Tuesday 26 April 2011

Easter eggs

About five years ago we decided to stop eating non-Fair Trade cocoa products.  A report from the BBC had recently come out documenting the ways in which children are abused to make our chocolate.  I can't find the original report, but this story contains much of the same information.  My recollection of it is that nearly 1/2 of the world's cocoa is grown in the Ivory Coast and 1/3 of that is cultivated on plantations using child slave labour: children who are taken under false pretences or simply stolen from their parents.  They were then worked hideously hard, "encouraged" by beatings with bicycle chains.

We decided we wanted no part in that.  If we had to buy our chocolate directly from a child who was clearly being so mistreated, we wouldn't just buy it and walk away: we'd try to help that child.  Just because we can't see the child being abused doesn't mean it's not real - it just means that we need people to tell us about it.

Over the course of about a year we gradually removed regular cocoa products from our diet.  Where we could we replaced it with cocoa produced by adults who are paid enough to be able to send their children to school.  Where that wasn't possible we simply went for something cocoa-free.

We found some low GI chocolate-free muesli bars for me to eat when I get hungry but can't get out of bed.  We drink Fair Trade cocoa mixed with sugar instead of milo, and occasionally make our own decadent hot chocolate mixes.  Unfortunately we haven't found any commercial bakers who use Fair Trade products so we bake our own muffins, brownies and cakes with Fair Trade chocolate (now available at most supermarkets) and cocoa.  No one makes icecream with Fair Trade cocoa either, so I occasionally make chocolate icecream in our icecream maker and otherwise buy chocolate-free icecream.  I've even learned to make something similar to nutella, which is yummy and rich if not as creamy as the real thing.

Whenever it gets too hard, I remind myself about the kids and the bicycle chains.  I'm doing this as I want no part in that.  It's happening far away but it's real.

The one last problem was Easter eggs.  The only Fair Trade ones available commercially in NZ are plain hollow chocolate, and my favourites are chocolate marshmallow eggs and creme eggs.  For five years I've tried to make my own marshmallow eggs, learning from my mistakes but never making a satisfactory product... until now!


It took me one whole day to make the marshmallows, followed by shorter stints over a week or so to chocolate coat them and stick them together.  I think they would take an able-bodied person three evenings after work to make them, or maybe two.  They look good, taste yummy, took only a week to make a batch of 35 and don't need any ridiculously expensive ingredients or supplies to make.  They even have yolks!  Success :-)

I don't think I'll be making my own creme eggs any time soon, though ;-)

If you'd like to make your own chocolate marshmallow eggs, instructions are up on our website.

PS.  We accept with gratitude all gifts that come our way, regardless of the source of any ingredients in them.  We will ourselves only purchase Fair Trade cocoa and cocoa products but we don't require others to do the same.  Our relationships with our friends are very important to us and any gifts are accepted in the spirit they are given.

Thursday 21 April 2011


This year has been amazing for our wee 'orchard'.  First fruits of our own feijoa, first fruits of our own fig (grown from a cutting from my parents') and now: first quinces :-)

As a child I didn't really like quince, but now I'm looking forward to fruity tagines and a big batch of quince paste.  Yum!

Wednesday 20 April 2011

In the eyes of God

I've been praying for a friend who has serious mental health issues and who brings her struggles to God in the same way I bring mine.  I don't know much more about how she understands God than that, and I've been struggling to understand what it could mean for someone like her to be a Christian.  As well as being paranoid and consequently terrified by just about everything, she also struggles intellectually to understand all kinds of simple things.  All of that has made it hard for me to pray for her as I've been limited by my ideas of what God could do for and with her.  I've simply been praying that God would give her freedom from fear and contentment with her life.

Then a few days ago something dawned on me.  For God, the distance He has to condescend to communicate from His infinity to my boundedness is practically identical to the distance He has to condescend to my friend.  He is so far above us, so utterly Other, that the huge differences I see between my friend and myself pale into insignificance.  I realised that God can use her in His service just as easily and effectively as He can use me.

The way I pray for her, as well as the way I pray for the children in my church's Sunday School, has changed profoundly as a result.

Wednesday 13 April 2011

What is scripture?

I've often heard the Bible described as a 'manual for living' or 'God's roadmap for your life', and I think that that's often how I've used it.  I've looked for guidelines to tell me how I should live, how I could expect God to interact with me etc., as well as looked for things to inspire me to keep going in hard times.

Reading through the books of 1 and 2 Chronicles in recent months I've found very little that can be used that way.  I've started to ask: why are these stories here?  They must be important to have made it into the Bible, but I can't see the point of many of them.  That's led to the question 'what is Scripture?'  If it includes these bits, then it can't quite be what I've always thought it is!

I don't have much of an answer to this question, so I'd love to hear your thoughts!  A recent post by Tim Bulkeley from Carey Baptist College provides a partial answer.  He says that the Bible is written for you but not about you, so you shouldn't expect to be able to take Bible passages and simply map them onto your own life.  That's at least a partial answer to what scripture isn't, but what is it?

An obvious place to look for answers is in the Bible itself: what does it say that it is?  The only direct answer I know to this is in 2 Timothy 3:16-17:
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (NIV)
So it is useful for forming you into the kind of person who can do good (God's?) work.

In this light Martin's take on Chronicles makes some sense.  He thinks we need to look at these stories of the kings of Judah as a whole, and as such that they show the steady decline in fortunes of the kingdom as its kings steadily move away from God's law.  Understand that is probably helpful in the individual's formation, but it hardly seems to need to be said in quite so many words!

So I'm largely left with my original question.  What do you think scripture is?