Friday, 29 April 2016

Dinner at Wynwood Eindhoven

Yesterday I had dinner at Wynwood, a restaurant in Strijp-S area in Eindhoven, with the Social Dining Group I joined a few months ago. I've heard great reviews about it and they have been mentioned as a candidate for a Michelin star, despite being in business for less than a year. So this was a place I have wanted to try for a while now.

When I arrived, there were already 2 others there. We were shown to our table at the back of the restaurant. On the table next to us, there was a somewhat interesting company of one guy accompanied by a group of attractive young ladies, while near our table the new Maserati Quattroporte was on display, while outside a group of people were re-enacting a scene from some Quentin Tarantino film. While we were waiting for the others to arrive, we started with some drinks. When we were all their, a waitress explained the menu to us. They were serving a surprise menu and we could choose between 3 to 9 courses. As the dishes would be small, we were recommend to take more than the minimum of 3 courses. Most of us, including myself, went for 5 courses while 2 of us went for 4 courses. With that settled, it was time to enjoy the dinner.

We started with 2 amuses from the house. One was a mousse of asparagus with herring caviar and mini shrimps. The other amuse was a cracker of Parmesan cheese. I might have eaten it in the wrong order by taking the cracker first, which was so salty that my taste buds were numbed and I didn't really taste anything when I had the asparagus mousse.
After the amuses, it was time for the first course. Before I start, I have to admit that the dishes were quite complex, as one would expect from an establishment at this standard, so I can't guarantee that I've remembered everything correctly when I'm describing the dishes, so I apologise for that in advance. Having said that, let's go.

The first course was tuna in two ways, raw and seared, with different textures of cucumber, a marshmallow of Tom Kha Kai and a courgette flower. Normally, I don't like fish and this is the reason I always go for the surprise menu when I have the chance. Let me explain. I don't like fish because I can't cook it properly. When I cook fish it tastes horribly, and based on that experience, I would never order fish from a menu. But I also know from experience that fish, when cooked properly and able chef, is absolutely delicious. So, when I go for the surprise menu, I can just sit back and enjoy whatever the chef comes up with and so far, it's always been good. The tuna pieces were coated in some crispy stuff, which gave it a nice combination of textures. The different textures of cucumber added a refreshing note to the dish, making it a pleasant combination. A good start to our dinner, I would say.

The second course was a soup of king prawn, with a king prawn dumpling and fennel. Although still nice, I have to say that this was my least favourite dish of the evening. The soup was too strong for my taste and the fennel, which I assume was there to balance it, didn't have the chance to do it's job. The soup was just too overpowering.

The third course was only served to those who had the 5 course option. This was a leg of quail with asparagus and some other interesting stuff which I can't remember now. There were some dots of green stuff and white stuff. Yeah, I know I will need some more practice before I can make a living out of being a restaurant critic. I should probably start paying more attention when the waitress is explaining the dish. But I did remember the most important thing. It was very nice.

At the fourth course, the people who chose the 4 course menu were back in again. This was black grouse with asparagus (yes, it's asparagus season here), a crisp of grouse with red wine sauce and again some interesting blobs on the plate that I don't remember what it is anymore. Once again, it was very tasty. I liked the crispy stuff. I never had grouse before. I looked it up on the internet and it looks like a sort of chicken. I like it very much.

The fifth and final course was the dessert. For me, desserts are the highlight of any dinner. It was various preparations of honey and lime, with several textures of ginger and white chocolate. It was very nice. Normally, when I have dessert at home, it's sweet on sweet, so not very exciting. Here we had the sweet of the honey and white chocolate, with a tanginess of the lime and a slight heat of the ginger, which was an interesting and very nice combination.

