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Vegan Peach Cobbler

Someone recently posted the rhetorical question, “What do vegans even eat?” The answer is, “pretty much anything they want!” Almost any of my favorite recipes can be modified to be vegan. This simple and delicious  peach cobbler is one example of how to modify a recipe.  Continue reading


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Fresh Gingered Cranberry Sauce

Thanks to Tracy from North Brookfield Mass for use of this image from Wikimedia Commons!


Growing up, I took my mother’s home made cranberry sauce for granted at Thanksgiving.   Pork was always served with cooked apple or pear, and turkey was always served with fresh cranberry sauce.   It wasn’t until we moved to China that I learned that cranberries and Continue reading

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Compassion in Listening

One of the interesting things that happens when one begins to coach others is that the skill being taught becomes embedded more deeply into one’s own, personal life.  As a mediator, one of the main things I do is to coach people on how to listen to one another. For, it’s not until we really listen and hear, that we can get to the heart of what the “other” person is trying to communicate about their needs and interests that give rise to a conflict.  What’s even more challenging is that often, a person trying to communicate a general anger or other emotion doesn’t even fully understand his own reasons, himself.  At such times, the mediator must really listen and then help the parties listen. 

Listening is a skill that takes practice, practice, practice!  The good news is that we can get better at it.  What are some tips and tools for listening?

One thing a good “listener” can do is to clean their own glass, to make the lens through which we see and hear things less intrusive.  In other words, when we remove our own preconceived notions, then we become enabled to hear more of what the other person is really trying to say and less of what we are expecting or wanting to hear.  A word to describe the process of removing one’s self (and one’s own responses) the word “mindfulness”.  When we become mindful of our own biases, tendencies, and prejudices, then we are better able to account for those and to try to filter them out.  All the insightful mediator is doing is removing himself from the angles so that the party may have a clearer image in the mirror of his conflict and his own response to it. 

The opposite of mindfulness is when we project a lot of ourselves into a conflict and hear only what relates to our own experience.  How many times have I (or you) listened to someone’s story and immediately knew what they should do?   Or how often have you heard a story and said, “The exact same thing happened to me!”  But, the exact same thing didn’t happen, and if the answer were truly so obvious the speaker would have found it already.  Personal mental responses like these are the mediation equivalent of raising a storm warning flag at a beach.  Friends who are just in the position of listening to each other can be on the alert for these responses, too.  When I “know” what my friend ought to do, it means I haven’t removed myself from the story enough to really listen to them fully and presently.  If the answer is too obvious, there would be no conflict.  Since there is some countervailing view, if the answer seems too simple then it’s likely that some aspect of the conflict remains mis-understood.  

Another way of knowing when we are putting too much of ourselves into a communication is when we feel tempted to interrupt, even if we only interrupt them mentally and not physically.  How many times, when a friend is speaking, are you tempted to think ahead in your mind to how you will answer them rather than continuing to listen to them as they speak?  For me, this mental feeling is like having two lanes of traffic.  One lane of traffic in my mind is the stream of thought about what my friend is saying.  The other lane of traffic in my mind is to be thinking about how I am going to respond to what they’re saying.  The problem is,that mentally I can really only be in one car at a time.  If I’m already formulating the response to my friend, then I’m not really listening fully to them in the present, here and now. 

So, next time your best friend is crying on your shoulder and you’re tempted to give advice, think of this column.  Instead projecting your own idea of “what is true,” or thinking “this happened to me,” and then telling the person what to do or giving them advice, try first to discern the reasons that their situation feels like to them.  Why do they perceive a conflict in the first place, what is that experience like for them?  What values, needs, and interests got them into the situation where they find themselves?

Most likely, there’s more to their situation than can be answered by a simple knee jerk reaction and response.  What our friend needs from us is not advice, but the feedback and mirroring to help them gain insight.  Then, with increased insight, our friend can find the answers from within themselves.  Answers that come from within and are authentic to lived experience are the ones that will be best in the long run.  So, the way to be a better friend is to help our friend develop capacity from within, not by imposing a solution from without. 

How to do this?   Ask powerful, open ended questions of our friend, as a means to help uncover some of those underlying complexities, different perspectives, and ways of increasing understanding of the experience which is being communicated.  In my next blog post, I’ll write more about that. 

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Mid Autumn Festival (Full Moon Festival)

Happy Mid Autumn Festival!  The moon is at its largest and brightest for the year. 

Here is a beautiful song where the moon plays a prominent part.

