one lenten journey

With eagerness she sat with hands upturned, smile on her face, waiting to see what God would fill her with in the immediate moment. B. grew up in a Catholic home and had a deep sense of intimacy and relationship with the Holy Spirit. She welcomed his presence in her life and the good things that he had for her. Having recently started coming to our church she watched as her husband and sister-in-law begin to learn more and grow in faith through the Alpha course. At the point of her desire to have something just for her, we advertised the Lenten small group. Her joy filled the house where we met. Her desire to know more and experience more of the God of her faith was inspiring.

As a group we waded through the deep waters of challenge that Mark’s gospel sent our way. It began with throwing off everything that could weigh us down and prevent us from truly living and seeing God’s kingdom come in our lives and in our communities. We were challenged to let these words really take root in our lives – not just sit there as theoretical concepts. We were comforted by Jesus’ response to the tenacity of the woman who had been bleeding for 12 years. We were in awe of Jesus’ ability to calm the storm with a couple of words. The moment that stands out for me was when Jesus spoke about binding up the strong man and plundering his house (speaking not of people but of the enemy of our souls). The richness of the daily readings made Lent seem like a very long time this year but we were in it for the long haul.

As Easter approached there was an invitation given to the church for people to be baptised. In Ireland most people are baptised as an infant into either the Catholic Church or the Church of Ireland. Confirmation of faith comes around like a ritual and rite of passage from primary school into secondary. These are the natural and culturally accepted faith practices. Being baptised at any other time is a public declaration: I chose Jesus. I need a Saviour and I chose him.

On Easter Sunday the church gathered around our small circular pool in the centre of the building. People gathered around the balcony to get a better view. B., her husband and her sister-in-law each stepped into the water that day, honouring their parents for the choice they had made for them before they could speak for themselves, and publicly announcing that faith in Jesus for salvation and life was how they chose to live.

Faith in God is more than just spiritual connection – it is walking daily with him, accepting his grace over and over again – this forgiveness and freedom from guilt and shame that we so desperately long for. It is allowing our lives and our decisions to be shaped by a truth outside of ourselves. This is where we see glimmers of what life was intended to be.

Every path He guides us on is fragrant with His loving kindness. ~ Psalm 25:10

Glendalough in August (4)

the story tastes like a heart shaped lemon cake

2014-04-09 21.50.00-1Our small group Lenten journey has officially come to a close today as the readings from Lent for Everyone: Mark are now complete. I look forward to sharing about what this journey has meant for the people in the group and for myself but, until then, I would love to share the cake that we enjoyed during our last full meeting together thanks to Olive: A Heart Shaped Cake, Lemon Flavour with a Little Cross Design.

I thought of making a heart shaped cake as I did the readings of the week before Passion week.

I was reminded of God’s lavish love towards us in that He sent His Son to die on the cross in our stead. One of the readings mentioned Jesus love for the rich young ruler. Many other times we can note His love and compassion for us. As we move towards His entering to Jerusalem and Passion week I am struck by His greatest expression of love for us shown by going to the cross.

The cake has a lemon/sweet taste. I thought of the bitter taste showing Jesus suffering for us. And the sweet taste showing God’s love for mankind being so strong that He sent His Son to the Cross in our stead. ~ Olive

A Heart Shaped Cake, Lemon Flavour with a Little Cross Design on it

225g butter
225g castor sugar
Zest of 1 lemon
225g self-raising flour
1tsp.baking powder
4 eggs lightly beaten
4 tbs lemon juice

To decorate:
Sieved icing sugar
Lemon juice to mix
Some cherries to decorate in shape of cross.

Oven heat: 160c


Grease and line tin (heart shaped)

Cream butter and sugar until pale. Add zest. Sieve flour and baking powder.

Add eggs to creamed mixture, little at a time, beating well. Add 1 tbs flour for each egg.

Use metal spoon. Spoon in remaining flour. Fold in lemon juice. Spoon mixture into tins.

Bake for 25 mins. When feels springy remove from oven. Sit in cooking tin for 5 mins. Turn out onto cooling rack.

Mix icing ingredients and spread.

