Don’t mention the war..

I am grateful. We have enough money to buy nice food, warm clothes and everything we need (plus other luxuries we don’t need but LOVE). When I enjoy these things, such as tonight’s roast chicken dinner, I often think of wartime England. I LOVE hearing the stories of those local heroes who endured such bombardment and hardship, lived on rations and kept their spirits up in family and community fellowship.

My favourite TV show ‘Supersizers GO!’ illustrates what life was like in wartime England. The hosts of the show are a comic duo who attempt to emulate the lives of people from various eras in history, and wear the clothes, and carry on their pastimes in the very best humour. I remember the food that was served at their wartime England dinner table – they were blindfolded to taste each dish, and had to guess what it was they were eating. The funniest one was a ‘mock orange duck’ served up as a moulded round lump of sausage meat with apricot jam. Nothing like the duck that I am grateful to enjoy (not my own cooking of course), but the famed Red Velvet Lounge slow-cooked duck that I enjoyed for my wedding anniversary dinner a couple of years ago. There is nothing like melt-in-the-mouth duck.

I wonder if times were hard, and I was served ‘mock duck’ at RVL, would I close my eyes and pretend it was real, and not say anything, so as not to disturb the other patrons or offend the waiter? Actually, I would probably be the first to complain, I know how much I would be paying for it!

I really admire the fortitude of that generation, children growing up with bombs being dropped on their houses, children being orphaned and sent to homes in the country, and through it all they survived – and after V day, they thrived.

V day was described on my favourite show as a communal banquet where all the real foods came out off the black market and were enjoyed by everyone; real cream in real sponge cakes, real jam and meats, jellies and ice creams. A wonderful feast!

We still eat mock foods around here, the kids call it ‘Freedom Food’ because of the brand name. Due to intolerances to the 21st century diet, and its preservatives and processing, many people have turned back to eating foods in their purest form. Besides going for raw foods, there is widespread vegetarianism, but there is also a lot of egg, nut, dairy, wheat, yeast, fructose and gluten intolerances. This has created quite a market for food substitutes, even creating meat-like substances out of soy or beans. Still quite tasty though, but could never be close to real meat!

Well, this is not just the diary of a foodie. I meant to tell you about the most ultimate feast of them all – a wedding feast, to be held when the war is over.  How does this sound.. to be given new bodies and share together the most wonderful culinary delights without indigestion or heartburn or the resultant obesity from gorging ourselves. No really, this promise is one that I hope to share with all my friends and family. All are invited, but only some will RSVP.

There is a story about this in the bible, which is actually quite graphic, in true biblical style:

Matthew 22:1-14

1 Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying, 2“The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. 3 He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come.

4 Then he sent some more servants and said, ‘Tell those who have been invited that I have prepared my dinner: My oxen and fattened cattle have been butchered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.’

[Duck has been slow-cooked??]

5 But they paid no attention and went off–one to his field, another to his business. 6 The rest seized his servants, mistreated them, and killed them. 7 The king was enraged. He sent his army and destroyed those murderers and burned their city.

8 Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. 9 Go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.’ 10 So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, both good and bad, and the wedding hall was filled with guests.

11 But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. 12 ‘Friend,’ he asked, ‘how did you get in here without wedding clothes?’ The man was speechless. 13 Then the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

14 “For many are invited, but few are chosen.”

At this banquet, there will be no fabrication, no mock duck, no insincerity or imitation. The wedding feast we are all invited to is eternal life with God. With Christ as bridegroom, the church is the bride – and his selfless act of love, his death on the cross to pay the price, it’s an invitation to all of humanity to be part of God’s family (see Ephesians 5:25-27). For the dress code, we come as we are, and will be given appropriate attire to wear. Here are some examples of appropriate attire:

Ro 13:14 Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.

Col 3:12-14 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

Surely I wouldn’t want to go just for the free food!  I often think I don’t deserve to go. I can’t say that I am ever able to ‘clothe myself’ accordingly. But it’s God’s grace that covers me for this big event, and it’s His Son Jesus who gives me the finest clothes that I could ever hope for. ‘Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.’ (Rev 19:8) For that, I am eternally grateful.

The best bit is that we don’t need to wait until ‘V-day’ when the feast starts, to experience this kind of joy. It can be experienced here and now, a taste of what is to come.

‘Taste and see that the LORD is good. Blessed is the person who takes refuge in him.’ Psalm 34:8

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There’s a light…

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Rainbows hold a special fascination for me. Whenever I look out the window and see the sun and rain, we poke our heads out the window in the opposite direction to see the rainbow across our country landscape. It never ceases to impress us.

