Tuesday, December 9, 2008


Bread is an essential element in every society. I read somewhere that in almost every culture ever discovered evidence of bread making existed in some form. There are breads for every occasion: breakfast, dessert, dinner, midnight snacks, you name it there’s a bread for it. When I was a kid I loved coming home to the smell of baking bread. My mom baked bread at least one day a week, and she always did several loaves at once. I would hang around and wait until she had finished mixing all the ingredients and emptied the dough onto the kneading board and then pick out all the little pieces of dough that were left behind. When that bread came out of the oven I was right there. As soon as it was barely cool enough to touch I had a piece cut and buttered. There just wasn’t any substitute for homemade bread. It was also really good for French toast, and dipping in hot chocolate. Bread made up a major part of my diet, but mainly I think the greatest impact it had on my life was the association it had with my concept of home. The smell of fresh baked bread always meant a nice, warm and welcoming place to be.
Mom died and I grew up and I didn’t get to have that same association anymore. I tried making it a few times, but it just wasn’t quite the same. My sister Diane always made a good loaf though, but it was a lot of work and she didn’t have time to do it very often. So it was with a great deal of hopeful anticipation that my wife and I decided to purchase the latest technological kitchen wonder: a bread maker.
Some of our friends had bread machines and loved them. From the day we brought it home I faithfully put the ingredients in, and a few hours later it dutifully gave me a hot fresh loaf of bread. The aroma reached every room in the house. I adapted my mom’s bread recipe to work in the bread maker and it was just like coming home from school when I walked through the door as a child. Perfect.
I became accustomed to being able to use our bread machine on a regular basis. We eventually relied on it for all of our bread needs. We no longer bought any bread at the store, except for an occasional bag of sourdough rolls.
Then one day the unthinkable happened. I opened up the bread maker and pulled out a bread brick. It was so hard and dense I could have used it to construct a wall.
SOMETHING was WRONG. My connection to my childhood was damaged. The bread smelled the same, but it was as dense as, well, a brick. I stared at it for a good long minute trying to figure out what went wrong. I had done everything exactly as I had done it so many times before. I repeated the process with two more loaves of bread with the same result.
I thought again about anything I might have done differently. Nothing. Then I realized who the true culprit was: the manufacturer of the machine. My anger began to rise as I thought of all the anguish this would cause me. I ran to find the receipt to find out if it was still under warranty. I found I had two weeks left. HA! They thought they could beat me on this one! Well they didn’t know whom they were dealing with! No one stands between fresh bread and me and survives.
I found a box big enough to hold the bread maker and packed it ever so carefully. I then sat down to write a very heartfelt letter to the manufacturer explaining the problem and kindly requesting their assistance. The package was sent, and the waiting began.
Several weeks later the package came back. I opened up the box and pulled out the machine. I eagerly set it up and loaded the ingredients in expectation of the wonderful aroma. Three hours later I opened it up and pulled out … a brick.
Now I was really torqued. I pulled out the invoice to see what repairs had actually been done. I read the following: “Plugged machine in. It ran fine.”
Was I supposed to be impressed with their diagnostic capabilities? Sadly, they did not achieve their goal.
Once again I sat down to write a letter of explanation to the manufacturer, only this time I was not quite as calm and collected. I questioned the quality of their work. I questioned the intelligence of their technicians. I questioned whether they had even bothered to bake a loaf of bread in the machine. I threatened to call the president of the company and report their shoddy workmanship, and lack of attention to detail. It could almost be described as venomously poetic.
Once again I repacked the machine and sent it off. I sat back to await its return several weeks later.
In the mean time I had to buy store bought bread. It was a truly humbling experience. I watched others in the store buying their bread with no idea of what they were missing. I lived a tortured existence until the day came when I received the machine back.
I quickly tore open the box and found the invoice. It read: “Replaced motor. Baked two (2) loaves of bread. They came out perfect.”
OK! Finally someone had listened with compassion to my plight! Once again I was on the path to a state of bliss as I loaded all the ingredients in the machine. I turned it on and waited for three hours. The smell was wonderful. It had been so long! The machine beeped, signaling the end of the baking cycle. I ran into the kitchen and opened the machine. Reaching in with my oven mitt covered hands I pulled out…. a brick.
First, my anger started to flare, but then I actually decided to think about the situation – quite a novel idea on my part. Okay, they said they baked two (2) loaves and they came out perfect. They get loaves, I get bricks. Hmmm. I looked at my ingredients. The flour looked fine, the sugar looked fine. I knew the water was ok, well as ok as tap water can be anyway. The only thing left was the yeast.
When I was in grade school I had done an experiment with yeast. I forget what the point of the experiment was, but it required mixing a spoonful of sugar into some warm water and then adding yeast to watch it grow. I, of course, couldn’t do exactly what directions said to do. If I was going to grow something I wanted it to grow more than anyone else’s did. To achieve that end I added extra sugar and extra yeast. The yeast grew and grew and grew. It grew right out of its container and all over the kitchen counter. The house smelled like a beer brewery. That was good yeast.
You know how you always asked your teacher the question: “When am I ever going to use this in real life?” Well, here’s a case in point. Of course, I usually asked this question in algebra, which I honestly don’t think I have actually used in real life yet but that’s beside the point.
Anyway, I readied my experiment. I got out a container and put some warm water mixed with sugar in it. I took a few spoonfuls of yeast and added it to the mix. The water turned a light brown. I waited a few minutes waiting for the telltale bubbles to form and fill the container. The water stayed brown. There were no bubbles.
I was a victim of bad yeast.
Now as I sat thinking of this it occurred to me that I had put a lot of effort into placing blame on the people that worked in the repair shop, and their apparent lack of ability.
I thought about writing them a nice note of reconciliation and apologizing for my incorrect assumptions, and being a stand-up guy and taking the blame for my mistakes. I thought about it for quite a while, as a matter of fact. Then I forgot about it until just now.
I don’t have that bread maker anymore and it’s been several years now. I don’t think anyone there remembers me anymore, so for the sake of keeping the peace I think I’ll just let sleeping dogs lie, and pay tribute to their fortitude and technical skill with a silent prayer of thanks whenever I smell the aroma of fresh baked bread.
©Dan Bode 1998

