Intermezzo: It’s A Miracle

2020-11-30 The Miracle of Snow


First Snow Of The Season and it takes my mind to wandering about its miraculous materializing in my morning meditations.

We have a general misunderstanding of what makes a miracle versus what is scientific.  We assume that because we understand a couple of details of a mechanism Father uses to do something, and that He usually does it the same way, well, that is ‘scientific’ and not miraculous.  We have lost the sense of wonder at how God heals disease, restores relationships, transforms personalities, or regulates the universe.

Snow is one of the most miraculous phenomena in the world.  There are so many factors that must be in exact detailed agreement for the cascade of tiny crystals to come crashing to the ground.  Because physicists, meteorologists, chemists and students of many other disciplines have studied, examined, measured and reproduced snow crystals, we think we understand where they come from and how snow happens.

Wikipedia can give you all the details of how frozen crystalline water forms, what suitable conditions are required, how the multitudinous shapes are formed, how they reach a mass big enough to drop out of the clouds, and how the light is refracted through the clear water to become visible, so that the blanket of transparent gems hides the earth in brilliant white.

But it still remains a wondrous miracle that in “nature” all these factors come together at a given moment to deposit the delightful dust over the district.

Sadly, the deeper we go into quantum physics, the further we look through the telescopes into the sky, the deeper we delve into our oceans and below, the more enamored we become of our own brilliance, as if we understand the universe, from where it came, how it is sustained, and what will happen in the future.

But there is a Hand that holds the keys to the storehouses of snow which we cannot see with natural eyes.  He brings the snow out of its storehouses and miraculously gives us a gift of supernatural wonder, if we only have eyes of faith to see more than just crystals of water.

Pumpkin Pie From Scratch (Well, except the crust)

Well, the election confusion cycles on as Biden selects cabinet posts that may never be filled, as Trump pursues a Sisyphean task of trying to convince legislatures and courts that the election was incurably flawed.  We will wait to see how this all pans out by January 20 . . . if neither of the very old white guys dies from old age before then!  (“In a democracy, someone who fails to get elected to office can always console himself with the thought that there was something not quite fair about it.”  Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War)

The coronavirus continues to attack people who attend church services, but seems to give protesters and leftist celebrators a pass.  My wife and I both tested negative for the virus, but also negative for the antibody, meaning we could still get infected if we are not vigilant.  Approaching the “high-risk” age group, we are inclined to take the virus more seriously than some younger friends who have been infected and quickly recovered; even gained their sense of smell back in a couple days.

So I decided to take a day off for Thanxgiving, celebrating with my bride of 31 years.  She cooked up my favorite lamb, God’s own best choice for delicious meat since Noah came off the ark!  This time, it was shank with rice and spinach, with pumpkin pie for dessert.  But the Pumpkin Pie was my creation!   Ingredients to preassemble:

  • 15-16 ounces pumpkin puree
  • 3/4 cup of dark brown sugar (a 1/2 cup tastes good, too)
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon (I prefer to go light here, also – 1tsp)
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 cup (8 fluid ounces) Evaporated Milk
  • 3 medium to extra-large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

IMG_1Ignoring the online advice to use only “pie pumpkins” or “sugar pumpkins” I used the big Jack-o-Lantern pumpkin we had drawn on for Halloween.  “Unspoiler” alert: it works fine and is not significantly stringy if you clean out the fibrous seed network adequately.  This was unquestionably the most labor intensive and hardest part of doing a pumpkin pie!  I separated the seeds from the mush and saved them to roast later.

IMG_4  IMG_7  IMG_10

IMG_17A BIG mistake was cutting the pumpkin into small (1″ to 2″) squares for cooking.  If I ever do this again, I would cut the huge Jack-o-Lantern into eighths or 16ths at the smallest for stove top boiling, because the separating of the meat from the rind took a lot of time and tedium with soooo many small pieces.

IMG_24Covering the pieces with water, I could only fit in 1/2 of the pumpkin in our largest pot.  A better way may be to quarter the pumpkin and bake it in the oven.  In either case, you just have to get the meat soft so it will separate from the rind; about 5 minutes of boiling.  Let it cool and then spoon off the meat from the rind.  LOTs of little pieces to work with, LOTs of pumpkin squares to chill; my mother always called this one photo “cook’s privilege:’ to sample the goods in process.  Cooked pumpkin, just as it is, is delicious!