The name of this song is “Moon Hanging Over the West House”

A translation of the words (provided by a reader on the YouTube site) is underneath the video.  My friend who taught me about this song explained to me that the woman is watching the moon and thinking of her husband, knowing that her husband is also watching the same moon and thinking of her. 

In the same way, my friends across the world and I all watch the same moon …


我想中国! 我想念您,我的朋友! 

A link to the Tudou site:  HERE



古筝-月满西楼(演唱:童丽)the lyric is from an ancient poetry written by a famous female poet whose name is Li Qinzhao.
red lotus flower is gradually fading and the bamboo mat is cold because of the autumn will come soon.
take off my robe and drive my boat.
who sends the love letter of my husband to me from the clouds?
the moon is round hanging over the west house and the wild goose will return their homeplace but where is my husband?
the flower fades and the water flows.they are separate just like me and my husband.
same kind of lovesickness but two gloomy mood.
I have no idea to eliminate this sentiment.
down from brow but come into heart soon.

Another version of the video on YouTube:

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Poor Little Glen Beck: Liberation Theology Bites Back

Poor Glen Beck, he gets it from all sides.  But then, he must enjoy it since he keeps asking for it. 

(This video shows Beck receiving an application of Vics Vapo Rub to help him “cry” for a photo shoot …  Not that this kind of thing is new, it reminds me of the old trick putting an onion in a hankie … )

Why is Beck catching it from all sides?  Well, first he tried to marginalize the “social justice” Christians, then he caught it for calling Obama a racist.  Reclaiming the moral high ground, he has now retracted the racist accusation.  Beck regrets calling President Obama a "racist" a few months ago.  What he should have said, he now realizes, was that he didn’t agree with Obama’s "theology."

And what is Obama’s theology, according to Beck?  Liberation theology.

And what’s so bad about that?  Well, according to Beck it’s almost the worst form of anti-American evil.  Here’s Beck’s definition of Liberation Theology:  “I think that it is much more of a theological question that he is a guy who understands the world through liberation theology, which is oppressor and victim….That is a direct opposite of what the gospel is talking about…It’s Marxism disguised as religion.”


Is it, really?  A classic logical fallacy is called that of “straw man” (a version of argumentum ad logicam).  The technique for this faulty method of argumentation is to set up a false position for one’s opponent that does not represent the truth of what that opponent stands for.  The fallacious position is easily rebutted and theoretically this dispatches with one’s opponent.  The problem, however, that the false target was what was dispatched, not the true position of the opponent.  Has Obama’s position, and Liberation Theology itself, been mischaracterized?  Is Liberation Theology really “Marxism disguised as religion”?  Is  it really as anti-motherhood and apple pie as Beck claims? 

It goes without saying that Glen Beck wants to catch it from all sides:  The more sensational he is, the more people will talk.  The   more people talk about him, the better his ratings will be.  The better his ratings, the more money his broadcast employer makes.  So why are we surprised that he, with encouragement from the corporation that supports him, pursues sensational positions?  The problem is that people are confusing entertainment, (i.e. the “sensational”) with what is “real”.  Is Beck telling the truth?


Not to get too sidetracked, but the issue of how Jesus’s teachings may or may not resemble Marxism don’t seem particularly relevant to whether Jesus’s teachings are worthy of paying attention to.  I don’t actually remember Jesus carrying American flags and talking about the personhood of corporations, either.  Corporations, Marxism, the Cleaver family of 1960’s American television, even apple pie — these are all 20th Century social constructs.  A return to an historically accurate interpretation of Biblical events would necessitate a return to a world of Roman occupation, a world of fishing with nets, drawing of water from a common well, and the washing of dusty feet. 

Of course, even if apple pie is a relatively new invention, motherhood is not.  Some things do still translate from the gospel directly to our daily moral lives.  With regard to this, I distinctly remember a story in the Gospel of Luke 8, when Jesus’s mommy bade him come to her, and he refused, saying that his true family were the people who “hear God’s word and obey it” (ouch!).  And in Matthew 10:37, Jesus told his disciples, “Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me.”  Wow.  So, maybe Jesus … But, let’s not go there.  It’s actually a fact that Jesus’s teachings were not always easy, even for those closest to him, who lived right when he did.


Is it possible that the reason comfortable, Middle Class Americans find themselves so threatened by Liberation Theology that it actually hits something of a raw nerve concerning our responsibility for the poor and for social justice?  Is Liberation Theology evil and anti-American, or is it just uncomfortable for rich Americans who would rather have the security of a plentiful bank account, never mind that the poor are just outside the door?  

