Saturday, August 30, 2014

Habit or faith...

I fell down the stairs yesterday when I was coming down for the day.  It was the first time in a long while where the fall was the full length of the stairs.  Amos was beside me, as usual, going down the stairs, too.  When I landed, my first thought, spoken aloud, was "Thank you, Jesus."  I had not crushed Amos.  We were both still clearly alive.  Both were good things.  In this moment, you could say that both were perfect provision.

Thank you, Jesus.
The thought has bothered me as much as the fall.
Thank you, Jesus. 

Today, I am even more sore than yesterday, with pains all about me.  I have some spectacular bruises, a goose egg on my lower left leg (which I was sure must be broken before I stood upon it), a swollen left elbow, and a right hip that has protested just about every movement since the fall.  I have been trying to rest, but also trying to move about, so as not to stiff up too much.  I have not been successful at either.

Growing up, I learned to hold my breath when passing a graveyard.  I do so automatically, even though I do not believe that doing so honors the dead.  Growing up, I learned to say "bless you" when someone sneezed.  I do so automatically, not believing that doing so will keep the evil spirit that has just left the person from re-entering him or her.

How do you know what is habit and what is faith?

As an evangelical, Jesus as the Good Shepherd was an image.  An image of a handsome man with a flowing beard in a white robe holding a shepherd's crook looking tenderly at some sheep.  Being a good shepherd really had nothing to do with me.  The Good Shepherd was who Jesus was, not who He is.

The Christian Book of Concord taught me otherwise.  Most particularly, I learned so in Luther's Large Catechism Part III on The Lord's Prayer.  But also in every bit that talks about our Triune God's love and care for His creation.  Jesus is the Good Shepherd, but He is so because God the Father sent His Son to care for His creation.  Jesus is able to tend to His sheep because God the Holy Spirit works daily in the lives of believers, giving them faith, sanctifying them, sustaining them, healing them.

So, I learned to say:  "Christ be praised." or "Thank you, Jesus." as the proper way to give God the credit when something good happens, when provision has taken place.  A melding of what I knew about everything that is good coming from God and that the Good Shepard was not an image.

Is it live or is it Memorex?  A cultural reference for what I wonder few would understand.  How do you know what is habit and what is faith?  

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Four Questions...

Did you know there is such a thing as fat free sweet and condensed milk?  I didn't.  At least I didn't until I went to make a second batch of Creamy Lemon Crumb Squares.  Somehow, when shopping, I picked up the wrong kind of sweet and condensed milk.  Thankfully, since I had not remembered to allow the butter to come to room temperature before setting out to bake, I started with the zesting and juicing of lemons.  There is lots and lots and lots of juicing of lemons in the making of this deliciousness.  When I realized I had the wrong type of sweet and condensed milk (seriously???), I covered the glass measuring cup I was using for the filling and put it in the refrigerator.

Why in the world would you want to make fat free sweet and condensed milk?  I mean, the whole point to baking is a balance of ingredients and you cannot have a balance with heavy carbohydrates without fat.  And when it comes to fat, milk fat is simply not the problem.  Milk fat is not the problem with childhood obesity.  And removing milk fat whilst increasing carbohydrates to try and restore the lost flavor from the lost fat does not make something more healthy.

Balance is important in baking.
And in most things.

I confess that I have been fearful about reading further into the Mark commentary.  I am at a crossroads of sorts, standing between the story Michael Card has been presenting of the ministry of Jesus and His death and resurrection.  To be perfectly honest, everyone I know has strong emotions about the latter.  What if ... what if in reading it now I do not?

In the Kindle version of the commentary, each chapter has an image that I presume is from the printed book.  It is like a table of contents for the chapter or a preview or both.  For the tenth chapter of the Gospel of Mark, the title is Four Questions:  Of Divorce; Of Salvation; Of Suffering; and Of Fundamental Need.

Seeing that image gave me pause.
I finally girded my loins to read the chapter.
I've been too chicken to write about it.

Funny.  I blatantly said that I wasn't going to write through the commentary, and yet I have.  Not, mind you, that I have written but a fraction of what I could have recorded, captured for later.  On this chapter, I am a bit fearful of putting my thoughts down, of taking them from the inside of me to the outside.

I admit, I gave a great big guffaw at the first sentence of the commentary's chapter (the commentary follows the scriptures):  "What Luke requires ten chapters to tell, Mark give us in one."  Never would I be accused of exhibiting Mark's literary constraint!  Though I often teach writing students that "less is more" because it is.  And isn't that the most oft repeated refrain of Michael Card's commentary on Mark.  There is less.  Less words.  Less teachings.  Less backstory.  And that less most certainly is more.

We have the ever-present crowds.  We have the questioning Pharisees.  And we have one of the hottest topics in the Christian life:  divorce.

Michael Cards gives a great tutorial on the breadth and depth of asking Jesus this particular question as His test ... as the shot across the bow before the assault commenced.  For a bit, I was distracted by the fact that "The central issue for the rabbis was the meaning of "something improper," or "shameful."  The answer to whether or not it is okay to divorce a woman hinged on Moses' original perquisite for a certificate of divorce.  What those two phrases means.  As Michael Card explains, there were two schools of thought on the matter and your answer to that meaning puts you in one camp or the other.

But my first thought on reading that was not learning these schools of thought.  No, instead, all I could think about is the fact that the Church as I have experienced has a dearth of teaching and consolation about shame.  And that, to me, is an egregious perfidy to the untold number of wounded souls in her pews.  This is especially so because the members of the Church at large are really, really, really good at heaping shame upon others.  No matter that we are all sinners.  Through and through.  No better or worse a sinner than another because sin is not something to be quantified and classified for spiritual or faithfulness evaluations.

So, I read through all the explanation and historical lessoning, thinking more on upon the words "improper" and "shame,"  having both of those heaped upon my head, until I came upon the turning point in the discussion:  "The key concept in Jesus' understanding of marriage is oneness."

In the next three verses, as he provides his definition of marriage, Jesus uses four expressions to describe the idea of oneness:  "be joined," "become one flesh," "no longer two," and "what God has joined."


If true marriage is a God-created bond that man cannot break, then the conclusion is this:  If someone divorces—that is, tries by human designs to break God's bond—and then remarries, that person has never truly divorced and so commits adultery.  Jesus applies the principal to both men and woman.

To those who have been abused by this verse, to those who have suffered through a divorce and then remarried, I believe the operative words in Mark 10:9 are "What God has joined together."  Because of the hardness of the human heart, marriages occur that do not have as their foundation this bond created by God.  Those marriages do not fall under Jesus' severe conclusion.  But we must be cautious and preserve his original intent.  If two people come together acknowledging that the Lord has bonded them and made them one, then when temptation arises to give up on that union, they must take seriously what Jesus said about the un-desolvable bond God has created.  The biblical provision for divorce is a sad concession God has made due to the hardness of our hearts, not his.

When I was 11, went to that camp, hear the Word of God, and (hopefully) received the gift of faith, I came home and told my mother that she was an adulteress.  Not the words I should have spoken to her.  Not the words of the Gospel, of the compassionate understanding God holds of and for His creation.

It is that ... compassion ... that puzzled me in the next question, the one of Salvation.  Or, as most would know it, the question of the rich young man.  I was mind-boggled, full of caddywhompus, to read of this.  I mean, Michael Card pointed out the earnestness of the questioner.  He knelt.  He addressed Jesus as Teacher.  He asked a personal and pressing question.  He was not asking about salvation for all, but for himself.  He knew of his own works of faith.  He hoped they were good enough.  But he needed to know if they actually were.

"Then, looking at him, Jesus loved him and said to him ..." (verse 21).  Wow!  Jesus loved him and answered him.  All throughout the Psalter we are taught that God desires to hear from us ... and that He loves us.  How remarkable that was the way Mark begins the answer Jesus gives the young man:  to cease breaking the first commandment and allow God, not money, to be his god.

Was the man stunned at the demand because he had not thought he was breaking the first commandment?  Or was he stunned because he was a greedy soul not willing to part with his wealth? "But he was stunned at this demand, and he went away grieving, because he had many possessions" (verse 22).

The man was grieved.
He was not angry or defensive or belligerent or contemptuous or any other prideful, arrogant state.
The man was grieved.

Then the disciples needed a bit more instruction.  Hey, Jesus, what did you mean back there when you answered that guy?  Jesus' answer:  more hyperbolic language.  A camel through the eye of a needle.  An image of impossibility.  The point?  Saving is God's business.  He makes all things possible.

A person does not enter the kingdom with anything—not with wealth, not with accomplishments, not with degrees.  We come into the kingdom with one possession:  the grace of Jesus Christ.

