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Sunday Night Sermon – The Resurrection

Yesterday I got the chance to preach again at our church’s Sunday night service.  I enjoy teaching at our Sunday evening services, though I probably prefer the mornings to the nights.  The evening setting is more intimate than Sunday mornings, but you either have to hold a microphone in your hand or else stand in one place the whole time.  On Sunday mornings I conceive of the message more in terms of a proclamation for both guests and regulars, whereas on Sunday evenings I view the service more as a time of instruction for the committed core of the church.

I was asked to answer the question, ‘What excites you the most about Jesus?’  My response was simple:  the resurrection, the fact that Jesus was raised from the dead.

I divided my message into two parts:  the question of history and the question of relevance.  What happened, and why does it matter?

When it comes to the question of history, I think a very strong argument can be made for the reality of the bodily resurrection of Jesus.  There’s the fact of the empty tomb.  There are the numerous accounts of post-mortem appearances of Jesus to his disciples.  Then there is the growth and proclamation of the early church.  When you add all of these factors together, only the reality of the resurrection can account for the available evidence.  No alternative explanation really measures up.

But the resurrection isn’t just about one man rising from the dead a really long time ago in a far away place.  The resurrection has global, cosmic implications.  If Jesus really rose from the dead, then this world is a fundamentally different place than it was before he came out of the tomb.

The resurrection is the decisive reversal of sin and death in this world, God’s pledge that all of the brokenness and pain and disorder and death in this world will eventually be wiped out.  It’s the promise of total restoration to the harmony that this world had before sin ever came into the picture.  Through the victory of this one man over death, all the world will be made new.  That’s why to me the resurrection is the most exciting thing about Jesus.

Unfortunately we don’t record the evening services, so there’s no link to the message.  Maybe next time!


Two Months in Arrears…

It is the 11th of February and our Christmas tree is still up.  I just can’t bring myself to take it down.  Not only does it still feel like Christmas here in Cambridge with all the snow and frosty air, but the tree is one of the only decorative items in our house.  So for now, my tree is staying put.  Don’t judge me.  Since it has been nearly a month and a half since I have written, I decided that I would start with where I left off.  So forget for now that it is February…

This was our first Christmas in Cambridge and it was lovely.  The city emptied of all the students and even most of the tourists, and we were left to enjoy the serenity of the holiday with our closest friends.  There were a few of us who would all be here, so we decided to celebrate together.  Most of us had plans for Christmas day, so we decided to celebrate on Christmas Eve.  Ben and I headed over to our friend’s Colin and Candice’s house and we had a great day eating, laughing, opening gifts, more eating, watching movies, and putting puzzles together.  It was a relaxing day that was filled with all the good things that make Christmas so special.

The highlights from the day for me include…A-mazing cinnamon rolls…ridiculously rich and gooey (seriously, so good).  Then we did a really fun gift exchange and then the Candice & Colin surprised us all with individual stockings.  This was so thoughtful, and reminded me so much of home, that I actually got a little teary at first.  The other highlight was watching all our boys spend the day putting together a huge puzzle.  They looked so cute, and SO focused!  We wrapped up the night with an amazing dinner that each of us helped with.  It was such a great day.

My only disappointment for Christmas Eve was that there was no church service.  This is the church service that I look forward to attending all year.  I love the scripture readings, the joyful singing, the candle lighting, and all the hugs and kisses that are shared with those you love.  I know part of the reason that there are no Christmas Eve services is because church services are held on Christmas day which is fine, but it is just different.  Even though we went to church on Christmas day, I still missed my favorite service.  C’est la vie.

After church on Christmas morning, Ben and I spent the day together and then headed over to the home of a family from our church.  They had invited us to be a part of their families Christmas dinner which was so thoughtful.  It was difficult to be away from our families for Christmas, so it was nice to be included in someone else’s family celebrations.  We all gathered around the table, and I have to say, I have never had such a lovely Christmas dinner.  The table setting was just gorgeous and the company was even better.  We spent the night chatting and laughing, breaking open Christmas crackers, and eating course after course of amazing food.  After an amazing dinner, we all gathered in the living room where we spent a few hours playing various games.  It was such a fun night, and a great way to celebrate the birth of our Savior.

