What is a "tiehacker"?

"Tiehacker" is a term originating in the Ozark hills of southern Missouri. It referred to a class of people from WAY back in the hills that made a living cutting trees into ties for the railroad. I first heard the term from my wife shortly after we married. I had been working outside all day and was dirty and stinky. She had learned it from her father, and thought it just meant "a bum". Never having heard it before, I looked it up. Although I am not really a bum, I thought it was interesting, and I do have a life-long love affair going with the Ozark hills, so ... there you have it!

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Spaghetti squash the easy way!

Oh no, I'm cooking again .....

Gotta admit it. I love spaghetti squash. It's inexpensive to buy, super-easy to grow for yourself, and can be easily prepared several different ways.

First thing you do is choose a squash that is ripe. It should be a uniform yellow. If it is white or greenish-tinged, it's not ripe. If the squash has a lot of brown or black markings, and or the skin is soft enough to be indented by your thumb, it is too ripe and should not be eaten (although the seeds would probably still be good for planting). The one I had was almost too ripe as you can tell from the brown spots on the picture below, but the skin was still hard, so it was OK

Take your ripe squash and rinse it clean. Use a very sharp and long heavy knife to slice it in half lengthwise. Use a spoon to scoop out the seeds and pulp.

If you want, save the seeds for planting in the spring. After they've dried out, roll them around in your hand to separate them from the pulp, and store them in a cool dry place. The seeds can also be roasted like pumpkin seeds for a snack. If you decide to just throw them away, watch where you toss them. I once found a plant growing in a sorta hidden corner my back yard. Not sure how the seed got there. Stuck to my shoe? Bird grabbed it from the trash can and dropped it? I just let it go, though, and harvested several good squash from it that fall. HA!

Place the cleaned out halves face down in a microwave-safe bowl and add about an inch of water.

Nuke it for about 15 minutes on high. Poke the skin with a fork. If the fork easily penetrates the skin, it is done and ready for the next step. If the fork won't go in, or requires some effort, nuke it for a few more minutes and repeat.

Once it is done, use a fork to scoop out the flesh. It will separate into strands that look very much like fine spaghetti, hence the name. CAUTION: it will be very hot, so be careful handling it.

Once you have all the flesh scraped out and all that is left are very thin skins or rinds, you toss the rinds into the garbage or compost bin.

The flesh can be prepared a couple of ways. You can add spaghetti sauce, or a butter-and-garlic sauce, or just about any way you could fix spaghetti. (I have NOT tried to make mac-and-cheese with it, though. I kinda doubt that it would work very well.) My favorite is butter and garlic, with a little salt and pepper.

Bon appetite! 

The squash can also be prepared on the stove, by boiling the halves for 30 to 40 minutes, or by turning the halves face-down in a roasting pan and baking for about 30-45 minutes at 400*. Check for doneness after about 30 minutes.

I think next summer I'm going to try wrapping the halves in foil and baking them in the coals of a camp fire. Yep. Sounds good!

God bless!

Ron and the Debster

A look at the Biblical view of material wealth.

I hope everyone had a wonderful, Christ-centered Christmas. Ours was quiet and uneventful. Most of our nearby family members were traveling elsewhere, so we had the day pretty much to ourselves. 

Recently, a friend posted this on Facebook (H/T to Bob S.!):

One day a very wealthy father took his son on a trip to the country for the sole purpose of showing his son how it was to be poor. They spent a few days and nights on the farm of what would be considered a very poor family. 
 After their return from the trip, the father asked his son how he liked the trip. “It was great, Dad,” the son replied. “Did you see how poor people can be?” the father asked. “Oh Yeah,” said the son.
“So what did you learn from the trip?” asked the father. 
The son answered, “I saw that we have one dog and they had four. We have a pool that reaches to the middle of our garden and they have a creek that has no end. We have imported lanterns in our garden and they have the stars at night. Our patio reaches to the front yard and they have the whole horizon. 
"We have a small piece of land to live on and they have fields that go beyond our sight. We have servants who serve us, but they serve others. We buy our food, but they grow theirs. We have walls around our property to protect us, they have friends to protect them.” 
The boy’s father was speechless. Then his son added, “It showed me just how poor we really are.” 
Too many times we forget what we have and concentrate on what we don’t have. What is one person’s worthless object is another’s prize possession. It is all based on one’s perspective. 
Sometimes it takes the perspective of a child to remind us what’s important! 
This got me to musing about the Biblical perspective on wealth.

The Bible teaches us that money and wealth, although not good or bad in and of themselves, have the potential to be used both for great good and for evil. 

It is helpful to remember that Jesus, during the time of His earthly ministry, was far from being a wealthy man. “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” (Matt 8:20; Luke 9:58) 

Jesus said that when we love wealth more than God, it is impossible to enter the kingdom of heaven. (Matt 19:16-24; Mark 10:17-25; Luke 18:18-25)

Jesus also said that riches can be deceitful, preventing the gospel from taking root and bearing fruit. (Matt 13:22)

The Apostle Paul tells us that the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil that lead us away from the faith. (1 Tim 6: 10-11)

There are many, many warnings throughout the Scriptures about how wealth can be deceitful, a false hope, used by Satan to keep our eyes focused on things of the earth rather than things of God, used by rich men to oppress poor men, and so on.

On the other hand, money can be used for great good. Jesus, although poor Himself, did have some wealthy friends. There is evidence that John the son of Zebedee had a lot of influence at the palace of the high priest. (see John 18:15-16. Most scholars equate the unnamed disciple with John.) Joseph of Arimathea was a member of the ruling Sanhedrin with enough wealth to allow him to own a private tomb. It also seems that the family of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus were at least fairly well off.