Rainbows hold a special significance for lots of people, I guess. There are some famous songs about it, numerous stories about pots of gold at the end of rainbows, and dozens of rainbow-coloured cartoon creatures that hold some kind of magical powers. I find rainbow stickers on cafe windows and entrances to local art galleries, and I wonder if it has come to mean a symbol of equality – that all people on earth are a different colour shade because of our differences.

It is fascinating to find a rainbow wherever a light refracts through a prism to create the effect. Whenever I see a rainbow, I automatically think ‘God keeps his promises.’ Perhaps because the rainbow was a sign from God in the Old Testament when the flood waters receded and Noah and his family and animals stepped on solid ground for the first time in months. Floating around on the ark, and knowing that all that was on earth was being destroyed beneath the hull of their boat must have given them quite a ‘sinking feeling.’ (excuse the pun) The rainbow signified that God would never flood the earth again.

My father-in-law once worked in PNG and found a fossil of a shell on top of a mountain, which, he claimed, was proof of the flood!  Global warming and climate change experts seem to think that rising sea levels are a definite threat. Is this force enough to flood the earth, or would it have to be an ‘act of God’? A global Tsunami perhaps? There is much evidence to suggest there was a period in history where the earth did flood, but does this biblical sign of the rainbow mean anything to us today? Back to the rainbows…

I learned all about refraction at university, in a science elective which was targeted at Arts students who needed to diversify their learning experience.. and I learned that.. rainbows need a source of light! This was an easy subject, as I had already learned this from the cover of Pink Floyd’s album The Dark Side of the Moon.

Living in country Tasmania, light dictates so much of our lives – how much wood we need to put on the fire to keep warm, how much whipper snippering we can expect to get done on a weekend. Things are much harder in winter while the days are short – and summer is simply brilliant with the warm sun still lighting up the sky until 9.30pm or even later! This is something perhaps city dwellers cannot appreciate – the importance of the hours of daylight for people living on the land, and the brilliant sun as nature’s own heater for the solar-passive house.

There is a song in my head that goes round and round upon thinking about ‘light’ –  it goes like this “There’s a light, in the darkness of everybody’s life….over at the Frankenstein’s place!” Yes, it’s Rocky Horror Picture Show. As if the house of Rocky Horror held a glimmer of hope for those lost in the woods, the light in the window summoned the unsuspecting visitors, newly-weds Brad and Janet into his house, for the grand tour of their lives. Well, as much as I love Susan Sarandon and Tim Curry’s performances, I have come to know that Rocky Horror does not hold the light in the darkness. God is the light.

All this thinking about light and rainbows has got me working on an analogy of God in all His three persons – also known as The Trinity. Here it goes:

God is the source of light, Jesus is the prism which in itself reflects God’s light to others, and God’s Spirit is the rainbow of light to all the nations of the world – regardless of their gender, culture, age, or religion.

We were all made in God’s image and we do have a sense of our Creator written into our hearts – so to speak. Whether we choose to block out the light, pull down the blinds, and close our eyes to it – is totally up to us. But the source of light is always there, and we cannot put it out, same as the darkness can not put it out.

“For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.” Romans 1:20

There are stories in the bible of people like Moses and Elijah who spoke to God and witnessed God’s presence – their faces glowed, they feared they would die, the light was too bright for them to even look at. We are unable to stand in the presence of God, his light is so bright, we would be blinded, his power is so great, we would not be able to live. If it weren’t for Jesus, God who became man, who refracts the light of God for us to see, we would have no chance of getting near to God.

Rainbows are very popular where we live. We actually get a lot of sun, and lots of rain, so rainbows come all year round. Each week at our Sunday gathering, we discuss how we have seen God working in our lives – and there is nearly always the mention of a rainbow. It bring so much joy to these ladies who are perhaps battling the pains of growing older, and like to entertain happy thoughts in the dreary rain and the cold Southern winter.

So next time you see a rainbow – and the sun’s rays refract through drops of water that act as a prism and disperse the light spectrum across the sky – you can imagine it from the science-geek point of view, from the art-lover’s awe of nature, from a biblical perspective, or from a symbolic view. However you view the rainbow is irrelevant, what is actually important for us, is to examine the source.

If you read the very first sentences in the bible, the word of God is the source of light: He said “Let there be light.” In Genesis:

1:1 – In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
1:2 – And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.
1:3 – And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.
1:4 – And God saw the light, and it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.

Jesus is the prism that reflects God’s light to the world: “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12

And it is available to all nations of the world, for all ‘colours of the rainbow’ as those who believe in Jesus as the son of God, receive the Holy Spirit.

