Muffins

I’ve been unwell now for a couple of weeks: I have pleurisy, which is an important (almost Dickensian) sounding name for a chest infection.

I had a busy Easter with things to do and stuff on my mind. I was feeling a little under the weather. I staved it off with prayers and pills and the kind of adrenaline rush that only comes from teaching bottom set RE last period in the afternoon. Then I ended up in bed with flu followed by pleurisy.

So I’ve slept a little, read a little, knitted a little and told myself, ‘be kind to yourself’ and two weeks later its getting hard because I really should be better by now and I’m not.

A friend from work texted me saying, “no baking for you then'” as if a lack of cupcakes was the most important thing here.  As if cakes were more important than health! He’s quite right though, I can’t even make it to the kitchen to sieve a little flour, melt some butter and whip up a pan of muffins. But I can type so I thought I’d share my muffin recipe and some thoughts on the pleasures of baking.

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People think I’m good at baking, but really I’m not.

I just have a few very forgiving recipes. By this I mean recipes that show me mercy in every circumstance. They don’t flinch if the scales are a few ounces out or if I have to substitute an ingredients.  They still show up for me if one of the kids leans on the cooker during baking and accidently turns the temperature down and if I use plain flour instead of self raising or forget the baking powder: the texture will be different but the confection still ultimately delicious.

A muffin is a much more forgiving cake than a cupcake or a sponge. It thrives on rough handling, inaccurate weighing and postiviely hates to be combined too thoroughly. If you don’t have fancy baking paraphernalia (like muffin cases) your little cake will sit very happily swaddle in a piece of baking paper, it really does not need pleats and bows (though you will need a 12 hole muffin tin).

A muffin is also a serious cake and it is a sensible cake. It’s like, cereal, fruit or wholemeal bread. A muffin takes us back to nature and the good things of the soil, rain and sun: it is a milk and honey, fat-of the land kind of a cake. It is fruitful: a cornucopia overflowing with almond, walnuts, pecans, whole-grains, seeds, berries, and orchard fruits.

So, stir up a batch of muffins, take them from the oven and cool them on a wire tray.  Put the kettle on and make yourself a cup of tea (in the pot now – no scrimping). Quickly tidy round the sitting room and clear your favourite chair of pyjamas, reading books, knitting, teddies or whatever debris is currently concealing it.

You will need a really good book and little piece of quiet, then you can sit down with a nice brew and a homemade cake.

***

The recipe is an eclectic blend of every muffin recipe I ever investigated, on page, screen or by word of mouth. If I threw all the muffin recipes I have ever used up into the air and collected up the piece where they landed this is the recipe that would result. You can replace the cranberries and almonds in this recipe with any combination of dried fruit, fresh fruit, nuts, seed, or chocolate of your choice.

It is impossible to go wrong with this recipe.

Cranberry and Almond Muffins

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Ingredients

9oz/250g SR flour

4-5oz/100-150g castor sugar

1 heaped teaspoon baking powder

2oz/50g dried cranberries

1/2 teaspoon of almond essence (optional)

4-5fl oz/100-150ml  milk or butter milk

3oz/75g melted butter

2 eggs

2oz/50g flaked almonds

Preheat the oven, 160 or gas mark 3

Combine all the dry ingredients, apart from the flaked almonds, in a bowl

Lightly beat the eggs then, combine all the wet ingredients in a second bowl

Combine the dry and the wet ingredients, being careful not to mix them too thoroughly

Divide the mixture between 12 muffin cases in a muffin pan

Sprinkle the top of the mixture with flaked almonds

Bake until the muffins are well risen and lightly browned, 20-25 minutes

Cool on a wire tray

Let’s be the church

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Today we will be the church in towns and villages, cities and metropolises in two hemispheres, across seven continents, rich and poor, black and white, male and female, young and old. We will meet in school halls, auditoriums, cinemas and converted warehouses, downtown, uptown and every place in between. In cathedrals and chapels, the flagging and flourishing, coming together, Royal, Holy, Chosen, declaring the praises of him who called us out of darkness, every culture, every nation, every temperament and personality type, accepted and deeply loved by God.

In rows looking at the back of another person’s head as sun trickles through the coloured glass of stained windows or in a quiet circle of friends on fold-away chairs we will hush squabbling siblings who open colourings books and story Bibles as the first song begins. The music will be played, plucked, hummed, strummed and beat; melody, harmony, symphony, cacophony all to the glory of our great God. Called into His glorious light we will sing new words on illuminated screens and old words in Times New Roman text on pages of hymnals that feel like vellum between our fingers, their scent like bee’s wax from a thousand faithful servants who have polished these pews.