So, bottom line, is having money or material riches good or bad? 

If you are depending on them rather
than on God to get you through life, they are fatally bad, on a spiritual level. On the other hand, if you have them, and give God the glory by using them in His name to accomplish His purposes, they are priceless.

If you use them to gain the praise and/or admiration of men, they are fatal. If you use them to God's glory, they are priceless.

It's not exactly even WHAT you do with it, but WHY and HOW you do it. See Acts 4:32-5:11, about a man named Joseph and a couple named Ananias and Sapphira. Here's the story. At this time very early in church history, "the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. (4:32)" In that spirit, Joseph (along with many others) sold some property and donated the proceeds to be given to those believers who were in need. Ananias & Sapphira also sold some property, but they held back part for themselves, and then apparently lied about it, claiming they were giving all of the proceeds. Peter told Ananias that the money was theirs to do with as they wished, but for attempting to lie to the Holy Spirit, they paid with their lives.

You get the idea? It's not the money, it's the attitude towards it that matters.

If God has blessed you with material wealth, please pray that He shows you how to use it for HIS glory and not your own. If He has blessed you with poverty, give Him thanks for preventing you from being tempted to glorify yourself, thank Him for whatever provision He does provide to you, and pray that you avoid being tempted to feel sorry for yourself.

Thank you all for reading!

Have a happy New Year, and stay safe out there.

Ron and the Debster

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Musings on a stormy, rainy day after Christmas

So, did everyone have a good Christmas? Was Jesus Christ honored in your home? I hope so!

Well, it is now the day after Christmas, so THAT madness is over with for a good while. I've written a few posts about that the last few weeks, so 'nuff said.

You know, as crazy as most holidays are, you just gotta love the day after ones like Thanksgiving and Christmas that involve lots of food. Leftovers, baby! Leftovers! No real cooking necessary for several days, if done right. Yeehaw!

OK, moving right along. I am not a believer in the whole "global warming" hullabaloo, at least the stuff about man-made "greenhouse" gases destroying our climate. I do believe that climate is cyclical, with long periods of warming and cooling. Shoot, we're probably overdue for an ice age. But, I digress. What I have noticed, as even a hermit like me cannot avoid noticing, is that our winters have been warmer lately. Here it is a few days from New Years Day, and it is in the 50's outside and in the middle of a day-long thunderstorm. Forecast is for four to ten inches of rain between last night and Monday night, seventy-two hours or so, accompanied by record-setting flooding. Yikes!

I tend to follow these things fairly closely, so I was kind of surprised to just now finding out about a new attempt by our Federal Gubmint to circumvent our constitutional rights. This time in the form of a bill proposed ten days ago by Rep. David Cicilline, D-RI, called the "Assault Weapons Ban of 2015". I can't believe I'm just now hearing about this! Normally, something like this would be all OVER social media! But, I guess everyone was too busy posting cute Santa pictures and stuff. Anyway, here's a link to the actual bill.
I HOPE it never passes! If it does, what little is left of our country's historic rights will go right down the tubes. Please read this, then contact your local Representatives and demand that they make this abomination go away!

I have had an account on YouTube for quite some time, so that I can subscribe to various channels and comment on videos. About a week ago, I began making and uploading some of my own videos. So far there are only three, because at this point I am just learning how to film stuff and edit the clips into something watchable. But I hope to really start putting up some serious content very very soon. Mostly outdoors-related stuff about camping, so-called "bushcraft", gardening, and the like.

This one features Daisy and Stempy, put together from a couple of short clips on my phone from almost a year ago.

This one features Daisy and Gidget, again from a couple of short phone video clips from this past spring.

And the third is actually a short slideshow of pics from a summer day at the park with the Debster and Tyler. Regular readers will recognize the pics from an older blog post, but in the video I did some editing and added a sound-track. It was a lot of fun.

If you happen to like what you see, I'd appreciate your "thumbs up", your comments, your subscriptions, and even sharing with your friends. Just like this blog, I don't make any money at all, and do it for the sheer pleasure I get from doing it.

One other new thing I have started doing, is a sort of journal or pocket diary, where I am just jotting down ideas, random thoughts, and so forth. I had on hand a mini-composition book, 4-1/2" by 3-1/4" with a few pages ripped out, and have begun with that, just because it was handy. But the more I think about, the better I like the small book. It fits in any pocket, so it's always handy. And, the small size pretty much forces me to be concise. As we all know, given the time and space, I can get pretty darn wordy!

I have other things on my mind, but the Debster doesn't want me airing family dirty laundry. So even though I can say what I want to say as general commentary about life, without naming names, she still has fits. So, I'll that all slide.

Well, I've rambled on for too long as it is. See ya next time!

God bless you all
Ron & the Debster

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Going to See Christmas Lights and Decorations

Hello everybody.

Contrary to popular belief, I love Christmas. I love my Savior, and I love celebrating the Son of God's entry into this world as a man. I love telling people how he came to live a perfect life, to die a horrible death to atone for the sins of His people, and to rise again from the dead to reign eternally over His kingdom. I love that very early in church history, the church chose this dark and dreary time of year to celebrate the Light of the World.

So, last night the Debster and I took one of her best friends, Inge, to see The Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows' annual Christmas "Way of Lights" display in Belleville. Afterwards, we drove through a couple of subdivisions to see some decorated homes. Inge is about 80 years young, and quite healthy and spry, very limber and athletic, for her age. But she doesn't like to drive at night or in heavy traffic. She and Debster have been friends for over thirty years, and we both love her to pieces. You can't find a better, more warm-hearted and loving person than Inge. 

What follows are a few semi-random thoughts about the whole thing.

