Deliver Us from Evil

Guest Post

By Nancy Nordenson

The day after the massacre at Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, I sat myself down and considered my role in the tragedy. Now bombs have exploded in Boston and I’m asking myself the same question.

Of course no bomb was built in my kitchen and no gun was loaded under my roof, but could I have done something to help stop either of those events?

I’m thinking back years ago to a crisis in the church where my husband and I were members. A leader had fallen. The congregation gathered one evening to figure out why things had gone so wrong and what we could do about it. Fingers pointed, heads shook. Then Crystal spoke up. A woman in her late eighties, hunched over from osteoporosis, she had lived a life full of good work, particularly among international students.

“I blame myself,” she said. “I didn’t pray for him enough.” [Read more...]

Israel at 65: Caught in a Homeland Trap

“People caught in a homeland-trap,” writes the late Israeli poet Yehuda Amichai in “National Thoughts,” a poem from the mid-1960s.

The homeland (Israel) is a trap? In the eyes of hundreds of thousands of refugees who, to escape persecution, fled there from Russia, Poland, Germany, Syria, Yemen, Ethiopia, and…? In the eyes of the many American Jews who made aliyah (rose up! immigrated to) first to the British Mandate of Palestine, later to the modern State of Israel?

I’m watching The Gatekeepers. An Academy award nominee for best feature-length documentary, The Gatekeepers features interviews of six former heads of Israel’s Shin Bet, the secret service charged with overseeing Israel’s war on terror—Palestinian and Jewish terror. [Read more...]

Mother of Sorrows: Colm Toibin’s Testament of Mary

Good Letters welcomes back former blogger Jessica Mesman Griffith, author of the new book Love and Salt: A Spiritual Friendship Shared in Letters.

“They appear more often now, both of them, and on every visit they seem more impatient with me and with the world,” begins Colm Toibin’s novella, The Testament of Mary. “There is something hungry and rough in them, a brutality boiling in their blood, which I have seen before and can smell as an animal that is being hunted can smell.”

Mary is describing the apostles who hound her as she hides from a vengeful world; they want her to confirm their Easter stories. But she could also be speaking of the angels—angels who brought her the news of her destiny carrying nails and a crown of thorns. It is this image of Mary the hunted that Toibin pursues from the Annunciation to her death. [Read more...]

Amour and Fear

Guest Post
By David P. Clark, M.D.

On the day I graduated from medical school I took the oath of Hippocrates. I didn’t think much about the words: the oath was one more hoop on a long hot morning. My promise to keep patient confidences, always treat patients with justice, and never harm them seemed doable, straightforward, and common sense.

But, I hadn’t actually been a doctor, hadn’t made decisions when faced with suffering and inadequate data and unknown futures. [Read more...]

Love Thy Neighbor…and Her Lice

Guest Post
By Cathy Warner

I’d only known her a month when Blythe called with a problem: The family puppy had parvo. She needed money. Would I pay her twenty-five dollars in exchange for a massage?

Blythe lived in a run-down cabin up the road from our remodeled cabin. She had three grubby kids whose noses always ran, a grimy husband who drove a rusty van, and was missing two teeth (my eyes always focused on the gaps).

I didn’t know what parvo was (expensive and deadly) and I’d never had a massage. My husband drove a company car and worked in Silicon Valley, we had two clean and intelligent daughters, and I had all my teeth—straightened and shiny.

I was used to rescuing struggling family members, doling out advice and funds. But I didn’t do so with the cheerful heart God apparently admired. I gave fearfully. My checks were readily cashed, but my advice was never taken, trouble always returned, and somehow I felt responsible. If only I’d done more…. [Read more...]


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