He is a Fortress

 

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The Ramparts of Jerusalem

The pressures of life can be a bit much at times.  It is precisely at those moments when it is beginning to overwhelm, that we can take a step back and put it all into perspective.

The Psalmist did this in the opening verses of Psalm 91.  It is a reminder that it is God that is in control, and that He preserves His people.

Psalm 91

“Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday (verses 1-6).”

While the passage has some great metaphors, the message is clear.  God will, and does help. Whether it is in the face of those who seek to entrap or deceive you (the fowler’s  or hunter’s snare), or the pestilence of disease, corruption, or accident, God will protect. Like a mother hen wrapping its wings (“He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge”) around its chicks, He is vigilant. His love for us, and the steadfastness of His promises are both a shield (a personal defense) and a rampart (a wall that protects many).  God is good.

Padre

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Tuna Sloppy Joe

 

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The traditional Sloppy Joe is an American standard. It is saucy and flows from the bun with loads of flavour. Seafood alternatives include the Tuna Sloppy Joe made with tinned tuna.  While it is simple to make (really you can add Heinz Sloppy Joe sauce to a can of tuna) it is a little more personal to your taste to add some veg, and experiment with the sauce options.  Here is a recipe which I made for lunch the other day, and it is a great starting point to finding your preferred Joe.

 

Ingredients:

The Sloppy:

  • Tomato Paste 1/4 cup  
  • Tomato Ketchup 1/2 cup
  • Worcestershire Sauce 4 Tbs
  • Cider Vinegar 2 Tbs
  • Ground Cumin 1 Tbs
  • Tabasco Sauce  splash
  • Water as needed to make a smooth sauce

The Joe:

  • Tuna 1 can in water (160 g)
  • Bell Pepper 1
  • Onion 1
  • Garlic 1 clove
  • Oil 1 tsp

Bread of your choice

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Method:

Combine the sauce ingredients in a sauce pan and put on a gentle heat.  Stir and allow to thicken and blend.  Dice the onion, pepper, and garlic and fry in oil until tender.  Stir in the drained tuna and add spoonfuls of the sauce until it reached the desired consistency.  Then add a couple of extra spoonfuls, and allow to reduce on moderate heat. Spoon onto buns, and serve with coleslaw.

Padre

 

Exploring Masada

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View of Dead Sea from Masada

Masada is a palace and fortress complex overlooking the Dead Sea. It was constructed on a plateau by King Herod; but is most famous as the site of a siege in 73/74 CE when Jewish Rebels made their stand against Rome following the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE.  The Romans eventually broke Masada’s defenses, but the mountain complex has become a symbol of Israeli defiance to invasion, and a reminder of “Never Again.”

We arrived on an August morning, well before noon and it was already in the 40s C.  The area is sun-bleached desert, and rather bleak.  It made the fortress above us seem even more imposing, and the entire place felt filled with history.  Some of the party wanted to take the winding path to the top, but most of us opted for the cable-car.

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Masada Gate from Upper Cable Car Station

The plateau fortress is huge, and is approximately 600 by 300 meters is size. The cliff walls are relatively sheer and drop between 100 and 450 meters to the desert floor below. The complex has barracks, palaces, defensive towers, and water cisterns making it a formidable defense.

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Model and Map of Complex

As in noted it was a hot dry day. This sun drenched place so high above the wilderness below had (and has) a massive need for water.  Herod had huge water cisterns built to take care of this need. Today, there are still water stations available to fill drink bottles for visitors.  Ironically (or at least sadly), I saw a lot of it wasted by visiting teenagers using it for water fights.

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Ancient Cistern

Herod had two palaces on the mound, his residential palace/villa on the north of the plateau, and the Western Palace which had his throne room, and elaborate features.  The western Palace was the largest building on the site.

The fortifications, with curtain walls, the sheer drop of the cliffs, and the many watch towers are impressive.  It becomes clear how the nearly 1000 rebels were able to hold out so long during the siege.

But after a long siege the might of Rome did prevail. The Romans using forced Jewish labour constructed a ramp up the cliff and breached the defenses.  It was not the victory they expected however, as when they arrived the 960 defenders had killed each other to defy capture.  The Law forbade suicide, so lots were drawn to determine who would kill his comrade rather than give Rome triumph.

