Thursday, April 9, 2015

The Happy Christian - a review

I've just finished reading The Happy Christian by David Murray. And, most unexpectedly, I actually do feel happier!

bookThe start of the book really had me wondering if I wanted to read through to the end. There were so many references to research on happiness from the world of psychologists and social researchers. If David Murray didn't come with such excellent credentials, I would have questioned whether he was on the same theological wavelength as me. Surely our motivations should come from God's Word, said I, and not from some dubious study done somewhere with two depressed uni students and a dog?

And, as if he'd read my mind, Murray said, "Maybe you are surprised at how many times I've quoted unbelievers and called us to learn from them and excel them. Prepare to be further shocked, because I'm about to devote a whole chapter to the subject!"  Ah-ha. He was on to me.

In truth, it's an excellent book. Even as I was cynically working my way through the early chapters while holding the content at a mental arm's-length, I found myself beginning to reflect on circumstances and issues in life differently.

In the preface to Terry L. Johnson's book When grace comes home, he observes that there seem to be two kinds of Christians: those are glad about it and those who are mad about it.  The glad type overflow with thankfulness and want to share their joy with others.  Then there's the mad type:

'Their fundamental orientation is not the positive identity and benefits that they have in Christ, but anger at all those who don't share their outlook.  They are Christian, but mad about it.' 

This resonated with me at the time I read it because I recognise that kind of Christian: quick to put down others, fault-finding, unduly wary of the world, cynical and insular. I recognise it in myself all too often and I can trace back periods of time in my life when sadly it was my primary orientation.

Murray's book calls us to be different.  To be joyful. To be happy.  Now, a lot of Christians talk about the need to distinguish between "joy" and "happiness".  They are suggesting that there is a difference between temporary feelings of pleasure, or happiness, and life-long contentment and joy-even-in-the-midst-of-suffering. True. It is a helpful distinction. However, this has for some of us morphed into a general cynicism about temporal happiness (no doubt partly in reaction to those brands of Christianity that suggest unless you are happy like a giddy idiot all day long you are not a real Christian).

'...we have drifted into such a default normality of negativity that anyone calling for a more biblical balance is often viewed with grave suspicion. "He wants us to be happy? Burn the heretic!" '

As Murray, starts to attack our 'reasons' for seeing the world in such a gloomy manner (and I am the first 'Eeyore' to put my hand up for that) he points out that we have overwhelmingly more reasons to be positive and glad than we do for despair.  Really!  I found this difficult to believe (because I'm such a gloomy old thing) but sure enough after 233 pages I found myself thinking it too.

So definitely worth a read. I think the killer punch for me was when he said,

 'Many of us who wouldn't dream of viewing God's Word in a false or distorted way, think nothing of viewing God's world in a false or distorted way.'  

Guilty as charged!

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

It feels good

It feels good to know there are good things happening in the world.  Enjoy some happy links.

He just picked her up and ran:

Two men who saved each other's lives, 30 years apart:

It's nice when you remember those you love:

Monday, April 6, 2015

Fika - a review and a recipe

I have for some time wanted to get hold of an English translation of the IKEA cookbook. On my recent pilgrimage to the Blue and Yellow Institute For Protracted Shopping Perambulation, I found it!

The photography is delightful.  The double-page spreads alternate between a shot of the ingredients (with a list on the side) and the final product with the method. 

There are 30 recipes for baking, mostly cookies but also others including three superb-looking gateaus at the end.  The recipes are simple, straightforward and do not require an endless number of odd ingredients.  The methods are also simple, making it a very attractive book to have in my kitchen for the younger folk to work from.

Our first attempt was the Swiss Roll. It's filling is mushed fresh strawberries (although you can substitute jam if you need to) and it is clean and simple but sweet.  It has a very quick cooking time - 5 minutes in a hot oven - so it's one you could whip up at short notice.  Here's a shot of ours and below is the recipe.  I bet you already have the ingredients in the cupboard.

Swiss Roll

3 eggs
200 ml castor sugar
200 ml plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
50 ml milk

Filling: 1
50 ml jam or pulped fruit (we mushed a punnet of strawberries and it was definitely worth it)

1. Preheat your oven to 250C. Line a roasting tray with baking paper. You don't need a special tray - we literally used our blackened roasting tray and whacked in a sheet of baking paper without even doing the fancy corners.
2. Beat the eggs and sugar in a mixer until light and fluffy.
3. Sift together flour and baking powder and then fold into egg mixture.
4. Tip in the milk and fold in.
5. Pour mixture into pan and pop in the oven on the bottom rack for 5 minutes.  I opened the oven after 5 minutes and decided the oven hadn't been hot enough and I'd give it an extra 5. I was wrong. I had to cut off a nasty scorch from the base of mine.  It really doesn't need more than 5 if your oven is hot.
6. Do not cool in tin but immediately sprinkle a little sugar over the top and then flip on to a sheet of baking paper.
7. Remove the layer of paper from the top and, while it's still warm, spread on the fruit (or jam).  Then you can roll it up and stand on a pretty plate with the end of the roll down.
8. Eat!

Saturday, April 4, 2015

"This will revolutionize education"

Ah, the good old "this will revolutize education". Said so often over the years. And yet, we still primarily stick with the model of meddlesome teachers standing in front of a crowd of kids.  Why have we not done away with this ancient model of education?  Surely youtube could do it better? This video (oh, the irony) gives some clues.