Ancient Luxury: Stuffed Dates


This is my second foray into the world of recipe sharing.  Like my first, the dish is inspired by the biblical foods, and a bit of history.

I first came across this desert/snack when I was at university.  When I was introduced to it, it was called Dates Alexander.  While I cannot back up the claim that this was a favoured dish of Alexander the Great, it does contain ingredients that would have been familiar to him and his men.

Dates Alexander


24 pitted dates

24 blanched almonds

1/4 cup of honey (ideally raw not pasturised) or 1/3 cup if more drizzle is desired

1/4 cup shelled crushed pistachios

Gently stuff each date with an almond and set aside.  Then pour honey in a small saucepan and gently warm (do not allow to boil or even become hot).

Remove the warm honey from the heat and gently drop in the fruit, and let set about five minutes until honey is starting to thicken again.

Place crushed pistachios into a small bowl, and roll each date gently into the nuts until crusted.  Organinse nut covered dates onto a plate and drizzle any remaining honey over the fruits.

Chill for 30 minutes and serve as a dessert (6 dates) or as a snack (3-4 dates).

Let me know what you think.


“Tooled Up” by God


Pastor Vince this week drew his message from I Peter 4. “Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because whoever suffers in the body is done with sin. As a result, they do not live the rest of their earthly lives for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God (vs 1-2).

Most of us are aware of Paul’s admonition to “fight the good fight” in I Timothy 6:12.  It is also widely understood that God has equipped us for the fights and struggles ahead.  Ephesians 6:10-18 and the “whole armour of God,” is often sighted as being so equipped.  While this is patently being “well tooled up,” Peter draws our focus to another aspect – our mindset.

In the same way Jesus faced His trials, so should be be armed with an attitude of perseverance, and sacrificial boldness.  This is the attitude which was manifested in at Gethsemane in the words “not my will but thine.” Jesus faced mock trials, false accusations, physical assault, and even death.  His was a body assailed, but a spirit unwavering.

He told us that to be His disciples, that we too were to take up our own crosses daily and follow Him.  Entry into the body of Christ is not the end of struggles, but often their beginnings.  This is two-fold.  For those God loves, He chastens (Hebrews 12:6), He tests and proves us.  He builds us via our struggles.  The second aspect of our struggles is that evil has nothing to gain by attacking those within its grasp. When we step from the world into God’s fold, we make ourselves targets.

It is to these struggles that Peter remarks,  “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.  But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed (I Peter 4:12-13).” 

Be tooled up in the attitude of acceptance of these trials.  Be mentally strong in knowing it is common to all the people of God.  Be encouraged that in so bearing, we are modelling Christ (and His attitude) to a lost world.


God: The Long Game

The life of Moses is the ultimate example of  “the long game” at work.  This prophet of God was destined to lead the people of Israel, and his life’s journey, while not straight forward prepared him for the task of his destiny.

Moses’ preparation began at birth.  He was born to a Hebrew family in captivity in Egypt.  Not only born a slave, he was conceived at a time when the Pharaoh was suspicious of the Jews.  He therefore ordered such newborns, as Moses, to be thrown into the Nile.  His birth mother was not prepared to obey such a law, and plotted to keep her son alive.  But as he grew it became obvious that her plan to hide hum would not work.  She then in an incredibly clever way obeyed the edict.  She threw her son in the river, after placing him in a basket, and tarring it first.

Moses was then safe to float with the current, and God’s hand became plain when he drifted into Pharaoh’s own courts.  This “gift of the Nile,” was found and adopted by the king’s own daughter.  Moses would spend the next forty years being raised and educated in the royal household.  Where better to prepare one for leadership?

But Moses’ skill set was still incomplete. Therefore, his life takes another turn, this “prince of Egypt” defends a fellow Hebrew and in so doing kills an Egyptian.  His subsequent escape into the wilderness leads him to his second vocation – as a shepherd.  Now this slave turned prince learns to survive in the desert.  To care for flocks, and to be a husband (a very different kind of leadership).

