Tuesday, December 27, 2011

12 Days of Christmas - Holy Innocents Day.

Christmas is a season - which means that we don't have to squeeze all the celebration into one day; we can spread out the fun, food and festivities and pace ourselves! After the waiting of Advent it is worth making this celebration last. I enjoy the lulls as much as the get together with family, the feasting and parties - quiet days at home together when the children build their new Lego models, try out the new scooter or craft kit , I curl up with my new book and we eat leftovers. These are days of thankfulness.

Today is Holy Innocents Day. This is the day when we recall the horrific massacre of the babies in Bethlehem orchestrated by an enraged and jealous King Herod in an attempt to remove the threat of an infant rival.

We usually remember this day by making a donation to a children's charity. This year we chose VIVA  an organisation that works all over the world in education, health , safety and advocacy.
We has been saving our loose change in a jar for the last five months - the children counted it out and it was enough for twelve children to attend a Viva Christmas party.

Friday, December 23, 2011

'Bringing in the Greens'.

Another pleasurable job for the last week of Advent is that of decorating the house. The tradition of decorating ones home with greenery is an old one. The evergreens of holly, ivy, pine and fir remind us of God's eternal unchanging nature and of the beauty of His creation. Green is the colour of life and hope and Christmas is the festival of life and hope.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Decorating our Christ Candle.

One of the ways I try to slow us down at this time of the year is by participating in craft activities that have some symbolic significance.
This year we decided to decorate our own Christ candle to light on Christmas Eve. I did a bit of research and decided that we should have ago at carving a design on a plain cream pillar candle. The children drew designs on paper first and then my husband helped the boys do the carving with a hot knife. I read that you can paint a candle with acryllic paint so my daughter painted the carved design.

We were very pleased with the results!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Advent - a thin place.

The last week of Advent can be especially busy.  The pressure of the list of things still needing to be done is always present and ( in my case anyway) so is the tendency to get irritable and distracted.

I came across the blog site Behold  and have been following it this week. I particularly liked this post on Advent as a thin place. Keeping focused on what is real in the middle of this flurry of activity and spending we call Christmas is a discipline and this blogger has helped me this week.

Monday, December 12, 2011

We are here to worship...

This is the darkest time of the year and we put our Christmas lights up today.

'Light of the world 
You stepped down into darkness
Opened my eyes, let me see
Beauty that made this heart adore you,
Hope of a life spent with you.'

Chris Tomlinson

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

St Nicholas Day

Today was a day of great excitement in our house. It began with a candle lit breakfast of porridge and croissants. In the centre of the table stands our St Nicholas figure. We walk to school with bags stuffed with packages carefully wrapped in bright tissue paper. These were prepared last night and contain homemade baking. (We made St Nicholas Coin Purse cookies using this recipe. As Hersheys Kisses are not available here we used Cadburys Twirl Bites instead). The gifts are left on our neighbours doorsteps and secreted into friends school bags.

I am amazed at how much my children enjoy the thrill of preparing and secretly delivering packages for friends and neighbours. They plan the whole operation so as not to be seen , although I am sure that the giggles and retreating feet are heard!

St Nicholas is the historical person - a 4th century bishop know for his generosity and compassion - who is the inspiration for Father Christmas. The latter has become associated with commercialism and consumerism , the former with the joy of giving. We like St Nicholas better! There are  lots of legends and stories associated with this saint, all of them demonstrate his spirit of mercy , his faith and his generous compassion. They make great family reading during Advent.

Secret parcels ready for delivery.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Advent - the wreath.

Advent is my most favourite time of year. As November draws to a  close child like excitement effervesces quietly inside me as I plan and pray my way towards Christmas. This year my pleasure is  enhanced by the joy of being 'home' - it is winter, and it is dark as we light our Advent candles , the symbolism of light dawning gradually in a dark world is strong after years of summer and tropical Christmases. 

The Advent wreath is the focus of our celebrations. A simple ring of greenery symbolising the completness of God and renewal of our life in Christ and the utimate renewal we look for in his second coming. The four candles - three purple and one pink represent hope, peace, joy ( the pink one) and love. Another way of naming the  candles is the patriarchs, the prophets, John the Baptist and Mary , the mother of Jesus. We light our candles on Sunday evening and pray using a family litany from the Upper Room website. The litany that we use is from 2008 and when I tried to find the link I was unable to, maybe it no longer exsists. The link given takes you to the 2011 litany.

This year we did not place a fifth candle in the centre of our ring.We are going to decorate our Christ candle this year: I plan to buy a simple white pillar candle and have the children carve and paint their own designs on it. In the busyness of end of term events, scout visits to the panto, school christmas discos etc. etc. I hope that this will be a quietly  meditative activity to keep us centred on what is real. 

Ah well, I can but try!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Christ the King.

