Why I Teach

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There are many reasons why people become teachers. For some it is the desire to “make a difference” in the world. For others the motivation is a care and concern for young people.  And for yet others, it is the importance of their subjects, and the concern that knowledge of it endures.  We can add to this a small minority that didn’t know what else to do with their degree. [As an aside, I remember overhearing a conversation between two final year university students on their futures.  One of them said he would do teacher training, “while he worked out what he really wanted to do.”]

Why stay a teacher? Now here is a more interesting concept.  Some – but not all – of the world changers become disillusioned and leave.  Some “kid’s are our futures” types, equally withdraw after seeing the realities of the classroom.  And “preservation of knowledge” advocates become frustrated when their beloved topics fall on disinterested ears.  But the majority persevere. Why, because they come to embrace all of the above, and become educators.

Our little victories drive us onwards. That moment when little Johnny “gets it.”  The realization that these young people are indeed people, and they are developing into wonderful human beings.

I have been an educator for nearly three decades.  I may have started out as a “my subject matters” type, but I have grown!  I really care about the students I teach.  I feel for their hurts, and I really find joy in their triumphs.   I see them as full individuals, not just as recipients of my subject. As a case in point, I love watching the programme on the last day of the year, when those about to leave us make their speeches, share their recollections, and share their talents in music or drama.  I can look then, and take pride that I in some small part helped shape these awesome people.

That is why I teach.  I may not have changed the world, but I have touched the lives that have touched mine.

Padre

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12 Great Quotes on Preaching

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Preaching the word of God is a blessing, but also an irksome responsibility. There have been thousands of great proclaimers of the Gospel over the centuries, and I have picked just a few to share their sage advice on preaching.  I hope their words will help use to reflect on our own motivations and practice.

Preparation

“Study hard, for the well is deep, and our brains are shallow.” Richard Baxter

Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” 2 Timothy 2:15

“Keep up a humble sense of your own faults, and that will make you compassionate to others.”  Richard Baxter

“It is no use walking anywhere to preach unless our walking is our preaching.”  Francis of Assisi

Motivation

“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!” 1 Corinthians 9:16

“Don’t preach to make friends or so we will be loved – don’t do that. Preach so God will be loved and souls will be saved” Marshall Keeble

“To preach Christ is to feed the soul, to justify it, to set it free, and to save it, if it believes the preaching.” Martin Luther

If a preacher is not first preaching to himself, better that he falls on the steps of the pulpit and breaks his neck than preaches that sermon.” John Calvin

Execution

“I preached as never sure to preach again, And as a dying man to dying men.”  Richard Baxter

“You can hit a nail too many times, then you bust the plank. So, don’t keep hitting it, hit it then ease off.” Marshall Keeble

“I would not have preachers torment their hearers, and detain them with long and tedious preaching.” Martin Luther

“If you haven’t struck oil in 20 minutes quit boring.” T. J. Jones (and others)

 

Padre

 

 

 

 

Aussie Floaters in the East of England

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I haven’t written a restaurant review for this blog before, but this Pie Shop really deserves the to be publicised.  I had read several great reviews of the Flaming Galah in Norwich, Norfolk,  so decided to make the journey to check it out. This is a little storefront, takeaway type establishment, but so much more. It really is a “don’t judge a book by its cover” affair.

As a storefront shop, it only has a couple of outdoor tables, and some bench and stool type seating inside. It does however, really excel as a takeaway.  It is real quality, eating in or taking away. The decor is simple, and Aussie themed, as one might imagine. There are some interesting signs, which inform customers that it is not a fast food place, but one that does good food as fast as they can. A wonderful concept, and true in execution. Another catchy sign informs patrons that “well behaved children are welcome, the rest will be made into pies.” Joking apart, what really catches one’s attention is the display of hot golden pies.

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They generally serve 12 varieties a day, and have daily specials in addition to their standard menu. Recent specials have included a “Christmas Leftovers” pie made with gammon, turkey and bubble and squeak. Past pies have also included taco inspired creations, a venison pie, and a Cajun pie.  It is fascinating the things they can make into a delicious pie.