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes..” Romans 1:16

We can spend our time ‘chasing rainbows’ or pots of gold, but if we turn around, we will find the source of light and life through Jesus Christ, son of God.

L’amour Gateau!

This is not a cake recipe.. but feel free to read on!

It is a commonly held view that the French are the experts on love. ‘L’amour’ is the only word that means love in the French language, but I can imagine that France is a romantic place to holiday. It is actually the Greeks who are the experts on love, for it is from their language that we derive the real meanings of the word love.

‘Love’ in the Greek language are Eros, Agape, Philia, and Storge, it is important to make these distinctions as they inform our relationships in the modern day. Eros is sexual love, Agape is unconditional love, Philia is a cosy kind of friendship love, it includes loyalty to friends, family, and community, and requires virtue, equality and familiarity. Storge means an affection for someone, and is a family kind of love, where we put up with each others weaknesses..’loving the tyrant’. (source: Wiki)

Just speaking of love makes me recall scenes from the movie ‘Moulin Rouge’ where the “The greatest thing you will ever learn is to love, and be loved in return.” This puts love on a mighty pedestal, considering we are talking about love between a ‘lady of the night’ and a poor writer. Very romantic, completely un-monogamous and suitably tragic all at once. We just love the Bohemian culture!

Agape is in fact the highest form of love – and includes the giving up of one’s life for another.. sacrificial love. ‘Agape is also used in ancient texts to denote feelings for one’s children and the feelings for a spouse. It can also be described as the feeling of being content or holding one in high regard. Agape was appropriated by Christians for use to express the unconditional love of God.’ (Ref: Wiki)

The sexual revolution in the 60’s placed ‘free love’ as the utmost goal for self-actualisation. As a self-proclaimed Beatles fan – John Lennon is my favourite – I spent my teenage years wishing I hadn’t missed the 60’s. Peace, love, freedom, happiness and the musical called Hair was what life was really all about. Now the experimentation of the 60’s did not end in the Summer of 69, it continued on and on and on through the young lives of people like myself as our parents lived their heyday vicariously through ours. But it does not stop there, as much as we loved Hendrix and Pink Floyd, there was also thrown in a good dose of punk and metal in the mix. The following decades fed the free love frenzy, combined with a heady mix of free your mindedness, and a cultish fascination for the electric guitar – one of my favourites being Black Sabbath. This social revolution freed our hearts, minds, souls and bodies – now that is progress!

What did people do before then? How could life have been bearable? Marriage, a career, church picnics, children, grandchildren and old age.

‘Forsaking all others’ is now a vow that only the minority of us can actually stick to. When social statistics tell us that, on average, we are likely to ‘fall in love’ six times in our lifetime – half of which are likely to be after we’re married – it really demonstrates what kind of a hurdle this sacrificial love represents.

All you need is love.” Love and freedom are actually a dangerous mix. When you look at ALL the aspects of love, bearing with each other in times of difficulty, ‘loving the tyrant’ does not pose much freedom at all. But if we cast off all the shackles of yesterday, will our daughters’ daughters really adore us?

This new freedom of love was the icing on the cake of a new revolution. But was it so new? Actually the ‘free love’ revolution was just as old-fashioned as the 50’s house wife was made out to be. For thousands of years, nations, cities and empires have ‘declined’ as they succumbed to greed, lust and power. (Reference: Volumn I and II of The Fall of the Roman Empire) This trend is expected to continue indefinitely..

If we take away all it’s cultural decorations and misappropriations, what is the whole meaning of love? It is just a bit too hard to digest for many, but the true origin of love comes from a Father to a Son. It is demonstrated by God who became man, and sacrificed himself to demonstrate His love for all His children. Why is it so? Because God IS Love.

‘Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God’. 1 John 4:7

‘Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends’.  John 15:13

And you may have heard this read out at weddings, but it does not refer just to romantic love:

‘Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.’ 1 Corinthians 13:4-8

When people say to you ‘Love is all that matters’ it seems to ring true with everyone. But it is also written:

‘And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.’  1 Corinthians 13:13

Love is the greatest thing, but it is not all that matters. Faith – is not in ourselves or others, but in the One who made us. Hope is not to strive for greater freedom in this world, but in eternal life with God.

If real Love is born of God and knows God, is not self-seeking, and includes the giving up of one’s life for another, then it cannot include the freedom to live and love however you choose. It must also include familial love and all its frustrations, and to care for the future wellbeing of our children. Real Love also includes a requirement to correct each other, to hold up a mirror to each other’s faults, in a kind and humble way.

Real Love such as this, I have found, is where real contentment, joy and peace is found.