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Posts Tagged ‘love one another’

Lent begins with Ash Wednesday, which falls on March 1 this year. Do you have special intentions for prayer time during Lent? Will you make an extra effort to serve others? Will you engage in corporate practices, such as attending religious services?

city-of-god2Before Ash Wednesday arrives, I highly recommend finding a copy of City of God: Faith in the Streets by Sara Miles. Author Sara Miles is the director of the food pantry and director of ministry at St. Gregory of Nyssa Episcopal Church in San Francisco. With this book Sara Miles takes us through her reflections on the meanings of Ash Wednesday, the richness of community, the call to share blessings and sorrows. She reminds us that the call to love one another spills out into the streets, into the shop on the corner, into hospital hallways. We are called on this day to face our mortality together, and to show mercy to one another.

For the church Ash Wednesday offers a particular opportunity to practice repentance. As Sara Miles writes, “Repentance requires paying attention to others, and learning to love, even a little bit, what God loves so much: the whole screwed-up world, this holy city, the people God created to be his own.” I reviewed this excellent book here on my blog, and I invite you to please check out the review.

Your comments about favorite Lenten practices are welcome. Peace be upon you as you walk your path.

 

 

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The Syrian people have been living in crisis for several years, and their situation continues to worsen. In recent weeks the overwhelming challenges facing refugees and internally displaced persons have been in the news with greater regularity, due in part to sorrowful stories of deaths while en route to seek sanctuary in Europe. Many countries that should be hosting people in need are, instead, tightening their borders.

We are meant to carry each other, to show compassion, to reach out with love to those in need. If you are looking for a way to contribute financial resources, I highly recommend reading about the work of Mercy Corps.

Many ordinary citizens are reaching out and trying to offer assistance, urging their governments to adopt humane and welcoming policies. This morning I read of the first refugees arriving not far from my home in southeastern Pennsylvania. In my area, Church World Service is one of the agencies coordinating welcome for Syrian families.

While watching this news unfold, I have been revisiting a beautiful book I reviewed on this blog, The Other Face of God: When the stranger calls us home. I am re-posting the review here in its entirety.

In The Other Face of God, Mary Jo Leddy shares stories of her life at Romero House, a home for people who are, for now, refugees seeking a new home. Her stories describe the lives of individuals with whom she has lived, and out of her experiences a theology of neighborliness and justice emerges. How does the stranger “calls us home”? In Leddy’s words, “Living in the shelter of each other, we begin to live in the neighborhood of God.” This is a powerful book, full of passion and deep faith. As I read, the prophet Micah’s words rang in my heart: “What does the Lord require of you, but to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?”

Through living in Romero House in Toronto for more than twenty years, Leddy has built relationships not only with those living in her house, but in the neighborhood. In building relationships with Romero House residents, Leddy has experienced the critical importance of respecting individual people, not treating people as a “cause” or an “issue.” Strangers can become neighbors when we learn to truly see one another. The distance between “us” and “them” disappears when people work alongside one another to plant a garden, to plan a party, to care for the needy in their midst.

Borders and boundaries between people do not need to be viewed as barriers. Rather, they can be meeting places. When we meet in a spirit of compassion, that meeting place can be full of the Holy Spirit. In Leddy’s view, a Christian should not try “to see Christ in the poor,” but to recognize that the spirit of Christ lives along the border—between you and I, between one and another, wherever compassion meets suffering.

Her narrative addresses the harsh and discouraging realities that people who are living without a country must face. The bureaucratic hurdles for those seeking residency and employment are many, and indifferent to individuality. I appreciated that Leddy drew upon Hannah Arendt‘s analysis of bureaucratic systems, and I think she did so in a way that would be very clear for readers without background in political philosophy. As a counter to the indifference of systems, people of faith are called to love our “enemies.” Leddy provides an insightful analysis of the ways that governments can turn “strangers” into “enemies” to further their political agendas.

Through her life and her writing, Leddy offers a powerful call for the works of mercy to be given “a place of privilege” in religious communities. Like the merciful Samaritan in Luke 10, we must help the stranger in need. We must be willing to truly see the face of a stranger, rather than a “problem,” and to allow compassion to emerge. We must remember that the parable ends with the command of Jesus that we “go and do likewise.”

