Bourbon Rotisserie Pork Loin

I’m starting a new adventure on my blog. For the past few months I’ve only posted bible studies and the occasional option or observation style article. Today is the first share on my new endeavor to learn more about cooking, grilling, and rotisserie recipes to try.

In 2021 my wife and I did a remodel in our backyard with one feature which has a particularly high value for me. The new DCS natural gas grill with rotisserie option was a great decision.  I like to grill much of the time, I also have an electric smoker which I use regularly.  But this new rotisserie option was a whole new thing for me.  Most of the people I’ve talked to love the rotisserie chicken available in the local food marketplace.  And I have and will do chicken many times in the future.  However today, I was to give you a birds eye view my process for cooking Bourbon Pork Loin on the rotisserie.

This is a 2.05 lb pork loin, which will be enough for the dinner, and a leftover meal or sandwiches.

I started with a wet rub to add flavor to the pork loin overnight.  Light brown sugar, coarse black pepper, brown spicy mustard, paprika, garlic powder and onion powder. After whisking the dry ingredients together in a bowl, I covered the pork loin all over with the brown spicy mustard, and put the dry mixture on both sides. It looked like this in the basting bag, before going into the refrigerator for at least 12 hours, mine sat for about 15 hours.  I rolled all the air out of the bag wrapping it tightly so no air could infiltrate.

About an hour before cooking the pork loin I took it out of the refrigerator and brought it to room temperature, about 45 minutes on the counter. You can see that I tied the pork loin with cooking string to keep a uniform shape while it cooks. After placing the pork loin on the rotisserie spit, I went to work on the Mop for basting the pork loin as it cooked.

The Mop includes bourbon whiskey, light brown sugar, 1/4 small pureed yellow or sweet onion, ketchup, dark corn syrup and more spicy brown mustard. When the mop was mixed and ready, I fired up the rotisserie burner on the grill allowing plenty of time to get to the correct cooking temperature.

Here is a short video of the pork loin turning while the burner is lit to a bright orange indicating it is time to get this show on the road!

I cooked this pork loin for a little over 2 hours 45 minutes, left it on the spit, and covered it with aluminum foil to let it rest for about 20 minutes.

For the final phase of the meal I made Almanzo’s Fried Apples N Onions on the stovetop.

2 Fuji apples peeled, cored and sliced, the other ¾ of the sweet/yellow onion cut into matchstick sized pieces, brown sugar, and some ground cinnamon.

Melting a ½ cup of butter in a sauce pan, then adding all the ingredients together and cooking about 15-20 minutes, my side dish was finished.

After taking the apples and onions off the heat to cool a little before serving it is time to slice the pork into ¼ or ½ inch slices for plating.

Here is the dinner plated and ready to eat!  It was amazing to me how well the apples and onions paired with this pork loin.  The juices from the side dish made a great sauce adding even more flavor to the pork.  It was time well spent and a great adventure in cooking.

One last note… these are not my original recipes, I found them by searching for rotisserie options online.  For the exact details for these recipes, the links are here:

Pork Loin recipe

Apples N Onions recipe

Going Somewhere

In my distant past I read books. By this I mean I preferred hardcover books to paperback, and I shunned those who purchased the first electronic reading devices as though they had a serious and contagious illness to which I was vehemently determined not to succumb. As I said this was my distant past.

For the first time in too many years, two weeks ago while pondering the beautifully leather bound classics my wife inherited from her father at his recent passing, I determined to pluck one from the shelf and read it. I did this as much to honor the man who willed us these books, as to simply read an actual book. Much of my reading over the last 15 years or so has been using my Kindle reader on my mobile devices. So yes, I did succumb to the evil electronic readers available today.

Imagine my surprise when I opened the pages of a book never read, a book which had been printed and bound, and boxed and shipped, then put on a shelf to live out its days, unread. Instantly I was greeted with the fragrant musky scent of old paper and leather. My mind raced back to former days and the joy of buying that hardcover book and breaking it in, before ever reading a word. I did this now with a leather bound copy of Treasure Island, originally titled The Sea Cook A Story for Boys, first published in 1883.

My copy of Robert Louis Stevenson’s book was printed and published in 1975 as a limited edition by the Franklin Library, Franklin Center, Pennsylvania. It includes copies of the original illustrations by N.C. Wyeth and used by permission from Charles Scribner’s Sons. From first to last these 305 pages of story kept me captivated for days. I highly recommend this book, however, the point is that it served as a bridge for me. A bridge back to the joys of reading an actual book you can hold in your hands.

