Homeward Bound

October 11, 2014 Leave a comment
“Don’t go home,” she said quietly, away from listening ears,”We don’t want you to go home.”

“We would very much like it if you could possibly stay,” said the Rector, my blushing face spotlit by the glare of assembled eyes.

Over the last few months, those first kind remarks became several, a refrain, a chorus, a torrent, said in different situations and various ways – some surely mere pleasantry, and some more polite than others – the latter involving allusions to church furniture (not a compliment at the best of times and certainly not when the church building has been around since the Vikings terrorised the island!).

“But what makes you think I am going home?” I did not, at any point, say as I hurried on to another topic in embarrassment. London is as much “home” as Singapore. Because…what is home?

A fantasy of the orphan; a mirage in the eyes of the wanderer; a daydream of the alien.

What is home? The sure promise of a faithful God; a place to be rightly yearned for; the blissful rest still to come.

And so all we who live in faith are not yet home; we are homeward bound.

13 These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. 14 For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. 15 If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city. (Hebrews 11:13-16)

Categories: farewells Tags: ,

Hummable Hymns

October 1, 2014 Leave a comment

Have really enjoyed how many hymns (modern or from ages past) we’ve had in the Evening Service at the Local Church. The university students are not complaining – good tunes, good meaty lyrics, what’s not to like? Feeds the earworms too so the truth gets sung to you for a few days after – more bang for your buck!

Generally good stuff to be had from Stuart Townend and Sovereign Grace Music. Some good scores at Songs For Today with good clear-thinking blog posts as a little bonus.


The Lord’s my Shepherd I’ll not want
He makes me lie in pastures green
He leads me by the still still waters
His goodness restores my soul

And I will trust in you alone
And I will trust in you alone
For your endless mercy follows me
Your goodness will lead me home

He guides my ways in righteousness
and he anionts my head with oil
and my cup it overflows with joy
I feast on his pure delight

And I will trust in you alone
And I will trust in you alone
For your endless mercy follows me
Your goodness will lead me home

And though I walk the darkest path,
I will not fear the evil one
For you are with me and your rod and staff
Are the comfort I need to know

And I will trust in you alone
And I will trust in you alone
For your endless mercy follows me
Your goodness will lead me home

Stuart Townend
© 1996 Kingsway’s Thankyou Music

 


The Lord is gracious and compassionate
Slow to anger and rich in love
The Lord is gracious and compassionate
Slow to anger and rich in love

And the Lord is good to all
He has compassion in all that he has made

As far as the east is from the west
Thats how far he has removed our
transgressions from us (repeat)

Praise the Lord, oh my soul
Praise the Lord
Praise the Lord, oh my soul
Praise the Lord

Graham Ord
© 1998 Vineyard Songs (UK/EIRE)


A debtor to mercy alone
,
of covenant-mercy I sing;
nor fear, with your righteousness on,
my person and offering to bring:
the terrors of law and of God
with me can have nothing to do;
my Saviour’s obedience and blood
hide all my transgressions from view.

The work which his goodness began,
the arm of his strength will complete;
his promise is “Yes” and “Amen”,
and never was forfeited yet:
things future, nor things that are now,
nor all things below or above,
can make him his purpose forgo,
or sever my soul from his love.

Eternity will not erase
my name from the palms of his hands;
in marks of indelible grace
impressed on his heart it remains:
yes, I to the end shall endure,
as sure as the promise is given;
more happy, but not more secure
the glorified spirits in heaven.
Augustus Montague Toplady, David. E. Evans (“Trewen” – this is the best approximation I could find of it)

 

How firm a foundation, you saints of the Lord,
is laid for your faith in his excellent word!
what more can he say than to you he has said,
you, who to Jesus for refuge have fled?

In every condition, in sickness, in health;
in poverty’s vale, or abounding in wealth;
at home and abroad, on the land, on the sea,
as days may demand, shall your strength ever be.

Fear not, I am with you, O be not dismayed,
for I am your God and will still give you aid;
I’ll strengthen and help you, and cause you to stand
upheld by my righteous, omnipotent hand.

When through fiery trials your pathways shall lie,
my grace, all sufficient, shall be your supply;
the flame shall not hurt you; I only design
your dross to consume, and your gold to refine.