When you are ready to cook the pies, simply puree the pumpkin.  I separated the puree into 15oz ‘lots’ for pies, and for freezing.  (The puree is good in the fridge for seven days, and in the freezer for four months.)  This is where I recognized there was very little stringiness to the Jack-o-Lantern pumpkin.  The cooked meat blended up very easily with an old hand mixer.  Then I assembled every thing I needed for the first pie.

Add the pumpkin, brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, salt and cloves to a one-quart saucepan, whisk to combine and stirring CONSTANTLY, cook over high heat for four minutes, or until the mixture kind of boils for about one minute.  STIR CONSTANTLY!!

Finally add the evaporated milk, eggs and vanilla extract and whisk together.

Pour your mixture into the pie crust (Okay, I cheated and bought preformed crusts, because I have never baked a crust before!)  Fill the pie as full as you wish, as it will not shrink significantly baking, nor does it boil over like berries.  Since I had some extra filling left over, I put some into silicone muffin cups and baked along with the pie.  Set your thermostat for 350F and bake for about 35 minutes, in case your oven is inaccurate so you can check it before it overbakes.  If it is precise, you can set your timer for 45 minutes (40-50 minutes is recommended by most recipes; the center should barely jiggle when touched).

The first came out SOOOO good, I got adventuresome and did two at once to save baking time, and to give to friends.  Once I got done making the puree, the rest was a piece of cake . . . or pie in this circumstance.  YUMMmmmm.

Next time, I’m going to try a praline pecan topping or alternate flavoring to the vanilla extract: peppermint pumpkin, anyone?  Or maybe almond or macadamia nut?  Hmm, I wonder what lychee pumpkin would taste like? 😉

Intermezzo Guest Blog: On Being Infected With Covid-19 On Thanxgiving

2020-11-25 Intermezzo Blog

Basement Isolation Reflections
By Karla Duerson

When [insert certain circumstance here] then I will be happy, fulfilled, satisfied.
If only [insert certain circumstance here] then I could live meaningfully, fulfilled.
When all the kids are finally gone . . .
If only he would stop antagonizing his sister . . .

These subtle whispers can rob reality right out of in front of my nose.  Life is happening right now.  That’s it!  Yet the zest and spice of life are illusive.  The mundane quotidian lulls me.  Sometimes I want to shirk responsibilities.  I back away from complexities and challenges.

I work a lot.  I do a lot.  I think a lot.  I take care of people a lot.  I get tired.  Sometimes I daydream about being alone.  “When all the kids are finally gone . . .”

Well, now covid-19 has brought me closer to aloneness than I have been in a long time.  No one is talking to me.  No one is interrupting me.  I have very few tasks to complete.  Strange.

The strangest covid-19 symptoms are those that have robbed my senses.  I cannot taste coffee!  I cannot smell chocolate chip cookies.  I cannot touch my children.  My vision was even affected for a day.

My friend said, “Taste, smell, touch – God gave us these to enjoy life.  When one or all of them go away, it really is a wake-up call to His goodness!”

Well put, my friend.  This world is an explosion of God’s breathtaking artistry!  Tree-lined mountain tops, a home-cooked meal, gifted flowers in a pretty vase, Wylies’s round little cheeks, and Neva’s brown silky hair, Guy’s strong growing arms.  The world above in space, the world below in the sea, the world all around us on the terrain is remarkable beautiful.

How can I stay awake to that splendor?  How can I ward away dullness, ingratitude and boredom?  One of our very young participants on our Simple Church Zoom call suggested the end of Paul’s letter to the Philippians:
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!  Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.  Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”

Well, sitting in the bed in the basement for the fourth day in a row while listening to the hustle and bustle of the activities going on above, concerning myself about everyone’s well-being without being able to lift a finger, and longing to cuddle and comfort my people, this brought me to tears.  I love it when children share.  

Even more, Gavin reminded us of the next part of the letter:
“I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it.  I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.  I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”

I will learn the secret that Paul did because just like my BSF notes stated last week, “God intends hardships to draw us closer to Him, so we become more content with His presence and provisions.”  So, “whether in plenty or in want,” I will learn to be content and that I “can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.”

I am in the basement.  Topside, in the upstairs of my home, I am in plenty.  Either way, I have Christ who empowers me to see, to touch, to taste, to hear, to smell His wonder-filled world, to truly live!

Read more of Karla’s writing at www.karladuerson.blogspot.com

On a lighter side, be sure to check out Gavin’s take on Black Friday:

Inside Joke – Black Friday

And for some thought-provoking apologetics, check out the CSLewisDoodle on “Good Infections”:
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCw-kYN6wWXWDyp_lB0wnlxw
C.S.Lewis Doodle

“Lord, Let Me Grow Old Like Walter.”