Is the story less rich or less enticing when read electronically? No. Does the meaning and moral of the story diminish in anyway when read electronically? No. But that is not my point. It probably won’t change my lifestyle of using my mobile devices to read a book when I’m out to lunch without my wife, or when I’m on vacation, or at any other time when it is necessary or convenient to do so. The Bridge part is that I’m now going somewhere. I’m going back in time to that place where one of the best parts of my day was to sit down with a good book and read.

Everyone has good intentions. I do too, having the intention to read more than just one of these leather bound classical works. I’m not sure I can do it in my lifetime, for while there only 88 of these beautiful and colorful books, they include works and titles that are very heady reads.

The Tragedies of Sophocles, Political Writings by John Stuart Mill, The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri, Thucydides – The Peloponneisan War, War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy, Pensees by Blaise Pascal, and the Trail by Franz Kafka.

It might take me a year or two to get through just these 8 books and there are 80 more of the same vein, all classical works in their own right. So I may have good intentions to read all 88 before I die, and while it remains a noble crown to achieve should I do it, I’m 68 years old in a couple of days, so it seems a daunting endeavor.

So there before is The Bridge. I would never have to purchase another book in my lifetime to fill my mind with thoughts above my own, more brilliant than my own, more entertaining than my own. It is a bridge which I’ve set my foot upon and I dare not turn back. I wonder if I’ll make it all the way across…

#WordPrompt

Are you an extrovert or introvert?

The answer lies in whether you see yourself through your own eyes (self-examination) or through the eyes of others (expressed in how they respond when you are around). Herein lies the problem. The definition of extrovert vs. introvert is almost always housed in psycho-babble more confusing than it actually needs to be to help a person answer the question. Here is one example:

“Introverts are most comfortable interacting in small groups and with one-on-one relationships, and are energized by spending time alone. Extroversion is a personality type characterized by traits such as sociability, assertiveness, and cheerfulness.” (quote from: https://www.simplypsychology.org)

When I typed this title question into the BING search engine it produced 2,200,000 results, which is probably as telling as anything I’ve said so far. Then I revised my question to ask “extrovert or introvert test” which produced 2,290,000 results. On of these tests, I took the time to answer every question as accurate as I could, and in the end came up with the answer I already knew about myself from my own self-examination over the years. Here is what came back:

“You are an ambivert – a mixture of both personality types. It means that depending on your mood, you can gain energy either from socializing or being on your own. You enjoy social interaction, are interested in other people, and love to get to know them. But just like introverts, you feel the need to withdraw and stay on your own after a social event. Yet, too much alone time makes you feel restless and lonely, and you find yourself craving social contact again.” (https://www.learning-mind.com/introvert-or-extrovert-test)

This word describes every aspect of the various seasons of my life, from High School, through College, marriage, and working in different environments where I was forced to be an extrovert part of the time, wanted to hide like an introvert part of the time, and for the bulk of the time was a blending jumble of both/and not either/or resulting in Ambivertness. (Yes, I know that is not a word, and the incorrect use of grammar, but there it is – I said it anyway. My extrovert is showing.)

The problem I’ve discovered over all this time is how our culture today has taken this whole either/or concept and made it into an art form. You can either be this or that, but not both at the same time, or move from one into the other and back again. And, you don’t change at all, becoming one or the other over time, you just are, or you aren’t one or the other.

Wrapping people up in tiny little boxes with labels has been the problem for thousands of years. In fact, one of the greatest evidences of this is found in how people treated Jesus of Nazareth. Ask yourself, “was Jesus an extrovert or an introvert?” How most people answer this question says much about their own knowledge of Scripture, but specifically their understanding of what Jesus said, and how Jesus behaved, as a Hebrew male in Nazareth and Jerusalem and all points in between or nearby.

In Scripture, we see Jesus in the middle of crowds of thousands, teaching, healing, playing with children, confronting His enemies who would later have Him killed. But we also see Jesus calling those 12 men He chose, pulling them aside and away from the massive crowds for alone time. Within that smaller group, we also see Jesus taking just three of them, Peter, James, and John, even farther from the 12 to do side trips. And last we also see Jesus moving away by Himself, for quiet-alone times by Himself, away from every other person or distraction. Jesus was neither an extrovert or introvert. Jesus was an ambivert.

I have known for some time now that I wanted to model for people around me, what it means to be like Jesus. Now, I’ve found that as an ambivert, I am like Him. So, what can you do with this information?

If you know your tendency is to be an introvert: shy, silent mostly, and alone much of the time, find a way in your own life to be like Jesus… find some friends, hang out, speak up, be bold. He will help you do this.

