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Walking through The Apocalypse, i.4-6

John's Revelation

Ἰωάννης ταῖς ἑπτὰ ἐκκλησίαις ταῖς ἐν τῇ Ἀσίᾳ· χάρις ὑμῖν καὶ εἰρήνη ἀπὸ ὁ ὢν καὶ ὁ ἦν καὶ ὁ ἐρχόμενος, καὶ ἀπὸ τῶν ἑπτὰ πνευμάτων ἃ ἐνώπιον τοῦ θρόνου αὐτοῦ, καὶ ἀπὸ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ, ὁ μάρτυς ὁ πιστός, ὁ πρωτότοκος τῶν νεκρῶν καὶ ὁ ἄρχων τῶν βασιλέων τῆς γῆς.

Τῷ ἀγαπῶντι ἡμᾶς καὶ λύσαντι ἡμᾶς ἐκ τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν ἡμῶν ἐν τῷ αἵματι αὐτοῦ—καὶ ἐποίησεν ἡμᾶς βασιλείαν, ἱερεῖς τῷ θεῷ καὶ πατρὶ αὐτοῦ— αὐτῷ ἡ δόξα καὶ τὸ κράτος εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας τῶν αἰώνων ἀμήν.

From John, to the seven churches that are in the province of Asia: Grace and peace to you from he who is, and who was, and who is still to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, and from Jesus Christ – the faithful witness, the firstborn from among the dead, the ruler over the kings of the earth.

To the one who loves us and has set us free from our sins at the cost of his own blood and has appointed us as a kingdom, as priests serving his God and Father – to him be the glory and the power for ever and ever! Amen. (NET)

In these few sentences alone are some powerful declarations that I think we might miss if we reading the text with a futuristic prophecy perspective. Remember the context during which John was writing these words: the Roman Empire is strong, powerful, authoritative. The Emperor has complete reign over the people within the conquered world. Christianity is still fairly young and being ravaged by persecution in various regions of the empire. If you read the text for what it is you find the anti-empire proclamations.

First, the one being called “he who is, and who was, and who is still to come” is God. Not the emperor, but God. Not Claudius. Not Nero. Not Galba, or Otho, or Vitellius, or Vespasian. Not Titus, the mighty destroyer of the Jerusalem temple, and especially not Domitian. God alone is, was, and is to come. And God sits on a throne, unmatched by man.

Second, Jesus is called “the ruler over the kings of the earth.” This is a radical statement that too often is under-emphasized (not just in this text, but throughout the Scriptures; not just in our reading, but in our daily lives, in our national context). Yet, this is what truly sets the tone for the rest of The Apocalypse. Jesus is the true ruler. He is King of kings and Lord of lords. Those of us who are his subjects (his disciples, his friends, his followers) must place our allegiance with him and no others. We cannot split our allegiance. Not that we must not, but that we are unable to. We either serve the King of kings, or we serve one of the kings of the earth.

Jesus is called ὁ πρωτότοκος τῶν νεκρῶν, “the firstborn from among the dead.” If you think back to the letter to the Colossians, and the contrast made between Jesus and the Emperor (Col. i.15-20), Paul there also called Jesus πρωτότοκος ἐκ τῶν νεκρῶν, “the firstborn from among the dead.” He is the one to worship, who brings life to the dead, who rules even over death. The Emperor doesn’t even come close.

Third is the most obvious, radical, rebellious statement: Jesus “has appointed us as a kingdom, serving his God and Father.” We are a kingdom. In the middle of this vast, powerful, authoritative, Roman Empire, Jesus has appointed his disciples “as a kingdom.” We are a kingdom here on this earth amid the many earthly kingdoms, and we have Jesus as our King. We are what Jesus wants to do on the earth. We must be obedient in our service.

All of the imperial language is intentional. Worshipping Jesus–placing your allegiance in Jesus–puts your life in contrast with the kingdoms of the earth, with the Empire. And this is a great encouragement. Why? Because you have the King of kings, Lord of lords, ruler over the kings of the earth, master over death, and the one seated on the throne over all creation, on your side.

