Yard Signs

If I could make my own yard sign I would. And it would read: “No matter who you vote for, we can still be friends.” And I would put it out in my yard every 4 years.

I feel like that’s a message America could use right about now.

Shabbat shalom

I’m happy to report that earlier this week I finished Capon’s (in my opinion) magisterial three volume treatment of the Parables. Kingdom, Grace, Judgment is only $4.99 for the Kindle version–this is a steal. Go buy it. I’ve now moved on to rereading Dallas Willard’s Renovation of the Heart. I’m not sure why.

His application for this particular parable to the Western church is certainly applicable in our current day and age. So I shall quote it at length:

“And if you then expand upon the parable, you get an instant application of it to the life of the church in all ages. For no matter how much we give lip service to the notion of free grace and dying love, we do not like it. It is just too … indiscriminate. It lets rotten sons and crooked tax farmers and common tarts into the kingdom, and it thumbs its nose at really good people. And it does that, gallingly, for no more reason than
the Gospel’s shabby exaltation of dumb trust over worthy works. Such nonsense, we mutter in our hearts; such heartless, immoral folly. We’ll teach God, we say. We will continue to sing “Amazing Grace” in church; but we will jolly well be judicious when it comes to explaining to the riffraff what it actually means. We will assure them, of course, that God loves them and forgives them, but we will make it clear that we expect them to clean up their act before we clasp them seriously to our bosom. We do not want whores and chiselers and practicing gays (even if they are suffering with AIDS) thinking they can just barge in here and fraternize. Above all, we do not want drunk priests, or ministers who cheat on their wives with church organists, standing up there in the pulpit telling us that God forgives such effrontery. We never did such things. Why, we can hardly even bear to think….
Do you see now? We are second sons, elder brothers, respectable Pharisees, twelve-hour, all-day laborers whose moral efforts have been trampled on by the Feet Beautiful upon the Mountains. We are resentful at being the butts of the divine joke of grace that says nothing matters except plain, old, de facto, yes-Jesus faith. And when we institutionalize that resentment by giving the impression that the church is not for sinners and gainsayers, we are a disgrace to the Gospel – a bushel of works hiding the Light of the world. We are under judgment. Oh, yes; we say we believe. But what we believe is largely an ethico-theological construct of our own devising, a system in our heads that will make the world safe for democracy, and for thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent ex-sinners like ourselves. Like the second son, our only real trust is in our own devices. Just trusting Jesus – the friend of tax collectors and sinners, the one who, while we are still sinners, dies for the ungodly – is not our idea of how to run a lifeline.
Diffidam mihi, fidam in te.

So there you go.

The brewery is still open btw. It’s just, after all these years of life, such conversations are best had over a beer.

Grace Doesn’t Sell

I was introduced to the writings of Robert Farrar Capon via Brennan Manning. In The Ragamuffin Gospel (which I cannot recommend strongly enough) there is a phenomenal quote by Capon. It was such a phenomenal quote that I had to look the author up. And then I read a book by him.  That book was his exegesis of Jesus’ Parables of Grace. That book was so excellent that I then read Parables of the Kingdom.  In Parables of Grace, Capon spoke in such a revolutionary and novel way about Jesus, Scripture and most especially grace, that it just opened my mind and made me (again!) excited about the Gospel.

I’m currently working on Parables of Judgment and in his treatment of the Parables of the Workers in the Vineyard, he has so many great things to say about grace that I just want to copy and paste a few of them here:

“Grace doesn’t sell; you can hardly even give it away, because it works only for losers and no one wants to stand in their line.

Bookkeeping is the only punishable offense in the kingdom of heaven. For in that happy state, the books are ignored forever, and there is only the Book of life. And in that book, nothing stands against you. There are no debit entries that can keep you out of the clutches of the Love that will not let you go. There is no minimum balance below which the grace that finagles all accounts will cancel your credit. And there is, of course, no need for you to show large amounts of black ink, because the only Auditor before whom you must finally stand is the Lamb – and he has gone deaf, dumb, and blind on the cross. The last may be first and the first last, but that’s only for the fun of making the point: everybody is on the payout queue and everybody gets full pay. Nobody is kicked out who wasn’t already in; the only bruised backsides belong to those who insist on butting themselves into outer darkness.
For if the world could have been saved by bookkeeping, it would have been saved by Moses, not Jesus.