If you know your tendency is to be an extrovert: ready to party, ready to meet new people, ready to speak your mind, find a way in your own life to be like Jesus… calm down, get away, shut your pie hole one time and let someone get a word in. Trust me, He will help you do this.

Regardless of what your tendency might be, remember these words from the Apostle Paul to the church in Philippi describing his own ambivertness (I did it again):

“I know how to get along with little, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” [Philippians 4:12-13]

It’s So Morantic

Words.
The old Bee Gees song lyric was, 
It’s only words, and words are all I have to take your heart away…

Words are what make us unique from every other species on the planet.
We communicate in language… in words.

I may occasionally use the wrong word with the right intention and be completely misunderstood.

On rarer occasions still, because my tone was correct, or my inflection convincing, your own five sense look past the words as they fall on your ears, and see my heart loving you, beyond any word known to man.

When our eyes meet, when I feel the gentle stroke of your hand on mine, is it any wonder that I struggle to put two words into a sentence that make sense to the world?

When we say the exact same thing, at the exact same time, and laugh out loud at the timing of such a silly thing, it’s not really the words at all… it’s the connection we share, the fleeting intimate moments of oneness.

You know when I say bass-akwards, the meaning is something else.
Just like when I heard you say, “It’s so morantic,” I knew exactly what you meant.

So, proving the old Bee Gees song is in fact just good lyrical writing, it’s not about the words so much at all is it?

In the end, it’s about being…
Romantic
Kind
Funny
Generous
Forgiving
and … first, last, and always…
Loving

It’s about us.
And I choose us.

Faces

Some years ago it occurred to me that even though my life lacked romance and intimacy, that these were elements of my life I hoped would come to me one day. Using this as motivation, I wrote a series of free-form verses of poetry. Sometimes they rhyme, many times they don’t. Yet each conveys a yearning for something more… and I have finally found it. This is the first I’ll share, with a few more to come, until the love of my life says “that’s enough.” I’m not sure she ever will… for they reflect what I have found in her.

_________________________________________________________________

Faces

The smile.
The frown.
Sadness.
Disbelief.
Comprehension.
Fear.
Doubt.
Peace.

Just a few of the faces I’ve seen.
All coming from one set of muscles designed to demonstrate unlimited tales of emotion.
The face.

Yours is beyond beautiful.
The lines of time in all the right places, enhancing your glow, casting spells on all who care to see.
The eyes, nose, cheeks, lips all perfectly placed, what a marvelous creation.
Each expression a diamond mine to explore until time is no more.
And even then, there would be no end to the joy that is your face.

Mine seems to be one dimensional compared to yours.
I lack the luster, and grace of the excitement of your eyes.
My nose just sits there whether I talk or listen.
Yours with all it’s tiny curls and twitches brings brilliance to every laugh, drama to every tear.
My lips too long have drawn taunt with frustration, anger, depression.
Yours always inviting conversation and the taste of life and love.

Why is it that women’s faces are always so beautiful, and men’s always so worn and chiseled?
It doesn’t seem fair until I realize one simple truth.
Men were never intended to look into mirrors.


They were created to look into the divine and bring him glory.
And to facilitate that end, God in his infinite wisdom gave man the greatest of all gifts.

The faces of the woman he loves.

Nothing

Perhaps the one command the Apostle Paul made we have the most trouble with is, “make yourself nothing.” I know there are those who will say, “Paul never said that!” Oh but he did. He wrote to the church in Philippi that they should “… have the same mindset as Jesus Christ;” (Philippians 2:5). So we have to look forward about what Paul says Jesus Christ’s mindset was. And it was this, “… he made Himself nothing…” (Philippians 2:7).

Now, there is a troubling thought. Our current cultural climate doesn’t even allow us to think about becoming nothing. You can’t invest nothing, you can’t deposit nothing in the bank. There is no self-esteem seminars for nothing filled nobodies. Nothings get laughed at, demeaned, or cancelled today.

But Paul says, “Jesus… made Himself nothing.” This was a willful choice emphasized by His actions. Think for a minute about what this means. All His divine rights and privileges, Jesus cast aside to become nothing… a nothing like you or me… human. How do you measure the height of this descending concept? The distance between God and man has been the subject of thousands of books, movies, plays or poems. But it cannot be measured.

The Creator of all things, of energy, animals, mankind and the universes of heaven, chooses to empty Himself and become nothing, so I can be something. Jesus subjects Himself to obedience as a human child to say, “Yes Dad, and ok Mom.” Jesus gives up the relentless praise of all the heavenly angels, to hear only the constant ridicule of the Jews and humanity. Jesus Christ leaves heaven for earth for a singular purpose and end. The Cross of Calvary.