This Sunday is the feast of Christ the King. It is a relatively new feast, introduced in 1925 by the then Pope, but celebrates a timeless truth; the sovereignty of Christ over all. The Pope introduced a day to proclaim the regal power and kingship of Jesus at a time when fasism and secularism were on the rise in Europe. There is real joy in a day that reminds us of who is the King of Kings when all around the world individuals are clamouring and fighting to secure their own sovereignty and power. The deity of  financial sovereignty would appear to be supreme but Christ the King Sunday shows us another way of ruling, another way of expressing power. Martin Luther talked about the 'left handed power of the cross'. This is the power that puts relationships above results. It gives freedom and space, choosing reconciliation and restoration over oppression and control, grace, mercy and compassion over manipulation and coersion.  Our world is overwhelmed by right handed power - which uses force to gain the desired results. This is the conventional wisdom of the world  but Jesus rules using  subversive power that does not rule by winning but wins by loosing. I know that I need to hear this message again and I want to talk with my children about left handed power so that they can learn to win in relationships by loosing!

We will celebrate with a crown cake for dessert and , I hope , a stimulating discussion around the table. Here is a link to a fabulous looking crown cake, a bit too elaborate for me this year. I plan to do something simpler to fit time constraints!

This Sunday is also the last Sunday of ordinary time. Next Sunday Advent begins and the Liturgical year continues  its cycle. It is time to start making plans for Advent and Christmas!

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

All Saints Day Afternoon Tea

Afternoon tea has to be one of my favourite meals! Here's my menu for tea on All Saints Day - which is today. All of the items on the menu represent something to remind us of the significance of the day.

Ham and Wholeseed Mustard Sandwiches. ( reminding us of what can be achieved through faith the size of a grain of mustard)

Onions Rings ( to represent halos - just for fun!)

Rosemary Biscuits ( for rememberance)

Doughnuts  ( these are similar to Soul Cakes which are traditional)

Meringues (  the cloud of witnesses in Hebrews 11)

Enjoy and let me know if you have any other ideas or suggestions.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

All Saints Day.

It  has struck me, since moving back to England,  how much more Halloween is celebrated here now. Even the local charity shop is decorated with spiders webs and other ,some what irrelevant, scary stuff and my local Sainburys  is selling pumpkins for carving.

We have always celebrated All Saints Day , which falls on November the 1st. To me, a day to remember people who  inspire and motivate is far more bolstering for my faith and , I hope,  encouraging for my children. All Saints Day is the day in the church calender for remembering those Christians  who have lived and died in their faith , some as  martyrs, some famous for great deeds and  some unknown for no less great deeds. Some will be known to us personally .They lived by the words of Hebrews 11:

 “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. This is what
the ancients were commended for.''

The challenge for us at this time of year is: what do we hope for? What are we certain of ?  As Colossians chapter 1 verse 12 tells us we too 'share in the inheritance that belongs to his people , who live in the light '
What can we do 'by faith'?

This year our All Saints Day celebration will be simple. I plan to make doughnuts and we will watch the film 'Amazing Grace' about the life of William Wilberforce, the slave abolitionist of the 19th century. Doughnuts are akin to soul cakes which were  traditionally made to offer children who wandered the streets , knocking at doors and offering to pray for  deceased family members in return for a soul cake . Sometimes a game was played with the soul cake which involved tying a cake to one end of  a stick and a candle to the other end. The stick was then swung around and the aim was to take a bite of cake with out getting burnt! Our version involves tying doughnuts to a string strung across the room, everyone tries to take a bite of the swinging doughnuts with hands behind their back. The first person to finish a doughnut is the winner.

We will also carve pumpkin lanterns because it is such fun and represents to us the light by which we live.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Autumn in England

 Sorry for the gap in posts. We have re located to the UK and , although I would not exactly call us settled , we are gradually feeling moved in!

This is the first Autumn that I have spent in England for almost 20 years. I thoroughly enjoy all the seasons and  it is hard to decide which one is favourite but I think that, perhaps, Autumn is it. We have been picking blackberries in the wild and apples and late raspberries from the garden and I have been making crumbles, pies , jams and jellies. We live near several beautiful woods and  a forest and have enjoyed walks and bike rides through the gradually changing trees , across acorn stewn paths .

Last Friday was the Autumn equinox. An equinox occurs when the earths axis is inclined , either away or towards the sun and  day and night have approximately the same length. After the Autumn equinox the days become noticeably shorter and the evenings begin to draw in; we are clearly reminded that summer is over and winter is approaching. It is a cosy time of year and having lived in the tropics for the last three and half years I have missed cosy!

The celebrations of Autumn include Harvest Festival, Michaelmas, All Hallows Eve and All Saints Day. We have always celebrated All Saints but having lived in countries where Autumn is either not so noticable or non existant we have not observed  the others. This year we are discovering the pleasure of Autumn and I plan to celebrate Michaelmas , which falls on September 29th , this weekend.

Plans and ideas to follow!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Family Rituals 2

Of course, healthy family rituals do not have to be associated with religious occasions or ones faith. But they should reflect your personal beliefs and what you feel is important.