It is while tending sheep, an additional 40 years on, that God calls him to his ultimate role.  He will take the skills of a ruler, and of a shepherd, and lead God’s people to a promised land.

God played the long game.  He took an infant in a basket, and with challenge and nurture formed him into a man of God.  But not only a man of faith, but a man of purpose.  He was equipped with the knowledge of war and of command.  He was tempered with the skills of survival and of service.  He was made ready to blossom, and to make others blossom.

Eighty years, to be made ready to do yet another forty of service.  We will probably not be molded by God for anywhere near that time.  But, that does not mean we will meet our potential over night either.  We sometimes get frustrated when our “breaks” seem to take so long to materialise. We often want things to happen right now.  We seek opportunities that we may not be quite ready for.  So today, let us remember Moses, and God’s long game.  He will use us in His own time.  But remember this, every moment, every triumph (and defeat) along the way is there to make us ready for when He calls.




Ancient Pubs and Inns (Further Afield)

CC Inn 1

Castle Combe Inn

The Castle Inn, in Castle Combe can trace its origins back to the 12th century and many features of the original construction remain today. In its current incarnation it is a hotel, and as such, we stopped into the dining area for an afternoon drink.

The hotel is clean, and the staff were welcoming, and really tried their best to please. We had some nice hot chocolate, and some lattes, as well as scones and clotted cream. All were good quality, and it made for a pleasant afternoon “tea.” After our first round of drinks, we went out to some scenic tables overlooking the market cross, and enjoyed the views, the sunshine, and another drink.

Market Cross 2

Market Cross

There was a constant flow of customers, both hotel guests and day visitors. All were treated equally as valued guest whether they were just having tea, or were there for an extended stay.

This is an ancient building (12th Century with a 15th Century refurb), but it has had great modern decorating, and does not seem tired.  In short, it has character.


The Bridge Inn, Acle, Norfolk is said to began as a monastic guesthouse in the mid-15th Century.  It was later converted into a fine Georgian Inn.  This riverside inn is very pretty with its 18th Century features including some really impressive thatching which gives the pub a really special character. There is a fairly good supply of parking, and boat moorings are also available for guests, as it is on the edge of the Broads.

The dining areas consist of a bar area, outdoor seating, and a round main dining room. The layout is spacious, and while the bar can be a bit congested, it all flows well. Outdoor seating requires the order at bar giving a table number approach, and indoor seating does have table service. The restaurant was on the whole clean, and well maintained.

This is not a cheap eats venue, however, and some menu items are a bit dear. We had teas, and my wife ordered a cheese board. The board proved a bit disappointing for the price, and my wife’s dietary restrictions made it especially so, as it had a fairly large cracker selection, but was light on the cheese. Here, I will give credit where it is due. When she noted to staff that this was the case, the manager was very helpful and gave extra cheese portions to make up for the fibre and gluten items which she couldn’t eat. This was a very generous act, and was an example of excellent customer service.

All in all a good visit, and one which could have gone badly, but was well mended by a professional and caring manager.

The next leg was to return to Constable Country and to focus on coaching inns.





Ancient Pubs and Inns (The Second Round)

The Angel - Larling (1631)

The Angel, Larling

We stopped into The Angel in Larling, Norfolk (near Attleborough), as part of our tour of old, period pubs. The Angel (opened in 1631), has a lot of character, and despite its old world appeal, is an up to date, welcoming modern restaurant.

The access is easy from the A11, and parking is abundant. The bar and restaurant areas are well laid out and the service is very friendly and attentive.

The dining room is really nicely decorated, with a bright atmosphere which augments the period features such as a large inglenook fireplace and timber beams.

We had a really yummy lunch with cheesy chips with a good quality medium cheddar; and a jacket potato with prawn and smoked salmon. The potato was larger than the average found on lunch and light bite menus, and it was served with a creamy coleslaw. The blend of salmon and prawn was well balanced with a very nice marie rose sauce. The tea was good quality, and the pot for two was of good size.