As if that were not enough, in making this choice, Jesus moves from sinless to sin-filled… filled by the sins of all mankind before and after Him, facing the raging wrath of God’s anger toward sin. But we have to remember something here. Jesus was not forced to do this. He wasn’t coerced or blackmailed. This action was an intentional and conscious decision made in an unwavering commitment to the will of God.

Jesus chose a life of giving Himself away, serving those who followed Him, losing His life on a cross, and dying for all of humanity. He made Himself “nothing.”

This is a hard teaching from scripture and goes against human nature, conventional wisdom, and cultural logic around the globe. Yet, it is what Paul demands that we adopt as our own mindset if we are true Christ-followers. Anyone, any teacher, preacher, or Sunday School leader who has suggested the Christian life is easy, may need to rethink the teaching of Philippians 2, and the call to “nothingness.”

It makes no sense to the lost world. It makes no sense to the religious community. It is non-sense to most people today. But to the true Christ-follower, by the authority of the Apostle Paul, given to him by Jesus Himself, this is a command, not an option. Maybe, this command is challenging you today to rethink everything you’ve ever been taught about what it means to follow Christ. Especially in a world ravaged by the politically motivated, power-hungry “somebodies” who want to tell you what to believe, how to act, what you can and cannot say. Does a nobody even have a voice?

Adopting the mindset of Jesus Christ will speak louder than any silver-tongued politician who thinks themself “somebody” when they are the real “nobodies” when compared to Jesus the Savior.

Trust Him. Follow Him. Descend with Him, into nothing.

Pobody’s Nerfect

I’ve observed, lived through, and learned some valuable life lessons over the past couple of months. Life and Death have knocked on the door twice during this period and it was an eye-opener if there ever was one. My loving, gracious, beautiful wife lost both her parents in what can only be described as a bizarre look at the frailty of life.

Just one year ago, before the big “C-19”, on that Wednesday before Turkey-Day we were planning thanksgiving with her parents at their home in Lubbock, Texas. It went how many thanksgiving meals go… the turkey wasn’t quite unfrozen when it was cooked, so came out of the oven a little less done and just a tad rubbery. The conversation around the table was occasionally filled with the tension between parents and children derived from years of misunderstanding, miscommunication and borderline abuse. Yet, this time last year, these two people were perfectly healthy 87 year old adults.

On Monday, November 9, 2020, Eleanor “Skeet” McLain Brown took an afternoon nap. When she awoke, she was in the arms of Jesus.

Skeet was born to Jessie Marie and Thurston Vernon “TV” McLain on September 23, 1932. She was the middle daughter of three girls. Skeet attended Lubbock High School 1948-1950 where she was head cheerleader her senior year. In high school, she fell in love with the star athlete, Bobby Brown. She attended Texas Tech, he was at TCU, but he couldn’t live without her, so they married November 25, 1950 in Clovis, NM. Skeet was a homemaker and mother to Pamela and Gregory. Throughout their 70 years together, Skeet and Bob lived in El Paso, Wichita Falls, Ruidoso, and Lubbock at various times. However, Lubbock was their home, so Lubbock is where they chose as their final destination.

Playing bridge was Skeet’s passion and an easy way to meet new friends wherever she lived. She leaves behind many loving, forever friends who loved her as she loved them. My mother was a beautiful woman who taught me to never leave the house without eyebrows and lipstick.

As it was at the beginning of their lives together, never being apart from each other for very long; so, it was at the end of their journey. She only survived 19 days without her life partner.

Robert “Bobby” Brown passed away peacefully at home Wednesday, October 21,2020. Bob was born July 6, 1932 in San Angelo Texas to Malcolm and Mary T Burton. He attended Lubbock High School 1947-1950. On June 15, 2019, Bobby was very humbled and appreciative of being inducted into the 2019 class of LISD Athletics Hall of Honor for football and baseball 1947-50. He was a very talented athlete, earning all-state recognition in baseball and football. He played pro baseball for the Cleveland Indians minor league, until an injury ended his baseball career. 

Now, Bob and Skeet were loved by many people. They were probably equally disliked by just as many people. But, this is only because… they were PEOPLE. People make choices, and Bob and Skeet made choices. One of the things I discovered over the years, that captured me about Bob, was how he would just give things away. He gave away every golf club he ever owned, and he owned many. He gave away lawn equipment, household furnishings; well, you name it, if he didn’t need it, you could have it.

And, I’ve seen the pictures of Skeet when the was a young woman, raising a family, and I have to tell you, I know where my wife got her beauty. She was ever conscious to put herself forward in the most presentable manner.

