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Archive for October, 2009

Can Did

Saturday, October 31st, 2009

Tiny Jars of Magma

Okay, I have canned. Maybe.

I filled four half-pint jars with various peppers. I was going to use water and salt instead of vinegar, but I decided to use lime juice. I have so much. Why not use it? It doesn’t jar recipes the way vinegar does.

This pressure cooker is not easy to regulate. Apparently you have to twiddle the stove knob and find just the right position to get the pressure you want. This is not easy. It’s like steering a freighter. It takes a long time to respond, so you tend to over-correct. The canner spent a good deal of time at 14 psi, and then it spend some time at 9. The goal was 11, which I reached for most of the process.

There are things I don’t get. Headspace, for example. What happens if you screw up the headspace? I tried to leave an inch above the peppers, as per the recipe, but peppers stick up sometimes.

What’s the deal with air bubbles? The whole top of the jars were full of air. I’m not sure why I care whether there are bubbles elsewhere. I am trying to find out.

I didn’t can any Trinidad Scorpions. I realized half-pint jars are pathetic for peppers. You can get like eight of them in one jar. I’m going to use pints for the Scorpions. I figure I can put up at least two pints. What I’ll do with them, I can’t say. It might be fun to can them in pineapple juice instead of water or lime juice or vinegar. I don’t know what color the resulting deal will be, however.

I’m going to cool the jars down and see how they look. In a day or two I’ll open one to see what the peppers are like.

I have to make pork sausage! I have to. Surely you can understand that. And pickled beans. And pickles.

Maybe in a month or two, I’ll look into food dehydration.

Over McDonald’s Will I Cast Out my Shoe

Saturday, October 31st, 2009

No Biscuit Today

I love my weekly McDonald’s breakfast. I got in the habit back when I observed “fat day.” I limited my calories during the week, and then on the weekends, or just Saturday, I ate whatever I wanted. You can lose weight this way, but if you’re not careful, one day of gluttony can overcome six days of starvation, and you’ll add fat.

I don’t do fat day any more, but I still like to have my Mickey D’s on Saturday morning. My yankee uncle taught me that ketchup and eggs go together, and when I eat McMuffins and McDonald’s biscuits, I dip them in ketchup, and it’s heavenly. The rest of the week, I eat senior citizen fiber cereal, to avoid becoming a colonic casualty. Cereal is okay, but it’s not exciting.

Today I decided not to go to McDonald’s. Just because I had the power to say no. God delivered me from gluttony, and I’ve lost a lot of weight, but I’ve eaten a little more than I should on Saturdays, and I’m afraid I may have plateaued. I’m not having that. I want to lose thirteen more pounds. For the first time in my life, I have complete control over what I eat and drink, so I’m flexing my muscles and saying no.

I feel like I’m showing off, spiritually. Not to you, but to myself. It’s almost a snotty thing to do. I’m confident there are little beings assigned to me to make me overeat, and this is my way of shouting, “In your FACE.” I would rather enjoy that than have the food. Yesterday my sister said she wanted to get ahold of a demon some day so she could beat the tar out of it. What Christian hasn’t felt that way? I wish I could pummel one, too, but for now, I am enjoying frustrating them by not gorging.

I don’t care if I ever have another McMuffin. I suspect I will. I think you can bet on that. But if I don’t, I do not care. God has made McMuffins my McFootstool. I got something better than McMuffins.

Which is really saying something.

I picked up some canning equipment yesterday. It was either that or throw out a great number of hot peppers. I’m going to try to can them today. When you can stuff, you can do it at 212° for acidic foods or 245° for non-acidic foods. Acid keeps botulism down; if you don’t have acid, you need high temperatures to kill the spores. I don’t want to put vinegar in all my peppers, because it will affect the flavor when I use them in food. That means 245°, so I’ll have to use a pressure cooker.

I already had a pressure cooker, but it’s an expensive Magefesa with a small bottom. Not great for canning. I picked up a much cheaper Presto yesterday. I doubt it will get as hot as the Magefesa, but it will be fine for canning.

It amazes me that I found this stuff locally. No one cans in Miami. Everyone in Kentucky does it. There are some foods you pretty much have to can for yourself, if you want to have them at all. Pickled beans. Canned pork sausage (way better than it sounds). Sweet pickles that beat the daylights out of store brands. My grandmother and aunt and lots of other female relatives canned stuff. Some men up there can, too. Women aren’t the only ones who like food. Anyway, canning supplies would be easy to find anywhere in rural Appalachia, but finding them in Miami…that’s shocking.

The place I went to is called Goodman’s. I found it on Ebay, and I noticed they were in Miami, so I saw no point in doing mail-order. They were very helpful. The girl who took my order even carried my jars to the truck!

I think I’m supposed to get a special chemical to keep stuff crisp. Calcium chloride or something. Other than that, I’m all set.

My dad and my sister will be all excited. They miss home-canned stuff as much as I do. I can’t wait to try my hand at sausage. I loved that stuff. I thought I’d never see it again.

The jars are insanely expensive. I suppose intelligent people amass collections and take good care of them. I got 24 half-pints and 12 pints. I don’t think quarts are practical for me. Maybe if I start making tomato juice. If I could find ripe tomatoes, I could make incredible tomato sauce. Maybe I can use grape tomatoes. They’re fantastic, and they’re fairly cheap at Costco. Cheap enough to justify the effort.

I got a couple of pepper recipes. We’ll see how it goes. If it works out, beans and sausage and pickles won’t be far behind.

Jars not of Clay

Friday, October 30th, 2009

Local Find!

I can’t believe this.

1. I turned on my DVR’d Robert Morris show from yesterday, and it was all about grace. Same thing I wrote about today. He even mentioned Abraham, the same way I did.

2. I looked for canning supplies on Ebay, and I found a store…FIVE MILES AWAY.

Canning supplies? In Miami?

Amazing.

Leverage

Friday, October 30th, 2009

Get Someone Strong on Your Side

This morning I thought about what “good news” means, in the context of the Bible.

A lot of people still get enraged when you talk about the grace which comes via the baptism of the Holy Spirit. By “grace” I mean the God-given power to control your own behavior. They shout that every Christian gets filled with the Holy Spirit at salvation, and that it’s EVIL to say the devil makes you do things, and that it’s HERESY to say you need help changing your attitudes and actions or that God will supernaturally enable you to do these things.

Why do they get so upset? I think it’s because the god of this world hates the Holy Spirit message, and he goads them. He tells them a righteous and pious and holy person will not expect God to help him behave. You have to do it all yourself! You have to make pilgrimages on bloody knees. You have to be poor. You can’t have any fun. Suffer, suffer, suffer. Pleasure and success are for the next life.

What good is that message? Seriously. Is that “good news,” which is what “gospel” means? Good news, people! Accept Jesus, and you’ll go to heaven! Way off in the future! Until then, you’ll be poor and sick and miserable, and everyone else will have fun! Great news! Rejoice!