Thursday, December 4, 2008


It has been said that if you name your fears they are easier to deal with.
I fear electrical work, so I named it Beelzebub.
I do love the benefits of having electricity in my home, and pretty much everywhere I go, but I’d really much rather leave having to work with it to the experts. The problem with that is every time I’ve needed someone to work on an electrical problem I can’t afford to pay the experts to do it. And every time (and I do mean EVERY time) that I have done any remodeling work in my home, when I encounter any portion of the electrical system that needs to be worked on, it just doesn’t look right.
Our house was built in 1952. It’s not big, but it has always served our purposes. On the other hand it had some properties that, when viewed with kindness, are described as contributing to the “character” of the house. When viewed by my eyes the description that came to mind was “demo project”.
My wife insists that I am having fun when I swing the hammer or crowbar to break through the drywall. Probably because of the maniacal grin that appears on my face while I’m doing it. I have to admit there is some satisfaction in the release of destructive force; however, it is tempered by the thought of what I will find on the other side of that drywall. It can be like opening a time capsule sometimes. This is a space that hasn’t seen the light of day in 56 years after all. The phrase “they don’t make them like they used to” always comes to mind when I start one if these projects.
Several years ago we remodeled our kitchen. I had some friends helping me on that one, and I learned a lot from them in doing that.
Things like “measure twice cut once”. I’ve modified that to “measure 10 times, cut once an inch more than measured, and then trim down by 1 millimeter at a time until you get the right length, and then when it’s still a millimeter too long, force it in to the desired space.”
Or, “Plan out your project ahead of time”. I revised this one to “plan it out in general terms and then run to the big box hardware store 20 times in the course of the project for other materials and always, always make sure you buy a new tool before you leave”.
A little while after we finished the kitchen I started on one of our bathrooms. It wasn’t in bad shape or anything, but our house is short on cabinet space and this bathroom had no cabinets whatsoever. So we ordered cabinets and I started pulling everything out of the bathroom.
I also needed to replace the shower walls as well so I was ripping out tiles that were made of aluminum. I had never seen anything like that before.
In order to put the new cabinets in I had to relocate the light switch. I was also installing a fan and another set of outlets.
I read all the books on wiring your own house. They had great pictures.
I like pictures. Just show me what it’s supposed to look like in the end and I’m good.
So I tore out the drywall to get to the wiring.
It didn’t look anything like the pictures.
I got a weird feeling in the pit of my stomach, and things inside of me started to seize up, but I had unfortunately already torn out the toilet.
I looked at the pictures again.
I held the book up to the wall and tried to identify what I saw.
No luck.
So I turned off the light and shut the door to the bathroom and went to bed.
Surprisingly, it was all still there the next morning.
I looked at the book and found that the pictures were still the same too.
I had no choices left to me so I went out to the electrical box in the back yard and I turned off the electricity to the bathroom. Then I went in and cut a couple of wires.
No sparks, no fires.
That’s one of the things about electricity that I don’t like: if there’s not a little light attached to whatever you’re working on you never know if it’s there or not. It’s an invisible menace waiting to jump out and grab you just as you get comfortable in its presence.
As I got more comfortable with it I cut a few more wires until there was basically nothing left of the original wiring in the bathroom. Then I got out my picture book and put in new wiring to make it look like the pictures. Then came the moment of truth: it was time to turn the electricity back on.
So I went out to the box in the back and flipped the switch.