Bob and Skeet Brown were two people loved each other for their whole life. They lived their lives together. They made plans, and lived never looking back. But they weren’t perfect. Nobody’s perfect. Or to my point “Pobody’s Nerfect.” You thought I couldn’t spell, right? No, it’s just an eye-catcher.

For me, the past couple of months was like I was looking back through the lens of my own life in many ways. I too, have made many choices that were perhaps good for me, and not so good for other folks. But they were my choices, and I owned them. I still own them. In the end, Bob and Skeet did too.

I was there, holding Bob’s hand when Jesus called him home. It was a dear and precious time to me, and one I won’t ever forget. And while Bob was anything but “perfect” during any moment of his 88 years on earth… today, in the arms of Jesus – Bob is perfect.

Pam and I were working a puzzle that afternoon on November 9th. That morning, when Pam had spoken to her mother, Skeet seemed vibrant, dressed and ready for the day of activities, which included a visit to her Dr. Then, later that day, Pam got “the” call that turned our world upside down again. Less than three weeks had gone by, and her mom simply took a nap and went to be with Bob once again. This beautiful imperfect woman is also now perfect, wrapped up in the arms of Jesus.

I put Skeet first in the narrative above, because for most of their life, it was all about Bob. And well, like Jesus said, at least for the purpose of this article, “the first shall be last, and the last shall be first.” It’s ok, I think Bob is smiling about it all now. In fact, I think he might just be saying, “well, Jim, in the end, I think you got it right.”

I’m thinking, Pobody’s Nerfect.

Gathered

Let me begin this way. Jesus said, “For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.” Matthew 18:20

Since March 8th, 2020 this country has gone through some of the most severe tests in the nation’s history. I’m not trying to minimize any healthcare crisis, political crisis, or military crisis our country has faced in the past. Fighting for freedom and attempting to dispel injustice around the world is what America has done since its inception. Wars and rumors of wars will continue. The tremendously complex organisms that operate together today to sustain life on earth are precariously at risk on a daily basis, and this will not change either.

Yet there is one very dangerous aspect of what is going on in our lives, right this minute, that has the potential to alter our reality forever. You might think I’m talking about the looming presidential election. You might think I’m referring to replacing a new Judge to the Supreme Court of the United States. But I’m not.

The single dangerous aspect I’m addressing here is the church. For far too long in America those who would call themselves “Christians” have led a pretty cushy, non-persecuted life. We have all taken for granted that our freedom of religious expression while protected by our Constitution would last forever. Consequently, like blind and deaf sheep we have wandered seriously and dangerously close to the precipice of destruction.

Consider first how a judge this past week upheld Los Angeles County health restrictions and issued an injunction prohibiting indoor worship at MacArthur’s congregation, Grace Community Church. Even this famed pastor, author, teacher is now being tested beyond his wildest imaginations. What was John MacArthur’s response?

He told Laura Ingraham on Fox News The Ingraham Angle, “… My biblical hero, apart from the Lord Jesus Christ, is the Apostle Paul. And when he went into a town, he didn’t ask what the hotel was like – he asked what the jail was like because he knew that’s where he was going to spend his time. So I don’t mind being a little apostolic. If they want to tuck me into jail, I’m open for a jail ministry. I’ve done a lot of other ministries and haven’t had the opportunity to do that one, so bring it on.”

Consider second a young pastor in Mount Juliet, Tennessee who is literally being attacked daily because his church erected a tent on their land to hold services, since they couldn’t use their building. Did you know people are driving from all over the United States to attend GlobalVision Bible Church, so they can be in a place of worship – not restricted by masks and social distancing? They are. I’m thinking about going myself.

Consider third, my conversations with three separate men in ministry regarding their take on the governments restrictions on church and worship. Even now, to my knowledge, all three of these churches are practicing social distancing, requiring attendees to wear masks, while limiting singing and worshiping like we used to do. When I spoke with these men I was struck by what I considered a very confusing and frustrating mixed message.

On the one hand, each of these men of God, spoke of the dangers of the China virus. And hear me carefully, I am not suggesting it is not dangerous. However, I prefer to believe the hundreds if not thousands of scientists and doctors now on record stating this virus is treatable, and that only those with complicating issues should have died. In fact, there are doctors who have successfully treated people with extreme issues who have survived and live to tell about it. My point is that fear should not be the determining factor in our message to the Church today. And pastors should lead from a position of faith, not fear. I’ve already mentioned two of the most significant voices in America today who are doing just that.