Do not get sidetracked by phrases like “kingdoms of the earth.” The US is an empire as much as Rome was. It looks a bit different, but the ideology and activities aren’t that different at all. Just because we do not technically have a king or royalty doesn’t mean we do not have a kingdom of the earth. So when you’re considering how to apply this text today, keep in mind the context and that the world truly hasn’t changed all that much. Empire is Empire.

Pulpit Freedom Sunday sermon from Trinity Mennonite Church

This is a great sermon that I hope you all can take a few minutes to listen to. It’s not what you might think from the title of this post.

This sermon was given at Trinity Mennonite Church in Glendale, AZ, by Hal Shrader. He’s a wonderful teacher. Ahem. Peter. You need to go check them out. They are only a few minutes away from you.

Click here for the Sermon Audio.

What? Californians don’t like communion or something?

What’s the deal Cali!?!

Election Day Communion is coming up in just a month.

Yes. It’s the Tuesday as election day. Can’t forget it now, can you?

I took a look at the updated participation map and it’s over 200 congregations so far, in 42 states. That’s incredibly encouraging for a Christian like me who can get incredibly discouraged. It makes me smile. Gives me a bit of hope.

Congregations nation wide. Looking good.

Seems a bit loaded on the east coast. Then I took a look at the churches participating (so far) in my state of California.

Yikes. Only two. Come on, Cali! What’s the deal?

Election Day Communion is a great event. It’s a great opportunity for us to focus and remember. To unite. To humble ourselves. To serve one another. To love. It’s not limited by creed or denomination. It doesn’t matter if you’re voting or not. This is about Jesus and his Kingdom.

Participate if you can. Check it out.

And, if you have a congregation in California…make it happen. Are we seriously going to let those mid-westerners and east coasters think they’re better Christians than we are? I mean, Maine has two. Jersey has two.

Let’s show the country how the west coast throws down a communion.

Very good pieces on voting

In the last few days I’ve read three very good pieces on voting. All three share my own anabaptist foundation, though we have different backgrounds. And all three have a little different take on this issue (two are conscientious non-voters, the other argues for voting).

Mark Van Steenwyk wrote Between Barack and a Hard Place

Andy Alexis-Baker wrote Why I Am Not Going to Vote

Ted Grimsrud wrote Should a Pacifist vote for a warmonger?

Take some time to look them over. Different lengths. Different level of details. But all three very challenging and thought provoking. Actually, they are all three very action provoking. Even better.

I do have something I’d like to write up regarding voting, but still have to put it together.

Yep. They’re plenty fair.

I saw someone say that billionaires lie about fairness. Hogwash! Millionaires and billionaires are plenty fair. They create vast opportunities,1 especially for us poor folk,2 and even give us opportunities for travel and adventure.3 If we choose not to return4 from our global expeditions,5 they’ll immortalize us in speeches.6 Yep. They’re plenty fair.

————

1 Remember, they’re the ones creating all the jobs around here. That’s why they, our true economic saviors, need more tax breaks and opportunities to hold on to more of their money without the government getting involved. We, the poor and working folk, are more than willing to pay a little more in taxes ourselves–and even give up taking some of those government handouts–if it means they can have more money to ensure that we get more jobs.

2 I mean, that’s why we poor folks are around, isn’t it? Someone’s gotta do the labor, otherwise the M’s & B’s wouldn’t make their money. And if they don’t make their money, the jobs won’t exist anymore. Show a little compassion. Don’t drink the hater-aid.

3 A lot of us have had the chance to go to exotic places. A while back it was France, Germany, Japan. Then there was this place they called ‘Nam (I can’t find it on the map). There was even Iraq a couple times. Now we’ve got travel brochures for Afghanistan & Lybia. There’s even talk of Iran or Yemen. Get to meet a lot of different people. Some of us will even get to fiddle with robot planes. (I always wished I could get my kids R/C planes like these.) I think they can even shoot something. Sounds fun. And, we’ve really gotta be the ones to take these trips. The M’s & B’s are very, very busy. We can’t have them on those expeditions, risk them getting hurt out there. They’re the creative ones. They’re the clever ones. They’re the geniuses that keep the country going. We need to protect them.