With the dessert done, it was the end of our dinner. After a cup of coffee or tea, it was time to say goodbye and to go home. I really enjoyed this evening. The food was delicious and the company was great. The restaurant, although the food was of a very high standard, was very accessible. There's a certain buzz which you wouldn't find in more traditional fine dining establishments. At Wynwood, nobody would blink an eye if you came to dinner in jeans and shirt. What I also liked was the open kitchen, on which I had a good view. It was nice to see how the kitchen was working. It's kind of reassuring to know that your food is actually prepared freshly and not microwaved. All in all, it was a great evening and I can definitely recommend it to everybody. And the prices are very reasonable too. You pay 9 euros per course. In total, I paid 60 euros including drinks, which I think is reasonable at this level.

So, that's it and I'm already looking forward to the next dinner.

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Goodbye, granny

I had been expecting this phone call for a week now. Last Saturday, I left halfway through the monthly practice of my church's worship team to see my grandma, who was nearing the end of her battle with stomach cancer. I got a call that she was very weak and could go very soon. I went there, spent some time with her to say goodbye and to pray with her. I hung around for a bit and then went home again. I had said goodbye and felt I could let her go now. I was now waiting for the phone call to let me know she's gone.

Fast forward to today. I had just finished work and was at home cooking dinner. I had almost finished cooking, when the phone went again. It was my brother. "You need to come immediately. Granny is about to die. The doctor is here." I finished off cooking, put everything on a plate and in the microwave to keep it warm. Then I got on my bike and rushed to my grandma's place. When I arrived, I went to her bedroom where she was surrounded by her children and grandchildren. I joined them around the bed and took the opportunity to pray for her. 5 minutes later after I arrived, she breathed her last breath and went home to be with Jesus.

It was good to see that she died peacefully and didn't suffer. It is also a great comfort to know that she knows Jesus and trusted in Him for her salvation. I know she is with Him now and enjoying all the good things He has to offer her. I also know that one day, I will join her and sing praises to God with her. In moments like these, it's easy to be sad and mournful and it's appropriate to be sad and mournful. But I'm also thankful. I'm thankful for the 85 years God has given her. I'm thankful for the children she mothered, and her grandchildren and great grandchildren. I am thankful for the 37 years, that she was my grandmother. I am thankful for the good times we shared together, and thankful for what I've learned from the not so good times. There is so much more to be thankful for than there is to be mourning for. Yes, I will be mourning her death, but above all, I will give thanks for, and celebrate her life.

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Canada 2015 - Day 0

I was planning to write this last night, but by the time I finally found the B&B in Toronto, I was so shattered that I couldn't be bothered anymore. So, that's why I'm here, sitting in the lounge of my B&B at 7.20 in the morning.

So, back to yesterday. I've been looking forward to this trip for a few months now. It's my first proper holiday in many years and my first time on this side of the Atlantic. Normally when I go on a trip, I would start packing about 15 minutes before leaving. My reasoning is that everything I haven't packed within 15 minutes is either not necessary or something I could easily buy there. For this trip, I started packing 3 days in advance. That's how excited I was.