The soul that on Jesus has leaned for repose,
I will not, I cannot desert to his foes;
that soul, though all hell should endeavour to shake,
I’ll never, no never, no never forsake.

Richard Keen, Richard Simpkin
© Simpo’s tune – songsfortoday.com
See this rockin’ tune. Or listen to it with electronica craziness at emumusic.

Stewardship of Money and Living in London on a Student Budget

September 30, 2014 1 comment

It’s that time of the year when sunny days get colder and the student hordes throng the streets of London. I’ve had a good time meeting the first arrivals, urging them to make the most of their few years abroad.

rocket, fig, proscuitto, mozzarella salad with linseed vinaigretteIt’ll be a sad thing if all they had to show at the end of their degree was, erm, a degree, selfies in front of tourist attractions, signed menus from Michelin restaurants, and a life partner to eat in said restaurants with. There’s much more to life, boys and girls! Away from the usual societal crutches of home, this is the perfect opportunity to think carefully and independently about life – to investigate properly what truth is and so set valid life goals according to that truth. After thorough investigation, Christian claims, as set out in the Bible, seemed overwhelmingly true:

  1. the deadly problem we all face is that we are all under the wrath of God for failing to acknowledge him;
  2. nothing we can ever do or say will be able to turn away God’s wrath on the Last Day;
  3. but God sent his Son Jesus to save us from this – if we trust that what God promised is true – ie. that Jesus’ death is sufficient to save us from the consequences of our sin.

Because this is such an important thing for this life and the next, I would highly recommend everyone to research this for themselves. A Christianity Explored course is a great place to start! And London universities are well served by good churches like St. Helen’s Bishopsgate and Euston Church.

While the important stuff gets sorted, there are also daily necessities to consider. (Ah but, really, who ultimately provides us with money to buy food with, enables food to grow as they should, regulates the seasons, gives us breath?) As a student at a Bible course, living off my own savings, I had to be careful about spending, but also not let frugality be an idol; to be so able to work the budget as still to be generously hospitable about housing and feeding people. We usually think that “good stewardship” of God-given money consists merely of avoiding conspicuous consumption, but miserliness too fails to properly invest God’s money for his work.

Food
Because the United Kingdom produces its own food and local food is more likely to be less expensive, it is best to eat the season.

Street markets are your best bet for fresh food. I don’t mean the organic hipster places but the “ethnic” sort in East London – for example, along Whitechapel or in Shadwell. Vegetables are usually sold by the bowl – £1 for whatever is in the bowl. And I have managed to bargain for more to be stuffed in the same bowl…

Check London Farmers Markets for more English/continental produce. Although basics are on the whole more expensive, this is for you if you care about provenance. And there are some bargains at closing time or on things that don’t usually figure in the modern London kitchen – like duck hearts, other offal, pork bones for ramen bases. Even the more posh farmers’ markets are worth checking out: I’ve gotten good bags of pesticide-free fruit and vegetables for £1 each at the Marylebone Farmers’ Market and chicken carcasses for stock (but with enough flesh left on it for a meal for one or two) for 25p each at Borough Market.

It’s also worth being a regular at your local butcher and fishmonger who may throw in stuff for free once they get to know you.

wild blackberries wild blackberry tart

Foraging has saved me a bundle on fruit and herbs. But obviously you need to be sure not to poison yourself, especially with the mushrooms. Check out recipes and advice at Forage London.

Marked Down GroceriesIf you really need to use a supermarket, you can compare prices at mysupermarket.co.uk. There isn’t a particularly generally cheap(er) mainstream supermarket: Tesco and Sainsbury’s might sell different goods more cheaply. Lidl, Aldi, and ASDA, although not known to be upmarket, have own-brand products that stand up to more expensive own-brands: like olive oil and charcuterie. Check for Great Taste Awards as well. There are also treasures in Lidl’s wine bins (eg. Bordeaux second growths).

Waitrose does really deep discounts on well-kept but expiring food. I usually snap these up for the freezer – good for lazy evenings and unexpected guests. It’s also worth signing up to be a Waitrose member for free coffee (espresso, cappuccino, latte) and tea daily, additional discounts, and a free well-written magazine every month.
Marked Down Groceries Marked Down GroceriesThe other great thing about Waitrose is that it applies original bulk-buy discounts to stickered items. In this instance, Waitrose technically paid me £0.11 to buy 18 sausages off them!

