Christmas with a Cat? Being Kind, Helping Out.

A Year of Being Kind blog – Thursday, December 25, 2014

photo credit, 2012/12/merry-christmas-from-cat.html

photo credit,

Christmas with a Cat? Being Kind, Helping Out.

Three services in the past four days? Check, check, and check. Sunday worship, the last Sunday of Advent. The Blue Christmas service on Monday. And, Christmas Eve service last night. Other pastors at other churches have as heavy a schedule, if not more so. But since this was my first year in a parish setting in a pastoral role, everything was more hectic than I would like.

After a number of days with a good deal of activity—and the prayer, planning and forethought that went into each worship service—I had a much needed rest today. A true day of rest. A Sabbath. A day to rest and recoup. What more blessed day to rest than the day we have set aside to celebrate the birth of the Baby in Bethlehem?

I did not do a great deal all day. Of course, there was present-opening around the Christmas tree this morning. My daughter and I went out to get some late lunch, mid-afternoon. (There is a wonderful Middle Eastern restaurant about two miles or so from our house. Kifta! Shawarma! Falafel! And of course, good rice!) No huge Christmas dinner for me, this year. Truth to tell, I preferred it that way.

However, I think I can speak for my husband, daughter and I when I say that one of the highlights of our quiet, low-key Christmas was going over to another daughter’s apartment to check up on her cat. Toby is very sweet. She really enjoyed our visit. Toby even got rambunctious. My husband took some string and was playing with her for a bit. Her tail whipping to and fro, pouncing on the string, or on my husband’s outstretched hand and drumming fingers.

Isn’t it fascinating how much enjoyment can be found in simple things? Things like visiting with a cat, lively conversation and laughter at the cat’s antics. I made sure Toby’s physical needs were met, too. Food, water, litter box. And, I enjoyed visiting her, very much. I always like it, even though I do have cat allergies. (Which did become more obvious today, since one of my eyes became red, swollen, and extremely itchy. I must have touched my face near my eye with a hand covered with cat dander. Alas.)

Nevertheless, it was a good day. A day to be kind, and be helpful to a sweet cat. Toby cat.


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Kindness Through Planning and Preparation

A Year of Being Kind blog – Wednesday, October 8, 2014

prayer and meditation

Kindness Through Planning and Preparation

My husband has the occasional dream (or is it nightmare?) where he is completely unprepared for a class. Different classes—middle school, high school, and sometimes college—with different specifics, but he always seems to be completely unprepared.

Me? I don’t remember my dreams. Well—that isn’t quite true. I rarely (and I mean, very, very rarely) remember my dreams. I might have similar dreams, like my husband. I just don’t remember them. However, I wouldn’t like to be caught unprepared, either. (Especially caught with my pants down, as has happened in my husband’s dreams now and then. Really.)

What does all this have to do with being kind, you ask? Great question! I am busily preparing for a morning of presentations and group facilitation, coming up soon. The presentation is going to be a morning of focus on prayer and meditation. A beginner’s overview, with some prayer practice built in during the final half hour. I’m excited! Enthused! Pumped! Oh, and I am wondering whether anyone will show up. *sigh* (That’s the nervous, anxious, nail-biting-me talking.)

Ultimately, who comes or doesn’t choose to come to the morning presentation doesn’t really matter. What matters is my stewardship. How faithfully and well I plan and prepare. I am providing service to others, and I hope those who attend the morning groups and presentation receive a blessing. And if they receive helpful, encouraging information, too, that’s an additional bonus!

I don’t usually talk about this here, but in addition to my Master of Divinity degree, I also am certified in the State of Illinois as an Alcohol and Drug Counselor (or, CADC). As I share about prayer and meditation and facilitate that group, I will also weave some basic recovery principles into the presentations. Spirituality, prayer, and meditation intersect and are closely aligned with the recovery program. A well-rounded understanding of prayer and meditation can be helpful to those who would also like a more thorough understanding of the recovery program.

