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Archive for October, 2011

After Many Days

Saturday, October 29th, 2011

This is the Harvest TBN Should be Talking About

I keep telling people to pray in tongues. It increases your faith. It brings you understanding. It gives you peace. It allows you to pray for the things God wants, even when you don’t know what they are. It helps you know God personally.

Last night I learned something new about it.

I was in bed getting ready to sleep, and as always, I spent some time in prayer. Part of the time, I prayed in tongues. Part of the time, I wasn’t praying at all. Every so often, I felt faith pouring through me, very forcefully, like water through a fire hose. It has been doing this a lot lately. I’ll be lying in bed minding my own business, and I’ll feel faith rushing through me, even when I’m not praying.

I believe I know what’s going on.

We know that a person who prays in tongues is actually repeating what God says. Jesus speaks to the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit speaks to us, and we repeat it. We know that these prayers are perfect, since God himself decides what to say. We also know that we may never find out what we’re praying about. The words come, but we may not understand the language.

If you’re a charismatic, you believe all this. But here’s something you may not have realized: if you can pray words you don’t understand, you can also have faith without knowing what it is you’re having faith FOR.

It only makes sense. Prayers that aren’t accompanied by faith generally fail. That means faith has to accompany prayer in tongues. Since you don’t know what you’re praying for, if you have faith, it has to be faith for things you can’t name.

This conflicts with the idea that faith is belief. I don’t think faith and belief are exactly the same, any more than gravity and weight are the same. If I tell you I’m going to meet you for lunch, and you believe it with all your heart, that’s not faith. Obviously, belief is not the whole story. I believe what we call “faith” is really a supernatural substance, and when it runs through you, it PRODUCES belief, as well as results.

The Bible tells us that our faith comes from God, not from us or our efforts. It’s a gift of the Spirit, and it’s also named as a fruit of the Spirit. If it came from us, a person who tried really hard to believe would be able to get great things from God. Practical experience tells me that’s not how it works. In the past, when I tried to believe, I felt resistance, and I usually lost the battle. These days, the resistance often gets washed away, like a tiny pile of sand being hit by a huge wave. That’s not natural. That’s not something my little monkey brain produced. That comes from God.

Last night I wanted to sleep, but it occurred to me that if God was choosing to shoot faith through me, there had to be an important reason. There had to be something he wanted done in the earth, and he was honoring me by using me as an instrument. That’s a bigger honor than the Presidency. That’s enormous. I decided to stay up and go with it until he seemed ready to let me go.

Weak Christians and unbelievers think God is supposed to do everything directly. This is why weak Christians are always asking, “Why did God let this happen?” Their theology is completely wrong. God doesn’t let bad things happen. We do.

God put us here to be managers of the earth. He put us here to be his flesh. If the world is screwed up, it’s our fault. We were supposed to fill it with his power. We are not supposed to do everything in our own strength, without God’s help, but we are not supposed to be passive, either. We matter. We have to contribute. So in all likelihood, when God wants something done, he will often choose a person who is full of the Spirit and lead that person to pray and exercise supernatural faith.

I think prayers I prayed in the past are coming back to me now, as they came back to Cornelius. Prayers are like seeds, and faith given by the Holy Spirit is like water. Eventually, they bring a harvest. I prayed a lot in the past, especially in tongues, so now, even at times when I’m not praying, the Spirit will come to me and act on my old prayers. That’s my suspicion. I believe prayer is like music practice. When you practice an instrument, you have to remember that you’re not trying to solve your problems instantly. Very often, you’ll practice something and find that you still can’t play it at the end of the session, but you’ll be able to play it the next day, as soon as you pick up the instrument. When you pray, sometimes you’ll see an immediate result, but often, it will come later, even after you’ve forgotten the prayer.

The sensation of supernatural faith is wonderful. When it’s with you, it’s like a drug that sustains you. You will want to keep it going, just like a coke user who will dig under couch cushions at six in the morning hoping to find one last rock. You will want to stay in God’s presence. When it waivers, you’ll feel like a satellite-dish owner who has lost the signal. You’ll want to fiddle with the antenna (you) until it comes back. I think I understand why so many ancient Christians allowed themselves to be martyred rather than give this up. It’s too good to do without.

I truly believe this is what Christianity is all about. Humble yourself, connect to the power, and try to listen and obey. The rest–the rules and the admonitions to be good–that stuff flows naturally once the juice is flowing.

If you’re praying in tongues regularly, don’t quit. I don’t believe I’m special. I think the things I’m experiencing will happen to anyone who persists.

Ground Hog Day

Friday, October 28th, 2011

Costco Jones Gets Worse

This is an exciting day. I’m about to make sausage. Using ELECTRICITY.

A couple of years ago, I bought a hand-cranked grinder from Northern Tool. It works, but you would be surprised how hard it is to use. I made twenty pounds of phenomenal sausage, but then I put the machine away.

Since then I’ve gotten myself a Bosch Universal Plus mixer. I got one because I had been using one at church, for pizza. If you make bread–in LARGE amounts–this is probably the greatest machine in the universe for less than a thousand dollars. You can make dough for 14 pizzas at once, which is beyond amazing. In a Hobart Kitchenaid, you might be able to make three. In the biggest Cuisinart made, the number is six, if memory serves. I routinely made dough for nine pies at once in the Bosch. I’m talking about nine pounds of dough.

The mixer is not that great for other things. For example, if you use it to make cheesecake, you have to make sure the batter is very warm and loose, or else a lot of it will get stuck to the bowl and fail to mix. Live and learn, I guess. But it’s a versatile machine and a real workhorse. You can even use it to make pasta and berry juice.

I broke down and got the hideously expensive grinder for it. I could have gotten a stand-alone grinder for the same money, but the Bosch has stainless extruder plates (if that’s what they’re called), and it serves as the basis for other attachments, and it will take up less room. Could be a bad decision; we’ll see.

When I started making sausage, I originally intended to can it, but I froze it in vacuum bags instead. I can’t recall why. It may be because I learned that canned sausage can’t have sage in it.

I was hoping to duplicate the sausage my grandmother used to can. This is a real Appalachian treasure. You make sausage balls and can them in hot lard which is full of sausage flavoring. Best breakfast sausage I ever ate. The stuff I make is about as good, but slightly different.

I had a hard time finding fat. If you use lean pork, the sausage will toughen up like rubber in the skillet. I solved this once by adding pure lard, but you can also grind bacon up in the sausage. It’s very good.

Today I’ll be using Costco boneless shoulder. I can’t believe they sell this stuff. It’s a dream come true. It’s $1.89 a pound, and it’s a lot fattier and tastier than loin, so I’m pretty excited. I have a frozen cured jowl (jowl bacon) I may throw in there just to get rid of it.

It’s irritating that we have come to hate pork fat so much. It’s a wonderful part of good food, and the Nazis have made it hard to find.

I’m about to pop the shoulder open. I hope I don’t smell anything “off.” If I do, it means boar taint, and I’ll have to brine the meat with baking soda to get rid of it. I’ll post the recipe:

INGREDIENTS

10 lbs. pork (shoot for 40% fat)
3/8 cup brown sugar
3 tsp. pepper
2 tsp. cayenne
2 tbsp. sage
1/4 cup salt
1 tbsp. paprika

I’ll be using apple juice concentrate instead of sugar. I’ll need about half a cup. I found that when you substitute apple juice concentrate for sugar, you have to add about 25%. OOH! I have some snooty Hungarian paprika from Penzey’s! Guess I’ll be using THAT today.

I ought to make some Italian sausage for pizza. Mike suggested it. I am too lazy to use casings. I don’t think that would matter. Truthfully, they tend to detract from the sausage-eating experience, and they shink and cause problems when cooked.

I wonder if I could make chorizo. I’m pretty sure most chorizos are made from things like belly buttons and tonsils. I know how Hispanic businesses like to save money. Surely real meat would be better.

This Sunday my church is doing a play. I got buttonholed on the way out last week, so now I have to make food for the cast. I’m planning to make a pineapple upside-down cake using banana nut bread batter. This is really good. When people found out about it, they got on me to make a spare cake, so now I’m making the cast cake plus a stealth cake.

