Steampunking my Bathroom I

grab bar
grab bar

This all started because the towel bars kept falling off the wall. Those silly micro-screwdriver pegs to tighten the bar ends onto the cleats never quite properly grip into the drywall. It was alway a gamble whether or not the towel was going to hang or fall. Things came to a head when Bethann used my bahroom for a month while I was renovating hers. She said I needed a “grab” bar for the tub. I have a clawfoot tub. We are now 60 and washing our feet standing up in the shower can be a dangerous thing. She found it precarious just climbing out of the wet tub onto the floor with the added height of the claw feet, with nothing solid to hold onto.

towel rack with wrench still tightening
towel rack with wrench still tightening

If you know me, you know I generally jump in all fours. It will not just be a grab bar and towel rack. I want the whole theme! I loved Warehouse 13. I want that computer keyboard! I am typing on a keyboard with six keys missing because I melted them off attempting to dry them off, after spilling my water on them when falling asleep one night. This is one the $100 replacement computer after I fried a better computer the same way. That steampunk mechanical keyboard would so solve my problem! So, I started with the grab bar and the towel bar that was falling off. Then I moved on to the lights and the medicine chest/mirror. Next, I will take on the toilet paper holder and the shower curtain rod. Ther bigger challenges will be the sink, the toilet and the shower control. I have ideas for those.

DSC02863
Medicine chest made from an old 99 cent suitcase, LED Edison lamps & towel bar. Medicine cabinet is lit inside, as well.

A more extensive article or articles will follow explaining the process. I’m just posting this to share some photos for now. I need to clean up the bathroom and steam this punk, now! I stink.

If you like what you see and you want to continue seeing progress reports, please help us keep our home.

Our house is not just our house. It is also the base of operations for The King’s Jubilee to which we have dedicated our lives and resources for three decades. It is also a small native plant refuge for birds, insects, butterflies and small mammals in the middle of an old borough in part of the urban sprawl outside of Philadelphia. If you want to help us save our house you may make a donation via The King’s Jubilee using the Paypal button below or go to GoFundMe and help us out there. Thanks!



Blizzard Jonas Flaming Hash

Tuesday, we were finally able to get out and about after a fine young man with a pickup truck, plow and a snowblower, dug us out Monday evening for 20% of the going rate. We had not prepared for this blizzard. We  had left our snow shovels in the shed attached to the barn at the back of the lot. We left our cars parked in front of the barn, instead of next to the house, close to the street. I was pre-occupied with cooking a hearty chicken soup to serve on the street in center city Phila. that night to the homeless and poor and those working outreach, etc. Then I got a migraine in response to the weather system moving in. Bethann was concerned about me, so she forgot about moving the cars, etc. (When I get a migraine, there is a real risk it can cause a stroke. I have had at least six strokes and over 40 TIAs. This is why I am disabled.) So I stayed home Friday evening as the storm was starting, and sent Tony and Will, TKJ’s best driver, to the city to serve.

I grew up in Minnesota. We were required to read O.E. Rölvaag’s book: Giants in the Earth in 8th grade English. I think it was because his son, Karl, had recently been DFL (Democratic Farmer Labor) governor. The most memorable thing in that slow moving plot was when Per takes what he knows is an impossible walk into the blizzard and is not found until Spring. When they venture out, they find his corpse sitting on a haystack. He had been so close to his destination, but snowblind, cold and disoriented, on a fool’s errand to satisfy ceremonial religion. It is an important piece of literature on the harshness of the environment and how it informs our values. Back to 2016.

So I go to the grocery store on Tuesday in Bethann’s car. I find I can buy avocados, fresh peppers, onions, all manner of produce from all parts of the world, just two days after the worst blizzard in 20 years to hit us! What an amazing age we live in! This recipe celebrates that. Yes! This entry is about a recipe. Here goes!