Come on. Be serious. That’s not good news. If eternal life is all you get, why not spend your entire youth having as much sex as possible, accumulating money, gorging on food, and binging on alcohol and drugs? That would seem to be the logical thing to do. Convert on your deathbed. The Bible says you can do that, so why bother now? Jesus promised eternal life to a career criminal who was hanging on a cross. That proves you don’t have to be good for a substantial period in order to make it.

You want to hear good news? I lost 17 pounds without trying, and I’m never going to be fat again. THAT is good news. God did that for me. And he does other stuff. God will take away your addictions and your diseases. He may not make you rich, but he will see to it that you are never poor. He will erase your debts. He will give you peace. He will defeat your enemies. He’ll help your family, too. You’ll have challenges and persecution, but you’ll have a victorious life. That’s good news. I think that’s what “gospel” really means.

My pastor says his dad told him something very perceptive. We preach eternal salvation, but most people aren’t thinking about that. They want to know how to make it to Thursday. I think I have it right; I don’t have him here so I can ask him.

Isn’t he correct?

Satan hates this message. I’m sure of it. He hates it because it brings God’s will from heaven to earth, which is Satan’s playground. Jesus prayed that God’s will would be done here “as it is in heaven.” That’s what happens when you get filled with the Spirit and God fixes your life and empowers you to teach others to get what he gave you. Obviously, Satan is going to bust his hump, persecuting people who acknowledge this before others. And he’s going to use the church to do it. Sour, pinch-faced, sanctimonious people in impressive robes will say, “Knock off that TBN talk. You have to do it all yourself, or it’s not righteousness.” They’ll think they’re helping God when they say that. And they’ve done a dynamite job for about 1800 years. They helped us achieve great things like the Inquisition.

The Bible says our “righteousness” is filthy rags, and it says salvation comes by faith. It doesn’t just say that about Christians. It says it about Abraham. Faith was imputed to him as righteousness. Faith is what put Isaac on the altar. You can say it was obedience, but which comes first? Who would obey a command that harsh without faith? I certainly wouldn’t. If I had been Abraham, and I had not had faith that God would make things right, I would have run back to Iraq and apologized to my demon idols. Our actions, performed in the limited power and limited knowledge of the flesh, are not what fixes our lives. You cannot free yourself from addiction or compulsion unless you are a truly rare and remarkable person (ask Jenny Craig), and you will still have other problems God would have fixed.

I think Christians are supposed to live well. I don’t mean we’re supposed to have huge homes and yachts. I think we’re supposed to be healthy, calm, optimistic, free of debt, and successful. You can’t have it on your terms, in the exact way you want it. You have to sell your soul to God and count everything you have as his. You have to repent, pray, fast, give, try to behave, and so on. You have to examine yourself over and over, as you would clean a boat’s hull to keep it moving without hindrance. But you CAN have it. I really believe that. If not, what exactly is the good news? If life is supposed to stink, I should pray I get struck by lightning, because otherwise, I have thirty or thirty-five years to go, and it will be a drag.

I’m trying to get the kinks out of the pipeline, so God can continue building me up. I am concerned that I am not sufficiently empathetic, which is a big deal, since a big part of my purpose is to help others. I have nagging iniquities I’m trying to get rid of. I expect to succeed, because I’m attacking these problems using God’s power more than my own. My own power never got me anywhere, and it wasn’t designed to. If a person is the Starship Enterprise, human effort is impulse power. The Holy Spirit is warp drive.

All I want right now is to see one person delivered from a chronic sin because he or she listened to me. That would be a fantastic start on the next stage of my life. Just one person. One fat person. One alcoholic. One smoker. One person who can’t stop gossiping or lying. One hothead (that’s a major sin and bondage). And I know a few people who need to get their butts to church. I hope I will be empowered to do what has to be done, in order to achieve that goal.

I got good news. I can’t be the only one who was supposed to get it.

Can a Stone Table Smoke?

Thursday, October 29th, 2009

Reaping

I got a nice email from Robert Morris. I used their contact info to send a message saying how much I had enjoyed and agreed with his work, and he emailed me personally and said this blog post (I had sent him a link) was “great.”

That was a good outcome. He didn’t call me a heretic or anything.

I’m reading his book on the power of words right now. Very sobering stuff. Things like gossiping, complaining, and criticizing can cause real problems for us. When you do these things, it’s like planting poison ivy in your yard. Problems arise later. If I can’t gossip, complain, or criticize, it almost amounts to a total ban on communication. I might actually forget how to write and talk.

He also noted that James advised us not to become teachers. The problem is that God holds teachers to higher standards. This is disturbing. I try to write about my testimony all the time, but it’s nearly impossible not to veer into amateur teaching.

Please forget everything I have ever written.

I don’t know if that will get me off the hook. It was worth a shot!

I keep thinking about fat Christians. I was afraid that I would come off like a judgmental kook, saying obese people are under bondage, and that where one bondage exists, others may be present, and that this might be a good reason to avoid accepting teaching from fat preachers. But the more I think about it, the more I think it’s right.

Addiction isn’t physical. It’s a mental illness. A cigarette smoker will say things that are just as crazy as the nonsense that comes out of moderately messed up mental patients. “The studies don’t prove anything.” “Some people can smoke forever and never get sick.” “I can’t quit until I get through this stressful problem I’m dealing with.” This stuff is pure idiocy. Fat people say, “I know how to lose weight. I just don’t do it.” “All men put on muscle after they hit thirty.” “I have big bones.” The dumbest thing they say is, “I’m on a diet.” If you’re on a diet, obviously, it’s a temporary solution. Fat is a permanent problem. Temporary can’t defeat permanent. You don’t need a diet. You need to not be a fat person any more. You need to have the fat person drive removed.

If food can make you think stupid things about food, who is to say something else isn’t making you think and say stupid things about religion?

So I am still leery of obese preachers.

Today I was watering my plants, and I realized I had to harvest some more peppers whether I wanted to or not. Here is the result.

10 29 09 produce including peppers and limes

The big ones are limes, obviously. The branches are from my gigantic prig ki nu bush, which I had to trim to save the habanero gold bush.

Here’s how it goes, in clockwise fashion. Yellow peppers: yellow habaneros. Next, habanero golds (hot, sweet, and delicious). Then Trinidad Scorpions. Then Tobago Seasoning peppers. Then assorted Home Depot cayennes and habaneros grown from seeds taken from Publix peppers. I didn’t harvest any prig ki nus other than the ones still stuck to the branches. There are a couple of Fatalii peppers in among the limes.

I throw limes out these days. I can’t keep up with the tree. The limes get ripe and start to rot before I notice them.

Is this the law of sowing and reaping, at work? Dunno. I gave the church offerings of every pepper you see here except for fataliis and Publix peppers. I gave limes, too. And here I am, with this pile of produce. My banana trees have two bunches on them, and a third just started growing. One of my plantain trees now has a bract starting. My nam wa banana trees aren’t fruiting, but the biggest one now touches a power line, and it has lots of pups.

Here’s news that will make a tingle run up your leg. I’m giving the church pork chops! Long story, but I have eight pounds of frozen pork chops I need to get rid of before they get freezer burn. If giving the church peppers helps my pepper harvest, and giving the church limes helps my lime harvest, what will happen if I give them pork? Paradise, I suppose. Yards and yards of country hams, ham hocks, lechons, and maybe even Slim Jims.

