The God Who Is Fail

Posted on April 28, 2009
Filed Under Quote Me | Comments Off on The God Who Is Fail

He cannot even save himself.

O Tapioca

Posted on April 26, 2009
Filed Under Mundane, The Bachelor Feed | 1 Comment

I had in my mind that I would make some pies. Around Thanksgiving I made some and people at work have been entreating me for more ever since. The family pie dough recipe makes five crusts so I figured why not make pie for people I like a little better than just to work with, and bring leftovers in to work?

I thought I would make some raspberry pie. I do like a good raspberry pie. Two raspberry pies with top crusts; that leaves at least one other crust to dispose of, so, pumpkin.

Now there were a few things I needed to get around to make such pies, like flour. So I go that. And I got pumpkin and I even got canned cherries in case I wound up with extra crusts (the recipe can be flexible). But I forgot to get raspberries, and I forgot condensed milk for the pumpkin pie.

So I went to the store and I got raspberries and condensed milk. But I still forgot to get tapioca, which is a great pie thickener. It’s what I’ve had in the raspberry pie I’ve liked. I went to the store again and there were several kinds of tapioca, instant and regular and extra large. I didn’t need instant because the tapioca would be stewing in pie juices for about an hour so I go regular.

Most weekends I am not home Friday afternoon or Saturday or Sunday. I wanted to have the pies on Sunday but the dough is supposed to chill overnight. Where I am Friday is not the same place I am Saturday so I would have to worry about transporting chilled dough and remembering to bring it with me if I wanted to bake the pies Saturday. So I decided to bake them Sunday morning.

Sunday morning I looked at my recipe and saw that it asked for instant Tapioca. This was not a good sign, but sometimes recipies include irrelevant details. I looked on the Tapioca package. It did not say anything about making pies with Tapioca but if you wanted to cook up some Tapioca on its own you were supposed to soak it overnight.

This did not sound like Tapioca that would make good pie in about an hour. Okay; it’s Sunday morning. Tapioca is out. What else can I use? I have cornstarch. How much cornstarch is equivalent to Tapioca? I look up Raspberry pie with cornstarch online. A lot of recipes seem to say 2 tablespoons. Some say 3. The ones that say 3 seem to have extra liquid, so let’s try 2 tablespoons per pie.

There are some other complications. The raspberry pie recipe says 20 ounces of raspberries per pie but they come in 12 ounce bags. Whatever. Raspberries are good, use them all. The pumpkin pie recipe says 12 ounces of pumpkin but the can has 10. The other ingredients listed are the same on the back of the pumpkin can. Whatever. Use the quantities on the back of the pumpkin can. These quantities say you should have 10 ounces of Carnation sweetened condensed milk. I have 12 ounces of Borden. Whatever. I can deal with all that stuff.

The crust still stresses me out a bit. It’s a pretty good crust recipe, fairly forgiving, but it always starts out too sticky until I’ve rolled it over lots of flour. (Note to self: put in less water. That is not so hard.) But I get my bottom crusts in okay. I’ve learned to use a spatula to detach the crust from the table before I try to pick it up. The wear and tear is not pretty sometimes but it usually survives.

I check the clock and go whole-hog. I make a lattice top on the first. It is not so pretty but it is there. I go for the second. Looks even better. How do you like that? I am going to pull this thing off after all.

Raspberry pies go into the oven. I even remember to reduce the heat after 10 minutes so the crusts won’t burn. Mix up the pumpkin pie. I am an incorrigble experimenter so I add some extra spice to the pumpkin pie and change one of the eggs to yolk-only. And I drizzle molasses on top for effect.

Raspberry pies boil over and start to smoke. Expected. Extra raspberries in shallow disposable tin pans. I have already got my smoke alarms off the wall and had them do stop, drop, and roll to avoid the smoke.

Time is up. Raspberry pies have a lovely golden crisp lattice crust. But the filling is still boiling in a watery-looking way. Very soupy looking. Well, if two tablespoons of cornstarch wasn’t enough burning the crust won’t help. Besides, pies usually set up. I pull them out and put the pumpkin in.

