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


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.

by Mary Jacque Benner, RSM. © 1997-2012 Mount Saint Agnes Theological Center for Women, Inc.

Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the season of Lent in the Christian calendar. Those who observe Lent engage in practices of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, with the intention of turning one’s heart away from selfishness and toward God.

As we turn toward God, mindful of God’s mercy and forgiveness, we recall the requirement to love our neighbor, and to show mercy and compassion to one another. Lent offers an opportunity to reaffirm one’s commitment to practicing works of mercy. Further, if I want more time for serving others, this means I need to spend less time on self-indulgence. In this way, the works of mercy can be liberating.

One book I plan to savor this Lent is City of God: Faith in the Streets by Sara Miles. While I await my copy, I shall re-read her book Jesus Freak, in which she does an exemplary job of showing what it means to live out the call to show love to one another with tangible acts of care. It is a very inspiring book, and I highly recommend it.

Lent can be a special time for self-examination, and for rededication to God. Some denominations hold special communal gatherings for prayer, service, and thanksgiving. Other churches carve out periods for quiet reflection, opening doors for individuals seeking space for prayer. However you choose to observe this season, may God draw you closer.

Unshakeable Belief: Advent 2013

Advent, the season of expectant waiting when Christians prepare to observe the birth of Jesus, begins on December 1. To support contemplation and reflection during this special season, Pax Christi USA has created a rich pamphlet, Unshakeable Belief, based on the daily lectionary readings, available in an electronic format.

The programs and resources of Pax Christi USA lift up the message of love, reconciliation, and healing that is woven throughout the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. A spirituality of nonviolence requires one to take time in prayer and reflection, so that actions for peacemaking come from a solid ground of faith in God’s vision for justice and peace. The writers who contribute to this pamphlet offer reflection questions that can help one move from busyness into contemplation, and from contemplation into action.

Sr. Patricia Chappell, executive director of Pax Christi USA, opens the pamphlet with an invitation. She writes, “Take time apart to honor, praise, and thank God throughout this Advent season, building a deeper sense of peace and calm, an unshakeable belief that peace, not violence, is God’s plan for all creation. Then, moving outward from prayer and the study of these Advent reflections, what action will challenge you in Advent 2013?”

Readers are invited to turn away from greed and commercialism, from fear and ignorance, and to turn hearts toward God’s love coming into the world, God’s love already present among us. Contributing writers include Darleen Pryds, professor at the Franciscan School of Theology in California; Msgr. Ray East, pastor of St. Teresa of Avila parish, Washington, DC; Kimberly Mazyck of Pax Christi USA and Catholic Relief Services; and Alex Mikulich, of the Jesuit Social Research Institute in New Orleans. These writers are not afraid to ask challenging questions, to nudge hearts in the direction of confident faith in God’s love for us all.

I highly recommend this encouraging and inspiring pamphlet as a companion during this holy season.

Disclaimer: An electronic copy of this pamphlet was provided for review purposes. No fee was received.


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