Pineapple upside-down cake is one of earth’s greatest foods. I don’t know why we don’t make it more often. I’m seriously considering making some for myself and serving it hot, with rum raisin ice cream. That would be sick. Also wondering if it’s a good idea to add rum to the cake. Surely it would be. It’s like a pina colada, and those go with rum.

I have like 12 pounds of frozen bananas to get rid of, and this is a great way to do it.

I’ll post sausage photos if it’s not too much work.

You should try this yourself. Play with the ingredients. Add garlic or whatever. Start with one pound, get the recipe right, and go to town. If you start with what I’ve written, you won’t make anything that isn’t fit to eat unless you go completely nuts. Give it a shot. You might change the world.

More

This is stupendous. This thing ran through 10 pounds of pork shoulder and 1 pound of bacon in about 15 minutes. Most of the time, I was cutting the meat so it would fit in the hole. If it had been pre-sliced, I think I could have done two pounds a minute with ease.

The machine rocked a little. I think I failed to tighten something. But it worked. Here is the meat after I mixed in the seasonings.

I used chipotle instead of cayenne. I had a couple of chipotles lying around, so I ran them through the coffee grinder. It seems like chipotle is milder than cayenne. I used about three tablespoons. I added an extra teaspoon of sage and a second tablespoon of paprika. I used half a cup of apple juice concentrate.

It smells wonderful, even raw. Costco is extremely picky about quality. Perhaps for that reason, the shoulder I bought had no boar taint. Here are the “loaves,” ready to go in the freezer to firm up. When they’re frozen, I’ll vacuum-seal them. I’m keeping one out for immediate use!

Next time I’ll use two pounds of bacon and eight pounds of pork. It’s slightly lean this time. I used a ratio of roughly 1:10. I ended up with eleven pounds. I believe the final cost is around $2.25/pound, before factoring in freezer bags. That’s not bad. This stuff is even better than Winn-Dixie, which is the best bulk sausage I’ve found around here.

The good Lord has given me all sorts of fun skills and hobbies. I really love doing this.

Shun Overpriced Knives

Thursday, October 27th, 2011

The Shakti Stones of Cooking

A while back, I mentioned Mundial knives. I used some while working in a commercial kitchen, and I thought they were great, so I bought a few.

I bought a Santoku with a hollow-ground blade (divots running down the side to make food fall off), a 14″ slicing knife with the same feature, and a cleaver. I was hoping the cleaver would be as good as the amazing $10 job I got from The Wok Shop, only stainless.

The cleaver turned out to be pretty heavy. You can’t cut vegetables with a thick knife, so the cleaver didn’t work for me. A thick knife will be hard to push through tough vegetables like potatoes and yuca, regardless of how sharp it is. You’ll have to push until the food gives, and then you may cut yourself when the knife finally busts loose. My Wok Shop cleaver is very thin, so it’s easy to cut film-like slices of just about anything. The Mundial cleaver seems to be very well made, but it’s not tough enough for meat, and it’s too thick for vegetables. I decided to follow up with a stainless Forschner cleaver, which is much better, but still a little thicker than I would like. The Wok Shop still rules. Best kitchen knife I’ver ever owned.

The santoku is also well made, but it just doesn’t work for me. Something about the shape of the blade. My regular knife is a Forschner chef’s knife, and it’s perfect. The curved edge works wonders when you rock the blade. It’s thin enough to cut vegetables well. The handle is great. It takes an edge in a few seconds. The santoku is too straight, and food doesn’t really fall off the sides of the blade. It doesn’t have enough weight to work for things like mincing. I may go back and order a chef’s knife. The Mundials I fell in love with were chef’s knives. It’s funny; many Americans are convinced that the Japanese are always right, but I’ve found European-style chef’s knives to be much more useful than santokus.

The slicer is great. Zero complaints. I probably should have bought a smaller one, though. They come in three sizes, and I went with 14″ because I have had problems with slicing knives being too short. I think the best answer is to have a long one and a short one.

I went on the web and said a few things about the Shun knives (made by Kershaw) that I had bought. I didn’t expect to make Shun-lovers angry, but that’s what happened. It’s funny how people will get angry when you criticize a product. You would think they had given birth to their knives.

I had a Shun santoku and a cleaver, plus a Tojiro nakiri. I found them useless. The Shun site states that Shun knives are dishwasher-safe, but chunks fell out of my knife when I washed it. The cleaver was short, way too thick, and poorly balanced, and after the santoku incident, I knew I could not put it in the dishwasher. The nakiri was just stupid. I cannot understand why they exist. Thick and fragile. I gave away all three knives. They were taking up space and doing nothing for me.

Shun-worshipers told me I was a “moron” for putting my knife in the dishwasher. I guess Doug Kershaw is a moron, too, because his website says the knives can take it.

I don’t get the Japanese-knife-adulation fad. The knives are extremely well made, and the quality is attractive, but they just don’t perform. What good is a tool that doesn’t work? You could make a chef’s knife with a gold blade if you wanted, and I’m sure it would be pretty, but what’s the point if you can’t cut anything with it?

The Kershaw site says that while Doug will not actually put a voodoo hex on you for using the dishwasher, it’s better to hand-wash. And they even give instructions for doing this:

The best and easiest method is simply to wash the knife using a damp sponge and mild soap right after you use it. Make sure you do not run the sponge-or your hand-directly along the blade at any time. Towel-dry the knife and let it air dry for a few minutes before retuning [sic] to its proper storage.

Good Lord. Is it a knife or a sick baby? Here’s what I do with my Forschners and Mundials: toss in dishwasher, turn on, flop in front of TV. They never chip. They are just as sharp as Shuns. They don’t cost much. You can even get them with color-coded indestructible NSF handles. The choice is obvious.

I’m thinking I should get a couple more chef’s knives, so I will be able to go back and forth between ingredients without spreading germs. Imagine buying enough Shuns to do that. Three knives…$400. I could have forty carbon-steel cleavers for that.

Picture yourself working with, say, four Shuns. When you’re done, you have to pick each one up, find the “mild soap,” wash it the way nurses washed Richard Pryor after he burned himself, set it aside to air dry (!), and then put it away in your special Japanese knife kimono or whatever. I don’t know about you, but I work hard in the kitchen. I’m not just slicing “boil-in bags.” When the night is over, I want OUT. I can clean four Forschners in four seconds. Dump in machine; turn on.

I will never buy a sissy container to protect my knives, unless I need something to carry them around. I use a magnetic bar on the wall, just like a real chef.

I still have to hand-wash the cheap cleaver, but it’s worth it, because that thing BURIES a Japanese cleaver. I can sharpen it in thirty seconds, to the point where I can hold a paper towel in my left hand, wave the cleaver through it with my right, and watch half of the towel drift to the floor. It crushes garlic. It tenderizes meat. It works as a shovel. It minces effortlessly. It’s so good, it’s weird and inexplicable.

People say I misunderstand. Japanese knives are great if you TAKE CARE of them. Excuse me…I thought they were supposed to work for ME.

It’s really this simple: they don’t work better than cheap knives, they cost much more, they are much harder to maintain, and they are extremely fragile. Where, in all that, is the reason for buying them?

I think I know what’s going on. Insecure people like buying stuff that validates their existence. The Shun people are probably just like the guys who spend $10,000 on CD players and claim it’s worth it. If you have Shakti stones under your clock radio, you will probably love Shun knives. A fool and his money…

I know Alton Brown recommends them. Of course, they PAY him to do that.

Tools are confusing. Sometimes the pricey ones pay off. Sometimes they’re money sinks for the weak-minded. I have been sucked in more than once.

Here’s an illustration of the choices people face. You want sharp knives, right? You can spend billions (small exaggeration) on a machine called a Tormek. Some people who own them will swear they’re essential. Other people will insist you buy expensive Japanese water stones, which you have to keep in containers of water, which, I’m sure, get funky after a few days in the garage. But it turns out there is a sharpening method which is better and cheaper, at least for some applications. It’s called the “Scary Sharp Method.” You buy a piece of flat glass and some sandpaper, and you go to town. Probably costs $20 for supplies that will last five years. Personally, I use a coarse diamond hone and a fine ceramic hone, and the results are spectacular. But you can see how confusing it can be.

