Saturday, July 31, 2004

Would Jesus Be Republican or Democrat?

A woman in our Friday Family Fellowship group shook her head in disgust, "Why are all those Democrats mad at George Bush? What do they have to be mad about?"

" he's some villain," another nodded in angry assent. "Did you hear that speech last night? Don't get me started...." Many sighed in more disgust. Some were strangely silent.

" everyone here Republican? Aren't there Democrats here too?" asked a puzzled first-time visitor last night to our group. "Isn't it Republicans and Democrats here?"

Two women looked around, "No Democrats least none that would admit to it." They laughed and laughed. They failed to notice embarrassed discomfort on several faces. It's a family church group.....people don't want to cause a fuss, even in the face of ideological bullying and prejudice.

Besides....... it sounds like they have inside info that Jesus is a Republican, and that all real Christians are Republicans.

I vote both sides of the political party aisle, depending on the candidate and the issues. I've been known to switch parties merely to vote in particular primaries. Political affiliation is certainly not my identity. I believe that automatic voting strictly along party lines is an abrogation of our civic duties, and sad disrespect for the precious right to vote. It's lazy, too. Like giving your brain a permanent vacation.

So after the two women's self-assured remarks last night, I started wondering....would Jesus choose to be a Republican or Democrat?

Here is my heartfelt conclusion...if our Savior had to choose, he would join the Democratic Party. The party of compassion and mercy....the party that champions the downtrodden....the party that actively fights poverty, racism and lack of health insurance...the party that pushes for peace, not war.

"Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth....Blessed are the merciful for they shall be shown mercy....Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God...."
--- excerpts from Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5

But of course, it's outrageously selfish and silly to imagine that Jesus would join a particular political party. Jesus, son of God, part of the Holy Trinity, is far bigger than trivial human matters.

Initially, my feelings were hurt last night by the arrogant remarks of a few. I pulled the first-time visitor aside, and assured him that Democrats also attend our group...that this is not a group with a proscribed political agenda.

I hope it's not, anyway. I was always taught, and teach, that God loves us all.

Friday, July 30, 2004

Music to American Ears

"I will be a commander in chief who will never mislead us into war. I will have a vice president who will not conduct secret meetings with polluters to rewrite our environment laws. I will have a secretary of defense who will listen to the advice of our military leaders. And I will appoint an attorney general who will uphold the Constitution."

John Kerry, accepting the Democratic nomination as candidate for the US Presidency

"I was mayor of Cleveland, and I have seen weapons of mass destruction----in our cities. Poverty is a weapon of mass destruction. Joblessness is a weapon of mass destruction, homelessness is a weapon of mass destruction, racism is a weapon of mass destruction. We must disarm these weapons and we must turn the military budget into books, schools, teachers, housing, health care, job creation and stronger neighborhoods."
Dennis Kucinich, former presidential candidate, at the Democratic Convention


Thursday, July 29, 2004

Husband Analysis - Engagement or Merely Toleration?

I'm not a political junkie...honestly, I'm not. But I care about our country, and I believe that it's the duty of every citizen to be informed, interested and involved. Ron, on the other hand, tolerates. In fact, I strongly suspect that he tolerates only because I care.

Here are my clues as to his interest-level in the ongoing Democratic Convention.....

When I leave the room and then return, the channel has been turned to the Angels game.

The first night, I insisted that he stay up late to watch a particular speech. The second night, I told him that he could either see an exceptional speech at 6:30 PM or 11 PM. He made sure he was home early.

His eyes kept falling shut during John Edwards' acceptance speech last night.

He suddenly finds Jon Stewart's humor on "The Daily Show" to be laugh-out-loud funny when it pokes fun at the convention. And he's wide awake again when it airs at 11 PM.

Hmmm...what do you think? Is he merely tolerating it for my favor?

If so, that's fine with me. One more informed citizen.

