Being of Service? Reflecting on Mary.

A Year of Being Kind blog – Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The Visitation - Mary and Elizabeth meet - Luke 1:39-45

Being of Service? Reflecting on Mary.

Imagine a teenaged, unwed mother. In a conquered territory, under enemy occupation. Not only did she have the baby Jesus in less than optimum circumstances, in terms of hygiene and medical needs, but she was also far from her home as well.

This is what I taught about today, in the midweek bible study, specifically Luke 1:39-45. First, I spoke of Mary, talking with the angel Gabriel. Saying “yes” to the angel. Saying “yes” to God. Then, conceiving through the power of the Holy Spirit. And going to see her older cousin Elizabeth some weeks later.

How strange to our ears, today! What a wild story for us to swallow! Imagine the people of Mary’s day, imagine how improbable—how implausible the story must have seemed to them.

What has God done for you in your life, lately? Or, in the life of one of your family or friends? Has God done something improbable, or implausible? Do you think God can do something out of the ordinary? How big is your God? (How big is my God? Good question.)

Back to Mary. Mary must have lived simply. She was not wealthy, especially after the big reveal—the announcement that she was pregnant before marriage. She and Joseph must not have had too much money, even though Joseph was related by family to King David and his family line.

This is certainly counter-intuitive. Not wealthy? The baby Jesus, not born in a fancy house or palace? Strange, but true. This certainly goes against the health-wealth-and-happiness gospel preached by some television/celebrity preachers of today.

If we do say “yes” to God, our lives will be changed, without a doubt. God may ask us to go to different places, or do different things. Be uprooted, even homeless. Mary and Joseph were both far away from familiar people, places and things. They were travelers, like many people in the town of Bethlehem at that time. They both said “yes” to God.

Quite a challenge for me today. For us, in the bible study. God knows, I try to be faithful in teaching a bible study regularly, on Wednesdays and Sundays. And God willing, I pray that God may use the ideas and words I use to communicate to many hearts. Thanks for the help, God.


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By Day, By Night—Be of Service All the Time

A Year of Being Kind blog – Saturday, May 3, 2014

BK always be kind

By Day, By Night—Be of Service All the Time

If I really wanted to puff myself up, I could say I was of service a number of times today. During the day, during the evening. (But I don’t want to puff myself up. I really don’t.)

I’ll relate a little about what happened today, and I’ll let my readers decide.

My husband needed a raincoat today. (Actually, he’s needed one for the past few weeks.) So, he decided that today was the day. Today, he’d go to the store to get a new raincoat. He is not fond of shopping, or even going into a large store. Especially a clothing store. He thinks of shopping for clothes as something that he would only rarely, willingly, do. And that’s for clothing for himself. I can count on one hand the times when he has been in a clothing store with me, when I have been looking for clothing. But I digress. My topic for the day is being of service. During the day, it’s to my husband.

He asked my recommendations. After some concerted thinking, I gave him the name of a primary store, and of two secondary stores. (Just in case—that is the way he prefers.) Our first stop had just the thing he was looking for. I also was of service to him in helping him decide between two coats. (The raincoat he ended up buying did have a better fit in the shoulders.) He was in a fine mood when we went on our way home!

Tonight, I kept going with the encyclopedia article. Now, after I’ve gathered a number of resources—articles, books, charts, and various other fact sheets, I can really sink my teeth into the fun of putting the article together. Yes! I know that this article on alcoholism will help many people, when the book finally gets published.

I enjoy writing, editing, and writing some more. If I do say so myself, I am pretty good at communication. So, writing several articles for the Encyclopedia of Psychoactive Drugs is right up my alley. This encyclopedia I’m talking about? It’s going to be a general reference book, on the shelf in libraries all over the country. I suspect that this article on alcoholism will be helpful, eye-opening, and a blessing to many.

Just generally helpful, that’s me. That’s a big reason why I am trying to do intentional acts of service each day. Besides being a great discipline, writing every day is a challenging experience. But I get the feeling that God is pleased, too..

If anyone does have something to suggest regarding this blog, or what I ought to publish, please let me know! I appreciate every one of you. Thanks so much for reading!


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Helpful Conversation—on Such a Topic! (Feature Friday!)

A Year of Being Kind blog – Friday, April 4, 2014

Helpful Conversation—on Such a Topic! (Feature Friday!)

Life - limited warrantee
Conversation starters. We all know them. “Hello!” “Pleased to meet you.”“How’s the weather today?” “How ‘bout those Bears/Hawks/Cubs?”

But what about topics that bring conversation to an absolute standstill? How about—death?