(The bigger, more important, question in this public debate is probably “who ‘owns’ public policy”?  I know many atheists and people of other religions who would object to the idea of Christians defining “Americana” according to their own theology.  But recognizing that public policy is about morality, and that Christian people have a vital interest in shaping public policy according to generally accepted moral standards, what can we learn from the Gospel about what morality is authentic to Christianity?  For it is only when we’ve discovered what morality is authentic to Christianity that we can then discuss how that morality ought to inform public policy decisions.) 


Is Christian morality represented by patriotism, motherhood, apple pie, and the Cleaver family of 1960’s TV, or is it something else?  For now, let’s stick with the issue that Beck uses against Obama, that’ Obama must be one of those … ahem …  Liberation Theology Christians.   If Obama is influenced by Liberation Theology in the morality that he brings to bear on public policy issues, does this make him anti-American, a Marxist in disguise?  This, then, leads to the question, “Just how anti-American is Liberation Theology”? 

The idea of “Liberation Theology” comes from the New Testament, particularly Romans 8, in which Paul proclaims that Jesus came to “liberate” the Believer. (“[T]the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.”) This thinking about “liberation” leads not only to the larger question, “liberated from what,” but also to questions about the mechanism by which that liberation occurs and our responsibility in the present world.  The answer to these questions forms the crux of the debates concerning liberation theology.


An article posted on August 29, 2010, in Huffington Post contains a rebuttal of Beck’s claim that Liberation Theology is evil, written by the Jesuit Priest, Rev. James Martin.*  Martin says Liberation Theology was a “lifeline” for him and the the refugees he worked among in Nairobi, Kenya, from 1992 to 1994.  He concisely explains what Liberation Theology is and why he views it as completely consistent with the Gospel.   Rather than repeat any explanations, I quote him as follows:

A little history: Liberation theology began in Latin America in the 1950s and 1960s, and was later developed more systematically by Catholic theologians who reflected on experiences of the poor there. The term was coined by the Rev. Gustavo Gutierrez, a Peruvian priest, in his landmark book A Theology of Liberation, published in 1971. Briefly put, liberation theology (there are many definitions, by the way) is a Gospel-based critique of the world through the eyes of the poor. Contrary to what Beck implies, the liberation theologian doesn’t see himself or herself as victim; rather proponents call us to see how the poor are marginalized by society, to work among them, to advocate on their behalf, and to help them advocate for themselves. It has nothing to do with seeing yourself as victim. It is, like all authentic Christian practices, "other-directed."

It also sees the figure of Jesus Christ as the "liberator," who frees people from bondage and slavery of all kinds. So, as he does in the Gospels, Christ not only frees people from sin and illness, Christ also desires to free our fellow human beings from the social structures that keep them impoverished. This is this kind of "liberation" that is held out. Liberation theologians meditate on Gospel stories that show Christ upending the social structures of the day, in order to bring more–uh oh–social justice into the world. Christians are also asked to make, as the saying goes, a "preferential option for the poor."

It’s not hard to see what Beck has against "liberation theology." It’s the same reason people are often against "social justice." Both ideas ask us to consider the plight of the poor. And that’s disturbing. Some liberation theologians even consider the poor to be privileged carriers of God’s grace. In his book The True Church and the Poor, Jon Sobrino, a Jesuit theologian wrote, "The poor are accepted as constituting the primary recipients of the Good News and, therefore, as having an inherent capacity of understanding it better than anyone else." That’s pretty threatening for any comfortable Christian. For not only do we have to help the poor, not only do we have to advocate on their behalf, we also have to see them as perhaps understanding God better than we do.

But that’s not a new idea: It goes back to Jesus. The poor, the sick and the outcast "got" him better than the wealthy did. Perhaps because there was less standing between the poor and God. Less stuff. Maybe that’s why Jesus said in the Gospel of Matthew, "If you wish to be perfect, sell all you have, and you will have treasure in heaven, and follow me." Like I said, pretty disturbing, then and now. It’s hardly "the opposite of the Gospel," as Beck said. The opposite of the Gospel would be to acquire wealth and fail to work on behalf of the poor.

In its heyday, liberation theology was not without controversy: some thought its emphasis on political advocacy skirted too close to Marxism–including Pope John Paul II. On the other hand, John Paul didn’t shy away from personally involving himself in direct political activism in Poland. It was the Latin American version of social action that seemed to bother him more. But even John Paul affirmed the notion of "preferential option for the poor." "When there is question of defending the rights of individuals, the defenseless and the poor have a claim to special consideration," he wrote, in his great encyclical Centesimus Annus, which celebrating 100 years of–uh oh–Catholic social teaching.