Ingredients:

  • 4 Glugs Yukon Jack 100 Proof
  • ~1-1/2 lbs. 80% lean ground beef
  • 2 Avocados diced
  • 1 Orange Sweet Pepper diced
  • 1 Sweet Green Pepper diced
  • 1 Sweet Red Pepper diced
  • 2 small Yellow Onions diced
  • 3 Red Potatoes, peeled & diced
  • 4 oz. “White  Cheese”
  • 3 cloves Garlic pressed
  • Black Pepper Grinder
  • Paprika
  • Coriander
  • Red Pepper
  • Turmeric

Directions:

In a 14″ or 15″ skillet, begin to brown the Ground Beef & Onions. Chop and add Peppers as they are ready. Sprinkle Paprika, Coriander Red Pepper Turmeric as you are going along and stir in. Add the Avocados. Grind coarse Black Pepper over the mixture, as well. Press the garlic over and stir in with your spatula.
When everything is about done cooking, glug the Yukon Jack into the pan and turn up the gas burner to full. Watch it catch fire for a moment! If you’re not cookin’ with gas, have a butane lighter handy to light it up. You have to be quick. It’s only 100 proof. 😉
Grate some cheese of your choice over it. We had a little yogurt longhorn or somesuch. I grated it over the pan and covered to help it melt. Feta would work. Blue cheese would be my first choice. Whatever goes with the wine you’re serving!

Enjoy! The settlers never roughed it like this!

Our house is not just our house. It is also the base of operations for The King’s Jubilee to which we have dedicated our lives and resources for three decades. It is also a small native plant refuge for birds, insects, butterflies and small mammals in the middle of an old borough in part of the urban sprawl outside of Philadelphia. If you want to help us save our house you may make a donation via The King’s Jubilee using the Paypal button below or go to GoFundMe and help us out there. Thanks!



40 Year Skillet Maintenance

When Bethann and I got married in 1975, we received Corning Ware Centura dishes with matching cookware that was supposed to be unbreakable, oven to freezer to microwave, last forever. We had four daughters, worked full time, rehabbed a couple of houses we were living in; exercised radical and exuberant hospitality and disproved that theory, or whatever it was. When those unbreakable pans hit the floor and broke, they shattered with panache! (Let it sink in. … OK … now ,,, both parts? groan?  Thanks.)

So we replaced the dished with cheap apple stoneware dishes for years. They take up too much room in our limited cupboards in our current old house, so we bought speckled enamel tinware in Amish country for our everyday plates. We can fit so many in our cupboards, we don’t need paper plates any more for parties. That’s right, the post is about skillets!

Back in 1975, we were given a set of three cast iron skillets. We have probably used at least one of them almost every day since. That set cost far less than a placesetting of our CenturaWare® or than one Corning® pan. Cast iron is superior to Teflon® for several reasons, the most significant of which is the production of it does not poison seals at the North Pole. If we had been given Teflon® pans, we wouldn’t be talking about them now. They would be long gone. Any bits we would have ingested would have been carcinogenic; whereas bits of cast iron pans are iron, which most people need in their diet.

Cast iron skillets take some basic maintenance. We wash them with hot water and steel wool. Then we put them on the stove with the flame on low to dry. Occasionally, if it looks too dry, we put a little olive oil in it while it is still hot and rub it around evenly with a clean rag or paper towel to re-season it.

After 40 years of use, your pan may look like this:

Medium Skillet with 40 year accretion of crud
Medium Skillet with 40 year accretion of crud on bottom

It was time to take action to restore this skillet, so it could continue to serve for another 40 years. It was simple, I took a spent oscillating cutter tool blade and scraped the accumulated charred crud off the bottom and outsides of the pan. Then I scrubbed it with steel wool and rinsed and repeated. Then I finished by scouring the bottom and outsides with comet and hot water with steel wool and rinsing thoroughly.

Almost done.
Almost done.
Good for another 40 years
Good for another 40 years

Now it should take less energy to heat and cook. It will distribute heat more evenly, like when it was new. So mark your calendars to do your 40 year maintenance on all your cast iron skillets. It works the same way for Dutch Ovens, too. With them, you could probably get away with 50 years, as there isn’t so much stovetop use.

This was one of my “sidetracks” from home repairs. I get in the mode of fixing things, then that mode sort of generalizes in me. I get sidetracked onto these little projects as breaks from the bigger ones. Not to worry, I did manage to finish replacing the fan in the upstairs bathroom.

I work on these projects and write about them to combat my severe depressive disorder and cPTSD. Maybe you find something helpful.

