Saturday, August 27, 2016

Learn to Be Attracted to Good Character

The world has it all backwards when it comes to building romantic relationships. The world says, find someone who is fun to be with and that you're attracted to, then build a relationship (often built primarily on sex first) and if you don't break it off and can still stand each other after awhile, maybe start thinking about marriage. Then, once marriage happens, the rest of the world's advice has to do with how to deal with the various issues that inevitably crop up when you've built a relationship on fun and physical attraction and later find out your goals and values are different. The world will also tell you to leave the relationship, even a marriage, as soon as you find attraction waning or problems that aren't easily solved.

Too often, the church tries to do things the way the world does, except without the sex before marriage. Too many Christian young people were never given guidance on what to look for in a spouse and make the decision based on feeling in love after spending time having fun together. But even where guidance is given, it's often still focused on finding someone you're attracted to who happens to have the right qualities rather than learning first to be attracted to the right kind of person. In other words, even Christians usually believe that attraction is fixed and involuntary and try to center relationships around it anyway.

I suggest a better way. My advice is that we learn to be attracted to good character and the types of traits that make a good spouse. Attraction isn't something that just happens to us. Attraction can be controlled to a large extent. We all have preferences for physical characteristics in the opposite sex, but attraction is more than just noticing someone is good looking, even if that does play a part. These other factors that influence attraction are primarily driven by our mindset and can be modified by our patterns of thought.

In order to control our attraction properly, we should actively think about good character qualities and notice them in others around us and think positive thoughts about those who have them in order to develop a mental pattern of appreciating good character. The opposite should be true of bad character qualities - we should practice seeing them as unattractive. In addition to this, it's important to actively work to downplay the role of physical traits in our attraction so that character becomes the main factor, not more superficial characteristics like height, hair color, or facial features.

For example, a single woman should learn to appreciate men with a good work ethic, leadership qualities, self-control, and an interest in studying the things of God. She should control her thoughts so as to make character the main thing she evaluates about others and so that she values good character. Thus, she should find her interest in an available man growing when she observes good character while she should find her interest in him waning if she finds bad character such an inability to keep a job, passiveness, sexual immorality, or an anger problem (to name just a few issues).

If we teach our young people to value the kinds of traits that make a good spouse and to actively work to be attracted by their presence and repelled by their absence, they will make better choices when it comes to marriage.

For married people, I would suggest a modification of this idea. Rather than working to value just good traits in general, I recommend that we learn to appreciate and become attracted to the good traits our spouses have. Rather than focusing on the flaws, of which all people have some, look for and focus on the good traits and learn to let your heart beat faster over those. Install a permanent pair of rose-colored glasses after the wedding and let patterns of appreciation for your spouse become a habit.

In short, don't be a passive observer of your attraction. Take an active role in building the right mentality so that you prepare yourself for a lasting and loving marriage.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Meaty Lasagna

This lasagna recipe is relatively easy, although it takes about 30 minutes of prep time and then an hour to cook. It makes enough for a dozen people, or it makes great leftovers if you don't eat it all at once. It's super cheesy. My family loves it, including my little girls. I like it meaty, but you can leave out the meat and have a vegetarian lasagna as well.

1 pound ground beef
1/2 tsp minced garlic
1/2 tsp Italian seasoning
6-7 cups spaghetti sauce
1 24oz carton cottage cheese
1 egg
6 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1 box (16 oz) lasagna noodles

Brown the ground beef with the minced garlic and Italian seasoning. Drain off the grease.

Mix the browned beef with the spaghetti sauce. I use Ragu meat-flavored sauce, but you can use whatever is your favorite.

In a separate bowl, mix the cottage cheese with the egg. The egg helps the cottage cheese to congeal during cooking and can be left out if you prefer.

Place a 9x13 baking pan or lasagna pan on the counter and arrange all your ingredients so they’re easy to reach. You should have 4 things to layer:
  • Meat and sauce mixture
  • Cottage cheese and egg mixture
  • Shredded mozarella cheese
  • Lasagna noodles

Start by putting a thin layer of the meat and sauce on the bottom of the pan. You want just enough to coat the bottom. This is mostly to keep the noodles from sticking.

Then, add a layer of lasagna noodles. I usually use the oven-ready kind, but it doesn’t really matter. You don’t even have to cook them first as they will cook in the oven. You may have to break them or overlap them slightly to make them fit properly in the pan.

Cover the noodles with more meat and sauce – about 1/3 of what you have left in the bowl. The liquid in the spaghetti sauce is going to be absorbed by the dry noodles as they cook, so you always want the sauce next to the noodles.

Next, you add the cottage cheese mixture – about 1/2 of the total amount.

Next, layer on about 2 cups of the mozarella cheese, or about 1/3 of your total mozarella.

Place a layer of noodles on top of the cheese and repeat the layering, adding meat and sauce (1/2 of the remaining), then cottage cheese (the rest of what you have), then mozarella again (about 2 cups). Top with more noodles and the last of the meat and sauce.