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On our visit my wife had a “Classic Aussie Pie” (minced beef, onion, gravy and tomato sauce) topped with mushy peas, potato mash, and gravy. I had a “Greek Pie” (spinach, roasted red pepper, black olives, and feta) topped with the potatoes, peas, and veggie gravy. These were generously, very tasty, and had a really superior pastry. the pies were perfectly cooked, and I noted that it wasn’t a rush job, as when the pie was nearly finished, it was taken from the foil baking pan, and baked some more to have the entire crust crisp and golden.  There was none of the soggy bottom mush found with some pie sellers.

This is a place to be visited again and again, and I love that they have several veggie and pescetarian options. It is highly recommended.

I debated when I should post this.  Should it be on a “Foodie Friday,” or on a “Travel Tuesday?” I am still not sure which would be best fitted, so for now – it is on a general ramble for the weekend.

Padre

Flaming Galah

Chocolate Orange Pie

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Chocolate Orange Pie

This is like key lime but with oranges and Terry’s Chocolate Orange (or similar). In the UK chocolate orange and Christmas seem to go together, so I thought I would see if it could be expanded to be a family dessert for the holidays.  Please let me know what you think.

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Ingredients:

  • Chocolate Biscuits 290 – 300g (I have used several types in the past, Bourbon Cremes are nice but can stick a bit to pan)
  • Butter 150g melted
  • Condensed Milk 397g-400g tin
  • Eggs 3 medium yolks
  • Oranges 1 -2 medium to large (juice – do not use more than 6 Tbs juice or pie will not set right], and zest of one orange)
  • Corn Starch 1/4 tsp
  • Orange Food Colouring  a few drops (optional)
  • Terry’s Chocolate Orange or Chocolate Buttons (to garnish)

Method:

  • Pre-heat the oven to 160C/320F (or 140C fan oven). Grind biscuits to crumbs in a food processor or mash with mortar-pestle. Mix with the melted butter and press into the base and sides of 8 inch loose bottom baking tin or pie pan. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove and let cool.
  • Zest and juice the orange. Whisk the egg yolks in a large bowl (about 1 minute with electric mixer or 5 by hand whisk). Add starch and stir in condensed milk and whisk for 3 minutes, then add the zest and juice and colouring (if used) [personally I am not a fan of the colouring, but it does make the pretty] and whisk again for 3-4 minutes. Pour the mixture into the base and bake for 15-20 minutes checking that it has not become overly browned.
  • Remove and allow to cool.
  • Garnish with chocolate pieces and refrigerate before serving.

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The photos are of one I made for Christmas, and I didn’t use any extra colourings.

Padre

 

 

 

Reflections on 2017

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The calendar year is drawing to a close.  It has been a year of transitions and adjustments.  There have been atrocities in Manchester and Las Vegas (and all too many other places). The Trump administration has recognised Jerusalem as the Israeli capital, and conflicts continue with North Korea.

In Matthew 24: 6-7 Jesus said that this would be the state of the world until His return.  “And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places.”  But so it has been for most years in the intervening centuries.  

I will leave the eschatology for another occasion, but would like to here focus on the effects of these things on us as individuals.  This has indeed been a sorrowful year with unexpected personal tragedies (such as Manchester). Let us remember to pray for these families even after the news stories have faded from our radios and screens!

Personally, I have only just learned of the death of a friend a few days before Christmas.  Again my prayers are with his wife and family. I have also been dealing with the aftermath of my wife’s battle with cancer (which for now she is winning), but the fatigue and post-radiation complications persist.  It has made her more reliant on prayer. Prayer is a great strengthener, and we need to remember that rather than to count on our own powers and devices.

I have had the opportunity to preach the word of God more this year.  I have been able as well to continue my studies of scripture and to share my findings on this blog.  I continue to teach, and I hope I have been able to kindle a fire of inquiry into things divine in my students.  Here too, let us resolve to be “ready in season and out of season.”

I have had the pleasure of two cruise holidays, and been able to make a pilgrimage to Santiago. Though at the same time, I have been saddened (along with the world) by the Barcelona tragedies (the terrorist attack during my first cruise and the crackdown on the region by the central government during the second).  But isn’t that the nature of life?  Joy and peace tempered by sorrow.

Solomon captured this well in Ecclesiastes 3: 1-8,

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;  A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace. 