Opsias de genomenes. Heaven is Miller Time. Heaven is the parry in the streaming sunlight of the world’s final afternoon. Heaven is when all the rednecks, and all the wood-butchers, and all the plumbers who never showed up – all the losers who never got anything right and all the winners who just gave up on winning – simply waltz up to the bar of judgment with full pay envelopes and get down to the serious drinking that makes the new creation go round. It is a bash that has happened, that insists upon happening, and that is happening now – and by the sweetness of its cassation, it drowns out all the party poopers in the world.

Heaven, in short, is fun.”

 It’s worth the read.

Living in (Dystopian) America

If you make any sort of regular visit to this page, then you’ll know that I am a fan of science fiction. And within the genre of sci-fi you’ll find the ever popular Dystopian fiction. Now, dystopian novels are very popular in our culture. Ready Player One, The Handmaiden’s Tale or the Hunger Games are all examples of dystopian works that, obviously, are popular.

I have no idea why. I can’t explain why I enjoy these works and I won’t pretend to try to explain that for others, but I enjoy the genre and I’m not alone.

But it is one thing to read it and another thing to live it. This hit me recently like a sack of bricks. Periodically, throughout this pandemic/quarantine, my kids have wanted to go to a particular county park where their favorite playground can be found. The playground is now open so this past week we went there. It was about 11am in the morning, on a Tuesday in July. After being there for about 30 minutes I realized what was bothering me: the sound of the birds.  4 of our 5 kids were playing all in on the playground and I could still hear the birds. And we were alone. With the exception of the occasional senior citizen passing us by on a trail (with a mask on) there was no one around. It was the first time we’d ever been to the playground without another family present. It was empty. The park was empty. There was no one around. It felt completely dystopian.

A world without the sound of children at a playground. Perhaps the prequel to Children of Men? Who knows what the side effects of this disease will be.

The Musk of the Future

Yeah, probably not the cleverest of titles. And in case you weren’t sure, yes, this post is about Elon Musk.

If you ask me, I will not deny it, and if you ask Mrs. Wine, she will insist that I have the world’s biggest man crush on Elon Musk. I actually, however, don’t think crush is the appropriate way to describe my inordinate attention towards him. It varies between fascinated admiration and obsession and where I land on that small spectrum depends upon the news of the day.

In case you missed the news of the day, Elon Musk just passed Warren Buffet on the richest person in the world list (now at 7th worldwide). Why? Because Tesla, which Musk owns 20% of, is now the world’s most valuable auto company.

But his wealth isn’t why I am fascinated/obsessed with him. It is because I believe, quite firmly, that there is no one else on earth right now who will influence the next couple hundred of years of human history more than Elon Musk.

In case you breezed past that, read it again. It is a pretty strong statement. Why do I feel that way?