Still, if we are to engage with the passage and understand what lies behind the disciples' amazement, we need to step into their shoes.  They come from the same world as the rich young man, where wealth is an unqualified blessing from God.  Hence their disturbance at Jesus' words.  In their world, poverty and sickness are punishments from God for sin.  But Jesus  has come to shatter this understanding of the Father.  His embrace of and openness toward the poor and sick are his way of confronting the old system.  As the rich young man walks away dejected, Jesus has shattered yet another obsolete notion.  If it is hard for rich men and women to enter the kingdom, the disciples moan, then "who can be saved? (Mk 10:26).  Jesus' reply?  Saving is God's business.  He makes all things possible. (emphasis mine)

In a sense, the encounter with the rich young man was not about the man.  Nor was it about keeping the first commandment.  It was (and is always) about Jesus!

The balance between the Law and the Gospel, between both the fate and the lives of the old Adam and the new, is Jesus.

Neither of the first two questions, asked about man, is not actually about man.  They are about God, about His work, His plan.

Remember the father seeking healing for his son.  "I do believe!  Help my unbelief!"  The point, once again, is about Jesus, not the father's faithfulness, but God's help with the old Adam, constantly at war with the new.  We are not fighting the battle, but Jesus.  It's all about Jesus, the Messiah, the Son of Man, who has compassion on sinful man, loves him, and dies for him.

Two of the four questions, thus far, continue on with theme of Jesus' teaching:  It's not about you, but me.  Because ... because I know you and love you and am providing for you.

I am improper.
I am ashamed.
And I wonder about salvation.

What riches I have...

I got to buy milk today!!

Yesterday, I worked with someone on cleaning up a laptop, some brief Excel lessoning, and configuring personal preferences.  As a thank you, I am getting a firewood rack for the back porch, so that my ever so lovely restored floor will not get scratched up by the wood I keep there during the winter.  I will also be able to keep the firewood slightly away from the new lattice, once that project gets tended.

I finally found a new home for one of the four sage plants in my raised beds.  Clearly, I only need one or perhaps two at the very most.  If I can find a home for a second one, I will feel less wasteful.  For even if I harvest all the sage from this year, the plant is a perennial and thus will create the same problem of excess next year.

I have the potential of a new home for one of the basil bushes with someone who wants to try and winter it.  I have thought I might try to winter one, but I am not sure.  I will definitely try to winter the rosemary bushes.  I am tempted to try and leave one in the bed, trimmed down and mulched over and then put one in the solarium to see which way works best.

As soon as the sauna environment ceases outside, I am going to gird my loins and start drying herbs.  Maybe the abundant success of the raised bed will extend to the drying rack.  I am not sure why it is that I am so fearful of failing.  I mean, clearly I have enough herbs to practice with if getting the drying process down takes a bit of a learning curve.

I do want to make some herb butter, but I need to stock up on the butter supply for that.  I think I would like sage butter and rosemary butter best.  Maybe even a combination of sage, rosemary, and thyme.  For the latter two, I am tempted to go into the basement living space freezer and remove the leaves from the stem to reduce the volume of space the frozen herbs take.  However, I am not sure if that will bruise them or otherwise harm them in some fashion.

The other GREAT VICTORY of late is that I finally cleaned the antique fireplace screen.  It was dirty when I bought the house and has only accumulated more dust and dirt.  You could not see clearly into the fireplace, and when backlit by a fire, the dirt was taunting me.  My plan was to use the jet feature of my water hose sprayer.  Oh, my!  It is just lovely now!  And so easy!!  I think the whole process took me about five minutes to complete, using first the jet feature and then the fan feature on the sprayer.  I cannot figure out why I put it off for so long.  The screen sits on the decorative ends of two andirons, which I adore.  The set was clearly hand crafted and is rather old ... fitting for my home.

In December, I will have lived here four years.  That is hard to believe.  In December, Amos will turn four years old, that is even harder to believe.

How could this little fluff ball be turning FOUR??  SIGH.

For dinner last night, I tried grilling sausage again, using the other kind (non-chicken) that I bought.  I found the sausage to be incredibly tasty—especially since it wasn't charred—and am frustrated because I did not take a photo of the package.  I knew nothing about sausage and so basically choose it after staring at all the options for about 30 minutes.  I would like to keep some sausage in the freezer from now on since I am ever in need of extra protein with my innards malfunctions, but would really like for it to be the sausage I ate last night.  I stared at the selection in the store for a long while today, but, alas, nothing seemed familiar.  I very, very, very much dislike the state of my brain.

When I went to Target for my prescriptions before fetching groceries, even though I had called on Monday to ensure all was well with the fill-in pharmacist, there were three prescriptions with problems.  I started to melt down and then started to hate that I was melting down.  Mary, kind soul, was on the phone with me, so she heard the panic and onset of tears and request to just pay for the ones that were good and come back later.

I hate, hate, hate how upset I get, how shaky and tearful, anxious and fearful and out of control, when things do not go according to plan.  And it is frustrating when I work so hard to check and double check things that the plans still fail.  Two prescriptions were for 90 days, which do not fit my budget and one of them was the wrong dosage (doctor's office error).  The other one was my thyroid medication that was back to the non-generic.  Given that you just don't mess around with thyroid medication, I asked for that one to be refilled, but the prescription from the GP was restricted to brand name.  That confused me further because the surgeon prescribes and monitors the medication, so I was starting to become rather lost.  I pulled from the bags the four good medications and asked again to simply pay for them.

Afterwards, Mary assured me that I was not as bad as I feared, that I was not too unkind or anything. But I just hate that the breakdown of my brain (and body) is not something that I can keep from only affecting me.  After hanging up with Mary, I went to Walmart for groceries.  Whilst in the return line, I called the surgeon's office and was able to talk to her nurse, who promptly sent over a new prescription.  I called Target, apologized a dozen times, asked for forgiveness, tried to speak how much I appreciate all that they do for me, and arranged to come get the new thyroid medication and the 30-day supply of the asthma medication.  Since I still have some of the final problem prescription, I can wait for that to be straightened out and come when I next fill the Larin.

I was so very relieved to be able to walk away and then come back before driving home.  I was also relieved to have both the tech and the pharmacist say that they understood that I do not like it when I start to get upset and were not offended.  The pharmacist told me that she spent some time making notes in my profile so that the fill-in pharmacist can get to know me a bit better.  She also keyed in a restriction to a quantity of 30 days.  Somehow I need to remember that setting automatically changes when you get a new prescription.  I think I need to make a small book of checklists, one of which being going to the pharmacist.

Another checklist I need:  how to get in and out of an elevator.  SIGH.

Given the dog days of summer heat just now, I was plumb exhausted after my trip to the post office, two trips to Target, and a trip to Walmart.  But I was not too tired to pull into a liquor store that is most conveniently on the way home, on the right side of the road.  That limoncello liquor is now in my freezer.

The fun part about that stop was the man who helped me.  He told me that he weighs 275, is a bouncer at a night club, and is a biker.  The latter I sort of got from his clothing and tattoos and beard combination.  When I told him what I was looking for, he started in about this motorcycle tour of Italy he took, where he first had limoncello!  From all appearances, you would think I would be terrified of the man, but he was kind and gentle and was rather funny.  Since I like liquors, he was telling me that I should try combining Bailey's and Butterscotch Schnapps.  What a concept!  I laughed my way out the door, especially since he told me what days he works for when I need another bottle of limoncello.  There was nothing flirty about the exchange ... just this ... kindness.  Actually, it felt kind of Southern.

Once home, I dragged my bags to the house, changed back into comfortable clothing for my ever-painful midsection, and fed Amos.  Then, I put away my groceries ... lovingly lingering a bit over my milk stash.  For dinner, I had two of the special hotdogs my neighbor had brought me.  They are the ones sold in stadiums. I forget how she gets them, but she remembered that once a year I like to have hotdogs.  She brought me four the other day, so I grilled up two of them, put two buns in the freezer,  and gave my neighbor's son the four extra buns from the package I had bought at the store.

Not only were the hotdogs not charred, they were bloody fantastic!  I really savored the meal.  LOTS of my beloved mustard, some ketchup, a bit of mayonnaise, the grilled hotdog, more beloved yellow mustard, and a slathering of sweet pickle relish.  Mmmmmmm!

I did not share with Amos.  He took his offense later by stealing a piece of toffee off the side table when I was tending to my own personal business.  I thought about posting his person for sale on Craigslist.  How dare he eat my candy!!!  But where would I be without the one who cares for me so faithfully and shares my pillow???

[I was reading.  Amos was snoring.]

Without my planned dessert, I decided to try what the liquor store clerk recommended.  If you are a fan of liquors, especially Bailey's, I would highly recommend that you try this.  Wow!  I personally do not care for the official name of the drink (which I am purposely omitting), but I very much care for the taste of it!  Sadly, my supply of Bailey's is low, so I already put that on next month's shopping list.