I really wasn't too enthusiastic about going to Belleville. Not that I have anything against the town, for I don't. It's a pleasant enough place. No, one problem is that I truly believe that the Roman Catholic Church teaches heresy, such as idol worship, Mary-olotry, works-based salvation, promoting their traditions to the same level as God's Word, papal infallibility, and many other damnable things. Because of this, I am very uncomfortable with doing something that may seem to support this organization. But, the Debster really wanted to go, as did Inge, who, as it happens, is also a rather devout Catholic.

(I just want to interject here that the revulsion I have for what the Roman Catholic Church teaches does NOT extend to the members of that church. There are a lot of wonderful people in that church, including many of my friends and relatives. I love them all, and pray that the Lord will release them from their spiritual bondage and take them into His own family.)

Anyway, the other problem I have with this particular drive-through display is strictly logistical in nature. The driving lane is not clearly marked, with several turn-offs into other parts of the complex that are not, strictly speaking, part of the tour. Although they have people stationed along the way with lighted wands to direct traffic, they are for the most part teenagers that just wave the wand in random manner. The road itself does not have curbs or reflective paint on the edge, so if you drive through with your lights off as requested, it is quite easy to veer off the road onto the grass. Passengers in the car are treated to a breathtakingly beautiful display of lights and displays narrating the birth of our Savior. The driver of the car, which would be ME of course, is, in the meanwhile, developing quite a headache trying to stay on the proper path, not drive off the edge, and not hitting people wandering around on foot, in the dark, often wearing dark clothing and hence virtually invisible. Also trying to avoid rear-ending the car in front which apparently doesn't have tail-lights. 

To make matters worse, there were a couple of displays you could go through on foot, and we didn't spot them the first time through until we were past the turn-offs for them. So I had to go back through a SECOND time so that the Debster and Inge could get out and go through the petting zoo, and go into the building that housed a display of Christmas trees from around the world. As we were leaving, the Debster asked me to go back a THIRD time because we forgot to go see the display of decorations made from Lego blocks. At that point, I had to put my foot down. No way I was putting myself through that again!

Once we had finally put Belleville in the rear-view mirror, it was time to wander through a couple of subdivisions. There were a fair number of homes that had beautiful displays of lights. Personally, I am partial to strings of pure white lights outlining a house and trees and such. But there were a number of beautiful colorful displays as well. One thing I was sad to see was that Nativity scenes were very rare; I think we saw only one or two. All the rest were straight secular displays. Often pretty, yes, but also quite empty of any true meaning.

Well, enough rambling on about this. I'm going to close with a quote from a public post that someone put up on Facebook recently:
To All My Liberal Friends: 
Please accept with no obligation, implied or implicit, my best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, low-stress, non-addictive, gender-neutral celebration of the winter solstice holiday, practiced within the most enjoyable traditions of the religious persuasion of your choice, or secular practices of your choice, with respect for the religious/secular persuasion and/or traditions of others, or their choice not to practice religious or secular traditions at all.
I also wish you a fiscally successful, personally fulfilling and medically uncomplicated recognition of the onset of the generally accepted calendar year 2016, but not without due respect for the calendars of choice of other cultures whose contributions to society have helped make America great. Not to imply that America is necessarily greater than any other countries nor the only " America " in the Western Hemisphere . Also, this wish is made without regard to the race, creed, color, age, physical ability, religious faith or sexual preference of the wishes.
To My Conservative Friends: 
Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year
Thanks for reading!
God bless you all!

Ron and the Debster

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Donald Trump May Be An Idiot, But He Is NOT A Terrorist

So this morning, I was sitting in a Steak-N-Shake restaurant with the Debster, eating breakfast and killing time between two of her doctor appointments. I glanced through the local newspaper which some kind soul had left there. Now understand, I don't normally read the uber-liberal Post-Disgrace, uh, sorry, Post-Dispatch, other than to get sports news. Their hard-left editorial slant doesn't normally affect that department, making it palatable even to me. But, it was there, so I just HAD to ....

Anyway, I happened to glance at the editorial page, for some dumb reason. Yeah, I know. But still, know thine enemy and all that claptrap. Anyway, I started reading Kathleen Parker's column, entitled "CAN WE TALK?

I occasionally find myself nodding in agreement with Ms. Parker. One example is a recent column opposing putting women in the military into direct combat roles, which I thought made a lot of sense. However, in this case, I almost went ballistic.

Ms. Parker wants to set up a nation-wide "dialogue", seeking to find common ground between moderate Americans and moderate Muslims. Her goal, an admirable one, is to reduce the level of animosity in our society. I obviously have no problem with that at all. The focal point of her ire is the call that Donald Trump made to temporarily block Muslims from entering the country. 

Look, I am no fan of Mr. Trump. I think he is a self-serving blowhard hypocrite, a right-wing version of Al Sharpton. I think his call to block all Muslims is wrong-headed and counter-productive, not to mention un-American. I don't care what Jimmy Carter did in the 70's. He was an idiot too. 

Here's Ms. Parker's sentence that set me off:
We seem to have no trouble demanding that moderate Muslims condemn the radicals, but we’re less than impressive when it comes to moderate Americans taking a stand against our own extremists. It isn’t really as painful as it looks and should be viewed as an act of patriotism, something the individual citizen can do as part of the nation’s war effort.
This basically equates Mr. Trump, and his supporters, with Islamic suicide bombers. Yes, we have a small minority of idiots that would probably like to engage in terrorist activities against Muslims. The KKK, Aryan Brotherhood, and the like come to mind. If you want to compare those ACTUAL extremists with Muslim jihadists, you could make a legitimate case for that. But to tar somebody like Trump with that brush is, well, ludicrous at best and downright sinister at worst.