Here is another quotation from Mary Grant's ‘Cappuccino Moments for Mothers’

There is little chance that your child will remember all the things you did for her while she was growing up, but she will remember how it felt growing up as your child. She will receive emotional nourishment from the atmosphere, the fun, the routines, the celebrations and the outings’

Family rituals help to create the atmosphere in our homes.  They foster  fun,  festivities,  routines,  closeness and  spiritual awareness.
Rituals can be simple regular weekly events. On Sunday mornings my husband makes pancakes for breakfast – he has done so for as long as the kids can remember. We are never allowed to change the menu; Sunday morning would not be Sunday morning without them!
Or they can be linked to certain times and events.  We are just about to move from Cebu in the Philippines to Hampshire in England. We have moved countries before as a family and we have a ritual that helps us to process the gains and the losses in our transition. A few weeks before we leave we make four posters entitled:

  • What we will miss about  … country we are leaving
  • What we won’t miss about ….. country we are leaving
  • What we are looking forward to in ….country moving to
  • What we are not looking forward to in….country we are moving to

They are hung up on the wall and can be added to as we think of things during our final weeks.  Yesterday I went to get a haircut and realised that this is something I will miss in England. In Asia they really know how to help you relax and feel special with massages, tea, manicures and pedicures in an unhurried atmosphere and all for under 10 quid!

I have found that rituals help in times of transition and I am sure they can help at other times of family stress too.

Please share your own experiences with me and leave a comment – I am keen to hear from you.

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Family Ritual.


 In the conclusion to her  book 'Cappuccino Moments for Mothers' New Zealand writer and 'parenting expert', Mary Grant, says

' When your home offers healthy family rituals and traditions and mixes them with fun, you give your children the roots that will nourish them for the rest of their lives.'

I believe this too. Ritual is very important to children; it  gives them a sense of security and safety and creates  reliability that children appreciate. They like it when things always happen in the same way.  As Christian parents we have an incredible opportunity to develop rituals that put roots down into the soil of hope and true love. In forming our family rituals around the liturgical year , the biblical stories of Jesus, it is my desire to give our children far more than self esteem and a sense of identity, although that is partly what they gain. We also teach them the stories that can evolve and  transform  them into the persons they are intended to be. This is my prayer and my intention when we celebrate the life story of Jesus over and over each year with rituals that are fun as well as life changing.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Slow Time.

I have read a bit about the slow movement recently. It interests me that people are choosing to intentionally slow down their lives. One of the advantages of having lived in Asia for so many years is our lives are already quite slow; that is the way life is lived here. I think my personality also inclines me to a relaxed pace of life. I remember when we were living in Auckland the words 'I'm busy' were often used as a greeting - in reply to 'How are you doing?' We were pressed to conform but resolutely refused! Of course we have times of busyness but we try not to lead busy lives. Ruminating on my pace of life lead me to think about the liturgical lifestyle and what effect it has on us and the speed we live at. I think that it has changed the way I see time; I now think of time as cyclical rather than linear. My year starts in December at Advent and climaxes at Pentecost in June. After that I enjoy a few months of Ordinary time, until the tempo again begins to increase at the end of November when we look forward to Advent again. The celebrations of the year give rhythm to our time and help us to focus on the main thing - the life story of Jesus. His story is played out year after year and digging deeper each year, we learn more of Him.We are told that slowing down is good for us but maybe only if we take note of what and who really matter. God does not seem to be in a hurry. If we are, we miss seeing what He is doing and the opportunity to join in with Him.
Living through the year with this perspective I  also appreciate the changing seasons with increased attention.The seasons of nature are linked to the seasons of the church; nature often acts as a metaphor for the God stories that we celebrate.
In our house we often celebrate the liturgical year with activities that particularly cultivate stillness: reading, cooking and making things by hand. Actions that promote meditative prayer, take time , require concentration and the achievement is slow.
Even when other aspects of our lives are busy carving out time to celebrate pulls us back to what is important - God's story in our lives.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Ordinary Time.

After Pentecost we begin 'Ordinary Time'. This does not mean 'usual' time or 'boring' time but it is a quieter interlude, without any major periods of penitence or feasting. The colour for Ordinary time is green, the gentle, glowing,  colour of growth and  growth is what Ordinary time is all about. The steady progress of everyday life, without the excitement of feasts and celebrations, gives us the opportunity to concentrate on cultivating our spiritual life, maturing our prayer life and growing 'in grace and favour' with God.

The Sunday after Pentecost is Trinity Sunday and the season from now until Advent is known as Trinity Season. Because , in the Northern  hemisphere, Trinity Season falls during the summer I like to think of it as time to relax with God. I do breathe a small sign of relief after Pentecost; for a few months I can wind down, there are no celebrations to plan or intense periods of worship and exhilaration. I can read, pray, enjoy holidays with no theme or agenda, nurture relationships and enjoy being outside in the garden or in the countryside.

