Dealing with physical pain over a long period of time wore me down. After a while, life was dull. I found less joy in daily activities, and the constant discomfort kept me on edge. Every day I woke up focused on the pain. Each evening I went to sleep wishing something would change.
When I received news that my twenty-nine-year-old cousin had been killed in an automobile accident, I experienced a dramatic shift in the way I viewed life. Physical pain turned into a positive sign that I was still alive. It was surprising to discover how much my pain decreased when my focus changed from living in pain to appreciating the life I had.
After being downsized from a job, I faced the daily temptation to just give
I saw a decal on the back of an SUV the other day. It read: “Not of this World” and had a Christian cross underneath it. I never have understood this concept. Years ago when I was a minister I used to wrestle with the idea Christians are somehow not supposed to be of this world. What are we supposed to be, aliens? As often happens I think those passages of scripture that mention that phrase are misunderstood. Jesus once said his kingdom was not of this world. But that was clearly a reference to how he dealt with life as opposed to how the Roman Empire handled it.
He came from love; they came from fear. His approach was acceptance; theirs was suspicion. His mission was peace; theirs was domination.
St. Paul used the phrase in one of his letters. He often spoke out of his harsh background of persecuting Christians. I think sometimes Paul pushed too hard. People who have had unhealthy, scarred, abused, intemperate pasts often use their religious beliefs in the extreme. They overcompensate for their previous behavior by trying to keep everything in the present, structured and under control. Paul had those moments.
My father is almost 95 years old. He went to the local grocery store. As he was leaving he found the flat crosswalk at the store entrance blocked by a huge pick-up truck that parked illegally right in front of the doors.
My dad saw a man get out of the truck and said to him, “Excuse me, this is a no parking zone. Can you please move your truck so we can safely go around?”
The guy responded, “You just take care of your groceries old man and I’ll take care of how I park.”
My fragile old father was forced to go over a big curb with his shopping cart because the man would not move his truck.
I know exactly what you’re thinking. My egocentric pride reactively thought the same thing. How dare the man treat my dad so rudely? Who does he think he is? How can anyone behave with such calloused entitlement and
I recently spent the weekend with my son, Luke, in southwest Oklahoma. He manages a large ranch there set in the hills of vast trees and rugged trails. I love going there because, for one thing, I get to spend time with him and his dogs, Maggie and Gus. And for another, I get to get out of the city and enjoy the peace and quiet of the country.
The ranch is a majestic spot set on nearly 3,000 acres and Luke has transformed it into a real paradise. The grounds around the ranch house, the barn, the shed, and the corral are immaculate. Big trees stand by the house and shade the nearby fire pit. It’s a perfect spot for morning coffee or friends around a fire at night.
There are cattle and horses that Luke tends to and across the rolling hills deer graze and raise their heads to stare if Luke and I pull up in the gator. Then they take off, running elegantly into the woods.
Today, I was reading an article on the website of a leading news organization written by a seasoned investigative journalist and decided to look at the string of comments. As a public figure and someone devoted to integrity and God I have been trolled on a few occasions over the years. But, I was taken aback at the number of hateful comments made against the man’s fact based reporting by people who voluntarily identified themselves as Christians.
Yet, I was not really surprised. Over the past several years I have noticed a growing incongruence within the political and religious arenas in the United States between some who call themselves Christians and behavior that is anything but Christ-like.
Maybe these people attend a congregation where the vilification of those
I had lunch recently with my friend Andy Morrison. Andy is in his early 40s and has Asperger’s Syndrome. Asperger’s falls within the autism spectrum of developmental disorders. The condition involves the development of basic skills such as communication and socialization. In people with Asperger’s these skills are delayed and complex in their functions. People with Asperger’s may display eccentric behavior, a preoccupation with specific subjects or rituals, a limited range of interests, and most noticeably problems with social skills.
Andy struggles with all of these difficulties. But one major difference is his vast intelligence. He is a voracious reader with a photographic memory. He fully understands language, has a phenomenal vocabulary, and an encyclopedic mind. I learn from him every time we meet.
There seems to be a perception among some people that because I have a spiritual page and am devoted to God I am not supposed to speak about politics. I am not supposed to take a side. I’m supposed to turn the other cheek or remain silent and just watch while negative and evil consumes us.
Well, Jesus certainly took sides. He spoke up against those in political and religious influence who abused their power over others. He would be doing the same thing in a huge way today! That gives me the courage to do so also.
It’s time we understand we are in a battle between good and evil. This fight
Sociologist Theodor Adorno once wrote that “Triviality is evil.” That might very well be an appropriate epitaph for our nation. We may actually see the end to a great experiment in freedom, creativity, ingenuity, genius, and a once civil society known as America. And it won’t be from a terrorist bomb.
Triviality certainly fits our current political climate. It describes much of religion in America today. It explains our economy and the shredding of fairness in the workplace, in the giant corporate arena, and in the wild untamed monkeyshine behavior of Wall Street and its gang of banks.
