Challenging Service, in Chicago (Feature Friday!)

A Year of Being Kind blog – Friday, August 8, 2014

father gave me a gift-belief in me

Challenging Service, in Chicago (Feature Friday!)

Today is Friday, and it’s time for another Feature Friday. Except—this Friday feature is more challenging than some in past months.

What would you do if you were orphaned as a small child, and had no other close relatives? Or, how would life be different for you if you grew up in a poverty-stricken, single-parent household? What other serious events or continuing situations could radically change your story?  Would that fundamentally change how you grew up? Who you were, and more importantly, who you became?

This Feature Friday post tells about Emmaus Ministries, “Ministering to men in prostitution since 1990.” (according to their website) One big part of the ministry is trust and respect. Always in pairs, walking the streets alongside of the men. Coming alongside and listening to their stories. Stories are powerful. Everyone has a story, but some people cannot tell their stories. The people at Emmaus Ministries go out of their way to find out about the stories—sometimes difficult and traumatic, often painful—from the men on the street. As these relationships of trust and respect grow, the workers at Emmaus help the men to take steps to get off the streets, into a more stable place and position in their lives.

Some on-the-street experiences come from the founder of Emmaus Ministries, John Green. “Streetwalking with Jesus,” a book written by John Green with Dawn Herzog Jewell, vividly tells about justice and mercy. As he reflects on Micah 6:8, Green deals with such questions as “how do I live justly? To whom do I show mercy?  How may I walk humbly with God?” Working with male prostitutes is truly a challenge. And, a merciful and just way to live out the Good News.

The stories can involve addiction and alcoholism. Long-term unemployment (both for the men as well as their families). Homelessness. Other forms of instability and hardship, trauma and violence. Sometimes, several of these difficult items come into the stories. But the workers and volunteers at Emmaus Ministries are there to listen with compassion, to try to understand, and to help where they can. For example, on Emmaus’ blog, a recently-released person expressed his gratitude for the letters and calls that came to the prison for him. In fact, they were the only calls and visits this man had, from anyone, while he was imprisoned. Talk about gratitude!

Just having the opportunity to say you’re sorry? Or, I’m grateful? Or, I’m so afraid? Emotions! Scary, unpredictable! Sometimes; though, taking advantage of that blessing means so much. If you came from a shaky foster family, or a dysfunctional family in extreme poverty, this relationship with the workers at Emmaus sometimes might be the first healthy relationship they have had with another adult.

God bless every person blessed by Emmaus Ministry! And God be with those who will be in sme trial or tribulation. God, please! In your mystery, compassion and love, be with every person as they go about their business. Help Emmaus workers point many people to God, and let everyone know that Emmaus Ministries is truly a loving, caring, and worthwhile ministry.


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Being Kind, and More Adventures in Dentistry

A Year of Being Kind blog – Tuesday, June 17, 2014

BK show more kindness than necessary

Being Kind, and More Adventures in Dentistry

There I was, having a snack on Sunday afternoon. Suddenly—I felt something hard in my mouth. And part of my molar was gone. Cracked. I felt the jagged edge with my tongue and took in a deep breath. Breathed out the sigh of frustration. I needed this like I needed another hole in my head. (Upon reflection, I suppose that’s pretty much what it is. Another hole, I mean.)

The dentist’s assistant and I talked yesterday, and I found out that I could have the first appointment on Wednesday morning. Thank goodness I have a responsive dentist! He was gone over the weekend, but will be back tomorrow. So, bright and early, I have the first appointment in his office. And, I am—almost—filled with trepidation to find out what are the next steps he suggests for this lower molar.

Today was rather challenging for me. Not too much, since I don’t want people to think my cracked tooth is causing a great, big hole in my mouth. But, it is rubbing a little sore in my tongue. Irritating, and bothersome. So much so, that I am speaking as if I had a slight speech impediment now. Since about the middle of the morning.

I reflected on my practice of being kind, as I sat in the office today. As I thought, I found I was concentrating so much on being kind to others. I don’t often sit back and allow others to be kind to me. Not to get all introspective or anything, but taking care of myself is important, too! The dentist’s assistant was very kind and understanding as she put me down for a special visit tomorrow—the earliest of the day, too.

This train of thought led me on. What other things am I neglecting in my life? How can others be helpful to me? And, how else could I be kind to myself?

I know, from my years of working as a chaplain, how valuable being kind to myself could be. Except, I call it “self-care.” I know that this practice is getting a lot of press now, especially since those in the helping professions are increasingly finding regular self-care to be a necessity.

Now that I’m talking about it, I can see how Jesus practiced self-care in His life, during His ministry. He would withdraw on a regular basis. Go away by Himself and be alone. Pray. I suspect He was resting and recharging His batteries (metaphorically speaking, of course—especially since batteries were not invented until 1800).

I ought to follow His excellent example and take time for myself. Be kind to myself. Follow good practices of self-care. Good idea, O Lord! Thanks.


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Doing the Footwork for a Blessing of the Animals

A Year of Being Kind blog – Thursday, May 15, 2014

dog and kittens

Doing the Footwork for a Blessing of the Animals

Who remembers this past winter? January . . . February . . . March. Driving snow! Slippery ice! Whipping wind! Freezing cold! Polar Vortex! (Or should I say, vortices? I don’t know what the plural of “vortex” is.) How much winter could we take, anyway? My 80-something-year-old father-in-law, who grew up on a farm in Iowa and has lived all his life in the upper Midwest, said this past winter was the absolute worst in his memory. And that’s saying something.

Even though spring is here, and May is verdant with abundant flowers and plants popping out all over the place, I still hear people talking about the challenging winter we just came through. And—that’s why I would like to have a Blessing of the Animals at the church where I work, on the first Saturday in June. June 7th, from 10:00 am until noon, in the church parking lot.

St. Francis is the patron saint of ecology, animals and the environment. Pope John Paul II wrote in 1990 that St. Francis “offers Christians an example of genuine and deep respect for the integrity of creation . . . . As a friend of the poor who was loved by God’s creatures, Saint Francis invited all of creation – animals, plants, natural forces, even Brother Sun and Sister Moon – to give honor and praise to the Lord. . . . when we are at peace with God we are better able to devote ourselves to building up that peace with all creation which is inseparable from peace among all peoples.” (“World Day of Peace 1990”. Retrieved May 15, 2014) What a positive, affirming way to show our fellowship and friendship with animals, as well as the rest of creation.

I know that the Blessing of the Animals is usually associated with St. Francis of Assisi, and is usually timed to correspond with his feast day on October 4th. I am so glad for churches that celebrate our animal friends during the first week of October. However, I think that our animal friends have gone through this challenging winter, too! They might need some additional blessing. Accordingly, we printed up some flyers, and today I went to some local businesses to see whether we might be able to have these flyers posted in the windows or on community boards inside. Plus, I started to develop some positive, continuing relationships with store managers in the area. All good things!

So, I continued to do some footwork to get the Blessing of the Animals going today. It is a great chance to get together with people from the community and to make some new friends. (Both two-legged and four-legged!) I love animals, and I am so excited to be able to offer this simple, yet heartfelt opportunity to families and their animal friends. Dear God, be with me and the rest of St. Luke’s Church community as we prepare for this community Blessing of the Animals. Thanks, God!


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