Kind to Myself at a Silent Retreat

A Year of Being Kind blog – Saturday, September 20, 2014

Be still, and know that I am God Ps 46-1

Kind to Myself at a Silent Retreat

I spent today in silence. At least, most of the day. In silence, reflection, prayer, and meditation.

At first, when I thought about participating in this retreat, I couldn’t justify spending a whole Saturday away. A whole Saturday when I intentionally separated myself from the busy, day-to-day, hustle and bustle. But the more I thought about it, the more I considered it to be something I needed to do. For myself, and for my spiritual health.

So, yes. I was kind to myself today. As the title of the day of prayer said, this was a Soul Care Day. A day to be gentle with the soul, and to reflect on scripture. The two reflections of the day touched me deeply. (Both on the Good Shepherd; the morning reflection on Psalm 23, and the afternoon reflection on John 10.) It was deeply moving to have a connection with God in such an intimate way. Another powerful thing that moved me as well was the additional material each participant received.

I found I appreciated the prompts that helped me join this silent retreat fully. Concerns (about myself, others close to me, my work), weariness (of body, mind or spirit), distractions (that occupy or nag at my mind or heart) and fears (“what ifs,” outcomes, expectations). I was encouraged to bring any or all of these things to conscious awareness, as they came to mind, and set them aside. So I might fully enter into the retreat.

A third thing that touched me deeply was a private prayer time I had with the retreat leaders. This was a kind and giving act they offered. A precious gift, and I welcomed it. Three people prayed with me. One I have only known and seen several times. The other two I have known for a long time. One woman has a number of children, with two the exact ages of my two youngest. She and I were in a mom’s bible study together for years, before I even went to seminary. (And the third? My spiritual director, and an amazing woman of faith.)

It was restful and helpful for me to step away. Step out of a leadership position at the church where I work, and rest in the hands of God. Walk with the Good Shepherd for a short time, and rest in the green pastures of God’s grace and love. Thank You, God, for this wonderful opportunity to rest in You.


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Social Media? Or a Kind Conversation?

A Year of Being Kind blog – Wednesday, June 18, 2014

God what God knows about you

Social Media? Or a Kind Conversation?

Have you noticed? People pay so much attention to social media today. Smart phones, computer laptops and tablets. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. Reddit and Tumblr. So many choices! So many ways to further fragment individuals and their communication. Even when I see several people sitting in close proximity to each other, chances are that they will be staring down at some electronic device, focused on that, instead of focusing on each other—sitting at the same table, or even on the same bench.

Call me old-fashioned, but I actually enjoy the art of conversation. I may not be the best at this dying art, but I do enjoy talking with people. In a small group or tete a tete. Intimate, joy-filled, heartwarming, sometimes even heartwrenching. But all the same, there is nothing quite like it.

I have been trained as a chaplain. I’ve done several extended internships as a chaplain intern, and served as student pastor for one year. I was employed as a part-time director of pastoral care, and then on call chaplain at a hospital in Chicago for almost seven years. And this was all in the past eleven years. Extensive, specific training. A great deal of spiritual, psychological and emotional understanding of people in highly volatile, fearful, or extended situations. Challenging, anxious experiences. Lack of hope, grief, trauma, end of life concerns. Yes, I’ve seen a lot.

Looking back on it all, I can see how many of these formative experiences have prepared me for what I’m doing and where I find myself, right now. God is awesome—how God fits this all together never ceases to amaze me.

Take this evening, for example. I happened to meet an acquaintance of mine. (I don’t think he knows about my new job.) He and I fell into conversation, and he started talking about how he used to be all caught up in the church, and went through years of parochial schooling. Then, he stopped church attendance some years ago. Now, he has recently started to consider God, and spirituality from a whole different perspective. In turn, I told him a little about my experience with God and spirituality. I encouraged him to continue to explore this! (And, no, I did not bash him over the head with the fact that I am a professional, in the “church business.”)

I looked on this friendly conversation as part of my being kind. Helpful. Making positive suggestions. And perhaps, when we meet again next time, my acquaintance might remember my kind words and ask me about my perspective—my experience, strength and hope. Please God, help me be ready to be kind, and to be of service!


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Opening Up, Confiding, and—That’s It.

A Year of Being Kind blog –Sunday, June 15, 2014

SERVE love serve Gal 5-13

Opening Up, Confiding, and—That’s It.

Ever have someone open up to you? And, tell you some stuff that is either really private, or particularly personal? Or really important?

From time to time, that happens to me. Sometimes, out of the clear blue sky. I can be minding my own business, standing in line at the grocery store, and someone will turn to me. That person will tell me intimate details of their lives, their emotions, their resentment or disgruntlement or surprise. Or pleasure or pride or caring.

Tonight was no exception. Tonight, after going to a coffee place to meet some friends, I decided to swing by a large, cut-rate department store that had a sizable food component. I needed to pick up a few things before I went home. I got almost everything I needed. (When I got home, I realized I had forgotten two things I’d intended to get. Aw, shucks! I did not have two items I particularly wanted . . . but that is fodder for another blog post.)

As I got in the check out line, I patiently waited my turn. (I particularly don’t like those self-check out lanes, since by using them the stores eliminate checkers and cashiers. Cashiers actually want lunch breaks, bathroom breaks, and they can get sick. Even want time off. Imagine! The nerve of those silly human beings!)