As for my austere goal ... I think I need some sort of intervention.  I spent $105, which is close, but did not include enough milk for the whole month.  So, I've revised my austere goal to $125.  Not that I need $20 more of milk, but there were no grapes either.  I'd like to have fresh fruit and vegetables mid-month. And, as long as I am taking that horrid tasting liquid erythromycin, I wish to have grapes on hand.

As for intervention, I say that because I thought about making the chipotle chicken chili later this month and realized that would leave my larder bare of the essential ingredients for chipotle chicken chili.  To me, that is not acceptable!  Just like it is not acceptable to not always have the ingredients for pulled pork tacos on hand.  Or, really, to not have a freezer at least mostly full (if not completely full) of meals and vegetables (and butter and buttermilk and stock and goat milk cheese and meats).  Because ... well ... in addition to the canned beans and diced tomatoes for the chili, I also put in the a bag of black beans and peppers for another batch of black bean soup.

Why do I want such a full freezer?  Why do I look at four jars of chipotle chicken chili and immediately feel the need to whip up another batch?  That's four week's worth, with the rotation I've been doing.  A whole month before I really and truly need to cook.  SIGH.

I just plain flummox myself these days.

Baby Bunny (now three years old) was sunning himself on the back steps when I got home.  When I started up the sidewalk, he leapt off and went to leave, so I immediately stopped, sat down where I was, and began whispering sweet nothings to him, telling him tales of how much I've enjoyed his company over the years.  He listened for a long while before taking himself on over to safety around the side of the garage.

Can you believe that grass was mowed on Sunday??  Last night, I sat on the steps awaiting my puppy dog and spent a while thanking God for providing this amazing home and then Firewood Man to bring me fires and turn the brown, barren yard into GREEN lusciousness.  For eight years ... or was it 10 ... I battled Virginia clay and lost, repeatedly trying and failing to get grass to grow at my old home.

What riches have I! Two friends who are willing to be in my ear when I am out and about doing something that might be anxiety-inducing, Firewood Man, a kind clerk, patient pharmacists, an awesome surgeon, a fluffy white puppy dog, a baby bunny, and GREEN grass!!

Monday, August 25, 2014


I realized, tonight, that I have been a tad austere when it came to my milk rationing.  In a day and a half, I can go out and fill up my shelf once more.  So, I promptly downed a tall glass of ice cold milk. Seriously, I can drain a glass before I make it back from the kitchen to the GREEN chair.  Not that I quite did that.  There was about a third of the glass left by the time I entered the living room.  And I took a break from my dairy love fest to play my turn in four of the Nummi games I have going with strangers.  Still, it seems the milk is over almost before I have finishing thinking of the comfort drinking a glass will bring me.

What doesn't speed by is the cost of drinking milk.  And, no, before you ask, I am not interested in drinking hot or steamed milk.  BLAH!  The cost of drinking milk, for me, is oft hours and hours and hours of battling a chill.  Such a poor word that.  Battling what I think of as "dyshypothermia."

Waves of chills crash over me, one after another after another.  My goosebumps have goosebumps and my skin becomes too icy to touch.  My teeth chatter and my body becomes wracked with tremors.  I try to keep as much of my skin as possible in contact with my clothing, because the merest bit of air turns the chills into a deep freeze.  I huddle beneath blankets, wool, cotton, and electric.  I have a heating pad on my mid-section and try to suck as much body warmth from Amos as possible.  Only, my beloved fluff ball cares not for the touch of my cold hands at such times.  I don't blame him.  Neither can I bear my own touch.

Wave upon wave of chills that encompass my entire being.  My nose and ear tips feel as if I've been standing in a snow storm.  My feet turn blue, my fingers white.  And I bewail the misery of my plight to the empty room around me.  It is difficult to think or read or even watch television.  I am too bloody cold.

In the dog days of summer that have descended upon Fort Wayne.

Who knows when it will end.  I don't.  And yet the next time I long for the deep and abiding comfort that is downing a glass of milk I will not hesitate.

It is not just milk.  Anything cold that I consume, especially drinks and ice cream.  My neighbor asked why it it has been so long since I bought Blue Bell.  In part, it is because I would rather pay the piper for drinking milk than eating Blue Bell.  Blue Bell is tastiness sublime.  Milk is a hug, a moment where the world is ever so slightly less the battlefield.  Even.  Even knowing fight that follow.

With the electric blanket on 10, the heating pad on high, the foot warmer on high, four or five layers of clothes, and four or five layers of covers, the cold remains, trying to consuming me.  It does not help matters that. despite the drop in my core body temperature, I still have to lie with my head on ice packs.  Normally, I barely notice the literal freezing of my scalp.  But, when I am in the throes of "dyshoperthermia," the cold of the icepacks radiates from my head to my toes.  Counter waves of chills that crash against the ones already racing through me.

You would think that racing to the shower to blanch myself would be in order.  But, as soothing as having scalding hot water pouring over my body is at such times, showers are too dangerous.  For one, I am still susceptible to heat and would weaken and grow disorientated.  And once out of the water I would be worse off.  Not matter how quickly I try to dry off and cover my skin as much as possible again, the total exposure makes the "dyshypothermia" far, far, far worse.  The times I have tried to heat myself back up this way, I half expect

No matter how many times I try to write of this aspect of dysautonomia, this dysfunction in my body, the words fail me.  They barely touch the breadth and depth of the suffering.  In regular hypothermia, your body will fall asleep (and you will die), but until I regain control of my body temperature, it is impossible for me to sleep.  Instead of being shocked with electricity, I am being shocked with cold.  It is as if I have my finger stuck in a socket and cannot pull it out.  All I can do is to try and protect myself as much as possible, especially my feet, and endure.

Today was a good nausea day.  I endured without resorting to Zofran, Gingerale, or saltines.  I have been inexplicably unable to keep my blood sugar up for a week or so.  In fact, this afternoon I forwent the glucose pills and popped a Forgotten Cookie in my mouth.  And I have been battling constant headaches again, which I fear are because my hair has fully grown out from that rather disastrous mullet.  Yet I was just thinking how great this day was, how nice it was to have a bit of a break from the nausea that, too, is truly ineffable and is something for which all I can do is try and protect myself as much as possible and endure.

I am so cold.
Never would I have imagined what those words would come to mean to me.
I am so bloody cold.

Would that it were someone were here to beg for mercy for me.  Although I wonder, what mercy would that be?  What would I long for?  Not healing, I think.  Such thoughts simply do not enter my mind.  There is no cure, not even treatment.  Strength to endure?  I guess that would be mercy.  Only ... what would that strength be??

Sunday, August 24, 2014

The fellowship of fear...

I made the pulled chicken tacos today.

Sometimes, when I eat tacos at home now, I get distracted by how bloody fantastic the flour tortillas are.  It still boggles my mind that I can make them.  As for these tacos, I think I might actually like them more without the bacon.  Seriously, how odd is that??  I am thinking chicken and bacon tacos should be with grilled chicken, as I have had them before.  Maybe.  I don't know.  Even with the crumbled applewood smoked bacon, I had absolutely no problem polishing these off in record time.

Next time, I might try the white cheddar cheese, the way I do with the pulled pork tacos.  I am wondering if the spiciness needs the white cheddar.  I have nine more two-taco jars of pulled chicken to decide.  I even already have enough bacon for another set, so I could keep the bacon, switch the cheese and then see how the flavors combine.  Maybe I should take the two remaining chicken breast in the freezer and grill them up so I could have a proper comparison on the bacon issue.

And, for kicks, I could use the spicy pulled chicken to make a burrito.  I have had rather rash thoughts about making a batch of tortillas and dividing the dough into larger sections for burritos and such.  What do you think ... reduce the sections from 16 to 12?  Or be bold and divide it only into 8?  

Before I went to sleep last night, I also made a dessert from my childhood.  It is one my step-father brought into our family.

Stan's Forgotten Cookies are so interesting to me. The outside is crispy, but once you bit into them, they sort of melt in your mouth in a bit of a chewy fashion.  Of course, he made them with nuts, which is just nuts.   Nuts don't belong in desserts!  However, in this cookie, nuts would be jarring to the texture and experience.  I wanted to double the recipe, since it only makes 24 cookies, but I was not all that confident they would turn out in an edible fashion and did not want to have a potentially large sacrifice of milk chocolate chips.

When I got up at 6:00 AM to take my erythromycin and feed Amos before heading back to sleep, I dutifully checked the cookies.  I checked them by taste-testing one cookie and then having a second just to be sure.  They are just fine.  One more went into my belly after I polished off the pulled chicken tacos at lunch and the rest went into the freezer.

