Sunday, February 28, 2010

Orthograph #54 - Man in Black

Johnny Cash - Memory eternal.  An NPR interview with Johnny done in 1997 rebroadcast on Feb. 26, the date of what would be his 78th birthday and release of the last CD of "American Recordings" produced by Rick Rubin. The followup interview with Rick Rubin gives a beautiful insight into Johnny Cash.  Listen to the podcasts.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Hermit Delusion

Why the Church?  Why your parish?  Why your spouse (Orthodox or not)? Why your priest? Why your kids?  Why your boss? Why that co-worker? Why that grumpy cashier? Why that jerk on the freeway? Why not a shack in the woods in Montana and a prayer book?..... Because,

When we try to escape the struggle for long-suffering by retreating into solitude, those unhealed passions we take there with us are merely hidden, not erased; for unless our passions are first purged, solitude and withdrawal from the world not only foster them but also keep them concealed, no longer allowing us to perceive what passion it is that enslaves us. On the contrary, they impose on us an illusion of virtue and persuade us to believe that we have achieved long-suffering and humility, because there is no one present to provoke and test us.

But as soon as something happens which does arouse and challenge us, our hidden and previously unnoticed passions immediately break out like uncontrolled horses that have long been kept unexercised and idle, dragging their driver although more violently and wildly to destruction. Our passions grow fiercer when left idle for lack of contact with other people.

- St. John Cassian, "On the Eight Vices" in The Philokalia: The Complete Text, vol. 1

H/T: Orr

Barsanuphius Jones - "Raiders of the Produce Section"

Friday, February 19, 2010

Quick and Yummy Bread Pictorial

I've been playing with an Artisan Bread recipe I got from -C's blog a few months ago.  I usually "cook by ear" and don't measure, but this was working well and tasting really good, so I did some measuring and I think I have something I can pass on.  I took pictures of the process this time too. So here is a bread recipe that takes less than ten minutes to mix up and about an hour to complete from start to eat.
First, warm up two cups of water so you can keep your finger in it comfortably. Not too hot!

Remove from heat and add one tablespoon of sugar,

Then add one tablespoon of regular yeast and stir and kind of mash it around with a spoon or spatula until the yeast is dissolved,

Then add rosemary leaves to the water, (about a loose tablespoon isn't overpowering). The bread is great without spices, and I'm going to play with using different herbs.

 While the yeast, water and rosemary are sitting, put 3 cups of flour in a deep bowl,

Add about a level tablespoon of coarse sea salt or kosher salt to the flour, (do not skip the salt! Bread without salt tastes like baked paste)...

And grease a 9-10" cast iron skillet (or a baking stone, shallow dish or standard bread pan). I use olive oil.  I've found the cast iron gives a nice crust on the bottom of the bread and the sides are good to keep the dough from flattening out too much.

Check the yeast mixture, it should be foaming up really good by now.  You should have a nice quarter inch of yeasty foam on top of the water.

At this point you want to turn the oven on just for a few minutes just to get it warm... just WARM, like a hot summer day warm, not cooking warm. DON'T LEAVE IT ON.

Now you'll add your foaming yeast water to the flour

And mix it up.  I just use a large spoon or my hands.  You will need to add more water a little at a time, enough to make a stiff batter.  If you go overboard on the water, you can add more flour. Unlike traditional bread kneading recipes, you don't need to make it totally lump free or smooth so don't get obsessive with the mixing.

You can see the consistency of the batter... it is slightly lumpy, sticky and will hold its shape pretty well and SLOWLY flatten out if left sitting.

Now pour the batter into the pan...

...and shape it a little bit into a mound in the center of the pan.

Put it in the warm oven and close the door and let it rise...

You'll let this rise for about 15 minutes or so until it gets about this high, just over the top of the rim of the pan (this applies no matter what kind of pan you use, once it gets just above the rim its ready... (it happens fast so don't get involved in answering email or you'll be cleaning the bottom of the oven of sticky dough)!  Take it out of the oven and sprinkle a little flour on top.

Set the oven at 350 and put the pan back in right away  (DO NOT PRE-HEAT THE OVEN).

The beauty of this recipe is that the bread continues to rise while the oven heats up and reaches cooking temperature.  This is about 15 minutes into the baking time.

And this is about 30 minutes... you can see the bread has reached its peak of rising and is now browning.

And in about 45 minutes this is what you take out of the oven...

Remove it from the pan with a flat spatula and set it either on a cooling rack or a towel. Don't put hot bread on a plate or anything solid or wrap it in foil, the condensation under it will make the bottom crust soggy.You can slice it pretty much after ten or fifteen minutes.

Cut and enjoy!  (This one is going to Presanctified potluck tonight.)

What Happens....

...when someone puts a gun to your head and you don't believe in Jesus?
Find out HERE

Monday, February 15, 2010

Rules of Fasting: How to Read Labels

OK. So, one of the issues that modern culinary technology presents us with is "reading labels" for Lent.  Back in the day, there were no canned foods, chemically cloned flavors, hermetically sealed wrappers, governmentally required labelling, the FDA, Food Police and trace ingredients that bind, harden, smooth and flavor our food.  If you got a fish or a loaf of bread or something made of corn, it pretty much was a fish, bread or made of corn. Technology has made fasting a science and the playground of Phariseeism and obsessive compulsive attention to details. Take my beloved Pop Tarts, f'rinstance.  Over FIFTY ingredients in a crust and some jammy stuff between them. Check it out: 


If I'm keeping the fast "strictly"... OOPS!!! look at ingredient numbers 31 through 33... Lactylate, gelatin and dried egg whites!!! DANG... not fast worthy. So WWSJTFD?  (What would St. John the Faster Do?)  Well dear blog readers, I am here to help you with a primer on the historical/dogmatic/liturgical method of fasting.  (Please consult with your spiritual Father before applying any of these rules to your Lenten discipline.)