Marked Down Groceries Marked Down Groceries
Marked Down Groceries Marked Down Groceries
Marked Down Groceries Marked Down Groceries

Marks & Spencer stores tend to clear out their bakery sections at a good yellow-stickered discount about 6.00 p.m. (store-dependent) every day so you can get proper bread/pastry your dinner/breakfast there. The city center stores are also good for discounts on dairy items like milk and cheese.

Approved Food has a bit of a niche selling food near or past its best before date at good reductions.

Coffee
Brewing your own probably gives you a better cup and saves you loads off Costa lattes. Worth checking out online coffee companies for promotional discounts – eg. Pact Coffee delivers your first order for only £1.

Clothes
By the fact that everyone can tell me a mile away by my clothes, it is clear that I don’t really have much experience in this area. But for fig leaves that don’t look too cheap, TK Maxx has good stuff. There are loads of charity shops around. Also look out for clothes swaps.

For camping/hiking/walking clothes, footwear, and accessories, try the Army Surplus Store

Hair Cuts
Get them free by being a real live model for hairdressing students or juniors. Have a look at this Time Out article for details.

Cookware, homeware and home electricals
Check first if anyone has anything to give away on London Freecycle or Gumtree or a whole list of alternatives on the Guardian Green Living Blog or on the London Re-use Network. Otherwise, compare prices at:
Robert Dyas
Argos
Lakeland
Poundland, 99p shop, 98p shop…

Reuse, Reuse, Reuse
Reuse jars as cups and for storage. Reuse can and coffee cups as pen and pencil holders. Reuse fruit crates for shelves. Reuse wine cases for bookshelves.

Transportation
Cycling around London is free, though you’ll need to acquire a bicycle and an all-important bicycle lock.

Bicycles
Freecycle, Gumtree, . Or ReCycling and other sites listed on Bike Hub. Cycle training, if you live in Tower Hamlets, is free.

bicycle maintenance club bicycle repair and maintenance tools

You’ll want to keep your ride in good shape, so pop down to the free bicycle maintenance workshops.

Trains
The Man on Seat 61 has good advice about this.

Leisure Activities
It helps to live in areas that the government thinks need a leg up. In Tower Hamlets, for example, there is free tennis and relatively cheap admission to swimming pools.

For theatre, opera, concerts, check out the TKTS website for discounts, or (if appropriate) hunt for student standby tickets or platform seats.

Lots more tips at moneysavingexpert.com.

Summer Camp, More Goodbyes

August 18, 2014 Leave a comment

Mid-goodbye-hug, I was bundled into a moving car and whisked to the rail station by the coast, where a train was about to depart for London. I yearned to linger and prolong 11 days of magnificent gospel partnership…but there was a Glaswegian-Norwegian wedding to witness and celebrate.
defrosting a fridge in the sunIf the same team would have me, I would fly any where in the world to work with them. They were a fantastic mix of commitment to God and his word, godliness, Protestant work ethic, absolute craziness, humility, creative problem-solving, ruthlessness in dealing with sin, patience, sportsmanship, prayerfulness, servant-(arm-down-a-blocked-loo)-leadership. And all this in the extraordinary context of Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians (authentic gospel ministry looks weak and so brings glory to God alone), which we were studying for the week.

Burgers and duck fat roast potatoes

Breaded and deep-fried pork loin

Meringue and lemon tart
After the wedding, a week of last meals with good friends and neighbours. I never thought I’d be the one at the door, sending off people going to do work amongst the Chinese in some other bit of London, amongst the posh people in the West Country, amongst the prosperity-gospel-deluded in Africa, amongst the youth in Australia…

Hainanese chicken rice dinner - very good with John Crabbie's Traditional Cloudy Ginger Beer

This dinner was sponsored by the Duck: duck confit with duck eggHow do you say goodbye? Would that we could squeeze all that love and respect, and all those memories of fierce arguments and of sitting around in companionable silence, all the serious conversations and nonsensical banter, all the snuggling comfortingly in similar weaknesses and navigating our differences, into a small locket and carry that, warming our hearts, for the rest of our lives.

