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On this feast day of St. Francis of Assisi, I encourage you to explore the writings of this celebrated exemplar. I invite you to revisit my review of Francis of Assisi in His Own Words, an excellent collection from Paraclete Press. May this review inspire a trip to your local bookstore, and quiet time with the words of Francis.

In honor of Francis teaching love toward all creatures, churches in many communities celebrate a blessing of the animals on this day. It is an opportunity to recognize the special place companion animals have in our lives. I experienced with this special observance at a community fair, a tender and beautiful experience, when a minister gave a vocal blessing and laying of hands to my German Shepherd. May we remember always to extend kindness and mercy to all living creatures, and may this feast day be an occasion to affirm commitment to caring for God’s creation.

© Studio of John the Baptist

When thinking of Francis of Assisi, the song “Make me an instrument of your peace” begins playing in my mind. From childhood, this was my favorite song at church. While this prayer for peace captures the spirit of Francis’ teachings, it was not his composition. This prayer continues to offer comfort and inspiration to many. It is my heartfelt prayer for all of us today.

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Déan gléas chun síochána díom, a Thiarna.
Señor, hazme un instrumento de tu paz.

encouragers in our midst

Each of us bear witness to the lives of people who try with all their heart and soul to be encouragers. These encouragers are people who build up, who reach out, who open themselves to others. Who do you know who daily inspires with their determination, their positive attitude, their deep faith?

I want to lift up a book by Stanley Porter, an ordinary man who grew up near me. I reviewed Stanley’s book, Every Song Has a Story, soon after it was published. Stanley is a musician, inspirational speaker, husband, and father. He is a person who strives to do his best to encourage and uplift others. I invite you to read my review, and to share the word about this inspiring book.

I would like to reinforce Stanley’s message of hope by giving someone a copy of Every Song Has a Story. To enter the giveaway, please leave a comment below. Share with us a person, a song, or a piece of writing that lifts you up. A winner will be chosen at random next Thursday, October 9.

May your day be full of joy and abundant blessings.

Disclosure: This review is freely given. No fee was received.

I shall not hate

Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish lived through something out of a nightmare: three of his daughters were killed by a military attack on his home. His life-affirming response sets an example for people everywhere. For he was angry, justifiably so, yet did not seek vengeance. Instead, he sought to honor the memory of his daughters

Dr. Abuelaish has written his powerful story, entitled I Shall not Hate: A Gaza doctor’s journey on the road to peace and human dignity. Readers travel with Dr. Abuelaish from his childhood in a refugee camp, through his medical school studies, and into the life-saving jobs that shaped his view of peacemaking. Dr. Abuelaish experienced that medical professionals, as well as patients, can cross the divisions of ethnicity, religion, and citizenship. Published in 2011, the book provides helpful background for readers who want to better understand the current situation for residents of Gaza.

The work of Dr. Abuelaish provides critical support for the building of a peaceful future through education and empowerment. We need to support visionary organizations such as Daughters for Life while also alleviating immediate crisis. If you can contribute to emergency relief in Gaza, Mercy Corps is providing humanitarian assistance with an effective network of community organizations. Please give if you are able.

Disclosure: I borrowed this book from the public library. No fee was received for this review.

Jesus was a Migrant

Sometimes the best way we can work for peace is to be a witness to another person’s journey. With Jesus was a Migrant, readers have an opportunity to bear witness, as author Deirdre Cornell gives comfort to the grieving and celebrates with the joyful. Deirdre Cornell has been accompanying migrant workers for many years, and I highly recommend her timely book.

By sharing stories of individuals with whom she has caring relationships, Deirdre Cornell provides open windows through which readers can glimpse the struggles of immigrants who have come to the U.S. from Mexico and Central America. These tender stories are rich faith narratives, and Deirdre Cornell draws wisdom from complementary stories in the Bible. From Abraham, who left his father’s land, to the infant Jesus carried by his parents to safety in Egypt, the Bible holds many migration stories.Perhaps most importantly, she highlights the biblical calls to welcome the stranger and to love one another.