One of the raspberry pies is bleeding like a disemboweled rhinocerous on the stove. Not a good sign. Pies don’t usually set up enough to fix that. But you can’t add any more thickener to a pie when you have a lattice crust baked over it so I just get out a spoon and start lapping up the raspberry liquid. It’s good.

Something catches my eye. There is a dancing orange light coming from the oven. Hmm. Open oven door. The lake of raspberry blood that spilled onto the oven floor has ignited. There is a campfire in my oven. However the pumpkin pie has not ignited. I shut the door and keep lapping up the raspberry juice on the stove.

I figure there isn’t enough fuel for my oven fire to get carried away. But, I am renting, and one feels a certain obligation to be a little more conservative about burning down domociles that do not belong to onself. I go get the fire extinguisher I dutifully purchased and put it on the table. The fire does seem to be out, but there is quite a lot of smoke.

Hm. My previous upstairs neighbors complained that when I cooked delicious things they had to suffer with the smell without getting to eat. At any moment now my current upstairs neighbor is probably going to awaken with a start on Sunday morning and conclude that his rented domocile is being burned down. He may call the fire department.

I open some doors and windows. The smoke clears. The fire department does not arrive. See? Everything turned out all right.

The pies stay soupy. They don’t set up. I put a layer of newspaper in a box and put each pie in its own box. The pumpkin pie did set up and I take that along as well. At least one of my children behaves.

When I arrive raspberry juice has soaked through the newspaper and leaked out of a corner of the box and is staining my trunk. Oh well that is why I did not buy a new car. Go ahead, stain my trunk! It’s a used car! Bwahahaha!

At lunchtime I do not feel much like eating. I am not feeling awful or anything but I am feeling like if I eat I might feel worse. I eat anyway, but I really don’t feel like dessert. I ignore my pies. There is also another pie there from someone else which has a perfectly formed crust and set up fine. It’s a shoofly pie. I am expected to try this pie and like it but shoofly pie, while I like the flavor, is like asphalt. It’s on the heavy side for a tender stomach.

I ignore all the pies for another hour or so. I hear them being served up. Curiousity gets the better of me. I go to eat pie. First I have the shoofly pie because I do not want to have a piece of my own pie which I already know is defective and then refuse to eat anyone else’s. It tastes fine. It is a little heavy. But I have to know how bad my pie is.

People have served some slices out of it but the breach has been filled by a liquid tide of raspberry. I take a little. The crust could have been wonderful but it is having a hard time staying flakey in the raspberry sea. The person who made the other pie tells me that my pie is not too soupy. Yes it is I tell them. No it’s not, she says, but it is too sweet.

It seemed that way to me too but I was hoping it was just me being out of sorts as I have not been feeling quite right. Oh well. At least there is the pumpkin pie. Since I am not feeling too well I don’t really need to eat any more sweets, but I want the consolation of knowing I made one pie right.

The pumpkin pie is way to sweet. Much more so than the raspberry pie. I shudder when I am done eating my piece, it is that sweet. I think the extra two ounces of sweetened condensed milk killed it.

The pies go back home with me. I could eat more of the raspberry pie tomorrow but probably not one and a half pies worth. Probably not before they dissolve completely.

I will bring them in to my coworkers tomorrow.

They are shy about eating pie that doesn’t look pretty.

Perhaps they will no longer entreaty me to make pie. I am not sure if that is a win or not because I like flattery.

And I have a package of Tapioca that takes incantations all night long plus a secret ritual to turn into food.

It might be a total loss.

Love Without Truth

Posted on April 22, 2009
Filed Under Theological | 1 Comment

“By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” According to John, these were some of Jesus’ last words to his followers. John had a thing about love. “God is love,” he counselled believers in a later letter. If the first quote seems straightfoward, the second gives us cause to reconsider. God is love? This is the world we live in, and that’s the God who made it? Clearly we have misunderstood one side of this equation, either ‘God’ or ‘love’.

This mandate to love one another has inspired all kinds of ecumenical philosophies, from total universalism (God loves everybody all the same and we will all be happy together in the end; let’s start now!) to cultic loyalty. People between those extremes look at the denominational mud-slinging that characterizes public Christianty and shake their heads; how could we have gone so far astray? In reaction, believers who are not universalists in their convictions begin to say that we should not let doctrine divide us. There’s no love in firing verses back and forth like depleted uranium slugs, they say.

