Thursday, March 12, 2020

Actionable Intelligence



Watching the news is a lesson in frustration.  The media has cried wolf for so long that if this pandemic truly is "the end of the world as we know it", we're not going to believe it until it's too late. There is no truly "actionable intelligence" coming from news reports or social media.  One side says that the sky is falling and the other side says "move along, there's nothing to see here".  Wisdom is in short supply.

We have seen (at least according to media outlets) lots of "stocking up" on key quarantine and hygiene essentials.  Many people have been caught unawares, and are worried, even to the point of hysteria, that they don't have enough to get they and their families through this crisis.  I have a few thoughts on the concept of preparedness and Christianity.....

I absolutely believe that God is the author of life and sustains us from even before our very first breath.  It is His providence that sees us through each day and provides hope for the future.  However, He did give us biblical principles to live by and preparedness is one of many.

When God spoke to Noah, He told him to prepare for judgement.  He gave him very specific instructions about building an ark, loading it with life sustaining food and preparing his family for the trials of the days ahead.  Now, if anybody had a reason to doubt, it was Noah.  For over 100 years, Noah works on the ark.  I have no doubt there were many naysayers and hecklers, but Noah persevered.  Noah built a boat in a world that had never seen rain, never seen a flood, never had even seen an "act of God".  What faith!  God could have saved Noah and his family by "Divine Intervention", but instead, He chose to have Noah prepared.

The story of Joseph may be an overused example of preparedness, but it is without a doubt a perfect picture of God's faithfulness through preparedness.  Once more, God could have chosen not to allow the famine, but instead He readied His servant Joseph to care for His people.  What would have happened to the people Egypt and the surrounding areas had Joseph not heeded God's voice?

The example of the ten virgins in Matthew, although directly relating to the returning of the bridegroom, is instructive in discerning the wise from the foolish.  The wise virgins brought with them their lamps and their oil, conversely, the foolish virgins brought their lamps, but lacked the foresight to bring oil.  My desire is to be known as wise rather than foolish!!

Another thought is that God always starts with something.  When He made man, He started with dirt. When He made woman, He started with man.  God instructed Elijah to have the widow feed him.  She explained that she had only enough flour and oil for one loaf for she and her son, and then they would die.  Elijah instructed her to feed him first and that her supplies would last.  THEY DID!!  She had something and God multiplied it.  Even Jesus, with His very first miracle, started with something. He didn't just conjure up wine for the wedding, He started with water.  Later, at the Sermon on the Mount, He started with a few loaves and fishes, and fed 5000 men; not counting women and children.  He used what was available and multiplied it.  Those examples, at the very least, should spur to have SOMETHING.  God, in His sovereignty, will use what we have - but we need to start with something.  We don't have to panic about not having everything we think we need, but we do need to make an effort to acquire SOMETHING.

And then we get into the Proverbs.  They are a goldmine of preparedness advice:

Proverbs 6:6-8
Go to the any, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise. It has no commander, no overseer or ruler, yet it stores it provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest.

Proverbs 21:20
In the house of the wise are stores of choice food and oil, but a foolish man devours all he has.

Proverbs 22:3
A prudent man sees danger and takes refuge, but the simple keep going and suffer for it.

Proverbs 27:12 (this one is even mentioned twice)
The prudent see danger and take refuge, but the simple keep going and suffer for it.

Proverbs 30:25
Ants are creatures of little strength, yet they store up their food in the summer.

Proverbs 31 is one of my favorite chapters.  It is like a job description for a Godly wife.  A couple of verses really speak to me when it comes to preparedness.  31:15 "She gets up while it is still dark; she provides food for her family and portions for her servant girls".  31:21 "When it snows, she has no fear for her household; for all of them are clothed in Scarlett".  31:25 "She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come".  The Proverbs 31 woman provided food for her household.  She did not wait for someone else to provide for her.  She was not afraid of the cold, because she had already made sure that her household was well clothed.  She laughed at the days to come.  I think this is my favorite verse.  For a woman, the only way that you can laugh at the days to come is if you feel that you have taken care of what needs to be taken care of.  When you have laid in supplies, a part of you says "bring it on!".  Then you truly can laugh at the days to come.

As Christians, it is our responsibility to be wise stewards.  How can we be a beacon of hope in a dark world, if we, ourselves are dependent upon the charity of others?  How can we bring glory to God if we are stealing or cheating to survive?  We must be like the prudent man who sees danger and takes refuge rather than the simple man who keeps going and suffers for it.