They went into the freezer because it is very easy to eat a half dozen of these cookies without even noticing.  In fact, just now, I thought to myself, Myrtle, you should go test how the cookies are frozen since you do not actually remember them being good frozen.  Four cookies later, I have fully determined that it is indeed true:  Forgotten Cookies freeze well.

Two went over the fence to my neighbor and her son this afternoon.  Quick ... do the math.  How many more temptations are awaiting me in the freezer???

It occurred to me that the longing for the Forgotten Cookies fits with others longings I have had of late, such as Sonic.  Longings for things I used to have in my life.  If I cannot have the memories or the skill sets, what can I have??

Something else I've added to my bucket list is to once more feel the wind in my hair.  When I was younger, I was ... forced ... to go on bicycle tours.  I continued riding through college and a bit beyond.  In college, I would ride by bike over to the local cemetery and do laps through those quiet, dark roads.  Sometimes, folk would criticize my riding there, but it was [stinking hot] Waco, Texas and the cemetery was completely shaded by these rather magnificent old trees.  The cemetery had been re-paved relatively recently before I started college, so riding was like skimming across ice on skates.  There, I could ride faster than anywhere else without fear of hitting something and falling.  Too, I would take rests before some of the oldest graves and talk with the occupants ... well, wonder aloud about their lives.

Sometimes, I went on longer rides, out to West, Texas, home of the kolache.  I have a recipe for those, but am not quite ready to try anything that is bread.  I do love how many folk have written about the West, Texas kolache.  So many of them mention my favorite ones:  sausage.  Who needs fruit or sweet fillings when you can have a bread roll baked around sausage so that the juices from the meat flavor the inner layer of bread?  It is nice to be understood, even if by strangers who've never met you.

Out in West, Texas, the cemetery is bare, exposed.  But it has even older graves and markers that give you pause.  Like this one.

Thirty miles there.
Chow down and a number of kolaches that will remain secret.
Visit with echoes of the past.
Thirty miles home.

Later, I "rode" my roller blades more than my bike.  On them, too, I found that ... freedom ... of racing away from the rest of the world with the wind blowing back my hair.  Clearly, I should not attempt to use rollerblades, but I have wondered if I could ride a bike for a few minutes, a few minutes on a very, very, very flat road.  I gave away my Miyata bike when I was still in Alexandria.  I did not live in a place save enough to ride the local streets and I knew my time of traveling places to ride had ended.

Portable pump.
Car rack.
Emergency repair kit.
Water bottles.

It was like giving away pieces of my secret self, the self that both hated to ride and loved the escape.

On the Texas Hill Country tours, when I was a youth, my parents would go off on their own and I would be left with a map and different tour options for the day (save for the year I convinced a girl from school to join me).  Following map directions is not my fortitude, nor is hooking up with fellow riders.  I was the lone biker, who practically walked up hills, missed more way stations (country stores where you could get lunch) than she found, pedaled in fear and frustration, and whose only peace came from zooming down hill, the wind blowing through her hair.

The same little girl who liked to push the merry-go-round as hard as she could so that she could leap on the spinning circle, and lean back, safe, because the wind was blowing in her hair and no one could catch her.

I don't know how I could manage a way to experience such a thing again, but I would like to do so.  Not a merry-go-round. Not rollerblades.  Maybe not even a bike.  But somehow...

In reading Michael Card's commentary on Mark, I start over at the beginning each time I sit down to read it.  In part, I do so in the hopes of remembering some of what I am reading.  In part, because I am still so mind-boggled by what I am reading.

Today, I spent a good deal of time thinking about chapters 8 and 9, which are seemingly linked (since there were no chapters in the original texts) and thinking about the themes Michael Card is highlighting and the bookends that keep cropping up.

Chapter 8 opens with the feeding of the 4,000, another miracle gone unnoticed, but one with a different outcome.  I think some might say that it is two sides of the coin of Jesus, but this idea of bookends, connecting everything from one end to the other, intrigues me.

As before (Mk 6:39), the crowd is interacted to sit. There is no mention of the green grass of Galilee. As before, the miracle is vitally undetectable in terms of Mark's language.  Jesus pronounces a blessing, breaks the loaves and passes them to the disciples.  He does the same with a few small fish.  There is no hint of amazement.  The thousands simply eat and are satisfied.  You begin to wonder if Mark's purpose is to underwhelm.  Are we left to be overwhelmed by the lack of spiritual perception on the part of the Twelve?

Again in parallel form to the earlier story, the leftover pieces are gathered.  All that is different is the Greek word for "basket."  Here, as in Matthew 15:37, the word used is spyris, a man-sized hamper or basket. It is the word used  of the basket in which Paul was lowered in Act 9:25.  There are seven extremely large baskets of leftovers when initially there were only seven small loaves of bread.  The miracle is clearly one of abundance.  These are the significant distinctions that need to be woven into our understanding of the flow of Jesus' ministry.  (emphasis mine)

The miracle is followed by another scene where bread is the issue.  The disciples have forgotten to take bread and have only a single loaf with them in the boat.  Jesus says to them, in verses 17-18, "Why are you discussing that you do no have any bread?  Do you not yet understand or comprehend?  Is your heart hardened?  Do you have eyes and not see, and do you have ears, and not hear?  And do you not remember?"

He warns them of the yeast of the Pharisees and the yeast of Herod, but He finishes by making them tell him how many baskets of bread were left over at each feeding.  And then He asks, "Don't you understand yet?"

What is it that the disciples don't understand?  They have witnessed Jesus' power to provide both perfect and abundant provision. It is pointless for them to argue about forgetting to bring bread along for the voyage.  But they still seem blind to Jesus' true identity and power.  They are either oblivious or afraid.

In a deeper sense, they are deaf to the urgency of the moment.  Jesus warns them of the danger of creeping stubbornness and disbelief, of the effect it can have, blinding and deafening them.  This seems to be a preparation for the ultimate revelation that he is the bread of perfect and abundant provision.  That costly realization, though it is closing in on them fast, seems a world away. (emphasis mine).

The verse that popped into my head from the recesses of my past life as the good little evangelical who had hoards of verses stored in her brain is:  "I have come so that you might have life and have it abundantly."  And something about Jesus saying that He is the bread of life.  I Googled the phrases.  Both verses are in John, which is a significance that cropped up in these two chapters.

You see, Michael Card points out the Pharisees tactics have shifted from trying to catch Jesus breaking the Sabbath to demanding signs.  Jesus sighs deeply at the request and states that this generation will see no signs.  Michael Card notes that in the Gospels Matthew, Mark, and Luke signs are demanded by those who refuse to believe.  But in the Gospel of John signs have a more positive connotation, being something given by God.

When I read that, I realized that might be why Lutherans have such an emphasis on the gifts of Christ.     I think that because Luther teaches in the Large Catechism when discussing the Lord's Prayer that we know we can forgive others because of the signs and seals given to us.  Signs and seals being the Sacraments.  The gifts of Christ.

But what struck me about the phrase the perfect and abundant provision of Jesus is that what one might perceive as abundance, such as wealth or even health, does not really have much to do with the abundant life Jesus came to bring.  By that I mean, is not the abundance bread (of Christ)? The abundance being the fullness of receiving the gift of a life in Christ, a life by and with and through and beneath the cross?

Next comes the healing of the blind man, only it is a healing in two parts.  First, Jesus spits in the man's eyes, and they are still out of focus.  Then, Jesus places His hands on the man's eyes and the healing is complete.

There are two points made about this that I like:  the spiritual focus Christ brings and the bookend device Mark oft employs.

Mark, as he will continue to du to the very end of his Gospel, leaves us hanging.  As with Jesus' parables, we are left with the story, in sovereign freedom to engage or not.  The "aha" moment is waiting for those who will listen and hear and look and see.  For the moment, maybe we see the spiritual world out of focus.  Jesus promises us the hope of clear spiritual perception.

This is a variation of Mark's bookend device.  The bookends are the two unique healings:  one of a deaf man, the other of someone who is blind.  Between the bookends is an extended exposĂ© of the failure of the disciples to hear or see.  Until this moment, they have seen Jesus as shapeless and out of focus.  That is all about to radically change. (emphasis mine)

The verse that popped into my mind from those murky recesses is something about Paul, I believe, saying that now we see in a mirror dimly, but later we will see clearly.  Perhaps I am reading the commentary wrong, but I took the end of the first paragraph to mean that even those who have Christ in their lives can experience confusion, can struggle to see and to hear clearly.  But, one day, all will be revealed.