For our dinner table last Sunday my daughter made white dove shaped name places, on one side we wrote someones name and on the other one of the fruits of the Spirit. I did this in such a way that I did not know which fruit was linked with which name. Each of us now have a fruit  to cultivate in companionship with the Holy Spirit during Ordinary time.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Pentecost.- Happy Birthday Church.

The day of Pentecost, when Jesus' promise of a counsellor , the divine presence with us was fulfilled. A day of fire and wind.

The temperatures in Cebu at the moment are 30C and more , consequently we long for and appreciate any tremor of breeze and the slightest lift of air brings momentary refreshment. In the Old Testament the Hebrew word used for the Spirit of God was 'Ruash' - wind; it is a beautiful metaphor for the Holy Spirit who brings fresh air and movement to our spiritual lives. He blows reason and love through our hot headed, egotistical thinking and sets our course regardless of our own plans and expectations. He brings drama and excitement but can also perturb us !

Birds are another metaphor used for the Spirit; in the bible He is also a dove - gentle, loving, a bird of sacrifice. To the Ancient Celts He was a goose - strong and fearless. Teresa Morgan , in her book Seasons of the Spirit , describes Him as a swallow- 'a shrieking, playful dart of joy' who cannot be held but only received with gratitude. Reading this made me think; what sort of  bird do I see the Spirit as?

For me, the Holy Spirit is a like a swan; it is He who makes life elegant and seamless.  The swan glides effortlessly , graceful and gentle in it's movements, yet, it is a bird of strength and power, and somewhat unpredictable.

Our Pentecost celebrations are usually red and fiery. We decorate with doves, flames and streamers on the fans. We eat red food and wear red clothes. This years menu will include:
Chicken Cacciatore
Rosy Potatoes( potatoes with paprika)
Red and Yellow pepper salad.
Dessert is always a special Pentecost birthday cake, cherries represent the fruit of the spirit, sugar roses the gifts and candles for the tongues of fire.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Poetry on Ascension Day

I enjoyed this post by Maggie Dawn about Ascension Day. We had fun with some poetic license today on our picnic, watching the clouds for the shape of a lamb and eating jam cloud tarts.

This morning I read the passage in Ezekiel chapter 1 describing the strange vision that the prophet saw of the Son of Man. It is very hard to picture , but what beautiful and powerful images of the glorious throne that Jesus had left and that He returned to that day on the mountain top.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Ascension Day

It is Ascension Day on Thursday. On this day we remember the ascension of Jesus  into heaven from the mountain top in Galilee. A dramatic scene is played out, with the disciples as witnesses as Jesus is lifted up into the clouds and taken from them. Before He leaves He gives them a command and a promise. 
 This is a day to go outside and up high; processions and picnics are the usual celebration.

I am planning a picnic, up a hill overlooking Cebu, followed by swimming. We will eat chicken sandwiches because it is traditional to eat something that flies! I want to make a dessert that reminds us of clouds and  had thought of blue jelly with a whipped cream or meringue 'cloud' on top but jelly does not travel well in Cebu's heat. And, where do I get blue jelly from? So, we will have jam tarts with a cloud of meringue on top.

On Sunday I may make Nigella Lawson's Chocolate Cloud Cake.

Friday, May 20, 2011

New Clothes.

'I delight  greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my God. For He has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness, as a bride groom adorns his head like a priest and as a bride adores herself with jewels.'

Isaiah 61:10

Buying new clothes for Easter is a tradition that has faded rather but it is an old one.  I imagine in the days when new clothes were more of  a treat and only brought once or twice a year the symbolism of new clothes for Easter was  more significant. Nowadays, when we can spend any Saturday morning buying cheap clothing at a mall or shopping centre, the sense of celebration is lost on us.

New clothes represent the new life that Christ has won for us, we  discard the shabby clothes of our old life and dress in the fresh, bright, best clothes of celebration.

'But the father said to his servants,'Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put  a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet.'

Luke 15:22

Last week I took the boys shopping. The climate in Cebu means that we wear the same clothes all the time, the children also do not wear school uniform and  their clothes look exhausted before too long. It really was time to buy something new. Neither the boys or I are great shoppers but the mall was quiet first thing and it is air conditioned, we stopped for a coffee for me and an iced chocolate for them and it was fun! A mini celebration and a reminder of how every day events can become festive occasions that demonstrate newness and just how full our transformed lives are.

 'Therefore........cloth yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience'
Colossians 3:12-14.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Station 5 - By the Lake.