  1. E-commerce. E-commerce has changed the global economy.  Think of the recent pandemic when the world economy nearly shut down. How much of the consumerism of our world shifted nearly entirely to online shopping, or e-commerce. Now, don’t worry, I’m not going to say he invented e-commerce. But he did start a company known as X.com which later became Paypal. And Paypal is one of the leaders in e-commerce.
  2. Domestic Transportation. It is incredibly hard to start an automobile company. There is R & D (Mrs. Wine was a mechanical engineer for a global auto company working at their R&D company, so I’m not speaking merely from theory here). Then there is assembly. Shipping. Sales and distribution. An enormous amount of capital. A lot of expertise and know how. And then of course there is the established market that you have to compete with: Ford, Chevy, Toyota, Nissan, Honda, Hyundai. Companies like that, with factories all over the world, that–if you want to start an automobile company–you have to compete with after you’ve established the whole R&D–>distribution chain. Elon Musk started a company called Tesla, an electric car company, in 2003. 17 years later it is a company with factories around the world and is literally (if you clicked the link above you’d know) the world’s most valuable car company.
    1. Batteries. It is important to note that Tesla states it isn’t a car company, but a battery company that makes cars. Hence, the Giga Factories that Tesla is building around the world. In case you aren’t aware: those are huge factories devoted to building batteries and power storage devices.
    2. Powerwalls. These are home storage devices that take solar energy, store the energy collected domestically in an individual home, and then provide power. This technology is important because of the potential for their potential in the field of utilities.
      1. Grid Power. In 2016, South Australia experienced a rolling blackout. It was problematic in a global, news making way. Musk tweeted that Tesla could fix it in less than 100 days or it was free. In 40 days they had installed a power system to provide energy to the entire province. As the magainze Popular Mechanics reported in March, 2020, “Musk’s Battery Farm is an Undeniable Success” and has saved Australia 10s of millions of dollars.
    3. Domestic Solar Power. Tesla is offering solar powered shingles that look aesthetically as better than typical shingles but generate power for the home. Coupled with a Powerwall pack and a Tesla car a homeowner has the ability to, through the sun, power your entire house and car without using any other energy sources.
    4. Remember, all of this is his car company. But wait, there’s more. An air filter/HVAC system for your home. Caveat: this is purely speculative at this point. But Tesla cars are considered to have the best air filters on the market, better than some home systems. Musk has entertained the idea of Tesla manufacturing HVAC systems with an air filtration system that produces air clean enough for people with extreme allergies. Again, speculative at this point.
    5. Commercial Transportation. Tesla is also manufacturing, large scale, electric semi-trucks. Companies like Fedex, are already reserving theirs.
    6. Ford F-150. The most reliable, best selling vehicle out there is facing competition from Tesla’s upcoming “cybertruck.”
  3. Mass Transit. In 2012 Musk suggested the creation of a mass transit system of high speed pods (think of the bank transfer pods) that work on magnets. He stated he was too busy to focus on it but through it out there in case anyone else wanted to.  Musk called this system “Hyperloop“. There are now multiple companies pursuing this technology, as well as multiple municipalities (such as Columbus, Ohio) spending a lot of money, trying to develop this concept. Think about that for a minute: a) Musk suggested a technology/concept that has created multiple companies globally trying to develop it and b) he thought of it. It is important to remember, as you’ll see, his brain is the principle behind all of these technologies.
  4. Space Exploration.  There is this company called SpaceX that Musk founded. And if you read the story of its founding it is mind blowing. He went to Russia with 10 million to buy some rockets. The Russians wouldn’t sell them. So on the plane ride home he developed the business model for SpaceX centered on its revolutionary technology: reusable rockets.  SpaceX has become the first private space exploration company to launch multiple rockets into space repeatedly (that is re-usability) and also launch civilians into space. I’m getting tired of linking these things. Just use Google. Oh yeah, that was founded in 2002. So in the past 18 years, Musk has created the first private space company to send people into space AND the most profitable auto company in the world.
    1. Global high speed internet. If you follow SpaceX, then you’ll know their goal is to colonize Mars. And if you have followed them from the beginning, then you’ll know their plan was to cover earth in small satellites, and then create a link of satellites to Mars so that the people on Mars and Earth can have near real time communication. Out of that is born Starlink: SpaceX’s global internet company that will, supposedly, supply global internet at a speed not yet known.
  5. Interstate Travel. I’m not sure how to classify this one, but I’m speaking of the Boring Company. Stuck in traffic one day, Musk decided to build a company that would build roads underground for high speed transit. This was in 2016. Since that time, The Boring Company has improved the technology of tunnel boring machines (TBM) and is building tunnels under Las Vegas with other municipalities looking at utilizing the technology and concept.
    1. Construction material. The Boring Company developed technology to turn the left over dirt into lego like bricks that can withstand seismic activity. Nothing has been done with this but indulge me for a minute: The Boring Company produces bricks to build a home, with Tesla solar panels on the roof and a powerwall inside as well as the Tesla HVAC and you have a home built by Tesla/Boring company that is made from recycled dirt and powered by the sun.
  6. A.I. Musk has a company, rarely reported on, known as OpenAI. It is dedicated to developing AI that is friendly towards humanity.
  7. Medical. Finally, there is Neuralink. The company Musk created to develop human/AI symbiotes. Defined by their mission statement: “if we can’t beat em, join em.” Currently, the company is focused on developing chips to help people with Parkinson and Alzheimer diseases.