So, after having breakfast and a quick check to see if everything was switched off, I left for the bus to the station and from there to Schiphol Airport. Once arrived at the airport, I was told the flight was delayed by 2 hours, and as I arrived at the airport 3 hours before departure as recommended, I was in for a long wait. Finally, aroung 4.30 pm we were ready to board the plane. The flight was pretty uneventful. The most thrilling part was probably trying to eat dinner without spilling it all over the place. The seats were not exactly of the standard I expected for long haul flights. Trust me, you have wider seats and more legroom on Ryanair. Anyways, 8 hours later we arrived in Toronto. While waiting in line at immigration, I could see that the immigration officer in my line was a pleasant man. He was friendly, greeted everybody cheerfully, smiled a lot and had what seemed to be a nice chat with everybody. That was until it was my turn. His cheery smile disappeared and without saying a word, he grabbed my passport, looked intensely at my face and the photo and then started to interrogate me. Where do you come from? What are you here for? Where are you staying? With who are you staying? What is your friend doing for a job? What are you doing for a job? Does your boss know you're here? Are you going back? When? Finally he stamped my passport and said: "Have a good day, sir. Welcome to Canada". I was finally in. From there, it should be an hour before I got to the B&B. I just needed to take a bus into Toronto and another bus from there, followed by a short walk. Easy. Well, not really. First I had to find the bus station at the airport. There were signs pointing me to the buses, but at some point, those signs just disappeared. There were signs for everything else, but not for buses. When I finally found the bus, it got stuck in traffic. It was 9.30 pm on a Tuesday evening an it was as busy as full peak hour traffic in Europe. We literally moved a few feet per minute. When we finally got to the stop where I had to change, the problems weren't over yet. I was waiting there for the next bus to come, but it didn't. The annoying thing about Toronto bus stops is that none of them have a timetable or show which buses run there. What I also didn't know that when you're talking about something like Yonge and Sheppard, it's not just a bus stop but a junction and every bus stop near that junction is referred to that junction. So, while I was patiently waiting at Yonge and Sheppard for my ongoing bus, I was unaware that just around the corner there was another Yonge and Sheppard bus stop and that's the one I needed. When I finally got on that bus, I had good hopes I would be there soon. And I would have been if the driver didn't ignore my stop calls twice and finally stopped two stops after the one I needed. So now I had to trace back two stops, which wasn't that easy. It was dark and I didn't really pay attention in the bus. And I also get the impression that they don't believe in streetname signs here. But finally, at 11.15 pm (my flight landed at 7.00 pm) I finally arrived at my B&B.

Monday, 14 September 2015

Songwatch: Jesus, I my cross have taken - Indelible Grace (music by Bill Moore)

Time for another instalment in my Songwatch series. As I said in my first post in this series, I'd like to use this opportunity to highlight some of the songs I use in my personal worship time that aren't as widely sung as songs from the usual big names. This time, I'd like to introduce you to a modern rendition of Henry Francis Lyte's "Jesus, I my cross have taken" by Indelible Grace.

Indelible Grace is not so much a label as it is a group of Christian artist who put new tunes to old hymns. I have only in the last few years gained an appreciation for the theological richness of these hymns. What I like about them is that they are biblical and do not shy away from the difficult and painful stuff. 'Jesus, I my cross have taken' is a good example of this.

Jesus, I my cross have taken is a song about the cost of following Jesus, but also about the joy of following Jesus. The first line: "Jesus, I my cross have taken, all to leave and follow Thee" refers to passages such as Luke 9:23, where Jesus says that whoever wants to be His disciple "must deny themselves, take up their cross daily and follow me". Each verse speaks about the cost of discipleship. It speaks about taking up our cross, being despised and left by the world, as Jesus Himself was despised and left. But, it's also a song of hope and joy. The song has 6 verses and each the first 4 verses begin with the cost, which following Jesus involves, but each of these verses end on a high. Take for example the first verse:

"Perish every fond ambition
All I've sought or hoped or known
Yet how rich is my condition!
God and heaven are still my own"

I believe this song is really valuable for the Church today. In today's consumerist society, we tend to fix our attention to all the nice bits, but forget the pain it involves. The Church is sadly following suit. It talks about God's love, grace and forgiveness, but it often fails to teach people about sin and the devastating effects of it. It fails to teach that following Jesus means leaving those selfish sins behind and take up our cross and follow Him. That transition from selfish ambition to follow Jesus is hard and painful. But, the joy of following Jesus goes beyond anything.

The final two verses are in my view the highlight of the song. It describes the joy and reward of being a disciple of Jesus:

Verse 5
"Soul, then know thy full salvation
Rise o'er sin and fear and care
Joy to find in every station,
Something still to do or bear.
Think what Spirit dwells within thee
Think what Father's smiles are thine
Think that Jesus died to win thee
Child of heaven, canst thou repine"

And finally verse 6:

"Haste thee on from grace to glory
Armed by faith, and winged by prayer
Heaven's eternal days before thee
God's own hand shall guide us there
Soon shall close thy earthly mission
Soon shall pass they pilgrim days
Hope shall change to glad fruition
Faith to sight, and prayer to praise.

