Reach Out, and Be Kind to Someone!

A Year of Being Kind blog – Wednesday, May 21, 2014

GRATEFUL gratitude changes things

Reach Out, and Be Kind to Someone!

So today is Wednesday, the day when I facilitate a bible study at my work. I’ve been leading a series of studies on the post-Resurrection appearances of Christ, since Easter. (Another week, another post-Resurrection appearance!)

Before the bible study started, I met with Mary, the church council member in charge of the mission effort at this church. Yes, it is a small church. However—this church has a great track record, as far as supporting outreach into the wider world! It was instructive for me to see exactly where this church’s support went, and what they thought was (and is!) important.

This started me thinking about the verse for the month of May—my verse for A Year of Being Kind. Deuteronomy 15:11 – “There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward the poor and needy in your land.” What a verse for outreach! Whether you (or I) think of outreach as mission effort, or helping the community, or giving others “a cup of cold water,” this verse from Deuteronomy makes me think, hard.

This verse comes from the Hebrew Scriptures, specifically, the five books of Moses, or the Torah. My youngest daughter and I just had an in-depth conversation about the books of the Law, earlier this week. She (who is going to declare an English major at college this fall) recently read several chapters in a related book, Leviticus. She made the insightful comment that many of the laws and statutes of the Mosaic Law Code were eminently sensible.

For instance, take this command: being kind and considerate to the poor and needy serves a communal purpose. It brings individuals into community, solidarity with each other. And, it helps people who truly need a hand. This command gives everyone a chance to be grateful—to the givers, for being blessed with resources to give away, and to the receivers, for being blessed with the resources freely given.

It doesn’t matter whether we’re talking about the land of Israel, two thousand years before the Christian Era, or about modern-day middle America—the suburban Chicago area, in fact. The poor and needy are still here, and we are still called, still commanded to be openhanded towards all those who are in need. God, help me to see where I can help. Be of service. Be kind to others. Lead me towards areas where You want me to get involved.

Learning more about mission? Learning more about outreach? Learning more about gratitude? What better way to spend the morning?


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Be Prepared! Oh, and Be Kind, Too!

A Year of Being Kind blog – Tuesday, May 20, 2014

you have a great smile

Be Prepared! Oh, and Be Kind, Too!

Today was a day to get things done. Two meetings accomplished, some computer work done, a bible study prepared, and some telephone calls made. Oh, and since it was Tuesday, I read to the preschoolers, too!

I noticed, too, that today was also a day of preparation. Preparing the bulletin for next Sunday’s service. Preparing the bible study for tomorrow, when I’ll have the opportunity to lead and facilitate the midweek bible study group. Both of my meetings were in preparation for various phases of ministry around the church. And two of my telephone calls were setting up other things around the church—other ways of preparing to be helpful in ministry.

I am getting into the swing of things around here. It seems that I am becoming more comfortable with the general day-to-day activities. However, I do not want to get too comfortable. If I do, then God tends to step in and gently (or sometimes not-so-gently!) shake things up. Occasionally, I’ve noticed that God will tend to shake me up. That’s okay, because the last thing in the world that I want to do is to get complacent! But still, it is disconcerting to get shaken up, even by God.

I have been praying regularly that God send me opportunities to be of service. I am aware that my sometimes-prayer to God is being answered, day by day. Sometimes in common, everyday kinds of ways (like when I smile at someone, and they thank me sincerely for my friendly smile!), and on occasion, in significant ways (like when I report on Feature Fridays, about the innovative and particular kinds of ministries to the hungry, the poor, the abused, the depressed ones in our world).

God keeps sending these opportunities to me. I keep fielding them, and keep on trying to be faithful. That’s it. I honestly try to be faithful to what God has for me to do. I know there are organizations in this world that try to do something, or try to be kind, or try to be of service. That’s wonderful! I encourage each one to find something that is meaningful to them, and do it with all their might! Or, perhaps some might want to find some outreach that is fulfilling and kind, and get fully behind it!

This search for acts of service, this Year of Being Kind is giving me far greater dividends than I ever expected. Even down to the personal gratitude, caring and appreciation that comes from getting out of myself and giving to others.

So, on top of everything else, was this a day of introspection? Yes. And, I pray it was a day of service to others. (And to myself.) God, I wonder what you’ll send my way tomorrow?


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Serving, Being Kind—Near or Far! (Feature Friday!)

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

make a dfference in someone's life

Serving, Being Kind—Near or Far!

Faraway places! Exotic locales! Gosh, you might think I was talking about a South Sea island, or Darkest Africa, or a way station on the Silk Road. Frankly, I was thinking about London. Faraway? If we’re talking from Chicago, yes! Exotic? In terms of the cross-section of cultures, ethnicities, religious backgrounds, and just about any other difference or variety anyone can think of? Yup.