A knife’s edge is something that only lasts a short time, anyway, and no one can tell how you sharpened it when they look at the food. You shouldn’t spend an hour trying to get an edge that will be gone after three heavy cooking sessions. Manufacturers know this. Non-Japanese cutlery makers know how to make knives just as hard as the Japanese ones, but they also know that hard knives are brittle and hard to sharpen, so they deliberately limit the hardness. If you think it costs a lot of money to make a hard knife, go to the hardware store and check the prices on files, which are extremely hard.

You can spend a million dollars equipping a kitchen. But you have to ask yourself: what kind of stuff do they use in restaurants? Mundial and Forschner. Aluminum pans. I use Update International cookware and old cast iron from Ebay, and my food is so good it shocks me. Sometimes quality matters, and sometimes it doesn’t. Money ALWAYS matters.

The more in love people are with their tools, the less capable they are of producing results. That’s a rule of thumb arising from my own observations. A lot of people love appearance more than substance. I’ve known dozens of “writers,” but most never wrote much of anything. Most people who own Ferraris don’t know how to drive them. Do you love doing what you do, or do you love thinking of yourself as the type of person who does it? A real cook will do better with tools from KMart than a Food Network fanboi will do with All-Clad and Le Creuset. This is why we have the expression, “The proof of the pudding is in the eating.”

It’s pointless to write this. Some people are incapable of looking past tool quality. If it’s made really well, it must be the right thing to buy!

Get yourself one of those Wok Shop cleavers. You don’t know what you’re missing.

Bury and Water a Mustard Seed

Monday, October 17th, 2011

The Cat Poop, You Can Pitch

When it comes to bad news, human beings have the same attitude that cats have about poop. Bury it and walk away.

Unfortunately, this works better for cats than people. If you’re not honest with yourself and others, you will not get rid of your problems. Instead you will encapsulate them in a scab of lies, and over time, the problems will fester and grow.

This is what the ancient Jews did when the prophets told them things they didn’t want to hear. Often they also put the prophets in jail or murdered them. The practice of shooting messengers is probably about one day younger than the practice of bringing messages.

Later on, after the guilty parties were dead, the Jews talked about the greatness of the prophets. They honored them. Over time, people come to see a prophet’s merit, but when this happens the prophet is generally dead, and the awful judgments he tried to prevent have already befallen the folks who killed him.

We always look back and say, “Wow, I wouldn’t have persecuted that guy. Those people were stupid.” Christians love taking this attitude toward Jews, but we are exactly the same. In fact, we are probably worse. Many of us have had personal exposure to spiritual gifts and supernatural wonders. The baptism with the Holy Spirit has been available to us for 2000 years. The Holy Spirit himself will testify against us when we try to explain why we drove him away and didn’t listen.

Last night, I had a fresh revelation on the similarity of Jews and Christians. I was reading the gospel of Mark, but the point is better illustrated by Matthew 23, which refers to the same material at greater length. Jesus railed against glory-starved, power-hungry, greedy religious authorities who served their own bellies at the expense of the expense of the poor and the kingdom of God.

Here is part of the chapter:

But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows’ houses, and for a pretence make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation.

Think of the TV preachers we deal with today. Sure, they preach the gospel, and they help people get salvation. But some tell us things that are not true, in order to make money. They tell us we have to give cash offerings three times a year, to get “seven blessings” from God. They tell us we’ll get a “hundredfold return” if we give money “above the tithe.” I have never heard one warn us to pay our debts first. I have never heard one warn us not to borrow in order to give.

What’s the result? Faithful Christians who think they’re doing the right thing shovel out money, and it’s not always money they can afford. Some of these people are seniors on fixed incomes or living on savings. So we have preachers who are quite literally “devouring widows’ houses.”

This is the cat poop I was talking about. If you point out the problems with the strange doctrine we hear today, you may get thrown out of a church. I think you can pretty much count on being excluded from any type of promotion from within the Christian community. You’re not likely to be invited to speak on TBN.

God tells us to give. He says we should lend without expecting a return. He says he will keep poverty away from the righteous, and he will return money we give to the poor. He implies that he will listen to our cries for our help, if we listen to the cries of the needy. But he is not so gung-ho on giving outrageous gifts to ministries.

We have to support ministries. We have to give to our churches. No doubt about it. And I believe God rewards this, WHEN we are guided by the Holy Spirit. But will he reward us when we’re simply giving in order to get money back? Will he reward us because we’ve given to ministers who have whined and begged and made us feel guilty? Will he reward us when we give rashly, without consulting the Holy Spirit, or when we force our creditors to bear the true burden of our generosity?

I get tired of ministers complaining about low offerings. On the one hand, they tell us God will bless his servants, and they say they practice what they preach. They tell us they give, just as we do. On the other, they say their ministries need help. Am I the only one who sees the inconsistency here? If God isn’t blessing your ministry, why should I? Maybe you need to be chastised, and if I block God’s judgment, you’ll be deprived of a valuable lesson. If God wants you to have my money, why isn’t he urging me to give it to you? He urges me to give all the time. If you’re not on his list, isn’t it kind of a heads-up?

There are some ministries that seem safe. Perry Stone is very successful, and he never begs. John Bevere doesn’t beg. Both of these men talk about the Holy Spirit all the time. As far as I know, neither one has a megachurch with tacky furnishings and a jet. I’m sure they live well. So what? Congratulations to them. I can find no fault with them, so I don’t care if they live in the Taj Mahal. I think God will quite literally bring plenty to people who support such individuals. But these other characters…the guys who say “seed gift” fifty times an hour…there is no way I’ll ever give any of them a dime.

Right now, mindless, greedy people are protesting in our streets, and they’re learning how powerful mobs can be. Mayor Bloomberg bows to them. President Obama says he supports them. The cops are afraid of them. And these people do not like God or Christianity. There have already been rumblings about protesting outside megachurches.

What’s going to happen as the economy gets worse and we continue to encourage these grown brats? They’re going to get bolder, and their numbers will increase. We’ve seen this in the past. Look up “Bonus Army.” Look up “Hooverville.” And thanks to technology, todays mobs are much more adaptable and coordinated than the mobs of old. They’re way more dangerous.

Sooner or later, Christians who have obliterated their savings giving to false prophets will start popping up in the crowds. The mobs may follow through on the church protests. We won’t be able to get rid of them without the National Guard. What will we say to them? “Your hundredfold return is in the mail”? Testimony is a powerful thing, but what if we start hearing testimony proving the prosperity preachers are wrong?

I know a person who gave a lot to ministries and ended up broke, deeply in debt, unemployed, nearly friendless, afflicted with incurable cancer, facing felony charges, and mentally ill. Is this the only such person in the United States? Seriously, now. There may be millions. They’re not going to stay quiet forever. Sooner or later the cat poop is going to pop out of the sand.

Christianity is not about getting rich. It’s about improving by means of submitting to the Holy Spirit. It’s about power and blessings, but it’s also about righteousness. The other day, I thought I heard God telling me, “Righteousness IS power.” We’re supposed to be praying in tongues, listening to the Holy Spirit, and learning to walk by faith. Sending foolish people big checks is not the central practice of our religion.

The world is descending into economic chaos. Things are going to get bad. Riots are a certainty. We are going to make ourselves targets by promoting self-serving nonsense. We are going to legitimize anti-Christian sentiment. We need to look at the long view. Building a few ridiculous megachurches right now will not save us at a time when we need to be able to show people God’s power and love. No rioter or home invader is going to respect a preacher in a $5000 magenta suit when he tries to explain himself. Only the angels and the Holy Spirit will be able to defend us, rescue us, and help our persecutors become like us. We are supposed to be lights to the world, and if we were, God would make some effort to preserve us. But if all we teach is greed and success, we are of the world as well as in it. Why would God intervene to help one worldly person against another? If we’re not invested in him, what is the point? It’s just one person who trusts and lusts after money, fighting his brother.

If a prosperity preacher had been advising Moses, he would have told him to snuggle up to Pharaoh. “He’s a man of influence! He’s powerful! Let’s network! Let’s see if we can get him to tithe! Our problems will be OVER.” That’s not how we’re supposed to live. The powerful person we’re supposed to get close to is God.

Some of our preachers are putting nooses around their own necks. The Kristallnacht spirit is getting strong, and when the dam bursts, the most tempting victims will be those who are clearly hypocrites and scoundrels. And the rest of us will be splattered by the fallout.