4 I hear a lot of people don’t come back from their trips. A lot!

5 These are real adventures. Mostly Arabic speaking places, though. Wonder why? Well, our good leaders know best. We poor folk tend not to be as educated. We don’t read as much, or get the abbreviations behind our names on paper. So, it’s actually for the best that the M’s & B’s are the ones making the difficult decisions around here. They know what’s best for me. I mean, look where I am. Look where they are. And I know that if I keep working, keep trying, someday I might be like them. Weird thing, though. The M’s & B’s keep telling us that, but a lot of us are older. A lot of them started being M’s & B’s really young. Well, I guess that just means I’ve got more work to do, and need to take on more responsibilities.

6 The speeches are nice. A lot of Thank You’s. Well, I’m sure if those that are gone, getting mentioned in those speeches, were still here they’d say, “You’re welcome.” It’s what we do. We poor folk are willing to sacrifice our money, our time, our muscles, our families, our churches, our communities, our parks, our farms, our beaches, our streets, our houses, our trees, our land, our friends, our international neighbors, our futures, our God, our health, and even our lives. We’re willing to sacrifice it all for the millionaires and billionaires. So they can continue their good work. There’s a lot of us. And there always will be. When I’m gone another one will take my place. I just hope, in the speech about me–if I get one about me–they’ll say my name right.

Pulpit Freedom Sunday: I have some questions

Scot McKnight’s quick post about “Pulpit Freedom Sunday” jogged my memory. The more I think about this “Pulpit Freedom Sunday” coming up Oct. 7, the more questions I have.

  • Will the pastor/teacher present a balanced argument, pros & cons, for each candidate or proposition?
  • Will conscientious non-voters (similar to conscientious objectors; not to be mixed up with folks who don’t vote maybe out of laziness) be recognized and not ridiculed or called out to vote?
  • Will the perspectives of conscientious non-voters be recognized and allowed (e.g. be presented) or is this strictly for voters?
  • Will pastors be considerate of those in their congregations that will vote the opposite way?
  • Are churches setting aside their regularly scheduled sermons, maybe hitting pause on a series they’re in?
  • Will the congregations be reciting the Pledge of Allegiance at the beginning of the service?
  • Will Scripture be at the foundation of the sermons/exhortations, or sprinkled in throughout?
  • Will Scripture be read at all?
  • Will relevant Scripture be read at all?
  • Will relevant Scripture be read and considered relevant at all?
  • Will the focus of the sermons/exhortations be on obedience to the Way of Jesus, or holding strong to a partisan platform?
  • Is the (often times blind and uncritical) support for Israel, no matter the issue, going to be at the forefront?
  • How many congregations will allow for dialogue on the issues and candidates, either during the service or afterwards in some capacity?

And I’m sure I’ll have more questions to add on here.

Do you have any of your own questions? Would love to see them.

Eggs-a-plenty

Well, we’re getting there now. Our hens are starting to lay. The ducks are getting back into the swing of things.

Here's our current egg stash from this week. Doing fairly well as our chickens are really just getting started.

Thought I’d take a few snapshots of what’s in our fridge right now. These have been collected this week. And this is after making a double batch of pumpkin waffles this morning; and I’m still likely to find probably three more eggs out there this afternoon. Got some later-layers.

The white egg in the center is from an unknown chicken. The blue on the left is from an Ameracauna. The green egg on the right is from an Indian Runner duck.

These have been particularly fun. I do have to apologize for the quality of the photo. It just doesn’t do the colors justice. In real life, in real light, the colors are bolder than this. The white egg in the center comes from a Leghorn or Blue Andalusian. The egg on your left (by my thumb) is actually a very cool blue. Very awesome. That’s from a mother Ameraucana. The egg on your right is actually a pale olive green. That’s from one of our Indian Runner ducks.

Angeld shot at some of the duck eggs, with some brown chicken eggs in the background (from an Orpington, Rhode Island Red, Naked Neck, and others. Even a Silkie egg in there somewhere.

It’s been fun, frustrating, educational, and delicious raising poultry so far this year (though three of our ducks we got as hatchlings 4 years ago). And nothing beats baking with duck eggs. Those are phenomenal.

