Support a new kid on the blogging block

Some of us have been blogging for ages – I started in 2009 OOOH! I’ve just realised I passed my 10 years’ Blogiversary on 24th August. What a shame I didn’t realise on the day. It would have made for a blog post!!

Anyway…some of us have been blogging for a long time, some of us not so long.

My nephew-in-law has started his blog “The Stay Abroad Dad” He & my niece, Ruth, and their two Littlies are living in Malaysia at the moment. Ruth is working in a new school, and Dave is the Stay At Home Abroad Dad. He writes quite engagingly, so please trot over to say Hello and encourage him in his blogging efforts. I look forward to reading more about their adventures.

Hello!

I’m here! I’m fine! But just uninspired about what to post about!

But I’m fine.

Here’s a recipe I’m going to try this weekend – Mr FD is trying to lose weight but is missing biscuits and sweet treats a bit. This sounded like a reasonable substitute…

INGREDIENTS:

 

  • 175g dried apricots, chopped
  • 100g light muscovado sugar 
  • 420g tin apricot halves in juice, puréed in a blender
  • 30g low-fat spread
  • 1tsp baking powder
  • 125g wholemeal flour
  • 125g self-raising flour

METHOD:

  1. Heat the oven to 180°C/fan 160°C/gas 4. Grease and line a 2lb loaf tin with baking paper.
  2. Put the apricots, sugar, apricot purée and low-fat spread in a medium pan and bring to the boil. Set aside to cool.
  3. Add all the dry ingredients to the cooled apricot mixture, spoon into the tin and bake for 40–50 min until a skewer pushed into the middle comes out clean. Cool in the tin for 10 min, then turn out on to a wire rack to cool completely.

PICTURE:

We will see. I also have to re-boil (and maybe add pectin to) my Tomato and Chilli jam. It’s more like tomato and chilli gloopy liquid at the moment.

And if you are of the praying nature, please remember a “virtual” friend of mine, who goes by the moniker Piglet. Her husband suffered a stroke after surgery for bowel cancer, and has died. Another person who a fortnight before was reasonably fit and healthy, but who succumbed quickly to cancer and its related evils. May D rest in peace and rise in glory, and may God hold Piglet in the palm of his hand.

 

IT’S ALL ABOUT LOVE

Way back in April I went to Paris for a truly joyous occasion: the consecration of Mark Edington as Bishop in charge of the Convocation of the Episcopal Church in Europe (that’s a mouthful!)

I was lucky enough to hear Bishop Michael Curry (he of the wedding of Maghan and Prince Harry fame) It was a privelege. In the Spring edition of “Trinité” the parish magazine of the Episcopal Cathedral in Paris, there were some excerpts of Michael Curry’s sermon published. I thought you might like to read them.

 

IT’S ALL ABOUT LOVE – BRIEF EXCERPTS FROM THE APRIL 7TH SERMON BY PRESIDING BISHOP MICHAEL CURRY

I have looked for the asterisk behind ‘love your neighbor’ limiting who the neighbor was. I have tried my best.

I was on Capitol Hill with members of Congress and I said, I might be wrong, but I don’t think it’s ‘Republicans, love your Republican neighbors; Democrats, love your Democratic neighbors; capitalists, love your capitalist neighbors; communists, love your communist neighbors’.

No, it says: Love Your Neighbor. And who’s your neighbor? It’s everybody else. I mean to tell you, that’s a game-changer. That’s a game-changer in our personal lives, and in the life of this world: to live by love.”

“Now if you don’t believe Jesus, maybe you’ll believe Prime Minister William Gladstone. Actually I didn’t hear him say it, he was in the 19th century, but if you don’t believe Jesus, and you don’t believe William Gladstone, maybe you’ll believe Jimi Hendrix. Because Jimi’s quoting William Gladstone in the spirit of Jesus of Nazareth, to say it this way:

When the power of love overcomes the love of power, then the world will know peace.”

“Love is going the extra mile, love is actually turning the other cheek, love is seeking the good and the welfare and the well-being of others.