Rev Al Gives a Preaching Lesson

"I thought I was in church," remarked Rev. Al  Sharpton about his raucous, emotional, blow-off-the-roof speech last night to the Democratic Convention. He connected at the deepest levels with his doubt about it. His sermon was credible and incredibly authentic, dazzlingly clever and a great time.
At a distance. Up close, he scares me.
Apparently, that is his Sunday morning preaching style. It reminds me that we all worship God in different ways. My church holds an annual joint church service with the predominantly black Baptist church down the street, but Ron and I never attend it. For me, worship is quiet and reflective, genuinely joyful in prayer, learning and listening for God's voice and to the pastor's voice. My private worship is reading, writing and praying....finding that peaceful center.
I find an exuberant, high-decibel, openly emotional worship style to be overwhelming. But it sure looks like fun!

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Political Responsibility of Being My Brother's Keeper

"If there's a child on the South Side of Chicago who can't read, that matters to me, even if it's not my child. If there's a senior citizen somewhere who can't pay for their prescription and has to choose between medicine and the rent, that makes my life poorer, even if it's not my grandparent. If there's an Arab-American family being rounded up without benefit of an attorney or due process, that threatens my civil liberties.
It is that fundamental belief---it is that fundamental belief---I am my brother's keeper---that makes this country work."
Barack Obama, last night at the Democratic Convention. You owe it to yourself to read the entire transcript of his speech.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Thoughts on a Lazy Summer Day

We relaxed in the warm summer night air last evening at Anaheim Stadium.  Munching peanuts and red vines....holding hands...watching a young father play hide-and-seek with his giggling little girl....savoring Andrea and her friend laughing and gaily chatting....cheering for the home team.....singing Take Me Out to the Ball Game....kissing after each homerun (even if not by our team!)....booing for calls that don't go our way....admiring center-aisle dance moves of a teenage fan enjoying the music....applauding our hometown baseball heroes.
Ah, the sweet languid magic of summer baseball.

A bona fide star was born tonight at the Democratic Convention......Barack Obama. Remember that name.  Martin Luther King, Jr must be smiling down from above. His torch has finally been passed to an articulate new standardbearer.

The Democratic Convention (now in progress) seems like a gigantic Toastmasters club get-together. Lots of fancy, spell-binding speeches with all the oratorical bells and whistles, mainly just for the sake of speechmaking. With better parties, though. And placards. 
Ron and I want to admire Lance Armstrong as a great American hero. We really do. Cancer survivor, six-time victor of a grueling international athletic competition, generous supporter of cancer charities. But I keep seeing the faces of his three young children who barely know their father....whose mother is being divorced by Armstrong for his rock star girlfriend. And Ron read an article about all the drugs and body machinations that bicyclists like Armstrong do to win. He says it's bothers him. I guess we admire his achievements. but the price seems awfully high.

Per a newly released survey by University of Chicago of 43,000 Americans, America's Protestant majority will no longer be a majority religion by the end of this year. For the first time in our country's history, Protestant religions will no longer be the faith of choice by more than 50% of Americans. The Catholic population has remained steady for years at 25%. Those without a faith has risen radically to be 14% of all Americans, and non-Christian faiths continue to rise, as well. 

It seems odd that as evangelical churches rise and mainline Protestant churches fall in membership rolls, that Protestant adherants have decreased significantly in the US. By definiton, evangelism efforts are not working. Sounds like a fresh look at methods and message is overdue.

Friendly neighbors are a great everyday joy.  A grocery bag of homegrown tomatoes left hanging on our front invitation to share coffee and to hold a brand new grandchild....a gentle wave between passing cars. And that was just today.

Monday, July 26, 2004

Mrs Kerry Tells Reporter to Shove It

Teresa Heinz Kerry, wife of presidential candidate John Kerry, nicely told a reporter to "Shove it." I saw film of it on CNN this morning.  The reporter was part of a crowd, shouting for her attention as she rushed through a building. She broke away from her protection and approached the reporter. 

"You said something I didn't say," she muttered with a knowing smile. "You can shove it." She turned firmly and rushed off to her next appointment.
These five infamous seconds are national headlines today. Reporters are atwitter at Mrs. Kerry's indiscretion. They assume that the public will be equally shocked by her lack of respect for the reporter.
I admit...hers were not words that I would choose. But she firmly, efficiently and unashamedly addressed what she considered to be a public transgression. It was a rare moment of authenticity on the campaign trail. And then she was done with it.  She moved on.  
To the chagrin of the intrusive and often untruthful press, Mrs. Kerry may be more admired than dissed for her words.  As for me, I like her a bit better for it.