Liberation theology is easy to be against. For one thing, most people don’t have the foggiest idea what you’re talking about. It’s also easier to ignore the concerns of the poor, particularly overseas, than it is to actually get to know them as individuals who make a claim on us. There are also plenty of overheated websites that facilely link it to Marxism. My response to that last critique is to read the Gospels and count how many times Jesus tells us that we should help the poor and even be poor. In the Gospel of Matthew, he tells us that the ones who will enter the Kingdom of heaven are those who help "the least of my brothers and sisters," i.e., the poor. After that, read the Acts of the Apostles, especially the part about the apostles "sharing everything in common." Then let me know if helping the poor is communist or simply Christian.

I have no idea if President Obama espouses liberation theology. But I do. And for me it’s personal. Between 1992 and 1994, I worked with East African refugees in Nairobi, Kenya, and participated in Catholic parishes who tried to help poor parishioners (i.e., all of them) reflect on their daily struggles through lens of the Gospel. And the Gospel passages that spoke of liberation for the poor were a lifeline to me and to those with whom I worked. Oh, and it’s not only Jesus. His mother had something to say about all that, too. "He has filled the hungry with good things," says Mary in the Gospel of Luke, "and sent the rich away empty."

Liberation theology has also animated some of the great Christian witnesses of our time. Several of my brother Jesuits (and their companions), some of whom wrote and taught liberation theology, were assassinated at the University of Central America in 1989 by Salvadoran death squads, precisely for their work with the poor, as Jesus had encouraged them to do. Archbishop Oscar Romero, the redoubtable archbishop of San Salvador who was martyred in 1980 after standing for the marginalized, also heard the call of Christ the Liberator. So did the four courageous Catholic churchwomen who were martyred that same year for their work in El Salvador.

These are my heroes. These are the ones who truly "restore honor."

It’s hard to ignore the fact that Jesus chose to be born poor; he worked as what many scholars now say was not simply a carpenter, but what could be called a day laborer; he spent his days and nights with the poor; he and his disciples lived with few if any possessions; he advocated tirelessly for the poor in a time when poverty was considered to be a curse; he consistently placed the poor in his parables over and above the rich; and he died an utterly poor man, with only a single seamless garment to his name. Jesus lived and died as a poor man. Why is this so hard for modern-day Christians to see? Liberation theology is not Marxism disguised as religion. It is Christianity presented in all its disturbing fullness.

Glenn Beck’s opposition to "social justice" and "liberation theology" is all the more difficult to understand because of his cloaking of himself in the mantle of devout believer. "Look to God and make your choice," he said during his rally on Sunday.

If he looked at Jesus more carefully he would see someone who already made a choice: for the poor.


Martin says it well enough.  Liberation Theology is not Marxist.  It’s not American.  It’s not Un-American, either.  It’s a response to the gospel.  Where does that put Beck, with regard to Christianity?   To the extent that Liberation Theology represents the gospel or provides a gauge of how we are doing as a Christian nation, what does it say about, and to, those who make and who debate policy in the United States?   

*James Martin is a Jesuit priest, culture editor of America magazine, and author of The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything&lta target="_blank" href=";tag=xaspl-20&ampamp;link_code=btl&ampamp;camp=213689&ampamp;creative=392969"&gtThe Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything: A Spirituality for Real Life</a>&ltimg src=";l=btl&ampamp;camp=213689&ampamp;creative=392969&ampamp;o=1&ampamp;a=0061432687&quot; alt="" style="border: medium none ! important; margin: 0px ! important; padding: 0px ! important;" border="0" width="1" height="1">. This essay is adapted from a post on America’s In All Things.  And again, this post quotes verbatim from the article posted on August 29, 2010, in Huffington Post, HERE

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China’s Quack Doctors Are Not Afraid To Hire Someone Who Will Hurt You. Or Me.

August 25, 2010

I am reposting the following article which came from Asia Health Care Blog , written by Damjan Denoble.  It’s an all-round warning to beware when one is operating in a culture that is willing to compromise and punish truth and integrity, which has a history of killing the messenger instead of tackling the ugly facts in the message itself.   Here is the verbatim article: 

“A year or so ago we did a post on a Chinese hospital that was offering stem cell “cures” for disease like Alzheimers and various paralytic diseases.  The Chinese hospital we referred to in that piece – Beijing TianTian Puhua Hospital, in Beijing (they have a great website explaining exactly how they plan to scam you) –  had one of their English speaking secretaries send us a “cease and desist” type message through our contact form.  It was badly misspelled and about a paragraph long.  Apparently our coverage of their fake stem cell practice touched a nerve.