We felt so blessed this Christmas.  We were surrounded by amazing friends who were so generous and loving towards us.  Thank you all for your thoughtfulness and kindness.   We love you and feel extremely blessed to have you all for friends.  You are the best Cambridge family we could ask for!

My Trip to San Francisco

Rachael already talked about what it was like for her to have me out of her hair for a week and a half, but I thought I’d chime in with a few notes about my trip back to the US.  Sorry, no pictures with this post, since I don’t own a camera or a phone with a camera.

My 8 days in San Francisco are already a bit of a blur, but I know that I liked it.  I saw so many old friends and mentors, made a bunch of new friends, fell in love with the Bay area, and maybe even learned a thing or two at the conferences I was attending.

I know that the weather in San Francisco can be a problem, but I had the exceedingly good fortune of clear skies on most of the days I was in town.  I spent a couple of days in Berkeley, which was everything you’d expect it to be.  The day I walked around on campus, there was a big ‘Occupy Cal’ protest, a student pulled a gun in a computer lab and got shot by the police, and simultaneously there was also a pep rally complete with a marching band and a couple of frat guys with axes hacking at a big log on the ground.  The contrast with the straight-laced atmosphere of Cambridge could not have been more striking!

My friend Jeremy, who goes to law school at Berkeley and lived across the hall from me as a college freshman, gave me a great tour of the city.  From the hills of Berkeley, you can see the whole Bay area, and it’s beautiful.  We also went to this sweet farmers’ market in SF and walked to the top of Telegraph Hill and saw Coit tower.  From that vantage point, you can get some really incredible views of the Golden Gate Bridge and a lot of the city.  Jeremy also took me to some excellent restaurants.  We walked into a soul food place where our party was the only Caucasian table in the place.  It was one of those scratch-the-record-to-a-stop moments when we walked in the door, but when life resumed in the restaurant, the atmosphere was great, and the food was even better.  Nothing beats a nice, tender fried pork chop!

A few more culinary highlights:  (1) The night my Cambridge friend Chris arrived for the conference, we went to In-N-Out at Fisherman’s Wharf.  It was about 10:30 by the time we ate, but those burgers are so glorious.  (2) Lots of Mexican.  While I was in the states, I had two excellent burritos and some nice tamales in green chile sauce.  I wouldn’t normally eat three Mexican meals in the course of a week, but since I never have it in England, I was eager to load up.  (3) One night a group of us from Cambridge, mostly British folks, went to the Mission in SF and ate at a comfort food restaurant.  It was pretty good, but I tried this unlabelled yellow sauce that was on the table only to discover after one bite that it was the spiciest thing I have ever eaten.  I thought it may have been a honey mustard sauce, which is what it looked like.  It turns out it was habanero hot sauce, and I couldn’t taste my food for a while after one bite.

Another excellent meal was brunch after going to church with my friends Tobias and Kristen.  Tobias and Kristen used to go to church with us in Orange County, and they’ve moved up to the Bay area in the last year or so.  Going to their church was incredibly refreshing for my friend Chris and me.  Then, Tobias and Kristen took us to brunch at this really cool cafe, and I had some excellent eggs benedict.  After brunch, Tobias and Kristen showed me around town a bit in the afternoon.  We grabbed coffee, saw some sights, and caught up on life.  My whole trip was incredible, but that morning and afternoon on Sunday may have been my favorite of the bunch.  It’s hard to say.  Thanks so much to all the friends who made my trip back to the states so incredible!