I'm going to leave it at that. I need to go wash my hands with strong lye soap for even touching that newspaper!

Merry Christmas to all of you, from the Debster and me!

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Are "Christmas" movies anti-Christian?

Santa and Ralphie in a classic scene from
"A Christmas Story"

I have to admit it. Like many, if not most, Americans, I am a fan of the classic 1983 movie "A Christmas Story". It is packed with iconic images and lines. Other than that one movie, however, well, not so much.

My beloved Debster on the other hand, detests that movie. I don't understand that. As near as I can determine, it is the only Christmas movie ever made that she doesn't like. In fact, because of her addiction to Christmas movies, mostly from Hallmark but also from wherever else she can find them on our satellite network, our DVR is filled with them. Even though we almost always delete a movie or show after we watch it, she is recording many more than she can watch, so by the time the season will be over, she will still have plenty to watch for the rest of the winter, and probably well into the spring and even beyond.

Since I am "glucose intolerant" or "pre-diabetic", I have to severely limit my minutes per day of watching these syrupy-sweet "films" to avoid going into diabetic shock. However, I still have seen enough to have formed one important opinion: Most of these movies are, at their core, quietly anti-Christian and thus Satanic. Yes, I said that, and I mean exactly that.

The bottom line is that these movies promote the popular culture, not the Christian message of the birth of the Savior. Jesus is seldom if ever mentioned in any of them, unless somebody happens to sing a "religious" carol in the movie. If the birth of Jesus Christ is mentioned, it is usually to promote the idea that he came to promote peace on earth, or some such liberal drivel.

You see countless scenes of families being reunited, of rifts being healed, of people doing kind things for strangers, of curmudgeons being turned into sweet lap-dogs, and so on. There is nothing wrong with sweet wholesome story-lines as such, but when they are used to distract from or to over-ride the message of the Savior, then that is Satan at work behind the scenes. After all, Satan doesn't care if everyone "loves" everyone else. He is primarily concerned with keeping people from worshiping and glorifying God.

Then there are those that are a little more overt in their message. These types of "Christmas" movies usually involve "angels" getting involved in peoples' lives to "help" them in some way. All-time classics such as "It's A Wonderful Life" and "Miracle On 34th Street" are among this group. Yes, I know. Classifying some of the most beloved movies ever as Satanic is going to get me in a lot of trouble. But so be it. I calls 'em as I sees 'em.

I watched part of one with the Debster the other day called "How Sarah Got Her Wings". It was a sweet feel-good movie, much like a modern "Wonderful Life". It was teaching that you must do good things and love people if you want to be allowed into heaven. "Sarah" kept getting sent back to earth to finish taking care of her "unfinished business" before she ran out of time and would be sentenced to "purgatory" forever. Not only is the movie quite lame and insipid on a secular level, it is purely pagan in its "gospel" message. Jesus is never even mentioned, at least in the bits that I saw.

Then there are the so-called "comedies" such as "Elf" and "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation" and a myriad of others. They take the vulgarity to a whole new level. 'Nuff said about that.

I put up a post on Facebook asking for suggestions of truly Christian Christmas movies. I have hundreds of Facebook friends, and many of them are solid Christians. Yet I received only two suggestions. One was the cartoon classic "A Charlie Brown Christmas" and the other was the 2006 film "The Nativity Story". Both are good. No question about that; I heartily recommend them both. But, one is, well, a child's cartoon, and the other is a straight re-telling of the Biblical account of the birth of Jesus. There are apparently no movies set in anything resembling modern times that actually convey a solidly Christian message about the birth of Christ and what it means for us today. That is a shame. And, I think, it is a telling example of how unChristian this nation really is. Hollywood can take some of the blame for this, as the purveyors and, as some have pointed out, the shapers of our culture. But the blame also lies on the population in general. If there was an actual demand for good Christian movies, more of them would be made.

Maybe Kirk Cameron will make a Christian Christmas movie. I don't see anyone else on the horizon that could and maybe would do it. Do you?

I for one am vowing to avoid the Satanic influence of these movies. And I urge all who truly take the name of Christ to do the same.

And yes, I guess that means I'll be giving up my annual watching of one of my once-favorite movies. Good by, Ralphie! I hope it all works out for ya.

God bless you!

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Making sauteed venison medallions ... tasty!!!

Well, I never intended on this being a cooking blog, but I seem to be doing a lot of cooking lately, so why not document it? Perhaps someday someone may find these little jottings useful.

Anyway, This is one of the Debster's recipes, and it's pretty darn good! I did the prep work under her supervision, and she did the actual stove work.

Start with a chunk of venison. Any cut is fine; even the tougher pieces turn out OK. Prepping the meat is really the KEY to this dish. Using a very sharp knife slice the venison into medallions about three inches around, give or take. Smaller than the palm of your hand, at any rate. If there are smaller pieces, that's not a problem. The pieces should be no thicker than about a half inch. The thinner the better, especially for tougher cuts.

Once you have them sliced, lightly spritz them with a mixture of half water and half vinegar. Don't soak them, just enough to dampen a little. Sprinkle both sides with either seasoned salt or steak seasoning; this batch we used Lowery's Seasoned Salt.

raw meat ready for the skillet
Heat a couple tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet, and add the meat. Keep the heat relatively low. As the meat begins to brown, add a few pats of butter on top and let it melt into the meat and oil.

sauteing in progress
The meat will cook quickly, about a minute and a half on each side. Thicker slices may take a bit longer. That's it. You're done. 

Finished product. Dig in!

Serve as is as a nice meaty snack, or saute mushrooms with them, and serve over a bed of rice or noodles. The drippings are the basis for an excellent gravy!

God bless y'all!