So, here is a survey of the fasting rules that have applied at various times in Orthodox history.

You can eat something if a NON-fasting ingredient shows up on the list after this:

1.  The Shema Rule:  ("Our God is One" from Deuteronomy, for the biblically illiterate):  You can eat anything that has non fasting ingredients after the first ingredient listed.  Since Orthodoxy is a fulfillment of Judaism, and God is "one nature", this is a REALLY handy rule.  (Pop Tarts would be fastworthy by this rule, so you get the idea. Hmmm... it just occurred to me, so would a bacon double cheeseburger without the hamburger patties, which is much better than a BLT without the bacon.)

2.  The Nicene Constantinapolitan Rule:  (Also known as The Incarnational (God with meat) Two Natures Rule): You can eat it if the non-fastworthy ingredient shows up after TWO ingredients.

3. The Trinitarian Rule:  After 3 ingredients.

4.  The Angelic Ranks Rule 9 (because we aspire to the angelic life):  After 9 ingredients.

5.  The "Lord Have Mercy Rule" of Matins/Hours:  After 12 ingredients. (Pop Tarts are still "IN").

6. The "Lord Have Mercy Rule" of Russian or Monastic Vigil:  After 40 ingredients. (Pop Tarts are OUT).

7. The "Lord Have Mercy Rule" of Russian/Monastic Litia/Vigil:  After 300 ingredients.  (You may eat only organically grown potatoes for Lent, but only if the fertilizer is certified to be free of non-fasting trace ingredients... which is why the Russians allow Vodka during Lent... YEAH!!!).

I hope this helps.  Blessed Lent to all.

On Blogging

My feelings exactly...

H/T: Fr. Christian

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Giving up the Good

I met with the person who is the executor of Gary's estate this evening.  She has a holographic will that Gary wrote out a few weeks ago.  She is also intimately involved with his interfaith ministry and the Shelter I am supposed to take over. 

I told her I'm not the person to take over Gary's ministry to the men.  I've been involved with them and the ministry for a couple years, but I'm not a "program administrator".  After a lot of soul searching I came to the conclusion that I don't have a "passion" for the ministry.  It was hard to admit that to myself because Gary wanted me to replace him and it was an honor that he thought so highly of me.  But I came to the conclusion that the flattery of being thought highly of and being the right person for a particular ministry are two different things.

I worked with recovering and ex this and thats for over 20 years through my construction company and basically gave it up over a decade ago when I went bankrupt.  Its kind of,  "Been there, done that and moved on to other things now."  While I have experience with addicts and ex-cons, at this point in my life I want to help people as a Christian, but I don't want to do it as a "program".  I give alms and help people, but I don't want to be married to it as a "job".  I know myself and I am not a "program administrator" nor an "executive director".  I don't have and never have had any interest in "alms as programs", paperwork, accounting, schedules, schmoozing, fundraising, newsletters, corporate board meetings and filing cabinets. My gift is sitting down with the men and conducting a recovery meeting or talking to them one on one. I'm not a "leader", I'm an adjunct helper.  It is a great opportunity to get out of construction, but as much as construction hurts, I'd do more harm than good to the program and to the men if I took it over even partly just to get out of doing sheetrock pushing sixty years old.  The bottom line is, I'd rather lift sheetrock than file a corporate tax return.

So I'm giving up "the good"... hopefully for the sake of doing what is better for the sake of the men and Gary's vision for his program.

I met with the men tonight.  I told them this is a sad time for sure. I told them no one can replace Gary in their lives and no one should. I told them I'll be taking care of things for now but there will be a new person taking over the program and when that happens there will probably be some changes. I told them this is still a program for their recovery.  Even though Gary is gone they still need to focus on their sobriety, growing in Christ and becoming what Gary wished for them, his death is not an excuse for using or falling off the wagon... the rules of the house are still in effect. 

The Executor and the Board will begin the search for a new Director immediately.  In the interim I will hold down the fort with the help of a couple of other people who are also familiar with the Shelter. 

May it be blessed. 

Gary Reposed

The servant of God Gary reposed in the Lord this morning at 4:30am. 

I am heading to the Shelter to tell the men.  Please pray for them and for me. Gary asked me to take over his ministry when he departed.

May his memory be eternal.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Wanna Talk? A Primer for Wives

Husbands have gotten a bum rap in marriage and pop psych manuals.
Wives want their husbands to talk to them.
Husbands do actually talk, but not like wives think they do, or how wives think they ought.
Do you want a conversation with your man?  Before you try to extricate one from him with a woman's crowbar

Gary Update - Prayers Please

The past few days have been immersed in death.  My friend and good client for 15 years, Art Stout passed this life of cancer on Saturday morning.  He retired from Intel after 35 years building their fabrication plants all over the world. The next month he found out he had pervasive cancer. He was given six months and made it two years, long enough to build a comfortable house for his wife in a secure, gated community. A few weeks before his death we had  long heart to heart about his spiritual life and readiness to stand before God.  He went in peace.

Fr. Christo Christoff, a retired Bulgarian priest passed away last night.  He (and his wife) were always kind and gracious every time we saw them. They are what every couple could aspire to be in old age. I don't know what his wife will do without him.

My friend Gary is in and out of conciousness now.  Fr. Damian and I and Bill Gould baptized, chrismated and communed him Sunday afternoon.  Gary wept.  I stopped by to see him yesterday after work and he woke up for a few seconds, opened his eyes and whispered, "Steve, my friend, my friend..." then went back to sleep.  We will be arranging a 24 hour vigil soon, and members of our Mission will sit and read the Psalter until he passes this life.Please pray for a peaceful, painless ending to the life of another good man.