I’m not saying it works that way, but I do have a whole lot of peppers.

I’m trying to give a considerable number of these peppers away. If I can’t do that, I have to freeze them or something. Or–hey!–time to start canning! Oh, man. That would be just sick. Power tools, a big truck, guns, frozen Costco prime beef, and to top it off, jars and jars of marvelous exotic canned peppers.

But for now I just need to get these things off the table.

Improbable Blessing

Wednesday, October 28th, 2009

I Guess Swine Flew

Here’s a funny thing that happens to Christians. God decides to give you favor. But on the way, you run into a bureaucrat. And the bureaucrat says “no.” Then you persist, without doing anything immoral or obnoxious, and the bureaucrat loses, and you get what you were supposed to get. Or maybe the first time you hear from the bureaucrat is when he or she gives you something you had no idea you were getting. And later you find out it was an error. Like the error that set Corrie ten Boom free from a death camp.

Maybe you’re being considered for a promotion. Maybe you’re up for parole. Maybe you’re on Schindler’s List. God decides you’re going to get something, but you have to go through a bureaucrat in order to see it happen.

Bureaucrats are often bad news. Think about it. Pontius Pilate. Both Herods. Pharaoh. Hitler and the Nazis. Stalin, Mao, Castro, all the other Communist dictators, and their stooges. Haman. Paul, before he fell on the road to Damascus. The Romans who martyred early Christians. Maybe the problem is that bureaucrats work for the god of this world. They’re sometimes like his dirty little angels, and they don’t know it.

Today I went to get a swine flu shot. I called the feds, and they said I qualified because I’m helping my sister, who currently has no immune system to speak of. I got down to the health department building, and there was a lady guarding the door, which is a very common thing for bureaucrats to do. Very often, the little person at the door–who makes minimum wage–can control your fate on a whim. I told her I needed the shot because I was helping care for a cancer patient. She looked through the papers in front of her, and she said constipation was not on the list of qualifications. Her English was so bad, I could not make her understand the difference between “constipation” and “cancer patient.”

I asked her for someone who spoke better English. You can’t be shy about that in Miami. It makes people mad, but if they don’t speak English, they have no right to expect Americans to deal with them. People need to do business, and to do business, communication is essential. You shouldn’t be ashamed to ask for someone who understands you.

She took me to a nurse. I learned something interesting. You can be a registered nurse in the United States, with the power to do things that can determine whether a person lives or dies (including dispensing medicine with English labels) without being able to understand English. Neither one of them understood a thing I said. Instead of taking me to a person who spoke English, the lady from the door apparently took me to the person she hung out with the most, and naturally, this was a person who shared her impairment.

I told the second lady I wanted to talk to someone who spoke English. She took me to another nurse. All three of these ladies were Hispanic, but only the third one had not permitted that to interfere with learning the language of her country of residence. I explained my situation to her, and she went and argued with the lady at the front door, and the door lady reluctantly caved in, and I got my shot. From a fourth Hispanic lady, whose English was fine.

I’ll bet the door lady is still mad. I was very polite to all of them, but a certain type of bureaucrat hates to lose, regardless of how little it means to them and how much it means to you. This is one of the laws of bureaucracy. Remember what they told Oskar Schindler when he rescued Itzhak Stern from the death train. “It makes no difference to us, you understand. This one, that one. It’s the inconvenience to the list. It’s the paperwork.” Half an hour of paperwork trumps human life, in the bureaucrat mind. Remember the Vogons.

I get the flu, I give it to my sister, that’s the end of her…but the lady at the door stood up to the Anglo with constipation. That’s how it would have gone. She would never even have known what she had done to us. And she thought she was doing the right thing. Nazis and Communists are examples of bureaucrats, but most bureaucrats are just regular people trying to do their jobs. I am not trying to suggest the first two ladies were evil. I have no reason to think they didn’t mean well.

I got the shot. Now all I have to do is stay flu-free for ten days so it gets a chance to work.

God’s Ammunition Dump

Wednesday, October 28th, 2009

New Level

I came to a surprising realization last night. Over the last few years, I’ve turned to God chiefly to get my own problems fixed. By and large, that result has been achieved. Things are going extremely well for me, and they’re going to go even better in days to come. So what am I supposed to do now? I know what the answer is. I have to help other people get what I now have.

My health is great. I’m not worried about financial survival. I’m making lots of wonderful friends. My lifelong overeating problem is history, as are some other bad habits. My inner life is vastly improved, and it gets better every week. There isn’t that much left to do. This all came about through power which developed as I grew. The power is still there. Now it needs a job. With my own problems shrinking and disappearing, the best viable targets are other people’s problems. It’s either that or sit around in comfort, waiting to die.

I think hooking up to God’s power is a little like reacting to a pressure loss in a plane, when you’re traveling with a kid. When the oxygen mask drops, you don’t put it on the child. If you do that, you pass out and die, and then the kid rips the mask off, and he dies, too. You put your own mask on first. That keeps you conscious so you can take care of the kid.

I have at least two prayer sessions a day. The first one is about me and my family. I don’t worry about other people until the second one. I think that’s wise. The more stable and serene we are, the more we will be able to do for others. If you don’t get yourself functioning before you direct your attention outward, you will be a blind guide. You’ll have a beam in your eye, while you’re telling other people about the dust specks in their eyes. You may become legalistic. You can get so frustrated with the stupid things other people do, you spend time criticizing and offending them when you’re supposed to be showing them the way out of their troubles. I’ve had a real problem with that; I still fight it. It’s not all that subtle.

If I understand the New Testament correctly, the biggest virtue you can have is a heartfelt concern for the well-being of others. It’s one of the fruit of the Spirit. It is not something I was overly burdened with from birth. When I joined my church, their questionnaire asked what things I thought I needed to work on, and I listed this. I don’t want to be a crab all my life, kvetching about other people’s errors instead of empathizing with them and improving the world.

I used to see the stuff of my morning prayers–my family’s needs–as my primary focus. The things I took up later in the day, I took up mainly because I knew I was obligated to do so. Obviously, I cared about other people, and that entered my thinking, but obligation played a bigger role in my daily motivation than empathy. It’s tough to see past your needs and your family’s needs while you’re heavily engaged in battling to meet them. Now I think I’m going to have more bandwidth to devote to others. Within my own family, I’m going to have more bandwidth to devote to my father and my sister, since my own problems take up less of it.

It’s a shift in focus. Like winning in Iraq and turning to Afghanistan (not that I’m suggesting the US is doing a good job of that).

The Bible says perfect love casts out fear. If I understand it correctly, in the context in which that verse appears, it means you can’t beat anxiety and fear without turning your attention to other people. “He that feareth is not made perfect in love.” I don’t know why it works that way, but it seems to be true, and I do not want anxiety in my life.

It’s not an obvious truth, so it’s worth pointing out to other people who want inner peace and don’t know why it evades them. Check out 1 John 4 and see what you think.