Ron and the Debster

Friday, December 4, 2015

I have serious problems with "Santa Claus" ...

pic downloaded from Google Images

OK. I'm going to get myself in trouble here, but that's OK. This is something that's been bothering me for many years. Because of it, my wife thinks that I'm a "Grinch". My daughter-in-law came close to banning me from seeing our young grandson for fear that I might say something and "spoil his Christmas". So I know from first-hand experience that this is NOT a popular viewpoint.

The problem is that I think it is wrong to teach very young, impressionable, and trusting children that Santa Claus is a real person that really lives at the North Pole and really flies all over the world in a sleigh pulled by magical reindeer in order to deliver presents to good children and pieces of coal to naughty children.

I don't really have a problem with telling children about Santa, as a form of fiction, like a fairy tale or the like. Kids can have fun with that kind of story telling, just like they would with Little Red Riding Hood or Snow White or The Little Mermaid or ... well, you catch my drift. My problem is teaching, and insisting, that the story is REAL, not fantasy/fiction.

There are numerous reasons that any person, religious or not, can understand even if, like most, they don't agree. First, it is an outright LIE, and lying is never good. Second, there is a strong potential for damaging the trust your child has in you, when (s)he finds out that you've been lying all those years. Third, once the truth comes out, it can cause issues with differentiating truth from falsehood. There are other reasons as well, that I'm not going to go into here. A quick Google search yielded many detailed article and essays on serious mainstream websites such as CNN, Business Insider, and Psychology Today that go into greater detail.

As a Christian, I have other reasons for concern about this fraud.

To begin with, there is a corollary to the trust issue. How many children after finding out that the Santa they had been taught was a real person really wasn't, have then, rather logically actually, taken the short step to believing that Jesus isn't real either? I don't have a solid number, but I personally know several people that have rejected Jesus as anything other than a myth because of being disillusioned about Santa. (And the Easter bunny, the Tooth Fairy, etc. But that's another post for another time.) If there are a handful among my comparatively tiny sample, how does that translate into the entire population? You do the math, as the saying goes.

The Santa myth completely overshadows the real reason that the holiday even exists in the first place. Christmas is about the physical birth of Jesus Christ. The second Person of the Triune God took on flesh and human nature. Yet today, after a casual look around almost any place in the country, you would think this is about trees decorated in such a way that the most fanatical druid would approve, about spending billions of dollars, and often going into debt, to buy buy buy and buy some more. You might think it's about cutesy little songs about jingling sleigh bells, or about a nutcracker that comes to life. And all of this happily supervised by a fat old guy in a red suit with white trim laughing "Ho! Ho! Ho!" all the time. You would find very little if anything about Jesus in the average family or school or community "holiday" celebration. And I have a problem with that. Anything that distracts from worshiping our glorious Savior is a problem, and you couldn't find a bigger distraction this side of hell itself.

Everyone is more than happy to proclaim the seasonal motto of "Peace on earth and goodwill towards men", and smile at strangers and give to charities. (Did you know that many charities receive the bulk of their annual donations during the month of December?)
What most don't know is that the phrase is from the Bible, specifically Luke 2:14. It was the angels proclaiming "Glory to God in the Highest, and on earth peace, good will towards men" as they announced the birth of the Savior of the world. The phrase has nothing to do with truces during a holiday and about everybody wishing everybody else well. No! It means that the Second Person of the Holy Trinity had come to earth, had taken on a human nature and human body, and was going to live a perfect and sinless life and then die as a ransom for many, and then be resurrected in power and glory. And because of that, peace would be possible between God and man. Not man and man, but God and man. And that goodwill between God and man would exist, not between man and man. It meant that God's white-hot wrath over sin would be spent punishing Jesus as my substitutionary sacrifice, and that Jesus would triumph over sin and death for me. Any "peace" and "goodwill" between men would be secondary.

The Bible is very clear in teaching that salvation is strictly by the merciful grace of God, completely on HIS terms, and is contingent upon complete faith and trust in Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith. "Being good" doesn't get you into heaven! It might make your mommy smile and your daddy give you a nice pat on the head, and maybe even a gold star from your teacher, but it WON'T get you into heaven! And just as "being good" isn't going to count towards getting INTO heaven, being "naughty" doesn't count in keeping you OUT, either. Because EVERYONE is "naughty", aka "sinful". EVERYBODY!!! Teaching children that "being good" wins you gifts from some silly-looking supernatural super-being, and that being "naughty" wins you bad things, you are going exactly the opposite of the gospel message.

Christian parents, there is no way you can completely shield your child from being bombarded with the pagan, anti-Christian nonsense about "Santa" and all that entails. So it is incumbent upon you to make sure your child understands the truth from the very beginning. If you think it necessary, tell your child the stories. Read "The Night Before Christmas"  with them. Go see "The Nutcracker" ballet. Have fun driving around after dark to "Oooh!" and "Ahhh!" at the beautiful lights. By all means, have fun! Fun is good! BUT you must, I repeat MUST, make absolutely sure that your child knows that Jesus, and His birth, was a REAL event with REAL consequences, and that "Santa" is NOT real, but only a character in a story.

If you can succeed in doing this, you will be doing your child the biggest favor imaginable.

If, and there most likely will be, there is a negative reaction, or if you or your child is questioned about this, a simple answer should suffice. Something along the lines of, "Yeah, I know all about Santa! He's a funny storybook character."

Well, I'm tired of typing, and I'm sure you are tired of reading, so to everyone who as made it this far, Merry Christmas! from Ron and the Debster.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Venison stew ... Oh boy!!!

Okay. I know it has been a very long time since my last blog post. I'm sorry about that. Things have been more than a little strange the last few months.

