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Archive for August, 2009

Meat of Affliction

Monday, August 31st, 2009

Prime!

Super Costco score today. Rib eye steaks, boneless…PRIME…$7.79 a pound. I thought I had died and gone to heaven. You have to buy a whole roast to get that price. This is a problem? Not the way I see it.

Let’s all pause and salute the man who invented the vacuum sealer.

These babies will be sitting in the fridge until next Monday, at which time they’ll be sliced, labeled, sealed, and consigned to the bowels of the deep freeze. I could dry-age them, but it’s a pain.

The country is circling the drain. Thank God there are perks.

Don’t Swallow a Camel

Monday, August 31st, 2009

Stupidity is not Faith

I got all excited about Jentezen Franklin’s book on fasting, and I wrote about it, and then I got this comment:

Reverend Franklin also hops on a private jet after his services on Sunday mornings in Gainesville, GA (20 minutes from me) and flies to Orange County, CA for some preaching there.

I think the guy isn’t so much motivated by the Holy Spirit as he is the Almighty Dollar. But that’s just my opinion, and I am generally skeptical of mega church pastors.

I’m not dismissing what Franklin has to say about fasting, but I just caution you to be a tad more critical of preachers such as him.

This is always the problem with charismatics. I don’t know why it doesn’t hit non-charismatics so hard. They’re just as subject to temptation. But somehow, you don’t see Catholic priests with their own jets, or Baptists with fleets of luxury cars. If there are examples out there, I don’t know about them. The Pope has pretty spiffy digs, but he can’t control the wealth of the church the way an independent preacher can.

I took a look at Franklin’s website, and he was asking people for a “seed” of one thousand dollars, to get God moving in their lives. I just can’t buy into that, no matter how much I liked the book. I think preaching prosperity and health is fine, and I think these things are linked to giving, but if I were doing the preaching, I would just say “give” and leave out the phrase “to me.” The Bible talks a great deal about giving to the poor. It doesn’t mention a single prosperity preacher, to my knowledge. It says we should give tithes and quality offerings, but I can’t think of anyone in the Bible who was asked to give a “miracle seed gift of fifty shekels” in order to receive “a hundredfold return.” And I’m pretty sure the people who received the tithes and offerings weren’t living like kings.

I like Perry Stone a lot. He has an informative, interesting show. He believes in prosperity and miracles and so on. But he refuses to beg. Every show has a commercial for a DVD or something. That’s fine. Air time costs money, and I think he really believes his products are helpful. But you never see him whining about how the devil is about to repossess his Bentley because the old grannies on Social Security aren’t sending him enough money. You never see him say “Give me x, and God will give you y.” He claims God will not permit him to ask for money. Corrie ten Boom said the same thing.

Gamaliel said it was a bad idea to oppose the Apostles. He said that if God wasn’t with them, they would fail, but if he was with them, the Jewish authorities would find themselves fighting God. Doesn’t the same sort of idea apply to ministries? Would God tell you to start a TV ministry and then require you to moan and cry for money? If God is with you, presumably, you’re going to win. If you lose, doesn’t that mean he was not on board?

I thought things were improving in the charismatic churches, and they are, but there is still a ways to go. I much prefer Robert Morris’s approach. He preaches about prosperity all the time, but he does not ask for money. And he never says he’s the person you should send your money to. Now that I think about it, I have no idea how he pays for air time. I wouldn’t know how to donate to him if I wanted to. I received his book when I joined my church, and I watch his show as part of basic cable, and my sister gave me some of his DVDs. Now I’m starting to feel sorry for him. But he has a big church with an astounding, world-famous music team.

Another point in his favor: he doesn’t claim “prosperous” equals “rich.”

If he keeps this up, he’s going to offend a lot of religious broadcasters.

I think you’re supposed to give where you see a need. Does a rich TV preacher need my money? You can give a relatively small amount to a Christian charity and immunize a whole brigade of kids for life. After you’re dead, you will still be blessing them. You can move an Ethiopian Jew from a filthy camp to Ben Gurion Airport. Change his life forever. Isn’t that better than paying to upgrade the silver faucets in some preacher’s mansion? If they showed that they were doing something worthwhile with the money, I’d be more understanding, but it looks like it all goes into their businesses and their salaries. Many charities give over 80% of their gross to the needy. That’s not bad.

I still like the fasting book.

Latest Tool of Renewal

Saturday, August 29th, 2009

Read This Book

I got a fascinating book today, on my sister’s recommendation. Jentezen Franklin’s Fasting. I suppose you can guess what it’s about.

Franklin runs a church in northern Georgia. Every year, his congregation starts things off with a 21-day fast. They don’t all fast, and not all of them fast for 21 days, but during the first 21 days of the year (or maybe the 21 before New Year’s; I forget), they are encouraged to fast, and many of them do.

Some of the book is about “toxins” and the supposed health benefits of fasting. I take that stuff with a grain of salt. There is a lot of mythology about mystical substances the body supposedly contains, which can be expelled via sweating or enemas or fasting or eating vegetables or drinking olive oil or who knows what else. I have never seen a respected physician mention these things, and I am not as confident in this business as Franklin is. Other parts of the book are about the spiritual benefits of fasting. This is different. This is within his area of expertise, so I have no reason to doubt his knowledge or inspiration.

I got about halfway through the book this afternoon, and it was an exciting read. He confirmed that my experience was not unusual. People who fast and pray are often delivered from hard-to-control urges. I knew fasting was associated with exorcism, but casting a demon out of another person is not the same as being delivered from your own compulsions.

He pointed out that one of Sodom’s major sins was gluttony. Look at Ezekiel 1:49-50. It’s not clear in some translations, but The Complete Jewish Bible actually uses the word “gluttony” in that passage. In addition to sexual perversion, the Sodomites didn’t do charity, they were lazy, they were arrogant, and they didn’t fast. He noted something else, which I had never seen taught before. Most charismatics are familiar with the passage from Joel which predicts a wave of Holy-Spirit baptisms (Joel 2:28). What I did not realize is that this, and other blessings, are conditioned on fasting (Joel 2:15). See for yourself.