Small groups, medium-sized groups of people gather to talk about death at what is known as a Death Café. Some talk candidly, openly. Some with wistful sadness or still-palpable grief. Others with realism, tinged with fear or anxiety, seasoned with love for those who have passed on. Death, that final parting.

These Death Cafés can be made easier by adding tea (or coffee) and sweets. Here in the Chicago area, Death Cafés have been facilitated since October 2012 by Victoria Noe and Dan Bulf. A Café is not a therapy session, not a support group. But it’s a safe place, a space to be freely open about death and dying. Dan especially has taken the idea of Death Cafés and run with it. Dan Bulf is a trained group facilitator. He has hosted and facilitated Cafés at such diverse places as senior citizen residences and coffee shops, and—in ten days, at the Whole Foods in Northbrook.

But where did the idea for a Death Café come from? For that, we need to look to Switzerland, at the “café mortels” of the early 2000’s, organized by the Swiss sociologist Bernard Crettaz. Inspired by this whole topic, a British man called Jon Underwood held the first Death Café in his home in England, in 2011. From there, the concept has taken off and become modestly successful. Modestly, because of the leery feeling that mainstream American culture maintains concerning death.

Dan recently reflected on one of several reasons behind these gatherings. “One of my personal challenges doing cause-based workshops like the Death Cafe is the accepting money in exchange for growth experiences. These experiences are offered to provide growth, connection and some fun. They come from my heart, so I make up that it should be a gift freely given. But there’s the reality that my time and efforts have value at a monetary level as well and intra-personal.”

One of Dan’s friends, whom he was trying to get to donate his time and expertise as a regular contributor, told him that money is like energy. It needs to flow, it isn’t natural to be contained or directed in a straight line. His philosophy made sense: a circle needs to be created and sustained for this energy. Dan figured that his efforts will dead end without participants completing the circle.

Dan has asked me to help him facilitate several of these Death Cafés around Chicago in the past year, because I have training as a chaplain, and with grief and end of life concerns. All kinds of thoughts of God—or a Higher Power—or a Life Force—are discussed. These conversations affect many, if not all, of those listening to a deep extent. I find them to be revealing, sensitive, even humorous at times. And many of those who attend have a Christian outline or understanding to life and death. Yes, sometimes certain people who come to a Café might still be dealing with some painful, raw issues. But Dan also wants those who attend to celebrate their finite lives, and not just get caught up in dark or sad thoughts.

He also needs to balance. To pick and choose where he might use his knowledge, understanding of group behavior, and ability to lead a conversation—and where the energy needs to flow. As Dan says, “It’s not easy.”

Thanks, Dan, for leading the way in this important conversation. (For more information see the website )
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Be Kind, Serve, Do Office Work!

A Year of Being Kind blog –Thursday, March 27, 2014


church office picture

Be Kind, Serve, Do Office Work!

Orienting one’s self to a new job is often a challenge, even if everyone is pleased that a new person has started the job. That was (and is) my situation. Can anyone relate?

I am gradually getting used to the idea that I am, indeed, at a new church. And, that I am, in fact, a leader at this new church. I spent the morning finding out more about the church office, the secretary, how things work (like the printer and the copier—both very important!), and getting my laptop connected to the wifi. And, voila! I’m gradually getting more and more comfortable in this new position.

And, questions? Questions about the bulletin, about the scriptures for Sunday, about the church ad in the local paper. Are we going to advertise for Holy Week? Or just Easter? And, how much are the various ads that are available? Those are all good questions, and I asked the secretary to contact the advertising person at the paper and find out. We’ll gather a small, ad hoc church council meeting on Sunday and bounce the information and choices off of them.

So much to get used to! And yet, so much I know, sort of by osmosis. I suppose that’s from working at churches for the past thirty-some-odd years. I know my way around the basic church office, and know something about small office operations, too. I’ve been a lay leader and a church volunteer at several churches that were not particularly blessed with finances. So, I know how to scrimp and save. I am accustomed to being frugal, and shopping smart.

Sure, I’ve done office work before. But not from the aspect of being ringmaster. That’s the analogy I thought of. And, certainly, various people in the church are in charge of various ministries. True! But getting the big picture? Finding ways to help the ministries work together, for the common good of the congregation? Well, that’s my job, and my fellow co-pastor’s job, too. A ringmaster not only needs to coordinate what is happening when, but also needs to act as an encouragement to everyone on the team.

Thank God that this church is small, and laid-back, and not really nervous nellies about forgetting a part of the service. And, thank You, God, for putting me in this situation. With all these good people encouraging me and helping me be the best person I can be, I feel so loved, validated, and special. It is wonderful, God. Thanks again.

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