The menu as a whole has a wide range of options, and accommodation is also available. It is well worth a second visit.

We later stopped in at 16th Century, George,  as we were visiting Cavendish, Suffolk to see the views from the village green. We had researched where to take a tea break and The George seemed the place of choice. It was a good decision. The period pub/restaurant is a lovely building with a timber frame interior. The dining room set up is spacious, and there is a sense of privacy and the ability to just relax, especially on a drizzly afternoon. The service was outstanding, and we were made to feel welcome, and we in no way felt rushed to finish. The teas were good, and the overall atmosphere was wonderful. This is a great venue, and it is totally in keeping with the beautiful village which surrounds it. We will have to consider the George for a full meal, or even a stay in the future.

George - Cavendish (16th Century)

The George, Cavendish

Our journeys then took us to The Fox in Bury St Edmunds.  This is an impressive 15th Century inn at the East Gate near the Rams Meadow and the Abbey’s water gate. It is not far from one of the gates to the Abbey Gardens, and the Angel Hill as well.

Fox Inn, BSE (15th Century)

The Fox, Bury St Edmunds

The Fox itself has nice timbers, and the one dining room to the right of the bar has (what appears to be) dark Georgian paneling. The tables were large, and the seating comfortable. The decoration was minimal, but was in keeping with the space’s historical flavour.

Fox Interior

The Fox Paneling

Our intention was to stop in for tea and a snack, and we found an excellent one.  The cheesy chips were served with what came across as a pizza blend of cheeses, which made for a different taste experience than the usual cheddar melt.

Each of these venues offers a taste of history, but also great modern foodie experiences. This encouraged us to continue with our project, and to look even further afield.



Ancient Pubs and Inns (First Encounters)


Owing to health considerations, we decided to see what we could discover in England, rather than abroad.  With this regional limitation, we looked for some alternative activities to make for new travel and food discoveries.  We struck on the idea of visiting as many extant ancient pubs and coaching inns as we could reasonably get to.

With this in mind we set out to visit some in the more immediate area first (Cambridgeshire, Suffolk, and Norfolk).  Our research led us to the Green Dragon, in Wymondham in Norfolk.  This was a “must visit” for on our visit list. The Green Dragon is a 14th Century tavern and is full of charm and old world character. The tiled floors, timber beams, and pre-industrial brick fireplace make a perfect backdrop in the small, cozy bar area. The bar itself wouldn’t be out of place in a 1930’s Ealing production, and adds the more to the atmosphere.

The service was very welcoming and professional, and the barmaid really had a warm smile for all the customers.

The food was cooked to order, and the use of vegetable and olive oils really fit in with our dietary requirements. We had a very well prepared jacket potato with brie and cranberry. This was accompanied by a small salad of good quality leaf and a vinaigrette type dressing. We also had cheesy chips which were chunky cut, golden fried, and topped with Stilton. All in all a really lovely lunch.


Green Dragon

The pub garden is large, and provides loads of seating. There was no immediate parking, but it was available nearby, and even with mobility issues, it is very doable. There is a 50p charge for card payment under £10, but overall costs are reasonable, especially considering the atmosphere and quality of the food.

Green Dragon - Wymondham (14th Century)

Green Dragon, Wymondham

We next stopped in for a light lunch at The Horseshoes in Cockfield, Suffolk.  It is a lovely 14th Century building (thier own signage says circa 1350), with country and antique decoration. We sat at table 1 which has a lovely period corner seat. The bar area was bustling on a Sunday afternoon, and there seemed to be loads of reservations having been made for this popular restaurant.

The cheese ploughman’s lunch was very substantial with a creamy brie, and medium Stilton, and a rich Cheddar. It was served with a pickled onion, a sweet brown pickle, a small salad portion with balsamic, and good quality granary bread.
The serving portions of cooked meals were large, and the specials board had interesting options including several traditional pies. The frying oil has rapeseed, but there were still lovely options even with our dietary restrictions.