It’s working for me.

Amazing Day and Strange Prayer Request

Tuesday, October 27th, 2009

Sleeper Cell?

I had such an astounding day yesterday, it’s almost pointless to try to write about it.

The day began very well; I attended to some nagging responsibilities. With that off my back, I went to a meeting with a lady from the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews. I gave them a little money, and their representative was in the area, so she called and asked to meet with me. I caught up with her at Starbucks.

I didn’t really want to meet with her. I don’t understand why charities have reps who run around talking to donors. If you give a charity money, presumably you don’t want anything from them, so why would they need to come see you? I figured the idea was to butter people up and hit them for more cash, which is sort of pointless in my case, since I only give when I felt led by God.

It turned out I was completely wrong. This lady is a Christian (like the overwhelming majority of donors). She attends a Christian church and a Messianic synagogue. And she’s very much on the same frequency I’m on, politically and spiritually.

She confirmed some of the strange things I’ve observed. She deals with lots of charismatics, and I’ve observed that they seem to be developing a lot of interest in things like tools, farming, storing food, and shooting. She told me about other people who are experiencing the same drives. Here’s something amazing. You know how I write about wanting to move to Central Florida and have a compound? Mike and I talk about how great it would be to have places near each other, complete with shooting facilities. Well, this lady knows two retired female missionaries who just inherited a cattle ranch in Florida. And if I understood her correctly, it has a gun range. Is that crazy or what?

She told me about the people who give to the IFCJ to help poor Jews. It’s not all rich people with piles of disposable income. She said she met with a lady who donated $30,000 at one whack. That lady lives in a trailer park. She said she just didn’t need the money. Donors say God leads them to do this, so they do it. And they’re thrilled to hand it over. No strings. Not even proselytizing.

This is real. God is up to something. The government is becoming increasingly hostile to Christians, Christianity, Jews, and Israel, and God is getting us ready for it. Maybe our government can be turned around through prayer. Maybe it can’t. But individuals can be part of the solution, and they can be blessed within the chaos and ruin.

Last night I started watching a new Robert Morris DVD. He mentioned Ezekiel 14. Here is the pertinent part:

13 Son of man, when the land sinneth against me by trespassing grievously, then will I stretch out mine hand upon it, and will break the staff of the bread thereof, and will send famine upon it, and will cut off man and beast from it:

14 Though these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, they should deliver but their own souls by their righteousness, saith the Lord GOD.

15 If I cause noisome beasts to pass through the land, and they spoil it, so that it be desolate, that no man may pass through because of the beasts:

16 Though these three men were in it, as I live, saith the Lord GOD, they shall deliver neither sons nor daughters; they only shall be delivered, but the land shall be desolate.

Ezekiel spoke of Israel, but the principle seems applicable to the US. When we turn on the Jews and God, our land brings curses on itself, but each of us can be spared if we are not part of the rebellion. It seems like many Christians are being set up to survive a future judgment. Psalm 37 says:

The Lord knoweth the days of the upright, and their inheritance shall be forever. They shall not be ashamed in the evil time, and in the days of famine, they shall be satisfied. But the wicked shall perish, and the enemies of the Lord shall be as the fat of lambs. They shall consume. Into smoke shall they consume away.

Then of course, there is the story of Lot. His wife and daughters died in the destruction of Sodom.

I thought talking to this lady would be a drag, but the meeting probably lasted an hour, and I really enjoyed it. It reminded me that God is the ultimate grassroots organizer. He organizes people who don’t even know they’re being organized. I am part of something. I’m not just an eccentric kook with weird ideas. I’m more than that. Although the shoe does fit.

Almost as soon I got home from the meeting, I had to get on the road to TBN’s studio in Hollywood, where my pastor hosted Praise the Lord last night. Yesterday was kind of a breakthrough day for me, and for some reason, I felt like going to the taping was the thing to do. It was the churchgoer’s equivalent of going to a strip club for a drunken blowout.

I had a tough time finding the studio. There’s a big TBN sign next to I-95, nowhere near the facility. Go figure. West of 95, there’s a big building beside the road with “TBN Ministries” on the sign. Crazy me…I thought that might be it. But I pulled the Diesel Death Star into the parking lot and checked, and the place was deserted. Then I noticed the giant antenna nearby, and I realized it was in the middle of a huge trailer park. “Trinity Village,” or some such. I’m not kidding. The studio is in the middle of a trailer park. God-haters could have a real field day with that.

I went into the park and found the studio, and there were so many cars there, I had to park the Death Star on the grass.

The studio is maybe fifty by a hundred. The chairs…not good. When they said the taping would go two hours, I was worried. It would be like sitting in an airline seat for two hours, with the back completely upright. I can’t stand that. All my weight is in the top third of my body. I have to lean back. But when you’re a saintly person like me, you don’t complain about how awful chairs make your back hurt. I’m just not built that way. Stoicism and martyrdom are my bag.

The show was fantastic. Pastor Rich started with a local megachurch pastor, and then he interviewed an old friend of his who had written a book. They were hilarious together. Then Keith Craft showed up; if you haven’t seen him, you’re really missing out. He’s an extremely gifted speaker. Funny as he can be. Then John Gray came out; I was looking forward to seeing him again after meeting him and driving him around at our church’s “Girlfriends” conference. Once he opened his mouth, there was no stopping him. The creativity and the Spirit kept good things pouring out of him until the end of the show. I was laughing out loud, and so was everyone else. The church is having a men’s encounter thing in November, and I think he’ll be there. I’m already signed up.

Robert Morris says the gift of prophecy refers to encouragement and exhortation. Not correction. Not predicting the future. If that’s the case, John Gray is loaded with it. Although he also predicts the future sometimes.

I thought about the last time I visited the studio. I had been there before, but it had been so long ago, I had forgotten about the trailers. The last time I visited–the only time–was in 1997, the week my mother died from lung cancer. My aunt and I drove up there to donate my mother’s clothes to charity. The family didn’t want them around. They were a sharp reminder of our loss. How different yesterday’s visit was. The first time I went there, I was fresh from a terrible defeat. This time, I went in victory.

I can’t fit the whole day into a blog post. It was tremendous, but it was just too rich to capture in a few words.

I feel like going to the range this week. I need to crank up the Death Star, throw some really offensive weapons into the bed, and bust a few laser-aimed caps.

Ha. The IFCJ lady just called. Left her Palm Pilot at Starbucks. I hope Janet Napolitano didn’t find it. Say a prayer!

More

Prayer answered.

Me in the Peanut Gallery

Monday, October 26th, 2009

Send me Your $1000 Seed Gift

Tonight I’m doing something I thought I’d never do. I’m planning to drive to the TBN studios and sit in the audience. My pastor will be there, with John Gray and Keith Craft and some other people I haven’t seen before.

I know I’ve said a lot of critical things about people I’ve seen on TBN, and I can’t say I was always wrong. I’ve seen greed and self-righteousness and egotism and all sorts of other things on TBN. I’ve seen people who are almost certainly heretics. But when I quit going to church about twenty years ago, I allowed my unreasonable standards deprive me of a lot of good things. I expected perfection, and I didn’t get it, so I settled for nothing at all. That didn’t work out too good.