 

So let’s survey the field: in the last 20 years Musk has create companies that have changed or influence: ecommerce, domestic travel, commercial travel, power/utility/grid, interstate travel, space travel, medical equipment, AI and construction. I probably left something out of the summary of the above list but you get it. Who else is influencing the world like Elon Musk?

All is Grace

I think far too much of myself. Let’s just get this out of the way. But prior to my abrupt departure from ministry I was actually of some minor importance in my denomination. I won’t get into what I’d done because, well, that would be boastful and not right. Plus it would over sell me and under sell countless others (and God).

But towards the end of my time in ministry I served on a search team for an executive level position in our denomination. One of the candidates statement of faith is something I find myself continually thinking about. He wrote, “I believe in grace. The rest is commentary.”

I was thinking about that line tonight as I was listening to MercyMe’s song “Flawless.” Particularly, this part of the song:

Then Like a hero who takes the stage when
We’re on the edge of our seats saying it’s too late
Well let me introduce you to amazing grace

No matter the bumps
No matter the bruises
No matter the scars
Still the truth is
The cross has made
The cross has made you flawless

 

Grace. The rest is commentary.

We got heaps and heaps of what we sow

I am an avid news junkie. I listen to talk radio (less so now that I am working from home thanks to a pandemic-a sentence I thought I never thought I’d say/write). But anyways, I read news articles and headlines from sun up to sun down, every day. I scan headlines.  And gradually, not suddenly, but definitely accelerating in the last couple of years, the news has become terribly politicized. And please, just stop. Don’t blame one party or the other. I realize this will sound pedantic but it doesn’t mean it isn’t true: if you think rationally and apply logic and not emotions to the news you’ll notice that all of the news has become politicized, not just one particular genre or “side of the spectrum.”

There’s more there but that isn’t the point. Just wanted to share a song that I enjoy and seems especially relevant these days.  “Good people” by Jack Johnson. Setting aside the doctrine of total depravity for a minute consider these words:

Well you win, it’s your show now
So what’s it gonna be
‘Cause people will tune in
How many train wrecks do we need to see
Before we lose touch of
We thought this was low
It’s bad getting worse so
Where did all the good people go,
I’ve been changing channels
I don’t see them
On the TV shows
Where did all the good people go,
We got heaps and heaps of what we sow
They got this and that
With a rattle of tat
Testing, one two
Man what you gonna do
Bad news, misused
Got too much to lose
Gimme some truth
Now whose side are we on
Whatever you say, turn on the boob tube
I’m in the mood to obey
So lead me astray, and by the way now
Where did all the good people go,
I’ve been changing channels I don’t see them
On the TV shows
Where did all the good people go,
We got heaps and heaps of what we sow
Sitting around feeling far away
So far away but I can feel the debris
Can you feel it
You interrupt me from a friendly conversation
To tell me how great it’s all gonna be
You might notice some hesitation
It’s important to you it’s not important to me
But way down by the edge or your reason
Well it’s beginning to show
And all I really want to know is
Where did all the good people go,
I’ve been changing channels
I don’t see them on the T.V. shows
Where did all the good people go,
We got heaps and heaps of what we sow
They got this and that
With a rattle of tat
Test down, one two
Man what you gonna do
Bad news, missed use
Gimme some truth
You got too much to lose
Now whose side are we on
But anyway, okay, whatever you say,
Wrong or resolute, I’m in the mood to obey
Station through station
Desensitizing the nation
That was published 15 years ago. A useful reminder of this biblical truth: even an ass** can be prophetic.
**I in no way shape or form intend to imply that Jack Johnson is such a person. It is a joke.**

Ice Cream and Freedom Dividends

I made ice cream today. Yes, I still make ice cream on a regular basis. It is cheaper than buying it and it also tastes better. So why not? On the spur of the moment I made Key Lime Pie ice cream.