As a final note, this song is a very ambitious prayer. As sinful humans, we are unable to fully live out this prayer. That's why I find verse 5 so encouraging. "Soul, then know they full salvation" and then the second part of the verse: "Think that Jesus died to win thee. Child of heaven, canst thou repine". Jesus died on the cross to win us. We cannot live out this prayer in our own strength, but Jesus already did that in our place and died in our place for failing.

OK, that's enough talk from me. I'm sure you want to hear the song now, so here it is:

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Songwatch: Shine into our night - Sovereign Grace

As a worship leader at my church, one of the things I like to do is look out for new songs. Of course I follow the usual household names like Chris Tomlin, Tim Hughes, Matt Redman, and big labels like Hillsong, Bethel, Soul Survivor, etc, but I'm also interested in the smaller, less well known labels: Indelible Grace, Red Mountain, Sovereign Grace, Page CXVI and things like that. They don't get as much attention as the larger names, at least not on this side of the Atlantic, but they have some really good stuff that I think is well worth including in our worship repertoire. So, I thought I would use this blog to introduce some of these songs and hopefully people will pick up some of these songs and use them either in their own churches or at home. I know that with an average of about 60 readers, this blog doesn't have the largest of audiences, but hey, you might be worship leader yourself, looking for some new songs to introduce to your church...

This time, I'd like to introduce "Shine into our night" by Sovereign Grace. Sovereign Grace is a name that may not be very well known here, but most of you will know "Before the throne of God above", which also comes from them. I learned this song a couple of months ago during the WorshipGodUK conference in Bath and I have since then used it regularly in my own personal quiet times as a song of confession. The first verse describes our sinful nature before God. It's a confession that we are not what God intended us to be. We are created in the image of God, but that image has been stained by sin:

"We are not what we should be
We haven't sought what we should seek
We've seen your glory Lord, but looked away
Our hearts are bent, our eyes our dim
Our finest works are stained with sin
And emptiness has shadowed all our ways"

The chorus that follows is an awesome prayer for God to shine into that darkness of our sin and let his glory fills our eyes

"Jesus Christ, shine into our night
Drive our dark away till your glory fills our eyes
Jesus Christ, shine into our night
Bind us to your cross, where we find life"

It always amazes me how generous God is in forgiving. Whatever we've done, we can always come back to God. This is what the second verse says:

"Still we often go astray
We chase the world, forget your grace
But You have never failed to bring us back
Reveal the depth of what You've done
The death You died, the victory won
You've made a way for us to know your love"

I find this really comforting, knowing that God never fails to bring me back to Him. As I said, this song has become one of my regulars when I'm spending time with God and especially in the context of confession. I just love the chorus, because it's such a beautiful prayer to ask God to shine into our night.

So, without further ado, here's a youtube clip of that song. Enjoy.

Monday, 31 August 2015

An amazing time with God.

As I'm writing this, I've just had an amazing time with God. No, it was not at church or with friends and I haven't just come back from some amazing Christian conference. No, it was just me and God in my lounge.

I have to confess something. I'm pretty rubbish when it comes to prayer and Bible reading. I can go through months without actually opening my Bible for private Bible reading. Yes, I will read the Bible when preparing for my youth group or preparing to lead worship in church, but that's all. My prayers are usually limited to "Thank you Lord for this day. Amen" and then go to sleep. It's not that I don't want to, but somehow, something is keeping me from spending time with God.