One of the exciting things about Biblical interpretation is seeing how a passage translated with words that seem to mean one thing can actually mean something different, which is more illuminating. Franklin mentioned a Psalm passage which, in the context of his book, seems to suggest I’m not the only one who feels isolated from God during a fast. Take a look at Psalm 42:

1 As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God.

2 My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God: when shall I come and appear before God?

3 My tears have been my meat day and night, while they continually say unto me, Where is thy God?

If you don’t have fasting in mind when you read this, it sounds like purple prose and melodrama. Today, to me, this sounds like a person who is fasting and who feels distant from God during the process. If your tears are your food, presumably, you’re not eating. If you thirst for God, presumably, you feel as if he is far away. This passage reminds me of Psalm 63, which seems to describe charismatic prayer and worship.

Franklin’s book also seems to reveal a striking similarity between actions urged by the Rosh Hashanah prayer (which I have been writing about this week) and the main obligations of a Christian. Orthodox Jews believe that on Rosh Hashanah (first day of the religious year for Jews), God decides what each person’s fate will be during the coming year, and they believe he seals this fate in his book in heaven on Yom Kippur. On Rosh Hashanah, Jews recite the Unetaneh Tokef, a prayer which confirms this. The end of the prayer indicates that a year of punishment (possibly in the form of death) can be avoided: “But repentance, prayer and charity avert the harsh decree.” Franklin states: “The three duties of every Christian are giving, praying, and fasting.”

Did he have the prayer in mind when he wrote that? There is no indication in the book. But look at the remarkable similarity. “Giving” expresses the fundamental duty to be generous, which includes charity as well as support for the church. Both sentences mention prayer. Fasting is not synonymous with repentance, but I think it’s safe to say that all fasting is repentance, even if not all repentance takes the form of fasting. All fasting is a turn away from earthly concerns and toward Godly ones.

It’s even more remarkable, when you consider the purpose of fasting. When you fast, you are trying to get God to give you relief. Maybe you’re not trying to get relief in advance, as you would prior to Rosh Hashanah, but the principle is the same. You want to be moved out of your current problems or out of the path of future difficulties.

Here’s something that will disturb lots of people. He says fasting is necessary for all of us, as a normal part of Christian life. He makes a good argument. For one thing, he notes that Jesus considered fasting important for his own ministry. It would be pretty odd if he had to fast 40 days in order to do his job, and the rest of us didn’t have to fast at all. Second thing: Jesus said his disciples would fast when he was gone. He told certain Pharisees that the disciples weren’t fasting while the bridgegroom was with them, but that they would later.

I guess you can file the above paragraph under “tough love.” Sorry. Don’t shoot the messenger.

If it will help ease the blow, Franklin notes that partial fasts have value. Daniel got a lot done by refusing certain foods, for example. This may be a good time for me to announce that I’m giving up liver, cheap beer, margarine, raw oysters, sour milk, moldy bread, and soy burgers. I hope that pays off.

It occurred to me as I read this that the power of partial fasting may be one explanation for kashrut. Kosher food isn’t particularly healthy, as a quick glance around a shul will reveal. And it’s not always clear why God chose the foods he did. But if Franklin is right, keeping kosher is a lifelong partial fast, and it’s something that has to bring a certain amount of blessings. Jews say it’s primarily about obedience. If so, that seems to make it a kind of fast.

There was some very encouraging stuff in the last pages I read. Franklin says people have influenced the health and even the behavior of loved ones by fasting. That’s phenomenal, because it’s generally much harder to get healing and character changes for others than it is for yourself. And some sick people are not well enough to fast on their own behalf. I guess this makes sense. Job offered sacrifices for his children.

I’ve written a little about the significance of forty-day-long periods of self-denial in the Bible, but Franklin brings up some which I had either forgotten or never noticed. Elijah fasted forty days. The Ninevites were called on to fast for forty days. I’m too lazy to look all the examples up, but they made an impression on me.

It’s so strange that I’m learning all this during the Forty Days of Teshuvah, prior to Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. What better time to get a major revelation about fasting? Especially with my sister in such need. Her chemotherapy started as the forty days were beginning. Maybe I can be of more help to her than I thought.

The TV hucksters of the Eighties and Nineties did the church a disservice by suggesting that Christians were supposed to be spoiled little gods who always got what they wanted. But they were right to think we were supposed to be powerful. There is more to our lot than suffering and forgiving and being persecuted and then dying in the gutter, broke, single, and covered with sores. Life is a war, and war brings wounds, but it also brings victories, doesn’t it?

I am going to have to schedule some fasts. There is no way around it. I don’t think I’ll ever stop being miserable when I fast. I really hate it. You will never see me write a bunch of BS about how fasting makes me feel all holy and sanctified and lightened of my earthly concerns. I can’t believe it when other people make claims like that. Are they for real? It gives me a terrible headache, my breath smells, I get anxious and depressed, and all I think about is food. There’s my inspiring testimony; hope you admire me and wish you were as holy as I am. I have never enjoyed fasting. But now I have something to motivate me. If I can change myself permanently and break out of ruts and plateaus by fasting, I want to do it. If I can help other people who are in real trouble, I want to do it. I don’t know how much I can write about it, because I don’t want to end up doing it for attention and approval. Maybe what I’ve written already will be helpful. If I can get people to look at this book, I don’t need to write anything more.

My Soul Shall be Satisfied as With Marrow but not Fatness

Saturday, August 29th, 2009

I Hope

I live for Saturday. Or at least I used to. I watched my calories all week, and then on Saturday, I let it all hang out. And I always started with a big greasy McDonald’s breakfast. It was a major event in my week. When I went to bed on Friday nights, I would lie there and think about breakfast.

This week I fasted, and when it was over with, I just didn’t seem to be as interested in food as I had been before. I tried to celebrate the end of the fast by stuffing myself, but I couldn’t finish the junk I got for myself. Yesterday, it continued. I didn’t get particularly hungry, and I didn’t feel shaky or weak or crabby. Last night I felt as if the trend would continue in the morning. I wondered if that could be true.

Today I got up and found I had no interest in McDonald’s. Instead I decided to take my dad to breakfast, and I had a nova platter. Not asceticism by any means, but very modest compared to McMuffins, oily biscuits, and deep-fried potatoes. Not to mention the large Coke I did not drink. I just used the McDonald’s website to calculate the calorie total of my usual meal, and it’s about 1600.

I’m not sure that I feel quite as relaxed as I did over the last couple of days. If I’ve lost anything, I want to get it back. I am willing to fast again. I am almost eager to do it. That’s amazing. It’s like looking forward to a root canal.