2020-11-21 Grow Old With MeHow can we grow old gracefully? By this I mean that you can live at peace, gently interacting with others, eat enough food to stay healthy, wear clothes that are adequate for your weather, sleep quietly in a safe room, and rest from the trials of life.

This will allow you to enjoy your golden years
“before the sun and the light and the moon and the stars are darkened
and the clouds return after the rain,
in the day when the keepers of the house tremble,
and the strong men are bent,
and the grinders cease because they are few,
and those who look through the windows are dimmed,
and the doors on the street are shut,
when the sound of the grinding is low,
and one rises up at the sound of a bird,
and all the daughters of song are brought low,
and desire fails, because man is going to his eternal home,
and the mourners go about the streets,
before the silver cord is snapped,
or the golden bowl is broken,
or the pitcher is shattered at the fountain,
or the wheel broken at the cistern,
and the dust returns to the earth as it was,
and the spirit returns to God who gave it.
(Ecclesiastes 12:2-7)

There are three properties we need in order to grow old gracefully: Trust, Mercy and Grace.

Trust is necessary as we begin to find many things slipping out of our control.  We cannot hear the news reports as clearly and information seems to accumulate faster than we can digest it.  Attention to details of what we own and where things are stored begins to fade, and if you do not trust those around you, you will constantly feel in danger of losing something valuable.

Trust in any person and you will be disappointed at some time; probably more than once!  Even trusting our God leaves us sometimes with confusion and wondering if He really knows what He is doing.  But that is when the tires of our trust must truly engage the terrain.  “Nothing happens TO a Christ-follower; filtered by His love, it only happens FOR us.” (Lane Martin)

Do we really believe that all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose?”  If so, then trust becomes an essential not just of our spiritual life, but of every aspect of life, including the people we trust, the weather we enjoy or endure, the supposed “accidents” that happen, the deterioration of our minds and decay of our bodies.  We must recognize Father brings people into our sphere of influence (and influence over us) as part of His plan, and if we trust HIM, it will extend to the people and circumstances around us.

And that is where Mercy comes in.  As we put our trust in flawed humans they will fail us, often unintentionally. But they will also misuse us, steal from us or take advantage of us.  But remember, HE allows it! 

So we must be prepared to forgive them, even before they ask for it, and sometimes they may never do so.  We are still responsible to Father to forgive them from our hearts – !  That is SOOOO hard to do, but God does not give us an option here.  If you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”  (See Matthew 5:43-48 and 6:14-15.)

And mercy will extend Grace to those who do not deserve it.  Whereas mercy is not getting the bad that we deserve, grace is defined as unmerited favor; i.e. getting something good that we do not deserve.  Just as we have received grace from The God Who Is Here, He expects us to extend that same grace to those who offend us. (See Matthew 18:21-35.)  After all, “we are all broken people to one degree or another.  And God loves using broken people, because that way we know it is Him working out His grace in us.” (Doug Johnston)

A friend told me of two old fellows who died many years ago. His maternal grandfather went to Heaven at 92 year old. Walter had dementia but loved God and was as sweet as apple pie. He trusted his care-givers even when he could not remember their names or that he had ever met them before. He was patient and kind and always grateful whenever anyone did anything for him. Everybody loved Walter, right up to the day he passed away.

Some years later, my friend’s 57 year old father was diagnosed with a degenerative brain disease. His wife once heard him praying, “Lord, let me grow old like Walter.” And he did. As his disease limited his understanding of the world around him and left him often confused about what was happening to him, he also finished this life expressing Trust, Mercy and Grace to those around him.

How can we grow old gracefully? Trust your care-giving Father; give Mercy to any who offend; extend undeserved Grace to everyone God brings across your path. And pray, “Lord, let me grow old like Walter.”

Grow old along with me! The best is yet to be,
The last of life, for which the first was made:
Our times are in His hand Who saith “A whole I planned,
Youth shows but half; trust God: see all, nor be afraid!”

[the first stanza of Rabbi Ben Ezra” by Robert Browning] (pictured above)

Intermezzo Guest Blog by Mimi Ly: Dershowitz: Biden is Not the President-Elect

Alan Dershowitz at the White House in Washington on Jan. 28, 2020.

Dershowitz: ‘Biden Is Not the President-Elect’
By Mimi Nguyen Ly of The Epoch Times November 17, 2020

Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz said that Joe Biden is not the president-elect but is entitled to describe himself as such.

