Monthly Archives: March 2016

Ruth – Choices

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I was recently asked to bring the “talk” to our youth group, which consists of a lovely bunch of girls aged 12 – 16.  The theme of the day was choices as some had been concerned and praying about making their subject choices at school and thinking of what they wanted to do following.  We discussed how some choices are easy and we make them every day (what to have for breakfast etc) but sometimes we have to make bigger choices which may impact our future lives.

We read through the book of Ruth (have a read now if you haven’t read it recently – it’s too good to miss any of it out) and while it is a wonderful and also romantic story (which of course the girls loved)  I asked them to listen out for the choices various people made and think about whether they were good choices, or bad? (unwise) and why did they think that.

We looked at the different characters and noticed these things about them;

Elimelech – Chose to leave Bethlehem and move to Moab.  Now some of the girls thought that this was a wise choice as they were leaving a land in famine and moving to an area where there was food and they hoped to prosper.  However, when we looked a little deeper we discovered that Bethlehem means “The House of Food”, so why was there famine?  We find that even though this was relatively soon after the Israelites arrival into the “Promised Land”, the “Land flowing with milk and honey” they had quickly drifted away from their dependence on God.  Life had been easy for a while and they gradually stopped depending and trusting in God.  We know that God often used famine and drought to bring his people to call on and depend on him.  Elimelech, by moving to Moab was choosing to depend on his own ability to provide rather than be obedient to God and trust in Him.

We then looked at his two sons, Mahlon and Kilion (there seem to be several different spellings) who obviously went with him but later chose Moabite wives.  This was against Hebrew culture and God’s instructions not to marry “foreign” wives as this had been the root of many Israelite “failures” where they allowed worship of other Gods and idols to continue with the traditions these wives brought with them.  Their names apparently mean “frail” or “weakling” and they both died young without any children.  Was this weakness just physical or was this a weakness in their faith?  We read elsewhere in the Bible where those whose faith in God and his ways meant that they sought to obey him and marry wives who were strong in faith too. (Remember how Abraham sent his servant to find a wife for Isaac from his own people?)

Naomi made several choices; firstly she obviously went with her husband to Moab.  Now I suspect that she may have thought it a good idea at the time too, but later comes to realise that perhaps it was not.  When she is left destitute in a foreign land and decides to return to the place that God was now blessing it is with a sense of bitterness.  Was this bitterness against God? or her late husband as she realised that he had taken her away from God’s blessing – we don’t know but she decided that her best chances were to return to her own people rather than live surrounded by people who worshiped other gods.

We then came to Orpah and Ruth, who both initially said that they would go with her, but Orpah later decides to return to “her own people and her own gods”.

Ruth however; at some point had started to trust in “Naomi’s God” and vowed to stay with her and hope to become part of God’s people – this was the wisest choice she made and all her other choices follow from that as she quietly works to prove herself worthy of respect and trust among the Hebrew people despite being a “foreigner”.  Naomi however still seems to be wallowing a bit in self pity.

We come next to Boaz who turns out to be a successful man, but why is is so successful?  As we read the story we notice that he is fully obedient to God’s rules even going above what is required.  He is well respected by his workers and the community and has become one of the leading men in the city as a righteous man.  We see that the way he conducts his business follows the instructions given in that he is not greedy, he works hard but is kind to his workers and to the poor by following the instruction to leave grain and allow the poor to glean from the harvest.  He generously allows extra to Ruth as she works, especially when he finds out who she is as it turns out that Naomi is a relative of his and offers her protection against those who would have abused her as a foreigner.

Ruth’s actions in following Naomi’s instructions in going to Boaz at the threshing floor can be perceived as being brazen, but as a woman she was not allowed to ask Boaz directly to take responsibility for her, but the method used was to show her willingness to submit to him, the laws and customs, and remind him that someone had to take up that position of providing for her and Naomi.

We discover that there is a closer relative, who under Hebrew law and customs, should have been doing something about helping and providing for Naomi and Ruth, but it appears he was not.  Boaz, rather than shaming him, gently reminds him of his duty and gives him the opportunity to take up this responsibility, which on reflection the “Nearest relative” declines, so Boaz steps up and marries Ruth, taking both her and Naomi into his care.

This union is blessed with a son who is called Obed and later they are blessed with more children.