The truth is, I used to think the opposite of love was hatred. It dawned on me that the opposite of love is selfishness, self-centeredness, and hatred is a derivative of self-centeredness.

Love is the way of unselfish living, love is the way of selfless service, and I’m here to tell you that if we dare to live by love, we will know a very different world.”

If you would like to read more, this link takes you to the PDF of the magazine. You can read about the consecration in much more detail, should you wish to.

Click to access 0e8673323_1555700764_2019-trinite-spring-online.pdf

(Very late) Book Review: The Body in the Dales (3.5*)

I am proud to be  a Twenty-five Reviews or More reviewer on Net Galley.

 

AND I’m a Top Reviewer, which means 3 or more of my reviews have been added to any NetGalley title details page by a publisher (I bet it wasn’t for any of my 1 star reviews!!)

So I was sent this e-book, free-of-charge (yay!) by NetGalley, in return for an honest review. However it was yonks ago and I completely forgot to review it. Although it’s so long ago I can hardly remember it, I still feel I should do my duty and write a review. So here it is

The Net Galley blurb reads:

Book Review: Darkness on the Fens (*** and a half)

I am proud to be  a Twenty-five Reviews or More reviewer on Net Galley.

 

AND I’m a Top Reviewer, which means 3 or more of my reviews have been added to any NetGalley title details page by a publisher (I bet it wasn’t for any of my 1 star reviews!!)

So I was sent this e-book, free-of-charge (yay!) by NetGalley, in return for an honest review.So here it is

DARKNESS ON THE FENS

by Joy Ellis

The Net Galley blurb reads:

Do you love addictive detective mysteries? Then try this book by a multiple #1 best-selling author now. You won’t be able to put it down. It’s a totally enthralling read.

A SERIAL KILLER ON A POISONOUS MISSION PUSHES NIKKI AND HER TEAM TO BREAKING POINT

Revellers are flocking into Greenborough for the yearly Dark Greenborough Festival, a three-day event celebrating local folklore, superstition and the darker side of life.What the public doesn’t know is that there has been a warning sent to the police, saying that Greenborough will be a very dangerous place this year. The anonymous letter ends with the Latin phrase, Mors certa, hora incerta: Death is certain, the hour uncertain.

DI Nikki Galena and her team soon discover this is no hoax, as people start dying from what appears to be alcoholic poisoning. Things rapidly escalate, and as the deaths get more horrific, Nikki realises they have a serial killer in their midst.

A NIGHTMARE HUNT FOR A KILLER DURING THEIR BUSIEST TIME OF THE YEAR.Full of twists and turns, this is a crime thriller that will keep you turning the pages until the heart-stopping ending. This is book ten of the international best-selling books featuring Nikki Galena.

(That’s part of the blurb…it goes on a bit!)

I hadn’t read the other books in the series, so there were a few references to past events that made little sense to me, but they weren’t vital to the story. I found the main characters engaging enough, and the story was fairly gripping. I did find it a little hard to believe that an investigating officer would allow her mum and three friends to take part in the investigation in the way they did – and actually I’m not sure that this added much to the story. Most of what they seemed to do could have been done by any other character.

The motivation behind the murders was a little weak – I could understand why the first murder could be as a result of the motivation (sorry, trying not to give spoilers) but the continued murders…I’m not sure. The start was a bit slow – I was tempted to give up, but am glad I didn’t – and there were places where I felt it was a bit baggy, and could have done with some editing, to speed the action along a little.

I’ll give this 3.5 stars (rounded down, I’m afraid, for Net Galley) but I’m not sure I’ll be rushing to read any others in the series.

Cats on the Underground

What a splendid idea!

An inspirational group of cat lovers have replaced every advertising hoarding in Clapham (Cat-ham?!) Common tube station with cat pictures! d The Citizens Advertising Takeover Service (CATS, if you didn’t get that) started a crowdfunding campaign to raise enough money to replace the standard adverts  with pictures of, well, cats, with more than 60 adverts displaying cute kittens and cats from every angle.

