I have been thinking that one of the messages of Lent is, rather ironically, that we are not alone. Before Jesus went into the wilderness he was assured of God's love and delight in him, after his temptations the angels came and ministered to him. Rather like the hope that remains at the bottom of Pandora's box, so the bleakness of Lent is shot through with grace. Its message is that help is not so very far away and that we need not be ashamed to need it and to ask for it.
Sunday, 22 February 2015
One thing about the wilderness is that it is a place where you can ask for God's help.We often don't like to ask for help because we see this as a weakness but when we find ourselves in a bleak inhospitable place there is sometimes no other alternative but to overcome our pride. I've said before that I can feel uncomfortable with the idea of suffering and privation, not to mention the pseudo suffering and false humility, that can accompany Lent. Wildernesses, real or imagined, are not always the places of spiritual health and renewal that they are cracked up to be.
Friday, 20 February 2015
I think I mentioned at Christmas that the next few months would be wiped out with marking mocks and coursework? Well the coursework marathon started this half term with work from every single group. I marked from Saturday until Wednesday which wasn't great. I did go to sleep at night (!) managed to fit in a few trips the gym, ate some pancakes Tuesday lunchtime and Mr M took me out for a curry on Tuesday evening to celebrate the start of Lent, otherwise it was pretty non stop. I prepared lessons yesterday, which is more fun than marking. I have now FINISHED completely and the rest of half term is pretty much my own.
Sunday, 8 February 2015
Red sky at night, shepherd's delight,
Red sky in the morning, shepherd's warning.
That's how the old saying goes but I rather feel it has been disproved today as the picture above is of the sky last night taken from our study window and yet today has been cold, grey and foggy in our neck of the woods- although apparently bright and sunny elsewhere in the UK.
Grim weather notwithstanding, I've had quite a pleasant day. Having experienced a couple of broken nights recently (I am prone to insomnia), last night I crashed out and slept over ten hours at a stretch. I do feel much better for it. This afternoon I baked a lemon drizzle loaf, partly to use up some leftover lemons and a jar of lemon curd but also because baking while listening to "Poetry please" on Radio 4 seemed just the ticket given the dreary weather and general chill. The recipe below has to be one of the easiest cakes to make, you just bung it all in a food processor and it comes out perfect. The addition of the lemon curd seems to make it quite moist and- well- lemony actually. Who'd have thought?
· 140g (5 oz) self raising flour
· 110g (4 oz) caster sugar
· 110g (4 oz) butter or margarine, softened
· 2 eggs, beaten
· 2 heaped tablespoons lemon curd
· Ingredients for topping
· 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
· zest of 1 lemon
· 2 tablespoons lemon juice1. Preheat the oven to 170 C / Gas 3, 150 C for fan ovens
2. Put flour, caster sugar, margarine, eggs and lemon curd into a mixing bowl or food processor, and mix well together. Put into a greased or lined 900g (2 lb) loaf tin (or makes approximately 16-18 cupcakes).
3. Place in centre of oven and bake for 1hour - 1hr 30mins (or 40-45 minutes for cupcakes).
4. While in the oven make the topping: blend together the granulated sugar, lemon juice and lemon rind.
5. Once cake is cooked, leave to cool still in the tin for about 2 to 3 minutes. Then while still hot to warm, pour over the topping so that it soaks into the cake. Leave to cool for about 1/2 hour then turn out of tin. Keeps well for a few days if wrapped in greaseproof paper and tin foil.
Sunday, 1 February 2015
" I don't know if God exists but it would be better for his reputation if he didn't. (Jules Renard)
Stephen Fry's rant about how God "dare" to create such a brutal world is doing the rounds on YouTube and social media at the moment. I personally am not offended by Fry's view; the notion that theodicy, any attempt to account for a loving God in the face of a cruel world, is futile or even obscene is not a new one. The view he expresses has its validity and Fry has a right to his opinion even if it does not express my own world view.
I have blogged before about suffering and the way that Jesus's suffering and humanity helps me to begin to make sense (I don't claim to have wholly made sense) of a world in which human happiness is blighted not just by man's inhumanity but by disease and natural disaster.
What would Jesus's answer be to the question about how he dare to allow a child to have bone cancer?
Well, I think he might explain that he was that child with bone cancer. That he was the man whose sight was destroyed by the parasite. That he was and is each and everyone of us who faces poverty, exclusion, cruelty and suffering. He might ask where were we when he was hungry, helpless and naked- in fact I think he has said he will? With regard to the child with bone cancer, I think he might ask us how much we truly cared? Did we give all of our money away, as he exhorted us to, and do everything we could to eradicate the disease? Or did we keep a fair bit back to fund our pension pots? He might ask us if we sat by complacently not bothering to look for a vaccination to Ebola until we felt personally threatened? He might ask if to consider our disregard for our planet and the huge amount of suffering we are likely to be inflicting on future generations- our own children and their world.
We would do well to reflect that the world we live in has been made a thousand times worse by our actions. What a suffering world does give us is the opportunity to reach out to others and to heal and offer hope. Jesus came to earth to model this to us - have we followed his example? He taught us that we are blessed if we are poor in spirit, humble, peacemakers, yet haven't we persisted in egotism, selfishness and greed?
So I think Fry's rant, although I accept is it his truth, is a little limited. I am never going to be complacent about suffering, and yet it is true that much of our greatest literature is tragedy, the exploration of human pain is deeply connected to our search for meaning in life.
I believe that we are put on earth partly to ponder meaning and to think about the answers to questions which are by no means easy - and that we then go back home and tell what we have learnt.