This house is not just our house. It is also the base of operations for The King’s Jubilee to which we have dedicated our lives and resources for three decades. It is also a small native plant refuge for birds, insects, butterflies and small mammals in the middle of an old borough in part of the urban sprawl outside of Philadelphia. If you want to help us save our house you may make a donation via The King’s Jubilee using the Paypal button below or go to GoFundMe and help us out there. Thanks!



Living Room Makeover

Our 50 cent couch against the newly painted wall
Our 50 cent couch against a newly painted wall

We were told by our realtor to just let the house rot. We are in the process of foreclosure. The odds are we are going to lose the house. We are trying to negotiate a refinance, but PHH, the mortgage handling company, has never been honest, even to the point of lying to me about who owns our mortgage while I was looking at a letter I had just received from them which told me that it was HSBC, the Scottish drug dealing bank that the US Senate bailed out with no strings attached. It makes sense that PHH represents HSBC. One criminal organization represents another. I digress.

Entertainment Stand painted with Behr Ancient Pottery (N250-5) Premium Plus satin
Entertainment Stand painted with Behr Ancient Pottery (N250-5) Premium Plus satin
50 cent couch covered in beautiful throw I sewed with pillows I covered with excess fabric from the recliners.
50 cent couch covered in beautiful throw I sewed with pillows I covered with excess fabric from the recliners.

We still live in the house. I am on disability due to my six strokes caused by migraines, more than 40 TIAs, and innumerable prolonged (at times, 20 days long) debilitating migraines that mimic strokes. I asked the ALJ, “Would you hire me?” He granted my Social Security disability immediately. We are losing the house because the lawyer I used screwed things up and I still haven’t received the two years’ back pay. (Somehow, he got his full fee based on it, though. A lawsuit may be pending. I digress again.) Back on track. Bethann and I decided that we wanted to paint the living room as a gift to each other for Christmas. This was a first for us in our over 40 years of marriage; to have that sort of idea at the same time, with neither of us having to persuade the other.

Laying out fabric on the kitchen table, to cut and sew for the couch throw and cushion covers.
Laying out fabric on the kitchen table, to cut and sew for the couch throw and cushion covers.

Normally, I would just pick the colors and paint. Bethann would learn to like it. I know that is unusual. I have always been the color person in our house. Only once did I have to retreat on a color. That was the Rubber Ducky’s Bill Orange for the trim of the upstairs bathroom that I painted while she was at a Ladies’ Night Out several years ago.  She let me leave the walls Rubber Ducky Yellow, but shook her head and said, “What? Can’t I leave you home alone anymore?” I said, “It’s only paint! These colors were big in the ’60s.” Just brings back images of a young, perky Judy Carne saying “SockItToMe!”

My recliner in rust fabric, with my cat, Skittles in the foreground.
My recliner in rust fabric, with my cat, Skittles in the foreground.
Bethann's recliner in chocolate brocade. We bought this for $10/yd.
Bethann’s recliner in chocolate brocade. We bought this for $10/yd. The walls are painted with Behr’s Brazilian Tan (N250-2) Flat finish

At any rate, for this project, I actually went to Home Depot and got paint chips and little samples to try; an absolute first for me! We agreed on the colors, adjusting one, with no argument with each other. We wanted to respect the age of the house (new part: 1845, kitchen & bedroom above: 1700s) without leaving it moldering in its antebellum past. Bethann and I went to Joann Fabric with a great 50% off upholstery fabric coupon and selected fabrics for throw covers for the couch and our recliners, for about $80. It was like an ultra low budget Trading Spaces room makeover, only done right.

Bathroom to the left, Den/Office ahead, Basement to the right. I rehung that door with new hinges and reset the surface mount lock.
Bathroom to the left, Den/Office ahead, Basement to the right. I rehung that door with new hinges and reset the surface mount lock. This is all in Behr’s Clay Dust (N250-1) Premium Plus Eggshell finish

The job included the tiny entryway, tiny back hall, stairway and upstairs hall. The job included 9 doors, 15 doorframes, and 3 windows. We have reconsidered what we hang on our walls and have opted for less. I eliminated the shelves over the windows that the former owner had incorporated into the frames. They weren’t level, and we wanted a cleaner look. I had to replace the top piece of the frame on two of the windows, because the way the shelves were installed destroyed the antique parts of the frames.