I think the charismatics are on the right track. Their excesses are embarrassing, and their pastor-driven organizational scheme lends itself to abuse. But they get better all the time, and nobody else seems to be as close to the truth.

It’s like I’ve said before. The old churches are human-centered bureaucracies–barely churches–and the new ones aren’t anchored in wisdom and maturity. You have to make a choice. If God seems to be getting more done in the sillier churches, that’s where I plan to be. The Bible says he uses foolish things to confound the wise. The way things have gone over the last hundred years or so, it’s hard to argue with that.

Matched Set

Saturday, October 24th, 2009

Why not Pack Them in the Same Box?

Tonight I went to the drugstore to stock up on toilet paper. While I was there, I remembered that I needed some old-man cereal. So I showed up at the register with a box of Fiber One and a twelve pack of Scott tissue.

I apologize to the makers of Fiber One if the sight of me with these items discouraged any shoppers from trying their product.

Pest Control

Saturday, October 24th, 2009

Clean House!

What a beautiful morning. I had my usual morning prayer session, and then I got in my huge, fume-belching diesel truck and got a tasty but only moderately offensive McDonald’s breakfast. I ate it while watching Neil Cavuto and his buddies bash liberalnomics on Fox News. Even Dagen McDowell was on the right track today, pointing out that nationalized health care will eventually bankrupt us.

I think the reason socialism is being imposed on us is that we don’t give enough to the poor, voluntarily. If we really gave, would there be any need for socialism?

I feel like God is giving me another breakthrough. My take on the frantic spiritual pace of my life is that God is making up for 19 years of idiocy, in which I refrained from attending church. Or it could just be my nature. I was the same way with physics. Had to learn it all RIGHT NOW, until I burned out. You can burn out on God, too, if you’re not far enough along to be able to re-prime the pump.

The big breakthrough is that I feel like I understand communion better than I used to. I take communion nearly every morning now. I don’t think it’s a magical potion and chewable amulet which will heal all your diseases and kill all your enemies. I don’t think it’s really blood and meat. I think it’s like water baptism; the physical part of it doesn’t mean anything on its own. What’s in your heart while you do it is what matters.

In my opinion, at this point, the benefit of communion is that you examine yourself before you take it. You look for things you need to make right. You look for bondages and iniquities. Are you chronically angry? Do you have a sexual fetish? Do you have an addiction? Is there someone you’ve wronged? You search for these things, and when you find them, you confess them aloud before God, on your own behalf and on behalf of your family, and you repent and ask for deliverance. I believe this is correct. Then you ask yourself if you seriously intend to give your entire life to God. You have to take up your own cross and let go of the world’s temptations. When all that is said and done, you’re ready to take communion. If you can’t do it, you need to put the wine down and go fix things.

That’s how I see it. Communion is a type of oath. It’s like selling your soul to the devil, except you’re selling it to God, and instead of getting the silly and worthless things your flesh wants, you agree to take the priceless (and extremely rewarding) things God has chosen for you. If you take communion without understanding that, you’re taking God’s name in vain. You’re claiming to be on his team when your real intention is to go back to living the way you want. That’s what taking God’s name in vain is, according to the Jews. It means identifying yourself with God, insincerely.

Paul said people got sick and died because they took communion inappropriately. Does that mean communion is like the Old Testament draught the priests gave to women suspected of adultery? This was a beverage that would cause an unfaithful woman to swell and rot. I don’t think that’s the situation with communion, although maybe it is. I think Paul meant that confession and repentance led to freedom from demonic attacks, and because people who took communion unworthily did not confess and repent, they left themselves open to demonic diseases and misfortunes.

I guess I should run this by my pastor and see what he thinks.

It seems to me that the Promised Land, in the Old Testament, symbolizes a lot of things. It can be taken to symbolize just about any field on which God does battle. One example is the human soul. The Israelites went into a land occupied by wicked people who lived in walled strongholds, and they defeated and exterminated them not by their own strength, but by the power of the Holy Spirit. Think of the walls of Jericho, which sank when the Israelites shouted. The more of these enemies the Israelites destroyed, the better their nation fared. Similarly, a Spirit-filled believer is supposed to use the Holy Spirit to conquer the evil beings that cling to his soul and push him to do stupid things. Christians often refer to spiritual bondages as “strongholds.” No coincidence. You’re supposed to repent of the behaviors that feed and satisfy these things, and you’re supposed to fight them with prayer and fasting. When they leave, you’re like Israel with its enemies expelled. You are better able to control your behavior and your attitudes. You are fit to receive blessings and power.

A believer who doesn’t have the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and who doesn’t rely on the Holy Spirit to free him, is like the Israelites who got routed at Ai. In their own strength, they were puny. Satan knows this, so he has spent hundreds of years attacking charismatic churches. He teaches that a believer who expects God to help him get free is lazy and sinful. They say the manifestations of the Holy Spirit are demonic. Heresy. You’re supposed to do it all yourself! I think history shows how well that works. History–the New Testament–also shows that demons have nothing to do with the manifestations of the Spirit.

The Israelites failed to exterminate the Amalekites. As a result, these people and their descendants plagued Israel continually. Some Jews say they still do. Similarly, if you hold onto a chronic sin or bad attitude, you provide a place for the enemy to reside and cause trouble in your life. You can’t tell yourself it’s okay to look at porn once in a while, as long as you do everything else right. You can’t decide it’s okay to continue getting drunk once a week. You can’t hold onto vengeful feelings for one or two highly deserving people. You have to look for everything that needs to be fixed, and you have to act.

I sincerely believe this. Demons are a much worse problem than we realize. They pressure us constantly, and we give in. And when we give in, we give Satan the right to torment us. Not the ability. The right. Anyone who says Satan can’t torment a believer needs to drink some strong coffee, wake up, and look around. Look at the Christian drunks and junkies and murderers and prostitutes. They’re not rare. They’re everywhere. Look at the Christians in mental asylums. Look at the Christians who have incurable diseases. Get a clue, here. These people are clearly not immune to attack, nor are they unbelievers. If the doctrine that says every Christian is free from curses is true, what’s wrong with these people? Do you think it’s all choice? Get yourself addicted to crack, try to quit, and then tell me you have a choice. If it’s true, it’s just barely true. I couldn’t give up a truly powerful addiction without a lot of help. Could you? I most assuredly could not rid myself of the lingering desire to go back. Only God can do that.

God freed me from gluttony and a couple of other things, instantly. I don’t think I’m special, either. I don’t think I’m a wonderful guy, and that God made a special effort for me because I’m so great. God did not choose to help me because I’m wonderful. He chose to help me because HE’s wonderful. If I’m wrong about strongholds and bondage and iniquity–if Robert Morris and the other Christians who teach this stuff are wrong–why am I free? Why would God allow me to be this wrong and reward me for it? Why do things keep getting better and better? Does the Bible say God rewards heretics?