We need to turn from this foolishness while there is time. We need to repent and distance ourselves. The innocent will suffer along with the guilty, but innocence is still an asset in and of itself, and it may be a help to us. And if we start taking care of the poor instead of spoiling celebrity preachers, we know God will be on our side, because he has promised it.

Protesting is a Gas

Sunday, October 16th, 2011

Keep an Eye on the Canaries

I am not the most self-confident person on earth, regardless of how I may come off in writing. For this reason, I am often shocked to see how right I’ve been. I was right when I called Obama “Carter II,” before other people were predicting it. I was right about Pajamas Media, Arnold Schwarzenegger, the housing market…I don’t want to make a list, but I have been right about a whole lot of things.

Today I realized how right I’ve been about anti-Semitism.

I was driving home from church this afternoon, and I saw a well-known graffitti wall beside I-95 in Miami. I can’t recall the exact words that were painted on it, but the gist of it was that we should kill the “Wall Street Bankers.”

That’s the whole message. Not, “Adjust the law to reduce corruption.” Not, “Find those who have committed crimes and give them fair trials.” No, this was more of a Cambodian-style distillation of mob sentiment. “Let’s kill an entire class of people, without trial, based on a vague suspicion that some of them are doing things we don’t like.” This kind of thinking is what put over a million bodies in ditches in Cambodia, for crimes such as reading books and wearing eyeglasses.

For a long time, I have predicted a worldwide increase in anti-Semitism. I’ve also predicted that the blame would spread to Bible-believing Christians, but that’s another issue. I saw what was happening in the appeasement-crazy world after 9/11, and I realized it’s always easier to slap the good child than the brat who is causing the problem. I knew people cared more about oil than morality. Israel and the Jews would ultimately pay for the savagery of Muslim terrorists.

Then I saw Jewish names in the news, associated strongly with economic failure. Stearns, Salomon, Madoff…soon to be joined by Bernanke and Geithner. I knew the Jewishness of the names would not escape the notice of the mob.

Now it’s okay to call for the murder of “Wall Street Bankers.” It’s okay for Occupy Wall Street to threaten to storm the homes of people who have money. They discuss it openly. Essentially, the left has sanctioned Kristallnacht. They’re just waiting for a surge of momentum to get the movement out of the potential well and into an unstabilized state where it can run away like an atomic pile.

What has “bankers” historically meant, in the mouths of mob criminals? “JEWS.” Perennial losers and effete antisocial opportunists with bullhorns are gaining sudden, unmerited prominence and power, and they’re using it to tell our mindless, rebellion-loving children that “bankers” have cheated them. More importantly, they’ve cheated the underprivileged. So killing the bankers isn’t revenge. It’s social justice. It’s altruism. Barging into a rich Jew’s home, beating him to death, stealing his valuables, and raping his wife and daughters isn’t debauchery and mayhem. It’s karma. It would be wrong NOT to do it. So, like Che Guevara, who used economic disparity as an excuse to sate his preexisting love of cruelty and murder, our urchin vigilantes are becoming convinced that any act of sadism, covetousness, or bigotry is a mitzvah, as long as “bankers” are the victims.

Democrats are fanning the flames. Our elected representatives should be recoiling in horror at the hatred and obvious stupidity of the Occupy movement, but they’re not. Elections are won and lost by paper-thin margins these days, and the unanticipated result is that politicians will sink to levels that, in the past, were too low even for those inclined to seek public office. Democrats know they’re unpopular. They’re losing the Jewish vote, the centrist vote, the Latin vote, and even some of the black vote. They don’t think they can sell us the same product that got them through the last few election cycles. Not to the same people. But now they have a glimmer of hope. Dirty, spoiled kids and equally spoiled union hacks will sit in parks and get free media attention for the left. Who knows? Maybe they’ll gain popularity. There are plenty of people out there who would like the government to take other people’s money and give it to them. There are probably millions of deadbeats who don’t want to honor their student loans. Maybe this will pay off at the polls. So our President and many prominent Democrats in Congress are backing the mob. It’s shocking. They’re pouring gasoline on the fire, simply because they think the wind is blowing it away from them.

What do you say when your President applauds the actions of a hate-crazed mob that has no respect for the law and knows no fear? Who protects you when the executive branch is against you? These are the people who look after us. The G-men. The DOJ. The FBI. When our supreme authority says you’re fair game, who are you supposed to run to? Anne Frank could tell you.

Here is our situation. The left is telling us the Jews are the reason for Mideast tension. They cause high gas prices. They cause “unnecessary” and “illegal” wars. They steal land. They enforce apartheid. Now “bankers” with Jewish names have brought our country down, taken all the wealth, caused the real estate collapse, and killed all the jobs. And the message from the media is that the right has gone crazy. The “Jesusland” nuts in the Tea Party want to bring back Jim Crow, starve babies and old people, take away our medical care, and, I guess, kick puppies in the stomach. The President has given this worldview his blessing, and half of Congress agrees.

It’s going to get worse. Within a year, we’ll start hearing the word “Jew” as well as “banker” and “Zionist.” At first, it will be “isolated” incidents. Sooner or later, the cowards will see that they have sufficient numbers to justify boldness, and then we’ll hear it more often. What then? It probably depends on the polls.

Liberals will probably sell the Jews out gradually. Rich Jews who work on Wall Street? I guess we can afford to let them go. Conservative Jews who want an undivided Israel? They’re just troublemakers anyway, and they’re off the DNC plantation. Professional Jews who make good money? Well, this country gave to them, so it’s time they gave a little back. And if Jews start voting conservatively, in self-defense, it will just prove they were on the wrong side all along.

With luck, we’re about 15 years from yellow felt stars, and from there, it’s a short step to Zyklon B.

And of course, Jews will be prominent in the Occupy movement. Until it decides to feed on them. That’s always the way. They helped Russia go communist, and then the state turned on them and gave free rein to endemic Eastern European anti-Semitism. Jews who have no relationship with God have a long history of serving their worst enemies.

I’m glad this disgusting mural went up. I hope to see more of them. I hope they start illustrating them with cartoons of “bankers” being disembowelled. Those who are capable of being educated need a window into the mind of the sleeping (or more accurately, stoned) giant.

Satan hates God’s people, both Jewish and Christian. He will try to kill the Jews to prevent prophecy from coming true, and he will try to get the rest of us so no one will remain to restrain him.

Laugh now. In five years, it won’t seem so funny.

Mr. Popularity Still At It

Friday, October 14th, 2011

I Will Never Have a Parking Space at TBN

Last night I wondered if I was getting too confrontational with my comments on today’s churches. Then I sat down to read the Bible, and I asked God to guide me. I landed on Thessalonians 1. Here is what I saw:

But even after we had suffered before and were spitefully treated at Philippi, as you know, we were bold in our God to speak to you the gospel of God in much conflict. For our exhortation did not come from error or uncleanness, nor was it in deceit. But as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, even so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who tests our hearts. For neither at any time did we use flattering words, as you know, nor a cloak for covetousness—God is witness. Nor did we seek glory from men, either from you or from others, when we might have made demands as apostles of Christ. But we were gentle among you, just as a nursing mother cherishes her own children.

It’s amazing that I even needed to read this, but I know the reason. Modern churches are being brainwashed with a tactic taken from cults and authoritarian governments. They are teaching that all criticism is evil. They say we have to be “under authority.” They use the word “positive” all the time. They condemn anything “negative.” This is exactly what the Soviets did, except they backed it up with Gulags and firing squads. It’s what the Scientologists do.

I’ve learned a lot by subjecting myself to authority. It’s important to learn to listen to people God places above you. For this reason, I have been affected by the positivity campaign. I saw some true value in it. But when your human authorities blow it sufficiently badly, and your prayers don’t change them in a reasonable amount of time, you need to speak God’s truth, without fear or hesitation. Only the Holy Spirit can tell you when to open your mouth and when to shut it, and you have to pray for guidance.

Over and over, I see confirmation that God’s true servants need to speak up. The greatest figures in the Bible were critics. Jesus, Moses, Jeremiah, Isaiah, Samuel, Nathan, Stephen, Paul, Peter, James, Micaiah…the list is very long. Here’s the list of people who are revered because they told everyone that what they were doing was just fine:

Can you think of a single one? I can’t.