2 pounds ground turkey (optional but browned and drained of excess fat)
2 28 ounce cans Hunt’s tomato sauce
1 28 ounce can Hunt’s petite diced tomatoes (drain, pick out peels)
1 6 ounce can Hunt’s tomato paste
1 6 ounce red wine (I fill the empty tomato paste can)
8 ounce pack whole white button mushrooms (remove end of stems, wash, slice and cut into small pieces)
8 ounce pack whole Baby portabella mushrooms (remove end of stems, wash, slice and cut into small pieces)
1 large yellow or white onion (sliced, diced and sautéed in olive oil until translucent)
1 4.5 ounce can diced black olives
8 cloves garlic, finely chopped (I used garlic in a jar or dehydrated soaked in warm water)
3 bay leaves
1 tsp. Ground fennel (overflowing tsp.)
1 tsp. Peperoncini (red pepper flakes)
1 Tbs. Oregano leaves (overflowing Tbs.)
2 Tbs. Parsley flakes (overflowing Tbs.)
2 Tbs. Salt-free Italian seasoning (overflowing Tbs.)
1 tsp. Basil (overflowing tsp.)
1 Tbs. Brown sugar (overflowing Tbs.)
1 Tbs. Extra Virgin Olive Oil (for sauce not browning onions)
Combine all ingredients in a large pot. Bring mixture to a boil, stirring frequently, then immediately reduce heat to low.
Fix lid on pot so steam is allowed to escape. Cook on low for two hours. Stir every fifteen to twenty minutes.
Turn off heat and leave on stove with pot vented to allow steam to escape if you plan to serve within two hours. It’s better if you let sauce sit in pot overnight in the refrigerator.
Reheat right before serving over your choice of pasta or a personal favorite, oven roasted ¼ inch thin-sliced red, yellow, and orange bell pepper. Top either choice with powdered Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. Freeze the rest of sauce for later.
Additional Ingredients for Lasagna
In the above recipe substitute a second can of petite diced tomatoes for one of the tomato sauce and add these: 8 ounces Shredded low-fat Mozzarella, 1 container low-fat Ricotta cheese (room temperature) and powdered Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. Lasagna noodles.
Make exact same sauce recipe with the second can of tomatoes instead of sauce.
Once sauce is cool, next day is best, lightly coat bottom and sides of deep 9 x 12 baking dish with olive oil.
Boil lasagna noodles according to recipe with 1 Tbs. olive oil in water.
Once noodles are cooked immediately rinse them in cold water to keep from sticking together.
Separate noodles and pat dry with paper towel.
Put layer of noodles in bottom of dish (I use 4 overlapped noodles for the bottom layer then 3 or 4 for each remaining layer). I use all noodles in the box.
Add a layer of sauce mixture (spread evenly to cover noodles but not too thick).
Space teaspoon size portions Ricotta cheese (so there is Ricotta in each piece of cut lasagna).
Spread grated mozzarella cheese over the layer.
Dust with powdered Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.
Repeat until you have 4 layers and have used all pasta noodles, mozzarella and Ricotta.
End with sauce layer and top with powdered Parmigiano Reggiano cheese (you should have some sauce left to freeze).
Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees.
Uncover and bake for an addition 20 to 25 minutes to lightly brown top.
When thoroughly heated remove from oven and let stand for 20 to 30 minutes before cutting and serving.
Each year my mom and dad’s church holds an auction to raise funds for the community projects it supports. My father is an avid fly fisherman who enjoys tying his own flies. In preparation for the auction, my dad spent several weeks tying flies as his donation. Day after day, he carefully created the tiny lifelike insects, and when he finished, he gently placed each in its own section of a plastic box. In the end there were about forty of his handcrafted flies.
Before the auction, my mom told me about my dad’s efforts. I secretly arranged with the auctioneer to be on the phone so I could bid. The big day arrived, and when it was time for my dad’s item, I received a phone call. The bidding started at twenty-five dollars. Of course, I raised that to thirty dollars. It was countered at thirty-five dollars. I quickly bid forty. Apparently, someone in the audience wanted my dad’s creations, too.
The bidding bounced back and forth between the two of us, until at sixty-five dollars I went for it and bid one hundred dollars.
“Going once . . . going twice . . . sold to the mystery caller on the phone,” I heard the auctioneer say. He asked me to hold while he put my dad on the phone. No one in the audience, except Mom, knew who was on the other end of the line until I said, “Hello, Daddy. I’m so glad I got your beautiful flies.” With that, my sweet father burst into tears of joy. He was so happy and surprised to hear it was me on the other end of the line. He turned to the crowd and said, “It’s my daughter from California.” The entire place erupted with applause.
It feels amazing to be in the position to surprise someone with a gift of kind-heartedness that touches both of you. Being kind