I am still repairing sagging  accoustic tiles in the ceiling in preparation for painting it with high gloss, ultra bright white paint. The tiles are faux stamped tin style. I am using high powered glue in a dispenser with a long, narrow spout. I insert the spout between the tiles, at the corner where they are sagging to deliver glue on top of the tiles. Then I tighten the tiles to the frame above with a screw through a piece of stiff cardboard and leave it there long enough for the glue to dry. Then I move on to the next spot that needs to be repaired.

We would like to keep our house. If we lose it, we still don’t want to leave it a wreck. We don’t want someone to come in and say, “How could they live this way?”

I am working on our house against hope and professional advice. It is not just our house. It is also the base of operations for The King’s Jubilee to which we have dedicated our lives and resources for three decades. It is also a small native plant refuge for birds, insects, butterflies and small mammals in the middle of an old borough in part of the urban sprawl outside of Philadelphia. If you want to help us save our house you may make a donation via The King’s Jubilee using the Paypal button below or go to GoFundMe and help us out there. Thanks!



My 11 Step Program

Measuring pad to mark for center
Measuring pad to mark for center

It started with my wife and I deciding to change the color of the living room as our Christmas gift to each other. It is the gift that keeps on giving. The living room color determined the stairway color and upstairs hall, that is, since we changed the color of the woodwork. I had painted the steps before. I wanted them to hold up better this time. Bethann thought it would be nice to soften the noise a bit and make them easier on stocking feet.

Step painted & taped. 1 strip of paper to be removed yet.
Step painted & taped. 1 strip of paper to be removed yet.

Our house is old. Of course, this staircase is in the “new part” which was built in 1845 to be the hotel for the railroad when it came through Souderton.
It is narrow at 30″ at the bottom and less than 29″ at the top, in just 11 steps. We have 7′ ceilings. I had painted the first coat on the floor, before I decided the ceiling needed repainting. That white paint really drips! At any rate, I found a simple and economical solution in carpet pads at Home Depot. A pack of 13 sold for under $11. They came with no installation instructions. They were being sold near the large area rugs and window treatments, not near the stair runners. I found a pack. I wasn’t sure if they were dark olive or gray. The Home Depot is only a mile and a half away, so no big deal, if they ended up not looking right in the stairway. (It turns out, in context, they appeared to be dark olive.) Almost all of the tape at Home Depot or Lowe’s is in their paint departments, with certain exceptions. How consumers are supposed to keep track of all the ins and outs of capitalist, retailer, marketing manipulation, I don’t know. Half of the employees don’t know. They learn as they go, as training is minimal. So I went to the paint counter to ask where I could find a fairly agressive, double-sided tape. The man showed me to that expensive, thick 3M stuff, that never comes off, leaving a foam residue, or removing part of the substrate if ever removed. I told him that was too aggressive. I was taping down carpet pads. Gravity and regular foot pressure were on our side. He begrudgingly told me they sold carpet tape two aisles over, with the flooring, but that it was thin and not very aggressive. You could easily remove and reposition the carpet pads with that. He was disgusted as he said it. I said that sounds like just what I need!

While others were sleeping, I started at the top and worked my way down. I centered a pad and marked both ends’ location on the step with pencil. Then I painted up to those marks and roughly just within where the pad would go. Next, the tape was applied to the step. Then the pad was pressed into place. I did five steps one night and the remaining six a few days later.

Completed Step
Completed Step

My 11 Step Program was completed for a total cost of just under $20 plus the paint.

I am working on our house against hope and professional advice. We are facing foreclosure. If you want to help us save our house you may make a donation via The King’s Jubilee using the Paypal button below or go to GoFundMe and help us out there. Thanks!



Let me take you down ’cause I’m going to

I went for my intake interview at  a different psychiatrist and psychotherapist office on Thursday. It ruined me for the rest of the day and Friday. We’ll see how today goes. The last time I had such an interview was two years ago. That morning I was feeling pretty good and I just didn’t want to ruin it, so I didn’t get into everything. The interviewer was in a hurry and didn’t probe either. As a result, my diagnosis wasn’t correct. She diagnosed me with severe depressive disorder but missed the CPTSD. This time, I determined to be completely open, no matter what it did to my day, and my interviewer was in no hurry and really probed. It got me thinking about all those I have lost to suicide and murder, and the times my life has been threatened and all the bullying I have endured; the friends I have lost. I will attempt to go through the list.