It’s not that God likes to beat people up. It’s just that human beings require constant correction. It’s a mathematical certainty. There is only one right path. There are an infinite number of wrong paths. At any given moment, chances are, you’re starting to head in the wrong direction. Think about driving. What do your hands do, several times a second? They make tiny corrections in the path of your car. The nature of the universe makes it unavoidable. It’s not a commentary on your worthlessness. It just how things are.

Look what that material from Thessalonians 1 discusses.

1. Paul was mistreated in Philippi. Of course he was. He’s referring to other believers who didn’t want to listen. The church has always hated critics.

2. Paul spoke BOLDLY in MUCH CONFLICT. He didn’t go up on the platform and receive hugs and encomiums from the pastor and elders (or the synagogue bigwigs, if it was a synagogue). He offended, but he stuck to his guns. He didn’t worry about the resulting hard feelings, any more than Elijah worried when he cut the throats of the prophets of Baal. It had to be done.

3. He did not seek to PLEASE MEN. He wanted to please GOD. And in his work, he did not resort fo FLATTERY (seeker-sensitivity), nor did he use the gospel as a pretext for MAKING MONEY. Even though he was entitled to take payment (we know this from other scriptures), this was not his motive for speaking.

4. He did not seek GLORY.

What if you tried this approach today? All I can say is, thank God flogging is illegal, because a person with Paul’s attitude would infuriate a lot of people.

These days, preachers who have learned to trust in money and glory show up in churches, holler platitudes and slogans having little application to their own lives, receive praise and big offerings, and leave. Young people look at them and think, “Wow, I want to be a preacher.” They think all the old scriptures about self-denial are obsolete. TBN canceled that stuff twenty years ago! Now you’re supposed to be rich, and everyone is supposed to love you.

Preachers show up and tell us over and over that God wants us to be rich. They tell us we can be just like worldly people, listening to the same dirty music, dressing the same way, and obsessing on wealth. They lap up praise. They’re pampered and treated like royalty. And these things happen at churches where people in need are treated like flies. Shoo them away; don’t let them bother the pastors!

These days, preachers NETWORK. It’s just like being a lawyer. If you want clients, you go to parties. You speak at seminars. You pass out business cards. You join organizations. You suck up, basically. And it works. These days, many charismatic preachers want giant churches and TV cameras, and they know the short route to these goals is man-pleasing. They use every networking and marketing method known to man, instead of developing God’s power to the point where it draws men all by itself.

Jude spoke harshly of those who flatter others in order to gain advantage; even in his time, the principal was understood and exploited. You’re probably never going to be on TBN or Daystar if you disagree publicly with the herd. So instead of leaders, we have followers. “What is the crowd saying? Okay, that’s what I’ll teach.” It’s the Pontius Pilate method.

We’re becoming so worldly, we are no longer under God’s direction. We talk about how much we love him, but we don’t walk in his ways, and our excuse is “SOULS!” Anything that brings people into the church must be good! This is how the ancient synagogues ended up with altars to Ashtoreth beside the altars to Jehovah. Seeker sensitivity. The masses led the rabbis, when the rabbis should have been leading the masses.

It’s not about numbers. It never was. Besides, the gospels show that only the Holy Spirit can show you where to cast your net. The big harvest you get by listening to your own peanut brain will turn out to be very small, when the false positives are weeded out.

I’m going to make a better effort to refrain from hiding the truth. If I make people mad, so be it. I’m used to that. At least I’ll have some self-respect, and I won’t be helping to keep people from knowing God.

My Faith Waxes

Thursday, October 13th, 2011

Almost Literally

Last night I had a real “wax on, wax off” moment.

Ancient individuals who, like me, were formed from the Permian mud, will recall that there was another Karate Kid movie, made back in 1984. The clever old Asian character was Japanese, and his name was Mr. Miyagi. When his student, Ralph Macchio, showed up for training, Miyagi made him wax his cars, sand his deck, and paint his fence. Ralph figured Miyagi was going to get his house fixed up for nothing, teach him no skills, and let him be beaten to a paste at the tournament.

Ralph got fed up and said he was quitting. Miyagi made him demonstrate the movements he had learned while fixing the house, and it turned out they were useful in karate. So he had improved more than he thought. And fortunately, the screenwriter helped him, too, seeing to it that he pummeled several bigger kids who had been taking actual lessons for ten years.

Then Ralph went on to a supporting role in “My Cousin Vinnie,” after which, Marisa Tomei got an Oscar, proving that not all competitions come out the way they should. I don’t know if Martin Kove coached the actresses who lost.

Anyway, I was in prayer last night, and I was feeling discouraged, but then I thought about the stuff I was praying for, and I thought of the way my attitude and behavior had changed over the last few years, and I realized I had made great progress. I am still not quite perfect (wonderful though I am) but things have changed a lot. I have very powerful faith. I get into God’s presence every day. I know much more about God than I used to. The Holy Spirit has taught me and changed me. My goals are different. My desires are different. If perfection is 100%, I would give myself a good solid D.

That’s a big step forward.

I am improving in most ways, but I am losing patience with misguided teachers. I’m not sure that’s a bad thing. Sometimes anger is the right response.

I’m very tired of people who talk about money all the time. You know what? Trusting God with your money is only a small part of Christianity. And he will not honor you if you give your money to a fool who preaches nonsense and lives in rebellion. Maybe God will return the cash to you if you acknowledge your mistake and ask for another chance. I don’t see why not. But I don’t think he’s going to give you “a hundredfold return” on the Social Security checks you’ve been endorsing over to Benny Hinn. Not unless the Holy Spirit told you to do it.

Once again, I have to ask: if these guys are so keen on giving, why don’t they talk about giving to OTHER HUMAN BEINGS? Seriously, does every megachurch need its own airstrip, while people in Africa are starving for food as well as God? Could we maybe have a ten-story church instead of a twelve-story church, if it means helping more people? Do we have to be ostentatious and tacky every single minute of our lives?

The Bible mentions charity and generosity over and over. In comparison, the obligation to give tithes and offerings gets little play. The Bible says God will ignore our cries if we ignore the cries of the poor. When was the last time a charismatic preacher mentioned that? I can’t recall hearing it a single time, but I can’t even guess at the number of times I’ve heard “pressed down, shaken together and running over.”

“Oh, but the megachurches have charity programs.” Please. They won’t even open their books. Generally, we have no idea what percentage of their money goes to the poor. Real charities have open books and annual reports. Why shove your money down a blind rathole, when you could be giving to an above-board outfit like World Relief or the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews? Seriously, do you want your money to pay for new Pirellis on a preacher’s Benz, or would you like to lift someone out of a refugee camp in Ethiopia PERMANENTLY and move them Israel, in fulfillment of prophecy?

Aside from that, the more you walk with God, the more opportunities he will give you to do good on a personal level. You will meet people who have sudden financial needs. You will meet people who need prayer. Someone will need the old laptop you put in your closet. Someone will need a pair of shoes. You won’t always have to look for an organization to distribute your money for you.

I am angry because I know a little bit about God’s goodness, and churches are preventing other people from getting what I have. God is wonderful. He’s warm. He’s reassuring. He’s generous. He’s invincible in dealing with your enemies. He wants to give you peace and success. He wants to spend time with you when you’re all alone, not just in church. He will do great things for you, BUT ONLY IF YOU COME TO HIM HIS WAY. You’re not going to get there by transferring your parents’ estate to some greedy character who thinks God wants him and his current wife to have matching Bentleys parked in front of all their homes. The garbage they preach has almost nothing to do with meeting God or being transformed by him.

Many preachers won’t talk like this. They’ll be ostracized. They won’t be asked to go on TBN. They won’t get filthy rich. They might offend other preachers. What does it add up to? They’re gutless and greedy. Two great characteristics to combine in a man of God.

Sometimes you have to offend man in order to please God. It’s wrong to offend people without justification, but sometimes it has to be done. And the world will not reward you for it. Carnal Christians won’t, either. They’ll buy the nails and the wood for the cross. They’re so thrilled to be told they can be just like ungodly people–that they can live like ungodly people and be accepted–that it infuriates and threatens them when anyone bursts their bubble. Nobody likes a spanking.