Monday, February 24, 2020

Good Home Treatment of Influenza



All the way back in 2011 I wrote The Prepared Family Guide to Uncommon Diseases.  Actually, more than writing, I merely compiled easily obtained information and attempted to put it in a coherent format to help my family and others in the event of a medical catastrophe.  Over the years I have referenced it from time-to-time, but thankfully, have never really had to put it into use.  Although I don't want to add to an already heightened concern, I do believe it may be time to pull this book from the mothballs.

The recently emerged Coronavirus has the entire world on edge.  And it does appear to have the potential to be a global game-changer.  Although my book covers everything from the Bubonic Plague to Starvation, the real gold is in a section that I had nothing to do with.  It is a special section in the back of the book called "Good Home Treatment of Influenza".  It was written by Grattan Woodson, M.D., FACP - author of the Bird Flu Preparedness Planner and the Bird Flu Manual.

As I researched the Wuhan virus, I discovered that "coronavirus" is an umbrella term for a number of different viruses, Avian Influenza and SARS included.  Armed with that knowledge, I grabbed my book from the shelf and flipped to the special section on Influenza.  I spent the next few days reading the information and making a list of necessary supplies.

What follows are but a few excerpts from the book.....As always knowledge is key to preparedness.

The Great Bird Flu Pandemic
It is in the nature of all influenza pandemics to cause widespread illness and death.  As during seasonal flu, the vast majority of those sick with pandemic flu will be treated at home by their family members and friends.  This guide was written for people taking care of mildly to severely ill influenza patients in their home who have no formal medical training.

A pandemic will last between 12 to 18 months and over that time about half the people on earth will become sick.  Most will be mild to moderately ill, but some will be very sick.  This guide will help you take care of these people at home using simple methods and do not rely on prescription drugs, medical equipment or medical training.

At times during a severe pandemic, hospitals could become full of sick and dying patients, running out of space for new patients.  Access to doctors may become limited.  Medical supplies and drugs could be in short supply.  If these things happen, people like you with no prior formal medical training may find yourself caring for terrible ill loved ones and friends, who under normal circumstances would be treated by the doctor in the hospital.  Home care, while not up to the standards of hospital care, can still be very effective.  The simple methods found in this guide are those that have the power to keep patients from dying from the common, preventable causes of death from influenza such as dehydration.

What is "good home care" for the flu?
Good home care is nine parts common sense and one part simple medical practice.  Taking care of someone with flu will be a familiar task for those who have nursed family members back to health in the past as it relies on simple common treatments and techniques.

The Flu Treatment Kit
Providing good care to family members and friends sick with influenza is a task that will be easier with a good supply of select over-the-counter medications, some medical equipment, and a few items from the grocery or hardware store.  These items form the basis of the Flue Treatment Kit (FTK).

The Flu Treatment Kit (items for one person)
Grocery Store Items

  • Table salt: 1 lb. (for making Oral Rehydration Solution, gargle and nasal wash)
  • Table sugar: 10 lbs. (for making Oral Rehydration Solution ORS)
  • Baking soda: 6 oz. (for making Oral Rehydration Solution and nasal wash)
  • Household bleach, unscented: 2 gal. (for purifying water and cleaning contaminated items)
  • Caffeine containing tea, bags or dry loose: 1 lb. (for treatment of respiratory symptoms)
  • Two 8 oz. Plastic baby bottles with rubber nipples (for administering ORS to severely ill)
  • Two 16 oz. plastic squeeze bottles with swivel nozzles (for administering ORS to the ill)
  • Two kitchen measuring cups with 500cc (two cups) capacity (for measuring lots of things)
  • One set of kitchen measuring spoons 1/2 tsp up to 1 Tbsp. (for making ORS and dosing)
  • Fifty soda straws (for administering fluids)
  • One composition-style notebook (for keeping a medical record on the patient)
  • Teakettle (for steam therapy)
FTK Items found at the drug store
  • Petroleum jelly 4 oz. (for lubrication of tubes, suppositories and skin treatment and protection
  • Cocoa butter, pure, 2 oz. (for making suppositories and skin treatment and protection)
  • An accurate bathroom scale (for weighing)
  • Two electronic thermometers (to measure temperature)
  • Automatic blood pressure monitor (to measure blood pressure)
  • Humidifier (for increasing the relative humidity of the air breathed by the patient)
  • Pill cutter (to make it easier to reduce the dose of the medication if desired)
  • 1 box of Nitril gloves (100) (to help reduce contamination and spread of the virus and bacteria
Non-Prescription drugs
  • Ibuprofen 200mg (Motrin) 100 tablets (for treatment of flu symptoms)
  • Diphenhydramine (Benadryl) 25 mg. capsules, 100 capsules (for treatment of flu symptoms)
  • Robitussin DM Cough Syrup or its generic equivalent (12 oz.) (for treatment of cough)
  • Acetaminophen 500 mg. (Tylenol) 100 tablets (for treatment of flu symptoms
  • Loperamide 2 mg, 100 tablets (for diarrhea and abdominal cramps)
  • Meclizine 25 mg., 100 tablets (for nausea and vomiting)
FTK Items found at the hardware store
  • N-95 masks, 20 (2 boxes) (to reduce diseases spread to and from the patient)
  • 50 gallon sturdy plastic garbage container with top (used to store clean water for drinking)
Other topics covered:

  • Useful home care medical procedures
  • How flue is passed person-to-person
  • Coughing and hand washing etiquette
  • The virtue of cleanliness
  • Principal symptoms of influenza
  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea, vomiting and diarrhea
  • Supportive treatment of influenza
  • Keeping good records
  • Identification of dehydration
  • Treatment of dehydration
  • ORS formula for dehydration
  • Treatment of common flu symptoms
  • Treatment of adults with fever
  • Treatment of chills and body aches and pains
  • Treatment for respiratory conditions and headache
  • Reasons and remedies for common flu patient signs and symptoms
  • Treatment of nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain
  • Diet and exercise with Influenza
  • The clear liquid diet
  • Exercise during and after recovery
  • Home care of children with flu
  • Signs and symptoms of flu in children
And the list goes on and on.  

These days are precarious.  "A prudent man sees danger and takes refuge, but the simple keep going and suffer for it".  Proverbs 22:3

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Adventures with Sourdough


For years I have wanted to master (or at least have some success) with naturally leavened bread.  Of course we love the flavor of "sourdough", but my real reason for wanting to successfully leaven bread with wild yeast was so that I would be able to nourish my family with the "staff of life", even if I didn't have access to commercially produced yeast.  Although quick breads are easy and don't require yeast, there is nothing to compare with fresh-from-the-oven, honest-to-goodness bread!  Besides, once I set my mind to something, I HAVE to see it through....even if it takes me years!  And so began my adventure with sourdough.

I attempted sourdough many times while we lived in "Little Shouse on the Prairie".  I had read that wild yeast was present in the air and lent a flavor all its own, depending upon where the yeast was gathered, thus the distinctive "San Francisco Sourdough" we've all come to associate with traditional sourdough bread.  In that vein, I mixed flour and water in equal portions and left it for a number of days, stirring occasionally, in an attempt to gather yeast and make a starter work.  As many times as I tried, that's how many times I failed.  My starter would become a watery, gray mess that smelled bad and had no life.  I got busy and regular bread was good (and I could make it!) and I gave up on sourdough....for the moment.

Last Thanksgiving we invited some folks that were new to the area to join our Thanksgiving celebration.  As a gift they brought two gorgeous loves of still-warm sourdough bread.  Oh, my goodness!  It was wonderful!  It was light with an airy crumb and delightful crust.   I was inspired!  And so began a new adventure with sourdough.

I read article after article after article and finally came up with a game plan.  I made my starter, faithfully fed it (something I hadn't done before) and, after 8 days, proclaimed it ready.  I started with a simple loaf from King Arthur Flour.  It was good but not exactly what I was looking for.  I tried sourdough pizza crust (again, good, not great), and another, lighter loaf recipe.  Next, I stepped up to sourdough English muffins (amazing!) and then tried my hand at a sourdough sandwich loaf.  Each loaf has been better than the last, and in the months since I began my quest I've only become more and more convinced that sourdough is amazing - definitely worth the time and effort!

I must preface my recipes with the fact that I am a simple, country cook.  Most recipes I've found have been rendered in grams and ounces.  What I've known as "sourdough" is in fact called "levain" and there are a number of specialized articles of equipment that are apparently required to make a decent loaf.  Well, I threw all of that out the window and winged it....as I usually do.  I've created recipes using simple cups and tablespoons and teaspoons.  These recipes have worked wonderfully for me....and I do hope you'll give "sourdough" a go.....it truly is amazing!!!