By unique healings, Michael Card means that these are ones that did not come about solely by the spoken word.  In both instances, Jesus made physical contact with the broken, the wounded.  To me, this only emphasizes the importance of the Lord's Supper.  By this I mean, in the Lord's Supper, Christians are physically connected to Jesus, taking in His very body and very blood.  There is a healing in the Lord's Supper that is different from other healings, specifically than the healing that can come from hearing the Living Word.  And so, for those with deep and great wounds, the gift of the physical presence of Jesus is paramount for survival, if not healing on this side of the vale of tears, i.e., the need for the Lord's Supper is more profound.

At the end of chapter 8, Michael Card card sees both an end and a beginning.  He sees the end point of the first part of Mark driving toward who Jesus is.  He sees the beginning as the point when the disciples begin to hear and to see more clearly.

The fateful word "Messiah" has been spoken for the first time in Mark's Gospel.  Admist a swirl of misunderstandings concerning the "anointed one," Jesus sets out to undeceive the Twelve.  At the time, "Messiah" represented a wide range of hopes and dreams in Israel.  To some he would be a glorious king who, with Jerusalem as his throne, would reestablish the theocratic nation of Israel.  to many he would be a militaristic Messiah who would come and kill the Roman oppressor.  What these differing dreams all held in common was the notion of glory, victory and divine power.  Above all, the Messiah would  never submit, surrender or suffer.

But in Mark 8:31, Jesus begins the painful process of redefining and undeceiving the disciples.  The Son of Man, Jesus tells them, will suffer, be rejected and finally be killed.  With the emotional shock of those words, the disciples all stop listening.  It is too much for them to process.  As often as he will repeat himself concerning his suffering and death, they do not really hear the words "and rise after three days" (Mk 8:31).

The private details for the disciples were greater than that Jesus then taught the ever-present crowds.  This was the first of three times Jesus will talk about what it means to follow Him.

His cross will lead to their crosses.  The loss of his life will lead to their lives being offered up for him and the gospel.  He is going to turn the world upside down in ways we still struggle to understand.  We will save our lives by losing them.  The surpassing value of a single soul Jesus places above the worth of the whole world.

Michael Card stresses that the transfiguration came after Peter's confession of faith.  It was not proof of who Jesus was, but the first steps in the opening of the eyes and ears of His disciples.  Truth, Michael Card emphasizes, can only be grasped by faith.    

[Holy cow!  Did I just read that?]

Michael Card shows the connection between the end of chapter 8 and the beginning of chapter 9 with the Greek word uses to begin chapter 9 being kai, which is translated "and" or "but."  A joining word.  But more than the Greek word is how Jesus' ministry continues to unfold across the two chapters.

See, that is at the heart of my caddywhompus.  The whole commentary thus far has been about Jesus' ministry and what He was setting out to teach his disciples so that that ministry might continue.  The Gospel is not about how I'm supposed to live my life!  Jesus was not telling me how to be "godly" or "holy."

The interesting bit I learned about the transfiguration pales, for me, in comparison to the fellowship I realized I share with the disciples:  Fear.  I mean, I didn't know that Moses and Elijah's appearance represent the Law and the Prophets, represent all those who have suffered because of their obedience to the Father, and represented the two categories of citizens of the kingdom of God: those who die and those who will be taken up before they die.  That ... that is really interesting to me in that it makes their appearance at that time and in that place make sense.  But I find myself thinking more about the disciples response:  Fear.

I never noticed just how many times Jesus lamented their lack of understanding, meaning not just lamenting the lack of understanding amongst the crowds and the scribes and Pharisees but also amongst the disciples themselves. I never noticed just how many times Jesus talks about seeing and hearing, about eyes and ears.  How fitting that is, to me, since my beloved Psalter is chock full of verses about how we need to have the Word in our ears and in our mouths, on our lips and on our tongues.

I also never noticed just how fearful the disciples were.

Seriously, I chuckled when I read that Peter asked, "Rabbi, is it good for us to be here?"  They are so afraid that as the glory of Christ is being revealed to them they are questioning if Jesus should be doing that.  Oh, my!  I would have been rather worried about lightning strikes at that very moment ... very certainly would have taken a giant step away from Peter.

So very often, at least in the first nine chapters of the Gospel of Mark, the authority and power and magnitude of who Jesus is overwhelms the disciples.  They are afraid of what they see and hear.  It is difficult for them to take in and, to a certain extent, disbelief is easier than belief.

In Mark chapter 9 is one of the two verses I had been ending my blog posts with, the cry of the father to Jesus, "Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief!"  I stopped doing that because I don't know if I believe.  I truly don't.  And I don't want to write a lie, to pray a lie.  But the second half ... oh, yes!  Jesus help my unbelief!

But before I type what I found in the commentary on that verse, I want to add Michael Card's observation that after the confession by faith and the revelation of Jesus on the mountain, the disciples begin to ask better questions of Jesus, ones that are more fitting to folk about to take up the mantle of Jesus' ministry.  It is not that their fear has suddenly fallen away, but faith is at work in them.  Some questions they ask.  Others are left unspoken because of fear.  But they are learning and growing in faith.


As to Mark 9:24, Michael Card writes:

As contradictory as these words might seem, the pressure of the life-and-death situation brings into focus deep truths.  In the tangle of the human heart we sometimes do believe and disbelieve in the same moment.  That is, until something or someone appears to help us with our unbelief.   (emphasis mine)

The external Word, for me, is what helps with my unbelief.

I know it.
I long for it.
And I fear asking for it.

Perhaps the most caddywhompus moment of both chapters is the whole bit on it being better to hack off limbs and pluck out eyes than to sin with those body parts.  I mean, if I start lopping off my sinful parts, my body would be gone ... and lifeless.  Those verses, the idea of them, frighten me.  I read them as Law that I must somehow follow.  Follow or else.  And my repeated, utter failure at controlling my body, at staving off sin, terrifies me.

But Michael Card looks at the whole of what Jesus is saying, not the parts.  [Pun intended.]  He uses the word "hyperbolic" to describe Jesus' language here.  Language that is over the top.

They are unforgettable images:  cutting off the hand or foot, gouging out the eye.  The painful alternative?  Being thrown into hell.  It would seem a reasonable thing to do to keep yourself from sin.  No price is too great to pay to avoid that unimaginable place where "their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched."

This is an image from the final verse of the book of Isaiah.  In some manuscripts, Jesus repeats the phrase three times (Mk 9:44, 46, 48).  His tone is dark, filled with passion.  He alternates his gaze between the child in his arms and the "little ones" who are his disciples.  There is no language to express the colossal cost of sin.  He will perfectly pay that price in a matter of weeks.  It is a seed that must be planted in their hearts while there is still time.  (emphasis mine)

From this I thought ... Uhm, Myrtle, Jesus has already done the hacking off and the gouging out.  He's done this in His own body!  That hyperbolic language was not an instruction so that I can avoid eternal death, but an attempt at expressing the ineffable:  the cost of sin.

Michael Card ends the chapter pointing out that only the Gospel of Mark contains the words "salted with fire."  He reminds the reader to think again about Mark's audience, those who are still haunted by the great fire that tore through Roman.  Those, too, who were about to face great persecution.

To be salted with fire is sacrificial language.  Every follower of Jesus is to be a sacrifice for God.  Though it might seem otherwise, this assault, this testing is good.  We cannot afford to lose it.  The fire defines who we are in the world.

Baptized with fire.
Tested with fire.
Refined by fire.

So many interesting and intriguing and overwhelming thoughts, yet I remain captured by the idea that  I share something with Jesus' disciples: fear.  Really, fear and confusion.

I have deeply savored the connectedness of the Gospel of Mark as presented in this commentary.  The emphasis, thus far, is on Jesus—Jesus now soon to be Christ Crucified.  I am presented with Jesus' ministry, His compassion and dedication, His struggles and perseverance.  I am presented with the reality that the good we oft cling to, such as healings and rescues, is not the best of Jesus.  I see folk walking, eating, and sleeping beside Jesus still confused and often fearful ... even after they have gone out and taught and wrought miracles in their first foray into Jesus' ministry.  And I am gobsmacked by what I am not seeing, by the utter dearth of life application for today's believer.

Even though I have to keep re-reading what I have already covered to remember those connections, to keep hold of the larger picture, the story I longed to learn is all here.  Laid out in Myrtle Speak.

Myrtle Speak which includes the same ... stuff ... that I see in the Book of Concord.  Christians struggle with doubt and confusion.  The anguished or anxious soul is not the outlier.  It is to be expected.  It is what the Gospel is for ... comfort and consolation.  Verbs, not nouns.  Performative words, not adjectival or even metaphorical language.

The anguished or anxious soul is to be expected ... and welcomed.

Not shunned.
Not condemned.
Not showered with law.

The Gospel is for the weak and wounded, the weary and terrified ... and those who find within themselves a war between belief and unbelief.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

The magical GREEN pot...