Anyway, last week, a friend of ours quite unexpectedly made us a fantastic gift of about fifty pounds of venison. Wow!!!! Trust me, it could NOT have come at a better time.

So, yesterday afternoon I made a mulligan-type stew from one piece of it.

I started with piece of meat, about a half-pound or a bit more, which I cut into small pieces.

About a half-pound of cubed venison

I then took those pieces and dredged them in flour.

Venison dredged in flour

I melted some butter, couple tablespoons maybe, in the bottom of my two-quart pot. (I wasn't making a big batch, but I still should have used a bigger pot.) I then browned the pieces of meat in the butter, stirring and turning constantly until evenly browned.

Floured venison browning in butter

I took a whole onion and a large stick of celery, diced them up finely, and sauteed them in butter until nice and soft. I added them to the pot along with the meat.

I added about a quart of water, two beef bullion cubes, a large pinch of Montreal Steak Seasoning, and about a tablespoon of rendered bacon fat, brought it to a boil, and then slowed it down to a slow simmer for about forty-five minutes.

While the meat was simmering, I took a large handful of fresh green beans, and snapped them into about one inch pieces. I peeled and chopped two large carrots. I also cut up about six very small potatoes. 

Vegetables waiting to be cut up
I then added the pile of veggies to the simmered meat, added a little more water, and brought the pot back to a slow simmer. I let it cook for about another half hour.

I took about a half-cup of broth and mixed it with about a couple heaping spoons of cornstarch, then stirred this thickening agent back into the pot. After a couple of minutes it had thickened up nicely, and was ready to go!

While I was busy with this, the Debster made a pot of bow-tie pasta. The venison stew served over the pasta was absolutely wonderful. I don't know if it was absolutely the best cooking I've ever done, but it comes close, for sure!

Note to self: When oiling my blade* after using it, I must be careful. Failure to do so can result in unplanned blood, fingers held under running water while wife grabs BIG bandaids and antiseptic cream.

As someone I know likes to say, a Mora knife never gets dull. It only gets less sharp.

*The blade is made of high-carbon steel, not stainless steel, and so if it isn't kept oiled, it will rust easily. I normally wipe on a light coat of vegetable oil, or, occasionally, a bit of butter or animal fat.

Cheers! Until the next time,
Ron and the Debster, signing off!

Monday, July 20, 2015

Can a disciple of Jesus be a "prepper"?

Short answer, yes ... and no.

Before I begin, let's be clear what I mean by "prepper".

I consider myself a "prepper" at heart. I am not one of the crazies like those depicted on shows like "Doomsday Prepper". Rather, I consider what I do to be an extension of the old Boy Scout motto "Be prepared!"

To my mind, it's a no-brainer. I have lived through too many power failures, ice-storms, and the like. It only makes sense to have some basic food supplies, candles, first aid supplies, extra propane bottle for the grill, wood for the firepit, and a little cash set aside for those times when the roads are shut down, or the electricity goes out, and the stores are immediately stripped bare by hordes of panicked people.

We tend to drive in out-of-the-way places at times, in our older vehicles. To me, it makes sense to keep a kit in the trunk with basic emergency supplies in the event that we have a breakdown, or severe weather forces us off the road, in an area devoid of shelter and cell-phone signal. A couple of blankets, a small case of bottled water, a day or two's worth of dehydrated or canned foods, and the means to build a small fire to cook it on, that just seems prudent.

I don't give a rat's patoot what the government claims about inflation figures. We all know that the price of groceries goes up and up and up, while interest on bank accounts is about as close to zero as you can get. That being the case, why not use some of the cash that might otherwise sit in the bank actually losing value, and purchase extra things with long term expiration dates. I don't mean those insanely priced "50-meal-buckets" and stuff like that. I mean extra bags of flour, sugar, boxes of pasta, pancake and biscuit mix, regular canned goods, dried beans and rice, dried and/or canned milk, stuff you can get at any grocery store. Especially if you catch them on sale. With the inflationary cost of groceries, that stuff will actually grow in value at the same time your cash money will lose value. If you buy only what you normally eat, and rotate your stock, you don't have to worry about stuff going bad and yet your pantry will get a little more well-stocked every payday.

I do a little gardening, and plan to do more. Why buy it if I can grow it cheaper? Not to mention the proven health benefits of gardening, both physical and mental. Grow enough, invest in a canner and some jars and lids, and that pantry will grow even faster, stocked with good home-grown food that hasn't been filled with who-knows-what-all chemical crap.

"Survivalism", I think, is a misnomer, at least what I practice. I consider myself a neophyte outdoorsman or woodsman, not a survivalist. Yes, much of what I practice when in the woods seems like what is called "survivalism" on TV, but I just don't like the term. I have no intention of becoming the next Grizzly Adams or Jeremiah Johnson. I'm not planning on some crazy "bug-out" scheme that takes me to the deep wilderness to avoid urban catastrophe. But, I also know that things can happen during a routine float trip, or hiking or fishing or camping trip, and so the skills and basic tools to build a fire, put together a shelter, find and purify water, and forage for edible foods is simple prudence, and, in my case at least, also a fun hobby. 

And, just for the record, I worry very very little about the usual crazy prepper things like "When the stuff hits the fan" (or SHTF scenarios), or "The end of the world as we know it" (TEOTWAWKI). Is it possible that the world could blow up in our faces? Sure. Having lived through the mess in Ferguson last summer, just a few miles from here, I'd be a fool to think otherwise. Could our government get a little crazier and a civil war actually flare up? I guess so, but I doubt it will, if only because most of our population just doesn't care enough to bother anyway. Could Putin in Russia, or that little dweeb in North Korea, or some maniac terrorist, lose what little is left of his sanity and launch an EMP or dirty bomb attack on us? Yeah, I guess so. But again, very improbable. It's not enough of a worry to send me running for the hills, that's for sure.