The row of Ameraucana eggs on the right I laid out to show the developing color. The ones up close are whiter, while those at the end show the stark blue.

And, in case you’re wondering why some of the eggs look dirty, I can explain. They’re dirty. I leave some of the gunk on the eggs, be it mud or other things. We will not wash the eggs or scrub them down.

It’s not because we’re lazy. We’re actually trying to have the best quality eggs possible. And when we sell or give eggs to folks, we’d like them to have the best quality possible as well. The shell is protecting the contents of the egg. What you actually want to eat.

You’re not going to eat the shell, are you?

But the shell is also porous. When the egg is laid, it has a protective coating the keeps stuff out. By stuff I mean nasty microorganisms, especially salmonella. If you wash the eggs, scrub them down, get all of the “gunk” off, you also get rid of the coating. Now, if you’re going to crack and cook that egg right away, not big deal. But, if you are just going to keep the eggs in the refrigerator until you need it later, even days later, then you do not want to wash that coating off. The longer eggs sit without the coating, the more opportunities exist for nasty stuff to get in your eggs.

And, remember, I’m talking about fresh eggs. The eggs we get from the store have already been cleaned, the coating stripped off, and chemicals used on it for sanitation. And they are also days old. The lack of coating means they are more likely to be compromised, and there’s a chance the chemicals can enter the porous shells. You’re likely to hear about salmonella scares from store bought eggs long before you hear about your local farm’s fresh eggs being a suspected salmonella culprit.

Ours are safe.

If you buy eggs from us, we’ll explain it all again. As often as we need to. We’ll clean off any large chunks of mud and stuff, but that’s it. Before you crack or boil the egg, wash it. Use warm water. Then, have at it. Seriously, that’ll give you the best quality, safest egg eating experience.

Blog a Koran: Surah 4:94

Surah 4:94  Sahih International
O you who have believed, when you go forth [to fight] in the cause of Allah, investigate; and do not say to one who gives you [a greeting of] peace “You are not a believer,” aspiring for the goods of worldly life; for with Allah are many acquisitions. You [yourselves] were like that before; then Allah conferred His favor upon you, so investigate. Indeed Allah is ever, with what you do, Acquainted.

There is something strong to be learned from this. Something we Christians ought to care more for and do more of. We ought not reject or despise someone because their faith (or non-faith) is different than ours. Especially when someone comes to us in peace, we ought to be at peace with them. We can work together, we can struggle together, while not giving up our convictions. We are likely to come in contact with people who are not of the same mind or faith. Perhaps they are where we once were. Just remember, “You were like that before.”

I remind myself of that fact when I interact with Christians who fall into the War as Necessary camp (folks who believe that as disciples of Jesus there are times when we ought to take up arms, to use force & violence, to join the military, to support a war). I too thought as they did. And I argued as they did. But things changed. I changed. And I would say the Lord was the one who did the work and changed me; he renewed my mind. And I must not expect any different for those I interact with. My part is to love them and to bear witness to the truth.

Wherefore art thou football?

(At the time I’m writing this, the Florida Gators are down 17-10 against the Aggies of Texas A&M)

Go, Gators.

I have long been a fan of the University of Florida Gators.  I started as a football fan in the very earliest years of Steve Spurrier as the ball coach. I survived years, and years, of heartbreak against Auburn and Florida State, and Shane Matthews and Rex Grossman. And no one–no one–will ever forget the name Ron Zook. I stood by them as Danny decimated Florida State to win the National Championship. And of course I watched just about every victory, and loss, of Chris Leak (National Championship) and Tim Tebow (National Championship).

Go Gators.

But, alas, things change.

Giving up on the Gators? No. Not at all.

It’s football (a.k.a. throwball, or Futbol Americano). I think over the past couple of years I’ve been giving up on football.

Are the Gators on a downward trajectory right now? Yes. I think Muschamp (current ball coach) is just like Norv Turner for the San Diego Chargers: the wrong coach with a bunch of talent. He’s not the right guy. And, from what I’ve seen this year so far (game against Bowling Green and first half against the Aggies), they are another 5-6 loss team. They can’t beat LSU, Georgia, South Carolina, or rivals FSU (you know, Free Shoes University). They will probably not survive Missouri (another new comer to the SEC), and will likely lose to Tennessee. That thought just really makes me sick.