Amidst the diversity of religious beliefs and places of origin, “perhaps there is only one distinction that matters: those who are learning to love their neighbors and those who remain indifferent to them.”

Mary Jo Leddy’s The Other Face of God: When the stranger calls us home was published by Orbis Books in 2011.

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

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If you have any interest in health care, and in how we could be showing more love to those who need help, I urge you to read God’s Hotel: A doctor, a hospital, and a pilgrimage to the heart of medicine by Victoria Sweet. The author was a physician at Laguna Honda Hospital in San Francisco, which at one time would have been called an almshouse. It is a place that serves those with nowhere else to go. In God’s Hotel, Dr. Sweet shares a powerful journey of learning and healing.

During her studies of the history of medicine, Dr. Sweet focused on the medical work of Hildegard of Bingen, a 12th-century German abbess who left behind several written works as well as a corpus of music. In sharing a historical perspective, Dr. Sweet reconnects readers with the origins of hospitals, which grew out of the radical sense of hospitality in monasteries, where monks and nuns took care of anyone who knocked at the door. There was an understanding that “whatever our current role, it was temporary.” Today I may be the nurse, and tomorrow I may be the patient who is ill. We must care for one another.

Dr. Sweet has good sense and a compassionate heart, and her feelings about how to practice medicine emerge directly from her experience serving patients. She has been a witness to miracles, and this is not something to take lightly. In caring for patients who lived in quite desperate circumstances, Dr. Sweet witnessed that, despite all the capabilities of modern medicine, sometimes peace, rest, and safety are just what a person needs to heal.

The stories of patient care and transformation are powerful, and Dr. Sweet brings a refreshing perspective on healthcare and wellness in the U.S. I highly recommend God’s Hotel.

Disclaimer: This review is freely given, based on a copy that I borrowed from my local public library. No fee was received.

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commissioned by Children’s HopeChest.
created by Elizabeth Ahlem.

In the U.S., we observe a national holiday of Thanksgiving on the fourth Thursday of November. The day gives an opportunity for families, often geographically scattered, to gather in table fellowship and to share their traditional foods. The time is set aside to be thankful for abundance, and for the company of loved ones.

Certainly this is a simplified description, and I know that many people are on their own, or hungry, or in unhappy homes, or grieving, or worn down by injustice. In the midst of these complexities and challenges, we still can find a spirit of gratitude. We can be thankful for our minds, ready to create a world of equity and peace; for our hearts, that long to give love where it is missing; for our souls, crying out for God’s kingdom to be built here, now, in our midst.

My heart knows that we are meant to give thanks every day, even (perhaps especially) when it it hard. Instead of giving thanks, we let our worry about what is lacking get in the way of seeing the good that is present. Even in hard times, we have gifts that we can use in service of those in need. As we turn to God in gratitude, may our eyes be open to the needs of those around us. When we see injustice, and want to know where God is amidst the pain, may we remember that we each are meant to carry out the vision of building God’s kingdom. Each of us has a part to play in lifting up the lowly, in giving strength to the weak, in granting rest to the weary.

Let us give thanks for courage, and the strength to act on our convictions as we endeavor to build a more just and equitable world. Let us turn our thankfulness into action. We nourish seeds of peace by giving our time and material resources to those who are working to eliminate poverty and injustice.

My thanks to artist Elizabeth Ahlem for permission to share her artwork. This image was commissioned by Children’s HopeChest, which works to serve orphaned and vulnerable children.

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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.

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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.

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Great Mosque, Damascus © 2007 Pattern in Islamic Art

Happy New Year! As I reflect on my hopes for 2013, I am feeling deeply aware of the many blessings in my life. May we share a spirit of love and generosity with everyone we meet in this new year.

In the spirit of sharing my blessings with neighbors in need, I am holding a Mercy Corps giving challenge during January. For every new email subscriber, and  for every new”like” this blog’s facebook page receives, I will donate $1 (up to $50 total) to Mercy Corps to help with the Syrian refugee crisis. Also, I am looking for a generous individual who would be willing to match my donation total, to double the gift. If you would be willing to do this, please leave a comment below.

 

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