The prices were very reasonable, and we would happily recommend this inn, and will visit again ourselves.

Horseshoes, Cockfield (Circa 1350)

The Horseshoes, Cockfield

The third discovery The Dolphin in Thetford, Norfolk was a latecomer when it comes to “ancient” pubs, being 17th Century.  We stopped for a light snack and tea as part of our ancient pubs journey. The pub/inn is a 1694 built premises, with a really exceptional modern refurb which keeps many of the period features (beams, fireplaces, internal stonework) and yet has a clean, fresh up-to-date feel. We found the landlord pleasant and welcoming, and the whole atmosphere relaxing.

The tea was strong, and tasty; and the portion of chips huge (and vegetable oil is used for frying). We really enjoyed our snack, and would readily return for a more substantial meal in the future.

The background music was 1950’s classics, and on a drizzly afternoon, it was nice to sip tea, and chill for a while.

The Dolphin, Thetford (opened 1694)

The Dolphin, Thetford


These first three stops set us up to start moving further afield. It was nice to find the varieties of local produce and recipes, and to get a feel for our region’s past. What started as a bit of a “let’s give it a try,” became a pleasant way to spend weekends without breaking the bank, or going too far from home.  More of these historical finds will feature in later posts.


‘Dawn take you . . . , and be stone to you!’


Trolljegeren image

I have been writing a blog now for about a year.  I find the act of communicating via the blogosphere a fulfilling experience.  My motives are pretty straight forward – I like sharing information, and I hope that I am at times entertaining as well.  I do not have any desire for “fame” per se, though I, like most people, like to be liked.

When it comes to the blogs of others, and life more generally, I am rather a simple soul.  I take people as they present themselves.  I readily trust them for their integrity, and accept their motives and presentations as “true reflections.”  Because of this approach, I feel I have come to know several people well, and in fact (though I have never physically met them), I have to come to care for them.

Recently, I was saddened when a couple of these admired and cared for “friends” were attacked for things they had posted.  These attacks were not mere contradictions of their views, but personal assaults.  One young woman who I greatly admire was even slammed over her health problems and past personal struggles.  I marvel that people hold their own viewpoints so highly, that they must belittle those who disagree.  Seriously, one does not elevate themselves or their views by diminishing others. It grieves me to see anyone hurt, but especially this lady who has a clear Christian heart.

It is interesting that, within this cyber community that such vicious attacks are called trolling.  On reflecting on this, troll-lore has an interesting facet.  Trolls turn to stone in the light of day. In darkness they do their harm.  Gandalf knew this, but even more powerfully than in fiction, Jesus said in John 3:20, “Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed.”  Paul added to this with the words, “But everything exposed by the light becomes visible–and everything that is illuminated becomes a light.”

Let us seek to be lights in the world.  Let our lights not be under bushels, but placed upon a stand.  Let us build up and not tear down.


A Day on Suffolk’s East Coast

Southwold - Lighthouse and Cannon

Southwold Lighthouse

The Suffolk coast provides the most easterly locations in Britain.  Many of its beaches are closer to the Netherlands than they are to Wales.  But the “right hand side” of the UK is also full of history and of dynamic geographic change.

We started our day at Southwold, a nice seaside town with beach huts, a lighthouse, and the usual arcade-type sea side activities.

There were a couple of good chippies and “wildish” sea views it being an autumn day.  After taking in the views and admiring the lighthouse, we picked up a few seaside related souvenirs from the pier, and had the requisite ice cream, and headed for historic Dunwich.

Dunwich was once the capital of the  Anglo-Saxons, and remained one of England’s major cities into medieval times.  Geology and earth processes have not been kind to Dunwich, however.  The harbour began to silt over after great storms in 1286 and 1287.   Then the town began to fall into the sea owing to coastal erosion.  The once great town of at least 11 churches, and hundreds of houses, has now shrunk to a small village with a population of less than 200.