I was gratified that there were no explosions, and that the electricity did indeed stay on for the rest of the west coast. I was worried about that.
I went back inside to see what was happening.
Everything looked ok.
I approached the light switch that I installed and very cautiously flipped it on.
Both the light and the fan came on. I only wanted the light to come on.
I turned that switch off and flipped the fan switch on.
The fan and the light in the hallway came on.
I went into the hallway and flipped the hallway light switch (which, by the way, I hadn’t even touched) and the hallway light and the bathroom fan went off.
So I went back outside and turned off the electricity, and then I cut some more wires and started over again. Eventually I got it right. Or at least as right as I had a right to expect it to be right.
It has been a few years since that happened and the time came when the other bathroom had to be torn apart. I approached it with more confidence than the last time for the simple fact that I now had more experience, and the pictures in the book still hadn’t changed.
I got out the hammer and the crowbar and started in again.
I knew what I thought should be there, but when I stepped back and let the dust settle I found that I was looking at the same nightmare as before.
It didn’t match the pictures!
I really hate it when that happens.
There was extra stuff. Why do you need extra stuff in a bathroom?
So I did what I always do.
I shut the door and went to bed. I knew without a doubt that it would still be there when I woke up.
The next day I called my good friend Dave Nelson.
Dave is an electrical genius.
He is the high priest of electrical knowledge.
He is the one with all the electrical answers.
Dave is also one of those guys who are always on a quest for knowledge. When he wants to know about something he just jumps right in and finds out what is needed and does it. He is always working on something at his house. I can pretty much guarantee that if you walk into his house at any given time there is a project being worked on. I expect that the worst form of torture you could inflict on Dave would be to tell him that he had to sit down and relax and never visit another hardware store again.
So I called Dave and sent him a picture of what I was looking at. He looked at the picture and we talked about it, and he concluded that in this case everything appeared to be the way it was supposed to be.
He concluded his remarks with, “I don’t really see a problem. I think you’ll do fine with it.”
That’s another thing about Dave; he’s an eternal optimist.
In my head I was saying, “YOU don’t see a problem? I still see a problem! This is BEELZEBUB we’re talking about here!”
With my mouth I was saying, “Yeah, I think I understand it now. I should be ok.”
So I turned the electricity off and cut some wires. No explosions.
I finally got it finished and went on to finish the drywall, install the sink and paint everything.
Now that it’s done I have a new issue.
When we were deciding on the color my wife wanted yellow.
I did not want yellow.
We compromised on a kind of golden brownish color that seemed to fit the room. So we got the paint and I finished the job.
Then the paint dried.
It’s yellow.
In fact it’s actually YELLOW!
It’s so YELLOW! that you don’t even have to turn on the light to see at night because it pretty much glows in the dark! And if you turn on the light you're gonna go blind.
YELLOW! does not belong in a bathroom. It’s too strongly associated with something else that you will find in a bathroom that is also yellow which I shall not name here to save those of sensitive dispositions. It is also often associated with the number 1.
After having to sit in the YELLOW! room for a while I have now discovered that I truly hate YELLOW!
On the other hand, the light switch only turns on the light in the bathroom so maybe I’ll just leave it that for now.
©Dan Bode 2008

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Stand Firm

061111 Stand Firm

You’re beaten.
Your body is bruised and bloody beyond recognition.
Your only sensation is merciless, unceasing pain.
You can barely see the ground you lie on because your eyes are all but swollen shut.
You are alone in your circumstance as well as your emotions.