I had one problem from which I could not stay free. When God kicked gluttony out of me, he also removed unjustified anger. I used to get mad at perfectly innocent people for no reason whatsoever, and I hated it. I didn’t even understand how the feelings could exist. That left me when gluttony left. But it returned, and then it left again. I think my problem is that I was not sufficiently empathetic with people who did me wrong. I prayed for God to make them miserable until they left me alone. I could not shake a recurring thought that if they just up and died, I’d be better off. I didn’t like having that thought, but I couldn’t get rid of it. This weekend I decided to get past this, and I took it up with God today before I took communion. I wanted the peace that had been with me while the anger was away.

I feel much, much better. The peace has returned. I hope I’m right about this, and that I don’t lose this again.

Maybe every person has one or more iniquity “anchors.” Bad attitudes that are so precious, you just can’t turn them loose. They’re like Amalekites. When the other stuff gets cleaned out, they remain behind, and they attract more bad stuff. These things provide a durable foundation other iniquities can return to. It’s like a sore that keeps festering after a clean scab grows over it. If you don’t attend to it properly, it will get worse. I guess it’s like the opposite of the temple in Jerusalem. There, a foundation of righteousness remains, waiting for people to build on it. I suppose that’s why God left the foundation standing. When Jesus said the temple would be destroyed so that no stone would remain standing on another, he must have been referring to everything above the foundation. Had he removed the foundation, it would have been like abandoning his covenant with Israel, and he could never do that. God is a god of remnants and tithes and seeds. He generates, or regenerates, things, from small beginnings. And if you make room inside yourself for a sin, you leave something from which Satan can regenerate all of your problems.

I have to remember that other people face temptations and demons I have not encountered. I don’t know how hard they’ve resisted, or what pressures they faced. I have to stop assuming they’re just weak or stupid or evil. If I am not humble when I deal with your iniquity, I plant an iniquity in myself. Doesn’t that make sense? The magic of sin is that you hurt a person when you sin against him, and you hurt him again when your sin drives him to sin against you or against himself or others. Somebody has to break the chain. That’s an apt metaphor in more ways than one.

Tell me if I’m wrong.

I’ll Just Put This in my Man-Purse

Friday, October 23rd, 2009

Food Seems Big

Today I had a new experience. I went to a restaurant, and when it was over, the waiter asked if I wanted him to box up the remainder of my food.

“The remainder of my food.”

My food never had a remainder before! I didn’t know what to do with it. I decided to let him stick it in a box. I felt like a woman. What man brings half-eaten food home from a restaurant?

The weight loss continues. I can turn down bread. I can turn down fries. All these foods that used to be stronger than me…they roll over and give up.

I am reminded of a story the psychologist Fritz Perls told. A violinist came to him and complained that he had cramps and discomfort while he played. Perls watched him play, and he saw the problem. The man was standing with his legs crossed, so his body was contorted. Perls made him stand up straight, and he found himself playing without discomfort. He started to cry, saying, “I won’t believe it. I won’t.” In an instant, his life was changed.

God confirms himself over and over and over, but the more blatant he is, the harder I find to accept what he has done. I’m down about 17 pounds now, and there is no end in sight, and it’s such a beautiful gift, a little voice in my head keeps telling me it can’t be true.

I had something really strange happen last night. A guy from church–his name is John–called on very short notice and said he needed some help with a business function in Fort Lauderdale. You can imagine how much interest I had in this, but Christians help each other, right? And he does all kinds of things for the church, and he was in a bind. So I got it together and drove up there. I had to borrow a car because the truck’s “check engine” light was on.

It was raining. I mean torrential rain. The kind of rain you only see in Florida and Texas. Cars were creeping. And I was all dressed up. I had put on some of my expensive lawyer duds. I was very worried that I’d ruin the jacket, walking in that downpour. The rules say that when you have a problem, no matter what it is, you pray. So I did. I prayed that the rain would stop before I got out of the car.

When I was less than half a mile from the hotel where the function was taking place, the rain was still hammering I-95. John called and informed me that there was a parking garage, so I wouldn’t get wet. That was a relief. Then I took the exit and turned right…and the rain had stopped. I looked at the windshield of the car, and I couldn’t find one new drop of rain. Looking out at the road, I saw a few drops landing here and there. I didn’t know what to do. I heard myself tell God that it would be a better story, for his testimony, if the rain stopped completely. And it did. And I didn’t need it! There was a garage!

That really happened. I should have said, “While you’re at it, how about filling the trunk with hundred-dollar bills?”

After the function, I got to talk with John and a couple of other people from church. They started talking about going to the gun range. Why is it all Christians shoot? We also talked about my cookbook. I enjoyed it a great deal. It’s okay to be the lone kook in the crowd, but sometimes you want to be with the other kooks.

I hope I get to shoot with them. While roasting a pig and using machine tools. That would pretty much combine everything I like.

Gird up Your Loins at the Gap

Thursday, October 22nd, 2009

New Belt

Guess what I’m wearing.

No, not the notorious gay underwear I accidentally (I swear) bought in two separate online debacles. A reader turned me on to Under Armour, and I am now free to donate the ambiguous lingerie to the South Beach Goodwill. Right now what I’m wearing is a new belt. THE OLD ONE IS TOO BIG.

What a chore it is, trying to find a simple brown belt. The old one is about ten years old. It’s from Abercrombie & Fitch, in the incarnation between the safari-outfitting days and the soft-porn-teen-catalog days. When I got this belt, Abercrombie & Fitch was sort of like American Eagle Outfitters, only maybe a little nicer. Today I went to Abercrombie & Fitch, and they had like three belts. I am so sick of the baggy pants fad. I guess no one wants a belt these days. Anyway, they had very few belts, and the ones they had were odd.

On top of that, as I have noted before, everyone in Miami has a giant rear end, so the overwhelming majority of the selection was size 36 and up. I finally found something acceptable at the Gap.

I also went to Old Navy for cargo shorts, but the stores are closing them out because it’s OCTOBER and the temperature may drop THREE DEGREES. They had a bunch of enormous shorts on clearance. Some guy shopping next to me told his girlfriend his size was 38, and he was about 5’5″ tall. Obesity is a real problem here, due to the frijoles and yuca and rice and plantains. And Cubans put sugar on everything. They drink malta with condensed milk in the bottom. Try it and see if you can stand it. I think pancake syrup is actually less sweet.

I located a couple of pairs of 32s, and I took them to the register, and one pair rang up for $3.48. No kidding. It turned out it had been discounted because a belt loop had come loose. I went and looked for another pair, but the only 32s were messed up in other ways, so I gave up. The clerk talked me into taking the damaged ones. It will take ten minutes to make them like new.

I always hear Christians talking about how God finds deals for them and drops free stuff in their laps. Is this an example? I don’t know. I tried my best to avoid this blessing, but I couldn’t.

I took my old belt off in the Gap, to compare the length to the new ones. I almost had a Janet Jackson/Plaxico Burress moment. Loose pants, a crowded mall, and a pocket full of loaded pistol are a bad mix. Hey, that could be a new rap hit.