So, what I mean by "prepping" means taking common sense measures to guard against the real situations that anyone might find themselves in.

The question is, does this jibe with being a follower of Jesus Christ?

Let's start with the classic passage about this. Proverbs 6:6-8 urges us to consider the ways of the simple ant, which is diligent in preparing her food and gathering her harvest, compared to the lazy man who prefers sleep to work, and winds up poverty stricken.

Another passage sometimes cited is Matthew 25:1-13. In the parable of the ten virgins, five of them were foolish and did not bring extra oil for their lamps, and were eventually turned away from the Wedding Feast by the Bridegroom.

These are often contrasted with passages such as Matthew 6:24-34, where Jesus says that one cannot serve both God and money, and then points out how even the simplest wildflowers and birds are cared for by God, who will do so much more for us, and thus we should concern ourselves with His kingdom and righteousness, and let the worries of tomorrow go. There are many other passages in the gospels and the epistles that exhort us to not get hung up on money and goods but rather to leave it all in God's hands.

OK. I said at the beginning that the answer to "Can a Christian be a prepper?" has both a yes and a no answer.

I'm going to start with an emphatic "NO!". Now, before all my prepper friends get themselves into a frenzy, let me explain. We must admit, there are certain aspects to the "prepper lifestyle" that are definitely NOT things a Christian should be doing or involved in.

I am no friend of the current regime in Washington, or in Jefferson City for that matter. I am convinced that our political leaders are leading us headlong into disaster. I see our rights and freedoms being stripped away as fast as they can figure out the next step. I long for the "good ol' days" when Americans were, mostly, a free people. 

There is a very vocal percentage of "preppers" that advocate stockpiling and training with military-caliber arms in order to, if necessary, fight effectively against the government. I am sorry. As sympathetic as I am with their frustration, for I feel it myself, that is still wrong. Scripture is quite clear. As Christians, our primary citizenship is in heaven, and our role here is as ambassador for Christ to the unsaved world. The governments of the world, from the smallest village council to the most pwerful presidents and kings, are in place because God chose to allow them to be there, for whatever reason He has. I have written about this before, in my post just a few days ago. CLICK HERE to read that if you missed it. We are to be peaceful and above reproach. Armed rebellion against our own government, no matter how heinous it is, is just plain wrong. If this is what you mean by "prepping", then no, a Christian has no business anywhere near it.

Besides, from a purely pragmatic standpoint, this is pretty much a no-brainer. This is not 1776. In 21st century America, even a half-trained and equipped squad of soldiers is going to take down even the most determined and well-defended home. A platoon will take out almost any "compound". Plain and simple. Armed rebellion is just a slow and painful method of suicide.

What about things like stockpiling food and supplies? That is, unfortunately, not such a clear-cut issue. What it boils down to is attitude and perception.

"God helps those that help themselves". That is NOT in the Bible, despite what some think. Ben Franklin used it in Little Richard's Almanac in 1757. The earliest known usage is from one of Aesop's Fables. In actuality, God helps the helpless. Is. 25:4, Rom 5:6, and so forth. On the other hand, Scripture also tells us that the lazy will fail, that those who refuse to work should not be allowed to eat, and so on.

As Christians, we are responsible for toiling for our food. We are responsible for providing for ourselves and our families. We are also responsible for being hospitable and charitable, responding in open-handed joy to those in need. We absoutely trust God, 100%, to provide the means to do this, but, though He has the sovereign power to do so, He is not in the habit of simply dumping a truckload of food on our porch. Normally, He supplies us with the ability to find and keep a job that will pay for these things, either a "regular" job, or perhaps as a farmer or rancher or the like.

I trust God 100% for the very air that I breathe, the water I drink, the health I need to go about my daily business. I honor Him buy using these gifts to work to provide for myself and my family, to further the work of expanding His kingdom, and to be charitable to those that have less and may be in need.

It is not dishonoring to God, it is not being distrustful of Him, to be prudent in salting away extra foodstuffs and supplies against a day of need, IF, and ONLY IF, I do so in a clear-eyed manner that gives the glory to Him and not to my own "foresight" or "prudence".

If I take the attitude, even unspoken, that "I don't really need God because I have a fully stocked pantry, a huge garden, and plenty of guns and ammo to hunt with", then that is sinful pride, dishonoring to God, and not a Christian activity. It is practically inviting God to "show me who's boss".

If God provides me the wherewithall to store supplies, and I do so in thankfulness to Him and with the intent to use them to His glory, and I do not "skimp" on day-to-day charity and God-honoring activity to do so, then all is good.

There is one other aspect that I want to look at briefly. A common theme in the prepper community is fortifying your home and protecting your stockpiles from "the zombie apocolypse". This does not, usually, refer to "the living dead" a la George Romero movies, but to the crowds of unprepared starving people that are expected to arise in periods of really widespread and prolonged social upheaval.

As Christians, we are commanded to give to those that ask of us. To be sacrificial in our charity and our hospitality towards those in need. To be mindful of self-defense and protectful of my supplies is one thing. To refuse to help even the most wild-eyed stranger that may present himself, is quite another. If I have a large stockpile of beans, and an unruly crowd demands to be fed some of those beans, I must do so, giving God the glory for providing them. And that may mean putting some protection around the pantry, to keep someone from destroying the supplies and preventing me from serving the greatest number possible.

The bottom line is this. 

A Christian has no business being in armed rebellion against the government, no matter now terrible. If that is what you call prepping, then no, a Christian may not rightfully do so.