Saturday, July 24, 2004

Welcome News from Minnesota

Wonderful, welcome news from Minnesota....the sweet, flawed and funny, all-too-human people created by my favorite fiction-writer, Garrison Keillor, will be brought to the silver screen in 2005. These are characters we all know.....the folks next door and down the street, fellow church members, aunts and uncles and assorted cousins, and richly familiar mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers.

Keillor is talented at enticing us to grow attached to the wildly imperfect inhabitants of his fictional Lake Wobegon. I enjoy his books because they make me smile, and they help me to appreciate people, despite (or because of?) their imperfections. They remind me to be more generous and patient with others.
My favorite daily email, and I get quite a few, is "The Writer's Almanac" by Garrison Keillor and Minnesota Public Radio. It features a thought-provoking daily poem, and fascinating historical trivia about writers and other public figures.  Lots of interesting anecdotes. It's a delightful way to start the day....I highly recommend it with your first cup of morning coffee.       

Friday, July 23, 2004

Political Power to the Blogger People

"Those daily journals that millions of young people (and now most campaigns) post on the internet are already playing a huge part in this year's camapign.  With readerships that most daily newspapers in this country would envy, bloggers like Instapundit, DailyKos, Atrios and Wonkette! have actually been credentialed for next week's Democratic Convention in Boston. They are at the dynamic center of the political debate, giving disaffected voters an instantaneous way to speak their mind and talk back to the political establishment. No more 'letters to the editor,' even by email. Blogs happen in real time and politicians and pundits who ignore them do so at their own peril."
Joe Trippi, former chair of the Howard Dean for President campaign, today at
A close friend of my daughter (a bridesmaid at her 2003 wedding) has one of the heaviest-traffic blogs online, at And not coincidentally, she is Director of Volunteer Coordination for the Democratic Convention next week.
Power to the blogger people, writers and creators of the freest press in the world! 

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Sexual Sin and the Evangelical

In my experience, nothing captures the attention or pious ire of an evangelical Christian like someone else's sexual sin. Not violence.....not poverty or homelessness...not racial prejudice....not unforgiveness or unkindness....not a hardened heart....certainly not greed, love of money, or idolatry of material things.
It's all about anything remotely connected to someone else's sexual sin, whether it's infidelity, premarital sex, pornography, abortion, homosexuality, sexual deviancy  or whatever. It's as if sexual sin is judged a far greater transgression than disobedience to other commandments and teachings.
How else could so-called right-to-lifers roundly condemn abortion and then support the death penalty? What else could cause them to gauge personal morality solely on the basis of sexual behavior? 

George Bush knows this, and he cynically uses it to keep evangelicals in lock-step behind his  candidacy, each time headlines threaten to cause them to see the bigger picture. He touts a Same-Sex Marriage Ban Amendment to the US Constituton not because it will succeed.....the votes clearly aren't there for passage....but to emotionally manipulate evangelicals, rather like using irresistible bait to catch fish. 

Jesus spent very little of His earthly ministry teaching about sexual behavior, and only one of the Ten Commandments directly deals with sexual sin. It will be a great and joyful  day for God and His people when Christians start focusing on His priorities and the Good News, and stop investing far too much energy on certain specific sins, to the detriment of all other teachings. 

Obsession with sexual sin to the exclusion of other Godly concerns is precisely what drives people away from evangelical churches.  

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Democracy, Michael Moore Style

Every generation needs a Michael Moore to keep it honest. Michael Moore is an everyman innocent...naive and still shocked by greed and dishonesty. A filmmaker with an eye for hypocrisy and a taste for sophisticated editing. A passionate man with the rebellious glee of 1970s protest marchers armed with serious issues and not-so-hidden anger at authority figures.

I finally saw "Farenheit 9/11" today, and yes, at times, it's a hoot, but it's also much more.  As a closet CPA/MBA, longtime audit manager and former university lecturer in finance & accounting, I tell you with authority that the financial conflict of interest issues raised in this film are serious. They represent corruption and fraud of a chillingly high order. And no one...absolutely no one... claims that the detailed financial data and money trail cited in this film are untrue. No one is suing Michael Moore or even calling him a liar on these points. This is black and white stuff. These are facts. It's disturbing to see the US Presidency treated mainly as a greedy profit-taking opportunity.