Robert Morris has sermons stored up online. You can subscribe via Itunes. I made a CD for the truck. Very exciting. To me, anyway. Some have the same names as his shows, so I assume it’s the same stuff. Here is a link to the page. The Holy Spirit series is under “Who is He?”, “Is he a Person?”, “Is he Pentecostal?”, “Does he Baptize?”, “Is he Charismatic?”, and “Does he Speak in Tongues?”

Interesting thing. He points out that the Bible says Jesus is the one who baptizes us with the Holy Spirit. That rang a bell with me. I had an experience in the mid-1980s in which a warm, loving presence swept over my body while I tried to sleep. I could feel it, physically. I started to doze off, and I awoke with my hands in the air, and I felt and heard energy shooting into my palms. And I felt sure the presence was Jesus. Wonder if that was the actual moment when I got the baptism. It doesn’t always require laying on of hands. Some people, it just drops on.

It’s always a great day when you have new cargo shorts. I can’t wait to put them on.

Pants of Victory

Thursday, October 22nd, 2009

The Belt of Truth is Too Big

Today I have to go shopping. I have to give up on my size 34 Old Navy cargo shorts. They are too danged big. They’re going to charity.

They’re not really 34″ shorts. I would guess they’re more like 36s. Retailers know fat people like to pretend to be smaller than they are, so sometimes they put misleading labels on their clothes. Still, I am swimming in these things, and it’s getting on my nerves. I also need to replace my aging Abercrombie & Fitch 34″ belt. I’m on belt loop number six, and there are only seven. A couple of months ago, I was on three. Now the loose end flaps around when I walk. On top of that, between the belt loops, the waistbands of the shorts are sneaking out and wandering around because they don’t fit where they used to.

It’s all God. I haven’t done much of anything. I don’t have the old craving for carbs and grease, so now I can choose what I eat, without fighting an addiction every time. I still want food, but when I have a choice to make, the ratio of willpower to desire is much, much higher than it used to be, so I win consistently.

I think there are stages of iniquity and bondage. If you weigh 800 pounds, it’s pretty easy to get down to 300. It’s harder to go from there to 200. If your proper weight is 170, the last thirty pounds will be impossible to lose, or nearly so, and if they come off, they’ll jump back on in one month of backsliding.

This stuff is spirit-driven. I have no doubt of it. Jesus was referring to diet rebound, among other things, when he said that when an evil spirit leaves a man, it wanders, returns, and brings seven worse spirits with it. I seriously believe this is why there are plateaus in weight loss. The really stubborn enemies keep the final pounds on you. The wimpy ones are not hard to beat.

I don’t care who thinks I’m crazy. Bondage is bondage, whether it’s cocaine or cheeseburgers. Don’t tell me people get up over 400 or 600 or 800 pounds simply because they’re lazy. When you let something that terrible happen to you, you have a major, major problem. If it were just a laziness issue, in most cases, the sight of the blubber in the bathroom mirror would be sufficient to motivate people to change. I’m sure there are some people who are too sorry to care, but lots of fat people live in utter misery and would do almost anything to fix themselves. At my worst, I’ve probably been 55 pounds overweight, and it drove me up the wall.

I brought the bondage on myself. I ate like a pig, and I had other problems, like self-righteousness and unforgiveness and selfishness and general backsliding.

My big problem now is that I eat so little, I tend to eat a higher proportion of unhealthy food. Last night I came home from the prayer meeting, and I decided I absolutely had to have a Coke. So I got one, and I drank it, and I ate half of a big Hershey bar with almonds. In the morning, I ate a small bowl of fiber cereal that tasted like fiberglass insulation, and in the afternoon, I had a Granny Smith with some peanut butter. Those things were okay, but the Coke and the candy were not optimal choices. It happened because I didn’t fix dinner; the prayer meeting got in the way. I need to plan better.

My blood pressure is going to drop. I’m going to feel lighter. My gall bladder and digestive tract will be healthier. My blood sugar will not be an issue. My knees won’t be stressed. Doctors will consider my visits a waste of time. I’ll be able to move without my gut getting in the way. If I ever had circulatory issues, I can forget about them now. I’ll look a whole lot better. This is an astounding gift. Surely you can forgive me for writing about it all the time.

It would be great if I had a dramatic story about being deaf and blind for twenty years and then suddenly being healed. It would be wonderful to be able to say I was delivered from a meth addiction after living behind a dumpster for a decade. I know fat isn’t as exciting. But this is magnificent! There are no words big enough to express my gratitude and amazement. I didn’t deserve this. I didn’t earn it. It was dropped on me like a pallet of airlifted MREs.

I wonder if I’m going to be able to help anyone else get this, or something like this. I wonder if anyone will be impressed enough to listen. If it will work for fat, shouldn’t it work for lust, greed, drugs, booze, violence, compulsive spending, chronic anger, racism, and other types of bondage? Why not? Fat is a pretty tough nut to crack. Getting over it is no joke. People die from gluttony every day, and they don’t want to. It’s a powerful thing.

I think I know why I’ve had so little success in talking to other people about God. The main reason is probably that I was such a phenomenal idiot, I made an unacceptable representative. But now that I’m cleaned up a little, he seems to be bringing people to me. Maybe I’m less embarrassing than I used to be. And the fat thing is a tremendous selling point. Nobody wants to hear from a Christian whose life is messed up. If it hasn’t worked for you, why would I expect it to work for me? Now I have a triumph to point to. In fact, I have a number of things. I haven’t listed all of them here. If I have something that will make people jealous, maybe they’ll be more inclined to try to get it.

I would have serious doubts about listening to a preacher who was obese, or who smoked cigarettes, or who routinely said mean things, or who had a mountain of debt. Anything like that. If you can’t win, how can you teach other people to win? If you don’t realize you have a problem, how can you identify other people’s problems? On the other hand, I would not want to hear from a guy who was born perfect (with one obvious exception) and who had a trouble-free life. If you haven’t been oppressed, you don’t know what other people go through. And your skills for fighting oppression may not be strong. Some people who have no major problems are in serious trouble. Their problems exist. They just haven’t manifested themselves yet. When people like that crash, they’re probably like bubble kids without immune systems. Like Nebuchadnezzar, who went insane and grazed like a cow for seven years.

Mmm…cows…steak.

I guess one cheeseburger won’t hurt me.

Weirdest Post so Far This Week

Wednesday, October 21st, 2009

Stick Around for the Punch Line

My new Nerf bars arrived.

I bought some used Westin Nerf bars off Craigslist, but I regretted it. They didn’t look that great, and they didn’t extend to the rear wheels of the truck, so they were useless for getting into the bed. I decided to order new ones.

I struggled with this, because I want to fully accept the reality that every dime I have is God’s, and I don’t want to run around wasting money. I figured I’d be a good steward and get used bars. But it was a lot of aggravation, and it didn’t work out well.

Robert Morris says you can have a “poverty spirit” that screws up your ability to spend and enjoy. I guess that makes sense. Christian life has to be balanced. Not ascetic, but not self-indulgent. I tried to save money by buying a used truck, and it worked out well. Maybe I should have been less stingy on the bars.