The year has also allowed me a chance to get to know (at least in the community of the blogosphere) many of you.  I have been enriched and uplifted by many of your posts, and shared in your triumphs and woes.  I thank you for allowing me to share in your lives in this way.

Padre

Transformed by Christ

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Sister Lisa brought a thoughtful message on the transformational power of Jesus.  Since it was Christmas Eve, the focus was on the nativity story and how the world was changed by the event.

Jesus was visited by shepherds and magi.  The humble and the grand.  Men of simple skills and men of intellect and learning.  This was a child that came for all people, and who elevated the humble through joy, and took these men from the fringes of society and made them bearers of a message of wonder.

“17 And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. 18 And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. 19 But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart. 20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them (Luke 2).”

Likewise, the Wise Men in Matthew 2:11a, despite their education and status fall down and worship a child.  “And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him.”

The humble exaulted and the clever humbled – transformation indeed.

But this was not the only transformational aspect within the nativity.  While not the centre of Lisa’s message, she did note the gifts of the Magi.  These gifts of gold (denoting kingship), frankincense (for priesthood), and myrrh (a symbol of sacrifice) showed Jesus’ triple role in the lives of men.  He is king, priest, and saviour.

Let’s face it, in this world no one is self-sufficient.  Who among us is not in need of a leader?  And if one is the leader, may they not through the burden they bear need a priest or a saviour?  And if one is a priest do they not need guidance from the one they serve? And all need a saviour from their own weaknesses.

In Christ as our atoning sacrifice and saviour we find the fulfillment of those needs.  He in doing so changes us forever. We become children of God.  Now there is a transformation.

Padre

Prague: Visiting Good King Wenceslas

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Wenceslas

As it is “Travel Tuesday” and it is also is St Stephen’s Day, it seemed natural for me to write about my visit to Wenceslas Square in Prague.

First who was this Wenceslas? While the Christmas carol has him as a king, he was actually the Duke of Bohemia, and later a Christian martyr and saint. It was only after his death that he was proclaimed a king.

Cosmas of Prague cites him for his acts of charity and alms, and it is in this vein that we see him in the carol of the Feast of Stephen.  Wandering through the snow to give relief to the down trodden. Despite his piety, he was assassinated by supporters of his ambitious younger brother in 935.

The Wenceslas Square bears his name, and features a equestrian statue of him.  It is located near the main rail station, and features the National Museum on its southeast end.  The square has a long broad pedestrian area with benches, and the roadsides which border the square are lined with cafes, and eateries.

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Wenceslas Square from National Museum

The statue of Wenceslas attract a large number of tourists, and the plinth area seems especially busy both with people resting, and those getting their selfies in.  The National Museum while an impressive piece of architecture, has been closed for renovations since 2011.  It is still worth seeing, and on the side closest to the railway station, it is interesting to see the bullet scars left on it by Warsaw Pact troops during the suppression of the Prague Spring of 1968.

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National Museum from Wenceslas Square

 

 

Accommodation Note:

I stayed at the The Hotel Balbin while in Prague.  It is in an excellent location near the Wenceslas Square, National Museum and main rail station. The Museum tram and Metro stations are a short walk (turn right on Vinohradska from Balbinova), and the Italska tram stop is even closer (turn left on Vinohradska). With this said, the hotel is nice, but not “disabled friendly.” There is a flight of stairs to climb to reach the lift (which is small), and another smaller flight from the lift to the reception.

With the disabled proviso made, the hotel rooms are clean, and spacious. The staff are polite, speak good English, and are really professional – seeking to be as helpful as possible (more on this shortly).

I would normally have rated the Balbin highly (even if just for the quality of service). However, on the morning of my stay, the keys to the kitchen had been locked in, so I was informed there would be a long wait for breakfast while other keys were sought. As I was not able to put off my other plans for the day, the receptionist went out an brought back bread and cheese, etc. and did his best to make a small cold breakfast.

Pluses: good location, okay rooms, SUPER STAFF. Negatives: Mobility options limited, and unfortunately the breakfast debacle.

Padre

Christmas Symbolism

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Micheangelo Madonna and Child

There is little more endearing image than a mother and newborn infant.  This is one reason I believe that the classic nativity scene has such a deep emotional impact on us.  Christmas trees and baubles are fine and good, but the “religious” and oh so much more human image of the mother and child is so much more powerful.