My beloved GREEN dutch oven came through for me again!  In my opinion, even for those on a limited budget, the Le Cruet enamel cast iron dutch oven is worth the purchase price (but keep it in your Amazon shopping cart and buy it during a price dip like I did and buy a GREEN one since mine is surely magical).

Since I am near addicted to the Spicy Dr Pepper Pulled Pork tacos I've been eating, I have longed for a chicken option ... mostly because I wanted to have bacon on my tacos.  I mean, who doesn't want to have chicken bacon tacos???  I wanted to make a pulled chicken, so I could freeze it and make the tacos as easily as I do the pulled pork ones.

My problem is that the rest of the world believes that using a slow cooker will not result in culinary disaster when making pulled chicken.  That just boggles my mind!  And seemingly everyone else also believes that you should use thighs for pulled chicken. I am a white meat kind of gal.  So, I had to work out a recipe for myself.  I also had to try and figure out the cooking time, since I figured chicken breasts would cook far sooner than a pork sirloin roast.   The process has been long and slow and full of great fear and trepidation.  Tonight, I girded my loins and set out to tackle my culinary dream.

VoilĂ !  Here is my Spicy Pulled Chicken (I know... a boring recipe title).

Look at those lovely jars!

Here are my rejected onions.  Too bad I don't know someone who would eat these.

So, the recipe.  I used 24 ounces of liquid because the pulled pork recipe did.  I think it would be interesting to try it with straight orange juice, but I have enjoyed cooking with beer.   I used honey since something sweet seems to need to go in there when you use those chipotle peppers.  I used cumin because that also seemed the right thing to do given that I wanted to make tacos.  The end result was pulled chicken with a kick.  Of course, that means I just have to add sour cream and cheese with my tacos!

It does sort of puzzle me how I can throw lots of garlic into my recipes and they not end up tasting garlicky in the least.  I was also surprised that the chicken did not end up tasting citrusy.  It was just spicy and very, very, very moist.

My neighbor was introduced to a new liquor last weekend and bought some today.  She came over to have me try it, since I shared the Creamy Lemon Crumb Squares with her.

You keep the liquor in your freezer.  We had two glasses, just to be sure that we had a proper tasting.

The funny thing is that the other day Bettina mentioned grilled cheese sandwiches.  I couldn't get the idea of such tastiness out of my mind, so I made one for dinner.  My neighbor came over in time for the NASCAR race, around 7:30.  I was, however, in the middle of trying to figure out how to make my pulled chicken and was in a bit of a state.

She knew I was cooking, but was willing to set aside her thoughts and feeling about cooking and come anyway.  I very much appreciated that.  I very, very, very much appreciated having someone there with me in my culinary fear and trepidation.  Once I got the chicken in the oven, I mentioned the grilled cheese when making excuses for all the dirty dishes in the kitchen and my neighbor swooned.  To revive her, I made her one.

Buttermilk bread.
Sharp white cheddar cheese.
Extra sharp yellow cheddar cheese.
More butter when you flip the sandwich.

My living room was filled with lots of groans of pleasure as my neighbor ate her sandwich.  She even texted a photo to her new beaux.  He wanted one, but lives in Kentucky.  He drooled from a distance.  Clearly, I believe in making wicked grilled cheese sandwiches.

My neighbor left before the chicken was done, but she commented many times that the aroma wafting from the oven was enough to set her to swooning again.  I found it helpful to have someone examine the meat with me.  I checked it after an hour.  Then again in a second hour.  It still didn't look quite what I thought it should be, after pulling apart a section of one breast, so I cooked it for 30 more minutes.  That half hour was just the right amount of time, if you ask me.

My, how relieved I was pulling the chicken!  Pulling ... taking a bite ... pulling some more.  Amos was jealous.  I cannot believe that I managed to pull off the dish.  [Pun intended.]  I tried to call Becky, but she was at a baseball came.  So, I did not have anyone with whom to dance the victory.  I very much prefer cooking with others than by myself.

The other humorous note to the impromptu evening was my neighbor's very, very, very casual question about how much of an inroad I had made on the beer cheese soup.  You see, she had taken home two servings, one for her son and for herself.  Thinking about its rather high level of tastiness, my neighbor let her son eat his beloved frozen dinner and ate both servings herself.  In fact, she took one to work and set her colleagues off in a fit of envy.  They asked if they could buy the soup.

My neighbor has never asked me for any food and oft declines any offer I make.  So, I chuckled over her too casual question.  Then, I asked if she would like for me to fetch a jar from the basement for her to take to work on Monday.  Frankly, she cannot believe that I am willing to share it with her.  Normally, my stingy, selfish person would not be willing in the least, but I did end up with 18 servings in that first batch.  At the moment, I still have plenty to share.

Wednesday is the first day of my new budget cycle.  I still have sausages and two chicken breasts left, as well as the meat for the stew and the second batch of pulled pork I never got around to making.  Plus, there are the three different types of steak that I have been too chicken to try the recipes for which I bought them sitting in the basement freezer. Thus, even though I plan on buying that liquor for myself and have some larder items that need refilling, I am hoping this will be my most economical grocery spending month yet.  Much to my surprise, I even have plenty of sour cream in my refrigerator still.

However ....

This was my milk shelf two weeks ago.

This is my milk shelf today.  Lonely, eh??

I do still have the $15 and change left on the Wal-Mart gift card, but since I have made it this far, I'd like to save that for next month's groceries.  Thus, I shall be milk rationing from tonight until Wednesday morning.

My shopping list thus far:

  • McCormack Peppercorn Medley
  • Orzo 
  • Black beans
  • Sweet & Condensed Milk (for more lemon crumb squares)
  • Parsnips
  • Carrots
  • Broccoli
  • Asparagus
  • Vidalia onions
  • Garlic
  • Lemons
  • Limes
  • Cucumbers
  • Grapes
  • Blueberries
  • Granny Smith apples
  • Summer Squash
  • Lettuce
  • Milk
  • Butter
  • White Chedder Cheese
  • Cheddar cheese
  • Chicken
  • Rinse Aid
  • Comet
  • Lemon liquor
  • Ginger ale  (depending on how many bouts of nausea I have)
  • Saltines (depending on how many bouts of nausea I have)
  • Malted Milk Powder (if I can find the recipe that needed this)
  • Wax paper (possible need by month's end)
  • Affresh (possible need by month's end)

Clearly, I have some sort of deep, unspoken need to maintain a very full freezer.  SIGH.  I think I have enough meals for all of September and October.  Not that I mind.  So, my goal is to see if I can have a month where I spend no more than $100 on groceries and household products combined.  My original budget line was $225 for groceries and $85 for household (that includes all of Amos' needs).  I've gotten that combined amount down to ~$200.  So, if I eat further into the freezer than I have ever managed to do without cooking up more batches of tastiness, I should be able to have a super lean budgetary month.  


I will finish by noting that I have done well on my last three monthly grocery shopping trips because I have allowed myself one contraband item ... something not on the list and totally unnecessary.  A couple of months ago, I bought a bag of potato chips, which I had not done in a long, long, long while.  Last month, I bought Snapple's Raspberry Tea, which I found in a 12-pack on sale for just $2 more than a 6-pack.  I've trained myself to drink only half a bottle at a time.  [I could shoot whoever introduced me to that addictive stuff.]  I forgot I bought it, so I actually still have 10 bottles.  This month, I bought Hickory Farms Summer Smoked Sausage, which I forgot about until just this week, when I polished it off in four consecutive days of evening snacking.  Anyway, having that one wicked item in my cart has helped me to stick more with my list and with the ingredients for the recipes I'd like to make.

Instead of bemoaning the lack of milk in my life over the next three and a half days, maybe I can think of a contraband item for this month that is extra wicked.

Friday, August 22, 2014

A whole lot of nothing...

I have been doing a whole lot of nothing the past two days, because I am so incredibly tired.  Being un-productive is hard for me.  Mary was kind enough to send me some editing work to distract me for a bit.  [Thanks, Mary!]

I finally remembered to take a photo of the Roasted Rutabaga and Parsnips Beer Cheese soup before I started chowing down on it.  So, I added it to the recipe page.  I do find it a bit remarkable just how well this soup freezes (and tastes after thawing).

I've spent a lot of time watching Amos battle his fear.  This is typical of him.  Once he dares step onto the dreaded tall, wet grass, my puppy dog become almost paralyzed and does not move any part of his body save for his head.  He looks around at his predicament and then will send pitiful gazes back my way.  I am impressed, a bit, at just how long he can remain stock still.  Of course, to give him credit, you cannot even see the bottom of his legs once he steps out into the yard.