But something else needs to be said here. If love was a matter of accepting anything there could not be the God of the Bible (or even just the writings of John). We’ve misunderstood love by thinking that love is what makes us feel good.

“Jesus wept. Then the Jews said, ‘See how He loved him!'”

Love hurts.

So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?”

He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.”

He said to him, “Feed My lambs.”

He said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?”

He said to him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.”

He said to him, “Tend My sheep.”

He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love me?”

Look at that. Jesus just took Peter by the scruff of the neck and rubbed his face in his own filth. Peter swore he would never deny Christ, that he would stand by him to the death; then he did the opposite. And Jesus died. We skip ahead to the happy ending, knowing Jesus comes back to life; no harm done! But feel where Peter’s at now. He’s barely got to the point where he believes Jesus really is alive. And now Jesus is grabbing the most shameful, guilty thing Peter has ever done, which has been eating at him like worms, and stuffing it right in Peter’s face. Lovely, eh?

There’s more to love than makes us happy, and a deeper love than peace. I’m a happy-go-loving kind of guy. If someone’s feelings are hurt I feel like an old deflated balloon with wrinkly puckers. I don’t like confrontations. I can be provocative, all right, but in my own mind I’m always expecting that my stunning, elucidating way of putting things will cause everyone to fall down before me and say, “You’re right! We agree with you! Thank you so much for helping us understand! We love you!” I don’t want to see anyone weep as I grind their pathetic insignifcance into nothingness. It hits too close to home.

Some people aren’t so much like that. Hurting feelings doesn’t seem to bother them more than kicking a pebble down the sidewalk bothers me. I don’t mean they are always being cruel. That’s inefficient. They know they can usually get more done if the people they are working with are happy. But if they have to step on some toes, they tramp on through without hesitating a bit.

Other people are indifferent. They dislike hurting feelings as much as I do, but they don’t want to be friends. That is, they have no desire to admire me for the wonderful things I do. They are happier if I leave them alone. Because there are such people in the world, I try to restrain myself when I meet new people, to see if they would really appreciate me before I let too much of my personality out.

When someone really does seem interested in getting to know me, look out! I don’t have a perfectly precise process, but what follows is usually something like this:

  1. By the end of the first conversation I consider them my friend.
  2. After the second conversation they are a close friend.
  3. Afer the third, we go way back; I’ll tell them my most embarrassing moment.
  4. After the fourth, we’re blood brothers. I’ll co-sign the mortgage on their second house.

 Usually by the time we get to the fifth conversation we’ve had some kind of minor disagreement–a difference in opinion or in taste, something like that–which has a dampening effect on this combustive process, fortunately. But depending on what the balance is between positive and negative interaction, the course of my attachement will proceed at a corresponding pace relative to the above.

Now you, my dear reader, are a little more stable and emotionally mature than I, and you can tell that this is probably a bad thing. But your common sense might not tell you why it’s a bad thing. I mean, besides the obvious. Technically speaking, what is so bad about it? Love one another, right?

The problem is, despite all the endorphines rushing through my system and my peaceful little smile, all this isn’t love. It isn’t love for my new friend, anyway. It’s love for myself. I just love that there is someone out there who admires me, accepts me, affirms me–just the way I am. Oh, what a wonderful feeling!

I realize this enthusiasm can be unwarranted. After all, just because someone is friendly for a couple of conversations does not mean they are really the kind of person I can be fast friends with for the rest of my life. They don’t really even know me yet, right? So here’s what I do. Pretty early on in getting to know someone I tell them bad things about me. True things, and not all that bad–not at first, at least. But I need them to know what I am really like, so they won’t continue to be friendly if they can’t tolerate my faults. So I will tell them that I am an arrogant, selfish know-it-all, a coward, and a bad listener.

Then a funny thing happens. Most people don’t like to hurt feelings, including my feelings. They like to think of themselves as loving, caring, and accepting people. Accepting my faults doesn’t really cost them anything–they don’t really know me, they’ve never had to put up with me doing the same hurtful thing for the hundredth time. I’ve always been nice and polite to them, and I’ve practically apologized in advance for anything I might do to offend them. And they’d like all their faults to be overlooked, too. So even though I’ve told them things about myself that are indeed bad, they graciously overlook them and forgive me completely, and we get along fine. And best of all, now they know the real me a little better, so I am justified in treating them like a close friend!