Skinny people claim fat people have no discipline, but that’s deceptive, because skinny people have no discipline, either, and they’re still skinny. Fat people are different. Something drives us. After a fat person has had more than enough, something still makes him crave one more biscuit. One more slice of pizza.

Are there spirits that cause it? Could be. They exist, and they do affect our behavior. Whatever the explanation is, I feel a lot better than I did a week ago. This is one of those blessings you hesitate to believe in, because it’s so big, it would be terrible to see it turn out to be a mirage. I would love knowing I would never have to have two sets of clothes. There are so many annoying things about being overweight, even if you’re not obese. Thin people can’t understand. It would be fantastic if I could forget about dieting for the rest of my life. I would love knowing I would never have to face the discouragement of relapse ever again. And the health benefits would be welcome. I don’t want to end up on blood pressure pills or insulin. I want my back to be strong and pain-free, and I don’t want plastic knees. I want to know that fat won’t slowly destroy my brain by cutting off my air as I sleep.

We’ll see how it goes. I hope I end up with a testimony that can help other people with their failings.

What Was I Planning to do When I Got Here?

Friday, August 28th, 2009

Bet it was Important

It’s late and I am not going to sit up blogging, but I thought I should inform the world that I got my rotary table situated today. Try to contain your joy.

Here’s a tip. If you buy a 10″ Phase II rotary table with a matching chuck and backplate, do not expect the T nuts they pack with the chuck to fit the rotary table. All three of mine were almost exactly seven thousandths too wide at the top. And I found this out after removing my carefully aligned vise from the mill and putting the rotary table and chuck on it (total weight roughly 150 pounds).

I had to take that mess off, put the vise back on, align it, and cut the T nuts down with an end mill.

I put the rotary table back on, centered it, saved the zero on the DRO, mounted the chuck, and used a centering indicator on an end mill mounted in the chuck with the shank end up. By beating the chuck with a soft hammer, I was able to get the mill centered so accurately I was not able to detect any error. I can’t figure that out. I wasn’t able to center the rotary table that accurately, and the chuck was on the table, so you would think the error in the table’s placement would make it impossible to have a part rotate perfectly beneath the spindle. Go figure.

So now it looks like I have a 3-jaw chuck on a rotary table, mounted on my milling machine with extreme precision.

The following question occurs to me: now what?

Quick and Dirty

Friday, August 28th, 2009

Two Items

Reader Ruth just sent this:

My grandson is scheduled to leave for Afghanistan tomorrow. If his wife goes into the hospital for their first baby before he leaves the ground, he comes home for family leave. Her doctor visit this morning showed she was in some sort of prelabor but not hospital worthy yet. Please pray this baby gets her into the hospital before tomorrow. My grandson might not make it home in time but could be there shortly after.
Thanks, Ruth

Also, reader Ed has a blog. I am trying to get something done at the moment, so I haven’t seen it yet, but I feel safe in saying you will not be offended or get in trouble if you click the link.

I am trying to get my butt in the garage and work on arranging the clutter. Maybe I can squeeze in an hour or two if I’m lucky.

More

From Ruth:

Eliot’s deployment has been put off until Tuesday! The doctor actually expects the baby to come before then. So my sister who said, lets just pray the baby comes when it is best for it, showed us the way to make it so Eliot doesn’t leave in 24 hours. Yeay!

Starving Your Demons

Friday, August 28th, 2009

My Unlikeliest Hobby

I thought this morning it might be interesting to ask about people’s experiences with fasting.

Fasting is a necessary part of Christian life. The New Testament makes it clear over and over. I cannot say I am thrilled about it. Anyone who has been reading my writing for more than six months knows I like food. After all, I wrote the world’s unhealthiest cookbook. In the minds of many Christians, whether or not they acknowledge it, overeating is the one physical pleasure God doesn’t restrict, so they cram the food in with both hands. And many of us fast pretty badly. We do things like going a whole day eating only nuts. That’s not much of a fast. Nuts are little packages of fat and carbs. If you want to eat something higher in calories than nuts, you pretty much have to chew sticks of butter.

I have also heard of people fasting with regard to certain foods, like meat or soft drinks. Again, not very impressive. I can go a day without meat and eat like a king. Cheese pizza has no meat in it. Neither does apple pie. Now I’m making myself hungry, and all I have in front of me is oatmeal.

I guess I cite Perry Stone a lot these days. I can’t help it. I really enjoy his work. His take on halfhearted fasting is that God notices it, but that real fasting is better. I guess that must be right. The Bible is full of things that could be considered partial fasts. Samson could not drink wine. The Jews have kashrut. And Jews have all sorts of temporary dietary and behavioral restrictions they observe during the year. I can’t say a partial fast is a bad thing, but surely, when you want real results, you’re better off doing it right.

The Jews don’t even drink water during their fasts. That’s pretty tough. The Bible says Jesus went forty days. Did that include refusing water? If so, wow. I just checked a survival site which lists 10 days as a likely estimate of the time it takes to die from thirst.

I fast on occasion, although I drink water, and sometimes I permit myself unsweetened, no-calorie liquids. While many people talk about how fasting makes them feel close to God, I find that it makes me feel farther away. My head hurts. I don’t think well. I get depressed and anxious. When I pray, I feel alone. The first day is the worst. The second day is not fun. I can’t remember what the third day is like, because it has been a very long time since I went three days. They say things get better once your body adjusts.

Am I the only one who feels this way? They say fasting is a method of afflicting yourself, so I suppose it would make sense. I find that I don’t feel like praying when I fast, because the effort of concentration is too unpleasant. I try to force myself. I often do a poor job.

My best guess about fasting is that there are two types. First, maintenance fasting. You fast once in a while, even when things are going well, just because you should. Second, fasting in order to get help with a problem. Maybe someone gets sick or your business is in trouble or you can’t get along with your wife. You fast and pray to get God to fix it. Maybe the type of fasting Jesus did is a third type. Fasting to change your character permanently and make you a better person.

I don’t like to talk about things I do which could be considered pious or righteous, except in a general way. If I do something good, I want to be sure I didn’t do it so people would hear about it and tell me how great I am. But I think that sometimes it’s okay to mention things, if I think it can help other people.

I fasted recently, and now that it’s over, I have a surprising result. I don’t feel like the same person. There are certain bad things I feel much less inclined to do, and I don’t understand it. Here’s a funny example. At the end of the fast, I got myself some ice cream, because I was very eager to put the fast behind me, feel normal again, and have a little reward. But I didn’t finish the ice cream. I ended up throwing out part of it. I don’t know if you can understand how odd it is for me to buy a pint of ice cream and not finish it. Especially after a fast. But it happened.