One of the most interesting parts of this story is not just that Obed becomes the father of Jesse who was the father of David – who became King and was known as a man after God’s heart, and ancestor of Joseph, the husband of Mary; Jesus’ mother,  but in the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew chapter one, we discover that Boaz’s mother was Rahab.  Rahab was the woman who had been a prostitute (or innkeeper) in Jericho and was rescued due to her faith in the Israelite God despite all the wickedness and worship of other gods.  His father Salmon is believed therefore to have been one of the two spies who went into Jericho although they are not actually named.  Boaz himself was the son of a “foreigner”

Both these two women made the choice to follow the Hebrew God and trust in HIM rather than the idols of their nations and by acting on that faith were rewarded by being grafted into the family of God both in the physical sense of ancestry but in the spiritual.

The story of Ruth shows that becoming a member of God’s Kingdom is not by birth as with the Jews but by obedience to God through faith and conforming of your life to the will of God.  The most important choice we can make in life is to follow Him.  I made that choice at the age of 13, even though I too did not come from a family that followed God.  All my choices in life since then have had to be based on trying to understand what God’s plan and will for me was and to try and be obedient to him.  If you have not made that choice – will you?

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Easter dates??

There has been some discussion recently in the media about fixing the date of Easter with some saying it should be, and others saying it should follow the current “moving about”

Well, I’m probably in the camp of “It should be Fixed” but how?

Here’s why…

but before I start, please remember that I am not a theologian and therefore do not have all the relevant “facts” (there’s plenty of different theories to read on Wikipedia) but there are a few simple pointers which indicate to me that we should remember Easter on a fixed time-frame as we do Christmas.

Firstly, the name Easter originates from a pagan goddess named Eostre and was celebration of the arrival of spring.  Most non English speaking countries use a form of “Pascha” of Pesach (Hebrew) and fell usually in the month of April which was known as the “Paschal” month.  This is due to Jesus being crucified just before the Passover.  So I certainly would not object to a name “Correction”, but that is a separate issue, the important thing is that we remember that Christ died for us and rose from the dead.  If you are a regular church attender then you will be doing this each time you participate in the Communion breaking of bread and the wine.

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Secondly – Jesus was very probably, almost definitely NOT crucified on “Good Friday”.  We have taken this day to be the day before the Sabbath as recorded in the Bible, but we forget that the Passover took place on a fixed date in the Jewish calendar; the 14th of Nissan, the first month of the Hebrew year.  This means that the Passover would have moved days of the week as does Christmas.  In addition it says in John’s account of the crucifixion that it was a “Special Sabbath” being the Passover, (John 19 v 31) not the usual Sabbath which commences on Friday evening through to sunset on Saturday.  Historians looking back to the likely year of Jesus crucifixion have confirmed that the Passover that year would have commenced either on the Thursday (or possibly the Wednesday) meaning that Jesus was crucified on either of these two days with at least two days of Sabbath following, one the “special” and one the usual.  This also explains people’s difficulty in accounting for Jesus rising again on the third day, being Sunday, the first day of the week.  There would have been at least two, maybe three days of Sabbath before the women were able to go to the tomb, and people began moving about again.

So: should we have a “Fixed” day in our calendar, as we do Christmas? (which incidentally has the same issues in that it is a date chosen to replace the Winter festivals – Jesus was probably born around September time but that is a whole other debate)

In the UK we have two holidays, the Friday (which we call “Good Friday”) where we traditionally commemorate the Crucifixion.  We Celebrate the resurrection on the Sunday with an additional holiday on the Monday, so should we therefore have two fixed date holidays about 3 days apart as we do with Christmas? or do what we do with other holidays and fix say “the last weekend in April” or something similar so it is at least around the same time.

Do we tie it in with the Passover celebrations? This year we have Easter Sunday on the 27th March but Passover does not commence until April 22nd, so personally I would have thought Easter should at least have been that weekend.

There are lots of arguments for and against fixing the date or leaving it movable, some relating to our academic year in that the school holiday timetables can get a bit complicated depending on when Easter falls, so I think it would be practical at least on that basis too to have it fixed.  It can be awkward trying to check when it falls each year and as it varies so much we can be the height of Spring, or just crawling out of Winter (mind you in England it always rains on Bank holidays so would probably make no difference to people wanting to get the first gardening jobs done)

After saying all this though, the important thing is that we do take time out of our busy lives to remember what Christ did for us.  Sadly in the UK as with Christmas, it has become more about Chocolate and bunnies and except for Easter Sunday, for many people a normal day, many churches even no longer have any form of service on “Good Friday” whereas I can remember the weekend was usually packed with special meetings.  Shops and Supermarkets are open as usual – but HEY! Sunday is coming and we WILL rejoice in our Risen Savior who has given us new life through the shedding of His precious blood and His victory over death.