Starter

What you'll need:
Flour (whole grain or unbleached white)
Water (filtered, if using treated city water)
Bowl (glass or ceramic - not metal)
Spoon (wood or rubber - not metal)
Tea towel

How to:
Day 1:  Mix 1 cup of flour and 1 cup of (warm) water.  Mix vigorously, stirring down the sides and incorporate everything.  Place a clean tea towel over the bowl and allow to sit at room temperature for 24 hours.

Day 2:  Discard half of the mixture (really...throw it away - this allows you to property feed your remaining starter).  Add 1 cup of flour and 1 cup of (warm) water to the remaining starter.  Mix vigorously to incorporate.  Cover with towel and allow to (again) sit at room temperature for 24  hours.

Day 3:  Repeat instructions from day 2 (including throwing away 1/2 of the mixture).

Day 4:  Repeat instructions from day 2 (including throwing away 1/2 of the mixture).

Day 5:  Repeat instructions from day 2 (including throwing away 1/2 of the mixture).

Day 6:  Repeat instructions from day 2 (including throwing away 1/2 of the mixture), but let sit for 12 hours....then repeat.  You'll feed once every 12 hours on day 6.....

Day 7:  Repeat Day 6 instructions (feed once every 12 hours).

Your starter should be full of bubbles and ready to bake with on Day 7!!

Keep it going:
You can leave your starter on the counter (if you plan on using it every day, or almost every day) and feed it once a day (1 C. flour/1 C water).  If you plan on only using your starter a couple of times a week, you'll want to keep it in the refrigerator.  To keep it alive in the refrigerator, you'll need to use and feed it.  At least once a week, pull your starter from the fridge.  Allow the starter to warm to room temperature.  Use however much of your hydrated starter your recipe calls for.  After removing the starter (for your recipe) add 1 cup of flour and 1 cup of water to your starter and stir well.  Allow to sit on the counter, covered with a tea towel for 8 hours or overnight and then cover and return to the fridge.  If you don't want to use your starter for the week, discard a cup or two of the starter and add the 1 cup of flour and 1 cup of water, stir well, allow to sit on the counter for 8 hours or overnight and then return to the refrigerator for another week.  One thing I keep in mind is that the starter should be almost as thick as pancake batter.  If it gets too thin, I add more flour.  The flour is what feeds the starter.

My starter
Sourdough English Muffins

Day 1:

Ingredients
1 C. Sourdough starter
5 1/2 C. flour
2 C. Milk
2 T. Sugar
1 1/2. tsp. Salt
2 tsp. Baking soda
Cornmeal for dusting

In large bowl, combine your frothy starter with 4 cups of flour and the milk.  Stir to incorporate.  Cover with plastic.

Allow to sit on counter for 8 hours or up to 24 hours.

Day 2:

Add remaining ingredients.  Pour dough onto lightly floured surface and knead for 4 to 5 minutes.  Roll dough to 1/2 inch thick.

Cut with a biscuit cutter and transfer to a parchment lined cookie sheet that's been dusted with cornmeal.

Allow to rest for 45 minutes.

Heat skillet or griddle (on medium heat) and cook muffins for 6 - 8 minutes (or until golden).  Gently flip and cook on other side.  Cook for another 6 - 8 minutes.  Muffins, when done, will become lighter.

Cool slightly, split with fork.  These are wonderful warm with butter and jam....or toasted.

Makes 15 - 20 muffins.

The starter, flour and milk

Resting





Slip with a fork

Amazing!!!

Sourdough Sandwich Loaf

Makes 2 large loaves

Levain
1/2 C. Sourdough Starter
1/2 C. Milk
1 1/4 C. Flour

Dough
All of the Levain
5 1/2 - 7 C. Flour
2 Eggs
2 Egg yolks
2 1/2 C. Milk
2/3 C. Sugar
1 T. Salt
8 T. Butter (softened)

Day 1:
Mix levain ingredients in a bowl.  Cover and let sit at room temperature for 8 hours or overnight.

Day 2:
Place all ingredients in a mixer, except for salt and butter.  Mix on low speed until it comes together in a shaggy dough.

Let rest for 30 minutes.

Turn mixer on low and sprinkle with the salt and knead for 3 - 5 minutes or until dough comes together.

Add butter gradually, mixing well after each addition.  It will be very greasy, but the butter will eventually be absorbed into the dough.