At first, the plan was just to put up pretty pictures of cats. But after thinking things through, CATS decided to display photos of animals in need of loving homes – so many of the pictures  are cats from Battersea Dogs and Cats Home or Cats Protection, the UK’s largest feline welfare charity.

CATS said that their reasons for doing this were…
  • It would be amazing
  • It’s exhausting being asked to buy stuff all the time. “Wouldn’t it be great not to worry about the holiday we can’t afford, the car we don’t need, or the body we don’t have? Imagine a world where public spaces made you feel good.”
This blog post gives more information….
I have since read the article more carefully, and found that this happened in 2016 – still…it’s still a lot of fun!!

 

A local chateau fort

A Chateau Fort is the French word for what we’d probably call a castle – not one of your poncy chateaux with fancy turrets and posh staircases like this one:

While we have a couple of those in the area, they’re not open to the public (unless you go Air bnb!) But we do have the ruins of a good old Chateau Fort – Le Chateau des Cornes d’Urfé

This was the “cradle” of the Urfé family, who ruled this corner of the Loire departement – but of course the departement didn’t exist then! Anne d’Urfé – a bloke – was one of the first Seigneurs, and his heart is interred in the little chapel here in St Just. Honoré d’Urfé wrote what is considered to be one of the first novels, a story called “Astrée”, after which our street is named. Later on, the family owned a more Chateau-y Chateau, Le Bastie d’Urfé, on the plain

but at the beginning the Chateau des Cornes d’Urfé was their home. It was remarkably well situated to view the Chateau in St Just itself, and that in Champoly, about 10 km away And – of course – it dominated the valley in the mountains, probably making it ideal to demand tolls from those passing, as well as keeping an eye on any aggressive movement of men from either of the neighbours!

I visited with my friend, Jane, while she was here.

This is the view from the tower, looking towards St Just. As you can see the chateau is now in ruins, and while volunteers come every summer to help to restore the building, they can only do so much. We were amused that the only nod to health and safety was a notice saying “Soyez Prudent” (Be careful) – climbing the steps inside the tower was not for the faint hearted: unlit, uneven, steep, low-ceilinged and no handrail of any description (until the final 10 steps when there was a rope to hang onto!) I’m sure in the UK it wouldn’t have been allowed!

After admiring the view we strolled around the bottom of the Chateau

 

We used to bring visitors here all the time, but I hadn’t been for ages. It was a pleasure to come back – especially on such a nice day. It wasn’t very clear however, but on a really clear day you can see Mont Blanc in one direction and Puy de Dome in the other.

The cards you never want to make…

Last week we heard on Tuesday that the wife of one of Mr FD’s oldest friends had been diagnosed with aggressive liver cancer. On Thursday evening we heard that she had died. What can one say or do in a situation like that?

We had only re-made contact with H – the friend – a few years back, and so had only met T a handful of times, but she was lovely: down to earth, fun, and kind hearted. We had loked forward to getting to know her better, but it was not to be.

On Saturday I made two condolence cards (as always, click on the photos to get a better view). This was my first effort:

I quite like this one – although the gel glue I used wasn’t my usual brand, and it didn’t stick as well, leaving some bumps and marks. The flowered paper was from the front of a free magazine (which I snaffled purely for the front cover!) and the butterfly was die-cut from some shiny blue wrapping paper. But I wasn’t happy with it. Partly because of the glue, but partly because it seemed a bit “meh”. And T wasn’t “meh”.

So I tried again

I chose daffodils, as both T and H are Welsh. I much preferred this one – using paper from a co-ordinated paper pad (from Noz) and yellow ribbon (Noz) The stick-on gold is also from either Noz or another discount store! I also used my usual glue, so there was no glue-related complaints!

As you can see, I used the same sentiment in both – I found it on t’internet and thought it was eminently suitable.

Although Mr FD iniatially chose the first card, when I pointed out the daffodils (he’s not always that observant about fine details) he changed his mind!