It was unbelievably good. 4 people ate it all up in one sitting and when it was gone at least two of them had their faces buried in the bowls. You want the recipe? Of course you do. What a silly question.

I started with base recipe #2. I pretty much use that exclusively now. Easier and (cheaper) than the custard base. To that I added:

  • 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract

After the cream had started to churn I poured in

  • 1 package of true lime

That was it! Delicious, unbelievably good, Key Lime Pie ice cream.

Do you know what else would be delicious? If Big Data paid us for our data.

I was disappointed when Andrew Yang dropped out of the presidential race. When people run for president, if they receive the nomination or if they catch my eye, I read their platform. I can’t say I’ve ever read every platform of a candidate with a fine tooth comb except for once: with Andrew Yang. I read his position on every issue and read every proposal he put forward. It was enticing. I knew when I was done here was someone that was putting forward a vision of America that was so different from anything I’d encountered before as to be unprecedented. And that if he somehow got elected and succeeded, America would never be the same.

His main issue, and what he is most famous for, is Universal Basic Income or UBI. Now, as a conservative, I scoffed at this idea.  However, as I started to do research on it I discovered some interesting and important things:

  1. It was advocated by Thomas Paine in his work Agrarian Justice. Yes, that Thomas Paine. The Thomas Paine whose work was more widely read than any of the other founding fathers. You could say, for Thomas Paine, UBI was just common sense.
  2. Richard Nixon was an advocate of UBI. He was such an advocate for it that he launched, in 1968, an experiment spending millions testing UBI on 8500 Americans spread out geographically across the country as well as demographically. At the end of the trial period they found that it worked. However, other conservative advisors, under the influence of Ayn Rand (a notorious anti-Christian author) pushed back. Instead, Nixon introduced the Family Assistance Plan which was a bill designed to modify Johnson’s welfare plans.
  3. I’m not going to go into this too much here (that’s not the point of this post) but it is worth noting UBI is not welfare. Welfare would be eliminated in a UBI situation. Welfare encourages unemployment (boy the stories I could tell about working with low income people who wanted better jobs but were afraid of hitting the dead zone where they make too much to qualify for welfare but too little to live–literally to live; and so they stay in under paying jobs or simply unemployed). In Yang’s platform people could basically choose: welfare or UBI but not both.

Now, what’s the point of all this? Well Yang dropped out. And then he did something odd. He founded an organization, Humanity First, which promptly started to introduce UBI to select cities and towns in various states.  Today, news broke that he had launched another non-profit, the Freedom Dividend Project. Based out of CA, its goal is to make Big Tech pay people dividends for the use of their data. This was another piece of his platform: if oil companies have to pay you mineral rights for drilling on your land, why are Big Tech companies allowed to sell your data and make billions of dollars off of it while you receive nothing? 

I’ll let Yang speak for a moment on the issue:

Facebook today is a $650 billion company built largely upon the monetization of our data. How much of that value are we seeing? We have increasingly become commodified and packaged for those who want to occupy our attention.

They are not just profiting from these practices. They are also influencing our actions and attitudes by feeding us information that maximizes our engagement above all else. We are being pushed in specific directions to the detriment of our democracy, mental health, and free will. Instead of having things sold to us, we ourselves have become the product, and we are being sold to those with the means to buy access to every detail about our behavior — and to shape what we do next.

The question is, what do we do about it?

Indeed, what are we going to do about it? I know! Wait for the government to act. I know, I’m a pretty funny guy.

Here’s the odd thing about Andrew Yang: it is almost as if he ran for President because he really cared about America and not just himself or his own political capital. He had ideas he believed were important and when he dropped out he made an unusual conclusion: why wait on the government to fix this? Why not just start trying to be the solution now.

And that is sweet. Almost as sweet as my ice cream.