But we can’t. So we eat, and drink, and chat, and take selfies, and wash-up, then someone says,”Sorry, but I need to go. Otherwise, no one gets a sermon on Sunday”. And we part, and life goes on, because there is so much more to be done, and God will give us other partners for the work and companions for the journey. Until we meet again in the new creation.

Smashed meringue and lemon tartOur not-very-smashed version of Massimo Bottura’s Oops I Dropped The Lemon Tart.

Saying Goodbye

July 28, 2014 Leave a comment

Saying goodbye.

dinner with neighboursWe said goodbye to the first of our neighbours in the same way our neighbourly relationship has always been conducted – over a shared meal, laughter, much banter. He will carry a suitcase of meagre possessions to a wet, windswept land and there speak the good news.

He is thin man not given to grand schemes. His hugs are strong and his handshakes, firm.

globe artichoke with lemon butter dipglobe artichoke with lemon butter dip

grilled corn with paprika, fromage frais and parmigiano reggianogrilled corn with paprika, fromage frais and parmigiano reggiano

parsnip chips with parmigiano reggianoparsnip chips with parmigiano reggiano

homemade cherry ripple ice-creamhomemade cherry ripple ice-cream

We lingered over the table till it was late.

See you later, we said. See you in the new creation.

Epping Forest Blackberry Tart

July 28, 2014 Leave a comment

wild blackberriesWe wandered around Epping Forest for a whole afternoon, sweeping out the cobwebs from the corners of our lives. It was good to be out in the sunshine and the breeze, amongst the rustling of leaves and tall hot grass and chirping birds. We laughed and talked, stopping only enough to pick and eat early wild blackberries* till our fingers were covered with layers of sticky sweetness and our appetites were satiated.

Then flinging ourselves under the shade of spreading trees, we abandoned the fight against gravity and succumbed to the drowsy summer heat.

wild blackberry tartWhen we got home in the evening and were clean and refreshed from cold showers, I made us a “rustic tart” from the abundance of ripe fruit.

“To companionship! To Christ! To He who controls all things!”.

We ate together.

Soon the coddling warmth of summer will cool to autumn, and then the darkness of winter will not be far behind.

*not against Epping Forest by-laws, although people have interpreted foraging for wild mushrooms as contravening the same

Clarity in Epistemology, Theories of Truth, Precision in Communication, Facets of Reality, and More Photos of Food

July 20, 2014 Leave a comment

Sunday lunchIn between the innumerable barbecues (the English sort requiring shielding with brollies from the London rain) and having people round for dinner, have been pondering the necessity of clarity in thinking about things and precision in communication. (The Tutor first raised it when we were chatting a few months ago about the setting up of apprenticeship schemes in churches. Female Tutor thought this was one of my (very few) strengths, i am not so certain as most of this blog demonstrates… Was also talking about this with Online Bookshopkeeper and wife last month.)

ox cheek, green beans with hazelnuts, sweet potato mash, grilled aubergines and tomatoes with mozarella

Clarity in Epistemology

Possibility of Clarity
But before we even consider the subject, the question should surely be whether there is even the possibility of epistemological clarity*, both for the unbeliever with his unregenerated mind and for the believer living in this fallen world?

One of the most common presuppositions in modern thinking is that the human mind and all it generates (theories in various sciences, humanities) should have the utmost claim to the authoritative interpretation of reality. But if Scripture is right**, human brain power cannot be the ultimate in the process of evaluation, because it is corrupted by sin:

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honour him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonouring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed for ever! Amen.

26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonourable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.

28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. 29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Though they know God’s decree that those who practise such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practise them. (Romans 1:18-32)

  • If God has established objective reality (“truth”), and
  • humans because of their refusal to acknowledge God as God by worshipping him or thanking him,
  • have suppressed the truth about God, then
  • they have become so corrupted in their thinking that they are unwilling and unable to know the truth and act accordingly.

This is why Jesus didn’t say that we just need to try a little harder to be good or to turn over a new leaf, but that we need to be born again to see the kingdom of God (John 3:3) – we need a whole new existence.