I was so busy having fun that I didn’t have too much time to think about how much I missed Rachael, but eventually it hit me.  We had never spent more than a weekend apart in our marriage prior to this trip, so this was definitely something new.  The lesson learned was that we don’t do well apart.  If I ever think about taking a job that has me travelling on a regular basis, somebody just slap me.  By the end of the trip, I was excited to get back home to Rachael.  We belong together, and I think she was coming slightly unhinged!  Good-bye San Francisco, I hope we meet again!

London, did you know I love you?

For my birthday Ben gave me two presents that I absolutely loved.  One of the presents was tickets to see the show Stomp which I had wanted to see for some time now.  The second present was a gift certificate for two for a chocolate making class.  Since I could practically eat chocolate at every meal, this was the perfect gift for me!  Well, it is because of these two gifts that we decided to spend the weekend in London.  I spent the first night in London with my girlfriends, but then met up with Ben on Sunday morning for a relaxing day in the city. 

The first thing on our agenda was the chocolate making class.  I could not wait!  The class had about 20 people and we sat across from a really nice couple who we ended up sharing chocolates with by the end of the session.  Yes, I managed to share my chocolate…but barely.  Our teacher was a chocolatier named Davis (yes I said Davis) and he was extremely informative and really helpful.  He taught us how to tell the difference between high quality and low quality chocolate.  It was really quite simple but something I hadn’t ever really taken time to notice. 

He said there are four basic ways to distinguish high quality chocolate.  First, if you rub it between your fingers, it will be smooth.  Second, when you rub the chocolate between your fingers, you will be able to really smell the chocolate.  He described it as a roasted smell.  Third, if you put the chocolate on your tongue and close your mouth, it should start melting almost immediately.  It is important to note, that the melting should take place without you pressing the chocolate to the roof of your mouth.  It literally will just melt on your tongue if it is good chocolate.  Lastly, you will taste a hint of sweetness at the front of your mouth and then it will be balanced out by a little bitterness that hits the back of your tongue.  Hence the term, bittersweet chocolate.

The balance between sweetness and bitterness is what distinguishes high quality chocolate.  Most of the chocolate we eat is drastically imbalanced since we only taste the sweetness.  Interestingly, Davis said that chocolate doesn’t have any addictive qualities, but it is the sugar that most people become addicted to.  All this time I thought I was addicted to chocolate…but no, just sugar.  I guess that means I can eat more high quality chocolate without fear of becoming an addict.  Now that is good news! 

After the lesson on chocolate we moved on to the good stuff…making dark chocolate ganache truffles.  They were…incredible.  We made around 50 and I am pretty sure we ate all but about 10.  What can we say, they were too good to go to waste…or share!  We added mint extract to our ganache which made them even more delectable. 

The chocolatiers gave us dark chocolate that had already been melted down, and then it was our job to temper the chocolate which means cooling it down by adding room temperature chocolate chips, until the chocolate was about 36 degrees celsius.  You would normally cool it down to about 32 degrees, but since we were adding cold cream we needed it to be a bit warmer.  So we each took our bowls of chocolate, added double cream and began stirring immediately.  It cools off quickly (about thirty seconds) so you have to work fast.  Once the chocolate and cream have blended into a nice ganache, you pour, or in our case spoon the chocolate into a piping bag.  We learned the hard way, that if you don’t stir fast enough, once you get it in the bag you have to warm it back up with your hands, which is no easy task.  

Eventually we got our chocolate heated up and Ben piped out several lines of ganache filling.  From that point, you take another bowl of tempered chocolate (without the cream) and then either dip or hand roll the ganche pieces through the chocolate.  This was quite messy, but really fun!  Then you roll the truffles through any sort of topping you like.  We rolled most of ours in cocoa and then some through chocolate sprinkles.  They were heavenly.  It was amazing how much chocolate I consumed in those two and a half hours.  All those bowls of chocolate and dripping spatulas were a dream come true.  I sigh just thinking about it. 