Despite all that works against you, despite the repeated assaults, despite everything you’ve suffered through at the hands of another, you draw your arms in and push yourself up. Your joints that once moved easily bring your pain to a new crescendo as you bend your knees and stand again.
Your enemies who encircle you shake their heads at your folly, for you all know you will only be knocked to the ground again. All you have to do is stay down. Don’t get up. Let your defiance of their desires fight another day. But you’ve already decided you’ve had enough, and that voice has already told you, “Stand firm.”
At the words that leave your mouth their eyes widen in surprise, and maybe even fear and some awe, “I forgive you.”
As they cruelly laugh and taunt you that voice whispers again, “Vengeance is mine.”
You reply, “They do not know what they do.”
The sorrow comes through in the quiet response, “I know. Believe Me I know. Stand firm. They are not yet ready for heaven so you cannot kill them.” And you know this is true for you can feel the power to do that easily within your reach, and you discover that the truth of strength is not using the power at your disposal in the normal human response.

Forgiveness is one of the most difficult attributes of the Christian faith. For while there is violence in the Christian faith the Biblical depiction of that violence in the New Testament is that which is done to us rather than by us, hence the requirement that we “turn the other cheek”. This is all the more difficult for me, because I am anything but a pacifist. If there is something in my way I would much rather blow it up, or punch my way through it and be done with it than have to think it through, and apply my faith.
There are seasons in our lives. Some are painful beyond comprehension, and some are the sweetest satisfaction of our deepest longings. Some, the most valuable ones, are an exquisite combination of both for they are often the result of the healing of a wound. We do not desire the wound, yet having been wounded we desire to be healed, and once healed we are left with something so valuable that we would never give it up.
But we would never have received it if we had never been hurt. This is where faith is applied, where faith meets reality.

We are in a time in this very nation where we value freedom above all, where we as Christians are coming under fire for our beliefs. Government and civil organizations are actively trying to curb our rights even to express our beliefs publicly. Christians are being branded as fascists in many publications. While this is a relatively minor variety of persecution when compared to what is faced in the rest of the world it must be noted that persecution always starts out with the little things.
It will get worse.
It will get worse because the world does not wish to be confronted with the truth of its failures, and if we refuse to conform to the world’s idea of what a Christian should be then we must be silenced somehow. There will come a day when we will feel beaten as I described, in a spiritual sense at least, and that is when the words will come to you telling you to “Stand firm”.
Many decisions are being made by our lawmakers that are antithetical to Christian beliefs. They are wrong and should not be condoned by believing Christians, however, I believe that we Christians need to be reminded of a few things.

First, scripture states that “God is not mocked.” This is a simple statement of fact. It is not just some emotional statement made to inspire. It is very simply impossible to mock God. Many will say the words and take the actions that mock their conception of Him, but that doesn’t mean it has any effect on Him. Mockery is only effective insofar as it can actually hurt someone. No mockery by man will ever have any effect on God.

Second, there are laws of man, and there is the Law of God. We as Christians are to follow the Law of God to the exclusion of the law of man. If man makes a law contrary to His will it is quite simply not valid. There may be consequences to us in our daily lives if we do not follow man’s law, however we will know the Truth of the matter and the true consequences of what we do and how we live.