Sure, Moore injects his opinions, and there are a couple over-the-top moments. Yes, he uses a mother's grief to ensure that you, too, feel sadness. Yes, he contrasts horrible moments and distasteful or stupid remarks by the Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld triad with playful and silly music.  Yes, he uses a filmmaker's tools...because he is a filmmaker who has something to say.

I don't find "Farenheit 9/11" to be great filmmaking. I do find it to be a colorful and welcome exercise, in these hyper-monitored times, of First Amendment rights to freedom of speech.  Praise God that we are all free to speak our minds.

That is called democracy.


Monday, July 19, 2004

Humor and Healing in Colorado

I grew up wishing I had a perfect family, like I thought everyone else had. TV fare was "Ozzie and Harriet," "Leave it to Beaver" and "Father's Knows Best," with wise, confident, available fathers, smiling, kind available mothers and pesky brothers and sisters who always did the right thing under pressure. My home felt far from normal, and it comforted me to dream that someday things would be better.
Forty years later, my home life feels miraculous in its stability and warmth. Normal? I guess, whatever that might be. Perfect? Don't make me laugh. Part of the difference is a loving, thoughtful husband, and our commitment to each other. But part of the difference is my maturing past childlike expectations of perfection in others. Turns out I was family was not perfect. Dad worked too much; Mom had emotional problems; intimacy was a foreign concept in our home. No warm hugs and freshly baked cookies after school. But they fed, educated and clothed us...took us to church every week...supported our passions and talents...sent us to college. They held together a marriage that I now know was struggling for survival. I am grateful to them.
Andrea and I returned last night from almost a week in Colorado visiting my ailing 80-something parents (now married 56 years), and attending a wedding with the usual cast of family characters. Ron couldn't escape work to attend, but we were blessed to be joined by my oldest daughter and her delightful husband. He's tops in my book, but that's another blog.   
They were all there for the successful but never-home brother (40 flights this year, and it's only July. Hmm...wonder where he got the habit of neglecting his family?). His former wife of more than 20 years (I miss her so). His new younger, prettier wife. My emotionally distant sister and her outspoken, loony husband of 26 years. Two bright university-student nephews with extreme aversions to catching wedding garters.  My young niece, the bride, and her smitten groom. The groom's family, including his father, a Lutheran Church business manager who disapproves of my professional musician brother, the father of the bride. My ex sister-in-law's parents. Her boyfriend and his relatives, who segregated into their own corner. Assorted strangers and forgotten faces.
I hadn't seen many for quite a few years.....since I'd completed months of overdue Christian-flavored counseling 3 years ago to understand my life, my relationships and reactions. I saw my extended family through new eyes of appreciation. I love them...they're my history and I am theirs. I was able to enjoy listen to comfortably show care for them. We laughed together, and caught up on our lives. We reminisced.
It was a magic time. A healing time. (My parents and sister spoke for the first time in 6 years.) I hope we don't wait years to gather again as a family. It was wonderful, but.....
Thank God we don't live next door to these people. :) 

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Martha , OJ , Courtney and Scott

Murderer OJ Simpson walks the streets and plays golf, a free man. Rocker Courtney Love abuses illegal drugs, breaks and enters homes, stalks former lovers, fails to show at mandated court times, assaults and batters others, yet she remains out of jail. If experienced analysts are correct, Scott Peterson has a good chance of acquittal for the murders of his wife and unborn son, and will have the rest of his life to lie, cheat and also play golf.

Martha Stewart gets sentenced Friday for a victimless offense that no one profited from... stemming from charges based on a complex technicality decried by every major newspaper in our country... based on nonsensical charges that the jury clearly didn't comprehend... a trial verdict derived, in part, from one juror and one gov't witness who both admittedly perjured themselves.

Martha will likely serve jail time. Unlike OJ, and perhaps Courtney and Scott.