London City Mission is positioned right in the heart of that urban, cross-section of cultures, reaching out in the name of Christ, yes! However, they reach out with “a cup of cold water,” too, especially in LCM’s ministry to the poor, the homeless, the marginalized, the immigrant population. Working with people from all over London? Yes, community outreach and prison ministry, too. Coming from places not many people are aware of, these dear, beloved, invisible individuals are exactly that: dear and beloved in God’s eyes, as well as in the eyes of the London City Mission.

The Director of London City Mission is now a “follower” of mine on Twitter! Me? I’ve “followed” Graham for several months on Twitter, so I “followed” first. For whatever that’s worth. <grin> I honestly appreciate what Graham (@WindyLondon) and LCM are trying to do. Each one is striving to live out the Great Commission, as well as living out social justice, in a variety of ways and methods. I’ve been reading about some vignettes in LCM’s quarterly magazine. (And a well-put-together magazine it is, too! I have some idea of what I speak, since my husband is a senior editor for a trade magazine.)

A specific niche in ministry at London City Mission, and one that resonates with me deeply, is chaplaincy. Some chaplains work at (for?) LCM. Transport? Busses? Yes, there are chaplains for fast-moving London. Other chaplains cover emergency services. Not only for the good people in trauma, grief and distress, but also the emergency responders. Doctors, nurses, police offiers, emergency workers. And then, there is ‘regular’ hospital chaplaincy. The LCM covers that, too.

I read in one of Graham’s blog posts (from Feb 28, 2014) that “we show Christian love, we share Christian hope, and we do so without conditions. We have a message of Good News and hope that the whole world needs to hear. Good News of sins forgiven, of grace to the undeserving, of love for the unlovely, freedom for the prisoner, hope of a new beginning for the addict.”

Sometimes, I have the sneaking wish I could jump in to ministry with LCM, using the faithful training in chaplaincy, recovery counseling, pastoral care—and preaching!—I received here in the Chicago area. Whatever, wherever God wants me to be of service, I pray that I may listen and respond. I pray for the same listening, responding hearts for my readers, too. God willing!


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Rescue, Serve, Be Kind! (Feature Friday!)

A Year of Being Kind blog – Friday, May 2, 2014

LOVE M. Teresa judge no time to love

Rescue, Serve, Be Kind! (Feature Friday!)

Imagine living in one of the world’s largest cities. Waves of immigrants flooding into the city. The economic situation of the country is shaky, to say the least. This is the situation Jerry and Maria McAuley found themselves in. This is New York City, in the 1870’s. Both the McAuleys had shady pasts, but both had found religion. And, they were the first to open the doors of a religious institution to the poor and needy, the outcasts of society. The first to open a Rescue Mission.

The original Rescue Mission was housed in a donated building. The McAuleys developed a vision of faith-based Rescue Missions that spread throughout the country. New York City Rescue Mission is still carrying that vision forward. Rescuing the poor, the needy, the outcasts of society. As the purpose statement of the Mission says, it exists “to provide help and hope for the hungry, homeless and hurting men and women of New York City.”

Just how does the Mission do that? I’m glad you asked.

In the Career and Learning Center, those served by the Mission can take a variety of courses: GED classes, computer training, general life skills, financial planning, and more. The staff of the Mission and its volunteers help with writing resumes, telephone and interviewing skills, and other skills that are valuable in the world of education and work.

In the Residential Recovery Program, men have the opportunity to achieve lasting change, one day at a time, by ministering to the broken spirit. Aftercare Programs are available, too. These help graduates stay accountable to each other and assist their long-term recovery. Those who struggle with relapse are always welcomed back. And, spiritual hope is always available. God’s love and help was there at the founding of the Mission, with the McAuleys, just as it is today.

Since this is the beginning of May, and a new month, we focus on a new bible verse. From Deuteronomy 15:11: “There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward the poor and needy in your land.” This is a call from the Lord for believers everywhere to extend their hands, their hearts. Help. Be kind. Be of service, especially to the needy, the hungry, the homeless, and the hurting people in our midst.

New York Rescue Mission recently had an innovative, moving way to impress this call from God on the hearts of New Yorkers: see whether your heart is moved, as well.



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How to Show Love? At a Food Pantry (Feature Friday!)

A Year of Being Kind blog – Friday, February 21, 2014

feeding the community

How to Show Love? At a Food Pantry  (Feature Friday!)

Unemployment. Food stamps cut. Lack of jobs. (Sounds more and more like the daily newspaper or news website, doesn’t it?) Some people in some places already do something about it—like at the Soddy-Daisy Food Bank. The Food Bank has its beginnings in 1989. A group of people from Daisy United Methodist Church and Soddy United Methodist Church (from Soddy-Daisy, a small town about a dozen miles from Chattanooga, Tennessee) joined together. They started the Food Bank to feed about a dozen families.