My best friend and playmate when I was three to five died in a plane crash in Peru on Christmas Eve, during my junior year in high school. My best friend in 5th and 6th grade committed suicide in 8th grade. My best friend in 8th grade committed suicide in 10th grade. My best friend in 9th through 12th grade, who was also my sister committed suicide when I was 47. Of the 100 kids in my elementary school 6th grade class, 4 were dead by suicide by Christmas of our 2nd year in college. One beautiful friend had murdered his sister and parents in the bargain. Another two were dead of fast acting cancers. By the time I was 30, 15 in my class were dead of suicide or overdose, and several more friends from junior and senior high school and from my sister’s class.

Then she asked if I ever had suicidal thoughts or thought about committing suicide myself. I know it’s a form question, but I had to laugh at it. Are you kidding me? With this background and having been held at gunpoint by a high ex-con, and threatened to be killed by a Mennonite pastor, and experiencing the probable murder committed by a bishop of his wife, the multiple attacks, slanders, jealousies from clergy because I was serving the poor; the attacks from the press, police, mayors, with more lies and slanders because I was serving the poor, being terrorized by a conman because we refused to be conned. Experienced 6 strokes and 40 TIAs from migraines after allergic reaction to antibiotic for infection I picked up on the street gave me kidney failure.

YES! I think about suicide. YES! I have suicidal thoughts. Do I have a plan? No. I have been hurt so many times by so many who have committed suicide, I do not plan to do it. Although I do not blame any who have done it. I understand and empathize fully. Each night when I go to sleep, I would not be disappointed if I did not wake up. Most mornings lately, I am disappointed that I did.

She asked me what my goals for therapy were. This was hard. It has been so long since I felt anything close to normal, I had a really hard time coming up with any. I think I told her, “I would like to not cry all of the time. I would like not to sleep so much.” She said to make them reasonable, attainable goals. I paused and said, “I would like for people not to be afraid of me.”

She then asked me a question that no one in my life has ever asked me. She said, “Were you always slow at school?” We had already gone over my educational level, which is confusing. I crammed three years of college into two, went to two graduate schools without a bachelor’s, and dropped out of both of them without receiving a master’s. I taught a master’s program, however, and received an honorary doctorate. I have been ordained five times in six denominations (none of which I asked for, one I wasn’t present at). Most people assume I have a master’s. Many assume I have a doctorate. I guess my demeanor, with my slow speech, and my occasional stall while trying to find the right word due to the stroke damage, and my brokenness due to PTSD made me appear to be mentally challenged.

Photo on 2015-09-19 at 17.17I laughed at the thought. Maybe I have finally gained the tools I sought in ninth grade when I found that all my knowledge and fast thinking were so useless, because I could not use them to help tutor the kid that was in the detention area with me for not getting his algebra homework, while I was there for outsmarting my enriched English teacher.

Sweet Ginger Pepper Sausage Stir-fry

I can’t just leave well enough alone, as they say. When I am left to make dinner for the family, and there is one kind of meat thawed, by now, they are still expecting to be surprised. This night the meat was a pound of hickory smoked, 100% beef sausages from Shady Maple, Lancaster, PA. They were the size of 10″ long bratwurst. I cut them into 1″ to 3/4″ long pieces and started to heat them in a large, cast iron skillet in some olive oil. Immediately the quartered rings of a yellow onion were added, then the halved strips of a yellow, red and orange sweet peppers were added.

The heat is on. The juices are beginning to flow. But the dish lacks inspiration. So, I grab a bottle of ginger brandy and glug, glug, glug, glug. Yes. All four glugs into the pan, over the contents. Then I turn up the gas a little more. I go to the freezer and get out the frozen corn. I threw a couple handfuls of that into the pan. and stir that in. I keep cooking and stirring until the brandy has a chance to seep into everything a bit. Its alcohol is bubbling away, leaving sweetness and the ginger.

O man! It was good!