Knead for another 10 minutes (add additional flour as needed to make a supple dough).

Place dough in a lightly greased bowl.

Cover tightly and allow to rise at room temperature for 2 hours.

Place in refrigerator overnight.

Day 3:Divide dough into 6 pieces and form into balls.  Allow to rest on a floured surface (cover with tea towel) for 1 hour.

Roll each section into an oval and roll out with rolling pin and then roll jellyroll fashion.

Rest for 10 minutes.

Roll into an oval again and roll like a jellyroll.

Transfer 3 rolls to a buttered bread pan.  (I used 1 large pan, 1 regular and 1 small).

Cover and let rise for 6 hours.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Bake for 20 minutes.

Lower oven temperature to 350 degrees.  Bake for an additional 15 - 20 minutes.

Cool on wire rack.

The levain

Shaggy dough

Jellyroll style rolls

After rising for 6 hours

Oh my goodness!!!!

And here you have naturally leavened bread!

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Reflections of Eternity



As I looked through my kitchen window while making tea the other morning, I saw the most glorious sunrise.  Mist was lying low along the conture of the snow covered fields, snow clad trees were backlit by the orange glow of the rising sun and steam rose from the sun kissed creek.  I was overcome with the sheer beauty of God's perfect creation.

I have often looked at the world around me and pondered 1 Corinthians 13:12 "For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face; now I know in part; but then I shall know even as also I am known."  Gazing out my window, I thought of the scene before me, imagining I was looking through a glass darkly.  How glorious would that view be in Heaven, when I was "face to face"?  If I am only seeing a shadow now, what will my eyes behold when I finally see clearly?

It's easy for people to imagine the wonders of Heaven, even with our imperfect understanding.  We may not be able to fully grasp its glory, but we know it will be magnificent, glorious beyond our wildest dreams.....most perfect.  It is this Heaven that people speak of when they say things like "They're in a better place".  It is this Heaven that comforts people when they look at the brokenness of this world and long for the perfection of the next.  It is easy to imagine the glory of perfection - to know that the beauty of this world is but a poor reflection of a glorious eternity.

But what about the other side of the looking glass?  Have you ever pondered the ugliness of this world?  The sin, the hate, the death, the agony?  What if, just as Heaven will be more glorious than anything we could possibly imagine, Hell is more horrific than our human minds can possibly comprehend?  What if the anguish, the sorrow, the excruciating torment we see all around us was but a dim reflection of what is to be?

I stood in my kitchen gazing across the beautiful landscape with tears in my eyes.  How very foolish I have been.  I have been quick to talk about the wonders of Heaven, but never mention the unspeakable nightmare of Hell.  I have held my tongue when I should have spoken.   Have I, by not speaking, consigned some to a Hell worse than anything I could possibly imagine?  Is the evil of this world but a dim reflection of the next, reserved for those who have refused to bend their knee?  God forbid that I hold my tongue!  If I am but seeing through a glass, darkly, I cannot comprehend what will be that reality, but I know, with everything in my being, that I wouldn't see one lost to that eternal, vile darkness.

My tongue has been loosed.  I will speak His truth.  I now understand that Heaven will be Glory, beyond my imagination.  And Hell is a darkness I can't begin to fathom.

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Artisan Pizza Crust



Yep....all these years and we're still indulging in Friday Night Pizza and a Movie!  Certain family traditions become so ingrained that they become the stuff of legends...and Friday Night Pizza is one such tradition.

I have made the same pizza crust recipe since my children were little.  It is light and fluffy, flavorful and bready.  It makes wonderful bread sticks as well as both thin and thick crust pizza.  It's tried and true.  However, I was itching to make something a little different.  I wanted to try my hand at a chewy, Neapolitan style crust.  I'd read numerous recipes and they all looked a little fussy.....pulling the dough together the day before, allowing it to raise overnight, stretching instead of rolling....It seemed much more labor intensive than my simple Light Pizza Dough.

Finally the time came to spread my wings and try something new and Artisan Pizza Crust was born.  I found a recipe I could finally get my head around and changed it into something manageable for me.  Most recipes I found weighed ingredients rather than measured them, something that I'm sure all good cooks do, but I'm not one of their number.  I changed grams to cups, teaspoons and tablespoons (to the best of my ability) and then, quite frankly, I added things until I thought it looked right.  The dough does rise overnight but comes together quickly and is wonderfully workable.  The stretching is easy, as well as the shaping of the dough.  And the crust....oh, the crust.....chewy, flavorful, chewy....perfect!