While the nativity scene may not be in its “moment of time” steadfastness may not be biblically accurate (shepherds and magi arriving simultaneously, etc).  It does encapsulate the “real” Christmas message.

So too does the imagery of my favourite Christmas carol: The Holly and the Ivy. Whole this piece can only be found referenced to 1711 or so (with most extant copies being early 19th Century), its origin is probably much old.  Within it there is the evergreen  imagery of the pre-Christian winter decoration tradition, but there is buried within it much of Medieval Christian symbolism of Christ and His mother.  The Holly representing Jesus and the Ivy – Mary.

The pure white berries of the ivy are a testimony to Mary’s virgin purity.  The dark red fruit of the holly Jesus’ blood.  The prickles of the holly represent Jesus’ crown and suffering.

These mid-winter greens (the holly and the ivy) also in the depths of the bleakness give hope. The nativity story likewise gives hope to a world caught up in its own figurative “mid-winter’s” bleakness of competition, bitterness and strife.

The carol is also a pretty song.

 

May those reading have a joyous new year.

Padre

Learning from the Celebration of Secular Christmas

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Tomorrow billions of people (Christians and non-Christians) will celebrate or at least mark Christmas.  While for many it no longer holds any real link to the birth of a child in a stable some two-thousand years ago, it does seem to bring out (however briefly) the idea of “peace on earth and goodwill to all men.”

Now to be sure, in the lead up to the day it might be hard to believe that.  Supermarkets  are packed, people jostling, and mall and shopping area parking chaos. People wait impatiently in cashier queues, and others “in the spirit of the season,” stop and chat blocking aisles and making the experience even more frustrating.

While God in His infinite knowledge saw all this coming, He nevertheless saw something bigger.  That same “spirit” which creates the frustration, materialism, impatience and the rest in the shopping areas, was the reason for “the day.” No, not the thirst or even greed for gifts, and over indulgence, but the selfishness that underlies it all.  Sin.  Christmas is believe it or not about sin, as much as it is about “goodwill and peace.”

“For God so loved the world, that he sent His one and only Son.”  Many people have bemoaned the decline of Christmas.  That the joy of the coming of a baby in a manger is lost in all the bustle.  But if we can see any redeeming value in the secular event it has become, Christmas reminds us of the need for itself.

We are as humans, prone to (and to some points of view compelled to) selfishness.  Selfishness is the root of sin.  Sin breaks relationship to God and our fellow men.  It was that sin that that infant came into the world because. His purpose was not to gather shepherds around a manger, or wise men into the house, but to fulfill a destiny symbolised by the gift of myrrh some 30 years later. His sacrifice to atone for the broken relationship.

I am not saying we should abandon present giving, over-eating, and the rest.  But when we step back from it, we can use them to restore some focus.  Let us see the bad, and while recoiling from it, become even more thankful that that child was born.  Face it even without “Christmas” people would still be sinful.  But with Christmas, we can find real joy in knowing that that sin is not the end of the story.  In this we find God’s peace to the earth, and His goodwill to men.  Now that is something to really celebrate.

Padre

Tweaking the Ramblings: An Early New Year’s Resolution

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I started to put some order into my ramblings earlier in the month, and said then I would see in January if it was working.  Basically it has, though the lumping of “themed” posts on Wednesday to Friday did leave some unpredictability for what to expect on the rest of the week.  While I haven’t changed the balance of themes and musings, I felt it would break things up more and help readers to know what days to find what.  Therefore, a new running order (or it being me “hobbling order”) is ready a little ahead of time.

Schedule of Posts:

  • Monday Musings  (Miscellaneous  topics)
  • Travel Tuesday   (Trips, Holidays, and Cruises)
  • Witness Wednesday (Spiritual themes)
  • Thoughts for Thursdays (General musings)    
  • Foodie Friday (Recipes and reflections on food in general)
  • Weekend Ramblings (Wherever my musings take me)

 

 

I plan on leaving this structure in place through 2018, so to all of you who have so kindly read and followed my scribblings, first of all thank you.  For those who read my various themes, hopefully you now know when to expect them.  And to all of you have a wonderful new year.

Padre