I feel more relaxed. More certain about the future. Less concerned about fulfilling my earthly desires. Less angry. This is the first time I’ve ever noticed any difference in me after a fast. Is this the reward we should be shooting for when we fast, or am I just having a temporary change in mood?

From reading the Bible, I get the impression that fasting is supposed to purify us. Not just fasting, but periods of deprivation, generally. For example, the Jews wandered in the desert for forty years, and when they emerged, they had been cleansed of the individuals who offended God by refusing to trust him. Jesus emerged from his forty-day fast in the desert (preceded by his baptism with water and the Holy Spirit) with new power. He started working miracles and teaching with authority. Maybe fasting is supposed to rid us of inclinations (whether our own or imposed by hostile spirits) that drive us to sin.

I’m not saying I’m totally repaired now, but I can see a difference in myself, and it’s significant. I almost hate to say this, but for the first time in my life, I find myself somewhat eager to fast again, to see what else I can get out of it. I don’t like to think about unpleasant duties, because I’m always afraid God will start urging me to do them. When I consider fasting, I find myself hoping God won’t get on board and motivate me to do it, because it’s so unpleasant. But if I can expect it to change me like this, it will be hard to resist.

As for my infatuation with food, I’m starting to wonder if stuffing myself is like getting drunk. It’s okay to have a beer. Drunkenness is a sin. Maybe food works the same way. I hope not! But it probably does. The Bible condemns gluttony over and over. The book of Proverbs says it leads to poverty.

Gluttony is a tough thing to beat, because you can’t give up food entirely, so the temptation will always be in front of you. And gluttony comes over you while you’re eating in a compelling way, as if you’re changing into another person. It’s not a mild urging. It’s extremely powerful. While you’re under its spell, it’s as if your entire personality and all your priorities have changed.

I still think it’s okay to have good food, but it would be nice if, for the rest of my life, I could stop eating when I’ve had enough instead of when I can’t jam any more in or when the waitress hits me with pepper spray. I’ve been behaving well lately, but on Saturdays I give my diet a rest, and there have been excesses.

If anyone who reads this has any input regarding their own fasting experiences, I would love to have some comments about it. This might be a very big deal and an extremely useful practice, if the benefits I perceive are real and lasting. Over and over, we are told we’re supposed to fast, but the things I’ve read about the beneficial results are extremely vague and unconvincing. If it can change a person’s character, it’s not just a good idea; it’s a gift the value of which cannot be overstated.

I believe in free will. So do most Christians. Aaron says the Jews believe you can enter a state in which you have no free will. That makes sense to me. I don’t think it’s wrong to say a crack addict or even a cigarette smoker has lost his or her free will. At the very least, they are subject to extreme temptation, the likes of which non-addicts don’t face. Perhaps one of the purposes of fasting is to rid yourself of compulsions you can’t resist. Maybe this is why Jesus had to fast for forty days before he was given real power. If that is true, then presumably, a modern Christian can get God’s power by fasting. God prefers not to hand out machine guns to monkeys. Power without self-control destroys us. Maybe we are supposed to fast in order to render ourselves suitable to receive increased strength and blessings. That would be fine with me. Fighting my own nature with my own nature is a tough battle, as is fighting adversity with my limited tools. I want all the help I can get.

I used to think the baptism of the Spirit and prayer in tongues were the main things that changed people’s natures, but I think I’ll have to add fasting to that list. I would rather add fishing or going to the gun range or eating pie, but I don’t make the rules.

This may be a big, big deal. Let me know what you think.

Funny how I happened to write this during the forty Days of Teshuvah.

Poponomics: God Cribbing from Lenin?

Wednesday, August 26th, 2009

Strangest Bedfellows Outside of California

I got a disturbing email today. I don’t keep up with developments in the Catholic Church, but it looks like the Pope has put out a 141-page document calling for central control–with enforcement power–of the world’s economies. And he wants it to be based on altruism, which means socialism. The document came out in July.

This is dangerous development. To people who think the Pope’s infallibility goes beyond religion, and there are hundreds of millions of them, it makes it seem as though God is a socialist. If God is a socialist, he is even more forgiving than we thought, considering how socialists have always treated him.

Whatever the Pope’s authority may be in matters of religion, he clearly is not the person to ask about economics or politics. Imagine the shape the United States would be in, if we had to pay taxes determined by the envious citizens of other nations. This is exactly what socialists and hostile Muslims in other countries want. The socialists want to harness our wealth, but they would end up destroying our power to create it. The Muslims know it would ruin us; that’s exactly why they’d be behind it. Isn’t this pretty much what goes on right now, in the UN?

He seems to think the sin of greed caused our economic problems, and he feels that “greed” equals “capitalism.” He is apparently unaware that Bill Clinton and the Democrats forced lenders to take on borrowers who were certain to default, or that these bad loans are the single biggest reason for our current problems. The free market was working pretty well before Fannie Mae wrecked it. And the damage was done in the name of social justice. Exactly the same policy the Pope is recommending. He doesn’t seem to understand that people in positions of power do not operate altruistically just because it’s in their job descriptions. Maybe he needs to review the biographies of a few of his predecessors, to understand the possible contrast between a man’s title and his actions. Popes have failed where he expects politicians to succeed.

One of the great things about Jesus is that he was never a political leader. The disciples were just like the Pope. They wanted it all now. Jesus disappointed them, and when he died, they thought they had failed. They thought religion would provide them with a perfect world government and an all-powerful king who would humiliate and punish the Romans. Jesus understood that true righteousness can’t be imposed from above. It’s strictly grassroots. He didn’t live to punish the Romans and rule on earth. He died to rule in our hearts and in heaven.

God told the prophet Samuel that it was a mistake for Israel to have a king, because kings would be very harsh. I think the message can be extrapolated to apply universally. Governments are corrupt and disagreeable, because they are human institutions. This is apparently man’s punishment for choosing secular rule. Government isn’t something to trust and rely on. It’s something to dominate, limit, and treat with the same respect–if you can call it that–you would give a rattlesnake. The Third Reich wasn’t a business. It was a government.