I don’t know what’s going to happen. I pray for God to wake the church up and cleanse it, and I know he will, but will he be able to do it on a big enough scale to make the church his? Probably not. God always ends up with a remnant, not the whole enchilada. He gets Gideon’s tiny troop of left-handed men. He gets 120 disciples praying in the Upper Room. He gets David’s cave army, or the Jewish minority that left Egypt under Moses. He gets 144,000 Jews in the last days. That’s not going to change. Not unless Biblical patterns have lost their predictive validity.

Sooner or later I will fall out of favor with the TBN/megachurch/seeker-sensitive movement. I’m a nobody, so no one notices me (or reads this blog), but if the enemy sees me as a threat, he will eventually alert his troops. I’m glad I haven’t been embraced and promoted. It would be hard to give that up. You have to live in a tabernacle, not a building of stone. You have to be ready to move at a moment’s notice. You have to eat the matzah standing up, and you have to rebuild the temple with a weapon in one hand. Fortunately, I have nothing to lose. I do things for ministries. They do almost nothing for me. They have nothing to hold over my head if I leave.

These days I pray for direction. I am not pleased with the direction my church is taking, and I really miss sitting in services and being bowled over by God’s presence and wisdom, so I would like to move on. On the other hand, I am very attached to some of the people there, and we are definitely succeeding in introducing believers to the Holy Spirit. Maybe this has to be a time of giving and not receiving, at least with regard to my relations with human beings. I just don’t want to get weary. Every so often, you have to feed the ox that treads out the grain. I am not a person of great character, so I can’t run on empty all the time. Once in a while, I need a return on my investment.

Last night I got a little reinforcement. I will get by on that until I reach the next oasis.

Unlucky Seven

Wednesday, October 12th, 2011

Wrong Holiday

More interesting stuff about the bizarre “Seven Blessings” doctrine taught by Steve Munsey: it turns out he didn’t even get the holidays right. I didn’t know this until just now. I’m no Torah scholar; I just assumed he had a clue when he picked three holidays for his “Seven Blessings” drives. He promotes himself as “Dr. Steve Munsey.” That suggests expertise, does it not?

In Biblical times, there were only three holidays which required Jews to travel to Jerusalem. Those holidays were Pesach (Passover), Shavuot (Pentecost), and Sukkot (the Feast of Tabernacles). Yom Kippur was the holiest day of the year, but it did not require a pilgrimage.

Take note: Sukkot and Yom Kippur are two completely separate events. Sukkot is not the second half of Yom Kippur. It’s not a continuation of Yom Kippur. It’s completely different. I say that because I can already hear the apologists trying to draw a nonexistent connection, in order to save face.

On the three pilgrimage holidays, Jewish males (not females) had to travel to Jerusalem and participate. They did not have to give big cash offerings, although I suppose a freewill offering could take place on any calendar date. Nobody promised them seven blessings.

And of course, Gentiles could not participate in these festivals, so even if Steve Munsey had it right, it would have no relevance to Christians.

It disturbs me that TV evangelists are promoting the Munsey events. It shows they don’t know much about Judaism. Why didn’t they research before committing their flocks to this business? Where is the stewardship? My hope is that they were simply so conditioned to believe that they slipped up. But the obvious self-interest angle raises questions. They are preaching a doctrine that brings them money, so is it possible that the prospect of big offerings caused them to rationalize instead of studying?

This is going to blow up in the faces of preachers everywhere. People will eventually start wondering where their seven blessings went. They will obey. They will believe. Then God may or may not give them what they thought they had coming. When people lose jobs and homes in the upcoming economic disaster, will they sit back and take it on the chin, or will they get on the web, find out the truth about the Jewish holidays, and demand accountability?

This is the kind of thing that destroys the reputation of the body of Christ. Why can’t it be about the Holy Spirit, prayer, repentance, love, service, and giving? Why do preachers have to talk people out of their savings and build monstrous churches? No wonder people think we’re suckers. I guess we are. You can’t be teachable and faithful without swallowing a few lies.

God is real. The baptism with the Holy Spirit is real. About 85% of what the money-crazed churches teach is real. But the other nonsense is like a dead rat on a birthday cake. It’s hard to get to the good stuff when so much filth is in the way.

More

Speaking of dubious authorities, here is Wikipedia’s entry on the three pilgrimages Jews were required to make.

New Recipe From the Rotten-Beef Guy: Sour Pancakes

Monday, October 10th, 2011

Fake Injera Using Cabbage Germs

If you really like torturing yourself with spicy food (as I do), you need to learn about Ethiopian cuisine. I know almost nothing about it, but I managed to come up with a really good recipe for doro wat (chicken stew), which I stuck in my cookbook.

Incidentally, I have decided you’re better off cutting up a whole chicken than using chicken breast, which is possibly what I suggested in the book (don’t remember). Chicken breast will eventually tighten up and expel a lot of its moisture if you cook it too long. The fat in darker cuts makes them less problematic.

Anyway, I’m writing about this today because I have a way of making better pancakes.

Doro wat is usually served on unsweetened pancakes (injera) made from soured batter. The proper grain to use is a dark millet called teff. Personally, I think teff tastes the way cow manure smells, but that’s just me. You can make excellent pancakes using white flour.

Today I decided to see what I could do using sourdough starter. I have starter made from kimchi juice and white flour, and I added instant yeast and let the whole thing ferment until it died. It gets rubbery at first, but when you let it go all the way, it gets runny again, and it’s easier to handle. I guess it went two days, on a table with no refrigeration.

This morning I mixed about 75 grams of this stuff (milkshake consistency) with around 1 1/4 cups of bread flour. I also beat two egg whites until stiff, and I stirred them in. I added salt and–probably unnecessarily–about half a teaspoon of sugar. I also added a teaspoon of salt, although it would have been smarter to stir that in later.

I let the mixture ferment on the counter all day, stirring every once in a while to distribute the bacteria and yeast.

I am no sourdough expert, but from what I’ve read about the performance of starters made from airborn bacteria or commercial cultures, I think the kimchi bacteria may be unusually speedy. Whatever the case may be, by five p.m., the batter was pretty sour. I think 18 hours would have been better, but it was definitely sour. I stirred in a couple of tablespoons of cheap olive oil, and I fried myself some pancakes in a 14″ Teflon skillet.

When I was a kid, a French lady told me how to make crepes, and that’s what injera is, pretty much. You put a thin layer of batter on a hot pan, distribute it evenly, and wait for the top of the crepe to look dry. Then you flip it, and when sweat pops out on the top side, it’s done. You can brown it if you want, but when the little beads of moisture show up, it’s cooked through. This is how I cooked today’s faux injera.

The result was excellent. I didn’t even need baking powder. The pancakes were foamy and light, and they were tough enough to do what had to be done. When you eat Ethiopian food, you tear off chunks of injera and use them to grab and wrap up the other food, and the crepes have to have a little backbone. In retrospect, I think I might have been better off with half as much egg white, but it’s a tough call.

Try this yourself.

INGREDIENTS

75-100 grams milkshake-consistency sourdough starter made from kimchi bacteria and instant yeast
1 1/4 cups bread flour
2 egg whites, beaten stiff
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons oil or other fat

Mix the ingredients, except for the salt, and let sit for 12-18 hours at room temperature. When the mixture is really sour, add the salt and mix it in. Make crepes using a 14″ Teflon pan on medium-high heat. They should be around 3/16″ thick.

I also used sweet Hungarian paprika from Penzey’s, as well as fresh nutmeg, freshly ground cumin, and black cardamom, which is THE BOMB. I can’t say enough about this spice. Buy some and try it. I don’t know why people think green cardamom is better. The black stuff has a smoky flavor that seems to improve everything it touches.

I grind my spices in a dedicated electric coffee mill. I even ground cloves today, although I’ve found that ground cloves exude something that fogs plastic, so you have to wipe it out of your mill before it causes problems.

I ate my doro wat and injera with a glob of sour cream on the side. It’s a phenomenal combination, but you really have to jack up the habaneros when you use sour cream, because it kills the heat.

Anyway, this was super tasty. Try it.

Washed in the Water

Sunday, October 9th, 2011

Not the Kool-Aid

I had an interesting experience yesterday.

Background information: I am not happy with the “seven blessings” doctrine many churches are teaching now. Supposedly you give a big cash offering to your church on Pentecost, Passover, or Yom Kippur (“the Atonement”), and in return, God gives you seven blessings. This is supposed to come from Judaism, which required all believers to show up in Jerusalem three times a year and give their “very best offerings.”

