Friday photo – taste and see

taste-and-see

This is a picture of what was laid out for us as we entered chapel for our Midlands CYM worship led by a second year student, Tonia. There were different stations to reflect and share stories in relation to aspects of food and drink in the Bible. I started at the quail and manna and she had cooked a quail which tasted wonderful and was a new experience for me.

The time, the care, the thought that went into this worship was a real blessing. I am more often leading worship than being led in worship so it is very special when I get the opportunity to just participate. The manna was particularly delicious – pistachios in it – not quite what I have always pictured the manna we read about in Exodus but a contemporary interpretation more based on what it meant perhaps than what it was. Tonia finished by leading us in a discussion where we thought about how this activity was worship and built community and then we prayed short prayers of thanks for all that God gives us. A privilege to be a part of it.

Can you guess what all the stories are from the food you can see?

Go the distance – food is not just fuel

This week’s blog title is a quote by the owner of Le Gavroche, Michel Roux Jr. Let me share with you how this connected for me this week

This week I had 2 nice experiences, very different but enjoyable.

The first was facilitating some self care sessions for Salvation Army chaplains that work in their Lifehouses (what were called hostels). As well as sharing practical ideas, I also posed some more philosophical questions such as ‘do we have time off to enjoy it for it own’s sake or just to get ready to go back to work with more energy, enthusiasm etc?

The other nice thing I got to do this week was to go to go back to a hotel I used to work in for a birthday meal (it has taken 34 years to be able to afford it). As well as having a very nice reasonably priced meal in the Dorchester Hotel Grill I was offered another treat. I mentioned to the restaurant manager, John, that I used to to work there and he said he had just spoken to another diner whose father also worked there. Long story short, we were offered a tour of The kitchens and met the chefs! It had not changed much, the kitchens were still in the same place.

We benefited from the meal not just because of the nutritional benefit. We enjoyed the meal it was well prepared. It tasted and looked wonderful, we had the best table in the restaurant, corner booth with arm rest, with leather seats!

Food and holidays can both serve several purposes simultaneously. Be nourished and
replenished at the end of this summer.

Friday photo – as the deer

Deer park

Going to a park where deer are is an added attraction – one of our favourite walks is one where we try and spot deer roaming on the heath. Occasionally seeing deer triggers the beginning of psalm 42.1 – as the deer pants for the water so my soul longs after you… It is in reality more likely to be the song that enters my head as there seems to be a melody attached to the words!

It would not be true to say that everyday my soul longs after God as the psalmist suggests it might. There are days when this is so but there are days when it seems quicker to eat a biscuit or some chocolate to satisfy some emotional need. Today I want it to be God I long after….

Honest Christianity – hardly a kingdom welcome

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This week I have seen one of those common signs: “Only food bought on these premises can be eaten here”. Now I understand that not all establishments can offer table and chairs for everybody eating their packed lunch or cake bought from the take away. If they did, I am sure they would be concerned that there may not be enough seats for potential customers and therefore they may go out of business.

I reflected if this is not how the Church is seen sometimes. This is hardly a kingdom welcome. You are only welcome if you only consume what we feed you on the premises. As many of us will testify this does not work for religious and spiritual consumption in today’s culture. We have been nourished by a varied diet, we have eaten before we get to Church. It also got me thinking about how hospitable we are to vegetarian newcomers to our meat eating dining room.

It seems to depend on the culture of our local church, what the attitude is towards those who are from a different tradition, have different beliefs and values. Being welcoming, hospitable before joining seems Kingdom to me, all welcome.

I am not sure we could put the equivalent to a sign outside that says “come in, take a seat, bring your own food or let us serve you”, but it’s worth figuring out what it might say.

Wondering Wednesdays – eat it all up!

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Sometimes I don’t understand myself! Yesterday evening I took a lovely creamy looking pudding with ginger on the top but it was one of those occasions where it looked much nicer than it was but still I ploughed through the whole bowl. Monday I ate the 500 or so calories I am allowed to eat on the 5.2 diet. I have this message running through my head that I need to clear my plate. While I can imagine that this is what I was told as a child surely I am old enough and wise enough to realise that I can leave food on a plate once I am full – but no, so often this almost subconscious thought which seems rooted in my mind leads me to do what really doesn’t seem very sensible or life-giving!

It is when looking back at these occasions that I am again reminded of the beginning of Romans Chapter 12 and find the Message version a helpful parallel to my more usual NRSV, both are below:

So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.
I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God — what is good and acceptable and perfect.

It feels like there is an immaturity in some of my patterns of thinking that lead me into unhelpful and often unthinking behaviour that I regret once I actually start thinking about it. So today I want to be more mindful about my actions, particularly about my eating and make the wise mature decisions that reflects a mind being renewed.

Half term marker posts!