Sunday, July 11, 2004

Decline of US Reading for Pleasure and Leisure

Americans ultimately do what they love. They do what they choose to do. There are times when they do what others choose for them, but those times are short-lived if in conflict with how they yearn to use their time. If Americans find pleasure in reading books, they will choose books for entertainment. They will make time for reading books. If reading is not pleasurable, they will choose to do something else with their leisure time.

The National Endowment for the Arts recently issued a report, "Reading at Risk - a Survey of Literary Reading in America." The every-ten-year report was based on a comprehensive survey of 17,000 people conducted by the US Census Bureau in 2002. Only 46.7% of respondents said they had read at least one novel, short story, poem or play in the past year. And just 56.6% had read any book at all in the past 12 months.

The demographics are even more revealing: Merely 37.6% of all men read a work of fiction during that period; Hispanics (26.5%) read less fiction than African-Americans (37.1%), with European-Americans (my word for Caucasians....:) measuring a fiction reading rate of 51.4%. The greatest 20-year decline occurred within the young adult age groups: of 18-to-24 year olds and 25-to-34 year olds, 42.8% and 47.7% respectively reported reading a novel, short story, poem or play during the past year.

All categories...all ages, both genders, all racial categories...any way you view the data, everyone is reading less books. Remove from the survey the Harry Potter and Christian Fundamentalist Left Behind book sales phenomenons and purchases by Oprah Book Club devotees, and it's unimaginable how little leisure-time reading is being done by the American public.

So many questions naturally arise from the NEA survey results. Why has book reading for pleasure decreased in the US? Does it matter? Is this trend limited to the US? Why does this trend shock people? What does decreased book reading mean for the US? How can book reading be made more pleasurable? What can be done to to engage or re-engage readers of all ages?

I recently wrote an 3,500-word essay entitled "Challenging Children to Read" for an international contest. This subject fascinates me....I believe that the US's literacy and literary-reading rates have a profound impact on the ability of all Americans' to peacably pursue their rights to life, liberty and happiness, as guaranteed by the US constitution.

I'll be devoting more time and thought to this subject. It's more radical that it appears at first blush. Stay tuned.

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Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Satan Has a Higher Approval Level?

Several respected political polls show Vice President Dick Cheney's public approval level to be about 22%, the lowest ever recorded for a sitting US President or Vice President. Lowest by a very large margin. I wonder if Satan himself would have a public approval that low? Satan has some devoted fans. Apparently, Mr. Cheney does not.

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Monday, July 05, 2004

Tale of a One-Car Family

We've been a one-car family for almost two years, something that family and especially friends find eccentric and even strange. Sacrilegious to the Southern California lifestyle.

It originally wasn't by choice. Ron was laid off in October 2002, so we cut down to one car, for the obvious expense-saving reasons. We found ways to cope and cutback. We dumped the expensive SUV, and kept the 1993 paid-for Aerostar van. Seven long months later, Ron found a good job 25 miles from home. Finances were shaky as an 8.0 earthquake, and buying a second car was not an option.

He was forced to brainstorm options to driving his daily commute. He discovered that he could catch a bus close to home, and it would take him within a half-block of work, all without changing buses. And since he takes classes at the local university, it would be FREE. CSUF subsidizes bus passes as a way to mitigate its parking problems.

Ron's commute to work has been expense-free for over a year now. At first, he was regarded as an oddity by his co-workers. Now, with sky-high gas prices and summertime traffic jams, his co-workers ask questions...Where do you get on the bus? How long does it take? How much does it cost? Where do you get the schedules?

The van died last week. It goes to parts-heaven this Thursday, which leaves us carless.

Family finances are no longer earthquake-grade shaky, but we've not recovered enough to have much reserves. We have enough for one solid used car at today's prices, sans monthly payments. It's probably time to return to two cars, though....Ron is changing careers soon, and a smooth bus ride might not be possible. And Andrea's 13-year-old schedule gets more complex by the week.

God has His ways.

While Ron and I were puttering in the garage yesterday, a retired neighbor ambled across the street. I decided to sell a car....thought you might be interested. Just decided that it's time to get something new. Ron and I were slow to Uhhh...OK.