Problem: Judaism only required men to show up.

Problem: there were no big cash offerings.

Problem: God didn’t promise anybody seven blessings on the Jewish holidays.

Problem: Christians are not under the Jewish law, and even if they were, it would be unlawful for them to show up among Jewish men during Jewish holidays and try to horn in on the observance.

The “Seven Blessings of Passover/Seven Blessings of Pentecost/Seven Blessings of the Atonement” fad is completely invalid. Near as I can tell, these doctrines were made up fairly recently by a pastor named Steve Munsey. They were never part of Judaism.

With all this in mind, I’ll write about my experience.

I went to Ayts Chayim Messianic Synagogue in Boca Raton, because I wanted to see my friends there and enjoy their Yom Kippur service. I got some friends from church to go. The service was amazing. First of all, there was no mention of big cash offerings. In fact, I don’t they mentioned money at all. Second, the rabbi taught about the real meaning of Yom Kippur, and he discussed appropriate teachings from Hebrews, linking Jesus to the most important Jewish holiday. Third, the Holy Spirit showed up like a thick cloud of peace, and we got to spend some wonderful time in his presence.

At one point, the rabbi said that people could present themselves as offerings if they wanted. They were encouraged to go to the front of the room. I went up there with the rest, and while I was there, I talked to God about the inadequacy of the things I do for him. I said any offering I might give him was tainted and corrupt, and I said I was offering myself, because it was “the best offering” I had.

Of course, when I heard that phrase in my mind, I thought of the Seven Blessings nonsense. “Very best offering” is what they tell you to bring. I wasn’t thinking about that when I went forward, but after the phrase appeared in my prayers, I could not miss the similarity.

I believe the Holy Spirit was underscoring the difference between dying charismatic churches and the synagogue. Many charismatic churches are losing God’s presence and favor. They’re wooing people by offering worldly garbage instead of the power and cleansing of the Holy Spirit. They have to rely on gimmicks and drives and so on. God isn’t blessing them, so they use worldly means to get what they want (usually high attendance and bigger collections), and then they claim God did it. Godly people who know better are growing frustrated, and they are leaving churches.

While the Holy Spirit was resting on us, I marveled at the difference between the synagogue and my church. We just don’t get that kind of response from God any more. I get it at when I’m alone, and sometimes it happens in my prayer group, but not in the services. I had forgotten what it was like to experience it in a service.

Now, naturally, I’m wondering if it’s time to change churches. Pastors like to say, “Grow where you’re planted,” in order to discourage people from moving around. They call people “church-hoppers.” In reality, the Bible doesn’t back them up. Over and over, great Biblical figures moved around. Abraham left. Noah left. Jacob left. Moses left. The Jews had to leave Israel for Babylon, and God told them they would suffer if they remained. Jesus left Israel for Egypt. Paul left Israel for Arabia. Lot left. How many examples do you want? Ruth left. Peter left. Timothy left. Jonah left.

“Grow where you’re planted” is something pastors say to keep people–and their money–from leaving. There is nothing godly about it. They ought to say, “GO where you’re planted.”

My friends are telling me I’m getting a lot done right where I am. They’re telling me I’m helping the church change. Maybe so. I would really miss the people. Maybe the answer is to start going to the synagogue twice a month, while cutting back at church.

It’s very refreshing to see that there are healthy houses of worship out there. No church is perfect, but some are very good.

If you don’t sense God in a very direct and palpable way in your church, you are missing out. His presence is something you need, and you should not hesitate to work hard to find it.

Funky Beef & Spoiled Dough

Friday, October 7th, 2011

Paradise

A while back I aged a choice rib roast and froze it. I can’t help buying roasts when they’re on sale. It’s a thing.

I decided to cook it. A few days ago I put it in the fridge. As expected, it took eternity to thaw, so I put it on the dining room table for a few hours a day. To prevent death from bacteria, I salted the outside heavily and smeared it with pressed garlic.

Today I buttered it, stuck it on the Showtime oven spits, wrapped foil around it, and tied the foil in place with twine. I roasted it for quite some time. Ordinarily, I’d shoot for maybe 115 degrees, but I was also cooking for my dad, and he won’t eat beef until it’s carbonized, so I went to over 120. I removed the foil at the end to get some browning.

Geez, it was good. It was overcooked, sure, but it fell apart, and the taste was buttery and beefy and amazing. The fatty outer part (the part I love most) was full of the funkiness you get from dry-aging.

I would have baked it at 175 in the oven, but the oven was on the blink. I had to get it fixed today, and by the time it was fixed, it was too late to put the beef in.

I also baked a couple of small potatoes, not wanting to stuff myself silly at lunch. I baked them using my recipe. Rubbed the outsides with wet salt and put them on the rack at 450. They were magnificent.

I also made sourdough bread. I’ve been replenishing my starter stock, and I made some changes, so I wanted to do a test.

Earlier this week, I found that I only had one packet of frozen starter left, so I thawed it, mixed it with water, and used it in a big bowl of wet dough. I divided it in half, and I put instant yeast in one half. I wanted to see how well a mix of yeast and bacteria worked.

This is a starter I made a long time ago from kimchi juice. I don’t know what regular starter is like, but this stuff FLIES. Put it in dough tonight, and the dough will be sour tomorrow.

Last night I took about 1/4 pound of the yeast and bacteria starter, and I mixed it with three parts unleavened dough. I started by Cuisinarting the starter with dry flour, and then I added about 130 grams of water and blended it just until it was wet and mixed. I rolled it into a ball, and I put the ball on a sheet of floured nonstick foil. I put a big glass bowl over the foil, inverted. This way, when the dough rose, it was flat on the bottom, and it didn’t get big enough to be deformed by the walls of the bowl. The only purpose of the bowl was to keep humidity in.

Today when the dough looked sufficiently large, I slid the foil onto a stone at 450 degrees and baked the bread. I had a loaf of store sourdough on hand for comparison.

It turns out my sourdough is ten times better. It’s not as dry, and the flavor is much more intense. I love it. It has a tough crust, but I think that’s normal with sourdough.

I didn’t punch it down. Maybe I should have.

The crust didn’t have those cute little blisters everyone likes.

This is pretty satisfying. I don’t know of anyone else who uses cabbage bacteria to make bread. It has turned out to be easy to use, and it gives excellent results.

I didn’t have real horseradish sauce, so I stirred some prepared horseradish into heavy-duty mayonnaise. It was very good, and it only took a minute.

This is an eye-popping meal that doesn’t take much work. The bread is kind of a pain, but you don’t really need it.

Incidentally, I stirred some of the beef drippings into the garlic butter I used on the potato. It’s a little sick, but it works.

I can’t believe plain old choice beef can be this good. The only seasonings were salt, garlic, and butter. The horseradish wasn’t even needed. Next time I may skip it.

Next time your local grocer has rib roasts on sale, remember this. People will think you’re God’s gift to cooking, and it’s easier than making something stupid, like a casserole.

If you want to kill your guests with pleasure and heart disease, make this stuff and make brownies using my recipe. You can make them days in advance. Nuke the brownies before you serve them, and pile on whipped cream, vanilla ice cream, and hot fudge sauce, plus nuts. If you don’t have my brownie recipe, sorry. You should have bought my book. Now you pay the price.

Build Your Own Tokamak

Wednesday, October 5th, 2011

Youtube Provides the Know-How

Yesterday I put up a post about academic lectures on Youtube. There is some incredible stuff available. It’s the real thing; just like being in a class.

I didn’t mention the coolest thing I found. The India Institute of Technology has 5411 lectures on Youtube. Don’t laugh. Indian math and science is no joke. Evidently, they want to make education available to the poor at no cost. The courses even have syllabi and reference material.

Last night I watched this lecture on Classical Mechanics, presented by Professor V. Balakrishnan.

I also found a ton of stuff from MIT. The impression I get is that MIT doesn’t seriously expect people to become educated; they don’t put everything they have online. But it’s still great material. One of the advantages is that it can build your confidence in your ability to compete at a top school.

I may be spending a lot of time on Youtube this year.

U. Tube

Tuesday, October 4th, 2011

Get Your Degree in Comical Groin Injuries

I can’t believe it. Technology is actually turning out to be useful to me.