In the U.S., the overwhelming majority of people are here because they or their ancestors migrated from elsewhere. Sharing her own family experience, Deirdre Cornell emphasizes the importance of remembering where we came from and why we left our homelands. These root stories can help develop empathy in those who have been in the U.S. for many generations. We also benefit from travel abroad, where we ourselves have the experience of being strangers and newcomers.

Why do people come to the U.S.? What are their lives like once they arrive? By compassionately sharing stories we might not otherwise hear, Deirdre Cornell awakens hearts with a fresh perspective. After reading Jesus was a Migrant, one cannot see immigration as just another issue that needs tackling. Rather, it is a topic that involves the precious lives of fellow human beings in need.

As people of faith, how should we respond to immigrants in our communities? What should we require of government policy makers? With a humanitarian crisis presently underway at the southern border, these questions become matters of life and death.

Matt 25 35With Jesus was a Migrant, Orbis Books once again gives readers a heart-challenging read that radiates with truth, written with a compassionate eye. I encourage you to read Jesus was a Migrant, perhaps with a book club or Sunday school class where you can share a lively discussion. I pray that your heart will be touched, and you might be inspired to act on behalf of migrants who are struggling to create a peaceful future.

Disclosure: A copy of this book was provided by the publisher for review purposes. No fee was received.

Yesterday I sent my daughter to the garden, asking her to please see what’s for dinner. She returned with snow peas, kale, and turnips, and together we turned these into a satisfying salad. Thoughtful child that she is, she also brought in a branch of catnip for her cat.

Before deciding on a salad, my daughter paged through Simply in Season Children’s Cookbook for inspiration and ideas, noting dishes that might make great options for our next meal. We have had a lot of fun with this cookbook, which has colorful photos and recipes that are very easy to follow. I posted a review a while ago, but with the gardening season in full swing, I feel compelled to highlight this fun and inspiring cookbook. Whether you grow your own food, shop at a farmer’s market, or visit a grocery store, these recipes will help your children prepare easy, seasonal dishes.

I appreciate that Simply in Season Children’s Cookbook inspires children to make wholesome food choices and to develop an understanding of nature’s cycles. In our home, for example, strawberries become even more special when we remember they are an early summer treat.

In a time when too many things are instant or fast-paced, books like this can help families to live values of simplicity and stewardship. Simply in Season Children’s Cookbook would make a great gift not only for families with young children, but also for camps, libraries, and religious education programs.

I welcome your comments about websites and books that inspire your family to grow and prepare food together.

Disclosure: As mentioned above, a copy of this book was received for review purposes a while ago. My original review can be read here. No fee was received for the reviews.

homemaking hiatus

I apologize for the lack of reviews posted during the Spring. There were many things happening around home, including the birth of several goats and the hatching of chickens on our farm. Outdoor pursuits and homemaking tasks had to take precedence over writing.

happy St. Patrick’s day

©Quilligraphy

Beannachtaí na Féile Pádraig oraibh! Saint Patrick’s Day blessings on you. Growing up in an Irish American household in a city full of Irish Catholics, Saint Patrick’s Day always was a big deal. My grandparents, who were from County Kerry (southwest Ireland), lived in the apartment upstairs, and my grandmother and mother would prepare a big family meal. We would put on records of Irish music and gather together.

I have many happy memories of listening to my Grampy tell stories, humorous tales as well as more serious chronicles of history and legend. Grampy could draw a map of Ireland, freehand, that included every bay, river, and inlet. He could trace out the journeys of the great heroes, Saints Patrick and Brigid among them. Those stories, songs, and meals shaped me. Today I am thinking of my grandparents, the joyful times we shared as well as the hardships they endured.

Go n-eírí an bóthar leat.
May the road rise with you.

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