For you folks, I would be fine with $1,500. We stared. (Not intelligently, I might add.)

It's a 10 year old silver-blue Buick sedan...leather seats, new brakes, new air-conditioning system, Sony CD player and sound system. A well-maintained, high-mileage car. Runs beautifully. We bought it today. Pink slip sits here on my desk. It's ours. And we have enough funds left to look for a second car.

God does, indeed, provide for all our needs. Our worries were baseless and faithless. We've learned so much these past couple years....the difference between want and need, for one. Lessons about trusting God, about working together as a family, about the love of family and friends, about living on a proverbial shoestring, about the power of prayer, about being caring to neighbors we hardly know.

It all comes back to Romans 8:28, "And we know that in all things, God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."

Sunday, July 04, 2004

Wise Presidential Words for July 4th

To celebrate the birthday of our great country, I give you wise words from men who have served as President.

"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. This is not a way of life at all in any true sense. Under the clouds of war, it is humanity hanging on a cross of iron."
--- Dwight Eisenhower, April 16, 1963

"Don't pray that God's on our side; pray that we're on His side."
--- Abraham Lincoln

"Once a government is committed to the principle of silencing the voice of opposition, it has only one way to go, and that is down the path of increasingly repressive measures, until it becomes a source of terror to all its citizens and creates a country where everyone lives in fear."
--- Harry S. Truman, August 8, 1950

"I have not read a newspaper in over a month, and feel much the better for it."
--- Thomas Jefferson

"When you have read the Bible, you will know it is the word of God because you will have found it the key to your own heart, your own happiness, and your own duty."
--- Woodrow Wilson

"I believe this nation hungers for a spiritual revival; hungers to once again see honor placed above political expediency; to see government once again the protector of our liberties, not the distributor of gifts and privileges. Government should uphold and not undermine those institutions which are custodians of the very values upon which civilization is founded--religion, education and above all, family. Government cannot be clergyman, teacher and parent, It is our servant, beholden to us."
--- Ronald Reagan, November 13, 1979

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Friday, July 02, 2004

George Wants Your Church Roster

It's not enough that under George Bush's presidency, the US government has broad, unbelievably broad, new powers to peruse our personal affairs. The FBI and what-not can limitlessly access our medical records, our library usage records, our cable TV viewing habits, even our school records. They can read our email, tap our phones, keep track of our air travel, and monitor our every banking and credit card transaction. They most certainly watch our tax returns and social security accounts. And no one...absolutely no permitted by law to admit that info is being accumulated about us.

No, it's not enough.

This week, George asked church-goers to turn over church membership directories to his state campaign staff. He wants to use the directories to target his campaign mailings, as well as to identify clergy to lean on for Republican-tinged voter registration drives. He wants Sunday church services to be used for partisan get-out-the-vote drives. He wants clergy to deliver votes. To him.

It's all political gamesmanship for George. He has little grasp of democratic principles or of civil liberties in a free society. He clearly has no clue that a non-profit organization is legally required to be politically neutral, or risk losing its tax-exempt status. He seems to think God is a Republican. It's all about what's good for George....including church worship services.

Just imagine the lists he could...he would compile if he had all the nation's church directories. Just imagine how he would use them. Just imagine the end of freedom and democracy as penned by our forefathers.

Here's a logical question that will haunt already risk-allergic pastors....will people sue churches for divulging their names and home data to third parties without their permission? What is the church's liability if, unbenownst to staff, a congregation member hands over the church roster to a third party? After all, the church published it. Headlines scream that air travelers are suing airlines for releasing info at the federal gov't's demand. Apparently, there exists a cadre of attorneys making a rich living only based on the Bush administration's civil rights violations. It's now a cottage industry for the legal field.

Once again, George Bush's utter disregard for our privacy and constitutional rights causes paranoia, intrusion into our personal lives and another bonanza for litigation attorneys.

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Thursday, July 01, 2004

Daily Life in Jerusalem

I rarely recommend other blogs...there are so many great blog reads...but here is one that captures my attention. It's a diary about everyday non-political home life in Jerusalem. Her voice is authentic with tones of humor, pain, honesty and hope. Relishing it has helped me visualize and care more about another culture and place.