When I was a kid, people ignored each other for the TV. If you went to someone’s house, the family might possibly grunt when you walked in, but that was about all you could hope for, because they preferred the TV–which was always on–to you. Now things have changed. Instead of staring at the TV all day, we stare at the phone.

People use cell phones about as wisely as they use TV. When broadcast TV became a reality, we were told it would be great for education and the arts. We would learn from it. We would see great musicians. What a crock. We watched garbage like Gilligan’s Island all day. As if we were allergic to valuable real-life experiences. As if we resented God for making our lives so long and full of potential.

Now we stare at stupid Youtube videos. Skateboarders injuring their private parts. Cats turning on the washing machine. We also play really dumb video games. We listen to stolen music. And of course, we find time for porn.

The thing is, Internet-connected phones really do have the abilty to transform our lives, IF we can quit watching girls on trampolines and the Hampsterdance for a minute.

I guess those are old references.

I’ve been trying to fix up my math and physics skills. I have a degree in general physics, a math minor, and a year and a half of grad school, which means by now I should be an only-moderately-bad physicist and mathematician, but one still equipped with about 9,000 times the mathematical skill and knowledge of a sane human being. I let my skills evaporate, so now I’m building them back up. So I can make an important contribution to the world. By building loud tube guitar amps.

Today I was studying complex analysis, and I came across hyperbolas, and I didn’t remember too much about them, so I started looking for info. Lo and behold, I found a Youtube video by a guy whose handle is Khanacademy. His name is Khan, and his mission on earth is to make a good education available to anyone who has access to Youtube. And he is far from alone.

I started watching his videos, but I realized it was horribly inconvenient to be tethered to my comfy recliner while I watched, so I decided to check him out on the cell phone I bought on Sunday. I upgraded to an Iphone-y Samsung Droid phone, which means I have a screen big enough for video. I had promised myself never to use the Internet unless I needed to send an email and request an ambulance or a Coast Guard cutter, but having the resolve of a hamster on crystal meth, I caved instantly and tapped the Youtube icon.

Minutes later, I was slouched comfortably on a sofa with some spare earbuds plugged in, watching Mr. Khan tell me all about hyperbolas, after which I got the lowdown on ordinary differential equations. It was magnificent.

He has a very good lecturing style, which doesn’t hurt.

Suddenly the idea of forking out cash for data doesn’t seem so nutty, nor does the idea of watching postage-stamp-sized video. This thing can help me redeem the time I would ordinarily waste. You know. Those times when you’re doing something monotonous that doesn’t require serious attention. Like driving on the expressway.

Okay, that was a joke. I guess. How about standing in line at the Post Office? Waiting for your car to be washed? Sweating out one of Florida Power and Light’s daily power outages?

This is really neat. If someone like Khan put videos together with a decent book, he could have a bona fide college-quality course on the web. As it is, a textbook and a Schaum outline will get you through the woods.

I’ll tell you what. If you have a PC and a cell phone and you’re still ignorant, you have no excuse at all.

The Eagle Flies Every Day

Monday, October 3rd, 2011

Get me my Holy Food Stamps

Now that God is occasionally succeeding in getting an lesson to penetrate the thick bones of my head, I feel like I should try to give Christians practical tips once in a while. I really disapprove of hollow sermons in which preachers use worthless slogans to get us all excited, without telling us what to do in order to please God and get his power working in our lives. There are a lot of simple things Christians can do to get the power flowing, and we don’t hear enough about them. Instead, preachers will say dumb things like, “Tell the person next to you, ‘The rest of your life is the BEST of your life,'” or, “I never met a negative person who did a positive thing.” Is that junk really supposed to be helpful? I don’t recall Elijah or Moses pumping out stale platitudes to save the Hebrews. Maybe they needed to go to a seminar in a hotel ballroom and get some real training.

Here’s something useful. Jesus told us to avoid vain repetition in our communications with God, but he never said to avoid repetition per se. In fact, the Psalms often speak favorably about “meditation,” which means repeating the word to yourself and considering it. Jesus told us to knock over and over until our prayers were answered. Sometimes repetition is very powerful.

Since I started praying in tongues a lot, I’ve had the spiritual gift of faith. This is not normal faith. With normal faith, you try REAL HARD to believe, and sometimes you succeed, and sometimes you don’t. With the gift of faith, the Holy Spirit shoots his own faith through you like water through a firehose. You can physically feel it. It’s like being caught in a tsunami. You feel like you’re going to be washed away if you don’t hang on.

There are things you can do to facilitate this experience. Obviously, you have to pray in tongues regularly. Without that, I have no answers for you. But that’s not all you need to do.

First, I’ve found that it’s good to pause after you ask for something and wait for the faith tsunami to show up. God wants to do things for us. Our own faith is nice for what it is, but to God, it’s a mud pie. It’s a crayon drawing for the front of his refrigerator. He wants us to use his faith, which is much better. So if you ask for something, then tell God you’re waiting for his faith, and hold on, very often the flood will follow in a few seconds.

Second, thank him repeatedly. Ask for something, wait for faith, and then thank God over and over for answering your prayer. You will find that it’s like holding up the roof of a tunnel so the faith can pass through. It really works. I can only guess at the reason. Faith is something that moves from God to us and back to God, and thanking him keeps the channel open. You can thank him a hundred times without stopping, if it works for you. It’s repetition, but it’s the farthest thing from vain.

Obviously, there is more to prayer than this. You shouldn’t get the idea that it’s all about asking for things. You need to spend time examining yourself and admitting your flaws to God with complete candor. You need to praise him. But if you want to get things done by supernatural means, thanking him will be a huge help.

And God does want us to ask for things. He is not busy. He does not resent it. He does not want you to get off your butt and fix things all by yourself, no matter what ill-informed preachers who used to be football coaches may tell you. He told Jesus to sit at his right hand while he made his enemies his footstool. He told the disciples to give no thought to financial concerns. God is generous, and he can’t be what he is unless he gives, all the time. How is God supposed to be generous without giving? He tells us to give, all through the Bible. Would he do that if he weren’t giving every second of every day? Is God a hypocrite? Does he heap heavy burdens on us, while he himself won’t touch them with his finger?

When you ask for help, you are admitting you’re a welfare case. We’re all receiving things we don’t deserve, just like the people who wait for government checks every week. We do a little of the work ourselves, but God wants to do most of it. If we could succeed without him, we would have reason to be proud, and we would have little reason to praise or acknowledge him. So he wants to help, even with little things.

You may think you’re capable of handling small jobs without help, but you’re not. I once broke my foot trying to walk across the garage. Don’t mistake God’s patience and grace for your own strength. You can’t even be sure you’ll get your next breath without help. Admit it.

Give this stuff a try and see what happens. It works for me.

Beef Buzz

Sunday, October 2nd, 2011

Someone Should Build a Statue of This Steer

A few days back, I found an old 2″-thick prime rib eye in the freezer (2010 vintage), and I decided to have it for Sunday dinner. Tonight I thawed it out, salted it down, fried it in butter and salt, and served with garlic butter and a baked potato.

Seriously, this is not normal. Food should not be this good. I have gone beyond the “good cook” phase. I think I am entering the “warped evil food genius” category.

I have never had restaurant food this good. I have never had restaurant food within a letter grade of this good.

The outside of the steak was crunchy and salty, with all sorts of what foodies call “umami.” The inside…buttery-garlicky-agey-tasting fat poured off it every time I cut a bite. It had the perfect touch of aged-prime-rib funk. I overcooked it slightly–I swear my thermometer plays tricks on me–and it was still about three light years beyond the farthest point a Ruth’s Chris steak can see with the Hubbell Telescope. Or even the Hubble Telescope, which, unlike the Hubbell Telescope, exists.

Frigging middle-aged spelling.

What am I supposed to do with this? I can’t eat these things. Not regularly. I would die in a month and a half. I have no practical use for this. I feel like a guy who plays better than Horowitz, but only on the spinet in his aunt’s attic.

Wheeeee. I am still enjoying that steak. Just thinking back on it gives me a thrill. And the potato was even better, especially when daubed in the beef juice and butter.

Surely–SURELY–God has a purpose in this. It makes no sense otherwise.

Time to call Mike and make him jealous.