Originally posted 4/19/11
My friend likes (loves?) old single malt scotch whiskey.  He has commented in my presence about how he likes it smokey and peaty.  (wow, I just typed the word “peaty” and my spell checker had no reaction, is this really a word?) Anyway, I understand smokey, some sauces and cheeses taste smokey and it is a pleasant flavor.  But peaty? Peat is just dirt with lots of organic material mixed in.  They dig it out of the ground and filter the scotch through it.  Go figure.  The smokey flavor apparently comes from the charred insides of the oak barrels used to age the scotch.  The longer it ages, the more of the charred oak flavor it takes on.
I found it interesting that the barrels used to age scotch are barrels that were used in Kentucky to age bourbon whiskey.  These barrels are built from seasoned oak and charred on the inside. When the Kentucky whiskey is aged for the prescribed time the whiskey is removed and the barrel is sold to whiskey makers in Scotland.  It is my understanding that only barrels used to age Kentucky bourbon are acceptable for this purpose.
I guess it is the single malt aspect, which means it was made from malted barley and distilled at a single distillery, not blended with other whiskeys, and the age that determines how good and how expensive it is.  You can pay seventy or eighty dollars for an average bottle of 18 year old single malt scotch.  So you can see why you probably will only have it if it is a gift or if you buy it for a special occasion.  Consequently, when you do luck onto a bottle, you savor it and make it last.
So at Christmas I gave my friend a bottle of good scotch.
Not counting politics, Kentucky is a pretty cool place.  Did you know that out of 120 counties in Kentucky, 86 of them are still under prohibition.  Did you also know that more that 95% of the bourbon whisky distilled in the US is done in Kentucky?
My friend is a drummer in a rock and roll band.  I’m actually using the phrase “rock and roll” rather loosely.  They play a variety of music in a variety of genres.  We were talking about music one day and he mentioned that music sometimes has a profound effect on him.  I think it drags up “River Teeth”.  River teeth are memories that stay with you when all other memories have faded away.  “River Teeth” is the title of a book by David James Duncan and a very interesting and enjoyable read.  I have always loved James Taylor’s version of the song  “In My Mind I’m Going To Carolina”.  It brings up memories of Carolina.   Both North and South Carolina are very unique and interesting places.  The coast of the these states is so different from the Oregon coast you would think they were totally different oceans, oh wait, they are.There are so many places right here in the good old USA that I have not seen, it will take the rest of my life and more to see it all.  As a young man, I once drove south from Louisville with a girl friend.  We wanted to see New Orleans, but ran out of money and gas just south of Jackson Mississippi.  We just found a well lighted parking lot and parked the car and stuck out our thumbs.  We made it to the Gulf Coast just east of New Orleans.  We just kept going east and traveled the coast line through Mississippi, Alabama, and a little way into Florida. Then we ran out of time and had to get back so we turned around and headed NW to get the car.  We were crazy, of course, but we did have the where-with-all to retain enough gas money to get us home.  The thing is we did not just see these places, we experienced them and met the people and waded in a swamp and slept on the earth, drank the local water and ate the local food.  We rode about 20 miles with a group of people in the back of a truck heading for their work place where they shucked oysters.  I doubt I will ever do that again, but it will never leave my memory.  It is one of my river teeth.
I like to dance, but only on a concrete floor.  I have this effect on wood, above grade, floors that is akin to striking a drum with a bunch of pennies lying on it.  The pennies represent all the people around me.  That may be a slight exaggeration, but that’s how I feel when I’m up there and all the other dancers are having trouble keeping their footing.  Or maybe they are drunk.

A short exercise in circular free association: Frogs, Jeremiah, Music, Gigs, Frog Leggs, Fried Foods, Cellulite, Fat, French Cooking, Snails, Slime, Frogs.

I have always had faith that God existed.  I’m not even sure faith is the right word.  I knew God existed, and when you know something to be a fact, faith is not necessary.  Growing up I was afraid of God.  As a young man I still knew that God existed but I did not like him very much.  He seemed very mean, even cruel and I wanted nothing to do with him.  Then in middle age I net a woman who introduced me to Jesus.  Not the Jesus from my Sunday School lessons but the real Jesus.  She told me that Jesus was sent to us to show us what God was really like.  She told me to forget about all the stuff I had heard about God and Jesus and just read about Jesus for myself.  I did that and discovered a God I liked.  A God that was loving and compassionate, not mean spirited and cruel.  So the God I thought existed was really a scary fiction.  Now I still know that God exists but he/she/they/it is/are a God I can trust with my eternal soul.