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Rhubarb Loaf Cake

I made this yummy cake last night and following requests for the recipe; here it is….

I have loads of Rhubarb chopped up in bags in my freezer and as we are not “regular” pudding eaters (trying not terribly successfully to control our weight) I thought I had better try and use some before the next crop starts appearing.  We only have one plant but it seems to be extremely happy where it is and grows like a mad thing (great for our Rhubarb Chutney) so when I was sorting the freezer yesterday I took a bag out to use and decided to try and make a cake.

The first thing I did was tip the already chopped and frozen rhubarb into a saucepan and cooked it until all the liquid had boiled off and I had a nice thick puree.

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Yes I know it does not look terribly appetising but this bag of rhubarb was fairly green so not a great colour.  I added a bit of ginger powder and about a teaspoon of the sugar we had saved from some crystallised ginger.

I then set this aside to cool.

When it had cooled I made a basic cake mix – I used a 2 egg mix but I think if I make this again I will use a 3 egg  mix.

For my cake mix method see:

Anyone for cakes????

Oh – you want to know how much rhubarb? truth is I forgot to weigh it before I started but I think it would have been about 2 good size sticks.

Anyway, I added the cake mix to the pureed rhubarb and mixed it all together

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Oh – and for this cake to make it a little “healthier” I used wholemeal self raising flour (because it was next to the caster sugar in the cupboard)

I lined a 2lb loaf tin with paper and popped it in the oven at 160 degrees

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Again this is something I was learning as I went along… After 45 minutes it looked like this..

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but I decided it needed a little longer as when I took it out it was quite floppy so in total it took just over an hour.

I would therefore put it in at slightly higher temperature – but no higher than 180 when making this again, but eventually it looked like this…

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We were a bit impatient to try it with our cup of tea so I cut a couple of slices and we had it warm (would have been very nice with a dollop of ice cream if we had any…)

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Very yummy!   I’m going to have to make this again very soon to try the variations I have thought of – that is, use a 3 egg mix and bake at a slightly higher temperature.  Now I mixed the rhubarb in well but you could always “marble” it or perhaps layer it by putting in half of the cake mix, then the puree and the rest of the cake mix on top,  go on… experiment, its fun!! If you don’t like Rhubarb then try raspberries or whatever fruit you fancy.

 

 

The Box of Burgers: Burger Soup

I’ve posted before about the box of burgers that we acquired which were leftover from the church barb-e-que last summer and all the different thing I have used them for…meatballs, sausage rolls, “Toad” in the hole, as well as roasting them with some gravy, but I still have a lot in the freezer (it was a big box)

The other day I was contemplating what to do with some celery and carrots that were sitting in my fridge needing to be used when I started to develop the idea of making some soup.  What else could I put in it? I still have quite a lot of these burgers in my freezer (the drawer is quite heavy to pull out) so I started thinking along the lines of breaking up a couple of these into the soup along with some leftover passata that I had frozen.

Saturday morning arrived and I had promised myself a lazy slow start to the day following a hectic couple of weeks and fighting off a “sniffle” so I switched on the TV and found that one of my favorite food programs was on – Pioneer Woman.

Imagine my surprise when she proceeded to make Beefburger soup!!! just what I had been thinking of making.  I have not seen this episode before as we are about a year behind in the UK and she was using pretty much the same ingredients that I had (plus she had a few more and she used fresh mince rather than burgers)

So here’s what I did:

I defrosted two burgers (they are quite big – quarter pounders I think) and began to gently fry them and break them up in my casserole pot (no need to add any oil as enough fat would come out of the burgers)

I then chopped up one red onion, two sticks of celery, three small carrots (don’t bother peeling, just scrub them clean) I chopped these quite finely so that they were a similar size to the mince.

I also had a bunch of VERY sad looking spring onions, so rather that waste these, I took the outer layer off and found that they were still quite fresh and green underneath so I chopped these up and added them in.

I had some passatta which was left over in a carton in the freezer so I added some boiling water to dissolve and poured it into the casserole dish.

I added some salt and pepper and a stock cube (although I would now probably leave the salt out as the stock cube is quite salty,  A teaspoon of mustard and a splash of Worcestershire sauce and let this cook for a while.

Now I did not want this until later, so I transferred it all into a slow cooker and left it to simmer away for a couple of hours.

When it came to time to dish up, I added some gravy thickening granules to thicken it up a little and served with a slice of bread and butter.  YUM!!!

This provided a generous portion for hubby and a nice portion for me, with the leftovers going into a freezer container for another day.

 

I shall definitely be making this again