“The president-elect doesn’t get named as president-elect until at least he has 270 state certification of electors, or his opponent concedes. Neither of that has happened as of now,” the high-profile lawyer told NTD News.

He added: “I think that he is entitled to describe himself as the president-elect. At the moment he’s won 305 or so electoral votes and President Trump is entitled to dispute that. That’s freedom of speech. That’s politics. Neither is entitled as a matter of law or constitutionality to say that they are the president-elect.”

Dershowitz, who served on Trump’s legal team during the Senate impeachment trial earlier this year, said he believes the Trump legal team is seeking to have the election forced into the House of Representatives, by not letting Biden reach the 270 electoral college votes required to secure the presidency. Republicans have a 26-23-1 state delegation majority in the House of Representatives.

One possible way the Trump campaign can legally get electors to not vote is that if the challenges in court haven’t been resolved, some state secretaries of state, many of whom are Republican, may refuse to certify the vote by mid-December, Dershowitz said.

“That will be challenged in court. And that will be a mess, it would create a constitutional crisis of a kind we haven’t had before,” he said.

He noted that Trump’s lawyers are counting on a constitutional provision that moves the election to the House of Representatives if there is no definitive winner in the Electoral College by mid-December.

“I understand why the Trump legal team is trying to have the election thrown into the House of Representatives. That’s their constitutional right. And I can’t condemn them for using every possible legal recourse. That’s what lawyers do.”

“I think that the lawsuits in the end will not bring about a reversal of fortune for Donald Trump,” he later added. “I think that on January 20, Biden will be elected president and inaugurated as President of the United States, but I have no criticism of the Trump team for fighting and battling and trying everything they can legally, ethically, constitutionally, politically, to try to preserve his presidency.”

Trump’s campaign or legal team haven’t publicly described what specific kind of strategy they are employing. Broadly speaking, there are two kinds of lawsuits that have been filed by the Trump campaign in several states, according to Dershowitz.

“One I call the kind of wholesale constitutional lawsuits, like in Pennsylvania, where they’re challenging legally, whether all the votes that came in after Election Day have to be discounted, even if they were voted, even if they were submitted before Election Day,” he said. “That’s a constitutional challenge based on Article Two of the Constitution. It’s wholesale and involves many, many thousands of votes. And that has a good chance of succeeding.”

“The other challenges are retail challenges. They are case by case in a few people who shouldn’t have been eligible to vote, voted. Was there fraud? Was there a computer glitch? Those are much harder, because those require actual trials, witnesses’ evidence, and they will take time, and it will be very hard for them to succeed,” he said.

He said he is aware that Trump’s lawyers have spoken about potential computer anomalies that, if they turn out to be true, could trigger a “major disruption and shift.”

“We’ve never had anything like this before, because we’ve never had computers play such a major role in the election … The big challenge is whether or not there were computer malfunctions that turned many, many thousands of votes away from Trump and toward Biden, if that turned out to be true. And again, I haven’t seen the evidence. I’ve just heard the lawyers talk about it. That would change a lot of things.”

“And, of course, the American public would be very upset because they’ve been told by the networks who the winner is already. Remember that the networks don’t declare the winner, legally and constitutionally.”

NTD News reporter Christina Kim contributed to this report.
Bold and italics added.

Are We Free?

For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. (Peter, the Apostle)

One of the most disconcerting features of our society is the “celebrity culture” into which too many Christ-followers have bought. Mega-church pastors, television evangelists, or best-selling authors (or bloggers) all beguile us into thinking, “Oh, if so-and-so said it or did it, it must be right.”

But when one of them falls from grace, the message of Jesus gets blamed as if HE was the culprit. Paul warned the Romans, “You who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law. For, as it is written, ‘The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.‘” But this is not just a problem for prominent religious leaders.

If any of us who name the Name of Jesus as our Lord hate our enemies and only love those who look like us, act like us, talk like us and vote like us, we will embarrass our Lord. If we fail at the most basic principles of living in the Spirit, the Name of God will be blasphemed.

In our current time, the election of our president is pressing us to take sides, to declare if we are Trumpers or Bideners. Will Trump’s legacy be one of lying, cheating, and disgracing the Constitution or will Biden’s potential presidency be one of destroying the Republic and advancing communism against half of the country?

