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
Fundamentalism in religion is primarily the result of a literal interpretation of a sacred text. This is where it starts. This is how it is fueled. It is an approach where compromise is unacceptable, where the whole text has dominance over any individual passage. Consequently, in the fundamentalist’s mind, everything in their sacred text is pure, right, and infallible.
The Christian Bible, the Muslim Koran, the Jewish Torah or Old Testament, are the three primary sacred texts that are often taken by their individual groups of believers as literally true in every word. Hindus have the Bhagavad Gita but they do not worship it in the sense these other religions do their Books. Buddhists have no holy text but instead are guided by sutras or the sayings and teachings of Buddha. Rarely do you see fundamentalists among Hindus or Buddhists.
As Christians, or people who admire Jesus without the religious label, we are to do our best to love one another with the integrity of Christ. However, this is a challenge, because not all Christians or people who say we love Jesus are equally devoted to living from integrity to discern right and wrong, truth from fiction, trustworthiness from conspiracy, and justice from injustice.
Without the discernment of integrity we cannot identify the dishonest from the honest and the accountable from the irresponsible. Without the values of integrity to guide our reasoning we do not acknowledge and condemn propaganda, fake news, or conspiracy theories. Without integrity we do not have the ability to accurately evaluate a person’s character. Without a shared devotion to walk in the footsteps of integrity as Jesus did, we do not have a willingness or the compassion to put ourselves in the position of others.
Sure we have lots to work on to fix what is broken within Christianity, politics, and society. And, you and I may ultimately agree on the topics we must address. But you and I, or anyone in a conflicting situation, cannot begin to find common ground to develop real solutions if there is no common devotion to respect, honesty, compassion, and justice.
To find common ground we must jointly acknowledge the clear danger of defending, as simply having a different view, tabloid media, white supremacists, racial bigots, those prejudiced against people with handicaps, gays, women, the poor, blacks, immigrants, Muslims etc.
Jesus would remind us there are awful outcomes that arise from defending biased agendas and judgmental hearts. It is extremely dangerous to give a voice or power to people who do not care to hold themselves accountable for the damage hate speech and unjust policies do. Therefore, hesitation on any Christian’s part to clearly identify and vilify purveyors of persecution, division, injustice, and lies, results in a real danger to our society and to our relationships.
A refusal to stand up to tyranny as Jesus would certainly endangers the relationship we have with God. And, Christ.
There is a calling in life that is spiritual but not religious. It comes from deep within us and from influences outside of us.
It comes from losses and longings, from lessons not yet learned, from lost loves, from emotional hurts we felt but never healed. It comes from thinking we failed our parents, from missing obvious life messages, from disappointing ourselves. It comes from sorry parenting, from unrealistic expectations we accepted, from betrayals received and given. It comes from faulty theology, from the wrong ideas about God, from fears that we are born bad and stay bad. It comes from kids or teens or adults who bullied us, from sexual abuse, from relationship battering, from being belittled in some wounding way or ways.
My uncle’s car broke down on a sparsely populated stretch of two-lane highway. This happened long before cell phones, and he was stuck in the middle of nowhere. He had to depend on the off chance that someone would happen along.
After a while he heard a soft buzzing that sounded like a swarm of bees heading in his direction. As the noise grew louder, he watched the horizon. Soon a group of motorcycle riders crested the hill.
Even though my uncle had not personally encountered bikers before, he was terrified at the sight of them. He had formed a critical conclusion of motorcycle riders from others’ opinions and harbored a preconceived idea that they were all dangerous. He feared they would rob and possibly harm him. With nowhere to hide, he felt completely helpless as he watched them approach.
I’ve known several tattooed biker guys with scraggly beards, do-rags, and wallets on chains, and I realize how they might seem ominous. Yet, I know from experience that we cannot accurately measure the true character of any person or group of people based on a stereotype.
Most of the motorcycle group waved as they passed by my uncle. Two riders stopped and politely asked if they could be of help.
Let’s face it; racism in this country is a reality and a hideous evil.
There is a great line from John Merrick, the Elephant Man, in the movie by the same title. Physically distorted, emotionally tormented because of his glaring differences, he tries to justify the cruelty of others by saying to a physician, “People are frightened by what they don’t understand.”