I quadrupled the original recipe, however, you can just as easily adjust it back down.  I found this recipe makes about five 12 to 14 inch pizzas.  I make all different sizes based on the pizza stones I have.

The recipe seems complicated, but isn't...it's definitely worth the effort.

Artisan Pizza Crust

DAY BEFORE

8 C. + 4 T flour
1/2 tsp. yeast
2 tsp. sugar
1 T + 2 tsp. salt
3 C. + 3 T warm water (I always add more after I've mixed dough together if the dough is dry and shaggy)

-  Mix the dry ingredients then add the water.  Stir until just combined.  If the dough looks dry, add another 1/4 to 1/2 cup of water.  Dough should be well hydrated but not soupy.

-  Cover the dough and allow to rise for 24 hours (leave on the counter).

PIZZA TIME

-  Pour dough onto well floured surface.  Divide into 4 or 5 sections (I made 5 pizzas).  Using one piece of dough at a time (and making sure the surface and your hands are well floured) stretch the dough into a long piece.  Fold 1/2 the dough back into the middle, then fold the other 1/2 of the dough back on top of the first fold.  Turn the dough and stretch the other direction and fold back over itself.  Form the dough into a ball with the gathered side down and place on a floured cookie sheet or a floured bowl.  Repeat with the other sections of dough.  Cover dough with plastic wrap and allow to rise 45 minutes.

-  Preheat oven to 550 degrees (or as high as your oven will go).

-  Please pizza stones into the oven while it heats up.

-  Place ball of dough in the middle of a floured surface.  With finger-tips push dough down to form a circle (make sure not to touch the edges of the dough....that will become your crust).  Once the dough is large enough, place it over your fist and pull and stretch (making sure not to touch the edge), until you've reached your desired size (I did 12 to 14 inch pies).

-  Place your crust on a piece of parchment and continue with the other balls of dough.

-  Put on toppings, making sure not to put any on the edge.

-  Trim the parchment to the size of your pizza.

-  Use a peel to slide each pizza onto a hot pizza stone in the preheated oven.  Bake for 7 to 14 minutes.  I bake 4 pizzas at once, changing racks at 7 minutes so the pizza's are even - done both on bottom and top.

The dough having risen for 24 hours


Stretched, made into balls and on its 2nd rise

On parchment and ready to go into the oven

Fresh out of the oven and slid on a cookie sheet to slice

Oh, that crust!
That's it!!  It sounds more complicated than it is....and the few extra steps are worth the effort.  I'm thinking an outdoor pizza oven is sounding good!!




Thursday, February 13, 2020

Returning to the God of our fathers....


As a little girl, I learned about Jesus at my parents' knee.  I listened as they talked of spiritual things and sang as they lifted hymns up to heaven.  I prayed simple, childlike prayers and believed with a simple, childlike faith.  I went to church and Sunday school, said grace before dinner and prayed before bed.  I was a Christian......or at least I was to the best of my knowledge.

I grew up and grew away......I would have adamantly acknowledged Christ as my Savior....believing in Him with everything in me, however, the choices in my life did not reflect that belief.  I lived for myself, with an occasional nod to my Creator.  I wanted to be both a "Christian" and like everyone else in the world.  I worshiped the God of my fathers.....but I hadn't made Him my own.

As with all prodigals, I was brought low by my choices.  When the scales finally fell from my eyes, I fell to my knees and sought God....truly sought Him for the first time.  Rather than relying on my fathers' faith, I began to earnestly seek the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

And I have never quit seeking Him.

Through the years I have walked and I have stumbled, crawled and walked again.  God has gently brought me along, refining and remaking me.  And as He has continued to mold and shape me I have begun to question....never God, but every ritual and contrivance of man.  Why do we sit in pews, pass out grape juice and crackers and have "communion" once a month?  Why does every church I've ever been to follow the same script.... Announcements, Prayer, Praise & Prayer, Worship (3 songs), Prayer, Sermon (1/2 hour), Communion (if its the first Sunday of the month) Hymn (1st and last verse), and then Prayer?  Why do we sit in the same seats, chat with the same people and get involved with the same programs?    Why do we look like every other church in every other town in every other state?  And why are we just as lost and hopeless as the world around us?  The answer?  Man.