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Roman Ramp

Our visit was over, and the temperatures continued to soar, so we left the fortress and headed to the oasis of En Gedi and the Dead Sea beyond.

Padre

Blackberry Blitz

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Some very dear friends brought us a large container of blackberries today, and it was a perfect gift as I had been wanting to make this recipe for some time.  It blends the fruit, simple syrup, and fizzy water/drink to make a nice summer treat.  It is a little labour intensive but well worth the effort.

Ingredients:

  • Fresh Blackberries 2 cups
  • Simple syrup 100 ml or Stevia 1 Tbs
  • Fruit-flavoured Sparkling Water or Fizzy Lemonade 300 to 400 ml
  • Ice 1 to 2 cups

Method:

Place ice in a blender and crush thoroughly.  Divide out into glasses.  Place the berries, and 100 to 150 ml of fizzy drink into blender and blitz well. Add additional soda to the blender as needed to make a thick fruit liquid.  Place a wire strainer over a pitcher or jug and strain out the seeds from the berries.  When this process is finished stir in the syrup to the jug (if using Stevia stir in, but use more soda in next step) and pour over the ice.  Top up the glasses with additional fizzy drink.

Padre

Pasta Salad 2

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Here is a pasta salad with a bit of a Mediterranean feel.   I am particularly fond of the pesto flavour that accompanies the richness of the sun dried tomatoes and olives. This is a great picnic side dish, or a nice lunch in its own right.

Ingredients:

  • Pasta 1 1/2 cups uncooked (I use gluten free)
  • Sun Dried Tomatoes 4 large
  • Spring Onions 3
  • Olives 10 pitted
  • Capers 1 tsp
  • Pesto 1 Tbs
  • Mayonnaise 1 to 1 1/2 Tbs according to desired consistency
  • Water as per pasta instructions
  • Salt to taste

Method:

Prepare the pasta according to the manufacturer’s instructions, but leaving it slightly firm. While it is cooking dice the onions, and tomatoes into small pieces and add to a large bowl (including any oil leaked from the tomatoes). Next cut the olives into rings and add to the bowl. Add the capers and stir. When pasta is ready rinse  in cold water and drain very well. Add the pasta to the bowl, and spoon in the pesto and mayo.  Stir very well until everything is evenly coated.  Add salt to taste (I didn’t need any). Cover and chill until ready to serve.

Padre

 

Chilled Cocoa Horchata

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Here is a tasty chocolate treat.  It blends chilled cocoa drink and horchata to make a sweet summer drink.  The two components can be made and stored (briefly) and blended at the time of serving.  If made in advance, be sure to give a good stir to keep it from separating.

Horchata Component:

This bit is a minor variation on the Horchata recipe I have previously posted.

Ingredients:

  • Uncooked While Rice 1 cup
  • Almonds handful
  • Water 750 ml
  • Vanilla Essence 1 1/2 tsp
  • Ground Cinnamon 1/2 tsp 
  • Stevia 2 rounded Tbs (or to taste) or 1/3 cup sugar

Method:

Pour the rice, almonds, and water into a blender and blitz until rice just begins to break up. Let set at room temperature for about 3 hours. Strain out the nut pieces and rice solids, and mix the liquid with the cinnamon, sweetener, vanilla.  Place in a closed container and chill.

Cocoa Component:

Ingredients:

  • Milk 500 ml
  • Chocolate Bar 70%+ 100 g
  • Pure Cocoa Powder 1 tsp
  • Stevia 1 tsp or Sugar 1 heaped Tbs

Method:

In a small sauce pan put a large splash of milk, and then bring to medium heat. Break up the chocolate into small pieces and add to the pan.  As it begins to melt, add the milk slowly stirring constantly. When all of the milk is added, sprinkle in the cocoa and sweetener.  Continue to stir well, then allow to cool.

Cocoa Horchata

Ingredients:

  • Horchata Mixture (as above)
  • Cocoa Mixture (as above)
  • Ground Cinnamon to garnish
  • Ice

Method:

This part is easy.  Pour the horchata and cocoa together in to a large pitcher and stir well.  Fill glasses about 1/4 full with ice, and then top off with the mixture.  Sprinkle with cinnamon and serve.

Padre

 

“Look What I Did!”

