Thursday, 10 December 2015

A gluten-free pudding!

Eve's Pudding?

Why this pudding has that name is hard to know.

In the recipe below you will not find a single piece, not even a slice, of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (the FotTotKoGaE).  Not even a speck.

There are apples though, which are easier, in once sense, to come by. 

I say that apples are easier to come by than the FotTotKoGaE.  Actually, we "eat" a lot of that fruit in my house.

For example, I tell my children not to shout at each other, because that is wrong and unkind.  And I then I spend 10 minutes shouting unkindly at a child who has wet themselves.  Why?  Because I am having a bad day - that is, one full of opportunities to lift stresses to the Lord in prayer, chances to trust Him, but completely fail, and instead carry a weight too heavy for me to bear, the salvation of the souls of the people who come to our after-school club.

How is this eating the FotTotKoGaE?  Well, I decide what is right and wrong for myself, and even change the definition of acceptable behaviour depending on how I feel and who is the subject.

It is EVIL for eldest to screech at me or youngest in frustration.

It is GOOD for me to screech abuse at them for an accident.

I'm sure you can think of many examples in your own life where you've overthrown God and taken the definition of good and evil into your own hands.

Even as I am screaming, I am so grateful for my Saviour, Jesus, who only ever did good.  But who chose the cross deserved by evil people, so that we could walk free.

I have a friend who has one birth child and has since adopted three other children.  I told her that one thing that scares me about the thought of adoption is losing my temper at scarred children in the same way I speak to my own children.   My wise friend said that it is the way that we restore relationship after sinning which makes the difference.   Children of neglect do not see that a relationship can be restored.  Nobody says sorry, and relationships don't recover.  This is damaging to a child.  Although I've always thought that it is important to say sorry when I sin against my children, my friend opened the door to a new way to thinking about how I restore relationship with my kids after I have sinned against them.  Now I battle my way through hard-hearted pride to restore peace. 

Our Creator, the Lord, could condemn all of us to an eternity without him because of our rebellion against his right to choose what is good and what is evil.   Instead he sent his Son to die for us rebels.  He chose to restore relationship with people.  What a gift of grace.


Gluten-free Eve's Pudding

4 cooking apples, peeled and chopped
75g light brown soft sugar
200g butter
200g granulated sugar
180g Dove's Farm wheat-free self-raising flour
40g ground almonds
4 eggs

Preheat oven to 180C.

Put the apples into a square oven dish (about 20x20cm).  Sprinkle the brown sugar over.

Put the rest of the ingredients into a food processor and whizz until well combined.  Spread the mixture over the top of the apples.

Put the dish on a baking tray (this helps to conduct heat), and bake for about 40 minutes, until well browned.

Enjoy this with custard, or like me, Creme Fraiche.


Friday, 4 December 2015

Infidelity... the pulpit

Another week, another person leaving their wife and moving in with someone else.   Oh yes, and did I mention this was an evangelical vicar?



Then, belief.





And then a thought process.

A couple of weeks ago I spoke to the women in our church from Colossians 1.  The aim was to remind us all of the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ.  I spoke from the heart about my failure to keep Jesus commands, specifically about adultery and murder.

Woah!  Have I committed adultery and murder? 

Matthew reports that Jesus said:

"You have heard that it was said, “You shall not commit adultery.” But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart...

"You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, 'You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.' But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment."

So, in that case then, yes. Guilty as charged.

When I spoke to my ladies, I was hoping for a sombre tone.  I was imagining that they would be convicted of the sin in their hearts.

But they laughed.   

Repeatedly, through that whole part of my talk.

When I asked (from the front!) why, the answer given was that they identified exactly with what I was saying, but the laughter came from the shock of someone standing in front of them and admitting it.  Admitting to the deep darkness in my heart, the desperate need for a saviour, because on my own terms I will never come close to the standard of love of God or neighbour that He requires.  And no-one had heard this coming out of the mouth of a preacher before.

So when I hear about a vicar leaving his wife for the church secretary, although one of my first reactions is JUDGEMENT, what comes afterward is the memory that I said to my ladies "If I had the opportunity, would I?"

Would I?

Would you?

Have you already?  

Are you a pastor, or pastor's wife and have already taken a step towards this?  