I have utterly failed at finding anyone who would like to have some of my fresh herbs.  You can see that I've only harvested from one of the ginormous basil bushes.  Despite eating lots and lots and lots of sages dishes, I've barely made a dent in those.  Neither have I made much inroads on the thyme.  And, much to my surprise, having harvested half of each of the rosemary bushes, they have grown more.  That is a bit of a victory.

I want to try drying the herbs, but I am ... nervous about that.  I haven't read anything online that gives me confidence.  Primarily, I've noted that it is recommended to dry them in warm air.  Very, very, very little air in my house is warm.  The two options I've thought of are either the solarium or the attic.  I thought I would try to tie bundles to the wooden clothes drying rack I have.  I am just not sure how long it will take indoors.  I could, of course, try the garage, but I thought the house would be a better/cleaner place.  With the unusual amounts of rain, I am reluctant to try until everything has dried out a bit.

[Yes, I am procrastinating.]

Anyway, if I am successful in drying the herbs, then I thought I could mail some off to friends and family.  The nerdy part of me would like to take the position that if I can successfully dry the herbs, then I ought to have a mortar and pestle to crush them.  I wonder if mortar and pestle sets come in GREEN.

The other way I've occupied my mind whilst my body languishes (other than reading the commentary on the Gospel of Mark) has been to Google for pulled chicken recipes.  I very much want to try pulled chicken tacos, but I have run across two obstacles in trying to find a recipe: 1) I want to use chicken breasts, not thighs and 2) I want to use my dutch oven (since I don't have a slow cooker).

I did just do some shopping in the basement freezer for meals.  I admit that I still enjoy grabbing the basket and heading down to fill it up.  I chose:  black bean soup, chipotle chicken chili, pulled pork (for tacos), Vietnamese chicken curry, lemon chicken gyros, black eyed peas, butternut and goat milk cheese pasta, and the beer cheese soup.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Will you not listen...

When I crawled into bed last night, I was rather exhausted.  However, Amos couldn't sleep.  Amos couldn't sleep because he couldn't find his beloved Flower Baby.  Now, whenever Flower Baby makes her way downstairs, I am always careful to take her back up with me.  Amos really cannot sleep without her.  And when Amos cannot sleep neither can I.

I looked high and low for Flower Baby and grew quite frustrated.  I mean, how does one lose a stuffed animal in a bedroom?  Finally.  Finally, I thought to look beneath Amos' pillow.  [Yes, Amos has his own pillow.]

In fact, Amos has his own side of the bed. And, if you haven't noticed, he now prefers to be tucked beneath the covers as he sleeps.

Once he was reunited with his beloved Flower Baby, I tried to sleep myself.  But I got sicker and sicker and sicker.  My head was aching and the nausea was coming in waves.  I couldn't think what was wrong, but then my heart felt like it was exploding in my chest and I broke out in a cold sweat.  Ah!  Low blood sugar.  Somehow I had let the bottle of glucose pills beside my bed become empty.  I stumbled and fumbled my way downstairs and shoved food hand over fist into my mouth and then lay trembling on the floor until I recovered.  Around seven this morning, I finally fell asleep.

It rained yesterday.  The night before, I actually sang a bit of a rain song (I don't dance) because I saw that the dog days of summer were finally coming to Fort Wayne.  Greedy Myrtle wants to keep her GREEN grass, but is trying to hold to her resolve to not water.  Sure enough, we had two brief, but hard showers.

Yes, I tried very hard to think, today, that the sudden downpour yesterday was not God commenting on the inappropriateness of my pastor praying for this very confused (hopefully still) sheep, but rather the blessing of much needed water to brace the soil and grass and other growing things for an extended spate of heat. Amos and I watched the rain together.

And I admired the hanging baskets I have been creating from the footings.  Finally, the one on the left is looking respectable.  In posting this, it just occurred to me that the one on the left might be grow better if I switch them.   Man, in so many ways I've become a creature of habit. I have turned them every other day, but I have never switched them.  Maybe it is not just that the one on the right had better footings.  Maybe it gets a wee bit more sun???

[I just popped out to the front porch and switched them.]

Anyway, whilst waiting on Amos today, sitting on the back steps, I noticed that the places where I managed to replenish the mulch were still nice and damp.  I really need to get those other bags out.  However, I also need to keep remembering that I simply cannot be doing such work anymore.  If I am awake when Firewood Man comes to mow this week, I thought I would ask if he would move four bags this week, then another four next week, and finish up the third week.  That would be easy peasy for him and I would just be spreading mulch for a few minutes each time.

Tim is always amazed when I don't hear him mow or edge or blow, but if I am sleeping with my sleep mate on, World War Three could happen outside and I wouldn't hear it.  Even if you pound away on the front door.  I have yet to know if someone has rung to doorbell whilst I am sleeping to see if that would wake me.  I cannot figure out if this is a good thing or not.

My poor sister discovered that the uniform pants order (plus some odd school supplies) that she placed with Wal-Mart last week did not actually come to fruition.  By this I mean that she placed the order and received a confirmation email, but did not execute the order and the order number she was given was actually recycled to someone else.

She left work early and went on the prowl because my nephew starts at his private school for youth on the Autism spectrum tomorrow.  So far, he had but one shirt and the shoes.  His other shirts were monogrammed ones, so they were coming later.  But additional white polos and the pants were supposed to have arrived.  We texted for a long while ... my sister asking me to Google things or check the school lists for what was required.  I am proud of how she handled another obstacle during a very distressing time for her.

The boys both needed luggage tags for their backpack, so I found Texas Ranger ones.  Those were a hit.  All in all, I placed five orders online, my sister two (one that didn't work), and my sister went to six stores.  I got the idea of putting a Back-to-School shopping reminder for her in my calendar for next July 15th, so as to do all of this in a more relaxed manner.  It is hard ... very, very, very hard ... to be a single parent of a special needs child.  My nephews' father does little more than visitation.  So, my sister has been juggling switching one son to a new school, setting up alternative arrangements for after school care for both sons (I helped with that), putting together a school uniform wardrobe, and trying to keep straight and track down school supplies for a 5th and 7th grader.

It feels ... a bit self-centered of me ... but I very much savored being helpful in the flurry of activity between last Friday and today.  Although, I admit that is is hard for me to face how much she's struggling.  I want to help her and there is little that I can do.

It's been a wretched innards evening, and I am beginning to think that my working theory on the matter might not be so crack-brained.  You see, the erythromycin, once mixed, is only potent for 14 days (and must be kept refrigerated).  That hasn't mattered with the smaller bottles, because they have only 10 days of doses.  However, it seems that around Day Eight of taking the medication, its efficacy begins to wane.  I've hypothesized that, since the bottles are so very old and so close to expiration (November), the medication is less potent and cannot last the full 14 days once mixed.

Tonight, I have been in considerable pain and am swollen the entire length of my abdomen.  Awash in nausea, my Taco Bell reward for fetching my prescription has been followed by ginger ale and saltines and Zofran.  My blood pressure has also had such wild swings, since getting vertical means the pulse pressure widens immensely as my systolic pressure rises with my tachycardic response to the orthostatic hypertension that is taking place.  In a nutshell, I've also fainted four times.

Part of me wants to switch to the pill version of erythromycin this very second.  But the practical bit of Myrtle believes paying $72.21 for the next 30 days is far better than paying $436.  Because I will be 7 days shy of my next budget cycle and did not want to have that cost in the same cycle as paying for the three bottles, I asked the pharmacist to try ordering the bottles one more time.  She tried all sizes, even the 5 day bottle.  Nothing.  I could very well be consuming the last of the solution in America.  But, realistically, I'm sure there are bottles sitting on shelves of small pharmacies somewhere.

The other up side of making the switch is that I will no longer have the ever present bad taste in my mouth from the solution.  Man, some of the food I eat might even be tastier!  Imagine that!!

I will note that as I lay writhing in pain tonight, I was comforted by having read the Living with Bob blog.  By this I mean, the author describes much of what I face so ... bluntly ... and one of the best parts was a bit I read about the pain of having a sheet touch her stomach.  It is ever so comforting to know that there is another person on the planet who understands that pain, who wouldn't blink at a wailing over the weight of a sheet or t-shirt.

I have also been thinking further about two thoughts from yesterday.

One was this quote:

The miracle of the feeding of the five thousand is perfect provision. The leftovers are meager, but they perfectly provide twelve lunch-sized baskets for the twelve disciples. It is a fulfillment of Jesus' own prayer to "give us our daily bread" (Mt 6:11). It is an unmiraculous miracle, the same sort of miracle we often fail to recognize today when we receive our "daily bread." We celebrate abundant provision, but rarely are we equally amazed at the God who so intimately knows our needs that he provides perfectly—no more, no less than we need. When we take into account this intimacy, the miracle of perfect provision might well be the greater of the two.  (emphasis mine)

Have I not written again and again and again that the Psalter shows us how intimately we are known by God?  In a way, the Psalter has been the perfect provision for me.  It is clearly written in Myrtle Speak.  The thoughts and feelings and experiences I battle are all in there.  And in being in there I am comforted that ... somehow ... God understands those thoughts and feelings and experiences ... and is neither appalled nor offended by them.  I suppose I would also go so far as to say that the Psalter itself is the unrecognized miracle of the Word of God, the perfect provision of daily bread so often overlooked.