Satan told Jesus all government was in his power, and it appears to be true, because Jesus did not deny it. If the Pope gets his wish, we’ll just end up with UN-style corruption augmented with Soviet-style power. The result will be totalitarianism plus poverty. You can’t have freedom or prosperity unless property rights are protected. When you control the money, you control everything. Central economic control is the same thing as central government. Period. Saying you want to control a person’s money but not his life is like saying you only want to put one of his thumbs in a vise. Like the thumb, the money will enable you to control the entire man. Ask Robert Byrd or Nancy Pelosi. This is how they got control of the states.

I can’t understand how the Pope can be this naive. Is it because of his cloistered lifestyle? Does he even have a checking account? What if the prevailing government is Muslim and persecutes Catholicism? What if it’s socialist (clearly what he prefers) and continues the socialist tradition of trying to abolish religion? And if we are forced to do charity, on pain of being jailed for disobeying the law, where is the virtue in giving to the poor? Is their maintenance more important than the existence of true charity? If man’s material needs were more important than free will and the righteousness that comes from using it correctly, God would have arranged the world a lot differently. Jesus flatly stated that we would always have the poor with us. He had all of God’s resources behind him, yet there were poor people–many of them Jews–while he lived. That tells us something about his priorities.

Where have socialism and Catholicism ever gotten along? Who paid for the Vatican? Who funds Catholic charities? Who made the Catholic Church the biggest landowner in New York City? Not socialism. Not a central world government. It was God-fearing individuals, making willing contributions. Who will replace their money when the Pope’s system goes into effect and kills all the golden geese? Who will keep churches open? Who will pay for monasteries and convents? Fidel Castro used to force priests to do manual labor, because they were considered parasites. Picture the Pope holding a dirty shovel. Nobody wants to see that.

I am trying to sit on my tendency to criticize denominations, but this story needs more exposure, so I’m writing about it. Some Christians think the Catholic Church is headed in a very bad direction, much as it is widely believed (even among Jews) that Judaism was a mess two thousand years ago. Perry Stone has hypothesized that it may be moving in the very direction the Pope’s writing indicates: toward the establishment of a central authority that will enforce some extremely misguided policies.

I try not to get too excited about eschatology, because for 2000 years, it has been proven wrong about as consistently as, oh, raising taxes to end poverty and stimulate growth. It tends to be right about generalities and wrong on details. But it’s unnerving to see the Pope write something which tends to support the speculation. There are a whole lot of Catholics in the world, and it would be a bad thing if they became convinced that central government would benefit mankind and please God. To me, central government smacks of the Tower of Babel. I think there is a reason man has never managed a political unification. I think God will not permit it until the end of the world, and when he does, it will not be so he can commend it.

I would really like to know what the Pope thinks of Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez. That would firm up my opinion of him, whether for good or bad.

Is There Such a Thing as a Small Miracle?

Wednesday, August 26th, 2009

If Man Can’t do It, It Must be Big

Sometimes things that happen in my relationship with God make me laugh. One of the things I find funny is his way of doing miracles that are very, very small, yet no less valid than big miracles. God parted the Red Sea for the Jews, and it made a big impression on people, as it should have. But what if you’re eating breakfast, and God turns your pancakes into waffles? I don’t know why you would pray for a thing like that, although waffles are definitely better than pancakes, but let’s say you did, and it worked. Still a miracle, right? All the scientists in all the world couldn’t do it, no matter how much money Obama gave them to fund the research. It would still be proof of God’s existence and his ability to transcend the laws of nature. At the very least, it would prove the existence of supernatural forces.

I guess I shouldn’t use the word “miracles” loosely. Today I’m thinking primarily about something which is only borderline miraculous. God keeps telling me where my stuff is. Really quickly.

The other day I wrote about this. I keep having this happen to me: an item is lost, and as I am praying for help in finding it, and before the prayer is complete, I see the item. It’s spooky. Last week, I had a funny experience where I was reluctant to pray, because I was afraid my “lucky” streak would be broken.

Last night, my sister called. She had lost her cell phone somewhere in her neighborhood. She asked me to call over and over so she could walk around and listen for the ring. After maybe twenty minutes of this, she called and said she hadn’t found it. I advised her to call her provider and see if they could find it using GPS, but when she called them, they claimed it had no GPS.

I don’t know why it took so long for me to think of prayer. I told her about my recent successes, and I said I would pray.

I was involved in something, and I forgot for a while, and then I remembered. Maybe five minutes later, I received a call from her cell number. I asked when she had found the phone, and she told me “a few minutes ago.”

I wouldn’t tout it as a miracle, but it was pretty good.

The one undeniable miracle I have received was the instant healing of a bizarre upper respiratory problem, back in 1987. I’ve had other little healings, but no others that were instantaneous and accompanied by strange sights. When I was healed in 1987, as I have said before, I saw something dark emerge from my body and fly away. Do you have to see the Red Sea parted in order to believe? I don’t. A miracle is a miracle.

I told her today that I believed our family was under attack because we were turning back to God, and I apologized for not taking a better attitude about it. We are being pitted against each other, and if we give in to it, we may lose the battle. Sometimes when you think someone isn’t behaving the way they should, you have to let it go and count on God to make it right and reward your effort and your faith. So I’m going to try to do better.

Powerful answers to prayer, including miracles, are not all that rare. People in Spirit-filled churches get ridiculed a lot because of the excesses and failures of preachers who claim God heals others through them. That’s very sad, because while some people publicly proclaim their healings and then die later, others are indisputably healed. Or delivered from addiction or released from prison or given other blessings that can’t be explained absent supernatural action. It doesn’t always happen in front of TV cameras, and there isn’t always a preacher involved, and it’s not always cancer or blindness or paralysis. Sometimes it’s the flu or a boil or an earache. Still happens.

If I had a life-threatening problem, it would not occur to me to go to a special place like Lourdes or to make a pilgrimage to the church of a TV evangelist. I don’t think those things are necessary. That would be a little bit like a franchise operation. The idea that God only acts through “official” and “authorized” channels is very human. It does not strike me as spiritual. It seems to presuppose limitations on God, and to distance him from rank and file believers. James said to have church elders anoint the sick and pray for them. Ordinary people. He didn’t say to seek him or another famous man of God out and give a tremendous cash “love gift.” He didn’t say it was necessary to go to the Pool of Siloam or dip yourself seven times in the Jordan.

I know we are set under earthly authorities, and we’re not supposed to be anarchists, but sometimes we overdo it and try to put God in a box. We try to make him operate the way a human business operates.