(Yeah, they can still come back to win this game. That’s football.)

But none of that plays a role in my thoughts on football in general. The sport just doesn’t grab my attention any more. In fact, I am more often repelled by it. I think it started some years back when I realized how much it was like the Roman gladiatorial competitions way back in the day. Bloody entertainment, an insane amount of inherent violence, and it would lead to further acts of violence as adrenaline and pride took over. Plus, the time I have for sports these days I devote to football. That sport where you actually use feet. Here in the states it’s soccer.

The real kicker though, what I think was the straw that broke the camel’s back, was the idea that I was contributing as a fan to the brain injury epidemic going on. Every man in the sport chooses to play. They are the one’s taking the risk. But how can I consciously support it? Today we’re able to see the effects of the brain damage football players are subject to, and I can’t help but think about the futures of those Gators who will make it into the NFL and have their brains smashed around a couple times every minute for 3 hours on the Lord’s Day each week. I can’t help it.

I just can’t get past it. It’s just me and I’m not trying to turn my fellow football fans against the sport. I’m just expressing my thoughts right now.

So I’ve been letting football slip away from my interests. And, today, I watch the Gators play shoddy football, unworthy of the Gators colors they wear, and don’t care anywhere near like I did before. A few years back I’d be extremely ticked off watching them stink it up against a sub par, overachieving team like A&M. But not today.

Today, it’s just another game in that sport.

Talking at church

So why has conversation become a lost practice in churches today?

. . .

Conversation is slow and often messy; it doesn’t fit well with our industrialized culture that puts a premium on speed and efficiency. The shared life of most churches therefore typically takes a shape that minimizes conversation.. . . I am hopeful that in learning to converse and make decisions faithfully together in our local church communities, we will eventually begin to see changes in the sorts of conversations that are possible in our broader relations with other churches.

In a similar vein, making decisions in the local church by voting is a way of avoiding conversations, particularly undercutting those who hold the minority position on any given issue. I do not intend to demonize voting here, but if we are going to make decisions democratically in our churches, we need to realize that some ways of voting promote conversation and other ways squelch conversation. Do we have spaces in which people can have meaningful discussion of an issue before it is voted on, or venues in which minority opinions can be heard and thoughtfully and prayerfully considered? (pg. 48-49)

These are impressive statements and thoughtful questions from C. Christopher Smith in his The Virtue of Dialogue: Conversation as a Hopeful Practice of Church Communities.

In my experience, churches with a hierarchical structure either do not support conversation or devalue conversation. There us too much time involved. The emotions and struggles would be a burden. Anything that was discussed that was contrary to the teachings of the hierarchy were a distraction, would only cause division, and were simply not allowed to be brought up.

But the conversations must be had. We need to make time for them. We need to care about what the people within our body are going through and what they think about the church. The considerations of the poorest, single mother who’s only able to gather with the body irregularly every couple of weeks are just as valuable, precious, and necessary (if not the most necessary) as the well dressed CEO who attends each of the three gatherings during the week.

When we come to grips with the idea that everybody is equal, everybody is created in God’s image, everybody has a voice and a place of value in the community, and that if one member of the body is struggling the entire body is struggling, then we can value conversations more and find how much stronger the body will be because of them.

I totally recommend Smith’s The Virtue of Dialogue. Check it out.

Christianity and Anarchism unite…sort of

For the longest time, from the point I had an understanding of both Christianity and anarchy, I considered them incompatible. The latter was anti-government, anti-authority. The former was very involved in government, submissive to authority, and structured as a hierarchy.

Things have changed a little since then. My understanding of anarchy has expanded a bit, and take on Christianity is a distant memory.

But until, say, 6-8 years ago, I still considered the two incompatible. I was still under the impression that anarchists tended to be atheistic or agnostic. The anarchists that I had known over the years, or what I had seen via news bits, fed that impression. 6-8 years ago, however, I found quite a few disciples of Jesus, followers on the Way, who had been calling themselves anarchists for years. Through my interactions with them, reading what they wrote, reading what they’ve read, I was opened up to a new perspective on life, Christianity, the Kingdom of God, kingdoms of this world, loving people, interacting with the state, and many other avenues.