We will read from ancient scriptures in translation new and old, we will utter our ‘Thus says the Lord’, bow heads, pray and chorus ‘Amen’. Amen is what we mean for we are in agreement on these things. We are the people of God and we agree that this is good.

The preacher will preach from a text, in three points or no points at all, in stories imaginary and real. He will draw from traditions and commentaries and all the saints of old. He will tells the meanings of the words we crave like, love and joy and peace, fellowship, community and church. He will make us laugh and make us think, we will weep and sigh and leave challenged or softened, enraged or humbled.

Bread will be eaten, devoured by the hungry and nibbled upon by the not so bold, fresh and yeast scented, wheat of the field and warmth of the oven, a crusty loaf or a small white wafer, round as a moon. The body is broken and we are made whole. There is wine to make the heart glad and the heart is glad as only the forgiven can be. The peace will be shared between those who love deep and wide and those whose love seems to them too small. Hands will be shaken, a hug made, a smile, an arm around the shoulder and an offer to pray. Health, healing, provision come, all from the hand of the Lord.

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Today we were the church me, my family and a few friends in the park. We met to eat together and roll our eggs down the grassy bank, to run to the bottom fetch back the egg, just to do it all again. All the rules were simple and all the children could play, everyone of them. The little ones would scramble and fall on their muddy bottoms over and over again, they would be carried in the arms of their fathers and helped when they stumble by children only a little older than they are now. The winner was the one whose egg has not cracked after tumbling through the grass ten, twenty, thirty, times. And everyone else they were winners too with prizes and sweets and we fed the ducks and play on the swings until it is time for tea.

This is my church and now we know each other a little better and love each other a little more. And here we are ready to meet and greet the poor and lost and lonely and all who mourn; to bring them a little bit of Jesus on a spring day in the park, husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, small children, big children and our egg rolling fun and His good safe love.

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. (1 Peter 2:9, 10 NIV)

Something lovely for the weekend

I woke up this morning and read that Brennan Manning had died and I decided to do something slightly different on my ‘Something lovely …’ post this weekend.

When I first read Brennan Manning on the love of God I didn’t know whether to be radically delighted or grievously concerned. Something inside me wanted to pull this man’s words into balance whilst at the same time my starving heart desperately needed to believe it is true. So I dared to trust a little more in the scandalous and gracious love of God and little by little I begin to see and hear and know that God’s love really might be a big as this man preached it.

Read, Philip Yancey on Brennan Manning

Right Here and Now

Five Minute Friday

Five Minute Friday is a weekly link up from mom blogger Lisa-Jo Baker.

We write for five minutes flat. All on the same prompt that I post here at 1 minute past midnight EST ever Friday. And we connect on Twitter with the hashtag #FiveMinuteFriday

No extreme editing; no worrying about perfect grammar, font, or punctuation.

Unscripted. Unedited. Real.

Today’s prompt is, ‘Here …’

GO:

I might have been another person in another time and place, doing different things with different people. I might have smiled a different smile and my tears might have run into some other ocean swell. I might have learnt the things I know, in a different school of lessons than the one I find myself enrolled in now. I might have lived greater, bigger or much more out-in-the-open and free.

At times I have wondered on more children in a bigger house, down a pot-holed lane, with chickens in the yard and bread in the oven awaiting guests.

I wonder how things would have turned out if I had been less angry, more forgiving and more aware that I am loved.

But I know this: God grounds me in a time called NOW and God brings me to a place called HERE. He calls me to act in each ordinary minute with the intentions I give all aspiration and ambition. He tells me love, fully and whole-heatedly with the plain dull lovelies I see every day and he tells me there is enough, and then more than enough in doing this alone.

“Follow me,” he says.

Not later, but now.

Not in some other place, but here.

Jesus pulls our future dreams into the right NOW moments of our everyday lives. There he is with the fishermen at the lakeside and the women in their homes, or in the village synagogue, or travelling on the road. He is Lord of those who mourn, the poor in spirit and all who seek and in the present moment that is NOW he tells us “I am”, he tells us love.

He is God, with all of time at his command; He is flesh and the only moment that he has is now. He is Spirit, indwelling, in-loving, in-living.

STOP.