Have you made someone an idol?  Have you compared them with your spouse and thought that actually, that other person would be much better for you.  They would treat you as you deserve.  They would respect you.  They would love you unselfishly.  They would love you in the way you need, which apparently your spouse hasn't noticed you need.  Perhaps they seem to love Jesus more than your current spouse does.  They don't have the struggle with sin that your spouse does, and would be so much better for you.  They'd help you in your relationship with God.  Perhaps God wants you to be with them instead?  Because then your relationship with God would be better...

If these things are going through your mind, can I urge you to bring them out into God's light.  Tell Him.  But please also realise that these are lies.  

Whoever we marry will fail us. Perhaps a new spouse would love us in better ways, but they would also, inevitably fail us in some other way.

I have come to realise over the years of wrestling with my heart that anyone else I give the above characteristics to is imaginary at best, or an idol at worst.  The person who I build in my head doesn't really exist on earth. 

But He does in the heavenly realm.  He is my beloved, and I am his.  

Jesus is better for me.  He treats me far better than I deserve.  He loves me unselfishly.  He loves me in the way I need.  He certainly loves me more than Nick does (and, incidentally, even more so, he loves Nick more than I do).  Jesus doesn't struggle with any sin, and he is so good for me.   He helps me (oh, my intercessor!) in my relationship with God.   And in the end, on the last day, when we live in a time when marriage no longer exists, he will replace my husband, and be my eternal groom.

When you're tempted, as we are, to replace, mentally or actually, your spouse with an idol, please remember that you would be replacing one sinner with another.  Wait for that glorious day when we will all be joined to the bridegroom.

Then, remember your vows.  I promised to love, for better or worse, richer or poorer, in sickness or health.  And in the presence of God I made that vow.  My commitment to Jesus needs to be reflected in faithfulness to the promise I made in his sight.

And bring it to the Lord.  Fuming at him, crying to him, calling out in desperation to him at a time in your marriage when you are just at the end of wanting to be there is a precious gift.  There is often nobody else we can go to, but He should be the first.


Pastors.  Please.  Preach from your heart and be honest with your congregation because they (we!) need to know that they are not alone, that we all struggle with sin, and here, in the gospel of grace, is the answer.  

And if you're on the verge...please tell someone, and tell yourself the truth.

Sunday, 22 November 2015

The Establishment


When I asked friends to say whether I should rant about the Church of England, wise friends said "No, if it doesn't further the gospel."  This is wise, and absolutely the right answer.

But the ironic thing is, that's exactly what my (deleted) rant was about.  The furthering, or not, of the gospel.

Does "The Church Institutional" further the spread of the gospel in our nation or not? 

This will be an emotional and anecdotal post.  It will probably not be a biblical exposition of ekklesia passages.  

What is our job as a local church?  Broadly, to tell people about the good news of salvation through Jesus and urge them to turn to him.  To do that we need to know people in order to tell them.  Know their problems, their joys, their kids, their hobbies and where they hang out. Know what they have faith in.  Know what they think of God.  Know their history.  Know them.  And, has been pointed out thousands of times this week, to Love our neighbour (which includes your scary would-be enemy).  We've been urged as a (local) church this month, by the vicar and others, to GET OUT of our building!  Each of us, vicar, wife, and all, should be seeking to make the most of every opportunity for the gospel.  That doesn't necessarily mean preaching at every opportunity, and it certainly doesn't mean judging behaviours we don't participate in.    But it means being open to talk when given the opportunity.  

For me personally, it means YEARS living here and meeting people, getting to know them, and praying that God would use hopeless me to build His Church.

We see little signs of God's saving grace in the lives of people as we go along the road, and so we keep going.  Following his lead, knowing Him more, speaking about Jesus.  

So.  What is the BIG CHURCH up to along the way.  The thing, whatever it is, which issues press releases, and creates websites such as Just Pray, and writes reports on issues facing the church at the moment.

This should be a good thing, shouldn't it?  But hang on.  Here's some text from the Just Pray site, from the page entitled, what is prayer:

Just start.

The hardest thing about prayer is beginningSo just start.

Wanting to pray is the beginning of a relationship with God that can grow and grow.
Find the way of praying that is right for you.
Explore different ways of praying.
Listen as well as speak.
Give thanks as well as ask for help.
Don't just look for results. Don't give up when it gets hard. Trying to pray is praying.

Read that again:  "Wanting to pray is the beginning of a relationship with God that can grow and grow."

