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Pizza and the kingdom of heaven

We like home made pizza in our house.  We like shop-bought pizza too, of course, or the big gooey expensive pizzas from Dominos if it's a special occasion.  But we do like home made pizza.   The only snag is, I have to be around in the afternoon at some point to make the bread dough.  I can't do it on a day when I'm out at work and then pick the boys up from school and don't get home until 4pm.  I don't have to do anything to the dough in the afternoons; I just have to make it by about 2 o'clock to give it time to rise. Cake mixture is easy.  It usually has baking powder in it, plus the air beaten in and held by the eggs, so you can make a cake and cook it straight away.  When I worked in a bakery, those of us who made the cakes worked daytimes.  As we left in the evening, the bread bakers would arrive - hefty guys in sturdy aprons, who would sling around sacks of flour and heavy metal pans - ready to make and prove the bread overnight so it was fresh for the ne
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Reading for Spiritual Formation

Do you read books in order to live a better life? I read books for lots of reasons, ranging from escapism and enjoyment to information and obligation.  In some sense, every book we read lodges somewhere inside us, affecting who we are and how we react to life.  I am the product of many books (far too many, some would say!) Not my library! (Image: Pixabay) Last year, though, I read four books with the specific intention of growing spiritually.  These four books were chosen by the Renovar√© Book Club.  Renovar√© Book Club Renovar√© wasn't a name I'd come across before.  Turns out that it's a Christian group founded by Richard Foster (who wrote Celebration of Discipline ) and involving Dallas Willard (who wrote The Spirit of the Disciplines ), which probably gives you a good idea of their emphasis!  I was impressed with the quality of resources offered with the book club - podcasts, articles, discussion boards, online Q&A - and I also thought they'd done a good job get

The singing lark

They came bursting into the house as I was finishing breakfast, with a clatter of confused explanations to my wife, and a hasty pat on the head for little Abi.  Before I quite knew what was happening, I was out in the street, still clutching my half-eaten bread roll, and being carried along much faster than was comfortable. We'd got halfway to the crossroads before I recovered enough to ask any questions.  "What...  where... who...?" I started, not even quite sure which was the right thing to ask. "The teacher!  The one who heals people!  He's at home!" puffed James, somewhere above my right ear. "Yes!  They say he got back last night.  And we're going to get you there first this morning," added Paul, twisting round from his position holding the front left of my mat, and giving me a big grin. "Too right," said Zach, next to him. He was a man of few words. "What?  Who are you talking about?  What teacher?" I had a horrible f

Dealing with crowds

How do you feel about crowds? Do you imagine a concert audience singing in unison, the spectators at a sports match cheering for their team, colourful crowds in the street for Carnival or Holi?  Does the idea of being in a crowd make you feel uplifted and energised? Image: Pixabay   Or do you think of being pressed too closely, of protestors causing disruption and destruction, of things being a little bit out of control?  Would you feel uncomfortable and on edge? Image: Pixabay   Either way, we are rather out of practice at being in crowds right now. Maybe that's why, when I read Mark's gospel recently, I noticed for the first time just how crowded it is.  On every page, people swarm around Jesus - following him out into the countryside, besieging him at home, preventing him from eating, begging for his help. Mark has Jesus almost constantly surrounded by people.  Even when he tries to get away, people usually find him pretty quickly.  On one occasion, they start taking the roo

Perygl in Wales

 "Per-gol" Toby said, reading the sign.  "Hey, that's a much better word than Danger.  Welsh is great!" Actually, the word is Perygl and comes out more like pear-reyg-l, but it didn't really matter - the boys had already fallen in love with everything Welsh, and were happily agreeing that all the words were far more interesting than their English equivalents. We seemed to encounter a lot of perygl on our two days in Wales.  Signs warned us against flying golf balls, steep drops, deep water and narrow roads, but fortunately we survived unscathed apart from one scraped shin (that was Theo falling off a rock).  In fact, it was a remarkably good short break, with perfect weather, beautiful scenery, and the main attraction: a big blue camper van to carry us around. Graham's friend Ben had converted the van a couple of years ago, and kindly agreed to lend it to us for the weekend at the end of half term.  After a rather last-minute search for places to park

What's getting you through?

Well, here we are, still: lockdown number two for the UK, and the journey feels like it's dragging on... and on... and on.  Normality is a distant dot in our rear view mirrors, while ahead of us is a dull and jumbled landscape of shifting restrictions, cancelled plans and unsatisfying virtual connections.  And no, we are almost certainly not nearly there yet. So, what's keeping you going? (Apart from chocolate cake, of course.) Image: Pixabay I've recently found encouragement from reading the book of 2 Corinthians - a letter by Paul to the church at Corinth when he was seriously struggling.  He'd had some kind of disagreement with them, and spends part of the letter apologising, part justifying himself, quite a lot telling them about all the other awful things that have been happening to him, and he still manages to fit in some phrases of quite profound hope.  This one's been buzzing around in my brain: We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but

Sunsets by the sea: A swift visit to Lymington

It was the end of a hot day.  The cool water felt good on our feet, and the waves lazily pushed the pebbles around on the beach.  Across the channel, the Needles turned from white rock to glowing peach, as the sky dimmed, the air became cooler and stiller, and the red sun sank irresistibly towards the edge of the earth.   We had discovered that the best time to come to the beach was at 7pm.  The crowds had gone, the parking was free, and we didn't have to mess around applying sunscreen.  Once the sun had finally disappeared, we bundled the boys into towels and drove them back to the cottage, where they were happy to fall into bed. The cottage - a compact and fortunately cool Victorian semi - was in Lymington, where we managed to spend a few days in August.  It's a neat little place with a high street that tumbles down the hill to a harbour full of expensive yachts.  A short drive away, through the New Forest, is Beaulieu Motor Museum, which of course had to be the first stop on