For a while, I’ve had the feeling that something very good was about to happen to me. I am wondering if this new attitude toward the problems attacking my family is the thing I was expecting. I thought it might be an opportunity to use my talents for God, or some other obvious blessing, but maybe it’s just an inner change that will break me out of a spiritual “plateau.” That would be a great thing. You can’t build a house without a foundation.

We are having problems. That means we have opportunities. I have to think of it that way in order to profit.

I hate to compare Christianity to dieting, but maybe it’s a valid way of looking at it. Maybe there are plateaus.

Keep an eye on your cell phones. I’m a busy guy.

The Game Changes

Tuesday, August 25th, 2009

Forgot Something

The other day I wrote about the way grief works when you have a relative with a serious health problem. It comes and goes. Sometimes you can’t feel it, and I think that can be very helpful, because it gives you needed rest. Grief takes energy, and it’s unpleasant to endure. I’ve had a pretty good week, and I think my sister has, too. We have gotten sidetracked by trivial things, and while they were annoying at the time, I can see now that there was a blessing in them. The bigger issues didn’t weigh on us as heavily as they otherwise might have.

I was just reminded that she has not had a bone scan or a cranial MRI. I believe her doctor told us this last week, but I was just tagging along, and I wasn’t taking notes, and I stupidly assumed there was someone in the mix who was orchestrating all aspects of her diagnosis and treatment. That turned out to be untrue. Learn from my mistake if you have to deal with cancer. Apparently you have to be the mastermind who coordinates everything, because doctors break things down into compartments, and they don’t necessarily keep track of other people’s responsibilities. I guess this is how they end up amputating healthy legs and giving sex changes to people who show up for tummy tucks.

From what this family went through with my mother and my aunt, I know how important these baseline diagnostics are. I don’t want to go into details, but these are things that can completely change the lay of the playing field.

I told my father not to worry about it, and I didn’t go into my reasons for being disturbed by the news, and I’m going to try not to worry, either. I feel as though the rug has been pulled out from under us, but knowing a test hasn’t been done is not the same thing as knowing the result will be unfavorable.

I would appreciate it if people would pray. Not just that my sister will be healed or that the test results will be good, but that the three of us will draw closer and work together peacefully, and that we will draw closer to God, determine which aspects of our lives need to be changed, and turn away from things that interfere with our relationship with him. I never, ever pray for anyone to be healed without praying they’ll reflect and repent as well, and I wouldn’t expect anyone who prays for me to behave differently.

Something tells me this is no different from the demonic attack I put up with when I decided to return to church in 1987. I might as well be a man and call it a demonic attack, because I saw the thing that came after me. I developed a mysterious cold-like illness that lasted weeks and weeks, and one day my faith overcame it, and I saw it leave me and fly away. And I was instantly cured. If that’s not a demon, nothing is.

I think my sister and I are supposed to achieve things for God–I don’t know what–and now that we’re trying to form a relationship and get our lives working, someone powerful is very angry or very afraid, and it wants to put a stop to it and put us in conflict with each other. I don’t care if that sounds crazy. A hundred years from now, I’ll be in a different place, with people who know I was right. Someone sent that thing after me in 1987. I know such things happen. Whatever being is behind this is after my father, too. It makes me angry, thinking about it.

I feel like a nut in a movie, trying to warn people about aliens or ghosts they can’t see. But this is real. This is the nature of the universe we live in.

Thanks for anything you’re willing to do.

Kim Chi Without Cabbage

Tuesday, August 25th, 2009

Lethal

I decided to avoid canning my peppers. I am fermenting them instead.

If you’ve ever tried kim chi, you know what I’m talking about. If you ferment vegetables with lactobacillus, they develop a nice sour taste and lots of aroma. Tabasco sauce is fermented, if the label is correct. I thought this would be better than using vinegar to give the peppers flavor.

It took me nearly forever, but I seeded a big pile of Tobago seasoning peppers, and I ran them through a food processor. I added garlic, a little water, some salt, some sugar, and some yogurt with live cultures.

When all is said and done, I think the product I’ll end up with will be inferior to the stuff I’ve made with Home Depot cayennes. Those peppers are naturally sweet and full of flavor. These are hot and less sweet, and the flavor doesn’t compare. The appeal of exotic peppers is not entirely based on reason. Some are fantastic, and some are just okay. If an ordinary cayenne is better, might as well admit it.

I read a couple of interesting things today. First, I saw part of an abstract from a medical journal, and it claimed fermented peppers in very small amounts inhibited weight gain. Wonder if that’s true. In a related matter, I saw a very disturbing article that says being obese or even slightly overweight can cause serious brain damage. Like I need that.

Here’s an excerpt:

A new study finds obese people have 8 percent less brain tissue than normal-weight individuals. Their brains look 16 years older than the brains of lean individuals, researchers said today.

Those classified as overweight have 4 percent less brain tissue and their brains appear to have aged prematurely by 8 years.

I have often criticized smokers who took up the habit or refused to quit after the cancer risk became known. Now the tables are turned. Will I be better than the people I looked down on? I sure hope so. I don’t want my brain to turn into Jell-O. I hope I still have a few working cells in place.

Something to think about, if you’re overweight.

In these Days of Teshuvah leading up to Yom Kippur, I am trying to repent of irresponsibility and laziness. I realize Gentiles are not bound by the Jewish law, but that’s beside the point. You shouldn’t have to be forced to do something which is obviously intelligent and pleasing to God. I see the peppers and limes I’m harvesting, and I feel like my obligation to be a good steward extends to them. I’m trying to put them to use. I managed to give some peppers away, too.

I am starting to remind myself of the old mountain women I knew when I was younger. They gardened. They ran small businesses. They did handicrafts. They went to church. They raised kids. They were like the righteous woman of Proverbs 30. I realize the comparison is a little off, because I’m a man, but the principles are the same. I’ve known a number of women like that, but the men tended to have fewer interests, as they devoted themselves to their jobs.

I am so much better than I used to be. I have a long way to go, but I’m glad I’m not what I was.

I’ll report on the peppers when and if they ferment.

Think I’ll Put the Cell Phone in the Freezer

Tuesday, August 25th, 2009

Space Needed

I’ve had a fun morning, attending to business involving my family and some property we own jointly. Acidman used to say there was no such thing as free sex. I would add that there is no such thing as passive income. Ask anyone who owns a rental house.

