The Porter’s Bag

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Abbey Gate, Bury St Edmunds

 

Brother Dominic had been Porter at the priory for nearly 18 years, now. He was proud (if that wasn’t too much of a sin) of the work he did. He was responsible for the dual role of welcoming pilgrims to the monastery, but also of securing it from the influences of the world.

All that stood between the holy sanctuary within and the sinful chaos without was the rough wooden gate, and himself.

Forty years before, he had entered that same gate himself for the first time. He was only ten then, an average farm lad but with a religious disposition. He was brought here by the village priest after his mother had died, and he was to become a novice. His worn clothes really not much more than rag, but now he would get a warm habit, and regular meals.

And novice he had become, then a full brother of the order. He was keen to help, and kept “the Rule” as well as any. He was rewarded for his efforts when at 32 he was appointed keeper of the gate.

That’s all there was to it, really. He had a cell in the gatehouse, and a small office. Three younger brothers assisted him. Days had become routine, but he liked the regime. Early prayers, breakfast, and mass which were followed by duties at the gate. Then more worship, vespers, and to bed. But within this routine, he had important duties. Dominic as the Porter was keeper of the keys. All of the keys! Every gate, storeroom, and door was in his charge.

A key at a time might be issued out to his subordinates, but the bag on his hip was sacrosanct. Only the Porter could lay hands upon it. Only he knew all which it contained. This was a point of envy (if such is not too much a sin) among his assistants.  They longed to have control of the bag, and to know all of its secrets.

Dominic smiled to himself as he thought of the curiosity of the younger monks about his bag. Still smiling he closed the door of his office and withdrew the flask of wine from the his mysterious bag.

Padre


This story was prompted by the challenge on The Secret Keeper’s page to use five prompt words to create a poem or story. This week’s words were:

ROUGH | GATE | RAG | HIP | WINE |

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From the Fringes: Growing in God

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Caves near the Dead Sea

Pastor Catherine Toyin Labinjo brought the message this week, and used her own life and experiences to make some excellent comparisons to not only biblical principles, but of our own lives.

She began by noting that she is a bit of an introvert, and one who in her youth was competent, but often overlooked.  She was not a shining star, but a good steady worker. She drew the parallel with young David. Not dad’s first choice in showing off his sons to the prophet. David was not a man with great outward stature, but he did have a heart for God.

David manifested this later when he went to visit his older brothers at the Philistine front. He was no trained soldier, but he was a competent shepherd who tended, and protected, his father’ flocks.  When the army of Israel cowered in the face of the giant, David rose to the occasion. He had slain a lion, and he had slain a bear, not with full confidence in the God he served he would take care of a Goliath as well.

Sister Catherine showed that we need not be the model prayer warrior, worship leader, or lesson giver. Those on the fringes, like David with his flocks, can in our quiet ways develop in or relationship with the Lord, and be able to step up to the challenges that rise, even those that have wearied “the A team.”

The confidence of David was not arrogance of his own abilities, however.  It was rooted in his trust in God. “If God be for us, who can stand against us?” Elijah had a similar confidence.

in 1 Kings 18:19 he stands up to the false prophets of the kingdom. It reads,

“Now summon the people from all over Israel to meet me on Mount Carmel. And bring the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal and the four hundred prophets of Asherah, who eat at Jezebel’s table.”

He was preparing for a show down.  His adversaries numbering 850, and he with a team of 2: himself and God!  Verses 20 and following tell us,

 So Ahab sent word throughout all Israel and assembled the prophets on Mount Carmel. Elijah went before the people and said, “How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him.” But the people said nothing. Then Elijah said to them, “I am the only one of the Lord’s prophets left, but Baal has four hundred and fifty prophets. Get two bulls for us. Let Baal’s prophets choose one for themselves, and let them cut it into pieces and put it on the wood but not set fire to it. I will prepare the other bull and put it on the wood but not set fire to it. Then you call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the Lord. The god who answers by fire—he is God.” Then all the people said, “What you say is good.” Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, “Choose one of the bulls and prepare it first, since there are so many of you. Call on the name of your god, but do not light the fire.”  So they took the bull given them and prepared it. Then they called on the name of Baal from morning till noon. “Baal, answer us!” they shouted. But there was no response; no one answered. And they danced around the altar they had made. 