For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, 10 as it is written:

“None is righteous, no, not one;
11     no one understands;
    no one seeks for God.
12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
    no one does good,
    not even one.”
13 “Their throat is an open grave;
    they use their tongues to deceive.”
“The venom of asps is under their lips.”
14     “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”
15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood;
16     in their paths are ruin and misery,
17 and the way of peace they have not known.”
18     “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” (Romans 3:9b-18)

However, as human theories in the sciences and humanities attest, mankind has not been completely blinded to the truth. We have still been made in the image of God (though now flawed), have still been allowed to live in God’s world, and can still observe, dimly, consistencies in the way the world works and, with what we have termed as chemistry, physics, biology etc, have attempted to categorise and explain these consistencies and so predict the outcome of things.

The sad fact is that in our arrogance, we assume that this common grace, this cataracted view of reality should then be the basis on which we judge God. We are ignorant that we are like blind men feeling bits of an elephant.

beef bone marrow with panko and gentlemen's relish, blue sirloinPresuppositions
“How can you believe in God when science says otherwise?” is the usual question thrown about. But this challenge is founded on shaky presuppositions**.

Fundamental to all human thinking, whether in the sciences or in economics or philosophy is that which we call logic and reasoning. However even these are merely epistemological theories following the use of the human mind or human perceptual apparatus. While it is possible that the existence of synthetic a priori stuff or observable phenomena may point to the self-consistency of the Creator, our theories about them cannot limit him, since he alone has established reality and we are merely poor half-blind observers of it. Good try, Descartes, Kant et al.

Further, in logic theory, most science is based merely on inductive reasoning – that is, that its conclusions are merely possible or probable, given the truth of the premises. So its conclusions are actually a not-completely-adequate subset of a not-completely-authoritative theory. To base one’s evaluation of the truth on “what science says” is therefore quite erroneous.

Even further, the scientific method is only one of many ways that humans have come up with to acquire knowledge and analyse the truth. We do not consider the truth in a court of law or in a history book (or even in a newspaper) by requiring similar empirical or measurable evidence.

a forest of carrot and beetroot greensa forest of carrot and beetroot greens

grilled aubergines and tomatoes with basil leaves

Clarity
So then, clarity. There is a sense in which we can and should engage people’s minds in pointing them to the truth. Jesus, the prophets, and the apostles all used language and argument to communicate the truth.

Wonder how many apologetic strangleholds can be broken (humanly at least) by attending to, and interacting with, the other party’s theory of truth. Most of the time, the other party relies on some background in his thoughts but is not yet aware of (i) his truth presuppositions; and so (ii) the diverse methodologies proposed by humans for determining the different sorts of truths. For example, he may assume that all truth must be proved by the narrow epistemological method that pertains to proof of scientific hypotheses, and so neglect the whole school of historiography and historical method in determining the veracity of an account of an event in the past.

But ultimately of course, a change of mind that comes with re-birth, is the work of the Spirit, who is likened to the wind – it blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes (John 3:8).

stack of grilled tomatoes, aubergines, mozarella with basil leaves and balsamic reductiongrilled aubergine, tomatoes, with mozarella

Precision in Communication

There is a need for clear thinking in the minds of believers too in their theology and doctrine. (For further discussion.)

Additionally, since we should already be of the same mind, there should be precision in our communication with each other (as well as in apologetics of course). How many good-faith arguments (cf. bad-faith trolling) might have been nipped in the bud by parties:

  • having clarity on the exact definition of terms used in the argument – most of the time i find i have been arguing at cross-purposes with someone because we’d neglected to first lay out the contents of the package we called “faith” or “gospel” or “God’s sovereignty” or “reading the Bible for ourselves”;
  • not succumbing to the false bifurcation that so besets so many political rallies; humbly considering that differing views may be complementary rather than contradictory.

Note that none of this suggests that reality is relativistic (in the sense that there is no objective reality, or that such objective reality cannot be determined). Rather, it wonders whether objective reality is so faceted and our human understanding so limited that the same thing needs to be described in several ways that are complementary and not contradictory to each other. We should not quarrel over the priority of one Scriptural facet over another, if Scripture itself does not prioritise one over the other.

rhubard and pear compote, fromage frais and double cream, shortbreadcompote of rhubarb and pear, shortbread crumble, fromage frais and heavy cream

strawberries and cream

*disregarding for the moment questions as to the absolute value of clarity
**how a fallen mind can establish this is a whole other discussion, Münchhausen et al

For own reference, currently reading:
Vern Sheridan Poythress’ Logic
Vern Sheridan Poythress’ Symphonic Theology

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