When I came up to the young cashier, I could tell she was frazzled. Even though she still greeted me, I could see she was distracted. So, I tried to be especially friendly and kind. I started—humorously—asking whether the computerized check out system was working properly. (I had heard that it was not, yesterday. And this computer snafu was nationwide!)

The cashier and I had a laugh about it. She immediately engaged with me, telling me the all-kind-of troubles she had and has with the computer. And the difficulties she has with her nose-in-the-air, fancy pants family. I listened, nodding my head and making encouraging words and noises.

And then—as suddenly as the cashier had begun? She stopped.

I’m used to people unburdening themselves to me by now. I was just amused that this young lady started and stopped so quickly. Like turning a faucet on and off. But was I kind? Helpful? Did I try to be of service? I think so, God. In fact, I know so. Thanks for putting me in the place of service tonight.


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Of Mothers and Opportunities for Service

A Year of Being Kind blog – Sunday, May 10, 2014

PRAY God can hear you

Of Mothers and Opportunities for Service

Everyone has a mother. Or, in the case of some people, had a mother. For many, many people, this close, intimate relationship is precious, and conjures up wonderful memories. And then, there are others who do not have good memories of mothers, of families. Deep-seated memories, certainly, whether good or not-so-good.

Today is Mother’s Day here in the United States. I preached this morning on John 10 and Psalm 23, about the parable of the shepherd. Or more specifically, the shepherd’s voice. The sheep know the shepherd’s voice and recognize it, no matter what. Even when sheep go through dark valleys, still, the shepherd is right at their side, no matter what. Jesus called Himself the Shepherd—the Good Shepherd. And we are the sheep.

Are you going through dark valleys? Am I? Whatever kind of difficulty, or pain, or problem I may be going through, I know God is right by my side.

At least, I think I know. I hope I do. That is, sometimes.

I know of several serious, continuing situations that certain of my friends and acquaintances are going through. Of course, when I am acting as a chaplain, I try not to think of my own problems. (Stray, personal thoughts do happen to sneak in, from time to time, but I do try to focus on others.) I support others, and let them know that God is with them. God is with me, too. God wants a relationship with all of us. A loving, caring relationship, at that. I do believe it! Really, I do.

At the beginning of the year, I asked God to bless me with a daily opportunity o be helpful, loving, and to serve others. These opportunities for service are the things that I’m looking for, each day. The things I’m praying for. I’m concentrating on helpful, loving acts of ministry in order to get out of myself, and to be faithful to God. And—in order to develop a closer, deeper relationship with God.

In the past few days, God has put people in my path—several mothers, among them—who needed prayer for some serious reasons. Of course I offered prayer! I let these people know that God cares for them, and I do, too. I wanted to offer them possibility of a relationship, as well. A few of these people accepted my offer of prayer right there on the spot, and I intuited that I was able to help them. Or, more importantly, God was able to help.

Thanks, God! Even when I kinda, sorta doubt You. Even when others doubt You, too. You come through, and wrap us in Your arms of love, encouragement and care. Thanks!


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Being kind? At the YMCA

A Year of Being Kind blog – Saturday, January 18, 2014

be kind to others

Being Kind? At the YMCA

Week in, week out, I try to keep to some sort of weekly schedule. Not daily schedule, no. For me right now, each day is a little different. Some days have more involvement, others have various meetings or errands, and most days have at least some work-related activity. However, rare it is to find myself at home all day (and all night, too) with no social interaction whatsoever.

Saturday morning is a time I set aside for going to the gym for one of my several-times-weekly exercise sessions. I am fortunate that I don’t find it very difficult to get to the gym. I understand that motivation is a large barrier to some people when they begin an exercise routine. Thank God, not me. I understand the benefits that come from regular stretching and exercise! So, I try to make it to the YMCA here in town three times a week.

Today, I happened to pass S in the hallway at the Y, a lovely woman I’ve known for a number of years. S so often has a bright smile and a sunny disposition. S and I greeted each other this morning, said a few words, and parted after exchanging big smiles. That’s all.  It was only a brief interaction, but I remembered it. Distinctly. As I reflected on the chance encounter in the hallway outside of the women’s locker room, I thought of S’s job. She’s now on the janitorial staff at the YMCA. My town is pretty egalitarian. I’ve found that people generally greet each other regardless of the employment or society position they hold. But the situation is somewhat different for those ladies who work in the locker room.

Sometimes, the denizens of the locker room have no interaction at all. Admittedly, the locker room is an intimate place. Women get dressed, undressed, take showers, dry hair, and a hundred and one other little things involving personal, intimate details. I have been working out at the YMCA here in town for five years, and I’ve noticed. On occasion, those in the locker room don’t even speak a word to someone changing at the locker right next to them. What about the women on the janitorial staff who take such excellent care of the locker room? Who keep it clean, welcoming and usable for the many women who change there on a daily basis? Sometimes these kind, generous women might just as well be invisible. (I observe things like that, especially since I have a personal and professional interest in how people interact in different social situations.)  True, the locker room can be an odd place, due to the emotions, mores, and upbringing of all those who inhabit it.

But for me, I always try to have a kind and friendly word for S, as well as the other janitorial staff who keep the YMCA clean and inviting. What a way of being kind to all of us, who use the place on a regular basis!  I thank God for all of you.