Decorate with cherries cut in half in the shape of a cross.


the story tastes like german lenten pretzels


Our Lenten group continues to be an inspiring mid-week gathering in the centre of Jesus’ story. In each of our daily readings we find ourselves challenged to see Jesus as the one who established God’s Kingdom on earth. They are challenging words. They are hopeful words. They are words that grow in us and change us from the inside out. Jonny baked for us the other week – his contribution was German Lenten Pretzels. The three holes in the pretzel being representative of the Trinity: Father, Son & Holy Spirit. We are not alone in this world but accompanied by a very powerful and loving God.

Jesus indicates that, with the coming of God’s kingdom, the original intention in creation can be established on the bedrock of God’s healing, forgiving love … The challenge for us all is so to follow Jesus, so to get to know him and be transformed by his healing love, that we can be part of that building, that new creation, in whatever way he wills. ~ Tom Wright, Lent For Everyone: Mark

German Lenten Pretzels (see the original recipe here)

  • 1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 Tbsp yeast
  • 1 1/4 cups warm water
  • 4 1/2 cups plus extra for kneading all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup dry milk
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup butter, melted, divided

Grease 2 large baking sheets. Combine 1/4 cup granulated sugar and cinnamon in small bowl; set aside.

Stir yeast into warm water in small bowl. Combine flour, dry milk, remaining 3 tablespoons sugar and salt in large bowl. Add 1/2 cup butter and yeast mixture into flour mixture. Stir until blended and sticky dough is formed.

Place dough on lightly floured surface; knead for 6 to 8 minutes, until dough is smooth and elastic, adding additional flour as necessary. Cut into 24 pieces. While working with dough, keep covered with plastic wrap. Roll each piece into a 16-inch long rope. To form pretzels, make a U-shape with the rope. Holding the ends of the rope, cross them over each other and press onto the bottom of the U and place on prepared baking sheets. Press ends of pretzel into pretzel dough. Brush with remaining 1/4 cup butter. Sprinkle with cinnamon-sugar mixture. Allow to rise in warm place for 15 minutes or until risen slightly.

Preheat oven to 375° F.

Bake for 18 to 20 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from baking sheets to wire racks. Serve warm. Store remaining tightly covered.

the story tastes like upside-down cake

During the first full week of readings from Lent for Everyone: Mark we were all challenged by the many calls to lay aside the things that stop us from walking forward with Christ. The message was gentle and yet more intrusive than we often feel comfortable with. This conversion was a common theme. After our first meeting on Ash Wednesday Olive suggested that she would like to pull something out of the text to make for our second week together. She found a delicious comparison to the readings in an upside-down cake, which we thoroughly enjoyed!

‘Convert’: To turn around. (Latin)

On week two I made an Upside-down cake. There were references to repentance and ‘turning about’ in some of the readings during the week. I thought of ‘turn over’ or ‘turning around’ ‘making a fresh start’ or  ‘turning upside down’ and decided to make an upside down cake! ~ Olive

Image Upside-down Pineapple and Cherry Cake (Olive’s recipe)

  • 25g butter
  • 25g brown sugar
  • 1 medium can of pineapple rings
  • glacé cherries
  • 100g butter or margarine
  • 100g castor sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 150g self-raising flour (with plain flour use 1 and  a half level teaspoons of baking powder)
  • a little milk or water
  • few drops of vanilla essence

Spread the bottom of an oven proof dish or tin with the butter and sprinkle with the sugar. Arrange the well drained pineapple and glacé cherries on top.

Cream the butter and sugar. Add the eggs and fold in the sieved flour. Mix to a soft consistency with a little milk or water. Spoon the mixture into  the pineapple and cherries so that they are nicely covered.

Bake in the centre of a moderate oven- 170’C, 325’F or Gas Mark 3 for 50 or 60 minutes.

Turn out.

Serve hot or cold with ice cream or yogurt. I used a 7inch x 7 inch dish.

Ash Wednesday’s story tasted like: Honey Cake

turn and move forward!

At that river edge (Mark 1) we met each other, each curious as to where we would end up if we followed Jesus as a group. John’s voice cried out to us about repentance and the coming of God.