Man has created rituals and systems and programs with which to measure holiness.  However, rather than holiness they create emptiness - which brings me back to the question......why?  Why do we "worship" the way that we worship?  Why do we follow conventional form and function rather than search the scriptures to find how the first "church" followed Christ?

We're returning to the God of our fathers.....therein lies the reason we follow the rituals and contrivances of man.  Instead of seeking to follow the Christ of the Bible we are following the forms and conventions of the Roman Catholic Church, from which the Protestant Church was born.

The first church was a church of simple faith.  They gathered in homes, had everything in common and their numbers grew daily.  They broke bread together, ministered to each others needs, worshiped, shared news and were filled with the Holy Spirit.  They became the body of Christ, bound by chords of brotherly love.

That simple faith was slowly and completely replaced with the pageantry and ritual that is the Catholic Church.  Simplicity gave way to the worship of saints, a human priest once again became a go-between between man and God, and the sufficiency of Christ was replaced with penance and purgatory.  And thus the world was thrust into an age of darkness.

The Protestant Church was the rebellious child of the Catholic Church.  They wanted throw off the conventions of their Mother church, but never completely shed the deeply ingrained rituals associated  with their faith.  And the older the Protestant church becomes, the more they become like their parent.

Our quest for holiness should lead us to the simple faith of the Bible not to the rituals of man.  We should seek to return to the simple faith of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob not the pageantry of man-made religion.  We should ask why....and then we should search the scripture for the truth.

We have to return to the God of our true fathers.....not the God of our church fathers.  "Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you."  Matthew 6:33


Monday, February 3, 2020

Life in the Highlands


I'm a little slow.  I think I may have mentioned that before.  I've noticed over the years that change affects me in a huge way.  After major life disruptions, it takes longer and longer to get my feet back under myself.

We're closing in on 3 years.  Three years since we sold "Little Shouse on the Prairie".  Three years since we've lived off-the-grid.  Three years since we began building a butcher shop.  Three years since we've had a stable, consistent income.  And now, just now, I'm beginning to feel like myself, not just someone treading water.  I'm beginning to be able to focus on things other than just surviving.  I am once again expanding my horizons and opening my home to new friends.  After nearly three years I'm finally able look beyond myself and again minister to those outside my immediate family.  After nearly three years, life begins anew.

The adjustments of our new life have been unexpectedly difficult.  Our relationships have changed and grown, as have our expectations.  Our challenges have been different, but no less "challenging".  We have been surprised by what we don't miss!

Master Calvin (He isn't actually smoking a pipe!)

Princess Dragon Snack getting a little reading in!
The weather in the Highlands has been a breath of fresh air.  Our Shouse was situated in the middle of a windswept prairie, where the harsh winters were only rivaled by the blistering summers.  Wind was our constant companion, creating untenable weather conditions and embracing us in a real-life "man against nature" reality. And summer, with its blistering heat (and constant wind, of course), did little to offer a soothing balm of relief.  Our new home in the Highlands is a constant source of joy.  The winters, although filled with snow and cold weather, offer almost no wind and crisp, clear days with skies so blue that the contrast against the Sub-apline Firs are positively breathtaking.  Summers are warm but not hot and the cool of the evening revives even the weariest of souls.  I traipse down tree -lined avenues, cross bubbling streams and wiggle my toes in sweet meadow grass.  Every walk ministers to my soul and every perfect winter day brings with it the joy of life.

Getting ready for our Thanksgiving feast (Miss Serenity and Sir Knight)

Our living room...in anticipation for a crowd

The newly remodeled scale shack/guest house!!

The new kitchen (with an extended counter and built-in refrigerator)
The oil lamp is a gift from a friend!!!

Serenity Cottage has a queen sized bed!

And a cozy wood stove!!
Our business has brought us the highest of highs and the lowest of lows.  We didn't fully understand what would be required to launch a butcher shop (something with which we had no experience).  The money and energy and effort threatened to overwhelm us.  We made many mistakes and learned many lessons.  We struggled and we triumphed.  And now, after nearly three years, we are gaining confidence and customers.  It is beautiful indeed.

Sir Knight with his helpers, Miss Serenity and Maid Elizabeth

An amazing prime rib, produced by Sir Knight and Master Hand Grenade

Sir Knight and Princess Dragon Snack
What an amazing life we lead.  God has walked us through this life, brought us through the wind and the fire and placed our feet on this good and fair land.  Life is hard and sweet, full of struggles and sunlight.  And God, in His infinite wisdom, has placed us in the middle of it.  This is life in the Highlands.