I’m still standing after all this time

While the blog may only receive entries once or twice a year, I’m still here. Still busy doing the silly things I’ve been doing for far, far too long. The primary purpose of the blog was to share my gluten free recipes. I began the endeavor when the household numbered significantly less children and I was spoiled with free time.  Now, most days, I rise at around 6:30 and go upstairs and work on finishing the attic. Then around 8 I come down to be with my children for around an hour. Then it is off to my main job until 5. After work is dinner and then some Q.T. with the family. Around 9pm I start in on my second job and write until around 10pm. Rinse and repeat.

But every now and then I do find time to still brew. I currently re-brewed my Transfiguration IPA (use the search bar to find the recipe). Last night I bottled a dry-hopped cider. Cider and hard lemonade has become a staple–and highly sought after by friends and neighbors. And I enjoy giving it away as much as I do sampling it. In that way, I suppose, I’m like the Baldwin sisters. Only I don’t have an inheritance to survive upon.

And I spend a lot of my time thinking about (ironically?) time. Specifically, where did it go? Or, how can I slow it down? Or, what happens when I die? When I was a pastor I used to ask the congregation “which character are you in this story?” It was an effective tactic (I tell myself) to get people to enter into the story and apply it. Now I find myself thinking of Jesus on the mountain in Galilee. I used to be the ones ready to get to that Great Commission. Now I find myself identifying with the nameless disciples, casting sidelong glances at their fellow disciples silently mouthing: “Is this real? Are you seeing what I’m seeing?” In hermeneutic terms, I find I’ve shifted from the A to the B of Matthew 28:17. I’m at peace with that; for now. Not that there is peace in that, I’m just trying to be patient and trust that it is all real and faith will return.

But it has certainly given me a greater sense of urgency as I spend my time thinking about time. We have these four hanging flower baskets on our front porch. Shortly after we bought it, some pregnant bird decided to build a nest in the basket and lay her eggs. We suspected that had happened and had it quickly confirmed. Then they hatched. And then, in what seemed like a week, the birds had flown the coop and the nest was empty.  A week later, one of my daughters turned 8. And it seems like it was less than a week ago that Mrs. Wine emerged from the bathroom with a shocked, concerned, elated, hesitant, glowing look on her face to let me know she was pregnant. So much life in such a short time.

So my thoughts move in a circle; stuck in a cyclical pattern even though time itself is most definitely linear. At this moment in my life, without a doubt, time is my most precious currency. And I am broke.

Maple (Bourbon?) Cider

So I’m a bit behind on the blog. But life comes at you fast. And when you work two jobs and have as many kiddos as I do, it is hard to set time aside to write on here. But I am sick so doctor (and especially Mrs. Wine) orders that I rest. So I’m sitting on the couch, mentally preparing for a day of watching football (Go Bucks) and figured I could (briefly) catch up on my blog.

A while back I made a cider. I am probably at my best when brewing fruit based drinks; that is hard lemonades or ciders. One thing I’ve struggled with is maple flavor. I’m made acerglyn before, but it doesn’t taste at all like maple syrup. In fact, it is hard to put a name to what it tastes like. It is very good. But I digress.

So I wanted to make a cider that had a maple flavor for fall/winter. Mrs. Wine found Treetop apple juice on manager’s special for $.99 a bottle. So We bought 20 gallons of apple juice for under $20. With that as my base I added brown sugar (a must with cider) and then pondered the Maple Flavor. I knew from past experience that you can brew with high fructose corn syrup. I tend to try to avoid it but figured this time, why not. So I used a couple of cups of knock off Aunt Jemima Syrup, added yeast and let it go.

Periodic samples at first indicated I had hit the jackpot. But as the weeks went by, the maple flavor disappeared.  At bottling time, I became rash and did two things without much thought. I added two teaspoons of maple flavoring extract. I hate using artificial extract but there you have it: desperate times called for desperate measures. And then, for some reason, I decided bourbon flavor would be nice so I added a cup of bottom shelf whiskey. Which in hindsight, was a mistake. The flavor isn’t there at all.

The maple syrup flavor, however, is outstanding. As time goes by, this is carbing up lightly and nicely, and the maple-apple goodness is just perfect for a cold day.

I’ll add a picture when I’m feeling better.