Monday, July 20, 2009

Dutch ovens really work!

I love cast iron cookware. I dunno, maybe it's just the straightforward heavy duty utility of the stuff. I mean, a lot of it is as plain as a mud fence. I don't really know what is available now, 'cause I buy mine at junque shoppes, but there have been some interesting things made for cooking, from little bitty frying pans to huge ones, griddles, sauce pans, tea kettles, muffin pans.
Hey, one of my favorites is a special pan for baking individual serving cornbread in which the cornbread is molded to look like half an ear of corn. Top that!. I've even got a waffle iron made for the top of wood ranges with the round lid over the firebox removed. The iron itself hinges at the end away from the handles and the hinge turns into a ball which then neatly fits into a socket in the holder which looks kinda like an upside down saucepan with no bottom. the side of the iron by the handles is a sort of roller when it is closed, and that fits neatly into a slot in the holder. This is to allow the waffle iron to be turned over without removing it from the holder..... neat, huh? Hey, I wonder if I could make waffles over the grill on a campfire...... Anyway, the utinsil that impresses me most is the dutch oven, that relatively shallow pot with a bail and a lid that covers the edges of the pot itself. This is important because to use the dutch oven you move the coals of your campfire and set the oven down on a shallow bed of coals and cover the lid with more coals and you don't want ashes getting inside the oven. This allows the heat to come down on top of whatever you are baking just like a..a.. well, an oven. Kewl. I picked up one at some yard sale or whatever and it only needed a little cleaning up, so I scoured that puppy out and baked the proper glaze into the cooking surface so stuff wouldn't stick and took it camping this weekend. I made biscuits. I'm no baker, and really not much of a camp cook, but how hard could it be? Anyway, it's more fun to approach new stuff with the attitude that "When all else fails, read the destructions." Did you see Lonesome Dove? Remember the scene where Gus is up way early with his coffee and is making biscuits in a dutch oven? He brushes off the coals and ashes carefully and lifts the lid and there are these beautiful fluffy golden brown sourdough biscuits. Wow! I make drop biscuits from Bisquick. I'm just not that ambitious. So I carefully let the fire build a bed of coals while drinking my camp coffee, and I put the drop biscuits into the dutch oven, covered it and properly got it bedded and covered with burning coals. NOw, normally, I make biscuits in a toater oven and you can see the things through the glass door. Cast iron lids aren't that easy to see through, so I did it by guess and by golly. I decided that the time was long enough before carefully removing the coals, brushing off the ashes and lifting the lid. The time was long enough. Dutch ovens are also great for making charcoal.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Slackers in the vineyard

Before I retired, I used to say that I got my last job so I wouldn't have to work. It is true that I enjoyed almost everything about that job and it really wasn't one of those things that make "work" a "four letter word." I was thinking about that along with Jesus parable about the man who hired workers for his vineyard, hiring some early, then later, etc. (Matt 20:1-16) It strikes me that, like the workers who were first in the vineyard, there is an attitude among Christians of sort of "doing all the work," maybe even of "suffering for the cause" that makes it seem just a little unfair that those who have not done so much should receive the same reward as those who have served so long, and let's not even consider those who never lifted a finger in this life. This makes it a little tough to swallow the idea that God just might eventually allow everyone to come into a relationship in love. Now, I really believe that when Jesus said, "I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly" (John 10:10) He meant now, not in some future beyond death. I see it in the joy of living in God's love and in sharing that love. I have not really suffered, but I have had enough reverses to know that even in trouble, it is not so much what happens as how we deal with it that really matters, and God's love gives us tools to deal with problems and even suffering in positive ways. I'm not saying that suffering is good, but that, if it's going to come it is far better to have and use those "tools" than to turn bitter and self pitying. So, "working in the vineyard" is, in its own way, a reward in itself. By me, to those who come late, let them have an extra measure of God's love, they did without it so much longer than I did.

Sunday, July 12, 2009


Amazing Grace is currently one of my favorite movies. I sometimes wonder where I would have stood on the issues during that restless period. I mean, it seems so obvious now, but there were a lot of people who were involved in shipping and support industries, and many pulpits taught that slavery was right based on many different perceptions of Biblical teaching, not the least of which was that there was absolutely no condemnation of the practice to be found in the Bible. Besides, cheap sugar is a really desirable thing, isn't it? I like to think that i would have been one of the people who supported the long long drive to outlaw the slave trade in spite of the fact that it would do real financial hardship to me.
Or I fantasize that I was a slave holding Quaker at the beginning of Woolman's long ministry when the movement of the spirit to convince Friends that slavery is wrong was just starting to reach its "stride." Would I consider that treating my slaves with compassion as urged by Paul was the only requirement of my Christian duty? Or would I recognize that the very concept of owning another person was impossible in the light of equality in God's sight? I like to think that I would have seen that and had the courage of my convictions to face my neighbors' anger and outright persecution both for the way I had treated my slaves and for the decision to set them free as so many were forced to give up home and a whole lifestyle and move from the South just to ensure that their freed slaves were allowed to keep their freedom.
And I dream that there is a similar movement of the Spirit going on today to help us realize that people should not be marginalized and persecuted for sexual needs and perceptions which are simply within the range of human diversity and no threat or harm to the great majority who happen to be closer to the center of that range. I like to think that I would be able to see that and to try to find ways to communicate that perception in love in the face of scorn and prejudice and even Biblical perceptions that inform so many of those churches which seem to be more concerned with law and letter than with spirit. I have to wonder what it would look like for even those groups to really apply the message of God's unconditional love and Jesus' urging that we be like God in that even though they may have reservations about conduct they don't understand and think is wrong.
Fantasies........ I wonder.*