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I have written before about the prevalent attitude of entitlement.  Hand in hand with this is the obsession with fame, glory, and celebrity.  Society revels in the Kardashians, “reality” champions, and X Y Zs that “Got Talent.” If we are honest, “Look, they are winners!” and “Look what they achieved;” comments often belie the true desire to be so recognised ourselves.

People often see all gains in life as the result of human effort: “I earned a promotion,” and “Look what I did.” It is bad enough to hear my students say such things like “We won the match,” when not one of them was on the field, much less even on the team. But such flippant self-congratulations are more than just mis-speaking, they are a form of vanity. To be fair, I have done (and do) this as well.  But, are we giving credit where credit is due?

It is refreshing, and informative therefore that in Psalm 44 we find a reality check,

“We have heard it with our ears, O God; our ancestors have told us
what you did in their days, in days long ago. With your hand you drove out the nations and planted our ancestors;
you crushed the peoples and made our ancestors flourish. It was not by their sword that they won the land, nor did their arm bring them victory;
it was your right hand, your arm, and the light of your face, for you loved them (verses 1-3).”

The Psalmist rightly notes two key facts.  The first, is that they listened to a true testimony (wow, they listened to their elders, teachers, and priests).  But more importantly, they acknowledged that blessing, and accomplishments were in the hands of God.

In Evan Almighty there is a scene when Evan prays, thanking God for what had been provided.  Good start.  He goes one to thank God for his home, but lapses into the “Kardashian” attitude of “but I picked it out.” Me, Myself, and I; not Thee, Thou, and Thine.

As we look at “what I have done,” let us keep some perspective. Yes, we have made effort.  Yes, we have accomplished tasks. But the blessing is from the Lord.  Even the very talents, skills, beauty, intelligence, etc. that enabled such accomplishments came from Him.  There is no such thing as a “self-made man (woman).”

Let us be hesitant to say “Look at what I did,” and be readily prepared to note “What He has done.”  Let’s give credit where credit is due.

Padre

Strawberry Splash

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Here is a variation of the Strawberry Ginger Splash which is sweeter, and more berry flavoured. It uses raspberry flavoured/infused sparking water instead of ginger ale, and has a higher quantity of fruit as well. I made a double sized batch (2 times the recipe below) the other night when we had some friends around, and the jug sized version was well received, so the proportions in the recipe really work.

Ingredients:

  • Raspberry Water 1 litre
  • Fresh Strawberries 20
  • Stevia 1 Tbs
  • Ice 2 cups
  • Lemon Juice splash

Method:

Wash and prepare the strawberries into a blender and add 500 ml of the flavoured water and sweetener.  Blitz until fruit is evenly blended.  Add the ice and blitz until evenly mixed. Pour fruit mixture into a large glass 2/3 full, then top with additional raspberry water.

Padre

Horchata

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Here is a Mexican treat which is similar to the cinnamon and cream recipe which I posted on Monday. It is blended with homemade rice milk, milk, cinnamon, and vanilla. It is sweet, and refreshing, and great in the summer weather.

Ingredients:

  • Uncooked While Rice 1 cup
  • Almonds handful
  • Water 750 ml
  • Milk 300 ml
  • Vanilla Essence 1 1/2 tsp
  • Ground Cinnamon 1/2 tsp plus garnish
  • Stevia 2 rounded Tbs (or to taste)
  • Ice

Method:

Pour the rice, almonds, and water into a blender and blitz until rice just begins to break up. Let set at room temperature for about 3 hours. Strain out the nut pieces and rice solids, and mix the liquid with the cinnamon, sweetener, vanilla, and milk.  Place in a closed container and chill.  Serve in glasses over ice, and sprinkle cinnamon on top.

Padre

Cinnamon Apple Cooler

 

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Made with Cream

Here is another summer cooler with a bit of bite.  I like the spicy taste, and the chill of the crushed ice.

Ingredients:

  • Ground Cinnamon 1 tsp
  • Apple Juice 750 to 1000 ml
  • Lemon Juice 1 tsp
  • Ground Cloves large pinch
  • Stevia 1 Tbs
  • Ice 2 to 3 heaped cups
  • Double Cream or Whipped Cream to garnish

Method place the ice into a blender and blitz until broken into medium pieces (this may only take a coupe of pulses).  Add the lemon juice, sweetener, spices, and juice and blitz until frothy. Allow to settle and pour into glasses. Top with a dollop of whipped cream, or stir in a tablespoon of double cream.

Padre