Let me suggest we are FREE. We who call ourselves Christ-followers are free from the politics of the Democrats or Republicans because our citizenship is higher and more secure than anything either party can offer. I am not proposing that we ignore political issues, and some may be called specifically to follow Jesus into the fray of civic rivalries. However, most of us are needed on a different “front” of battle: the contention for the souls of our families, neighbors, friends and colleagues.

Unless God has called us to join a political party, we are commissioned to a much freer and better task than merely getting a temporary “master” elected. We must trust the Maker that He has chosen our next president (see Daniel 2:21) and we will still be called to live as free men and women under whatever earthly rulership He has chosen for us.

This was true of Paul when he was in prison for The Name. It has been true for many martyrs and believers throughout history since Jesus ascended. And it may even come true for some of us if we hold to His call with grace and composure, refusing to obey men rather than God.

No one is truly free unless he is free in his spirit. It never ceases to amaze me that some foolish people think conversions to ideas can be forced.  No heart or belief is changed by holding a gun to one’s head and demanding the victim to say words.  However, “if the Son sets you free you will be free indeed!”  If our citizenship IS in Heaven, then no power on earth can constrain us from doing what is right for our Master.

And His call is clear, one by one we must persuade, inform, and demonstrate that Jesus is who He claimed to be.  It is for freedom that He has set us free, “for you were called to freedom. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.  For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Galatians 5:13-14)

So I challenge you (and myself), are we free?

What We Know So Far ;-)

The election of our president was not a landslide for either candidate as some had predicted. It was, in fact, a reflection of the wider divide in our country between worldviews of our culture and of what a president needs to be. So our 45th was not assured on Tuesday night that he would continue to serve, and our potential 46th was not certain he would replace him. My brother sent me this perceptive graphic analysis.

There have been several clear-sighted responses to the election process that are finally filtering into the Christian media and reminders that our presidents do not get to choose themselves. If you followed a link in last week’s blog, October 31, 2020, I noted a reference to Daniel 2:21: HE removes kings [presidents] and sets up kings.”

The God Who Is Here, our Creator, the Maker of Heaven and earth, the sustainer of the universe, has not been caught off guard. His sovereignty is still intact and He is still on His throne. His plan for the ages is still progressing and will find its fulfillment in the return of Jesus as was told to the original disciples on the Mount of Ascension: “This Jesus . . . will come in the same way as you have seen Him go.”

He remains King of kings and Lord of lords. The Bible still gives us guidance for every issue we face in our daily lives, whether that includes how to accept and work with an egomaniac as president or a half-asleep abortionist. The bottom line is our president nor any human government is going to bring in an age of enlightenment, pure justice and mercy and peace. Only the Prince of Peace will accomplish what our hearts desire.

He is still alive at Father’s right hand to make intercession for us, and though we may not get everything we wish for when we pray, He will supply every need, even if that is grace to face death and thus participate in the resurrection of our Lord.

Remember, Jesus, not our president nor our government, is still our only way to Heaven, our only means of salvation, the only author and finisher of our faith. Our neighbors still need to know that He loves them, and they need to know that WE love them. Even the rioters and murderers need to know this, maybe “especially” so, and we may be the means for them to understand His love as he plants it in our hearts for them.

In another blog, I will comment on why He allows men like Nebuchadnezzar, Genghis Khan, Adolph Hitler or Donald Trump/Joe Biden to take rulership over us for certain periods of time. But rest assured, He has chosen our next president through our participation, and He is setting a stage for events we cannot yet see clearly. But we remain confident in the end result: Jesus will reign.

The Electoral College Map as estimated by new outlets as of 11/06/20

Intermezzo: So Sad. Is This What WE Have Become?

So sad. Is this what we have become?

Streets of Washington, D.C. on November 2, 2020

When Isaiah the prophet met The God Who Is Here he moaned in distress, “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips.” Notice he did not blame “the sinners” in his society. He did not blame “the protestors,” the idolaters, the child-killers, the ones many perceived as causing problems. He did not blame “the other side.”

He owned his people’s sin. He recognized his complicity and confessed, “I am the man unclean.” It is easiest to see the “others” at fault, and yes, their sin is evident. But Isaiah “saw the LORD” and realized he was as much to blame, because he saw “the other” as someone else. “Too often, we judge other groups by their worst examples while judging ourselves by our best intentions.” (George W. Bush)

So watch the one minute video read the short article at the link (by the same title as the video), and pray, “Woe is me! For I am lost.” It is not that “they” are destroying “us.” It is what WE have become.

https://www.dailysignal.com/2020/11/02

https://capost2k.wordpress.com/commentary-by-virginia-allen/