While I wonder if the second is a bit too brightly coloured, I still prefer it. What do you think?

CHOOSE LIFE: Last week’s sermon.

I’ve cheated a bit with this post, just copying-and-pasting my sermon. But there you go! Sometimes we’re lazy, here at Dormouse Towers! You can read other sermons, should you wish to, at Oh, taste and seewhich is the sermon site for Christ Church

Deuteronomy 30:15-20 – Psalm 1 – Philemon 1-21 – Luke 14:25-33

It seems to me that the readings today are all talking about choices.

The reading from Deuteronomy is taken from Moses’ last address to the people of Israel: they are on the very borders of the Promised Land, the land that God has been leading them to over many years, through the wilderness where time after time, patiently, God has been teaching them lessons, and sustaining them through adversity. And here they are. Moses knows that he will not be entering this land of milk and honey with them, but he stands to remind them once more of God’s word: Follow me, be faithful to me, and I will give you all that you need. Turn your back on me, and the consequences will be dire.

Those who wrote Deuteronomy, and those who read it afterwards would recognise that Egypt represented captivity, but not just physical enslavement but also spiritual enslavement to idolatry and its ultimate hopelessness. The response given by the people of Israel to this choice would shape the nature of their future relationship with God. So, when they are called by God to “Choose life so that you and your descendants may live” this refers to much more than physical life. The language of ‘life’ embraces good health, blessings, happiness, and fruitfulness. It also carries the sense of living, over the course of one’s entire life, in steadfastness and righteousness. Opposed to the good life is the one who chooses another path, who does not hear and turns away from God to other gods. For the former, the consequences will be prosperity, numerous offspring, and a life filled with blessings. For the latter, there will be only death

Unfortunately, the people of Israel failed to listen to God’s voice in this final sermon of Moses. That first congregation, on the border with the Promised Land, could have rooted themselves where the soil was good for growing, but instead their disobedience led to defeat at the hands of their enemies, and subsequent exile.

The Psalm too speaks of those choices: do you “follow the advice of the wicked” or “delight […] in the law of the Lord?” Those who follow God are given that reward of being like trees planted by streams of water, and that everything they do shall prosper. I do think however, that we need to be very careful about how we take that verse – everything they do shall prosper. It sounds as though, as long as we follow God’s promptings, everything in the garden will be rosy. Nothing will go wrong. It is by taking verses such as these literally that the rather hideous “prosperity Gospel” ministries have grown up: those churches that claim that if you are a good Christian, you will become rich, you will be able to afford a good house in a good neighbourhood. Basically, that one’s faith in God is linked to one’s material wealth and physical wellbeing.

But we know that this is not the case: surely the example of Paul should give one pause for thought. He had faith beyond anything most of us could ever hope for, and yet he was neither materially wealthy, nor was he physically strong. In the reading from Philemon, he talks about how Onesimus has been a helper to him during his time in prison, physically weakened, and how he longs to keep this fit young man close by, to continue to support and help him.

But Paul knows that he needs to let Onesimus go, to allow him to return to Philemon, where he will, as Paul hopes, be accepted into the household once more. We don’t have any idea of what went wrong between Onesimus and his master, but we do know that not only is Paul being given the choice regarding whether he holds on to Onesimus or not, but Philemon is being asked to choose between hanging onto bitterness and anger over whatever Onesimus did in the past, or offering forgiveness to this young man who has become such a useful worker for Christ.

In a way, Philemon is given a choice between holding onto his past life – continuing to hold a grudge against Onesimus – or moving forward into a new life, working for Christ with this young man at his side. The Israelites too were given a similar choice: to move forward into a new stage of their covenant with Yahweh, to step into the Promised Land in obedience to him, or to hold onto the disobedience and sinfulness of their old lives wandering in the desert and succumbing to temptations to worship false idols.

And I think this is the choice that Jesus is offering to his listeners in the reading from Luke. It is a hard reading, using stark language that shocks us. Is Jesus really telling us to hate our family? To capture the attention of his listeners, he uses the imagery of crucifixion, of battles, of mockery.