So, on the other hand each of the men I spoke to continue to talk about the power of God, the truth of the Word of God, and how each of us must be faithful during these difficult days. I love these men. I believe with all my heart that each of them is a true and faithful Christ-follower. I know without doubt each is called to ministry and desires only to bring glory to God. Yet, the message is still mixed. Here’s why.

Either Jesus’ own statement is true or it isn’t. There is no gray area here. If we gather in worship, believing when we do that Jesus is present, why should we promote fear? Of anything? Including the China virus. When Jesus is present the very power of God resides on earth. In each fully devoted follower of Jesus Christ resides the very power of God in the Holy Spirit. Jesus said it would. Is He a liar?

Pastor Greg Locke preaches that the power of God in America today is in the “Gathering.” I happen to agree because I happen to believe the bible. In the Acts version of the church the power of God fell in mighty ways when they were “gathered” according to God’s command. When the church did church together, God moved in miraculous ways. And when judgment from God came to the church, it came when they were gathered. Read the bible in the Acts of the Apostles and see if with your own eyes!

Today the church of Jesus Christ needs one singular message – Jesus is LORD, and still saves! The message should not be a mixture of “be afraid but be faithful.” All across this nation we need men and women of God to stand up and declare the truth. We need voices bold and beautiful sent to lead people back to faith in a defiant stand against the voices of fear. This country may never again look like it did before March 2020. But I have a vision of a better version of us together and gathered. I have imagined God’s people standing strong, unified, hand-in-hand, voices lifted high in praise to the LORD JESUS, worshiping without fear, in His presence. It looks something like this:

Revelation 15:3-4

3And they sang the song of Moses, the bond-servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying,
            
      “Great and marvelous are Your works,
            O Lord God, the Almighty;
            Righteous and true are Your ways,
            King of the nations!

      4“Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify Your name?
            For You alone are holy;
            For ALL THE NATIONS WILL COME AND WORSHIP BEFORE YOU,
            FOR YOUR RIGHTEOUS ACTS HAVE BEEN REVEALED.”

Do you believe the statement of Jesus?
For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.” Matthew 18:20

The power is in the gathering.

Wacko Rhetoric

Last year I watched the entire production series of a fascinating futuristic pseudo-science show called “Fringe.”  It explored the theoretical concept of parallel universes.  The main idea being that multiple universes exist, but in each one you potentially live a very different life that the one you live here and now in your present reality.  It’s kind of out there, and challenging to think through, but weirdly entertaining at the same time.

During this time of craziness going on in our current reality, my wife and I discuss regularly how we feel caught up in a Fringe alternate universe.  It seems literally everything going on today looks nothing like last year. Even this year, before the world plunged into fear over the China virus, in January and February things seemed so “normal.”

We’ve tried to stay busy, by reading, puzzling, and doing some projects around the house.  We especially like White Mountain puzzles, with their whimsical themes.  One particular puzzle comes to mind as I think about our alternate universe experience.  It is called Wacky Packages. It’s as if someone took all the packaging of the products you and I grew up with, and in an alternate universe sort of way, turned them into a Fringe product.  Just look closely at these labels and you’ll see what I mean.

wacky packages.png

So, here’s the thing.  In what universe does a peaceful protest look like a third world war zone?  Today it just seems to me we have moved outside of the “normal” into the realm of the “abnormal” with no clear direction on how to return.  At what point in time did the term “Nationalist” (meaning patriotic and committed to American ideology) turn to mean “racist” (systemic racism)?  Today’s cancel culture can take anything an individual says and in a Fringe moment turn it to mean something else.  Then the cancel culture expects that person to apologize, and pay restitution and reparations, or else.  Or else those who want to cancel you, me, and our way of life, will protest, riot, loot, and kill to prove just how wrong you and I are.

Maybe it’s just me.  Perhaps I’ve taken too long to become “woke.”  You know what the word means right? Type the word into BING and you’ll read this definition: “alert to injustice in society, especially racism.”  Similarly GOOGLE gives you the exact same thing.  But Merriam-Webster gives us clarity, saying, “Woke is a slang term that is easing into the mainstream from some varieties of a dialect called African American Vernacular English (sometimes called AAVE).”  Well, no wonder it has taken me so long.  I am definitely out of touch with AAVE.

I’ll tell you what I am in touch with.  I have, for almost my whole life, relied on the continuation of truth derived by reading the Word of God.  I know what it says in both a general and a specific way.  For example, in a general way, without specifying a time, God’s word says that in the last days, “Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold…” Matthew 24:12.

But God’s Word is also very specific at times.  For example, very specifically the Bible says, “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:12

You want to be woke?  Fine.  But if you want to WAKE UP… then turn to Jesus.