Well, we could not manage a lake but we did manage a campfire, and we didn't cook fish , only toasted marshmallows. But it was a lovely way to finish the day and our Stations of the Resurrection. The reading was John 20.1-14 and I read it as we sat around the fire. Fire has a special significance at Easter - it represents the light of Christ resurrected on Easter morning. In some European countries Easter morning is welcomed in, after the nights vigil, with huge bonfires lit at dawn. As the light begins to spread the shout goes up 'The light of Christ' and the answer 'Thanks be to God'!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Station 4 - The Road to Emmaus

Yesterday we did an Emmaus Walk together, of sorts. I was really stuck trying to find a game or activity that fitted with the story and our schedule for the day. I was suddenly inspired to combine our story telling with walking the dog! It was not  exactly a quietly meditative walk in beautiful surroundings - not possible with two boys and in Cebu City there are few beautiful places to walk. But , we do know of a quiet, traffic free road in housing sub division where we often take the dog. So, yesterday evening , once the temperatures had dropped a bit, we went all together. The boys took gloves and a baseball to practice catching as they walked  and we re told the story of Jesus meeting His friends on the road to Emmaus ( Luke 24.13-25). The kids knew the story well already and my husband and I filled in a few details from time to time. We decided that it would have taken them about 6 hours to walk 7 miles at the pace we were walking and about an hour to run all the way back to Jerusalem, depending on how fit they were and how fast they ran!

My daughter and I had an interesting discussion on whether there were times in our lives when we had not, or might not recognised Jesus walking as our companion along the way.

Easter Listening and Reading.

Last weekend we went to the beach for a couple of days , as usual on a long car journey we listened to an audio book. On this trip we listened to The Lion , the Witch and the Wardrobe by C S Lewis read by Michael York . It is an excellent rendition - he read wells and gives the characters of Narnia a variety of accents. I don't need to review this story here - it is so well known , we enjoyed listening to it despite having read it and seen the film.

I  like collecting and reading  books relating to the season , we have plenty of Advent and Christmas books but not many Easter books apart from a few pictures books from when the children were younger.


Lois Rock
Best Price £0.01
or Buy New £5.05
We also have a beautifully illustrated copy of Sidney Carter's 'Lord of the Dance' . All these books are still read but I would appreciate reccommendations of books with an Easter theme , especially for older children.

What do you read at Easter?

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Station 2 - The Meeting in the Garden.

'I have seen the Lord'!

John 20. 18

We  have finished our tomb and planted some seeds in small pots around it to represent the garden where  Mary met the Lord. The kids enjoyed doing this project and it looks great , I think.

Monday, May 09, 2011

Station 1 - The tomb

Our verse for this week:

'I am the resurrection and the life' John 11 v 25

  We made a cave shape from  a small cardboard box and painted it black inside and grey on the outside. Then we stuck garden pebbles all over using a hot glue gun. The next step is to finish putting pebbles on ( we ran out of hot glue!)  and make the garden. I am having problems posting photos but will try and sort that out and post some as soon as possible!

I came across this link for the Stations of the Resurrection called Via Lucia - The Way of Light at Catholic Icing. It has a version for children with simple prayers.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Stations of the Resurrection.

In Living Easter Through the Year  the author,  John Pritchard suggests a devotion called the Stations of the Resurrection. It is similar to the The Stations of the Cross which is commonly done on Good Friday or sometime during the last week of Lent but focuses  instead on resurrection readings from the gospels. I decided  I would like to try and adapt John Pritchards devotions  for using with children and make them the focus of one week during Easter.
At the moment, here in Cebu, schools are on summer break and so after Easter Sunday I found myself preoccupied with  sports clinics, sleepovers and various other child related social commitments. Next week, however, is surprisingly clear and I plan to do one station a day with the children each morning , which I hope will bring us back to the central focus of this season.

This is what I think is will look like :

Station 1:  At the Tomb. 
Reading Luke 24:1-12.
We will then make  a model of the empty tomb.

Station 2. At the Easter Garden- The first meeting.
Reading John 20:1-18
We will do some gardening and planting.

Station 3. The Upper Room.
Reading. John 20.19-29
We will either play a game of hide and seek or game involving treasure behind a locked door.

Station 4. The Road to Emmaus.
Reading. Luke 24.13-35
We will probably play some sort of travelling game but I have not quite worked that out yet!

Station 5. By the Lake.
Reading. John 21. 1-14
We will toast marshmallows over a camp fire.

Station 6. The message of Resurrection.
reading 1 Corinthians 15.1-11
Not sure what to do for an activity - maybe a craft? Any suggestions welcome!

Station 7 Christ for the World.
 Reading. Matthew 28. 16-20.
We will look at a globe and do some research on how many Jesus followers  there are around the world and how many people have yet to know Him.

I plan to use the prayers from John Pritchards book although I may simplify the words slightly. I will keep you posted on how our week goes!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Why Eggs?

Do your children know why we eat eggs at Easter?
Chocolate eggs have long been a prerequisite at Easter time and a huge source of revenue for the high street. What is their significance and why have they become a symbol of this great feast, there is nothing in the bible about eggs or egg hunting. The biblical symbols of Easter are neither pretty or charming . A cross, nails, whips and tombs would not look enticing in a shop window, certainly not as decorative as eggs, rabbits and other springtime symbols. Eggs, despite being hijacked by commerce, do have a Christian meaning. In pagan Europe eggs were used as a sign of fertility and new life as they celebrated the long awaited arrival of spring after the long , dark winters of the northern hemishere. The early Christians understood the full meaning of what the pagans had only glimpsed. Springtime growth, the return of the sun and eggs all remind us of the hope of new life , the resurrection that we  can all experience in Christ: the essence of Easter.
In an article in Idea  - the magazine of the Evangelical Alliance, it was reported that a certain supermarket chain had to correct itself twice when making assertions regarding the meaning of Easter. First it reported that it was about the birth of Jesus, it corrected this to 're birth' before finally conceeding that Easter is about the resurrection of Jesus. There is obviously confusion and misunderstanding about this historical event that should knock us side ways and change us forever.