The challenge was simple:  two bulls, two altars, and no earthly fire. Who’s offering will be consumed by flame? “Let the best god win.” The priests of Ball have the first go, and not with any success.  After hours of trying, Elijah begins to mock them,

At noon Elijah began to taunt them. “Shout louder!” he said. “Surely he is a god! Perhaps he is deep in thought, or busy, or traveling. Maybe he is sleeping and must be awakened.”  So they shouted louder and slashed themselves with swords and spears, as was their custom, until their blood flowed. Midday passed, and they continued their frantic prophesying until the time for the evening sacrifice. But there was no response, no one answered, no one paid attention. 

It was now Elijah’s turn,

Then Elijah said to all the people, “Come here to me.” They came to him, and he repaired the altar of the Lord, which had been torn down.  Elijah took twelve stones, one for each of the tribes descended from Jacob, to whom the word of the Lord had come, saying, “Your name shall be Israel.” With the stones he built an altar in the name of the Lord, and he dug a trench around it large enough to hold two seahs of seed.  He arranged the wood, cut the bull into pieces and laid it on the wood.

Then to increase the witness of the power of God (and to further show the lack of Baal’s power),

Then he said to them, “Fill four large jars with water and pour it on the offering and on the wood.”  “Do it again,” he said, and they did it again. “Do it a third time,” he ordered, and they did it the third time.  The water ran down around the altar and even filled the trench. At the time of sacrifice, the prophet Elijah stepped forward and prayed: “Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. Answer me, Lord, answer me, so these people will know that you, Lord, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again.”  Then the fire of the Lord fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench.When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, “The Lord—he is God! The Lord—he is God!”

But even with this great witness of God’s power, when Jezebel threatens Elijah runs an hides in a cave.  Essentially he is running back to the fringes.  Seemingly forgotten is the confidence in the power of God that was so recently demonstrated.  How like us that seems.  Sister Catherine challenged us with this point.  When we get engaged in making the “stepping up” to God’s call, we are often attacked.  We then recoil and seek to return to the wings away from anything that might leave us exposed.

But God challenged Elijah as well, and called from his cave. He was hesitant, he at first only moves to the entrance, only to be challenged again.  How about us? Do we need to be reminded of the relationship we built with God in the first place?

He has brought us from the fringes, and stands with us, as we are people for a heart for Him. That relationship is more than sufficient to keep us from the caves (no matter how appealing they may seem).

Let us be like David, and step up to the challenge.

Padre

In the Steps of the USAAF

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East Anglia is still a place where the presence of American air power can be felt. The bases at Mildenhall, Lakenheath, and Feltwell are however just an echo of the American relationship with the area.

Norfolk has a number of reminders of the U S Army Air Forces’ links to the East of England.

Thetford and East Wretham’s airfield was originally used by Czech and British bomber units, but with the arrival of the Americans it was transformed into a fighter base for the 359th Fighter Group flying initially Thunderbolts, and later Mustangs from the site.

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Memorial in Thetford

Not far away is the present British Army Bodney Camp, which among its roles is a regimental training ground for The Household Cavalry. During WW2 it was designated as RAF Bodney, and it was home of the USSAF’s 352nd Fighter Group.  This unit too used Thunderbolts and later Mustangs (the later given the unit identifier of blue noses and upper cowls).

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Bodney Memorial

Continuing towards Norwich come to Watton. Watton was the base for 25th Bombardment Group. While primarily a reconnaissance unit, this outfit flew B-17 Fortresses and later B-24 Liberators.

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Memorial on HMP site

At Hingham a little closer to Norwich is the memorial for the 452nd Bombardment Group. The unit had been stationed at the nearby Deopham Green base and was a heavy bomber unit flying B-17s. Members of this group were awarded 2 Congressional Medals of Honor.

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Hingham Memorial

Deopham its self has the remains of the airfield (now mostly agricultural) and a memorial of its own.

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Deopham Green

On a return journey from Norwich towards Thetford along the A11, you can find Snetterton Circuit which is a motor racing venue today.  During the war it was home of the 96th Bombardment Group flying B-17s.

