Me, We, Everybody Part 1’

I’ve been back onto the RobCast this week, and listening to ‘Me We Everybody’ part one.

It’s like the best things, very simple but with the potential of being very deep. it concerns three aspects of growth in our lives. The first – ‘Me’ – is about our own individual sense of identity. The second – ‘We’ – is to do with being part of a group – a tribe, a family, a faith community, a sports team etc. The third –“Everybody”-is about the world beyond our group or tribe.

All of these three ways of seeing ourselves and our lives are important, and are areas where we will grow. For example a toddler will at some point have a sense of their own identity, and then realise that they are part of a family, and at some point see the possibility of relating outside the family.

But it’s not just about a linear growth from Me to We to Everybody, These three different ways of understanding our experiences are present throughout our lives and interact and overlap.

And …. there’s both healthy and unhealthy ways of each of the three. For example, suppose something that we have accepted as absolutely true in our upbringing – maybe we’re lifelong members of the flat earth society, and we become are of people outside our tribe who say that the earth is round.

We have a choice – to be open to change or double down on the ‘We.’

This has happened in the pandemic as some people have been convinced that it’s all a hoax, and ignored the science and stuck with their view. The power of ‘We’ has been stronger than the ideas of ‘Everybody’ in the wider world.

I’m still listening to part one of this series of 4 and interested to hear how all of this connects with my own experience.


At The Heart Of God …

In one of the sessions of our church Lent course, we are asked to write something like a creed, a statement of faith …. I believe

My attempt, just written from the heart in a few minutes goes like this-

I believe that at the heart of God is community and that God’s heart is to be with us, and never leave us

I believe that God is behind where everything starts and finishes, and that there is order in everything

I believe that God knows the pain of suffering, and that it helps to know that when we’re going through it

I believe that God is playful and creative, and that we can be as well.

I believe that there’s an awful lot that I don’t know, and even about myself, but I do trust God with everything

I believe that all of the above helps to live a life that can be increasingly full of God, and full of life


An Owen Meany Moment Perhaps ?

Owen Meany is a character in a novel by John Irving. It’s not until the end of the novel that we realise that everything in Owen’s life has been leading up to this moment. he has a destiny, and the novel is all about how that destiny is fulfilled.

As I look back over my life, I’m wondering if there are events and experiences that all come together at particular moments, giving me opportunities to fulfil my destiny.

As you think about your life, are there stories that you could tell when things just seem to have come together to create something special. ?

Do let me know, I’d love to hear stories like that.


Eleven Warning Signs of Gaslighting

I had never heard the term gaslighting until today ! Am I out of touch ? It might originate in the 1944 film where a man uses manipulation to make his wife think she is going out of her mind. There’s a TV series with ‘gaslighting’ in the title that is presumably about the same kind of manipulation. Anyway, when I did a search, I found an article on Psychology today with these eleven signs that will help you spot gaslighting. Can you think of anyone who fits this?

Gaslighting is a manipulation tactic used to gain power. And it works too well.

1 They tell blatant lies.

2. They deny they ever said something, even though you have proof.

3 They use what is near and dear to you as ammunition.

4 They wear you down over time.

5. Their actions do not match their words

6. They throw in positive reinforcement to confuse you.

7. They know confusion weakens people.

8. They project.

9. They try to align people against you

10. They tell you or others that you are crazy.

11. They tell you everyone else is a liar.

Anyone recognise these signs ?


Do I agree with Jesus ?

I was reading today in Matthew’s Gospel Chapter 26. Jesus is at the home of someone called Simon the Leper. An unnamed woman anoints his head with a very expensive far of prefumed oil. The disciples are not happy – the oil could have been sold and the money used for the poor. Jesus disagrees – ‘You will always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me …what she has done today will be remembered whenever the Gospel is preached’

How do we read scripture ? It’s easy to assume that we’re supposed to read it from the ‘right’ point of view. This usually means seeing it from the perspective of the ‘good’ person. To be on the side of the angels. To see things from the point of view of the underdog. To side with the poor.

So in this passage, I want to see it from the disciples’ angle. I think they’re right. The money could have been used for the poor. And I would hope that Jesus would agree, and tell her to stop. But he doesn’t. Uhh ?

Any thoughts ?

Grace and Peace.


The Prophets and the Plotters

I’m reading through the First (Old) Testament book of 1 Kings. There’s a story about a guy called Naboth, who had a vineyard that had been in his family for generations. The King, Ahab, rather liked the vineyard and offered to buy it from Naboth. Naboth politely declined – the vineyard was part of his heritage, that he would hope to pass on to his children. Ahab was a weak man, but he had a formidable wife, and when he told her about his disappointment, she promised to fix it.

She had someone accuse Naboth of cursing God and the King, and rigged the trial so that he was convicted and stoned to death. As Naboth was convicted of blasphemy, his property was confiscated and given to the king. (Surprise, surprise). Now. Elijah the prophet heard about what had happened, and he went to visit Ahab, and told him that he wasn’t going to get away with this act of murder and theft. He would come to a sticky end.

There are two forces at work here. One is the scheming of Jezebel, and the other is the word of the prophet. Jezebel didn’t like it when Elijah went against her and Ahab. In her eyes, the power of King and the power of Yahweh (God) should work hand in hand. True – the King owed his power to Yahweh, but Yahweh should act in favour of the king – surely ?