So - do your children know why we eat eggs at Easter time? Do your childrens' friends? Or your neighbours?

Maybe we should tell them.

Egg Activities.

I just discovered The Real Easter Egg Company from whom you can buy fairtrade chocolate eggs to give as gifts. On the box is the story of the real meaning of Easter.

Years ago I bought a set of Resurrection Eggs - plastics eggs that conrtain  small symbols that tell the Easter story. On her blog The Vicars Wife gives instruction on how to make your own. They are a good tool for an egg hunt and storytime combined.

Egg Rolling - a game that reminds us of the stone being rolled away

Egg Hunting - goes with out saying!

Monday, April 25, 2011

50 Days of Easter.

Easter is actually a season which lasts for 50 days. In his book' Living Easter through the Year' John Pritchard says

'We travel long and hard through Lent and Holy Week. The build up of spiritual pressure is immense. .......... And then comes Easter day- the most astonishing day in the history of the world. The Lord of history erupts into his own creation, shattering our closed minds and throwing open the windows of eternity. Christ is risen! There's ecstasy for a moment, sheer,wild, abandoned ecstasy.
And then we have a bank holiday.'

I  too feel the disappointment that Easter is over so quickly, unrecognised except for the queues of Bank Holiday traffic. Last year we decided to celebrate for the whole season - I planned a variety of activities, three or four for each week until Pentecost and wrote them out on slips of paper which I hid in a plastic eggs  suspended on a wreath I had hung on our veranda. The eggs were numbered and we opened one every Sunday and did the activities suggested throughout the following week. I kept it simple , sometimes a memory verse to learn, an Easter movie or book suggestion, an outing, a picnic breakfast to watch the sunrise.

It was fun and I want to do it again this year and invite you , my readers, to join me.  Please share your ideas for activities, resources, crafts, food, books, films, outings - anythings that helps to  keep the joy and thrill of Easter at the centre of our focus over the next weeks. Here are a few of the things that our family did last year - to give you the idea of what I mean.

Baked Greek Easter bread
Watched the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and The Miracle Maker.
Made a table water fountain and learnt Revelations7:17
Sunrise breakfast picnic
Went shopping for new clothes
Told jokes at the dinner table - there is, apparently, an old  tradition that the preacher would tell jokes in his evening sermon on Easter day and have the congregation roaring with laughter

Please post your comments and suggestions here and lets live Easter for the next 50 days!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

An Angel in the Garden.

'Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; He has risen!'


Saturday, April 23, 2011

Good Friday Bread Making and Construction.

I enjoy making bread at Easter time.

This year I am using 'Bread' by Liz Herbert for all my Easter bread recipes. My husband gave it to me for Christmas. It is a Women's Institute publication and  is proving to be a very  practical and usable cook book. All the recipes have worked out well so far, I have just made Hot Cross Buns and plan to do Chocolate Brioche for Sunday morning breakfast.

The children have just finished making our Easter garden. This is a regular Good Friday activity for us. I think that it must be an English tradition as it is new to most of my American and New Zealand friends. I remember making miniature gardens in seed trays as a child, but my family , under supervision from their father, construct a small replica garden outside. Wielding saws and digging tools has more appeal to the boys than  dainty, crafty mini gardens!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

More Egg Decorating Ideas.

 We have had great fun blowing and decorating eggs. I followed instructions on ehow for blowing eggs and then we decorated with poster and acrylic paints, glitter and sequins. We also made dye with food colouring which gives the eggs a lovely pastel colour.
We had fritata for lunch after all the blowing!

Maundy Thursday

Bread and wine on our Easter table.

Last night we shared our usual Maundy Thursday meal with friends. I cooked Lamb Shanks braised in Red Wine with Rosemary and Garlic served with mashed potatoes and green vegetables ( asparagus and green salad). Our friends brought dessert. In the centre of the table was the Seder plate containing  the traditional  symbolic foods for Passover. On the plate is a lamb bone, green vegetable, roasted egg, bitter herbs, salt water and haroset which is a mixture of chopped apple and nuts. Each item represents an aspect of the Exodus story - the story of God's  redemption of the Israelite people from Egypt.
  • The lamb bone - the sacrificial lamb that God ordered the Israelites to eat before they left, the blood smeared over their doorposts ensured that the angel of death passed over them. Jesus is our sacrificial lamb ensuring that God passes over our sins.
  • Haroset is a symbol of the mortar used by the slaves to build in Egypt.
  • The green vegetable is a symbol of spring , the Israelite slaves experienced new life as we do in Christ.
  • A roasted egg represents the temple sacrifice
  • The bitter herbs represent the bitterness of slavery and the salty water, the tears of the slaves. Our enslavement is to sin.
Before we ate we read the Exodus story and the story of the Last Supper from the bible and then we shared bread and wine ( red grape juice for the children) around the table . It is a real treat for the children to drink their grape juice from real wine glasses!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Pysanky Eggs