The word “repentance” brings up reflective images for me: remembering and searching my heart to see the things I have done that hurt others and myself … failing to love the Lord my God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength and love my neighbour as myself. At those times my eyes are diverted off of Jesus and onto myself for soul searching. It is often grieving what was lost. It is seeing what could have been if I would have acted in the fullness of love.

John’s message of repentance was essentially forward looking. God is doing a new thing, so we have to get ready! ~ Tom Wright

As we met at the river and Tom (Wright) showed up as an interpreter and guide for us, we saw that repentance did not make people stand still in personal reflection as they closed their eyes. Instead they looked up, saw Jesus, and moved forward. In repentance, we  opened our eyes and saw Jesus. We started to move forward with him, refusing to be distracted by our inner thoughts or the things around us that would delay the journey. We are laying aside the: “Sorry, Jesus. You go on ahead and I’ll catch up with you in a minute.” With the thousands who have gone before us, we move forward with expectancy of the new things that God is doing. We are looking forward. We are walking in repentance. We are excited!!

You are welcome in this place! You are welcome to join this crowd. You don’t have to know exactly why you are here. You don’t have to sign your name on the dotted line. Just walk a ways with the celebratory crowd. IMG_0767

A prayer for Jesus to lead us to the cross: Lead me to the Cross

Over Lent this year I have joined an eclectic group from my church. Together we are making our way through Tom Wright’s Lent for Everyone: Mark. These are some of my reflections from our first meeting together on Ash Wednesday, where we also enjoyed honey cake!

the story tastes like honey

When I read the first reading from Lent for Everyone: Mark on Wednesday morning I pictured John the Baptist walking around with a bag full of locusts and honey.

And so John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins … he ate locusts and wild honey. ~ Mark 1:4, 6

It was at that point that I figured it might be fun to make something with honey for our first small group. I figured we’d prefer that to locusts. I wasn’t expecting my first ever honey cake to be so good! Like the evening, it amazed me with how full, rich, and perfectly sweet it was.

We saw honey – We ate honey – We entered the story as part of the crowd following Jesus who are looking for something off him.

Honey Cake (from BBC Good Food)

  • 250g clear honey, plus about 2 tbsp extra to glaze
  • 225g unsalted butter
  • 100g dark muscovado sugar (I used light muscovado)
  • 3 large eggs, beaten
  • 300g self-raising flour

Preheat the oven to fan 140C/ conventional 160C/gas 3. Butter and line a 20cm round loosebottomed cake tin. Cut the butter into pieces and drop into a medium pan with the honey and sugar. Melt slowly over a low heat. When the mixture looks quite liquid, increase the heat under the pan and boil for about one minute. Leave to cool for 15-20 minutes, to prevent the eggs cooking when they are mixed in.

Beat the eggs into the melted honey mixture using a wooden spoon. Sift the flour into a large bowl and pour in the egg and honey mixture, beating until you have a smooth, quite runny batter.
Pour the mixture into the tin and bake for 50 minutes-1 hour until the cake is well-risen, golden brown and springs back when pressed. A skewer pushed into the centre of the cake should come out clean.
Turn the cake out on a wire rack. Warm 2 tbsp honey in a small pan and brush over the top of the cake to give a sticky glaze, then leave to cool. Keeps for 4-5 days wrapped, in an airtight tin.
2014-03-06 09.18.25

invitation to easter stew

20140225-163121.jpgSeveral years ago I began observing Lent. It wasn’t in my tradition and I really knew very little about it other than that people would tend to give something up during it. I found the book Contemplating the Cross by Tricia McCary Rhodes and decided to go through each daily reading, reflection, and prayer. The richness of the foundational beliefs about Jesus, forgiveness, the cross, and me became even more alive. Since then I have intentionally used Lent as a time to create a beautiful Easter stew for the soul: you know, all the ingredients go into the pot to simmer until the flavours infuse with each other and become nothing short of a taste of heaven. On Easter you get to enjoy the explosion of goodness unlike anything else!

This year I am looking forward to making this “Easter stew” with several others from my church. We start next week Wednesday and our recipe will come from Tom Wright’s Lent for Everyone: Mark.