Third, God is not registered to a political party. Christians will not always agree on political issues, but that does not make them less Christian. If I go to another country I may be disliked for my American politics, but welcomed as a brother and well loved because of a common love of Christ. We are all human, therefore we will all make mistakes in our actions and in our beliefs. God knows the truth of our hearts. I know Christians who actually registered in another party, and much to my surprise, they are not condemned to hell for it! We are held in thrall to a two party political system, and neither of the two sides adequately reflects a Christian ethic. We are not, unfortunately, living in a theocracy (ruled directly by God).
We are giving too much authority to our political system.
Too many churches have put their political goals ahead of their faith.
When this occurs you find politicians stumping from the pulpit.
Politics is not worship, nor should it be mistaken for an expression of faith.
In every election no matter which side of the party lines you fall on, all the candidates insist that what we need is change. We must do something different than what has been done up to this point. The problem is that man, in this area, is painfully consistent. No matter what change we are told we need, the only real change that occurs is the face of the one who wins the election. After that it becomes business as usual. Committees are formed, hearings are held, and there are so many talking heads no one knows what anyone is really saying.
We insist that we must have committed Christians in political office, but what we see is someone who claims to follow Christ getting caught up in the same scandals that all the others are facing. We have to face the fact that either they were not Christians in the first place, or, heaven forbid, they are just as human as the rest of us and subject to the same temptations and weaknesses as all Christians are. And we must further realize that as Christians we are not qualified to judge anyone. Judgement is reserved for God alone and always has been. We are judged as readily as the next person whether they be saint or sinner.
There is a saying that has been used and overused ad nauseum that states “Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven.”
This is a true statement, however, I believe it is woefully incomplete. What it doesn’t say is this: that while we are truly forgiven of our sins, we are not in any way excused.
While God forgets our sin, we cannot. We were not made to forget. We need to remember what He has forgiven in order to turn away from it. We need to remember what we did in order to avoid it in the future while at the same time accepting His forgiveness to keep from repeatedly condemning ourselves. His forgiveness negates Satan’s attempts to bring us down when he reminds us of our failures.
We must admit that we are forgiven. The guilt is lifted in order to allow us to DO. Unforgiveness leads us into inactive faith. We stagnate and become ill equipped to deal with reality in spiritual terms.
Be forgiven, but live with the knowledge that you have been saved from His justice.
Pretending does nothing for you. We often claim that we are forgiven, but approach a relationship with God in fear and trepidation rather than love and joy.
We cannot dilute this message: With His forgiveness comes His love. Without it you die in condemnation, and you will wind up in hell. There are no two ways about it.
The idea is to work through the sin to receive forgiveness not ignore it or rename the sin to avoid dealing with its very real effects on our lives. My sin is forgiven, but I must still deal with the consequences of my actions. The way that I deal with it will in itself reflect the grace of my God to the rest of the world.
So all this being said, I will say one more thing.
We need change.
In fact, I DEMAND change!
If I am to demand a change then it must begin at a fundamental level.
Change must first begin within me.
The only place I have any power to effect any change is within myself. It has never been the right of any person to demand change in any other. Change is left to God and the individual. Only God can know someone’s truest heart, and I was never made to bear the responsibility for someone else’s soul.
The world is not made any different from the political system down. It starts with you and me. It starts with each of us taking responsibility for what we have done. The only way we can bring any effective change to our world is to first invite Christ to make the change within us, and then act on that change. I refuse to give any politician the responsibility to improve my world, or determine my worth. Because by giving them the responsibility I also give them the control that should be in God’s hands. That is the point at which I have sold myself.
Change within me will be seen by others, and may effect some change in them.
Changes in them will affect their relationships with others, etc.
This is how we change the world.
Politicians come and go.
Causes are only temporary.
And nations always fall from within.

Oswald Chambers wrote this:
“ ‘Jesus did not commit Himself to them … for He knew what was in man’ (John 2:24–25).
Put Trust in God First. Our Lord never put His trust in any person. Yet He was never suspicious, never bitter, and never lost hope for anyone, because He put His trust in God first. He trusted absolutely in what God’s grace could do for others. If I put my trust in human beings first, the end result will be my despair and hopelessness toward everyone. I will become bitter because I have insisted that people be what no person can ever be—absolutely perfect and right. Never trust anything in yourself or in anyone else, except the grace of God.”
Oswald Chambers “My Utmost for His Highest” May 31st

The only one who deserves our trust and devotion is Christ alone, and he asks us to sacrifice ourselves in His name for His purpose.

Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends
John 15:13

We Americans have made the Unites States a major player in the Biblical world picture, but I have serious doubts that God gives us the same level of importance that we give ourselves. Not even a nation as great as ours can have more importance in our own eyes than what Christ calls us to.
The simple fact is this; when I die I will not go to an "American" heaven.
When I pray it is not to an American, or even a human leader.
When I accept the gift of my eternal salvation it is not given by the hand of the president.
My God is my life and the hope of my death.
I will have it no other way.
Make no mistake; I am proud and glad to be an American. Despite what I have written I do enjoy the freedom others have fought and died for that allows me to write these things. But neither will I support any political or idealogical worldview that opposes the stated will of God.
The American Dream is not the Dream of God.
We are children of a greater Nation – The Family of God – if we so choose.
If we put aside all others.
If we forsake the false and embrace the Truth.
If we choose to be in the world, but not of it.
We have better things to do than to support the schemes of men. We are called to a higher purpose.
Answer the call.
Stand ready.
Stand firm.
©Dan Bode 2008