I do not agree with this!  The Church of England is putting heresy in my mouth!  The beginning of a relationship with God is NOT wanting to pray!  That only comes through my justification, by faith in Jesus Christ.  The one who bore my sin in his body on the cross.  Who washes me clean so that I can have a relationship with the God who made me.    Oh - he's the one who doesn't get a mention on the prayer website, by the way!  The great high priest!  Why must he find his way on to a christian prayer website?!

This is slightly besides my point though.

My point is that they claim to speak for me, and my local church but they do not.  We strive on a daily basis to teach the people in our pews (well, comfy chairs) the truth, to equip them.  But today the Church of England has undermined our teaching, yet again, under the guise of reaching out to people.

In the storm in a teacup (or mug of decent coffee) which has brewed today The Church spokesperson has said "In one way the decision of the cinemas is just plain silly, but the fact that they have insisted upon it, makes it rather chilling in terms of limiting free speech."

This in response to DCM, the cinema advertising people, saying that their policy is not to show any poliical or religious content.  Why does christianity get to be exempt from this?  DCM says that people won't want to see this advert.  I wouldn't want to see an excerpt from the Koran, or any other religious text when I go to the cinema.  Do you?  

Why must the Church spokesperson make it "chilling"?  Why not accept that there is no religious advertising?  

A plea to finish:

Church of England: Please quietly go about supporting your pastors.  Help them.  Listen to them when they are tired.  Ask how you can help more.  But please stop making big pronouncements (especially when they are wrong and counterproductive).  That's our job!  The local church who actually knows who it is speaking to.  If, ABC, you want to teach on prayer, do it in your pulpit on a Sunday, or to your friends in the pub.  

And everyone.  Please keep speaking the truth. "For God so loved the world that he sent his only son, that whoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life."

Thursday, 22 October 2015

Spanish and Cinnamon Buns


I spent a year in Bogota, South America, a loooooong time ago.  It left me with a love for many things, and one of those was speaking Spanish.  I wanted my children to have the opportunity to learn a language young, as it's often said that it is easier to learn when young.  But I have never felt confident to teach them as I don't want to pass on error.  I've spent hours on the net looking at different curricula for home educating parents. Nothing grabbed me as a way I wanted to use.  I've spent more hours trying to find Spanish lessons locally which I can get to.  Nada.

Through an American Facebook group I'm a member of I discovered Homeschool Spanish Academy.  This is an almost incredible idea, a way of learning Spanish that would have been impossible when I was the age of my children.  My eldest is now having Spanish lessons, via Skype, from a teacher in Guatemala.  And it costs less than any other class she has. Her teacher is enthusiastic and experienced.  She is a native speaker.  And she speaks "proper" Spanish.  According to her, Colombian and Guatemalan Spanish are the clearest versions of the language.  Me alegro!

Our teacher, also tells us about the weather in Guatemala.  It has been raining all week, she says, the rivers have burst their banks, and farming is starting to suffer.  Would I ever have known this, or wondered about the people of Guatemala and how the farmers will survive this if we hadn't spoken this afternoon (well, it was 7.30am in Guatemala, which is serious dedication)?

We also discussed fruit today.  She asked if we have a fruit here called "maraƱon".  We don't. She showed me a picture.  It is the fruit below which a cashew nut grows!  They eat the fruit, and the seed below! I never knew that!  And eldest child certainly didn't!  

From us, our teacher learned that there are Christians in Europe.  She was under the impression that there weren't any.  I was happy to pass on that there were lots of us.  Once she knew we were Christians, she identified herself as a Christian.  What a lovely bond to have across the ocean!

This way of learning Spanish is like no other.  

Here's their website

Not quite as exciting, but still a great way to cheer the day of many people, are cinnamon rolls.  This isn't wheat-free.  Neither is it dairy-free.  It is relatively low in sugar.  And you can burn a few calories kneading the dough.  It's an amalgamation of a few recipes i've found online in my hunt for this wonderful food.