So, yeah. That’s what I am busily involved in right now. Actually, it’s fascinating, finding so many intersections of prayer, meditation, and spirituality. Then, the practical side, the practice-part. And to add some spice to the mix, a healthy dose of recovery principles.

Is this being of service? Is it kind? Am I helpful? I hope so. I pray so. God willing, let it be so.


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Being of Service? In the Town Where I Work!

A Year of Being Kind blog – Tuesday, September 23, 2014

SERVE because Christ served

Being of Service? In the Town Where I Work!

The town where my church is located is Morton Grove. Great town! And, multi-cultural town, too. People of many different cultures, different languages, and different religions all living together.

I attended a planning meeting for the Interfaith Ecumenical Thanksgiving Eve Service this afternoon. Excellent introduction to a number of other ministers and religious leaders from the community. I so much appreciated it. And—this was a wonderful way of serving.

I especially was grateful that this ecumenical service is so well laid out. Since this year is the fiftieth anniversary of the Thanksgiving Eve service in Morton Grove, this celebration will be particularly poignant. Much support from the local congregations, too!

One of the people at that meeting was a representative from the Muslim Community Center, Dilnaz. She was eager to enter into the planning process. She also had a number of great ideas. We incorporated one—in particular—into the later part of the service. It involves children and youth, and will be a welcome addition to the multi-generational aspect of the service.

At the end of the meeting, friendly Dilnaz and I asked each other several questions. She is involved with a number of interfaith dialogues and outreaches in the neighboring suburbs. It turns out we both know a Presbyterian minister who also is instrumental in interfaith outreach in this area. (Yes, Dan, I’m talking about you!) I am pleased and amazed when that happens . . . when I find out that someone I’ve just met knows someone else I know.

This Muslim/Christian interfaith dialogue has been going on for some time, although a number of people are (knowingly or inadvertently) putting on the brakes. Because of the new, hardline Islamic State (IS or ISIS), I have noticed Muslim people here in the area being extra cautious in their interactions in public. I am glad that people like Dilnaz, our Muslim friend at the planning meeting, was so genuine and outgoing. Believe me when I say that I have seen reports of some hesitancy, even some downright animosity toward Muslims, in the greater Chicago metro area.

I am even more happy to see reports of some push-back. Some backlash against the hardliners in IS or ISIL. A group of British Muslim young people came up with an excellent video, and use of a hashtag: #notinmyname. This shows people throughout the world that the extremists are just that—a small, even tiny percentage of the whole of the Muslim world. You go, young people! God be with you. God be with me, too. God be with all of us!


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Helping through Reflection and Planning

A Year of Being Kind blog – Monday, September 22, 2014

HAPPY make your soul happy

Helping through Reflection and Planning

Thank you. Thanks to all of you who faithfully follow this blog. Or even, occasionally follow this blog. I appreciate your presence, your comments, and your prayers and good thoughts. I may not have outwardly said anything up to this point (at least, out loud or in print), but I sincerely do thank you for your reading.

For those of you following at home, you may have noticed that I went on a silent retreat on Saturday. A Soul Care Day, a day set aside for spiritual reflection, direction and spiritual formation. This day of silent prayer was rich for me! I received so much from it. I not only received spiritual nurture and recharging, personally, but I also received some good thoughts and leadings about several situations that are on my mind. So—all to the good!

Now, what about the reflection-and-planning part? Where does that come in?

I needed to put the final touches to planning the Sunday worship service today, and everything fell into place. (Excellent!) I also put in some time to planning World Communion Sunday, October 5th. I enjoy crafting a worship service, and finding complementary parts of the service, as well as appropriate hymnody and special music. Now, I just have to write the sermon for Sunday . . .

The notes and reflections which I wrote down on Saturday are a treasure trove for me, upon reflection. I am grateful and appreciative that I was able to take the time to attend this Soul Care Day. I realize only now that the insights I received are like layers of an onion—and that I have substantial work to do to mine the information and get further insights. More will be revealed to me, I’m sure. More, over time. That’s what I need for right now.

Upon reflection, I feel like the Little Engine that Could. (I think I can, I think I can!) Chugging right along, steadily, my calendar is never boring!


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