Love begins at home, and it is not how much we do but how much love we put into that action.

We think sometimes that poverty is only being hungry, naked and homeless. The poverty of being unwanted, unloved and uncared for is the greatest poverty. We must start in our own homes to remedy this kind of poverty.

Mother Teresa

The silence of God

I really don’t believe God is ever silent.

It seems it would be too much of a contradiction. That God who created everything by speaking it into being could now withhold his voice and the world still go on. As if he could be silent without shutting down the visible universe itself.

I don’t believe God is ever silent, not God who showed us His flesh and blood self, humbly, spectacularly, heaven shatters earth. Not God who stopped all eternity in its tracks to make a new deal with heaven that ensured he would forever be Emmanuel, God with us, no compromise, no second thoughts, no doubts.

I don’t believe God is ever silent except for one half hour in heaven. Just after tears are wiped from our smudgy faces for the very last time, the prayers of us good saints come before God from the hand of an angel, all our tumbling words and pleas and groans. The angel takes the very fire of God and flings it to the earth and there is a noisy great thunderstorm, entirely un-missable, with thunder, lightning and an earthquake.

I don’t believe God is ever silent except maybe a pregnant pause designed to achieve a specific effect. Or he might take a breath or wait to give us time to say what we need to say (as if we needed the encouragement; or maybe we do?)

It was a long three days. Those who knew Jesus then did not know what we know now. There was a tomb flung open and discarded strips of linen cloth but still we read, “They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead”. So when he speaks to Mary by the tomb she does not recognise his voice, like Peter and the others in their boat when He calls, or the two on the Emmaus road talking talking, debating debating: turning over the Word of God.

I don’t believe God is ever silent but I do think he sometimes seems silent.

An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.

Luke 22.43-44

And the man of all sorrows

He never forgot

What sorrow is carried

By the hearts that he bought

Andrew Peterson

I do not know Him

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A post for people who found Easter hard.

Then seizing him, they led him away and took him into the house of the high priest. Peter followed at a distance. And when some there had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and had sat down together, Peter sat down with them. A servant-girl saw him seated there in the firelight. She looked closely at him and said, ‘This man was with him.’

But he denied it. ‘Woman, I don’t know him,’ he said.

A little later someone else saw him and said, ‘You also are one of them.’

‘Man, I am not!’ Peter replied.

About an hour later another asserted, ‘Certainly this fellow was with him, for he is a Galilean.’

Peter replied, ‘Man, I don’t know what you’re talking about!’ Just as he was speaking, the cock crowed.  The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: ‘Before the cock crows today, you will disown me three times.’ And he went outside and wept bitterly.

Luke 22. 54-62

Arriving back from the Easter service, in several car loads, checking the roast in the oven and putting the veggies on in the light drenched kitchen.

A little welcome sunshine summons the brave into the garden and drinks are being poured. The children are finding forgotten toys in the now thawing sand box and someone is thinking there’s some gardening jobs to be done here.

Whilst the table is set and the gravy is being stirred an old hymn is hummed,

Man of Sorrows! What a Name

Bearing shame and scoffing rude,

In my place condemned he stood,

Sealed my pardon with his blood

Hallelujah! What a Saviour!

This Easter has been harder than the roast and the family and the sunshine made it seem. The pain and the suffering, the violence and the blood. A strange God and His murdered Son. You no longer know what the words mean. Familiar words, crucial words, maybe, maybe not? If you say, ‘I do not know Him’ out loud will the whole universe come tumbling down on your head? Will the whole spinning earth slam on its brakes and send you hurtling into obscurity?

I do not know him

I do not know what you are talking about

Holy Week has marched you too hastily through the streets of Jerusalem and up to the upper room. It left you without time to take it all in: the entry into Jerusalem on a donkey, tables turned in the temple, wise words and earnest prayers. Something weighty and intriguing in the upper room, but they were clearing the table and heading for the garden before you could taste the bread and wine. Out in the garden it was too dark to see the Judas kiss and the clash of swords.

You need to know He has all the time in the world.

You need to know He has all the time in the world for you.

And sometimes all you need to do is say it out loud, I do not know him, I don’t know what you’re talking about.  Say it like a surrender, bail out on the striving, waiver the lie, throw in the towel on impossible things, because when Peter said, ‘I do not know Him’ he was entirely wrong.

 

Photo shows medieval glass, St Mary’s Church, Burnham Deepdale, Norfolk