“Well, all I can say is, boy it’s good to be in the US of A, where I can safely say, “Go F yourself TianTian Puhua Hospital in Beijing for taking suffering people’s money and feeding them false hope.”

“Fang Xuanchang is a respected Chinese science and technology journalist who was recently beaten by two men he suspects were thugs hired by an angry doctor he exposed in a story. The incident suggests a new enemy to journalists in a nation filled with government press crackdowns: vindictive story subjects who hire mobsters to seek revenge. Photograph by: John M. Glionna, Los Angeles Times/MCT

“Then, today, I picked up on this touching article from the Vancouver Sun about Fang Xuanchang, a Chinese investigative reporter who specializes in reporting on quack doctors and false hope operations.  Mr. Fang got his head beaten in by lead piping by thugs as he was walking home one evening, all because he was uncovering doctors committing crimes against unwitting patients.

“Could have been me, I guess.

“The lessons for readers are 1) to always, always, always get more than one recommendation for a doctor when you’re in China, 2) if you’re going to have surgery in China, and you have the time to plan it out but don’t have time to hop on a plane and go back home, have a Western doctor at one of the International SOS clinics or a private, English-speaking staff hospital recommend a doctor for you to see, and 3) figure out what hospital you would want to be taken to in case of an emergency, and have it written down on something that will be on your person at all times.

“Oh, also, don’t go around busting quack doctors if you don’t have to.”

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Pindaya Cave!F92952EA9124A41B!3011.entry#comment

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Hello world!

Welcome to This is your first post. Edit or delete it and start blogging!

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Calling U.S. Citizens Living Abroad

September 22, 2008

I just read a startling statistic about how few overseas Americans actually vote.  But, it’s not yet too late! 

Time is, indeed, running short.  But you do still have time to register and vote in the upcoming election!  It doesn’t matter how long it’s been since you were last in the U.S. 

Visit your nearest Consulate in person, or take advantage of the federal voting assistance program, which can be accessed at the following link:

For general information about overseas and absentee voting, visit

"There is a saying in free societies: you get the government you deserve. For democracy to succeed, citizens must be active, not passive, because they know that the success or failure of the government is their responsibility, and no one else’s." 

(quoted from Principles of Democracy:  Citizen Responsibilities, (U.S. Department of State, September 22, 2008)) 


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Trivia Question

10 September 2008

(Too bad it’s not trivial.) 

My question:  To what country in the world does the following quote refer? 

"For a second day, one of the lawyers for the defendants was barred from entering the court. He had been vocal in demanding that the trial be conducted according to the law, which allows members of the media and public to attend the trial. Only state media have been allowed to attend. International observers are also banned.

“The trial is a farce,” said [x person], Political Prisoners Campaigner at [an organization], and daughter of [one of the persons on trial]. ‘They have committed no crimes, but the regime is scared of them and wants to keep them locked up forever. Why is the United Nations silent even though the Security Council called for the release of political prisoners?

The number of political prisoners in [the nation] has almost doubled in the past year, totalling 2,056." 

Okay, here’s the first big hint about where the country is located, if you haven’t guessed it yet.  There is speculation that Nobel laureate Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is on hunger strike in the home where she has been confined for many years.  I would not be surprised if she were, indeed, on hunger strike, doing the small part she can muster to protest these sham proceedings.  For the persons on trial are members of the political party that elected her to office, resulting in her being placed in house arrest and virtual solitary confinement for 13 of the past 19 years. 

As the short sighted attention of the world is turned elsewhere, let’s continue to do what we can to keep the light shining on this spot in the world. 

Got the answer yet? 

The country is Myanmar, also known as Burma

Let your own leaders know that you haven’t forgotten

My own conviction that people of conscience must not forget Burma is bolstered by my own experience of another kind.  We can make a difference, if only by lending our solidarity and support, but even more our voice and our deeds. 

In another place, at a different time, a person found out that I was concerned about things happening there and that I CARED.  This person exclaimed, "Thank God for you!  I just knew that all these years God didn’t forget about us here in [x place]!"  It is through our caring that we let the oppressed know that they matter, that they are not forgotten. 

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