But tonight, I somehow felt it was time to spend time with God. I wasn't planning on it at all. I was just watching TV. I just finished watching an episode of the Great British Menu and was flipping through some channels to see what was on, when I suddenly got the urge to just turn off the TV and open my Bible and read. I have a Bible in a year schedule, which I printed off at the beginning of the year. I think I got stuck at 6 January, so now I'm just picking it up at 1 September. I started with a simple prayer asking God to open my eyes and ears to His Word and help me understand it and then read it. After reading it, I picked up my guitar and started worshipping. I just went through some songs that remind me of who Jesus is and what He's done for me. I then put my guitar down and starting praying. I wasn't praying for anything in particular. I just wanted to thank God for everything He's done for me and ask for the Holy Spirit to fill me. And you know, for the first time in probably years, I really sensed God's presence. I walked around me room praising God, went down on my knees in submission to the King of all kings (something I never do) and lied down on my couch, just enjoying God's presence. After that, I picked up my guitar again and started strumming some random chords and just started to sing the amazing truths about God, how He sent his Son Jesus to die for my sins and rose from the dead. How His peace, that passes all understanding will guard my heart and mind in Jesus. How His grace is enough and that His power is revealed in my weakness.

If it sounds like I'm boasting myself and how spiritual I am, I'm not. I'm boasting about Jesus. I wasn't planning on doing this tonight. If it was up to me, I would have kept on watching TV. I just felt an urge to spend time with God and I'm glad I did. As you've read in my previous blog, I came home from New Wine a bit disappointed, as I haven't felt God there as I hoped. Yes, I know He was there and was at work in me, but I didn't feel Him. I was also reminded that feelings can mislead you. I know for a fact that God loves me and Jesus died on the cross for me. My salvation is completely external from my emotions. It's based on Jesus dying on the cross and His resurrection and my feelings won't change that. But tonight, after spending this time with God, reading the Bible, praying and worshipping, I really feel refreshed.

I've learnt that God does things in his own time. I expected this to happen at New Wine. In my opinion, everything was there to give me an amazing experience of God's love and power. There were loads of people praying for me, but I didn't feel anything. I didn't experience God's presence. But tonight I did. At home, on my own. Just me and God. I think we had a great time together. I'm looking forward to our next appointment. (Just kidding, I'm His child. I don't need an appointment.)

Saturday, 15 August 2015

He will hold me fast

First of all, thank you so much for the comments I've received on my last blog post. They were really encouraging. It's so good to be reminded of God's goodness and faithfulness, and it's something I need to remind myself of day after day. The amazing truth is that my salvation does not depend on how much I'm able to feel God's presence in me. It depends on what Jesus has done on the cross. And no matter how weak my faith may be, however far away I feel He is, one thing is for sure: He will not let me go.

A song that really spoke to me in the past few days, and actually one of my favourite songs at the moment is 'He will hold me fast'. I learnt this song a few months ago at a conference in Bath. It's a modern version of a hymn by Ada R. Habershon from the beginning of the 20th century. This version originates from Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington DC. The words really speak into what I was experiencing last week at New Wine. The first verse is just so reassuring:

"When I fear my faith will fail
Christ will hold me fast
When the tempter would prevail
He will hold me fast
I could never keep my hold
Through life's fearful path
For my love is often cold
He must hold me fast"

Last week, I was really worried my faith was failing, that I could not keep my hold and my love is definitely often cold. But praise God that He will hold me fast. The chorus is simple, but yet so strong:

"He will hold me fast
He will hold me fast
For my Saviour loves me so
He will hold me fast"

And what really spoke to me in the second verse was the second half:

"He'll not let my soul be lost
His promises shall last
Bought by Him at such a cost
He will hold me fast"

Here's a youtube link to the song:

I think it's a real shame it's not that well known around here. I really think this song would be a great addition to any church repertoire and I really believe it speaks into the experience of many Christians. We all have doubts from time to time. We are all fallible human beings who sometimes can wonder whether our faith is real. But then there is the amazing truth that Christ will hold us fast. Praise God!