Jesus is the answer for the world today.

How do I know this?  Because it seems our people are more concerned with 9,210 deaths from Covid -19 which actually occurred with no related other causes, than we are with the 60 MILLION abortions that have occurred in the United States of America since 1973. (click the link)

I would say “the love of most has grown cold…”

One last PROMISE from God’s word.

2 Chronicles 7:14
If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

Call out to the ONE whose name you bear, humble yourself, pray, seek HIS face, turn from this wicked world, and hear Him speak your name today… and just possibly heal our country in the process.

 

Expiration Date

Sometimes it seems we hold on to things which need to be tossed aside because they are way past their expiration date.  Things like baking soda for instance.  Many people keep an open box of baking soda in their refrigerator to keep the air smelling fresh from the potential bad odors food kept beyond its edible date.  But how can you really know when to replace the box of baking soda?  This image is a good tip.

117908394_10157954459567620_8508359570696084202_n.jpg

Here’s the thing, there are people rioting in the streets that don’t know why this is even funny.

Many of those rioting people actually prefer to believe that the Word of God has passed its expiration date.  If you are a Christ-follower, you know this will never happen.

God said it Himself, and I certainly can’t improve upon it.

No expiration date on ANYTHING in God’s Word!!  – don’t miss verse 11.

Isaiah 55:1-13

Invitation to the Thirsty

1  “Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost.

2  Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and you will delight in the richest of fare.

3  Give ear and come to me; listen, that you may live. I will make an everlasting covenant with you, my faithful love promised to David.

4  See, I have made him a witness to the peoples, a ruler and commander of the peoples.

5  Surely you will summon nations you know not, and nations you do not know will come running to you, because of the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, for he has endowed you with splendor.”

6  Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near.

7  Let the wicked forsake their ways and the unrighteous their thoughts.  Let them turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will freely pardon.

8  “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord.

9  “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

10  As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,

11  so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.

12  You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.

13  Instead of the thorn bush will grow the juniper, and instead of briers the myrtle will grow.  This will be for the Lord’s renown, for an everlasting sign, that will endure forever.”

 

Survivor

Are you a fan of Survivor, the television reality show?  According to TV Guide, this show which predates the smartphone, has run for 20 years (with 40 Seasonal Series episodes), and has outlived 4 presidencies.  Now the question is: will the series “survive” the COVID-19 calamity which prevents the return of Jeff Probst and a cast of people clawing their way toward $1,000,000.00 as the “Sole Survivor’?

I had never watched the show until a few years ago.  On May 31, 2000, this reality show was not even on my radar.  Maybe my kids watched it.  I don’t know.  Yet, recently, I became hooked by the very premise of the script.  Take 18-20 people of all races, backgrounds, education, and social standing… and dump them on a remote location, like an island in the middle of the Pacific ocean.  Give them a pot for boiling water, a machete for cutting wood and coconuts, and see if they have the skills to survive, first as a tribe, then as a sole survivor.

Traveling all the way back to the beginning of the show, I started with Season 1, Episode 1, and have now journeyed through 14 seasons.  I’m not even half way to Season 40 yet, and I am still fascinated with this social experiment that has such vast results.  The cast of players is almost invariably made up of people who all want or need the money, that’s why they play.  And it is a game, or so everyone wants you to believe.  Especially since the motto of the game is “Outwit, Outplay, Outlast.”

In every season I’ve watched, there are those who enter the game with an absolute commitment to leave all social mores behind.  This means they go in knowing they will lie, deceive, trade alliances, or do whatever is necessary in the moment to become the sole survivor.  By contrast, there are those coming in to play the game committed to be true to themselves and the norms of social conduct.  They try on purpose not to lie, deceive, jump ship, stab people in the back, or blind side anyone.  Most of the time, these people lose, and the shadier people win.  But the winner always says. “it’s a game.”

As a social study, whether game or grand experiment, the show stirs up in me a wide range of emotions and provoking thought processes. Most recently, in Season 14, one particular cast player caught my heart, making an indelible impression with one thought he shared around the middle of the game.  Yau-Man Chan when asked about his approach to the game said it was the same as in real life.  He said, “Love many. Trust few. Do wrong to none.”  This man, 54 years old at the time, and the oldest player in the game, kept true to this philosophy for his whole time on the show.  At one point he gave away a $60,000 truck to another player, in a “handshake” deal that ultimately cost him the game.  On day 38, Yau-Man became the 9th member of the jury, and the 15th person voted out of the game.  The only reason… he trusted few… but in this case, the wrong one.

What can be gained by watching this show?