Every Easter we try to come up with different ways to festoon our home and decorate eggs. This year I discoved Pysanky eggs while reading this site, they are amazingly intricate and  beautifully dyed eggs from the Ukraine. The design is drawn with wax before the eggs are repeatedly diped in dye to create the pattern. The Learn Pysanky site also offers colouring pages. I did not think that I would be able to easily find the supplies here in Cebu so we opted for colouring page eggs! Much easier  for children too. They looked lovely and it was a restful activity for a morning with friends.

After we were finished my daughter cut the egg shape out and glued two designs back to back and then hung them in a door way, they would also look good hanging on a branch.

Sunday, April 17, 2011


Palm Sunday marks the beginning of Holy Week - the most intense week in the Christian calender, when we can live through the events of Jesus' death and resurrection - the events that lead to  resurrection and life for us. We read through the biblical account together this morning after breakfast and I was struck by the hightened level of excitement in the villages and in Jerusalem - they were busy preparing for passover, it was a holiday and a celebration. Housewives were frantically cleaning, the streets were crowded with visitors and the drains running with slaughtered lambs blood. Jerusalem was preoccupied as the  real world drama begins to unfold.Only Jesus  knew what was to come.
Buying our palaspas
Palm Sundaes for dessert with homemade coconut ice cream!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Palm Sunday

This Sunday is Palm Sunday when we remember Jesus' purposeful  and deliberate entry into Jerusalem riding on a donkey , hailed as King along the way he went to meet His death. It is the end of Lent and the beginning of Holy Week. Many churches give out crosses made of palm leaves at the Sunday service today , here in the Philippines we will buy palaspas which are elaborately  hand woven palm branches. They are  for sale along the road sides . If your church does not follow the tradition here are some  instructions for making them at home. (This site asks for a small donation )

I enjoy cooking and believe that food is an integral part of celebration and worship and this year I have been introducing some ideas into our menus that symbolize or illustrate the festival being celebrated, just for fun. For dessert on Sunday we are going to  have Palm sundaes .  Here in the Philippines we have an abundance of very cheap coconut and I regret that I have not used it often enough when cooking. So I decided to have a ago at  making fresh coconut icecream for our sundaes using coconut cream I made myself as described in the recipe. It was not too hard to do at all .  Palm Sunday is also known as Fig Sunday because of the story in Mark and Matthews gospel that Jesus wanted to eat figs on his way into Jerusalem. In England it is traditional to serve Fig pudding , so you could make this your Sunday lunch dessert.

Shortbread palm biscuits ready for Sunday.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Lenten Bread.

Delia Smith , in her Complete Cookery Course quotes Elizabeth David on yeast:

'In Chausers England one of the names for yeast or barm was goddisgoode 'bicause it cometh of the grete grace of God'. These words simply imply a blessing. To me that is just what it is. It is also mysterious, magical. No matter how familiar its action may become nor how successful the attempts to explain it in terms of chemistry and to manufacture it by the ton, yeast still to a certain extent retains its mystery'

When I read those words my first thoughts were 'not unlike God really', who also retains some mystery no matter how far we go to try to explain and understand Him. I enjoy working with yeast and making bread and I wish I did it more often. During Lent and Easter I especially find myself thinking about baking bread, it is so symbolic of this time of year; the mystery , the hidden leaven that changes everything, the bread that represents His body , the bread of life. I am sure it is for all these reasons that  many cultures make special bread  at Easter time.

Today we made Pretzels, which are associated with lent because of the shape. They look like hands folded in prayer.  The story of their origin has several versions , apparently they were first made by monks  from scraps left over from the monastery bread and given to children as reward for saying their prayers and to the poor and hungry who visited the monastery. The shape reminds us of one of the purposes of Lent -faithfulness in prayer. And they taste good when sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Mothering Sunday

The fourth Sunday of Lent is Mothering Sunday. The day has an interesting history , the origins are unclear but it became the custom for young people who worked in service i.e. as servants in big houses to  be given time to visit their 'mother church' , in other words to worship with  the community where they were born and to visit their parents and particularly their mothers. It was known as to go a - mothering and gradually became known as Mothering Sunday. They would often take a gift of a simnel cake which was an opportunity for young women to show off their cooking skills. A  simnel cake is a rich fruit cake with a layer of marzipan through the middle, it was usually saved to eat at Easter as such richness would not have been permitted during Lent. Nowadays simnel cakes are usually made for Easter Day. The tradition of having a day to show appreciation for our mothers , to celebrate and give thanks for all they do has continued and I am glad - saying thank you is important and mothering can often feel like a thankless task. I appreciate the sacrifice, effort and commitment of my own mother and I appreciate being reminded to let her know!