But in the end what he is doing is offering us a choice:

Do we hold onto our past lives – here represented by family – or do we choose to reject our old ways and to go forward with Jesus? Of course, Jesus isn’t saying we must reject our family and our friends, but what he is saying is that we must weigh up what following him will cost us, and if we decide to follow him, then he comes before all others. And he warns us – it won’t be easy.

In using the imagery of picking up one’s cross, Jesus is telling us that we need to understand that actually, for those who delight in the law of the Lord everything we do may not prosper – at least, not in the accepted thinking of the world. If we decide to follow Jesus then everything will NOT be rosy, we will be asked to do hard things, we may be asked to face hard decisions: but if we are faithful to God, then he will be faithful to us.

During the second part of 2017 I had been feeling that I had rather let go of God, and I had been praying that I would find a way back to him. In November of that year I went to the COMB organised Vocational training conference in Budapest. During the days there I not only became more and more aware that God was going to ask something big of me, but that through this I would become closer to him. I felt very excited, a little apprehensive, yes, but excited. What would it be? Was he going to call me to ordained ministry? Was he going to ask me to take a bigger part in Christ Church? How was God going to bless me, and prosper me?

How? As some of you know, it was in December 2017 that I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Blessing? Prosperity? I don’t think this is quite what the prosperity gospel has in mind!

But, actually, yes. It was a blessing. It was a cross that I had no choice about, but it was through the experience that I became closer to God once more. It certainly wasn’t the way I’d have chosen, but I do believe that it shows that while we may not understand the way God calls us to follow him, it will bring the peace, and the prosperity, that the world does not understand.

The radical language used in Luke reminds us that the choice that Jesus offers us is uncompromising: change your lives but be aware that there is a cost to this discipleship. It may cause consternation in family and friends, there will be competing loyalties. It may cause division and unrest, but at the very heart of what Jesus asks of us, is love.

It’s a challenge, but it is an exciting and rewarding challenge. Faced with a world where many people are finding themselves increasingly isolated and where politicians and advertisers play on their fears and encourage them to bar their doors and lock out the world, the call to live as a part of a community that pulls down the walls and encourages us to push beyond the shallows into the deep waters of love, is an exciting invitation indeed. It doesn’t come easily though. Love is something that has to be worked at. Shallow love is easy and costs little, but the real challenges and the real rewards come to those who push beyond their comfort zones and invest some solid commitment and some solid work into building deep and grace-filled love.

If we are prepared to take that road, to follow Jesus into a new pattern and depth of loving relationships, we need to be under no illusions. Do not imagine that we’re likely to be thanked and applauded for it. Any time we take steps that are seen by others as socially disruptive, we can expect to be accused of irresponsibility and failure to do our duty. But this is what Christ asks of us when he calls us to follow him. Forget what others might say, Jesus says, forget who you were before: what are you going to do now ?

Maybe you have not quite made the decision to follow Christ – the words recounted in Luke are hardly persuasive and reassuring! In many ways they are off putting: it will be hard, says Jesus. You must be prepared to face opposition and indifference; you need to be ready to see beyond your own pettiness and prejudice to love others who do not love you. Think about it, says Jesus, but then take up your cross and you will be led into ways of peace and prosperity that the world can only dream of.

And if you have already put your hand into the hand of God, and promised to follow where he leads you, then perhaps you need to remind yourself to stop yearning for the prosperity of this world, but to look forward again to what it is that Christ offers us: he offers us a part to play in creating a world where God acts with steadfast love, justice and righteousness. He calls on us to do his work in bringing about the Kingdom of God.

It will be hard; it may ask of you more than you thought you could bear; but it will be worth it.

Lord God We find freedom when we commit ourselves to doing your will on earth as it is in heaven;

we find freedom when we live our lives in harmony with your justice and peace and mercy.

We find freedom when we embrace your way of living; a way of living that is defined by love

Help us to always choose your way. Help us always to choose life. Amen.