*I just signed on to Hystery's post on the same subject entered about 10 hours before mine:
Great minds think alike? I wish I could claim that, but the timing is interesting.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

The Boredom Factor

So, there I was... at the first "coffee and Connections meeting of our youth for the Summer. This is a strictly voluntary group to meet and maintain while Wednesday night youth activities are suspended for the Summer, and the youth pastor forgot his lesson plan for a little devotional. As it happened, I was carrying a copy of Peggy Parson's book So, There I Was... which I was planning to give to my mentoree at cost. SO.... I informed the kids that the youthworker's contract, page 65, Section 23, paragraph 64, subparagraph g specifically required that "meetings of the youth shall each and severally maintain a minimum boredom factor of 10%." I told them that I was therefore obligated to read a passage to them about spiritual discipline. Groans. A couple of heads hit the table. Dauntlessly, I turned to the first chapter and started reading. Ears twitched when I read, "I am mildly allergic to the entire concept of discipline. It smacks of work." Heads popped up when I read, "It is the Discipline of Spiritual Adventure." I freely admit that I skipped part of the description of that spiritual discipline as youth work really is the fine art of balancing what kids need to know and what they will hold still for, and I have high hopes that they will come back to that, but I read the example, using my best Texas drawl for "Our Lady of Junction," and pronouncing "deaf" quite properly as "deef."

The youth pastor later informed me that the boredom factor for that meeting was woefully inadequate. This is NOT my fault, it's Peggys.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The Truth Project: Community and involvement

At LAST! My coverage of the series comes full circle, and Del presents essentially what I originally stated was the essence of a "Christian worldview:" God loves everyone, we should try to be like God in this. Perhaps the best illustration is the interview with the tattoo artist who has been quoted throughout the series and who has presented views hostile to standard perceptions of Christian values. Del states that everyone has a story and learn about the background of this person who suffered childhood abuse and a very difficult life but whose answer to "What breaks your heart?" is a list of very human, very much shared pain in his life. Del makes a very good point about how we all tend to treat those who are different, and makes the point personal. He also calls for us to "study, understand and engage the culture."
A point I think needs further development is that such a study and understanding to be effective should not be from a basis of hostility to cultural phenomena, but with questions concerning how effective they are in helping us live lives of value. Conspicuously absent from consideration is our response to the marginalization of the gay community and how that would fit into a "Christian worldview." Well, that one would be a hot potato these days, and might just take a whole series on its own.

SO...... what conclusion do I draw on the effeciveness and value of the series? Production values are great and the topics covered are engaging and useful to consider, but the whole production is seriously flawed by a politically conservative mindset and a VERY narrow perception of God's revelation to us. Both attributes continue the confrontational style and polarization of perceptions that have made high profile evangelical leadership over the last half century or so an epic FAIL, something younger evangelicals seem to be learning as nearly a third of them responded to Obama's call for constructive dialogue in our last election.
If your group is considering presenting this series, I would recommend that topics for discussion be presented at the beginning of each "tour" rather than just leaving discussion open to responses not considered in depth.
I note that Del is following up this seroies with one directed towards youth. This one will be well worth checking into.

Monday, July 6, 2009

The Truth Project: Labor

Del tries to tell us that labor is good, and he makes a good case but leaves out such scriptural references as Gen 3:17 "painful toil." Aside from Del's one-sided presentation, there is a lot to be said for work as fulfillment of a need for purpose and the satisfaction of doing a job well should be part of every Christian experience. Del's best point is that both the employer and the employee should be elated at having a Christian in the other role simply because a Christian would do his best both in the work and in seeing that the work is appropriate, challenging and properly compensated. Though it was not couched exactly in those terms, the point was also made that the last penny of profit should not be the main thrust of business, but social responsibility. My only objection is that Del stresses his perception of "ownership rights" without any real justification and does not really investigate implications of "stewardship" in this regard. I see a little problem with "who is in control" here that needs to be developed in discussion. Del's presentation on "gleaning" was somewhat ludicrous with the idea of letting poor people sweep up the sawdust in a furniture shop and sell the sawdust for their reward, and he says that it is the responsibility of the private sector to provide such work for the poor and not the government, but that's to be expected, noted and dismissed as simply not happening, whether desirable or not.
All in all, a well done presentation.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

The Truth Project: The American Experiment

What better time to write about the noble vision of government extolled in this "tour" than the holiday celebrating the launching of the government later refined to that "experiment?"
At the beginning of the lesson, Del states that he is not going to "cast stones" at unbelievers, presumably for throwing the noble plan off track...... good thing. But then he flings one at "liberals" in our education system who "hate America," using the "big lie" technique of simply stating it without analysis, just one blatant example of the political bias that pervades the series. Del goes into quite a bit of detail about how education in the colonies and early states was founded on religion........and morality. True enough, but Del seems to think that morality follows from religion just because it teaches it, and history shows us that nominally religious societies may perform the most blatant abuses of religion. This whole line of thought looks like a red herring to me. This country lost any claim to moral leadership when greed developed the horrible abuses of slavery and the exploitation of the poor in the industrial North; the same sort of predatory business plans that drive Microsoft and Walmart just to name two of the most blatant. I don't see Del addressing this issue at all. Wow, I just took time out to see what I could find on the 'net about this and here is an interesting sentence: "It seems to me that the emphasis in these quotes (about religion and morality) is not necessarily on Christianity, but on fostering virtue." This from as part of an extensive review of The Truth Project, and clearly one I will want to check out more completely. The whole point of my review is that Del places blame for failure of any "vision" for America squarely where it does NOT belong, and does not accept responsibility as representative of religious instruction for the failure of mainstream Christianity to teach and hold its members accountable for a living faith demonstrably working in our lives.