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Snetterton Memorial

These are not the only Norfolk stations, but a handful I discovered on the memorial trail of the USAAF in Norfolk.  As American Veteran’s Day and British Remembrance Sunday approach, it is right for us to remember the sacrifice of those who served.

Padre

 

Bible Prompt Writing Challenge

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I have recently taken part in some prompted writing challenges.  Some of these have been based on photos, and others by key words, or collections of words. I thought that it might make for an interesting twist to use a Bible verse as a prompt for a brief (350 words or fewer) piece of flash fiction, poetry, or reflection. The choice is yours, but I do ask that you use the prompt respectfully and keep any submissions to the PG13 rating (I will be strict on that one).  There is no prize, but it is a great opportunity to get feedback from the community, and maybe link the reading of blogs from circles that don’t ordinarily mix. Your piece does not have to be religious, but should reflect the essence of the prompt.

So here it goes, the Bible prompt is Luke 14:28 “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it?”

Please enter this post’s URL so I can have a chance to read them.

I plan on posting my own take on it on Thursday.

Padre

Mint Chocolate Cheesecake

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After the success of my trials with keto friendly cheesecake (well my wife liked it, that’s all that mattered), I decided to widen the choices. So with a little adjustment to the original recipe, and the addition of the trusted ingredients chocolate and mint, this recipe was born.

Ingredients:

  • Butter 2 Tbs
  • Ground Almonds 5 Tbs
  • Cream Cheese 350 g
  • Eggs 2
  • Stevia 3 rounded Tbs
  • Mint Leaves 1 tsp finely chopped
  • Peppermint Extract 1/4 tsp
  • Cocoa Powder 1 rounded Tbs
  • Sour Cream 2 Tbs

Method:

Preheat oven to 200 C/ 400 F. Melt 2 tablespoon of butter and mix in the ground nuts to form a crumbly paste. Use a fork and line the bottom of a small oven dish with the mixture. In a bowl beat the egg thoroughly, and then cream in the sweetener, cream cheese, and sour cream.  When evenly mixed into a thick liquid stir in the mint, extract, and cocoa, then pour it over the nut crust. Place uncovered in the oven for 20 minutes, then increase the temperature to 220 C for five to ten minutes so that the surface starts to caramelise but not burn.  Remove from oven, and allow to cool to room temperature, then chill.  Makes 6 medium pieces.

Padre

 

The Arrow

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Hugh notched the shaft.  William had ordered the archers to shoot above the shield wall.   “What a daft thing to do,” he thought to himself, “It’s not how they told us to do it back in Falaise. But the Duke’s the Duke.”

As the battle raged before him, Hugh’s stomach grumbled. It wasn’t because of fear or anxiousness, but merely because breakfast on the beach that morning seemed so long ago.  It rumbled again as he strained to pull the string taut and waited for the command to “loose.”

When the order came, Hugh let the goose fletched rod fly. It arched upwards over the heads of the Saxons and their wall of shields. As it began its descent, drawn by the irresistible force of gravity, it found Harold’s unexpecting eye; England’s fate changed forever.

Padre


 

Here is a challenge from Sammi Cox’s Weekend Writing Prompt

Arrow

Challenge

The challenge is simple: each week you will be given an exact number of words you can use to write a poem or piece of prose.  You can use any format or style you like; go wherever your inspiration takes you.  The only rules are these:

  • your poem / prose must contain this week’s word.  The word does not have to count towards the exact word count total – it can be in the title, or the first letters of the lines of a poem can spell it out – you can be as creative as you want as long as it’s there somewhere.
  • the length of your poem / prose must match the number of words stated in this week’s challenge.  No more.  No less.

 

Manna (Bread of Life): Part 2

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I recently posted on God’s provision for the people of Israel in the Book of Exodus. Issues of complaints (or grumblings), hunger, and provision were central to the account. John 6 gives us a clear New Testament parallel to the story.

When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?”  He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do. Philip answered him, “It would take more than half a year’s wages to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!” Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up,  “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?” Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass in that place, and they sat down (about five thousand men were there). Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish. When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.” So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten. After the people saw the sign Jesus performed, they began to say, “Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.” 

Hunger met with divine provision is once again evident. The need was met, and in fact exceeded.

Just as it was in the wilderness, people were driven not by awe at the wonders of God, but by their physical needs. John’s account continues in verse 26 with Jesus’ response to the people’s mindset.

Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill.  Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.” Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?”  Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” So they asked him, “What sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do?  Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’”

 Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”  “Sir,” they said, “always give us this bread.”  Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life.Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.  But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe.  All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away.  For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day.  For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.”

Manna, bread from heaven, was clearly there in their presence. But they wanted their bellies filled (continually), and missed the bigger picture of Life. This was the lesson (and rebuttal) that Jesus had given to Satan in His own “wilderness experience:” “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God (Matthew 4:4).'” The result in John 6 is familiar from Exodus,

“At this the Jews there began to grumble about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.”  They said, “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, ‘I came down from heaven’?”  “Stop grumbling among yourselves,” Jesus answered.  “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day. It is written in the Prophets: ‘They will all be taught by God.’Everyone who has heard the Father and learned from him comes to me.  No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God; only he has seen the Father.  Very truly I tell you, the one who believes has eternal life.  I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died.  But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die.  I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”

Did you notice the return of grumbling? But why grumble? As Jesus said seven times in the scriptures,  “If any man have ears to hear, let him hear!” 

So let us hear this, Jesus’ bread is eternal, not just “daily.” It is not gathered following the morning dew, but is freely available to all. This is the ultimate manna and sweeter than coriander and honey. It is life itself: a life abundant, and a life everlasting.

Padre

The Former Student

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image: http://clipart-library.com

Here is my attempt at Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie’s “Double Take” challenge:

At first I didn’t recognise this guest in my home, this tall confident man, accompanied by his lovely fiancee.  How he had grown since he had sat in the back of my class a decade before. Who would have guessed that this tearaway, who would groan at the mere thought of homework, would become a fellow teacher?

Padre

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The ‘Double Take’ challenge focuses on the use of homophones* to build your writing piece. You have two sets of homophones and you are challenged to use all of them in your response – which can be poetry or prose.

Our homophone sets this week are:

groan – reaction to hearing a pun
grown – has gotten larger

and

guessed – past tense of guess
guest – a visitor

Distant Dream

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photo by Ty Feague via Unsplash

Joyful laughter as children toss stones into a trickling stream. A little wooden dam to provide a haven for the beavers’ den.

Simple beginnings, which mount and grow as land is concealed beneath a fluid wrapper.

Flowing, ebbing, encompassing all: the images that haunt Shem and Ham’s dreams.

Padre

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

You’ll find full guidelines on the TLT page – here’s the tl;dr:

  • Write three lines inspired by the photo prompt (& give them a title if possible).
  • Link back to this post (& check the link shows up under the weekly post).
  • Tag your post with 3LineTales (so everyone can find you in the Reader).
  • Read and comment on other TLT participants’ lines.

See original prompt on 3 Line Tales

 

Low Carb Pancakes/Flatbread

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It has been some time now since my wife was able to have something as simple as a sandwich. She on the plus side is well and truly in ketosis, but that doesn’t diminish the limitations on her diet.  So how to approach “bread?” The answer, almond meal. The recipe worked well enough to use for grilled bacon, tomato, lettuce and mayo to make a BLT.  The bread/pancake recipe itself is veggie-friendly though, a plus that I can share it with her!

Ingredients:

  • Almond Flour (Almond Meal) 1/2 cup
  • Egg 1
  • Sour Cream 2 Tbs (heaped)
  • Bicarbonate Soda 1/4 tsp
  • Water 1 to 2 tbs (to wanted consistency)
  • Butter or Coconut Oil 1 tsp

Method:

Whip the egg thoroughly in a measuring cup.  Add the almond flour and sour cream. Whip together well then add the bicarb and mix well again. Add enough water to make a thick batter.  Allow the batter to sit for about 15 minutes, then melt the oil/butter into a medium pan. drop a small splash of batter into the pan, if it sizzles ad starts to rise, add about half of the batter to the pan and allow it to spread to cover. When bubbles appear and the gaps they make remain allow to cook about a minute longer, then flip with a spatula. Cook until no batter appears if lightly pressed with the spatula. Remove and repeat the cooking process with the remaining batter.  Allow to cool to room temperature to use as bread.

For pancakes follow the above, but add 1 rounded teaspoon of Stevia (or similar) to the batter, and then serve while still hot with butter.

Padre