Here are all the layers you will have by the end:

  • Meat and sauce (a thin layer on the bottom)
  • Lasagna noodles 
  • Meat and sauce
  • Cottage cheese
  • Mozzarella
  • Lasagna noodles
  • Meat and sauce
  • Cottage cheese
  • Mozzarella
  • Lasagna noodles
  • Meat and sauce
  • Mozarella (on top) 

Notice that you will have 4 layers of meat and sauce, 3 layers of noodles, 3 layers of mozzarella, and 2 layers of cottage cheese all together.

Layer all of these except the top layer of mozarella cheese. This will pretty nearly fill a 9x13x2 pan. You may have a few noodles or noodle pieces left over and you should have about 2 cups of mozarella left for the top, but you should use up all the other ingredients. This is where you stop for now. The top will be covered with the last of the mozarella cheese, but you want to add it after it bakes awhile.

Cover the pan with aluminum foil. Bake at 400 degrees for 45 minutes. Remove the aluminum foil. Cover the top with the remaining 2 cups of mozarella cheese. Bake for an additional 15 minutes or until the cheese on top is melted and starting to brown.

You may want to let it cool for 5 minutes or so after taking it out of the oven and before cutting it as this helps it firm up a little. Otherwise, it's very gooey with all that melted cheese and sauce.

Note: If you want to add the cheese during the layering step and just remove the foil for the last 15 minutes, you can do that. But I usually find that the cheese sticks to the foil (because the pan is so full) and taking off the foil thus removes some of the cheese. It’s better to add the last cheese layer after removing the foil, in my opinion.

For a great side, you can make some cheesy garlic Italian bread. Just cut a loaf of French or Italian bread into slices about 1 inch thick and lay them on a cookie sheet. Spread the top with garlic butter and sprinkle with a little Italian seasoning. 

Add a little mozarella cheese on top. Bake at 400 degrees for 3-5 minutes or until the cheese melts, then lightly broil for a minute or two until the cheese browns.

The lasagna and cheesy bread can be served with a salad or cooked carrots as a second side. Enjoy!

Friday, April 29, 2016

Do Humans Own Themselves?

A recent article by Walter Williams, the well-known conservative economist, provides an important opportunity for illustrating and explaining the basis for inalienable rights. I usually agree with Walter Williams, but not this time. He does have some good reasoning, but his underlying premise is deeply flawed.

Williams argues in his article that humans have self-ownership - that they own themselves. He then makes several arguments that flow from this premise. Unfortunately, so many people have forgotten the true basis for inalienable rights and thus don't even recognize the terrible flaw in this thinking.

The proper viewpoint is that humans are owned by their Creator - God. Thus, murder is definitely a matter of destroying someone else's property, as Williams points out, but it is destroying God's property.

If we own ourselves, then suicide (assisted or otherwise) should be legal. We obviously can't provide criminal penalties to someone who killed himself, but we do stop people from committing suicide, and we do penalize those who help others commit suicide. That makes sense if committing suicide is an act of destroying God's property and thus wrong. It does not make sense to make suicide and euthanasia illegal and try to prevent people from committing suicide if people own themselves.

The idea that a person owns himself is also behind much of the pro-abortion position. The idea seems to be that the woman owns herself and can decide what to do with her body, but the child in the womb can't own himself because he has no concept of ownership - no personhood - and thus is either owned by no one (meaning killing him causes no crime) or is owned by the mother (meaning she can do with him what she pleases). On the other hand, if all human beings are property of God, murder of the unborn - whether committed by the mother or someone else - is a crime against God and violates His right to that child's life.

Williams is correct that if humans own themselves, they should be able to sell their organs. But this idea of selling one's body parts, before or after death, introduces a big can of worms and a lot of ethical problems. The root of the problem, however, is the starting premise. People don't own themselves, and thus have no right to sell their organs. They are God's property, and thus to place a price on their parts and sell them is to usurp God's ownership and sell what does not belong to them. The current ban on buying and selling human body parts is the correct one, though we have apparently forgotten the basis for it.

While animal and plant life does belong to mankind (because God gave them to us), the ownership of humans is retained by God and only He can rightfully transfer or give up those rights. We humans have no ability to give up or transfer certain rights (such as the rights to life or liberty), which is what it means to have inalienable rights. If I own myself, then I can give up that right of ownership to another (slavery), sell my body parts, or kill myself. My rights to life and liberty (along with all other rights which come from these) would be alienable rather than inalienable.

It is because humans belong to God that we have truly inalienable rights, which is really just our perspective of God's ownership of us. We can't give up or transfer those rights because they aren't actually retained by us. The premise that humans own themselves is contradictory to the concept of inalienable rights. Both can't be true. The idea of self-ownership is very popular today and sounds good on the surface, but actually creates a cancerous thinking that destroys the concept of inalienable rights and with it the basis for our entire form of government and many of the protections that we have put in place to guard those inalienable rights.


For more information on inalienable rights, read my 5-part series:

Part 1: What are Inalienable Rights?
Part 2: The Source of Inalienable Rights
Part 3: Liberty in Society and Government
Part 4: Government by Consent of the Governed
Part 5: Some Common Misconceptions