Is it Time to Hurl

Posted: September 24, 2011 in Uncategorized
Originally posted 1/3/11
I learned a valuable lesson today.  This morning when I was thinking about what to take for lunch, I decided I wanted a high protein, low carb, high potassium lunch.  With this in mind I opened the cabinet and found a can of salmon and a can of black beans.  Since I was running late I didn’t want to take the time to put them in separate containers.  I reasoned that since they were both going to end up in my gut, I would just save my gut some time and mix them together.  Lucy, my lovely wife, was kind enough to open the cans, drain them and find an appropriately sized container for them.  I tossed in a few drops of balsamic vinegar for flavor and we were out the door in record time.
Now I love the flavor of salmon, even canned, and I love black beans and balsamic vinegar, so you can imagine my surprise when the taste of the three items combined made me want to vomit on my shoes.  Luckily I was able to hold it down and because I had packed nothing else to eat I suffered through the entire meal.  I needed the sustenance it provided and I hate to waste food.  I am also attempting to live by the credo “eat to live, don’t live to eat”.  It is amazing what a little self-talk and a large paper clip attached to your nose will allow you to choke down.
Well I ate in record time and was feeling good that the ordeal was over and I had survived it without sending the contents of my gut to the floor.  What I did not understand at the time was that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction, just like in high school physics.  Well the reaction for this particular action came in two equally disturbing forms:  1. If you think salmon , black beans and balsamic vinegar are disgusting going in, you will need a much more descriptive adjective for the gastronomic after effects.  2. If you want to remain in the good graces of your fellow office mates, you should never put such a concoction into a microwave oven.  If you ignore this advice, be prepared to face the wrath of those around you.  You can mitigate that wrath somewhat by doing two things:  A. Be prepared with cloth and cleaners to scour the bean innards from the microwave cooking cavity.  And B.  have a can of spray deodorizer nearby, both for the air in the office from cooking and for the later gastronomic by-products.
Respectfully keeping my distance,
And now I am faced with a familiar dilemma.  This is supposed to be a Christian blog, so what spiritual truth can we glean from the above narrative?  Let me think……Okay here’s one:  Mixing religion and politics is like mixing fish and beans.  The outcome is always unpleasant.  Tossing science into the mix is like adding balsamic vinegar to the fish & beans.  It can only worsen the effects.

To Judge or Not to Judge

Posted: September 24, 2011 in Uncategorized
Originally posted 11/11/10
The following is my answer to a question posed by a mother concerning her daughter and whether she could pass judgment on her friends.   A couple of things to keep in mind as you read this.  1. I tend to paraphrase scripture, so you may not agree with my interpretation.  2. I was speaking to a fundamentalist Christian, and for that reason I used the masculine pronoun when referring to God.  I don’t believe God has a specific gender, but it is easier to just use the accepted forms than to try to explain that each time I speak.
Luke 6:37-42 speaks to this issue best of any I have seen.  Judge not, so you won’t be judged.  Don’t condemn and you won’t be condemned.  Forgive and you will be forgiven.  Give and you will be given to. The criteria you use to judge, condemn, forgive or give to others is the same criteria which will be used to judge, condemn, forgive or give to you.  It occurs to me that, knowing these things, I may want to be very careful judging or condemning.  This passage also has a great parable about the blind leading the blind and the specks and/or planks in our eyes.  Matthew 7:1-5 says the same things.
1 Corinthians 4:5 says to judge nothing before the Lord returns.  The Lord will know the motives of your heart and so will be equipped to judge correctly.  This indicates to me that motive is important in knowing if a wrong has been committed.   Even in our own system of justice it is very difficult to convict someone of a crime if you are unable to determine his motive.  In society, we must be free to speculate about motive in order to maintain order and punish crime.  But in truth, only the person doing the deed and God, can know for certain what his motive is for committing the deed.  For this reason we cannot judge anyone.  It is not our job.  It is God’s job, and He has sole discretion over what constitutes sin, and He has sole discretion over what the punishment might be if He determines that a sin has been committed.
It is a dilemma, because you want your kids to make wise choices based on your values and morals.  Yet if they make the choice only because they know you want it, whose values are they displaying?  They need to make the choice because it is the right thing to do and they need to be able to understand why this is right and that is wrong.  As a young seeker I read a book called “Why I Believe”.    The only thing it taught me was that the author’s reason for believing was not a good reason for me to believe.  I needed a bit more evidence than this author presented.  As a small child all that is necessary is “Mom or Dad says so and if I disobey it hurts”.  As the child grows up he/she needs to have reasons which make sense for doing this as opposed to that.  It is the job of the parent to see that the reasons are in place when needed, and that they are logical.
Another thing that occurs to me is in something you said about the mother and daughter wanting not to judge, lest they be judged.  It seems immature to simply not want to judge because you don’t want to be judged.  That is simple self preservation.   We don’t judge because we are not qualified to judge and our judgment may be incorrect or unjust.  It’s the old “don’t judge me till you have walked a mile in my shoes” metaphor.
John 12:47 tells us that even Jesus was not going to judge us.  He came to save us not to judge us.  So how can we presume to judge others when even Jesus won’t.

There are some obvious paradoxes here.  If we look down on those who judge, are we judging them?  As with any aphorism or metaphor, you can carry it out only so far until it turns into nonsense.