You ever read a book and wish you had read it years, even decades, before? Yeah, I have maybe 15 on my shelf like that. But Mark Van Steenwyk’s That Holy Anarchist is another one. The subtitle is telling: Reflections on Christianity and Anarchism. The is a brief primer on the interaction between Christianity and Anarchism. And, I’m telling you, my adventures as a disciple of Jesus over the past 12 or so years would have been very different had this book been in my hands back then. (Actually, who knows what would have happened. Perhaps I wasn’t ready to read it. Perhaps I would have tossed it away with the junk books.) I was already heading down the road of Anabaptism at the time, embracing pacifism and a stance of separation from the kingdoms of the world. Reading this text now, I can look back and see how I at times had been engaging the world through the perspective of a Christian Anarchist.

The book is not long; essentially it’s the result of a series of online articles. It’s not exhaustive. Mark let us know up front: “I don’t assume [this book] is either definitive or adequate. I simply offer it to spark conversation and help people dig deeper into the anarchic implications of the way of Jesus.” (preface, pg.7) And that it does.

Walking through the book briefly, he gave some definitions. Helpful, but, in all reality, he revealed the problems that arise from trying to give any strict definitions to these topics. History and theology simply reveal this is not a black or white issue. A definition of Christianity, let alone anarchism or Christian anarchism, is nowhere near an X, Y, Z proposition.

Anyone who has called themselves a “Christian” or an “anarchist” for very long can tell you that neither “tradition” is easy to define. Neither is monolithic. And both are profoundly misunderstood. So talking about how they relate is a complicated task. (pg. 15)

But what is clear, and necessary for some of my brothers and sisters not all that familiar with this sort of discussion, is that you cannot understand Anarchy as strictly what you see in the news. Those teens and college punks that go spray painting the anarchy symbol all over the place (I remember in high school someone had burned a very large anarchy symbol into the lawn out front; the symbol was at least 20 feet in diameter) or have a patch on their backpack. It’s not about being an atheist. It’s not about fighting back against “the man” for the sake of fighting back and starting riots.

What is very helpful and practical is what followed in chapters 3 and 4. Chapter 3 was a survey of anarchist type groups through history. The Early Church, the Beguines, Lollards, Quakers, Catholic Workers, among many others. Then chapter 4 presents an admittedly incredibly brief look into anarchic impules in Scripture. The discussion of the portions chosen help achieve Mark’s earlier stated goal of sparking discussion and further research. What I’m most thankful for is the review of Romans xiii.

Yes, The Romans xiii. (That’s Romans 13, in case you’re not up to speed on your roman numerals.)

Romans xiii is one of the most often used, and rapidly chosen, passages to counter any Anabaptist argument on pacifism, participation in government issues, participation in the military or war, payment of taxes. To many it’s like a Trump Card. “Oh. Christians shouldn’t be in the military, taking orders to kill Muslims in Iraq? Boo-yah! Romans 13. Yeah! That’s right. ‘Cause you got nothing say, I’ll be on my way.” And they totally disengage from the conversation, like they stumped you.

But Mark here makes the point very easy to see: “We read Scripture in ways that support authoritarianism because we learned how to read Scripture in authoritarian contexts. Once you start pulling the loose threads, you begin to find the whole authoritarian fabric unravelling” (pg. 42-43). In other words, if you’ve been trained in your churches or Bible studies, or by your parents or friends or mentors, to read the Scriptures as presenting a certain hierarchy, a certain social or political structure, you’re going to interpret the text within that model. And, here in the US, where many preachers and teachers over the decades have tended to hold the Scriptures up as supporting the American way, the very idea of the US itself, that pro-government, pro-hierarchy, pro-submission, anti-revolutionary attitude is at the heart of the “authoritarian context” the Scriptures are being read in. And I think for many people, simply considering the question, “Why do I interpret the text like I do?” would be a great start to challenging the status quo and dealing with those nagging issues with “church” and “church and state” that I think we all have.

Getting back to it though. The review of Romans xiii is very good. Very helpful.