Cinnamon rolls

This makes 24 rolls.  You'll need a very large, deep baking tin, about 30cmx40cm.  You could halve the recipe if you are not feeding the 3000.

bread part:

600g Strong white bread flour
200g plain flour
2 tsp or 2 sachets of quick action yeast
400ml milk, warmed
80g caster sugar
140g butter softened (i put it in the milk and put it all in the microwave for a min or 2)
4 tsp cinnamon

Filling part

200g butter, softened a little
140g caster sugar
2 Tbs cinnamon

egg wash

1 egg, a dash of milk, mixed together

Mix all the dough ingredients together in a large bowl.  You'll need to finish this process with your hands.  Tip out onto your kneading surface and knead for about 10 minutes til stretchy and soft.  Shape into a round (see River Cottage's bread book for more on dough shaping.  It will change your life), put back in the bowl and cover with cling film.  Leave to rise for an hour or two. The longer the better.

Make the filling by mixing all the ingredients together.

Coat the baking tin in melted butter.  On the inside, obviously.

Halve the dough, and roll the first half out to a large, thin rectangle, about 40x50cm.  For this, you'll need a good surface which it's not going to stick to.  I have a lovely block of wood.  It's meant to be a large chopping board, but who needs one that big?

Once the dough is a large rectangle, smear half the filling on it.  Roll it up along the long side.  Slice into 12 equal pieces and put them, spiral up, into half the tin.

Repeat with the second half.  The tin will fit 24 in a 6x4 formation.  

Cover the tin with a tea towel or bag.  Leave to rise for up to an hour.  They are normally just touching each other.  Heat the oven to 220C.  Brush the buns with eggwash.  Put in the oven for about 14 minutes til crispy, risen and dark golden. 

Eat them ALL as soon as they have cooled enough to touch.  10 minutes or so...  you won't regret it.


Wednesday, 7 October 2015

An Offaly good week

Please excuse radio silence

The last couple of weeks have been ridiculously busy.  In 7 nights I was out 4, which never happens in my life, but many meetings coincided.  

The most exciting evening out was in my local pub.  I have finally started a crochet and knitting group in the community.  In all my married homes I have been part of a group which met somewhere in public.  In Southgate I started one in a cafe with Lucy, in Middlesbrough I joined a thriving group which met at Nature's World, and now, after 3 years, I have found enough willing members and a location.  

I fear walking into pubs.  Any pub, anywhere.  I am not sure where I am expected to look or go. Bar?  Restaurant? Dining area?  Where?!  I am not a local - will they all stare?   Gladly (although not for the owners), not many people attend my local pub, and it is HUGE and very well cared-for inside.  Our first night was just a reccy, because I needed to know whether the light would be good enough on a nighttime for us to see our stitches.  Lo, and behold, halogen spots over a large bank of very comfortable chairs.  It is a wonderful place for the group, so Pints & Needles begins next week.  Oh yes!  I am looking forward to our Tuesday nights in there and hope to meet lots of people who I wouldn't meet any other way, and teach them to crochet if they would like to!



Most people can't bear it.  But i have been celebrating the start of autumn this week with Liver and Kidneys.  The children have coped admirably.  Nick and I have delighted in eating them! 

If you have never tried it, I recommend you do.  Cheap and nutritious, easy to cook, very tasty.  What is not to love?

Liver and Bacon

You need (yes, need)

Lambs liver, enough to feed your family.  400g perhaps
Flour (gluten-free is fine)
salt and pepper
1 onion, chopped
Chicken stock cube
boiling water

Put some flour on a plate and mix in some salt and pepper.  Coat your pieces of liver in the flour on both sides.  

Heat up the oil in a big heavy frying pan.  When hot, add the liver (in batches so as not to crowd the pan).  Fry gently for 1-2 minutes until golden.  No more than this!  Turn over and cook until red liquid (alright, blood.  If you've got this far in an offal recipe you're hardy enough to take it) seeps out of the side you fried first.  Take it out.  Liver does NOT NEED over cooking!  Keep the cooked liver on a plate.

Once all the liver is cooked, fry the bacon until yummy. Remove and add to the liver plate

Add your chopped onion and gently fry with the dark, crispy, meaty bits until soft and yummy looking.  Chuck in a stock cube (I use Kallo chicken) and stir about.  Turn up the heat and slowly add boiling water (straight from the kettle), stirring all the time, until the gravy is your preferred consistency.  Bubble for a couple of minutes, then turn down and return the liver and bacon to the gravy to warm through for a few minutes.

Serve with buttery mashed potato and fresh veg.  Nothing fancy.  


I once did a recipe for stir-fried liver with ginger.  I couldn't eat it.  Liver should probably only be cooked as above!

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Why are you listening to...

UCB Radio?

