balanced or not a pile of crap but this is what I feel sometimes from the years I’ve been a church goer.

An example of this is how vast swathes of the bible, (especially the Prophets)  have been ignored in the pulpit while Romans, Galatians, Corinthians and Timothy get a regular hearing.

When you read the accounts of Paul he never seems to stop doing stuff for God, he is always flying about The Med from one church to another disciplining and encouraging, writing and preaching like some type of  type of Mark Driscollesque Duracell bunny.

And so most ministers/pastors/vicars take their lead from Paul and are expected to take their lead from Paul.
They also seem to be trained in theological college in the ways of Paul and his letters, in Romans and if women should be teaching elders or if the Greek means deacons. They can discuss what he did up on Mars Hill in Athens and most importantly the word Gospel and evangelism. The Gospel is an obession.

Again I am not saying this is wrong, only that it sometimes misses the main point which should be Jesus/God/Holy Spirit.

Is Paul who we should be taking our lead from when it comes to being a minister (and minister’s spouse)? Surely the whole point for us all (and it was for Paul) is that we should become more like Jesus?

Like we pick and choose the bits of other bible characters and would very reluctantly think of them as heroes. We often remember than although King David was a man after God’s own heart he was also a murderer and adulterer.

But because Paul was doing the Lords work and there was such a sense of urgency to it all we don’t ask as many questions of Paul or are slower to spot his sinfulness. It almost feels like Paul is too busy to sin. He is a whirlwind.

I suppose it’s a bit like a blog post.
You could write very true, accurate and mind blowing posts but be a complete disaster of a man.
When Paul told those guys in the church to follow his example he was speaking to people who actually did know him in real life. We are going on his writings and personal letters.

When Paul says follow his example to the church he was writing to was he expecting that someone in theological college nearly 2000 years later should do the same?

The reason that this has anything to do with being married to a minister is that I worry  for my wife but also for relations and good friends who have been called to be ministers.  I worry that we expect them to be like Paul instead of Jesus. The thing is that we know that Jesus is out of our league and we could never be like him so well plead for mercy. With Paul though we think that we might be able to get there if work really hard at the Gospel and doing stuff. We’re not called to take up Paul’s cross and follow him, Paul is not the bread of life or Paul doesn’t say come to me all you who are weak and heavy laden and I will give you rest. Paul won’t give us rest or freedom.

Right back to making rocket stoves.

fairness and unemployment and gospel and competition

I’m sitting here in my study eating a bowl of unsweetened muesli and listening to ‘Thunder Road’. There is a gale brewing up outside and I’ve the blues.
I’ve spent the last few days putting some books online to sell and drawing pictures for them and now I’m trying to tackle a job application form for a job I actually would like to do and think I could do well.

Yet I know that even if I muddle my way through filling in the application from that I’m unlikely to be considered for the post due to missing some of the essential criteria.

This is work, but it’s work that is unseen and unpaid. I thought the same thing peeling some muddy clogged spuds the other night. It took me a good 15mins, unseen in the kitchen to prepare the potatoes for the dinner, then extra time to prepare dinner for the two of us and time cleaning the dishes after, all of it work and all of it unseen and unpaid.

This is the story of millions around the country at the moment, working away but counted as unemployed and in need of finding ‘work’. And this has also been the experience of many a house wife who  somehow isn’t classified as a working mum.

It’s madness when you start to thing about it. Work shouldn’t be defined as something that you get money for doing. Especially from a Christian point of view. Yes, everyone is to earn their keep but does that have to equate earning money?
I’m not sure. Perhaps I’m trying to justify my own lack of desire to go out and fight tooth and nail for a job, pitting my wits against my fellow man and out do him just so out two unit family will survive above all other families. Yes, of course I could fight and scrap for a job and then share stuff but do the means justify the ends? That has been the argument from so many sensible people I know but I don’t see how that is the case. You can’t try trample over people just so that you can then be like Jesus when you get to the top.

I see this and any application form as really a battle of wits against all my unseen competitors. And so I have to make sure that I gain an advantage by proving my worth. All those tips about what to say and what not to say to give you the best chance, all those courses and training you should go on to give yourself a better chance, the way you should dress, the impression you should give, the techniques….it’s all a very wordly way of going about things.

Can you imagine if there was a job going in Bethsaida Tesco and the disciples and Jesus really needed the job to mak ends meet?

So there’s the disciple doing good deeds, then going home (or wherever they were staying) and trying their best to sound like they would be better at the job that the other disciples on a piece of paper, then sending it off to the HR Manager?

This doesn’t see to fit in with the kingdom of God and the upside-down kingdom, the first being last and serving your fellow man.Yet this undoing your fellow man and lurching after the one job in town seems to be accepted as just the way things are….well I thought the Gospel was the way things where supposed to be?

Of course the person doing the judging may pick the person best suited to the job but it’s still this competition  to prove my worth and be the best that seems anti-Gospel. Especially when the fact is that there just aren’t enough paid jobs for people to do.

gospelman and the gospel coalition

My friend just put up a link from The Gospel Coalition doing some Bible ju-jitsu moves on some stuff Ricky Gervais has said in the past. I’ve heard rumours of this Gospel Coalition before.

But who exactly are the Gospel Coalition? Well the council of the Gospel Coalition consists of

One man, two men, three men, four men, five men, six men, seven men, eight men, nine men, ten men, eleven men, twelve men, thirteen men, fourteen men, fifteen men, sisxteen men, seventeen men, eighteen men, nineteen men, twenty men, twenty one men, twenty two men, twenty three men, twenty four men, twenty five men, twenty six men, twenty seven men, twenty eight men, twenty nine men, thirty men, thirty one men, thirty two men, thirty three men, thirty four men, thirty five men, thirty six men, thirty seven men, thirty eight men, thirty nine men, fourty men, fourty one men, fourty two men, fourty three men, fourty four men, fourty five men, fourty six men, fourty seven men, fourty eight men, fourty nine men, fifty men, fifty one men, fifty men.

Fifty two Gospel Men.

Oh, and no women….

But sure,oh well,why would a coalition of the Gospel need women for a bit of guidance anyway?

I’d like to write a big long blog post on all the ways that I think this is wrong, but life is too short isn’t it?
It does annoy me off when I see stuff like this being married to a trainee female minister and with so many friends and people I know hanging on every word  and influenced by the actions of  well known evangelical authors  like John Piper,  Mark Driscoll, Alistair Begg, D.A. Carson or Tim ‘Flavour of the Month’ Keller, but hey what can a man do?

So rather than worrying about the Gospelmen of this world (who’ll always win and are often right with their x-ray Gospel night vision ) I’d be better out planting strawberries, drawing pictures or learning how to make nettle risotto.
Or in the words of  “The Mad Farmer March” by Wendell Berry

“Instead of reading Chairman Mao/ I think I’ll go and milk my cow”