There is sometimes a degree of bitterness vented over the celebration of Mothering Sunday and certainly public celebrations can be insensitive and thoughtless towards those for whom painful memories surface. It is important to recognise that  not everyone has happy memories or a good relationship with their mothers and for some motherhood is equated with loss and grief. Somehow there needs to balance between the celebration of special women in our lives, be they mothers, grandmothers , godmothers or motherly women friends and tenderness towards families who hurt. The church has a responsibility to be a mother to those families.

'Repent then, and turn to God, so that your sins maybe wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord'  Acts3:19

The fourth Sunday of Lent is also known as Refreshment Sunday or Laetare Sunday. The word Laetare means rejoice: it is a day for  the relaxation of Lenten disciplines, to look forward to Easter, which is not far off now, and to enjoy the burgeoning spring which hints at the new life that is soon to come. How appropriate this seems to me , we all need refreshment , not just mothers , but mothers do, at times, especially need refreshment. And those mothers  and would be mothers who feel pain, hurt and loss need, more than most , the refreshing touch of God's love and healing.

      'A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed'       Proverbs:11:25

The colour for Refreshment Sunday is pink, the colour of joy.

I am told that I am about to served the biggest breakfast I have ever had! My Mothering Sunday flowers came yesterday, aren't they lovely?.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Angel Wing Cakes

I like to bake on Sunday afternoon and was inspired to make Angel Wing cakes yesterday in honour of Lady Day. Actually, they are Butterfly cakes with the wings turned up right to look more like angel wings!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Lady Day and New Beginnings

I discovered - late - that yesterday was the Feast of the Annunciation. In England it is known as Lady Day and it used to be the start of the new year until the Gregorian calendar was adopted. It is still a quarter day in Great Britain. It is interesting to me that this feast falls in Lent, I have thought of it as part of Christmas but in fact having it fall during Lent demonstrates the link between Christmas and Easter.

'In my beginning is my end'   (T.S. Elliot. Four Quartets . East Coker.)

The Annunciation  Henry Ossawa Tanner.

'The two cycles are never truly separate. However, they are distinct and the distinction may lead us to lose sight of their fundamental unity. In fact, both cycles are about beginnings. The Christmas cycle is about God's life among us as a man. That life is the life of the new Adam, born of the new Eve, a new beginning for all mankind, and that cycle begins with the Annunciation. The Paschal cycle is about the new Passover, the new springtime of redeemed humanity who, through the sacrifice of the Paschal Lamb, is raised from the death of sin to new life in the the risen Lord.' 

The above quotation from the website Fully Homely Divine puts it well and better than I could. I admire Mary greatly , she was a remarkable  young woman and her words to the angel never fail to inspire and challenge me.

'I am the Lord's servant ' Mary answered 'Let it be to me as you have said'


I was too late to plan a real celebration at home but I thought that tonight , before bed, we would read the story of the Annunciation and the beautiful song of Mary - The Magnificat. There is some beautiful music and art work inspired by this event. I found a meditation on the stunning painting by Henry Ossawa Tanner at this site

Next year I aim to be prepared ahead.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Update on Lent Reading.

I have started my Lent reading but changed my plans - I was intending to read Dietrich Bonhoeffer's 'The Cost of Discipleship' but on Wednesday I came across an online reading group who are reading Dante's 'Purgatorio' from 'The Divine Comedy'. You can find the site  at Daily Dante. I was a bit daunted , the others all seem very erudite ,but decided to join , at least reading along and I may make comments. I am loving the poetry.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Ash Wednesday.

 Ash Wednesday derives it's name from the ritual of burning palm crosses from last years Palm Sunday and marking a cross on your forehead as a public sign of contrition. Ashes are a biblical sign of repentance. In our house we mark Ash Wednesday a little differently - we make ashes, burning our crosses from last year, the boys thoroughly enjoy this part of the ritual as the dry, brittle palms make a really good blaze! We then mix the ashes with soil and plant wheat berries. They grow quite quickly over the weeks and serve as a fresh , green reminder that, as we commit ourselves to discipline during Lent, God will produce new growth in us.

From repentance comes new life.

'....unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies it produces many seeds.' John 12:24.

Shrove Tuesday.

Pancake Day - it is amazing how such simple food can create so much excitement, my kid's could not wait to get home from school to start cooking and eating. They do epitomize pre fasting festivities for me - the smell, as they sizzle in soon to be forbidden butter and the taste, sprinkled with lemon and sugar.

After  the tossing and the eating was over and friends had left,  we turned our thoughts to the start of Lent and the weeks to follow.

Traditionally in some churches Alleluia is not sung during Lent and , although the church we attend does not follow that tradition, I find it a good way to transition from festivities to the more rigorous observance of Lent. In the centre of our dinner table is our Alleluia , at the end of the evening it is hidden away in a plain brown box until Easter Day when it is again appropriate to shout a victory shout of praise.