That was the question Nick asked me when yet another Christian pop song, of a style i'm not a fan, came on the radio.

The answer is, of course, a long story.

I don't listen to secular music stations anymore, and barely any secular music on CD.  On the occasions when an old favourite of mine comes on the MP4 in the car, I remember why I don't listen to it.  

From the Backstreet Boys, through Ocean Colour Scene and Paul Weller, to Dido, Faithless and Massive Attack, run my emotions as a teenager and young adult.  Mostly these emotions were related to my idolatrous heart, and most specifically about the boys and men I worshipped and desired.  Every pop song wove its way through my mind and heart and related itself to someone.  Perhaps musical lyrics don't have that effect on you, but they certainly do to me.  

So when I hear a song from my early 20s which was related to any specific person, I am overwhelmed by a return to all the emotions of that time.  So how can Iisten to it now?  I can't.  It is wrong for me to return to the past. 

So that's why no old secular music.  Why no current secular music?  Because I am incapable of not singing along, and since I only want the truth to come out of my mouth, how can I sing the songs now in the charts? How can I give my mouth emotions which aren't mine?   As I said, if music doesn't have this effect on you, listen to it, but I just can't.

So.  Back to UCB radio (a digital radio station.  Our car has a digital radio, which I guess they all will eventually).

There are 2* reasons why I listen.

1.  Because many of the songs are awesome!  Josh Garrels, Phil Wickham, Strahan and Izzy Ray are people I never would have come across without UCB, and I love to sing along with their tunes.  Because I am happy for my heart and my mouth to be singing songs devoted to Jesus.   Because even if I am feeling nothing, my mouth gives voice to truth.  

2.  Because I won't listen to secular music, my children also don't. Nothing wrong with that, but I do want them to experience the best of the culture we live in.  Through UCB they have heard dance music, pop music, folk music, rock music.  And Cliff Richard.   At a (listening) glance the songs are indistinguishable from what you might hear on your local radio station.  But the songs have words of truth, so any joy in the music can also teach them the joyful truth of the gospel.

3.  Because they broadcast news!  And they have a particularly christian focus on what is happening in the world, which I like.  I haven't stopped listening to BBC news, but it makes a great change to listen to UCB.  

4.  Because the presenters find infinite matters to discuss on air which are cheerful, upbeat and inoffensive!

The slight downside to UCB is that you sometimes have to listen to Christians taking the bible out of context.  It's not all relentless truth.  But it is mostly.  So that's why!

* i realise there are now 4 in the list.  As I wrote I realised there were more than 2 reasons.

Monday, 21 September 2015


Recipe book recommendations

This isn't a new book, and perhaps you all have it already, but I would just love to enthuse about Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's book "Every day Veg" (or "Veg everyday"?).  Alongside our incredible lamb joint (from New Close Farm Shop in Sacriston) which we were eating for the third day (I'm fairly sure this is the cheapest way to eat meat), this evening we had caramelised carrots with gremolata (much easier than it sounds) and sweet potato and peanut gratin (also very easy).  And it was just delicious.

I've mentioned before that we have been getting a Riverford veg box for a decade, and still love it.  But there are always veg that I find uninspiring (carrots, again), and veg that some of us don't like (nick is not a sweet potato fan).  My good friend Fiona, also a longtime Riverford customer bought me HF-W's book for Christmas last year.  It took me a while to use it (scared of an entire recipe book with no meat!), but it has revolutionised my veg cooking.

It's £10 from the Book People at the moment.  A bargain to help you get more excited about vegetables.

A year or so ago, I picked up Nigella Lawson's Feast in a second-hand shop.  This is a really old book now!  It is lovely to look through though, because she has compiled and invented recipes for festivals and occasions when you would want to cook for.  From Christmas to Easter via Passover, Thanksgiving and Eid, and many others.  She even has an entire chapter on chocolate cakes.  I have been so impressed with how easy many recipes she has included which turn out incredible tasting food which usually feeds a large crowd.  

I'm including it here now because I recently whipped up 3 decent veg recipes from Feast in about 30 minutes for a  barbecue at which there was a vegetarian.  That makes it a winner!

You can buy a second-hand copy of Feast for 1p (plus postage) from Amazon Marketplace.  Or if you object to Amazon, an old copy will set you back 66p (plus postage) from my favourite online second-hand book seller, alibris .

It's hard to eat veg, but good recipes make life a LOT easier!