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Archive for February, 2010

Sam Storms on Heaven

We will never be of much use in this life, until we’ve developed a healthy obsession with the next. Our only hope for joy and satisfaction of soul in this life comes from looking intently at what we can’t see. We must take steps to cultivate and intensify in our souls an ache and a longing for the beauty of the age to come.’Labor to get a sense of the vanity of this world,’ said [Jonathan] Edwards, ‘and labor to be much acquainted with heaven.’

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One of Thomas Nelson’s Christian Encounters biographies, this is a short (100ish pages) account of a true hero of the Christian faith. As a Protestant, I have recently enjoyed learning more of these men and women whose lives and stories have been coopted by the church of Rome.

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Quite an engaging read once the story gets going. For someone who fancies CS Lewis, Wilson sure takes a while to get to the action in the story. The first two-thirds of the book lay a foundation for the entire trilogy. This section is quite readable, but one is left wondering how long it will take before the cupboards actually become an integral part of the plot. The final third races along at quite a clip, both answering questions and teasing with additional, new threads. I am looking forward to the next books in the series.

A good book for a late grammar-aged student…or a high school student of the typical govmint school.

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Braised Pork Shoulder with Risotto

This is an outstanding recipe from Melissa D’Arabian (Food Network). It is excellent as is, but welcomes a variety of spices. I used coriander and allspice most recently. It also easily doubles, depending on the size of your Dutch oven.

mise en place

2 pounds pork shoulder, cut into 6 large chunks
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 clove garlic, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup red wine (white wine works fine as well)
1 1/2 cups beef stock or broth (chicken, even turkey stock has worked fine)
1 bunch parsley stems, tied with string
2 bay leaves
1 cup water

directions
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Pat the pork dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper.

In a large Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat, and working in batches brown the meat on all sides until a golden crust forms. Transfer the pork to a plate. To the pan add the onion, celery, and carrot and sweat until softened, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the garlic and sweat another 2 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste and cook for 3 minutes to cook off the raw flavor and caramelize it. Sprinkle with the flour and cook another 2 minutes to cook off its raw flavor. Whisk in the wine and reduce it by half. Return the pork to the Dutch oven, then stir in the beef stock, parsley stems, and bay leaves. Add the water if liquid does not come up to the top of the pork. Do not cover the pork with liquid. Cover the pan and place it in the oven to braise until the meat is fork tender, about 3 hours. Taste and season with more salt and pepper, if needed. Transfer to a serving platter and serve.

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This stew is rich, succulent, subtly sweet. It is wonderfully versatile, easily accepting a variety of spices and vegetables. We have enjoyed this with the risotto, rice, and biscuits. It would go well with buttered noodles as well.

Economical and delicious; this is the best recipe find of the past year.

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Eschatology is the most difficult doctrine to grasp, and Revelation is far and away the most complex book in the Bible. All the threads of Scripture end up in Revelation. In order to understand this book well, the threads should be understood. And then you need to understand their relationship to the other threads. After sitting in a recent Sunday School series on the book, I came away less convinced of any of the popular understandings than ever before. Every system of eschatology has strengths and weaknesses. Each system chooses different passages to interpret symbolically or literally.

When I teach on this doctrine, I teach several principles that provide needful guardrails to the road:

1. Prophecies are only clear in hindsight. After studying the OT prophecies, one wonders how the Jews could not have been waiting at Bethlehem for the announcement of the Christ’s birth. The location and time is so obvious…now.

2. Don’t Americanize your interpretations. Tim LaHaye has made millions by doing this, but it doesn’t make it right.

3. As always assume a passage is literal unless it is clearly symbolic. Assume it is literal even if it seems fantastic. God has a habit of doing fantastic things.

and one final suspicion: I suspect that in eternity we will look back and realize that everyone was wrong in some crucial areas of their system.

All that aside, I am a dispensationalist. (A friend who is far more versed in theology has labeled me “a squishy dispensationalist.” Not sure what it means, but it is catchy and amusing (plus, he is far brighter than I), so I don’t debate him on it.) I am also a premill, pretribber, though I hold those pretty lightly. So I found this site quite amusing: http://www.aftertherapturepetcare.com/ “If The Rapture Happened Right Now, What Would Happen To Your Pets?”

I am not sure what it says about me that I find this humorous. Maybe it was because a certain child-who-shall-go-unnamed-Emma woke me up at 02:30 and then 03:30 whereupon I could not return to sleep.

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Dangerous Journey

Looking forward to reading this with Aubrey, Emma, and Gideon. They are not ready for it yet. I would rather not be up nights dealing with, as Emma would say,  “night-mirrors.”

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The Blind Side

The Blind Side weaves together the compelling story of a out-of-nowhere high school football star with the evolution of the game of football. The title comes from the nickname given to the area behind a quarterback who is setting up to pass. Defenses normally put their best pass rusher on this side to give him the added advantage of the qb not being able to see his approach. As football offenses became more and more pass-happy, the offensive tackle who protects the quarterback’s “blind side” became critical. As a result this position has become one of the most highly paid in the NFL.

Lewis traces this development while focusing on Michael Oher (pronounced “oar”), a high school phenom whose life story is, well, if the book were fiction, it would be panned as sheer fantasy.

The title, The Blind Side, misleads the reader into thinking that the focus will be on the evolution of football. However, this is really very tangential to the Michael Oher story. As fascinating as that was, this reader came away somewhat pitying Oher, for the book lays open his life to a degree that no young adult should have to face. Imagine 300+ pages of the Duggar family shamelessly spilling their family time in full view. It may not be dirty laundry, but it way more information than the public needs about anyone.

Kudos to the Tuohys for their selfless giving. I suppose some are jaded about their wealth and resources, but the question comes to mind, “What can I do to help those less fortunate?” I wonder how successful their foundation for helping other inner-city kids has been. It seems to me that their own experience shows that it takes a family to raise a kid.

Even though Oher is now a Ratbird (a pox on their nest), I wish him success in his football career, except of course when playing the Browns.

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