Crucible of Faith

Crucible of Faith coverCrucible of Faith: The Ancient Revolution That Made Our Modern Religious World
Philip Jenkins
Basic Books (September 19, 2017), 296 pages
Kindle edition $19.99, Amazon hardcover $19.45

This is a fascinating book by the author of The Lost History of Christianity, which I very much enjoyed.

In the present volume author Philip Jenkins discusses the period between the final books of the Old Testament and the first books of the New Testament. He describes how ideas like our modern conceptions of Satan and the end times developed after the Old Testament was closed out and before the New Testament began to be written. In fact, Jenkins does write both about books of the Old Testament and books of the New Testament. His main focus, however, is the period of these “crucible years,” as he calls them. He defines this as the period between 250 and 50 BCE.

Jenkins takes the perspective that the Qumran sect (responsible for the Dead Sea Scrolls) arose in protest against the Hasmonean priest-kings (the Hasmoneans arising from the Maccabees who took back the temple from the Seleucids). He sees the Qumran sect as being different from the Essenes, though many scholars believe the Qumran group was the Essene sect. In addition to Satan and the end times Jenkins points out that angels appear much more frequently in the writing of the crucible years than in Old Testament writings.

There is a lot more material as well, so if this is a topic that interests you I highly recommend Crucible of Faith.

homemade tortillas

tortilla makerI had been thinking about getting a tortilla press for a long time. I had one that my uncle and aunt gave me many years ago, but it got lost somewhere along the way.

When Terry and I saw Bobby Flay make tortillas on The Bobby and Damaris Show (which episode we watched twice)frying the tortilla we decided that we wanted to give it a shot. I ordered a moderately-priced, highly rated tortilla press from Amazon and when it showed up we went to Cardenas, our Latino supermarket, to get fresh masa and their marvelous marinated flap meat.

the final resultIt’s not as easy as it looks. The first time we made a lot of mistakes and made a lot of modifications. The last three or so tortillas we made came out pretty well, but we still had some tweaking to do in the process.

The second go-round was a disaster. One of the mistakes we made the first time was Mistousing plastic wrap between the press and the masa rather than a cut up ziplock bag as both Bobby and the instructions that came with the press recommended. Our first time out we bought the smallest bag of masa that the store had, but it was still twice what we needed. I asked Siri if we could freeze masa, but all I got back from her was the temperature in Massachusetts. A Google search turned up the result that yes, we could.

Wrong. The masa was crackly and would not hold together. I tried adding water and some additional polenta which I had on hand, but to no avail. No, masa can’t be frozen. Not the kind they make at Cardenas, anyway.

Bobs Red Mill packageAs the cliché goes, third time’s the charm. I bought a package of Bob’s Red Mill Masa Harina. We used a cut-up ziplock bag again, and I quickly learned that spraying it with olive oil from our Misto  (not a Mexican cooking staple, I know) was essential. I discovered that the ideal size tortilla came from a 1 ¼ ounce ball of masa, rather than one ounce as Bobby suggested. We learned to use a hamburger spatula rather than tongs when we cooked them. I rolled and pressed thenTerry cooked at 30 seconds a side in a dry (not oiled) cast iron frying pan. We got a rhythm going.

By Jove, I think they’ve got it!

The nice thing is that we know exactly what’s going into our tortillas: Bob’s Red Mill Masa Harina, just a bit of salt, and water. That’s it.

We’ll keep moving forward from there.


Sacred Music Friday: Sing Out with Joy to God Our Strength

First Plymouth Church, Lincoln Nebraska

mole chicken tacos

I was watching a recent episode of Pati’s Mexican Table in which Pati Jinich explained that mole is the Mexican equivalent to Indian curry. That is, it is a range of flavors and seasonings, not one specific flavor as we often assume. Certainly the recipes she showed on that episode reflected that.

moleWe hadn’t had a mole dish for a while, but we had half a jar of mole concentrate in the fridge.  I decided it was time for a mole meal, so I chopped half a pound boneless chicken breast into pieces and cooked it up in a cast iron skillet. As per the 3 to 1 instructions, I mixed a third cup of mole concentrate with a cup of water. I mixed it with a wire whisk and put it in the microwave for two minutes. I added it to the chicken. Turned out it was twice what I needed.

I served it with tortillas heated over the gas burner, along with chopped onion, chopped green chilis, olives, and guacamole. It made for a great evening meal.

forever in corduroy?

I have long been a “forever in blue jeans” kind of guy. I haven’t always worn blue jeans, but somewhere along the line I started wearing them and have done so for many decades.

corduroy pantsI did not wear blue jeans during my Claremont cockroach days. I certainly did not have a lot of money for new clothes then. I did not have a lot of money, period. But one of my Claremont friends turned me on to a hole-in-the-wall clothing outlet store where I found a pair of corduroys at a really good price. They were my favorite pair of non-work, casual trousers until I wore them absolutely threadbare.

That was in the mid-1970’s. I haven’t owned a pair of corduroys since. Until now. I reinstated my Lands End account online to order a pair of slacks for church, since the pair I had been wearing were seriously falling apart. I got an email from them that offered fifty percent off a regularly priced item. And they tantalizingly featured cords in that same email.

I ordered one pair half off full price and another heavily discounted, apparently on close out. So now I have two new pair of corduroy.  Terry loves them and I am really enjoying my soft, comfortable corduroys for the first time since 1975 or so.

chili lime chicken

Chili Lime ChickenI pulled up the recipe for chili lime chicken in my database because I was looking for a pressure cooker meal. It was a recipe I had gotten from my Yahoo pressure cooker recipes group. But as I looked at the recipe I asked myself if there was enough liquid to bring the pressure cooker up to pressure. I decided to convert it into a slow cooker dish.

I cut a boneless skinless chicken breast in half and seasoned it with chili powder, cumin, onion powder, freshly ground black pepper, and granulated garlic. I put the pieces in my crock pot and added vegetable broth to cover half the chicken. I squeezed in the juice of two whole limes. I set the slow cooker to high for three-and-a-half hours, and on low for another two-and-a-half.

The chicken was moist and tender and delicious.

lost in the stars

I’ve noticed myself really missing Fr. Rob. I miss him a great deal more than I missed Pastor Kathleen. I was impressed with his leadership and I loved his high church respect for the liturgy.

Right now at Good Shepherd we are without a rector and we don’t even have an interim. There is nothing on the immediate horizon that suggests that the role will be filled soon. I rather feel that we’re lost in the stars. I know that is not true. I know God is with us. But sometimes it feels that way.

And besides, this gives me a great excuse for sharing this marvelous rendition of that song by Wesla Whitfield.