Friday, May 29, 2009

Blogs or Books?

I've fallen behind. Not only have I not been posting lately, but I haven't kept up with the blogs I follow very well, either. I spent the last half hour scrolling through some of the posts, and read a few of them, but left no comments. I suppose this is the life of a blogger; our lives are busy, and reading and writing posts are moved to the back burner. I have been doing quite a bit of reading though; I think when I'm keeping up with blogs I don't read as many books, and now that I'm picking up books again, I don't read and write many blogs. I hope to find a way to do both (AND go to work, keep my house clean and my family fed, and make sure everyone gets to where they need to be, not to mention keep in touch with my friends and family).

I love books, and summer is the time when I'm able to sit for longer stretches and read. I devour books during the summer. I've already begun my summer reading, and I've read three excellent books just in the last few weeks:

1. The Hole in Our Gospel by Richard Stearns, who is the President of World Vision, U.S. Stearns talks about how he went from being the CEO of Lenox--you know, the one that makes expensive fine china and crystal--to heading a major Christian relief organization. He talks about how most Christians, even churchgoing ones, tend to look the other way when it comes to the poor. We see news stories about people suffering, and feel sadness and maybe even are moved to send a check; but then we turn to the sports section or flip the channel and forget about them. Once a friend of his took all 66 books of the Protestant Bible and cut out all of the passages that referred to helping the poor and the suffering. There was almost nothing left, just tatters. He points out that God calls all Christians to live the WHOLE Gospel: going to church and witnessing to others is all good, but we must not forget the poor, the sick, the oppressed, the orphaned. He gives eye-opening accounts of the suffering he has personally witnessed: children orphaned by AIDS, people dying from a lack of clean water, families displaced by war, politics, and even genocide. The statistics are staggering: every day 26,500 children die because of their poverty. Because so many people worldwide cannot get food, clean water, and medical care for their children, it's as if 100 commercial jets full of children crashed every day. Reading this book will inspire you to want to act on behalf of all suffering people. You can read more about The Hole in Our Gospel, World Vision, and get suggestions on how to help others here.

*Catholic's Note: Mr. Stearns was raised Catholic, but because his parent's weren't strong in their faith, he drifted away from the Church. He had turned away from God completely, but when he met his future wife, a devout Baptist, his life began to change, and he eventually gave his life to Christ. Wouldn't it be amazing if he came back into the fullness of the Catholic faith? :)

One of World Vision's missions is to combat AIDS in Africa. This is an evangelical Christian organization, not a Catholic one; while they do not promote abortions (I always check this out when I'm looking for humanitarian organizations to support), they do stress an "ABC" approach to AIDS prevention: Abstinence before marriage; Be faithful in marriage; Condoms if you must. Something to keep in mind if you are Catholic and are opposed to condom use. (World Vision does many other things, too, which would not compromise anyone's Catholic moral view; including drilling deep-water wells for the driest regions on Earth, providing farm animals so families and viliages can have sources of food--kind of like what Heifer International does--and allows families to "sponsor" a child by providing funds for his education, as well as his basic needs.)

2. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. This is a novel which takes place in 1946, just after WWII. It is written entirely in letters, mostly between the main character, Juliet Ashton, a writer living in London, and her friends and acquaintances. When a coincidence causes her to begin corresponding to residents of the island of Guernsey in the English Channel, she begins to develop friendships that she never would have imagined having. Slowly through the letters we begin to learn of the oppression the people experienced when Nazi Germany occupied the Channel Islands for five years, in hopes of eventually conquering the rest of Britain. Juliet eventually makes her way to Guernsey for the purpose of talking face-to-face with her new friends, and eventually writing a book about their ordeals. It's a beautiful story, and one I would highly recommend, and would be a great book club pick.

3. The Lambi's Call by Tom Fame. Tom is a physician in Salem, Virginia, and a member of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church. His parish participates in a twinning program (American churches developing relationships with communities in poor countries) in Haiti, and he has traveled many times to the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere and gotten to know its people and culture. His parish helped build schools for the children of St. Gabriel's parish in Lascahobas, Haiti, and a clean-water project is under way. This is a moving account of Tom's own journey of faith through his relationships with the people of Haiti. You can read more about Our Lady of Perpetual Help's Haiti project here; there is a link to a summary of The Lambi's Call, as well as an online order form. Proceeds for the book help pay the salaries of the teachers in Haiti.

I've just started Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe. I'll let you know my opinion of this one in a future blog (I hope).

My little garden is still growing; my bean plants are coming up, and some of my tomato plants look pretty good. A friend gave me a cucumber plant the other day, and I'm thinking of uprooting my less-than-healthy tomatoes in my biggest pot and replacing them with the single cucumber plant. Or maybe I'll just buy another great big pot.

I've now spent more than two hours on this blog post. I hope I can read some more of my current book before I drop off to sleep.

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