#PTSD

After my first Tweet using the hashtag #PTSD, a PTSD & CPTSD support site followed me on Twitter and so I followed it. (The quote comes from a tweet from that site.) I have learned that there are many more out there who are experiencing the same kind of pain as I am as a result of the same kind of abuse by narcissists and sociopaths as well as other violent and traumatic situations. I have known for over a year that something had snapped; that I was somehow different or damaged. It wasn’t until I was at the Orthodox Peace Fellowship Conference, last Fall that I could put a name to it. There were a number of military people there, and a major focus of the conference was addressing PTSD. An Orthodox Christian psychiatrist, who is also a four star general, gave a definition of PTSD by listing the symptoms. I had an “O shit” moment. He had listed several possible markers, saying that one didn’t have to have all of them, but a preponderance of them would indicate that one had PTSD. Well, I had all but one.

I have never been in the military, so it came as a surprise to me. However, I have had my life threatened on several occasions. I have been bullied and lied to and manipulated by narcissistic, if not sociopathic, clergy on many occasions. This is a pattern repeated over and over by those suffering Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Another note, though is that the 4-star general is trying to get the label changed so that it is not called a disorder. This is in line with all of the scientific literature in the field, as well. What happened with me and with all the others and with all of the soldiers who were programmed to kill is not a disorder, but a natural response and survival mechanism, without which we would not survive with our psyches intact in the battlefields we face. In the case of the soldier, it is combat. and he needs to be reconditioned and deprogrammed for his new environment. In cases like mine, I cannot go near sociopaths or narcissists until  or unless I am ready to boldly not accept their authority or judgment, whatsoever. This is a sticky wicket when there is ecclesiastical authority involved. But I have been told by an arch-priest who is also a therapist to stand up to bullies.

nonebusiness

This is where the graphic and caption come in. In the summer of 2012, when I was in the hospital with strokes caused by complex migraines, I had very strange auras with migraines. One time, I had what I call “Picasso vision”. This does not fully capture it, but almost. Every face I saw was terribly disfigured. It was so convincing that I believed it was real. It was happening in my brain, not my eyes.  One’s default setting is to trust one’s brain. One nurse’s aide’s face was so horrible, I thought, ‘How can she live with that?’ I know. I’m a terrible person. Then I went into the bathroom and looked in the mirror. My own face was equally grotesque. I thought, this disease has sure taken its toll! The only one who looked normal was my beautiful wife. I saw her through the eyes of love. Now, much of the way we perceive ourselves is taken from our read of how others perceive us. This works out OK if one has an unwounded psyche and is not exposed to narcissists or sociopaths. If one is, an extra wall of defense needs to go up and some reminding needs to be done, hence the caption: “What other people think of me, is none of my business.” The reverse of that, of course, is, “You can keep your opinion to yourself!” It’s to develop a bit of a thicker shell for those whose trust and loyalty has been betrayed.

For the mean time, there are places I may not go and people I do not want to see. I will never respect or trust those people after the level of lies and abuse they have heaped upon me. I do hope to be able to be in the same room without being in danger of a migraine causing stroke as I am now.

“Why I Am an Atheist Who Believes in God” – a book review

whycoverWhen I read this title, my first thought was that people are going to think this is a kitchy attempt to evangelize atheists or to teach people how to evangelize atheists. However, I had the opportunity to spend a weekend at a conference with the author, Frank Schaeffer, last fall, and I know that he is the kind of man who comes at you straight on,  full frontal, with no guile, with his understanding of the world or politics or life, not like a breath of fresh air, but like an ocean breeze that just blows the blinds open and clears out all the cobwebs! I read this book in two sittings. It is that wonderful. I did have to come up to take a look around and check in with my family, once.

This book is not about the debate between theists and atheists and it is all about the debate between theists and atheists. Frank takes us to a different space in that debate, however. He reveals why this is so emotional for so many; why it is so “hot button.” It is really a debate within each of us. What Frank is doing in this deeply personal book of self-examination is calling us to stop shouting at each other long enough about what we claim to believe, whether that be Christianity, Judaism, Islam, atheism, Buddhism, Hinduism, or whatever, to listen to our own doubts and insecurities; then look honestly at the inconsistencies in our own systems of belief.  All of the world’s religions have changed over the centuries, and evolved. Just read the words of Jesus to see how radically he changed the Israelites’ religion. Paul tried to walk back some of Jesus’ more revolutionary ideas by silencing women in the church after Jesus encouraged them to speak. So we are whatever religion we are, or are not, mostly by accident of birth. Let’s be humble about that. If we read the words of Jesus, we are not supposed to judge, so let us not put other people in hell, not even for a little bit. Sometimes atheists make the best Christians. Sometimes Christians don’t know where God is. “My God! My God! Why has thou forsaken me?” “Lord I believe. Help thou my unbelief.”