After two and half hours of heaven, we wrapped up our chocolates and headed off in the direction of our hotel which was near St. Paul’s Cathedral.  We made a quick detour to St. James park since it was such a nice day out.  Spring is truly here in England as flowers are sprouting up everywhere and all the trees are in full bloom.  I can’t wait to see what summer looks like!  We eventually made it to our hotel and I reluctantly left our chocolate as we headed out to a real meal.  To be honest though, I had been looking forward to this dinner for months.  We ate at the only location of one of my favorite American restaurants here in England.  Chipotle.  My mouth waters just thinking about my zesty chicken burrito.  It was so good we ate there again the next night!

After a delightful dinner, we headed over to the Tower Bridge.  I always thought this was London Bridge, but that’s not its name.  From the Tower Bridge, you can see the London Bridge which is more modern and really, nothing special.  But the Tower Bridge?  That is a sight to see.  It looks like it should be the bridge leading to Cinderella’s castle.  We walked across it and then just slowly strolled along the Thames River snapping pictures for quite some time.  Walking along the river was such a wonderful way to end the day.  The weather was perfect and the lights of the city were just beautiful.   

Our first day in London was perfect.  I felt so relaxed which isn’t normal for me in a big city.  I went to bed excited to see what day 2 would look like.  

Things I am Surprised I Love About Cambridge #2

As I mentioned earlier in the week, there are things that I have been surprised to find myself loving here in Cambridge.  Here is the second thing I have been surprised by here in this lovely city. 

Amazing places to run.  This may not seem like it would be a surprise, and it probably wouldn’t have been, had I not just started running seven days ago.  For years I have despised running for a whole host of reasons (my legs itch like crazy, I get bored, runner’s stitches, etc…), but I recently found myself jogging to and from my bus stop every day.  I get off the bus and I am just ready to be home, so I started running to get there faster.  I definitely look like an idiot dressed in my business clothes, half jogging, half skuddling along the busy streets of Cambridge, but who cares as long as I don’t waste my precious evenings? 

I really only ran home at night until I realized one morning I could sleep in an extra five minutes if I ran to the bus stop.  Wahoo!!!  So I started jogging every day each way (granted, each stretch is only about a 5 minutes long), and if I am honest, I liked it.  So I decided to start running.  It is going ok, but what makes it worthwhile is the scenery.

Last Friday, I took my first jog through some neighborhoods on my way to a friend’s house and it was wonderful.  Saturday I jogged through town and loved getting to absorb the energy that just emanates from the city centre.  Sunday was one of my favorite days, as I went running in the countryside with my good friend Alice (who is also my temporary running coach…thank you Alice!!).  We ran to Granchester, which is a little village outside Cambridge which has a famous tea house (which is another good reason to visit Cambridge) and the path there was just lovely, and so peaceful.  We passed grandparents, moms with strollers, joggers, and of course, cows. 

Wednesday Alice and I went out again and she helped me with my breathing and helped me work through my side cramps.  What helped distract me from the pain was the beauty that surrounded us.  She took me running along the backs of the colleges where you can see the river, several gardens, bridges, and pathways lined with flowers that are just beginning to bloom.  We then cut through one of the colleges, headed down King’s Parade (a main street here in Cambridge), jogged along Jesus Green (a huge park) and then wound our way through town back to my place.  It was a wonderful run.  As we went in the early evening most of the streets were empty and it was just really relaxing…minus the fact that I was running and trying to get enough air into my lungs. 

I decided that I wanted to take a couple of pictures of where Alice took me running, so todayI went out with Ben and walked the path she had shown me.  Hopefully the pictures will inspire some of my runner friends to get out here and join me for a run.  Who would have thought I would come to love running in Cambridge…the coldest, wetest place I have ever lived?

Pathway leading to King's CollegeCrossing the bridge to Kings

Crossing the river to Clare College...lots of students out enjoying the sun

Heading to town

King's Parade

St. John's College

Cute neighborhood along Jesus Green

My favorite path through Jesus Green

Jesus Green swarming with activity on this lovely March day!