This is the age old question of church and state. The church needs the state to support religion, and the state would like to have God’s approval. At its worst, church and state are completely in bed with each other, and any integrity goes out of the window.

Jump forward to Matthew chapter 26. Another prophet, and another plotter. This time the prophet is Jesus, who is predicting his own death. Meanwhile, the priestly leaders, led by High Priest Caiaphas have got to the end of their patience with Jesus. They have realised that he cannot be controlled by the religious leaders. Their spiritual authority has been watered down by their concessions to political expediency. So they actively start to plot his death.

Plotters and prophets – one looking for self advancement, and the other seeking to find the God way. The lure of self promotion can be subtle and very inviting, that’s why religious leaders are so vulnerable.


Who is faithful and wise ?

I was reading this just now from Matthew’s Gospel

45-4“Who here qualifies for the job of overseeing the kitchen? A person the Master can depend on to feed the workers on time each day. Someone the Master can drop in on unannounced and always find him doing his job. A God-blessed man or woman, I tell you. It won’t be long before the Master will put this person in charge of the whole operation.

Another verse in the Bible says that what God requires of us in relation to others is this: to do justice and love mercy. We are called to works of mercy (like feeding the worker in the passage above) and justice (doing it on time each day in the passage above)

Our primary calling, other than walking humbly with God, is to seek the well-being of our fellow travellers.


Finally Bread I’m Happy With

I’ve been trying to make bread during lockdown, and discovered a lot on the way.  I’m pretty happy with the Turkish Flatbread that I made to start with, but have struggled to make a regular loaf that works.
So, along the way, I have discovered Ken Forkish, Peter Reinhart and Richard Bertinet, all of whom have been really helpful – especially Ken Korkish with his stretch and fold method of getting air into the dough.
The other day I searched on the internet for “Best Wholemeal Loaf,” and came across an article in the Guardian Newspaper, which sent me looking for Dan Lepard, and through all of these people have found a loaf that works for me.
This is for a wholemeal loaf

  • 300ml warm water
  • 2 tsp dried yeast
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar, any kind.
  • ½ a 500mg vitamin C tablet i.e. ¼g, crushed to a powder.
  • 225 g Wholemeal flour
  • 225 g White Bread Flour
  • 1 tsp fine sea salt
  • About 3 Tbs olive oil

On this occasion I just weighed all the dry ingredients out and put them in my trusty round plastic tub. (It used to contain fatballs for the birds)

I mixed all the dry ingredients together. (Keeping the salt and yeast separate to start with – apparently the salt reduces the action of the yeast. I’m not sure if it made any difference, but I did it anyway).By the way – the viamin C tablet – that’s a new idea that came from the Guardian article.  I could only get orange ones, but we couldn’t detect the orange flavour.
Then I added the water and stirred everything up with a spoon until it was a sticky dough.  I might have added a tiny bit of extra water at this point because it was a bit dry.
Then, and I think this is crucial, I left it for ten minutes to get started.
After that I used Ken Forkish’s Stretch and Fold and ‘Pincer’ method – see his video Mixing By Hand.  I added the olive oil at this point a bit at a time, whenever my hand got sticky.  I only did a few of the stretch, fold and squeeze – maybe 4 – and only for a minute or so.
Then I let it rest for 15 minutes and repeated the stretch etc
Then I let it rest for 15 minutes and repeated the stretch etc for a third time

Then I rolled the dough into a rectangle, rolled it up tightly and place seam-side down in a 2 lb loaf tin. I covered the tin with a tea towel and left it for about an hour and a half.  By that time it had risen to almost fill the tin.
There’s a test to see if it’s risen enough – sprinkle a little flour on the top of the dough and push the dough with your finger.  If it doesn’t spring back at all, it’s underprooved. If it springs back all the way, it might be over prooved. What you want is for it to almost spring back.
Then I heated the oven to 220 C, dusted the loaf with a little flour, and baked it for 20 minutes and then reduced the temperature to 180 C for a further 20 minutes.
Voila !  I’m sure it can be improved on, but at this stage in my learning, I’m happy.


I’m a creature who likes change

From time to time, we get a bit bored with having our furniture in the same place, so we have a move around.  We just like a bit of variety.

It’s the same with my prayer life.  Sometimes I can stick with the same routine for months at a time, but eventually I’ll need a break, and I’ll look for something different.

At the moment, I’m enjoying looking for prayers that start and end my morning routine.  Here’s a set of prayers I like to use at the start:

With what shall I come before the LORD,
and bow myself before God Most High ?
He has told you what is good;
this is what the LORD requires of you:
To do justice,
love mercy
and walk humbly with your God. 

(From Micah 6  verse 6)

Come, God of the poor,
Come, Light of our hearts,
Come, Generous Spirit.

By the glory of your creation around us,
by the comfort of your forgiveness within us,
by the wind of your Spirit blowing through us,
inspire and renew us, so that we come glad to this new day.

(Adapted – from the Iona Community I think)

The Lord is about to pass by:
Lord, have mercy.
Your face, Lord, do I seek:
Christ, have mercy.
Your law is life:
Lord, have mercy.

(From 1 Kings 19, Psalm 27 & Matthew 5)