What have we learned over the 40 seasons and 20 years of watching people play a game where the reward is $1,000,000.00?

My first observation would be – greed causes even good people to do things they might not otherwise do, because after all “it’s just a game.”

My second observation – Yau-Man’s philosophy is a summation of the life of Jesus.

“Love many. Trust few. Do wrong to none.”   Jesus loved many, the whole world in fact.  He trusted few, and especially not those who were driven by worldly desires and lining their own pockets out of greed.  And Jesus did wrong to none.  You might say He did right by all.  And what happened to Him?

The cross says it all.  They voted Jesus out of the tribe.  They sent Him to His death.

But Jesus did not become part of the jury!

When He returns, Jesus returns as Judge.  Sole Creator and Sovereign LORD of ALL.

If you want to model your life after values that are eternal, Yau-Man did a pretty good job.

“Love many. Trust few. Do wrong to none.”

Covet no more…

What’s the difference in jealousy, coveting, and envy?  First, a very brief and simplistic English language lesson will help us here.  Jealousy is the very strong emotion based in the fear of losing something which already belongs to you.  Coveting is the sometimes equally strong emotion of desiring something that isn’t yours, and is unattainable by you.  Envy then combines the strong emotion of coveting, with an evil intention towards the person owning the thing you covet.  This escalation of negative emotions has the potential danger of deciding to implement an action to hurt the owner in some way to gain the thing coveted.

For Biblical evidence of this escalation, just read the story of David and Bathsheba in 2 Samuel 11 & 12.  It is very easy to see coveting turning to envy turning to murder in King David’s thoughts, desires, and actions.

But we never do this right?  We would never entertain these thoughts or actions right?

We could go even further and say that at the core of it all, to covet something is to be driven by a basic lack of contentment with what we do have.  Rather than focusing on what grace and richness of life God has placed in our hands, instead we look outwardly to see things God gave others and want those things for ourselves.

I have a bit of experience with this, so read carefully to see if God might speak to you through my weaknesses.

I have had fairly bad eyesight for as long as I can remember.  All through my childhood days of school I remember wearing really thick lensed glasses (think coke bottle) which enabled me to read the chalkboard.  I know saying “chalkboard” also ages me, but I’ve already admitted to be 66 years old.  It is what it is.

As a result of poor eyesight, I have spent the better part of 66 years coveting to see with the clarity of vision of those who needed no glasses.  I was discontent, and sinfully unaware of the blessing that is Sight.  I spent no time at all thinking about those who were blind. I totally ignored those who would never see the light of the morning sun rising to cast bright yellow, orange, and reddish hues across the sky.  I never gave a second thought to those who couldn’t see the birds singing in the trees, or the scaly empty shell as the cicada sheds its skin.  I was simply in “poor me” mode, always wishing I could see better.

As a teenager I talked my parents into letting me wear contact lenses.  That experiment was painful and exhausting in so many ways, I returned to glasses again full of resentment for having to do so. Later in life when Lasic surgery became affordable for me, I leapt at the option, hoping to finally have the sight I coveted, freeing me from those thick lens frames.  First in 1998, then again in 2008 I paid to have my eyes “fixed.”

Each of these experiences were basically a good news v. bad news scenario.  I gained an ability to have fairly good distance vision, but lost the ability to read up close.  Yet again, discontent became my reality as I needed reading glasses to study, or work on my computer.

Over the past two weeks I have been given a gift of grace which before now I never dreamed would be my reality.  My eyes apparently had deteriorated with cataracts in such a way that I now qualified to have the surgery to correct my vision with implants.  I had the first surgery on my left eye two weeks ago, and the surgery on my right eye two days ago.  For the first time in my life I can see clearer than I ever had with glasses.

Through this process I have gained an insight about my past, which I pray will have profound effect on my future.  I am very grateful for the surgeon who performed this operation.  But more than that, I am humbled beyond understanding before the Creator who gave me sight in the first place.

In the past, I never really stumbled around in darkness, because I could see with the aid of my glasses. But I also never honestly and fully aware thanked God the gift of sight either.  In this way… I was blinded by my discontent.

So many of us have been given such rich blessings from God, not the least of which is life itself.  For those of us with our 5 senses actually working… we see, hear, touch, taste, breathe, think, speak… we live… without ever giving God the glory for the human creation. In fact, more often it seems we can think of 100 things right now that if we obtained these “things” they would add value, or pleasure, or satisfaction and contentment to our lives.  When in reality, these coveted items do nothing more than rob us of the joy of contentment with what God has already provided.

I pray for you, and for me, that I have learned through this experience to be thankful and content with God’s provision in my life… and covet no more.