We are in Cornwall for half term so a few more places we like!  These are all family friendly accessible places that we like for breakfast or coffee and cake – a couple of them look like shelters which always resonates with us!  Starting off working life as a teacher meant that Sally got into a pattern of half terms and the longer periods of rest and recreation work for us although rest is perhaps not the best word for a week which tends to have quite a lot of sport and walking in it!  Half terms then are marker posts for us, particularly since ordination when Christmas and Easter become busier times of ministry rather than a more relaxed holiday time!

Hannafore kiosk

Hannafore Kiosk which has its own facebook page is opposite Looe Island   (see the Wondering Wednesdays post from 20th Feburuary) and is open in the summer and fine weekends in the winter. There are picnic benches and a couple of high tables where you can sit and gaze at the island.  There are always home baked cakes and some good local ice cream as well as pasties, toasties etc.  Very reasonable prices and  you get to drink out of real china (or you can have take away cups for the beach if you prefer).  Hannfore Kiosk Marine Drive, Hannafore,West Looe , PL13 2DJ  01503 263606.

One of the amazing things about Hannafore is that parking is still free all up the dead end road.  It is the west side of the river from Looe and you can walk into Looe, wander along the coastal path (Celtic ruin not far) or walk along the sea wall.  It is very user friendly for buggies or wheelchairs and has public toilets and lots of benches.  The rock pools at low tide are great to potter in and there are usually some interesting birds to see – often a little egret.

Seaton Beach Cafe - lots of shelters!
Seaton Beach Cafe – lots of shelters!

Seaton Beach Cafe tends to be our first and last day of the holidays breakfast venue.  They have a choose your own breakfast menu,  a good range of daily papers and lots of places to sit with sea views.  It is dog and child friendly and they have their own parking.  In the summer they do this great ice cream called a vomit bucket – and you get to keep the bucket.  They also do a good Sunday roast.  The beach is open to dogs the whole year round and you can walk along the sea wall to Downderry.  Seaton Beach Cafe  Looe HillTorpointEngland  01503 250621.

Wroes - Ocean View Restaurant - Bude

Wroes Ocean View Restaurant – Bude

The very best bacon sandwiches we ever eat are from here – Wroes Ocean View Restaurant in Bude!  Thick fresh granary bread and lots of well cooked bacon.  Enjoy the coffee too and there are usually a great range of home made cakes.  Wroes is a little department store which reminds me of my childhood.  They have a good outdoors department in the basement and a range of women’s clothing and handbags which are a bit out of the ordinary.  You can sometimes park for free on the street outside and it is one of the places where we have never seen a traffic warden!  13 Belle VueBudeEngland EX23 8JN   01288 353789

 

Processed Christianity

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I (Paul) originally trained in catering so I have followed the horse meat scandal with interest.  It has led me into some interesting theological reflection on the concept of processed Christianity.  A long time ago I lived on a farm for a while and we drank milk straight from the  cow – no pasteurisation processes, just pure unadulterated milk.  Now some people would say that was a risky thing to do – that is why you can’t normally buy untreated milk – but I knew the cows the milk came from, saw the conditions it was produced under and trusted the people who gave it to me.

One of the things that has been said in the recent debates is that consumers have become estranged from the food source.  I began to wonder what the equivalent was for my faith.  As a young Christian it was made clear to me that there were trusty suppliers of truth and there were also dodgy suppliers.  I quickly realised I was supposed to avoid the latter!  As I have got older I have become more eclectic in where I get my supplies from and always have questions of the processors, I want to know who it is that is writing or speaking, what their values are, their presuppositions, their particular angle on whatever the topic is.

When I teach practical and applied theology, I always explain that a systematic theology is only one person’s from a certain perspective and understanding of how our beliefs hold together.   It is often said that we read the newspapers that reinforce our political views, could it be that we limit our reading and listening to those who reinforce our biblical and theological views?  If I had listened to all the voices from my youth I would never have discovered such riches as Henri Nouwen or Celtic communities and learnt so much about ministry from their honesty and vulnerability.

Sometimes our food needs to be treated before we eat it, perhaps eating locally sourced food is the equivalent of doing our theology locally.  When we live in a global community, sometimes it is enjoyable to eat dishes from around the World. I have eaten ostrich, crocodile, kangaroo and horse, all very enjoyable, when it is what I ordered and well prepared.   It seems naive to think I can have a pure unadulterated faith, as we are so far removed from our New and Old Testament writers. But some analysis of its contents would seem prudent and tracing of its sources.  I like lasagne and a burger as much as the next person, but I also like my beef raw enough that when you stick the fork in, it goes moo!

As we perhaps begin to reflect more carefully on the physical food that we eat maybe we should also consider if and how our spiritual food has been mixed and be careful if all we take in is processed Christianity.