From these humble beginnings, the Food Bank’s outreach and ministry to hungry families and individuals has grown; during 2013, 370 families per month received food. Six churches are now involved—including United Methodist, Baptist, Episcopal and Catholic churches. The Soddy-Daisy Food Bank is now an ecumenical ministry for the larger community. Open twice a week on Monday afternoons and Thursday mornings, the Food Bank offers foods from the major food groups (including produce!) and on Mondays the regular services of a certified nutritionist associated with the University of Tennessee.

This feature wants to focus specifically on Daisy United Methodist Church and its pastor, C. Don Jones. He considers getting involved with the local community around his church to be an important part of his larger ministry. He leads by example and encourages his church members and friends to get involved, as well. Pastor Don has had a strong commitment to the Food Bank for years, working there on a regular basis. He’s one of eighty volunteers who serve 70% of the people in northern Hamilton County, Tennessee that the USDA describes as “Food Insecure.” Every distribution day begins with prayer for the clients and the workers. About 400 orders go out each month with an estimated 1600 people being fed.

But let Pastor Don speak for himself:

September 26, 2013: “Today at the food bank we served 37 families and jump started two vehicles. One family asked me (I was wearing my Daisy UMC “ask me” shirt) if we could help with their electric bill. I told her we could. Someone told the family, ‘we say bad things about him, but he’s a pretty decent guy.’” [about which Pastor Don received additional humorous ribbing on his Facebook page.]

October 31, 2013: “Today I am thankful for the ability to help at the Food Bank and to not need its services.”

November 7, 2013: “November 1st. Food Stamps are cut to pay for bailouts of financial sector, unnecessary wars, and new subsidies to the insurance industry. This week Soddy Daisy Food Bank serves 131 families. Eight were turned away today for lack of food. Hopefully they will have something Monday. Folks, this is wrong!”

February 6, 2014: “Food Bank day. I recall the words of Dom Helder Caldera. ‘When I give food to the poor I am called a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food I am called a communist.’ His point was simple. No one wants to think about the issue.”

Few people want to think about the Food Bank (indeed, any food pantry!) until they need its services. Perhaps that’s a prudent reason to consider giving to a food pantry or related ministry near you? Give because we can. Give because people have needs. And most important, give because giving from a sincere and loving heart can be giving to the glory of God.


Buying A Street Newspaper, Kindly

A Year of Being Kind blog – Thursday, January 30, 2014

newspaper vendor Lucy Dickens

newspaper vendor
Lucy Dickens

Buying A Street Newspaper, Kindly

It has been cold in the past number of days. And I mean, freezing cold. As in polar-vortex-cold. Too cold for people to safely stand outside for more than a minute or two.

At a grocery store not too far from my apartment, a street newspaper vendor has his territory marked out. Recently, the grocery store has been kind enough to allow him to stand just inside the outside doors, out of the bitter cold. (Immediately adjacent to where the shopping carts live.) Some kind of warmth comes from the inside of the store. It’s not quite toasty warm, since there aren’t any direct heat vents or other heat sources on the floor-to-ceiling window walls. But as I mentioned before, at least it’s not as freezing as being outside.

Occasionally, I go to this grocery store to do a little shopping. Maybe once a week. And as often as not, I see the same street newspaper vendor there by the entrance/exit. I sometimes buy a street newspaper from him. I’m not sure whether everyone knows just what these street newspapers and the vendors who sell them are doing out on the street. This particular street newspaper is “StreetWise.” As the inside cover proclaims, “StreetWise is published weekly and is sold by the poor and homeless of Chicago.” The vendors buy the newspaper at cost and sell it at a nominal mark-up. Then, they are able to keep the profit for themselves. It’s a way for people “facing homelessness to achieve personal dignity,” as the StreetWise mission statement says.

I’m a generally friendly, cheerful person. When I see this vendor, I sometimes speak to him. When I get the opportunity, even though I often pass by him at some distance, I try to smile and nod. Give him some sort of friendly acknowledgement, since many people will not even make eye contact with him. I’ve never asked him, but I think he has noticed. And I suspect he appreciates it. He certainly seems to perk up when I see him, even though I don’t always buy a newspaper from him.

But tonight, I did. I bought a newspaper on the way out of the store. The time was a little later than I usually had seen him, but he was still there. Since I had a little extra money, I bought one. I acted in a kindly way. I wished him a good evening, told him I hoped he would be able to stay warm, and gave him one of my smiles, too. (I do have a cheerful smile.) I am glad he is showing initiative and gumption, and get-up-and-go, too.

I hope he has a warm, safe place to sleep tonight. Even though the weather is warmer than it was a few days ago, it’s still winter! And it’s still well below freezing. Dear God, I pray for this gentleman. Bless him. Nourish him physically as well as spiritually. Help him in the daily routine of selling this newspaper. Prosper him, and I pray that he might stay in good health. God, in Your mercy, hear my prayers.