I am hoping to get my rotary table working. My sister is off chemo for two weeks, so things should be slow. I already popped the rotab onto my mill table, and I installed the chuck. I still have to put together a system for storing and moving it. The current fantasy involves a flat dolly made from a piece of plywood, plus a chain hoist or block and tackle above the mill. I already wrote about this. Keep the rotab and tailstock on the floor under the table. When needed, roll the dolly out under the hoist and raise the rotab to mill height. Should work.

No one will believe this, but I think I have finally acquired the bulk of the tooling that will be required to make me happy. Small purchases will never end, but I have reached a state where I have the stuff to do just about anything I want. I still need a horizontal band saw, but that’s not a big deal. Maybe I should pick one up today and get it over with. I already bought a good blade.

I still have to do something with the Tobago seasoning peppers I picked, and I have some other bushes that need to be dealt with. At least the lime trees gave me a rest today. Only one lime, and it was a little key lime.

I tried the prig ki nu mixture I made yesterday. I put garlic, salt, and vinegar in a squeeze bottle with red peppers, and within a couple of hours, the vinegar had absorbed a tremendous amount of heat. People say you should poke holes in peppers to make them soak up whatever you immerse them in, but I am not going to do that with several hundred tiny peppers. The vinegar seems to break them down a little and get inside them, so I don’t know if the holes are important.

This stuff would be much better if made with lime juice, but when I did that before, it got moldy, so forget that.

I think it’s a little too hot. I hate to say that. These aren’t my hottest peppers. Not even close. I still have Home Depot cayenne plants I bought because they were mislabeled, and those peppers are magnificent. They’re very sweet, and they taste almost like cherries, and the heat is more manageable. I should try the vinegar thing with them next time.

Looks like today will be uneventful, now that I have my business obligations behind me. I certainly hope so.

Is This a Peck?

Monday, August 24th, 2009

Maybe it’s a Hin

I am going to have to get a canner. I don’t know what else to do. I have read up on storing peppers, and while I think it’s okay to put them in vinegar and salt and refrigerate them for a few weeks, I can’t trust them for months or years. I just picked maybe a gallon of Tobago seasoning peppers off my tiny bush, and I left maybe 25% of the crop behind. I haven’t gone near the Trinidad Scorpions or Habanero Golds.

I never know whether to capitalize the names of fruit and vegetable varieties, so instead of taking three seconds to check, I have decided to capitalize randomly.

With any luck, I’ll also have lychees before too long, and I know they can be canned. And then there’s mango chutney.

Geez. Thank God you don’t have to can limes.

In a comment, Heather complimented me on my new gardening “abilities,” and Andrea Harris (no link due to impossibility of finding her blog) said she couldn’t believe I grew herbs in Miami. Hey, don’t fool yourselves. I have no idea what I’m doing.

I’m just glad I realized you don’t have to cut a whole bunch of bananas at once. These days I’m cutting off one hand at a time, so the rest stay fresh on the tree instead of all ripening within the same three-hour period.

Here are the Tobago peppers. Canning tips appreciated.

08 24 09 tobago peppers

Fruit Avalanche

Monday, August 24th, 2009

Can’t Keep Up

I am going through one of those times when you have to remind yourself that you will eventually be rewarded if you are treated badly.

As usual, I can’t give details. I find myself in a position where I’m being punished for trying to fix someone else’s mess. Barring divine intervention, it’s going to get much, much worse before it gets better. That’s all I can say. Remembering that someone is keeping accounts makes it a lot easier.

I am here because I wanted to put this up, regarding Heather’s mom:

Penny’s kidney function has deteriorated to 15%!
Her blood pressure has been up slightly today as well.
Please ask for her kidneys to healed.
Thanks & God Bless,
Heather

Reader Ruth says:

I have a prayer request for a friend of mine. She was just diagnosed with stage 4 lobular breast cancer. A devious one that is not seen with mammograms. It has spread to lymph glands and bones. Not a good prognosis.
I hate to lay another cancer on your prayer lists. but here it is. Her name is Sharon W. Her attitude is either denial or complete acceptance, I think the latter and she has a cheerful heart.

I didn’t want to put these up on or near a weekend. No one reads blogs on those days.

Today I’ve been putting lime juice up. The trees will not leave me alone. I put up a cup of key lime juice and over a cup of Persian lime juice. I freeze it in vacuum bags. I don’t know what to do with it.

I read something interesting last week. I forget where. Maybe Robert Morris. In the Bible, Jesus criticized certain people for tithing on things they had grown, like herbs, while forgetting things that were more important. I had not noticed that Jesus approved of the business with the herbs. He said something like, “this, you should have done.” Look it up. All I have ever noticed was the part about ignoring the weightier things. So it seems to me that it would be a good thing if I could give away some of the stuff I grow. I have given some away to the only person I know who can use it, but I am probably pulling 20 limes and a dozen key limes every week, and it piles up. I’m thinking of suggesting my church set aside a place where people can bring excess produce.

I also have enough rosemary to stuff a couch. And oregano. And thyme. And I don’t even want to talk about peppers. My banana trees are threatening to bury me in fruit over the next few months. You can only eat so many bananas without going insane.

I have to do something with the prig ki nu peppers I picked. I think I’m going to go to the store and buy a gallon of white vinegar. I have read that it prevents mold, unlike the lime juice I used to soak peppers in. Maybe I can get away with putting peppers in the fridge in vinegar and salt.

The dragonfruit is trying again. The fruit keep falling off. I hope this latest bud amounts to something. It might help if I took a shotgun and blasted the weedeater out of the yard guy’s hands.

I have papayas coming out of my ears, but they just don’t taste good. I should let the Salvadorans clean off the trees the next time they cut the grass.

Man, I miss the mangoes.

I’m off.

More

I had two bags of prig ki nu peppers. I had separated the red from the green. I just hit the grocery and brought back a jug of vinegar. I mixed it with salt, and I stuck the peppers in separate squeeze bottles and added the salted vinegar, plus some garlic. I didn’t have enough red peppers to fill a bottle, so I went outside for ten minutes and picked 0.0001% of the peppers on the prig ki nu bush. Now I have plenty.

I have a ton of Tobago seasoning peppers and habanero golds that are going to go to waste if I don’t do something, so I’m going to freeze a bunch of them.

Now all I have to remember is that I can’t put my hand anywhere near my eyes for two weeks.