Moving on, chapter 5 goes into some of the tensions, or practical struggles, when it comes to an anarchic take on Christianity. And chapter 6, while somewhat summing the discussion up, more so serves to move you forward and prepare us for Mark’s future book (I think it’s supposed to come out in 2013 if I’m not mistaken). But amid that I found the one sentence that is most important for Christians that may have an anarchic leaning: “A Christian anarchism must be rooted in Jesus’ vision” (pg. 62). We can not lose that foundation. We can not allow our resistance to be an end in and of itself. That can’t be our joy; what motivates us each day.

This text is a welcome little pamphlet in our home and I look forward to Mark’s larger work. As for any “negatives,” I found there seemed to be an assumption of a background of certain philosophical subjects or theological concepts. I could see some folks stumbling a bit with some phrases or concepts if they were not familiar with the subject matter (not just anarchism, but also things like pacifism) or the authors in the footnotes (Ched Myers, John Howard Yoder, Wes Howard-Brook, Jaques Ellul: while well read in some circles would be a fog to many of the church going folks I know). I do wish he had fleshed out a bit more of some of the historical groups; or maybe a larger recommended bibliography to where we can read more on them from credible sources. But, overall, as a primer, simply a survey text, it was very helpful.

Kudos to Mark Van Steenwyk. And, hopefully if there’s anyone that was in a similar place as I was, this can be a starting point to opening the opportunities for growth and freedom in Christ.

And, incase you were wondering, I was writing this review while listening Derek Webb’s Mockingbird and The Ringing Bell. Quite fitting I think.

The RNC platform. Oops.

Apparently the 2012 Republican National Committee platform was mistakenly posted on their site. It was a draft copy, not to go public yet. Oops. But, we can read what they had posted until they pulled it. And I only make comment about it here because of some major problems.

First, it’s titled American Exceptionalism. If you’re not sure what that is, read this. Short article, but you get the point.

Then you have notable statements like this:

  • Under Conventional Forces in Decline: “That future is here today, but it can develop peacefully only under the shield of American Naval and Air power.” That will never bring peace. Ever. It’s all about power, authority, and intimidation. Not peace. Violence begets violence. Intimidation causes revolution.
  • Under Nuclear Forces and Missile Defense Imperiled: “We recognize that the gravest terror we face [a nuclear attack] … requires a comprehensive strategy for reducing the world nuclear stockpiles and preventing the spread of those armaments.” Not our own, of course. It’s our job, as the exceptional older brothers for peace, to make sure everyone obliges first. Once everyone else lays down their weapons (all of you being the evil ones, always ready to do others harm), we’ll consider putting down ours.
  • Under Sovereign American Leadership in International Organizations: “While acting through [the United Nations & NATO], our country must always reserve the right to go its own way. There can be no substitute for principled American leadership.” That’s how we ensure even more problems, exactly like the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and everywhere the US decided to act. It’s honestly not too unlike Syndrome in The Incredibles.
  • Under Supporting Our Troops, Standing By Our Heroes: “We support rights of conscience and religious freedom for military chaplains and people of faith. A Republican Commander in Chief will protect religious independence of military chaplains and will not tolerate attempts to ban Bibles or religious symbols from military facilities. We will enforce and defend in court the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in the Armed Forces as well as in the civilian world.” So they really said they “support rights of conscience” but then defend DOMA? What happened to the “rights of conscience” for those eventually effected by DOMA?
  • Under Our Unequivocal Support of Israel: “Israel and the United States are part of the great fellowship of democracies who speak the same language of freedom and justice, and the right of every person to live in peace.” A straight up lie. Take a look at what Israel has been doing in the region. At what they have actually been doing. And then to talk of Israel as being in the right, the bullied nation in the region, and that the Palestinian people (of course lumping the peaceful, non-combatant, bystanders in with the relatively few aggressors or terrorists) have to change their ways, and approach Israel as a beaten dog, apologizing and submissive.

I just hope, this being a draft copy, it will be revised quite extensively. But, is this platform strictly military minded? What about our homeless and poor? What about our excluded and struggling? Our sick and injured? What about our elderly and abused?