The tale of this decline is well presented at the local museum.  There are artifacts of the town’s past, a diorama showing Dunwich’s zenith and its physical decline, and interesting information of what has been found of the old town by marine archaeology.

The beach at Dunwich is picturesque and provides for rustic seaside views.  Whether  collapsing cliffs, or for nautical themes it offers great photo opportunities.

There is a very nice tea rooms a little landward of the town, and an additional cafe near the beach and cliffs.  So taking one’s time in viewing the area can be done with some pleasant pit stops.

Suffolk’s coast has lots to explore. Both Dunwich and its neighbouring Southwold offer great starting points to discover the east of the East of England.


Dunwich Museum link

Southwold Pier link



Building Those That Build


Ralph Nader has said, “The function of leadership is to produce more leaders, not more followers.” Okay, don’t get me wrong here, it is an expectation for all the people of God to make disciples (Matthew 28:19).  But for those within leadership, there is a need to lift up and train up new leaders.  Otherwise we have stagnation, and without new generations of leaders – decline.

Pastors, elders, and teachers have a grave duty to guide the church.  This is an awesome responsibility, and I use the term in its true meaning. We should be in awe of the task before us. Paul writes to Titus these words, “Since an overseer manages God’s household, he must be blameless—not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain. Rather, he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined. He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it (Titus 1:7-9).”

These builders and defenders of God’s church are but one part of the body, however.  Their role (worthy of honour as it is) is just one aspect of Christ’s body’s work. I Corinthians 12: 12 reads, “Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many. Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body.  And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body.  If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.  If they were all one part, where would the body be?  As it is, there are many parts, but one body.”

How wonderful that the body is so diverse. Each has their place, each their importance.  But, with that said, the aforementioned pastors, elders and teachers have the burden of challenging and promoting the growth of others.  They are the builders of others, the nurturers, and the guides.

But, this at times is a lonely place to be.  Yes, leadership teams do help.  They give some relief by sharing the burden, but I well know from experience that it is still at times “remote” to be a leader. Who do you, as the encourager, turn to when discouraged?  Where do you find strength, after strengthening others?  Yes, the short answers are, to and from the Lord.  He is sufficient.  But not only sufficient, He is wise!

The evidence for this (if any is needed) is found in I Thessalonians 5:11-12 “Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing. But we request of you, brethren that you appreciate those who diligently labour among you, and have charge over you in the Lord and give you instruction.” God’s word calls us to appreciate and encourage those who labour among us.

We as a body should and do encourage (literally “give courage to”) one another.  But as we enter this new week, let us not forget that our leaders and fellow workers need encouragement as well.  When was the last time you sent a random thank you note to your pastor?  When did you last enquire on their week?  Let us build up the builders.



Today I Preach


I have been a religious educator for nearly three decades.  I, along my spiritual journey, have also been a chaplain and a “pulpit minister.”  For ten years I preached on average three times a week, and found the exhilaration of bringing the Word of God to an audience.  I then made the lateral step into full time teaching, and with that move, my “pulpit time” dropped to occasional filling in for others, and to chaplaincy events.   The number of engagements has dropped even more in recent years (though my educational and advisory roles have increased).  So it is with mixed feelings that I face the challenge of God’s call today.  I am scheduled to deliver not one but two messages in a single day, at two separate churches. I am excited, but I am also apprehensive to be entrusted with the burden of God’s Word.

The Apostle Paul in I Corinthians 9:16 said, ” For when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, since I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!”  I well understand him.  I preach not for my glory, but His.  The message of the gospel is compelling.  Woe to me, if I do not share, teach, admonish and comfort with it.

So, here I am preparing to stand before those who have all the usual human needs.  I trust that God’s Spirit will make me worthy and capable to meet those needs, not through my strength, but His.