The words “objective reality” are just a metaphor for something I’ll never encounter. …

Anyway, since no one is ever just one thing, who are we planning for? Which “me” should be running the show? We’re all in the closet, so to speak. We barely come out to ourselves and never completely to others. I’ve never met an unequivocal atheist or religious believer. I’ve only met people of two, three or four or more minds—people just like me. Atheists sometimes pray and eloquent preachers secretly harbor doubts. The evangelist Billy Graham preached certain salvation and heaven guaranteed yet privately told my dad, a friend and fellow evangelist, that he feared death and had many doubts.

We’re all of at least two minds. We play a role and define that role as “me” because labels and membership in a tribe make the world feel a little safer. When I was raising my children, I pretended to be grown-up Daddy. But alone with my thoughts, I was still just me. I’m older now, and some younger people may think I know something. I do! I know how much I can never know.

Muslim, Jew, Hindu or Christian, you are that because of where and when you were born. If you are an atheist, you are that because of a book or two you read, or who your parents were and the century in which you were born. Don’t delude yourself: there are no good reasons for anything, just circumstances. Don’t delude yourself: you may describe yourself to others by claiming a label of “atheist,” “Jew,” “evangelical,” “gay” or “straight” but you know that you are really lots more complicated than that, a gene-driven primate and something more. Want to be sure you have THE TRUTH about yourself and want to be consistent to that truth? Then prepare to go mad. Or prepare to turn off your brain and cling to some form or other of fundamentalism, be that religious or secular. You will always be more than one person. You will always embody contradiction. You—like some sort of quantum mechanics physics experiment—will always be in two places at once.

It came home to me personally on a number of levels. I have always loved church. I have been ordained four or five times in five or six churches. (The disparity is due to whether you accept my infant ordination at my baptism in the Episcopal Church. The bishop gave me the laying on of hands of Peter. No one knows why.) I currently cannot attend. I suffer PTSD from being bullied and having my life threatened by clergy. I have also discovered that I have a developmental defect in my brain, and subsequent strokes in my right parietal lobe. Limited blood flow and damage to that part of the brain tends to make the ‘victim’ more religious. So the fact that there is such a defect effect could be considered evidence for the existence of God as this is all part of the design; or it could be an explanation for my quixotic quest to find the church that would not betray me, all my life. Christian me believes one. Atheist me  believes the other. Simultaneously.

The one thing I know for sure is that I need to serve the poor in Jesus’ Name. I don’t care who joins me as long as they are not there to save anybody but themselves.

Thank you, brother Frank, for letting me know I am not alone in this insanity we call human life. Let us dare to “create beauty, give love and find peace!”

God, whoever he, she or it may or may not be, bless you, Frank and Genie Schaeffer!

Peace,
Cranford Joseph Coulter

 

Quinoa Cocoa Cinnamon Avocado Mango

That’s about all you need to remember for this dish I created tonight. It was delicious, nutritious, gluten-free, no added sugar, and has chocolate.

cocoa-powderIngredients:

  • 3 cups organic quinoa
  • vegetable oil or olive oil
  • 6-1/2 cups water
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 Hass avocados
  • 4 Ataulfo mangos

In a large sauce pan, toast the quinoa in a thin layer of oil to bring out the flavor. Stir frequently to avoid burning. Add the water, cocoa & cinnamon, and bring to a boil. Pit & peel the avocados and dice into the pan. If they are ripe enough, wisk them into the slurry. Peel & dice the mangos & add them. Boil for about 6 minutes, then cover. Remove from heat and let sit for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Transfer it to a suitable bowl or casserole dish for serving  and cover and put it into the refrigerator to chill.

It is mildly sweet and goes well with salad and/or soup.

Ku méejtech uutsil!