Book Review: You Be Sweet (cookbook)

It’s hard for me to pass up a cookbook. It’s even harder to pass one up when there are awesome pictures to go with the enticing recipes. Plus, I don’t think we had one that’s devoted to desserts.

The opportunity came along to take a look at You Be Sweet: Sharing Your Heart One Down-Home Dessert at a Time by Patsy Caldwell and Amy Wilson. I had to give it a shot. You know right off the bat what you’re going to get with this one: butter, white sugar, brown sugar, and powdered sugar. Oh, yeah, there are some other ingredients in there. I think there were.

I wasn’t too worried about that. When I bake or cook, I usually go to a cookbook for inspiration and a bit of guidance. I don’t follow recipes to the jot and tittle. I adjust them for us. And it works. And this book is incredibly filled with inspiration. So many great dessert ideas. So many different flavors, and textures, and techniques.

There’s a pumpkin cake in there. Looked awesome. I’ve made it twice since getting this cookbook. It’s now a family favorite. It is so good. And I’ve made it differently each time. It’s very flexible. And I’ve also learned that pumpkin cake doesn’t go that well with mint chip ice cream. Not a fan. Anyway. The recipe called for a cream cheese icing. I took pieces of that recipe and blended it with pieces of an icing recipe for a different cake in the book. It turned out great.

There are a few reasons why I only give this book 3 out of 5 stars. First, the great photos are few and far between. There ought to be more. Folks like me want and need to have a fairly good idea what the end result should look like. Plus that’s what really sparks the inspiration. Second, the narratives going on that break up the recipes aren’t really needed. That’s up to the authors. It’s their deal. But I just pass on them. I want the recipes and the techniques and tips. Third, there were print registration issues in some of the latter pages and slightly distorted some of the text. It just made it a little difficult to read.

But, if you’re looking for some dessert inspiration, I’d say have a look at You Be Sweet.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their BookSneeze.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Coconut ice . . . cream?

Saturday I took a food adventure and created a dessert I had never created before. I had never even eaten it before. Even my taste buds were running blind on this one.

I tried to make coconut ice cream. Ice cream is no mystery. Most of us have done that. Even did it in chemistry class in high school. That was good day. And, being Puerto Rican, I’ve made a coconut dessert called Tembleque. Delicious & smooth. But it’s not quite ice cream.

But that really wasn’t the challenging part of the adventure. We were low on sugar. So, what’s an ice cream maker to do? Go sugarless? Nope. That’s way too much of an experiment when we wanted a tasty treat. How about brown sugar? Aha!

I made a straight up exchange in the recipe. The “regular” sugar was now brown sugar. I had seen others mention that once they tried brown sugar ice cream they never went back to the “regular” sugar ingredient.

I think I agree. The concoction was very good. Good coconut flavor (I used actual, quality coconut milk, not shavings). A nice departure from the norm with the brown sugar. I’d agree with some others that there was a bit of a nuttier note to it. And I added no vanilla. Didn’t need it. When you actually use coconut milk, and enough of it, you get the right flavor.

My only complaint would be the texture, but that’s because I put the mixture in a bowl and set it in the freezer. So it was more ice than cream. I’m sure if I had cleaned up the ice cream maker and gone that route it would have turned out creamier. Next time.

Ink. Kind of need that

Well I was going to start some prints on the old letterpress.

Was.

Turns out I’ve lost my ink. I’m sure they are in a box somewhere. But, where? Which one?

So the press sits. Again.

UPDATE:

The ink has been found. Not really where it should have been. But, isn’t that always the case?

Well, with the ink, I’m ready to rock the press.

Just plough on

Getting back into one of my favorite tools around the house: my letterpress. It’s a Showcard press from the 1950′s.

Here are a few shots of my first project since we moved into the new house and started the farm. I know the photography isn’t top notch, but I tried to catch the inherent awesomeness of the press.

It is awesome. I just need more type. Time, too. But especially type. I’m always accepting donations. Oh, and it’s a bit small. It’ll handle up 7×11 prints, but nothing larger. A couple days ago a fellow letterpresser offered me a larger one with extra type, but I had to pass for now; can’t afford it at the moment. These things are heavy and expensive to ship.

But, oh, how they are worth it.

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