It took two hours to install them, and they still have the plastic wrap on them. I underestimated the installation time, and I had to zip off to church before I could unwrap them. I had a GAP (“God Answers Prayer”) group meeting to get to. I was fifteen or twenty minutes late. Really embarrassing. It’s extremely disrespectful to be late; I hate it. To make matters worse, the place was packed, and they pulled up a chair at the pastor’s right hand. So the irresponsible late guy ended up at the front of the room, displayed prominently.

The meeting was wonderful. When I used to go to physics lectures, I enjoyed it because it was like having fireworks go off in my head. A teacher would talk about a given concept, and it would relate to another concept, and I would get blasts of intuition, and I would see things in my mind. I can’t describe it any better than that. It was wonderful. I never had that in law school. Law is not exactly boring, but it’s not exciting or challenging. Whose land did the limb hang over before the apple fell? Where did it land? Do the math and decide who gets the fruit. Not the kind of thing that makes for thrilling stories or intense mental workouts. Some areas of law are fairly hard, but they are still hard to get passionate about.

Tonight, I felt the way I felt when I studied physics. The pastor was talking about legalism, and how it gets in the way of love. He talked about his hope of winning a hundred thousand souls in Dade County. It turns out these things are related in many ways, from a spiritual standpoint. As I sat and listened, the different ways became apparent to me, faster than I could have explained them had I been talking. The pieces of the Jesus puzzle spun and shifted in my mind, making sense in every configuration they assumed. This is the kind of thing creative people get off on. You wouldn’t expect to encounter it in religion.

I used to say Christianity wasn’t cerebral. In the way I meant it, I was right. You don’t have to be a 180-IQ Yeshiva-grade scripture scholar who can ace the LSAT, in order be a fantastic servant of God. The Holy Spirit’s guidance is more important than knowledge, and anyway, it’s usually pretty easy to see when you’re going wrong. But it turns out Christianity can be cerebral. Seeing the connections between the concepts is like sitting in a math class and understanding that vectors and matrices express the same ideas as multivariable calculus or differential equations or expanding functions in series. I don’t know if God has any interest in showing this aspect of Christianity to every Christian, but I can see how it would be useful and enjoyable for a teacher.

I have no interest in classical Christian scholarship. The examples I’ve seen were weak and misguided. Guesswork, based mostly on limited human intelligence making faulty deductions based on misunderstood scripture. The Holy Spirit, not the mind, is what makes scripture understandable. If the mind could unravel it, Satan (smarter than any human being) would be able to understand prophecy, and he isn’t. If he had understood the second psalm, the crucifixion would never have occurred. It’s about the crucifixion; it explains what happened, a thousand years in advance. Satan couldn’t figure it out, but a plumber or a grocery clerk, aided by the Holy Spirit, could see it immediately. I saw it. And I found that many other people had seen it before I did.

Brilliant people say a lot of dumb things about the Bible, because it hasn’t been illuminated for them. When I say Christianity is cerebral, I’m not talking about stale, ancient, error-filled tomes written by people who had no divine guidance and whose unaided logic was generally sub-par and warped by fear and bias. I’m talking about a deductive and intuitive process guided by God himself. He shows you a bit here and there and lets you connect the dots. The glory is all his, but he lets you do enough to make you feel useful.

By the way–this is a non sequitur–I realized something this week. Spirits apparently alter archaeological sites. How do I know this? Because Satan tried to claim the body of Moses. One explanation of his dispute with the archangel Michael is that Michael had been sent to conceal the location of the remains, while Satan wanted them to be found by the Jews. Another is that Satan wanted to physically take the body for his own purposes, possibly to revive it as a sort of golem and make it denounce God. Either way, think of the implications. At the end of the line of reasoning that follows, the conclusion is that faith will always be essential. It seems paradoxical, but faith is more trustworthy than proof, or at least what we think is proof. Maybe that’s because proof is about the past, but faith shapes the future. The past doesn’t exist any more. Memory creates the illusion that it exists, but there is no past. If it existed, it would still be here, right? The future is what’s actually happening. We tend to think of the past as stable and the future as something that shifts, but maybe we have it backward. Maybe the past seems to change, as miracles distort the evidence. Maybe it does change, when God decrees it. In any case, maybe it’s not reliable. I have witnessed at least one example of a thing that had been moved from its prior location, with no natural agent involved, and so have many other people.

Angels also opened the tomb of Christ. And the Jews say the gate of the Temple opened on its own, not long before the fall of Jerusalem. Some Christians interpret this to mean God had abandoned it.

God has a funny way of doing miracles, sometimes. Think of the loaves and fishes. Do you think people saw fishes and loaves growing and dividing in front of them? I doubt it. The gospels would have described that. Sometimes God shapes the present so it seems consistent with the past, yet it is clear that a miracle has occurred. Think of the widow who fed Elijah, or the famous miracle of Corrie ten Boom’s bottle of vitamin oil, which sustained a barracks full of women before running dry on the day more vitamins arrived. Do you think the widow looked in the barrel of flour every day and saw that it had more in it than it had the day before? I’ll bet if you could interview her, you’d find that every time she took flour out, the flour level seemed to sink by an appropriate amount, and that the next day, it seemed just as low, and that somehow she was still able to continue taking flour out of it. It was probably the same way with the vitamin oil. God does that kind of thing to people all the time, with money and other things. He did it for the Hebrews in the desert with Moses, making their shoes and clothes last forty years. They probably seemed to wear normally during each day, yet weeks later, they had not grown more worn, and the Jews were probably unable to reconcile these observations. God is able to make reality like a dream. In a dream, it can be Tuesday and Thursday. You can be at home and on an airplane. Miracles can be very subtle.

Maybe God really can make a rock so big that he can’t lift it, and maybe he can also lift it. It’s a sophomoric question, because it turns God into a cartoon and posits a childish definition of omnipotence. It’s a very stupid puzzle on which to base your decision whether to believe in God. But maybe he can do it. I don’t really care. If lifting rocks is what gets you excited when you shop for a supreme being, you are an idiot. I’m more interested in things like healing and freedom from self-destructive behavior and attitudes.

I don’t want to get into the mental meandering that led me to it, but the stuff we talked about at the meeting tonight caused me to think about prison ministry. The short version is that the discussion of legalism made me realize it is possible to turn God’s own law into an idol, and that got me thinking about bondage and iniquity, and that made me think of prisoners. We have a guy who is trying to put together a prison ministry, and unbelievably, I went up to him and talked to him about it. I know I sound crazy, but my logic goes like this: if God can deliver me from bondage to food, he can deliver prisoners from bondage to drugs, alcohol, violence, and so on, and maybe I can help them find that out. I couldn’t resist. This is completely unlike me. I’m not an outgoing person. But he has my phone number now, so maybe I’m on the roller coaster and the little restraint bar is locked in place.

We are both very confident in Robert Morris’s teachings. We mentioned that independently at the meeting, and he agrees that it ought to be applicable to criminals.

How did I get here?

I wrote all this stuff and didn’t even scratch the surface of what went on tonight. Sometimes life is too rich to share effectively.

Good night.