I’ve exaggerated to help you get the idea without trying to get through all the complexities that arise in reality. I’ve tried to illustrated what I think is a very sober point: there are more kinds of intimacy than just physical intimacy. Strangers, acquaintances, or just friends who are naked in front of each other should feel embarrassed, even ashamed. It is a deliberate, God-designed living metaphor for how we should feel when we are seen and known in our entirety, in our full true nature. We may find in our lives a spouse who is to be to us like the flesh of our flesh, the bones of our own bones; and with a spouse there need not be any shame in nakedness. This, too, is a living metaphor, to teach us of the love the Christ has for His people, His Bride; He loves us as we are, in all the ugliness of our nature; and He will make us beautiful in His love.

But we live now in a world of sin. Our bodies, our minds, and our hearts are corrupted with sin. The metaphor of love must work within a world of sin; God, who is love, hates sin. That is why true love is not all peace and pleasantness. True love has no tenderness for sin. When I confess my shortcomings, as I am wont to do, I can provoke in others a tender, sympathetic response. I am, without exactly meaning to, twisting their right capacity for forebearance and love into something that has the form and lacks the power. It feels so right but it is all wrong. There is a time and a season for bearing with faults, forgiving trespasses, and loving the unlovely. By forcing it out of due season, I make what is good to be bad for me.

Just as people who are too quick to express their affection through sex bear consequences from their false love, stripping myself metaphorically naked to reveal my deepest shames and highest aspirations sows the seeds for hurt, despair, and broken faith.

As a young man, this excess of friendliness gets particularly out of hand when women are involved. Yes, all us healthy young men have a certain weakness in that regard, but I’m sure not all healthy young men have quite the issue I do. I can get myself emotionally involved just by talking to a degree that other men could not without more tangible feedback. It’s a deep part of my personality that goes way back to when I was too young to think of doing anything more than talking with girls. I can still remember the long dark eyelashes of a girl I met once who had a pretty last name. I’ve known for a long time that I could get myself into trouble with girls, and I told myself so [Edit 4/27] before it ever happened.

What scares me is that now, after I have talked myself into a love more fervent than the truth could bear, and having mostly lived through the consequences, I find I am ready and willing to do it again. I can’t resist. I’m only trying to be nice! If I don’t listen, I’d be rude; if I don’t respond, I’d be rude; if I don’t share something similar from my own life, I’d be rude! Why, if I didn’t do everything in my power to make this nice young woman happy in every way, I could hardly call myself a gentleman!

I’m not that bad, actually, at listening, or talking, or being helpful and considerate and overall charming; at least when I think I will be rewarded by having your approval and affection. If  I know that I’ve got as much of your love as I am ever going to get, and there is little I can do to lose it, then I can be a rough fellow to get along with. Ask one of my sisters; I can’t say I’ve charmed them. I can be rude to them, though, and they won’t love me any less.

I know, then, that kidness and gentleness is not all of love; nor are forebearance and peace. True love will have these qualities in it; but having these qualities is not the same as having love. “Love […] does not behave rudely,” Paul said, and I accept this as true. Therefore it must be something other than rude when Jesus said, “You hypocrites!” (He said it more than once; I don’t think it is the rudest thing he did, either.)

I like calling people hypocrites, if they are not pretty young women. I figure that will help them see that they are wrong, and then they will know the truth and be happy with me for showing them. These unkind things that Jesus says are my favorite proof-texts when I’m arguing with Christians who say we ought to be loving toward one another. I’m afraid half the time I really am looking for a pious excuse to call fellow believers stupid–for their own edification, of course.

But right beside that unworthy, unloving desire to exalt my so-called knowledge at the expense of my brother is the genuine, sincere conviction that love doesn’t always feel good. This is important to me, even vital, although I don’t care to experience the unpleasant kind of love, because over in the other corner is that flatterer who will love you sweetly every bit as much as you love him. Don’t trust that treacherous intimacy; keep the truth in love.