Stockpiling of food and supplies may or may not be done in the framework of a Christian lifestyle.

If it done out of pride, and greed, and a sense of trusting only in self and not in God to provide for future needs, then no, that is not a Christian way to live and should be shunned for the evil that it is.

If it is done in a spirit of humble thankfulness, and a sincere desire to honor God by providing for your family and for others as may need it, then yes, a Christian not ony can, but should, do so as God provides the means.

And, as Frank and Fern, "Enola Gay" of Paratus Familia, and Patrice Lewis of Rural Revolution, so often exhort on their blogs, never forget that the most important prep of all is be sure of your place in His kingdom. For it will be absolutely useless to store and stockpile and consume twenty years worth of food, only to eventually die and wind up spending an eternity in hell. Prepare for eternity first, and then look to earthly concerns.

Thanks for reading!
Ron, and the Debster

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Another week is done

Well, another week has gone without much to show for it. This is getting to be just a tad bit ridiculous. I really have to get off my butt.

The rains have pretty much stopped, and now the normal sweltering heat and humidity has blasted its way in. Welcome to St. Louis in the summer. Not a fun place to be if you don't like sweating like a pig and air-conditioning bills that are sky-high.

It's official. Got the bill from the IRS. Wow. And all thanks to Obamacare. I'm trying very hard not to say things that I shouldn't about our so-called president and congress. But it ain't easy right now.

Been watching "Alone" on the History Channel. Have become almost addicted to it!

The little garden is producing pretty well now.
Deb picked this pepper and tomato a couple days ago
And I picked these tomatoes and cukes yesterday
I can't wait to get a real full-size garden in next year. I'm thinking three 4'x8' beds. One would be about eight tomatoes and various squash in round cages, with maybe some pole beans and onion sets scattered between them. A second one would be smaller vegetables such as peppers, onions, beets, and kohlrabi, and a third with salad greens and smaller vegetables like carrots, radishes, and the like.
That would pretty much use up the available space in our small yard, and give us plenty to both eat fresh and to preserve for later use.
At some point, I'm also thinking of planting things like blueberries and rasberries along the fence lines.

Finished my involuntary time off work and went back Thursday night, only to get clobbered with a horrible toothache that was so bad I had to leave early. This has been a reoccuring thing for months. At first the dentist just prescribed antibiotics for the gum infection, but this time said I had to come in. So yesterday I saw him. One molar has a bad cavity below the gum line and has to come out. But that has to wait until the infection gets knocked back. So, yet another round of antibiotics and this time vicodin to take care of the immense pain until the antibiotics really take hold. I was in such pain that I had to double the dose of vicodin, which meant that it was at such a level that I couldn't safely drive. So I lost another night of work. Right now it is under control. I hope it stays that way, so I can work tonight. This is going to be a real killer on the paycheck!

Oh joy. I have jury duty the first week of August. Was originally scheduled for it in June but was able to get it postponed. But not this time. So I'll be missing work AGAIN soon. There's just no let up.

Here is a post I put on Facebook recently:

Our nation, our Western culture, is going to hell in a handbasket. To find the beginning of the slide down that slope would be a difficult task, akin to the legendary searches for the headwaters of the Nile. The rise of liberal theology a century ago? The sexual revolution of the 60's? Roe v. Wade in 1973? Pick your poison, the journey has been a long one, but it has accelerated tremendously the last 10 or 15 years, and now seems to have reached the level of an unstoppable avalanche.
We rant and rave about our recent "evil" presidents and politicians, yet we forget that if God had not allowed it, none of them would have been elected. In short, God elected Bill Clinton, George W Bush, and Barack Obama. He just allows us to think WE did <smile>. Why? Why has God chosen to put such people in such important positions? :People, from our local town councils to the White House, that more and more and more are actively seeking to undermine, indeed to eliminate, Him from our national consciousness.
An analogy may be found in Scripture, in Gen 15, when God chose to allow the Israelites to suffer for 400 years. Why? Because the iniquity of the Amorites was not yet complete. God allowed the Amorites to reach the final level of sinfulness before He unleashed His wrath on them.
We are under the judgement of God, my friends. His wrath is going to be unveiled in a great big way, sooner or later. There is NOTHING we can do to stop that. Nor should we even try. What we SHOULD do, indeed what we MUST do, is for all of us faithful followers of the Lord Jesus Christ, to individually and corporately fall on our faces and repent! Repent of our self-indulgence lifestyles, our ignoring the spiritual plight of our family members, our neighbors, our friends, out nation.
We MUST put aside all the worldly encumbrances that hold us back and weigh us down. The time-wasting frivolous pursuits. The constant "keeping up with the Jones'". Mind-wasting crap like American Idol and soap operas and silliness of all kinds.
We MUST stop letting our lives go to waste! Get out there! Live for the Lord as if your life depends on it, for it really does. As if your child's soul depends on it, for it really does! As if your friend's soul depends on it, for it really does!
Heaven will NOT rejoice over that new fishing boat. Or over your latest tattoo. Or over any of the worldly pleasures we indulge in. Scripture only mentions Heaven rejoicing over ONE thing, and that is when the Son of God is glorified by the saving of souls! The angels throw a party whenever a sinner repents and turns to the Lord to be saved.
I look back on my life and I weep. I weep for all the years I've lost that could have, should have, been devoted to the work of the Lord, but were wasted on frivolous nonsense. NO MORE! I'm done with that! It's far past time to get it together and get about His business, in whatever way He chooses to lead me.
Who will join me? Who will seek to become, as Noah in the days leading up to the Flood, "preachers of righteousness"?

On a lighter note:

That's it for this week, folks. 
God bless you all!
Ron and the Debster