Bring my Soul up From the Mosh Pit

Sunday, August 23rd, 2009

Quiet Christians go to Hell

Guess what the humidity level is here today. ONE HUNDRED PERCENT. I think if I stood in the front yard for half an hour, I’d come back covered with mold. When I run the garage air conditioner full blast, it only gets down to about 80, and it smells in there. Last night I had to use the rear defogger in order to see while the car air conditioner ran.

Man, this is nasty. The whole month has been rough. August is probably a great month for Miami burglars, because everyone goes on vacation to avoid the weather.

I don’t know if you’ve ever had this experience, but it has been so hot and bright here, there are days when I come inside out of the sun and sit in the air conditioning and still feel like the roasting rays are beating down on me. They get inside you somehow.

We are having a bizarre combination of rainy overcast days, and days when there are no clouds and the sun seems to chase you wherever you go. I can’t wait for the middle of September, when things should start to change.

Last night, a preacher named Allen Griffin spoke at church. I don’t recommend you visit his website, because it crashes Firefox. He was very good, but he has a habit which is not unusual with black preachers. Eventually, he starts to yell. I don’t like listening to yelling. It hurts my ears and prevents me from thinking. I believe we are supposed to think in church. I may be wrong.

If you have anything worthwhile to say, people will get excited even if you speak calmly. Maybe the phrase “still small voice” will ring a bell. I am hoping the church will eventually get away from screaming and sweating and raucous music. I know what the presence of God feels like, and it always decreases when the noise gets past a certain point. This is why I can’t stand Christian hard rock. If God is present when they play this crap, you only notice it between songs, when the racket dies down. And rap…rap is just stupid, regardless of the context and content. Christian rap is like Christian abortion. A bad idea no matter how you look at it. Why conform to the worst, most depraved lifestyle the world has to offer? I thought the idea was to get the world to conform to God’s ways.

I know you think Jesus was an O.G. I know you’re down with the Holy Ghost and you want to smack the devil up. Word. Really. But rap, by its sonic nature, is inherently expressive of a desire to be violent, arrogant, selfish, and abusive. It doesn’t matter what the words say, if the rest of the sound makes you feel like punching someone in the mouth and holding your gun sideways. Music expresses emotions completely independently from language. You don’t need obnoxious lyrics to make the music itself obnoxious. And telling us Jesus is your homey won’t make up for harsh, provocative sounds. Plus it makes you sound stupid. Jesus didn’t imitate the world. He went to bars, sure, but I doubt he played drinking games or stood on his head while chugging wine. He was there to influence, not to be influenced.

Some people manage to rap about God in a way that isn’t harsh or full of arrogance, but they’re so exceptional, I have to wonder if their success justifies the temptation that brings down the other 95%. Besides, if you perform a certain type of music successfully, you will end up associating with others in the same genre who are not Christians and who will try to make you conform. Then you find yourself in a sex video with Kid Rock, and people start citing your story as proof that Christianity doesn’t work.

I’ve noticed something about Christian performers influenced by rap. They hold their hands right next to their genitals. It’s disturbing. Rappers fondle themselves on stage all the time. It’s mandatory. Obviously, Christians influenced by rap are aware of this, and they want everyone to know they’re serious Christian gangsters, but they aren’t allowed to fondle themselves, so they move their hands two inches to the side and squeeze and pet their upper thighs. The difference may mean something to them, but to me, it says, “I want to fondle my genitals publicly, but Jesus won’t let me.” It’s like the difference between “nigga” and “nigger.” It doesn’t fool anyone. Just keep your hands away from your crotch. Nobody wants to see that in church. The whole time they’re doing it, you find yourself staring obsessively at that hand, wondering if it’s going to move to the center.

I will never understand the “nigga” thing. It’s like saying it’s okay to call a woman a “hore” or a “hoar,” but not a whore, because that’s totally different. Try this. Call the Secret Service and say you want to “murda” the President but not “murder” him. See if they think that’s okay.

A lot of people think getting emotional and screaming is evidence that God is near, but that’s crazy. God’s presence is not an emotional state. It’s something you feel, the same way you might feel a draft or a touch on your shoulder. It makes you calmer, not more agitated. It’s a big mistake to give people the idea that hollering and jumping up and down have something to do with the Holy Spirit. That kind of excitement lasts about ten minutes, and then it goes away, and your fuel is gone. And you can expect to do idiotic, regrettable, embarrassing things in that state. Your antics will offend people and prevent them from coming to church. The real thing lasts and doesn’t take anything out of you. Heathens all over the world work themselves into frenzies and take drugs and beat themselves with chains and whips. That’s human effort. It’s worthless and counterproductive. In Christianity, you don’t have to do those things. And you don’t have to yell.

I get so tired of being told I have to let out a big yell for God, or do a cartwheel, or break dance, or take part in a human pyramid, or bungee jump while playing the accordion with my hair on fire. Give it a rest, Pastor Shabba Doo. Let God do the work. Am I wrong? Sing, play instruments, raise your hands, praise God aloud…isn’t that enough? Seriously, I’m wondering when pentecostal churches will start buying trampolines. He who hits the church ceiling hardest is clearly most holy. Is it church or is it Church du Soleil?

I wish David had never danced. The attention-starved nuts get so much mileage out of that. They like dancing and yelling and acting up, so the rest of us have to like it, too, or we’re not holy. The message isn’t, “This will help you worship.” It’s, “I’m better than you because I carry on like George Michael.” Maybe the old lady in the back row isn’t doing rhythmic gymnastics like the really holy people, but perhaps she prays four hours a day, supports twenty charities, visits prisons and hospitals, takes in orphans, and has all four gospels memorized. Maybe you should quit telling her she’s letting God down by not making an ass of herself. Maybe you’re not super holy. Maybe you just really like putting on a show. Before you talk about the splinter in my eye, take the disco ball out of your own eye, St. John Travolta. Try to get back your deposit on that mechanical bull, cancel the synchronized swimming, and take down the trapeze. I didn’t come to church to see the Flying Wallendas. I have a feeling that 99% of the people who like dancing and acting insane in church are people who really loved doing these things before they became Christians. I doubt God has anything to do with it.

The Psalms say the meek will inherit the earth. I guess “meek” means “inclined to sing way too loud while jumping and prancing like a gay chicken on a hot plate on South Beach.”

Anyway, church was very good, even though they didn’t bring out the limbo bar or the Slip ‘n’ Slide. I guess I can stand a little yelling.