The other was my pondering if it could be said that the purpose of light (also) to reveal that which has been hidden by darkness.  For darkness not only obscures the truth, it can completely hide it.  Depression, despair, suicidal ideation, anxiety, terror ... those aspects of darkness can make one insensible and unable to see the truth.  Therefore, in such times and for those wrestling with the darkness, great help (and mercy) can be given in simply pouring the Living Word into that person's ears.

I had the offer of having the Gospel of John read aloud to me from beginning to end withdrawn before I could take advantage of such a gift.  Tonight, I have been wondering just how great a loss that is.  I think I would put that on my bucket list save for the fact that having someone read to me the Gospel of John is not the same as something I would like to do before doing is no longer under my control.

Again, if I am to have a near miraculous puppy dog as a companion, why couldn't he be a bit more miraculous and be able to read the Living Word to me?

Mark Chapter 7 makes me think of an older Michael Card song that actually comes from his trilogy on the Old Testament, specifically The Word, written about the prophets:  "Will You Not Listen?"  Funny, eons ago, when I heard this song, I had absolutely no idea of the importance of hearing the Word of God.  Funny, too, that here is a song of Jesus pulled from the Old Testament.

Is not He who formed the ear
Worth the time it takes to hear?
Should He who formed our lips for speaking
Be not heeded when He speaks?

Will you not listen?
Why won't you listen?
God has spoken love to us
Why will you not listen?

Listen to the sacred silence
Listen to the Holy Word
Listen as He speaks through living
Parables that must be heard

Will you not listen?
Why won't you listen?
God has spoken peace to us
Why will you not listen?

He spoke a word of flesh and blood
Flesh and blood that bled and died
Bled and died just to be heard
How could you not hear this Word?

Why will you not hear this Word?
Will you not listen?
Why won't you listen?
God has spoken hope to us

How could you not listen?
Why will you not listen?
How could you not listen?

Michael Card's commentary on chapter seven has quite a bit of historical background to it.  Far more that I would even attempt to record.  The most fascinating bit, though, has to do with the oral law (the tradition).  I did not know that the Pharisees believed that God gave Moses the oral law when he received the tablets and that Moses came down from the mountain and passed the oral law on to Joshua and the elders.  Jesus, clearly, does not recognize the oral law.  Michael Card points this out by noting that Jesus refutes the accusation against Him with Scripture.

[Hah!  Imagine that!  Jesus does not argue His position from His own convictions or experience but from the very Word of God!!]

This was the third instance where Jesus was confronted with the fact that His disciples had broken the law (first with fasting, then not keeping Sabbath).

In the midst of his historical explanation is this confusing bit about what "corban" is, so that you can better follow Jesus' response.  I've read it a half dozen times and still do not understand.  However, I am focusing on the fact that I did learn the distinction between the Law and the oral law and that the Pharisees called themselves the disciples of Moses (Jn 9:28).  That makes the whole Jesus-as-the-new (and improved)-Moses stance all the more damning.

Anyway, in the passage being explored (Mark 7:1-23) is the single most painful and most comforting verse to me in the entire Bible:  "Nothing that goes into a person from outside can defile him, but the things that com out of a  person are what defile him." (verse 15).

Why?  What that verse?  Well, the most frank answer is that even before I encountered Christians who taught me that I was no longer pure since, by virtue of sexual abuse, I was no longer a virgin, I felt defiled.  Or, more truthfully, the defiled one was my identity.  The sexual abuse of a young child is dirty and messy; the child literally becomes filthy with the bodily fluids of the abuser.  It is a lightning fast leap from literal to figurative.  On all fronts, I struggled with being and feeling filthy, being and feeling defiled.  And, frankly, the church has done very, very, very little to dissuade that notion of mine and of other survivors of sexual abuse.  There seems to be no ... exceptions ... to the resulting condemnation of a lack of virginity.

When I tried dating in college, when the truth of my past came out, primarily two responses followed: 1) because I was not pure, I was not marriage material and so there was no point of dating and 2) because I was not pure, it was okay to pressure me to engage in sexual behaviors ... even abuse me when I resisted.

Because I was not pure.  SIGH.

Again, bluntly, sexual abuse, for the survivor, is something that happens from the outside, not from within.  So, this single verse in Mark ... it is both the deepest desire of my heart and the most terrifying Word of the Bible.  Is is true?  Is it true for me?

In Mark 7:14 Jesus turns to the crown at large.  His appeal is that they "listen" and "understand."  (These words should be underlined.  They will be lived out later in the chapter describing a prophetic healing.)  Jesus is about to redefine the people's fundamental concepts of clean and unclean.  Uncleanness, he says, comes from within, not from the outside.  Rinsing your hands ceremonially has no effect whatsoever.  He does not explain the statement to the crowd but leaves them to arrive at the "aha" moment on their own.

And later in the explanation:

Jesus continues, "From within, out of people's hearts, come evil thoughts" (Mk 7:21).  He might have said that uncleanness reside in the imagination.  Every one of the sins in Jesus' list begins in the imagination.  Evil renders one unclean, not eating with unrinsed hands or touching a corpse or being overshadowed by a leper.  Nonconformity to an oral tradition is no longer sin.  This is a world turned upside.


The teaching is begun and ended with the admonition to listen.  In Mark, this is common in Jesus' approach to teaching.  In a way, that bookend of instruction connects to the third story in chapter seven, which had another historical lesson to it, about hearing.

But, first, my wondering about the verse remains unclear.  There is all this good bit about sin coming not from the outside, but then there is that one sentence:  Evil renders one unclean, not eating with unrinsed hands or touching a corpse or being overshadowed by a leper.  What does this mean?  Sexual abuse is evil. So, am I unclean???

And, second, before the connection to listening comes the story of the woman and crumbs and dogs.  This was the story from Matthew that my pastor taught.  He ... he taught different things.  The only thing I would note is that Michael Card's commentary points out that the word Jesus' used for dog was not the word for stray dogs, but the diminutive term for "little dogs" or perhaps "pet dogs."  He notes that this was not a Jewish scene, but a Gentile one, and in the woman's world it was common to keep small pet dogs.  Therefore, the image of children throwing scraps to the dogs is more one of affection and care rather than an offense.  If He was calling her a dog, then He was calling her favored and cared for.  I find all that ... confusing.

The most confusing line, though was Michael Card's endnote:

But once again, the long-distance healing of the little girl is not the point of the story.  There is always a miracle behind the miracle.  In this exchange it is the persistent faith of the Gentile woman that is miraculous.  Without realizing it she has asked for something she does not deserve.  She has asked for mercy. (emphasis mine)

What do those last two sentences mean?  SIGH.

So, to the connection to listening.  In writing about how Jesus healed the deaf man who had a speech difficulty, Michael Card notes:

Even though Jesus is in an area dominated by paganism, this crowd appears to be Jewish.  His command to keep the matter secret (Mk 7:36) is one indication.  That chafe has only been issued to Jews in Mark's Gospel.  The second reason to assume they might be Jewish is the method of Jesus' healing.  The opening of this man's ears is told only by Mark.  The way Jesus goes about the healing is "prophetic activity"—it becomes a parable for the opening of the spiritual ears of Jesus' followers (see Mk 7:14, 18). (We will witness another healing with the same prophetic character in Mk 8:22-26.  These miracles only occur in the Gospel of Mark.)

Jesus places his fingers in the man's ears, reminiscent of Isaiah 35:5.  He spits and touches the man's tongue, echoing Isaiah 35:6.  Mark's term for Jesus' "deep sigh" or "groan" is related to the same word Paul uses for the Spirit's groaning on our behalf in Romans 8:26.  This is the emotional Jesus.  From the depths of that deep sigh comes the Aramaic word Ephphatha.  We are privileged to hear Jesus' voice in his own tongue. (emphasis mine)

Despite Jesus' command that everyone keep it secret, word of the miracle spreads.  As a result, in Mark 8:1, Jesus will face another crowd of thousands of hungry people.  The nameless man who can now hear and speak plainly represents a living parable for Mark. His healing has been prophetic.  Jesus' groaning words, "Be opened," represent the deepest hope of the gospel:  that you and I might truly ear and eventually clearly speak the good news.

Open your ears.
Let him who has ears hear.

Why is it that hearing is so difficult for me???